CHRISTMAS AT SUTTON PLACE♥ winnie caw 2002
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SUTTON PLACE* DECEMBER 1973

 

The rebel moon looks down
and we are sorrow sad,
smiling at each other.
The need we felt so sharply
is but yesterday's shadow.
Silence hangs in the air, 
reflecting in the questioning faces
a million thoughts, and smiles.

And we all dream sometimes. 

Lines written at Sutton Place, December 31st 1973 by Winnie Quinn

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"5th December

I'm going for a job interview at Paul Getty's country mansion tomorrow (for Christmas) . Imagine that! It doesn't particularly bother me, as I had never heard of the man but, apparently, he's famous - or so everyone keeps telling me. I'm pleased, because it looks like I'll finally be fixed up for the Christmas holidays, and 18 wage per week plus free accommodation and food is not to be sniffed at! So I'm keeping my fingers crossed and recrossed and hoping that I get the job.

I really don't seem to be getting round to writing this journal at all, which is hardly surprising as (the age-old excuse) there's just no time. I' ve been on Campus one weekend in the past four and the weeks fly by so fast that it's impossible to tot up the number of late nights I've had. Looking back, I can only remember about ten. Luckily, I've only one more piece of work to hand in. Modern German History - the most stale subject of the lot on this course. I finally got my name in print today, when four of my poems were published - though not my favourite ones - in the Linguistic Society's termly magazine 'Collage' . Most of the 72 poems I have written are either too amateurish or too personal for the 'general public' to appreciate. Elizabeth (who made the choice for the magazine) said that I should try to publish them, even if I have to finance it myself; so I'm turning that idea over in my mind now, ready to spit it out! I'm shaking at the knees (and various other parts of my anatomy) at the moment, thinking about my interview tomorrow. I do so hope that I get the job!

 

10th December

Well, I got the job at Sutton Place, starting the day after I finish the student Christmas relief at the Post Office (sorting the mail). You know, I'm going to have my picture in the paper. A reporter came into the sorting office yesterday and took a photo of me; supposedly looking super-efficient, as I stared mesmerised at a card addressed to Chipping Sodbury (or some such place!). Although the pay won't be as good as the standard G.P.O. rates, once I start at Sutton Place, 18 per week is not to be sniffed at. Don't know when I'll have time to fit in Larceny and Libel, though. [Postscript note - not aspirations to join the smash-and-grab brigade, just my English Law holiday homework...though the proceeds would have been very lucrative...] That misogynist of a law lecturer will have a field day with me, come the start of next term.

 

17th December (Sutton Place)

I have been here three days now. So much has happened, yet so much of it is so routine that it will be easy to skim over. The house itself was built from 1523-5. By the way some of the oak staircases cave-in, in the middle of each step, the constant use of the Place since that time is self-evident. Some of the rooms I like more than others. The room Mrs Bryant is staying in is my favourite. It's very sunny and light, with a four-poster bed, thick pile carpets and floral curtains. The blue staircase is very impressive; I can imagine Lord and Lady Whosit come tripping down it; but it is so COLD. 43 degrees Fahrenheit - evidently to keep the furniture in good condition, but my condition isn't very cheerful when I have to sweep and polish it at 8.30 a.m.! I rise at 6.45 a.m. and 1 'do' the cloakrooms (loos). Breakfast is at 8 a.m. and is usually typically English - bacon and egg with toast. If I make it down to breakfast at 8 a.m. instead of later, tomorrow morning, I might even get HOT toast.

Mary is the Head Housemaid. All I have discovered about her in the past three days is that she is 50ish, Irish, Catholic and that she loves her food; and that she is not very popular with the 'dailies' (of which there are six). I sympathise with her, though...she has no friend among the three other live-in staff; so she really has no-one to talk to or complain to. She has two loves in her life: Patricia (the daughter of one of the security officers), who isn' t due to arrive from boarding school in Scotland until next Saturday; and Remus, one of the guard-dogs, who is hopeless at guarding. This fact endears her to him (or him to her?).

