Mrs Rayner and I went to Brighton this week. The idea was to go to the Lewes Bonfire – an extraordinary pagan fire festival – but, even with all my research, we were unable to get there and back as the train station was closed to keep hoards of visitors out of the town. If you want to know more about the Lewes Bonfire night see this video:
In the end we did some Christmas shopping and ate too much and watched the amazing murmurations of starlings that fly in overnight and swoop around the old, broken pier as they come in to roost for the night. We stopped at Wisley Gardens on the way home
On wednesday, followinging on from yesterday’s blog, I visited Batemans, a National Trust property in Kent that was once the home of the Nobel Prize-winning writer, Rudyard Kipling – who wrote the Jungle book.
He also wrote the Just So Stories. I loved those stories so much as a child, that I ended up re-writing them to make them easier for children of today to understand.
It was a wonderful job. I could feel Kipling breathing down my neck, checking that I was doing the right thing by his masterpiece.
I removed a lot of high Victorian language and whimsy, revealing fresh, modern writing underneath. I also had to rewrite some bits which have become politically incorrect over the years, since the British Empire waned.
Kipling is often criticised these days for the attitudes expressed in some of his writing, but I honestly don’t think Kipling was racist, especially for the time he lived in. He always wrote warmly of India and it’s peoples, but there are one or two words and attitudes, that were acceptable at the time, that I had to “smooth out” for today’s sensibilities.
The Just So Stories are written for and addressed to “My Best-Beloved”. This was Kipling’s daughter, Josephine. She died of pneumonia when she was six. Kipling had pneumonia at the same time. They didn’t tell him for six weeks, until he was strong enough to hear the awful news.
That story has always affected me. Finding myself in front of things that belonged to Josephine caught me quite by surprise – a very emotional moment.