Category Archives: Arts

Books Environmental politics

Notes from The Seabird’s Cry by Adam Nicholson

p. 336

“Over the last 60 years, the world population of seabirds has dropped by over two-thirds. One-third of all seabird species is now threatened with extinction. Half of them are known or thought to be in decline. Some petrels, terms and cormorants have been reduced to less than 5% of the numbers that were alive in 1950. Albatrosses and shearwaters, frigate birds, pelicans and penguins have all suffered deep body-blows. Some bird families – the gannets and boobies, some gulls and storm petrels – have managed to keep their numbers up or even increase them slightly, but overall the picture is a decline of seabird numbers of about 70% in six decades. … Those seabirds whose numbers are even roughly known have dropped from about 300 million in 1950 to about 100 million in 2010… The graph trends to zero by about 2060. … we have brought this disaster on ourselves: through overfishing; by the massive accidental catching of birds in fishing hear; by their deliberate destruction; by introducing rats, cats, dogs, pigeons, goats, rabbits and cattle to the breeding paces of birds which were defenceless against them…; through pollution by oil, metals, plastics and other toxins; by the destruction of nesting sites by human development; and through the multiple effects of climate change and the acidification of the sea.”

p/ 10 Only 350 out of the 11,000-odd species of birds have taken to the sea. For all their difference, a certain way of life unites them, different from most birds, not living a year or two but, in the very oldest albatrosses, up to 80 or 90 years; not raising chicks the season after they are born but slow to mature, waiting many years before laying an eff; not hoping against hope with 8 or 9 eggs in each clutch, but often raising a single chick, long incubated in the egg, long fed in the nest; rarely moving on from one partner to the next but often faithful for many years, each parent relying on the other to raise the next generation. These life-histories are shared, significantly, only by the vultures, which must also look for rare concentrations of prey in the wide and hostile sterilities of the world, not at sea but in the desert. These are the edge-choosers, creatures whose lives have stepped beyond the ordinary into environments of such difficulty that they can respond only with a slow cumulative mastery which amounts in the end to genius.”

p. 28-34 “Until recently, people have only been able to guess what the fulmars did when they were not to be seen… The revelatory fulmar was a big male, number 1568, and was well known to the scientists. He had bred on Eynhallow with the same partner for the previous 11 years and just after midday on 23 May 2012 the Aberdeen scientists grabbed him.. His partner was away fishing. .. Three days later she came back and at 10.30 that evening 1568 headed out to sea… for two days he waited for the wind, afloat on the ocean just to the north-west of Orkney. But then the weather changed … strong south-easterlies began to blow… he set off to the north-west, a sustained 11-hour flight to the channel between Shetland and the Faroes, a rich picking ground for the plankton drifting up in the North Atlantic Current. He stayed there almost a day, hungry from his time on the egg in Eynhallow… early the in the morning of the fourth day, 1568 set off in the wing … and flew fast and hard out into the depths of the North Atlantic for 2.5 days, a thousand miles in 55 hours. He slowed at night, but during the day sometimes covered more than 40 straight-line miles in an hour. If you take the zigzag path of his dynamic soaring into account, he may have been travelling half as fast again… he arrived at the destination he had undoubtedly been seeking, the rich waters around a mountainous and broken section of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge called the Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone. .. he feast for three days, not travelling far, but feeding on the plankton, squid and fish that gather at that meeting of the warm North Atlantic Current and the cold fertile waters coming down from the Arctic … After three days, 1,500 miles from Eynhallow, he turned for home, but intriguingly did not make a beeline for Orkney, instead flying, now into strong headwinds, to Galway Bay in southwest Ireland. It may be that he was choosing the headwinds that were nearer the centre of the depression and so slightly weaker … Arriving in Ireland he was many hundreds of miles outh of Orkney, but the Vikings used to navigate like this: leave the coast of Norway, aim as best you could for the mainland of Britain, hit it somewhere you would recognize and then follow the coast to your original destination. That looks like 1568’s method, aiming for the great unmissable wall of Europe … All the same, his geographical understanding was precise. He knew he was to the south of where he needed to be. He could expect that there would be homeward-heading southerlies on the eastern edge of a low, and having fed on the sea for eight hours off the rich sea life in Galway Bay, 1568 turned definitively north along the Atlantic coastline, hugging the shore until he reached the big headland of Erris Head … there cut north-east for Tory Island and then the Hebrides… He made his Scottish landfall at the great lighthouse of Skerryvore off the southwest point of Tiree. There again, in the surging tidal overfalls, he paused and few for a few hours … he arrived at nine in the evening on 9 June 2012, having travelled a straight-line distance of nearly 3,900 miles in just over two weeks. After a moment or two together, his mate left for her own (unknown) voyaging and 1568 settled on to the egg.. tucked his head under the wing, sitting on the sorrel and the thrift, and slept…. His ocean journeys were an act of memory. Here is a bird so attuned to the ways of planet and ocean, not only physically and instinctively but psychologically and even analytically, that it is possible to see in its whole being an intelligence different from but scarcely less than ours. The GPS tracks are a map of that mind, allowing a glimpse into a fulmar’s consciousness.”

