Tuesday, 24 December 2013

A Christmas shelfie

Scrambled eggs and a good book

Breakfast next to a bookshelf - how civilized is that?  After The Great Storm of Christmas Eve 2014, in the idyllic surroundings of MyHotel, Chelsea. Normal blogging service will be resumed after Christmas.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Notice of Moffat Book Events AGM






Notice to Moffat Book Events members:
The MBE AGM will be held on Monday January 13th at 7pm at The Annandale Arms Hotel in Moffat.
Further information available from Jim Hurren (jim@forestrypurposes.com)

Monday, 16 December 2013

Memories of Mandela- era South Africa



Benjamin Pogrund a hero of the anti-apartheid movement


Now that Nelson Mandela has been laid to rest, here is my memory of South Africa in the days of apartheid.

In 1969, I was visiting my father in Johannesburg, where, having businesses in southern Africa, he had a house and lived for part of the year.  I had recently joined the London Sunday Times as a reporter and feature writer, and , before I left London, I had asked the news desk for the telephone number of a contact in case anything came up while I was there. The man whose name they gave me was Benjamin Pogrund, then of the Rand Daily Mail http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Pogrund

On arrival, I rang the number I had been given, and left a message for Ben to ring me. When he rang me back, my father asked me who this 'Benjamin Pogrund'  was. When I explained that he had won press awards for his reporting on events in the black townships, police brutality and the Sharpeville shootings and had been to prison, my father exploded with rage. 'Don't you realise where we are?' he fumed. He was not a man given to fear but he was not only angry but frightened. He explained that he assumed that his phone was already  bugged. I was astonished. Having already started, as a student of Russian, to visit the then Soviet Union, I had thought that South Africa was the antithesis of a police state. But it turned out that they were two sides of the same coin. Food for thought.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

UK-Russia Year of Culture 2014 - Sneak preview

Torn paper portrait of Chekhov by Liudmila Semyatitskaya



Part of the programme of events planned for Moffat to mark the UK-Russia Year of Culture 2014 will be an exhibition of torn paper art works by Moscow artist Liudmila Semyatitskaya.

Portrait of Yesenin with his muse
Mandelstam
Fyodor Tyutchev

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

We're looking forward to the UK-Russia Year of Culture 2014

We're on our way!
MBE/UK-Russia Year of Culture: update

We  have applied for funding to Annandale and Eskdale Area Committee Dumfries & Galloway, to enable MBE to employ an professional organiser for our 2014 planned programme of events . This funding, along with the commission to MBE for seeing through a book by reforming economist Yegor Gaidar gaidarfund.ru to publication by a UK publisher, will be in place at the earliest by March/April 2014.   Over the past fourteen months we have approached other appropriate groups with a view to active co-operation both in Moffat (Moffat Town Hall Trust, Moffat Academy and  Old Well Theatre Trust), regionally (Carolyn Yates, our Literature Development officer and Adrian Turpin, director Wigtown Book Festival; Boswell Book Festival) and nationally (British Council; Scottish Government; Scotland-Russian Forum; Scottish Poetry Library; EWM).

Sunday, 24 November 2013

The 'How To' memoir course

The 'How To' memoir course room
Well, we all got on like a house on fire, expertly led by Peter Parker whose distinction and industry (biographies of J. R Ackerley, Christopher Isherwood, A E Housman in progress) sent us all scurrying off to GET ON WITH IT

Friday, 22 November 2013

Cold War memories in Chelsea

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - George Smiley's house no. 9 Markham St Chelsea  
 On Tuesday evening this week,  I watched the first in the BBCTV series The Cold War, followed by the first two  episodes of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and a documentary about Kim Philby. On Wednesday, I passed the house where George Smiley,  the fictional protagonist of John le Carre's novel lived: no 9 Markham St. My house a little further down the King's Road was used for one scene in the series. The first floor drawing room was transformed for a week into George Smiley's bedroom. Alec Guiness sat in my little office on the ground floor, or in the garden, between takes. I am indebted to the BBC for the fee which allowed my two daughters and me to swan off to Sardinia for a very good summer holiday. On our return, I discovered that our cat had given birth to a litter of kittens behind my filing cabinet, and the office carpet was alive with fleas.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Chinese paintings at the V & A


It is well worth the return ticket to London to see Masterpieces of Chinese painting at the V& A

Launch of UK-Russia Year of Culture 2014


Here is the bright hard-edged logo for the UK-Russia Year of Culture 2014, which Moffat Book Events will be supporting  in half a dozen events through the year.

