I am still sitting here writing up Port Eliot events and thinking of all you still sitting there in your festival gear for the last three weeks, you must be getting fed up with it all but worry not, we are almost done so it can go in the wash soon.
I am remembering some wonderful festival moments as I write, and that includes all the people who came to say hello... Sean and Jane Borodale, Edmund de Waal, Zita West, a steady stream of guests from previous years along with writers nipping in to say thank you for writing about my book. Jane Borodale had written something really touching in our guest book back in 2012...much as she would love me to read her book...
' The Knot - only if you have time, my book is long and life is short, I know - is about Henry Lyte of Lytes Cary and is (hopefully) a green and aromatically - textured book about earth and growth...'
and I read The Knot and loved every word about a month later.
One of those lovely moments at this year's festival was the chance to finally meet the couple behind Little Toller Books, Adrian...and...and.. Ms. Adrian (so sorry, it's gone) and two gorgeous but very hot and weary children. The children, clearly fed up with grown-up book talk, had a minor contretemps slightly eased with bribes of homemade pom-poms made by our lovely gaggle of knitters. It all reminded me SO much of those moments with our own children.
We talked about publishing and reviews; good and less good reviews and their impact on a small press, and their beautiful books some of which they have kindly sent me, and others which I have bought, for the past few years. One of you sent me a Book Token for my Big Birthday last year and a Little Toller book seemed the very best way to spend it.
'It's just the two of us, living in a tiny Dorset village,' the couple said, and their commitment to quality and producing exquisite books for us readers was clear, and who could argue but that they have got it right. I could only begin to imagine the hard work that must go into all this but Mr & Ms Little Toller were supremely excited about a new book of theirs, On Silbury Hill by Adam Thorpe which, along with Herbaceous by Paul Evans, was doing very well out there in the big-wide-book-world. There was much delight all round.
"Silbury Hill in Wiltshire has inspired and perplexed people for generations. Artists and poets have fathomed their deepest thoughts searching for the hill’s hidden meanings, archaeologists have tunneled through earth for fragments that prove its purpose. But for all this human endeavour, Silbury Hill remains a mystery.
We do know it is the largest prehistoric mound in Europe. But was it once an island, moated by water? Was it a place of worship and celebration, perhaps a vast measure of the passing seasons? Along with Stonehenge and Avebury, was it part of a healing landscape or a physical memory of the long-ago dead?
Silbury Hill is the sum of all that we project. A blank screen where human dreams and nightmares flicker. The hill has been part of Adam Thorpe’s own life since his schooldays at Marlborough, which he would often escape in the surrounding downlands. He has carried Silbury ever since, through his teenage years in Cameroon, into his adulthood in southern England and France: its presence fused to each landscape which became his home.
On Silbury Hill is Adam Thorpe’s own projection onto Silbury’s grassy slopes. Twenty years after the publication of his classic novel Ulverton, the acclaimed poet and novelist revisits the landscape which inspired him. It is a chalkland memoir told in fragments and family snapshots, skillfully built, layer on layer, from Britain’s ancient and modern past."
"Climate change is eroding the familiar pattern of the seasons, so we turn instinctively to the life cycle of herbaceous plants to guide us through the year. The growing, flowering, seeding and dying back to earth of wild flowers, weeds, herbs and garden perennials sustain and enrich our everyday lives with food, metaphor, joy, anxiety, medicine, stories, beauty and enchantment. Above all, by enabling us to read the changing seasons, plants help us navigate our way in the world."
We also talked about my recent decision to rewrite the rules about free books that featured on dovegreyreader... but I assured them it didn't involve cutting-off-nose-to-spite-face, there would have to be Notable Exceptions and thankfully my loyalty and love for Little Toller Books remains untainted by corporate shenanigans and kerfuffles.
As I wandered around Waterstones the following week I spied a single copy of On Silbury Hill. It was a small hardback, part of Little Toller's new Monograph series, and I coveted. 'I'll come back for that in a minute,' I thought, because these are the books I crave, but when I returned it had vanished. The Devon library catalogue drew a blank so I added it to my You Know Where wishlist for the next occasion I was feeling flush.
Well I could have wept with delight, in fact I almost did, when a parcel arrived out of the blue from Adrian at Little Toller last Thursday...
On Silbury Hill will be Book of the Week on Radio 4 this week and I have immersed myself in its many layers over the weekend, finding some of my love for Neolithic Orkney surfacing and migrating to this unexplained man-made hill in Wiltshire. This is a book of layers and sediments, a palimpsest that has tangible analogies with a person's life, built up as it is of experience and events.
'We see everything from our particular hill in time,' says Adam Thorpe, and I suddenly felt the tiny-ness of that hill and the enormity of what has gone before.
Much more about On Silbury Hill soon but my thanks to Mr & Ms A for a parcel of books that has made my August, and how good it was to meet you at last.