I was about to start doing my ironing the other day so I had to decide which DVD to watch whilst doing it as I absolutely must have something to distract me from the task, yes the ironing does suffer and I often end up ironing in even more creases but it keeps me semi-sane! Anyway, I plumped for the Mapp and Lucia series by E.F. Benson which I’ve watched several times before but more than anything I just wanted to re-visit the lovely wee town of Rye in the only way that I can at the moment. Lots of Rye locations were used in the filming of the series and they’re all very recognisable. It occurred to me that I had never shown any of the photos of the garden before, not that they’re all that exciting, I hope it was better when the house was owned by E.F. Benson and before him by the American author Henry James, or the several other authors who seem to have lived there in the past. I can see why people love the place despite it being a bit of a tourist Mecca, it was a well known haunt of smugglers in the past, as well as French invaders and the whole place is very atmospheric – and it has a secondhand bookshop!
Rye in East Sussex, England, is one of the Cinque Ports and is a lovely place to visit for a few days, I’m not sure what it would be like to live there permanently though as it seems to be one of those places that attracts more than its fair share of tourists – albeit of the more genteel variety. I’ve just googled Rye which I should of course have done before visiting the place because surprise surprise – I didn’t know it all. Anyway the link above is just to the Wiki page as East Sussex also seems to have more than its fair share of bloggers who have written about Rye, I didn’t want to choose between them.
It’s a small medieval town which used to be on the coast but the sea is now two miles away as over the centuries the sea has receded and what used to be the sea is now Romney Marsh. The town still feels coastal though, probably because there are three rivers, the Rother, the Tillingham and the Brede. Rye was a centre for smuggling due to the high taxes on so many goods and one of the smuggling gangs met in The Mermaid Inn. I was amused to see that the house opposite The Mermaid Inn is called The House Opposite. Quirky names seem to be all the rage for houses here, another one was called The One Next Door. I should have written them all down as I’ve forgotten them now.
Apart from Henry James and E.F. Benson lots of authors were attracted to the place including Rumer Godden, Stephen Crane, H.G. Wells, Joseph Conrad, Ford Madox Ford, Monica Edwards, Radclyffe Hall, John Christopher, Malcolm Saville. Joan Aiken was a native of Rye, Sir Paul McCartney and Spike Milligan lived there as did the artist Paul Nash. I wondered why Captain Pugwash featured in the Museum but apparently his creator John Ryan was a resident of Rye although he was born in Edinburgh. Rye is a very popular place to live.
The house below was the artist Paul Nash’s home.
I’m sure the street below which is just at the church also featured a lot in the TV series with Quaint Irene painting the weatherboarding at one point.
Below is The Mermaid Inn from the back, you can easily imagine it being a favourite meeting place for smugglers.
I would definitely visit Rye again, if I can brave the horror that is the M25 motorway again. We rarely got above eight miles an hour!
Since I realised that the Mapp and Lucia books by E.F. Benson were set in Rye in East Sussex I’ve wanted to visit the place, especially as Rye was the location for the TV dramatisations. I certainly wasn’t disappointed as it’s a lovely place albeit one that has more than its fair share of tourists but that’s to be expected I suppose although I was surprised that there were so many German visitors around, I wonder why, is it the Mapp and Lucia aspect? Or maybe it’s Henry James. Both authors lived in Lamb House which used to be the home of the mayor of the town many years ago. It’s difficult to get a good photo of some of the buildings as the streets are so narrow.
The study below is on the right hand side as you enter the front door. The cabinets are full of Henry James and E.F. Benson books, I had no idea that Benson had written so many.
The drawing room below is on the left hand side as you go through the front door and is bigger. There’s a drawing by Beatrix Potter on the wall.
There’s also a framed L.P. of Land of Hope and Glory whose words were written by Arthur Benson, E.F.’s brother.
Henry James had always admired the house but never thought it would come on the market so when it did he snapped it up and lived there happily for decades. When Henry James died his family agreed to lease the house to E.F. Benson so between the two the house has hosted lots of visits from other writers over the years, but now it belongs to the National Trust and is a popular tourist destination.
The dining room is at the back of the house with doors which lead out to the garden.
Only one bedroom is open to the public and it’s quite sparse, but I do love the corner fireplaces in Lamb House.
It isn’t a particularly large house and not all of the rooms are open to the public, but I can see why those men both wanted to live in it as it would be a comfortable home and the garden is beautiful, but I’ll leave those photos for another day.
Of course E.F. Benson did end up being Mayor of Rye, for three terms I believe so he must really have thrown himself into the whole community. I don’t think he will ever have had to look far for his characters!
