Friday 31 December 2010

Runs in the family...

Add two table tappers, throw in a huge dollop of musical training, a spoonfull of misspent years at college listening to dance music, and vast array of weird objects that go clank . . . and you have boy who is NEVER quiet.
Here be the 'sofa session'.

Sunday 26 December 2010

We are mad

New Christmas arrival. Not the baby Jesus, but small parrot creature to add to the rest of the animal collection, and all the detritus that goes along with them . . .
Actually, it is charming and sweet and its favourite perch is Mark's head.


Thursday 23 December 2010

Lunar happening....or not

This is a photo of the moon yesterday morning.
I had ventured outside expecting to see a apocalyptic red sky. The Guardian had said there was going to be a lunar eclipse over the U.K and I, even though not scientific in the least, had assumed some of this spectacle would have spilt over into the skies of Southern France. Nope. But, quand meme, (even so) rather an atmospheric sight.

Monday 20 December 2010

As the needle slips into the runout groove...

Line from one of Keane's monumental tracks . . . thought provoking as we have just come back from the funeral of Mark's mother.
We must all do as much as possible before we all slip into our own runout grooves.
Important things: family, friends, cooking, writing, art, music; stuff as much nature into our gardens as possible, hill-walking, sea-swimming. Less, T.V, less moaning, less buying non-useful objects. Talking of such, Liverpool shops were crammed with enough happy yuletide socks, chocs, digital photo frames etc to create a shift in the Earths orbit, but as all other major cities around the festive world are no doubt equally overloaded its probably okay.
Enough soap box griping. I'm going to retire to my fireside chair and take up my KNITTING.
Have recently re-discovered this ancient art of making shapes with hairy thread. Strangely theraputic, time slides by in some other cosy, woolly dimension; all those lost moments when one is waiting for everyone else to get ready or the kettle to boil are magically transformed into the construction of . . . well, in this case, a grey wool Dickensian scarf for Mark, complete with atmospheric moth hole scatterings if my last attempt was anything to go by.
My first venture into knitting was about 1974 when Tom Baker was Dr Who with his mile long striped scarf. I was in love (?) with Douglas . . . something, in our class. To show my ardent love, I made him a replica of the famous scarf, which he really liked, but obviously not me as he dropped me for scary Angela and her two assets.
Gap followed of many years until college where as well as working sometimes, I made a mad hairy jumper with one arm about ten inches longer than the other. I loved this garment, wore it often, until graduation day when I ate a bunch of fresias on top of a huge cocktail of drinks, and decorated the front of it.
Next knitting milestone. More of an observation, than a physical interaction with wool and needles. One of the things that impressed me about Mark when I first met him, apart from his prehensile toes, and ability to play the accordion (not with toes) was that he was wearing a jumper he had knitted himself. The fact it had 'A Ha' in big letters interwoven on the front didn't put me off; odd this.
And so to the present day. Not a great knitting history so far, but I hope to continue with it, beyond this scarf into . . . dog coats? car seat covers? knitting therapy in the South of France?

Thursday 9 December 2010


Am at the moment alergic to computing. Will hope not to be in not too distant future.
Here be image of my favourite three trees in our lane.
For no great reason except they should be on our Christmas card if I ever get round to sending them out.

Sunday 14 November 2010

November 14th

Mad weather, potatoes all coming up, flowers everywhere, hope we are not in for horrible shock . . .
Strange and wonderful clouds at the moment: a continual invasion of other planetary space vessels. We saw some really extraordinary specimens yesterday that appeared to feature gun turrets, along with a cloud-scape that looked exactly like the sand appearing under ebbing waves.
Wish I could find the cloud spotter book Penny gave us - would like to read up about these rare cloud forms

Wednesday 10 November 2010

'tis the season...

In the same creeping fashion as a sore throat announces the invasion of a cold . . . that time is almost upon us.
Not that I'm a miserable nightshirt-wearing old git, well not most of the time, but REALLY.
I used to revel in the warm comfort of the thought that Chrimbo did not start in this part of the world until December.
Festive ads have started edging their way in amongst the yogurt, cheese and insurance varieties; Jardifort (local garden centre) has joined the madness of non plant, glittery twaddle, and even the dog-washing shop has a window display of festive-phrase dog outfits . . .
I was trapped in leclerc earlier - while trying to buy some A4 paper - in the massive queues (panic buying to last out the bank holiday?) and was interested to note that someone next to me was indeed buying chocolate Santa figurines. Is it me, or does it seem odd to be doing this when we are not even half way through November?
Anyway must be off to look up some xmas pud recipes that we were discussing this morning . . .

 . . . to be merry, tra la la la la la la

Sunday 7 November 2010

beat route

Short blog for two reasons.
1/ To join me in admiring this wonderful work of nature's and Max's (organic veg-producer) art.
2/ to announce a new band on the rockin' music scene of the Aude. Featuring great dance melodies of the fab four, Bowie, blues greats and more..more...

Call us if you are needing party in full soon.

Tuesday 26 October 2010

links, past to present.

