A Pigeon That Doesn’t Home

I’ve been splitting my time recently between sewing projects and a sort of combined brain/body stimulation of research and brisk perambulations which has happened largely by accident.

On the sewing front I’ve turned an old duvet cover into a somewhat 70s-looking shirt and paired it with some mocha-coloured brushed cotton breeches, turned an old bedsheet into a zip-up shirt, made a pair of striped loose-fit leggings (which the observant will note are made from leftover fabric from that dress I made), used leftover lining fabric and bits of old curtain to make a red maxi dress and a bustle belt to hold it in with, lined and transformed a skirt that no longer fits into an overskirt, and in the process figured out how to use the buttonholing function on my sewing machine which I hadn’t previously been aware existed, and also grudgingly accepted that it’s easier to make things if you don’t skip large portions of the pattern instructions and actually iron things in between and also don’t lose important pieces and forget that you’ve lost them.

Sewing in this respect does provide a useful metaphor for how I live my life: I’m not wholly sure what I’m doing, I don’t understand the instructions, I don’t understand how the machine (my brain, I guess) works, everyone else seems to have more resources, I am making bits of it up as I go along, there is a lot of trial and error, most of it feels like wrestling with a very large and very angry cat (complete with bloodshed), but as long as I can produce something that looks like it was intentional most people don’t care how much I’m winging the process. I don’t even think the metaphor needed to be stretched that much, which is frankly disturbing.

The brain/body stimulation comes from a near-perfect balance of time and distance: I spend roughly half an hour/one cup of tea (which is a good measurement of time) underlining things in and making the odd note on the first of many books on stage magic, Edwardian history and suchlike, which I am going to have to read in order to make this next book of mine worth reading (I’ve yet to find anything pertaining specifically to King’s College Cambridge in the 1899-1903-ish period – particularly rules, practices, and syllabuses – so if anyone has any suggestions I’d welcome them). Then I walk from King’s Cross to either Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square, or Oxford Circus, depending, under the pretext of looking at/for things. It’s not a preposterously huge distance – a couple of miles at most – and the ever-changing landscape and challenge of finding the most direct or tourist-free route is entertaining. Walking also gives the brain time to digest everything it’s just read, and hopefully incorporate it into a revised/tightened plot.

The specific idea with walking to Trafalgar Square is of course that I could go into the Peyton & Byrne at the National Gallery and do another half hour of tea and research, but so far that’s failed to happen in the face of me not having enough change left for tea – which is fifty pence more expensive at the National Gallery branch than it is at the British Library branch. TUT, PEYTON & BYRNE, THIS WILL NOT STAND.

Slowly mastering the North-to-South routes for walking is very entertaining, but I think next I shall try the East-to-West. Is there a Peyton and Byrne in Paddington and if there is, how much is the tea? Important questions need resolving.


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