Downstairs Window

Downstairs Window


Some doors open on a thickly-peopled air
Of moving shadows, those whose lives, long gone,
Were spent there....
Some on a waiting silence - of expectancy
For those to come; some to the musty smell
Of mere desuetude; and some in constancy
To the long loving years of sweet content
In which the light of sun and moon have blent
In lasting light that bids all dark farewell -
Of such will this room tell.

Mary Stella Edwards, 1962.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Day 1: Opening the Door (1 May 2010)

Their gate is open, their door is unlocked.

I can dust their table and sweep their floors and lift down their tea-cups. I can look at the changing colours of the same sea when I stand at their windows.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Day 2: Reading Poems at the Burton Gallery, Bideford (2 May 2010)

Mary Stella Edwards and Judith Ackland at Bucks Mills.

In 1924, Mary Stella Edwards wrote 'The Dancing Star for J.A.'

Suddenly in the quietest places,
When the first star swims up fair,
Threading the bare twigs' delicate laces,
I shall be there....

I will set your feet to follow the dancing
Feet of the beckoning star,
Tune your ears to notes entrancing,
Hollow and far.

They will call us out to the starlit spaces,
And brief as a bright dream done,
Swift from the ash-wood's quietest places,
We shall be gone.

She was 26 years old, and Judith was 31.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Day 3: The Portable Writing Desk (May 3 2010)

The portable writing desk is supporting the white shelves above. They have come away from the wall. I opened the drawers and looked inside. One by one. This was the first.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Day 4: Judith Ackland Reading (4 May 2010)

Spent all this bright day down on the beach. Am filled with the never-ending sound of the rolling waves.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Day 5: Fulmars (5 May 2010)

15 years before Mary Stella Edwards was born and 11 years before the birth of Judith Ackland the only British colony of fulmars was on the remote island of St Kilda, 200km from mainland Scotland. Since that time they have spread right around the coasts.

There is a small colony of fulmars nesting on the face of the ruined limekilns just below the Cabin. They came in from the sea to raise their young. They will stay until the summer begins. Fulmars live long lives, regularly reaching 30 years or more.

I looked for them today, waiting to film their stiff straight- winged wheeling flight.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Day 6: Going Upstairs (rain), 6 May 2010

Soft, persistant rain all day so I climbed the stairs to think about 'a mere projection of the glow within' (MSE, 1969) and found a miniature barometer on the wall.
Rain From The West
The rain that bows the flowering grasses,
Leaving a crystal on each bending blade,
Has stroked for milesthe sea's grey ridges
And dints the shore-pools with its speckled shade.
Who knows what flowers and seeds of summer
May rise from this far-carried alien rain -
Which drops may nourish them and which, drawn skyward,
Will, wind-impelled, drive on to fall again.
Out of the west it comes, but to me...
It seems a local rain, meant for these grasses -
For me, whose sun its cloud can never spoil.
Mary Stella Edwards (1963)

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Day 7: The Linen Cupboard (7 May 2010)

I opened up the linen cupboard, took out armfuls and hung all around the room to air.
Then I changed the cover of the white bed.

I searched through all the unfolded pile of linen until I found that one that you loved the best.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Day 8: Maimie Braund's Parlour (Saturday 8 May 2010)

Maimie always wore a flower in her hair.
She is pictured in the doorway of Corner Cottage in 1949 with her father Ernest Braund, a fisherman.

It takes twelve strides to get from the Cabin to Corner Cottage.

When she was young Maimie ran away to London with a writer who had come to Bucks Mills among the affluent visitors looking for a creative retreat. Ernest went and fetched her home again.
Maimie's mother died in 1946 and her father died in 1953.
'Corner Cottage Interior, Bucks Mills' was painted by Mary Stella Edwards in 1957.
Maimie Braund married her childhood sweetheart, Mr Johns, when she was 80 years old.
Maimie's story is taken from 'Who Lived in Cottages Like These? The Inhabitants of Bucks Mills' by Rebecca and Janet Few, publ. The Braund Society.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Day 9: Coats (Sunday 9 May 2010)

Hanging in the quiet shadow at the bottom of the stairs on a wooden hanger, one over, one inside.

Small overcoats.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Day 10: Water (10 May 2010)

A caller came by who had holidayed in the Cabin as a child with her parents. She came every summer throughout the 1950s until 1963 courtesy of a special arrangement with Judith Ackland and Stella Edwards.
She remembered a water butt outside the door which always sprang a leak and said that drinking water was fetched from Maimie's kitchen in two black metal jugs with handles. The drinking water jugs had blue gingham covers.
She said that Maimie's flower was a paper poppy she had made herself in memory of a sweetheart who had gone to fight in Flanders. Maimie said she had promised to wear the poppy every day until his return.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Day 11: The Baskets Under the Bed (Monday 11 May 2010)

I reached under the bed to move the smaller basket and felt its heaviness.
Inside I found the lovingly stored equipment of two watercolour painters.
All in mid-use.

The Words of Others
'The North Star', the half-heard radio said,
No matter in what connection; and the tears sprang
Sliding across my eyes - so that I heard no more -
Hiding this paper, but not that constellation
That shines in my brain and ever at that door
Where we stood always when stars were bright at bedtime,
Stood in the dark night air, joined in love and gazing.
And in a book I read - a few words only -
'The rowan alerady bright with berries';
And at once we stand together in that enchantment and place
First found that day, and I picked the oak-leaf spray
To hold it always - but now only with tears.
I have it still, shrivelled and dry, among my treasures.
Mary Stella Edwards, January - February 1973.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Day 12: Wolsery School Workshop (Wednesday 12 May 2010)

Year 5s, Wolsery Primary School, looking in the rock pools on Bucks Mills beach.

Making drawings of creatures found in the rock pools.

Back at school making rock pool creatures out of clay.

Painting scenery inside the diorama.

The diorama with scenery finished.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Day 13: Wolsery School Workshop (Thursday 13 May 2010)

Year 4s, Wolsery Primary School, looking in the rockpools on Bucks Mills beach.

Back at school drawing around a template of a fulmar.

Colouring in.

The finished diorama, waiting for the fired clay rock pool creatures.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Day 14: Spring (Friday 14 May 2010)

'Judith Ackland at Work in the Cabin', Mary Stella Edwards, 1953

'I broached the idea of making Bideford our sketching centre this spring for the paintable and selling qualities of Devon; the factor of being able to work in the studio in between and return to places when we wanted; the lack of struggle against weather;, and of time and money running away while waiting for bad weather to end; the contrast it will be to the Lakes and so on. J. agrees with me that there should be no coast scenes of the usual type, save some at Boscastle and Tintagel if we get there, which gives the interesting effect of looking from headland inland across cliffs to distant hills. The horizon should be hills, not water...but the spring light on the high land is what we're really after. I have a number of subjects in mind, not done before.'

From the diaries of Mary Stella Edwards, 22 January 1935

With thanks to the Friends of the Burton Art Gallery and Museum, Bideford.