Today would have been Barbara Pym's 100th birthday and there's something particularly satisfying about the idea that it's being so widely celebrated. In Pym's own lifetime it looked inevitable that she would be forgotten when in the early 1960's her novels were rejected by publishers on the grounds they were to old fashioned, rediscovery came in 1977 and then periodically ever since. My personal moment of discovery came in 2008 when Virago republished 'Excellent Women' as part of a celebratory hard back series - a few people had said she was good and the book was attractively displayed in front of me, it was enough. Virago have since reprinted most of her books which I've dutifully read and enjoyed, and now I'm reading some of them again.
Truthfully Pym is an author I like (a lot) rather than love - though real, deep, true love may well come as I get to know her work better - she is however the sort of author I love - a woman writing about the life of ordinary single women with humour and intelligence. In a society that arguably holds the women Pym writes about in particularly low esteem it's heartening to read these books which is one reason I wanted to join in with this weeks celebrations (and she really is a very good writer).
My local church, St Mary De Castro, is somewhere I've wanted to get inside of for a while, eventually it made sense (even to my atheist self) to go along to a service. I'd already gathered it was quite a high church, I now know it's actually Anglo-Catholic (very Pym), we first went a couple of weeks ago, and I thought I'd go back today with a friend. It was a good choice, it's a friendly as well as ancient church, beautiful inside and very welcoming (they are also open at various times in the week, inevitably when I'm at work, but if you're ever in Leicester it's well worth a visit). Church has never been a big part of my life, growing up in Scotland I didn't find the local churches particularly interesting (very dour), as an adult my interest has been purely architectural - I've been missing out.
The building comes alive when it's being used rather than looked at, faith aside there's something very comforting about the ritual of church - it made me tidy up last night in a way that I might not ordinarily have bothered to do after a long week, it also got me out of bed and dressed this morning hours before I might have - both are good things and I'll be going back. It's also giving me a better understanding of Pym's churchy women.
After that it was scones and tea in town as part of Heavenali's Barbara Pym virtual tea party (the idea being that lots of people celebrate her birthday with tea and cake, which is definitely a winning idea). I've also baked a cake...
There are lots of Pym related things happening as part of the reading week, do have a look here (on the off chance you didn't already know about it) and now I think the only thing left to do is enjoy a gin and tonic (as I'm sure Miss Pym would have done).