Friday, January 29, 2010
But I now know that our house was built in 1951, by a building inspector who was by then fifty himself. I've found the record of his death a few years after he sold the house on in the 1960s, to the people we bought it from. I would have thought 1951 was pretty late to be building outside toilets - must ring my Grandad who was plumbing in that era and ask his thoughts.
We've had six weeks together, the four of us. I'm grateful, incredibly grateful, every year, that our jobs allow this time for us together. I'm at that perennial late January phase of thinking of new, healthy, affordable lunch box food ideas. Which is not so incredibly hard until I factor in boy seven who wants his food to look normal like everyone else's. I have no intention of doing normal when it means packets of grainwaves and chips each day, with more packets of things which are scarcely made of food at all. We'll find a way through it somehow - we always do. I might play around with cornish pasties this weekend and see if I can make them to freeze and how they would taste cold in lunch boxes.
I've not gardened much this summer. The poor weather mitigated against us at the beginning and later I realised I was just out of the habit. I really do need to buy a new hose though as it has finally gotten quite dry and I'm not so keen as I once was in terms of lugging the watering can all round the place. I bought some new plants yesterday and must get them in soon - tansy, lemon balm, celery and kale.
I'm pleased with my sewing progress this summer though I have to get stuck into my dress project which seems a bit huge and hard at the moment. My friend Cathy works at the local Sallies and she has talked about the huge volume of clothing going through. It is so wrong that so many people are being badly treated, horrendously treated, in order to make money for big corporations and feed and fuel minority world hunger for huge wardrobes. It's a very slow project for me so far, but I want to reduce our clothes shop buying more.
Apart from blogging, I haven't written much this summer and it is only five nights until writers' group starts again.
The hugest achievement is that our house is quite a civilised place to live in these days, though chaos lurks ready to pounce - I see it in the lounge already. I do feel much more ready to go on with my other work/interests/projects now that I'm not weighed down with tonnes of clutter.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
1. I can't shake off the feeling that there is an assumption in class analyses of politics that the working class must not have desires outside of working class power. There is a finger pointed at women and Maori and homosexuals that they changed the agenda and then class got knocked off and neo-liberalism came in. But aren't the politicians of today the children of the baby boomers (or the younger baby boomers)? The ones who had access to education like generations of working class kids before them could only dream of? The ones who had the choices that depression parents scarcely dared imagine? In the wool price boom and the prosperity which gave opportunities to so many up to the 1970s, social mobility was a real option. I was the first to university in my family, but before that my maternal grandparents, newly married after WW2, saved up their money from his work as a plumber and bought a farm. They saved up and worked hard and made the five children work hard and eventually got a bigger farm. They didn't hugely value formal education but their values of life long learning and what could be achieved with hard work and astuteness carried on with their children. My father had similar values, though less adventurous, and it is because of the value my parents placed on education that my sister and I really saw university as a real possibility.
Of course I have gone into a personal story - thank goodness for the flexible norms of blogging compared to academic writing - but I am trying to make concrete some of my thoughts. The era who began their climb to power in the early 1980s (Lange - Clark - Goff et al) had really experienced social mobility. The many who have not experienced 'upward' social mobility certainly need a voice and analysis of how economic reform has savaged their life choices. The more that working class people are locked in to limited choices, the more (I speculate) that they will see power in a class based analysis and struggle. The problem for a group (union) which relies on large numbers to fight a relatively small and powerful elite is that partial success will fracture and dissipate the group dynamic.
