It’s marvelous where a train of thought can lead you in a day, and how sometimes things seem to come together all at once.
Just yesterday I was looking at some photographs I had taken of favorite pieces of pottery and china. I particularly treasure the mug, sugar bowl, and milk jug from Tregurnow Pottery, started by Mag and George when they moved down from London to a fishing village in Cornwall. They were part of my parents’ close circle of friends in London before I was born, and they all had their first children within a few months of each other. Mag is the one who pierced Mum’s ears for her, using a red-hot needle, or perhaps a red-hot safety pin. She is also the one who gave me my pet name. Visiting Mum and me when I was just days old, she first called me by the name that was to supplant my given name until I was thirty, and is still the one preferred by my family and oldest friends.
In the summer of 1971, on a trip to England after we had graduated from high school, Andrew and I took a coach down to Cornwall to visit Mag and George and camped on the clifftop near Treen. We went to a performance of Iris Murdoch’s The Italian Girl at the Minack open-air theatre, waded in the fantastically cold ocean water at Porthcurno (where George swam year-round), tasted nut rissoles for the first time (Mag and George were strict vegetarians), and learned about the importance of conserving water from George, who was decades ahead of his time in his commitment to a simple, sustainable life.
So I looked up Tregurnow Pottery on the Internet, and found the website of the couple who, back in 1999, had bought it from Mag and George after they retired, and started their own studio. Imagine my delight when I found that one of them, John Nash, had written a book about my parents’ friends, telling the story of their struggle to establish the pottery. I wasted no time in ordering The Potters’ Tale, and am looking forward eagerly to receiving and reading it soon. I was even more delighted to receive an e-mail message from his wife Mim and to learn that she is now a close friend of Mag’s. This in turn led to an e-mail exchange with my Uncle Ted, who had heard from Mag just last week and had greetings from her for my mother.
One thing led to another. I found myself looking up the Minack Theater and learning that it was built by hand in the 1930s, stone by heavy stone, by a remarkable woman called Rowena Cade, who died in 1983 at age 90, and would have still been going strong back when Andrew and I visited the theatre. I found a video postcard of the Minack on YouTube and showed it to my father. I even found the archive of all the shows ever produced there since The Tempest in 1932, confirmed exactly when we had seen The Italian Girl, and learned that Iris Murdoch herself had participated in the play’s adaptation from the original novel.
This morning, over tea and a doughnut with Andrew, he brought out an old paperback and presented it to me: “I found this while I was sorting through some papers.” Wouldn’t you know—it was Iris Murdoch’s The Italian Girl! My father-in-law picked it up for me at the town dump (er, sanitary landfill) a long while ago, but it had slipped out of sight and I had forgotten all about it—until just now. Synchronicity.