I do love Bristol, but an invitation to spend a long weekend in the Cotswolds with my cousin and dear friend, Leah, was enough to make me pack my bags. And a change of scenery works wonders when it comes to conquering my endless reading list.
Following my last lecture of the week, I jumped on Bus Nine to Temple Meads and after a brief train ride found myself anxiously waiting in Cheltenham Station for Leah. It didn’t take long to spot her yellow jacket so similar to mine, and before long we’d hugged, hello’ed and we’re en route to Winchombe, a cosy village in the western Cotswolds.
The wonder of England surprised me over and over as I experienced this rare part of the world deemed an “Area of Outstanding Beauty.” Considered by many to make up the heart of England, the Cotswolds are a range of sleepy villages just above Bristol known for their charm and simplicity. I pinched myself more than once as I strolled around the quiet streets and soft green hillsides of Winchcombe.
What really made the weekend golden, though, was meeting Leah’s lovely English friends, Lizzie and Neil, and ‘minding’ their darling two-year old daughter, Lily, so they could have a weekend away (and so might we!). Staying in Lizzie and Neil’s historic and cosy home located right next to St. Peter’s Parish (built in the 15th century!) was a welcome change from my tiny room in Sinclair House. I could get used to ‘playing house’ in the Cotswolds.
Lily soon captured my heart with her tiny “Hellos” and recitation of the colours: “Red, Orange, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet!” Definitely a British child. Being constantly around young people has really felt abnormal, and spending time with Lily was refreshing.
On Saturday, Leah and I (with Lily in tow) hopped on a bus headed to another Cotswold village–Broadway. One of the Cotswold’s most famous villages, I felt like I’d stepped into a Charles Dickens novel. Honey-colored shops with thatched roofs lined the streets, and the trees were even lit with fairy lights. We spent most of the afternoon in a park tucked between Broadway’s hills. On our way out of the park we were met by a friendly stranger trying to steal Lily’s cracker.
I think the best part of cousins is suddenly feeling fourteen again. I don’t know if it was all the sugar or clotted cream or possibly a tad too much Rose, but Leah and I did laugh. When Lizzie and Neil returned from their getaway, the hysterics continued as Leah opened a book published in 1954 entitled “A History of Courting.” Our favorite quotes from ‘Courting’ so far include:
“In my opinion, nothing is more imprudent, nothing more offensive, than for lovers to appear lovers in company; it is both disagreeable and disgusting to society.”
“Ah, I never knew a woman come to good who was fond of reading!” (As qtd. from the 1763 play “Love in a Village by Isaac Bickerstaff)
“On the continent the reputation of Englishman as lovers was far from high!”
“The popularity of this seductive item of furniture (the sofa) was soon to distress the moralists. The sofa gave woman an admirable opportunity to look their best while languishing, and to show feet and ankles in the process.”
“They are numerous cases on record of men being fined for unauthorized wooing.”
“Many and various have been the thoughts inspired in men by the unexpected sight of a pretty ankle.”
“As for kissing and fondling, such practices stir the blood and invite the wrath of God!”
“Possibly the telephone, the motor-car, and the cinema have made love-making a shade too easy.”
And now, for the crème de la crème:
“Farmers fume at the damage to crops and haystacks caused by courting couples.”
So many giggles. And now to bed because it is late and tomorrow we go to the little village of Bradford-on-Avon.