Monday, 24 March 2014

(Kitsch) Spring

Dear readers,
Often, as March draws to a close, I wish Mother Nature would slow down her dazzling spring parade here in my corner of the woods.  As I was driving along the Loire this morning, the placidly flowing river to my left and the graceful mansions on my right, I spotted blooming wisteria on a sundrenched wall. 'Too soon', I murmured to myself, 'not yet, please'.  It was only yesterday, or so it seems, that I was saying good-bye to the wild snowdrops in neighbouring coppices.

Wild spring flowers are my favourite, I think; more precious still because they are as ephemeral as the tantalizing March sunshine.  I take time every day to see their beauty, both fragile and yet hardy as they withstand the temperamental weather.  There is a little sloped garden, a few minutes stroll away from our home, which always delights me.  It calls to mind late fifteenth and early sixteenth-century millefleurs tapestries of flowery meads where spring grew eternal- green, green grass with a rich scattering of simple pale yellow primroses, a handful of tiny violets, blue-tinged periwinkles and dancing cowslips. Simple spring garden flowers, as familiar to us today as to our forebearers five centuries ago.  Is it any surprise that the six millefleurs tapestries in the Musée de Cluny in Paris known as the Lady and the Unicorn series celebrate the sensual delights of taste, smell, sight, hearing and touch?  I know my children, like many others, instinctively bend down to smell and caress these flowers as they walk by and many of them are edible too, of course.

This is the early spring I like to commit to memory for the warmer months ahead when Nature always seems two or three steps ahead of me.  A few moments of pleasurable nostalgia. For now Angélique and I will continue to wear violet perfume and to gaze admiringly at freshly sprung primroses.  There is nothing more exquisite and heartening.
Are any of you familiar with The Orlando Consort's fabulous recording of Medieval and early Renaissance songs and motets celebrating gardens in music?  The Rose, the Lily & the Whortleberry, which was released a few years ago, is a treasure and the selection of miniature paintings of Medieval gardens in the accompanying booklet a visual treat.

Flora Chick and Miss Blossom, my two latest hares (who will be celebrating Easter in Florida), were photographed just minutes before a downpour.  Fortunately the mossy ground was dry.  Please forgive my kitsch pictures, won't you?  I'm still in high spirits after my good news a few days ago and the kind-hearted, supportive comments you left me on my previous post.  How may I thank you all?

A bientôt,


Sunday, 16 March 2014

Living With Fear And Blue Skies

Dear readers,
It's hard to live with fear when the skies are blue but neither the headpounding dread nor the limpid skies showed signs of abating for the entire week.  I had to learn, therefore, the almost unbearable lesson of living with a birdsong filled world when my greatest wish was to sink into dark, undisturbed sleep for several days and nights.
 Last saturday night I discovered a lump in my left breast.  The impact on my stress levels was immediate.  Images of my youngest daughter, barely four and motherless, flitted through my mind and I moaned to myself whilst lying in bed 'Oh my God'.  Ironically, like many of you, I had recently read Kate's post which had left its mark on me.  If I am honest I would say that my (more or less) regular breast check was more thorough than usual this time thanks to Kate's well-written words.  Sunday was hard.  My usual swim with Tristan did little to raise my troubled thoughts and on Monday morning once all the children were at school I picked up the 'phone with trembling hands and dialed my local doctor's number.  Two hours later I sat in her surgery and watched her smile turn to a troubled frown as soon as I uttered the word 'breast lump'.  After examining me she urged her secretary to make an urgent appointment for a mammogram and scan.  Thursday afternoon at 3.15pm was fixed and as I said my goodbyes and smiled weakly at the secretary I descended the stairs out into the brilliant sunshine and wondered how on earth I would survive four days of waiting.
 And much as though I would like to share with you, dear readers, my advice on how to endure heightened stress levels I must confess that little helped soothe my stiff back and excuriating headaches.  Neither spring flowers nor sunshine lifted my spirits.  Knitting Tristan's springtime pullover kept me focused at times. Caring for my children with a serene face and gentle words kept me more or less together.  As often as I could I would allow myself to drift into light sleep; anxiety is exhausting as many of you must know.  Certainly I felt loved and grateful when friends called and texted me with kind offers and gestures.  But the stress levels rose as the week wore on.
 Thursday afternoon after an hour of thorough tests carried out by caring medical professionals I was given the all clear diagnosis I had hardly dared hope for.  And had I, for one second, whilst lying there under the dimmed lights in that clinic entertained the thoughts that all this anguish might have been for nothing the specialist's sad words cut through my fuzzy head: "You did well to come.  I see too many women in their forties with breast cancer."
 So, to echo Kate's simple message please, dear ladies, check you breasts some time soon.  This blog of mine is only small but if my heartfelt words may be heard by one person at least then I will be content.
This sweet musician of mine and his siblings are reason enough to be mindful of such health issues, don't you think?

