Thursday, 31 January 2013

Building No 14

The architect of this church - yes a church, in Carcassonne - must have been a very angry person or perhaps had some weird obsession with power stations of the late 40's.





Slightly reminiscent of the Nine Elms Cold Store (sadly gone) in Vauxhall, London, and other dismal, but strangely captivating edifices, this lurks down a back street near the station. Unfortunately it was shut so I couldn't explore its interior.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

really . . . I see . . .

Words uttered quite often these days when in the presence of our son.
Oh dear, I am floundering suddenly in the wake of his knowledge. He knows stuff that I don't. Really knows, and I really don't. Actually, this has been the case for some time. Ezra will talk to Mark happily about certain widgets or a periodic table element and they know what they are conversing about.
The case in all parent/child relationships I suppose. There's a rather large absence in sport education sadly as neither of us are remotely interested. But we do encourage him to walk a lot and I'm trying to implant an exercise regime each morning.
I can take him out into the hills and teach him names of birds, trees, clouds and such like; both of us can help with kitchen information, Mark is there for music, maths, science. Peering into the brain generally and discussing what's in there is with me mostly - why we feel like this about that; why did that man hit another man yesterday in Super U's car park, human emotions, etc. So, hopefully not a bad mix all round. What was I saying . . .
Oh yes: 'really . . . I see . . .'
Ezra makes things with wire, transistors, potentiometers and capacitors. The wire bit I can understand, but beyond that it all becomes a bit of a fuggyness. He's recently acquired a thing called an Arduino. He'll plug it into the computer then bury himself in a book called the Arduino cookbook. About an hour later he'll call me into the office - now a forest of wire and small components, and show me how he has made an LED blink or some twisted noise come out of a tiny speaker from somehow being connected to the computer. He'll then tell me how it works and that's where the afore-mentioned words come in.
Not that it's boring, it's just my brain won't take in the information - too busy thinking about why the dog chose to pee on the sofa, why so many cormorants have chosen to visit Limoux at the moment, or how to make lunch out of a tin of tomatoes and two leeks.
I can admire his constructions though. They remind me a little of the machines in Terry Gilliam's Brazil: super technology crossed with Heath Robinson.


As we pass into this age of uncertainty, fuel crisis looming increasingly, our ways of life possibly challenged, perhaps bods like Ezra will be very sought after in a few years to come.
I can imagine him crouched in some dusty shop in the backwaters of Marseille soldering bits and bobs together to make something work again: a line of people patiently waiting, clutching broken appliances, hoping he can miraculously make a computer out of a toaster, copper wire, an old iPhone and assorted diodes.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Trees

We take them far to much for granted, don't we. Perhaps not if you are an apple farmer, or someone scaling the heights of a coconut tree to make a living, or someone watching in desperation as yet another few meters of their dense forest canopy is swept away to make room for cash crops. But as a rule we probably do.
These incredible structures. I was looking at a 'pin d'alep' yesterday on a dog walk; it must have been as tall as the average town church, all its lower branches decayed and fallen off over the years, just the top limbs spreading out, the tips showing new growth. How does the sap get up there? The complexity and force needed to nourish that tree, planted in its dry impoverished looking hillside.
When I was about eleven and walked to school, I always took the same route, looked at the same gardens, noted the minute changes, saw the same cats and ran a stick along the same London-blackened wooden fences - drrrrrrrrr click-click-click-drrrrrrrr.
One day about half way along the walk, I looked up into the branches of a winter-bare oak and it suddenly struck me - what would happen if the trees never came out this year, never budded even, just sat in a dormant sulk, or just died. I went on to imagine disaster movies - The year the trees refused to leaf - and stories surrounding the subject. Supposing they somehow communicated with each other - all over the world, then what.
Well, we would all be wiped out of course.
Go for a walk, hug a tree, or at least look at it with a kind and respectful eye, even the lowly specimens folk regard as giant weeds, like those colonising the slope at the back of our house. I can't remember the name of them but they have a Sumac look about them, without the useful red blooms. Locals that have come to the garden to repair something always look at the bank and mutter about them being rats of the vegetation world. I like them, I'm sure they are a pain in some places, but here, they hold the soil down and create a wonderful rustling almost tropical view from the kitchen window in the summer.


