High heels.

Ronelle's art- sketching-mary jane shoes..0001

When I was young, I had beautiful shoes. High heels, stilettos, platforms, ballerinas, even vintage shoes my mother wore in the 40’s.  But that was then. Now my favorite shoes are loafers. With dresses or with trousers. I wear my loafers all four seasons long. In summer I love sandals too. Ones with bands over the foot, no flip flops which force me to arch my sweet toes into cramps from hell  to prevent the things from slipping off my foot and drive me to legal drugs at night to just get some shut eye. Comfort is the magic word when it comes to shoes. As well as clothes for that matter. There was a time when I would sacrifice comfort for beauty. But that was also then. Now I have succumbed to plain ole soft comfort. I did however, try to give beauty one more go, just in case I am still up for it, which is why I ordered  some shoes online a few days ago. I don’t usually shop this way. I still prefer the prehistoric way of human interaction. But it is too easy to succumb to the seduction of all those shoes flirting away on the screen, with views possible from all angles, top, left bottom, sideways…I could almost smell the leather in the description of  each shoe.  While I was shopping for myself, I thought I may as well order some for mon cheri to try out. And so our shoes arrived yesterday in 2 huge, heavy cartons.

I was girlish excited about these shoes I’ve ordered as they all were high heels. Not as high as I used to wear as a young fashionista, but still  high enough to turn my plain ankles into delicate sculptures of art and lengthen my legs to supermodel status.  Dressed in my pajamas and euphoric enthusiasm, I ripped open the cartons and lifted out pair number one. Black nu-buck Mary Janes. Mary Janes remind me of the Flamenco, a dance that I have loved since my childhood.  I have had a few pairs in my days, so dare I have the desire for them again? So yes, visions of myself in silk stockings and a flaming red flamenco number(which I definitely will never  fit into ever again…. but hey, these are my visions!) danced before me while I dug out some odd  knee highs.  I ignored the hurting of my arch and on  the cushion under my feet where the foot arches and  straightened my back. I was convinced it only came down to some moving about, giving my feet the proper time to adapt to the strangeness of a once familiar high heel. How hard can that be after all? So I started walking around, tilting my head at that sexy cat in pajamas, knee highs and Mary Janes in the long mirror. Then the music floated over from the computer and started whispering into my ear to do a little hip swaying, a twirl and a whirl. I felt good about my hips in these shoes and allowed the swaying to take over. Just as I thought I got the hang of these heels in my two stepping , I felt that ankle twist. In the split second that followed, I had the unbelievable clarity to see a whole chain of events happening. My free leg tried to step in to take the weight from the twisted ankle, but  instead tripped over the twisted leg and sent me cannonballing  sideways towards the floor. My jaw hit the corner of the art table with backstreet attitude and my flying arms slammed into the wooden art case, making it blast off the table with the intent to break through the sound barrier. The two cats,who were sleeping on the sofa right next to the table, soared into the air just to collide midair and with screeching voices changed direction to disappear like blind bats into the darkness of my pain and confusion. I lay there on the ground, not knowing whether I should stay there forever or come to a decision. I decided to stay there and  see from which pain I would die first, the jaw or the foot or my bleak future with plain ankles and short legs.   As it turned out, I didn’t die, I just cried for a very long time.  But I did come to a final decision there among the tears and charcoal sticks on the ground. I now fully accept my future on flat feet. The table made the decision for me.


People in a packet

There are all sorts of people in our lives. Like a packet of all sorts candy. Some are soft and sweet, others are chewy and after chewing, they stick unpleasantly to your teeth. Some are bitter and you spit them out immediately. Some you have tasted before and you know and you know you haven’t liked them then, so you don’t even bother taking one. Some give you toothache..some are so sweet, they throw you into a convulsion..Some are loaded with unnatural chemical substances , you are too afraid of them…

Then there are those new one that you don’t know at all and you just have to taste one and you keep on tasting, because you’re not sure you like it. There are those that friends or family promise you are delicious, you find they are not at all to your taste. There are even those ones you loved when you were young, but that was another time, another taste…

Then there are those on the bargain shelves, the ones that cost next to nothing, but they also taste cheap. There are also the pricey ones which finally taste as if they were taken from the bargain shelf.

