Saturday, March 17, 2018

History of furniture

When we were in Launceston recently we noticed this piece of furniture in the lounge of the Colonial Hotel.
It was being used as a seat for the public computer and created much interest as we were waiting to go into dinner one evening. The Colonial Hotel main building was originally a school dating back to 1847. It became a hotel 1972. Many alterations have been made and new buildings added but some features of the school have been retained in the original buildings. Some of the furniture in the old part of the hotel reflects the building's history.

I borrowed some books from the library to try and establish some information about this seat. This form of upholstery became popular from the 1820s and is still used today on some furniture pieces. I could not locate any pictures of a seat like the one at the hotel. It is similar to a window seat but they normally are not curved like this one. However I did find a picture of an 18th century window seat with two carved 'tongues' sloped to left and right.. The note about this seat suggested that sometime the flute (seating part) is narrow resulting in a trough or valley between two raised tongues. (Huntley page 106). Huntley has a section on English Settees (including varieties of window seats) for the period 1800-1840. One of sofas is upholstered brown leather in a similar design to the one in the hotel. Another name for a window seat is a banquette (a window seat with raised ends but no back). Recamiers (day beds) were popular in France in the early19th century. They developed into chaise longues.

I did not see any designs with the wooden rest on one side. It may have been used for placing a book on or as a small writing desk. The seat was possibly manufactured during the 20th century. Unfortunately I was not able look at it closely enough to see if there was a manufacturer's label. Whenever it was made, it is an interesting piece of furniture.          

Furniture: from Rococo to Art Deco. Cologne:  Evergreen, 2000

Judith Miller. Furniture: world styles from classical to contemporary. London: Dorling Kindersley, 2005

Michael Huntley. History of Furniture: ancient to 19th C. Lewes: Guild of Master Craftsman Publications, 2004

The Little Paris Bookshop

Jean Perdue owns a "literary apothecary" - a barge fitted out as a book shop moored in Paris on the River Seine. Jean has the gift of being able to share the right book for each customer and has regular customers who purchase books from him.

When Catherine moves into his apartment block, memories of a lost love are stirred up resulting in Jean and Max, an author with writer's block, sailing along rivers and canals to Provence where Jean can come to terms with the past. Along the way they meet Cuneo and Samy who join them for part of the trip.

Like, The Little Breton Bistro, this is a book about relationships plus regrets about what may have been done differently. The descriptions of the scenery they pass on the rivers and canals is realistically described providing a glimpse of life in the French countryside. The last section of the book is set in Provence where the scenery and food is vividly described.

Another enjoyable book from Nina George.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Good Pilot Peter Woodhouse: a wartime romance

Alexander McCall Smith has written many books including books in The Number One Ladies' Detective Agency series, Isabel Dalhousie series and  44 Scotland Street series. One of the author's strengths is that he writes about people as they experience what life presents. This he achieves again in this book about people reluctantly involved in war in England, Holland and Germany and about a dog, Peter Woodhouse.

Part of the book is set in England where Val lives with her aunt and works as a Land Girl on a local farm. The American Air Force sets up a base in the area and Val meets Mike, one of the pilots. When her cousin, Willy, rescues a dog that has been mistreated by its master Val realises that they must hide the dog in a new home. That is how Peter Woodhouse becomes a mascot dog for the men at the air force base and even gets to ride in a plane.

The story moves on to Holland where Mike and Peter Woodhouse are sheltered by members of the resistance after their plane is shot down. As well as portraying the difficulties of life in England during and after the war, the book describes the situation in Germany after the defeat that country and tells of people trying to reconstruct their lives.

Generally this is a book about humanity. The characters of the book demonstrate how war affects the lives of ordinary people who are just trying to survive.

The Little Breton Bistro

Nina George is a German writer who now has two books translated into English - The Little Paris Bookshop and The Little Breton Bistro. At the cricket at Launceston recently a friend was reading The Little Breton Bistro and recommended it. We also saw it displayed at Launceston airport. So I borrowed a copy from the library to read.

