Virginia Woolf’s Refuge



Tomorrow I shall smell a red rose, gently surge along the lawn, light a cigarette, take my writing board on my knee and let myself down, like a diver, very cautiously into the last sentence I wrote yesterday”.

Autumn equinox in the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’. These days a walk in the park with my grandchildren means collecting acorns and looking for conkers.

We take a drive through the South Downs, and its rolling gentle waves of meadows backgrounded by the stunning white cliffs.
Coming from Australia with our bright sunlight, the soft blues and greens are palpable.

Yes we are in East Sussex, England. Our beautiful Aussie-English-Welsh family, our gorgeous eldest daughter Elizabeth and her husband William and our two darling grandchildren, Thomas Llewellyn and Eleanor Therese live in Burgess Hill, not far north of today’s adventure.
We pass through the busy tourist destination of Lewes, famous for its Castle and ruined Priory, through narrow streets of stone terrace houses then down a winding narrow lane to the National Trust sign.

Our destination is Virginia Woolf’s house where she did most of her writing. It is a secluded 18th century cottage called Monk’s House in the village of Rodmell. She and her husband Leonard a famous editor bought it in 1919.

It is not a large house but what a surprise it was to enter the gate and find nearly an acre of gardens, flower beds and lotus ponds that reflect the larger trees and people strolling in the grounds. Further in, is a massive vegetable garden, and orchard and at the back of the orchard a small summer house where Virginia Woolf did most of her writing. It is still set up with her desk and typewriter as if she has just finished writing ‘To the Lighthouse’ and has gone for a stroll on the Downs.

Many famous people including TS Eliot, Vanessa Bell and Roger Fry visited during the summer and sat out under the massive chestnut trees next to the orchard and chattered about all things writing and painting. One can just imagine the tennis match, the clink of bowls played on the green, the walks out on the downs, the lazy hazy afternoons as Virginia wrote once “our orchard is the very place to sit and chat in for hours”
Imagine the chatter about the colours that they were choosing to paint the walls, the greens, antique rose, and elderberry.
‘The Bloomsbury Movement’ flourished here, famous for its combination of bright colours, bold patterns and eclectic objects. In the house it paintings, soft coverings and pottery created an atmosphere of comfit and informality..

At one stage Virginia hand painted paper to cover her Collection of Shakespeare books. Today this collection is book-cased in her bedroom. and the pattern is printed on scarves and other mementos.
Finally the stone garden walls are a feature. One especially features the busts of both Virginia and Leonard, their sacred memory, where their ashes were originally buried.
We came away relaxed and inspired. There is a beauty and a presence there that is overwhelming. The people who rambled through, or perhaps sat meditatively around the grounds helped radiate the quiet beauty that reflects the personalities of its former owners Virginia and Leonard Woolf .

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Launch of Fire on Water. STOP PRESS

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                                          FIRE ON WATER
                                       WILL BE LAUNCHED
                             JUDITH WRIGHT ROOM
                               NSW Writers Centre, Rozelle  
                     in the gracious grounds of Callan Park
                              on the Parramatta River
                            Balmain Rd, Lilyfield NSW
                        Sunday afternoon 19th November
                                      2.30pm – 4.30pm
                     ( 504, 506,520 buses from town hall)
                                   plenty of free parking   
                                       To be launched
                                      Beverley George 
renowned nationally and internationally Japanese form poet, 
     A Writing Fellow of The Fellowship of Australian Writers, 
editor of Windfall: Australian Haiku journal and author of many books 
 Hors d’oeuvres, vino, champagne, poetry readings, music, book signing 

Launch of Black Mountain

Today we celebrated the launch Of Carol’s new book Black Mountain by Colleen Keating. Many  of the writing community and readers and Carols family and friends gathered in the atmospheric book shop Better Read then Dead  in  Newtown for the celebration. I felt very privileged to be asked to launch.

Launch by Colleen Keating


 Carol Chandler’s Black Mountain.

Good afternoon everybody.

Firstly I invite a pause for us to acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land, on which we gather the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, and to pay respect for Elders past and present.

There are some new faces here so I will introduce myself. My name is Colleen Keating. I belong to the Women Writers Network that meets every Wednesday at 1pm at Roselle Writers Centre. All women writers are welcome. That is where Carol and I met.

When Carol was being seduced by the Blue Mountains she visited our newly downsized apartment trying to make her decision. The Mountains won and she set out on a mammoth journey to her beautiful home and garden in Leura .

What a gathering in this wonderful environment of books and music and art, and what a great
honour for Carol that you have taken the time to be with her to celebrate.

