A leader to inspire

A leader to inspire

Image result for macron

In these surreal days when ‘The Donald’ is sitting on the throne in the USA and poor Theresa is melting to a gooey, formless mess before our very eyes (with  Andrea Leadsom ready to step into her Russell and Bromley kitten heels at any moment), it’s hard to think of a politician without raising an eyebrow in disbelief so high that my hairline disappears halfway down the back of my head.

So, you can imagine my surprise when I heard a story about Macron on the radio just now that made me laugh with joy. Not derision.

That’s why I’d like to share it with you.

When he was at school and he didn’t get the part in the play that he’d auditioned for, (no. He didn’t make a play for the drama teacher. Not then),he went off (and this shouldn’t come as a surprise when you think about it) and (yes, you know what’s coming) started his own drama group (see) so that he could perform the part that way.

Genius.

So it might not seem much on the surface of it. I accept that. But a man who doesn’t see obstacles only solutions, well that’s something to celebrate. But even better is the fact that the solutions, when made, seem so obvious. So easy.  But no one else came up with them. They still plugged away, trying to jump through the hoops, little thinking that it might be time for some new hoops.

And that’s what he’s done with En Marche.

Macron. At last. A politician to inspire. Achieving the seemingly impossible and making it seem oh so simple.

And the man can recite Molière.

http://digg.com/video/emmanuel-macron-le-misanthrope

http://digg.com/video/emmanuel-macron-le-misanthrope

What’s not to love?

 

Promoting a Novel

Promoting a Novel

How to promote a novel? Don’t ask me! I’m on Twitter but have no followers, I have Facebook but rarely post on it, and the thought of sending a message asking friends to spread the word seems presumptuous to say the least. Although…

I’ve just gone all out and contacted Radio 4’s Open Book. Aiming too high? Quite possibly. Don’t think they’ll be calling me any time soon.

In the mean time I’ll sit back and chuckle at the suggestively scandalous shareables (that’s what the racy soundbites are called in the world of book promotion).

This one’s a corker –

The Artist’s Muse by Kerry Postle

Available on amazon

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=the+artist%27s+muse+kerry+postle

and google books

https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/The_Artist_s_Muse.html?id=UqWiDgAAQBAJ&redir_esc=y

Self-promoting? I know. I’m shameless.

 

The Artist’s Muse

The Artist’s Muse

I nearly forgot to say. I’ve written a novel. It’s now finished, and although it may not be the novel I’d intended, it’s been a delight to write. Inspired by a joint Tracey Emin-Egon Schiele exhibition at the Leopold Museum in Vienna 2 years ago, it’s based on a true story.

What follows is the original synopsis, and although I’ve made many changes to the manuscript, the basic story has stayed pretty much the same.

It’s set in the early 20th century in Vienna and has as its ‘heroine’ the artist’s model, Wally Neuzil. Wally was model to Klimt when very young, and at 16 he gave her to Egon Schiele with whom she had a relationship. Her changing fortunes force her to look at herself  and examine the time in which she lives.

Her initial opportunity comes with the death of her father, an event which thrusts her family into poverty, and into the city. The values she’s been brought up with are on trial. Limited opportunities dictate that she  become an artist’s model bringing her face to face with her own prejudices (and so us with ours) towards a certain class of woman considered to be no better than a prostitute. Sexual mores are questioned as is the accepted exploitation of poor young women by an educated class.

Wally is on a journey of self-discovery. Accepting and rejecting then growing. Her role is to highlight her own plight but also that of all women with no voice. Her interactions with educated, middle-class women are channelled through their judgement of what she does to earn money. Emilie Flöge’s treatment of Wally is little better than Klimt’s (she’s his posh totty) and in some ways worse as it constitutes a betrayal. Emilie and her sisters espouse ideals and hopes which Wally foolishly believes to be applicable to all women. She reaches out to them in a spirit of solidarity only to be judged and vilified by them. She experiences a cruel kind of prejudice at their gloved hands and even when all classes of women come together at the end – to help with the war effort in the city, a sense of change (with the future of suffrage) heavy in the air – the social class distinctions still cut in.

