Members of Trollope-l Describe Where They Type From and When; Their Environment, Neighborhoods, Home

Thu, 11 Oct 2001 06:52:23 -0500

I began the thread:

I thought it might be fun, interesting, & help give us a sense of community if we told one another where we post from and when. Our environment.

I post at all sorts of hours, but try hard to keep it to before 9 in the morning after 8 in the evening. I live in a small private house (that's a NYC term which means unattached) in a neighborhood once made up of similar houses. Many of these have been "extended" and expanded, and around our 4 blocks characteristically much larger houses have been built since around the 1950s. When the 4 blocks where the houses look like mine were built, people had an ideal of much grass and space between houses. Also they had less money. The most recent houses have this ideal of filling up the lot and opulence. Tract-mansions they're called.

I post from a room 9 feet by 12 feet. I don't know quite what to call it. My daughters used to call it Mommy's workroom; but it's nowadays half shared by Jim. It's not a study distinct from the rest of the house as most of the rooms are lined with books. It is the only one where there are desks and tables for writing. I don't know how tall the room is. The ceiling is high enough.

Very pleasantly, it has two large windows: in all the rooms of my house 2 of the walls have large windows. It was built before air-conditioning became more or less universal in Virginia. To the side of me one window has an awning and, as all will recall, in spring and summer finches sometimes nest there, make babies and have ferocious fights over the territory (if a second couple comes along). I love watching them, and have reported on their doings here. Out the front of my house I see the street, grass, my wooden fence. If I stand and peer out I can see a pink tulip tree which much of the year is bare; it has green leaves just now. But for 3 glorious weeks it looks like an upside down candelabra with pink tulips sitting in branches which look like lacing embracing itself. I have told about this. Across the road down the street are some cherry blossom trees. Also lovely for said three weeks. Right now the leaves are turning colours and all still on trees. A dark red parasol forming down the block; a cantaloupe coloured one near it. Autumn is a beautiful time of year in Virginia. The air sweet and chill, the breeze fresh. Lots of autumn flowers whose names I don't know.

We have no less than 8 computers in this room, 6 monitors, a scanner, keyboards galore, and a printer. Much of this is my husband's. Every man his own Houston space center.

I have managed to stuff three tables into this room, two library ones on which sit some of these computers and a microfilm reader my husband bought me for my birthday one year -- from a local junior high. I have books in piles on the floor. Piles of folders stuffed on tables and also on the floor. Bookcases made up of folders in this room. Books on my desk: Austen, Radcliffe, Trollope (3 handbooks), lately George Eliot, the poetry of Vittoria Colonna, and nowadays Critical Theory Today, dictionaries, OED, Italian, French, Latin, Fowler's Modern English usage. My beloved Thesaurus which I've owned since 13; it was my father's before me. It has gotten me through everything I write. I keep it in my lap when writing for publication. I have had it recovered recently. It's the second book I have done this for: the first is my French Larousse. Those parts of the walls which are not covered with bookcases (which do furnish a room -- we have 43 across the house) have posters and cut-out pictures from books and postcards, and pictures I've bought from museums. Scotch-taped up. My husband says my problem is I never had a college room. I have posters of Clark Gable gambling as Rhett Butler (my favorite), 2 Pre-Raphaelites, "La Belle Dame Sans Merci", Poussin's A Dance to the Music of Time, numbers of coloured print reproductions of late 18th century picturesque/ gothic scenes (Claude, Hubert Robert), wonderful ones by Impressionists of snow. A small photo of the last house Trollope lived in. Some of Gustave Dore pictures of Dante and Virgil in a vast visionary landscape. A map of GMU -- huge, changing, I continually get lost. I have flowers on my desk. Kind husband. A wine glass. Not to be filled until after 5 pm.

A lamp.

My younger daughter sit in her environment in a room behind me, also two windows, also a couple of computers, also books, but many other things different from mine, including a huge stereo outfit. Jim's desk is catty-cornered from my two tables (sit in a row) and third against another wall.

It does look something like the other rooms in the house. There the pictures are fancier, have frames.

Where do other post from? What part of the world or your patch of the earth? What time? What does the world look like from your seat?



Date: Thu, 11 Oct 2001 06:58:26 -0500

I forgot to say, probably because I've said so recently: I post from a small suburban city just outside Washington DC, a few minutes from the Pentagon: Alexandria. It was founded in the mid-18th century and the "Old Town" has had a restricted building code since the 1950s so it still has the appearance of an older small town. It was once a slave trading market and banking town. Now it is a mix of areas filled with large apartment complexes, areas of private houses, areas of townhouses, parks and shopping malls, all circling round the "Old Town". I am minutes away from said "Old Town" too and can see from my house a tall Masonic Temple to which George Washington belonged.

George is one of our local heroes: he did the original surveying for the town. The church he attended is in its centre. Mount Vernon is a half hour drive away. The other "fallen" and faded hero is Robert E. Lee, the Confederate General who surrendered to Grant. His home is here too; the house he owned with the wealthy woman he married, Martha Custis, is on a hill overlooking Arlington National Cemetery.


Kristi Jalics was the first person to respond:

Date: Thu, 11 Oct 2001 06:47:39 -0700 (PDT)

I haven't been on the list for a long time, and never was very involved with you all. I admire the discussions on the Trollope list very much, but have not been much part of it. So I don't feel as if I should be doing this describing, but I'll try,since Ellen asked.

I live in Ohio, in Summit county, between Akron and Medina. When we first moved to this area, about 25 years ago, it was very much in the country, but has become more suburban now. Still, at the west end of our street is Medina county and there are farms there. Our neighbor had horses when we moved here and the last one, Old Levi, just died a year ago. The lots are all over an acre and a half because there are no city services, and this soil needs that much space to maintain a well and septic tank.

The window I am looking out faces north and looks out on a large yard surrounded by tall trees and hedges, with a grape arbor and rather neglected flower beds in it. There are a lot of birds and small animals in it who amuse me. To my left is an apple tree and lately I often see a ground hog standing up nearby, holding an apple in his paws and munching away happily.

Our house is a Cape Cod style and both my husband and I have workrooms upstairs. I post from both of them. At the moment I am in his room because his printer is better and he is out walking the dog in the rain! Paul's office is longer than mine, and has a blue and oatmeal stripped wallpaper and far too many pictures hung on the walls, diplomas, old family photographs, things we have dragged back from sabbaticals in Budapest and years living in Germany. On my right, past the desks with computer equipment, is a strange tall piece of furniture (an old chest of drawers with the top of my daughter's rolltop desk on it). It is crammed full of Paul's family history documents. We are far better, both of us, at acquiring such things than organizing them.

My room on the west side is half quilt studio, half 'office'. There are bookshelves, desks, and computer 'stuff', but one side has shelves with boxes of fabric, sewing machine, cutting table. There are skylights in both offices which is nice except for the fact that 20th century American fabric is not very lightfast, and I have to be careful with my fabric. My room is about 12 by 13 with an alcove. It is crowded. The floor is covered with the hooked rug which used to be in my grandmother's dining room. It used to by my younger daughter's bedroom and still has two pieces of furniture from that. One wall has a sort of fleece fabric up so I can use it to put up quilt projects I'm working on and 'audition' fabric.

Certainly more than you wanted to know.


Then Roger Batt:

Date: Thu, 11 Oct 2001 16:16:55 +0200


I am not surprised you have "A Dance to the Music of Time" on your wall. When I was in London last week I made a pilgrimage to the Poussins at the National Gallery - they have a whole room full of them (not unfortunately A Dance to The Music of Time though). I love Poussin but even more, in the room next door, Claude Lorraine. I just adore those harbour scenes with classical buildings, and those wonderful classical landscapes. At the moment I think that my most favourite picture in the whole world is his "Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba" which is hung in a small room with another one of his and two Turner's (as per Turner's bequest of the two pictures.). It is also the wallpaper on my computer!

I do not post from home, I spend all day on computers and so I attempt not to look at one when I get home, so I do my postings in the gaps (joke) in my work. The environment is thus not very interesting - typical open plan office. The only good thing is that if I turn around and look through the window behind me I can see the Mediterranean glittering away and, in the backround, Italy.

The weather here at the moment is absolutely glorious - the Autumn is the nicest season on the Cote d'Azur; unfortunately I am going to Stuttgart on Saturday until Tuesday and I don't think it will be quite the same there.

That's enough about me.



Then Doris White:

Date: Thu, 11 Oct 2001 20:28:45 EDT

Hi Ellen,

What a lovely idea, and I am enjoying the ambiances created from Virginia to Ohio to - IF ONLY - Cote d'azur. Actually, I thought of you Ellen last weekend as my daughter, grandson and I traveled to Virginia for my nephew's wedding in Fairfax. My sister has lived in Virginia for many years in many towns, but she keeps returning to Fairlington in Arlington where she lives now. The girl my nephew married comes from a prominent family: Keith Street, Keith Park, etc., and the wedding and luncheons were on Keith homesteads. Very lovely. We stayed in Arlington right across from the damaged Pentagon, and as we traveled to Fairfax, I saw signs for George Mason U. Yes, it is lovely in Virginia right now. Sunday morning before returning to NJ, we walked along the Potomac and through the FDR Memorial which is poignant and amazing.

I live directly on the Hudson River in Edgewater, New Jersey. One half mile to the North is the G.W. Bridge in all its glory and downstream is the Empire State standing alone and proud now, the top lit in red, white and blue lights. Directly across from my house is Columbia Presbyterian Hospital and the West Side Highway. I live in a small colony which used to be a summer place for poor Irish people (my husband's grandmother bought her place in the 30s for $1000 which she had to borrow). Now, because suddenly everyone wants to be on the water, the houses are very expensive. Most people buy them, tear them down and build much bigger and, I think, uglier places. My neighbor just sold hers for over a million dollars, and two houses south of me, Geraldo Rivera is building. He's renting a house across the road until his house is done (it's been two years in the building).

Our place is just a little cottage. There's only one room downstairs with sections separated by a brick divider. We have glass doors onto the deck which is on the water, and we have steep steps which lead to our dock. My husband sits before the brick divider watching TV each night. I sit behind the divider reading e-mail from various reading groups and then I read for myself or for my classes the next day. To the right of a spiral staircase is a tiny cooking place: oven and sink. The spiral staircase goes to our bedroom which overlooks the water and there's a door that leads outside. Across from the staircase is another room filled with books and three cat boxes for our cats. Another cat stays outside on the deck until it gets very cold.

That's it from Edgewater. Oh, one last detail -- behind my computer is the wine glass. None till dinner either.

Best regards. Doris White

Michael O'Neile:

Date: Fri, 12 Oct 2001 14:56:24 +1000

I have been intrigued by the various contributions to this thread, and enjoyed their reading.

My knowledge of Trollope's works is sadly deficient. Although I am gradually rectifying this, I feel unable to regularly contribute to discussions on List, so only occasionally come out of the woodwork. Given Ellen's invitation on the topic of "environment", that seems to be one topic on which I am able to write.

I live in Sydney, Australia, about 18 kms as the crow flies, due north of the City centre, on the boundary of the Garigal National Park. My residence is located near the extremity of a peninsula which extends into the Park, and forms part of its southern fringe. Our house was built 18 years ago, and is situated below the ridge of the peninsula on a steep block of land, the rock having been cut away to build the house on a shelf, with the backyard up an almost steep rock face at a level well above the roofline - meaning we have to walk/drive about 1 km to the road along the ridge-line behind us in order to access the back-yard. The back-yard is in a "natural" state and a haven for all manner of bird-life and other wildlife, including last Summer for the first time, a 4 foot Goanna - we rarely see snakes, although occasionally they will present themselves before we chase them away - the Kookaburras keep the snake population under control. This rock face, and the back wall of the house form two long sides of a shaded and sheltered strip of land about 20 feet wide in which we have constructed a rainforest microclimate for tree ferns and other moisture loving plants across the width of the house. This is in stark contrast to the natural bush higher up the rock-face.

The land slopes away at the front of the house to the road below, and then the Park beyond that. As the house blocks are a fair size, and because the house is sited on a convex curve in a dead-end short road of 7 houses, we have no visibility of our adjoining neighbours. We have a view across the main valley of the Park - about 1.5 kms wide in front of our house - to the other side where is the ridge forming the southern portion of the more well known Ku-rin-gai National Park. The view is one of almost unrelieved treescape, although trees of the motley variety, as I don't think anyone in their right mind would consider eucalypts, wattles and banksias as well-formed and attractive, especially when compared with the northern hemisphere's conifers and deciduous trees. However, our front yard contains a number of 40 to 50 feet high maples and pines, and the cones on the latter are a magnet for the Black Cockatoos. These birds are much larger than the white variety, and are perhaps our largest land-based flight bird. They usually wheel in as a small flock of a dozen or more, and squeak and squeal like excited children, as they sit on one leg, the cone clutched in the other, and munch their way through the cones, before throwing the debris on the lawn below. To our cat, who is normally sudden death on the wild-life population if he gets a chance, the cockies must seem like the devil incarnate, as the moment he sees them, he takes off. Right now the lawn is a mess of debris.

As you may imagine, with only the occasional aircraft overhead or car below on the road, it is usually very quiet around here, except for the bird sounds. Great for the concentration. My study is at the front on the second floor, and was originally intended as a bedroom - 14 feet square - we have five (designed) bedrooms, but with only the two of us here, apart from the Master Bedroom, the others have specific purposes eg. computer and fabric room, library, music room and study. One wall of the study is a series of four doors accessing the built-in wardrobe, which is in fact fully lined with bookshelves to the ceiling. Bookshelves are scattered throughout the house, storing the books acquired during the course of our respective educations, careers and various hobby involvements. Whilst I don't claim our book collection as large, it does account for some 250 lineal feet of bookshelves, a fact of which I am aware, as I've sourced the timber and built most of them over the years. I sit at a largish desk near a large window looking over the valley, with the internet-connected computer in a corner of the room, although I have to admit, that I don't often find myself admiring the view - a case of familiarity.............? On one wall of the study is one half of a new entertainment cabinet cum bookshelf which I am building, and on the other is a large quilt wall-hanging, one of many throughout the house. Megan is a very enthusiastic quilter, and has won competitions here, and also has many of her quilts featured in various books and magazines (one due out in two weeks), and indeed has 8 other quilts featured in a book recently released in the USA - some of those quilts are also hanging somewhere around here, competing for space with the more conventional artwork. Megan's quilt studio is downstairs in what was the Billiard Room, and despite the 24 foot square room, we still usually have to step around partly-made quilts being laid out on the floor of the lounge room et al, not to mention the fabric collection housed in the so-called computer room.

When I am not working on my writing or research or the internet in the study, my other work area is one of the two family rooms which adjoins the garage and workshop. The garage houses the cars and my woodworking gear. I've been gradually furnishing the house over the past 8 years with own-built items, and apart from various wood sculptures and the entertainment cabinet, I have been recently experimenting making lamp-shades with paper-thin timbers instead of fabric shrouds, and the results are very pleasing. In recent years I have also moved into making musical instruments, but once the messy work is done, I need to shift into a cleaner environment to work on the violins and cellos, especially for surface finishing. Thus the former-family room now combines instrument finishing with my Glimakra loom and large woven tapestry work, although I must admit that when we have guests, I need also to clear the dining room table as it is presently home to an almost completed rya rug on which I am working. The music room (upstairs) is also mostly for my use, being essentially sound-proof for clarinet-playing, and is home to some other instruments as well as my sheet-music.

