Day 312: Swell Close

Laetitia had decided to take her group to another site listed in Bailey and Hurst’s Rude UK —a street called Swell Close. First, however, she took everyone to visit the ruined abbey and monastery at nearby Glastonbury. The abbey appears to date back to the seventh century AD, although there is a legend that Joseph of Arimathea founded it in the first century AD. From the twelfth century on, the abbey and monastery have been associated with the King Arthur legend, and King Arthur is said to be buried there. Before the Reformation, it was one of the largest and wealthiest abbeys in England. Henry VIII suppressed the abbey and gave its lands away to the aristocracy.

Located in West Huntspill, Somerset, Swell Close is relatively short street ending in a cul de sac. At the end of the street is a twelfth-century church. It was Roman Catholic until the Reformation. Then it became Anglican and remained so until a dwindling congregation led to its closure. An influx of Irish Catholic workers to the area led to its reopening as a Catholic Church. A story heard at the West Huntspill pub where they had dinner gave Laetitia the limerick of the day.

In the Swell Close Church, Bess did repose
In a short skirt and sheer pantyhose
Causing Father O’Reilly
To smirk, as he dryly
In his homily, said, “He arose.”

Day 311: Tom Tits Lane

Today Laetitia took her group to another Bailey and Hurst site—Tom Tits Lane in Somerton, Somerset. Somerton is a small town with a large, picturesque market square. In the center of the square is an octagonal market cross with a roof. In the past, such market crosses (called “mercat crosses” in Scotland) were relatively common and ranged from ornate roofed structures, such as the one in Somerton, to more simple obelisks, spires, or crosses.

Tom Tits Lane is a cul de sac, a short, quiet street with attractive houses. Little was going on there, so Laetitia took her group to a pub for drinks before dinner. The bartender told her a sad story about a family who moved away from Tom Tits Lane because of the unfortunate coincidence of their daughter’s name and street and the cruelty of school children.

Diane found it hard to explain
To the Rheas, her folks, what was plain
That when she walked about
Her classmates would shout
There’s Di Rhea, who’s from Tom Tits Lane.

Day 310: Shedbush Lane

When she walked into the Emerald Victorian, Laetitia went immediately into the library and did a quick search for some more information on Pyramus-on-Thisbe. When a quick search revealed nothing, she went back into the kitchen, made coffee, and returned to do a more thorough search. Again, it could not be found on any of the maps or books on England. She shrugged, thinking, “I suppose someone who conducts imaginary tours shouldn’t be surprised at something like this. Perhaps Happy Bottom, if that’s her real name, imagined it.” She went to the coffee maker, poured a fresh cup, and began to plan the day’s tour. Today they would go to Bridport in Dorset to a street called Shedbush Lane.

Bridport is a coastal town with a population of about 13,000. It was once a thriving fishing port and market town famous as a rope-making center. Its picturesque harbor and nearness to Chesil Beach make it an attractive location for holiday homes. On the way to Bridport, Laetitia took her group on a hike along the cliffs of the Jurassic Coast. The Jurassic Coast consists of cliffs from the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods documenting 180 million years of the geologic past. It was here that paleontologist Mary Anning discovered the first complete ichthyosaur skeleton in 1811.

Shedbush Lane is another of the places listed in Bailey and Hurst’s Rude UK. Laetitia and her group passed a salon and spa that featured a long list of services, including massage, manicure, pedicure, tanning, and body hair removal. Several members of Laetitia’s group decided that wanted a massage after the cliff hike, and the rest of the group went into the tearoom next door. The proprietor of both establishments was Lionel, who liked to talk about himself, and singled out Laetitia for the honor of benefiting from his wisdom.

Lionel’s true calling—according to him—was to be a writer. With his first novel, he hoped to not only rake in the substantial royalties that only a bestseller can bring, but to enhance his spa business. He decided to name his novel Shedbush Lane, after the street where his businesses are located. The novel’s heroine, Brittany, lives a mundane existence, until she discovers the life-changing benefits that spa services can bring, not unlike those offered by Lionel’s establishment. There is, of course, a love interest, named Lance, who is tall, tan, and muscular, but otherwise resembles Lionel. Because some of the characters in the novel closely resemble real Bridport residents, Lionel moved the locale of the novel from Chesil Beach to the beach at Penzance.

At dinner that evening, Laetitia presented the limerick of the day.

Shedbush Lane is a young woman’s story
About how she attained fame and glory
And wealth and romance
On the beach at Penzance
With the aid of a depilatory.

Day 309: Happy Bottom

The dew was on the grass as Laetitia walked down Raglan Road toward the Emerald Victorian. She was in great spirits this morning, having seen a wonderful production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a local theater the night before. She unlocked the door, brewed a pot of shade-grown Mexican dark roast, and settled into her chair in the library. The next stop on the tour was a place she had found in Bailey and Hurst’s Rude Britain called Happy Bottom. It is a relatively small and secluded area of Wimborne, in Dorset. Its name has been a source of humor for some time. As a publicity stunt during World War II, movie stars were given an opportunity to choose names that would become nose art for B-17 bombers that were flying missions over German-occupied Europe. Edward G. Robinson gave the name Happy Bottom to one such airplane. He said he had named it in honor of his wife, “Glad-ass” (Gladys).

Laetitia and her group did some touring around Dorset, visiting an iron age fortress now called Maiden Castle, which was overrun by the Romans in 43 AD. In Laetitia’s group was a woman who had joined this particular tour precisely because it was going to Happy Bottom, which, according to her, was her nickname. Bottom had been her married name, and when she divorced, she found it too expensive or too much trouble to change her name back to Bisby, her maiden name. Her real first name was Titania, but since she was generally of a cheerful disposition, her friends called her Happy.

She lived in the hamlet of Pyramus-on-Thisbe, and was employed at the bank there as a loan manager. The bank is perhaps unique in the United Kingdom, and possibly the world, for having a sod roof herb garden. The local gentry know it as “the bank where the wild thyme blows.” Others call it “the bank where the thyme grows wild,” since bank employees are somewhat lax in tending it.

Laetitia hadn’t written a limerick for the day yet, and thought Titania might be a good source, even though to tell her story would require more than one verse. That evening, they had dinner in a pub and Laetitia presented the day’s multiple-verse limerick.

As a girl, young Titania, nee Bisby
Was the kind who quite rarely played frisbee
She wed young Nick Bottom
Who came from Mount Hotham
And resided in Pyramus-on-Thisbe.

But her marriage soon foundered, alas
When she found that Nick didn’t have class
And sometimes she would joke
That one day the dawn broke
And found her in bed with an ass.

‘Twas not that she was puritanical
But Nick was such a rude mechanical
So she left married life
With all of its strife
For the bank with its sod roof botanical.

She had several friends she could thank
For the job she loves down at the bank
Which was very well known
For the herbs that were grown
On its roof of fine soil, rich and dank.

‘Tis a place each town resident knows
By the name “The Bank Where Wild Thyme Blows”
And she is overjoyed
That she is now employed
And her happiness on her face shows.

Her demeanor is sunny and snappy
And her friends gave her the nickname Happy
And she never quite came
To change her surname
Even though she considers it sappy.

We are happy Happy joined our tour
Of that place, Happy Bottom and more
We wish her good health
And a measure of wealth
And we hope this day wasn’t a bore.