Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Prayer for Marriage

When we are old one night and the moon
arcs over the house like an antique
China saucer and the teacup sun

follows somewhere far behind
I hope the stars deepen to a shine
so bright you could read by it

if you liked and the sadness
we will have known go away
for awhile – in this hour or two

before sleep – and that we kiss
standing in the kitchen not fighting
gravity so much as embodying

its sweet force, and I hope we kiss
like we do today knowing so much
good is said in this primitive tongue

from the wild first surprising ones
to the lower dizzy ten thousand
infinitely slower ones—and I hope

while we stand there in the kitchen
making tea and kissing, the whistle
of the teapot wakes the neighbours.

-Steve Scafidi

Friday, 26 September 2008

Thursday, 25 September 2008


Sometimes I debate for a long time over spending small sums of money. For instance, 5 pds is really not a big deal. But is it too much for a small pan so I can make a single serving of porridge in the morning?

I've been plagued by these kinds of decisions since moving. So many things needed to be bought even though the flat is nominally furnished. The truth is that everything is in bad nick, and god only knows who owns what. Seeing as I never actually get to speak to my flatmates it's all very enigmatic.

Speaking of my flatmates (uh, 7 other young lads) - I freaked out today because I stepped into the bathroom and there was puddles of water on the floor, and the bathmat was wet. I usually step on the mat, you know, after a shower, towel off, and hang the mat on the radiator to dry. Whoever it was obviously doesn't do things the way I do.

Toph didn't think it was a big deal. He then reminded me that I live with 7 other young lads, who'll likely also think it's not a big deal. He also reminded me that I shouldn't go and give them a talking to, or they'll think I'm a cow who lives down stairs.

Obviously a part of me couldn't give a fuck less what they think, and really wanted to hull the culprit into the bathroom by the scruff of his neck and make him mop up.

The other part of me felt defeated.

It's been a bit of a long, uh, week and a half, settling in. I think I mentioned before that I'm starting to regret choosing the cheap option. The thing about cheap & cheerful is that you have to try to stay, um, cheerful. So far I've been doing a good job of it, thinking of how reasonable the rent is compared to other places (bills included!). Today though, I felt defeated.

What did I do? Well, Toph was off climbing. I went to Tesco, took out 50 quid, and then bought a whole bunch of little things that I've been meaning to buy, from which I have abstained because I thought they were too expensive for what they're worth.

You'll laugh at me, but they turly are just small, small things. I realized that I was probably being a bit stingy - after all, what's a fiver for a pan, six quid for 3 plastic food storage boxes, and one pd twenty-five for a plastic basin? Right?

Right. That's what I told myself too.

But the other thing is, they're from Tesco. I'm not sure why but I have a niggling guilt about being there. Hanging out too much with hippies had left me feeling like big chains MUST be doing something evil. I would like to think myself an ethical consumer - but to be honest I know very little about the companies I shop at. Not like, nothing at all - but not enough to feel fully informed (God, think of the hours you'd have to put in though, to be fully informed). Anyway, I shopped at Tesco, which I've been doing rather alot since we moved here.

In Edinburgh I shopped at Tesco too, but only in my first few years, and more and more sporadically as time went on. The thing is, once I got to know the neighbourhood, I found better places to buy my daily essentials. But here, in Oxford, I'm utterly lost for shopping. I know that there are shops but nothing is familiar yet. I'm not yet a regular at any of them. So I reverted to shopping at Tesco.

I knew I was having a bad day when I grabbed a plastic basket and did every isle, slowly and methodically, checking out the prices for everything (as a baseline comparison for when I go elsewhere), and imaginging cheap meals that can be knocked together from the Tesco value range.

Thing is, I shouldn't even be that poor, you know. The studentship is generous enough, I think. But buying the cheapest alternative to anything is also a reversion I think. Perhaps reverting isn't even the right word. Perhaps it is more a self defense instinct? I don't know. I feel like the insecurity of new surroundings has sent me scuttling for safeties. Funny that shopping at Tesco should be something so fundamentally bottom-line of defense for me - if the shit hits the fan, you can at least afford to buy things from the Tesco Value range.

I am awed at the implications of my reflexes because they are actually so illogical. I didn't even realize just how illogical until I started writing.

But in a way being careful with money is a necessity. After all, there's two of us here, and neither of us really work, as it were... But this fearfulness of spending to much can surely be carried to far? Must remind myself not to quibble too much over the price of essential items... after all, I easily spend up to twice or thrice the amount on a pretty frock.

Oh, and there's not even enough space to put my clothes and shoes... Boo :(

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

3 cheers for free things

Nothing like Freecycle to help furnish a new place. A couple of WANTED posts later and we have an iron, a table top sized ironing board, a bag of fresh cut lavender, and several lots of clothes hangers waiting for us to pick up.

The idea is so simple - give a little and get a little, with no money changing hands. It is in a way, the anti-consumption.

