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Christmas Corona to Crown a Seasonal Soirée

I love nothing more than a Christmas party, and as I write, the excitement is building for the first soirée to be held in our new Palma apartment. It’s become something of annual tradition to light the candles, give the baubles an extra polish, stack up the bubbles and smoked salmon, and host a party for friends just before Christmas. Those nearest and dearest  to me in London will be sadly absent this year, but Palma is a very friendly place, and already friends made through my  new job here in Mallorca will be only too welcome at our 2014 fiesta.

But pride of place at this year’s party will be the latest addition to my Christmas decor. Gathered from the abundant stalls of flowers and foliage sold at Palma’s flower market along the leafy boulevard, La Rambla, this wreath or corona as the Spanish call it (meaning crown) has truly brought the outside evergreen in. Packed with fragrant fir tree branches, red berries, mistletoe and this year’s special touch – cotton, this foliage display is truly Christmasy, and brings the very essence of a Scandinavian Christmas directly into the heart of my Spanish home. The Scandinavian feel is even further emphasised with these amazing birch tree candles I’ve placed at its centre – wrapped with real tree bark, they look like something straight out of a snowy forest.

My Christmas “Corona”

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I should not end this post however without paying due homage to the flower market itself. For La Rambla in Palma is truly one of the most beautiful streets in the city. Boasting a central pedestrianised avenue nestled between two roads,  and overhung with huge leafy plane trees which always seem to retain many of their leaves, even now in December, it truly is a spectacular place to walk, take a coffee, and breath in the fragrant smell emanating from all of the fresh flowers. And with a special Christmas market also currently in situ, we have discovered it also makes a great place for mulled wine too!

La Rambla

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Happy Christmas everyone!

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2014 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Mallorca Photo Folio: The blues and the beiges

Having done the silver, and posted the greens and reds, it’s onto the blues and the caramalised gold-tinged beiges in my exploration of the colour palette of Palma de Mallorca, and perhaps of all the colours I have collected, these two are the easiest to represent. For Palma de Mallorca’s old town is a unison of golden ochres glowing from its old historical palaces and churches, and blues, which sparkle back from the expanse of sea which runs alongside the city, and the cerulean sky which shines so brightly above its many horizons. Here, the blues glow in the wood framed windows of the ancient town houses, while the beiges reflect like caramel in the molten water of the Mediterranean. These colours may be opposite ends of a colour spectrum, but in the Mediterranean, they are a fully harmonised affiliation.

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So here are my photos which show these two colours at their very best. The glorious golden cathedral of Palma de Mallorca glowing against a bright blue sky; an old much used earthenware pot standing in readiness full of food against a painted blue cafe wall; the multi-tiled tribute to the sea by Mallorcan resident Juan Miro. The modern blues buildings and the ancient beige stone; the yellow sun reflected through windows and the windows reflected in the blue sea. Blue and beige: a happy symphony.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2014 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

No detail too small: the intricate spectacle of a Neapolitan Nativity

In a large number of countries the Nativity scene (Belem in Spain, Presepe in Italy) is as big a part of the Christmas festivities as the lights switch-on in London’s Oxford Street or the Christmas tree at the centre of a family home. Having gone to Catholic school as a boy, I still remember the prominence with which the Nativity set was placed in the front entrance, and how perplexed I was (and remain) that the teachers remained insistent that the Jesus figure should not be placed in the manger until Christmas Day: but this is a school I thought – who on earth is going to see it during the holidays?

Despite the fact that the tradition of setting out a nativity is centuries old in many a catholic country, the general belief is that it all began in Italy where St Francis of Assisi is credited with creating the first nativity scene in 1223 at Greccio, Italy. There he is said to have recreated the birth of Christ through placing people dressed in the various nativity roles in a cave. A tradition was born, and perhaps for this reason, it is arguable that Italy has remained the predominant master of the nativity craft. This is not least in Naples where, in the famous Via San Gregorio Armeno, the entire street is given over to the craftsmen who make every intricate detail of the characters and setting of the Neapolitan presepe. 

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While last Christmas I braved the crowds who had crammed their way up the dark side streets of the Spaccanapoli to get a view of this famous Neapolitan craft, this year I have had the fortune to see their masterpieces at far closer a proximity. For here in Palma de Mallorca, but 2 minutes from my flat in an inconspicuous church on the Carrer de San Miquel, there is a Neapolitan gem of its own. Set out across a mountain plane simulated from the supple bark of a cork tree, and comprising a phenomenal range of architectural features and carefully characterised figures, this Nativity demonstrates why the Neapolitan craft remains so renowned. Not a single detail of street life has been missed, from the slimy pig’s head sold by the Butcher, to the bag of eggs swung by the old housewife. What tickles me are the gruesome details of their lined faces, and their masterful expressions – so full of personality you’d swear they were alive. 

