Thursday 28 February 2013

lentils have no feelings

As far as we know.
Cows, chickens, pigs and other animals we choose to eat, do. So if we are going to eat them, they should at least have a good time doing what they are supposed to do before we kill them. I'm not a vegetarian, but I live with one, and for that reason we don't eat meat, except occasionally when the gatherer goes away not to hunt. Then I might buy a happy chicken and Ezra and I plus perhaps a couple of friends will delight in roast beast, followed by soups. stock, etc. A real treat once in a while, and because of being once in a while, really appreciated.
Ezra's school recently sent a leaflet round which stated that children - and people generally, must eat meat every day in order to remain healthy; it actually said that being vegetarian is dangerous for children . . .
When Mark and I went to the Doc's recently for an MOT, Mark despite being vegetarian, seems fine, just rather tall as the Doc noted. He hasn't touched meat for about eight years (Mark) and before that was vegan and even macrobiotic at some point. He is very tall and has huge feet which in themselves must take up quite a lot of calories to maintain each day, but he's good on veg and lentils.
Blood groups may play a part in all this. Mark may have once been a giraffe-type creature, gracefully pulling the leaves off trees, while I would have been something running about trying to sink my teeth into something else running about. I do occasionally get a craving for a nice juicy steak and will buy a bit. A bit, again that's all; no one needs to eat a sixteen ounce steak.


 I was fascinated by all this 'horse in our beef' issue recently. Why is anyone surprised? In the 'developed' world we demand cheap meat, generally not really enquiring where it comes from. Why not horse anyway? of course it's the fraudulent aspect, but is eating horse any worse that eating cow? Meat seems to figure in most people's diets every day if the average French shopping trolly is anything to go by. Things are getting harder, and competition in the food industry ensures that manufacturers keep prices down.
I had a little look on the internet at battery farming and then wished I hadn't. We all know it's out there, but the reality is terrible. Good old Jamie Oliver, hope your reclaimed hens are enjoying their freedom.
I had to include this pitiful image of some pigs . . . just in case you are about to nip out and grab a bacon sandwich from a cafe. Pigs are highly intelligent creatures, hence why George Orwell presumably chose them as the eventual leaders in 'Animal farm'. They should spend their lives poking their noses around in strawy mud and eating lovely leftovers, having piglets, and then perhaps being turned into sausage; not stuffed into a cage without room to turn around, or if this pic is true . . .well, how inconceivably vile.


Tuesday 26 February 2013


Some favourite sounds: Clatter of flags on yacht masts, ice cream van jingles, seagulls, wheezing summer swallows, the wind in pine trees, the kettle boiling, grandfather clocks, church bells, rustle of fruit being put into paper bags, the dawn chorus, waves on shingle and somewhere at the top of the list: goats and sheep (voices and bells.)

Here is a little film (sorry for dubious quality) I took a few days ago, of a mixed herd of goats and sheep being let onto new pasture somewhere in the hills above Alet-Les Bains, near Limoux.

Monday 25 February 2013

Soulja Boy Tell'em - Pretty Boy Swag

Ezra and I were having a quick look at the worst records of 2012 this morning.
Most of them featured six main elements: pneumatic-breasted women, auto tune, fast cars, wads of cash, lurid jewellery, and the same 'melody' oh, six actually, Miami.
This offering, actually from 2010, still seems to stand out as a particularly fine example of this musical genre. It's so appalling that I'm still not sure if it's 'serious' or a piss-take.
Wikipedia lists him as a rapper, record producer, actor, and entrepreneur. He was on the 'Forbes list' of hip hop Cash Kings of 2010 earning seven million$ that year.
Actor yes, good, in that he can do this glossy video without actually bursting out into fits of self -parodying laughter. Rapper? Back in the days of good ol' Grandmaster Flash, people actually used to sing real lyrics about real life situations.
Best Youtube comments: Music is dead. My ears are violated.

