I've done a really unusual thing for me...well two unusual things actually.
I keep getting emails related to that time when I was a nurse once upon a time. Professional questionnaires to be precise, and I always delete them thinking far too much bother because can I even remember anything. Well another one arrived, and it was related to my exact bit of the NHS world...and it would take about thirty minutes...and in return I would be sent a £15 Amazon voucher.
Well suddenly and miraculously of course I thought perhaps I could remember everything after all. So I did it and it probably took me longer because I really had consigned it all to the dustbin in my mind, got rid of all the books, sold the baby massage dolls, but I managed to drag it all up, recycled it all and waited for my Amazon voucher to arrive.
And thought terrible things about the people who had sent the questionnaire...wished a plague of carbuncles upon them etc
And then suddenly there it was in my inbox, a £15 Amazon gift voucher.
I retracted all curses, thanked them kindly, redeemed the voucher before it was somehow taken off me for thinking unkind thoughts, and knew immediately which book I would buy with these ill-gotten gains.
We were fortunate enough to catch the last day of The Great War in Portraits exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery whilst in London a few weeks ago, and more about that in the autumn because we are in jolly summer holiday festival mode here now, but suffice to say it was one of the most thought-provoking and cleverly curated exhibitions I have been to in some time. As we walked out of the gallery, there it was, a little sign announcing that the next one would be Virginia Woolf - Art Life and Vision to run from July through until October, so my £15 voucher instantly bought me a copy of the book to read before seeing the exhibition.
This is something I never do and I don't know why. How much more I will enjoy it for the reading of this...
and how wonderful to savour some vicarious pleasure from the exhibition until I can get there.
I would have thought there can't be much more to write about Virginia Woolf. I had wondered as much when I picked up Alexandra Harris's biography a few years ago but had been pleasantly surprised, and I am never disappointed with anything Frances Spalding writes so I have high hopes.
"....Throughout her life, Woolf, a sharp observer and a brilliant wordsmith, composed memorable vignettes-in-words of people she knew or encountered, and was herself portrayed by artists and photographers on many occasions. Illustrated with over a hundred works from public and private collections, documentary photographs and extracts from her writings, this book catches Woolf's appearance and that of the world around her. It also points to her pursuit of the hidden, the fleeting and the obscure, in her desire to understand better the place and moment in time and in history in which she lived. In charting some of the milestones in Woolf's life, author Frances Spalding acknowledges the seen and unseen aspects of her subject; the outer and the inner, the recognisable and the concealed."
A first glance at the book suggests that this exhibition, whilst showing some of the more well-known pictures, may well also contain some previously unseen and certainly lesser known, as well as letters, notebooks, artwork for book jackets and special editions of the books, all manna to the devoted fan of all things Virginia.
In his foreword Sandy Nairne, Director of the NPG suggests that ...
'...we are still captivated by trying to discover the essential spirit alongside the biographical narrative of an important thinker. And while an exhibition cannot encapsulate a person, it can aim to connect images, objects and ideas, and to offer an imaginative rendering of them.'
Virginia Woolf remains the single writer I turn to most often for a point of view, all helped by the fortuitous day that I happened to go into a second-hand book shop to see someone's entire collection of Virginia Woolf's books being put out on the shelves for sale. The complete six-volume set of the letters, in pristine, new and unopened condition for £60, and I didn't really have the money to spare so I went off for a cup of tea and to think about it. It took me about twenty seconds and I possibly left the tea brewing to dash back and buy them before anyone else did, and I have never ever regretted that purchase. And the diaries, £1 each at a charity book sale that we happened upon by chance on another fine and memorable day. Beautiful and treasured books all, and ones I would never part with.
Someone (thank you) sent me a wonderful Virginia Woolf quote last week that completely moulded itself into the situation that had arisen, and I am still thinking about the quote I used in connection with the post about King's College in Cambridge...about the idea like a fish landed on the grass. I had been extrapolating it to embrace an idea only delicately hooked and somehow still free to wriggle off, one that would be easily lost by a distraction if not properly caught and landed...happens to me all the time, if you could know the number of blog posts that have got away because my notebook isn't to hand. But it has to be the mark of an 'important' thinker' (Virginia Woolf, not me) that her observations can still be so relevant and in a world she could never have imagined, or that such a little gem of an idea creates such an ongoing ripple of thoughts in my mind, so I can't wait to be inspired by both the book and the exhibition eventually.
If anyone has been to the exhibition I would love to know your thoughts, meanwhile I shall be hunkering down with the book once Port Eliot Festival is over.