This, of course, got me thinking about my favourite places in literature. I don't mean necessarily wonderful, awesome places, like much of Middle Earth, or Perelandra or The Land or the land of the Riddle Masters. I mean places that I could imagine myself living and settling down in. I always thought I'd like to retire to Rivendell. Why should Bilbo be the only one? (Of course he ultimately "retired" to the Grey Havens and beyond, but one feels that's a bit... shall we say... permanent?). The Rivendell I imagine is not the one visualized by Peter Jackson and co - they got so much right but got all the elven places Wrong - but the one that appears in Tolkien's own drawings and that is described in The Hobbit as the Last Homely House. There's a certain Western mountain resort feel to it; I imagine it rather like a spa in Aspen or Whistler, with better company. There, one could live quietly, write one's memoirs, go for long walks in the pine woods and have good meals and pleasant evenings hanging out with the beautiful people (literally).
Alternatively, one could retire quite happily to Moomin Valley. The only drawback there is the necessity to hibernate for the winter; I don't think I'm quite eccentric enough or enough of a loner to hang with those that stay up in Moominland in Midwinter. Though I always rather liked Too-Ticky.
Has anyone but me ever read The Happy Islands Behind the Winds and its sequel? That little utopia always seemed an idyllic and delightful place, and there's an island where all your favourite characters from books live, and animals talk.
But if we're talking about the ultimate in charming, cosy places, we have to go to Elizabeth Goudge. All her books are full of wonderful houses, places, and enclosed societies of extremely nice people, but the two best are Nan's parlour in Linnets and Valerians and, of course, Moonacre, but particularly Maria's turret bedroom. To reach Nan's parlour, you go through a door that is almost invisible in the dark panelling of the hall:
The room inside was a small panelled parlour. There was a bright wood fire burning in the basket grate and on the mantelpiece above were a china shepherd and shepherdess and two china sheep. Over the mantelpiece was a round mirror in a gilt frame. A rug lay on the polished floor, coloured blue and pink like a pigeon's breast. There was a little arm-chair, a small writing-desk with drawers in it, a shelf of books above and a chair with gold legs in front of it. The latticed window had a window seat and looked out on the terrace in front of the house, but the climbing rose outside grew round it so thickly that Nan had not noticed it when she had been in the garden two days ago. The curtains at the window and the cushions in the arm-chair were sprigged with carnations and forget-me-nots.
Goudge knows the right details: the desk with drawers in it, the window seat, and climbing rose outside the window (I could live without the shepherd and shepherdess, but never mind; I actually own a china sheep that belonged to my mother...).
She writes, in The Little White Horse that "no pen could possibly do justice to the exquisite charm of Maria's room" but of course her words indeed do justice to it in several pages, too long to excerpt here. Suffice it to say that Maria's room is tiny, circular, also has a window seat and a fireplace with a bright, sweetly scented, fire of pine-cones and apple wood burning it it. The bed is a four-poster, with a patchwork quilt; what could be more perfect? On the shelf above the fireplace is a blue wooden box that contains sugar cookies. She has a silver ewer and basin to wash in, and a carved wooden chest for her clothes.
I think I'd like to retire to Moonacre, as long as I can have Maria's bedroom.