There is a stuffed crocodile on our bedroom chest of drawers. It is a treasured family item.
When I was about ten my main obsession, apart from sherbert dip-dabs was the pet shop in Highgate, or Finchley I can't remember now. A dark cavern of mystery and wonder, they sold (probably very unlawfully) pythons, birds of prey, immense hairy spiders and ....crocodiles. Most of my quota of childhood nag time must have been spent trying to get my poor mother to agree to housing such a reptile. Me, the child, free of such worries as gas bills, car repairs etc could of course not see why having a three foot long tooth laden creature would be any sort of a problem, and continued ad infinitum to put forward all the advantages..
On my birthday, instead of a tank, bulbs, small rodents, and reptile, I found a large newspaper bundle at the bottom of the bed. It was a small adult crocodile with horse hairs insides, marble eyes, and mouth open in a time preserved bite at some unfortunate small creature.
It was love at first site, the decoy worked, and he went everywhere with me. On the bus, on holiday, into Foyles bookshop, no-one ever asked why I was carrying a stuffed reptile, and I no longer hankered after a life one. 10 out of 10 mum for ingenuity .
There then followed a series of acceptable childhood pets, budgies, various poo producing furry creatures, and even a cat, although we we not really supposed to keep them in the flats.
We moved to Dorset when I was thirteen, and fairly soon after Pink Floyd, Rush and David Bowie took over on the list of obsessions, not to mention Peter whatever his name was.
Fast forward to the present.
Our boy seems to be firmly in my footprints. We've done the nibbling things, including ratty rat, a violent animal who ate his way through our kitchen wall, and was 'given his freedom', Timothy, a very endearing mouse who lived for three years, whom I suspect was a reincarnation of Dickens, Guiness and Rocky, two other mice, a whole troop of budgies, lead by Betty, a big mama blues singer bird, who had quite a lot of offspring, sad swallows with broken wings, snails, butterflies, and fish.
Tropical fish for Christmas last year, I thought it would all be horribly complicated and boredom would set in, but he has been really diligent, feeding cleaning, etc etc......and now he wants a reptile.
His childhood is very different to mine, no trip down to the library to look in plastic covered old books about 'how to enjoy your reptile' 'fairly' unlimited access to youtube and obsessive's websites concerning every aspect of lizard ownership
We seem to be considering the prospect. Well he's pretty cheap to run, Ezra, happy to wear hand-me-downs, no longer a fussy eater, has no expensive sport habit.
Due to the fact that the above featured creature, an iguana, is vegetarian, we thought that one might fit in to our lives. Have listened to the arguments, visited a reptile park, have a lovely voisin who is happy to work on a cage making project with Ezra.
Fate has stepped in.
We were about to buy an iguana from a man in Carcassonne, who is moving countries, he rang on the day of igunana inspection to say it had died....Ezra became strangely silent on the subject.
Boy and husband are in Paris for a few days. Mark rang last night to say they had been to reptile specialist shop, and the man had pointed to a two and a half meter iguana and said, 'you don't want one of those' Can grow to three meters, can become aggressive, can live up to fifty years, (oooek) and eventually need a whole room rather than a cage. There goes the B&B room.......
So back to the drawing board with...a bearded dragon apparently, unless he suddenly finds Lucy in class more alluring...

Saturday 23 October 2010

Food for thought

Was in the kitchen with Mark yesterday eve preparing confiture de grenade. He surprised me by asking if I thought we spent too much time cooking . . .
Odd, I thought. . . I suppose we do spend a fair part of each day making food in various forms, but it just seems a normal way to exist. Then I had a really good think during the day about the extremes of food preparation in the world. Food as fuel to food as a luxury art form.
A good example of each I can think of comes from reality TV programmes, which I did watch, IN FRENCH, purely for improving my language skills, of course.
One, which I think was called 'welcome to our tribe' was appalling, but fascinating viewing - French family removed from consumerism and plonked in Amazonian jungle with strangely accepting indigenous family. Suddenly removed from the choice between Super U and Leclerc, the French were caught up in the daily preoccupation of finding the next meal. The staple base of the local diet was a yam like vegetable, which was chewed (by the womenfolk) and spat out creating a ready liquidised pulp . . . good viewing as the Parisians were invited to try it.
On that particular day it was decided that the men would go on a notoriously dangerous mission to trap a type of monkey for the village to prepare and eat in the evening. Four hours of jungle hike, success, four hours back, monkey prepared, eaten.
Cue next day.
Actually, the most interesting thing was that the men in the French party on all the programs that I saw became more and more keen to adopt this new life of building, hunting and survival, far removed from snug car interiors and flat screen TVs.
One of the worst R. TV shows I stumbled across was a vile program called 'lets bitch about somebody else's cooking' - four happy folks from across France, each stage a themed dinner chez eux. Each time the three not cooking, are invited to dine at the fourth's place of residence. (You might have seen the same UK version or any other country's version). There then follows a hideous evening of critical comment on the food, the decor, and not the meaning of life etc.
Food as leisure activity, or food as a means of life support.
I would hope to be somewhere in the middle.
Pleasure in choosing good basic ingredients, liberal enough to think, what can we make with one egg, half a cabbage and a tin of chickpeas, and occasional forays into risqué areas of buying food to follow a real recipe . . .

Thursday 21 October 2010


New forms.
If I am destined to be a constant gardener, that's not a bad thing. Gardening is really just playing and art rolled into one big possibility. Here is a new tree, birthday present, caught and hauled back to the compound in the back of the kangoo.
New sculptural form and colour, it will become a shady seat area for when we start the hothouse tea-gardens, project 5,467, fraught no doubt with legislation nightmares and new toilet arrangements, but I think it could be a good one.
For the ultimate in land transformation, take a look at 'Le Jardin Bouichere' in Limoux near Mr Brico. They purchased a rubbly field about fifteen years ago and after extreme toil it is now a paradise of plants, trees and parrots.
Another favourite inspiration of mine is/was Derek Jarmen's garden. Situated almost in the shadow of the concrete bulk of dungeoness power station, its stones, sculptural objects, and salt-brave plants were a wonder.
Am now going to google it, might add a link...

Monday 18 October 2010


Sorry ms Ayres for bastardising your beautiful painting (Ceret), but I wanted an image of the pain I was experiencing in my teeth and face a couple of days ago.
Have had toothache, or what appeared to be for a couple of months, dentist took x-rays, nowt.
When pain became like someone drilling for oil in my cheek, became alarmed . . . well one does. What do we do in our present period of world history? Look up scary stuff on the internet, n'est pas. Scary indeed. Will not bore with facts, histoires etc. Could be one of 200 or more things of course, some much nastier than others.
Went to the doctor, mentioned a few possibilities and got a reaction I had anticipated.
'Bof, you are stressed,' after which he gave me magnesium and nice calm feeling (temporarily).
Next couple of days, big pain and smaller pains, but gradually figured out the stuff that works.
Sleep: good, vegetables: good, gardening: excellent, walking: excellent, housework: good. Stress:  not good, well, I think we know this; sitting about: not good, art: not good at the moment, hoping to sort this one! and computing.....very BAD.
Brings me back to title of blog post . . .
We are not perhaps meant to be hunchy over a keyboard; more to be running over rocks in pursuit of some dinner. Rather extreme, I know, but in my case certainly putting some onions in rather than looking something up on safari is better for me.
Anyway, must stop as am having to write this in strange John wayne/Alexandre tecnique posture, hence worse spelling than usual.
Have a good stress free day y'ouall.

