Summer at Saint-Antoine 2014, Part I

The view from the garden. Where does lunch come from? Skies, grass, water…
I know the titles of the Saint-Antoine posts are very dull, but they reflect continuity. Neither Saint-Antoine nor the classes are dull, though. Everyone is paying attention here, although Jean looks as though he might be reserving judgment.
P1000459 - Version 2 The subject is different–“Gothic” has so many variations.
StA 2014 Fraktur titleA bit rigid, but we have to start with the most basic elements.
Maybe all the photos look alike? But every summer, and every class is different – each dynamic is different. There are the  “best-beloved” students, to whom Mr Kipling might tell a story, and new students whose stories we don’t know yet.
Here we are trying to approach Gothique Fraktur – as so often, at the request of
P1000528Christiane Soufflet.
What will she ask for next?
Serious concentration on Keith’s demonstration, and the Catalans are recording it for posterity–or future study.
K demo strip 2014 i
Christiane R, Tatjana, Nicole, Anne; Marta, Christiane S, Marisa…Individual consultations and work on projects, in the luminous Salle Blanche:
Studentstrip2014 i copy
We try to have a half-day free in midweek (compensated for by evening audio/visual presentations) so that people from outside the area can do a little tourism (although there are always those who cannot tear themselves away from their écritoires). Interested parties can wander around the village which is beautiful, or pile into cars (sometimes borrow bicycles…) for a wider ramble. If you come all the way from Australia, the teachers might even take you on a secret cascade escapade…(it’s not that secret). It’s cold though.
CogninEscape2014 i
A couple of Saint-Antoine luncheons, flanking the end of course supper.  There is no shortage of delicious food. We always think we will be thinner when we leave, but so far it hasn’t happened. All those wonderful salads & crudités are irresistible. And the bread!
Foodstrip2014 i
More garden and views–there are even startling manifestations of nature in the classroom: see the mushrooms growing in the potted plant. Saint-Antoine is full of life!
Jardin 2014 i
End of course exposition…it is impossible to get everyone to show up for group photos. Mireia, Marta…show off your work!
Expostrip2014 i
Keith, Nicole, Joan, Mireia, Christiane, Marta, (me! who took this?), Claire, Marisa, another Christiane, Maria…who’s missing? Bénédicte, Jean, Fanny, Anne & Tatjana. A very poor turnout for a group photo, I’m afraid. Perhaps they’ve all already gone down to the pizzaria for a beer.
Manège2014 i
You thought I was joking about the pizzaria? It’s pretty great!
Miscellaneous other photos…Please! Mesdames et messieurs, Senyores i senyors, Ladies & Gentlemen, send me your photos! I’ll be thrilled to include them here!
Nota Bene! a large number of these photos are from Maria Montes & Marta Cunillera–hot designers/photographers both! Colleagues in design, and Maria now works in Australia…
Maria n Marta
just another piece of work…please, mesdames et messieurs, send me more!
by Maria…

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Summer at Saint-Antoine 2013, Part II


P1010849L’abbatiale. Beautiful sunsets. Unusually not photographed from the frisbee field (actually le champ de foot). This week, all the best photos were taken by Anna Coll Marfagón.
IMG_2688Check in, wander into the luminous Salle Blanche…Luke attended both weeks last summer.
Luke Atkinson stayed for both weeks, so for a brief time between courses, he had the Salle Blanche almost all to himself, then:
It began to fill up.
We were once semi-officially named ambassadeurs for the manuscripts of le Mont Saint-Michel by Jean-Luc Leservoisier, curator of the fonds ancien of the Municipal Library of Avranches, where the manuscripts written in the scriptorium of the monastery now reside. (Or are they somewhere in the “Scriptorial” – the new tourist information centre about the manuscripts and their production and conservation? Or are the at the Université de Caen, who are digitising the manuscripts?).
Fortunately we were able to see and study many of them when they were (perhaps) more accessible than they are now.
Each time we present a course on the particular Carolingian scripts used at Mont Saint-Michel, we try to focus on a different manuscript or style, so that people who choose to “repeat” a course will get something new from it.
LeftRightRight-handed or left-handed, everyone can do a respectable carolingian.
StA2013 II allLuke, Jacinth, Anne, Anne, Txus, Mireia, Anna, Françoise, Nadine
It’s not all serious concentration:
P1010949And it is necessary to eat….
EatAnd at the end of the week, show the work in an exhibition…P1020044projsI think here we have Txus Marcano, Luke Atkinson, whose “Littera Scripta Manet” is this?
Mesdames et messieurs – have you more and better photos of the exhibition pieces (I know there are many more pieces) – more and better photos of the whole experience?
Please share them with us! Come to the (Calligraphic portion of) Summer at Saint-Antoine 2014 – find us here.

