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Cultural Concubine Blog

Neither here nor there…

Category Archives: Things I look forward to…

Pretty straight forward...

the green…

The reason I have not been writing as much as usual lately is because I have spent most of my last two weeks genuflecting to nature.

I have been helping friends preparing their beautiful formal garden for a grand visit of the Dutch heritage organisation Heemschut together with the Dutch National garden association.
And after a late frost and an extremely dry spell there was plenty to do…

So I spent most of my time on my knees weeding and scraping…
There is something very humbling in caring for the grasses, scattering gravel layers and raking out loam paths.
Not the usual pruning and fine work, but actual graft, working like a builder on the bigger lines of a garden. (may be this is where it is in line with my ambitions in Building conservation)
It is quite amazing to find that the simplest straight lined lawn and gravel path encrusted pond would take so much more time in detailing than a fully planted border.

Off course all gardeners know that nature and straight lines are no common bedfellows.
But it is truly an amazing feeling to see an original design come back to life. Literally…

The house and garden are celebrating their 100th anniversary this year. And it was quite a privilege working on a Dutch interpretation of an English arts & crafts ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’.

Green hair day!

The strangest piece of work I did on the final evening before showtime…was the cutting back of some rusty brown fern heads. After all the raking, hoeing and pulling out nettles, cutting the frothy ferns with an elegant snip of a pair of gardeners scissors feels quite surreal…
Is this where gardeners meet hairdressers?!

Some time ago a friend of mine bought two amazing brass sculptured heads of Dali and van Gogh, open at the top…  (looking for pics of them, so you can see what I mean) Anyways…

Now it all comes together…

PS the collage on the right comes from an artist called: Able Parris


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A fallen woman?

At least that is what the word ‘Valens‘ the origin of the name for Saint Valentine really stands for.

Anyone who has really engaged in this trapeze act called Love, knows it looks so easy, pretty and graceful from the ground.
But once hanging up there yourself, you see it really is not for the faint hearted…
Everyone who has ever been dropped or let slip can tell you: It really is a long way down…

Still once you have been up there and with the fresh air in your face, you know you can never go back living on the ground…

We all know what that feels like...

A long time ago Jesuit novice (yes I know this is an interesting source) once informally told me, that in order to be a man you need balls, to be a man of love you need bigger ones!
(may be the kind of advice St. Valentine should have had! Performing Christian Marriages, what was the poor dear thinking?!)

Then there are other explanations, stating that the whole Valentine’s craze is an invention by Chaucer, or simply a continuation of an originally pagan feast called Luperculia. Any celebration helping to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility has to be great fun!

The bastard! He knows I hate pink...

Still what for me the main point really is, that this whole feast should not be about, boxes of sticky chocolates, red balloons and smelly bath salts. (because you genuinely don’t have a clue what she wants anyway)
It should be the furthest thing from the soppy side of love… The celebration of contentment, of satiety and boring comfort, commercial expectations… and arguments about getting presents wrong…  NO!

Instead let Valentine celebrate valour, courage and the brave!
The people that truly dare to let their heart speak out, the people who send a letter filled with blatant honesty or a card coated in truth. (whatever colour the bloody stationary might be..)
Why is it such a crime to tell someone you really like them?
Isn’t a tepid guilt propelled message much more harmful?

In other words... NO!

I would much rather get a clear response turning me down, than being politely strung along to ‘spare my feelings’
(?! They are mine right, so why not let me take care of them…).
Better to crash and burn, then to stay suspended in dishonest promises and unmeant words…
Indeed we all know safety nets don’t work in Love…

Come on, Fortune favours the brave.
So if you still have a heart, use it!

Bon courage for the 14th!

PS I hate red roses. (now you know why)

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Wet feet on the stairs...

After earlier negative posts on English plumbing I should now eat humble pie and pledge my eternal devotion to bathtubs…

Last week my course on Building Conservation at West Dean College started in earnest.
Apart from the actual course I really looked forward to spending more time at the house itself…

The house is a wonderful place to just be. It is the ideal space to learn (in all her studios), study (great library in the old billiards room, including a nook) and spend time with a large variation of creative and cultural types (especially at the cheap college bar!).
The wet footprints of Tilly Losch (the last lady of the house) woven into the carpet on the stairs are only one of the many eccentric touches that surprise you when wandering around.