Sunday 10 October 2010

If only....

We had left this mechant beast on guard . . . possibly we would not have got broken into. Or at least they might have died of laughter before getting very far,
But we took both the hounds with us.
Nice afternoon out, me and the boy to look at lizards in Narbonne, as one does. Just driving towards the car port, and noticed the side door smashed in. A horrible feeling descended - one I remember well from the times we got home in Birmingham to find smashed glass, things turned over, etc. Not in the sleepy S.O.France, surely. Anyway, good kick up the bum for us, and for all the rest of you out there who have got lazy about shutters etc.
Oddly enough, my strongest feeling was horror that anyone had seen the state of our bedroom.
I once had a break in to my flat in Edgeware Rd, London. The only things I found missing were, a pint of milk, and a Michael Jackson cassette.
Performance art?

Saturday 2 October 2010

Half a century, makes a girl think....

One of Miss Munroe's classic phrases from some like it hot. Except she said 'quarter of a century', and she was dressed in black satin with wonderful pointy breasts, not slouching in some deeply unattractive old pyjamas, with body parts somewhat gravity challenged.
I digress.
The half way mark, so to speak is...interesting, its all downhill as far as cells go, in fact I think I read somewhere that you've had it in that department from about twenty-one. Oh dear. What is the point of it all? why are we here? and other assorted questions regarding time, space, Ikea etc.
Putting deeper questions to one side in a small dusty box for the moment, I must celebrate the fact that I was fifty, still am, and we had a very good fete to pin time to.
In fact, I actually became fifty years of age (on the 2nd) around the time Ezra put the event firmly into our minds forever by cannoning into a metal bench outside, and cutting his knee open.
Quite a bit of flapping, (mainly by me) emergency services-quizzing, crowd of kids saying things like blimey in French, and poor white faced Ezra . . . Mark drove him to Carca hopital, and I swam about ninety lenghts in feezing swimming pool water to clarify my mind.
Not really, went round like crazed teenager drinking dregs of other peoples wine in attempt to get back into party spirit which Mark had said must be done.
He was right: stiff upper lip, Hokey Cokey, etc . . . Actually we didn't do afore mentioned ancient English country dance, but my spirit was re-ignited and rest of eve was fab.
Would have put photos up but blogger would not perform, so small film of rendition of Muddy Waters favourite, probably not how he would have done it.
And my mojo had well and truly buggered off to do a bit of shopping this morning, slight hangover, erhem, one thinks one could find the off switch when one reaches this age.
Thanks for all beautiul presents and cards folks. Flower arrangements, Roses, plants, artworks, Jack Daniels, fancy wine, composition, tree, chocs, beads, super bath stuff, vachement excellent carnaval of Limoux bag, and complicated and wonderful present from Debs.
Stan ruined the presentation of it slightly by striding into the kitchen with two massive bags of fertilizer, throwing them to the floor and saying something like 'madame, I bring you, with instruction from my lovely wife, two bags of finest horse defecation' use the Stan Adler tranlation button on your ordi to reveal the true parole.
That was the part of the present concerning the fifty onwards years, fertilizing the future . . .
The other parts concerned olive oil, body lotion, chocolate and soap. Think we should make it into an opera, to be be performed at the next big B.

Wednesday 22 September 2010

bloody tax payers money

While in London, managed to nip to the Tate for a few minutes before boarding a train to Dorset. Actually I must digress here for a moment . . .
I don't know if I have become an old git and a peasant, but I did find Victoria station scary. Not because of its size, noise, or train holding capacity, it was the level of consumerism.
I went into Smiths to buy a paper but got sidetracked into looking at crisp packets the size of a dog, buy two get one free anything you like and more magazines on 'famous people' than you could shake David Beckham at. Everywhere - sweets, new chocolate products, right-on organic snacks, jewellery for one's phone (how useful is that), bestsellers, ones that didn't make it, cookies, cake, doughnuts, coffee masquerading as puddings, beer, wine, ties, socks etc.
My point is, when you go to Toulouse station you can buy a newspaper, choose between about eight types of snack, or a real coffee, thats it. Long may it rest thus.
The Tate. Wonderful display of huge fighter aircraft with people muttering about the cost of it, and what did it all mean . . . don't ask me, but they were astoundingly beautiful things, especially the one they had sandblasted down to shining silver; upside down as if it had missed its target and slithered to a halt just before crashing into the Vermeer section.
Also, drawings by Rachel Whiteread - her of the inside out house.
The video of her talking about her work-making process was fascinating except there were two men talking about their respective house extensions so it was difficult to really concentrate. Or perhaps they were considering making inside-out house extensions having been inspired. I should have asked.

Monday 20 September 2010

Funny thing life . . .

And death.
While in Dorset visiting my Mum, I went to pay a visit to my lovely uncle in his resting place under this young tree.
As a muser, I spend a fair bit of time thinking about the after-life, if there is one. Whether one might return as a dung beetle, or a table leg . . . or perhaps some famous game show host of the future.
Anyway, uncle Ben is in a beautiful place called a burial ground as appose to a churchyard or crem's grounds The first bodies installed so to speak, are now nourishing majestic oaks and rowans as tall as the eves of a house. Compared to an average graveyard I think it would be a nice place to while away a few years watching the blackbirds nesting and listening to next door's trees rustling.
I hope Ben, who was an expert wood carver and lover of birds, trees and nature generally, is happy there.
My general mood at the time of contented melancholia was slightly pushed off its armchair when I found the following plaque dedicated to a certain Reg someone: 'Well, he tried . . . " Tried what? Morris dancing? Taxidermy? or maybe they should have left out the comma. Perhaps it was supposed to read 'WELL HE TRIED' in a sort of Victorian stiff shirt and brass fanfare sort of a way.
One cannot help reflecting on what ones own plaque might say: She piddled around a lot; she had a lot of ideas; she could really spot a bargain at a vide grenier.
I just looked up the definition of death in the dictionary: 'state of being dead' — don't know quite what I expected. Also saw this phrase 'death on'. Apparently means to be fond of/ good at. Related to 'dead good' I suppose. Sounds like something a thirteen year old buttock-exposing trousers-wearer might say. New verbal trend: 'Hey — death on!'
She was good at procrastination.

