Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Sorry to have disappeared...

I've been working on my new book, in a place without internet access, which is good for writing, but bad for blogging. Here is a clue about where I've been (above). First person to guess correctly will get an excellent prize (a limited edition Chanel lipstick).
Anyway, here's what I've been doing: a trip to Fowey to speak at the Du Maurier festival, which was lovely, though being in Fowey made me cry, because it's the first time I've been back there since last summer, and it brought back all kinds of memories about family holidays (good memories) and the end of my marriage (bad memories), and the overlap between the plot of 'Daphne' and the unexpected turn my life has taken, ever since my husband left me at the beginning of the year, in a twist that felt horribly reminiscent of my novel. Does that make any sense? No, probably not, unless you've read 'Daphne'... So I walked along the coastal footpath from Readymoney Cove to Pridmouth Bay, and wept and wailed into the wind. Fortunately, no one was there to see me apart from a herd of cows and a flock of seagulls, who wailed even louder than I did (the seagulls that is, not the cows. The cows just stared at me, and carried on chewing the cud).
Then after the weeping walk, I had dinner with Kits Browning, Daphne's son and executor of her estate, and his wife, Hacker, who are incredibly kind and generous people, and they cheered me up. Caught the ferry there, and a smaller boat back at midnight, and felt sufficiently restored to be able to speak at the festival the next day without bursting into tears on the podium. The event was about 'The Breaking Point", which I've posted about here in an earlier bibliotherapy column, and the other speakers were really interesting -- Stella Duffy and Lisa Appignanesi -- and the chair, Professor Helen Taylor from Exeter University, pulled the discussion together with her usual aplomb. One of the most intriguing parts of the discussion, at least for me, was Stella's comparison of Du Maurier with Patricia Highsmith, which had never occurred to me before she mentioned it, but I can see exactly why she might link the two writers together. I was also struck by Lisa's observation of the metamphorses in Du Maurier and Angela Carter; from human to animal, and vice versa...
This is turning into a bit of a stream of consciousness -- what I did in my weekend in Fowey -- so apologies for that, but have slightly lost the plot.
Where was I? Oh yes, in Fowey. The festival bookshop didn't have any copies of 'Daphne' to sell to the audience afterwards, which was mightily disappointing, but my favourite bookshop did -- Bookends of Fowey -- so thanks to them, as always. I dropped in to see them, and to browse through their treasures -- they've got the best selection of rare Du Maurier editions, along with other wonderfully alluring books (it's the bookshop equivalent of a treasure hunt, with one clue leading to the next; you'll have to visit the shop to soak up the atmosphere...)
Then I bought a large Cornish pasty -- it would be a crime to leave Fowey without eating at least one -- and went for another quick walk along the Esplanade to the sea. By then, I'd reached a kind of accommodation with my sadness, and remembered what it was that I love about Fowey. As Stella Duffy said to me, 'it's good to come back here, because you'll have new experiences to overlay the old ones'.
Am going to post this now, before I have second thoughts about the hopelessness of my prose tonight. Forgive me for the rush of words...


kairu said...

Phew! So nice to have you back. I can't tell where you are the photograph, but it looks lovely, all light and air and books. (In the apartment of Coco Chanel?).

I can just see the cows staring at you. It's funny, and yet not funny, but I hope your trip gave you a sense of peace.

Justine Picardie said...

You win the prize! That was quick. I obviously didn't make it hard enough. Where do I post the Chanel lipstick to?
You're right, the staring cows gave a streak of comedy to the wailing walk, and I did see the funny side, in between contemplating throwing myself off the cliff. Not that I ever would jump off a cliff, but I needed to let myself have the thought, before stepping away from the brink. I suppose that was my breaking point, but the cows and the cornish pasty provided a sense of perspective. The mundane is often so helpful...

kairu said...

Lucky guess. It was the T'ang camel (or whatever that thing is) in the background, plus I knew your current book is about Chanel.

Do I really get a prize?
My address:
Kairu Yao
1301 Spring St., 7D
Seattle, WA 98104

We all think about throwing ourselves off cliffs, those moments of weeping and screaming in despair. But I think it is the mundane, the everyday consolations, that help us step back from the edge. I keep thinking of that Mary Oliver poem, those splashes of happiness. Mine is counting Mini Coopers on the walk to work every morning, or coming home on Wednesdays to find my cleaner has, as they say, gone through the place like a dose of salts. (It makes me think of Sara Crewe).

Justine Picardie said...

I always look out for the splashes of happiness, thanks to you. Today's splashes: the fox climbing over the wall in the back garden; the robin on the apple tree; cooking dinner and eating it with my son... seafood risotto with homemade pesto.

Anonymous said...

Yes that was so quick, Chanel's apartment was my pick too, the mirror I thought and the black laquered matter about the lipstick. I am off to buy some maternity bras today ( not looking forward to that). but will give myself a splash of happiness with a mac lippie ( have saved six containers and will get the lipstick free). So glad you are back Justine, have missed reading you.

oxford-reader said...