So, that's my environment. As Megan is still only mid-way through her regular career, and I have been more or less out of the workforce since the early-90s, this environment is my mainstay. I sometimes visit the local beaches to walk - the coast is about 5 kms as the crow flies - but after a short time amongst the mobs of people, I generally enjoy being able to escape to my suburban quiet and ramble instead through the Park. I have sometimes speculated that this environment is not necessarily a good thing as it seems to induce a tendency to social-avoidance.


I wrote again:

Re: OT: Where We Sit and When: Environment

I have just been reading yesterday's postings by Roger, Kristi, Doris and Michael. I loved them. Like Michael my environment is one which upon my existence is heavily dependent; that is, I don't go outside it much. I do like to look out my windows and though I've seen the same scene for 18 years now, I don't tire of it. I am glad I live in a spot on the earth where the seasons change. That's part of my pleasure, watching the scene move from winter to spring to summar into autumn.

Another part is what I have inside around me. The computers, monitors, modems, keyboards are really my husband's. I don't begin to understand what they are all doing or how they are connected; I work on one which sits in front of my on my desk; a second one that I understand to some extent and can use sits to the left of this one (which I'm typing on just now); this second one sits on one of the two library tables I stuffed into the room; this library table is jammed between my desk and the wall. I also use the printer and can use the scanner -- I put all the Italian texts for my translations online myself by using this scanner; Jim has to reprogram it and then I will begin to put up onto my website sets of the original illustrations to Trollope's novels.

Still although it takes so many words to explain this equipment, what my eye turns to for refreshment are what's outside my window, what my books conjure up in my imagination, and yes very much the reproductions of paintings, posters and other pictures, postcards, and the like on my walls. Like Roger I love classical landscapes; actually I prefer the minor artists: my very favorite favorite of a whole bunch on one wall is Hubert Robert's _The Old Bridge_: it shows a dream vision of a crumbling ruined bridge; underneath are small figures fishing, hanging out wash; next to it is a reproduction of (to me) a hauntingly golden landscape by Julius Caesar Ibbetson (late 18th century painter, book illustrator): Conway Castle. I am a lover of Arthurian romance and have two large posters, one by Frank Dicksee and the other J.W. Waterhouse; two smaller pictures by Burne- Jones, The Beguiling of Merlin and a ghostly one, The Death of Lancelot at the Chapel of San Graal.

Digression: Yesterday was my one long regular day out this term: I teach Thursday evening, see students during the day, go to conferences. At 7:30 in the evening I sat down with about 28 young adults and a fewer older ones near my age (this term I have 4 "returning students", people in their later 40s and early 50s) to watch a magnificent DVD of Excalibur on the latest digital TV equipment. The sounds of the Wagner music and Carmina Burana (spelling) and the clarity of the picture was startlingly beautiful. (I have just lousy old equipment [TV, VHS player] in my house -- they are in the front room, sitting on a corner of a kind of consol.) Anyway at 9:30 when the movie was over I looked over and at many pairs of shining eyes.

Of Trollope in my workroom all I have is one real life photo of his last house and a funny postcard from the Society showing a remarkably large monument in the form of a grave marker with a huge life-like statue of him all dressed up in suit, top hat, umbrella by his side; on the floor by the monument are flat plaques (T. S. Eliot, James Joyce): the caption, "A Modest Proposal for a Monument at Westminster Abbey". And of course the three handbooks.

Doris lives across the Hudson River from where I lived for 11 years. I used to walk daily and nightly in a small park that runs along the Manhattan side of the river. The whole seascape is a beautiful spot over there. My house is smallish like hers: I believe we have either 1400 or 1800 square feet of space on a cement slab. It's a one floor place, no basement; we have an unfinished attic which you get up to by pulling down an ancient wooden ladder-like stairway from the ceiling; it folds down and up. Kristi and her husband have separate workrooms: my husband and I are in one small one. Sometimes we talk of rearranging the house to make the big front room into our workroom, but it would be costly (we'd have to put electric outlets into the big room) and take such an effort that we leave the big room in the somewhat conventional format that includes a couch and chairs and piano so if someone visits us there's someplace for them to sit comfortably.

I hope others join in and tell us about their environment as they talk-write to us and we listen to-read them. Also the different parts of the world from which we post and times of day.

Cheers to all,

Angela Richardson wrote as follows:

Date: Fri, 12 Oct 2001 16:54:01 +0800

It's been great reading everyone posts, finding out all the different home environments of Trollope listers. As there has not been a UK one, here's mine.

I'm writing from a terraced (or row) brick house in the west of London built in 1903 in Victorian style. It has three floors and I'm on the second floor looking out to the north. It has one big old sash window and my desk and computer are right in front of it. I can look out over the side of my garden and my neighbour's garden to the left. Three ancient oaks stand in a line beyond that garden, the relic of an avenue which stood here before the Victorians started to build. Another poor oak, the companion of these three stands in the street outside the front of the house and is hideously cut back by the council who fear they will be sued if a branch falls on someone. I've been trying to get preservation orders for these oaks, but no success yet. Because of their presence we get a lot of bird life, including jays. There are also grey squirrels which raid all the bird feeders and can feed from your hand.

My computer is a delightfully indigo imac and my room is low tech though I do all my work from here as I work from home. Just my computer and printer. I share a fax with Paul who has a separate much more high tech room for his work. Mine is a small room and quite dark, hardly ever getting the sun. That's London for you! I light it up with lamps and enjoy its cosiness. I've got a huge old and shabby armchair in it and it still has the original black lead fireplace with mantlepiece. I have fires in the winter sometimes as it can be draughty despite the central heating. I've no carpet or rugs, just the stripped pine boards. Like Ellen I stick things to my walls - poems, cuttings, notices, postcard reproductions though I do have some framed prints (mostly Edward Hopper) and photographs.

I often have one of my two ginger cats sitting on top of my computer which I am sure does it no good but they like the warmth and the high view they get of their outside territory. I can't stand this for long as inevitably a tail will hang down on the monitor!

That's all I think, except to say I mostly post in the early morning before I start my working day. I get up at 6 or sometimes even 5 if I am under pressure of deadlines. I use my email a lot for work and sometimes get sidetracked into reading posts from lists during the working day and even posting as I am now when its a quarter to five and I should be working.

That's all from me.


From Joan Wall:

I love reading the posts and wish more people would join in.

My only quibble with Angela's post is that she forgot to mention the warmth that permeates the whole house.


I wrote again in response to Jill Spriggs:

Offlist (backchannelling is the fancy word), Jill noticed where the impetus for this thread came: on Victoria Beth Sutton-Ramspeck began to talk of "Making a Home" and asked for examples from novels where characters set up housekeeping. She seemed to be looking for evidence of "empowerment" or the lack of it for women, dependent on their access to money, property and the roles others conceived for them as women.

I'll cross-post what I wrote on Victoria because like Joan I too hope others join in:

First I renamed the thread "Making a Home v Decorating One's Space" and then answered Beth's query with two contrasting examples: Dr Thorne: Dr Thorne lovingly prepares a home for himself and his illegitimate niece in the novel named after him. The sense of the verbal picture is that Thorne doesn't just decorate some space; he makes turns a space into "a home" out of love for his niece who will now be his beloved companion. Middlemarch: Rosamund Vincy and Tertius Lydate decorate their house: they have to have the best, and of course it has to be in a style and and taste which declare their "level". The decoration of their space destroys Lydgate, for it leads to his having to spend a certain level of money to keep the space up, to have company, to pay for servants. Here the word "home" is ironic. Not that not decorating helps: Mr Causabon does all he can to urge Dorothea into redecorating and she basically refuses.

But then I thought some more and agreed that that "making a space to live in comfortably and respectably" is an important event in many Victorian novel, but thought that this notion was the minimum we do when we want to make a space for ourselves we can really function as we want inside of. Respectability is not even essential to this. In order to have such a space, make a home for onself people have to understand how they want to spend their time -- what they really are. Our houses permit us to be us.

To me it's not a matter of empowerment, meaning who gets to decorate or make the house into whatever it is intended to symbolize or be, how it sits in a networking niche. Someone who has the power of the purse, a strong personality or simply is "seen" as the appropriate one to make the house (which women were in the 19th century) may well do this. But there is (to me) an old truth that making a place which is an environment which enables you to function in the way you want does not always have a lot to do with what is bought. It's how you use what's there already; where the stuff is put; what activities are and are not done in a particular room. Thus in Middlemarch neither the Lydgates nor Casaubons make a space that is authentic for them except in tiny places: Lydgate does have a space for his experiments; Rosamund has her piano; Dorothea has that blue- green room of her own; Casaubon his working-room library. But these places or spaces they get are not a function of who bought what. Dr Thorne is a sentimental book I suppose, but the idea Trollope has is Thorne takes this motherless bastard and makes her his mistress; she replaces the woman who rejected him because her family told her he was no longer acceptable; she deserted him in his moment of crisis. So now he turns to this 12 year old girl and the sense of the passage is he "sets her up" for all the world as though she was his bride.

What makes a space authentic for someone is a subtle sort of thing. My view is both Eliot or Marian Evans and Trollope knew that -- we can see that from descriptions of Evans-Eliot's personal environment in the places she shared with Lewes; we can also glimpse it in descriptions of Trollope's writing space, his bookroom. I felt something of getting closer to him when I visited the last house he lived in and with a couple of other people tried to guess what room he & Rose used for what. They did have a very tiny kitchen; it was in the back of the house; doubtless it was not heated, very cold, and old-fashioned. This tells us of the life of their servants -- and the assumptions the Trollopes had about them.

I wonder if people can think of descriptions in novels by Trollope or other Victorians where someone sets up a home or space for themselves that seemed to you particularly appealing -- or appalling.

Cheers to all,

This from Judy Warner:

Date: Fri, 12 Oct 2001 20:06:24 -0400

I just returned from Los Angeles and have been enjoying being home so much I'll try to describe where I am. I live in Harvard, Mass which is about 25 miles west of Boston, beyond Concord and Lexington. When we moved here twenty eight years ago it was country--now it's become quite suburban--from 5 houses on our mile of road to more like 25. We have a fairly big lot and raise about a dozen sheep but no longer have other animals. At one time we were "back to the landers" and did raise a lot of our own food for a few years. I have a good sized garden but am raising more flowers than vegetables these days. I enjoy my garden tremendously. We also have a small pond and a big field that the sheep keep in beautiful condition. My husband enjoys mechanical toys like tractors, farm equipment, telescopes, radios---but is not a big reader of literature, so our study has one desk covered with parts, wires, oscilloscopes, etc, and one stacked with papers. We also have many clocks in the room, only a few wound up and ticking, mostly flea market finds. My house was built as a workshop by the Shakers in 1830 so the rooms are nicely proportioned, and have plain built -in drawers and cupboards. We try to keep things uncluttered but don't always succeed. We also like comfortable furniture so are not purists about furnishings. I think I have more books than the average person but have always been a library user, so I don't have as many as others seem to describe. I love to take books from the various libraries in surrounding towns and do have piles of these around.

I enjoy drawing as well as reading and have done some pencil sketches of Trollope and Dickens-- copied from photographs--these are on my bulletin board alongside pictures of my grandchildren. I try to rotate the pictures, since I have tons of sketches and photos piled up in my tiny "studio" room adjoining this larger room--studio sounds too grand for a room with barely enough room for an ironing board, a bookshelf, and a door on table desk---

Outside our house is mostly green and quiet, more cars passing than we used to have, but still quite peaceful. Sometimes I long for the city, but I'm always glad to come home to the quiet here. There are very few open fields left in this part of New England--we have a two acre field across the street where we cut hay for the sheep and our pasture is a traffic stopper in the spring when its green and sparkly. The trees are taking over here for the most part but they do hide many of the houses.

Great idea, Ellen--I hope lots more people will contribute.

Judy Warner

From Joan Wall:

I sit this morning in the large (20x25), sunny kitchen of my home with oxalis and an orchid blooming in the window. The 100-year-old-house is located on the top of a small hill in the town of Hillsborough, North Carolina, USA. The town dates back to revolutionary days. No sign of George Washington though. One signer of the Declaration of Independence is buried in my church's graveyard. The "historical" district of the town has streets of homes from the late 1700s in very good repair.

The house is a cottage, originally white clapboard, now with white aluminum siding. It is rumored to have been brought down from the "mountain" (very small) at the end of the street in pieces and that probably explains why when one enters the front door, the entire house seems to be going down hill. It was originally owned by a mid level employee of the local fabric mill--a very big employer in the early days of North Carolina. I transformed the grass outside into garden beds--something blooms here every day of the year--and shrub borders full of flowering bushes.

One of my neighbors was brought up in my home with her five siblings so I have been told that the bed down at the end of the lot (.3 acre) is where the pig was kept and that's why the earth is still so fertile. The road in front of the house was dug and paved in 1953 according to the cement steps out front. I now have a steep bank where the cutting was done. All six of the children were here last year for a reunion so I've met them and their children and grandchildren.

There are now only 4 rooms since two of the bedrooms have become the living room and my bedroom is the old living room. When I dig in the soil I still find chunks of coal from years ago.

It's a very peaceful place even in today's world. Very few cars pass on this street, children still call in person at the homes of friends, even ring the bell to ask whether they may pick a flower or is there anything they can help me with.

The rooms inside are filled with books, two old cats, and sometimes my bridge partners. At the moment in this soft, cloudy-sunny morning, most of my windows are open, I can hear the birds outside, and I can understand why I'm so far behind in all my reading.


Then Jill Spriggs "shared" her home with us:

Date: Fri, 12 Oct 2001 22:42:35 -0400

Kristi, you live about 30 minutes from my home in Massillon, Ohio!

One thing I would like to mention about Ellen's home is the overwhelming impression of comfort, especially for a bibliophile like me. As Anthony Powell said, books do furnish a room, and in Ellen and Jim's case, they have furnished an entire house. My first guilty wish was to remove one from the shelf, and sit on the floor, commencing to read on the spot! I did get to see Poussin's "Dance to the Music of Time" (sorry, I can't italicize in this email program) last spring, when it was on exhibit at the Louvre. It was much larger and more impressive than I had imagined.

My home is definitely not the haven for books Ellen's is, but I can say that the only rooms in the house that don't have bookshelves, are the bathrooms, and even those have books scattered on the floor.

Apparently most of us have rooms devoted to unconventional purposes, and I am no different in this respect. I have appropriated the "living room" and converted it to a study of sorts. It is a long and narrow room, and one end is taken up with built in bookshelves, floor to ceiling drawers holding files and CDs, and a desk. On one side is a nice comfy sofa where I spent months of enforced leisure after an accident laid me low for a year in 1996, opposite the sofa are two nice armchairs for the friends who relieved my solitude. The other end of the living room holds my piano and electronic keyboard, which I like to play when no one else is around. On my walls is my collection of prints of Hawaiian birds I have collected over the years, a lovely silk wall hanging of a landscape brought back from Taipei by a dear friend for me, and in a corner, a lovely Italian wood carving of the Madonna a dear friend's husband gave to me after she died.

