shewhomust: (mamoulian)
From Saturday's Guardian:
Back in St Ives I picked up a summer job in catering and started spending more time on the beach and in the water. One evening I went out paddleboarding and as I paddled back into the harbour, I witnessed the most gorgeous sunset; the whole harbour was glowing. That’s when I realised this was where I was meant to be. I imagined how magical it would be if a mermaid swam into St Ives on an evening like this, and what a stir it would cause. Then I thought maybe I could be that mermaid.
shewhomust: (Default)
Well, no, I probably won't go all the way to London to patronise Passport Photo Service, as described in the Guardian.

I could do worse, though. It was founded in 1953, and thanks to its speedy service and central location had many famous clients, often referred by the US Embassy. "The first famous person through the door was Errol Flynn. He stood with his hands on his hips and said: 'Yep! It's me!'" Mohammed Ali saw the gallery of passport photos, and told the firm that now they could replace them with a single big picture of him; Uri Geller bent their only spoon.

But their "most important" visitor? Too nice a story to spoil: go, read for yourself.
shewhomust: (dandelion)
  • I saw the moon last night as I was putting the milk bottles out on the doorstep: a big bright full moon, certainly, but no more super than many others. To be fair, that's all that was promised: the far point of the swing of the pendulum. [ profile] durham_rambler, getting up in the night, opened the curtains and saw the moon low over the trees on the hillside. This was more impressive, he tells me, and that too is as promised: the moon always looks bigger when there's a point of reference. (I didn't get up to look).

  • To the Eye Infirmary this morning for the Come back in six months to make sure it's not getting worse. It's not getting worse, so they've discharged me. It's not getting better, either, though my right eye is better than expected. I'll settle for that. And a pleasant drive there and back, in autumn sunshine and plenty of golden foliage.

  • Pretty pictures in The Guardian of the extraordinary versions of traditional rugs by Azerbaijani artiat Faig Ahmed: I had to read the article twice to convince myself that these are real physical rugs, not digital manipulations. (More on the artist's website).

  • These book sculptures are all over the web, though the artists's own website seems to have gone missing. At times they veer further into cuteness and whimsy than works for me, but at their best they are delightful: and I like that each sculpure represents the book from which it is made.

  • Shopping triumph! I have bought a pair of slippers. Limited triumph, because given absolute choice, I would not necessarily have chosen lilac, with a snowflake design incorporating a sparkly center in each snowflake. I chose them because they fit me, and that in itself is triumph enough. I celebrated by throwing away their heelless and very grubby predecessors.
shewhomust: (dandelion)
If you are sitting by a rock pool, hoping to see a hermit crab moving into a new shell, you can help things along by dropping a suitable shell into the pool.

With thanks to Phil Gates, who I see had already written about this in the Guardian.

And if you really want to spy on the private life of the hermit crab, make that a glass shell.

Here's the programme which was featured on PotW: I haven't listened to it. Nice photo of Phil, though.

And this article has some great photos of hermit crabs in glass shells (plus one in a Lego house, which is silly).
shewhomust: (dandelion)

What? Fermented fish is totally breakfast related!
shewhomust: (dandelion)
No surprise that at this time of year the Guardian Travel supplement hasn't had much of interest to say. But it's been making up for it with some very pretty pictures.

Last week they published three Instagram pictures from Max Avdeev taken in Yakutia. If there's a way to link to Instagram to show only photographs tagged 'Yakutia' by a single photographer, I have yet to find it, but the tag 'cold assignment' seems to be all his own. More photos on his website, especially these of Kotelny Island.

Thuis week, the Big Picture featured this amazing image from Chase Guttman (website), who has won Young Travel Photographer of the Year (same link leads to some fine photographs of Iceland in a younger age group). What amazingly well-travelled young people these are...

Poking around the internet I found this BBC article about another set of prizewinning photographs. My travel envy was alleviated by the realisation that my favourite set had been taken on Spittal beach in Northumberland (you have to scroll right down the page to see them).

These are all stunning photos, and I wish mine were half as good. But every now and then I'm quite pleased with one. This is my favourite from our pre-Christmas visit to London:

A red door in Somers Town">
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
Full report of the rest of our visit to London as soon as I can. In the interim, though, something from the radio which brightened our homeward journey:

If you can, listen to this clip from the Radio 4 PM programme: Eddie Mair interviews Dr Freya Harrison and Dr Christina Lee, both of the University of Nottingham. They have, in the spirit of investigation through re-enactment, been trying out an eye salve from Bald's Leechbook, a 10th century Anglo-Saxon medical text. It's a lovely story, and cheered up the dark wet evening. The only bit that set me muttering was the discussion of how, if "they" had this sort of medical skill in the tenth century, the knowledge had been lost - I felt they might at least have considered the precariousness of knowledge contained in a book written by hand and of which one single copy survives. Oh, yes, similar remedies may be recorded in similar manuscripts, but this particular mixture came from a book which sounds very like one practitioner's notes: it isn't a basis on which we can assert that "they" knew anything. This does not detract from the main matter of the report.

