Sunday, 13 October 2019

Buddhism and boot sales

Vide grenier, in this case - literally, empty your attic. I've blogged about these events many times as they figure quite high on our list of activities. Not quite so much lately as I'm in a bit of a purge phase feeling a move may be on the horizon . . .
Anyway, we did go to one this morning, and quite exceptional it was in its leafy, sun-dappled autumn way - held on a piece of ground next to the rugby stadium which has thoughtfully placed ancient plane trees for shade.
Sometimes on approaching a Vide Grenier I have an overriding sense that it will be a waste of time - an ocean of plastic and baby garments; this one had an air of possibility. Lots of great clothes, which we didn't have time to rummage through as Mark had a rehearsal in the afternoon, but within five minutes we had deniched (uncovered) several bargains.
Little worn Italian leather boots for two euros, a selection of videos including three volumes of Betty Boop; Casablanca, Grease and a bio-pic by Clint Eastwood and an excellent Paul Auster novel all for ten euros, and a beautiful unused Japanese metal teapot with stand for three euros.



Such joy.

So, the Buddhism bit . . . or Stoic, or anything else that encourages us to live in the moment. I equate the Vide Grenier experience as being similar to walking - except walking is healthier and generally requires no money being spent unless one happens upon a tea shop (unlikely in France) - in that one enters a small space of time where general worries and planning disappears as one peruses other humans' weird and wonderful/not wonderful collections of stuff. Of course there are moments (for me anyway) of: Holy shit, look at all this stuff - landfill, panic, there is no hope, etc, but on the whole it's a gentle, harmless and lazy Sunday morning activity which swages the desire to consume and recycles otherwise neglected things which would probably have headed to the bin.



re-homed teapot with its new companions.

Monday, 30 September 2019

The yawning abyss between beliefs

Youtube's algorithms present me with an interesting choice each day: really excellent political comment from someone called Phil (his Chanel- a different bias) who really should be prime minister rather than the blond swaggering idiot we have in No ten at the current time . . . actually, any of my three dogs, even the small runty one with three legs would be a better candidate - no offence Phil!
Oh, yes, algorithms.
Apart from Phil, they (appearing in my mind as tiny white-coated scientists scribbling down my personal data) suggest various subjects: Climate change, Permaculture, unusual houses, greening the world's deserts, astronomy, runner ducks, John Roger's wonderful channel: The Lost Byway; psychogeography, Vernon Bogdanor's history lectures, a lovely channel called 'Mossy Bottom' - nothing devient - just a charming young guy talking about his new self-sufficient life in a cottage called Mossy Bottom in the West of Ireland; Will Self talking about anything, George Monbiot lectures, and lots of French documentaries - great way of learning language - put on something that fascinates and marvel at how the information creep into your brain's word-storage facility.

Yesterday, I listened to Mr Monbiot's lecture given at Falmouth Uni in 2018. Entitled 'How to truly take back control', it was a utterly insightful, intelligent and hope-giving talk, set against the impending wreckage of the world we currently know - the need for new communities, the need for a new human narrative beyond Keynesian economics and Neoliberalism.
I thought about it a great deal during the day as I went about dealing with the heat ravaged-garden, and then later while doing kitchen chores opened the laptop to see what Youtube would present me with - A choice of French Documentaries entitled Bling! Great choice you little tiny scientists. I was utterly hooked on the absolutely awfulness of it all: the world's richest people, hugest houses, biggest yachts, most exclusive hotels, most expensive jewellery . . .  I think the most absurd bit of all featured a certain Chinese real estate developer who owned four Rolls Royces and only seemed to wear suits that made Liberace's dress code seem rather pale.
On the fifth floor of the utterly exclusive Monaco hotel he was being chauffeured to there was utter panic as his three bedroomed, panoramic sea-view marble suite (at 30,000 euros per night) was not actually enterable as the key code was refusing to work. Of course, just in time, a locksmith (probably helicoptered in) did arrive and saved everyone from utter humiliation and multiple heart attacks as the person would have had to wait . . . And I don't suppose it would have been like waiting in a Travelodge reception area with a mouldering pot plant for company and a free token for a drinks distributer . . .



