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shewhomust

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Poetry and other nourishment [Apr. 16th, 2019|09:45 pm]
shewhomust
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Colpitts Poetry, a long established Durham institution, emerged from a period of dormancy (which I shall be optimistic and call "hibernation") on Friday evening, for a reading by two local poets, both members of the Vane Women collective. S.J. Litherland is much respected, but I don't usually find her poetry very approachable. On this occasion she was aided and abetted by traditional musician Ian McKone - that is, there had clearly been collusion about the choice, and the timing, of his tunes and songs, and the combination worked well for me. It was pleasant to sit in the darkening room, as the candles became more visible in the dusk - a Colpitts tradition, that only the reader has electric light - and listen to the words and music.

What had drawn me to the reading, though, was the support act, Diane Cockburn, of whom - of whose work, but also in fact of whom - I am very fond. Here's Electric Mermaid, the title poem of her first and to date only collection. I could have sworn I'd posted this before, but I've spent longer than I should have poking around the internet, and found no evidence of it. I did, on the other hand, find one of the poems she read on Friday, Hocus Pocus, a cautionary tale of a sénce gone wrong. But the poem that stays with me is the one with which she ended her set, written for a project to write in the voice of a woman from an exhibition of portraits of unidentified subjects. Diane had chosen a woman in severe costume, wearing a gauntlet on which she carried a bird: but instead of producing some historically plausible monologue, she had come up with a fever dream of a poem about a dystopia beset each morning by noxious vapours, which could only be warded off by a gathering of bearers of birds and beasts. The speaker, with a linnet on her gloved fist (the part of the linnet played by an RSPB fluffy songthrush, linnets being unavailable, attached to a furry mitten) and curses the person who arrived before her and grabbed her favourite axolotl. This sounds comic - and it was funny, and we laughed - but there was something eerie about it too, especially in the final song of the false linnet.

On Saturday we went to Bishop Auckland, for the Food Fair; I had picked up a leaflet and then forgotten all about it, but J. telephoned and we agreed to meet her there. We have done this before, more than once (the first time seems to have been ten years ago) and part of the attraction has always been that the fair extends out of the Market Place into the grounds of the castle, and there's usually a chance to nose around the castle as well. Not this year, as there are extensive renovations going on at the castle. So there were fewer photo opportunities than usual:

Riverford


But the nice man from Riverford gave me an apple, and I stocked up on Lacey's cheese, and J. introduced us to the free bookshop, and it was bright and warm enough - just! - to buy our lunch from the street food stalls... We took J. home, and she gave us tea and showed off the progress of her home improvements, and then we stopped at Lidl on the way home. Which is like going to another food festival, so many strange and wonderful things to tempt us: [personal profile] durham_rambler considered a bargain hedge trimmer from the centre aisle (not that we have a hedge, but it was a bargain!) while I resisted the siren song of the freezer full of Polish dumplings: should I buy plum, or sour cream? No, I should not. But I did buy a jar of stuffed cabbage, and some pickled herring.

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
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Educational [Apr. 14th, 2019|12:42 pm]
shewhomust
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This is another post composed incrementally. It was already overdue, and taking shape in my mind if not on the page, when a feature in last Saturday's Guardian provided the perfect opening. In the week's piece about unlikely house-shares; the teacher and the student (not currently in a teacher / student relationship):
He once said, "You've made my life so different. I'm learning so much." I thought, "What's he talking about, quantitative analysis?"

"No," he said. "Now I know what shiraz is."


Which is as good a way as any into a post about how the last third of March (yes, as I said, overdue) seems to have been awash with good wine.

Dinner at Finbarr'sCollapse )

Gate-crashing the wine clubCollapse )

Sunday lunch with claretCollapse )

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
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The naming of cats / Strange fruit [Apr. 8th, 2019|11:14 am]
shewhomust
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Thanks to LJ / DW, I know that other people dream in coherent, if surreal, narrative. I don't often remember dreaming, and when I do, I wake up with a handful of fragments which fall apart when I try to grasp them. Last night, for no obvious reason, I seem to have had a busy time...

