Virginia Barton

7 August 2015: Travelling

7 August 2015: Travelling


7 August 2015


62209194-01f9-40c4-84ce-76cf11607f8dOur copy of The Times Atlas is huge, heavy, and out of date. Come to think of it, most atlases must be out of date by the time they are published. It was my Christmas present for BH in 1984 to replace “Ginny’s Rotten Little Atlas”, which was the one I used at school. My Christmas present is now 31 years old and, not surprisingly, has been superseded by events. A few borders and not a few names have changed. However, it’s still pretty reliable.

When BH appears torpid or bored, bring him the atlas and he will have his head in it for the rest of the day. He is a man who has travelled widely, in every continent bar Australasia. By choice, coercion, and of necessity. Now he would gladly never go anywhere again. He keeps his passport up to date, but that’s it.


“How about Rio for the World Cup next year?” say I playfully.

Deathly silence greets this sally. Oh well, I wasn’t really serious. He assumes a faraway distant look, and a faint smile. Then you know he’s more likely to be travelling back in time to that idyllic childhood place rather than to some exotic location — Copacabana perhaps, or Angkor Wat. Those of us lucky enough to have an idyllic childhood place in our heads will sympathise.

I am humming “Where do you go to my lovely”, a great song by Peter Sarstedt. He affects not to notice.




Today a friend has set off for the Altai Mountains, weighed down by luggage of nineteenth-century oddity: ancient guidebook, compass, probably a folding camp-stool, Kendal Mint Cake, aspirin. Even BH has never been that far East, Novosirbirsk was his furthermost point. Most of us ordinary folk will never get further than to searching for Altai online or in our atlases. It’s way beyond the Urals, beyond the Azov Sea where China, Mongolia, and Russia meet in Kazakhstan.

All the family have gone sun-searching. Anyone who has been here will tell you we’ve had an apology of a summer.

Even Prince Charles is in Transylvania.





  • Coal-Filled Wellies says on: August 7, 2015 at 7:13 pm


    My childhood idyll is Leatherhead. Yes, Leatherhead. Partly because I was away most of the year at boarding school, but mainly because I grew up in a very happy family, the place, and its associated green spots (Box Hill, Polesden Lacey, Bookham Common…) and fun spots (Chessington Zoo, Leatherhead Leisure Centre, Thorndike Theatre, The Splash…) still bring a flood of nostalgia and happy memory.

    I agree with BH, Ginny. You can keep Copacabana and Angkor Wat. Give me the A24 junction on the M25 every time!

    • Ginny says on: August 13, 2015 at 2:22 pm


      Leatherhead! Leafy Surrey! Where (pricey) freeholds nestle cheek-to-cheek in safe cul-de-sacs and no-one would dream of not picking up their dog’s mess!

      À chacun son rêve, Wellies! Ginny

      • Ginny says on: August 13, 2015 at 6:17 pm


        ps Wellies — I’m sure you know, and I failed to mention, that Emma was born in Bookham near Leatherhead where Jane Austen was staying? She spotted the name “Knightley” on the wall of the parish church (probably wool-gathering during the sermon), and set the infamous scene with the garrulous Miss Bates on Box Hill. Shame on you, Emma — as Mr Knightley inevitably points out.

        Mr Knightley is far too stuffy to be a serious hero in my book. Gin

  • mary says on: August 7, 2015 at 8:50 pm


    Perched on a tiny island in the Adriatic at the moment Ginny. Perfect turquoise water and dazzling sun. Heading back to old Blighty tomorrow.

    Oh well.

    • Ginny says on: August 13, 2015 at 2:23 pm


      Now that DOES sound pretty special, Mary! But is it worth all the hassle of getting there? Motorways, Airports, Delays etc.? Ginny

  • Nicholas Ennos says on: April 13, 2016 at 1:31 pm


    Yes, Leatherhead is an idyllic place.

    Jane Austen based the town of “Highbury” in “Emma” on Leatherhead. I hope to be able to soon publish a trail through Leatherhead passing through all the sites the novel was based on. As is said above, it was a Mr Knightly who paid for the raising of the pulpit in Leatherhead Church in about 1750. What is more, in the novel the author describes an idyllic view of England:

    “The considerable slope, at nearly the foot of which the Abbey stood, gradually acquired a steeper form beyond its grounds; and at half a mile distant was a bank of considerable abruptness and grandeur, well clothed with wood; and at the bottom of this bank, favourably placed and sheltered, rose the Abbey-Mill Farm, with meadows in front, and the river making a close and handsome curve around it.

    It was a sweet view – sweet to the eye and the mind. English verdure, English culture, English comfort, seen under a sun bright, without being oppressive”.

    Here is the actual view that the author described:

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