Marlborough’s literary festival now seems destined to become a permanent major event following the overwhelming success of the latest festival – in fact only the second to be staged.
Praise has poured in for last month’s festival, the first in the country to shy away from celebrity authors and concentrate on contemporary literature, including that of home-grown authors, as well as fun events especially for children.
“It was wonderfully supported,” novelist Mavis Cheek, who created the festival, told Marlborough News Online after brushing aside customary pre-festival fears that it would be an awful flop.
“The edgier events delight their audiences, some events infuriated parts of their audiences – and why not? – and all in all the word going round the town was that it had been another great success.”
“As some wag said to me after the last event, ‘Well, you can have tomorrow off and then you must start planning next years’ festival.”
That was the same conclusion of the festival’s main sponsors Brewin Dolphin, who support six significant arts events in Wiltshire, among them the Marlborough Jazz Festival, the Marlborough Sunday concert series and The Merchant’s House.
“This year’s literary festival was even bigger and better than last year,” said Myles Palmer (pictured), divisional director of the leading private client investment company. “The committee does a great job in the organisation and it feels as if Marlborough should always have had a lit fest.”
Michael Pooley, proprietor of the White Horse Bookshop
Despite the recession, he added: “We will be maintaining our support for the foreseeable future. There are no plans of scaling back our support for the local community. We continue to want to support, as much as is possible, the community in which we work and live.”
And a congratulatory echo came too from Michael Pooley, proprietor of Marlborough’s White Horse Bookshop, directly involved in the festival for the first time this year, who announced: “The festival was a big success for us as well as the whole town.”
“There was real underlying enthusiasm for the festival. Including children’s books, we sold not far short of 1,000, which is a lot for one weekend. People do enjoy buying books and getting them signed by their authors as well, which is always fun.”
“Yes, it was good business and I am very grateful to be involved.”
He pointed out the same of the best attended events – more than 250 at each of them -- were those for young people, particularly Lemn Sissay at Marlborough College and Lauren Child at St John’s School.
At Marlborough town hall the shining stars were Judy Carver, daughter of Marlborough’s own Novel Prize-winning author William Golding, who has written a family memoir, Anne Seeba and Deborah Moggach.
The festival too coincided with a personal triumph for White Horse, a mainstay in Marlborough since 1948, which has been named Vintage Independent Bookshop of the Year by international publishers Random House.
“The Vintage award is in the form of a very nice £1,000, which will be divided among the staff, and extra terms for Vintage book sales for the next six months,” explained Mr Pooley, who has owned the White Horse since 1973.
Accepting the award at a champagne event in London, bookseller and buyer Liz Loikkanen, said: “It is so exciting to win…We’re lucky, we have a loyal customer base and they have stuck with us.”
“We have been in Marlborough for 60 years and we are still going strong.”
Wiltshire may be one of the safest counties in the country but Wiltshire Police want to hear from you about your concerns and its operational changes being introduced next week.
These follow the government’s austerity cuts, which means that the police must reduce their budget by £15 million over the next four years.
The county’s chief officers along with the chairman of Wiltshire Police Authority are staging a public online chat on Wednesday (October 5).
The live session, to run from 7pm to 8pm, will provide members of the public with an opportunity to ask questions directly to Chief Constable Brian Moore, temporary Deputy Chief Constable Patrick Geenty and WPA chairman Chris Hoare.
The public online chat is a chance for you to ask your local police how the service will be delivered successfully. Submitting a question is simple. Visit www.wiltshire.police.co.uk on the evening and follow the instructions.
Chief Constable Brian Moore said: “Wiltshire is one of the safest counties in the country and we aim for it to be the safest. Our purpose will continue to be to keep the people safe from harm, prevent crime, solve crime and disorder problems, investigate and bring offenders to justice.
“We are changing the way we work and this includes the introduction of a new style of operational policing from 4 October. I would encourage everyone in Wiltshire to use this opportunity to ask us about our new way of policing and we look forward to talking to members of our local communities.”
WPA shairman Chris Hoare pointed out: “This is the second public online chat Wiltshire Police will host and it is a good way to engage directly with our public. Wiltshire residents told us what they want from their police service in a public survey run by the WPA earlier this year.