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Summer at Saint-Antoine 2013, Part I

P1010724This year there are only two Parts to Saint-Antoine. Everyone agrees that the Salle Blanche is obligatory; and owing to the high demand for the Salle  Blanche (sometimes by teachers who only use it for an hour a day….) we had only two week-long courses at Saint-Antoine in the Summer of 2013…[It looks like something similar in the Summer of 2014 – please contact us about other courses…google: keith7amanda].

P1010695Ah, the Salle Blanche. The light. This is why all the students, forever, require the Salle Blanche. What were we presenting again? Ah, yes: StA 2013 Flyer Part I…Gothique…. as originally requested by Christiane – Maria Agra Bermejo…& Christiane Soufflet: P1010706Concentration…. P1010703 P1010735P1010721Christiane Soufflet, Nicole Robin, Keith Adams, Xavi Vaqué, Carol Van Waart, Joana Royo, Enric Royo, Jaume Royo, Luke Atkinson: P1010747Joana Royo P1010748 - Version 2Keith evaluating layouts…(Enric Royo, Jaume Royo, Maria Agro Bermejo, Dani Garcia, Luke Atkinson) P1010758Justine Vassal, Luciana Canepa, Dominique Augier, Nicole Doux…P1010750Nicole DouxP1010777 - Version 2Christiane SouffletP1010790 Maria Agra BermejoP1010791Luke Alexander Atkinson P1010792Jaume Royo P1010793Gérard GosmeP1010794Dani GarciaP1010795Dominique AugierP1010797Enric RoyoP1010801Justine VassalP1010803Christine NodetP1010712 - Version 2Nicole “Fleur de l’Unité” RobinP1010804 Xavi Vaqué P1010805Carol Van Waart P1010808 - Version 2Luciana CanepaP1010811Lucia Legland P1010812 The fin-de-stage exhibiton:P1010779P1010818P1010799P1010820P1010822P1010824Photo0135Avez-vous, mesdames, messieurs, d’autres photos à partager? Teniu més fotos per compartir? Anyone want to share more photos? Surtout des oeuvres achevées? De les obres acabades? Of the finished work exhibited? Photos des repas? Fotos dels apats? Pictures of the fabulous meals? Corrections? Comments?

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A startling evening in August

I am at home, unexpectedly, for a complex concatenation of reasons. But I am here, and I walk the dogs, and my lovely neighbour feeds me (so far).
But this evening’s dogwalk was unexpected. Startling. And I returned home weeping.


There are more photos, but taken in the gloaming. And at the moment WordPress is seeming less intuitive than usual. For all fans of storks…I’ll try to post it better tomorrow(?).  I am here with responsibilities, and storks are not a priorityImage

… but they were so beautiful and unexpected and bloody hard to photograph in the deepening dark…
The village stream is dried up – they won’t want to stay.
I am so surprised that I coincided with their passage at all…and how I wish they could be lured to settle here.

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A week’s miscellaneous photos

