Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sad news

I just learned of the passing of my friend Heather Dohollau, peacefully and gracefully at home last night at the age of 88.  She only came into my life some three years ago, but quickly became a very important part of it, and it seems very strange just now quite to imagine the world without her. Through memory, her words and her books her presence will remain, I know, but I will miss her greatly, and I won't be the only one.

Heather on the Island of Bréhat, where she lived for many years and which she wrote about often, and where she will be buried.
It was a joy and a privilege to know her, I could say a great deal more, but feel a little too sad and overwhelmed, and it is perhaps not the moment.  She could always speak better for herself: you can read and hear her reading some of her poems, in English and in French, here at Qarrtsiluni, and below I'm embedding a film (it seems to be playable here, though there's a warning some of the content is restricted) made about her a few years ago, in which she revisits South Wales where she grew up, and speaks from her home in St Brieuc about her life and writing.  It's all in French and just under an hour, but is very well-made and it's lovely to have it available, to be able to see and hear her again in her magical home and garden.

A great soul passes.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Last Sunday # 2 - Puppets, and Princeling in love

Then in the afternoon, I set off, all alone, no dog, no husband (and also no camera, since I wanted to enjoy the company and the shows unencumbered) to meet Iso, who had also decamped, no Princeling, no husband, so that we could take in the sea air and a couple of puppet shows at the Marionnet'ic puppet festival in Binic. Turns out the festival has been going for fifteen years already, but we've only really been aware of it for the last couple; we couldn't make it last year but spent the day there two years ago, which I posted briefly about here.

While it may seem odd to leave one's small child at home to go and watch puppet shows, in fact they really were for grown-ups.  The first was Crash de là, by the Belgian company, Les Royales Marionnettes (that page is in English), a gritty tale of social dysfunction, family crisis, adolescent angst and anger set against a background of industrial decay and blight in a small Belgian town.  The manner of performance, the voices and movements, were abrasive, the puppets - which were more stiff mannequins, representations of the characters with fixed expressions and attitudes - deliberately ugly, and I struggled with it at first and didn't understand all of it, especially the songs which punctuated it (near-bilingual Iso said she didn't either so that made me feel better). Yet it wasn't without humour, and in the end I was quite moved by it; the story of an angry, unhappy and unpleasant boy who is saved by a friendship with a stubborn, curmudgeonly old man, a former resistance fighter, despite his lashing out at and hurting him too. As the story develops, by the end, the single performer has more and more assumed the role of the boy, so you wonder to what extent it is his own story.  Whatever, it's a story.

The second was from Theatre des Alberts, based in the Île de Réunion, and was called Accidents - that link is to the page of their website about the show, including a short promotional video for it, which gives a general impression of the show.  It was very good, though desperately sad, bitter and savage in places, as the write-up says, 'cruel as life but also as funny'.  And it was very funny, even for someone like me, who usually just see the black in black humour and not much of the humour.

These shows, like much puppetry now, don't involve classic string or hand puppets, but figures which are manipulated by visible operators who are also narrators and at times participants in the narrative, continually stretching, fracturing and generally subverting the relationship between puppet, puppeteer and audience.  Interesting stuff.

There was also an exhibition, a number of actual pieces and many more photos, by a maker of more traditional string puppets, made by Nadine Delannoy who calls her company Âmes Imaginaires, 'Imaginary Souls'. The link is to the gallery page of her website, and I do recommend having a good look around there - the English translation is unusually good and her story and ideas are quite fascinating.  I think (as in I'm not absolutely sure, rather than 'in my opinion') her work is beautiful, though not always comfortable, but there is something truly alive about much of it.  Of the making of her 'souls' (they aren't all puppets though many are) she describes how she always begins with the head, and

every new head is inspired by a mix of several emotions. The ambiguous expression that results from this mix produces the impression of true presence in the character.

I was particularly drawn to Mortelune,

initially because she reminded me of Maggie Smith, but the more I look at her the more I see she isn't quite like.  Her maker says of her - like many of the pieces she has her own page on the site with a remark about her character - this woman hides a heavy secret. 