Meanwhile Wally develops and illustrates that modelling is a performance art in itself. And she shows us that it is not only the artist who suffers for his art : Wally herself is sacrificed many times over. The raw talent of Egon Schiele cuts Wally up in his work, dissecting and reducing her. Similarly in the years they spend together he drags her to the depths, but they stay together which allows their relationship to deepen. This is down to her. She endures much, standing by him through accusations of sexual deviancy and imprisonment.

As the pair mature Wally dares to hope that they can make a future together and Egon  comes to love her. Yet when they get to know the Harms sisters, who live across the road, the weight of society’s judgement falls down, not upon Egon’s head as the artist, but, on Wally’s head as the model. More disturbing still is that Egon turns against her in hypocritical judgement. He rejects her savagely in favour of the socially acceptable Miss Harms.

But how does it all end? I hope I’ve not revealed too much already.

You can pre-order the book on Google books

https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/The_Artist_s_Muse.html?id=UqWiDgAAQBAJ&redir_esc=y

It comes out August 25th, and if you enjoy reading it half as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it, then you are going to love it.

How long does it take to write a historical novel?

How long does it take to write a historical novel?

I tell myself it’s a slow, meandering process, historical novel writing. A coffee here, research, a little bit of novel reading there (for inspiration purposes), research, a bit of wandering round the house (self-imposed isolation is a must), research, some food(you’ve got to have a break), research, some more food, research, perhaps a spot of Netflix, and, if there’s time, more research.

Moliere – always an inspiration
Proust – I owe all my best writing to him
coffee – 1 of many

And that’s on a good day.

So where’s the writing? Where, indeed.

I have now written a novel. A historical novel. And how I ever got round to finishing it is still a mystery when I take a look at my working methods.

I’m not exactly prolific. One novel. Second started. Dread to tell you how long I’ve taken.

I read that Ian Rankin (yes, I know he’s not a historical novelist) can take as little as 27 days to get a first draft down. The bitter failed writer in me sneers when I read that he has a house he can disappear in, cut himself off from all distractions, and just get on with it. Oh, if we all had our own hideaway in the middle of nowhere we’d all be able to do that.

Really?

As I can’t even get to the end of a paragraph (and sometimes it’s far less than that) without rewarding myself with a coffee, another, better part of myself, knows that I’m delusional. Fooling myself.

Especially when I’ve committed myself to self-imposed purda and stopped seeing people just so that I too am distraction-free.

The coffees just keep on coming but the word count crawls along as slowly as ever.

I hate to tell you that getting on with it is not that easy.

memento mori

I read somewhere that many artists and writers like to work with a memento mori to give themselves a kick up the backside – a reminder that life is short and there’s no time to waste.  And so, not to be left out, I considered tracking down a skull for myself in the hope that evidence of my mortality might serve to get me working a little faster.  Unsurprisingly the hunt for a skull took up many useful writing hours.

Then there are the inspirational articles, the how-to books, the courses, following writers on twitter (that took me a while to work out I can tell you). I’ve even adopted the habits of highly successful authors. Many at the same time.  And guess what? Yes. I’ve passed many a happy hour achieving nothing in particular.

And so I just have to face it – I have no choice but to commit words to the page.  One after the other.

That’s going to be my next move. Try writing. Build it up.  Word by word. Sentence by sentence. Paragraph by paragraph. Until I’ve got a chapter. Then another one.  Who knows, as long as I don’t get distracted I might even end up with a book.

Will it be any good?

Now that’s quite a different story.

Sunday Lunch at The Jetty, Bristol

SUNDAY LUNCH AT THE JETTY

 

The Jetty, Bristol Harbour Hotel & Spa,  55 Corn St,  Bristol BS1 1HT

RESTAURANT RESERVATIONS  0117 2034456
bristol.jetty@harbourhotels.co.uk

 

The Jetty inside

and out

My mother-in-law flew down from the frozen north for the weekend. She’s had quite a lot to deal with recently and we wanted to spoil her.

