Monday, May 31, 2010

Walking home

I mentioned that on the weekend I discovered that my camera cable fits into my phone and I could download photos. This is one of the shots I found on my phone, that I took one day walking home from work.

George Eliot on melancholy

Some of the things you might find here on this blog are quotes and excerpts for my own storage's sake. (I used to have a journal for such things, and am still inclined to think the journal was nicer.) This being one of them. I have a good streak of the melancholic temperament (and I think you could safely say George Eliot did too), but I think it often comes with a persevering fortitude of action, if not always of aspect, and I'd hesitate to draw too straight a line between any form of melancholy and an "idle suffering" (perhaps either Eliot of I are confusing the distinction between temperament and the state of depression) in the absence of "beneficent activity". That said, this is a good medicine against a kind of moaning inactivity.
'Here we are!' said Felix, when they had crossed the wooden bridge, and were treading on the slanting shadows made by the elm trunks. 'I think this is delicious. I never feel less unhappy than in these late autumn afternoons when they are sunny.'

'Less unhappy! There now!' said Esther, smiling at him with some of her habitual sauciness, 'I have caught you in self-contradiction. I have heard you quite furious against puling, melancholy people. If I had said what you have just said, you would have given me a long lecture, and told me to go home and interest myself in the reason of the rule of three.'

'Very likely,' said Felix, beating the weeds, according to the foible of our common humanity when it has a stick in its hand. 'But I don't think myself a fine fellow because I'm melancholy. I don't measure my force by the negations in me, and think my soul must be a mighty one because it is more given to idle suffering than to beneficent activity. That's what your favourite gentlemen do, of the Byronic-bilious style.'

'I don't admit that those are my favourite gentlemen.'

I've heard you defend them - gentlemen like your Renes, who have no particular talent for the finite, but a general sense that the infinite is the right thing for them. They might as well boast of nausea as a proof of a strong inside.'

'Stop, stop! You run on in that way to get out of my reach. I convicted you of confessing that you are melancholy.'

'Yes!' said Felix, thrusting his left hand into his pocket, with a shrug; 'as I could confess to a great many other things I'm not proud of. The fact is, there are not many easy lots to be drawn in the world at present; and such as they are I am not envious of them. I don't say life is not worth having: it is worth having to a man who has some sparks of sense and feeling and bravery in him. And the finest fellow of all would be the one who could be glad to have lived because the world was chiefly miserable, and his life had come to help some one who needed it. He would be the man who had the most powers and the fewest selfish wants. But I'm not up to the level of what I see to be best. I'm often a hungry discontented fellow.'

Me and Blake

Someone at work just told me I look like Blake Lively (from the The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants). I had to ask "who?" a few times, because what sort of a name is Blake Lively (and this colleague has a funny accent and I just wasn't getting it), and then I had to go away and google her picture to investigate. Hmmm. I don't know. I think I prefer Cate Blanchett myself if I am choosing actresses.

Poetry is ...

Poetry is a foretaste of truth. It is the vestibule of faith. It is contemporary poets who have turned it into smoke and mirrors.
- Anna Kamienska, Polish Poet

I have to say, I mostly agree (though that's a rather exalted notion of poetry). If a poem is completely indecipherable, that is not necessarily the readers fault. Poetry might take effort to understand, but there ought to be a reward when you do. They talk about "burying meaning" in poetry, but there ought to be a meaning to uncover, that is uncoverable. I do find that a lot of modern poets seem aiming at obscurantism, and what, pray tell, is then the purpose? Worse still, I've sat in workshops where the poet has been asked what is the "it" in their poem and has been unable to give an answer (so they weren't obscuring anything, because there was nothing there to obscure), so heaven knows what they thought a reader would glean from it. It's little wonder that many people out there consider poetry to be completely irrelevant to their life. 

One thing I greatly appreciated about doing a poetry workshop with Judith Beveridge is that she told us a poem should be specific, concrete and particular. I cheered on the inside. And then the way into poetry is that one day you find the poem, and it articulates something in a way that rings deep with you, because you've lived that experience, or it teaches you something by showing you something new or something in a new way. But it has to be about that something, and eventually let you know it's about that something.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

All you single ladies

I didn't link to this post at the time it went up, because I was going to come back and post it with a comment, but maybe just go and read it yourself. I have read The Path of Loneliness about ten times. It's good.

Really wild tea cosies

My friend took this photo through the cafe window yesterday, and I had to post it for Meredith (see comments on earlier post).

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A visit to A Coffee and a Yarn

For those who wanted me to take you with me (which is all one of you, but it's a good excuse to blog it), I went to A Coffee and a Yarn (that is the official website) today. I linked my new old friend on Facebook and said "we have to go here" because she is into crochet too (fancy that!) and hand-dyeing wool. She got married young and had four kids so I expected her to say "how about 27th of August" and instead she said "when can we go? can we go tomorrow?" and I thought well absolutely we can go tomorrow. So off we went, seizing this window of opportunity, having a lovely little jaunt through Newtown on the way.

As you can see, they had wool-spinning happening in the store (you can see the wheel through the window) and sell Black Star Pastry goodies. (I forgot my camera, so took these shots on my 2 megapixel phone, and then for the first time ever discovered I can get them off my phone using another cable, and then I polaroided them, just because I am having fun with polaroiding, even though it blurs things that are not originally blurry.)