I also liked Jean-Baptiste:

I've long had an affection for Molière, albeit one based on pretty scant acquaintance.  With this figure, as with many of them, as Iso remarked, much life is conferred by the lightness and softness of the hair, which, again slightly uncomfortably, is often made from real fur or real or fake human hair for extensions and wigs.

Anyway, we had quite a bit of time for a long saunter by the waterside and along the harbour wall in Binic, drink a hot chocolate which wasn't very hot by the time we got it, and truly the World and Her Husband were out and about, sitting on the terraces of restaurants and cafés and bars and crêperies, getting ripped off at the funfair in the car park, watching the giant African dancing puppets that were ambulating about the town, and despite the really rather chilly wind, there was a queue for the ice cream parlour all the way down the street.  As Joe said on his blog recently, people seem to be regarding the sun 'as though it were an extraordinary new phenomenon', so starved we've been of it.

We rather guiltily remarked that much as we loved the company of all our dear ones, and to do things with them, it was rather nice to be out on the loose for a few hours without having to worry about dogs in cars, or the boredom threshold and attention spans of small boys and husbands.  It was nice to get news of Princeling though, and Iso told me that one day recently when she met him out of school, instead of erupting from the premises with his usual noise and boy-energy, he emerged rather quiet and pensive.  After a little he asked her if she was in love with anyone (amoreux - often he still speaks French to her, especially when he's just been in a French speaking environment, though she resolutely speaks only English to him).  Well, yes, she said, daddy... After a time, though, and a bit more hedging around the subject, she twigged that she was meant to ask him the question:

'Ilan, are you in love with someone?'
'Yes. Gladys.'
'How do you know?'
'She kissed me in the playground.'
'And is she nice?'
(perhaps a little hesitant) 'Yes.'
'Good. Because if she isn't nice to you, you don't have to be in love with her, and you can just say crotte to her and go away.'

Since then he has been somewhat preoccupied with the matter of being amoureux. He asked his mum if he could be in love with her, and she said well no,  because she was his mum, though she loved him very much, but also because little people could only be in love with other little people and big people with other big people, which I thought was a lovely light-handed way of helping to explaining a delicate subject.

So we made our way home cheerful and well-aired.  The evening had turned cold, Molly had been cross and fed-up that I'd driven out without her, but Tom had lit the fire when I got home, and we ate a late supper of sausage and beans to finish our exceptional Sunday.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Last Sunday # 1 - stargazers

Sunday wasn't a typical Sunday.  We don't generally go anywhere much on Sundays, and not much opens here, not because this is a God-fearing country or anything, but there's a likeable disinclination to make Sunday like every other day of the week. Smaller town shops do open on Sunday mornings sometimes, and pâtisseries always have done so, so you can take a nice tart along when you go on your Sunday afternoon visit to your family.  But les grandes surfaces, the supermarkets and big DIY stores and the out of town retail estates are dead as dodos. The exception is garden centres, some of which do open for restricted hours on Sundays.

We rather try to keep away from the garden centre these days, it's too easy to get beguiled into spending lots of money on unnecessary and often unsuitable new plants, when really looking after and propagating the one's we've already got is more important and less expensive.  And there's the danger of depression arising from the inevitable disconnect between the glossy, brilliant, larger-and-more-colourful-than-life nursery and greenhouse raised specimens they dangle before you and the scruffy, demanding and often problematic reality of actual gardening here. However,  since Tom has done heroic work ridding the azalea bed of creeping buttercup, couch grass, chickweed and the like, if his labours were not to be in vain we really did need some more bark mulch, so off to La Domaine des Fleurs we went.

And it is a seductive and enjoyable experience, as you walk in, channelled past the orchids and other exotica, into vast the perspex roofed area where all the bedding plants are.  It is open on one side to the air, but on a nice day warm from the sun, and there is always a balmy mist rising from the brick floor and the constant watering.  And they always cannily put the most fragrant plants right by the entrance, at this time of year these are the stargazer lilies.