Most of you would be aware writing is a lonely trek, a long haul, a footslog, an odyssey. Sometimes lost in the bush, sometimes all at sea, sometimes desert-dry, sometimes energising but mostly a solitary and gruelling task.
As a writing community we appreciate that, and we are here to honour the loneliness of the long distance writer and to celebrate Carol’s successful outcome.

And what an outcome. Black Mountain by Carol Chandler published by Ginninderra Press, a small but very prestigious publishing press in South Australia.

Black Mountain is a psychological thriller – and what a thriller. What a journey! We are taken by the narrator Sarah into the back waters of a country area, a place up in the hills not far from the coast in a lonely desolate ‘neck of the woods’. Sarah, a teacher has escaped from this town and this life, but on Page one is drawn back into its eerie world trying to make sense of the past and find out what really happened to her brother Liam who died in a house fire. By page eight we the readers are woven into the mystery and for us, there is no return .

You and I know how easy it is to get caught back into the dark web of our past, – into the tangle of relatives, families , friends. . . where there are all the hurts and intrigues, suicide, murders, lovers, drugs and especially secrets, lies and cover ups.

People are watching …..the threat of dogs always in the background..… the sharpness of the knife edge that glints in the moon light……. that scary feeling you are being followed and that strand of foreshadowing…. and of course the world of gossip.
Even when we escape to the coast, the ocean doesn’t give us reprieve, not even a breather. We are kept in the dark web of intrigue.

Carol has given us a thriller.
Everyone loves a good mystery…… but here there is the added complexity of human psychology, what’s beneath the surface in human action and reaction .

The pivotal characters Freya and Tyler and the mystery of Lola a young girl who has disappeared, gives us a sense of place and how that connects with identity.
And with the pains of the past that hold their secrets and hold us in their mystery, we become caught in the struggle and search for meaning.
What is it all about? ……. We are immersed in a thriller . . . a metaphor for life ,where
the questions materialise at every turn, but the answers are just beyond our grasp.

Black Mountain, was short listed in a recent competition where the judges’ comment, noted in the blurb on the back cover was “it is a deftly written novella “-

The many characters, that fill this small world of intrigue, even Aden and Radic and the dogs Nero and Jet and the mountain all are colourful and well formed. One could possibility recognise archetypes from Carl Jung’s collective unconscious but this is held lightly, This is not a philosophy book, it is a short psychological thriller to take to bed, or curl up one rainy afternoon and enjoy an escape for a few hours.

Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter says:
“Words are in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic
and Black Mountain has the magic of a good read.

I congratulate Carol and proudly declare Black Mountain launched.

May you all enjoy reading it.

Colleen Keating

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Colleen launching Black Mountain by Carol Chandler at Better Read then Dead  in Newtown today.
Carol and Colleen before the launch at Better Read then Dead this afternoon



Fire on Water: a sneak preview



A sneak preview of my latest Poetry Collection,
                      Fire on Water
published by Ginninderra Press, South Australia.

Thank you to Stephen Matthews for such a professional presentation,
and my daughter Elizabeth Keating-Jones for the creative cover.
As a first step I took a few copies to the Society of Women Writers, July luncheon
and they sold like hot cakes. I am appreciative of such encouragement.

The poems in Fire on Water are divided into 7 sections .
Poems are as diverse as ‘visissitudes of a blue butterfly’
and ‘counting dead women.’





One of the poems included is  ‘ in search of Hildegard of Bingen’  which was short-listed for the Society of Women Writers Poetry Competition 2016 and which has recently been translated into German by Annette Esser  (Theologian, Scholar, Art Therapist and Teacher) to be included in a journal in Germany published September 2017 to celebrate the opening of a Pilgrimage Way that has been planned and worked on by Annette for many years now.  It will be opened on 17th September 2017. Hildegard’s feast day.

It is called Hildegardweg.  Attraktion fur Pilger und Wanderer.

The logo for the Hildegardweg is below. If you ever go to the Rhineland look for this sign and put your walking boots on.

Michael and I plan to do it when the International version opens in September 2019. Hmmm that means we will have to get into training!



The logo for the Hildegardweg in the Rhineland Germany

Fire on Water is my second collection of poetry and follows A Call to Listen . (2014).

Date for launch of Fire on Water  is to be announced.
The launch date is TBA

The Smell of Parsley

This is the fourth section of my Poetry Anthology.  This was the intended name of the book of poetry originally, before the decision was made for the more apt  title:

A Call to Listen.

