Is it possible that real life experiences replicate the ones that fictional heroes had in books? Soumya, relives some such moments, during a recent trip to England. Read more in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.
I too, like many of you, re-read Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat whenever I want to destress. You, no doubt, fondly remember the scenes where they stop over at riverside pubs and your ROFL moments when they are lost in the Hampton Court Maze.
Recently, during a trip to England, I was driving with a friend through the very picturesque Surrey countryside when we stopped at an ancient pub by a canal, complete with rolling lawns, towpath, lock gates, moored skiffs, that immediately transported me back a few centuries straight into Jerome’s world. As I sat in the garden, with a pint of dark English ale, I could see fellow imbibers enjoying their pints with their dogs lolling around nearby. It could be a scene from Three Men. I even had the Ploughman’s lunch and a roast to live exactly like the book.
I found out that Hampton Court was nearby and imaging that this may be the same inn where our heroes camped before visiting the Court and immediately made plans for reliving their adventures including trying out the famous Maze.
That night, I stayed over at a charming cottage with my friend and woke next morning to a lovely sight; the lawn covered in white and a flurry of snowflakes coming down. But what looked so pretty from inside the heated cottage turned out to be a freezing nightmare outside. However, that did not deter me from venturing on to a Hampton Court.
Hampton Court was everything I dreamt it would be, and the audio guide which dramatises the experience brought alive the colourful bloody episodes of English history you may be familiar with through such books, films and TV serials like Wolfe Hall, The Other Boleyn Girl, Tudors, etc. Despite the wonderful interactive display, my heart remained in the Maze. So braving the howling winds and flurry of snow, I trudged across the lawns and gardens to the famous Maze.
It looks quite innocuous and I bravely ventured in, slightly disappointed that I won’t relive the Three Men’s experiences.
But, five months later when every twist and turn turned out to be a dead end and the buildings I could see and had kept as a landmark continued to drift further away I got a little worried. My friend too confessed that he had been in earlier in summer and on weekends when it was easy to follow the large crowds out of the Maze. But in this bleak weather when only the most eccentric would try such stunts the other visitors were scarce and as lost as we were. Soon we formed a straggly line and followed each other just as our heroes did in the book. I had a flight to catch back to India and Heathrow was close by. But now looked as if I may have missed the flight. I had visions of a slow, hungry, frozen death in the middle of some Yew hedges in Surrey. I was too embarrassed to scream help.
Finally, help arrived just as it did in the book. Some kids playing hide and seek in the Maze led us out from the entrance with much merriment. Only half an hour had passed and we laughed with relief once outside realising the uncanny resemblance our adventure had with that of the Three Men in the Boat.
Photos from the Internet
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Soumya Mukherjee is an alumnus of St Stephens College and Delhi School of Economics. He earns his daily bread by working for a PSU Insurance company, and lectures for peanuts. His other passions, family, friends, films, travel, food, trekking, wildlife, music, theater, and occasionally, writing. He has been published in many national newspapers of repute. He has published his first novel, Memories, a novella, hopefully, the first of his many books. He blogs as well.