P1010345Signage: always looking at signage. Always photographing signage. I stood in the street for some time trying to read this. Strangely, it appears to be a branch or new incarnation of a shop I knew. A week after I took it, I looked at the image on my camera screen and could finally identify the first letter. Then it came into focus.
Curiously, I showed it to K and he went (aloud) through the same process of decipherment I had gone through. So probably I shouldn’t help anyone. It is Catalan, though.
That same day (a week ago last Friday), after the dentist, I went to the next town to meet K (who rushed off before the dentist got to me because he had a class) for lunch and a brief shop – I bought some fish (Dorada, Orada, it seems to be “Bream” in English?).
P1010346So here it is, being our second course on Saturday. Done in the fireplace. The best way. I seldom seem to remember to photograph both courses at the same meal.
P1010347The dogwoods/dog roses are out. It seems such a privilege.
P1010350I visited an unfamiliar supermarket, and found new packaging for a well-known, politically incorrect product…
P1010351It’s somewhat less worrying than it used to be, maybe. The caricature elements are less than they were.
P1010352A first course, with leftover gaspatxo, Monday…
and a different, white-rather-than-pink dog rose.
P1010353P1010354And Wednesday’s first course, with a tiny bit of left-over brandade accompanying the salad, so I remember that Tuesday‘s second course was in fact, brandade.
P1010356Too easily fascinated, I know – the exposed interior walls of the building that used to stand here in our market-town, sprayed with insulating material, but showing built-in cupboards &c. just wanted photographing.
P1010358All local views come from dogwalks. This always-attractive ruin is our neighbours’ former fassina where brandy and liqueurs could have been made.P1010359And the sky is the sky. (Photos are apt to come out crooked and ill-framed with two dogs on leads at the same time – taking those photos with one’s third hand gets a little tricky.)
But the sky is good, and the churchtower looks all right to me.P1010361And on the shelf that pretends it is supporting the “life sized” plywood A from a long-ago exhibition, to the little marquetry box from the Alhambra, and the slightly-melted glow-in-the-dark Virgin of Montserrat, K added the cylindrical box to the little globe, and I finally found a suitable support to hold it outside the box – a red-blood-cell shaped hotel soap from somewhere in France. So now we can look at the little historical-replica globe.
Except for crookeder or less-in-focus duplicates. This is a week’s-worth of photos. Doesn’t mean it was a typical week.
Chi? You have asked for more pictures of food!

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What it’s like: Lush

Down beside the church…it’s gorgeousP1010319camomile – we could gather it for infusionsP1010321Poppies – the petals make cough mixture.
There is fumatory for skin complaints.
P1010322There is malva, for the National Soup of Egypt, or various other places.P1010323It is so lush, so many things to harvest.
And the dogs like to eat the grass leaves.
But one cannot count on it.
Too many of the village residents (that’s residents in the male form, I assure you) want to come along with an apparatus on their backs, and hand-pump, and a squirting hose, and spray it all with herbicide.
As though this bounty of nature were stealing nutrients from some crop (where?).
Soon it will be wilted and orange.
I once asked an Important Village Citizen – proprietor of the village’s Old Folks’ Home – he’d just warned me: “Don’t let your dogs eat the grass now. It’s just been sprayed.”
“Why spray the herbacious borders of the road with herbicide? What about the grandchildren who come at the weekends and might want to gather a posy of wildflowers for their grandmas?”
He said, “in a few weeks, it will all be dead anyway.”
Meaning in the drought of summer.
So why not kill it all off now? At the expense of buying herbicide and paying some insufficiently employed village resident to spray it all with poison? Why?

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The increasingly long tail tale of when Ruskin was shot

Ruskin Shot:
On Thursday morning, the fifth of May, 2011, a man shot our dog, Ruskin.
Ruskin has been with us since the 12th of February, 2004.
He is still with us. Ruskin lives.
The man in this car shot Ruskin:*
It appears to be a Nissan Terrano of a colour Nissan call “bluish green”. You can see the man in the car.
The bullet went in here:
And it’s still lodged where it came to rest some distance from the point of entry:
We and Ruskin are very fortunate the bullet missed vital organs. (Sorry: the white line down the middle is the space between two sheets of A3 paper, used to convert K’s studio window into a radiographer’s light table. Aside from his collar, the strange object near his neck is his ID chip.)
Back to the view of the car, from just after the shot (I had to get my phone/camera out while running down the hill with Sandy on the lead in my other hand).
Where is this? Here:The red dot on the satellite map above represents me, with Sandy (on the lead), whence I photographed the car with my ‘phone camera. The red rectangle is the Nissan Terrano.
I saw the man, not tall, perhaps about sixty years old, in a bright red Lacoste-type shirt, holding a rifle, but naturally I shouted. And he realized the dog he’d just shot wasn’t alone, and got into his car before I could get the phone out and into camera mode and “shoot” him. Sandy and I ran down the hill…but his car, aimed to the southwest, got around the bend on the dirt track (its parked location in the photo is a paved street) before I could get there to read or photograph the registration plate.
What is the red X?
The red X is the shell of the bullet. Once we had the vet’s statement that it was definitely a small calibre bullet and not some kind of BB, birdshot, buckshot, or such; as I knew the man certainly hadn’t leant down to pick up anything before getting into his car, I was sure the “brass” must be there to be found. And so it was. I had no spiffy crime-scene numbered ooh-jahs to indicate its presence (and I couldn’t even see it in the view finder for the general view). But my trusty Opinel worked fine to indicate its location.