There are many more candies in this packet of all sorts; the ones that look nice, but taste horrible, the ones that have you erupt into allergies, the ones that stain your mouth, colourful ones, these ones, those ones…

A packet of all sorts candy is a complicated affair. Maybe it is more sound, safer, wiser to only keep a good quality chocolate or candy on your shelf, eat it sparingly and enjoy and appreciate its sweetness and honest flavour every time, and leave the “all sorts- packets” to those who don’t care who and what they have in their lives; they will be able to handle swallowing a bad one.
I can’t.

man writing-pen and wash

Goodbye to an old friend

This morning I said goodbye to a trusted old friend. We lived through the worst of times and through the best of times. She was a pillar and only now do I realize just how much she meant to me. When everybody else left , she stayed, ever willing to listen, giving without ever wanting something in return. Oh true, sometimes she drove me nuts! But when I needed her, she was there.

We spent a lifetime together. She was there when we raised our children in Tours, driving them to school every morning, picking them late afternoons on the dark winter days. she knew the way to the train station where I dropped mon chéri off every morning and picked him up every evening. She kept me company while waiting at the deserted station in early morning hours when he had to stay late in Paris for meetings.  She knows every chateau in the Loire valley by heart.  We went to Venice for a quick 2 days holiday with the family. To Milan, to Verona. We drove to the north of France, to the South, to the ocean in the west,  to the mountains for the snow. We did plein air painting together and still have the oil paint stains to show for it. She is witness to many of my art failures, but also to my successes, carrying paintings to galleries and exhibits. She drove us to the emergency with cut open heads and arms and migraine attacks.

When we bought our Loire house, she was the one who helped us faithfully restore it. Without complaining, she patiently helped loading and transporting bags of plaster and cement and planks and ceilings and tiles and gravel without ever complaining.

One of our favorite pastimes was brocante browsing and she loved it as much as I. She kept me on the right track, making me rethink unnecessary purchases. Isn’t it too heavy, or too big…is it worth paying extra for delivery..?

There were many occasions where she got me safely to the vet with my beloved little chicken, Omelette, who was almost devoured by the dogs, my  lamb Marie-Meringue, who ate poisonous weeds.. our cats, who were poisoned..she never laughed or mocked me for going hysterical about a half eaten chicken which I want ed to save. She understood my fears, my tears, my anger. she witnessed them all, silently, without judgement. She was happy when I was happy and she was strong when I was weak.

She moved house for us and our daughters..to universities in Toulouse and then to Caen, and then to Paris and again to Toulouse and then to Corréze. Hooked up with remorques and loaded to the roof and beyond.

She came with us to Coin Perdu and continued being the friend she had always been. Here she became my best friend. We did everything together, sliding through the winter snowed-in roads, driving endlessly up and down for tools and material for the restoring the house. She was there for the marriage of our daughter. She drove to pick up guests at the airport, drop them off, take them sigh-seeing, transported chairs and food and clothes and people and  flowers.

Then one day she didn’t perform as usual. Her movements were heavy, lethargic, tired. But she still gave it her all. We pampered her with a day at the spa, but it was clear that she felt worn. Tired. We took shorter trips to have her rest more, to make it easier on her tired limbs.

And finally this morning I said goodbye to her. A better friend I could not have asked for. Our Peugeot 307, 12 years,  350 000 km.

An old fashioned wedding.

Twenty seven years ago a bride tried her hand at everything too. Her own wedding. All of it. From each individual handwritten invitation to the last flower in her hair and on the tables.

Baking her own wedding cake was the biggest challenge of all. With no money in her pocket and a generous friend living on a farm with a huge kitchen, she took it on. A rich and dark  fruit cake, covered with a “tablecloth” made from marzipan and finished off with a simple smaller cake shaping a bible and a bouquet of marguerites. All the while learning and compensating as she went along. The marzipan “tablecloth” turned out to be a bigger nightmare than than the organic chemistry she was obliged to take. Maybe the roots for not loving baking was established while wrestling with that marzipan tablecloth…

Long evenings in between university exams were spent on writing the invitations in calligraphy with a pen and nibbs and golden ink that got thick every 30 minutes.  Making the confetti was an ordeal – many a hand helped  cutting and tying tiny bunches of dried flowers with long thing strips of ribbon which had to fill 4 baskets…

