Friday, November 30, 2018

...And Pleats

That's right. PLEATS. Like what you put on a skirt.

And, why yes, I AM about to start working on a skirt. Thank you for asking.

I am, as usual, getting way ahead of myself. You see, I've been feverishly working on sewing a reproduction 1860's dress. Specifically, it's a sheer dress with bishop sleeves. See, some time back I decided to get serious about the idea of getting together a period costume (the period being the mid 1800's). I purchased a lovely, well-made dress online (a black-and-white-and-dark-green-plaid dress with pagoda sleeves and a white collar). While I like the dress, I was somewhat frustrated by the fit, because I have an unusual, petite shape. Clothes very rarely fit me well. In any case, I thought to myself, how hard could it be?

Cue my maniacal laughter after weeks of figuring this all out from scratch. See, I have no real sewing experience. Luckily, I'm pretty good with spatial things and am both artistic and a good draftswoman. So I was able to art my way out of problems or engineer my way out, for lack of a better way of putting it. For instance, I free-handed a few lines for the pattern to alter them, and I had to figure out button placements using math.

In any case, there are a few more blog posts about the sewing of the bodice, but the bodice is now complete (hurrah!).

The next step is the skirt. And this requires pleating. Lots and lots of pleating.

See, I have to get 160" of fabric down to a 26" waist (there will be another 1" on either side of this that will be un-pleated; these two inches will overlap and result in one more inch, for a total waist of 27").

And that--getting that much fabric down to so little--requires many pleats. And I have been trying and trying to figure out the math. Yes, I was sitting here doing algebra. Or at least, I was trying. And I was becoming increasingly frustrated. I was trying to work out a formula to convert the overall inches to the waist inches and to simultaneously tell me how big to make my pleats and how much to overlap them, and . . .

Well. It's enough to boggle the mind. I set down my calculations and, in frustration, took a break. A bathroom break. As I walked to the bathroom, I thought to myself that there must be a much simpler, more practical way to figure this out. Screw math.

And then it hit me. Divide the total amount of fabric (160") by a certain number of pleats. Actually, let's make it simpler. I have to pleat the skirt in four sections. So let's take 40" and divide it by, say, 20 pleats. So I would mark every 2" on my fabric. Each of those will be one pleat. Now, I take my 6.75" (which is 26"/4, because, again, this is a one-quarter section of the total waist length of 26") and I divide that by 20, as well. That's 0.3375" (close to 3/8"). I now have 1/20 of the total fabric and 1/20 of the waist length. All I have to do is reduce each 1/20 of the total to 1/20 of the waist length. In other words, I reduce every 2" section I marked off to 3/8". By the time I've made 20 pleats, I'll have used 20 twentieths of the total fabric (i.e., 100% of it) and created 20 twentieths of the waistband (i.e. 100% of it).

How do I reduce each 2" to 3/8"? First, I mark out 3/8" on a card, for ease. I put one edge of my 2" section on the first 3/8" mark, then pinch together that 2" section until its second mark meets the second 3/8" mark. That fabric I just pinched up is my pleat. Making sure both my 2" marks are still touching both my 3/8" marks, I lay flat the fabric I just pinched up. It should make a neat fold. I have now made one pleat that uses 2" of fabric that advances me along the waistband by 3/8". If I do this 20 times, I will have used 40" of fabric and made a waistband of (about) 6.75". That's just right for my purposes. I repeat that four times, for each section of my skirt, and I'll have used all 160" and made a waistband of 26".

I'm sure this will all make much more sense with pictures...

But, to summarize: decide on a number of pleats (this is arbitrary, but a nice round number is easiest). Divide the total length of your cloth by that number, and mark this interval out on your cloth. Also divide the desired length of your waistband by that the desired number of pleats. Then pinch together  the marks you made on the fabric until what's left is that second number (waistband/number of pleats). The excess you pinched up is your pleat.

This is actually a fairly simple technique, with very little math required.

