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Helen Piddington Launches New Book

Posted: Monday, September 27, 2010

Meet Helen Piddington as she launches her new book, Rumble Seat: A Victorian Childhood Remembered this fall at the following locations.

Victoria: Esquimalt Branch Library (1231 Esquimalt Rd.) on Thursday, October 14th at 7:00 pm. The evening will include a talk and book signing by Piddington. Admission is free. For more information or to register please contact 250-414-7198. Books will be for sale.

Campbell River: Coho Books (1074 Shoppers Row) on Friday, October 15th at 7:00 pm. For more information please contact 250.287.2336. Admission is free. Books will be for sale.

Nanaimo: Nanaimo Harbourfront Library (90 Commercial St) on Monday, November 22nd at 6:30pm. For more information or to register please contact 250.753.1154. Admission is free. Books will be for sale.

Vancouver: North Vancouver Library, Capilano Branch (3045 Highland Blvd) on Thursday, November 25th from 7-8:30pm  For more information or to register please contact: 604 987 4471. Admission is free. Books will be for sale.

Quadra Island: Heriot Bay Inn on Saturday, November 27 at 6:00pm. Tickets are $39.00, which includes dinner at the Inn. Reservations highly recommended: 250-285-3322. Books will be for sale.

Welcome to the Piddington Family. It’s Christmas in 1924 and Major Arthur Grosvenor Piddington has just bought a house, complete with a drawing, billiard and breakfast room, in the Victoria suburb of Esquimalt for twelve thousand dollars — in cash. Helen, the youngest of nine children, is born seven years later in a yellow room overlooking the Sooke Hills.

Rumble Seat: A Victorian Childhood Remembered is Helen’s story. With sharp description and humour, Piddington remembers what is was like to grow up in a place where more time was spent preparing the grass on the private tennis courts than actually playing the game; a time when children had to not only wear, but know how to properly remove, long “kid gloves” at a dance and buttering a whole piece of bread at once was considered rude.

Helen thought of her mother as the “brain of the family” and her father, “the passion.” The Major taught his children the joy of hard, physical work and the need to think beyond the crowd while dressing himself in knee socks held up by brightly coloured garters. Helen’s mother gave her children advice like “If you want help, ask the busiest person you know,” and “ If you want good meat, you must always be a little in love with your butcher.” She loved her floor length, silk velvet opera cloak with its white fur collar, but had a practical side and bought her daughters brown boys’ overalls so they could climb trees.

During the 1930s the Piddington’s life of privileged comfort vanished due to the Great Depression and Major Piddington’s bad luck in business. From then on the elder Piddington’s were forced to look after their vast brook themselves, the Major growing their food and Mrs. P. belatedly learning to cook, keep house and care for Helen, her youngest child. Difficult as the adjustment was, there was new satisfaction to be found in sharing and making do.

Spanning from the Piddington’s big move from Quebec to the West Coast, through to the Great Depression and World War II, Helen Piddington’s Rumble Seat is a captivating record of a way of life gone by and a valuable addition to the social history of British Columbia.

Helen Piddington is a renowned printmaker and artist whose work has been shown around the world. In 1975 she and her husband moved to remote Loughborough Inlet on the coastal mainland of BC, and have lived there ever since. Her first book, The Inlet, is about her experiences in this remote part of the West.