Thursday, 25 December 2014

Monday, 22 December 2014

Christmas will be gold, crinkly and knobbly

As decreed by Ferrero SpA: massive corp that is apparently responsible for churning out the most boring (according to our households' tastebuds) chocolate . . . the Ferrero Rocher (rock in french). They own Nutella, so, not surprisingly each 'spherical chocolate sweet' - (wikipedia) contains a good dollop of the brown stuff along with an unsuspecting entombed hazelnut making up a total calorific value of 73 calories.
Actually, I've just noticed SpA is also the name of France's chain of dogs' homes . . . wonder what else is in them.
The reason I'm rambling about this is the result of my annual shock on seeing the ever-increasing chocolate displays in the local supermarkets as Christmas approaches with all the red/gold/fois gras/gallons of fizz/last desperate purchasing mania that we have somehow created.
On my last trip to Leclerc recently, I listened to some poor woman as I stood waiting for the promised offcut-dogmeat to be wheeled in. Her job was to trap people into buying more chocolate than they might have envisaged buying.
"Mesdames, c'est moi le chocolat, " - "Madames, it is me the chocolate!" (odd phrase) she called with the nagging repetition of a small child at a sweets-infested checkout.
I looked at her smallish black-clad form standing between two towering displays of Ferrero Rocher and suddenly felt very worried. It was like being in Terry Gilliam's 'Brazil' where it has become eternally Christmas and everyone is giving and receiving the same present - F. R in this case.
Mark has come home each day this week from the Conservatoire holding various presents from pupil's parents. Nearly all of them feel like a plastic round-edged box that give out a certain muffled rattle - that of spherical chocolates containing a hazelnut.

Friday, 19 December 2014

You either love it or . . .

Yes, 'fraid I do . . .  love it. A favourite scene from D and D No 1.
No 2 on release now with both actors looking remarkably okay twenty years on.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Small things of no consequence

But oddly satisfying and life-confirming . . .
Our kitchen is a strange mix of vide grenier and car boot sales from across the decades. One of the few things bought from a SHOP is a pepper grinder. Found in Crete about fifteen years ago it is greatly loved (even though an ergonomic disaster - falling over at the slightest table movement).
A small routine Chez Nous, is to fill the grinder, which used to involve exploration of Mark's curry spice box; a slightly annoying task as the box is deep, dark and usually covered in dog bowls and storage containers (very small kitchen).
All this changed a couple of weeks back (told you this post is of no real consequence) when I discovered a small copper 'pot' in our favourite brocante/flea shop in Carcassonne.
Delighted that it was priced at two euros, I asked the shop owner what it was for.
"Aucune idée, Madame," 'No idea, it is but a small pot.'
It sat on the kitchen table for a while on my return until I noticed it had a very strong urge, or at least I percieved it as thus, to be close to the pepper grinder. A holding bay for peppercorns! I exclaimed in my head and filled it.
They now sit on the cook book shelf in peaceful harmony, discussing perhaps the origins of their respective metals or the use of the pepper corn in world cuisine.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Cerbère wanderings

Following on from last post: a few photos from a windy walk (end of the Tramontane wind that had been madly blowing for three days -140kms per hour at some points).

Don't know what this is/was, but it appeared strangely beautiful in the late afternoon light

Lemon and clementine trees

The tenacity of plants

DIY plant holder/water meter reading cupboard/ electricity-reading cupboard and defunct letter box

Summer days departed

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Building No 47

On a stroll through the hills behind Cerbère I was lucky enough to see this oversized tea chest, dropped presumably by an interstellar beverage delivery ship with a malfunctioning guidance system.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Continual loop

Mark doesn't do this - play records (CDs) over and over and . . .  He's onto the next thing: heard it twice and he's absorbed it, discovered what he likes and moves on - me, I like to wallow in the sounds that appeal to me, listen again and again, picking up new un-heard bits in the mix: a synth I hadn't noticed, a snare's pleasing click, or just want to re-live the whole sound, the same fix.
I'm cheaper to run, music-wise that's for sure.
Recently our friend Amazon sent us a CD of Temples: One play was enough; it's the new infinitum . . . I try to keep it to when the boys are out so they don't have to experience the loop, and I'm sure I'll tire of it . . . somewhen. Here they are in all their hairy (very clean) acoustic glory. I was going to post a big production version of this with all the wonderful cheesy violin samples, choirs, fantastic drumming etc etc but this was just so . . . good!

