Friday, June 23, 2017

The Blog as Book

June 8, 2017

At this point, certain admissions must be made about the purpose of this blog. In addition to recounting my current expedition, it is an opportunity to publish in some form my account of the same trip twenty years ago, which I spent the better part of two years polishing. Much of it ended up in my novel Paradise Walk, and some of it has turned out to be too detailed for readers who will want the highlights without being bogged down by my complaints of sore feet. This still leaves me with putting out a book in blog form, though. Most descriptions of blogs describe them as shortish postings, but I think the format has more flexibility than that. So onward I go!
         The new pilgrims, last seen at Glastonbury, traveled on to Shaftesbury and Salisbury, visiting a wonderful ruined castle along the way, which I have to mention as an example of the biggest difference between my trip of twenty years ago and the present venture. Then, I seldom let a map out of my sight, poring over the Ordnance Survey maps for footpaths to follow. Now, we mostly navigated by using Google maps on one of our phones. 
         The problem with Google maps is that it instructs you when and which way to turn, but gives you no information or context of what is beyond the screen. In this way it is actually like an old-fashioned strip map, which led you along the way from place to place with the orientation of the map changing constantly as you turn. (No North up on these maps!)  John Ogilby printed 100 of these in his 1675 Britannia Atlas, and I am attaching the one from London to Portsmouth as an example. 
         On Sunday, June 4th, we decided to look at the map for anything we might miss from Google maps, and found “Wardour Castle” was only a bit out of our way. This was a magnificent stop for many reasons. The castle was built in the fourteenth century as a “lightly fortified luxury residence for comfortable living and lavish entertainment,” as we learned from the brochure. It was blown up in the English Civil War, and in the eighteenth century became a picturesque ruin on the grounds of the new stately mansion. It was a lovely day, the rhododendrons were in full bloom and we spent a few hours rambling around the castle and grounds. I attach a picture of that too.
         Four days later, my sister Kathy and I remembered our dad on the 103d anniversary of his birth. It was his death that largely set my first pilgrimage in motion, and I include below a description of the planning process and the important texts about pilgrimages in the twentieth century. This passage also describes my original visit to Winchester with my friend and companion Peg Brandon. Returning in the present with my new companions, we found ourselves similarly moved by the site of Jane Austen's grave, and perplexed by the fascinating medieval fraud that is King Arthur's Round Table. The historical building in which it is located tells the very interesting story of its creation to make a link between Arthur and kings who followed centuries later.

            The last paragraph of this section introduces Anna, around whom the second venture was built. I said then that I would like to be “one of those eccentric great-aunties that lives in a big old rambling Victorian house and adds a sense of goofiness to the life of this child.” I hope I have accomplished that.

Note: I am actually retro-writing this from Portland, OR, where I am attending the Historical Novel Writer’s conference with my sister Sheila. At her suggestion, I’m going to start a new, more normal blog when I finish this project!

