Saturday, August 5, 2017

Ashley Sterne Advice to the Anxious

This little parody of a domestic advice column was taken from the April 30, 1927 number of the British magazine The Passing Show.

[Note:  Condy's fluid is a common British household disinfectant consisting essentially of an aqueous solution of a permanganate.]

It gives me exceeding great joy, my dear ones, when I have evidence that you regard me not only as your little friend, but as your little guide and little philosopher, too.

I am more happy than I can say that you should invest me (quite rightly), with the knowledge of an Aristotle and the wisdom of a Solomon, more especially in domestic matters in which most members of my sex do not usually shine.

It is, therefore, that what is for the good of one may be for the good of all, that I have purposely refrained from answering by note of hand alone the many letters which have reached me, asking my advice and help on the various problems and difficulties which arise at the annual spring-cleaning, and, instead, have collated the answers here.

I am sorry if, having kept some of you waiting unduly for my replies, you have already blundered through the tiresome business without the advantage of my assistance.  But, fortunately, what I have to say will do equally well for next spring or, for the matter of that, for all time.

MRS. AMELIA GUNN (Gunnersbury)  -- Can I tell you how to make soft soap?  My dear lady! what a ridiculous question!  Didn't you listen to what I said just now about Aristotle and Solomon?  Very well, then?  I cannot tell you how to make soft soap, because I don't know.

What precisely is soft soap?  Is it that stuff which looks like vaseline?  If it is, why not use vaseline for whatever it is you want to use soft soap?  To save the time of both of us, I may add that I can't tell you how to make vaseline, either.

MRS. AUGUSTA PECK (Peckham) -- Dear, dear!  However did  you manage to get tomato ketchup stains on the drawing-room carpet?  The best way to remove them is, of course, to cut the stained part clean out of the carpet.

Alternatively, they may be burned out with strong sulphuric acid, or you can stain them a different colour by pouring neat Condy's fluid over them.

MRS. MATILDA WIMBLE (Wimbledon) -- If the inside of your grand piano is so dusty and dirty as all that, I should strongly recommend you to flush it well out with a few buckets full of hot caustic soda solution.

If the instrument has no hole in the bottom where the pedals fit in, and consequently no orifice through which the liquid can escape, I am afraid that you will have to turn it on its back and let it drain.

You must then take it into the garden and allow it to dry in the sun.  On no account should you dry it before the kitchen fire, as doing so would certainly spoil the delicate mechanism.

MRS. EUPHEMIA BALL (Balham) -- Personally, I should advise you to have your chimneys swept upwards, instead of downwards.  The soot is then pushed out of the top of the chimney, whence it conveniently falls on to the roof, and is thereafter dissipated by the wind.

This method obviates the necessity for covering up the furniture, and saves all that nasty mess in the fireplace which sweeps invariably leave.

MRS. SOPHIA CRICK (Cricklewood) -- Your carpets must either be drycleaned with a cloth-ball or wet-cleaned with a tea-leaf.  On no account must they be beaten.  Corporal punishment for carpets was abolished by the Kindness to Kidderminsters Act of 1926.

But why not white-wash them?  A white-washed carpet looks awfully smart, and brightens up the dreariest room.

MRS. HEPHZIBAH MORE (Moreton-in-the-marsh) -- Well, of course if you must live in a marsh, you must expect your cork bath-mat to get damp occasionally.

It may be dried, however, by impressing it upon a sheet of blotting-paper, or if more convenient, by fanning it with a warm fan.

MRS. ELIZA GRIM (Grimsby) -- Those spots of beef-dripping may be dislodged from your bedroom mantelpiece by heating the mantelpiece red-hot when the dripping will first liquefy, and then turn to steam.  The steam should then be carefully blown out of window with a pair of bellows.

MRS. SARAH MACCLES (Macclesfield) -- The finger-marks on your lacquer cabinet can be removed with a coarse file, and the marks of the file can be erased by rubbing vigorously with emery-paper, and the marks of the emery-paper by rubbing even more vigorously with sand-paper, and the marks of the sand-paper by rubbing with pumice-stone. and the marks of the pumice-stone by scraping with the rough edge of the lid of a pineapple tin.

You need not worry about the marks of the tin, as by this time you will have made a hole right through the side of your cabinet.

MRS. MARTHA GIGGLE (Giggleswick) -- Yes, rather!  I can tell you how to clean the holes in your hammock.  Mix in a saucer a pint of sweet oil of bitter almonds, a bottle of ink and a pound of walnuts.  Add water to taste, and stir till the walnuts are dissolved.  Then squirt the mixture through the holes, one at a time, with a hypodermic squirt, taking care that the liquid does not touch the strings, as it is highly corrosive.

MRS. HANNAH SWAFF (Swaffham) -- The ink-stains on your dining-room ceiling may be successfully hidden by covering them with ceiling-wax.

MRS. ELIZABETH LAZENBY (Pickhill) -- No, madam.  Frightfully sorry and all that, but I must decline to tell you how to pickle spring onions, as they have nothing whatever to do with spring-cleaning.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Rocky Mountain National Park

Yesterday I traveled to the Rocky Mountain National Park to enjoy a hike.  The overall drive time was 5 hours, but my hiking time only amounted to 3 hours.  My typical measure of recreational efficiency is that I should spend as much time recreating as I do traveling.  Therefore, I need to arrive earlier next time and get in five hours of hiking (or drive to the park like a maniac).

The park was so full of tourists that no more cars were allowed in.  Therefore, I took a shuttle to a park-and-ride depot and then a second shuttle to the Bear Lake trail head.