I will try to spruce this up with pictures soon.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

. . . And Oxford and Peter Pan, Too

[Programming note: At the beginning of this month (September 2018), I took a six-day trip to the U.K. I was on a mission. Yes, I was going for pleasure, but I was going to see specific things for specific reasons: places that I didn't get to see on my previous stays in the UK, places that have a particular connection to my own writing or things I'm particularly interested in (mostly, this is encompassed by four works: Jane Eyre, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and Harry Potter). I started in London, then went north, to Edinburgh and made my way back to London via Haltwhistle (to see Hadrian's Wall), Haworth (to see the Bronte parsonage), and Oxford. I'll be writing a blog post for each day.]

This is a continuation of what'll be a series of blog posts about my trip to the UK this September. Part 1 of Day 1 is here. Part 2 of Day 1 is here. Here is Day 2. Here is Day 3. Here is Day 4. This is Day 5.

After a very long day in Haworth and then travelling to Oxford--and in fact after four very, very full days of intense traveling and sightseeing--I was more than a little tired upon waking up in Oxford. I woke up at my usual early hour. I can't recall quite how early, but I was up and dressed and out the hotel door looking for breakfast by about 7:30.

The view out my window in the morning--a red hot air
balloon rising over Magdalen College.

Hot tip. It is not easy to find breakfast in the U.K. (or at least Oxford) before 8:00. You wanna know how I know? Because I tried. Good Lord, I tried. But the High Street was deserted, as were the back streets. I wandered a bit along rainy Oxford streets cluttered with bikes, past ancient stone buildings that housed various bits and pieces of Oxford University. But I was hungry and really in search of food, so I kept walking and walking, towards the covered market at the heart of town. Oh, there were cafes. But were they open? No. I saw light and people inside one and went in--the door wasn't locked--only to have the people behind the counter look at me like I was insane and tell me they weren't open yet. They weren't rude, but they--oddly--seemed surprised that I would walk into an open cafe. At last, I found a Cafe Nero that was open. It's possible it was 8:00 by this time, or else that was the only cafe in ALL OF OXFORD that was open before 8:00. Which, come on. Cafes should be open bright and early for breakfasters. Isn't that the point of them? Do you want my money or not, guys?

Logic Lane--appropriate for Oxford.

Hooke and Boyle and microscopes and cells!

Oxford is very bike-centric.

In any case, I fortified myself with a chocolate croissant and some hot chocolate (what? I was feeling grumpy and therefore rather indulgent of myself). Then I went back to my hotel, checked out (and left my bag), and went back out as a light rain started to fall. I waited for the 3A bus nearby, and was delighted to find it was a double-decker. It was my first double-decker on this trip to the UK. I sat on the top deck at the front, watching the rainy landscape.

By the time we reached my destination, Rock Farm Lane, the rain had lightened up. I had carefully examined maps and satellite images beforehand, so I set out fully prepared to find my destination: a marble monument on a dam above the pool--or "lasher"--created by that dam. The monument is to a series of young men, mostly (all?) Oxford students, who drowned there in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Now why, you might well wonder, would I care about this pool and this monument?

Because one of these young men was none other than Michael Llewelyn Davies, one of the boys who inspired Peter Pan. He and a friend, Rupert Buxton, drowned there in 1920. The exact circumstances of their deaths aren't known. They were seen swimming ("bathing", they would have said), and they were seen going down (maybe?). It's hotly debated whether it was accidental or suicidal and whether J.M. Barrie's role in Michael's life had anything to do with it. There's at least one blog post-worth of material there, so suffice it to say that I believe it was an accidental drowning. Michael was afraid of water and could not swim. It's possible he got into trouble and his friend tried to help him, but they both went down (a drowning person can become very desperate and drown their rescuer); or, Rupert got into trouble and Michael tried to help even though he couldn't swim, and ended up drowning himself. After all, that place had claimed more than a few other lives. It's still entirely possible it was suicide. Who knows? There are rumors the two young men were homosexual, but there's no actual evidence of that. Possible, but not conclusive. The truth is, we'll never know exactly what happened.

But in any case, given my fascination with the story of the Llewelyn Davies family, this was one site I wanted to see, even if it is a little macabre. 

