Pikehouse

Between East and West

This was a competition entry which had to incorporate 10 book titles (plus another one for the title) from a list provided by an antiquarian book suppliers. See if you can spot the titles!

We have a small farm nestled between the estates of Westonbirt and Easton Grey. Of course now they are pretty little villages, filling up with weekly commuters, but going back some years it was Mr. Grey to the east and Mr. Birt to the West. Their families are long gone too, but we're still here: have been since they wrote the Domesday Book, and surely will be at Doomsday itself.I love the farmhouse, a microcosmography of country living, socially constructed to have everything - and everyone - in the right place, from the front porch to the back step. The back step is, of course, the place for the neighbours to bring a cup of news. The front door, as unknown to us as a journey to the Frontier, is for the Vicar and coffins. The last coffin was grandmother Dora and with her we lost the last vestiges of the Victorian world. Picture her sitting in her rocking chair by the fire in the kitchen, lace cap on her head, in widow's weeds and her hands always busy - knitting, crocheting, shelling peas, lace making, stringing beans or threading beads.
The parlour suffers under the burdens of formality and lack of use. A stuffy room, almost as antiquated as Dora, no modern painters here. Some dreary pastoral scenes adorn the walls, and the ugliest china figurines you ever saw fill a glass-fronted cabinet. We used to produce hilarious parodies and burlesque pieces based on the imagined lives of the 'Chinese People', as we called them as children.
The kitchen is the hub of our universe, always warm, never empty, clutter everywhere. The old pans never left the range and there was always the smell of baking in the air. Not that we ever had anything fancy: only country fare so plain that sometimes we felt as if we were under siege. This was Mother's stronghold and she would put to work anyone who ventured in. But what else was to be expected with so many mouths to feed and so little money to do it with.
My favourite place, though, is the little attic bedroom I shared with my two sisters. Here we could hide away from the fussing and demands of the family, escape for a quiet talk after the long walk home from school, and work on our scrapbooks. I found snippets from the local paper, cards and invitations, and even the occasional photograph. It became in time a calendar of consolation as my life produced its share of happiness and grief, and I enjoy pondering its contents even now.

In case you missed any of the titles, they were:

Domesday Book

Microcosmography

A Cup of News

Journey to the Frontier

The Victorian World Picture

The Burdens of Formality

Modern Painters

Parodies and Burlesque Pieces

Under Siege

A Calendar of Consolation

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