Archive for March, 2010

Earth Hour

Earth Hour is tonight from 8.30-9.30pm, so that’ll be lights off and no reading under the covers. And to the stifled sniggers of the meedja, John Gormley will be making his leader’s address at the Green Party Conference at… 8.30pm, broadcast live on RTE television powered by electrickery. Hmm, to follow the global green lead or to listen to the Irish Green leader? Ip, dip, sky blue…


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Egg Art

No comment really but please note it’s eight quid plus two quid postage.

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The book chosen for April 2010 is Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray and also in April, Bewleys’ Cafe Theatre are putting on an adaptation of his ‘The Birthday of the Infanta’. Here’s a story I haven’t thought about in years. It was published in A House of Pomegranates in 1891, and this illustration is from a Bodley Head edition of this plus The Happy Prince and Other Tales. My copy (from my fabulous grandmother) was a 1977 reprint, gorgeously illustrated by Charles Mozley and sadly stained by a nosebleed on p61. I’d say I welcomed that nosebleed in the wake of ‘The Nightingale and the Rose’ (sobs) – so identifying – and come to think of it there were a lot of sobs at ‘The Happy Prince’, too,  I still think about those stories all the time, and ‘The Selfish Giant’, and ‘The Fisherman and his Soul’, but I detested ‘The Birthday of the Infanta’ and I thought of it as a story for adults which had accidentally got into a children’s book – I don’t think I’d ever read a story before in which the protagonist was such a complete bitch. And yes I know she was only twelve and royal types aren’t traditionally the best adjusted du monde, but reading fiction is not about making excuses for people. It was such uncomfortable reading I only read it a few times, whereas I’m word-perfect on the rest. To paraphrase Little Boots, reading is my remedy, remedy, so I’m revisiting it in April, or before. 

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I know, blogs are meant to be a bit of crack, but I fancy a little rant.

This BBC Four documentary had my toes curling this week. I hadn’t seen the earlier episode – I think it dealt with the rise of the women’s movement (“charting the history” probably) – but thought the trailer was encouraging. It turned out to be the high point, though, as Vanessa Engle’s interviews with a selection of comfortably-off couples with children revealed  just about enough of the nature of modern feminism to coat the bottom of a shot glass. 

Kicking off with Mr and Mrs Surgeon, the missus works long hours and has a 7 to 7 nanny, offering some good opportunities for trap-for-heffalump questions (When does your daughter get up? 7… When does your daughter go to bed? 7…), whip, whip. More traps for the cheerful stay-at-home-mother with spreadsheets for the weekly meals and a daily timetable along the lines of well on a Wednesday I might do errands. (Do you feel like a 1950s housewife? errrm…), whip, whip. The same questions were rattled off the script to each lot: are you a feminist, who does the laundry, who works harder, is this an equal partnership? 

There was a nice couple of academics, working in the same university, who seemed quite copped-on, but whose segment endlessly focused mainly on who had chosen to use those squashy balls of detergent for the family laundry –  they politely allowed the interviewer to flog this topic raw and fruitless.  A less tedious angle on them would have been – for example – whether they are paid equally by the university, or whether their career progression fell out of step in any way after their children arrived. Similarly, with the stay-at-homes, the programme didn’t consider the fact that the choice to stay at home existed because the husband (and in one instance the wife) was earning a sufficient amount to support everyone. What happens to that choice if the high earner changes his or her mind, or strikes up a new relationship, or goes off round the world on a shiny new motorbike, or otherwise ditches this previously shouldered responsibility? What level of choice exists then – so to what extent is the choice enabled by the relationship rather than by society? How does the state of dependency affect the relationship or the woman’s sanity? 

The programme looked at the relationships were looked at from points of division rather than unity – that might explain the currents of tension crackling between some of the couples, which (Jeremy Kyle-style) is what really kept me from flicking over to Cops with Cameras. It was equally excruciating watching one couple questioned about whether the stay-at-home-wife cleaned her lawyer husband’s bath (implicit, that he was a pig for not doing it, and she a mug for doing it), and another questioned about whether the stay-at-home-husband shrank his illustrator wife’s cashmere jumpers (implicit, that a man couldn’t even do laundry properly, and that a woman could not be properly supported by a man at home). In fact all the women who went out to work were presented as mugs for doing the lion’s share of the domestic work as well as bringing home the bacon. I thought the most sense was talked by one working woman who said, Look – we have children and we both like our jobs, we can’t have it all so we have to make some compromises. And I think this is what most people do, surprise, surprise. That’s not where the battle has to be fought, though. The state of modern feminism is not adequately explored by the fact that in economically and educationally privileged families (we had lawyers, IT workers, Oxford graduates, docs) some women choose to work and some choose to stay at home. What needs to be looked at are issues around closing the gender pay gap, empowering (sorry) women to remove themselves from domestic violence or abuse, enabling women to go out to work without being financially dependent on someone else, addressing the objectification of women (and increasingly, little girls), and looking at whether those women who are socially or economically disadvantaged have the same luxury of choice as this lot do. 

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Always read the label. You never know what you might be putting into your body.

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Cakes and Ale

Well, it’s the usual headline for anything to do with cakes, isn’t it? I’m sure WSM would curl his lip. I saw these cakes in a shop somewhere in Bloomsbury, I can’t remember the name, but it was stuffed with fabulous cakes like these. Miles ahead of stupid cupcakes, which may be pretty, for about a second, but they’re piggishly huge, and who really wants to sink their fangs into two solid inches of dyed icing, and lose a filling on a sugar butterfly? Bring back buns for normal human beings, and fairy cakes, and butterfly cakes, and commission something like this for a special occasion. Phone pics, and fuzzy.

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I haven’t seen Tim Burton’s Alice yet but I’ve been looking at the books again. The story never bothered me when I was a child but the illustrations did, yuck. I have a Folio Society copy which was printed in 1961 but given to me by my grandmother in 1980, the same year that the facsimile edition of the handwritten and illustrated Alice’s Adventures Under Ground was published. 

God that neck still gives me the creeps. So does this big-head-tiny-body shot which is the look of the Red Queen in the new film. Shivers.

Interesting to compare Carroll’s own flamingo shot with Tenniel’s. 




21st March – Hmm I have now seen it. Wasn’t it a boy who slew the Jabberwock? 

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