Here it is, scanned in. (The extra metal object in the second image is a pair of tweezers holding the shell in a rotated position, because it would normally roll back to position 1.)
And here is my impromptu “artist’s impression” of the shooter, since I missed shooting him with my ‘phone camera, before he got back into his car.
And a similar “artist’s conception” of a man seen by both my mother-in-law and me the previous day (4 May 2011) as we were walking the dogs.
That man (in the blue “polo” type shirt) appeared in a field with what looked like binoculars and watched us (along with Ruskin and Sandy) intently. We both noticed him. We both noticed that he seemed to be looking more at Ruskin than at us (Ruskin was on the lead, of course – only being allowed off it normally on the morning walk, to run home to breakfast). We thought the man was strange, and both of us commented at the time he was like a stalker or paparazzo. To me it wasn’t clear whether he was carrying binoculars or a camera. Gwen (who had her spectacles on) is sure it was binoculars.
Since the shooting, I am fairly sure it was the same man. We were “creeped out” by him (the paparazzo/stalker) and turned homewards quickly; but now we wish we had gone nearer to him, up around the corner, as we might have seen a car.
The “artist” is not sure at all about the height of the man in relation to the height of the car. The artist is not sure about the hat a non-descript pale-coloured hat if it was indeed there. The rifle and the shirt were such strong attention-attractors for the few seconds I saw the man –  the artist wouldn’t swear the trousers were blue jeans, either.
Additional evidence is available: We have taken license numbers/registrations/matriculas from a few Nissans we have seen that we believe are not guilty. There is an official statement from the vet, and Amanda’s deposition to the Mossos d’Esquadra [Catalan police].
(Above: Ruskin wounded, bandaged being looked after by Grandma and Sandy.)
Why are we re-hashing this now?
On Thursday, 27 September 2012, we went to court.
Now, in the interim, many things have happened. I was called – as I thought – to court last May. But that was only for the rather useless purpose of officially stating that I wished to pursue the case. We are hoping to recuperate the fairly symbolic amount of €70 which were the vet’s fees (accompanied by a somewhat menacing: “as long as the bala doesn’t move. If it moves, you could be looking at much more expense in surgery to remove it.”)
We reported the crime: I made my official statement to the Mossos d’Escuadra – the Catalan police
But also a crime was committed. Or several crimes. It is illegal to shoot a dog, except in self defense. And the weapon was an illegal calibre, except for use on officially designated target ranges.
I want to leap straight to the going to court part.
But it also seems necessary to relate that the police let us know that they had indeed found the perpetrator, and that he had admitted his guilt, claiming that he thought Ruskin was a fox.

This is about as similar as I can find Ruskin (a Podengo) and a Fox. Can you tell which is which? Local foxes – here’s one I saw between the village where I buy milk and bread and the village where I buy meat for the dogs – seem less orange, wouldn’t you say:

It is equally illegal to shoot a fox as to shoot a dog. One might imagine that a self-professed hunter (meaning goes out after partridges and perhaps wild boar with a gun, not that he rides to hounds) would know the difference between one of the commonest breeds of hunting dogs in all of Iberia, and a fox. Maybe.
Catalan court – was it Catalan court?
The clerk (we suppose he was the clerk) called my name and that of the admitted criminal.
We filed into the small, empty courtroom. K was allowed to sit at the back as an observer. We were not sworn in. When I spoke later to our friend, the village Justice of the Peace, he said “In Spanish court you have the right to lie.” I am not sure to what degree he was joking. No-one was sworn in, so perjury was not an option.
It was immediately evident that the judge, a Britney Spears lookalike, didn’t speak Catalan and wasn’t going to try. In fact it appeared she did not even read Catalan well enough to understand the statements in the dossier before her. Her first statement was to the effect that the defendant was accused of shooting the dog in the foot. I was flabberghasted and looked at the little clerkly man who had indicated he would translate. He translated. I said “What’s all this about a foot? He was shot in the shoulder (I indicated on my own body.) and the bullet lodged about here (gesturing). I have the x-ray here.”
Later Keith guessed that she had supposed the Catalan word “espatlla” (shoulder – seriously dissimilar to the Castilian word “hombro”) looked a bit like “patilla” (little foot?). That may add dyslexia to inability to speak the language of the country. I don’t think she should be in that job. Seriously.
She asked me whether I could identify the accused as the perpetrator. I said no, that all along I had said I was too far away to make a positive identification. As the drawings show, only a “gist” of a person is there. If you showed me a six-foot tall African, I could say that was not the person. But among medium-short retired guys whose wives iron their jeans, I couldn’t select one from the other, at 50 metres without my spectacles.
Then she asked him whether he admitted shooting Ruskin. He said he had thought it was a fox.
I inquired whether I could ask a question, and I asked whether it would not be equally against the law to shoot a fox? The judge admitted it would.
Sadly the whole event was so non that I failed to inquire officially whether it was not illegal to carry that particular weapon (I understand it should’ve been in a locked box in the vehicle, or at a recognized target range).
The judge called the perpetrator up to the bench to look at the photo of the car.
Here it gets interesting: He said it wasn’t his car.
He said he could tell it wasn’t his car, because it had a “mataburros” (actually he probably said “matamulas“, which is a more common name around here). A mataburros is one of these:
I’d call it a cowcatcher. They put them on the radiator grill of the car, I suppose really to stave off brush or branches, more than mules, burros, or even wild boars. Now, why would he mention this? Why would he say it’s not his car if he’s admitted to being the shooter?
You have now seen the photo, whatever its quality, that I took of the car. The police themselves identified it from the photo as a Nissan Terrano. (I found out they could do this so instantaneously because Nissan Terranos are frequently used as police vehicles around here.) The police told me, when they saw the photo, that it was a Nissan Terrano with a matamulas on the front of it. Naturally, I’ve stared at the photo a lot, and I can’t see it. Or not see it for that matter. But I deferred to the professional discernement of the police.
Nonetheless, that the perpetrator even raised the subject seems very strange to me. Why mention it at all? Somebody (who?) has been discussing Nissan accessories with him in relation to my photo? Should he even have seen the photo?
And if he admits to doing the shooting, what explanation would he suggest for the photo? Does he fantasize someone rang up someone with a Nissan Terrano and asked to have it parked just there for a photo opportunity? I’m mystified.
That was about the end of the courtroom drama. The clerk informed us that we’d be receiving a complete transcript of the procedings, and information about how to collect the €70 in veterinary fees we will presumably be awarded. Keith also asked – or stated, rather – that he had been advised by the vet that if the bullet should move, later, it might require expensive surgery to remove, and wished to be on record as having mentioned this, because it would be an additional expense caused by the crime.
So I am awaiting the transcript.
I have seen (when I had to deliver a more formal copy of the vet bill to a clerk of the court in May 2012) the actual dossier and I know that it has the physical brass shell in it in an evidence bag.
Until that transcript and further information comes, we are once again in limbo, or abeyance, or whatever state of undecidedness seems apropriate.
When we left the courtroom, Keith went off to the clerks office, which left me and the shooter in the ante-room. He was chuckling to himself. I was staring incredulously, because I still found (and still find) the whole situation bizarre and unlikely. I had to say something. I asked him if he’d had his spectacles checked recently, if he couldn’t tell a coniller from a fox. But he just went on chuckling.
I will just mention one other strange thing…
On the sixteenth of December, 2011 – six months after the shooting (and when we’d finally rescued the Lady only the previous week), there was a knock at the door.
A young woman was outside. I spoke to her (I actually misidentified her as somebody from the Animal Protection association), and she introduced herself as the daughter of the man who shot Ruskin!
I quickly decided that I shouldn’t be talking to her, and called up to Keith to come down.
Strange – no one would tell us who the police had arrested, accused, &c., despite all of our following of Nissan Terranos, or lying in wait for drivers to come back to parked ones…but she could find us with little difficulty. I suppose because she knew which village, and had only to ask at the bar, which is the house of the dog who was shot? to find us.
She told a long sob-story about how her father loved animals, that they kept ferrets at home, along with dogs and cats…that her mother has Alzheimer’s disease and her father was unemployed [except for his part-time job checking on the “coto“?], &c. and would we please drop the charges.
Keith explained that it was, and is, not a civil matter, but a case of lawbreaking. As far as we know, if the police are made aware of a crime being committed, and discover the person who has committed it, then they hand the information over to the prosecution service, and the criminal is prosecuted. The people who may have filed the original complaint are not “in charge” in any way of the continuance of the case. If we were to stop pressing to recover the €70 – which of course doesn’t take into account anguish, anxiety, lost work, &c. – the admitted criminal is still liable for penalties such as gaol- or prison-time and fines, for lawbreaking.
When the transcript arrives, I will bring this up to date.

The end of the tail…
On the 14th of November, 2013, I was summonned to the Town Hall to receive and sign for an official document, which I subsequently turned in at a local bank to receive the €75.51 that we had been awarded by the Barbie-doll judge.