Just join the local group (on yahoo or whatever), and start reading OFFERED and WANTED postings. People give away all kinds of crazy things, and if you don't see what you need, you can always ask...

Monday, 22 September 2008

Every little pint helps...

It's been feeling like a 2nd chance at summer in Oxford. We arrived at the beginning of the week and 7 days later the weather is still good. That just doesn't happen in Scotland, see?

Other good things: you can't spit for hitting a pub. Some of them happen to be very good. After going to Keble College, we stopped by The Lamb and the Flag, well worth visiting if you are in town. Also there is the Isis, on the river, just south of Donnington Bridge. Not exactly close enough to be our local - but definitely charming enough to warrant further visits during fine weather. There's a great big out door seating area, where you can watch river boats, cruisers, punts, canoes, kayaks and row boats go by.

There's also frequent farmers' markets in town - with lovely vegetable stalls, and a lovely woman who grows her own fruit in her (very) large garden and makes jams/chutneys/pickles/curds.

This leads me to one of the downsides about Oxford... things (food and otherwise) is really rather expensive. Not that Edinburgh was cheap - but at least we knew where we could get a good price on things. Perhaps we will simply become more shop savvy the longer we live here - but right now the price of things makes us wince.

The flat is ok though, price wise. It's 400 pds a month (shut up. I know that's really expensive if you live in Taiwan - but this is Oxford we're talking about), all bills included. The place is a little house which 8 people call home. Rather alot of bodies to be sharing one tiny kitchen and a very simple bathroom with toilet inside. I've fretted about the possibility of having to queue for the loo - but so far I've worked out that people keep fairly late hours, so if I get up at 8 or 9 it's ok. Good incentive for getting me out of bed, that.

Problems with the flat: everything is transitory, which means that nothing is taken very good care of, and not much is very clean. Toph and I have been trying to make this a better place to live - and it's costing us time & money. Luckily our landlord/letting agent who also lives here seems fairly amenable to forking out for the costs of communal things...

Like I keep thinking - things could be worse. But it's really not like me to be so positive. Sun must be getting to my head.

Another benefit: we're just around the corner from Rob & Louise (and their son Arran). They've been keeping us well fed on homecooked meals and making sure that we don't freeze by lending us their duvet when we first got into town. Toph and I have drunk many a cups of tea and many a glasses of stronger stuff whilst listening to Rob's fine selection of reggae tunes.

On the whole I'd have to say that I'm lucky and privileged. I find it difficult to believe that I am (UGH!) living somewhere new (AGAIN). I also find it hard to believe that I'm going to the University of Oxford. Well. I suppose stranger things have happened - after all, pigs can fly, you know.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Who doesn't want to be little red riding hood?

Little red riding hood is sexy: innocence cloaked in a colour suggestive of lust, wandering through the dark and ominous woods, hunted by the (undoubtedly salivating) big bad wolf - and what that signifies I leave to your imagination.

Don't believe me? Chanel No. 5 knows that sex sells.

This train of thought lead me onto a search through Etsy - lo, ask and ye shall receive.

A real life little red riding hood from I Like You. Irresistibly simple and true to the character I had in mind. Except for the zipper, perhaps - but what modern girl would balk at the convenience?

Also available in black - though I think that would take something away from the quintessence of the piece. At 80 percent wool these little numbers should be comfortably cozy. Hood is detachable, which is a nice extra. The fastener which folds over the front of the collar is also a nice detail - though it's not visible in this photograph.

$120 (not bad, but slightly outside my impulse buying price range)

Fairytale skirt from Made with Love by Hannah . This one is a conversation piece - bound to attract attention & comment. I also really love textiles which are printed to the garment. Maybe Hannah would be able to do this in red? (speaking of red, check out Hannah's scherenschnitte skirt.)

The cut is so simple and flattering, both to the figure and the design. Would look really good with a white shirt tucked in and wrapped around, the way Audrey Hepburn wears'em.

$62 (available in 8 sizes!)

Prefer to think of the little red riding hood as an innocuous children's story? Then these hand-carved stamps from Craft Pudding may be a little more appropriate.

The creative possibilities of stamps abound. Though the wolf does admittedly look more like a cute dog. It could almost be wagging its tail. I quote, from the seller's page, that this big "bad" wolf loves red riding hood. The cuteness overload here is akin to the effect of Japanese kawaii characters - but from Wisconsin.

$25 (hand-carved stamps at that price? bargain)

But honestly, real justice would be little red riding hood taking matters into her own little blood-splattered hands. Such as demonstrated in this cigarette case illustration by Sweet Heart Sinner. Sin on, baby!

Perhaps this is the ending of an empowered, feminist re-write? I particularly like her disdainful expression, and the fact that she was careful enough to have left the cover on the basket to keep granny's biscuits from acquiring extra flavour.

$9.99 (you can't quibble with that kind of price)

So - all that I'm missing now is a good knitting pattern for a riding hood. If you know of any, pleases do share.