These travelblogs were written by Mabel Govitt before all the changes in Rookpot. I’m going to continue to publish them as a reminder of what joy Farynshire once was, and the hope it can be again.
I realise we are already three posts into our Grand Tour and we haven’t left Rookpot. I promise we will! But we have to quickly stop off at EassenBren first.
If Dameg Square is the administrative and cultural centre of the city (and the county), EassenBren is its artistic heart.
It sits on a slope. The Raven Theatre overlooks the Square from its elevated position. It has been inspired by the temples of Ancient Greece, but each classical pillar is a bright block of colour: rich purple, blood red, sky blue, sun yellow, lime green. On either side of it down the slope are two rows of very different buildings.
On one side is a terrace of five storey, pastel coloured Georgian houses, with baskets on chains hanging outside the front doors that pedestrians have to duck to avoid. The baskets are full of geraniums, peonies and sometimes herbs. These face the artists’ workshops: protected by a long roof covered in slate tiles. The smells of oils, paints and clays waft around the Square.
In the middle of the Square is EassenBren’s fountain. Dameg’s fountain was designed by an architect and was made of black oblongs. EassenBren’s is a perpetual work in progress. It is an evergrowing collection of earthen artworks produced by the craftsmen in the covered workshops. Every artist creates a small figurine, usually a grotesque caricature of themselves, which is placed in the fountain. There are also some larger pieces loitering near or in the water. A carpet of coins from all over the world and from different eras glint under the water.
Felix headed straight for The Lilac Beech.
This is the lavender building in the middle of the Georgian terrace. A faded wooden sign, adorned with what looks like a peeling painting of a bunch of grapes but is more probably a peeling painting of a tree, hangs over the door. The large cross-latticed windows display piles of pristine books, and posters advertising upcoming events. As Felix pushed the door open the bell above us tinkled and we were hit by the smell of new books.
The ground floor of the shop is open plan with displays scattered throughout. Every wall is lined with books, floor to ceiling, except at the far end where there is a large fireplace, occupied by a huge earthen pot filled with rose and lily petals in the summer. It was surrounded by squashy armchairs, wingbacked chairs, and a few beanbags. The children’s area is on the far side of the shop from the fireplace, usually strewn with cardboard books and toys on colourful fluffy rugs. Rising up from the middle of the shop is a wrought iron staircase wound tight like a corkscrew. The door to the courtyard at the back of the shop was open to let the warm summer sun in.
It was tempting to sit by the cool fireplace, browse a few books, and maybe have a cup of sweet tea, but we had a train to catch.
Felix bought Walking and Wine in the Bloon Peaks, The Living Forests, and Meyricks, Musril and Mermaids – all useful guides for where we were going. Ivor flicked through a guidebook Felix had decided not to buy.
“Are you really planning on doing this entire trip on public transport?”
“It should work,” said Felix. “The trains go nearly everywhere. We can get coaches into the forests. It’s less stressful than driving.”
“Cheaper too,” I added.
“Maybe cheaper,” Ivor conceded. “But not as much fun. And you’re bound by where the trains go – you can’t just go off on your own if the mood takes you. And it will take you ages to get anywhere.”
“It’s only a few hours to the mountains from here,” said Felix.
Ivor snorted. “I could do it in about an hour and a half in my car. Want to race it?”
“We’re leaving now,” Felix pointed out. “You have to get your car from Eassentor.”
“And I’ll still get there first,” grinned Ivor. “Hen Ffydd, yes?”
Felix and I exchanged a shrug. “Yes.”
Ivor was halfway out the door. “See you there.” And he disappeared, presumably to race back through Dameg Square, over a bridge, and down to our house on Eassentor.
“What car has he got?” I asked.
There was no need for us to rush. Our train would not depart for another twenty minutes, and would not leave earlier just because we were apparently suddenly in a race.
I think the best way – certainly the most dramatic way – to leave Rookpot is via The Drop, which helpfully also leads down to the train station.
On maps, The Drop is Newton Hill, the steepest street in the city. There are handrails on either pavement to help pedestrians stay upright. There are frequent petitions to the Council to have a chairlift installed, but this is not considered a good use of public money, and would negatively impact upon the medieval aesthetics; and besides, exercise was good for people. I do feel for anyone who has to work on The Drop, though, especially the baristas at Lacey’s, the coffee shop that sits at the top, looking straight down the hill.
Thinking of Ivor trying to run in the sweltering crowded city, we decided we had time to get an iced bun from Lacey’s. The important thing about the buns is not the flavour – often not discernible beyond sweet and bordering on sickening – but the colour. You can request any colour of icing. Felix chose turquoise; I always had forest green.
Walking down The Drop with dignity takes practice. I will strongly advise now, though no one will heed my heartfelt warning, not to attempt this whilst drunk, no matter how much money is involved in the dare. Doing it sober is challenge enough. Those of a nervous disposition use the rail; the more experienced manage to keep upright by themselves; children run and quite often do not end up in a crying heap at the bottom. Perhaps a wiser investment than a chairlift would be crash mats at the foot of The Drop.
We landed safely enough and made our way to the grand Victorian train station, finishing off the iced buns as we boarded the train.
“Do you think he’s left yet?” I wondered.
“Who cares?” said Felix. “We’ll have the better journey anyway.”
When Felix had said, right at the start of planning the trip, that we were going to take the long way round to his family home on the coast, he wasn’t kidding. The first place we were going to from Rookpot was the Daggerrock Mountains – in the exact opposite direction from the coast.
Mabel Govitt (by kind permission of Ammaceadda)