Tomorrow morning sees the start of my 10-day holiday in north west Cumbria, camping at the same site I stayed at over Easter. Since late Monday afternoon the weather here has been abysmal with rain for most of every day so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that once I get up there things will change ; while I can’t expect to get the same continuously wonderful weather as I got at Easter I’m still hoping that most of the days will see some sunshine as there are so many places I want to see and explore.
The van has been packed up since Easter but it’s not as simple as just putting in a few last minute items and the dogs and setting off – my wonderful son has seen to that! After his night shift tonight Michael has four days off so he recently decided he would spend those four days over in Ireland ; with a relatively last minute booking his choice of flights was limited to early morning or late evening so to maximise his time there he chose the morning one, flying at 8am. And guess who he asked to take him to the airport?! So on the very morning I’m driving myself up to north west Cumbria I’m going in the opposite direction first!
Michael would normally finish his shift at 6am but he’s managed to wangle a 5.30 finish which will be better ; there shouldn’t be much traffic on the roads so early on a Sunday so unless there’s an absolute major motorway hold up I should be able to get him there in plenty of time. As it happens my pitch at the camp site won’t be available until 1pm so once I’ve dropped him at the airport I can have a good couple of hours chill out back here before I set off for Cumbria – and thinking about it, it seems weird that he will be on the coach to Roscrea before I even leave here, and he’ll be at the family home before I get to the camp site. Time and distance can seem so strange sometimes.
At the camp site I’m booked on the same pitch I had at Easter so with good weather I should hopefully get more or less the same views as those above. I’ve been looking forward to this holiday for a while so with any luck I should be able to do lots of exploring and I’ll come back with a ridiculous amount of photos, many of which will no doubt end up on this and my other blog – so I’ll ‘see’ you all when I get back.
I’d never heard of Tom’s Midnight Garden until I read about it a couple of weeks ago on Shazza’s blog. Written by Philippa Pearce and first published in 1958 it’s a classic story for older children/young adults but it sounded so fascinating I just had to get a copy, and I read it in its entirety one evening earlier this month.
Tom’s younger brother Peter has the measles and so Tom doesn’t catch them as well he’s packed off to stay with his very dull aunt and uncle who live in a first floor apartment in what was once an old manor house. There’s no garden to play in, just a back yard where the dustbins are kept and where one of the other residents tinkers with an old car ; the only thing that interests Tom is a big old grandfather clock in the communal hallway which never strikes the right time. He soon realises that every night at midnight the clock strikes thirteen so one night he sneaks out of bed to investigate and finds that the extra hour takes him back to a time over half a century earlier where the old house is just one residence and the back yard is now a huge and very beautiful sunlit garden. There he befriends a lonely little girl called Hattie and meets her in the garden almost every night, where they play together and have different adventures which he gradually realises are taking place in the late 19th century.
No matter how many hours Tom stays in the garden he finds that when he goes back to his own time he’s only actually been gone for a few minutes, but time in the garden advances through the seasons and several years. Although Tom stays the same age Hattie grows up fast and as she grows older Tom seems to her to become thinner as though he’s gradually disappearing, then after one last outing together, where she begins to fall in love with a young man from her own time, Tom finds he has become completely invisible to her. He doesn’t see her again and the next time he goes to the garden he finds that it’s turned back into the modern day back yard where in a panic he runs into the dustbins, knocking them over and making quite a noise.
The following day it’s time for Tom to go back home but before he leaves the house he’s told that the elderly and reclusive landlady in the upstairs flat, who he’s never previously met, wishes to see him, presumably so he can apologise for disturbing her and the other residents during the night – and that’s when he discovers that she is actually Hattie, many years older than when he last saw her in the garden. After a long conversation, in which Hattie tells him about her life through the years between their last meeting and the present day and asks him to visit her again, they say a fairly formal goodbye to each other and Tom turns to go but at the bottom of the stairs he rushes back and gives Hattie a big hug, happy that he’s found her again after so long.
The story is extremely well written and the description of the beautiful garden is so detailed that I could really imagine myself exploring such a place. I must admit though that the time shifting aspect of the story seemed to ask more questions than it answered and left me a little confused. When Tom was in the garden no-one but Hattie and the gardener could see or hear him and as the story moved on through their adventures I found it hard to tell who was actually real and who could have been a ghost, or if the whole thing was just one of Tom’s dreams. Nevertheless it was an intriguing and fascinating read and left such a lasting impression that on learning that it had once been made into a tv series I was prompted to find out if there was a dvd version of it. There was quite an up-to-date one made in 1999 so I sent for that and watched it last weekend.
The start of the dvd is nothing like the start of the book and I initially felt a bit disappointed until I realised that it shows present-day events after the story has moved on, events which lead back to the beginning of the story. The story itself is told in its entirety as a flashback and the film is very true to the book right up to the last few minutes where it reverts to the present day and a continuation of the film’s beginning. Although the book doesn’t mention Tom’s age I got the impression that he was about 11 years old but the film portrays him as being 14. The book ends where young Tom hugs the now elderly Hattie and I was left with the feeling that there should have been a bit more, but the end of the film shows a now adult Tom with a wife and baby daughter, who they’ve named after Hattie, living in a cottage which is one of several built in the original garden of the old house which is now being demolished – and still standing at the bottom of their own part of the garden is the big tree where young Hattie had carved her own initials and young Tom’s signature drawing into the trunk so many years before. It’s a very fitting ending to the film and I think it finishes off the story very well.
