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Dear Amy,

The olives are on their way. You didn’t say how many you wanted, or what kind, so I've send a case of green and a case of black (unpitted). Hopefully your craving hasn’t passed.

I'm going to Italy for a few days next week (really only an extended weekend). The trip will help me finish some research for a paper I've just agreed to give at the MRH conference next fall. I'm going to take a quick tour of several museums and churches to confirm some ideas I have about symbolism associated with 13th and 14th century saints. I’m heading to Assisi to visit the Basilica di Santa Chiara, and then will drive across to Tuscany to look at works associated with St. Barbara and St. Catherine.

Simon’s too caught up in the house right now to tear himself away, so I will be traveling by myself. He has taken an intense dislike to the local building inspector (who is only just trying to do his job politely). Their next meeting, on Friday, is to discuss the plan Simon has drawn up for the master bathroom. To tell the truth, I'm glad I’ll be out of the country. I’m fairly sure Simon’s plan doesn’t conform to the Listing regulations (any of them!), but he’s intent on pushing it through. (He can have a stubborn streak).

Our researcher, Emma Knytleigh, arrived last Monday. I like her--she’s straightforward and serious about the job. The Upper Puckering library has a collection of Stoney Grove papers, and she’s started sorting through them. Nothing exciting yet. I'm quite jealous, but with everything else going on right now I decided I should leave her to it. We need to know about this place and aren’t going to get anywhere with me picking at it in between trips to Italy and endless meetings. I have found out some interesting things about the original landscape designer here, but I'll spare you the details for now.

Before I go I need to start interviewing architects. Simon and I are desperate for a new kitchen and downstairs bath. The master bath plan looks doomed as well, although it’s disloyal of me to say so! We also should hire a contractor (besides the new projects we need substantial masonry repairs done, some new windows, and several rooms need to be replastered ---not to mention the heating system....), groundskeepers (our gardener’s enthusiasm begins and ends with vegetables) and a farm manager. I’m thinking seriously about finding a secretary to keep this all straight.

In a fit of idiocy I’ve agreed to help out with a fund-drive for the local church. Part was built in 1299, so how could I resist? Simon thinks I'm nuts...I'm tempted to just write them a check and hope they’ll leave me in peace, but that wouldn’t be in the spirit of the "cause."

I’m fascinated by the Stoney Grove you found on Nevis, although I doubt the two places are connected. It seems so unlikely that the people who built our house would have had time to go to the West Indies and establish a plantation before the bottom fell out of the sugar trade. Still, there are some odd tropical motifs running through this house. Can you find out the date of the Nevisian plantation for me? It will certainly make an interesting footnote for Emma’s report. Thanks.

That’s all for now. Be good and enjoy your olives.



P.S. The mystery of the missing chain saw has been solved. We have a hermit. Seriously--he has lived here for years and is considered a member of staff (which means a life tenancy is guaranteed, at our expense). He’s taken to wandering in a most un-hermitlike fashion, and I finally met him in the garden. He nearly scared me to death. More on him next time.