'Would you not like to try all sorts of lives - one is so very small...

by tosca on Saturday, March 13, 2010

- but that is the satisfaction of writing - one can impersonate so many people.'
- Letter from Katherine Mansfield to Sylvia Payne, APril 1906

Quick fly-by post, much like a one night stand, only slightly more classy because it involves Katherine Mansfield. Any ardent Mansfield fan will know that 25 Tinakori Road is historically significant - and if you haven't yet got it, the pic (check left) should be a dead giveaway as to why. And cheers to the guy tooting his horn while I was trying to take the shot - almost scared the crap outta me :-)

My parents left Wellington when I was about 8 or 9, and I hadn't yet discovered Mansfield's writing. I can't say I love her work, but I did enjoy it quite a bit when I finally did get around to reading her stories in intermediate/high school. Each time I come back to Thorndon I tell myself I'll visit her birthplace but I never do. Today, I finally did. And it's a beautiful day for it - such a huge difference from the freak storm of yesterday. When Wellington turns it on it really turns it on.

25 Tinakori Road is almost miss-able, if you're not looking. And I wasn't. I was plugged into the iPod and almost walked straight past on the opposite side of the road (in spite of the ornate signage and huge OPEN sign eek). Took some snapshots of the outside (we're not allowed to take pics of the inside) and spent ages mooching around inside, generally haunting the residence, and thinking how very much I would like to have lived there (although from some of her writing it wasn't a place that she liked all that much). Take away the dainty furniture and the chamberpots and I'd like it fine.

What a fascinating woman, and what a life she lived. One of the upstairs rooms is filled with photos of her with various people (family, husband, friends) and they're accompanied by text from her stories and her letters (such as the post title). One particular piece of text caught my eye, if only because it seemed to have an echo of so much of everything else I'd seen in the house. It was in reference to her very English husband who was so proper and how she lamented that he would never be a quick and carefree kind of person, and she loved him anyway. It seemed...sad. And quite poignant, and I ended up leaving then in a reflective mood. Am I going to read her stuff again? Very probably not, although I greatly enjoyed my time in her childhood home. I think, perhaps, she was a woman ahead of her time. I also think she did try to live all sorts of lives in the one she was given. I will be extremely happy if I am capable of saying the same thing many years from now.

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