What's your favorite and most memorable meal? Some fancy restaurant in Paris, London, Rome? Mine was this meal eaten at the house of my Bedouin guide after we came down from Mt Sinai. We started the climb at 2 am and came down at around 8am. My Egyptian taxi driver suggested that we eat at the guide's house, his father did the cooking. Of course I paid for the meal. He went to the chicken coop to get the eggs for scrambling. I've never seen such yellow eggs before. We had local honey, some beans, olives, chips and pita bread. We ate with our fingers while sitting on the dirt floor. It was the most amazing meal eaten at the most amazing place, at the base of Mt Sinai in the Sinai desert. I don't know that I'll have another experience that could beat this. I wouldn't soon forget this. I still think of it with fondness.
In February I was in Israel. While there I took a side trip south to the Sinai desert. I crossed the border at Taba, stepped into Egypt, all alone and decided to take the bus to Dahab, take another bus into St Catherine, climb Mt Sinai and visit St Catherine monastery. Quite a feat, I was so naive but serendipity stepped in. An Egyptian taxi driver approached me, said for a fee(a big one) he'll take me to St Catherine, arrange for me to sleep a few hours at a camp site, have a guide take me up Mt Sinai at 2am, take me down and wait till I visited St Monastery monastery and finally take me back to Taba crossing where I'll return to Israel. I accepted his offer and on the way we stopped to visit some friends of his, some Bedouins living by the highway. Here over a few cups of tea I sat with all these Bedouins and visited with them. We were in the middle of nowhere. Looking back, I marveled at my own fearlessness. What are we afraid of? To be fearful is to stay at home and be a couch potato! I'm always looking forward to packing my bag and leaving town. Unfortunately I have to be house bound for the next months. But soon I pray I'll be back on the road again.
Here is the digital, in my sitting room working on my macbook air where I check out other people's blogs and all things digital.
My dining table has been taken over by my book project. Its become a form of therapy. Here I paint and write and am trying to put together this book project. The past two weeks has been a hive of activity. My work schedule changed which allowed me time in the morning to work on this. Hopefully in the next two weeks I would have finished.
I painted and wrote this before I even went to visit Charleston. I thought it would be a great idea to expand this into a book. So while at Charleston I took notes, I sketched. I came home with some material. I ordered books from Amazon and even yesterday a ton of books arrived, a set of Leonard Woolf's autobiography. I looked at the art of the Bloomsbury artists and I copied. I wrote and wrote and there is still a bit more reading to do and I should be ready to put everything together..... a book on Charleston and the Bloomsbury group, written and illustrated by me!
The last resident of Charleston farmhouse was Duncan Grant who lived there till 1978. By that time the house has fallen into despair. It wasn't in a great state when he and Vanessa Bell moved in with her children in 1914, around the time of WWI. It had no running water, water has to brought in from a stream outside which freezes in winter. There was no indoor plumbing, there were earth closets. I had to look up what earth closets were, a kind of outhouse with a bucket which needed to be emptied! No electricity which came in later years. There were no telephones, they had to write to each other or walked to each others houses. Due to their having to write to each other they left behind a huge body of work, written communication which we have today that gave us an insight to their lives and thoughts. They spent the war years holed up here in the country. Vanessa Bell had become such a country homebody that everyone worried that she may never thrive in the city again. Go back to London she did after the war to find it changed, the Bloomsbury she knew before the war was gone but they continued to play an important part in each others' lives till their dying days. In fact more so because the opportunities were different, Virginia, Vanessa's sister became a celebrated writer, the others went on to write and to paint.....
Leonard Woolf, the husband of Virginia Woolf stumbled upon Charleston which was near to where he and Virginia were living.It was the time of World War I,Vanessa Bell, her children and two other friends, Duncan Grant and David Garnett were living at a place called Wissett. Viriginia wrote to Vanessa 'I wish you'd leave Wissett and take Charleston. It is lovely, large rooms, a garden, rather wild now but you could make it lovely.' Duncan Grant and David Garnett were conscientious objectors to the war and had to find work which the war department deemed patriotic. They were picking raspberries at Wissett and this wasn't considered patriotic. Otherwise they would be conscripted. So Vanessa rented Charleston so the the two men could work at the farm nearby. That was how they came upon to be at Charleston where Vanessa lived for the rest of her life. So did Duncan, her gay lover. They were both buried at a cemetery nearby, next to each other. Charleston, when they moved in, doesn't look anything like the Charleston today.......