From the Original Walk:  Hilaire Belloc’s “Old Road”

         On my forty-first birthday I was in England attending the annual meeting of the International Congress of Maritime Museums, a jolly bunch from around the world who had grown, over fifteen years, to be my good friends.  The next day my father was having the surgery which would set off a chain of medical crises from which he would die a month later, and things he said to me in the previous days and weeks made me think that he knew he would not recover. 
         It was at that time, and among those museum friends, that I first began seriously to test the waters about recreating a pilgrimage.  At the time it was entirely about artifacts, as a way of thinking about where relics fit into the larger picture, but I had already begun to think about the Wife of Bath as a framework on which to hang “my sabbatical project.”
         When I returned from England I made two trips in rapid succession to Seattle to be with my father.  Arriving home finally to Massachusetts after his funeral, I found a package in the mail containing a book.  David Proctor, whom I knew from long acquaintance at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, had sent me his copy of Hilaire Belloc’s The Old Road, with instructions to return it to him when I passed his house in Rochester on my pilgrimage.  It was the catalyst that set me on my way.  What had begun as a curiosity about artifacts, relics, and pilgrimages became entwined with thoughts about my father and his death and somehow Belloc and his book became part of the fabric of my plans
         Over the next several months I read the book carefully, ordered the Ordnance Survey maps and began to plan my trip.  It became clear to me very quickly that I would not retrace Belloc’s path.  The notion of the Wife of Bath was strongly in my mind even before I read Belloc, and Belloc’s path from Winchester to Canterbury not only missed the western half of England’s isle, but almost the whole of Chaucer’s route south from London.  Nonetheless, I loved Belloc’s discussion of roads and pilgrimages and I wanted to follow a portion of the path described in his book.  I decided to more or less follow Belloc from Winchester as far as the Mole River before heading north to meet the Thames River near Hampton Court Palace and proceed by boat from there into London.
         Belloc has many interesting theories, not all of which are convincing, but several of his points became meaningful for me on my walk.  He credits three factors with preserving the oldest of the paths in England: “the Canterbury pilgrimage; the establishment of a system of turnpikes in the eighteenth century; and thirdly, and most important of all, the chalk.”  Certainly the walk from Broad Chalke to Salisbury along the ancient “Herepath” at the top of the chalk ridge made the third point come home to me.  Relics of pre-history like that path, that follow the landscape of the chalk, and the newer (but still ancient) “Roman Roads” that run arrow-straight up and down hills and across streams, never seeking the easy route or the natural ford, made up both the medieval pilgrimage route and Belloc’s eighteenth century turnpike.  Between Winchester, the shrine of St. Swithun, and Canterbury, the shrine of St. Thomas Becket, medieval pilgrims followed the ancient paths.  Belloc said of those pilgrims that the “peculiar association of antiquity and of religion” along the road “mingles the two ideas almost into one thing.”  It is a notion which which he clearly associated and which I can understand very well.