No hairdresser or make-up artist for this bride – there was no money for such luxury and too much work to be done on the wedding day…like arranging flowers.  An early wedding gift was put to good use as vases for the table flowers –  champagne glasses,  of which five have withstood the test of twenty seven years and are still in use today….! They carried simple bunches of red roses and some white gypse…all romance…

Persistant on designing her dress herself and having it made by a seamstress, she saw her dress show up unfinished and wore it on the day with some  spots carefully held together by pins and quick hand stitching.  But beautiful and dreamy it was and now it is waiting for a daughter or granddaughter or even a next generation who might  someday just like it enough…

The photographer arrived, just to find the  bride  still in working clothes, wrestling to make the wreath for the veil. Time was running short and with the help of a creative and loving sister, the wreath of roses was finally attached to the veil. Her long hair was hastily shaped by many hands in a large chignon to hold the wreath and veil, while quick daub of lipstick had to suffice for some colour on the face. An antique cameo rounded off the picture.

Time ran out and it was off to church in the red rover, driven by her brother. Flying low, they arrived at the entrance to the church a couple of minutes early. The nerves and emotions in the rover were raw and the throats were dry. So the bride and her brother took off again in the red rover, stopped at the nearest roadhouse, rolled down the windows and ordered two milkshakes. A bride always makes passers-by stop and enjoy,  dream, fantasize…This time was different. Passers-by stopped and anjoyed and giggled at the sight of a bride with a straw in the mouth.

The red rover pulled up 20 minutes later back at the church, the door was flung open and with a few trippling steps, the bride was ready to glide down the aisle. Late but happy.

wedding dress

Lost in amsterdam

Once again, a great time spent on my feet. This time round I spent my days leisurely strolling around. Gone are the days I fly on my feet and hyperventilate to catch all museum doors open. Now I simply enjoy the different culture which I find myself in for a few days, the different lifestyle and the habits of the pedestrian passing me by, and I fall in with each moment as it presents itself. And I still have a lot of fun..like getting lost.

I thought I knew Amsterdam by now, but I got so lost this time I almost ended up in Antwerpen! I walked for 2 hours before admitting I am lost and then spent almost another 2 to get out of my predicament and to some familiar ground. I have a good sense of direction(usually) and very  rarely use a map and I have (usually) some great experiences with getting a bit  lost. Unfortunately this wasn’t one of those occasions where one falls upon treasures on your lost road, on the contrary, it was a bit challenging. Maybe because it started getting dark and the streets I wandered started getting empty, or maybe because I saw so many black dogs lying outside the doors, or could it be the barred doors and windows I passed? With a dead phone battery and a very fertile imagination I continued walking. When I saw a young woman with a black Doberman on a leash, I decided this was my saving line..I followed her, not having the slightest idea where she was going, but I hoped if something happened, maybe she would unleash that black dog. I also had the good hope that she would get me to a less scarier corner. It worked.  Following her brought me back to where I could at least see the church tower and I started breathing easier again.

By that time, my feet burned from wearing winter shoes my feet aren’t used to yet, I was hungry and thirsty and exhausted from visualizing the end of my life. A tiny Turkish eating corner and its beautiful young owner with her long dark black hair came to my rescue. I plonked my tired body into one of her chairs and ordered a chicken tajine with yellow rice and dried fruits and beetroot and a large glass of mint tea.

Relief is a powerful sensation. That was the best meal I’ve ever had, my relief so big that I could see a future ahead of me again!

amsterdam sketch 29-09-2008 16-38-37 5668x4258

Something to be said for tradition.

