Tuesday, 26 July 2011

SOTS: Meditation on a pudding.

Welcome to Oxford/Pamplona
Welcome to anyone who has not visited this blog before; think of it as my living room, thrown open for a party. I'd hoped to invite SOTS members to Pimms in my garden a year or two ago when our then president was Lester Grabbe, a mere hop across the Humber via the spectacular suspension bridge, but the Meeting had to be in Lincoln rather than Hull. So I'm happy to welcome you to this virtual party.

I had to think of a way to limit the number of pictures I took at the SOTS Summer Meeting, and decided on a theme of 'hats', and here are most of them, all the ones I was able to include. In celebration of our president John Sawyer and for the sake of some kind of completeness, I also include a pic from last year on the outing to Haddon Hall. A few other pics crept in, one from my journey home via a topical art exhibition in Sheffield, and another showing the use to which the Jacqueline du Pre hall was to be put after we left.

Joseph Blenkinsopp & John Sawyer in 2010
Sr Edmee Kingsmill
For some reason, the theme of puddings comes to mind whenever I think of the SOTS Summer Meeting. I remember one year in Cambridge when the food was particularly good, even served to us as we sat at table (those were the days). Unfortunately, the young waiter had yet much to learn, and what I remember most is the queue of members at the porter's lodge hoping to get some kind of donation towards the cost of dry cleaning their pale linen jackets,  decorated down the back with a splurge of delicious summer pudding juice.

This year at St Hilda's, Oxford, we also had some wonderful puddings, and always a lovely display of fruit for the virtuous; I wish I'd photographed them. I'm always proud to belong to SOTS when I see such a display, given that our subject matter contains perhaps the world's most famous and influential text about fruit. I can never so much as give my husband an apple from one of our trees without thinking of it; and also musing on how it changes once it gets over the threshhold into the kitchen. Context is everything, I know, and when the apple is in the context of pastry, its significance seems to change mightily into 'mom's apple pie' and all that that represents. I once gave a talk called 'Adam and Eve and apple pie', but I think the content might need to be tweaked to make it a suitable offering as a SOTS paper.
But how come fruit is now the 'virtuous' option? And where is chocolate in all this? Can Gen 2-3 be re-written to take this into account?

No hat, but Renato Lings IS wearing an expression.
Joseph has a new hat this year.
After a necessary bow to the KJV, our Meeting began with The Song of Songs and ended with Ruth; not by design, I am told, but who would ever believe this after the passage of a few centuries, should our programmes ever become texts to be studied using methods that have become bread and butter to SOTS scholars? (And yes, we did have a most wonderful bread and butter pudding at St. Hilda's.)
Interesting biblical artist, John Martin

Francis Landy
Andy Lie

Fr Ephrem Lash

The SOTS Meeting has ended, on with the next.....

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Fashion: it's all in a word?

I once 'studied fashion', i.e. I spent 3 years part time doing City & Guilds Fashion, which was a lot about designing beginning with source material, pattern cutting and making. I have often wondered why for a long time I felt slightly uneasy about 'confessing' this. It's the word, isn't it? 'Fashion': makes you envisage some kind of airheaded existence, perpetually painting one's nails and obsessing about what colour is 'in' this year. Then there's the other word, fashionABLE' which is assumed by many to be a goal to which most women aspire, and so perhaps it might be thought doubly true of a woman who has studied fashion.

How mistaken! I love cloth, I love clothes, I love deciphering the subtle if limited messages conveyed through language of dress, and yet to be called 'fashionable' would not please me; I'm far too much a stubborn individualist for that, and I suspect that this might be true of your top-flight successful fashion designers. They want to set a trend which is recognisable as their brand, but heaven forbid that they should themselves be thought to follow a trend.

Me, I just like to make some of my stuff in my own sweat-shop for one. So many clothes in the shops make one fit into a boring silhouette, that business suit look, or 'killer heels' and all that goes with that,which is such a pity when there are so many elegant and interesting shapes out there in history and the cultures of the whole world that you can adapt for your own use and which are comfortable and practical. I especially like my Victorian walking skirts, which are from a Folkwear pattern (209). See their brilliant http://www.habithat.co.uk/product_info.php/products_id/5372 (a good site for ordering from in the UK) and the whole range can be seen on the website http://folkwear.com/aboutfolkwear.html.

Oh crikey, there are so many lovely things there! Hats!

But it's all in a name isn't it? Or is it? I sometimes call myself a 'seamstress' when forms ask me what I do, but some who do similar things say they are 'textile artists'. I've toyed with 'textile exegete', but this might not mean something to everyone. Like clothes, titles can say some things about a person, but they most certainly do not say everything.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Oh dear! This blog is terribly behind. I've been up to quite a lot, what with ordination in the parish, visit by grandchildren, embroidery day in Grimsby..... and somehow I need to get ready for the SOTS Summer meeting for which I have to set off on Monday morning early. Gran's pot of energy is limited.