Alan Bennett's cat

A highly recommended book of letters is just out: 'Love, Nina' by Nina Stibbe (Penguin £12.99). The joke is that Nina aged 20 arrived from Leicester to look after a household in north London that resembled the late lamented 'Stella Street' - the John Sessions comedy show where everyone on an anonymous street with a corner shop was famous. I had a glimpse of this world one evening when in the course of the job my husband was doing at the time running cultural relations with the Russians we went for supper with Ursula Vaughan Williams in the same street where Nina went to be a nanny. Ursula, widow of the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, had invited her next door neighbours the author V S Pritchett and his wife to meet us. During dinner, a cat strolled in to the room. 'Oh bother. That's Alan Bennett's cat!' said Ursula - Alan (known as 'AB' in Nina's letters) lived in the house on the other side to Ursula. Two doors down were Michael Frayn and Claire Tomalin, and - read on to know exactly how far down the street - was Jonathan Miller.



 


Tuesday, 15 October 2013

The Two Mrs Abbotts

'The Two Mrs Abbotts' - set in wartime Britain

  'The Two Mrs Abbotts', the third in a trilogy by longtime Moffat resident D.E. Stevenson has now been published by Persephone Books Ltd

In 'Miss Buncle's Book', the heroine wrote a novel about the village she lived in. She then had hastily to depart because the true identity of 'John Smith' was about to be revealed. In 'Miss Buncle Married' she and her publisher husband leave Hampstead for Wandlebury, a village within commutable distance of London.

'The Two Mrs Abbotts', the third and last sequel, set in WWII, has great good humour and a real understanding of the difficulties involved in keeping the home fires burning.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Table collapses

My kitchen window
A curious series of coincidences occurred when I was at the Wigtown Book Festival. An old friend, David Ross, who I had not seen for thirty years was there talking about the Caledonian Railway. David is a former publisher turned author whom I first met in London in the 1960's when he was sharing a flat with friends from uni and who kindly offered me a job as his secretary when I was an out of work journalist and he landed a good job in marketing at Associated Book Publishers.  One of the authors David was responsible for launching on an unsuspecting world in those heady days was the notorious Govan-born anti- psychologist R D Laing.  David has written an impressive history of the Caledonian and other railways and places near where he now lives in Herefordshire. We had dinner together and I am hoping he will come to Moffat to give a talk to the group hoping to re-open the station at Beattock. His history records that Moffat was a favourite watering-place for railway engineering legend George Stephenson and his apprentice Joseph Locke. Both  David and I have written 'Xenophobe's Guides' - his, being a Scot, to the Scots,  and mine to the Russians. He has sent me the Russian language edition of his Xenophobes Guide, which I think will amuse our friends at the Library for Foreign Literature and the Institute of Translation in Moscow who were in Moffat for our conference last month.

At Wigtown I had a uniquely eerie experience. One morning I went to a talk by Peter Conradi, about a visit of the Royal Family to the US in 1939.  Conradi described an episode where a dining table loaded with Limoges china collapsed from the weight of silver, glasses, china etc much to the consternation of President and Mrs Roosevelt who had borrowed some of the china from a rich friend. That same evening, I was at a dinner with various writers and the organiser of the festival when lo! The table collapsed under the weight of etc etc. Luckily there was no great damage done, amazingly nothing was broken because it happened quite slowly, caving in from the middle, and everything was caught by the table cloth, other than the wine. Then when I got back to my hotel there was a satisfactory 'third' collapse when the little Ikea table I had put my case on suddenly gave way. When I reported this the following day to my fellow diners at Wigtown I was accused of being a poltergeist but I am happy to say there has been no repeat.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Melvyn in Moscow - Moffat in Moscow

Not so much a library, more of a cathedral (St Basil's, Red Square)
Moffat as we all know will be in Moscow this time next year - the exhibition about us opens on 22nd Oct 2014 at the State Library for Foreign Literature, as part of the intergovernmental reciprocal Years of Culture and Language (ours over there, theirs over here)

Melvyn Bragg has just been there for the first time for 20 years, when I was involved with his visit.  He writes today:

'And so to Moscow. The centre of Moscow is much smarter and more handsome than I remember it from about 20 years ago. Much. Almost every building is six storeys, which gives it a pleasing and old-fashioned uniformity. Many of them are being painted up and they look very attractive in seaside colours. The shops do not advertise themselves as shops and so streets can seem rather dull, but there are word signs outside and if you look through the windows you see shops full of produce. The great department store GUM in Red Square is massive. It's like Venice enclosed in stone. Wonderfully worked stone. Inside there are canals of the latest European shops, with bridges stretching from one side to another two and three storeys up. You feel that you are in the centre of the world's luxury trade.

