Friday, 31 May 2013


On a walk around the backwaters of our town: we were (almost) dissuaded from taking this path.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

cake sculpture

The weather is now like mid April: veering from bursts of hot sunshine to howling winds and torrential rain. It's unnerving. I had to make some strange food.
We had folk coming round; Mark wanted to make lasagna and I was assigned 'pud'.
I have made these cakes before, but I think this was the most successful one yet.
Free improvisation with a tin of pineapple, two 'Super U' cake bases, seasonal fruit, silly whipped cream in a can and jelly bears.
Next time: three tiered and adding of marshmallows, I think.
Tasted rather good too.

Saturday, 25 May 2013


What is this weather?
I suppose an awful lot of people are saying this as they look out at horizontal rain, hail, and birds trying to build nests in trees bent over from gale-force winds.
We have a garden: I know this, but I haven't actually stepped foot in it for days. The thought of struggling rose heads and flattened lavender is too much. I have cleared the in-tray, investigated the top of the kitchen cupboard and cleaned out a cupboard, made phone calls and got round to jobs that are well at the bottom of any list I have ever written. We have also napped.

Here is our cat, Bronzino, king of napping, hugger of his own legs. The total bliss a cat radiates while asleep: you can prod him and he will stretch out purring, a smile on his face then curl up again into a fury snail shape.
Napping is only a speeded up version of hibernation. I know this as when coming out of a particularly good siesta, the sleep pulls you back: look out there, it's pissing down, the wind is knife-like, why would anyone go out there unless they had to? Why don't you just close your eyes again, pull the covers up, call out for another hot water bottle from anyone left in the house who is not already under the influence of warm sleep waves.
The best naps are after physical work outside: mowing someone's lawn, cutting wood, a long, vile, worthy walk in screaming wind. The fire must be lit so that one does not sink into depression at the thought of cover removal and stepping into a frigid room.
Take a dog: preferably a small hot water bottle-size, non-smelly one; lie on sofa, put dog in crook of knees or close to chest and drift off, preferably to the sounds of someone making a delicious cake for you when you wake up.
Almost there - into the sleep world . . . the wind is now howling; God it must be nasty out there . . . not on this sofa though, even though it's full of crumbs and cat hair; it must be the most comfortable place on this planet just now: me and dog on red sofa, in house, on tiny patch of earth in small French town, South of France, European land mass, world, universe . . .

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

The best one

I wanted to do a hothouse Harlem Shake and blog it but Ezra was horrified, so here is the best one . . . we think.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Small history

This would have been a 'building number-something' post, but I forgot to take the camera.
Ezra wanted to show me where he goes to do 'airsoft' (latest phase, and thorn in our sides) within an abandoned house and outbuildings in a sprawling vine area just outside the town.
I did the statutory 'Oh that's nice, dear' as he described sniping at someone as they emerged from the main house - we are a dead loss, sorry Ezra. Wrong parents for this. Now if he was obsessed with playing the banjo still . . . that would be wonderful.
Hopefully it's just a testosterone-fuelled phase.
Anyway, we did the tour of the mournful place and then set off for a walk up the hill. Scattered around were many other little dwellings: vine tenders' shelters, each with a now-rambling garden, decayed interior and rustic fireplace.

In the last one, I found this flattened and twisted old fork, a thing of strange beauty and remnant of someone's, hopefully happy, existence in the small building. 

That song contest

Feeling tired, wet and cold after playing for the 'fete de la rose' in a nearby village we opted for a spot of snuggling and watching the Eurovision S.C.
Was it extra hyped this year? some European measure against austerity? Hey, I know let's spend 17 squillion euros on making a vast stage in Sweden so that everyone in Europe can listen to some terrible songs and feel so much better.
I have fond memories of sitting in my Godmother's flat in Wandsworth, eating Marmite on toast and watching the same program on her small 'Bush' set. It might have been the year that Brotherhood of Man won with that song that went Bongy bongy beep beep boop, or was it  pooty oopy ringy dingy om pom pam? or, perhaps that was another band . . . the whole show seemed to be full of plastic blonde hair, grinning maniacs and terrible commentary. Oh, nothing's changed then, it's just a whole lot more extravagant.

