Monday, 17 December 2012

Beatrix Potter

I wonder whether J.K. Rowling chose Harry's surname because she loved Peter Rabbit.  I tried to research this a bit on Google and found the clever hypothesis that it was because a Potter's Field is where the poor and unwanted are buried.  I also looked up the source of the term Potter's Field.  I learn something new almost every time I start wandering like this.  

Beatrix Potter's neighbours

All that aside, Beatrix Potter's fields are very much wanted and appreciated.  I enjoyed visiting her house, Hill Top.  The place was so crowded, I didn't even attempt a photo of the outside and of course photos weren't allowed inside.  However, you can see quite a bit of it here.  

We squeezed into Hill Top between a Japanese tour group and a busload of English school children.  The advantage of being there with the children was that there were all sorts of mini-lectures going on.  I've only seen part of the film Miss Potter (which is on my Christmas wishlist now), however I can report that the movie was not filmed at Hill Top, it being too small and the artifacts too fragile.  I was worried that the film was romanticized Hollywood fiction but it turns out that the general plot was basically true after all.  I'll not spoil the story for you if you've not seen it (starring Renee Zellweger and Euan McGregor).

The Tower Bank Arms - Beatrix Potter's 'local', and Jemima Puddleduck's, too?

There was also some discussion about some little blue squares placed strategically around the house.  These are sent annually to a National Trust laboratory to determine whether  valuables are being protected sufficiently from light exposure and fading.   Protecting the heritage of the author's possessions is serious and scientific business.

I love a good coal fire!

I came away thinking that Potter practically started the English National Trust, but this isn't quite true.  The history on their website barely mentions her support in 1929, but from the time she first bought Hill Top Farm she began purchasing land around the area to protect it from development.  It's hard to imagine how the Lake District would now look had she not done so.  In fact, although the Lake District has long been a favourite vacationing spot for the Great and the Good, an awful lot of the present day tourist industry is linked to Beatrix Potter.  Any castle where her family vacationed, any cafe that can claim relation to one of her characters is careful to display this on a plaque.  Sadly, I've never read any of her books.  Not one.  Mrs. Tittlemouse and Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle were not on my parent's radar.

A collection of her complete works is also now on my Christmas wishlist (Can I please have the used one that costs £0.01, not the new one for £39.99?  Not only do I want you to save your money for better things, I want to support the used book industry - I have plenty to sell!)  When Vivien's husband Steve (brainy-scientist-computer-nerd) admitted that his favourite character was a rat named Samuel Whiskers, I decided the stories couldn't be too boring.  Who knows, next year I might want the Beatrix Potter needlepoint book or her knitting book and we might be inundated with little ceramic figurines.  Or not. (NO presents, please).  

Do you love all things Peter Rabbit?


Carolyn said...

How wonderful! I absolutely loved the Beatrix Potter books as a child. I still have my huge collection; after all these years!
I vividly recall a movie, of a ballet with many of the animal characters. Can still clearly bring to my mind many of the scenes... quite breathtaking.

Anonymous said...

Love Beatrix Potter. I really enjoyed the movie too (even though Renee is not a favorite actress)...I think you would really like it.

Anonymous said...

Lovely post. I too am not familiar with Beatrice Potter's books though I have some understanding of the essence.

What principally caught my interest in your post is Potter's interest in preserving land from development. I have a passion for such preservation, and frustration that my means are not such that I can effect the changes I feel are needed.

I'll have to check out the film!