Wednesday, 6 May 2015

A new blog...

The life is this wee blog has been short and sweet...

But I've created a new blog where I'll be posting from now on. 
All the posts from here have been gathered at my new blog home :)


Thursday, 30 April 2015

And the winner is....

I put the names of all those who commented here and on my Facebook page on bits of paper and put them in a lucky bowl, swished them around, closed my eyes, and drew out a name...

Congratulations!! Your new journal will be in post very soon :)

And thank you to all those who entered!!

Thursday, 16 April 2015


To celebrate my ??st birthday in a couple of weeks, I've offering this beautiful, handmade, hardback A5 journal from Not Only Paper.

It has lined pages and lovely extras...

Inside front cover

Inside back cover

Just leave a comment below or on my FB page (as I know not everyone subscribes to Blogger).

I will draw the winner on Thursday 30 April 2015 at 9am (BST) and I'll post it anywhere in the world the Post Office delivers :)

So, if you like Mrs Woolf, or know someone who does, do enter and help me celebrate my birthday!!


Monday, 23 March 2015

Ode to joy...

New stationery, a sunny Sunday afternoon, and THE most beautiful new ink...

It's J. Herbin's anniversary ink - can you believe they've been in business since 1670?? - stormy grey with flecks of gold... oh my... 

Apparently Virginia used to write with purple ink. I also bought samples of Herbin's scented inks and the purple one smells of violets - just like the parma violet sweets :) I'm guessing Virginia's wasn't scented...

I must say, I am soooo enjoying writing with a dip pen - I love to hear the scratchy nib, to see the page filling up word by word, line by line, the pausing to dip the nib, and the sight of inky fingers at the end of the day.

Writing a letter is an ordinary task, but it can become such a sacred act when performed slowly and mindfully...

If you'd like a handwritten letter, send a note in the contact form and I'll get one in the post... And it may even smell of violets! Or roses, or oranges, or...

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Saturday, 14 March 2015


One of my favourite sayings as a child was

Strangers are friends you haven't met yet.

It's what my Grandad would say whenever I shared my anxiety of meeting new kids - at school, at Brownies, on holiday...

Of course, I assumed he was the creator of the saying... only to discover at college it was W.B. Yeats, and the actual quote was

There are no strangers here; only friends you haven't yet met.

It's one of the reasons I loved having penpals as a kid and why I sponsored a child in Africa throughout my late teens - to make contact with strangers in other lands, so they were no longer strangers :)

Of course Virginia Woolf had many deep and lasting friendships. This is one of my favourite quotes

And we're lucky enough to read so many of the letters she wrote to and received from those friends.

As I wrote in this post, I love writing and receiving real mail! In this digital age, nothing lifts the spirits quite like hearing the letterbox jangle and seeing a handwritten envelope lying on the hallway mat :)

And yesterday, I received such a gift all the way from Australia, from new friend Robyn. We're both members of a Facebook group called Singing Over the Bones hosted by Sharon Blackie.

And look what was in said envelope...

... a beautiful piece of real art - wow!

The kindness and generosity of 'strangers' never ceases to amaze me - thank you, Robyn!!

I love how the internet connects people and makes the world feel like a global village, but it's the real, tangible objects that make those connections stronger and more vital. It's the fact that someone thought of you, wrote a letter/card/made some art(!), went to the Post Office and mailed it, just so you could know they were thinking of you...

It's a beautiful thing, to be sure, and something to be deeply treasured!

Friday, 6 March 2015

A new toy...

Today I received something I've always wanted...

I bought it on ebay, it's been refurbirshed but the lock doesn't work, which kept the cost down...

It came with the pen tray and the ink well, but I already had a dip pen.

There's plenty of room to store stationery under the writing boards, and I couldn't wait to play...

My first left-handed writing with a dip pen... As I say, 'It's just beautiful! Will I ever want to stop?'

Such a happy, happy girl!

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Writing letters...

This week in the mail, I received this wonderful book AND my membership to the Letter Writers Alliance (button on the sidebar takes you to their website). Yes, that really is a sew-on badge taped on the card - reminds me of the Girl Guides :-)

As my left-handed writing improves, I'm keen to return to a favourite pastime - writing letters! 

I've had pen-pals since childhood (I wrote to a French girl called Genevieve for several years), and in college I wrote to prisoners through a church scheme. During my year in Kenya (1987-88), receiving mail was the highlight of everyone's week, students and teachers alike.

In our increasingly virtual world, I believe REAL mail has a vital part to play... to really connect people, in a way instant messaging just can't. 

As I wrote in my journal recently, I played for hours as a child running a Post Office (do you remember those sets with the little alphabet stamps??), then at being a secretary writing very important memos on my trusty Petite typewriter.

(mine was very similar to this)

But nothing can beat a handwritten letter or card, especially if it's come from overseas with its interesting stamp... 

Of course, Virginia was a fine Woman of Letters, but even she scrawled notes and dashed-off missives. Do you ever wonder how biographers in the future will do their work as our generation leaves so little hard evidence behind? A friend is writing a book on her grandparents based on letters found in an attic - will that be only a romantic notion in the future?

I ponder these things as I journal, read Virginia's diary entries and her letters...

And should you want to exchange cards/letters, do get in touch via the Contact Form in the sidebar. Together we can create small treasures for those who come after us to discover and wonder about our lives...

Friday, 20 February 2015

Keeping a diary...

As I revisit Mrs Woolf's A Writer's Diary in the beautiful Persephone Books edition, I am reminded why I've always kept a diary, a journal...

... in which to spill thoughts, to rant, to relive life's experiences...

Clearly, my writing is not as remotely significant as VW's, not to anyone but me at least, but it IS important!!

After my stroke (almost 8 years ago), I couldn't read for almost a year, and I am still learning to write left-handed (I was right-handed, but my right side is now paralyzed). I now have a deep appreciation of why reading and writing are so difficult/demanding for children - so many parts of the brain are required to fire simultaneously!!

The first two years after the stroke were THE hardest! While I couldn't read or write, I was lost... me, Claire, was nowhere... (I was writing in my journal as the stroke happened - the pen falling from my hand was the first clue!)

But slowly, my coordination has improved, and with it my handwriting...

I'm still not up to writing much, or every day, but for the past few months I've been in a group of women, led by Angel Sullivan, and over a year and a day (from 23 October 2014 to 24 October 2015) we are creating a journal, a Book of Me.

Here are some of my pages...

I seriously doubt anyone in the future will look at this as a literary masterpiece(!), but that isn't the point. I doubt VW expected others to read - and critique(!) - her diaries as she wrote them. Here's her entry from almost 90 years ago to the day:

Monday, February 21st [1927]

Why not invent a new kind of play; as for instance:

Woman thinks...
He does.
Organ plays.
She writes,
They say:
She sings.
Night speaks
They miss

I think it must be something on this line - though I can't now see what. Away from facts; free; yet concentrated; prose yet poetry; a novel and a play.

Was this little entry in her diary the very first glimmerings of an idea that over a decade later became Between the Acts, her final novel, published after her death in 1941? 
I like to think so :)
And who knows, in among my diary ramblings there may be a kernel of an idea that grows into a sustained thought, a developed plan, even a final published piece one day...
I can dream!

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

TV treasure

Last September, I came upon this series, and lo and behold, one of my all-time favourite books was being featured...

Presented by Alexandra Harris (a favourite author herself - check out her debut book), I was treated to a half-hour delve into the background of this novel. I saw Virginia's writing shed at Monk's House, saw her handbound original manuscripts, with her crossings-out and notes in the margins, catching glimpses of a writer's mind at work.

It was fascinating, and reminded me why I so adore this novel, written and set in the early 1920s. I immediately grabbed my adored Folio Society copy, and began to read... 

Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself...

One of my favourite descriptions of this amazing book is by Michael Cunningham in the Introduction to this particular edition:

In Mrs Dalloway, Woolf is riffing... She's testing not only her powers but the limits of the novel itself. We can almost hear her thinking on the page... Mrs Dalloway is like an improvisatory jazz solo, played by a relatively new musician, possessed of astonishing powers.

It ravels and unravels. It has loose ends. It coheres, but in the disorderly way that life itself coheres. Like life itself, it has patterns and themes, but is not exactly about anything singular or easily identifiable. It is about itself. (p. ix)

Those who like novels to be action-packed page-turners may not enjoy this book, but those who like a more pensive, leisurely approach may... I find it gripping, for it tackles the BIG questions of life and death obliquely, rather than head-on. Within the hours of a single day, in the lives of individuals who never meet each other, we encounter the disparate thoughts, feelings, memories and fears of Clarissa Dalloway and Septimus Warren Smith, and they become real to us, a part of us.

As Michael Cunningham perceptively says in the Introduction, 

With Mrs Dalloway, Woolf argues that there are no insignificant lives, only insufficient ways of looking at them (p. xii)

I say, Amen to that!

[This was originally posted on my previous blog]

Tuesday, 17 February 2015


I've loved Virginia Woolf ever since I read To the Lighthouse and Mrs Dalloway as a teenager. Even then I realized her writing was unusual, with its focus on thoughts, feelings and inner-worlds. I so wished she was on my A level syllabus instead of the usual Dickens and Austen *sigh*

And now 35 years later, I've decided to start this blog dedicated to this extraordinary woman, her writing and the people in her life. Just today, I joined the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain (there's a button the sidebar). 

Part of me is thinking, 'Surely, there's more than enough on the internet about Virginia already. Who wants to read your two penneth?' And the answer is, 'Maybe no one.' And the truth is, they don't need to...

I am writing this purely for myself, my own interest, to work out why I'm fascinated by this woman and her life... If others do read it, and pitch in, I'll be thrilled - I do so enjoy good conversation!