I do love my home, but my own room, needless to say, is my favorite.

Like so many of you, I am also a passionate gardener. I live within the city limits, but our house is on a pie shaped lot which I have landscaped over the 23 years we have lived here, to give a feeling of privacy when we are in our back yard. At the back of the lot is a small woods which at this time of year is at its loveliest, ablaze with crimsons, golds and oranges. My youngest daughter is home from university this weekend, and she brought her roommate for a visit. Satoko is from Japan, and has never seen the fall colors we enjoy here in Ohio. On the drive north, she was trying to take photos to send home. I assured her it would be much easier to take them when not in a moving car!

This thread had made me think of some posters from the past, John Mize, and Tony Prince, and wonder what they have been doing.

Jill Spriggs

I wrote again:

Re: Where We Sit and When: Environment & Homes

Dear Jill and all,

I still miss Tony.

It's startling imagining Angela's cats on top of her computer. It gives me a warm image of humanity and good feeling bathing the technical apparatus of her room. Jim and I used to have a dog, but she died. And I was so grieved over her death that Jim said we would not have another.

One difference between all our study/workrooms -- it is hard to know what to call it -- today and a similar spot 20 years ago would be the absence/presence of a computer. I've read papers on how those who come online to join communities of people in cyberspace view the computer emotionally. It is an umbilical chord to the world.

Judy's countryside landscape and ex-Shaker house sounds so alluring. Sheep! She has sheep! Now that's literally pastoral. We have 8000 square feet of land around this house on a cement slab. I admit it is from the point of view of practicalities a great trouble to me. Most of the year it's very hot, and a couple of months after moving in (as tenants at first -- we lived in the house as tenants for the first couple of years), I discovered Jim was not willing to go out there and mow. My neighbours glowered at me -- we were not helping property values -- so I went and bought a hand-non-electric lawn mower. I couldn't face the electric ones, and the getting gas in a kind of rubber bottle and pouring it in was just beyond me. But the property was such a mess -- 7 trees, huge hedges out of which more trees were growing.

We had an incident which might recall a Trollope novel. I was very pregnant with Isabel and went out there and mowed. When Jim came home that night, a neighbour actually visited us to berate him for not mowing himself. I could see this was not good for our marriage so I began to hire groups of young men to mow the place once a week for $25 a time. They come with huge mowing machines on flat trucks and do in 10-20 minutes what it takes me hours to do.

My "solution" for the outside of my house has been to throw money at it. After buying the place, I threw some $7000 and had it brought to a point where most of it is grass so all that needs to be done is mow. What is not simply grass is now a trouble every few years or so. We have in front of a large screened porch little ornamental bushes the man I hired to fix the landscape told me would not grow and did not need watering -- hah! Right now they are large hills of green and next year I shall have to break down and hire someone to cut them and put mulch all around them. I can't get rid of them because then the screened porch would show and my neighbours would not like it. Nowadays I just keep tools & ladders in there and wooden dryers with small amounts of wash. I used to have a line on one side of my house before I got a dryer. Neighbours didn't like that, but I loved hanging the wash out to dry.

This yard is a trouble for it is the one spot in my life where I have been bothered by neighbours: it shows. And Jim doesn't care in the least about what the neighbours think so I get stuck with it. I did used to get a kick out of using the front screened porch as a dining room. Before we had air-conditioning I had a set of porch furniture out there and we would eat supper. High summer we would also do breakfast and lunch there. And we would sit and read too. We did this for about 7 years. Once my older daughter had a group of teenage friends here regularly to play cards out there. I know this caused great distress in some of my neighbours. It was very "low". One guy who is two houses off when he would pass by us eating at night would grin and ostentatiously turn his head away. Sometimes I had a mischievous desire to buy myself some wooden cartons and put them on the street and start to play cards. I told Jim I would buy him a t-shirt and he could offer to play cards with people. I would see if I could find a chain for him to wear around his neck.

I never did go that far. Just an amusing dream. And when we got air-conditioning I turned the porch back to a shed. Most of my neighbours have "renovated" these old screen porches into closed rooms (if they face the front of the block the way ours does) or very fancy glassed-in heated-, air-conditioned family rooms (if they face the back).

I have visited Jill as she has visited me. I want to say what a beautiful garden she has. The two days or so I stayed with her I loved to sit at the back of her house where she has a sort of area with porch furniture under an awning. From there you can watch a bird bath she has. All sorts of birds come there to bathe and to eat.

Do others want to join in? Surely we have people in apartments? I lived in an apartment until 18 years ago. In fact this is the first house I ever lived in except a sort of summer place my father and uncle built (on Long Island).

Cheers to all,

Kristi Jalics then replied to mine:

Date: Sat, 13 Oct 2001 08:11:55 -0700 (PDT)

Mercy, Ellen, your neighbor's behavior is so unwarranted that you are absolved of having to consider it. I suppose I am on Jim's side here.

I was a garden writer on a small local journal for 18 years, but since I live beside Lake Chautauqua in western NY during the summer months, and quickly realized I would NOT be driving six hours every two weeks to spend a day weeding in Ohio, my gardens have never been manicured! Not in either place. And I cherish any signs that people actually spend time on porches. At the cottage (which was built in 1879) we eat on our screened in front porch, AND play cards there, and read there... Perhaps the neighbor who turned his head aside did not want to intrude on your privacy....But we have shrubs along the most of the border between the yard and the road....Americans are nearly the only nation which has so confused public and private land concepts that many people consider it nearly immoral to plant to insure their outdoor privacy. (This planting can also be a boon to birds and small animals in the area. This is one of my soapbox rants which I will now cease.)

Once, when we arrived late at the cottage and the lawn was very tall because Paul likes to do it himself, a neighbor shocked me by coming up as I was weeding and saying, "Frankly Kristi, your yard embarrasses me." I astonished myself by rising to my feet and saying calmly, "Frankly Betsey, your manners embarrass me," and walking inside the house. This is NOT characteristic of me, but just seemed to happen before I was aware of it!

Houses or homes in literature - I find that the ones which immediately spring into my mind are from Dickens, and may be more about the quality of life as relates to housekeeping than about furnishings. For instance, I think of the pitiful housekeeping struggles and failures of David and Dora Copperfield, the lack of comfort in Mrs. Jellyby's home, and Wemmick's amazing castle. Well, I suppose Mrs. Havisham's dining room is a chamber of horros which must be mentioned as well. But I feel this Dickensian bent is because I haven't read enough of other Victorian era authors often enough.


p.s. My own workroom has a west facing window next to me as I sit at the computer. Outside this window is a vernal witch hazel which I love as its buds flower in February, earlier than anything else in this part of the world. They are not impressive to look at, but are strongly scented. The only picture, also on the west wall, is one with four matted photographs of my birth mother, her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother one spring morning about 1928 or 29. My grandmother is sitting on a rocking chair in the garden reading a book (what WILL the neighbors think?) Caroline and Florence are working in the garden, Gretchen, my mother, whose gravestone in New Mexico is engraved with a book, is toddling about.

Then Clarissa Ackroyd who is also on Arthurnet:

Date: Sat, 13 Oct 2001 15:50:43 +0000

I have been enjoying everyone's posts on their homes. I am always madly curious about how people live. All the houses sound wonderful! So much art, quilting, books, and gardens!

Here is a bit about my home:

I live in a one bedroom NYC apartment overlooking a narrow alley. From the kitchen window if I peer as far up and to the left as possible I can see a patch of sky. On days when I forget to do this I just assume rain from the general grayness of the view, and am often pleasantly surprised. We don't actually need to see out the windows to chart the seasons. These can be read in the migrating cat patterns. Summer: Kipper on windowsills and floors, Winter: Kipper on top of the seven foot high dresser or curled up on couch or laps. Summer: Wylli on floor in front of door for cool draft, Winter: Wylli in Amazon cardboard box in hallway.

The lack of view makes my home sound dreadful, but in fact it just means curtains in all the windows and a combination of electric lighting and daylight. We have a large bedroom, a large living room/TV room/Study, and a bright eat-in kitchen. It is a prewar apartment so there are nice moldings on the walls and high ceilings.

Our apartment is set back from those on each side of it so one enters the door and then there is a three foot wide 23 foot hallway before reaching the actual apartment. This is being gradually filled with bookshelves along one wall, and museum prints framed on the other. In addition there are more bookcases and prints in the bedroom and living room.

The living room has an oriental rug, couch and loveseat (much scratched by cats). A coffee table, computer desk, printer stand, bookcase, three level carpet covered cat tower, and TV stand.

We have three closets! Closets in NYC! There is an old-fashioned built in cabinet in the kitchen, and under the kitchen window is the door to a steel box which extends outside, I think it was for the cold weather storage of potatoes and onions and things like that.

We have decorated in a style I call Museum-Gift-Shop-With-Books. Framed postcards of camels in art, Islamic tiles, early Celtic art, reproduction Egyptian, medieval, Assyrian statuettes, etc. In our living room on the wall over the computer desk is a reproduction of a map of Europe in the year 1000 AD. On top of the monitor is a print of the ruins of Ramsey Abbey in Huntingdon England. I gave this to my husband because he studied the area when he was getting his masters in Medieval history.

We also have a life size plastic garden statue of a rooster. This is the result of a hideous gift competition my husband and his brothers have going.

I suppose that one day we will break down and move to an area where we can afford a house large enough for all my books. We have only managed to fit about 100 feet of shelves into our apartment so my parents are the custodians of probably 2/3rds of my books, and my quilting materials.


Judy Geater wrote in:

Date: Sat, 13 Oct 2001 21:20:08 +0100

Hello all

It's been lovely hearing about people's homes - and it really brings home (no pun intended!) just how widely spread out we are around the world. As some of you know, I'm one of the British members of the list, living in Ipswich in Suffolk - it's a very historic town, and last year we had celebrations of the 800th anniversary of its charter (granted by King John as a money-making ploy). The main literary landmark here is The Great White Horse hotel, where Dickens stayed briefly, and which he immortalised in Pickwick Papers. We also have a few other interesting historic buildings but a lot of the centre has been modernised.

My family lives in a semi-detached house a few minutes drive/about half an hour's walk from the town centre. It's half of a big 1920s house so it's a bit of an eccentric dwelling - not exactly your standard semi. We have a smallish garden which my husband, Paul, is tackling with enthusiasm - he has just about managed to get rid of a couple of overgrown Leylandii trees and a whole load of gravel laid by the previous owners, and put down a lawn which is starting to look pretty good.

I post from our family computer (my daughter does have an older model in her room) which is in our dining room-cum-study, tucked behind the door. Looking round the room, I can see our bookshelves, which are bursting at the seams with double layers of books - this is why I can never find anything, although I'm another library fan so I don't own all the books I read. It's a pity you can't all pop round for a cup of tea...

Bye for now
Judy Geater

From dear sweet Patricia Stewart:

Date: Sat, 13 Oct 2001 17:25:35 -0700 (PDT)

Dear Readers,

My residence is in Upstate New York, in a small village called Avon. We have no traffic lights in the village, but a traffic circle which is the way in and out. I am an apartment dweller and fortunate my unit stands alone and has four bedrooms.

I have a room to myself with one computer. It sits on a large stand with many divisions. Packs of paper sit below the printer. On another shelf are six dictionaries. Above the computer is a bulletin board with newly purchased maps of The World, The United States, and the Middle East. I clipped pictures and articles which are important to me and also tacked them on the board.

On the next wall to the left of the computer are four book cases full of books. I have learned to remove the backs of the book cases as I can double stack the books. Books are piled on the floor also. Removable drawer units sit on top of the book cases filled with art supplies.

On the opposite side of the room is a make shift table I use for painting. I am sure everyone has seen the tables made from an old door with a piece of glass cut to fit over the door. I collage, paint and out of necessity sew in this area. Jars of brushes sit on the wide window sill. My paint rag is always in a heap on this table.

On each sides of the window are bulletin boards. One holds my collection of antique postcards. The other has randomly placed a finished painting and photos for another project.

The view leaves a lot to be desired, the dumpster and the parking lot. I am happy to say the back of the apartment faces an empty field which is full of Autumn color at this moment. The deer roam here early morning and at dusk.

I have so enjoyed reading and being invited to each persons home and room. Thanks for having me.

As Always, Patricia

Here's Jill Spriggs again:

Date: Sat, 13 Oct 2001 22:10:00 -0400

I think one reason why this thread has spoken so meaningfully to us all, was expressed so well by Virginia Woolf when she addressed each person's need for a room of one's own. A retreat from the slings and arrows of our outrageous world. And when someone invades our privacy with unwarranted intrusion, the instinct is to snap back and retreat into our shells. There is a strong need in each of us to conduct our homes, our environments, as we wish, whether this means erecting a clothesline, or doing our yard work ourselves, even if it does mean the growth becomes a bit shaggy. When I visited my youngest daughter in France earlier this year, I admired how her families had planted their yards with white clover, so soft to the feet, and needing mowing so much less frequently. Clover is so much better for the soil, plus there is no need for those nasty pesticides. I have taken the radical step of eliminating the grass in my back lawn (I wouldn't dare to in my front lawn!) with the plan of planting that white clover, at least as soon as the rain lets up and I can sow it without sinking knee deep in mud!

A quiet wooded nook in which to read on a wooded bench while glancing up now and again at the blue jays fighting over the peanuts in the platform feeder, an office where by merely wheeling one's chair about, the Mediterranean lies glittering beyond, a home with a granite bluff providing mighty tortoise chi, while in front is the splendid seclusion of the Australian countryside. We all are so fortunate!

Jill Spriggs

Then me again:

Re: Where We Sit & When: Environment and Homes

We do seem to be a lucky bunch.

On neighbours and gardens, I'm sure I could match Kristi story for story. I lived in apartments until 18 years ago and would probably still live in one but that here in Virginia the laws governing tenancies are so awful that people are driven to buy. Rentracking the rule and tenants seem to have no right beyond that to a key to let themselves in for the next month. Clarissa's description of her apartment reminded me of the one Jim and I lived in for 11 years at the top of Manhattan (200 Street right under the hill on which a medieval museum called the Cloisters sits). We too didn't see anything outside our windows but walls and had a long hall to get into the apartment; we also had closets. It was an older apartment house, built before World War One. I have thought that paradoxically I had more privacy in NYC than I have had in this private house. In that apartment as all others all the neighbours can see is your door, usually a dark brown. People can't watch and see which is your car unless they know you; they don't see you going in and out. You can have an anonymous existence, be secluded in buildings which are just filled with people.

Judy G's comment about books reminds me of when I began to have this large library. It really began in Virginia; Jim and I had a goodly number of books in NYC, but nothing to what we have today. Partly it came about for the same reason as I learned to love to read travel books in the 1980s: I felt cut off from my roots, from a world I belonged in and fit; I was not teaching and had no good library to use. I began to create a working and pleasure library of my own to keep me company. Inside my house really resembles my and Jim's apartment on the top of Manhattan.

