Thursday, 16 August 2007

Sketching in the wind and whiffs of gramarye

Two days spent in the delightful company of Laura Frankstone. In the UK for a week all the way from North Carolina, Laura has been staying with friends in Woodbridge and popped over to Mersea mid-week, to fill some pages of her sketchbook with vignettes of island life, enjoy some of our famous local oysters at the Mersea Oyster Bar, and discuss the publishing of her Paris Sketches in book form. Between pub lunches, sketching trips and publishing talks, some impromptu art masterclasses delighted the children and some resulting work will be posted here when time allows.

The Muddy Island put on a bravura display of every kind of available weather (all except snow, thankfully) in quick and gusty succession, but Laura took it all in her stride. Having lived in Scotland while studying at the Edinburgh College of Art , she is well acquainted with the depressing dampness of the average Great British Summer. High winds have been a feature of the Muddy Island this week - even during the frequent interludes of cloudless skies and blazing sunshine. The annual Round the Island sailing race had to be cancelled as a result, much to everyone's disappointment, but with luck the rest of Regatta Week will go off according to plan.

Meanwhile, received an email from Susan Angebranndt of Green Chair Press. In response to my recent comment on her wonderfully inspiring blog, she offers another poem by Christopher Morley (and I shall forever be indebted to Susan for having introduced me to his work) - this time on the theme of 'Smells'. For someone who has not only been musing on the timelessly evocative aroma of printer's ink, but also recently been up to the elbows in plum jam and whose younger daughter came home with best white tee-shirt covered in pungent red marine paint, after she'd been 'helping' someone who was working on their boat . . . this simply could not be more perfectly apt. Enjoy:

Why is it that the poet tells
So little of the sense of smell?
These are the odors I love well:

The smell of coffee freshly ground;
Or rich plum pudding, holly crowned;
Or onions fried and deeply browned.

The fragrance of a fumy pipe;
The smell of apples, newly ripe;
And printer’s ink on leaden type.

Woods by moonlight in September
Breathe most sweet, and I remember
Many a smoky camp-fire ember.

Camphor, turpentine, and tea,
The balsam of a Christmas tree,
These are whiffs of gramarye. . .
A ship smells best of all to me!

['gramarye' means magic, or occult learning, from the Old French 'gramaire' or book of magic.]

(Susan - I promise that my future blog entries will not simply consist of material copied from your own!)

Oh, and finally, pressed for time as I am, I couldn't allow to go un-noted the fact that my copy of Alexander McCall Smith's The World According to Bertie arrived two days ago. I've been too busy to give it the attention it deserves, but have indeed abandoned my other reading projects in favour of Bertie and made a start and, yes, it is fully expected that 'unalloyed joy' will do very nicely to describe the experience. I shall be alone later, while everyone else, plus hoardes of everyone else's friends and relations, are eating baked beans under canvas (canvas being something under which I have never - since my seminal Florence Experience - been found, and never will be again while there is a protesting breath left in me), so I am looking forward to a long walk and a perfect solitary night in with Bertie and the other residents of Scotland Street.


monix said...

I finished 'Bertie' a couple of days ago. Enjoy! (But I bet you watched the rugby first!)
I'm also a great fan of Christopher Morley and did a post on that particular poem last year. I came across it many years ago and it is one of the few verses my failing memory can still recall.

Juliet said...

Hi M - bit of time-warp confusion here, I think! - this post was written back in August, and I finished Bertie a couple of days later (I would NEVER leave a new McCall Smith sitting around unread for more than about an hour!!). I will seek out your post on Smells!

monix said...

Silly me. Think how much money we might have won if we had known the outcome of the rugby so far in advance!