Friday 10 September 2010

The first soup

Over the balmy months we seem to had forgotten soup, apart from an occasional dabble with a few cold variants.
I decided to 'have a go' at some Bouillabaisse as we had invited fish-loving types over.
Walking into the local fishmonger I casually mentioned I would like some ingredients to make the aforementioned dish. The shop owner and assorted elderly fish-buying members of the public started back as if I had asked for items for DIY bomb equipment.
This was serious, several days careful thought should have been given . . . not to mention days to 'commande' the stuff. 'Madame, you are clearly insane, English and no nothing more of the cuisine of fish than opening a packet of 'doigts de poisson', he said fixing me with a cold fish eye. Not really, but he obviously thought that.
When it became clear I was not going to go away, he suggested some other fish that could possibly be used in an approximation of the hallowed dish of the south coast: moules, red mullet, wolves (loup) salmon, mackerel and white boingy stuff (squid bodies) etc. Agreed, fell over with shock of price, paid and went home to recover with tea and reassuring book of basic greek cookery.
Actually, I found an excellent idea for a fish soup with loads of veg which the Greeks used to make and take for lunch in big cook pots on their boats.
Along these lines . . .

Chopped up: carrots, leeks, celery, tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, bay leaves, parsley, ouzo (or a bit of white wine and brandy seemed to work), boil up, simmer and add all fish, simmer, eat.
- was really good; even French folks said so!

Also I made a sort of 'aoli' (classic Marseille garlic sauce) but realised at the last moment we didn't have bread for bread crumbs, so used an old croissant.

Egg yolk, ton of garlic, hot chili pepper, rock salt, croissant. Not to be eaten if you are newly dating someone.

More soup later.

Monday 6 September 2010

Sensible time

Summer's end, even though its still hovering around 30 in the shade. Insect bites fading, plants devoid of colour, static, waiting for water. Its been a good one, but now time to think about college, tax foncière and ordering and/or scavenging wood.
The in-tray has stuff lurking in it that should have been looked at and I have nagging feelings that someone is going to mention family arrangements at Christmas.

Swallows, warm evening air, cypress tree perfume, dogs motionless in shade, water — precious, peaches, last apricots (the king of fruit) 'till next year . . .

Saturday 28 August 2010

Catalan dance.

During a small break in our favourite coastal area we had the fortune to see an example of this ancient form of dance (Sardana) celebrating leg muscles and shaved armpits.
On first hearing the music we cocked our heads to one side in bemusement like two dogs on hearing a new and possibly dangerous noise. Shrill wind instrumentation and a tiny drum strapped to the arm of the pipe player combined with double bass and brass. Odd . . . but strangely charming.
The 'footing' is delicate and rather like horse dressage with occasional forays into jumping movements when the tempo of the music ups slightly.
I wanted to join in except I would have been an elderly shire horse and my armpits were almost certainly not to the standard required. Next time I will be prepared.

Sunday 8 August 2010

Summertime 2

A Grande Motte building. Me in 1970's bikini. Mark after hunting down and eating an omelette in the Camargue plains. Wonderful coloured blocks at the photography expo. Me with matching top and paving in G.Motte. Mark in front of super wall and heating vent at G.Motte — I have noticed that most people photograph their loved ones in front of such landmarks as the Trevi fountain, or la Tour Eiffel, not us . . . more likely to be Wolverhampton bus station, or some old graffiti ridden door.


and the driving is restricted. Mainly by these huge fridge freezers with names like Marauder, Rapido, challenger, etc rather than Turgido, or Lard- wagon.
This was a particularly apt name; driven by some happy folks from the flat lands unaware that they were leaving in their wake a stream of laughing, swerving French drivers. (con = well, something a tad rude)
We spent our two day annual vacation in the Camargue this year: land of immense skies, roaming horses and flamingos which I noticed look rather like golf clubs when flying. High spots were the wonderful 'Grande Motte' with its Star Trek film set architecture and over-bronzed glitzy women in white, and Arles where we saw bits of the huge annual photo exhibition, part of which was housed in a collection of old industrial buildings.
We stayed in a horrible hotel and ate prisoner food — the problem with booking something in August the day before going — should have just camped in a bush, the comfort level would have been higher.
I noticed their publicity said something about 'sometimes the best addresses are a secret', well they should bloody keep it as one. Anyway apart from that the time was a delight reminding us how important it is to get away with your partner/husband/ person you have sex with, so you can talk about lots of stuff, not just who should have put the bins out last night.
Following some holiday snaps . . .

Friday 23 July 2010

Hello world

We (Mark has gone a little grey and odd as you can see over this last month) are very pleased to announce that . . . we are back on cyberspace, or in it, whatever it is.

Thursday 15 July 2010

Ha ha aaaaaaaaa haaahhahhah

If we had internet, would have ordered two straight jackets and attractive padded cell in pink silk.
Maybe we have dropped into parallel universe? time travelled into century where phones are actually no longer used, just need to concentrate the mind a little . . . should be able to contact the director of the telecom company, possibly inflict some mild torture onto him while I'm at it.

Ha ha aaaaaaaaa

Saturday 10 July 2010

Friday 2 July 2010

Kafka's missing novel;

We found his unpublished manuscripts (in our shed) 'a stream of disorder' based on his real life experiences with a french phone company.
A story of a profound, twisted nightmare. The main characters —an ordinary family, just trying to get by — suddenly lose contact with the ouside world, thrown into the middle ages with no way to be able to find out important information: the weather, what vide-greniers are on, who wrote 'I see you shakin' that ass' etc, let alone down-loading it.
S.F.R a secret organisation (seriously feeble rodents) have a plan to undermine the giving of enjoyable music instruction to people of the Aude valley and to re-instate the tedious hours of music theory known as SOLFEDGE by taking away the means of communication with Dr Lockett. The plan works and Dr Lockett is forced to spend many hundreds of hours fighting against the weapons of 'after sales non-service', 'the customer is a plankton', and most deadly . . . 'BOF'.
The end of the manuscript is largely un-readable due to years of rat poo coverage, but we think it should finish in a suddenly happy way with new sparkling internet box, and huge compensation payouts for loss of work, and general stress all round . . .
Will tell all, if we ever find out.

