Part I: My Austen Summer, 2007

Wednesday, May 16th

3.22 pm – am mid-air. Everything at airport went well. Ma, Daddy and Aunt T came to McDonald’s (I had salad) soon after noon. I wrote out checks [Bill paying!] then off to the airport. One person being checked in as I arrived – so that was quick. Turbulent! The stewardess said, VERY rough from JFK – and they expected same – but short 50 minute trip – to JFK. Like riding in fast car for a bit there! will write more at JFK. (Brought extra pens)

JFK-NYC airport

5.25 Thru yet more security… (they took my clapped-out toothpaste in BTV; took my Delta bottle of water — WATER, for God sake! – here at JFK). Take laptop out of bag, remove shoes, empty pockets – and what I hadn’t expected = put your own bins thru. Can you pile items? I assume not – so I take up 3 bins. Shit – think I forgot the f’king laptop! Someone must put it thru = Why don’t they say, YOU feed them thru into the conveyor belt?? …couple UK gals (accents) sitting next to me. Arrived after 4.30. BLACK skies, extreme wind, but warmer than Burlington. Love the sky train! a little monorail thing that loops around the 9 terminals. We – Delta – landed at Terminal 2/3. I went upstairs, came back down & stood on the other side of the glassway than I would have done – go: Terminal 1, Terminal 8/9, Terminal 7 <=Me & British Airways!! FIRST time I by mistake took the more beneficial loop, the shorter route!

It is a ZOO here at JFK.

You can self-check-in – but, I made a mistake & picked sth with luggage (already checked thru, or some such), when I wanted hand-luggage only = NO ability to go BACK on the screen. Then I got to Security – one couple in front of me – stop, stamp = so even though you self-check you need to find a BA person – and EVERYone wants her! One Indian guy with 2 kids had to sweat the line b/c of them – she told him about 5 times to get in line … another guy butts in front of me; a young guy there gets her attention w/o trying. WHY self check (exc. for shorter lines…) if you still need a person?! The security line? a good 10 people and then no ‘push all your own Bins thru…’ I pushed one – prob. leaving 2 – I don’t know.

5.45 If you didn’t have to remove shoes… GADS! Stupid. Allow hi-jackers; but shoes? toothpaste of a larger size? small bottle of WATER… Have 20 cleaning people here but the guy at the machine can’t pull the stuff through the X-ray machine?? “We don’t have a lot of people” the woman said – well, tell us – They can read my passport at the self-check in – but I need a stamp – And they can have a guy taking my water!. See cute toys, newsagents = nothing for overseas travelers in stores here.

Heathrow

Thursday, May 17th [1] {=begin to count my days in the UK}

8.40 AM UK Time
Have been some minutes in the National Express Central Terminal. Coach doesn’t leave till 9.03! gets in 11.10. Called Chris from here (40p). Got £300 from a cash point. Oh the tales to tell! Sat on the ground in NYC till 7.55 (supposed to depart 6.30!) Bad weather (rain! nothing worse, though I suppose fog too) (and wind) delayed some & we were stuck in a queue. A guy I spotted (sun glasses! in the terminal) ended up being the aisle seat – I got the middle – a girl appeared late to claim the window. Poor Vincent (sounded very New York) had a flight at 7.30 am! Off to Milan – wonder if he made it?? the flight crew were trying… we hit the ground about 6.40 (15 min. ‘late’) – but had to wait a good 10 minutes – so his window a tiny hole only by then… Our plane got struck by lightning!! a FLASH just outside the girl’s window! then contretemps … a young man was asked to move – the only reason: I suspect the girl brought forward didn’t like too-close a space (the next row up had the wall – so LOTS of leg room). Anyway – some older woman MUST have moved from the seat in front of me – to the seat vacated in front of Vincent. Tom, of the flight crew, not happy – but the woman refused to move! the young woman took the seat in front of me – and spent the flight fully reclined = NO room for me, squashed in between passengers! After that the older woman constantly took the flight crews’ attention. Oi!! but the best came at the end: she refused to put her screen down & give back her headphones – and here we are, trying to land. One crew member then another were verbally abused by her. Esp. after she accused one guy of touching her. Vincent was having a field day, listening. I just figure it very like “Airport” [tv show]. “Madam…”, Tom would say; then the senior member came & came again. Even as we were leaving, still she talked on.

So – out of the plane after 7.00.

Was flagged on to passport control No. 21 – HE waved me away; the “assigning” woman called me back! No. 17 opened. Now I had put as profession: Secretary. Hmmm… was asked ‘how long staying’ and then ‘why’. HRO seemed a good reason… So on to baggage — Nothing came off plane till about 7.45! Apologies – but NO surprise – the empty carousel gave its own message. Took me LONG time (& 2 trips to the busses AT terminal 4 = Oxford departs from there… for example.) I finally deduced that the “free sky train” is the TRAINS exit. Down 2 escalators … on the waiting train. Walk here to Bus Station. How to use credit card – I thought the machine would use CASH. Nope — wonder how MUCH the train was… Can’t say, at least, that it feels like 4.00 a.m. … in one hour I will have been up 24 hours. BTW – TSA was IN my suitcase = replaced the lock NOT on the inside-goods portion – but on the uppermost outside pouch. = When there’s nothing but a plastic bag! [maybe it was thieves…. one hears such stories] Surely _I_ didn’t put it there in my haste – DID I?

