D.I.Y. Notepad labels

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I got these notepads from Paperchase and made the labels in much the same way I made the menu for my tea party a few weeks ago: I found some pretty graphics at Graphics Fairy and edited them to include my course names and numbers. I used the Children’s Bookplate and the Victorian Hats Advertisement, but I also like the Vintage Dog  and the Quirky Elephant. After that I simply printed them, cut them out and stuck them onto the notepads. I outlined them with black marker. You could give the cover a glossy finish by coating it with glue. Enjoy!

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Getting dressed: A wedding

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Jacket and top: New Look; Trousers: Topshop; Clutch: Miss Selfridge; Shoes: Debenhams

Yesterday a couple of lovely friends of mine got married. I wore trousers for a change because they were a good wedding colour. My necklace was a gift (from the bride, actually) but I’ve seen similar in H&M.

Fascination and Voyeuristic Attraction

This post is inspired by notes from Susan Sontag’s notebook, which were reproduced by Biblioklept and which I found fascinating in themselves. Here is a list all of my own.

My fascination with:

Memory, forgetting

Really really old statues, books, man-made things

Giraffes

Original manuscripts

My voyeuristic attraction to:

Very skinny women

Very muscular women

Gross piercings/tattoos

Blind/deaf people, guide dogs

Getting dressed: Shopping the ASOS sale

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I just got a pretty exciting package in the post:

ASOS Trousers in high waist and loose fit – light grey

ASOS Relaxed Trouser in indigo tweed denim (pictured above)

Glamorous Maxi Dress with plunge V back – black

Models Own Scented Nail Polish – apple pie

Calvin Klein Over the Knee Socks – grey

ASOS Fish Net Ankle Sock – black

Getting dressed: Picnicking

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Sunhat: House of Fraser; Dress: Jaeger on eBay; Belt: Topshop; Shoes: Debenhams; Picnic basket: eBay

Today we took advantage of the lovely summer weather and gave our new picnic basket its maiden voyage at Fritton Lake, Suffolk. Sadly the kitten didn’t come with us, but it was still pretty good.

My Bank Holiday Tea Party

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This summer I came down with a heavy case of the Urge-to-host-somethings, which was brought on suddenly three or four weeks ago due to a couple of underlying conditions, namely: my recent return from America, which had given rise to both a greater appreciation for Bank Holidays and the impulse to do something quite ‘British’; and boredom (it’s been a pretty long summer). I chose peach/orange and green for the colours as they kind of matched the living room, and we had about twenty people over. Everything made by Yours Truly unless otherwise stated. Anyway, here’s what I got up to:

Invitations

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Flowers

Arranged by my very own mother

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Other decor

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The lovely idea for this menu came from another Emily at Design and Nonsense

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You can see that pretty little bookish thing up close here

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Personalised tea-stirrers!

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Food

We had some catering help from a lovely little lady based in Oulton Broad, Suffolk

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What I wore

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Dress: Miss Selfridge in House of Fraser (sale)

Shoes: Debenhams (sale)

And since you made it this far, some adorable shots of our kitten, Giles

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Some of the photography is mine but the nice stuff is Hannah Betts’ Photography based in Lowestoft, Suffolk.

D.I.Y. Literary decor

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I first saw this kind of book display in a craft shop in Finland two years ago. It looked so simple yet effective that I tried it for myself when I got home. The design is pretty self-evident: the pages of the book are simply folded in half, I didn’t even need to glue them in place. I had to cut out a few of the first and last pages so that the book didn’t open out too widely, and I also put a little wedge of paper underneath the pages to keep it from leaning forward once it was done. The book itself is Walter Scott’s Rob Roy (I like to think he wouldn’t be offended by my alternative use of his novel) and I found it for £1 in a charity shop (obviously the book must be hard-back). You could easily add more decoration to the pages themselves or the inside covers to make this quick and easy project even wonderfuller. Enjoy!

‘Things: A Story of the Sixties’ by Georges Perec

I just finished reading Georges Perec’s 1965 novella, Things: A Story of the Sixties. I wasn’t really planning on reading it, but I caught sight of it on my boyfriend’s bookshelf sitting in between Perec’s more well-known novel, Life: A User’s Manual, and a bit of Poe. I had never read Perec before and was struck with the same cantankerous conviction that seems to always be following me around and striking me on the back of the head with hardback novels — namely: that I really ought to be familiar with this very important author by now (my irritatingly well-read boyfriend’s bookshelf being a menacing source of provocation for these beatings). Therefore, having taken note of the width of Life from where it stood next to Things, I dutifully picked up the latter.