p. 148 Traditional societies have a long history of empathy with the wild animals that surround them. Stillborn children were buried on the wings of whooper swans in Mesolithic Denmark. At Isbister in Orkney, more than 600 sea eagle bones were missed in with the human remains laid in a Bronze Age tomb. In Shetland and Foula, shepherds used to feed titbits to the great skuas, the bonxies, that protected their lambs from the sea eagles and ravens.”

p. 164 guillemots are “’socially monogamous;, meaning that like human beings they are essentially monogamous but don’t always manage to keep to it in practice … guillemot wives call the shots … Great Island off the coast of Newfoundland … every summer for five years, darn to dusk, they watched 60 individually marked birds, an extraordinarily vivid psycho-theatre of seabird life … Some of them were undoubtedly badly behaved: one didn’t feed his chick and it starved, another knocked his chick off the cliff while fighting with a neighbour’ one didn’t know how to incubate the egg and another simply stood next to it rather than over it, so it cooled and died. This bird was attacked by her partner when he returned to the ledge. Another guillemot decided to drive her partner off the egg, which was then eaten by a gull. Every one of these offenders was kicked out by their husband or wife during the following winter, unseen by the biologists, but evidence enough the next year shown the marriage was clearly over. .. the female would have sex only with a male that had already shown some excellent paternal skills. Male birds from neighbouring nests which in previous seasons had carefully sheltered and few their chick and which, after two weeks or so, had called the chick down from the edge to the seas where they would look after them and feed them for many weeks: those were the birds the females would set their eyes on.”

p. 252 “Only by observing gannets from the same colony, particularly those gannets which are doing well in raising good strong chicks, watching where they are going and watching where they are returning from, will lead the young, inexperienced gannets to that part of the sea where they are likely to find fish not already fished out by the neighbouring gannetry … the effect is for each colony to develop a set of habits, a fishing pattern, a way of doing things which is unique to that colony, passed down across the generations, creating what is in effect a culture, a pattern of understanding and a way of life, tied to its own geography, unique to that gathering of gannets. Memes, or cultural clusters of knowledge and skills, are inherited across the generations.”

p. 274 “The great auk remains the King of the Lost. It was the first ‘penguin’, maybe a Breton or Welsh name, which the French still use for the razorbill… The last of the great auks were found and killed in the far north, in Newfoundland, Scotland and Iceland, but those were only the safest, most distant and residual refuges. They had once stomped and hunted across as much of the Atlantic as the penguins now cover in the Southern Ocean. Fossils have been found in Calabria in southern Italy, on the Atlantic coast of Morocco, in Gibraltar and in the Canaries. A whole landscape at least 500,000 years old has been uncovered in a quarry at Boxgrove in Sussex, and here, alongside eagle owls, ancient swans, geese, gannets, cormorants and razorbills, were great auks with the bones and stone axes of the men who had butchered them… The body of a man in one prehistoric grave in Newfoundland has been found covered in more than 150 great auk bills, perhaps the remains of the most astonishing seabird cloak ever made, clacking and rustling around the body of the ancient chieftain like great auk chain mail, a sheath of Atlantic bird life.”

