Monday, September 16, 2013

Away from it all, close to home#2

The previous post is still there so I am going to be ambitious and add a few photographs to this one.

The farm cottage that we stayed in last week, just 22 miles from home, is one of a small complex of converted barns.

There was a photographic display of the derelict buildings before the work started in 1988 and the progress through the next year to bring them to the current state of luxurious comfort. The grounds are lovingly tended and there are ponds and woods and many interesting walks.

Since our main purpose in choosing such a venue was some R and R, we spent a lot of time reading. We had, of course, taken our own books but it is always interesting to see what other people have on their shelves. The dedicated "quiet room" had a wide selection of fiction and non-fiction for all tastes and ages but our cottage also had a full bookcase:
I was intrigued when I saw twenty diaries, covering the years 1989 to 2009, on the bottom shelf. I assumed that they were there for us to read and settled down with a cup of tea and the first volume. The entries began in April 1989 with the first guests to stay in the cottage. There was a note from the owner, inviting guests to record their activities during their stay, to tell a little about themselves, to mention places they visited and to recommend pubs and restaurants. It made for fascinating reading.

1989 was the year that we moved from Hampshire to Devon. It was an exceptionally warm and dry year; we arrived in January and spent the first few days on the beach instead of unpacking! That summer, like this year's, was glorious and we had lots of visitors to help us explore our new surroundings. Reading the diary entries, I was reminded of that time and the fun we had with our children and their cousins and friends; we were discovering the same places as those written about in the diaries. We always kept journals and scrapbooks, sitting round the table after dinner to write and draw about what we had done during the day.  The cottage guests did the same thing - there were entries from different family members who, like us, made recording the day's adventures an adventure in itself.

The first few diaries are quite full with visitors entering wholeheartedly into the exercise of building a history of these refurbished ancient buildings. Then I noticed a gradual decline in the amount that was written and in the number of people who would write anything at all. The 2000s saw fewer and fewer entries and in 2009 the owners must have decided to give up the idea and no more diaries were left with that kindly invitation to add to the records. I was saddened to think of what has been lost to our social history by the lack of interest in writing nowadays. I suppose future generations must look to Facebook and (dare I say it?) blogs to find out about everyday life in the 21st century.

This  made me nostalgic for the holidays we recorded when the children were small. I dashed off to get some of the scrapbooks down from the shelf where thay have been undisturbed for quite a few years. I realise how few photos there are, we didn't have digital cameras in those days. We enjoyed doing our own writing and illustrating.(Click on the pictures to see them more clearly)

This is a book from a holiday in Cornwall in 1984 when Andrew was 7 and Tanith 4 (and a half!) Andrew wrote about the game we played in the evening:
and Tanith drew a picture of the game of crazy golf we'd had:
One morning, my husband found a dormouse when he was on his early morning run and woke the children to admire it before returning it to the bushes:
Do you remember those long country walks I shared with you some time ago? The scrapbook from our Easter holiday in 1986 gives my account of one, alongside  my husband's illustration:

Now I remember why my son and daughter groan whenever LCWs are suggested! It is good to have these prompts to take us back to happy times. I am grateful to those families who took the trouble to fill in the diaries at Ham Farm, their memories are now part of the history of that time and place.


  1. I agree it's rather sad people are not writing on paper so much. For historical research Facebook, blogs, etc. won't be much use since when a person dies, probably their FB and blog posts will disappear with them. And what about love letters? Text messages just don't sing to me in the same way :)
    Ham Farm looks like a nice retreat.

    1. I agree, Terra. Text messages and all other technical communication fails to sing. There is a current TV ad for ebooks that shows children sitting under trees or on sofas absorbed in stories on their small tablets, there is nothing cosy or romantic or memory building about it! Pens, paper and proper books for me.

  2. What a treasure your own scrapbooks are! I wish I had thought of that many decades ago when ours were young. These will be wonderful for your grandkids when they grow up. I would have been exactly like you were finding those guest diaries at Ham Farm. I could not have kept away from them either. It is sad that they were not added to lately. Short attention span? Not used to actually picking up a pen?

    That reminds me--have schools in England stopped teaching kids to write in cursive as they have here? The mind boggles at that.

    I received the autumn issue of Slightly Foxed today! Thank you again. I've already read the review of The Past Is Myself. Something new to read tonight!

    I hope that your retreat to Ham Farm was a good rest and renewal after the stress of the past months.

    1. The farm break was just the break we needed, Dewena, and we came back very refreshed and ready for my husband's next round of treatment.

      My copy of Slightly Foxed arrived in time for me to take it and I am almost through it but ration myself to one or two articles a week so that it lasts for as long as possible!

      It is interesting that your schools have stopped teaching cursive writing. When I was a young teacher, it wasn't introduced until children were about 9 or 10 years old but now it is used right from the start of primary school (Grade school). I expect the thinking behind dropping it from your schools is that most children now will use a keypad? What a loss; I hope it doesn't last!

  3. Brilliant blog the extracts from your journals. I can remember the lightening bulb going off in my head the day I realized that a diary didn't have to be a daily affair but could be a blank journal that I could write in/or not whenever I chose. They become fascinating reads many years later..real memory prompts :0)
    We've made sort of illustrated maps of favourite places that you can add to over time ..rather scruffy but fun (the spot we saw a golden eagle, the route we took in "Dragonfly splash the brave boat" an old row boat ..not very big ..and rather full of picnic, small children and ancient Golden retriever ...who didn't really want to come ..but really didn't want to miss out!) see what your entry has started...:0)

  4. Thanks, Val. I know from reading your blog that our families have similar styles so I'm not at all surprised that you make maps and keep journals, too. When our son and daughter visit, they love to get the scrapbooks and photo albums out. It is difficult to think of a way of sharing them so I can see another project looming - making copies for them. A post-Christmas project, I think!

  5. What a wonderful, wonderful idea you had. You must be so very happy to have those scrapbooks. It shows this reader what a very happy family you have!

    1. It was something that we all enjoyed doing, Nan. And yes, we do have a very happy family - just like you!

  6. is is such a lovely post. Thank you for sharing your family scrap books - such a great idea, why didn't I think of it? In this house, it is John who writes in a journal everyday, and he has always kept scrap books too, better than any expensive coffee table book I must say. I should encourage him to include some of his own drawings along with the invitations and gallery tickets he also sticks in.

    1. Do that, Colleen, you will enjoy looking back on them in the future - perhaps when you are not quite nimble enough to do all that walking you do now!


I love to read your comments and promise that I will reply as soon as I can leave my garden, sewing room or kitchen!