47: Finding Godmersham (part 1)
For those who don't know, Godmersham was Jane's brother Edward's grand house in Kent. He's the brother who was adopted by wealthy relatives and inherited their estates. Godmersham is very close to Canterbury.
Sunday, July 25, 6:43 P.M.
on the couch at Margaret’s
Margaret has made me promise never to hitchhike again. She laughed at me, of course (which I had no problem with, because I was laughing at myself anyway), and has refused my help with dinner, sitting me on the couch with tea and biscuits while she makes quiche. I will miss her tomorrow when I leave. The view of Godmersham from the fields was worth everything.
It’s been an ugly day—both for me and the weather. I wore my green cropped sweatpants and dark red tank, which would have been okay, except that I had to wear my hiking shoes with it, which threw the whole outfit off, and then it was so cold I had to put on my red fleece, which clashed with everything, and it was raining off and on so I kept putting on and taking off my rain jacket, which clashed with the fleece, and it was a bad hair day on top of everything. I had planned to try Winchester today, thinking it would be simpler, but they were doing work on the tracks in that direction this morning. Instead, Margaret drove me to the Bromley station and I was able to get a train directly to Canterbury, which was so much easier than I imagined it would be. (She made a point of coming in with me to make sure I would be able to make it through the gate, although I knew it wouldn’t be a problem.)
The town center is small, the streets narrow. The sky was gray and spitting wet. I found my way from the train station to the Cathedral without a map. It’s hidden behind a stone wall right in the center of town. I mean, as if you could hide a cathedral, but it seemed a little strange to me that it was walled in.
I made it there a little after 11, just after the morning service had started. To me it felt oppressive and lifeless—maybe because it was so gray and cold. Maybe because the sermon was rubbish, a woman going on about some cartoon character I’d never heard of, but even I could tell her analogies were weak and overall she seemed to lack strength and conviction. I shouldn’t judge so quickly, but that was my impression. They were charging everyone 6 pounds to get in unless you were going to the service, and then you were supposed to pay more for a pass if you wanted to take pictures. I didn’t pay anything, and I didn’t give them a donation because I thought what they were doing was so obnoxious and so against the spirit of Christianity. I realized regretfully as I sat there in the folding chairs at the back that this is officially the seat of the Anglican church, my church. Blech.
By 1:00 I was choking on a dry ham omelet in a great little café above the tourist center, and at 1:40 I caught the train to Chilham from the West train station on the other side of town. The lady at the tourist center had never heard of Godmersham. Very bad beginning, I thought. Then when she did look up the bus schedule, she said the buses didn’t run on Sunday, so I should take the train to Chilham and get a cab from there, which would be much cheaper. (Lesson: ALWAYS ask the tourist office for the number of a local cab company.)
I sat there drinking my watered-down instant decaf, literally choking on my dry ham omelet because I was trying to eat it so fast, feeling like an ugly, conspicuous, backpack-toting tourist. I felt like I couldn’t do anything right, and had far too many un-chic accoutrements. I wondered if I should even try to find Godmersham, what kind of challenges I would find, if it would even be worth the effort. So I made a conscious decision to choose adventure. Hang it all, I thought. So much goodness has met me so far on the trip, who knows what I’ll find today? And that is when the fun began.
to be continued...