Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Little Bit Self Indulgent

Catherine Deneuve
I apologise for the self indulgent nature of this post, but, I have  to confess, I am no shrinking violet when it comes to my birthday.  I am not one of these people who keeps quiet about my birthday, and then casually announces it, making everyone feel guilty, because they had not remembered the date from the previous year and had not bought cards or presents.  No, I am the sort of person who feels a birthday should last all week, I drop subtle hints about what  presents I would like and where I want to go, I feel it is the only time of year when one can get away with being a complete diva.

I had told MG, that I fancied going away for the night this year, perhaps to Biarritz or San Sebastian, but then I realised, that my birthday, this year falls on Easter Sunday, so I think we will take a rain check on that and go another time, when it will be less busy. 

I am very lucky, I am happy in my skin, so ageing does not bother me, I don't feel the urge to rush out and have botox or plastic surgery, however I must admit years of tea drinking, red wine drinking and the occasional cigarette have taken it's toll on my teeth, so I would concede to have my teeth whitened, not so white that you have to wear shades when I smile, but a nice natural white, I think a good smile is the most important thing, at any age.

I have been looking at some old photographs, and dug this one out of me, at 21, pouty, posy and thought I knew it all, complete with big hair, taken in the late eighties.  I don't  look like this now,  I am not sure if I really looked like this then! 

I thought it might be fun , to reveal something of my 21 year old self.

Occupation - Student, supplemented grant by working as a waitress, a sales assistant in a clothes shop and occasional modelling jobs. 
Lived - Brighton, England, in a student house, lived with an unsuitable boyfriend, whom my parents did not approve of, (they turned out to be right).
Drove - Black Fiat Panda, kindly donated by my Father.
Style - When I first arrived in Brighton, I was leaning towards being a new romantic, but Brighton life, soon turned me into a bit of a hippy.
Holidays - Backpacking round Europe and Glastonbury Festival.
Aspirations - I had absolutely no idea, I was quite happy to go with the flow.

What were you doing at 21?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Return To Pau

Well I said I would treat myself to a day in Pau after all my hard work, mowing the lawn and spring cleaning.  On Wednesday, I finished mowing the lawn, I was so pleased with myself, that I celebrated the first mow of the season by pouring myself a glass of chilled rose, during the course of the evening I managed to finish the bottle, strange how that can sometimes happen, well all day yesterday, I was feeling distinctly woolly, and my attempts at cleaning were, well feeble, to say the least.  I woke up this morning feeling fine, added to that it was a beautiful day, so I took myself off to Pau.

Pau is a lovely town I also wrote about it here.  And I said I would give you some history, on a future post, so here it is.

Pau is a town steeped in history with its ancient chateau, the birthplace of Henri IV. Marie Antoinette, tended the small garden when she stayed at the chateau, whilst visiting the city and Napoleon used it as a holiday home.

 The Chateau

 Chateau Courtyard

Henry IV of France 'Le Bon Roi Henri'

Chateau Garden

Known as 'La Ville Anglaise' (No wonder, I feel so at home) due to the fact that Wellington brought his troops to Pau for some rest and relaxation, finding the mild climate agreeable, many of them later returned and settled in Pau, with their families. They built grand villas, many of which still exist, established the first golf course on the continent, a cricket team and a foxhunt, Pau is still very much an equestrian town hosting many international equine events. In May, Pau also plays host to a historic grand prix one of the few events where vintage cars can still race round a street circuit.

Place de Deportation 

Chateau Archway


Street in the old town

It was so nice just ambling about Pau, on a beautiful day, I stopped off here for refreshment.

When I walked past here, the beautiful smell of roses knocked me out, they specialise in making the most exquisite  arrangements and bouquets only using roses.

This is the most wonderful shop, selling all sorts of interior design nic nacs, I always pop in, no purchases today!

Well, I have had my treat, MG does not come back until Sunday afternoon, so I have plenty of time to finish the cleaning.....I will be abstemious until then!
I wish you all a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Anyone For Tea?

Last May, whilst in London I noticed a renaissance amongst my friends, for the habit of taking afternoon tea, not just a mug of tea and a few biscuits, but proper afternoon tea, served from a tea service, into porcelain cups and saucers, and cakes, buns and sandwiches to eat. I was delighted,  I love afternoon tea, my Grandmother religiously served it every afternoon at four, I even had my own toy tea service and tea set to play with as a child.