But this time for me the largest attraction must have been the shared bathroom.
In it was the most enormous Edwardian Bath.

It is me...

It was the first time since I was a little girl that I actually could float full length in the tub.
And just to add to the experience the original fittings revealed a strange looking tap, with a sweet note on it:

But it is me, I am your plug!
If you turn me and drop me I will hold your water.
Lift me and twist me and I will GULP it!

Imagine this one steamy and filled with bubbles....

All of a sudden I remembered the incredible bath described in ‘The Bolter’, a freestanding green onyx monolith at Idina Sackville-West’s Kenyan house.
She made it part of the daily attractions of being her guest.  As part of the experience she would invite her guests to witness her bathe and dress before dinner…

Lying in that West Dean bath I could imagine how roaring the 20’s really must have been.

The tank...

Hahah, shows you the importance of actually experiencing old buildings and places for yourself.
Even if the National Trust now occasionally allows visitors to sit on their sofas, it will take a little more before we will be allowed to have a proper soak!

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Casualty no.5...

Yesterday just seemed an endless day. Waiting for both arms to meet up at the top.
The final day of the year, and somehow it just seemed it didn’t get any later…

It took me till well into the night to find out my watch had stopped…

And yes… I know a swatch is a crumby cheap watch, it ticks too loud and is too large for my wrist. Worse, within a year I have already had to replace the strap and battery!
The local jeweler has stopped selling parts for these as they seem to be too bad quality.
Still, with all of my travel and cooking activities I do need one. I hate grasping for a device to tell the time.
(my watch is always local time wherever I am, while my laptop, ipad and phone vary depending on my departure and arrival needs. And with gps some of them automatically zone themselves…)

So I guess I will have to contemplate an upgrade.
What would be sturdy enough to survive my lifestyle, yet not un-clunky enough to fit my wrist?
To be continued…


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Last week I was writing my Christmas cards in a cafe Gebr. Niemeijer in Amsterdam, before meeting an old friend.

This is how my coffee arrived.


Hope you all had a lovely Christmas!

Only 2 more days left of this year…

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Last year on the 24th of December I was running some final errands in Newport RI before the Christmas feast. My final job was to pick up some bottles from the liquor store…
(Tip: never attempt family gatherings stone cold sober…)

The dear guy behind the counter…

…he asked me for ID.

Bless him.
(after the initial thrill of this request I found out I had in fact forgotten my ID at home. Still, going back home to get it still didn’t get the grin off my face!)

Sure, I feel half my age!

PS. thanks everyone for all the sweet Birthday wishes in this busy time.

PPS. Today I actually reached the age Marilyn had when she died…

Everything always improves with age… Next year is going to be exceptional!

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Cages at the White Rabbit tea room.

Some time ago a good friend of mine from Paris told me the most exquisite story. It was one of those stories, where the pictures never ever really leave your head again:

She told me about her grandmother who had been a Persian noble woman, who had moved to Paris  with her Russian husband. The story she told me about her was that she would frequently go to a special Tea house in Paris where all the ladies would bring their birds, in their cages.
The birds would be hung up on the ceiling to sing to each other, while the ladies were seated below, gossiping and sipping their tea…

Admitted the walls need some help...

Needless to say I have searched for such a place, but never found it. Only online did I find a contemporary art gallery in Sydney that has antique cages in their tea room… I found the picture through a great tea blog: The Tea Urchin.

When living in Newport there was the most elegant tea house in the garden, with a domed ceiling, and windows on the four corners. The walls were covered in old Zuber hand painted wallpaper, showing birds and greenery. It had been my dream to change this tea house into a functioning room again. With antique cages on the ceiling and comfortable seats and tables scattered round below.

The original interior... Love the lantern.

This tea house in Newport is an early 20th century copy of the 18th century original summerhouse, designed by the great Salem, Massachusetts carver/architect Samuel McIntire for Capt. Derby’s summer farm in Danvers Massachusetts in 1795. A young lady who visited the estate in 1802 wrote of going upstairs to the room above, “The air from the windows is always pure and cool and the eye wanders with delight over the beautiful landscape below…The room is ornamented with some Chinese figures and seems calculated for serenity and peace.”

How wonderful would it be to drink tea there on a summer afternoon, listening to the birds while catching up on the latest news.

Well, one can dream, no? Tweet tweet.

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