68,000 euros a night . . . Royal Penthouse suite: the President Wilson hotel in Geneva (Image - Elite Traveller)



One of the world's most expensive yachts - a mere 330 million. I've just seen one for 4.5 billion . . . but it does have a statue made of genuine Tyrannosaurus rex bones. Oh, that makes sense then . . .

Maybe if you experience stuff like this all the time, you don't worry about what might be lurking on the horizon line as far as the future of the planet, and us as a species, is concerned. There was a great quote in the Guardian yesterday by a well known environmentalist planning to leave Sydney for a new apocalypse-proof life elsewhere. I can't find it now but it was something like: 'people think they'll be okay (in the face of climate breakdown) because they have superannuation.'


Friday, 13 September 2019

timely things

During a trip back to the UK last week I met the publishers who will be publishing my novel.
It was a really enjoyable meeting, and I came away feeling motivated, excited, very happy, and all the other things one would expect after slogging away at the writing game for a very long time.
How great it would be, I thought, to celebrate this personally momentous point in time by commissioning a painting or other piece of art/craft. And then the very thing presented itself at the Wirksworth Art and Architecture Trail in Derbyshire.
Some years ago I had mentioned to Richard Bett, a jeweller whose work I greatly admire that it would be wonderful if he could create me a bespoke piece to mark the point when I finally found a 'home' for my novel. He must have had a psychic episode as on seeing me he exclaimed 'Kate. You're here! Look - I made something for you." He hadn't known that the book had found a publisher, or that I would be at the trail but there it was, a silver pendant featuring the heroine of the book astride her horse, Kafka.

                           

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Colour

Walking into my friend's house yesterday was like entering a glorious multi-layered painting. Sadly, I didn't have my good camera with me but even the small one half together with duct tape managed to catch some of the shades and nuances of her chosen colour pallets. Much has been added and changed since my last visit a few years ago.
Her abode is an incredible, and almost edible, spectrum of opal greens, blues and lilacs, on the walls, fireplaces, doors, and contained in the hundreds of beautiful paintings and sketches, and works in progress. I found myself wondering how many shades of blue, green, mauve and occasionally bursts of bright orange and red could be counted within the houses's walls. Hundreds, thousands? It's not really something I've really thought about before despite having studied colour, to a certain extent, during my art college years.
When I returned to my brother's house this afternoon, I found he and my son were engaged in 'making a computer' - as you do . . . I asked what the thing was on the table that looked like a spool of 35mm film and he said it was an LED strip which could display about 16.6 million different colours. Still trying to digest this fact . . .
Here are a selection of the 16.6 million displayed in my friend's house.










Building Number 64

Haven't done one of these sub-blog list elements recently, but on passing this curved wonderment this afternoon in Sheffield, it called out to be added.

                

The interior must surely contain: ancient electric kettle, selection of mugs, digestif biscuits - possibly, 'rich tea' as well; found wellies, pinned-up leaflets advertising jumble sales, local bake-offs/ballroom dancing, dog shows, manure, open gardens, bowls club, trips to garden centres of note, society members ads: free cultivated blackberry cuttings - see Reg, free to good home: tabby kittens; unwanted gift of hedge cutters - see Mrs Plab, etc.
Or, maybe not. Perhaps it's all Prosecco, canapés, adverts for speed-dating clubs and leaflets concerning lost Chihuahuas.
That certain green perfect paint and tended pots suggests the former . . .   

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Free food: post number . . .?

I know I've blogged about this many times, but each late summer/early autumn it always amazes me as to how much stuff gets left to rot on trees/bushes around here.
I keep forgetting to take a collecting bag with me on walks - blackberries are in super abundance this year. These plums were stripped from a few trees just down the road, and no one else was interested apart from a few blackbirds. Next up, pears, occasionally apples, and then finally, pomegranates - the finest fruit and utterly ignored here.
Climate heating is definitely making its mark as these fruits are about a month ahead in their ripening time - the jam prep something I usually associate with bright but slightly nippy November days, not late September/early October . . .
Dog walk beckons, this time with fruit bag.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Expanding universes and under-sink cupboards

