Escaping: the Shut Ins, childhood fantasies & Winnie the Pooh
Good morning and the happiest of Sundays to you.
I start this newsletter by sharing with you the story of the shut ins, a mesmerising wonder of a book by Katherine Brabon that I have just put down beside me. It plays with my mind in the best possible way, it’s a sad reflection of the being of some young people in Japan who, unable to fit in with the excessive social expectations of everyday life, reject that society by refusing to participate and in doing so by locking themselves away. This becomes their safety net, and it’s such a common phenomenon in the rigid society of Japan that they even have a word for it. Hikikomori, is a coping mechanism employed by what the writer calls the shut ins, a response activated due to the excessive pressure of social realisation, typical of modern individualistic societies. The shut ins take themselves to another world, achiragawa, a place of dreams and possibility on ‘the other side’, a place where you don’t feel frozen with the expectations of others who live ‘on this side’, but where you can be in a world that is just yours, and devoid of the structures created by others. It is a place of both silence and freedom portrayed in the story by Hikaru Sato a hikikomori who has locked himself away in his bedroom and won’t come out and his childhood friend Mai who is employed by Hikaru’s mother Hiromi as a rental sister to write letters to Hikaru in an attempt to coax him out of his bedroom. Mai has her own issues conforming to the stereotype of what it is to be a ‘good wife’ to her husband J, a devoted salaryman who has conservative ideas and expectations. Confronted by these expectations which come into conflict with Mai’s desires, one day Mai disappears to a monastery to avoid having to be numbed by and conform to the structures created around her. In many ways hikikomori tells the stories of our own being, and achiragawa, a place we retreat to when we don’t feel comfortable in the society so heavy with expectations of where we are expected to live. Whilst we might not shut ourselves physically away in a place of solitude, we might take ourselves to a place of quiet within, where we don’t feel the risk of rejection by others' expectations. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who has felt like they don’t fit into the structures of a society which have been imposed upon them.
In a similar vein to this story I recall the lyrics of the chorus of a well known song Where do you go to (my lovely), about a fictional girl named Marie-Claire who grows up in poverty on the backstreets of Naples and goes on to become a successful model living the high life in Paris. The lyrics go something like
Where do you go to my lovely,
When you’re alone in your bed?
Tell me the thoughts that surround you,
I want to look inside your head, yes I do….
The rhetorical question of the title suggests that Marie-Claire's fame and glamorous lifestyle may not have brought Marie-Claire the contentment she was looking for, and that inside her head her desires may not fit with hers or other people’s expectations of who she really wants to be.
BearBnb treehouse in Hundred Acre Wood, Ashdown Forest, East Sussex
📸 Henry Woide
How many of you were Winnie the Pooh fans growing up? I’m sure each of you identified with the personality of one of your favourite characters, be it the hyperactive Tigger, the inattentive Pooh, or the downtrodden demeanour of a gloomy Eeyore. Regardless of which character you felt similar to, the safe environment of Hundred Acre Wood nonetheless had a warm community spirit , with each of the residents doing their best to help each other out, a place that any of us would be happy enough to visit or reside in. As a child I always dreamed of visiting Hundred Acre Wood and paying a visit to Pooh Corner. Disney and AirBnb have now made this possible and created a BearBnb in Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, England where Winnie the Pooh author A. A. Milne lived. The BearBnb treehouse is available to rent, accommodates up to four people, and guests can enjoy a guided tour of the original Hundred Acre Wood, and some locally sourced hunny-inspired meals. Such an adventure may tempt my resident Eeyore out of his slump? No heffalumps are allowed inside the house!!
This week I have started watching the comedic WandaVision on Disney Plus and Back to the Rafters, for a little nostalgia and trip down memory lane on Amazon Prime.
I’m loving this new cookbook Every.Night.of.the.Week. by Lucy Tweed which comes to the rescue for those seeking inspiration for simple meals to make for weeknight dinners using ingredients you probably already have in your pantry. The book also has lovely ideas for picnic food for those who can now meet up with five fully vaccinated friends from their own neighbourhood for a meal outdoors in a park or playground.
And if you are going on a picnic you really need one of these, a Glassonthegrass, a clever Aussie made coaster to stop your drink from toppling over.
Clever stabilising drinks coaster from GlassontheGrass 📸@glassonthegrass
When the chips are down at the end of the week we can always find comfort in pastries, like this decadent rhubarb and custard turnover or a sourdough fruit and walnut bun from my local fave @flourshopau
Rhubarb and custard turnover deliciousness
Until next time may your days be both serendipitous and enjoyable.