Very early Catkins braving the North winds a few days ago.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Cake meditation

As I have said many times, the internet is a marvel.
I just put in Buddha made of cake and lo . . . thousands of images. Here he is, beautifully sculpted in marzipan by the 'Artisan cake Co'.



Actually I don't think it would be possible to push a knife into that particular cake; I think it would have to become a fixture in the house, gradually becoming a little more discoloured and stickier with each passing year.
I was thinking more of one of Mark's cakes. Serious cake: eggs, flour, raisins, brown sugar, sliced prunes, cream icing topping: whatever happens to be in the cupboard, and made with a skill that I still find extraordinary after . . . well, how ever many years it is. He doesn't do recipes: People ask for them, but they don't exist; he's an instinctive baker - handful of that, couple of eggs, a shake of this, oops bit much, never mind. They always come out brilliantly except the beetroot cake which was totally inedible. Even Madame post-Materialist couldn't think what to do with it other than go and buy a pig so it wouldn't be wasted.
So . . . what has this to do with meditation, I hear you asking as your finger heads for the little red 'close this page' virtual button. No really this has a purpose, honest.
Years ago in London I went to a meditation meeting, mainly because there was someone there I fancied at the time.
We sat in a large warm room with dim lighting, scented candles - an odd contrast to outside on Holloway high street with sirens screaming and buses snorting. I relaxed and listened to the person leading the meditation. Already it was calming, the thoughts of car clamping and props I hadn't found for the following day's shoot sloping away.
Everyone was passed a large fat raisin. We were asked to chew it very slowly, very slowly. To think about where the raisin had come from, how long it had been growing in the sun, who had picked it, where they lived. What was the taste really like: the sweetness, the texture of its wrinkled surface.
Then the actual meditation: counting to a hundred I think - stop each time something enters your mind and start again. Let everything fall away, just the counting. I could see how it worked but my busy brain wouldn't shut off from lists of things to do, things I should have done, things that would have to no doubt be done. It was the only meditation class I ever went to, but I do try occasionally, without much success, to apply it to my life today.
Yesterday I relived the raisin experience and will try and do this most days.
It was a grey cold day, clouds scudding, wind moaning around the walls of the house. I had stoked up the fire and had a sacred piece of 'Galette de Rois' in replacement of Mark cake, as he is absent from the hothouse for a few days. The runty dog came and sat on me and I stroked his silky fur absentmindedly as I consumed tea and cake, very slowly. Where had this slice of cake come from . . . probably some boring factory that supplies French supermarkets, mmm not so good . . . but still.
Sweet, soft flaky texture, hot tea, dog's smooth back, the hills - brown with a scattering of icing sugar snow on them, silence apart from a couple of rooks in the tops of the cypress trees, time marked by the logs on the fire disintegrating a little more with each second that passed. Ten minutes perhaps, out of an otherwise fairly busy day. Time just to sit and really experience just 'being'.


Wednesday, 23 January 2013

1984


                                  

I was walking past our new local kebab shop earlier on and happened to look in the window. I suppose I expected to see, adorning the wall, a large, badly executed painting of some ancient monument with the azure med in the distance, nope - a giant black T.V screen. There is no bar or café in our town now without one of these. It's impossible to sit having a hot choc with a friend without gawping, mouth open at somebody going on about yogurt or the weather.
What is it about screens. My ex's parents always had their huge T.V on in the front room, so conversation was always reduced to: so . . . gosh Bruce Forsyth is looking so old these days. It's impossible not to look, to follow whatever garbage is being broadcast.
Remember this guy? from the good ol' 80s. I once went to the most stupid restaurant ever: the video café in central London and that's where I first saw him. There were screens everywhere, his face staring at you while you tried to remember how to read so you could order something to eat. I can't recall what I ate or who I was with, just Max Headroom. He was addictive in a slightly sinister way; I think I must have watched all the shows.
I like this comment from Mr Baggins on youtube.