It was about a ten-minute walk from the bus-stop to the little cluster of buildings around Sandford Lock and the Kings Arms Pub. It's a picturesque spot right on the Thames, with a lock across the river. Everything was lush and green, and it was a calm morning; the rain had stopped. I watched a boat go through the lock, then crossed the top of the lock once it was closed.

The lock closing.

On the other side of the lock, I turned right and started walking along the riverbank. I was on an island there. To my right was the main channel, leading to the lock that was now behind me. To my left, on the other side of the island and not visible through the trees, was the other channel, which had a dam instead of a lock, which was further upstream than the lock. Obviously, all the boats on the water would be on the side of the river that I was on; you can't go over a dam, but you can through the lock. Houseboats lined the river, and a group of kayakers were skimming the water.

House boat + kayaker.
As for me, I kept walking, through a fence and through yet another sheep pasture, then through another gate. I kept going along the trail that paralleled the riverbank. It became heavily forested as I went; I went over one bridge, then stopped before I reached the second.
The first waterfall I passed.

From my research, I knew that if I turned left, there was a faint path leading towards the dam and the memorial. I had figured from my reconnaissance that this might be a bit sketchy, so I wasn't put off when the path became more and more overgrown and I was pushing through branches and wet leaves. I came to the end of this path at a big chain-link fence advertising that it was dangerous to go any further and everything beyond that point was part of the dam property. I couldn't get through there, but I could (kind of) see the monument, so my heart leapt.

The, uh, "path".

Through the links of the fence, looking towards the monument.
I wasn't easily deterred, so I crashed on through the thick woods along the riverbank, trying to get a better perspective. I came out of the brush at two different points; the second spot was the best, and I had a decent view of a the weir/lasher/pool below the dam, with a swan gliding towards me across the water, and the monument atop the dam, and the campers on the other side of the river.

The dam and the monument (it's a little lost amongst all the
machinery, isn't it?).

The monument atop the dam.

The swan that was hanging out there on the pool.

A different view.

Zoomed in on the monument. If you open the full-size
picture and zoom in, you can just make out Michael's name. There
are better pictures of the monument (though not the inscription)
if you just Google it.
[As a side note, I'd tried to determine exactly what was on the other bank and had concluded that it was some kind of industrial site and that I wouldn't be able to go there--though the presence of campers (?) makes me think I was wrong. Oh, another note: there was trash here and there through the woods, so it was clear I was not the first person to go back there; obviously, people had gone back there to hang out and leave their chip bags (ugh).]

I stood there a minute, listening to the rush of the water at the dam and watching the surface of the lasher. It looked quite calm. From what I understand, though, there's a strong current underneath. However, unlike Oxford students of the 19th and early 20th centuries, I had no desire to test that water, so I turned and crashed through the woods, back towards the actual path along the other bank of the island. I found myself following faint deer paths (sheep paths?). At one point, going over a log, I pricked my finger on a stinging nettle, so that was exciting. In any case, I broke through back onto the path just as someone else was coming by. He looked a tad bemused at this petite girl clambering through the woods. Maybe he thought I was doing drugs back there or something. The truth was much . . . nerdier. [I also wasn't 100% sure I wasn't trespassing, so I just kept walking.]

In any case, I walked back the way I'd come (Church Road) and watched another boat go through the lock, then hopped on the 3A bus back to town. It was about lunchtime, so I took the bus past my hotel to the heart of town. I considered where to go for food, but what I really, really wanted was a damn hamburger. I wanted some good ole Mickey D's, dammit. I found a Burger King first, and that was just fine with me. And no, I felt no guilt or qualms about eating Burger King while in ancient Oxford. You don't think they had quick/street food in medieval times, too? And besides, it was exactly what I wanted, and it hit the spot precisely. I was a happy girl with my burger, fries, and Coke.

My next stop was Christ Church College, just down the street. This stop was Alice in Wonderland-related. I mentioned Peter Pan, of course, and in previous posts I mentioned Jane Eyre. But I also am interested in the story and symbolism/iconography of Alice. It was here that the Revered Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) met a girl named Alice Liddell and wrote Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Also, bonus: the Great Hall here was the inspiration for the Great Hall in the Harry Potter movies.

