Leaving the Lake District was saddening but we had family to visit in Helenburg, which I kept pronouncing Helens-bur-g (not with the ‘burg’ like the one in Edin-breh) until I realised my mistake. Pronunciation is a really tricky thing in the UK. Leicester is ‘Lester’, Worcester is ‘wooster’… I can’t think of any other examples but leave a comment if you can think of a good one.
Mum and I made a quick detour on our way north to visit Gretna Green. Probably not a noteworthy place to many these days, Gretna Green is right on the border of England and Scotland and for a long time it was the place to go if you were English, underage and wanting to be married in a hurry and without parental permission. My main reason for wanting to go was that it’s mentioned in almost every Georgette Heyer novel and I had to take a photo of it to show my friend and fellow Heyer-phile, Charmaine.
Sadly nearly everything looks fairly new and there’s big roads and trucks and non of it looks much like the setting for a thrilling romance scene. Disappointed, Mum and I hit the road again.
We’d been trying to get Mum’s cousin Angela or her husband Rick on the phone since that morning but had no luck so we thought we’d just drive to Helensburg and see what there was to do. Initially we didn’t find much. Despite being by the sea Helensburg has an ugly pier, lots of road works and barely any charm. We had lunch at a cafe and then drove to our hotel a bit out of town.
The lady at the front desk was from Sydney. She said she’d bring her jar of Vegemite so I could have some on my toast in the morning, which was very thoughtful, and we had a laugh about how, while they allegedly speak English, Scottish people are pretty much incomprehensible. Unlike Australians, obviously.
Mum and I found a pamphlet in the lobby on open gardens in the area and spent a very pleasant afternoon admiring rhododendrons, azaleas and the last of the spring bulbs. There were some magnificent examples to be seen and I’ll take pity on you and only post a couple of photos.
In the evening I went for a walk along the pebble beach in front of the hotel and walked out along the spit to see a magnificent view of the Scottish highlands bathed in afternoon sunlight. We’d had a brilliant day’s weather – a fellow at the farm shop we visited said it was the nicest day he’d had in 3 years. We really have had some pretty spectacular luck with the weather so far. Nearly all the rain has been on our driving days and sun on the sightseeing ones.
The following morning we went to look at another house and garden before heading around the bay to see our family. On the way we passed some nuclear missile storage facilities, which was a bit unexpected.
We arrived early and found Angela at home. Rick arrived back shortly later (it was his last day of working as an Anglican minister before retirement) and we sat down to look at some old photos. I wish I could put some of them up here. There were two that really stood out to me, one of my grandparents on their wedding day and one of Grandpa in his youth. He’d sent that picture as a postcard to his Aunt and so there is a stamp and message on the back. The photo is of him sitting in some grass and not even looking at the camera. It’s such an unusual photo for the time – 1936 is the postmark.
Angela, Rick, Mum and I went to a lovely restaurant for lunch and I felt like we had a very good catch up, despite being a bit short on time.
Angela has lost some of her hearing in the last ten years and I could tell it must be difficult for her but in every other way she and Rick are almost the same as I remember them from my last visit – incredibly warm, caring and friendly people.