Wednesday 25 November 2015

Advice to A Daughter: Catching Thoughts Like Spider’s Webs.

 My clever friend Sharon, smiled when I showed her my current notebook with its index of contents, and told her that I had indexed three earlier notebooks, re-discovering  earlier drafts for articles, posts and stories that made me

Clever Sharon keeps everything - her notes, stories, articles and complex domestic domestic planning in her capacious head. I write everything down, catching thoughts like fragments of spider’s webs before they escape.

Now, in yet another notebook, I have rediscovered some advice I write to my daughter ten or so years ago. For some reasons I wrote it sideways across the page - don't ask me why.

My daughter (another writer with notebooks)  tells me that when she comes across something she wrote last year, it's as though it were written by someone else. She reads it with fresh interest and is even even inspired to think again.

So now I see what I wrote eight years ago. 

Advice to D

·       Don’t iron
·       Enjoy being on your own. Being solitary is not being lonely,
·       Embrace passioanate encounters , both emotional and intellectual
·       Cultivate your women friends and encourage the feminine side of the men in your life.
·       Live as though there is no tomorrow and also as though you will live forever.
·       Sit beside the sea for one month every year
·       Know that you are truly beautiful
·       Make things to your own measure
·       Tell people only positive things about themselves.
·       Forgive people early; being unforgiving is corrosive for your soul.
·       Go to the theatre to experience live creativity
·       Love yourself and you will always be able to love others.
The advice  seems to hold even now….

Sunday 8 November 2015

The Ninth Postcard from Marseillan

Last summer, staying in the Languedoc again, I posted  eight 'Postcards from Marseillan'  here on Life Twice Tasted. I was determined to share with you my feelings about  this very special place  which has inspired two novels. some time travelling and much happiness.

But now here I am in north Britain in November. It's dark at four o'clock and winter is looming  - the worst season of the year for me. (I suspect I may have that SAD disease, but I haven't yet checked it out.) And my writing friend*Avril has just escaped for a break in  India and the lovely *D is just back with pictures and stories of quick Autumn flip across to Marseillan. She writes that she had coffee in the market cafe with our friend Laurence* who knows everything about Marseillan

So, to cheer my self up I decided to tidy up the Life Twice Tasted mansion.  (Hope you like it...). And my virtues was rewarded. In the process I came across a ninth Postcard from Marseillan written especially for a competition which never materialised. 

That  postcard was never posted, so I decided to post it here now to bring a little sunshine into my dark day and perhaps into yours too.

This Ninth Postcard  reflects a very special visit we made to the ancient port town of Sete. 
I hope you too on this November day
enjoy this touch of sunshine and the sea. 

'...So, our car crawls round and round and up and up this extinct volcano. Not what you think, Joe. Just a conical hill now. We pass pale, shuttered houses and jutting bougainvillea. (Did you know the person who discovered Bougainvillea was a woman who disguised herself as a man in order to accompany her botanist lover on his circumnavigation of the globe?)
Anyway, we jump out to a panoramic view across a great, shallow lagoon - they call it an étang – that edges onto the blue Mediterranean.  We look down at the city of Sête – more Neapolitan than French – whose  elegant quayside buildings glitter golden white in the sunshine, beside  the artificial waterways and inlets which are hemmed with fine boats of every kind – these days dedicated as much to leisure as commerce.
Being a history geek, Joe, you’ll be interested to know that the Greeks helped to build this port around 600 BC, importing spices and luxuries from the East in exchange for Langedocean oil and wine. Then the Romans occupied it in their bid to conquer the world. Then, when France became France, the French took over the city from the native Languedoceans.
Later that day we took a boat trip on the étang. You would have loved it. We went to a place on the water where they farm the biggest oysters in the world. The ‘field’ consists of a series of square wooden frameworks sitting on the surface, with thousands of ropes hanging down to the bed of the lagoon – a kind of forest, with hundreds of thousands of oysters and mussels attached to them. Like so much fruit.
According to the bronzed god driving the boat they fix baby oysters to the lines with dots of cement and leave them there to devour plankton to their hearts content in the warm, tide-less waters of the lagoon. He said these mature in a year, unlike the oysters grown in the cold Atlantic which take three years to mature because they close up and stop eating when the tide comes in. Or goes out. I forget which.
It was D’s birthday, so we crowned the day with a feast of these fruits of the sea, artistically presented in size order on small volcanoes of ice. The restaurant was a deceptively simple shack up a narrow track on the edge of the étang. Owned by family who had harvested the sea for generations, the shack was open to the water. We passed tanks of oysters, and made our way to simple chairs and tables topped with industrial glass behind barriers of bleached wood that glittered in the sun.
We toasted D with glasses of crisp Picpoul de Pinet and gulped back these magnificent oysters; it was like swallowing the sea, going back to the very beginning of everything. I don’t know whether oysters are aphrodisiacs but I have to say I ended up very happy. Wish you were here.  Love, W

NB. Wish I were there now ... Wx

Links for You Avril  Debora  Laurence   

Thursday 5 November 2015

Short Story: Josephine's Englishman.

I have uploaded this short story for you

To read in  full click the short story tab above or click continue (below)

The following story is included in
Forms of Flight, my  Short Story Collection

Obtain a copy of the collection HERE 

Josephine’s Englishman


This story presented itself to me when I was the life of Alphonsine, the mysterious second wife of John Bowes, founder of the Bowes Museum in County Durham. 

You ask how I met him? That you need this for your book? Well, it started very early mademoiselle.
       My father used to draw me as a child. He sketched my chubby feet. He outlined my roly-poly body and filled me in with pastel, rubbed hard - red, white and ochre with green in the creases. Alas it was a losing battle. The body was that of a baby but the emerging face always looked far too old. Those works remained hidden from public sight. Continue 

Tuesday 3 November 2015

The Original Bachelor Girls: World War One Survivors

At a recent reading group discussion on World War One Literature, a member of the group asked about women left behind by this war  and about their lives between the two World Wars.

Virginia Nicholson

 I have recommended to her an excellent  book that I read last year, written by Virginia Nicholson. This fascinating book has resonance for the lives of present day women, who are inheritors of the lives of these World War One survivors in terms of aspirations, identity, careers and world-view.

It’s a very good read, well researched and very well written, as one might expect from a member of the Stephens/Woolf/ Bell dynasty.

Called Singled Out, it’s subtitled How Two Million Women Survived Without Men After the First World War

To tempt you, here’s an extract from Lynn Knight's  Guardian Review here:

‘... If, in the 1920s, she was likely to be the butt of Punch cartoons (some witty examples are reproduced here), by the 1930s, when reality had had time to bite, the Bachelor Girl had a whole shelf of self-help manuals to choose from, and a range of psychologists willing to diagnose her problems.

... Most singletons had to earn their own living. Domestic service and factories were the largest employers of women during this period. Clerical work was on the increase; teaching was a key occupation (during the 1920s, 80% of Oxbridge-educated women taught). With medicine and teaching among the professions requiring women to give up work on marriage, women who wanted to stay in them had their single status confirmed.’

 I recommended it to this reader and I recommend it heartily to all intelligent readers of fact and fiction.

Artistic Dynasty 


Blog:   'I walked in Elen's shoes...' 5*


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