Sunday, 3 November 2013

Reading v. Shopping

I've previously written about my friend Simon taking his interior inspiration from Edith Wharton, here.  Watching L'Amour Fou, the documentary that was made about Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge - their relationship, their houses and their collection - I've discovered that Simon is in excellent company:  Saint Laurent and Berge decided to make their house in Normandy a 'Proustian' house, and decorated the rooms after different characters.  Saint Laurent's own rooms were decorated after Swann, a character he was apparently obsessed with, always taking his name when travelling.

For the longest time, I imagined that I'd read all of Proust over one hot summer in Paris, lying in the Jardin du Luxembourg, alternately eating madeleines and smoking cigarettes.  I'm not sure what I thought I'd be doing job wise - well, obviously, not much, as reading Proust would be my main occupation - I guess I thought I'd be a part-time nanny, or something.  I was probably reading too much Henry James at the time.  Regardless, it never happened, and it's now beginning to occur to me that it's a bit late.  There's no way I could lie in a park and read anything with Sholto and Esmeralda as companions. For a start, Sholto's a bolter, and I can't take my eyes of him for so much a split second.

But now that Sholto is three and Esmeralda is one, and I've nearly finished the new Donna Tartt and read the glut of great new releases that were published over the summer, I'm wondering if it's time to start finding out more about that Mr. Swann.  Either way, I've got to find something to steer me away from overdoing the Christmas preparation (i.e. scouring Ebay for Royal Copenhagen Christmas china.)

Just in case you're interested, this is what else is on my Advent list:

The Blodwen Mistletoe Candle.  It's sounds like heaven, right?  And it's (comparative to Diptique) good value, at £19.  Top of my wish list.

It'll get me in the mood for writing these:

Totally adorable Christmas cards from the V&A. I love sending Christmas cards so much that I actually have to refrain from writing them before the start of December.  And then I love stringing up the ones I receive on red satin ribbon that I thread through the banisters.

And maybe even for making one of these:

A hand-made advent calendar.  I mean to make one of these every year, obviously haven't, and so have yet again resorted to the V&A shop. Those of you with children, woe betide getting to the first of December and not having something ready . . . . 

I spied these Russian-esque decorations in the Graham & Green catalogue this weekend, and am definitely adding them to my wishlist.  My absolute favourite Christmas ornaments are traditional Soviet tin dolls that my Russian friend Ksenia gave me.  This is the closest I've seen to them in the UK.

This Mario Testino cover is my other inspiration for Christmas this year:  specifically the pom-poms.  I'm going to make masses, between now and the beginning of December, in red, orange, pink and turquoise, and string them up in clusters all over the place.  (I figure this is slightly more likely than my making an advent calendar.)

Incidentally, I found the chicest idea ever for an alternative to the traditional Christmas tree in the December issue of House & Garden:  a flat board, which can be propped against anything, through which a series of LEDs are pushed, depicting the shape of a tree, but nothing more.  Were I doing a minimalist Christmas, I would definitely go down that route.  

Regarding food: I went to a dinner party on Friday night at my friends Laura's (she of Little Miss Homes) and Patrick's (her husband) and was fed spectacularly well.  We had soup with stilton croutons, really good bread and the best salted Cornish butter (Patrick had been to a particular shop to find it), followed by venison with kale and potatoes dauphinoise, followed by rhubarb crumble with clotted cream.   Aside from the fact that it was a night that typified the Buzzfeed 20s v. 30s party (we had a conversation about the benefits of liquorice tea) I learnt that all my friends - literally all of them, those same friends that, at school, were the masters of opening a bottle of wine with only a French dictionary and a four-colour biro - get weekly delivery boxes from Abel & Cole.  Like, what?  I thought we all still lived on M&S ready meals.  But no!  And, what's more, it turns out it's like some secret club.  They text each other, with things like "We got squash - yay!" or "Pomegranates - how good can this get?!"  (Oh my God we've all become cliches.)

Regardless, I'm thinking of starting a regular Abel & Cole subscription.  Discovering that they deliver clotted cream is what totally sold me on it.  It also means that we're going to eat way better over Christmas than we would normally.

Of course, getting fatter (on the afore mentioned clotted cream) also means keeping warmer.  Mostly.  Nothing on earth can make my parents' house warmer, which is where we're going for Christmas itself: the thermostat is set to 16 degrees, which is kind of irrelevant, because the heating is so seldom turned on.  So I'm really hoping that Andrew gives me one of these:

A vintage Welsh blanket.  I've pointed him in the relevant direction.

I definitely need a good book to read before I find my fingers accidentally clicking 'buy' on any of those websites . . . . (they also do vintage Welsh blankets)