Monday 31 December 2018

And it Still Goes On

Dearest Emily,

It’s New Years Eve as I write, we’ve had a lovely time together over Christmas and I’m sitting down ready to contemplate things that happened this year- and hopes and dreams for the next- and it occurs to me to tell you a bit of a strange story. Strange in how it came about- and stranger that it’s hitherto not come to light.

It concerns some World War One Poets, my Bookshop, an Academic and a previously un-performed play...

First stop- My Bookshop, and a delivery of books for me to price up. One volume of Poetry entitled
Marlborough and Other Poems by Sorley- I was unable to price, possibly because it had been a long day of pricing books and I had put it aside. I had noticed a rather striking bookplate with an illustration of a chap who looked rather Aubrey Beardsley-esque in the characterisation. The more books I get in to price, and the more books I load up on my Abe Books account seem to win the constant daily war I have on a tidy shop- and this volume sat in one of the many book towers around me. Further deliveries, sales and book-listings took over, and the little volume got forgotten.
However, several of my more canny Collectors, have tumbled my ‘method’ and drop by nonchalantly.
They nonchalantly chat, nonchalantly drink coffee, and nonchalantly scour the book towers, messing up my system.
And so it was one day recently when one particular nonchalanteer, exclaimed for the umpteenth time
“How do you do it? How do you find such interesting books?” as he scurried off into the corner, removing Winston my shop mascot who sits in the comfy chair in the window and setting him on the floor, and he in the chair with his chosen spoils.
I continued with my pricing, he, drank tea- and then spluttered (moving the book out of the way of his spluttering.)
“Price this one up for me please?”
“Oh, yes, will do. I did try to before but hadn’t really got anywhere.”
All was unusually quiet in the comfy corner for quite some time- and as he left he nonchalantly asked if he could borrow the book for research purposes.
The next day, he returned without the book, asking if I had priced it yet, and telling me that the Author was commended by Robert Graves as being one of the three most important World War One poets- Graves, Wilfred Owen and Sorley- whose ‘Marlborough and Other Poems’
was the volume of desire.
“Oh, I’d say £35 then I expect- bring it back and I’ll check it out for you”.
We chatted and I remarked that I’d remembered a striking bookplate inside.

A few days later he returned exclaiming that it was indeed an interesting plate- and had I seen the inscription- which was to the previous owner from the bookplate owner...

My nonchalant detective had deduced that the bookplate owner/giver of Sorley volume- was also
a Poet. Geoffrey Phibbs.

But here- the six degrees of separation theory goes haywire.

Geoffrey Phibbs, was a friend of Robert Graves. A close friend. In fact he was involved in a ‘ménage a quatre’ with his Wife/Graves and Mrs Graves. Mr and Mrs Graves had jumped out of a window over it- leaving Mrs Graves dead.

At this moment, I remembered something and went to a corner of my shop where I had stacked up some Graves following going to see Aunty Charlotte in a fringe premiere of a play by Graves last summer- ‘But it Still Goes On’. The play was entertaining and farcical, but the ending had bothered me- which I’d questioned to Aunty Charlotte- who had told me that the Director has to choose from several possible endings as the previously unperformed play was in manuscript form and had several possibilities.

I shan’t spoil those possibilities Em, this is for further research- but, the point about today’s blog to you is that it turns out that the play was not performed before because Graves had been warned that it was too libellous.

This little play, Em- was too libellous because it was essentially about the characters that made up the ménage a quatre that led to Graves’ Wife’s death. The ending ‘bothered me’. My nonchalant Academic turned up with the book. The book- has the ending that made the title make sense.

There’s more to be done on this little detective story on dead people- and for now- just look at the similarity between Graves’ Wife and her ‘counterpart’ in the play that had no idea what it was depicting!

Spooky- these Bookshops!

