Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Spent Saturday at Wotton House, Buckinghamshire, for the engagement party of Stefania and Ben, two young people I did not know before. I just tagged along gratefully with my friends Jeremiah and David once more, and one could not imagine a more wonderful day than this cloudless June Saturday in the Pleasure Grounds of this splendid early eighteenth-century house, landscaped by Capability Brown. After the champagne lunch the guests strolled over the endless ravishing lawns and through the leafy arbours. Every now and then there were baskets strategically placed under a shadowy oak tree with more champagne to refresh the guests on their walk.
Mali seems far far away, but is not forgotten and soon I know it will call me back and my return will not be reluctant, however lovely Europe undoubtedly is...

Friday, May 21, 2010

My dear old pal Jeremiah is keeping me rushed off my feet with a hectic social schedule. So hectic in fact that I haven’t had time to go shopping, and since I have no clothes at all suitable for London in late May, I tend to turn up everywhere in the riding boots I just bought in Spain. That includes yesterday morning’s meeting with Lady Antonia Fraser, when I handed over the Maria Theresa Thaler I had bought for her in the Djenne market. (see blogs March and April I believe for correspondence) The Grande Dame received me in her Campden Hill Square House in which she has lived for fifty years. We had coffee and chatted amiably for about forty minutes perhaps. She gave me a copy, which she signed, of her latest book: ‘Must you go?’, about her life with Harold Pinter. She was kind and gracious and I liked her lot, but felt just a little in awe of her fame, beauty, and achievement, so I took my leave early, not wanting to overstay my welcome.
Then I spent the afternoon reading her book, and recognizing, perhaps, from afar, a kindred spirit. She too is a Romantic, and she too changed her life Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita….

Well, as I was saying, I am stomping about London in my riding boots due to lack of shopping time. But for Monday’s dinner at the Luxembourg Ambassador’s place, I realized that this simply wouldn’t do. So I breezed in to M&S with ten minutes to spare and bought a 4-tiered long black cotton skirt, which I thought might do if worn with high heeled black shoes, my embroidered antique afghan red waistcoat and amber necklace. Little did I know, coming from the Heart of Africa, that this outfit most certainly marked me out as a sort of Fashion Curiosity. So much so that one of my fellow guests, the siren-like Macedonian Ambassador, tottered over on her vertiginous patent leather shoes, just to hear what I might have to say for myself…She had draped her own admirable ambassadorial curves in tight fitting salmon satin with shoulder frills, which I now realize is de rigeur this spring and which couldn’t be further removed from my own outfit…
Anyway, everyone was kind and forgiving. I became chummy with a Persian lady of a certain age in a mink stole, pearls and false eyelashes, who reminded me of my Princess Lulie. (see blog search above). We talked about Edith Piaf over dinner, and I tried out my thesis, with some success, that ‘Je ne regrette rien’ is for monsters or fools….

And today I went to see Cathy Collins at the British Library. She is the coordinator of the Endangered Archives Program, and she told me, strictly entre nous, that the panel was pleased with what we had achieved with the Djenne MSS Pilot Project, and that the panel was favourably disposed towards the Major Project for which I will apply in the beginning of November.
More about the Djenne MSS soon, because something interesting might be cooking with my old pal M.Vielle, the Cultural Attaché at the French Embassy in Bamako. They might just give us a hand…

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Forgive the leaning format!
Cannot seem to master my friend David's computer, but nevertheless need to put this picture up: it is from an exhibition of Djenne architecture at the RIBA in London. Here is the introductory speal:
'Nestled in a weave of gentle waterways, Djenne was once a major centre of West African trade and Islamic scholarship. The town was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1988. Its unique architecture bears testament to a glorious past and today it is a celebrated part of modern Malian identity. Djenne’s masons continue to enjoy a reputation as Africa’s finest builders.'
The curator and photographer is Trevor H.J.Marchand, a social anthropologist at SOAS as well as an architect, whose book'The Masons of Djenne'(Indiana University Press) describes his study time in Djenne when he signed up as a mason's apprentice. I am devouring this book this afternoon in a cozy West London flat, the home of Jeremy and David, the latter my most frequent commentator on this blog.
I am far from Djenne but this book transports me right back: I know many of the people he mentions in these pages. I just missed him- he left in 2005 just as I arrived...And just now there is building going on on the new land even in my absence, when I get back in just over a month I will have a house to live in for the first time, and will no longer have to live in a hotel room.