“We are reflecting this in the changes being made in Wiltshire Police. It is a continuous process and we need feedback from events like this to ensure that we deliver the service our communities expect.
As this is a live online session, chief officers and the Police Authority chairman will endeavour to answer as many questions as possible. However, it may not be possible to answer all questions within the live hour.
So, on Monday 10 October, we will post answers to those questions not answered during the live hour on the Wiltshire Police website.
For more information, visit www.wiltshire.police.co.uk
They’ll be providing a feast of food at the College on Saturday, October 22 – and raising thousands of pounds for Cancer Research UK. The record of the Marlborough Cancer Research UK Committee is such that we can be certain of one thing - the event will raise over £10,000.
Anne Deuchar is a key member of the committee and for many years has been organising events such as the Feast of Food and the Gardeners’ Fair which has now morphed into the Spring Fair. This year Claire Wilson, who runs a fitness business in Froxfield, has been enticing the extraordinary variety stall holders to the Feast of Food.
Anne came to this country from northern Australia in 1970 – and has now been “here longer than there.” And she won’t be going back – she’s too fond of the English climate with its varied seasons.
Both Anne’s parents died of cancer and she’s been working for Cancer Research UK for nineteen years. Two-and-a-half years ago, her husband, Alexander died of cancer after a sustained fight and with, she emphasises, wonderful care by the NHS. She firmly believes that research can and will beat cancer.
She has strong roots in the Marlborough area. She lives between the town and Lockeridge. One of her three children lives in Aldbourne, as does her mother-in-law. And her brother-in-law, Andrew Deuchar and his wife have recently moved to the area from the wilds of north-east Scotland.
With various schemes and the big spring and autumn fairs at the College, the committee has raised more than £600,000 over the last twenty-five years – a great boost for research. Anne gives so much time to Cancer Research UK because she knows that eighty pence in every pound they raise goes directly to research programmes – an efficiency not achieved by many other charities.
“There’s a very small chain between us raising money and them spending the money on research.” The national charity funds some of the most successful research centres and strong links with the global cancer research community.
The Marlborough Gardeners’ Fair raised over £65,000 during the ten years it was held in the town hall. But it outgrew the town hall and has become the larger and more broadly based Spring Fair held at the college – “a celebration of spring and summer living”.
The college hire out parts of their buildings to the committee at charity rates. Anne is most appreciative of the help from college staff: “A huge amount of credit for our success goes to the college.”
Anne stresses that “We’re not all upmarket food and drink – we’ve everything related to food and drink for all tastes – including flowers and tablecloths.” This October’s Feast of Food will feature an enormous range of exhibitors: from the Ramsbury Brewery to Dutch natural liquorice; from specialist teas to cupcakes; from real bread to kitchen utensils; from gourmet smoked salmon to fudge – over sixty trade stands.
A great opportunity, Anne says, for some early Christmas shopping. And there’s free parking and a café too.
Under its chair Pat Thompson, the twenty-five strong Marlborough committee raises money in many ways. One of the committee’s great supporters, Pat Cutforth, takes a “small is bountiful” route to fund-raising.
She’s a well-known miniaturist and expert on dolls houses and ran the Dolls House Fair in the town hall for ten years – raising over £100,000 for Cancer Research UK. Now she raises £15,000 or more a year with her own sales and exhibiting at the Miniatura Fair in Birmingham.
Anne is also in charge of the Marlborough committee’s website – and teaches computing skills at the Marlborough College Summer School. You can contact the committee via their website: www.marlboroughcancerresearch.org – and you can donate.
Welcome help has come to Marlborough’s ageing population with the opening of the town’s latest enterprise – a mobility shop.
Within days, the shop, part of the Kennet Pharmacy, which is appropriately on the Figgins Lane site of the Marlborough Medical Practice, is proving there is a big demand to be met.
The shop offers anything from pliable cutlery that moulds to the hands of those suffering from arthritis to a range of the latest scooters selling at prices from £300 to £5,000.
And home delivery with back-up advice is all part of the service for the handicapped unable to travel far.