There is a lot of disagreement in this village about feral cats. Owing to the fact that both Sandy and The Lady will chase cats, and very occasionally catch them, and (in The Lady’s case) eat them; a decree came down that it should be Sandy and The Lady who were always on the lead and not Ruskin (indifferent to cats), instead of the two Podengos.
Ruskin enjoyed his new freedom. It was lovely to see; although boring that Sandy (who when not cat-chasing stays perfectly at heel) must be on the lead; and that The Lady almost never gets to run free unless we drive her to another village (she’s fast, and can get back to the village long before us, if we once let her off in nearby fields).

On Friday, the 31st of January, 2014, Ruskin lingered behind on the evening dogwalk to visit a neighbour’s front garden and breath in the essence of the neighbour’s lovely new dogess. K and the bitches had come home.
He said to me: If Ruskin isn’t back by 9:30 so the dogs can go to bed in their places it’ll be too late to watch a DVD this evening. So I went out to fetch him.
The lovely new bitch lives nearest to the highway and the defunct petrol station. I saw no dog. In the petrol station, mossos (Catalan police) were parked, watching for speeding Andorrans, I suppose. They claimed they hadn’t seen any dog, and reprimanded me for not being clad in a reflective safety vest. I walked back away from them calling…
Ruskin appeared but instead of coming to me to tell me all about it, he ran straight into the steady stream of pre-weekend traffic. I heard the thud as something like a black Clio hit him on the left hip. Somehow he turned around and ran back to me. And collapsed on the grassy verge. With little hope, I clipped the lead to his collar and gave a little tug (hea had, after all, run all the way home with a bullet in him) but he could not get up again. There was not a mark on him.

There is no mobile signal in our house, and like nearly everybody, we’ve given up having a landline. I tried ringing various neighbours, and finally got one. I begged her to go next door and tell K to come urgently up to the petrol station with the car. Then I waited, stroking Ruskin’s cheek, as he lay, flat on his side on the grass. I was also, intermittently, weeping hysterically and trying to signal to the police, who were not more than 20 metres away, with their window open, waving my phone in the air, calling for help in all the languages I could think of.
I gather that responding to residents in distress is not among the duties of the Mossos.
Finally K arrived. We gently lifted Ruskin into the boot (where he liked to travel) trying to move him as little as possible, as it seemed flatter than the seats and covered him with my shawl.
We set off driving towards the vet while I rang. Once there had been an emergency service; but I discovered this has been discontinued at “our” vet and “centralised” to a slightly less nearby clinic. And one we’ve never been to.
We drove.
But when we arrived and opened the boot we discovered that Ruskin hadn’t made it. He had died en route to the emergency vet. K says, that when we heard a sound from the boot, and I said “At least we know he is still alive,” it was probably his final breath.
The bitches still have to be walked. I don’t think I have taken them out once, in the past four and a half months without weeping at some point in the walk.
He came to us on the 12th of February, 2004 – so nearly ten years he was with us.
I scarcely invite people any more. I think I invited people because I wanted them to meet Ruskin.
Sandy and The Lady are lovely; but they haven’t invented barter. Sandy hasn’t even learnt to go back around a tree when she’s on the lead…
We thought Podengos live to 15 or so. But not if they run into traffic.

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Really Terrible Architecture

