Seeing this lift in our hotel transports me back to the forties and the residential hotels on the seafront at Eastbourne, where I used to visit my grandmother in the school holidays.
It has an open sided shaft so you can watch it ascend—looking up its skirts so to speak; and double hand-pulled filigree metal gates—that clunk satisfyingly shut.
It runs up the spine of the Fowey Hotel, built in 1881 to accommodate the new breed of holidaymakers arriving by train.
It also welcomed wounded soldiers for rest and recovery during the First World War.
It’s a period piece but manages to keep its dignity.
A testament to a time when the coming of the railways changed the face of Britain.
On the wall between the lift and the dining room there are framed letters written by Kenneth Grahame, author of Wind in the Willows, while on holiday, to his son, whom he addresses as “dearest Mouse“.
It is claimed that Kenneth Grahame made a boat trip up Lerryn Creek on the Fowey River with some friends and it became at the inspiration for the first chapter of The Wind in the Willows where the Rat and the Mole make a boat trip along the river for a picnic.
Wicker statues of the animal characters in the book guard the garden near the hotel.
We are in Fowey on Cornwall’s south coast, for the Fowey Festival of Arts and Literature where I’m invited to give the Daphne du Maurier memorial address which opens the festivities—wow!
A week of wonderful cultural events unfolds in this unique setting.
Déjà vu is the order of the day.
I was in Fowey 40 years ago filming the rescue of Dwight Enys from a French prison for two quite uncomfortable weeks.
We filmed at sea for two days and up that same creek for the rest—me and my Merry Men all dressed in 18th century gear—doing our best to keep straight faces:
“Follow me, men!”
“Keep your heads down–which way did they go?”
Fowey hasn’t changed much over 40 years–to its credit.
Though charming, it feels like a working place–not a cutesy-poo tourist attraction.
No pressure then–just the main keynote address and the following day a 45 minute talk about my books and how composing daily haikus helped me write them–and the “good luck” story of my diabetic journey.
Going up and down in that wonderful silent lift and soaking up the vista from our window–steadies my nerves!
More to follow…