A Room of One’s Own?

‘A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.’ A quote from Virginia Woolf at the beginning of ‘A Room of One’s Own’ which I have just finished reading, I have been dipping into it on my Kindle over a period of time. Virginia was invited to give a series of lectures on women and fiction in 1928 and they were published in 1929.

Of course we imagine the Bloomsbury Group had plenty of rooms and money, not to mention more time than ordinary folk and I can hear fellow writers of both sexes saying we would all like a room of our own and some money.

But looking back into the past with Virginia Woolf we would surely agree that the dominance of men in the field of literature was not due to the lack of talent among women, but absence of opportunity. Even Jane Austen did not have a room of her own, she never had a home of her own, just a kind rich brother. In the Jane Austen museum in Bath I saw an example of her tiny handwriting, small pieces of paper could be quickly hidden if someone came into the room. In the Chawton, Hampshire house, where Jane spent her final years and did her most productive writing, she did not allow the creaky door to be fixed because it acted as a warning that someone was about to enter the room. She always shared a bedroom with her sister. How peaceful the house was we cannot know for sure, but with a household of four ladies and a couple of servants, it should have been quiet and certainly she did not have to contend with toddlers running riot or teenage boys clumping up and down the stairs. One of Woolf’s other theories is that women became novelists rather than poets, because it takes more concentration to write a poem and women were more likely to be interrupted. Of course the great poets that have come down through history were usually well off men.

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But for Virginia Woolf, Jane Austen stands out because she writes about women’s lives, not about them as background to men’s lives. She wrote what she wanted to write. The Austen family lived through the Napoleonic Wars, but there is no mention of them. Soldiers are important only for young ladies to fall in love with or run away with.

Writing ninety years ago Wolfe lived in a world where everything had been changed by the Great War. Women now had the vote, they had been important in the workforce during the war and with the loss of so many men, motherhood and domestic bliss, or domestic confines were no longer an option for many women. There was still poverty and hardship, the welfare state was a long way off, but Woolf wanted women to take any opportunities for education and to write. What would she have made of the Twenty First Century?

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With her husband Leonard she founded the Hogarth Press in 1917, so she was able to publish her own books and certainly didn’t need to decide on a genre. She could never have imagined the internet and digital publishing, but she would surely have been impressed that so many women of all ages are writing, and writing whatever they want. But do we still need a room of our own and £500 a year to be able to write? Many of us didn’t start writing till after A Levels, our children’s A Levels; how many students come home for the university holidays to discover their bedroom has been turned into a sewing room or a computer room? Many writers don’t start till they have retired.

I wrote my first novel on a lap top on the dining table, progressed to a desk top computer in the corner of the bedroom, last year we rearranged the house; junior visitors now have to sleep on air beds, Cyberspouse has a computer room and I have a writer’s den; Virginia Woolf didn’t say a room of your own requires a visit to Ikea, but mine did.

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But if you have to write on a lap top curled up on the end of the sofa while the football is on television, you can still enter the digital room or the ethereal mansion where there is room for every writer. Is your blog a room of your own?

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Do you have a room of your own or can you forget your surroundings once you are in your characters’ heads?

 

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Knepp Wildland: A rewilding success story in Britain

My green share of the week, it is always reassuring to know land can be rewilded.

Life & Soul Magazine

Rewilding has turned around Knepp Estate – a 3,500-acre estate in West Sussex – in to a haven for rare species including turtle doves, nightingales, peregrine falcons, lesser spotted woodpeckers and purple emperor butterflies.

Almost twenty years ago, husband and wife team Isabella Tree and Charlie Burrell set about transitioning Knepp Estate from economically unsustainable intensive farming on heavy clay soil to stepping back and letting nature take over.

Farmed intensively since WW2, the farm rarely made a profit. But now with the couple’s focus on rewilding, Knepp Estate has not only become a profitable farm but it is nurturing and developing biodiversity too.

Thanks to the introduction of free-roaming cattle, ponies, pigs and deer – proxies of the large animals that once roamed Britain – the 3,500 acre project has seen extraordinary increases in wildlife numbers and diversity in little over a decade.

According to Knepp Estate, these animals need…

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Hungarian Calamity [Part 2]

If you have ever been stuck waiting for the break down truck to pick you up you will sympathise with Grace – find out in today’s blog if Grace and Hubby do get picked up…

Anecdotage

Last week’s post saw our intrepid travellers, Grace and Husband marooned in their camper van in supermarket ‘Auchan’s’ car park a few miles north of Budapest…

We lunched in the car park, keeping an eye on the access road for a pick-up truck and bickering a little [Husband wanting to reverse to be located more easily, me wanting to let things be].

