Sometimes you come across a book that you absolutely love, and the characters become much loved friends whilst you are reading it, and often well after you have finished it. You imagine them going about their lives and think about them even after the book has found its place on your shelf. Then you hear that they are going to make a movie of the book, and your first reaction is “oh NO – what if they RUIN it for me!” A casting mistake, a film location that isn’t what you had imagined, a voice that isn’t true, there are dozens of ways that your imaginary friends can come a cropper in the film.Well, I was thinking about all this as my three wonderful friends and I were chuntering along on British Rail across the length and breadth of England last Friday, coming from the Lake District to a much anticipated visit with Dovegreyreader. You see, she had become something of an imaginary friend to me over the last few months since KfC alerted me to her blog. I have been reading it faithfully and had formed an impression of her that I was holding fast, and I kept wondering what if that was what she was really like. I imagined her as a warm funny woman who embraced life fully, who found joy in all things great and small, and who was unfailingly cheerful, positive and a very, very nice person. I had a picture of her buzzing about, knitting, quilting, singing, reading, writing, and laughing. I knew what she looked like, as her picture had been on her blog. As we neared the station, I got a bit nervous – what if she wasn’t like that at all? Yikes!
We alighted from the train (as they love to say on British Rail) and as we were struggling with our bags, before we had a moment to look up, we were caught up in the warmest welcome you could ever imagine. DGR and Bookhound had come to the station 45 minutes early, just in case, and ran up to us, hugged us all warmly with a “Welcome Canada!” that made us all laugh and put us at ease. Bless them, they had brought two cars, as they knew we were travelling with a lot of gear, and they divided us up – Gill and I went with DGR and Sally and Denise and our luggage went with Bookhound. DGR piloted her little Fiesta to our hotel (the Endsleigh, if you know her blog), pointing out all the sights that had been referenced on her blog, and places of interest along the way. Bookhound, meanwhile, had released his inner Tour Guide, and treated his passengers to a jolly good look round the area en route to the hotel, arriving an hour and a half after we other three got there.The next morning, DGR picked us up and took us to town where we attended the dearest thing ever – we went to visit the Tinker in Tinkertown. Having been alerted to our visit, he had just finished the hoovering (his flat is spotless – I want him to move in with us!). After a few pleasantries, the Tinker went and fetched 4 copies of his book, and we had a book signing! (The book is called Bugle Boy, the publisher is Long Barn Books and it features a Foreward by HRH the Duke of Edinburgh.) He is a lovely man, funny, self deprecating, with a merry twinkle in his eye. DGR is clearly the light of his life, and they have a wonderful relationship. Before we left, he showed us some of his beautiful handiwork – needlepoint hangings that are beautiful to behold. The apples don’t fall far from the tree, do they?
DGR always alerts her readers to special moments so they can calm themselves, and I am borrowing her device here. Get ready for something terrific.
On Saturday evening, DGR and Bookhound came to dinner with us four Canadians. I know you already know this if you have read her blog, but she made each of us a lovely quilted square and then SHE GAVE ME A QUILT! I mean to say that this lovely woman had spent the last six weeks making a quilt for a person she had never met. She really did. I was gobsmacked. It is beautiful, as you can see from the picture. I was moved to tears with the generosity of this gift – who gives of her precious time for six weeks to make a quilt for a stranger? Dovegreyreader does, that’s who. Can you imagine? I’m still trying to fathom this. And so she and Rocky could get down to quilting, Bookhound cleared up after the dinner he had made every evening and delivered a cup of tea (not for Rocky though) so DGR could focus on the task at hand.
But I’m not done yet . The next day, Bookhound made us the most splendid tea you can imagine. Lovely little sandwiches – without the crusts, naturally – scones, clotted cream, yummy jam, and of course the requisite tea. All of this served on a crisply ironed tablecloth in a warm and cheery room. We spent a lovely Sunday evening with them, meeting the Gamekeeper (who is great), his dogs, his ferrets, the neighbor’s cows (two of whom have sexual identity issues), Muffy (the cat), and revelling in the beautiful view we all see out the window in the upper corner of DGR’s blog.
So, Dear Readers, I am much relieved to tell you that Dovegreyreader is every bit as wonderful as I had imagined her to be from reading her blog. She is defined by the generosity of her spirit, her joyful approach to life, and her indomitable enthusiasm for her family, her books and her community. When they make the DGR movie, I shall recommend they cast Vanessa Redgrave (circa 1985) as DGR, Alan Bates as Bookhound, Sir John Gielgud as the Tinker, and Rocky as himself.
It was a gift to get to meet these lovely people.