Tuesday, April 24, 2007

"Wearing Orange With Jenny Joseph"***

This afternoon, I took tea in The Long Room at Eaton Hall. (OK, me and many other women.)
Eaton is the family seat of Gerald, Duke of Westminster.
We nibbled delicate sandwiches, tiny cakes, sipped tea.
We sat beneath priceless family paintings, beside marbled sculpture, at round tables with pristine linen cloths.
And believe me, after scrubbing the bathroom and unblocking the sink this morning, this WAS really some treat.
There was no sign of the Duke of Westminster though.
Or his gorgeously named wife, Natalia.
There was no sign of the Duchess in her leathers on her fabled motorbike or the Duke marching back from his battalion..
We HAD thought they'd slope in for a cuppa ( DO aristocrats "slope"?) or a fairy bun at least. And we thought they'd certainly want a look at US. But no.
THIS was rather disappointing. Most people had made an effort; there was a sprinkling of pearls, suits, handbags with expensive clasps, and several women had obviously had their hair done..

BUT I digress.
We were there as friends of The Samaritans who welcomed Jenny Joseph ( "When I am an old woman I shall wear purple") for an afternoon of her poems and conversation.
AND one disappointment: Joseph made absolutely NO mention of her beloved "Warning!" and strangely, nobody else dared mention it either. This WAS a shame; several women had added purple chiffon scarves to their outfits, violet pashminas, one wore purple leather boots, exactly like those I wore up Kings Rd in another life. There were, however, no red hats or folk scoffing sausages, but yes, there were definitely SOME nods to her Purple...***

But Jenny Joseph surprised.
Her poetry was sensitive, intelligent, various. Much was beautiful, far more provocative than we expected. It spoke to us in some ways of our existence; it went some way to explain it.
And I saw thoughtful pensive faces, I saw wry smiles between the teacups. I saw twinklings in the eyes of the women.
And there were nods of recognition at a phrase, a touch of comfort for a friend on her arm.
And one woman gently reached for her bag, jotted down words, another, older woman's thoughts ...
Joseph's latest collection is:" Extreme of Things" ( Bloodaxe 2006) a wonderful collection with the theme of the nature of our existence running through it. Some of her earlier poems are there, along with new ones.....
And they'll surprise you, and they MAY just delight you.
** That was me ( wearing orange)
*** See archives Wed Dec 6th ( if time/inclination)


Anonymous Westminster said...

So sorry I couldn't be there Jan but I'm grateful for your account of proceedings.
And yes, I do slope; a little more than I used to, as I grow older. Sometimes I slope so far that things roll orff...


Best regards to your creative writing group.

aka JTM

9:04 am  
Blogger Anne S said...

Purple is my favourite colour - I wear purple clothes in various shades most of the time and I dare say I shall be wearing when I'm old.

These days I favour dark vibrant colours - pastels seem so wishy washy, not that I went in for them all that much.

Sounds like Jenny Joseph is an interesting poet. Will look her up, not that I'm all that in to poetry - I've been exposed to too much bad poetry to take it seriously.

Anyway, enjoyed your post. You have a wonderful way with words.

9:19 am  
Blogger I Beatrice said...

Your account reminds me of an experience I had recently at our own local stately home, which is Ham House, in Richmond, Surrey (the setting, by the way, for my story 'Macauley's House' on I Beatrice).

(This little anecdote has already appeared on Wife in the North's comment page, by the way; so I apologise to anyone who might be enduring it for the second time!)

I was sitting with my husband having tea in the garden there, and left him alone for a while, to go and visit the shop. When I returned ten minutes later, I found that a young and attractive woman was sharing the table with him; she rose to greet me, putting out her hand and introducing herself as 'Jane Northumberland'.

I knew at once who she was - having seen a TV programme about her ambitious restoration of the gardens at Alnwick Castle in Northumberland. My husband hadn't had a clue as to her identity however; he had just thought her very attractive and nice. Though he said he had wondered a little when, in response to his remark about the numbers of volunteer gardeners it took to keep Ham House tidy, she had said that it took "about eighty" to do it at their place!

I have to confess that it did occur to me at one point to ask myself how one ought to be addressing a duchess? But she was so very much younger than I, so very pleasant and ordinary ( and in any case, every democratic principle in me had risen up against the notion of 'Your Gracing' her!) - that I behaved towards her exactly as I would have done had I not known who she was.

