Appointment with Venus

My friend Catriona lent me this 1951 novel by Jerrard Tickell, an Irish novelist (1905-1966). Appointment with Venus was made into a film the same year, with a cast which included David Niven, Kenneth More, Glynis Johns and others, and shot in Pinewood Studios and on Sark. The story features an imaginary Channel Isle named Amorel, which appears to be a thinly veiled Sark.

Very much a product of its times, and seems sexist and in its reference to “seeing a coon show” in London, unacceptably racist. While Sark aka Amorel is portrayed as a backwater, with simple French speaking locals to add a bit of colour local. The plot revolves around an unlikely wartime scheme to steal a valuable pedigree cow called Venus from the island. Local girl and plucky love interest Nicola Fallaise accompanies Valentine Moreland and others on the rescue mission with predictable results. It is a surprisingly good escapist read however, if you fancy a bit of stiff upper lip brandishing wartime hokum.

Below a film poster for Appointment with Venus.

More glimpses of Mervyn Peake

I have been reading more of Mervyn Peake, particularly Boy in Darkness and other stories which was edited by Sebastian Peake. All the stories were new to me, and it is beautifully produced with more than 40 illustrations by Peak too.

There is one story in it called I Bought a Palm Tree, about a man called John who lives on Sark sending to Guernsey for a palm tree for his garden. Almost nothing happens in the story, though it is told in an amusing way. There is a charm about it however, which is entirely Peake.

“It all started one morning on the island of Sark. There was something in the air that day, a spicy, balmy something, almost tropical in itself though heaven knows I was thousands of miles away from the isles of the spices, humming-birds and turtles. But I breathed deeply and I longed. I longed. What for? I didn’t know at first, but I knew it must be for something that was a part of my childhood. A symbol I suppose.”

Also been looking at Peake’s poetry, and skimming over it for material which is explicitly about Sark. I will add Snow in Sark to the Anthology site. But this little poem also caught my attention.

Sark; Evening

From the sunset I turn away
To the sweep of a steel bay.

The lonely waters are grander far
That the red and the gold are.

Mervyn Peake in Sark

I have been looking at some of Mervyn Peake’s work, and there is a great site here, run by his son Sebastian Peake. I emailed Sebastian to ask for permission to use one of the photos on The Anthology of Guernsey site. Sebastian says this picture is of his father “at work writing Gormenghast in the conservatory of our house on Sark, Le Chalet, in the late 1940s”.

I was also interested to learn that Peake had lived near Warningcamp near Arundel. I have walked around the country round there several times, and looking over the river Arun towards the castle is a view which must have informed the creation of Gormenghast.

Image of Mervyn Peake in Sark by kind permission of the Mervyn Peake Estate. The other image is one I took a while ago inside Arundel Castle.