Wednesday 29 August 2012


Get your lighters out!!!
We had to go and see if it really was Lee "Scratch" Perry performing in little old our-ville. It was! Here he is at some ancient age, late 70's I think, dressed in an amazing ensemble of glittery boxer shorts, track suit, military jacket and baseball cap with added . . . everything really.
He seriously pissed his band off by strutting about and telling them what to do. Well, I believe he is also called the upsetter. Fantastic if you can still cause people to jump to attention, even if reluctantly, at that age.
The other group pictured here - Louis Bertignac on tour, ex guitarist of the 70s French rockers:  Téléphone. He certainly knew his guitar stuff, even if not quite my cup of tea. Glad I had my earplugs. Pretty impressive light show, eh? It was actually difficult to remember we were seated on the main drag outside the lycée in Limoux, and not in some mega arena somewhere.

The same spot is now being taken up with the annual fairground twaddle for the next week.
So glad Ezra has moved on from wanting to throw his money into the 'cakewalk' machines and then getting upset because he hasn't won a laser pen which will last for exactly four minutes before becoming landfill.

Sunday 26 August 2012

Good friends

Lovely Angele and Jonathan: every year they are plagued with people like me turning up with some poor bird or other in need of their life-saving knowledge. This is a swift I found in Carcassonne, huddled on a busy pavement. I put it someone's garden while I went to carry out the mission I was on, and returned wondering if would still be there. As I scrabbled around, reaching over the fence, the owner of the house came out and invited me to enter their garden and remove the bird. She then informed me that she hated such creatures and that they were dirty vermin . . . it's beyond me, how anyone could dislike these graceful masters of the air.
Someone gave me a shoe box and I took the bird back home. Our attempts to nourish it with cat food and flies seemed to be failing, so once again, down the road to see J and A. They already had two other swifts, eating and squeaking happily in their office. The new one joined them, poor scrawny thing. J didn't hold out much hope, but two weeks or so later the bird had put on weight and was ready to join it's bird-kind down at the coast as most of them had left Limoux.
Today I saw one or two swifts still riding the breezes — 'till next year.

Saturday 25 August 2012

Some mornings

You get up and everything seems normal then something happens to unbalance it all . . . perhaps not anything terrible really. Nothing shattering on an world crisis event scale: war, locust-invasion, apocalyptic earthquake, just something quietly worrying. Preconceptions you held shifting; a little piece of fondly-held past history, muddied. The same feeling I remember after reading Lord of the Flies when I was probably too young to understand it, but it left me with a grey mind shadow of some foreboding all the same.
We are all piranhas in our own shoals: keeping close together, the odd bit of paranoia creeping in every now and then ruffling the status quo. Have you ever watched piranhas? If these fish had shoulders they would be nervously looking over them, waiting for someone else's teeth to sink into their own flesh
I'm going to banish this feeling with housework and revert to the fairly relaxed mood I was in when putting the kettle on this morning. The sun is shining again; every plant in the garden is praying for the washing up water, and the shed must be cleared out: there are things eating it.
Whoever you are and I think you might cast an eye over this page at some point: I can out-weird you, don't you worry.

Thursday 23 August 2012

Ho humm, nice day isn't it?

Early morning stroll in grimy tunnel before breakfast in Cerbere.
Mark is sound collecting: banging a rock on disused metal pipes, Ezra possibly thinking, why can't I have a normal childhood, or actually, he was probably thinking: where are we going to eat at lunchtime, and what puddings will there be.
We then found a new route through an even darker, grimier tunnel and arrived at the foot of 'the green planky house'. I had to resist, as always, the urge to knock on their door and ask if I can look around inside. A Character in my book lives in this house, I would love to see if my imaginings are in anyway accurate.

Amongst the brambles and train debris were flowers and insects of great wonderment.
Coffee and croissants followed before packing up and leaving the hotel. We shall return: Perhaps in winter when only one cafe is open and the railings sing in the wind.

