Tuesday, 29 November 2011
Friday, 25 November 2011
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
Thursday, 24 November 2011
Tuesday, 22 November 2011
I'm indebted to the Writer's Almanac for alerting me to the fact that today's the birthday of pop philosopher, historian, and poet Jennifer Michael Hecht, born in Long Island in 1965. Hecht holds a Ph.D. in the history of science, a subject that fascinates her -- and simultaneously convinces her that art trumps scholarship. She inhabits each world -- teaching, studying, and publishing both poetry and historical, analytical nonfiction -- but ultimately pledges allegiance, she says, to poetry. "If you look at a testimony of love from 2,000 years ago, it can still exactly speak to you, whereas medical advice from only 100 years ago is ridiculous," she said in an interview with the Center for Inquiry. "And so as a historian, I write poetry. I'm profoundly committed to art as the answer. Indeed, I don't put science really as the way I get to any of my answers; it's just helpful. It's poetry that I look to. It's the clatter of recognition. Everybody has different ways, but I attest that poetry works pretty well."
Hecht was speaking on the topic of her latest book, called The Happiness Myth: The Historical Antidote to What Isn't Working Today (2007), in which she argues that happiness is a phenomenon influenced far more by culture than by what we think of as scientific fact. In it, she writes: "We think our version of a happy life as more like physics than like pop songs; we expect the people of the next century, say, to agree with our basic tenets -- for instance, that broccoli is good for a happy life and that opium is bad -- but they will not. Our rules for living are more like the history of pop songs. They make their weird sense only to the people of each given time period. They aren't true."
Monday, 21 November 2011
Saturday, 19 November 2011
Thursday, 17 November 2011
Wednesday, 16 November 2011
Getting to St Andrews is a trek and no mistake. You get to the Edinburgh bypass and think: nearly there; not far now. Then it takes ages longer than you expect to get to the Forth Road Bridge, which looks so near on the map. But the worst is yet to come. Fife is Scotland's answer to East Anglia, in spades. Tiny meandering roads, on and on you go, narrower and narrower becomes the road. Unsettling signs invite you again and again to visit 'Scotland's Secret Bunker'. When I presented myself at the reception desk of my hotel, the news was broken to me that my room was on the third floor and the lift was broken. I stumped off in a huff to find some lunch while the lift was attended to. I drew a blank at the first establishment where soup was to be found, if I looked, 'in little pots in the fridge', except there weren't any left. I walked on and on to the far end of North St where there are two eateries - one a 'bookshop/eaterie' - on opposite sides of the road. I tried the bookshop-cum-cafe first, wishing to buy a book by Meaghan Delahunt, the tutor at the Creative Writing department with whom I had an appointment. The proprietor told me that because it was a Christian bookshop (not obvious from the establishment's name outside) - ' we only have books on reconciliation or redemption'. (This is a local shop for local people?) , 'Her book is about Tolstoy's wife, so maybe...?' I said. He smiled and shook his head. So I went across to The Point (where 'food is The Point' - geddit?) Where Wills met Kate. I found the only spare table and had delicious Thai sweet potato soup a pot of tea and a smoked salmon and cream cheese wrap with salad leaves dribbled with balsamic vinegar and started to feel the life inch back into my extremities. For some reason, I had stumped out of the hotel with a very heavy and badly designed book bag whose handles are slightly too long to be able to let it dangle, and too narrow to allow it to be carried securely on the shoulder. Revived, restored, I walked round to Market St and along to a bookshop where I found a copy of a book by Meaghan Delahunt. Not the one about Tolstoy's wife (The Blue House - which Meaghan now tells me is not about Tolstoy but Trotsky), another one, set in Greece. I also looked for a postcard to send to my Swedish date who had sent his suggestion for a name for the book of this blog, as requested, on a postcard (so literal-minded, those Swedes). As a matter of fact, it is a very well chosen and exclusive postcard, of a collage by the Russian artist Kasimir Malevich (in Swedish transliteration, Malewitch) 1878-1935. I have a favourite picture, a lithograph entitled Homage to Malevich by the Scottish artist Ian Hamilton Finlay, a present from my sister who worked with Ian H F on and off for 40 years. The image in the Hamilton Finlay lithograph is of a flaming cross falling downwards. The collage (pictured above left) is entitled 'An Englishman in Moscow'. This is not the title suggested on the card for the book of my blog, which is the catchy if surreal: From Farningham (or Kent) and Moffat (or Scotland). There is a slogan on the collage which I have been trying to decipher in case that might be appropriate. I am indebted to the web for the following explanation of the collage's meaning:
- The visible world is not what it seems to be - one thing conceals another.
