The Dovegreyreader Tent at Port Eliot Festival

NB This post was prepared back in July during the Port Eliot Festival

Ready for the off

Welcome to the Dovegreyreader Tent at Port Eliot Festival!

It’s an Aladin’s Cave of quilted, patchwork and knitted hangings and of crocheted and sewn bunting: all stitched with love and care.

Quilt

 All Her Own Work

What writer could not feel relaxed in these surroundings, plumped down on the comfy couch with DGR (DoveGreyReader, alias Lynne) quietly and humourously encouraging them to speak about their work? It’s a far cry from the usual literary festival round of upright chairs, microphones, spotlighting and a hushed audience. We did have microphones and the spotlight (sun) shone all the time. We weren’t able to turn down the heating but we offered our guests a fresh cup of tea served in china teacups.

Table

The Festival itself is not all literary. There’s music and food and comedy and a Flower and Fodder Show. The FFS is open to all attendees and beyond. We were encouraged to make a tea cosy for the Fortnum and Mason competition and ‘we’ submitted an entry to the Flower Show. Yes, I, even I, who can neither sew nor knit nor crochet made a tea cosy. And here it is:

The Cosy

My Tea Cosy … on a theme of Tea Sayings

And we had an entry in the Flower Show – the theme was One Lump or Two. Fran made this beautiful display with knitted contributions by Liz. Designer Jane Churchill awarded it Second Prize. Well done, Fran!

P1140344

Each of our guests received a well thought-out gift for taking part. Needless to say it was handmade with care and relevant to the topics discussed. Our Knit Angel, Liz, produced the knitted or crocheted gifts. In addition the ladies received a quilt block again in a design connected with their topic and made by Lynne.

P1140293

Helen Rappaport (author of Four Sisters) received Sister’s Choice Design

P1140292

Helen also received Four Sisters of her own

Comfortable, informal, relaxed  and inspiring – and all in glorious colour!

It is easily overlooked that what is now called vintage was once brand new!

NB This report was prepared back in July during the Port Eliot Festival

programme

And that includes me! I spent yesterday afternoon at Port Eliot. I went straight there on the train from Par Station. Alight St Germans for Port Eliot. From the station it’s a mere few steps to Never Never Land the Festival. For many months now I have been wondering whether I am going to “fit in” at a festival and whether I will really be any help as I neither knit nor crochet nor sew nor flower arrange. After one afternoon I still felt as if I was an observer and not a participant. Even though I had a wristband that said “Port Eliot Festival Crew”.

DGR Tent

I think I will be quite safe from full festival conversion in the Dovegreyreader Tent. I already knew a couple of people and have now met four new ones including the very welcoming and hospitable Dave, the Dovegreyreader’s husband, who makes the tea and hands out food and generally turns his hand to anything that is required of him.

Rear dove grey tent

The decorations were just finished when I turned up and it was time for a cuppa and sandwich – most welcome but I felt I had done nothing to deserve them.

There’s a big programme of events (in both meanings of the word); the festival bookshop is right next door to us; there is food everywhere; there are stalls selling vintage stuff and there will be events all over the place.

 

Vintage deckchairs

Get it here

 

Love Lane Caravans

 

More vintage stuff

 

More vintage

 

Old buttons and stuff

 

Old maps

Somewhere near the heart of Port Eliot House is the Big Kitchen – just as somewhere near the heart of the festival is a passion for food. Over the weekend, local chefs and foodie legends give talks and demonstrations, celebrating all aspects of food from planting and growing to prepping and eating.”

Vintage Airstream

 

Lemon Jelli

My first taste was a delicious Gumbo from Strawbridge & Son BBQ Smokehouse which I took back with me to the B&B.

BBQ Smokehouse

Also there are many many campers. From in front of the house you see a sea of tents of all shapes and sizes and colours … but I’m glad that’s not me. I will take the train back to my B&B each evening. Being vintage myself I am past that sort of thing!

Sunny PE

Port Eliot Festival

It is all great fun and I couldn’t wait to get back today and to get started …

Railholiday

As I made my way to the station I noticed you can even stay in a vintage railway carriage at St Germans station.

Great for Rail fans

 

 

 

In Daphne’s Corner of Cornwall

OS Map

On my walk ‘Strolling hand in hand with romance‘ I visited the church in which Daphne Du Maurier married Major Tommy “Boy” Browning in July, 1932. I’d visited the Daphne Du Maurier Centre in Fowey and seen one of her former homes nearby in my only previous visit to Cornwall in 2008.

