I had such a busy week last week packed full of exciting things. I have to tell you my life is usually a very ordinary one spent writing and looking after my family. But last week was full of magical days and even a larger than life evening or two. It started off when I met Monica Fairview and Victoria Connelly in London before we went off to a dinner given by our wonderful publisher Dominique Raccah of Sourcebooks.
I met Monica and Victoria in St. James's in the afternoon so we could have a wander round, soak up some Regency history, and look at the shops. You can see a photo of Monica and I standing with a statue of Beau Brummel in Jermyn Street at the end of the Piccadilly arcade. Further along is the wonderful Floris perfume shop which is celebrating its 280 year anniversary this year. There were some gorgeous examples of old perfume bottles and packaging displayed in the shop, and the very kind assistant told us that some of the popular perfumes of the day were Jasmine, Stephanotis and Lime, even spraying particular scents so we could get an idea. We wandered down St James's Street next - home to Colonel Brandon in London, if you remember. This part of London was typically the haunt of gentlemen, housing the famous clubs of White's, Boodles and Brooks's (still in existence today) and Jane Austen definitely would not have been seen wandering around here by herself.
Then it was time to go to our Sourcebooks dinner where I must admit I was very starry-eyed to be sitting in such august company as Barbara Erskine, Elizabeth Chadwick, Jill Mansell, Erica James, Freya North and Wendy Holden to name but a few of the authors, as well as lovely friends Monica, Victoria and Amanda Grange . It was a splendid meal in a gorgeous room of the Reform Club in Pall Mall. We did wonder what all the portraits on the walls would say if they could talk as they looked down on a room full of chattering female authors - every portrait was male, and some of them appeared to be highly displeased! In the photo Thackeray looks down on Amanda Grange and I!
The following day I met up with Amanda Grange at Jane Austen's House Museum at Chawton. I haven't been for a while, but I always feel as if I'm visiting old friends, and the feeling that Jane might just walk into the room is always there. The house has a homely feel, and although it has changed in small details over the years it still retains the sense of being a well-loved home. The new shop is gorgeous. Amanda took the opportunity to do some book signings in the shop before we explored the house. I spent far too much money on books, and if you'd like to see what they have on offer you can visit their online shop. The following photos show Amanda and I standing outside the house, then two of Jane's bedroom where there is a lovely example of a tent bed and this gorgeous dress on display. I didn't like to take too many photos inside because flash photography is not a good idea where old artefacts might be damaged, but I'll be posting a few more at a later date. What I love about Jane Austen's House is the fact that they have personal items that belonged to Jane and her family. You can see Jane's bead bracelet and the topaz crosses that Jane's brother Charles bought for his sisters, the red riding coat that belonged to Mrs Austen, and a patchwork quilt made by Jane, Cassandra, and their mother. In glass display cases there are mother of pearl 'fish' such as Lydia Bennet won in Pride and Prejudice, little Regency dolls, ivory letters spelling out the words BLUNDER, and DIXON as in Jane's novel, Emma, and there is even the little needlecase that Jane made for her niece. Christening caps, a bonnet, a lace shawl and replica costumes really give the flavour of the fashion of the time helping to give a sense of the people who lived in the house.
We finished up in the kitchen which has been newly restored - wonder why I felt so at home!