Summer at Saint-Antoine 2012, Part 1

Everything about Saint-Antoine l’Abbaye is beautiful. It’s a wonderful place to hold our summer calligraphy courses. Or we wouldn’t have been doing it  since 1989.
Unfortunately for me, a Canine Complication meant I was unable to be there for Deuxième Niveau this summer. So Keith took on this summer’s second-level students alone.
Is it good- or ill-fortune to have “only” four students? Javier, Ausiàs, Cathy & Gérard. Only three languages to juggle?
Lots of luminous space in the Salle Blanche.
Working on classic elements of illumination and decoration…
Based on elements from the Visconti Hours, along with the stunning pen-made Roman majuscules from manuscripts by Bartolomeo San Vito.None of them are easy, but all are worth pursuing.I wasn’t there to take photos myself – many of these are Cathy’s. I believe Ausiàs is going to send some more? And so is Javier? Madame, messieurs? Vos photos? I rather think Gérard, you travel without a camera, and devote yourself to doing lettering rather than photographing it?
I await your supplements!

[Voilà! Ausias rises to the occasion, wonderfully!]
And here are some: a couple of photos from Javier – from the exhibition:

Posted in letterish | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Aperitifs & Medieval Illumination

Diapering. Lozenges. At the sides are two examples of my following our instruction (really, I don’t remember who was presenting it on those occasions) in a course on illumination, where gilding nine little 5mm square boxes is a start on gilding and provides something to build a square of diapering around. The one at the left is on vellum (warm) with “cold” colours – alizarin and cobalt; and the one at the right is on handmade paper from the Museu Molí Paperer at Capellades, with “warm” colours – vermilion and ultramarine. In the centre a range of examples where K played with diapering preparatory to a class, all on Capellades paper.

Here are a few historical examples…1)French, s XIIII…2)uncredited image – similar – French sXIII…3) background to full page initial from the Visconti Hours…4)uncredited image – s XIII…5) detail from the Lewis Psalter, Paris s XIII
If I held out for historical MSS I could cite by library and shelf mark this post might never appear…
K, long ago, suggested his phantasy of applying the visual tropes of medieval diapering to PIZZA. & told me about his idea. Indeed, I’ve wanted to apply his idea, myself. But I still have confidence he will actually do it.
Meanwhile, it has become increasingly difficult to resist the temptation…Look…Regard….
Eventually, I began to see that K’s idea about pizza might apply similarly to aperitifs. Just looking at the normal, everyday aperitifs that use odd bits of veg & cheese…sometimes without bread in the interest of lowering calorie counts while still taking advantage of our roof terrace – mustn’t waste it. That’s Sandy hiding under the aperitifs. & we take up the nuts really to provide the dogs with their aperitif…
Slowly the two ideas began to converge:
And perhaps the aperitifs begin to resemble the diapered backgrounds of the miniatures and initials.
1) September 23, 2011 – a birthday dinner with friends. Squaw candy [see below] – cream cheese, lemonpeel, black olives, homegrown chives and mint leaves… I’m getting tidier…
2) 14 October, 2011 – Conventional, commercial smoked salmon (no idea why, we haven’t run out of the real PNW local native American version yet), cream cheese, lemon zest, fresh basil…
3) You can see I don’t stretch myself about flavours, ingredients. What I have on hand…
August 9th – we practically/rudely invited ourselves to friends’ on the fringes of Paris – Madame had already left to visit her mother and was not available to cook. So I trawled the foodstocks in the car and came up with the Pacific Northwest hard-smoked [politically incorrect:] “squaw candy” salmon my elder daughter had brought us…and presented it on silly commercial “little toasts” – butter, thin slices of zucchini/courgette, sprigs of herbs found in hosts’ garden…I was really happy with this one – host avowed his son had left the cupboard bare, and between this and a salad and Col a la barcelonina we managed to keep our host and ourselves alive…
4) March 18 – a contribution to a stunning paella prepared by friends in El Tossal…They do such amazing dinners and so kindly invite us, that we have to contribute something…
Finally the concept begins to reflect the systematic symmetry of the diapered backgrounds of medieval illuminations…does it?
This is whole wheat bread from a local baker, cut as squarely as possible (by eye – I’m still lazy) and lightly toasted. The first layer is cream cheese. Then the black triangle is “diet” olivada – olivada made of only puréed black olives (“real” recipes are full of decilitres of extra olive oil), a little Dijon mustard…a mere fleck of garlic…then countercharged triangles of pimento de piquillo and thinly pared lemon peel accented with mint and celery leaves, carefully placed.
If I’d had the ingredients on hand, I’d’ve used Quark and lumpfish caviar in place of the cream cheese and olivada.
K claims the lemon peel “makes” it.
And that’s as far as I’ve gone, converging diapered backgrounds with aperitifs.
Please! Send me yours! Your diapered-background initials and your aperitifs! I’m waiting!
(Three bits of diapering of mine, and three of Keith’s. 1. a Z on vellum, 2. an “A” for an André, saggitarius, with the cross of St Andrew, 3. a medieval cat and a Hungarian G; 4. a “U” from the Corol·lari Català, 5. part of “Cacoethes Minuens” from Robot Magazine, and 6. a detail from Keith’s work reproduced in the introduction to C. Mediavilla’s “Calligraphie” in its Spanish translation “Caligrafía“.)