We spent lots on food that we cooked (badly). We sat round talking (sadly).  Come Sunday we went out for lunch (gladly).

Everything we tried to do ourselves we managed to make a hash of, possibly because we were trying too hard. Even the jolly chit-chat turned – inevitably –  to the ‘lot to deal with’.

And so, when we made our way to The Jetty, I for one wasn’t feeling hopeful. We’d tried booking The Pony and Trap at Chew Magna and The Lion at Cliftonwood but both had been fully booked.  There had been no problem booking The Jetty. I cynically wondered why not.

I feared we would be the only diners.  An awkward end to the weekend that we’d wanted to make so special.

But no.  The moment we set foot in the restaurant we were met with a host of smiling, attentive waiting staff and the sounds of diners eating, chatting, drinking, laughing. A waitress led us to a large, round table where my son Tom and his girlfriend Reb were already seated.  Reb’s just got a job and so I remembered to say ‘Congratulations!’

The interior is plush, tasteful, the high ceilings with suspended fans creating a very sophisticated, cosmopolitan atmosphere. The waiting staff are similarly very smart, which made me, initially, a little wary. It wasn’t a pub. It made me nervous about the ‘Sunday lunch’.

But not for long. We were handed the Sunday lunch menu – 3 courses and a glass of prosecco for £19.  As we’d taken our son and his girlfriend the week before to the White Hart at Lyttleton-on-Severn ( a very popular and pleasant country pub to the north of Bristol)  and paid on average £15 for one course this seemed good value.

We ordered.

Image result for glass of prosecco

 

The prosecco arrived. Reb’s just got a job and so it seemed fitting to toast her. Then came the starters, each one  looking  very special. As we purred and mmm-ed and nodded, it was safe to assume that they tasted very special too.  It’s no surprise the uplifting effect of great food in beautiful surroundings and wonderful service, but  every time these three elements come together I am amazed.

They came together at The Jetty on Sunday.

The main course followed, but not too quickly, allowing us to soak up the atmosphere, talk about the starters, take in the surroundings, and… order a bottle of wine.

I had the beef  which I ordered pink, and it was. My ideal Sunday roast. It was so delicious that I didn’t take that much notice of what the others were having. Pork? Chicken? They clearly enjoyed it as by the time I’d thought to look at their plates they were empty.

Then dessert! I’d not really wanted one. Or, at least that’s what I said. However, when the panne cotta that I’d reluctantly ordered turned up it looked like a dish from MasterChef (a successful one). With pretty, tiny pink meringues and sharp delicate cubes of jelly, this dish was so much more than a simple, wobbling panne cotta. A treat and feast for the eyes, I savoured my first mouthful and the tastes and textures – sweet, sharp, creamy, soft, crumbly – blew me away.  As I eagerly took my last mouthful  I felt the contentment you feel at the end of a wonderful meal. Sunday lunch at The Jetty! What a revelation. I worked out in my head the next time we could come. Perhaps I could bring my mother. My sister. Whose birthday is it next?

As we were sitting, thinking that perhaps we ought to ask for the bill, another plate turned up. ‘Oh, no! No, no, no! We’ve not ordered anything else!’ I protested.  Possibly too aggressively.  ‘But I thought…’. Before the waitress who’d pronounced the ‘t’ in sorbet (she was so lovely we didn’t have the heart to tell her) it dawned on me. The plate presented to Reb had two small squares of chocolate cakes with the word ‘Congratulations’ written on the plate in chocolate sauce. Reb’s new job.

We hastily said thank you, impressed and touched by her attentiveness. As I looked around the table I saw smiling faces. What a wonderful way to spend a Sunday. Time to take my mother-in-law to the airport.

