Only a few days ago, on April 1st, I was given the key to my new writing studio, one of nine writers’ rooms beautifully nestled inside a Gothic Victorian house in Melbourne. Glenfern, built in 1857, was the home of Captain Theodore and Lucy Boyd and their ten children in the late 1800s. Their third son, Arthur, married Minnie a Beckett and this painting couple were the grandparents of the famous painter, Arthur Boyd – one of several famous artistic and literary Boyds.
I am so taken with the romance of it all – the amount of creative talent that has emerged from within these very walls, I now occupy a little space known as Studio 4 that once would have over looked lush gardens and a tennis court.
In the past week, as I have climbed the stairs to prepare my new room, I could almost hear the ghostly sounds of Lucy’s ten robust children sprinting past me on the narrow landing…I ascend slowly, counting each step as my hand glides over the worn wood of the original banister, hoping that if I walk slowly enough with receptive ears and imaginative mind, somehow the tales of this grand old house will mysteriously seep out from the old wood to reveal little secrets about the large family who once lived here.
It has been the book “The Boyds” (in audio version) by biographer, Brenda Niall that has really expanded my knowledge of early Melbourne settlement. In particular, Niall weaves together a coherent and well researched tale to include the complex background of the careers of the Boyd family. This spans four generations of painters, writers, sculptors, architects and details their trials and tribulations, their family homes both in Australia and overseas, and so much more….
Glenfern was considered a fashionable house in the gold rush days of the 1850s and in Captain Theodore Boyd’s time, by 1882, the four acre property (not far from my present home) had an orchard of 150 trees, including oranges and lemons. There was a vegetable garden, a rose garden, a fowl house with wired-run for 50 hens. The land had room for several horses and cows, stables, a tennis court, a croquet lawn and a charming home (well known for its hospitality), with windows opening onto the broad, shady veranda. Captain and Lucy Boyd held many a wonderful party in the plush and spacious downstairs parlour.
One hundred and thirty years later….
Whose room would this have been? Whose room do I sit in to peer out from the small window under a steep gable as they might have done? Who would have slept up here with a view over the tennis court - sadly, now a car park for neighbouring flats. Could it have been the bedroom shared by three mischievous boys or the young children’s nursery? Could it have been the Nanny’s sleeping quarters or a guest bedroom? Could it have been the very room where Captain Boyd died?
One hundred and thirty years later…
Thanks to Writers’ Victoria (and many generous sponsors), I now have the opportunity to enjoy a privileged writing nook in this restored National Trust house. Over the next six months, in the bright and quiet space of Studio 4, I am determined to finish writing the book I keep promising myself to self-publish later this year.
But first things first…
I must make my writing nest FEEL ‘just right’ - with little knick-knacks and inspiring prints from my favourite artists, Miro, Cézanne, Van Gogh - with a pot of pink cyclamens on the long white bench as well as photos of family, soft toys, comforting rugs to cover the old sofa, a bright orange teapot and matching tea cups, a canister of French Vanilla coffee, a thermos flask, a stereo with harp CD, a place for my laptop…it all has to be ‘just right’ – and THEN, I think, next week, this ‘blind’ writer can feel comfortable enough in her decorated visual space to -
just write and write!
© Maribel Steel 2012