Lavender Cottage

Diane Speakman and Jeremy Mynott have lived in Lavender Cottage for fifteen years. Diane was born in Sale, Cheshire, and Jeremy in Colchester, Essex. Jeremy’s brother Simon, who researches family history, recently discovered a Mynott who was married in Lt. Bradley in 1606. Diane and Jeremy like to think of him walking past Lavender Cottage, which was probably built in the sixteenth century.

Diane is a writer, especially of plays but also in every field except poetry. She works from home. Jeremy is Managing Director of Cambridge University Press in Cambridge, and has to travel all over the world. He visited fourteen different countries last year but is always pleased to arrive home again.

The theatre (chiefly in London, but also in Cambridge and Bury St. Edmunds), gardening, walking, exercise, travel and reading are Diane’s leisure pursuits. Jeremy is interested in natural history, particularly bird watching, sport (he used to run marathons), vegetable gardening (he has an allotment ­ ‘very therapeutic’), cycling and of course reading.

Both Diane and Jeremy love living in a village with such a variety of natural environments ­ river, fields, woods and lake ­ a great improvement on the fens as there are some ‘hills’. Diane feels both the house and the village are the most beautiful places she has ever lived in. She feels the village provides the essential peace and quiet and the lack of pressure to belong to various groups which enables her to write. Jeremy appreciates being able to walk straight into the countryside and living in a village of just the right size, neither too small to have a community nor too large to lose character.

Increasing traffic and pub noise are the negative aspects of living here. Jeremy also regrets the increased tidiness of agriculture; herbicides, pesticides and the pressure on land mean fewer wild areas, and therefore less birdlife and wildlife generally.

Diane has unfortunately had some of modern society’s worst behaviour inflicted on her even here. When jogging she has suffered verbal insults from passing drivers and workmen, and has also had an obscene phone call. The house has suffered some petty vandalism ­ a wall was damaged and bolts torn from a gate. Diane misses some of their old neighbours: the elderly men from the almshouses on their regular walks, one bravely venturing out with a walking frame and stopping to chat; Mrs. Pat who encouraged Jeremy on his allotment; and Mrs. Chorley who moved to The Square after being caretaker at Little Thurlow Hall, chatting and quoting poetry.

They remembered some happy incidents. In the time of Ronald Vestey there were garden open days in the village. They were once making their garden ready to view when a large chauffeur-driven car drew up and Mr. Vestey stepped out; he walked round the garden as if he owned the house (which he did at one time), said “humph” loudly, to no one in particular, and left as abruptly as he had arrived.

When Thurlow Fayre was just for and by Thurlow people, Jeremy set up a stall of tins to be knocked down by dusters. An elderly man offered him a £1 coin for a 10p ticket. Jeremy returned the £1 and it was offered again. Jeremy refused to accept it thinking the poor old chap had made a mistake, and later he was asked,”Didn’t you know that was the second richest man in the country?”

The loss of his first allotment on The Square was a great disappointment to Jeremy. “It must have been in use for over 100 years”. Bill Crooks senior and Dennis Atherton, then the publican, both were very interested in his trying to grow a mighty pumpkin. He was carefully nursing the best one he had ever grown and they kept enquiring “How’s your pumpkin, Jeremy?” Just as it was approaching its maximum size Jeremy went to check it one morning. “No pumpkin” ­ it had been stolen in the night. Wally, living opposite and a light sleeper, had seen the milkman eyeing it for some time. Eventually the milkman couldn’t resist temptation and took it at 5 a.m. one morning. The friends at the pub thought this was the funniest thing they had ever heard. Bill Crooks kept asking him, “Are you growing any more pumpkins, Jeremy?”

Jeremy told the story of the rarest bird he had ever seen in Thurlow. Cycling home in late May, as he passed Temple End farm, he saw a flash of brilliant colour. The bird flew back onto the wires and Jeremy realised it was a woodchat shrike which lives in the Mediterranean and very rarely comes to Britain. Jeremy rushed home, told Diane there was an emergency (which she interpreted correctly), called Bill Crooks the younger to act as witness and all three had really good views of it. Jeremy only hopes it got back to the olive groves of Greece where it belonged.