Summer by the sea

I met up with three trustees of the Blake Society yesterday. It was a very enjoyable meeting because we all got on so well and at the end of it one of them asked me if Blake was happy when he lived in Felpham. I told her, he was and quoted his words ‘Felpham sweet Felpham, all heaven is here.’ But I had to admit that by the time he left the village he was rather disillusioned with it and was glad and relieved to get back to Lambeth.

Now here I am back on the coast again and feeling very, very happy to be here, I have never stopped being fond of Felpham and missed it sorely when I was away from it during the war. It really is ‘Felpham sweet Felpham,’ to me, and I find it beautiful no matter what time of day it is and what the weather is doing.

I swam from these beaches when I was young and sit happily beside them now that I’m old. And thinking about it has made me wonder, how many others feel the same sort of affection for a place. There must be millions of us. Is it any wonder I defend Blake’s Cottage so passionately?

No news of that incidentally, at the moment, but I will pass on whatever news there is as soon as I get some.

 

This entry was posted on August 24, 2016. 1 Comment

What’s happening to Blake’s Cottage part 4.

This is simply to keep those of you who are concerned about Blake’s Cottage up to date as far as I can.

The first thing to say is that nothing has been done to the cottage at all, despite the fact that Mr Johns (one of the triumvirate who own the cottage) assured the Bognor Observer that they were expecting to receive permission ‘in a few days’ from Arun District Council for repair work to begin. That was back on June 16th which is now more than 2 months ago. There is still no sign of a planning permission notice outside the cottage nor any indication that repairs are about to start.

The second thing to say that although we are now playing a waiting game, I have not been idle. I have spoken at length to Mr Lydford and his wife and know a great deal more about how badly injured he was when the wall fell on him. He tells me that he has had no communication at all, either from the owners of the chalet next door (who owned the bulk of the wall), nor from any of the triumvirate of the Blake Cottage Trust who owned a section of the wall that also fell down. That seems extremely heartless to me.

The third thing is that I have managed to visit one of the active members of the Felpham Village Conservation Society and listened to what he had to say to me about it. Which was very interesting.

The fourth thing is that I have written to Mr Andy Camp who is currently the chairman of the FVCS, detailing my concerns over what is happening or not happening to the cottage. And I am now waiting for his reply.

I am, in short, keeping the pot a-boiling. I hope there will be more to tell you in my next.

If you’ve found anything out please tell me so that I can pass it on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This entry was posted on August 17, 2016. 2 Comments

Beauty in the eye of the beholder? Or not?

Some years ago, I found myself at a party, sitting with one of the guests and his brothers, listening to them talk. I found it decidedly comical because although none of them were even remotely what you could called handsome, they were all complimenting one another on how good looking they were. ‘Well’, one of them said eventually. ‘Is it any wonder? I mean, think how good looking Dad was.’ At which I had to get up and pretend I was off to the loo because that was too funny and too incredible. I’d always thought that their father looked like Bela Lugosi. But it made me think of our criteria for beauty.

To my eyes, the gorgeous Monroe had a face that told a story, quite exceptionally beautiful but with a touch of vulnerability that made me want to rush across the Atlantic, put my arms round her and comfort her. How silly we are in our adolescence! Yet when I came to read about her early life and all the things she’d had to endure as a child, that vulnerability made sense. It didn’t dent my own, rather conceited belief that I could read faces and recognise beauty rather well. Yeah. Yeah.

 

Of course, my own children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren were all quite touchingly beautiful.

To be gazed at in the open, rapturous way of the very young or to watch a toddler absorbed in

something new, is simple delight. Perhaps simple delight feels like beauty. Or is it because our love for them clouds our ability to see whether they are beautiful or not? They are ours and we love them and they love us. What more could any of us want?

But.

In Macbeth, Shakespeare gives King Duncan a speech which begins ‘There’s no art to find the minds construction in the face’  and although I’m a great admirer of our greatest poet, I have often wondered if he really was right about this. Can we tell what a person is like merely by looking at their face?
When I was a child the very best adult in my life was a remote relation who lived in the same house and loved me dearly. I always thought of her as lovely, loving woman. She was caring, gentle, a source of wicked mischief and very, very beautiful. It came as quite a shock when somebody discovered this picture of her, years after her death. It had been taken at a family wedding and was, as you see, grainy. And I had to admit then and with some sadness that she wasn’t beautiful at all, but really quite ordinary. It didn’t alter the way I had always felt about her but it brought me up short. Her beauty, really was, in my beholders eye.

