Wednesday, 28 March 2012

That Great Cathedral Space which was Childhood*

Good Morning Dear Friends!

I do hope the grinning fool opposite doesn't ruin what, looking out of the windows of the study at Myrtle house, appears to be another fine and blue sky day; the photograph of Yours Truly gurning like a local cat was taken in another study, part of the lovely retreat in Cheese-shire where I spent my birthday . . . I also went for a walk around the environs of the river Weaver and saw for the first time in the flesh - or feather more like - a nuthatch, amazing! I still get a huge thrill when something like that occurs; it all goes back to when I was a child and would read about British wildlife in the Observer or Ladybird books but, growing up as I did on a 1960's new build local authority estate, these wonderful creatures seemed destined to remain just illustrations and live examples were rarer than rocking horse droppings! The only garden birds I saw were sparrows, thrushes, blackbirds and starlings; no blue tits ever pecked my gold tops . . . which isn't that surprising as we used to have sterilised rather than Pasteurised milk delivered . . . ah me, the good old days, eh!

What products of our childhood we are! I still find myself drawn to and seeking out those images which populated my early mind; if someone were to offer me a study with a piano and french windows looking out to an herbaceous border I would probably die with joy on the spot! Sadly, given the precarious state of authordom these days, even the far more humble splendours of Myrtle House seem tantalisingly difficult enough to hang on to; it's true I think that people always need stories but even more pertinent  that, when given the choice of paying even the smallest amount for them or spending their hard-earned lining the already obscenely bulging pockets of the utility companies, will always have to choose the latter. 

One of my favourite authors once said  - and, despite the obvious gender difference, it is one quote I hold close to my heart - "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction" and a 'room of one's own' is, to my mind, an absolute necessity.  Peace and quiet and the time to reflect without the tedious business of worrying about paying bills is something everyone should consider an essential given and part and parcel of being human, not merely a luxury to be enjoyed by the few. 
As an aside, in that vein I am considering squandering a few of my pennies on an evening with Stephen Armstrong which takes place this Friday the subject of which is his book "The Road to Wigan Pier Revisited", a revisitation of Orwell's journey some seventy-five years later . . . are we any better off, I wonder . . . 

Anyhow, back to the quote and, more importantly its author . . . it is 71 years ago today that Virginia Woolf set off from her home and walked down to the banks of the River Ouse, filled her overcoat pockets with stones and stepped under the surface; she was 59 and was, once again, drowning in life as her depression worsened and was afraid she was going mad. She wrote in her last note to her husband, Leonard:  

"Dearest, I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel we can't go through another of those terrible times. And I shan't recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can't concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don't think two people could have been happier 'til this terrible disease came. I can't fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can't even write this properly. I can't read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that – everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can't go on spoiling your life any longer. I don't think two people could have been happier than we have been. V"

One wonders if, had she been born later and had access to the various therapies and medications available, she would have lived to write more or if, as seems so often to be the case, in exorcising devils we lose the angels too . . . In any case this is pure conjecture and the fact of the matter remains that we lost one of our finest writers on that day and I for one treasure her remaining words.  The last note to Leonard is such an incredibly sad letter; bizarrely it has become the inspiration for a new short piece entitled "The Note" which is not at all sad but illustrates I hope, our preconceptions of people and the way in which we each view our fellow man - deep, eh! Anyhow, it is written and sits with my lovely literary editor awaiting yay or nayness! 

It is now some hours later and the day has made me weary with lists of unenviable tasks to complete and sheer maddeningly annoying mindless drivel to deal with . . . ah me!  Where is my own room? Well, of course it is here and, here being the study, I am surrounded by my books with the words of a thousand voices falling like a light summer rain which do much to soothe my savage breast! 
In amongst the negativity of the day there have been some nice surprises: I met with Sister Cate a day earlier than usual and we had cake and tea and a lovely chat with Mine Host Sharon with whom we discussed diabolical plans to reinstate my favourite cake . . . plotting is such fun! Then I popped into Waterstones to see if they knew anything of the Stephen Armstrong event  - which they didn't  - but I left bearing both gifts and the pleasure of chatting with Sam and Rachel which is always nice; I then managed to get through to the event organiser and was told the event was free and I would also get a free signed copy of the book - most excellent! So I have a social engagement on Friday evening - which will be quite literally  a turn up for a book !

So now I should think of satisfying the inner man - or at least making a sandwich - and leave you good people to your evenings.  I do hope you enjoy the rest of the moderately unseasonal climes which I believe may leave us in time for Easter (of course!) and that your week is stress free and love soaked!

'til next time

Be Seeing You !

* Virginia Woolf

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful post , realy enjoyed reading that. Hope you enjoy the Stephen Armstrong event on Friday. See you soon x