The Leechbook is in the British Library, whose account of the project is less afraid of long words than the BBC's (and includes a little video, which I haven't yet watched, as I am writing this on my notebook).
shewhomust: (dandelion)
From Sunday morning, when we discovered there was no heat in the house, to Tuesday evening, when I came home to cautiously returning warmth, ten days, during which I have posted about nothing but plumbing. But that's not the only thing I've been doing.

Sunday was jam-packed )

Monday was eaten up by getting quotes to replace the boiler. On Tuesday D. arrived bearing fan heaters and firewood, and we made an open fire. On Wednesday we took him to the pub quiz, and had a sociable evening (and our team won, which is not unusual, and dates back well before [ profile] durham_rambler and me joining the team). On Friday we cleared the dining room table, and had a proper dinner party, which was fun.

D. left us on Saturday morning, and in the evening [ profile] durham_rambler and I braved the winds and the water to drive to Barnard Castle to hear Martin Simpson, who was playing at the Witham. In fact our journey wasn't too bad, though anyone coming from the west would have had a hard time, and the audience was much diminished - pity, because it was a great show. I could (very easily) have done without the enthusiasts in the row in front of us repeatedly calling out requests for Buckets of Rain (funny the first time, but not that funny). Good to hear a couple of Dylan songs making their way back into the repertoire, especially North Country Blues, very topical. I still yearn for that album of Dylan songs Martin Simpson never made.

The main excitement of Sunday was watching the final two episodes of Doctor Who; from which you may infer that it wasn't a very exciting day. On Monday we were up early to welcome the builders, and on Tuesday we spent the day at the planning appeal over the County Hospital site, which I may or may not post about at greater length: I'd quite like to know how it turns out before I do. After which I went to the Graphic Novels Reading Group, and we all went out for a Christmas meal afterwards. Which brings us round to where I came in.
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
I don't know; I turn my back for a moment (well, for the best part of three weeks, actually) and when I look again, there are old newspapers everywhere, and tabs open all over my browser. Can't something be done about this?

Words: Awumbuk:
From a Guardian article about words I didn't know we needed for emotions I didn't know we had (not all equally useful or desirable). Awumbuk is explained: "There is an emptiness after visitors depart. The walls echo. The space which felt so cramped while they were here suddenly seems weirdly large. Sometimes everything feels a bit pointless. The indigenous Baining people who live in the mountains of Papua New Guinea are so familiar with this experience that they name it awumbuk. They believe departing visitors shed a kind of heaviness when they leave, so as to travel lightly. This oppressive mist hovers for three days, leaving everyone feeling distracted and apathetic. To counter it, the Baining fill a bowl with water and leave it overnight to absorb the festering air. The next day, the family rise very early and ceremonially fling the water into the trees, whereupon ordinary life resumes."

Also from the Guardian, the joy of Soviet bus stops (accompanying words, if required)

shewhomust: (dandelion)
Today's word is 'pancheon'.

Last Saturday's word, if you want to be picky, but I didn't meet it until this morning, because that's when I was reading the 'Cook' supplement of Saturday's Guardian. Asked what is her favourite kitchen tool, Regula Ysewijn replies "my pancheon". There's no explanation, though it's obvious from the context that it's a large earthenware bowl - an image search turns up plenty of them - straight-sided rather than round, used for making bread or cream.

The column doesn't seem to have made it into the online edition (or maybe just 'not yet') but Regula Ysewijn's website has some wonderful photographs, and photo essays on subjects like 'Eels, pie and mash and her blog mixes historical recipes with essays about food production.
shewhomust: (dandelion)
Via [ profile] makinglight, the story of Thomas J Cobden-Sanderson, bookbinder, printer, type designer and associate of William Morris. He established the Doves Bindery at Hammersmith, and later, with Emery Walker, the Doves Press, for which they designed a type face based on that of the 15th-century printer Nicolas Jenson. (There are sample pages here.) When the partners fell out, Cobden-Sanderson took the press's entire set of type to Hammersmith Bridge (it took him 170 trips and nine months), and threw it into the river; he wrote "To the bed of the River Thames, the River on whose banks I have printed all my printed books, I, the Doves Press, bequeath The Doves Press Fount of Type, – the punches, matrices and the type... And may the River, in its tides and flows, pass over them to and from the great sea for ever and ever, or until its tides and flow for ever cease... untouched of other use".

You can read this as tragedy or farce, or both. You can meditate on whether to respect the artist's wish that their work be destroyed, or you can try to recreate or rescue what has been lost. Designer Robert Green spent three years working on a digital version of the Doves type - and then he thought he couldn't regard the job as finished unless he at least tried to find the original type. So he went down onto the Thames foreshore and - story and pictures here.

Which naturally reminded me of this diary of a mudlark, passed on by [ profile] asakiyume.