Inside there was yarn for sale against the back wall. A lot of it was organic, and we were curious about what wool had to be to be organic, which apparently is concerned with the processing of the wool, not necessarily the rearing of the sheep (actually having looked into that, I don't think that is correct: see here).

Before we left my house my friend was showing me some beanies she had made already from wool from the Nundle Woollen Mill. Nundle is a little place up in the hills outside of Tamworth (the town where we grew up) with a few fine queer old country tales connected to it. I have been on many a youth-group camp in it's cold forests and taken teenagers on rugged outdoor education trekking expeditions through its surrounding wilds. Then when we got to A Coffee and a Yarn, there was Nundle wool for sale on the shelves, indicated by the white card in front of the orange wool you can see.

This is my friend in front of the other shelf where you can buy books and kits and wooden knitting needles.

All up we decided it is a fun place to go. They are also doing a roaring trade in take-away coffee, thus opening at 7 am, which in Newtown must be saying something about the coffee. If you don't take your own yarn craft they have knitting boxes in the middle of each table and you can pick it up where someone else left it and contribute towards knitting blanket squares or other items for the less fortunate. I picked it up (when I'd had enough of stitching crochet squares together) thinking I'd forgotten how to knit, but as soon as I had it in my hands it it all came back to me (helped no doubt by the fact that I didn't have to cast on and start it!) so I knitted a few rows. Knitting must be just like riding a bike. These are some of their table decorations.

Poetry Day - Henceforward in thy shadow

How to chose a poem each week is the question. Today I thought I would post a good old-fashioned love sonnet, one of Elizabeth Barrett-Browning's most beautiful Sonnets from the Portuguese, which I was reminded of by none other than George Eliot. This one is so lovely, and rhymes so effortlessly you hardly notice.


Go from me. Yet I feel that I shall stand
Henceforward in thy shadow. Nevermore
Alone upon the threshold of my door
Of individual life, I shall command
The uses of my soul, nor lift my hand
Serenely in the sunshine as before,
Without the sense of that which I forbore -
Thy touch upon the palm. The widest land
Doom takes to part us, leaves thy heart in mine
With pulses that beat double. What I do
And what I dream include thee, as the wine
Must taste of its own grapes. And when I sue*
God for myself, He hears that name of thine,
And sees within my eyes the tears of two.

* Note: she is using "sue" in the obsolete meaning of "To make a petition to; appeal to; beseech".

Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Sonnets from the Portuguese

Picture from marjolabiche's photostream.

Friday, May 28, 2010


So I raced around to tell a colleague (who's helping my other colleague knit his Dr Who scarf - he's not in yet because he's freelance and keeps weird hours, but I'm waiting to tell him too) the exciting news about the new knitting cafe, prefaced with the line "I have big news" and she burst out laughing and said "I thought you were going to tell me George Clooney was coming to visit us". What's wrong with people?

A coffee and a yarn

Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh! I have very exciting news! A new knitting/crochet cafe has opened up on King Street, Newtown.

I've been trying to educate you all that crochet is cool - it was only a matter of time before Newtown caught up with me (hah!). I'm going. And maybe I'm not having a crochet break after all, if I can sit around there with a coffee, one or two yarny friends, and do a little crochet on the side.

(It looks like it's meant to have it's own website, but it's not working yet. It's been open since 30th April and I walked past there a few weeks ago and just missed it, but I shall miss it no longer.)

Picture from here.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

So our lives

So our lives glide on: the river ends we don't know where, and the sea begins, and then there is no more jumping ashore.
Felix Holt: The Radical, George Eliot, Chapter XXVII

Where I am up to

I don't have much to blog about at present. I'm too busy trying to sew 126 crochet squares together. And I'm already wondering whether Eli needs one of these rugs too or whether this intricate design is actually a bit girly (somebody out there tell me that all these small squares joined together is girly - please!). I'm thinking that his could be more blocky, with perhaps a checkerboard effect (and thus less stitching up to do!).

I started all the stitching on the weekend and then pulled it all undone on Monday night. The pattern just says "sew squares together stitch to stitch" but what you have to work out yourself is whether the two-chain gaps in the corners count as a stitch or not, so it all lines up when you're joining big squares to small squares, and how you're going to work it in the corners etc. Then I worked out that just tying the threads on with a knot at the back looked a whole lot neater than this fancy figure-8 start-off I was doing from a book, which meant you had clumps of doubled-wool in places. This is the point at which there is too much room for perfectionism. But now I think I have sorted my technique and am away. Then I have to do the border, and after that I am having a little crochet break.

I'm also reading Felix Holt rather slowly. It's considered George Eliot's most political and least-admired novel (I think there's a correlation). I'm actually quite enjoying it but it is interspersed with chapters about old English politics that I just have to push on through. I do like the hero Felix though, and am beginning to warm to Esther. Isn't this nice:
But now that she had known Felix, her conception of what a happy love must be had become like a dissolving view, in which the once-clear images were gradually melting into new forms and new colours. The favourite Byronic heroes were beginning to look something like last night's decorations seen in the sober dawn. So fast does a little leaven spread within us - so incalculable is the effect of one personality on another. Behind all Esther's thoughts, like an unacknowledged yet constraining presence, there was the sense, that if Felix Holt were to love her, her life would be exalted into something quite new - into a sort of difficult blessedness, such as one may imagine in beings who are conscious of painfully growing into the possession of higher powers.
Felix Holt: The Radical, Chapter XXII

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I am Dorothea

So, Simone has started reading and blogging George Eliot, and all the world ought to read George Eliot, but I confess to some dismay, because what, what is left to be blogged over here?

