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The Butterfly Garden; It’s Not What You Think It Is

The Butterfly Garden

The Butterfly Garden

I like to read, a lot. I read over 60 books a year and in the last year I have enjoyed reading books on gardens, especially gardens I have visited in the UK on my English Garden Tours. Virginia Woolf’s Garden by Caroline Zoob has become one of my favorite reads. I loved the photographs and details of the gardening skills of Zoob, while she and her husband were the caretakers of Monk’s House (the home of Virginia and Leonard Woolf) for ten years for the National Trust. It also was a look into the Woolf’s private lives during their time at Monk’s House, beginning with how they came to own the property, up until the time of Leonard’s death. So to me it was a gardening book and a history book, which I loved!

I always have books on my Kindle and get alerts on Amazon, you know the ones; if you liked this book then you might enjoy…………  and I get alerts on books from some of my book club friends as well, so I always have a book or 20 in the pipeline. Sometimes I read a book review and I add that book to my wish list as well or a book is recommended on my Kindle Unlimited account, to read for free.

Went I left on vacation this year I looked over my list and just glanced at a title I had placed in my wish list book pile. So I downloaded The Butterfly Garden by Dot Richardson, not bothering to read an excerpt, believing I had done so before I put it on my wish list and just thinking from the title that it would make a good read while I visited the gardens on this year’s English Garden Tour.

Was I in for a surprise when I opened that book! Now I have to tell you I don’t watch scary movies or TV programs. At my age the daily news is enough bad stuff for me and and I tend to turn that off too. Neither am I a prude or shrinking violet, I was a registered nurse for many years and worked critical care, so gory is not a problem for me. But, this book turned out to be a psychological thriller and I was so shocked by the first chapter that I simply could not put the book down because I had to know how everything turned out! All I am going to say is that it was quite graphic, frightening and a good read! I will NEVER be able to look at a butterfly floating lazily among the flowers or a butterfly collection in the same way again!

That book made me promise myself to always read the review before I place a book on my wish list and again before I download it. I think I’ll go back to my lovely gardening books of flowers and vegetable patches, sun-dappled paths and golden brick walls and give my heart a rest! Take heed, but if this kind of thriller is an interest for you, you will not be disappointed!

Great Expectations

 

A Young Daphne du Maurier

A Young Daphne du Maurier

No this is not about the Charles Dicken’s classic novel. It’a about how I always have such “Great Expectations” before I set off on a new adventure (vacation)!

My new adventure is Cornwall in the United Kingdom and I am really looking forward to it. So I have been doing some research (as always) and this time was led to books by Daphne du Maurier, an English novelist who wrote between 1931 and 1989. She was born in Cornwall in 1907 and died in Cornwall in 1989. So I think she would know about Cornwall! Three of her books were written specifically about life in Cornwall; Rebecca, Jamaica Inn, and Frenchman’s Creek. So I ordered a book from the UK that contained all three books. It was published in 1939 and the book itself was a treasure. The binding was like new, so someone cherished this book. There was that musty smell that old books have, with the pages yellowed on the edges. I felt the book had just left the library of Miss Jane Marple’s cottage in St Mary Mead! I have a good imagination, don’t I? Agatha Christie is another author I enjoy! Imagine my surprise to find out that the sweet looking, Daphne du Maurier, who wrote these fantastic romantic novels, also wrote The Birds, which was made into an equally famous movie by Alfred Hitchcock!

I read all three novels (they were romance) and I did get a good perspective of the sea, coves, bogs, moors, smugglers and inns in Cornwall. I got a good idea of the Cornish people as well; very sturdy those folks! So now in my mind I have “Great Expectations” for Cornwall. I googled Jamaica Inn with the plan of going there, since it still is a working inn. The reviews, however, were very dismal. The location is off a very busy road (as it was in the old days) but the Inn is more like a rest stop on a toll road. Very touristy. It did not meet my expectations, so rather than ruin my dream I’ll think of Jamaica Inn as written in the book.

Another book I read before my vacation was The Lost Gardens of Heligan by Tim Smit. Wow, this garden has been in Cornwall since the 1600’s and there is quite a story here! Heligan is on my “List of Gardens” to see during my Second UK Garden Tour. I won’t spoil it for you, but I must say, I think it will be the first garden I’ve ever visited that had an exorcism by a priest in the 20th century! Now that should interest you, it did me!

One of The Lost Garden of Heligan Sculptures

One of The Lost Garden of Heligan Sculptures

I was also inspired by all the documentaries, mysteries, and great TV programs to be found on the Acorn App (all British TV) that is streamed to my TV! I hardly watch anything else now! No sex, no violence, no filthy language here! How refreshing! I especially like all the Agatha Christie, Miss Marple series, with my favorite Miss Marple being Geraldine McEwan, who was the sleuth from 2004 to 2009. What a darling old lady she was! I am glad I got to peek into her cottage at St Mary Mead (on TV) because I know I will see small villages that are very similar on my Garden Tour and I just know my book came from one of those cottages! Hopefully, I’ve offered some inspiration for your pre-travels, it’s good to know something about the place you’re visiting, so you get a feel of it before you arrive! Great Expectations To You!

