Sunday, September 28, 2014

A splendid afternoon at Quessquitricote

Well, the rest of the holiday pictures are still unedited, it may yet be that they end up in reserve for Nablopomo, and then I had such a wonderful afternoon at Quessquitricote that I feel I must mention that first.

Firstly, Lyse had casually mentioned she'd got a bit of spare wool if anyone was interested. She proceeded to empty three large bags of the stuff in the middle of the floor.

Those are my hands to the left, matching up the brown and russet - Sonia's (youngest and blogless of us) hand is to the right, sporting a funky bracelet of the kind she makes from scrap packaging foil and other pretty junk. Soize took the picture.

We all whooped and fell on it with immoderate glee, it didn't quite end in a fight.  Soize's cherub twins wandered through, and looked with serene indulgence at their mother, when she told them, with the glittering-eyed febrility of the addict, 'It's Christmas!'.

We calmed down a bit after the division of the spoils, and waited for the greyhound (see below).  In the meantime, BN showed us her finished Ouessant curtain. Ouessant is one of the more easily accessible of my list of Places I Must Visit, and a Breton island I don't yet have in my collection. It's also the only one to have its own name in English: Ushant, and as such is familiar from the line in the sea shanty Spanish Ladies'from Ushant to Scillies is thirty-five leagues' * It is the setting for the film 'L'équipier', which despite rather unlikeable characters and unimpressive plot is still one of my favourites because the island and its lighthouses are really the stars; it has been the site of numerous shipwrecks and naval battles, is home to some rather wonderful shaggy sheep, and contains many tiny, thick walled cottages with small windows against the elements. On these windows it is traditional to hang crochet lace curtains, and these are often made using a complex circular motif peculiar to the island. Patterns for this are hard to come by and BN was very pleased to obtain one; she's been making some curtains on commission for someone in a very fine white cotton, and I've been casting admiring looks at them.  To me, any crochet beyond the most basic seems like a magic art; I can't imagine how people can do something so clever, but these Ouessant motifs seem to me especially charmed: flowers and ships' wheels and Celtic sun symbols all rolled into one. As well as the fine white ones she'd made a beautiful heavier écru version with round pendants on picot strings, and quite without any warning, she suddenly bundled it up and shoved it into my knitting bag, 'For you.'

I am quite bouleversée at such an exquisite gift, which I know involves hours and hours of tendon straining work, even for the ones she sells she can't possibly ask any price that reasonably reflects this.  We don't in fact have a window suitable, and though it might have gone on the door, that's frosted glass so it wouldn't be shown to best advantage, and also the spiders are rather fond of spinning round there.  So I have pinned it up in my blue room on the internal door to the bathroom, which contains all kinds of shells and pebbles from beach combing and various islands, and prints of Mathurin Méheut pictures of fisherman and boats and seaweed gatherers, and other fancy stuff, so as BN said, I can imagine I'm going to Ushant when I go through the door.

Bit of a mess, as always, but it's a working room, or at least a making and listening and generally messing about one; my sister, who likes to sleep in it, calls it Lucy's Bazaar. It's full of frippery and treasure, some enduring and inherited, much of it gifted or ephemeral, little of it of great monetary worth, and a lot of it could evaporate if I did and no one would have to worry. But it is precious to me, and it makes me happy.

Then the greyhound arrived.  She is called Irène and is nine years old and very beautiful. 

At Straw Hat Sunday, which I didn't go to this year, there was a stand for a greyhound rescue society. Soize, who loves dogs, quickly made for it and made friends with the people, and she suggested we should do something to support the refuge, help the dogs and raise awareness about it.  It's called Lévriers Libres, and for many of us there's a limit to how much we want our awareness raised about such things, so I've not given a link to the harrowing video about it, it's on the site elsewhere.  These are not ex-racing dogs as rescued greyhounds tend to be in the UK, whose fate is often sad and deplorable enough, but mostly former hunting dogs from Spain.  Suffice to say, when they are judged to be failures or too old for this, (and most of them are no more than three when they're rescued), they are, sometimes at least, not only considered disposable but 'dishonoured', and can be not only discarded but punished. Similar to the way, within some cultures, girls and women who are perceived to have become dishonoured are treated, often with the same methods: the vulnerable and voiceless, considered to be property, punished with a sadistic cruelty which should be the preserve of anomalous psychopaths rather than justified, ritualised and enshrined within culture or tradition. Not an aspect of the human condition I care to think about too much.