However, she has made a Middlemarch quiz, and I was never going to make a Middlemarch quiz. I took this quiz and am actually quite pleased to be who I am, thank you Simone (though I did not rate myself as beautiful – what sort of question is that?!), so I'm sharing (a person does, after all, have limits to their public self-deprecation, and is want to quietly ignore horrible quiz results). Be inspired everyone.

Ali's Result: Dorothea
on quiz: Which Middlemarch Woman Are You?
You are Dorothea: beautiful, good, philanthropic, unselfish, and willing to flout convention and financial security to do what you think is right. At times you take yourself a little too seriously, but your devotion to love and serve those around you makes you an inspiration to everyone.
Quiz MakerTake this quiz & get your result

A tall women public service announcement

I had some friends over for dinner the other weekend and, novelty of great novelties, I was the shortest person in the room (and yes, there were two other girls included). It is something of a rarity for me to find myself looking up to other women. Then on Saturday I was catching up with one of said tall women and she was telling me about Long Tall Sally, a British company that makes clothes especially for - you guessed it - tall women. (Because despite what you see paraded up and down catwalks on very tall women the world over, those aren't you clothes you can buy in any clothing shop I know.)

I'm not actually super duper tall as far as tall goes, being just short (hah!) of 5'11" (5'10" and three-quarters if you ask me) and nowhere near 6 foot (as I like to say) - and you do have to be the other side of 6 foot as a woman to make the "tall" cut, if you so happened to want to join up to some kind of tall club to hang around with other tall people. So mostly I can find ordinary clothes that work, though they do usually have to be the more expensive brands of things to fit anywhere near properly (that's my excuse anyway! - but cheap (and oftentimes nasty) Asian clothes rarely cut it for me). However, every now and then it might be nice to have something that had the waist (sometimes dresses don't look right because the waist is too high) or the knees in the right place, so I have signed up for the newsletter and I am going to browse over there every now and then. My friend and I agree that we wouldn't wear all of their stuff, but they do have some nice things and some good wardrobe basics (though the problem is the seasons are reversed, so you'd have to shop in advance).

That's all. This post is simply written in the service of tall women everywhere.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Writer's Festival wrap up

When my efforts to attend The Lost Father event were foiled, I ended up in a talk on scriptwriting from the chief writer of the television show Spooks. This was not very interesting to me. It was mostly anecdotal stories about episodes of Spooks, which I have never watched, rather than broader ideas on scriptwriting. When it got to the Q and A I split, because listening to fanatics ask about the specifics of TV episodes you’re completely unfamiliar with, like “why did the Russian shoot the bag lady?”, is not what I was at the Sydney Writer’s Festival for. So I wandered outside into the sunshine, and probably should have been sitting out there listening to the talk on Interrogating Twitter being broadcast, because that sounded a lot more interesting.

The final event I attended was called The Sydney Poetry Readings, in the Bangarra Mezzanine at the end of the pier, featuring readings by local poets David Musgrave, Martin Harrison and Anna Kerdijk Nicholson. I was notably early for this event, because I wasn’t going to miss another one, and they let me in to sit down so I sat near the front, with my bag resting a little on the chair next to me. A while later a fellow came and sat in the chair next to my bag and I looked up and locked eyes with him and thought ‘my, you’re rather good-looking, after an unpoetic fashion’, because he looked a little too groomed and fashionable, and wasn't sporting a beret, a scarf or any other poetic accessories (I'm not sure that poets actually accessorise at all, but if they did a beret is probably the thing). When Martin Harrison got up to read he introduced one poem saying that he wrote it for the wedding of friends, Berndt Sellheim and Tara Moss, and was pleased to see Berndt in attendance. All that rather washed over me, because I didn’t know who those people were. Meanwhile, my friend Soph had arrived a little late and sat in the chair that once held my bag, between me and the handsome stranger, and afterwards she was telling me this story of how the poet and philosopher Berndt Sellheim met Tara Moss online (and I go ‘who is Tara Moss again?’ - because I am not into crime fiction, perhaps even less into models, and had heard the name but couldn't remember why). It’s a funny story. Then for some reason I thought of it the next day at work during lunch in my retrospective of the day and googled these two, and discovered that Berndt himself was the guy two chairs over. So I emailed Soph and said "you were sitting next to Berndt Sellheim you know" – and she reckons she didn't notice.

But, back to the poetry – I actually find it hard to take poetry in in all it’s fullness purely aurally, but it was quite entrancing watching the sun set amongst the clouds over the harbour out the window, listening to the cadences of the poetry.  It was a fine end to the day.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

