“Some of you may know a town called Rye. In that town is a narrow cobbled street…Mermaid Street, and an old haunted house built by an astrologer.”
So begins Joan Aiken’s A Jar of Cobblestones, a story about the mermaid of Rye (and the astrologer) from the new Virago collection “The Gift Giving” which includes many of her favourites, especially those she set in well loved places.
She wrote of her pleasure in re-reading these stories:
” I like to revisit them from time to time…like going back to stay in a house or piece of country that one has known since childhood…”
And one house in particular has appeared in many of her works – Jeake’s House, named after the astrologer Samuel Jeake who built it, and who invented a flying machine, and is said to have tried it out, off the high walls of the town of Rye, possibly carrying a rather unusual passenger…
“The machine crashed but he escaped. Whether there was a mermaid on board I can’t say, but he did live in the house halfway down Mermaid Street.
I know because I was born in it.”
Now out from Virago Modern Classics
Illustrated by Peter Bailey
…and if you ever visit Rye and would like to stay in Jeake’s House yourself you can, but don’t worry about ghosts –
these days it is a very comfortable hotel!