5.00 PM Sent Michele an email – please, call My Mother! Jane an email, tho she won’t get it till tonight US time; sent Marilyn a ‘call Ma’ too, in case Michele not in – but maybe neither is in! Had a long bus wait, but it left on time (poor woman from Norwich who had come in from South Africa – death in family – had a 4 hr ride and it got delayed “due to traffic”). & arrived about 11.05 – 5 min early!

Basingstoke looked nothing – all high-rises in the view I saw. Sure is a green country – not much to see from highway; kept wanting to nod off! Winchester, hard to say much about. Saw the little canal & its walks! Small houses; some cute, like those advertising for roommates.

King Alfred Statue

I had called Chris from the airport since it was such a wait & I wouldn’t be in for 2 hours later than anticipated.

“Coaches” – long distance National Express” buses – stop at the parking area near the King Alfred statue. Somehow I KNEW = the strawberry blond, with a clip pulling up her hair in the back, who drove past mewas CHRIS!

(I sat right under the King Alfred Statue.)

No woman ever came by or stopped. I thought she’d gone to the train station – only I had NO clue where the train station was! At about 11.30 – I began to worry – unless she returned home, she wouldn’t answer. But I walked past all the parked cars & over to a pair of phone boxes. That’s when ‘bus station’ caught my attention. In the LAST space at the entrance, there was that same ‘hair tied behind’ strawberry blond = sure enough: Chris!

See, easier had I just gotten there under my own steam!

She made the tea, gave me a couple maps, a house key (I made sure to bring up the subject of rent, rather than her ask for it) & then she got off to work. Be home in about 6 PM.

I had seen 2 adapters – but neither for use in UK with plug for US. So on the HUNT tomorrow. Should have bought the $14.99 pack of them all; nothing at the airport along those lines either. Have had the laptop on; her wireless internet works well. Walked to P.O. but didn’t go in – oh! the house just down the street = thatched!! the very picture of sth in Shakespeare’s Stratford! and the pebble-dash (though BIG stones!) [ie, flint] next to it is cute too. And the little church.

Got to Tesco – but an Express = I had expected a HUGE shop. Prices not bad for UK residents – milk (liter) 61p; 81p for ham slices – all totaled £7+. But in dollars = expensive for a little bag. I went out about 3. So spent a couple hours just stretched out on the bed. Quiet here, though sometimes a high-in-air plane, a mower – which, due to the small yards (mine equals hers and the next neighbor, & may be bigger still!) does not run & run & run. SUN came out as soon as I stepped off the bus in Winchester!! And it’s been sun & blue skies all the rest of the day. Rain in London. Black Skies in Basingstoke. But for Kelly in Winchester = Clear with fluffy clouds! Ate my ham & cheese outside in the very pleasant garden. Introduced myself to the woman next door but she never gave her name! The house is small, quite nice. Bathroom just down the landing. Plane up there now – though I see nothing. Barking dog. But mostly, tweets & chirps. So this is my home for 2 months…

Chris has a pic of Hugh Grant, signed, in her living room! Said, when I mentioned seeing Music & Lyrics that she attended the premiere! another plane – but of the level of noise I used to get at home (before our airport was ‘new & improved’). Being here makes me think of showing her my house — I miss it! Esp. in the sense of leaving it! But Vermont holds nothing – no jobs, few friends. Am reminded by Chris’ little stack of Beatrix Potter books near her computer – watched 2 films on the plane – The Painted Veil (Edward Norton & Naomi Watts) – very good, lovely scenery; but first watched Miss Potter – I LOVED it! All the negative reviews, but I thought it told her ‘tale’ (no pun intended) well. Makes me want to track down her diary even more! [have still never bought a copy!!]

Renee Zellweger plays her usual plucky British heroine – but after the first sth-minutes, a little of that went away. Love her going through the park lickety-split! and the use of animation not overly overdone. McGregor was quite good. And some of the things Miss Millie Warner & Miss Potter discussed re: independent woman, I thought RIGHT ON! And, in preserving so much land, hard not to think Potter a forerunner of conservancy. I liked it! Want it on DVD even! [haven’t bought that either]

It’s now 5.40 PM – don’t know what to do with myself… Hard to think of going into town. And have to find out who – where – to get a bus pass. And need a computer or hardware store! Would kill for a used bookstore!! M.’s computer okay – but I detect 3 small scratches I don’t remember seeing before. How’d they get there? The bag had nothing to scratch it! [computer was borrowed for the summer]

Saturday, May 19th [3]

3.25 AM So much to write; where to start.

– Never did go back to town on Thursday. Chris home after 6.00 – spotted her in the kitchen window. She may have wondered ‘do I disturb her if I come out?’ & I wondered ‘Do I disturb her if I go in, or is it rude not to?’ I went in.

