Tuesday 29 December 2009

A different kind of dog.

The Hothouse compound is guarded by our two Italian greyhounds.
People stop transfixed by the runtyness of the tiny one. The sheer audacity of his presence is impressive; the way he draws himself up to the size of say, a frozen chicken, and hurls forth abuse in his tiny rapid-fire barks.
These are house dogs, bred for human contact. Their mission is to snuggle with their owners as much as possible, preferably amongst velvet and pure wool.
Actually they are great walkers and racers too, but primarily weedy, snuggling warmth-leeches unlike the dogs of these collars.
These are macho earth-caked hairy dogs with huge yelpy voices and blood in mind. Dogs of 'la chasse' (hunting).
We have quite a few that turn up in the garden with jingly collar bells, somehow way off the scent, or perhaps in secret search of a soft sofa . . . 
When we first arrived in France, 'la chasse' seemed a strange, gruesome idea, but over the years I have come to view in a different way. It's so much of the way of life for many people here, as much as the 'potager' (veg patch) is for providing food and satisfaction in a certain expected order of the turning year.
Spring: preparing ground, sowing, gathering wild asparagus etc. Summer: lettuce, tomatoes, cherries, strawberries, apricots, watering. Autumn: harvest, mushroom-picking, cutting back, bonfires. Winter: 'la chasse'.
I have never participated (except for a couple of times of nearly being shot) but can imagine the fresh, crisp air, the thrill of the chase, dividing of the beast(s) amongst friends, wine consumed, all to be . . . enjoyable. I think.
Anyway, if we are prepared to eat meat, we should also perhaps be aware of the reality of the animal's demise. We are all too accustomed to the safe, cling-film packets of pink and red stuff on the supermarket shelves: de-skinned, de-boned, de-feathered, oven ready.

Friday 25 December 2009

And goodwill to all men

Even to Ezra who woke us up crashing about at 5.00 am — still, I'm sure we all did the same at eleven years old.
Excellent Christmas day. Brilliant presents all round, lunch in the sun, walk above Limoux, far too much chocolate and a viewing of an awful 'Carry On' film from   Ezra's stocking.

Wednesday 23 December 2009

Only 2 shopping days to Christmas

Festive lunacy is upon us.
Yesterday, the local supermarket was full of people staggering under the weight of enlarged duck livers in jars, 'buche de Noel' and daft gold/red china.
It's scary to think that all over France, Spain, the UK and generally a lot of the planet, people are engaged in this PANIC to buy stuff for one day . . . the celebration of the birth of one small human a very long time ago.
Do most people actually remember what the event is? Has the possibility that Marks and Spencer might have run out of their platinum label Christmas puds become more important.
Don't know what I believe, but I'm going to go and do a church crawl on Christmas eve, starting in Pieusse, where Mark is playing their new church harmonium, and then possibly to a freezing abby out in the sticks for midnight mass.
Sorry for Scrooge-like sentiments, but . . . really! I think it was working in advertising for too many years — 'Boot's' Christmas press shows in July complete with log fires, carol singers etc.

Here is a lovely sunrise to evoke peace, reflection and serenity as we head out once more to the shops to cross another vital thing of the Chistmastide list.
Bonnes Fêtes.

Monday 21 December 2009

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas.

Mark did an excellent sound installation in Garth's 'cuve' (wine vat) for our art bazarre. A weird and slightly drunken mix of different versions of the above song. Bing, Fred, Elvis, Vera Lynn, etc, confetti snow, soft lighting and a glokonspiel (no idea of the spelling) for people to play along to the tune as it slid in and out of various keys. Unfortunately I forgot the camera so couldn't film it . . . so here is our road looking very festive.
Thanks Garth for hosting the event — lovely food, wine, and brilliant art by all concerned.
Thanks Emma for giving us prunes covered in dark chocolate . . . could be the most delicious things in the world.

Thursday 17 December 2009

Art bazarre chez Garth.

Roll up, roll up folks! Experience all that is cozy and Christmasy in contemporary art things/brocante/jam /music/Bing Crosby and much more . . .

23 Grand Rue, Roquetaillade, 20 Decembre.

Back south

Arrived back yesterday. Noted the different types of cold.
There: (Liverpool) was 'claggy' grey and dark grey/green cold. Everything, including people, covered in moss. Here: sharp, silver cold, dusting of sugar on the hills and parched-looking striped fields.
I was glad to be back; Christmas preparation here is just a gentle folly. In the UK it was a seething madness of plastic sparkly stuff. Call me an old git, but I do prefer it all a little more 'home made, holly, badly shaped mince pies', etc.
Anyway, it was interesting to see what the planners had done in Liverpool.
Liverpool 1 is a gleaming new shopping cathedral. An architect's dream of glass, well behaved trees and cheeky fountains. Actually all very impressive, if a little sterile.
Enjoyed a visit to the Tate, which I had all to myself — I could have made off with quite a few works such was the lack of of staff presence.
Great Rothko room. Huge reverberating deep maroon and red paintings that he made for a fashionable resto in N.Y, and then decided he didn't want to mix food appreciation with his art (they were never hung there). Apparently he wanted the paintings to give the viewer the feeling they were trapped in a room with all windows and doors bricked up, and all the person could do was to bang their head on the wall for evermore . . .  think he should have got out into the garden a bit more.
Excellent other expos on sculpture, and baked beans on toast in cafe next door.
Here's a few sketches from the trip, and a festive runt-sized wreath, more of which will be on sale at 'bazarre' art sale chez Garth on Sunday . . . will post an invite next.

Sunday 13 December 2009

Christmas lunacy

Off to UK for brief visit up North.
Will visit more cafés, eat chips/curry, dodge Christmas mayhem and report back.

Monday 7 December 2009

Last bit of London trip.

134 bus to Muswell Hill.
Relieved to see the fabulous old coffee and tea store was still there (Martyns). Then on to Seymour Court, Colney Hatch Lane for a bit of nostalgia.
'Yer tis, where I lived from a wee baby to 13 years — left hand  ground floor flat.
Nice shared garden, Mrs Catchpole upstairs, mad woman opposite who collected milk bottles, and the first time I saw a nude man - I went to feed Mrs can't-recall-her-name's cat, and her boyfriend walked out of the bathroom dressed in . . . nothing.
Other memories: cockroaches in the kitchen, local shops, pet mice, purple irises, communal bins, Victoria plum tree, Hillman Minx, scrag end of lamb and radio 4.
I was going to follow the route I used to walk to my scary school (Bounds Green comprehensive), but will have to do it next time as it was time to move on to Waterloo and the train to Poole.

Tuesday 1 December 2009

Night train window.

Painting from a two minute sketch during a journey from Poole to waterloo. In fact a very tedious journey that involved a bus in the middle, and standing in the drizzle with lots of sheep-like people (including me) saying: "Where are we? Is this the right bus? I need a sandwich."

o.k enough going on about cafes.

Here's a bit of what I was doing on the creative side —
two minute sketch on a train journey from Waterloo to Alton. I did many similar drawings and received interested/apprehensive glances from fellow passengers. One man asked if I was an architect.
I said: "Can you imagine a building constructed of one of these drawings?"(not really) I smiled and said I was an artist.
He smiled knowingly and went back to fiddling with his phone.
Actually I think there were quite a lot of buildings constructed in the 80's that were made from drawings like these.