Today, the lovely people from Sceptre are shooting a book trailer for ‘The Novel in the Viola’ along the Dorset coast. They’ve hired a gorgeous young actress to play Elise, and will film her in a few key locations from the book. I can’t wait to see the footage. It’s going to be quite a strange experience to see even a snippet from the novel on film.
This week I attended two of the most remarkable groups that I’ve encountered during my entire book group tour. Both groups are associated with the AJR, the Association of Jewish Refugees,where my grandfather was a lifelong member. Monday’s session was with ladies and gentleman mostly in their eighties and nineties, several of whom had arrived in England on domestic service visas. ‘I arrived and became a cook-general,’ Mrs X told me, ‘But I never told my father about the ‘cook’ part. He couldn’t bear to think of his little darling in service.’ Another lady recounted the story of her friend who arrived wearing two fur coats and a string of pearls, and by 7 pm that evening was emptying chamber pots. The friend was a servant in Hampstead and later lived opposite the family whom she had served. When they met in the later on, neither woman ever gave away that one had been a servant for the other.
Some remembered the meanness of the families they waited upon, recalling how they ‘had to boil the outer leaves of the cabbage for our supper’, while others, had warmer recollections of sympathetic families who treated them kindly. One lady confided how she had a close relationship with the grandson of the house, with whom she is still close friends. She recalled the cooking lessons she was given when she arrived in England, and was told ‘there are two types of cake — fancy and plain’. As a good continental Jew, she was appalled — what kind of place was this with only two varieties of cake? She could think of at least a hundred, all of them served with cream.
Tomorrow, I’ll blog about the amazing men of the Pioneer corps and the man who captured Lord Haw-Haw.