We watched some news, weather, Emmerdale (they killed off poor old Len Reynolds!) [I used to watch this on the CBC, Montreal]. Opera singer Catherine Jenkins on it, nice voice. Told Chris to go to her singles group, so she did go out; met Jon, who came in before she left [Jon was Chris’ second lodger; lived there only during the week]. Seems nice. Fear I got water all over the bathroom floor taking a shower — strange little door – goes ½ way! Not sure there’s lots of [water] pressure & my hair feels the difference… Went to bed about 9.00 p.m. Slept like a log.

Woke about 7.30 AM (Friday, May 18) BUT DID NOT WANT TO GET UP! Soooo quiet here! Woke about 8.30 – think I heard Jon – though maybe Chris? in the bathroom. Dropped off, but much awake – got up about 9.45 if not 10. Checked email – Michele there, and Marilyn — neither could get Ma on the phone. Jane’s message ‘delayed’ – never heard of that one! It’s an AOL account…. Did look to see if phone box could be used with a credit card – cash – £2 for 1st minute; credit card £3 for 1st minute! Come on!! Will have to find a calling card & see what they give. Chris thought the Post Office the place for those. Could look online!

Went into town soon after 11.00 — the bus that came said Winchester – but not a city bus! Never thought of there being two! ‘Course the next time I waited, only the “Stagecoach” which said ‘The Springs’ (line No. 6 – like Mamma Smith’s PP address!). Any way £1.50 to get to town on this COUNTY bus – no passes b/c it’s a county bus. So in town I asked at the bus station (yes, local busses, so Chris in error to park there & not nearer the King Alfred!). Am reminded to mention: Flint is the local building stone – like 2 houses just down the street. Those BIG “pebbles”. Anyway, at the office = you buy passes from the driver. So, see! I was right! £9.20 for 7 days (yet few busses run Sundays… therefore not really 7 days, is it! This one may run though. But anything to do in town??) Fares going up end of the month (24th). Great — So, got a pass – a cardboard that you insert your ticket into, then peel the plastic to cover. Never seen anything like it.

marmalade

Had gotten a soda & what I’d call an English muffin – missed that at breakfast today! Reminds: Debenhams has Mrs. Bridges products! Had gone in there – a travel section, but no plug adapters…; 1st a drugstore; saw a Cook’s [the travel agency] & thought ‘maybe’, but went into Boots. Some adapters… but all for overseas; then down the aisle & next aisle over = foreign to UK! £3.99. So not a lot of savings over $14.99! Works a treat! Got some tissues (39p) & a travel soap dish (£1.69 – should have thought of it at home).

Anyway – came back here after 1.30. Ate. Looked at email (& saw the messages never changed since AM). Looked up the call #s of my letters. Went back to HRO [the Hampshire Record Office] – for my 1st time there…

Their ‘automated’ retrieval system (I assumed sth on computer) is writing out your name, # & items #! The woman at the help desk misread my /78/ and /72/, so she kept insisting NO such # exists.

The plug for computers on the floor – and you have to turn the power on (like in a home). Kept bumping my foot against it!

Had changed shoes when, standing at the bus stop 5 minutes, the sky had darkened. Bus came 5 minutes after I returned. Bus stops close (drops off here at the beginning of the cul-de-sac), but bus every 20 minutes – it never did rain! (My reason for shoes.) But had looked grey & was a bit colder; wore my jacket.

Ordered for my 1st order the letters of MARY: one to Emma, one to Eliza & 3 to Mamma Smith. Trouble is, HRO catalogues them not by writer, but recipient. So up came 4 (2 for Mamma) big Bundles – oversized cardboard ‘envelopes’. The BIG thrill: A tiny – the size of my hand, from finger tip (middle finger) to thumb “crook” & the width of 4 fingers – black-edged envelope – one penny stamp in the corner, small black wax seal in place. letter in envelope! But – I began to ‘catalogue’ who from, place, date – and came to one in the 1st Mamma Smith folder (Radio, playing as I write this, says “it’s now 4 o’clock” = 4 A.M.!) that spoke of a ‘death of a sister’ dated July 4th. I think of the Wilders & begin to transcribe it… Only to realized the ‘sister’ is MARY!!!

I began to cry! Had to compose myself, so tears welled up. Yet I had to dab at my eyes. Another spoke of Mary’s illness – so was Mamma there, with her?? My poor pet. Always described as sweet. Later found an earlier letter, written by Eliza Chute – a pencil note spoke of ‘Charles Smith & Mary Gosling’ – sure enough Eliza’s reaction to their engagement. My poor Mary – not only 2nd choice, but Eliza so surprised that Charles engaged so soon (yet secretly hoping he’d wed Caroline!). Belinda spoke of as a paragon who made him happy in domesticity & thus anxious to marry again (!). Mary mentioned as Emma’s friend of the heart, or some such wonderful phrase! [Eliza Chute’s words: “Your Emma must feel great pleasure in having the young friend of her heart for a sister”]

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