Monday 21 June 2010

Out vile storm

No blogging, no internet, no phone, due to lightning hit in Limoux just as we were watching the final of Nouvelle Star . . .
Mark went to the SFR shop in Carcassonne to buy a new internet box. They don't have them in the shop. You have to order one and then it gets sent to Limoux in a weeks time. Err, what is the point of the shop? Also when he told them their customer help line is an unobtainable number they said 'Bof'.
Maybe back at the end of the week . . .
Good therapy; no time being wasted on looking up what is wind for, the best way to make a mohito, or indeed how to spell it, and all the other trivia accompanying a nice cup of tea . . .

Wednesday 16 June 2010

Tic, tiques, ticks,

Don't know how you spell it, and I don't care. These f******** have been eating the small dog alive for months — there's not much of him left. Being an animal of little hair, they choose the ears, especially, way down inside, to quote Led Zeppelin.
The bigger dog has also had an unfair share this year. Is it just the hills around Limoux which abound with these aliens, or are their numbers to do with the long coldness?
What is the point of a tic? Well one could say that about many things. Reality T.V, spam fritters, David Cameron . . . but really, what a life. Wait for about eight months in a freezing bush, jump onto a passing smelly dog, crawl into a dark warm recess (actually, this bit sounds quite nice) and gradually inflate yourself with manky dog blood, until you feel like you really did eat too much Christmas dinner. Then fall off, only to be squashed by the next passing dog. Great.
I am generally 'live and let live' except perhaps with hornets, but the many ways can you finish off a tic? My favourite is to hold one with tweezers over a gas flame, pszzzzeettyttt! well we have to have some hunter sport in our veggy house from time to time.
One last tic recitation. I was cleaning our bedroom in the old house and removed a large pile of books from beside the bed. Amongst the fluff, etc, from under the books was a small flat brown dot. As I was about to sweep it away, it inflated and stood up in manner of scary metal police man in Terminator 2.
These creatures will inherit the earth, survive any nuclear attack, asteroid collision, or plague, we can be sure of that.

Tuesday 15 June 2010

Hi Ray . . .

from another ferry.
Had an idle, and indulgent hour yesterday (while pieces of paper soaked in tea were drying or not drying due to sudden October dampness - part of an art process) 'googling' folks from my past.
Difficult to imagine, is it not, what it was like before the computer. Thoughts like: I wonder what Queribino de Suza  from my secondary school art class is doing now?" would be thunk and forgotten, unless you made it ones life's work as an art piece or you happen to be a stalker.
These days, just tap in the name and voila, people with the same name inhabiting all the different corners of the world appear on your screen.
I looked up me yesterday, yes sad . . . I think we all do it — hope so anyway.
I share my name with a blonde woman who writes attic loads of romantic novels (in fact we have one in the loo, thanks Ruth and Chris). Another lady who paints (confusing) an actress, and someone in a tight leather outfit, not me, unless I really don't remember last New Year's Eve do. The blog makes it into the first page sometimes along with 'Alfi Beasti don't eat that'.
Bref, (French for I digress) I found Ray, photographer, living in London . . . Nice to make the contact, lots of good memories about an art college trip to Malta; I'm not sure how much use it was as a college piece of work, but it certainly was one of the most important two weeks of my life, and part of the reason we made the move Southwards.
Malta was the first mediterranean place I ever visited; the colour, smells and light made a profound impression on me which has never left.

Friday 11 June 2010


I am going to do it. Soon — along with the book of French roundabouts. Peoples' front gardens. The statement: who we are, how tidy are we, are we just a little bit exciting, eccentric?
A short wander through one of my lurking zones of Limoux found this wall. I want to meet the people behind it . . .  might go back and try and sell them some solar panels just so I can find out what they look like. Chances are, knowing that district, she will be about sixty-seven in a blue-flowered house coat, and his high point of the week will be getting the spotless clio out on a Saturday to do the Leclerc run. Or . . . maybe I'm completely wrong!
When I was about eleven I used to walk to and from my terrible comprehensive school in London, quite an astonishingly long way really. It was the best part of the day: gawping at newly painted front doors, reflecting on strange house names 'thiseldome' or 'dunshoppin', listening for a particular wooden wind chime and smelling the suburban dusty roses of June.
Nothing much has changed really, I'm taller and wider, and the houses are shuttered rather than curtained, but its the same fascination with how people decorate, display and fasten down their own small patch of the earth.

Monday 7 June 2010

One learns something everyday.

Yes indeed, even in advanced years.
Today I learned that it's a good idea to put supporting canes in WITH the tomato plants —  not three weeks later when the ground is rock-like.
Our lovely neighbour Andre had kindly donated me proper rustic bamboo canes for the job. I sallied (is this a word, am behind large glass of wine, too late to be doing this) forth into the veg patch and proceeded to push the canes in . . . about three centimeters. Result: much horrible cussing, boy offering glasses of water and foot massage in vein hope that I would calm down, and weird eventual structure like something I once saw in a Paul Nash etching.
Thank God I am not an architect. My buildings would have a exciting element of sea-sickness to them, and a readiness to collapse at the first cross word from an aged tea lady.
I'm sure, however, that I give much pleasure and hilarity to our local community, most of whom are expert in their veg culitvation. 'What is that'? 'What will they make next'? 'Why do they like weeds so much'? 'The English are mad — this is proof, evidement . . . "

Friday 4 June 2010

Summer cordial

Taste of early summer. Rose petals steeped in sugar water with a cinnamon stick overnight. A delicate pink colour, perfect with just-picked cherries and fromage blanc.

Monday 31 May 2010

Wisteria and blackbirds

The Hothouse compound seems to be a favourite spot for nightingales.
I was informed by birder friend, Jonathan, that it's the males who sing - presumably the women are hoovering or something - during the night, and, (in our garden anyway) most of the day. Why are they not named nightanddayinggales, or maybe this only happens in this region of France.
Aforementioned friend glowers when this creature is talked of. In bird enthusiast circles it seems that the song is too strong, thus drowning out fellow bird songsters. It's true that it is loud and long, but intricate and heartrendingly beautiful - all from a small, unremarkable putty-coloured bird.
What has this to do with blackbirds you rambling fool I hear you say...
This film is of blackbirds (I think) singing in a brief interlude between nightingales.

Tuesday 25 May 2010

Venice . . . of Languedoc Roussillon.