In the Company of Rilke

So I said I’d write more about the Sydney Writer’s Festival. The first event of the day that I actually went to was called Stephanie Dowrick: In the Company of Rilke. I’ve never read a Stephanie Dowrick book, and in truth I thought this event, and most of her work, sounded like a prime suspect for vague, spiritualistic “waffle”, but in a sense that was the point of me going – to see what exactly it is in Rilke’s (Austrian poet who died in 1926) work that so draws these people to it. This was the event blurb:
Can visionary poetry save the world - or merely change your life? What are poets for in these destitute times? Are there inward questions that can only be answered by poetry? Stephanie Dowrick speaks to Blanche d'Alpuget about her latest book ‘In the Company of Rilke’, and how this 20th-century poet speaks to our yearning for inwardness, beauty and spiritual connection.
“Yearning for inwardness” is suitably ambiguous. But Rilke is the poet for the Sehnsucht, as in the poem posted here, which was half my interest. Stephanie Dowrick claims that she wrote this book looking at Rilke’s spiritual perspective because that is where readers were coming from, and because they were looking for a sense of meaning in the poetry. As she discussed this idea she did so with more substance and intelligence than I was expecting from the woman behind little boxes of cards called “Daily Acts of Love”. However, the talk contained the usual exasperations with phrases like “Rilke refused to make a thing of God or put God in a box ...” and the implications that anyone who defines anything at all about God, or holds to a “conservative religion”, is simply afraid of mystery. (No. We simply believe that God has actually revealed certain truths about himself, and that if he is indeed our creator who has revealed himself then taking him at his word is far more the humble position than making him a figment of your own imagination, as you decide him to be. For indeed, much as people like Dowrick claim they haven’t got God in a box it becomes extremely obvious that even so they’ve given him characteristics they’d like him to have.) One of the lines I wrote down is “the experience of yearning is more attractive than abstracted theology”. But I think CS Lewis could help her, and the rest of us, out there in showing the God (who may be studied in theology) his yearning led him to. Stephanie also quoted someone as saying “we live in an age bereft of transcendental assurances”. That is true, but I don’t think the assurance is found in the experience of yearning as the end.

Stephanie then said that Rilke writes about the “inspiration that comes from attunement to the transcendent – something else available to us – only meet in extreme moments of anguish or bliss. Something comes through the defenses of the cognitive mind – richer, sometimes more consoling or comforting than the linear ... So we do God a tremendous disservice when reduce him to linear or literal”. (And again, I couldn’t help but think that we also do God a tremendous disservice when we don’t let God decide, and tell us, who he is – which all comes back to the question of whether or not you believe he has revealed himself in history in specific ways or not – but that also, whatever is meant by this "inspiration", that is not necessarily mutually exclusive of the God of the bible.) As you can see there was a lot of material for exasperated disagreement.

I’ve got lots more notes that pertain more particularly to Rilke, but at the end Stephanie was asked “What are the poets for?” and her answer was along the lines of “this sensibility transforms our view, our stubborn narrow view, then we appreciate life so much that we are no longer careless of it. Are we willing to engage with the deeper meaning of our existence?”. That’s not a bad purpose for poetry, but poetry alone isn’t equal to it.

I flicked through her actual book In the Company of Rilke and put it back because I’m not sure I could read it without wanting to tear every second page out of it, but it does perhaps contain some interesting quotes and material from Rilke and others. If you’ve never read Rilke, here is another example of his poetry. Today it would seem to be read as essentially giving us all license to invent our own God, but I’m not entirely convinced that that was Rilke’s original intent (though he's done so by writing as God himself).

God Speaks to Each of Us

God speaks to each of us before we are,
Before he's formed us -- then, in cloudy speech,
But only then, he speaks these words to each
And silently walks with us from the dark:

Driven by your senses, dare
To the edge of longing. Grow
Like a fire's shadowcasting glare
Behind assembled things, so you can spread
Their shapes on me as clothes.
Don't leave me bare.

Let it all happen to you: beauty and dread.
Simply go - no feeling is too much -
And only this way can we stay in touch.

Near here is the land
That they call Life.
You'll know when you arrive
By how real it is.

Give me your hand.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Just because

I wanted to be in on the polaroiding fun, even though I don't have an iPhone with all it's wonders.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Lost Opportunity at The Lost Father

I took a day off yesterday to go and listen a few talks and swan about at the Sydney Writer's Festival. I was too knackered, or not in the mood, for writing anything about it last night, but I will over the weekend.

One of the talks I wanted to attend I missed however, and I was sooo disappointed. It was from the Biography and Memoir program and called The Lost Father, featuring a panel of three writers talking about the power of fathers over us long after they've gone. I had a half hour break so I browsed the book shop for a few minutes, went to the bathroom and then joined the queue with at least 15 mins to spare - and I didn't get in! (and was then kicking myself for taking my time). The line went half way down the pier. Who would've thought? One lady in the line told me that a lot of other events at that time were ticketed and this one was free so that's probably why there were a lot of people. That slightly annoyed me because then I felt like the line was possibly full of people who weren't very interested, they were just killing time, whereas I really wanted to hear it ... but who knows. The memoirs that each of the featured authors have written, all of which were only published this year, have now snagged my attention. They are Our Father Who Wasn’t There by David Carlin, Popeye Never Told You by Rodney Hall and This Party’s Got To Stop by Rupert Thomson (incase that link above disappears).

The interesting thing to me is that the one time I tried to write something like memoir, and took it along to a writing masterclass, it actually was about my father (though the intention was that that was to be just the beginning), so I was curious as to whether this was a common prompt amongst memoir writers and what these particular memoirists thought the influence of fathers was. Hopefully it was recorded and I can listen to it some other time.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Red dancing shoes

Since we've had so many pictures of Annie's rug here, I thought I'd post some of the little Annie Rose herself. My sister is very good at taking photos and emailing them regularly (or posting photos and videos on facebook - both sisters do this and it's what I like most about facebook - other than spying on people of course). Annie was given these red shoes by a friend, which she calls her "dancing shoes". So she puts on her most beautiful dancing outfit, her red dancing shoes, and it goes something like this:

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sleep silent angel, I'm a weirdo

I was asking on of my work colleagues if she likes Radiohead (the band) yesterday. I'm not all that familiar with Radiohead and don't own any of their albums, but people I know do and I'm still killing Mumford and Sons, so I thought I'd explore. Today she brought in two of their CDs for me to listen to, but they're older ones (My Iron Lung and OK Computer). We were chatting this morning and another colleague who overheard said "oh, you'll be slitting your wrists later on" and I can see what she means - I do like melancholy, but there's a certain wailing going on here. Anyway, I was listening to the song Creep, and as often happens a fragment of music reminds me of some other fragment of music, and particularly when he gets to the part "she's running out ...", I keep hearing the line "sleep silent angel, go to sleep". It's from that really old song The Air that I Breathe (I had to google it to even place the line) by I don't know who. So the depths of my brain music archive have dug that up from somewhere ...

