Wallflower Dispatches

Wallflower Dispatches header image 1

The Charming Mountain Goat – The Great Debate

November 23rd, 2013 · No Comments · Charming Mountain Goat, Provence, South of France · Print this page

Perhaps those people who move to foreign countries and never learn to speak the language of their new homeland are on to something much more profound than previously realised.

Before being in command of the French language, it appeared attractive because of its melodic sound, its elegant phrasing and all those many words. They joy of first breaking through that crucial part in the sentence where one word finishes and another starts was revelatory.

The satisfaction of taking part in a conversation and holding one’s own is immense. But just as the saying goes that “you don’t learn a language you learn a culture”, there is a point when your knowledge tips you to the other side – a darker one.

A few years ago, writing in the summer heat with the windows open, the aforementioned melodic humming of native French speakers was wafting softly towards my ears. The Provencal accent adds even more to the beauty of the French language – gently singing each word echoing its Italian influences.

Even though I was not actually listening, the intensity of the conversation between the group of man outside compelled me to listen. As I stopped writing and tuned it I learned the following; this was not a learned exchange on the activity at hand (planting a vine to grow on the wall of a village house).

Instead, it was a deeply analytical exchange on the amount of croissants one should consume and how much one needed to exercise to work them off.  Two hours and a small number of minutes later, this was still being discussed with the same fervour and intensity. Presumably, however many croissants had been eaten that morning, the effort of the discussion would have burned off any fat.

Despite the heat, I closed the window.

And here is the dark side of understanding the French language; the French love to air their opinions with all their little twists and turns. One can listen and get lost in less than ten seconds, as the aim is never to actually come to a conclusion, find an answer or solve the problem.

In preparation for her leaving exams next summer, Piglet 1 has recently started her one-year course of philosophy. This is compulsory.

However, as her teacher pointed out at the parents evening, this 8-hour a week course is not there to introduce these young adults to the major ideas of western society, but: “to help them express themselves in proper French and teach them how to write well.”

So the rules as I understand them appear to be as follows: one talks to merely talk. The aim is to rattle off as many words as possible, and under no circumstance must communication take place. The person who talks most and longest and wears out the other person first, wins.

Perhaps this is a little harsh. I will make sure to talk to my neighbour about this subject next time I have a few hours to spare.

→ No CommentsTags:

Jodhpurs Nr. 78 – Janet Bouvier née Lee

March 7th, 2013 · No Comments · Jacqueline Kennedy, Jodhpurs · Print this page

Jodhpurs Nr. 78 by Janet Bouvier at the Southhampton Riding and Hunt Club. She is wearing black riding boots and a polka dot scarf.

Janet Bouvier nee Lee and Jack Bouvier, the parents of Jacqueline Bouvier and Caroline Lee Bouvier, respectively known as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Princess Lee Radziwill, are shown here in happier times.

The photo appeared recently in the The NY Times, T Style Women’s Spring Fashion 2013, in the Nicky Haslam feature The Real Lee Radziwill
(Photographer: Mario Sorrenti (interior Francois Halard)
 Make-up: Fulvia Farolfi 
Fashion Editor: Carolina Irving)

→ No CommentsTags:···················

Jodhpurs Nr. 77 – Skiing Lessons

November 27th, 2012 · No Comments · Jodhpurs · Print this page

Jodhpurs Nr. 34 from Quebec, date unknown.

Note how the gentleman seems to have adding additional bandages around his calves.

Early example of jodhpurs as winter sportswear.

→ No CommentsTags:·····

it’s just a thought…

November 26th, 2012 · No Comments · It's just a Thought · Print this page

“Given the choice between the experience of pain and nothing, I would choose pain.”

William Faulkner 1897-1962

→ No CommentsTags:·

The Charming Mountain Goat – Graffiti

November 26th, 2012 · No Comments · Charming Mountain Goat, Provence, South of France · Print this page

Having learned English from scratch from the age of 12, there are many happy little stories of mistakes made in grammar and vocabulary. Some words will always be associated with an anecdote and are the ones that stick more deeply in one’s brain.

The first time we drove down our tiny little village road here in France, newly collected keys to the house in hand, we passed a house front on which the words “Ma Lute” were scrawled. Our first encounter with provençal graffiti!

