Saturday, May 25, 2013

Wear and Read



|  My sister made me a corset. It is a thing of beauty and I can see it being part of my "uniform" when working from home, to make me sit up that bit straighter and feel more able and in control. I realise the historical connotations would be rather the opposite. But I find it does wonders for one's breathing if you don't make it so tight it squashes all your vital organs. Her online shop is here, but will be transferred to another site when she leaves Germany.

|  I am much more of a baker than a cook, so I want to learn more about cooking. The Flavour Thesaurus is not only a great resource, explaining what goes with what and why, but also entertaining (sample: "If you ever feel a bit decadent tucking into bacon and eggs at breakfast, it may help to know that in pre-revolutionary Russia the Tsar's children started the day with a dish of mashed banana and caviar.") and a beautiful book.

|  The older I get the shorter my hemlines, it seems. For a good part of my teenage years I wore long floaty skirts; in my early twenties a much older boyfriend described my mid-length skirts as "granny-style"; and now I can often be seen in 1960s minidresses and shorts, including these yellow dotty ones.

|  Stag's Leap, Sharon Olds's book of poems about the break-up of her marriage, is a revelation, haunting and powerful, and deservedly won the T.S. Eliot Prize.

[All of the above are presents given to me by real people in my life, not blog freebies!]

Saturday, May 18, 2013


Sibylle looking out at the sea wearing my shaggy black sheep/jumper

Whenever my family visit I am surprised by how easily I switch to house-full-of-people mode. This time there were three of us, which tends to be the maximum in my house, but considering it is is a tiny house that sleeps only three, it does feel full. My younger sister and her husband came over for my 30th birthday, and now they are gone the house seems big and empty.

I slept in the single bed in the spare room while they were here, and even though it lacks the plush bedding of my double bed and fails most feng shui criteria (facing a door, in the wrong direction, and I store artwork under it - under my own bed there is only glorious free space), I always sleep like a baby in that bed. Perhaps it's the knowledge that there are people I love in the room beside me.

I am looking forward to more family time in the summer when I go home for a few weeks, and my older sister and her (Irish) husband are moving here next month, something that still hasn't registered as reality - I will have family here! A friend said that it would change me (it certainly will be a huge change for my sister and brother-in-law), alleviate the inevitable feeling of displacement that comes with living in another country away from one's tribe. Or maybe my sister and I will just miss the rest of the family more.

Our younger sister wrote this, and it is heart-breaking for me to read, despite her positivity [I stole your post title, Sibylle!]. The three-sisters constellation is a special one. And then there is our mother. When I moved here aged 19 it was all an adventure - there were tears shed in the airport, on both sides, and I felt raw at times, but I knew it was what I wanted. This place still is where I want to be, but it doesn't get easier as you get older; rather the opposite, even if I don't always cry when saying goodbye again. I wish geographical obstacles weren't as pronounced as they are.

Friday, May 10, 2013


I just saw that Angeliki wrote about Bibliosophy, or How Reading is Connected with Psychology this week, and it struck me that I often get the sense that I have intuitively picked the right book at the right time (or I construe this narrative in hindsight).

Right now, I am re-reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being - curiously at a time when everything feels strangely heavy - and the philosophising in it addresses so much that feels acute to me at the moment:

 "We can never know what to want, because, living only one life, we can neither compare it with our previous lives nor perfect it in our lives to come." (p.7, faber and faber, London 1999)

Oliver Burkeman also touched on this in one of his Guardian columns recently. The need to make decisions (not the big life decisions Burkeman talks about, but decisions nonetheless) weighs on me, and I crave lightness, but I have a feeling I will resort to going with the flow as usual. While I find it difficult to trust my intuition, because often I am not even able to access it, I do trust that everything is happening as it should, and perhaps with all the growing going on around me (spring is here at last) and the longer days, the lightness will come, too.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Shock of recognition

 In the garden, April 2013

"There is an internal landscape, a geography of the soul; we search for its outlines all our lives.
   Those who are lucky enough to find it, ease like water over a stone, on to its fluid contours, and are home. 
   Some find it in the place of their birth; others may leave a seaside town, parched, and find themselves refreshed in the desert. There are those born in rolling countryside who are really only at ease in the intense and busy loneliness of the city.
   For some, the search is for the imprint of another; a child or a mother, a grandfather or a brother, a lover, a husband, a wife, or a foe. 
   We may go through our lives happy or unhappy, successful or unfulfilled, loved or unloved, without ever standing cold with the shock of recognition, without ever feeling the agony as the twisted iron in our soul unlocks itself, and we slip at last into place."

The above is the first page of Damage by Josephine Hart. I started reading it on the University Park & Ride bus going to work. Part of me wishes I had picked a more dramatic backdrop, as I will always remember where I was when I read something that hit me like these words did, but then again it doesn't matter, and maybe the experience needed the contrast of mundane surroundings.

I won't write more about it here; my posts about books tend to simply be recommendations and a way to remember and archive excerpts and quotes, not reviews with summaries (incidentally, this week Gretchen Rubin explained why she won't describe the books she recommends - I don't necessarily agree, but I get what she means), but here is what Ted Hughes, who always found the right words, had to say about this book:

"Damage is really a poem. The peculiar passion in it evoked by the characters. It is too much for them. It comes from somewhere else like the passion in certain singers that hi-jacks the song. Lorca says somewhere that 'the poem that pierces the heart like a knife has yet to be written', but I felt that kind of knife dangling somewhere in Damage."

And I think the opening sentence deserves inclusion in those lists of 100 Best First Sentences in Literature.