I dreamed that the unidentified other person in the bed got up, and returned bearing the cat and three kittens (she had had six kittens, but now there were three). I reached out to pet a black, fluffy kitten, and it bit me with its sharp little teeth. I was more pleased than not. Later, somewhere outdoors, [personal profile] boybear told me the cat's name, which unfortunately I don't remember. Her second name was a people name (it might have been Michael) but the first was some sort of abstraction: something like 'Parity'? Not 'Singularity', because I remember thinking, in the dream, that 'Singularity' would be a good name for a cat.

Later I was in a supermarket, looking at a display of fruit set out on a market barrow. There were mangoes, and something the shape of a kiwi fruit, but a little larger, with a smooth skin, green and blushing to red: the skin of a mango, in fact, though I didn't recognise this at the time, because I knew they were limes. I picked up a mango and three limes, and then realised that I didn't know the price of any of these things, so I put one of the limes back.

None of this makes any sense to me, or has any connection with anything I have consciously been thinking.

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
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Five things for the fifth [Apr. 5th, 2019|04:10 pm]
shewhomust
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  • Today is / would have been my father's 99th birthday, and we marked the occasion with a visit to Finchale Priory, where he spent holidays as a boy:

    High water at Finchale>


    After all the recent snow, the river was rushing by a great speed; two ducks, sitting sideways to the current, were carried downstream and out of sight in no time.


  • It's yellow flower season. The daffodils are almost past, and fields of rape are coming into bloom. The riverbanks are studded with stars of celandine:

    Celandine


    Also dandelions and I'm pretty sure I saw coltsfoot high up on the rock face. There are white windflowers, too, but the wild garlic is barely showing the first spears (the scent of garlic is pungent, though). And a scattering of violets.


  • On our way to Finchale we went to the Arnison Centre to buy a new iron, as ours has died. Luckily the choice was simplified by the fact that of our two possible shops, one had precisely one iron with the feature we wanted (can be detached from the cord) and the other - had closed. Consumerism does not overwhelm me with choice, and I'm fine with that.


  • After the morning's excitements, [personal profile] durham_rambler decided he wanted fish and chips for lunch, at the new Bell's chippy. I found this disappointing: my haddock was very nice, but the chips were flaccid. [personal profile] durham_rambler had mussels, so all is well.


  • The upholsterers have returned our sofa, and it looks very smart. But it wobbles. The odd thing is that the castor whose absence causes the wobble came off some time ago, and we never got round to fixing it, because it didn't seem to make any difference. Now, however, it does, so tomorrow we'll have to see if we can get some little screws at the market, to fix it back on. Even with the wobble, I'm enjoying having the sofa back: the wing chairs are surprisingly comfortable, but it's not the same.


This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
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April showers II [Apr. 4th, 2019|10:21 am]
shewhomust
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...and to complete the set (I hope!), as we were returning from the pub quiz last night we were bombarded by small but fierce hailstones. Luckily the shower didn't last long.

What next?

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
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April showers [Apr. 3rd, 2019|09:37 am]
shewhomust
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It is snowing. Over breakfast we went though a sequence of: it's raining; wait, is that sleet? you know, I think that's snow... to big white flakes that were definitely, unmistakably snow, tumbling down like feathers and settling on the roofs of May Street.

I know they say a white Easter comes more often than a white Christmas: but Easter is late this year.

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
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The monochrome years [Apr. 1st, 2019|05:47 pm]
shewhomust
[personal profile] poliphilo got me thinking about the 1950s. He was talking about his father's love of gardening, and said:
I suppose that - like most of his generation - he came out of the war thinking, "That's enough excitement for one lifetime." It helps explains why the 1950s were so dull and drab - and why when the postwar generations started thinking, "Hey a little excitement would actually be rather nice," he and his lot opposed us so resolutely.

