Friday, 18 July 2014

A Busman's Holiday

Part One – by Marcia

Ways With Words is finished and my busman’s holiday is over: and what a wonderful time I had. It made such a difference to be able to walk to any event that interested me rather than worrying about arriving in time to find a parking space and then joining the end of a long queue. With a Rovers ticket I was spoiled for choice. Sometimes it was difficult to choose between the Great Hall and The Barn; between a poet and a politician, or a biographer and a stand-up comic.

It was utterly inspiring to listen to the philosopher, Roger Scruton, and I’m really enjoying his first novel: ‘Notes from Underground’. Two of my favourite novelists – Helen Dunmore and Jane Gardam – were there, and Penelope Lively got a cheer when, talking about the problems of old age, she said that reminiscing should not be inflicted on the young but should only be allowed between consenting octogenarians. Michael Rosen was brilliant and Sandi Tocsvig made me laugh and laugh. It was so good to see James Long again and remember how, nearly twenty years ago when the festival was very young, he and I, with Joan Brady and Mary Wesley, played croquet in the courtyard on the final day.

Sometimes I went to four events back to back and was very grateful for lovely Beattie and Ross in their van, The Humble Egg, who supplied me with coffee or hot chocolate or tea and cake, depending on what time of the day it was. The courtyard had quite a medieval look with the tents and marquees that popped up to cater to the festival-goers.

There were many familiar faces and many new ones. The WWW Staff were helpful, efficient and fun: pretty Jess – having a week’s break from her work with English National Opera – delightful Charlie, who kept everyone cheerful, poor Olly who had been bitten by a horse-fly down by the river. For that brief time they became friends.

It was so sad to say goodbye. The final event was on Sunday evening, so on Monday morning I went for a walk wondering whether Dartington would have been restored to its more usual tranquility. Instead there was that strange desolation that goes with the end of an event: tents being dismantled, people carrying suitcases, vans and taxis being loaded.

See you next year,’ someone called to a friend.

I came home with that end-of-the-party feeling. Then I reminded myself that Dartington International Summer School starts in a fortnight and I’ve already bought my tickets for some of the concerts.

The party goes on!

Part Two – by Rodney

There was a Peter Wimsey “who dunnit” by Dorothy L Sayers called “Busman’s Holiday” on the shelves at home when I was a young boy. It was not alone – it shared shelf space with almost every other book Sayers wrote as well as countless books by other authors. Each one, of course, represents a good deal of hard work from the moment the characters begin to appear until the final proofs have been read. So when Marcia talks about it being a busman’s holiday she rather overlooks the fact that we spent a few hours trawling around to the east of the River Dart trying to find where the people who have just begun to occupy her thoughts could be living.

You will remember that she had a feeling that the Green Café in Totnes might be important and so we have decided to look in the countryside around the town before going further afield.
Anyway, this is typical farming country where the lanes offer little in the way of views except when you pass a gateway. 

There are lots of these and we stop at nearly every one just in case. This means it can take an hour or so to cover a couple of miles and does absolutely nothing to improve the fuel economy of the car (if we – the car and I working together – achieve ten miles to the gallon we are doing well in these circumstances).

We passed a farm where an untidy tumble of old equipment acted as a background to a lovely rose growing on a fence.

Then we stopped in a gateway for a mug of coffee and I amused myself trying to take a reasonable photograph of a tortoiseshell butterfly that was far too far away for this to be a sensible activity. Eventually I got one that was not too bad.

After winding through the lanes for a little longer we came across a bridge carrying a track over the main railway from London down to Penzance in Cornwall.

There we met Edgar, a retired farmer with a great interest in steam locomotives – one of which was due to pass beneath us at any moment. Out with the video camera – you can see the result if you click here.

Then back home with me asking the inevitable question, ‘Well, have we found what you’re looking for?’

I don’t know,’ Marcia was looking thoughtful. ‘We may have done. We shall have to wait and see.’

This week’s blog dog is a Cairn terrier called Dougal. I have a huge affection for this breed. I think it was fifty-one years ago that my next-door-but-one neighbour (in a tiny hamlet of four dwellings of which was was a converted mill and the others cottages where the miller and his workers would have lived) gave me a cairn puppy as a Christmas present. This, I should add, without asking me whether or not he would be welcome. Well, he was and became my companion for the next seventeen years. Two days that remain firmly etched in my memory: the day we met and the day he died.