Barbara lives in a beautiful stone house a block away from Casterton School, the boarding school Gran attended during World War II, from 1942 to 1944
. We spent our first morning being toured around the school by two Sixth Form (grade twelve) girls. Tennis courts, a pool, a theater, dorms for the four Houses, all in mossy grey stone buildings that have been there for nearly 200 years. Gran showed us where she and her classmates had to line up to greet the headmistress every day and the little candy shop where she spent her monthly sweet rations. As we waited to greet the assistant headmistress, Gran whispered to us: "The last time I was in this room, it was the headmistress’ office and I was there because I had misbehaved!" We even went out to supper at the Pheasant Inn, where my great-grandmother would stay when she came to visit her daughter. The school’s real claim to fame (aside from my Gran, of course) is two of its alumni: Charlotte and Emily Brontė.
The fells of the Lake District inspired another author, one who wrote about naughty bunnies and scatterbrained ducks. I grew up with the beautifully-illustrated stories of Beatrix Potter, and walking around Barbara’s house was like stepping into one of them. We drove up to nearby Windermere to visit the Beatrix Potter World, a lovely interactive museum about her life and her playful characters.
We’re thinking of you all today and wishing you a very Happy Canada Day!
We've had quite an eventful past few days, since we hugged Jean goodbye at the train station and came north to Cumberland. Gran’s college friend, Barbara Magee, met us in her vintage VW camper van, which ended up reminding me very much of my little Ford Focus at home… as it didn’t start. Apparently the starter had gone, so we needed to wait at the train station for her mechanic to come give us a boost. At home, this inconvenience would (and has, many times) have me pacing and frenzied, but its funny how no schedule or responsibilities can change your outlook. What the heck, we were on holidays! When we did manage to get going, the poor van suffered another blow when a passing truck kicked up a stone that cracked the back window, which crumbled onto my lap and shoulder as we wove and bumped our way along the hedge-lined roads. Barbara ended up pulling over to the side of the road so I could bash out what little remained of the window with her walking cane. (It was curiously satisfying...)