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Showing posts from March, 2009

Alleyways, Sally Lunn's and Public Breakfasts in Bath

One of the things I love about Bath is the way you can imagine yourself transported back in time very easily. There are lots of narrow alleyways, some with shops, and others without, where you can almost see a tailcoat disappear round a corner or hear the rustle of silk gowns sweeping over the cobbles. I love to explore the alleyways off Abbey Green - this one (right) leads to Sally Lunn's ! Sally Lunn's is the oldest house in Bath. Sally Lunn, a young French refugee, arrived in England over 300 years ago. She found work at what is now known as Sally Lunn's House and began to bake a rich round and generous bread now known as the Sally Lunn Bun. This bun became a very popular delicacy in Georgian England as its special taste and lightness allowed it to be enjoyed with either sweet or savoury accompaniments. Bathing and a visit to the Pump Rooms to take the prescribed number of glasses of water was often followed by the first meal of the day. The buns were sometimes eaten a

Competition Winner, a Mood Board, and an Extract from Lydia Bennet's Story

The winner of the competition is Milka from Finland! Congratulations! I have e-mailed you, so if you can send me details of where to send your books they will be posted soon. I thought you might like to see one of the mood boards I created when I was writing Lydia Bennet's Story. I always start with a map, in this case, one of Hertfordshire where Pride and Prejudice is set. We don't know exactly where Meryton and Longbourn were but I based my research around Hertford. I like to find contemporary paintings for inspiration and look for portraits which might suit the characters I am writing about. As time goes on the maps get scribbled on with information about travel times, notes about towns and villages and plot directions. In this instance I added images which helped me to picture my heroine, so a girl in flimsy muslim, a pink bonnet, and bathing huts in Brighton all aided and inspired. I do a lot of research, but I probably don't use half of it. I find it very useful if yo

Lydia meets the Colonel's true love!

Lydia Bennet's Online Diary. At this time of the year I always read Pride and Prejudice and I thought it would be fun to see what Lydia is thinking about all the goings on at Longbourn. Lydia's online diary starts just before Mr Bingley arrives and finishes where my novel, Lydia Bennet's Story, begins. Saturday, March 13th, 1802 To my surprise as I entered Emma's sweet parlour, there sat the very Miss Harringtons that Mr Wickham had made reference to in our recent discourse. They are Harriet’s distant cousins on her mother’s side of the family and I am pleased to report that they seem jolly girls, if a little plain and dowdy. After the formality of the initial introductions, our subject for conversation turned naturally towards those with whom we have most in common. “It has been so dull since your sister left, Miss Fitzalan,” I remarked, “Kitty and I have not bothered to venture out so much. Everything is so tedious at this time of year, the cold, the wind, the dirty w

Sense and Sensibility in Chapter One at Norland Park

Jane Austen does not give us physical descriptions of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood at the beginning of Sense and Sensibility. We get a picture of the sisters by the descriptions of their behaviour and the way in which they deal with their father's death cleverly showing the 'sense' of Elinor and the 'sensibility' of Marianne in chapter one. It seems Elinor is the only female in the household who can find the strength to carry on with her normal duties putting aside her feelings and emotions in order to get on with greeting her brother and sister-in-law who arrive to take over Norland Park. Marianne and Mrs Dashwood give in freely to their feelings while poor Elinor has to get on with the business of the day. Elinor saw, with concern, the excess of her sister's sensibility; but by Mrs. Dashwood it was valued and cherished. They encouraged each other now in the violence of their affliction. The agony of grief which overpowered them at first, was voluntarily rene

Mother's Day

It's Mothering Sunday here in the UK tomorrow. I've been thinking not only about my mother, and both my lovely step-mother and mother-in-law, but also of the children who will not have their mother with them tomorrow. My heart goes out to Natasha Richardson's boys who must be devastated by the loss of their mother. My brother was about the same age when our mother died; my sister and I were 17 and 21 respectively. The trauma of such a loss and its effects on a family cannot be described. Prince William said in an interview the other day how much he dreads Mother's Day, and I know just what he means - I still miss my mother terribly, and not a day goes by when I don't think about her. She was such an inspiration, and a wonderful mum who could turn her hand to anything. I have treasured memories of us painting together - she encouraged me with my drawing and story telling. She was a wonder with a needle - I remember describing a dress I liked once, and she made it in

Austen Effusions gets a new look and a Competition!

