Monday, 15 June 2009


I had to cancel the carpenter last week, the weather was so awful. He sets up his workbench outside on my front terrace, so unless it is fine, it just can't be done. Now he can't come before mid July...

I've been in sandwich mode the last few days, warmer weather I suppose, not hungry for much more. So on Saturday I took a Picard Surgelés baguette out of the freezer, and while it was cooking I mashed up an avocado with tabasco, salt and pepper, and fried up some streaky bacon. When the baguette had cooled a bit, I spread the avocado, slapped the bacon on top, and it was simply delicious. Yesterday, Sunday, I did some organic chutes (how do you say that in English? bits and pieces, ends of slices, I don't know...) of smoked salmon with a large handful of watercress blended with a little butter, and shishimi togarashi (japanese 7 spice pepper). Delicious again, except that I overcooked the baguette and the crust was so... crusty that it took the skin off and even made a fair sized hole in my palate. So today it's slops for me, while it heals! But classy slops! I just had a large bowl of chicken and noodle soup with fresh shiitake mushrooms and ciboulette from the garden.
Here are the pottery photos I took last week.

A little soliflore in the shape of a pomegranate, of which I'm quite proud, hence the three photos!

A sort of touareg woman sculpture, which I don't quite know what to do with. In fact the number of bits and pieces of pottery I don't quite know what to do with is mounting up!

A flower pot or two

and a beach sculpture that is not quite this colour, but for some reason my camera just won't get it right, which is going to be a kitchen clock. The mechanism, hands and battery, are in a desk drawer that is blocked by the pile of wood the carpenter left, so putting it together will have to wait until July.

Sunday, 7 June 2009


That is, it's been over a month since I posted anything on my blog? Is it laziness? Nothing left in my time budget? I tell you, mostly it's because the photos I want to show are still in my camera, and it's such a business getting them into my machine and publishing them.

I have a new computer, a small Toshiba laptop, which Yves kindly bought for me... thank you Yves! I love it, it's light and aesthetic and works brilliantly well, and quickly and all that. But I don't much care for Windows Vista, and can't find anything I've downloaded, such as photos for instance. Well, I can find them but it takes ages to sort them into folders. Maybe I just haven't found the button.

So. What have I been doing since 11 April? I had the carpenter in to do the plinths and the strip of wood which holds up the ceiling in my bedroom (I mean really holds the ceiling up, when I removed the old one prior to papering, the ceiling nearly fell on my head). And he found some terrific looking cheapish wood to do it with. Sort of rough and vaguely painted white, really nice beach-looking stuff. So I decided on the spur of the moment to redo the hallway with it too, since the red wood that's there at the moment is starting to look a bit shaky and the hall is very dark. So while I was redoing the hall, I thought I'd change the door to the garden, which is not see through and also makes the hall very dark, so I ordered a window door... etc., etc., all of which I can't afford. But it'll look really good when it's finished. So anyway, the carpenter started off in April by redoing the loo (WC, toilet, john) which is off the hall and which was a different colour again, and it looks fantastic in this white wood. He's coming back on Tuesday to put in the door and do the rest of the hall.

Then I had my little brother Steve to stay, the first time he's managed to find time since I moved in a year and a half ago. I'm very partial to my brother Steve, well, to both my brothers, of whom I don't see enough, and was delighted to show him my house and Quimper and have dinner at Ste Marine (which is the fate of every one who comes to see me, wonderful place Le Café du Port right on the harbour). He was only here two days, so we didn't do much, and it pissed with rain all the time. That's what one forgets about Brittany. We have just had a week's heatwave, but really a heatwave, far too hot, temperatures between 28°C and 30°C. But now the weather has changed and it's chucking it down and it's freezing cold again. Sometimes I think it's wetter here than in Bangladesh... but then again sometimes the rest of France is under clouds and we have sun, so it's not all bad.

Then beginning of May I had a visit from my daughter Cécile over from the States with her son Marius. That was fantastic, they stayed over a week, and the weather was not too bad, and I really got to talk to Cécile who is expecting another baby end September, and to interact with Marius, two and three quarters, who is a little terror, but has his good sides: he'll eat anything, escargots and choucroute, and seafood, crevettes grises heads and all, wonderful to see him eat. And he goes to bed with no problem in the evening. Read him a story, give him a few books, and he goes to sleep with a book on his nose like a little old man! So that was really good fun. Last time Cécile was pregnant, I didn't get to see her at all. Lots of photos, but not the same as seeing your daughter with a swelling tummy. Very moving really. We had some good meals (one at Ste Marine of course), and walks on the beach, and trips into town to the manège and to eat ice cream. The photo above is Marius reading to Oslo, and below at the Jardins d'Acclimatation, with Papé Jack, meeting his first barbe à papa (candyfloss).

