"Subtly, in the little ways, joy has been leaking out of our lives. The small pleasures of the ordinary day seem almost contemptible, and glance off us lightly... Perhaps it's a good time to reconsider pleasure at its roots. Changing out of wet shoes and socks, for instance. Bathrobes. Yawning and stretching. Real tomatoes." Barbara Holland
It is a very ordinary day - dull, no sun, and nothing much happening. Or is it? Well those tomatoes for a start. Tomatoes these days are not ordinary. At over $9.00 a kilo we don't buy them these days. Those three cost more than a dollar each. And, as usual I have to say, the tomatoes I planted in the garden were pretty useless too. Useless in a different way - they weren't pricey - they just didn't really produce any tomatoes.
So yes 'pleasure at its roots' - real tomatoes. Well they are supermarket tomatoes but they are real. Somebody grew them. Even if it was a large company. Somebody grew them. And don't they look lovely on that tea towel above the reflection of themselves and the ordinary day outside the kitchen window?
David bought them because it's a fasting day for me and there are no leftovers to heat up in the fridge, and so he will be having his favourite salad. But we didn't have any salad ingredients other than lettuce. A fasting day, so not an ordinary day, although I have to say that it adds to that feeling of joy leaking out of my life.
Because it's such an ordinary day I am also uninspired, and then I (a) saw those tomatoes and (b) found this picture on my desk diary - The Spanish Singer by Manet, which might look pretty ordinary but is not for at least three reasons.
Apparently the thing that the critics go on about is that this is a left-handed model playing a right-handed guitar, which is obviously incorrect. Why did Manet do this? Couldn't he be bothered to get it right? Well there are lots of theories, but the Manet.org website says, that when confronted with this by his contemporaries Manet:
"thought the "error" inconsequential and changed nothing when it was pointed out. He did remark, however, that he "had painted the head in one go" and that when "I looked at it in my little black mirror... it was all right. I never added another stroke."
And apparently if you look at it in a mirror it is indeed OK - it looks correct because"
"great masters never make mistakes in their important works and their minds, like ours, are a mirror of reality. ... The Spanish Singer, as an image of Manet's mind, mirrors reality."
Which is sort of interesting and clever, but the things that I noticed about it were the his shoes looked very much like modern-day sneakers - this was painted back in 1860 after all, and also that there were onions on the floor - no other props - just the onions and a jug of some kind. I suppose the onions were to remind you that the man was supposedly Spanish, or maybe it was saying something about that reality - because the man is more likely just a French model and not Spanish at all.
And here's another thing about Spanish onions. These days lots of people seem to think that Spanish onions are red onions. Not so - Spanish onions are the 'ordinary' brown onions. Moreover, perfectly in line with Manet's 'reality' do you remember the Spanish onion sellers that used to roam the streets of England. My mother would always buy a string of those onions if one knocked on our door. But here's the thing. The onions were Spanish, but the sellers were French.
Those onion sellers are long gone now. Another job that has disappeared into the mists of past memory. I wonder what they do now over there in Brittany, which is from where they came? I'm sure they do something. New jobs always replace old ones.
What else occurred on this ordinary day? Well my poor daughter-in-law went down with COVID, caught from her small son, who didn't suffer much at all. She, is not quite as lucky, but not so bad as to need either a doctor or hospital, and coincidentally both David and I had our fourth vaccination - well second booster and now my arm is a little sore, which is also a bit 'ordinary' in that other slightly different sense, of 'not very good'. I imagine that the quote at the top of the page is related to COVID, and the Ukraine, and all the other bad things happening around the world.
Maybe even the death of the planet, which one nutty lady in our Italian class told us was because we are now in the Age of Aquarius which is all bad but never mind. when it ends all will be well. When will it end? In about two hundred years she said, but I just looked it up and it's actually a period of 2160 years, although there seems to be absolutely no agreement about when it began, or even if it has begun. The dates range from sometime in the nineteenth century to 2025. I won't be here to see the end of it anyway.
The Italian class, was mild fun, and before there was some photography of street art at the shopping centre where the Italian class takes place. This week our topic for taking photographs, chosen by one of my grandsons is Graffiti and street art, which is pretty interesting. I think this particular piece of art has been created by schoolchildren in the ares, and, as you can see, it is very bright and cheerful. As the rain pattered down around it, the colours shone.
Below are some other favourites that I have taken this week. The ceramic looking things are barely noticeable, tucked away on a pillar holding up a car park. It's an exercise in trying to make treasure out of trash in a way. The street art is intentionally arty of course, but the graffiti is sometimes genuinely artistic in itself and always providing a potentially artistic opportunity for a photograph. And even the intentionally artistic is generally just ignored and taken for granted, but if you look at it more carefully, you see all sorts of things. Like Manet's Spanish singer's sneakers and onions.
I wandered around an amazing Asian foodstore looking for pomegranate molasses. Yes I know they are Middle-Eastern but you never know. Well in this case I should have, because there were none. There are lots of Chinese people living in the area, and also, of course, we are all cooking Asian food anyway. I am in the wrong area for the Middle-Eastern specialist shops - that's in the Northern suburbs. Disappointing and a bit mind-blowing at the same time. So many ingredients that you just don't recognise at all. Ordinary to the Chinese perhaps but not to me.
Back at home David recounted the kindness of the nurse who gave him his COVID shot, and also checked his leg wound, so much so that he called in at the clinic's other surgery on the way back to tell them how much he appreciated it, only to be almost hugged by the three receptionists there who obviously don't get much praise. We should do this kind of thing more often. People are quick to criticise, but not to praise.
I thought I had not done much today. And indeed I haven't really, not in grandiose terms, even in middling terms, indeed in my terms. And yet I have learnt a few things that I didn't know before, smiled at the natural life-enhancing art of children and found, I hope, something to write about that is mildly interesting.
"I'm happy to be reminded that an ordinary day full of nothing but nothingness can make you feel like you've won the lottery." Susan Orlean
Well probably not quite as good as that although I think David felt, at least momentarily a little of that.
As to food. I am now going to pick a cookbook and find something amazing to cook for tomorrow's dinner. I feel it's time for something really special. This week has been very ordinary on the food front - mostly because we have been eating leftovers from last week - that problem of mine of not being able to cook for just two. So shall I go for something new and very different or shall I go for something old and not cooked for many years? Maybe even a dessert. A cheesecake perhaps with some of that ricotta. It's Friday tomorrow after all.
It's almost dark and the birds are chirping their way to sleep. No gorgeous sunset because it's just an ordinary day. But soon there will be a fire to warm the toes and the soul at the same time, mindless tv - how ordinary is that, a little bit of sudoku and wordle to, hopefully, make me feel good about myself and so to bed before another ordinary day.
"We have to make good use of the time we have. That simple. We have to wake up every day, knowing that it's not just an ordinary day." Orlando Bloom
Now there's a small joy - how surprising that somebody one thinks of as just a pretty face, and not very brainy, says something meaningful. Not original for sure, but still - well put. Brief and to the point.