Wednesday, 30 September 2009

intimate archeology

My mother came to stay and brought with her two plastic bags filled with a mass of little objects from my past.

She had decided to get rid of an old desk that had been slowly warping and ageing in her greenhouse, topped with runaway geraniums and spider plants. In the desk drawer she found a treasure trove of things sentimentally hoarded by me back when the desk was in my room as a teenager.

In one bag, there were old love letters, restaurant cards, stamps, postcards, (several pictures of owls, unsurprisingly!), letters full of warmth and affection from friends now all but forgotten... One overstuffed envelope had a yellow sticker on it saying, rather mysteriously: 'code yellow letters' (I think signalling declarations of love, or particularly intimate and difficult-to-read missives).

In the second bag, I found my own personal thrift store! A once-valuable antique ivory fan, a pinback badge from my 18th birthday, long beaded necklaces and lots of homemade earrings - already 'vintage' now, since I made them as a child!

At the bottom left of this photo you can see a pair of glass strawberry earrings. These were my first ever pair of 'dangly' earrings (i.e. not studs). I was in Arizona, USA, aged 5, when I decided I wanted my ears pierced. My mum (to my surprise!) agreed, but the deal was: no dangly earrings before the age of 12. Too grown-up, too tacky, I suppose? Go figure.

Anyway, a family friend gave me the strawberries when I was about 9 and so I snuck in there early with the danglies and never looked back!

Tuesday, 29 September 2009


This is another of my cute little finds from Cheap Charlie (aka Hui Ling): a vintage tiny-pair-of-scissors brooch set with a tiny diamante stone. Can anyone tell me why miniature things are so very appealing?

That's me wearing it with my J'aime Paris Lazy Oaf t-shirt, which made me feel overall rather Paris Nouvelle Vague... little echoes of the scene in Pierrot le Fou where Anna Karina, wearing a very wonderful 1960s red dress, snips scissors across the foreground of the frame... like cutting filmstrip... (or maybe, given the character's dangerous tendencies, threatening to snip off parts of male anatomy...?!)

My little scissors brooch on the other hand is all cuteness and no danger. Hmmm... ok by me!

Thursday, 24 September 2009

colours of now

Autumn is...

... glowing light, green tomatoes, sunflowers, late roses, spiders' webs, bright colours, leaves turning, last fruit, deep shadow, crisp air, low sun...

Tuesday, 22 September 2009


I miss my husband, who is in France to be near his sick father and spend some time with his family. I'm really busy at the moment, so I have hours without thinking of it, then it comes back: a mixture of fear, anxiety, loneliness and mostly just missing him. It seems like his papa will be OK though. I hope so with all my heart.

I'm a feminist, and I was brought up to be wary of being dependent on a man. For years I fought to maintain my emotional independence at all costs. Then I realised that it's OK to need someone, that it's actually important to depend on one another in a partnership, and that I can still be a strong, independent woman too.

So this song by Joan As Policewoman has a special resonance for me.

It's safe to be alone and be lonely
But I found a gun with no safety
And I'm gonna shoot down my ghost town completely...

Friday, 18 September 2009

jam philosophy

OK, I promise this will be the last post about preserves... at least for a while! Yesterday, while stirring up a batch of damson & ginger jam (above). I actually began to feel a bit tired of all the preparing and weighing and boiling, and scrambling to find enough jars...

Then I finished, and cut myself a slice of my homemade rye bread, spread on the plum jam (plums from our very own garden) and thought how very lovely it was to eat things entirely made by me, in the cosy home I love so much.

It reminded me of a conversation I once had with a philosopher about taste. We were walking through some fields in the South of France, picking plums and walnuts along the way. I was about 16 and had come to stay with a friend of my Dad's.

Anyway, the philosopher explained how the physiological experience of taste is always inextricable from all kinds of memories and mental associations. What we eat is flavoured by what we know, and who we are.

He used jam as an example. When we eat jam made from fruit we've picked ourselves, it's not just our tastebuds reacting, we're also tasting the memories of gathering the fruit, of stirring the pot, of the sunny day and fragrant kitchen, and of the conversations and silences that accompanied all that.

So you see it's more than just preserving fruit: it's a little taste of past time.

Thursday, 17 September 2009


Some of my favourite blogs are very personal ones, like Moorea Seal's rumination reading room, which has a great big beautiful picture of her face on its banner. I often wish I felt that open to exposure on the internet.

Instead, I'm posting a self-portrait whose over-exposure actually hides my face. And my avatar is an owl (see why here).

Paradoxically however, I feel much freer to be honestly myself this way, not having to worry about who might stumble across my page and discover personal and intimate things about me.

Maybe one day I'll feel confident enough to make my private life properly public. For now, I'd rather fly freely behind my feathered mask. Because intimacy is the way of the blogosphere.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

the new season & me

Fall09 by theowlclub featuring Luella

I love the turn of seasons because nature is on the move. You know: leaves are swirling and changing colour, flowers fading, fruits ripening, that kind of thing.

But sometimes it's a completely different kind of trip: a fashion thing. Glossy magazines ripen into heavy tomes detailing the fall trends. Mmmm, all those delicious-looking colours and textures just waiting to become my new favourite wrappings!

I've always been slightly addicted to magazines. Fashion shoots are like theatre, or even the movies. They take you into different realms, they make you dream. And never more so than at the turn of the season

However my fashion-lust is somewhat in conflict with other things I care about, like the importance of making things by hand, of preserving resources and living ethically. It's pretty hard for fashion to be ethical on the whole, because all those whims and the capriciousness of trends tend to be a little wasteful: not always, but a lot.

