Monday, November 30, 2015

East German Patent

A beret-wearing representative of the Office for Inventions and Patents of the GDR has the Magdeburg motorist Otto Tüpke granted for a patent under number 3269 for a device for better utilization of petrol. 
25 November, 1952.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Red Cross Berets

Red Cross Soviet Union during WWII
Canadian Red Cross, WWII
Medical Officer (rank of Captain) of the Canadian Red Cross
Cotton beret of the French Red Cross, WWII, made in Paris
Wool beret of the French Red Cross, WWII
Wool beret French red Cross, post WWII

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Pedro Fernandez de Unamuno

I found the article below in the Huffington Post; an article by Nancy A. Ruhling and I received her kind permission to re-publish it here in full. Thank you Nancy - it's a beautiful story!

If you don't know anything about Pedro Fernandez de Unamuno, and most of the world doesn't, look at his hat.
He's wearing it so you'll ask him about it.

Ask Pedro about his Boina.
It's a black Boina, a Basque-style beret that he sets rakishly atop of what's left of his wispy white hair.
It, and the Spanish flag unfurled across the living room bookcase like a banquet banner, remind him of the homeland he was forced to flee.
Pedro, an Old World charmer who kisses visitors on each cheek, can tell you the story in your choice of English, Spanish or French.

Pedro is from Santander, Spain.
A student of history and philosophy who plays Beethoven and Chopin on a Yamaha keyboard in his idle hours, Pedro stands tall (officially, he's 5-foot-5, an inch shorter than Napoleon) during his recitation.
"I may be small," he says, adding that age has shaved off a handful of those inches, "but I am great."
It starts with his role, or more accurately, his non-role, in the Spanish Civil War.

The flag reminds him of home.
Pedro and his family were living in the Basque Country's city of Santander, which, long before Pedro's time, was the main seaport for the Old Castile in the Bay of Biscay.
In 1938, when la guerra was raging, it was not a safe place to be, especially when your father was fighting for the Republic, the losing side.
His mother was sent to a concentration camp in France, and 5-year-old Pedro, his older brother and two sisters were among thousands of children relocated to various countries by the International Office of Refugees.

Pedro likes to draw; this work is from 1966.
Pedro and his siblings were transported by truck to Brussels, Belgium, where they were summarily separated.
"It was traumatic for me because I was so little," Pedro says. "I cried a lot."
Pedro was adopted by Jean Fonteyne, a prominent lawyer, communist politician and resistance fighter.
By the time the Civil War had ended with victory for Francisco Franco's fascists, World War II had begun, and Pedro didn't get an opportunity to return to Spain for a dozen years.
At 5, he was sent to Belgium as a refugee.
"The country was in terrible shape," he says. "There were hunger, terror, executions and mass jailings. And I couldn't speak Spanish to communicate with my parents; I only knew French."
He returned to Belgium, where his future was just as bleak.
"The government required me to work in a coal mine," he says. "After a couple of months, I decided that it would be better to be alive, in misery, above ground than to die below, so I went back to Spain."

The Franco government declared him an enemy.
There, because of his relationship with Fonteyne, Pedro was placed under police surveillance.
"They suspected me of having a secret mission because of him," Pedro says. "They followed me for years, and the government issued me the ID number 3939393939, which I found out after I left was the classification for an enemy."
After serving a mandatory stint in the military, Pedro got work in a machine shop.
"Through all of this, I was a survivor," he says. "I used psychology as a weapon."