While madame Beer was visiting the real one - I see on her blog - we went to Sete.
The Setonians believe they live in France's equivalent of Venice - small exaggeration, but none the less a charming place.
This is a tiny lighthouse on the edge of 'point court', a fishing village outcrop of land rather cut off from the rest of Sete. Three small roads run its length, each with a cluster of flower covered fishing cottages.
Ancient fig trees, creeks, timber shacks, manky cats, miles of old nets — we loved it. Ran out of time, but will go back and spend time drawing there.
Did the tourist boat trip, learned about how oysters and mussels are farmed, got very sun tanned, ate yummy fish soup and observed at great length jelly fish and 'tube worms'. Excellent day out, but also glad to see the woolly hills of home.

Tuesday 18 May 2010

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside

Well not any old seaside, but just anywhere on the stretch between Cadaques and Banyuls.
After a Girona airport drop off I took the opportunity to look at the infinite blue thing. Blue indeed it was, dashed with small angry waves thrown up by the strong wind we have all been a little tired of recently.
Such wild beauty that coastline: the vertiginous road winding around steep hills covered in wild lavender, cactus and umbrella pines; cove after cove, still quiet before the main influx of summer.
I stopped at a tiny inlet where, outside a solitary cafe, a family sat drinking 'mochitos' (not the kids) in their swim attire. I had removed my socks by then but was still rather in moth-eaten winter mode. It slightly reminded me of the time Mark and I went to Brazil in January. We arrived and were ushered to the beach by our hosts. I'm pretty sure I heard a low mass gasp from the miles of beautiful sun-oiled Brazilians as we revealed, reluctantly, our red/pink/white spotty sun-starved bodies.
This is a glass, or half, of rosé I was enjoying in Banyuls-sur mer. Gradually my winter-coping brain (checking the wood pile, making sure there is enough soup etc) is allowing those memories of summer pleasures to creep back. Swallows wheeling against the ever darkening azure sky, warm soft breeze; just to be able to sit outside and watch the world pass without feeling the need to get back under shelter.

Friday 14 May 2010

Oh really . . .

This is a bit much now.
We paid our tax fonciere, we ticked the box agreeing to pay for how much sun we required in 2010; it's just not honest.
I was eyeing up a hot water bottle this morning and thinking about returning to bed to slouch in fetid old pyjama-warmth, but  have managed to overcome this sad idea and am now making toast with lashings of butter while piddling around on the internet looking at pictures of Crete. Equally sad.
To do: cleaning, market, take Mother to look at art in dank (art trail event) buildings, make a fire, watch film, eat chocolate.
We did do a bit of the 'Trail' yesterday.
Garth's place was as inventive and beautiful as ever — nice tea and cake too, thanks Garth, and Sarah. I also liked friend Jamie's recycled wood sculptures that I nearly dashed to the floor in scary domino fashion.
I must recommend the 'Opus 09' red wine from Mr Berieu's (can't remember the spelling) cave just round the corner from Garth's — organic, dark and rich as crushed blackberries in a velvet box.
Also saw some excellent land photography in a little chapel — man trying to govern nature, the effects of weather on landscape etc, but it was SO cold that we were glad to remove ourselves back to Garth's tea room.
What has this picture of a glass bowl of water and vegetation got to do with anything I hear you say, or not if you have moved onto ebay by now.
It's a lovely concoction of elderflowers, orange, lemon and something else that I can't ask Mark about as he has gone to Avignon with Ezra to dance on the bridge in the drizzle. One of the very good things about this long spring, possibly the only thing, unless you like cooking snails, are the elder flowers - big as dinner plates with a glorious Victorian parlour smell: big bowl, water, oranges, lemons, sugar, and the other small ingredient, whatever it is; wait a day and bottle it.

Tuesday 11 May 2010

River of time

This is a photograph of the sideboard that Mark's dad made, brought back with us from the UK on the recent trip back
He was a truly remarkable man: art lecturer, architect, priest, and early in his years, furniture designer and maker.
This is the only piece that has remained in the family; made in the 1930's out of many different woods, rosewood, walnut, oak and more. I wish I had known Bill, I really only met him in the last few years of his life when he had advanced parkinson's, but I could detect the brilliance and humour still within him.
The sideboard is a precious thing to have in our home, not only as a wonderful example of design from that period, but as a constant reminder of Bill's artistry.
Odd to think that when we are long gone that the sideboard will still be around, perhaps in Ezra's house; I like to think so, along with all the thousands of bits we have amassed. What will he do with them all? What to do with all the personal items we seem to have acquired from Mark's mothers house?
Is she missing any of them where she is now . . ?
This is all far to early in the morning for these thoughts, I'll be onto what is outside the universe in a minute.
To be continued.

Monday 3 May 2010

Into the vide.

I (if I ever had the patience, and indeed the intelligence and power to spell correctly) would do a PhD thesis on the comparisons of vide grenier and boot sales. It's a fascinating thing to see the detritus of human everyday life on display, at least in the western world. I don't suppose there would be a great deal of excess at an Inuit equivalent. Damask canoe cover, unused set of Ikea BBQ fish forks, velour husky bed with matching lead . . ?
At boot sales —depressing acres of drizzle-infested mud fields filled with persons keening for electrical equipment, one could generally count on seeing these items: heated rollers, stationary bikes, and other 'sport' equipment bought in a panic-moment after Christmas excess; yogurt makers, twenty three tons of plastic toy landfill, and at least fourteen copies of top gun.
Observations on the vide grenier (attic clearance).
Generally they take place in non soggy fields with sun (a better start). Similarities: the discarded health equipment, slightly less toy landfill, A LOT of fondu sets, which we have managed to avoid so far, even though their attractive 70's colours call me . . . and in recent years, a rash of those stupid sets of glasses with stems but no bottoms that have to sit in a stand — there is no hope for mankind.
Away from my serious studies . . . the simple pleasure of wandering around in a slouchy fashion on a Sunday morning with a pocket of change, joy!
En famile this Sunday we visited a pretty village near Limoux and took in their fairly typical V.G complete with sun, acid coffee and bad parking.
Came away with treasures: the glasses above illustrated — marvelous 1970's smoked glass, a snip at two euros, and we were probably the only people in the whole of the Aude valley who would wish to house them; a rusty cow bell, records including an Arminian church service and a production by the Bulgarian tourist association, and . . . a bike! My old parchemin one, now classed as a death machine as it no longer features brakes has become an installation in the garden and I am now the proud owner of a happy 80's style shell suit-coloured two wheeler with brakes and gears.

