Sunday, 1 June 2008

Port Eliot with Elegance at night

Part two - also written in the pub, only five hours later:

Evening, and with a Cornish dusk wrapping its folds around the day, I made my way back to the house, by way of the church, which allows you to come across it in even more arresting a way than the drive. Having been through the house already, I was struck by the difference preparing for darkness made. How can lights increase the romance of a place? It happened, nevertheless.
With a champagne cocktail in one hand, and nibbling on a few canapes, I made my way through the house, admiring, with Lord St Germans beside me, the armoire in one room. I don't know why, but I have a real thing for beautiful furniture.
So I meandered around, imprinting the house on my memory and going to look at the mural again. I've changed my mind. It's extraordinary. I prefer some parts to others (the middle, for instance, is wonderful and so intricate) I wonder what Daphne would have made of it.
Justine was in conversation with Catherine again, but was also joined by Dr Jessica Gardner, the currator of the literature archive at Exeter University, where Justine did a lot of her research.
The conversation ranged over a great number of subjects - archives; researching; lost manuscripts; letters. Secrets and magic wove their subtle way through the themes of conversation. Things that would ordinarily seem like mere coincidence became the proof by which Justine was destined to write this novel. 'Do you think Daphne wanted you to write this novel?' asked an audience member - and it certainly feels like the spirit of Daphne was making things happen - spurred on, no doubt, by other Justine friendly spirits.

After the talk there was just time to get one last look at the house, say goodbye to Justine and venture down into the basement, where - lit by candles at odd intervals (staged by Michael Howells) we explored the no doubt haunted underbelly of Port Eliot. The wine cellar was fantastic. Perfectly round, with an inner sanctum in the middle, I walked all the way round in gloomy blackness, feeling the ice cold hand of evening must at my neck. A further surprise awaited in the housekeeper's room, where the voice of Mrs Danvers echoed. On peeping round the door of the butler's pantry I got a great shock where I discovered a rocking figure draped in black. My companion gave a little scream, which merited the rather Cornish response of 'Oh, you didn't half give me a turn!'

Home time, and off I wandered up the path, stopping in the middle to take one last look at the house, and then to one of the stewards houses, as Jo had saved my life and was putting me up. There, greeted by two huge Scottish deerhounds, we sat and chatted about the event.

In the morning the sun shone brightly and I sat on the platform drinking it in and walking through Port Eliot once more. That is until Justine arrived! Now [now being at 11am] I'm sitting opposite her (having discovered the train goes to Reading) in first class, waiting for the ticket collector to demand my £10 upgrade.
Once again the countryside is flashing past and my weekend of Daphne related euphoria is at an end, with only the estuary and then the sea to remind me.

Pictures will be up once Dad has given me the disc.

No comments: