We did go there, the Lake District’s main attraction. The house of our furry friend Peter “Babbit” to quote my three year old.
This was a success in case you think I’ve been focusing on the negatives. We all loved Beatrix Potter’s house.
We had the death talk in preparation. My daughter was concerned that she’d have her clothes pecked off by Pit Pat Puddle Duck when we called in for a cup of tea with Beatrix herself. She was surprised to learn that Beatrix, Pit Pat Puddle Duck and even Peter were written about 100 years ago and were no longer with us. One hundred years is an alien concept for someone who gets last year, last week and yesterday muddled up and a long time is always context defined. Any wait for something she really wants.
Anyway, I digress. We were the first in the car park, first in the ticket queue not by our marvellous time management but because our daughter wakes up and gets up at 6.00 no matter what – that canbe a lie in and due to the heavy traffic and slow progress we’d encountered and achieved the day before we thought we were about 25 miles away and it would take us more than an hour. It turned out our cosy pancosmic pyromantic yurt was nestled in the tick infested undergrowth a mere eight miles from the birthplace of some of the great works of literature of the 20th century.
The torrential rain also kept the crowds to a manageable level. It was LOVELY. Her house was exactly as she left it. Beatrix was a bit of a control freak, she left detailed lists and diagrams of what should be placed where so it really was exactly as she wanted and all left to the National Trust to manage. There it was, the actual Hill Top house dimly lit on a dark old rainy day. We were the first in and rushed straight upstairs as though we were at home. It was like walking into her 3d book illustrations. The guides and volunteers were brilliant, informed, kind and helpful. Our little daughter took a shine to one of the guides who answered all her questions, opened a Samuel Whiskers book and delighted us all by going through the pages pointing out the parts of the house Beatrix had drawn and painted for the illustrations. The guide was guide was equally patient when number five went on to retell her favourite stories that were nothing to do with Beatrix Potter and even kinder when he listened to her tell him all about her trampolining games with her brothers.
I learned a lot about Beatrix Potter. Beatrix had a pretty amazing life. She was severely restricted and isolated and lived according to the whims of her father until she was in her 40s. Even after she’s made thousands of pounds, enough to buy a couple of small farms she was not allowed to go to her farms when she wanted but had to follow her parents around like a child.
As well as being a talented artist and story teller she was a scientist with outstanding knowledge about fungi. Beatrix figured out that lichen was two symbiotic plants, an alga and fungus before anyone else. Her findings were ignored because she wasa woman and therefore a dum-dum.
Beatrix was a fine illustrator, not only of her beautiful children’s books but of nature. She harboured a desire to be a mycologist. In one of her rooms at Hill Top Beatrix had a microscope with slides she’d made of fungi and beautiful accurate paintings and drawings of her observations. She wrote her findings up in papers. Her work was presented, by a male friend, to the Linnean Society in London. She wasn’t allowed anywhere near them because she was a woman and therefore a silly little dum dum. Needless to say the scientific ‘elite’ in the club dismissed her work and ignored her ideas. Thank goodness society has moved on. In 1997 The Linnean Society issued a posthumous apology for the sexist way they treated her and rejected her research.
How did the few women scientists from that era get listened to?
While the tick was feasting on my blood I was obliviously reading this.
Little daughter loved The Tale of Samuel Whiskers and wanted to act it out in our yurt non-stop. She wanted the starring role, captive Tom Kitten, and the more distressed the mummy cat Tabitha became and the more fiercely the rats rolled her in pastry dough the happier she was.
A brief pause in the rain
There was one more bit of excitement. The house had one of the best baby and parent toilets I’ve seen with a ‘safety’ seat high up on the wall tostrap your child in. Why did I never come across one of those when my kids were at investigative licking stage? All my kids are beyond this even so little daughter insisted on being strapped into the seat high on the wall.
It was a pretty good visit.
Now, Back to the antique and vintage clothes I am supposed to be selling. if you like the clothes on Tom, Moppet and Mittens in Beatrix Potter’s paintings have a look at the antique and vintage baby and children’s clothes I have for sale in my shop.