p. 278 But of all the great auk finds, the most endearing and unlikely was in the late Roman layers underneath the Laza del Marques in Gijon in northern Spain. The bones of the bird, which must have come in from the Bay of Biscay, just to the north, were surrounded by the remains of a lock of chickens. Were they simply different parts of a menu. Or did a great auk live for a while in an elegant, columned Roman coop, leading his gaggle of hens around him, clacking away at them with his giant ridged bill, king of the northern birds, treasured as a noble oddity by a provincial Roman, reading his Horace, sipping his vinho verde?”

Books Feminism History London Women's history

Notes from British Boarding Houses in Interwar Women’s Literature: Alternative Domestic Spaces by Terri Mulholland

p. 3 “Women living in boarding houses are diverse characters. They are not only widows and elderly spinsters, they are also younger working women, such as T.S. Eliot’s ‘typist home at teatime’ in The Waste Land, who must make her room serve as both bedroom and living space, with her ‘food in tins’ alongside her ‘drying combinations’. They may inhabit similar rooms, but their experiences are very different. There is Miriam Henderson, a young dental secretary, in Dorothy Richardson’s Pilgrimage (1915-67_ series, embracing her independent life and her own ‘triumphant faithful latchkey’ and Mary Datchet in Virginia Woolf’s novel Night and Day (1919), an active member of the women’s suffrage movement who is portrayed working with purpose in her single room. They provide a sharp contrast to the middle-aged and unnamed protagonist of Storm Jameson’s novella A Day Off (1933), who lives a precarious life of uncertainty, waiting for money from her lover to pay the rent on her bed-sitting room. Boarding house rooms and the men who pay for them are also features of Jean Rhys’s interwar novels, where her female protagonists not only occupy spaces outside the family home, they also enact roles outside the domestic ideal, merging the boundaries between the wife in the house and the prostitute on the street. There are also the women who run boarding and lodging houses, as depicted in Stella Gibbon’s novel Bassett (1934), who experience the conflicts between the home as both commercial and family space. A common theme throughout all these novels is poverty; even those in paid employment struggle to make ends meet on their meagre salaries.”

“Life for women in Britain between the two World Wars has been retrospectively defined by its contradictions: increasing independence and greater opportunities outside the home, contrasted with a dominant ideology which maintained that a woman’s place was firmly within the familial structure. Census data for England and Wales shows the number of single women over the age of 25 increased from around two million in 1911 to over two and a half million by 1931, far outnumbering the number of single men whose numbers had not even reached two million.”

p. 8 “Between 1861 and 1911 female clerical workers in London increased from 279 to 569,850. There were around five million female workers at the beginning of the century making up 29 per cent of the total workforce…. Accommodation for the professional woman included the Ladies Residential Chambers on Chenies Street (built in 1888) and York Street (built in 1892) and Sloan Gardens House (built in 1889), which was run by the Ladies’ Associated Dwellings Company. However, these … had a long waiting list. They were also relatively expensive: the Chambers ranged in price from 30 to 90 pounds per year making it too expensive for the majority of working women. Sloane Gardens House was more affordable at 10 shillings per week for an unfurnished room, compared to between 18 and 25 shillings per week in a private ladies’ boarding house. In an article in The Contemporary Review in 1900, Alice Zimmern suggested that a woman would need to earn at least one pound per week to afford around 15 shillings on board an lodging and suggests that: “The lady who earns less presents a problem for the wages rather than the housing question”.