Lucky for me, it was actually an open house that day, so I got to go in for free, and more things than usual were open. It was BEAUTIFUL. After entering, I went up the grand staircase and into the Great Hall (the Harry Potter-looking one), which was just as spectacular as you imagine. All along the walls are portraits of famous graduates of Christ Church. And, oh yeah, Henry VIII (who was, uh, not a graduate).

The Great Stairs leading to the Great Hall, Christ Church, Oxford. 
Ceiling of the Great Hall, Christ Church, Oxford.

Me in the Great Hall.

After leaving the Great Hall, it was back downstairs, then into the chapel, where I listened to some organ music, admired a few effigies, and marveled at a stained glass window depicting Thomas à Becket.

Chapel's ceiling; Christ Church, Oxford. 
Chapel, Christ Church, Oxford.

Thomas à Becket window.

Organ music, Christ Church, Oxford

Next was Tom Quad, where you get a great view of Tom Tower, designed by Christopher Wren (who also designed St. Paul's Cathedral).

Tom Quad.

I passed through some archways and into the gardens, and there was a little door that is referred to as Alice's door. It communicates between these gardens and the dean's gardens, where Alice lived (her father was dean of the college). It would have generally been locked, according to the article below.

Alice's door, Christ Church, Oxford.
Here's some more about that:

Beyond that, through another stone wall, is the ancient Pococke tree, from circa the 1630's.

I came back to Tom Quad, passed through it, and ended up at the Picture Gallery, which was open. I went in and viewed room after room of wonderful paintings, mostly 17th and 18th century and mostly religious in theme. Beautiful things, all of them. No photos allowed.

With that, my tour of Christ Church was done. My next stop was Alice's Shop across the street. I really wanted some Alice themed items. In the end, I was a tad disappointed. The store was tiny, and a lot of the things were somewhat indifferent in quality. I didn't want anything expensive or breakable, so I got a hand towel and some coasters and magnets. Looking back, I wish I'd splurged a little, but oh well. I did splurge a bit on England-themed souvenirs back on the High Street.

I had a bit of time before my 3:30 train left for London, so I took a left turn on my walk along High Street and walked past the Radcliffe Camera and the Bodleian. It became increasingly apparent to me that there was some kind of graduation going on, because the High Street was no longer deserted. It was absolutely thronged, and there were a lot of people running about in cap and gown and very fine suits (it was disproportionately men, and they were a bit older, ie not undergrads by my reckoning).

I passed under the Bridge of Sighs on my way towards the River Cherwell. As I reached the bridge over the river, which was stacked three-deep with skiffs, the bells of Magdalen Tower started tolling, and they kept on tolling. This was, no doubt, for the graduation. [By the way, it's pronounce mod-lin, a bit like the word maudlin; it's not pronounced mag-duh-lin like Mary Magdalen from the Bible.]

With that, my little adventure in Oxford was done. There was a heap more to see, but I simply didn't have time, and I'd hit all the places I'd set out to see. I had a few minutes to relax at the hotel, then got on a bus to the train station, passing by Oxford Castle along the way. The weather had cleared, and it was a lovely day as I waited on the platform for the train.

The train back to London was fairly quick--only a little over an hour. I took the Tube from Paddington to the Lambeth North station, nearest to my hotel.

You want to know what's funny? My hotel was the "Days Hotel", and it uses a logo with a rising sun that looks very (very) much like the "Days Inn" logo. In fact, I was under the impression that it *was* a Days Inn. But I learned my mistake when I got there. The hotel was okay. It wasn't a luxury hotel, but it wasn't a total dive; it wasn't the worst I've ever been in. In fact, it had A LIFT. An actual LIFT that went to EVERY FLOOR. Miracle of miracles! Most of all, it was right across from the Imperial War Museum, which I would visit in the morning.

