Hello, everybody, and welcome to the Apple Basket! I am sitting outside, on the terrace, in the lovely dappled shade cast by a lilac tree – the blooms are long gone, sadly, but there is still merit to the tree itself. The weather has finally decided to be summer, now that the schools have been out for a week, and I am making the most of it, getting the washing done and dried outside, and getting myself out, too.
This morning, I managed to get a run in before it got too hot – it was about 16 degrees, so nothing near Badwater temperatures, of course, but for these latitudes, the 22 degrees right now is just fine.
July seems to be my time for tidying the house; this is, of course, the month that is entirely school-free, and as I have spent most of my life inside the school system at varying levels, this habit is old and well-established. So, it is a time for contemplation and renewal, for travelling and relaxing and finding new inspiration for the coming year of work & study. The weather is accommodating – not trying to kill you like in the wintertime – you can leave doors and windows open while bustling around with stuff that has accumulated since last year’s purge.
And this summer, in particular, having teaching to look forward to in September, I find that I want to, not exactly get my affairs in order, but gain the upper hand over the house and any unfinished business, including, of course, my wips.
The Apple of the Week
Remember the story from last week? The one about the original, spherical humans who were cut up to become two-legged beings in search of true love? Well, if you didn’t read it, you can still go back and do that.
The other day, our local museum held a beer tasting with story telling, a sort of not-quite-pub evening. About 40 guests attended, as it turned out, and there were four of us from the story tellers’ club. I told this story, beginning the evening’s proceedings, and it did get some laughs even though the beer tasting had only just begun.
Anyway, I shared the story with a friend of mine who then came back and asked about the third gender, the mixed one – are the persons descended from this mix supposed to be transsexual, or what? So, I decided I had better clarify the matter.
The point that Aristophanes makes – or rather, the point that Plato uses Aristophanes to express – rests on the common view of the time, namely A: the masculine is better than the feminine (I know, they were deluded, but there it is) and B: the pure is better than the mixed.
So, the spheres who were single-gendered were better than the mash-up, and between those two, the masculine ones were better than the feminine.
From these suppositions follows the ranking of each individual’s search for love: the highest form of love is the one between two men – or rather, the love of a man for a boy – next, we have the ‘girlfriend’ type of women. And lowest in this highly speculative pecking order are all those who run around chasing someone of the opposite sex, the ‘adulterers, seducers and harlots’.
This is not to say that the men who had such a homoerotic educational relationship with a teenage boy did not have wives, or that they didn’t fall in love with women – maybe even their wife, if you can believe that.
In ancient times, as in the democratic Athens of the 5th century BCE, sexuality was not categorised by choice of object, like it is now, but by the role one played in a relationship. A grown, free man, a citizen, would have an active, dominant role, be it in relation to his wife, a slave of his household (of either gender), a prostitute (again, of either gender), or his young friend. The young friend, importantly, would stop playing the submissive role, when he grew up, served in the army, and acquired his rights as a citizen: to speak in the assemblies, to vote and be elected into office, to fight for his polis in times of war.
A grown citizen who was found to have submitted himself to another man (for love or money), lost his rights: such a person was not to be trusted.
The central observation in all this is not about love, or sex, but about power and the individual’s claim to his own body (and here, the gender-specific pronoun is not accidental).
So, there you have it: different times and different societies have varying views on sexuality and on what is and isn’t appropriate behaviour; the only constant is that there are rules, official and moral. One huge difference between the system of ancient Greece and modern Europe (and its sphere of cultural influence) is, of course, the influx of Judaeo-Christian morality and its taboos against homosexuality, nudity, &c; we now have 2000 years of conditioning to that way of seeing things, so the pagan views seem quite foreign.
Well, that isn’t really the only constant – all of the above pertains to the sexual behaviour of men. For women, the constant has nearly always and nearly everywhere been that men strove to control and curtail their sexuality, to be certain of who the father of a child was, in order to maintain the patriarchal rights and privileges.
This week, I have mainly been plodding along on a handful of wips, endeavouring to finish something in the near foreseeable future, and so, there is not much exciting news in it.