This entry was posted on August 12, 2016. 1 Comment

Walk and talk

Yesterday Charlotte and I spent the entire morning writing letters to people who live in Felpham and are anxious about what is going to happen to Blake’s Cottage. It was a long chore, but a necessary one. This morning we felt we’d earned a bit of a break. We left the cottage to fend for itself for a day and went out for a ‘walk and talk’ along the Felpham promenade. It was as you can see, just the right sort of day for it.

Perhaps I should explain that ‘walk and talk’ is my way of sorting out some of the knots that snarl themselves up in most of my manuscripts while the work is in progress. My old darling and I were experts at it, my new darling and I are rapidly becoming experts. We set off along a lovely, quiet prom prom prom, with no brass bands going tiddly-om-pom-pom. 

We walked for about a mile and the first knot was unscrambled within the first 100 yards. My 15 year old, feisty heroine has a putative boyfriend who admires her but will rapidly quarrel with her. The quarrel had to make sense from the POV of his character and hers. 

The sun shone, our walk continued and we turned our attention to her relationship with her father. I had set it up to be difficult from the opening chapter, when she dyes her long, blonde hair black and goes Goth to annoy him. But there was lots to be sorted out here too as we walked, talked and unscrambled. The sun shone on us all the way, the Felpham seafront sat contentedly in the sea breeze and by the time we decided we had earned ourselves a short rest, we’d walked about half a mile. Oh we writers have a terrible life of it.

 

On our return half mile with Butlin’s white tents glimmering in the sunshine ahead of us and the prom full of brisk dog walkers, we rejigged the chapters we’d disturbed by our unravelling efforts and worked up a considerable thirst and a healthy appetite, both of which had to be slaked. Like I said. We writers live a terrible life.

We said goodbye to the beach and the Felpham beach huts feeling very well pleased with ourselves. Back to Blake tomorrow, I haven’t forgotten it.

 

This entry was posted on July 28, 2016. 2 Comments

A 21st Century fairy story

Once upon a time, at the beginning at the 21st Century there was a powerful and secretive man. Let us call him Mr Malum. As this is a fairy story you will probably ask if he’s a good fairy or a bad fairy. Well let us consider it. If you read the description of himself that he published in a business journal, you would think he was the best of good fairies, for he comes across as the epitomy of philanthropic human kindness, a man devoted to persuading the very rich to give money to charities. However, if you study his company reports, you will see quite another creature behind the mask. The job he actually does is to advise the mega rich on how to avoid paying income tax in any of the countries where they trade, and to put possible new business opportunities their way whenever he finds them. In short he’s a man with an eye to the main chance.

Three years ago an interesting property came onto the market. It had once been the home of one of our most famous poets but that wasn’t what interested our Mr Malum. What interested him was a) that it stood in a plot of land that was ripe for development and b) that the small literary society that was struggling to get the money together to buy it had a shortfall of nearly £400,000.

Mr Malum picked up his magic wand and contacted one of his most wealthy clients who was looking to enter into the world of property development. Between them they thought up an almost foolproof plan. The client, whom we shall call Mr Moneybags, would hand the necessary £400,000 over to the charity (such a sum was chicken feed to him) and Mr Malum would start the next stage of the procedure.

First he set up a private trust company naming himself as managing director. Then he contacted the chairman of the literary society whom we will call Mr Gullible and told him that he had a donor ready to help him and that the whole process of buying the property would be easier if it were done by a small charitable trust rather than by the society he chaired, because their activities were under scrutiny by several unpaid but very well meaning trustees. Mr Gullible was warned that the donor wished to remain anonymous and that nothing should be done to disturb his anonymity. The new trust was duly set up with three members, it was the easiest thing in the world as it was already up and running and directed by Mr Malum who simply stood down as director and handed over to the new three man team. The property was brought, there was rejoicing in the village where it stood and a happy ending seemed to have been reached. But that is not the way of fairy stories.

