waiting for the hurricane with sylvia townsend warner

remember last year’s wait-for-a-hurricane called Irene?

it’s happening again. and apparently This One is called Sandy (who names these? what’s wrong with Proper names like Augusta or Lavinia or Max – actually Max is an excellent name for a hurricane but probably only a short one).

we digress.

in the local cafe the staff are packing up to go home and working out to whom brown paper bags of vegan muffins will go (the subways are closing in three hours and most young people live at least one subway train line ride away)

and the chaps are out with hammers taking up temporary structures like outdoor patios of wood so they don’t unhinge and break Windows.

actually Rather chilling.

and what did we do?

why we stayed in – to read Sylvia Townsend Warner. but then we got all excited because one of the letters was written in New York – not far from where we are Right Now.

To Paul Nordoff 14: vii: 1939   24 Jane Street N.Y.C

My dear Paul, I am so sorry that you are having all this worry and trouble- and I don’t see how you’ll avoid it. When I read your words ‘it will be necessary for me to stay here in the city till some sort of order is restored’ I grinned a dry grin. Isn’t it odd, all artists are supposed to be so impractical, unbusiness-like, and so forth; and the moment anything befalls that has to be sorted out, who does one see stripped to waist in the midst of the mess? The artist. Is it possible that you could get time off later on to come and stay in warren County, Conn? I shall be sharing a house there for the next six weeks with two other petticoats (both of them, of course, wearing trousers). It is a completely plain-headed house, no instrument of music except a melodion in the attic, but it is lovely country, full of wild raspberries and red-haired butterflies sitting on pink flowers, and cool mountainy airs, and a general feeling of Robert Frost.

so we had to get up and out of the apartment and go and find number 24, Jane Street – instantly.

after a substantial walk in the blustery pre-storm winds, we stopped for some baked eggs, coffee and people-watching at the Jane Hotel

and then made our way to number 24.   and here it is! number 24…..Jane Street….where Sylvia Townsend Warner stayed in 1939 and wrote the letter to Paul. #24 is on the left….we looked at the names on the bells but couldn’t see anything resembling a New Yorker editor from times gone by (and we couldn’t find confirmation from whom she rented the apartment either…..fascinating to see it though, non?)

STW probably stayed there when she looked like this – all present and correct with a slightly surprising earring and a head full of poetry, politics and Valentine.   as we made our way back from Jane Street, through the Village, we became a little perplexed at the amount of very small people in costume drooping, but happy, with large bags. oh.


all-hallows-eve is on wednesday but that’s a (pre)school night so they get to spring forth into the streets of greenwich-village and forage for trick or treat-ness.


we’re going to stay in and read more letters from Sylvia – and perhaps this recently discovered short story by her – and drink hot chocolate and wait for the storm to pass.

quick question for You:

when you read something and can hear the author’s voice coming through so clearly and cleverly and distinctly, do you sometimes get the feeling that they’re there – you know, next to you, while you read, leaning over your shoulder, back against the soft pillows on your right, pointing a ghostly finger from beyond the veil, as if to say,

“Oh, I Did Enjoy writing that Bit”

in a nice way – not a scary way?

or is it just because it’s almost all-hallows that the veil that separates us from the Other world is rather thin right now?


but do you – do You ever get that feeling?

do. tell.


6 thoughts on “waiting for the hurricane with sylvia townsend warner

  1. Oh my oh my, yes, yes yes. How many times did I walk past that door on Jane? And I especially love STW’s image of artists being stripped to the waist, helping out in a crisis and catastrophe. Now do stay inside and be safe until this storm passes. Love from the west XXXX

    1. we have lots of candles in store and tea and making soup and British TV on DVDs – bring it on – the storm shall pass at some point ;-)

      hope you’re safe!

      _tg xx

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