I’m writing this on a train which is wending its way across those much-threatened sandy heathlands of Dorset, returning from a day’s filming in Cranborne Chase and at Bournemouth University, for a Time Team documentary. Last night in a very hot hotel just back from the sea I was reading a wonderful book, written in 1921 by R.C. Sherriff, the author of the well-known play about the Great War, Journey’s End (1929). The book’s title says it all: The Fortnight in September. And that’s what it is: a simple account of a very ordinary family’s two weeks holiday in a guest house at Bognor, just along the coast from where I was steamily sleeping last night. The book was quite unlike anything Sherriff had written up until then, but he doubted whether any good publisher would even look at – it was, he thought, so ordinary and unexciting. But Victor Gollancz, whose company had published Journey’s End, realised its potential at once, and accepted it. He was entranced, just as I am now, and promised to print it without altering a word. And I’m delighted to say it proved a huge success, but then, as sometimes happened, it was overtaken by events, the main one being the Second World War, and it went out of print. It was rescued from obscurity by the superb publishing house Persephone Books of London, who republished it in 2008. And that’s the edition that sits on the vacant seat beside me. It’s one of those books that’s so enjoyable, you don’t want to finish. And that, I suppose, is a reason I’m writing this blog post, on a train, which is now pulling out of Southampton Airport station.
But the main reason has to be to say a huge thank-you to everyone who has subscribed to the Lifers’ Club. The train’s WiFi doesn’t appear to be working right now, but last night the total stood at 85%. So, we’ve almost done it. I can’t say how excited I am! And again, many, many thanks to everyone who contributed – I hope we get to meet one day.
Having said all that, I’m also very aware that this blog has many loyal followers who don’t find my dip into the world of crime particularly fascinating. Many of these are gardeners. So to reward their patience I’m publishing here a set of photos of the roses in our garden this year, which was one of the best. Maisie loves old varieties, especially ones, like the Revd. Pemberton’s Hybrid Musks which smell delicious. We also don’t believe in constraining them too much. Our roses tend to sprawl about; neatness has never been a feature of our garden.
I won’t discuss each rose in each picture, or add any captions. Just enjoy them and imagine the smell. Now here’s an odd thing: the train’s now approaching Basingstoke – surely one of the least fragrant towns in southern England – and suddenly my head is filled with the scent of roses. Bliss!