“”The potential demand is huge, and we are well aware of it,” Kennet Pharmacy director Tim Jephson told Marlborough News Online. “I hope to service we can provide will be greatly used.”
“It is not all about money but in providing another -- and better -- service for the community.”
Mr Jephson comes from a family of qualified pharmacists, his father, Ray Jephson, opening a pharmacy in Wroughton before being invited by Dr Nick Maurice, now retired, to start a pharmacy at Figgins Lane 25 years ago.
The present pharmacy and mobility shop premises were originally the house whose garden was used as the site for the medical practice, which was built in the garden, complete with car park.
Tim Jephson became a director three years ago. Now he, together with his father, Ray, and mother, Janine, and pharmacist brother, Nick, have joined forces with Dave Jackson and Willie McIver as joint directors in the mobility shop initiative.
Together they launched a mobility shop at Wroughton last March. “That has gone down tremendously well,” said Tim. “Then we had a conversation about launching a mobility shop here in Marlborough. Now we’re up and running.”
Lancashire-born Yvonne Parsons, who is in charge of the store, revealed: “The shop has already proved to be really popular with Marlborough’s market days our busiest. Everyone has been very complimentary about the shop. We are in exactly the right spot next to the doctors’ surgery and everything is going really well.”
Addressing the detailed individual needs of customers is the basis on which the business has been born. “We want to help people to continue to live normally,” she explained.
“What suits one person doesn’t always help another, whether it is a seat for their shower, a stair lift or a scooter that folds down and can be put into your car,” she explained.
“The smallest items include little hooks you can put on an electric plug so that you can pull it out without having to grip it and pliable cutlery that people can use to carry on feeding themselves.”
Hearing tests and hearing aids are another service, along with help for those living in care homes. “The demand for Cosyfeet footwear is really huge,” added Yvonne. “The number of people coming here for Cosyfeet shoes is amazing.”
Another red alert danger signal was issued today over the fate of the River Kennet, one of Britain’s famed chalk streams, which has hit a new low due to a combination of water extraction and drought.
A stretch of the river running alongside the grounds of Marlborough College has been reduced to a few intermittent pools with long stretches reduced to just pebbles and stones, all wildlife wiped out.
“It is shocking, quite incredible,” Charlotte Hitchmough, director of Action River Kennet (ARK), told Marlborough News Online. “I have been there for 11 years and I have never seen the river as low as this.
This is a real danger signal. To get the water table up needs six weeks’ of solid rain. But the forecast for this week is more dryness and warm weather, which is bad for the standing pools because as the temperature rises the water holds less oxygen for the fish.
“I bumped into a lady on Fox’s bridge who has been here for 20 years and she has never seen it as bad as this. The last time this stretch dried up so disastrously was apparently in 1976.”
Charlotte Hitchmough, director of Action River Kennet (ARK)
For more than an hour today Charlotte, aided by Sean Dempster, keeper of the fishery and lakes at Marlborough College, and Matt Gow, the College’s head of politics and an active ARK supporter, tried to save the fish in a 30 yard long pool below the bridge.
Three times they trawled a net up and down and ended up with just seven brown trout, grayling and bullheads, which were then transferred into the College lake.
But while Thames Water have been strenuously criticised for extracting too much water from the Kennet to pipe to residents of Swindon, the missing water in this case is the supply that goes to Marlborough itself and neighbouring villages via the Clatford aquifer and another further upstream.
“Most people don’t realise that Marlborough’s water comes from the Kennet and this is returned after treatment. We should all be using less and do all we can in these circumstances. It’s tempting to say it’s all Thames Water’s fault but actually is us here who are using the water too.”
A spokeswoman for Thames Water told Marlborough News Online: “Could you please contact the Environment Agency on this, as they are responsible for rivers and water levels.”
This came as a surprise to Charlotte, who believes the company should be aware of the need to balance water needs by taking water out further downstream in response to sections going dry in Marlborough.
“Thames Water should take serious note that the aquifer is being pushed to its limit and there is simply not enough water to sustain a good river supply,” she pointed out.
