Thursday, 1 January 2015

New Year's Day Party: Northbridge Rectory by Angela Thirkell

published 1941







[New Year’s Day party at the Rectory, in a small village at the end of 1940]

The heat and noise were now terrific. All the guests were out-shouting each other and telling each other what they intended to do in the spring provided nothing happened. Mrs Villars, standing back from the party for a moment, thought how peculiar it was, judging by almost forgotten pre-war standards, that what people called “nothing happening” meant going on in darkness, discomfort [and] anticipation of danger…. The great thing was to trust a good deal and see that all the guests at one’s party had enough to drink and someone to talk to…

At that moment the noise, insistent and roaring though it was, was partly drowned, partly heightened by the voice of Mrs Spender, who in a three-piece costume with a halo hat, came triumphantly in, carrying in her train her husband, who looked thinner and more sensitive than ever.

“Here I am, quite unexpected-like, said she brightly,” were Mrs Spender’s opening words. “It is quite like coming home to be in the dear old Rectory again.”

“I am so glad you could come,” said Mrs Villars, trying to sound truthful.




observations: This book gave us a Christmas party last week, and now the village worthies and the officers billeted at the Rectory are knocking back sherry and mulled claret (the servants and NCOs all had a whale of a time the day before, trying out the recipe and getting sloshed together) as they look forward to 1941 – the year the book was published, so neither they nor their author knew what the future held.

Mrs Spender, the wife of one of the Majors, turns up twice in the book, and is shown as a figure of fun with her incredibly annoying verbal tics. The example above is nicely described by Thirkell thus:

[They] found Mrs Spender’s habit of speaking with a kind of stage directions about herself, prefaced by the words ‘Said she’, rather perplexing.
Mrs S just about manages not to be as tiresome as she would be in real life, and during her short visit to this party is a fine deus ex machina telling a few surprising home truths – ‘I’m funny that way, you know, I always see at once…’ She would certainly be played by Victoria Wood in a film version.

The picture is exactly the right style, I think, though the colour should really be blue. It comes from the NY Public Library collection.


A Happy New Year to all readers. To mark the moment, here's some New Year bell-ringing, as used in the past to illustrate Lord Peter and friends: 



Out over the flat, white wastes of fen, over the spear-straight, steel-dark dykes and the wind-bent, groaning poplar trees, bursting from the snow-choked louvres of the belfry, whirled away southward and westward in gusty blasts of clamour to the sleeping counties went the music of the bells. - Dorothy L Sayers, The Nine Tailors

12 comments:

  1. Moira - Happy New Year! I love the way Mrs. Spender is described, even if she is one of those characters best served in very, very moderate portions. And it does make you think when you read about these characters who are putting a brave face on wartime realities, and have no idea at all of what's coming in 1941. Oh, and I'm glad you mentioned The Nine Tailors. I always think of that one on New Year's Day.

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    1. I should just do The Nine Tailors every New Year's Day I think, it is always my NY book. But I did like Northbridge Rectory's look at life, and the reminder of the War.

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  2. 2015 a new year.......I rocked up expecting a hearty dose of guns, dope, strippers, pimps and hookers. You're obviously stuck in a 2014-time warp!

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    1. Yeah, pretty much not those things. there's quite a lot to filter through before I get onto free choices and purchases again....

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  3. Once again, I'm reading the book you comment on!! So perfect!!

    Happy New Year!!

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    1. Happy chance - and a happy new year to you!

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  4. Moira, I wish you and your family a very Happy and Peaceful New Year! I look forward to another wonderful year of Clothes in Books and reading about the fascinating clothes the many characters in your books wear.

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    1. thanks, Prashant, and happy new year. Here's to another year of blogging and reading for all of us....

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  5. I like the reference to Nine Tailors. I had not seen that image before and I like it very much.

    Even though Nine Tailors is not a favorite Sayers book, I bought an old (and very cheap) copy at the book sale this year. I bought it because of a drawing of the parish church at the beginning and some diagrams. So I may even read it again some time, and try to revise my opinion.

    I hope the New Year is good to you.

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    1. I can remember after I first read The Nine Tailors trying to give it to a friend to read, because I'd liked it so much, and her giving it back saying 'I really don't get on with books that start with a map of the village.' I was astonished, so much the opposite of me: a map bodes well for me....

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    2. Oh, I agree wholeheartedly. If I find a book with a map, I ooh and aah and cannot resist it. I have three unread Deborah Crombie books that I bought pretty much for the maps in the endpapers. Got to get to those.

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    3. Absolutely! It cheers me up to see a map...

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