Max Headroom is deeply disturbing. I always felt like he's a terrifying vision of what people thought the future would be like - totally synthetic and devoid of emotion. And there was always something about his character - there's a hint of insanity just below the surface of an otherwise shallow person. Can't tell if he was supposed to be a lovable eccentric and they just really missed the mark or if it was intentional, but either way it freaks me out.

About the same time I read 1984 for the millionth time. It seemed that the screens were indeed taking over; Big Brother telling you what you should be doing - advertising generally I suppose, then and now: Hey you, stop eating that, eat this, don't look like a dork - wedges are out, don't you know your hair should be a glossy auburn mane - because you're worth it, this toothpaste will make you a sex object, who needs sex when you've got this bar of chocolate . . .

How many screens of various kinds are in your house/car/bag? Scary!
'The Art of Noise' (video featuring Max Headroom that I had posted, and has now disappeared) were one of the things I did like about the 80's. Must go and dig out their albums while Mark isn't here . . .

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

No use crying over it.

Spilt milk, burnt milk, burnt toast - reaction . . . dependent on the mood really.
This morning I whisked the pan off the stove and stood for a few seconds in silent contemplation of multi-tasking . . . or not in this case. Other days I would have jumped up, down sworn and booted the cat outside - always a satisfactory feeling, that. Ezra took over instead and howled after opening a packet of cereal onto the floor and finding ANOTHER hole in his sock, caused by a nail on the stairs. Actually, he never does swear, possibly in his head?
I often repeat the milk boiling over scenario. I put the pan on, bread under the grill and then go and check the weather/news online/ emails.
Today there was a lovely message from my brother (hello Adrian if you read this) which required at least half of my brain to reply to.
 The other half was already wandering around aimlessly while trying to check off jobs to be done: trip to the Mairie at Campagne to see a man/woman about a concert space, someone's garden to attend to, shit . . . haven't done that letter, didn't phone my mother, how is Una so old - maybe I really should take her to the vet, God! look at the webs in this office, why didn't those B and B guests turn up after I spent most of Sunday cleaning and re-doing the terrace, I wonder if it's going to snow, maybe I should do the garden before going over to Campagne, why do rabbits have white arses/tails? surely predators must be able to spot them so easily, must get the reversing light fixed on the car, what's that chewing noise coming from the ceiling, oh Ezra's forgotten his phone again, my feet are cold . . . and so on: cue hissing noise and stove covered in milk.
I suppose everyone does this . . . do they?
There's a good film rendition of humans' flitting thought processes in 'The Weather Man' - Nicholas Cage crossing streets in Manhattan or somewhere, thoughts spewing as he dodges traffic. Great film.
Incidentally, the name Manhattan: interesting word . . . Oh, hello Wikipedia: derives from Mana-hata, island of many hills as written in 1609 log-book of Robert Juet, an officer on Henry Hudson's yacht Halve Maen( half moon). Yacht? Doesn't sound right . . . mmm — image of large white plastic object with shiny deck furniture. Rustic boat of some sort? Still what do I know of sea-going vessels in the 1600s.

Nothing. Think I'll put the kettle on, when I've cleaned the milk up.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Being on the planet


