I had not expected to find a connection between last week’s blog and this episode sitting literally in front of me on a dinner plate! My readers will know I was north of the border last week eating haggis every morning in my hearty Scottish breakfast. You will indeed need all your Hercules Poirot detective skills to spot the link between my blog about a cashmere Hermes scarf and this week’s dainty nautical silk number. Look closely at my scarf. Beautiful shades of aquamarine and deep blue decorated with colourful sea creatures, hand rolled edges of course. So what was intriguing me on my dinner plate? I was having dinner at the Oyster Shack in Devon and what was served with my very fresh succulent scallops?…….black pudding, another delicious ingredient which I had eaten alongside the haggis of my full Scottish breakfasts of last week. I had not anticipated that culinary link between blogs about two very different scarves! It was the first time I had eaten scallops with black pudding. I can recommend the combination.
I had visited this unusual dining place many years before and eaten razor clams for the first time. Years later I was impressed at an exhibition in the V&A Museum where I saw an evening dress designed by Alexander McQueen decorated all over with razor clam shells. I had the idea I would order razor clams at the Shack, save the shells and decorate something myself. Not to be. They were not on the menu but I now know about another unusual combination of flavours. I will not be crafting with shells, but I did pick up flat stones from the beach which I may decorate as brooches.
I mentioned Inspector Hercules Poirot. I looked vainly in search of him but the Art Deco hotel on Burgh Island looks rather quiet. I am sitting on a balcony looking at the island opposite Bigbury on Sea. There is a sea tractor with huge wheels ferrying guests across the white crested waves to the hotel. I am spending a few days with three close friends enjoying this view with ever changing weather patterns, sun, thunder, lightning, rain, thick sea mist when the island disappeared from sight completely. I wonder how it was when Agatha Christie was staying at this very hotel writing her crime novels? I do hope none of these guests in that tractor today will have evil intentions and dear Hercules will be called upon to solve another mystery murder. I have just realised the book I brought with me for holiday reading is a translation of Antoine Laurain’s THE READING ROOM about a debut crime novel manuscript which turns up in a Parisian publishing house. Agatha had six literary rejections before the success of her first crime novel which she started writing as a nurse in WWI which gave her useful knowledge of poisons to use in her writing. Should I give up writing scarf blogs, and use this scene before me as inspiration to plan a mystery novel? Probably not! I have limited knowledge of herbal medicine but not enough to kill off someone on the Orient Express, down the Nile or indeed in the hotel I am now looking at.
I first visited Burgh Island fifteen years ago with these same three friends. We climbed to the top and imagined in previous times how the huer there would be spotting the direction of pilchard or herring shoals and pass the information to the fishermen on the sea below. We drank in the Pilchard Inn which dates from the 14th century and planned on our next trip that we would get dressed up and dine in the hotel, imagining former glamorous times with such guests as Edward VII and Wallis Simpson, Noel Coward, Winston Churchill, Amy Johnston and (maybe less glamour and more rock pop) with the Beatles! We were thwarted in our plans by Covid cancelling our visit last year, and now shortage of staff and full bookings preclude our dining this year at the hotel.
Just as my razor clams were swapped for scallops, my search for a silk scarf in Modbury changed to a fine wool one, our fine dining will be replaced by a game of golf, or maybe just a putting competition, high on the cliffs of Bigbury and who knows? I may meet Hercules or Miss Marples up there in the mist. What is certain is the strength of friendship between four, strong willed ladies, each born in different parts of the world, India, Pakistan, Japan and Scotland, all able to have fun whatever the circumstances. We all play bridge, Rummikub, Quirkle, countless board games, and we all used to play golf.
As far as I know, Agatha has never used a golf putter as a murder weapon or a clue. She may have used silk scarves and I think some of her characters played bridge. Have I got the first element of a murder mystery plot? Elderly lady golfer hits another wayward shot into the deep undergrowth and finds man’s body alongside a Ping putter and right handed golf glove…… Right handed? The glove had a strong odour of sage.
Busy Bee, Scarf Face!
Series 2, Blog 62.