Tuesday, 9 December 2014


A walnut grove owned possibly by a surrealist - sign reading INTERDIT - forbidden. What though? Reading, sitting on grass, frolicking, peeing, bird-watching, picnic-ing, walking, landscape painting, running, ping pong? nut picking-presumably?

Friday, 5 December 2014

Favourite film moments

While picking up a slew of DVDs and VHS cassettes earlier on that had fallen out (with that particular sound of slithering plastic) of a cupboard this afternoon, I played my own Desert Island Films selection through in my mind. On picking up the yellow box of The Full Monty I realised it has to be in the Top Ten somewhere. Few films contain such humour, brilliant acting and memorable script. The combination of the warehouse, the Chinese take-away-eating and the (actually, very sexy) dancing must make it one of the best scenes in the film - but then there's the dole queue and the final strip scene . . .

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Pine demise

As anyone knows who casts an eye over this blog from time to time, supermarkets are not my favourite places. One of my least favourite is the 'Leclerc' that sits at the edge of our town like a giant mutating virus, gradually spreading outwards, engulfing helpless small businesses and sucking in all shoppers.
The only thing, apart from the fact they sell offcut meat for dogs, that I like, or should say LIKED, about the place is/was the maverick Parasol Pine trees that some misguided person had decided on for the car park about forty years ago.
The trees (presumably small saplings) had been planted in well ordered lines to provide shade for cars. I can imagine the scene: French people in flares stepping from 2CV's and Renault 5s, admiring the shiny new supermarket and small pine trees gently swaying in the summer breeze. Perhaps a few of them might have thought 'I wonder what these trees will be like in forty years time or so, alors.'
What the car park designer hadn't considered was that the mature trees would send out pretty hefty root systems creating fissures and mountains in the once-perfect tarmac. I'd always liked the fact that the car park was filled with non-level cars as if bobbing on a dark grey sea; a reminder that man really has no control over nature, how ever much he tries to imprison it within sticky tarmac.
Of course the wobbly car park- and I like to think, sniggering trees - didn't eventually fit with Leclerc's shiny new shop extension . . .

I think Mark's photograph here captures the desolation of the non-tree car park on a grey Sunday morning alive only with the ghost-rustle of pine needles on a summer breeze (Sob).

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Stupid inventions of our time: the leaf blower

Sorry if you have one, but I must share my feelings of incredulity over this particular piece of equipment.

Pros and cons of The Rake.                              

Will rot down in time when eventually discarded
Silent, apart from a satisfying small scratching sound
Good exercise, unless you suffer from tennis elbow (leaf-raker's elbow)
Psychologically-non damaging: the operator can listen to birdsong, chat with someone who
might have been beguiled into leaf-help; think about life, leaves, trees, food, whatever, lulled by the peaceful and useful motion of raking an sweeping

Cons: Standing on rake and it flipping up into one's face as in Tom and Jerry cartoon

Pros and cons of the Leaf-Blower
(Writer rubs hands, flexes fingers and grins) Right:

Pros: Er . . .

Won't rot down when discarded, or certainly not within our species lifetime
Horribly noisy
Embarassing, unless you like wearing yellow plastic ear muffs while holding a vibrating rigid grey tube (there are sites for people like you, in this case)
No exercise value - tendonitis and back ache more likely
Very polluting - both in noise and fumes
Psychologically damaging: trapped in ear muffs, no birdsong, etc, element of stress from noise and fact that someone might creep up on you in your leaf-blowing world
Possible climatic alteration from all the leaf blowing-winds added up . . .

Great picture I found on the web apropos the War on Leaves.

