This is the last post from my recent trip to the English Riviera. As part of the Crime Writers' conference a number of extra curricular activities were organised, I jumped at the chance to spend Saturday afternoon at Greenways. It was a perfect day to visit, as I think the photos below will show - bluebells, primroses and ramsons (wild garlic) were in bloom in swathes under the trees, along with magnolia and rhododendrons. The grounds were glorious, on a glorious day, and the house, which is now in the charge of the National Trust, was fascinating. It also revealed a slightly spooky, writerly "thing", which I am trying to get my head around.
For the work in progress I have created a wealthy family of collectors - some of them rather eccentric - who have been amassing their own particular treasures over generations. With some it was first editions, Pre-Raphaelite paintings, alchemical tracts. One very significant collection from the 1920s is of Egyptian artifacts, which is central to the story. I decided that at least one of the collections would be slightly unusual, so I decided on the theme of clowns - art works, sculpture, theatre costumes and posters - anything that would attract a collector, with the idea that some of the things might have creepy overtones - thank you Stephen King. When I began to research art work that would have been modern and cutting edge at the time it was collected, I found that pieces by artists like Picasso and Jean Cocteau that were labeled as clowns, proved to be Pierrots and other characters from the Commedia dell'arte rather than the red-nosed circus clowns we are more used to now. This fitted in with older collectable art from French painter Jean Antoine Watteau, whom I had just studied in an excellent on-line course from the Wallace Collection in London. Watteau had a fondness for the Commedia characters, including Pierrot and Harlequin. This was fine - I shifted my focus and we were good to go. The "Clowns" have their own important part in the story.
It was very disconcerting, on visiting Greenways to discover that not only were the generations of Christie family great collectors, but that Dame Agatha had a lovely collection of Commedia figures that she had inherited which were on display at the house. I really didn't know any of this. Or did I? Had I heard about it and forgotten until something surfaced from the past? Was it coincidence? Was it some sort of ESP? I know didn't change my plan from the circus/Stephen King type clown until I saw those pictures from Picasso.
Strange and disconcerting. But that's life as a writer.
|Greenways, in Devon
|Beside the River Dart
|Bluebells and ramsons
|The upper garden, with lawns. There is a walled garden and tennis court too.