Thursday 26 May 2016

Finally . . .

After many years of thinking about it and then my lovely brother (and my son) building a pen, we have chickens.
Four, from our local farm shop; each a piece less to buy than a deceased organic one in the supermarket - I could have found cheaper ones but weighing up travelling to somewhere further with the looming petrol crisis . . . well, support local shops, etc.
Anyway, they are magnificent, shining birds with bright eyes and wonderfully fluffy bottoms - I don't think I'd ever really looked at chickens bums that closely before but they are quite wonderful; rather like giant powder puffs.
I was amazed at the casualness of buying them. The girl serving me marched into the pen, hauled up four by the legs and stuffed them in a couple of cardboard boxes. I didn't ask if they would get car sick, but paid and drove carefully home where the reception committee awaited - husband and three very curious dogs.
I opened the boxes; the birds hopped out and started investigating immediately, uttering those little contented warbling sounds which is one of the reasons I've always wanted to have a few wandering about the place.

The day passed; them accustoming themselves and me hovering a little anxiously wondering if they were bored or disgruntled with our food offerings.
The Italian tenor (also chicken-keeper) came for his music lesson with Mark and waved his arms about.
"Magnificent - what a palace, of course they like it, everything! You should see what mine live in!"
I felt much relieved and went to get on with what I should have been doing until dusk came and the small flock were pacing a bit, obviously looking for the old coop.
I put them in their new house, asked if they wanted hot water bottles or a final bit of rice/apple/corn and as there was no reply, went back indoors to do a bit of, rather too late, internet research about the correct way of building a coop.
Morning came and I approached the chicken house. A few faint clucks greeted me as I opened the lid and observed them all squashed tightly up one end. They trotted out, and like feathery robots, started their never ceasing search for food.
Two days on, we have had five eggs - a bonus as the shop girl said expect to wait over a week. Thinking in pure monetary terms that's probably fifty euros per egg, taking all in to account, but the pure delight in seeing them happily scratching the soil, preening and lying in their 'chicken pits' is well worth it, and if I could be bothered to do the sums, probably in about a year it will all work out, looking at the amount of eggs we usually get through in a week.

 The first egg

Monday 23 May 2016

Just an average dog walk . . .

Or not.
I was rushing yesterday afternoon as Mark needed the car for a gig so I drove up to the back of our town to where the dogs can run about in the vines.
I was surprised to see, in my rear view mirror, a blue car with a flashing light. Shit - police . . . what have I done - (sharp intake of breath on remembering the state of our front tyres). They waved me over and I stopped, desperately hoping that no one had removed the vital 'Carte gris' from the glovebox.
For a small French town, (and, actually, out of the town up a small road where I'm sure no drug trading happens) they were surprisingly well-armed: large black, what looked like machine guns, not to mention batons, and small steel canisters, (tea?)
    "Bonjour, Madame - do you know why we have stopped you?"
    "Err . . . non, pas du tout - filthy car?"
    "You did in fact not stop at the stop sign."
    But I did . . . "That's very odd, officer as I always stop at that sign, it being very difficult to see down the hill, and that someone might be driving up . . .
    "You did not so much as turn your head."
    I did, and I have these special eyes that can swivel left and right - perhaps yours do not do this.
    "Well . . ."
    We will have to fine you."
    Merde alors - "How much?"
The scary older one, who looked a bit like the policeman in Terminator, walked back to the car while the very young one who was fiddling nervously with his gun, answered my question.
    "It will be either eighty-five euros and three points on your licence, or thirty-five."
    "Can I have the latter, then."
    He shrugged and gestured to the car full of steaming, bored dogs.
    "These are très jolie, quel race de chien?"
    We talked about Spanish hunting dogs, dogs with three legs (after he noticed the runty one)
    "Mais . . . il n'a que trois pattes!"
    "Yes, he lost one in a police confrontation."(Not really).
The terminator gendarme re-appeared and informed me that I was to have a telling off and the smaller fine.
    "I will not give you the ignoring-a-stop-sign fine, but the one for ignoring signalisation - thirty-five euros."
    I was puzzled by this - if he meant indication then nearly all French drivers would be receiving thirty-five euro fines about every ten minutes as signalling is an extremely rare event.
    ". . . merci, monsieur - c'est bien gentil."
They got back into their car and I got into mine sighing deeply, but with some relief as they hadn't noticed the tyres.


