My thanks also to Terry Dooley, Penelope Fitzgerald's son-in law and literary executor, for directions to his old family home in our nearest village and the place that Penelope adored so much. I had often wondered which one it was so I wandered up there late in the afternoon in glorious sunshine and took a few pictures.
Everywhere looking very sleepy around the newly-mown churchyard and I hope this is the right cottage, I tried to be a bit discreet about snapping someone's family home...
...and not difficult to see why Penelope loved this spot as much as she did.
'They live in a cottage with honeysuckle at one side of the front door and a rose at the other...the kitchen built out at the back looks over green pastures...'
From there Penelope Fitzgerald would have certainly enjoyed this view across to the Church of St Constantine and St Aegedius, we do like our saints to be a bit out of the ordinary here in Devon.
And the tiled church floor surely begs a quilt
And there, Penelope's timeless view across the Village
Green and those gracefully hipped Lutyens' roofs again and the squat
chimneys that she felt sure mirrored the scale of the church tower. This
is where the workers for the Duke of Bedford's Endsleigh Estate lived
and from where they would walk the two miles across the fields to work.
Perhaps saddest of all on this wander, I espied a newer grave with carefully placed memorial seat alongside and overlooking the Green; one of the Kayaker's school friends (and namesake, both Christian and middle name) who was tragically killed in a terrible car accident just outside the village a while ago. His grave looks almost longingly across to his old family home, next door to the Dooley's home, and he would doubtless have been one of those children Penelope watched playing there, as ours did on long summer evenings all those years ago...
'At the end of the churchyard there is a steep drop, with a flight of stone steps, down to the Green, the centre of all things for Milton Abbot's not very many young children. This is an echoing green, as in Blake's vision, and when it darkens the last game of three-a-side football trails into silence.'
... and quite unexpected tears pricked my eyes as I read the simple engraving on his headstone ...
'Sadly not indestructible'
From time immemorial anyone who has raised adventurous sons will understand the truth and the fear behind those incredibly poignant words and I sat for a moment and thought about his family and mine, and the joy of having lived and raised our children here, and of course I thought about Penelope Fitzgerald and what inspiration she may have gathered from this special place, and I was thankful.