Driving Miss Lucy
I feel sorrowful as we strip the Scottish-scarf hooks in our Longtown home, farewell the post-box wearing his jaunty tam-o-shanter (almost!), and set off for Broadway, in the Cotswolds.
Our first choice, a coastal drive to Land’s End in Cornwall, to stand on the edge of the earth and pay tribute to Poldark (and, naturally, Demelza Poldark – another cracking heroine) seemed possible – right up until we realised it was impossible.
Next time, Demelza.
We drive down the M6, spire-spotting and marvelling at the signs that list place names so familiar, it feels as though we know them without ever having visited – Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Birmingham. Lucy researches the Cotswolds, keeping up a steady stream of theatrics:
‘I want to be chased by a cow into some brambles!’ (TS Eliot)
‘I want consumption!’ (George Orwell)
After a giant, oat-milky servo coffee, we stop for McDonald’s at a service centre, to try their McPlant burger, as Lucy fumes at the swathes of unmasked lads at the self-service kiosks. ‘Don’t. Breathe on me. Don’t. Come NEAR me.’ she exclaims, loudly enough to start a kerfuffle. I whisk her out, quick smart, and take a pic of this sad specimen before devouring it. Not bad. Tastes like a cheeseburger.
Lucy takes the competing roles of DJ, researcher, and photographer in her stride, reading out segments from this article, and maintaining a commitment to British radio, despite coming across ‘I Got You, Babe’ for the third time. We giggle at the hand-painted signs on the motorway overpasses, complete with dried, yellow-paint dribbles below each letter.
‘KEEP LEF UNLESS OVERTAKING’
‘ARE YOU IN THE MIDDLE, YOU MORON?’
‘HEY YOU! OUT OF THE MIDDLE LANE, MORON’
It appears someone was having a Falling Down moment. They take their left lanes seriously here.
Our now-quest for the best British salt-and-vinegar chip continues, with Walkers Squares (10/10 for the salt-and-vinegar flavour, much lower for oily chip flavour). These scampi chips literally taste like fish. I finished them not because they were good, but because I had no hope of understanding them.
At Broadway, we are introduced to the beauty of the Cotswolds, with its stone buildings that are at once quaint and majestic. About it, Henry James once said ‘There is portraiture in the air and composition in the very accidents.’
Lucy makes a beeline for Broadway Deli, grabbing cans of olives and truffle-flavoured chips.
‘This is me’, she says, debating whether to buy just-one-more chutney, and adding ‘but I don’t want my whole identity to be cheese and charcuterie’. There is little chance of that. We buy overpriced Scotch eggs, then regret having chosen the sweet potato and goat’s cheese version, given that it renders them not-Scotch eggs.
By now, we are feeling a little disappointed. Not with the Cotswolds (which would make one particularly churlish), but with the crowds. The High Street is a throng of posh accents in shiny brogues. I have decided that the owners of dogs wearing coats are often afflicted by a sense of entitlement that makes them poor fellow-tourists. Sometimes, you just have to follow the rules.
‘Git oot thi wae, yie glaikit’, I want to yell.
At Broadway Tower, we traipse through the mud in order to snag a photo without extras, and decide not to bother the deer, who have likely had their fill. This photo from atop Broadway Hill, the second-highest point in the Cotswolds, fails to capture the faint outline of distant counties.
In Stow-on-the-Wold, where Lewis Carroll spent significant time, Lucy discovers that a ‘wold’ is ‘a piece of high, open uncultivated land’. Alas, it is pretty cultivated now, with herds of blinkered antiques-hunters pouring in and out of its highbrow stores and packing into the conservatory dining houses.
I am reminded of an apparent quote by Samuel Pepys that reads:
‘The taverns are fair full of gadabouts making merry this eve. And though I may press my face against the window like an urchin at a confectioner’s, I am tempted not by the sweetmeats within. A dram in exchange for the pox is an ill bargain indeed.’
Pepys said no such thing, but I appreciate the sentiment…and creative spirit.
My clinomania begins to stir, so we set out for the Travelodge in Burford and set up this magnificent spread.
Travel days always feel as though they will be a throwaway, and I considered making this post solely about a detailed explanation of my now-clear understanding of roundabout etiquette and/or the technological wonder that is the machinations of our car’s updated cruise control, both of which are surprisingly satisfying.
‘I want to study constantly’, Lucy declares, ‘Medieval history, African history…why don’t many people study African history?’
‘I’m afraid of getting to the end of my life without seeing everything I want to see…’
I realise the day is far from a throwaway. There is much to love about driving Miss Lucy.