Tuesday, 31 May 2016

MA-Ness Week 8 - Mrs Beeton, 21st Century Bingewatching, Ainsworth Magazine, Jodrell Bank, Sad Anniversaries, Brix Start Smith and Frankenstein

Quite a full post it note this week - along with my latest book acquisition.
It is a copy of the edition published in 1861 which in turn comprised the 24 monthly parts called Mrs Beeton's Household Mangement which had been published between 1859 and 1861 in a magazine called The Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine. The magazine contained patterns, recipes, short stories, translations of french novels, gardening tips and medical aids. The edition I have is from 1968 and cost 3 guineas. I got it from the Leeds Library booksale - they very kindly remembered I had asked if they had original copies of the Englishwomans Domestic Magazine but alas they didn't, and then when I emailed to see if they had copies of Ainsworth Magazine from 1842 ( I wanted to read Laman Blanchards essay about visiting Kensal Green Cemetery) which they do -  they said they had a found an original first edition facsimile copy of Mrs Beeton which was going in their book sale and would I like it? ....to which I of course responded yes please. I also got a copy of a book called Urn Burial by Patrick Ruell from 1975. It is awful - but each of its chapter headings are quotes from a book called Urn Burial by Sir Thomas Browne from 1658,  so I can forgive albeit grudgingly the author Ruell's dreadful sexism as it is worth it just for the chapter titles alone....

The Beeton's book is wonderful, even if some of the recipes are are more stomach churning than mouth watering (stewed rabbits in milk?? which comprises of 2 very young rabbits not nearly half grown, skinned and chopped up then simmered in 1 and half pints of milk with a blade of mace, a dessertspoonful of flour and a little salt and cayenne) and it also has a fabulously stern section featuring medical advice and the section on 'The Cholera and Auntumnal Complaints' states that 'to oppose cholera, there seems no surer or better means than cleanliness, sobriety and judicious ventilation'. 'Where there is dirt, that is the place for cholera; where windows and doors are kept most jealously shut, there cholera will find easiest entrance ; and people who indulge in intemperate diet during the hot days of autumn are actually courting death. To repeat it, cleanliness and sobriety and free ventilation almost always defy the pestilence; but in case of attack, immediate recourse should be had to a physician'

A lack of knowledge re how cholera is actually spread ie by a bacterium called vibrio cholerae and its being ingested somehow but it was to be a few years til John Snow's pioneering work on the cholera outbreak in Broad Street in 1854 would become widely  accepted and measures taken to deal adequately with sewage and how to access clean water.

Once again I am happy that I live in the 21st century with its advantages of modern medical techniques, safe drinking water which you don't have to carry to your home in buckets and not the 19th, even if overall I prefer the architecture and literature of the 19th.

I had gone to Leeds Library to see Ainsworth magazine or rather an essay by Samuel Laman Blanchard from 1842 in which he visits Kensal Green Cemetery. This was after a suggestion from Dr Trev Broughton from York University who I met at the Victorian Representations conference at Leeds Trinity Uni a couple of weeks ago. The library copy was Volume 2 from 1842 and was datestamped 1887 and it was falling apart. It wasn't quite as dusty and sooty as the Leeds Mercury newspapers I had looked at from 1835 but it was more delicate. The reddish brown spine and cover had mostly rotted away but it was oh so beautiful and such a treat and privilege to be able to consult it. Albeit very carefully so as not to further damage it but the lovely librarians told me not to worry about it as there were used to books being in such delicate states and the whole point of them is to be looked at. So along with the article I had initially planned to look at I also looked at and enjoyed some poetry, a description of Coventry, a marvellously funny article called the Coquette's Week which featured a widow itching to get out of the full mourning she had been encased in for her previous husband and on the hunt for a new one, a description of the tomb of Hafiz the Persian Poet plus it also featured illustrations on steel and wood.

Blanchards description of Kensal Green (which is still there today and can be walked round) was very fulsome in its praise and he talked of how the suburban cemetery was much preferable to the city churchyard 'the choked charnal house to verdant wide expanse' and how 'with no heavy or morbid oppression of the spirit, we are yet with the dead..and we linger in peaceful reflection...(we do not have to)..commiserate the strangers who dwell around on thebrink of the churchyard, inhaling its unwholesome vapours, familiarised with its loathsome secrets and witnessing its profanation..here there has been nothing to repel, nothing to shock, nothing to wound the profound and sensitive feeling'.I don't know if Blanchard was on the board of any of the new burial companies but his sentiments and descriptions tie in very closely with the reasons given in the first annual report of the people who owned and set up St George's Field. They wanted to be able to offer facilities that were
a matter of indispensable necessity..demanded by propriety and good taste…given the overcrowd state of our present graveyards'.

I really really want to visit Kensal Green now - and Highgate and Abney Park and am thinking I might as just well book a week in that London just to go round cemeteries. I am lucky though in that I have been to Pere La Chaise in Paris which opened in 1804 and was the first of the garden cemeteries and the inspiration for all my favourite Victorian era founded cemeteries.

