Jazz, whose gloriously glossy first book Queen of Crafts was published earlier this month by Penguin, is a bona fide DIY expert, with a repertoire that includes knitting, sewing, quilting, gardening, baking and writing. At Pamflet we love make-projects, what with being on/off zinesters (see Jazz’s guide to making a zine on p.232 of her book), Phoebe’s array of patchwork cushions, bunting and Brownie guide-leading and A-M’s baking (not decorating) and new gardening habit.
Cookery books and DIY manuals have never been more popular and if there’s a general enthusiasm from our generation of young urban women for creativity, then it can be seen as a backlash against the consumerism of the 80s and 90s and a natural set of hobbies for any self-respecting indie girl to dabble in!
Jazz read to the salon from the introduction to QOC, which explains how her grandmother (who she brought along with her, very cool indeed) passed on the crafty gene and shared her memories of her parents spraypainting stencilled t-shirts for punk gigs which she and her sister still treasure now.
Moving onto the q&a part of the evening we discussed the recent backlash against the whole crafting/cupcake scene – some seem to think it’s a regression to 1950s housewife domesticity, while others such as the Domestic Sluts’ Sian has made her defence of DIY. Jazz too argued that crafting is much more of a political, feminist act and we shouldn’t allow these traditionally ‘feminine’ skills to die out.
Jazz famously revived the WI for the 21st century with the Shoreditch Sisters and although she’s no longer their president, she’s still involved in the movement now – and working on a second book. Sarah Drinkwater asked Jazz if she could recommend any fabric/haberdashery shops on or offline (Ridley Road Market in Dalston and Goldhawk Road in Shepherd’s Bush – there are more in the address book at the back of QOC too) and Kelly Morris asked her about ‘starter sewing machines‘ (other than antique Singers!).
After a half time snack of more wine and Drink, Shop and Do’s unbelievably good caramel and macadamia cheesecake (seriously), we moved onto the second part of the salon, the book discussion. This time we were talking about E.M. Delafield’s Diary of a Provincial Lady. On the surface it’s a humorous account of domestic mishap and misadventure, but is there more to it? It could either be a sympathetic account of a woman who has no interest in being a housewife but that’s the only path open to her, or more subtly, is Delafield inviting us to mock her and therefore make us realise how much women judge each other?
Feels like a mix of I Don’t Know How She Does It, Twitter (short sentences, baldly stating events and emotions, thinking aloud, abstractly connecting the mundane and the metaphysical) and Mumsnet (or in this case perhaps, Mumsnot).
By sheer coincidence, we realised that E.M. Delafield was involved with the WI too, just like Jazz!
The Lady’s concerns are the same as women, especially mothers, today: constant guilt, self-reproach, am I doing it right?. She represents the inner conflict brilliantly and what resonates particularly is that she is a romantic cynic, dreaming of a dashing husband and a more glamorous life in the city, but seemingly resigned to her country .
Irony that far from being the golden age of the housewife, the 30s-50s was actually the dark ages of domesticity thanks to the trinity of ‘the servant problem’, rise of appliances and ready-made food and lack of knowledge because a generation in war didn’t learn domestic skills.
After discussing Provincial Lady, we moved onto diaries in general; who’d written them, why, and were they honest? Sharon observed that we over share so much these days through Twitter, Facebook etc, that having a diary is a private space where we can put down thoughts that no-one will see, although whether we are completely honest with ourselves in them is another matter. And when we spill our innermost thoughts so constantly, is there anything left for a diary? I feel more self conscious facing a blank page in my diary than bashing a tweet out. A diary is like a letter to yourself, and that brought us on to post, which we all agreed we miss, and pondering whether emails will serve the same role in the future as the correspondence between people in the past (I love reading letters between interesting people like Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh, or Debo Mitford and Patrick Leigh Fermor.)
Kelly spoke of the horror of re-reading old diaries; it seems you only ever write them when things are bad, but sometimes if things are really bad you stop because you know it’ll be too painful to read about it in the future. Putting dark thoughts down on paper might be catharcic, but it also makes them more tangible and that’s scary. Also we tend not to bother writing when things are going well and you’re happy, either because it’s boring, or feels smug, or you don’t want to tempt fate. Really the key is getting into the discipline of writing every single day, so you record the good, the bad and the indifferent and it’s a more accurate representation of life.
There’s something dangerous about the diary, the fear of it being discovered by an obnoxious sibling or parent and used as a tool for torture. People who write diaries respect other people’s, those who don’t, don’t. We agreed that we’re all rather mistakenly nostalgic for our youth, and when we read our diaries again we remember that we spent a lot of those years feeling lost, lonely and uncertain. Getting older does have its merits.
Co-founder and co-editor of Pamflet. Bookworm, bluestocking, Brown Owl. Loves Garconnes style, reading, writing, ranting and raving. Gin snob.