Also a good example of the waste element. Leaves are meant to fall and create leaf-mush for the soil, so why remove them from the area around the tree? The patch that SEVEN men are homing in on
could be cleared in about five minutes with a rake or broom. Maybe it's part of a scheme to provide work: great, but why waste the petrol? Pick up a rake.
Yesterday in our town the annual leaf war has started.
Three guys with afore-mentioned equipment and a sucky leaf truck. The sucky leaf truck seems a good idea on the whole: a truck with caged sides and giant hoover tube on the back. So why not just have the guys with rakes and brooms - for all the reasons above? It was especially 'Huh'? when the wind got up adding to the leaf-blowage, creating attractive brown and golden spirals; then to redistribute the piles over the road and into shop doorways.

Right, better load up car with rake and other human-driven tools and get over to my gardening job where I shall listen to birds and think about other useless inventions.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Building no 46

At last I went in this café!


Every time I go to Mirepoix, (about half an hour from us) I pass this building and waver dangerously in the road for a moment wondering whether to stop, such is it's allure for me - an ardent fan of ancient eateries and bars.
This time I stopped as Ezra wanted to go and look at the ghost tracks of the railway that would have traversed the landscape between Bram and Mirepoix (why, why, why did they dispose of this incredibly useful connection . . . subject of another post.)
We hesitated by the doorway while I asked if we could bring the dogs in. The owner looked unimpressed, but softened as he noticed the tiny three-legged runt dog. Satie has his uses . . .  Once you get beyond the, "Mais, Madame . . . what happened to his leg?" questions, you can ask lots of others back, like: "how long have you owned the café, is that a picture of you hunting with your own faithful hound, and do you serve chips, etc.
The owner and his mates were so taken by both dogs that The Wife had to be called to inspect them. We had a long chat about dog types, what The Spanish do to their hunting dogs (Gala, see previous posts, is one of these) and life in Moulin Neuf.
We finished our drinks, took photos of the wonderful interior and bade a cheerful goodbye, after suggesting they should never change so much as a drawing pin of the place. He assured us that nothing would ever be replaced, painted or disposed of while he was captain there.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Building No 45

A toilet . . . in an olive grove. I assume it's a loo, or perhaps a slim potting shed, or just a small human-sized space for standing and contemplating life in.

The elegant Whatever It Is stands in a bountiful-looking 'potager' (veg patch) and olive field just outside a village near us. I've often driven past the land and wondered who owns and looks after it so methodically.
This time I stopped and walked the dogs up the road.
On returning, I saw the owners: two rotund, elderly men; buckets suspended from their shoulders, each holding a small, yellow plastic rake; their voices somewhat raised. Suddenly I had the feeling that I had stumbled into a chapter of Alice in Wonderland - Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee arguing over whose rake is the most attractive . . .
They proceeded to the first olive tree and stroked the laden branches with the rakes, thus dislodging the crop into the buckets. Brilliant notion: I might try it on the straggly trees that line the hillside next to our garden . . . or, probably not, as I still haven't found out how you prepare olives to make them remotely edible.
I said hello, and discovered that the olives would be destined for oil production. I wanted to ask them why they appeared to have part of a train sitting on top of another building near the toilet, but they were not effusive beyond 'Bonjour' and 'yes - oil production', so I did a sneaky bit of vegetable- reportage photography, noted the beauty of their cabbages and crumbly loamy soil, and went home to think about constructing a dry-earth loo in the garden.

Friday, 7 November 2014

NON, c'est pas possible . . .

But it is. I always thought of here, (France) being quite sensible about the Christmas onslaught.
Usually, the consumerism madness commences within the sacred month of December . . . well, perhaps a few hints from the larger companies, especially the global types such as Amazon - Bonjour, madame. We notice you have been looking at Star Wars figurines, (uh? I have?) therefore, why not get your Christmas purchases out of the way?
This year, sadly, there have been increasing signs of early festive enthusiasm. The streets are already hung with (unlit) strands of coloured lights and annoying LED figurines of happy elves, etc; and I've noticed that a lot of villages leave their 'Bonnes fetes' signs up all year now: grey plastic ghosts of Christmas that seem incongruous to say the least on a rampantly hot August day. I suppose it saves money, the town caretaker not having to get his ladder out twice a year - but it does somewhat quash any real festive spirit that might be lurking in HUMBUG people like me.
Anyway . . . the real reason I felt instantly depressed at the thought of all the twinkly, nightmare stuff still to come appeared on a trip into our local hardware 'shed'. I only went in to buy a light bulb, but was transfixed with disbelief as I stared at a Santa's Grotto type shed, surrounded by hideous, useless items such as statues of fairies, polar bears, Ho-Ho-Ho water bottle covers, etc, etc, and presided over by a gyrating cuddly reindeer singing 'Santa Claus is coming To Town'.
'The fuck he is,' I muttered, and hurried to the lighting section fearing I would never again be able to smugly say - 'Oh, we don't really start all that rubbish until at least December the first, here'.

