Saturday, 31 August 2013

Letter from America.

We absolutely love staying at our friends' cabin on Beaver Lake and I could stay there for weeks without leaving the shore; except perhaps to go the Mary Ann's Diner for breakfast. As for the rest of the state, it might be fair to say that we have always thought of New Hampshire as being just a place to pass through on our way to Maine.

Last year we took in a few back-roads and began to discover the charm of the place. There are beautiful New England villages with white wooden churches, antique shops and classic local village stores. I am particularly fond of graveyards, because they are shady and the lawns and headstones are good places for birds to hang out. I plan to get a picture of a bluebird at the local cemetery this week. There is a lot of history to be found in graveyards too.

Lake Winnipesaukee 
On our first full day here we got an early start because of the time shift. Sunday mornings are the busiest at the lake and the early bass fishermen were out before the sun was up. The mist rolled across the water in ghostly swirls , making a lune look enormous. Sometimes boats would be submerged in the cloud while the angler appeared to walk on water.

We decided to have a "Get to know New Hampshire" day and set off north and east in a search for mountains, lakes and second-hand guitars.

Old barn
The Ossipi mountains are mostly wooded to the top but you can see rocky screes and bare slabs of granite on the larger ones. These are the little brothers of the White Mountains that lie an hour further on. We discovered the equivalent of the English Lake District here, with cruise boats, fancy homes and hotels around hundreds of lakes, mostly much bigger than our Beaver Lake. There is quite a lot of money around, despite the recession, as was evidenced by the stream of private jets and float planes coming in to take visitors back to work  in the city.

Covered Bridge at Squam.
Conspicuous consumption is not something that New Englanders take lightly. They excel at it. People were showing off their planes, boats, vintage cars and motorcycles. In fact, New Hampshire seems to be the motorcycle state. I'm told it's a popular place to ride because you do not have to wear a helmet, but another part of the attraction is the scenery and the winding blacktop roads. Over all though, bikers come to see and be seen as part of an endless summer parade of Harleys and Hondas.

Our planned route was a loop north from Derry to the little town of West Alton where our son Nick wanted to look at vintage guitars. In fact we looped off to the East to take in Lake Winnipesaugee, which is huge and beautiful, and then back toward Squam Lake, where "On Golden Pond" was filmed.

We eventually found the guitar shop, right where they told us it would be, by a turtle-shored mill pool.

The shop is called Vintage Fret. We didn't buy anything but Nick loved playing a pre-war Martin and a hefty banjo. I plucked away at a few dulcimers and almost bought one, but then thought about the problem of getting it home. This shop is a temple to stringed instruments and the priests who tend it are craftsmen. Instead of a door-bell, they have a guitar screwed to the ceiling. When you open the door, a plectrum is dragged across the strings to play a chord. Lovely; just lovely.

Our only mistake was to let Hanna navigate our way home, but as Nick said; "There are no mistakes here, just alternative routes". We headed further east rather than south, which took us round the far side of the Ossipi Range towards an early visit to Maine. It added an hour or so to our trip, but that was fine by me. We saw deer and woodchucks along the road.

Robert Frost's house.
It should come as no surprise that New Hampshire is such a beautiful place. It inspired Thoreau, who canoed the White Mountains and lived just over the border in Massachusetts where he had a cabin on Walden Pond. The poet, Robert Frost's house is just five minutes from our cabin. These are the people who inspired generations of "rusticators" like me.