Tomato soup and Mary Shelley

The reason I am writing this blog entry is a bowl of soup. Or better, the reason I am finally taking the time to write this blog entry is a bowl of tomato soup that was accidentally poured over me yesterday.

I am on annual leave since yesterday. Nothing special, no get away holiday, just a few days off. I wasn’t happy about it. I felt I had too much to do to take lots of time (three days!) off. I am only here for a limited period of time; my contract is only for a year and I have a big project to finish, so annual leave is something that almost gets in the way and has to be squeezed into the gaps where my calendar isn’t already full with meetings or to-do lists.

I was working frantically to get everything sorted before leaving the office. I didn’t quite succeed, so I took some of it home with me to work on it in the morning. Not at my desk, though. I did at least want to feel like ‘being on holiday’. The plan was to go to one of my favourite places, have a coffee and something nice to eat while working. I really enjoy what I do and it would only have been proofreading some stuff and reading through a few articles – research for a feature that is due soon – anyway. I’d hardly call it work, more a pleasant way to spend time alone in a café.

But it wasn’t meant to be. I had just settled down nicely, with my papers on the table, placed my order and waited for my food, which arrived within a few minutes. Unfortunately, the waitress was also carrying a bowl of tomato soup, and when placing my plate in front of me, the soup bowl slid of the tray and its contents splashed onto the table. A bit of it landed on me. But most of it landed on my papers. Hot. Tomato. Soup. Which I hadn’t even ordered.

I’m not angry. Why should I be? It was an accident and was dealt with swiftly. Staff was charming and a little mishap like this will certainly not keep me from going there again. But I most definitely took it as a sign. A sign to stop working and to REALLY have a few days off. To REALLY switch off, which is hard for me in any situation. But this was too clear a sign to ignore.

I just wish it hadn’t been tomato soup. It smells and the papers, although they have dried by now, look as if someone has been sick on them. Coffee would have been better. I am used to spilling coffee over myself, from years of carrying little take-away cups of coffee to work and some of the contents finding their way onto my clothing. (I am also quite skilled at pouring coffee down my cleavage, but that’s another story). From years of experience I know that coffee doesn’t leave any unpleasant smells and coffee stains do not really show on dark fabric. It is also easier to deal with coffee stains on paper. It almost looks bohemian, creative, arty. A hard argument to make for stains of tomato soup…

But I digress. After having made the decision to put work to one side and deal with it again on Monday, I suddenly have so much time! A whole long weekend stretching in front of me – and finally I feel I have the head space to sit down and write my next blog entry. The idea for it I have been carrying around for a long time, but thanks to the very reliably wet and unpleasant weather in Bournemouth so far it is still as current as two or three months ago.

Bournemouth's answer to NYs flatiron building

Bournemouth’s answer to NY’s flatiron building

Walking through Bournemouth, I am still trying to get a sense of the place. Bournemouth has many bits  of interesting looking architecture, a lot of it art deco, and quirky features, such as Bournemouth’s answer to the flatiron building in New York. I’d like to write about some of these buildings when I have learned more about them.

But there is also currently a sense of waiting about the place, maybe because as a seaside resort, Bournemouth will only truly come to life during the tourism season. If you look at some of the facades more closely, you’ll see a lot of them crumbling away. In combination with the wet weather that has been dominating more or less the entire time since I moved down here, Bournemouth to me exudes an air of crumbling decay of an almost Gothic quality.

It seems only fitting, then, that Mary Shelley, author of the ultimate Gothic novel, Frankenstein, is buried here, together with the remains of her husband, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, her parents, Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, and her son, Sir Percy Florence Shelley and his wife Jane.

They have found their last resting place at St Peter’s Churchyard, which today is surrounded by nightclubs, the Mary Shelley pub and Beales department store. Not long before Mary Shelley’s death Sir Percy had bought a large manor in Boscombe, of which I will write more in a later post as it has an interesting little theatre attached to it. However, Mary never lived here. She died in London, after a long period of declining health, aged only 53, and was buried in Bournemouth a week later.

Mary Shelley's graveShe had wanted to be buried with her parents, so Mary Wollstonecraft’s and William Godwin’s remains were transferred from London to Bournemouth.

At some later point, Sir Percy also buried the ashes of his father’s heart here. Percy Bysshe Shelley had drowned in 1822 in Northern Italy. His body was cremated there, but the ashes of his heart were preserved by his friend Edward Trelawny (or – if you want to believe the more bashful version of the story – Trelawny snatched Shelley’s heart from the pyre before it burned).

Description of graves at St Peter's churchyard

Description of graves at St Peter’s churchyard

So the remains of the author of Frankenstein are laid to rest next to those of one of the most important early feminist writers (re-interred), the founder of political anarchism (re-interred)  and one of England’s major Romantic poets (heart only).

Thinking of them almost makes me feel reconciled with the weather. Almost. Atmospheric though it is, it could be a bit warmer. Sunshine more often would be nice as well. And I would love the rain to stop.

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2 thoughts on “Tomato soup and Mary Shelley

  1. Well, at least it was only tomato soup that made you realize a rest would be a good idea. Many people need an even bigger hint 😉
    Thank you for all those pictures, too. I’ve never been to Bournemouth, and now I get to see a little more of it.

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