Thursday, September 23, 2010

The box in the wardrobe

“Je weiter die Maschen in Berthas Gedächtnis wurden, desto größer die Erinnerungsbrocken, die hindurchfielen. Je verwirrter sie wurde, desto wahnwitziger die Wollstücke, die sie strickte und die durch ständiges Fallenlassen von Maschen, durch Zusammnenstricken oder durch das Wiederaufnehmen neuer Maschen am Rand in alle Richtungen wuchsen und schrumpften, klafften und verfilzten und sich von überall her aufribbeln ließen. Meine Mutter hatte die Strickstücke in Bootshaven zusammengesammelt und mit nach Hause genommen. In einem Karton im Kleiderschrank ihres Schlafzimmers bewahrte sie sie auf. Durch Zufall war ich einmal auf ihn gestoßen und hatte mit einer Mischung aus Entsetzen und Bekustigung eine Strickskulptur nach der anderen auf dem Bett meiner Eltern ausgebreitet. Meine Mutter kam dazu, ich wohnte nicht mehr zu Hause, und Bertha war schon im Heim. Eine Weile betrachteten wir die wollnen Ungeheuer.
- Irgendwo muss schließlich jeder seine Tränen konservieren, sagte meine Mutter wie zur Verteidigung, dann packet sie alles wieder zurück in den Schrank. Wir sprachen nie mehr über Berthas Gestricktes.”

[The more the loops were widening in Bertha’s memory, the bigger the chunks of memory that fell through them. The more confused she became, the weirder the woolen pieces that she knitted, which grew in all directions with stitches dropped, joined and added to the sides, split and tangled, and could be unraveled from all sides. My mother had gathered the knitted pieces in the house in Bootshaven and taken them home. She kept them in a box in the wardrobe of her bedroom. I came across them by chance, and both horrified and amused I spread them out on my parents’ bed. My mother came in, I was no longer living at home at the time and Bertha was in a nursing home. We looked at the woolen monsters for a while.
- We all need to preserve our tears somewhere, my mother said as if defending herself, then she put everything back in the wardrobe. Bertha’s knitting was never mentioned again.]

Katharina Hagena, Der Geschmack von Apfelkernen, Kiepenheuer & Witsch 2010, p. 20, 21

Sunday, September 19, 2010


“There was a gas boiler, comparatively modern, mounted above a deep square porcelain sink much stained and with a clean but crumpled tea towel hanging on a hook beside it. Dalgliesh peeled off his gloves and felt the towel. It was slightly damp not in patches but all over as if it had been soaked in water then wrung out and left to dry through the night. He handed it to Massingham who took off his own gloves and ran it through his hand. He said:
‘Even if the murderer was naked, or half-naked he would have needed to wash his hands and arms. He could have used this. Berowne’s towel is presumably the one hanging on the chair and that looked dry enough.’
Massingham was back beside him. He said:
‘The towel next door is perfectly dry and only slightly dirtied. It looks as if Berowne could have washed his hands when he arrived and that’s all. It’s odd that he didn’t leave it in here, except that there’s nowhere convenient to hang it. Odder, though, that the killer, assuming there is a killer, didn’t use it to dry himself rather than the smaller tea towel.'
Dalgliesh said:
'If he remembered to take it out with him to the kitchen. If he didn’t, he’d hardly want to go back for it. Too much blood, too much risk of leaving a clue. Better to use what he found at hand.'”

P.D. James, A taste for death, Faber and Faber 1986, p. 41, 42

Friday, September 17, 2010


“I usually spend about two to three hours an evening stitching. It helps you realize there are alternatives to committing crimes.”

Prisoner, HMP Wandsworth

Fine Cell Work – needlework in prisons

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"How the baby sling made us"

“ There has been a rash of books on human evolution in recent years […]. Now Timothy Taylor, reader in archaeology at the University of Bradford, makes a claim for technology in general and, in particular, the invention of the baby sling – not, as you may have thought, in the 1960s but more than 2m years ago. […]
Not only is our brain very large, it is proportionately enormous at birth, creating problems at delivery for narrow-hipped, upright-standing women and even more during the first years, when babies are extremely vulnerable. Factor in the African savannah 2m years ago, teeming with enormous predators, and you wonder how we are still here. For Taylor, the crucial innovation was the baby sling, which enabled proto-human mothers to carry their vulnerable babies (infant apes, of course, cling to their mothers’ hairy backs).”

Peter Forbes, How the baby sling made us. Review, Saturday Guardian, 4.9.2010, p. 9

Timothy Taylor, The artificial ape: how technology changed the course of human evolution. Palgrave Macmillan 2010.

See also

images: Mamas & Papas catalogue, autumn/winter 2010

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Silk worms

“… the magnaneries, the attics where, season by season, the silkworms were hatched and where they ate their vast quantities of mulberry leaves and spun their cocoons and were sent down to the last filature at Ruasse to be boiled alive as the precious silk was unwound onto bobbins.
Audrun could just remember the old magnaneries at the mas, the smell of them, and the chill in the air as you climbed the steps towards the well-ventilated rooms, and the sound of the thirty thousand worms chomping on leaves, like the sound of hail on the roof.
‘It was terrible work,’ Bernadette had told her. “Terrible, terrible work. You had to collect bunches and bunches of mulberry leaves every single day. And if it had been raining and the leaves were wet, you knew a lot of the worms were going to die, because the damp gave them some intestinal infection. But there was nothing you could do. Every morning, you just had to pick out the dead ones and carry on. And the stink up there, of the dead worms and all the horrible excretions, was vile. I used to gag, sometimes. I hated every minute of that work.’
Yet she had done it without complaining.”

Rose Tremain (2010), Trespass. Chatto & Windus, London, p.34

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Summer festivals: Notting Hill Carnival

Julia and I went to the Notting Hill Carnival. I found some feathers and sequins, souvenirs of the exuberant colours of the dancers' costumes.

Summer festivals: Edinburgh

Julia went to the Edinburgh festival. She brought me back three mini-sheep and a venue card with a ‘necklace’ made of twisted pink plastic.