Frankfurt in October

Autumn leaf 1509 blog
Autumn Leaf (A4 ink and watercolour 2014)

Every year in October I travel to Frankfurt for the book fair. It’s an inspiring time to be in Germany. The days are often warm, as if the summer can’t bear to let go, but the trees are already starting to turn red, gold and brown.

How often have I picked up a particularly beautiful leaf and put it somewhere – intending to draw or paint it later – then forgetten about it, finding a brown and shrivelled thing weeks later. This time of year is transience made visible, when everything changes from day to day, nature drawing down the shutters for winter.

The book fair is an international expression of creativity. The world’s publishers set out their stalls in five or six halls, some with three floors per hall. Those of us who are mainly English-speaking can only feel humbled walking through, say, the Norwegian or Dutch sections, seeing books by writers largely unknown outside of their own languages. There is so much that we can never know.

On the theme of creativity, this morning I read an interview with the conductor, Simon Rattle, in the Sueddeutscher Zeitung magazine. He described how, when conducting, the music is felt in every part of the body. He mentioned a conversation between Leonard Bernstein and Andre Previn. “How are you, Andre?” asked Bernstein. “OK,” Previn replied, “But I have terrible backache.” “Really?” Bernstein gasped, “I had no idea you were so successful!”

 

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Autumn in Germany

Gourds blog

Gourds (A5 Faber Castell watercolour pencils on sketchbook page 2015)

One of the many things I enjoyed about living in Germany was the way seasons are celebrated: Christmas markets are well-known, but there are festivals built around the first applewine pressing, the start of spring, young wine and many others.

I can never think of Germany in October without remembering the baskets of gourds that appear at many farm gates, at least in southern Germany where I was earlier this week. At three or four for a Euro, there’s no excuse not to decorate the kitchen table with an autumnal pile of gourds, turning leaves and lichen-covered branches.

These three also gave me the excuse to try out my daughter’s splendid set of 120 Faber Castell watercolour pencils. They’re wonderful, like drawing with coloured butter…