Half term with Doris
Mon. February 27, 2017
Destination – Elton House, Bath. Mode of transport – train. Instructions – keep luggage to the minimum. Final detail observed by everyone except Mr Bowen. I shan’t dwell on it here, but more on the luggage situation for the return journey later in this blog.
Elton House, our eighth Landmark Trust stay, provided everything we have come to expect of LT, comfort in beautiful period surroundings. I lived in an alternate Georgian dream for four days. There was an important addition to this Landmark – our own, personal museum. It was once the home and shop of antique dealer Philippa Savery and the LT have preserved one delightful room of treasures, in honour of her generous donation in the early 1990’s.Our routine when we arrive at a Landmark is always the same, children rush to choose their bedrooms, whilst we put the kettle on and have a quick explore. Then, we drink our tea and look at the books which are always carefully chosen to reflect the history or writers of the area, the period of the building or other connections. I’ve come to expect a feeling of anxiety now as I look at the full bookcase. The anxiety is because I know I won’t be able to spend enough time reading them all. I’ve given up taking a book with me to LT properties. There is always plenty of reading to keep me busy on our cosy, post supper, TV less, wifi less evenings. Elton House provided many good books which I only had time to dip into – Lucy Worsley’s If Walls Could Talk: An intimate history of the home, Jane Grigson’s English Food, Simon Thurley’s The Building of England together with many novels and poetry collections.
My favourite book at Elton Hse was The Sack of Bath:And After by Adam Furgusson and Tim Mowl and explained why Bath is so remarkable and how almost the entire artisan housing of the city was destroyed between 1968 and 1972. (I copied some of it into my notebook, apologies if some of it is wrong due to transcribing difficulties) “Bath was a ‘New Town’, and particularly all the artisan housing – the ‘poor quarters’ was planned and built in conjunction with the big set pieces which made Bath magnificent. Eighteenth century Bath had virtually no decay in it. The terraced cottages of the grooms, the ostlers, the stonemasons, the buhl-cutters, the road makers, the posters and Sedan chair carriers – and of the pimps, the pick pockets and the whores – were of brand new Bath stone. In their often simple way they were as perfect and graceful and as harmonious as the Bath of the middle and upper classes. All bath grew old together. It was unique.” Fortunately the rise of civic societies in which Philippa Savery played a part, together with these two authors and the first edition of this book, managed to apply enough pressure to prevent any further damage. Although they acknowledged that “Artisan Bath is largely rubble.” They went on to explained “The set pieces Royal Crescent, The Circus, Milsom Street, The Pump Room stand glorious and glistening (some have been restored and cleaned) but as… the devastation goes on, they have become like monstrous mountains without foothills, like old masters without frames.” Henry Fielding’s house in Tiverton were he wrote most of Tom Jones was one of them. Enough said. We were economical with our visits to museums to avoid boredom. The Roman baths, Royal Crescent, Victoria Art gallery, The Holburne Museum were all visited. The latter on the day a huge tree was blown over by storm Doris across Sydney Place. The occasional lunch and supper were eaten at Bath’s Italian restaurants which provided pizza and pasta for younger Bowen’s and delicious fish for the grown ups. Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights, lived up to its name and provided an opportunity for book buying…lots of them – oh dear! Sadly we didn’t make it to Toppings – next time. The spending of piggy bank money is an essential part of any holiday. Toy shop opportunities provided a much longed for cap gun for Tomi (see above) and the largest baby boy doll in the shop, named Hector, for Megan (carelessly abandoned for the photo above). Morwenna went for something small, portable and sensible, a drawing pad. Tomi found many opportunities to buy books and models of gladiators to expand his fascination. He did very well, because the promised trip to the cinema which was showing the Lego Batman movie was right up his street. Tim and I snoozed through it.Megan was pronounced the snakes and ladders champion, sadly no image so here is one of the three Bowenettes enjoying an ice-cream on the hoof. It is to be expected that purchases are made on holiday – 11 books, a new frock, several toys and miniature gladiator figures, Hector, then a bobble hat, a Jacqueline Wilson novel and a very nice skirt all bought in one of Bath’s excellent charity shops. Purchases made by Mr B = 0. Purchases made by Mrs B and family = all the above. We managed to squash everything into our luggage for our return journey to Ferryside. We kept quiet about Mr B’s inclusion of an unworn pair of heavy boots and three jumpers although I did think just imagine what else we could have bought…