In the never ending fridge saga, of which I am heartily sick, we trek cross country to yet another specialist. Having revisited the original gas service centre and addressed all possible gas related issues, we’re drawing the conclusion that it might be the fridge, despite it working well on electricity. The fridge dude draws the same conclusion. The cooling unit might be on the way out, luckily, replaceable. Given that this will take a significant amount of time, we decide to leave it until the start of our next trip, when the repair centre can have months of notice to order the parts and book us into the workshop. Thus setttled, the following phrases are permanently banned from this trip: “feel it, it’s not cold enough” and “I think we have to go back”.
What’s left of the day, and along with my patience, there’s not a lot of it, is spent at the birthplace of Thomas Hardy, a modest cottage in Dorset, built by his great grandfather and home to the family for three generations.
We walk through Thorncombe Wood to get there and experience a moment of unexpected delight: a deer runs across our path, mere metres in front of us. Much squealing from me. A few squirrels dart about their business, adding to the joy. I’m nowhere near quick enough with the camera!
The cottage has an interesting history. Hardy’s grandfather was a master builder: he was granted the land to build the cottage and run his business by the local Lord, on the proviso that that he gave priority to his benefactor’s projects when needed. By the time Hardy was born, the cottage had been extended to add a room for his grandmother, three generations together.
I particularly like the details our guides provide: the tiny office window, where Mrs Hardy handled out the pays, because she didn’t want workmans’ muddy boots in the house and in the “granny flat” where she eventually lived, pointing out her workbench where she was ironing when the news broke that Marie Antoinette had been beheaded.
The mind boggles at how news might have “broken” in this period. Given that the only access was a Roman road and forest paths, it could only be on horseback, I’d imagine. An idea that’s given creedence on exit.
Our guide runs us through Hardy’s timeline to the point where he married his first wife; a union that both families opposed. He and his wife moved to the rather grander Max Gate, a couple of miles away. Their families may have had a point, the marriage was not a happy one.
It might have been a tough life, but set in the forest, it sparked a life long love of animals and nature in Thomas Hardy who struggled with the harsher reality of subsistence farming.
There’s something magical about writing genius that springs from harsh conditions – the Bronte sisters come to mind to, from whose pens flowed passion and intricate details of lives borne of sheer imagination. I wonder, in this age, where virtually every experience is available at the click of a button, what talent may have been lost in setting aside imagination for connectivity and convenience.