Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Giving Thanks

Fantastic Mr Fox (2009)
Because I have two countries, I have the odd privilege of feeling very British on Independence Day and very American on Thanksgiving. I love that Thanksgiving isn't about anything you can buy, simply gratitude and time spent with those you love. Some of my most favorite Thanksgivings were spent far away from the US, cooking and baking and sharing with friends.

Here's my usual annual Thanksgiving mixtape, slightly edited. Enjoy it while you're baking, or eating, or just feeling thankful:

Sunday, November 1, 2015


I've been reading a lot of poetry with my grandma lately. Here are some of her favorites for November:
portrait of Thomas Hood, artist unknown

No! (November) by Thomas Hood

    No sun—no moon!
        No morn—no noon—
No dawn—no dusk—no proper time of day—
        No sky—no earthly view—
        No distance looking blue—
No road—no street—no “t’other side the way”—
        No end to any Row—
        No indications where the Crescents go—
        No top to any steeple—
No recognitions of familiar people—
        No courtesies for showing ‘em—
        No knowing ‘em!
No traveling at all—no locomotion,
No inkling of the way—no notion—
        “No go”—by land or ocean—
        No mail—no post—
        No news from any foreign coast—
No Park—no Ring—no afternoon gentility—
        No company—no nobility—
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
   No comfortable feel in any member—
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds,

unfinished portrait of Christina Rossetti by John Brett

Who Has Seen the Wind? by Christina Rossetti

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.

Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

portrait of Lord Tennyson by Alice Hambidge
The Brook by Alfred, Lord Tennyson 

 I come from haunts of coot and hern,
I make a sudden sally
And sparkle out among the fern,
To bicker down a valley.

By thirty hills I hurry down,
Or slip between the ridges,
By twenty thorpes, a little town,
And half a hundred bridges.

Till last by Philip's farm I flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.

I chatter over stony ways,
In little sharps and trebles,
I bubble into eddying bays,
I babble on the pebbles.

With many a curve my banks I fret
By many a field and fallow,
And many a fairy foreland set
With willow-weed and mallow. 

 I chatter, chatter, as I flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.

I wind about, and in and out,
With here a blossom sailing,
And here and there a lusty trout,
And here and there a grayling,

And here and there a foamy flake
Upon me, as I travel
With many a silvery waterbreak
Above the golden gravel,

And draw them all along, and flow
To join the brimming river
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.

I steal by lawns and grassy plots,
I slide by hazel covers;
I move the sweet forget-me-nots
That grow for happy lovers.

I slip, I slide, I gloom, I glance,
Among my skimming swallows;
I make the netted sunbeam dance
Against my sandy shallows. 

 I murmur under moon and stars
In brambly wildernesses;
I linger by my shingly bars;
I loiter round my cresses;

And out again I curve and flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Treats or Tricks...

(illustration by Adrienne Adams)
Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2015

More Music for Halloween

Illustration from A Woggle of Witches by Adrienne Adams (1971)

A virtual mixtape of spooky music for you (listen to last year's mix here):

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Fairy Tales for Halloween

The first scary story I ever heard was read to me on a cassette tape by my grandma when I was three years old. In the story, a Scottish folk tale called "The Hobyahs," the villains are ostensibly the bogeymen of the title. However, I always found the callous, dog-dismembering old man to be much more frightening.

(read "The Hobyahs" on Project Gutenberg)

The tale of Mr. Fox shows up in collections of English fairy tales, but has connections to "The Robber Bridegroom," collected by the Grimms, and to Charles Perrault's "Bluebeard." What I love about this story, besides its Gothic imagery, is the heroine's pluck and bravery (described as "high spiritedness" in my print edition).

(Read "Mr. Fox" for yourself here)

The great Angela Carter wrote her own take on the Bluebeard story, which can be found in her fantastic short story collection The Bloody Chamber. Neil Jordan later adapted it as a film, The Company of Wolves. Loosely based on the tale of Little Red Riding Hood, it's one of my favorites.

still from The Company of Wolves (1984)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Marking the autumnul equinox

A poem for the first day of my favorite season... "Haunted Houses" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (read by Tom O'Bedlam):

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Nerd Tourism, Toronto

I had a few hours free in Toronto this week to fit in some nerdy tourist stops... first to the Bata Shoe Museum, which has a great permanent collection and two brilliant temporary exhibitions (Standing Tall, an exploration of men's heel height and gender identity throughout history, and Fashion Victims, showcasing restrictive, dangerous, poisonous, and flammable clothing and footwear of the Victorian era), then to the Toronto Public Library to see the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation & Fantasy and the Osborne Collection of Early Children's Books.

"chromatic torpedoes" - dye would transfer and stain the wearer's feet

tartan boots, mid-19th Century

poisonous arsenic-dyed Victorian footwear

1920s deep-sea diving boot

sock knitted from human hair, 13th Century

dandified jack boot, early 1700s

despite the Wonderland perspective, my feet are huge compared to most historical shoes

open stacks at the Toronto Public Library