Monday, 30 April 2012


After leaving Double Bay, Bill proposed that we walk along to Rose Bay where we could catch the ferry back to Circular Quay.  I agreed, even though we didn't know how far it was and it was slow going in my flip flop sandals.  It turned out to only to a couple of miles but with all the photography we were inspired to undertake we ended up running to catch the last ferry; between my sandals and my dodgy lungs it felt like a potentially fatal activity, that sprint. 

In looking back through my photos, I wonder if it was just our appreciation of a beautiful sunny day that made us take so many pictures. 

I was till in awe about the grey and yellow tones of Australian greenery, the different styles of housing and the views of warm, blue Pacific.

Australia has always seemed to me a funny mixture of slightly American:  all the balconies, BBQs, surfing, wide streets, poisonous creatures and a gold rush in their history.  But they are also British: tea, rugby, cricket and of course they are part of the British Commonwealth.  

'Flats' on stilts!

Australia seems quite European as well:  soccer - I gather they call rugby football - nice apartments in suburban and urban areas, good public transport systems.

I took five snaps of traffic to get this cute little bus stop / shelter.
Then again, Australia is uniquely Australian:  gum trees, really poisonous creatures, marsupials, school uniforms that include broad brimmed hats...uhm...Crocodile Dundee?). 

I'm sure that Australians could come up with a far more sophisticated list! 

We could see a lot of history here as well, not to mention that we were still walking through a prosperous area.  

And I'm sure that a lot of what pushed our buttons would seem nonsense to plenty of folks, eg how many people do you know who get really excited at spotting an art deco font?  (Or for that matter, art nouveau fonts?)

We found this building called Redleaf pretty amazing, particularly as it houses the Woollahra Municipal Council

This reminded me of  when I worked up in Morpeth and my colleagues at the local authority had their District Council offices in Longhurst Hall.   

Redleaf is apparently 'Victorian Italianate', built in the 1860s. 

The council originally acquired this property because it included a popular public beach which was in danger of private development and enclosure. 

I was also enthralled by the Woollahra Municipal Library,

One can just see the bookshelves in that back room;
doesn't it look like just the best ever reading nook?

which I have since learned was a home built for a son of a Redleaf proprietor in the late 1800's. 

I spoke to a woman standing outside and it turned out she, too, was visiting from Britain. 

Entrance to the magical library.

Surely such a gorgeous building would inspire even the slowest and least enthusiastic of readers.  Sadly we had a ferry to catch and so didn't have time to explore further inside.

One of the things that tickled Bill was seeing the sign in the car park at the Rose Bay Police station.   

I wonder how many people parking there would refer to themselves as a 'customer'?

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Race & Lunch

We're going to spend quite a bit of time in Australia here on the blog, but I don't want to lose track of real life that keeps going on as well.  I say this with two perspectives:  I'm still going to blog three times a week as a rule, to make sure I still have time to live real life.  That said, I'm going to post on the occasional Saturday about what is going on during our real life.  Does any of that make sense? 

A quiet morning, the tide well out...
Either way, Bill, his son Simon and his son-in-law Martin all ran in a local 10K race very soon after our return from Australia. 

The front runners and the lead bike...

I had a number but didn't think it was at all sensible to do a race given the state of my lungs, so I just took photos. 

And then the crowds arrived...

Much like I did last year, except this year was cloudy and cool instead of the beautiful day they had last year

All shapes and ages, with and without bunny ears...

Just as well, cool weather is far better for racing.

After the guys showered and changed at our house we met up with Helen in Tynemouth for lunch at Lola Jeans

I wonder how many dressers died to make that bar...but I still love it.

I'd promised more photos of Lola Jeans after our WI Christmas party there,

Antiques and chandeliers abound (sorry about the poles).

and now have finally made good,

though I'm afraid they aren't great quality. 

Just managed to get the fireplace and not the
men sitting around it...they appreciated being

It was good to catch up with Bill's kids. 

Even if Sarah wasn't around at least we got caught up on her by proxy. 

It's not gossip if it's good stuff about people you care about, right?

Friday, 27 April 2012

Double Bay

I must admit that having been to Sydney three times before, I didn't have a lot left on my list of things to do.  We've done The Rock and Bondi Beach; in fact I still wore bikinis back in 1999 and I insisted on doing all the beaches around Sydney.  The idea that they needed shark nets creeped me out so I never went in more than knee deep but the beaches are stunningly gorgeous nevertheless.