Then I had a visit from my old friend Patti with whom I was at college in London a couple of centuries ago. Hadn't seen her for a few years so we caught up, chatted a lot, and went for a meal at Ste Marine (I have a special table there now! no only joking). Only a couple of days, but good fun.

That's all on the visit front. Then I have brought loads of stuff back from my pottery class. I'll put pictures in a following post (yes, they are still in my camera). And did a day's course at the calligraphy workshop near me. I'm useless at calligraphy but it does allow one to do some interesting things. The theme was Planches Botaniques, so I feigned practising writing in the morning, then in the afternoon went wild with watercolours to do my planche botanique of oriental red poppies, and just added a couple of words to justify the calligraphy bit! I'm very proud of the result.

I've been knitting, started about 15 different project as is my wont. I'll do a separate post on that subject too.

Gardening, my terraces are looking terrific, but they did need a lot of watering in that heatwave. My bamboo are in very large black pots which soak up the heat and dry out fast.

My hair is growing, I can put it up in a twist with no difficulty and it's getting easier and easier to manage. I'm regretting less the 18 months of hell to get to this stage.

Yves came up this week for a couple of days. During the hot weather, bliss, we could eat outside on the terrace and went (of course, you've guessed) to dinner at Ste Marine. They do wonderful seafood and one never tires of it. We came back after dinner, fetched the dog (too hot to leave her in the car, even in the evening), went down to the beach and walked for half an hour (22H15 to 22h45, all that in daylight. It's quite fantastic how late it gets dark here at the very Western end of Europe.

That's it, that's what I've been doing since 11 April! I'll try not to leave it as long next time.

Saturday, 11 April 2009


It's been over a month since I posted. I've woken up and have started doing things in the house after a year of abstinence. Forced abstinence because my shoulder prevented me absolutely from doing anything really, that is now much better with the rest, acupuncture and some special exercises to muscle up the shoulder cap. And voluntary abstinence because I was sick of painting and didn't have the cash to do anything serious in the house.

So I've redecorated my little bedroom, the one on the ground floor overlooking the back terrace. It had to be papered, the walls are so uneven. So I bought a japanesy paper back in December, pale willow green with a textured irregular sort of folded stripe running top to bottom, but not straight by any means, which makes it very easy to put up, no repeats, doesn't matter if the strip of wallpaper is off kilter, etc. But first I had to remove the existing orange wallpaper, and the polystyrene liner underneath. That flew into bits and stuck everywhere. Then I painted the door a sort of pale pale primrose yellow gloss. Looks good. Changed the door handle. Papered. Changed all the plugs and switches, half of which were crooked, all of which were old and horrible. I have a carpenter coming in next week to put new plinths and boards (literally boards) all around the top of the walls to make sure the board ceiling doesn't fall on me when I'm asleep!

New bedroom, very nice! Too small to photograph I think.

Then I put the power hose over the terrace behind the house, long job, messy. And the wall. I still have the steps down into the garden to do and the garden paths, then I can put it away for another year. The terrace is north facing and in winter gets practically no sun. The wall in question was white and grows moss and pink micro-organisms. Most unattractive. So I thought I'd paint it green so moss wouldn't show as much. I've chosen the same green as the veranda, a bit extreme but very brightening in the greyer months in the Finistere. It has totally transformed the terrace into a bright little space I really want to sit out on.

I took the car ferry from Roscoff last week and went to Dorset for the weekend. Had to get up really early to drive up from Quimper, and it's a very boring boat trip. But the sea was calm and the weather sunny, so once I was on my way it was OK. It's still a 12 hour trip from door to door though. Thank God for GPS! I forgot my road map of the UK and had to go into the depths of Devon to fetch two fleeces I'd ordered from a rare breeds farm near Okehampton. The lanes got so wild that one would have had to back for miles to let anything pass! The lanes were all lined with thousands of daffodils, quite beautiful. And from there home to Dorset.