- Familiar themes in this painting:
- The notion of concealment - expressed here most obviously by the covering of half the subject's face
- Cutting and slicing - denoted by the wartime images of the sword and bayonets, as well as the scissors and the saw
- The ladder - with its reference to raising up or to a higher perspective
- Zatmenie - at the top of the painting - is the word for eclipse. It is has been divided into another two words that convey the notion of "beyond the dark"
- Chastichnoe - at the bottom of the painting - is the word for partial. It has been divided in such away as to isolate the word 'chas' (hour) from the suffix of an adverbial adjective, -noe (hourly)
- The spiritual elements (candle, the Orthodox church, the cross made of candle and sword) all seem to say that with time the scales (fish) will fall from our eyes, and we will truly see clearly.
Tuesday, 15 November 2011
Monday, 14 November 2011
It is confirmed by The Lady magazine that Dawn French has lost 10 stone - or to put it another way, half her previous weight. When I was at my largest, expecting one or other of my children, I approached the reception desk of a French hotel. 'One at a time please' said the receptionist without raising his head, 'Sir'. It is the Prince of Wales' birthday today: happy birthday, Sir. I have met HRH once, at a reception at St James' Palace in aid of Temenos, an organisation close to his heart which was run by my then next door neighbour, the poet Kathleen Raine. Temenos is the Greek word for sacred space, not a mis-spelling of the second person plural of the Latin verb 'to hold'. KR shared her house with the remarkable visionary painter William Collins RA and had carried a torch in her youth for Gavin Ring of Bright Water Maxwell (who was gay). The resulting book of poems On a Deserted Shore possess an incantatory, mesmeric quality. I was a supporter of, and sympathiser with, the late Princess of Wales but believe that Prince Charles should be allowed to work out his personal penitence in the spirit of 'Judge not, lest ye be judged'. I wrote a complaint to the BBC last week, following an - in my view - cowardly attack on him by an academic, Mary Beard in an opinion piece comparing him to General Gaddafi. Sometimes people complain about bad language, but in my view gratuitous attacks on people such as Prince Charles are just as corrosive to our quality of life. Talking of quality of life: last week I bought a pheasant for £4 from Wallace Bros, our excellent Moffat butcher - not expensive. I cooked it in a small oval casserole dish, browning it well all over in a mixture of butter and oil, with an onion (quartered), two carrots cut into big chunks, half a dozen cloves of garlic a handful of black peppercorns and a chicken stock cube, water to three quarters of the way up the bird. I brought it to the boil and transfered into a medium oven for an hour or so. I took the pheasant out when it had cooled, brought the liquor back to the boil and threw in some couscous grains. I have enjoyed cold pheasant with couscous and mango chutney over the weekend, with some baked squash for my vitamin D quotient, and am astonished at how much meat there is on the bird.
There is a vote for 'Keep Calm and Carry on Reading' as a title for the book of this blog to be published by Moffat Book Enterprises in 2012. Other, new possibilities include:
For You the Year is Over (too many old war movies?)
Write! Read! Book! Blog!
Diary of a Provincial Lady
By Birnock Water I Sat Down and Blogged
Serpents in Eden - and other animals
Flies in the Ointment (offering the possibility of a follow up volume: More Flies in the O)
Sunday, 13 November 2011
Diary of a Book Festival Organiser
What I Was Doing, and Where I was Going (with acknowledgements to Damian Searls)
Brigadoon, Books and Budget Recipes
An Enemy of The People
Out of the Frying Pan
How To Be A Book Festival Organiser
An A-Z of Books and The People In Them
A Journey Round My Room
From Our Moffat Books Correspondent
Small Earthquake; Nobody Injured
Down Your Way
Down My Way
Happenstance and Makeshiftery
Postcard from The Hedge (acknowledgements to A Roberts)
Going Forward; Looking Back
A Right Turnup for The Books
Getting On With It
Keep Calm And Carry On Reading
Often toward evening,
after another day, after
another year of days,
in the half dark on the way home
I stop at the food store
and waiting in line I begin
to wonder about people--I wonder
if they also wonder about how
strange it is that we
are here on the earth.
And how in order to live
we all must sleep.
And how we have beds for this
(unless we are without)
and entire rooms where we go
at the end of the day to collapse.
And I think how even the most
lively people are desolate
when they are alone
because they too must sleep
and sooner or later die.
