Back in Dorset now, until we cross the Channel to prepare for a Family Christmas, we are able to catch up with our fellow Winterborne Walkers over Christmas Dinner at the Countryman Inn in Wool. The following week it’s time to meet up with my fellow readers to discuss a book which has proved to be an unanimous hit, The Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver. The following evening we have our lovely friends Eamonn and Celia to supper. In amongst these Dorset days we make a weekend visit to Godalming so that I can go to Mary’s Private View.
With her 90th birthday just days away Mary is a marvel. She did not take up painting and potting until she reached 60 after which she developed her ranges of slipware which are well-known locally. Her work has its devotees amongst which I count myself, being particularly fond of her Quince plates and dishes. Sister-in-law Lis, nieces Harriet and Briony have all received a Wondrausch item from me and I have a some lovely pieces too. Her latest project has been to embark on a series of paintings which are a combination of watercolour, gouache and collage of snippets taken from magazines and other literature. These pictures have two themes. One set of pictures features still life compositions incorporating nature’s harvest: medlars, mushrooms, quinces, globe artichoke. The other range consists of portraits of Mary’s large collection of vases, jugs, pots and glassware embellished with floral arrangements. Five of Mary’s paintings have found their proper home on our walls in St Vaast 🙂
Hotfoot from France I raced up to Godalming the following day to meet up with my hairdresser, Cat, for a much-needed coiffure. At the same time I caught up with the Perrymans, re-borrowed Charlotte’s lovely dress and called in on Mary Wondrausch to deliver a gift from her French friend, Monique, who lives in Morsalines which is just down the road from St Vaast. I bought another of Mary’s collage paintings to add to the pair we now hang in France. This time I was invited to coffee by her oh so cosy fireside in the small parlour of her house at Brickfields. I had managed to persuade her to allow me to take a photo of her for Monique but in reality Mary really dislikes photos and would much prefer that people look and capture with their minds. So she was not happy about my taking any interior photos. Happily I have a copy of her book entitled ‘Brickfields’ which is richly illustrated with photos of her home, workshop, pottery and paintings. I will be meeting her again soon when an exhibition of her work opens at the Watts Gallery in Compton.
On Tuesday when Esme and Dick returned to Portsmouth they boarded the ferry at Ouistreham that had brought our friends John and Celia to stay until the end of the week. They last came to St Vaast several years ago, before the dry rot episode which was to prove such a trial. Then their visit was part of a week of shore searching and shell-collecting with fellow Conchological Society members. This time with inclement weather and Celia’s reduced mobility we were happy to sit and talk shells, conchologists and tuck away delicious seafood. John has always been adventurous in the kitchen and especially with such delights as the sea can deliver. One evening he presented us oysters three ways and he also served ‘Praires farcies’ – Venus clams dressed with butter, garlic and parsley and eaten out of their shells.
Excursions were made by car as well as short walks around our neighbourhood. One day popped into Maison Gosselin and I took the opportunity of a nearly empty shop to take some photos. Even so it was not easy to capture the Aladdin’s cave feel of a store overflowing with beautifully displayed goodies of every kind.
It is rare for John to fail to capture a shelly treasure wherever he goes. On this occasion he visited the small Musee run by another Gosselin individual and persuaded its owner to part with the distinctive scallop shell lamp which has graced his window certainly since we have lived in St Vaast, and probably for much longer. It was a snip at 20 Euros.
At the end of our very agreeable week John and Celia crossed the Channel, homeward bound and we followed a couple of days later for an important appointment.