Red Square has one of the most eccentric and wonderful churches I've ever seen. St Basil's. It is in fact about a dozen chapels with onion domes and murals and marvellously worked icons. It looks like something out of a scene in the Arabian Nights. There are over 800 churches in Moscow and those I went to are extraordinarily well-preserved. And then there is the inner circular park walkway; there's the Conservatoire which is dedicated to Tchaikovsky ... And I saw a magnificent production of Educating Rita by a young, English-speaking company at a small theatre in the middle of the town. Too much really to absorb in too little time. But changed it has since I was there last. How deep, I don't know. How long-lasting, I don't know. But how striking!'

Well, Melvyn, you have whetted our appetites. A meeting will be held soon in Moffat to discuss the exhibition we have been invited to participate in - Russian photographers will be back in town and interviews with people will take place in May 2014 to complete the work started when our Russian visitors were here last month 18-23 Sept.    By the way, for collectors of useless but I hope interesting information, the word 'Red' applied to 'Square' here has nothing to do with Communism. In old Russian 'red' meant 'beautiful'.






Thursday, 3 October 2013

The Selkirk Grace place

On my way home from five very enjoyable days at the Wigtown Book Festival, where I pioneered an event called 'In the Fox's Den', I stayed overnight at the Selkirk Arms in Kirkcudbright. Hands up everyone who, like me, thought that Robert Burns's 'Selkirk Grace' was written in...Selkirk? Well, it wasn't. It was written during a stay by Scotland's national poet at the inn in Galloway for the Earl of Selkirk whose seat, confusingly, was in the southwest, not in the eponymous town in the Borders further east. The same of course could be said for Dumfries House which is in...Ayrshire.

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.


Monday, 30 September 2013

Translation Transformed conference report

 
Translation Transformed conference 20-22 Sept 2013
(l to r Richard Demarco, EU Citizen of the Year, Dr Ekaterina Genieva, director of the state Library for Foreign Literature and Evgeny Reznichenko, director of the Institute of Translation)


A galaxy of Russian literary stars – editors, authors and translators – descended on the historic spa town of Moffat in the south of Scotland for our conference on translation 20-22 Sept 2013.  The delegation included Evgeny Reznichenko,  director of the Institute of Translation in Moscow, Dr Ekaterina Genieva director of the Library for Foreign Literature Moscow, the  directors of four Russian ‘literary museums’: Dmitry Bak of the State Literary Museum in Moscow (also a member of the President’s committee for the arts); Antonina Klyuchareva and Nadezhda Pereverzava of Tolstoy’s Yasnaya Polyana; Tamara Melnikova of Lermontov’s ‘Tarkhanhy’ and Svetlana Melnikova of Vladimir-Suzdal, Natalya Ivanova editor in chief of the literary journal ‘Znamya’, Alexander Livergant chair and doyen of the Russian Translators Association, Alexei Varlamov biographer and novelist and a dozen more. The British speakers and contributors included Robyn Marsak of the Scottish Poetry Library who, through the good offices of Moffat Book Events is supervising new translations of Lermontov by contemporary Scottish poets to be published by Carcanet early in 2014; Dr Peter France formerly of Edinburgh University, Dr Oliver Ready, Research Fellow of St Anthony’s College Oxford and director of Russkiy Mir programme, Alan Riach professor of Scottish Literature University of Glasgow, Dr Tom Hubbard, poet, Dr Irina Kirillova, University of Cambridge and Richard Demarco EU Citizen of the Year 2013.  The conference was opened by Cabinet Secretary of State for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop MSP.  Chair of Moffat Book Events Professor Andrew Wheatcroft made a speech of welcome and I was the conference moderator.

