Nancy Mitford had a terribly raw deal with men, which is unfair and depressing because she was so clever and funny and chic, and her book The Pursuit of Love is my absolute favourite. While it’s usually a sidenote in bios/memoirs, I’ve always been fascinated by the period in her life when she was wildly in love with the frivolous Hamish St-Claire Erskine. From when she was about 25-30, they were very close, sometimes engaged, but it never came to anything.
Her letters to friends at this time are such a reminder of how love messes everything up is a pretty universal experience:
1929: “Hamish has been an angel lately, not drinking a thing. I really think that bar all the good old jokes which no one enjoys more than I do, that he has literally the nicest nature of anyone I know. He gets nicer every day too.”
1930:“…if I had been married to Hamish for five painful years and borne him six male children I couldn’t know him better and the curious thing is that I’m quite certain that I shall never never be so fond of anyone again.”
1931: “I’m in the state in which I can’t be alone but the moment I’m with other people I want to get away from them… How can I possibly write a funny book in the next six months when my publisher says I must do. How can I when I’ve got practically a pain from being miserable and cry in buses quite continually?”
* * * * * *
After years and years of those ups and downs, Nancy suddenly married one Peter Rodd (“Prod”) on the rebound. He turned out to be drunk, wasteful, philandering, and worst of all boring. Then she moved to France and fell in love with Gaston Palewski – who I always think of as a Magnificent Bastard by nature – who enjoyed her company well enough but could never really love her the way she loved him, and eventually married someone else. That was as good as it ever got.
There’s an addendum, though, to the Hamish story. Some days it makes me grin in female solidarity, some days it makes me sad (because everyone, everything ends) and some days it gives me gritty hope for that same reason.
1972: “I had Hamish [to stay] for two nights. He said, “we would have been married now for thirty years.” Help!! He is very dull and might have been more difficult to get rid of than poor Prod was.”
I feel a new obsession coming on with Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the Queen Mother. And can you blame me? Just read the Legacies section of her Wikipedia Page , which is really more a selection of unexpectedly funny stories, for example: On hearing that Edwina Mountbatten was buried at sea, she said: “Dear Edwina, she always liked to make a splash.” I would also love to see the video of her rising from the royal carriage to beat an overly enthusiastic admirer about the head with her umbrella, but they didn’t have YouTube in 1947.
The current Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion (what an appropriately Romantic name!) has said publically how difficult it is to write about modern royals. I can imagine it’s not a pleasant obligation, the British Royal fam are sort of concurrently uber-familiar (the faces you can count on seeing at the supermarket aisle or doctor’s waiting room) and so distant from the average life that it is almost impossible to address them seriously without feeling a little bit ridiculous. But the other day I stumbled upon his two poems about the Queen Mother – written for her 100th birthday and funeral – and curiously found myself in tears. Excerpt below, poems in entirety here.
No changes, on the face of it: the balconies,
the open smile and wave, the garden parties,
and the hats, the hats, the hats, all pictures
in our albums or our heads along with these:
the photos no-one took of you…
the grandmother-confessor-friend, the mourner
at divorces and the rest, the worldly watcher
of the world who shows the world no changes
on the face of it: the balconies, the open wave
and smile, the hats, the hats, the hats.
Hugo Vickers has written a biography of her (Elizabeth, The Queen Mother) – he also edited the collection of Cecil Beaton diaries I’m reading at the moment, so it’s sort of nice to have a familiar voice to guide me into another person’s life. I am expecting it to be shriekingly funny…
“Then we had this rather lugubrious man in a suit, and he read a poem…I think it was called The Desert. And first the girls got the giggles and then I did and then even the King”
The QM, on T.S. Eliot’s visit to Winsor Castle to recite The Wasteland in 1947
There’s some amazing images of the grand decaying relics of Detroit here, at Sociological Images. They also have, like, intelligent graphs and commentary, but I’m feeling simultaneously frivilous and morbid so let’s just do some of the photos here:
Photos by: Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre
It looks terribly romantic to me, the perfect spot for a clandestine picnic on a rainy day, but I suppose there would be rats.