            From step to step the pilgrims were compelled to take the oldest of paths.  The same force of antique usage and affection which, in a past beyond all record, had lent their meaning to rocks and springs upon a public way, re-flourished; and once again, to the great pleasure of myself who write of it now, and of all my readers who love to see tradition destroying calculated things, the momentum of generations overcame.
            The pilgrimage saved the road.

         Even before Belloc, nineteenth-century antiquarians in England had been interested in some sort of a “Pilgrim’s Way” between Winchester and Canterbury, and over time it had even come to be included on the Ordnance Survey maps.  Most historians today think that there never was a single path deserving the name, but I like Belloc’s concept anyway.
         I was certainly not the first person to contemplate following Belloc’s path since the publication of his book in 1911.  (And, in fact, Belloc had himself followed the Pilgrim’s Road as described in an even earlier book by one Mrs. Adie.)  From Belloc, there was a progression of books to be read before starting out, the most recent of which was reviewed in the New York Times while I was making my preparations.  In The Road to Canterbury, Shirley Du Boulay describes her walk from Winchester to Canterbury with three friends in 1993.  Both the purpose and the process of Du Boulay’s pilgrimage differed from mine, but her observations were often very insightful, and her book was also in my pack when I set out. 
         Shirley Du Boulay undertook her pilgrimage, in part, as part of the process of grieving for the loss of her husband, and I could sympathize with that, as I was mourning my father.  But she had converted to Catholicism while I had converted from it.  Those things that I still found appealing from a sentimental and romantic nature were the very things she found most disquieting.  She had, she wrote, been “too late a convert for relationships with saints and the reverence of relics and shrines to come naturally.”  She did, though, have a good historical sense of the pilgrimage and was drawn to it largely by the “thought of those who had walked before.” 
         In the absence of Belloc, I don’t think I would have been tempted to follow Shirley Du Boulay’s path, but her experience being very recent was helpful in the planning stages.  She had a great logistical advantage over me, however, a friend with a car who met her and her two walking companions at the end of each day’s walk, took them to their lodging, and then .deposited them the next morning at the place where they had left off the day before.  Without regular access to a car, finding a place to stay that was within the compass of my walk was often the greatest challenge.
         A more practical guide for my pilgrimage was The Pilgrims’ Way from Winchester to Canterbury by Seán Jennett.  Even though this book is now more than twenty-five years old, it is a remarkably good guide for the walker.  Jennett traced and retraced Belloc’s paths and alternate paths, and describes options with realistic detail.  At times he suggests that the smart walker get on a bus for short periods to avoid travelling on busy roads and by the time I got to Winchester I was ready to take reasonable advice.
         Now in search of Belloc and his path, Peg and I entered Winchester and found our B&B on St. Cross Street.  Having pooped out on half of the walk between Broughton and Winchester, I was anxious to prove myself again by walking immediately from the B&B to the cathedral, and after settling our gear we walked down the hill to the center of town.  By chance we passed by the simple yellow-painted house where Jane Austen died.  Though a private residence, it has a plaque acknowledging her life and death.  As I read it, I realized that we were on the doorstep of this house 180 years to the day after Jane arrived here, already dying, probably from Addison’s disease.  I secreted one of my fingernails in a chink in the facade, hoping it would last for a time and link me to her.
         It was just a few steps more to one of the passages through the wall that surrounds the cathedral.  Jane must have walked these very steps when she was able.  We crossed and went in.  The interior of Winchester Cathedral is vast and remarkably cool.  I went immediately to her grave.  There, at the stone which covers the relics of the author of my favorite novel, I felt the power of the pilgrimage.  While I had been thinking often of my father along the way, this was a moment to honor my mother, who introduced me to Jane Austen by giving me Pride and Prejudice when I was ten.  Not long after reading the book, she and I drove out to Spokane Valley, many miles from where we lived, to see the Lawrence Olivier and Greer Garson film which was then being shown in a revival. 
         At that time I was completely uncritical about the details that today make most filmed versions of Jane Austen hard for me to take.  I loved Olivier as Darcy, accepted Greer Garson as Elizabeth Bennet (though it was different watching Elizabeth be performed, rather than living her life through the book), and I was appalled that the filmmakers had the audacity to turn Lady Catherine de Burgh into a character the diametrical opposite of the one created by Jane Austen.  It was a memorable occasion for me.  Coming from a large family, having either parent entirely to myself for a date was a special occasion, and the combination of loving the book, loving the movie, and feeling a special relationship with my mom by sharing it with her was wonderful. 
