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Silence Exile and Crumpets
 
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Friday, August 19th, 2005

Time Event
9:51p
Perfect days
I seem to have spent most of the last three days in a pleasant haze of exhaustion from Tuesday when madam_miaw dragged CSM, me and vschanoes off to Sissinghurst for the day on one of the authentically fine days of the year. Not too hot, not too humid, the odd breeze, brilliant sunlight but not so much that I got burned.

For those people who don't know about it, Sissinghurst is the country house where Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville-West conducted their various affairs and had a marriage that moved from mutual bearding to creative partnership. And part of what they created was the gardens.

Gardens do not often feature in my imagination and this, I am now aware, is something that needs to change. When I get to Atlantis, I think it is going to be a city of gardens, and rereading the new Jacqueline Carey, I am far more impressed, post-Sissinghurst, with the way she uses gardens in that. Sissinghurst is full of literary conceits made flower and leaf that actually work, like a garden of white flowers and white shrubs and silver foliage, or a herb garden which includes a seat surrounded by lavenders and other soporifics in which it is impossible to sit without drowsing.

The house itself is various remnant wings and a tower from a house that was once a castle, now entirely gone, and then a military prison. It cannot have been especially convenient, but it is certainly lovely.

We went for a long trek round the moat - there's a moat - and out and round some lakes surrounded by trees. Just as it was closing, Anna dragged us into the exhibit in an oasthouse - and there I saw it. A relic that inspired me with more secular piety than I knew I had.

The Hogarth Press.

The actual physical hand press on which Virginia Woolf printed 'The Waste Land' as a piece of Occupational Therapy. (She also printed Hope Mirrlees' 'Paris' on it, a year or so earlier.)

I actually felt my breath taken away, far more even than when I visited Hope's grave in Glasgow.

We also drove down to Battle and walked Senlac field, and then went into Hastings for chips on the seafront. Small white fish were beaching themselves in the moonlight and gulls were eating them while they were helpless and alive.

Veronica went 'Eww!' and Anna went around picking them up and throwing them back against the tide. I looked at CSM and said 'Cycle of life' in a heartless fashion.

Hastings turns out to be the town where young people play various sorts of miniature golf well past ten at night, when everything else is shut.

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