Ed with Grandma Viv
But here is a pic of the nave of Grimsby Minster, or St James as we call it. It was a magical day of embroidering for real overseen by Tilleke Schwarz from the Netherlands, and now I'll be using couching a lot. It's great for lettering, especially since my embroidery machine, the Brother PE 150, is playing up and doing terrible tension; just when I need it!! So here is some hand-done lettering on my knee. That little piece is all about reception history, how some of the characters in the Bible have been squeezed into spaces determined by their later readers; see Galatians 4! I really don't have much time for St Paul here, making an allegory out of the story to the detriment of the spirited Hagar. The two women really do serve the agenda of Abraham and many subsequent men. My little piece of work is intended to be part of a much larger piece... we shall see!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

I'm in trouble (maybe)!

Ooh heck! T'blog has gone all orange-wig etc! And today I was supposed to be on a serious textile day in Grimsby  with Tilleke Schwarz http://www.tillekeschwarz.com/- (she even had a pic of a Dutchman in an orange wig, exlaining that it was Dutch footie-fever wear) I WAS - but before it even started I had strayed over to a second hand shop where I saw this sweet little red straw hat for £2-50! I'm sooo tired as I didn't get to bed till the early hours, and had to be up at 6.30! I'm not a morning person! So I will write about the textile day next, but just now all I can do is to put this red hat on. But at least I am doing the little piece of embroidery (couching, a scallop shell, what else?) that I started in St James' church, Grimsby, now turned into Grimsby Minster'. Grimsby looked lovely in the sun, and the journey over there on the train was magical, with a field of blue flax in front of Thornton Abbey, and the right diddly-dum noise of old.

We were doing our work in the nave of the church, a bit like an ordination, a bunch of easily-recognisable textile ladies; I even went up to a couple in the street before the start and said 'You are here for The Day, aren't you?' and they were; they were lecturers on the Hull embroidery degree course. Don't tell me dress is not a language! I'm fluent in that, at least. I once picked out a bloke on a bus with wavy white hair and the right scholarly 'look' as 'very likely going to the SOTS Winter Meeting', and by getting off at the same stop as he did, I got there without problem even though it was a pitch black winter's night. I know; I'm boasting.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

What shall I wear today?

What shall I wear today? Sundays come round sooo quickly; I can't wear THIS, I wore it yesterday to Alan's sports chaplaincy http://www.scorechaplaincy.org.uk/coffee morning, and I never wear the same thing two days running. The Friesian cow-style shoes don't show up very well, sadly.

But as we say in this country 'I did it for charity', and this was my Dutch World Cup football supporters' wig. Can be hired from me for a small fee. Something about the British..... you can do anything, as long as you are 'doing it for charity'.

Look, my friend Thomas Horatio 'just call me Hunk' has given it a whirl too.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Camino bore: Sarah & Hagar.

Oh dear! Codex Calixtinus has been stolen; read all about it in http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jul/07/codex-calixtinus-manuscript-stolen-santiago-compostela Those who aren't yet completely bored by the camino will enjoy http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2011/jun/29/walking-pilgrimage-seville-santiago-sacramental

I've been reading a lot lately, Sarah and Hagar stuff, with the intention of letting it soak into me, and then I hope to generate 'stuff' for my proposed textile exegetical piece. I wondered why I was having a bit of a dearth of 'pnk brolly moments', and I traced it back to the Sarah & Hagar thing; as one who reads the Bible always looking out to find myself in there, there really isn't anywhere in the S & H stories where you really do want to see a glimpse of yourself. Whereas the book of Ruth  is a model of what a community might do if the Hebrew virtue of hesed is practised by a majority, the story of Abraham's 'crowded marriage' doesn't seem to portray any of the participants in a wholly good light, even G-d. But then it is maybe all the better for its warts-and-all approach, at least we can see ourselves in that. All of the 3 main human players have afterlives in which they are evaluated in various ways, used as the allegorical furniture for all kinds of chair-slinging down the centuries, and the 3 faiths which claim various kinds of descent from them seem all to have had their moments, some prolonged, of persecuting one or both of the other two. It's depressing. But thinking purely about the story as it stands in the Bible, one of the most incisive things ever said to me about it was by David Lane CR of blessed memory: 'Did Abraham tell Sarah?' Go on, read Genesis 11-24 with that in mind.

The way to the lake
The perfect end to the perfect summer afternoon.
But somehow the whole thing has links with the camino, on many levels (OK, OK, what doesn't for Pilgrim Viv?). Take the stars; Abraham's descendants are to be as numerous as they are; and Compostela as the 'field of stars' is making me think of a particular stitch on my Pfaff 2058 sewing machine (that's a Jaguar among sewing machines, by the way, the other's an elderly Rolls Royce Bernina 1031) which will be used to create a field of stars as the first bit-of-cloth step towards my project; there's a lot in my head, and I need to make a start before it all backs up. But how to represent sand and dust, with which Abraham's descendants are also compared? I was supposed to be doing that tonight, but now I'm in bed as I've had a lovely dafternoon windsurfing on the lake - oh what a lovely typo - it was a fab little wind - admiring the chaps with their 9 m sails while I zimmer-surf my way across on a 5 m - followed by cutting the grass (that means walking a mile) and clipping the yew, and then snoring in the bath. How is it that it is possible to hear oneself snoring? One of the mysteries of the universe. Probably some ancient survival capability which means one can be asleep but also alert and able to distinguish between the sound of lions roaring and one's own snortings.