Patricia and Judy W are both artists. Upstate New York is beautiful.

As Jill says this has been a wonderful thread. I loved her paragraph summing it up:

"A quiet wooded nook in which to read on a wooded bench while glancing up now and again at the blue jays fighting over the peanuts in the platform feeder, an office where by merely wheeling one's chair about, the Mediterranean lies glittering beyond, a home with a granite bluff providing mighty tortoise chi, while in front is the splendid seclusion of the Australian countryside. We all are so fortunate!"

I did notice a gender faultline though: except for Michael O'Neile, all those telling of the environment from which they write have been women. Do men not care as much? Are they embarrassed to say? Traditionally it's little girls who build and decorate their dollhouses; Beth Sutton-Ramspeck's original question really was about women being empowered when they make a home. Still in the novels cited on Victoria as many men as women were central in making the home. I know my father was the one who made the home-apartment (I lived in a 3 room apartment with my parents when growing up) not my mother. Down my block there's a navy captain who has made himself a lovely home: Frederick Wentworth could never have done as well :). I don't know if this is typical of all lists: on Netdynamics I have seen this sort of thread and more men than women joined in.

Cheers to all,

Sig had actually posted his a couple of days earlier but it went astray and only reached us at on October 14:

From:"Sigmund Eisner"
Date:Fri, 12 Oct 2001 11:52:54 -0700
Subject:[trollope-l] Visits to our houses

I feel as if I have been a guest in the various houses of the Trollope net. And as such, I am most grateful. Now, if you would step inside, I'd like to invite you to where I live.

Home is the Arizona desert, just outside of the city of Tucson. Our house is a fairly new one. We moved in just after it was built in 1995. On one side we have a cliff with the closest neighbor on top of the cliff. On the other side we have a wide wash (a dry river) with the closest neighbor on the other side. No one lives either across the road or down the wash. Our view is of high mountains to the north and the city to the south. The house is painted a deep brown and is known to the neighborhood as the chocolate house. It has a bedroom, two guest rooms, a study, a large dining room - kitchen, and two bathrooms. Most of the rooms are lined with bookshelves. My wife Nan, whom some of you have met, is a retired librarian, and all of the books are in their Library of Congress order.

The study, where two computers live, has a north window looking on the driveway and the mountains to the north. It has two desks, one an ancient rolltop and the other a long computer desk for the printer, the fax, both computers, and any junk I can throw on it. The walls are lined with books but are also decorated with family pictures, medireview pictures, and brass medireview astronomical instruments such as astrolabes, quadrants, etc. The bookshelves contain 19th and early 20th century novels. One exception is a few shelves with reference books and large looseleaf binders, all pertaining to whatever project I am currently at work on. These include five or six dictionaries, Oxford Companions to US and UK literature, a convenient guide to Trollope, and a few books for which I admit responsibility.

The yard (we don't call it a garden here) has various cacti, a swimming pool for laps and for grandchildren, and a paved driveway. It looks like every yard in the neighborhood, except we own half the wash below us as protection agains builders.

Glad to have had all of you as guests.


From Jill Spriggs To:

On a French family her daughter was living with:

Dearest Ellen;

I started this with the intention of sending it to the group at large, but then decided it would not be of interest. I did think, however, you would like it.

When Dave and I were in France visiting Julia earlier this year, I was struck by how casual the families we have come to know, are about their gardens (yards). Philippe and Robert (these two families my daughter stayed with, live across the street from each other) would pull out the old fashioned push mowers (no noise or pollution! but their yards were tiny...) when the growth reached about 4 to 6 inches. The job for the children was raking up the cuttings and putting them on the compost pile. Most of Philippe's back yard was taken up with a sort of play yard (he and Nathalie have five young children) with shredded rubbery stuff mulch upon which was play equipment set into cement. The play yard is edged with bricks set flush with the ground; the rest of the yard is planted with wild flowers. If they are mown, then you can't see the flowers! Robert and Evelyne's children are older (11, 16, and 18) and much of their back yard is taken up with a small swimming pool, and another, smaller, play yard like the Jarniats'. As I am sure you know, few people in France have air conditioning, and for some reason, insects don't seem to be the plague they are here. Both families have floor to ceiling french doors in their dining rooms, and meals are frequently al fresco (in summer they pretty much always are). The french doors in the dining room will often be open, as is the front door, to catch the air. Interestingly, at the end of both their driveways is a gate which must be opened to allow access.

These homes were not planted with grass, as you will see in the public parks in France, or as is usual in the U.S. Their yards are planted with a slow growing variety of clover. I have taken the radical step of spraying my entire back yard (not the flower beds, Ellen, only the yard!) with Round Up in preparation for planting it with white clover. No pesticides and fertilizers needed, and so soft to the feet! Unfortunately, the last few weeks have been very rainy here, so my back yard is now an untidy bog, but I cherish great hopes for the future!

Speaking of lovely views, just beyond the small neighborhood where these families live are the famous vineyards planted with the Beaujolais grape, and at a distance on clear days, one can see the Alps.

One benefit of living in what really is a working class community, is that many people have, and use, old fashioned front porches, often complete with swings. Last summer I was walking home from a concert (nope, not classical music, not in this community! It was the town band playing Sousa marches!) and as I walked through the intervening neighborhoods, almost every house had a front porch, inhabited by couples that might be drinking a beer while watching the children catch lightning bugs in jars, or perhaps playing a spirited game of euchre. I do regret, Ellen, that my neighborhood also frowns on clothes lines, but I hope that soon I will have landscaped enough privacy into my back yard, that I can set receptacles for the poles into the ground, in cement, so I can surreptitiously insert said poles into said receptacles, and furtively hang out my laundry so I can again enjoy that matchless smell of air-dried sheets!

Julia is importuning me for use of the computer, so I will aw


From me:

What's really interesting is how many of us post from an "unconventional" workroomd. In fact we can't even call it a study. It's some room we have turned into a space for us to be in as we please. And there is the computer in the center of it.

I have a headache so must to sleep, very tired, tomorrow I begin a huge set of student papers,

Again from Ellen:

The irony to me is that I am in inward ways very bourgeois. A bourgeois gentlewoman. And Jim is the same as a man. That's why we have to travel spending money. What could be more learned-bourgeois than the Landmark trust houses we stay at.

Off I go,

To Jill

Dearest Jill

It's interesting how the yard has, in the US, become a center for class competition, at least among the middle class. I expect it has everything to do with the fact that it "shows".

Yes I did notice French people don't have air conditioning. It is hard to live with when you are used to cool air, but it does make them so much more social.

English people are simply giving up their gardens in order to put their cars on little cement car parks in front of their houses. Again, they have such smaller yards than US people. Jim still claims he would have mowed had the weather been as English weather -- and yes had the yard been smaller.

I was reading an article in the New York Review of Books. Lilian Gish came from Masillon, Ohio. She was originally working class, the daughter of an alcoholic father.

I do love a beautiful landscape but am in a way the really ultimate bourgeois of the type Wordsworth was. I need to hire a gardener :). Maybe Isabel will do it someday. She does love the backyard and still wanders and dreams it in by the (half-)hour.


From Elizabeth Guster

Date: Sun, 14 Oct 2001 16:10:35

I've loved reading this thread, and discovering that as well as readers, there are artists and quilters in the group. I live now in Adelaide, South Australia; we came back here after thirty years in Canberra. There we lived in a 1970s house which was built for us. It had a lot of large windows - in fact hardly any walls - and was set in a small cul-de-sac of only four houses on the side of a hill. Our house was one of the two back ones, and backed right onto the hill, which has been left as natural bush. Sometimes kangaroos would come down over the hill, and even up the street. It was a lovely place to live, and very private; we could hardly see the neighbouring houses from our garden. There were snakes though, brown ones, which are among the most dangerous of all; but the only member of our family that got bitten was our cat - she is still alive, alhtough she limps a little from the bite.

Adelaide is situated on a plain at the foot of the Mount Lofty Ranges, and is known for its Mediterranean climate; there are olives and grapes grown extensively in the surrounding areas, with two big wine-producing areas, the Southern Vales and the Barossa Valley, not far from the city.

Here we live in a much more suburban area than we were in formerly. Our 1950s-built red brick house is in a long leafy street in the Eastern suburbs with some big and some small houses, and a few discreet blocks of single-storey units. Our house suits us very well, as we are now retired and don't need the four bedrooms we had in Canberra. There are three bedrooms, the smallest of which is the computer room, and this is also where I keep my quilting and embroidery things. We have a smallish formal sitting room (but with room for the piano) and separate formal dining room; but the best thing about the house is at the back; a newish kitchen - with more cupboards than I would ever have thought I would need (but I do) - opening to a large informal dining area and family room which house the TV and CD player and a lot of books (there are other books still in the outside studio which haven't yet been unpacked, and in the bookcases in two of the bedrooms). While the family room has carpet, we had pinky-cream Italian ceramic tiles laid on the floor of the kitchen and dining area, and have just had very thin wooden venetian blinds in a similar pinky-cream limed finish installed on all three windows. Looks good!

Where I sit at the computer I unfortunately face a wall; however that will be fixed soon; the computer will be placed on the wall at the window when I get another desk. Our garden is very nice, lawns, a lot of roses, which are a feature of Adelaide gardens, camellias, hibiscus ... and for visitors, three kookaburras which fly down twice a day hoping to be fed, they seem to be quite tame, so I imagine other people feed them. There are two tennis courts bordering our garden, and another one is just one house away. So the summer will be a bit noisy, but I'm not going to mind that. The area is lovely, I can walk to the shops if I want to, and if I don't want to drive my car into town, I can catch a bus which arrives just down the street every fifteen minutes. Several days a week I walk in the local park, which is absolutely beautiful, very big with tennis courts, three large ovals, and many many trees, both native Australians and 'exotics'. When I walked there this morning, swallows were skimming around me.

Ellen, I was quite shocked to read about your neighbours; another nice thing about living here is that we have very friendly neighbours - a change from Canberra where I rarely saw the people who lived near us.



From Michael O'Neile:

Date: Sun, 14 Oct 2001 18:36:23 +1000

As with Ellen, I also appreciated Jill Singer's summation. Nicely expressed.

Ellen also said:

"I did notice a gender faultline though: except for Michael O'Neile, all those telling of the environment from which they write have been women. Do men not care as much? Are they embarrassed to say?........."

I hold no brief for the other men on the list, but from my own standpoint, I can confidently assert that I would not have participated in this sort of discussion before (say) 5 years ago, and such non-participation would have had nothing to do with lack of caring or embarrassment. Instead, I would point to my immersion in an environment where self-disclosure was unwise, if not dangerous, in the public arena, and regrettably, often in the private arena as well.

No doubt one could point to my childhood as a limiting influence, but I believe the greater influence in this regard, was a long working career in the dog-eat-dog competitive environment of large corporates, where self-disclosure was often accompanied by unwarranted and unwanted "political" consequences. I was fortunate to be able to "retire" from all that rubbish in my early-50s, and with the passage of time since then, the modifying influences of my wife and my elder daughter, have encouraged me to a greater degree of disclosure than before. I will simply add that the women-folk now consider I am a different and better person in consequence, although they sometimes complain about "getting blood from a stone". I couldn't possibly comment.

Having said which, and in defence of the blokes, I recall another (Roger?) on the Riviera, did offer some comments on this topic, as he had me salivating with memories of the coast around Monaco and the backdrop of the Maritime Alps.


Date: Sun, 14 Oct 2001 19:12:44 +1000

I thought I should clarify an ill-expressed comment peripheral to my earlier post.

I did not mean to suggest that women don't also experience the unsavoury nature of "politics" in their working environment, be it corporate, academic, or whatever.

However, it is my observation - and perhaps I need to be corrected - that women have different coping mechanisms for dealing with such work-place "politics". Shutting down on self-disclosure does not seem to be one of those mechanisms.

I hope I haven't dug a deeper ditch.


From Rory O'Farrell:

In my case, the reason for non contribution to this thread prior to this is simply lack of time and ordering of priorities for what time was available.

I live with my elderly parents (83/81, but still hale and active) and a younger brother who suffers from chronic paranoid schizophrenia, in a bungalow on a three acre site a few miles outside our local village of about 2000 people. This village is rapidly turning into a dormitory suburb for Dublin.

My personal computers are situated in my bedroom, although networked to the rest of the house computers. The network printers are also in my room. This leaves very little space for me - bed and enough room to stand on! One wall is filled with books, stacked two deep on the shelf - indeed, the whole house is filled with books; a quick calculation gives about 350 ft of bookshelf, often stacked two deep, ranging from a very complete library of Irish antiquarian source books and journals through technical manuals on materials and methods of sculpture, cookery books, Trollope, and fiction. The wall behind my desk is also covered in shelving, which contain music CDs, master computer CD's, and my collection (ever expanding - 200+) of video tapes - mostly funny or romantic comedies. Life is grim enough without needing to be harrowed for entertainment! My room is northfacing, looking onto a grass slope rising about 10 ft in 25 feet, so all I see is green, with a little sky at the top. The view doesn't matter to me - I could live in a box, provided I had books.

What time constraints did I speak of? I normally prepare the evening meal, which involves a trip to the local town every day for shopping. I am chairman of Trustees of the Cambrian Archeological Association (the Welsh national archeological body, founded 1847) which involves me in several long phone calls per week to liaise with other trustees, and a considerable amount of paperwork. I also act as computer operator for my parents, typing routine letters and faxes, and often working on designs for applied work with my father, who is an artist. On Saturday I had arranged to bring a visitor to a local historic house - while there I managed to rescue the computer files from a computer crash, the cure for which had been diagnosed to be a complete format and reinstall; fortunately it didn't come to that, but it was a damn close run thing! These files were a work in progress and comprised currently about 50% of the complete diary of an 19th century lady, which have not yet been published in full. After returning the visitor to his accommodation in Dublin I got back home at 23:00 - time for bed, rather than emailing!

Rory O'Farrell Email:
Tinode, Blessington, Co Wicklow, Ireland

From dear Roger Batt:

Date: Sun, 14 Oct 2001 15:35:45 +0200

Although I do not post from home and therefore told you about my office, I feel that I ought to stick up for the men and I will try and describe my home; incidentally at the moment I am posting from a room inside a large stadium in Stuttgart, but I can see some blue sky through a glass roof!

Before I do, one of the things that seems to be a common link with a lot of the people who have replied , apart from being manic quilters, is that a lot of you have cats. We don't have cats, apart from strays, as my son is asthmatic and allergic to them, but we do have a dog - called Henry. I thought of him because of Ellen's post about the death of her dog. Unfortunately my Henry is not going to last much longer either - his back legs have gone more or less - he keeps falling over, and he is getting very deaf and blind. On the other hand he doesn't seem to suffer, is still eating OK and looks happy enough lying in the sun - he is 15. I know my wife is going to be desolated when he goes as he has been at home with her (she doesn't work) for all this time. She is however definite that she doesn't want another dog.

