Friday, 28 September 2012

Kate's Kronikles

When we first meet Kate, it is her last day at school and she is saying good-bye to her great friend, Cassandra. Although they do not know it then, their lives are to be inextricably entwined. Both appear in a number of Marcia's books. Just for the record, here are the milestones in Kate's life – indicating in which book the events occur. She was born Katherine Beauchamp shortly after the end of the second world war. In 1957 she was sent to a girls' boarding school on the Quantock Hills where she was to meet Cassandra Mackworth.

Those Who Serve

Cassandra invites her to the 1963 Summer Ball at the Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth. Cassandra is going with her fiancée, Tom Wivenhoe, and it is here that Kate meets her future husband, Mark Webster. Both Mark and Tom are studying at the college and both are to enjoy good careers in the submarine service.

Twelve months later both Kate and Cass are married and Kate gives birth to her twin boys in the September of 1965. She is to spend the next few years watching her marriage fall apart, a process exacerbated by Mark's mental cruelty not just to her but, and this is even worse as far as Kate is concerned, to their sons. Inevitably they separate and, in the March of 1976, she is back in Devon and working in a second hand bookshop. An intense affair with the owner of the bookshop ends when she fears that it is damaging her twins. Finally it is Mark who seeks a divorce, which he does in 1981, and for the next few years Kate is not only lonely but has difficulty in making ends meet as she has refused to take anything from Mark on condition that he continues to support the twins who, like the children of most naval officers at that time, are at boarding school.

Thea's Parrot

One of Kate's friends, Felicity Mainwaring, dies and, much to Kate's astonishment, leaves everything to her. Some eighteen months later she is to meet the famous artist David Porteous who is trying to find Felicity. He is taken aback to find a painting that he had given Felicity hanging on the wall in Kate's house. Gradually he tells Kate all about his relationship with Felicity which he had seen as a mild summer flirtation but she had taken far more seriously. To the surprise of both, they find themselves becoming more and more attached to each other. Finally, in 1991 and between books, they marry.

Apart from a passing reference in The Dipper and a brief flash-back in Starting Over, the next time we meet Kate is in Echoes of the Dance. It is 2004 and life has just dealt her two blows and she is grieving for David and her golden retriever.

Roly, whose son looks after Kate's garden, lives on the northern edge of Bodmin Moor in Cornwall. He is fostering a retriever bitch whose owner has died and he invites Kate down in the hope – one to be fulfilled – that she will give Flossie a home. It is during this book that Roly introduces Kate to Bruno Trevannion. We first meet Bruno and the mini-estate called Paradise in The Golden Cup. Included in Paradise is a row of four cottage, once used by boat builder, and one of these is empty following the departure of a tenant. Kate's house is now far too big for her and she has decided to sell but (and Marcia and I both sympathise with this) has no idea what she wants to buy. To give herself a breathing space, she decides to become Bruno's tenant, a move which is, of course, a drastic down size with the result that much of her furniture has to be left in store.

Now, in Marcia's next book, The Sea Garden, we revisit Kate – and Cassandra. You will, however, have to wait until it is published to find out how life has been treating her over the last four or five years. Furthermore, through some flash-backs, we learn more about what was happening to both girls between leaving school and marrying. Enjoy. 

The River Tamar at high tide on a rather nice day.
We are looking upstream from The Sea Garden.

The Jackdaw Jottings

One slight fear we had when we moved into our tree house was that we would miss the birds that had been such an important part of our lives. Certainly there was no evidence that any visited other than an empty peanut holder that hung on a bracket over the railing around the balcony. This we duly filled and waited – and waited – and waited.

Meanwhile the area was echoing to the harsh contact calls of the local jackdaws who spend their time up at this end of the village. They have a 'lookout' in the form of three tall conifers in a neighbour's garden. From there they fly out on forays, perching on roof tops and chimneys, peering into gutters, and dropping down to grab any small morsel that they can find. No one could possibly miss the jackdaws – or so I thought.

Thinking it would be nice to show you another photograph of one of these enchanting (if irritating) birds, I strolled down to the village with camera at the ready. A middle chap came out of his house, looking somewhat puzzled, and asked me what I was doing.

'I'm taking photographs of the jackdaws,' I explained.

'The what?'

'The jackdaws.' Seeing a look of utter bewilderment on his face I added, pointing, 'Those black birds'.

'Birds? Oh, them.'

Yes, them that you see here is two of them.
Sooner or later I shall take a picture which does not show them in silhouette against the sky. 
Now we are beginning to see more than jackdaws. With a bit of judicious feeding on the balcony we have a blackbird, a robin, a number of blue tits, a few great tits, one coal tit and, much to Marcia's joy because she loves them, a small flock of chattering long tailed tits that now call in twice a day – we have obviously become a part of their daily circuit. 


Blue Tit
Coal Tit and Great Tit at rear

Long Tailed Tit
And, of course, jackdaws.