         In subsequent years as I picked up Pride and Prejudice again and again, that memory was always there.  I have often wondered if I would love the book so much without that memory, but I am confident that I would.  It would have taken a dozen Nancy Drews to make an Elizabeth Bennet in my world.  She was a character with foibles and a sense of humor that I could relate to, the first I ever encountered in literature, and I have never met her equal.  Jane Austen’s writing is such a combination of intelligence, insightful social commentary, and fun that I have never tired of it.  She is hilarious.  I approach my annual reading of Pride and Prejudice each year with glee, like a visit with a much-loved friend, and am sorry each and every time that I turn the final page.
         Jane’s gravestone is simple and effective.  “The benevolence of her heart, the sweetness of her temper, and the extraordinary endowments of her mind obtained the regard of all who knew her, and the warmest love of her intimate connections.  Their grief is in proportion to their affection, they know their loss to be irreparable.”  Over the years a brass plaque and a stained glass window have been added, to acknowledge her genius.  The stained glass window was disappointing in every way except the choice of the main text: “In the beginning there was the Word.”  Fitting for Jane Austen
         Winchester Cathedral doesn’t have the elegant simple grandeur of Salisbury, nor the stylistic purity of Wells, but it is crammed with interesting stuff and I liked it a great deal.  The first church on this site, which came to be known as “Old Minster,” was built in 648.  In 971 the remains of St. Swithun, a local bishop who had died in 862, were transferred into it.  By all accounts Swithun was a humble man who had requested a humble grave in the churchyard and the violent mid-summer storm that accompanied the transfer of his relics into the more opulent resting place was seen as a sign of his displeasure.  The notoriety gained from the storm, which lasted for forty days, and the miracles that began to occur at his new tomb created a powerful magnet for pilgrims.      St. Swithun seems best known in England today for the persistent traditional knowledge that if it rains on St. Swithun’s day, it will rain for the next forty days.  It was my impression that all English people knew this, but in a random survey of English friends conducted back in America I found that only three of eight could name the most important elements, viz. rain and forty days.  Two knew it to be “weather related” folklore, one confused it with Groundhog Day, one with Christ’s wandering in the desert, and one had never heard of St. Swithun.  Only one could actually name the date of 15 July, with other guesses occurring in every season of the year, and none could tell me who St. Swithun was or how he became the groundhog of England. 
         The movement of Swithun’s relics from one place to another defined subsequent building projects around Winchester Cathedral.  After the Norman Invasion, a new and grander church was laid out, and in 1079 construction began so close to Old Minster that the building of the new church and the demolition of the old occurred almost simultaneously.  (Today the outline of Old Minster is marked in brick in the churchyard of Winchester Cathedral.)  Major additions were made in each of the next five centuries, the most dramatic being the total transformation of the nave between 1350 and 1410, during the period when the Wife of Bath might have made a pilgrimage here.  In Chaucer’s day it was the greatest rival to Canterbury Cathedral as a destination for English pilgrims.
         In 1476 a grand new shrine was built to hold the relics of St. Swithun, and for sixty-two years it occupied the central place in the town of Winchester.  In 1538 the shrine and relics were destroyed by a gang of Henry VIII’s thugs from the Commission for the Destruction of Shrines, and the site in the cathedral stood empty until 1962.  On 15 July (the day of his stormy transfer), 1100 years after his death, a new commemorative shrine was built to stand on the site.  A plaque on it reads: “All that could perish of St. Swithun being enshrined within this place and throughout many ages hallowed by the veneration and honoured by the gifts of faithful pilgrims from many lands was by a later age destroyed and none could destroy his glory.”  It is possible to light a candle nearby, which I did.
         While St. Swithun was the main attraction for religious pilgrims, and Jane Austen for literary pilgrims, the history pilgrim finds a treasure trove here as well.  Winchester was the capitol of the Anglo Saxon kingdom of Wessex, and many of the Anglo Saxon kings and queens, as well as the Danish invader Canute and his interesting wife Emma, are deposited here.  Emma was queen to two kings, the first was the Anglo Saxon Ethelred the Unready, who had taken his half-brother’s throne by murder (the unlucky Edward the Martyr, whose grave site I had visited at Shaftesbury Abbey).  Emma’s second husband was the Viking Canute, whose father booted Ethelred off the throne for a year or so in 1013.  Ethelred managed to be king again for another couple of years only to have Canute succeed him to both the crown and his wife (Emma was, consequently, able to keep her crowns, tiaras, etc., and still wear them to official functions).  Canute made a pilgrimage all the way to Rome, and thereafter always wore a pilgrim’s badge of some sort.
         The bones of Emma and Canute, along with other Anglo Saxon royalty, were placed in mortuary chests in 1525 and now rest on top of the elaborate screen that encloses the area beyond the choir, known as the presbytery.  Emma’s son with Ethelred was Edward the Confessor, who was, in 1043, the last English monarch crowned in Winchester Cathedral.  He moved the government to London and built his own church, Westminster Abbey, where all subsequent coronations have taken place, and where his grave was a major destination for pilgrims in Medieval times, as it would be for me in about a one week. 
         A very satisfactory visit to the cathedral complete, my companion Peg and I tried to remember who sang the song “Winchester Cathedral” (my vote was for Hermans Hermits), and then attempted to sing the song, but could only remember one chorus and half a verse.