Posted in letterish | 5 Comments

Stray Dog Saga

The story of the abandonned dog has reached one level of denouement.
She’d been “around” a long time…
As long ago as the 25th of November I first saw her in a field apparently limping. That isn’t too strange – a couple of weeks ago big, friendly Capone developed a limp, but it worked itself out in a couple of days – after an examination showed no obvious problem – there are some sharp little caltrop-y thorns around here – his family surmised he’d twisted his ankle, as anyone might.
But closer observation of the stray dog showed that she never put the injured paw to earth (Capone when running, would run on his sore foot.)
She was tangled in some sort of wire that she couldn’t chew off, nor stretch.
Loose animals don’t necessarily adhere to any fixed schedule. And we spent the better part of two weeks watching her, watching for her, and trying to find out ways of catching her without harming her.
This dog is very timid. Everyone is convinced she has been mistreated.
When we first adopted Ruskin, then an abandonned dog in the village, our vet surmised that he’d been brought here by caçadors (“hunters” has different connotations in different languages – caçadors here are people hoping to shoot specially-released partridges or naturally occurring wild boar) and had run off as soon as the first shot was fired. Ruskin is terrified of fireworks and, of course, shooting season. We imagine a similar story for the stray dog.
She had survived pacifically here in the rough scrub and forest between the cultivated fields for over a year. We had observed her to have (at least one) puppy – one villager says he saw it. And many of us left food out for her. Also she accompanied us and our dogs on walks, though always out-of-reach of the dogwalker. We watched for her to make sure she was okay. Suddenly she wasn’t okay.
After trying many different techniques to lure her or catch her, finally the local Protectora d’Animals brought round an humane trap, and within 24 hours we got her!
On my sunset walk last night with Ruskin and Sandy, the trap was unsprung, but on the after-dark walk I wasn’t sure…and as soon as K got home from Barcelona he went straight to the trap and came back reporting she was there.
So we went out in the dark with flashlight, leads, pinch-collar and muzzle, and additional food. And it took both of us taking turns to hold her and put one or the other apparatus on her without her escaping the cage.
And once she was secure, K carried her to the car and we drove the short distance back to our house. Our own dogs being in their places for the night, the downstairs was available for her and we put her on the dogs’ “chair” (it was a chair, once) and set about freeing her from the wire.

Four different sorts of pliers/wirecutters wouldn’t do it, but the sewing shears worked.
And she’s had some food – we don’t know whether she’s helped herself to the water, but it’s there. And a long, quiet rest. At first she spent some time looking for a way out – or was she just looking for a cozier part of the basement to  hide in? But she’s been offered “walkies” several times and has not condescended to go out. Yet.
Today the people from the Protectora came to collect their trap, and to see the dog and comiserate with us, discuss veterinary treatment for the damaged paw, &c.
All this time I’ve been saying I didn’t suspect anyone of doing  that to her, that she must have scrambled after a rabbit through some brush where someone had carelessly tossed a bit of baling wire, or…
But now that I’ve examined the wire cable, it looks suspiciously like a trap. I said it to K, and he said “That’s what they said,” meaning the Protectora people. They think it must be taken to the police, because it is just as illegal to trap anything like that as it was to shoot Ruskin, when Ruskin was shot.
Warning: distressing image:
Update: This morning when K came back from walking Ruskin and Sandy (it’s been a juggle, taking each one outside so as not to foment discord) the Lady was very civil as they came in, and then she got up and whined at the door, bacause Capone had gone round with them and was visible through the glass. So I quickly snapped a lead on her and took her out and we followed Capone around a bit (I gave him some hints where to go – he’s pretty co-operative. He knows I have dog treats in my pocket at all times!) and she finally had several wees and a crap.
And Then during breakfast she came upstairs and poked her nose over the barricade. And everyone has had some of the free liver from my friendly carnissera, Pilar (thanks, Pilar!) for lunch.
If I can get a decent shot of her I shall, but she’s chosen her  preferred corner of the house and she’s sticking with it. Not Ruskin’s spot on the sofa nor Sandy’s in front of the butane heater, but a bit of floor between the sofa, a chair and the coffee table. So I guess she feels more secure there.
She has a vet appointment for Monday morning.
And we hope she’ll soon be as healthy as she was in October – and happier if we can make her so.
Thank-you, again to everyone who has given us moral and spiritual support toward helping her – in the village, and via FaceBook, &c. Thank-you all!