Graffiti and brackets

Anybody who's on facebook might have noted that a few weeks ago they wanted to add links to all the interests in the info page. Well, that box kept popping up and annoying me when I wanted to do something else, so I think I just clicked OK or something else and ignored it. Anyway, last night I chanced to look at my info tab and discovered there a few curiousities. Facebook had listed among my interests "Graffiti" and then later on "Bracket".

I wondered where it got such objects of interest from?

It would seem that my interest in "writing" turned into "Graffiti". Sad, sad, sad. Is that all facebook knows to associate with "writing" as a thing to do? Also "crochet" had turned into "bracket", as in the good ole parentheses sort. I mean, I can understand that there is no crochet in the facebook generation, but pity help me if one of my interests in life becomes parentheses. Is that what happens when you've been an editor for 50 years? Some people could take a little more interest in brackets and other forms of grammar - call me an old fogey, but I think the merits of grammar in aiding meaning and interpretation need no defence, yet even so the meaning and interpretation of a thing is a whole lot more interesting than the grammar used to get there.

So I'm going to have to go and clean up after facebook and make myself look a little more fascinating.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Rugging up #2

Here are all the big squares for Annie's rug. For some reason I don't especially like the two biggest, and think they might have looked nicer if I hadn't changed colours within them so often, but hopefully in the wider finished product it all looks nice.

Closer up.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The effect of compromise

Here is a nice little speech on compromise and conscience from the little minister Rufus Lyon in Felix Holt:
Where a great weight has to be moved, we require not so much selected instruments as abundant horse-power. But it is an unavoidable evil of these massive achievements that they encourage a course indiscriminatingness obstructive of more nicely-wrought results, and an exaggerated expectation inconsistent with the intricacies of our fallen and struggling condition. I say not that compromise is unnecessary, but it is an evil attendant on our imperfection; and I would pray every one to mark that, where compromise broadens, intellect and conscience are thrust into narrower room.
Felix Holt: The Radical, George Eliot, Chapter XVI

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Rugging up

I know this is the real reason you all read this blog. So here is a crochet update. I have finished crocheting all the squares for Annie's rug. Next they all had to be finished off and blocked (I had to find a spot on the floor to pin them out and spray them with water to make them flat and square). So here are some of the squares being blocked.

Some of the second smallest squares (of which there are 49):

Just a close up view of those same squares:

The rest of the second smallest squares and some of the baby squares (there are 50 of the tiny ones):

Close up of those same squares again:

The rest of the baby squares and the third smallest squares (showing all 16 of them):

Close up of those squares again (if any of you are very astute, or actually looking at this crochet post, you might notice that one baby square is missing - but never fear, I left the 49 and went in search of the square which was lost, and found it!):

Stayed tuned for the three biggest square sizes (which I will block when the above squares are completely dry, then I have to stitch it all together - aghh!).

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Poetry Day - I learn by going

Soph wrote a villanelle during the week, which is very impressive. I really like the villanelle form, and have had half a mind to attempt one since the poetry course I did last year, but you need two good lines (and I haven't invested much in trying to find them). But today here is another villanelle. The philosophy behind it might be veering towards pantheism, but "I learn by going where I have to go" is a great line.

The Waking
Theodore Roethke

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

Picture from:

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ali wants it

I do want one of these - my own Bag End. And click through to this link for more pictures (it's supposed to be a DIY project - hah!).

The manly life of knitting

But I do have this little piece of curious drivel - the guy who sits across from me at work has lately taken up knitting (largely because he was asked to go and be a male presence for some knitting club featured on the Sunrise TV show, so he learnt a few things so he wouldn't look like a doofus). Now he wants to make himself a Dr Who scarf. Did you know there is a whole website devoted to the Dr Who scarf? So now we sit here and occasionally discuss the acquisition of wool and knitting and crochet, show each other things on the internet and I give him a few tips. But hey, I didn't start it, and knitting and crochet is in a different category altogether to tarts and confectionery!

