Thoughts from beside Anne Bronte’s grave

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Anne Bronte is the only member of the family to be buried in Scarborough; after her death, aged 29 in 1849, Charlotte made the decision to ‘lay the flower where it had fallen’ and bury her sister quickly (there were three mourners at Anne’s funeral- Charlotte, their friend Ellen Nussey and their old school teacher, Miss Wooler.) The spot she chose would have been picturesque in 1849, beneath the castle walls and with a view out to the north bay. It still is a peaceful spot, albeit the bottom half of the graveyard is now a car park. Nothing, it seems, gets in the way of modernity.

Harbour from the top of the castle #scarboroughcastle #scarborough #sea…:

View of the North Bay and harbour from the top of Scarborough Castle

Although I knew I definitely wanted to visit Anne’s grave, I was taken aback when D and I stumbled upon it by accident on a morning walk (where inspired by the old fellas on their walks to buy papers or to give their dogs a wander, he began to return their greetings with a cheery- and very northern- ‘MORNING!’, much to everyone’s amusement.) Unbeknownst to us, we were staying five minutes away.

The day was warm and sunny, and even D realised we were somewhere that required a bit of quiet. We sat on a bench next to the grave and looked at the view; the sea was calm and the view was stunning. I noticed that there was a spot in front of the grave where the feet of people who were visiting had worn away the grass. I wondered how many people visited the spot every day. I’d been told that there were often flowers on the grave, but there were none on either of the two days I visited. I had looked for wildflowers to put down, but had had no look. Maybe they would have been more appropriate for Emily anyway.

In a funny way, I think it’s appropriate that Anne is the Bronte who is not buried at Haworth; she was the only member of the family who really had any professional success in a job away from home. Although she disliked being a governess, she was able to cope being away from her siblings. If it was Emily buried far away, I imagine she’d haunt Scarborough like Cathy until her remains were returned to the family vault.

Also, in a lot of ways, Anne is the family outcast. In a literary sense, she’s often left out in the cold. I’ve never met anyone who raves about her work in the same way they do about that of her sisters. No one ever says, breathlessly, that they are definitely an ‘Anne’. So maybe it’s fitting that the quietest Bronte is on her own, and noticed and visited for herself.

A few days later, we were in York when I had a sudden urge to walk down a particular street. It turned out that some part of my subconscious apparently remembered that there was a Bronte-related plaque:

Casual #Bronte spotting in #York. It's now a Next.:

“On 24 May 1849, Anne said her goodbyes to her father and the servants at Haworth, and set off for Scarborough with Charlotte and Ellen Nussey. En route, they spent a day and a night in York, where, escorting Anne around in a wheelchair, they did some shopping, and at Anne’s request, visited York Minster. However, it was clear that Anne had little strength left.”

I must have walked past it on previous trips to  York, but something drew me back- it’s pretty inconspicuous. After I took the picture and was walking away, it dawned on me that the reason that Anne and Charlotte had stayed on the site was that they were on their way to Scarborough, where Anne would die four days later. Four days had lapsed between finding the grave and finding the plaque.

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Anne’s death, coming as it did so soon after those of Emily and her brother Branwell, seems so tragic. Her apparent strength in the face of death seems brave and admirable (although it seems that Charlotte’s claim that her sister welcomed and longed for death are wrong; Anne wrote in a letter that she had many things she still wished to accomplish.)

On Sunday, 27 May, Anne asked Charlotte whether it would be easier if she returned home to die instead of remaining in Scarborough. A doctor, consulted the next day, indicated that death was close. Anne received the news quietly. She expressed her love and concern for Ellen and Charlotte, and seeing Charlotte’s distress, whispered to her to “take courage”. Conscious and calm, Anne died at about two o’clock in the afternoon, Monday, 28 May 1849.

There’s a plaque on the side of the Grand Hotel commemorating the place of her death..

I mused on the life of a quiet, shy woman who had written books that challenged early Victorian views of women. I wondered whether she would have been happy with the choice of her final resting place, or whether she would have preferred to be buried in the church at Haworth. And then, my thoughts interrupted by the chattering of an excited child desperate to get down to the beach, I walked back home in the sunshine.

Losing my mojo

Today has been a bit of an odd day. The cold weather I have wanted for so long has finally come (any chance of some snow? Please?!) and I’ve kind of gone into ‘hibernating mode’.

I usually, when this happens, pick up my knitting needles. But I have no desire to at all. It’s been the same all week. At first, I thought it was just because I have had an insanely busy week, which looks to continue into next week too. I tried to do a bit of knitting. It wasn’t fun. I tried a bit of the Ongoing Monster Tapestry* that I have knocking around. I did a bit, but then got bored. It is weird having no creative juices at all. Even my writing has gone to pot. There is nothing in my head- not one creative thought excites me. I have no desire to make anything, or to write a sentence of the ‘novel’ I’m writing. Nothing. Nada. Zip.

This troubles me. I am used to running around like a mad thing, my head fizzing with ideas, my brain all keen and enthusiastic to such a degree that I would out-perk even the perkiest, most wholesome Mid-Western college student in a rom-com. I know I am tired and a bit stressed and a bit listless. But this is ridiculous.

Instead, I spent today sorting out my Ladies in Monochrome blog, buying a proper domain name, importing the whole thing over to WordPress, setting up a dedicated Twitter feed and scanning and sorting photos. All a bit boring, really. It’s all I could manage and the sorting and organising made part of my brain very happy indeed.

I’m going to try and rectify this grave situation by sitting down with The Killing season 1 and hoping that I can muster up the energy to knit a bog-standard, no thought sock.

*The Ongoing Monster Tapestry is actually a really very pretty, if large, William Morris design.

