Monday 19 August 2013

Postcards from the Camargue

Yes, we went to Provence in August, yes, to Aix-en-Provence: mad.
Actually, it was wonderful, everything: hotel (found one) the churches, fountains, food, window shopping, people-watching, C├ęzanne . . .
The journey back was less wonderful as we had chosen to travel (optimistic - oh, it'll be fine . . .)  on one of the do not travel days in France (everyone going to or leaving the coast).
By about three we hit the traffic queues on the motorway. My default response to this is to take any possible diversion: goat tracks, winding piddly roads, look at trees, feet up in a car park and read until the crowds disperse, anything than sit in a line of cars weaving their way in and out of lanes in order to be twenty inches nearer to their destination. Mark will go generally for the sit and wait, inch forward option. 
We tried a bit of both and mostly didn't get cross or accuse the other for making the wrong decision. My last desperate plea resulted us arriving - after an hour of driving around aimlessly - in a small town called something like Moribund, where they were having their annual 'annoying bulls' festival.
My fevered mind had imagined a small, shady square, church bells, a cold beer and the satisfaction of having made an excellent choice in getting off the tarmac hell-strip. Not so.
The square was not remotely shady: 38 degrees or so and covered in white foam from some fun event that had obviously involved bucket-loads of Pastis and dire music. The next group were tuning up, barricades being erected for further street-long bull annoying, and people were looking at us in a strange way.
I hurried Mark away in his pink flowery shirt and we drank some tepid water sitting by the car comparing piles of dog shit, while we considered that we might never get home and perhaps in fact this was purgatory: foam, pissed off bulls, pastis, bad music, Moribund 'en fete'.
I studied the map again and discovered with a hundred percent delight that there were 'cabanes' marked on the map



Cabanes on the French coast usually means a collection of small, low houses, or 'shackery' as my mother would have termed them, sitting close to the water's edge, for fishing or general leisure purposes.
On driving there the day turned from motorway/weird town depression to an art-filled memory. One of the best Cabanes area I can recall: colourful, eccentric houses with chicken-filled gardens, home made benches, rambling plants, a river with futting boats, abandoned sheds, waving grass, herons and liquid miles of glassy sea, the surface broken by the occasional plop of a fish.
I strode to the sea (etang - large sea-lake) removed clothes and sank ankle deep into rich mud before swimming gratefully out into the soft water and observing the seaside conurbations on the distant shoreline.

Wednesday 14 August 2013


Just look at this!
How does anyone manage to build an entire rock face, complete with trees on top of a tower block?
Originally a small attic, the project morphed (without planning permission) into a penthouse and small mountain.
How could this happen? how could he have moved all this stuff without a billion questions: Colditz earth removal in garments perhaps? Morning Mr Lin, you seem to have put on a little weight - cue crashing sound as 15 kilos of gravel fall from hidden trouser linings.
But the rocks? boulders filling the lifts . . . the dust, the noise? Apparently there have been complaints about roof leaks and crunched plumbing; I wonder how strong the actual structure of the building is, especially in an earthquake zone . . .

Tuesday 13 August 2013

Later summer

The nights are getting longer, days shorter, new places of learning approaching for Ezra and full time employment for Mark. Big changes, but the fruits of the season are reassuringly in place: although later than last year, due to non-appearance of sun for months. I think the large yellow peaches pictured below must be the same genre that my mum used to buy as a special treat (tinned) back in the 70s - all uniform yellow-orange and steeped in teeth-shattering syrup.

Saturday 10 August 2013

The blue and yellow shop

I had to go in it the other day. Our pillows had become dangerous, and as we were in Toulouse, seemed like a good opportunity.
They've stopped doing rectangular ones: square, yes - about 7,000 choices of duck, goose, hamster-down and pretend stuff, but no rectangular. The human head is not that long in relation to the body and I have never figured out why the French like resting their heads on something so meaninglessly large.
Of course, the other extreme is to lodge your brain-carrier on a giant sausage filled with lumpy pieces of cake, or rock depending on how old the bolster is, or where it came from. I think IKEA do bolsters, but I didn't check the fillings as I know this is not a road I want to go down. What is wrong with rectangular?
I know we, the British, got many things wrong: Jimmy Saville, invading Iraq, arctic roll, etc, but the basic pillow shape is good. Ah yes, but did we used to have bolsters too? I think we did, but generally such things have not survived, along with copper bed-warmers and Wee Willy Winky night caps.
Anyway, I digress . . . my point about the blue and yellow cathedral is that they are now appear to be in a 50s phase; such stuff can be gleaned from just about any charity shop; why buy a new one when when you can spend about one pound fifty and get the real thing! There was whole spawn of glob-shaped 50's coffee tables on display, people running their hands over them and exclaiming as if they were pieces designed by Le Courbusier. Just get yourself down to an auction room, or the Red Cross. Honestly!
Below, some 50's relics keening for a second home down at our local 'flea place' - Parchemin. We have already housed much homeless furniture - T.V table, Hi Fi thing, chests of drawers, kitchen dressers etc, etc from there and similar establishments. In fact, a new (old) three-piece suite is arriving from Terre de Esperance (Land of hope) this week, all for a hundred and twenty euros, inc transport and built-in 'comfortably-used' look.
I do draw the line at a few things: pillows, pants and pressure cookers mainly.

Tuesday 6 August 2013


I would love to be able to nip into the Tate of a weekend, but . . .
Anyway art is all around us; you only have to go to buy a couple of replacement lightbulbs and a bag of fertilizer and . . . voila, in the car park of 'Tridome' someone has installed a terrific piece entitled: 0.081.