Things is written in the conditional tense, so that everything sounds like it’s a projection into the future. The first chapter is disconnected from the narrative that follows: Perec depicts a comfortable ‘60s apartment — fashionable and modern, though not luxurious or ostentatious. It is, or ‘would be’ lived in, but we never meet its inhabitants. Perec’s protagonists are introduced in the second chapter, but their own apartment is a dingy little affair which stands in stark contrast to the first one. As we get to know Sylvie and Jerôme, it seems that the original apartment is an unattainable, ever-present fantasy for them. In the same way, its spectre lingers in the reader’s mind as we try to find its connection with the proceeding narrative.

Despite this particular instance of identification with the protagonists, for the most part we are kept at arms’ length from them. The narrator usually refers to ‘them’ as just that, and doesn’t actually name them until the second chapter. We don’t know what they look like or what sort of a childhood they had, and the most substantial characterisation we have of them is of their class. They and their friends belong to a large class of well-educated low- to middle-earners. As market researchers, their livelihoods revolve around the same things their minds do: products; things themselves. Their desires are always just beyond their means, and they are kept in a perpetual frenzy of want and frustration. They believe that happiness can only be attained when they have obtained all the right things: the precursive description of the fashionable apartment goes hand in hand with the notion that ‘their means and their desires would always match in all ways. They would call this balance happiness’. Our removed position allows us to see that this is of course an illusion: no amount of things will truly satisfy Sylvie and Jerôme, and even if it could, they seem to be incapable of putting in the work that would be necessary to actually purchase said things. In this sense the reader is positioned as a kind of psychiatrist: we are not close to the protagonists, we don’t particularly like or dislike them, but we have enough insight into their psychology to be able to detachedly observe their state of mind. They are not rounded characters to us, but rather more like case studies.

Does anything about Sylvie and Jerôme sound familiar? Things struck me because Perec is diagnosing the same kind of insatiable materialism in the ‘60s that continues to characterise society fifty years later. The irony is wonderful: Perec has me sitting alongside his narrator, coolly observing a terminal case of consumerism, only for me to then pick up my MacBook Pro to type up a few thoughts on the matter whilst listening to my iPod and relaxing in my silky M&S dressing grown. The dawn of the technological age has only served as a catalyst for this kind of materialism: as phones, laptops and tablets become more advanced we feel the need to continuously trade in our older models for more efficient ones in order to keep up.

Sylvie and Jerôme represent an advanced case of this need for things: they can find no happiness beyond the ring of cash registers and the smell of new furniture; but Perec is not necessarily denouncing a modern, consumerist society. In his introduction to the story, David Bellos writes that ‘Things aims to exhaust all that can be said about fascination, and, more particularly, to explore what words like happiness and freedom can mean in the modern world’. He goes on to say that Things ‘was read, in the 1960s, as a sociological novel, and, very often, as a denunciation of consumer capitalism. […] For Perec, however, it was not that at all’. While Bellos is right to say that the exploration of fascination is central to this story, I would suggest that even beyond fascination, desire is what Perec sees at the heart of modern existence.

Though their insatiable desire for things causes Jerôme and Sylvie much frustration and bitterness, it is also what keeps them from becoming too comfortable, keeps them in flux. It is only after they move to Tunisia and find themselves empty of desire that they become really pitiable: ‘They had lost all their plans, all their impatience. They looked forward to nothing, not even to holidays too far over the horizon, not even to returning to France. They felt neither joy, nor sadness, nor even boredom, but they did wonder sometimes if they still existed, if they really existed. […] Their life was like an unrelinquished habit, an almost unruffled tedium: a life sans everything.’ It is their desire that actually connects Sylvie and Jerôme to the world by forcing them to look outside themselves; without it, they cannot find a reflection of themselves in their surroundings and so fall into existential uncertainty. Just as Perec uses Sylvie and Jerôme to warn against the onrush of desire that a consumerist society stimulates, he also cautions against the loss of all desire, pointing to it as one of the ways in which we come to know ourselves in relation to this new world of things.