Day 428: Granny Clark’s Wynd

To some outsiders, St. Andrews is known for The University of St. Andrews, founded in 1413. It is Scotland’s oldest university and the third oldest university in the English-speaking world. To others it’s known for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, commonly referred to as the “home of golf.” Among folks who enjoy rude street names, St. Andrews may be known as the home of a street called “Butts Wynd,” number 55 in Rude World. In Scotland, a “wynd” is a path between two major streets, often between buildings and running up or down hill. It’s actually pronounced as though it rhymes with “bind.” In medieval times the term “butts” often referred to an archery range. Laetitia decided to accommodate those who were interested in golf today and those interested in other tourist activities tomorrow.

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club was founded in 1754. Originally, the captain of the club was the winner of a golf competition, but in 1806 the members decided to make the captaincy an elected office. Six members of the British royal family have been captains, including Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s consort. The most recent (2004) was Andrew, Duke of York. Contrary to what many believe, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club does not own the Old Course. The latter is public, and club members share tee times with members of other clubs and golfers from the world at large.

As expected, most of those who showed up for Laetitia’s tour were golfers. Laetitia took them to the British Golf Museum and then watched them play the first hole of the “Old Course” before retiring to the picturesque clubhouse. One of the eccentricities of the course is that a street called Granny Clark’s Wynd crosses the fairways of the first and eighteenth holes, making moving automobiles hazards with which golfers must contend. The road inspired Laetitia’s limerick of the day. Of course, some might deliberately mispronounce the street’s name. David Joy has written a comedy called Granny Clark’s Wind about a dilapidated hotel near the Old Course.

When your car is on Granny Clark’s Wynd
“Tis hoped you’re not one who’s inclined
To open your door
When someone yells “Fore!”
For flying golf balls are unkind.

Day 412: Brown Place

As she walked down Raglan Road in the fresh early morning air, Laetitia was already thinking about work. She would spend a couple of additional days in Glasgow, and then move north across the highland fault line into Argyle. She passed through the ornate front door of the Emerald Victorian and browsed the library’s collection, delaying the serious business of planning the tour by skimming through two books: Mrs. Brown, a book about Queen Victoria’s relationship with a Scottish staff member at Balmoral named John Brown, and a book about the 1933 obscenity trial of James Joyce’s Ulysses.

She also found a Glasgow street named Brown Place listed as number 28 in Rude UK, and then moved on to several Scottish guidebooks. She decided on a visit to a tall ship and a museum called the Lighthouse. The ship was a three-masted barque named the Glenlee, built in Glasgow in 1896. During her heyday, the ship had circumnavigated the globe four times. At the Lighthouse, they had a guided tour.

Brown Place is a short residential cul-de-sac in Cambuslang, Glasgow. When Laetitia walked down Brown Place with her group, she stopped to talk to a woman, who introduced herself as Blanche. Blanche told Laetitia she liked living on Brown Place, except some of her friends made catty remarks about the name of her street. She said that she eventually got fed up with it and told them all off. Blanche’s story became the multiple verse limerick of the day.

Her friends said it was a disgrace
When Blanche chose to live on Brown Place
Which caused her to frown
And say that things brown
In society hold a high place.

In a rant that she gave with euphoria,
As she loudly rebuked her friend Doria
She said, “Mrs. Brown
Is widely renown
As a nickname for good Queen Victoria!”

She then evoked Joyce’s Ulysses
Where Molly Bloom was Leo’s missus
And when she said “brown part”
It was literary art
Despite all those prudes’ boos and hisses.

She proclaimed that she’d live there with pride
And ignore all remarks that are snide
Made by folks who are crass
Who can kiss her crab grass
Which is brown when it’s winter outside.

Day 337: Bertram’s Hotel

No trip to London would be complete without having afternoon tea. According to tradition, the origin of afternoon tea can be credited to Anna Maria Stanhope, the Duchess of Bedford, who was one of Queen Victoria’s ladies in waiting. In those days, lunch was a meager meal with dinner, the main meal, served fashionably late at 8:00 or 9:00 pm. The Duchess apparently experienced a “sinking feeling” each afternoon around 4:00 pm and had her servants bring her tea and refreshments. Later she began inviting friends for the occasion, and when Victoria herself adopted the custom, it became an institution that rapidly spread throughout the British Empire. In common parlance, the terms “afternoon tea” and “high tea” are often used interchangeably, but high tea is later in the day and is often an earlier substitute for dinner. Its origin is post-Victorian, during the Edwardian period.

