Thursday 31 October 2013

All Hallows

Pumpkins are in very short supply this year, due I presume to the late spring and summer and thus, Autumn.
This is some sort of squash, but Ezra tackled its short stature rather well, and it looks suitably scary sitting by the front door.
Orange-coloured soup coming up, and an evening in by the fire with an ancient horror film: The Carnaval Of Souls.

Tuesday 29 October 2013

All Saints

Or, Toussaint here in France, is an important mark in the calendar. The florists, garden centres, markets and super-markets are stuffed with giant pots of pink, orange, white and lilac chrysanthemums, which will then appear on graves all over the country.
Once, on a flight back to the UK, I saw masses of the blooms: an oasis of tiny round spots of bright colour amongst pale straw colour and brown autumn-bare vine fields.
Today, we took the dogs up a small lane to raid a neglected pomegranate tree. We walked past the derelict summer house I had noticed and photographed before.
Somebody had placed a solitary potted white chrysanthemum on the centre of the ancient concrete table under the broken veranda where Papy, Mamy, or both must have once sat after working in the vines, or tending the now-overgrown garden.

I liked the idea that the plant was there rather than on their grave in the municipal graveyard. Hopefully their spirits are still gardening and sitting watching the sun go down.

Sunday 27 October 2013

Building number 29

Viewed on a walk to . . . actually, I have no idea, but it wasn't long ago. I think it was somewhere on a road trip that required a loo break.

Something nasty behind the woodpile? It rather reminded me of a giant Darth Vader head.
But being built, I imagine, well before the late 70's I don't suppose this was a sculptural ode to someone's favourite Star Wars character; more a sensible use of corrugated metal and grey paint.

Friday 25 October 2013

Lost and found

Or somewhere between the two.
Douglas Adams had a theory, or rather there was a theory in the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, that all missing Biros slope off to some other planet and actually live a completely separate Biro life. We have the same problem with scissors, Sellotape, glasses, dog leads, well, mostly everything really. But yes, there never is a Biro when you want one, only a broken yellow pencil.
Today, a friend and brilliant wood-worker made us a shoe 'station' for our hall as I was fed up with corralling all the footwear, into various places in the house which never worked - like, the under-stairs cupboard, a dark and fetid place where shoes were piled and squashed under coats and bags.
When he had made the afore-mentioned wonderful item I had to CLEAN things and Turn Things Out, as my grandma would have said.
There was a fantastic fluff collection and a lot of 'Oh, that's where that went' stuff behind the cupboard - then on to the key cupboard. I emptied it all out and discovered that no one had any idea what at least half the keys were for or where they had come from.
Where do keys come from? Why can you never find a pen, but lots of unknown keys instead? Are they lost by someone else and end up our place, or are they ones from some previous house/cupboard/gate/garage and we have just forgotten. I've put them all in a box for now, and perhaps we'll remember what they are for, or I'll open the box, or Ezra will in forty years time, and nobody will any the wiser, but they still won't get thrown out - just in case, even though he may be living seven thousand miles away from this house. 

Maybe I should melt them all down and just make one really big key and a huge door to go with it; or maybe I just need a nice cup of tea. Yes that sounds like a great idea.

Thursday 24 October 2013

Passing time

About ten years ago we bought a piece of land about three miles from us as we had no garden in our town house. We used it a great deal: struggled with oak tree roots, planted olives, made crap irrigation systems and generally enjoyed it - until we moved to another house with a huge garden.
I haven't been to the land for ages and feared a sad sight of withered trees and overgrown-ness generally. Actually, it was okay, more than; most of the trees have survived and didn't look at me too accusingly.
The cherries are now taller than Mark, the olives, small but certainly not dead. Some pin d'Aleps, that I had put in thinking I would transfer them to a useful hedging spot are now vast and happy, sitting at the edge of the field like a row of chunky football substitutes. Don't think I'll bother trying to move them - why I didn't plant them as a hedge at the time, I don't know . . .
I took the dogs for a walk down to the river and passed the land of 'Mr Combe' on the way. It looked strangely vacant, weeds sprouting and no sign of veg. Oh dear, I think he might have passed on to the great greenhouse in the sky - he was VERY old ten years ago.
He used to come up the hill and stand like Columbo investigating a case of particularly runty vegetables - ours. He would squint, suck on his fag and tell us what we should be doing, and, he was probably right.
His tomatoes were always the size of a large gerbil, ours - more shrew-like, but they tasted good. His soil was better, and it was, being near the river; his methods, his tractor (I did point out we didn't have one) his shed, his irrigation system, etc. I did ask him if he could play the piano as well as Mark but he didn't answer.
But, I did like him and his theories, and his super-veg. I salut you Mr Combe if you are no longer with us.
Here is a pic of his dog's house, the hand painted sign that used to say 'danger' now long gone.

Wednesday 23 October 2013

Get Over It

A great anthem for any petty niggles that might have accumulated over the day or night. Plus a wonderful bit of raw rock, and a brilliant video, a little simpler than some of their later ones . . .
That's a pretty impressive set of teeth Mr Kulash.

