Tuesday, 27 November 2012

autumn leaves

A big photo to celebrate the stunning colours of Autumn, and the fact I have worked out how to turn the camera on, take off the lens cap, and press the right button.
Back to the UK for a few days with an aqua-lung.
A bientôt.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Champignon. Champing-yes!

Autumn is textbook this year - all misty mornings, sun drenched afternoons after a light rain at night, just a touch of frost. Les champingnons have been poking their mysterious little hats up everywhere, even in our usually bone-dry garden.
The usual seasonal question arose as regular as the other question, which will never be addressed properly: 'shall we buy a chain saw'. We look at them in Bricolage, and then at Mark's money-earning musician hands and go off to look at wild bird food or paint.
Oh yes, the seasonal question - from our son: "Can we go and collect mushrooms and cook them?"
I agree and hope he will then forget the idea. Not that I don't want to wander in mossy glens, appreciating nature in all its yellow and orange splendour. I just have a fear of being shot, (by an over-enthusiastic hunter) this does unfortunately happen each year to the odd mushroom gathering person . . . that and the possibility of eating something that might finish you off.
I've only actually eaten mushrooms once that I picked - small, brown weedy-looking things that me and some student friends happened upon, (actually, was a major search party), resulting in a jolly little event where our hideous, freezing student dive became a wonderment of glittering coloured lights, warmth, love and celestial twaddle.
Back to the present . . . Ezra and I went up to a local forest and walked around for quite a long time getting very wet feet. We found the usual bizarre collection of things you definitely would not put anywhere near a cooker: odd gangly white mushrooms with deadly-looking hats, big flat white specimens, harmless looking as a slice of 'Mother's Pride', but with an eeriness about them: 'eat me, go on. I'm just like a Champignon de Paris, but so much bigger.' Why hadn't even the Sanglier (wild boar) touched any of these?
We stopped in the tiny hamlet of 'Lapayre' hoping Monsieur Oui-Oui-Oui might be around. He appeared holding a massive armload of ivy stems which he was about to feed to the sheep - rather like a cleanse apparently. We showed him our basket of weird mushrooms and he tutted: 'non, non, non' and waved an arm in the direction of some pine trees. 'La, vous pouvez trouvez les 'Grisettes': Ils sont bien, tout a fait mangeable, oui oui oui.' We followed his advice, collected quite a lot of grey moleskin-coloured mushrooms and then went back to the big smoke.
Being still a little apprehensive we showed them to a pharmacy woman. She got her book out and agreed they were what they had been deemed to be, and that we would indeed, not die.
So I cooked them with a bit of garlic and olive oil, said goodbye to the dogs and we ate them (not the dogs).
Not so much as a fart or rumbly tum. Mr Oui-Oui-Oui, I should never have doubted you.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Darling, only ten kilos? Surely not.

I'm digressing from planning the next UK trip.
Wouldn't it be just so wonderful to turn up at Carcassonne airport looking like this instead of wearing all your week's clothes in order to be able to board your toothbrush and iPad in your Ryanair luggage allowance.
Actually I'm not really complaining . . . much. It is incredible that I can get to Stansted airport quicker than driving to Montpellier, and that it costs less than the train fare from said airport to my Mum's in Dorset. I don't care that the food is overpriced and horrible, and that they make you buy water rather than allowing you to carry on your own bottle. Just bring a banana and drink a lot before you go through customs.
I don't even care about the bloody smug: TANTARA, you have arrived on yet another on-time flight, (howls of derisive laughter).
I notice they don't have a funereal violin version for: You have arrived slightly behind schedule and will now have to sit on the runway while people waving orange plastic sticks on the runway decide what the Hell is going on.
The Ryanair booking site is getting longer each time I go on it:
Do you want to buy a special bag? No.
Do you want to book a car? No.
Do you want to take our travel insurance? No.
Think carefully here, you might avoid terrible injury, malaise or possible death . . . do you want to take our travel insurance? No
Really? YES I'm sure.
OK, do you want to book a hotel? No.
Do you want to book a sandwich/ sex with an attractive flight attendant/last rites with a certified priest? NO.
OK, continue: Oops, sorry your session has timed out.
Despite all the petty moaning about our favourite cheap airline, what would we do without this luxury. Life would be very much more complicated. 'Profitez' as the French say. I can't see this form of travel continuing for too many years . . .

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Only a month to go . . .

