Cakes and cool things

So it turns out that as well as a long and few fraught history, a strong food scene and beautiful scenery Charleston also has quite a few good shops.

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Yes, big preppy chains (J Crew, Williams Sonoma) are there; yes, there a lot of one off art shops offering scented oils, pottery and paintings of sea scenes and oyster shells.

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But there’s also a bookshop and bow-tie store, there’s many, many antiques shops, and there’s a string of bakeries and stationery shops on Cannon Street.

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And food, obviously. All hail Hominy Grill and the Savannah Bee Company.

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Bright spots

For anyone who is legit getting back-to-work, end-of-summer blues, here are some bright spots.

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photo by @janebrocket;

a delightful article about a 96 year old millionaire who kept working as a secretary into her 90s and left her fortune to educational funds (aka something that will redeem your faith in humanity after the first commute this week);

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a beautiful photograph of tattoo apprentice @nxkxitattoo to accompany the news that there are now more women than men with tattoos in the US and that all-women tattoo parlours with a different vibe are opening up as a result;

this then reminded me of the Whiskey Sharp series by Lauren Dane, the first of which features a rock-drummer, talkative heroine who works in a hipster barber’s that doubles as a bar. The second is apparently about her cop-turned-tattooist sister;

and both would be really perfect for this draped-on-the-bed-with-pizza vibe from @aljahorvatco

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Maria Reiche

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If Google’s user customisation means that their search engine banners are becoming a permanent rotation of amazing women, then I’m fine with that. Maria Reiche was a mathematician and archaeologist, who seems have to have been the same kind of enterprising character as Dorothy Carrington a few days ago.

Granite Island

We envied the Cesari. They had leisure, and we had not had any for several years. The farm work seldom needed more than two of the brothers at any one time; the sisters got through the household chores in a couple of hours of the day. In the long intervals between work Francois shot hare in the maquis that Antoinette cooked in a pot on the open fire with olive oil and whole cloves of garlic; Antoine and Jean-Baptiste repainted the living-room, experimenting with pale Etruscan red framing several shades of blue and grey; Marie embroidered sheets with intricate patterns of roses; Pierette studied a book of the geography of the world….there were hours too when no-one did anything…

In London I had not taken the true measure of our deprivations. I had not understood how far  my daily load of anxiety was a craving for the things every peasant know: space, silence and food that was not stale.

Dorothy Carrington first went to Corsica in 1948, and large sections of the book are infused with a postwar melancholy about the effects of civilisation and the need to retreat to a rough landscape and older society.

But there’s also a much more contemporary zest, akin to Patrick Leigh Fermor’s writings, of discovering beautiful vistas and a motley crew of companions, albeit in Dorothy’s case more archaeologists and shepherds than Leigh Fermor’s east European aristocracy and Consuls.

The simmering pot was taken off the fire; it contained a mutton stew, thick with vegetables. But first we had plates of smoked ham and several varieties of smoked sausage, and tomatoes and raw onions swimming in the local unrefined olive oil which gave to all this food a provocative musky flavour; and afterwards came a homemade cheese made of ewes’ milk, oddly tasting for nuts, and finally small, very sweet melons.

If the book had stayed with this it would have been nice enough – I am enthusiastically reading myself into the holiday I’m currently dreaming of – but what makes it really special is that quite soon, Carrington turns the book into a serious and detailed history of Corsican society, from the mountain peaks to the fishermen, from the vendetta, the folk singers, the people cursed to predict and bring death to those they know and the soothsayers, from the revolutionaries who attempted a parliamentary democracy in the 1730s to the prehistoric statues and spirit huts near the capital Ajaccio.

This was completely fascinating – Carrington’s love for Corsica comes through, and she must have carried out huge amounts of research, from Greek texts to political treatises, but wears it lightly. Most praiseworthy of all, she definitely lives up to that other heroine, Gertrude Bell, in her willingness to scale a mountain in pursuit of an archaeological quarry.

The Garden Museum

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I last visited the garden museum with @saintofsoho just before it closed for a two year renovation, and hadn’t been back since, despite its mention in one of my favourite books.

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However, the Cedric Morris exhibition did lure me there on a sunny weekend recently. As well as the permanent collection, excellent cafe and courtyard garden designed by Dan Pearson, I thoroughly enjoyed this show of 1930s-1950s art by painter and iris-breeder Cedric Morris. (By the way, didnyou know that the Norwegian painter Astrup was best known in his day as a rhubarb breeder? There must be some kind of natural link between the talents…)

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There’s also a pair exhibitin at Philip Mould gallery until 22 July of Morris’ paintings of Portugal and Ireland that I’m keen to see and which is free.

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You flew

Lynette #1

grandma
you flew once
over mount taranaki

and landed
on fanthams peak
before the snow fell

all over your city
and when they looked up
they thought they saw an angel

but it was just you on your way home
from the supermarket and your feet needed a rest

(Faith Wilson)

Podcast of the week

My love of podcasts is still going strong, and the latest one to cross my radar (very much in a sequence of Backlisted and The Reading Women) is the LRB podcast.

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The first pieces were very much in the nature of 20 minute reviews, so if you want to know what a Giorgione painting is or isn’t, and the chicanery is art attribution, or an investigation of if “international relations” is just “race studies”, then it’s here.

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But there’s also a longer-form interview style that develops, so you can also hear the Asia editor of The Times on North Korea, discussing with an American South Korean author the common iconography of north and south Korea, or a riveting, freewheeling, incisive interview with Carmen Callil of Virago fame (“such a lot of short malnourished people with bad teeth”) on Angela Carter and why Bohemia is bad for women.

In fact that latter one was ringing in my ears as I went to the Rodin Museum recently and thought of Augustus John saying with complete seriousness what a “great pleasure” it must be for his sister Gwen to serve such a man as Rodin…

Get travelling

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Fascinated by this video collection called The Sari Series, which shows you how saris are worn differently across the subcontinent. The aim is to remind younger women how versatile the garment is, how they can mound it to their own style and how it doesn’t have to be relegated to occasion wear.87738174-A991-48E4-AB2A-82EE7B7A46D2

You can search by region, and again there are several styles that are standard here, with some styles that cross state. “borders”.

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For anyone who’s followed Instagram feeds and wondered what the different style names refer to, this is your guide.

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