An abbreviated (for me) post this week as I sit at an unfamiliar computer writing this from a “country house inn” in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales, not to be confused with the Yorkshire moors which we will see tomorrow.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime-trip which my husband, JP, and I had promised ourselves. And after only about a decade or so of planning, we finally made it to England.
My own anglophile fantasies began back in law school when I (or as they would say here “whilst I”) helped myself to sleep every night by reading one after another of the entire set of Agatha Christie mysteries, the plots of which I completely fail to remember. But they soothed me to sleep, with vivid images of lovely little villages, friendly pubs and rolling green hills.
Later I graduated from the “cozy” mysteries to the genre of crime fiction known as “police procedurals”, which remain a favourite today. My book club friends laugh at my obsession with them but for me they satisfy the need to combine interesting characters, technical details and a tidy ending – along with, of course, a strong sense of place.
Most of the ones I read are set in England, my preferred locale (Ruth Rendell, P.D. James), though I like Scottish crime fiction as well – having read through most if not all of Ian Rankin (Edinburgh) and Anne Cleeves (Shetland Islands). I am a complete sap for any mystery with a strong sense of place.
Which is why when we landed in London last Saturday it was if I knew my way around, so many of the street and neighbourhood names were so familiar.
And now that we have left London (lovely but loud, over-crowded and wow, do they drive aggressively; I was nearly nipped by taxis several times while crossing the streets.) and made our way north to Yorkshire, I feel even more at home, as if I have stepped into the pages of many of the mysteries I have read for years. From the vocabulary – lift, lorry, boot, bonnet, way out, mind the gap – to the food – crisps (chips), chips (fries) mushy peas (just as it sounds), beans on toast (same), pudding (desserts) – I find myself thinking I have perhaps morphed into a character in one of my favorite crime novels or series? Perhaps one of those snappy female detectives (like the ones in the British films “Happy Valley” or “Broadchurch”) with the brusque manners but the tender hearts underneath who solve the complicated murder puzzle at the end.
The nice cab driver who took us from our London hotel to Victoria station today to catch our train told us that he and his family love America, that they try to visit every few years and that their favourite place is Disneyworld. Which is of course, a completely fictionalized place not found in any book.
I was thinking after we chatted with him that I enjoy crime fiction for the opposite reason – because it is not imaginary but based on real life and set in true places.
Which brings me back to England, to this tiny village, where I sit at an unfamiliar (typing errors?) computer in a lovely country house in a small village in northern Yorkshire; early evening and it is drizzling outside. Perfect!
Tomorrow off to see more real life places with names like Masham and Wensleydale, places I have read about for years and imagined in my mind’s eye.
That is the beauty of books, isn’t it, for many of you were also likely bookworms as a child as I was.
Avid readers always get to go to places they won’t typically visit in real life. I feel so lucky now to be taking this long dreamed of trip to see the places I’ve only known in books. And they look just like I imagined they would.
Pinch me, I told my husband, we really are in England!