Sunday 22 March 2009

Sunday mystery

Here's a nice little Sunday afternoon mystery. There I was, sorting stuff out (as you do when daughter is coming home from Uni next week and you have to turn what has been a handy dumping ground all term back into something resembling the bedroom she left in January) and I opened up a box (yes, I know, big mistake) that I'd retrieved from my mother's bungalow and found a mysterious envelope bundled up inside.
Stamp Helvetica 50 somethings, postmarked Geneva, date possibly 1945 (but possibly not)

Address label: "The Lancet" which is a British Medical Journal that as far as I am aware my family has no connection with at all.
Inside was a pile of wooden jigsaw pieces. Curiouser and curiouser.

So I shook them out. They were hand cut and not at all regular so... Well what do you think? I made the jigsaw, of course.
Now - this is the weird bit. I KNEW that girl in the pink dress. And I nearly knew the woman in the yellow blouse at the back. And the little girl on the right had a haircut the dead-ringer for one I had when I was five or so. She could almost have been me at that age, except I knew she wasn't me.

At this point I had a cup of tea. I mean, she really wasn't me, right? Because this photo-print-jigsaw thing must be a lot older than than that. And why was it in a Red Cross envelope postmarked 1945?

I looked at the jigsaw on and off for the next hour. "That woman at the back looks a bit like Nanna," said son on one of his passages through the kitchen. "No, it's not," I said. "Nanna never looked like that." And then (after another cup of tea) it hit me. The little girl on the right - the one that definitely wasn't me - that was my mother. Which meant that the girl in the pink dress (that I'd KNOWN I'd known) was my aunt. And the woman in the yellow bending over at the back was my Nana.

I rang my aunt to ask if she owned a pink dress with a white collar when she was about eight years old, but she was out.
And I still don't know why it was in a 1945 Red Cross envelope addressed to The Lancet.

Saturday 21 March 2009

Price drop

Hey! Amazon just reduced the price of Fair Deception! (See side panel)

Quick - buy one before they change their mind!


Monday 16 March 2009

Archibald, Katie and Kate

Nice couple of days in London. First at the Intimate Portrait free exhibition at the British Museum studying 18th/19th Century informal portraits and miniatures where I fell totally in love with Archibald Skirving - or at least, with his self-portrait.

[Archibald Skirving, Self-portrait, 1790. On loan from the Scottish National Portrait Gallery]

Then to the March meeting of the RNA where a packed room heard all about how to endear ourselves to our publicists (should we be in the fortunate position of having one).

Highlight of the meeting for me, though, was that my friend Kate Thomson was awarded this year's Katie Fforde Bursary for unpublished RNA members who really deserve to have made it by now. Go, Kate!

(I have serious frock-envy, but I still love you.)

Sunday 1 March 2009

"Welcome to Newmarket"

It doesn't take much to excite me. So when I was browsing sites for old maps of Suffolk last night and came across this print of the entrance to Newmarket in 1828 I did a small jig of joy (it had to be a small one because (a) everyone else was asleep and (b) there isn't much space in the workroom).

I LOVE the entrance to Newmarket. Always have done, ever since my first view of it when we were considering moving here from London. And here it is - just as Kit describes it to Susanna in Fair Deception. Enjoy!

[Drawing by William Westall, Engraving by Edward Finden]

The weather was propitious for their journey even if the rutted and ill-maintained roads left much to be desired. Accustomed to the bumping and jolting of the Chartwell Players’ wagons, Susanna came to the amused conclusion that she felt the discomfort far less than either her maid or Kit’s valet.
. “Whoa, there!” The horses came to a halt and she heard Kit’s voice calling from alongside. “Look! Isn’t Newmarket the prettiest prospect? Think so every time I come!” He sprang down from the curricle and opened the carriage door.
. Emerging, Susanna at once saw what he meant. All around lay the wild, empty expanse of Newmarket Heath, but in front the road fell away to reveal the elegant main street of a market town nestled snugly between one rise and the next.
. “I believe you’ll like it,” said Kit. “I never knew such a town for so many things going on for its size. Why, there must be upwards of a dozen places where you can get a decent chop and a good bottle of claret.”
. John Farley snorted. “And a couple of score more where you take your life in your hands asking for a tankard of ale, Mr Kit! Miss Susanna won’t be going to any of them. Nor the mills or the cock-fighting.”
. Susanna smiled. “Mrs Belmont did say it was not a town for ladies.”
. “Not when the race meetings are on,” conceded Kit. “It is all horses, horses, horses. But I daresay it is much like any other place for the rest of the time.” He pointed. “You cannot tell it from here but the road divides the town. The right-hand side has the larger properties: Crockford, Queensbury and so on keep houses here. Further along on the left is the warren where Johnny’s doubtful taverns are situated, but there are a good many ordinary, solid villas to be found too.”
. An odd tightness constricted Susanna’s chest as she gazed down at the street with its carts, phaetons and carriages. She had been so busy keeping Kit at a distance in case some hint of her feelings for him escaped that she had managed to push this moment to the back of her mind. But now she was actually in Newmarket, about to descend into the town itself and still she hadn’t told him about her past.