I’ve just returned from 10 days in England, and along with the inevitable jet lag, I am filled with images and impressions still forming in my weary-but-content mind. The memories that stand out most are not the many interesting sights we saw, but the people we connected with along the way. One of my favorite days was one we (me and my travel-companion, driver, photographer, and friend, Sara) spent with a young British woman named Katie Read.
Katie is a reader who connected with me via Facebook and email. She lives in Wiltshire, in the area where my second novel, The Apothecary’s Daughter, was set. When I posted something about planning a trip to England, Katie invited us to visit her and offered to take us riding. Katie and her family own a large farm and riding stables with some 80 horses, and are active in teaching, showing horses, and competing. On the appointed day, Sara and I drove out to their farm and met Katie, who took us for a pleasant ride on two gentle horses around their property. I loved hearing about Katie’s background, and how she met her husband. I also enjoyed meeting her handsome horse, Harry.
And, we especially loved meeting her mother-in-law, Jacky, who also reads my novels. Jacky and her husband live in a 500-year-old thatched roof cottage, the deed of which was at one point signed by Henry the 8th. Together we relished tea and cake and equally sweet conversation. They told us how much they appreciated the history I’ve attempted to weave into my books—and the fact that I’d set a novel in their own backyard.
Before we left, they kindly directed us to the specific spot I’d set The Apothecary’s Daughter—a place I’d never been–less than two miles from their home.
Sara and I drove the short distance to Honey Street and the bridge where my main character, Lilly, spent so much time watching the passing narrow boats and hoping for a glimpse of her long-lost mother. I had researched canals and narrow boats, and looked at a few scant photos online, but this is a rather remote, rural place—not some tourist hot spot–so not many existed. What a thrill to walk along the canal and to the Honey Street bridge–Lilly’s bridge—and stand there as I’d so often imagined her doing, with the chalk white horse carved on the hillside in the distance. And how wonderful that several narrow boats were obligingly moored there to complete the picture—just as in my imagination!
Talking with Katie and Jacky, and visiting this spot close to my heart, made for a memorable day—one of my favorites of the trip.
I hope to share a few other memorable days in future posts. In the meantime, can you think of a time when a personal connection made an otherwise good trip great?