International Women’s Day 2017

International Women’s Day 2017 is here! First celebrated in 1909 the day has taken on several incarnations over the years, today advocating the need for greater gender equality and inclusivity. Every year has a theme, this year’s being #beboldforchange.

Here at The Vintage Notebook I like to use the day to spotlight an organisation or business which improves women’s lives in some way. A few examples of previous years can be found here and here. This year I was inspired by a photograph from the now famous series ‘Country Doctor’ by Eugene Smith, first published in Life magazine in 1948. It focused on the work of Dr Ceriani, a rural practitioner from Colorado, whose patients numbered 2000 and who single-handedly served an area of 400 square-miles.

Smith’s photographs are full of humanity. Dr. Ceriani’s hound dog expressions of concern are compelling in the extreme, as are the myriad emotional states of his patients. I would urge you to take a few moments out to look through the archive. Towards the end of the series are several photographs which failed to make the cut to publication. The picture below is one and remains my favourite.

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The caption merely reads ‘Dr Ceriani with a patient’. I know nothing of this woman beyond what is evident superficially; she appears to be in her seventies or even eighties. She is thin and her hands look like they have worked hard for many years. She seems to be telling the doctor her ailment, perhaps a back or chest pain judging by her gesture. Her face is full of character, with a beaky nose, drawn cheeks and slightly overhanging jaw, perhaps symptomatic of a few missing teeth. She has the physicality of a woman who has lived a hard and long life on the inclement, treeless flats of Kremmling Colorado. In addition to this however she is wearing a smart black dress with white lace colour. A jaunty and pristine little topper hat with bunches of berries on the front, sits atop white hair, neatly brushed and pinned up. I find the fact that this woman travelled many miles in her little fancy hat to see the doctor heartbreakingly sweet. She doesn’t strike me as the sort of woman to bother an incredibly overworked general practitioner unless there was something genuinely wrong with her and I hope that as she made her way home on her little sinewy legs, perhaps holding her hat against the wind, she had received some relief from Dr Ceriani.

I am always intrigued and drawn to the unknown realities of the women forgotten to history. This woman, who at a rough estimate would have been born in 1878, lived through a fascinating period of American history, not to mention two World Wars. Her thoughts, her experiences, heck, even her illness is unknown to us. She is merely known to the historical record as ‘a patient’.

This year, in part to celebrate the work of Dr Ceriani and the life of his unknown patient, and partly because this year it feels like they need our help more than ever, I’m donating to Planned Parenthood. I feel beyond fortunate to live in a county with a National Health Service, which has helped my sisters to have babies and me not to. These are our choices. They are valid. They should be supported, protected and defended. Because like Dr Ceriani, walking many miles a day to his patients, there should be ‘Care, no matter what’.

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Never Complain, Never Explain

‘Nobody cares, just work harder’. I saw that written somewhere the other day and it chimed with my own sensibilities very closely. I have always believed that the more you moan about how tired/busy you are, the worse the situation appears to you. And let’s be honest, no-one really cares. I mean, the people who love and support you will empathise, of course they will. But it’s 2017 – they are busy and tired too! The whole world is busy and tired. Not in a bad way you understand, but there is just so much world available to us that everyone is up to their eyeballs with things, even if that thing is watching Netflix from dawn until dusk. ‘Nobody cares, just work harder’ has quickly become one of my new favourite mantras, second only to, ‘never complain, never explain’ – this was apparently a maxim of Disraeli, but truth be told I first read it in an interview with Kate Moss. I find people who complain often faintly amusing. I like to cock my head to one side and gaze at them with a curious fondness I also adopt for the pygmy hippos in London Zoo, before busting out a sympathetic ‘oh dear’ on a long exhale and then cracking a daft joke at my own expense to lighten things up a bit.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t talk to friends and family about how you feel. Of course you bloody well should. If you don’t, well – that way be monsters. In addition, it hardly needs to be said that the ‘never complain’ sentiment does not extend to observable injustices in the wider world, say, oh I don’t know… just off the top of my head… rampant racism, xenophobia and bigotry dressed up as legitimate legislation….

 

For my own sake however, I prefer to get my head down and keep my mouth shut when I’m up against it workwise. As you may have already guessed, this is all leading up to me addressing the prolonged dearth of new posts on this ‘ere blog recently. Well, all I’m going to say is that I had my first PhD deadline last week. End of transmission. Nobody cares, just work harder after all.

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To wrap up this brief public service announcement with something pretty; my lovely big sister sent me this last night, with the succinct, yet accurate statement ‘a bit of you’. Ah how right she is. I immediately felt that I needed to own this, you know – for sipping ominously smoking acid green cocktails by moonlight and such. After all, I have been working so very hard recently….

 

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The Fog!

John Carpenter eat your blood-curdling heart out. Richmond was one foggy mess yesterday, so I took it upon myself to trek to the Park and try to take some atmospheric photographs. Fun fact – about a month ago I spent four hours taking (if I do say so myself) some rather lovely shots of the Autumn colours before realising that I had failed to insert a memory card into my camera; a small life-lesson about living in the moment perhaps. Anyway, this time I was fully SD’d up and so made my way like a doomed Hammer Horror priest, through the ominous fog to meet my foe – the Richmond Park deer.

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The fog really was very disorientating. I know the Park pretty well and yet failed to find the two huge lakes I usually like to circumnavigate. Instead I found some completely new areas that I had never ventured upon before. Or had I? Who knew in this damned chaos?!

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The atmosphere was freezing and soggy, the landscape – alien (Captain’s log, stardate thirty-twelve-sixteen). Sounds were muffled and visibility was only a few feet. Stags silently loomed in from the mist with nothing but disdain in their eyes.

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After some time I realised that I was tipping towards being lost, and not wishing to become fog-fodder I made my way home to an even more mysterious and vengeful beast – the cat.

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