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Southwold Festival - velvet memories

On Sunday 13 November at 5.00pm, I'll be speaking at Ways with Words Southwold. I'm thrilled to be part of this splendid day and festival which takes place in the beautiful seaside town where I went to school.

Little could I have imagined as I walked on Saturday afternoons from St Felix School to sleepy Southwold in my regulation velvet hat and knee-length school coat, that one day I would be speaking in the town as an author. First gripped by Anne Golon's Angelique, then by Jean Plaidy steamy histories and finally by the powerful wonderful novels of Elizabeth Bowen, I was often caught writing stories under the bedclothes by torchlight. It was strictly forbidden to have batteries in your possession although oddly having a torch was acceptable. Dormitory rules were lights out and no talking after 9.00pm. The school rules allowed parents to visit their daughters twice a term. Mine often stayed in The Swan Hotel and I would be able to join them for dinner as long as the regulation school evening dress was worn. It was a called 'a velvet' even though it was made from corduroy. The style of the dress suited neither thin or curvy, short or tall girls; everyone looked as frightful as I did. If a student bought anything except soap and stamps in the town, the shop keeper would call the school and purchases would be confiscated. Yes, we did lift the floorboards to hide the food we bought and yes, we had midnight feasts, usually as 10.00pm because we got too hungry to wait.

I will be staying in The Swan at the Ways with Words festival and I will wear what I want. Although the idea of 'the velvet' is strangely appealing...

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