Virginia Barton

13 August 2014: The Sulking Corner


13 August 2014


We spent 34 years in a house in Oxford, where the children grew up and we grew old. The garden was small but challenging, and landscaped, ha ha, on three levels. At the top, behind an ugly but necessary shed, I planted a berried Rowan, in memory of my beloved Northern fells. It grew in what was designated “The Sulking Corner”: anyone out of sorts could retire under it to mope.

The tree is still there but any moping would now be done in public as the shed has long since gone.


Rowan Tree


The Ancestor is sulking. I was going to flesh her out, as it were, but she’s in the corner and obviously displeased. She was one of those people who separated her friends into compartments and they rarely, if ever, met. When one visited it was always by invitation; she disliked people who “dropped in” and had been known to turn them away at the door:

“Don’t answer that dear, I know who it is.” Full stop, no explanation.

No, a visit was a carefully arranged affair, almost stage-managed. The scene was set: chairs, a spindly, one legged table:

“Are you sure you have enough room darling?”

A careful balancing act as one juggled with a tiny plate, glass of wine, napkin, cheese straws, roquefort on roundels of thickly buttered French bread, black chocolate broken into miniscule squares. Conversation could then begin. And go on and on. Unable to tear oneself away, for she drew one out like knitting unravelling – until it grew dark and not only was the wine finished, but coffee, the waiting tea and a light supper, all pre-arranged on a series of trays. And when you remember that you should have left hours ago and venture I really ought to go now, it would be met with:

“Just tell me what happened when you met Rosemary/Anne/ the Bradleys darling; I havn’t seen her/them for such a long time.”


Confidences, as far as I know, remained confidential. It must have been that training in the Admiralty. (a propos, one of her proudest possessions was a letter from King George VI thanking her for the work which was carried out partly in Buckingham Palace, presumably when the Admiralty was short of space. The Ancestor was employed writing citations to go with the gallantry awards given to men and women who fought in WW2. Occasionally she was asked to tone these down, so glowing were her remarks.)

But enough for today, because I know she’s not enjoying these disclosures one bit, despite their being totally anonymous and to an unseen, unknown audience. SO unlike her own têteàtête intimacies.

“Really dear, how could you?”

Next time I shall write behind her back.






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