We were a total and rapid pushover, and as well as our bark mulch, some modest French marigolds and a couple of small rosemary plants - we'd grown fed up with the coarse, woody old rosemary bush bullying everything around it and chopped it down, but I grieved at Easter when there was none for the roast lamb, and I won't be doing with dried - we carried home a couple of pots of the big maroon-pink orientals.

In fact they didn't cost us any more than a single bouquet of them cut from the florists, will last considerably longer, even if they only do one season, and they have more than sung for their supper already, since Tom planted them in the big terrace tubs ting them to the tree peonies, which are only just emerging into leaf, as supports (and with a few of the marigolds round the bottom - we don't care about clashes, and love red and pink and orange together, so there!)

Instant height and colour, and the most opulent, almost pungent perfume ever, that envelopes us every time we cross the terrace.  They need plenty of room for this; in fact I'm not a great fan of them as cut flowers since in a confined space it can be too much.  I once ate in a pub restaurant where there was a bunch of them on the windowsill behind me and truly they quite put me off my food, but in the garden just now, between the complementary notes of the remaining berberis hedge and the wallflowers, they are pure pleasure.

They also seem to change colour with the time of day, from quite pink in the height of the day to wine to purple when the sun is lower, though the camera has trouble conveying this.  Like everything else on that side of the house, they look best in the early morning.

Well worth the trip and the money, and that was only half the fun I had on Sunday.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Three spring haiku

Down the road, evening,
wearing Joseph's Crocs again,
red points of sorrel.


Golden girls and lads...
pulling up dandelions.
Oh for a rabbit.


So sweet to get by
on more than mere fortitude.
Spring's here, at long last.


Saturday, April 20, 2013

New blogger, Brit cuisine, and hares

Who said blogging was a dying medium? Egged on by one or two of you, Tom has decided to make the transition from being a principle protagonist here and set one up of his own.  He's always been very supportive of my efforts, and has long enjoyed reading and occasionally commenting on other people's, and he's suddenly quite enthusiastic about doing it for himself, so with some encouragement might even stick with it.  His blog, called simply 'Gwynt' (you can find out why if you visit), can be found here, so far with only an opening post but I'm sure there will be more. (I was somewhat tickled to learn from his profile that I was one of his interests.  In this he proves to be unique, though there are twenty others on Blogger who cite 'my dog Molly' among theirs!)


Having dealt with certain aspects of British cuisine here recently, by coincidence, last night we were invited along by the Quiet American and B the German doctor to le Bistrot du Marin* at le Légué, the very workaday port and docks end of St Brieuc, which I had already heard about from our Dutch friend E as serving good fish and chips.  While perhaps these were not quite typical of a lower end UK chippy, they were authentic, with good crisp, light batter and thick chips (fries, in American, but not the same, oh no), and the whole place (reputedly an Irish foundation) was a bright and lively delight, with deep red painted walls, chequered table cloths, blackboards and pictures and curios everywhere.  There was even malt vinegar on the table - though we did get salad, mayonnaise and home made tartar sauce as well, and my dessert was the best ever île flottante, a huge slab of meringue stuff floating in custard and caramel, smothered in speculoos biscuit crumbs and served in a sort of 1950s design cereal bowl.  

Best of all, it was packed and buzzing with noisy, happy French folk all enthusiastically tucking into 'les fish and chips', billed as such on the menu and not translated.  Result.

* link to French Tripadvisor, there's an English one too but the French one's interesting. There's a photo there too.


And finally, some hares from my eponymous Pinterest board


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

How Tom got to the pie shop and back

Not only did Tom avail himself of the aforementioned pie-and-mash, but in the scant three days he was there he also scoffed meals of fish and chips and chicken tikka masala.  Surprisingly, he still came home a good kilo lighter than he left.  This must in part have been due to the amount of walking he did, and descending the 100 odd steps into the Greenwich foot tunnel under the Thames.

He also went on the Docklands Light Railway, which I never have done, and pointed the camera at things around him.

I've cropped some of these, obviously, but haven't done much other editing, as I rather like the haphazard, sometimes blurry quality of them and the filmy overlay of reflections on glass inside and water out, and the rather hazy, desaturated colours of a London day.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Pie-and-mash regained, and Tom joins the pepperazzi.