I really likeded Greece: I liked the older gent with the moustache and a tiny guitar thing, the black and white kilts and the crazed energy which was so lacking from nearly everything else. Britain was desperate: Bonnie Tyler – bless her. Surely, in the whole of the British Isles there must be thousands of young, musical, gorgeous people who could sing an original song? Maybe not, or perhaps I'm missing something. Is the whole point of it that it must be utterly dull, naff, and so middle of the road that you would have to check it with a millimeter rule?
The French entry was, I think, rather good. She won Nouvelle Star and can belt out a song with an impressive gravely voice. Italy's singer had fantastic hair, Belgium had the most pathetic song . . . There was another country that had some person trapped in a box, another who's singer was dressed in an alarming 'growing' dress thing, that meant she was eventually about twenty feet tall and covered with projected flames. Oh yes, there was another similar thing featuring a man with an incredible counter-tenor voice, surrounded by writhing, scantily-clad men, ( I quite liked that bit) in fact, his voice was worthy of a further listen, but preferably not in vampire-pop style.
The most stupid act was without doubt from Finland: a Lady Gaga would-be dressed in flouncy wedding dress and horrible pink accessories. She also had gyrating, tuxedo-wearing male dancers and backing singers in red rubber pinnies combined with librarian hairdos. A memorable line was something like: I'll skip dinner so I can be a bit thinner, then a chorus of, ho ho ho ho a ding dong . . . Mmm, back to classic E.S.C form then.
The song ended with a naughty, girl kiss with one of the red rubber aproned females: OOh, missus. Since this has been carried out by various people including Madonna, I don't suppose anyone was really shocked, and who cares anyway.
By this time bed and a hot water bottle, preferably a red rubber one, was an exciting prospect. We turned off the glittery racket, kicked the dogs out for a wee and staggered upstairs wondering why we hadn't just watched an old film instead.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Post for Claire

Despite the very March-like weather, the roses are coming out. This years incredibly wet spring has produced hundreds of buds and billions of rampant aphids (a few seen here on pictured rose).
Our friend Claire used to live in a house with a rambling garden a few kilometres away from our place. She planted roses: one for each of her four children; when she left the house and exchanged country for city life, she gave us cuttings of the roses. They struggled a little the first couple of years with the parched nature of our garden, but are now well established - full of delicate colour, pale pink, yellow, peach and cream.
I'll give you cuttings, Claire when you get that house with a garden.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

1969 Liberace Show Playing a Polka


I was so excited to see there's a film coming out about Liberace. I checked the film clip on the Guardian earlier and oh joy - it's starring Michael Douglas as the glittering, grinning one and Matt Damon as his lover. They are brilliant in the roles and it's wonderful to see two well-established actors so totally out of their typecast roles.
Here is a clip of the original piano beast in his element.