And of Billy and Charley - but that's a whole other story...
shewhomust: (dandelion)
The National Trust for Scotland has started posting excerpts from the diary written by Alice MacLachlan between 1906 and 1909. Alice's husband Peter was a minister, and the current set of entries, for February 1906, describe their life in his forst post, in the village of Garve, north of Inverness: the weather, the visits (young Hugh, recently promoted from a child's smock to trousers, comes to show off), the reading of improving books.

What Alice does not yet know is that in August Peter will take up a new posting, on St Kilda.

Background information.
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
Which London museum has a three-legged quagga?

"It took a very long time for the museum to realise what a treasure it had; there are many oddities in a collection which only three years ago discovered it had half a dodo in a drawer, filed as a crocodile."

This, it seems, was an understandable mistake: crocodiles and birds do have common characteristics. That's all right, then.

Happy New Year!
shewhomust: (puffin)
A puffin also communicates information in its manner of walking. If the puffin is walking rapidly with its head lowered it is saying, "I am just passing through and don't mean any trouble." This is called a low profile walk and is useful because the colony is very crowded and a puffin is often crossing another puffin's territory as it walks. The puffins that are guarding burrows usually assume a pelican walk position that has the puffin stand stiffly erect with its beak next to its body and using slow exaggerated foot movements. This makes the puffin look like a soldier on guard duty, which is just what it is doing by guarding the burrow.

"The puffin may also stomp its foot in place to show its displeasure."

Puffin FAQs from Audubon's Project Puffin
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
  • The Guardian for Friday 27th October 1995 offers a compendium of 'The Darling Words of Mae' - quotations from Mae West. Several of the best - certainly the best known - come from I'm No Angel (1933):
    • Beulah, peel me a grape.

    • When I'm good I'm very, very good, but when I'm bad, I'm bet­ter.

    • She's the kind of girl who climbed the ladder of success, wrong by wrong.

    Then there's:

    Give a man a free hand and he'll try and put it all over you.
    Klondike Annie, 1936

    I've been in Who's Who, and I know what's what, but it'll be the first time I ever made the dictionary.
    Letter to the RAF, early 1940s, on having an inflatable life jacket named after her

    "Goodness, what beau­tiful diamonds!"
    "Good­ness had nothing to do with it, dearie."
    Night After Night, 1932

    Why don't you come up sometime and see me? I'm home every evening.
    She Done Him Wrong, 1933 (yes, this is apparently the original text)

    Connie Mines: Oh Miss West, I've heard so much about you.
    MW: Yeah honey, but you cant prove a thing.
    From the television pro­gramme, Mr. Ed, 1960 - wait, Mae West was on Mr. Ed? Oh.Kay.

  • At the other extreme, I've been reading today's edition, too. There's a project just waiting for someone with too much time on their hands, to log the writers who appear - who are quoted, profiled, reviewed or reviewers - in the Review, the Saturday books section, because it is obvious on even a desultory reading that certain people form an in-group, who get far more attention than others. Neil Gaiman seems to have joined their number. I don't dispute that Neil Gaiman is a Good Thing, but he appears three times in the first two articles: on page 5 he annotates a copy of The Ocean at the End of the Lane to raise funds for PEN, on page 6 he appears twice in the diary, suppporting the campaign to Let Books Be Books and as an author whose readers are profiled by YouGov's Profiles service. Reaching the centre spread, and a profile of Ursula Le Guin, I reflected that she, too, has entered the enchanted circle, but without the overload - but, wait! here she is receiving the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from - yes! - Neil Gaiman.

  • Also in today's Guardian, it seems that Newcastle-upon-Tyne is the UK's best city: with a photo of the Lit & Phil to prove it. An associated article lists Newcastle's top 10 craft beer pubs - I'm not sure what the criteria are for inclusion, but they managed to exclude the Bodega. Note for the bewildered: number 1 on the list, Pleased To Meet You in High Bridge, is (i.e. was) the Turks.

  • Last week's travel section had some suggestions for UK seaside holidays in winter. I may be missing the point here, because it seems obvious to me that the seaside is somewhere you can also enjoy in winter. One of their suggestions is Tynemouth - and very nice too. They recommend some places to stay in Oban and Portmeirion, either of which I'd be happy to visit. Curiously, their explanation why you might want to go to Portmeirion is "You can pretend you’re on a Mediterranean holiday..." Some of us might want to pretend we're being pursued along the beach by giant white balls, but the young things who write my newspaper don't mention that...

  • Last week's paper also offers a bonus piece of travel writing disguised as a gardening column: Alys Fowler heads to Kazakhstan in search of the origins of the apple. She makes it sound ravishing, but then she doesn't mention the government, with its appalling record on human rights. I liked this, though: "Birds are thought to have carried the seeds of an early apple from China to Kazakhstan, where the Tien Shan brown bear fell in love with them. Bears like big, juicy apples and will hack their way through a tree to get the best fruit, pruning the trees as they go. They poop out the seeds in a perfect germination package. Thus, big, juicy apples do better. Bears don’t roam a great deal, but horses do, and Kazakhstan was one of the first places where they were domesticated. Horses love apples, and distribute the bear-selected apples far and wide." Let me tell you about the birds and the bears (and the apples)...

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