Monday, 3 November 2014

unheralded stupidity

We all have moments of it, I'm sure. Yesterday I had slightly more than a few moments - about four hours.
It amazes me that I can set off on a route: mentally and physically sometimes, actually, quite often, without thinking things through.
This route was the motorway to Toulouse to pick friends up from the airport (about an hour and a half each way). I removed dog hairs from their car's upholstery (they lodge the car with us) checked I had necessary route equipment: banana, snacks, tin of sardines, water, map, etc, and set off with the flight info in mind.
The car radio didn't seem to work so I looked at the autumn trees, wondered about number plates and arrived in good time. I parked, looked for the gate number and walked through the echoey marble arrivals area to wait for them to arrive, laden down as usual with many mysterious black-bagged shapes (art photographer/sculptor - he is).
After falling asleep for an hour on a rather comfy leather sofa I realised that the time had well and truly gone for them to arrive, however much baggage, and thus, questioning, they would have been confronted with.
I went to INFORMATION and was told there was another flight from Portugal coming in at five. My phone, that I thought I had charged, was showing a merest drip of battery juice left. I called Mark from a payphone (they still exist!) and he said something like: 'you idiot - check your emails more carefully. Come back!'
Yes, the wrong Sunday. How had I not seen the date? or registered it? Mysterious workings or non-workings of the menopausal woman's mind perhaps. I said lots of stuff like 'bollocks' and headed to the car park ticket machine, which then ate my debit card. I went to find assistance - a rotund man, who insisted on asking all his colleagues that he passed where they were going for lunch, escorted Sweating Me back to the machine.
'Stand aside, please, Madame, I will deal with this,' he said, in manner of bomb-diffusing expert, and fished out my card.

I once again looked out at the autumn trees and thought about number plates as I headed homeward. In fact it was quite a useful time, once I had put all the calculations of wasted petrol/parking/tolls/time, etc, aside. I visualised a cover for my next book, worked out story lines and then stopped to open a tin of sardines on top of a hill in a village I had never visited before. I watched the clouds scudding across the crests of the black mountains, and wondered how Mark would greet me on my return.
As I stomped up the steps to the house, he came out, eyed me wryly and said, "Good trip?" Quite generous I thought.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Secret life of Things

Okay . . . which one of you filthy, low-life scum bags stole my lid? Eh? Right. I can wait, wait all night if I have to.
From the left: 
"Wasn't me, honest."
"Or me . . . anyway, I got one, ain't I?"
"I don't like red."
"I . . . happen to have my own lid."
"I'm depressed. Leave me alone."

Monday, 20 October 2014

Building No 44

Or buildings - okay, I'll choose beach hut number 261 in this case as I like it's colour combination of azure paint and dark varnish.

The Beach Hut is the ultimate summing up of the word snuggly for me. Perhaps not if it was a hut on a californian beach, but anything along the British coastline summons forth images of grey, lashing sea, wind, kettles on one ring gas cookers and battenburg cake. Of course there are the languid days of beach towels drying in warm breezes and sun-loungers, but it's the grey days of retreat from the elements that I recall. Many times down on the Dorset coast while walking along one of the promenades in late summer I've observed the great British art of 'making the best of' - beach hut owners with Sunday papers, tea and digestive biscuits, sitting huddled, with the next kettle of water heating up.
Occasionally, huts come up for sale along this stretch of coast and I have allowed a dream to wander for a few moments around my head before reading the price tag.
Here's a good one: located at Hengistbury Head, a windswept portion of the Dorset sea front - a mere 126.000 pounds.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Things I know nothing of

