Bewildering Cares by Winifred Peck

Bewildering Cares by Winifred Peck was first published in 1940, but  Dean Street Press reprinted it in 2016.

The setting is Stampfield which is a market town in the English Midlands and it’s a week in Lent.  Camilla Lacely is married to a vicar, and it’s the busiest time of the year for them. The book is Camilla’s diary of that week, there’s a lot to write about and she does it in an often witty style.

Camilla gets herself into a fankle (tangle) with the parishioners as when the curate preached what they regard as a pacifist sermon, she slept through it all, so she has no idea what they are up in arms about! They are all for running him and his family out of town, and she can’t admit that she was having a nap behind a pillar.

The country has been at war for about six months, it’s the period generally referred to as ‘the phoney war’ as not a lot had changed, rationing wasn’t that bad yet and ‘blitzkrieg’ was yet to happen.

Naturally Camilla is worried about her son Dick as he is at a training camp and presumably will be in the thick of it soonish.  Memories of World War 1 are coming back to her and she writes: Already I recognize the syptoms of the last War, when it grew more impossible to pick upthe newspaper, so that I often discover Dick learnt more about  the years 1914-18 at school than I did by living through them.

But this isn’t a grim read, there’s a lot of humour and although the vicar and the work that he does is very much appreciated by his wife, it’s evident that Camilla is the one with the heaviest burden dealing with the locals, all unpaid of course. This situation was very true to life right up to the 1970s for women who had chosen to marry a minister/vicar, like my sister-in-law, but nowadays I think that most spouses have their own careers to keep them busy. So making cheese rolls for tramps at the manse door probably doesn’t happen now!

There’s an introduction to this book by social historian Elizabeth Crawford, and Penelope Fitzgerald described (her aunt) Winifred Peck as being ‘A romantic who was as sharp as a needle.’

The book cover is a detail from Village Street  (1936) by Eric Ravilious.  I love his art, he became a salaried war artist during WW2 and sadly died when the RAF aeroplane he was in disappeared without trace in 1942.

Bags-I the Georgian house in the middle of the cover!