 

Daphne Du Maurier Centre

The Literary Centre in Fowey in 2008

unnamed

Daphne Du Maurier’s former home (1942-1943) at Readymoney Bay

But I hadn’t realised that I would come across so many other  Du Maurier connections in my small corner of Cornwall and during such a short visit.

For a start when I drove into the village where I was staying I noticed that it features The House on the Strand in its sign. And when I asked my hostess about this she declared “This IS the house on the strand!”.

Tywardreath

I decided to find out more and came across this walk and the following :

Tywardreath means “House on the Strand”, as the village was once surrounded by tidal waters on all sides bar the east, and the ground beneath the church was a creek.

A Benedictine Priory was founded here soon after the Norman Conquest, and the possessions included the church, St Sampson’s Chapel at Golant and huge nearby estates. The monks were a corrupt, drunken and dissolute bunch as described in du Maurier’s [time travel] novel; knowing it was true adds to the fascinating reading.

Bumblebee Farm

Bumblebee Farm, alias The House on the Strand …

Priory Lane

… is on Priory Lane, Tywardreath

In fact archaeologists were visiting the site that very Saturday to ascertain exactly where the Priory stood and what remains might be found on the farm’s land.

Bumblebee

The House on the Strand from the Village Road

Then at the Festival I heard talk that Port Eliot House itself had been Daphne’s inspiration for Manderley the house featured in her most famous book : Rebecca.

Port Eliot front

Port Eliot House in Festival Spirit

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the drive, and for a while I could not enter, for the way was barred to me. There was a padlock and a chain upon the gate. I called in my dream to the lodge-keeper, and had no answer, and peering closer through the rusted spokes of the gate I saw that the lodge was uninhabited. No smoke came from the chimney, and the little lattice windows gaped forlorn. Then, like all dreamers, I was possessed of a sudden with supernatural powers and passed like a spirit through the barrier before me.” [Opening lines to Rebecca]

Port Eliot - rear view

Rear of Port Eliot House

Daphne Du Maurier was a prolific writer. She produced novels and volumes of short stories, five biographies and her own autobiography. The place Cornwall held in her heart and the inspiration it provided was captured in many of her books. Her special connection above all was this small estuarine area where by chance I happened to stay.

Four Speakers at Felixstowe Book Festival

Felixstowe Book Festival

This annual event takes place on the last weekend of June each year. Well, I say each year but last year was the first and this year the second time that the event has been held. In 2013 I was in Switzerland but it sounded good from the reports so this year I combined a visit with family in Norwich with a weekend  of books at Felixstowe in Suffolk.

“A weekend by the sea for all who love to read”. I’m afraid the weather in Felixstowe on both days was appalling – constant rain almost throughout – but at least I wasn’t regretting being inside – although picnic lunch outside in the hotel garden and walk to see the sea might have been nice!

Last year a couple of book group friends attended and this year a couple more: me and Diney Costeloe. Elaine (Random Jottings), who lives at nearby Colchester has been one of the volunteer helpers each year.

Diney Costeloe is a member of our group and a published author. It’s hard to write about a talk given by someone you know and like and whose books you believe deserve much more attention than they have been given. This was her first book festival talk although she has done author signings and book group discussions. Diney chose to talk about her ‘writing story’ with humour and anecdotes but also adding some of the frustrating struggles authors face trying to get published these days. I’ve read all her books and they are gripping stories each one brings to our attention an often neglected aspect of the First or Second World War.

The Ashgrove

theashgrove

Eight ash trees were planted in 1921 as a memorial to the men from the village of Charlton Ambrose who were killed in World War One. Now the Ashgrove is under threat from developers, and the village is torn between the need for more housing and the wish to preserve the memorial. Rachel Elliott, a local journalist, is reporting the story and uncovers a mystery… eight men and nine trees – in whose memory is the ninth tree and who planted it? As she researches the memorial a diary and letters are given to her and as the story they tell unfolds Rachel discovers her own links with the past and with the Ashgrove itself and this makes her determined to save the Ashgrove as a memorial to all the men who lost their lives.

A fictional telling of the shooting for desertion in WW1.

Death’s Dark Vale

Death's Dark Vale

“When Adelaide Anson-Gravetty discovers she is not who she thought she was, her search for her true family leads her to the convent of Our Lady of Mercy in St Croix in northern France.

The defeat of France brings German occupation to the village, the nuns are caught up in a war that threatens both their beliefs and their lives. Involved with the resistance and British agents, Adelaide and the sisters truly walk in the shadow of death as they try to protect the innocent from the evil menace of the Nazi war machine.” [source]

Fiction on the theme of the wartime resistance movement in France and involvement of British agents.

