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?