Tuesday, July 28, 2015

To Alton, home of novelist Jane Austen


Thursday 23 July 2015
22 degrees Alton, Hampshire

Woke up at 6 with a thick head so had lots of water,  back to sleep and felt much better at 8.  Had toast and tea and talked to cousin about all sorts of things and she told me about her last trip to the US and how her sister (who lives in the Californian desert) has a mania for having the air con at at ice cold levels and is very difficult about where to sit in restaurants and wouldn't stop in a motel until she had checked out the room and specifically the size of the closets and she wouldn't walk down stairs that weren't air conditioned and her mania for packing and repacking her suit cases.  Decided it may not be a good idea to ask her if we can come and stay for a week or two.  That amount of time with OH may just push her over the edge.

Second eldest daughter decided she would come on day out with us so we made a packed lunch and set off down the narrow lanes with their high hedges.  Everyone drives massive four wheel drives even though you barely get an inch of snow and the landscape is relatively flat.  They travel at some speed too - I suppose you get used to it.  Down to the mellow village of Alton and the former home of Jane Austen.  A rambling spread of lovely red brick buildings around a jewel green lawn and garden full of hollyhocks, herbs and insects.  Of Georgian date, the interior rooms are well dimensioned with Laura Ashley wallpapers and sash windows overlooking the village or gardens.  The table where Jane wrote is so small - barely larger than a tabouret seat and very low.  All of her major novels were published here in this ocean of tranquility.

We had our lunch in the gardens and watched the other visitors - mostly very overweight English ladies of a certain age, with a small sprinkling of Italians and Canadians.  On the way out, we discovered the kitchen, separate from the house and there were bonnets and dresses to try on so second eldest daughter and I dressed up and I was dwarfed by a particularly large bonnet and cousin had hysterics.  Went for clotted cream tea in nearby tea shoppe and it was delicious with Earl Grey tea, fruit scones, strawberry jam, mounds (lashings?) of clotted cream and all served on translucent and delicately sprigged china.  Then to Basingstoke where I purchased a new and capacious handbag, a notebook for recording brilliant ideas and a half year diary in bright colours and which I stand a fair chance of finding in the chaos of the kitchen.

Back home and discover eldest daughter (32) and son (26) have arrived and there is a letter saying that eldest daughter has just been accepted at Southampton on a nursing course (her third degree) and cousin is ecstatic and bursts into tears and there is lots of joy and gin.  We then had to decide what to do with the bursting punnet of gooseberries picked up in Alton village and we get out Delia Smith Summer cookery and cousin says we will make an American all in one pie and it would have been a lot easier to make if we had not had the gin.  No wonder it is known as mother's ruin.  We manage, eventually, to produce roast chicken, mash, veg, rather tart gooseberry pie and custard.  Lovely to be eating around a large table full of family.  

Cousin's children are very well travelled.  Youngest, (20) daughter is currently off surfing somewhere exotic.  My youngest hates travel and eldest never manages to hang onto money long enough to get the cash together to go.  Still don't know if he is going to be able to get any time off on Sunday to come down and see me and youngest.  My youngest WF says sleeping arrangements could be difficult as some rooms in the house are taken and others are being decorated.  One room, which had been locked, is now open and it transpires that the former occupant had kept a ferret which had peed everywhere.

Try to watch American Hustle but am seriously distracted by a car seat which is attached to a wooden base and positioned in front of the main sofa.  From a former car, cousin's OH said he found it very comfortable so, when car was scrapped, he took it out and uses it when he watches Tour de France.  Cousin folded it down and put her feet on it.  So did selection of children.  I couldn't keep awake and had to go to bed at 10