Little did we know.

For a start, the property was in bad repair and the three man trust didn’t have sufficient money to repair it immediately, which was a little difficult for them because they were beginning to come under pressure from a small, local group which had been raising money towards the sale price. It was led by a passionate, young woman who wanted the property to be open for artists, musicians and poets and rather fancied herself as a patron of the arts. Let us call her Ms Patrona. After a little while, she and her friends were beginning to be something of a nuisance to the three man team and who did they turn to for assistance? Yes you’ve guessed it. Mr Malum.

Mr Malum being the magical and powerful figure he is, with an ability to pull any number of strings simultaneously, got in touch with the local council. His advice to them was suave and sound. Ms Patrona wanted to be a patron of the arts. Very well then, rent her a property in the nearby town and give her so much work to do running it that she wouldn’t have time to worry about anything else. Simple. But of course as Mr Malum was careful to point out such generosity would come with conditions and in her case the condition would be that she would not do anything public in opposition to Mr Gullible and his three man team. The deed was done and her silence was ensured. At that point, surprise, surprise, the three man team broke the news to the general public that part of the property was going to be pulled down and a beautiful new, state of the art, half a million pound building erected on the site. Well, well, well.

Time for the good fairy I think. And yes there is one. It is a small, insignificant, white plant that glows in the dark. Mr Malum noticed it on one occasion when he was inspecting the garden and told the gardener to get rid of it. The gardener didn’t obey him for he knew the value of plants and especially of this one. It is called Veritas.

 

This entry was posted on July 22, 2016. 5 Comments

What’s happening to Blake’s cottage part 3

This blog will have to be brief of necessity. I now know a great deal more about what is likely to happen to Blake’s cottage and its garden but I cannot say anything about it until I’m quite sure of my facts.

I held the meeting in the Memorial Hall in Felpham on Saturday and was impressed by the 20 people who turned up. They were thoughtful, knowledgeable and good tempered. We passed round what little news we had. One lady told us that all three parts of the cottage were Grade II listed another said that any repairs proposed for an old and listed building had to be passed through planning, as she knew because she lived in the oldest building in the village. As that was the case it was agreed that between us we would watch Blake’s cottage and tell one another when the planning permission form appears on the wall. So far no planning applications of any kind have been put up on the Arun District Council website, as those who’ve been watching it knew, although the planning officer told me that the new building had been ‘under discussion’.

One man took exception, rightly, to having the 1950s part of the cottage described as an ‘eye-sore’ in the handout from the Blake Cottage Trust that was featured in the local press, others who also knew the cottage well agreed with him and were opposed to the thought that it might be pulled down to make way for this luxurious half a million pound building.

But at the end of the meeting we simply agreed that we would wait and see what happens next and this is what I have told the two local reporters who have contacted me since.

When I know and can say more, I will.

Children, dogs & the elderly

How kind of the authorities to warn us that children, dogs and the elderly should not be left in cars during very hot weather. I don’t admit to being elderly – after all what’s 85? – no don’t tell me – But I’m glad nobody’s going to leave me in a car to roast to death on a hot day, although I think it just about possible that I might manage to open the door and get out before I suffocated as these two very obviously would.

All of which has made me think about our rather odd attitudes to people who’ve passed retirement age but not necessarily their sell by date and have reached the splendidly anarchical age of happy eccentricity. I have always admired Jenny Joseph’s aim for old age and yes, I know I’ve quoted a lot of poetry to you on this blog, but this one is a stunner.

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat that doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me,
And I shall spend my pension
on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals,
and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I am tired,
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells,
And run my stick along the public railings,
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens,
And learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat,
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go,
Or only bread and pickle for a week,
And hoard pens and pencils and beer mats
and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry,
And pay our rent and not swear in the street,
And set a good example for the children.
We will have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
So people who know me
are not too shocked and surprised,
When suddenly I am old
and start to wear purple!
Jenny Joseph

And can you imagine telling either of these feisty ladies what they should and shouldn’t do?

We might be old – if you can get us to admit it – but we can also be feisty, eccentric, individual and unpredictable just as we were in our teens and twenties and all through our lives. And damn it we feel young.

 

 

 

 

This entry was posted on July 20, 2016. 7 Comments