Happy New Year to you, Bel and Fizz,

Your ever-loving Grandmother,

GiGi Xxx

Friday 29 December 2017

Season’s Greetings

Dearest Em, Bel and Fizz,
I hope you all had a suitably over-excited and Magical Christmas. Judging by our early December celebrations and what I know of you all- that is a certainty! I thoroughly enjoyed being with you all and watching you get involved with decorating your own little Children’s Tree- and having our own Seasonal Celebration.
Now, I need to admit something to you- I was quite looking forwards to ‘Designing my Own Christmas ‘ this year...
Being truly honest- I’ve always been more of a Winter Solstice soul- so, I thought I’d paint you a picture of just that- on Winter Solstice morning, out of my upstairs window over School Green.

I think I may  have mentioned here before about how I feel a Pagan heartbeat that chimes for me so well with the Island and for me particularly West-Wight.
I do, like the notion of festivities marking out jollity, celebration, love and kindnesses in the deepest depths of Winter- the ‘half-way’ when the days tip-over into beginning to get longer again and promise Spring and Summer.
I love the idea of getting together all the nuts, fruits and staples from the store cupboard - and cooking up a yearly turnout into cakes, pies, pickles and sauces.
I adore serving these to Family, Friends, Colleagues and Customers...
But, personally I’ve never been partial to Turkey, or gravy. I simply loathe Sprouts, can take or leave a roast potato, find bread sauce a bit ‘mushy’ and positively hate Christmas Pudding and Brandy Butter.
Neither do I like Christmas Cake or Mince Pies- and I am troubled by anything Cadbury’s masquerading as chocolate- and the excesses thereof, challenge my usual liberal sensibilities.
Historically, my inner- monologue has sought successfully to be quelled.
Left to my own devices by Boxing Day- all vestiges of commercial excess would have worrisomely been assigned to the recycling bin- Wrapping paper I couldn’t re-use, packaging- a bothersome plenty, and any kitsch piece of nonsense I might not drag out next year- a challenge to my poor little brain.
Do not get me wrong...
I LOVE, your wide-eyed view of it all. I love the magic, the bed-time stories- the traditions and the Family get- togetherness.
Yup, your Grandmother, GiGi, has reached an age where she says it is really for the children.
I’m not ‘Bah-humbug’ about it.
I love the vibe. As of  Christmas Eve particularly here in Freshwater, people arrived to see their families and came to me for gifts and a lovely catch-up-a palpable sense of lightness and seasonal fun has pervaded the village and it is good.
However, Em (Bel and Fizz) I did feel something of a sense of foreboding as it seemed to me that my declaration of being happy about the idea of Christmas Day going solo
was a bit troublesome. This was mainly the result of many well-meaning friends and family declaring that ‘you shouldn’t be on your own in Christmas Day’...
I awoke early as usual- and punctuated my usual routine with the ritual yearly giving of the dogs ‘Reindeer Headbands’ . This took all of 30 seconds as this year, Marley decided to break with this tradition quite firmly and rip Milly’s ears of of her head- leg it up to the end of the garden and tear them to shreds. Seems like I’m not the only one breaking with tradition this year.
I walked the dogs, made a few loaves of Pumpkin Bread, ate Smoked Salmon and Scrambled eggs- happily- but all the time slightly apprehensive that a Black Dog, might just tap me on the shoulder.
The day passed quite contentedly- and notwithstanding the hole that is there daily since Grumpa died, it wasn’t so bad.
I guess that the novelty of spontaneously making a Nut Roast- and being able to eat my own version of Christmas dinner (Salmon, Nut Roast and Spring Greens) and idling away my day pleasantly culminating in listening to Neil Gaiman read a Christmas Carol- was just what I needed this year.
Today, would be your Auntie Lucy’s Nineteenth Birthday. I have lit a Candle for her beautiful soul tonight.
No Black Dog was behind me- or even on my perception of the horizon.
Sometimes, I think- you get golden opportunities to see reflections of what really matters in your own life.
I’ve got you all (and you, have me!) We have had the blessings in our lives that Grumpa and Lucy gave us- and they live on in our hearts forever.
I don’t miss- this year- doing all the things that surrounded Christmas that I disliked. The excesses of rich food I didn’t like- the (to my feeling) excesses of gifts wrapped in plastic- body lotions/soaps/Celebrations mock-chocolates/tins of shortbread that would go soft before eaten/ Family bags of Crisps/yet another Christmas Pudding to add to the 9 from previous years etc etc etc...
This year, I spent it alone- yes, but I didn’t feel lonely.
I’m looking forwards to 2018 dear Grandgirlies as I expect you all are to a degree- whilst delightfully living in the present.
So that is where we shall all delight.
The present is ALWAYS a good gift!
Your Ever-Loving Grand-Mother,
GiGi Xxx

