An elegant sufficiency

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Wednesday, 7am

Can't believe it. We just opened the blinds to see a blue sky!
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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A lovely day with friends

We woke to a brighter, more settled day, thank goodness and were surprised to see fresh snow on the mountains opposite. But the 11.50 hydrofoil was bringing more sunshine for us, in the form of dear Swiss friends Tonie, Peter and Kathy.

We settled down for an aperitivo in the bar opposite the boat-station, whilst Peter ran round the town to do a recce for a lunch venue. He was soon back and we followed him to a small restaurant in a quiet corner we'd not found before. All home-cooking, served by "Mama", which was good. Sadly, too cold to sit outside, so after lunch we did a spot of window-shopping and finally settled ourselves back in the bar where we had started, for afternoon tea.

All too soon, it was time to say bye and we waved them off onto the hydrofoil again for their journey home. Hope to see you all again soon!

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Monday, May 28, 2007

We gave up

Waking to another dreary day, we nevertheless decided to make the best of it but take a taxi to the next village rather than battle through the wind and rain to the boat.

Two coffees later, the rain hadn't let up, so we made our way to the boat and went over to the Isola Superiore where we had seen some promising restaurants.

The world often looks better through the bottom of a wine glass, and we enjoyed our lunch of grilled fish, but even though we persuaded them to light the patio heater under the awning, we were too cold to linger. We took the next boat back to Stresa, I grabbed a passing taxi and we decided to spend the afternoon back in the hotel, with dry clothes and warm feet. Much more comfortable.

At least the weather today suited some...

(they tell us the sun will shine tomorrow)


Sunday, May 27, 2007

To Switzerland

We took a boat along the lake to Switzerland today, had lunch and came back again. We imagined ourselves on a wood-panelled steamer, chugging away as we sat in comfort gazing at the beautiful scenery through the windows.
We did not expect an old car ferry! Throughout most of the journey, this vessel was crammed with what seemed like the population of France and Italy combined, but eventually we found our niche in the diesel-scented air under the canopy at the stern of the ship, from where we watched the weather go by.

Don't you love it when it rains bubbles?


Hotel Art 14 - Stresa

There is nothing whatsoever on the wall in our room - unless you count the fire directions - but the rest of the hotel more than makes up for this in the public areas. Here in a corner of the lobby, we are treated to a 12ft hexagonal table with five enormous pieces of silver upon it. This is set in front of a 20ft wide mural, spanning the area between two columns. Elsewhere there are similarly extravagant pieces, a stained glass dome and plenty of gold here and there.

Interesting really, for our room is decorated in quite a spartan fashion, which contrasts strongly with the crystal chandeliers and the opulence elsewhere. It's a kind of "fur coat, no knickers" approach, I think.
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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Entertained by a wedding

As we decided to sit under a very large umbrella and have a drink in the cafe by the Town Hall in Stresa this afternoon, we watched guests starting to gather for a wedding. Sadly, umbrellas were needed for the rain was pretty non-stop.

We soon identified the groom as being the chap in the green tie, green stripy shirt and yes, even a suit with a green stripe. Very sharp!

Of course, this being Italy, some interesting shoes were in evidence.

Several guests did a little impulse shopping in the shop selling "pashmina" shawls and bought something warmer to wear whilst they waited, others took refuge in the bar next door.

A flurry of excitement stage right told us that the bride was about to arrive and, sure enough, there she was on the arm of her proud father, both wearing touches of green in their outfits, he in a green tie, she carrying a bouquet of lily-of-the-valley and wrapped with a green chiffon stole.

A cheer went round as she was greeted by the bridegroom and the pair went hurriedly inside, followed by their guests.

Well, most of the guests.

Some preferred to stay outside and have a cigarette. (Fancy getting dressed up to stand in the rain and smoke!)

The bridegroom's chums (I assume) preferred to go back into the bar next door.

Very soon, the happy couple reappeared, to be greeted by their family and friends and the odd tourist (can you spot which he might be?) As they made their way out of the building, the sweet Auntie with the carrier bag (which had been worrying me, I must say - how smartly she was dressed, yet with a carrier bag?!) pulled out a bag of arborio rice (only the best will do) and proceeded to share handfuls amongst the guests.

