Since I am here in England at this time I thought it would be great to attend the 2012 Jane Austen Society Annual General Meeting with my daughter and my sister (in addition to taking us into her home, Julianna and her husband have been driving me all over the English countryside these two weeks. I could never could do it without them. These roads are CRAZY! -and I could go my whole life without using another roundabout!). I was not the only JASNA member there, but the other group seemed to all be from Canada, so I may have been the sole representative from the USA.
The AGM was held at the Chawton great house, which is now a museum and library of sorts. This was once owned by Jane Austen’s brother Edward Austen Knight, though it is doubtful he ever lived here, preferring the more stately mansion of Godmersham (how would it be!). There was food, speakers, and displays from the various Jane Austen Society regions.
The main speaker was Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles former British ambassador to Israel, Saudi Arabia, and then Afghanistan. His lecture was very interesting and fun. His parents were members of the Jane Austen Society and he remembers as a boy romping on the hillside with his brothers while everyone was in the tent listening to a lecture much like the one he was giving. His talk was very nice and in a few parts very touching. Definitely one of the most enjoyable lectures I’ve been to.
As I walked back up the hill, my daughter was still perched where I had left her, on the steps to the house deeply engrossed in the book she was reading. She had the air of Catherine Morland caught up in an exciting novel. (I have to smile because if she turns to me in a gift shop asking for a souvenir, it’s usually a book).
I wanted to take a picture of this bus, because the owner donated the use of his bus fleet in driving attendees to and from Winchester. His father, now passed on, was another JAS member and supporter, and his vintage bus fleet is charming and perfectly restored.