Hengrave Hall

A friend of mine just posted a bunch of pictures from a trip I took in college. I was blessed with a truly wonderful college experience, culminating in a semester abroad with several other English majors. Two professors and their spouses went with us and taught us while we traveled through the English countryside, London, Edinburgh, and Ireland - with a bonus two weeks in Israel at the very end.

And while we were there we had a home away from home called Hengrave Hall. We'd stay for a week or two, then take a trip to London and see 3 shows in 4 days, or go off to Bath and study Jane Austen. But we were always thrilled to return to Hengrave.

I had a room in the second floor that I shared with 3 other girls. The bathroom was in a turret that might have been colder than my refrigerator today, and we had to walk down the hall to find an actual bath. Every radiator typically had a student sitting on top of it to get warm. But it was magical.

At the foot of the grand stairs we had tea every day around 11 - black tea with cream and sugar and digestive biscuits. (I'm gonna have to find a way to make those gluten free, now that I'm remembering this). And although I'm the opposite of a homebody, I could stay there for days without leaving, because it was a community unto itself. We ate there, had class there, walked the grounds, talked to the nuns who lived there year round. And every Friday we all huddled around the one television in a back bedroom to watch Homicide: Life on the Streets together.

I find that Hengrave works it's way into my writing frequently. I'm enchanted with the idea of a big manor house that creates a community within it's own (more than) four walls. I'm also mindful of how life buzzed with excitement, but the pace was so much slower. This was before cell phones were common and the only way we managed email was by me taking my shoddy laptop down to the phone booth in the basement, hooking up my acoustic coupler to the receiver, and huddling on the floor until I heard the beeps stop coming. I did this once at a pay phone booth on a street corner in Ireland. I was dedicated.

But even without all the texting fever we have today, Hengrave was noticeably slower and more peaceful than life outside of it.

I felt quite a bit of culture shock when I landed in LAX after 4 months of that. I've readjusted, clearly, but I'm always mindful of how much I enjoyed life there, and how I loved the closeness of my friends, and the slowness of our days together.


Melissa Marsh said...

Oh my gosh. I have serious envy! While I did go to England for a literary tour, it was only for 10 days - not four months. How I would have loved to do that! In fact I'd STILL love to do it! Maybe after the novel is published... :-)

October 8, 2010 at 12:55 PM
Mystery Robin said...

It was so wonderful Melissa. Maybe you'll have the chance to do something like that as an educator, yourself! You have so much knowledge of history and such. :) I encourage all the college kids I know to do a semester abroad, but really more than the travel the people I went with made the experience. Just so fun!

October 8, 2010 at 1:44 PM
Amy C said...

Wow, you're reminding me of my semester abroad in London that I did in college too. Our dorms were definitely not as gorgeous looking as that Hall, but I have lots of good memories from the experience. (Lining up for the bath down the hall in the freezing cold with all the soccer player guys in line too was not my favorite part of the experience, though!) But I did love the tea and digestives!

October 9, 2010 at 7:50 PM
Cheri said...

Beautiful Robin...I still remember being up so late packing your bags. We packed way too much. I am so glad these memories still bring you pleasure.

October 14, 2010 at 6:51 AM

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