Monday 5 July 2010

Wood Smoke and the Pot-bellied Pig

You know sometimes how a whiff of scent can suddenly remind you of a person, or take you back to a place or a moment. Well this morning I was sitting cross legged drawing on my bed, because that's where the sun was shining. I was surrounded by bottles of ink and pens and brushes, with the windows wide open.

I suddenly got a waft of burning wood coming from the woods, and in that second I was sitting in a cottage in Brittany, reading a book in front of an inglenook fireplace. H was lying on her stomach, with her legs kicking behind her on a huge wooden slay bed in the corner, drawing. A was sitting in a big old armchair smoking a cigar and reading.

Well that smell, the one I smelt this morning, that was the smell of the cottage....That, and coffee. It was tiny with thick stone walls covered in ivy, and wide window ledges and old wooden furniture. The chimney took up a whole wall. It was summer but 'A' would collect logs and make a fire every evening. Not because it was cold but just because we loved to sit by it, gazing into the flames. Sometimes we'd bake potatoes or make toast on it. The best nights were when there were thunderstorms and we could hear the rain coming down the chimney. One night something moved as we went to bed and we discovered an enormous toad hiding behind the bedside table.

In the day we'd make meals and sometimes share them with neighbours, lie in the hammock in the tiny orchard and read more books, or paint. Sometimes we'd explore the rock pools in nearby beaches or go for long walks or drives and buy fruit and vegetables from local markets. One day we were in the middle of nowhere and discovered a restaurant. I wish I could remember where it was. It was right out in the sticks. This lovely old building. As we entered we were greeted by a huge pot bellied pig. Then showed to an enormous hall with an open fire at one end.....and again that smell.

For some reason I seem to remember that it was a Sunday. The hall was packed with people. Families sitting at long dining tables. I remember little girls with dark bobbed hair and white Sunday dresses, men in suits and their wives and mothers, grandparents and babies, three and four generations at one table. In the centre of practically every table was what looked like an enormous chandelier of fruit de mer, layer upon layer of crustaceans nestled on jewel like beds of ice. We wanted to order one too....but we were a little bit scared....we weren't quite sure how to go about eating all those little sea creatures.....I can't remember what we ate we probably compromised and had moules mariniere and then some kind of meat cooked on the fire and was delicious whatever we had.....

I'd really love to find that place again....or maybe can't really re-live a memory....... hang on though...I think I just have....


  1. I can sometimes hear a particular horn beep and be crossing a road in Vietnam, where I lived for a wee spell as a volunteer.
    The smells of the city of Ha Noi can sometimes evade those recesses of my mind. A ghost of a memory that you'd stored for just that smell or noise or moment.
    And yes, wood smoke, ironbark fires, in particular. I can sniff out a fire made of ironbark in a place where the wood's been imported. Once, where I lived, it was all there was.

  2. How exotic your 'memory' is Katie, and so beautifully related.