The custom of drinking tea originated in England, when Catherine Braganza married Charles II, in 1661 and brought the practice of drinking tea in the afternoon with her from Portugal.

Anna Russell, The Duchess of Bedford, 1783-1857, was the creator of afternoon tea,  During the 18th century, dinner came to be served later and later in the day until by the early 1800s, the normal time was between 7:00 and 8:30 p.m. An extra meal called luncheon had been created to fill the midday gap between breakfast and dinner, but as this new meal was very light, the long afternoon with no refreshment at all left people feeling hungry. She found a light meal of tea (usually Darjeeling) and cakes or sandwiches was the perfect balance. The Duchess found taking an afternoon snack to be such a perfect refreshment that she soon began inviting her friends to join her. Afternoon tea quickly became an established and convivial repast in many middle and upper class households.  

High Tea is an early evening meal, typically eaten between 5pm and 6pm. It would substitute for both afternoon tea and the evening meal. It is now largely replaced by a later evening meal.
High Tea would usually consist of cold meats, eggs or fish, cakes and sandwiches. In a family, it tends to be less formal and is an informal snack (featuring sandwiches, biscuits, pastry, fruit and the like) or else it is the main evening meal.
On farms or other working class environments, high tea would be the traditional, substantial meal eaten by the workers immediately after nightfall, and would combine afternoon tea with the main evening meal.

An Elaborate tea caddy, tea was so valuable, it had to be kept under lock and key

Afternoon tea was traditionally served in the parlour and in summer outside on the lawn, served on low tables, that's why afternoon tea is also known as low tea.


Britain has thousands of establishments specialising in afternoon tea, and with the renaissance many people are serving it in their homes, blowing the dust off their grandmothers china, and scouring antiques fairs for tea services, cake stands and other teatime paraphernalia.

There are many books for afternoon tea lovers, tea room's of Britain guide books, history of tea books and of course books on cooking delicious cakes, buns and pastries.

All Books Available at Amazon

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Pastel Day

I had a very early start this morning, as I had to drive MG to Toulouse Airport, he has gone off to the UK on business for a few days. The weather was not brilliant first thing this morning, but on the way back it brightened up, becoming a lovely spring day.

It was in fact a pastel day, the sort of day that makes you want to get the paints out, with scudding clouds in the sky, occasionally blotting out the sun. I decided to get off the auto route and take a detour of the local area, and as usual I had my camera with me.

Our village, from a distance

The snow in the Pyrenees is starting to melt, the rivers are rising. The spring sunlight dancing on a river

Country Lane

Proud Mother with her offspring, obligingly looking at the camera

And when I got home, I had two, yes two dogs, waiting for their walk. We have not acquired another dog, we are looking after 'Matty' one of Crusoe's girlfriends, whilst her owners are away.

 'Throw it, I am waiting'

There is always a tussle for the stick!


Well I wonder what I am going to do with my time, now I am on my own, I have to finish mowing the lawn and I have to make a start on the spring cleaning, maybe if I work really hard for the rest of the day, and Thursday I will reward myself with a trip to Pau on Friday........

Monday, March 22, 2010

Shopping And Bits & Bobs

Well, I promised I would do a shopping post, continuing on from the Harrogate trip post, so here it is, I know it's not earth shatteringly exciting, as you can probably see. I mainly concentrated on stuff that is not available in France, so this meant a trip to Marks and Spencers, for V neck sweaters and lingerie, I love their Autograph range, the quality is excellent and the prices for lingerie are much lower than French lingerie, which is beautiful, but for every day wear is a trifle extravagant, even for me! I know that you can buy cheaper lingerie in France at the likes of Monoprix and other places, but the quality is not great and they don' t seem to fit me properly.

I also hit Harrrogate's premier department store, for hosiery, I am a big fan of Wolford's velvet deluxe tights, they are not cheap at eighteen pounds a shot, but they are worth it, they are wonderful, no snags or ladders and can last for a couple of years, I can't find them in France, except in the Wolford shops but there are none of those round here and the likes of Galeries Lafayette, in true French protectionist style, only sell French makes, I also bought a couple of pairs of Pretty Polly nylons, for good measure, which are not available in France.