Geraldine McEwan as Miss Marple

Geraldine McEwan as Miss Marple

 

 

 

Color Your World: 120 Days of Crayola; Vivid Violet

Vivid Violet from Charleston House, UK

Vivid Violet Flowers at Charleston House, UK

Vivid Violet at Sissinghurst Castle Gardens, Kent, UK

Vivid Violet Flowers at Sissinghurst Castle Gardens, Kent, UK

Vivid Violet at Sissinghurst Castle Gardens, Kent, UK

Vivid Violet Flowers at Sissinghurst Castle Gardens, Kent, UK

Vivid Violet was added to the Crayola line in 1997. It is Day 112 of the Crayola Challenge and I have presented more beautiful flowers from the gardens in the UK. I thought perhaps my flowers were not quite vivid enough.  But, I came across this Vivid Violet also.

Vivid Arene Violet

Vivid Arene Violet

Arlene Violet, a real life Vivid Violet, was born into a middle class family in Providence, Rhode Island. After attending Providence College, she entered the Sisters of Mercy convent in 1961, taking her final vows in 1969. Later Violet earned a bachelor’s degree from Salve Regina University and was a school teacher in a disadvantaged neighborhood during the 1970’s.  She became interested in law and graduated from Boston College Law School in 1974. She then clerked in the judge’s chambers and did an internship in the Rhode Island General Attorney’s office. When the convent had financial difficulties she left her legal work and returned to the convent, serving as an administrative nun into the 1980’s. In 1984, Violet ran for election and won, becoming the first female Attorney General in the United States. During her term in office she focused on organized crime, environmental issues and victim’s rights. One of her innovations was to use videotape interviews of child victims rather than direct testimony. In the courtroom, she was known as Attila the Nun! After leaving office, Violet returned to prosecuting, taught environmental law at Brown University, and ran a talk show from 1990 to 2006. She has written two books, Convictions: My Journey from the Convent to the Courtroom, and Me and the Mob, a book about the witness protection program. As you can tell, Violet was no shrinking Violet!

This post is just one of many in the Color Your World: 120 Days of Crayola Challenge

Check out some of the other 150+ challenge participants, it’s amazing what we have done with the Crayola colors!

 

“My Thoughts Exactly, Maeve!”

View from Ashford Castle, Cong, Ireland

View from Ashford Castle, Cong, Ireland

Today I thought I would post something for my favorite author ever, Maeve Binchy. She was the most popular Irish woman writer of all time and wrote books about the interactions of everyday people; just real people in real life. Maeve had advice about writing that I never forgot. Maeve passed away on July 30, 2012, but every year on St Patrick’s Day I write her a little something. 

Maeve’s advice on writing.

Write like you talk, it is your voice.

She also wrote scenes in her books that were conversations she had overheard. One day she was so engulfed in a conversation by two women on a bus that she actually got off the bus, where they did, and followed them so she could hear the end of the conversation!

She was an excellent listener.

I have been going through my emails and letters to file for family history and came across this email I sent to my sister on Wednesday, September 8th, 2010 at 5:31pm. I thought Maeve would enjoy it too.

J, the November date is good.  Will you be here a week? 

This weekend I made hamburger and hotdog buns, because we grilled out, cooked 21 servings of chili to put up and made two batches of pizza dough, because we ate pizza on Monday, and put up 20 more pounds of tomatoes.  I am trying to get ready for winter.

I slaved over the chili, soaking beans all night before hand and I have come to the conclusion that I don’t know beans about beans.  After soaking all night they were still hard, but I thought no problem because the six pounds of meat, with onions, green peppers, chili powder, paprika, tomato sauce and tomatoes will all cook down in the pressure cooker and the beans will soften up too. Wrong, I pressured the chili and it smelled so good, then when that was done I added the beans and just cooked them down like the recipe said.  For some reason because of the gas from the beans the recipe stated NOT to put them in the pressure cooker with the other ingredients.  The chili cooked down to nothing and those beans were as hard as ever.  SO then SB and I spent the rest of the day picking 3 pounds of cooked hard beans out of the chili!!!!!!!!!!!

I guess from now on I will use CANNED BEANS.  BUMMER!!!!!!,

The news of the day: Ghost hunters every year on the anniversary of a train accident in the 1860’s near Statesville, NC meet up at 430am on the train trestle where the train went over the trestle and killed 35 people.  Supposedly after the train accident a train conductor could be found on the track at this time of morning on the anniversary day, waving his lantern looking for the derailed train.  So ghost hunters have been showing up for years to see the train’s conductor.

This year was no exception.  A group of ghost hunters started walking the track one day last week at 430am.  Suddenly a real train came around the bend and since there is not a stop or anything else there, the conductor did not blow a whistle that the train was coming, nor was he looking for people on the track.  The ghost hunters were caught off guard and were running for their lives on the trestle.  Several jumped off the trestle when the train caught up to them and one man was run over by the train. He pushed his girlfriend off the trestle telling her “he loved her”  and then was ran over.  The others that jumped from the trestle are in intensive care with critical injuries, including the girl.  Now for several days there have been stories in the newspaper about how this episode will now become one of the ghost hunters legends too and they will be looking for the guy that got ran over.  Can you believe it? !!!!!!!!! 

The book for our book club meeting this month is “Serena” and I have never read a book that from the first page git-go, I disliked the main character. A new first!

The relationship among the characters is not believable either.  I am learning about the Smoky Mountain National Park developers versus the timber industry. The mountain families were run off their land or became lumber jacks making little to no money to timber the trees.  The depression was going on and they lived horrible lives because they could so easily be replaced.  I hope it gets better, although I am half way through it and so far I am not impressed.  It is a chore to read and I have to have it read by next Wednesday.

