Friday, 27 August 2010


If any of you are wondering what we get up to at Les Soeurs Anglaises in between work and meals, here are some photos to give you glimpse. Amongst other things we have a secret brocante where we always spend a morning during the workshops; it is full to bursting with everything from old quills to 1930s vegetable catalogues to laundered linen coulottes, and there's generally a bit of a bun fight over the odd antique tea towel. It is usually followed with a show and tell of treasures found back at l'Espace. Past participants might recognise the establishment......

We also try to spend at least one evening at a local restaurant, and for our last workshop we chose Le Chateau de Mas de Montet (where, aparantly, Mitterand used to helicopter in for weekends with his mistress - oo la la). The hotel has recently passed into new ownership and the service and food have greatly improved since our last visit. We chose a beautiful evening and had a whole room to ourselves.

There was even an opportunity for a game of chess with a familiar face.

But then it was straight back to work the next morning, and whilst the sun had gone in for a few moments it was still plenty warm enough to have our fabulous new doors open with inspirational views of the valley below.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Bookbinding etc.

It's been a while since I've had time to add anything to this blog, but Rachel Hazell's workshop has just finished and I couldn't resist showing a few of my personal favourite "Extraordinary Expandable Sketchbook Journals" produced by both Rachel and her students over the five day workshop she led here.

More to follow in the next week or so in our August newsletter......

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Ian Fleming and Others

I have been cogitating on what influences persuade one to buy a book; not those who buy on the internet for cheapness, or go by the recommendations of TV celebrities. I am talking here about those people who actually frequent bookshops.

There is so much emphasis nowadays on the look of, and blurb on, a book cover that the real content is often distorted and disguised. Sometimes, I pick up a book by some unknown author and find myself distracted by the one-liners on the back. I can't pretend I am immune to the praises I read and have often bought a book that I subsequently find totally different to my original expectations. So I try to voice the following mantra to myself when in bookshops, "no editor is going to influence me – I know they aren’t going to allow any disparaging remarks on the jacket cover”. Caution is needed and will in the end save disappointment and money. Meanwhile, I mostly tend to rely on word of mouth from friends whose tastes in literature I respect, or a critic I find has similar view to my own; but it is an ideal of which I fall well short. And when it comes to favourite authors, I tend to suspend judgment and will always buy a new book by them. My anticipation is tempered by the knowledge that there is liable to be the occasional dissatisfaction. The cover and bumph on the back don’t influence me on these occasions, no they really don’t!

Possibly I have been influenced by memories of books I read in my youth and my preference has always been for the stylish and understated cover of which Penguin is a particularly good example. Admittedly they often showed the face of the author but the information is a straightforward biography, and the story-line detail is not covered in hyperbole.

Some iconic covers, in my opinion, were the original James Bond books. I admit I wasn't persuaded by these – I just wanted to delve into them as soon they were hot off the press (oh, the excitement of those days), and I did start to read them quite some time before Sean Connery became synonymous with 007, although he fulfilled all my girlish dreams about a spy. I religiously saved up for them or was given them as Christmas presents as each new novel was published. If only I hadn't dumped them during one of my 'hasty' tidying sprees. Ah well....

Other conundrums: how can you expect a book many years old with multiple readers to be in pristine condition (surely a writer wants his book to be read and handled). And why, oh why, do I need to see the author’s portrait – so I’ll know him/her if I bump into them? A book is a book is a book and is for reading, enjoying and hopefully remembering; the special ones always are.