p. 126 “Writing in 1937, the American Mary Ellen Chase observes how on early Sunday evenings the streets of Bloomsbury ‘are punctuated by Americans traversing the distance from their rooms in boarding-houses and a hundred small hotels to the nearest red pillarboxe3s to post their Sunday letters home’.

p. 128 “For those women without the money to socialise in the more affluent circles, the metropolis did not necessarily foster the supportive community of expatriates they had envisaged. The New Zealand writer Jane Mander made a frugal living as a writer and editor in interwar London nad had a wide circle of acquaintances, but her compatriot Robin Hyde did not thrive in her new environment, and her ill health, depression and lack of money led her to commit suicide in her Kensington boarding house in 1939 … As Louise Mack herself acknowledged …”There are three grades of homelessness in London – Boarding-house, Apartments, Flat. If you live in Boarding-houses you cannot be known. If you live in Apartments you can go and see your friends. If you have a flat your friends can come and see you.”

p. 130 “Nancy Wake, an Australian who became famous for her work as a member of the French Resistance during the Second World War, travelled to London in 1932 and took up residence in a ‘cheap boarding house’ on the Cromwell Road. Like many of those growing up as part of the British Empire, Wake’s initial reactions to England, and particularly London, were mediated through the representations absorbed in childhood that had become as familiar to her as actual experience .. grown up in Australia singing a rhyme about Big Ben: I am Big Ben/Hear what I say/All other clocks/Get out of my way”. The implied message of British domination in this childhood rhyme was adopted unquestioningly by wake once she was in London. London’s history ‘made Sydney look infantile in comparison’ and Wake ‘felt a little sniffy when she gazed back on the tired old life she imagined her friends and family must be living in Sydney’.


Louise Mack An Australian Girl in London

Sara Jeannette Duncan An American Girl in London

Louise Closser Hale An American’s London (1920)

Books Environmental politics History Politics

Notes from A Global History of Literature and the Environment

p. 37

Mencius (372-289 BCE)

“If nets of fine mesh do not enter pools and ponds, there will be more fish and turtles than we can consume. If axes enter the hills and forests only at the proper times, there will be more wood than we can use.

p. 88 “Olympian 7 should be read as a foundation text in environmental literary history because it provides an early example of the dominant narrative of the Euro-masculinist West, which has largely viewed geological and biological phenomena as feminine objects fit for subjugation and exploitation. Pindar… reproduces systemic violence against the female in his representation of Rhodes as voiceless female, who seemingly would not have even come into existence had Helios not needed a possession wherewith to assert his status in relation to his fellow elite Males, Zeus, Hades and Poseidon.”

p. 93 “The earliest Maya literature to have survived the Spanish Conquest … particularly the Popol Vuh, attempts to explain the origins of chaotic nature as the first in a series of unsuccessful stages of creation leading ultimately to an agriculturally centres world of predictable cycles of life, death and regeneration, mediated by humans. Those aspects of nature that are independent of human intervention, such as the animals that inhabit the untamed forest, represent chaotic wilderness that constantly seeks to reclaim cultivated land.

Books Environmental politics Politics

Notes from The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy by Michael McCarthy