Sunday 24 February 2013

population and stuff

I was just musing this morning, as I was cleaning the cooker, on the entire history of our planet and how long we have inhabited it. I know I learned all this stuff in geography decades ago, but as I got an E in A level, and that was only because I happened to have studied the Tsetse fly and its effects in Africa the night before the exam, it's not altogether surprising that I've forgotten . . . anyway, yes: the human population.
We have made a massive impact on the Earth in such a microscopic amount of time, and much of that, in say, my Grandma's and mother's lifetimes.
Two world wars plus many, many other wars; cars, phones, central heating, ping-pong, reality T.V, frozen meals, key-hole surgery, space exploration, platform shoes, lego, John Lewis, nouvelle cuisine, Milton Keynes, fashion, GM crops, plastic, auto-tune vocals, oven chips, Ikea, Gangnam Style, fitness classes, skyscrapers, tattoos, solar power, cup-a-soup, computers, contact lenses, advertising agencies, fishcakes, lifts, motorways, internet porn, nuclear energy/waste! weather stations, antibiotics, monopoly, fast food, nail varnish, dams, 'shake n' vac, cash crops, sewage systems, three-day week,  Hello magazine, Ryanair, crisps, old people's homes, shopping malls, globalisation, scratch cards, download music, diets, conservation, Christmas No1's, diversification, clic-clac sofa beds, political scandal, coffee houses, charities, low waist jeans, celebrities, custard creams.
Lots of things . . . good and bad and billions more than my stream of consciousness list suggested, but it is incredible how much change, and how many people we have inflicted on this ball in space. Here is a fascinating little graph I found when wandering around in cyber-space before lunch. 


Just look at the population pattern: slow, rising gradually with a dip around the time of the great plague and then vrooooom. Scary.

Friday 22 February 2013

Humans and plantlife

We are all very different. Yes, true oh rambling one, and what of it.
I went for my usual quick nip round the field with the dogs this morning before the day started up and cast an eye over the familiar sights: the rolling blue-grey river, the bare vines, clipped and ready for spring, the distant rumbling JCB's where yet another load of houses are being built.
I passed a rubbly bit of ground that someone had cleared for a bonfire at the back of their house near the river bank, and noticed two old tree stumps, each one about ten centimetres round, then I remembered . . .
About three years ago, on the same walk in the summer, I recall standing in total awe of two fabulous trees: wispy leaves, slender boughs and the most extraordinarily exotic flowers. Yellow with dangling red stamens, they looked like something from a hot house in Kew gardens.
How divine that someone had planted them there with a seat underneath so that you could while away a happy few minutes listening to the birds and watching the light dancing on the river.
I looked the species up on the net - a paradise tree, how apt.

Every day for months, the trees were a wonderful sight as I came round the corner, waving gently in the breeze, dispelling any grumpiness within me about the day so far.  I started noticing the trees in other places - the plants of that year for me. I treated our garden to a small specimen, which, despite occasional icy Northern winds, has produced many flowers each season.
Anyway . . . I walked round the corner one late summer day to discover that some ******* had chopped both trees down - for no reason. The bench had gone and there was a small pile of rubble, the trees mangled. I could have cried, I probably did. They could have at least dug them up and given them to someone - me.
The walk was blemished as for several months, pathetic shoots would creep out from the stumps to be re-squashed, I couldn't bear to look anymore. The area became a bonfire for a while, then a general dumping ground, but I could never fathom why anyone would want to cut down such wonderful things. Maybe the person's father had planted them and they hated him . . . cutting them down an act of spite when the house connected to the patch of ground had been sold. Or they just found the trees too . . . untidy.
I'll ask them one day.

Tuesday 19 February 2013

If household objects could talk.

From the left:

Shit. I mean, what is the point of it all?
Ooo I say.
Er . . . I wonder if I left the gas on?

So, you got a problem then?

Yes - in fact, we all have as we were made in the twentieth century - well, him at the end, possibly in the nineteenth - meaning, we are all destined to become landfill, whatever the guy who brought you downstairs told you.

