knitting by Sandra Horn
I'm no good at knitting, but I'm going to try knitting the Cite des Livres in Aix-en-Provence with stuff about stereotypes and personal myths. Here goes. By the way, I can't find the 'insert symbol' thingy to put an accent over the e in Cite. Sorry. And I'm in a mad rush because, having sat all through the winter like toads under a rock, we now can't seem to stay in one place long enough to gather our wits. We aere in Aix for a few days' break, dashed back, visited my Mum, went to Dorset for the Dorset Reading Partnership AGM (lovely people!) and are even now packing up to go back to Dorset (hooray!) for the Spring Tide Festival at Burton Bradstock, where we will hope to shift some books...hope springs eternal, etc. I'm telling you all this in the hope that any scrambled stuff will be excused. It's already taken me 20 minutes to remember how to do the blog. I'm not panicking, though. Oh no.
Anyway, Aix: the photos show the most wonderful library, with a huge, heavenly children's section and several smaller rooms devoted to specific arts topics like theatre. There's also a great cafe and exhibition space, which had subversive contemporary wallpaper designs when we visited - florals with sly little insects creeping through them, others with faces made of tendrils, and a comic-book strip design where the speech bubbles all cony=tained deep philosophical thoughts. It lifted my spirits to soaring heights. On the other hand (watch for the change of stitch here) I had the worst croque monsieur ever in Rousillon. The bechamel (again minus the accent) was totally bland and the flour in the roux hadn't been cooked out - bleurghh!! Then there's my lovely uncle-by-marriage Tom, or Twm as he never called himself. Welsh, couldn't sing a note, didn't hate English people. I was once on the metro in Glasgow and the jiggling did something funny to my balance centre. When I got up I couldn't walk straight and I kept lurching about and falling into people's laps. Did the said people assume I was unwell in some way? Of course not. It was Glasgow. I probably didn't help by insisting that I HAD NOT been drinking....By and large, these stereotypes are not a good thing. From time to time I've met someone who conforms exactly to what we 'know' about, I don't know, the Irish, the French, the Germans, people from the next Sussex village, and I want to shake them and shout 'Pull yourself together! You don't have to be like this!' They are also a lazy way of creating characters. So far, so bad, but they bear some sort of relationship to our personal myths, I think. Mine was my Scottish/Irish ancestry, which recently turned out to be a fiction, but too late to stop me writing The Silkie, Rory McRory and Tattybogle. If I'd known all along that I was an English Celt, would that have made a difference? I'm horribly afraid it might have. Lucky, then, that I didn't find out! By the way, for the record, there are only a small number of British people who can claim Norman or Viking ancestry. Most of us are Celts of one tribe or another - from Ireland in my husband's case, from the Great Hungarian Plains after the ice melted, in mine. Maybe my next picture book will feature Great Turkey Bustards, who knows?