Have we outgrown the duchess principle in England, do you think? I hope so on the whole, myself.

10:03 am  
Blogger liz fenwick said...

You reminded my of my love of peotry which I have neglected for years........thanks

10:59 am  
Blogger Catherine said...

You made me feel almost as if I was there with you! I personally think the "purple" poem is rather overrated, and I am sure she has written many better ones (groups of women out in public in the purple-with-red-hat uniform look very silly in my opinion).
About the poetry prompts you asked about - they are on the Poetry Thursday website http://poetrythursday.org. One a day for the month of April (National Poetry Month in the US), but I think they are going to add a random prompt generator at the beginning of May as the prompts have been very popular.

11:47 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its sound like a great afternoon - especially after toilet cleaning. I am afraid the uke of Westminster is usually out of the country for tax reasons. Do you write any poetry Jan?

12:32 pm  
Blogger Stay at home dad said...

I know they're aristocracy and everything but I do think it was a bit much of them to make you clean their loos for your cuppa.

Thank goodness for Bloodaxe.


4:41 pm  
Blogger Jan said...

SAHD: Very Sharp!

6:37 pm  
Blogger Cathy said...

I'm sure I read somewhere that Jenny Joseph doesn't like to talk about 'purple' as she feels it has eclipsed all her other more serious work!

7:41 pm  
Blogger Jan said...

Hmm. Thanks Gerald.Now whip off that crazy mask, Jonathan!
The Creative Writers miss you.
Des-Doug plans to return in Sept, so YOU have no excuses either...

Yes I love purple too.And yes, Jenny Joseph was interesting to meet.

I bet your husband's face was a picture when he realised! Thanks for that gem.

I dont suppose you've much time at present but the beauty of poetry IS that it's often concise, condensed writing...and you can enjoy it any place and in small " doses".

Thanks for the poetry prompts. Not that I'll actually get round to DOING anything!

Im sure you're right on this. She was a pleasant but serious lady.
Nevertheless it'd have been good to hear her best known poem, if only to see how poets have differing moods/styles....much we heard was beautiful, but fairly "serious"...and also, lots of the audience had come because "Warning" was the poem they knew and expected and had wanted Jenny Joseph to read..
Thanks CAthy.

8:20 pm  
Blogger Minx said...

Oh, it sounds lovely, refined and un-purple (shame). It is great to get to these events even if sometimes you have to dig deep for them.

Lately Cornwall has got a bit cosmo - I have just been booking tickets to Lanhydrock Blues in the Park and I am hoping to get to the Port Eliot Lit fest this year (Moshin Hammad is there). Then there are the Eden Sessions, Carnglaze, Sterts Theatre, The Minack - oh dear, we shall be eating baked beans all summer!

11:36 pm  
Blogger I Beatrice said...

Thanks, Jan. I'll go and have a look for it now.

10:00 am  
Blogger I Beatrice said...

I've read the Times article on autism now, and it reflects our experience exactly! It might almost have written by my daughter - who has spent £20,000 on ABA tutors for this one year alone; and who has encountered only oppostion to it in all the local authority dpts and off-shoots - and even in the little special nursery which Johnny has been attending, and which has cost her another arm and leg!

After a long battle, the LA has reluctantly agreed to partial funding of a school/ABA programme for next year - whilst staunchly maintaining their opposition to the ABA concept as a whole.


12:07 pm  
Blogger Jan said...

Im so envious of all this wonderful stuff happening in Cornwall...it's fabulous there this time of yr, in fact MUCH of the time.
And special events ( concerts etc) have the perfect locations..
Last visit I had to The Minnack was in an early January...nowt going on there, of course, and the day, the sea, the sky were wild with wind and rain...it was superb.

Im glad I saw that article.
It would be wonderful IF folk came to their senses, wouldn't it? I feel for your family.

5:27 pm  
Blogger I Beatrice said...

Funny thing is, Jan, my family are the last people to read me. It must have been all that Henry James stuff in their childhood! Not one of them would go near the man now though - and it was only when my husband read my blog yesterday, that he knew I'd ever had a Henry James fixation, at all!

Families, eh - who'd have them?

12:34 pm  
Blogger Jan said...

I Beatrice:
I have a friend whose mother reads everything she writes..and then her father edits it..
I think Id find that a bit TOO close for comfort!

9:55 pm  

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