Love the upstairs windows with the mini-balconies!

On some bus journey or other I'd got a glimpse of some shops that looked interesting in a place called Double Bay.  Jane told me it was colloquially called 'Double Bay - Double Pay'. 

'Cafe Society'

However, for lack of any other ideas I suggested Double Bay as a day out for Bill and me.  We got the bus down to Circular Quay and then a ferry down to Double Bay. 

Poor photo, great dress:  cream linen with green lace on top;
bottom edge is green linen with cream lace on top.

Double Bay was a pleasant little suburb full of very expensive shops, just as Jane had said.  I like window shopping well enough and we both enjoyed the art deco buildings.  More than anything, we just enjoyed walking around in the sunshine after days and days of rain. 

Just looking at the residents walking around, mostly women, one could see that it was a very upmarket area.  Even though they wore casual clothing, they were well dressed and well groomed: no chipped manicures or ripped jeans in sight.  Yet again I've learned a new word!  Apparently the opposite of slumming is 'ritzing'; well, we wuz ritzin', baby.

<><> <><> <><>
Bill spotted this  Masarati Quattroporte; he and Jeremy give these a thumbs up.

Bill pointed out a consignment shop with a French name.  With nothing better to do, I went in and browsed.  Bill wandered around outside until I pulled him in to show him some interesting things I'd found and to get his opinion on a few.  

<><> <><> <><>
Diamond-roofed dollhouse anyone?

Naturally the woman who ran the shop told me everything I tried on looked great, but Bill nixed one and I ended up buying three tops.  Then we browsed a few of the designer dresses and bags for which I had no use, admiring the fine fabrics and interesting construction. 

The proprietress had stories for several, explaining that some of the clients who placed their clothing items with her were often in the public eye and felt that once they'd been photographed with a memorable item, eg a clutch bag covered with red feathers, they could no longer use it.  Others apparently had particularly bitchy 'friends' who would snear if they wore last year's Prada.  Somehow for all their beautiful clothes I can't find it in my heart to envy these women.

<><> <><> <><>
Adorable baby dolls and romantic embroidery push all the right buttons.

As the owner wrote my receipt for $200 (I know, I know, foreign money never seems like real money to me...), she informed me that the original purchase prices for those items came to $1,200 and that I'd 'saved' $1,000.  Now, I'm not even certain that the items are worth $200 in hindsight, only that I've not seen anything like them in any charity shops in Britain or the US.  To say they were 'worth' that extraordinary amount just seemed silly to me.  I suppose her math works for  her less cynical clients; Bill and I just had a good laugh after leaving.  (And I did wear the unusual black top with jeans to a birthday party, about which I'll be telling you...).

<><> <><> <><>
For your little rhinestone cowboy?

After that we paid something like $12 for an iced tea and a fruit juice, not including the tip for our Irish waitress, and then decided we'd 'done' Double Bay. 

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Of Mice and Men...a long tail

Every vacation is actually three: the one planned, the one taken, the one remembered.   Few trips I've taken have diverged quite so much from the plan as this last one.  We had to think to count our previous trips to Australia.  This is our fourth and I suspect the most memorable.

Going There

On the way out we struggled to get to the hotel at Dubai airport for the few hours’ rest between the 12 and 7 hour flights that comprise the journey to Sydney.  We could see the hotel, but to get across the concrete jungle of car park and highways, one needs the hotel mini-bus, which arrives…eventually.  We got to bed three hours after landing.

After checking in the next morning, we learned that our connecting flight from Dubai at 10am was broken.  We spent the day shuffling from queue to queue for food, food vouchers, immigration (in and out several times, who knows why), immigration stamps to be cancelled, hotel vouchers, another mini-bus…

We walked the length, breadth and height of the terminal.  My backpack weighed 20 pounds and I regretted every ounce.  Twelve hours on, after a couple hours of sleep, we boarded a flight at 10pm.   I was promising myself never again.

On the positive side, I watched about 20 hours worth of movies, which I reckon is worth about £200.