I'm very excited to tell you that I have a new web site, same address and name, Austen Effusions , but with a totally new look. The site has updates about my books, Effusions of Fancy, Lydia Bennet's Story and Willoughby's Return, including extracts, and a page about my interest in Jane Austen's world, which shows a slideshow of my paintings. Aimee Fry, the talented website designer, has done a beautiful job, I think. She was a pleasure to work with and she was so fast I found it hard to keep up - a lovely, pain-free experience! You can find her at Site Amigo and she also has a website selling some vintage-inspired gifts Brown Paper Package . I am absolutely thrilled with the website - thank you so much, Aimee! To celebrate the launch I have a copy of Lydia Bennet's Story and Effusions of Fancy to give away. All you have to do is go to the Austen Effusions website, and drop me an e-mail through the contact page. I shall put the names in a hat to select the winner

Harriet arrives and Mr Wickham promises Lydia a Dance!

Lydia Bennet's Online Diary. At this time of the year I always read Pride and Prejudice and I thought it would be fun to see what Lydia is thinking about all the goings on at Longbourn. Lydia's online diary starts just before Mr Bingley arrives and finishes where my novel, Lydia Bennet's Story, begins. I set off for Meryton shortly after breakfast and met Mr Wickham in the High Street, intent on a few calls. “Miss Bennet, I declare I have not seen you or any of your family for a month at least. Have you all been in hiding?” he asked with a mischievous grin, as he stepped in alongside me with a bow and a flourish. “No,” I retorted. “Any reasons I might have had for hiding have long since disappeared and are enjoying themselves at Bath, as well you know. My sister Jane is still in London, Catherine has gone to stay with her friend in Hatfield and I believe you did see my sister Elizabeth before she went to Hunsford, not more than five days ago.” I paused outside the milliner’

Sense and Sensibility, 2008

I watched the lovely BBC adaptation of Sense and Sensibility yesterday for the umpteenth time. I really love this version quite as much as the Emma Thompson/Ang Lee version. Colonel Brandon played by David Morrissey, gets it just right, I think, and I like the way that Andrew Davies, the writer of the screenplay, shows us little windows into his character, showing him as a suitor prepared to wait for Marianne's affection, hinting at their shared interests, and giving Marianne some very good reasons to fall in love with him. Jane Austen really glosses over the last stage of their courtship, which has left some of us wondering how on earth she managed to end up with him. There is something a little unsatisfactory, for me, in the way this is wrapped up. Marianne Dashwood was born to an extraordinary fate. She was born to discover the falsehood of her own opinions, and to counteract, by her conduct, her most favourite maxims. She was born to overcome an affection formed so late in life

Lacock Abbey, Pride and Prejudice and Harry Potter!

On my visit to Lacock I visited the Abbey grounds - unfortunately the house was still closed, but the gardens were very beautiful - drifts of crocus and snowdrops carpeting the grass. It was fun spotting all the places I'd seen in the cloisters in Pride and Prejudice (Wickham behaving disreputably at University) and in the Harry Potter films. The exhibition on early photography was fascinating and there is a good selection of books in the bookshop to tempt! From the National Trust: The Abbey sits at the heart of Lacock village. It was founded in 1232 and converted into a country house c.1540. The atmospheric monastic rooms include medieval cloisters, a sacristy and chapter house and have survived largely intact. They have featured in two Harry Potter films, plus the recent The Other Boleyn Girl. The handsome 16th-century stable courtyard houses a clockhouse, brewery and bakehouse. The pioneering photographic achievements of William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-77), who invented the nega

Another letter from Hunsford!

Lydia Bennet's Online Diary. At this time of the year I always read Pride and Prejudice and I thought it would be fun to see what Lydia is thinking about all the goings on at Longbourn. Lydia's online diary starts just before Mr Bingley arrives and finishes where my novel, Lydia Bennet's Story, begins. Friday, March 12th, 1802 Another letter from Lizzy arrived this morning, which mama read at the breakfast table. Lady Catherine’s daughter Anne called at the vicarage in her phaeton on Wednesday. Lizzy is pleased to report that she is very thin, cross and sickly, an entirely suitable candidate as a spouse for Mr Darcy. Lady C. has high hopes for a match and this idea has amused my sister greatly. Her description of Charlotte and Mr Collins standing at the gate in the wind, hanging on to Miss de Bourgh’s every word, whilst Sir William waited at the door, smiling and bowing alternately before them brought much hilarity to our table. Papa who normally has his head buried in a ne

