Except, it's all a bit of a clash tonight because not only do we have choir practice, but great excitement because the Tour of Britain cycle race is passing through Tavistock overnight, so the roads are closed and we all have free tickets for the concert in the Square. Local lad done good, Seth Lakeman will be playing and as I am a huge fan and have been playing the latest CD Hearts & Minds ad nauseum we have decided us aging rockers could be tempted to go to a gig.
A few weeks ago Bookhound and I were invited to another gig, a dinner at the hotel with guest speaker, Rachel Trethewey author of the Mistress of the Arts, the book about Georgina, the sixth Duchess of Bedford. Rachel's book the reason we all know locally that years ago it took someone from the village three days to plump up all the feather mattresses when the Bedfords were planning a local sojourn in their holiday cottage. It's a wonderful book and one that we've all read and enjoyed.
Fascinating then to hear the background to the writing of the book, the countless phone calls around the museums to check the existence of letters from Georgina which unearthed some really unexpected gems, including the love poetry of one ardent admirer of the Duchess (one of many it seems).
Lord Holland fired with the sort of imagination you'd want an admirer to possess when he manages to capitalise on the shortage of words to rhyme with Duchess, and so settles frequently on 'crutches'.
The research proved an invaluable insight into Regency life with marriage for dynastic reasons, for life and for the heir and the spare, but infidelity rife and accepted practice.
Incidentally, for our Christmas gathering this year the Endsleigh Salon plan a reading of a play.
We've been threatening to do it since we started, so when I was visiting Faber (& Faber) on a recent London trip I asked if they could suggest one that would have plenty of parts and plenty of laughs. Faber have done us proud because a few weeks later a dozen copies of The Madness of George III by Alan Bennett arrived. Completely contemporaneous to the venue and who knows, probably the subject of much discussion amongst Georgina's houseparty guests as they sat in that same salon room that we do. Anyway our imaginations are fired and running away with us, the evening likely to be hilarious, especially as we will doubtless be dressing accordingly and taking along one prop each (not much room for a complete set)
In the end, after fruitless trips to Ireland and the archives of the Abercorn family, into which Georgina's daughter had married, it was the Devon Records Office that produced the research jewels for Rachel Trethewey, an archive of every bill and receipt for monies paid out by the Bedfords in the construction of Endsleigh (incidentally 200 years last Sunday since the laying of the foundation stone) In total £120,000, the equivalent of £4 million today.
Within those records fascinating details...
Georgina joined the Tavistock Subscription Library
Her favourite scent was Esprit de Rose
She regularly bathed in asses milk
But all was not lost on the research trip to Baron's Court in Ireland, the seat of the Abercorn family. Here were revealed the sketches by Edwin Landseer, almost certainly Georgina's lover (yes, another one) and whilst poetry may not have been Edwin's bag, art was and the sketches revealed an intimate, tender and sensuous evocation of their love, much like a photo album. The drawings seemed as fresh as the day they had been drawn and in the words of Rachel Trethewy, the 'distance between the past and the present evaporated'.
Georgina, exiled from Endsleigh by the family after the death of the 6th Duke, died in Nice in 1853, sadly a trip to Nice could not locate her grave.
So a fine time was had by about sixty diners, plenty of interesting questions and it was good to chat to Rachel again after meeting up at Dartington earlier this year too, and I finally managed to get my copy of the book signed.
Then time for home...but we had parked in the rather more distant and uphill, woodland car park...in daylight.
By now pitch dark the hotel came to our rescue with a small lantern which helped a little once Bookhound realised he was holding it back to front and illuminating the path behind us.
But still velvet darkness and a deathly hush as we inched our way up the path, trying to remember if there had been a fifty foot drop to one side or not, and felt our way around the carriages until we thought we'd found ours, which we did eventually.
Not hard to imagine ourselves back 200 years at all.