Thursday, 14 February 2013

The Maypole and The Column

The resolution formed in January lasted all of eleven days. I would read all the books piled in my room before any more joined them. No more purchases until I’d taken in Tolstoy and finished The Odyssey. The promise might have been kept had I not, nearly two weeks later, found that I had nothing to read for an imminent café visit. I get antsy without a book in my bag; I was forced to visit the nearby charity bookshop. My resolve was broken, but I was richer for it - leaving with and consequently gobbling up Jeanette Winterson’s ‘The Passion’, plus ‘A Book of English Essays.’
Winterson may be best known for ‘Oranges are Not the Only Fruit’ but her other novels are just as exhilarating. Reading ‘The Passion’ feels a little like witnessing light and images as they bounce off a mirror. It is pared back to the point that each word has weight, but is executed with a light and joyful touch, one of those texts that you know immediately will become ever better with each subsequent reading.
The essays, however, accompanied me to London and back on my last trip (the next for LFW is taking place shortly). William Hazlitt filled my tube journeys and G.K. Chesterton provided food for thought as I enjoyed breakfast at Workshop Coffee. I was privy to insights on walking, cold mornings, knowledge versus understanding, shyness, the pleasure of the dark, ambition and many other subjects. Each topic, often concerned with something taken for granted or overlooked, opened up another area to consider. Of course, having first been published in the forties (with essayists spanning from the 16th through to 20th Centuries) there were outdated attitudes and omissions, not least the lack of a single female essayist. No Virginia Woolf, despite her being the most likely candidate, and a certain propensity for all individuals to be treated as a ‘he’.  
However, in the introduction the editor advised all prospective readers to turn to a particular essay on page 235 – Maurice Hewlett’s ‘The Maypole and the Column.’ I did just that. Hewlett begins by discussing the rural practice of adorning a maypole with streamers and flowers, before presenting the following:
“So they transfigured the thing signified, and turned a shaven tree-trunk from a very crude emblem into a thing of happy fantasy. That will serve me for a figure of how the poet deals with his little idea, or great one; and in his more sober mood it is open to the essayist so to deal with his, supposing he have one. He must hang his pole, or concept, not with rhyme but with wise or witty talk. He must turn it about and about, not to set the ornaments jingling, or little bells ringing; rather that you may see its shapeliness enhanced, its proportions emphasized, and in all the shifting lights and shadows of its ornamentation discern it still for the notion that it is.”
In my copy, I immediately underlined this paragraph in pencil. It expresses a little of what I aim to do with my blog. Each written piece doesn’t necessarily have to fall into the categories of ‘wise’ or ‘witty’, but I do hope to expand on, unpick or highlight particular ideas. It gives me the chance to discuss themes from feminism to the way we label clothes. Each week I enjoy talking about different subjects or engaging in debate.
Today the essay as a form has been largely replaced with the column, the book review and the memoir article. It still exists, but few now label themselves as 'essayist'. It’s a job title I'd like to aspire to in the future. Though in the meantime, this blog is my maypole, each post a ribbon, adding another set of clothes, photographs and words to those already there. 

These are just a handful of photos from a shoot I did with the extremely delightful and talented Vanessa Jackman last summer in London. (These images, plus more were posted on her blog a few weeks ago). I'm sure that for many, Vanessa needs no introduction as a truly gifted photographer. She arrived early one morning with wonderful Jessica Mieja in tow, whose expert touch with hair and make-up is highly skilled. The clothes are all mine apart from the loaned white lace dress which is Alice by Temperly  from My Wardrobe. So in keeping with my musings above, I suppose that this particular post is adorned with second hand lace, silk and satin - and a smattering of pale gold sunshine. 


Closet Fashionista said...

These photos are beautiful!!! Before Christmas I started to reread Little Women but somehow I've stopped, I should start again. I need to get into the habit of reading every night...
That is definitely a good passage to think about when you're blogging :)

Nici said...

Amazing pictures! Love them!

AVY said...

I don't read enough, I don't know why.


Tara said...

