• Vol. 07
  • Chapter 06

Red and green for the Queen

To my dearest niece Clementine,

It is late afternoon. I am writing to you from the cloisters, by a row of tall pillars, sheltering from the glaring sun. It is surprisingly hot for April. The Sisters of Offshoots, as they call themselves, all wear bikinis as they weed the garden. One of the older nuns appears to have lost her top and—excuse my lack of discretion—she has nipples like strawberry wine gums. The garden, which is entirely round, has been planted—they tell me—following moon cycles, and the theories of the C12th mystic Hildegard of Bingen with a little Derek Jarman thrown in. There are carrots, kale, asparagus, aromatic herbs such as black cumin, and orange marigolds, as well as the odd kinetic sculpture made from retired bicycles. Things gently turn.

Clementine, I am not exactly sure how I arrived here. Everything is rather a blur. It appears my dear friend Clarice, the Chilean collage artist (remember she made oeuvres from surgical masks), brought me to this abbey after I had a funny turn. Apparently, I got the shivers. Clarice sleeps in the room next to mine. She snores like a rhinoceros, if you can imagine that noise.

The abbey is bright red, built from stone that looks like it has been drenched in a sea of wine. A heavy, liquory crimson. Along the walls, ivy grows in a thick emerald spread. The building is red and green. Do you remember your mother, bless her soul, used to say, red and green fit for a fairy Queen, or was it an Irish Queen? I don’t remember now.

In any case, I am sending you a picture I’ve made of the abbey from torn up paper I found in a drawer in my room. Everyone is constantly making art here, and Sister Estella gave me some glue. As I stuck the paper scraps together, she smiled and told me her name meant star in Spanish. She has the most twinkly eyes, and I told her she lights up both night and day.


Red and green for the Queen

Ah, I can hear the sound of the gong ringing. It is time for our late afternoon snack, or possibly the aperitif. Yesterday they served us little rectangular almond cakes, like French financiers, with cherry jam, and ginger tea.

Clementine what an age since I last wrote, was it from Snowdonia, China or Paris, where the artist at Beaubourg gave that performance involving teapots, opera singing and the reconstructed oyster farm?

Well, I must dash, the Sisters of Offshoots are terribly punctual, and they frown awfully if Clarice and I turn up late. I do not want to be denied snacks! All best to you darling and kiss baby Sophia (who must be nearly five!)

All love, always
Your Aunt Dorothea