I suppose an unmarried woman just over thirty, who lives alone and has no apparent ties, must expect to find herself involved or interested in other people’s business, and if she is also a clergyman’s daughter then one might really say that there is no hope for her.
This is the opening to Barbara Pym’s novel Excellent Women – and how could anyone resist it? Certainly not me, so to be invited by the Barbara Pym society to a lunch at St Hilda’s college in Oxford at the beginning of September was the perfect summer treat. Meeting a crowd of men and women who are fans of Barbara Pym has got to be an altogether delightful experience – and it was! The lunch was part of a centenary weekend – members had come from all over the world to enjoy a feast of Barbara Pym related activities and entertainment – and extra guests like myself were there to be given our prizes in the centenary short story competition. It’s difficult to express the sense of fun and enormous goodwill that pervaded the gathering – everyone so full of eager friendliness and happy congratulations. They’re going to publish the winning stories on the society’s website some time in the Autumn.
I’ve come away with a splendid book too, Barbara in the Bodleian – Revelations from the Pym Archives by Yvonne Cocking. It’s full of excerpts from Barbara’s notebooks. Nobody could ask for more.