My phone rang. ‘My neem ees Eleezabet’. We confirmed that I was me. We went over the vehicle’s vital statistics. ‘Pleeeese beee patient’ pleaded Elizabet, before ringing off. Time crawled on…

Husband went for a stroll around the shopping centre and returned. I went for a stroll into Auchan and returned. Time passed. Slowly. Elizabet called again. ‘Eees veery imbortant about your vehicle’ she reiterated, and I gave her the dimensions once more. ‘I ‘av to find a veehicle to peek you up’ she said.

We waited.

At…

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Friday Flash Fiction – Roger

Roger had enjoyed his exhilarating swim in the sea, but a breeze had sprung up and the others wanted to stroll through the gardens into town. They dodged other holiday makers, jumped over the rails onto the lawns and joined in a ball game with a group of teenagers. When they reached the square, someone suggested ice cream, but there was so much going on it was difficult to spot a kiosk. They weaved their way through shoppers and families, past a carousel, avoided a man singing out of tune and stared at a human statue, his gold skin glistening with sweat. They took in the exotic scents of the international food stalls, but as the sun reappeared from behind a cloud they still longed for ice cream.

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It was at this moment that Roger saw her, blond hair, perfect figure, alluring expression, but as he edged closer, away from the others, he detected a cheap scent and wondered if the sun had affected his brain. Unlike the human statue who was real, she was lifelike, but lifeless, just a model. Then Roger had an idea, it would be a laugh, the others would certainly laugh. He would pretend to believe she was real. Close up, her unblinking soulful brown eyes gazed at him; he paused for a moment then commenced the game. His lips touched her soft neck and for a moment he could believe she was real.

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Everything seemed to happen at once; Lucy watched her boyfriend and brother approaching, laden with ice creams, her little sister waved from the carousel, she heard a man shouting, a child crying. It was at this moment she realised that if she wasn’t holding Roger’s lead, who was?

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Geoffrey’s morning with the ‘Sponsor a Guide Dog’ stall had been more rewarding than anticipated. The cuddly life sized Labrador attracted more attention than a real dog. He had forgiven his mother for landing him with the task when he realised how many attractive young women, in skimpy holiday outfits, stopped to stroke ‘Cindy the Wonder Dog.’ It was while he was chatting to one of these young ladies that the commotion broke out; an enormous shaggy dog had seized the helpless Cindy by the throat and was shaking her with what could only be described as blood lust. Children were crying, stuffing was flying. This situation had not been covered by the guidelines for volunteers.

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‘Roger, Roger, here boy… Daddy’s got you an ice cream…’

A young woman was shrieking at the dog, but he took no notice.

A curious crowd had circled round the now demolished stand, but parted like The Red Sea when the wild dog dashed for freedom, with the eviscerated, no longer cuddly Cindy in his jaws.

A young man made a grab for the trailing lead, but fell headlong in a splatter of ice cream. Suddenly the dog halted, dropped its prey, sniffed the air and returned, tail wagging, to lap up the ice cream.

Roger wagged his tail furiously, his friends had enjoyed the joke so much they had given him all their ice cream.

 

 

Help! I’m Living with a Blogger

You are sitting watching the football cup final you’ve been looking forward to all week, or catching up with your favourite soap and a voice keeps disturbing your enjoyment with remarks such as the following.

Fifteen Likes

I’ve been reblogged in German

My first Hugs

Oh, another new follower

Seven flags, the map’s looking good this evening, Palestinian Territories, Thailand…

You are living with a blogger and need to get help.

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If you are both concentrating on a Scandi Noir drama your beloved blogger will still sneak a look at their phone or iPad and ruin the tension by missing the sub titles and asking what they just said.

Kindly ask them if they would like a cup of coffee before the news comes on and there will be no immediate response.

 Oh sorry, I was just making an intelligent comment on someone’s blog.

It’s important to try and draw your blogger back into reality and engage in conversation. ‘When shall we invite Debs and Dave round for dinner?’

What? Hang on, I’ve got to reply to this comment.

To check if they are listening to you at all try some test remarks. ‘I’ve ordered that £4,000 pound camera / designer handbag, Amazon are delivering it tomorrow, will you be in?’

Okay.

Or be more drastic. ‘I’m leaving you.’

