Thursday, 24 June 2010


After a staggeringly wonderful reading weekend at Tilton House (more of which later) it seemed rude not to wander down the track for a tour of the sublime next door neighbour of Charleston with the magical garden. Of course, it was hard not to resent the other guests which seemed to be wandering through my garden, but with a willing spirit I tried my best... the foxgloves, the roses, the wild strawberries, the lavender, the apple orchards, the pond, the waterlillies, the mosaics, the statues seemed to be from an age that I longed to be in.  Even the tour of the house with its casual boho decor, the careless sheaves of old magazines and books, the narrow beds adn the unheated bathrooms didn't distract from the longing to live there. I even had a slight spooky moment in Clive's boudoir (do men have boudoirs? - no matter) where I thought I saw from the corner of my eye, just for a nano second the outline of a portly smiling man... Vanessa's glasses were on the table (I read somewhere amongst the many, many books of the Bloomsbury lot that she started the day with strong coffee, an orange, and a cigarette which I find endearing) and her enduring art fills the small farmhouse that was rented to her and her family for more generations than she could possibly have imagined. 

In the shop the books on all things Bloomsbury are seductively prolific.  There was one amongst them that I had read the previous year - Mrs Woolf and the Servants by Alison Light that had stayed with me... Virginia and Vanessa were, so they thought, both blessed and cursed by the servant question.  Some remained 'loyal' and others 'turned against them'.  The life and conditions of their servants were probably no better or no worse than others of the time, but it made me realise that much as I longed to live in that house and take tea with Lytton and Carrington, Clive and Vanessa, waving at Angelica playing by the pond and watching the sun set over the haystacks whist discussing high art and sketching famous profiles, I would no doubt feel guilty about the scullery maid washing up in the chipped enamal sink with cold water. I sighed, stole a strawberry and went home to wash up in my warm kitchen with copious amounts of hot water.

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