Wednesday 22 August 2012


Woopee, family holiday. Two day break in our favourite place - tiny town or seaside village next to the Spanish border. I have probably blogged many times about this magical place,  but indulge me once again . . .
Unlike Cadaques, (we tried to visit but gave up when encountering the five mile tail-back to get into the town) Cerbère was fairly quiet. Our usual cove, (above) was this time completely full of the most wonderful driftwood. We several happy hours collecting it and making rubbish boats that capsized. Mark fashioned a few pentatonic xylophones and we entertained, or not, the other beach dwellers with a an impromptu concert.
Below: the happy family pictured with a fine specimen of a 'dog-head train' on one of our numerous rambles around the station sidings area.

Night swimming

One of the most wonderful things  . . . ever.
Hot summer evening at Alvin's house where they have a black pool. With the light on, the water becomes almost 'aspic' like; sounds horrible but actually, it looks beautiful.
The best nocturnal swim I ever had was in Malta in a green/blue phosphoresce sea, having dived off a boat.

Sunday 19 August 2012

A bit of beautiful madness for Sunday morning.

Life on Mars, and others . . . performed by the Ukulele Orchestra of G.B. Oddly the main singer looks a lot like Sam Tyler (John Simm) in the brilliant BBC series: 'Life on Mars'.

Saturday 18 August 2012

Beauty in unexpected places.

I like this metro wall. In the early morning light it appeared from the platform to have a coating of powdered gold and has been indeed signed by a King of some sort.

This perfect oval was in the Rodin gallery. It left more of an impression on me than most of his brilliant works. I wonder what it was for? Too shallow to balance a cup of tea within as you paused on the stairs, or a vase of flowers.

Wednesday 15 August 2012

One more time . . .

Sorry, I'll stop going on about Paris now: us who live in the sticks get a bit overexcited when we visit the BIG city.
Just this . . .
This is where we and our bag started out: Le Train Bleu. We were early for the train so I twisted Mark's arm and pulled him in protesting about the potential terrifying cost of a cup of tea. Yes it is expensive, hyperventilating-ly so but . . .err, can't think of a justification really. However it is so worth it. A beautiful waiter took our bag - not at all disdainfully I must add, and showed us to a seat.

The above photo are of the dinner table setting we would have encountered if we had wished to re-mortgage the house, Mark trying to look calm, and some of the lovely waiters against the about-to-be-mentioned murals.
It's a flamboyant way to spend an hour waiting for your train, gazing at the lush murals of exotic holiday destinations, imagining what it must have been like to be a privileged traveler in that epoch, before the days of trip advisor and Ryanair burritos.
Maybe there was an equivalent:

Dearest Vacation confidant: We arrived in dear Mrs Antelthwerp's barouche carriage, so much the mode with it's damask silk interior. The hotel was rather smaller than I had imagined after our housekeeper's description, and there was not nearly enough space to store all the Louis Vuitton, and the owner smelt slightly of cats.
The room was pleasant enough with a view to the South featuring a fountain playing within a jolly little Italianate garden. I may ask our gardener to recreate it when we return to the Surrey residence in the Autumn. The bed was large, good quality linens, and breakfast was brought to our room at the appointed time by a tidy young girl: brioche, damson jam and Ceylon tea. Henry was a little put out that there was not more than one variant of jam offered, but I told him to shut up, as his moaning was becoming tiresome to my nerves.
My only complaint really was the thickness of the walls as we were both subjected to the intolerable sounds of Mrs Antelthwerp being given a jolly good rogering by that new man friend of hers.
Four stars for cleanliness, facilities, decorative nature of the rooms and three for breakfast—Henry insisted.

Tuesday 14 August 2012


In Paris. Confusing as to what to eat first really
Actually, we were very restrained: low budget Chinese eat as much as you can buffet, plates of pasta, goats cheese salad etc. There's so much choice and nearly every restaurant seems to be my favourite place - the wealth of cosy dark bistros with bentwood chairs and checked tablecloths is overwhelming . . . those little round metal tables and the wicker chairs - ahhh, if only somebody would do such a place in Limoux.
Mmm, maybe we should - cue idea that comes and goes.
Following photos are from a restaurant we discovered near 'Les Grands Boulevards'. Heaven indeed, to me anyway - an ex-soup kitchen, founded in early in the 1900's I would think, and still has all the original features: lamps, loos, and possibly waiters. BIG hearty food, see pic of my 'pot au feu' no messing about, delicious and served in a click-clack Parisian waiter style.
They scribble the order on the paper cloth, deposit bread and water and are off in a blur to the next table. It's popularity is evident - I think all the three hundred or so seats were occupied, and Mark was sternly told to stop splaying himself about so that the two chairs next to us could be used: fair enough.
The menus are a A4 sheet of paper with the Restaurant heading in Art Nouveau script; suggestions of the day marked in a separate box. We took the menu of the day-soup, trout, and prunes with vanilla ice cream, (not with the trout.) It all cost something like fourteen euros inc wine, and was memorable in it's copiousness and flavour.

