Wednesday, 3 June 2015

In Margaret Atwood's Bedroom

So here I am, in Masset, Haida Gwaii, in Margaret Atwood's bedroom.  I'm staying at the famous Copper Beech, where Margaret stayed when she was writing a book and, due to a wonderful coincidence, I've been given her bedroom, which is called 'The Retreat'.  It's more like a ship's cabin than a room.
I was supposed to be in one of the others (they're all wonderful in their own way) but then the man who'd booked The Room arrived and he was too tall for the bed, so I offered to swap my Queen size for his Economy and here I am.  It's small but perfectly formed and I have the view to die for between my toes at the end of the bed.  The only problem is that I'm now expected to write something worthy of the room, which probably means that I won't write a word!
Boats moored in Masset Inlet at the bottom of my bed. 
Copper Beech is owned by Canadian poet Susan Musgrave and is one of the most interesting and quirky guest houses I've ever stayed in.  It's like staying in the curiosity shop of some exotic bazaar. My bedroom has the most beautiful peacock silk embroidered curtains balanced on a bamboo pole (heaven forbid I should ever have to close them!), there's a bedside light made out of a bamboo teapot,  a ceiling light made from a wheel,  puppets dangling from antlers, a copper bowl full of stones, bones and feathers, and the walls are decorated with paintings and hangings by Haida artists. Raven is here in all his incarnations.  All the rooms of the house are crowded with wonderful things. This is the sitting room, complete with African penis gourd and The Last Supper arranged in a sardine can.

Copper Beech has a long history - it was originally owned by an island eccentric and was at one point a 1$ flop-house. Then the previous owner ran it as a B&B which was famous for impromptu dinners and excellent company as well as the outrageous decor. David Philips, something of a performance artist, played host to 'lost souls, hippies and celebrities like the Trudeaus'. Apparently if you stayed here you never knew quite what might happen, and you were just as likely to fall through the furniture as into it. Susan has changed the beds and the sofas in the interests of comfort, but the rest has been kept just as it was.  This is the Haida carved chest in the sitting room, used as a coffee table.


The company is as varied as the house.  There's a doctor and his fiancee who are walking the length of the island and have come to have their wedding rings made by a Haida jeweller.  Two middle aged ladies have cycled (!!) all the way from Smithers in northern British Columbia, via Prince Rupert on the mainland, to get here. That's a journey of several hundred miles. There's a naturalist looking at the bird life and an academic from Victoria.  Oh, and another writer - Katie Welch, who has written an eco-novel called The Bears.

Just one note of caution - Haida Gwaii sits on the Queen Charlotte fault, which is very active.  There's a notice on my bedroom wall fit to strike fear into the most valiant soul.  In the event of an earthquake . . .



2 comments:

  1. But you're used to earthquakes by now aren't you, Kathleen? :)

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    Replies
    1. I am Catherine - but I'd just as soon not have to practise!

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