How is K feeling?  S’s wrist/arm has held up in the cast. Today was the back surgery on SB’s mom.  She is in intensive care and in pain, following the surgery and he is on his way to see her.  HMMMM…..  If you are in pain in intensive care when you are so doped up I say you are in a pickle.  Just my two cents worth.  More later. c

Well Maeve, I hope this email has given you a good laugh and something to write about today, because I know you are still writing and the stories up there might be a little too goodie-two-shoes for you! And, you might have a buzz in your head trying to strain to hear all the conversations down here! So I am making it easy for you!

PS I also am sending you a photo I took at Ashford Castle in Cong, Ireland. It is still the greenest country in the world!

Sincerely, Cady

The Dirt on the Domestics; Life with the Bloomsburys

Nellie Boxall, Lottie Hope and Grace Higgin

Nellie Boxall, Lottie Hope and Grace Higgins in their Younger Days with Angelica Bell 

In 1904, the Stephen’s children, Vanessa, Virginia, Thoby and Adrian, left their comfortable surroundings  in Kensington, after their parent’s death, to move to the bohemian neighborhood of Bloomsbury. Since they could no longer afford the grand house and the ten servants for four people, they chose to escape many of the rituals of the Victorian household.  No more dark rooms, heavy furniture, formal dinners and restrictive lifestyles for them! Vanessa painted all the rooms of their new home white and decorated with shawls and mirrors! Discussing their new lifestyle in their weekly meetings with the Cambridge Apostles, they were full of ideas about how one should live….think, talk, write and paint. This group, made up of middle and upper class men, except for Vanessa and Virginia, formed The Bloomsbury Group, who were dedicated to domestic experiments, which were scandalous to their families and the general population.  (For more information about the members of the Bloomsbury Group see my previous post on the Charleston Farmhouse.)

They all wanted to be free from the social norms of the time, however, there was one problem. None of them could live without servants. For the men it was easier, they were not expected to take care of themselves or stoop to the mundane tasks of running a household. They could either have servants or replace them with wives, who would take care of all the nitty gritty of the household. Vanessa and Virginia had a dilemma.  Staff demanded a lot of time; they would have to hire and train the servants and supervise their work. Where would they find the time to write and paint? Neither of them knew how to clean or cook, since it had never been required of them. If they did the cooking and cleaning themselves, how would they have time to write and paint? Such a dilemma! The women could only follow their grandiose lifestyle because they and their inner circle of friends relied on some sort of unearned family money for support. It certainly was not the same for their servants.

So while the social experiments were forming and taking shape, who did all the work behind the scenes for Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell?

This is what I learned……..about three of the servants, who worked for these two women.

Nellie Boxall, (1890-1965) was the youngest of ten children and orphaned by the time she was twelve. Life for many of these women meant leaving their large families and taking up work as domestics at an early age, and moving away from their villages into the big cities. They had little to no formal education and relied on their large families for emotional support. Without that support they were nervous and often afraid of the unknown in a new family, and new town. They relied heavily on the friendships of other domestics in the household.  When the wealthy could no longer support the large household, it was a blow to the domestic life in more ways than one. There was more work to do and less support and comfort. 

From 1912 until 1916, Nellie worked for Roger Fry (a member of Bloomsbury Group) and then in 1916 joined the Virginia Woolf household as cook, with Lottie Hope as maid. Nellie’s relationship with Virginia was fraught with tension from the start.

Virginia wanted to live the life of “ the fully self-directed, autonomous woman,” but because of her mental instability and nervous breakdowns was looked after by her servants, who supervised her eating, her bodily needs, and her resting times, in addition to the cooking and cleaning, as instructed by her husband. Virginia hated their meddling and felt she never had any time for herself. She constantly wrote to Vanessa with what she called “the servant problem.”  Virginia absolutely loathed the servants.

“I am sick of the timid, spiteful servant mind, my brains are becoming soft by the constant contact with the lower classes,” she wrote to Vanessa.

I think Virginia wanted life both ways. She felt she couldn’t live with the servants and couldn’t live without them. Even with Virginia’s work for Women’s rights, Virginia had no desire to improve the economic situation of her servants. When Virginia went on to make 4000 pounds a year for her writings, she paid a meager total of 40 pounds a year for her two servants! A woman is hardly going to become self sufficient on 20 pounds a year! Why did the domestics put up with all the strife? In the Woolfe and Bell household the servants didn’t have to wear uniforms, attend church, wait on tables, or do “fetching and carrying” for their employers. They enjoyed the glamour of working for famous artists and traveling with them on their luxurious vacations.  They were allowed to mingle with the guests and no longer lived in the dismal attics or basements. The arrangements with the servants appeared to be “unbelievingly lax.” It was a trade off that they all considered. 

Nellie Boxall stayed with the Woolfs until 1934, although she frequently threatened to quit, having big rows with Virginia. Nellie was doing her best to take care of Virginia and Virginia despised her. Nellie wanted recognition for all she did and Virginia refused to acknowledge her. They played on each others dependencies. Nellie did quit (after 16 years) and went on to work for the actor, Charles Laughton, in London. She made much more money and was treated with respect, something that she never had received from Virginia.  She never married or had children. In her middle age she had saved enough money to buy a house, one of the first people in her neighborhood to do so.  The neighborhood children thought she was “a lady” and “a notch higher in her manner,” but also very bossy. Perhaps she was finally able to express her personality that had been suppressed for years.

