Lost Arts studio

A lot of the fiber arts I enjoy are things like tatting, netmaking, chair caning, and even weaving, where people will come up to me when I demonstrate and solemnly tell me, "That's a lost art."

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Location: SW Outer Nowhere, Michigan, United States

On the Internet, nobody knows you're a chicken. (With apologies to Peter Steiner.)

29 April 2007

Two-Post Sunday, Part One

Having just recommended Mary Kingsley to someone, I thought I'd repeat some of my thoughts here.

Mary Kingsley was an unmarried, 29-year-old English woman in 1892 when first her father and then her mother died. She lived for about a year with her brother Charles, but when he went travelling in China, she cast about for something to do, and decided to go to west Africa.

She is another one of the people who I think it a pity that they wrote before weblogs, because I would love to read her blog. Here are a couple excerpts from Travels in West Africa, which you can find as an e-book at Project Gutenberg:

When she told an acquaintance who had lived in there for seven years that she intended to go to West Africa, she claims he said,

"When you have made up your mind to go to West Africa the very best
thing you can do is to get it unmade again and go to Scotland
instead; but if your intelligence is not strong enough to do so,
abstain from exposing yourself to the direct rays of the sun, take 4
grains of quinine every day for a fortnight before you reach the
Rivers, and get some introductions to the Wesleyans; they are the
only people on the Coast who have got a hearse with feathers."

When you live in a swampy land like I do, you take a personal interest in talk of mosquitoes. About mosquitoes, she says,
. . . I am escorted on to the broad verandah of
Hatton and Cookson's factory, and I sit down under a lamp, prepared
to contemplate, until dinner time, the wild beauty of the scene.
This idea does not get carried out; in the twinkling of an eye I am
stung all round the neck, and recognise there are lots too many
mosquitoes and sandflies in the scenery to permit of contemplation
of any kind. Never have I seen sandflies and mosquitoes in such
appalling quantities. With a wild ping of joy the latter made for
me, and I retired promptly into a dark corner of the verandah,
swearing horribly, but internally, and fought them. Mr. Hudson,
Agent-general, and Mr. Cockshut, Agent for the Ogowe, walk up and
down the beach in front, doubtless talking cargo, apparently
unconscious of mosquitoes; but by and by, while we are having
dinner, they get their share. I behave exquisitely, and am quite
lost in admiration of my own conduct, and busily deciding in my own
mind whether I shall wear one of those plain ring haloes, or a solid
plate one, a la Cimabue, when Mr. Hudson says in a voice full of
reproach to Mr. Cockshut, "You have got mosquitoes here, Mr.
Cockshut." Poor Mr. Cockshut doesn't deny it; he has got four on
his forehead and his hands are sprinkled with them, but he says:
"There are none at Njole," which we all feel is an absurdly lame
excuse, for Njole is some ninety miles above Lembarene, where we now
are. Mr. Hudson says this to him, tersely, and feeling he has
utterly crushed Mr. Cockshut, turns on me, and utterly failing to
recognise me as a suffering saint, says point blank and savagely,
"You don't seem to feel these things, Miss Kingsley." Not feel
them, indeed! Why, I could cry over them. Well! that's all the
thanks one gets for trying not to be a nuisance in this world.

Anyone who can sit in the midst of mosquitoes like that and swear only internally certainly gets at least a "plain ring halo" from me!

And the calmness, at least in print, with which she later deals with elephant ticks, wins the solid plate halo. When I first encountered ticks, I think I stayed indoors for a whole summer.

I'll leave you with one more quote, her remarks after she fell into a game pit.
The path was slightly indistinct, but by keeping my eye on it I
could see it. Presently I came to a place where it went out, but
appeared again on the other side of a clump of underbush fairly
distinctly. I made a short cut for it and the next news was I was
in a heap, on a lot of spikes, some fifteen feet or so below ground
level, at the bottom of a bag-shaped game pit.

It is at these times you realise the blessing of a good thick skirt.
Had I paid heed to the advice of many people in England, who ought
to have known better, and did not do it themselves, and adopted
masculine garments, I should have been spiked to the bone, and done
for. Whereas, save for a good many bruises, here I was with the
fulness of my skirt tucked under me, sitting on nine ebony spikes
some twelve inches long, in comparative comfort, howling lustily to
be hauled out. The Duke came along first, and looked down at me. I
said, "Get a bush-rope, and haul me out." He grunted and sat down
on a log. The Passenger came next, and he looked down. "You kill?"
says he. "Not much," say I; "get a bush-rope and haul me out." "No
fit," says he, and sat down on the log. Presently, however, Kiva
and Wiki came up, and Wiki went and selected the one and only bush-
rope suitable to haul an English lady, of my exact complexion, age,
and size, out of that one particular pit. They seemed rare round
there from the time he took; and I was just casting about in my mind
as to what method would be best to employ in getting up the smooth,
yellow, sandy-clay, incurved walls, when he arrived with it, and I
was out in a twinkling, and very much ashamed of myself, until
Silence, who was then leading, disappeared through the path before
us with a despairing yell. Each man then pulled the skin cover off
his gun lock, carefully looked to see if things there were all right
and ready loosened his knife in its snake-skin sheath; and then we
set about hauling poor Silence out, binding him up where necessary
with cool green leaves; for he, not having a skirt, had got a good
deal frayed at the edges on those spikes.

("The Duke", Kiva, and Wiki were Fans, and Silence an Ajumba tribesman who accompanied her.)


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