p. 71 “A major concern, however, is not only what China’s frenzied growth is doing to its own environment, but what it is also doing to environments beyond its borders …600 million of its people, nearly a tenth of the world’s population, live in river catchments which drain into the Yellow Sea, mean that the pressure to reclaim tidal flats along its coastline is irresistible, and it is proceeding with ever-increasing rapidity. .. a report by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2012 makes clear… Since 1980 China has reclaimed no less than 51% of all its coastal wetlands (this includes habitats such as mangroves and sea grass beds) and South Korea 60% (of a much lower base).Of the key areas of tidal mudflats on which the shorebirds of the flyway depend, around the Yellow Sea as a whole, 35% has already gone and the remainder will go soon.. regarded by environmentalists involved as a wildlife catastrophe in the making, indeed, it is already happening, with the bird populations starting to fall. Observed rates of decline of waterbird species of 5 to 9% a year,’ says the IUCN report, ‘are among the mighest of any ecological system on the planet.’.. The future of 50 million wading birds, and let it be said, of coastal fisheries on which thousands of people depend, are having by a threat … the East Asia/Australiasia Flyway has a poster species. The spoon-billed sandpoper is not only one of the most charming of birds… it is also one of the rarest, and has long been at the top of the wish-to-see list of many birders… Breeding only in Chukotka, the Siberian province in Russia’s far north-east, it winters 5.000 miles away around the coastlines of Burma and Bangladesh, dependent like the other waders of the flyway on the Yellow Sea stop-over.. In 2008, with the entire population now thought to be under 200 pairs and falling at the rate of 26% a year, it was listed as Critically Endangered.”

p. 75 “Gerard Manley Hopkins, the Victorian Jesuit …

What would the world be, once bereft

Of wet and of wilderness? Let them be left,

O let them be left, wildness and wet;

Let live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

Books Early modern history Women's history

Notes from A Day At Home in Early Modern England: Material Culture and Domestic Life 1500-1700

p 76 “The house in Stratford-upon-Avon where Tomas Hicox lived with his wife, Elizabeth, in 1611 epitomises the most striking trend in town … Here, cooking took place in the hall, and the buttery was for messier domestic tasks requiring more space. Elizabeth’s working morning might have begun at the ‘newe building’ at the back of their reasonably well-appointed house in Henley Street.. where firewood was stored for the kiln (for malt-making) and there was an ‘utinge vate’ for soaking barley for malt. From here she might have gone to the buttery, but rather than finding pewter or other items for serving food there she would have found the large open vessels for washing and brewing and some spinning-wheels in addition to her frying pan. She would have to take the pan into the hall, where her other pots and posnets (small metal cooking pots), kettles and dabnets (cooking utensils) were kept, around the only source of heat in the house. Here she could prepare a meal, using perhaps the Martinmas beed and the six flitches (sides) of bacon, smoking above the fire in preparation for winter.”

p. 78-9 “From the second half of the 18th century and through the 17th century, the variety of cooking and dining vessels increased as ranges of high-quality vehicles intended for cooking, serving and storage were produced by English potteries … types of object that had always been available to the elite in metal, and were now manufacturer in pottery for the first time, such as posset pots and large flanged dishes. The main innovations were in decorative wares, and the most rapid specialisation was in smaller cooking vessels, such as pipkins and skillets, or chafing dishes, which gave a gentle heat suitable for delicate dishes, and permitted cooking without lighting a main fire. All show a rapid process of specialisation that marks this period out as unique… distinctions of social practice could be made with new goods.

p.84 “Harvest failures were a feature of the 1590s and the first half of the 17th century was characterised by ‘sharp shocks of cereal shortages’ ‘that came cyclically, every seven years or so … had two other important knock-on effects on the production of meals: the consumption of many more vegetables, and the preservation of foodstuffs for much longer periods of time… Richard Gardiner, a burgess and dryer of Shrewsbury, who wrote Profitable instructions for the manuring, sowing, and planting of kitchin gardens. Very profitable for the commonwealth and grealy for the helpe and comfort of poore people, published in London in 1599. Addressing his fellow townspeople, Gardiner expresses his hope that the ‘vaine, fruitless and superfluous things may be taken out of good Gardens and sundry good commodities, to pleasure the poor planted therein’ – the commendatory poem lists these as carrots, cabbages, parnsips, turnips, lettuce, beans, onions, cucumbers, artichokes and radish, along with herbs…. This kind of extra growing space was crucial to provide food security and to develop the palate for savoury items that was emerging across the period. … meat and fish had always been preserved, new and improved techniques were being extended to fruit and vegetables.”