My old Mum had celebrated her 92nd birthday the weekend previously. Doesn't she look GREAT? Nicholas and Marlena came down from London. And we had a nice family weekend not doing much, but doing it in brilliant sunshine. All weekend. Weren't we lucky? Nicholas took some really good photos, we all lost money on the Grand National, the F1 in Malaysia was cut short because of torrential rain, and we went out to lunch on Saturday which was a great success, Grama liked the restaurant!

On Sunday, we did lunch up at Mike's and Grama got to speak to Cecile, Aziz and Marius on Skype for the very first time. And on Monday I left and drove back home with all sorts of plants I'd pinched out of Grama's garden, a couple of seedling parasol pines, runner beans, fresh eggs for a month, and a dozen quincy which I reimported into France.

Youpi, my unsociable cat, who lives outside when I go away, went missing for two days after my return, that is, she never came back and I thought I'd seen the last of her, but she finally turned up, famished and thirsty and with a bleeding back paw. She's still growling at me whenever I touch her so it must hurt. I'll put a picture of her next post.
Happy Easter!

Sunday, 8 March 2009


This morning I found that the little milk I had left in the fridge had gone off, so I mixed up a small quantity of organic powdered ewe's milk that I keep as an ingredient for making milk bath. It was very good, and eating it on my porridge, I reflected that this was probably the combination that crofters of old probably used, since they would have been far more likely to keep sheep than cows. There, my authentic Sunday morning moment...

I brought back dozens of tiny champignons de Paris that I had made in pottery this week. Why make mushrooms, you may wonder? Well, I'm blatantly copying an idea I saw on, but not for sale, of course. I'm making a moss garden for my old Mum for her birthday at the end of the month. Difficult to know what to give a mum of her age, and I thought she'd appreciate the "I made it all by myself" feel. In fact I've made several. I bought glass containers of all shapes and sizes on ebay in January, some with lids, some without. I made the mushrooms (an essential ingredient: one tiny mushroom) in February. And the other day I raided my local nursery for attractive moss I'd seen growing on the earth around repotted saplings. And the result is rather fetching, I think! Very "I made it all by myself", in any case.

I also crocheted a cotton oven cloth yesterday, to replace the one I've been using these twenty years and which, although I was very sad to put it in the bin, really had to go. This one is nice and bright and springlike, but the photo is a little pale.

My camelias have suffered a little from the frost these last two weeks, but I managed to get a couple of photos before they did. Camelias are lovely, their fallen blooms, which go squishy and stick to everything, are not. I'm being very careful to pick them up as they fall this year.

The first early cherry has started to flower at the bottom of the garden. Its flowers are so very small that you have to be within a couple of metres to see them at all, but they are another sign of Spring and it's all very heartening.

Oslo has been very ill but is better. She looks quite normal again except for lumps and bumps all over. I may even, weather permitting, try taking her to the beach this week.

Sunday, 1 March 2009


Here are a few of the things I've completed recently in my pottery class. Doesn't look like much, but I really needed soap dishes at home, rather than leaving sludgy bars of soap on the edge of the sink/bath/washbasin. I made three, but I think I could have made half a dozen. They also helped me to do a few colour tests. And they've got little feet like japanese dishes.

I also made a "boîte à trésors" for Marius in the shape of a big fat mushroom.

And I've finally listed a couple of pieces of knitting on etsy: . More listings to come.

Which all explains why I don't get out into the garden much.

Thursday, 19 February 2009


For my participation in the Indian Spirit swap, I did a quadriptych of my vision of India, pink, saffron, gold, palaces and elephants, and the sanscrit word Aham (I am). Thick acrylic applied with a knife mostly, or with a rag for the gold. I was quite pleased with it, but very difficult to photograph.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009


Here's the latest pair that has just gone off in the post to Marius in America. I've decided to sell these (not his, but a series like them) on Etsy.

It's been warming up a bit during the day in Brittany, but not at night when it freezes most of the time. What a strange winter! I took Oslo to the beach last week, picked up a few cockles for my lunch. She enjoyed it, if a little painfully, she does have a problem walking on sand now. She paddled a bit but didn't swim (I think the water must have been awfully cold...). And I've started to garden a bit, only in pots around the two terraces, tiding up, planting up a couple of things in prettier pots. There are a few snowdrops out, and my spring camelias are taking the place of the winter one (Yuletide, a lovely red one with small flowers in profusion and dark green leaves, lovely at Christmas) which flowered in November, December and January. Camelias are so cheerful and so little trouble. You can have one or other in bloom from October to April.

