Sunday, 19 January 2014


Dearest Elaine

Well, here we are in Devon in mid-January. Oh the horrors of a wet winter!  I don’t think I have ever seen so much rain pouring out of the sky as we have had in the last four weeks, and it’s still coming – but not today. There is a bright blue sky as I write to you, and when I glanced across at Dartmoor earlier it rolled across the horizon, vivid and clear enough to touch...

I am working hard on 'The Illandrian Diamonds'. It has spread out, both in my mind and on cyber-paper, like an enormous sheet of patchwork. Sometimes I grapple with it, searching fold after fold for the bit I have missed, then finding it but failing to link the correct colour or pattern – or so it seems. I am in two minds about Leo, my 14-year-old boy of mixed parentage. Mark, his father, loves him already even though he has only just discovered him, and will defend him to the end. But is Leo on the side of the angels, or is there something dark lurking behind those glittering pale eyes so like his mother’s? I want him to be the one who saves them all, but I think that he has a more sinister side. We shall see. Meanwhile the Illandrians continue to be infuriatingly naive and Helen struggles on...

As the Winter Olympics approach I recall my hopes to come out to see you four years ago, and the huge disappointment of realising that it was simply, financially, beyond us. When you discover a far-flung relative, and you eventually meet them, you are unprepared for the bond which may flash into existence between you. Perhaps we were lucky, and this does not always happen? From the moment we met at the airport it was as though I had discovered the sister I never had, the best friend I knew might exist. Our grandfathers were brothers, so we share our great-grandparents. Your grandfather, Alfred was born 9th February, 1868; my grandfather, Reece was born 31st January, 1871.
From what we know and from their letters to each other and to others, I guess that Alfred was the braver of the two. To journey across an ocean and a continent and then to make a home at Chilliwack showed huge reserves of strength, both physical and mental. Reece was more solid and placid. I don’t know why he went into the Church, but it was often the case that the third son in a Victorian family like ours did just that. He was the only one to go to university, boasting in a letter to his sister: ‘I have been getting some awfully good marks lately – I think I could get an Exhi? [Exhibition – a kind of scholarship]’ I do not know whether he did or not, but I believe he was a clever man.

What have we inherited from them? I leave this question for another time. I amuses me to think that both of them came late to parenthood – as did both of our fathers, as a result of which we have grandfathers who we could not hope to have known, Reece dying in 1938 and Alfred in 1951.

I am juggling my writing life with my new obsession: knitting. I discovered Ravelry, where you can record all of your projects as well as discuss crafts – and many other subjects – and get ideas; and where a vast number of people knit socks. My latest project is an Icelandic sweater, rather daunting in its complicated design, but when approached with something like relaxed amusement, most enjoyable! It is hard though, and I have struggled to translate little black and white dots on a grid into black and bright purple stitchery which approximately resembles snowflakes. Or not.

Write to me! I send love...

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