Sunday, June 27, 2010

Getting back

Getting back, not always easy. 

I've been home a while, after a busy few days visit from my brother and sister, and then a trip to my other brother's and sister-in-law's in the Mayenne, but I've felt persistently blog-shy.  I've stacks of pictures, and I have been writing, but mostly pen and paper, not here.  Of course it's been lovely weather, and house and garden have needed to be caught up with, and I know that a lapse of a fortnight is really neither here nor there. But it's probably the longest I've gone without doing anything here, and well into my fourth year of blogging, faced with ups and downs in my own mood, I could see how this place could be allowed to fall into neglect, and how the longer one stays away, the harder it might be to get back to it. 

So I decided I'd try to do Three Beautiful Things for a bit, Clare's wonderful invention, described by Plutarch, who consistently does it to the level of high art, as 'up there with the discovery of penicillin' (or words to that effect, I'm quoting from memory).  I began doing it on paper, as I didn't want to commit myself too soon to something I couldn't keep up.

There's a danger with it, perhaps, that it might seem like a rather over-jolly, Pollyana-ish, everything-in-the-garden's-rosy, don't-worry-be happy, kind of exercise.  It isn't.  The point of it seems to me that you have to make the effort to find the three things, even when you don't necessarily feel like it.  You have to take the trouble to notice and appreciate and make the record of them.  They don't have to be rosy-pretty-sugary things at all, but it's your business to find the beauty in them, be it charm or interest or oddity or rarity or their potential to raise a question.  Sometimes too, you might have to fight against apathy and laziness and depression, the creeping that everything in the garden is far from rosy, to do it.

Anyway, it's not for me to teach my grandmothers to suck eggs; those two and many many others have been showing how it's done for a long time, and I appreciate more than ever the sticking power and talent that it's taken.  I don't know how long I'll do it, I'll still probably want to do other things here, but I think it will be a help to me at the moment, keeping up with things here while leaving me free perhaps to write more in private too.    And maybe it will also help to use up some of the photos I can't quite think how else to do with, since I've let my Flickr account slide.

So, here are four days' worth, from last Wednesday to yesterday (Saturday).  I found six things yesterday, so that can serve for today's as well, as I'll probably drift off and do other things after that, like keeping an eye on the England - Germany game and taking a newly-bathed Molly out for the sunshine to finish drying her fur.  I'll stick a photo at the end, and try to do it daily for a while from now on.


Wed 23 June

~ Ylang-ylang oil in the small raw cotton bag with the Indian soap-nuts, to wash the bath towels, instead of the usual geranium or lavender.

~  The pictures we finally got round to hanging in the blue room before our visitors arrived, including the tapestry monkey, and the tiny etching of a Scottish glen I bought in a Cheltenham gallery many years ago.

~  Getting into the car to drive again.  I like driving too much, even though I'm not very good at it.  I forget to turn off at the old railtrack, and Mol doesn't remind me, so we have to go on to the plan d'eau, which we really prefer.  It only makes me slightly late for my yoga session.


Thurs 24 June

~  Having cut all the grass in the garden without murdering any toads, I should go into Moncontour to post a card and book a leg-wax, but instead I put out a wooden deckchair on the newly-cut grass and read 'Wolf Hall' until 6 o'clock.

~  A tub of organic chicken livers found in the freezer satisfies a craving I'd forgotten I had.  Sauté (how does one anglicise that, with or without a 'd'?) with a sliced shallot and some thyme, deglazed with a splash of port and a spoonful of cream, served with boiled potatoes and marrowfat peas.

~  I speak with my sister and brother on the 'phone.  We talk about Mont St Michel, Helvellyn, les Toiles de Mayenne, and how we hate goodbyes.


Fri 25 June

I've been picking up the Taschen paperback of Robert Doisneau's photographs, and wondering whether to go the the exhibition of them in Dinan next month.  Seeing originals of photos is perhaps not as importantly different from seeing reproductions of them as it is for paintings.  I decide to do so.  He said, according to the English text, 'one should take a photo only when one feels full of love for one's fellow man'.  A rather tall order, it seems, but then looking at the French text, what he actually said was not love but 'generosité', which is a slightly different kettle of fish.
~  Speaking of fish, fish pie, which I always make the way my mother showed me, seething the fish in milk with whatever seasonings, flaking it into the dish and then making the white sauce with the milk.

~  Cabernet d'Anjou, a mild summer tipple, sweet, quite low in alcohol, the colour of Tiza, a weakness I'm only slightly ashamed of.  With an ice cube.


Saturday 26 June ( double dose)

~  The pointy end of the ice-cream cone (the old fashioned dry wafer kind, not the posh ones with chocolate in the tip), with a smear of ice-cream licked down into it, must surely always have been the dog's portion...

~  Our philadelphus, belle-etoile with a slight smudge of purplish shading in the centre, always blooms late.  It waves over the laurel hedges, wafts its bubble-gum and orange-flower-water perfume across the garden.

~  I write a very short short story.  Though I can't quite see when or how it might see the light of day, I am pleased with it, and getting it done feels like an achievement.

~  My brother in Mayenne sends a write-up and links to two websites, of artists they have come across on their travels.  Stephen Meakin makes glorious complex gilded mandalas, and Rowena Maybourn, whose convictions about divining and the Goddess caused me to giggle with rather unkind scepticism when he told me about her, has quite won me over with mediaeval colour and mythical beasts and calligraphy, and seems to be ablaze with creative energy and drive.  You can't knock it. 