Mmm. Surely Leclerc should have jumped on this one. End of the world in just a month! Never mind all the Christmas twaddle, what about a comprehensive range of DIY bunkers? - teak, corrugated steel, or cardboard economy range, and how about some nice survival kits: fois gras, chardonnay, and a couple of Laguiole steak knives to carve up your freshly trapped and roasted wild boar.

According to an article I read this morning in the Guardian, many, or several, or perhaps one or two overexcited people think that THIS is the only place that will be saved when the time comes. I was surprised as I thought there were several noted places in the world to be constructing one's air raid shelter when the planet 'does the big firework', to quote Douglas Adams.
It's true; it is an alluring place. An odd shape as if scooped up, pulled out from the earth by giant hands and then patted on the top, flattening it off. Perfect for an alien landing strip.
When I drove back from Toulouse yesterday, I stopped to look at the mountain from a particularly good vantage point. It was capped with a long dragon-shaped cloud, the rest of the sky a luminescent opal green-blue; a strange shape so different from all the surrounding hills and distant mountains. I could see why it was and is the stuff of legends. The upside down mountain - apparently part of the lower layers of rock are younger than those of the top . . .
So the people of Bugarach possibly wait in fear; not from the coming of the end, but being swamped with thousands of people with one-way tickets from America, chanting maniacs, and horrible market stalls selling end of the world souvenirs? Who knows? Mark and I have decided to go and walk up the mountain again this weekend before it's too late - maybe collect some mystic sheep poo and sell it on eBay . . .

Following: a rather good quote from an inhabitant of Bugarach re the worry that hundreds of people may descend on the village in order to end it all.

"Why come to the only place on earth that will be spared the apocalypse if you want to commit suicide? Wouldn't that be a bit like trying to drown yourself wearing a lifejacket?"

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Oh uh ah no **** arg!!

I don't know why, but sometimes bits of me in the middle of the night suddenly become more profoundly asleep than the rest of my body - a whole leg, a hand, last night my left arm. This results in me waking in a panic, swearing and roughly shaking poor Mark: Arrgg, JESUS F CHRIST! my leg, help, it's gone. . . maybe never to return! Or * @$@+!!**^+?*!! my arm - OMG it's stuck in a weird shape . . . forever, HELP ME!!!
Mark grunts and turns over knowing that the momentary mayhem will pass and it's really not worth waking up for. Then I really wake up, the limb returns and I feel rather stupid . . .
I think if I were to record these night time disturbances the result would be like some of Mr Shatner's finest acting moments. Bless him.
Incidentally, I find the moment where Jim is obviously really about to kiss Spock strangely erotic . . .

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Ferrero Rocher: "The Ambassador's Party"

Top comments on youtube for this:
"Monseur! With this wafer covered dollop you are insulting us!"
"And after this he served them Cheetos and they all died of ecstasy." 


Oh no . . . it's time to be happy.

But . . . it's too early, I want to be miserable for at least another month.
It's sad, but France seems to be catching up with America and the UK - Christmas shite in full stockage at Leclerc yesterday. I only went in to get some dog food and a packet of yeast but had to get through an assault course of chocolate and bauble nonsense to get to the sensible areas of of the shop.
I'm still in shock that people were there picking up plastic Santa Clause effigies and tins of nasty looking fois gras as if there was about to be a war and thus a shortage of these essential items.
What would Christmas be without matching gold-starred plates and glasses, and without a box of Ferrero Rocher as big as a sofa. By the way, who eats these things? They appear to be made of recycled loo roll inners and Nutella. Mark's just told me that FR own Nutella, so no surprise there. In fact it's worth reading a story in the Guardian yesterday about Nutella and palm oil (which makes up 20% of it's bulk). Apparently 235,000 tons of the stuff are consumed each year. The fact that 100 million pots are consumed annually in France alone has alerted the government to consider a 'fat tax' - the wonderfully named, 'Nutella amendment'.
FR is a marketing hype success story beyond all others, remember the adverts . . . how to sell something utterly . . . dull, very very well. Environmental packaging nightmare too. RANT over now . . . where was I? Oh yes, Christmas. I noticed our town have started putting the decorations up a little earlier each year, but so far nothing is illuminated until December itself; I hope this is going to be the case this year. Any sniff of a suspended jolly lightbulb before that and I shall be writing to the council. Huh!
Actually, I love Christmas - well, the day itself, possibly the day before and even the day after. A small isolated patch of time where the phone doesn't ring much and going out for a nice brisk walk all wrapped up seems even better than usual. Lovely food, fire, slippers, carols, and joy to all men, even that git who drives a Ferrari up our tiny road at 120 kms an hour. Apart from that it should all stay in a box in the attic until next year.
May all your Christmas's be white and not vaguely grey and drizzly.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Nearly done


Slightly out of focus picture of my book cover. Looking to publish within the next month . . . or so.