Your rush of words is just what's needed to express your trip to Fowey, because your emotions were so jumbled. Blogging can be the best kind of therapy.
I'm looking forward to my trip to Fowey in July (parents have rented a cottage up a creek (not Frenchman's sadly) near St. Veep) and will certainly make a trip to Bookends and see if Anne remembers me from last year!

My splash of happiness this morning is the fact that it's sunny. There's nothing quite like Oxford in the sunshine!

So glad you're back here!

Cornflower said...

I'm glad you're back, too. Sounds as though you have very good friends in Fowey, as elsewhere.

Bee said...

I've read (in a magazine? newspaper?) that you were writing a book on Coco Chanel . . . what a fantastic subject! (Perhaps the lipstick was too much of a hint?)

I was very moved to read what you wrote about visiting Fowey -- and the rush of emotions/memories it brought back to you. Funnily enough, just yesterday I was reading your interview with Natasha McElhone (sp?) -- and although her bereavement is not quite the same as yours, they are similar in the sense that you never know when life will suddenly knock you for six. Perhaps the ability to find "splashes of happiness" is all that we have, really.

enid said...

So relieved you are back. I was wondering what to do to get you back. Your trip sounds great and I hope that you have been able to settle your sad thoughts. I love the description of Book Ends I must visit there some time Enid

wednesday said...

Sorry to hear that Daphne will always be bittersweet to you.

Here's hoping that Coco brings you happy associations. And also that the splashes of happiness become much more frequent.

David said...

Great to see you again, don't be long coming back.

Primrose said...

The weeping walk and Cornish pasty sounds great. I always look out for the splashes of happiness. To me that is symbolized by my daughter heading to her preschool in a very urban gritty setting (factories, heavy traffic, graffiti and a massive factory fire just ahead) But she was totally happy twirling around with her new bright red ladybug umbrella, splashing in puddles. I often think of that when times are dreary. That despite the surrounding we find ourselves in - there is great beauty and joy in red umbrellas and puddles. I think I might have mentioned that before on this Blog - please excuse my poor memory if I have!
Wonderful to have you back. I love that you're contributing to Red magazine which is one I often buy. I also really love that you're writing a book on Coco Chanel!
Here is a poem that I have swiped from another of my favorite Blogs that I frequent (Life At Willow Manor) The poem is a celebration of the simple things.

The Orange

At lunchtime I bought a huge orange
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave—
They got quarters and I had a half.

And that orange it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park
This is peace and contentment. It’s new.

The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all my jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I’m glad I exist.

Wendy Cope

JaneGS said...

Your blog postings never fail to touch me--you write so well about such deep emotions. Thanks for sharing these thoughts and times.

willow said...

Hello! Oh, my ears were ringing, so I had to come over to see what you were talking about. (Actually, a little "Bee" told me.) I, too, love splashes of happiness, and hope the Wendy Cope poem brought a little splash your way.

Primrose said...

How small is Blogland! I'm thrilled that my post has somehow (thanks to a little Bee) introduced two of my favourite bloggers. Both of you have stimulated, educated, entertained and inspired me with your postings.

rose said...

It's good to stream of consciousness!

All good wishes to you.

Elizabeth said...

So glad to have discovered your blog via the wonderful Bee Drunken.
I wish I had been in Fowey to hear you speak but am currently exiled in New York.
We used to swim at Menabilly when I was a large child ( I used to think it was the beach where Rebecca drowned -- and God the water was COLD). My brother still has our cottage on the river between Fowey and Lostwithiel.

Juxtabook said...

Nice to have you back. Hope your trip was cathartic adn that you've made satisfactory in roads in to your writing.

Justine Picardie said...

Love the Wendy Cope poem -- thank you so much for posting that. And glad that people have been making connections here, there, and everywhere.
Come back soon...

Justine Picardie said...

PS: Elizabeth -- you're right, that is the beach where Rebecca drowned, or at least, it is the beach where there was an actual shipwreck (you can still see the carcass at low tide), that Du Maurier imagined into Rebecca's drowning and resurrection.

Nancy Clark said...

Can anyone shed light on this apparent coincidence?

-The manuscript of Charlotte Bronte's early tales "The Secret" and "Lily Hart" was discovered in 1973 among the possessions of the late Evelyn Symington, wife/widow of U.S. Senator (from Missouri) Stuart Symington (who by the way ran for President against JFK in 1960, the year Daphne du Maurier's Branwell Bronte was published).

-J. A. Symington, as we know, was a famous Bronte collector in the U.K. Was he related to the Missouri Symingtons?

Nancy Clark
New Jersey, USA

Anonymous said...

well im confident that when you are out of station you are definitely working on something and we are gonna be surprised soon

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