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In fact Palma de Mallorca holds the nativity or Belem dear to its heart, with a trail tracing once fantastic Belem to another across the city. But few could deny that the real brilliance of Belem craft has been mastered by the Neapolitans, as the nativity photos above demonstrate so well. 

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2014 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. 

Santa Lucia and the Joy of Rialto Living

To be honest, it didn’t take me much to make up my mind to move from London to Mallorca. After a sustained period of dissatisfaction with the big city in the smoke, the comparative paradise of Palma de Mallorca took little persuasion. And yet I think I can pinpoint the exact moment when my mind was made up as being the moment when my partner and I discovered Rialto Living.

Situated in the Carrer Sant Feliu, a dark cobbled street in the heart of Palma’s old town and lined with the very best of Palma’s old palaces, Rialto Living is a lifestyle concept store which sells the very best in interior design, art, and fashion. Happily for us it also contains one of the cafe hot spots in Mallorca, a blue and white symphony of open space and high couture eating, all set within a stunning renovated palace. In short, Rialto Living is a sumptuous, stunning shop. The kind of place where you could happily while away the hours as though it were your own home (I should be so lucky), and it was upon finding this place that we knew Palma had the kind of mentality which meant that we could make the city our new home.

A paradise of interior design

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Harking from Scandinavia, and founded by one of the three founders of Gant, Klas Kall, along with grafic designer Barbara Bergman, it is no wonder that Rialto Living is such a temple of interior chic. Here you will find a magazine shot in every corner, furniture to die for, and quality which bounces and glides and glitters in one’s hands. Its many sections are a delight for the eyes. Its clothes section is so chic and welcoming that it makes you want to discard your old clothes there and then for something delightfully fluffy and new. Its home section is like a paradise of design; my favourite section has to be the Alhambra recreation within whose moorish arches roll after roll of colourful material unfold; I also adore the dining area, where sun floods through the south facing windows to illuminate the multicoloured glassware.

Rialto Living’s fresh blue café

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Yet despite its inherent sophistication, Rialto Living is utterly welcoming, as demonstrated last weekend when customers were welcomed to the store on Saturday lunchtime to join in carols and glogg (mulled wine) in a celebration of Santa Lucia’s day. They even had an angelic choir fitted with all of the regalia of Santa Lucia festivities, the likes of which inspired both my Norm sketch yesterday, and brought tears to my eyes.

Rialto’s celebration of Santa Lucia

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So this long overdue post on Rialto Living is both a dedication to the sumptuously sophisticated palacial surrounds of my favourite shop, and a record of last weekend’s very Christmassy affair. Rialto Living: you truly are an inspiration. As long as you are in Palma, I too will remain.

Norms: The Saints Collection | Santa Lucia

At this festive and, for some, religious time of year, the calendar is awash with Saint’s days and festivals which make the whole Christmas period sparkle with something rather magical. Last week, I noted the passing of St Nicholas’ day, a Saint’s day of the utmost import because it is that rotund smiling fellow who will pass out the presents this December 24th, and of course because he happens to share my name. Last Saturday, another festive favourite was celebrated: St Lucy or Santa Lucia as she is perhaps more widely known, and as the bringer of light and patron saint of sight, this Saint is equally important at this sparkling, light infused time of the year.

In fact such is Santa Lucia’s renown as the bringer of light, that her Saint’s day is celebrated with gusto in the Scandinavian lands, where darkness reigns for much of the day at this time of the year, and where locals therefore gather in reverence to the Saint in the hope that St. Lucy will bring them more light to get through the winter. Apparently her connection with light stems from the fact that at the time of her death at the hands of Emperor Diocletian, her eyes were gouged out, either by order of the Emperor, or by herself in order to disuade a potential suitor from pursuing her. Either way, the story has been taken up in popular iconography, and in more recent times, Santa Lucia has been depicted holding her eyes on a platter.

Santa Lucia Norm (2014 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen and gold paint on paper)

Santa Lucia Norm (2014 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen and gold paint on paper)

And so, here is Santa Lucia Norm, depicted in all her glory with eyes upon a platter. No gruesome gouging here (it is Christmas after all), but just the suggestion of it. My Santa Lucia is wearing the crown of candles which is worn by celebrants of her festival in the Scandinavian celebrations which are the basis of my depiction. Those celebrations also include choirs of children wearing white gowns, conical hats and carrying candles in homage to the Saint’s light-giving powers – celebrations which are depicted here against a snowy, Christmassy Scandinavian landscape. More about those celebrations tomorrow, but in the meantime – a Merry Christmas to all!