We live in a small villa in the hills behind Menton, which is the coastal town on the border between France and Italy, it is at about 100m altitude which means that we can still grow Mediterranean plants but that it is just a bit cooler in the summer. It is on the side of a south facing hill and, rather oddly, is upside down - in that the entrance is on the top floor, with the living room, kitchen and our bedroom, and then downstairs are three more bedrooms and a laundry. There is no connection between the two parts of the house so you have to go outside to go from one floor to the other. My two children have "lived" downstairs for about the last ten years so that has been a perfect arrangement but now they have both left to University in England it is a bit odd having a whole floor we never go to, we are thinking of moving things around.

There are two really super things which we love about where we are; one is the view - which is of the mountains surrounding us on three sides and the sea in the distance on the fourth - and the other is the fact that it is very private. Although we have neighbours quite close no-one can see into our garden, which means that we tend to wear very few clothes in the summer! Anne, my wife, does a lot of work in the garden which has to be watered every day if it is not to frazzle up, we grow all the standard Mediterranean flowers - one side of the house is a glorious bougainvillea which we planted ten years ago. I am also proud of a lemon tree which is supposed to give enough lemons for our Gin and Tonics, but never does. Menton is famous for its lemon trees.

Our books (not as many as most of you) are on the walls of the guest bedroom downstairs, my classical LPs (which I never listen too) form the back wall of my son's bedroom and my classical CDs are upstairs in the living room in a large bookcase. I am a musical snob so I don't know where the pop cd's are (joke).

Because of its exposition and the fact that the living romm has windows on both sides it is a very light room, although in fact we live at least half of the year outdoors. Most of the paintings in our house are by people we know - there is a very thriving artistic community down here. Behind one of our settees we have a larger than life size torso of a man made out of fiberglass (he is called Arthur) who sort of emerges out of a ficus tree - he is quite a feature! He is a product of Anne's passion for going round junk shops and buying the most outragous rubbish and then doing it up. With reference to the plastic rooster (!) I think it would be great to collect naff garden gnomes but Anne has absolutely but her foot down.

This is probably enough about me, and thank you everyone else who have invited us into your homes

Auf wiedersehn

From another member who wishes to remain anonymous:

Hello everyone,

I've been waiting for someone to describe a home similar to mine:

Roger mentions:

"We live in a small villa .....rather oddly, is upside down - in that the entrance is on the top floor, with the living room, kitchen and our bedroom, and then downstairs are three more bedrooms and a laundry. There is no connection between the two parts of the house so you have to go outside to go from one floor to the other."

My home is a two story "mini" Victorian located near the center of the 8th largest city in the Bay Area (Santa Rosa,California). It has a circle driveway and is nestled in the rear of its 1/4 acre lot. Being 70 years old it has very mature landscaping and very tall conifer trees, oak trees and sycamore trees. It has a virtual Sherwood Forest feeling about it. Both parts of the yard (front and rear) have their own white, masonry fountains (Three Graces in front and scantily-clad Rebecca with her water jug in the rear). A few years ago they decided to create a preservation district for these homes as all of them are uniquely different. The pizza delivery person once called them "tall houses" but I can more simply add they all seem to have columns in front and remind me of "Greek" revival.

My front door opens to an inside, carpeted staircase (on the walls are the family portraits, awards etc.) that turns as you enter the living room upstairs that being followed by a dining room, bedroom and kitchen with nook. It is in the "nook" that we have our computer and where I can sit looking out of its glass enclosed areas. I've always felt this arrangement was very much like living in a tree house.

On this tour I did not mention the seascape or still life paintings that adorn the walls but those would be hard to describe. As would the bookcases bulging with the 19th century books and overflow on other furniture in the front room and bedroom. It seems that books are within a hand's reach everywhere. Downstairs two additional bedrooms and bath can be found along with the laundry area.

Perhaps Roger can sympathise with me as far as the carrying of groceries, laundry to the upper floor. Years ago I insisted my husband create a laundry chute so that I did not have to carry dirty laundry as well.

Hopefully, I have not revealed too much here as well.

Date: Sun, 14 Oct 2001 13:22:46 -0400

Sig, I'd better not ever have Nan at my home although I'd love to after our long tramp around London following a murder since some of my books are now divided into 18th century and 19th century but when they don't fit on the shelves that I had built ten years ago, they go on the shelves they fit on (or beside my chair.)

My kitchen holds gardening books and cook books. Samuel Johnson has strangely migrated into the bedroom while Dickens is in what was my son's room. I do try to keep books in rooms since my memory is now what is used to be and I find it easier to find them that way.

Many of my paintings are originals of flowers done by friends but two wonderful old orchid prints were found at a yard sale. And then there are the photos of Mongoose lemurs from the time I worked at the Duke Primate Center and some folk art from Madagascar from lemur study and Egypt from a dig on prosimians (brought back to the slave who had to stay at home). There is a stuffed frog who sits atop my monitor and a very squishy dog who's on the drive box. Oh and I almost forgot the Sri Lankan weaving from another grant principal investigator who was working with WHO over there.

And Ellen, I think your neighbors are dreadful. My garden at the moment is full of weeds. They understood and as a matter of fact have come over to help rather than criticise.


From Adele Fasick:

Date: Sun, 14 Oct 2001 11:46:21 -0700

I have enjoyed reading about the rooms and homes where people live and read. I am struck by how many live in rural areas and that almost everyone owns a house. I live in a flat--one floor in a two-family house--in San Francisco. It's what they call a tunnel house with the garage on the ground floor facing the street and a gated entry way to the stairs going up to my flat and that of my upstairs neighbors. The view across the street is of other houses, very similar to this one, and the sounds that drift up to my windows are the voices of passers-by, a few conversations in English but most in Chinese and some in Spanish or Russian. It gives a cosmopolitan feel to the neighborhood. The real joy of living here, however, is that I can go around the corner and walk down to the ocean beach. It's not a beach for swimming because the currents are treacherous and the water very cold, but it's a wonderful place for walking--always cool and usually foggy--very conducive to meditation.

My office, facing the street, is fairly small but light. Files and bookcases around the walls, and my computer and peripherals taking up most of one wall. I teach web-based distance education courses for the library school in San Jose, so I spend much of my time at the computer. I play my CDs through the computer and enjoy "talking" to my students and to friends and family.

It has been fun hearing about where people live and work. It is interesting how different our lifestyles are from those of Trollope and his characters, yet we all share an interest in his books.


Judy Warner wrote again:

Date: Sun, 14 Oct 2001 15:00:06 -0400

One thing I forgot to mention is the New England fall color I can see out my window. Each year I'm taken by surprise again by how beautiful it is--even though it's quite gray and rainy here this weekend, the leaves are blazing yellow and orange.

I agree with you Ellen, about the privacy of apartments in NY--and probably everywhere. People disappear behind their brown doors, perhaps nod in the halls, but that's all the contact one need have. I think the farther you get out in the country the more the neighbors tend to know about your life. When we first lived in our house and it was "in the country" we welcomed new neighbors as they built houses on our street--actually bringing a cake, pickles, or some token, and knocking at their doors to offer assistance in getting settled. Then we had so many new houses we stopped doing that--people even seemed suspicious at times.

Since we have always had some farm animals we have families with children come by to look over the fence. Most of the children don't see sheep except in a zoo, and people refer to our small place as a farm--some even think we can make a living by having 12 sheep---far far from the truth. But the sheep are pastoral and I love to watch them in the field. They take a lot less care than a dog! (Which we have too.)

I'm struck by the popularity of quilting in this group? Can it be a coincidence? Are people who like Victorian fiction patient people?

Judy Warner

From Kristi:

I have almost never envied anyone, anything, but just before Christmas, 1991, on our way to Budapest, we stayed with friends in College Park Maryland who had our children in guest rooms in their house, but Paul and I were lodged in their vacationing neighbor's house. These people had been in the diplomatic service, and during their years in India (late 50s, early 60s) the wife had all her cookbooks rebound in black leather with the titles tooled in gold and her goldleaf monogram on the front.....Now there might have been worthier choices for this rebinding, but I was so consumed with longing to have my cookbooks similarly bound, it was rather embarrassing!

What books have you desired? I'm sure there are many.


Wayne Gisslen wrote in to say:

Date: Sun, 14 Oct 2001 15:10:40 -0500

I hadn't planned to join this thread, but I just returned from a short trip to be greeted by a wonderful sight outside my office window, so I thought I might share it with the group.

We live in horse country about 15 miles west of downtown Minneapolis. Our house is perched on a small heavily wooded hill at the back of our 8-acre lot, and there is a small patch of prairie or pasture out front. The forest is mostly mature maple trees, many of them well over 100 feet in height, at the edge of a remnant of what was called the Big Woods, which once covered a large part of south-eastern Minnesota. (Readers of Laura Ingalls Wilder will remember Little House in the Big Woods). As the house is at edge of the hill, as the main floor of the house is the top of two storeys, and as the tall maples come quite close to the house, it is a little like living in a tree house, a la Swiss Family Robinson. In the summer, when one looks out the windows in the rear (and the house has very many large windows), one sees mostly a mass of green foliage. What struck me today upon my return is that the leaves have now turned a brilliant yellow, and the light reflected into the house lights it up with a brilliant yellow glow. Once the leaves have fallen, we will be able to see quite some distance, to the neighboring horse farms, to the small lake in the midst of the nature preserve adjacent to our house, and, about a mile to the north, to the massive estate of one of our local industry moguls.

My office is at the rear of the house, facing north and overlooking the edge of our hill. I selected this room because it is adjacent to the kitchen (I write professional cooking textbooks for a living). It was previously a den or library and features a fireplace (gas-fired) and a vaulted, beamed ceiling. From my desk I can see the outdoors not only from my office window but also from the many windows in the kitchen and the small, informal dining area behind it. Opposite the window is a frosted glass window that looks out on (or would, if you could see through it) the central hallway and the stairway that leads down on-half storey to the front door and a full storey down to the lower level). Above the fireplace, in what is intended to be a television cabinet, is a CD player and a radio currently tuned to a classical-music station. As for the rest of my office, it is, as usual, somewhat of a mess. It is filled with four desks, two computers, two printers, a fax machine, three filing cabinets, and several bookshelves. The floor is host to several piles of books, magazines, papers, and unopened mail. It hasn't reached the status of disaster area yet, and I hope I can reach my current deadline before it does. The bookshelves hold almost nothing but books related to my work, as well as some dictionaries and other reference books, including some computer software manuals. Only a few literary volumes (including Castle Richmond) on top of the shelf behind my desk chair reveal that I have any interests outside of cooking. Most of my books are in another room (supposedly a bedroom) that I have set aside as a library.

This is merely a physical description of my environment. I regret that I do not have leisure to make it as evocative as many others have done in their interesting posts, but I must get back to reading my copy-edited manuscript.

Wayne Gisslen

From Rory O'Farrell:

Many years ago (35ish) my father and I acquired a dismembered copy of the Irish section of Holinshed's Chronicles, printed in 1577, for about £20 ($50 or so at the time). Holinshed was used by Shakespeare to source his historical plays such as Richard and the various Henrys; we always wonder what he might have written if he had studied the Irish section. The Irish section is illustrated with woodcuts (often reused throughout the entire publication - after all, one battle is similar to another battle), and printed in an Olde English type, although this is genuine O.E., not a modern version for wedding invites! Difficult to read, but one gets the knack. The Irish section was written by Richard Stanyhurst with the aid of notes put together by Edmund Campion (executed some years later) who was a friend of the Stanyhurst family.

I, from time to time, will undertake to bind a book, but this one I wouldn't touch. After some years we gave it to my aunt Kathleen, living at the time in Rome (now in Costa Rica); she and her husband brought it to the monastery of Grottoferata (sp?), where the book was produced and interviewed by a select committee of monks, who decided it would be worthy of their attention. After some weeks they were telephoned and went to collect it; it was produced, rebound in red Morocco, with the worm holes and incidental tears in the paper refilled, and the paper resized (cost about £80 - say $200 at the time). This has pride of place in our collection; some years later, the late Liam Miller of the Dolmen Press produced a print in modern type of the same edition, complete with the illustrations. He worked from a copy in the National Library of Ireland); various cancelled pages, removed at the time of publication because of some political incorrectness, were appended. We use this modern copy when we need a working copy, but, from time to time we go to the original, simply for the pleasure of handling such a venerable and beautiful book.

Rory O'Farrell Email:

Judy Warner wrote:

Date: Sun, 14 Oct 2001 19:43:40 -0400

I've thought about getting a llama as a guard for my sheep, since we have a problem with coyotes. They are fiercely expensive to buy here. We also thought of trying to raise deer like those in Europe but the fences have to be very high (and expensive) to keep deer in. It's illegal to have captive white tailed native deer, you need imported stock to breed them for venison. I guess I'll stick with my sheep--I'm quite fond of them though they're a pretty motley crew with lots of different colored fleeces. We can no longer find anyone who wants the wool, even for free. We do sell lambs though, to keep the population under control.

Judy Warner

I wrote again:

Re: Environment and Home

I think of my neighbours as typical and have most of my life heard stories similar to my own. In Trollope novels characters try to interfere with the lives of others regularly -- whether they are related or not. An even less pleasant one is how a woman once came to my house to urge us to go to church. Jim was overtly irritated and impolite. I simply told her we were atheists. She was not fazed. Go anyway! This way we would "fit" in the neighborhood.

The other side of the coin from active noisiness, interference and mostly silent pressure is active help, advice; now not all that advice is necessarily tactful or wanted, but it's partly given in the spirit of meaning well (or so people do tell themselves). This is also a theme in Trollope.

It was Judy Warner who said that she used to welcome new people moving in with cakes and pickles or some token. Eighteen years ago when Jim and I first moved into the neighborhood it still had a preponderance of people who were either military (and thus had moved here) or were originally southern. It took all day for us to move in for even then we had many books. About 3/4s of the way through two different new neighbours came over with food. One lady had a large china bowl of home-made spaghetti, another of salad, and a 6 pack of soda; another came over with a similar gift. I was astonished. They said it was an old southern custom. We would have had a hard time finding something to eat that night and now we had enough for two nights. I had lived at least 18 different places in NYC over the course of my life and not once did anyone ever come near such a friendly gesture just like this.

I will tell a funny story which shows a certain amount of toleration in my neighbours. When we first moved to Virginia, I had no car. In NYC I had never owned one; but now to be without was disaster. Oh was I miserable. So we bought a very cheap one, and oh was it lousy. It regularly refused to run. If it was cold, or snow, but especially it seemed if it rained, it would refuse to start. Desperate it came to me that if I kept it dry and warm it would go. But I didn't buy a car cover; I have an idea I didn't know they existed. Maybe I couldn't have afforded one. Iinstead I got some thin black stuff, shiny; it was very cheap. It came on a roller like wax paper. Every night I would park my car on the carpark on the property (we were tenants then) and then cover my car with some I rolled out over the car. If it seemed about to rain during the day, I would cover it then too. My idea was if I could keep it dry it would run. Once I covered it with this black stuff, I would take four bricks and place them at the corners of this black cover. The bricks were old, left over from when the (soon-to-be-ex-) landlady had some brick-lined garden. They were big. Sometimes the wind would blow and the black cover would escape the bricks, so I would run out and attempt to make the cover stay with more bricks. I think my neighbours during this time began to regard me as very strange. But they never said a word, never overtly noticed anything of all this. I later theorised they saw this abberation as a harmless eccentricity. I half-remember imagining people smiling at me when I would meet them as I walked somewhere with Laura or Isabel in the stroller. I suppose I provided some amusement. "There she goes again .... Come see!"