Saturday 19 October 2013


I remember that program from the good old 70's, well, sort of. We didn't have a T.V at that point (what!) but when I used to go round to Andrea's house - them of the purple shag-pile carpets, white globular furniture, and everything mod - I would occasionally watch said program.
I don't think at any point they ever touched on HOW long you could re-use chip oil, which is why, in a brief moment of mmm . . . I wonder, I had glanced at the net this morning.
I often pause to look at what is suggested as one types in the search words. Here's what came up as I prodded the keyboard.

HOW: I met your mother
            to tie a tie
            to kiss
            to twerk
            take a screenshot on a mac. 

This is worrying. No - how to plant potatoes, or snare a fish, kill wolves, tell if you are going mad, etc.
Twerk: a pathetic, flash-in-the-pan thing of our sad age is No 3 on the net's suggestions of HOW . . .

HOW MANY: Countries in the world
                         Grams in a cup
                         Days until Christmas - W.T.F! I mean, really!

HOW MANY TIMES: A week should I run 
                                      Can a wasp sting
                                      Can you get shingles
                                      Take plan b - mysterious!
                                      Can the doctor regenerate? UH? oh, I see.
I was thinking of the average G.P. How many times can he/she regenerate? Well, let's see, they must get pretty tired after a day of looking at warts and stuff - a hundred?

  Coffee grounds
                                                                       A water bottle
                                                                       Chip oil - thank you!

Wednesday 16 October 2013


A friend was returning to France recently and I went to collect her from Carcassonne airport.
I asked her how the trip went, and had she experienced the vile recorded trumpet heralding of Ryanair - yet another flight on time. Yes, she had said, wryly. Anything else interesting about the trip? Rowing couples, drunken VIP's, sick bag-madness?
No, but a priceless piece of improv from the cabin staff person issued with trolling out the same old blurb: please do not inflate your life-jacket as to do so may impede your exit . . . etc. But when she got to the bit about it not being a terribly good idea to strike a match, of flick your lighter as you could set fire to the plane and die, and/or, you would most certainly be severely dealt with, she forgot her lines: "Please do not smoke as . . . it is very bad for you."

Image from Express news.

Wednesday 9 October 2013

Building No 28

I don't know how I've got to 28 without having included this one - a very favourite construction. Not just from an architectural point of view, but also because it is a truly wonderful eating-house.
We first partook of lunch here about twelve years ago, when we first visited Limoux and were thinking about buying a house. Ezra was about three and ate fish soup and bread with great enthusiasm, I have the picture of him somewhere, a giant green checked napkin tucked into his t.shirt.
The same green napkins still grace the tables, complete with darned patches where time and washing have taken their toll.


When we had bought the house and discovered what we were in for, many a happy lunch hour was spent in here, thawing out and eating steaming meat and two veg (Mark was a meat eater then).
A year on, we had thrown caution well and truly to the wind, sun and all other weather, and had moved from our Birmingham house to our lopsided, ancient Limoux town house. The Resto de la Gare, became the standard 'oh, we have nothing in . . . what about eating out?' in the days when we still felt a little 'on holiday'.
These days, eleven years or so on, eating out is reserved for real holidays, but at 11.50 a menu including three courses, wine and bread, the R de la Gare is an occasional treat that doesn't feel too reckless . . .
Today, I went there with Ezra as he returned from Lycee on his half day off.
Now getting on for sixteen, I regarded him from across the green table cloth and remembered all those lunches when he was three, four, five and so on.
Nothing has changed within the four off-white walls; the paint is certainly off-white now, bordering on greying; the same vast poster of a spring garden still illuminates the back wall, the same chairs, tables, cloths, and straggling weeping fig looking for a way out. Francoise still single-handedly waits the tables, her husband, chef and washer-upper; the cat changes chair occasionally and the fire is lit between November and April.
We finished our delicious roast beef and potatoes and wandered home feeling benevolent and rather too-full. Francoise has talked of their retirement from time to time; I'm sure they look forward to it, but selfishly, I hope it's not too in the near future as Limoux would lose its finest eatery.

Monday 7 October 2013

Building No 27

Edge of a housing estate in a forgotten part of the West Midlands? edge of Catford? Bracknell?
Nope. This building is situated on the spit of land called Sandbanks in Dorset - the fourth most expensive strip of land in the world - at the time of writing this - land there is still priced at nearly 10.000 pounds a square meter, despite house prices falling after the crash.
My visit was on a warm but overcast day in September, although on sighting this construction an imaginary chill wind of inner-city February weather whipped around me, complete with crisp packets and pigeon feathers. It seemed as if I'd been relocated to some scabby city-outskirts and that I was no longer standing on a priceless strip of land between two pieces of sea, lined with gleaming four by fours and happy wind-surfers.

Oh, is that it?

I'd always imagined it would look a little more colourful: abundant flowers, elfin deer and mystic fountains, not a gap between too dull-looking 1950's housing blocks. Anyway even if it is Utopia the sign firmly states that we wandering mortals are not allowed access. Maybe I should have risked a look behind that hydrangea bush, or maybe something utterly dystopian lurked there and I was spared. I might go and look next time.