Monday, July 28, 2014

Latest things happening; a soapstone shape; white arthropods; cone flowers; TMI Marcel?

Cooking chicken Kievs this evening, a nostalgic indulgence from the time when they were Marks and Spencers' signature dish, I found myself scraping the residue of milk, cornflour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs into a blob and throwing it in the pan to make a little fritter.  Molly's portion, as always. What else could I do?

I ate it myself, it really wasn't bad, she did all right.

We picked up her ashes today. Tom had been quite distressed and fretful about the limbo which we were in regarding them. I'd tried and probably better succeeded in telling myself it didn't matter too much, that her poor tired little body was all finished with anyway, and all would surely be being dealt with conscientiously and properly, even if it was the holidays and there were delays, that many a human cremation was delayed far longer. Nevertheless, I was surprised at the peace of mind and sense of resolution it brought, and also how nicely it was done; the paperwork which we had been too distraught to take any notice of at the time assured us that they understood it was a painful and difficult time, that by deciding on this course we wanted to do things decently and that they promised to do their part of it with all respect and kindness.  The certification and packaging looked lovely and used her name, and there was even a little piece of card with flower seeds pressed into it that we could plant for her in the place of our choice. OK, maybe it was all calculated marketing but we appreciated it and considered it well done. I don't remember anything so warm and personal with my parents' ashes, and it really wasn't an expensive service.

The vet and her husband asked rather shyly if we were going away this summer because if not they would very much like to invite us over, as friends, now we weren't customers...? That touched our hearts too.


We have Tom's daughter K, her husband and children coming for their summer visit tomorrow, and now we feel better able to cope with it, and enjoy their company.  I'm always slightly surprised how much it pleases me transforming my blue room into a cosy den for the kids, and stocking up on oven chips for the traditional moule frîtes fest, and Tom and K always benefit from a bit of time together.


Jantien has been back in Moncontour for the remainder of her residency there, and encouraged me to come for another sculpture class.  This isn't really serious sculpture as she does it, more like a simple session of soapstone polishing, but it is immensely satisfying, since whatever happens, at the end of the afternoon one has a beautiful piece of polished stone to show for it, as well as skin, hair and clothes covered in a layer of coloured talc which is curiously pleasurable.  I had a notion this time to make something to do with garlic, having been seduced into buying some very beautiful pink garlic imported from Argentina, a thing I would never normally do as, without being too sanctimonious about it, I do try to buy and eat as seasonally and locally as possible.  But these were so beautiful and reminded me so much of a sculpture, with their pink polished cloves pushing out through their chalky white husk.  

Jantien always says there are two ways to go with sculpture: you can have an idea what you want to make, find the right stone and shape it into it, or you can let the stone lead you to the sculpture.  In fact I suppose I took a path between the two, as there simply weren't any raw pieces which would have lent themselves to becoming a pink garlic bulb, so I let the idea go and picked up a piece of pinky brown soapstone with a flat base and some interesting speckles, and began to smooth it off, but the garlic idea persisted, along with another that came through.  When I'd told Jantien that I had an idea what I might do, she'd chuckled and said she didn't think she had a black piece of stone. In truth the notion of trying to make a Molly sculpture hadn't occurred to me; I'm afraid I do rather find the idea of making effigies and portraits of one's dead pets rather naff and anyway, I don't feel equal to representing Mol in such a way. Yet the shape that came about was about her; as well as being a garlic clove, 

it is also a tear drop.

Not great art or anything, but, as I say, deeply satisfying to make and to have.


A few more photos to season things. 

J'suis descendue dans mon jardin...  Going to pick some white Winchester Cathedral roses (for a friend and neighbour's 100th birthday, a rather strange event which I thought I might write about but am now out of time and probably your good graces to do so) I displaced a curious resident, a white spider, with a speck of pink, like a chameleon to the flower. 

Pray tell me arachnophobes ( which I am only quite mildly), is a spider less frightening coloured thus? Is it the darkness of them which disturbs?

Another white arthropod, a marbled white butterfly.

They are all over the place just now, won't be for long.

Some echinacea with and without bumble bees, just because.

and some poppy seed heads which Tom put to dry in the rough glazed bowl, even though the blasted things sow themselves all over the garden in all the wrong places without any encouragement anyway.

I don't think he meant it to be tasteful but I thought it was just so terribly much so.


And finally, for Robbie really but also anyone else who might be interested, proof it it were needed that Proust really was weird. Never mind every kind of snooping voyeurism from Françoise killing the chicken through Vinteuil's daughter's girlfriend spitting on his picture to the Baron de Charlus getting thrashed by a sailor, never mind locking your girlfriend in your flat in case she might be a lesbian, this is really perverse:

...but what fascinated me would be the asparagus, tinged with ultramarine and rosy pink which ran from their heads, finely stippled in mauve and azure, through a series of imperceptible changes to their white feet, still stained a little by the soil of their garden-bed: a rainbow-loveliness that was not of this world. I felt that these celestial hues indicated the presence of exquisite creatures who had been pleased to assume vegetable form, who, through the disguise which covered their firm and edible flesh, allowed me to discern in this radiance of earliest dawn, these hinted rainbows, these blue evening shades, that precious quality which I should recognise again when, all night long after a dinner at which I had partaken of them, they played (lyrical and coarse in their jesting as the fairies in Shakespeare’s Dream) at transforming my humble chamber pot into a bower of aromatic perfume.