Yes there are a lot. Many thousands and millions, in fact, if I were to be shown a pie chart of All Things, the tranche that I would know about would be so infinitesimally small that I would probably feel hopelessly depressed.
However, I am supremely good at wondering about Things; how they come about, how anyone could of even have thought up of the mechanics of say a Bulldozer, let alone set in place the manufacture of one; how people invented televisions, hair dryers, food processors, the fridge, maths, hydraulics, cars, molecular gastronomy - and in some cases - why? How does electricity really reach all the little plastic squares in my house? I have a vague idea, as vague as where I think my liver might be ( really must look at a book on anatomy).
Yesterday, I went down to the supermarket and was amazed to see, apart from the fact the car park was full of rubble (and Bulldozers) that there was a sort of metal stand from which thirty-foot high flames were leaping. I was actually more amazed to see that no one else appeared to be amazed, car boots were being filled, trolleys wheeled and all usual supermarket client behaviour.

I parked and went over to gawp and realised that the whole petrol station was in fact being moved. How do you move a patrol station? Incredible. The danger element (hence the metal flame-thrower as a petrol safety valve?) alone, the logistics, and again, why? What was wrong with it as it was? The powers at Leclerc, having been faced with the fact that Super U had gone through a minor re-looking, have obviously decided to retaliate with a massive overhaul and expansion program, thus a need to move the petrol pump area.
I climbed onto a boulder and studied the scene of the semi-unearthed petrol holding tanks. It reminded me somewhat of the scene in Quatermass and the Pit when they discover an alien spaceship while digging a new tubeline. I'd often wondered, while filling the car, about how big the tanks must be, and there they were, revealed, my questioning answered.

I was obviously getting too close to these fascinating operations as someone in a yellow hard-hat was approaching so I took a couple of hasty pictures and entered the shop to buy A4 paper (imagine the machinery required to cut, bleach, re-cut, pack and deliver it) and cat food - not something I wonder about too much if I can help it.    

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Shall I compare thee . . .

to a well-organised (but not overly obsessive) wood pile. What could be more beautiful? To those who heat their house in this fashion would undoubtably agree; there's nothing quite like standing back and admiring the stacks of oak, rescued chunks of builder's planks, and branches cut from the previous years fruit tree pruning.
Now I just have to get the chimney swept. Sweeps are sought after here in September and October. Organised folk might have got the job done in the spring, but somehow the whole winter experience becomes lost with the first warmish evening and we move on to all the next season's jobs; the fire left full of last ashes and the chimney forgotten.
The first sweep I called had done the Aude region and was now moving onto the Ariege. The second arrived yesterday, took one glance and said: 'Non madame, c'est pas possible' - he had back ache and our particular type of 'insert' fire is complicated and heavy to deal with.
So back to the Pages Jaune . . . Success: Mr Bladel is coming on Saturday and has assured me that his health is fine and that any type of fire is no problem.
As the weather seems stuck firmly in late summer at the moment, fires, blanket and hot water bottles all seem mysterious things, but will no doubt all be soon revisited.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

I'll bee back

Our ancient, rustic table has now sat on this terrace for seven years - I think. Bought from Harry the Dutch antiques dealer it supported many an evening meal, breakfast, bread-making session and millions of cups of tea in our previous house too.
Now exposed somewhat to the elements it has warped a little, and has become food and housing for many beasts.
At various times of the year - spring and autumn mostly - the holes at both ends are taken up as leaf-cutter bee logements.
Whoever sits at the end nearest the front door at lunchtime has to move a little to allow the bees passage; in Ezra's case a sort of jiggling dance, combined with - Ahrgg! Get away! and I have to remind him that that it's only a bee passing, not a wasp or hornet.
After a few days of 'leaf-hunting' the bee squishes the last leaf into the hole and blocks it with wax? Pollen? Presumably the baby bees venture forth at some point, but I've never seen their inaugural flight.
What fascinates me the most about this twice-yearly event, is how they know about the holes. Is it bee information passed down? The same bee a couple of years running, then informing its offspring?
We also have mud-collecting bees that nest in the end of some wind-chimes, amongst other odd places. A few days ago I went to inflate my bike's tyres, and after realising nothing was happening I checked the nozzle to discover a mud-collecting bee's nest in the end of it. Flat tyres for a while then . . .