Not a leg to stand on

Or only three, anyway.
Since the runty dog lost his leg, walking into town has become a series of little stops while people peer at him in anguish and gently ask the question, 'so what happened to his leg?' Or they mutter to each other: 'mais, il marche sur trois pattes!'
Yes it is he who walks but only on three legs. It happens. Usually with one of the back legs I seem to recall, thinking back to various hopping specimens I've noticed before - sometimes even the two legs gone and a wheeled apparatus in place.
The description of how the cat hit him is becoming boring to recount now; Ezra and I spend happy time walking back from college inventing more and more ludicrous stories we can tell people when they ask the inevitable question.

Seeing two elderly ladies approaching us this morning, I steeled myself for the pitiful expressions and furrowed brows, but was startled to hear the dame who looked as if she was off to a crochet workshop, utter the equivalent to: 'Holy shit! that dog, it has but only three legs!'. As she herself was not in A1 state I felt slightly put out on behalf of the runty one and treated him to buttered toast when we got home.

Sunday 17 February 2013

February 2

Why was I complaining in the last post? What a lovely month - yesterday and today, anyway.
After dim, freezing days the sun and shining countryside is extraordinary. Everyone seems happy. Even Ezra who professes to like drizzle and cold misty days, had to admit it is beautiful today.
Here is my favourite view above Limoux: olive field, pine trees and a little cabin which I believe is called 'quatre vents' (four winds) which I can imagine is very apt during a lot of the year.

I went out yesterday in the late afternoon sun and joined the 'goudils' prancing around the square. (Not me as the Queen or Green Man) Goudils meaning the people who dance behind the main Carnaval group of the day. It was packed: nuns with false breasts, cave men, monks clutching cheeky magazines, snowboarders, clowns and a group of chefs cavorting with leeks, dodgy pieces of horse meat (topical) and a huge soup pot on wheels. Leeks feature a lot in the carnaval, as do raw fish, presidential masks, dildos, false parts of bodies and as mentioned before, nuns and other ecclesiastical figures.

Friday 15 February 2013


No one ever names their new-born, February, do they? January? - a name in a song from the 70s I seem to remember . . . in fact, I just looked it up: Pilot was the group. I didn't press play on the Youtube arrow as I can just about recall the annoying tune. If I heard it again it would seep into my mind and stay there for months, an un-wanted guest.
Anyway, yes: June, april, May, lots of elderly ladies called after these months.
March? Quite a good, male name possibility - striding out in a Heathcliff sort of a way. But I've never heard it used.
July? A tad fetid and sweaty perhaps, same for August. September, bit of a mouthful, could be shortened to Septis or something - not good, October? Getting a bit chilly, nice colours though. November: Drizzle and evenings dark at 4.00pm, Nope.
So, what was I going on about . . . oh yes. February.
It is, without doubt, the worst month: dark, cold and wet - this year anyway. Christmas and New Year long gone, new season in the seemingly distant future. I keep thinking about buying a new jumper as the mangy ones that should have become dog beds are still on me. But it's not long now, spring is waiting in the wings for winter to forget its lines . .  sun, stuff growing, birds chirping.
Or is it near? Last year all the blossom sallied forth to be annihilated by sharp frost and icy winds; the wood pile had an emergency re-fill and all bird life had to re-seek refuge in their discarded sleeping bags.
Here is a lovely picture of me in my best Feb wardrobe.
Coat from Emmaus, jeans from a clothes swap event, shoes from vide grenier, jumper . . . 'terre d'esperance', I think. Things worn for maximum warmth and not many other reasons; nice scarf from Katherine though.
Roll on spring: no coats, no jumpers, and re-emergence of that round bright thing in the sky, hopefully.
Wettest year so far on record since 833.

Tuesday 12 February 2013

C'est pas possible!

Two things that seem not possible.
One, is that William, presenter from Télématin is going to retire . . . sob. The second: you can now buy a 3D printer so you too can make lots of brightly-coloured landfill in the comfort of your own home.
I turn on Télématin at seven every morning and do my various attempts at yoga/Alexander technique -type exercises while watching William subtly taking the piss out of various hapless folk, visually a little like a good-looking Sid James and audibly, a quieter version of John Humphrys from radio 4.