There's a lot of asparagus in Swann's Way. I'm going back over it with audio book, picking up particular passages that interest and checking the text in the original and Moncrieff's translation as and when the fancy takes me, which having them on the Kindle makes easier.  The audio book is heavily abridged, of course. I loved the asparagus description but on checking found they had rather coyly left out the last bit about the chamber pot.  Wrongly I think, for any discussion about asparagus, as with Jerusalem artichokes, is not complete without a mention of the after effects, is it? No, what's weird is that what most people would be more inclined to liken to the miasma surrounding Bridgwater cellophane factory (go on, follow that link, you know you want to) he describes as 'a bower of aromatic perfume'. Now that is strange.


The Crow said...

Spiders the color of the plants they inhabit fascinate me more than startle me. I think you might be on to something, Lucy, with your idea that maybe it is the darkness of other spiders which make us afraid of them.

Ellena said...

Lucy, the tear drop is lovely. I can visualize it embedded in wood,
a headstone.
I don't mind spiders but when the white one appeared I freaked out with disgust - a piece of sickness.
Bumble bees pigging out on pollen, beautiful.
The poppy seed heads look like a piece of all embracing love to me and also remind me of walking to school in this small hamlet we lived and picking heads as soon as they were a good size and eating the seeds in all their stages of growth - white and milky to dark and dry. I wonder if I was high through grade three.
Have not read Proust but asked for it at work/our library. They only have one - Du Côté de chez Swann. It was out - I`ll be next.
Ha, volume-wise I pulled a RR on you.

the polish chick said...

the first part of the post brought tears to my eyes. i am so glad the ending was tinged with kindness and peace, marketing or not.

the problem with insects in general, is that the larger they are, the more their inherent alienness becomes apparent. tiny spiders don't bother me one whit. i only tolerate the larger ones by reminding myself that they eat other bugs, large and small. colour remains irrelevant.

i love the small sculpture. soapstone is so wonderfully tactile and warm.

Roderick Robinson said...

There've been so many "final taboos" in fiction, all gleefully sundered by youngish authors wanting to get themselves published. Does anyone read J. P. Donleavy these days? His The Ginger Man charged noisily through a barrier chemically related to the above and I was duly impressed. I see TGM appeared in 1955 (inevitably brought to light by The Olympia Press "of Paris", the imprimatur of scandal) when I was - rather embarrassingly - a comparatively mature twenty; I had hoped I was younger and that my being impressed was rather more excusable.

One thing Donleavy and Proust have in common is a relish in their subjects. Neither is solemn and thus both escape any charge of pornography; porn is almost always solemn. Donleavy embeds his climax in high farce while Proust, who wrote one of the greatest comic novels of all time (even if it does take a re-reading to establish this for sure) is - I think - being comical. "Aromatic" forsooth; if so, never take any of his recommendations when it comes to wine.

Needless to say, I'd forgotten this passage and I thank Lucy for bringing it to my notice. It makes me realise that, despite re-readings, I've forgotten more Proust than I can remember. But that's probably as it should be. Almost any comment one makes about A la recherche is prefigured in the text. Without forgetting how can remembering seem so remarkable?

I wonder if anyone reading this passage is tempted to read the novel? I have taken a vow of silence about recommending it but I can always hope. Those who knew Joe can flick through his blog and come upon his laconic observations about reading the novel in French. May I offer a tip: if you are tempted, it's worth buying a Kindle and downloading. Kindle's normal format is much kinder to those long. long sentences than the printed page.

Zhoen said...

The soapstone is a beautiful object, looks to be comforting to hold, like a dog on a cold night.

To me, a white spider is more creepy, ghostly and deathly looking. But then, I appreciate spiders, and rather like tarantulas.

Bill said...

During the Renaissance era asparagus was believed to be an aphrodisiac. Wives were counseled that they could discover if their husbands were straying (and using asparagus as the Renaissance era Viagra) by the distinctive aromatic side effect of eating asparagus. As Stanislas Martin wrote in the 18th Century, “asparagus has the drawback of giving the urine an unpleasant odor, which has more than once betrayed an illicit dinner.”

christopher said...

Web MD says: the effect of asparagus on urine odor has been observed for centuries. French novelist Marcel Proust famously wrote in 1913 that asparagus "transforms my chamber-pot into a flask of perfume." And one British men's club is said to have put up a sign reading, "During the asparagus season, members are requested not to relieve themselves in the hat stand."

Depending on which study you read, between 22% and 50% of the population report having pungent pee after eating asparagus...

But only about one-quarter of the population appears to have the special gene that allows them to smell those compounds. So the issue isn't whether or not your pee is smelly; it's whether you're able to smell it.

Lucy said...

Thanks, just stopping by quickly.

The white spider does look a bit yukky, but I felt it was more attractive in reality, where it looked quite delicate and more of a piece with the flower than it appears here.

In fact the 'bower of aromatic perfume' is really Moncrieff getting flowery; all Proust calls it is a 'vase de parfum' .

Clearly smelly asparagus pee is something of a crowd puller!

Marly Youmans said...


I haven't been here in a while--was off in Ohio, teaching and then collaborating with an artist friend. So I have come by to say that I'm sorry about Molly, though glad you had a dog who meant so much to you and Tom, and also to say that your blog is very pleasing proof that life is irrepressible and goes on, even past the markers of death. The flowers bloom, the books are read, the discoveries are made... and memories come back, some sorrowful, some blessing. Pax tecum!

Lucas said...

The sculpture class sounds great, and the results are most tactile and pleasing to see in your photos. I like the idea of a metaphor in stone. A tear drop, a piece of garlic, finding Molly in a shape. a texture.

Francesca said...

The tear drop is perfect.
The white spider was magnificent and beautiful.
Your flower photos, as always just wonderful.
So much to enjoy, and to think about in this blog post - Thank you! xx