Dutch Treat

The GeographerAndrea here, I recently saw a very entertaining article in the New York Times on a reality show—not something that would usually catch my fancy. But in this case it was about art, and an artist who fascinates me, so I took a closer read.

 In celebration of a mega-blockbuster exhibit currently on view at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam (alas, currently sold out, but more slots may become available) Dutch TV decided to create a challenge for both amateur and professional artists to “reinvent” some of the lost works of the famous painter. The judges are Vermeer experts the Rijksmuseum and the Mauritshuis, in The Hague. The results are absolutely delightful—you can view them here on the station’s website. Isn’t it fun to see such creativity in bloom?

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Movie Review – Hilma

Hilma posterChristina here with a movie review, which is something the Wenches thought we would try occasionally this year if we came across one we would really like to recommend. As the film in question is biographical, I have combined it with information about the subject of the movie, who was a real person.

I have to admit I don’t often go to the cinema to see Oscar-worthy films because I usually find them either boring or too sad. (I’m very shallow in my movie choices!). It has always seemed to me that the more heart-wrenching the story, the more Oscars it gets. And I don’t handle sad endings well. However, a little while ago I let my neighbour drag me along to see a film called Hilma. It’s a true story about a Swedish artist called Hilma af Klint, and she was more or less unknown until fairly recently.

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The Butterfly Effect

Swallowtail on irisNicola here, talking about insects (as you do!). I’ve got to admit that I’m not a big fan of insects, especially if they sting or bite, or even if they don’t. I quite like a ladybird (ladybug) and I make an exception for butterflies and moths, and obviously I appreciate honey (thank you, bees.) But I’m not naturally drawn to beetles or other insects. (I also dislike spiders, but in the course of writing this blog piece I’ve discovered they aren’t insects but arachnids.)

Last week, however, we were away for the few days on the trail of one of the most beautiful and scarce insects in Britain. Fortunately it is a butterfly, the swallowtail. Whilst there are 550 species of the swallowtail family in the world, we only get one in Britain and then only in one relatively small area, the Norfolk Broads in the east of the country. So off we went to find them. (The photos are all by my husband who is a massive butterfly fan as well as a great photographer).

Initially we had planned to hire a small boat and cruise the Broads in search of these elusive but beautiful creatures. IMG_5176 (003) However I have a love hate relationship with boats and fell in on my last visit to the Broads as did our dog, who could swim better than me so got out more easily. We compromised on a houseboat, which was a lovely experience. Waking up on the river listening to the call of the birds and watching the moon on the water at night was very relaxing and peaceful.

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Quotes to Preserve Your Muchness


Note the mask and gloves; Pietro Longhi (btw, a family ancestor)

Susan here – and here we are, a full year into making our way through this peculiar time on Planet Earth. And today I'm bringing to the blog a refreshed assortment of quotes and thoughts and pretty pictures to help us as we go along. 

In our family, all the adults have been vaccinated now, which is a very good thing. And we are still being just as careful as before, mostly staying home, not seeing much of family and friends beyond the virtual, and staying masked and distanced when we do venture out. One of our sons is still treating covid patients in a major hospital, and that's a dose of reality that keeps us all aware. My husband I both work at home most of the time, and being dedicated introverts, that's just fine with us — and a year later, we’re not climbing the walls quite yet.

But now and then, the stress and the strangeness of it creeps in, and I’m turning more and more to things that help me relax, stretch, clear the mind, fill the reserves.

“You used to be much more … muchier. You’ve lost your muchness,” said the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland.

And I don’t want to go there, nor do you. Let’s all keep our muchness as we navigate our way through this Fire Swamp (while blithely mixing metaphors). TenorI hope you are faring well, and finding your own way through the swamp.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes – and some favorite images – that I hope will brighten your day.

Ramon casas

Ramon Casas, Jove

 “Ah! There is nothing like staying at home, for real comfort.”
Jane Austen, Emma



Abbot Handerson Thayer, Angel Waiting

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

       –Emily Dickinson

"Don't underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can't hear, and not bothering." –A. A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

Perugini woman reading

Charles Perugini, Girl Reading, 1878

“Within you, there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.” —Hermann Hesse

"Peace is always beautiful."

— Walt Whitman



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The Reading Woman

Pieter_Janssens_Elinga_-_Reading_Woman_-_WGA7482Nicola here. Today I’m talking about women and reading. At the start of this year I bought what was possibly the most pointless item of 2020, although at the time I didn't realise it. It was a 2020 desk diary in which I planned to write all the dates of the talks I was going to be giving this year, details of bookshop visits, conferences and literary festivals. This week I looked at its blank pages and although I was sorry I hadn't had the chance to use it, I still appreciated the illustrations because it was The Reading Woman Diary.

I love the idea of "the reading woman" and I love pictures of women reading. It's a celebration of something we all enjoy doing. In the introduction to the diary there are a few paragraphs about paintings of reading women and how they have always been a popular subject for artists through the ages. The reading women “turn to books for entertainment, insight and revelation.” They are educated, literate and they have the leisure to read. “Within these often-intimate portrayals lies the opportunity for enlightenment and the seductive retreat from the concerns of every day,” the diary says.

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