It seems fitting that as today is the Second Tuesday in the month and this evening sees the Christmas gathering of The Endsleigh Salon, that I choose an appropriate book for today's prize draw.
As you will all be sick to death of hearing, Hotel Endsleigh very kindly welcome us through their very grand yet homely doors once a month for a book group with a difference. Look, I've even done what we used to do on holiday postcards to show you 'our' salon room.
This is where the sore afflicted of rural West Devon can discreetly go, safe in the knowledge they are not alone in their book addiction, this is Bookaholic's Anon where we can all just talk on and on and on about books we've loved. To keep a vague state of order we choose a theme and all take along a book somehow connected, no matter how vaguely (remember Sheep?) , wax lyrical about it for a few minutes, someone attempts to chair the evening, great debate ensues, the hotel staff generously bring us a huge tray of tea and coffee and we all come away with a list of even more interesting books, so the addiction is nicely self-perpetuating.
Tonight's theme is Food but I'm not revealing my choice until tomorrow when there will even be a prize draw for a signed copy of my chosen book from the author. We are also tasked with a Secret Santa gift costing not a penny more than £2.50 and we have to wear an item of Christmas cheer. I've actually got the most gorgeous set of...no, I think I'll keep quiet about those too but I will look a complete idiot if that suggestion was a joke...and I walk into one of the nation's smartest hotels, past all the famous guests having drinks before dinner wearing...perhaps I'll think of something else.
So to the book, what is it?
Well it's a copy of The English House by Clive Aslet courtesy of Bloomsbury who will post direct worldwide and there's a whole chapter on Endsleigh, Georgina, Duchess of Bedford's little cottage orne holiday retreat here in the Tamar Valley,
'...the dwelling of someone who liked... to pretend that her tastes were simple and rustic when they might, in fact, be very sophisticated indeed.'
This is where Georgie ( as us locals call her) entertained her young lover Edwin Landseer and someone will often interrupt the bookish talk to speculate on how often Georgie and Ed might have sat looking at the view that we do from the Upper and Lower Georgie's, terraces designed by Repton to give the most acceptable view of the valley.
Or perhaps we ponder the thirteen little Bedford's sailing their model boats on the trickling rill that surrounds the edge of the beautifully planted par-terre garden.
Or the intimate weekend house parties that the Duchess would have given, and for which the chosen few from London society would have de-camped to Devon...then someone says something like,
'Wonder if they all threw their room keys into a bowl on the table.' and the spell is broken.
I digress but be assured tonight we will be pondering what Christmas at Endsleigh may have entailed, the hotel will be magnificently but very tastefully decorated and I may well have ruined the whole kudos of the place by walking in wearing...oh well never mind. I'll take photos anyway.
Other houses do get a mention, Buckland Abbey just up the road, The Clergy House, Alfriston, East Barsham Manor, Pagnell Manor House and plenty more, but I'll wager a guinea that none of them resound with quite so much bookish adoration and laughter as Endsleigh on the second Tuesday in the month.
Names in comments for a copy of The English House.