Friday, 25 February 2011

Of Persephone Reading Weekend: The Beginning

Today marks the beginning of Persephone Reading Weekend, run by Verity and Claire. If you haven't already, do pay a visit to their blogs and check out their Persephone-related posts and competitions over this weekend. As I mentioned before, I'll be reading Dimanche and Others Stories over the next couple of days, as I never did get round to starting it before! It's one of the most recent publications by Persephone, and I'm really excited about reading it. I've never read Irene Nemirovsky's most famous book -- Suite Francaise -- but have heard so many excellent things about it that I plan to seek it out once I've finished these short stories. If I like them of course, but my past experience of Persephone tells me that I'm likely to! The last set of short stories published by them that I read was the utterly entrancing Tea with Mr Rochester by Frances Towers, so I am eagerly anticipating my next grey-covered venture into this genre.

I've had rather a painful few days with a wisdom tooth coming through -- and it's not over yet, unfortunately! -- so relaxing with a good book is exactly what I need. Although I also have a busy weekend coming up: a trip to consult some manuscripts at the British Library tomorrow, followed in the evening by my first trip to the Royal Opera House to see their exciting new production: Anna Nicole. I'll be reporting back on what I think of it next week! Then on Sunday it's up to Hampstead for a long overdue catch up lunch with skirmishofwit. All in all, it should be a lovely weekend (presuming my tooth allows me to eat!), and Dimanche will be the perfect travel companion on the train to London and back.

Until then, I leave you with a sentence from Sir W's 1600 essay 'Of Discontentments'. It might be my dentist, rather than Philosophy who told me to expect my own current tooth-ache, but I can't say that such preparation makes it particularly easier to 'entertain'...

'when any of these Tooth-aches of the body come, shee [Philosophy] teacheth that they are to be entertained, not as straungers, but as Familiars that we haue long expected'.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Of Love

Sir William Cornwallis the Younger (c.1579 - 1614), 'Of Loue' from Essayes (1600):

It is a pretty soft thing this same Loue, an excellent company keeper; full of gentlenesse and affabilitie; makes men fine and to go cleanly; teacheth them qualities, handsome protestations; and if the ground be not too barren, it bringeth forth Rimes and Songs full of passion, enough to procure crossed armes and the Hat pulled down. Yea, it is a very fine thing, the badge of eighteene and vpward, not to be disallowed. Better spend thy time so than at Dice. I am content to call this Loue thou I holde Loue too worthy a Cement to ioyne earth to earth. The one parte must be celestiall or else it is not Loue.

I hope I shall not offend Diuinity if I say the coniunction of man & wife is not Loue. It is an allowance of God's and so good, and the name of it, I thinke, two honest Affections vnited into one.

If this bee so, what becomes of all the rest, which are counterfaits & yet begge vnder the passe-port of Loue? Loue thy neighbour as thy selfe. That which comes nearest to Loue is this: man with man agreeing in sexe. I cannot thinke it is so betweene man and woman, for it giues opportunity to lust, which the pureness of Loue will not endure.

Among all Affections that of Socrates was the best, who sought to better the mindes of all his familiars, and loued a good witte and inclinations to good, and sought to confirme them in that.

I laugh and wonder at the straung occasions that men take now a dayes to say they loue. If they meete with a fellowe at a Feast or in a Potte, if their Delights bee any thing a Kinne or their Faces any thing alike, if their Countries be one or their landes near adioyning, if they be both rich or both poore, or indeed, if their new-fangled inuentions can finde out any occasion, they are sworne brothers; they will liue and dye together. But they scarce sleepe in this mind; the one comes to make vse of the other and that spoyles all. He entred this league not to impaire but to profit himselfe. I can compare prosperity to nothing so rightly as to the promising plenteous fields of the Egyptians, which were deuoured by the numberlesse troupes of Flies. You cannot haue the one without the other. Flatters deuoure the Inheritance of Fortune, who, while she hath no neede of them, looke like Bees that will not be vnprofitable; but be once driuen and let Pouerty be your Arithmetician, you shall then see they brought nothing to your stocke but fed vpon it, and then you shall easily discerne them to be Drones. There is no Loue vpon the earth. God loueth vs vndeservedly, and some good men loue and so feare him. It is Loue from this last because God is a partie, or else it might be affection, not possibly Loue. Loue is diuine & eternall; Affection, like our flesh, momentary & mortall. If I could be sure of them, I would say I loued too and make men say they are my friends. But it is an vncertain trade this louing and stands vpon such a company of circumstances as I like it not. I make no difference between common louers and common whores; they both flatter and make the name of Loue their Bawdes to serue their particular pleasures. For my choyse of friends, vertue shall be the groundworke, and so I may build surely. Let his fortunes be what they will, I care not; yet if I might choose, I would haue him poore, for so I might easiest shew my affection to him and profit my selfe by him with least cost. For I hold obseruation more precious than wealth, and I will rather giue him my purse than my tyme.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Of Persephone Reading Weekend

Although I didn't exactly do very well with my report of the last Persephone Reading Week, which unfortunately arrived just as I fell off the edge of the blogging world, I am extremely excited by the prospect of the forthcoming Persephone Reading Weekend, hosted once again by Verity at CardiganGirlVerity and Claire at Paperback Reader. The Weekend is running from 25th - 27th February, and it seems to me that reading one of Persephone's beautiful dove-grey books is the perfect way to round off a month which has been a rather duller shade of grey.

Despite what is says on the side of this page, I haven't actually started reading Dimanche and Other Stories yet, so perhaps I'll save it to enjoy at the end of the month. Although, of course, if I do happen to get through it before then, well, I'll just *have* to pay the Persephone Books website another visit, won't I?