We are always looking to acquire
more food for more great meals.
We have to have great meals.
Isn't it enough to be a person buying
a carton of milk? A simple
package of butter and a loaf
of whole wheat bread?
Isn't it enough to stand here
while the sweet middle-aged cashier
rings up the purchases?
I look outside,
but I can't see much out there
because now it is dark except
for a single vermilion neon sign
floating above the gas station
like a miniature temple simply lit
against the night.
"Simply Lit" by Malena Mörling, from Astoria. (c) University of Pittsburg Press, 2006. Reprinted with permission.
It's the birthday of St. Augustine, born in Thagaste, in what is now Algeria (354). He said, "Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are." (ER: Was it not also St Augustine who said: "Solvitur ambulando"- very apt for Moffat)
It's the birthday of writer Robert Louis Stevenson, born in Edinburgh (1850). His books include Treasure Island (1883), Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886), and Kidnapped (1886).
The inspiration for Treasure Island came on a rainy day in the Scottish Highlands when Stevenson's stepson was idling away the time by drawing pictures. He drew a map, and Stevenson saw it and immediately decided that it was a pirate map -- he embellished it and named it "Treasure Island." Stevenson told his stepson that there was buried treasure there, and someone had been marooned on the island. His stepson begged to know the rest of the story, so Stevenson started writing it out -- within three days he had three chapters. He worked with his stepson's input, including the boy's request that there wouldn't be any girls in the book.
Treasure Island is the story of young Jim Hawkins, whose parents run an inn in a small English town. One of their long-term lodgers is a sailor man named Billy Bones, who admits to Jim that he used to be a crew member for the now-dead pirate Captain Flint. Bones says that his fellow crew members are hunting him down because they want something that is in his sea chest. One of them eventually shows up and presents Bones with the "black spot," the pirate death sentence, and threatens to return that night; Bones falls dead of shock. Jim and his mother open his sea chest to collect their back rent, and instead, find the map for Treasure Island. Jim takes the map to two rich gentlemen, who excitedly recognize it as the map to the treasure of Captain Flint, and organize an expedition to go find the treasure.
Unfortunately for the well-intentioned but naive gentlemen, they end up hiring all of Captain Flint's pirate crew, plus one trustworthy captain. So Jim, Captain Smollett, and the gang of pirates -- headed by Long John Silver, the ship's cook, and his parrot known as Captain Flint -- set out for Treasure Island.
Jim overhears the pirates planning a mutiny, and tells Captain Smollett. On the shores of Treasure Island, they meet yet another member of Flint's crew, Ben Gunn, who has been marooned there. Both the pirates and Smollett want to get the treasure and then take hold of the ship; but the pirates are also plotting against Long John Silver. Jim is trying to outmaneuver them all and save the day. They finally make it to the treasure, only to find that it isn't there -- Ben Gunn has already found it.
In the end, Jim, Smollett, Ben Gunn, and Long John Silver head home with the treasure -- but Silver ends up stealing some and escaping into the sunset. Treasure Island ends with Jim as an old man summing up his adventures: "Oxen and wain-ropes would not bring me back again to that accursed island; and the worst dreams that ever I have are when I hear the surf booming about its coasts or start upright in bed with the sharp voice of Captain Flint still ringing in my ears: 'Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight!'"
The plot for Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde came to Stevenson in a dream. He was yelling in his sleep, and so his wife shook him awake, and he immediately informed her that he wished she hadn't -- he was dreaming part of a story. He wrote and rewrote it in several weeks while he was in bed with tuberculosis, and when it was published -- just a few months after he had first dreamed it up -- it was an immediate success.
Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde begins: "Mr. Utterson the lawyer was a man of a rugged countenance, that was never lighted by a smile; cold, scanty and embarrassed in discourse; backward in sentiment; lean, long, dusty, dreary, and yet somehow lovable. At friendly meetings, and when the wine was to his taste, something eminently human beaconed from his eye; something indeed which never found its way into his talk, but which spoke not only in these silent symbols of the after-dinner face, but more often and loudly in the acts of his life."
The story begins with Utterson hearing a shocking bit of news: that a man named Edward Hyde has assaulted a young girl, but has paid off her family with a check from a prominent and respected citizen, Henry Jekyll. The reason for Utterson's shock is that Jekyll is his friend and client, and he has recently written Mr. Hyde into his will.