Musing on my conflicting thrill at the new clothes in their Autumn glory arriving in shops and my desire to reject the corporate merry-go-round of consupmtion, I decided to make some badges (some for me, some for sale on Etsy). After all, I did write recently that badges are the ultimate fashion statement.

Made from recycled magazines, they feature four of the key Fall trends: leather, tweed, distressed denim and sequins. Instead of big fashion labels, these have discrete little fashion-adjective labels, like 'très chic' and 'pretty'. They might be literal or tongue-in-cheek depending on your mood.

Whether or not I give in to my Autumnal clothing cravings, these little buttons are going to look so now.

Monday, 14 September 2009

hedgerow fruit

On Sunday we spent a happy few hours in the countryside, picking wild blackberries, damsons (or bullaces?) and elderberries. It was grey and cloudy, with a chilly wind. Autumn is here and it is blowing hot and cold: one minute we're eating outside in the sunshine, the next pulling on thick woolly sweaters.

That's my husband's hand up there, among the fruit and leaves. Back at home, I made a hedgerow jelly with a mix of all these wild fruit... except I failed to bring it quite to setting point. It is absolutely amazingly delicious however: thick and juicy and tart and deep; almost black with a red glow. Mmmm.

Now I'm in a strange mood. An Autumn mood, maybe: blowing hot and cold.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

these feathered breaths

Alela Diane & Tom Menig, The Junction, 9th September 2009

Rarely have I come out of a concert feeling so wholesome, yet light. These were songs of flight, and seasons, and things passed between the generations. Both Laura Gibson (who was supporting, and who I loved) and Alela Diane (magical) have beautiful voices and poetry in their souls.

'If I could stretch my ears into a procession and circle round your wisdom like a song', sang Laura Gibson in Funeral Song.

'The flat lands stretch inside your mouth, and when you laugh all the star-thistles tumble out', sang Alela Diane in Dry Grass and Shadows.

Between her songs, Alela Diane talked about baking cookies, the importance of a tin mug for drinking tea during her gigs (the china ones get broken, she found a tin one for £1.75 in the Cambridge Army Surplus store), and how her father always has good advice for dealing with the musical equipment. Laura Gibson told of a recent gig in a prison, where she had unusual responses to the age-old stage questions, 'how are you doing tonight?', and 'do we have time for one more?'!

I love the way this music felt handcrafted, because of the way it drew you in to the little details of texture, voice, timing, and harmony. The sounds felt fashioned and hewn like intricate carvings: at once right there in the performance (I think of Laura's slight vibrato, the way it varied slightly, or Alela Diane toying with volume as she sang the upward interval of 'mama' in Oh! My Mama), but also passed down through generations of singing and memories and melodies.

There was something especially poignant about Alela Diane singing the traditional folk song, 'Bowling Green', which her parents used to sing to her as a child (a quick glance through cyberspace suggests she added in some of her own lyrics to the traditional song). And Laura Gibson's set ended with the song Glory:

'I remember my mother's hands, laced in prayer, frail as birds.
Faith she carried like a terrible, terrible ache. I have never seen such glory since. [...]
I remember my sister's belly, white and swollen, carefully swaying.
Eyes were glowing from carrying such grace. I have never seen such glory since.'

All the singing about mothers and daughters and family ties and transmission got me thinking about my own hopes for a little one to come into my belly and my life. (C.f. my very first post on this blog).

Laura Gibson

Laura Gibson

Alela Diane

Alela Diane

Tom Menig, Alela's Pa

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

dry grass & shadows

Is that an owl feather in her hand?!

Tonight my husband and I are going to see Alela Diane at our local gig venue, The Junction.

You know those things you discover and they just take your breath away with their beautiful simplicity? Alela Diane's music is one of those things.

For your pleasure, here's a live, intimate version of my favourite song, 'Dry Grass and Shadows'. Perhaps I will write about the gig tomorrow.

Monday, 7 September 2009

hand me my button box...

I'm sorry I haven't had time to take lovingly beautiful photos of the buttons I received from Hui Ling from her fab Etsy shop, Cheap Charlie. If you want to see beautiful button pictures, look no further than Button Candy: fab blogger Jo is a button enthusiast and takes great photos.

I was so excited to receive these. Besides the fact that they came from Singapore, they are also deliciously vintage, meaning they come from both another time and another place.

I'm not sure what will happen to them next... My plan was to use them on clothing, but I keep thinking those stripy ones would make great eyes for something...!

Buttons for me are inherently poetic, because they make me think of one of my favourite spooky poems, Robert Frost's The Witch of Coos. My mum used to read this to my brother and me when we were kids. She used her best imitation-American accent, and to this day when I read it I hear it in her voice. She made it brilliantly atmospheric and creepy.

My Mum is someone whose always had draws and boxes full of materials, fabric, buttons, threads, bottles, bits of string - you name it! And so I'd pour through her button box half-hoping, half-fearing I'd find the skeleton finger in the poem...

"The finger-pieces slid in all directions.
(Where did I see one of those pieces lately?
Hand me my button-box- it must be there.)"

Thursday, 3 September 2009


This is a very special badge, since it was given to me by the great artist-musician, Patti Smith, once when I had the good fortune to spend some time with her a few years ago.

I quite like the way the peace symbol is upside-down in this photo. I think I wanted to see it that way because it looks kind of uplifting and hopeful!

I love it when little objects tell a story, hold a memory. It gives them an aura. This conjures up so many things for me: a dreamy sunny afternoon, meeting an idol, the music of the 1970s, the magnificent Patti herself...

you may also like

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...