Monday, April 5, 2010

A 20-year-old letter from England, part 2

[caption id="attachment_787" align="aligncenter" width="240" caption="From Flickr/DaveKav"]From Flickr/DaveKav[/caption]

Wednesday, August 9, 1989

Disley, Cheshire, England

Today Frances, her friend Brenda and I spent the day at Newstead Abbey, Lord Byron's ancestral home in Nottinghamshire. First we enjoyed a leisurely drive through the countryside, long, winding roads lined with mauve weed and grasses and goldenrod. Miles of dry stone walls pitching recklessly along hillsides and winding through valleys. We drove through towns with wonderful, odd names: Chapel-en-le-Frith, the famous plague town Eyam, etc. Then we passed through grimy towns famed for their collieries: Mansfield, Chesterfield with its crooked steeple (I thought of D.H. Lawrence the whole time).

Newstead Abbey itself was stately, and there were sloping miles of grass, trees, and tended gardens. We began the tour with the house itself. I read aloud from the guidebook we borrowed from the admissions desk. The rooms were rather dark and somber; medieval. I enjoyed viewing Byron's dining area. I could imagine the poet penning a few lines of verse over his morning tea. We met a tour guide in Byron's sleeping chambers. Frances, Brenda and I were fascinated by the presence of ghosts in the Abbey, and we asked if he had seen any. He replied that he hadn't, but he led us to an adjoining dressing room and informed us that the poet had seen a spectre several times: a monk in a black habit. He told us, too, that one of the female tour guides had some strange experiences in the room: feelings of child, dizziness, etc. And another guard saw a ghostly figure emerge from a boudoir in another part of the Abbey. When we later arrived at the boudoir, Brenda and I noticed a distinct chill  ... but nothing else.

I took many pictures; hopefully they'll come out. When we returned to Disley, we all went to dinner at the Red Lion, a nice pub a few blocks away.

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