Art and soul

I’m not very cluey about art. All my knowledge would comfortably fit on the back of the “Mona Lisa”, even in my largest, most flamboyant scrawl. I like what I like, and I don’t like a lot of what I’ve seen to date. Ergo, my knowledge of Claude Monet, both the man and his work, is limited. But when in Giverny, as I was briefly this week, a visit to the revered artist’s house and gardens is a must.

Monsieur Monet was a founder of French Impressionism. Significantly, he and his pioneering colleagues painted landscapes outside, facing the elements, capturing nature in motion. Monet was chasing light, chasing time, on a quest to capture ‘real’ moments – paving the way for the torrent of Instagramming tourists that steadily pours through his property today.

The two-storey Monet house is large but modestly furnished, offering a glimpse into the painter’s life in the early 1900s. The flower garden in front is a wild explosion of colour, a joyous celebration of nature’s beauty. It’s a living paintbox of contrasting hues, with dazzling splashes of colour vying for your attention. The rose-laden arches are particularly gorgeous.

The pièce de résistance however (and serious click-bait for those wielding selfie sticks) is the water garden. Picture Monet’s popular artwork, “The Water Lily Pond” (1899). This here is the real thing, iconic bridge and all. Accessible from the flower garden via a short underground walkway, this is a space of genuine sensory splendour. Though no doubt meticulously landscaped and maintained, as with the rest of the grounds, it feels random, natural, untouched and real. And so tranquil. It is inspirational, and nourishing for the soul.

Dappled light gently kisses the lily pads. Beyond the pond, a serene, green, breathing border of foliage perfectly frames the scene. It’s undeniably stunning. If you really concentrate, you can block out all the (other) tourists, and then it’s just you, immersed in a spectacular, living painting.

The second most visited tourist site in Normandy (after the Mont St Michel), this pretty place is definitely worth a look.

“The richness I achieve comes from Nature, the source of my inspiration”. – Claude Monet

84 rue Claude Monet, Giverny, France 27620 (Access to house, gardens & shop). Open 9.30am-6pm, late March – late October.

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Fair wuther friends

Eyebrows are seldom raised in Fitzroy. It’s a case of anything goes and one should expect the unexpected. This quirkily cool suburb of Melbourne is home to an arty breed of boho folk. Think retro chic. Think vegan artisans with purple pigtails in hemp skirts on unicycles. (And that’s the blokes). Anything goes. But one event on Saturday garnered many bemused double-takes, as a flock of scarlet-clad Kate Bushes descended upon the Edinburgh Gardens.

The Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever is an annual celebration of the Kate Bush 1978 classic. First held in 2016, cities around the globe host the as-synchronised-as-time-zones-allow event, with attendees performing the choreography from that sublime video clip. This year marked the 40th anniversary of the song’s release, and being ’78 vintage myself, I wasn’t about to miss the Most Wuthering en masse majesty. The clip also happens to be one of my earliest music memories. It was strikingly different to other music videos at the time. It was elegant, ethereal… building to its very splendid waving/vanishing crescendo. I was hooked. Plus, Kate looked a lot like my Auntie Brenda.

I first ‘wuthered’ in 2016, and was really taken with the event. I wasn’t the only one – Melbourne’s inaugural turn-out was massive, with 1000+ “Cathys” in attendance, making it the biggest gathering worldwide. (Melbourne’s brilliant like that – we’ll turn up to anything really… arts, sport, comedy, the opening of an avocado…) Still hugely popular in its third year, it makes an entertaining if somewhat surprising spectacle for passers-by. Vixens in vermilion, of various shapes and sizes (and genders), with brunette manes flowing, recreating all those graceful (ahem) ballet moves. Burly, bearded Cathys, junior Cathys, even canine Cathys – all frolicking in the glorious winter sunshine. A community effort! Everyone’s welcome to “roll and fall in green” (BUT in red only. Them’s the rules). The event also raises funds for women’s health & services, with Melbourne’s Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre and the Alannah and Madeline Foundation benefitting. Yay us!

It’s liberating and empowering, but the overarching emotion is pure euphoria. It warms your heart and is just so much fun, it’s difficult to convey to the uninitiated. This year I enjoyed the company of old high school buddy and fellow blogger Sim (check out her wonderfully warm words – Simone: By The River). She was a TMWHDE debutante and I was thrilled (and relieved!) that she relished the beautiful experience as much as I do. Being part of the whirling, twirling sea of red revellers is inexplicably joyous. And addictive! I am a committed, seasoned wutherer now.

Check out some past gatherings on Youtube, and whet your appetite for the next wuther!

It’s a curious equation that defies logic. Who would have thought…
Red dress + red tights + green eyeshadow x 400 or so = infinite fun?!

If only Emily Bronte could see us now.