It took some time before I remembered to look up the word “lute” in a dictionary and it did not seem to exist.

As the French language penetrated into my brain, one day it struck me that this backwater Banksy had misspelt his own graffiti and what he had wanted to say was in fact: “Ma Lutte” – my struggle.

It took some more time before I worked out that this was a reference to a book written by that moustachioed, failed Austrian artist who went on to run Germany between 1933-1945.

Cultural lessons learned: a. there is a strong right wing mentality in the South of France and b. graffiti does not get removed quickly.

So it was with some interest that we all followed the emerging art of a person fond of a green spray can whose work suddenly appeared overnight in April of this year along the route departmentale between the coast and our mountain range.

His message was simple, strong and it rhymed: “Mélenchon Président” – Mélenchon for President!

In other words: the leader of the Left Party, Jean-Luc Mélenchon was running for president and someone really really wanted him to win.

The unknown artist’s work was seen on any conceivable rock mass, posters of the other candidates, walls and street corners. It was so prominent that I actually began to believe that M. Mélenchon might beat President Sarkozy, François Hollande and Marine Le Pen.

During the heady days of the presidential election with its passion, debates and backbiting, our village woke up one morning to find itself blessed with no fewer than 12 speed bumps.

Like anything that sees the light of day in the gleaming sun here, the speed bumps were of varying width and height.

In addition, some of the higher ones lacked the white markings on the road and there were no street signs to warn drivers of the impending obstacle.

The revolt and reaction of the village folk was immediate. By the evening the higher speed bumps were decorated by graffiti. As I drove along the road, bouncing as if on a roller coaster I very innocently read out loud what was written in the road. It appeared to be addressed to the original master of the speed bumps, the Mayor himself.

The children chided me loudly and violently: „That is a very bad swear word – you shouldn’t say that!!“

Even “Mélenchon Président” at the village entrance had acquired a new couplet which used the more swear words in connection with the Mayor.

I reflected on how we would be driving past these words in the years to come and how I would never forget the new swear word I had just been taught.

The next morning, the messages to the Mayor had all been painted over by the public services workers.

A week later some of the more offending speed bumps were reduced.

This month (month six after the event), a small speed bump sign has been erected.

The shout “Mélenchon Président” continues to welcome new visitors to the village.

I trust the Mayor is taking these decisions in order of urgency and importance.

→ No CommentsTags:····

Jodhpurs Nr. 76 – Jacqueline Bouvier (later: Kennedy Onassis)

June 1st, 2012 · No Comments · Jacqueline Kennedy, Jodhpurs · Print this page

Jodhpurs Nr. 76 by Jacqueline Bouvier, Southampton

→ No CommentsTags:····

The Charming Mountain Goat – Traffic

May 21st, 2012 · No Comments · Charming Mountain Goat, Provence, South of France · Print this page

The epicentre of all our village traffic activity is a small stretch of tarmac called the Grande Rue.  The street’s dimensions are about 800 metres in length (from entering the village to leaving it) and about five metres across at its widest point.

It would appear, that those inhabitants who never left the village, and for whom this thoroughfare of commerce meant the world beyond their dusty stonewalls named the street centuries ago.

In the morning, as we sit in our little traffic jam of school buses that battle for the space to pass, we can lean out of our windows and chat to the neighbours who might enjoy an early morning coffee by the roadside. This momentous disruption lasts for about ten minutes.

Once traffic came to a standstill because a truck got stuck transporting a swimming pool sideways past the top floor windows. Otherwise it is the more arrogant of the village’s cats that force us to break and slow down to a standstill at various times of the day.

But mostly the tumbleweed of dried leaves, paper and the odd piece of rubbish rushes across the empty way that leads to civilisation.

So it was with some surprise to find a great part of aforementioned Grande Rue torn up for speed bumps to be installed and a narrow divider strip hammered into the tarmac. When the plastic bollards went up in the middle of the road at erratic intervals, we all held our breath.

Only three hours later, it was confirmed that the battle “plastic bollard vs. 10 ton school bus” was clearly decided in favour of the latter.