Whatever I end up reading, I promise that this time, I will actually tell you all about it! For I intend to follow Sir W's advice in his 1600 essay 'Of the obseruation, and vse of things', to

'Here stay thy selfe, and read with attention'.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Of Tea and Crumpets

I spent most of my life thinking that -- unaccountably for an English person -- I Didn't Like Tea (shock! horror! perhaps it's the Greek blood!), or coffee, for that matter. When I was little, as my mother made one of her own copious cups of tea, I would be offered a little mug of my own, brimming with a steaming, milky beverage. In my mind, this was -- to paraphrase Mark Twain -- nothing more than a good cup of milk spoiled. It was only many years later, once I had discovered the delicate delights of fragrant Jasmine tea, and the dark, smokey pleasures of Lapsang Souchong, that I realized that actually, I did like tea. Just as long as it didn't require milk. I like tea, and I like milk, but separately, thank you very much. I experienced a similar epiphany in my relationship with coffee. As with the tea, everyone assumed that if I couldn't cope with the taste of coffee even when diluted with milk or in coffee-flavoured chocolates (yuck), I certainly wouldn't be able to deal with the unadulterated variety, so for a long time no drop of pure black coffee had ever passed my lips. On holiday in Florence for my 21st birthday, however, my mum persuaded me that I couldn't come to Italy without attempting a sip or two. Spurning her suggestion of an early morning frothy cappuccino to ease myself in, I opted instead for the rich tang of a tiny espresso. I have never looked back. I blame the Italian sunshine for turning my head.

Now that I've discovered that I am a tea drinker after all, I'm always on the look out for pretty and unusual teacups and mugs to liven up my morning (or afternoon ... or evening) tea break. In fact, no doubt my subconscious was willing me to like tea and coffee for years, just to give me yet another excuse for storing up beautiful pieces of crockery in the cupboard, not to mention silver tea-strainers for all those gorgeous packets of loose-leaf teas I just had to buy when I found myself wandering round the ground floor of Fortnum and Mason. I mean, these things always taste better when they're nicely presented...

One of my favourite mugs is the aptly named Sophia Peek-A-Boo mug from the wonderful Crumpet and Skirt, which I told you about last year. The shop's range has expanded from when I last posted about them, with some new lovely ladies gracing their mugs and cards, but Sophia still holds a firm place in my heart. I can't help smiling every time I drain the dregs from my cup and she pops up again at the bottom:

Perhaps this is the reason I've been drawn to a similarly fun-loving range which I found whilst browsing over at LifeStyleBazarre: always a good place to go if you're on the search for beautiful and quirky homewares. I'm now totally smitten with the Blaue Blume range by Tina Tsang of Undergrowth Designs, especially since some of the pieces are in the sale...

Sadly, sale or no sale, I don't think I can quite stretch to the entire range, but it is hard to resist a teacup whose handle is a sexy pair of legs ending in a pair of enticing red shoes. Although even at sale price, I think I'd be the only one to be drinking out of it!

Blaue Blume teacup and saucer, £35 (reduced from £45)

If I wanted more of a centre piece, I could go for this teapot from the same range, whose handle is formed from a pair of delicately crossed legs tipped with shiny gold shoes...

Blaue Blume teapot, £59 (reduced from £79)

... or perhaps this rather magnificently decadent cake stand, which I absolutely loved until I spotted the rather creepy baby's head at the bottom!

Blaue Blume cake stand, £139

Or how about bathing in sugar? Judging from the joyous kick of this lady's legs, it could be rather fun. I don't take sugar in my tea or coffee, but this sugar bath might just persuade me to answer 'yes':

Blaue Blume sugar bath, £44

If lithe legs on display at the table isn't quite your cup of tea, the range also offers some rather more subdued, but still very pretty options, such as this aptly named cake plate, which just needs a nice slice of something yummy to live up to its promise:

Blaue Blume small cake plate, £18

Mmm, I'm hungry already. Any one of these would be a feast to look upon, as well as eat from, for -- to steal a phrase from Sir W's 1601 essay 'Of Conceipt' -- they are

'a very merriment to the eyes'.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Of Feeling Frivolous Once Again

My oh my, what a long time it's been since there was any frivolous activity on here! I don't know whether there's anyone still out there, but a big hello and a belated Happy New Year to you if you are. I've been sad about the lack of blogging-based frivolities in my life over recent months, and have often been heard to sigh 'oh, this would be so much fun to blog about' as Summer slipped into Autumn, and Autumn tumbled into Winter. Although I think perhaps my companions out and about have been relieved not to have to stand and wait for me while I dawdle along taking photos of absolutely everything 'just in case I want to post it on the blog'. Not to mention snapping pictures of everything on my plate before I raise a forkful to my mouth (although the real problems tend to arise when I want to photograph everything on *their* plate before they're allowed to eat. Never take a very hungry person with you if you want to photo-blog about the meal. It can get ugly).

Anyway, I am really excited to be back in the saddle, so to speak, although this time I've decided to be realistic and realize that there's really no way I'm going to be able to try to blog every day: so look out for posts two or three times a week (unless I'm feeling particularly energetic and organized!). A lot has changed in my life over the past few months, but I'm still in Oxford with dear Sir W, and rest assured (just in case you were trembling), he will still be sharing his words of wisdom at the end of every post. Which brings me to an opportune moment to leave you with a sentence from Sir W's 1600 essay 'Of Fame'. This seems to me an appropriate starting point for my posts soon to come, when:

'What I have seene in my trauaille, I will trust this peece of paper with and so ridde my braine of that carriage'.