Lucia in Wartime by Tom Holt is an enjoyable read, especially for those of us who just love to be in the company of Tilling’s foremost inhabitants, but unsurprisingly the author doesn’t quite come up to E.F. Benson standards. There are of course plenty of spats between Mapp and Lucia. In Benson’s books these are snobby and catty but in this book they descend into nastiness that feels like it has all been taken just a wee bit too far.
Also I think the author could have been doing with re-reading the originals a bit more closely as he gets quite a few details wrong about them. For instance Major Flint’s habitual yell of quai-hai has become qui-hi.
Diva is even busier than usual with her dressmaking projects, she has of course always had a ‘make-do and mend’ mentality and rationing has just encouraged her to get her scissors out and add chintz roses to her clothing.
Most of the servants have left and gone to make munitions, Lucia and Georgie are appalled at the thought of having to cook for themselves, but Georgie rises to the challenge and discovers a talent for making meals out of practically nothing, and Major Benjy is in charge of the Home Guard. Mapp gets into a terrible fankle due to her usual duplicity, and Lucia is as always on guard whenever Olga Bracely’s name is mentioned.
The wartime setting works really well, with Lucia and Georgie having to ditch their cod Italian as it’s unpatriotic and a bit dangerous to be thought of as pro-Italian. A Polish phrase book is purchased!
Reading this one made me want to re-read the originals – again. I might make do with watching the DVDs though, the original series with Prunella Scales as Mapp and Geraldine McEwan as Lucia of course.
For the past couple of days we’ve been back in my beloved west of Scotland, visiting a couple of National Trust properties – amongst other things. A trip to Byres Road in Glasgow’s west end is always on the itinerary and I was lucky to find four modern paperbacks and Mary Berry’s Baking Bible at some secondhand bookshops there. I now have regrets that I passed up the chance to buy a few rare old books that I thought were hideously expensive, because I now know that they were in fact absolute bargains. So annoying – but that’s life.
Anyway, as you can see I also bought:
Lucia in Wartime by Tom Holt
The Day of the Storm by Rosamunde Pilcher
The Town in Bloom by Dodie Smith
Death of a Busybody by George Bellairs
Lots of people seem to be reading George Bellairs books at the moment but I haven’t read any yet. It’s a fair wee while since I read anything by Rosamunde Pilcher, this one is set in Cornwall, she seems to veer between Scotland and Cornwall for her settings, I like a Cornish setting – always have since way back in my Malory Towers reading days, and it’s an awful lot easier for me to go there via books than to travel the 500 miles or so from here.
I like Dodie Smith although – as I recall – I Capture the Castle isn’t my favourite. Controversial? What do you think? And lastly Lucia in Wartime is of course not by E.F. Benson, but Tom Holt is quite good at writing in Benson’s style and as I adore the Mapp and Lucia books and just about any domestic fiction set in World War 2 it is right up my street, so I’m really looking forward to reading that one. In fact it has jumped straight to the top of my TBR queue, unfair on the many that have languished there – sometimes for years, but a few days back in Tilling with Mapp and Lucia is just what I need now.
The recipes in the Mary Berry Baking Bible look sumptuous although with her lemon meringue pie featuring a large tin of condensed milk as part of the filling ingredients it’s fair to say that none of the recipes are for the calorie counters among us. I’m going to have to work my way very slowly through the 250 recipes in the book!
Have you read any of these books?
Au Reservoir by Guy Fraser Sampson is a continuation of E.F. Benson’s hugely enjoyable Mapp and Lucia series. I’m not usually at all keen on such things but for those of us who love to be in the company of Lucia and Mapp and all the other inhabitants of Tilling (Rye) in East Sussex, Au Reservoir is faithful to Benson’s characters and the situations they usually got themselves into so that’s a big plus.
Mind you Benson’s characters were so well drawn with so many eccentricities that I think it would probably be a fairly easy job for anyone with a gift for writing to cobble together a book written in his style, like a sort of join the dots exercise.
This book is slightly updated for modern readers with Major Benjy being a bit more risque than he could get away with before and a few incongruous words were used by Lucia who would never have referred to her living-room, it was always her drawing-room and she wouldn’t have used the word specialty, she would have said speciality – as I would too!
The Labour government and high taxation is mentioned a lot, which put me in mind of Angela Thirkell’s post war books. As I recall it was usually just the local rates that got Benson’s Tillingites aerated.
As you would expect from the title this is the last of these books and I found the ending quite sad. No more Moonlight Sonatas for Lucia and Georgie. What am I saying? What a relief for the Tillingites!