Then I hit Boots the Chemist, for, amongst other things, the No 7, protect and perfect range, which is excellent, I introduced this range to Belle Mère, who, thinks they are marvelous, and she is a lady that knows her creams, my Mother was so impressed by the products, she switched to No 7 from Guerlaine (the Rolls Royce of hydration), so It's not all hype, I have had loads of compliments on my complexion since I started using their products.

I am also a big fan of Olay's complete care everyday sunshine moisturiser, which is easily absorbed, gives you a light sun kissed glow, without making you orange, contains vitamin E and has an SPF of 15, Olay products are not available in France.

I also bought some pretty jewellery which was less than half price, from East. And two pairs of great fitting jeans, from George1V and Oasis, UK size 10, yippee.

I know, I took pictures of some of the fabulous interior design shops in Harrogate, but I did not dare go into them for fear of seeing something I could not possibly live without, and then suffering shopping guilt, let alone bringing too much back on a strict weight allowance.

My favourite thing, which I have not published as the photo's do not do it justice, is a beautiful Jackie O style, Escada shift dress and matching jacket in a stunning shade of purple, kindly given to me by my Mother. I tried it on, whilst I was helping my Mother sort her spare room out, and it fitted perfectly and I have to say, it looks really super on, although I don't know where I can wear it, no wedding's and no trips to the races are on the horizon.

Over the last couple of years my petite, five foot Mother has gone from a UK size 12 to a UK size 8, she is incredibly elegant and stylish and always wears gloves when she goes out, even in the summer for driving.  With her weight loss, she now has a spare room full of classically beautiful designer clothes, which now drown her, I am going back later in the year to photograph them and sell them on E Bay for her.

The other important purchase is a Liz Caiborne, medium sized, wheely suitcase, purchased from TK Max for fifty pounds.  Now this was an attempt to beat Ryan Air at it's own game.

On the return to Blighty post, there were a lot of unfavourable comments about Ryan air.  I was in a really bad mood, the morning we set off for the airport, just thinking about flying Ryan Air.  The baggage weight allowance is 10KG for hand luggage, one piece only, and 15KG for checked luggage, not a huge amount if you want to hit the shops.

On Ryan Air a ladies handbag now qualifies as one piece of hand luggage, as does any magazine, newspaper or other purchases bought whilst in the departure lounge.  When we booked the flight I put down one piece of luggage to be checked both ways (£30.00)  I am not the sort of person to start measuring creams and lotions into 100ML bottles, I  just chuck them in my vanity bag, so my luggage had to be checked in, on the outward flight I went through with just my handbag as hand luggage.

We needed a new medium size suitcase, and MG also shopped, he bought a new laptop, amongst other things, on the outward flight I checked in the new suitcase full of goodies and went through with my small weekend case as hand luggage, with MG's laptop, and my handbag squashed in, even the large amount of English glossies I bought in the departure lounge fitted in!

When we got to the the departure gate, there were several ladies, scrabbling about on the floor trying to fit everything in to one bag, there was one lady, a seasoned Ryan Air pro, trying to get a laptop, handbag, four packets of Richmond Pork sausages, five packets of Digestives, packets of Lemsip (sound familiar) and other assorted items into one cloth bag, I did not think she would do it, but she did. I was most impressed, she turned packing a small cloth bag into an artform, and I told her so, we had a bit of a grumble and a giggle about Ryan Air and handbags.

At Stansted Airport departure lounge, just before you head off to the gates there is a Pret A Manger, MG and I bought sandwiches and drinks to take on the plane, I had the sandwich in my hand as I went through the boarding gate, I was half expecting the rather officious Ryan air lady to confiscate it, she didn't, I was certainly not going to pay the over inflated prices for the rubbish, they call food, on board a Ryan Air Flight.

