It’s been awhile since I’ve read either the Chron or Inside Higher Ed. I have enough to do, what with reading archives of my favorite bloggers, teaching, and trying to write, or maybe those things go in reverse order. But today a blog-update link showed a headline at IHE that interested me, so I went and read the piece, and then clicked on the Advice section to read a some advice about teaching online.

Tip #1, about establishing rules for the classroom, starts with this sentence: “Many students alchemize participating in distance learning with sitting in front of an optically and audibly challenged neophyte substitute.”


Seriously, I have no idea what this sentence means. Did the writer take a comprehensible sentence and run it through one of those synonym-substituter programs?

I should have stopped reading there. The rules suggested strike me as . . . out of touch with current reality, despite the claim to respond to COVID-related teaching concerns. Repeated logging out/in can be because of network connectivity problems. Maybe the bed with a sibling’s band on the other side of the wall is the only place the student has any privacy (it’s true they could at least make the bed). The point to a chat forum is that it simulates the back-and-forth of actual conversation; that’s why people use abbreviations for frequently-used phrases.

I’ll go back to checking out people’s archives when I need a break, and continuing my abstention from higher-ed news. It’s strangely unenlightening.

For Moira

This is really a Clothes In Books post. Doris Langley Moore (fashion historian as well as novelist) has featured on that blog, but not with the book Not At Home (1948). Amazon suggested the book to me based on my other reading, and it certainly fits my “light British women’s fiction from the first half of the twentieth century” reading theme from this fall. I found about the first half of the book rather hard going because of the way the lady with the lemon suede gloves treats poor Miss MacFarren’s house, and while I am not completely unfamiliar with the struggle it can take to stand up to a charming person who is determined to stay put, I would long since have bit the bullet and given the lady and her husband notice. Also there should be a content warning for neglect of animals. Still, the clothes and period details have much to recommend them, and the visit to the film studio is fascinating.

“On the step was a woman laden with flowers, a wonderfully smart woman with a white cloth coat, a yellow taffeta turban draped in the newest style, and white wedge-heeled shoes as complex as a Chinese puzzle. Her hair was pale gold and her ivory-coloured face suggested rather than achieved the most extraordinary beauty. With a smile of such radiance as lies only in the consciousness of flawless teeth, she extended from amongst the flowers a lemon-coloured suede glove.”

I don’t know where Moira finds the images to go with her posts; that is, she cites them, but I lack her touch with the databases. Unless she picks up the challenge, you’ll just have to imagine the outfit.

Winter and Summer Curtains

Like the Pritchards (Canon and Mrs) of Barbara Pym’s Jane and Prudence, we now have winter and summer curtains. The cream-colored tab-top linen set from two houses ago looked fine during summer and early fall, but as the weather grew colder, I thought a dark red would warm up the room, and Friday I found a set in the right color at Tarzhay.

I have (once again) slightly mis-remembered the book; I thought there was a moment when Jane Cleveland said to Mrs Pritchard, “Oh, we just have curtains.” But not so.

When Jane’s friend Prudence visits, Jane “follows her glances” around the “large, cold drawing room” and says “These curtains aren’t quite long enough, and they don’t really meet across the windows. Canon Pritchard was rather a wealthy clergyman–they had long crimson velvet curtains and a curtain over the door too” (91).

Later, the Pritchards pay a call, and Mrs Pritchard observes, “Oh, you have your summer curtains up. We always found this room so drafty even in summer that I often waited until May before I took down the velvet ones,” to which Jane replies, “Yes, these are quite light ones. It has been a mild spring” (167), trying to live up to the Pritchard standards, I suppose.

Velvet would be nice. Even better would be tapestry curtains made of this, but I’m not up for $150 a yard and then making the curtains, or having them made. The $30 pair at least provide proof-of-concept, that is, that the color suits the room. They are also washable, which is an important consideration. Last night I was complaining that our cats seem to do all their shedding on the rugs. Having washed the summer curtains, it is now clear that the cats save at least some of their spare fur for other soft furnishings.

Pym, Barbara. Jane and Prudence. London: Grafton Books, 1983.

Mirren Strang on writing

Mirren Strang is a novelist-character who appears in both Pink Sugar and Priorsford, by O. Douglas. Both of these are from Priorsford.

Obsessive? Moi?

Anyway, two quotations from Mrs Strang; here’s one: “It’s very rarely that a thought passes through my mind. No, it’s a fact. As for plots, I simply can’t think of one! How I respect the people who can work out intricate stories of crime. But there are worse jobs than writing. On cold winter mornings it’s a good excuse to hug the fire. To sit in an armchair with a writing pad on one’s knee, toasting one’s toes, listening to the rain on the pane, while one thinks out, lazily, conversations and situations–that’s very pleasant. But when things become serious and the MS has to be produced on a given date, to have to sit ten or twelve hours on end, feverishly scribbling, with your mind as dry as a nut, while the summer sun shines outside, and you long to be working in the garden, or picnicking with friends! Always I begin with the best intentions about getting things forward and not having a rush at the end–but I always fail. But it doesn’t matter, the books do get written. Whether they’re worth writing is another matter, but anyway they’re as good as I’m capable of. . . .”