I was just standing outside a shop in Limoux this morning, trying to remember what else I was supposed to be doing as I had forgotten my list when I heard loud English voices.
A wobbling woman approached dressed in pastel shades with a bad perm. Her husband was red-faced and silent, probably having long ago built up ear defences to her continual verbal onslaught; he was obviously also planning his next glass of wine.
The English abroad (of a certain age): generally, we are easy to spot, (me, less these days as I dress mainly in French charity shop stuff) flowery skirts, sweatshirts, pastel T-shirts, 'slacks', flat sandals, sometimes with socks, beige baggy shorts, pale yellow or pink jumpers . . . and so on. Anyway, he was attired in a blue small check, very ironed shirt, beige slacks and sandals: hair, white and combed to the side, a copy of the Daily Mail tucked under his arm along with a beige raincoat - just in case.
Why I am being so disparaging? Because of what she said.
'Well, it's like I said . . . of course you can't be too careful in places like this - their refrigeration is probably not up to the sort of standard we are used to'.
Where the  * * * * did she think she was? Borneo, or some lost village in Brazil where they may not been blessed with electricity? We have fridges here; ours is quite a nice one and I'm sure the amount of terrifying French health inspections would mean that any cafe or restaurant in Limoux would own one disinfected beyond something in a space station. I mean, really!
Here is a wonderful picture by Carl Spitzweg called, English tourists. (Hope you don't mind, whoever owns it) I wonder what they were being shown? An early refrigeration unit just out of the picture? 'The manual says you can stock seventy-five bottles of Chardonnay in it. I'm not sure Clarice - what do you think'?
'Well, it's like I said . . of course, you can't be too careful . . . ' 

Monday, 13 May 2013

Artistes à Suivre 2013

Ooh, It's been a busy week.
Thank you Victoria and the team once again! We didn't get to see much art as we were occupied with music projects.
Stan, Mark and Charlotte's electronic music and light installation was on the Thursday eve: suitably atmospheric, dismal rainy eve. The sounds were eerie and beautiful working perfectly with the slow changing 'planets' of light that mysteriously ebbed and flowed onto the old factory walls.

Mark's piano concert on Friday eve was . . . magnificent, really quite extraordinary, and I'm not just saying that because he's 'my man'. His own pieces 'Winter Leaves' are a fascinating cross section of sounds from methodical thoughtfulness through to rampant crashing rhythms, each dedicated to a musician or artist friend.

The interval was given over to the 'preparation' of the piano by Stan and Mark for John Cage's Amores I and IV. After the reflective, gamelan-like sounds of Mr Cage, we were treated to a national grid's worth of energy with John Adam's Phrygian Gates. I could listen to the piece for hours; it lasts about twenty five minutes which is just as well as Mark's hands may well have decided it was time for bed.
Here is an extract. Ah, in fact . . . it's loaded itself onto the following post.

On Friday and Sunday, Gill, Dave and Mark read some extracts from my book 'Going out in the Midday Sun' - great to hear it read out loud.

Saturday our Rock'n'Roll band, Les Quat' Cats, played at le hameau Toziels for the festival: great evening, lovely ambience.
Today, back to trying to tame the garden after continual rain and sun, boring in-tray stuff and whatever we were doing before this full-on week.

Mark Lockett playing John Adam's Phrygian Gates (extract)

One of my favourite pieces from Mark's repertoire. With slightly stressed-looking Stan doing page turning.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Oh not them again

Our friend Jonathan, super-birder, bird watcher, bird specialist - not sure what he would like it termed as - rolls his eyes at the mention of these birds. Every year around this time the Nightingales return to fill our nights with liquid song and a lot of the day too. Every year I am entranced by the sounds. J finds them too invasive: it's true the other songsters are a little drowned out, but it is a magical set of ornithological lyrics.
These early spring days are marked by bird call. After the all night serenade, the blackbirds take over at about 6.00 am, then a general madness until the sun starts peeping over the parasol pine tree. Mostly silence for a while, then the swallows start up, dipping and swooping, their wheezing cries filling the air.
Sitting here writing now, I can hear blue tits, sparrows, possibly a distant thrush and yes, at least one pair of nightingales outdoing everyone else.
Here's a picture courtesy of google images (sorry, not sure who's it is) as I failed to get a good picture of one of these birds. Despite their sparkling song, the plumage is a palette of cream and brown, not wonderful mauves, deep iridescent sea green and vibrant orange as I always like to imagine. They blend into the matted twigs and branches of the hillside behind the house, almost impossible to see, only to hear.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Building number 22