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacy-brown.com

Norms at the Chocolateria C’an Joan de S’Aigo

Having read my post a few days back on the oldest and most venerable of all chocolateria’s in Palma de Mallorca, the C’an Joan de S’Aigo, it was only a matter of time before the Norms sought out the establishment for themselves. Pearly white though they may be, these little one-armed creatures love nothing more than a cup of warm silky chocolate, which helps to nourish their gelatinous skin, and gives them an extra spring to their bounce. So off the Norms went to Palma’s most popular cafe, nestled in the streets of its ancient medieval quarter, and still exhibiting an eclectic mix of interior articles from a bygone era.

On the visit we see in this little Norm sketch, these hungry Norms have ventured into the cafe at a fortuitous time. For not only have they been able to find themselves plenty of greasy sweet ensaimadas to dip into their hot chocolate, but they have also coincided their visit with that of Joan Miro Norm, the great Norm artist who himself always loved to indulge in a little cup of the good stuff. Here we can see Miro Norm somewhat struggling with a piece of art work. Should he draw another bird or another star? Is the black outline around the yellow circle thick enough? It’s a real struggle being an artist – I can tell you that much.

Norms visit the C'an Joan de S'Aigo (2014 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen and ink on paper)

Norms visit the C’an Joan de S’Aigo (2014 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen and ink on paper)

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacy-brown.com

Mallorca Photo Folio: The reds and the greens

Last week I took you on a whistlestop tour around the city of Palma but only through the narrowest application of my artist’s palette. For the focus of my photo folio selection was shades of glittering silver – the kind of metallic sparkle which we now see regularly when the sun breaks free of wintery clouds and reflects over the expansive Mediterranean sea. This week’s folio selection follows the trend of the moment: Christmas, and as such concentrates on the colours of the season: the reds and the greens, and much in between.

Ironically, despite their being the colours of Christmas, red and green have a prominent presence here in Mallorca all year around, where the sight of green wooden shutters on sunbaked terracotta walls is amongst the most common on the island, and where tropical green leafed plants are abundant in rotund red fruits. So far from being Christmassy, these colours actually inject a feeling of the tropical into this photo collection, reminding me of paintings by the likes of Gauguin, whose earthy red paintings fringed with green tropicana were the staple of his Tahiti collections.

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Back in the urban jungle of Palma, these photos are reflections on a city ripe with life, leisure and lovely, lovely views. They feature the colourful abundance of painted palaces, the plants which are lustrous and healthy even at this time of the year, and the little characterful features which make Palma such an inspirational place to live in.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2014 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved.

Christmas comes to Palma: Part 2 – Home decor

With the streets of Palma de Mallorca awash with the sparkle of Christmas, my decorations were never going to be far behind. It’s been a bizarre state of affairs – we only moved to Mallorca 3 weeks ago (although it feels like longer) and have been unpacked for barely 2 weeks, and yet now it is time to change the decor again in order to welcome Christmas through the door. And much are the decorations needed, for with the sun still beating down upon us, it certainly doesn’t feel all that Christmassy otherwise.

Regulars of The Daily Norm will know that I love my Christmas decorations, and that each year they become perhaps more extravagant in their scale and abundance. And being unwilling to lose any of my precious Christmas cargo, I faced the somewhat Herculean task of getting all of my decorations from London to Mallorca in one piece. But transport the load I did, and with some 1,000 glass baubles amongst our collection of decor, I think the angels must have graced our move for there was not a single bauble broken when we unpacked the other end – that is at least until I started decorating  and the inevitable breakage or two commenced!

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But with the decorations unloaded into the now bigger space of what is our Palma apartment, we have been able to go to town with our decor, even adding a tree ontop of last year’s scheme. I give you the new golden glamour tree! Abundant in its effusion of elegant embellishments, this tree is a homage to all things golden and gorgeous, and the gold offsets to spectacular effect atop a black tinsel tree, and with flashing warm white lights making each golden decoration sparkle.

Golden Glamour

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But what of the others? Well as with last year, our favourite Venetian-inspired Eiffel-themed sparkling red and silver scheme makes its return, looking wonderful in this new Mallorcan setting, where the higher ceilings of the 19th century apartment block add extra glamour to this sparkling spectacle.

Venetian-Eiffel Splendour

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I’ve also reintroduced the citrus theme of a previous tree, but hung yellow and orange baubles amongst cerulean blue on a tree of white. This modern and fresh Christmas look works wonderfully amongst the paintings and easels of what is my new Mallorcan art studio, reflecting the vibrancy of colours which bounce off my artwork.

Mediterranean Christmas

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My grand red and green hallway tree has also made its way over to Mallorca, although the tree which previously needed to be bent at the top in order to squeeze it into my London apartment looks practically dwarfish in this new space.

Traditional Abundance

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And finally the bedroom scheme, which this year takes on a much fresher blue and white theme to match the blues of our new moroccan inspired space. Stripped of all tinsel and garlands, this is a much simpler look which nevertheless remains full and abundant because of the sheer number of baubles, and a balanced hang throughout. It was something of a struggle to buy a real tree out here in the Med, but we found this 7ft beauty in a side street florist, and since it comes complete with roots and a pot, we’re hoping that it won’t become crunchy and dry within days of being installed.

