“The Sparrow Post”
by Sally Egan
Inspiration from authors Tasha Tudor, Beatrix Potter & Flora Thompson
My one weakness might be how much I love words, especially when written down in books and letters, so I chose to build a Fairy Post Office, constructed from allusions to the many books of my childhood. I narrowed influences down to four amazing women authors: Flora Thompson, Louisa May Alcott, Tasha Tudor and Beatrix Potter. I built this Post Office to hold parcels, letters and loads of invitations that children will be sending and receiving in summer classes here at
Highfield. Naturally it must have a postmistress in charge of keeping secret letters safely sealed, and happy parcels delivered unbroken. Here is my nod to Flora Thompson’s Larkrise to Candleford, and Dorcas Lane, the literary post mistress whose very many “one weaknesses” pull together to create a wonderfully solid character.
My earliest memories of “reading” come from scanning illustrations while listening to someone reading the text. Tasha Tudor and Beatrix Potter’s illustrations made for thrilling picture reading! Every detail in their illustrations tells a little story. I’ve christened this fairy house The Sparrow Post in honor of Tasha Tudor, and its literary lost and found clothesline is a nod to Mrs. Tiggywinkle, one of Beatrix Potter’s best-loved characters. I can imagine that Dorcas Lane and Mrs. Tiggywinkle would be very good friends to the hardworking sparrows who carry the mailbags.
Eventually I became a reader myself, and, like many bookworms, loved everything I read; it was a sad day when I first put down a book thinking it was not very good. That day, the world grew sharper edges and got a little bit unfriendly. This fairy house takes its inspiration from the time before I began to read critically, and is homage to everything I read and loved as a child.
My house pays tribute to Little Women, one of the last books I remember loving completely. In Little Women there is a chapter titled Castles in the Air. It’s one of Louisa May’s “improving” chapters that many readers pass over as dull. They shouldn’t! Laurie’s struggle with indolence and lack of focus, and each girl’s worry and self-doubt make these characters so real, so appealing and such dear friends to me. Like Jo, I have known for a long time that “I’ve got the key to my castle in the air, but whether I can unlock the door remains to be seen.” I think everyone who wanders through Highfield Hall’s gardens this summer, will share the wistful, airy dreams of the March sisters: “Wouldn’t it be fun if all the castles in the air which we make could come true, and we could live in them?”