Creative brain freeze

So, today was my first day back at work. It’s interesting how getting back to normality seems to have sparked something in my brain… over the Christmas holidays, I found that a gem of an idea floated into my head, but now it’s sort of crystallising. I find it really hard to discipline my brain, as it scatters over lots of different ideas, which is not great when I’m trying to focus!

It’s really hard to explain how my brain works when I’m trying to write something. Whatever it is, my brain decides to go off on all sorts of tangents. I think this explains my love of researching a topic to absolute death- even as a kid I enjoyed getting every book I could find on a subject and reading it from cover to cover. Dinosaurs, dogs, pandas, Marilyn Monroe,  Ireland- all these things have been subject to my voracious appetite for knowing stuff. I might have no common sense, but I can tell you all about Lewis Carroll or answer a pub quiz question about dinosaurs. My brain just… retains stuff. (It might not surprise you to know that I’m hoarder of things as well as facts. All I can say is thank goodness stuff like Kindles and external hard drives were invented. I don’t think I’d be able to move in the house otherwise.)

So yeah, I’ve started the research on this potentially fascinating thing, but can I write any words down? Can I heck. I tried yesterday and managed a bit, before the evil voice inside started whispering to me how rubbish my idea was and that my sentence structure was all over the place. I even read the Guardian’s guide to unleashing creativity today to no avail. It just won’t come.

I think problem is that I haven’t pinned down the main character. It’s like she’s there, but faceless, like some horrific Doctor Who villain (there was a faceless one, right? Where the features of a person disappeared? Or am I dreaming?) I know all sorts about her, but I don’t have her name. I know how her story sort of pans out, but I can’t go any further until I have a face and a name. Until I can christen her, I’ll have to people watch and pore over photos and think really, really hard. And that’s kind of fun, but also exhausting and frustrating.

Sometimes, I’m asked to write stuff for other blogs/magazines/websites (which, by the way, if you want me to write for you, I’d totally be up for it. Email me!) This can equally be hard, as the ideas bounce around inside my brain and I try and streamline them into something that resembles an article. After all, I did study journalism at a fairly good university, so you’d think I should be able to use the skills.

Can I also add, that because of this stupid way of thinking, I don’t drive? I get too distracted by cows and birds to focus on the road. I have accepted my lot as one of life’s passengers (in the driving way. I’m very proactive otherwise.)

So long, 2011!

2011 has been an interesting year and in some ways, I’ll be sad to see it go.

I got married this year to a wonderful man and I am very lucky. I won’t miss the endless planning/people wanting to talk to me about my wedding (seriously- we had a low key wedding and I enjoyed it. But God, I was bored when people asked me about it. There were other things I wanted to talk about! Books! Films! The weather!) We went to Paris and I achieved a long held goal: to see Oscar Wilde’s grave. I think that afternoon in Pere Lachaise was, other than the day we actually got hitched, one of the happiest I have ever had. Wandering around, looking at dead people’s final resting places and wondering what species the odd looking bugs were that we saw on every path. Morbid, but there you go!

I read fifty-four books this year. Some were re-reads (such as Gone With The Wind- one of my all time favourites) and some were really inspiring. I think my favourite of 2011 was How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran- who I was lucky enough to meet (by meet, I mean accost in the street outside of Wagamama’s in Brighton. Thankfully, I don’t think I made too much of a prat of myself…!)

I did some interesting creative stuff, I sold some of my crafty wares at a couple of craft fairs and I made stuff that some people seemed to like. I also started my Ladies in Monochrome website, which has kind of taken over more than I expected it to (but I don’t really mind!)

I went on my first strike,  in protest at the hardships facing public sector workers and I despaired at how I perceived the government to be treating the people of this country. I despaired at the way I saw people behaving in the riots. I was both fascinated and horrified at the way the press ethics enquiries unfolded. I watched a turbulent world lurch from crisis to crisis.

But sometimes, things went well. And I hope that 2012 is a brilliant year.

Happy New Year

 

 

 

Post-Christmas ramblings

So, we’re now in that odd period between Christmas and New Year when, even though the world is technically back to normal for a few days, nothing really is. Traditionally, I’ve always found this period difficult and one of the potential flash points in bringing on depression, but this year is the first year in three when I haven’t been on any medication and this is something I would like to keep up… It’s been a struggle, but so far, so good.

In my last post, I wrote about how busy I was and how I was looking forward to a quiet Christmas- I continued to be busy, right up until today. Yesterday, with a few spare hours, I grumbled I was bored and then promptly fell asleep! Clearly a) I am incapable of sitting around for very long without having something to do and b) I’m probably a bit knackered.

I’ve done a bit of exercise today and discovered that, clearly, I am no longer as fit as I thought I was. So now I have exercise added to my ‘to-do’ list (is there any point in calling them ‘New Year’s Resolutions’? To me, that’s just setting yourself up for failure come January 15th.) Ironically, after doing a workout, all I want to do for the rest of the day is sit on the sofa eating Pringles. We don’t have any crisp-based products in the flat, thankfully…

Christmas itself was lovely, as usual, with too much food and lots of lovely presents.  I was appalled to see so many people take to the internet (particularly Twitter) to complain that they didn’t get what they wanted/expected to get for Christmas- and not all were teenagers. I think next year maybe these people should work in a soup kitchen and then see how they feel about not getting an iPhone.

Anyway, I am going to use these few days to work on a few interesting projects that I might get further involved with. I have to start thinking about what I want to do with my future, as I’m not sure whether I am entirely happy with the way things are at the minute. I need to start looking at new options and setting up new ideas whilst I have the time. And what better time than when we’re all supposed to turn over a new leaf?