2. This quote from John Bernstein's contribution to the debate:
So in regards to women’s oppression, socialists advocate such demands asI can't remember when I last felt so alienated from the term 'socialists' as when I read this sentence earlier this evening. I want to scream: don't you know what institutionalisation does to people? To Communities? To Human Beings? I'd prefer to leave the abortion issue alone, as it doesn't fit my fury at the moment and also because it tends to generate so much heated debate that it alone threatens to melting the ice on both North & South Poles. I am clearly too much of a child of capitalism to imagine that free restaurants could provide quality food (the national conception of what quality food is at the moment is a point for shudder enough). But as for who would provide the 24 hour childcare and how it could possibly meet the needs of humans who need loving community, we already have schools brainwashing our children into not thinking at the same time as pretending to do the opposite. The 20 free hours for 3 & 4 year olds has so far provided cheap childcare for many affluent working parents while severely reducing the pre-school group experiences options for children in the poorer suburbs of New Zealand AND sending a message to families that an institution can help a child develop into a healthy human being better than anyone at home. Meanwhile, institutionalised childcare is a booming big business.
free abortion on demand, free 24-hour childcare for all, and free quality
Monday, January 25, 2010
Thursday, January 21, 2010
I found it fascinating on several levels. Firstly, it is mostly set in the countryside I read it in. I even read at the dinner table (er that would be on the ground outside the tent in this case), a practice which usually evokes my strong disapproval should anyone else attempt it. I had a sense of linkage with the area both as I read Hindmarsh's book and as I travelled through Golden Bay. Sure enough, when I checked some family history back at home, my great great great grandparents bought land up the Aorere Valley in the 1850s. He was an agricultural labourer for Courage(s?) brewery in Alton, Hampshire, before they emigrated. Later his children made cider commercially in Stoke, (Nelson, near the freezing works and the old apple packing shed down Saxtons Road, now subsumed into that awfully bland motorway).
I was also intrigued to get a closer glimpse into the thought processes of this 1970s hippie. This is the era where comfortably off people dropped out of conventional work and marriage patterns and claimed they wanted a new world order. This is the era where many long haired students of the left later found neoliberal politics and plaumped for a status quo where they were very comfortable while the wealth gap widened significantly in New Zealand. Hindmarsh observes at one point that: "Rogernomics had its influences, sometimes painful but often better in the long term" (p.157). At the end, he describes at length the horrid and ineffectual bureacracy which passes for upkeep of our roads. I think he ought to consider how the two are related. Rogernomics had as one of its central tenets (as far as I can understand anyway) that contracting out to the private sector will always be more efficient than employing within the state sector.
Hindmarsh's stories of the history of Golden Bay, his descriptions of swamps and their enemies, his telling of stories relating to the slow and thorny integration of hippies and conservative old timers in Golden Bay - all these are a great read. I think his reflections on the way we interfere in nature according to passing fashions are quite perceptive and wise. Like the whales which were once cut up for human needs and now there are big parties of enthusiasts to save beached whales and the doc workers get training in looking out for small children unattended while their parents falls in love with a beached whale. He looks at fashions in interefering with swamps in more detail and I loved it all. I want to get hold of his book on his family in d'Urville Island now.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
I am aiming to do the style on the model. But with plain fabric with patterned contrast as that is what I have in my lovely stash from the lovely Susan. So far I have spent masses of hours on this project and to date I have cut out all the paper pattern pieces for style C, cut out the main fabric and tonight cut out the contrast fabric. I have yet to cut out the interfacing and then, then I can have a crack at the sewing part. Hmmmmmm. Not sure if I'm big enough for this project.
In other totally riveting news, I have extended the Great New Year's Cull to the outside of our home. Broken buckets, the stolen orange road cone from several inhabitants ago, the plastic packaging for the bed we bought four years ago, furniture which is in rotten pieces and utterly unfixable, rose clippings (too ruthless for my compost) - they and more flotsam went to the dump today. Most satisfying and later this week there will be more.
I finally sewed the paua buttons on Lyra's baby jacket this morning and posted it. No photo as another exciting job today was to take the camera back to the shop to get fixed. This means I am finished knitting but that's good as I clearly have to spend the next hundred evenings sewing New Look 6674. Not sure where I will fit in writing for writers' group. And hosting the outlaws.
Another thing I bought in Golden Bay was a pagan wheel of the year arranged for the southern hemisphere. When I was pregnant with my daughter and we chose the name Brighid for her, I was reading as much as I could find online about the goddess Brighid (later St Brighid and later still some pope took the title off her) and that is how I found out about Imbolc, which is on February 1st and for some time I was convinced I would have her on 1 Feb, right up until I had her several days earlier that is. In southern hemisphere terms, we are nearly up to the fire festival of Lughnasadh, which is also a harvest festival.