Death’s Dark Vale has links to some of the characters in The Ashgrove but both books can be read independently. In fact I read them in the opposite ‘order’.

Evil on the Wind

Evil on the wind

“It is Germany 1937. Fear and betrayal stalk the streets. People disappear. Persecution of the Jews is a national pastime. Her home destroyed, her husband arrested by the SS after an anti-Jewish riot, Ruth Friedman is left to fend for herself and her four children. Homeless, she is forced to live on her wits to protect her family. She alone stands as their shield against the Nazis. Where should she go? What must she do? Is Kurt alive? Wherever she turns, Ruth is faced with indifference, hatred, cruelty. Living with the rising tyranny of the Nazis and their determination to make their Reich Jew Free, Ruth and her family run a desperate race to escape the Nazi terror as it marches inexorably to its ‘final solution’ of the Jewish Problem.”

About the Kindertransport mission before war was declared on Germany.

One of the Festival themes was The First World War so I was interested to hear Jeff Taylor talk about The First World War in East Anglian Fiction. Like Jeff I’m interested in place in fiction. Here is what the Festival Guide says about Jeff and his theme:

“The First World War had a presence in East Anglian fiction almost as soon as the war began and this continues into the present day. From the work of H.G.Wells through to that of children’s author Michael Foreman, Jeff will summon a roll-call of imagined characters who reflect the reality of the time. Jeff wrote a long-running column on East Anglia’s rich literary heritage in the Eastern daily Press.”

Jeff told us that when first approached he only wanted to speak about R H Mottram’s ‘The Spanish Farm Trilogy’ but the festival had suggested he broaden the talk to include all East Anglian literature so towards the end, after his piece on “What if … ?” books, he rather rushed through more recent books with a 1st WW theme but managed to include Diney’s The Ashgrove which was partly inspired by Colchester’s Avenue of Remembrance.

Although I made a few notes of books to follow up Jeff offered to send a booklist to anyone who cared to leave there email address with him.

Alex Munroe is a jewellery designer and maker. I’d never heard of him but booked the talk on the strength of the enthusiastic blog piece that arrived from the festival a few weeks ago. He’s written ‘Two Turtle Doves: a memoir of making things’.

Two Turtle Doves

It’s out soon in paperback but I’ll be requesting the library buy it. He told us that he thought if his friend Edmund de Waal can write a book … then so could he (tongue in cheek). He was very self-effacing but also very funny.

Alex Munro signing

Alex Munroe meeting members of the audience and signing his book

 Elaine’s daughter Helen McCarthy spoke about her new book on women diplomats.

diplomats.jpg

“Helen’s book, Women of the world: The Rise of the Female Diplomat, is the first serious attempt to explore the place of women in British diplomatic life since the 19th century. The two World Wars cast women as new players on the international stage. In this fascinating talk Helen traces their influence and experiences as wives, patrons, experts and eventually as diplomats in their own right. Helen is Senior Lecturer in History at Queen Mary, University of London and previously was a Research Fellow of St John’s College, Cambridge. Her first book was The British People and the League of Nations.” [Festival Notes]

All the events I attended were held in the Orwell Hotel and a couple of rooms were available for tea drinking and a local bookshop set a stall.

I stayed at a lovely old rectory B&B in the Suffolk countryside just beyond Sutton Hoo (NT) near Woodbridge.

The Old Rectory

 

A Sussex Tea Garden, a Long Man and a Landmark Priory : Litlington and Wilmington

Last year Simon over at Stuck-in-a-Book lent me his copy of  ‘Tea is so Intoxicating’ by Mary Essex which is one of several pen names of romantic novelist (and my brother-in-law’s Godmother!) Ursula Bloom.

One thing I especially loved about the book was the choice of chapter headings. Shall I quote them all here?

1. Tea for Two,and Two for Tea

2. I do like a Nice Cup of Tea

3. For all the Tea in China

4. The Cups that Cheer but not Inebriate

5. Everything Stops for Tea

6. Cold Tea may be Endured, but not Cold Looks (Japanese Proverb)

7. Tea and Scandal

Written in 1950 it is basically the story of a London couple who set up a Tea Garden in the South of England but the marriage is not a success.

P1130717

Anyway, when Fran told me that Tea Gardens were a particular feature of the East Sussex countryside around Laughton I knew, should the weather remain sympathetic, that I would have to take my Swiss friends to one of these minor Sussex institutions. So, after the walk on Sunday at Firle Beacon and the visit to Firle village we headed for Litlington Tea Garden.