p 143 “Any early modern account book reveals a complementary pragmatic attention paid to locks and keys .. John Hayne, who kept a book detailing his household expenses and some elements of his business as an Exeter cloth merchant … when he began to make improvements to his new accommodation … an immediate priority was to regulate the movement between spaces … for the outside, he paid for two iron bays and stays to the courtilage (or courtyard) door and the ‘pack door’ (perhaps the door through which packs entered and left the premises) and a spring catch to the latch on the fore door (the door to the street). Inside, he paid for a new lock and key to the chamber door and for mending its patch, for a lock and key to the parlour chamber, and for a Dutch lock and key and two hasps for the great press there, presumably with his valuables in it. Finally, he paid to mend the lock of the closet… His servants were apparently able to move freely between commercial and shared domestic spaces.”

p. 154 “From the 1580s onwards, nests or frames of boxes began to appear in inventories… highly literate men had a professional need for such items of furniture, but the inventories such the developing textual elements of business transactions obliged some merchants and traders to think in the same terms … also apparently retained, in smaller numbers, admittedly, by wives carring on their husband’s business in some form or another… Joan Crisp of Sandwich, landlady to the various occupants of the house next door to the Three Kings, for instance, kept a nest of boxes in the chamber over her parlour.”

p. 159 “In Warwick in 1604, for example, around 20 different trades were being pursued in the town, but a petition of 1694, following a significant fire, listed nearly 50 different occupations, and they are ones that show the influence of the gentry tastes that sustained them: watchmaker, stationer, bookseller, confectioner, smiths, a clockmaker and a mimner”

p’ 159 “Joan Thirsk, in her pioneering book on import substitutes, has shown how locally manufacturer objects before Elizabeth’s reign were of a quality suitable only to serve local needs, so that more discerning customers looked abroad for domestic goods. By the end of the 17th century … the projects that had become established local industries included many key domestic manufeatures such as cooking pots, frying pans, knives, nails, pins, glass bottles, earthern pots and copperwares. Studying the imports of drinking-glasses into London, Godfrey argues that, after 1630 – the moment at which he says drinking-glasses became common in middling-status inventories – ‘English-made glass supplied the market entirely.’”

p. 173-4 “Boarding out was often part of the lifecycle of the middling identity, in which, first as an apprentice or a schoolboy, later in retirement or semi-retirement, a man might live in the houses of others. Giles Pooley, a London wholesaler, for example, ‘ broke up howse keeping’ in April 1653 and went to live with a business associate, Robert Carter, paying £20 a year for food and lodging and £8 for clothes. His daughter, his apprentice and his horses were also boarded out in different places across the city. John Gerrard of the parish of St Helen in Worcester, gentleman, 58 years old, states in his deposition about a will-making that at his wife’s decease he gave all his goods to his daughter so that he now lives only by his pen. Living in part of a house was also common for female relatives after the death of the head of the household.”

p. 175 “The silence and darkness of a space recently deserted [the shop] as activity moves towards the kitchen and parlour gives opportunity for those wishinhg to be alone.. [Burlingham, Worcestershire] “a smith’s shop hear the churchyard. Hulett, “drawing neare unto the sayd shop heard a great bustlinge and puffing and bloweinge” of a couple .. one of whom was Treble’s servant. John junior suggests the permeability of the space to sound by adding what Hulett heard next: ‘when the plaintiff had done what he could he asked her how shee liked it and [she] answeared ‘well yenoughe’.” [[Hardly a ringing endorsement!]]

p. 193 “small purchases of good form a kind of recreation – a series of what we would see as ‘snacks’ bought and consumed with friends… the majority of these purchases are of preserved fruit and confectionary: the most significant categories are figs and raisins, followed by comfits, cakes and marchpane… Cocks may well have bought these foods from street vendors, and the dried fruit from local grocers, whom we know he patronised for other goods, or purchased them from the inns whence the wine came. Their high sugar content suggests an expansion into leisure activities of the sweetness of middling meals.”

