abroad thoughts from home*
*with apologies to Robert Browning
It is about this time of year, as winter limps on but the daylight is growing, that we start to realise that our more organised friends have already booked their summer holidays. Being a couple of procrastinators, we are good at dreaming about where we would like to go, but not much good at doing anything about it, until about Easter at the earliest. More often than not we stay in Scotland for our holiday anyway, albeit away from home. The Isle of Skye is an abiding favourite with the whole family. My husband proposed to me on top of a (smallish) hill there on our first visit, and now our children love to visit ‘the misty isle’ (Eilean a’ Cheo in Gaelic) as much as we do. We always feel a bit mournful when we leave the island and head back to the responsibilities of home.
Skye may or may not be on the agenda this year: life is short and there are so many other places to see! I sometimes wonder, though, if armchair travel is not the finest of all. None of the anxieties and hassles of journeying with young children, and one is limited only by one’s imagination. The beautiful books pictured above are just the thing to set you off on exotic daydreams, I think: I love to look at their spines and imagine what travel to, say, Japan or Damascus might have been like in Edwardian days, for those wealthy and intrepid enough to undertake it. The little red book on the right is particularly evocative. It is Baedeker’s ‘Northern Italy’, the very book carried by Lucy Honeychurch in Florence (and, of course, taken from her by Eleanor Lavish) in E. M. Forster’s ‘A Room With A View’. Although we are meant to despise Miss Lavish, I rather sympathise with her on this occasion. It’s wonderful to be ‘In Santa Croce with no Baedeker’: to be abroad, having left the books (or video camera) at home, drinking up the atmosphere rather than the facts. Meanwhile, it is also a pleasure to look at these books on a driech February day at home, inspired by thoughts of abroad.