I am writing this blog in the Abergavenny Arms after two large glasses of red wine. Actually, I haven’t quite finished the second. I questioned whether I should have the second. But then I thought: what the hell, I don’t need to finish it.
I’m going to finish it.
This morning I woke up and I thought: today is not a good day. How can I turn today into a good day? And then I remembered it’s blog day. And I thought: maybe today will be the day I don’t write a blog. Because today is not a good day.
I got up. I didn’t have a shower. I just put on the clothes I wore yesterday. I got the 24 bus to Victoria. I got on a train to Lewes, transferred to another to Southease. And then I walked the mile to The Monk’s House in Rodmell. The house where Virigina Woolf lived and then left one morning and walked down to the river Ouse with stones in her pocket.
She never came back.
I am writing this blog to thank Maire. Maire, the National Trust volunteer assigned to watch over Virginia’s bedroom in The Monk’s House, today on the 26th June. The bedroom where Virigina’s sister, Vanessa Bell, painted a lighthouse on the tiles across the fireplace. That’s some sort of sister. And I stood at the back of the room and listened as Maire spoke. Everyone was mesmerized as this old woman told us she was born and had grown up in the village where this icon of literature had lived. Her father, Percy, had been the Woolfs’ gardener.
I listened silently but at the end I couldn’t stop myself. Couldn’t stop myself from asking the question that no one else had asked.
‘Maire, do you remember the day that she died?’
‘I’ll never forget it,’ she said.
It was 1941. The war. Maire was ten. She told us that at twelve noon everyone would sit down and listen to the news to hear what was happening. And then Leonard Woolf, Virginia’s husband, suddenly burst into their house and said: ‘Percy, help!’. He had come in from the garden that he treasured and discovered her note. They found her walking stick immediately but it took three weeks to recover her body.
I drank two large glasses of red wine in the Abergavenny Arms. But I want to thank Maire for turning today into a good day. For helping me to touch history for every woman who wakes up on a Sunday and needs a room of her own.