Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What Ya Readin' - Singled Out

I have been dipping in and out of Singled Out by Virginia Nicholson for some time. The time lapse was not because I wasn't enjoying the book but because I had a very short late pregnancy concentration span!

I was holding my place in the book with my Persephone High Wages bookmark (which came out with the last biannual). I didn't realise the irony of this until I read Simon's post on High Wages. It turns out to have been a most appropriate choice!

Obviously, as the title indicates, one of the saddest aspects of the first world war highlighted in the book is the number of women who either lost their lover / fiancee / husband in the war and never found anyone else to fill the gap left in their affections, or those who never found a lover at all. Which is worse, I guess, comes down to whether you hold to "love and lose" as preferable to never having loved. The stark reality, though, was that for those women of age during the war and those that came of age at the war's end there simply were not enough men left to go around. The issue was even more pertinent for middle and upper class women as, relatively, the officer class ( with whom they were likely to find their mate) suffered much higher casualty rates than their men. Nicholson gives the reason as the officer's leading the men into battle, as well as the simple fact that many working class men were not healthy enough to join up in the first place. I remember my high school teacher commenting on the irony of this not being healthy enough to go and die!

Singled Out has the tagline "How Two Million Women Survived Without Men after the First World War". But, I don't think the word 'survived' goes far enough to explain what some of these women did. Yes, some did just survive on low wages and without the fulfillment of their dream to marry and have children, but others embraced the freedom their inability to marry gave them and went on to establish thriving careers and enjoyable home lives.

Nicholson highlights the change in perception of unmarried women from "surplus women" to valued contributors to society. On page 323

Not being married allowed....[women] .... to play to their formidable strengths. They were pioneers. Single women like this changed the world they lived in. And there were so many of them: scientists, teachers, doctors, politicians, lawyers, artists and explorers. The vivissitudes of life - ridicule, prejudice, disappointment - had not subdued this parade of indominatble ladies. A thread of determined ambition ran through them. They would fly, they would discover, they would build, educate, help, cure, protest, transform.

Singled Out tells the story of many of them - both famous and forgotten. My favourite story was that of Gertrude Maclean who set up the Universal Aunts business for " capable ladies with all the auntly virtues: good health, time to spare, maturity and a can-do attitude" (p. 299).

Singled Out makes revealing reading and I think would be enjoyed by anyone who reads literature of the 1920s and 1930s. After all, many of the women who wrote then - including Richmal Cromptom and Elizabeth Goudge - had been 'singled out'.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Easter Decorating

This is the final Easter post for this year - I promise. I do like decorating a bit for each of the holidays/seasons. I think my time at college in the US gave me the bug. I just loved the Easter flags that everyone had hanging of their letterboxes and the fact that the whole town seemed to be at church on Easter Sunday. If we ever get a US posting I am having an Easter Flag!

I think Australia has become a lot more secularised and Easter here is celebrated mostly as just a commercial holiday. Church attendance is certainly up on Easter Sunday, but not dramatically.

Anyhow, I decorated a nook in our dining area in the Easter Spirit. I was very disappointed not to be able to put up the decorated eggs we bought in Austria a few years ago, but they are delicate and this room attracts a fairly strong through breeze.

Monday, April 19, 2010

What's Cooking: Easter Egg Nest Cake

As you may have guessed from my last post, our Easter plans went a little awry with the early arrival of baby girl. My husband's biggest gripe was that we had already planned the menu and bought the foods for the Easter weekend! Anyway, none deterred we decided to have our Easter feast subsequent to getting home from the hospital.

One of the recipes we had planned to make was the Easter Cake from the Nigella Lawson Feast Cookbook. You can find the recipe online here. A chocolate overload, but oh so good!

First.... open the two bars of chocolate necessary for the cake and topping. I love the gold wrapper contrasting with the rich, dark chocolate. I always have aWilly Wonka and the Chocolate Factory moment when I see that - you know the scene when they sing "I have the golden ticket".

Then chop the chocolate. Or, if you have just had a cesaerean haul in your husband to do the heavy work of chopping.

Bake and smother with chocolate cream. Note: I would probably halve the amount next time from what is called for in the recipe as this is a very rich cake. Then pile on the candy chocolate eggs. And, enjoy. Utterly divine!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Welcome to the World Baby Girl!

I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him.
1 Samuel 1:27

Well, we can't believe we have had baby girl with us for just over two weeks. She was not the delivery from the Easter Bunny we were expecting but was the very best we could have asked for!

After just 2 weeks, it feels like we have never been without her. It also feels like I have never had a full nights sleep:) DH finishes his paternity leave in the middle of next week and I can't believe I will be wholly and solely responsible for her during the day. We are still feeling our way forward with tentative toes, learning as we go and it has been a joint effort attending to her thus far.

It truly is possible for there to be love at first sight because I have loved baby girl from the moment I saw her. And, there is that feeling of fierce protection because I want to protect her from everything that could ever hurt her, always. Baby girl, at two weeks old, I love:
  • the way your downy hair feels under my chin when I nurse you.
  • that you sometimes grip my finger with your hand while you feed.
  • the little smile of contentment you give when you wake up and find that you are being held.
  • your perfectly formed finger and toes - I can't believe your big toe is the same size as my pinky fingernail.
  • observing you watch the light bounce off the wall.
  • the little squeaks and squeals you make while you are sleeping.
  • watching you enjoy your bath, bouncing off the sides just like we saw you doing in the 12 week scan.
  • the little owl like expression you give when you are being burped.
  • watching your little cheeks and arms and legs getting chubbier.
  • the way you open just one eye to check out the world while you are dozing.