Sunday, 18 September 2011

one hundred and thirty-four

Woods - Louis MacNiece

My father who found the English landscape tame
Had hardly in his life walked in a wood,
Too old when first he met one; Malory's knights,
Keats's nymphs or the Midsummer Night's Dream
Could never arras the room, where he spelled out True and Good
With their interleaving of half-truths and not-quites.

While for me from the age of ten the socketed wooden gate
Into a Dorset planting, into a dark
But gentle ambush, was an alluring eye;
Within was a kingdom free from time and sky,
Caterpillar webs on the forehead, danger under the feet,
And the mind adrift in a floating and rustling ark

Packed with birds and ghosts, two of every race,
Trills of love from the picture-book---Oh might I never land
But here, grown six foot tall, find me also a love
Also out of the picture-book; whose hand
Would be soft as the webs of the wood and on her face
The wood-pigeon's voice would shaft a chrism from above.

So in a grassy ride a rain-filled hoof-mark coined
By a finger of sun from the mint of Long Ago
Was the last of Lancelot's glitter. Make-believe dies hard;
That the rider passed here lately and is a man we know
Is still untrue, the gate to Legend remains unbarred,
The grown-up hates to divorce what the child joined.

Thus from a city when my father would frame
Escape, he thought, as I do, of bog or rock
But I have also this other, this English, choice
Into what yet is foreign; whatever its name
Each wood is the mystery and the recurring shock
Of its dark coolness is a foreign voice.

Yet in using the word tame my father was maybe right,
These woods are not the Forest; each is moored
To a village somewhere near. If not of to-day
They are not like the wilds of Mayo, they are assured
Of their place by men; reprieved from the neolithic night
By gamekeepers or by Herrick's girls at play.

And always we walk out again. The patch
Of sky at the end of the path grows and discloses
An ordered open air long ruled by dyke and fence,
With geese whose form and gait proclaim their consequence,
Pargetted outposts, windows browed with thatch,
And cow pats - and inconsequent wild roses.
On woods, and the way childhood lingers in certain spaces; on wilderness and domesticated landscape; on being of two places (in MacNeice's case, Ireland and England), and of always being an outsider.

And finally, of learning and growing up: 'And always we walk out again.'

In other (less literary) news, Louis MacNeice is a new addition to 'Poets I fancy' list.

Friday, 9 September 2011

one hundred and thirty-three

A (very almost disgustingly) lovely version of one of my favourite songs.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

one hundred and thirty-two

 As part of Canongate's Myths series, Margaret Atwood tells the story of the Odyssey from the point of view of Odysseus' wife Penelope, who remained in Ithica while her husband fought in the Trojan War and afterwards roamed the seas trying to get home, and her twelve hanged maids, whom Odysseus ordered killed on his return. (In case you want to know, the maids had slept with the suitors who tried to steal Penelope and the kingdom away in Odysseus' absence; so their crime was to be desired - or maybe even have desire themselves.)

Reading The Penelopiad, I think back to how we were taught about Penelope at school: where Odysseus and smart and quick, so was she, making and unmaking a shroud to keep the braying, greedy suitors at bay; testing the returned Odysseus to make sure it was her husband. She was her husband's equal, our teacher said, to remind us that a person does not need to prove themselves with exaggerated feats and outrageous deeds.

Other than that, it was all faithfulness, fidelity, modesty and endurance: the ideal wife, I guess.

But I realise now that we studied one text of a poem conceived in a culture of oral storytelling. We didn't look past a particular version of Homer's Odyssey, did not explore the tales and stories that have been changed with region and time. Stories shift, are cut or lenghtened depending on the teller and audience. What else was there to know about Penelope? What hadn't made the version that sits bound on my bookshelf?

Who makes myths? Is there ever a final version? And when we study them, what good does it do us to take one book and read it, like that is the whole story?

one hundred and thirty-one

'So by the time the morning came, Odysseus and I were indeed friends, as Odysseus had promised we would be. Or let me put it another way: I myself had developed friendly feelings towards him - more than that, loving and passionate ones - and he behaved as if he reciprocated them. Which is not quite the same thing.'
 Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad

Odysseus, still dangerous when long-dead and on paper, he stole the hearts of some of my best girl friends; the wily, clever Odysseus, tangling men and women alike in his words, tricking and cheating and thinking his way out of (and into) trouble. A hero of invention; a hero of lies.

There is a gap - a gulf- between what is said and what is felt. How can we be sure someone's words accurately represent what they feel (especially if you love a silver-tongued trickster)? The significance of faith in our lives is huge, even if we are meant to worship the rational, the empirical now.

Every day, we trust that the words of those we love are true. We hope to never discover a disjunct between language and feeling, to feel the world twist around us and finish upsidedown and off-kilter.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

one hundred and thirty

There is nothing about this picture that I don't love. I do not know the original source, sigh.

Friday, 24 June 2011

one hundred and twenty-nine

how many owl tshirts is too many?

Because I want both of these.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

one hundred and twenty-eight

An excellent way to spend eight and a half minutes:

 Andy Goldsworthy is an amazing, intriguing man, and it's great to be able to watch him work.

