Monday, April 29, 2013

To Do

To Do (for pleasure; I won't go into my countless other To Do lists):

- Read all the books I currently have by my bedside, so I can start reading Damage (actually, I might not wait): this is one of the books that had been on my To Read list for years, and somehow I never saw it anywhere and always forgot when I ordered books online, which is less than once a year as I prefer buying books in real shops. Then, on Saturday, while waiting for a friend I popped into Bell, Book and Candle, a second-hand book and record shop, and there it was.

- More reading. F. Scott Fitzgerald's novels are among my favourite and I have long been fascinated by Zelda Fitzgerald's part in his life and work as well as herself in her own right. My sister gave me the novel Alabama Song a few years ago and I have Nancy Milford's biography, and now, with the new The Great Gatsby film approaching, there are various fiction and non-fiction books being published this year, among them Beautiful Fools by R Clifton Spargo. Everything seems to be Gatsby-themed at the moment, and as someone who loves flapper dresses and ornate headbands, I don't get tired of it, but I have a feeling that despite the abundance of choice at present the flapper dress I have been searching for for so long won't be from a high-street shop. It will be vintage or made by one of my sisters. Or remain a sublime idea.

- Go to the cinema (a rare occurrence for me). I have been meaning to go and see In the House, but the screenings at the cinema here always seem to clash with my teaching or other things, but hopefully I will make it this week. I loved Ozon's Swimming Pool, and until a few weeks ago I didn't know about 2007's Angel, but apparently In the House completes his three-part exploration of the theme of writing.

- Get some sunlight (this - see last photo- is from a lovely book I picked up in a Hippie shop and often dip into for inspiration called 365 Ways to Live a Simple and Spiritual Life by Madonna Gauding. Each entry is preceded by a quote.) I have done that quite a bit over the last few days, which has prompted me to look for a good natural SPF moisturiser. The ones I have used in the past were either too sticky and/or chalky-looking. So far my research has told me that it may be better to use a separate SPF that sits on top of the moisturiser instead of using a combined product. This and this sound good, but I haven't figured out whether I can get them here or if they ship to Ireland. I use jojoba oil as a moisturiser, which is a natural sunscreen, but I worry that it is not sufficient. Lavender and chamomile essential oils also have sun-blocking properties, so mixing those with jojoba as a base oil could be a solution, but again I am not sure how much they protect the skin. Of course I will also go without every now and again to get the full benefit of sunlight. If you have any recommendations for sunscreen, please share in the comments.

| I intend not to use or link to amazon anymore due to their ethically questionable world-domination strategies. And none of the links on my blog are affiliate links.

|| The juxtaposition of the title of this post and the title of the book in the first picture just struck me - no, I do not intend to do damage...

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Art in fiction

I posted the following on my other blog a few days ago - that blog is about all things art-related, but since I also write about art here, there are often overlaps in terms of topics, and very occasionally a post will appear on both blogs. So apologies if you have already read this.

I love when a writer is able to successfully conjure up the world of a fictional artist, down to imagining and describing their oeuvre. Siri Hustvedt is excellent at this - she does it in all of her novels, if I remember correctly, and part of me wishes someone had actually created all this work, though it is very likely that its manifestation would not live up to the shape it has taken on in the reader's mind. Perhaps the magic lies in the fact that it doesn't exist beyond the page. From the eerie portrait in The Blindfold  to the embroideries featuring taboo subjects made by an old woman in The Summer without Men, these are pieces that reside in my memory alongside all the actual visual art I have absorbed. Another author who evokes and details the artistic output of her protagonists is Deirdre Madden. I have just read Authenticity, and both the abstract paintings by one of the central characters (stripes in pastel colours, compared by one critic in the book to 'the pale flags of imaginary countries') and the other main protagonist's  boxes with objects that can only be glimpsed through fluttering ribbons still linger in my mind.

(Inventing an artist's work in film, while not depending on words to capture it, poses the challenge of actually having to show it and be convincing, whether that means finding a real-life artist whose existing work will serve that purpose or commissioning something suitable. When I watched the 1998 version of Great Expectations as a teenager, I was moved by Finn's large-scale drawings.)

Friday, April 19, 2013

Indoors, outdoors



Indoors: In order to remember to do the exercises for my knees and some yoga and meditation every day, I now leave a pillow on the yoga mat as a visual reminder. I can see it from the main room (I leave all the doors open most of the time and my house is very small), so there is no way around it. I also need it for some of the exercises. When I am finished I put the pillow back on the spare bed. So far this works. Once I get used to the sight of the pillow on the floor, this may change.

