I’m very lucky to have a room of my own in which to write; I’m surrounded by books, and objects, decorative items and photos that I love or have sentimental meaning. There is usually a tottering pile of books from which I’m researching – it doesn’t look too bad on the day I took these photos, but I’m sure you can spot the copies of Pride and Prejudice, and Mr. Darcy’s Secret. On the bookshelves are all the books that I love – some I’ve kept from my childhood, which include Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield, Milly-Molly-Mandy by Joyce Lankester Brisley, and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis.
Favourite books of mine that I read over and over apart from all of Jane’s novels, of course, include Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Armin, A Room with a View by E.M. Forster, and The Glimpses of the Moon by Edith Wharton. Amongst these wonderful authors, I have a box of my own illustrated stories I wrote to entertain my sister and brother, that I did when I was very young, with titles like ‘The Smiles Family’, ‘The China Gentleman’, and ‘The Magic Shop’.
I’m not a very tidy person, and apart from notebooks and sketchbooks, I have endless pieces of paper on which I jot down ideas as they come to me. I wish I could write them all in my notebook, but I don’t seem to be able to do that very well, and end up searching for ages trying to find one tiny nugget of information that I know I was here somewhere a minute ago!
I love Regency prints, and like to refer to pictures for details of costumes, or sometimes the figures depicted might give me an idea for a character so they get dotted about. I have some special photos of my children as babies, and other family photos including one of me and my lovely sister taken in a park with our Grandmother. She always made her own dresses, she and my Mum were very clever like that. My Grandmother is wearing a soft floral pink frock, a belted style she always preferred, and she has on her beads – how times and clothes have changed!
I’m the luckiest person – people from all over the world write to me. I’ve received such wonderful greetings cards and letters, and occasionally someone sends a little gift through the post. One lady in Hampshire found my Effusions of Fancy book in Steventon Church and has written to me ever since. She sent me the beautiful ribbon bookmark and a heart-shaped rosebud box, and an Australian lady who writes regularly sent me the wise owl who sits on my desk along with many useful notebooks and lovely books. I am very spoiled! I have a beautiful hand-made book from a lady in Brazil, hand-made jewellery from an American lady, Regency costume made by my cousin in Worcester, and a gorgeous rag-doll stitched by my sister-in-law when I was ill a long time ago. My rag doll is named Lizzy Bennet – she’s pictured at the bottom. If you look at her feet, you can see that she comes to life at night, and goes dancing – it must be true because I can think of no other reason why she’s worn away the soles on her slippers! My Indian dolls are amongst my favourite things; (I think they are secretly in love because I often find them in the morning with their arms round one another!)
I love trinket boxes. I have a lovely one bought by my brother and his wife when they went travelling all over the world, and my husband bought me a treasured one with a patch box hidden inside, which has ‘love and unite’ on the lid. I also own a treasured Jane Austen action figure, which my husband sent for from America – I love her, and she and I chat often. At least, I do all the talking, and she’s a very good listener!
Apart from all the lovely things I have to look at, I have my pots of pencils and paintbrushes, which invariably go astray as we have several artists in the house, and I also have music to listen to when I’m writing. It’s my favourite place which takes me back in time to another world!