Under the sink . . . it is a horrible universe in its own right. Stuff dwells in there, and it is only visited in order to find the dustpan and brush, a new sponge or the dog-rice.
This morning as I got the tin of rice out I realised a small lake had formed underneath it. Further investigation revealed a leak from part of the plastic sink 'gubbins' where a small piece of grey pipe had become unattached thus allowing a large percentage of any water going down the plug hole to end up in the cupboard rather than where it was supposed to be going.
Mark came and peered at it then retuned to the piano to play a Chopin Waltz. Lovely, but not overly helpful in solving the sink problem.
I prodded Youtube into life and selected a TED talk by Lord Martin Rees, (baron of Ludlow, member of parliament, and eminent cosmologist/astrophysicist) on the fate of mankind in the 21st Century and got down to trying to fix (bodge) the pipe back into where it was supposed to be.
Youtube algorithms had decided on the perfect choice for scratching one's head over leaky sink joints: the birth of the universe - possibly other ones simultaneously; the expanding of our universe, dark matter, possible forth spacial dimension, and, a wonderful fact that I shall certainly stock in my mind - if you represent the Earth's lifetime by a single year, the 21st Century would be a quarter of a second in June . . .
Suddenly the leak seemed less annoying. I stuffed a piece of old t-shirt into the hole, put a plastic box under the drippy bit, threw stuff away and shut the door on it all. Nick the builder is coming to look at our collapsing gate tomorrow so perhaps he could work out why the bit of grey tube has departed from the rest of the sink apparatus.

                         


                                                          Black hole of under the sink

                                  
 
                   Lord Martin Rees who I expect has a more organised under-sink cupboard than us


Thursday, 8 August 2019

Hottest day ever in Paris

And we were there in an apartment the size of a wardrobe which was part of an attic - chambre de bonne (maid's room) and the fan broke within three minutes.
I texted the air B and B owner woman who said, and I quote: 'I'm off on holiday, good luck.' When I complained - rigorously - she said there had been a problem of stock and she hadn't been able to buy one. I implored her to ring a friend to lend us one - nope. Not happening. You could try the housekeeper, she suggested. Housekeeper arrived said, 'mon dieu, 'it's like a furnace in here, but sorry I don't have a spare fan.'
Suffice to say, we didn't sleep despite draping ourselves in wet towels.
Anyway . . . gay Paris. It was all wonderful despite the various incredibly sweaty tram and metro journeys to and from galleries and museums - we spent about four hours looking at Buddha statues in the Guimet museum; partly as they were fascinating but also as the museum's air-conditioning was particularly effective.
We also saw, and heard a brilliant exhibition on the history of electro music at the City de la Musique. Walking to the building from the metro I experienced the same fear that I had done while visiting Death Valley - not that there was endless sand and cactus but the heat was as, or almost, as intense. That sort of primal fear that if one doesn't find shelter within minutes one would most certainly peg out.
Global warming monsieur Trump? Nah . . . course not.
The next day was due to be slightly less hot but we were already moving off to London where it was forecasted as light drizzle and about 22 degrees.


         

The rooftop view from our chamber of Hell - actually, would have been perfect at any other time in the year.

       

A street on the Isle de St Louis - at 5.00 am. The only time to really enjoy walking about . . .

          

                 An hour or so later, one of the cafes starting up for the day

     

        Notre Dame's reconstruction underway

      

              One of many serene buddhas

               

                        Early LIKE



                An interesting bit of pavement-claiming

               

A wonderful fountain which I put my feet in and almost put the rest of me in except several police were nearby water-spraying their horses.

              

                          A lovely archway

          

                  My favourite door and name of the trip

                        

                            stupidest shop name of the trip

             

                  Part of the electro music expo

             

                       best graffiti

              

                   THE shopping cathedral

                      

  and one of its bargains (4.500 euros . . . for a bag you could just about fit a phone and a lipstick in)



My favourite restaurant - where they still do the 'addition' on the paper table cloths

                

                            a man waiting for the metro



                               Au revoir, Paris












Friday, 19 July 2019

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Most unusual.

