Trains, Bath and books

The four Diamonds

Well, looking out of my First Class compartment window (many of you will know I now write my novels in a 1930’s replica of a railway carriage in the garden), one would never know it’s summer by the temperature and gloomy grey skies. I just hope it improves as I have lovely summery events coming up soon: two trips to Glyndebourne, one of them on my birthday to see The Merry Widow which I know well, having sung in the chorus many years ago in an amateur operatic production, and I’m presenting my garden to the public on the 23rd so it really must keep fine that week – for all of us!

My writing friends who, with me, formed the Diamonds writing group ten years ago, decided to have a day out as when we meet each month, it’s always to concentrate on our work in progress. We decided to go by Pullman train to Bath (my selfish suggestion as my new heroine is an assistant librarian in the Bath Lending Library). What a fabulous train. As you can see from the photograph at the top, here are the four of us lapping up the luxury. We were waited on hand and foot.

Inside the Pullman coach

It was ages since any of us had visited Bath, so how lovely to wander round and become reacquainted with the stunning buildings and quaint shops.

We looked in at the Pump Room (where my current novel opens!) and I was able to have a chat with a waiter who’d been there for 25 years and was very aware of its history, and then made for Persephone Books which moved from Bloomsbury in London three years ago.

Just walking through the door, I felt completely at home, as the store is laid out in a similar fashion. I’m a big fan of this company that reprints authors – mainly female – who were well-known in their time but fell out of fashion over the following decades. Nicola Beauman, founder and owner, now on the brink of handing the reins to her daughter, was there to greet me with a big hug. It was  wonderful catching up with her and of course I couldn’t leave without a bagful of books, and neither could any of the other Diamonds.

In Ringmer (near Lewes) where I now live, I made fast friends with Liz, the librarian. She’s given me some fascinating details about cataloguing during the war. The system was devised in 1876 and we still use it today. Even better, she put my name down as a volunteer in the library for a couple of afternoons, just to get a flavour of being behind the counter.

My only experience of working in a ‘library’ was when I was about 6 years old and my older sister cut out a potato which, when inked, was used as a stamp for the books, representing their return date! A sharp contrast to the computer. It was such a jolly afternoon meeting some really interesting borrowers although libraries nowadays are so different. For one thing, you’re allowed to talk in them! The heartwarming part was the children choosing their books. They were much more focused on what they wanted to read than the adults! I can’t wait for the second session in July.

Photo by Comstock on

In the meantime, I must check the proofs of the next novel out on 26th September: Courage for the Cabinet Girl. This is set in Winston Churchill’s underground War Rooms. He conducted practically the whole of the war from his Cabinet Room. If you’ve never been there, I do urge you to go. You’ll find it incredibly atmospheric and full of fascinating detail.

Happy summer reading,

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