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Friday December 22, 1995

Close on one o'clock in the morning; just having returned twenty minutes ago from the evening outing. Two days of diary to catch up on and doubtful I can or should do it before going to sleep.

In very brief: Wednesday we went to Rye a.k.a. E. F. Benson's Tilling, which turned out to be charming; and today Thursday we saw paintings at the Tate and the National Gallery 'til they were coming out of our ears, starting with the Turner bequest; then at 7:30 we went to a candlelight Messiah in St. Martin's-in‑the-Fields. No skating either day: Wednesday by choice so we could go to Rye; Thursday by prudence because I started the day with my cold much worse in the sense of feverishness and near-wavies, altho' that dissipated quickly.

In detail, yesterday started as usual, breakfast at the hotel; then the 10 A.M. train out of Charing Cross to Ashford, a two-minute change to a real local putt-putt to Rye. This latter train was of a type I don't remember ever having ridden on before: each car has many doors onto the quay, one door on either side of the aisle between every other row of seats, and the seats facing each other, in effect compartments without a hall wall but with their private outside door — The trip uneventful and the sights not particularly noteworthy, other than a quick view of the Houses of Parliament along the Thames as we crossed in on Waterloo Bridge, and a distant view of the dome of St. Paul's somewhat later on; the characteristic green of the bent grass of Surrey and Sussex; and more sheep than I've ever seen in my life in a single day: one field in particular with several hundred their fleeces painted with bright red "C" 's —

As we got closer to Rye the landscape started looking like the marshes around Grebe, so I knew we were there — a very odd feeling to recognize a place I'd never been to from novelistic descriptions of a fictional town. And the train station itself of our arrival was where Miss Mapp fell on her can while lying in wait for the Prince of Wales . . . .

Up partly cobblestoned Market Street thru Cinque Ports Street up to the High Street and to Lamb House; and within five minutes of our arrival (well — after a detour to look at and photograph a sheep auction near the railroad tracks) we were looking at the site of Miss Mapp's garden room, unfortunately (as we knew) bombed off the face of the earth by the Huns in 1940, but marked by a large inscription. Mallards House is a large brick house of no particular beauty, but Mallards Cottage adjacent to it towards the church is much nicer; and the crooked chimney is still there that tourists used to paint: I photographed it.


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