On a favourite walk around a bit of Limoux known as St Antoine we came across this once-loved construction with it's rather jaunty harlequin tiles and ingenious water-recuperating pipe.
I'd like to ask the owners if they have any photos of the garden and shed before it all fell into disuse, but alas I think they may have also fallen into disuse. Sad - so many little abandoned gardens dotted about with their rotting benches and straggly, unpruned roses; places where people would have once spent a summer afternoon weeding, perhaps grilling something on a homemade BBQ while swallows swooped overhead and bees droned in the marigolds.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Fromage de brebis

Sheep cheese.
Ezra is fascinated by cheese-making at the moment; something I hope will last . . .
He has so far made a basic type fabricated with milk and lemon to curdle it, very nice it was too. He talks of making Chedder and other types that need to be left for months in a damp, cave type atmosphere which will be challenging as we live in a south facing villa with no cellar, but we'll see. . .
This morning we went to visit some expert 'Brebis' (sheep) milk cheese makers. Their farm is high up in the mountains above Quillan: an area of rolling rich pasture, forests of pine and circling eagles.
Monika and Andreas Muller have been making cheese and caring for their flocks of sheep up in the tiny hamlet of Parahou Petite for twenty years.
We joined Monika for a morning in the Fromagerie to see a little of the process which was fascinating and made extra special by being invited for breakfast to feast on tome de brebis (pictured) organic bread and wonderful blueberry jam.

The visit was cut slightly short as I had to get home to check the ancient dog wasn't doing anything disgraceful in the sitting room which was a shame as I wanted to see what was going to happen next to the vast vat of curdled milk.
I failed to take a picture of the 'cave' where the ripening cheese is stored; it was lovely, shelves of orangey-cream coloured cheeses, and the smell, mmm . . . Blogger, perhaps you could develop a scent-accessible blog sometime in the future.
Ezra is now dreaming up a plan of attaching a small cheese shed to the back of the house while I prepare fresh crusty bread and cheese sandwiches for lunch.
Monika sells the cheese at Limoux (Friday) and Esperaza (Sunday) markets as well as in the 'biologic' shops in the region in case you happen to be passing through the Aude.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

waiter waiter - do I detect some irony in your manner

We partook of lunch in the restaurant at Carcassonne airport a couple of days ago.
I'm sure its prices have plummeted - oo, visual plane reference there, but really, I seem to remember thinking wow, pricy menu. No longer  - 14.50 euro for a three course menu including: eat-as-much-as-you-possibly-can buffet for starters and sweets. I've never seen Ezra's eyes light up quite so dramatically; the thought of multiple puds.
We gingerly walked in, imagining we were about to find out that the set menu was only for the third Tuesday in every month. The head waiter showed us to a table stuck somewhere at the back and near the noisy air-con unit. Friend Penny, who did live in America for many years and thus is not scared of stating out loud that she would prefer something else, (as appose to us cringing pure English types), asked him if there was a better option. I waited for the semi-polite half shrug and 'bof' but this guy was a master: "Huh, well . . . eef you want, I suppose . . . that one." If he could have shoved us into a small smelly cupboard with out anyone seeing, he would have.
We sat down and he presented the menus. After three seconds of consideration he asked: "Wat you want, ze feesh or ze meat, hein?" (Come on, hurry up). Then it dawned on me, he was presenting a character study of a typical French waiter. He brightened, we brightened. He asked If Ezra wanted white or red wine, or some grappa, talked on and explained why we were furnished with strange knives that rested with the blades upwards. "So, is not dirtying the cloth, good, hein? He was really funny, we liked him. I would go back there just to converse further. "So, you have met the only French man with a sense of humour?" he laughed and continued, "Yes, ze only sampa French person, ha-ha-ha."
"Where did you learn English?" Penny asked him.
"London," I lived zere." Figures really. I might go back and interrogate him further, if he hasn't been removed. I wonder which part of London he lived in?

I wanted to do a review on Trip advisor for the resto but it doesn't seem to be there, shame as it was excellent value, and not just because of Monsieur featured here.