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.