Lottie Hope (1890-1973) was a housemaid for Virginia Wollfe. She was a foundling and grew up in the Home for Deserted Children at Hambleton in Surrey. She left the Home at fourteen and went into service at the home of Roger Fry, where she worked with Nellie Boxall. She left Fry’s home and moved to the Woolf’s home when Nellie did. When Lottie had had enough of Virginia she left the Woolfe’s home in 1924, and went to work for several of the Bloomsbury Group, but finally settled with Clive Bell and eventually went with him to Charleston Farmhouse, the country house of his estranged wife. Lottie was back living near her good friend Nellie Boxall, who was like family to her.  She left the Charleston Farmhouse in 1941, to work at a local laundry, and lived with Nellie Boxall, in her house. Like Nellie, she never married or had children, but died at the Hambleton Homes for the Aged. For a fascinating read of all the servants that worked for Virginia Woolf I suggest, Mrs Woolfe and the Servants; an Intimate History of Domestic Life in Bloomsbury, by Alison Light. It sheds light on all the unheard voices of the domestics, while Virginia established her reputation as a feminist. It tells of their meager existence and lack of control of their futures.

Grace Germany Higgins, (1904-1983) called “the Angel of Charleston,” worked for Vanessa Bell for more than fifty years. She came to Charleston at the age of 16 to care for Angelica Bell, Vanessa’s daughter with Duncan Grant. That’s a long intertwined story in itself. I think Grace, at such an early age, was fascinated with the lifestyle created by the Bloomsbury Group, who frequently partied, and lived off and on at Charleston. It certainly would have kept her entertained! Eventually, she was promoted to cook and housekeeper and remained full time at Charleston, even when nobody was there. Was that truly a promotion? There was no indoor facilities, no heating in the house and no running water. When the Bloomsbury gang was all there, and after she had met her household duties and served the Friday evening meal, she was allowed to take her bath outside in the tub, while all  the guests ate their dinner! After her bath she could return and clean up after them! In 1934, she married Walter Higgins, who also worked at Charleston, and they moved into a large bedsit over the kitchen. Ironically, this room is still deemed too un-important to be part of the tour at Charleston. The domestics are still kept firmly in their place.

Grace, her husband, and eventually her son, continued with the Friday night bath rituals the entire time they lived there. Vanessa did have one rule for her varied guests. They had to all be in their proper beds before Grace got up and started to cook and clean. I really think Grace would have known what was going on, she just didn’t let on. Walter Higgins, who hated working for Vanessa and living in her house, finally convinced Grace to leave Charleston, where they had continued to live long after Vanessa was dead. She had stayed to care for the ailing Duncan Grant, who she adored. Grant was always a favorite with everyone. He lived there with Vanessa, and had a child with her, (Vanessa’s wishes as she was madly in love with him), as he continued to carry on with his homosexual friends, who financially supported him until his dying days, while he lived and played at Charleston. He and Vanessa just painted their days away, including every inch of the farmhouse and furniture in squares, circles and triangles, their mantra! Grace took care of them all and never complained! When Grace finally moved to Lewes with her family in 1970, she burned all her detailed diaries of her life at Charleston. She was faithful to them until the end, but her son, John Higgins, recalled his recollections of his mother’s time there to Stewart MacKay, who wrote the book, The Angel of Charleston; Grace Higgins, Housekeeper to the Bloomsbury Group. To get the entire story of Grace and her time with the Bloomsbury Group at Charleston read the book. She truly was an angel! It is an eyeopener in the life of the domestic servant and the hardships they faced. If you read these books, I don’t think you will be disappointed! See you next time as I continue to visit the homes and gardens on my “English Garden Tour!”

The Servants of Virginia Woolfe

Nellie Boxall, Cook, in Later Life, the Woman Standing Far Right

Charleston Farmhouse, Home of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant

Charleston Farmhouse, Sussex, UK

Charleston Farmhouse, Sussex, UK

Charleston Farmhouse, Sussex, UK

Charleston Farmhouse, Sussex, UK

Charleston Farmhouse, Sussex, UK

Charleston Farmhouse, Sussex, UK

Charleston Farmhouse, the home of Vanessa Stephen Bell, (Virginia Woolf’s sister) is about six miles from Monk’s House, (Virginia Woolf’s home) as the the crow flies. The farmhouse sits in a big open field, down a long narrow road, in the middle of no where.

This is what I learned……..

In 1916, Charleston Farmhouse was rented by Vanessa Bell, and Duncan Grant, under the terms of his exemption from the military as a conscientious objector. He and his lover, David Garnett, were employed at a nearby farm and lived at Charleston with Vanessa Bell. Vanessa Bell was married at the time to Clive Bell and would remain so all her life. Their unconventional household became the meeting place for the Bloomsbury Group, a group of writers, artists and intellectuals who had formed from the Apostles group at Cambridge. Vanessa’s and Duncan’s decorative style, made up of squares, circles, and triangles, were featured throughout the farmhouse on every wall, ceiling and piece of furniture! People came and went over the years but the farmhouse was lived in by Vanessa and Duncan for sixty years. Vanessa stated, “it will be an odd life, but……. it ought to be good for painting.” The Bloomsbury members came here to relax and have fun. It was said the group lived in squares, painted in circles, and loved in triangles. To me their life was very complicated. To them they lived a bohemian life, and felt anything was OK as long as it didn’t hurt anybody. I’m not sure you can live that life without hurting somebody. Just my thoughts, I tend to be starchy.

