The suitcases are unpacked; the blisters turned to callus and my body is back on Central Daylight time, but Wales is not forgotten. I told you about hiking the hills with my friend Liz and the time we spent in Pembrokeshire with the Langham leadership team, but I skipped one very important afternoon.
Liz and I had picnicked atop Castell Dinas and wandered the near-by country lanes. On our way to the riverwalk outside the medieval town of Crickhowell, we stopped at a place on the map called Tretower Court and Castle. As we got out of the car I said, “This looks familiar. I think I’ve been here before.”
When we stepped through the gate into the courtyard, I KNEW I had been there before. This was not déjà vu; it was a house I had visited with my husband when we lived in Berkshire in the 1990s. In fact, it was the house that has been in my mind as I write The Empty Cup—a house that I thought was outside of Canterbury in the south east of England and therefore had worried that it might not be appropriate to the Welsh setting. The exterior I had in mind IS outside Canterbury. (At least, I think it is.) But the layout of rooms was definitely Tretower Court in south Wales and therefore perfectly appropriate to my story. I have had no trouble shifting my mental picture of the outside of the house to fit what is there. Now I just have to go back through the manuscript and be sure I haven’t said anything that doesn’t work.
Tretower Court was built around 1450 by Roger Vaughan, so it would have been about 90 years old when Colin returned from Glastonbury. The house and near-by castle remained in the Vaughan family until the beginning of the 18th century. Writing from my memories, I had simplified some things, but then, the Vaughans were one of the richest families in Wales, so it is not unreasonable for Colin’s house to be similar, but not so grand. After all, it isn’t meant to BE Tretower, only ‘inspired by’ it.
A major restoration project is going on right now so I felt like I had stumbled on the movie set of my book. I was relieved to have the docent confirm the possible use of rooms as I have assigned them. The window seat in Colin’s mother’s room is perfect. There is even evidence of former buildings that may well have been stables—exactly where I put the stables.
Liz is a gardener and an artist. She wandered outside and settled down to do a pen and ink sketch of the house while I went from room to room, photographing details. I stood in the doorway where Colin would have entered in the first chapter and videotaped a panorama from his view of his father romping with ‘Jezebel’ at one end to where Brigit comes through the door from the kitchens and drops her tray in her joy at seeing him returned. The book seemed to have come to life for me.
I’m beginning to get feedback from the colleagues I asked to read the manuscript and there is definitely work still to be done. But what fun it was to see my setting brought to life by English Heritage!
(Oh, yeah. There's a thirteenth century castle, too, but since that's not my time period, it wasn't nearly as exciting to me.)
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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