Hugs, kisses and much celebration followed, for by this time the rain had stopped and everyone was in a more relaxed mood as they left on board a boat to the next stage of their ceremony. There was a warm, happy atmosphere around the square and even those of us not directly involved with the wedding shared the rosy glow that only a happy bride and groom can create.

Just one thing - I know I ought not to comment on personal choice, but a tattooed bride?

After the wedding party had departed, we too thought it was time to gather ourselves together and move on through the remains...

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In Italy. It's raining!

We (my Mum and I) are in Stresa, on Lake Maggiore. When we landed last night, it was overcast but ok. By the time we'd got our luggage and reached the car, it was thundering, lightning and the rain was of epic proportions. We woke this morning to a grey and miserable looking day but decided to make the best of it and head on out nevertheless.

Let's hope the weather improves during the next couple of days - but sadly the forecast isn't so promising.


Friday, May 25, 2007

Enforced diet

Our flight from Birmingham to Milan left one hour late because the snack trolleys needed to be unloaded "due to the fact that the aircraft was too heavy".

That's a new one. So no snacks for us, then.


Sunday, May 20, 2007

Done and not quite dusted

This is the first posting from the studio - we've spent the day moving stuff down from our old study and Mark has successfully installed a new wireless network which works beautifully, unlike previous wi-fi attempts in this concrete and stone house. I still need to devise some paper-control system and get used to a different workspace, but I have to say that I feel very much at home!

He remarked that I'd probably spend ages "staging it all" for my blog, but you know me better than that and what you see is what you get....for now. There are a few tweaks to be done, some boxes still to empty (we are awaiting some more suspension files to get all that paper away once and for all) and I have another table to come in, for my sewing machine to sit on. But right now, it's covered with most of Mark's CD collection (3000+) and I can't hurry him with that - they will eventually find their new home upstairs in the new music room which will be created in the now almost-empty study.

I had a little wobble when I thought that my machines might not quite fit in those cupboards I'd planned for them...but they fit perfectly, as if IKEA had intended them for that very purpose!
Mark fitted another hook rail on the end of the cupboard run for the rulers and quilting squares. We keep coming up with new ideas to resolve problems we didn't know we had until now. I like WyeSue's idea of the vacuum bags for the wadding and will be putting my Lakeland order in soon! Thanks Sue!

Finally, on one of the hooks underneath the steel shelf hangs my indulgence from last night. I spotted this scrummy felt bag made by friend Anne in the sales tent at last night's show and as it matched the shirt I was wearing perfectly, I snapped it up before anyone else did. I shall now enjoy looking at it for a while in between outings and am pleased to have the perfect place to put it!


Textiles in Performance

Fantastic concept, beautiful textile art shown in an altogether amazing setting, sadly let down by the logistics. Nevertheless, we had a fascinating (if rather short) evening.

We live in an area renowned for its textile heritage and I'm the first to admit that I don't take as much advantage of this as I ought to do. The Textile Festival is running right now though, and upon hearing about the "Textiles in Performance" from our good friend, Anne Rogers, we immediately got tickets and looked forward to....we had no idea! Anne's one of the artists involved in the show, so I knew there would be felt in there somewhere. Added to which we've long thought there was a call for something along the lines of WOW in the UK and whereas it was clearly not going to be anything so huge, perhaps there might be a flavour of that in there somewhere.

Apart from instruction to arrive promptly for a timed shuttle departure from the car park to the remote and partly derelict Woodchester Mansion, we knew nothing more. Details were pretty thin on the ground and perhaps, with that wonderful skill of hindsight, the organisers might reconsider the information to send along with the tickets - after all, audience members can't toe the line if none has been drawn! As it was, our group was HUGE (about 75); as a result there were parts of the show which we didn't/couldn't see and the dancers had trouble negotiating the crowds.

Each (small!) room was set simply for one of a number of linked dance scenes and the architectural framework of the uncompleted building provided a stunning backdrop for some magnificent textiles. The chair in the background behind all that scaffolding is actually made from human hair - intriguing, but like so many other small details, easy to overlook.

The atmospheric and ethereal soundtrack was key to the success of creating an intimate and intriguing fantasy - if only there were not the huge number of people crammed into each set, stepping on each others toes and jockeying for the best position. People who couldn't actually squeeze into the room stood around chatting - creating a less-than-welcome disraction for the lucky few who could.