Marianne Messmann is a German lady who visits Paris with her husband of forty years - Lothar. Her marriage is not a happy one and one evening Marianne decides to jump off a bridge into the Seine. Much to her dismay she is rescued by a tramp and taken to hospital. However, in hospital she discovers a small painted tile of a beach scene in Brittany and decides to visit the place before she attempts to end her life once more.

This scenario sounds dismal however when Marrianne arrives in Kerdruc she makes a new group of friends and shares many new experiences, enabling her over time to rediscover the enjoyment of life. It takes a while, however, for Marrianne to decide whether to continue with her new life and identity or return, with her husband, to the old life she did not enjoy.

Marianne is not the only person who needs to make decisions as to how they want to live their life in the future. This is a book about relationships, about being brave enough to make a change and take a chance instead of thinking about what may have been. The power of water, either the river or the sea, is often in the background. The setting of Kerduc is an important feature of the book especially the bistro, Ar Mor, where Marianne finds employment and becomes an accepted member of the community. Naturally the enjoyment of cooking and eating food is a feature. However this is primarily a book about facing challenges and second chances and I enjoyed reading it

Monday, March 12, 2018

The Dispossessed

Ursula Le Guin died in January. She was eighty-nine and was well known for her writing of Science Fiction and Fantasy for adults and teenagers. Many years ago I read the first of her Earthsea books. I decided that I should read read some more of her work and chose The Dispossessed.

The book is set on two planets, Anarres and Urras. One hundred and fifty years earlier a group of people from Urras decided to leave that planet to set up a new (and better) settlement on nearby Anarras. But over time life in the new settlement, for some, is far from perfect. Shevek is a physicist disillusioned with restrictions placed on the publication of new ideas on Anarres who decides to travel to Urras where he hopes that his research will be accepted.

Becoming accustomed to a new way of life is at first difficult for Shevek, the environment in which he is now living and working being entirely different from that on Anarras. However he soon discovers that all is not right on the planet and that, for many of the population, life is far from ideal. Shevek must decide how to counter the politics and power struggles he encounters to ensure that his research is published for the benefit of all, and not just a few. Doing so, however, places his life in danger.

I did not find this book easy to read however I wanted to keep reading it. Each chapter is set on Annares or Urras and alternates from the life that Shevek is currently experiencing as well as recounting what has gone before. The two parallel accounts eventually converge to provide the ending of the story. A number of reviews of the book, originally published in 1974, mention that the reviewer had read the book more than once and I suspect that I really need to read the book a second time to fully appreciate this novel.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Wedgwood exhibition catalogues

A recent post in my Family Connections blog was about a Wedgwood cake stand that had belonged to several generations of my family. For follow-up research I borrowed two books about Wedgwood collections from the library.

Three centuries of Wedgwood: art, industry and design is a catalogue prepared by the National Gallery of Victoria in 1995. It provides a brief history of the Wedgwood Company plus a bibliography of items for further reading. The main section of the book is the illustrated catalogue of works displayed in the exhibition.

Wedgwood: artistry and innovation by Peter Kaellgren describes some of the Wedgwood items held in the Royal Ontario Museum, Canada. The author provides a description of the development of Wedgwood designs interspersed with photographs of items from the ROM collection. There are also short biographies of Wedgwood artists and designers plus a bibliography.

I did not find the design I was looking for in these books however I enjoyed looking at, and reading about, a selection of Wedgwood wares.

Kimberley Sun

This is the second book by Di Morrissey set in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. The first was Tears of the Moon and her most recent book is The Red Coast. Kimberley Sun is a continuation of the story that began in Tears of the Moon with Lily Barton deciding to spend more and more time in Broome. Lily hopes that her daughter, Sami, will also come to love Broome and want to learn more about her family ties with this remote area of Australia.

Sami does travel to the Kimberley as part of the research for her university studies. In this book we learn about Sami and her friends in the outback and also about Lily's new endeavour to become involved in the pearling industry. A subplot of the book revolves around the discovery of an old artwork which may be linked with robberies and assaults in the town and also a murder. Art is a theme throughout many sections of the book. The story is also about relationships, gaining confidence in abilities and learning to trust decisions and also trust other people.

Once again the setting of Broome and the surrounding area is a feature of this book which I enjoyed reading just as much the second time as I did the first time.