The house and garden in the story are based on the author’s own childhood home in Cambridgeshire and a bit of Googling discovered an article written in 2014, which included many photographs, when the actual house and over three acres of garden were up for sale. I’m not sure if the garden in the film is the real life garden or a bit of computer-generated imagery – or maybe some of both – but it’s a truly beautiful garden, and looking at the photos of the real garden it’s easy to see how it inspired this magical fantasy story. The book makes a lovely read and the film really brings everything in the book to life – certainly well worth anyone reading and watching.
A couple of weeks ago when I went round to my friend Lin’s one evening I noticed that she had a new mat on the floor behind the front door. It was a mat with an animal picture on it and my immediate thoughts were that (a) even though it was washable it was too nice to have dirty feet and paws wiped all over it and (b) I just had to have one myself, so I asked where she got it from and was told that her daughter Dee had won it on a tombola stall at work.
Dee actually works at a local pet store not far from home and the staff there support my favourite local charity, Bleakholt Animal Sanctuary. Every so often they allow someone from the sanctuary to have a tombola/items for sale stall just outside the door with any money raised going to the sanctuary, and the mat had been one of the tombola items. Dee is usually quite lucky on tombola stalls and that particular day was no exception with the mat being one of the things she won, though as it was obviously a one-off the chances of me getting one like it were slim.
The mat was new but there was no clue as to where it had originally come from, though a bit of later Googling told me that mats like this are made in America and to get one from there wouldn’t be cheap. The ‘get lucky’ gods must have been smiling down on me that day though as I found a new one for sale on ebay at a very good price, and best of all the seller was in another area of my home town. I emailed her to ask if I could collect the mat rather than have it posted out to me and she was quite happy for me to do that so we arranged to meet the following day – and it turned out that she was the lady who had the charity stall outside the pet store where Dee works. Also any proceeds from animal-related items she sells on ebay go to the charity so I was more than happy to know that my purchase would, even in a small way, help the sanctuary.
Apart from the colouring of the eye patch the little pup on the back right of the picture reminds me very much of my own little Sophie when she was younger. The mat is currently propped up on one of the bathroom units so I really need to find somewhere to put it, but needless to say it’s definitely not going down on the floor!
Last weekend it was my birthday – Sunday to be exact – and as Michael was originally to be off work that day we had planned on having a day out somewhere and maybe stopping off at a car boot sale, but unfortunately it didn’t quite work out like that. When he got his shift rota for the week he was down to work that day and because of some stupid football match on Saturday no-one would swap shifts with him as they all wanted to go to the pub, watch it on tv and no doubt drink enough beer to render themselves unfit for work the following day. After working a 12-hour night shift on Friday Saturday was supposed to be his sleeping day but he said if I woke him at lunch time we could go out then instead of Sunday and he would catch up on his sleep later on.
So that’s what we did and we had a drive out to St. Annes as I wanted to go back to Ashton Gardens to take some more photos now the trees are in full leaf, except the weather was so dismally dull and grey that the photos I did take aren’t worth bothering with – most of them will be deleted and certainly none of them will make it into a blog post. After a meal in our usual café we just came straight back home, but because our trip out was something we would normally do on a Sunday I had the confusing feeling that it was Sunday, although to be honest I felt like I’d only gone out for the sake of going out.
On Sunday itself, to make up for missing a proper day out with Michael, I planned on taking myself and the dogs out somewhere, however the weather wasn’t the best so with a cash gift from Michael I decided to go in search of a new folding camp bed, something I’ve been wanting to get for quite a while. The Blackburn branch of Go Outdoors is an easy drive away and not far from there is Witton Country Park so I could kill two birds with one stone – a look round Go Outdoors first then a dog walk round the country park afterwards.
I found the camp bed I wanted in the store but the one on display was the only one they had and there was a slight fault with the mechanism so they wouldn’t sell it to me, however the very helpful assistant phoned the Preston store to see if they had any – they had, so they put one aside for me to collect later on. Unfortunately when I came out of the Blackburn store it was raining hard – a walk round the country park was out of the question so I just drove straight over to the Preston store and picked up the camp bed from there. With the on/off rain and no umbrella there was no point going anywhere else so I just came straight back home and the dogs never got their walk after all.
Michael arrived home from work at 5.30pm that day and we went to our usual eaterie, the Black Dog at Belmont, for a proper birthday meal. I don’t usually have a dessert but this time I did – salted caramel and vanilla ice creams with fresh cream, chocolate sauce and crushed Maltesers ; it was divine. Back at home I spent the rest of the evening reading a book which I’d recently got as a birthday present to myself. It had been an odd sort of day – well an odd sort of weekend really – but that was then, and I’m now looking forward to a nice long camping holiday coming up in a couple of weeks time.