Friday, 26 October 2012

Wednesday 24th October 2012 - WHOSE HOUSE?!?!? WOOLF'S HOUSE!

So, I'm writing this in a pub called the Abergavenny Arms in Rodmell, East Sussex, surely one of the most English of places I've ever been. Currently having a coffee froma  caffètière as I'm waiting for the bus to take me back to Lewes, which won't be here for another hour and a half*.

* I have to add, this is written in the present tense, since I was actually writing this on Wednesday afternoon, didn't have my laptop with me then and can't be arsed to put it in the tense it's supposed to be in. Moving on.

They´re playing Miles Dacvis and I'm in a corner, with some books (as ever). Very happpy that I went out and did this V. much looking forward to reading ALL of Woolf. Right, beautiful things about Monk's House: Wonderful, bright (with the weather being genuinely glorious for once) English garden, with two ponds, an orchard and amazing lawns. The kind of garden you'd have liked to get lost in as a child, discovering something awesome round every corner. It's also slap bang in the middle of the South Downs, which are wonderful in general but even better when it's all autumnal, like today. Seriously need to walk those. A friend of mine did it about a year ago and she was ecstatic about it, so I might just slap on some walking gear and get frisky.

There are some allotments in the garden, but the best bit by a mile is the writing shack (it's tiny, but it's the real thing). There were windfall apples from the orchard, of which I partook and enjoyed one. Woolf's actual chair, table and the small Persian rug that these previous two stood upon were all quite magical. It wasn't that much of a stretch to imagine her bashing her brains out over some seriously difficult bit of prose, nor authoritatively laying down the law in her critical writing or to spread out her daily experiences in her many diaries. The house itself is left  in pretty much the state it was in when Leonard died in 1969, meaning the furniture and all of the decorations were still very much in the 1890s-1920s style, established by Woolf. In her (small) bedroom, she had a brilliantly beautiful, specially made bookcase, just for Shakespeare, which, after a bad bout of depression, she chose to give her own designed covers.

Apparently, quite a lot of the Woolf collection had been stolen; at least, that was implied by the seriousness of the National Trust workers- by Sussex University. All of them, ladies in their sixties and seventies, terrified of me seriously injuring myself against the low ceilings e.g. cracking the beams of the house. There were pictures of the Bloomsbury lot in the shack. Maynard Keynes, Roger Fry, Vanessa (her sister, beautiful woman), Thomas Eliot, Morgan Forster, Vita Sackville-West, Elizabeth Bowen, Lytton Strachey; pretty much all of the Bloomsbury set. Also, there were pictures of some of the pets owned by the Woolfs. There were two Spaniels, one of which was called Sally, I forget the name of the other one. They also had a spider Monkey called Mitzy for about five years.

A man from the National Trust told me about Woolf's schedule, writing in the mornings (those electrical heaters wouldn't have been there for nothing), having a nice lunch, then doing correspondence and critical writing, as well as reading in the evenings. And that she used to scare the living daylights out of the housekeeper when, during her morning bath, she used to shout out whatever she'd written the morning before, to feel the rhythm. I approve.

I cannot stress sufficiently how teensy the house is, full of 1920s beautiful stuff, especially the chairs, which seem to have been made especially with a pattern by Vanessa. Also the beautiful portrait of Woolf's by Vanessa that is used quite a lot as a cover for The Years and The Waves just hung there in the lounge. Of course, none of this actually brings one closer to Woolf herself, walking around the garden as she must have done, pockets full of stones, in the direction of the river Ouse, shortly after finishing Between the Acts. None, apart from a lavatorial break in the outside loo., which I can't imagine having changed much since, where she would be sitting and coming up with the secondary plot for Dalloway, or the best critical insights. As I turned to wash my hands and the cold water hit me, I imagined Woolf, deep in thought, doing exactly the same, all those years ago. Apparently, they rent out the house during winter. I might go on honeymoon there. Any takers?

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