An Adventure Begins

May 13, 2010 at 9:48 pm (research) (, , , , , , , , , , )


As a change of pace, keeping in mind that it soon will be three years since I began to research this project in earnest (and this blog chalks up its second anniversary), I feel like reminiscing about my two-month research stay in Hampshire — for guess who kept diaries!

So, whenever you see my avatar (at right), the accompanying post will tell some tale of those heady days when I was living abroad, jobless but far from aimless. (My mother sees this period as one l-o-n-g vacation which drained my bank account, but that is an untruth: being a year-plus out of work did all the draining; but that is a tale best left UNtold. Who knew economic catastrophe was lurking around the next corner.)

When you work nineteen years at the same place, with little to show for your years there beyond having grown older, you come to a point when things just have to change. Never mind that two years before (in Dec 2004/Jan 2005) I had been ill with two bouts of stomach flu. You don’t eat when you have the stomach flu; you grow weak, lose weight. At one point I thought of myself as Hansel (brother to Gretel): my arm like a thin twig he might allow the old Witch to fondle in order for her to judge whether he had fattened up enough (No–).

Not feeling well for MONTHS just brought about an epiphany (call it a mid-life crisis if you like): What was I doing with my life!?

But all this was a good year in the future. In 2005 the concern was getting back my health, and enjoying three weeks in the UK with my father. We rented a narrowboat! For two of those weeks we were a household afloat. Our trip began in Shropshire, ventured across North Wales to end at wonderful little Llangollen; back to Whitchurch (Salops) and north towards Chester — where we stayed a couple days rather than continue on to Ellesmere Port. That trip alone could be the subject of a most interesting blog!

But one thing that I came away with was a devotion to the so-called LADIES OF LLANGOLLEN: Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby. I began a website about them a year after our return — but never really finished building it. Still, there are some interesting tidbits there for those interested in learning more about these women whom I believe were the greatest of friends (nothing more), and who spent their lives living as they pleased: reading, teaching themselves languages, visiting and being visited by friends. They took pleasure in their home, and in each other’s company. Pleasing oneself is how one’s life should be spent…, don’t you think?

It was while searching for first-hand information on the Ladies, that I stumbled upon MARY GOSLING. She had visited Llangollen, visited the Ladies, in 1821. Her diary entry on her meeting with Sarah and Eleanor did not contain much new information, and was initially a great disappointment. However, as time went by, I began to wonder: WHO was Mary Gosling?? — this “anonymous” person whose diary had started as an aide memoir of her travels, but which had ended up collecting dust on a shelf at Duke University.

That wondering changed my life. Stay tuned to find out how and why.

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