Well, as it turned out, Tom's pie-and-mash dreams were not to be realised in Waltham Abbey after all.  Instead my sister took him, via the Docklands Light Railway, to Greenwich, where another noted pie eatery is to be found.  He came back with a number of photos, which I have unashamedly stolen from him to post here.

From my recent researches into pie-and-mash shops in the English capital, it is apparent that, though these establishments have clearly undergone a renaissance, they have always been there in some numbers, and further, they are often rather fine and imposing places.  So why, in all the time I spent in London in my life, did I never notice them?  Not for the first time, I have concluded that I must have spent much of my life walking round with my eyes closed, at least to anything I didn't consider important. And in my youth, as with many people, what was important mostly consisted of myself, and by occasional and tenuous extension, the people around me, insofar as they related to me and what they might be thinking of me.  So I suppose I just wasn't looking out for pie-and-mash shops.

To return to Tom and my sister's excursion.  Tom chose chicken and mushroom, with the mystical and long-sought-after liquor.  My sister, who was somewhat bewildered, opted for traditional minced beef; she dithered when asked if she wanted liquor or gravy, so Tom took charge and ordered her liquor, stating that he had come all the way from France to taste again of pie liquor, and she could do likewise.

A little while ago on the radio I heard that in many restaurants eager foodies are annoying the staff and other customers by obsessive, in-your-face photographing of their food, not just quick souvenir snaps but messing about with lighting, climbing on their chairs to get a better angle, etc.  From dipping my toe into the increasing plethora of food blogs, some of them very posy and self-important, with people travelling vast distances to visit and write up various highly regarded eating places, and illustrating their reviews with some very professional looking photos, this doesn't surprise me. The radio commentators' view on it generally seemed to be that chefs and restaurants, and their users, having blown up the whole matter of eating out into such a grandiose, theatrical and exorbitant affair, had no one but themselves to blame, with which I'm inclined to agree.

Sad to say, though, it is to be seen that my nearest and dearest have succumbed and joined this group of self-appointed restaurant food photographers, whom the Urban Dictionary has wittily dubbed the pepperazzi. However, since it enables me to vicariously enjoy at least a little of the experience, I'm not complaining.

Sister was rather disappointed with the minced beef, but the chicken and mushroom, Tom said, really was excellent, with an enormous piece of white chicken meat at the centre of it, surrounded by the mushroom garnish, rather than the scrips and scraps of chicken in bland sauce that such preparations usually comprise.

The liquor, he said, from the first mouthful, was everything he remembered it to be.

The final verdict: an eloquently empty plate.

I was also happy to see these pictures of the interior, which I think has no little style and elegance.  The seats look like church pews.  Pie shops generally seem to favour dark green and cream décor, it's traditional and old-fashioned, and I suppose it also goes with the pie liquor. There are some other nice photos here at the shop's website.

I hope no one concerned would mind appearing in these pictures, I don't usually do this but feel the people and their attitudes do express something of the atmosphere of the place, of quietly convivial satisfaction, security and tranquillity.

Tom, who always professes not to be a great people-person, was quite smitten watching these two old boys tucking into their food.

So, all in all, the adventure was gratifyingly successful.  I was sorry not to have been there, but I expect I'll have another opportunity; by the look of it, the pie shops will be around for a while yet. 

 Post-pie satisfaction.


(I'll also post some of his other photos from the trip, from the railway, next time, as they are rather good, and certainly more interesting than anything that a grey and rain-sodden pre-spring round here has to offer.) 

Thursday, April 11, 2013


Made this messing about with the Chromebook's camera and some on-line editing software - can't remember which one, i-piccy perhaps, that offers an alternative to things like Picasa or PS so that you never really need to come down from the internet to work on photos - theoretically anyway - which is really what you need when using the Chromebook, since doesn't carry much software on board at all.  Quite a lot of potential but takes some getting used to, and seems a bit laborious.

I was thinking about how lovely Marja-Leena's scans of her hands holding different things are, and what nice hands she has, and how I've never much liked my hands, blunt and broad and stubby as they are, though we've come to an understanding, they and I, over the years.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Plexiglass, the movie, with a bit of grumbling.