Now editing the second part, or book two:  Staying out of the midday sun.

Sunday, 11 November 2012


I live with a musician. We are surrounded by music.
Our tastes often overlap except Mark does have a tendency to put on the free-est of free jazz when I go out. I can't stand it for long, I try, but find an earthquake builds up in my head after a few minutes. We're all right on most other things from opera through to Indie bands, but still not sure about Japanese noise terrorism . . .
I'm very cheap to run as far as music goes, (and most other things really . . .) I can happily listen to a new CD until it melts, or eventually, after seven zillion plays - enough!
At the moment I have 'Alt-J' on perpetual play, before that it was Grizzly Bear, Vampire weekend,  Radiohead, Andreas Scholl, and before that, anything by John Grant/the Czars. That voice . . . dark rich chocolate.
I suppose it's the feeling that certain music conjures up, you just want the same hit - that section where the piano chords crash in, that guitar solo, or a particular voice reaching a high note. Mark doesn't do that so much; he's off exploring the next sound, experiencing, broadening.
He wouldn't have enjoyed my love of 'The Cure' in the 80's or rubbish dance music of the 90's although we did share a brief flirtation with 'Leftfield' when we first met, and saw them live in Birmingham. Actually, Mark did fall asleep oddly.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Oer, what does this button do?

New camera in the house. Birthday present, long talked about - it's arrived, all black and ergonomically shaped, sporting many buttons and dials. My anti-technology forcefield kicked in as I opened the box and has remained fairly well in tact.
The manual was only in French or Inuit so it sat there for a little longer until we bought a Digital for Dummies book for the exact model. Interestingly, how many of those books are there out there? Is there one for every single challenge facing us? The dummies guide to what to do with old chip oil? Or the meaning of life perhaps - a slim volume no doubt.
Anyway, the book has arrived. I looked in it a few minutes ago and had to go and play the guitar, make some tea and clean the kitchen, oh and do this blog post. The photo above of small runty dog, looking rather dapper I thought, is to prove to myself that I did work out how to turn the camera on. Now for the serious stuff.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Time 2

That bit in blade runner, near the end, when the menacing blond replicant says 'time to die'. It always makes me cry, even though he's been nonchalantly bumping people off all through the film, and it's corny with the doves.
I went to another funeral yesterday, not in a post-modern nightmare futuristic vision, just in our local church. It was for one of our neighbours; a man of respectable age to pass on — 84.
I cried, not huge sobs, a few tears. I could never work for a funeral directors, or be a priest, I don't know how they all remain so placid looking. The priest was a master of calm benevolent reflection; possibly he controls himself by thinking about lunch, or what time star academy was scheduled for that evening. I suppose once you've done a few hundred funerals you become immune to the tears rising.
The worst bit was when all the elderly soldiers paraded down the isle with the huge regiment flags, I had to study the carvings and soaring stone arches very hard at that point.
Yes the man was old, yes he was good to his family, yes he was a war hero etc, but I know he wanted to do more, he just ran out of time, energy and eyesight.
We used to chat while walking the dogs. He was in the army and police force from late teens onwards, but his real passion was painting. His house was full of his work, technically clever, rather chocolate box, but a lot of latent ideas roaming about. He asked me where I got my ideas from. obviously wishing to go further than the still lives he produced. I wonder what his life would have been had he been born in a different era, when he might have gone to art college, or used his talent for his work rather than a hobby.

Thursday, 8 November 2012


Oh - the boy person is a just few centimetres short of me - if I stand up straight. I glanced, this morning, at the photo of him I took when he was in the plastic cot next to me in Birmingham maternity ward. Nearly fifteen years ago . . .Where does time go. Evaporates. I'm glad I keep a diary, deadly dull though it is, I can open a page from anytime in the last fifteen years and that day will come to life, the few scrawled words a window onto the few hours we spent walking, eating, laughing, crying - whatever.
Some days stand out; some are dully uniform. The lists may be addressed, or not; we will walk the dogs, music will be practiced, lunch eaten, some attempts to make money, a step closer to the finishing of one or more projects.
I must get out of my furry slippers and velour jog pants and further the day before it, like all the others, becomes another diary page.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Remember remember