Posted in not letterish nor bathish | 11 Comments

A Friday Out

First we had to go to early Lleida Capital, the City of Lleida, to deliver some tax data to the tax office. It has been dull, grey, dark and rainy for days. We cannot complain, because we have needed an end to the drought.
So K parked outside the municipal library, which doesn’t open until 10. So I could paint the people waiting around for the doors to open, while I waited for him. I am easily amused. There was a lull in the rain (so the umbrellas aren’t up).
Unfortunately, the library did open at 10 o’clock. People were no longer standing, unconsciously posing for me. Ah hah! I thought: I can take photos of them and paint them from the screen on the camera.
People walk faster than you think, in the rain.
It makes interesting photos, but not necessarily photos easy to paint from onto post-card sized bits of paper while looking at the screen of the camera.
I needn’t have worried. Like last time, K was back well within the 40 minutes of parking 50 €urocents bought us. So we were able to follow our preferred itinerary for mornings we have to go to Lleida for the Spanish paper-chase, and drive to the beach via Flix (pronounced Fleesh). There is fabulous ham in the Bar Continental. We have a weakness for ham sandwiches for breakfast on those rare occasions we are out together in Spain at breakfasttime. And having stopped once in Flix, we are hooked.
The ham:
is Marcial Guijuelo and comes from Salamanca.
The proprietor kindly gave us the scraps to take home to our poor, starving, unloved dogs, who languish on the roof terrace when we abandon them for the beach. They deserve some compensation. Or we need to take them guilt presents.
The beach was deserted, but the sun came out just for us. Those are K’s footprints. He’s in there. Just over the swell.
Swell swell.
I won’t show you my scraped elbow, where the huge surf tossed me onto the pebbles.
While K gathered fallen pinecones for the hearth, some kyakers appeared in the swell swell….
It was too cold and windy for lunch at our favourite sidewalk café, so we took the indoor option, at La Olla. I love the founder’s portrait behind the bar, the very good wine and the fish (lluç this time) in orange sauce.
And then back into the fog.
Home to get warm again.

Posted in bathish | 4 Comments


In a post of September 28, 2011, Language Hat discusses the word “catchmark“.
My mind leapt at this; but I am dozy…our files are in non-digital disarray…and all the usual excuses.
Nonetheless, the citation was irresistable.
“Catchwords” we see all the time in the manuscripts we study. And they can be charming, adorable, and we wish there were opportunities to write about them at length…
But “catchmark” is a word I hadn’t run across, either.
Here a catchmark in the MS. continues points to a note in the outer margin, by another hand.
This image seems to meet the case.
Please observe the glyphs, the triangular delta and the the round-bottomed W before the marginal notes and their referents above the cited texts.
It is from Mont-Saint-Michel [Avranches] MS 86.
from the same manuscript. These glyphs are not what we are studying. But they are very beautiful and interesting.
We have more images. But these are the most characteristic, I think.
Are these the sort of marks you are referring to?
Encouraged by Language Hat, I am adding a couple more images: Another lovely “catchmark” symbol (really, we need a paleographer and/or a codicologist to confirm this use of the word and inform us of others), with beautiful uncial E as a free bonus; and (below) a symbol I’d probably just read as an abbreviation for “Nota” – an N and rudimentary uncial A in ligature.

-All still from the MS 86 in the fonds ancien of the Bibliothèque Municipal of Avranches.

Posted in letterish | 1 Comment

Calligraphy – by popular request

“A Potential Reader” (or two, actually) has/have expressed a wish to see a blog about calligraphy. That is partially what Ante-Bath Notes set out to be.
Here is a snippet from a Saint-Antoine course from 2008.