I am also struck by how many of us live in separate houses of our own -- but then we are an older bunch. Still. And beyond that many of us have celebrated living apart. Perhaps that too is something that characterizes people who can sit down to read and to enjoy older literature.

Michael's probably right that the reason people don't join in is fear of self-disclosure. Probably this is as strong for women as men. Time is an element, and of course as in every list I've ever been on a small minority of the people on the list post regularly. The silent people are doubtless silent partly because they too fear self-disclosure in an invisible forum. And one leaves documents here. Not that most of us have anything or have offered anything even faintly litigible (spelling?). More we fear making fools of ourselves probably. I didn't mean to start any gender conflict :).

One reason I can post more than others is for reasons I don't understand altogether I'm willing to talk on the Net freely about myself -- as Mr Brooke of Middlemarch would say, "up to a certain point".

I've enjoyed this thread enormously.


Teresa Ransom wrote in:

Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2001 10:31:44 EDT

I, too, have much enjoyed these revelations and pictures. From reading other peoples postings I would not have always have imagined them to live in the kind of places which they do. Very interesting and most enjoyable. To join in, belatedly. I now live in a small third floor flat on the outskirts of Cambridge (England). Reached by a spiral staircase which runs inside a tower, no lift. Rather Rapunzel like. This is in a complex of flats built in a square around a large central garden with scholastic overtones. The room where I write is also my bedroom. It means I don't have to clear up when I have guests. Very crowded; full of papers and reference books. The bed makes a great storage shelf in the day. For many years I lived in Sydney, Australia, where I had a terrace house overlooking Sydney Harbour. One of the best views in the world. I needed to come to UK for research purposes and for several years, and for family reasons, tried to live in two countries. Not a great idea, it meant duplicate notes and always leaving vital pieces of information in the wrong half of the world. Now I am only living here and life has become much simpler. At the moment looking out of my window the leaves are beginning to turn. There is a smell of Autumn in the air, a faint smell of burning leaves and dampness. It gives a promise of warm, dark evenings and hours of reading. I like winter. I was born only a few miles from here, and after years of wandering, feel I have come home at last. It is a comfortable feeling.


Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2001 12:26:05 EDT

Richard Mintz wrote in for the first time in a long while:

Hello Ellen and everyone,

I do almost all the cooking (and grocery shopping) here. I love to do simple dishes that I can put in a pot or (Corningware) bowl and eventually put a lid on letting it cook, maybe stirring occassionaly or tasting and testing. Putting the lid on it is the most important part of cooking for me, because I feel that something mysterious happens every time. Even something as simple as a pot of grits. (Carolyn likes grits---made from ground corn---occassionally in the morning.) Slightly salted water is brought to a boil, grits are added and stirred, the fire is turned off, the lid is put on, and after three or four minutes, Presto!

Ellen's idea of talking about where we live is wonderful. In each story told so far, a mysterious warmth has been generated. I won't try to stretch the cooking metaphor any further, as I had planned.

We live in a suburb of a "large" city in northeast Florida. Our home backs up to the athletic field of a middle school. An elementary school is two blocks away, and a high school only a block farther. Regency shopping center is only three miles way, and, best of all, the nearest Publix supermarket is only two miles away. Most non-Floridians would say that the best thing about Florida is Disney. But I say it's Publix supermarket, where shopping is (truly) a pleasure---their motto.

Our home is single story ranch style with four bedrooms on one end and kitchen, laundry room and garage on the other. The computer/workroom is in one of the girls' old bedrooms. Carolyn and I raised two girls and two boys. So, for a long time space was at a premium, here, and I had only a makeshift desk, which moved about the house, wherever space became available as other things were shifted about. My books were, thus, to be found in various places.

A few years ago one of our neighbors replaced all his interior doors, the old ones being put at the curb for the City to pick up. I picked out the best one, brought it home , and stretched it across two 2-drawer filing cabinets to make a desk. The door-desk is secured at the wall by two angle brackets connected to two studs. Over the years I have dug up any number of bricks that the brickmasons discarded while they doing the brick facade all around our house. Some of these I rinsed off and used to assemble a bookcase the width ("height" of the old door) of the desk. I could go up one more level to the ceiling, but hesitate to do so. My eyes are not what they used to be, and as it is, I have stand on a chair, often, to fiddle with the arrangement of the books. I doubt if any of it will come tumbling down.

But, within ten-feet of Joseph's old bedroom window near a front corner is a beautiful, old, huge liveoak tree. Several large branches reach over the house in a protecting, grandfatherly manner. It is not moss-laden. Many oaks in north Florida are mossy, but not in this neighborhood. That's good because moss is a parasite.

Even so, at least one root of our liveoak has created a crack in the facade, and when we replaced the carpet in Joseph's room recently a crack in the concrete slab was discovered lined up with the root. When a hurricane threatens I have worried about its blowing over on the house, but let it! Let our house be a couch for its final resting place! In reality, though, a profiteering contractor would come by and convince us that he could remove every piece of the tree without a single "Fiddlesticks!" and unceremoniously cart it off, or worse yet, grind it up on the spot. When Ellen mentioned Dr Thorne the other day in connection with our current thread, I had been reading it, and had stumbled on that wonderful dinner party scene at young Frank's coming of age. With his mother on one side and his aunt, the countess, on the other, "it would not be from want of proper leading" if he then went astray. He says:

"Aunt, will you have some beef ..."

and the scene continues until the countess meditates delivering a "marry money, Frank" lecture.

I'm sure AT's narrative talents blossom forth from other areas, but here, in my opinion, is his heart of hearts, the source of his warmth, his heat. Here, AT shadows forth the countess' grand good humor which young Frank does not pick up on. And, of course, neither (never) does Squire Gresham pick up on it---he is perched, hanging on for dear life, at the other end of the table. If only the Squire, who could have benefited greatly, had sat a little closer to the countess; if only he had not avoided the De Courcys. If only young Frank had been a little less of his father's son and a little more of his aunt's nephew ... Of course, if one or more of the possible "if only's" had been so, then there would be no story. Frank fails in this scene to be the hero of his own story. The story could end with the countess' being disobliged to deliver her lecture, and the reader could predict how Frank turns out: he will be a chip off the old block.

Tolstoy, in the first quarter (I think) of "The Death of Ivan Ilych," has Evan's wife tell us that during the last few days of his life he was given over to almost incessant screaming. That story could end right there, too, and the reader would understand all that needs to be understood. Tolstoy has only to add a few details and tie up some loss ends.

But, in Dr Thorne life must go on. And, I guess, the reader needs a new hero. I don't think there is much choice in the matter, contrary to what AT says. Dr Thorne himself has shown that he has hidden talents. I can only hope he also has some warmth to go with it.

I sincerely thank you all for listening to me. Now, maybe I can go on in Dr Thorne and in other places.


Pat Maroney wrote:

Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2001 13:11:02 -0400

Joan's garden is wonderful. Unless she carried through on one of her threats during a drought to plow them all under, she has hundreds (or more likely thousands) of daylillies. ANd so much else. Pat

Angela Richardson wrote:

Joan sent to the list a kind note about my house with Paul. I would like to add, as someone who has seen pictures of her house in its lovely garden, and knowing now how many of us on this list are gardeners, that Joan's garden is absolutely wonderful.


Frank Biletz wrote:

Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2001 16:32:11 -0500

OK, Ellen and everyone. At first, I was going to refrain, shyly, from participating in this thread, but in the spirit of group sharing, here goes....

I live in Evanston, Illinois, a small city (75,000 people) immediately north of Chicago on Lake Michigan and connected to the larger metropolis by both rapid transit (the elevated or "el") and commuter rail lines. Most people know of Evanston as the home of Northwestern University, but I teach history (as an adjunct) at Loyola University, located on the far north side of Chicago, to which I travel by "el." Some may also associate Evanston as being at one time the headquarters of the Women's Christian Temperance Union. In keeping with this background, it was a "dry" city until the mid-1980's, though it now has some pubs and a thriving restaurant scene.

My own home, shared with a rather large and eccentric white "Turkish" cat, is a two bedroom condominium in a 19-unit yellow brick building, located approximately an eight minute walk from downtown Evanston, which has both a Barnes and Noble and a Borders as well as several good used book stores, and a ten or twelve minute walk from the lake. My unit is on the third floor of one wing of the "U"-shaped building. I use one of the bedrooms -- the one facing the street -- as a study. While I am sitting at my computer, I can look out over the tree-lined street and keep an eye out for the mailman or UPS truck. Down the street, especially in the next block, there are a string of lovely, immense "Victorian" houses with large verandas. There are many more such houses in the areas of Evanston closer to the lake.

Like many of the other people on this list, books are a dominant feature of my living space. When I first moved here over three years ago, I installed floor to ceiling bookcases in both the bedroom and the study. This is in addition to various other bookcases in the living room and hall. Still, I do not have nearly enough room for my entire collection, which continues, in any case, to expand with considerable rapidity. Some of my books remain, unfortunately, in boxes in closets and under the bed. I also have the tendency, which annoys my closest friend, who is extremely tidy, of making piles of books, magazines and printed material of all sorts on any available flat surface.

As for my study: besides the floor to ceiling book cases on two walls, there are also two large tables, two smaller tables (originally "end" tables in someone's living room), a desk and another small bookcase. Except for one of the large tables, which holds my computer, printer, and a few reference books, all of the other tables are stacked high with books, journals, and copies of articles.

Inevitably, many visitors, usually with raised eyebrows, ask that fateful question: "have you read all of these books?" Of course, no true Bibliophile would ever ask such a question, which seems to presuppose the utilitarian approach that "having read" a book is all it could possibly be good for. A truly substantial library, as every Bibliophile knows, reflects aspirations as much as accomplishment: a Rabelaisian appetite for the knowledge and pleasure gained by reading that is inherently insatiable.

What I really need, of course, is a huge "Victorian" house, which would be large enough to hold all of my books. Alas, all of those in Evanston and elsewhere in the Chicago area are far beyond my price range -- at least, until I manage to write a historical bestseller.

Best wishes to all,

Frank Biletz

From Wayne:

Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2001 16:46:40 -0500

Is there anyone anywhere with more than a couple of dozen books who hasn't been asked, "Have you read all these books?"

Wayne Gisslen

From Krist:

Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2001 15:01:52 -0700 (PDT)

Coyotes have just begun to move into our area, too. A woman about 1/2 a mile away had her miniature poodle loose in her front yard and it was killed by a coyote....We have wild turkeys, too, which have been known to attack minivans, which I find hilarious. But I know from talking with them that the occupants of the vans did not. These are two 'wild' animals who have recently reestablished themselves in our township at the same time that it is becoming more citified, with a hideous stripmall at the main south intersection, and several developments of Ellen's tract mansions.

It was usually my mother in law who asked me, darkly, whether I had read all my books. And there were dire overtones of, "You're wasting my son's money." This from a woman who had a PhD in central Europe in the 20s. But she is not a fan of literature . I don't think mathematicians have quite the same sort of book problem, but I might be wrong.


At long last RJ Keefe:

Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2001 18:53:06 -0400

Better the question Wayne Gisslen poses than the one that's been aimed at me more times than I care to recall: "Do you really need all these books?"

Having retired from active participation for some time, I've been reluctant to contribute to the fascinating thread of 'Where We Sit and When,' but the postings have accumulated so richly that I'm at risk of feeling myself to be a voyeur.

Like Michael Neile, whose account of his environment induced something like an out-of-body experience in me, I look out over a valley as I write. You might say that I look into a wide canyon, wide because the canyons of Manhattan cliché are notoriously narrow. All but one of the nearest tall buildings (which have just lost their sunset resemblance to a range of blazing mesas). stand for the most part two wide, 'avenue' blocks away. The floor of the visual valley is about ten floors down, but in fact this floor consists of the tops of five- and six-storey buildings; the street is seventeen floors down. (Ellen Moody and other New Yorkers past and present will be able to infer from that number that I live on the 'eighteenth' floor; New York's developers dealt with tenant superstitions by banning the numeral '13' from elevator banks.) Through cracks here and there in the skyline I can see patches of the East and Harlem Rivers, but, even better, I can see the horizon, which roughly falls on the border between New York City and Nassau County. They say that human beings are most at home in a savannah, and my comfort in the view does nothing to disprove this.

All the windows of our apartment look directly out onto a balcony - which means that they can be washed very easily. Unlike most New Yorkers, we 'use' our balcony. Alongside the usual outdoor furniture, there are tubs of day lilies and all manner of houseplant, most of which come indoors for the winter. Almost as if we were rural people on a porch, we like to watch the planes come in to La Guardia airport at night. They line up to the north, the farthest ones appearing fixed in the sky for what seems like forever. We can also tell, from activity on a sliver of the FDR Drive, how traffic is doing.

On September 11, and for several days thereafter, there was no activity to be seen on the drive. There was also an unpleasant smell. But looking toward the Northeast as we do, there was nothing else in the view to signal the World Trade Center disaster. Our local NPR station, WNYC, disappeared from the airwaves for a while, having lost its transmitter in the disaster. Programming has concerned itself with little else ever since broadcasting was restored. Neither my wife nor my daughter, both of whose office buildings could be spotted in a recent aerial picture of the former Trade Center site, were anywhere near that part of town at the time of the attacks: my wife had a doctor's appointment, and my daughter was 'running late.' I have often thought how very much worse the attacks would have been had they struck at four in the afternoon, not so much in loss of life as in increased chaos. Darkness would have fallen soon, and commuters would have had to find shelter in Manhattan.

But I digress. I write in a room that we call 'the blue room.' It has been painted one shade or another of dark blue during all of our eighteen years here, but what the name really means is that this is neither our bedroom nor the living room nor the kitchen, on the one hand, but rather a multipurpose room on the other. When guests stay the night, we pull out the couch. When there are more than four for dinner, we clear the books from the large, round table in the middle of the room. And when we need to look something up, then - we usually find that we need all these books.

On page 135 of the 1936 edition of the Victor Book of the Opera,'there is a black-and-white reproduction of a bad painting ('by Kreling,' whoever he was) entitled 'Faust, Aged Philosopher, Wearies of Life.' I live in perennial tension between wishing that my life in the blue room looked like this picture and my fear that it does. A computer monitor would not look at all out of place in Faust's study; doubtless, Mephistopheles would have made an introductory appearance on a Web site. For anyone curious for more details about me and my environment, I have appended my own's address.