For the first time in eight years I am not part of the Carnaval in Limoux.
I quit my band 'Les Droles' last year as I could see the year was going to be busy. I was there, as Mark was, when the band formed and we always felt honoured to be in it as 'etrangers'. I think we might have been the first English folks or possibly any nationality other than French to be in one of the Carnaval groups of Limoux.
I've just been down to the town to witness a couple of 'tours'. How did I feel? Misplaced? regretful? Not really, more of a witnesser than usual though, but the connection was still there. I was humming the tunes, doing the dance internally; pleased to be covered liberally in confetti and even more pleased to be told that the band missed me.
The Carnaval of Limoux really is for the people of the town. Tourists come and go; people new to the town go religiously every weekend for a year or so, and an occasional TV crew turn up to film the proceedings for an end slot on the national news. But it's the locals who are there, year in year out, whether they are part of a band or not.
On my walk home I started thinking about roots - our connection to the planet. I can imagine living here for the rest of our lives, but possibly elsewhere too. The sea is always a temptation . . .
Where are my roots? I've moved so many times it's difficult to say now. I have great affection for London, where I was born, but to live there now . . . think I'd miss the hills and open space too much, despite the plethora of galleries, theatres, and other wonderful distractions.
I've lived here longer than anywhere else now. The house is too full of stuff, the garden too full of our hours of work to contemplate leaving. So are these now our roots? I wonder when Ezra leaves to go and do whatever he eventually chooses, will he look on this town as his home town, having spent his childhood here, despite being English by parentage.
I can't imagine a life of being in the same place always, but it must be comforting in many ways to feel you utterly belong somewhere; not needing so see new horizons - January = Carnaval. All the traditions and rituals held in place, same as last year and the year before; the same as it was in childhood, same in the parents' childhoods, back in time, generations of Limouxines.
I can remember when Mark and I were sitting in the Grand Café about ten years ago, having recently moved in. I said, "Can you imagine living here forever?" His reply . . . "God no . . . " Ten years on we are happily established here and the thought of moving on seems unlikely. Life seems to go like that: what's the phrase in Dark Side of the Moon . . . ten years have got behind you . . . 

Parodies



I really like this one. Based on Gotye's 'Somebody I used to know"
If you don't know the original its on Youtube with over three million views according to Ezra.
He also says 'Gangnam style' has over a billion . . .

Friday, 18 January 2013

Building No 13

Wooh, steady on Limoux planning dept . . . there must be someone new working there - someone who can see beyond the rectangular pink or yellow boxes with orange tiled roof that most contractors erect around here.
We stumbled upon this part-made house up in the heights above Limoux: eco in its build: loads of insulation and South facing. Hope they're going to put in all sorts of exciting grey-water collecting devices, renewable energy systems etc.


Ugly as a cheap airport building at the moment, but I can imagine the light streaming in through those large windows; the owner standing with cup of tea/Martini/Pastis, admiring the view of Limoux and the whole valley stretching out into the distance.
Think I would have put a whole run of windows into the top, sticky-out portion of the construction, however. But what do I know . . .

Technology

Back in the days of shag pile carpets, I recall waking up on my birthday to find an oblong parcel.
"Oh thanks mum - that's fantastic!"
She had splashed out on a Panasonic tape recorder. Those of you who do remember the afore-mentioned floor covering will remember these too: black, with a row of press-down keys at the front: play, stop, fast forward, pause - if you had a classy model. Me and my friends spent hours of harmless fun recording farts and making up episodes of the muck-spreaders - my version of the Archers until the thing broke eventually and was replaced by a Hi FI system of dubious quality that we went to choose after hours of indecision in Jones Brothers.
I can recall the day well as it was Princess Anne's wedding day and all the staff were glued to the small bank of hissy-imaged TVs. Not like the average department store these days with more alert and barking screens than Jodrell Bank, and a fleet of bored shop staff to tell you all about them.
We take all this stuff so much for granted now and really have no knowledge of how any of it works. Well, I don't for sure.
The old record player I could just about understand: put the record on turntable (I only owned one album for some considerable time) place stylus on it and sound comes out of speakers. Now I can sit here doing this, checking my emails, listening to one of seventy zillion sounds on Spotify, open another window and check the weather, how to cook swede interestingly or see what any of my Facebook mates are up to, even if they live thousands of miles away.
How does Blogger work? I never really stopped to think about it. A friend just said one day, "Hey try this, takes ten minutes to set up, it's free - fantastic." I did, and it is. Thank you blogger who ever you are. I will never again whine when a photo takes more than twenty seconds to load up. What an incredible thing, unimaginable except in terrible B movies back in the Lava lamp years.


