Hoe Valley Times

Hoe Valley Times

Hoe Valley Times

Life and times in the Hoe Valley

The Pleiades

The Hoe ValleyPosted by Peter Cowlam Sun, September 24, 2017 13:13:38


The Valley Tribune is tucked away in a ramshackle glass and timber building, a five-minute walk from the Pleiades, in Tinclian Mews, a location famed for its cheese shop. Andrew Mawdrie, a man for cravats and yachting blazers, and its senior reporter, was summoned on a bleak afternoon – the sky ponderous with snow – and with exaggerated purpose strode to the hotel, and round to its cobbled walk at the rear, and a car park pocked in its macadam, and littered with empty oil drums. Zora, in deep furs and a head scarf knotted under the chin, met him there, the man quick on his feet and ready with his notebook. She led him into the ruins of the garage, where he looked forward to a scoop, or good copy at least. Both looked around. The walls were damp, and the aura was cavern-like, a latter-day Lascaux, but careless in its graffiti. Zora said she was glad he had come. Mawdrie showed the eagerness of his credentials, explaining that not only was he a journalist, he’d got quite some reputation as a local historian, with extensive knowledge of the Hoe Valley and its prominent personalities, past and present. He’d written articles and given talks. He’d edited books. Zora didn’t sneer, but told him she’d got plans, and left it at that, hanging. Mawdrie pressed, but couldn’t discover what those plans were. Then finally she thrust both hands deep into her furs and shrugged her shoulders, daring him to keep the conversation going. Well, if that was it, then that was it. Originally, he said, the garage had been a stable, with a hayloft above. That bit was dismantled in the decades the Pleiades became a private house, in possession of a plain-sounding name, but someone 168th in line for the throne. The stable metamorphosed into a garage when there were only four cars in the whole of Hoe, and was home to an Alvis 12/40 open two-seater, its livery a metallic blue, and well looked after by a boy who shone the chrome and coachwork. There were wars, stock-market crashes, a flaw in civilisation generally. Then came the scourge of industrial unrest. There seemed to be a new world emergent when everyone had cars. By that time that distant heir had sold up and gone to live in the one remaining weather-tight room in the decay of his family pile, where his daughter-in-law ran a stall selling honey. The Pleiades reverted to its earlier iteration, but as a hotel rather than a roadhouse, when the garage filled with lumber. It didn’t fare well, and was popular only with commercial travellers, selling feeds and farm machinery – grey, threadbare-looking men in a losing contest with the ravages of English-style recessions, one piled on another. The garage bit was rented out to a lone mechanic, who fled when the hotel sank into deeper failures and its guests were replaced by squatters, who’d studied the paperwork and knew their rights. Since then, said Maudrie, the place has hosted raves, has been a crack house, has been the scene of torture when upcountry turf wars had to be settled, that chain you see hanging there the last remnant of its strappado. Zora shivered. ‘All well and good,’ she said. What she wanted to know was could he recommend a decent builder? [To be continued.]