Which makes all sorts of sense, and may well explain why some people felt and behave as they did. But, as I commented in his post, were the 50s really so dull and drab? I know it's become the received view, as a prelude to talking about how exciting the 60s were: I heard it again last night, watching Made in Liverpool, a documentary about the Beatles, which went on to explain the formative influence of the records brought back from America by Liverpool seamen, the excitement of the rock and blues of the 50s... I suspect (and this is only half a joke) that the idea comes from people who grew up with colour TV, never mind colour film, and can't imagine life in black and white.

Only it wasn't actually in black and white, of course. At least, I don't remember it that way, and I don't think that's just because I was born in 1951, so this is my childhood I'm talking about. Like everyone else, I remember the perfect summers of childhood, but I also remember the London smog. The other side of the generation returning from the war looking for a little peace and quiet, is that this was the generation that set up the Welfare State and the National Health Service. By 1951 a nation still rebuilding after the war deliberately set out to create a sense of optimism and new things happening with the Festival of Britain - and it may be naïve to treat a government iniative as a valid sign of how people felt, but if it comes to a choice between the arts quarter on the South Bank and the Millennium Dome, I know which one I'd choose.

My parents were not royalists (on the contrary), so despite the photographs placing me at a street party for the coronation, I don't remember any excitement about the new young queen. But it did exist, that sense of a second Elizabethan Age (I've read A.S. Byatt on the subject).

"I'm thinking how class-conscious we were," says [personal profile] poliphilo, "and how conformist, and how dreadful the food was and how boring the clothes were and how tame the popular music was..." Up to a point, Lord Copper. When it comes to class-consciousness, what's remarkable is not how much we have changed, but how little, with our cabinet of Old Etonians, and our films and televisions dominated by public-school educated actors. How conformist we were in the 1950s? Some of us, no doubt; others spent Easter marching from Aldermaston against the bomb. The Wolfenden Report was published in 1957: a long way from gay equality, but a first step.

Was the food so dreadful? It was more limited than what we have now, certainly, and continued to be so into the 60s and beyond: when I came to Durham in 1969, olive oil was something you bought in Boots, for pharmaceutical use. But Elizabeth David was encouraging us to try new things (A Book of Mediterranean Food, 1950, French Country Cooking, 1951, Italian Food, 1954...). More home cooking, less convenience foods, there's an upside and a downside to everything.

As for the music: I don't really know about the popular music of the 1950s, my listening was restricted to Children's Favourites (with Uncle Mac). But I've already mentioned the beginnings of rock & roll making their way across the Atlantic, which led to the birth of skiffle and livened things up a bit. Personally, I'm more interested in the folk revival which was going on at the same time.

A decade is a long time, and the world is a big place: you can find evidence to support either side of an argument. I realise, too, that I am talking, repeatedly, about things beginning, the first signs appearing of things which would be more visible, more important, later. That's not a counter-argument: beginnings are exciting times. I'm surprised how much I have to say on this subject, and I'm gratful to [personal profile] poliphilo for spurring me on to saying it.

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
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Rambling around Neverland [Mar. 28th, 2019|05:10 pm]
shewhomust
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I begin to think of this as the blog past that never grew up. I have been working on it for over a week, nibbling away at it a paragraph at a time. I never set out to binge-read Peter Pan. I was looking through the To Be Read pile for my next book, and pulled out Geraldine McCaughrean's Peter Pan in Scarlet, the authorised sequel. I don't think this had anything to do with the Michael Jackson documentary Leaving Neverland, which I have not seen; it has been heavily trailed, so I might have made a subconscious connection, but I'd have thought that was more likely to put me off the subject than to attract me. I'd bought the book in a charity shop out of 90% admiration for McCaughrean's The White Darkness, 10% curiosity: how do you write a sequel to Peter Pan, and what's more, one which will please Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital, who commissioned the competition by which McCaughrean was chosen for the task?