But there are those who try to make things better, to rescue and help. Irène came from a Lévriers Libre refuge further west in Brittany, and her owners have had her for six years. As well as funds and adoption, they welcome blankets, coats and other means of keeping the dogs warm in the refuges, so to do our bit, and mostly really to promote the cause, we co-opted Irène into modelling some greyhound cowls, about which she was very gracious. I had managed to make one of these, in a rather nice jewel purple colour (it looks bluer in the photo),

Soize, however, who, despite having four children, a lively young boxer dog, a hand in the family crêpe business, a vintage 2CV she takes on rallies and road trips, various on-line ventures as well as her blog, all of which she runs and maintains with grace and aplomb, seems to manage to knit two or three sweaters in the time it takes me to finish a scarf, produced a dazzling array of amazing greyhound neckwear and headgear, of which these are just a couple of examples.

There are also some marvellous pictures of her boxer, Gaufrette, modelling one of them here.

She took one or two pictures with me in as well, and unusually I don't mind them; most photos of myself still cause me to run screaming, be depressed for days or swear I'll never leave the house again. I really should get over myself, as my acerbic brother-in-law once said, 'Well that's what you look like, what do you think it's like for the rest of us, we have to see you all the time!' These make me look rather like I've often felt of late: my age and a bit more, a little sad and tired, but I can cope with them.

'So are you going to get one then?' asked Lyse, watching me with Irène.
'Don't say it.' I replied.

We all left very cheerful. Our lovely librarian, who is as welcoming and encouraging as can be, looked a bit shattered.  We had, she cautioned us, been rather dissipées, today, what with rolling around in ball parks of knitting wool and bringing dogs into the library. 'She's not a dog,' answered Soize, 'she's a model.'

I called goodbye, but was called over to Lyse's car, 'You're not getting away that easily!' chuckled Sonya


Every fortnight for the last three meetings Lyse has brought a car boot full of the most sumptuous, plump and delicious tomatoes to share. Once she had to cry off coming for the whole afternoon because she was up to her elbows bottling them in quantity, but still they come.  We have all dined on tomato salads, tomatoes fried and grilled, baked tomatoes with eggs (Sonya's recipe, and I bet her kids eat it too, French kids on the whole do eat their veggies, I don't know how they programme them differently but it seems to work), cream of tomato soup... and we all have freezers full of sauce and ragout and ratatouille to take us through the winter.  

We're not complaining, though Tom did remark this evening after pot roasted chicken with some tomatoes in the sauce that he thought perhaps he was turning a bit red and shiny...

A splendid afternoon, a time of gifts. Hooray for the autumn and la rentrée, for knitting and friends and dogs and tomatoes!


*casually searching for a recording of this song on Youtube was a revelation though not of the pleasantest kind, since it caused me to stumble into something resembling a UKIP fanzine forum; apparently embracing one's English culture not only involves a burning desire to wave red and white flags on 23rd April in honour of a first millennium Palestinian, but also a need to rant and roar about Napoleonic era clew garnets, shank painters etc. Who knew?


Zhoen said...

The lacework reminds me of ancient polynesian navigational maps of sticks and strings.

We've met a few greyhounds, they are just lovely creatures. As well as beautiful. No idea how anyone could hurt them, they are so dear and delicate.

Anonymous said...

Oh Irène is beautiful!

Catalyst said...

That lacework piece is amazing, especially in the second picture when you can see its size. A remarkable gift. I think you are much loved by your friends.

Without the sweater, I would never have known the two pictures are both of you. While I like smiling faces, I love the second photo. And I think I can see why you ARE much loved by your friends.

Beautiful dog, too, but I'm not sure she's pleased about her modeling duties.

the polish chick said...

as catalyst said - i had to look at the two photos again and again (and again!) to make sure it really was you in both.

what a beautiful gift you were given - clearly some people don't find you to be the abysmal abomination that you think you are. but then again, most of us are hard on ourselves - somehow the photo never captures the vivacity that makes us who we are, does it?

Anonymous said...

What a great post!Full of wool and friendship and gifts and dogs and pictures of glorious Lucy!

