06 Oct 2010


Bronte Pasonage Museum, Haworth

Bronte Pasonage Museum, Haworth

Home of the Bronte family, immaculately restored and full of original items including clothes, furniture (“here’s the couch where Emily died”), tiny books written by the girls and even some fading sketches on the bedroom wall made by famous hands.

A freezing day with the wind blowing across the moors helped set the scene.

Immortalised for me in Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair (like most things in the Ffordian universe the reality was sort of the same but different)

We first encountered each other at Haworth House in Yorkshire when my mind was young and the barrier between reality and make-believe had not yet hardened into the shell that cocoons us in adult life. The barrier was soft, pliable, and, for a moment, thanks to the kindness of a stranger and the power of a good storytelling voice, I made the short journey—and returned.

Would you like me to read it for you?’ said a kindly voice close at hand. It was the Japanese tourist. She smiled at me and I thanked her for her trouble.
She checked that no one was around, unfolded her reading glasses and started to speak. She spoke excellent English and had a fine reading voice; the words peeled off the page into my imagination as she spoke.

… In those days I was young and all sorts of fancies bright and dark tenanted my mind; the memories of nursery stories were there amongst other rubbish; and when they recurred, maturing youth added to them a vigour and vividness beyond what childhood could give…

I closed my eyes and a thin chill suddenly filled the air around me. The tourist’s voice was clear now, as though speaking in the open air, and when I opened my eyes the museum had gone. In its place was a country lane of another place entirely. It was a fine winter’s evening and the sun was just dipping below the horizon. The air was perfectly still, the colour washed from the scene. Apart from a few birds that stirred occasionally in the hedge, no movement punctuated the starkly beautiful landscape. I shivered as I saw my own breath in the crisp air, zipped up my jacket and regretted that I had left my hat and mittens on the peg downstairs. As I looked about I could see that I was not alone. Barely ten feet away a young woman, dressed in a cloak and bonnet, was sitting on a stile watching the moon that had just risen behind us.

The Eyre Affair, Jasper Fforde, Hodder & Staughton, 2001


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