Tea & Topping – two of my favourites!

We had a lovely day today. Mum and I went to Ely for the afternoon – mum’s Stuart (as opposed to my Stuart) had insisted on paying for mum and I to go out for tea ‘to cheer me up’, and we wanted to book tickets to see Francis Pryor (’eminent archaeologist’) talk about his new book: ‘The Making of the British Landscape: How we have transformed the land, from pre-history to today‘.

It was sweet of Stuart to want to cheer me up – apparently he has been concerned about me because I have been so upset since my Stu left. Unfortunately, I dislike mum’s Stuart, and I did explain that the offer of tea wouldn’t change that, and that I would rather he spent the money on his daughter. He insisted, though, so mum and I had a lovely lunch at Peacocks Tearoom. Peacocks is one of my favourite places – it was the UK’s best tea place in 2007, and is just perfect for so many reasons. They serve delicious food – scones, cakes, sandwiches, hot food – all freshly made, and drink – tea from every continent, coffee, alcohol – I would love to try a Champagne Afternoon Tea! The décor inside is lovely, nice oldish wooden chairs and tables, a lovely dresser full of a variety of patterned tea cups, and their homemade jam they have for sale. Even the loo is filled with interesting stuff! It’s truly gorgeous – sumptuous food, in an equally sumptuous environment.

After lunch, and a lovely cup of tea, we went to Topping & Company Booksellers, in Ely High Street. It’s my favourite bookshop, and browsing there for a while always leads me to buying an interesting book. It feels just like home, because the books are stacked up all over the place – on the floor, horizontally on the shelves, any where there is room! And, of course, upstairs you may be offered tea or coffee – so you have more than enough excuse to browse for a while – the travel books near the table and stools, or hide yourself away on the window seat, near the history shelves.

Before going upstairs, we booked tickets for ‘An Evening with Francis Pryor‘ at St Peter’s Church in Broad Street. I am really looking forward to the talk – I love landscape, and I’m interested in archaeology, and Topping’s events are always excellent and inspiring. I wish Topping had as many events in Ely as they do in Bath – some really interesting authors do a Bath event, but don’t come to Ely.

Upstairs, Mum and I had some coffee, and even Mum relented – she found a ‘must have’ book about Jack Butler Yeats, and I found one about a lady who moved her whole house ‘Miss Savidge Moves Her House‘, by Miss Savidge’s neice-in-law, Christine Adams.

Miss Savidge’s medieval house was ‘in the way’ of a new roundabout in Ware, Hertfordshire, so (despite the unique architecture – a small ‘hall house’) the council slapped a compulsory purchase order on it, so that they could demolish it. But May Savidge wasn’t having any of that: after trying to fight the CPO, she decided to dismantle the house, move it 100 miles to Wells next the Sea, and re-build it. Obviously, given the extraordinary historic nature of the house, the council should have paid for all the work to move the house, but somehow they evaded their moral responsibility, as the authorities still often do.

May was sixty years old when re-building started, and she spent the rest of her life (twenty two years) working on the house, while she lived in a caravan in the garden. She was a simply amazing and courageous woman to take on such a huge task. Upon May’s death, her nephew and neice-in-law inherited the house, and the job of finishing the re-build, which took a further nine years. Christine Adams now runs the house as a bed and breakfast, Ware Hall-House, and I look forward to being able to visit.

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