That's what the surgeon had said when I had gone for my consultation a month or so ago. He had then gone on to say:
"Ah bon?" Meaning, really? You have a hernia of the groin? But this is usually for a man - and you are certainly not a man, heh?" He had said all this with a playful look which was nice, if not a tad cheesy, as I was feeling particularly ancient and lumpy that day. He was even more surprised when I told him that I had already been operated on about eight years ago for a groin hernia on the left side.
"Vraiment?" Truly?
    I was obviously an interesting case and would be more interesting as I was to later be sporting the scars of two different procedures as medicine had obviously moved on somewhat since my last op.
He waved a rather grubby small piece of doily-like plastic at me.
"This is what you would have had before - the plug. It is no longer in favour you know." His tone was rather like that of a hairdresser who flips a lock of one's hair disparagingly and says "who cut your hair last?"
    He then asked how I had found it - the plug, and seemed slightly disappointed that it had so far not caused me any more grief than a slight tugging sensation. He went on to explain how the new procedure involving a small camera, a lightweight gauze and some sort of gas would be much better and far less invasive. So I said, "Great," and he said "when do you want it done?"
Stop. When do you want it done? I am still amazed by this question in French hospitals - not that I'm in them constantly . . . No waiting list seemingly, not for this op anyway. I had suggested the end of July and he said, "OK, but I can do it next week if you like."
I've heard of expats going back to the UK for treatment. Why?

So, the day dawned. I followed all the instructions and was at the hospital by 7am. This is the other thing that is so amazing about the French health system. They know who you are as soon as you appear in the reception; you pass through various bureaux, answer questions, sign papers and it's all so incredibly efficient. It was slightly alarming that they asked me to state several times what operation I was having and which side it was on. I suppose one can't be too careful - litigation and all.
    I was shown to my PRIVATE room, given a blue paper gown, shower cap thing, paper pants and paper shoes; shown all the various controls for window blinds, nurse-calling, bed adjustments, TV, etc and left to write the last entry in my notebook. Well, there is always that slightly angsty feeling that the anaesthetist might have had one too many the night before . . .
    About half an hour and many blood pressure checks/further questionings about what side the op was to be on, etc, another delightful (and they all were) nurse appeared, passed me a purple felt pen from its sterile wrapper and asked ME to draw a cross on the leg that was on the side of my body that the op was to be performed on. Surely they might have known by now . . . Anyway, I did draw a cross - not a tick as I was tempted to do and she told me I could keep the felt pen.
Then someone else came in wearing a skull design hair protector and said he would wheel me to the block.
As I said, it sounds like I've done this hundreds of times - actually about four, all for minor things, but the weirdest part is being wheeled down many corridors with strip lights flashing above you as a part of your brain is saying, actually, I'm not absolutely sure about all this.
The bloc was very cold, so I was covered with a layer of lightweight papery substance which hot air was then blown into - liked this bit. Sadly there wasn't a pre-med too take away those fleeting feelings of panic as people attach electrodes to you but an oxygen mask was then on my face, my eyes were blurring and the anaesthetist was saying 'c'est parti' - off we go.

I woke wondering where I was and asked the nurse taking my blood pressure again if that was it. I.e, had it been done. She smiled kindly and said, "oui, Madame, now you are in the room of waking."
After another doze back into unconsciousness, I was wheeled back to my room where I slept on and off, woken by people checking the right side had been done and taking my blood pressure.
Lunch was a white bread roll a small piece of Emmental and a pot of apple puree. Which was fine as my stomach seems to have shut down through having things poked around it for an hour or so.
    The surgeon came to visit and informed me everything had gone to plan, and that he'd had a look at the old plastic doily on the other side. He said it was protruding slightly into my stomach area but it wasn't causing any harm and that it was still holding up whatever it was supposed to be holding up - at this point, I pictured some species of flying buttress within my innards.
He also said he himself had been operated on two weeks ago and had lain in the very same bed as me.
I wasn't quite sure what to say to this; maybe he had also had the same operation - not performed by himself. Anyway, I said "Vraiment?" and we talked for a while about Brexit, the subject of which he was as incredulous about as I was/am.
Half an hour later, I was checked over again, deemed to be ok to go, all paper work was in order, a nurse of my choice would visit our house for five days to check the wounds and give me special injections. I was not to lift anything more than a kilo for a month and various other things should be avoided for fifteen days, and I could leave whenever I was ready. "Au revoir, Madame, bonne continuation."