This is an evening for watching art programmes with my sister, and wishing there was more like the above on television now.

Another of tonight's highlights was a clip of Anthony Caro gleefully exclaiming of his Early One Morning 'And then, I painted it green!' - before the interview cuts to his wife saying 'Tony really has no understanding of colour. He's a form man. He usually lets me make the decisions about colour'.

(As you can see, Early One Morning ended up red.)

Sunday, 22 May 2011

one hundred and twenty-seven

Best bit of advice I've read today:

'Don’t worry if you don’t marry the first dude you fall truly and deeply for because no one ever does.'

I will forget; it is impossible to maintain the intensity of emotions once they're past. I know this because I am already forgetting, and it terrifies me. Nothing is permanent, nothing - even sturdy rock can disappear with the wind or sea - but it is nice to pretend it is.

Even if that amounts to setting yourself up for a fall.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

one hundred and twenty-six

If I were to ever get a tattoo (sometimes I am tempted, but am so fickle that anything involving permanence freaks me out) I would want it to look something like this lovely little fox, a marginal drawing in Gerald of Wale's 'History and Topography of Ireland'.

(ps the British Library's online gallery of illuminated manuscripts in wonderful)

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

one hundred and twenty-four

I just wrote a long(ish) email to a friend about why I don't much like the word lame being used to describe things that suck, and now my brain is feeling all tired.

o little blog, how i neglect you!

I very much like this song and video:

The odd, carnivalesque tune is so captivating. And that line 'remember how we shook shook' - rightly or wrongly - reminds me of falling for someone, and getting to know them (nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more).

Friday, 22 April 2011

one hundred and twenty-three

Tom Vek is back!

This makes me very, very happy.

one hundred and twenty-two

I love Paris in the springtime

Sunday, 17 April 2011

one hundred and twenty-one

 a quick fragment of Paris

  Turns out my hair is very much like a Monet.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

one hundred and twenty

The hair on the back of my head is the length of my thumbnail; it is newly cut and for the next few days i will run my fingers through it absentmindedly, enjoying the soft scuff of it against my skin (like a brush you use to clean your nails or polish shoes).

My fingernails are painted black. I once thought nail varnish too girly, but now I like the surprise of oddly coloured fingertips. I have no patience waiting for it to dry, though, and end up with it smudged and rippled.

I am meant to be packing to go to Paris. I am slightly intimidated by the idea of the city. And i imagined my first visit would be with someone else.

Friday, 25 March 2011

one hundred and nineteen

old, but good:

I like the length of the dresses. Perhaps the time of the miniskirt has passed (I've been in them since 16).

Thursday, 24 March 2011

one hundred and eighteen

I'm going to Paris in three weeks (for the first time). Eeeeee!

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

one hundred and seventeen

I had a big post planned, about gender brainwashing and how and where gendered rules are made and reinforced; instead, I watched Masterchef (it's not even very good! argh.)

So in the meantime, here are some shoes I really, really want.
They are vegan, and handmade from recycled cotton and tyres. The company claims to be sweat-shop free and worker driven. Also, cats.

I made a promise at the start of the year to stop buying from high street shops (and to not buy anything first-hand if I could avoid it). Footwear is difficult for me: I have big feet and charity shops have an abundance of size 6 shoes and little else. So these are probably perfect, except i probably can't afford them. Sigh.

Friday, 18 March 2011

one hundred and sixteen

Another to add to the songs that make you want to pick up a book list:

First love, Emmy the Great

in other news, today i look like this:

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

one hundred and fifteen

The Museum of London has made me want to buy an iphone.

They've launched an app, StreetMuseum, which guides users to various points in London where, via the iphone screen, historical images of the city appear.

Like this.

The word palimpsest describes a manuscript page from which text has been scraped off, so that it can be used again. These images are reverse palimpsests, then: the past refound and layered again on the surface.

one hundred and fourteen

The first, and so far only, time was when I was seventeen.

I stood in the hallway outside my classics classroom, feeling sick and alone, trying to remember when exactly my period was meant to have started. Had it been just over four weeks since the last, or five? I never thought much about it. My nausea was only nerves - had to only be nerves.

Until then, I had not realised what a joy it was to bleed.

I have never wanted children - even less when still a child. Never been able to imagine myself a mother, nuturing a little being that was part-me and not-me at all.

But I saw pictures of him when young, and he told me things he had made and done. And I wondered what our children would look like, what my son's hand would feel like in mine.

'and i would have liked to,
to have something above you
to have something to hold
and know i could choose to let it grow'
(Emmy the Great, We almost had a baby)

Sunday, 13 March 2011

one hundred and thirteen

'Westron wynde, when wilt thou blow,
The small raine down can raine.
Cryst, if my love were in my armes
And I in my bedde again!'
Some things don't change, no matter how many hundreds of years go by.

one hundred and twelve

On Friday evening Hannah and I curled up in The Vintage Emporium Cafe (possibly for several hours longer than we initially intended).

