Chapter 7

Chapter 7

While staying with Granny for the house party of young people where I had met Mike, an invitation came for me to visit Mrs. Macdonald in Ayrshire. Granny met her while staying in Nice. I happily accepted the older woman’s invitation to spend a week or two at her estate, which included the beautiful Doone Valley.

In the train going up to Ayrshire, who should be there but Mrs. Marna Pease, who saw me getting in at Acklington, and immediately said that I must go and sit with her, and she would deal with the ticket collector when he came round. She, of course, travelling first class, and me third! This, she said, was a heaven sent opportunity to talk about our mutual interests and concern. She told me that I must do all I could to persuade my mother to let me go to London to study Steiner’s new art of Eurythmy. Knowing me as she did, she said that Eurythmy and I were made for each other. In the way in which she described this new Art, I agreed with her. Here was a way in which to understand both music and the spoken word, but also to live into the Being within them. She said she would work on my mother in order that this development in my life could come about.

Meanwhile, I went on up to Ayrshire and had a wonderful time there. It was always a wonderful experience to get away from the mostly oppressive atmosphere of Hauxley, and be amongst people who seemed to enjoy my company! Here at Craigandillon there were shooting parties going out in the day, and music and games in the evening. There was plenty of scope for flirting. Some days I went out with the guns, but often went for walks by myself, especially up the valley beside the Doone River. Naturally I was thinking a lot about the conversation with Marna Pease, so I wasn’t too unhappy when this visit was over and I had to go back home.

Marna in the meantime had been talking to my mother, and won her over to the idea of letting me go off to study this new “dancing”, as she thought it was. But where was I to live? Mother had a wonderful old friend living in Surrey, Gracie Corbett, and she agreed to have me to stay with her, and go up to London twice a week for my classes.

Meanwhile there were the months till January to be filled up. One day mother decided that we should bicycle up to Holy Island, as we had never been there. So mother, Diana, Dora Waller and I bicycled the thirty miles up to Beale, where we left the bikes, and then went off on the walk over the sands to the island. We could not unfortunately spend much time there as the tide was on the turn, and we did not want to risk being caught by it and having to spend several hours up in the “rescue” shelters, at the top of poles spaced over the sand! As the tide comes in at a tremendous pace through this channel between the Island and the shore, many people have been caught by it, and thankful to escape up one of the poles! Mother decided that we had had enough exercise for the day, and thankfully we took the train back to Acklington.

Then came the season of balls and dances, and I actually went to four of them – two private ones and two Hunt Balls, the North Northumberland and the Morpeth. It was of course in the days of programmes, when it was essential to arrive early. It never took me long to fill up my programmes, and I did hugely enjoy these dances, where we had reels and Strip the Willow, and Sir Roger de Coverley. Being near the Border, there were always many Scotsmen at these dances, which ensured the liveliest of reels, and tremendous pace for such as Strip the Willow.

At my last Hunt Ball, I told my friends of my plans, and that I would be leaving to begin this new life in January. There were many protestations, I can flatter myself to say: “Oh you can’t go and leave us like that!” But I had to say that this project was really a serious and most important one, and I had to go. Two of my dearest partners begged me to wait till they would be able to marry me! So it was in that glow of warmth that I said one of my “good byes” to beloved Northumberland. Northumbrians are a race apart and divided.

My last goodbye was very different. Neither mother nor Dora showed any interest in what I was going to do. It happened that the day before I was due to leave, I took the dogs out for a walk down to the shore, and, coming back, twisted my ankle very badly, which made walking very difficult. Neither mother nor Dora paid any attention to the pain I was obviously suffering. It wasn’t that mother was busy with running the household. We had servants to do the cooking, washing up, and dust the drawing room. But she kept busy with far more interesting work: a movement had been inaugurated in Canada to alleviate the loneliness of women living in remote parts. This had been brought over to England during the war, very greatly to encourage the home growing of vegetables. A friend of my mother’s, Mrs. Mary Middleton, thought that this would be an excellent outlet for my mother’s many capacities, having no occupation when the war ended. So she introduced my mother to the Women’s Institutes where she at once found outlets for her organizing capacities and she soon built up a most successful organization for the whole county. She was chairman of the Women’s Institute for over 20 years.

Anyway, the day after I turned my ankle, I had to catch a seven o’clock train at Acklington. Neither mother or Dora came to say good bye to me – it was far too early for them to get out of bed!! I limped out of the house, vowing I would never go back there or speak to either of them again! Diana was away at school and Mary in a job and Joe, of course, at sea. Vernon Merivale took me up there.


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