Vintage coaches, silver fork novels and 18th century spectacles: the 2010 Jane Austen Society Annual General Meeting

Catherine Delors of Versailles and More attended the JASA AGM and here is her take:

“O that he had sprained his ancle in the first dance!” exclaims an exasperated Mr. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. Well, the intended recipient, Mr. Bingley, escaped that curse in Jane Austen’s novel. Instead it fell upon me, two centuries later. Not even at any dance, mind you, but stupidly, while getting up from a sofa in the apparent comfort and safety of my apartment.
The incident was all the more maddening that it occurred less than 48 hours before the 2010 Jane Austen Society Annual General Meeting, an event to which I had been looking forward for so long.

It would have taken more than that to deter me from attending. My ankle (or should I spell ancle, like Jane?) properly braced, I took the train at Waterloo for Alton, the closest railway station to Jane’s home at Chawton.

I knew that a bus would be expecting us Janeites at Alton station to take us to Chawton, but a surprise awaited us. It was not just any coach. It was a King Alfred Coach, lovingly restored to its 1961 splendour! New plush upholstery, shiny paint in two tones of green, matched to the uniforms of the driver and conductor. The latter, Mr. James Freeman, explained that, though he was not himself a Janeite, his recently departed mother, Ms. Jean Freeman, had been a member and passionate contributor of the Jane Austen Society. Therefore this year he was offering this service, free of charge, to the members of the Society to honour her memory. What a lovely way of doing so. All my thanks go to Mr. Freeman for this delicate attention.

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