There is something to be said for tradition. Even though we live in a very modern high tech twenty first century. We can never be without tradition. In general life, in family life, in business, in sports. My greatest pleasure comes from the old traditions in tennis.
When we lived in Stellenbosch South Africa, I enjoyed all the wonderful tennis traditions we had there; Saturdays’ social games, rooibos tea for the thirst, tennis evenings until midnight with families and barbecues afterwards, league matches in Wellington where the heat drives everybody under the sprinklers on the grass before the third and final set is taken on.
In England we got hooked on the lawn tennis and of course all the wonderful British traditions…yeah, yeah, maybe a bit stiff on tv, but when you’re part of it…complete different ballgame! We religiously wore our white attire on the courts and became proud of it…the carefully attended, lovely lawn courts just asked for nothing less than pure white. Happy chaps they are, the Brits on the courts…full of fun, very courteous and full of love for the game of tennis. We grew to love the cucumber sandwiches after an afternoon of tennis, some more tea, not forgetting the beer, beautiful clubhouses….a wonderful picture of tradition that deserves nothing but respect and admiration. It is a wonderful thing…playing on grass. And I should mention…I have had my most attractive coach there in England, can’t really say whether that forms part of the tradition, but nonetheless, he did wonders for our tennis.
In South Carolina we had a ball! Now…. I have to be careful, since so many reading here, will be from the dear old USA? We loved it. Nothing less than perfect tennis courts, perfect clubhouses, everything you need at close hand, the latest fashions in gear widely available(I always looked stunning on the courts, so much so that my game started deteriorating…), drinks and eats to hearts desire, a very relaxed atmosphere(the game of tennis can stir up emotions from time to time, depending on how far you trail behind) and a great coach always close at hand to help with that crappy backhand.
In France we have the wonderful clay courts, which is my first choice of surface, followed by grass. Probably because it is so much gentler on all these joints. And I do enjoy the tradition that comes along with playing on a clay court. Some might find it tedious, I love it. We only play on the clay courts in summer, after they have been prepared. And this is what my sketches are all about; the sweeping of the courts, clearing the lines, sprinkling the clay and you have this beautifully prepared court ready for the next game. There is something very sporty, very adrenalin like, very professional like about sliding on the clay, giving the line a sweep with your foot just before you serve, cleaning your soles against the racket, dusting some red clay from your clothes, oh, and a big one…checking the lines for the mark! OK, it is all for the show, but it is still part of tradition and there will always be something to be said for it.




Barefoot and happy

A handful of years ago, we packed our two small girls and with a suitcase and a chair or two we headed for the unknown. In this case it happened to be Suffolk, England. We arrived in February, stayed in the Orwell hotel in Felixstowe for some weeks while in search for a haven to unpack our lives.

barefoot 1
Two days ago Hartman called me from Felixstowe, where he was working for three days. While he was walking by the sea, eating fish and chips, visiting all the places we lived, buying Fox’s crunch creams, we remembered. We remembered how young our girls were. We remembered how cold it was, how wet, how grey, how exciting, how awful, how lonely. This led to many memories old and dear. It took me far back to our homeland, before we packed up, to days of golden sun, warm cuddling friendships, lazy beach days, back breaking work sessions, hat wearing sports events… all of which happened barefoot.
We learnt in England to wear shoes, after the girls have been frowned upon for running at school events barefoot, for running barefoot through the lobby of the hotel to quickly pick up Dad from work(truth be told, it was February…), I have learnt to keep shoes close by for when the doorbell rang and I learnt not to kick out my shoes when arriving at a friends house.
It has been a long time since I’ve had to remove some thorns from my feet. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt mud squishing up between my toes, or heated up my feet in a warm puddle of cow dung,….disgusting maybe, but those who grew up on a farm, will know what I’m talking about. They’re quite beautiful now, my feet, very soft and supple, lovely pedicured and all, which is something to be grateful for I suppose. But when the chance for being barefoot shows up at our door, we still happily kick off those shoes and dash across the lobby.

In the light of my melancholy, I did 3 quick sketches with some pen and watercolor on Fabriano HP paper….and even trampled some mud…



From shade to shade in summer

In summer we travel from shade to shade.

Early mornings, cup of coffee in hand, are spent on the terrace, sitting on a rock at the entrance to one of our caves and contemplating. The shade of the huge cliff at your back is a welcome relief after a hot night’s suffering. These stairs, leading up to the terrace, were done in pen and watercolor, on Fabriano WC paperHP(extra white).


After all that meditating and musing, while watching the sun brightening the skies, it is time to move out of the shade and into the working shoes, which are ready on the go at the kitchen door. These are actually the working boots of Hartman, mine wasn’t to be found, but they aren’t as characterful as his anyway. But, pretending they are mine, they will prune and dig and weed and water, while the sun still has a gentle caress. This was done in pen and watercolor on Fabriano CP paper.