There is no picture taking allowed inside Charleston Farmhouse and only a small group is allowed in at any one time with a well versed guide. You must make a reservation or risk not getting in or having to wait. The rooms show a complete example of the decorative art of the Bloomsbury artists: murals, ceramics, paintings, textiles and objects from their Omega Workshops. Vanessa’s room was painted by Duncan, Vanessa’s lover. (a triangle between her, Duncan and David Garnett) He painted a huge red dog above her bed, to always protect her, and she painted his room in delicate pastel circles, squares, and flowers. There are lots of bedrooms in the farmhouse and what struck me the most were the various ceramic numbers above the doorway representing a specific room. For some reason it reminded me of something you would find in a bordello. Maybe because the guide kept reminding us of all the people who came and went and their various activities there. They did more than paint, write, or talk. The farmhouse was interesting and different and the garden was beautiful. It is now owned by the Charleston Trust, a charity set up in 1980 to restore and maintain the property. Every May there is the Charleston Festival, which draws artists and writers alike to promote the arts. For more information about the Charleston Farmhouse see here. There were several very knowledgable artists among our tour group and artists could be found painting or sketching in the garden while we were there, so it is still an artists’ hangout. Let’s walk through the garden!

Click on any image for a larger look!

While visiting Charleston, I bought a book at the gift shop, called, Vanessa and Her Sister, by Priya Parmar,  which enlightened me further on the Bloomsbury Group, Vanessa Bell, and Virginia Woolf. Their lives were anything, but conventional. I won’t go into ALL the details, but it was a very good read! The group had ten or so core members, the males, all educated at Trinity or Kings College of Cambridge, and were called the Apostles. Vanessa and Virginia’s brother, Thoby, was friends with the Apostles and this is how they came to meeting at the Stephens home in Bloomsbury, a neighborhood in London, in which Vanessa and Virginia, the only women, were included. Here is the Bloomsbury Group.

Clive Bell, art critic, Vanessa Bell’s eventual husband.

E.M Forster, fiction writer.

Roger Fry, art critic and post impressionist painter. (Had a passionate affair with Vanessa Bell)

John Maynard Keynes, economist. (Had an affair with Duncan Grant, but married Russian ballet dancer, Lydia Lopokova, and eventually lived close to Charleston Farmhouse.

Desmond McCarthy, literary journalist.

Lytton Strachey, biographer, who was Virginia Woolf’s fiancé for one day.  He was a homosexual and in love with his cousin, Duncan Grant.

Leonard Woolf, essayist and non-fiction writer, who married Virginia Stephen.

Thoby Stephen, brother of Virginia and Vanessa, who brought all these men home for dinner and their weekly meetings in Bloomsbury.

Virginia Woolf, fiction writer, essayist and publisher.

Vanessa Bell, post-impressionist painter, started Friday painting club, an addition to the Thursday night intellectual meetings.

Duncan Grant, post-impressionist painter and Vanessa’s lover. He was also the father of Vanessa’s only daughter. He also had many homosexual affairs. What a triangle this was! There was a lot going on with them, read the book!

Were they a group of rich spoiled kids, who did what they wanted, come what may? Or were they trying to change the world? They had grown up in a strict victorian society, and then the great war and the loss of so many men changed the lives of all English men and women forever.  Women were no longer confined to the home and women’s rights were taking front and center stage.  Men and women did not want to return to service for the affluent. The affluent could no longer manage their large estates and homes. So times were changing! Were the Bloomsburys just caught up in this new way of life? Were they the survivors? You can draw your own conclusions. Next we’ll explore the lives of the maids and housekeepers that took care of Virginia and Vanessa! After I had explored  the Bloomsburys, I wanted to know about the other side of that coin! See you next time in the kitchen!

One of my Favorites in the Charleston Farmhouse Garden, Sussex, UK

One of my Favorites in the Charleston Farmhouse Garden, Sussex, UK

A Room of One’s Own: The Life of Virginia Woolf

Virginia Stephen Woolf

Virginia Stephen Woolf

What I knew about Virginia Woolf was revealed to me in a film titled, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, featuring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. The only thing I knew for certain after the movie was that the couple never stopped yelling. That’s all I remember. Was that yelling person Virginia Woolf?  Who was the real Virginia Woolf? Somewhere, along the way, I realized she was an author, but  I never explored it any further. So I was excited to learn that her home, Monk’s House, was part of the National Trust. I wanted to know about the Virginia Woolf!

What I learned about Virginia Woolf…………as  I attempt to sort her story out.

Adeline Virginia Stephen was born on January 25, 1882 into a well-heeled family. Both her wealthy, influential, mother and father had been married previously, and widowed, with four children between them, before the birth of Virginia and her three siblings. Thus the family contained the children of three marriages.  Her father, Leslie Stephen, was an eminent editor, critic, and biographer; her mother, Julia Princep Duckworth Stephen, was committed to serving the poor. Virginia and Vanessa, (Virginia’s natural older sister), were educated at home, while the boys attended Cambridge.  The family was well connected and the children were raised in an environment of great literary works, with an immense library, but also under the influences of Victorian society. However, between 1897 and 1901 Vanessa and Virginia were allowed to attend the Ladies’ Department of King’s College, London, to study Ancient Greek, Latin, German, and history. Virginia thrived with all this knowledge.