I saw these photographs on Vanessa's blog a little while back and was instantly struck by not only how wonderful you look (also, that Alice by Temperley lace dress is a wonder in its own right!) but by how effortlessly Vanessa managed to capture the spirit of youth, and all it entails and embodies.
Thank you for the link to Hilary Mantel's diary; a beautiful piece that resonated, roused and offered much to consider.
I feel obliged to offer my own essay piece that has inspired me of late. I think it has to be Zadie Smith's essay on joy:
I think we often find ourselves considering this, particularly during times of sobering sadness and inexplicable confusion: "Am I happy? Why can't I be happy? What does it mean to be happy, anyway?" And happiness and joy are oft seen to be two intertwined - if not completely transposable - feelings.
But, I think it is the derivation process that offers some sort of allowance for differentiation. Happiness can be found in the most banal of sources and situations, whereas joy can be more elusive; being, as Smith puts it, a "strange admixture of terror, pain and delight".
I suppose bearing one's soul through the medium of the written word is one of the purest forms of joy... Though - after spending upwards of three to four hours, hunched over a keyboard, trying to write something both witty and worthy, when all you really want is a chocolate bar - it certainly doesn't feel like it at times!

Best Wishes,


Vix said...

I love your idea of your blog being your maypole, such poetry.
Love the photos, I never looked that beautiful when I wore braces! xxx

Pilgrim at Kerjacob said...

You look absolutely beautiful in these photographs.
The beauty that is there in so many young women without having to resort to being overly made up.
When you are older, like me, its wonderful to see that freshness of youth and its important to remember that older women all had it once and that age is a natural process which still contains its own beauty.


Lauren said...

My older brother pulls out my braces photos to tease me~ you will never need to experience that since there is nothing hilarious here, only pure beautifulness!

Lauren at adorn la femme

crimemole said...

Love the pictures!
I found your blog by photos from Vanessa Jackman´s blog and I think that your blog is beautiful and your posts are really well written.

And when I read the article about your czech roots I was flattered - Im CZECH and 17 yrs old too)) I live in Prague and I want to explore England and the beautiful green nature around very much.(We should switch places for a while shouldnt we? :DD)

Anyway when you get to visit Prague you shouldn´t miss long walks around the center through the Old Town and Jewish parts because I can do it all the time and never have enough. You can feel the history (and it is a long one as your Babi can tell you for sure :))and I can imagine you strolling the streets with some vintage on!

And when you think about how many famous people walked the streets like Tomas Garyk Masaryk, Vaclav Havel and so on it will really catch you.

Despite the fact that there was communism to 1989 and people really suffered because of it, it didn´t ruined the Prague atmosphere at all.

So I hope you will get here with you Babi by your side some time and :)

Ahoj! a Pozdravuj Babi


(and sorry for possible mistakes in the text,but as you can tell for sure - CZECH language is much harder than english haha ))


Wonderful photos Roz, I like the direction you've chosen for your blog posts. I feel a bit as if I've forgotten accessories without a book in my handbag I tend to do most reading on the train home, usually a pocket read or even Gibran or a C.S. Lewis piece to start the day. Enjoy LFW. Thanks for your comment as well. xo :)

daisychain said...

Oh Roz,

that first photo belongs in a fashion editorial!


Linnéa said...


OrigamiGirl said...

Firstly these photos are marvellous and some of my favourite on here. They seem to show you a little more and yet also remind me of sets for Jane Austen films. You look a little Keira Knightly in that 5th one down, beautiful and smart.

Also I used to be seriously into Jeanette Winterson. I studied the Passion at uni but swapped it for another book with someone years ago. I was a big fan of The Powerbook and I also like The Stone Gods.

I am with you on carryig a book around. I commute to work every day and love to have the reading time on my daily train journeys. Keeps me brain going.

Milex said...

You image is powerful and I love that

Sacramento Amate said...

All my life I have been reading( I used to read a book a day in summer) studying and teaching. Now, I just love looking at photos and learning new things.
I have discovered photography through having a blog, and the art invoved is fascinating.
You are always an angel, dear Rosalind.

Camille said...

Amazing pictures! There is something very poetic in these pics!