Wednesday 21 April 2010

3,000 KM, 30 black bags to Oxfam, 13 stops on the autoroute to throw up.

Good journey through France, gradual changing foliage, appearance of sheep in place of vines, stayed awake by listening to Oliver Twist and Dracula - an odd contrast with sun and springtime but it seemed to work.
Few intense days of clearing a million items from Mark's mothers house. Compared the UK tips to the French ones, and gave more stuff to Oxfam than they knew what to do with.
Oddly enough they weren't going to let us into the tip as we didn't have a van permit but one of the employees came over and started asking about rugby and then Blanquette de Limoux. He was from Tours, but had lived near Liverpool for 37 years, and obviously thought we deserved a break. Merci mon brave!
Following, was an enforced trip to Ikea to collect Ezra from his aunt in law; escaped with only one rather dandy cushion and a washing up brush. Nothing like clearing four van loads of unwanted stuff from a house to make you realize that you really don't need that rather funky unusual table lamp (oops, don't forget 58,000 people on the planet have the same one).
Homeward bound. M6 nightmare, closed lanes and near misses with tired lorry drivers.
30 miles from my Godmothers for night stopover, Mark swore; a rare event — could only signify end of the world. At that point it seemed like it. He had booked the return date for a week later. Drove in black silence thinking about volcanic ash cloud-mass transport panic, van hire companies reaction, our lovely house sitter, dogs, etc.
Phew. New ticket, and few hours later were on slow return ferry.
Dead calm, great; no lying on anything horizontal for hours, even managed to eat late lunch. A big mistake. Four hours later I started to feel nasty. Delayed psychological sea sickness? Worry about where we were going to put the van load of stuff we seemed to have acquired? No, roti de agneau (roast lamb) farcied with lively bacteria.
Horrible journey down France, swerving to halt in Starsky and Hutch style to verge to throw up every half an hour. Stopped at Tours and checked into an auto hotel so I could vomit in comfort. Actually amazingly well designed and smart place 'B and B hotel'. A change from weird old rambling places with 1930's plumbing that we would normally opt for.
Arrived in Limoux next day at 6.00pm: sun, people in shorts, the square full of people lounging in baggy holiday fashion, and back at home, rampant spring garden. Onward and forward with our own house purge. Vide grenier, Pauligne this Sunday!

Picture of me proving that I can stand up on a ferry.

Monday 12 April 2010

Oup North.

To Liverpool for a week with a white van.
Chips, curry, brown beer, chedder, beans, thicker jumpers, Oxfam, John Lewis pants, cheap paint, cinema, 'lover, chuck".
See y'ous later.

Beach at Formby.

Thursday 8 April 2010

Organic gardening

As I was saying, before I forgot to say gardening. In the sense of no chemicals, but also in the sense of, I don't know what I'm doing but I'll add a bit of that and see what happens.
For me gardening is becoming more like painting, and playing like when we was kids, a few stones here, some broken roof tiles, some pine needle mulch in this section, etc. I used to get a sense of panic in spring, trying to do the whole piece of land is impossible, the weeds are much quicker than me, so I'm just doing sections each year. This is a area under construction of mostly mediterranean plants, some of which finally snuffed it after the last snow blanket.
If there are fellow gardeners out there feeling overawed by the green invasion go and look at the Jardin bouichere in Limoux. Run by two lovely folks, it is a paradise of plantage, and was once, when they bought it, a rubbly field with one tree.

Tuesday 6 April 2010

The Forth bridge

There is a saying that most of us British folk are aware of - with regard to the long red metal structure afore mentioned in the title of this post.
' . . . is like painting the forth bridge; you finish one end of the job and then start again at the beginning. I don't know what one might say in French. ' . . . is like making a planning application for a shed, or, like trying to cancel your car insurance. If anyone knows I'd be interested.
The reason for this observation was inspired by the green stealth in the garden. Tiny micro-dots of seedlings are suddenly ten centimeter plants, overnight; sucking everything out of the soil and shooting skywards.
I run around like a demented hamster, unearthing handfuls of lush weedage, filling the wheelbarrow and emptying it onto the Mount Fuji of weeds, only to turn and see the green vastness encroaching upon me . . .
We of the hothouse are organic (mad) in our gardening pursuits, and it is heartening after three years of no chemicals that amongst all the usual suspects in the weed world there are treasures appearing: grape hyacinths, edible herbs including coriander! violets and lots of other unknown-to-me plants - until I re-discover the Flora Of The Midi book we have somewhere.
Maybe next year we will start workshops: weed appreciation for begonia obsessives, one hundred things to with dried weeds, weed counting as a way into meditation.
Anyway, this year I will make beds of tame stuff and areas of weed freedom just to see what else appears that we can marvel over and possibly eat.

Friday 2 April 2010

OK that's enough now . . .

I think I am learning to 'precis' down a little as life moves on chugging away like one of those fat little tug boats on the Thames. Or, occasionally a sleek white motor vessel at St Tropez, and at its not so good moments, a small badly-painted dingy, half submerged in a tidal stream near Skegness.
There is something very satisfying in working out which projects are really the important ones, shedding the try-outs, the ones that are lurking in the brain's cellar. These need to go to the tip.
The DJ one was good for a while, then I became a bit . . . old. Not in a 'cool' sense; there are lots of old hairy DJ's out there spinning with hyper-coolness, but old as in my ears started ringing alarmingly, and it would take two days to recover after a wedding do.
The last one we did finished at 3am; the very inebriated bride fell over and broke her arm, and the groom asked us to carry on while they went to casualty in Carcassonne.
So, anyway, with some great memories of parties, and the satisfaction that I can 'beat match' pretty well now, I hang up the headphones. Some guy is supposed to be buying the stuff but he seems to have gone a bit wobbly due to the exchange rate . . . SO, if anyone wants to become the local DJ, mail me a letter, roll over Beethoven.

Thursday 1 April 2010

Gravely Hill interchange.