Of course, modern work timetables don't fit in with a pagan wheel of the year (I tend to think of it as a Celtic wheel but the poster calls it pagan) and so just when I could be tripping merrily around a bonfire and feasting on the bounty of our summer harvest, I will be back at paid work for the first time in many weeks. Still thinking about this though - I like the idea of a harvest celebration.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Back here, Favourite Handyman is sanding down the window frames outside the study. Given the paint flakes involved and the garlic, irises and roses growing outside the study, I got digging this morning. The garlic harvest is mostly smaller than last year. There is now a tarpaulin spread over the vacated soil to protect it, as I want to use it in winter (the brick wall holds heat and makes it a good spot for year long growing).
I decided to harvest all the garlic. The garlic which was growing where I dumped all of Raelene's chook house litter is enormous. Probably the biggest garlic outside of elephant garlic I've ever seen. I know what to do next time.
It's been a dismal season in the garden. Almost everything had run to seed while I was away. I dug some Maori potatoes the other day and while they tasted divine, out of two plants I got enough for three super sized marbles each for our family of four. Bit grim.
This tidy house lark takes a bit of time doesn't it? But I can report that the couch has been available all week for sitting on. As in sitting on without having to sit on clean washing or remove clean washing first (the short people fling it with gay abandon).
Still. It's all in the name of being in control of my life in 2010. Also in that name I have been scouting round for something to wear to work. The last lot of things must have fallen apart or something - maybe I should make a list of things to wear. I bought two tops at the Sallies, neither of which need ironing which mean they will get worn a lot. I bought a brand new shirt at Postie Plus which may well need ironing which means that it will get worn crumpled or not at all except when my Favourite Handyman irons for me. One of my two skirts which I sewed myself this summer is work-suitable so really we are making a lot of progress.
I have begun to re-sew the buttons on my new shirt. It is just a shade taut which is not my preferred look, and moving the buttons over a smidge should sort that nicely. So I feel rather clever just because I am altering something myself. Meanwhile I am trying to forget that this morning when I cleaned out the boy's drawer (the Great New Year's Cull isn't quite done with), I took the buttons off two pyjama shirts and sat bemoaning the state of the world, frivolous over-consuming outlaws (due in a very short number of days), Haiti, sweatshop labour, the under-appreciation of the skills of pyjama shirt sewing... in short feeling both deep and depressed about the state of the world as expressed in two perfectly good pj tops with worn out bottoms which I put in the rag bag as I couldn't do the bin just yet.
And then tonight when I was being a person of tidy virtue and folding the washing, I found that one pj top had matching bottoms in the basket in perfect order. Quite how I am to feel about the bigger stuff I am not yet decided, but next time I'll leave the scissors in the drawer a bit longer when it comes to symbolic pieces of fabric.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Indeed I could, but I declined to listen to myself and did exactly that and clocked my forehead against the latest supposedly child-proof latch. Thank goodness for arnica which I swallowed in tablet form and smeared over the bump in cream form. Even with its near magical properties, I am puffy the entire way round my left eye and dopey and headachy. Once again, our camping trip is delayed.
Despite my dopey state, I still filled 1.5 rubbish sacks today from my part of the study. Do I really need all those photos of ex flatmates, ex boyfriends, someone's cat, wedding shots from a friend who is now divorced, 800 of my siblings? No. I also had forgotten about how people used to write letters. Perhaps I kept them all, as I sure seem to have plenty. Past tense now, though I have kept some from Grandma because it is her and I love her beautiful old fashioned writing and one from Dad because even when other people used to write letters, he almost never did.
It's a great sport, culling, once I get in the right frame of mind for it. I've a good mind to get rid of yet more photos. If I don't think of a really good use (making doll's clothes or toys doesn't count) for the many partial balls of 8 ply in my drawer soon, they'll be heading Sally-ward too.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Mostly I escape into the garden and ignore the house. Which isn't the end of the world, quite the contrary. But when you combine two chronic hoarder adults with two children who are hugely materially spoilt by their extended family, then eventually you cannot move for junk and mess.