Tallia said...

your lace dress is ever so lovely!

Arushi Khosla said...

You have the prettiest hair!

xo from NY

fashioneggpplant said...

you are soooo gorgeous! great blog :)

Anonymous said...

This post was very touching, Vanessa's photos are wonderful, she captured your beauty and the sparkle in your eyes and as you wrote satin and lace are perfect to emphatize and adorn a great reading about beautiful books. I'm doing wrong, in these last days I started three different books and I'm sure I won't finish them, your resolution sound wise, I need to give each one the right time without adding new purchases.
The Maypole metaphore suit well and poetically your blog!

Vanessa, Take only Memories said...

Wow, you're ambitious to want to read those books. I was similar at your age. Unfortunately I'm not reading as much now. I really should. Hope you'll keep it up.

You look absolutely stunning. You're a beautiful model for a great photographer.

Fashionistable said...

Well this was a meeting of 3 talented people for the photos and then all the other wonderful writers here. Beautiful post Rosalind. And as always it was a real treat spending time with you in London during LFW. See you soon. Xxxx

Emalina said...

Sorry I've not got to see this post before now - such a lovely piece of writing and a wonderful idea of yours to see your blog as your maypole. It conjures up the attitude of openness, curiousity, generosity and collaboration that your posts so amply demonstrate.

As for the photographs, you look heavenly in the beautiful clothes, I really like that simple subtle make up on you. And I second Vix, I was never so gorgeous when I wore braces at your age!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful, tender images. Cute braces photo, too.
You inspire me to read more.

Lula+Lola said...

I think the maypole comparison is brilliant! I'd like to think that your readers are the people dancing around the maypole, and yours is looking wonderful! x


Willow said...

It seems we had a very similar new year's resolution! (Mine didn't work either.) I haven't read any of the books you've listed but I definitely want to.

A much enjoyable and beautifully written post as always. I love the idea of your blog being like a Maypole - what a wonderful comparison!

Those pictures really are stunning, I really love the photos of you in the lace dress (both the ones on here and Vanessa's lovely blog) you look very Edwardian in it (especially with the way your hair and eyebrows have been done.) Gorgeous smiling photo, is there anyone else that looks that good in braces? Beautiful!

Izzy DM said...

I've tried to do the same thing with books! And always failed...I did pretty well with my last attempt, because I made two fundamental changes to "the rules." I mixed in lighter fare with my more serious classic "must-reads" and allowed myself some flexibility-- adding to the shelf was okay. It took the pressure off!

Jeanette Winterson... I love her. I'm trying to think if "The Passion" is the book of hers that I read. (I could google this, mind you.) It was autobiographical and all about writing. What I loved about it, was discovering that this very current author was so anti-technology. It gave me permission in a sense to live in my own head and experiences, to stop feeling as if I have to keep up with all the latest news on CNN in order to have something "fresh" to say.

I loved the quote, too. I just added it to my "quote book." Years ago one of my best friends got me to organize my journals that way. An alphabetical quote book in a loose-leaf binder with my own made-up categories, and I can keep all the many inspiring bits from my journals in one place, not to mention an excuse to go through my journals when I'm done with them and remember all the things I'd forgotten I'd written about.

Oh and p.s. the light is really stunning in those pics. Really well done. If you do decide to act, these would be PERFECT for castings. They make you look like a young movie star.

Lucy said...

SO STUNNING! Lady you are just perfect, the light is wonderful too :)
Sadly don't have the chance to read your blog through properly as I'm at work but from the flick through, looks like you're keeping busy!
Lots of love xxx

The Foolish Aesthete said...

I was so delighted to see these photos from Vanessa's blog. You are darling in all of them. My favorite is the last one. Your shining eyes behind the book convey exactly the way I feel when curled up with a book I can't put down.

Thank you for including that quote from Hewlett. That is quite a framework for every writer (essayist) to work with.

Are you familiar with James Thurber? He wrote many short stories & essays, some of them aimed at children but enjoyed by all ages. He combines prose - which sounds like poetry - with wit and humor, but all with an underlying thread showcasing human nature. He's such an engaging read.

- J xxx

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