Herhimnbryn x

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

I love the pics of you, and the dog (such a sad expression!) and all the rest. What a wonderful day and lovely people. Crochet reminds me of my Maman who was very good at it but I never thought of asking her to show me how. I must post a photo of a marvellous crocheted wall-hanging she made out of brown string.

Soize said...

Google et moi n'avons pas réussi à tout traduire, mais je pense avoir saisi l'essentiel.
Merci pour ce bel article, il reflète vraiment bien notre extraordinaire après-midi :-)

Lyse said...

Moi non plus je n'ai pas tout saisi, j'ai simplement compris , et c'est aussi mon impression, que dans notre petit groupe , il y a une belle complicité et une entraide magnifique.
Merci pour ce joli article

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on having a coco-de-mer tomato!
Irene is beyond enchanting. Just when I think I have identified my favourite dog breed (Scottish terriers), she walks into my life via your blogging. I recently encountered the word 'irenic' in a Gary Lopez book, and had to look it up - it means something like peace seeking/making, and this Irene looks to fit the description. Glenn x

Lucy said...

Thanks all.

They are really fabulous dogs, amazingly serene, obliging and affectionate even when their experience of humans hasn't been at all favourable, though they seem quite sad and distant on first impression, in fact they are more fun and responsive than they initially seem. I agree it seems unthinkable that they should be abused in the way they are, perhaps it's because they are so gentle and patient. People can be bastards.

They're good with other dogs too, and though some of them don't live very happily with cats, which I'd always understood to be a problem, as they are conditioned to chase and catch small furry things that run away from them, but the refuge publicity shows many in affectionate friendship with cats. Irene's owners said that while they were careful initially about letting her off the lead she had never given them problems with recall.

These Spanish 'galgo' types are smaller and slighter than the racing greyhounds, there's also a breed called 'podenco', rather like Ibiza or pharoah hounds, smaller and stockier with big ears, nice dogs but harder to train.

We won't be getting one now, but if I were looking for another dog I would certainly consider a galgo, and it seems as though there will never be any shortage of them needing homes.

Soize et Lyse: Blaise Pascal a dit 'je m'excuse de vous ecrire une telle longue lettre, je n'avais pas le temps de faire une plus courte' ou qch comme ça! C'est un peu pareil - j'ai écrit un message aussi compliqué car je n'avais pas le temps de faire un plus simple!

Desolée mes copines, j'apprecie que vous vienez et lire quand même!

Stella said...

I am late reading your wonderful post, so vibrant and full of beautiful images. A joy to behold!

Ellena said...

So much to comment on here - Hooray for you Lucy is meant to say it all.
You did not need to tell me which of the hands were yours. The same are holding the camera up there. Thanks for letting us get that close to you, beautiful lady.

WM said...

Wonderful post, Lucy, full of colour and texture like the subject matter. And life-affirming, just when I need it. I adore the dog, brings memories of my beloved lurcher Rufus. By the way, thank you for buying the legends book at the market - I've been out of things a bit having an eye operation.

Pam said...

What a lovely post, apart from the poor greyhounds. So glad that there are people around to rescue them, or at least some of them.

I think you look lovely. Similar to how I imagined, but maybe not quite so tall and dignified (not undignified, though! Just very approachable-looking).

Rouchswalwe said...

Yes indeed! Hurrah for the many wonderous things. Irène is a sweet one and I am happy to see she received fur ruffles and warmth.

Thank you for the delightful images!

Roderick Robinson said...

I have not truly caught up with Quessquitricote and have only just decoded its titular ingenuity; greetings from Quessquise'debat. I have wanted to write about your Mum for ages and had it in mind to slip in a comment back in distant September 9 and leave it there, as it were, under compost, perhaps never to be discovered. But in the end vanity - as always - got the better of me; I cannot afford not to be read.

We, your readers, must approach your Mum in a way you cannot. In responding to her life we inevitably dwell on what we regard as her greatest achievement but I (representing your readers) must on this occasion push that to one side. Even if it you're not capable of blushing you can, I know, give in to the emotionalism of events and I do not wish to create that kind of disturbance.

Your Mum steps into my life and immediately animates my sense of the past. To be born a Masters posits some kind of destiny, not merely a life. If I'm not careful I'll stray down fictional corridors where your Mum, by virtue of her surname, becomes a prefect, a Captain in the Girl Guides and then a suffragette. Time as you can see will get all out joint, a victim of my non-sequential view of history. I must stick to the point.