As Laetitia was consulting a London guidebook in the library of the Emerald Victorian before embarking on today’s tour, she found a boutique hotel that advertised afternoon tea. Bertram’s Hotel, as it was called, was decorated in Edwardian rather than Victorian style, but Laetitia thought it would do nicely.

Readers of Agatha Christie will likely remember her mystery story featuring Miss Marple that is entitled At Bertram’s Hotel. In the novel, which is set in the 1960s, Bertram’s has preserved the elegant Edwardian atmosphere and is very popular with ladies of Miss Marple’s age who grew up during the genteel society of pre-World-War-I England. The choice of the name Bertram’s for the present hotel was no accident, for its owner’s wished to offer their guests a chance to return to the Edwardian era, at least in their imaginations.

In Christie’s novel, Bertram’s Hotel is not what it seems. It is a front for organized crime. Most of the staff and some of the guests are actors. When a crime is committed by the organization at some distant locale, actors impersonating the perpetrators would appear at the hotel and mingle with the hotel’s real guests, thereby providing alibis. The owners of the new Bertram’s were not involved in organized crime, but they thought the notoriety of the hotel in Christie’s novel would be good for business.

Laetitia and her group arrived at the hotel and were seated at 4:00 p.m. in an elegantly furnished room with silver tea service set on tables adorned with white tablecloths. Surrounding the tables were comfortable overstuffed chairs, the kind that one can sink into and even nap in if so inclined. They were served the hotel’s special blend of tea, scones served with clotted cream and preserves, petit fours, and finger sandwiches, including the cucumber sandwiches made famous in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. The sandwiches, scones, and petit fours were served on a three-tier curate stand.

When the tea was finished, Laetitia and her group lingered a bit after the other guests left to enjoy the ambience. Soon the room was empty, except for the hotel staff, Laetitia’s group, and a rather large woman whose face displayed a perplexed look. Within a short time, one of her party returned and said, “Mrs. Humphrey, aren’t you coming?”

The woman said, “I can’t; I’m stuck.” Miraculously, several of the hotel staff appeared and rapidly extricated her from the chair. Laetitia had her limerick of the day.

A buxom old lady named Humphrey
Backed into a chair to get comfy
But the chair was too tight
Imagine her plight
When she found she could not get her rump free.

Day 331: Prince Albert Court

As agreed, Gloria from Emporia, Kansas, arrived in Sunbury-on-Thames in Surrey, the locale of Prince Albert Court, and prepared to give a lecture on young Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Laetitia and her group visited Prince Albert Court just before lunch and, after dining, went to a conference room she had reserved. She took notes during Gloria’s lecture, and when it was finished, wrote a multiple-verse limerick summarizing it.

“Did Prince Albert court Queen Victoria
And win in a burst of euphoria
Over swains by the dozen
To wed his young cousin?”
Mused a young Kansas author named Gloria.

“Was she wowed by this dapper young man
Later seen on a tobacco can
And gave him her heart
As her faithful consort
In a match both embraced with élan?”

“Or was theirs a royal wedding arranged
Toward statecraft that may seem deranged
And so often embroils
The hapless young royals
In a match that may soon be estranged?”

Our young Gloria’s book did opine
That their marriage, indeed, was quite fine
And when all’s done and said
They had good times in bed
Producing their progeny nine.

There’s a rumor around of a ring
Albert’s said to have worn through his “thing”
Was the Queen most enthused
Or was she “not amused”
When they were on an amorous fling?

This contrasts with the views of historians
Of the staid prudish bent of Victorians
Who disparaged things nude
Or bawdy or rude
In tones that were sometimes stentorian.

And would have viewed such as immoral
If ‘twas worn around Castle Balmoral
And the mark of a rogue
Though such things are in vogue
In today’s world without too much quarrel.

‘Twas not within Gloria’s capacity
To establish this rumor’s veracity
For the folks who would know
Are all dead long ago
And can’t speak on the consort’s audacity.