This morning the snow falls softly, creating that strange world of silence: no cars, no bird calls, just an occasional grunt as a dog turns over in its bed, and Mark nipping between piano and cake making.
I just checked, as I assume most bloggers do, to see who might be out there, either in another frozen part of the planet or perhaps in a searing forty-five degrees part, reading my rambling words.
Someone in that vast continent of the USA was up in the wee small hours reading a post of mine called 'night swimming'. Greetings whoever you are from this snow covered land. . .

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Something for a manky grey damp cold morning



I hope I haven't posted this before.
One of my favourite comedy sketches of all time. I was reminded of it last night by Ed at a rehearsal.
That weekly show was such a happy ritual when I was a child. The dance, the song, the interviews, their magic comic timing . . .

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Ist Jam of 2013

Marmalade to be precise.
It's a filthy day: hail, sheeting rain, all animals inside asleep and lots of computer/paper work being done.
Between other jobs, Mark is making marmalade. Each year we say 'Hey lets drive to Seville and buy the oranges there . . . ' so far we've only got as far as the local green grocers.

Mark's method:
Wash and cut oranges in half.
Boil then simmer until slightly soft. Makes it much easier to de-seed and cut oranges.
cool.
Ask wife (me) how busy she is and let her do next bit if possible. Scrape out seeds and cut oranges into thin slices. Or chunky slices - thin in this household as more people are likely to eat it.
Put seeds in a pan and boil up for pectin, (or put seeds in little muslin bag to cook with fruit, if indeed you have such a thing.)

Boil up fruit and sugar; kilo of oranges-kilo of sugar.
Drip bit of unset jelly onto a cold plate from time to time . . . oh, I'm sure everyone knows this bit - to see if it's set.
Find bag of web-covered jars in shed/attic. Wash and fill. Voila!

Make toast/butter/marmalade and tea and sit front room by fire/radiator, listening to howling wind and crows in the treetops.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Bonjour monsieur, je suis completement idiot


This morning, Ezra and I went out to Alet-les-bains, our local source to collect water. Then we were going to go for a quick walk with the dogs. He mentioned a small track he had noticed a few times on the other side of the railway tracks and thought it might be interesting to explore a bit.
Good plan, I thought, especially as several friends live in the village over the other side of the huge hill or small mountain depending on how you regard the terrain, and we could have coffee, tra la la.
Here it is: a typical small road in this region. Craggy rock faces, scrubby oak - both deciduous and evergreen; acres of space, silent apart from the odd jingle of a hunting dog's bell.
Drove on and on until an ancient gateway appeared with a notice that said privé but also said things like dogs must be kept on a lead and do not start fires, which seemed to suggest that other people did go there sometimes. We ignored it and drove on, passing two farmhouses with the usual snarl of old machinery and a few beasts wandering about.

                                   

