Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Tweed and Dartmoor

The air is cold today.
Once the cool Autumn of New England begins in earnest I dig out my flat cap and don it once again to keep my head warm.
I bought my Barbour flat cap in a hat store in London near Montague Street, across from the British Museum. I had always wanted one and the brisk, cool air of England in November was the perfect time to buy one. It was tweed; tan with olive and brown striping. It fit great - a first for this type of hat on my head. According to the young sales girl, the hat looked great. While her opinion is biased, I agreed with her nonetheless. I bought it on the spot.
For the next week, whenever I went outside, this hat came with me.
I wore this hat to Westminster Abbey, where it absorbed the dust of the ages. I wore it as we climbed the Tower of London and I held it reverently as we looked over the tombstones and memorials scattered throughout the ancient stone walls found there.
I wore this hat on our train ride to Devon, where we met our friends Ian and Annie for a two-day stay at their beautiful farmhouse. Annie showed my how to properly wear my hat (low on my forehead) as we walked along old country lanes and visited the churches of East Worlington and West Worlington. Once again, hat in hand, I strolled through an ancient cemetery and listened to the barely comprehensible words of the old groundskeeper as he talked to Ian. As the fog rolled in over the hills of East Worlington my hat kept my head warm as I was regaled by Ian with the history of how Worlington became a divided town in the first place.
The next day the open air market in Moulton was an unexpected pleasure. Moulton is a small town with a quaint town square and a market that takes place on Thursday mornings in an old grange building. It is full of characters. Here I eavesdropped on a farmer who was discussing the sale of cows that was upcoming later in the day. nearby we met a transplanted woman from western MA selling her homemade soaps. She complimented me on my hat, saying that I looked like a native. Again, the light drizzle and fog was so traditionally "English" that I couldn't help but smile as we walked around.
After leaving the market we went to lunch in a 13th century inn that was situated at the edge of Dartmoor. The ceilings were low and beamed, with white plaster walls and dark wood everywhere. Here we sat near the fireplace, that had one of the old, high back wooden chairs nearby. Ian explained that, back in the day, these chairs were placed directly in front of the fireplace and the high back helped to contain the heat for the sitters. After today my hat smelled vaguely of burning English wood in the fireplace. The smell soon faded but my tweed was now filled with the memory of burnt wood and of the moor.
On our way back to London I used the hat to shield my eyes as I rested, slumped down in the train chair.
Once home again in London I wore my hat to every pub that we went to. The area around the British Museum is crawling with bars and taverns and we did our level best to try a pint in all of them. Soon my hat smelled of cigars and old wood polish. I didn't mind. As we passed in and around Trafalgar Square on our way back to the Hotel Montague the cool air of the London nightlife was kept at bay by the thin layer of tweed, a thick wool turtleneck sweater and my brown car coat.
Of all the souvenirs that we brought back from London, this hat was my favorite. It was a tradition and a memento. Within its tweed and woven among its fibers are the memories of Devon, the moor, the fireplace and our friends. It was a part of England and it was my tie to that place and that moment in time.
On Monday, while we were at work, Callie somehow removed my hat from the drawer in the armoire and destroyed it.
More than one person has said to me "It was just a hat; a thing."
Yes, it was just a hat.
It just happened to be irreplaceable.
And the air is cold today.


Blogger Fox In Detox said...

Awww man! That stinks. I know exactly how you feel.

Me thinks that a trip to London might be in order.

8:41 AM, October 08, 2008  
Blogger Summer Ryan Doyle said...

Lovely descriptions of your journey. And your hat was "just a hat" in the same way children on the playground are just a bunch of kids and someone's home is just another house. It's memories that make our possessions special. Thankfully, the destruction of the hat didn't take your memories away.

11:51 AM, October 08, 2008  
Blogger Bridget said...

From one sentimental soul to another...I'm sorry.

Even though "the hat" can not be replaced, a trip to London does sound like a good idea. Group trip?

1:56 AM, October 09, 2008  
Blogger Cynthia said...

I hope Callie appreciated the fine bouquet of that hat. Bummer!!

Your words made feel like I was there.

9:27 AM, October 10, 2008  
Blogger 1st Lady said...

Awww, there's a Barbour store here in Edinburgh and I actually bought a hat last January (becuase it ws poring with rain) and love it so I know how you feel. If you want to give me the model and style I could get one ordered for you?

2:34 PM, October 13, 2008  
Blogger 1st Lady said...

ok, dont know what happened to my spelling there.. and I've only had the 1 drink..


2:35 PM, October 13, 2008  
Blogger Andy said...

1st Lady - If I knew the model and style then I would definitely order one with you. I'll see what I can find out...
Many thanks for your kind offer!

8:34 AM, October 14, 2008  

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