You buy three packets of sushi rice because you can't find any of the previous ones.
You have countless reels of sellotape, all missing when needed.
Er the pen thing.
Other children leave their clothes here and you don't notice for a very long time.
Laundry gets done and then falls on the floor before it is folded and gets grubby again.
The house is littered with magazines, none of which are consulted after the first week. Finding that interesting article again isn't worth trying for.
The children, brought up disgracefully, find a new hobby pulling wallpaper off the walls.
So... the garden is having a break from my ministrations while I take advantage of holidays for us all and FH and I cull. Cull cull cull and then cull some more. It is hugely empowering. I feel like I am wresting control back of my life. I feel like that because I am. There is a bit more to go yet. In most places, we are culling 30% of the stuff.
Three garden related things:
1. I never cut and cooked the globe artichokes. Now the oldest one is flowering, beautiful fine purple strands similar to a thistle flower.
2. I followed Brigitte's instructions last week and made red clover vinegar.
3. Last week I dried some rosemary, sage, oregano and marjoram in the dehydrator to make my own jar of mixed herbs for winter. As we have quite mild winters (in South Island terms), my herbs winter over quite well, but sometimes it is raining so hard before dinner that I forgo gathering herbs from the garden for cooking that night.
Monday, January 4, 2010
Why does this matter? Oh baby it matters alright. I get to read an entire dissertation (I stayed up and read the whole thing with fascination last night) from my position as a non-academic living in a small town. A world in which I once enjoyed to live but moved away from more than ten years ago no longer has the doors on reading the unpublished research of others closed to non-practising academics.
Why this thesis? It's not so far removed in topic and scope from my own thesis on women and the liquor industry on the goldfields of 19th century Otago. Whiteside (whom I'd never heard of until yesterday) writes beautifully, with a grip on the theoretical issues that I admired particularly. Her work prompted me to think further about the relationship between working class women and, not just history more generally, but also the politics of subsuming stories into an academic framework.
The whole idea of discourses around respectability is a worthwhile pursuit but as I read on last night, I came top see it as a circular kind of discourse and analysis of it seems to end up saying nowhere near as much as Whiteside deserved for the time she put in. Sometimes I felt that Whiteside downplayed any reality that discourses of respectability had any relationship to practical concerns. She observes that several times that working class women may not have had the same values around respectability, particularly in relation to time spent in public places. Well I did wonder about the particular vulnerability of women who were known to be alone, or young and without the support of two parents and who thus were more likely to need to work in the public sphere yet lack the protection of local men knowing that strong men in her household were looking out for her. Or of someone to walk her home. This surely was a reality more frequently for working class women than for their wealthier sisters.
I liked the section on women hotelkeepers. Not being much of a temperance girl myself, I've long had an interest in the women who made their livings in hotels in an era where women's emancipation was supposed to be through temperance. Something I didn't consider when I wrote my thesis as a woman without children, was the role and power of motherhood (and perhaps marital bargaining), and I 'd suggest that Whiteside hasn't really either. Have a look at the following quote from Whiteside, p.145
Generally, however, female licensees had no choice but to be visible
publicly active. Their role called for assertiveness and demanded they
over male behaviour, which was at odds with idealized
femininity. A female
hotelkeeper’s respectability was equated with her
ability to keep an orderly house, and
this required power and authority.
Respectability for female publicans was thus
specific to their position and
stretched the definitions of female respectability. It is
there is no evidence in Lyttelton at this time of unmarried women
pubs on their own behalf unless they were the daughters or sisters of
licensee; this illustrates the limits of what was acceptable. Women who
ran hotels on
their own account were most often widows, and some of these
women left traces of
their activities in civil court actions recorded in the
I don't think this focus on idealised femininity looks explicitly at the power of motherhood. Boys were neither raised or expected to only follow the instructions of their fathers. Just as I see marital bargaining as an essential part of marriage, including all those idealised ones with submissive wives (how the hell did they think these women stayed submissive? With God pills? All of them?), it is clear to me that women as mothers exerted a lot of power. It is no accident at all that single women were a minority amongst female hotelkeepers and that in 1893, single women were legally banned from holding hotelkeeping licenses. It is not just that a single women is a sexualised figure and that a married woman, in particular a married mother, is much less so, it is that a large proportion or men have experience of behaving as their mother directs.