RJ Keefe

Treat yourself to Civil Pleasures

From Donna Rudin:

"Faust, an aged philosopher, has grown weary of life in his vain efforts to penetrate to a knowledge of the real essence of things. His latest vigil has lasted through the night, and as he sees the light of a new day he seizes a cup of poison to put an end to his existence. As he raises the cup, the song of a group of maidens floats through the window, celebrating the joy of living and the beauty of nature....."

Hope springs eternal.


From Frank Biletz:

Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2001 19:15:25 -0500


You are absolutely right about the "have you read all these books" question. (Sometimes, this is framed more aggressively and annoyingly as "have you REALLY read all these books?") I have been hearing this for over thirty years since I was a teenager with a relatively modest library, by my later standards, of only 100-150 or so volumes, mostly paperbacks.

Frank Biletz

From Jill Spriggs:

Actually, Wayne, I never have been. However, the knowledge of my eccentricity is so widespread among my husband's and my acquaintance, I think nothing I do would surprise them. With the possible exception of sitting down to watch a football game with a cigar and a beer.

Jill Spriggs

Re: Where We Sit and When: Environment & Neighborhood

Reading Teresa's description of her tower especially when she got to the end and said she has ended up living a few miles from where she was born evokes longing and identification in me. The apartment in Manhattan I spoke of (across the Hudson River on the other side from where Doris perches) is 8 blocks from where I was born. When we signed our third lease -- in Manhattan in those days rent control/stablised apartments were renewed every three years -- I really thought I would live the rest of my life out in that spot and die near where I had been born. I liked the idea.

Jim and I used to dream of going back: we'd sell this house, get some fantastically huge truck, buy a co-op in a large apartment house on top of the mountain, and return to nightly walks in the nearby parks and the life of Manhattan we once knew. We now know we probably won't. It's too expensive for us.

I say on top of the mountain because our apartment was in northernmost Manhattan. As Doris on one side lives on a cliff facing the Hudson, so on the other side there is kind of high hill which extends all along the side of the island. On this mountain are are apartment houses behind a park in which the medieval museum the Cloisters is found. The whole piece of land is a crumb from the Rockefeller table; they used to own mountain, the park; our apartment was just below in a small dip of the land. High up, the mountain part is called Washington Heights; down below is called Inwood. Inwood also has a small wood where there is a plaque which tells you this is where the "Indians" sold Manhattan for the equivalent of $14.00. As RJ says, Manhattan is a island of canyons -- and therefore hills & valleys. Haarlem is long valley that goes gradually down and then up again. The land in Manhattan is very rocky. Most people don't think about Manhattan as filled with canyons and valleys and woods and a long park in the middle unless they've lived in Manhattan a long time and realise what the earth there is made up of.

Yes we all seem to have so many books, and live in book rooms and bookhouses. Trollope called his library a bookroom. We have wonderful supermarkets in Virginia, Richard. One chain specialises in fresh fruits and vegetables: Fresh Fields. Then there's _Trader Joe's_: very modish food. You do have to have a car to get to these places; there's no such thing as "your natural supermarket" (a NYC phrase which refers to the supermarket which is closest to you).

I have a match for the kind of attitude that Frank, Wayne and Jill have mentioned when they quote the somewhat aggressive almost accusing question, "have you REALLY read all these books?": "X always has her nose in a book". I have heard this said of children; it suggests resentment against the person who has withdrawn into another world and the wording of it denies that there is another world, anything to be imagined there. It's simply that you have stuck your nose inside something, rather like an ostrich sticks its head in the sand. I was lucky when I was young for my parents never used such language.

Kristi, my mother-in-law came to visit me for 3 weeks once. There came a Saturday when I was going to go to the library for an afternoon to do some reading. My children were small then and it was my cherished weekly time to live for myself and in a sense for real again -- I am so moved by George Eliot's phrase that she was "inert and suffering" for 30 years, wow. Well she looked at me astonished. You mean you are going away from your children? Again whatever I may sometimes perhaps unfairly say against my mother, she never evinced the notion that I didn't own myself or was perpetually under obligation to someone else.

I'm glad we are still having people telling us about where their important activities take place, where they live and post from because it gives me a chance to say something else about my neighborhood. It is no longer what it once was: no longer heavily southern, heavily military. The majority of people living here now come from all over the US, with some preponderance of the East Coast. It is said that the average American moves every 7 years, and Jim and I are now among the oldest residents on our block -- not in our literal age but from the point of view of how long we've lived here.

But in the past 18 years there has not just been a change in individuals or where people come from but a change in the character of the culture of the place. Where once the majority were family groups with children; now we have lots of couples with no children or single people living alone. There are still families, but the percentage has shrunk to a minority. No one would bring anyone food upon their moving in nowadays; when new people moved onto my block a couple of years ago I went over to say hello. The young woman was not appreciative. So I didn't go again. I used to know the names of most of the people right around my block; now I don't know the names of most of them, only those directly around my house and old-timers who have lived in the area nearly 20 years like Jim and me.

At the same time no one would pressure anyone to go to a church, pretend to have some religion, or to conform to some norm of marital behavior. Across the way from me lives an older man and his wife and their divorced or separated daughter and her three children. Families come in all forms nowadays. When I first moved in here a couple of neighbors expressed relief to me in quiet whispers that the house had not been rented to "blacks"; I was told "the area used to be restricted, but no more": "restricted" is a euphemism for no Jewish people as well as no African-Americans.

Nowadays we have two interracial couples around the block; a couple of black families in the recognized "area" called Clover. In 1968 in Virginia there was a supposedly enforced law against "miscegenation". The recognized 10 blocks or so is expensive and black & Spanish people often do make less money than whites so that's why the neighborhood is still basically white. There is one superrich Arab group-family (several couples, scads of children) who live in a house they converted to look like Tara in _GWTW_. In addition, there are 3 homosexual couples in my 3 block radius. Two pairs of men and one pair of women. Two houses over from me a navy captain lives with his partner, not wife. 18 years ago it would have been unacceptable for such people openly to live frankly as partners. Homosexual and black people would not even have gotten an agent to show them these houses. Now all are simply members of our neighbourhood in good standing. In fact the gay men have beautiful yards; one couple walk a pair of toy dogs and I talk to them one or the other of them as they pass by. My husband went to a neighborhood meeting tonight to discuss new speed bumps and elect a Counter-Terrorist Liaison (yes we have one; we are a progressive neighborhood). All these different people were there. The US has a different face than it did a quarter of a century ago.

People talk of coyotes; what we have is active ubiquitous crows. They are increasing exponentially and seem to be getting bigger and sootier every year. The road kill is high: daily I see dead dogs, cats, squirrels run over by cars. It was a crow that destroyed my favorite finches' nest three years ago. I am firmly anti-crow :).

Cheers to all,

From Howard Merkin

Date: Tue, 16 Oct 2001 13:57:58 +0100

All right, so you have asked for it! Like Frank, I have been reading the various fascinating descriptions of our surroundings posted over the past few days, convinced that my personal reticence would make it unlikely that I should be able to join in. However, I am now going to take the plunge, and hope that I won't be deafened by the snoring.

My wife, Evelyn, and I live in the village of Walsoken, on the Cambridgeshire/Norfolk borders. Walsoken is about two miles outside the ancient town of Wisbech, and is now becoming a suburb. Nevertheless, Walsoken has its own history. having a large 'Cathedral of the Fens' in the parish church, built in 1544 and well worth a visit. Walsoken is also supposed to be where King John lost his crown jewels in the days when the Wash was more extended than it is now. I still keep a careful eye open when Evelyn is digging in the garden, in case some of the treasure turns up!

The house we are living in was built about ten years ago on a former orchard, and I occasionally feel guilty about this, but orchards remain just up the road, and we always make a point of visiting them in May to see the blossom. The soil here is still very fertile, so that anything planted in the garden seems to grow to twice the height that the gardening books tell us that they should. The price of land being what it is, each house on the estate has only one sixth of an acre of ground, which seems extremely modest compared with many of the gardens which I have read about on the list. Incidentally, it is an interesting point that North American list members write about their 'yards', while in the UK we write about our 'gardens'. We are clearly talking about the same things, although to me a 'yard' is a scruffy piece of land outside a house, used for the coal bunker and the scrap cars.

One of the great selling points about this house was that it boasts a 'study' - a room ten feet by nine feet, which sits alongside the front door, and has a window onto the small cul-de-sac in which we live. The front garden has several trees, including what I am told is an acer, whose leaves have just turned a gleaming copper colour before spreading themselves all over the drive. The trees in the front garden are now large enough to hide most of our neighbours' houses from us (and us from them), but we do know all the people who live in the road, and get on well with all of them. We certainly would not comment on how they keep their gardens, and would not expect them to do this to us.

When we arrived, the back garden consisted of an indifferently turfed piece of flat ground. I had said that having spent our married life mowing lawns, I was not going to continue this in my retirement. As a consequence, we had the whole area divided up into flower beds, separated by paved paths and patios, which cuts down significantly on the maintenance, and gives Evelyn plenty of scope for cultivating flowers for show and flower arranging, which has become one of her passions. Because of the trees and hedges we have almost complete privacy in the back garden.

My study contains two desks, a low cupboard and a filing cabinet, and is surrounded with bookshelves. The computer and associated equipment look at a blank wall, but I only have to look to my left to gaze out of the window and see who is coming. The dining room also has a great many bookshelves, and the overflow is distributed around the other rooms in the house, as well as in boxes in the loft. Evelyn has one of the bedrooms upstairs which she uses as a study, containing her computer, flower arranging equipment and a frame for cross stitch and all the other bits and pieces, into whose uses I dare not probe. Her room is also surrounded by bookshelves - her tastes are for detective stories, and since she discovered Amazon her collection has grown enormously. She also has numerous books on cookery, needlework and flower arranging, Her window looks over the back garden, and she can also keep an eye on our neighbour's gardens, so that she can go and ask for a cutting of anything that interests her.

While I cannot follow Sig's wife in putting my books into Library of Congress order, I do maintain a computer database of all my books. From this I can tell you that I currently have 1,116 books, and the shelf or box where each can be found. I can also find any book by title or author, or all the books in a particular category. This is almost certainly the accountant in me coming out, rather than the literary student! Evelyn probably has another 400 books or so, and I have to think about this when arriving at my contents value for insurance purposes.

The livestock consists of our two nine-year old cats, who keep all the other neighbourhood cats out of the garden, and sound like a herd of elephants when they chase each other up and down the stairs. The thought of a small flock of sheep and a llama seems attractive, but even if we had kept the grass I don't think that we should have had sufficient space on a sixth of an acre!

I typed all the foregoing with both hands, which I couldn't have done for the past two weeks. I have the stitches out on Thursday, and hope that I shall then be able to use my mouse with my right hand,

Regards, Howard

Donna responded to Howard:

Date: Tue, 16 Oct 2001 08:20:43 -0700

Howard's comments really "tickled" me!

"although to me a 'yard' is a scruffy piece of land outside a house, used for the coal bunker and the scrap cars."

We would be in hot water if our yards contained these items! Amazing!

My daughter's trip to Northern Wales was brought to mind with this comment:

"The trees in the front garden are now large enough to hide most of our neighbours' houses from us (and us from them)"

In Wales, when I viewed the videotape of her vacation, I couldn't get over the 6 foot + hedges that lined the roads and obscured the view from the roadside. Here in my town we have laws which prohibit the height of fences etc. to 3 feet on the front and side borders of the properties. Plant/tree growth is exempted however, but such practices are really uncommon.

Also the note about your spouse:

"ask for a cutting of anything that interests her."

A few years ago I visited Luther Burbank's Home and Garden which is located here in Santa Rosa and requested a cutting for the "white" blackberry plant for my sister. Burbank loved Sonoma County and felt it was the chosen spot for his work.

I will keep that in mind for future reference about my yards.....they really are gardens.

Thank you,

Elizabeth Guster again:


We lived in Canberra for thirty years before moving back to Adelaide. There is a law or bye-law in Canberra that forbids people to have a front fence; a lot of people in the older suburbs got over this by growing hedges. On one occasion (in 1984) a local government official sent university students on vacation out to report back on any illegal front fences, which were subsequently to be destroyed. I always hated not having a fence, feeling that we really lost a large part of our garden: even though we lived in a small cul-de-sac, our front garden was still a rather public place. Now in Adelaide almost everybody in the eastern suburbs, where we live, has a fence; ours is a high brush fence, which are very popular here. I can go out in the morning in my dressing-gown to pick up the paper and know nobody can see me!!

Elizabeth in Australia

Date: Tue, 16 Oct 2001 23:31:58 -0500

Not many people have heard of the mid-18th century poet and gardener, William Shenstone, but his aphorism is cited here and there. He divided humanity into four kinds: people who read, people who write, people who think -- and foxhunters."

Need I say which species Shenstone lets us know predominate?

I did call Shenstone a gardener, not a yard-man :) Though I must admit that when I first moved into this neighborhood, there was a very old woman living next door to me who said she had a yard-man. I did not at first realise she meant he took care of her garden.

Ellen :)

Another from Ellen

Re: Environment, Cyberspace and Pets

Rory noticed my comment about how in my neighborhood over the past twenty years there has been a decrease in interaction among the residents. People no longer know one another's names or much about one another. This may be the result of people moving so much all over the country and a lack of rootedness. So when people come to a new neighborhood they really are shaped by another culture. The US is not one country; it's more like 9.

However, I suspect it's more than that. The new mores make people more different from one another than they used to be. People can no longer assume the values of others will be like their own. While our neighborhood nowadays is fine in an impersonal sense for people who are gay or atheists or non-marrieds or interracial couples, still one would not venture into someone else's house that easily. In a forum much less public, attitudes might come out which would hurt or end in a dispute. So greater freedom for individuals means the community begins to dissolve away.

Actually I know that Jim and I were part of the earliest influx of new sorts of people into this neighborhood. What happened to us what outwardly we resembled many of the more conventional types. It was true we had an inordinate number of books compared to a small amount of furniture, but everyone but has their quirks :). We were married; shortly after we arrived we had two children. We looked middle class and were educated. But soon it emerged that our behavior patterns were not conventional or like those around us. That's when friction occurred.

One of the results of these new local behavior patterns has to do with cyberspace communities. People turn to these as compensation for what is no longer out there around them physically. They try to find shared interests and ideas across the boundaries of chance geography -- for where we live is increasingly a matter of chance, or feels that way at any rate. It's not wholly chance when Teresa ends up living a few miles from where she was born; Jim picked Old Town Alexandria because its outward looks reminded him of Southeastern England. It was also a place from which he could get a bus to the Pentagon where he was to work. There was its liberal governing body's attitudes coming out -- and something about the nature of the community which did open itself to new kinds of people. Twenty years ago Alexandria was the only northern Va suburb to have public transportation.

It still is the only northern Va suburb to have shelter houses for the homeless, a clinic for young people who want sex advice to go to (attached to the high school), a Women's Health Clinic (such places are bombed further south), programs for early education for deprived disadvantaged and disabled children, housing for "welfare" people (I don't know the latest euphemism). In my local neighborhood we have a house for mentally disturbed or "deficient" people -- what a quarrel that caused in the neighborhood association. (Some people fought that -- NIMBY stuff backed by fear of "property values" going down.) Still a community such as the one around me could not emerge easily in Fairfax which is much more conservative in outlook. And yet none of these places have the roots and history of shared understanding that older communities once had -- which also made for oppression of individuals, a demand to conform.

