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View From Ypres Tower, Rye, East Sussex

From the top of Ypres Tower (Rye Castle) there is a view across the River Rother – into which the River Tillingham flows just by the Tower – out to the sea. As seen in this photo.

View from Ypres Tower, Rye

Turning left to look east the building in the foreground below used to be a Women’s Prison:-

view from Ypres Tower (Women's prison), Rye, East Sussex

The Ypres Castle Inn also lies just below the Tower:-

Ypres Castle Inn, Rye, East Sussex

I mentioned before that Ypres Tower is a museum. As well as containing exhibits relating to the history of Rye – including a relief map showing how the sea used to lap around the town in Roman Times and its gradual retreat thereafter – there is a broadsword from which part of the Cross of Sacrifice in British War Cemeteries was modelled by Sir Reginald Blomfield.

Original Cross of Sacrifice in Ypres Tower, Rye

Foreign Parts by Janice Galloway

Vintage, 1995, 262 p.

Foreign Parts cover

The thing that struck me most about this book was its typography. Passages a paragraph long – sometimes smaller, rarely longer, though the paragraphs obviously vary in size – are separated by a double line break. The names of the two main characters

Rona and Cassie
Cassie and Rona

are frequently represented as above in succeeding lines between two double line breaks before the sentence continues. The main narrative, which has paragraph indentation, follows them on a trip through Northern France, has no markers for speech beyond context or an embedded said and can be interrupted by sections blocked off in a rectangle containing extracts from guidebooks to the local areas.

This is supplemented by sections (each with a uniform margin the size of the paragraph indentation above) describing the contents of photographs of Cassie’s life up to this point.

Nothing much happens in the story as the relationship between Cassie and Rona does not evolve significantly over the novel’s span. The main incidents of Cassie’s life were at the times represented by the photographs so we get, em, snapshots of her previous life. There is a passage about how men are more or less uniformly useless – apart from being able to provide sex – which Rona says she doesn’t miss anyway. Do we not take this as read? In any case not enough is made of this notion to allow us to ascribe the book’s title to being descriptive of the male even if Cassie says, “Heterosexuality is a complete farce…… Because what men really are in love with is men.”

Certain details niggled. Cassie and Rona visit a War Cemetery to find and photograph the name of Rona’s grandfather on a wall and much note is made of the crosses. While it is true that French and US War Cemeteries contain crosses (or stars of David, and I vaguely remember crescents on some French Army graves) British and Commonwealth war grave markers are rectangular slabs with rounded tops. There are some crosses at Thiepval, where the names of the otherwise unmarked dead of the Battle of the Somme are inscribed on a huge memorial, but those are the resting places of French soldiers. The cemetery in the book is unnamed.

Pedants’ accounting:- There was a “shrunk” count of 1 and several misspellings. At one point we had sandle but sandal appeared subsequently several times plus a “meritricious” in one of the guide book sections and a “colandar.”

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