For the moment, though, it was time for food. I went to the pub across the street, which, I had seen online, had superb pizza. And the Internet did not lie (in this case, anyway). This was BY FAR my best meal of my entire stay in the UK. The wood-fire pizza was delicious, the salad was actually wonderful, and the ice cream I got for dessert was wonderful, too. I felt like I'd been hungry most the time I was there because my appetite hadn't been good, and the food hadn't been very good, either, but this time I filled up and was so happy about it. It had turned into a lovely evening, too, which also brightened my mood.

As the sun set, I went back to my hotel. I took a shower, watched some terribly depressing show about The Troubles in Ireland, and went to bed.

Monday, November 19, 2018

. . . And Bronte Country

[Programming note: At the beginning of this month (September 2018), I took a six-day trip to the U.K. I was on a mission. Yes, I was going for pleasure, but I was going to see specific things for specific reasons: places that I didn't get to see on my previous stays in the UK, places that have a particular connection to my own writing or things I'm particularly interested in (mostly, this is encompassed by four works: Jane Eyre, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and Harry Potter). I started in London, then went north, to Edinburgh and made my way back to London via Haltwhistle (to see Hadrian's Wall), Haworth (to see the Bronte parsonage), and Oxford. I'll be writing a blog post for each day.]

This is a continuation of what'll be a series of blog posts about my trip to the UK this September. Part 1 of Day 1 is herePart 2 of Day 1 is hereHere is Day 2. Here is Day 3. This is Day 4.

Partway through Jane Eyre, our heroine flees Thornfield Hall and ends up on the moors, alone and desolate:
There are great moors behind and on each hand of me; there are waves of mountains far beyond that deep valley at my feet. The population here must be thin, and I see no passengers on these roads: they stretch out east, west, north, and south — white, broad, lonely; they are all cut in the moor, and the heather grows deep and wild to their very verge. Yet a chance traveller might pass by; and I wish no eye to see me now: strangers would wonder what I am doing, lingering here at the sign-post, evidently objectless and lost. I might be questioned: I could give no answer but what would sound incredible and excite suspicion. Not a tie holds me to human society at this moment — not a charm or hope calls me where my fellow-creatures are — none that saw me would have a kind thought or a good wish for me. I have no relative but the universal mother, Nature: I will seek her breast and ask repose.
I struck straight into the heath; I held on to a hollow I saw deeply furrowing the brown moorside; I waded knee-deep in its dark growth; I turned with its turnings, and finding a moss-blackened granite crag in a hidden angle, I sat down under it. High banks of moor were about me; the crag protected my head: the sky was over that.
Charlotte Bronte knew whereof she spoke. She grew up in the parsonage at Haworth, in the Yorkshire countryside, alongside the windy, wild moors. Although her sister Emily is well known to have roamed for miles and miles across the moors, Charlotte and her other sister Anne also spent time in the wild country. So visiting this countryside, which is still not densely populated, is like stepping back in time and getting a glimpse into Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights.

And that is exactly why I chose to make Haworth one of my stops on my recent trip to the U.K.

I'd arrived the night before after dark and had done little more than get some food in the hotel's dining room and then go to bed. I woke the next morning ready to hit the streets of Haworth. Out my window, I glimpsed the narrow, picturesque main street of the town.

View out my hotel window.

It was looking to be another fine day, and I was determined to have myself some fun. I was eager to get to the Bronte Parsonage Museum as soon as it opened, but first: breakfast. Again, I was going to be doing some walking and needed sustenance. The meal was complementary, so I availed myself of the Yorkshire breakfast option. It sounded like a good idea at the time, though I was pretty sure even as I ordered it that I'd have trouble getting much of it into my stomach. Sure enough, though the cooking was great, an enormous plate of eggs, bacon, kippers, toast, etc., was just too much for me. I made a pretty game attempt, I think, and ate maybe half of what was on my plate. I tried, okay!

An expansive Yorkshire breakfast. 

Now fortified with food, I checked out of my room, left my bag, and started walking. The town of Haworth is very cute and very British:

Haworth's main street.

I just liked that it's "And Daughters".

 I hadn't realized that the main street of Haworth is actually on a steep hill, and my hotel was at the bottom. I mean, it wasn't super steep, and I'm spry enough that it didn't bother me much, but it was a definite hill. Up the hill I went, in search of the museum. Naturally, I managed to make a wrong turn and took the longer way around, but at last! There it was: the parsonage!