In Australia

Chris and Jane had already booked a holiday when Bill proposed we would visit. Their plans included a Rotary Conference, a Murray River cruise and a flight to Kangaroo Island.  We were to spend a night at their house, drive to their house at Avoca Beach for a week or so to recover from jet lag, take a train and see Melbourne for a week and then join them back at home in Sydney.   There was talk of Tasmania or Hunter Valley, but nothing definite other than Bill was going to run the 10K race in Sydney that Chris was involved in organising.  It was late summer / early autumn in Australia and we were looking forward to warmth and sunshine.

Instead, Chris ended up in hospital with encephalitis (or meningitis, they never decided which).    Their home phone and Jane’s mobile never stopped ringing.  Family and friends all wanted the latest word on Chris and when could they visit; also help with race organisation questions.  Jane visited the hospital daily, came home and talked herself hoarse.  We came straight back after one night at Avoca Beach to chauffeur Jane to hospital, make dinners, supply tea / gin & tonic, help interpret confusing statements made by doctors.   Chris and Jane never did get to take their holiday and lost the full cost of the bookings. 

During this time the weather also went awry:  it rained for days and days, but fortunately not for the fore casted 28 days.  Parts of New South Wales were flooded and the State Emergency Service was busy.  Jane's basement flooded beyond what newspapers or cardboard could absorb.  The new (from the last flood) carpet was doomed.   So were my lungs, with damp and mould irritating my asthma.  By the time we came home instead of lungs I had damp mouldy leaves studded with spiky pine needles plus a few wafting cobwebs, or at least that’s how it felt.  Jane's asthma was brought on by stress and with Bill's cold (later gifted to Chris), the house echoed all night with the four of us barking.

On the positive side, Chris recovered to his usual wacky, eccentric self, Bill and I were really pleased to have been there to support Jane, the carpet was removed almost immediately by the insurance company and a replacement promised.  Our trip to Melbourne lived up to most of our expectations.  The 10K race was a smashing success and Bill did run it.  We did eventually had a week at Avoca Beach, including a couple of days on our own during which the weather was perfect.  Jane got a few days alone as well, much needed to re-cooperate.  After finally relaxing, I felt almost human and started talking about 'next time' instead of ‘never, ever’.

See the upside-down bird?

Going Home

I really hoped for a quiet, efficient journey home to Britain, as painless as possible.   There were a few hiccups, two of which were my fault entirely.  I somehow walked off and left my backpack (with the computer in it) outside the toilets at Sydney airport.  Standing in the queue (for another minibus…) I suddenly realised how light I felt and was able to run and retrieve it.  I coughed so much on the plane, a fellow passenger offered me his cough drops. 

Dubai immigration officers wear long white robes and white head scarves (keffiyeh) held in place with black cord (agal).  Our officer did not like the collection of green and red stamps we acquired on the way to Australia, in spite of two fellow officers’ assurance.  He spent twenty minutes examining our passports.  We will not go to Dubai again, at least not with these current passports.   Our Holiday Inn Not-Express transport was such that the Premier Inn driver offered us a lift (they are next door) on his second trip, just as our ride arrived.   I had a restless night, worrying about facing Dubai immigration again.  We went early to allow for grilling so naturally we breezed through.   I also worried about facing British immigration, having forgotten to bring my old passport containing my proof of leave to remain. 

On the positive side, I watched another £200 worth of films (I recommend The Artist).  Putting on headphones, I didn’t have to hear myself cough.  Avoiding Dubai means we can explore other areas of Asia instead.  With Bill at my side, the British immigration officer accepted my explanation and amazingly just stamped me through.  Everything at home was as we left it, the neighbour had collected our post and even cut the grass, which was above and beyond.   

So, all in all, you might now understand why I was kissing my house!

Monday, 23 April 2012

Kissing My House

I've mentioned to some folks that there is a reason I've not replied to comments here or made comments on other blogs as usual:  I haven't really been here.  We have recently returned from six weeks in Australia.  Being the slightly paranoid person that I am, and not wanting to lose the continuity of this blog, I frantically scraped together enough posts to see it through our absence.   It was a long time to be away from home, twice as long as I've ever been absent before.  I missed being in my own home.  When we finally came through the front door, I wanted to kiss my carpet in the front hall, kiss my refrigerator, kiss my bed, kiss my sewing machine, even kiss my toilet (on the tank).  

