Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Grantchester and summer lawns


Some days turn out just fine. Yesterday lunchtime saw a meeting at 'The Orchard' in the village of Grantchester, two miles from Cambridge. The meeting was with the writer Jill Dawson, an interview filled with her experience of mentoring for the book I am co-writing on the subject. That was a delight in itself. Coming to know 'The Orchard' on the sunniest of days was another. This has been a place for tea since 1897, tea-goers choosing deckchairs on lawns or in the shade of old apple trees.
A free Rupert Brooke museum on-site sets the place in its literary context. He spent years as a lodger here, E.M.Forster as a frequent guest, Virginia Woolf joining him in neo-pagan frolics, Maynard Keynes reconfiguring economics next door. The place comes with that breath of peace, the sense that it can be snatched away, the literary hayday coming at the end of a century's peace, between Waterloo and the Somme.
From Berlin Booke wrote 'The Old Vicarage, Grantchester', musing over tea in the Orchard .
Stands the church clock at ten-to-three
And is there honey still for tea?

A path is mown through the hayfields down to the river, then along its banks. England keeps its secrets hidden for much of the year, then reveals them. What a treat it is to discover them for oneself.

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