But Sarah & Hagar reading has made me reflect how I have been a bit scathing about the current batch of pilgrims to Santiago, who have sometimes shown great ignorance of many aspects of Christianity, as in 'What are the Benedictines?' But when I think of Spain and its past glory in being a place where Jews, Muslims and Christians co-existed fruitfully, followed of course by shameful persecutions and expulsions, I'm starting to think that its multi-faith aspect, including non-faithed pilgrims, could be one of its glories. Wouldn't it be wonderful if there could be a tri-faith pilgrimage take place, a group of Jews, Muslims and Christians all walking the camino together? Just think what a shared blog they could write as they share (or don't share) food, stories, music, blister remedies....

But there has to be something left to harrumph about in life, it's part of our heritage as Englishmen and women, and I'm right with Damian Thompson, editor of Telegraph blogs and quoted in the Tablet for this week, when he says, 'The most chilling sentence in the English language is, 'Our next hymn is "Shine, Jesus, shine". '

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Sarah and Hagar, wells, bikes, flowery hats, household hints.

Really one ought to resist the temptation to start a blog entry with 'Phew! Worraday!' but somehow I have to. These last few days I've been trying to do my half hour of bohemian housework (which expands, and does cutting the grass count?) and also to do some reading towards my proposed Sarah and Hagar piece of textile-art-work. So here you can see the books on the table including http://www.amazon.com/Hagar-Sarah-Their-Children-Perspectives/dp/0664229824, which is where I start; with some exegesis helped by coloured pencils and sketchbook. (As an amateur bookbinder, that Bible bought in 1973 is crying out to me...) I became fascinated with Genesis ch. 21 in particular, with its story about the survival of Hagar and Ishmael through sheltering the lad under a bush and then finding a well to which Hagar was directed by an angel. The latter part of the chapter is about Abraham and features his concern for another well, and planting a grove of trees. The commentaries don't mention the connections that you can see I'm making, the idea that Abraham is trying to make it possible for other cast-off people to survive; they only talk about Abraham celebrating the birth of Isaac, and I want to try to find out whether it's just my hair-brained idea, or whether I could make it the subject of the PhD I will never do.

It's seen better days
'Fairy' rose
But then wells cropped up again today, when our Jez did a fly through Barton on his bike with a bunch of his engineer mates, on a ride from Lincoln to the Humber Bridge and back. Some of them came from even further, from Sutton Bridge well south, and so did over a hundred miles in one day. Knowing it was our garden party today, and that I hoped to bike out to meet Jez & his friends somewhere on the bridge, I decided I could easily make my outfit dual-purpose, and so I quickly - wish I'd thought earlier, it was a rushed job - tied a few sprigs from our Fairy rose that is so resplendent just now, to my cycle helmet. It's a bit bedraggled now, of course. The helmet could have been very necessary, as on the way down from the bridge as I got up to my heady 30 mph, my back brake fell to pieces with a loud Bang! Thank goodness I had a front brake, or I'd have been in pieces myself. But what Jez didn't tell me until he got here was that he was doing a sponsored ride as part of the East Midlands group of the Institute of Civil Engineers.

Wells: the charities Jez's bunch was supporting do all kinds of clever things throughout the world; young people wanting to make the world a better place; and they explained it simply to me as 'Things like making wells in Africa', and how topical that is with me; how important water is. Like I said the other day when I mentioned that charity Practical Action, it's the simplest things that are so necessary, and the more simple and clever the way of getting it, the more people are able to have it.

At church with Jez & friends


Mother and son reunited on the Humber bridge
At the end of the day as I was about to start writing this, I received sad news of a SOTS scholar in Germany having been found dead in his flat after a heart attack; is there anythng more sad than to die alone? So I end this blog feeling really proud of my li'l boy, and very sad about this death of a lovely man who two years ago commented on my flowery hat, and last year complained because I came to SOTS without one! As I searched for Jez on the bridge, I ran into (not literally - they had a lucky escape since the brake was so near death) a bunch of walkers raising money for leprosy charities; one of them commented on my flowery helmet and said, 'It brings a smile to our faces'. If by doing that I can make anyone aware of the good things done by people who do real stuff rather than talking like I do, then I'll be well pleased: flowery hats in favour of world peace and an end to poverty.

Lovely young people
PS While at the church fete, I bought a book published in 1954 called 'Modern Household Encyclopaedia. Over 8000 hints... A goldmine of household information'. I'll be bringing you some of the wisdom contained in this in due course, when I've tested all the hints. Meanwhile, my own suggestion: I thought about how my steam iron, having not been used for a few days, was surely about to sprout green algae on its insides. What to do should this happen? I suggest applying to have it awarded the status of 'Site of Special Scientific Interest' (SSSI). Next problem please..... Oh all right then, just one from the book: 'Container for cleaning agents. To make cardboard box sturdy to hold cleaning materials for kitchen or bathroom, dip the whole box, or at least the bottom, in melted paraffin.' I can see I'm not going to be able to live without nightly readings from this book.