Sentimental Journey by Ann2
This trip was so well planned and every outing so satisfying. I have tried to list a few things that stayed in my memory.
As we sat on the terrace facing the beautiful garden at Old Alresford Place while everyone said some words to explain how their joining Pemberley came about, the warmth of the late afternoon sun was matched by the warmth that spread within the group. I am happy I was part of it and strongly advice everybody who can manage to join a meeting some day in the future.
A dean who turned out to be perfectly suited took us to Jane Austen's grave in the left aisle of the awe-inspiring Cathedral of Winchester. The sound of its bells had greeted us and, as we were gathered around the commemorative brass tablet that indicates her last resting-place, he managed to say such words of gratitude and remembrance, as made you feel that he understood about our Pemberley group and what had brought us there.
It was a very special ceremony, both sincere and solemn, which brought tears to my eyes and I was by no means alone to react like that. The dean proved even more to be part of it, when he paused for a while and then said in a low voice 'I have got a stammer and it gets worse when there's an emotional moment.' Lovely man!
Very likely, we were all thinking of Jane, what she has given us, women of such a different time but connected through her words. Wishing that her life had been easier and feeling grateful for the improvement of the female conditions since her time. How we are free to travel, as she was not, able to make our own decisions, as she was not, allowed to earn our own money also. Regretting her suffering, the terrible waste of her early death. Remembering her words to Cassandra that she wished nothing but death and also what Cassandra wrote afterwards about her loss.
The huge old Yew tree that was growing amazingly close to the church at Steventon. When you bowed your head to enter under its wide parasol it was easy to imagine Jane at 5 following her older sister admiring everything Cassandra said or did. The two little girls playing under the thick dark roof, perhaps even climbing the invitingly low branches. That little girl of whom her mother said that she wished to do everything her sister did adding - with a wording that gives a hint where Jane might have learnt some of her macabre sense of humour - 'If Cassandra was to have her head chopped, Jane would want hers off to.'
That sisterly love that rings in the letters and is manifest for instance in the lace collar exhibited at Chawton cottage. Painstakingly embroidered and adorned by Jane for Cassandra stitch by loving stitch.
To have Mr Carpenter, the charming superintendent at Chawton, talk lovingly of Jane and the Austen family as if they had only just left the house was a treat. He showed us the music she had copied so neatly and, after looking at the tiny table where she used to sit writing, to hear then a pianoforte like hers come to life in the rooms where she once lived and played was wonderful. Thanks, Cheryl! Was not very hard to picture Cassandra popping in her head to say. 'Jane dear, breakfast is ready!'
One thing that struck me was that if you live in a cottage like the one at Chawton, sharing a room all your life with another woman, you would need to keep things very tidy, to use measured movements, to be attentive to details, to take care that you finish one task before moving on to the next. A controlled sort of life. Then outdoor life must offer a relief. Gardening certainly and walking. To stride along, arms swinging, breathing in deeply without fear of colliding with people and furniture. To get a chance to think without interruptions and noise. I suppose she went for a walk to think about her characters.
I'll stop there but could add many other things that were of a more private nature. Almost every meal offered a wonderful chance to spend time in a relaxed atmosphere. And the journeys by bus were an excellent opportunity to sit next to different Pemberleans and get to know them a little better. How fascinating and diversified our community is!