Old friends, Bob and Kanye.

IMG_4474

I moved the “stereo” to a new place.

Tucked under the bar in the entrance to my home.

It works visually, snug on an unused shelf and means the old cabinet in the living room could fill with glasses (I have a thing for glasses).

And in a completely unworthy and serendipitous way I have fallen in love with listening to music again.

Now the sound spreads out the door. Onto the steps where in a similar fit of art direction I placed the most comfortable chair in the house: a leather butterfly chair.

And in a house of chairs, THIS seems the best place to sit, read and listen.

I can hear music in my office, but in a different way then from the computer, and it floods the living room and kitchen and out into the garden. It’s so easy to switch on when I walk past out to grab the papers. Back to the chair on the steps, a nice new routine.

IMG_4477

IMG_4481

IMG_4482

In the mess that is hundreds of disorganized CDs, cases, blanks and orphans, I find one of the 2 albums I never tire of hearing.

Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline.

Released in 1969, I know I’ve owned a copy forever… vinyl, cd, IPOD. Probably even a cassette.

The songs are simple.

To quote Paul Nelson, Rolling Stone
“Nashville Skyline achieves the artistically impossible: a deep, humane and interesting statement about being happy”

The beauty is the absolute simplicity. After albums of multi layered, complicated moving imagery and manipulation, these songs sing of heartfelt joy, aching love, desire and disappointment.

” Why wait any longer for the world to begin. You can have your cake and eat it too.

Why wait any longer for the the one you love, When he’s standing in front of you.”

Critics nailed Dylan for celebrating the banal and cliched, but the album became his best selling to date and many loved his new voice, a soft country croon, the duet with Johnny Cash and the insidiously lovely melodies.

So back on rotation when I’m home alone and just puttering.

“To be alone with you, just you and me. Why don’t ya tell me its true, aint that the way it oughta be?

To hold each other tight, the whole night thru. Everything is alright when I’m alone with you.”

IMG_4480

The other “never tire” album?

Kanye West’s 808’s and Heartbreak.

Described as “provocatively miserable,” I played it over and over when it was released in 2008. So easy when you own a cafe and no one realizes the same music has been on repeat since 8am (sorry noshies!).

Cool minimal electronics, sad sad devastation and exhausted, heartbroken lyrics.

IMG_4515

IMG_4517

“I keep it low, keep a secret code / so everyone else don’t have to know,”

“There is no clothes that I could buy

That could turn back the time

There is no vacation spot I could fly

That could bring back a piece of real life”

And like Dylan 30 years before, a whole new voice, albeit surrounded by AUTOTUNE, the digital pitch device, amplifying rather than anesthetizing emotion.

His minimalism reminds me of favorite painters or sculptors: simplistic externals that suggest a complicated interior.

Kanye took a robotic drum machine and autotune and created a deep and beautiful collection of songs.

IMG_4542

I don’t know why I can listen to some albums over and over or read some books again and again.

It’s like the B grade movie, so often more personally relevant, informative and enjoyable than the classic. And the books I repeatedly indulge in and the albums I never tire of hearing, speak to me in a whole different way.

I heard Daniel Levitan, author of “This is your Brain on Music”, speaking on NPR about the interplay of familiarity and novelty, and how listening to music coordinates more disparate parts of the brain than almost anything else.

Maybe that’s the thing… disparate brain parts, heartache and joy, the new and the old all wrapped in lyricism and melody.

PS.Some books I reread:

Daniel Martin by John Fowles

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Some albums I replay:

Alison Krause’s Now that I found You

Kid Cudi’s Man on the Moon 2

IMG_4540

IMG_4523

IMG_4541

             Happiest concert ever: sounds and smiles as he sang the ‘coldest stories ever told’!

Advertisements

Set the Table.

arzbergedti

My grandma was cool.

Brilliant, intellectual, stylish and way ahead of her time.