Perhaps it will inspire questions? Certainly it will please people who have complained that my on-line presence is too anglophone.

Posted in letterish | Leave a comment

Stalking Storks

[Editorial note: This post began to be composed on 22 September 2011.]
“Normally” every Thursday (and we’re back to “normal” now the summer courses are over) I go shopping in Guissona. The ancient Roman town of “Iesso”. Thursday is Market Day.
Today was my first “normal” Market Day of this Autumn. Hey! It’s Autumn! “Autumn” being also the beginning of the Academic Year. A new rhythm of weekly work, shopping, &c. Not the sort “normal” people have, because our “weekends” don’t coincide with theirs. We’re strange. We work Saturday and Sunday more intensely than other days. We have other anomalies.
So I set out to drive to Market, to Guissona.
And just two fields before the roundabout, something caught my eye. Something white in the field on my left. Was it a a bunch of seagulls flocking to some revolting manure spread on the field? Was it some egrets in a damp meadow?
It was storks. A huge (by my standards) flock of storks.
They were irresistable. We have known storks before. Keith has filmed storks nesting and flying  in Villafranca del Ebro and Urueña… And once some storks paused on their migration near our village, apparently because one of the flock was injured and couldn’t keep up…
But that is another story.
That Thursday (as I get back to my story slowly, it is longer and longer ago) I became very excited, and decided to completely warp my usual sequence of parking and shopping to get to the storks.
This meant parking at the Àrea de Guissona and walking back on the verge of the highway:
A dull-looking American housewife [significantly non-native species] in a potentially dangerous locale.
Nervously traipsing along the narrow “verge” of gravel between the highway and the array of ditches, camera dangling from my wrist, I progressed. Most vehicles gave me a very wide berth. Whether they thought I was likely to fall over into their paths, or what, I don’t know. That was scary in itself because often I could see that an oncoming truck in the other direction seemed timed to head-on at exactly the moment the vehicle behind me might be at the furthest point of it’s Amanda-avoidance trajectory.
And it was hot.
As soon as possible, I crossed the ditch. Then I was in a field and less dangerous to traffic. The stubbly field was remarkably uninteresting to tramp through in my American sandals. Strangely, I happened to be wearing black-and-white. I think that might have been an advantage in stork-stalking. With my ungainly gait and sympathetic colouring, I might have seemed less threatening.
I wanted to see why they had picked that field. They were eating. They were finding things moist and lively enough in that dry-looking field, that they hopped and pecked and gulped and swallowed. What?
Stalking storks from behind a frieze of reeds and weeds. There they are:
Soon I seemed to be “herding” them gently.
Whichever way I turned and approached affected every member of the flock. They ambled “casually” away from my threatening presence. Silently I pressed my digital shutter…

…and keeping the ambient sound.
God, they are so beautiful. I am a storkaholic.
Large, bipedal non-human creatures. And they can fly. Wow.
The pan includes the furthest left and right storks. The erect stork on the right seems to be a sort of sentry, guarding that boundary of the flock…
I will have more to add to this (and perhaps the story of the other local stork experience (distant ones, filmed by Keith, are a matter of record).
But with my slow loading connexion, this is all I can do now.
More to come….

Posted in not letterish nor bathish | 3 Comments

Summer at Saint-Antoine 2011 (Part 3)

More Vercors. We all have to stop focusing on something as immediate as the paper or skin in front of us, and re-focus on a distant prospect – as often as possible. Fortunately the Vercors is visible through the windows of the Salle Blanche.
Every year I remember that I don’t take enough photos. And so I start out slightly “better” than usual. But as time ticks by, I forget…forget…and there seem fewer moments when all the students are in the room together, and I don’t want to leave anyone out…And…
Here there are only photos of Keith showing his present manuscript. Some people with a hot project are back at their desks, working
The celebratory supper at the end of the course…
Perhaps you who were there have more photos to share? If you send me some more photos, I’ll update this post – okay?
Here endeth the Sessions d’Été de Calligraphie, 2011 à Saint-Antoine-l’Abbaye.

We’re working on the scheduling for next summer, but we really need the Salle Blanche (don’t you agree? the space…the light) – so we cannot publicize the dates until we hear from Maria. You’ll know as soon as we do.

