Saturday, June 16, 2012

LYME REGIS - PART THREE

For so very long, I'd wanted to visit the little town of Lyme Regis on the coast of England in West Dorset because of its association with Jane Austen and her novel Persuasion, in which Louisa falls when jumping off the steps of the Cobb and suffers a serious injury, because of the setting of the movie "The French Lieutenant's Woman", and the book of the same title, and more recently because I read a novel about Mary Anning, the young fossil hunter. For the full story of why I wanted to go to Lyme Regis, see my earlier post on the town.

The entire visit to the little town had an air of unreality about it, as I could not quite believe I was finally there. The emotions that I thought would emerge when I arrived in the place I had so wanted to visit didn't come, and I felt a detachment, as though I was watching a film of someone else in Lyme Regis. I said nothing to Cathy, my fellow traveler, about my feelings, because she might have taken them to be disappointment, but that was not the case at all. What happened was that the emotions were too great, so a kind of numbness took over, which is the reason why I've taken so long to actually write about the place. As I write these words, I sound a little crazy, even to myself.

We drove through the town and parked as close to the beach as we could, which was pretty close considering our visit was during the tourist season. We walked straight to the beach, and I had my first view of the Cobb, which featured so prominently in two of the books and the movie.




Cathy and I walked out on the Cobb, and she insisted that I do the Meryl Streep imitation.  Since I couldn't quite believe I was actually walking and standing on the Cobb, the joking around with the scarf and me as Meryl Streep early in the visit was probably a good thing.


After the walk on the Cobb, Cathy and I headed for the beach.  Although smaller fossils can still be found at Lyme Regis, during the tourist season the beach is pretty much swept clean.   As we walked along, Cathy spotted the small fossil pictured at the left and gave it to me as a memento of our trip.  I was quite surprised by the find and even more moved by Cathy's generous gift.

We walked back to town and looked for a restaurant to eat lunch, but all were either too crowded or unsatisfactory for one reason or another. We headed back to the beach, walked up and down, and settled on By The Bay, where we intended to have lunch at one of the outdoor tables, protected by umbrellas, with a full view of the beach. However, as we walked toward the restaurant, a light rain began to fall, and by the time we reached the restaurant, the rain came down harder, so we took a table inside. Of course, we had to order fish and chips, and Cathy recommended ginger beer, as she said, "Fentimans, a good old Newcastle firm, the logo is the owner's dog, which is one of the reasons I like it."  What could I do?  I ordered Fentimans Ginger Beer, along with a glass of wine.

I'll let Cathy speak again, "We had a good time :) The restaurant served damn good fish and chips."  Indeed!  We had a lovely lunch, with delicious fish and chips and tasty ginger beer. 

After lunch, we walked along the row of colorful beachfront changing cabins, where folks had their chairs, iceboxes, and food and drink - their supplies for a day on the beach.  I imagine the ladies of the late 18th and early 19th century changing into their bathing costumes with hardly an inch of skin exposed beyond the face and hands and being rolled out to sea in bathing machines.

As we headed back to town past the shops and made our way to the car, I particularly noted the beautiful lampposts with shell motifs.  The photo to the left with the birdie perched on one of the beauties is very likely not mine, but where it comes from, I can't say.

My sense of inhabiting a dream had lifted a little toward the end of the visit, but the entire time in the town has an air of unreality about it until this day.  Did I really visit Lyme Regis, or are my memories  a figment of my imagination?  The pictures prove I was there, but still... 

Image at the head of the post and of the Cobb from Wikipedia.

Note: The picture of the streetlamps is also from Wikipedia.

36 comments:

  1. Lovely visit, how good that you could be there, finally.

    I'm not sure non-literati types can understand the strong hold that England exercises over the imaginations of those of us who know her only through books.

    When I made my one visit to London, age 21, it wasn't quite as dreamlike as your visit to Lyme Regis, but it was certainly a continual amazement to be walking those very streets, seeing those very sights. And through and behind it all, the very curious sensation of having been there before - of being home.

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  2. Russ, I devoured English novels of the 18th and especially the 19th century in my formative teenage years, and their influence on my life is enormous. I'd say much of my moral core was formed by reading the novels, so I'm dismissive of the "it's only a novel" view.

    For my initial trip to Europe, I wanted to go to France, but Tom and I ended up on a two-week visit to England instead, because friends of ours were there for an extended period, and they showed us around some and pointed the way for the rest of our visit. Immediately, I felt at home, and I fell in love with the place, and I've returned many times since and never fallen out of love. I'm so pleased to find someone else who understands and doesn't think I'm completely bonkers.

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  3. Emendation: I should have said, "only or mainly through books . . ."

