Extracts from a letter written to Tim during the Christmas holidays. It was the first time of being apart after we’d started courting (going out with each other) and my handwriting is exceptionally neat. It was written from our family holiday cottage – now my mother’s permanent home!
From Hoarstone 19/12/96
Well we made it down here. We came down yesterday afternoon, though, instead of today, and it took us five hours instead of three and a half; because as soon as we got onto the motorway, Seymour was asking me how long it was until we got off. What he didn’t realise was that virtually the whole journey was on a motorway. Because he wasn’t happy driving on it, we cut down across country.
When we arrived, it was very funny because we all had so much to say to each other, we couldn’t say it fast enough. Supper was a very noisy meal with everyone talking across each other. Then this morning, I got up before everyone else, fed the dogs and then took them out for a walk up to the moor. Unfortunately it was a bit of a misty morning so I couldn’t see very far but it was refreshing to be out. I’m sure Devon has got smaller too! I also delivered a Christmas card to ‘Old Tom’, who is a lovely old chap who owns the farm up the road. He has no teeth left and an amazing memory. I don’t actually know how old he is but his farm has not changed since about 1930, when his father died. He has one assistant called George “the lad” who is about as old as Tom. This morning, I couldn’t find anywhere to post the Christmas card at the house, yet I could hear voices in the kitchen so I went down and knocked on the door. George and Tom were having breakfast and although he didn’t recognise me immediately, I was amazed when Tom asked me how Wales is.
What made me think of you, to write, was reading my ethnomusicology. Bruno Nettl says that one of the fundamental links between pieces of music , across cultures, is that they begin and end!!! I bet you didn’t know that!
We had a little drama this afternoon. My parents had gone off shopping and Seymour and I were sitting at the dining room table working when I smelt this really weird smell. I checked both fires, then went to the kitchen which was full of smoke, only I couldn’t work out where it was coming from. I opened the door into the dog room and these disgusting fumes came billowing out. The foam rubber dog’s bed had fallen onto the heater and caught alight. So Seymour and I were then stalking round with T-towels on our faces trying to deal with it. They were really foul, noxious fumes that burnt when you breathed them in. When my parents got back the dogs, dogs bed and ‘us’ were standing in the middle of the road with every door and window in the house open, waiting for the fumes to go.
We went Christmas shopping this morning. Finally, I can begin to think about Christmas. In fact, I’m writing this now by the light of the Christmas tree lights. My mother has decorated the house really nicely, with nothing too fussy, but that’s typical of her.
I’ve been asked if I would move out of my bedroom at Everett, which I’m really sad about because I love my room, but it’s logical that I move. It’s the biggest bedroom and a waste of space with me hogging it. It doesn’t matter now, anyway, because I’ll spend so little time there. I was given it initially because I was the one who spent the most time at home in my room.
I’m sharing a room with Seymour down here, because we’ve got a guest arriving tomorrow who’s going into mine, and it’s really strange. We haven’t shared a room since we were quite young. He talks in his sleep and I can’t remember what question he asked me last night, but I do remember answering him! When we were in France, I remember him talking in French.
It’s amazing how one slips back into old routines as if you’ve never been away. Oh, yes! New Year – apparently we are celebrating it at ******’s house (the one in the photo with the pony and trap etc) and I have to warn you, he is a real eccentric. He’s head of music at the college and he also teaches history. He almost lives in the past, is unmarried, owns a big old vicarage, says he prefers animals to people and hence is surrounded by them, cultivates worms (though he hasn’t sold any yet!), bought himself a Lordship (but he’s embarrassed about it, so we usually don’t say anything), is very English, a real Purcell fan, and – I think – sees himself as a bit of a country squire. He’s lovely though and we’re all very fond of him. Last year, at New Year, we went round to his place and played silly games (ie. the cereal packet one, and the pencil game). I expect this year will be much the same, because my mother has already been asking me about games. The only one I could come up with was the musical hats! I don’t know specifically what the plan is, but it’ll come to light nearer the time.
I’m really looking forward to you coming down here too, and funnily enough, my father is really excited about meeting you. It’s lovely. The good news is we’re staying in Devon a day longer than planned so will be travelling back up to Everett on the evening of the third. I hope your trip down is a good one.