My little brother is even more of a trademe fiend than I am. However, a faulty internet connection meant he was thwarted out of this amazing find in the antique/retro appliances section:
It’s a ‘ cassette playing drinks pouring robot’, and it sold for $35 NZD! Quite a find for some lucky punter. That’s ok though, my family has been blessed by a robotic member for years and years now, according to one of my favourite comics:
(You can read more Dinosaur Comics here.)
How2Skateboard.com is my new best friend. It’s got all these great explanations and videos, and sage advice like “Whitout the ollie, you’ll be a fucked up skater forever!” Indeed.
So I was very excited by the intro to ‘Surfing on the Board’, aka “this is easy!!!”
And I’m reading the tip over a few times, thinking: I’m pretty sure I saw Seth Cohen do this on season one of The OC once, so it must be cool. But wait! Last sentence = Kiss of Death.
Why do none of the cooool tricks start out with “this is easy” ?
When I grow up, I want to be a FIRE TAGGER.
(This is a slight step up from last week’s epiphany of NUN.)
As found at todayandtomorrow, here.
I love my new boots! I took them out for the first time properly on Saturday, and now I am wearing them everywhere.
I really need a haircut though.
In slightly related news, OK, I give in.
I am giving myself over to escapism and Edward Cullen.
Skateboarding, for me, is pretty much the same as walking: whenever you start to feel like you’re looking good, you hit a crack in the pavement and fall over. I can skate down the block pretty easy now, but noone will ever believe me because as soon as a car or person comes anywhere near I lose all coordination and end up banging into fences. Even in the dark, it’s awkward.
My favourite place at the moment is in front of the stadium. There’s never anyone around at night, it’s lit up enough that you can see the cracks before you hit them but not so much that you’re spotlit for the motorway below, and there’s miles and miles of flat concrete. I think the only reason it’s not overrun with other skaters is that it’s pretty boring if you’re any better than me – great for going back and forth, but no ramps or things to jump off. Anyone else tame enough to want to skate there is probably not able to go at 9pm, because they are 7 years old.
Anyway in my head when I’m tracking back and forth up there to Fall Out Boy, I like to think of some wise old security guard up there in the stadium tower, who used to be a star boarder back in the 1970s and watches me thinking “That kid’s got spunk”, and one day will wander down and teach me tricks. Like a sensei! Or else a cute young security guard who is ALSO CURRENTLY a star boarder (but with an injury, hence the temporary guard job), and will come down and teach me tricks. Maybe both. Actually, whenever I’ve seen a security guard other places, carparks or whatever, I always end up skooting away in case I’m accidentally skating somewhere illegal and might end up with a very embarrassing arrest to explain to my workmates. Moral: This dream is unlikely to come true.
On the bright side, I just found these guys’ blog – two thirty-year-olds who decided to start skating a coupla years ago and document it. They did embarrassing things at the start too! And now they can ollie.
I’ve had this poem saved on my computer for years, I can’t remember where I found it and I always vaguely thought it was by some semi-obscure contemporary poet. My bad! It’s actually by Rumi, a renowned Persian poet and philosopher from the 13th century.
“I Have Been Tricked By Flying Too Close” – Rumi
Now the candleflame is out, the wine spilled,
and the lovers have withdrawn
somewhere beyond my squinting.
The amount I thought I’d won, I’ve lost.
My prayers become bitter and all about blindness.
How wonderful it was to be for a while
with those who surrender.
Others only turn their faces one way,
then another, like a pigeon in flight.
I have known pigeons who fly in a nowhere,
and birds that eat grainlessness,
and tailors who sew beautiful clothes
by tearing them to pieces.
I’ve just done some light research on him tonight, and found many more beautiful poems and quotes as well. He reminds me of Leonard Cohen (I know that seems gratuitous, given L.Co is the only poet I’ve read much of in years, but I will stand by it & take what flack may come!). If you feel like browsing some of his writings, his WikiQuote page is a good place to start…
Come, come, whoever you are.
Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving – it doesn’t matter,
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vow a hundred times,
Come, come again, come.
It’s been a week. I’ve sort of felt like my head was on the block for most of it, wincing in anticipation.
On the plus side, no blade has fallen yet.
Also, on the way to work this morning (6:30am!!!!) I noticed an odd shape on the net fence in the park:
… What could it be?
It’s totally The Very Hungry Caterpillar, right? I haven’t seen a big fat green caterpillar like that since I was about 8.