The Smell of Parsley comes from a quote in the the play Under Milkwood by the poet Dylan Thomas. The blind Captain Cat dreams  of the  drowned sailors from the swamped S.S. Kidwelly and from the after-life the first sailor asks  him loudly and rather whimsically  ‘What’s  the smell of  parsley?  The message I got from this . . . take time to enjoy the senses here on earth for when we die we could miss them.  In Wilder’s play Our Town the  dead character Emily is asked what she misses about life the most , and she answers “I miss the smell of parsely”  Hence The Smell Of Parsely seemed an appropriate title for this section of the book which deals with  the senses including autumn and winter and jacarandas and moments in the garden. Enjoy the next  9 poems.

A New Poet Discovered

At our U3A today I was introduced to a new poet, a Scottish poet Kathleen Jamie born in 1961, and in 1994 picked as one of the ‘new generation poets’. Some of her poems use quite a bit of Scots ( which I discovered is different from Gaelic and Celtic languages.) Listening to her reading her work on Youtube helps to appreciate her writing. Thanks to Betty who introduced our Poetry Appreciation Group to this new work.
I would like to share this small poem Landfall by Kathleen Jamie


When we walk at the coast,
and notice, above the sea,
a single ragged swallow
veering towards the earth
and blossom scented breeze,
can we allow ourselves to fail?

It reminds me of that equisite poem The Death of The Bird by A.D. Hope beginning:

“For every bird there is this last migration;”

and my favourite story The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde

“Little swallow, little swallow will you stay with me one last night?”

I am sure both these references can be read on google and a wonderful experience will be had to find them.

The Price of War

It is Anzac day 2016.
The serenity of dawn captures my imagination.
The lake looks like a mirror.
It reflects tiny fluffs of soft pink cloud,
The calmness is palpable.
We in our hundreds turn from the memorial,
at The Entrance to face the lake
and are all drawn towards it
not a sound spoken
as all were under its spell.

How do we allow the narrative of war
and its old lie
made up by those who send the young off
for their benefits . . .
how do we allow it to continue?
When will we say enough
and really mean the words
less we forget?

The following poem has been shared on facebook today by friends. Thanks to Carol for bringing it to my notice. Can we hear it’s message?

Dulce et Decorum

Wilfred Owen

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime…
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

This poem is in the public domain.

A Review of A Call to Listen


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Call to Listen

by Colleen Keating

Published by Ginninderra Press
Reviewed by Judith O’Connor
This stylishly produced collection of some eighty poems,
with a particularly tasteful and pleasing cover, is just what it says – a plea to stop
our activities and busyness and start looking, listening and observing the world around us. The poet supplies us with any number of simple examples:

it’s a hard thing to love a rock
you need to receive it as a gift
spend time
gaze . . . (‘How to Love a Rock’)


. . . a fallen water tank; rusted blood red . . .


But we quickly see that the range of topics and inspiration,
is far wider and deeper than what at first may appear incidental.
The collection is cleverly arranged into eight separate categories,
taking in a wide sweep of the poet’s life and experiences.
I particularly enjoyed the verses inspired by outback Australia
for which the poet has borrowed (and referenced) the words of Mary McKillop
‘We are but Travellers Here’. Having trekked to the summit of Mt. Sondar and hiked in many of the poet’s footsteps (‘Ormiston Pound’), I was surprised and delighted to read her award winning ‘Daybreak over Mt. Sondar’ and its moving description of the dawn:

…in the beginning
air static as a nylon petticoat pulled over my hair
fingerprints of red ruby . . . (‘Daybreak over MT. Sondar’)

Every page brings fresh and, at times, challenging verses on a range of human emotions from ‘Almost Dawn’ with its sensuality:

… he turns
arms cocoon me
in an aura of warmth
his breath tingles
in the dip of my neck . . .  (‘Almost Dawn’)

to ‘At the Nursing Home’:

… I fill the foot bath
my elbow checks the tepid water … (‘At the Nursing Home’)

Another of my favourites, ‘Sisters’:

… we lunch together
we celebrate
the milestone of another decade
and that word ‘remission’ a green shoot springing
from the scarred black earth…

But from being a poem full of depression and sorrow, it ends magnificently:

….we splurge
with our lust for life
toast with a glass of bubbly
Joie de vivre (‘Sisters’)

The poets voice changes to anger and outrage in other poems such as ‘Guantanamo Bay’ ( . . . this is a poem not to be read aloud; for it speaks of solitaire confinement …) and ‘War on Terror’ ( … it’s coming; through a hole in the air) along with poems reflecting visits to Japan and Fromelles.

Whatever the reader’s mood, quest or interest, these poems are sure to satisfy, surprise and inspire.