Going Viral with H.V. Morton

A Beautiful Redhead Who is Not as Old as Jay Cool!

It’s a good day for the gods who, judging by the downpour, appear to be emptying out their Portaloos all over Sudbury. This is a welcome relief for one such as I, Jay Cool, a once-was-ginger book obsessive. In a heatwave, those of us with high-quality-porcelain-white skin stay indoors to avoid cracking up. But, when the gods are favouring us, out we go, or out I go.

To be fair, then I have little choice about the going out bit. Sprog 1, old enough to work, but not rich enough to drive – needs a lift to her dish-washing shift. Suspecting that my own kitchen is none too crock-free, I feel a little aggrieved at playing chauffeur. So, feeling dramatic, I fling open the kitchen door to reveal all that is within to my pleading daughter. The surfaces are clear – spattered with crumbs, yes – but without an unwashed crock in sight.

This is amazing. I really do love Sprog 1, and I tell her so. She looks a touch embarrassed, so I reassure her that, yes, it is perfectly cool and okay to wash up the crocks in one’s own house, and not just at work.

Because I am a good mother, Sprog 1 gets her lift.

Because I am a self-motivated mother, Sprog 1 gets her lift because I need a booster. A book booster!

“I know what you are up to, Mum. You’re not allowed to buy any more books! You know what Dad said about feeding the wood burner!”

My beloved Dacia delivers my firstborn to the awaiting dishwasher, the industrial-scale dishwasher that just loves to be fed and to feed.

And my beloved Dacia, who knows which way it’s own fuel is buttered, delivers me to an awaiting car parking space, a space very conveniently placed for quick access to every decent bookshop in town – the Sally Army, Oxfam and … all of the other charity shops. Why Fiona Bruce dissed Sudbury for it’s possession of such national treasures, I will never, as long as I live (even I live long enough to read every single book in my house), be able to fathom. Three hours of free parking and outstanding works of literature for as little as 20p a piece at the Sally Army. What has one got to complain about?

Oxfam.

Oxfam is a superb collection of collectable books, but it’s not so generous as to give them away to one such as I for a mere 20p.

I move on. Plenty of other venues to check out.

I’m only browsing, of course, and have absolutely no intention of purchasing.

A title-less and anonymous khaki green spine calls out to me to rescue it from its neighbours.

“I’ve been here for months, and no-one has even picked me up to look at me, just because I’m a bit green. Take me. Please take me now!”

I take the plunge.

The word-less green spine turns out to be a protective-cardboard-box sleeve, a mere Scotch pie-crust with a golden egg of a book within. The book’s cover is actually rather green (it happens if one leaves an egg to boil for too long!), and, etched into it is: a thatched cottage, a vintage car and an old man with cap and breeches smoking a pipe. A bosom-shaped hill and puffs of cotton clouds form the back-drop. Could that comely bosom be the Wrekin? Could this book be about my beloved Salopian paradise?

But, alas! The book has the title ‘In Search of England’, the author being H.V. Morton. Isn’t HV some kind of a virus? Do I have to chase this virus all around England, before I can eat the egg-yolk? I open the book to do a quick check of any risk factors. It was first published in 1927. But it’s pristine condition is due to its republication by The Folio Society in 2002. Twelve chapters to get through. And, most, not about Shropshire. I peruse the chapter summaries. Bingo!

Chapter 7. Uriconium and Shrewsbury. Didn’t cousin Wilfred Owen write a poem about Uriconium? Isn’t Uriconium the next location on my hitlist of hotspots I must visit before I reach my third age? Isn’t there a statue of my Uncle-or-Cousin-Something-or-other, Sir Robert Clive, bang in the middle of Shrewsbury’s town centre?

And the price tag?

Not 20p!

£5.00. A rip off!

I buy it.

Forget Café Nero and it’s lovely café latte! Don’t even think about Costa Coffee with it’s little-finger sized chocolate muffins!

Home.

Book.

Read.

Chapter 7.

‘My first impression of Gloucester ….’

What? I have to wait awhile before we get to Shrewsbury? Get with it, H.V.!

‘…was that of a city full of small, comely maidens between the fortunate ages of fifteen and twenty-five. In the evening they wear flowered voile – the material favoured by the taller maidens of Botticelli – and they walk up and down Northgate and Southgate Streets with the cathedral bells as a sweet accompaniment to their perambulations. Some of these small maidens are pretty; others, thanks to wise Nature’s law of compensation, have beautiful legs.’ (p.174)

Cracking up, I find that I can read no further. Who really authored this book? Was it Donald Trump?  Boris Johnson? Or could people actually just say out loud the first thoughts that came into their heads back then, without fear of making headline news in the next day’s edition of ‘The Daily Mail’? Okay, so the language is sexist, and ridiculous, and not in the slightest bit P.C. But, this author was clearly ahead of his time. Like Trump the Twit, H.V. – Travel Writer Extraordinaire 1927 – was in no way limited by national boundaries. H.V. was the first viral globetrotter!

But before I take any seat on an aeroplane next to this charmer, I’m heading across the border from Gloucestershire into Shropshire …

… unaccompanied!

Copyright owned by Jay Cool, August 2018

P.S. But, before, I do – take a look at this leg, ladies! And this whole calf was snapped up by my Motorola, right here –  in Suffolk! Why travel, when one can go local?

Correctly identify the owner of this leg, and you will be rewarded with free entry to a Suffolk Punch Comedy Club gig. Best guesses can be tweeted to SuffolkPunchComedy@SuffolkComedy. Get tweeting!

Who is Jay Cool?

Bibliography

Morton, H.V., ‘In Search of England’ (Methuen, 127; The Folio Society, 2002).

Photographs

‘Tattoed Leg’ by Jay Cool

‘Redhead with Umbrella’ courtesy of flickr.com (licensed for non-commercial re-use)

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