Tuesday 12 December 2017

The Freshwater Chronicles

Dearest Em, Bel and Fizz,
(Yes, Em I know this is your blog, but I think it is time to mash things up a bit.) There are several reasons- and since a lot of mulling after the summer when you lost dear Auntie Lucy up to the Sky with her Diamonds, I’ve found it a struggle to come up with my normally easy haul of half- baked ‘wisdoms’ of the Grandmother variety. So, I’ve given up on that one.
Instead- the role of Grandmother has been taken seriously. I have adopted silver hair, knitted 9
 jumpers in three months- and bought a rocking chair.
So, I shall now just read you Grandmother GiGi’s bedtime stories (in the form of diaries as I am not actually a ‘writer’.)

The Freshwater Chronicles 
The Dark Side of the Moon

I think I may have mentioned to you all on several occasions- just how much I love living here, ever since setting foot on the Isle fifty years after visiting it at your age Em. I call it affectionately the ‘Centre of the Universe’ and when Grumpa and I first came again in 2005- I felt I had come ‘Home’.
The breath-taking scenery, the inspirational ‘Wight-Light’- here on the Wild-West is wonderfully rural and coastal- all together and there is such a strong sense of ‘other’ in the daily forces of nature with all its changing beauty, that demand a grounded sort of person in order not to be overwhelmed.
Grumpa used to say that it ‘brings you up against yourself- and gives and takes in equal measure.’
Of course though Em, not everyone here is grounded all of the time...
There’s a tale I’ve told your Daddy (since he wisely describes here as ‘going down the Yellow Brick
Road’) about a freshly retired local Policeman/turned Book-dealer, who told me that when he was stationed here- all the full- Moon rosters had no takers all of a sudden. No- one wanted to work on the full moon as they considered them to be full of incidents.
They say, that if all the British Isles, the Isle of Wight was the last to fall to Christianity- and some say, it never has. My Pagan soul appreciates this- as there is truly a non-conformist ‘ordinariness’ to Freshwater- which, far from boring is quite extraordinarily ‘ordinary’.
People generally subscribe to Common-sense, charity and live and let-live (though gossip about it.)
Similar traits could be found up and down the country, but a petty-full small price to pay for the gloriousness of our surroundings.
However, it seems there’s a Dark Side to the Moon.
Low levels of Crime and a questionable Lawlessness may work when you are on the common- good side- but on the receiving end?
I had reason to contact the Police (three times before they came out) the first time in eleven years of living here.
A family of historical bullies had in their way used the local ‘lawlessness’ to be interpreted as meaning they could use their considered ‘entitlement ‘ to do as they pleased- and bully anyone who
questioned their actions...
I don’t think it will work here, Em.
There may be a ‘Dark Side of the Moon’, but on your recent birthday visit, Annabel- you claimed the Moon as yours. If you look quite hard at the dark bits, there are colours and light that command the shade.

Lovely to see Florence walking last weekend- and insisting on wearing a bike helmet to balance upon her head as she pushed her little chair around the kitchen!
Your ever-loving Grandmother,
GiGi xxx

