Lingering over letters to friends and family, Jane's beautiful topaz crucifix, snippets of hair to memorialize the dead and needlework, my mood shifted. Despite the sun streaming through a window, brightly enough to bring an orange tree to fruit, I felt sad that medical knowledge lagged behind Jane's illness and she died too soon. And selfishly for me, before more of her writing could be published. The thinking now is that she had lymphoma, something which could still have brought about her end in these modern times I suppose. Needing some air I picked a road and made my way down it. There are no thatched cottages in Burlington, I've only ever seen them on television, in magazines or whilst whizzing past on a train in England. Standing in front of the quaintest cottage you could imagine, with flower pots in full glory while tendrils of greenery grew over the stone wall I realized for the second time in two days I had misplaced my umbrella and a very un-Austenesque swear word was uttered from my lips. Time for lunch!
I have no idea whether this structure was here in Jane's day but it's the view she would have had from the window where her table stands. Cassandra's Tea Room is next door but was closed as it was Monday so to the pub it was. Thinking of it as stories to bring back to my pub-loving husband I did my bit for research and asked the very hospitable landlady for something ladylike in the hops department. Sitting at a window seat so I could gaze at Jane's house, I basked in the cosy interior, the friendly guests and the sign asking customers to remove their muddy boots so the countryside doesn't come inside!
Always keen to try something on the menu I haven't tried before I ordered a Coronation Chicken sandwich. It's not something that has ever appeared on a menu at home so I was curious. It was delicious! Having no idea what the thin, curly crispy bits were on the side of my plate I asked the young server when he next passed my way. They are deep-fried peeled parsnip and he said he found them quite more-ish. I generally feel that way about cake over parsnips but they weren't bad at all!
Thinking I would take the bus back to the train station I crossed the road to check the schedule at the stop. The next bus was in two hours! Clearly we are no longer in London and I am ignorant in the ways of village life. So I stopped back into the pub and asked the lovely landlady if she could please ring me a cab. And sure enough, the same driver turned up to collect me that had dropped us off. And to top it all off he even pinched my cheek when he dropped me at the station before making his way to do the school run.
Back on the train to London, thoughts of my village idyll were shattered all too soon by a young man from Bangladesh desperately searching for a sponsor as his visa was about to expire. He had loads of questions about Canada and why I was in England. When I told him my daughter was attending university he simply asked about the ages of my boys. Thankfully his stop was soon approaching so I could get back to Persuasion and thoughts of Jane writing it at her little table.
Thinking I would take in a London Walk later that evening I exited the Westminster tube station. A soft-spoken woman was filling in for the usual guide so I decided to pass and headed to Green Park instead. A night time stroll past The Ritz, press my face against the gorgeous window displays at Fortnum & Mason, spend an hour at Waterstones before heading home from Piccadilly Circus for a cup of tea and my day was complete.