Making Myself Up

Girl on Fire Alicia Keyes

I know I’ve included this song before but it inspired the collage. Both are dedicated to my creative and hardworking Younger Daughter (see below). If there is no picture above the audio file, click on the title Making Myself Up.

After weeks of cold, uncertain weather, we are having a few days of what could be summer. The garden has had a growth spurt and the grass needs cut.   We have been getting out, shopping at IKEA and planning a trip in the campervan next week. We had a lovely visit from WeeBoy (losing teeth!) and his Mum then a catch up with Son and Daughter over coffee – first time since Christmas.

This month’s Tarot card (always a random choice) by Leonora Carrington is Judgement. An angel sounds the last trump, marking the  end of our present ordeal, although there may be further struggles ahead.  We have a new dimension of awareness after months of  uncertainty.  The lone protagonist is reunited at last with others.

Frida Kahlo
My reading has two main themes this month, memoirs and myth. Patch Work - a Life Among Clothes - is by Claire Wilcox, of the V&A. She curated two of my favourite exhibitions Savage Beauty (Alexander McQueen) and Frida Kahlo Making Herself Up. She describes clothes and fabric from her own life as well as garments from history.

My earliest clothes memory is the smocked dress in navy dotted swiss lawn which I wore (aged three) with white kid sandals to my aunt's wedding. At six I loved my red corduroy pinafore dress and jacket worn with red 'Birthday' shoes.  Getting new Clarks sandals and the freedom of grey flannel shorts (made by my mother) were a marker of Spring. School dresses in spring green, white and butter yellow, worn with a school tie and a Panama hat meant summer.

Dotted swiss dress similar to mine

I love clothes and with the excuse that my summer wardrobe needs an update, I’ve been buying from favourite online shops like Forgotten Tribes and Disturbia.  As always, I love the Goth/Grunge look, so black, red and skulls are featured, with it oversized tops, stripey tights, tie dye and Converse boots. 

Summer clothes collage

Bookworm by Lucy Mangan is another memoir, this time of childhood reading.  I loved this book.  Like me, Lucy was/is an obsessive reader.  We discovered and loved many of the same books, in spite of being a generation apart.  Her experience of starting school was rather like my own, especially as in my day there were no nurseries or playgroups in which to meet other children.

“Until I began school I hadn’t realised I was a child. I thought I was just short.”

Florence King – Confessions of a failed southern lady From Bookworm

I love make-up too and wear it no matter what I’m doing.  I wrote in Not Waving but Drowning about my favourite MAC palette, still in constant use. You can probably tell which one I use most. It’s called Starry Night, sort of purply brown which changes once it’s on and lasts all day. Thanks to Daughter for telling me about  Make up, A Glamorous History (BBC2), which proved fascinating.  As a nine year old sneaking out of the house wearing eyeshadow made from coloured pencil and my mother’s cold cream, seeing Georgian cosmetics (some highly toxic!) made from scratch was exciting.  Not sure about the mouse-skin brows though.

Not watching much telly but have been hooked on The Last Kingdom.(Netflix) Good looking Norsemen slicing off heads, Alfred burning the cakes, longships, fire and shield walls. Loving The Great British Sewing Bee, of course.  Just watched an excellent film, A United Kingdom (Netflix).Tissues needed.  Thanks C for telling me about it.  Maybe she and I will get back to the cinema soon?  Deutschland 89 (C4) continues to enthrall now the Berlin wall is down.

Marina Warner’s Inventory of a Life Mislaid –  An Unreliable Memoir is unsentimental and moving. Based on objects and writings from her parents’ lives: a compact, photographs, a few letters, notebooks, a pair of shoes.  She writes of her memories of her life in Egypt as a child, particularly of her beautiful and rather unhappy mother. She was an Italian twenty one year old who married a much older man, a dashing British officer, moving to Cairo then back to an alien life in London.  The memoir is ‘unreliable’ because  the writer has only her own experience to relate to. This made me question the accuracy of my own family memories and to think carefully about what I write.

The cover picture of Jenni Fagan’s Luckenbooth shows a building with its frontage torn away, rather like a dolls house.  Inside, occupants from different decades tell their stories of magic, love, death and blood.  Not a comfortable read, but compelling and dark.

The Greek myths are not easy reading either but good to revisit.  Madeline Miller’s Song of Achilles focuses on the friendship between Achilles and Patroclus against the background of the Trojan war.  Colm Toibin’s House of Names starts with the same event (the sacrifice of Iphigenia) and follows the fate of Orestes and his family.  Kamilla Shamsie’s Home Fire gives the Antigone story a new twist. 

My hefty bedtime tome is The Secret Commonwealth, volume two of Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust in which Lyra and her daemon are separated.  I have two audiobooks on the go: American Dirt, the story of a Mexican woman on the run with her son, and Summary Justice, an intriguing courtroom drama recommended by my friend G.  Also some excellent radio drama on BBC Sounds The Corrupted (Ross Kemp, Toby Jones) and Anika Stranded (Nicola Walker).

On Saturday mornings, online sketching classes with the Royal Academy – still life, life drawing and collage – have given my weekend a focus, inspiring me to do more of my own work.  I have added some of the results to my Sketchbook below. (Check out #RASketchClub on twitter and Instagram to find out more)

Bedroom painting has been our main activity for the past weeks.  Cannyrob has done most of the serious work while I steam cleaned curtains and prepared woodwork.  We assembled IKEA bookshelves and cupboards together with almost zero falling out.  I’ve also been painting the dolls house and making another set of dolls. Younger Daughter took time off from getting her garden workshop built to make a new plywood roof for me.  Still to be covered with ‘slates’.

Exciting developments at the old ‘bathie’ (outdoor swimming pool) just along the road.  Enthusiasts have been clearing stones and seaweed to make it more accessible. B and I will be giving it a try soon, suitably clad in thermal wetsuits. What will this summer bring for you? A holiday in Scotland, time for family and friends at last? It’s hard to relax and enjoy new freedoms when there is still the spectre of Covid, new variants, further lockdowns. Let’s make the most of it, while staying alert to risk. I plan to paint my toenails red, or maybe purple, shave my legs, apply fake tan and wear my shorts, no matter what!

NB: Our campervan is green

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