steepholm (steepholm) wrote,

Un-Cheyned Threnody

I made a quick trip to London yesterday afternoon, to give a talk on "Taking Children's Literature Seriously" to the Society of Authors. I had a very good time, met some people I'd not seen for a long time, and a few others, Gillian Cross and Nicola Morgan among them, whom I'd only known online. (Not quite true - I saw GC at a reading not long ago, but didn't get to speak to her.) Then off to a British restaurant, for a helping of Cow Pie. I was rather disappointed at the lack of Desperate Dan-style cow horns, especially as my neighbour had a crab's claw sticking out of her fish pie, but it still tasted good.

Anyway, it turns out the Society of Authors is based in Chelsea, and since I arrived in the area an hour or so early it seemed like the perfect opportunity to fulfil a long-held ambition and go down to Cheyne Walk, there to see No. 6, home of the Butlers from around 1780 (when my great*4 grandfather opened a school there) to the 1850s (when my great*2 grandfather sold it and moved up the road to Brompton). It was dark by the time I got there, and my camera and my computer still aren't talking to each other, otherwise I would have shown you a picture, but once again I will call Google Streetview to my aid:

It was strangely moving to me to see the haunt of my pretty ancestors in the flesh - and strangely familiar too. Sceptics may declare that I'd simply internalised the version of the house that appears on the covers of the Historical House series (where they seem to have decided that it really needs a pediment), but I prefer to think that some Lamarckian principle was at work by way of Rupert Sheldrake, and that I was channelling the memories of the dead:

Robed in the long friends,
The grains beyond age, the dark veins of her mother,
Secret by the unmourning water
Of the riding Thames.

There were no signs on the gate denoting that it's become offices or flats: can it really be a private residence? I wonder if I might be able to look round inside, if I wrote and asked nicely? Or even ---

But why dissemble? It may have been sold 160 years ago, but the truth is that I want it back, my friends.

I want it back.
Tags: family history, real life
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