And lo! Even in the time of pandemic the poems did arrive.
How appropriate that my new book a collaboration with the illustrator Charlotte Harker, should arrive at this time because in years to come the house of the book’s title will still be standing while the events of 2020 are bleached into strange memories.
And The House Watches On is a work explores the lives, real and imagined, that have passed through West House in Pinner. I begin with the dark tale of Thomas Bowler, owner of the house in 1812, who was hanged for attempted murder. I move through the next two hundred years exploring how the house and society has shifted. Along the way we see Admiral Nelson’s daughter grieving for the loss of her child, cartoonist and artist Heath Robinson strolling the grounds, unaware that one day a museum in his name will stand in the park, and we see two figures, Pamela and Priya, hiding in the park, one in an Anderson shelter during the Blitz and one today, hiding in play.
The book has taken some time. I’m not quite sure why. Partly the collaborative process, partly our exploration of how to get the book “out there” and partly because I wanted the poems themselves to have variation in tone and style that underpinned the content.
The book focuses on a particular house, but really it could be any large house in the UK. Many such buildings have had to adapt from home to landed gentry to something for the community in order to survive, certainly that has been the life of West House. Quite what the next two hundred years will bring for the house and how the house will respond remains for future generations to see.