All the prunings and snippings of early morning will go into some vase somewhere in the house as well as an empty container in the garden in a shady spot, like the mint in this old kettle on a crooked, rusty chair. This corner was sketched in pen and watercolor on Fabriano HP(extra white)


Finally the day will end in the welcoming shade of our summer kitchen right at the back of the garden, where we enjoy the most wonderful alfresco meals, prepared by Hartman. (The door right at the back goes into a cave, which accounts for the wonderful coolness in summer)This is his kingdom, where he cooks and fries and experiments and flips and flops, with me in the role of sous-chef and lighting candles and lanterns, picking herbs, fiddling here and meddling there. We play guitar and sing and eat and while away the beautiful summer evenings, ending it all with some more contemplating and musing. Tomorrow we’ll start the day again, moving from shade tot shade. This was done in watercolor on Fabriano HP.


Summer guests

Every summer our Bed and Breakfast is fully booked. Mostly by regulars who visit year after year, finding our meals unsurpassed, our hospitality most gracious and our facilities nothing but quality; in short, five star accommodation at a reasonable price.
Mr Frog arrived later than usual this year and is still awaiting the lady of this affair to arrive. Every evening he protests his discontentment at her not being here yet, in his distinguished baritone voice. I hope she arrives soon, I don’t like seeing my guests unhappy.


Once again we had the honor of assisting in the arrival of Mr and Mr Swallow’s young ones. What a lovely couple they are, so caring and loving and protective of the live they have created. the happy event happened only 5 days ago and it was a grand event here. We opened up a bottle of bubbly and all the guests attended to celebrate the wonder of new life and admire the 5 adorable infants.


Miss White butterfly brought many more of her friends along this year and I really had to be inventive to accommodate all these teenagers. But I love every minute of their delightful company! We have come into the habit of sharing an hour or so together every afternoon, where I learn from them all about being a delicate and beautiful and delightful adolescent again. Along with the ever roaming dark and handsome bees, they enjoy energetic parties until late night, Fortunately the neighbors haven’t complained yet. I suspect they know and understand all about the habits of these young people.


We are also very honored to accommodate very well-known international models in our B&B every year, miss Dragonfly and company. They keep mostly to themselves, are very discreet and love their privacy. But when the moment shows itself, I’ll stare at them shamelessly, wishing I had their elegance and beauty Soon they will all be moving on to make room for the next half of the summer guests, leaving me just enough time to tidy up, restock the pantry and put out fresh flowers. The arrival of our summer guests, is a highlight in the season, something we look forward to year after year.
All these sketches were done in pen and WC in moleskine.


Chanel..and a river runs through it.

While I was still acting out as Forest Gump on the run a while ago, I also made a quick stop by the perfume shop while speeding along to who knows where. That is of course the day Hartman left on his business trip. Normally it doesn’t bother me and I use the time for some good old fashioned selfish indulgence into whatever takes my fancy. This time though, caught my mood off guard and drove me to extremes. I sought solace in the arms of Coco Chanel and Hermes no less. On top of my sadness and depression I had now successfully added the load of guilt. I picked up speed


For the week I was alone, I struggled with my conscience, having spent this obscene amount on perfume and tried my best to blame it on my impulsive nature, which is true after all…still, it doesn’t justify an excuse. So, being born both impulsive and ingenious, I arrived at a solution to the problem. The problem of my guilt that is.

On Hartman’s arrival back in Paris, we had this glorious magical summer’s day. I sent him a message telling him to be home at 18:00. We have a date. He was not to be late. Now, send a man a message like that and see what happens…?


Oh, you want to know about the date? Well, imagine this…I have a basket at the ready, filled with his favorite goodies like peaches wrapped in prosciutto, scallops with orange and a saffron mayonnaise, a cold champagne, a baguette to dip into rich seductive olive oil and fleur de sel…I have ordered and received my golden exuberant sunshine. The river Loire is 2 minutes walking from our front door, the water rushing by, heightening the sensation of summer madness, sun, and bare skin…..and me, enveloped in Coco Chanel.


I am home. I have no guilt. I love my Chanel. I have a happy husband. And through it all runs a river.