But, all of the secret stuff is finished now – the knitting, anyway, I am still writing patterns; on Tuesday, when Thomas and Victor had gone off camping with my parents, I put on an audio book and spent half the day knitting. Bliss. Everything is now washed, photographed and waiting for the recipients.
My striped socks have been sitting around feeling neglected for weeks and finally got some love: I brought them to the museum and sat knitting while listening to stories. The first sock is done, and the second started.
As for the V for Victor jumper – well, I am working on a sleeve. That’s it.
Much the same can be said about the denim-ish skirt – not the sleeve part, of course, but the steadily-moving-along part.
Gosh, this is boring. Sorry about that, I must really do something interesting about some of it before next time.
Not even the Rondeur tee has much to say for itself yet; I am using the numbers for the L size to get an S, as my yarn and needles are thinner than the called-for. I’ve done the ribbing at the neck and three rounds of the yoke. Yes, three. Pathetic, isn’t it?
It has raglan sleeves, with an eyelet-and-cable pattern running down between the front & back and the sleeves and eyelet increases along the sides of the cable. I’m looking forward to wearing it, and the summer won’t last forever, so actually, I’d better get a move on with it.
With two boys away and just me, Andreas and the cat around, the house is unusually quiet. Which suits me just fine: I can listen to audio books on the speakers while knitting, without annoying anyone and without too many interruptions.
I started out, when the boys were packed off, with The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers, one of an audible book swap with my sister. I had no idea what it was all about, but it turned out to be quite interesting; a present-day sci-fi story in which a virus, maybe engineered by terrorists, causes pregnant women to develop rapidly working spongiform encephalitis and die. End of the human race? Or can teenage girls be used as test subjects, carrying babies while in a drug-induced coma? Maybe sheep can be genetically engineered to carry human embryos – if the Animal Liberation Front doesn’t firebomb the laboratories. Scores of motherless children fight for their rights, for overall emancipation from adults. And 16-year old Jessie has to find her place in all this, while her childless aunt pines for a baby.
The human condition is also the main theme of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales which I mentioned last week; the first stories are all about love and sex, jealousy, adultery, requited and unrequited emotion. Gradually, though, the focus shifts to tales of virtuous men and women, and the final tale of the extant collection is the Parson’s Tale, nearly an hour long in the audio, cataloguing various forms of sin and penitence.
One may wonder how this series of tales had progressed, had Chaucer been able to continue writing.
I am currently listening to Bleak House by Charles Dickens; a huge book (nearly 40 hours of audio; to compare, a regular, modern novel is usually about 10 hours long, Ulysses is 29 hours, and the longest book I ever listened to is The Vampire Archives, a 60-hour collection of stories) containing a vast array of major and minor characters, all brought to life in the well-known deadpan Dickensian style.
The arch villain of the book is not a person, but an institution: the Chancery Court, also bitterly mocked by Jonathan Swift more than a hundred years earlier, in which suits could drag on for decades, ruining the lives and devouring the fortunes of all involved – except for the lawyers and court scribes, who were the only ones to gain anything from them.
I haven’t got that far into the bulk of the book, so I won’t try to explain the plot; watch out for the Wikipedia entry, though, as it lays out the facts that presumably are to be discovered gradually through the story.
As the CraftLit app and my phone still aren’t on speaking terms and I thus am missing out on Heather’s comments, I am relying on other sources for information. Luckily, the latest audible swap with my sister provided me with Dickens – A Life, a biography by Claire Tomalin. So, I listen in parallel, having the novel on my phone and the biography on the laptop.
I am reading on paper, as well – right now it’s Caesar, the Gallic Wars, to get myself re-familiarised with reading Latin. I haven’t really done that for quite a while, not having taught Latin for several years, and I am finding it surprisingly easy.
Amazing how much knowledge can be stored in your brain, just waiting to be used.
On that happy note, I will leave you for this week, to knit, read, and tidy my house.
Have a great week, keep happy, keep healthy, keep crafting!