I settled in to read the tacky in flight magazine, which informed me that Ryan Air want to change the habits of air passengers by charging to use the loo, that way, they can maximise space and flight costs will be even lower, Oh where will it end, The Ryan Air staff, try to sell you as much as possible, whilst the captive audience is imprisoned, with no leg room or elbow room. The flight both ways was on time though, which they inform you by a fanfare over the tannoy on arrival and proudly announce they are the most prompt airline in the world, well that's something then.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Talitha Getty, Beautiful And Damned

Talitha Getty, Patrick Lichfield

This photograph of Talitha Getty, taken by Patrick Lichfield, on a Marrakesh rooftop in 1969, is one of the enduring images of the twentieth century, it is much imitated by fashion stylists all over the world, however the backstory of this photograph although glamourous is also tragic.

I was going to write an article about  it, but whilst doing my research I found this article, written by Justine Picardie, From The Telegraph, 13th July 2008, I cannot possibly improve on it, so here it is:

She was muse to Yves Saint Laurent, queen of 1960s Marrakech and the woman Rudolf Nureyev wanted to marry. But adoration and immense wealth weren't enough for Talitha Getty, fashion icon and addict. By Justine Picardie 
It's the picture that has inspired a thousand fashion collections: Patrick Lichfield's photograph of Talitha Getty on a Marrakech rooftop with her husband, John Paul Getty, at the beginning of 1969, when the couple were the embodiment of a certain kind of 1960s glamour, a hippie-de-luxe look that has flourished ever since.
As such, it's represented an oddly persistent afterlife for Talitha Getty, who died of a heroin overdose in Rome on 14 July 1971 (or possibly 11 July, for the precise details of her death, like much of her life, remain shrouded in mystery). She was just 30, and left behind her a three-year-old son, the whimsically named Tara Gabriel Gramophone Galaxy Getty, and a reclusive husband who grieved in seclusion for a decade afterwards.

The couple, both of them struggling with drug problems, had been living separately in the months leading up to her death - she was installed with Tara in a grand Chelsea townhouse on Cheyne Walk - but Talitha returned to Getty's palazzo in Rome for an attempted reconciliation. They spent the night together, and the following morning her husband awoke, but Talitha did not. She was rushed by ambulance to a clinic, where she died without regaining consciousness.

Her past was as exotic as her looks, with a dark streak threaded through it from the start. Born in Indonesia to Dutch parents on 18 October 1940, Talitha was interned along with her mother in a Japanese prison camp during the Second World War. Her father, a painter named Willem Pol, was imprisoned in a different camp, and after their release the couple separated. 

Talitha moved to England with her mother, who died in 1948, and was subsequently brought up by her father and his second wife, Poppet John, the daughter of the painter Augustus John. The interior designer Nicky Haslam first encountered Talitha in the 1950s, living with her father and stepmother in the South of France. 'She was the most beautiful child,' he says, 'and she grew into a gorgeous, long-limbed beauty in the 1960s. Everyone fell in love with her.'

Her admirers included the former Conservative minister Lord Lambton (Woodrow Wyatt recalled in his diaries that Lambton 'sent her huge bunches of flowers about every two hours and showered her with presents') and Rudolf Nureyev. 

In her biography of Nureyev, Julie Kavanagh describes how the dancer was 'captivated' by Talitha from the moment they first met at a party in 1965: 'Talitha had alabaster-white skin and high cheekbones and eyes much like his own. Although he did not find her particularly intelligent, she was intuitive and sympathetic, and they instantly seemed to recognise something in each other… what he was actually seeing was an exquisite, androgynous reflection of himself… Nureyev had never felt so erotically stirred by a woman, telling several friends that he wanted to marry Talitha. She was just as enthralled by him.'

As it turned out, when Nureyev's neighbour in Belgravia, Claus von Bulow, invited them both to dinner Nureyev was unable to come, but another of the guests that night was instantly smitten: John Paul Getty Junior, the son of the richest man in the world, and heir to an oil fortune. She was to become his second wife (he had already separated from his first, with whom he had four children), after a wedding ceremony in 1966 at Rome City Hall to which Talitha wore a white mink-trimmed minidress.
The couple travelled to Marrakech for their honeymoon, where they bought the beautiful 19th-century Le Palais du Zahir, thereafter known as the Pleasure Palace. It was here that Lichfield's photograph (now held by the National Portrait Gallery) was taken - John Paul hooded and brooding in a djellaba, Talitha the epitome of rich bohemianism in her ornate silk kaftan over white harem pants - and it was here, too, that Yves Saint Laurent was swept into their orbit.