Someone once described Mark as a polymath; in the words of a certain Spandau Ballet track, 'I know this much is true'.
This morning he excelled himself. Flitting elegantly from project to project it was a wonder to watch.
Jam tart making, after constructing his own (very rustic) pastry, mixing hallucinogenic sounds in his recording room, shovelling gravel in the drive and piecing together French text for the Hothouse Bed and Breakfast site.
Meanwhile in his head, many other projects are no doubt budding. Hazarding a guess I would say: how to find the money to buy a new mega-super electric piano he has been salivating about.
I love the way Mark introduces the subject of new music equipment. It sort of sidles up, all quiet and innocent in a nice new jumper with its hair combed. 'Its really amazing what this new piano can do — the recordings are just like a Steinway! It would mean we could' . . . etc etc .
I suppose I'm pretty similar; on with the next idea . . . see next post — end of DJ project.

Monday 29 March 2010

Dites moi, pourquoi vous êtes venu dans cette region?

When people ask me this (why are you here?) I try to give an interesting answer about French culture, landscape, education etc, not the weather.
HOWEVER, we all know, (us who have moved away from the small grey rock) that the last thing mentioned does play a little tiny role in the choice to be here — only a little tiny element, bien sûr.
We didn't come here to relax in deck chairs, and making ends meet is still as difficult, or possibly more so, but the knowledge that warmth is starting and will probably continue till October at least is . . . if we allow ourselves to admit it, fundamental.
Breakfast on the terrace, darling?

Thursday 25 March 2010

Shed sucess

After being ignored for a few years, I got third prize in Toques and Clochers (big local wine event) this year with a painting of journey between Couiza and Limoux. (Sketch in earlier post). I can't find the piece of paper that says what I won however. Certainly some very nice wine. Will crack a bottle against the prow of my nobel shed as we move forward into further unchartered waters.

Wednesday 17 March 2010

It can snow in April . . .

 . . . But let's hope not.
All our neighbours are saying they remember the time when all the vine shoots froze off in April - year something, and, if there is snow still on the 'Pic de Brau' we're in for more, and they remember the year when the whole of Limoux slept in the bakery on la rue de la Goutine because they had lots of wood and a big fire.
Being one of those folks who look on the bright side generally, I would say something round and dangly to that outlook, and will stick with the birds on their firm assumption that SPRING IS HERE.
One of the most inspiring sights as we leave the slushy time is the almond blossom. This my favourite tree, at the top of our garden slope. Covered in as much sugar pink as a Barbara Cartland dressing gown, it waves its limbs in defiance of the North wind and heralds the the oncoming warmth.

Thursday 11 March 2010

I'm dreaming of . . .

Yes its amazing, beautiful etc, etc . . . no more please!
Can we now have thrusting green stuff, crazed bird song and trips to the garden centre. When I was little, I had a wonderful fantasy of what it would be like if snow was warm, dry and fluffy. How wonderful to roll down a hillside, bumping and buffeting into soft whiteness. To burrow into a snowdrift and lie there incased in warmth.
Here is our house, a small plastic cake decoration on a God-sized Christmas cake.

Monday 8 March 2010

And then . . .

It was so cosy in bed—just another half an hour . . . the same dream again. Worse though, a dreadful nightmare: trees bent under the weight of snow on snow, all birds had buggered off (where do birds go anyway?) almond blossom - a distant memory; my car had become a woolly blob. Woke, phew, awful dream. Must really now open the shutters . . . odd, seems incredibly quiet outside.

And then

I decided to go back to bed for a little while with a book as I was still a bit sleepy after my disturbed night - horrible dream and all.
I drifted off again, and lo . . . I had the same dream, only it was worse, the blanket of snow was now a thirteen tog duvet and growing; birds were looking at maps of the Dominican republic, and almond blossom, forget it...
Right, really must get up — could get the seed potatoes in.

Wot . . . not again

I had this horrible dream last night, in which I opened the shutters expecting bright, spring sunshine, twittering birds and unfurling almond blossom; instead, there was a boring blanket of whiteness on everything.
Birds sat with drooping feathers, their nest plans dispersed, the silence only broken by the distant thud of cars sliding into street furniture.
Anyway, must get dressed, and open the shutters, it must be getting quite warm out there by now.

Saturday 6 March 2010

Shed installation.

That is to say, me installed in it.
FABULOUS. Peace, space, plain walls. Wheeeeeeeee!!!!!

Monday 1 March 2010

Tale of 2 journeys

Well, one actually,
I tried to go from Limoux to Couiza the other day.
Bought my ticket like sensible person, from the machine as the office was shut for lunch break. Then a bus came, not a train. Office re-opened with yawning person behind counter. I explained my predicament.
'Hello, I am an artist, (bad move) and I have bought a return ticket to Couiza, so that I can sketch the train journey. I cannot do this on a bus.'
'Why not'?
'Because I'll feel travel sick . . . no, not really . . . it's a concept, I need to be on a train.'
'Err, quoi?'
'Can I get a refund? There was no sign saying the train would be replaced by a bus'.
'Madame you are mad — go and have a lie down on that bench outside'.
'So? refund?'
'No, I cannot authorise this. There was a perfectly good bus, and you should have been on it. It takes you to the same place, and it has comfy seats'.
'But' . . .
Then realised that I am possibly mad, and, that no one else would understand, or care . . . sob.

Today I tried again. With success.
Didn't buy a ticket. Sat by window drawing and feeling naughty, so went to find the ticket man. He was semi-asleep. Opening one eye he said: 'Madame, je suis mal . . . une autre fois.'
What did he mean? He had put his wife in the chest freezer and it was time to confess? He had eaten to much? Anyway free ride to Couiza.
Stood around in the village and looked at all the things that you notice when not driving. Glimpses of dark interiors behind net curtains, neat potagers (veg patches), dusty, once-magnificent doors, etc. Had a coffee with my ticket money and wandered back to the windswept station.
Surprised to find the same ticket man; now vertical and keen to sell me a ticket. I asked him if he was now feeling okay. He said he was sorry about earlier when he had experienced 'une envie de rendre'. He let me off the trip from Limoux, and I paid the return. He thought I was odd taking a return trip and staying only half an hour at my destination. I explained with a wave of my sketchbook and he understood totally (?)
When I got home I looked up 'de rendre' and it was, as I thought, to be sick . . . give back what you took, or ate. Rather poetic.