The manuscript for Mes Trains de Nuit.
A chance encounter on a train brought him to New York City.
"I met a French lady who was a translator for the United Nations," he says. "She then became my wife."
With her help, Pedro got a job with the Tunisian consul.
"But I wanted to work for an American company," he says. "I didn't know any English, so I took a course at Hunter College."
He came to NYC in his 20s.
It worked: Pedro got a job with Kerns Manufacturing Corp., the Long Island City-based maker of aerospace products.
As the decades unfolded, Pedro became a company supervisor, and his personal life took some unexpected turns.
He would take three more wives (Nos. 1, 2 and 3 succumbed to divorce, and Mrs. No. 4 is 20 years Pedro's junior) and produce four children.
His one constant, his Kerns job, ended a couple of years ago, when he was in his late 70s.
'I may be small, but I am great.'
"I was laid off because there was not enough money to keep me," the 82-year-old says sadly. "I'm healthy. I could have kept working. I would like to work part time, but nobody will hire a man my age."
Pedro didn't know what he was going to do with all his free time, so he started writing the story of his life.
His autobiography, Mes Trains de Nuit (My Night Trains), ends with Pedro's arrival in New York City at age 24.
The 450 hand-written pages are in French, the language Pedro feels most comfortable with. They fill five large-format spiral notebooks; one of his sons is typing the text for publication.
"It was therapeutic," he says. "I wanted to leave something behind for my children to remember me, and I didn't want what I went through to be lost. I stopped the story at age 24 because I had a good, normal life here."

Pedro, wistful for the life he might have lived.
The life he lived in America is the one he wishes he had in Spain. It pains him to think of what might have been.
"It would have been better to be united with my family," he says. "We would have suffered, but we would have suffered together."
He used to visit Spain a lot, but he hasn't been in a long time, which is what a couple of years seems like to him.
His Social Security and pension, which are all he has, don't cover the cost.
Pedro sighs and sets the Boina aside.

Nancy A. Ruhling may be reached at, nruhling on Instagram.
All photos by Nancy A. Ruhling

Friday, November 27, 2015


Floreano is a good-natured, witty comic character from Galicia (Spain). He enjoys good conversations with friends. 
Floreano wears a beret, or boina, permanently. His best friend, and fellow boinero, is Epi, but there are many more characters wearing berets in his adventures. 
Floreano is married to Monchiña, a down-to-earth woman famous for her rural cuisine and ability to throw objects long distance. 
Famous in certain circles, Floreano features on wine labels and also has his own table at a cafe in Vigo. 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Pio Baroja by Marola

Lana Manuel Rodríguez, aka Marola (1905 - 1986 ) was a Spanish painter and draftsman.
As a caricaturist, cartoonist and painter had a style close to art deco . Vertical lines used as a basis for defining the characters and sought maximum simplification. As a painter he was also expressionistic. Pictured his famous drawing of Pio Baroja.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Fishing Nets and Berets

Fisherman in a beret mending his nets on the Costa Brava, Catalonia
Cape Finisterre, 1977. A fisherman mends his nets along the water by David Alan Harvey
Mending the Nets, Brittany, Sardine Fisherman
M. Masson and his team of fishermen prepare to go out to sea. Roscoff (Finistère), 6th April 1920

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Berets as Investment?

Le Poilu has been a treasure trove for collectors of uniforms (and berets) for over 30 years. The shop is located at 18 rue Emile Duclaux in the south-west of Paris. Apart from their own stock, the shop acts as an intermediary for hard to find objects.
And to prove what an investment a simple beret can be, here two samples of recently sold berets.

Beret of the French Tank Regiment, 1940, sold for 480,00 € (approx. US $ 540.00):

Beret of the 14th BCA (Battalion Chasseurs Alpin), 1937, sold for 280,00 € (approx. US $ 315.00):

Interesting detail: both are Basque berets, with the cabilliou still in place!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Kingsmeade Cheese

Last Saturday, at a small Wellington market, I met Miles King - an artisan cheese maker from the Wairarapa (an hours drive north of Wellington, across the Rimutaka Ranges).

Kingsmeade started out making ewe’s milk cheeses with milk from their own flock of East Friesian sheep. Clover, Chicory, Plantain and Lucerne cover broad, green meadows where the sheep graze – they are big, contented and full of personality – no need to round them up at milking time, they hear Miles’ voice and come on their own.

Today, Kingsmeade makes 14 different varieties of cheese, half from ewes' milk and half from cows'. All are uniquely hand crafted, ranging from the aged hard varieties to the deliciously soft.

Calm and quietly spoken, Miles is hands-on from the first steamy breath of the newborn lambs to the daily milking, cheesemaking, cutting and
packaging. Each batch of cheese is hand made in the factory on the farm, right next to the family home. Just down the road in Lansdowne Janet runs the Kingsmeade shop, cheerfully selling cheese and other delights while dispatching orders all across New Zealand.