Friday 29 September 2017

The Good Life- to the Manor Born

Dearest Emily,
When GiGi was a teenager (yes, a very long time ago) there were two television programmes that I loved to watch.
The first was called 'The Good Life'. It was all about a couple living in suburbia, who decided to grow their own food, make their own clothes, and as much as possible- live off of their own semi-detached land.
Next door the couple also had aspirations- except theirs were social climbing ones- embracing all the snobbery and frippery of that and behaving as though in their modest semi- they were in fact 'To the Manor Born'.
I immersed myself in this sitcom- imagining I was Felicity Kendal's character in my life. At the same time- I adored the character next door, hilariously played by Penelope Keith.
When the series finished, Penelope starred in another sitcom- To the Manor Born, and I watched every episode as she beguiled and delighted us as a character who had sold the family pile, and moved into the Lodge, as financial constraints demanded.
Fast forward forty years, and my life here in Freshwater- and though I'm no crop-grower, I can draw satisfying parallels from my two favourite sitcoms.
My business is a pretty sustainable one-rescuing, repairing and recycling books that otherwise end up  as landfill.
I make my own knitwear- having been given heaps of discarded yarns destined for the skip.
I walk to work (ok, I only live two doors away.)
We use locally grown produce in our cakes and jams (from an Orchard two minutes away)
I make our meals at home based upon what is reduced from the Larder (otherwise known as Sainsbury's a short walk away.
I bake my own Sourdough bread...
You get my drift here, Em. I say that I am indeed living 'The Good Life'!
And- to the Manor Born?
Well, just up the road, is one I hold dear to my heart.
Farringford. The former home of Tennyson, has been exquisitely restored and is now open to us all for guided tours.
Visiting recently, a comment in the Visitors Book, sums the experience up well. "It is as though the family just went out for a walk, and we stepped in". This stunning restoration is delightful and I've done a painting for you of my favourite bit...

You know much about my passion for local history in particular Julia Margaret Cameron and the mid-Victorian Freshwater Circle- so, imagine my joy recently when Channel Four visited on a reccy for a show based upon the Batsford travel books that line my bookshop shelves.
Imagine my delight on being asked if I'd be interviewed about Julia Margaret Cameron!
And- imagine my excitement as to the interviewer- yes, it is the lovely- Penelope Keith!
I can't wait!

With love to you all, from down the Rabbit Hole,
Your ever-loving Grandmother, 
GiGi Xxx

Friday 30 June 2017

The Wonder of it All

Dearest Emily,
Well, just a couple more pictures to do, and it will be time to put them together as an exhibition. I thought, if you didn't mind, that I would print out my blog-posts to you to go next to each painting. It'll give people something to read as they walk down the corridor with the pictures up.
This picture is of a favourite view of mine- of Freshwater Bay and the High Down- as seen from the cliff near Compton. This is where Grumpa parked up the car one day, back in 2006, at sunset. We stood looking out as he cranked up the Red Hot Chilli Peppers playing in the car - in particular, the track 'Wet Sands'. Apparently, he was plucking up the courage to ask me to marry him.
I guessed that, as we stood there together- but he didn't ask me then. But- he did a week later, so that's ok. This picture was at six in the evening, last Sunday.

This favourite view of mine, I know I share with many, and it has been so for hundreds of years.
Tennyson, arriving here, house-hunting with his new bride- saw Farringford Hall, and looking out of the window there at the reverse of this view (towards Blackgang Chine) declared that they had  to have that view.
Nearly 100 years earlier, a Mr Richard Worseley wrote in his book about the Isle of Wight, that this vista was a 'Wonder of the World'.
I'm with both these bods, Em, and from the first time I set foot on the beach here with my Dad in 1967, to the time Peter and I alighted here in 2005, I too- have had to have that view, and I do consider this landscape a 'Wonder of the World.'
Tennyson's Monument crowns the High Down today, and Grumpa's ashes were spread as he wished out to sea beyond the Bay.
He said to me, that whenever I wanted to see him, I should go to the Bay-
"I shall be in the waves,
Sometimes choppy,
Sometimes calm,
But, I'll always be there for you."
A but like in life, really Em.
And that works for me, I come here, I look out to sea, the sun maybe setting, or rising, the water rough, or smooth, and rolling gently into the shore.
Food for the soul Emily dearest, and a true Wonder, at that.

Your ever-loving Grandmother,

Monday 19 June 2017

Idylls of Freshwater

Dearest Emily,

What a beautiful morning! It's about thirty degrees here, and I have just opened up the shop- hoping to get a quick post out for you with some new paintings. Here's one of the Estuary that I did for you last week.