When Utterson mentions Hyde to Jekyll, he makes his friend uncomfortable. For a while, nothing more happens. Then one of Utterson's clients is murdered, and a maid identifies the murderer as Hyde, but Hyde has disappeared. Jekyll produces a note from Hyde saying that he is gone forever. The links between Hyde and Jekyll continue to add up, but Utterson does not understand the connection. A mutual friend dies and leaves Utterson a note that the lawyer is not allowed to read until after Dr. Jekyll's death.
Then one day, a servant of Dr. Jekyll's comes to find Utterson and tells him that his master has disappeared into his laboratory, and keeps sending the servant on bizarre errands for a drug. The servant thinks that someone has murdered Jekyll and is hiding in his laboratory. He and Utterson break in. They find Hyde's dead body, but no trace of Jekyll.
They do find a note left behind, and Utterson opens it, along with the one from his friend. He learns the whole story: that, of course, the respected Dr. Jekyll and the monstrous Mr. Hyde are the same person. As a young man, Jekyll was fascinated by the thought that both good and evil exist in every person, and he went to work in his laboratory to figure out a way to isolate his evil self. At first, the transformation from Jekyll to Hyde came about with the use of a drug. Eventually, it started to happen spontaneously, and he could not control it; finally Jekyll could not stand it any longer and committed suicide. He wasn't sure what would happen to Hyde, but Hyde had died along with him.
Kidnapped is set in 1751, the era of the Jacobite uprisings in Scotland. In general, Jacobitism was the attempt to secure the Stuart kings to the British throne. In the case of the Scottish highlands, it was mostly an attempt to keep English influence out and let the clans stay in control, and the Stuarts were more sympathetic to the clans than King George, from the House of Hanover.
Kidnapped is the story of the orphaned boy Davie Balfour, who sets off to find his uncle. His uncle is a sinister drunk ruling over a decrepit estate, the House of Shaws. Davie realizes that his father was older than his uncle, and that Davie himself is actually the rightful heir of the estate. He asks his uncle about it, who tries and fails to have him killed, but succeeds in having him kidnapped. Davie is put on a ship bound for America, where he will be an indentured servant. The ship turns around in bad weather, and off the coast of Scotland, it hits another boat. Everyone on board this second boat is killed except for one man, a Jacobite rebel named Alan Breck. Davie overhears the crew plotting to kill Alan, so he and Alan turn on the rest of the crew and fight them off; but the two are separated trying to get to shore, and Davie ends up in the Scottish Highlands.
Eventually, Davie reunites with Alan, but it's at the scene of a crime -- one of King George's tax collectors is assassinated, a man who is also a member of the enemy Campbell clan. Alan is accused, and he and Davie flee together through the Highlands. They end up in the secret den of an outlaw Jacobite leader, Cluny Macpherson, one of the many historical figures sprinkled throughout the novel. They have many more adventures -- a duel between Alan and his arch-nemesis turns into a bagpipe contest; Alan forces Davie to pretend that he is a dying nobleman to convince a pretty girl to give them a ride across a river; and in the end, they manage to get Davie's inheritance back from his uncle, and Alan heads to France to seek refuge from the English.
Saturday, 12 November 2011
One of the many reasons I love Moffat is because of the view out of my sitting room window, of birch trees growing alongside the mill leat. The mill leat, as any fule no, is the channel dug to divert water from the main water course (in this case, the Birnock Water) for reasons understood by people who use water for mills. I do not know, and have yet to find out, what the piece of land is called between the river bank and the leat. In the case of the one I overlook, it is an exquisite shallow arc, the sort one drew doodling with one's school compass. I looked at the view particularly carefully this morning, because my sensibilities had been twanged by the arrival of the RA mag whose cover (Winter 2011)is a Hockney tree painting. The nearest I ever got to him in person was on Millenium Eve. We were standing by the Embankment waiting for the damp squib (the flash of fire that was meant to fly up the Thames before the fireworks proper, but never did) when he walked past, wearing quite a big hat. It is true that good painting - great painting - makes you immediately see the world differently. I like Hockney's trees. I looked at the birches outside my window, and they suddenly looked like Hockney birches. I could imagine how he would paint them. They still have a few golden leaves which hang delicately round them, like a veil. The golden leaves, the colours and shapes of the trunks, the arc of the mill leat - add up to an unrivalled view. Which brings me onto my second point: great artists like Monet, Matisse, Hockney go on and on painting the same thing time and time again. Unlike the rest of us who perhaps sketch a window frame in Provence and then a line of washing, these guys perseverate; they persevere, repeat themselves; they go over and over - in Monet's case the same quite boring haystack - and over again, changing the colour