I am rereading To the Lighthouse (while standing on one leg, for instance - this isn't just for the photo) and enjoyed the two introductions in this edition, particularly Eavan Boland's. "Perhaps most importantly, the lighthouse is at the service of the beautiful, insistent subjectivity which Mrs Ramsay turns on it in the first chapters, thereby including herself in the wider project of the book itself - diminishing a reality by uncovering a truth:..." (Woolf, Virginia: To the Lighthouse, Vintage, London 2004, p. xiv).

My early-morning-climbing-back-into-bed-for-half-an-hour* book is Toby Young's How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, a successful book about failure, to paraphrase Nicholas Lezard. It is very entertaining with hilarious glimpses into the vainglorious world of Condé Nast and helpful in my endeavour to be more carefree and worry less - there is something cathartic about reading Young's cringe-inducing account of his time in New York. I suffer from excessive Fremdschaemen (being embarrassed on behalf of someone else), so I am probably way too involved when reading this, but it may give me a thicker skin for my own awkward moments.

Outdoors: More growing and an explosion of colours, and the trees are finally in bloom, too, if somewhat tentatively. I have been given the go-ahead to try running again, starting with 15 minutes, three of which to be walked, but due to a chesty cough I haven't done it yet. But I have been going for walks and getting lots of sun whenever it is out.

*a new habit

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Tea-friendly activities

a kitchen moment

 anticipating Julian Barnes's new book

An eventful week usually requires a subsequent uneventful week for me, with mellow activities that can be accompanied by tea-drinking*. I have been catching up on reading books, papers, magazines and online articles. In terms of physical activity, I am doing my best to keep up the (lifelong?!) exercises for my knees, which has also led me back to doing more yoga and meditation again. This is good news for me and those around me. I am trying to practise mindful speech and limit complaining and other negative utterances, and it is not always easy, but when I manage it, I feel so much more at peace.

Today I finished the work I am submitting for the Rock Trust Postcard Art Exhibition in Edinburgh. I made mini versions of two recent paintings. I tend to work in fairly standard sizes most of the time, so when I go much bigger or much smaller, it is always exciting. When printing out scanned images of illustrations last week I got the idea to make a tiny book one day. In my aspirational life I have a big studio with the possibility to work on large canvases and be a sculptor, too. Alas, that might never materialise, so for economical reasons alone I should consider miniature art.

It struck me the other day that I haven't bought or wanted to buy anything other than essentials in months (books count as essentials...). There may have been one or two exceptions, but I cannot think of anything. As a wannabe minimalist I am very pleased by this. I wonder if it were different if I had more money**, but I think it is just a contributing factor. One thing I would like to buy is some new music, so I might treat myself to something this weekend.

*I am in a coffee subsitute (the barley/chicory/rye kind) and Moroccan tea phase at the moment, along with the usual green and jasmine green tea.

** I do love clothes.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Thoughts on a Tuesday evening*

1. It may be cold, but at least there is a lot of light. 

2. Being a HSP who needs a lot of time on her own to recharge / hide from the world I tend to be hesitant about making too many plans and my weekends frequently remain unstructured, which is how I like it. However, it hasn't escaped me that they can feel so much longer when a lot is happening. I spent most of Sunday and Monday in Dublin and Saturday at a wedding, and consequently Friday seems so very long ago.

3. I am excited because another book (or rather three short books - a trilogy for children) I have illustrated is coming into existence.

4. The money I earn in the months I get paid does not really stretch over twelve months, not when there are unexpected expenses, of which there have been too many. But I value my freedom and flexibility and the time to work on things like 3).

5. I am still reading Authenticity - making it last because I am enjoying it so much. There are so many parallels to my own life and circumstances, I am convinced I was meant to read it at this particular point in time.

*Apologies if anyone expected something more weighty.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Oh yes

I did work hard on Friday as planned, so for the remainder of the weekend I was able to do all the things I mentioned in my last post minus the baking (there was no need; there was still Christmas pudding!).

We did find two new beaches and also looked for, picked and ate sea beet (it's a bit like baby spinach, but with a thicker texture and with salty sea taste - really good). The turquoise of the water is misleading - it was freezing, so this all-year-round swimmer (ahem...) did not take off any clothes. But the cold wind gave me a boost similar to a swim, and just being surrounded by water, animals and Tolkienesque countryside was exactly what I needed.

I am aware I have all these things on my doorstep - the sea beet was actually from the shore here, a few minutes' walk from my house -, but sometimes going somewhere new or less familiar is required to rewire one's brain. I feel almost ready for the (admittedly very short) crazy week ahead.