Saturday, 19 November 2016

Book-dowsing: A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf

A Room of One's Own
Virginia Woolf

This book is an extended essay, inspired by a lecture Woolf was asked to give on the subject of Women and Fiction. The remit for such a subject seemed so huge to Woolf that she broke it down, looked at it from this way and that, and her primary conclusion was that in order to write a woman needs money and a room of her own. Without these two luxuries, the chance of a woman succeeding as a writer, or being able to write at all, was small according to Woolf. Or, at least, that is how it seemed back then in the 1920s.

This book is a useful reminder that less than 100 years ago there were places where a woman could not go unless she was accompanied by a man - or even accompanied by one. She couldn't even walk on the grass in certain places without being told off and deflected back on to the path. That is the world that frames this book. That is the experience that plays on Woolf's mind even as she can see development and evolution in the future and predicts that in a hundred years women will write just as well as men.

Woolf talks of the heritage of writing and voices the theory that many poems and other works signed Anonymous were written by women who did not feel able to put their names to such work. She conjures a story of what would have happened to Shakespeare's sister, had he had one, a woman just as gifted as him but stifled by her sex and unable ever to gratify her creativity with the freedom available to him. She notes the centuries of male poetry, plays and stories which men have to call upon and points out that women do not have this shared history.

I won't list all Woolf's arguments and the circuitous route her thoughts took. This is a short book, and I think you can get a copy for something like 50p on Kindle so it isn't expensive, and it wouldn't take much time to read it. What I found interesting was how I as a reader have changed. I think I first read this when I was about 20. Nearly two decades later, having read it a couple of times in the interim, I find that I am more questioning of certain parts of the content than I was before. 

Woolf states that men write in a certain way, the implication being that women need to find their own way of writing. She talks of certain men writing in a very manly way, others of writing in a manly-womanly way and then refers to Proust as writing too much like a woman and that this is a failing. This jarred with me in a way it hasn't in the past. When she refers to the recent (to her) barrage of literature written by men on the subject of women, she refers to the Suffragettes as being 'to blame' - again, there's that negative context. Did she realise she was doing that? Was it written with irony? If the latter was intended, I didn't feel it came across. What came through for me from certain passages in the book was a pervasive, unconscious support for the idea that women were less than men. To be too much like a woman was a failure because being a woman was a retrograde step; women were to blame for misogynist literature rather than the threatened, angry men who wrote it.

I also found myself disagreeing with her sentiment that a certain style of writing is specifically the remit of one sex or the other. Some writers are great writers, some are average writers, some are dire writers - gender does not determine which camp a writer is most likely to fall into. Woolf considers it a shame that books like Jane Eyre were written with a great deal of anger behind them, anger at opportunities denied to females. Would Jane Eyre have been such an appealing character if she hadn't had that passion? I don't think so. Did male writers write without anger? Thomas Hardy has never struck me as a particularly serene author yet I don't think anyone has ever said he would have written better without that streak of raw emotion you can see in his work.

This re-read also brought home to me how narrow the definition of writer is in this example. A writer in this book is a white man, university educated, and if work is undertaken at all it is white collar work. The working classes are barely touched upon and there is no mention of non-white writers. If I apply the idea that women would write a better calibre of book if they weren't angry, this implies to me that those non-white writers who tell stories of apartheid and segregation and racism are somehow less because of the raw feeling they contain. Which I don't agree with.

So, the current me has found a lot more to debate this time around than I have in the past. When I read the book again, which I am sure I will, who knows what I will pick up that I haven't before? Gripes above aside, I would still recommend this book and still feel it has a place on my list of favourite non-fiction reads. Time has moved on and just as Woolf has predicted there are many women earning a living by writing. A Room of One's Own ends on a positive note for those women who hear her words - to follow their hearts and write if that is their wish.

8 out of 10

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Bug Hotels

A couple of weeks ago I had an especially trying morning at work. For my lunch hour I opted for a walk in a local park to try and bring some equilibrium to my vexed mind. There was a group of people there showing passersby how to make hedgehog homes and bug boxes. What you made you could take away for a small donation. I didn’t pay much attention to the hedgehog homes but the bug boxes were made of second hand and scrap wood. This appealed to my love of recycling and repurposing. Also, I was thinking of adding a bug hotel to my Christmas list and here was an opportunity to make one myself for £3! Bargain!

I'm hoping the bug hotel will offer a possible home to bees and ladybirds – preferably native ladybirds but I’ve no idea how you’d enforce that kind of thing!

You can find some lovely ideas for hanging hotels here and if you really have a lot of space to spare you can upgrade to a bug mansion. I imagine this would be a good project if you had children interested in nature.

The bug hotel was finally installed in the garden this weekend. Difficult to take a picture of where it is and I don’t know if this is the right place for it but it is the only place in my garden that I can put it up. I’ll check it again in late spring and see if there’s any evidence of winter lodging.

Do you have space in your garden for a bug hotel?

