The silhouette of men has changed completely since the 1950s, and it is this above all else that has altered the outlines of city streets; not the shape of the buildings nor the absence of trams and the growing sleekness of cars, but the fact that men no longer wear hats — broad-brimmed felt hats, tipped slightly over one eye. … A consistent point of my mother's propaganda against him was the shoddiness of his dress and the cheapness of his clothes, his awful ties, his refusal to spend money on his appearance, his lack of taste.
Now I see the pattern of our nourishment laid down, like our usefulness, by an old set of rules. At six I was old enough to go on errands, at seven to go further to pay the rent and the rates, go on the long dreary walk to the Co-op for the divi. By eight I was old enough to clean the house and do the weekend shopping. At eleven it was understood that I washed the breakfast things, lit the fire in the winter and scrubbed the kitchen floor before I started my homework. At fifteen, when I could legally go out to work, I got a Saturday job which paid for my clothes (except my school uniform, which was part of the deal, somehow). I think that until I drop I will clean wherever I happen to be on Saturday morning. I take a furtive and secret pride in the fact that I can do all these things, that I am physically strong, can lift and carry things that defeat other women, wonder with some scorn what it must be like to learn to clean a house when adult, and not to have the ability laid down as part of the growing self. Like going to sleep by contrasting a bed with a pavement, I sometimes find myself thinking if the worst comes to worst, I can always earn a living by my hands; I can scrub, clean, cook and sew: all you have in the end is your labour.
I've talked to other people whose mothers came to naturopathy in the 1950s, and it's been explained as a way of eating posh for those who didn't know about continental food. I think it did have a lot to do with the status that being different conferred, for in spite of the austerity of our childhood, we believed that we were better than other people, the food we ate being a mark of this, because our mother told us so — so successfully that even now I have to work hard at actually seeing the deprivations. But much more than difference, our diet had to do with the need, wrenched from restricted circumstances, to be in charge of the body. Food Reform promised an end to sickness if certain procedures were followed, a promise that was not, of course, fulfilled. I spent a childhood afraid to fall ill, because being ill would mean that my mother would have to stay off work and lose money.
Later, in 1977, after my father's death, we found out that they were never married, that we were illegitimate. In 1934 my father left his wife and two-year-old daughter in the North, and came to London. He and my mother had been together for at least ten years when I was born, and we think now that I was her hostage to fortune, the factor that might persuade him to get a divorce and marry her. But the ploy failed.
We have proper birth certificates, because my mother must have told a simple lie to the registrar, a discovery about the verisimilitude of documents that worries me a lot as a historian.
Changes in the market place, the growth of real income and the proliferation of consumer goods that marked the mid-1950s, were used by my mother to measure our her discontent: there existed a newly expanding and richly endowed material world in which she was denied a place. The new consumer goods came into the house slowly, and we were taught to understand that our material deprivations were due entirely to my father's meanness. … I liked the new vacuum cleaner at first, because it meant no longer having to do the stairs with a stiff brush. But in fact it added to my Saturday work because I was expected to clean more with the new machine.
The reading regimen is as follows—while writing poetry, read philosophy or natural history; while writing fiction, read poetry; after, but not before or during writing poetry, read fiction. These rules of reading keep the compartments of poetry and prose fiction pristine. It is really the poetry that demands this regimen, it is a fragile and impressionable art so all means have to be employed to protect it from excess while feeding it with infusions of practical, scientific, and philosophical propositions. Almanacs.
Alice B. Toklas on Gertrude Stein on Picasso on Gertrude Stein: In these early days… the effect of the african art was purely upon his vision and his forms, his imagination remained purely spanish…. She was not at any time interested in african sculpture. She always says that she liked it well enough but that it has nothing to do with europeans, that it lacks naïveté, that it is very ancient, very narrow, very sophisticated but lacks the elegance of the Egyptian sculpture from which it is derived. She says that as an American she likes primitive things to be more savage.
Who on earth is left who did not say an awful thing, the clerk wonders. Who. Who did not disguise it as sophistication, as knowledge, as wit. What jaded poses dismiss all dreadfulness. How the author bears all this is alarming. And that isn't even the worst. Such a memory loss you have. Melanctha. My amnesia is useful. How many micro-abrasions, as they say, do you think I could take?