Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser (literally ‘Kingdom of Peace Hundred-Waters’ – a pseudonym, his birth name was Friedrich Stowasser) is famous for his colourful paintings and architectural designs which seem to defy gravity and bring nature indoors. His humanistic approach to building (for instance: ‘everyone should be entitled to a window to lean out of and contemplate the world’, ‘corridors should be like paths through a forest’ and his distaste for the straight-edged ruler and ‘chicken or rabbits in a cage’ approach of functional architecture) is very inspiring. He was a provocateur and a rebel all his life. My parents used to huff and puff with disdain when they saw him being interviewed on TV in my childhood, but I was entranced. You can read more about his achievements on this excellent website. Here are some of my favourite examples of his work.
All of us who dream of a writing hut may have got a little envious seeing David Cameron’s ‘shepherd hut’ painted in an elegant Farrow & Ball hue, where he intends to pen his memoirs (‘How I Destroyed the Future of Other People’s Children and Laughed All the Way to the Bank’ is the working title, I believe). But there are other options out there, even though most of them are currently used for unusual holiday accommodation.
We may not have those romantic chateaux for which the French are famous, but there are some memorable country piles in my local area. Although it pains me to say this, these pictures give you a clue why this area voted Remain (holiday homes in France, Italy etc.) but will probably vote Conservative now and always.
Not to say that there aren’t also people living in Council housing and who have never travelled outside their local area, but they are the ones who have been lied to and who are afraid of the immigrants coming and taking their jobs and/or benefits.
Literary Hub recently had a feature on Four Iconic Writers and the Felines Who Loved Them. Needless to say, all four were male writers and Alessandra Asteriti responded to my RT of that article: ‘Is the assumption that all women love cats because you know ‘women’, or are there no iconic female writers, or what?’ So I decided to redress the balance with a few pictures of iconic women writers and their cats.
Incidentally, Muriel Spark has written one of the funniest and most accurate descriptions of the love between writers and cats in A Far Cry from Kensington. Thank you to Alessandra for reminding me of it:
…if you want to concentrate deeply on some problem, and especially some piece of writing or paper-work, you should acquire a cat. Alone with the cat in the room where you work, I explained, the cat will invariably get up on your desk and settle placidly under the desk-lamp… The cat will settle down and be serene with a serenity that passes all understanding. And the tranquillity of the cat will come to affect you… so that all the excitable qualities that impede your concentration compose themselves and give your mind back the self-command it has lost…
Three years later the Brigadier sent me a copy of his war memoirs… On the jacket cover was a picture of himself at his desk with a large alley-cat sitting inscrutably beside the lamp. He had inscribed it ‘To Mrs Hawkins, without whose friendly advice these memoirs would never have been written – and thanks for introducing me to Grumpy.’ The book itself was exceedingly dull. But I had advised him only that a cat helps concentration, not that the cat writes the book for you.’
Last but not least, although I failed to find a picture of her cats: Shirley Jackson always had six or more cats all of the same color—usually black, sometimes gray—and she happily allowed people to believe the cats were her familiars to enhance her witch-like reputation. The truth was at once funnier and sadder than that: her cats looked all the same so that her husband, who was short-sighted and not at all fond of cats, would not be able to tell exactly how many cats she had.
I’ve presented quite a few homes of writers and artists in France, but what about some homes for English-language writers in the US and UK? I don’t want to neglect Africa, Australia or New Zealand, so if you know of any noteworthy houses there, be sure to let me know in the comments section.
Finally, in this one you can actually stay overnight courtesy of AirBnB.
It’s all fine and dandy to look at all those palaces and glorious home libraries or artists’ studios, but what does your own writing space look like? I am mildly obsessed with writer’s studies, as you might have gathered, and a couple of years back could not get enough of the Periscope #whereiwrite initiative. So, while this might not qualify as escapist, I’ll show you mine if you show me yours…
And a special late addition for Lady Fancifull, who was disappointed at the lack of real cats… Here is Zoe in her favourite position when I am working at my desk.