Places to Read No. 3: Bentley Cottage, Brockenhurst

Full disclosure here. The Delightful Mr F and I were invited down to sample the delights of Bentley Cottage by my lovely colleague Ashley and his delightful wife, Katrin. 

Books at Bentley Cottage
Books at Bentley Cottage

Bentley Cottage is annexed next to Ashely’s house in the village of Brockenhurst in the New Forest. This area was new to The Delightful Mr F and I, so on Friday we packed our weekend bag with all the necessities, and a good handful of books and made our way down the M3. 

The weather can only be described as a bit nippy, but as we pulled up outside the cottage the night was clear and the area so free of light pollution the stars could be clearly seen. The Delightful Mr F, being of an astronomical turn of mind, pointed out the constellations as we gazed upwards. 

The cottage is beautiful, newly renovated as a holiday let. It has 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, and a wonderful living area, with a big kitchen and a wonderful set of comfy sofas around a cozy log burner.  Frankly, it is a perfect reading habitat. Books are even supplied if, God forbid, you should forget to bring any with you.

On Saturday morning The Delightful Mr F and I went out to Lymington, a coastal town about a 20 minute drive away. We had a lovely, if rather bracing walk along the harbour side. It was knitwear to maximum given the biting wind, but the fresh air and lovely scenery made up for it. We returned to the cottage ready for some intensive reading next to the fire.

Lymington in February - Knitwear to maximum!
Lymington in February – Knitwear to maximum!

The cottage is peaceful and warm and comfortable, perfect for getting completely lost in a book. In my case I was in Tokyo catching up with an old Japanese teacher, whilst The Delightful Mr F was fighting Hell monsters with Sandman Slim. Outside, the new forest ponies pottered about, and Ashley’s cat, Teddy,  sat on the fence outside making sure all was well with the world. 

Cosy
Cosy

Ashely and Katrin have set up this cottage so guests have everything they could ever want or need. All the practical things are there, and there are some lovely touches in the decor and in the little extras such as maps and suggestions for things to do. If you are in an energetic mood, walking, cycling, sailing and any other number of activities are available. For me though, would could be better than after a long week at work, to find myself in the middle of a beautiful national  park, with a log burner and a stack of books to choose from?  If you want some peaceful reading time, book yourself some time in Bentley Cottage. Thank you Ashley and Katrin for a lovely weekend, we’ll be back soon!

Comfy
Comfy

Readers On A Train

I write this from the 1712 from Waterloo, and I have been
subtly trying to see what my fellow travellers are reading.  Frustratingly there are a lot of kindles
about. Darn those kindles, how am I supposed to spy on people’s reading
preferences?

So, electronic gadgets aside, we have an interesting
range of books. There is my own copy of Skellig. Opposite me is a very well
dressed middle aged gentleman reading a very long book with closely typed text
about the nature of evil. Come to think about it, that is slightly worrying,
perhaps I should change seats…

We have a couple of copies of the new Dan Brown, Inferno.
One woman’s eyes are going so fast across the text I get the impression her brain
can only just keep up with her reading speed.

In the corner is a pinked cheeked reader of one of The
Fifty Shades of Gray novels, can’t see which one, but she must be at a “good
bit”…

A Charles Dickens, I think Great expectations from the
cover, is dragging its poor student reader tortuously through every page. It
looks like each sentence is a mountain to climb for that poor soul.

Finally a young woman has fallen asleep with a copy of
From Potters Field by Patricia Cornwell. She looked exhausted when she got on
at Woking so I suspect her nap is to do with a long day at work and not a
reflection of the book.

So, there we have it. The random reading material of my
fellow travellers. If you read a kindle, would you mind putting a post-it on
the back with the title and author details. It saves a lot of neck craning as I
spy on your literary preferences. Much obliged.

Places To Read #2: The Bath

Reading in the bath has always appealed to me. For a start, the bathroom is a quiet place and is guaranteed to provide peaceful solace for a decent period of time in order to get stuck in to a good book. It is also practical, polishing off a couple of chapters while you wait for the hair conditioner to work is a great use of time. 

Having said all of that, I don’t read in the bath. Baths should be relaxing and the additional frisson of danger that I might drop my book into the bubbly depths, to be ruined forever is too much for me. On the rare occasions  that I have attempted this more daring of reading locations, the practicalities always seem to trip me up. It should be so easy. Run bath, add fragrant bath concoction of choice, get in, read book, top up with hot water as necessary. The problem is that I always seem to forget not to dip my hands in the water when I first get in. I then have to try dry my hands on a towel, which will be a frustrating inch or two out of reach, resulting in my getting back out of the bath, and dripping water all over the book I was trying to protect in the first place. By the time I am sorted my adrenaline levels are so high I can’t read anything at all, and need to lie in the lavender haze with my eyes closed to bring the world back on to an even keel. 

I am sure there are readers who enjoy the added peril provided by the combination of paper and water, but I’ve never been one for taking unnecessary risks, and certainly not with books.  Perhaps reading in the bath is the literary equivalent of extreme sports. 

Places To Read No. 1: The Bath Priory

Selecting the perfect place to read is a matter of great importance.  Get it wrong and you suffer the difficulties of trying to indulge yourself in some bookish pleasure by being distracted, uncomfortable or worse, hungry and cold.

The Delightful Mr F and I have just returned from a short break at The Bath Priory in Bath. The Bath Priory is a paradise for readers, not because their staff get additional literary training, although to be fair I didn’t quiz them on their knowledge of Proust, but because there is an ambiance of relaxed calm about the place.

Imagine if you will, a beautiful English spring day. You have just returned from a lovely morning’s literary shopping at Mr B’s and now is the time to select one of your purchases and start to read. Having decided some al fresco reading is required you gather up your book, say The Great Gatsby, and wander down through the gardens and recline on a lounger by the pool. As you read, the chink of silverware on bone china floats across the lawn from the restaurant where the last lunches are being served. By chapter 5 the sun has gone in (this is an English spring day remember) and it is getting a little nippy, even with the emergency cardi you brought with you.  Deciding it is best to head indoors and carefully marking your page with your Mr B’s bookmark, you meander back towards the house, taking a detour through the kitchen garden admiring the fresh veg which will no doubt be served in several hours time at dinner. 

Next, two big decisions, to carry on reading in the drawing room or the library and whether to order tea or coffee (both come with homemade biscuits).  Herbal tea is duly delivered to your selected comfy chair in the library where you can continue to read until it is time to dress for dinner.

It is all a wonderful experience, but what is most wonderful of all is that the staff and other guests seem to understand that you should never disturb an avid reader when they are engrossed in a book. To find peace in a public space is a rare thing indeed.