There is a meeting at Hungerford on Friday, to be attended by Newbury MP Richard Benyon, the government minister responsible for Britain’s rivers, local MP Claire Perry, members of ARK and Thames Water.
Mr Benyon is promoting a White Paper seeking water reforms but it has yet to be published let alone become the basis for new legislation.
“Even when that happens any changes on the ground will take up to two years,” warned Charlotte. “We might not have a River Kennet by then.”
Simon Evans, Thames’ media relations manager, said later: "We only take water from the river to meet the needs of our customers. We do this under licences issued by the Environment Agency, who are responsible for maintaining river flows.
“They have made it clear that the cause of the current low flows in the Marlborough area is not water abstraction. If we were to stop abstracting water, people's taps in the area would run dry almost immediately."
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Rivers minister Richard Benyon saw for himself the sad state of dried out sections of the River Kennet at Marlborough on Friday, when he was urged to introduce new regulations on water extraction.
The Minister for the Natural Environment and Fisheries, who is also Tory MP for nearby Newbury, had an on the spot meeting with Charlotte Hitchmough, director of Action for the River Kennet (ARK) and its chairman, Geoffrey Findlay.
They were joined by another campaigner, Tom le Quesne, from the UK branch of the World Wildlife Fund.
And also present to discuss the low flows in the Kennet, one of the worst since 1976, which has killed off fish and devastated the natural environment, was Marlborough MP Claire Perry.
She has supported ARK in its fight over the over-abstraction by Thames Water of millions of gallons of water from the Kennet, which is mainly siphoned off at Axford for the benefit of Swindon residents, but not returned to the river.
And, combined with the current heat wave, that is causing added significant drought problems on the river, but this time to its upper reaches, which provides water for Marlborough and neighbouring villages.
Mrs Perry made it clear to the minister that her in-box was full of letters expressing dismay at the poor state of the upper Kennet. And she offered such help as she could give to support ARK in its campaign to reduce water abstraction.
As he stood on Fox’s bridge overlooking a dried out section of the river, Mr Benyon agreed that the state of the Kennet, one of England’s rare chalk streams, was “very worrying”.
The meeting was an opportunity to discuss how government policy can be altered to encourage water companies to select less vulnerable sources of water, and how water customers can be encouraged to value every drop.
Geoffrey Findlay, ARK's chairman told Marlborough News Online: “We were able to discuss in some detail the problems the river Kennet is facing and how they might be solved. I think we made some good progress. The minister was generous with his time, and is clearly engaged with the issue of water abstraction.”
ARK told the minister that they welcomed Thames Water's aspiration to reduce reliance on the Kennet aquifer to supply water but would like a clear timetable for action, particularly in relation to the Axford borehole.
In addition ARK would like to see a regulatory system which encouraged water companies to protect fragile water resources.
There’s to be no national advertisement campaign to persuade people to get themselves vaccinated against seasonal flu. This year it’s up to you and your doctor’s surgery to make sure you’re not at risk from what can for some people become a serious illness - especially triggering complications in existing conditions.
Last year six hundred and two people died in the UK from seasonal flu – and the take up for vaccinations was lower than expected. This year NHS Wiltshire and the county’s GPs have launched a “Flu vaccination passport” to remind those most at risk to get their free protection against this highly infectious illness.
There’s a passport for each of three main ‘at risk’ categories: people over sixty-five, people with a serious medical condition and pregnant women.
Maggie Rae, Wiltshire’s director of public health and public protection: “If someone is at risk of complications from flu, it’s really important they have their annual flu jab…We know how busy people are – the passport will help act as a reminder to someone to call their GP and arrange to receive this valuable protection against flu.”
Marlborough Medical Practice’s flu jab sessions for October have all been booked up. They’re arranging more sessions for November – so call soon to book in.
Useful information about flu from Wiltshire NHS:
Get the jab
The best time of the year to get a flu vaccination is now - the autumn. It's free and it's effective against the latest flu virus strains.
Even if someone has already had a flu jab in previous years, they need another one this year to keep immunity up to date. The flu jab may only protect someone for a year, because the viruses that cause flu are always changing. This year's seasonal flu vaccination also includes a vaccine to protect against swine flu.