The Pump Rooms, Bath, and Northanger Abbey

If you carry on down Milsom Street, Old Bond Street and Union Street you will eventually come to Stall Street and the King's and Queen's Baths. If you pass under the colonnade you come to the entrance to the Pump Rooms. Inside you can see the Rooms much as they were when first built in 1795. Water is pumped up to a fountain where the pumper serves glasses for its health giving properties! I have sampled the waters - I don't want to put anyone off - if you like drinking slightly warm, sulphurous smelling water you'll enjoy them very them. Musicians play as you take the waters or have a more substantial cup of tea or lunch as they did in Jane Austen's day. Several glasses of water were taken in those days and it was customary to drink them before breakfast. The doors opened at 6 am in summer and by 8 am the room was full. Here is an extract from Jane Austen's novel Northanger Abbey. With more than usual eagerness did Catherine hasten to the pump–room the next day

News from Elizabeth and the pleasures of Meryton with all its diversions!

Lydia Bennet's Online Diary. At this time of the year I always read Pride and Prejudice and I thought it would be fun to see what Lydia is thinking about all the goings on at Longbourn. Lydia's online diary starts just before Mr Bingley arrives and finishes where my novel, Lydia Bennet's Story, begins. Thursday, 11th March, 1802 Mama received news from Lizzy this morning - despite the fact that she writes with compassion for Charlotte and with derision of our cousin, it has nevertheless set mama off again into a diatribe of what might have been. Lizzy’s account of their comfortable surroundings and description of a tour of the house and garden had mama exclaiming how some people who ought to be satisfied with one house agreeably fitted up, should not be so anxious to snatch another from under the very noses of its rightful owners. However, she took some comfort from the fact that the house is small, and was forced to laugh out loud at Lizzy’s revelation that Mr Collins is a

Taking tea in Lacock

I can think of nothing nicer on a cold February day than sitting in a teashop by a log fire and partaking of a cream tea. I visited King John's Hunting Lodge which is the oldest house in Lacock and found perfection. If you have an idea of what you might expect from an English teashop, a visit here will not disappoint. According to their web site, 'the main part of the lodge, dating back to the 13th century, still has much of the original cruck beam structure, whilst the rear of the building was added to in Tudor times. King John (1167 - 1216), Lord of the Manor of Melksham, frequently indulged his passion for hunting in the surrounding forest, and it is likely that he made regular visits to his Hunting Lodge.' The lovely dresser filled with blue and white china groaned with cakes of all kinds: chocolate confections, plump Victoria sponges, fruit slabs and coffee cake studded with crisp walnuts. I love old china and there is plenty on display on shelves and behind glass; pr

Pride and Prejudice 1995 - Lacock location

Whilst staying in Bath I took a little trip out to Lacock, the village where so many of our favourite adaptations have been filmed. Most memorable, of course, was the 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. I've been to Lacock many times, but I thought you might be interested to see a few photos. There I am standing under the sign of the Red Lion which doubled up as the Meryton Assembly Rooms in the miniseries. Next up is a view down the main street - I do think it is a pity that they allow people to park their cars there - they really do spoil the look of the place - but, this isn't a model town; people live here and in a modern world we drive cars. How much nicer it would look if there were horses and carriages - and officers - and real bonnets in the shops! The last photo shows a view towards the church. It's down here that I discovered a gorgeous teashop. I'm not ashamed to say I made two visits to this heavenly establishment -

New Sourcebooks edition, Pemberley Manor, Kathryn L Nelson

My friend Kathryn L Nelson is a very special guest on my blog today. Her book, Pemberley Manor, a new Sourcebooks edition, is to be released in April of 2009. Kathy tells us of her inspiration and about how she came to write her lovely book. Lord, it makes me laugh to think of it… I continue to require the services of a little pinch now and again to remind me that I’m not dreaming, that I have indeed written a sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, that it has been published once, and now will be published again by Sourcebooks, all within my lifetime! When the BBC and A&E created yet another production of Pride and Prejudice in 1995, it was as if I were seeing it for the first time. I don’t know if it was my age, my condition in life, or solely the excellence of the screenplay, directing, and acting, but I was suddenly caught up in Jane Austen’s world. When I began to write the rambling story that eventually became Pemberley Manor, I was a partner in our family electrical c