Scandinavian Arabia

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And of course throughout the flat there are the accessories, the smaller trees, the little scandinavian santas and the sultry comforting sound of Doris Day singing Christmas standards better than anyone before or since. All that remains is the Christmas food and the mulled wine. But it surely won’t be long in coming.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2014 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved.

Discovering Palma: The ancient and the sacred

With my mother in town this last weekend, it was time to go back to tourist status, a role I slip into particularly well having only been a fully fledged resident of Palma de Mallorca for less than a month. As such I am still very much in the discovery stages, and already I have ascertained that the sprawling and ancient old town of Palma contains as many hidden corners as it does winding multi-directional streets. And by far the most sprawling, seemingly unplanned and historically rich of all the quarters is that to be found immediately behind and to the East of the Cathedral: the old moorish heart of the city.

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With the weekend’s festivities meaning closure of many of the main sites, we began our whistlestop tour of the city with one of the attractions that was open: the old Arabic Baths. And thus began a tour which focused on the ancient, and the sacred. The Arab Baths are not as fine and complete a monument to the previous moorish rulers of Spain as, say, La Mesquita in Cordoba or the baths in Ronda, but they are still a beautiful and historically poignant monument to a bygone age. Dating back to the 11th century and containing two halls – one for hot steaming and the other a warm ante-room, today the baths are little more than a stone archive, although one can easily decipher the moorish arches whose antiquated stone is dappled with the sharp light filtering through holes built into the domed ceiling. The best part of the baths for me however is the gardens of the adjacent Can Fontirroig manor – a lush spot which looks as beautiful in the winter as in the spring, especially when graced with the sun which happily accompanied our weekend.

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Leaving the baths and unfurling one further winding street after another, we came upon the Convent of Santa Clara, a romantically austere building and church whose side chapels are filled with the gilded floats which will be paraded in the city’s Easter processions, and whose nun inhabitants bake traditional convent sweets for sale. Naturally we couldn’t resist the purchase of a marzipan, nor a bag of our favourite polverones – a fragile powdery biscuit named after the dusty nature of its constitution.

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This led us swiftly onwards to yet another of Palma’s religious hot spots: the Franciscan Monastery whose stunning baroque facade dominates the Plaça de Sant Francesc with its exquisitely detailed depiction of the immaculate conception  crowned with Saint George and the Dragon. But the Monastery’s greatest asset has to be the significant cloister set alongside the large main basilica. Drenched with sunshine, the multiple thin columns are amongst the most elegant I have seen in any of Spain’s many monasteries, and lend the cloister a special airyness which made our visit on this sunny afternoon especially hypnotic.

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Happily those sugary sweets purchased a little earlier from the nuns of Santa Clara gave us the pick me up we needed – at least until we were able to end a thoroughly illuminating day’s sightseeing with a much needed authentic chocolate stop at Can Joan de S’Aigo – surely the perfect traditional way to end our dip into Palma’s history.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2014 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved.

Norms: The Saints Collection | Saint Nicholas

It’s a public holiday in Spain today, which can’t be bad going this close to Christmas. And the reason for the break? Why jolly old Saint Nicholas of course, a saint with whom I share both a name and no doubt a love of gift giving, and whose feast day on the 6th December is timed perfectly with the arrival of Christmas spirit across the world.

So what better excuse, thought I (as if one were needed), to relaunch a further instalment of my now close to sold-out Norm Saints Collection than to create St Nicholas Norm himself.

St Nicholas Norm (2014 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen and gold paint on paper)

St Nicholas Norm (2014 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen and gold paint on paper)

Better known these days as the red-robed, large tummied, jolly old Santa Clause whose name derivates from the Dutch Sinterklaas, itself from a series ofelisions and corruptions of the transliteration of “Saint Nikolaos”, the original Saint Nicholas was far less colourful, but no less generous. The various legends surrounding the saint include his secret payment of the dowries of three daughters of a wretched poor man in order to prevent them from entering into prostitution, as well as the rescue of three boys who were being incarcerated in a tub by an evil butcher who planned to make them into pies in a kind of precursor tale to Sweeney Todd. Thus, in traditional depictions, three boys are often shown in a tub, and St Nicholas is often shown clutching three bags of coins to represent the dowries he generously bestowed upon the three girls. And naturally, true to form, both images appear in my Saint Norm depiction.

But asides from specific legends, St Nicholas is known throughout Christendom as the patron Saint of Children, and indeed of sailors, so references to both appear in this sketch, while his routes in the Orthodox world are reflected in my somewhat festive orthodox skyline. All in all, a Christmassy Norm Saint for the Christmas Season.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacy-brown.com

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