It’s one of those cool, damp, dreary days that I might find delightful, if I was walking on the Cornwall coast.
However, when I am in my back yard, I only get inspired to return to the house and make a cup of tea. The garden is beautiful but overgrown. Any motivation to perform some maintenance is diminished by the combination of overcast sky, drizzle, and wind. Even so, I would be completely remiss, if I did not at least go outside to see if there were any olives ready to be harvested.
It has been nearly three weeks since I salted some ripe olives, and they are curing nicely.
Although most of the olives on the tree are still too green, I was pleased to see that the guavas are falling. This was an unexpected surprise. I collected a good load of them, but left most of the smaller ones on the ground for now. Picking them up is just one more task to do on a sunnier day. In the meantime, there are some ants crawling about, trying to figure out if there is a meal here that is worth their effort.
In my novel A Moon Garden, there were two lovers who could not marry legally in England in 1785. This was because of the Marriage Act, passed by Parliament in 1753. For a marriage to be legally binding, the ceremony had to be conducted by a minister in a church or chapel of the Church of England. Jews and Quakers were exempt from this restriction, but Anglicans and Catholics were not. The law also set the age of consent at 21. The Act remained in effect until 1836.
It did not apply in Scotland, however. Under Scottish law, couples could wed on the spot in front of two witnesses. They only needed to declare that they were both free to marry. As a result, thousands of English couples eloped to Gretna Green, which was the village they reached as soon as they crossed the border from England into Scotland. The first building they saw was the blacksmith’s shop. The blacksmith developed a lucrative side business presiding over civil marriage ceremonies, and became known as the Anvil Priest.
The couple in A Moon Garden travelled to Gretna Green for their wedding. The blacksmith conducted a brief handfasting ceremony, then declared, “‘You have tied the knot. I pronounce you husband and wife.’” With that, the blacksmith raised a metal hammer and lowered it with great force against the anvil, producing a loud ringing sound.”
I was happy to discover a series of five narrative paintings by British historical genre painter John Arthur Lomax, depicting the anvil wedding of an anxious couple at Gretna Green. It looks just how I had envisioned it!
The construction of Rougemont Castle was begun in 1068, sometime after William the Conqueror laid siege to the city of Exeter in Devon, England. The walls that remain today are surrounded on three sides by public gardens. In the year 1785, the broad walk through those gardens would have been lined with towering elm trees. On my visit to Rougemont Garden a couple of years ago, the elm trees were gone, but it was still easy to envision the interrupted romantic encounter that occurs at this place in my debut novel, A Moon Garden.