I’ve just come home from a lovely cruise, which circumnavigated the island of Sicily, calling in at a different port every day and treating us to different delights at every one of them, to say nothing of great food, great company and wonderful weather. What more could anyone want?
But there was one little snag. And that was the mystery of the disappearing cabin. Agatha Christie would have loved it. It was a pretty little cabin, but almost impossible to find. I was escorted to it when I first arrived and assumed that I’d be able to find it the next time I looked for it. Wrong. I went down the flight of stairs that had been pointed out to me the previous evening and found myself walking down a small corridor between four cabins, but none of them were mine. However there were doors at each end of the corridor so I went out of one of them and set off on a hunt. It didn’t take me long to realise that somebody had hidden the cabin away. I opened up several doors but none of them led to the cabin, although I did manage to find the engine room and the galley – rather to the surprise of the chefs who were working in it – and eventually I gave up the search, collared a member of the crew and told him I had lost my cabin and he very kindly led me to it.
That should have been the problem solved but the next day, when I went hunting for it having pigged myself at breakfast, my mysterious cabin had disappeared again – shock horror! By this time the other passengers were beginning to enjoy the fact that they had a rather moronic fellow passenger who giggled a lot and couldn’t find her cabin. And so it went on for five days or maybe even more. I took to explaining to them that I was going in search of my elusive cabin whenever I felt the need to visit it and asked them to send out search parties for me if I didn’t return within half an hour.
On the sixth day when two of my new friends were laughing at the thought that I was searching yet again, the husband of one of them got up, smiled at me and very kindly offered to find my mystery cabin for me. ‘Come on,’ he said. ‘We’ll find it.’ I thought how lovely he was. He searched on both sides of the ship very thoroughly but he couldn’t find it any more than I could. In the end he led me up a flight of stairs I hadn’t noticed before and we found ourselves in the reception area where he had had to admit defeat and ask one of the reception staff to lead us to my wandering cabin. Which they did. This time they led me to a door I’d never seen before. There was now no doubt in my mind at all. The cabin had a will of it’s own and was wandering about the ship willy nilly – determined not to be found. Beat that Agatha C!
At dinner that evening, our exploits were the talk of the tables and there was so much laughter it was a wonder we had any time to eat.
But it was a great cruise, wandering cabin or not. And it gave me this blog.
Posters are now going up in a variety of shops, pubs and cafes in Felpham village and more will follow this afternoon. Their message is quite clear. If the triumvirate who now ‘own’ Blake’s Cottage ‘on behalf of the nation’ have sufficient money to brag that they will spend £50,000 (no, I’m not kidding) on drawings and plans for a new building they obviously intend to put up in the garden. It will cost half a million pounds and will require half the cottage to be pulled down. (And I’m not kidding about that either). Given all that, they ought to be able to find the mere £4,800 which is what is needed to put in supports to the rafters and mend those that are now rotten and falling apart.
The cleaner who has been looking after the cottage since the triumvirate bought it a year ago, has told a neighbour that it is now getting visibly worse every time she visits it. The local photographer who was ‘commissioned’ by the triumvirate (although not paid) to take regular pictures of the cottage inside and out, has now been told to desist. In fact he was forbidden to hand over any of his interior pictures to me when I wanted to put them on this blog.
But now, even when we walk past the cottage we can see what a bad state it’s in.
So if you’re local and want to tell the triumvirate that they should stop telling us how wonderful this new building is going to be and how people will flock from all parts of the world to come and see it and get on with the repair of Blake’s Cottage. That is quite the most important thing they have to do. If you own a property it is beholden on you to keep it in a good state of repair. If you own a property ‘for the nation’ your duty towards the property and the nation are even more pressing and important.
Do please sign our petition and give us your support. You will find it in most of the places where the poster is on display. And keep in touch with me for any further information.
Will Harvey has designed this splendid poster for us and produced a petition form for us too. Now I am asking if any of you are prepared to help this campaign in anyway – either by putting the poster up in your home, shop, pub, cafe and/or being prepared to keep copies of the petition on the premises – to get in touch.
Any information you ask for, I will happily provide.
Since I wrote part 5 yesterday, I’ve been studying the opening sequence of Tim Heath’s/The Blake Cottage Trust’s website. I was so angry at the casual way the state of the cottage was talked about that I skipped over the opening sequence, which was perhaps even more important. For in it headlined ‘How do you choose an Architect?’ Tim Heath’s plan to pull down half the cottage or what he called ‘accretions that have been added to the building over two centuries’ and to build ‘a multipurpose building in the liberated space that would expand our curatorial boundaries and be an architectural jewel to draw people to the village in its own right.’
He admits he has already approached four architectural firms to compete for the privileged to build this new gem and says he will choose which of them it is to be and that ‘the appointment will be formally announced in September’. Obviously he means to do it.
Now apart from the fact that those of us who live in the village want whatever money there is available in the Blake Cottage Trust kitty to be spent now to start the repairs and not frittered away on competitions for architects, there is also the fact that he is completely wrong about this new building being a draw that will bring visitors to Felpham. If visitors come to Blake’s Cottage and I hope they do, they will come to see the house that Blake lived and worked in and anything else built in the garden will simply be – to use Tim Heath’s words – an ‘accretion’ that they will hardly notice. Given all this I think we have two jobs ahead of us in the village, one is to press for the repairs to begin forthwith and that has started already, the other is to insist that any new building shouldn’t even be considered until Blake’s Cottage itself is ready, running, successful and making a profit.
Do please leave a comment when you’ve read this and tell me what you think. Given the fact that the Blake Cottage Trust consists of only three men and that there must be hundreds of people in the village who want to preserve the cottage, some of whom would have given money to the first appeal, I think we should remember Shelly’s rousing battle cry:
Some of the trustees of the Blake Society have been talking to Tim Heath, who as you’ll probably remember, is the principal member of the Blake Cottage Trust triumvirate and have persuaded him to release some of the information he’s been given about the present state of the cottage. It is dire. As you can see, if you look at the images on this link:
My amanuensis and I have tried to download the pictures for you but it can’t be done, however they are now in the public domain and anyone can see them by using the link.
The journal is easier to download – take a look at this.
Now we know how very little, relatively speaking, it will cost to start the repairs we all want to see started. If the Blake Cottage Trust have sufficient money to contemplate spending half a million pounds on a brand new building that they have said they will knock down half the existing cottage to build (and that will cost money too) and have presumably set aside the £50,000 they were talking about which will be the cost of the plans and architectural drawings for this proposed building, they shouldn’t have any problem paying the bill to have this vital work done. You will notice that the principal conservation officer of the Arun District Council has given them permission to do it. The only thing that Mr Heath has not told us is when this is going to be.
On the other hand, it is also possible that the proposed new building was actually a pipe dream and they haven’t got the money for it. It might even be that they haven’t got the £4,800 that is needed for the repairs. If that is the case, instead of dragging this whole business out and delaying and delaying in the hope that something will turn up, Mr Micawber style, they should come clean and admit it to us.
Perhaps we should let him know how very important we think this work is and how impatient we are for him to get it started. Perhaps we should start that petition we’ve been thinking about. What do you think?