I haven’t written for a while here, mainly because I’ve been busy with grandma again; differentiating Acers from Oaks, peering closely at Hydrangeas the colour of your tonsils and patting St. Bernards called Marley on Headley Heath. Of all grandma has treated me to recently, the apex of our country forays has culminated in my dream for a while now- visiting the homes of my homegirl inspirations. Charleston and Monk’s House, the homes of Vanessa and Virginia Stephen.
Walking the rooms Vanessa painted by hand, seeing the round wood dining table, like that of King Arthur and imagining what wine they had; the fuchsias scrambling up Charleston’s stone face for sunlight above glitterings on the green lily pond and all the sunlight drenching time’s past canvases in her studio made my heart beat in a welcomed irregular rhythm. It felt familiar yet screened, like spying through a kaleidoscope of history warped and retold through the footsteps and talk of others. I think my favourite part of Charleston were the pink guest rooms Vanessa and her daughter Angelica painted. Pale candyfloss walls and miniature seats, paintings of wild women on the wardrobe formed of harsh, sporadic black outlines for contour, with a pale peach wash for flesh. I could imagine my sister, Daisy and me sleeping there- peering at ourselves in the large looking glass wearing summer dresses and flowers in our hair. So romanticised and impossible I KNOW, but still tangible there- in her house of art, ideas and beautiful defiance.
Monk’s House was particularly resonant with me, I saw hopes in reality. A humble cottage with a garden, a bedroom opening out into dawn- a writing lodge of wood planks where ideas flourished from Virginia’s mind, butterflies born of ink; their wings assonance and metaphor, a lilting flight. Her home was not so washed in pattern and paint as her older sister’s, but still there was intent- her mind was the cement which composed brick into animation. The living room was mint green, flowers in jam jars occupied alcoves and a special design Vanessa dreamt up for her sister adorned the chairs there. My favourite part was her bedroom though, modest but perfectly formed- like a snail shell home. Books whispered plot, unwinding breath on their shelves; a tiled sink sealed the deal of magnificence for me. The walls were pale blue, I know she loved Leonard, but her pain meant she needed space; I understand that pale blue. The only difference I’d make though, would be to swap the single bed for a double. I’m no good by myself- I’d want to feel the security that if there was anyone else who wanted to be with me that there’d be enough duvet to share. We could wake up to watch dawn over apple trees together, read my poetry books and drink tea on the same pillows then go sit in the garden. Either lover or friends, it is besides the point- this is not my story or house, both are Virginia’s.
I have no poem to post today, but I didn’t want that to stop me from trying to write. Instead I’ll share a quote from Virginia that I love, from her longest love letter ‘Orlando’ dedicated to her lover and close friend, Vita. I know to understand her life fully, to encapsulate it is impossible- but what I write is done with love. Love and hope and admiration, and I can only will that that is enough. oxoxoxoxox