Against popular belief, very little sheep cheese is actually made in New Zealand (despite the highest density of sheep anywhere on the planet). I often had to contend myself with imported sheep feta from Bulgaria!

Have a look at the large selection of cheeses here. Very happy to become a regular customer...

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Lionel Floch

Lionel Floch (1895 – 1972) was a Breton painter, engraver and designer.
He was the son of a naval officer and was mobilized himself during World War I. After, he learned painting by Théophile Deyrolle and Concarneau and was also influenced by Lucien Simon.
Between the two world wars, he was a member of the intellectual and artistic community of Quimper. 
Floch was anti-militarist, anti-clerical and anti-Gaullist.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Sébastien Bonneaud - Le vigneron au beret

Sébastien’s family have traced their roots back to 1570 when the family was established in the Dordogne. They tended their own vines since at least the 1780s but records from before the revolution have been lost. Sébastien’s great grandfather had vines, and his great great grandfather was a cooper. His maternal grandfather was also a cooper, and today his cousin has his own cooperage in the Landes – Tonnellerie Bartholomo.
Sébastien grew up tending vines with his father, learning the craft of winemaking as a boy. He says that his father taught him almost everything, and that becoming a winemaker just happened naturally. Formal viticulture and vinification studies gave him the technical background which completed this, but “dans l’absolu” he learned most from his father.
He did his viticulture and oenological studies in Bordeaux. He would have liked to continue the family domaine but they had only 11 ha in AOC Bergerac to split between Sébastien and his 5 younger sisters. To make it viable Sébastien needed to buy the vines of his sisters and unfortunately the necessary financial support was not forthcoming from the bank. Sébastien’s father sat on the opposite political fence to that of the bank manager.
Sébastien therefore had to pursue his wine career by working for other people. In the summer of 2011, Sébastien met Christopher Spencer. Christopher needed to find a winemaker capable of taking charge and developing the domaine Spencer La Pujade. He recognised Sébastien’s talent instantly and Sébastien took on full responsibility at the end of October 2011.
Christopher had bought an old 19thC winery in the village of Ferrals-les-Corbières, but it had lain unused for decades and needed total renovation. Together, they set about creating a winery and domaine fit to deliver the final objective –to be one of the leading domaines of the Corbières, by quality and by reputation.
The other part of the vision which is fundamental to Sébastien’s thinking is an approach which is in total harmony with the environment, and his language is peppered with expressions like “respect de la nature”.
In the vineyards he uses minimal intervention, often using half the number of treatments as his neighbours, for example. He has totally stopped using pesticides and herbicides and this winter he is evaluating the next step. Biodynamic viticulture is the ultimate goal.
“Il ne faut pas renier ses origines!” (you must not turn your back on your origins) is a very strong ethic in Sébastien’s world-view. Sébastien believes that Carignan is THE variety of the Languedoc, and he is on a mission to demonstrate the qualities of this variety to the world.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Wiesław “Vislav” Mileńko's Berets

"You do not need to fly to the other side of the planet to do an expedition. You do not need to be an elite athlete, expertly trained, or rich to have an adventure. Adventure is only a state of mind. Adventure is stretching yourself; mentally, physically or culturally. It is about doing what you do not normally do, pushing yourself hard and doing it to the best of your ability. And if that is true then adventure is all around us, at all times.."
This is the motto (by Alastair Humphreys) of Wiesław “Vislav” Mileńko, a Polish blogger who works at the Świnoujś Ferry Terminal in Świnoujście.
Needless, to say, Vislav has a strong liking for berets and I would say, makes a perfect rolemodel for boineros!
Check him out here

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Nora Zbigniew Piasecki - A Beautiful Rotten Life

Poland has a good track record of beret wearers.
One of them is Nora Zbigniew Piasecki.
Nora is the blogger behind Facet Normalny (a beautiful rotten life). His writing is, I admit it, rather indecipherable for me (despite Google Translate), but one thing is clear: Nora likes his berets!