Thursday, 3 January 2013

Empty room

Attending a book launch before Christmas, I was drawn up the staircase of the old house into empty rooms above. The furniture had been removed after the owner's death and subsequent auction. And the reading we were giving was one of the first money raising activities to save the fabric of the house which has now been left to (and claimed by) the community. The space was full.

There is nothing like peopling a place with your imagination. I think this was one of the great attractions for me in working as a guide at Abbotsford (Walter Scott's house) which at that time had just ended continued occupation by his descendants following the death of his last direct line relative.

It is something startling to wait for a tour party in the quiet of Scott's library and imagine him seeing the same light on the lion at the end of the bannister or letting his dogs out of the window or simply escaping visitors by using the stairs straight up to his dressing room above. Visitors felt the same showing each other secret ways to open cupboards, sharing knowledge or one tucked away Maori object among all the other paraphernalia of Scott the antiquarian.

Daniel Clark's evocative memoir of the Crossley Sanatorium in Cheshire, England is lit with the same revelatory lamp. It shows the ward rooms prior to any renovations in a state of encroaching dissolution. The gallery allows you to walk around the hospital seen through Daniel's eyes; detail, decay and form. Visual poetry.

You can find out more here or about the beautiful house and its grounds where I read at

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