Ezra suggested it might be a good point to turn back as the road seemed to be deteriorating, but as we had just gone over many meters of rubble and fledgling rivers I thought it would be better to carry on. Actually, this isn't true. It was the sense of curiosity . . . just round that bend . . . we could tell our friends that we've just discovered a neat little short cut to get water from Alet.
The road then became a sludgy tractor path filled with huge brown puddles. Our poor Kangoo, it's had its fair share of nasty experiences - Mike in Canada if you read this - but this was probably the worst. It nobley strove on until the puddles became one large, shallow . .  . pond.
Tried to turn round. The wheels spun, covering us with sticky mud and not moving the car except to creep it a bit further to the ravine-like edge.
Heroically did things with branches and car mats to no avail, while Ezra stood looking like a potential victim from a John Carpenter film called Lost in a mountain pass without so much as a Mars Bar.
Then it started to snow. Then the car started to overheat.
We walked back down the track in our inappropriate footwear, through all the mud with tiny runty dog and the ancient dog snorting and wobbling. You know that film American werewolf in London . . . the bit on the moorlands with the howling, circling wolves . . . well it crossed my mind. Worth seeing if you haven't.
Anyway. The first farmhouse was in fact just a house. The lady owner came to the door, politely listened to our woes and apologies for being idiots, but informed us that, sadly, they couldn't help. As we stood looking pathetic and trying not to look at the pizzas she was making, her husband appeared and said he would ring the other farmhouse where they had a TRACTOR.
They asked us to come in and wait in their nice warm kitchen and we chatted about the house: they had lived up there for fifty years but now have no water as the source dried up three years ago. Seemed odd as the rain was now living up to the French saying of like cows pissing on a flat rock.
They eventually let the dogs in too who were ringing their paws and howling for a nice sofa, "What are these dogs, and what are they for?" asked the wife.
"They are Italian greyhounds, madame - they were bred to warm the beds of the Italian court people."
"Je vois . . . " (I see)
The tractor arrived and we were impressed. Not some old rusting thing but huge, red and ultra-modern. Ezra stayed with the nice folks and the pizza and I climbed into the cab. Actually I don't think I've ever been in a tractor before; this one was like getting up onto a camel, except it didn't crouch down so that you could climb aboard.
The farmer was charming, despite the fact he had to leave his lunch. He told me that no one uses that track in the winter and even hunter's 4x4's get stuck up there. I said that I was sorry and that I was an idiot, and he said no you're not, which was kind as I was.
The car was still there sprawled across the track, whistling sadly to itself. The farmer expertly tied ropes to its tow hook. I got in after thanking him repeatedly, and asking him how much I owed him, to which he said "Nothing - it was a pleasure."? To leave your Sunday lunch and rescue hapless twerps wearing 'nipping down the shops' clothing.


He towed the car out and reversed the tractor down the slithery hill until it was safe for me to drive on. Stopped to collect Ezra, now kitted out with borrowed thick coat and with pizza in his stomach. Thanked them profusely too, and set off home to Mark who was still waiting to put the chips on, and scolded us for not having a mobile . . . oops. He did look very pleased to see us though.




I will return to the mountain on a dry day with cake and jam for both households.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Music — save my life.



Mark has a t-shirt with this written on it. So true sometimes.
Just finished doing some very repellant jobs and needed a fix of some some dance music.
This is a favourite Fat Boy Slim track, featuring the hyper-talented Mr Walken gracing the vestibule and corridors of a glossy hotel.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Advertising and the cat food industry

I was feeding our cat some supermarket sludge this morning and suddenly remembered a particular cat food ad where the woman is obviously deeply in love with her feline friend. It is, if I remember a very attractive British Blue, but I wouldn't want to do other than tickle it behind the ears for a couple of minutes. The ad has an air of suggesting more.
Unless I am totally deranged (possible) I seem to recall her serving up the delicate plate - complete with a sprig of parsley - in some sort of negligee; mood music, come to bed eyes . . .
What the  . . . Cats were meant to guard the house against rats and mice, not be pampered with parsley; they're not even attracted to green stuff. Which reminds me. Why put carrots and peas in cat food? Padding obviously, and to make us gullible humans think that our beloveds would be healthier if they ate up their veg. Cats torture birds, not green beans: they rip flesh from bones with their pointy canines.
The very worst example of pet food industry product I saw recently was a 'Whiskers' creation for the extra finicky buggers - a purple plastic cat head-shaped food container. Arg! A cat's head. What twerp dreamed that up in the development meeting? How can they sleep at night. The landfill!!
'What did you do this week, darling?'
'I developed a purple cat head-shaped food container'. . .
Do cats respond to purple? Did anyone feel the thickness of the plastic for a portion of cat food about the size of say, a very small mouse, before they launched this absurdity.
The pet food industry must be one of the biggest money makers. Take noxious pulpy entrails, mix with God knows what? substandard cereals, sawdust? newspaper? package in tins with happy, healthy looking domestic beasts and . . . oooh look 500% mark-up?
Going back to our own feline: after nine years or so of trying to find something he will eat without flicking his tail in disgust, before walking away and a dog hoovering it up, I have discovered a range of tins in Leclerc. Basic beyond basic: white tin with a budget cat on it: rabbit or beef flavour at about 30 centimes!

