It was the birthday of a very good friend of mine last week. We have decades of shared history and shared memories, children, dogs, holidays and celebrations. We have favourite books in common, and lines from books we both treasure – characters and quotes acting as shorthand for our friendship. Ordinary stuff and special stuff.
In many ways we’re very different – my friend is a practical soul, skilled at her craft, a DIYer, a knowledgeable gardener. She’s visited the Chelsea flower show many times as it falls around her birthday. Not this year though.
In terms of the non-earthly elements – water and air – she is also far braver than I am. She, and her characteristic common sense and helpfulness, featured in a few of my earlier poems.
May 21st, my friend’s birthday, was also the anniversary of the first solo crossing of the Atlantic in 1927 by plane by Charles Lindbergh. New York City to Paris. Non-stop. His flight was in response to a challenge set by a French-born New York hotel owner, Raymond Orteig. He offered 25,000 US dollars to the first successful aviator. Lindbergh followed six aviators who had died in their attempt to make the crossing. His flight in ‘The Spirit of St Louis’ from Roosevelt Airfield, Long Island to Le Bourget Aerodrome, Paris took 33 hours and 29 minutes. Lindbergh was twenty-five. He became a national hero and an international celebrity.
Agatha Christie based her story 1934 story ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ on the mysterious kidnap and murder of baby Charles Lindbergh, Jr two years before. In Christie’s tale, the sex of the unfortunate toddler is changed. Her name in the book is Daisy Armstrong.
Burgh Island in South Devon was a favourite bolthole and writing retreat for Christie. It is also the setting for two of her novels – ‘And then there were none’ and ‘Evil under the sun’. The main building on the island is a fantastic Art Deco hotel which we visited (the husband and I) the day after a Devon wedding in 2011. A trip to the Burgh Island Hotel was a long-held ambition, and the visit and lunch there did not disappoint.
In its blurb the hotel states that it’s been ‘welcoming famous and infamous guests since 1929’. Having been there once for a few hours, and soaked up a little of the very stylish, period ambience, the new ambition, for this neither famous nor infamous woman, is to stay there. Just once. Unlikely, but who knows?
From the delights of Art Deco, back down to earth with a bump. This is what’s happening regularly now with the spaniel. He’s falling. He can’t manage the steps between conservatory and kitchen. We’ve put up a ramp. It’s not helping.