If I close my eyes I can see it all before me: the pink flowered wallpaper, the ornate wooden frame and the brass plaque proclaiming the title of the painting: This too shall pass. That painting hung on Jack Heron’s wall. Jack was the favourite uncle of my cousins, Wout and Niels. English by birth, Jack had grown up in the tropics. He made his fortune as an artist, with a string of prints to his name. He now lived with his French wife in an actual castle with an intriguing English-French-colonial feel. We used to call it Chateau Pippadour, after Jack’s wife, although I now realise that it couldn’t have been her real name. Wout and Niels would spend every summer at the chateau. One year I went with them. I immediately understood the appeal. Uncle Jack’s infectious laugh and his habit of spending all day in his bathrobe. Pippadour’s albums of pressed flowers, the conservatory filled with exotic tropical plants. The gardens and the lake, where swans would glide serenely between the rushes and waterlilies. And of course, the monkey motif.
You can learn a lot from monkeys, Uncle Jack would say – they show us who we really are.
And he had monkeys everywhere, on wallpaper, tableware and fabrics. In the hallway were figurines of the three wise monkeys who saw no evil, heard no evil and spoke no evil. Just like Jack and Pippadour, the embodiment of laissez-faire. Do whatever you like provided you enjoy yourselves and don’t hurt anyone else. All day in your pyjamas – why not? A swimsuit in the rain? Of course. Fried fish for breakfast? Bon appétit!
Pippadour was from Arcachon, renowned for its oysters. She taught me the right way to prepare and eat seafood. She showed me how to press flowers which we picked together from the garden she had designed herself, with its heart-shaped flower beds and long curved hedges. You could get lost for hours because those hedges were much too high to see over. I would help Pippadour keep everything neat. She let me choose the vases for the flowers we took inside. She had a vast collection from all over the world: Chinese earthenware, Japanese porcelain, fine German Dresden and hand-painted Delft Blue. When I wasn’t helping Pippadour, I often sat with Uncle Jack in his studio, with its huge windows looking out over the gazebo, drinking tea from a mug emblazoned with a big letter P.
Chateau Pippadour quickly became my ‘happy place’. I spent only a week there and it was a very long time ago. Nevertheless, I often think back to those halcyon days, and especially that little brass plaque under the painting. Just four words, but they taught me how to enjoy life and to take nothing for granted. ‘Mindfulness’ had yet to be invented in Uncle Jack’s day but he and Pippadour were certainly experts in it. They lived their lives by those four short words: This too shall pass.
These words now become the inspiration for our new collection. They are reassuring, but they also remind us to seize the day and enjoy what we have.
Enjoy the new season. We certainly shall.