Litlington tea garden

In the Tea Garden – there are a few sheltered places should the weather turn inclement

We were in luck – the day remained warm and dry. We ordered cucumber sandwiches to be followed by scones and jam and accompanied by plenty of tea.

cucumber sandwiches

From Litlington it was just a short drive to Wilmington. Here is the famous Long Man carved into the chalk hillside many centuries ago. Here also is Wilmington Priory another Landmark Trust property.

The Long Man Info

Wilmington Long Man

After tea and scones and jam we were ready for a little exercise so parked up in the small car park on the edge of Wilmington and walked about the half mile or so to the bottom of the hillside upon which he is marked out. The nearer you get to him the less of him there is to see. Still, it was a nice walk.

Approaching the Long Man

Approaching the Long Man

Close up

We Reach The Long Man

The enigmatic Long Man of Wilmington attracts many theories but provides little evidence to back them up. Now outlined in stone, he was formerly carved in the chalk of the hill. His first definite mention was as late as 1710, but the monument was old then. A picture drawn by bored monks, commemoration of the Saxon conquest of Pevensey, a Roman soldier or Neolithic god opening the gates of dawn. The ‘Long Man asking the traveller – like the Sphinx – to solve the dark mystery of its own origins’.” [Wealden Walks]

Wilmington Priory

Wilmington Priory

“The remains of a once highly regarded Benedictine Priory Wilmington Priory was a cell of the Benedictine Abbey at Grestain in Normandy. It was never a conventional priory with cloister and chapter, the monks prayed in the adjoining parish church where the thousand-year-old yews are testimony to the age of the site. The Priory has been added to and altered in every age and some of it has been lost to ruin and decay, but what is left shows how highly it was once regarded.” [Landmark Trust website]

Rear of Wilmington Priory

Rear of Wilmington Priory

Ruined Priory

The Ruined Priory

WP garden

Wilmington Priory Gardens

1000 year old yew

The 1,000 Year Old Yew Tree in the Churchyard

A Room of One’s Own at Monk’s House, Rodmell

A Room of one's own

‘A Room of One’s Own’ by Virginia Woolf in the Library at Laughton Place

The moment my Swiss friends stepped off the London train at Lewes Station the sun came out and this set the scene for the next few days. We stuffed the cases in the boot and I whisked them straight off down shady narrow lanes to the quiet village of Rodmell just a few miles from the town centre of Lewes. We parked up in the Monk’s House (NT) car park and ambled back up the lane past wisteria covered cottages and pretty gardens to the Abergavenny Arms for lunch where, wonder of wonders, we were able to sit outside in the garden.

MH Quote VW Diaries

Description of Monk’s House by Virginia Woolf

Monk’s House is the former 17th century summer cottage home of Virginia and Leonard Woolf. They lived here together from 1919 until Virginia’s death in 1941 and Leonard continued to live here permanently with his companion, Trekkie Parsons, until his death in 1969. The house was left to Trekkie but before she died in 1995 she had sold the house in 1972 to The University of Sussex. Visiting lecturers and researchers stayed here until 1980 when the National Trust took on the property.

Monk's House

Leonard Woolf had the Conservatory added when he was too frail to walk to the Greenhouses

VW Writing Garden House

The Writing Lodge

Here Virginia Woolf wrote in the small wooden lodge at the bottom of the garden. Jacob’s Room was published in 1922, Mrs Dalloway in 1925, To The Lighthouse in 1927, Orlando in 1928, The Waves in 1931, The Years in 1937 and Between The Acts, published posthumously, in 1941. This latter is, apparently, steeped in references to Rodmell and the traditions and values of its villagers.

VW burial

Both Virginia and Leonard’s ashes are buried beneath the magnolia tree in the garden.

LW Burial

 

Beneath the tree

The tree beneath which the ashes are buried

It’s a wonderful house. You can wander around as your fancy takes you and the garden is very pretty. Photography is not restricted and friendly local volunteers are on hand to answer questions as best they can.

Garden and church

Garden and Rodmell Parish Church

Leonard was the gardener, despite the recently published ‘Virginia Woolf’s Garden‘ by Jacqui Zoob who for ten years from 2000 lived at the house as a tenant of the National Trust. However, we were able to visit Virginia’s bedroom which is very much a garden room in an extension which they had added to the house.

