It had been damp and drizzly when we left, but the sun came out and it became a beautiful day. I remember we stopped and sat in a field, maybe we had a picnic. We arrived in Settle and asked directions from a middle-aged traffic warden with, unsurprisingly, a fine Yorkshire accent. He explained that we should turn at the Cenotaph – funny the details that you remember – I enjoyed the relish of the short ‘a’ in ‘Cenotaph’, while musing that, at home, we’d be much more likely to say ‘war memorial’. Because I remember this, I also remember the quiet appreciation with which he inoffensively eyed my cleavage.
We stopped at a pub with bedrooms to let advertised and a quite surprisingly camp young man showed us to an unsalubrious room. We made our excuses and left. We found another, much nicer place and booked in for the night.
The next morning, we did a tour of the local antique shops. The Sage bought several silver vesta cases. he was very pleased and said I was bringing him luck.
Later that day, he said in a casual way “You don’t mind if we go home by way of Bristol, do you? There’s a picture I want to look at.” I was a bit startled. Bristol is the other side of the country from Lowestoft and both are quite some way from Yorkshire. I couldn’t help wondering why we’d gone there – the Cotswolds or perhaps Wales might have been a more convenient choice. However, I didn’t mind and the next day we drove south-west.
There were posters up, advertising that weekend’s Cider Festival. It was mid-afternoon when we neared our destination and we started to look for a place to stay. There was not a room to be found. Everywhere had been booked for weeks. But I was to find out for the first time the full force of the Luck of the Sage. We stopped, unhopefully, at a charming little hotel by the bank of a pretty little river and went in to enquire. As we approached the desk, the proprietor, who was just dialling a number on the telephone, put the receiver down to answer our query. “I was just dialling the local Tourist Board,” he said, “to say that a party of three haven’t turned up, so I’ve got a double and a single room left.” He reckoned that they could be the only rooms unoccupied in the area. It was a small hotel, I can’t remember how many rooms, but two unoccupied when he had turned people away because of a prior booking can make a lot of difference to a small business. It’s no wonder that many hotels take a credit card when you book nowadays and charge for no-shows.
We had a drink in the bar before dinner and chatted to an elderly resident – a retired chap of military bearing who lived at the hotel all year round. In conversation to the hotelier later, we gained the impression that this was a mixed blessing.
The Sage had made an appointment to see the painting, which belonged to an elderly couple. They started off on the wrong foot, poor things, when they assumed I was his daughter, which probably stood him in good stead, for their embarrassment factor, when a price was being negotiated. However, he did a fair valuation – he’s an auctioneer, not a dealer, and doesn’t take advantage of lack of knowledge – but, when a price was agreed, they then produced an odd little oil painting of an old man sitting at a table counting his gold coins greedily. It put me in mind of Molière’s l’Avare, which I’d read the year before during my condensed French A Level course. The Sage didn’t want it, but they were insistent, and in the end he said that he could only offer them £5 which, to his embarrassment, they accepted. Later, he told me that he hadn’t been able to offer more or he wouldn’t have had enough money for petrol to get home! I expect the lovely little hotel had been quite expensive.
And that was my first honeymoon.