Sunday, June 05, 2011

Being appreciative in the south of England 3: Genostine

" Genostine is buried in the cathedral of Winchester," my students asserted.

They are a knowledgeable lot, and I could only assume that Genostine was a mediaeval saint or similar of whom I was ignorant. The stress was on the last long syllable, rather as Dylan pronounces St Augusteen in the song wherein he says he dreamed he saw him (alive as you or me).


But my evident perplexity did not satisfy them.

''Yes!  It was in the text you gave us about her...''

The penny dropped, ''Oh!  Jane Austen.''

Call it a story against myself, as it doesn't say much about my drilling of their pronunciation, I suppose.

Jane Austen's relics were one of the expressly desired objects of this journey, which surprised and pleased me, as I didn't know she'd been taken up with such enthusiasm hereabouts.  She is indeed buried in Winchester Cathedral.  Which was another object of my appreciation.

I contacted their 'groups manager', who's called Michael.  Yes, they could do a French guided tour, no, no deposit needed, just turn up... The guides and admissions staff at the Cathedral appear to be retired angels, some with northern accents, silver-haired and clad in very smart raiment, and they seem to radiate modest and gracious joy in their task, whether showing around a group of French people of a certain age, or excitable schoolchildren, or anyone else.  Our French speaker, whose name unfortunately has eluded me, gently marshalled my lot together and took charge, here they are being good as gold for him,

and here they are doing homage at the tomb of Genostine herself, as I'm afraid she will henceforward often be known.

His French was very good, they said, and he really knew his stuff,and had the right terms for everything.  I assumed he must be a retired professor of French, but no, he said, his wife's mother was French so they had travelled there quite a lot, and he had delivered quite some papers in French, at conferences and so on...

Seeing them in such good hands, Helli and I were able to loiter behind and do our own thing, sometimes being engaged and told about and shown interesting things by other free floating angelic guides.  I took more photos in fact in Winchester probably than anywhere, so I'll probably put a few more of them up here as and when. The only problem was both guide and group were so absorbed that they probably could have gone on more than twice the allotted time for the tour, and I had to be the tiresome person who kept calling time because of a waiting minibus.

While on the matter of things Austen, even more delighted appreciation and a big treat and special thing for me was meeting wonderful Bee Drunken!  Bee's been a blogging friend for a few years now, and I've always been in awe of her well-read-ness, and the lucid, intelligent and inviting reviews she writes about what she reads, as well as her baking and gorgeous house and garden and all kinds of other life skills she seems to have at her elegant fingertips!  She's been working as a volunteer at the Jane Austen House Museum in Chawton , for a couple of years now, and I was very pleased when she agreed to meet us there.

(This, from Hervé, is the only picture I have with Bee in it at all, and she has her back to the camera!  She's second on the left.)

Isn't it funny how people are so often even more like they are on their blogs than they are on their blogs, when you meet them in real life?  I suppose it's the pleasant surprise of the living breathing reality, combined with the back-story and insights we already have about the inner person.  It seems to permit us to look at each other with a more direct and open curiosity.  Bee really is every bit as lovely as anyone who knows her only from her blog might imagine she is.  We didn't get as much time to relax and talk together as would have been nice, as I was a bit preoccupied and as always having to keep looking at my watch (as well as carefully relaying orders for cream, custard or ice-cream on apple crumbles from English to French then back again then finding myself delivering them in French to the baffled waitress, this happened quite a lot...), but she very kindly stayed on for the afternoon after her morning shift at the Museum, and watching her in action, talking about the house and Jane and sharing her amazing knowledge and even more delicious enthusiasm was a joy in itself.  Despite the language barrier, she had my lot hanging on her every word and very impressed, and I was able to bask in plenty of reflected glory and unearned pride at being able to brag 'This is my friend...'  

Hooray for blogging, that brings such people with it!

(Inside Jane Austen's house at Chawton, photo by Bernard.)


Dale said...

even more like they are on their blogs than they are on their blogs

Oh yes, they are! Some people seem to think you should be suspicious of people you "only know online," but a blogger you've known for years you know better than you'll ever know most people in real life. It's been astonishing to me how little surprised I've ever been. Only Jarret Walker of Human Transit really startled me -- by being a full foot taller than I expected :-)

christopher said...

I get it too. I have no doubt that my favorites on blogs will not really surprise me once I get past the nearly inevitable disjunction between my inner picture and "real life". I can't imagine you, Lucy, masking yourself as some may do here, and the same is true of course of several others. It is too delicious to be real here. I can't imagine how playing some role would be a better experience.

I love the stories about meeting at long last.

marly youmans said...

After meeting Clive and Dave, I can certainly say you are right about "knowing." What we know about people that is essential is so ethereal, really!