He likes it; he's liked it quite a few times. Same sludge as the posh stuff, I'm sure. So budget sludge, some crunchy things, some fresh off-cut meat, and some prey from the garden. At last I think we've got it.
Incidentally . . . the word negligee means 'négligé, literally, 'neglected'. Odd . . . thank you Wikipedia. Another one of those French words that I had never linked to its root meaning.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Mum and Dad, Mum and Mum, Dad and Dad . . .whatever . . .

Arrrggggg!!!
If you want to fight for a cause, there are about seven billion urgent things out there: stop gang rape in In India; stop children being used for cheap labour; rescue Spanish greyhounds from being hung; stop local schools being closed; rage against OGM, racism, nuclear arms, inequality; help Oxfam, Amnesty International, Medicine sans Frontiers . . . but don't waste your energy in protesting about same sex marriage, or same sex anything.
Hot debate in France at the moment, I happened to catch an interview on tele matin this morning featuring a smug woman in her cosy beige sitting room making anti same-sex marriage comments and intent on teaching her children to hate.
Similar intelligence to Mr Schwarzenegger?

"I think that gay marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman." — Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger

Here is a vid by the lovely Dandy Warhols featuring, in a fabulous grimy western setting, people kissing other people, sometimes of the same sex, oo gosh.

Nope - been removed for 'content'.


Wednesday, 9 January 2013

between a rock and a hard place

Or perhaps between a rock cake and a Jalapeño sandwich.


Poor Mark. He is the placid bowl of gazpacho between two troubled soles (souls), probably with hidden turbulent depths, but he remains calm at all times; able to retreat into his shed (music room) when necessary.
Me, the rock cake at the present time . . . mmm, actually a hybrid rock cake with added fondant au chocolat interior: mostly pretty sturdy and reasonably sweet with the occasional nasty overcooked raisin but with unstable centre - likely to collapse at any given moment.
Ezra: Overfilled sandwich stuffed with millions of ingredients, mostly interesting ones, but with a Russian roulette-style lurking chilli here and there.
One of the chillis emerged this morning after a quiet start when Ezra ejected his toothbrush into the loo resulting in much stomping and screeching.
The rock cake is feeling stale today. Will tackle list of things that are becoming urgent and head out into the wilds for a bit. The morning is dark grey: a seeping sort of weather, but good for poetry, song lyrics and melancholic reflection.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Translation



Just had a two minutes look on the net for translation mistakes having come across many in a piece writing I was correcting yesterday.
I Rather liked a notice in a Honk Kong dentist: Teeth extracted by the latest Methodists.

One of the restaurants in Limoux attracted many English tourists a couple of summers ago mainly because of its google-translated? menu board.

 Bread with side idiot of tomato: (pain con tomate)
Paving slabs of salmon: (pavé de saumon) etc . . .

We did tell the owner . . . after a while.
Mind you, God knows what I've said over the years. I may have mentioned this one before, but it is my favourite personal language mis-comprehension.
I used to work with a very belligerent French chef years ago. When he got furious and red-faced, jumping up and down in his clogs, gesticulating crazily he would shout: "Oh bord de la mer." Or so I thought - poor thing, he needs a break at the coast . . .
He was actually saying: bordel de merde or brothel of shit to be exact, or - fucking hell, holy shit, and other assorted commonly used . . . things.
Here is a clip by Cyprian a young French gentleman of the Youtube school that we rather like. He covers many topics with a scattering of such previously discussed words with lots of hand and body gestures that you will be familiar with if you live in France.
This one is about coffee and in particular the capsule variety. I love the bit where he describes - in his mind - what coffee with no sugar really tastes like.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Building Number 12