Even so anachronistic tendencies won't leave me alone and your Mum, through a combination of her name and that first photo, emerges as if from E Nesbit's The Bastable Family (which we discussed il y a longtemps). Which means she is born with a high sense of individuality and with frailty more or less held at bay.

As part of her destiny she is later to give birth to a daughter given to linguistic precision (viz. taupe). And to leave traces of herself via her handwriting here and there in the way that D. H. Stringer did for me. For these traces are proof that she wrote when writing left a spoor behind and that, eventually, will mean a great deal.

Already your Mum is developing, becoming sympathetic, and I must pass quickly over the image of her beneath one of those terrible metal helmets at the salon. Those always terrified me on behalf of womankind because they appeared to demand submission.

Your Mum "looked for so much of her youth like an old lady". An impression augmented by the fact that, to you, she was always the adult par excellence. For you she could never have been a little girl, since how could a little girl have protected you?

The hard life which was time-shared before the compound verb was invented. Was Hastings seen as a treat? If so a very "adult" treat, the sort of thing a child could never appreciate. A chance to talk shop - a phrase often sneered at but actually one of those under-rated secret pleasures.

Roderick Robinson said...

Part Two.(I fear I ran on a bit)

We always know less than we think about our parents. The withholding of details about that initial meeting eventually becomes more important than if the facts - possibly banal - had been disclosed. Inevitably you are able to come up with "peacock blue" which, had the circumstances been reversed. I know I couldn't. There is thick glass pane between us, males on one side, females on the other. Perhaps I might have recalled something technoid about my mother's double-keyboard typewriter but I know, in advance, it would not be a telling detail.

I slip forward and your Mum is outdoing you (though she doesn't realise it) in the matter of pea gravel. You are no longer a child and the comparisons are adult vs. adult. You wonder how she managed, as do we all about our mothers. The routine slavery of the domestic life.

The latter paras are your own reflections, not mine to trammel. There are, as with us all, the misgivings and - most terrible of all - the missed opportunities. The sadness of ill health viewed from the outside. I haven't shaped any of this because at all times my mother intruded; not suprising since this post was of course about mothers as well as your mother. Ironically our mothers do lead shaped lives since we are bound to shape them. My first impulse was to say you did her proud but I have learned to discard first impulses. You appear to have done her true, stayed honest, ached here and there. It isn't entirely exact but I find myself evoking - so often in such circumstances - the final words of Charlotte's Web. For the sentiment rather than the words themselves.

Marhel said...

Quel bel article!!
J'aurais aimé être avec vous...
J'espère la prochaine fois ;)
A bientôt!

Lucy said...

And again thanks, sorry I'e been neglecting social media rather lately in favour of knitting, going out, reading books...

Stella - not late at all, I'm a slack blogger these days, lovely to see you anyway.

Ellena - my hands are yet another part of myself I've never been keen to look closely at, though ageing seems to have improved them a bit, or I've got used to them. You are a kind-eyed beholder!

Wendy - sorry to hear about the eye op, glad you got the message from the market. Get well soon!

Isabelle - oh I'm not a bit dignified and certainly not very tall, even amongst the Bretons! But thanks.

R - I kept burying my nose in her coat, it was so lovely.

Robbie! I don't mind what you comment where of course, but I'd have it anyway, since they all come through by e-mail. I still get the odd one on the unofficial Aztec Lady Reunion site from about five years ago, remember, to say nothing of the occasional wandering soul nostalgic for Nutch in a glass and glad to know they didn't imagine it all. But thank you so much, I thoroughly enjoyed your comment, parts 1 and 2 both. And do you know I've never in fact read Charlotte's Web, though it was a great favourite of my brother who talked about it a lot in our childhood. So I was prompted to look up the last words (via 'Look Inside' on Amazon, it's not available on Kindle, which seems an oversight), and am very touched indeed. Regarding the pea gravel, I also wonder how she managed a five-year-old (me) around her feet at my age too.

Marhel - On aurait aime t'avoir avec nous! (Est-ce que c'est bon comme francais? Je suis nul au niveau des conditionels, et en plus mon app pour les accents ne fonctionne plus, helas...) A la prochaine de toute facon!