If they remain glued to their screen or start laughing it’s likely they have not listened to you for at least a week.

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A get away from it all holiday may be a good idea. But tell Blogger the taxi / train / plane will be two hours earlier than it actually is, because they will not pack until the last moment, too busy scheduling blogs so their ten followers won’t miss them.

 At last you will be sitting looking out over a beautiful lake or more adventurously climbing a mountain pass. Look behind to see if Blogger is still following you; there is no sign of them. They have to keep stopping to take photos for the blog series they are planning on mountain walking.

Later, when you are sipping your cocktails and warming up in front of a roaring fire or cooling off on a tropical veranda, you will hear a cry of anguish, they can’t get any wifi. You remind them their blogs are scheduled, but they still want to check if the blogs have gone on, if they have any Likes or comments. They also have to read the blogs of the two thousand people they follow.

In the luxury hotel room you can’t afford, because your other half has given up their job to write full time, you hope for romance, but the starry look in Blogger’s eyes is due to the brilliant idea they have just had for a totally original blog.

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The only way to survive living with a blogger is to join them. If you only go on line to order your Tesco shop or book concert tickets you need to expand your horizons. Join Facebook and make friends with hundreds of strangers, then regale details of their boring lives to your other half when they are trying to write their next blog. Or you could go on Instagram, that’s very addictive; soon you will be obsessed with taking photographs and getting Likes and followers and you won’t be talking to each other at all except on line.

But maybe such drastic action won’t be necessary. Either the novelty will wear off and Blogger will be feeling bloggered and unblogged, or they will gain thousands of followers from all around the world, including North Korea and will be so busy answering clever comments with intelligent answers, they won’t have time to give you a running commentary.

 

Three Billboards, Three Episodes, Three Continents

Once upon a time you could watch television or go to the cinema. If you loved a film, chances are you would never see it again, unless it ended up on television. If you missed an episode of your favourite serial, that was it, gone for ever. The advent of video machines changed everything; you could go to Blockbusters and rent a video of your favourite film to watch at home. If you were going out or did shift work you could record your favourite programme and come home to find you had pressed the wrong channel…

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Since then viewing has become far more complicated and gone are the days when everyone watched the Sunday night drama and talked about it on Monday. Catch up, iplayer, fire sticks, boxes of all sorts, Netflix, cables and satellites; gigantic screen televisions down to watching programmes on your phone; take your pick. But a good film, comedy or television drama still stands out.

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I love a good comedy. We don’t have Netflix, but we know someone who does and the fact that they moved thousands of miles away doesn’t seem to have stopped us using it. So we have been catching up with ‘The Letdown’, the hilarious and realistic Australian portrayal of parenthood. If you have ever had a baby or there are new babies in the family you will recognise the scenarios. Gone are the days of sitting bored and lonely in the dark watches of the night, feeding a baby who is very cuddly, but not intellectually stimulating. Modern breastfeeding mothers are on their smart phones exchanging sympathy with sleepless mums all over the world and probably looking up the latest advice on the many Facebook support groups. The downside is that new parents are under pressure more than ever to do the right thing, whatever that is. If you get the chance, join Audrey as she meets other mothers and thinks they are all doing it better than her…

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We have finally caught up with Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri. After seeing it reviewed on one of our favourite film programmes, knowing it was co-financed by Film4Productions, I was confident it was my sort of film, even though I don’t like films with lots of swearing and violence. The next day, talking about cinema with a friend, I mentioned there was a film coming out that Cyberspouse and I both wanted to see, though by then I had forgotten what it was called and what it was about.

https://www.film4productions.com/productions/2018/three-billboards-outside-ebbing-missouri

It completely lived up to our expectations. Dark indeed, with violence and swearing, but the humour was brilliant, the story poignant. To carry off a film like this you need the best actors. My only pre conceived idea was that Francis McDormand would be good, but Woody Harleson and Sam Rockwell were also brilliant.

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A Very English Scandal on BBC television was three episodes of perfect Sunday evening drama. Russell T Davies’ production was blackly comic (are you sensing a theme here of my taste in viewing? ) and has had viewers agog.  Political scandals are not new, but the 1979 trial of Jeremy Thorpe, the leader of the Liberal Party and Member of Parliament for North Devon, revealed years of cover ups, lying and a farcical attempted murder that you couldn’t make up. It was also a story, familiar now, of a man in power abusing the trust of the most vulnerable. Even today, politicians who are gay often don’t ‘come out’ till their mother has died, or to avoid upsetting their family’s religious sensibilities. Before 1967 all sexual activity between men was illegal throughout the United Kingdom with heavy criminal penalties and was a sure way to destroy one’s career. Thorpe’s sexual encounters with other men and his affair with Norman Scott had to be kept secret, even if it meant killing the young man. Perhaps the public were most upset that the Great Dane was killed by mistake, Norman was only spared because the gun jammed.