I'll say now that, though I was glad to be able to take photographs, I think it would have been wise to request no photography.

Constant flashes, clicks and whirring didn't help maintain the concentration, and must have been distracting for the performers. In addition, the chap who I assume to be the "official" photographer/cameraman had a little higher profile than I would have thought necessary!

All of which sounds carping, which is unfair, for this was a brave and technically demanding show. Textile artists are seldom required to create works of art that withstand the rigours of real life and creating costumes for dancers enabling quick changes and free movement is a challenge - I was particularly sorry that my favourite piece in the show, Anne's blouse with felted neckline and cuffs, with matching cummerbund, was not shown to best advantage due to the lack of time to do all the buttons up! Nevertheless, it was a beautiful piece of work which stole the show as far as I was concerned.

If only I could return to watch the rehearsal, alone in the room to take full advantage of all the small details, the little nooks and crannies full of witty and intriguing items which were crowded out of every scene. I'd love to see the interaction of the dancers across the room - impossible because of all the people in between them, and most of all, I'd like very much to go back and have a closer look at some of those wondrous creations they were wearing.

Having reached the end of the performance, we found ourselves in a room with far too many people standing cheek by jowl with glasses of wine. One exit...via the same route as the incoming groups...and sad to say, having had the briefest of words with Anne, to congratulate her on such amazing work, we took the opportunity of a swift exit before the next crowd was shepherded in.

On the way home, we chatted about how our experience could have been improved. Clearly, fewer people in the audience would have helped. But, it would seem that the demands of the Arts Council, who supplied funding, specified high audience numbers. Perhaps the timed entry wasn't controlled as efficiently as it might have been, for we suspected that the cool evening breeze was a factor in propelling everyone indoors as quickly as possible. On a warmer summer evening, maybe we would have enjoyed a longer linger with a glass in hand. As it was, we were on our way home around 8pm and though we didn't quibble at the £25 ticket price, we didn't really feel we had value for money.

We would have appreciated the freedom to wander at our own pace, watching and viewing the small sideshows, rather than being coralled as a herd. It seemed as though that as the dance scenes were ongoing, the route was clearly marked with a red ribbon and the elegantly dressed stewards were able to keep everyone on the right track, this would not have been difficult. Being better informed as to what to expect would have helped all concerned, I think - and future performances will surely benefit from the challenges of last evening's premiere.

We wouldn't have missed it for the world, though. We are so fortunate to be able to enjoy such an inspired event in magnificent surroundings. The concept was remarkable and I hope the designers will feel encouraged to go on and create similarly exciting ventures. I would like to see the show again in a different setting - the next is planned for the Fresh Air event at Quenington, next month - another wondrous location.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Fill 'er up!

We arrived home on Saturday evening and on Sunday morning there I was, moving stuff back into the studio at the crack of dawn. Well, perhaps not quite, but I was determined to get a good start on it. As you can see, we've got most of the books back into place after one or two wobbles about whether they'd all fit. We just got back from a trip to IKEA for more Billy shelves, to squeeze more paperbacks into the space available and whilst there got a metal shelf and rail for the wall beneath my wall units.

Cupboards are all full, except for the two metal roller door shelves, where my sewing machines will live. As I put stuff back, I noted where things were on a post it note inside each door - you know how hard it is trying to find things in a tidy room!?

Above are the two worktables, now filled with paper, fabric and thread. My sit and sew tables will be back in place tomorrow, now we've found the screws to reattach the legs.

The thing is, there are still a few things in the garage which need a home - as always it's the difficult things which get left till last. Just where would you put a dustbin liner sized sack of polyester wadding?
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Friday, May 11, 2007


Don't you think this is a clever image for the poster? We did!
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Elephant parade

Walking across the Astridplein to our hotel here in Antwerp, we came across the sight of a herd of elephants crossing the front of the station, heading for the zoo gates. There are nine in the herd, three adults and an assortment of youngsters - all constructed from wood and metal, their path being eased by a bed of soft sand. We love them!
The view from our hotel window: The little parade is in front of the station. It's a gloomy afternoon, though, as you can see.

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