For all the time away, it was not the holiday we'd planned and certainly not one we would have chosen, but it was what it was.  There were some very good things about it in spite of the headaches and the potential crises and I will look forward to telling you about those good times. 

Friday, 20 April 2012

The Future is Orange

Fashion forward types might realise that Pantone have decreed that the colour for this year is 'tangerine'.  Ask me how much I care what a paint company says about my clothes.  Orange is a pretty tricky colour and I predict a lot of women walking around looking unwell.  But that's not what this is about.

"The future is bright.  The future is Orange." was an advertising slogan here in Britain for a telecom company some time back.  A friend quoted this upon seeing Bill wearing a bright orange vest in holiday snap, a remnant from his running club in previous life.  But this isn't about either of those topics either.

So what am I talking about?  Bill's son, Simon, announced the other day that he was moving to France in June, to a place called Orange, just north of Avignon.  His employers are providing him a house, a car and 24 flights 'home' (or of similar value) per year to sweeten the deal; he expects to be there for two-three years.  Simon has been studying German lately, but I gather he's reasonably comfortable with the prospect of speaking French.  I think he's been looking for an 'adventure' like this for a while, so he's excited.  I'm excited for him.

So, I guess this rather influences determines where we will be going on holiday in future.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Bake and Run!

This is a recipe from The Tightwad Gazette for blueberry cake I've looked at many times over the past 20 years, but never made, cake not really being part of my usual diet.  However, I thought it worth trying and being as how I didn't have blueberries, I had blackberries, I made blackberry cake.  I'm going to try it with apples and maybe even tinned peaches; I'll be dead amazed if this wasn't another Universal Recipe.

Blueberry Cake

2 cups white flour
1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup cooking oil
1 cup milk
2 eggs

Mix the above in a bowl.  Put in a prepared (I took this to mean greased; might even be better if floured, but I haven't tried that part yet)  9 x 13 pan, top with following mixture:

3 cups blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Bake at 350 F (180 C) degrees for 30 to 40 minutes.

This is not a terribly sweet cake and Bill said that it really mostly tasted of blackberries.  The cake seems quite light, almost but not quite a sponge cake.   I'd recommend giving it a go.

I had three reasons for baking this cake. 

1)  I have a shed-load (well, actually freezer-load) of blackberries to use up;

2)  I needed something to blog about and this seemed a natural choice given my commitment to review ideas from The Tightwad Gazette.

3)  Trent Hamm over at The Simple Dollar, included this video on a list of things that inspired him.  I wouldn't say it was the best TED talk I've watched, but it was fairly amusing - but not very, either.  According to this speaker, one of the characteristics of a happy marriage is that the woman is thinner and more attractive than the man.  You've seen photos of Bill; what chance have I got? 

The only strategies that come to my mind are to get out there and run some more miles (and miles), and bake a lot more pies and cakes! 

Do you know any really fattening recipes I could try?

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

My Dad's Birthday

My Dad was pretty reliable about Christmas presents:  while he and Mom were together he gave her money and let her do it!  After they split he discovered I really liked Month-at-a-Glance planners and so for years - pretty much the rest of his life, this is what I got.  I was fine with that.  They sometimes had cash inside as well.  My favourite one came wrapped in a folded over paper bag, held with a rubber band and with a plastic red rose (I recognised it from Grandma's 'decor') stuck in the band.  That was so like him and we both laughed for ages.

Birthdays were more hit and miss.  He actually forgot it one year and I was miffed.  I remember telling him it wasn't as though he had so many to remember (me being an only child).  I don't think he missed it again. 

However, he was good about the occasional surprise, just because.  Not often enough to make it routine, but just now and then when he ran across something.  He was really good at giving hugs and saying "Have I told you lately that I love you?"

I was clearing out my (Grandma & Grandpa's) desk one day and ran across this card, buried at the back, one of his 'for no reason' gifts.  It was probably intended to give a spouse, but I got the message OK anyhow.  I know that at some point it was cool to refer to a boyfriend or spouse as 'my old man', but this is the way my Dad referred to himself all my life.

I read a lot of books while we were in Australia and came to the conclusion that happy endings weren't currently in fashion.  With the death of a main character in one, however, there was an observation made that death made one understand the true meaning of 'never' in a way not previously appreciated.  On the other hand, alongside of 'never' came 'always'. 

