January 5, 2017

New Year 2017


New Year 2017

After Christmas, we left Highclere to spend New Year with my sister, Sarah and her husband in North Cornwall. It is a much beloved part of the world where my family always spent the Christmas and Easter holidays when we were growing up. At this time of year, the dramatic grey seas batter the cliffs which are studded with occasional chapels of rest. Faint ridges in the grass headlands still signpost where Iron Age communities built shelters and homes, with ramparts across headlands within which they could defend themselves. It always seems an old part of the world, with the visible threads of the life and footprints of the past never far below the turf.

Our father loved the romance of Cornwall, the stories and myths, whilst our mother had to be more practical and very well organized: an utter necessity with six daughters. At first, there was no TV and not much heating. Instead there were hearty walks and a lot of good, home cooking. My son listens to our stories and laughter, unable to believe it, and kindly enquires if we were all born before the Second World War….

Books and reading were much encouraged and of course, as six girls, most of us loved the novels of Jane Austen. My sister, Sarah, and I would argue amongst ourselves about who wanted to be Jane or Eliza in Pride and Prejudice, The “middle” sisters were always rather firmly told they had to choose from Kitty, Lydia and Mary whilst our father, like Mr Bennet, preferred to shut himself away from the melée. Mrs Bennett is more subtly characterized in the book than she is shown in modern films but, nevertheless, I think our mother hoped she was less silly than her. Notwithstanding she always got most excited about meeting any prospective boyfriends or finally husbands….

Reminiscing over this, I thought I would go back to my literary books and world this year and create a week here at Highclere in May to celebrate Jane Austen. Highclere is only 10 miles from Steventon, where Jane grew up and only about 18 miles from where she died in 1817 at the early age of 41 in Winchester. (The engraving below shows you Highclere House around which the Victorian Castle was built)

She was an extraordinary woman and writer, one very familiar with the Hampshire landscape and villages in which she grew up which, of course, are the same villages and landscapes which surround Highclere. I am thoroughly enjoying the research and wondering whether we can plan a few picnics around our week or whether that might be optimistic with our May weather. I suspect we shall need a marquee.

Our parents are sadly buried in Cornwall and can only join my celebrations in spirit but Iknow my mother would have loved it. After all she called our number six sister Georgiana after the character of the same name in “Pride and Prejudice”.