Sunday, 18 November 2012


There are times, I admit, that I reckon my life would be easier if I had one of those super modern gas fires that look like fluttering flames around a few logs in the fireplace, and the illusion -- as well as the heat -- could be acquired with the flick of a switch. But for me to achieve the same effect, I must hie myself down to the wood pile beneath the terrace and fill up two big blue plastic IKEA bags with logs and kindling, and haul them up the stone steps into the house and unload them in the woodbox... And then, cleaning the glass doors on the fireplace insert... And then, the matter of setting the fire with crumpled newspapers and twigs gathered on my walks in the hills... And then, feeling as if I am accomplishing my Girl Guide Badge in firelighting, one match and.... no, it'll take a second, it almost always does. But soon, the fire is blazing, and I have burned a few calories myself in getting it started. So that's the payoff... that, and the physical effort that puts me in touch with the world.

(And yes, I know that since we've read the recent story in the international press about IKEA using slave-prisoner labout in East Germany in the 1980s that I should boycott it, but hey, the bags are so useful, and I already have them here, okay?)

It is getting colder as each week passes, and that's why I close down LE MAS BLANC WRITER'S RETREAT until the springtime. Staying in the barn during the winter would require an electric  heater to be on most of the time, and with the cost of electricity as it is in France, it wouldn't be a sensible plan, or even a comfortable one, at all... So this is just to say that the retreat opens again in  mid-March, and the last two weeks of March are already booked by Lindy,  a writer from Kingston, Ontario... You might want to visit HER blog, especially if you've  already been enjoying my friend Kim Moritsugu's food blog THE HUNGRY NOVELIST....

 Lindy's blog is mainly dedicated to recipes from a small restaurant in the Kingston area,
and you can access the blog by going to (A Taste of Wintergreen).

So the barn -- and its cozy bedsitting room -- are ready for occupancy from April through to June, and I am hoping for a range of writers and artists who will find the space inspiring -- and perhaps inspire me as well. The landscape here presents a wonderful challenge to photographers and painters, and the absolute quiet of this place -- le Mas Blanc -- provides an excellent spot for writers or composers or musicians who need silence. ( I do admit, I am hoping for a cellist to come some day....)

In the last few weeks, having a series of visitors from Canada and Australia, I took  several of these women visitors up to the village of St. Hippolyte to a small shop called simply L'Atelier... This is where I have been buying my clothes for the last five years, and I have been happy to be able to share this magic place ...And now, in Amsterdam, Melbourne, Canberra, Victoria, Toronto, Marysville and San Jose, Costa Rica, there are women wearing beautiful clothes designed and sewn by my friend Michelle and her various assistants.  What is magic about this shop is that these women visitors come in an array of sizes and ages with varied tastes and requirements for their wardrobe... And each one of them seems able to find just the right dress, or jacket, or perfect little skimmy "top" or pullover or tunic or pair of pants.. and every one of them walks away feeling that she has now found her best look ever.

How Michelle accomplishes this is a mystery, and I am soon going to be interviewing her to discover her secrets. Strangely, I've never cared much about clothes until I came across L'Atelier, and this has quite changed my life... and influenced the way I think not only about myself, but about how we present ourselves  -- in our physical lives, and in our literary lives, as well... Presentation is all about style, isn't it?  And a writer who has an authentic voice is one who feels comfortable in  herself or himself and who uses language that is appropriate to that "self"...When we say that we admire a fine writer's "Style", I think we mean the voice is true, not false... just as the best clothing is that in which we feel absolutely comfortable, as if we belong in whatever we're wearing.

Here I am with Michelle, wearing one of her tunics,
with a delicate scarf knitted by my friend Annie