Monday, 19 January 2015

The Mystery Of The Disappearing Cat

A smattering of snow lay sprinkled on the ground.

The sky was ice blue and IT WAS COLD!


Outside all was still and silent. Indoors nothing stirred, and there was absolute quiet except for the faint ticking of the clock and the chattering of my teeth. Huddled into my warmest dressing gown, I listened intently, but there was no tell-tale cat noise to herald the imperious demand for breakfast or attention.

The indentation on the sofa where Lucie normally curls up to sleep, was empty. I looked around........

No sign...........

I checked beneath tables and the armoire............

Still no sign!

Perhaps she had reluctantly ventured into the cold crisp morning to answer the call of nature?

I opened the door a crack; letting in a blast of chill air. But the little trail of paw prints in the dusting of snow led in one direction only - Indoors!!

Could she be behind the sofa? I leaned across, but there was no little grey shadow to be seen. Then I paused...........

I thought I could detect a faint whiff..........

that distinctive aroma of cat breath that betrays the diet of fish, and sadly birds and frogs that Lucie has consumed over the years.

I lowered my gaze and peered downwards, finding myself staring into a dark recess between the sofa back and the cushions, where unexpectedly from the darkness, two green eyes stared upwards at me.

Buried deep below the cushions at the back of the sofa, Lucie remained motionless - only the grey smudge of her face visible; her breath inaudible, unwilling to draw attention to her warm, snug, secret hiding place.

Closer inspection revealed a little furry grey triangle of bottom sticking out from beneath the cushion and wedged into the sofa arm.

I left her alone and the slight rumbling sound of purring soon followed, before a louder noise disturbed the stillness of the morning, as only Lucie's contented snores divulged her slumbering presence, as she snuggled deep below the cushions, dreaming like me perhaps, of warmer sunny days.


Thursday, 1 January 2015

A Pocketful of Rye

Many years ago my Aunt Mary announced that she no longer had a television. Her reasoning being that there was nothing of any worth to watch and that it was only a time waster. My cousin Laura and I were appalled, and wondered how she could survive without one.

Ironically now, all these years later, I find myself in complete agreement with my Aunt and have teetered precariously on the brink of abolishing both my television and the extortionate television licence that is required in order to have the privilege of watching the mind-controlling propaganda, mind-numbing drivel and the vacuous obsession with celebrities that spews forth from the screen.

Aunt Mary's philosophy that life was too short to waste stagnating motionless in front of a box meant she filled her time with more purposeful activities, such as appreciating nature, flower arranging, the garden, painting and walking. One of the walks that I accompanied her on when I was young, was to Rye in East Sussex. I cannot remember the entire walk, except that it was a very hot day and I was extremely thirsty and unable to get a drink until we reached the town of Rye.

I do recall walking through fields where sheep grazed, along flatlands and along the banks of the river to the wharf, and then into the town and Mermaid Street, where thankfully I was at last able to assuage my thirst and also snack on some of the handmade fudge that we purchased. But I know I did not really appreciate the picturesque quaintness of Rye at this time.

Although I later saw the 1980s television series of EF Bensons "Mapp and Lucia" with the wonderful Prunella Scales and Geraldine McEwan, which was set in Rye, I only vaguely connected the location with where we had walked. 

However a few years ago, (before my life became consumed with renovating La Petite Maison), I had the opportunity to visit Rye again properly and although the weather was not as hot as the last time I had been there, this time I was fully able to admire this charming and delightful town.

The Victorian Poet, Coventry Patmore described Rye as "A little bit of the old world living on in pleasant ignorance of the new."

Set on a hill-top Rye is a fairy-tale town full of cobbled laneways

and crooked weatherboard houses

 with red-roofs and windows out-lined in black. 

The houses on either side of the steeply sloping streets are adorned with hydrangeas, roses, lavender and hollyhocks blooming profusely against their walls and over the doorways.

On Mermaid Street - The Mermaid Inn is an ancient timber-framed smuggler's pub, 

steeped in history with Norman cellars dating back to 1156, secret passageways, moving panels and a priest's hole. 

Inside the pub is a framed print of Rudyard Kiplings,

"A Smugglers Song"

If you wake at midnight, and hear a horse's feet,
Don't go drawing back the blind, or looking in the street.
Them that asks no questions isn't told a lie
Watch the wall, my darling. while the
Gentlemen go by!

Five-and-twenty ponies
Trotting through the dark
Brandy for the Parson
'Baccy' for the Clerk,
Laces for a lady, letters for a spy

And watch the wall, my darling, while the
Gentlemen go by.

We climbed the church tower of St Mary's Church where stone stairs give way to rickety ladders, but the views over the roof-tops towards Romney Marsh were breath-taking. (Typically my camera battery was dead at this point - most annoying).

 I was very taken with Rye, and so when I noticed that there was to be another adaptation of Mapp and Lucia on the BBC, I was absolutely delighted. I wasn't disappointed. It was SUPERB!! I loved it!

The story of Mapp and Lucia is a genteel comedy of manners set in the 1930s in a little town called Tilling which in reality was actually based on Rye itself. In mid-summer Elizabeth Mapp (played by Miranda Richardson) rents out her beautiful Queen Anne house The Mallards (Lamb House where EF Benson lived) to the elegant widow Emmeline Lucas "Lucia" (played by Anna Chancellor).

Queen Bee Mapp wants to "run" Lucia, but the gloriously snobbish and imperious Lucia who is Queen Bee of her home town of Risholme is having none of it, and aided by her camp side kick - the enchanting Georgie (played by Steve Pemberton), she charmingly and graciously bullies the residents of Tilling in the subsequent contest of social one-upmanship (or should that be womanship?).

The town of Rye featured exquisitely and I related to every narrow cobbled lane, 

the pretty old-world houses, the Castle (Ypres Tower), churchyard 

and relished the gorgeously planted gardens and flower-lined streets.

Although purely fictional, the idiosyncrasies and foibles of Mapp and Lucia are still identifiable today, none more so perhaps to me than in the little village where our annual Christmas in The Barn is held.

This production by Steve Pemberton was brilliant, the cast were fantastic and I enjoyed it so much   that I am having second thoughts about parting with the television!

So as they say in Tilling,

"Au Reservoir....."

and of course

Happy New Year!