Wednesday, 1 October 2014


I often spot them, amongst cloud-chickens, cloud-dragons, birds, angry people: cloud-just-about- everything. In fact I could spend quite a large percentage of my time lying on benches looking up at their ever-changing formations. Why not? It costs nowt and is calming to the mind.

Here is a long-necked poodle I noticed on a balmy evening recently.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Films and actors at their best.

My opinion, bien sur. We watched Fargo . . . again, last night. It must be in my top five fave films, fairly near the top two. I don't think I want to see the TV series - no point, really. Why re-make something so perfect?
Above, the most beautifully acted and touching scene in the film: stark contrast to all the dark, dark humour that comes before.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Random thoughts

This particular one is a well-visited thought, prompted by an email from a friend, well, her brother, but it made her think too . . . in a random way, this morning.

Have you ever wondered if rocks are actually soft and just tense up when we touch them?

Of course not - don't be daft . . . but, then who's to say. Ezra asked me the other day if plants feel pain when you prune them; I said, 'probably not in the way we do', but then maybe the air is actually filled with inaudible squeaks of botanical discomfort. Should I let the garden do its own thing? - leave nature to decide where to put plants, and what length/height they should be, etc.

Anyway, rock musing.
When driving down a certain stretch of motorway near Perpignan, Ezra and I have often commented on the rocks imprisoned in wire cages: effective barriers no doubt, but there's something tragic about it - all those pieces of flint and river 'galets' suddenly plucked from the soil and hoisted up, to watch for eternity (or, as long as the motorway continues to exist) millions of cars, and to be gradually tarnished with layers of exhaust deposits . . .  sob.
There is one stage worse however: when the cages are then covered with porridge-like concrete. Slow rock suffocation, no view, no air, no sound; even of a lone car zipping past in the wee small hours . . .
Think I need some tea.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

The annual horticultural show

Something I thought might have died out - but no! Alive and going very strong in my childhood town of Wimborne, Dorset, and I hope elsewhere.
My recent trip back coincided with the show so I decided to find out if things had changed much since I had included my Begonia Rex in the show, hoping its glossy leaves and happy disposition might have won me something (back in about 1975).
The years fell away as I entered the hall; nothing had changed, except me. The same curtains, winners' cups, cakes, jam, scary giant blooms and onions, each balanced lovingly on a white paper cardboard pedestal.
I did feel there had been perhaps less enthusiasm in the children's art section - sign of the times, perhaps - sound of old git sighing - me.
Here are a few of the splendiferous edibles and non-edibles on display.

Biggest marrow, longest runner bean, most perfect rose . . . 

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Further, further proof that the world is a mad and dangerous place

On a small domestic level - not talking about all the seriously large stuff going on . . .
During my trip back to the UK, I was overwhelmed in a chemist - so awful this particular shop that I can't recall its name - pink and black with scarily bright lighting. The assistant kept asking me if I wanted to smell Justin Bieber, or at least what he had claimed to be his invented smell. I only went in for a bottle of shampoo; did I look like someone who would want to smell a fragrance fabricated by a waining pop star's publicity team? Really!
Anyway, yes I was overwhelmed by many things: the choice of shampoo, the ton of tacky jewellery, the: have six of these and you can have a seventh quarter price off, and a copy of Prying Into Celebrity Bathrooms; but even more so by the sheer quantities of false eyelashes on sale.
The few (I assume) people who actually waste time gluing hairs onto themselves cannot be vast? Especially in the cute Trumpton-esque town of Wimborne. How many choices do you need?
Big, huge, long, short, Yeti, subtle, small - perhaps you don't possess eyelashes, in which case fair enough, but there were enough possibilities to cover anything: seduction, going shopping for groceries but looking lovely in case you happened to spot someone exciting behind the courgette display; Goth, vampire, Barbi, spaced out, clumped, with jewels/without, messed up ones - really, ones that looked like you had got lost in bed for three days after drinking eighty Tequila slammers and hadn't cleaned off your makeup. Mad.
I bought a small bottle of something for normal hair, (whatever that actually is) paid and escaped without learning what J.B smells like.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Building No 43

Water containing construction in conversation with wheelie-bin.

