Caravaning with Ruth

Ruth Drew died in 1960, but I am sure if she had lived longer into the true age of TV she would have been a popular and well-loved presence on our screens. As it was she was known through her radio broadcasts and her journalism; she sounds a really larger than life character and it comes through in her writing. The Happy Housewife is a posthumous collection of her writings which covers all sorts of aspects of household management and much more. One section is on holidays, and her favourite way of getting away from it all was in her car, ‘the smallest possible ancient tourer; and the caravan nipping along behind it… well, it’s more like a large snail than anything else…‘ the caravan called Lobelia.

Here she writes about a holiday in Scotland:

One summer we went gently trundling north by Glencoe and Fort William and away to a wild, remote stretch of Scotland’s west coast. It was wonderful, Lobelia established herself on a grassy spit by a peaceful sea loch. There were two clear little streams tumbling down through pools just the right size for a morning bath. There were scented wild orchids in the grass and seals in the loch and curlews on the hill and Bambi-like deer who came nervously down to the water in the cool early morning…
… our friends said afterwards: ‘But where did you find your food? Surely there weren’t any shops?’ No, no shops, certainly. But the shop, only three miles away. And how I enjoy shopping in the shop! Anti-midge ointment beside the biscuits and bacon – hairnets and postcards and plimsolls over by the barrel of cooking apples – and more bright bottles of fruit squash than you’d need in the desert for a twelvemonth. It’s such a restful kind of shopping – because if Mr Maclean hasn’t got any oranges or herrings today there’s nothing you can do about it – you can’t go trailing round searching – you can buy apples and sardines instead.

She has such a way with words, describing the narrow roads with ‘a long whisker of tough grass down the middle‘, and looking ‘through the oak and birch woods to give a dizzy view of the Hebrides shimmering in the bluest of seas.’ The road sometimes ‘dives down… to curl along a bay of creamy sand,with sea creeping in jade coloured and clear as mirror glass.’

Wonderful Ruth!


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