And the second, in a conversation with Jean, Lady Bidborough:

“Oh, but I must tear myself away and go home and work. I’ve a book to finish before I leave home.”

“D’you mean to say,” said Jean, “that you’re going to sit down and make yourself write? I thought authors had to wait for inspiration.”

“I’d wait a while,” said Mirren grimly. “No, the only way I know is just to peg at it. . . . I had two writers staying with me for the week-end, the kind that need inspiration. . . . The girl had plucked eyebrows and her mouth looked as if she had been drinking someone’s blood.”

Six on Saturday: the pearly dewy lawn early

After last week’s warmth, we’re back to cold frosty mornings. Every time I even think, let alone utter, that phrase, I get the carol as my ear-worm, hence today’s subtitle. So I’ll start with the lawn, minus hinds. I have not seen deer around here, oddly enough, but maybe the local parks and preserves are big enough that the deer stay there and don’t stray out onto lawns:

Next, the sedum, in yet another colo(u)r change:

And a rime-rimmed groundcover in the same bed:

Four and five are both Honorine Jobert, different plants; one has a last white blossom lingering alongside the withered petals, and the other towers over the little pink-flowered plant I keep showing you:

The trees are quite bare now:

The sky was that wonderful blue earlier, as the sun was rising. Now it’s clouded over to grey. I need to get out for a walk before rain starts in the afternoon.

This is not winter. This is far from winter. Winter is a foot or more of snow burying everything, and temperatures below freezing for months, sometimes below 0 Fahrenheit for days, or warming into single digits during the day when the sun is out. The mercy of this climate is that winter is generally bright, when it’s not actually snowing, because the sun comes out and glitters brilliantly on the ice.

Six on Saturday is hosted by the Propagator. I’m glad you made your essential pot run safely. Um, maybe I should re-phrase that: I’m glad you collected your plastic pots without getting picked up for non-essential travel!

More from O. Douglas

Nothing worth the telling? Well, probably so; thus, have another quotation from Penny Plain:

“I simply don’t know,” said Pamela, “how people who don’t care for clothes get through their lives. Clothes are a joy to the prosperous, a solace to the unhappy, and an interest always—even to old age. I knew a dear old lady of ninety-four whose chief diversion was to buy a new bonnet. She would sit before the mirror discarding model after model because they were ‘too old’ for her. One would have thought it difficult to find anything too old for ninety-four.”

This is so very one. I wonder what sort of hat I will wear if I live to be 94.

Trolls writing in my head

I got to this post via Maria Nikolojeva, and found it completely delightful and utterly recognizable. Nearly everything I’ve ever written has been kidnapped by trolls, even the pieces that I’m reasonably fond of, like the largest hunk of the MMP. The version in my head has a golden glow that just doesn’t make it onto the page. Anyway, then I was poking around Undine’s archives (instead of doing any actual work, sigh, I know, but look, it’s better than doom-scrolling, I’d way rather let Undine into my head than random voices from all over), and found this related idea.

Instead of writing elves, maybe some of us get visits from the writing trolls, who take away our beautiful words and leave fake smelly ones in their place.

The fantasy almost writes itself, doesn’t it? The war between the writing elves and the writing trolls, taking place by night while the writer sleeps down the hall. The stealthy attacks. The interruptions by the writer’s cats, who pounce on a writing elf but also scare off the trolls. The quest to the troll-lair to recapture the kidnapped book-baby.

I’ll have to let it write itself while I go tend to a bit of scholarship about an obscure medieval romance.

Six on Saturday: St Martin’s Summer

I need to post more often so as to get used to the new WordPress post layout.

Don’t hold your breath.

Anyway, after our early snow and frost, the weather has warmed up to very pleasant temperatures, and the autumn colours glow in the morning light:

1, leaves on the lawn. There’s a huge golden patch like this.

2, a single leaf on the stump of a tree we had taken down recently (it was dead, having succumbed to hemlock blight).

3, the magenta sedum has gone brick-red, with yellow foliage:

4, the hydrangeas and Japanese maple have similar coloration:

5, seedheads in the “wild” garden:

6, that little pink-flowered plant whose name I don’t know (see #2 here) also glows pink and gold in the morning:

Apart from the garden . . . wake me up when November ends. I’m avoiding the news, because I can’t deal with all the ups and downs. I’m sure I won’t be able to miss it when all the counting and re-counting is over, but until then, there’s no point in tormenting myself with if-this and then-that. I have plenty of grading to keep me busy, and several stages of the Vuelta to watch (we’re running behind, as usual, so please no spoilers about the last week). If I’ve made two batches of cookies this week (snickerdoodles and chocolate-chip), that’s a harmless domestic outlet, as is crocheting a headband to wear when jogging and starting a second one with a more elaborate pattern. I’m re-reading O. Douglas . . . the novels are just as soothing the second time through, and thinking about the short winter days in Scotland makes me grateful for the less-short ones here.

Six on Saturday is hosted by the Propagator, and thank you for the outlet and distraction.