A manly life v tarts and confectionery

So much quotable George Eliot! One of the things I like about George Eliot's novels is her observations of the human condition along the way, and the chapters I read last night in Felix Holt (if you hadn't already deduced that I am reading this book) were full of them. I shall endeavour to restrain myself, except perhaps for the really good ones. There are some strange speeches from another time and place, like this one from Felix, remonstrating Esther and her undue concern for gloves and accessories:
I can't bear to see you going the way of the foolish women who spoil men's lives. Men can't help loving them, and so they make themselves slaves to the petty desires of petty creatures. That's the way those who might do better spend their lives for nought - get checked in every great effort - toil with brain and limb for things that have no more to do with a manly life than tarts and confectionery. That's what makes women a curse; all of life is stunted to suit their littleness. That's why I'll never love, if I can help it; and if I love, I'll bear it, and never marry.
These days you'd be more likely to hear a similar speech coming from women and directed at children. However, I don't know any women so prone to petty "littleness" as Esther in the story, but it did give me pause to ponder the ways women might hold men back from any great effort. It's the same idea that was presented in the movie The Last Station, yet in that case Sofya was equal to her husband's greatness, and had actually participated in his work of writing novels, but she was neglected by him later in life in the very basics of a marriage - so she began to wrestle for his attention and despise the "cause". It would seem it has been an age-long (this book was written 1866) difficulty in the search for a balance between commitment to marriage (hopefully to a woman not foolish by the above description) and family and the pursuit of some "great effort", and a balance for women in giving men the liberty and support to do so. (The question of women having liberty to do the same I am conveniently going to ignore!)

By the way, I don't know that it is necessary to state these things, or whether one should just do them and be quiet, but I've mentally altered my blogging philosophy of late (for now - because it happens nearly as often as I change my clothes). Somewhere along the way I got swept up into this "blog regularly or perish" mentality, and I don't really know why. One of the things I discovered when I went back to label old posts is that some of them used to actually be more interesting - I think because I blogged less often and I kept the bar higher. Feeling the need to blog almost daily, subscribing to the idea of blogging any old thing just so I am, has only meant the bar lowered, and unfortunately stayed low. And now it feels like drivel (or pointers elsewhere) mostly. When I started this blog I said I wasn't going to diarise online, but to blog often that's where it's headed, like yesterday I forgot to set my alarm clock, and am suprised that I didn't wake up anyway, and then this morning the shower blocked up when I was in it ... I also don't have a lot of appreciation for the idea of blogging just to keep readers irrespective of what they're reading (like we're all running businesses with marketing campaigns). And in the day of RSS readers, I don't think it's necessary. JB blogged her first post in 17 months recently, and I read it because there it was in my reader, and many blogs I like blog only once a week or so. So I am reverting back to blogging when I have something I want to blog about, rather than scrounging around for things to blog about. Maybe I am just in an uninspired phase at present - we shall see.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Rumour's workers

I've just read this scathing attack on Rumour by George Eliot, which is somewhat amusing:

That talkative maiden, Rumour, though in the interest of art she is figured as a youthful winged beauty with flowing garments, soaring above the heads of men, and breathing world-thrilling news through a gracefully-curved trumpet, is in fact a very old maid, who puckers her silly face by the fireside, and really does no more than chirp a wrong guess or a lame story into the ear of a fellow-gossip; all the rest of the work attributed to her is done by the ordinary working of those passions against which men pray in the Litany, with the help of a plentiful stupidity against which we have never yet had any authorized form of prayer.
Felix Holt: The Radical, Chapter VIII

It's helpful though that she points out the fact that Rumour gains ground by the agenda of another particular sin (or the combination of a few). I have been waiting for Ainsley Poulos's talk on Envy from the EQUIP conference to come up online, because it was probing and challenging. I suspect Envy is a passion that has fuelled the conflagration of a good many rumours. So 'why' is a question worth asking next time I find myself tempted to pass on some questionable morsel of 'information' - and then of course I can deal with it with the weapons used in the fight for godliness (and say an unauthorised prayer against stupidity!).

Three kinds of men

Justin Taylor has blogged a (short) CS Lewis essay of this title here (and the comments are interesting).

Monday, May 10, 2010

Massaging my way home

Free massage soon. They do these occasionally at work, and most of the time they fill up so quickly that by the time I take any notice of the email it's too late. But this time I got one! It's only 15 minutes in a chair, but any sort of massage is a good massage to me. Then afterwards I'm going home.

The dolorous forest of humanity

This is from the end of the Introduction to Felix Holt: The Radical, by George Eliot. Isn’t it just an intriguingly and sinisterly luring beginning? It makes me shiver.
For there is seldom any wrong-doing which does not carry along with it some downfall of blindly-climbing hopes, some hard entail of suffering, some quickly-satiated desire that survives, with the life in death of old paralytic vice, to see itself cursed by its woeful progeny – some tragic mark of kinship in the one brief life to the far-stretching life that went before, and to the life that is to come after, such as has raised the pity and terror of men ever since they began to discern between will and destiny. But these things are often unknown to the world; for there is much pain that is quite noiseless; and vibrations that make human agonies are often a mere whisper in the roar of hurrying existence. There are glances of hatred that stab and raise no cry of murder; robberies that leave man or woman for ever beggared of peace and joy, yet kept secret by the sufferer – committed to no sound except that of low moans in the night, seen in no writing except that made on the face by the slow months of suppressed anguish and early morning tears. Many an inherited sorrow that has marred a life has been breathed into no human ear.