As we kissed Tom and Reb goodbye I felt like kissing the waiting staff for having salvaged our weekend.  We’d done it. At the eleventh hour. We’d spoiled my mother-in-law.

 

LINKS

The Jetty

NOTE:  When I wrote this review Sunday lunch (3 courses and a glass of prosecco) cost an amazing £19.  It now (a mere fortnight later) costs £25.  But it’s still incredible value. And  it still comes with the glass of fizz.  I advise going as soon as possible before it becomes too popular.

How to make the dining experience even better :  change the background music.

Oh La La Land: French at Kings Weston House

Oh La La Land: French at Kings Weston House

A little pick me up session for those wanting to speak French in or around the Bristol area

Image result for french flag clip art

You’ve contemplated brushing up your rusty French.  Again.  But you’ve changed your mind  at the last minute. You missed out on the September start.  Then  January came.  And went.  Perhaps you could try again after Easter.  You know you want to do it. So what’s stopping you? Fear of failure? Dry lessons in cold classrooms?  Turning up on your own?  Committing to a series of lessons only to find out you don’t enjoy them?

Well, the highly experienced teachers at Oh la la French might have exactly what you’ve been looking for.  Four extremely accomplished professionals, Sylvia Aldous, Marie-Christine Page, Malorie Newbold and Isabella Morgan have put their creative heads together to offer people who want to speak French  a more immersive experience than the average French lesson. Made up of  interactive activities, games, treasure hunts, singing and more, they’ve come up with a language package that is useful, engaging, active and fun.

An exciting introductory 90 minute session, scheduled for Monday March 13th  at 10.30am,  will give you a lipsmackingly juicy  taste of how you’ll be learning when you sign up for their five week course. You’ll be working in small groups, provided with language support, pronunciation advice, supported through every section of the morning so that by the end of the session you’ll have made  new friends and your  confidence will be on the ceiling. Which is very high. Which brings me to the venue. Which makes me realise that the Oh la la teachers truly have thought of everything.

Image result for kings weston house

Kings Weston House is a special venue and its lovely paintings and grand rooms will be integral to your language learning experience. No looking out through metal framed windows in grey classrooms for you. Rather the whole  process  is to be stimulating, an assault on the senses to excite the mind so that you are receptive to learning. That’s why the Oh la la team have chosen such beautiful surroundings for their new language learning venture.  The very impressive Kings Weston House, designed by Vanbrugh, with exquisite interiors to delight and inspire  enthusiastic language learners offers a unique language learning experience that will provide those fortunate enough to secure a place (numbers are limited to 30) bragging potential for years to come.

Image result for kings weston house

This event promises to be very special. The venue is a real gem as are the teachers. And even on the rainiest of days it would be worth getting over to Kings Weston House to find that crock of French gold at the end of the rainbow…and you could even stay on for lunch.

the taster session is on Monday 13th March, 10.30 – 12, at Kings Weston House, Kings Weston Ln, Bristol BS11 0UR

e-mail ohlalafunwithfrench@gmail.com to reserve your place  as soon as possible as well as for all enquiries

Watching the telly and thinking about your holidays

Watching the telly and thinking about your holidays

That’s entertainment.  So goes the song. And it goes. Round and round my head at the moment.  Although why Jam lyrics should want to camp out in my head all day every day for the past week I don’t really know.  Perhaps it’s because of the constant warnings I’ve been waking up to every morning spreading the news about the possible health implications to those fools who persist in eating well done TOAST! Funny how the brain works,  desperately reaching out to make connections while it still can.   Suppose I should be grateful and listen attentively to its subliminal messages while my mind is still in a reasonable state to transmit them. And so, as I sit in front of the telly more evenings than I care to admit, while working out where to go in the summer when ‘Silent Witness’  (or whatever else it is I’m watching), hits a dull patch, I realise that  it’s true. I have arrived at that point, the point where every angry young person who has ever listened to the words of Paul Weller (The Jam and not The Style Council) vows they’ll never go.

