To start this post, I must apologise for the fact that the photos on the home page have disappeared. I have tried to get them back; I’ve been in touch with the kind woman who set up my blog page last year and she tells me it’s a hosting problem and suggested a different website host. I had a word with my computer man and he wasn’t convinced that I needed to change my host, and he said he’d look into it for me. Apparently, it’s to do with broadband width, but being totally ignorant of such matters all I know is that my thumbnail photos don’t now appear on the home page and I would like them back as it makes the page look more interesting. But until this happens, I hope you will still log on and look at my new posts.
Right, onwards and upwards. First, the lisianthus are looking good in the sitting room; they are lovely flowers and bring a touch of early spring although we are still in the depths of winter. I looked in vain for more spring-like flowers (not chrysanthemums) while out on Saturday morning, and could only find dark pink roses which always look elegant, but they are a little short for the place where I wanted to put them. Yes, I could’ve gone for tall lilies, but the fragrance of lilies can be a little overpowering, beautiful flowers though they are. But maybe next time!
A dear friend invited me for a cuppa on Friday afternoon. It was lovely to have a catch-up conversation during which I admired her lovely deep plum-coloured candles on her mantelpiece. She said she buys them in bulk for a very reasonable amount of money and forthwith drew out a large box from their concealment under the sofa, and gave me two of them. I knew they’d look lovely in our tall glass candlesticks on our mantelpiece, and they do …
This is just one of the pair of candlesticks that my mother bought (from what was then referred to as a junk shop) in the 1950s and which my father detested. He couldn’t understand why she had “wasted her money” on horrible, old-fashioned things. Dear Dad, he was a lovely man but only liked modern things as many people did in the 1950s, things that might’ve appeared at the Festival of Britain, and certainly not Victorian or Edwardian candlesticks with glass lustres to catch the flickering candle light.
But to the topic of the day: books. I was asked to review Parisian Charm School by Jamie Cat Callan and while I like to oblige readers, I tend not to review but just to mention books I’ve enjoyed. I would hate to put any reader off a book which they might enjoy even if I hadn’t enjoyed it myself as reading, in particular fiction, is so very subjective. Being a writer – although not of books – myself, I know how much time and effort is put into writing and I really wouldn’t want to dismiss any book even if I hadn’t enjoyed it, knowing how much effort would have gone into writing it. And so, to Parisian Charm School. Perhaps I’m not the ‘target readership,’ maybe it’s for a much younger person, or one not already happily married as it’s mainly about the French art of flirtation. Maybe I’ve missed the point, but let’s just say not one for me and leave it at that.
However, there are books about France and, in particular, Paris, that I have very much enjoyed. Those by Jennifer L Scott focusing on Madame Chic and what the young Jennifer learned while staying with M and Mme Chic.
I also enjoyed The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz and Almost French: A New Life in Paris by Sarah Turnbull and on the strength of the Lebovitz I have ordered his latest book, L’Appart: The Delights and Disasters of Making my Paris Home
I also loved Joie de Vivre by Harriet Welty Rochefort
and, it goes almost without saying, the lovely books by Janice MacLeod, A Paris Year and Paris Letters, which I mentioned in a post last summer. But these modern books aren’t the only ones I have enjoyed about France. Long before Peter Mayle wrote his best-selling book about Provence there was Winifred Fortescue and her delightful book Perfume from Provence. It was published in 1935 and tells of Lady Fortescue and her husband, Sir John Fortescue’s move to France in the 1930s where they lived at what they called the Domaine. It was re-issued in the 1990s by Black Swan and has recently been re-issued by a publisher called Summersdale (for the first time since 2000.) You can read much more about these books and the Fortescues by looking at the website www.perfumefromprovence.com
When I was helping out in a friend’s antiquarian/2nd hand bookshop some years ago, I was able to find not only an old copy of Perfume from Provence, but also Lady Fortescue’s six other books, all autobiographical and in her own inimitable style. Of course, today, talking about the indigenous population, which was mainly working class (and very hard-working class I would think, mainly fishermen and farmers) as “peasants” and also referring to “servants” mightn’t be politically correct, but we must remember the times in which these books were written, when people had staff to do the washing and the cooking and the gardening, and Lady Fortescue does this without in any way belittling these people.
I am currently reading the second book in the series, Sunset House. This was written after Lady Fortescus’s husband died (sadly, only two years after their move to Provence, but he was 28 years her senior) and is about her purchase of a dilapidated cottage and the story of transforming it into her new home.
Reading on the bed yesterday afternoon, rug, hot water bottle, cup of tea …
These books are about Provence as it would have been over 80 years ago, but for a lovely read on a dark January afternoon they bring to mind the warmth, the food, the smells of the herbs and flowers of that region, and are a delight. I can’t think why I’d only read Perfume from Provence in the series; perhaps having the books ready-to-read on the shelves meant that I knew they’re there but just hadn’t bothered to take them down to read! I shall now.
As well as these books by Lady Fortescue, two books arrived in the post today …
so I’m rather hoping that this very cold weather stays a while longer and then I shan’t feel quite so guilty about spending time reading, on dark, cold January afternoons (and sometimes with a glass of Tia Maria or Bailey’s).
Until next time.