The early years were rough going for the Stephen’s family. Virginia’s oldest half-sister, Laura Makepeace Stephen, from her father’s first marriage, was committed to an insane asylum. Virginia’s mother suddenly died in 1895, when Virginia was thirteen, followed by the death of another half-sister, Stella Duckworth, two years later. These events and possible child abuse by the older Duckworth brothers, led to the first of Virginia’s several nervous breakdowns. When her father died in 1904 Virginia collapsed and was briefly institutionalized and would be in and out of Burley House in Twickenham, described as “a private nursing home for women with nervous disorders”, in 1910, 1912, and 1913. Though her instability affected her private life, her literary productivity increased and was continued throughout her life. Her bouts of mental illness were thought to have been the result of what is now termed a bipolar disorder. She was extremely fragile.

Vanessa Stephen, being the oldest of the Stephen children, decided to sell the fashionable family home at 22 Hyde Park Gate and bought a house at 46 Gordon Square, Bloomsbury, (a bohemian, not so nice area of London), where Virginia and her brothers and sister, (Thoby, Adrian, and Vanessa) could escape the restraints, criticism, and gossip of a strict Victorian society.

A group of twelve intellectual Cambridge men, known as the “Apostles”, were among the friends of Thoby. The men gathered at the  Bloomsbury home on Thursday evenings to have dinner and discuss anything and everything late into the wee hours of the morning. Virginia and Vanessa attended the meetings as well. Vanessa, who was mostly interested in art, later started a Friday night group consisting of artists and critics. Virginia at this time began writing for the Times Literary Supplement, a forum for literary culture; bringing scholars, scientists, and artists together to address questions of value, meaning and purpose.  Hefty stuff!  Together this young, educated, and elite group  wanted to change the world. The Bloomsbury Group became very close and chose to live a lifestyle all their own, while supporting each other’s endeavors. (More on the Bloomsbury Group in a later post).

Thoby died from typhoid, at age 26, after he and Vanessa fell ill following a vacation in Greece. Soon after Vanessa married Clive Bell, a member of the Bloomsbury Group, and moved out of the Bloomsbury home, leaving Adrian and Virginia to fend for themselves.  Virginia was very upset by this move. Could Vanessa no longer cope with Virginia’s fragile mental state, attention and needs? Vanessa was more of a free spirit and she wanted her freedom from being the “mother” to her siblings. Virginia reluctantly accepted this, but would ultimately get her revenge.  Virginia rented a cottage in Firle, in the Sussex countryside, but continued her friendship and meetings with the Bloomsbury Group, of which Vanessa and Clive Bell were still a part of.

During this time, Leonard Woolf, another Cambridge man, briefly met Virginia Stephen at one of the forays in Bloomsbury, before leaving for a diplomatic post in Ceylon. Lytton Strachey, another Bloomsbury member, had proposed to Virginia (although he was a homosexual) and was quite pleased and relieved, when she turned him down. In correspondence to Leonard, during his stay in Ceylon, Lytton convinced Leonard that when he returned to England he should give up his job and propose to Virginia, and he did. They barely knew one another, and although Leonard was poor and Jewish, Virginia accepted. It was 1912 and Virginia was thirty. Did Virginia need someone to take care of her? Was Leonard aware of Virginia’s state of mind? The answer was yes she did and no he didn’t.

Virginia’s writings were very controversial, supporting the thoughts of the Bloomsbury Group of radical thinking, women’s rights and the freedom to love both men and women. She found it increasingly hard to get her work published and  was  at odds with “polite society”.

In 1915 Virginia completed her book, Voyage Out, and she and Leonard set up Hogarth Press to publish Virginia’s work and the work of her liberal friends: the hand printing providing a hobby as well as therapy for Virginia. In 1919 the Woolfs bought Monk’s House, in the countryside of Sussex, where Leonard thought Virginia could write in peace with less mental stress. Although Virginia loved the city and all it’s trappings and busywork, the move was a success for her mental health.  Virginia had no more mental breakdowns for twenty years. That’s not to say their life was uneventful, as you will find when we discuss Vanessa’s life.

One of Virginia’s books that I found very interesting was Mrs Dalloway. She definitely had a flair and gift with words and she experimented with stream of consciousness and the underlying psychological as well as emotional motives of her characters. Who was more prepared to write like this than Virginia? Her novels were highly experimental, with a narrative frequently uneventful and commonplace, as we see in Mrs Dalloway. This book centers on the efforts of Clara Dalloway, a middle-aged society woman, to organize a party, as her life is paralleled with that of Septmus Warren Smith, a working- class veteran who has just returned from WWI bearing deep emotional scars. The book has no chapters, does not explain anything, and no conversation is needed. It is just one continuous thought. (Stream of Consciousness) The story is the thoughts of Mrs Dalloway, in one given day! You know how you think things to yourself, your own running commentary as you go about the business of your day? This is Mrs. Dalloway! Her thoughts, just like ours, that jump from one to another. And then the day ends. It’s quite remarkable to be put into words and is extraordinary in thought! I’ve never read anything like it! Virginia went on to publish novels and essays as a public individual to both critical and popular success. In her book-length essay, A Room of Own’s Own, (1929) she wrote, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” She achieved this at Monk’s House.  Now with our background somewhat complete, we’ll visit her home at Monk’s House, to learn more about her and the intertwining lives of others.  I can’t wait to see where this incredibly complex woman lived!  See you there!

