Sue Wootton's

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Taking one last look at the place that we are leaving …

Taking out the recycling in Menton is hardly a chore since it involves the nicest walk ever, a stroll along the Boulevard de Garavan to the recycling station, where we post the cardboard through one slot and the glass through the other. Across the road from the recycling station is a lookout with a panoramic view. In September, we stood at this lookout in bright broiling heat and uncertainly picked out the major landmarks. Since then, we’ve walked this route...

‘I salute you with tangerines’: happy solstice from Menton

In December 1920, Katherine Mansfield walked a short distance along the Chemin Fleuri outside the Villa Isola Bella. She could see women doing laundry in the gardens of houses below, washing linen in ‘great tubs of glittering water’ and draping it over orange trees to dry. Imagine, sleeping later between those orange-and-sunshine scented sheets.  I see KM standing there in the lane, leaning on her stick as she gazed at that scene. She found it, she wrote in a letter to her husband, ‘supremely...

Train whistle blowing

Trains chug through Katherine Mansfield’s stories, from ‘The Little Governess’ to ‘Marriage à la Mode’ to ‘The Journey to Bruges’ to ‘An Indiscreet Journey’ and beyond. They chugged through her real life too, carrying her on adventures, or journeys of hope, and bringing people to visit when illness kept her tied to whatever bedroom in France or Switzerland she was currently trying to recuperate in.   In fact, Mansfield first arrived in Menton by motor car, not train, having been driven...

When in Rome … La Dolce Vita

Doug said we couldn’t visit Rome without paying homage to Frederico Fellini. Besides, he said, there was a (very tenuous) connection with Katherine Mansfield, who occasionally worked as a film extra in London. Clearly, had she lived into the 1950s and ’60s, we may have seen her in a Fellini film. So, after securing our ultra-cheap flights for a four day side trip to Rome, we watched Fellini’s films Roma, 8½ and of course La Dolce Vita to get us...

When in Rome … Keats-Shelley House

A Roman road runs past the bottom of the garden of our Menton apartment. Not far away, on the Italian side of the border, a plaque marking the continuation of this ancient road says that Pope Innocent IV passed this way in 1251, Catherine of Siena in 1376, Nicolo Machiavelli in 1511 and Napoleon Bonaparte in 1796. But this is recent history. In moonlight, if you tip your head slightly and tune out the noise of trains and the sea, the sandalled footfalls of centurion soldiers...

A stroll to the devil’s headquarters: Menton to Monte Carlo

On a calm, sunny November day there is probably no more pleasant way to get to Monte Carlo from Menton than to walk. The pedestrian-only trail hugs the coastline, passing between the bright blue Mediterranean and the white limestone-rock shore to one side, and steep ochre-tinted cliffs to the other. There are expansive views towards Menton and Italy and then, after rounding the point at Cap Martin, the city-state of Monaco is in sight on the hills ahead. There are...

A day trip to Grasse

One goes to Grasse, perfume capital of the world, to smell the roses, the patchouli, the jasmine, the citrus, the caramel and the musk. We weren’t disappointed. In the historic Fragonard parfumerie, which has a fascinating collection of artefacts connected to  perfume, the air was deliciously scented with an expert concoction of some of these ingredients (quite possibly super-charged with ‘linger-here’ and ‘buy-now’ pheromones). In the Fragonard shop we sniffed and sprayed enthusiastically until I could no longer distinguish the sage...

The writing process

People often want to know about the writing process. Where do you write? When? Where do your ideas come from? I get bamboozled by these questions. By ‘write’, do you mean the physical act of writing? That’s part of the process, and in itself contains many other processes. There’s the shitty first draft and there are the many rewrites. Some of us have preferred tools for these different stages. Actually, before the shitty first draft there’s (for me anyway) the...

Autumn light in Menton

Autumn is advancing here in the northern hemisphere. In Menton, September’s heat has gone, giving way to a mild October. The days are shortening and leaves are falling. The Mediterranean, which was a deep satin blue, still and strangely quiet for most of our first weeks here, has come alive. It’s as Katherine Mansfield wrote from Menton to her brother-in-law in 1920: ‘Big glancing silver ducks of light dive in and out of the sea’.  It hasn’t been particularly windy, but nevertheless for...

Frankfurt Book Fair & Patti Smith

This week I’ve been in Frankfurt to represent Otago University Press at the Frankfurt Book Fair, the oldest and largest trade book fair in the world. It’s seriously huge, sprawling over four multi-level stadium-size halls and accommodating publishing industry professionals from over 100 countries. The first three days of the five-day fair are trade only and the halls hum as publishers and distributors get down to business, exploring rights options and building international contacts. The Frankfurt Trade Centre turns into a small city of...