Sunday, 25 October 2009

The Tonks biography

Today the five of us went across to Wendy and Nicky's new home in the little town of Whitchurch for lunch. The others had all been there before: I hadn't. Nicky gave me a quick tour. At the bottom of the garden is a leat of the River Test, perhaps the most famous trout stream in the world, with waters "clear as gin and twice as expensive", so unlike the muddy leat of the Great Ouse leading to the long-demolished Castle Mill opposite our home in Buckingham. Beside it a vegetable garden with friable tilth, so unlike the heavy clays of Julia's allotment.

Returning through the kitchen I saw names on tiles above the work surfaces: VERMEER, CEZANNE, … TONKS. Tonks? Henry Tonks, it transpires, is a forebear of our hostess the watercolourist. Her great friend Sabina ffolkes is the author of a new biography of this neglected artist. Just as my tutor Jane Ridley enjoyed herself hugely visiting Surrey country houses when writing her biography of Lutyens, so the two of them enjoyed visiting grand houses viewing Tonks still hanging where they were placed when first bought.

Lunch was vastly convivial and, though more needs to be written about past and future associations with my hostess (cooking in sunny climes and meeting biographers), my frailty stops me writing more tonight. I post it to my blog now so that anything added later will still bear Sunday's date.

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