Among many highlights of the conference were presentations by Alan Riach, reading his inspired translations from the Gaelic into Scots, Chris Brookmyre on  hilariously alarming exchanges with inept translators of his best-selling crime novels, Alexei Varlamov on his literary inspiration (based on a Soviet childhood), Natalya Ivanova on contemporary Russian fiction and three remarkable students of translation from Glasgow  - the list could go on.

The Russian delegation made flying visits on either side of the conference to Scottish literary destinations from their base at the elegant 18th century John Adams- designed Moffat House hotel, including to the Robert Burns Centre in Alloway,  and the Prince of Wales’s Dumfries House in Ayrshire; and to Abbotsford,  the magnificent newly -renovated Borders home of  Sir Walter Scott, to Kelvingrove in Glasgow and to Edinburgh.  Preparations were also made for a series of continuations during 2014 to mark the UK Year of Russian Culture and language, including an exhibition of photographs of Moffat people and places by Maria Buylova with interviews by Head of Exhibitions at the Library for Foreign Literature Tatyana Feoktistova to be opened in Moscow on Oct 22 2014, a conference on Lermontov in Moffat 26-28 Sept 2014 and a Russian strand in Dumfries and Galloway Arts Festival and at other Scottish literary festivals . An exhibition of the series of paintings by Richard Demarco of Scotland’s rural roads ‘The Road to Meikle Seggie’ will open in Moscow June 2014.

2014 is the bicentenary of the birth of Lermontov, whose Learmont ancestors came from Scotland. Artefacts and garments made from a bolt of Lermontov tartan were ordered from Moffat Mill, an outlet of the pan-British firm Edinburgh Woollen Mill for this year of celebration, to be sold at Lermontov museums and events in Russia and elsewhere.  Other Moffat products such as Moffat Toffee and Uncle Roy’s condiments, local cheese and smoked fish , pottery and other crafts will be in the exhibition which is intended to show Moffat as a microcosm of  rural Scotland today.





Friday, 20 September 2013

Welcome to Moffat - and TRANSlation TRANSformed

The Moffat Ram
Here is Moffat Book Events' chairman Professor Andrew Wheatcroft's welcome speech to our conference reception last night (Friday 20th Sept 2013);

  "Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, Vice-Consul of the Russian Federation, honoured guests, neighbours, friends and colleagues, I would like to welcome you all to the TRANSlation TRANSformed conference. I am Andrew Wheatcroft, chair of Moffat Book Events. I am an international historian, and a publisher.
·       What is Moffat Book Events? A charity that exists to promote culture and science of and for Moffat, founded in 2011 by Elizabeth Roberts  and Mrs Marilyn Elliott. Moffat is a good place to meet and exchange ideas, as it has been for more than three centuries. It provides a perfect venue for developing dialogue, and that is what we intend this weekend.
·        Translation Transformed'  is Moffat Book Events' second international conference with a Russian theme. It is concerned with the key importance of translation in every aspect of our interconnected world. Both this event and last year's celebration of the life and work of Alexander Men stem directly from a personal connection – the long standing working relationship between Dr EkaterinaGenieva  MBE, director of the huge cultural complex, the State Library for Foreign Literature  in Moscow, and Elizabeth Roberts, now here in Moffat.
·        This connection has proved a very fruitful connection for Moffat.
·       2014 is the official UK Year of Russian Culture and Languageand Moffat  Book Events is working with The British Council to create a programme in Scotland. We heard yesterday how we shall be collaborating in the Russian programme of celebrations.  Moffat Book Events will also be working with a Russian team to present Moffat – the place and the people in word and in image - , to Russia.
·       Our Russian colleagues say that showing Moffat to Russians will get across a dramatic impression of what Culture and Languagemeans in ordinary people’s lives. Part of our work this weekend is taking those plans forward;
·       Dr.  Genieva arrives this evening for the whole weekend, and next  year we look forward to helping our Russian partners to organise future professional/cultural tourism, using our special local knowledge and expertise; we look forward to assisting in the organisation of exhibitions here and in Russia; in other words, the partnership will be working harder and getting stronger.
·       So before handing over to the Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs and our other honoured guests, I should like to thank:  

      • our Russian partners, the  State Library for Foreign Literature,  and the Institute of Translation

      •  The British Council, 

      • Our thoughtful and reliable supporters Forestry Purposes LLP 

      • Our unflappable organiser Alan Thomson 

      • And, personally, I want to thank Liz Roberts for her energy, persistence and inspiration, and to all who have made this event possible."