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The most scandalous thing about the trial was the judge’s totally biased summing up for which he was later lampooned by comedian Peter Cook. All those accused of conspiracy to murder were found Not Guilty.

This delicious three part drama, with its dark humour, worked because of the excellent acting in every part, it was Hugh Grant’s best ever role and Ben Wishaw is always brilliant in every character he takes on. We watched in real time and the icing on the cake was the showing straight afterwards of a 1979 Panorama documentary, intended to be shown after Jeremy Thorpe was found guilty. It had never been shown before. And there was more drama to follow. Tom Mangold who made the documentary, was walking his dog in the park and met a man who claimed to have also been hired to kill Norman Scott, but didn’t go through with it. Andrew Newton, the man accused of the attempted killing was claimed by police to be dead, but is now claimed to be very much alive, living under another name. Gwent Police have reopened their enquiry into the scandal. Sunday night news showed a plainclothes officer knocking at a front door; of course no one was in, another amusing post script.

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/reviews/a-very-english-scandal-review-bbc-episode-3-hugh-grant-ben-whishaw-a8381421.ht

 

Hungarian Calamity [Part 1]

One city or two? On her journey along the Danube Grace has arrived at Budapest, a city I would love to visit. But what calamity will befall our travellers?

Anecdotage

Budapest. Full of Eastern promise; the streets lined with ornate statuary, outrageously opulent architecture from myriad eras and cultures. Onion-topped, gilded, tiled, carved, stuccoed and frescoed to within an inch of its life. Every corner housing a kebab shop yet room for a ‘Tesco Express’.

This is grandness on the top of the scale, except that the opulence falls short at the campsite gates, where a ‘refurbishment’ [something we’ve seen a lot of, this trip] meant porta-cabin showers and no functioning washing machine. The women’s showers, complete with flimsy curtains opened on to a car park, offering no privacy to those groping for a towel. Ho hum-

After some deliberating we navigated by Metro to the centre of the city, where ‘hop on hop off’ awaited, touristy but acceptable to anyone who has a great deal to see and not much time to see it.

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Budapest is made up from…

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Flash Fiction Friday – Fact or Fiction?

In Charge

 You will be working as part of a team, ensuring our guests have a relaxing holiday experience. Full training will be given. Other languages will be an advantage, but people skills and personality are more important.

A job that was a holiday sounded easy and working as part of a team was just what Sandra needed, no responsibility. She had no languages and her people skills depended on the people, but how did they define personality? In her last job, promoted to team leader, she only had two people to supervise, but motivating Kevin the cleaner proved to be an impossible task.

Well it wasn’t an interview to be a television presenter, so Sandra decided to go for it; she was not cut out for stressful work so the relaxed atmosphere of Uncoached Tours – holidays for the discerning traveller with the good company that provides good company, sounded just up her street and the travelling would get her out of  a rut.

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The first holiday was wonderful and she could not believe she was being paid to go on steam train rides, visit cathedral cities and stay at smart hotels. Andrew the tour guide could have been on television, his wonderful personality made up for Sandra’s lack of it. Helen, the PCO ( pastoral care officer ) was made for the job, the guests loved her and she listened to all their problems; rather too avidly Sandra thought, but dismissed such disloyal thoughts. Employees, or rather colleagues of Uncoached Tours were always loyal, that’s what made the company great. Sandra had absorbed all the words of wisdom on induction day.

Bringing up the rear, that was her job and she had acquired her own little group of fans by the end of the first day. They teased her as she urged them to keep up, but enjoyed chatting with Sandra more than listening to Andrew’s commentary through their earphones. As long as she kept the parrot on a stick in sight all was well. Andrew carried it aloft, so he was easily identified when they found themselves with other tour groups.

‘I only came for the steam trains’ confided John, the lovely old widower.

‘This holiday is a birthday present from my children,’ explained Hannah the quiet divorcee ‘they expect me to be out and about meeting interesting people.’

The last day of the holiday was spent watching the royal wedding on the hotel’s big screen, followed by a champagne lunch. Sandra felt bereft as they waved goodbye to the guests, but there was the next assignment to look forward to, five days of London and the River Thames.

