Saturday, 31 May 2008

Pilgrimage




Agatha Christie is so closely associated with her famous home at Greenway in Devon that it is often forgotten that she had another home, purchased in 1934, which is where she died in 1976. This was Winterbrook, at Wallingford in south Oxfordshire. I’ve just come back from a few days spent in Wallingford, at a house a short walk along the banks of the Thames from where Christie used to live, and from her former boathouse, which still stands on the river.

I’d never been to Wallingford before. It’s a quintessential English market town, with an excellent second hand bookshop among other delights (they had for sale a number of rare Gladys Mitchell novels in dustwrappers, as well as a copy of that marvellous detective story The Poisoned Chocolates Case, signed by Anthony Berkeley; alas the prices were out of my reach.) Apparently the town was the model for Market Basing, which features in stories such as Dumb Witness.

Christie is buried nearby, in the graveyard of St Mary’s Church at Cholsey. Again, it’s a very English setting, in the midst of fields. The tombstone is large, elaborately carved and decorated with cherubs, a touch of ostentation in a peaceful and otherwise low-key setting. Apparently the slab was so heavy that it had to be hoisted over the churchyard wall by crane.

A plaque on the wall records the planting of twenty five trees in the churchyard to mark the Christie Centenary in 1990. And the headstone of the woman who sold more books than any other novelist who has ever lived bears the inscription: ‘Sleep after Toyle, Port after Stormie Seas, Ease after Warre, Death after Life, Doth greatly please.’

1 comment:

Satyeki said...

good post sir, really enjoyed living back in the world of christie
and i do write a lil bit but yes i am a new comer of sorts to blogger.