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  4. I was in my 40s when I first came to know England outside of books, TV, and movies. Just saying.

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  5. Crap, I hit the "send" key too soon.

    Oh no, you're not bonkers at all. I quite understand. And I'm envious that you've gotten to return to the scepter'd isle so many times, how lucky you are!

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  6. I'm going to lower the tone .....but then what else would you expect.

    A young couple celebrated their wedding day at the parish church of Lyme Regis and afterwards repaired to a nearby hotel for their Reception. The waiter brought them the Menu from which they could choose their starter. The newly-wedded bride looked at the list and chose sweetcorn. Her new husband looked at her and asked, "Would you like it on the cob?" She thought for a moment and then replied, "No, I think our first time of making love ought to be in the Honeymoon Suite."

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  7. On a serious note, I used to live just inland from Lyme, and I often dug up fossils in the garden of the vicarage. Only this last week I passed four of them on to the local school here to go into their resources.

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  8. SR, I love the lower tone. LOL funny.

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  9. Everyone told us not to expect to find fossils at that time of year, because folks went out early in the morning and cleaned the beach. But that little rock was mine, waiting for Cathy to see it and give it to me. I cherish the little curie.

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  10. Thank you. Very moving...I also love English Novels and my favorite movie ever is Maurice.

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  11. Len, I read all of Forster's novels before I knew he was gay, and I never heard of Maurice until years later. I read the book and watched the movie, another by the great team of Merchant and Ivory, and an early acting effort of Hugh Grant. Wasn't publication of the book delayed until after Forster's death?

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  12. Oh, and thank you for your kind words, Len.

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  13. I like every era...I´ve read every Tudor book I´ve found (there is probably thousands more)...we get Pride and the Prejudice in English and Spanish (films/old and new)...love them both and they are worn out. After reading your travel entry about Lyme Regis I went downstairs to my studio and painted and brooded (in a good way).Thanks Mimi

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  14. Len, you made my day. Painting and brooding (in a good way) is a fine way to spend time. Thank you.

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  15. Mimi, you've made me think back to our visit and I am wishing we were back in Lyme Regis again :) My only regret is I wish we'd found a good hotel or B&B to stay at in Lyme Regis itself, but then they do tend to be overpriced for what you get, esp in tourist season. I'm glad you treasure your fossil. It was about the right size - anything bigger would probably have been hard to carry back on the plane.

    Lyme Regis looks so pretty in the photos. Sigh.

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  16. Cathy, I want to go back, perhaps not in tourist season, and I want to visit the museum next time. What was the house nearby that we tried to visit and found it was already closed? I think it belonged to or had an association with a literary figure.

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  17. It was something to do with Thomas Hardy, was it not? We went to the caff and had a nice cup of tea instead. The gardens were beautiful.

    It would be wonderful if you did come back :) One more time, and then we could go to Cornwall too.

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  18. The thought of the airports and the flights, well not the flights so much as getting on the damn planes, is daunting, but we'll see. For this year it was no go, because of the expense and because I could not face all that again so soon.

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  19. Mimi, you MUST go again. And you ought to take me w/ you. ;-)

    Lovely pics. You've got me thinking I need to read more 18th/19th c. BritFic.

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  20. I´ve been building up to making a odd request from God.

    I know, I know it´s going to sound like I´m a selfish fellow who is afraid of passing on to the great adventure...but, alas, it´s just that I can´t seem to get enough life (not to be confused with enough out of life)...recently, I´ve been visiting many of my dear old friends and some just dandy former acquaintance via Google Search (this has been going on for over a year now)...most of the ones I connect with, pals from childhood thru my worklife, seem to have gone to the great BEYOND already, already! I´ve had time in each case to reflect about my time with each of them and I keep thinking about their voices, boy, did most of them have VOICES, and/or some of their admireable/adorable acts while human beings. It´s not that they make me sad, these memories are quite gripping and mostly joyful, it´s just that I wish they were still here and chatting it up and acting up and laughing with me outloud (and running indoors when the rainy season rain pours down in our afternoons here)...I want more of them but somehow it´s fitting that they´ve gone away and done what we humans must do each and everyone of us...die.

    I know what Gods going to say. I think I best get back to my ¨life on lifes terms¨ mode, but, really you went to Lyme Riges because you had deep feelings of friendship in your heart for someone that was real, said real words to her friends and family and wrote some fascinating/touching moments from her history/time for us to explore the depth of truth and passion both then and for now too. I guess it´s fine to keep paying attention and letting the great waves of lovliness, of before and now, whaft around us without wanting more (¨may I have some more, Sir¨).

