Happy Birthday Joan Aiken: 4 Sept. 1924

JA birth page

“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.”

gift giving

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!










5 thoughts on “Happy Birthday Joan Aiken: 4 Sept. 1924

  1. Pingback: ~ Happy Birthday Joan Aiken ~ 4 September 1924 — Joan Aiken – Earth Balm Music

  2. It’s great that another of Joan’s short story collections is near publication.
    I have a note in my “next UK trip” file to stay in that little hotel on Mermaid Avenue. BTW, you may be aware that there’s also a Mermaid Avenue in Brooklyn, NYC, where Woody Guthrie lived for a few years in the 1940s.


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