I actually typed “Reallly Terrible Architecture” and now I wonder whether it would have been better to leave that third “l” in there.
We are visiting my mother-in-law.
Ever since she came to live here, I have been trying – in a desultory way – to discover who the architect was for this complex of houses and flats, built to include, specifically about 50 residences and a central recreational space + laundry room, &c. It is dreadful.
At first, my mother-in-law, just widowed, moved into one of the flats here. To her, I think, a flat sounded a bit glamorous. She disliked the communal meeting space (and events) and couldn’t abide the idea of the launderette-like facility; so she got a washer/dryer.
That was an upstairs flat. It had (as many of the upstairs flats do) a principal window in the sitting-room which was like a bay window.
But…what could have been a window-seat was above waist height – even her teen-aged granddaughter had to put her hands on it and jump up to a sitting position. It was also deep. You couldn’t hoist yourself up there and sit near enough to look out at the activity in the street – to check out a strange noise for example. Not without drawing your feet up and scooting window-ward. And it was clear from the outside that that shelf had nothing under it. If you were nervous about going out onto Spanish balconies you wouldn’t sit there anyway. The other windows were mostly narrow slots like arrow slits.
After a couple of years of that, one of the “cottages” became empty. Reasonably sized two-up/two-down houses, with small fenced back gardens. The appeal was that she could at least go and peg out her washing outdoors (she’s not one to sit outside, but freshly blown clean laundry is lovely). So she moved across the street.
This is “sheltered” housing. Restricted to over-55s (although there are nearby and across-the-street houses that are not part of the complex). Whoever the ignorant architect was (I cannot help but imagine him [surely not a woman] as being the developer[s]’s nephew) did no reasearch at all into the habits and desires of retired people, or those nearing retirement. He decided they wanted peace and quiet…a sort of getting-used-to-it period before burial actually occurs.
He put the sitting-rooms at the back of the houses, looking out at the 7-foot high fences, with 4-foot high fences separating the gardens on either side. Beyond that 7-foot fence is a well-known greensward (scheduled to be replaced by a supernumerary mega-store soon) full of life, dogwalkers, children, scudding clouds and town roof-scape vistas. But it cannot be seen from the sitting room.

As to life out the fronts of the houses, this can only be seen by going into the kitchen, leaning over the sink and peering out left and right. The (landscaped and maintained) front gardens have un-strategically placed topiary, trees and shrubs that prevent identifying night-rambling animals – “Was that a stoat?” – strange cars, or suspicious-looking people.
Since the whole complex is a cul-de-sac, there is no through-traffic. What little “life in the street” there is is old dears doddling along with their little wheeled trolleys, the arrivals and departures of home-helps, the odd taxi or dutiful adult child coming to take someone out, grand-children visiting, deliveries of occasional new televisions or sofas, and the serious arrivals: ambulances.
The warden’s daily rounds should be monitored.
The total of all those events added up per day is probably seldom above twenty. But it is impossible to sit anywhere and keep an eye on things. This makes the “Neighbourhood Watch” stickers pretty pointless, too.
And the upstairs rooms in the “cottage”? The front bedroom might look out over the street, but its windowsills are even higher – only by standing and peering can you see out. And the back bedroom which faces that lively field permits access to the view also, only by peering out. My husband is installed there during our stay working at a small table, and interrupts himself often to stand and look when dogs and activity catch his ear.
The bathroom (a shower room, only) between the bedrooms has no daylight at all.
And all the “units” are similar. Worse – one woman with a ground-floor flat is presently paying quite a lot to have alterations done: Her bedroom has French windows opening onto a minute patio (unfenced), but no other window. She wants fresh air, but does not relish the idea of an exterior door open all night so she needs French windows with little transoms (I’m sure that’s the wrong description).
What thoughtless berk designed this mess?
The houses are moderately well finished (though the floors creak).
I’d love to know whose fault it all is.

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Summer at Saint-Antoine 2012, Part 3

a mixed class of some genuine beginners, some people with experience of calligraphy but none of italic, and calligraphers wishing to improve their italic…
Some photos from the exhibition on the last evening of the course. The viewers streamed in and looked like they were enjoying it, including gathering around students and quizzing them about their work, &c.
Below, in the luminous Salle Blanche, a demonstration of tools and materials and different techniques. [Andrés Salguero, Keith, Pascale Tua, Inés Atienza, Yago Bolívar]
Then Keith explaining the finer points to Caroline [pronounced here in French] – not our Caroline; but a young Caroline who’s been at Saint-Antoine with her parents for most of the summers she can remember (I’d think) who has been “adopted” by our Caroline as an alter-ego (as she has adopted Carol). This year she sat in on several days of the course with admirable concentration – six hours of disciplined attention to letters can tax even the seriously obsessed – and says she will be an officially enrolled student next year. We’ll see whether the end of childhood and the arrival of adolescence change her mind or not.
Then Ingrid, who attended two back-to-back courses this summer (Anglaise and Italique – and who worked “obsessively” far more that six hours a day at both of them), attractively flanked by the abat-jours we were taught to make in Anglaise by Monica Mediano, which “little” Caroline then taught to everyone in Italique. They look remarkably good with lettering on them (see later image) and create a nice mellow lighting effect, but are no good for illuminating one’s late-night écritoire.
And an international – Catalan, Spanish, French [Ingrid Marquès, Inéz Atienza, Anna Lepvraud] exchange of comments and criticisms in a late-night session…Voilà, one of the abat-jours:Obviously it’s not meant to be used on this type of lamp – a “tea light” inside a glass would be better.
Is everybody here? Caroline, Andrés, Anne Claeys, [Ingrid’s empty chair], Hélène Prost, Evelyne Pascale who attended a few sessions, Anna, Marie-Do Lafond, Yago, Inés, Pascale…
I’m posting this, but it’s not finished…
Yay! people are sending me more photos!
Some photos from Anne Claeys:
An exercise in flourishing, a low x-height…