You remember the Causeway 'Em, the old railway line that links Freshwater and Yarmouth? Every year Swan's hatch their brood for the year. This year it seems that only two have survived out of a brood of about five. I've painted scenes up and down the Causeway- and I must admit- its brilliance of colour can be challenging. It's a problem just recording the translucent iridescent scenery in front of you. It can look too idyllic.
Similar problems present themselves to me at Freshwater Bay

I suppose that I could be seeing these colours more vividly than they actually are 'Em, but I don't think so.

My third Idyll in Freshwater is my garden. It's a good year for the roses.

This morning before work I went into Boots the Chemist for some toothpaste. Whilst standing in the queue, a lady in front of me greeted her friend who was standing to the side awaiting a prescription.

"Oh sorry," said the friend- I was miles away. "Goodness me, that's where I'd like to be, miles away from here under an Oak Tree perhaps, by a babbling brook".
There followed further discourse about the stifling heat.
As I left and thirty seconds later walked across School Green, alongside the Brook, which bears the name Brookside, and ambled in and out of dappled sunlight, passing people sitting under trees and I wondered how far she felt she needed to go to get away?
A customer has just furnished me with an apt quote for today, dear Em. It is from E.Nesbit's The Railway Children...
"Many wonderful and good things happen in our lives, and we live most of our lives in the hope of them".
Just looking around me Emily for subjects to paint- I rather think that there could be less time hoping for them and more time enjoying them, if we reminded ourselves more often of what we do have.

What do you think Emily?

Your  ever-loving Grandmother, GiGi xxx

Sunday 28 May 2017

In the Eye of the Beholder

Dearest Emily,

I've painted you a corner of my garden this week,

It was lovely to see you all last weekend, and weren't we lucky that the sun shone all day for Walk the Wight! You did really well- I did notice that you kept a smile on your face and didn't complain- even when we were at the top of the Down and the wind was rather chilling.
Mummy was right wasn't she? You first thought that Walk the Wight might be a bit sad, as it is all about helping people at the end of their lives, but it wasn't at all was it? There's always an incredible atmosphere, everyone tramping away for the same aim. All acknowledging each other with smiles and encouragement. It's as though the Island becomes one big green lawn with hoards of people enjoying walking over it.
And, I did notice that you didn't moan even though you all had to walk up a big hill to join in as we'd all set off whilst you were eating lunch. I know that was probably because Mummy told you how Grumpa didn't complain when he did it last year, when he was very poorly.
Of course there are some sad things Em, and some bad things too. Nobody can pretend that isn't so.
But, we do always have a choice as to how to look at things in front of us...

Look at my garden again in the painting.

I was drawn to paint this corner of my garden because I think it beautiful. I like the stone lady holding her bunch of roses, with her hair tumbling down her back. She looks graceful and pretty by the hedge. I had all the pots out ready to plant out some geraniums, and was drinking my morning coffee at the time. The ivy creeping up the pale wall, the terracotta pots and colours of the brick paving and the sun making the white table and chair shine bright. The sun-faded pink cushion on the chair, and my pink gardening gloves, all create a pleasing vista.

Mind you Em, I suppose I could look at it another way...
The stone lady's nose is beginning to be worn away by weathering. The pots might get frostbitten and break, and all the effort of watering the geraniums I was about to plant, could put me off. That ivy,
ends up causing damp on buildings- and isn't that an asbestos wall? The brick paving could trip someone up and they could break a bone- and then they'd have to spend hours at A&E. That sun-faded pink cushion will rot soon if I keep leaving it out when it rains. The table and chair- it's starting to show some rust, and don't forget the worm I inadvertently cut through- who is struggling to make two of himself.

I could go on...but you get the point?

If I looked at things negatively then I just couldn't paint them. Because I wouldn't be able to appreciate the precious beauty that is in the moment- I'd never be able to appreciate what I'd got right under my nose- until perhaps it had gone. Then, it's too late.

That little lesson is one of the things that getting all my pictures done for the exhibition in August has given me. The gift of reminding myself to appreciate what is right in front of me right now.

Of course, I know that you know all this Emily, you are a bright girl!
But it doesn't hurt to indulge your Grandmother in teaching her grandchildren how to suck eggs,

Your ever-loving Grandmother, GiGi xxx