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Right. Here’s the programme. - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
Right. Here’s the programme.
In the next few days and weeks, I shall be getting played back in on fests and comments. I shall also have a few things to say about the Ashes, and Trott, and the lost art of proper, not witless, sledging (I defy anyone to imagine the current sort of profane grunting being indulged by, say, Don Bradman and Alec Bedser).

Ad interim, I am pleased to note that we at Bapton Books may have acquired a new author of fiction for the catalogue … and that (says he, innocently, looking into the middle distance) writers of fiction are rather more given to celerity of composition than, say, Continental historians or biographers of US Grant who happen to be amongst MSP’s few Yankee friends….

And of course, Christmas being imminent and geese being fattened, and hats being passed for pence and ha’pence, I may mention that Cross and Poppy, a new novel by an author with whom you will not be unfamiliar, is now available at Amazon (hardcopy and Kindle). It is also available at Smashwords, and is propagating through the systems at Kobo, Blio, Diesel, Apple, Sony, Flipkart, and Oyster as we speak.

I shall try not to try your patience with excerpts in the coming days…. Speaking of which:

[An excerpt.]The Vale of the River Wolfbourne slept in the West Country sun, beneath the offhandedly kindly protection of the Anglican deity and the more determined invigilation of the duke of Taunton.

John Aubrey had declared the river to be the ‘Wold Bourne’, in the same way that Nadder has for its folk-etymology the adder, equally winding; but riper scholarship knows better. The River Nadder is the Ancient British ‘flowing water’, and its serpentine windings did not give it its name; and its tributary the Wolfbourne, like the River Wolf of Devon to the West, Pliny’s Voliba that flows into the River Otter, was named by the Dumnonii before ever the Roman eagles saw a British sky, and has nothing to do with wold, wolf, or wool.

The coombe of the little Dapple Brook, where it hastes to its confluence with the Wolfbourne, and the downs beyond, make together a secret, quiet place, in the midst of which the Woolfont villages hide themselves, the world forgetting and by all the world – save the duke – commonly forgot. Brigaded by Beechbourne, a market town by prescription and by function – for certain very moderate values of ‘market’ – and by Chickmarsh, a market town by charter of King John and, in its centuries of slumber since, a market town only in name, the Woolfonts live at peace amidst fields and pasture, wood and down, tenuously connected by lazy, straggling, sunken lanes that have no taste for hurrying. (The shape of the land, the likelihood of spate and flood, had made the little lanes lazy, even as that shape and that likelihood had dictated that there should be three small parishes of much riches in a little room.) Woolfont Parva and Woolfont Magna, Woolfont Abbas – ‘Ducis’ in some old maps made between the Reformation and Victoria’s accession – and Woolfont Crucis, the eldest of the four, where St Aldhelm had once founded a church and the friars of the Fourteenth Century had erected a preaching cross, the base of which even now quietly crumbles in the shadow of the village war memorial: these were and are and ever shall be the four-chambered heart of the Vale.

The Spring Rill ran from Springhead above Magna down the Fore Street – a stream in every front garden and every house or cottage with a bridge to its name – to the pond in Woolfont Crucis, even as its mirrored image ran from its eponymous Beechbourne, on the other side of the down, to Parva and thence into the Dapple less than a mile from its confluence with the Wolfbourne. All along the way, it trilled and chortled: past the sub-post office and shops where old Mrs Jukes presided (saved from the vagaries of the new Royal Mail computer system by the duke’s having the clever, technically-minded son of one of his under-gardeners cast her accounts); past the Blue Boar, where Mr Kellow pulled perfect real-ale pints for all and sourced his real cider from the ducal orchards; past the village school (C of E voluntarily aided) over which Miss Coombs and Miss Woolley presided with dignity, affectionate firmness, and no damned nonsense (or His Grace should know the reason why, damn it all); past Mullins the Family Butcher and Penny the greengrocer, Whatley the Fish and Bungay the fruiterer; past churchyard and church, rectory (the incontinent sale of which the duke’s father had scuppered) and cricket pitch, pond and green….
The Woolfonts – and it had been wool had made them for all that it had not in fact named them, in centuries past – were as chocolate-box a set of villages as might be found in England. The ninth duke had followed, and improved upon, his father’s determination that they should be model villages as well. And when he had fallen at the Somme, the estate and the villages had – fortunately, as might be seen in retrospect – become frozen in time. Successive trustees had preserved all in situ, in status quo ante bellum: for the dukedom had, remarkably for a dukedom, become dormant – some argued, abeyant – for several generations, by a curious quirk. The earldom of Fitzwarren had been the title first granted to James’ bastard son, when the future James 7th and 2d had been but duke of York in exiled pretence; and the elevation to a dukedom had, in its patent, granted that ducal coronet to the first duke and to ‘his heirs of entail, male or female, descended from the body of the first earl of Fitzwarren’: which was the only way in which a dukedom in any British peerage could have managed to become thus tangled and disputed. It had done, and been, and remained, until, what time the present duke was at Eton (and quietly wondering where the next term’s school fees were to come from), the inevitable generational deaths, often without surviving issue, otherwise d.s.p., of elderly connexions, had left his father unexpectedly with sole claim to (and eventual lumbering with) the dignity – and, unusually, more than enough property and dosh to support it (although scattered properties granted by James in Haringey, Newham, and Croydon even now didn’t quite match up to the Grosvenors’ holdings, any more than did the swathes of Hants, Wilts, Berks, Somerset, and Dorset that had come with them – although bits of Thurrock were paying off handsomely), after generations in which swingeing death duties had fallen upon the other and richer members of the family.

The Woolfonts, and indeed much of Beechbourne and Chickmarsh, having been preserved as in amber, and His Grace the current duke being a man who commonly observed that ‘fogeyism is wasted on the old’, their chocolate-box quality was now a cherished (and attractive) character; and although His Grace was not a man in much want of money, he was willing to allow a few incomers with an eye to secluded, ‘posh’ (a word he despised) properties – for the right price. An Irish-born England cricketer whose knees were no longer fit for purpose, and an early-retired footballer from Oop North, had come to live in the Woolfonts, and a Cheshire-born restaurateur had founded an extremely recherché pub-cum-restaurant-cum-hôtel-gastronomique in the old Woolford Hotel, Woolfont Abbas; but the duke was determined that the place should not actually become Cheshire, overrun with ghastly slebs and WAGs. To this, the public generally and the few resident celebrities to a man assented heartily: Brian ‘The Breener’ Maguire had never cared for celebrity as such; Teddy Gates well knew the value to a Michelin star of avoiding popularity and ease of access; and Edmond Huskisson had ample reason for burying himself in remote village life.

The Woolfonts, wanting only a new Church of England incumbent to return to their somnolent normality that was now elsewhere so abnormally rare, dozed in the dappled sunshine.


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3 comments or Leave a comment
eglantine_br From: eglantine_br Date: November 27th, 2013 07:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Have gotten my copy for Kindle. I will probably read it while hiding out during Thanksgiving weekend.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: December 17th, 2013 10:35 pm (UTC) (Link)

At some convenient moment...

... I'd quite like to know what you thought of it.
eglantine_br From: eglantine_br Date: December 17th, 2013 11:46 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: At some convenient moment...

Will do. I just got to the scene with the fight in the restaurant. Very enjoyable.
3 comments or Leave a comment