The parsonage is fronted by a small lawn and gardens, directly below which is the graveyard and the church. Patrick Bronte, father of Charlotte, Anne, Emily, and their brother Branwell, was the church parson; hence his residence in the parsonage and its proximity to the church. The family moved here when the girls were young. Having so many children, Patrick sent his daughters to a school for the children of not-so-well-off clergy. At this point, there were five daughters, and all but the youngest, Anne, went to the Cowan Bridge Clergy Daughters' School. Sadly, terrible living conditions led to the death of two of the girls, Maria and Elizabeth. The other two, Charlotte and Emily, were brought home immediately. This episode clearly is the inspiration for Jane Eyre's time at Lowood School.

The Brontes' mother took ill and died while they were young, as well. Their aunt came to help raise them. When they were older, the girls worked as governesses, and their brother, Branwell, worked on-and-off as a tutor. He was an "artistic" type and thought himself something of a genius. He also got tangled in an embarrassing love affair with the wife of one of his employers, which lost him and Anne their jobs. He became dependent on drink and was a drain on the family until he eventually died of his alcoholism at a very young age.

Meanwhile, the three sisters were beginning to write in earnest (all the siblings had written and drawn/painted since they were children). They started with a book of poetry (of which Emily's poetry stood out as the best). It was, in essence, self-published and didn't go anywhere. Then they began writing novels and submitting them to real publishers. Anne's and Emily's books were accepted, but Charlotte's was rejected, though with the caveat that later works would be considered. The later work was Jane Eyre, which was a massive success. Knowing that they would not be taken seriously if they openly wrote as women, the three of them wrote under pseudonyms: Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell

Eventually, their identities became known, and they became celebrities of a sort. Sadly, consumption took Emily and Anne much too young, and Charlotte died of complications from a difficult pregnancy (she married Arthur Nichols not long before her death).

Jane Eyre is my favorite novel, and the story of the Brontes has fascinated me ever since I first heard it. So I was gleeful at seeing the parsonage firsthand. Because of the [enforced] domesticity of most of their lives, this place really was the center of their world. It was interesting to see the place and get a feel for the atmosphere.

The parsonage is a stone building, not large but handsome. I understand that there wouldn't have been as many trees in the Brontes' time there. It would have been much more windswept. While you can see the church and graveyard today, they would have been much more evident in the Bronte's day due to the lack of trees. The wind off the moor would have been more evident, too.

I got all these impressions as I looked at the front facade. I'd see the sign that said "tickets this way", but I was so eager to get a first look that I did that first--you only need the ticket to go into the house, not enter the front garden. After I'd indulged myself a moment, I went to get my ticket.

Ticket in hand, I went in the front door, into the main hall of the house. It's not large, but again, gracious enough. Directly ahead, at the end of the hall, is a bright stone staircase leading upstairs, with a landing halfway up. It makes for an inviting space.

Not the best picture, I'm afraid; this is the main staircase.

The first room I went into was the dining room, which was where the Bronte sisters spent a great deal of their time writing and pacing around the table, thinking. Because the Brontes were so well-known, a lot of their belongings were saved. We have, for instance, the dining room table with an E etched into it (by Emily?). There is also the sofa where Emily is said to have died.

The sofa where Emily reportedly died.

I think if you view the full-sized image and look
closely, you can see the E etched into the table.

It's a small room, barely big enough, really, for the table and the sofa. It's definitively Victorian, with its tendency to fussiness, but for all that its a tidy space.

The same is true of the study across the hall, where Mr. Bronte carried out much of his curatorial work. On the shelf are copies of the early novels by the "Bells".

A copy of Jane Eyre by "C. Bell" on Mr. Bronte's mantel.

The next room is the kitchen, where Emily in particular did a lot of work, since she ended up staying at home for the most part, taking care of household duties. The Brontes also had a servant, Tabby. This would have been a warm space to sit back and relax by the fire, as well, and chat.