How will they choose someone else . . . almost more difficult than finding a Pope replacement.

The other part of this matinal rant.
A 3D printer. A 3D printer. WHY?
Look, darling, I made you a pink hippopotamus's head. Thanks . . .
There are factories everywhere that make all this crap; why do we need to make it ourselves? Think of the amount of these machines destined to be driven to the tip in a few years time, if they last as long as ordinary printers do. And the cost of the? - whatever it is that you feed into the thing.
Why William came into this rant is that he was hosting a subsidiary 'news' item about these machines.
He fixed the poor 3D printer demonstrating guy with a smirk and a raised eyebrow, then asked what the machine would make things out of, wood? Wonderful.
Actually, yes. Why not reach your kids how to whittle something or carve a chess piece, or draw a bird, invent a game, knit a hat, plant some herbs, encourage them to play an instrument, cook something - anything but make another useless object out of plastic. Phew.
Dear Oliver Postgate, wherever you are, creator of the brilliant Clangers. You foresaw it all in the episode featuring a mysterious machine arriving on the planet. The knitted heroes turn it on and it subsequently produces thousands of plastic objects, which is fun at first but then no one can find out how to turn it off.

We are in that Clanger's episode now and we need to find the off switch.

Monday 11 February 2013

Carnaval 2013

For the for first time in eight years I'm an onlooker rather than being in a band.
I must admit I didn't miss waving my hands around for hours in the freezing drizzle and arctic wind 'Les Droles' experienced on Saturday, (my old group).
This was their morning 'sortie' with the theme of 'la Boiteuse' the quaint tale of an old woman with a limp who travels along the river bank between various towns of this region showing her nether regions to hapless onlookers . . . actually, I'm sure I've blogged about this before? Anyway, excuse me if I did.

I particularly liked the pictured portable confessional box with priest holding a well thumbed prayer book containing smut. Very Carnaval.

Sunday 10 February 2013

Little things

Small highlights in a day. Insignificant perhaps, or not.
In a world of objects created for convenience and speed, I'm glad there are things like this still around. I can remember going to the Greek corner shop in Muswell hill as a child on a mission to buy fruit and picking up blood oranges each with its wrapper of brightly printed rustling paper: scenes of blue skies and glittering mediterranean countryside stirring an idea of travel in me - the Isle of Sark being the furthest I had travelled at the age of eleven or so.

Walls, hot from the day's sun, the oasis of cool in the shade of a tree, diving into a lake: summer memories brought back from a glance at the bowl of fruit in our chilly kitchen this morning.

Friday 8 February 2013

I did like this one

I don't know who sends these, or where they come from. They just appear in my mail box - to share. So, I'm sharing this one.

Thursday 7 February 2013

Building No 16

We'd also hoped, (following on from last post) somewhat naively, that the owners of this magnificent old hat factory in the same town might like to lend it for the weird jazz event that we failed to place in building No 15. In fact, I would have eaten my hat (what a charming turn of phrase that is) if they had said yes.
A true Mary Celeste, this building, still full of all the machinery, dust-covered paperwork in offices, hat moulds . . . as if the factory owner had turned to the workers and said: "sorry folks, that's it - no one wears hats any more."
I'd never thought about it before. Any news clip or film from the 1950's - a sea of Trilbies or Homburgs; why did men stop wearing hats? or at least those wonderful stylish felt ones.

Building No 15

 If people married buildings, this might be the one for me.

Can you imagine in 1890 I think it was, commissioning such a thing; the polite meetings with an architect, him laughing into his pastis as soon as the client was out of the door, the local builders scratching their heads. Inspired by a brief visit to Morocco? We visited it yesterday hoping they might like a weird jazz happening; they did not, but we did get a chance to look into the wonderful office, interior-designed in about 1973 and untouched since, including the grumpy secretory. They, like many other places in this region, are missing a trick. What a superb place for a restaurant: views of the mountains, right next to the train station, large roof terrace, their own wine sur place. Tant pis.

