What an absolutely lovely day today - sunshine from start to finish, and really quite warm. Warm enough, in fact, to take a cushion and sit on the low wall in the yard, and start reading one of the two books my dear friend Ann sent me today. As usual, new reading matter can eclipse the lure of a just-started book (in this case it was Philippa Gregory's The White Princess - I was just a chapter or two in, but my attention hadn't been fully grabbed. )
However, then I was torn between Jonathan Smith's "Summer in February", about artist Sir Alfred Munnings, and his time spent at the artists' colony at Lamorna in Cornwall, in those halcyon days before WW1, and Barbara Erskine's The Warrior's Princess, which is set along the Welsh marches and harks back to the time of Caractacus, and his and his family's imprisonment and journey to Rome. It was so like a summer's day today, and I felt in the mood for Cornwall, and so I sat down with Summer in February, and am 50 pages in now. As I gardened later on, my thoughts were drawn to Cornwall. I thought of Thomas Hardy meeting Emma Gifford, who was to be his first wife, in the parish of St Juliot, and their losing a little glass in a stream (I think they were picnicking near Beeny Cliff). I thought of Lamorna, and sang a few words from a folk song I remembered from my Dorset days. Gosh, that took me back - to the early 1980s for Dorset folk, and the late 70s when I belonged to a Folk Club in Salisbury. Lamorna also took me back to the books of Derek Tangye, and their cats and donkeys, and the tiny cottage they lived in near Minack, close to Lamorna Cove, from the 1950s onwards. They earned a living supplying early flowers for the London market, and I can remember them sending them in little bunches - on the milk train I think - flowers just set to open, and then gradually over the years the demand was for ones in tight bud. They made up little Cornish posies too, but the demand for these also faded. Their way of life was one of the inspirations which led to me living in a wet Welsh smallholding, with a semi-derelict house and a young family! I envied them their freedom, their choice of lifestyle, and the happiness they shared with their animals. These books are being republished now, so if you haven't read any of them, you are in for a treat. Then I had a Daphne du Maurier moment - she is an author I have always been fascinated by and I have read many of her novels over the years (some several times), and have a small collection of biographies about her. I thought of spooky Jamaica Inn (it has just been sold, I believe, for an eye-watering two million pounds!) and of course, Rebecca, and the house which inspired Manderley, Menabilly, owned by the Rashleigh family, and which du Maurier fell in love with, despite its decrepit state, and she and her family loved in for many years. I remembered going to Fowey when the children were much younger and we were staying with my husband's cousin and family. We crossed on the ferry from Polruan to Fowey, and I can still see in my mind's eye, Daphne du Maurier's house "Ferryside", snoozing in the summer sunshine, with the wind skiffing the waters of the river, and the sunlight glinting of the choppy wavelets. It was easy to imagine du Maurier, and her husband "Boy" Browning sailing up the Fowey in their yacht "Ygdrasil". My children were being absolutely awful, and then I realized that it was long past lunchtime, and once we all had bags of chips, they became more amenable, and we spent a long while in a bookshop, where I bought "The Romance of the Stones" about Cornish archaeology (mainly Neolithic). Then my thoughts came full-circle when I looked at the Munnings painting on the cover of the book - his wife, I believe, riding side-saddle on a beautiful dark brown Thoroughbred, the darkness of the painting lifted by the long-tailed white jacket and full brimmed white hat she is wearing. I was then transported back to Dorset, and another - huge - Munnings canvas of his wife on her favourite hunter, in the Russell-Cotes Museum. The background is a slapdash greenery laid on thickly with a pallate-knife, but the horse is in superb detail . . . Oh - and the gardening went well too!! Apologies for the lack of spacing - I have a new hard drive, and yet Google bloger tells me I have an "error on page" and I am having great problems. Deep joy . . . Hence the lack of photos too.