I did buy a modern magazine the other week when I was travelling back from Coventry and I fancied something a bit lighter to read the book on The Victorians I had taken with me, I got Glamour* as it was a special edition that was only a quid plus it had an article on how to break free from habits of worrying. That was the only interesting thing in it really - the rest was utterly vapid rubbish. I am so glad that though I am interested in clothes and fashion that it is of the 19th century as opposed to the 21st as the ones featured in the magazine were without exception horrid and the models look tortured. Though I may be tempted to get a new red lipstick but what is the point of nude lipstick? What the frig is that for? What was new to me was the fact that every contributor is now listed by their twitter name and how many followers they have in brackets, the inference being that clearly your opinions only count if you have a high enough number of followers. 

So what else did I out in my title? well 21st century bingewatching. I'm still seemingly quite old fashioned in that I watch television 'live'. I do record things too and sometimes watch things on catch-up - but only BBC programmes as the amount of advertising you have to endure and can't skip through on commercial channels catch up is more than I can bear. Anyways over the weekend thanks to a chum me and my husband bingewatched Ash versus the Evil Dead and very marvellous indeed it was too. I am a huge fan of Bruce Campbell and he was very good indeed at fighting the deadites along with his feisty younger sidekicks who I'm pleased to say included kick-ass women. I don't think I'll be bingewatching anything else again soon though - unless you count watching Victoria Wood clips on Youtube.

It's just over a year since our beloved Lucia died - so unexpectedly and even though rationally there is no difference in the amount how much we miss her regardless of the date, I was dreading the anniversary of her death and so was my husband. So we decided to go out for the day on her death, not to forget what had happened as her absence is painful proof of that every day but just not to be surrounded by her absence on that day in particular. We decided to got to Jodrell Bank as we'd never been there before. It was a good day out and good distraction and the grounds it is in are very beautiful and it is AMAZING to see the telescope up close and see it moving but the visitors centre bit didn't thrill me. I'm afraid a lot of sciencey stuff goes in one ear and out the other for me - or it begins to sound like the unintelligble burble the teacher used to make in Charlie Brown cartoons. But watching old pathe news reels about the cold war era space race and the role of the telescope was lovely as was the lunch, I did take lots of film photographs though and hopefully I'll be able to pick them up from The Photo Shop in Headingley soon and see how they have come out.

I started reading Brix Smith Start's biography last week - The Rise, The Fall And The Rise. I got it from the library but think I might be investing in my own copy to keep as it is inspirational, intriguing and really interesting to read about how someone else creates and is inspired. She was in The Fall when I first got into them - thanks to a uni chum who introduced me to the delights of Bend Sinister and This Nations Saving Grace. I played those albums which he taped for me on repeat. Then bought my own vinyl copies and I've been to see The Fall more or less once a year (apart from a break in the late 90's after a truly truly awful gig at Manchester Uni) ever since. The first time I saw them was at (the then) Leeds Poly on the Kurious Oranj tour. Amazing and Brix was mesmerising on stage. I'm going to be listening to those songs again but with a new appreciation of what went into them.

Sheffield Uni's Centre for the History of the Gothic are running a competition to write a short story (500 words) that must start with the words Mary Shelley wrote in 1816 after being challenged to write a story ' it was a dreary night in November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils'. I started writing it on the coach on the way home from Coventry in between dipping in and out of Glamour magazine and I would argue that Glamour is infinitely more terrifying than Frankenstein. I finished it and emailed it off last night - it has been a very long time since I've done that kind of creative writing. I write a lot (I still write actual letters by hand in paper and post them) but I rarely write something that is cokmpletely made up in the way a story is. It felt very good to finish it. I've no idea whether it stands a chance of winning or being selected to be read out but it was fun doing it.

The other notes on my post it note are Ed Wood and domestic violence - I adore Ed Wood the film (and the film director) and rewatched it on Friday night - before the news stories about Johnny Depp who plays Ed Wood so beautifully broke about his alleged domestic abuse of his wife. I really hope this is not true as I'd feel very uncomfortable watching if this is true. It once again brings up for me whether or not you can divorce the work from the person who made it and who may be vile in their personal life.

The other thing was reverse engineering coffin shaped cyanotypes - I'd tried making a coffin shaped outline and using that as outline when painting the cyanotype solution on paper. It worked well at first but then solution made its way through the edges and blurred. A chum from the MA course has been making beautifully circular cyanotypes. I asked how - he has been cutting a hole out of black card and then attaching the acetate negative onto it and clamping both down on the solution coated paper. It seems so obvious that this is the way to do this now...can't believe I was so dim as to ot think of that myself. Doh!! 

*I wonder if in 165 years there'll be someone waxing lyrical about going to see original copies of Glamour magazine in the archives....


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