The poets have told us of a dolorous enchanted forest in the under world [Dante’s Inferno and Virgil's Aeneid]. The thorn-bushes there, and the thick-barked stems, have human histories hidden in them; the power of unuttered cries dwells in the passionless-seeming branches, and the red warm blood is darkly feeding the quivering nerves of a sleepless memory that watches through all dreams. These things are a parable.
Picture from here.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Sweet and bitter Providence

I didn’t do anything for Mother’s Day other than make a phone call, because my Mum is up in Queensland and went to Toowoomba to spend it with my sister and her family and my grandparents (I was wishing I was there!). I thought my present was going to be delayed by a volcano in Iceland - because I ordered a book from the Book Depository in the UK - but instead it was delayed by Australia Post (it arrived Monday and was sent Tuesday to Brisbane and didn’t make it). But I bought my Mum the book A Sweet and Bitter Providence, by John Piper – a book based on the story of Ruth about the sovereignty of God. Last year was rugged in my family (beginning here) and so this book seemed apt. I haven’t read it myself yet (and I am not so clear on what is meant exactly by the subtitle), but I am looking forward to doing so.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

7 habits of highly effective people

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1: 5-8)
(They didn't actually make this particular point at the EQUIP conference today - I was just reading along and thought 'oh look, there's seven, fancy that'.)

Poetry Day - Lilies that fester

Another poem, because there is no such thing as too many poems. There hasn't been enough Shakespeare on this blog I have discovered. So, since I have mentioned previously Sonnet 94 as the title of a CS Lewis essay, I thought I'd post it here. This is often thought to be the most enigmatic of the sonnets. The praise for the character in the first eight lines doesn't ring entirely genuine, and it's not obvious to connect it to the next six lines. Supposedly it helps to sit this sonnet amongst those either side of it (and so a little context aids even Shakespeare). But aside from all that, the last two lines are quotable Shakespeare, and I readily use them out of context.


They that have power to hurt and will do none,
That do not do the thing they most do show,
Who, moving others, are themselves as stone,
Unmoved, cold, and to temptation slow,
They rightly do inherit heaven's graces
And husband nature's riches from expense;
They are the lords and owners of their faces,
Others but stewards of their excellence.
The summer's flower is to the summer sweet,
Though to itself it only live and die,
But if that flower with base infection meet,
The basest weed outbraves his dignity:
  For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;
  Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.

William Shakespeare

Picture: Water lilies by Claude Monet from

Friday, May 07, 2010

EQUIP conference

I am off to the EQUIP conference tomorrow. It feels quite relaxed this year, because I am attending one session as a spectator. The main talks are on 2 Peter 1 and then on Envy. I chose the elective on Singleness when I registered, because having done some work on the subject in the past it interests me what others might say about it (and because, well, it's the state of my life) but I find myself half wishing I'd chosen something else, because that is the way one feels about such things.

It should be a good day spent with other girls from my church.

A poetic redemption

Today is the day on which I thought I'd share with you a poem that has been a while in coming (to this blog). It was actually written for me by a dear friend (whom I shall let remain anonymous). I thought now was a fitting time to post this poem, because I felt like it and because it demonstrates being an 'instrument in the redeemer's hands', through poetry, which to me is a wonderful combination. It's a (rather well-developed) form of 'active listening' if you will (it certainly let me know that they had heard me - and I was amazed), which then points where it needs to: upwards. There is of course a story behind the poem, and how I came to have the poem, which I don't think you need to know in order to understand it (and the picture holds a clue), but if it is completely unfathomable I might write more.

Private Paroxysms
John 11:33-38

Who will cry for
that little girl?
playing alone
in a paddock
of little lambs
with her sister
stuck in the car
windows rolled up
grave aversion

Who will cry for
that little girl?
floating alone
on an ocean
of grievous loss
with her mother
staring ahead
at his absence
frozen in stone

Who will cry for
that little girl?
never alone
in the struggle
with her shepherd
who stood there
before the tomb
his spirit moved
greatly troubled

Who will cry for
this little girl?
That Shepherd does
who shed tears then
later his blood
to make her his
and hold her tight
this little lamb
safe in his arms

So she can cast
her tears on him.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Jesus Paid it All

I am on something on a roll with this this week, so I have one more. This is a song we learnt at KEC this year, and then learnt at my church last Sunday. I really like it. Turns out it is actually also an old hymn. The bridge goes on a long time in this video, and I actually like it dropping back to the chorus afterwards, which it almost seems to be waiting for and is how we sang it at KEC and church.

Why do I go to OO?

Sometimes I wonder what I'm doing going along to Overcomers Outreach, just turning up to a meeting once a month trying to be helpful and do what I can. (If you haven't been reading along here for a while I originally got involved to help with some of the printed material and powerpoint, but then we got a real graphic designer who offered to do all of that - thank goodness! - so now I don't do so much outside of the meetings.) But then I receive this email:
It was just lovely to see your warm face last night – it’s a real thrill for me to have your support in the room.
Thank you for faithfully showing up and being there – the support matters to me!
It's really helpful to be reminded in such a fashion every so often. And so I will keep going along to OO.

May our God bloom and grow

Grant you peace, clean and bright ...

I went in to Overcomer's Outreach again last night. Usually this means I also attend the Healing Service beforehand, which is quite different. They do something a little culturally odd at the end of the service (but all those attending seem to find their own peculiar joy in the moment, even if it's tinged with a little amusement) and that is that everyone stands and joins hands in circles all over the Cathedral to sing a doxology. So we all hold hands, sway and swing our arms about, sing (with feeling!), smile at each other and feel the love.

Mostly it's been the doxology "Now unto him ..." but the last couple of times we have sung one I don't know, to the tune of Edelweiss. (And being there holding hands with my recovering friends singing along to Edelweiss makes me feel like my life is a movie.)

