Coincidences abound. Yesterday I went to Sussex to interview someone connected with the next book I’m doing, nothing at all to do with Durrell or my mother, but found myself only a couple of miles from Loxwood, the village they lived in for 12 months, 1933-34. When I went there first it was midsummer, blue and green and bathed in sunshine. We drove through it yesterday and it was deep in winter, but still beautiful. A part of the world I don’t know at all, but which even now has a timeless quality, in spite of the enormous cars parked outside every little olde worlde cottage. We drove past Chestnut Mead, the cottage they shared with George Wilkinson – no electricity, no inside lavatory, no car. A vanished world. And they had to chop their own wood.

Nancy woodcutter

Nancy woodcutter

Someone I was talking to last week, who had been logging in British Columbia at about the same time – he’s now in his 90s – said he was given 2 buckets to stand in while he practiced chopping down huge trees with an axe – on the assumption that he’s be less likely to lop his foot off if he missed, I suppose. Here Nancy is learning the woodcutters’ art behind their cottage in Loxwood, without aid of bucket.

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