:: Step Backwards To Step Forwards : The New Bohemians

Originally written for Make and Meaning by MEETMEATMIKES on JANUARY 12, 2010

I’m reading a great book at the moment, in between a couple of other great books.  It’s called ‘A Tale of Twelve Kitchens’.  A guy called Jake Tilson wrote it.  It’s a cookbook.  The first section details Jake’s early years, growing up in the late 60s-early 70s  in, amongst other places, a disused dairy with his art student parents.  He describes hiding out on the stairs with his sister, freezing in their pyjamas, but compelled to eavesdrop on the interesting supper-time conversations between artists and writers and other creative types.  There were communal meals nightly, a bit of a free-for-all of friends, food, ideas, music and art.  Later the Tilsons relocated  to the countryside, to an old Rectory making moves to be sustainable in their 30 room abode.  The kitchen floor was sometimes littered with free-ranging chickens, the Aga was firing and things were always messy and delicious.  It seems to me like an idyllic bohemian lifestyle.  Jake certainly grew up to do some great things, so obviously the crumby floors and crab-apple jelly worked out just great for him.
I’m also reading another great book ‘My Family and Other Animals’ by Gerald Durrell.  It’s really actually quite similar, but with more of a zoological bent.  There are definitely more tortoises, owls and magen-pies in Mr Durrell’s book.  But back to the similarities.  A family with a wonderful mother, this time relocated to Corfu to pursue a life of writing, cooking and fossicking about (amongst other wonderful things).  A hopeful, colourful, slightly ramshackle, free-flowing life packed full of jugs of wine and bowls of olives and notebooks and friends and discussion about all manner of things.  Idyllic, for sure.

These kind of books are JUST the kind of thing I like to read.  They are all about inviting people and ideas in to your life.  They are about being free and making your own food and making art and just, well, making good.  They are about mistakes and mess-ups and successes and triumphs too.  Children were parented with a sort of equality and inclusiveness.  Homes were full of books, exotic spices and muddy boots.  It’s a life that kind of makes me want to turn back the clock, but in other ways makes me realise that the sorts of things that some of us are doing are part of a New Bohemian movement.
We’re moving back to simplicity.  We’re shopping more consciously.  We’re treading more carefully.  We’re cooking more.  We’re gardening more.  We’re writing more.  We’re making more.  We’re buying books like The Tassajara Bread Book (1970), Elizabeth David’s Mediterranean Food (1950), Living On The Earth byAlicia Bay Laurel (1969) and a whole host of vintage gardening and craft books.  We’re taking steps backward re-reading the how-to tomes of yesteryear, so that we can simplify and  step forward.
My own childhood was chock full of home-made food, home-made clothes and home-made fun.  We lived in Tasmania on a huge bush block that was home to blue-tongue lizards, frogs, dogs, guinea pigs, possums and bats.  We were allowed to be messy and run wild.  Our holidays were spent at ‘The Shack’ swimming, fishing, taking the boat out and picking blackberries.  We roamed for hours, lured home by the smell of fresh raspberry pie and grubby exhaustion.  Bread was baked at home, dad brewed his own beer, there was a mushroom farm in the laundry and there were tangles in my hair.  Please note that I was often fighting with my siblings and my Mum once threw a record at my Dad.  We were not The Waltons.  It was quite perfectly imperfect and showed me that anything is possible, that you should just have a go.
Now, as an adult and a mum to 3 kids, I run my own store with my boyfriend of nearly 17 years,  and we live out the back.  It’s a two story building with the shop front and then a couple of rooms behind and lots of rooms upstairs too.  Our house hosts a constant stream of visitors who might be artists or writers or designers or teachers or stay at home mums or musicians.  Our door is always open, literally, which ensures that people pop-in all the time.   We cook every day because we like our own food the best.  We are a bit messy, but we are always making things, and you know that making thing is messy, right?!  Our house is cluttery and exciting.  We draw a lot.  We recycle.  We pick through other people’s roadside rubbish for useful things.   We grow vegetables on the roof and in our lane-way.  Not enough to feed the family, mind you.  We make bread, jam, ginger beer, curry paste and other delicious things, because we love to do it, it tastes better and it’s more frugal.  Sometimes we mess things up.  Sometimes we don’t.  This is the life I’ve learnt from my parents.  It’s my own version of the New Bohemianism.
How about YOUR life?  Are you taking Bohemian steps?  Are they big or small?  Are they awkward or natural? Do you have Bohemian roots?  I’d LOVE to hear about how you live… how you bundle up the family and the food and the friends and the making.  Or perhaps it’s your parents who are living the sort of  life the Tilsons and the Durrells did…  Do tell.   Are you taking steps backward to step forward, too?!
xx Pip
PS :: The THIRD book I’m reading is Molly Wizenberg’s ‘A Homemade Life’ !
PPS :: I am archiving my posts from Make and Meaning over here : I will post a couple each week : feel free to ignore them if you have read them before, petals!
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