~  Taking Mol out for a last turn about the garden, I hear whoops and party trumpets from somewhere down the hill.  I see nothing, but it sounds closer than town, and there's no circus there just now.  The folks at the farm have had sad recent times, so I hope they've got something to celebrate.

~  A faraway friend throws out an unexpected line, which touches my heart deeply. 



PurestGreen said...

This is a wonderful list. It is the kind of thing that if you read in a year's time, all the memories will come swimming back. I like that they are moments and not just a list of "stuff" like the first cup of coffee or the smell of oranges. Those lists are nice but they don't hold the same emotion.

zephyr said...

Lovely, Lucy...and, thanks for the reminder. Perhaps this exercise will help me navigate a way back out of the heaviness of heart.

Fire Bird said...

good to see you back, and thankyou - i could do with a bit of three beautiful things discipline myself, and enjoyed hearing about yours...
but keeping an eye on the football?? whatever next!!

Unknown said...

You are quite right about the process of looking out for beautiful things. It is, one might say a therapy in itself, even if you don't need therapy. You are also right about their not having to be cosy-beautful, or comfortable-beautiful. Poignant will do. So will engaging, funny or even sad. Keep going with yours.

Roderick Robinson said...

Whereas I'd hate to discourage you I feel this new regime might drain you dry of resources unless you direct it outwardly. Have I ever heard of your yoga before? I can't be sure. Certainly leg-waxing is a first. I mention this because there's a curious variant of the slippery slope involved. After six months, say, you'll feel entitled to mention leg-waxing again (my breath is bated) but this time there'll be just a little more detail. Same again in a year's time. Fine if you've come out of the cupboard on this tricky sado-masochistic subject, less so if you start receiving emails of a distinctly different nature.

Chicken livers, there's nothing quite like them and once upon a time, when we lived in Stoke Newington, they were so cheap, perhaps for obvious reasons. They fall into that category of food about which Plutarch once made a memorable observation. Talking about tinned sardines he said that if they ever had the misfortune to become fashionable, their price would rise many-fold. Gosh. This observation was made three decades ago and in recycling it I may be depriving Plutarch of some of his valuable resources. Plagiaristic profligacy.

HKatz said...

The pointy end of the ice-cream cone (the old fashioned dry wafer kind, not the posh ones with chocolate in the tip), with a smear of ice-cream licked down into it, must surely always have been the dog's portion...
A lot of these are lovely but I especially like this one - both the detail and the indirectness of it.

Julia said...

Such a photo to end your list with, that's pure beauty and elegant design.

What does seething fish involve?

Pam said...

Very elegant and beautiful as ever but - leg-wax? I had never thought of you in those terms. Ow.

(I have bald legs, myself.)

The verification word is "cooti" but I'm sure you don't have any of them.

Oh dear, I really am lowering the tone.

marja-leena said...

Lovely list and a grand finale with that photo! Grand to have you back, Lucy. You have such a way with words that whatever you set to comes out delightful reading. Whatever makes your spirit lift, if that's what you are in need of, I love to read it ~ though I too found the leg-waxing bit rather startling :-)

PS Verification word: fixali !?

HLiza said...

You wrote them so's like reading a wonderful famous journal by a famous writer..and I wish I have your eyes with those flower pics..

Lucy said...

Thanks all, I've missed you.

Interesting that leg-waxing raises more and different eyebrows than watching England play football. Both might be seen to be somewhat masochistic pursuits, (though I plead innocent to the sado- bit, BB dear...). As the depilation event is to take place in a couple of days, I may say more about it then.

Seething, apart from what all good English and true are currently doing about Uruguyan linesmen, is just an old-fashioned word for cooking something gently in milk, I think maybe it's in the Bible about not seething a kid in its mother's milk, hence kosher restrictions on no meat and milk together.

I'm now worrying my head about what a 'cooti' is...

Dale said...

I believe it's "sautéed." Funny that I'd never twigged to "sauté" already being a past participle. Maybe to make absolutely sure it's in the past we should start saying "sautéeded" :-)

Lovely to see you again. How 'bout those German kids, huh?

Rouchswalwe said...

"To the Minbari, three is sacred," explains Delenn.

herhimnbryn said...

Hallo Lucy,
Welcome back. Such lists, such lists!
Ice cream cone and Wolf Hall resonated here.
I believe cooti = fleas.

Lucy said...

And again.

Dale - yes the German laddies were a marvel to behold. I was particularly taken with their goalkeeper. England didn't deserve to win and wouldn't have even if they had been allowed that goal. Can't decide whether I can bring myself to watch the Germany-Argentina game though; 90 minutes of that creep Maradonna might be too much, especially if Germany loses. I don't really like football, you understand, but something weird happens when the World Cup comes up. Also I think the atmosphere in SA has been a bit special.

R - you are lovely! However, with the thought of Lennier sitting on the other side of the screen listening in on your wedding night I think I might be more inclined to take Sheridan's view that 3 was a crowd...

HHB - worse than that, body lice! That Isabelle is a shocker. Wolf Hall is great, I think. Nice to see you too.

Alison said...

Lucy, Lucy, how I love the three beautiful things writing. That is a lovely exercise. I think I'll try to make it a practice as I go through these days, which sometimes seem so awfully hard. Thank you for this.