In fact, meeting my penpals and bloggers in May has made me want to be more industrious about visiting people online (see, here I am.) The whole escapade in Wales was so inspiring... And one does have that lovely sense of recognition (with interesting quirks and variations) about meeting people one has known in the e-aether.

And the Bee... She is fuzzy and has stripes! I love that.

Plutarch said...

Genostine is a good instance of a mondegreen, a mishearing as defined by the American writer, Sylvia Wright. As a child she listened to her mother read from the ballad that goes:
"Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,
Oh Where hae you been?
They hae slain the Earl of Murray
And laid him on the green."

But what she heard was "They hae slain the Earl of Murray,/ And Lady Mondegreen." Hence an article about mishearings in Harpers's Magazine called the Death of Lady Mondegreen in 1954, where she coined the word.

Genostine also accurately describes a contemporary form of speech now common where vowels are screwed up and distorted in a way which often sounds quite comical.

Avus said...

I thoroughly enjoyed your English whistle-stop tour Lucy. As a "Janeite" I found your "Genostine" very amusing. As Plutarch says, a perfect Mondegreen.
Thank you.

HKatz said...

Thank you for writing about this foray into Jane Austen's world; great post. You write about your travels in an interesting lively way with unexpected details and observations.

Remembering this line now from Mansfield Park: "Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery" - I don't know why I'm remembering this now, maybe because reading your post made me cheerful.

Lucy said...

Thanks all.

Hooray for Mondegreens!

Marly, your increased presence not only here but around our corner of the web in general has been noted and appreciated. Bee is not really fuzzy, rather sleek and soignée I would say! Though it was a damp day and we were all a little fuzzy I suppose, and she did indeed have stripes on this occasion.

zephyr said...

i, too, am enjoying this tour. and, i feel i must share my favorite Mondegreen from my childhood. It was a line from a church hymn that properly sung, was: "You, who unto Jesus come..." but--you guessed it--we children all thought was "Yoo Hoo unto Jesus--Come!"

Lucy said...

Zephyr - that made me laugh, it's like 'we three kings of ory and tar, bearing gifts we travel so far...'

zephyr said...

Oh good, now i can chuckle at that carol now! How funny. i think exploring Mondegreens could make for a very hilarious study.

Anil P said...

Enjoyed walking along, even if virtual. Hope to visit the place someday.

And of "Genostine" as a instance of Mondegreen, well, I can't wait to find out how it might be rendered back here, in India.

I would assume, a blogger one has followed over the years as in reading their blogs, are likely to be an extension of their blog in real life, at least in most cases.

And it must be like meeting old friends.

Bee Drunken's blog has been a delight to read, for its depth, and variety.

earlybird said...

I absolutely love the idea of Jane Austen as Genostine! Brilliant.

Phil Masters said...

I think that I slightly disgraced myself on a tourist visit to Winchester Cathedral a few years ago, when while were looking at the Victorian tombs, we passed one with an especially imposing effigy in full mitre and robes, I read the name on the plaque... And hissed a little too loudly "It's Soapy Sam!"

I probably remember all the wrong reputations...

Lucy said...

Hello Bro, always nice to see you!

Saponacious, what an excellent word...

Rosie said...

Hi wonderful to have visited a museum devoted to my heroine!

Lucy said...

Hi G. You and Bee would have got on famously there!

clive Hicks-Jenkins said...

Catching up here at long last. (It's been a busy few months for me!) I've finally done the thing that I've been meaning to do for the longest time, and added Box Elder to the Artlog Blogroll. I apologise for having been so tardy. Deadlines have had me in their grip.

Your UK trip looks to have been a great success. If ever I get to Alresford I'm heading straight for The Bell!

Dick said...

My one-time part-of-the-world so I know the locations well. Good to know that the Bell flourishes. And charmed to learn that Genostine - whose sanctification many would support - lies peaceful yet in Winchester Cathedral.

I agree entirely that 'people are so often even more like they are on their blogs than they are on their blogs, when you meet them in real life'. I reflect on this every time I meet up with Natalie, Jean, rr and Stuart and it was further confirmed by meeting Dave Bonta a month ago. And, of course, yourself (blimey) two years ago.

Lucy said...

Clive, hello! I am honoured to be on the Artlog roll. I know how busy you've been and have much enjoyed following the progress of your busy-ness. It would be fun to meet up in the Bell one day...

Dick - good to know you know the Bell, more on Winchester later, perhaps. It's certainly been a summer for blogging meet-ups...

Bee said...

Dearest Lucy,
It was such a pleasure to meet you -- and happily relived in this post.

I'm glad, too, to know the term "Mondegreen." (thank you, Plutarch)