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This article is taken from PN Review 240, Volume 44 Number 4, March - April 2018.

A Visit to Old Hall Jane Stevenson
South Burlingham isn’t far from Norwich but it’s in deep country. Getting there involves navigating smaller and smaller roads into a maze of hedges and big trees, with an occasional stone-built church, the odd overdressed former farmhouse, and once in a while, a working farm. The little Elizabethan house stands back from the road, red brick under a thatched roof, made distinctive by a dramatic three-storey porch adorned with frisky merpersons, and the twin Tudor chimneypots which rise on either side of its pediment like ears. On the other side of a blue-painted farm gate, there is a formal garden with box knots, yew cones and mown grass on either side of a central path. Mature trees nod over the hedge on the left, implying less formal planting behind.

The Old Hall isn’t an easy place to bring into focus, because generally, one is so pleased to have got there, sometimes due to the successful achievement of a feat of navigation (unless one has been retrieved by Margaret from somewhere in Norwich), but mostly, because impressions crowd on top of one another and in any case, the main principal memory is always of the conversation, which begins almost at once, and continues more or less without cease during waking hours until the moment of departure. Arabesques of well-formed sentences, in which books, people, recondite facts, objects, and memories flow; one leading to another in intricate and ramifying chains of association. Nothing so vulgar as table talk, subtler and more gnarly, the result of long reflection, striking sparks off ...


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