See your GP about the flu jab if you're 65 or over, or if you have any of the following problems (however old you are):
• a serious heart complaint
• a chest complaint or breathing difficulties, including asthma, bronchitis and emphysema
• serious kidney disease
• lowered immunity due to disease or treatment such as steroid medication or cancer treatment
• if you have a problem with your spleen or you have had your spleen removed
• if you have ever had a stoke
Your GP may advise you to have a flu jab if you have serious liver disease, multiple sclerosis (MS) or some other diseases of the nervous system.
If you think you may need a flu vaccination, check with your GP, practice nurse or your local pharmacist. If a nurse visits you regularly, ask about getting your flu vaccination. Most GP surgeries arrange vaccination sessions in the autumn.
Pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy should have the seasonal flu jab. That's because pregnant women are more prone to complications from flu that can cause serious illness for both mother and baby.
If you are pregnant and catch flu, talk to your GP urgently as you may need treatment with antiviral medicine.
The pneumo jab
When you see your GP for a seasonal flu jab, ask whether you also need the ‘pneumo jab’ to protect you against some forms of pneumococcal infection. It's available free on the NHS to everyone aged 65 or over, and for younger people with some serious medical conditions.
Kids and carers
If you're the parent of a child (over the age of six months) who has a long-term condition such as a serious respiratory or neurological condition, they should have a flu jab. Speak to your GP about your child having a flu vaccination. Your child's condition may get worse if they catch flu.
If you're the carer of an elderly or disabled person, make sure they've had their flu jab. As a carer, you could be eligible for a flu jab too. Ask your GP for advice, or go to Carers Direct for information about Flu jabs for carers.
How effective is it?
No vaccine is 100% effective, however, people who have had the flu jab are far less likely to get flu. If you do get flu despite having the jab, it will probably be milder than if you haven't been vaccinated.
The flu jab doesn't cause flu as it doesn't contain live viruses. However, you may experience side effects after having the jab, such as a temperature and aching muscles for a couple of days afterwards. Your arm may feel sore at the site where you were injected. More severe reactions are rare.
The flu vaccine only protects against flu, but not other illnesses caused by other viruses, such as the common cold.
Speak to your GP, practice nurse or pharmacist if you have any further questions.
The battle to save Marlborough’s grade II listed Ivy House Hotel from conversion into a girls’ hostel for students at Marlborough College has been lost.
Planning inspector Paul Jackson has allowed an appeal made by the College for change of use of the distinctive High Street property in the face of outright opposition from Marlborough town council, the Chamber of Commerce and leading residents.
And the decision has been described as a “disaster for the town” and one surprisingly made just days before the new Localism legislation was due to come into force, which could have swayed the decision.
Wiltshire Council too opposed the significant change of the 28-room hotel with its conference facilities, which dates back to the 18th century.
Inspector Jackson has decided that the conversion can go ahead on the basis that the loss of the hotel “would have no effect on the number of A1 shop uses in the High Street” despite evidence that the vitality of the town would be hit by its loss.
And he adds: “There would be a positive effect on income received by local businesses and an increase in wages that contribute to the local economy.”
“The vitality of the area would not be affected. The proposed development would not conflict with the aims PPS4 (a planning objective) or development plan policies and the appeal should be allowed.”
The College is believed to have been willing to pay £1.8 million for the freehold of the site, a purpose-built new girls’ hostel on its own extensive estate more likely to cost £6 million plus.
An alternative proposal being mooted by the objectors was for the hotel to be bought by celebrity chef Marco Pierre White and turned into a boutique hotel and upmarket restaurant, the enterprise backed by investors, among them Robert Hiscox, chairman of the international insurance company, who is High Sheriff of Wiltshire.
The success of the College has been met with delight and dismay.
Peter Bryan, the College’s director of corporate resources and deputy master, told Marlborough News Online: “Marlborough College makes a major contribution to the life of the town and to its prosperity. The addition of the Ivy House will enable us to further that commitment.”
But Wiltshire councillor Nicholas Fogg, twice mayor of Marlborough and still a town councillor, declared: “A disaster for the town. I find it significant that this decision was announced on the last working day before the Localism Bill became law.”
