Another early start with Jenni Murray at 9.30am, as the chair remarked, even earlier than Woman's Hour.
It was a good morning for a stroll because I haven't had much time to do that this year and it's a very important part of the experience. Dartington is in my diary annually as a 'retreat and reflection' oasis of calm often recalled to mind during those long, dark, murky winter days driving out on Dartmoor, so it's crucial to recharge my own batteries too.There are always hidden corners to discover and I doubt I will ever find them all but the walled garden is looking stunning this year.
I had an interesting chat with Nicola Tyrer about her excellent book Sisters in Arms mentioned on here recently and then had to make the terrible choice as Nicola was speaking at the same time as Jenni Murray; feeling I knew Nicola's book well I opted for Jenni whose book I didn't know at all. Climbed up into my seat in the gods wondering whether I'd made the right choice, Memoirs of a Not So Dutiful Daughter, was this going to be misery?
Jenni appeared on crutches as she awaits hip-resurfacing, a treatment for those too young for hip replacement, all very flattering really, and was introduced by Lorna Duffin. Lorna is one of Ways With Words most accomplished chairs, I've listened to her thoughtful introductions and questions with writers here for years and she always does it all with consummate elegance and skill.
Jenni proceeded to read two brief extracts from her book. One about the death of her mother on the day that Jenni herself was diagnosed with breast cancer, and one about the death six months later of her father. As an only child the burden and significance of such loss was profound and Jenni's grief palpable.Life had not always been perfect and there was much that needed to be reconciled.
Many writers and speakers at Ways With Words must hope that somehow they can flick on the switch and create that emotionally electrically charged atmosphere. It's rare but when it happens the audience senses it, buys into it and submits willingly and as I looked down from my heavenly seat the Great Hall was motionless, frozen in that deep concentration. Me, I was fighting back the tears, so was Jenni, and as she said ' Goodbye Dad, I love you' I'd given up trying to stop the tear rolling down my cheek.
I suspect just about everyone else listening was fighting the same battle.
Jenni had captured us as her own and kept us there for the next hour.
The book is an account of her upbringing in the 1950's and 60's and the conflicts that ensued as one generation brought up the next into a world they had not anticipated, let alone knew how to cope with. Jenni's mother must have known trouble was brewing when Jenni rejected the offer of the Playtex girdle and the alice band.
The book Memoirs of a Not So Dutiful Daughter has only been published this week so I hadn't been able to get my hands on a copy before the festival and I actually wasn't sure it was a book I would read. Naturally an hour of listening convinced me that this was essential reading, so essential in fact and from an event so memorable that I'd best buy one and get it signed as a fine memory of the day.
I'll be giving it the dovegreyreader treatment over the next few weeks and will report back on my findings, I suspect there will be much in there to reflect on and share.
Now time to prepare for Helen Rappaport and the Romanov 90th anniversary experience.