While I was off on my hols. , Summer seems to have vanished and winter's looming again . Since I only live a five minute bike ride from a well-stocked supermarket , I don't really need to line the cave with strings of berries and salted haunches of wild boar but somehow the prospect of a Fresian winter does turn one's mind to the laying in of plentiful supplies .
Besides which , I've just watched Les dèlices du petit
monde , a documentary about Erminio and Attilia who live in the Val d 'Aoste and have been married for over fifty years .
They share a passion for the traditional mountain cooking and the film follows them through the year gathering wild oregano , filling bins in their barn with potatoes and chestnuts , picking juniper berries and making huge mounds of polenta or risotto with the tips of young nettles and rabbit slowly stewed with mustard .
Given that I don't live in the Alps with a huge wood oven , I made Harira instead
with lots of chickpeas , lentils , paprika and cinnamon and settled down this afternoon to knit a tension square for my "apprentice piece" . Not the Mad Men cardi but one from a much simpler Emu pattern using a second big bag of passed-on mohair , thicker than the peacock
greeny-blue and a slightly brighter shade
( The '80s are back with a vengeance , have you noticed ? It makes one feel rather old watching all the young girls at vintage fairs leaping on garments one has worn quite recently ! ) . The wool feels beautifully warm and even I should be able to knit it up fairly quickly . Should this go well , who knows ? I can see retirement transforming me ...
It is still sinking in, we were really there! Although we watched the Olympics on screen, we did manage to get tickets to the Paralympics. One day pass on Wednesday, and one day pass with stadium on Friday. We only went in the afternoon on Wednesday, assuming that we would only be able to wander around the park and figure out where things were. Prepared, we had no liquids, packed a small bag, went though check-in and scanners (just like at an airport), and smiled. To be honest, I think it was against the IOC to do anything other than smile. The volunteers were amazingly cheerful and would high-five you, wave, ask perky questions, smile, if anything vaguely resembling a straight face (or, heaven forbid, a frown) passed ones face.
What we were not aware of was that the day pass entitled us to watch some sports like wheelchair tennis or rugby and 7-aside. So, we found ourselves watching Great Britain (or 'Team GB' as we all chanted) play 7-aside football and beat USA in the blistering heat. Then we were swept with loads of people to queue for the wheelchair rugby or murderball.
Partner and I became instant fans. The game is wonderfully insane, like human dodgems, and yet the rules are easy to follow after a while (thanks to a wonderful commentator) and there is a cool level of humour - when one of the players faults in some way or another, he is sent out of the play area and the song that is played is 'Bad Boys'.
Exhilarated, we left that evening considering doing a marathon Friday in order to see as much as possible. So, on Friday, we packed in lots of wheelchair tennis, watching Holland take all the medals in the women's singles and 'Team GB' women's double play hard to beat Thailand (who gave them a good and graceful run for the medal, but eventually lost),
had champagne and fish nibbles,
and strawberries and cream, and cup cakes (I think these are almost obligatory, I mean the cup cakes... )
and went to the stadium. This was akin to walking into a cathedral for the first time. My breath was taken away when I saw how close to the track we had seats.
A medley of flying disks, women long jumping, javelins, short races, long races, accompanied races, and a lot of flag waving and stadium madness ensued. The noise is deafening, like they kept saying.
I hope it is not too optimistic to consider that this event will make some difference to British culture, from the small gesture of seeing more smiles to the potentially revolutionary change that appreciating paralympic sports can bring to society as a whole. Personally, I am planning to watch much more! (not sure I can keep up the high level of smiling though... ).
Sonata : As we wandered along a street lined with cafes , Smitonius was heard to murmur , "To moules or not to moules ....". Since , by this stage , we'd eaten our own weight in Moules Frites all weekend .... when we weren't eating yards of baguette stuffed with ham .... we rather fancied something else . So couscous it was . Smitonius and partner , Friend and I had met in Lille last weekend for the Braderie , so in need were we yet more delightful vintage knick-knacks to decorate our houses . Actually we were all fairly restrained , though I seem inadvertently to have bought four 1950's Femmes d'Aujourd'hui
a 1939 programme of the Carnaval de Nice
a little recipe book for Le Tip ( a sort of post-war margarine , I think )
and a modern fish cookbook .
I can't comment on the others' impulse buys ..... but at least we didn't need those awful tartan shopping trolleys that the true afficionados were busy knee-capping everyone else with .
If you're after Shabby Chic , Lille is just the place for you . I'm always amazed by how much 1920s and '30s stuff still exists , not to mention odd , sometimes very odd , 1950s bits . I can't think how this was used ... little plates of very flat nibbles at cheese and wine parties , perhaps?
Later in the week , once back in Holland , I found myself in a tiny museum in Utrecht , De Volksbuurt Museum which is housed in a little old school in a formerly very poor neighbourhood , Wijk C . They'd filled it with minute , though actually life-size , mockups of homes and shops . At the turn of the last century families were often crammed into one tiny room with no lighting , running water or ventilation . Hardly anyone earned the bare weekly wage deemed neccessary then to sustain a family and scrabbled for money where they could . The shoemender earned a bit extra by going round at dawn waking those fortunate to have a job to go to , up , mothers bought pot herbs at the central market and sold them door to door , someone sold buckets of hot water on washday , someone else hired out a mangle .
Seeing all this made Lille's Shabby Chic look positively luxurious . Though I would happily have bought these anywhere....
SmitoniusAndSonata is a mother and daughter collective blog.
London based Smitonius (Jessamy) makes one of a kind jewellery using vintage buttons, as well as a combination of beads from all over Europe: from lampwork ones by a range of UK artists to vintage and modern glass beads.
Sonata is a miniature quilt maker based in the North of Holland (Leeuwarden). Geraldine Keyzer is already known to collectors of Hitty dolls and owners of vintage dollhouses. She likes to use vintage as well modern cotton to create a range of quilts from simple One Patch to the more complex Grandmother's Garden.