“If ever there was a justification for that piece of legislation it is to be found in this ill-informed and ill-considered decision. The Inspector seems to think that there are 51 hotel beds within five miles of Marlborough. Where are they?”
“The opinions of Marlborough Town Council, Wiltshire Council and the Chamber of Commerce apparently counted for nothing.”
Town councillor Richard Pitts protested: “This is a body blow to the town... in trying to develop tourism in a way that encourages people to use Marlborough as a place to stay and explore the area in green way by bus bike and on foot.”
“We, as a community, need to capitalise on our wonderful countryside. The loss of the lvy House Hotel makes it a whole lot harder.”
The government’s localism legislation was expected to give a preference to communities on the spot to decide the fate of their towns rather than planning decisions being in the hands of remote county councils and the government’s own planning inspectorate.
Claire Perry, Marlborough’s Tory MP, had suggested that under the new legislation the planning inspector could have handed the Ivy House decision back to Wiltshire and Marlborough town council as the final decisions makers.
Mr Fogg added: “I have a horrible feeling that this is it, but I will make inquiries.”
Marlborough College appealed after Wiltshire Council failed to make a decision on the controversial project within the normal timeframe. Had it been able to do so, it would have rejected the scheme.
The council’s planning committee believed the proposal “would result in the loss of an important tourist facility within the Marlborough area,” adding: “This would be detrimental to the vitality and viability of the area as a consequence of lost local employment and tourism related spend.”
The hotel owner had, however, produced evidence that the occupancy rates and revenue at the Ivy House had deteriorated over the past five years, the hotel having to close its restaurant for lunch and evening meals and operate as a bed and breakfast facility.
Marlborough’s criticised high profile shops in the High Street are fighting back against the recession as companies across the country report consumer spending rapidly declining.
Under the umbrella of the town’s Chamber of Commerce, they are now organising late night shopping events in the run up to Christmas.
And they are staging a splendid fun fashion show at the town hall in aid of charity in November.
This follows the critical blast retailers received from new Chamber president Paul Shimell after two volunteer Waitrose staff found a pathetic response when they personally delivered survey leaflets to 180 shops and businesses.
From a handful of initial replies the Chamber now has more than 80. And one of them, Joules, has been prompted to team up with other fashion stores to create a charity catwalk evening in the town hall, scheduled for November 3.
The initiative for this has come from 28-year-old Effie Robins (pictured), manager of the Joules store in the High Street for the past two years.
“This is not just about Joules, it’s about the whole town and a wonderful chance for others to play a part as well,” she told Marlborough News Online. “I love fashion – that’s why I work in a fashion store – and I thought it would be fun for everybody and something for all the shops to become involved with.”
Her early contact with Paul Shimell created an immediate buzz which has resulted in almost 20 stores deciding to play a role. “So I was surprised and delighted by the positive reaction,” said Effie.
“I talked about staging a fashion show with Paul and it was virtually organised within a couple of days. The response has been excellent. And any money raised fashion show is go to the Wiltshire Air Ambulance.”
Paul Shimell is equally pleased that traders are responding to his initiative. “The headlines across the country may be grim, but Marlborough is fighting back and we’re going to take the recession head on,” he told Marlborough News Online.
“Some 80 businesses, mainly retail, have now responded to the survey we took round to a total of 180 shops and businesses and it has shown that there is a willingness to work together to keep Marlborough on the tourist map.”
“Now we need to build on this co-operation, get more people to join the Chamber, and organise other projects that will beat the drum for Marlborough.”
A possible 10 fashion stores will be showing their latest wares at the fashion show, Jigsaw, the latest to open in Marlborough, among them. There will be other stores setting up stands and companies like Waitrose will be providing a food gallery and others offering flowers and, yes, Specsavers spectacles too.
Effie Robins added: “I’m very excited. The fashion show event is going to be great, really great. I realised that if I didn’t step up to the stand and organise it, then there wasn’t going to be anything I could become involved in, nothing to boost Marlborough.”
He lived on a fault line split between reality and fantasy that ran through the heart of Marlborough. Though he tried to escape, it was the fault line that provided the inspiration and the energy for his magnificent writing.