'When I knew Talitha Getty,' he later recalled, 'my vision completely changed.' He was entranced by her mixture of apparent innocence - the barefoot flower child in ethnic dress - and wild decadence (the drugs, the jewels, the Rolling Stones and Beatles as house guests). 'I knew the youthfulness of the Sixties,' said Saint Laurent, in 1984, almost two decades afterwards, 'Talitha and Paul Getty lying on a starlit terrace in Marrakech, beautiful and damned, and a whole generation assembled as if for eternity where the curtain of the past seemed to lift before an extraordinary future…'

A slightly less romantic view could be glimpsed in the diaries of the writer John Hopkins, whose entry for 1 January 1968 reads: 'Last night Paul and Talitha Getty threw a New Year's Eve party at their palace in the medina. Paul McCartney and John Lennon were there, flat on their backs. They couldn't get off the floor let alone talk. I've never seen so many people out of control.'

Out of these anecdotes, spliced with the brief facts of Talitha's life, has arisen a myth that grows more potent with the passing of the years. There is little concrete evidence to remember her by - a handful of photographs, and a bit part in Barbarella - but out of this absence a layered romance has been conjured by a multitude of fashion designers, who cite her as an icon. 

First and foremost was Yves Saint Laurent, who had the benefit of actually knowing Talitha, unlike his successors, and whose designs were infused with a romanticised vision of her as a night star of Marrakech. 'Yves had never seen anyone like Talitha before,' wrote his biographer, Alicia Drake, describing their initial encounters when Saint Laurent first went on holiday to Marrakech in 1967. 'He took in every visual detail. He was struck by the wildness and high sexuality of it all, at that time so alien to Paris couture. It wasn't just the clothes that affected Yves; the Gettys lived with a degree of indulgence and hedonism that he had never witnessed before.' 

It was under Talitha's influence that he and his partner, Pierre Bergé, bought a house within the walled medina of Marrakech; and her legacy is still apparent in the current summer exhibition at the YSL Fondation in Paris, 'Une Passion Marocaine', a collection of gorgeously decorative kaftans and north African jewellery of the kind that Talitha wore at her parties in the Pleasure Palace.

Since then everyone from Dolce & Gabbana to Dries van Noten has done a take on Talitha, and her style is still reflected in this summer's version of bohemian chic. 'She's a little bit like Jackie O, in that she's an obvious reference to use,' admitted Phoebe Philo in an interview with W magazine at the end of 2001, having been inspired by Talitha for her Chloé collection. 'I guess you could say I got carried away with Talitha's character. Not that all of what I imagined about her was even true. I used her more as a fantasy to dream about.'

There are those who might see Talitha's ending as more nightmarish than alluringly dreamy - the grotesque descent into drug addiction, the Christmas party she gave in a pigsty in Rome - but, as with Jimi Hendrix or Edie Sedgwick, the mythologising is more often than not untouched by the facts.
And of course, like those other dead icons, she never lived long enough for her beauty to be dimmed, nor to witness the tragedies that overtook the Getty family (her husband's son by his first marriage was kidnapped in Italy in 1973, and his ear cut off before the ransom was paid, while his daughter, Aileen Getty, contracted Aids). If Talitha Getty had survived she would be 68 this year, her lovely face wrinkled, if not ravaged by the excesses of her past. 

But instead, she remains forever young, almond-eyed and enticing, on that Marrakech rooftop, with the world at her feet and the Atlas mountains behind her, as if the 1960s hadn't ended, and the sky had never gone cold. 

Friday, March 19, 2010

Awards Time

On Monday, The lovely Jeanne at Collage of Life, bestowed on me The Sunshine Award, I was truly honoured.  I started blogging last November, I can't tell you how much it has enriched my life.  I am enjoying every minute of the blogging world and I have made some great Blogging friend's along the way, I am now returning the blog love, with some awards of my own, no rules apply, but please feel free to pass them on to worthy recipients.

Now without further ado, my first award is The Sassy Blog award, This is awarded for great, inspiring blogs, and all these ladies are incredibly sassy.