  







Saturday, 29 June 2019

For any doubters of Global warming.

Two greyhounds lying on a tiled floor instead of the usual sofas. Never before seen . . . 41 degrees on the terrace outside - also never seen/felt.

Friday, 28 June 2019

Another small rant about plastic

And . . . supermarkets encouraging people to forget how to cook basic stuff.

                

THIS is a Tesco instant pancake mix in a plastic bottle. The pancake mix (dust) - just add water - fills about a quarter of the container. The rest is air - the space where you presumably add the water.
Two main things about this product: One, why? As in, why instant pancake stuff? - pancakes must be one of the easiest and satisfying food items to make.
Imagine the fun of Pancake Day/Shrove Tuesday without blending eggs, flour and milk. Opening a plastic pot of ready mix . . . a little sad?
The other gripe . . . if Tesco really feel it is a worthwhile thing to promote instant pancake dust, why not put it in a small cardboard box - or something like a small Bird's Custard type container. Less plastic, less trapped air, more space on shelves. Obviously people would have to make the effort of pouring the stuff into a bowl/empty glass jar/ whatever and then shake it but it wouldn't really be a problem. Would it, Tesco's?
Like it says on the label - fluffy and simple. Might also refer to someone who had this idea in the food-strategy/marketing/what on Earth can we make now, department of said store.


Saturday, 15 June 2019

Past and present

Some folk don't like to look back at the past - done, onward, next thing, but there must be a reason for us to have this incredible ability to store images, thoughts; replay whole tracts of time in slightly 50s Technicolour.
I feel we should consider the past fascinating - good and bad. You learn from things you have done, improve (hopefully) and mature as a person; replay the exhilarating, sometimes difficult, exciting, and just heart-warming times - meeting the significant other, birthdays, pregnancy and birth, Christmases, your child's first bike ride, the success of a project, particular concerts, moving into a new house, observing a garden take shape, and a million other things.
On the subject of new houses and gardens. This is a before and after of the terrace of our new (1975 villa) house back in 2011 - and now on the day I write this post - 15th June, 2019.
What a difference some plants make, as Dinah Washington sang . . .
The first thing we did after roughly moving belongings into place was to find a metal-working person, put up a structure and plant vines. It's all a bit out of control now being somewhat live and let live gardeners but it is a wonderful sight when the roses are out, and the terrace becomes our dining and sitting room during the spring and summer.
Maybe when we have moved to something a little smaller, wherever that will be, I will recall those hot days under the vine leaves; days of salad, chat, accordion, fan whirring and dogs stretched out on the warm concrete.

                     

                                 2011

                 

                         2019

                             

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

It's old . . .

Well-used words at car boot sales, no doubt all over the world, for justifying an exorbitant price tag.
In this case at our local 'vide-grenier' - (literally emptying one's attic) where Mark homed in - being a buyer and hoarder of just about any type of musical instrument - on a once-possibly noble Zither.
The guy swaggered nonchalantly over (think you can do this) and proceeded to point out the instrument's qualities. 
'It is old' 
Yes, it certainly is but not in a good way.
'It is in excellent condition - works perfectly.
No, it doesn't. The strings are untunable and someone appears to have poured a pot of white paint over it, scrubbed ineffectually and then added a rough line of black around the edge to complete its renovation.
Mark and I exchanged glances, trying to guess what the price might be. I suggested it might be worth purchasing it for a more experimental form of jazz - sort of thing where two people and a dog might be the audience. We agreed it would be worth relieving him of the object for about five euros, so he wouldn't have to repack it in the van. No one else within a radius of about a hundred KM would have bought it other than us. That was for sure.
"Vous voulez combien?" asked Mark.
The reply of thirty euros was somewhat surprising. We walked away after employing another useful car boot phrase - 'we'll have a quick look around and come back'.
What one of us should have said was, 'What? thirty euros for that? are you insane? But we are English, somewhat pathetic and perhaps didn't want to spoil his illusion that he did have indeed a very old and unusually-restored item on his stall. 
Sadly, it will probably end up at the tip at the end of the Vide Grenier season when it could have featured in some weird and inventive art music piece. 