Rambling (at inordinate length)Collapse )

I stumbled into this exploration of Neverland inadvertently, thinking that I wasn't particularly interested in Peter Pan himself. I wondered whether his continuing presence in literary culture owed as much to the bequest which makes him synonymous with helping sick children (and you couldn't not want to do that, could you)? And no doubt that's part of his power. Perhaps the development of the myth through the book, the play, the another book, (maybe even the film), not, like King Arthur, through the many hands of the ages but always in the words of one man, adds to its strength. There's something about the way Barrie tells his story (and I'm thinking particularly of the Peter and Wendy novel, here), narrating a story about children rather than a story for children, in the voice of an adult entranced but also amused by his subject. He sees the charm of Neverland, but he knows that only Peter can live there for ever, and that Peter is neither entirely admirable nor entirely happy. Is it Barrie's fault if careless readers do not notice this?

While I have been wandering in Neverland, the story has started following me around. It started with an album of bandes dessinées, bought I forget when, in a secondhand shop I forget where, coming to the surface now and demanding to be read: A la recherche de Pater Pan by Cosey (otherwise unknown to me). It is set in the Alps of the Valais, in the late 1920s, and it devotes its efforts to a gorgeous and well-documented depiction of the way of life of that place and time. The central figure is a tourist from England, a (blocked) novelist who claims to be obsessed with Peter Pan, having been given the book as a child, by his brother. 'The book', according to its cover, is both Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens and Peter Pan and Wendy. I'm not going to quibble about this: Cosey thinks that Barrie was an "auteur anglais", this isn't about factual accuracy. Quite late in the book, the title is explained: it's the novelist's reply to the question, what will your next book be called? And he reflects that he associates his brother, at some level, with Peter Pan. There doesn't seem to be any actual basis for this, in what I read, but this is only volume one of two: perhaps all will become clear in the second half of the story. I'd buy it, anyway, if I ever sw a copy.

Next, thinking I had left Peter Pan behind me, I read The Lost: the Dark Ground by Gillian Cross, the first book of a trilogy which J. had loaned to me. I'm saying as little as possible about this one, because it's a terrific book and one of the great things about it is the way the story gradually unfolds and keeps you guessing. Also, book one of a trilogy, so I could say things on the basis of what I know now that were completely wrong. But, quite a long way through the book, it occurred to me that 'the Lost' echoes (in my head, if nowhere else) with the Lost Boys in their home under the ground in Neverland. So I hadn't entirely got away from Peter Pan yet.

Finally, putting together my comics order for the next month, I came across The Wendy Project, and was delighted that someone had decided to put Wendy at the centre of the story. (Not to mention Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie's The Lost Girls - no, let's not mention that.)

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
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Apollo at 50 [Mar. 25th, 2019|01:01 pm]
shewhomust
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[personal profile] lamentables sent me to Peterlee. I would have heard eventually from other sources - did, indeed, receive an e-mail about the event from arts organiser Artichoke, a whole day before it started. But it was [personal profile] lamentables who tipped me off well in advance, so that we could make plans to visit, that there was to be a mini-Lumiere event, illuminating Apollo Pavilion, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this masterpiece of brutalist architecture / huge concrete monstrosity (delete where not applicable). I admit to a fondness for the thing, just because it is so extreme and unreasonable. We visited it during the Heritage Open Days in 2007, when we were allowed to climb up and walk through it, which was intended in the original plan, but you know how these things go. I seem to have been ambushed by some urgent form-filling in, and not posted about it at the time. Sorry. But we went back on Saturday and took pictures to prove it.Collapse )

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
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I don't sign every petition... [Mar. 22nd, 2019|10:34 am]
shewhomust
...but I have signed the petition to Parliament to revoke Article 50.

I didn't sign it because I thought that it would actually cause a change of plan. I signed it because I was so angry at the Prime Minister trying to blame Parliament for a mess which is of her own making. Mrs May says that she is on the side of the 17 million people who voted leave; I want to remind her that as Prime Minister she is supposed to represent the entire country, the 48% who voted remain as well as the 52% who voted leave.

My signature is a vote of confidence in my MP, who would much rather be working for her constituents on all the other issues which are being shelved (I know this because she has said so) while Parliament tries to extricate the country from this shambles.

It's a plea for the right of the minority to be heard.

2,866,811 and counting.

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
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