Virginia Woolf

Listen to Virginia Woolf Speak

The English Garden Tour: Garden 1; The Priest House, West Hoathly, Sussex

The Priest House, West Hoathly, Sussex

The Priest House, West Hoathly, Sussex

Map of Center of Village, West Hoathly, Sussex

Map of Center of Village, West Hoathly, Sussex

Today we traveled to West Hoathly, in Sussex, to see the first gardens that I had chosen from the many offered this weekend on the National Garden Scheme. Driving well over an hour we arrived in the center of the small village of 9 homes, including the pub. The Priest House is our first destination. The only one of its kind open to the public, this 15th century Wealden hall house stands in a traditional cottage garden on the edge of the Ashdown Forest. Originally owned by Henry VIII it was given to Anne of Cleaves, wife number four, upon their divorce. The herb garden is planted with over 170 culinary, medicinal and household herbs. Today a special exhibition for the NGS, featured on the upper floor, built in 1600, reveals pictures of local children and their place in the workforce in the 19th century. Many children, as young as five and six, were farm laborers and chimney sweeps. It was not uncommon for the chimney sweep to get stuck in the chimney and die. The Priest House is maintained by the Sussex Archaeological Society and provides rotating exhibits, research, and other learning experiences.

Walkway to the Priest House, West Hoathly, Sussex

Walkway to the Priest House, West Hoathly, Sussex

The Priest House, West Hoathly, Sussex

The Priest House, West Hoathly, Sussex

The Priest House, West Hoathly, Sussex

The Priest House, West Hoathly, Sussex

The Gardens at Priest House, West Hoathly, Sussex

The Gardens at Priest House, West Hoathly, Sussex

The Gardens at Priest House, West Hoathly, Sussex

The Gardens at Priest House, West Hoathly, Sussex

The Gardens at Priest House, West Hoathly, Sussex

The Gardens at Priest House, West Hoathly, Sussex

Flowers in the Garden at Priest House, Sussex

Flowers in the Garden at Priest House, Sussex

Another Garden at The Priest House, Sussex

Another Garden at The Priest House, Sussex

The Priest House, West Hoathly, Sussex

The Priest House, West Hoathly, Sussex

The Priest House, West Hoathly, Sussex

The Priest House, West Hoathly, Sussex

St Margaret’s Church, settled in 1090, records the names of the village from Hadlega, later standardized to Hodlegh, then West Hoathly. This Anglo-Saxon word signifies a heath covered clearing, or the dense woodland of the Ashdown Forest. In 1556, Ann Tree was burnt at the stake near here for refusing to renounce Protestantism, one of seventeen martyrs to suffer this fate in Sussex. A brass memorial in the church commemorates her.

St Margaret's Church, West Hoathly, Sussex

St Margaret’s Church, West Hoathly, Sussex

St Margaret's Church, West Hoathlu, Sussex

St Margaret’s Church, West Hoathly, Sussex

The Gate to St Margaret's Church, West Hoathly, Sussex

The Gate to St Margaret’s Church, West Hoathly, Sussex

The Manor House was built in 1627 for Mrs Catherine Infield of Gravetye Manor, as a dower house.  Her family was the wealthy owners of the local iron works. Later abandoned to smugglers the buildings and grounds were rejuvenated in 1884 when “the greatest English Gardener” William Robinson bought it. Upon his death it was turned over to the Forestry Commission. It now sits vacant and forlorn.

The Manor House, West Hoathly, Sussex

The Manor House, West Hoathly, Sussex

Looking Through the Gate to the Manor House, West Hoathly, Sussex

Looking Through the Gate to the Manor House, West Hoathly, Sussex

The Phlox and Rose Cottages are 19th century weather boarded over timber framed cottages. They were the newest houses in the village!

Rose Cottage and Phlox Cottage, West Hoathly, Sussex

Rose Cottage and Phlox Cottage, West Hoathly, Sussex

Rose Cottage and Phlox Cottage, West Hoathly, Sussex

Rose Cottage and Phlox Cottage, West Hoathly, Sussex

The Upper Pendent is a timber framed, tile-hung 17th century home which previously housed the village stores and post office in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Upper Pendent, west Hoathly, Sussex

Upper Pendent, West Hoathly, Sussex

The Cat Inn is the 16th century pub of medieval origin standing in the crossroads of the village. The name is derived from an emblem of the Sackvilles of Knole, which is a leopard. We will be learning  a lot about the Sackvilles, a very prominent family in Kent. This is the pub I had picked to stop in for lunch after touring the village. It was highly recommended by the locals also. We sat in the lovely terrace and had a most agreeable meal. Now on to the next garden in the “burbs” of West Hoathly.

The Cat Inn, West Hoathly, Sussex

The Cat Inn, West Hoathly, Sussex

A Great Ride Awaits at the cat Inn, West Hoathly, Sussex

A Great Ride Awaits at the Cat Inn, West Hoathly, Sussex

P S For a good read about the wives of Henry VIII, I  suggest, Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir. The author draws on early biographies, letters, memoirs, account books, and diplomatic reports to bring each woman to life.  Very interesting!

Magical Cesky Krumlov, in the Czech Republic

The Village of Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Village of Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

If you take just one tour from Prague I hope it is to Cesky Krumlov!  You won’t be disappointed! Our tour was booked through our hotel in Prague, more on that when I talk about our stay there! In order to see the castle and theater in Krumlov, you must be with a guide. The castle’s theatre is fabulous! I have seen many theaters, but the artwork on the walls of this theater are my favorite of all of them!  Europe once had several hundred baroque theaters, using candles for light and fireworks for special effects.  Most of them burned down. Today only two survive in good shape and are open to tourists; one at Stockholm’s Drottingholm Palace and one here. Sitting on wooden benches in the theater, we study the hundreds of happy villagers, who are painted on the walls. Everywhere you look, in every nook and cranny, there is a small tabloid! Later we visit under the stage to see the wood-and-rope contraptions that allowed the scenes to be moved about in seconds, while the audience was blinded by smoke or fireworks. Sadly, no pictures are allowed inside, but trust me when I say you will love it!

Cesky Krumlov is a magical village situated on the twisty Vltava River which makes a perfect S through town. Above the Old Town is the Castle Town. The one main street winds through town and over a bridge before snaking through the Castle Town, the Castle Complex of courtyards, and up to the Castle Gardens above the town. The castle is complete with moat, drawbridge and bear pits which still house two brown bears.  Tip: If you go with a tour group from Prague, the bus drops you off at the parking lot above town at the castle gardens, and you walk down hill rather than trudging up! Later that day the bus picked us up in town, to take us back to Prague. So easy! We’re starting at the Castle Gardens at the top of town! Let’s go!

The Castle Gardens of Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Castle Gardens of Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Castle Gardens of Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Castle Gardens of Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Castle Gardens of Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Castle Gardens of Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Castle Gardens of Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Castle Gardens of Cesky Krumlov Looking at the Brewery, the Czech Republic

The Krumlov Castle, Casky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Krumlov Castle, Casky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Krumlov Castle, Casky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Krumlov Castle, Casky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Krumlov Castle, Casky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Krumlov Castle, Casky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The castle wall bricks are not really bricks! These look-a-likes are painted on!  Very impressive! They look real! There were a lot of walls to paint!

The Krumlov Castle, Casky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Krumlov Castle, Casky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Krumlov Castle of Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Krumlov Castle of Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The town and castle construction began in the late 13th century at the ford in the Vltava River, which was important to trade routes in Bohemia. In 1302 the town and castle were owned by the House of Rosenberg. Due to heavy gambling debts, the town and castle were sold out of the family in 1602 to Emperor Rudolf II, who placed his mad son, Julius d’Austria, in the castle at Krumlov, because he was causing so much terror at home. For an extremely good read about this mad prince and the Castle Krumlov read, The Bloodletter’s Daughter ( A Novel of Old Bohemia), by Linda Lafferty. Bloodletting at that time seemed to be the answer to all woes, draining the bad spirits from the body to make it better. The poor bloodletter’s daughter soon found herself as the caretaker for the mad prince. Intriguing read!

A View of Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

A View of Cesky Krumlov from the Castle, the Czech Republic

The Bears! Castle Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Bears in the Bear Pit! Castle Krumlov, the Czech Republic

Zigzagging Under Parts of the Castle Krumlov's Raised Walkways

Zigzagging Down the Hill Under Parts of  Castle Krumlov’s Raised Walkways

Walking Under Parts of the Castle Krumlov's Raised Walkways

Walking Under Parts of the Castle Krumlov’s Raised Walkways

The Overhead Walkways at Castle Krumlov

The Overhead Walkways at Castle Krumlov

The Round Tower, Castle Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Round Tower, Castle Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The colorful Round Tower marks the location of the first castle, built here to guard the river crossing. With the 16th century paint scheme carefully restored, it looks exotic, featuring astrological decor, terra-cotta symbols of the zodiac, and a fine arcade.

The Round Tower, Castle Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Round Tower, Castle Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Round Tower, Castle Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Round Tower, Castle Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Round Tower, Castle Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Round Tower from Above at the Castle, Castle Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Round Tower, Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Round Tower, Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

Main Street, Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

Main Street, Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The View of the Round Tower from Main Street, Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The View of the Round Tower from Main Street, Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

A View of Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

Rafting down the Vltava River, the Czech Republic

River rafts or a hard plastic canoe can be rented for a quick 30-minute spin around the village. Or you can go on a 3-hour float and paddle through the bohemian forests and villages of the nearby countryside. Check out the Pujcovna Lodi Malecek Boat Rental. What fun this is!

A View of Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

Along the Vltava River of Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

Town Square, Cesky Krumlov

Town Square, Cesky Krumlov

Park In Town With Great Views of Cesky Krumlov

Park In Town With Great Views of Cesky Krumlov

Krema v Satlavske Restaurant, Cesky Krumlov

Krema v Satlavske Restaurant, Cesky Krumlov

Eating in Krumlof was a treat at Krema v Satlavske, an old prison with an open fire, and big wooden tables under an open medieval vault, serving grilled meats and beer!  We had a great time and great food!

Krema v Satlavske Restaurant, Cesky Krumlov

Krema v Satlavske Restaurant, Cesky Krumlov

Krema v Satlavske Restaurant, Cesky Krumlov

Krema v Satlavske Restaurant, Cesky Krumlov

I hope you enjoyed our day out in Cesky Krumlov! Krumlov hosts a number of festivals including the Five-Petalled Rose Festival,  (the name derived from the Rosenberg family crest of the five petal red rose) celebrated on the weekend of the summer solstice in June. The International Music Festival, Cesky Krumlov is another festival with international music from varied genres. The festival begins in July and ends in August. What a great way to celebrate summer!

A View of Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

A  Last Look at Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

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