Tristan wears his second High Water ready for spring.

The yarn is Madelinetosh Vintage in the beautiful colourways Bloomsbury Blue and Grasshopper.

My Ravelry notes are here.

My dear husband took the pictures on this beautiful spring sunday!  Do you see the wild periwinkle flowers in the last picture?
Finally I am joining in wth Laura's The Year In Books with my choice for the March.  Having enjoyed Kate Forsyth's enthralling novel, Bitter Greens  I could not wait to read this version of the Grimm brothers' lives and their neighbour in Kassel, Dortchen Wild.  I must confess I am more than halfway through it already! 

I am also joining in with Karen's Sunlit Sunday for the second time!

I wish you all a wonderful start to the week and I will return wth a much cheerier post soon.

A bientôt,


Saturday, 1 March 2014

Wild Violet Season

Happy March dear readers!

I am shyly joining in with Karen's Sunlit Sunday this weekend.
"I can see meadows, deep woods, which the first outburst of buds mists over wth an elusive green, cold streams and forgotten springs.  Easter primroses, daffodils with the saffron coloured heart, and violets, violets, violets...

I can see a silent little girl whom spring has already enchanted with a wild happiness, with a bittersweet and mysterious joy. A small girl imprisoned by day in a schoolhouse, and who exchanged toys and pictures for the first bouquets of violets from the woods, tied with a red cotton thread, brought by the little shepherdesses from the surrounding farms.

Oh, violets of my childhood!  You rise up before me, all of you, you lattice the milky April sky, and the quivering of your countless little faces intoxicates me." 

This is an extract from the French writer Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette's kaleidescope of fragments dedicated to her childhood first published in 1908 under the title of Les Vrilles de la vigne.  Although there is no particular logic to be found in the sequence of these eighteen short stories, there is a poetic or musical beauty to be found in the construction of each together underscored with a strong feminine sensuality.  The above description of wild violets is from the short story Le Dernier Feu which has marked me particularly.  If you would like to read these stories in English you may find them in this book.
 If Colette writes in the final words of the above extract that wild violets belong to the month of April, I usually see their tiny faces appearing during the course of February along the shady banks and hedgerows of our local vinyards and in our garden.  Spring flower obsessions are shared by many as dear Elizabeth reveals in her recent and beautifully penned post on snowdrops which further endorses my opinion that she should really write a book on gardens.  I am fickle in nature.  Spring provides an intoxicating potion of vibrant colours and tantalising scents and I usually fall madly in love each year with each spring flower but, as loyal readers know, my passion lies with violets.  Greek myths tell us that violets first sprang where Orpheus laid his enchanted lute and that the goddess Persephone and her companion nymphs were gathering rose, crocus, violet, iris, lily and larkspur blooms in a springtime meadow when she was abducted by the god Hodes. This year I have succumbed to one of my favourite scents once more, Violettes de Toulouses, and, as you may see, to knitting a cardigan inspired by these brave, delicate and diminutive blooms hardly bigger than a fingernail.
I have observed with a little gratitude and much delight how the poetry of flowers has woven its magic on my dear Angélique since a very early age.  I wanted to create a cardigan for her which captured the elusive colour of violets.  The Old Maiden Aunt colourway, Bluebells, together with Madelinetosh's Olivia were a match made in Heaven.  

The pattern is Dani Sunshine's Bella.

My Ravelry link is here; do come and say hello!

The pretty wreath of violets was created by Amore Bride.

Please take a few seconds to look at the white dress Angélique is wearing.  It dates back to the late nineteenth-century and the collar, which you can see more clearly in the third picture from the top, is exquisitely embroidered entirely by hand. 

And before you leave PLEASE tell me which spring flower do you love the most?  I would love to know!

A bientôt,


ps  As my Facebook page, Madame Millefeuilles has very kindly reached over two thousand likes I would like to arrange a special giveaway, both here and on Facebook, once the flurry of pre-Easter orders has been dealt with!  

pps  I am also, tentatively, joining in for the first time with Jodi's The 52 Project.
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