It was born out of his childhood fear of the dark, his belief there was something spooky lurking among the Saxon bricks in the cellar, and the demons and dragons he encountered walking in Savernake forest.
And William Golding, Nobel laureate of literature, knight of the realm, Booker Prize winner and author of the acclaimed novels Lord of the Flies and The Inheritors, was still afraid of the dark when he was approaching 60.
His daughter, Judy Carver, revealed the surprising past when she returned home to Marlborough on Sunday to talk about her family memoir, The Children of Lovers, at the Marlborough Literary Festival.
That too was a surprise. For though she was conceived in the house nearby on The Green, and grew up in Marlborough, it was the first time she had entered the town hall, which she recognised as depicted in her father’s novel, The Pyramids.
“Marlborough meant different things to my father to what it meant to me,” she told the packed audience. “He grew up here, he loved it but he also felt he needed to escape. People do need to escape from their home town, the place where their parents are and where expectations shape them.”
“For me, I love coming here because of my grandparents, my adored grandfather, who taught at the grammar school and was so wonderful.”
“When he died, my grandparents gave up the old house on The Green. It was like being exiled from the place I loved. And I have never quite recovered from that feeling.”
But she still offered to show people the room where she was conceived in her grandparents’ great brass bed after they generously gave up their bedroom to her parents during World War II.
“Marlborough I think, and this is probably contentious in many people’s views, was really crucial in developing my father as a writer, partly because of his desire to escape, as we all do into fantasy and, into his case, it became books,” she pointed out.
The raw material, the important images Marlborough provided, came from the spooky cellar of the house on The Green, possibly once part of the cemetery, old bones being found there.
“It was a place where he said coffins crashed into the cellar walls and a dreadful old crone lived there. It was quite a frightening house, and that is one of the essential elements in my father’s life,” she explained.
“It’s like an intellectual and spiritual fault line which runs for him right through Marlborough…All his life he was frightened of the dark. And there was a lot of dark at 29 The Green in those days.”
“When he was a child there was no electric light upstairs. He describes going to bed in the dark and pleading with his mother for a candle. She threw him a candlestick, a candle and an old box of matches.”
“And obviously to be frightened of the dark and then frightened of your mother isn’t welcome…Even when he was nearly 60 he was still capable real fear.”
He suffered experiences too walking in Savernake Forest as a child. On one occasion, at winter dusk, they apparently disappeared from view after he had whined asking to be carried.
“And this tiny tot thought he was lost in the great dark forest,” said Judy. “At one point he saw over a patch of bracken the enormous head of a stag, staring at him with terrible indifference. That sense of the forest as a place of darkness and a threat stayed with him all his life.”
It was his fears and his imagination that created the energy for his writing. “He knew that for him Marlborough was this fantastic resource and he needed really to keep it that way as a place of imagination. So though he left Marlborough, I don’t think Marlborough ever left him.”
She then read an extract of unpublished early writing by her father describing a walk they went on together that was overwhelmed by thousands of migrating starlings – an event that former mayor Nick Fogg, who introduced the talk, described as a world exclusive.”
More intimate details of her bitter-sweet memories followed during question time, Judy revealing how her parents focused their lives on each other and how she and her brother felt excluded, the title of her memoir taken from the quotation, The children of lovers are orphans.
“feel rather ashamed, that this is rather extreme because we weren’t the children of orphans,” she confessed. “The answer is that perhaps sometimes we were not well loved – and I even feel terrible saying it.”
“I always felt that we weren’t that important. Children should feel they are the most important people in the world. To be honest, I think it was because my father was a writer and you could feel him sometimes just drift away.”
“He was a wonderful man to be around. He was fascinating, informed, stimulating, played the piano, did everything. But it hard to be hard to be the hero of your own life when your parents are like that, I’m afraid.”
And she added: “There was a tremendous amount of benefit by being his daughter because of who he was. It was not until I got to university that I began to realise that people looked at me slightly strangely.”
“At that age you think people look at your strangely all the time. The honest answer is that everyone thinks their parents are a bit odd.”