Sunday, 8 February 2009


I am part of a "birthday swap" and since mine is in January, I was the first to receive presents from the other 11 participants. I still find it interesting to think of the trouble one takes over a parcel for someone one has never met and is never likely to meet. The poring over their likes and dislikes to find the special something that will give pleasure. And the hours of work to get it finished in time.

I received a very mixed bunch, but almost everyone had exercised great imagination and care. I have favourites, which I cannot of course mention, have a look for yourselves at the photos on my other blog

Now it's my turn, and February's birthday was right at the beginning of the month. I made her a pair of slipper socks (my speciality - see photo below of my son-in-law, daughter, son and grandson all wearing my socks!) in chocolate pure wool (her favourite colour). I bought a packets of four different varieties of sunflower seeds for her summer garden, and I added a small pot of my own home-made organic lip balm. She seemed pleased. But you can never tell really.

It snowed again in the Finistere yesterday. Not much, but unusual to have snow so often, we're not used to it here! Nicholas and Marlena managed to get off the ground at Heathrow yesterday on their way to spend their two week holiday in Thailand - they must be exploring Bangkok as I write! No snow there...

I did a day's course with the German calligraphy lady again yesterday. It's such a beautiful, restful atmosphere, her lovely studio gives onto a wonderful garden filled with her husband's weird and colourful totems and sculptures and we work to mediaeval music in utter calm. I started a quadriptych (is that in the dictionary?), four 16cm squares, each with a calligraphied capital letter in the middle. I studied the dictionary before going to find good and meaningful four letter words - there are quite a lot, I hesitated between BLEU (which can also be BLUE), ENVY (all green...), BACH (all musical), CHAT (French cats), LOVE (a bit ordinary), and chose in the end ROSE (a bilingual option, which can also be anagrammed if the letters are hung in different orders, into EROS, SORE, OSER...). I would have preferred to work on canvas but was not given that option. So I wrote on very thick watercolour paper which now has to be stuck onto "carton plume" (what's THAT in English???). I first did a pale green wash, then inked in the letters (with a paintbrush, a calligraphy pen cramps my style immediately). I then washed the inside of the capitals with slighty darker shades of green. Then I gilded little tiny parts of the letters in pink leaf. Then I added three tiny roses to each letter (I'd traced green climbing stemps around the letters off which the roses bloom). And then it was time to come home!

So now I have to finish them off and give them a much "rosier" look, and then mount them for hanging. Looks good, I'm quite pleased with it all. I'll put a photo here when it's completed.

Friday, 6 February 2009


And I'm a year older!

As usual, I made a trip to London to stay with Nicholas and Marlena for the weekend. I had a really good time, even if I did have my mobile phone stolen. They looked after me wonderfully well as they always do, and the weather was OK for at least half the time! It's a bit of an all day journey from Quimper, but it's lovely to get a change of scene.

Yves flew up the morning of my birthday and we went to my pottery class together in the afternoon. We wanted to eat out, but everything seemed to be closed, so I stuck a chicken in the oven, and we had chicken and chips and a bottle of champagne - perfectly acceptable! The next evening proved to be just as bad, but we managed to go down into town and have a couscous which was very good, and very quick, we were back home by 21h00!

Cécile gave me some more lovely wool, this time a batt to be handspun. It's a beautiful sea green, and I couldn't resist spinning just a bit to see what the result was, but now I've put it aside while I finish a couple of the three hundred or so projects I have en route.
Nicholas is having a couple of very special portraits he did of himself and Cécile mounted on canvas for me. But for the moment he's more occupied with getting ready to go on holiday to Thailand tomorrow for a couple of weeks.

It snowed here at the beginning of the week, we must have had about 4 cm in all, and it stayed on the ground for a whole day! Nothing like Dorset or London, but a lot for the Finistere. All the rest of the week it's been pouring with rain, more typical of the region, but I prefer snow!

Wednesday, 21 January 2009


I was very lucky at Christmas to receive presents to help creativity!

My ex husband gave me a wonderful book on Jingdezhen Porcelaine, which really has to be read from cover to cover in small chunks to understand all the lessons it contains.

Nicholas has paid for my pottery lessons for the rest of the year (Jan to June), which is really very generous. Pottery is my real recreation session on Wednesday afternoons.

And Cécile gave me a hank of hand painted, hand spun wool from, which is such a work of art, I at first hung it on my wall like a painting. But then, fearful that sunlight and dust would deteriorate it, I have knitted it up into a neck warmer. Here is a photo of the skein, I'll post a photo of the neckwarmer when I've finished "finishing" it!