    Cabinet Secretary of State for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop MSP  then gave a rousing speech followed by Russian Federation Vice-Consul Konstantin Kirilin.

    A highlight of the evening was provided by Professor Alan Riach who declaimed his and others' translations of poems from Gaelic and Russian to memmorable and moving effect.

    Antonina Kliuchareva presented a PowerPoint slide show about Yasnaya Polyana, home to world famous Russian 19th century novelist Leo Tolstoy. The evening wound up with a showing of the film 'Russia's Open Book' introduced by Stephen Fry, featuring five contemporary Russian writers seen speaking frankly about their work and Russia today in their own homes and in various other settings.




    Friday, 13 September 2013

    The Lermontov (spa) Connection

    The Lermontov Museum in Pyatigorsk

    We are all delighted that the curator of the Lermontov Museum in Pyatigorsk is coming to our Russian translation conference and cultural tourism forum in Moffat 20-22 Sept 2013.

    Pyatigorsk (Russian: Пятиго́рск) is a city in Stavropol Krai located on the Podkumok River, about 20 kilometers (12 mi) from the town of Mineralnye Vody where there is an international airport and about 45 kilometers (28 mi) from Kislovodsk. Since January 19, 2010, it has been the administrative center of the North Caucasian Federal District of Russia. Population: 142,511 (2010 Census);[3] 140,559 (2002 Census);[5] 129,499 (1989 Census).[6]

    Like Moffat, Pyatigorsk - meaning 'five mountains' is a spa.


    You can see where Pyatigorsk is in the North Caucasian region near the southwesten corner , by doing http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyatigorsk




    Thursday, 12 September 2013

    Blast from the Past

    The end of the Cold War in Berlin 1989
    Looking through my bookshelves for books to illustrate the photograph in today's Moffat News about our forthcoming (20-22 Sept 2013) Russian translation conference, I pulled out a massive illustrated tome entitled 'Russian Calendar 1947' published that year in Moscow by the Foreign Languages Publishing House. In 1947 Stalin was still running the then USSR with murderous effect. Sixtysix years ago, the Cold War started with the blockade of Berlin, famine in Russia and the Ukraine ( the number of victims is disputed, estimates range from thousands to millions) and various other bad, sad episodes. The Cold War was the era I grew up in.   We look forward to welcoming fellow Russian book and culture lovers to Moffat next week in the firm belief that  continuing free, open contacts and exchanges is the best way to ensure it never happens again.

    Monday, 9 September 2013

    Poem

    Moffat in autumn by Simon Tweedie
    Thunderstorm in Dorset, Vermont
    by John Updike

    It needs green hills to host a thunderstorm;
    this grumbling giant needs a place to hide
    and break his kindling into splinters,
    one stick at a time, and then in bundles,
    compacted threats that issue forth from where
    an oily darkness reigns beyond the ridge.
    The sizzle in our brains is overruled
    by such triumphant voltage overload.

    We witness vast concussions; something falls
    down sets of stairs the bottom step of which
    cracks open wide enough to show a strip,
    a vein of naked light. All goes soft—
    the rain unfurls in supple gusts, the leaves
    flash pale, then limply steep themselves in green.

    Sunday, 1 September 2013

    TRANSlation TRANSformed


    Moffat welcomes Moscow

    -->
    Top level Russian government connections dating back two hundred years will be revived 20-22 Sept 2013 when the historic spa town of Moffat in the south of Scotland, hosts a ground-breaking Russian translation conference organised by Scottish charity Moffat Book Events with the State Institute of Translation, Moscow and the Moscow-based State Library for Foreign Literature (VGBIL).

