Saturday 22 August 2009

21st August 'tapas'

A celebration of summer on the terrace yesterday evening, for no great reason other than these long hot days are numbered.

Of course there are some recompenses for the end of summer, mainly in the form of free jam-making possibilities.
Our friend Dorothy just up the road has a marvelous old orchard stuffed with 'mirabelle' plum and apple trees. Mark has made vast quantities of plum jam now, his giraffe stature enabling him 'graze' the trees at a high level without aid of a ladder.
During the last forage we brought back a pannier full of little stripy apples. Cooked with some market apricots and cloves they were a perfect pudding element of the evening's spread.
I seem to have got into a 'tapas' groove at the moment and am a bit stuck there, partly due to lack of seating space around the terrace table. When I say tapas I mean . . . 'I wonder what is in the fridge or in the garden, and what can we make with it'. Last nights offering was fried courgettes and our one aubergine, lots of tasty tomatoes, patatas pobres (poor man's potatoes), Mark's bread, Claires salad of found figs, goats cheese and black olives, and the most pathetically small (but beautiful) carrots. I never have any luck with growing these elusive vegetables.
I will try harder with our 'potager' (veg patch) next year. Despite putting a tip-up truck's worth of manure into it in the autumn it still only seems to grow tomatoes, potatoes and chilies. THE melon will be ready to eat in about a week, perhaps we'll have another fete to celebrate its maturity . . . 

Thursday 20 August 2009


Mark and I went on our annual one day and night holiday this week.
Left the dogs, boy and watering to dear friends and set off to Cérét on an extra wiggly route past the man-made lake at Agly. It's the busiest holiday period and only two families were enjoying the lakeside. As a contrast at St Marie on the coast more than 50 million people there, and Mark was the tallest whitest thing on the beach. Incidentally, Mark had said that this particular holiday resort was pleasant - sort of Cuban with a few whitewashed shacks selling grilled fish. He had been there the year before while doing a band tour which involved setting up in 45 degrees, playing for 8 hours, eating vile campsite food, and sleep deprivation, so I suppose he may have remembered it slightly differently.
The swim was worth it.
Lunch was a baguette at the back of poxy?proxy/poxi? supermarket as it was the only place where there was any shade; then we drove hurriedly away from the heat haze coast and inland to Cérét - one of our favorite haunts.
It's an elegant old town with tall thin buildings and even taller shade-giving plane trees. We ate naughty ice creams with 'nappage' of port-like liquid, visited the excellent gallery and waited for the hotel to open so we could siesta.
Hotel Vidal is what all hotels should be: one star, friendly, full of artefacts and very little modern changes. And, therefore, cheap: yes!
Lovely meal in a shady square, took hundreds of photos, and slept to the sound of the 'Blue goose' jazz band in the street outside.
Here are a few photos from Cérét and a corner of my studio (the sitting room) with painting of 'chicken who likes to walk in the garden like a small dog', see few posts back.

Monday 17 August 2009


Incredible heat today. It was reading 40 degrees in the shade on the terrace; the wisteria has roasted leaves and the dogs shut down between 8.00 am and 7.00 pm.
I was trying to remember what it feels like to be cold. The cupboard of rather nasty looking jumpers are still there, and the tangle of woolly scarves, but it all seems like another lifetime.
Here is a small film of a bizarre winter tree hung with shoes on the outskirts of Buxton for no great reason except I do remember feeling so cold when I took the film that I couldn't imagine what it would be like to feel hot.

Tuesday 11 August 2009


It's an odd thing the brain, is it not.
How are visual memories stored? Let alone complex musical ones. It's incredible that I can listen to Ravel's La valse as I was doing this morning in my own head with all the string section, horns etc. Or maybe I hear it differently to other people . . . anyway it's all totally extraordinary.
Back to visual re-visitings. Along with all the other odd scraps of imagery in the drawers labelled strange and interesting but unimportant in my brain, I filed a new one on Monday when we went for a walk in one of our favorite 1970's parts of Limoux.
It's a unremarkable estate, but oddly fascinating with its neat gardens and twiddly wrought iron white fences.
We happened upon (Jane Austin moment) a house with a massive rusty iron garage door in front of which stood an old man gazing fondly or possibly hungrily( I couldn't tell for sure) at a small white chicken. We all looked at each other and smiled (not the chicken). The man said: 'he likes to walk like a small dog in the garden'
That was it: unimportant, yet beautifully strange and forever embedded in my memories: rust, white feathers, toothy smile, a walk on a warm day in summer 2009.
I have no photo of it. I might make a painting. Here are some more images from Cerbere, also important memory pictures.