Tuesday, August 7, 2012

In the Haus of Madam V

Have you ever met a woman who was so extraordinairy, so unique, so perplexing, zany and inspiring, that they've left their mark on you forever? Madam V was one of those very, very extraordinairy ladies.

A bit of an enigma.
Endearilngly eccentric.
One of a kind.

When I was a child, Madam V lived across the road from us for many, many years.
She was a zany Jewish lady aged in her 50's or 60's.
Artistic and Bohemian.
Slightly frightening.
She had a frenetic bob of riotous auburn curls that jiggled as she walked. Her eyes were a searing hazel green that she often lined with kohl liner. She drove a deep scarlet vintage Jaguar with cream leather seats. She always looked out of sorts behind the wheel, as if she should have had a personal chauffeur driving her. She would often wear a big black velvet swing coat in Winter which engulfed her tiny frame. She was so short and petite she looked like a child wearing her Mother's dress ups.

My favourite image of Madam V is seeing her walk to the local milk bar, dressed in leggings, Grecian sandals and a big white man-sized t-shirt emblazoned with the words 'Leave Me Alone'. She walked like she was a woman on a mission, charging down the street. She was never without a cigarette (tobacco or other). A thousand lines etched little paths around her red stained lips.

Madam V lived alone. Her husband had died years earlier.
But her house was always a haven for artists, writers and intellectuals.
When I was 17, my next door neighbour Miss M, who was only a few years older than I, approached me and asked me if I'd like to earn some extra pocket money.

'Sure', I said, 'what do you have in mind?'
'Would you like to help me clean Madam V's house for a few hours every fortnight? She's just fired her cleaning lady and wants someone she can trust' 
'Why not?' I replied. A girl had to earn money to sustain her shoe habit.

And so I journeyed into the Haus of Madam V.

It was a beautiful house. Tinkling chimes and statues of Buddha graced the front door. Sunshine beamed through the giant bay windows illuminating the tiny dust particles that danced about like little fairies doing a jig. Every room was  painted white. The furniture was white, the doors were white. The floors were covered with white flokati rugs, which at first glance for my naive eyes looked like dead polar bears. The house smelled like gardenias and jasmine with a dash of patchouli for that extra touch of exoticism. Vases of white lilies adorned every room. Big bold paintings adorned the walls majestically.

Her house was always spotless. All Miss M and I would do was vacuum, clean the bathroom, dust and mop. Classical music always greeted us when we walked in. My time cleaning the Haus of Madam V educated me in the soulful melodies of Bach, Mahler and Saint Saens.

My favourite room in the house was Madam V's bedroom with its white walls, white linen drapes, a soft woollen throw strewn over the white sheets of the bed. A vintage dressing table gleamed with little crystal bottles of perfume that I would so lovingly and delicately dust. French doors opened up to a private little courtyard bursting with roses. The most striking feature of the room however was a beautiful mural painted on the wall at the head of the bed. It was by one of my favourite artists, Mirka Mora, who Madam V happened to be very good friends with. It was at the Haus of Madam V that I was exposed to such beautiful, vibrant art that touches my soul to this very day.

Artist extraordinaire, Ms Mirka Mora in her studio
Image source here
The mural featured whimsical angels (like the ones below). The angels warmed my heart and kept me company as I beat the dust out of the flokati rugs with a rattan racquet.

''Two Angels' 1970 by Mirka Mora.
Image source here
 Madam V would never be home when we cleaned. She would leave money for us on the table with a note of thanks. Though there were two occasions I remember when she arrived home early.

On the first occasion she had been to an event that commemorated the Jewish Holocaust during World War 2. She opened up to me about the time when she was a little girl in her homeland. Her family were hiding in secrecy, trying to avoid Nazi capture. What stayed with me was what had happened to her father. She told me that there was not enough food to feed everyone so her father sacrificed his portions. When the food was close to running out he decided to go in search for more to feed his precious family. He never returned. Was he captured? Killed? No one knew.

On the second occasion Madam V burst into the house dancing. She had drunk in the joys of champagne and was feeling festive. I was packing up the mop when she called me in her thick, Jewish accent.

'Tzesika! Come here! I have somethink to give to you!'
She held out a lovely handkitted purple scarf.
"Zis is for you, darlink girl. I vant you to vear it vith Suffragette Pride!" she exclaimed as she wrapped it around my neck. She'd been to a luncheon celebrating the anniversay of women getting the vote and was high on the glories of Sisterhood.

I cleaned Madam V's house for almost a year and then stopped when I got into University.
She moved house not long after, taking her magnificent Jaguar and Bohemian-ess with her.

I think of her often and adore her for living her life so openly with her free-spirit and 'Who Gives A &*^%' attitude.
And come Winter, I dig out my purple scarf and wear it with great big, glorious Suffragette pride.


Linking up with the lovely Jess from Diary of a SAHM for 'IBOT'!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Wild Orchids

Before I begin, if this post's title has excited you and you have stumbled across my humble little blog expecting some saucy action between Mickey Rourke and Carré Otis, I'm sorry to have to disappoint you. I will, however, compensate by sharing this quick pic just for you:

There. Happy now? 

That's as raunchy as this post gets but you're more than welcome to stick around and read on x

Now, back to the Orchids.

In my back garden lives a terracotta pot. From it's heart grow the orchids. They grow wild, for I never tend to them. I keep meaning to, and one day soon, I will.

My father brought home this pot over 15 years ago. It was a present from the college where he was teaching architecture. My father had decided to resign from his position to pursue his real passion, performing and composing music. In this pot stood one lone orchid, straight and proud. I, too, was proud of my father. He had made a brave decision to be true to his heart and live his passion. This inspires me everyday.

I never really remember noticing the orchids again until 7 and a half years ago when my father died.
We were having a clear out of the garden when I found the pot. It was filled with grey shrivelled stalks and weeds. I was going to throw it out when I noticed a shiny purple stalk. Hope in the darkness. It was alive.

I watched over the next few week as the stalk grew, producing little buds. One morning while taking out the laundry I noticed the first bloom. It was glorious. Nature's beauty. The bloom was joined by others. I revelled in their magnificence. I cut some to take to the cemetery on Dad's birthday.

 I am not a gardener. I can't even keep a pot of parsley alive. How do these orchids grow so majestically, year after year? I want to be like those orchids. We all should be. They shed all that no longer nourishes them and are reborn. Life comes from the light and warmth of the sun, the drops of rain from the sky. They live simply. All that they will ever really need to be magnificent is already lying within them.

The old terracotta pot is struggling to contain them. The roots and stems are bursting out the top. But the orchids are not struggling. They are climbing higher and higher reaching for the sun, bowing their heads in reverence. I like to believe that they're paying homage to my Dad.
We should all be reaching for that sun and living with passion. I'm trying to. x

Are you letting your Magnificence shine?

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