VW Garden room

Virginia Woolf’s Garden Bedroom Exterior

VW Garden Room Interior

Virginia Woolf’s Garden Bedroom Interior

Originally proposed as the sitting room it was given over to VW when they realised that the view from the room above would be more suited to a sitting room. This room, which we didn’t see, is now let by the Trust as holiday accommodation.

Stay at MH

Room to Let

On leaving the house we walked the same route to the River Ouse that Virginia took on that fateful day 28 March 1941.

River Ouse

R Ouse

The River Ouse near Rodmell

More pictures inside Monk’s House :

Woolf sitting room

Sitting Room MH

Garden from sitting room MH

 Bloomsbury style

Tea and Books in Oxford

When I meet with my online book group chums there is not much chance of sightseeing. Rather we seem to stagger from book shop to tea shop with our bags getting heavier and our purses lighter (although every purchase is always a bargain) and tummies fuller.

Saturday was no exception. Back in December Simon, over at Stuck-in-a-book, had invited us to join him for a day in Oxford. Although it is possible to get there and back in a day from Leeds for easier travel I opted to go via two nights in London. This meant a not so early start from Paddington in the company of another group member on Saturday morning.

St John's Oxford

St John’s College, Oxford, on St Giles

The Jam Factory is just across the road (more or less) from Oxford Railway Station. (I should just add that from the station there is no indication that one is in the city of dreaming spires and all that; but we did eventually pass hurriedly by one or two colleges and churches so the joys of Oxford await me on a future visit.) The JF is a lovely light and airy venue and the food looked excellent although I only shared a pot of Oxford Blend Tea before we set off on our books and teas trail. Whilst we all assembled at this venue Simon told us more about the new project that he’s a founder member of Shiny New Books an online book review magazine. I urge you to pop over now and have a look.

In Beatnik Books

At Albion Beatnik Books

From the Jam Factory we headed to The Albion Beatnik Bookstore at 34 Walton Street. “Opened in 2009, this bookworm’s paradise is the coolest and most maverick of Oxford’s many bookstores. It offers an eclectic selection of new and secondhand books with a particular focus on jazz and blues … , American pulp fiction, graphic novels, beatnik poetry, Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group and neglected 20th century novels.”  Says my 2011 LV City Guide to Edinburgh, London and Oxford. On the table were flowers made of printed paper and our purchases were wrapped in more printed paper with a quotation sticker to seal.

Beatnik books

 

Beatnik book

Our next stop was the Oxfam Bookshop on St Giles but I also spotted the pub The Eagle and Child which has associations with the Inklings writers’ group which included J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis.

Eagle and Child

 

“A fascinating past :
The Eagle and Child lays claim to a number of interesting literary connections. J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and fellow writers met here and dubbed themselves ‘The Inklings’. They nicknamed the pub ‘The Bird and Baby’. A public house since 1650, our hostelry takes its name from the crest of the Earls of Derby. During the Civil War, our building was used as the playhouse for Royalist soldiers.” [From the pub website]

St Michael's St

St Michael’s Street

Time for lunch and the recommended venue was The Nosebag on St Michael’s St. I immediately recognised the address and building of The Oxford Union for it is the location of a Landmark Trust apartment : The Steward’s House. Even though it was after 2pm The Nosebag was packed so rather than miss out we had to split into two groups of 3 and 4. After the meal we dragged together enough chairs round one table in order to discuss the next steps in the campaign.

Oxford Union from The Nosebag

The Steward’s House and Oxfrod Union (red brick building) from the Nosebag

Pretty Arcadia is next door. It’s doesn’t just sell books but has a few displays and boxes outside and lots of vintage cards and accessories inside.

Before the end of our day we reached The Last Bookshop. This is also known as the £2 bookshop. It’s a great source of, presumably remaindered, new paper and hard back books. All priced (as it says on the tin) at £2. If I wasn’t such a devoted library user I would have bought loads here.

Last Bookshop

Actually, not The Last Book Shop for us

Our final two shops were – sellers of brushes not books – Objects of Use on Market Street – and a further Oxfam Bookshop on Turl Street. At least I thought OoU was more or less a kitchen wares shop as my companion and I only hovered near the entrance at a table full of brushes for different uses but I see from the website that it sells so much more. Apart from at The Home at Salts Mill this is the only other place that I have seen my Book Brush!

Book Brush

The very handy Book Brush

Book Brush Label

Instructions for Use

With trains and buses to catch around 5.30 time was pressing so we had a final tea and cake at ‘news’ and discussed plans for a Tenth Birthday Celebration in the autumn. All too soon it was time to hurry to station and rest our weary legs and heavy bags on the journey back to London.