    I don´t quite get it all yet but there is a far bigger picture I know. I reach to understand but I must not demand...I been given so much already I know I must be content, be still, and take my turn being a real live human being and accept the many gifts given to me without being greedy. Life is a very big deal. Thank be to God

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  21. JCF, come along as my luggage carrier. :-D

    Len, my emotions ran deep as I wrote the post, which was written over a period of time, little by little, and I edited and corrected until I thought I'd never finish and hit publish.

    What kept coming to mind as I read your comment was the Communion of Saints, that we are all somehow connected, those of us who still live and those who die. Of course, we'd like to see their faces, hear their voices, hear their laughter as we once did, but the connection is still there, for they live in our hearts because we love them.

    And not just with the people we know and love, but with others whom we have never known, those who have touched our lives through their writing, through art, or through music, somehow, we are all bound together.

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  22. Yes, we ¨somehow¨ communicate...they are cherished. Thank you, Mimi

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  23. I was never an Austin fan. It wasn't until I began reading Dorothy Sayers that I began to fall in love with the UK. But my experience there was trying. Being a woman priest there in 1987 was precarious and still frustrating in '95. I found Scotland more to my liking--it is where the other side of the family comes from. I always felt that folks were looking down upon us in England.

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  24. Muthah, I don't remember feeling looked down upon when I was in England. Perhaps certain English folk were patronizing me, and I didn't get it. Had I perceived an air of superiority, I would have thought it was their problem, not mine. Of course, I am not a priest, which may have made a difference in your case.

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  25. Yes Maurice was not published until after Forster's death in 1970, though he wrote most of it in 1910. It was the first gay book I ever bought, age 17 . . . having seen a mention of it in the newspaper or maybe a newsmagazine, I really had to screw up my courage to go find a paperback copy in the local book store . . . and carried it with trembling hands and racing heart to the cashier, who took my money with a half-quizzical smile. In that era in the Deep South, it was truly mortifying and terrifying to run the risk of being "identified" as one of "them." Very different from today.

    I hustled it home in a paper bag and then, conveniently, spent a long ice-bound weekend curled up with it and a steaming pot of tea - luxuriating in the first-ever written descriptions of what I felt in my heart. A great secret to be kept for many years thereafter, still - but a joy as well, as if finding a friend in the wilderness.

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  26. Also, Mimi, you may (or may not) enjoy reading a collection of Forster's gay-themed short stories, also published posthumously. I was lucky enough to find a used copy some years ago, which I snatched up immediately. Here is a link to the Google Books preview, and though some were never properly polished and finished (tho' fascinating to me nonetheless), I highly recommend the eponymous story "The Life to Come": brilliantly written and structured, a real gem.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=QeghlNeofqcC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

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  27. Russ, you gave me a laugh with your book in a paper bag. I remember the ads in comic books directed to boys selling "informational materials", or whatever euphemism was used, that would be shipped in a plain brown wrapper.

    How sad that LGTB young people had to be (and still must be) furtive in their explorations of their sexuality. Your story is very touching, and I don't mean to make light of what the book meant to you. Thanks for the link. I'll check it out.

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  28. The allusion was intentional. Grin. I really felt I was carrying something as "radioactive" as pornography, afraid that people I passed on the sidewalk could guess my dread secret, glowing in my hand.

    That's a hell of a way to have to grow up, you know?

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  29. JCF, come along as my luggage carrier. :-D

    Oh, Mon Cher, if I didn't think Grandpere might have a shotgun...! (My dream of being a Kept Androgyne. ;-X)

    ***

    Re Russ's (moving) story: here's a similar one, that was on NPR just yesterday. http://www.npr.org/2012/06/18/151704165/teenage-tales-sneaking-looks-in-sexy-books

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  30. Coming of age is not easy at best, but LGTB teenagers have a much more difficult and complicated time of it.

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  31. How lovely to read about your adventures in Lyme Regis! We holidayed there many times as children, and I still love it now, as does my 10 year old Asperger's son - his love of all things prehistoric means that it's a bit of a 'must' for him :).

    I think us English folk don't appreciate just how much our country and its literary heritage means to others. I'm so glad you enjoyed it, and hope you will visit again. x

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    1. Thank you, Lisa. I have loved England since our first visit in 1982. My friend Cathy and I have tentative plans for a road trip through Cornwall in October. I hope we can work it out. On the one hand, the weather will be chilly, but, on the other hand, the tourist season will be over.

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    2. Ah, Cornwall - beautiful, beautiful place. Do try to visit Moushole (pronounced Mowsel) if you can, and have a look at a beautiful children's book called The Mousehole Cat - the illustrations are stunning. xxx

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    3. Lisa, I'll make a note to try to include Moushole in our trip, (thanks for the pronunciation), and I'll look up the book.

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