Born in poverty, close to the Arctic circle she emigrated with her family to Australia when she was 12, never to see Norway again.

Pregnant and married to the love of her life at 16, living in a rough timber shack and raising 4 children, she embraced beauty and intellect and eduction. Each day included home schooling of music, culture or literature while she cooked on a primus gas ring, a practice she continued until the end of her life. Although my 14 year old father was supporting the family shooting rabbits when grandpa was injured, she knew that rigor and aesthetic would out and things would improve. A lifetime tradition of discussion (and argument!) over the dinner table was established.

My dad would describe this tough time as “bread and water, sometimes meat and potatoes but dreaming of fruit on the sideboard”. I have always loved this analogy.

plates4

Fierce and difficult, brilliant and one of a kind, I think of her often.

Her youngest son became an academic. He travelled and studied abroad, and indulged her passion for china, dishes and modern ceramics. In the later years of her life she loved her hard won home and incredible garden and especially being surrounded by beautiful things.

Meals were times to gather at the table and enjoy food, the company, and conversation.

As children visiting, we were tasked with choosing which dinner set we would use to set the table for lunch.

The choice: Yellow and Black, mostly Villeroy and Boch, but amended and added to with dishes and jugs, salad bowls and bakeware from everywhere, as long as they were modern, yellow or black. Very dramatic!

My choice usually.

The other side of the kitchen held the cheery english red and black and white checked set. OK, but not my favorites.

In the sideboard there were White Arzberg dinner plates and beautiful platters, coffee pots, casseroles, little soup bowls and demi tasse coffee cups. These were used at night and for “occasions” when the modern teak table was extended and accented with peacock blue clothes and teal napkins. Some brass candlesticks too.

We took this task seriously.

To set a table is to be in control of a vision.

We would carefully count out knives and forks and spoons and put them in the right place. Spacing out plates and bowls just so, and making sure there were condiments and salt and pepper shakers.

The lesson: care and responsibility.

The end result: beauty and happiness.

teapot

She didn’t live to see disposable dinnerware, nor travel to the United States to see real food served in foam boxes even at cafes. Or extremely successful wealthy people on reality TV programs eating from plastic take away boxes. She couldn’t imagine a world where people CHOOSE to drink from paper cups rather than a coffee cup. We had bright colored melamine picnic sets when we headed to remote beaches or went miles up bush tracks for billy tea and sandwiches. I don’t remember ever using  paper or plastic until I was catering.

plates2 plates

Decades after setting my grandma’s table, I love my shelves of china.

I have owned the yellow and black extravaganza collection since I was 30, and the white Arzberg for 25 years after my mum, downsizing, decided she didn’t entertain often enough to keep them. 50 plus  years of “occasions”, they are the heart of my dishery and I probably use some of them every day.

bowls

Nothing is “for show”, and much has been broken or chipped, and thrown away. My newly, crawling son pulled a pile of Italian platters from the cupboard onto the tile floor, so the family joke is that a couple of pay checks are owed. . ..maybe those beautiful Heath dishes aren’t so out of reach after all!

And I dream of creating my own dinnerware…..

I wonder why you wouldn’t you set the table or eat from a cool bowl? Grab a tray and some napkins for the take away TV dinner? My husband’s idea of cooking dinner is buying sushi and setting the table!

The simplest meal is a quiet celebration: good fortune? A momentary respite? Companionship or family?

disshery1

Michael Pollan says that each meal is an opportunity for choice.

To show how we feel about agriculture vs. agribusiness, labor practices, health and nutrition, animal cruelty and our own self worth and traditions.

I think the set table is also another choice, and like many of the small and simpler things of life, wrongly perceived as trivial.

It’s not fussy or pretentious or god forbid,  “tablescapey”, but recognition that work has been done to create this meal (even to buy it) and now it’s time to stop and sit.

Take a moment. Feel happy and blessed.

And dig in!

Amen. grandma

Valdris Woldseth: 1906-1985