A few weeks ago, I was in East Yorkshire on a research trip with a couple of friends. It’s a long story, but in essence we were treading in the footsteps of a late friend and mentor of ours, filling in background to his life story. We’d visited the old radar station on the flatlands of Holderness, magnificently elemental and striking in their open vistas and huge, golden cornfields. We’d combed the village of Patrington, once the most important port in Yorkshire and now marooned some miles inland, but with a magnificent church to show for its former fame, steepled like a galleon. Now we were strolling through the adjoining hamlet of Winestead, where the poet Andrew Marvell was born, and old cottages dozed in the summer sunshine. It was our last call, and in the hedgerow by a dilapidated cottage that was up for sale, I noticed a strange piece of rock lying in the grass. I turned it over. It was a piece of sculpture, a beautiful lady with sleepy, mysterious eyes.
I didn’t know whether to take her or leave her. The place was abandoned, but theoretically, the hedgerow was not public. I hesitated, and left her there, driving the 25 miles back to the hotel.
The next morning I was due to drive west, to meet my husband near Ilkley. But I woke up seized with the urge to travel back east and rescue the Lady of the Hedgerow. I felt that it was no accident I had found her there and that she should come home with me. I found her as I’d left her, wrapped her gently in a cloth, and took her, a couple of days later, back to Devon.
As we arrived at our house I spied a parcel on the doorstep. It was the advance copies of The Circle of Nine, my new book about feminine archetypes. I was astonished, as I hadn’t expected these for a few weeks yet. The Lady had timed her appearance with miraculous precision. She now has a place of honour in our garden – or at least, she seems a little picky, and I move her from place to place, looking to see what suits her best. And another surprising feature emerged. With the help of knowledgeable friends and the internet, I established that she was most probably once a mermaid. It’s typical for a mermaid figure to have her hands folded on her head. She had apparently lost her tail, and surfaced in a hedgerow. Now, make of that what you will, but I doubt we will ever know her full story.