I had a pleasant Saturday afternoon at the Orchard Tea Garden in Grantchester.
The Orchard – a corner of England where time stands still as the outside world rushes by. Relax and enjoy the genteel setting where more famous people have taken tea than anywhere else in the world. ~ Orchard Tea Garden Website
What started out as a house offering tea and rural pleasures to Cambridge students in the early 20th century became the hunting grounds of the devastatingly handsome Rupert Brooke – more on him later – who lived in the vicarage next door and brought his famous friends there to swim in the Cam and take tea under the apple trees.
Rupert was a poet and Cambridge man who wrote “The Old Vicarage, Grantchester,” among others. It is, of course, so beautiful. Read the last stanza, which ends with these lines about The Orchard.
Stands the Church clock at ten to three? And is there honey still for tea?
The rest of the poem:
My friend Katherine and I walked the three miles along the river to The Orchard and passed by many parks and pools and ducks and fields.
I asked her what British story the landscape currently reminded her of, since I always travel back and forth from Narnia to Middle Earth to Pemberley to Hogwarts. She felt we were walking through The Wind in the Willows. I like that.
We ended up getting to The Orchard around 2:15, and waiting in a tremendously long line for our scones until 2:45. So now I can say I went at ten to three.
After lunch Katherine and I popped into the Rupert Brooke Museum, which is in a little cottage adjacent to the kitchen. They had a wall with filled with his pictures and letters, along with pages of his biography tacked in between them.
He. Was. So. Cute. I bought myself the below picture of him, in postcard form, which I am sending to no one. He is my British boyfriend. Although I have to share him with a century’s worth of women around the world.
Another poem that Brooke is famous for is “The Soldier,” which you’ve probably heard of because of the line: If I should die, think only this of me: that there is some corner of a foreign field that is forever England. He died of blood poisoning at 27 on a ship near Greece in WWI.
Needless to say, with a face like that he became the mythic poster child of British youth and beauty, something similar to and better than James Dean.
We walked out of the museum and back into The Orchard, having arrived knowing nothing about this person. And now we were in his world, his paradise. A century later with about one hundred other people, all dressed in modern clothes and sitting with their dogs and families and eating one hundred pots of jam and clotted cream. What would Rupert think if he saw The Orchard today?
Reading the letters to his friends, and seeing his playbills of performances at Cambridge, his youthful happy life before World War I, it all made me wistful for something I’ve never known. But maybe I do know it, because all young people have letters to their friends, playbills, and memories of happiness before world events enter their lives.
I know I saw Grantchester as he had seen it. It’s just funny to get the same earth as everyone else, and we walk over it and walk over it and throw different trash away, but we all have the same tremulous, or powerful, emotions. Maybe the world isn’t as different now as I thought it was in my last post. In the Cambridge Archaeology museum they have rooms filled with objects found underneath colleges and near the river from as far back as the neolithic. Roman sculptures. Old stained glass windows. Broken china. Beer mugs.
I’m happy that I can be a part of it, the trash of living in 21st century England.
Katherine and I were pleasantly, contemplatively silent on the walk back to Pembroke, but we did talk about Brooke and war and time and cows. They grazed across most of our path.
If I should die, think only this of me: That there's some corner of a foreign field That is for ever England. There shall be In that rich earth a richer dust concealed; A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware, Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam, A body of England's, breathing English air, Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home. And think, this heart, all evil shed away, A pulse in the eternal mind, no less Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given; Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day; And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness, In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.