Marilyn Thiele, keeping her promise to Lynne
A great Thank You to Lynne Patrick for filling in for me on Saturday. After a very long night, arriving in Edinburgh at 4:30 AM, and getting a few hours’ sleep, I attempted to post a paragraph or so to hold my place in the blogging sequence until I could write more. Although our hotel theoretically had internet access, the connection was so slow that everything timed out. I called my new friend, of whom I felt I could now request a favor, to ask if she would post a line or two to hold the spot. She kindly volunteered to switch places, and now I am fulfilling my part of the bargain. (Link here for Lynne’s story of our day).
With a few days distance, the train journey from Derbyshire to Edinburgh seems less disastrous than it did Saturday morning when I phoned Lynne. Suffice it to say that it was the beginning of a Bank Holiday weekend, trains were packed, equipment was failing in multiple locations, weather was cold and I now view New Jersey Transit and Amtrak with a less critical eye. I would like to return to York at some time and see more than the train station, but now I know where there is also a warm pub. And I owe Lynne another “Thank You” for the lovely sandwiches, which I did not think we would need, but which were a lifesaver.
Our Dead Guys mini-reunion (2/3 of the number attending the previous one at Bouchercon in Cleveland) was delightful. We also had Honorary Dead Guy Mariel, home for the bank holiday weekend, with us, so I suppose we really matched the Cleveland get-together. It was a delight to meet Mariel after enjoying her posts when Lynne is on holiday; I wish there were another crime fiction fan in my family.
Lynne, Jeff and Mariel were wonderful hosts and tour guides. Lynne has summarized our day more articulately than I ever could (she is the writer and editor, after all), but has left me some openings to fill. The 12th century church with the twisted spire was fascinating; it always amazes me how many of these structures have survived. I doubt anything constructed today will last so long. The spire story, which Lynne promised I would tell: Scientifically, the spire is most likely twisted because of the use of unseasoned oak and trusses not properly designed; anecdotally, it twisted the first time a virgin was married in the church, and will untwist the next time this phenomenon occurs.
Our lunch at the local pub was a wonderful opportunity to relax and really get acquainted. We joke about English cuisine, but this is my third trip to England (amazing how one overcomes a fear of flying when one’s son is living abroad), and I thoroughly enjoy the delights of real pub food, and the warm, friendly atmosphere we always encounter.
The afternoon at Chatsworth house, ancestral and current home of the Duke of Devonshire, was so filled with art and opulence that I could go on forever. I will spare everyone the enthusiastic descriptions of art (Rembrandts included), furnishings and gold and silver everywhere, and mention just two impressions that stand out to me. Although these aristocratic families have had to open their homes to the public in order to maintain them in the 20th and 21st centuries, I am pleased to have these treasures made available to us commoners. The Duke and Duchess are still collecting art, and although the more modern pieces are not always to my taste, the idea that the tradition continues, and is not just a thing of the past, warms the heart of this Anglophile.
The second impression is one of many that Lynne and I found we had in common. As we gazed out the huge windows onto the acres of planned gardens, we discussed how lovely it would be to wander around, book or embroidery in hand, to find a quiet spot to relax on the grounds as a resident or guest of the home. We both then accepted the reality of the situation: had we been living in those days, given our family backgrounds and the English social system, we would most likely have been scrubbing pots in the cellar.
Toward the end of the house tour, Lynne and I were tempted to break off from our families and hide in the most delightful room in the house for several days. I have never seen so magnificent a library, except at Trinity College, Dublin. Dark wood, lamp-lighted tables for study, hardwood flooring with thick carpets, an ornate ceiling, a balcony to access the second story of books, comfy-looking chairs for curling up in, and of course, walls of books. The room was cordoned off so it could be viewed only from the doorway, but this picture of the two of us was taken just before we jumped the rail and entered heaven. (Actually, neither of us is rebellious enough to have tried that, another trait we have in common, but it was a tantalizing thought.)
We tore ourselves away from the massive mansion with its treasures and vast library and proceeded to a slightly less opulent but more comfortable and welcoming home, that of Lynne and Jeff, for tea and cake. My expectations were met: tall bookshelves full of yummy crime fiction were the decorating highlight. Again, our commonalities showed. Many of my favorites were there:, Lee Child, Mark Billingham, Ann Cleeves, Val McDermid, Stephen Booth, Reginald Hill. I love the Brits, but I really must introduce Lynne to some Americans! All were arranged neatly and alphabetically; Lynne could take over my shop with no problem. My personal library is not so neatly displayed; I spend so much time keeping the shop in order that the home collection suffers. Lynne offered me a choice from her wall of Crème de la Crime volumes, and I selected one by Kaye C. Hill that takes place at the seaside, has a protagonist who has left her obnoxious husband, involves a deceased private investigator, and mixes humor with an absorbing mystery. It reminds me of an American author I enjoy.
I can only second Lynne’s view that it was a delightful day. The memory of the exceptional hospitality shown us by the Patrick family and the glow of discovering that an on-line friendship can blossom into a real-world one kept me warm through the trying trip to Scotland. Despite our mutual “technophobia,” this relationship has shown us both that something good can come of these frustrating modern devices.