Winchester Cathedral, you’re bringing me down,
You sat and you watched as my baby left town.
You could’ve done something...
[Something about how she might have stayed] if you’d started ringing your bell.

         After a few frustrating stabs at that we turned to “I’m Henry the Eighth I Am,” a more memorable entry from the Hermit’s repertoire, and sang it through heartily two or three times until boredom put an end to our musical tribute to Winchester. 
         We set off from St. Cross through the Water Meadows of the Itchen River into town, and proceeded up the hill to the Great Hall.  I knew that there was a table there, said to be the Round Table of King Arthur, and seeing it was a high priority.  As at Bath, here at Winchester the three strands of my pilgrimage came together: it was a major medieval pilgrimage sight for the relics of St. Swithun, it was the place where Jane Austen had died, and as the ancient capitol of England had held a castle where William the Conqueror had ruled and spawned the Angevin dynasty with its deliberate associations with Arthur.
         I’m not sure what I was expecting with this Round Table, but my expectations were surpassed.  The Great Hall is built on the site of a castle that has associations with both King Alfred the Great and William the Conqueror.  Except for this hall, everything that survived of Winchester castle to the middle of the seventeenth century was destroyed by order of Oliver Cromwell, who did for castles what Henry VIII did for monasteries and abbeys.  The Hall itself, like many of England’s great buildings, is mostly covered in scaffolding, but there is a very interesting excavation of the area immediately surrounding it and the interior is very dramatic.  The Round Table, hanging high up on the wall, and stretching eighteen feet across is very impressive. 
         The table dates to about 1300, long after the setting of Arthur, during that period when his story was being produced with such gusto.  It might have been made for Edward I for some of his courtly entertainments.  He was a fan of Arthurian legend, sponsored some anachronistic jousts and tournaments and his grandson, Edward III is said to have founded the Order of the Garter with the Round Table Gang in mind.  Henry VIII got his hands on this table many years later and had it repainted with the names of the legendary knights around it, a Tudor Rose in the center, and a portrait of Arthur said to look just like Henry.  At one point he actually dragged some visiting dignitaries, including the Holy Roman Emperor, down to Winchester to see it.  His father, Henry VII, who had a somewhat tenuous claim to the British throne, named his first son Arthur and had him christened in Winchester, which was said by some to have been Arthur’s capitol.  I wondered again why Henry VIII let his gang of dissoluters destroy those tombs in Glastonbury.
         The Round Table was a good thing to see as we departed from Winchester.  The Arthurian connection tied a nice bow to my three subject strands.  I was very satisfied as I settled under my pack and headed north with Peg.  The main street out of Winchester is called Jewry Street, an acknowledgement of the Jewish population that lived in Winchester until 1290 when King Edward I, that jolly fan of all things Arthurian, summarily ordered all Jews out of England.  At one time the Jewish Quarter was situated just inside the city wall of Winchester, and we passed through the site of the wall’s north gate as we proceeded out of town.  Just beyond the wall was Hyde Abbey, built and rebuilt over the centuries until it, like every other abbey and monastery in England, was “dissolved” in 1538 by order of Henry VIII. 
         Thomas Wriothesley, who was in charge of the abbey’s dissolution, wrote to Henry that he intended to “sweep away all the rotten bones that be called relics; which we may not omit, lest it be thought that we came more for the treasure than for the avoiding of the abomination of idolatry.”  Among the bones so ruthlessly swept away were those of King Alfred the Great, and again I was astonished at the fervor with which Henry’s gang of thugs attacked not only Catholicism in the form of saints’ bones, but their own history in the form of kings’ bones.  The relics here included the head of St. Valentine, given to the abbey by Queen Emma, and a silver cross given by King Canute.
         There is a wonderful and dramatic statue of Alfred in Winchester.  He rests his left hand on a large round shield, and holds a sword in his right, grasping it by the blade and elevating it above the height of his head.  Alfred made Winchester his capitol in 871 and it remained the center of British government for four centuries.  He died in 899 and was first buried in the “Old Minster.”  He was a student of Bishop Swithun, and was already interred there when the bones of his teacher, by then St. Swithun, were moved with such stormy ceremony to a place nearby. 
         As the New Minster overtook the Old Minster, Alfred was moved into the new building, and in 1110 his remains were transferred to Hyde Abbey.  There he lay in majesty until Thomas Wriothesley decided to rifle through his bones to prove that he wasn’t just in the business of looting churches for treasure.  The land on which the Abbey stood gave way over the centuries to other buildings, including a prison and a brewery, and today can be discovered only in the small parish church of Saint Bartholomew. 
         About two hundred years ago while working on the site, a workman uncovered a stone with the inscription: “Aelfred Rex DCCCLXXXI.”  Like the bones it covered, the stone was swept away by time and unknown strangers, leaving only the story and none of the evidence.  The small guidebook which you can purchase in St. Bartholomew’s church fairly clearly debunks the “discovery” of Alfred’s grave as a hoax, and the Church Warden, who spoke to us at great length, dismissed it even further.  He did take us out back however, where a plain slab, marked only by a cross, is said by some to be the last resting place of the mortal remains of the great Saxon King.  Belloc, romantic that he was, chose to believe.  “Alfred’s bones,” he wrote, “seem to have been spared.  It was most probably Alfred’s leaden coffin that was dug up unopened in the building of the now vanished prison, and sold in 1788.  It  fetched two pounds.”