I believe this to be true.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Suffragettes, Abolitionists and Authors - Part IV

George Eliot (1819 - 1880) Ranked by Feldman as number 27 of out 100 most influential women. Author of Silas Marner, Middlemarch and others. I have seen the former on our shelves, but don't believe I've ever read it. I keep confusing George Eliot with George Sand, only because they are women who chose George as part of their pen name. Even stranger, Sand was French, but this is about Eliot and she was English. Having read briefly about her life, I shall definitely read her work with more interest as hers was a rather peculiar life

She was born in Warwickshire where her father was the estate manager of Arbury Hall, a relatively important position. Because she was considered an unattractive girl with little chance of marrying, she was given a better education than most girls at the time, at least up to the age of 16.   One cannot entirely disagree with this assessment of her appearance, but this certainly doesn't seem to have stopped her from finding love in her life.

After her education finished her father's position allowed her access to the library at Arbury Hall. It is said that her writing draws heavily on Greek literature and only one of her books can be printed without the use of Greek typeface. Her mother died when she was 16 and she took over the housekeeping for her father. She was 21 when her brother married and took over the family home, so she and her father moved to a village near Coventry, where she fell in with Charles Bray and his wife. Their home was a meeting place for people interested in discussing radical views. Whether it was their influence, or the varied exposure at schools to differing religious views, the challenges of the day to the Anglican church by religious dissenters or her independent reading, at some point Eliot began to reject Christianity. Though her father threatened to throw her out of the home for these ideas, she remained with him until his death when she was 30. She then spent a year in Switzerland, travelling there with the Brays but continuing to stay on her own.

When she returned to England she moved to London with the intention of becoming a writer under her own name and she worked as assistant editor for a left-wing journal for three years during which she met George Henry Lewes, a philosopher and critic. Within a few years Evans and Lewes decided to live together in spite of the fact that he was married. Lewes had a wife and three children, but because they had decided to have an open marriage (these Victorians!) she had four other children with another man.  As these four children's birth certificates bore Lewes' name, he could not divorce her on these grounds. Evans and Lewes lived together openly for 20 years. It is surmised that it was in order to hide her living arrangements from the wider public rather than her gender that she took a male pen name, though she was rather scathing of the majority of women's writing of the day. It was during her time with Lewes that she wrote her popular novels, noted for astute observation of rural life and for their social, political and psychological insight.

When Lewes died in 1878, she spent two years editing his final manuscript for publication. She found comfort in the company of John Walter Scott, a man 20 years her junior whom she married in May 1880. She died in December that year from a throat infection coupled with her chronic kidney disease. With such an unusual life, I suspect I'll remember Mary Ann Evans / George Eliot much better in future.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Suffragettes, Abolitionists and Authors - Part III

This group of posts is about the next five women listed in chronological order from Deborah Felder's book, 100 Most Influential Women.   All of these posts are listed under the heading 'Influential Women'.

    Charlotte Bronte (1816 - 1855) Rated 44th amongst the 100 most influential women. Author of Jane Eyre, Villette and Shirley. Aged 27, developed crush on married man, a teacher in Brussels. Age 38, married, got pregnant and died.

    Emily Bronte (1818 - 1848) Rated 45th. Author of Wuthering Heights. Age 20, became teacher in Halifax, worked 17-hour days, health failed. Died of TB, aged 30.

    There is no doubt this was a brilliant family and that a number of their published works are classics.  Virtually every decade has produced a movie of either Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre or both, though granted this isn't necessarily a measure of their literary worth!  Though today they might be thought as stories more written for women than men, in their day they were thought to be remarkably unfeminine. However, after reading the Wikipedia entries for these two sisters and their parents, a remarkable collection of doom, gloom and death interspersed with literary genius and a bit of laudanum addiction, I'm thinking that there was something wrong going on there.

