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Lansdowne Crescent: Chapter 16

…It was a great experience, a taste of absolute freedom, with never a care in the world. I know not which is the most exhilarating feeling, shouldering one's knapsack the first thing in the morning and getting into one's stride to go forth one knows not whither, or taking it off at night and spending a twilight of well-earned rest in the contemplation of the day's achievements and of tomorrow's possibilities….

Eight friends going on a walking tour in North Devon.

Jean Day continues her account of the lives of neighbours in the town of Worcester around a century ago.

To read earlier chapters please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/lansdowne_crescent/

Peter was singularly fortunate in his head master, Rev. William Haighton Chappel, for whom he has the greatest admiration. The same desire to serve humanity that has made Frank so enthusiastic in the cause of Social Reform makes Peter look forward to the time when, forsaking all, he can bury himself in a London slum as a poor parish priest. It was, however, this desire to take Orders that makes him so urgently desire to go to Oxford, and he began to realise that if his hopes were to be fulfilled he must work, for it was made clear to him that he could not go to college without a scholarship. So with this incentive before him for last year and this year he has worked really hard. It is an effort for him, for he lives rather in the clouds, and his intellectual powers are not fully developed. However, he managed by dint of hard work to gain a school scholarship Easter Term, and in October he proceeded to Keble College, Oxford.

Peter left school, as we nearly all do, with regret. He has never been a popular boy. He is not good enough at games for that. And he is not a born leader, he has not enough ‘push'. He is one of the humblest men I know. He has a tremendous admiration for both his brothers, and feels that in comparison with them he is as nothing.

This last summer, being the vacation preceding his going to Oxford Peter was one of a party that formed the famous walking tour in North Devon. ‘The walking tour’ as Janet and Pete call it, as though it were the only one that had ever been, and so from our point of view it was. That fortnight was a red-letter time for all of us - for some of our family it meant an entrance into new and hitherto undreamt-of fields.

They were a merry crew, eight all told, four men and four girls, four of the family (Frank and Pete, Janet and Mary) and four not. (Janet has written this description of the trip.) Wiseacres who had toured before shook their heads sadly and prescribed for mental deficiency when they heard of the size of our party and our proposed route. “You'll never get rooms for eight in Bank Holiday week anywhere in the neighbourhood of Ilfracombe.” This in a hundred different ways was a cheery send-off of would-be friends. We thanked them for their encouraging words, but, undaunted, shouldered our knapsacks and took train for the great unknown.

It was a great experience, a taste of absolute freedom, with never a care in the world. I know not which is the most exhilarating feeling, shouldering one's knapsack the first thing in the morning and getting into one's stride to go forth one knows not whither, or taking it off at night and spending a twilight of well-earned rest in the contemplation of the day's achievements and of tomorrow's possibilities. It was, of course, a bold enterprise. The wiseacres were perfectly right, and by all the laws of supply and demand Mother Earth should have been our resting-place for many a night. And yet they were entirely wrong. Providence beamed upon us all the way, and not once in the whole time did we experience any real difficulty in getting lodgings. Our luck was positively uncanny; time and again we were taken in in houses where rooms were vacant for one night only, between the welcoming the coming and the speeding of the parting guest.

Our route was roughly as follows: Minehead through Porlock to Allerford, Lynton Brendon, Woodabay, Coombe Martin, Ilfracombe, Lee Bay, Mortehoe, Horn's Cross and Clovelly, then by train to Barnstaple, and so across to Appledore, Westward Ho! Bideford back through Brendon and Lynton to Minehead. We attracted a fair amount of attention as we swung along the roads with our weather-beaten faces, and our none too Sunday Clothes, and often as not we speeded the day onwards with a song. Our staple diet was ham and eggs; Think of it, all ye who read, and meditate thereon in wonder! HAM AND EGGS for a whole fortnight, and, more wonderful still, in such profusion that we tired of them. And bowls of cream at any or every meal. We slept in a variety of places, once in a police station, sometimes at rather close quarters. I remember on one occasion the men folk slept in a room where there was room literally for a large double bed, a wash-stand and nothing further. Three of them slept in the bed, and Peter slept under it, with his head sticking out. Had any of the occupants of the bed got out in a forgetful spirit, then farewell to Peter's beauty.

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