Sitting. Watching. Thinking. Sometimes eating. Maybe drinking. As opposed to doing. Oh but of course I hear you cry out to the screen in ridicule,  all verbs imply that you’re doing something. But really, there’s doing and doing.

And all I’m doing is watching the telly and thinking about my holidays.

Perhaps it’s a sign.

And while the tune is going over and over in my head a poem that I studied for ‘O’ level has also popped coincidentally into the space (because, at the moment, there’s lots of room).

Lollocks by Robert Graves (although when I first remembered it I could have sworn it was by Louis MacNeice).

I fear those accursed lollocks have come to haunt me, multiplying and weighing me down by making me eat the chocolates left over from Christmas, and the rich fruit cake which no one really likes (and even if they did they’re not around to eat it), not to mention the peppermint creams I made for the first time.

Lollocks.

‘Women can see them —
O those naughty wives
Who sit by the fireside
Munching bread and honey,
Watching them in mischief
From corners of their eyes,
Slily allowing them to lick
Honey-sticky fingers.’

Though not quite a picture of me, this black month of January, when my children have all gone, leaving me sad and lonely, I’ve come perilously close to the lazy grazer loafing on her comfortable Loaf sofa nibbling on Lindt chocolates while warming her cold feet (no doubt due to poor circulation as a result of lack of exercise) by the  woodburning stove.  This explaining the sum total of this month’s entertainment – the telly and the holidays.

Jam on toast (from bad to worse…)

And so, with my bleakest January ever almost  behind me what am I to do?  Perhaps it’s time to look at the Robert Graves poem again for an answer to that:

‘Sovereign against Lollocks

Are hard broom and soft broom,

To well comb the hair,

To well brush the shoes,

And to pay every debt

As it falls due.’

So, it’s time to get dressed up  and go out.  Sound advice Mr Graves. As for the jam, it’s probably a good idea to stop eating it and start listening to it again. Just to keep me on my toes.

Here’s looking forward to a fun filled February.

It’s strange how the mind works.  Although I’d better get booking that holiday! And keep off the toast.

Cocktail Tuesday : Moscow Mule

Cocktail Tuesday : Moscow Mule

If you’re not having a dry January (or perhaps you were but have fallen off the wagon), you might want to cheer yourselves up by with slow ride on a mule, a Moscow Mule.

Over the past few years I have fallen for cocktails in the most head-spinningly giddy of ways.  An as yet never ending source of amusement to me, they have injected a sense of fun and often  lurid colour into my otherwise drab little world.

That’s why, on this most damp and gloomy of Tuesdays, I would like to share a simple-to-make  Moscow Mule  with you to kick back at those January blues.

Here’s how –

Ingredients: lime/lime juice/vodka/ginger beer/ice cubes

Preparation:

  • Add 1 part lime juice to 3 parts vodka (egg cup measure)
  • Dilute with ginger beer (half cup measure)
  • pour into a cocktail glass and add a wedge of lime and ice cubes

    not 1 but 2 Moscow Mules
za zda-ró-vye   To your health!

Food for Friends : Russian

Food for Friends : Russian

Our latest Food for Friends evening was January 7th  and the cuisine was Russian. It turns out that January 7th is Christmas Day in Russia.  (Who knew?  Obviously not me. ) So that meant that we were able to prolong the Christmas revelry, which we did, kicking the night off with a Moscow Mule.

We then had some pagach, a bread served with honey then chopped garlic. It’s traditionally the first thing eaten after the fast on Christmas Eve. The honey represents the sweetness of life, while the garlic represents its bitterness.

A type of porridge, called sochivo or kutya, consisting of grains, poppy seeds and (again) honey (where the grains represent hope, the poppy seeds peace and the honey sweetness again)  is then usually brought out. However, we forewent that pleasure and went for borscht instead.

Borscht, a beetroot soup served with soured cream and a sprig of dill, was worth serving for the colour alone.

We had this with vodka which went surprisingly well.