Chartier: we will return.

Saturday 11 August 2012


The Paris guide book assured us that there is an awful lot of this to be done in Paris.
Seized with an urge to buy a pair of pants we went into the mother of all shops: Galeries lafayette.
I immediately experienced a sort of consumerism overload meltdown just from being on the ground floor where packs of women in thick foundation were waiting to spritz us with the latest celebrity endorsed smells.
The noise is intense: the sound of plastic being swiped, the yager yager of a thousand voices discussing mascara, and the clack of stilettos. I looked at a bag out of idle interest: a mere 3,000 euros, and that, an economy model.
Mark was beginning to glaze over; time was in short supply, I found the escalator - third floor: pants. Well, it didn't say that exactly.

This is the biggest lingerie department in the world according to our book.
It was in fact a minor planet, inhabited by sylph-like creatures with doe eyes and black pony tails. I cruised the isles looking for ordinaryish pants while Mark studied some silky scaffolding. Eventually I found a black pair, Emporio Armarni nonetheless but with a price tag within the realms of sanity. They were packaged in a little gold gauze bag, my money removed from me by a catwalk model man, and we left the building after admiring the cathedral-like structure of this monument to shopping.
As a contrast we then went to a flea market in a cartier of Paris at the end of a metro line. A windswept corner of the city: gritty and full of sixties buildings of non-interest. The shopping was a little different . . . pants - three for a euro; five Eiffel towers for the price of four, and more dodgy watches than you could shake a gendarme at. No tourists with cameras here.

An interesting day of extreme contrasts in pant purchases and architecture. 

Thursday 9 August 2012

Paris continued.

A feature of quite a few Paris bridges: come prepared with a padlock, preferably inscribed with words of endearing love for your special person, dog, whoever/whatever, and attach it to the metalwork to rust gently in the wind, rain and sun . . . forever.

Building No 4

Actually I know what this one is for - signal box, evidently. But is is not devine in it's weirdness? Like a cross between something from Blade runner and Brazil. It lives in a down-town part of Paris, and I would like to go back and study it further.

I love Paris . . . in August.

As the song goes, or was it springtime. Anyway, we did love it on our annual leave from the Hothouse, thanks to our wonderful cousins. Normally I crave a few days at the sea but Mark needed a culture break, and so did I, I think. What is culture anyway?
This is another muse for a longer blog . . . so Paris. We stayed in a tiny flat owned by our neighbours, in a small town about twenty minutes from the centre: a wonderful late thirties building a few moments stagger from the station. Here is our Limoux Carnaval bag, (thanks Vanilla) starting its tour at the foot of the steps of 'Le train Blue,' Gare de Lyon.

Wednesday 1 August 2012


Now there's a word you don't know, eh?
No. I didn't know it either and nor did various bookish friends inc Mark.
I was looking up something about the psychology of love, as part of a paragraph in my book, and found this word. It actually means the state of euphoria and what we consider 'falling in love' when you meet someone . . . hot, so to speak, or actually, beyond hot: you might feel moved to write poetry, send locks of hair/red roses etc . . .
Apparently it's gauged to last about six months: then the offensive socks, annoying whistling in the bathroom stuff kicks in. Either it can blossom into true lasting love at this point, or withers away into intolerance and looking at other hot people.
Anyway, I think it's a beautiful word and am happy to have made it's acquaintance.

This totally voluptuous flower says it all. I was seduced by its dessert plate-sized flowers when in the garden centre buying something mundane. It is a distillation of every heaving bosom moment from every Barbara Cartland novel, not that I've read any . . .