Tuesday 5 February 2013

I wish to complain in the strongest terms . . .

A few super complaints from Thomas Cook holidays, sent to me by friend Penny.
These are really true, apparently.

 "I think it should be explained in the brochure that the local
store does not sell proper biscuits like custard creams or ginger nuts."

 "We found the sand was not like the sand in the brochure. Your brochure shows the sand as yellow but it was white."

"No-one told us there would be fish in the sea. The children were startled."

"It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England it only took the Americans three hours to get home."

 "The brochure stated: 'No hairdressers at the accommodation'. We're trainee hairdressers - will we be OK staying there?"

"We had to queue outside with no air conditioning."

"My fiancé and I booked a twin-bedded room but we were placed in a double-bedded room. 
We now hold you responsible for the fact that I find myself pregnant. This would not have happened if you had put us in the room that we booked."

Sunday 3 February 2013



Our sofa is undoubtedly a pit of filth, and it will remain thus until at least the old dog shuffles off and the crumb-creating boy is in his own den of nastiness for at least most of the year.
I still cling (unwillingly) to the stylist ideal of tweaking the sofa here and there - to camera as it were, a throw placed over the worst bits, the cushions arranged just so, bit to the left, thanks, and another cushion just there, good - polaroid.
Cushions: womeny things mainly, I think. Scatter cushions, what a horrible phrase: brings back all those flowery sofas of the 80s with hundreds of meaningless matching frilly edged square fabric . . . things.
Actually, any decade come to think of it. Now it's rather more a line of anally-retentive beige/cream/brown cushions standing to attention on something leather and cuboid, with an occasional foray into something made of uncomfortable beads or impossible to clean corkscrewy wool that I can't recall the name of at the moment.
The cushions are very rarely used on our sofa. The boy throws them on the floor, I might stuff one of them into the small of my back when settling to watch a film, the runty dog might make a nest in the velvet brown one if no one's looking. Others include, two favourites from a vide grenier (boot sale) a few years back - absurd 1970's orange, mustard and black, washed almost to threads; two musical instrument patterned ones our cousins sent, two small useless red velvet ones the size of a seven inch record (if anyone can remember those) and yes, the brown one.
I plump them up every day when I sweep up before the day starts. It looks all right for a few minutes until it's covered with discarded coats, books, guitars, electronic projects etc. But I think to live in a house where the cushions stayed firmly where you put them all day might be a bit worrying.
Above, a still from a favourite Monty Python sketch, involving cushions oddly enough.

Friday 1 February 2013


Following on from the last post I suppose . . .
I've always been drawn to churches: not for a reason of being in need of prayer, of talking to him or whoever it is that resides up there - if they do, but just because they feel different to any other sort of building.
People don't eat within their walls, apart from the odd round piece of flat bread, no chatting, no reading, no relaxing with your feet up; some learning perhaps, if you happen to stumble across a particularly eloquent vicar. A building with no other purpose than to reflect on God, Jesus, Mary, etc. Or in my case, usually, the meaning of life. As soon as I step over the threshold of any church, it starts up - a quiet meandering of thoughts on what's it all about, nothing anxious: something about the smell, the patina of age, the fact that thousands of others have walked around the building in quiet thought.
My preferred edifices are the small, rarely visited ones, like the one illustrated here. I can't even remember where it was now. It was like so many others in this region, the pictures warped with age and damp, the blue paintwork faded and fissured, a few long-dead flowers.
Mark and I visited Notre Dame de Paris recently during morning mass - thousands of people either worshiping or ticking off the tourist trail, the air heavy with incense, a burst of sunlight illuminating the intricate stained glass intermittently. It was a memorable time but not as moving to me as the minutes spent in many small village churches.

One of my most vivid memories of such places was a tiny Cretan church in the mountains on a foggy cold April morning. Unremarkable, white and plain apart from the hundreds of sheep that were passing through it, each one being blessed by the priest.