    The spa town was visited by Grand Duke (later Tsar) Nicholas of Russia in 1816 during his tour of Britain following victory over Napoleon*. The conference is  to be opened by Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop MSP and State Secretary, Grigory Ivliev, Deputy Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation - see conference programme below

    * The future Tsar Nicholas I stayed at the Annandale (then known as the King's) Arms hotel - 
    see www.annandalearmshotel.co.uk

    The Annandale Arms known in 1816 as The King's Arms 

    For attendance booking inquiries please contact:
     Alan Thomson alan.thomson25@gmail.com  or visit www.moffatbookevents.co.uk

    All other inquiries to Elizabeth Roberts  info@moffatbookevents or tel 07968801178

    Moffat Book Events is a registered Scottish charity no SCO42782   

    -->
    Programme Friday 20th September

    17.45     Reception and official conference opening by Cabinet Secretary for Culture and
                  External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop and State Secretary, Grigory Ivliev, Deputy Minister of
               Culture of Russia

    19.01   Presentation by the Museum-Estate ‘Yasnaya Polyana’
    Antonina Klyuchareva and Nadezhda Pereverzava

    20.00   The Art of the Translator: Three Poems by Duncan Ban MacIntyre, Sorley MacLean
                 and Vladimir Mayakovsky by Professor Alan Riach to be followed by a screening of
                the documentary film ‘Russia’s Open Book’ by Paul Mirchell and Sarah Wallis

      
    Programme Saturday 21st September

    09.15    Delegate registration. Moffat House Hotel

    09.30   The Importance of Translation in a 21st Century digital age - an introduction
                   Dr E Genieva and Evgeny Reznichenko with Dimitry Bak

    10.30     Coffee

    11.00   Why do we need to continue to re-translate the classics?
                  Speaker: Dmitriy Bak, Chair: Dr Oliver Ready, Panelists: Prof Peter France, Natalia
                  Ivanova and Irina Kirillova

    12.30   Introducing The Institute of Translation
                   Evgeny Reznichenko and Vitaly Efimov supported by Dr E Genieva and A Livergant

    13.00   Lunch break and an opportunity to explore the shops and cafes of Moffat


    14.30   Can a Translation ever be better than the original?
                   Speaker: Alexander Livergant, Chair: Dr Oliver Ready, Panelists: Arch Tait and
                 Aleksey Varmalov

    15.30   Afternoon tea

    16.00    In conversation with Alexey Varlamov
    Chair: Dr E Genieva, Panelists:
                
    17.30      Session ends

    19.30      Glasgow University student readings of translated poems

    19.45      Conference Dinner

    20.50       Dr Tom Hubbard presents Lermontov inspired poems

    21.15    Burns and Vysotsky songs in Russian and English from Thomas Beavitt

    22.00    Evening ends

      

    Programme Sunday 22nd September

    09.45    Coffee        Moffat House Hotel

    10.00    Capturing the moment in contemporary fiction
                    Speaker: Natalie Ivanova, Chair Dmitiry Bak, Panelists: Arch Tait and Oliver Ready

    12.00     Lunch break

    13.00   The Challenges of Translating Lermontov  ( and Burns)
                    Speaker: Prof Peter France, Chair Robyn Marsack, Panelists: Dr Tom Hubbard,
                  Alexander Livergant and Irina Kirillova

    15.30        Closing conclusions and valedictory
    Led by Liz Roberts and Natalia Ivanova

    16.30     Conference closes

    17.00    Drinks and Presentation of the Vladimir Suzdal Museum Reserve
                  Sveltlana Melnikova


                         For booking information see www.moffatbookevents.co.uk








    Saturday, 31 August 2013

    Coming to Terms with Clutter

    Elephants for memory
    My (rented) house in Moffat is full of clutter, and is getting more cluttered. I sprang out of bed this morning, determined to get a grip. The hallway is newly full of boxes of memorabilia from the house I grew up in and where my mother lived from 1939 until her death this March. I have a curious aversion to sitting in or working in a room with pictures on the walls, although I like a view. The walls of one downstairs room nicknamed 'the art room' are already choc a block. Therefore, the 25 or more additional framed photographs, prints and paintings from my mother's house will have to go into a room where I neither sit nor work: the spare bedroom aka the dressing room because it is also where I keep my clothes.

    My first thought this morning - absurdly, since it was I who had chosen to keep the contents of the boxes and the other assorted bits of useful paraphernalia crowding out my downstairs rooms - was 'I must de-clutter'. We have been brainwashed by design magazines and weekend colour supplements into thinking that we ought to be living in spaces with immaculate clean lines in impeccable muted neutral colours. But as we get older, our possessions, our books and photographs, plates, mugs and spoons remind us of how and with whom our lives have been lived.  I am my clutter, mon debris c'est moi.
    Trays's of the past