Again, I've rather belatedly discovered a fad. I saw a couple of references to Jane Brocket's blog, followed them up, and was delighted. Then, when I had the opportunity to purchase a copy of the book that largely derived from the blog, The Gentle Art of Domesticity, I did so. I've found the same pleasure in reading this book that I find in browsing through copies of decorating magazines - in particular, my decorating magazine of choice, World of Interiors.
I don't think I confuse the worlds depicted by such magazines, books and blogs with my everyday world. My world is not one where taste is certain, order is absolute (or disorder is charming), flower arrangements are profuse, inspiration lies in the everyday, everything is clean, and there is no sense of chaos or hurry. But I love the escapism of looking at images of such a life, and I think they do cultivate what Jane Brocket calls 'a habit of seeing'.
There are tastes I share with Jane Brocket, judging by her book and blog. I have always liked paintings of domestic interiors and still lifes of domestic objects. I like the way she returns to a squared geometry in presenting the objects in her photos. I love the riot of colour in her blog and book. (Initially I thought I loved the colours even though my tastes were quite different, and then I reminded myself that my spare room is painted Schiaparelli pink with turquoise window trims - a less tasteful version of the colours on the cover of The Gentle Art of Domesticity). I also enjoy what in my childhood was called 'handwork' - and across my life have knitted, woven, patchworked, made decoupage and am now knitting again. And I cook and bake.
There are also differences of taste. I've spent most of my adult life avoiding gardening, though I enjoy the products of others' labour. I hate gaudy lollies. I find fairy cakes a bit boring. And there's an Englishness about Jane Brocket's depiction of her life that raises the hackles of my colonial spirit. I recognise this last comment is totally unjustified as a critique of the book - what else could it be but English? I think what I'm actually reacting to is what I perceive as complacency about the book's englishness. (I hope I'm not about to lose my English friends!).
But, I've enjoyed the book and have allowed myself to escape into the world it creates.
You might think that everything that needs to be said about this blog and book has already been said - in which case you can skip the next paragraphs. But I've been interested to work through my own attitudes. I do wish that Jane Brocket hadn't written the rather defensive introduction in praise of domesticity. I think she creates a false dichotomy between 1970s feminism and the freedom women might feel to practice domestic crafts (a term I prefer to 'arts'). Like many people looking back on feminism, she neglects to realise that feminism was and is not a monolithic set of beliefs, but rather a diverse set of theories and practices that individual women and groups of women adopted, discarded, and re-adapted in trying to make a freer and more meaningful life for themselves.
Personally, I never had difficulty in calling myself a feminist, while cooking, weaving and making slip-covers for my chairs. But I'm immensely glad that I had the opportunity to acquire an education that enabled me to work if I chose to do so in fulfilling jobs, and earn an income. My mother spent her life cooking, sewing, cleaning, and being a carer for others. Most of the time these were not her choices, and while she was extremely competent at these tasks, I doubt they brought her much pleasure. I've been able to choose to knit, sew or bake and to sub-contract to others those domestic tasks I find uninteresting or displeasing. The pleasure I take in domestic tasks is possible because I have choices - choices that are available because of my class, the country I live in, the education I received, the time into which I was born, and the achievements of second-wave feminism.
I'll continue to read Jane Brocket's blog with pleasure, and use her book as another 'way to see'. And I'll continue to recognise my life has been possible because of the achievements of feminism and because I'm very fortunate.
I'm counting my blessings for a second time this week..