Something funny has happened to my Picasa photo editor.  It kept pestering me to let it update, so I said oh all right then, and though there was no change whatsoever that I could see to it afterwards, the settings seem to have changed, so that it will no longer import the photos from my SD card but just reads it as blank, though I can download them using the Windows photo viewer (or something) and then it will pick them up for editing.  Well, really, ain't life a bummer, when you have to get your head round doing things a slightly different way, in two short steps instead of one, while sitting on your backside in the comfort of your home.  But it's a mite annoying when they persuade you to put all your eggs in their little rainbow mandala basket and then mess you about.  I suppose I'll have try un- and the re-installing it, but then I fear for my exports within Picasa, maybe I'd lose them, so I really ought to do a bit of boring housekeeping and shunt them off to the external hard drive, which I ought to do anyway...

However, every cloud.  In downloading through the Windows programme, I discovered a couple of videos on the card which had somehow been concealed before, since evidently the Picasa downloading route wasn't set to download videos.  I simply thought I'd failed to take the videos properly.  One of them was this, of the plexiglass mobile sculpture at Kettles Yard the photos of which were included in this post.  

The soundtrack consists of people's footsteps and voices in the background and, about a quarter of the way through, my voice saying 'Oh, it's plexiglass!'

Uploaded on Blugger's own video hosting, which isn't ideal as it comes out a bit small, but full screen is too big and pixellated.

One more gripe about Google/Blogger: spam blogs mostly seem to be a thing of the past, but now there are  spam comments coming through from people using Google+ accounts, which Blogger's spam filter doesn't pick up. I don't use Google+ and have no interest indoing so, it irks me that Faizal Whotsit from Whereverstan and his ilk offering me employment opportunities or cars with girls can get onto my blog because they do. Though I suppose as they can read the WV and don't actually leave html links perhaps it's not so easy to stop.  Annoying even so.

That's all for tonight!

In which Tom goes in search of Proustian pie and mash moments

Tom has gone to Essex for his annual MOT of ears and eyes, which means entrusting him to the good offices of my sister.  He's there for really not much more than a couple of days, but will have one whole day free, for which he has been granted an outing of his choice, within the means of transport available, ie accessible by train, bus or within my sister's comfortable driving range.  He was drawn to Maldon, but it really was rather a long way - Essex is surprisingly vast - and the arterial roads through and around Chelmsford turned out to be too daunting a prospect.  The attractions of Maldon were initially sailing barges and general Thames Estuary olden-times wateriness, but in fact had become focussed on the existence of a pie-and-mash shop in the town.

One of Tom's great yearnings, a kind of gastronomic Holy Grail for him, has been to recreate the experience of pie-and-mash as he remembers it from his London East-end childhood.  Not so much the pie or even the mash, in fact, but the weird green green sauce that went with it, known as liquor.  

You would think this would be fairly easy, making a thin kind of velouté (I am aware that using a fancy French culinary term here might be amusingly inappropriate, but we are speaking of processes) seasoned with parsley, white pepper and vinegar, but it isn't.  I have been led to wonder if perhaps at some point some broth from the stewing or jellification of eels which were the other offerings of the pie-and-mash establishments might have found its way into this concoction, providing a similar mysterious and transformational element of marine-based umami to that provided by fish sauce in Thai cooking. liquamen in Roman dishes, anchovies in ... whatever I feel like sneaking them into.  Or perhaps the secret ingredient is nostalgia, which might prove more elusive.  Quite why Tom actually wants to be transported back to his childhood, which is generally concluded to have been fairly unremittingly rubbish, is hard to say, but these things are not susceptible to explanation.

Anyway, having set his heart on said pie-and-mash, we set about researching where it might be procured nearer to my sister's home, and it turns out to have become a kind of shabby chic, retro-trendy thing, and the shops which offer it have undergone quite a renaissance, cropping up all over the place and acquiring a new and younger clientèle   This is partly because of course, as with Athens in the Acts, all the Londoners and the strangers which were there spend their time in nothing else but to either to tell, hear - or eat - of some new thing, which sometimes will inevitably be some old thing come round again.  And partly, it seems, it's because David Beckham eats pie-and-mash.  Whenever he's home from foreign parts, he likes nothing more than to head for none other than Tony's Pie and Mash Shop in Waltham Abbey, which, it turns out, is only a few stops down the train line from where my sister lives.