Something to with wine making I think. Planted on the outskirts of St Hilaire, this could be the perfect restaurant, along the lines of Le Potager - a very favourite restaurant in Sigean. Sunny courtyard full of fig trees, a fountain and rescued slatted chairs. Jazz in the evenings, fresh local produce, interior full of bistro tables, ancient grand piano, open fire, interesting lighting and brocante china . . . future project? if it ever stops being something to do with wine making.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

YES! Forget prozac, alcohol or coffee



Instant cloud-lifter and new clearing up music. Well, it works for me.
Great album: Beach Boys with twiddly 21st century electro knob twiddling, African/Samba percussion and Rockabilly guitars riffs. Actually, Mark's just told me it's 'surf guitar' rather that Rockabilly, d'accord  . . . maybe I'll ask the Django's.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Belcaire

Today Mark and I went for our annual walk.
When we came to live here we said we would go for a proper - meaning walking boots and maps sort of walk every week. Nope. Then it became every month and we failed at that. So, once a year or so . . This year it was 'Le Plateau de Sault' a stunning piece of the Aude, way way up into the mountains before the real Pyrenees. It was so wonderful: no mobile signal, no cars, no adverts, no shops, just birds of prey, a few cattle, sheep, and lots of vast open spaces. We followed a very out of date walking guide and got lost and it was great. Had a nice lunch despite the woman looking at Mark as if he had come to do a tax inspection her when he said he was vegetarian. The P de S is famous for potatoes and we hoped to do some spud tasting and possibly buy a sack but no one seemed around at the various farms with signs suggesting the purchase of said tubers. In fact there didn't seem to be anyone anywhere.


Went on to Belcaire which has a strange outcrop of rock behind the church with an exciting crop of antennae and no messing iron cross complete with Christmas star.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Postcards from Sete

Ezra and I left Mark to get on with some work yesterday and went to a favourite place.
On the way we called at Meze and Bouzigues as we had never been to either town before. Meze . . . unremarkable, Bouzigues would have been idyllic on a warm spring day sitting outside a café eating oysters, but it was cold with a vicious Northerly wind. So on to Sete. 
Found a brilliant cheap hotel with friendly hostess and whippet on reception, and set out to explore, re-explore and eat pancakes.
The following morning was as ordered: sun, cloudless blue, never ending sky, no wind and perfect for photography. We visited the panoramic spot on top of the hill: stunning views of the town, the port and the oyster beds across the bay. I could imagine living in the slightly unkempt terracotta villa hanging onto the hill edge, the garage of which is pictured below. The view would be enough to fill a day, just watching the boats coming and going, the trains and the changing weather.
Another part we always visit is the 'Quay Mistral' a strange little offshoot of the main town, full of tiny fishing houses, nets and mangy cats. This time there were Christmas decorations in the form of trees full of found debris, nets and the odd nod to the festive period.





Home via Medieval Pézenas with it's pretty streets, pale stone buildings and towering church. And through Capestang with its equally towering church.



Not sure what this at the back of the church . . . but it looks like a stone rendition of Christ going "WAHAAYY," to me anyway. 

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

N.Y resolutions



Oh, not that again.
Actually I'm just going to stick to last year's which is simple: try and smile more generally. The other one I always start and then fail within a day or two is just do it meaning if the hammer is in the shed and I'm trying to hang something on the wall, go and get it - don't try knocking a nail in with a shoe or a cup as it won't work.
I was trying to find - and the net failed me this time - a memorable piece of performance art film we saw in the Ikon gallery in Birmingham years ago - a man trying to drill a hole in a wall and the cord was  . . just too short to reach. So instead of going to find an extension lead it became a eternal loop of him plugging drill in, reaching for spot on wall and plug coming out. Human behavior, or mine anyway.
Anyway, this year will be different. I've already cleaned the tidemark off the bath where I washed the dog some time ago, and hoovered behind the TV: life is good. Next I will unearth stuff in the bowels of the in-tray and make all those phone calls that I should have done last week - tomorrow.