Today is the first full day of our holiday and we both had a reasonable night’s sleep after our journey of yesterday. Having fallen asleep, I found that the TV was still broadasting but the control did not turn it off, from which I concluded that the batteries in the control must be exhausted. I found a way to do this manually and was not, therefore, kept awake all during the night with a recalcitrant TV. So Meg and I made our way downstairs to have a breakfast before the rush although there is no way of knowing how busy the hotel actually is this week. We called in at reception with our remote who fairly promptly inserted some new batteries for us which means that now we have one tribulation of life removed. Then we had a traditional cooked breakfast, such as we have had on our previous two stays here so we know what to expect. The last time we stayed in the hotel, a Japanese guest was evidently intrigued by the toasting machine, the like of which he had never seen before. It was one of those machines where the toast makes a slow jouney under infra-red lights only to be disgorged a minute or so later in various stages of over or under-doneness. I explained to my fellow guest that whilst the Jananese culture to world culture were excellent motor vehicles and electronics, that of Great Britain is the design (if not the manufacture) of machines to make breakfast toast. After we had breakfasted and prepared to sally forth, I made a visit to the newsagents (McColls) recently taken over and saved by Morrisons and bought some iron rations (milk for our cups of tea, biscuits for the occasional nibble and so on) Then we departed to see my sister who lives in Knaresborough which, although only three miles distant, can take some time to reach if the traffic is very severe. We spent a couple of very happy hours with my sister mulling over family matters. When I was about to sit on the settee, my sister exclaimed ‘Be careful not to sit on Bruce’, Bruce being what is now in the terminology is called a ‘Remembrance bear’ of a ‘Memory bear’. I do now know how or when the concept of memory bears started but the basic idea is very simple. You send off to the firm that specialises in these products some sample of the much loved or familiar clothing associated with the loved one (spouse, child) and the firm then make suitable items of clothing for the bear. In my sister’s case, her husband’s name was embroidered onto one of the bear’s feet. The bear can then sit in a favourite armchair and part of the loved one has a visible presence. This is particular salience because it is a year and a week since my sister’s husband died and therefore the Remembrance (or Memory) Bear has a particular pride of place at this time.
After lunch, Meg and I visited an ‘eating place’ on the outskirts of Knareborough. What started as a garden centre now has a restaurant attached to it selling really good meals. We have visited this establishment once before with my sister and a niece the last time we stayed and thought we would give it another visit. As it is so popular, one often has to wait, but in our case it was only about 10 minutes and we spent some time chatting with a Geordie couple also here on a family visit I imagine. They were talking about a local cultural hero, Grace Darling, who was Victorian heroine. She achieved great fame for the part she played in the rescue of survivors from a wrecked merchant ship in 1838. Born in 1815, Grace heroically helped to rescue survivors from the Forfarshire, a vessel travelling from Hull to Dundee, which was wrecked on the Farne Islands, off the coast of Northumberland. Together with her father, who was a local lighthouse keeper, she rowed out in a tiny boat amidst the most turbulent of seas and eventually rescued nine people in total – tragically, she died of TB only about three years later. Now my first girlfriend when I was about 15 had the surname of ‘Horsley’ and she always maintained that she was a distant relative of Grace Darling. I must confess that at that age I di not pay as much as attention as I should to this story as my attention was directed elsewhere. But today, with the benefit of Wikipedia and other internet resources, I have discovered that the maiden name of Grace Darling’s mother was indeed, ‘Horsley’ and one of her brothers was given that as a middle name. However, I am now pretty certain that my first girlfriend’s recollections of the family history passed down to her was not at all fanciful but seemed rooted in a strong historical reality. I think that when I consulted the web this afternoon,my first reaction to myself was to say ‘Well, I never!’. We had a wonderful meal in the restaurant and then returned to the hotel to spend a quiet afternoon before we venture forth tomorrow morning, probably into the streets of Harrogate town itself.