Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Keeping Mum about Sherlock

Dearest Emily,

Maybe it's got something to do with the nature of our local history that makes the West Wight good at keeping secrets. The long history of Smuggling gave up few secrets, in Chale for example, whole conversations could be had on one level- that had 'secret codes' in a local patua only understood by those in the trade.
Queen Victoria came and went- un-noticed in a Brougham and walked about the High Down with Tennyson according to Harold Nicholson.
Last week the legendary Robert Plant was quietly shown Julia Margaret Cameron original photographs and was able to do so without fuss or fawning.
So when news of Benedict Cumberbatch and Sophie Hunter's desire to have a quiet wedding at Mottistone reached our ears- we managed to keep mum.
How lovely for them both- Ben a modern day figure akin to Lawrence Olivier or Richard Burton in both fame and standing as an actor, and Sophie as a descendent of a historically important Island family- the Seely's.
It's refreshing to see people's wishes being granted in such a frenzied media-circus age.
Everyone kept quiet. As the ferries filled with well-dressed guests, and Mottistone prepared for a visit not seen since Garibaldi in the 1860s- the George hotel welcomed the Grooms party, and Island businesses quietly delivered food and marquees to Mottistone, a good example of West-Wight politesse follows.
A friend who works at the Yacht Club was approached by a journalist- "What do you know about the wedding here today?" "What wedding?" as Mr Cumberbatch was quietly being served at the Deli opposite.
Helicopters came and went- smart cars carried wardrobes of clothes, and Saturday continued as normal around it all.

Only when the wedding was over, did facebook and twitter contain news of congratulations etc.

Another reason I love it here dear Em, on the whole we know our etiquette.

GiGi knew young Ben as a neighbour in our former home in Kensington. The Cumberbatches lived on the top floor, and we lived on the bottom- next door to the flamboyant George. Though Tim and Wanda (Ben's mum and dad) - who were successful actors themselves, of Carry-On fame amongst their credits, George's behaviour was often a tad alarming to the quiet family. It is amazing to see the little Ben I remember's great success over the years.

As of Mr Plant- well GiGi's manners haven't been impeccable Em I must admit. He has been an idol of mine since I was thirteen, and when a friend invited him secretly to my party back in 2005- I did not show such good restraint.
My jaw dropped, and I walked around murmuring "Robert Plant is at my party" ad-infinitum.

He sat- Lancelot-like amongst friends in the conservatory, surrounded by Julia Margaret Cameron prints. A pre-raphaelite-esque tableau for my eyes.

No photos though Em, it would have spoiled the evening.

Lovely memory though- the picture is in my head.

Looking forwards to your visit very soon, give Annabel a big hug from me, and of course one for you too,

Your ever-loving Grandmother,

GiGi xxx

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Off the Beaten Track- Freshwater's Elegant Economy

Dearest Emily,

Do you remember when we spoke about Elizabeth Gaskell's 'Cranford', and in particular its 'Elegant Economy'?

Well, fast-forward one and a half centuries or so, and I shall set the scene here-abouts...

Though not constrained by Victorian sensibilities, and without the 'shape' of a season (April to late September) and societal houses to hop from- the innate sense of economy- (possibly in living memory from the second World War) prevails.

But here, to my mind- it has something else.

One big reason for me- is the locality. The rich, mind-provoking if not blowing landscape is something appreciated throughout the economic scale- and it is possibly that one sphere that determines my topic of observation.

There is an un-avoidable and spoken or unspoken agreement of 'otherness' here. Whether its the grandeur of the panoramic cliff scenery, the expanse of sea, the rural settings right beside- something bigger than ourselves is omniprescent.

Grumpa and I in our relatively short history here, have always decreed that the Island chooses, and gives and takes in equal measure. Maybe it is something to do with it being an Island- metaphorically if you put your arms out, you feel that something you do, might make a bit of a difference.

How this translates, in my focus, becomes something quite amazing.

I first saw this when engaged in running the Trading Company at Dimbola ( Julia Margaret Cameron's former home- now Museum to her work. ) It had a fantastic support mechanism of Volunteers ( as does many a Museum. ) However, Dimbola's Volunteers struck me particularly. It didn't matter what the politics where, or how their circumstances panned out- they love the place and gave and gave and gave. When one suggested we should enter the ring for a National award, and goaded me on facebook, I must admit, I thought it a little above our then current sites. Transforming and theming a Tearoom and Gift shop in a month. But- whaddy know Em, we did all the work necessary with a budget of £1,500, because the volunteers deemed it so. And, with their help, we actually won the award over the great and the good of Museum-hood.

I wouldn't have entered the ring without their encouragement, and it could never have been achieved without their application.

Then, when I left, I thought that the magic I felt there, belonged to the house and appreciation of Julia Margaret Cameron and all that went with her. But no! - since my journey of six months took me to my new/old shoppe that you will see on Feb 22nd- the 'magic' is alive and kicking and rocking in Freshwater and the West-Wight.

We opened our new/old shop at Christmas. I wanted to test the waters in low season here, as Freshwater has a strong mix of local and in season- tourist custom. I have been amazed and delighted by the support and by the way this cherished community works.

To give it a 'personality' might be the best way to show you what I mean. Of course, money changes hands here as is the establishment norm. But not as much as you'd expect in order to live. Maybe the long history of smuggling comes in here. Local fishermen share out a catch. It is normal to run an account at Orchards the local shop which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. In the distant past- children of the 'back of the Wight' often went to buy groceries saying "Mum says she will pay you next shipwreck" . I've been pleasantly surprised over my Morris Minor's regular demises meaning she was a regular visitor to the doctors- and when she was made better- to be told to pick her up and settle when you are ready. There's a lot of trust here. Trust works- much more often than it doesn't. At the end of the summer- boxes of apples, pears, cucumbers and marrows are left out- with messages to 'help yourself'. Eggs sold similarly with an honesty box to pay into. Dogs with owners at work are often walked for free by someone who wants the exercise and a dog to go with them.

There's more too Em, I've been amazed at the support I've had to get my shop up and running. Books donated, books sourced and sold in. Volunteer cover while I walk my dogs. Spare reading glasses donated in case customers forget them. Local knowledge about news, council affairs, the thoughtfulness and peripheral vision around here is second to none.

Today, along these lines, I am the 'banker' for a local collector who needs to raise a sum over the next few months. So- he strikes a deal- here are some books (thoughtfully those that I favour.) The profit is mine- the books all a set price. He wants the money as he needs it. A week or so's notice.

And I could go on. My point my dear Em, is that there's a magic that comes from somewhere that has a great deal of commonsense and humanity about it. I would call it elegant. It has a quiet pride and dignity. It takes no prisoners, it just keeps things going around, and it is nice.

Signing off, as I have just seen the snaps of you on your holiday (poser!), lucky you- looking forwards to seeing you here later this month,
Your ever-loving Grand-mother, GiGi xxxx