Across from the kitchen is the small room that belonged to Charlotte's husband, Mr. Nichols, and where he did his work. For whatever the reason, I didn't get a picture of the room. I really wish I had . . . Here, at least, is the sign on the wall beside the room. Of course, it's blurry. Oops.

Going up the stairs, you pass the clock that Mr. Bronte always wound on his way to bed every night. Continuing up, there is a small servants room at the top of the stairs, currently set up as space for art/special exhibits. Again, I didn't get any pictures. Well, I got one, but it had a weird reflection from the video that was presented in that room, so it's not worth sharing. But, uh, here is the clock:

The clock that Mr. Bronte wound every
night on his way to bed.

The next door along the landing is "Charlotte's Room", though it was occupied by various people through the years, including the Brontes' Aunt Branwell. When I visited, a dress and chemise said to have belonged to Emily were on display, as well as an array of absolutely spectacular bonnets owned by Charlotte, including her bridal bonnet:

Dress and chemise said to have belonged
to Emily Bronte.

Detail of Emily's lovely chemise.

Charlotte's bonnets.

Charlotte's bonnet.

Charlotte's wedding bonnet.

Detail of Charlotte's fabulous wedding bonnet.

Next to that room is a tiny room, barely big enough for a little bed stretched across its width under the window at the far end of the room. This room is associated most with Emily, and there are sketches of it in family artwork (all the Brontes were artistic as well as literary).


Next came Patrick Bronte's room. Towards the end of Branwell's life, when he was not doing very well, Patrick insisted that he sleep there in that room with him. So it was here that Branwell actually died.

The final room is Branwell's bedroom'/studio. When I was there, it had been interpreted in a really interesting way: usually, historical homes present tidy spaces, with beds made and clothes out of sight and books on shelves. In this case, the folks who had worked on To Walk Invisible, a BBC production about the Brontes, staged the room with loose papers and clothes and objects everywhere, as if Branwell had been living there yesterday and, not too surprisingly, wasn't very good at cleaning up. I like it a lot; it gave a different perspective.

Visitors pass through this room to enter what is now exhibit space (as I recall, this wing was added after the time of the Brontes). Here, there were many more personal items on display, like sewing and drawing boxes, letters, and drawings. There was a cabinet there that came from a nearby home and was the inspiration for a minutely-described cabinet that Jane Eyre finds in Thornfield Hall:

Apostles Cabinet described in Jane Eyre.
There is also the above autograph of "Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell", which the sisters gave, no doubt with their tongues in their cheeks. See above for a picture.

Here are a few items from the exhibit space:

First edition of Jane Eyre.

Emily's writing desk. 
Poetry by Charlotte, with sketches from
an imaginary characters.

Charlotte's paint box.
Having spent a wonderful few hours touring the parsonage, I spent a while in the gift shop. I wanted so many things but had to think of weight and breakability. I came away with an awesome, colorful, polka-dotted wool scarf, a few postcards and magnets, and some temporary tattoos with Jane Eyre quotes (!).

With my purchases in their paper bag clutched to my chest, I walked out of the museum like a kid out of a toy store. What to do next? Conveniently, there was a sign that pointed towards a path straight ahead, which appeared to my eyes to lead in the direction of the moors beyond town. So I started walking, and going through yet another sheep pasture (seriously though, the thing about sheep and England, it's real). I walked along, not knowing exactly where I was going but seeing hills up ahead that were covered in heather and looked like a place I wanted to go. I started down what turned out to be West Lane but turned back, thinking to head back to town, but then I saw a street breaking off to what I imagined was the west (it was actually south-ish): Cemetery Road. I again took a turn, this time a left onto Dimples Lane. It seemed the most direct way to get up the hill.

This was a twisty and fairly narrow road with no sidewalk or shoulder, so I kept a sharp eye out and had to step off into the heather once or twice. But I reached the top of the hill--Penistone Hill, as it happens, according to the sign--without incident.

It was cool and windy, and you know what? I know why the Brontes felt so connected to this landscape. It's dramatic--that's the best word for it. A sharp wind whipped across the hills, and the sun came in and out of the clouds, but there seemed no real threat of rain. The land was purple with heather and tall grasses.

