Two decades of the 21st century have already passed.
After all the jollity and happiness for lucky souls over Christmas, as we take down the tree, the cards and the decorations I think we must all be entering 2020 possibly with some excitement and rather more anxiety about what lies ahead for us all, both politically and generally, and in Australia.
When we left India in April 1968 we imagined we were leaving for good. John’s three-year contract with the Cathedral and John Connon School in Bombay had come to an end and he had been offered another teaching job in the UK. We had thoroughly enjoyed our time in India, but were now, complete with baby (Ruth) embarking on the next stage of our lives.
We’d heard talk of Keralan Riceboats and the Keralan backwaters but hadn’t appreciated what a lovely experience this would turn out to be.
Sorry to go on about it but I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it, Everyone on the road seems to be relying on quick reactions, their horns – but above all on luck, as they weave in and out of seemingly impossible spaces, women nearly always bareheaded sitting side-saddle writing on their phones, two sitting side-saddle on the same rather small pillion. A man reading a book while driving his scooter.
The loveliness is enhanced by the very unloveliness of the journey here…
I have a hurried hour to write this before we are collected by our driver for our next adventure – a 11/2 hour drive to Alleppey in the Kerala backwaters, for a day and night on a rice boat.
So, first impressions, in a rush. Clammy heat, bright sunshine, colour, noise, warm greetings and friendliness, and perhaps above all, chaotic road conditions.
About the latter we remembered well, and had been warned afresh.
In all innocence I asked our guide from the airport and our excellent driver, Biju, which side of the road one drove in India. ‘The right’ said one. ‘The left”, said the other. Or perhaps, they agreed, wherever there was a space. And I don’t think they were joking.
Bareheaded women passengers riding side-saddle on the pillion of a motor bike which is weaving in and out of the traffic looking for those spaces, cars backing onto the main road, masses of tuk tuks lining the route, the odd pack of dogs ambling along in and out of everything.
But this aside, above all, I have been aware of warmth and friendliness, laughter and smiles even when one is refusing a lift or declining to buy.
And now I’m told our driver is here to take us on the next step so I must post this hastily. More details tomorrow, all being well.
With an explanatory introduction for those family members under five or six…
Once upon a time, a very long time ago, there were two young people who went out to Africa to live. They were called Douglas and Rachel Hall, and they lived in a country that then was called Northern Rhodesia. (Now it is called Zambia.)
Last week we were in Northumberland. Everything was lovely, apart from the weather but even that didn’t stop us. We did so much, and had such a good time I may risk sounding as if I were in the pay of Visit Northumberland. I assure you I am not!
So I will try to skip along quickly, before I come briefly to the family memories bit…
We stayed in The Byre, a superb holiday cottage by the sea, overlooking Holy Island. Our very good friends, the Cartwrights, stayed in the Mill House next door and during the week various permutations of the nine of us did various things, but all meeting up in the evening for very jolly and delicious suppers.
Of course we visited Holy Island, and most of us walked home one day along the Causeway, making sure it was very low tide and that we didn’t inadvertently kick any unexploded World War 2 armaments.
Inevitably we did lots of touristy things. Various of us visited Barter Books in Alnwick, and Alnwick Garden (The Poison Garden was alarming!) Seahouses for fresh fish, Budle Bay, and Budle Hall, a very lovely B&B. Our last evening we had a splendid meal at the Potted Lobster , in Bamburgh. It was a lovely way to conclude the holiday.
Then John and I drove up one particularly wet and windy day to Cockburnspath, in the Scottish Borders, to Dunglass where the Hall family lived for over two hundred years. The estate was sold in 1919 to the Usher family, who live there still although no longer in the ‘big house’ which was pulled down – well actually blown up – some time ago.
Dunglass is now a thriving wedding venue. Weddings are conducted in the most atmospheric and windowless church. Historic Environment Scotland casts the blame for its state of apparent disrepair firmly on the Halls.
In the 18C the Hall family apparently turned the church into a barn, knocking down one section you see in the photo below for easier access… However, several Halls are buried there and the plaques of many more are on the walls in the south transept so there can’t have been total disrespect…
While chatting to Simon and Joyce Usher they told us they hold about 60 weddings a year. (They also assured us that in chilly weather people are kept completely warm and comfortable, so current day Halls need perhaps not feel too guilty.)
We met for lunch Sally Wilson and her husband Kenneth, a multi-talented pair but I think essentially a writer/researcher and an artist. Sally has written a most interesting and informative book about Cockburnspath, and another about Lady Helen Hall, my several-times-great grandmother. We could have talked to Sally and Ken for so much longer.
Now back at home, I intend to re-read both books, and share with family, and any interested friends some of our Hall family history. (Of course there are various other families too, which I mustn’t ignore…)