This is what I remember of our two hour journey to Morland: overcast skies, lovely drizzle, non-stop texts from Joan on Donna’s cellphone –did you find her, where are you? what are you doing? where are you now?—and the two of us chatting like I don’t think we ever did. So many aha moments when we realized how much both of us had yearned for the history-laden English countryside we learned of in Enid Blyton’s books as children. A world of hedgerows (we just had plain old hedges in Africa), badgers, ancient vine-covered castles, deserted lighthouses, porcelain Calico Cat figurines on mantelpieces, “high” tea at four o’clock in the afternoon, secret club houses hidden at the bottom of lush overgrown gardens, and kindly Bobbies in their round flower pot shaped helmets. This was where The Secret Seven and The Famous Five solved crimes, ferreted out secrets and had a jolly old time. Why had we never spoken of these yearnings as children? I thought I was the only one.
I don’t remember much more of the journey until we entered Morland, past an ancient church with gravestones that tilted this way and that, past a giant topiary squirrel holding a yellow posy, past eighteenth-century flat-faced stone buildings with chimney pots that looked too small for those little smudge-faced chimney sweeps of yore and around a tight corner.
There, to the left, was the pub I’d seen on Joan’s laptop screen a year earlier—a pub she and her ex-husband ran for awhile—and further down, the tiny brook (I soon learned is called a mill race) alongside the larger stream, I’d also seen on her screen. Opposite, I recognized Joan’s row house, which I later learned used to be a pub complete with an iron ring in front where the men tied their horses while downing a pint or two. We pulled up and Joan charged outside. She was wearing heels.