Then came the main course. Goose with soured cream sauce is popular on Christmas Day in Russia but the thought of cooking a big bird so soon after the turkey of a few weeks ago did not appeal. Instead we had a Russian stroganoff, beetroot, cabbage pie and spatzle.

 

The cabbage pie was a revelation, tasting as it did like a frittata. We then had to stop for a break, a Russian cocktail break, this time a White Russian.

Feeling a little full we listened to some rousing Russian music to give us strength for the dessert.

And then it came.

I was expecting some kozulya, biscuits in the shape of reindeer, goats or sheep, as these are very popular at Christmas time in Russia. But no, instead we were presented with not one, not two, but three Russian sweet treats – a honey cake, another honey cake and a fruity little number accompanied with a sweet syrupy juice (to put down the layers of fat no doubt needed to cope with the extremes of those Siberian winters).

a trio of desserts

 

 

 

 

 

 

We finished the evening with a warming vodka shot before smashing our glasses in the fireplace and making our way home…or is that a national stereotype for another country?

Recipes to follow.

 

Music

http://christmas.lovetoknow.com/Russian_Christmas_Carols

dress

                                                  Russian peasant-lookLena Hoschek F/W 2013, Berlin Fashion Week:

 

 

 

Happy New Year

It’s a new year and time to brush away the cobwebs…

take down the tree (distraction activity one)

show you my oh-so-funny Proust Christmas card. He’d have split his sides at this… (distraction activity two)

re-assess why I’m writing a blog.  Do I really quite like the cobweb look? Goes with my home after all.

As you might have guessed I’ve let it slip for a while.

Easily distracted, I lost focus which led to a phase of existential angst. I mean, why was I writing a blog in the first place?  To give some meaning to my formless little life? Failed on that score. To keep a record of places I’ve been? Couldn’t keep up. A file to keep the notes for the Proust reading group? Now that would have been so useful today at the first Proust reading group meeting of the year. And what about the sewing? What about that? As for the cooking and the eating?

As my formless little life became more formless so I had to let it go. It was all getting out of control.

Too busy (cooking and eating most of the time), I let it drift off,  sad and lonely, bobbing about,  anchorless, until it got swept out to the very edge of the big world wide web (because, as we all know, it’s a flat world, like any other), only to fall over the side and float about in a big, getting bigger  all the time, cloud, full of useful things, as well as cobwebs and other stuff that nobody knows exist.

And I was happy with that. For a while. But then 2 things happened. Plus one discovery.

The first was that I wrote a novel. Surely I should have written about that? But I felt too self-conscious to confess to this.  Then I wanted to look back at my notes on Proust on Mme de Villeparisis (who? Quite. That’s why I wished I’d uploaded them here). But I’d been too lazy to add them.

As for the discovery. Oh how sad for me! I’d curbed my worst writing excesses, sparing my nearest and dearest from reading about their foibles and idiosyncrasies of which they have many (instead forcing myself to go to cafes and restaurants to have something useful to post here). I hadn’t wanted to upset the poor, sweet loves. In fact, subconsciously, and on every other level, I’d wanted to please them. However, when I realised that not one of them (and I have an unbelievably large family) could be arsed (yes, arsed. Swearing can be such a comfort in times of family betrayal) to even remember that I had a blog, never mind remember what it was called, I decided that I would start again.  Evidently there was going to be no chance that they were ever going to read it so I decided to give it another go. And vent my inner bad fairy who’s  not been invited to the all-the-fairies-in-the-kingdom party.

Wonder if I’m adopted?

Now, in an ideal world I should have two blogs, one for Proust and one for my novel (and three if you count the rest of the hotch-potch of posts and pages) all far, far away from one another BUT in the real world, my real world, life is just a mish-mash to which I struggle to give some intelligible order.  So, why try? Why pretend by imposing a perfect structure on a gloriously imperfect, haphazard  set of disparate experiences?  Why indeed. Let the writing chaos begin.

Happy New Year and I wish you every joy and success in your own gloriously imperfect lives and endeavours.