When we did the little-yellow-man street view thing on Google maps, this is what we saw:

people rushing in droves through the door to get to the pies (don't quite know why there are two As in the word 'mash' on the signboard, something to do with how the camera works).  I was concerned; what if they couldn't get a table?  Where we come from now you book to eat in popular places.  I telephoned, and think I probably got Tony himself.  My husband is coming all the way from France with a longing for pie-and-mash and a very short time to satisfy it, should we reserve a table to make sure? Nope, I was assured in a brisk estuary accent, he can just come in and sit right down...

Anyway, I just hope it all works out all right, or at least Tom isn't too disappointed or my sister too traumatised by the experience.  I just read a write up of the eatery on Chilli Marmalade, a very bright and unpretentious London-based food blog, which read

What’s liquor? I hear you ask… Well. Words fail me. Think about what would happen if you dumped a whole lot of dried parsley and white pepper into a bucket of wallpaper glue, added vinegar, and stirred.

Oh dear.  She did add though, that in spite of this she still finished most of it, and that it was 'weirdly moreish'.

I wonder if it's better sometimes to leave lost time unsearched for...

Snowscape with Pie-and-Mash shop, by Chris Poole from photos on Google maps.  Looks like the chap in the foreground has overindulged somewhat.

(There's more information at the Pie and Mash Club website, including an extensive directory with links to write-ups of visits to the shops.  The Club exists not so much to provide gourmet evaluations as to see which of its members can eat the most, and the accounts and descriptions are often very funny indeed.  I never knew this thriving sub-culture even existed.)

Monday, April 08, 2013

Earth, air, water, and fire in the evening.




A bright sunny day, at last, Easter Sunday, though still cold.  Molly and I walked over the hills and fairly far away, and came home quite tired.  She flags a bit these days, but is still up for a reasonable walk if the weather's right.

We lit the fire for the evening.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

How I plug the time sink of internet browsing with Pinterest, but am not destined to be a Tumblr girl*; still life and more bread.

Well, despite pledges to blog lighter and more often, another ten days has gone by and I've not done so.  In fact this isn't down to a lack of material; I keep finding things to blog about and not being able to choose between them so I leave it a bit longer, then more bits and pieces accumulate, and I can't get around to stitching them together...

Another reason I have been neglecting things here is that, despite (another despite) my eschewing of online crazes and social media other than good old fashioned blogging, and my profession of ignorance on such matters, I have acquired a consuming Pinterest habit.  (Is Pinterest social media?  It doesn't quite strike me as such, but I'm not sure).  I decided I'd try it, and also Tumblr, again and see if I couldn't make some use of them.

Tumblr I still can't really get a handle on, partly because its use as a way of collating and re-blogging content already on the web seems to be hampered by the fact that you can only post one image at a time using URLs, and downloading and uploading again just seems too laborious (but perhaps I'm missing something), and I no longer generate enough photographic content of my own to supply a new photo blog, so I think my efforts there are largely dead in the water.

But Pinterest I do like, though how long my current preoccupation with it will last I don't know.  I won't go into the details of how it works, since you presumably either know already (I'm always late to the party with these things), or you can find out from the link, or you aren't interested anyway.  I like that the pinned images link back to their original source, though of course the accreditation is only as genuine as the site they come from, and there is grousing about copyright infringement, but at least there's an attempt at traceability.  And it seems to offer the possibility of making something a bit more constructive and selective of the time sink that can be web browsing, though of course it also prompts one to do even more of the same. I've tidied up quite a lot of the stray, out-of-sight-out-of-mind bookmarks I've accumulated, and a visual note in the form of an image is a much better reminder than a textual one.  I'm also enjoying fantasy travel making collections of places I'd like to go and things I'd like to see.  I like the aesthetic of it and find it quite accessible and easy to use, and though my involvement and collections are still fairly limited, I've taken the step of adding a button to the sidebar here (even though it's red and I don't much care for red on my blog), and from time to time I might bring stuff here from there, as well as vice-versa.