Monday, 14 November 2016

Cross Stitch Doodles

Can you doodle in cross stitch? Not entirely sure you can but as I am focussing on small pieces that's what they feel like - doodles. I have no appetite for huge labour intensive projects. I already have quilts on the go and other sewing commitments that require hours rather than minutes so cross-stitch is wedged into a small piece of my creative time pie.

When I first got into cross stitch 15+ years ago there wasn't much in the way of stuff on the internet but now there's tons out there. Etsy has loads (the pic at the top of this post was adapted from one found there) and Pinterest has hundreds if not thousands of piccies to inspire.

This Labyrinth inspired fellow is also based on an Etsy find,
adapted to fit in a fridge magnet
A couple of months ago, a friend at work gave me a huge bag of cross stitch supplies that she didn't need any more, so I tend to adapt whatever patterns I like to the colours and fabrics I have at my disposal to use. The cat below was originally black with yellow eyes and books of different shades.

What am I going to do with all these projects? I'm not sure. The current hazy plan knocking about in my head is to make a bag to keep my cross stitch bits in and cover it with all these pieces.

There's a treasure trove of geek patterns out there, from Pacman to Star Trek. Donna Kooler was one of the major players in cross stitch books when I was in my early twenties - the pumpkin below is taken from one of her books. I've been out of the cross-stitch loop for so long I don't know who are the movers and shakers these days but I think I'll have have a softspot in my heart for a bit of Kooler nostalgia.

Cross stitch has got significantly saucier. Swearing in stitches is de rigueur with some pieces being very elaborate, others happy to drop the F-Bomb in a more discreet fashion.

And there's the incredibly mature, profound statements you can make with your stitching, like the framed example below that was made to go on my bathroom door.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Why are books so damn tempting?!

The title of this post is, of course, rhetorical.

I know exactly why books are so damn tempting.

These are not my shelves - the pic comes from a BBC article on collecting books.
Thankfully, I don't have the space for this rampant level of bibliophilia.

Over 6 months ago, I wrote a post where I congratulated myself on how I had cleared the decks when it came to books waiting to be read. I returned everything I had to the library; I took all books I hadn't read off my shelves and gave them charity. Novels that had been lent to me I gave back to the lenders. It was such a delicious feeling to know that my reading-scape was swept clear. I had the space and the freedom to go out into the world - to libraries, to bookshops, to the shelves of friends, to my own shelves of once-read still-loved books - and see what books wanted to be read.

Above images found here in a collection of different types of philes and what they love

Skip ahead to today and I have 30 unread books that I have managed to accumulate since. I'd registered the odd tome slipping in here and there but I hadn't realised how many paperbacks and hardbacks had snuck back on to those cleared shelves. This total of 30 is after I looked at the acquisitions and culled those that could go to charity. My book-reading vista is once again clogged up. I no longer feel I have the freedom to go to libraries and charity shops and pick something up. I can do it, of course, but there's the nagging thought at the back of my head that I have so much to read already.

The Japanese have a word for this kind of collecting. Tsundoku. There is the feeling among some that just like the words karaoke and tsunami, tsundoku should enter the English language.

What about abibliphilia? I think this might be a made up word as it doesn't appear in the dictionary but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be. I scooped it from this blog post and wonder if this is part of my problem - fear of running out of things to read. This is a highly irrational fear as I have lots of books I have already read on my shelves and I have a kindle and a OneClick Digital app on my tablet so a vast library is only a few clicks away.

Every book is a promise. That's why I pick them up and accrue them without consciously realising it. Each one is new world. I will meet new people there, explore new ideas, absorb new sights and stories. Some will barely register as a ripple, read one day, forgotten within a month. Others will blow my mind. How do you successfully resist promises? I, it would appear, don't.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

A Christmas Tree for a Tiny House

Tiny House Christmas Ideas

Though the chances of me ever having my dream tiny house are slim to none (and slim just left town) it doesn't stop me daydreaming about it, as evidenced in other posts. As the festive season approaches I find myself wondering about what it must be like to have a tiny house at Christmas. Obviously, inviting all the family over for a big Christmas dinner is an impossibility but that doesn't mean that Christmas itself is off limits in a reduced space.

With a small space, storage is always a priority. A plastic Christmas tree requires a box, requires packing away, requires storage space. In a tiny home that isn't something I could justify. I'm also not fond of the idea of cutting down a living tree just to have it on display in a house for a month before chucking it out - and with a real tree there's the added implication of shedding needles and cat attacks. However, a box of Christmas decorations would be fine and something I'd feel I could justify the space for. 

With this in mind I think wall trees are the way to go for my dream tiny house.

The colour tones here are a little subdued for me but this is the kind of idea.
This tree has seagulls on, which I find random and endearing :)

I'm not a fan of tinsel (another cat related no-no), but I do like me some fairylights.

I also love the decorations they have in PaperChase each year but the tree I use is quite small and those big, heavy items would look very odd. On a wall tree, they would be perfect! My tiny house is not going to be an especially mature, elegant, grown-up place anyway so I can finally get to have a tree plastered with mermaids, foxes in tutus, sequined hotdogs, unicorns, flamingoes and lots of other tasteless fun things!

