Like many of my romantic inclinations, I whiled away hours of my youth reading novels by such english authors as Enid Blyton then Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Thomas Hardy and Elizabeth Gaskell. Tolkien, Auel and other fantasy style novels. My favourite poem was penned by William Wordsworth ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud ….’. The imagery of the settings of these books excited and transported me from my australian backyard and problematic family happenings to rolling country sides, palatial manors, English lords and ladies and heroes and heroines that overcame adversity and their own perversities to boot.
The serving of tea always sounded so delightfully ritualistic. The little pots of jam and cream. Freshly baked scones and tiny points of sandwiches. The Enid Blyton books were of ruins and coastlines, secret tunnels and mystery. Delightful tomboy girls and children companions getting up to adult like adventures and mystery solving excited my adventurous spirit. I lived, breathed and ran free via these books whilst my own life was contracted by circumstance and location. Coming to the UK, I still held these treasured memories in mind and secretly hoped to discover some of their pleasures in the country from which these books were derived.
It is of course, another era. The world has long moved on from ladies and chivalry. Even the aristocracy have moved on from the incumbency of women on the income of their father or husband. The importance of virtue and a good marriage still held precious by some, but not necessarily the ingredients of rack and ruin. Personally, I have long reached a point of understanding that the ‘romance’ of those novels are often rich in irony and satire. It is perhaps a window into my underbelly that I still secretly harbour the pleasure of the romantic english ideal. The proper tea, the english countryside walk, the gambolling larrikin children managed with the assistance of a loving, doting nanny or governess. It is therefore with pleasure that the yearnings of childhood are currently tugged and pleased as I shamble about the country lanes of England and Wales. The tea service might be somewhat tarnished by the clotted cream and jam in plastic throw out packs, but not enough, never enough, to stop the daydreaming child that was, and is.