a bit, just completely possessed to suck out every last tiny bit of interest. To confirm my point, see an article in today's The Times newspaper about two virtually identical paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, one at first glance more or less a copy of the other but on closer inspection, radically different. There is no need to look for endless surface variety. If you find something that interests you, you just need to go on digging away at it. Novelty, variety, is not all. Depth, minutiae, sticking to one's last - all that stuff - is the mark of great artists. By the way, have you ever heard of Gerhard Richter? Nor me. He is apparently the most expensive living artist. I thought when I looked him up on the internet that someone - William Boyd perhaps - had made him up. As a matter of fact, William Boyd did make an artist up, Nat Tate (geddit). but this guy Richter. He is protean, but not in a good way. Every so often he seems to ingest the whim of the moment and splats it out as dots, neorealism, abstract expressionism. You name it, this guy can (and does) do it. Is it art? I doubt it. Stop Press: Blow me down with a fine porcupine feather quill if a work by Nat Tate (fictional artist invented by William Boyd, David Bowie and Gore Vidal) isn't to be offered for sale at an auction at Sotheby's this very Tues Nov 15). the work is entitled 'Bridge No. 114', estimate £3,00-£5,000. You read it here, folks
Friday, 11 November 2011
Ideas for a title of my collected blog entries include:
Pages from a Bibliophile's Notebook
Ramblings from A Booklover
From Aldeburgh to Alaska via Azerbaijan – travels in my room
The world in a grain of sand
Can You Hear Me At The Back? -
Do You Read Me, Moffat?
Life and other accidents
A Moffat Miscellany
Marriage, Moscow and Moffat
Grist to My Mill
With love from Moffat
Preferences on a postcard please
Wednesday, 9 November 2011
'This IS the morning. Stand back. Stand back' (as Richard E Grant/Withnail strides manic and wild-eyed towards the kitchen to do the washing up).
'We are drifting towards the arena of the unwell' (I think this is said by Paul McGann, the fellow actor and Withnail's hapless flat-sharer.
'We've gone on holiday by mistake' (Withnail, pleading with the farmer, whose left leg is mysteriously encased in polythene, for fuel and food).
'GET INTO THE VAN' (the policeman cutting across Richard E Grant/Withnail's increasingly implausible representations and arresting him for drunk driving).
I was also rendered helpless by the shot of Grant making his way unsteadily across a muddy forecourt with plastic bags tied round his feet (no wellies being available).
Then: the scene in the tea shop in Penrith where the far gone Grant orders: 'I want the finest wines available to humanity. And I want them NOW' My sentiments exactly.
Tuesday, 8 November 2011
I have 29 boxes of books arriving today from the warehouse where they have been waiting for me to sort through them. This is my tatting type task for the next month. Tatting, for those too gently reared to have heard of - or practised - this repetitive exercise in economy, is the making of rugs from old bits of materials cut into strips and threaded through some supportive web (this is wrong - for the right description of tatting see below*. What I was thinking of, possibly, is 'hooking'. I'll get back to you on that). Anyway, sounds like William Boyd's recipe for novel writing, and none the worse for that. How am I going to tackle the task of sorting them? I have weeded my library twice, in 1996 and 2009. But that was before Kindle. I think I will now be able to give away quite a few books that I kept 'just in case'. My main aim will be to have within easy reach the reference material I need to write two books: one on Julia Reitlinger the Russian artist (1898-1988) whose life and career spanned Europe in the last century and the other on the fate of a particular type of spruce from a narrow 10-mile wide coastal strip of the northwest Pacific, which occupied - and still occupies - a disproportionate amount of space, both literally and figuratively, in the national imagination. When I say 'national' I mean 'British'. Using this criterion, which has crystallised itself through the exercise of explaining it in words (well done, words!), I can at least get the books required onto the shelves in my library/work room. I was sitting at the table with a caller at around 5pm yesterday and a group of school children - sorry, students, - passing by called out and waved at us, creating the uncomfortable sensation that we were appearing on a kind of tiny reality TV show. Have I mentioned recently how passionately I love Moffat? I seriously believe it is the best place in the world to live.
* According to Wikipedia: 'Tatting is a technique for handcrafting a particularly durable lace constructed by a series of knots and loops. Tatting can be used to make lace edging as well as doilies, collars, and other decorative pieces. The lace is formed by a pattern of rings and chains formed from a series of cow hitch, or half-hitch knots, called double stitches (ds), over a core thread. Gaps can be left between the stitches to form picots, which are used for practical construction as well as decorative effect.' Tatting has been used in occupational therapy to keep convalescent patients' hands and minds active during recovery, as documented, for example, in Betty MacDonald's The Plague & I.