So we turn to cyberspace -- or some of us do. Now in cyberspace our shared interests conflict with other patterns and experiences of employment, culture, class and the lack of face-to-face interaction and physical presence produces a new kind of interaction between people -- one with new terms that are as yet difficult to describe or fully understand. They are so new. Trollope would have been amazed at such a community.

Howard mentioned the size of US lots. I'm sure I'm not alone on this list in having lived in both the US and UK, but will speak to this. My experience is that generally speaking the land surrounding US houses is bigger -- or used to be. The new track-mansions are huge houses which take up the whole of a big plot -- I suppose the people inside must want to avoid mowing. Still the older houses sit on bigger lots than many English houses. Not all English or British houses. Outside Leeds (where I lived for 2 years and walked a good deal), way into the suburbs I used to see houses on very big lots. They would be screened off from others by hedges and gates and walls. Perhaps the reason for average smaller lots in England is the US is so big and until recently was not overpopulated at all.

My neighborhood is zoned for 8000 square feet and more. That is, a developer cannot build a house on a smaller lot. The idea here is to create a specific level of economic status. Zoning replaces discrimination in the US as a tool for keeping classes of people apart -- that's the way many people want it -- or the wealthy do. The house my husband and I rented and now own is the on the smallest lot possible in the area -- the same is true of the houses all immediately around us. As I say, to me the paradox is that I actually had more privacy in a NYC apartment than I do in a house set out separately by this yard.

One more comment: pets. Roger mentions his wife too had a beloved dog. My experience comes from someone who has since age 23 only worked outside the house part-time or not at all. The last time I held a full-time job, one that required me to be in an office 5 days a week, 8 hours a day, was when I was 23. I stayed home with my children as mother, wife and a private or unaffiliated scholar for 11 years. Thus a pet or dog was very important to me. She was with me all the time; slept with me on my side of the bed. I don't think I really understood how attached I had become to her -- my dog was a she.

She saved me from damage twice. Once after Laura was born, was around 18 months old, came a huge bang on our apartment door in Inwood (we were in the rent-control apartment under the Cloisters hill). I opened the door and there stood a very nervous man who said he was an electrician and was to read the meter. I said, but there's no meter in my apartment. Llyr (that was her name) came up and began to growl frighteningly; she seemed to grow twice as big; she became tense; she showed her teeth. I was startled; Laura, as baby, went over to her. The man said, "Put your dog away lady". I said, No I will not, and I shut the door. The next day I discovered he was not an electrician and was trying to get into other apartments and had succeeded elsewhere and raped someone.

Another time I was younger and walking with her to the park -- no children as yet. Suddenly she again grew to twice her size, was growling and angry, teeth bared. I saw a man following me; he had come up close, but he took one look at my dog and ran away. I would have another dog as a friend and companion (not because it would police the space around me), but know what a responsiblity such a creature is and how I can't trust myself really to regard a dog in the way I nowadays think I should. When I was younger, I thought less about such things.

There are no dogs on the Net. Cyberspace is a human phenomena. Chimpanzees could not pull it off.


Roger answered me:

Date: Wed, 17 Oct 2001 17:00:54 +0200


My wife still has a beloved dog, he won't last much longer but he is still there!! One of the reasons we got him when we first moved out from Monaco to the hills behind Menton was for security, as Anne was going to be on her own all day. In fact, touch wood, we have had hardly any problems in nearly 20 years - burgled once but they didn't manage to take anything, and we do go out still all day and leave all our doors wide open and never lock anything up - probably stupidly but neither of us can bear to live like that.

We also have "zoning" where we live. Our plot is 2600 square metres and we are allowed to build a house up to 10% floor area of that. Further into town the ratio goes up but I am not sure that this is a snob thing, I thing it is just to try and preserve the rural aspect of the "arriere pays". The whole of the Cote d'Azur is so built up now that preserving the bits which aren't has become a high priority. Of course, being France, if you know the Mayor you can always get an exception to build a multi-story on your few thousand square metres!!!

One of the things I have found strange when I have been to the States (not very often) is how the houses are all so open, particularily at the front. In Europe, in general, the first thing you do when you get a house is to build a big wall/hedge round it so that you can be private inside it. I get on well with my neighbours but no way do I want them to be able to see into my garden, never mind my house - "an Englishman's home is his castle" - am I so type cast by my heritage?


From Rory O'Farrell:

I think the problem of missing social interaction actually precedes cyberspace. The site I mention suggests that it actually happened before at the end of the Victorian period, and that a combination of events, such as the invention of Boy Scouts, the holding of Church Socials, self improvement lectures and lectures by learned societies all helped to overcome the problem at that time. I see it as important because of the diminishing interaction in various "learned societies" of a venerable age (circa 150 years), where the audience is aging and young people (20-40) are not joining. No matter how satisfying a cyberspace meeting/discussion might be, were we to meet together, what would we do? We would do something together, such as visiting a site, hearing a lecture and most probably dining together.

Rory O'Farrell

I responded again:

Date: Wed, 17 Oct 2001 13:01:26 -0500

Dear Roger and all, My dog, Llyr, a mixed breed (half German sheppard, half beagle) had a cancerous growth around age 10 and was dead by age 12. Perhaps we grieved so for her because she took a long time dying -- we tried hard to keep her alive. And although Jim said my response was "excessive", it was he who would carry her down 6 flights of stairs to "do her business"; he helped me feed her cereal and cottage cheese towards the end; both of us would try to cheer her up, carry her to a park, until she would no longer be cheered and retreated to a cold tiled bathroom floor and would not come to bed with me at night. She would not leave the cold floor for anything. She wouldn't eat any more. So it was over and we took her to a Vet to have her (as the euphemism has it) "put to sleep".

The thing was I had read dogs and other animals live a much shorter life than we. But it didn't hit home until it happened. Partly I felt bad because I would have paid much more to a doctor to do something for a human being; also sometimes under my own dad pressures I would not respond to the dog in her need. Had it been a human being I would have pressed myself more.

On the other hand, I didn't sufficiently think about her as a dog -- until the first and then second incident of sudden ferocity occurred. I didn't say how affectionate and gentle a creature she normally was; other dogs bullied her. She wouldn't hurt anyone, always wagging her tail. If the baby (Laura) cried, she sit near the crib & moan and groan and sometimes howl too. Poor Jim was at the time attempting to write a Ph.D. thesis in Mathematics and he would rush from the aparment to go to Columbia Library (about 80 blocks down by subway) because the people outside in the streets "were drilling holes again!" Then suddenly twice with no warning, she was a terrifying wolf twice and three times her size. I never trained her to be a guard dog. It came out of her nature.

The second incident particularly taught me how differently her perceptions -- and other animals too - of the world were than mine. She saw the world through smells and gestures that didn't register with me. In the second incident, the baby went over to her because the baby had never seen her behave anything like that before. And then her behavior reminded me that a real electrician would have known that the meters for all the apartments were in the basement. The time given for reflection as well as her behavior saved me and this 18 month old from a possibly very nasty and unforgettable incident.

The zoning is not merely a snob thing. Roger is right. No, people want to have the area look a certain way too: that's why they are paying what they do. They also want to get a return on the enormous prices they pay for their houses. On the other hand, it is a drive for conformity. Was it Judy W who said there's a "law" in her area that you cannot have a high fence around your property? This is not uncommon in US communities. The cited reason I have heard is "this ruins other people's view of the landscape". However, no fence also enables other people to see each other's property. In Reston a community near Dulles Airport, there are many "laws" which aim to control behavior: no basketball circles and courts in the parking lane leading to your garage. I know about that one for came across a story in the newspaper about how someone was taken to court for having a basketball court in the parking lane. No big signs is another rule. I forget how big.

I can appreciate no one in my area wants me to open up a gas station in front of my house and start pumping gas, but why I cannot have a line of clothes hanging from the side of my house to a tall fence on a neighbor's property is not a matter of snobbery, or money or even taste. It is class: the behavior is seen as working class, and a stigma. It is also (I think) an enforced conformity. Isabel used to take her dolls and other stuff out to the front of the yard to play whatever it was she did; someone came over to my house to suggest gently she go in the back. She could have more privacy that way the neighbor said. I really think the neighbor didn't like to see Isabel playing out there somehow --- maybe her child played differently. Maybe Isabel was too old for dolls? I dunno. I suspect what bothered the woman was I didn't insist on a sense of privacy; I let the child do it before all the world. There was something indecorous about this -- something non middle-class.

I should bring out that we are allowed tall fences in Clover, but a woman two doors down gave the woman next to me with her big fence an argument one day over it. It "ruined the view." Jim likes the tall fence: the lady is the one who came to our house long ago to berate him for not mowing for me; he and this neighbor now communicate by letters. Yes every once in a while she writes us to say this tree is hanging over her fence or that pile of wood is too close; so he writes a superlatively elegant but needling letter in reply.

These real life exchanges of letters are the stuff of some of Trollope's fiction: do you recall a similar correspondence between Thorne and Fillgrave which because of professional jealousy and loss of money was ratcheted up into the newspapers?

I have already tried to connect our thread on our love for our pets and their real attitudes towards us as "master" or "mistress" to protect to Trollope and Victorian Fiction.

Cheers to all,

Kristi wrote in:

Date: Wed, 17 Oct 2001 11:04:13 -0700 (PDT)

I suddenly remembered that in the summer of '78, when Paul was working for Xerox in Palo Alto, we lived for a few months in a rented house in Sunnyvale where all the yards were small and fenced. They were expensive, and had swimming pools and lovely gardens and roof rats routinely raced along the fence tops. On Pet Day at the local library I recall many children bringing 'roof' rats in cages to display.

They had privacy with Australian tree ferns and jacarandas. Home had English oaks and primroses and no privacy. I could not decide whether the ambiance could be considered more English than Ohio's, and neither could the daughter of an English vicar who lived next door.

Judy, I thought of Jip, too. I had just been looking at that section of DC during the house/domestic arrangements discussions. I think Victorian dogs were for work or sport or ladies lapdogs, and not quite as we have them now.

I just remembered the dog in Kew gardens who was supposed to have a collar engraved with the words, "I am his majesty's dog at Kew. Pray tell me, Sir, whose dog are you." But if true, this is just the story of another working dog.


From Kitty Schwartz:

Date: Wed, 17 Oct 2001 15:48:39 EDT

Ellen and Trollopeites (I tend to make up words as I go along),

I am a new member to the group, truly a voyeur, very shy (Sig may disagree), but decided to come out of my shell. I am totally lacking any Trollope in my background, but ready to jump in and learn. Just this week, I purchased and started reading The Warden.

Sig is one of my neighbors. My husband and I are only a few dips, twists and turns north of Sig, however, we are situated on the same side and adjacent to the same dry wash.

"Garden vs. yard." I don't know. You tell me. We live in a "living" desert. Beyond the walls and security bars exists a Dr. Seuss cornucopia of plants and animals. Our neighborhood is filled with ocotillo. They look like six to ten foot pieces of rebar haphazardly stuck in the ground most of the year, and yet, during our monsoons they turn into fuzzy green pipe cleaners with an occasional red tassel tied to the top! As for animals, I am forever rescuing tarantulas and baby lizards from the swimming pool. I've had a brush with our local bobcat, watched a Gila monster devour a mouse, and I've been known to spend hours watching the Gamble quail pecking order assert itself at the bird block outside my kitchen windows.

If lucky, we may get 4-6 inches of annual rain. We have two seasons, hot and HOTTER with mostly continual sunshine. I spend most of my day time on the run, golfing, swimming, socializing, painting (watercolors). We enjoy traveling. That's when I get most of my reading done--waiting for connections, waiting for my husband, waiting, waiting, waiting. I have limited squatter's rights on the computer that my husband and I share, so at times, I'm on for hours and at other times, I'm lucky to be able to check my email. Compromise, compromise.

Our "computer room" was originally the formal dining room of our 1963ish, red brick, ranch style home. Although our home is quite large, this room is small, about 10'x12'. Two of the walls are complete glass so it's bright and sunny even though a wide, covered back porch shelters it from direct sun. The computer is on Richard's desk and I work around innumerable stacks of important papers that are not to be disturbed. Good luck! I am surrounded by filing cabinets and bookcases that house antique Ebay items, both purchases and items to sell. A host of 4" wooden carvings and porcelain figurines amid art glass and Oriental carvings and computer manuals are gazing upon me as I type. My desk which is directly behind me is a wonderful, hand carved, 1940s, Mexican desk that belonged to my husband's grandfather. It's small but I love it. It is where I keep my computerized art work disks and "stuff".

Books, books, books I adore, but other than my small collection of children's' books, I tend to recycle them at the local used bookstore (heresy). Pending periodic trade-in days, they compete for space with my husband's beer stein collection and my studio space. I must admit, I buy books much faster than I read them. I tend to horde unread books due to an irrational fear that I won't be physically able to leave the house and will, consequently, not have anything to read in bed! I guess I could download reading material but it just would not be the same.

Enough of me. I've enjoyed reading about all of YOU. Thank you for sharing. I am looking forward to An Eye for an Eye.

Kitty Schwartz

From Patricia Stewart:

Date: Wed, 17 Oct 2001 15:17:47 -0700 (PDT)

Dear Readers,

I have been a member of this group for three years now. I came across the list by a mistake. If it was not for the group existing I would have never picked up a Trollope novel. I am a silent list member and Ellen is right, I am afraid to post. The fear being I will say something dumb or not spell a word correctly. I have stayed here because I enjoy the learning I receive and have grown to love each and every novel.

I have books in every room of the house and the same question has been asked of me, 'Have you read all those books?' My reply of-course is yes then I receive that awful wide, tooth bearing smile that immediately says you are not telling the truth. I am also condemned by family members for not being social as I would rather stay home and read.

As Always, Patricia

I chime in with Jill to welcome Kitty and to wish aloud that Patricia would post more. Patricia, you contributed beautiful posts during the time we were reading Hardy -- I remember how you loved Jude the Obscure.

Deserts are strange places -- they pulse with life like the rest of this earth, but life that accommodates itself to an intense sun and little water. I've always wanted to see the desert. I still hope to. Trollope does have a couple of short stories where he gives the reader a feeling of the dazzling heat of deserts and the tough struggle to survive: "A Ride Across Palestine" comes to mind; also there's "An Unprotected Female Among the Pyramids", "Returning Home", "Catherine Carmicheal" and powerfully _Harry Heathcote_. He banged around the world everywhere.

Trollope wrote many wonderful books. Like Jill said you can now dive in with us. We are thinking of having a Palliser marathon -- these are six novels for which Trollope is famous -- next spring. I am foolishly fond of _The Warden_. You also have the whole Barsetshire series ahead of you. We are grateful to Sig for telling you of us.


Although I can't find it, I will end this beautiful thread by saying that I remember Sig posting to tell Wayne that whenever anyone asks him if he's read all those books, he always says, "Yes, twice."

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