29 August 2012
I have just returned from the UK where I attended the IBBY World Congress. I’ve already blogged about my experience which was nothing short of incredible. Thanks again to everyone who helped make it happen.
I was in the UK for ten days so I wanted to make the most of my time there. Before I left I made a check list of literary attractions to visit including the Jane Austen Museum in Hampshire and Monk’s House in Lewes. The more I researched the more little places of interest came up until I was left with a chock-full itinerary.
Some I even came across by chance, such as the Wick Inn, a pub in Brighton that’s a favourite haunt of Nick Cave and featured in his novel, The Death of Bunny Munro. In the Ripley’s Museum in London, I saw a first draft manuscript of Agatha Christie’s Passenger to Frankfurt covered in the author’s own handwritten notes.
We decided to start our journey in south east England. I was most excited about visiting the Jane Austen Museum in Alton. The 17th century house was where Jane did most of her writing. It was so inspiring to walk in her shoes and learn about her life. I bought a copy of Pride and Prejudice from the bookshop and re-read it on the train back to London with a renewed appreciation.
I was also keen to visit Monk’s House, Virginia Woolf’s country estate in Lewes, which was frequented by authors like T.S. Eliot and E.M. Forster. The sprawling gardens were beautiful. We were so lucky to have a perfect summer morning to experience it with the palest blue sky that I’ve never seen in South Africa. We spent the morning playing lawn bowls on the grass just outside Virginia’s writing cottage overlooking the Downs. It was surreal to think that many, many years before, some of my literary heroes did the same. Hopefully, I caught some of the magic of the place that once inspired some of its famous visitors.
I miss the countryside and its rolling hills and rivers. The days went too quickly and soon it was time to take a train back to the city.
Back in London I visited 221b Baker Street, the residence of Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. I also ran into Oscar Wilde at Madame Tussauds.
The highlight of my trip was without a doubt the Harry Potter Film Studios which included a guided tour of all the film sets and an exhibition of props and costumes. I was in kid lit heaven. For anyone interested, Butterbeer tastes like ginger ale mixed with caramel syrup, with a vanilla ice cream froth.
It was a literary pilgrimage, leaving me feeling more excited than ever about being a writer. I’ve returned to South Africa super charged with inspiration and ready to write.