I never did put pictures here of the things I created for the Star swap I participated in during December. It was the first time I'd done this sort of thing, and I wasn't quite sure of the rules, what to do, how much, how much time to spend, how much money to spend, etc. Anyway, this is the "creation" bit of the parcel I sent out:

The title of the swap was "La Tête dans les Etoiles", and the person I had to create for only liked purple and black and duck egg blue! So this first photo is a knitted headband in basket weave, and I stuck a few little stars on it just to make it fit the theme! First time I'd knitted basket weave, came out rather well. The photo doesn't really show it properly.

This is a 20cmx20cm painting (acrylics on canvas) of a night sky, little gold stars, with a leafless tree, an owl, and a phantomatic figure, all with their heads in the stars. I like it, I hope the recipient did too.

And then I did a brooch in felt, which was a bit large, but OK for a first try at this sort of thing. What I really like about swaps, apart from the care taken preparing things for someone one has never met and will never meet, is the fact that one has to work to a deadline, finish what one starts, and work to a given theme. It's very salutory for both creativity and rigour.

Just before Christmas I took part in a day's course on illuminated manuscripts, but since my calligraphy is rather pathetic, I illuminated but left the manuscript bit to others! In fact, I made a rather classy Christmas star (about 30cm across), that ended up on my minute Christmas tree. If I'd bought the star in a specialist shop, I would have paid about a third of the cost of the day's course, but never mind, it was fun and I met a few people.

Friday, 2 January 2009


Doesn't time fly! Happy New Year to family and friends, may 2009 bring you health and joy. Let's hope the year is not too hard on us all, maybe we should begin to decide what is really essential in our lives and be ready to eliminate some of the rest. I've downsized drastically since 2006 and I have to say that, even if it is sometimes painful, it is also salutory and one can gain a certain satisfaction from living simply and frugally. One's conscience is then a little clearer when one looks around at what is happening to those less fortunate.

Enough philosophising (if that's what that was). I had the good fortune to have my son Nicholas with me for a whole week at Christmas, and we had a wonderful time together, getting on quietly well, eating well but not overdoing it, and not drinking too much. The weather has been very cold in France, even in Brittany, if a little less so than elsewhere, but we have still had frosty nights. The days on the other hand have been almost uniformly clear and bright. Nicholas' birthday on 21st December was on the contrary balmy, almost like Spring, with brilliant sunshine. We went out to lunch at Ste Marine, and had a table overlooking the harbour. This was my birthday present to him (as well as the cashmere scarf I knitted pictured below). The meal was good and they gave us a winey-bag to bring home the Sancerre that we didn't finish. Before eating we took a short walk on the beach to quieten Oslo down. When she knows she's by the sea (and she seems to smell it immediately), she starts to whine and complain, which is pretty unbearable. So we gave her a little walk before lunch. On the beach on the shortest day of the year without a jacket on - wonderful!

The rest of the week went by quickly, with a couple of tours of central Brittany (I had a crêpe which made me ill and prevented us from going to the restaurant we had booked that evening).
But we went a few days later, between Christmas and the New Year, so there was hardly anyone around. L'Ambroisie is said to be one of the best restaurants in Quimper. One expects something large and flashy, but not at all, it's a tiny restaurant in a tiny street, with only a few tables and a very simple décor. I was very doubtful when we walked in, the room was badly lit and the owner didn't seem that pleased to see us. But I think it was only that we arrived 20 minutes before the time we had booked for, and since we were virtually the only people to have booked, she simply wasn't ready for us. Things brightened up fast, including the owner, and the food turned out to be fantastic. We had a glass of champagne accompanied by lovely amuse-gueule. Then I had seared scallops (just seared, perfect!) with endives and orange, and Nicholas had foie gras (one of us always does!). And as a main dish we both had pigeonneau, which was the best either of us had ever tasted, meltingly tender and cooked to perfection. Cheese, dessert, coffee. A good Bordeaux. What more could you want? And we didn't come home feeling stuffed to the eyebrows, which always makes for a better night's sleep!
Nicholas left on 29th, and New Year's Eve was a bit of a come down, all alone as usual (not last year, Cécile, Aziz and Marius were here), and feeling a bit depressed. Poireau pomme de terre soup and a yoghurt and to bed well before midnight!