Anyone seen Up?

The cafe's dog - I didn't ask his name.

It's a really lovely place. The staff are friendly (even if they didn't let me buy an avocado they had balanced on some scales by the till); they have soya milk (yay!) and some beautiful looking cakes and pastries (probably not so vegan, alas); and the place is packed full of intriguing little bits and pieces, books and even a scrabble board.

If you are in the Brick Lane area, do go and while away a few hours there.

On the train home I ate (still warm) bagels from Beigel Bake. Yum.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

one hundred and eleven

Tungsten (W, atomic number 74). Also known as Wolfram. Derived from the German wolf rahm ('wolf soot') which is in turn derived from the Latin Lupi Spuma ('wolf's froth') - a reference to the large amount of tin consumed by the mineral during extraction.

Darmstadtium (Ds, atomic number 110). A superheavy metal that decays after a fraction of a thousandth of a second.

Strontium (Sr, atomic number 38). Used in flares and fireworks, and more recently in the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis.

Iron (Fe, atomic number 26).

Thulium (Tm, atomic number 69). Named for Thule, an ancient name for a northern region (possibly Norway, Sweden, Iceland or Greenland). The term ultima Thule in medieval geographies denotes any distant place located beyond the "borders of the known world".

All from The Periodic Table Printmaking Project.

one hundred and ten

'The most worrying side to world events is if Gaddafi and Berlusconi both depart, there'll be hardly any world leaders left to offer Tony and Cherie Blair a free holiday.'
I adore Mark Steel.

(Read the whole article. Or all of his columns for the Independent.)

Sunday, 6 March 2011

one hundred and nine

I now have hair the colours of a peacock, of an iridescent beetle.

one hundred and eight


Outside Shakespeare's birthplace. We walked past just as the sun was setting, making the windows glitter and gleam.

We sat by the river Avon and drank strawberry cider (well, I tried some of Jen's and made a face something like this. I am not a cider fan).

Not Stratford-upon-Avon

There is a very small clump of woodland roundabout where I live, so we wondered there one lazy, sleep-deprived Sunday (after staying up the night before watching Neverwhere until silly hours).

Victorian explorers; it felt especially appropriate as our walk took us to the old house of W. S. Gilbert.

I was held up for half an hour when my train was cancelled (lack of a driver). Fast trains often rush through this station, not-stopping, on their way to the north, creating waves of turbulent air and a slight ringing as the wheels speed on the metal of the tracks. I was so scared of them as a child, and I still automatically stick my fingers in my ears and tense up when one passes.

Monday, 28 February 2011

one hundred and seven

When my mum came back to London to celebrate her birthday, she stopped off at her sister's to pick up a big box of old photos.

It is strange to think of people I know or knew - my grandparents, my mum and her siblings, my mum's best friend - being alive in decades that I cannot help but think of as slightly fictional.

My granddad and uncle

one hundred and six

Animals that I have recently encountered in the street

the friendliest cat, my street

A white rabbit, Stratford upon Avon

Friday, 25 February 2011

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

one hundred and four

After lavish Christmas come the lean days of Lent
when the flesh is tested with fish and simple food.
Then the world's weather wages war on winter:
cold shrinks earthwards and clouds climb;
sun-warmed, shimmering rain comes showering
onto meadows and fields where flowers unfurl,
and woods and grounds wear a wardrobe of green.
Birds burble with life and build busily
as summer spreads, settling on slopes as
                                          it should.
from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, trans. Simon Armitage

Oh, summer.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

one hundred and three

This morning, the train to work was so warm I almost fainted. When I found a seat, I cleared the condensation from the windows and realised I was wiping away other people's breath.

Listening to (and pretending to be in the mid-nineties):

Monday, 21 February 2011

one hundred and two

The week ahead:
  1. A feminist meetup in a pub in Southwark. So excited!
  2. A trip to the Science Museum, but in the evening and adults only. If you've ever been to the Science museum in London: imagine Launchpad, with no children hogging all the fun. Oh yeah. There's even speed dating (because every adult event has to be about finding romance. Sigh. Saying that, I bet I end up doing it).
  3. Something, somewhere with Lizzie (this counts for well organised in my messy head).
  4. Maybe some music in a church on Saturday.
In other news, I applied for a job today. My fingers and toes are twisted and cramped from being crossed.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

one hundred and one

I have started to notice people on my commute, or walking round the market on my lunch break - though I haven't quite reached the smiling-at-attractive-strangers point, yet. It feels good.

Tonight I am listening to The National (late to the party, but how amazing is High Violet?) and writing the letters and emails I have put off for too long (as well as watching Glee. Yes, I know). Is there much better than getting something through the post?

My wonderful friend Jennie sent the biggest bunch of white roses and a fruit (plus yellow pepper and goblet) basket to my office on Valentine's Day; it made the day beautiful. Sometime all the hollywood focus on finding The One makes me forget that friendships are just as crucial. Romance isn't the only thing worth having.

one hundred

Today's Guardian has some nice pictures of the work of Saul Bass. My favourites: