Thursday, 2 February 2012

The Nature of a Room

Halfway through today's minimum target for the freelance work, so because it's miserable outside - definitely NOT walking weather - I shall let my fingers do the walking (as it were) here instead! Which brings me straight to my thoughts for the morning... 

It is supposed to be summer in the southern hemisphere, which means for Sydney balmy, humid, sunny days, wearing as little as possible. Not many layers, including wool socks, because it's so darned cold as well as wet today! It's been the wettest summer in a long time, and I can deal with the rain, but it's really cold today on top of that and I'm finding out that this will be a very cold house come winter - and my room is going to have some additions...a heater, some curtains to keep the heat in, a comfier chair that I can have cushions in and on - and I need to get my ugg boots out of storage!

I haven't got much further with Virginia Woolf, and I don't remember if she goes into any detail about the necessary accoutrements of a room. I did finish What Katy Did and then What Katy Did Next, and it's interesting how much rooms figure in both stories - unless it's just that I'm particularly focused on rooms at present.

Initially, Katy's main impulse if in a room, is to leave it as quickly as possible for the freedom of outdoors. The rough and tumble of the way she approaches life is ill fitted to the constraints of the inside rooms of her day. The outside rooms she and the other children construct in the orchard and the woodshed fit her madcap style much more comfortably.

When disaster strikes and, through her own disobedience, Katy is confined to bed with a back injury, the first weeks are spent in darkness, in a room that becomes unfriendly, dark, dreary and messy through her misery and lack of interest. A visit from her invalid cousin, Helen, provides a lesson for her in creating a space where she can be, if not happy with her lot, content and comfortable, and that is attractive for visitors. Eventually, Katy's room becomes the hub of the house; a bright, airy space with comfortable chairs, pretty pictures, fresh flowers and a welcoming hostess.

Mended and walking, Katy is sent with Clover for a year of boarding school to experience something other than the domestic cares that have made them grow up too fast. Their first bedroom is on the end of the row, quite the pick of the floor, with a lovely outlook, sunny aspect and congenial, if comically scrape-prone next door neighbour. With the support of their father, the girls have a washstand installed - beginning a fashion as all the other girls write home asking their parents to organise the same for them, and ending a system of communal bathing in the school. Katy's genius for creating a pretty, homey space means she and Clover have lots of visitors and become hostesses to a regular group of close friends. When - as emerges right at the end of the book - another girl plants a note to a college boy signed by Katy that is discovered, the girls are moved, as punishment, to a much less salubrious room back down the corridor that doesn't overlook the neighbouring boys college because they are unable to convince their headmistress that Katy is innocent. Their first day is spent in tears due to the injustice, and bemoaning the dark pokiness of the room in comparison to their previous chamber. Its, seemingly, only asset is the heater in the hall immediately outside the door, which will warm the room during the coming winter - which proves to be a small benefit, given the severity of the winter they experience.

Living too far away from home to make returning there for the holidays possible, they go with their cousin Lilly, who is also at the school, to stay with her family. After being given a tour of their aunt and uncle's very grand house with imposing and lavishly decorated rooms, they are ushered by Lilly into a small back bedroom which is where her mother always puts friends who stay, saying it is good enough for schoolgirls. It is, of course, a perfectly lovely room by Katy and Clover's standards, but indicative of Lilly's inherent snobbery.

The year over, the girls travel joyfully homewards to an excited and happy welcome from the rest of the family. When it comes time to go upstairs, they are much surprised to be ushered towards the door of 'The Blue Room' (the best spare room) which has been freshly redecorated as a room suitable for the young ladies they have become, with many little touches provided by the other children and family members, making it a uniquely personal space for both girls.

As the only girl growing up in my family I always had my own room, so I never thought about what it might be like not to have a space of my own. It wasn't until I was in a house with my own family where the available study had gone automatically to the man of the house because he was studying at the time, that I found I had no space that was just mine. The rest of the house, except that of then infant No.1 son, was shared or communal space. The fact that most of his father's study time was spent at the university was, apparently, irrelevant. The study was his. When I set up a table and bookcases in the spare room - that was supposed to be left set up for house guests - it sparked a major domestic battle.

During subsequent relationships, this occurred over and over from house to house. Later, living just with the children, we all had our own rooms again, and living by myself for a short period of time meant the issue was a moot point. It wasn't until I moved in with Dearly Beloved and Sixteen that I, once again, found myself without a room. Until this house.

And, you know what - however basic it is, however many issues there are to resolve to make it comfortable, if I have to bundle myself up in every stitch of clothing I own come winter, it's mine. My space, where I can do whatever I like, when I like it and other people have to knock to gain entry.

No comments:

Post a Comment