Wednesday, 16 January 2013

The Murphys and the French Riviera

In a fascinating BBC documentary about the history of the French Riviera I learned for the first time of the role of the Murphys - Gerald and Sara - in creating the beach-loving life for which it's now synonymous. After marrying they lived at 50 West 11th Street in New York City, where they had three children. In 1921 they moved to Paris to escape the strictures of New York and their families' mutual dissatisfaction with their marriage. In Paris Gerald took up painting, and they began to make the acquaintances for which they became famous. Eventually they moved to the French Riviera, where they became the center of a large circle of artists and writers of later fame, especially Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, Fernand Léger, Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, Archibald MacLeish, John O'Hara, Cole Porter, Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley. Prior to their arrival on the French Riviera, the region was experiencing a period when the fashionable only wintered there, abandoning the region during the high summer months. However, the activities of the Murphys fueled the same renaissance in arts and letters as did the excitement of Paris, especially among the cafés of Montparnasse. In 1923 the Murphys convinced the Hotel du Cap to stay open for the summer so that they might entertain their friends, sparking a new era for the French Riviera as a summer haven. The Murphys eventually purchased a villa in Cap d'Antibes and named it Villa America; they resided there for many years. When the Murphys arrived on the Riviera, lying on the beach merely to enjoy the sun was not a common activity. Occasionally, someone would go swimming, but the joys of being at the beach just for sun were still unknown at the time. The Murphys, with their long forays and picnics at La Garoupe, introduced sunbathing on the beach as a fashionable activity. From Wikipedia The painting by Gerald Murphy is titled 'Clocks' See also Farewell Robert Le Pirate about the famous nightclub at Cap Martin

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Favourite Poetry - Stag's Leap

Now I come to look at love
in a new way, now that I know I'm not
standing in its light. I want to ask my
almost-no-longer husband what it's like to not
love, but he does not want to talk about it,
he wants a stillness at the end of it.
And sometimes I feel as if, already,
I am not here - to stand in his thirty-year
sight, and not in love's sight,
I feel an invisibility
like a neutron in a cloud chamber buried in a mile-long
accelerator, where what cannot
be seen is inferred by what the visible
does. After the alarm goes off,
I stroke him, my hand feels like a singer
who sings along him, as if it is
his flesh that's singing, in its full range,
tenor of the higher vertebrae,
baritone, bass, contrabass.
I want to say to him, now, What
was it like, to love me - when you looked at me,
what did you see? When he loved me, I looked
out at the world as if from inside
a profound dwelling, like a burrow, or a well, I'd gaze
up, at noon, and see Orion
shining - when I thought he loved me, when I thought
we were joined not just for breath's time,
but for the long continuance,
the hard candies of femur and stone,
the fastnesses. He shows no anger,
I show no anger but in flashes of humour
all is courtesy and horror. And after
the first minute, when I say, Is this about
her, and he says, No, it's about
you, we do not speak of her.

from Stag's Leap, by Sharon Olds, who has won the TS Eliot Poetry Prize

Monday, 14 January 2013

The Joys of Bird Feeding

The old garden wall with the hazel tree on the left

I have never fed wild birds as I believed that once begun, one had to be consistent and continue to feed, otherwise the birds would starve in cold weather. I was probably wrong, but I now have a country garden where I can maintain regular feeding and have therefore set up some feeding stations on and beneath a fine hazel tree in my garden in Hampshire.

Old Swan House with the hazel tree hung with feeders, with the robin feeding station at its base The urn feeds the pigeons
The hazel tree is now a busy feeding station full of bird life with three bird feeders - two hanging and one - specially for robins - on the ground. Tits crowd the feeders and the garden robin hops delightedly on his wooden frame as he pecks the delicacies out of his special mix.
The garden robin with his feeder

And the urn in the foreground has been pressed into service as an additional feeder - for pigeons and doves. It remains to be seen whether the local squirrels will come and help themselves as well, but all are welcome.