I've been reading - with enjoyment - Meik Wiking's The Little Book of Hygge, an entertaining look at the Danish concept which has had attracted much comment and interest furth of Denmark in recent times. One passage particularly caught my eye and I offer it here as food for thought:
Talking about the many necessities for a good Danish Christmas, the author says, "All the preparations for a hyggelig Christmas are quite often stressful and, indeed, not very hyggelige. Now, this may seem a bit contradictory, but it actually makes sense. Hygge is only possible if it stands in opposition to something which is not hygge*. It is essential for the concept of hygge that it constitutes an alternative to everything that is not hyggeligt in our everyday lives. For a brief moment, hygge protects us against that which is not hyggeligt. There must be anti-hygge for hygge to be valuable...
Remember my friend who commented that the only way our time in the cabin could be more hyggelig was if a storm broke outside? This is hygge. The more it sets the here and now apart from the tough realities of the outside world, the more valuable it becomes."
According to the catalogue of the National Museum of Scotland here in Edinburgh where the garment is on display in the Fashion & Style gallery, it dates from 1910, but Cursiter painted his picture in 1923. Did he borrow it from the collection for the purpose? I'd like to know more about the painting's backstory (and I love the blue scarf).
On the subject of Fair Isle knitting, I recommend the Fruity Knitting podcast presented by Andrew and Andrea. While Andrew is fairly new to the needles, his wife Andrea is a highly accomplished knitter, and her Alice Starmore colourwork in particular is awe-inspiring.
At The Queen's Hall this morning, Stephen Hough gave a breathtaking performance of pieces by Schubert, Franck, and Liszt, and a sonata of his own (the only work, interestingly, for which he used a score). The recital - minus the encores which included Mr. Hough's own sparkling arrangement of 'Waltzing Matilda' - was broadcast live on Radio 3, but you can hear it here for the next four weeks or so.
Mr. Hough is quoted here talking about possible changes to the typical concert format in order to attract younger audiences. We remarked yet again today on the high average age of the audience at concerts we've been to in recent years. Admittedly for many, work would have precluded attending this morning's event (11.00 - 1.00 on a weekday), but there was a similar preponderance of snowy-headed concert goers at Saturday evening's Matthew Passion. Where are all their younger counterparts?
At the other end of the scale, we have noticed some children in the audience. If you listen to today's broadcast you'll hear Donald Macleod refer at the end to a little Chinese girl who sat "motionless and totally attentive throughout" (she did indeed), while on Saturday there were some equally well-behaved under 10s at the Bach. Neither programme seems an obvious choice for youngsters, but I hope they all found these concerts memorable, and for the right reasons.
Back to Stephen Hough himself for a moment: world-renowned pianist, composer, writer, artist .... there's a nice interview with him here in which he talks in passing of the musician as a bringer of joy; he played that role to perfection today.
In lieu of taking you all with me to last night's majestic performance of Bach's St. Matthew Passion at the Usher Hall, here is a shot of Sir John Eliot Gardiner acknowledging the ovation for his principal soloists, James Gilchrist and Stephan Loges, the Monteverdi Choir, and the English Baroque Soloists.
To give you a flavour of it, here are two excerpts from an earlier occasion, firstly the very dramatic Sind Blitze, sind Donner:
and then the sorrowful Können Trännen meiner Wangen:
Sir John Eliot writes, "Give me a bare stage (not a picture frame) peopled with choristers freed from their scores and soloists interacting with the obbligato players and, I believe, the audience's imagination can fill it with images far more vivid than any scene painter or stage director can provide. For it is the intense concentration of drama within the music and the colossal imaginative force that Bach brings to bear in his Passions that make them the equal of the greatest staged dramas: their power lies in what they leave unspoken. We ignore that at our peril."
This shade of Soigné nail varnish is called Bleuet, or cornflower. Chic it may be, but its teal/grey-blue colour is unlike any botanical cornflower I've ever seen. The description - which I imagine has been translated from the French - is daft in any language and is surely another contender for the florid copy award along with this!
That apart, I like the polish, and for those in the market for this colour or others, Soigné have a sale on at the moment.
You have to be quick off the mark to get a Sew Sweet Violet project bag when Jooles updates her shop as they sell out in seconds! I was lucky the other day and managed to buy this one featuring Liberty Tana Lawn in the blue Kaylie Sunshine print. It's beautifully made and very roomy, and I'm delighted with it.
To mark the 150th. anniversary of the birth of Beatrix Potter, here is Delmar Banner's 1938 portrait of the naturalist, artist, writer, conservationist, and farmer, whose books are loved the world over.
Our super-baker Harriet is home from university for the summer and keeping us well supplied with sweet treats. Today's delights are chocolate, peanut, and salted caramel squares from Seasonal Baking by Fiona Cairns.
A shortbread base is covered with a salted peanut-studded caramel and topped with ganache, then smooth peanut butter is used to pipe the decoration - the Cairns version uses autumn leaves but Harriet ensured a fair distribution of squares by putting everyone's initials on them instead.
"This beautiful, thoughtful exploration of Scotland’s rich engagement with textiles weaves together the personal stories of quilt-makers with the industrial, social and artistic history found in quilts.
Rae has written extensively about textiles and Scottish crafts and for eight years operated a small arts and crafts gallery in the Scottish Borders. In Warm Covers she has drawn extensively on visits to the Fife Folk Museum in Ceres and many photographs of their gorgeous quilts are reproduced in the book. Warm Covers is a treat for quilters and the curious alike!"
Details of Janet Rae's forthcoming event at Topping's can be found here.
After all the excitement of this afternoon's Wimbledon men's final* some calming needlework may be needed. I have too many canvases already on the go to think of buying another one, but if I were in the market I'd be very tempted by Kaffe Fassett's unusual and striking 'A Lady' in the Ehrman summer sale.
In this video and this one, Kaffe talks about his use of colour and his organic approach to needlepoint design.
*Kudos to Andy Murray, and commiserations to Milos Raonic whose semi-final match against Roger Federer was supremely entertaining and a highlight of the tournament for me.
In the greenhouse the tomatoes are coming on, and the Marmande* shown above will be the first to be ready. As I pinch out side shoots and tie in new growth, so that unmistakable tomato leaf smell is released. If you want a perfume that recreates that fragrance - and makes it more complex - try La Feuille by Miller Harris.
*Grown from the seed of a supermarket tomato we ate. The plant sat on the kitchen windowsill for a couple of years during which it flowered but didn't fruit. I moved it out to the greenhouse a few weeks ago, repotted it, and waited to see what it would do - 'vigorous' is the best description now!
Over on Instagram I asked a question about the correct spelling of this variety. Daniel's Run Heirloom Tomatoes kindly answered me and said that the full name is Rouge de Marmande, and it dates from 1925, though I read that there is also a more recent introduction called 'Marmonde' which is what my Waitrose ones were labelled as. Whatever its origin, it's a good tomato.
Doing a bit of fact-checking yesterday I came across the website All of Bach, a marvellous ongoing project by the Netherlands Bach Society. Every Friday they post a new video, a special recording of one of Bach's works with background information and interviews with the performers. Thus far there are well over 100 pieces up, searchable alphabetically, by BWV number, and genre, instrument or series. If you're a Bach lover, do take a look.