Monday 30 March 2020

Decorating my butt off

As you can see I have never been very hot about covering stuff up while I paint. There are little smudges on the carpet in various corners, but mostly it all washes off in the end. I was determined to get to the end of the job so that I could actually enjoy being in the house, and maybe plant some stuff outside this year. Much debate has ensued about the kitchen. We had decided on yellow, but then my mind drifted to the pink spectrum and wanting something really bold. So we agreed on both (well to be honest not sure the girls cared that much)! But how to combine the two. Who wants just a plain old alternating walls thing? (It looks pretty messy but you get the idea):
Monkey suggested the diagonal lines (and we drew a plan of how to lay out the stripes), and I think it worked out fabulous. At the other end of the room I added the magnetic chalkboard paint, to create a notice board cum shopping list cum poetry collection (Monkey bought me revolutionary magnetic poetry for Christmas):
I am going to use the left overs to do the cupboard under the stairs, the only space currently unpainted.

At the front of the house I used my week off to finally get down to the rest of the living room. The back half had been completed last summer, transformed from this:
to this, including the lovely new curtains:
I did have to paint over the previous family's hight chart, that showed the growth of their kids for the years that they lived here. It was kind of sad, so I photographed it for posterity:
There was yet more orange to cover in the front:
down to the last tiny bit:
and more red to add:
though I had to mess up the other room in the process:
Tish and I swapped over the two storage units. She now has the big one in her room and the smaller white one came downstairs. I have stashed a load of stuff in the loft so that we can actually use the room, have all the craft stuff tidied away:
and a nice space in the middle to exercise in:
with a cosy nook by the radiator for people who feel the cold:

All in all I am very pleased with the outcome. I am glad we decided to treat it as one room, even though I have fabric to make a dividing curtain. It is still a bit of a dumping ground as there is no other space for the hoover and airers, but we will work on that. Little jobs remain to be completed: I realised I had not painted the space around the window in the back room, and I have plans to put up the mass of fairy lights in the front room ... but whatever, one of us might get ill so we have to isolate and then I'll have all the time in the world.

Sunday 29 March 2020

Bookie Book Books

 'When I was Otherwise' by Stephen Benatar was a quirky little novel that I found in the charity shop. I am often attracted by the spines of books that very obviously have not been read (i.e. not creased). I found the book confusing as it jumped about in time and I was often not sure who was talking. The women, Daisy and Marsha, annoyed me and the men were just rather wet. The back cover sold it as a bit of a mystery but it wasn't. Not sure what to think really. Not someone I would bother with again.

'Weather' by Jenny Offill had something for the stream-of-consciousness thing going on; the narrator Lizzie relates her life through short paragraphs containing thoughts or events. I find I read 'The Department of Speculation' five years ago and liked it. Here I give you, aptly, thoughts in the coming chaos:

"And then somehow, it's about four drinks later, and I'm telling him about the coming chaos. 'What are you afraid of?' he asks me, and the answer, of course, is dentistry, humiliation, scarcity; then he says, 'What are your most useful skills?' 'People think I'm funny, I know how to tell a story in a brisk, winning way. I try not to go on much about my discarded ambitions or how I hate hippies and the rich.' 'But in terms  of skills,' he says, and I tell him I know a few poems by heart, I recently learned how to make a long-burning candle out of a can of tune (oil-packed, not water), I've learned how to recognise a black walnut tree and that you can live on the inner bark of a birch tree if need be, I know it is important to carry chewing gum at all times for post-collapse morale and also because it suppresses the appetite and you can supposedly fish with it, but only if it is a bright colour and has sugar" (p.160)

I had several other good quotes but this is not the time. Definitely give Jenny a try.

'Starve Acre' by Andrew Michael Hurley was recommended on Dove Grey Reader, which is always an excellent place for discovering new reads. This was a very gripping, and disconcerting, book. Set in a small rural community it is the story of Richard and Juliette, who's son Ewan has died, and the weird manifestations of their grief. I reject the notion of the supernatural but find myself enjoying books that include supernatural elements, and allow myself to just accept their part in the story. Here Richard releases a hare that has resurrected itself from a skeleton he unearthed:

"For a few minutes more, he looked to catch a last glimpse of the animal, but it had become one of the itinerant shadows that moved as the wind caught the trees. It has returned to patterns of living that were impossible to understand: where every movement and every sound meant something and nothing could be ignored; not the twitch of a leaf or the odour of the earth or the sound of birds conversing across the wood. But Richard wondered if the hare in some way felt as he did that spring was always bestowed. That it was an invitation to come and watch the world moving and be among its tremors. Here in the field, those first shocks of the season were starting now. He could feel them and hear them. Beneath the trills and whistles of the blackbirds he became aware of a rushing sound. It was the beck flowing again, released from its rictus of ice." (p.125-6)

So all the library books have been automatically extended until the end of June, but the libraries were closed before I could go and pick up two requests that had just arrived. University is shut and Monkey has no volleyball, Tish is still jobless, I get to leave the house every day and talk to other people, but my skin has dried out from all the washing. We live in strange times.  I hope everyone is staying safe, has enough to read, and always remember, don't lick strangers.