Update! Photos from Marta:

An ordinary Saint-Antoine meal (above); and a special end-of-course dinner (below).
Update (take two) – photos from Lisi:

The perennial échauffement:
The perennial echauffement.

Reflection of the third floor mural text…

Have you photos to add?
Est-ce que toi, tu as quelques photos à contribuer?
Tens fotos, tu, per enviar?

Posted in uncategorized | 3 Comments

Summer at Saint-Antoine 2011 (part 2)

The courtyard and the abbatiale. Not the sunniest summer we’ve ever had. But the stone and grass only look warmer and lusher under grey skies.
The second session: Bâtarde Française. A course aimed at beginners or students with some experience who wish to improve their writing – and their ability to observe and analyse; this course presented the French Bâtarde script as found in Manuscript number 0422 of the Méjanes Library at Aix-on-Provence. Keith ran across this manuscript – many pages of which are visible here – and considered it would make a nice change as a “beginners’ script” from Italic or Carolingian (even though we choose different manuscripts each year for our Italic and Carolingian courses, so as not to be too repetitive for people who come back again and again).
I enjoyed reproducing the initial page on paper with a quill, ferro-gallic ink, &c.; but I never got further than ruling up on the piece of vellum I’d reserved. Nonetheless, the course participants did some excellent and interesting work (especially the genuine beginners).
As the weather was slightly better during the second course we took up the option of the mid-week après-midi libre and went off for spiritual refreshment to Cognin-les-Gorges. We had hoped to lure a student or two; but it was not to be.
Ari? Rosa? Peggy? Elisabeth? Viviane? Noëlle? Avez-vous des photos? Teniu fotos?

Update! Photos from Rosa!
(This was my copy from an online image of the manuscript – reddish-gold paint imitates what must be powdered gold in the original. My writing looks too spindly now, to me.)

Above: unusual calligraphic techniques may require unusual tools and materials: a plastic tub of baby can help keep students & teachers cheerful, as well!

And some nice photos from the end-of-course exhibition!
Thank-you, Rosa!
(Apologies for my own difficulty with the sizes of the photos.)

Posted in letterish | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Summer at Saint-Antoine 2011 (part 1)

The garden at Saint-Antoine. The compelling view from our fourth-floor window. I use the word “compelling” not as a less conventional alternative to “pretty”, but literally. The view of the garden with the Vercors beyond it seems to pull the eye towards it and hold its attention with small, subtle, slow changes: Dominique or Doro moving among the vegetable rows, harvesting lunch; a veil of mist forming above the Isère flowing unseen in its valley; sun and shadows shifting as the planet turns.

Deuxième Niveau at work and play. Six days working on non-Trajan Roman letters on textiles with brushes with Keith, and two days embossing on paper with Benoît Furet – such hard work requires frequent escapes to the Centre of the Universe (so designated by the Daughters): The Chapeau Rouge, for coffee or sometimes beer.

In class… I include my watercolour sketch/postcard only because it shows my tiny attempt to follow Benoît’s embossing/gaufrage session. Everyone did very complex projects – look at Blandine’s fabulous tablier! – but I was preparing for the next week’s course. And there they all are (at right) attentively following Ben’s lucid presentation. He claims to have “learnt” embossing from Keith a decade or so ago; but he has taken it so far beyond the instruction he received then that we were mute before him. He works with very simple basic tools and produces wildly complex, and complex-looking results. But his presentation for us beginners was very clear. Everyone went embossing-mad. I am only sorry I am such a slacker at photographing end-of-course exhibitions. I back away because so many of the participants are photographing every piece at different exposures, &c. Then my usual practice is just to wait for them to send or post their photos. Mesdames et messieurs, vos photos?

Deuxième Niveau 2011 – exhibition

My present camera has an almost-totally-useless “panorama” feature, and a very irritating wide-angle lens: the Salle Blanche is not curved. Nonetheless, I like this photo of the end-of-course show because Doro is walking through it. Wonderful! Thank-you, Doro! And it gives some vague idea of the variety of the work produced. Benoît, as usual (and despite devoting two days to official teaching) produced an amazing range of beautiful work, but (also as usual) in the form of many small, complex, detailed pieces with long texts. They don’t occupy much wall (or photo) space. Go and look at his web gallery and see them there!
Neither have I any photos of this course’s celebratory supper. Have you?

[coming “soon”: Part 2: “Bâtarde Française”]
You will have already seen Benoït’s excellent photos of many of your projects here.

Posted in letterish, uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments