Today is our final location in our whirlwind tour of the world, travelling by puzzle, and these two sites are a little ambiguous. Labelled simply as “English Cottage,” I am not sure of their exact location, except that they are somewhere in England. Very helpful indeed. It is interesting to reflect on how much of international tourism and travel focuses on the sites of the rich and famous. I can’t tell you much about these two cottages because they are not linked with anyone rich and famous. They are probably just typical of many English cottages scattered across England. The only reason they ended up on the front of a puzzle box is because they were pretty.
Do you know why cottages are called cottages? It comes from an Old English word, “cot” or “cote” which meant hut. A cottager was a person who lived in a small house that was surrounded by enough garden to support a family. It could be anywhere from one to three acres. In return for the accommodation, the person worked in some capacity for the Lord of the Manor. Hence, their residence became known as a “cottage” and it is also where we have derived the term, a “cottage garden.” Over time any small house came to be referred to as a cottage, whether or not it was attached to a Manor or was located in the middle of town.
Traditionally, cottages weren’t particularly fancy constructions. They were functional and built from whatever materials were available locally. I think we often imagine cottages as sweet little houses with a thatched roof and climbing roses, no doubt influenced by fairy tales, but it wasn’t always the case. Thatched roofs were more common in agricultural areas but in mining areas like Cornwall, slate roofs were more typical. Thatched roofs are actually making a come back. They are being seen as a more sustainable alternative to tiles, have quite good insulation properties, and surprisingly enough, are not as flammable as you might think. And they can last a very long time. Traditionally, layers of thatch were just continually added on top and so some thatched roofs have been built up to a thickness of around two metres. I guess you wouldn’t want the roof to cave in. There are actually some thatched roofs in the UK that have been dated back 500 years.
I also have some English and Scottish ancestry on my Mum’s side. My English ancestors came from Somerset and at first I wondered whether that had anything to do with Midsomer Murders, because if it did, it was probably just as well they left. Midsomer seems to be one of the most dangerous places in England. But no, Somerset is in the south west of England and is known for its rolling hills, large stretches of flat land and apparently played a part in the English Civil War. Another notable thing about Somerset is the city of Bath, which often comes up in English classics. Bath seems to be a strange name for a city but it was named after the Roman Baths left behind by the Romans when their conquering came to an end. I expect there are probably a lot of old cottages in Somerset too.
England is the last stop on our world tour but as I was putting our little puzzle tour together I was struck by its euro-centricity. Nothing from Africa or Eastern Europe or even the US and South America, and just a very few from Asia. Location wasn’t something I thought about when we invested in some new puzzles. I just picked the pictures I liked from what was available. So, are they just not available or are we just too oriented towards majestic castles and cathedrals, snowy alps and quaint villages? To find the answer I did a little google searching, and yes, you can find puzzles from other places outside Europe and Australia, but they are just harder to find and a bit more pricey.
As we wrap up our world puzzle tour there is just one more thing to be said. You can’t leave home without a good map or goodness knows where you might end up. This is a pretty good map of Australia,
but I think my world map might need a bit of updating.
We quite enjoyed doing this one despite the fact that very few of the place names were familiar, however it does have some fascinating detail. I was hoping there would be a place marked “here be dragons.”
I hope you have enjoyed our adventure, travelling the world piece by piece, and I hope it encourages you, when it is safe once more to step outside our front door, to explore the world around you, whether it be far flung shores or just around the corner.