Friday, May 14, 2010

my days of traverse, leg-yield, shoulder-in, half pass and other such dressage fun have been interspersed with great rides in the Andalucian country side. Yesterday we went on a on a beach ride along the Atlantic couast.Tonight is our farewell dinner with flamenco show and tomorrow comes, much too soon, the departure. I want to be Spanish, I think I might have been Spanish in another life...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Things finally did look up, but not until they had deteriorated a lot further. I went off to the train station, having given up on finding my friend Stirling. At the station I was told that every night train south was full. So I had to get into a cab and rush out to the airport again to try and get on the last flight to Seville. This turned out to be horribly expensive, but I managed to get on it with a few minutes to spare, and finally arrived in Seville last night At the gate a driver was waiting with a sign with a horse on it. This cheered me up, because I have always wanted to be met at an airport by somebody carrying a sign.
I was driven to a small Andalusian town of carmona, where the other members of the group were still having dinner. A jolly crowd of mainly American women, but also including a young Russian girl who had flown here all the way from her home in vladivostok. She too had lost her luggage. She got hers back this morning, and mine has been located and will arrive tomorrow morning.
We have all been for a lovely ride this morning through olive groves and poppy fields, and now we have just finished our first lesson in the manege.
And here I am, with an Andalucian thoroughbred stallion, the horses for which this area is famous. Tomorrow we are going on an outing to the Royal Andalucian Riding School so things have clearly looked up...

Sunday, May 09, 2010

The quality of this picture is a good illustration of my general state of mind. It shows me having some deep fried squid and a glass of Rioja in a tapas bar on the Ramblas, since I thought I might as well do something Spanish to cheer myself up: still no word from my old friend Stirling. Spoke to a nice, comforting, Scottish sounding lady at the riding centre Epona in Seville. I explained I don´t even have a pair of jeans to ride in, and that I am so sorry I can't be there for tonight's dinner in the neighbouring town, and the welcoming of this week's riding group.
Will take taxi to train station now.
What a mess!

Things are a little problematic...
It started with a great storm and a torrential downpour delaying my flight from Bamako for several hours. This was not too bad, because I still had time to go in to Casablanca on my day's stop-over yesterday, to revisit some of the places where I had been with Keita almost exactly one year ago. One of those places was our favourite seafood restaurant on the Corniche, where I showed the staff recent pictures of Keita walking. they were amazed and very happy.
The afternoon in Casablanca was lovely but then it all went wrong..
The flight to Brcelona was cancelled because of the volcanic ash cloud. I stayed the night in an airport hotel where there was no internet. I was therefore unable to contact my friend Stirling who was waiting for me in Barcelona, since I don´t even have his phone number.
When I finally arrived in Barcelona this afternoon I found that my luggage had been lost. I have not been able to find Stirling yet and I am supposed to be in Seville by now to start my riding holiday tomorrow morning!
Sitting in an internet caff not quite knowing what to do... Will just have to take the night train to Seville I suppose: It is Sunday and all shops are closed so can´t even get some clothes to wear... And it is freezing in Europe. It must be about 20 degrees here: I am shivering! I left Djenne with 42 degrees showing on the bar thermometre...oh dear..

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Dolly the donkey has a new girlfriend. (Dolly is a He.) He was causing lots of problems, escaping and running around in pursuit of love, getting himself into scrapes with other donkeys etc. So Ace said that we ought to find him a girlfriend. She arrived last week and hasn’t got a name yet. She has already started to pull the cart with earth for the land fill in her patient donkey way.
Malians, like most other peoples, treat their donkeys quite badly and hold them in contempt. If a donkey dies it is simply thrown onto a piece of waste ground to rot. Horses on the other hand are considered to be noble animals and are therefore buried.
I am running around trying to arrange everything for my departure. The hotel is closing mid May to end June, although I will be gone the day after tomorrow. Keita is here with me for my last week in Mali, and will accompany me to Bamako. I will fly to Spain on Saturday morning for a week’s riding holiday near Seville. I am hoping to learn some dressage so that my lovely Maobi won’t get bored with me…
Then on to England, France Holland and Sweden!