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Sandra was just packing to go down to London when she got the phone call.

well done on passing your probationary period. Slight change of plan, you’re doing Beautiful Berkshire, bank holiday Monday, pick up the guests at Slough railway station, first stop Windsor Castle.

Sandra could hardly quell her excitement, she had never been to Windsor, never seen a royal castle, now she would visit the scene of the royal wedding. As the train from Paddington drew into the station she spotted a chap in the company uniform.

‘Sandra? Did you get the tour pack. Is it your first time as a guide?’

‘Guide?’ the first misgivings sank in. ‘I don’t lead, I just round up.’

‘Gavin won’t be leading for a while with his broken leg, didn’t they tell you? But you’ll be fine, you can’t get lost, the branch line goes frequently, straight into Windsor and Eton Central. Walk out and the castle is right in front of you, apparently, haven’t actually been there myself. Here’s the tour agenda, tonight’s hotel is near the castle and the crib sheet for the castle visit is on the front page, or would be if we had a ring file like we used to. All the gen is on a tablet now. Oh, mustn’t forget the parrot.’

Sandra had still not got a word in edgeways as he handed her the azure and scarlet feathered creature on its long stick. Suddenly he was gone and an assortment of people were gathering around her. She tried not to panic, they all had their pre booked train tickets and it was not difficult to find the platform, hordes of bank holiday trippers were heading that way, along with other tour parties.

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The train had made two return journeys before they got on board, but at least she had time to chat to an English speaking tour guide. The other woman laughed when Sandra told her tale.

‘Uncoached Tours, are they still in business? I got out as soon as I could. It’s going to be manic today, tours from every nation, but as long as you have your tickets booked for the castle…’

‘Tickets, do you need tickets?’

‘They’ll be a code number if UT booked on line, anyway, just keep an eye on my Saint George’s flag and you won’t get lost, turn left at Queen Victoria’s statue.’

Passengers poured off the little train as it pulled up at the end of the line. Only a few people got stabbed as Sandra tried to manoeuvre her parrot on a stick. There was no sign of a castle, only designer shops, eating places and crowds. She had no idea if her guests were all following as they were swept along.

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At last they were outside and before them on the other side of the road was a castle, and on the pavement was a queue of people stretching back down the hill further than she could see. The day was grey and drab, not like the sunny wedding weather. She tried to speak into the tiny microphone with no idea if her guests could hear. Ahead, the white flag was progressing and Sandra felt a little hopeful as Queen Victoria glared down at her. There were more people around than for the wedding, uniforms and yellow jackets steered people and they followed to the end of the pre booked tickets queue, further from the castle than when they started.

Not all Sandra’s guests were wearing their parrot badge, but the ones that were did not seem happy as the queue shuffled along. She tried to read interesting facts from the tablet, but the guests started fiddling with the audio boxes hanging round their necks. A man in uniform asked for her group’s name and booking details, as she fumbled with the tablet and shook her head he strode off, only to return ten minutes later with a frown.

‘No record of booking for your company, the best thing you can do is come back at nine o’clock tomorrow.’

Sandra felt panic rising. The guests had all heard the conversation on their audio equipment as the uniform ushered Sandra out of the queue. A man with his parrot badge upside down stepped forward.

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‘He’s right, did you see the queue to buy tickets. Why don’t you take us to see some other sights, such as where Charles and Camilla got married?’

‘The only sight I want to see is a sign for the Ladies’ said another voice.

‘That’s okay, they got married above the public toilets, come on, this way folks.’

Sandra tottered to catch up with him, it had occurred to her to run away, but she could do with a comfort stop as well.

The man grinned at her. ‘I only come on Uncoached Tours  because they are such fun, something always goes wrong, but they pick reasonable hotels. A drink, a meal and material for my novels is all I ask.’ He turned to the others, grasping the parrot out of Sandra’s hand. ‘Here we are at The Guildhall. After our comfort stop we’ll stroll down to the Long Walk and see where the royal carriage processed last week, at least the sun is coming out now.’

Sandra wondered if he purposely wore his parrot badge upside down.

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Read about Windsor in yesterday’s blog ‘Windsor After That Wedding’

and as it’s Windsor Week at Tidalscribe look out for Silly Saturday –

‘Not The Royal Wedding’

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See more pictures of Windsor at Beachwriter’s Blog

https://www.ccsidewriter.co.uk/chapter-five-beach-writer-s-blog/

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