marching on.......

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Many years ago I talked to a man who had had a near death experience (NDE).  I don't remember a lot of what he said, but one thing that stuck with me was that he told me the only things we can take with us when we die are love and knowledge.  I mention this only because I am sometimes asked why we started organising workshops at Les Soeurs Anglaises and very often I find it hard to put my finger on a good reason other than we enjoy it so much ourselves.  My long walks recently with our young dog, Nellie, have given me the opportunity to reflect however, and it occurred to me that the man's words were, indeed, what had informed the concept of our venue.  Not the love bit particularly (though it is, of course, relevant), but the knowledge aspect.  

If truth be told I am not, nor ever have been, an academic.  R&D is not my thing; but show me how to do something and I am immediately engaged.  Ten minutes with a darning expert, half an hour with a skilled chef or a whole day (or five days) with a gifted musician, and I am hooked.   I may never be an expert knitter, performance jazz pianist or professional upholsterer, nor would I want to be to be honest, but I long to "have a go" at papier maché, bind my own book, feel the magic of playing a simple piece of music, understand the process and see where it takes me.  And I want to share this frisson of learning with everyone I meet!   Luckily I have a sister (Susie), and a friend (Carol), who both indulge and compliment my enthusiasms, and with their support - and that of my long-sufferng husband - as well as the good fortune of havinga great venue, our idea of offering others the possibility to learn developed.  We don't always get it 100% on the nail, but we try our best to offer guests the opportunity to work alongside truly inspirational teachers in a relaxed, supportive and welcoming atmosphere; where all judgement is suspended.  Along the way we have met incredible participants - some are supremely talented, others are simply here to experiment with a new skill and enjoy the ride.. age is definitely of no consequence; it's the experiential knowledge that they take away with them that is important - whether that be in the short or long term whatever that is.....

But enough of my ramblings.....  if you haven't joined us before our new video, by a beautiful, talented, young French friend, Morgane Launey, may well say more than a thousand words.


Not sure how willing I would be to write anything on these memo-blocks, produced by the Japanese company Triad, whose main line of business is producing architectural models.  These incredible Omoshiro Blocks feature various notable architectural sites in Japan like Kyoto’s Kiyomizudera Temple, Tokyo’s Asakusa Temple and Tokyo Tower and are composed of over 100 sheets of paper, each sheet different from the next in the same way that individual moments stack up together to form a memory.

Two books I have read recently by British women and feel worth sharing, if for no other reason than that the writing is so good.  Both are collections of essays but very different in nature:  I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O'Farrell and Feel Free by Zadie Smith.  I have always been a great fan of O'Farrell's, less so Zadie Smith, but was smitten by the latter's beautiful, articulate prose and humanity. 

"The art of mid-life is surely always cloudier than the art of youth, as life itself gets cloudier. But it would be disingenuous to pretend it is only that. I am a citizen as well as an individual soul and one of the things citizenship teaches us, over the long stretch, is that there is no perfectibility in human affairs. This fact, still obscure to the twenty-one-year-old, is a little clearer to the woman of forty-one."  Zadie Smith

In an effort to become more environmentally aware, I have put my name down for a local bee-keeping course, something of which I know little or nothing!  The idea of being stung doesn't appeal to me much, but I feel i should "walk the walk" instead of just pontificating about how we all can make a difference. By keeping just one hive apparently, one is immediately introducing 50,000 pollinators into an local area and that in turn can have a huge impact on the environment.  A small effort, hopefully,  when most of the time I am unable to affect any of the sad changes that are happening to the environment.  In a less pro-active way, I've also purchased two magnets for my washing machine which, the theory goes, does away with the need for washing powder and thus numerous rinses.  Have to say, it seems to work so far.......

Dutch artist Vera van Wolferen creates intricate and meticulously-constructed, ultra-cute scenes out of paper, cardboard and wood. She is inspired by her everyday surroundings, seemingly common household objects, architectural elements and automobiles which she fuses into magical landscapes. There is even a kit to be bought from her website - something to do indoors as the temperature nose-dives methinks.

On the evening of Saturday, 10th March we will hosting our first Pop-Up restaurant with food by Louise Pickford of Come Cook in France - who will also be leading our Food Styling and Photography workshopin June this year - and wine provided by my husband, Mike, who used to run the Interesting Wine Club in London.  Louise is a superlative chef and will be providing a three-course south east Asian menu for up to 30 people - it's guaranteed to be fantastic (I have attended Louise's cooking classes myself and experienced first-hand the quality of food she provides).  If you are local and can join us, do please contact Louise directly to book.



katie armitage