84 Charing Cross Road
Various beautiful covers for 84 Charing Cross Road
This little book is a gem! I’ve had it on my radar, vaguely knowing what it was about, for a long time. A couple of weeks ago I needed to get something to listen to quickly, as I was just about to put my son to bed and this is my quiet time to enjoy an audiobook while he gently (or not) falls asleep. I got 84 Charing Cross Road on a whim and immediately regretted it when I saw it was only two hours long, thinking I wasted a precious credit which I normally try to exchange for at least ten hours of quality literary entertainment.
Needless to say that after a few minutes I was converted and I devoured it in one sitting. Halfway through I was so invested in the story that I had to research it to know how much was real and sure enough, I got my answer, together with the reveal of the saddening ending. From there onwards I listened with the same feeling I had when I read, years ago, Anne Frank’s Diary. It’s strange to witness someone’s plans, hopes and dreams knowing full well they won’t (fully) come true. It’s not like fiction, with an omniscient author who orchestrates things and makes everything part of the story. These are real people, unaware of what is going to happen next when they put down their thoughts.
But I digress! This was a brilliant find, I loved Helene Hanff’s way of talking so very reverently about books, her ‘peculiar taste’ and her Fran Leibowitz like style and attitude. This correspondence between a passionate reader and the buyer at a bookstore across the ocean turned into so much more and it is a lesson in kindness and history and a glimpse into how long-lasting friendships were born and maintained decades ago, without technology to help (read hinder) us.
The star cast movie is a rare beautiful rendition of a great book and managed to quench my desire to listen to it a second time in the space of a week or so. I am looking forward to exploring more of Helene Hanff’s writing, particularly the sequel to 84 – The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street, her idiosyncratic guide to New York and her Letter from New York collection.
I touched above upon friendships, how they used to come about and be maintained in the past, and I think that element of 84 Charing Cross Road stuck with me also because of my recent readings about intergenerational friendships and all the scientifically proven benefits these entail for both the young and the older. These relationships can make us more empathetic, give us a broader view of the world, reduce prejudice and issues like ageism, help with our self-esteem and feeling of worthiness and so much more!
I’ve always felt somewhat old and I actually think my most content years will be my 50s onwards. I admire many women that are past middle age and thriving, living their best lives, wise and satisfied. I would love to have some of them as friends, to learn from them, to keep me grounded and motivated. Maybe this should be a mid-year resolution – find at least one friend that is past 50 or 60, and family members don’t count! I read that art groups and charities are great places to start, and what better than to find someone new to discuss art with? This would be a life-long exquisite find indeed!
The Infinite Bookstore
Talking of bookstores, here is one whose shelves seem never to end, which is, in my opinion, every bookworm’s dream and nightmare at the same time. This otherworldly Zhongshuge bookstore in Chengdu, China, is only the latest creation of X + Living studio, but have a look at more of their utopical designs here and here.
It would be amazing to get to visit one of these one day, don’t you think?
The Pneumatic Tube Mailing System
With a renewed interest in and appreciation of the times when people had to rely on the post office to keep in touch, I remembered this captivating read on Messy Nessy about the underground pneumatic tubes used 100 years ago in big European and American cities alike as a speedy way to post letters, but also other small objects, food and even cats! Even though it hasn’t been in use for decades, to me it sounds like a novel idea, but I am known to romanticize anything belonging to the past that I didn’t really get to experience.
What do you think about it?
Artist Saul Steinberg
Saul Steinberg has been patiently waiting for his spot on a Miss Onion letter for a while. I find his work brilliant. His drawings look so simple, so easy, but in fact, they are incredibly clever and full of meaning. And that is in my opinion his genius, making it look effortless while we have to do a double-take to confirm what we saw, to make sure we actually took it all in.
I love the irony of the first two images above, done almost to say of course I can draw these intricate busy things as well, but that’s not what it is all about. And then look at his simple drawings in the gif below, the minimalism and the way he is using the absence of something to allow us to imagine it and complete the picture.
It was a lovely surprise to learn that he was a Romanian-American, having lived for the first 27 years of his life in Romania. His career was international and transcended the traditional boundaries of specific art canons as he was considered among others a cartoonist and an illustrator, but he actually described himself as a ‘writer who draws’. His drawings were featured on many renowned publications, from The New Yorker to Vogue. Read more about him on the website of the Saul Steinberg Foundation.
On Pencils & Co.
Source – Pencil Talk, a website for pencil reviews and discussions
I am not sure what Saul Stainberg used to create his drawings above, but they made me think of pencils and how much this simple object can do in the right hands. Austin Kleon has a cool article with lots of trivia and fun bits about pencils. I love a pencil, especially one with a message, like these Feminist Pencils on Etsy.
I also recently learned about pencil extenders and I think these can be quite handy (and stylish too)! Needless to say they can be used for your eyeliners, brow pencils or lip liners as well, so you can use your favourite products easily even if they are on their last legs.
Once you’re down to the last centimetres of your favourite pencil, maybe you fancy a new pair of earrings inspired by this seller on Etsy or simply look for ways to upcycle your stubs, there are numerous very clever ideas out there!
And thinking of alternative uses for pencils, here is a project that took five years to complete. It is no wonder when you look at the level of detail and you realise it is all made of, you guessed it, pencils! Watch a full tour of Granny’s Empire for Art here and believe me, it is worth it! You won’t know what to look at first.
White Gold, Yellow Gold
This week I was curious to learn if and how white gold jewellery could be made to look like it’s made of yellow gold. I know this is somehow counterintuitive, since white gold is in fact yellow gold mixed with other elements to make it white, but I can assure you, if you think I am crazy, the least I can tell you is that I am not the only one!
I found this guide to plating extremely informative, this being the main way to achieve my desired outcome. I learned that it wouldn’t last too long and the piece would need retouching most likely every year. It’s not a great idea for something you wear every day that sees a lot of contact, like a ring… unless you actually don’t want a permanent change and welcome the option to go back to the white tone with little to no effort, like I do.
Source – the difference between gold plated, gold-filled, gold vermeil and solid gold
are quite accessible. I wasn’t looking for a DIY project, but I think I’ve just found one! Watching this video was both mesmerizing and therapeutic. And here is an equally satisfying one for the reverse effect, going from yellow to white.
Should I try it?
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