Here is a map of the day's itinerary.

Bear Lake is a favorite of older tourists -- a maximum of scenery in an easy half mile walk around the lake on a well-maintained trail.

I then headed to Nymph Lake.  I saw no nymphs -- neither insects nor mythological deities.  But the lake itself was lovely.  Here is a section of the lake covered by pond lilies.

Next I walked about a mile to Hiayaha Lake.  My brochure said nothing about a treacherous field of boulders on the way to this lake.  Some of the boulders were the size of a car; others the size of
a washing machine.  I gingerly made my way over and around these obstacles and was rewarded with the sight of a splendid lake with emerald water.

I highly recommend a visit to this wonderful national park.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

At the Farmer's Market

A pleasant bike ride this morning led me to the farmer's market -- always a cheerful place.

Next to my bike rack was parked a Smart Car impersonating a Mercedes.  The owner was wearing the uniform of the old geezer who wants to be considered quite a character: a short-brimmed straw hat, a plaid shirt, suspenders, and high-water pants.  He apparently claims to be a tango dancer.  I have my doubts that he has successfully danced a tango this century.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Iowa in July

I drove to Iowa to visit my Dad and other family members.  In addition to paying a call on relatives, I found a few idle hours one afternoon to see exhibits at the Figge Art Museum.

My favorite artwork was a back-lit stained glass scene by Louis Comfort Tiffany, son of the founder of the famous company (as in Breakfast at Tiffany's).  The plaque read:

Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933)
River of Life Window, circa 1905.
Favrile [i.e., handmade] glass, copper foil, lead

I liked this painting of the Grand Canyon by William Robinson Leigh (1866 - 1955).  The painting is oil on canvas mounted on panel, but looks rather like a pastel effect.

What Iowa art museum could be without a Grant Wood painting?

The plaque read:

Grant Wood (1891 - 1942)
Iowa Cornfield, 1941
Oil on Masonite

The Figge Art Museum also has the iconic Persephone brooch worn by the daughter in Grant Woods's American Gothic picture.  Hot stuff!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Nature, Art, and Chicken Salad

Today was full of my favorite things: nature, art, and food.  Mundane things, I admit, but pleasurable.

I bicycled to the farmers' market to buy lettuce and a cucumber.  The morning breeze was cool and refreshing on the trail.  Birds were singing in the trees.

I arrived at the farmers' market, locked my trusty Lemond, and sauntered down the row of booths to my usual produce seller.  The red lettuce was especially beautiful today.

I biked back home and immediately jumped in the car, drove to the nearby light rail station, and took the light rail downtown.  Objective: the free Denver Art Museum (DAM) exhibits.  Today the DAM was partnering with the adjacent Clifford Still Museum.  After a quick stroll past the DAM exhibits, I betook myself next door to see the Clifford Still (1904-1980) paintings.

While I confess that I am mostly blind to the merits of Mr. Still's abstract expressionism -- I favor art that retains some tie to nature -- some of the paintings were striking in their contrasts of color and composition.  His later paintings were behemoths taking up an entire wall.  Here are the two that I found most interesting (or perhaps I should say least deranged and bewildering).

This second painting was involved in a notorious 2012 arrest.  From the Denver Post article:

A 36-year-old Denver woman, apparently drunk, leaned against an iconic Clyfford Still painting worth more than $30 million last week, punched it, slid down it and urinated on herself, according to a criminal case against Carmen Lucette Tisch.
“It doesn’t appear she urinated on the painting or that the urine damaged it, so she’s not being charged with that,” said Lynn Kimbrough, a spokeswoman for the Denver District Attorney’s Office, said Wednesday.
“You have to wonder where her friends were.”
Tisch is being charged with criminal mischief in the incident that happened at the Clyfford Still Museum at 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 29.
Damage to the painting — “1957-J-No. 2.” — is estimated at $10,000.
The painting, which is nearly 9 1/2 feet tall and 13 feet wide, is estimated between $30 million and $40 million by the museum.
I can sympathize with the unfortunate Ms. Tisch.  My own emotion reaction to the painting was roughly similar, but I restrained myself from resorting to either violence or urine.

I walked to the light rail station, my mind still agitated by the angry splashes of color on the Clifford Still paintings.  I boarded the light rail and settled into my seat in hopes of a relaxing ride.

The light rail rolled past the Denver ComicCon crowds.  Their costumes ranged from charming to wacky to disturbing.  On the charming side: I saw a fetching middle-aged Princess Leia, complete with white gown and macaroon hairstyle.  On the wacky side: I leaned toward the light rail window and snapped a shot of two ladies with colorful hair.  On the disturbing side: there were several young people riding the light rail who were disfigured with large and garish tattoos.  However, these pitiable people may not have had anything to do with ComicCon.

Here are the wacky girls:

I reached my destination station, detrained, walked to my car, and drove to The Bagel Deli for an excellent chicken salad sandwich.

All in all, what kind of day could be more satisfying to an Iowa boy in the big city?

Sunday, June 25, 2017

In the Enchanted Forest

I took a short hike this morning on the Enchanted Forest trail.  The wildflowers were in bloom.  My favorites were the wild rose and the cactus flower.

On the avian side, I saw an American Goldfinch but was only able to take its photograph from a great distance.

A better picture, stolen from the Internet:

The most enjoyable part of the hike was sitting on a log in the Enchanted Forest itself.  A photograph is insufficient to capture the ambiance: the sound of bird songs near and far, the cozy sense of being surrounded by trees, and the soft light filtering down from the tree canopy overhead.