Thursday 12 March 2020

It's ok, finally, to freak out

'The Uninhabitable Earth' by David Wallace-Wells is not a read for the faint-hearted.  Here we are floating in space. So alone. Our existence 'utterly improbable':

"This is among the things cosmologists mean when they talk about the utter improbability of anything as advanced as human intelligence evolving anywhere in a universe as inhospitable to life as this one: every uninhabitable planet out there is a reminder of just how unique a set of circumstances is required to produce a climate equilibrium supportive of life. No intelligent life that we know of ever evolved, anywhere in the universe, outside the narrow Goldilocks range of temperatures that enclose all of human evolution, and that we have now left behind, probably permanently." (p.42-3)

For thirty years or more science and business have understood the nature of what is happening to our planet. Businesses did not want to tell us, as their destruction of the planet is necessary for the generation of wealth. Science was reticent, they did not want to tell us because they did not think people could be trusted:

"The terms are slippery, like any good insult, but serve to circumscribe the scope of 'reasonable' perspective on climate. Which is why scientific reticence is another reason we don't see the threat so clearly - the experts signalling strongly that it is irresponsible to communicate openly about the more worrisome possibilities for global warming, as though they didn't trust the world with the information they themselves had, or at least didn't trust the public to interpret it and respond properly. Whatever that means: it has not been thirty years since Hansen's first testimony and the establishment of the IPCC, and climate concern has traversed the small peaks and small valleys but never meaningfully jumped upwards. In terms of public response, the results are even more dismal. Within the United States, climate denial took over one of the two major parties and essentially major legislative action. Abroad, we have had a series fo high-profile conferences, treaties, and accords, but they increasingly look like so many acts of climate kabuki; emissions are still growing, unabated." (p155-6)

The supposed progress some countries have made in reducing carbon emissions has been like gathering the low-hanging fruit. The move to renewable energy sources is just the tip of the iceberg where behaviour change is concerned for the human race:

"That task, he continues, is smaller than the challenge of reducing energy demand, which is smaller than that challenge of reinventing how good and services are provided - given that global supply chains are built with dirty infrastructure and labor markets everywhere are still powered with dirty energy. There is also the need to get to zero emissions from all other sources - deforestation, agriculture, livestock, landfills. And the need to protect all human systems from the coming onslaught of natural disasters and extreme weather. And the need to erect a system of global government, or at least international cooperation, to coordinate such a project. All of which is a smaller task, Steffen says, 'than the monumental cultural undertaking of imagining together a thriving, dynamic, sustainable future that feels not only possible, but worth fighting for'." (p178)

I found this hard to get my head around because it has become where I am personally. I cannot imagine a future, cannot imagine the human race capable of making the changes needed. I have always had a positive view of human nature, that cooperation is an innate part of our makeup, but the enormity of the situation subsumes reason and hope. The book works through chapters about water, air, heat, hunger, drowning, conflict, economic collapse and the morality of the end of the world. I sank a little deeper with each page. When I searched his name I did find this article outlining reactions from scientists to his original New Yorker article (that was developed into this book) which basically accuses him of scaremongering. If you bear in mind that even the moderate, best-case scenarios are pretty disastrous I think that maybe it is time, in Greta's words, for us all to panic:

"These are the disconcerting, contradictory lessons of global warming, which counsels both human humility and human grandiosity, each drawn from the same perception of peril. The climate system that gave rise to the human species, and to everything we know of as civilization, is so fragile that it has been brought to the brink of total instability by just one generation of human activity. But that instability is also a measure of the human power that engineered it, almost by accident, and which must now stop the damage, in only as much time. If humans are responsible for the problem, they must be capable of undoing it. We have an idiomatic name for those who hold the fate of the world in their hands, as we do: gods. But for the moment, at least, most of us seem more inclined to run from the responsibility than embrace it - or even admit we see it, though it sits in front of us as plainly as a steering wheel." (p.220)

I started reading the IPCC report 18 months ago and trying to write something concise about an incredibly complex document, and gave up because it was too overwhelming. The news is pretty bad, and I think that what David Wallace-Wells does in this book is take the ideas, and some of the science, and try and put them into something understandable; how it might impact real life without all the detailed statistics that just baffle most people. You can accuse him of sensationalising, but give me that over bland reassurances any day.

p.s. a stockpile of toilet rolls is not going to help.