I've only seen what I take to be Paul Getty once, walking into dinner. He's quite tall and doesn't look his age (he was 81 last Saturday). Mind you, I may have seen the wrong man. [Postscript note - yes, I was wrong - Paul Getty turned out to be short, stooped and quite insignificant-looking.]

*****

Love

Love,
You are the dawning of my life.
In times before
I was alone
To bear the burden of myself, and others,
to myself.

Now
You are inside me,
You are my life.
Every thought I think today;
The smile that curves my mouth;
Absent humming of a silly tune;

Everything 
Is but to show
That in my sorrow I am happy;
In my waiting, at peace;
Because I wait for you,
My love,
Only for you.

*****

How to describe this feeling?
I have not words enough.
No Oxford English can express
What, in my heart, I feel.
Safe, if you were to query it,
I'd tell you... it's for real.

My love is one sharp tang of truth.
A clear biting fact.
I love.
And that is not to be gainsaid.
Nay ~ not for all the world.

He looks through me to my very soul.
There is not room to think
save of his look.
His look,
which fills the hidden corners of my mind,
leaving me weak and humble.

He has more strength than I.
Such words have wings.
Written... they fly away
and leave no meaning.

Lines written at Sutton Place by Winnie Quinn,
December 17th 1973

*****

23rd December (Sutton Place)

So many things have happened today, that I must write some of them down. And I'm in such a strange mood: I feel I need the company of people, of friends - something which I haven't come across here. Everyone is so hung-up. It 's not surprising, for they work most of the day and, therefore, have no time for people, and in the evening they're tired and ratty. And it doesn't help when I am ratty myself, as I am. Every job I do has to be thought up and approved by Mary. She will never let anyone take over one of her jobs; though, goodness knows, she has too much to do. Being busy herself, she cannot appreciate that I want to be busy too, and not to be wasting time. Tomorrow, I am to clean the offices (in mobile outside the main house), as the cleaner is going on holiday for a fortnight. That's from 2 - 6 p.m. I usually finish work in the main house by 2 - 2.30 p.m.; which I obviously can't do this week, as it would be physically and morally exhausting to work from 7.15 a.m. till 6 p.m. So I'm to have from 11.15 a.m. to 2 p.m. free: during which time I want to rush into town, fix an appointment for the hairdresser's on Saturday, post letters, buy a magazine, stamps etc. But what a rush it will be. I only hope the buses will be on time. It doesn't seem like Christmas at all. We went out and picked some foliage today from the grounds; and I met Nero and Theresa (Getty's lions). I felt so sorry for the poor things - stuck out in a tiny cage in the grounds in winter, with nothing to do. It doesn't seem right that a lion should be put in such an unnatural environment. He must lose his zest for life, and that' s the worst thing that can happen. He can't take up knitting or something to pass the time of day!"

The above extract comes from my journal December 1973 - my first term at Uni (hence the 'Fresher' tone).

Copyright winnie@whimsy.org.uk 2002

NB - January 2003 - Sutton Place is currently for sale, with a guide price of 25,000,000.

Sutton Place

"The ancient manor of Sutton was granted by Henry VIII to one of his most loyal courtiers, Sir Richard Weston, in 1521. Sir Richard set about building a great house in the new, unfortified style with facades richly decorated with an abundance of terracotta ornament, then new to Britain, and with great windows to let light and air into its spacious interior. The house remained in the ownership of Sir Richard's family, although it was sometimes let to tenants, until it was purchased by the 5th Duke of Sutherland in 1919, who modernized its interior. It was sold to John Paul Getty in 1959. In 1980, the Getty Oil Company sold it again to an American company formed by Stanley J Seeger, who established the Sutton Place Heritage Trust to maintain the house and gardens. In 1986 the estate was purchased by the present owner, the Sutton Place Foundation, which has carried out what is perhaps the most extensive restoration undertaken in the house since the days of its construction."

(Publication - 'The Gardens at Sutton Place' issued by the Sutton Place Foundation, April 1997)

(a decade later = let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...)

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