But then you know what happens - I am stuck with that tune for the next three days! Only because I don't know the words of the doxology, I get it all confused in my head and have lines swirling about up there like those above. And I can't even find the words on google (perhaps it is a Cathedral special) to put myself out of my misery.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

You need help because you are human

I’ve gotten off to a slow start on Instruments in the Redeemers Hands by Paul Tripp, and am only up to Chapter 3, but it has been good so far and is starting to get really interesting. Tonight, in the chapter called Do We Really Need Help? he quotes from Genesis 1:26-28 and goes on to say:
... All of a sudden the rhythm is interrupted. God does something with Adam and Eve that he has not done with anything else. His actions demonstrate why personal ministry is necessary for all of us. Immediately after creating Adam and Eve, God talks to them. He didn’t do this with anything else he created. He simply rested and moved on. When the cadence is broken and God does something different, you should ask yourself why. Why did God talk to them?

God knew that even though Adam and Eve were perfect people living in perfect relationship with him, they could not figure out life on their own. They were created to be dependent. God had to explain who they were and what they were to do with their lives. They did not need this help because they were sinners. They needed help because they were human.

This is the first instance of personal ministry in human history. The Wonderful Counselor comes to human beings and defines their identity and purpose. Why couldn’t Adam and Eve live without this? What made them different from the rest of creation? There are three reasons ...
[He goes on to say that humans are revelation receivers, interpreters and worshippers, which is familiar territory, and then says this ...]
You cannot understand the world of personal ministry without Genesis 1. It explains that our need for help is part of our design. It is not the result of the Fall. Human beings need truth from outside themselves to make sense out of life. We need God’s perspective to interpret the facts of our existence. We were created to be worshippers.

These facts lead to a radical observation. If it is true that all human beings are constantly trying to make sense out of life, then all of life is counseling or personal ministry. Counseling is the stuff of human life! We are always interpreting and sharing our interpretations with one another. This “sharing” ultimately amounts to advice or counsel about how to respond to life.

The bottom line is that you cannot have a relationship without being a person of influence ...  

Page CXVI streaming

The album I linked to the other day from Page CXVI is streaming (as in, you can listen to the whole songs) over here for the rest of the week. I like the version we sing here of Rock of Ages better, and the Reformed University Fellowship has a version of Jesus I am Resting, Resting I prefer, but I like how they do How Great Thou Art (risky business fiddling with that tune though I think) and Praise to the Lord and I quite like the Doxology, even though I actually really like that original tune.

Monday, May 03, 2010

The journey between the mind and the tongue

Soph has finally written about the speechlessly good The Swell Season concert, and posted this youtube of Say it To Me Now, which I am going to snitch. As Soph mentions, he sang this unplugged at the recent concert. At the first concert I went to in January 2009, the night began with Glen coming out on stage, standing in a spotlight and also singing this unplugged. And if you have seen the movie Once, it is of course how the movie begins too.

Glen starts this particular clip with a story from Chicago, that tells of the distance that sometimes exists between our mind and our tongue, when it comes to what we really want to say. Dan also put up this great post over the weekend, that is sort of relevant, that said something to me of the inhibition of uncertainty and self-protection. So, anyway, read the post and listen to the song and go and stand on a street corner (or maybe just look someone in the eye) and say something.

(Language warning in the clip.)

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Stopping at The Last Station

I finally went off to see The Last Station last night. It had finished at the local cinema already and time was running out. But it was very worth catching. I thoroughly recommend it and thought it was wonderful. And I did so love Sofya, Tolstoy’s tempestuous wife, played magnificently by Helen Mirren,  who only needed to know that she was still loved, all the while being viewed as a distraction from the cause by Tolstoy's sycophants. Frances has written a fine review of the film over here that says what I'd like to say, and I might even just paste it in:

I highly recommend this dramatisation of Tolstoy’s last days, directed by Michael Hoffman and based on the book by Jay Parini. Unlike other bio-pics, this one is rich and substantial, with lovely performances by the leads, and an engaging complexity at its heart. Helen Mirren is wonderful as the warm, stormy Sofya, thoroughly likable even as she smashes plates and shouts ‘I hate you!’ at her husband. Tolstoy’s wife is one of the most sympathetic figures in literary history – a victim of the licence granted her creative husband by himself and his sycophants. The film raises quite insoluble questions about the tension between art and life, and particularly between art and love. Sofya seems to represent the wreckage of ordinary happiness in the wake of extraordinary talent. Her antagonists seem to suggest that his expending love, energy, creativity, and intellect in marriage would mean he had nothing left for writing, and hence for posterity, for the world at large. (James MacAvoy has a great line: “I have never met mankind.”) The film makes of this tension a compelling and subtle drama, but I couldn’t help thinking that balance must be possible, that life and literature must be compatible. Yet of how many great writers has this been true?

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Poetry Day - Happiness

I posted snippets of Jane Kenyon's Having it Out With Melancholy here once upon a time, so I thought today I would post Happiness.

By Jane Kenyon

There’s just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.

And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.

No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.

It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basketmaker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.
                    It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.

From: Otherwise: New and Selected Poems

Picture from: s/photos/broom

Win yourself an up-cycled tie bag

My friend, in both real life and blogdom, Ally is having a giveaway for her blogoversary. And you could win a groovy bag, made from up-cycled ties, if you go over there and enter. I already have one of Ally’s bags as seen here, but I am sure I could find a use for another one! And a male friend of mine writes on facebook that "Gents of style" could use these too. I'm not so entirely sure about the particular bags on offer (though Ally does have other styles with guys in mind) but whatever takes your fancy ...

She’s also recently started making mini journals, which you can get in her Etsy store.

This is my bag.