So, following the 'Attributes of Music' still life by Anne Vallayer Coster I found and posted here the other day, I decided to set up a still life board.  I find myself particularly drawn to still life involving food, and after the bread-based subject matter of the last post, I've been looking especially, though not exclusively, to paintings with bread in.

This is another Anne Vallayer-Coster. I like that it's not really still, because there's steam rising up out of the tureen.  This capture of dynamic change of states, liquid to vapour, shows a kind of scientific interest in processes shown elsewhere in her work, and also rather subverts the stilless aspect of still life.  Though of course everything organic in any still life is really caught at a point of mutation, the bread grows stale, the fruit rots.  I wonder what kind of soup it is?  The picture reminds me a little of the wonderful Babette's Feast which I had the good fortune to have placed in my hands lately, not having seen it before. (The link isn't to Wiki or IMDb but to a rather long and interesting essay from a book which I'd quite like to read, although it contains some points with which I'd disagree and some inaccuracies). I had qualms about the poor turtle, but even perhaps that had to be, in keeping with the themes of outlandishness, violence, sacrifice and death which underlie the story.  But I don't think it's turtle soup in this tureen, the bread is too rustic.

Anne Vallayer-Coster had an interesting history, a rare woman among men in 18th century painting circles and well-regarded, and although a protégée and sometime friend of Marie Antoinette, she managed not to finish with her head on a pike and the rest of her god knows where and survived the Revolution. However, despite being somewhat taken up by the Empress Josephine and later by the restored monarchy, her career was never quite the same again.  But survive she did, and produced a consistent body of work over quite a long life.  She did good bread:

and other things too, such as musical instruments and coral, always in that assertive, accurate, boldly lit style, characteristic of the Enlightenment, which apparently Foucault considered to be an 'encompassing stare and classification of appearances [which] stood for repressive control'.  (I only know this from the Wiki article, I don't know anything about Foucault really, either the one with the pendulum or the one without).

Another still life painter who did some good bread was Luis Egidio Meléndez.

He too was somewhat unlucky in his career, should have prospered more and had better patronage, but both he and his father picked quarrels with the wrong people, he died indigent.  The unusual thing about his paintings, compared with those of 17th century still life painters like Zurbaran, is the low viewpoint, and the grouping and lighting, which produces a sense of immediacy and involvement, and again that Enlightment thing about seizing and understanding.  Most of his work is still in Spain, in the Prado in Madrid.

Just one more that I love, this one from an unknown 18th century Italian artist:

much more naïve and less realistic, it almost could have been painted on a biscuit tin, but I like it because it contains an element which, like Anne V-C's steam in the first painting, would in fact have been rapid and fugitive,not still at all: the blue tit perching on the glassy grapes and eyeing up those big chunks of white fat in the salami.  Reminds me of how they used to peck through the foil milk bottle tops to get to the cream on the gold top milk.  I suppose that doesn't happen any more?


In the light of my opening paragraph, about the accumulation of non-posting, it seems to me that this is why posting every day in November usually works quite well and is enjoyable, because it means I do smaller but better formed posts, instead of baggy monsters full of odds and sods and inconsequential meanderings.

So, I think I may try to put up a shorter post every day for a few days.  This should also help me to catch up with myself on my bid to accomplish a thousand posts by my seventh blogging anniversary.  So see you tomorrow!

*A Tumblr girl, your honour, to summarise several definitions from the Urban Dictionary, somewhere I really shouldn't spend too much time, is a pretty but narcissistic young creature, usually but not exclusively female (I think Tumblr boys exist too, or boys who are called Tumblr girls), who is rather over-fond of taking pictures of herself and posting them on her Tumblr blog.  They are 'hipsters' (a word which seems to be current again) and tend to be rather earnest and 'sensitive', and they prefer Tumblr to Facebook.  I think I've visited some of their blogs, they're actually rather nice.