    The father initially did several apprenticeships, as a blacksmith, a linen draper and a weaver before entering higher education and becoming an Anglican priest. He married Maria Branwell, the daughter of a successful merchant. His position in Haworth was as a Perpetual Curate, which is a post held in a sparsely populated area which doesn't have a vicar. So far as I can tell, they were Perpetually Poor. The children entertained themselves by writing poetry and novels. The only son also painted, which apparently also involved the obligatory consumption of alcohol and possibly laudanum. The children's ill health is attributed to a poor water source, it being runoff from the church graveyard, to poor living conditions at a Yorkshire school for curates' children (later depicted at Lowood in Jane Eyre), and to overwork as teachers and governesses. Tuberculosis is of course contagious and its manifestation was encouraged by generally poor nutrition and of course there were no antibiotics at the time. For the most part, the Bronte offspring were felled by this disease:

    Elizabeth - died aged 11
    Maria - died aged 12, (both in 1825);
    Anne, died aged 29,
    Emily - died aged 30,
    Branwell, died aged 31 (all in 1848/49); all died of tuberculosis.
    Charlotte died aged 38 from TB, or possibly from severe morning sickness.
    Maria Branwell Bronte, their mother, died aged 38 from uterine cancer.

    Patrick Bronte, the father, lived to the age of 84; his son-in-law, Arthur Bell Nichols remained with Patrick until his death in 1861 and himself lived to be 87. This strikes me as quite strange, that's all I'm saying.

    Wednesday, 11 April 2012

    Suffragettes, Abolitionists and Authors - Part II

    This is another post about influential women, as listed in a book by Deborah Felder.  Although I've long ago returned the book to the library, I recorded her list and her rankings for future use here.  I've been researching them on the internet in a different order to their ranking, rather I've put them in chronological order to appreciate more about the time in which they lived.

    Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815 - 1902) was rated 7th in 100, and I would have to agree that she rates this high. Abolitionist, women's rights activist, suffragette, temperance activist. I believe this is one of the women about whom I was supposed to write an English research paper at university when I was 16. Never mind that it was my first ever research paper (with footnotes and everything!) and that the books I brought home from the library all weighed a ton and looked dry and daunting, my uninformed impression of Stanton was that she would be dead boring. Forty years later I realise how mistaken I was (I dropped out of school rather than face that hurdle; 16 was too young for me to have a go at higher education).

    Elizabeth was born in New York, the daughter of a lawyer and a politician Daniel Cady and enjoyed a formal education not often given to daughters. She was one of five daughters who lived to old age, out of eleven children born to the Cady family. Her father's sadness at her 20-year-old brother's death and a statement that he wished she was a son led her to believe he valued sons more than daughters. In spite of her excellent academic achievements she could not go to university. Elizabeth met Henry Brewster Stanton through her involvement with the abolition and temperance movements. He was a journalist, anti-slavery orator and, following their marriage, an attorney. Elizabeth required that 'promise to obey' be removed from the wedding vows as she was entering into a relationship of equals. They attended the International Abolition of Slavery Convention in London on their honeymoon. Though she took her husband's name, she refused to sign herself as Mrs. Henry B. Stanton, always insisting on her own name. Married for 47 years, because of employment, travel and finances they lived apart more often than together, though they had six children together, as part of what she called 'voluntary motherhood'; she felt that women should have control of their sexual relations and childbearing, an unusual idea in an era when women were expected to 'submit'. Though much alike in temperament, they disagreed on various issues, women's suffrage in particular; neither Elizabeth's father or husband favoured it.

    Elizabeth was one of the organisers of the first women's rights convention in 1848. After initially working with Susan B. Anthony with their common involvement in temperance work, they formed a working partnership focussed on women's suffrage, in which Elizabeth wrote many of the speeches delivered by Anthony, who being single and childless was able to attend more functions. Though Elizabeth wanted to address women's rights more widely, she was persuaded to concentrate on suffrage. She and Anthony both broke with the abolistionist movement following the Civil War in that they lobbied against the ratification of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth amendments, giving the right to vote to African-American men but not to women.