Piglet 1, an eyewitness on the bus that carried away the victory crown reported the details as follows: “We drove into the village and since the bus is so wide, it drove straight over the bollard. Suddenly there came another bus towards us, so we had to back up to create more space for it. That’s when we drove over the bollard again.”

You have to imagine this very brief statement interspersed with great peals of uncontrollable laughter only teenagers at the end of long arduous school week can muster. Although the bollards took only five seconds to be destroyed, the story took quite some time to tell.

The bollard, its main component being plastic, did not recover from the experience and lay slain and humiliated in the middle of the road on Monday morning.

And now the main culprit responsible for all of our traffic dramas is the construction of a roundabout just outside the post office. Yes, we are going to be the proud inhabitants of a tiny village with an actual roundabout.

A faithful group of about 12 men is charged with this historical task; three seem to do the work, two stand by and watch, one drives the truck, two hover in the background and the last two stand by the roadside and gawp. Two more move around in a busy manner.

All this remarkable activity is the brainchild of the mayor who has embarked on a building and construction campaign of furious and epic proportions.

More on that next time.

→ No CommentsTags:·

The WD Interview – Lizzie Garrett Mettler, Author “Tomboy Style”

April 3rd, 2012 · No Comments · Arts & Culture, Design & Fashion, The WD Interview · Print this page

Lizzie, congratulations on the publication of your book. For those who don’t know your blog – what is tomboy style?

Thank you so much! The blog is a way to visually explore the definition of tomboy style, past and present, and think about its tangential subjects. It’s been so much fun to do!

How did you come up with the idea?

I was a classic tomboy growing up, everything a boy did, I wanted to do.

I noticed that there was a link between this “tomboy spirit” and the fashion that identifies with it. I thought it would be an interesting topic to explore from there.

What did you enjoy most about the making of your book?

Pouring over all the photography and the decades of fashion.

There is so much to look through and be inspired by and learn about. I was a history major in college, so I was definitely in my element during that process.

The editing was very difficult though!

Who are your favorite tomboy style icons and why?

I love the unfussy style of Jane Birkin, she always seems so casual, comfortable, and herself while still looking undeniably stylish.

Why is tomboy style more than just women/girls wearing trousers and dressing in a mannish way?

I think tomboy style is made up of equal parts style and spirit—anyone can put on an outfit, but to be a real tomboy it takes more than that.

I think there’s a certain rebelliousness, confidence and sense of adventure in a true tomboy.

What is the most important accessory for a tomboy?

Good question. I like men’s watches and sunglasses.

Tomboy Style - The Grid

Will you continue with your blog now that the book is published?

Yes. It’s something that I really enjoy doing. I get great suggestions and comments from readers turning me onto icons, designers, musicians that I’ve never heard before, and even some of their family members and friends that continually excite me and inspire me.

Which of the seven tomboy archetypes described in your book are you?

I think I’m a mixture of the prep, the girl-next-door, and the sophisticate. That’s what my closet tells me anyway!

At the moment, tomboy style is part of mainstream fashion – what advise can you give to those women who are true blood tomboys and will remain so even when the fashion has passed?

The fashion world has embraced tomboy style over and over again for over 100 years, it will continue to ebb and flow.

I think following fashion trends is never all that helpful to creating and maintaining your own personal style.

The important thing is to be true to yourself and reflecting that honestly with your wardrobe. Trends in fashion should have little to no influence on that.

What’s next for Lizzie Garrett?

A little book tour and a little rest, and then on to something new!

Tomboy Style is now available at Rizzoli.

→ No CommentsTags:········

Jodhpurs Nr. 75 – Myrna Loy

March 1st, 2012 · No Comments · Jodhpurs · Print this page

Jodhpurs Nr. 75 by Myrna Loy in the film “Wings in the Dark” 1935

Check out the cream aviator jodhpurs that Myrna Loy wore in the film on my tumblr http://jodhpursandsons.tumblr.com/ or here.

To see the full history behind the costume, click on centre of the number that appears in the middle the photograph.

→ No CommentsTags:·····

Jodhpurs Nr. 74 – Audrey Tautou

February 29th, 2012 · No Comments · Jodhpurs · Print this page

Jodhpurs Nr. 74 by Audrey Tautou in the film Coco before Chanel (2009)

→ No CommentsTags:····