The Recipients are:
Stephanie, at La Dolce Vite
Aurora, at A Life Reclaimed

The next award is The Vraiment Française Award, this is awarded to exceptional Bloggers living in France, No trip to France would be complete without reading their blogs.

The Recipients Are:
Fly in The Web, at French Leave
Sara, In Le Petit Village
Julie, at The Provence Post

The next award is The Beaux Arts Award, this is awarded for outstanding artistic achievement.

The recipient is:

And last but not least, The Culture Blog Award, awarded for Blogs that are truly enriching and cultural.

The Recipient is:
A Super Dilettante

I love all the blogs that I follow and I am looking forward to coming across new blogs. If you haven't all ready, please check out all these wonderful blogs.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Wedding Party

 This is my favourite photograph, a portrait of my maternal grandparent's wedding, in the roaring twenties, (please excuse the slightly wonky photograph, but I snapped it, in it's frame, which is currently hanging on my Mothers staircase wall).

I do occasional posts about forgotten figures of the twentieth century, and although my Grandmother is certainly not forgotten, I feel she was great enough to include.  Sadly I never knew my Grandfather as he died before I was born.

My Grandmother was an amazing woman born, in 1900, it's incredible to think she lived through two world wars, six British Monarchs, countless Prime Ministers and witnessed all the changes of the fast moving twentieth century.  She was born into an artistic, forward thinking family, the eldest of four.  She showed early academic promise and a gift for languages.

She was one of the first women to attend Leeds University and graduated with honours in languages, she spoke fluent French and German, with no accent. She followed university by attending The Sorbonne in Paris to further her French studies. I wish she was still alive, Paris was so vibrant in the 1920's, I would love to ask her about it. She did tell me, she had a wonderful time.  She then returned to England and became a professor of French. 

Soon after, she met my Grandfather, she married him, had children and gave up her career, to bring up her family and help run my Grandfathers business.

Together with my siblings I spent a lot of time with my Grandmother as a child and young adult, I think she had a lot to do with shaping the person I am today.  She was a lovely Grandmother, full of warmth and wisdom and a wonderful cook, I used to love going into the pantry on baking day, to pinch freshly baked cakes and buns from the cooling trays.

In later life she was a philanthropist, involved in a lot of charities and good causes.  She passed away in 1985, every day she is with me in my thoughts and she often visits me in my dreams.  I do miss her.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Sap Is Rising

Altamont Gardens, Ireland

 The weather here is now getting warmer (a balmy 23° celcius, outside, this afternoon) the sap is rising, my thoughts are turning to the garden. I was out yesterday tidying up my climbing roses and doing a general assessment of all the work I will have to do, sadly I think we will have a lot of casualties this spring, as we have had a very cold winter.


I love the garden and gardening, I love nothing better in late spring and summer to potter round my garden, early in the morning, usually still in my robe, cup of coffee in hand, looking, smelling, assessing and enjoying.  To think, if you had told me this at 21 years of age, how I would have scoffed!

 Monet's Garden, Giverny

 I think of the garden as living art, I think gardens should be romantic, a place for children to find adventure, adults to spend time in and enjoy, a haven for wildlife and a source of food.


When we inherited our own garden it was a bit of a wilderness, and very overgrown, we had to cut everything back and wait to see what would emerge, before we could do anything, there were some real gems in there, so I am glad we waited, 'The garden' told us what it wanted.

Cothay Manor

 At first, I tried to create an English cottage garden, I only half suceeded, my attempt at a herbaceous border was a disaster, wrong soil and too many snails and slugs, I have now learnt my lesson and listen to my garden.

Gardens are always a work in progress.  As I look out of my window, I know that very soon I am going to have to give the lawn it's first haircut.

David Austins Garden

The garden centres will soon be humming with activity, as people, encouraged by the warm weather, will be purchasing, plants, pots and all manner of gardening things.

Our Garden

We are privileged indeed, to have a lovely garden to improve and enjoy.  I know space is at a premium in many places. Which is why it is so wonderful that there are many beautiful gardens and green spaces in the world, open for all to enjoy.

Our Courtyard

And after a good day's work in the garden, on a hot day, there is nothing better to sit back, and admire all your hard work with a chilled glass of Rosé.