There are many of these concrete water holders dotted about near the villages around here, sometimes decorated with an attractive azure-blue flush that comes from diluting the copper sulphate used to keep mildew at bay on the vines.
I hadn't seen one of these buildings attached to a house before as they usually seem to be on their own at the edge of fields rather than starring as a major part of a village. I wonder if the house owner had liked/minded/had no option about, the idea; the 'Marie' presumably said 'This Is What Is Going To Happen', and it did.
It's obviously serving as a useful shady place to stand and reflect on the notice board featuring, amongst other crucial news, which band will play at the village fete this year: Mission, Abyss, California, Motel, London, Liverpool, Lithium, Cocktail de Nuit, to name but a few; when it's time to start shooting things again, and the new hours for the bread van to pass.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Back to school

How I used to hate those words back in the 1970s of my childhood; usually liberally plastered in the windows of W.H Smiths, in the hope of luring parents in to spend a lot of money on new pens, rulers, bags, etc. Nothing much has changed these days except the sheer scale of the luring. In France it may be worse: 'La Rentrée' seems to require new absolutely everything.
So, back to school, or in Ezra's case Lycée.
I can remember that heavy feeling of fear down in my stomach at the thought of walking through those gates again after the carefree days of yakking about music, hanging about in Muswell Hill and the occasional trip up to Oxford Street to dream of buying yellow hot-pants in Chelsea Girl, or sky -blue platform shoes in Stead and Simpson.
Ezra's place of learning is far more calm and civilised than mine was however, and other than trying his hardest to blend in and not be noticed by some of the alarmingly cool, I think there is little to fear; just some scary maths and French hyper-verbs that he will no doubt have forgotten over the freedom weeks.
My personal terrors to face on entering the Bounds Green secondary school were the scary bitch girls with their school uniform dresses hitched up to buttock level, dark mascara eyes and forbidden lipstick. Someone as uncool as me with my jumble sale shoes and unruly hair was always a good target for gibing, especially as I was deemed to have a Posh Accent. The new array of teachers were there to be tested by the most violent members of the class; a victory if one could be made to break down in tears: ahhh, happy days.
At a 'Vide Grenier' (car boot sale) the other day, I found a copy of a book I remember from my infants school, before the time of the jostling junior school and the afore-mentioned hell of the Secondary establishment. My 'infants' school was a far cry from the pictures in the ladybird book of Going to School, although I do remember the morning milk break and the class hamster. The playground certainly didn't resemble the smiling scene in this book and there was, without doubt, some early dealing going on, if only for sweets.

Here is the rather wonderful Preface to the book, first published 1959.

In this book are illustrated all the interesting and enjoyable activities which day-to-day make school such a happy experience, and with its help parents can ensure that their children will eagerly anticipate what lies ahead. 

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Tim Vine Bee Gees Tribute

Ah, found it. (See last post)

beards, flares and teeth

Mark never fails to surprise me with his musical explorations. A few days ago, a small present from Amazon arrived . . . actually, a super cheap boxed set of The Bee Gees.
Uh? I said, thinking back to the shiny suits and vibrato-laced falsetto voices. How wrong I was to sneer, and how I had forgotten the great musical talent that these boys added to the great era of orange and shag-pile. We've just the morning clear-up to: Tragedy, Spirits, Jive Talkin' and, of course Night Fever - brilliant.
I can't listen to 'Too Much Heaven' however without seeing Tim Vine's brilliant impression however. I might try and find it . . .