So. Brilliant thesis and it was nice to realise I still wanted to engage in history stuff. Rather tellingly, when I went to find my own thesis (I never bothered to get my own copy bound) to check a few things as I wrote this post, I pulled down A Guide to Healthy Pregnancy & Childbirth by the Auckland Home Birth Association instead. That can go in the Great New Year's Cull.
The Great New Year's Cull is one reason I have been neither gardening nor blogging about my garden. The other reason of course is that it has been raining most of the time. The great New Year's Cull has so far yielded 14 black sacks for the local dump, nine bags of clothing for friends and family, several boxes of no longer wanted books and about 50 magazines. Oh the magazine stupidity. I'll save that for another post.
Sunday, January 3, 2010
Which is why we came back home via the great kai shop of modern times. Where I bought food for my short people who have no taste and thus leave the mussels to the adults. See, I do feed them. And where I live, wearing your gumboots to the supermarket is not totally unusual behaviour. Still a bit hard to see, but I'm wearing my new skirt again. The one that I sewed all by myself. I've got more sewing stuff going on, involving making a dress all by myself. Got more reading to do first.
I've been thinking about Bill and Annie for a long time. Especially Annie. Almost twenty years. Silence. One whisper, repeated only once. Drink. Otherwise no one ever spoke of her, only of Bill. I've seen the certificates, with an x beside mother. He wrote his name. Had a business. That part was before he got married. About 16 years between Bill and Annie, if the records are even vaguely accurate.
I don't know whether you would have been nana or grandma or something else. Dead while your kids were kids. But, you Annie, my Irish great great grandmother, I think of you every time I read things which purport to say something about working class women in colonial New Zealand. This photograph, some certificates of marriage, births, death, that short sentence. And silence.
Saturday, January 2, 2010
So. I am making a list of things I will not do in 2010.
1. I will not make a knitted dishcloth. For reasons I can't be bothered analysing, I spent much of 2009 reading blogs where people knitted dishcloths. Apparently knitted cotton dishcloths are amazing, with superior cleaning qualities. Am I the only person in the world who, when the need arises for something to wipe the bench with, goes to the cupboard, chooses the oldest towel and cuts it into eight or so pieces and gets on with life for the next year at least and probably longer? I have read that these are good items for learning to knit with. I suppose so. Except that I already know how to knit and I turned the first square into a doll's skirt (I kept splitting the wool and increasing inadvertently) and then the next one where I did have it done properly, I got a Brownie badge for it and gave it to my Grandma as a teapot mat.
2. I will not have another baby. When my son turned two and began to come out of nappies I got emotional and started to think of another one. Which is why a bit later on, on Mother's Day, I told Favourite Handyman I wanted another baby and he sighed and said he thought this was coming and I could have a second child if he got a motorbike. Now the boy is seven and the girl is almost three and there is no motorbike though I did point out how much money he would have towards a motorbike if he had desisted from smoking these last many years.
3. I will not mow the lawn. No changing on that policy. I liked mowing the lawn as a kid which I did after my brother got packed off to boarding school and they noticed they only had girls left. But in order for it to be false for me to complain that I do everything-round-here in my grumpy old bat mode, I need not to do everything and that can continue with not doing the lawns. I'm not going to clean the spouting either, but cleaning the chimney might be interesting for a change.
4. No carcinogenic dyes. No doubt the proportion of grey will increase, so what?
5. No outlaws visiting on my birthday.
6. No joining of Playcentre.
7. No incurring of library fines. ha ha ha. oh please. Chance would be a fine thing.
Favourite Handyman has got up and is feeding the children porridge. I might sneak back to bed.