Saturday, September 25, 2010

Off To Blighty

I am off for a visit to dear old Blighty for a week tomorrow, I love going back for a visit, although I love living in France, there are so many things I miss about the UK, here are some of the things I intend to do on my visit...

 Visit the pub

Consume all of the following as it's been ages...
Aromatic Crispy Duck

 An Indian

Fish and Chips

Afternoon Tea

After eating that lot I will need some very long walks in the Yorkshire Dales

 Something tells me the weather won't be quite this nice, not to mention it's now Autumn in the UK, it's a shame Crusoe is not coming with us, he would love a walk in his ancestral home, he will be in good hands, while we are away, staying with his favourite person.

 If I am really lucky I may get a lovely Autumnal day like this

After a long walk will be going into one of these again for a reviving drink...purely medicinal!

I hope to squeeze in a fleeting trip to London

And maybe fit in a visit to Selfridges new shoe gallery for lots of drooling

I also can't wait to spend time with family and friends and hopefully meet up with some new ones!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Help Free Billy Burton

In 1992 Billy Burton, aged 29, made the biggest mistake of his life. He had been travelling the World, got into extreme financial difficulty and made the terrible decision to carry cannabis out of Manila.

Billy was carrying 12lbs of cannabis and was arrested at Manila airport and was subsequently given a life term of 30 years. Initially he was informed that he could expect to serve eight years before being considered for parole; however before he reached eligibility to apply, the Filipino government enforced an embargo on parole for all drug offenders, even if sentencing had taken place prior to the ruling. Retrospective increases in sentences for all drug related offences, mean that Billy will now not be due for release until 2032, by which time he will be 70.

Billy fully accepts his wrong doing. Now aged 48, he has spent the past eighteen years simply surviving. He committed a crime and does not try to excuse himself, he fully accepts that this was wrong; but after 18 long years, we his supporters, feel he has paid the price. By comparison, if he had committed a similar offence in the UK, he could have expected to have served five years.

"For my disrespect, lack of decency and failure to uphold moral standards when I committed a crime 18 years ago, I have only regrets.  There are no excuses.  I do not think however that only bad people do bad things; sometimes good people also do bad things"

Billy Burton

Text Source courtesy of 

Billy is also a victim of Thalidomide  and now at 48 years old his health is starting to deteriorate as a direct result from this drug.  I find it ironic that Billy has been incarcerated for trying to smuggle a relatively small amount of cannabis out of The Philippines, whilst the people who distributed Thalidomide which disabled thousands of children across the world and brought heartache to so many families walk free.

To find out more about Billy and offer your support, please visit: FREEBILLYBURTON.COM
Just signing your name on the petition will help in the campaign to release Billy.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Last Sitting

I was faffing around the other day  reorganising my bookshelves when I came across a book I bought years ago when I was a student in Brighton, purchased from a cut price book shop, the book cost about a pound, because the copy on the dust-jacket was printed upside down.

The book is 'The Last Sitting' by Bert Stern a story of the last photo shoot of Marilyn Monroe before her untimely death.  The shoot was for Vogue and the photographs were taken over three photographic sittings in June 1962 (she died in August 1962).

Out of all the hundreds, probably thousands of images of Marilyn, I think Bert Sterns photographs are my favourite, I think he managed to capture something that other photographers missed.

The book is a bit tatty now, I had it in one of the guest bedrooms for years and unsurprisingly it was very well thumbed!  The dust jacket is long gone.  Now it is safely on the bookshelf.  It was a joy to discover it again, not only are the photographs beautiful and haunting (given the timing) but I remember it was a fascinating story, I think I will be reading it again soon. 

The scar from surgery to remove her gall bladder is clearly visible

The photographer and his subject

The book I have is the abridged version first published in 1982, I believe there is a newer book 'The Complete Last Sitting' with more photographs.

Available here.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Holiday Report Part 2, Matisse, Chapelle Du Rosaire De Vence

I am a great admirer of Matisse and have for a long time wanted to go and visit 'his masterpiece' the Chapel of the rosary in Vence.  We got the opportunity on Wednesday, the original plan was to visit the Chapel in the morning and then drive down the road to St Paul de Vence for lunch at 'La Colombe d'Or' but due to timing and circumstances this plan went awry.

After a long lazy lunch and then quite a long drive through the windy roads of Provence we finally reached the Chapel with only half an hour to spare before it closed.  It is tiny but beautiful in it's simplicity the style of Matisse is stamped all over it.  The stained glass is especially stunning and our friends, who are currently building a house in Provence were fascinated by the stained glass, they would like to incorporate some in their house, they certainly got inspired by this beautiful Chapel.

 Here is the story... 

In 1941, Matisse, who lived most of the year in Nice in the south of France, developed cancer and underwent surgery. During the long recovery he was particularly helped by a young part-time nurse, Monique Bourgeois, who had answered his ad seeking "a young and pretty nurse" and who took care of Matisse with great tenderness. Matisse asked her to pose for him, which she did, and several drawings and paintings exist.

Monique Bourgeois, Matisse

In 1943 Monique decided to enter the Dominican convent in Vence, a nearby hill town to Nice, and she became Sister Jacques-Marie. Matisse eventually bought a home at Vence, not far from the convent where the young nun was stationed. She visited him and told him of the plans the Dominicans had to build a chapel beside the girls' high school which they operated in Vence. She asked Matisse if he would help with the design of the chapel. He had never done anything like it, but Matisse agreed to help, beginning in 1947. Father Marie-Alain Couturier, who collaborated on several artistic Catholic churches after World War II, was also involved in the project.

Matisse and Sister Jacques-Marie

At the age of 77, Matisse began the greatest project of his life and spent more than 4 years working on the chapel, its architecture, its stained glass windows, its interior furnishings, its murals, and the vestments of the priests. It is perhaps the greatest ensemble artwork of the 20th century, and certainly the greatest religious commission. While Matisse had been baptized a Catholic, he had not practiced the religion for many years. He designed the chapel as an artistic challenge.

The Former Girls High School, Next Door To The Chapel

The View From The Chapel

The story of the friendship and collaboration of Matisse and Sister Jacques Marie is related in her 1992 book Henri Matisse: La Chapelle de Vence  and in the 2003 documentary Model for Matisse. Sister Jacques Marie died in 2004, aged 84.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Holiday Report Part 1

Yesterday morning was market day in Sanary, there is nothing quite like a Provençal market and Sanary has one of the largest and finest markets in the region.  There are hundreds of stalls selling everything from Italian cashmere to LK Bennett shoes, Paella to pottery.  I hotfooted it down to the market early in the morning to treat myself to this spectacle for all the senses...

Wonderful fresh produce

Straw bags for every occasion

This Paella smelt delicious

More colouful bags

Freshly laid eggs from happy hens

My magpie instict always kicks in when there is jewellery about

I simply adore Provençal pottery, I love this stall, over the years I have bought quite a lot from here, it looks fabulous displayed on kitchen shelves and dressers and is excellent quality for a fraction of the cost of the pottery on offer in the smart local shops.

After an hour rushing round the market MG picked me up and we headed deep into the hills of Provençe to visit some friends of ours who are building a house there, they took us for lunch in this beautiful perched village.

It was busy when we arrived, but we always seem to be the last to leave!

After lunch we headed to Vence to see the Matisse Chapel but I am saving that for another post...