 

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Green light

Moving ahead!
My novel, Hoxton, now has a book deal with the wonderful, Tartarus Press.
As they specialise in 'literary supernatural/strange/horror fiction' I know my characters will be well at home in their catalogue.
Still some way to go with edits, etc, but looking forward to the time that my work will be out there.



Detail of a London map of 1775 featuring St Leonard's church (center - ish) where a lot of the story takes place - although set in 2072 . . . Mind, with the way everything seems to be going, London could possibly re-resemble this map by that time . . .

Pic - Mapco/David Hale.

Sunday, 2 June 2019

While cleaning out the loft . . .

I found a box of old college stuff that I hadn't looked in for certainly twenty years - think it wasn't opened in the move from our last two places.
Ah, the days before photoshop etc. I recall buying the mackerel and stringing them up with fishing line (appropriate), and the many times Toby had to smoke cigarettes and look faintly surprised as if waking from a dream that was in fact some bizarre reality. Think that was it - no idea. Lost in the heavy fog of time . . .

      

The picture below features me (in skirt - rare occurrence) and friend Mal, and yes, they were real boots - t'was the 80s . . .
I can't remember the reason for the dots but the picture did win a large format Polaroid camera in the yearly Polaroid competition. Not that I got to keep the camera - think it was amalgamated into the art college equipment store.
Happy days of messing about with set building, paints, cameras, clothes, and fish, with no idea of what I might do later in life . . .

             

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Day out in Toulouse

It wasn't a day out as such - more a few hours wrapped around a RDV at a clinic but it was a beautiful day and exploration of a city was an interesting idea.
I don't really know Toulouse despite numerous visits - we used to stay in The Grand Balcon right on the Place du Capitol when we were vaguely thinking amount a move to France. The hotel was amazing - about fifteen quid a night with lumpy old beds and ancient plumbing; sadly now revamped into something classy and the rooms more like 150.00 quid a night.
Arriving on the train early in the morning, I wandered the quiet streets ending up at The Capitol where a group of Japanese women tourists were having a sing, lead by one lady with a ukulele.
After a hot choc at a café that should have the award for the most 'bof' manageress in the whole of South-West France I walked on to the Abattoir art gallery which was closed for the day but spent a long time watching the rolling Garonne pass by. It struck me that the water I was observing would at some point later that day be arriving in Bordeaux where my son currently lives. And I texted him as much, him being a muser too . . .


A number of tents had sprung up along the main boulevard near the art gallery. I gave some money to a small boy who was sitting with a broken bowl in hand, then asked him where the family were from. Albania, he said.
Rather disturbingly, just on the other side of the fence from the tents the already manicured municipal gardens were being re-planted. Slightly wrong priorities?

                 

I found a street I hadn't noticed before which was full of shops selling wildly unnecessary items but I did love this glass jelly fish lamp. . . 

                

Then it was time for my RDV with a neck specialist. I've had this thing for nearly thirty years now, and have been huffed at, almost jeered at and generally been ignored as it's a small but niggly pain that seems to stem from virtually nothing, and has just got worse over time. THIS doctor was a revelation. He spent about half an hour carefully listening then did lots of thorough examinations and pinpointed where the pain is coming from. Sadly, nothing much can be done but at least I know what it is; it's not life-threatening and I can go back and see him after another IRM scan which I, oddly, rather like - see some post, way back about being in one of these machines.
After this, I found a tiny little lost-in-the-70s Indian restaurant and enjoyed onion pakora, fish curry and 'delice' de mango for about nine euros. Needing a sit down rather than walking, I went back to the river and water gazing - amazing quantities of river weed covered in tiny white flowers or shells? difficult to tell at a distance. On the other bank, huge works were happening, including re-pointing the kilometres of Toulouse pink brick walls - massive scaffolding with about six people working.  

                

the Monika Indian restaurant


a bit of repointing



very tenacious ash tree

On the way back to the station I noticed this fabulous bit of late? Art Deco and this recently repainted 'Guggenheim' 50s car park. Not just the city of the 'rose' brick. I shall return and explore further.