I walked around, enjoying the moodiness of it all and trying to get pictures that did justice to the place (they don't quite) and still clutching my bag of goodies to myself. After a while, the wind and the chill got to be a bit too much, and it was time for lunch anyway. So I headed back down to the town and stopped into a cafe, where I got some not-so-great chili. From there, I decided to look for a statue of the Bronte sisters that was supposedly near a particular pub. I wandered around and around, up and down, and all over the place. I ended up stopping into various shops--a thrift store, a bookstore, a bakery, a chocolatier. I went down some cobblestoned side streets. I met a cat on a windowsill:

I ate some chocolates. I toured the graveyard and went into the church, where there's a plaque and chapel to the Brontes:

I had decided to try to take the steam train back to Keighley from Haworth, but with all my wandering, I didn't have *quite* enough time. So after all my wanderings of the delightful little town of Haworth, I went back the way I came, taking the bus to Keighley and walking to the train station. It was time to say goodbye to Bronte country.

The Journey

This journey--from Haworth to Oxford--was going to be the most difficult of all my U.K. journies. I could have taken different routes, but the timing was off, so my route involved 3 transfers and would take about, uh, five hours I think (four?). After taking the bus to Keighley, I took the train to Leeds, and thence to King's Cross (again), and then took the Tube to Paddington Station, where I took the train to Oxford. From there, I had to take a taxi to the hotel. That was the plan, and, spoiler alert, it all worked out. But holy smokes! It was very stressful.

The first transfer was fine. Taking the Tube to Paddington was no sweat. At Paddington, I must have been completely out of my head with exhaustion after four very, very long days, because I tried to go through a ticket gate that was exit-only. My ticket therefore got stuck. I had to get the gate attendant to open the box thingy so I could get it out. I then went through one of the entry gates, and realized upon entering that, oops, that was the entry for platform 14 and platform 14 ONLY. Does it say that anywhere? No. It says it's platform 14, but it doesn't say you can't access ANY OTHER PLATFORM EVER AT ANY POINT ONCE YOU PASS THE BARRIER, ABANDON ALL HOPE  YE WHO ENTER HERE. I had to ask the same gate attendant to let me out. The platform for my train hadn't even been announced yet; my plan had been to enter the platform area and wait there until it was announced. Now I headed vaguely in what I hoped was the right direction, and found a screen that I parked myself in front of. At last, it showed my gate, and off I went. I got on the train and, exhausted but pleased to be on the last leg of my journey, I settled in.

It was an uneventful train ride, and I got off at Oxford. I'd pre-booked a taxi for the trip from the train station, and I stood there in front of the station, at the only exit I could see, waiting and waiting. Mind you, it's nearly 10:00, it's dark, and I am tired and irritable. I waited for about fifteen minutes before saying screw it and just taking one of the taxis there at the taxi stand. I later got a message that my ride had been cancelled because they couldn't find me. REALLY? Did you even look? I was right there.

Anyway, I got to the hotel around 10:30 and checked in.

"You'll be on the third floor," I'm told. For you Americans, that's British for "fourth floor".

"Great," I say.

"The lift only goes to the second floor [i.e. third floor]."

Me: *Silent rage*

me in my head: What IS it with you Brits are your lack of lifts? Why does the lift only go to the second floor? Why? Why?!

Me out loud: "Fine."

Them: "Would you like help with your bag?"

Me, with crazy eyes: No! I'll carry my bag up the stairs MYSELF dammit, and I hope you see me struggle, and if you don't see it then know I SHALL STRUGGLE AND YOU SHOULD KNOW MY PAIN, GOD DAMN IT, AND PUT IN A GOD-DAMN ELEVATOR THAT GOES ALL THE WAY TO THE TOP FLOOR, FOR EFF'S SAKE.

Okay, I didn't say that last part, and I tried not to be rude, but I was just so done at that point that it took some self-control not to lash out. I was definitely thinking all those things, though. In any case, I took the lift to the second floor and hefted my bag up the last two flights of stairs myself, then stumbled into my room, washed up a bit, and went to bed.