The Second Quintennial General Meeting of
The Jeffery Farnol Appreciation Society

by Pat Bryan
October 2007

   After deciding to travel to England to see my brother in Manchester, I was invited by Stuart Malin (author of "The Farnol Companion" and regular contributor to the Farnol Forum) to stay with him and his wife Lindsey at their home in Blackheath for a few days. I was delighted to accept the offer, and even more delighted when Stuart extended a general invitation to all Farnoholics to repeat our First Annual General Meeting of 2002 in Eastbourne. Both Julia Riding and Sam Rimington took him up on the offer. Thus the Original Fearless Four of 2002 were reunited.

   I arrived at Stuart's home after an enjoyable and incredibly cheap ride from Manchester on the Megabus - a mere £1.00 (try it sometime, UK Farnolites, you couldn't travel for less if you walked!). As I descended the stairs to the kitchen, I could hear Sam's Lincolnshire accent resonating like a gradely deed in a naughty world. He didn't look a bit different from five years before. He was, of course, drinking a nice 'coop of tea'.

   After a delicious supper, we spent the evening looking at Stuart's collection of Farnol books (very impressive!), and his even more impressive collection of clocks. These ranged from a huge clock that came from a church tower - how he got it out without the vicar noticing is mystery to me - to a sidereal clock of his own invention which could probably tell you if it was Leap Year on Alpha Centauri. In case you're wondering, Stuart is the former Director of The Royal Observatory at Greenwich, which explains his expertise.

   The following morning Julia arrived, having left her Essex home early to arrive just after breakfast. I had brought with me a large envelope of material amassed during my research for JF's biography (The Man Who Wrote Best Sellers) and a collection of his un-anthologized works (The Privilege of The Sex) - both available through Amazon.com (unashamed plug). We sat down with coffee and spread stuff out over the kitchen table. There were copies of early letters from JF to his father, from his brother Ewart to JF, from Ewart's CO and a friend after his death in the Boer War. There were reprints from magazines of JF's short and serialized stories, including his first published story "Jones, A.B." And lots of other goodies, so we had a surfeit of Farnoliana Here's a shot of the four of us, together with Lindsey, at supper later that day:

L to R: Me, Lindsey, Julia, Stuart and Sam.

   Next, we all packed into Stuart's car, while he took us on a 'Farnol Tour' of the neigbourhood. First to #6 Dorville Road, where JF lived as a boy and young man from 1888 to 1903, and later in 1910. It isn't there now, but we looked at where it had been.

   Then round the corner into Leyland Road, where Jeffery and Ewart went to Derwent School. It isn't there either, a block of flats now, but it was just a short walk for the two boys. And then round the corner again into Eltham Road, where the now affluent JF bought #71, and moved in with his parents, his wife Blanche and daughter Gillian in 1911.

   No, #71 has gone the way of all flesh, but there is a school there now, formed from some of the original houses. As you can see from the pictures below, the end house of the school is a virtual mirror image of the picture of #71 taken back in the years before the First World War.

The School house and #71, circa 1912

   After visiting the two Tiger Inns another short walk down the road, mentioned by JF in his book "Peregrine's Progress", we repaired to a nearby hostelry for our official Jeffery Farnol Appreciation Society Quintennial General Meeting lunch. Stuart selected - where else? - the "Edmund (sic) Halley", named after he of Halley's Comet fame. There we dined sumptuously on a meal of succulent Lincolnshire sausage, tasty baked beans and crisp, golden-brown chips (they were out of noble hams, barons of beef and neat's tongues at the time), washed down with flagons of nutty brown ale.

   I'm only sorry the rest of you couldn't join us; you could have stood a few more rounds.

   As Julia has said elsewhere, we then visited Stuart's old stomping-ground, where we had the quintessential guided tour of the observatory. Back to Stuart's for supper, which Lindsey thoughtfully prepared pleasantly light in deference to our feat of trenchermandering (is that word?) at lunch. Finally, it was time for Julia to say goodbye, and be on her way. I don't think we stopped talking from the moment she arrive until she left. Sam, too, left the next morning, and I took the time to do a little local shopping, and then to visit my grandfather's house in Tooting. On the Thursday, Stuart and I drove to Norwich which, apart from the fact that it has 365 pubs (wot - none for Leap Year?), is the home of the late Peter Skiggs, possibly the UK's foremost collector of all things Farnol. Stuart is engaged in compiling a catalogue of Peter's Farnol collection, and he and I had a most enjoyable time rooting though all the collected Farnoliana and books (around 600 of them) that Peter possessed. Peter's widow, Anne, was most gracious in greeting us and giving us free rein in going though all Peter's material, and then joining us for another pub lunch. That's one down, only 364 to go. It seems only fitting to conclude with a picture of Anne and Stuart (and my well-cleared plate).

   That's really all I have to say - except that I discovered that Stuart's single malt whisky, taken before bedtime, significantly reduced blood sugar numbers for the morning. I think we may have a breakthrough in diabetes management.

Stuart, Anne Skiggs, and more nutty ale.

by Pat Bryan
October 2007


 









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