Today's reading recommendation is Prof N T Wright's remarkable inaugural lecture at the University of St Andrews on Oct 26 “Imagining the Kingdom” – N.T. Wright’s Inaugural Professorial Lecture « Euangelion.
Monday, 7 November 2011
In 1948, Maxime (Birley - she changed her first name from Maxine when she wed) gave birth to Loulou (she claimed to have been christened with not water but Shocking de Schiaparelli) but by the time she was 3, her parents were divorced. Maxime went on to act as a vendeuse mondaine for Paquin and Schiaparelli. Cecil Beaton proclaimed her the only truly chic Englishwoman of her generation, yet her elegance was matched by her infidelities. An affair with an Italian playboy had led to her being declared unfit by a French court and Loulou and her brother, Alexis, were placed in foster care. When she was 7 she went to a Sussex boarding school. This was followed by the French lycée in New York and a finishing school in Gstaad, where she was expelled for keeping a St Bernard which, as she led her hound down the street, set upon and devoured, as she described it, “a little café-au-lait poodle”.
It was her turn to be in disgrace and she returned to her grandmother in England. Whether by error or design, Lady Birley failed to arrange for Loulou to “come out”. In any case, she made a splendid match when she married, at 18, Desmond FitzGerald, the 29th (and last) Knight of Glin. The union did not endure. They separated without bitterness a year later and divorced in 1970. Later in the same year, the Knight of Glin married a friend of Loulou’s.
Newly single, Loulou joined her indefatigable mother in New York where Maxime, having survived affairs with Louis Malle, Max Ernst and the painter Bernard Pfriem, had just married John McKendry, curator of prints and photographs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and an early patron of Robert Mapplethorpe. There Loulou fell in with Maxime’s new friend, Andy Warhol and his Factory crowd, as well as Schiaparelli’s beautiful granddaughters, Marisa and Berry Berenson. Discovered by Diana Vreeland, she briefly modelled for Vogue, posing for Irving Penn and Richard Avedon, and designed some fabrics for Halston.
In 1968, when a junior editor of Queen magazine, she met Yves Saint Laurent, who had established his own couture house six years earlier, after briefly assuming Christian Dior’s mantle on his death in 1958. It was in 1968 that Chanel had declared him her spiritual heir and he repeatedly cited her and Schiaparelli as his favourite designers. Loulou and Saint Laurent immediately took to each other. Apart from her striking red-haired, wisp-thin beauty, he was attracted by her directness of manner and edgy sense of humour. They shared a love of colour from their childhoods — his Algerian, hers from what she called “Irish-gypsy”.
She appreciated his gesture in sending her a box in 1971, after a disastrous showing, of high-cut emerald green fox fur coats, said to have been inspired by Parisian prostitutes. By 1972 she was working with Saint Laurent in Paris and while she became part of a wider louche, hip demi-monde that surrounded him, she was more significantly an indispensable member of a protective coterie that included his éminence grise, Pierre Berge, and Saint Laurent’s “twin sister”, Betty Catroux. Loulou looked beautiful in his creations at all-night events and made jewellery for his fashion shows. She became, in short, his official muse.
In 1977, Saint Laurent hosted her wedding to Thadée Klossowski de Rola, the younger son of the painter Balthus. The wedding party was held at the Chalet des Iles in the Bois de Boulogne and remembered in Paris as the first grand social stir-fry of “punks and baronesses”. Saint Laurent continued to show four times each year despite increasing fits of manic depression, ever dependant on his muse and devoted circle. Certain mischievous fashion journalists would dub some seasons Yves Saint Loulou.
On the master’s retirement, she launched her own label of clothes and accessories. She laconically observed, “I am looking for my muse now.” But she appeared not to need one. Her jewellery became celebrated as whimsically and characteristically hers — huge cuffs of gold-tone metal, colourful enamel and bright glass; necklaces made of shards of jet; chokers of pebbles.
Asked what clothes she collected, she replied: “I don’t collect clothes — I hand them down. They do sometimes turn into a pile of dust, but that’s a tribute to a good life.”
De la Falaise is survived by her second husband and their daughter, Anna.
Loulou de la Falaise, designer and muse, was born on May 4, 1948. She died on November 5, 2011, aged 63