Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Malcolm Gladwell Writes

I’m an authorholic. Every few years I seem to discover a writer whose style and content grab me, and if it is not their first book, I find I have to read everything else they’ve written. Immediately. However, it is such a wonderful feeling for the first couple of books that I can’t resist, and any subsequent pain or disappointment for my OI (overindulgence) is compensated for by the exhilaration felt initially. So to the latest ‘drug’ of choice, it is Malcolm Gladwell.

The first book I read of his was What the Dog Saw: and Other Adventures (his latest, used copies available from from £7.99). It is a combination of real-life stories about people and personalities, many obscure, and on subjects and concepts which I would not necessarily have pursued if left to my own devices. However, the author makes them engrossing and add this to a style which is both fluent and flowing, and one can understand why Gladwell is such a popular writer.

Once finished I couldn’t wait to get hold of his earlier books. Outliers was the next and in many ways I liked it even more. It is also non-fiction but deals with very different material to WTDS. Are all the facts presented correct? Well they certainly seem logical. They are supported by graphs and examples, that it is difficult to believe they are erroneous and that he would risk incurring the wrath of those he quotes. Certainly much of what is written has made me reappraise views and opinions I previously held.

I now have two more books of his to look forward to and I can’t wait. I shall therefore have to close, make myself comfortable and start to read Blink. Will this be the one that broke the camel’s back? I hope not. Meanwhile I’d love to hear what authors other readers have become addicted to!

For more information about Gladwell and his books go to:

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Full Steam Ahead

Hopefully you will have received our newsletter by now with up-to-the-minute information about the various workshop leaders - what they are currently busy with, where you can see their work or catch an exhibition or even get to meet them. What busy people we all are!

from Rachel Hazell's blog:
Our first workshops are heading fast towards us and it looks like the Argentine Tango, with Bianca and Sasha from Rojo y Negro, is going to be lots of fun again. If you are still hesitating, there is a 10% discount if you book before the end of March - an opportunity to learn some snazzy new moves with this amazing dance and enjoy the company of interesting people in luxurious and comfortable surroundings. Not to mention the fab food and wine!

The cold weather continues here in S W France though it does seem a little warmer today and the sun is definitely shining - a nice change from those dusty grey snow clouds. An enforced stay indoors is, anyway, a very good excuse for Mike to start work on this year's workshop menus and he's been busy reading through his cookbooks, testing recipes and making notes. He'll spend the next few weeks trying to source the less than quotidian ingredients and with our trip to San Sebastian only a couple of weeks away now we will be able to re-stock with some of their wonderful olive oil, dried tomatoes and txakoli wine that you can only buy there. Can't wait...

Linguini with cauliflower and roe
There is a service here in the Dordogne called Sterling Shopping that will deliver from the UK anything from Windolene to washing machines. At a price, but sometimes cheaper even then. Living in France is a great privilege - beautiful landscape, wonderful food, little traffic - and we English sometimes forget that we are guests, but there are huge commercial differences on either side of La Manche and it's sometime difficult to get to grips with the laid back attitude of some of the French shops and businesses. Less stressful for them, that's for sure, but quite frustrating for us Brits who have become used to the neo-American style back home. On the other hand we are often surprised by the kindness and generosity of our Gallic hosts, whose helpfulness often goes well beyond the call of duty.

And, of course, we have the Internet, so it's pretty easy order stuff and have it delivered directly. I have been a great fan of Louise Loves for some years now; she runs a sort of textile brocante on the web where she sells wonderful traditional quilts and unusual vintage fabric pieces. She has recently opened a shop in Hay-on-Wye so if you're visiting that neck of the woods it might be worth a small detour. Her web stock on the website seems a little low currently but visit her blog to catch up with all her plans and offers.

Talking of brocantes I recently visited the Red Cross charity shop at Riberac and after scrummaging around for an hour or so I came across their well-hidden boxes of buttons. All beautifully sorted into colour and type, I managed to buy these to add to my already huge collection for exorbitant price of 1€! Haven't decided quite yet what to do with them, but it won't be long.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Spring Clacking

As spring approaches, croci and daffodils are appearing in our gardens down here in sunny S W France; les grues (that’s French for cranes) are flying in from cooler climes, whilst the knitting needles are still clickity-clacking. It's an inspiration how many people - well, women - are taking up knitting these days; even my daughter, previously uninterested and of the "let's just buy it" generation, is now desperate to learn to knit and crochet.

Why the sudden interest? Well, it's certainly no longer the cheap hobby that clothed the whole family for a fraction of the cost of bought items, that's for sure. But thanks to the fashion industry's recent conversion to all things hand-made - shrugs, collars, fingerless gloves, accessories and even jeweller, all with the appearance of a home-knit, but more likely made in China - many of the general public, both young and not-so-young have been inspired to get out their knitting and crochet needles sometimes for the first time.

If you live nowhere near a decent supplier, yarns are now so easily available to buy over the Internet it's hardly worth rallyin forth into the great outdoors; one of our favourite sites has to be Loop, based in London and moving premises soon to something a bit larger but in the same area of Upper Street in Islington. Their website is beautifully constructed, easy to use and the photos are guaranteed to get your knitting juices flowing. Meanwhile, at Rowan Knits, you'll find plenty of design books packed with designs for men, women and children (some knitted on size 20 needles which would definitely speed things up!) and much much more, though some are obviously directed towards the more proficient knitter. I recently discovered locally a gorgeous book by Hikaru Noguchi called "Elle Tricot " which is jam-packed with exquisite knitting and crochet designs, with beautiful illustration photos by Hiroki Mori.

Knitting, the UK's Knitting Institute's official magazine is another source of great ideas and tips, as well as a resource tool and they will collaborating with us at Claire’s workshop here in 2011. Another reason for knitting and crocheting's sudden popularity mgiht be the availability of exceptionally stylish but simple knitting patterns by the likes of Erica Knight, and Claire Montgomerie - what better reason is there to join a club, group or workshop to learn the basics or improve your technique.

Claire Montgomerie's workshop here last year concentrated on knitted and crochet jewellery. One of the participants, Nakita, who had travelled from Dubai to join us, and had never knitted a stitch in her life before, left with a beautiful and delicate necklace (a family heirloom?); and all participants went home after three days stitching and making new friends with home-made socks, little decorative balls, corkscrew scarves, and bags of goodies and good intentions. This May Claire is back here to teach the techniques of designing and structuring your own fashions as well as altering existing patterns - incredibly useful if you, like me, can never find a pattern that meets my exacting requirements.

Known to all keen English knitters and stichers living in France is La Droguerie. Our nearest branch is in Bordeaux (there are others dotted across France) and it is a veritable treasure trove of wools, buttons, ribbons, beads and so on. A wonderful tactile place that sadly doesn't as yet sell through their website. However, we are working on the logistics of how it might be possible to visit them during Claire's next workshop here. Certainly if you have never been on a knitting course, this is the one you should join; after all there aren't many places you can visit, knit at leisure with like minded friends, enjoy good food, wine and inspiring surroundings all at the same time?