Saturday, May 05, 2007

Working museums, rabbit women and husband hints

As threatened, I popped into Guildford today with Lord H to face the irritating Nationwide people - but even though I had to queue for twenty minutes to see a real person, I have to say that the real person I saw was utterly charming, efficient and sorted me out (or mostly) in no time. If only I'd done that rather than attempt to call yesterday, I could have saved myself all that angst. I shall remember for next time: never use the phone; just go see a person. Always the best way.

And talking of angst, this will make you laugh: Lord H and I did go to the theatre yesterday in the end as we thought we needed a night out. The play was fine, and Stephanie Beacham was utterly wonderful. As ever. But, oh misery, the rows in front of us seemed to be filled with people from St Peter's who saw us in the interval and leapt upon us with apparent cries of joy. Damn it. We were having a nice night out up to that point. Still, I can do politeness and charm when faced with the enemy (though Lord H fell silent, as is his wont), and I chit-chatted for Britain. We then managed to escape to the lower bar, but they caught us up and started attempting to have an in-depth conversation about our desertion of the church in the middle of the theatre. Not the best place, I feel, and I was quite angry (though thought it best not to show it too much) - all the more so as I knew it was making Lord H feel twitchy. However, I managed to keep it light, though when the lay reader started saying once more how difficult the new guy, Paul, is, I spoke up at last and said that actually he'd been extremely lovely, real and humane to me the one time I'd spoken to him whereas our last guy (whom the lay reader always praises - in my opinion needlessly - to the skies) was a complete loser when it came to relating to the pew-fodder, had blanked me when I'd asked for help (twice) and I'd felt so strongly about it that I hadn't bothered signing his leaving card and had been very glad when he'd finally gone. That took the wind out of her sails somewhat. And when the lay reader's husband said he hoped that we wouldn't lose touch just because we weren't coming to church any more, I replied by saying that church friends were exactly that - church friends - and in my experience rarely lasted (except on a very few honourable cases) outside the bounds of the churchyard. Which may well mean that any attempted career move of mine into the Diplomatic Service will probably not last long, but at least no-one can say they don't know where I stand.

Funny how we didn't see them after the play ended though - they were probably running to the hills by then ...

Anyway, back to today. Post the Nationwide, we stared in great joy at the Guildford Morris Men (and Women) and Jack o' Lanterns for a while - how I loved those wonderful flower hats the Morris Men were wearing to welcome in the month of May and how much Lord H and I secretly long to do the dances and wave around sticks and handerchiefs, but I fear we would never live down the shame if we ever gave into it. Though Lord H would look nice in those hats - no! Stop it, stop it now!

We have then spent a wonderful day at the Amberley Working Museum ( which was great. Lots of fascinating old shops/businesses to look at - and it even made the concrete exhibition really interesting too, which was quite a feat. We took a ride on the old train - twice - and admired all the old kitchen utensils which our mothers used to have. Lord H got quite emotional over the top loader washing machine and attached mangle, which apparently was the same version that he fell off when he was five, thus giving him a (to me) almost invisible scar on his head, though he swears it's there and it's just my eyes which are wrong. We also wandered round the old buses they have there, and he was delighted to find a poster for the Royal Blue Coach Company, which his father used to work for. Hmm, is Lord H actually 150 years old and is just kept youthful by a life of accountancy and marital ease? The family will have to be consulted, I feel ...

We were also much amused by the electricity exhibition (hands-on stuff with plugs and creating static electricity - we loved it!!) which had an old advert for electricity which said "Don't kill your wife with work - make electricity do it instead." Ah, more innocent times indeed ... And naturally, there was a display about the Great Godalming Electricity Disaster, which comes up at all these kind of things. Our home town (if you don't know this already) was the first town in the UK to install electric street lights in 1881, instead of the old gas ones, and therefore the first town to have any kind of public electricity installation at all. This would have been wonderful and would have guaranteed Godalming a place in the history books forever, but unfortunately the town council decided in 1884 that electricity would never catch on, so turned it off and reinstalled all the old gas lights again. Sigh. Oh the shame of it all ...

It's nearly as bad as the Godalming Rabbit Woman - another true story, I'm afraid: she was around in the late 1700s/early 1800s, I think from memory, and was famed across the country for giving birth to rabbits. People came from all over the place to see her with her "rabbit children" - even royalty made the trip at one point. Gullible fools! And I think she was also invited to the Palace. However, after a few years someone found her stealing young rabbits from neighbouring farmers and so the scam was uncovered. Surprise! And more sighing - no wonder the countryside has a peculiar reputation.

Anyway, enough strangeness. Tonight, it's "Doctor Who" on TV, and I think there's a film on later, so I shall slump in front of that and be couch fodder. Hurrah.

Oh, and I've also just finished Kathy Lette's "How to Kill your Husband (and other handy household hints)" - have to say I was rather disappointed with it, especially as I've heard her speak and she's an incredibly charming, bright and sassy woman. I loved her. But the book - to my mind - isn't really a novel at all; it's more of the notes for a novel, or perhaps more accurately the notes to a screenplay. It would certainly make a good film. And it has a nice, sharp "feelgood" ending - though frankly the plot falls apart here. Because surely they'd know it wasn't human blood. We do have forensics these days ... (You'll know what I mean if you've read it!). Also Hannah was very poorly drawn, though Cassie was great. But the speed of the thing was very, very distancing, and I never felt close to any of the characters. You'd need actors to bring out the heart of it. Which takes me back to my film thoughts ...

Today's nice things:

1. The nice Nationwide woman
2. Amberley Working Museum
3. TV.

Anne Brooke

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