The Pilgrim's Progress
         Of all the mountains I scaled between Bath and Canterbury, there is no doubt but that the climb up to Shaftesbury was the steepest, and that the climb to St. Martha’ was next in the line-up.  I don’t know if it was that I was in better shape a little more than a week later, or that I was approaching the hill early in the day, but the ascent to St. Martha’s was very pleasurable, while that to Shaftesbury was agony.  I was comfortable and confident on this day.
         The little forest on the slope of St. Martha’s hill was dry and piney.  Something about the smell reminded me of the summer camp I went to as a girl in Spokane, Washington.  It was called “Dart-lo,” a Camp Fire Girl camp on the Spokane River, and the surrounding forest smelled just like this.  Smells are a very powerful memory device for me, even more powerful than photographs.  Every now and then I get a whiff of plastic (the last time was when I hung a new shower curtain), and the smell takes me right back to Christmas circa 1962 and the doll I got that year; it had the identical aroma.  So now I was trudging up a mountainside south of Guildford, England, with a pack on my back and a mission to find the bones of saints, and I was thinking about times in Spokane thirty years before.  I never would have projected myself in the opposite direction.  As a little girl in Spokane I would not have thought that at the age of forty-one I would be walking across England searching for bones.
         It was a hot June day and the grass on the hilltop was baked from green to brown.  The trees fall back around the little church on the hilltop, so St. Martha’s was my whole focus as I climbed.  Upon reaching the summit, however, the hill drops away so dramatically on the other side that the church paled beside the breathtaking landscape to the south.  I pulled out my notebook again, I had seen something when I was reading the Tennyson that was just right for here.  It is actually a little snippet from the biography of Tennyson written by his grandson.  “The slopes of wold and valley are dotted with copses and noble trees, amongst which lie tiny villages and square-towered churches...”
         Standing on the hilltop and breathing in the wide vista below me I saw them all.  I love the words that English poets use to describe their countryside: wold and copse and weald and vale.  I could see a stream that broadened into a lake where it had been dammed between two mills.  There were several villages visible, as well as patchwork of farmland, hedges and roads and small groves of trees.  It seemed that I must be standing on the highest point of land in England. 
         The beautiful valley that stretched below me is called “the Vale of the Chilworth,” and in the seventeenth century it was famous for its gunpowder mills.  I thought of Blake’s “Dark Satanic Mills” and wondered if something like this had inspired him.  (Later that day I was informed by my hostess in Surrey that Blake did not mean industrial mills but universities!  The song took on a whole new sinister tone at that point.  It was not a discourse on the loss of the countryside to industrialism but a harangue in favor of religious inculcation against the incursions of free thought and speech.  Yikes!)
         But I am getting ahead of myself.  From admiring the Vale of the Chilworth I proceeded into the little chapel of St. Martha’s, a regular stop on the pilgrim trail.  Just inside the door you can buy a map of the “Probable Course Near Guildford” of the “Pilgrims Way, 1171-1538.”  A talkative guide has a prepared spiel which he shares with all comers:  “In the corner is a statue carved by a girl of nineteen in the 1940’s which just shows you what youth can accomplish when they put their minds to it.” 
         There is little here that survives from the medieval period, though it has been a spot of some importance for many centuries.  The Norman church that was on the site was destroyed by the explosion of one of those gunpowder mills just below it in the valley, and the church that stands here now was mostly built after the middle of the nineteenth century.  Belloc was much inspired here at the site of St. Martha’s, noting that it “has been conjectured, upon such slight evidence as archaeology possesses, that the summit was a place of sacrifice.  Certainly great rings of earth stood here before the beginning of history.” 
         Belloc also says that the chapel was originally dedicated to St. Thomas Becket and that “St. Martha’s” is a corruption of “Saint/Martyr” or something like that.  The guide in the church disagreed, making a point that this was the only church anywhere dedicated to Martha, a very minor saint in the pantheon.  Seán Jennet says that the dedication to St. Martha “is rare and is probably a mistake,” and goes on to say that the name may, in fact, “result from a confusion with ‘Saint Martyrs’, the hill of martyrs, a name coming from an old tradition that some six hundred Christians suffered martyrdom on this hill about the year 600.” 
         There is, at any rate, a stained-glass window showing St. Thomas Becket, and this has been a place for pilgrims for at least five hundred years.  In the middle of the fifteenth century the Bishop of Winchester granted a forty-day indulgence to anyone who made a pilgrimage here and contributed to the church.

         Along the route from Gomshall to Dorking the phone in my pack began to ring, a completely unexpected phenomenon that had the effect of propelling me, both vertically and horizontally, well along the path.  It was my sister Peggy calling from Seattle to tell me that our niece Jeannie had given birth to a baby girl, Anna Apostlefield, the first person of her generation born into our family.  This was not a surprise, of course, I had known that Anna was on her way for months.  I even knew what we would be calling her, with this wonderfully charming hybrid surname created by my niece and her husband from a piece of each of their own.           I had purchased a postcard for the event and now I pulled it out and wrote:  “Dear Anna, Welcome.  In twenty years you can redeem this card for a trip to England.”  It added promise to my venture, to think that I would return, years later, in company with this little as-yet-unknown person, born during my pilgrimage.  I think that I shall be one of those eccentric great-aunties that lives in a big old rambling Victorian house and adds a sense of goofiness to the life of this child.