My take on Virginia Woolf’s suicide

Virginia's garden

Virginia’s garden – Rodmell

She sat down to write. Nothing new there. It was a daily ritual. She never knew what would come out of her pen or typewriter these days. But this, she knew exactly what to say. Everything was clear. She knew what to do. Write the letter and leave it. Walk to the river. Find something heavy to weigh herself down just in case panic made her want to survive. Walk into the river. Drown. Simple. Everything resolved in one easy move. No more voices. No more headaches. No more noise. Just quiet death. He would understand. He always understood. He looked at her with such compassion. She wished she could feel better. For him.

***

Her coat was wrapped around her ankles and it clung to them like a persistent child. She felt the cold penetrating her shoes, her stockings, her calves and up her legs. It was like icy tentacles shooting through her veins. Still she stepped deeper. There was no turning back this time. As she stepped in to the fast flowing muddy water her coat released its grip on her ankles and floated out like a balloon. The stones in her pockets felt like lead weights dragging her body deeper into the river. She was cold to her chest now and had to keep breathing steadily to stay fixed on her goal. Gravity stepped in and was pulling her down. Her plan was working. The tide felt strong but each muddy step felt like an iron anchor sinking into the mud bottom. Each step grew harder as she tried to pick her feet up and take another step deeper.

The shock of water on her face made her falter. It slapped some sense of reality back for one second and as she opened her mouth the water rushed in. Her head was pulled backwards as the river pulled at her hair. The cold ran through her insides too now. It wouldn’t be long.

***

The armchair sagged under the weight of years. It lay waiting. The window opened over the lush garden while the door shut it out. Spring blossoms nodded around the window behind the glass. A light drizzle spattered on the window. It was damp and cold inside. The electric fire glowed fluorescent against the tiled fireplace. It barely penetrated into the room. The books shivered on their book case and were huddled together for warmth. Paintings hung limply on the dark, damp walls.

He’d taken to being in her rooms, waiting for news. He knew she was gone but the cold comfort from her room cheered him.

***

He knew she was dead. He’d known on the first day. It was now the fifth day. He waited. For the telephone call, or the knock at the door. Everyday he walked to the river tracing the steps he thought she had taken.

They had found her walking stick abandoned on the bank. He roamed the canal path for another sign but there was none. He knew he wouldn’t find anything. She had planned this. It hadn’t been a clumsy mistake when she’d come home soaked to the skin the other day. She had tried then, but something had gone wrong. This time she had been better prepared. It had been definite. She didn’t plan to return. Her letter had told him as much. He didn’t need to take the letter out – he had memorised it in the first few moments of reading it.

***

It was three weeks before they found her. She had been abused by the tide and by the elements. The local boys had mistaken her for floating driftwood and thrown stones at her lifeless corpse.

I fully admit that I am not a Virginia Woolf scholar. This is entirely made up from my basic knowledge of her death.

My little Sunday afternoon idyll

Virginia Woolf Summer Events

Leonard and Virginia, as I Remember Them – Cecil Woolf
Friday 21st June 7:30pm – 8:30pm
Rodmell Village Hall

Cecil Woolf is the nephew of Leonard and Virginia Woolf. He followed in their footsteps by establishing his own independent literary publishing house in 1960. Among many other works, he publishes the Bloomsbury monographs, which celebrate the life, work and times of the members of the Bloomsbury Group. He was fourteen when his Aunt Virginia died, and had paid a number of visits to the Woolfs at Rodmell and in London. In this talk he will reveal fascinating insights into his time spent at Monk’s House, and his childhood recollections of Leonard and Virginia.
£10 – includes a glass of wine

Portrait of Virginia Woolf by George Charles B...

Portrait of Virginia Woolf by George Charles Beresford Deutsch: Die zwanzigjährige Virginia Woolf, fotografiert von George Charles Beresford (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An Introduction to Virginia Woolf – Sarah M. Hall
Friday 5th July 7:30pm – 8:30pm
Rodmell Village Hall

Learn more about Rodmell’s most famous resident, with writer and editor Sarah M. Hall. Sarah is a prominent member of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain, a regular contributor to the Virginia Woolf Bulletin, and author of Before Leonard: The Early Suitors of Virginia Woolf and The Bedside, Bathtub & Armchair Companion to Virginia Woolf and Bloomsbury. £10 – includes a glass of wine

To the River – Olivia Laing
Friday 19th July 7:30pm – 8:30pm
Rodmell Village Hall

Shortlisted for the Ondaatje Prize and the Dolman Travel Book of the Year, To the River is the story of the Ouse, the Sussex river in which Virginia Woolf drowned in 1941. One midsummer week, over sixty years after the author’s suicide, Olivia Laing walked Woolf’s river from source to sea, resulting in a passionate investigation into how history resides in a landscape – and how ghosts never quite leave the places they love. £10 – includes a glass of wine

Monk’s House Garden – Caroline Zoob
Friday 2nd August 7:30pm – 8:30pm
Rodmell Village Hall

Caroline Zoob, celebrated textile designer and embroiderer, and her husband Jonathan, were the last tenants at Monk’s House, where they spent 10 years caring for the beautiful garden. 2013 will see the publication of Caroline’s book about the remarkable garden that Leonard Woolf created, and in this talk she will reveal fascinating insights into how it has changed over the past 94 years. £10 – includes a glass of wine

A new VW play

“A Knife In The Whale”, a play by Liz Jardine-Smith and directed by Dominique Gerrard will be shown at the Compass Theatre in Ickenham (Uxbridge) on 31st May. “Virginia Woolf spent her life seeking to understand her own mind. This new play explores the links between her creativity and the mental illness she suffered throughout her life.” http://www.compasstheatre.co.uk/index.php/events/a-knife-in-the-whale/

Leonard Woolf Society

An inaugural meeting of the Leonard Woolf Society was held in London on 24th May 2012. The date 24th May was chosen because it was the day of departure of Leonard Woolf from Colombo in 1911. A Symposium on Leonard Woolf is being held on 24th May at Room G37 Senate House, Malet St., London WC1; there is also an entrance from Russell Square. Time is 2.30 pm to 6.00 pm. Registration fee of £10 for the Symposium includes LWS membership for 1 year.

Enormous poppies!

These were taken on a stunning summer’s day in the Monk’s House gardens.  Poppies the size of dinner plates!

Life goes on…

So much is happening at the moment.  I realised as I was catching  up with a friend over lunch yesterday and I ran through the list of what I was doing right now.  It’s all amazingly exciting though and of my own creation.  Our play – “In Me We Trust” now has its own website: www.inmewetrust.co.uk.  Please go and have a look and if you happen to be in Southwick in October please book tickets and come and see our play.  We have some casting left to do but it is all coming together nicely.

I started volunteering for the National Trust, which I love.  I am volunteering at the beautiful Monk’s House in Rodmell which was home to Virginia and Leonard Woolf.  The gardens are stunning and the house is small but perfectly formed.  No attempt has been made to “pretty it up”.  It is their style, their choices, their lives…a wonderful glimpse into the past.

I have also just published my own novel – a first!  I wrote “The Girl from the Sea” a fair while ago and was waiting for something to come along and tell me it was the right time.  What is the right time though?  There is never a right time to do anything.  Sometimes you just have to do what you believe is the right course of action.  I love the fact that my book is out there and is part of the Universe.  Even if it never amounts to very much – it’s mine!

Other than that it’s just every day stuff!