I think everyone got a reed…
Keith demonstrating with bleach/lleixiu/eau-de-Javel…
And work from the exhibition:
(Pascale, is this yours?)
Detail of a piece by Anna:
One of the many versions of a project by Anne:
And a detail of one of Ingrid’s many projects:
Anne sends more photos…
…of the demonstration sheets…
Keith had a little trouble with the exhibition “poster” on the activities blackboard – someone kept erasing it, presumably believing the calligraphy course ended on the same day as some other courses – No! the Calligraphie was still going strong, and working up to its end-of-course exhibiton……and here are some more of the pieces shown…
is this yours, Andrés? (Will you correct me if I’m misremembering please, all of you?)
Detail of an experiment, also by Andrés by Ingrid?.A couple of Marie-Do’s brush-lettered, illustrated haiku – see more at her blog.A gestuelle alphabet by Ingrid.And is this Yago’s?And is this Inés’s? A colourful text Ingrid says is Andrés’s. Oi?And now just in! photos from Pascale!
Still lives with calligraphic tools…Keith demonstrating, Yago, & Amanda…And a view of drawings during a demonstration of modifying a bottom-of-the-line, cheap cartridge “fountain” pen to write edged-pen scripts:

And now Andrés has sent what he describes as photos of the “dia del dia” of the course –
Anne hard at work:
The First Group of schematic majuscules –
An orderly work space
Andrés himself at work
Keith’s demonstrations of different pens, paints, papers…
I think this must be Marie-Do, hard at work?
And Keith, here I think demonstrating the “Coca-Cola” pens he made for everyone:
Thanks, Andrés!

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Summer at Saint-Antoine 2012, Part 2

The first of the moons of August, setting over the roofs of Saint-Antoine.
Next up: Anglaise. Sometimes known as “copperplate” in the anglophone world:
I did manage to solve the Canine Complication in time to arrive for the second week – which was just as well, as K was planning to attend this week as a student, and I was supposed to be the instructor. It is always wonderful to have Oriol Miró in a class – and an honour (he does keep claiming [so far] that our Saint-Antoine courses are els millors cursos de cal·ligrafia del planeta, even though he teaches his own fabulous courses at Els Àngels [Catalonia] and at Løgumkloster Højskole [Denmark]). He brought a comet’s tail of his own students – the Catalans (teachers themselves) Laia Soler, Ingrid Marquès; Ingjerd Broch from Norway, Monica Mediano from Madrid…
There’s always somebody who escaped my camera or K’s…Do any of you have more photos to share?
Especially of your (or others’) work? Because I haven’t much that’s in focus from the end-of-course exhibition. Please e-mail it to me, if you are willing to share!
And now, the view from the back of the class:

Mesdames, messieurs, I await your comments and photos!
Update! Additional photos from Christiane (a couple above, and the abat-jour in Part 3 are from Christiane, also):
Assorted profs – Keith helpfully sticking up demonstration paper
Amanda, trying to demonstrate a particular flourishWhen done well (better than here) it makes a pleasant heartshapeI meant to demonstrate everyone’s name – maybe not quite so “over-the-top” in the area of decoration. Bother me about it, and I’ll try to get around to it.Christiane obviously photographed me photographing NadineIngjerd, hard at work on a project for her exhibition which is still up at the time of writing (Ingjerd, have you a link to the exhibition, not just to your website?)And Ingjerd wearing her silk blouse, freshly hand-painted with an I by Keith, by Keith (this particular photo is by Amanda, but it wanted to fit in here):A photo of another of Nadine’s pieces
Keith escaped to the sanctuary of the Salle Iris. Cristina craftily trying out ideas for a calligraphic advent calendarAmanda, by Keith, I thinkKeith – escaping to the Salle Iris is productiveOriol, just finding the text…I’ll be happy to add more photos! Here’s one from the end-of-stage exhibition. I know you took more- please send them!
Nadine Martello, Christiane Soufflet, Bernard Vanmalle, Cristina Gascón, Keith Adams

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