This is more colourful but lacking flashy light bling and a bit too
symmetrical for my liking. I like mismatched chaos on a tree.

So, my current daydream is that I would put lots of hooks on a space on the wall. At Christmas time, they would hold a variety of Christmas decorations and strands of fairylights. For the rest of the year I could use the hooks to hang other useful things.

Ah, dream tiny house. You're coming on a treat!

Monday, 7 November 2016

Paul Temple: the drinking game

I love a bit of Paul Temple on the radio (thank you BBC iPlayer Radio app) but I can't deny that there are certain plot devices that come up again and again in these crime dramas that ran from the thirties to the sixties.

If there were such a thing as the Paul Temple drinking game, players would need to take a swig every time the following happened:

  • Paul says, 'by Timothy'.
  • Steve says, 'Paul, be careful'.
  • Someone expires in the presence of Steve and/ or Paul and gives them a cryptic message - rather than actually giving them a name which would be much more useful!
  • Paul and Steve are run off the road.
  • One of the suspects is impersonated to lure Paul/ Steve into a trap.
  • Paul is about to tell Steve his theory or idea on something when he is interrupted by a ringing phone/ knock at the door.
  • Someone contacts Paul to say they need to speak to him urgently and by the time he finally gets round to meeting up with them they are dead.
  • Paul admonishes Steve for her 'good old intuition'.
  • Paul says 'STEVE' with urgency and anguish (often to a backdrop of fire or a bomb in the vicinity)
  • Steve buys a new hat/ dress/ coat and Paul bemoans the cost.
  • Paul Temple solves a crime the police force is incapable of solving.
By the end of a 6 part serial, you'd be wasted.

Friday, 4 November 2016

A Tiny Door for a Tiny House

This is a follow up from my recent post on gnome doors - it appears there are people who set up little doors inside their actual homes instead of/ aswell as the outside world! These have a variety of names from Urban Fairy to Tooth Fairy to Elf Doors. Thank you Pinterest for this discovery. The pic above can be found here.

It's another type of random decoration that I would include in my dream Tiny House. In a home that features craftidermy and at least one fabric insect, a tiny door would be commonplace!

This door is both whimsical and practical, serving as a plug cover 

In theory, the installation of such a door would be simple enough. Have a look on the internet and you'll find that Etsy, Ebay and Amazon all stock dollshouse doors - and I bet there are other smaller websites that specialise in miniatures where you could find even more variety.

This Etsy investment would be a lot less freaky than the Elf on the Shelf phenomenon

I wouldn't have one with a working light or anything that high tech, though I am delighted to find that other people have fitted their urban elf doors with just that.

From the What Will We Do Today? blog, complete with working light

I wouldn't go too heavy with the detail. The picture below is taken from a Daily Mail article and a lot of thought and energy has been given to the scene beyond it as you can see. Lovely to think people have that attention to details, though the weird mice sculptures are a little creepy for me. In my Tiny House, there wouldn't be space for me to put anything behind the door anyway!

I like the idea of a postbox and a welcome mat but think that would be a bit heavy on the clutter, and small items like that not affixed to anything would likely get destroyed by whatever cat I had about the place in a way that a door glued to a wall hopefully would not. I don't even think I could get away with bunting, and a ladder wouldn't last long with feline curiosity either.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Random thoughts on gnome doors

From The Bird House

I think everyone has a couple of things they'd like to do in their lives which they know would seem weird to the majority. As a result, they tend to keep these ideas to themselves. This is one of my random desires that I am sharing.

One day, I want to design, build and install a little door among the roots of a tree in a local park for no other reason than to delight those few passersby who actually notice it. It will be tucked away, not as easy to see as the Carlton Colville mystery fairy door, and a source of childish joy for me.

I'm not alone in this desire to secrete a little door somewhere - thank you internet for connecting me to this fact!

Image taken from My Fairy Gardens

Known as gnome doors or fairy doors, there are lots for sale on the internet and for the creative-minded individuals there are how tos you can find by Googling, like this one on the Mommy Blessings blog.

I'd want to make my own, of course, rather than buy a readymade one. This is because I don't just want one to stick on the trunk of a tree. Oh no. I want it to go among the roots and gnarly oddments at the base of the tree. I want my door to be a snug fit so it looks built for the purpose.

From Farmers Market Online

That's about as far as I've got with the plan thus far. I think I'll make it out of some kind of wood, perhaps varnished but not painted. I want a simple door and not a garish one so no bright colours and cutesy names on it. I like the idea of hinges but not yet sure about a knocker more because I doubt my ability to make something that intricate. I could always raid my knocker ideas for my dream tiny house and see if any of them would suffice.

It's going to be the door of a home rather than a tiny pub. I want it to be unobtrusive and inoffensive - fairy doors have been known to cause chaos if left to spring up unchecked. 

This one from Etsy even has a tiny lion knocker!

After the door, I might move on to other things. Setting up little scenes to be discovered - or not. I love it when I catch sight of something out of the ordinary that has been left somewhere. The Bloggess has referred to it as leaving magic behind.

I don't know about you, but I'd be delighted to find a little scene like this in my local park :)