You know the saying that travel broadens the mind? Well, in my case it may do, but it also raises the blood pressure, increases stress levels and shortens my life expectancy. Much of this is caused by staying in hotels, of course. The room I had in the hotel in Inverness last week was so narrow I touched all four walls every time I breathed in: lying in the bed was like being digested by a boa constrictor, or buried alive in a child’s coffin. Then the guy next door came in noisily at 1.30 in the morning, and got up and left noisily at 5.00; the walls were so thin I could hear his nose hairs rustling as he slept.
There’s this theory that the universe will expand to a certain point, then collapse back, there’s a big bang and everything repeats, again and again, eternally and for ever. There are many reasons why I don’t want this to be true, but mostly because it will mean endlessly reliving that night in Inverness, back and forth, until the end of time and space, an infinity of sleepless 5.00am’s.
I spent part of last week’s holiday with my parents at Reid Towers, our ancestral mansion in Northamptonshire overlooking the Grand Union Canal. South Northants really is a lovely county, a patchwork of fields draping the landscape like an embroidered quilt, charming villages of Cotswold stone, all ivy-covered pubs and cricket on the village green, and everywhere herds of solicitors and doctors, the only ones who can afford to live there, ravaging the crops like wild deer (time for another cull, you say? Pass me my twelve bore). But it still feels like home to me.
The town of Northampton itself, though, is sadly an urban wasteland of post-apocalyptic desolation, where hollow-eyed survivors stagger from the ruins after dark (not zombies, of course, for as everyone knows, zombies feed on brains, and the last one in Northampton starved to death 20 years ago).
Northampton made the schoolboy error of supporting Parliament in the Civil War, so when Charles II was restored to the throne he—rather petulantly, it’s always seemed to me—had the castle torn down, starting a tradition of destruction carried on by the Luftwaffe and subsequent town planners. Retracing my childhood in the town is now about as hard as working out how medieval people lived and already involves more archaeology than history (I know I’m getting old, but really: this is my childhood, people).
I left my knitting behind, as I usually do on these trips, partly because I’m self-conscious, but mostly because it’s so big and unmanageable now it’s like holding a drunken sheep with a fever on your lap. And anyway, it was just too hot down south (at one point I even contemplated rolling up my shirtsleeves, but recollected in time that there were ladies present, and forbore). Still, I’ve managed another few inches since last time, and am still on track to finish the gansey by the end of the month.
My Victorian detective novel The Cuckoo’s Nest continues to sell well on Amazon, selling more in a month than some of my books ever have, so thank you to all who’ve downloaded it. I guess crime, as they say, really does pay.
Margaret comes back from serving her time in a Turkish prison, correction, “holiday”, next week, when normal service will be resumed—by which I mean the blog will have images that actually vaguely resemble their subjects. Meanwhile I’m off to catch up on my sleep, now my travels are done: I think, all things considered, I’ll keep my mind safely narrow in future.