Books History Women's history

Notes from The Roman Street: Urban Life and Society in Pompeii, Herculaneum and Rome

p 35

“it is worth noting that the character of a single street varied markedly: it could literally be a matter of night and day. After the sun went down, what light was present filtered out of streetside buildings, such as taverns, which cut visibility and the safety it afforded in cities without a standing police force. Juvenal’s narrator Umbricius articulates Roman anxieties about nocturnal passage. He constructs a scene in which a sleepless, drunk thug picks out her prey on the dark streets “But however high on wine and burning with young blood the man may be, he steers well clear of the fellow with the scarlet cloak, who is surrounded by a long line of bodyguards plus plenty of torches and bronze lamps. But me, as I return home escorted only by the moon or a sad little candle that demands my constant attention – me he despises. Hear how the pathetic brawl starts – if you can call it a brawl when you do the beating and I just take it.”

p, 65 “Because of Roman practices of slavery and adoption, exposed or destitute children may have been absorbed into households more frequently in Roman cities than in others renown for their street children, such as Mexico City or Bangalore. Nevertheless .. poor youth on the street were likely very common … Outside city walls, some took refuges in tombs or used them as parts of huts or lean-tos… the Theodosian Code is … suggestive. It required lean-tos abutting public or private buildings to be torn down because they posed a risk of fire, narrowed streets or infringed on porticos.”

p. 159 “How could you distinguish certain classes of people and their virtues and vices from the way they moved? In the broadest terms, those who were most suspect such as cinaedi (sexual deviants) were identified by their excessive motion … their natural nearing compelled their arms and fingers to move too much, and their necks and sides to rock back and forth.. too much movement was read as a shortcoming in moral steadiness

p. 161 “the decided severity of house facades in Pompeii and Herculaneum. Their aesthetic of austerity and lack of frilly adornment held meaning precisely by showing very little … an architectural and decorative demonstration of, or at least aspiration to, the self-restraint appropriate for elite self-presentation in the public sphere… the street frontage of commercial properties was generally more extravagant and commonly employed the figural decorations that houses routinely shunned.”

p. 188 “Direct textual evidence for the position of doors during the day is scarce, but what survives suggests the practice of leaving house doors open was routine… Leaving one’s access door open usually required positioning a guard at this critical threshold.. also probably a sacrifice limited to Romans of a certain financial level, which made door-opening a social marker in itself. But the way that this act made interior architecture visible to the street provided more opportunities for scoring social points ”

p. 270 “Nineteen electoral endorsements are painted across this section of wall… Fourteen messages name no endorser but the other five intriguingly list women as endorsers. Four women individually support candidates: Maria, Zmyrina, Aegle and Asellina.. female enforsements represent a mildly widespread practice, with about 50 posters. Women’s inscriptions follow similar patterns to endorsements by named men … there is no ‘female way’ to enter the political fray….. scholars have woven the various threads present into elaborate tapestries. They picture a bar owned by Asellina because she has the Latinate name and becomes the titular head of a collective presentation. And they imagine the women as foreign workers, possibly slaves, who furnished food, drink and perhaps sex… although the women’s routine is largely lost, the material evidence allows us to stitch together some sense of their interactions. first, the space on the ground floor is very restricted, especially behind the counter, which likely put the women in close contact with one another and with customers, who may have spilled onto the extensive sidewalk or headed upstairs. The bar’s wide entryway granted the women a view and perhaps knowledge of the neighbourhood’s workings. For instance, if the huge entryway next door preceded a sizeable house, then the women probably knew much about its activities by watching its denizen’s comings and goings, by catching up with its dependents over a glass of wine, and by hearing sounds emanating from its doorways and courtyards. Similar with a grand residence and smaller house across the street. in the latter, an industrious doorkeeper seems to have looked back across the street while carding wool. In other words, even if these barmaids were stationary, they soaked in much.”