Category Archives: Everyday

One dress, one hundred days

I’m not really one to do a funny challenge — life is challenging enough. But somehow this one from wool& inspired me: wear the same lovely merino wool dress every day, I mean EVERY DAY, for 100 consecutive days.

I suppose I’ve been thinking a lot about cutting consumption. I’ve been trying to grow veg and trying to get ever closer to being zero waste. That has taken time and thought and research and work, so I thought maybe it would be nice to save time by never thinking about what to wear. Tons of women have done it, and I liked reading what they wrote, so I’m writing this.

They talked about it contributing to a life change and new ethics of fashion in light of the many injustices and climate change. I rarely buy anything new for these reasons. But I also liked how they talked about it helping them think less about their appearance, worry less about what others thought, enjoy their jewelry and scarves and belts more, save money/buy less and many other cool things. On completion, Wool& promises to send you $100 (or €) towards a new dress that you can also wear day in and day out.

Me in the dress, standing on the peaks above Settle in the Yorkshire Dales

The dress felt lovely and smooth, even with my sensitive skin. It really did adjust to temperature, and I was cool or warm as needed. It totally wicked away moisture and didn’t smell. It did not require washing often and dried really quickly. I never had to iron it. It was great for hiking, and I have walked many many miles in it. It is maybe a little shorter than when I bought it (a longer one would have been nice), but overall looks good as new, which is actually quite amazing. I only had one major spill to be fair, and washed it out right away. But I’ve never had a dress that could do all that, and I loved it.

Continue reading One dress, one hundred days

Knitting Sticks

Knitting sticks! I had never heard of them before, but they are ingenious. Were I a knitter I would have some idea how they work exactly and all the ways you could use them, but essentially they allow you to stand or walk and knit at the same time. I am not a knitter nor do I depend for life on how much knitting I can produce in a day, but I love the beauty with which this desire and this need has been satisfied.

A knitting stick is a piece of wood with a hole in the end for the needle.  It’s tucked under your arm [or held fast in a belt] so you can knit with three or four needles.  They learned in the 1800s that if you had a stick, you could knit faster and therefore earn more money.  The money that they earned was a pittance but it was better than nothing.

This is all from the Dales Countryside Museum exhibition Love Tokens, Sittings and Songs in Hawes, showcasing the collection of John Dixon:

It’s probable that knitting sticks, sheaths as they can be known, were used from the earliest days of knitting. Many have a ledge or slit so they can be held firmly in a belt or apron string on the right side of the waist. They anchor the knitting needle onto which the knitting is worked and allow the knitter to work close to the point of the needle. They also enable the knitter to work while standing or walking about and to “park” their knitting if they need to use their hands for other tasks like opening a gate on the way to work at a lead mine or moving a pan from the range.

In their book Old Hand-knitters of the Dales, Marie Hartley and Joan Ingilby, the founders of this Museum, talk of one of the earliest recorded knitting sticks possibly being of Northumbrian origin and dating to the 15th or 16th century, a time when knitting flourished as an industry in Britain.

Wensley Dale Knitters, illustration by G. Walker from Costume of Yorkshire, 1812
Wensley Dale Knitters, illustration by G. Walker from Costume of Yorkshire, 1812

So practical, but also so beautiful, some simple and stylish, others more fascinating and some of them wonderfully odd. They were all hand carved as gifts, some love tokens as the exhbition title goes.

As the old illustration shows, this was a social and most companionable form of knitting. There are series of pictures taken of older folks sitting outside their doorways in their chairs, ready to chat to any passers by. They sang songs as well.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, people would come together to knit, whether it was outside their homes during the day or at their neighbours by the light of a peat fire in the evening.

They sang songs to count the rows knitted with their knitting sheaths and curved needles known as pricks. The sittings were social and also saved money, with only one house having to keep a fire going.

“perhaps the most characteristic custom of the Dales, is what is called their Sitting, or going-a-sitting. Knitting is a great practice in the dales. Men, women, and children, all knit … the men still knit a great deal in the houses; and women knit incessantly. They have knitting schools where children are taught; and where they sing in chorus knitting songs, some of which appear as childish as the nursery stories of the last generation. Yet all of them bear some reference to their employment and mode of life; and the chorus, which maintains regularity of action and keeps up the attention, is of more importance than the words.”

This was such a surprising most wonderful thing to find. We came to Hawes on this rainy day, clouds low so low over the earth. A quite miserable day. We caught the most wonderful community run Little White Bus from Garsdale station. We came to see the town, to see Wensleydale Cheese being made (but it was closed), to see Gayle mill (also closed), to see the ropemaker (closed). I don’t mind that they were closed, we came over our own holidays after all. The exhibition made it all worth it though, and the village itself. It is beautiful there on the banks of Gayle Beck, with narrow streets and alleys, houses that all seem to face inwards towards the village and the community life there.

