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Thanks for taking part, and happy reading!
Thanks for your lovely comments @applegroupie & @ESW…it seems this month’s book – Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat, at least inspires nostalgia, if not more specific memories of river travel or a huge literary admiration.
I would love to have met Myra, ESW. You paint such a vivid picture of her, and the small community she inhabited all her sheltered, but rich, life. The very stuff of literature.
I too love Three Men in a Boat – it is a step back into a golden past. I first read the book aged 11 and still remember the description of George, Harris and J looking up their ailments in a medical Encyclopedia and deciding they had everything except Housemaid’s Knee – and they couldn’t understand why they didn’t have that… There is the hilarious account of trying to pack the hamper (with the help of Montmorency he dog) before setting out and then classic story of getting lost in the maze at Hampton Court….
I still have a much loved and read copy of the book which belonged to father in law. The spine is broken and pages are beginning to fall out. I really must buy (or even win???) a new copy before introducing it to the grandchildren.
I don’t have any boating stories to tell and don’t think a river cruise quite fits the bill. Instead I’d like to continue the nostalgia streak and tell you about Myra and the village shop at Garn.
Garn in a small linear settlement along the flanks of Carn Madyn, one of the string of hills along the Llyn Peninsula in North Wales. There were a few houses, a working farm, chapel and Myra’s shop.
We first met Myra in the early 1980s. She must have been about 70 at the time . She had spent all her life in Garn, apart from going to the local agricultural college a few miles away in her late teens. She never married and came back to live with her parents and run the shop. They never went away on holidays. Instead they would take a picnic up the “Garn” (the name locals use for Carn Madryn) to a small rush lined pool. Myra did give us directions to find the pool but we never did. I assume over the years it had gradually got overgrown and lost. The furthest she travelled was to Criccieth, 16 miles away. She and her sister used to go for fish and chips on a Wednesday which was early closing day. When her sister died, these trips stopped.
Myra was one of the nicest and kindest people we have known. The shop was tiny – reached down steep steps from the road and through a wooden door that always stuck. A bell would ring and Myra would appear in her pink pinny with a huge smile. The shop couldn’t have been more than 10’x6’ but was an Aladdin’s cave. There was a dark stained wooden counter with a small drawer which served as the cash register. Next to it was a pad of paper – Myra worked everything out in her head or using pen and paper. Walls were lined with shelves stacked high with dry and package goods. There was even a small chiller cabinet for milk, butter, cheese and bacon. A local photographer had produced postcards and there was a supply of basic medical stuff. I even bought needles and thread there one year to carry out emergency repairs when Michael had torn his trousers.
There was a small stool by the counter as everyone sat down to talk. Myra always wanted to know what was happening and knew all the gossip. The shop was the heart of the settlement and there was always a steady stream of customers through the day. Children from the village came in with a few pennies to buy sweets. Walkers climbing the Garn stocked up on chocolate and biscuits. The lady from the EU who worked in Brussels and had a holiday cottage in the village did all her shopping there.
Myra died about 15 years ago – a few weeks before out annual visit to the Llyn Peninsula. We drove up to the village to climb the Garn. There was a skip on the road next to Myra’s shop and it was obvious the house was being stripped out. It was so sad to see her contents tossed into it. The village felt dead and lifeless. There was no one around and it felt it had lost its heart.
The following year the house had been tarted up and was was a holiday house. Even the enamel advertising sign on the wall had been removed. Now even the working farm has gone….
Visiting Myra and her shop really was like stepping back in time to the interwar era. We feel very privileged to have known both Myra and her shop. Our only regret is that we never took any pictures…
Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat brings back memories of my youth. This book was on my GCE ‘O’ Level English Lit reading list. The only bit of the book I can remember is the 3 men trying to open a tin of pineapple without a tin opener.
It sounds like a far cry from Three Men in a Boat drifting gently down the Thames, but it’s now on my To Be Read list.
I don’t think Emerald Waterways, proud sponsors of the Silver Travel Book Club, currently offer a cruise down the Congo, but maybe one day……
Love this book
Love to have the opportunity to read book of the month. Fingers crossed. Sadly I’ve not done any river journeys but I have read Tim Butcher’s book about the River Congo twice. I must admit I’ve no desire to journey down the Congo after reading his fascinating book.
Thanks for your comment @silverp – have you ever travelled down a river, whether in the UK or overseas, in a decent sized boat or in a smaller, less conventional craft? We’d love to hear your own stories!
I mentioned earlier my own most memorable trip on the Shannon in Ireland, way back in the 1960s. I’ve remembered another river experience from my own childhood, in the very early 1970s. My adventurous – mad? – parents had decided to buy a small hotel in Cliftonville, near the English riviera at Margate, moving us from vibrant south-east London to the quieter backwater of East Kent.
The Craven Hotel had 26 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, with most summer guests migrating south from Teesside on a Beeline coach. But that’s another story….
Mum & Dad worked all hours in an industry that they had never experienced before. My brother and I were sent to boarding school. It was a rather steep learning curve for all of us. Mum and Dad bought us an inflatable rubber dinghy, which we would sail out from the beaches of the Isle of Thanet. But on the odd Sunday afternoon they could escape from hosting a bingo session, we would load the boat onto our Singer Vogue estate and cast it into the quiet waters of the River Stour at Grove Ferry, on the outskirts of Canterbury.
Those afternoons, spend drifting quietly down the river reconnecting with my parents, was definitely my own Jerome K. Jerome moment in time.
i am an avid reader but missed out “Three men in a boat” when younger so would love to win any of these books.
Thanks everyone for your comments so far on this month’s Silver Travel Book Club choice. Apologies to @Grey-Wolf and @Endy for the confusion over the initial book choice, but please cut us some slack – as our friends across the pond might say – and allow us to draw a veil over the change.
Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat may not float everyone’s literary canoe, but it is recognised by most as a comic masterpiece and has never been out of print since it was first published in 1889. It is also the perfect choice to celebrate Emerald Waterways, our wonderful new sponsors of the Silver Travel Book Club.
My own most memorable river trip dates back to the 1960s. On a cold winter’s night in London, my Dad booked us – spontaneously, whilst visiting The Boat Show – on a cruise, our first, down the River Shannon in Ireland. That Easter, we cast off from Carrick on Shannon and chugged slowly away, encountering four seasons of weather in a week, friendly locals and hardly any other boats. My brother fell into freezing water while we were trying to moor, and all the crockery fell from cupboards in the middle of a storm on Lough Key. It was a fantastic holiday!
Would that I were as organised as @DRSask who has shown us some great photos of her own memorable river trips in Canada. I would love to revisit the Shannon all those years ago.
Happy reading and happy boating.