Actually I had completely forgotten it was November the 5th until friend Alvin asked what were we doing for it.
Since I had burnt the massive pile of garden trimmings the day before and Ezra is still scared of fireworks, I said 'nothing really'. In the end I made another huge pile of garden debris, Garth brought round some Leclerc fireworks which went phsssst rather than bang, thus not terrifying, and Mark made a super curry and parkin.
A fun evening which must have perplexed our French neighbours as no one burns their garden rubbish at ten pm. Left the fire to fizzle out and went back to the house to eat more cake; discovered that the dog had eaten it . . . Una who is now possibly nineteen and lives to hoover up anything edible or inedible.
I went downstairs slightly anxiously this morning, wondering if there might be a scene from 'La Grande Bouffe' but all was well. Just an old dog re-hoovering the floor for any vestiges of parkin crumb.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Good hair day

I don't know what to say other than how perfectly delectable.
Came across this on someones else's 'musing' blog, sorry to borrow your image . . . But I had to.
My hair is a continual mystery. About once a month I really like it; its just at the right point of fullness, sticking up in the right places, not too floppy and thin looking. Then today, for example, I have mad static hair which has developed a strange tendency to stray to the left.
I found an electric comb-brush-dryer thing in a cupboard left by a guest and attacked the hair with it. Worse.
Short is good, but the feel-good factor lasts about three days and whatever the hairdresser did eludes me as I try to recreate the style. The twenties bob thing was good, but high maintenance. The worst was definitely the perm I had, in the eighties . . . enough said. The weirdest was a white-blond teddy-boy quiff that somebody at a hairdressing school on Tottenham Court Road decided I should have. Dracula black made me look ill, and bright red was short-lived.
When I was about seven I had long golden hair but with sort of Rasta dreads underneath as I was such a tomboy. Since then its just kept getting shorter. Someone did offer me fifty quid at college to shave my head and be photographed - think it was January, and we lived in a student house with a loo that froze over, so hair seemed to be a good thing to keep.
Sometimes I cut my hair myself. Occasionally it works really well, but usually it looks as if rodents have needed nest material.
I do remember a brilliant Eddy Izzard sketch about hair and squirrels in the night, I might try and put in on here. Anyway . . . So back to today: short-ish with a vague aspiration to have a long romantic fringe that I can look out from in a mysterious way . . .

Friday, 2 November 2012

Pulp reality

Our table outside looked like something from a Tarantino film yesterday - height of Pomegranate harvest time, and the knives were out.
These marvels of nature are the only think our garden really grows well apart from tomatoes; I've started planting a small orchard of them.
I love them for many reasons: the flavour, the colour, their cheerful flowers, the fruit from its green marble-ness through to the splitting, burnished finality.
A reoccurring motive for artists across the centuries, I can recall seeing their rounded forms carved into stone above doorways, on castle tapestries and in a thousand paintings from Caravaggio  to Cezanne and beyond.
Every year I mean to start a 'fete' to celebrate them We have fetes of everything else here: potatoes, pumpkins, truffles, wine – of course; snails, asparagus, bread, fois gras, charcuterie, ticks - nah, not really.
There's probably one more batch of jam to be made from the remaining tree, then I might ask a few people who seem to disregard their own crop, leaving them to fall. How can anyone ignore these fruits and leave but a few for the birds to pick over as the weather chills.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

The turning year.

First of November. Socks must be found. The fire has now been lit five times and the animals are seeking warmth communally.
Yesterday was a real 'Jack the Ripper' day, perfect for halloween, misty and dank. It reminded me of those early winter mornings in London, walking through Spitalfields market across to Wilkes Street to work, the ghosts lurking in dark doorways of the black-yellow bricked buildings.
Back to this corner of France. Actually, I've just been out for a dog walk and the sock idea has been discarded for the moment. A bright, glistening day, the sky washed to a perfect clarity by yesterday's rain. Pomegranates must be picked. We've done two batches and juiced another bowlful last night for a halloween soup evening. I had a sore throat yesterday, but two glassfuls of the ruby liquid seems to have seen off whatever it was.
So, writing and gardening today, now jobs have been done. Huge amounts of cutting back foliage, and a bit of in-bed writing. First book is now on its, possibly, fifteenth edit, second, written and waiting the first cut, third at rambling stage.
We traded soups last night, Ruth and Chris took the remainder of the pumpkin, and we have their courgette and mint.
Soup, jumpers, firewood, bonfires, two duvets, jam gap after pomegranate. Next jam - cherry around late may.