Another year of Bristol’s Cinema Rediscovered

I’ve no time to blog properly anymore, but this weekend was full of great films, though I am still sad I missed Notorious. Highlights were the wonder of the shorts from Moustapha Allasane — I loved the mocking of Westerns in Le Retour d’un aventurier (1966) but above all Kokoa (2001) because it is definitely funnier to animate frogs than humans. The great wrestling chameleon Hawawa (as pronounced, probably not as spelled) filled me with joy.

Second highlight was The Murder of Mr Devil (1970) directed by Yeti Ester Krumbachová. Hilarious and will probably stay with me forever.

But best of all…once again watching Mike Hodges’ films with Mike Hodges. This year is was Croupier and Black Rainbow. There was also food, wine (too much wine), and great conversation and oh what a lovely Saturday.

Everything was good, and there was so much I didn’t get to see that I would have like to.

Housing the masses, BulgarIa

It is hard staring up at these huge tower blocks to imagine what lives they hold within them. So many lives. Landscapes unlike anything I could have imagined growing up, in a great circle around the city and forming its boundary. There is more variation than I was expecting as I have read so much about the ubiquitous type. I love how staring at them you see just how individual they actually are with paint, balconies become rooms, curtains, plants, doorways…So many lives.

Pictures of home and housing in Old Plovdiv

I’ve been reading so much about housing and so much about home. And all of it so European. So different from these homes. These homes had a touch of Europe, but really felt like something quite a bit different. These steep cobbled streets and homes stepped and angled, most from the first few decades of the 1800s were so lovely.

I took a few too many pictures maybe, but the two interiors we saw were so gracious, so unexpected. The first the House-Museum Hindliyan / Къща-музей „Хиндлиян“, built between 1835-1840 by an Armenian merchant, decorated with paintings of cities from around Europe and Istanbul/Constantinople done over a period of 6 months by Chirpan craftsmen Moka and Mavrudi. The furniture is not the original furniture of course, but typical National Revival. It is the structure, the yard with its grapes, the store room by the high wall to enter, the feel of the rooms and the incredible bath with its hypocaust heating, the fountains and niches, the wondrous ceilings that feel so different.

The second house was the Georgiadi House, entered on whim. It was actually built for Georgi Kendinenoglou by Hadzhi Georgi in 1848, but he gave it as a dowry for his daughter upon her marriage to Georgiadi, a merchant from Thessaloniki. It is a wooden frame filled in with mud bricks. The wall niches I so love are called alafranga. The central rooms on the 1st and 2nd floor both have platforms but there is nothing about them at all anywhere written here.

Few seem to love knowing the form and function of rooms and the life that filled them quite like I do. A mystery for unraveling at some future time.

This house is no longer furnished, rather it full of pictures, artifacts, guns and flags and uniforms from the freedom struggle for independence from the Ottomans. The ivory handle of a cane carved like Napoleon belonging to Peyu Geogiev, grand master of the fur-dressers guild. A portrait of the only female participant of the horse detachment of Benkovski. A small cannon. Lots of lions. Print patterns traded in the 19th century. The revolver, dagger and gospel before which Vasil Levski’s revolutionary oath was sworn. A handbook of successful fights with the Turks.

This was also the first place I really got a sense of how cosmopolitan Plovdiv was, the many different cultures and peoples who resided and traded here. All long before independence.

Still, funny to read this from the letters of Octavia Hill, which I finished not long before we came here.

I was interested to land in Bulgaria. One wonders what these young nations are going to be, somewhat as one does about children. The country looked strange and very uninhabited ; but it was much more beautiful than I expected. We went by railway thro’ it to Rustchuk. (Octavia Hill, 432)*

It is from the period not long after that independence was won (another painting of General Gurko triumphantly entering the city was to be found here, looking very much like his entry into Veliko Tarnovo).

*Maurice, C. Edmund (ed) ([1913] 2010) Life of Octavia Hill As Told in Her Letters. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

real estate noir: MacDonald on The Florida Suburbs…

It was one of those Florida houses I find unsympathetic, all block tile, glass, terrazzo, aluminum. They have a surgical coldness. Each one seems to be merely some complex corridor arrangement, a going-through place, an entrance built to some place of a better warmth and privacy that was never constructed. When you pause in these rooms, you have the feeling you are waiting. You feel that a door will open and you will be summoned, and horrid things will happen to you before they let you go. You can not mark these houses with any homely flavor of living. When they are emptied after occupancy, they have the look of places where the blood has recently been washed away.

The yard was scrubby with dried weeds. (40)

MacDonald, John D. ([1964] 1992)The Deep Blue Goodbye. London: Orion.

Hats, tunnels and south manchester Walks

A biting cold, windy Saturday. We walked down through residential streets to Stockport to see the incredible hat museum. I have stared at Hat Museum written along the smoke stack from almost every train I have ridden to Manchester. I have thought everytime that I really did have to go. Finally we went, and to the old air raid shelters carved in Stockport’s red stand stone — how better to keep out of the weather?

I quite loved Stockport.

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