Friday, 29 August 2014

Post for a feathered friend

Throughout most of my life I've kept or looked after birds: budgies when I was a child, along with poorly pigeons, broken-winged blackbirds and sparrows; a gap while I was at art college then back into budgies, baby swallows when we moved to France, more budgies - a large family in the end, until some visiting child left the cage open . . .
There then was another pause until Ezra decided he wanted a large reptile. Faced with heating-lights, vast cages, and a near miss with buying an Iguana that we were told would grow to about the size of a large cat, we suggested a larger bird than a budgie: exotic, not quite so expensive to run, and wouldn't involve the horrible thing about having to buy live (crickets mainly) food for the beast to eat.
After much research into Toucans, and discovering that you could not legally purchase one in France, it was agreed that the Christmas present that year would be a small parrot.
'Ananas' was bought from a breeder in Beziers and installed in a rather fine cage, at first in the front room (until I could no longer stand the screeching), and then in Ezra's room. She quickly became his bird and refused to be handled by anyone else; sad as I liked letting her out to soar around the front room while the cat licked his lips.
    After several years of her noises blending into the Hothouse soundscape, it is suddenly quiet.
Yesterday, she wasn't quite herself, and today - gone. Just like that: so hard to believe. No more clanking mirror, no more: Hello, pieces of eight, peace (short for pieces of eight), Ezra! and all the bird noises she copied, and the squeaks from around the house, certain door closing-noises and creaky floors.
Gone the ritual of boy hunched in front of computer first thing in the morning with a green-feathered bundle snuggled into his neck and gone the bobbing bird if you put Salsa on.
I suppose I won't miss cleaning up the dried parrot poop, and Mark won't miss finding books with chewed edges, but that's about all, and I know there will be a very large gap left by a small bird in Ezra's life.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Summer holiday

or days - three, in fact.
Every year when our lovely cousins come and visit, Mark and I leave the Hothouse compound together and holiday somewhere for a few days. This year we went down to our favourite bit of coast - many times rambled on about on this blog - Cerbère.
The sun resolutely refused to shine apart from on a half day out in Gerona, but that was fine. This odd little sea-village is atmospheric in any weather conditions and we passed a lot of time wandering around in the echoing tunnels that run under the huge railway sidings, popping up like meerkats and exclaiming: 'Oh, so that's where that comes out,' etc. We even had the pleasure of listening to the Singing Railings that perform with certain wind directions.
Mark was due to play piano on the beach for the 'Fete de Village' on the first evening, but after a couple of hours of spotting rain it was decided that the event would be cancelled. The roadies packed everything away; our friend the organiser shrugged, said sanguin things like 'c'est comme ça', and invited everyone concerned up to his café to eat mussels and chips, after which I swam alone in the grey sea and marvelled at the village/landscape of yellow and pink buildings, vast arched brick walls that support the train sidings and towering craggy hills under glowering cloud.


The terrace of the re-conditioned La Vigie hotel

The next day we took the slow train to Gerona and spent a few happy hours ambling through the ancient streets, eating ice cream and trying to find a coat for Mark that would have sleeves long enough (impossible) in the rather cool clothes shops that make up quite a large part of this smart city.

                                                                     Gerona river front

My sort of restaurant where we had tea, mainly so I could snap the interior, including the wonderful old loos

Incredible, ancient general store complete with ceiling fans, a million types of paella rice, and two severe-looking old men who pointed at the No Photography sign when I gestured to my camera after we had bought afore-mentioned rice and Touron - Spanish nougat stuff

         Outside of lovely bistro/café

Buildings enjoying the sun at Gerona station

We returned to Cerbère, ate in our favourite restaurant and talked to a party of English cyclists about their tour of the Pyrenees which had taken four and a half days - end to end - pretty impressive; I can just about make it to the bank and back, taking in the small rising hill as one approaches the Hothouse, and, some of the team members were . . . let's say, people who obviously had a happy relationship with cake.
The next day the sky threatened thundery rain, so after a muscle-building walk up into the hills we packed up the unused electric piano and headed homewards, craning our necks to take in a last view of the lighthouse, bay and small clutch of seafront buildings that make up the last coastal town in France before the Spanish border.

                                 Cerbère palm tree with its own: 'I was born in 1974' notice