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This report is taken from PN Review 151, Volume 29 Number 5, May - June 2003.

Letter from East Anglia Alice Wooledge Salmon

Visiting Olive Cook was a lively experience. `Darling!' she'd cry, flinging open the door of her multi-coloured Saffron Walden house and enveloping you in a back-breaking hug. Then, holding herself straight, she'd lock your gaze with her forthright eyes above black velvet neck band or silver pendant and any of her becoming and capable outfits and draw you, once more, into that particular sphere of creative enthusiasms as rich and generous as one of her imminent meals.

Olive's was a congenital zest for living, and you could not dissuade her from ardent hospitality, even if, this time, you'd come to The Coach House to talk about her writing or her late husband's photographs or to look at their paintings, or, more likely, a sampling of all three. Off you'd be swept onto striped garden chairs beside ancient, espaliered apple trees, out would come the large Victoria teapot and (sometimes) `my best' Liverpool cups and saucers, her home-made fruit cake and lemon sponge, and on we'd sit, for much of the afternoon, beneath tall aromatic balsam, with wind rushing through distant trees like the sound of the sea. `Tell me, darling; I want to hear!' You'd describe what you'd been thinking, doing, writing, and Olive summoned headlong monologues about learning from Cedric Morris or painting with her husband in Sicily or dictating her three-week book against commissioning Stansted airport `which spouted out like a fountain, as though it was someone else!'

Or cold weather would bring ...


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