    In 1868 the two women formed the National Woman Suffrage Association, of which Elizabeth was president for 21 years. In her later life she travelled widely in the US and in Europe, speaking on behalf of women's rights. Her views included rights of economic opportunities, right to serve on juries and gender-neutral divorce laws. In 1892, she delivered a speech, Solitude of Self, to the Committee of the Judiciary of the US Congress. She and others wrote The Womans Bible, published in the late 1890s, to refute religious views that women should be subsurvient to their husbands. Though this book enjoyed great sales, its controversiality eventually caused the NWSA to separate itself from its ideas and, to some extent, Elizabeth. Several quotes suggest that at 80, though old, obese and bedridden, she was undaunted: "The only difference between us is, we say that these degrading ideas of woman emanated from the brain of man, while the church says that they came from God." "Our politicians are calm and complacent under our fire but the clergy jump round the moment you aim a pop gun at them 'like parched peas on a hot skillet'". "Well, if we who do see the absurdities of the old superstitions never unveil them to others, how is the world to make any progress in the theologies? I am in the sunset of life, and I feel it to be my special mission to tell people what they are not prepared to hear ..."

    Forty years later, I definitely feel I did myself a grave disservice, not having studied about Elizabeth Cady Stanton. I think she might have changed my life. There are some excellent quotes from her here and here. My current favourite is

    The heyday of woman's life is the shady side of fifty.

    Monday, 9 April 2012

    Suffragettes, Abolitionists and Authors - Part I

    I thought I'd dip back into my List of 100 Influential Women (or rather Deborah Felder's list).  I always learn something new and inspiring from writing these posts. 

    Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811 - 1896) Felder rated Stowe number 11 on her list of 100 influential women.  Harriet was born and died in Connecticut.  She was one of her father's 13 children.  Her mother (of 9 childen) died when she was 5 years old.  Harriet's father was a Presbyterian minister and she had several brothers who became notable ministers.  Harriet attended Hartford Female Seminary, run by her elder sister Catherine, where she received a classical (traditionally 'male') education.  When she was 21 she moved to Cincinnati to join her father who had become president of the Lane Theological Seminary.  During a cholera outbreak, she visited the home of another seminary student in Kentucky.  It is said that there she was taken to see a slave auction, an experience that left its mark. 

    An uncle in Cincinnati invited her to join a writers' club, called the Semi-Colon Club, where she met Calvin Ellis Stowe and his wife Eliza Tyler Stowe.  When Eliza died a few years later, Harriet married Stowe, a professor at the seminary.  They later followed his career to Maine, where the couple took part in the Underground Railroad, assisting fugitive slaves.

    Of course, Harriet Beecher Stowe is most famous for having written Uncle Tom's Cabin.  This book was initially published in the anti-slavery journal National Era, in installments over a nine month period before it was published in 1852.   When she and her family were later invited to the White House to meet President Lincoln, it is rumoured that he said something to the effect, "So you're the little lady who caused this great big war."  In fact, no one knows quite what was said, but journal entries of both Harriet and of her daughter refer to this visit as 'funny' and they apparently found the experience quite amusing.  I doubt it can be said that she caused the war, but her book certainly will have fuelled the discussions about slavery.

    I have to confess to having not read Uncle Tom's Cabin, but I have now added it to my book list.  She wrote other books, including novels, memoirs, a travel guide and a book about domestic managed co-authored with her sister Catherine.  Some of these books are available online, including Agnes of SorrentoI have downloaded a PDF file of her and Catherine's book, The American Woman's Home (published 1869).

    Friday, 6 April 2012

    Two More Tiny Things

    I have had 'make-up tables' in more places in this house than I can remember.  When we slept in the East wing, the window was one (only sometimes the East sun was hard on the eyes).  I used the bathroom mirror for a while, but the lighting was poor, given that a legal requirement is that bathroom windows have frosted glass.

    For a while the window sill in the West wing was an ideal place to prop a mirror and I sat on a cedar chest with a basket of make-up and my hair dryer next to me.  When we had new double-glazed windows put in the #&%@ company ripped out my window sill without any notice of the loss.

    See?  It's great lighting!
    The box room was good, until I put a plant stand there to enjoy the warm western sun and then Bill moved into that corner.  I went back to being a nomad in the mornings til one day I had a brain wave:  I bought one of those glue-on sticky hooks and put it on the bathroom window frame.  It blends right in with the PVC frame and it holds my little mirror.  The northern light is perfect and the window sill holds my make-up until it goes back into a drawer.  So the hook is one tiny thing. 

    The other is that I replaced the string hanger on the mirror with a delicate blue ribbon from my Aunt Rita's stash.  It's a teeny-weeny thing, but it does make a difference.

    Have you ever been a nomad in your house?