It seems like a long time ago now but what did you think of the new version of Mapp and Lucia which was on the BBC at Christmas? I was sort of half dreading watching it as I’m a big fan of E.F. Benson’s books and I adored the Channel 4 series of Mapp and Lucia which starred Geraldine McEwan and Prunella Scales as well as lots of other great actors. In the end of course I did watch the new version, to be honest there wasn’t much on TV over the holidays anyway, it was even worse than usual I think.
There were only three parts in the series and I can see that there is loads of scope for more parts to come, I suppose they were waiting to see how popular it would be. It was definitely entertaining but I couldn’t stop myself from comparing everything with the earlier series.
I suppose you could say that the Geraldine McEwan version was just a wee bit over the top, but I think that that is exactly how Mapp and Lucia should be played. The costumes in the new version weren’t as sumptuous as those of the Channel 4 series, those ones were a real treat for the eyes and the detail was wonderful, not only with the clothes but the handbags, hats and jewellery too, especially Lucia’s. Georgie in the new series is just not dapper enough, nor finicky and camp enough. ‘Quaint’ Irene has been turned into a make-up wearing masculine woman whereas she should be a tomboy of a girl who has somehow got stuck at the schoolgirl crush stage of life which some females seem to have experienced.
You can read about the making of the recent series here.
There’s a snippet from the McEwan series below and you can see some complete episodes on You Tube if you’re interested.
It has been a couple of days now since we go the news that P.D. James had died at the age of 94. The Guardian has lots of articles on her which you can read here, the most recent being the My Hero column which today is written by Val McDermid about Phyllis Dora James. I think her decision to only use her initials was a good career move as apparently men prefer to read books by men and a lot of people assumed that P.D. was a man. I don’t think women are so bothered about the gender of authors.
In fact Goodreads has come up with the fact that readers in general prefer to read books which have been written by their own gender. I think I read more books by men than women though, what about you? I’ll have to have a count of this year’s authors. You can read the Guardian article here.
It’s the time of the year when people look back and decide which books were their favourites of the year. You can read what a lot of authors have plumped for here.
The BBC are making a new version of E.F. Benson’s Mapp and Lucia books, I just can’t imagine that they will be able to improve on the Geraldine McEwan, Prunella Scales line up and who could replace Nigel Hawthorne as Georgie? Well Anna Chancellor is playing Lucia apparently. Miranda Richardson is Mapp, Mark Gatiss is Major Benji Flint and Steve Pemberton will be playing Georgie Pillson. I’m sure I’ll be watching but I don’t think it’ll be as good somehow.
You can read more about some of the shows which are going to be shown around Christmas here.
I loved the Paddington Bear books although I was quite old when I got around to reading them, in fact it was only when I was reading them to my own kids that I discovered what fun they are. You can read an article about Paddington and the new film version which has just been released here. I think they should have special late night viewings of this film as I want to see it – but not with a whole load of kids who will probably cry and generally be a distraction. Or maybe I should just wait until it comes on TV.
If you’re into doing quizzes and Paddington Bear then you might want to have a bash at this one.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve perfected a very good hard stare of my own over the years. It’s one of the necessities of life!
This book was one of my purchases on my recent foray into England, I bought this one from the Amnesty International bookshop in Great Malvern, I couldn’t resist it as it’s a book of short stories which includes a Miss Mapp story.
E.F. Benson wrote a lot of short stories which were published in various magazines and he tailored the stories to appeal to the various publications. They are divided into seven categories: Crank Stories, Society Stories, Cruel Stories, Odd Stories, Dodo Stories, Spook Stories and The Diversions of Amy Bondham.
I’m a big fan of the Mapp and Lucia books but I hadn’t read anything else by Benson but I will be on the look-out for more of his books now as I did enjoy these short stories, even the Spook ones which is what he called his ghost stories. The character of Lucia is just beginning to be formed but if you enjoy the Mapp and Lucia books you’ll want to get your hands on these.
I’ve actually spent quite a lot of time in East Sussex over the years as I had an aunt who lived there but for some reason I never got around to visiting Rye. Mind you, way back then I hadn’t read E.F. Benson‘s Mapp and Lucia books, but Lisa May at TBR 313 has been discussing E.F. Benson’s writing and the upshot is that I’m adding Rye to my list of places to visit. Although Benson’s fictional town is called Tilling, it was based on Rye where he was the town mayor for years.
I had a wee look on You Tube to see if there were any excerpts from the Mapp and Lucia TV series – and there were but what I really liked was this Thascales ‘album’ of a visit to Rye which s/he has uploaded onto You Tube. The TV series was filmed in Rye and the buildings are all very recognisable.
If you like a twee 1930s setting and a bit of a laugh then you’ll enjoy the series, I wonder if it’s available on Netflix. Geraldine McEwan as Lucia in particular has lovely outfits to wear, it’s a feast for the eyes if you like vintage clothes.