I drove to the usual spot, walked the dogs, got them back in, panicking a tad as I was late for Mark, and  . . . reversed into a ditch - revved a lot and managed to dig the car in deeper until I was sitting at an angle that made it difficult to open the door.
A man appeared, sucked in his teeth a lot and walked off. I called the 'assistance' and listened to Vivaldi while most of the psychiatric day centre patients came out from the building opposite and suggested interesting things I might do to move the car.
I got through to 'grunt' (assistance) and described where I was, although I couldn't remember the word for ditch, so I said hole. He informed me that if I was in or on gravel rather than the road I would not be covered.
While I was wondering how to respond a man appeared in a beaten Visa van.
He leapt out grinning and said it would be no problem to haul the car out. After hacking back about a foot of the bank, working out where the towing hooks were (me- sadly ignorant) and making several attempts during which quite a few other people had arrived to add handy hints on car moving, he did manage to drag the car out of the fossé (did recall word later on . . . ) with help from Mark and some of the residents of the psychiatric hospital pushing at the back.

Back to the present time - there's a cake cooling in the kitchen which I'm about to take to the man with the van as a small thank you even though he insisted with the biggest smile that he didn't want anything - "A pleasure".
If the world had more people like this . . .

              Here, do something with this bread roll 

Wednesday 18 May 2016


We were lucky enough to be invited round to Bob and Maggie's house to hear (and watch) Bob doing a pre-concert, concert - several dates in London.
I was wondering what it would sound like - Bob unplugged, (or not quite as he was armed with a very beautiful electric guitar and various loop pedals, etc) having listened to his music in its 'full form'.
Full form being the most extraordinary melange of instruments and voice - all him playing, singing and multi-tracked - drums, guitars, horns, banjos - you name it.
Lawn Ornaments, the album is a wonderful trip into Bob's brain - hilarious and poetic wordage; just about every musical instrument and genre one could imagine and the occasional pop of his own laughter as some of the more deranged sentences slip forth. I especially like the sections involving instruments he has picked up and thought - 'yeah, why not - I can do this!' a wavering trumpet, a plinking gut of some stringed thing . . .
My favourite track so far . . . Wolf's Nose; a mad and beautiful observation into wolves olfactory natural talents.

                               Bob on stage, and one of my more bizarre paintings to the right


                                                Beer-holding bear/marmot? update - bear is called Bagel, made for Bob by hand made furries of all sorts.


                                                              'Have a great tour' cake

Monday 16 May 2016

Holy Ghost

So here we are on the Fête de la Pentecôte in France; Pentecost in the UK and other English speaking countries.

'So what is it really about,' I said to Mark as we were doing the washing up.
'Err . . . it's when the Holy Spirit descended to the disciples the fiftieth day after Easter,' he said, and went to practice the cello.
I suppose I've always had this vague image of a 1920s silent film, man-covered-with-a-sheet, sort of apparition, just as I have of God being someone lounging comfortably in his sofa of clouds trimming his long, white beard occasionally.
But they are obviously (having done a bit of more serious research this morning) the same thing - God's spirit appearing to man; not in fact a ghost as such. Well, of course I knew this . . . but somehow I must have liked the idea of the ghost figure rather than beams of light, doves or feelings of exaltation.
So, to Youtube for an idea of what the Holy Ghost means to many people.

Press the play arrow and try not to move!

I don't suppose it's quite the same down in our small French town - a whiff of incense, people bowing seriously into their prayer books, a few reedy voices singing praises from dog-eared books and half an eye on the watch to make sure a trip to the local supermarket is possible before it shuts for the rest of the bank holiday - one of many days of public holiday observed in France - odd as a country which prides itself on laicité - the strict exclusion of religion from the secular affairs of state . . .

Saturday 14 May 2016

Building No 56

We have Samir, a 'Workaway' staying with us at the moment.
While looking at Google Earth to discover where he lives, he mentioned we might be interested in homing in on the most famous local landmark of his town, (Ypsilanti, Michigan) and the winner of the 2003 most phallic building in the world award - I don't know if there were further awards but it would be challenging to find anything more . . . thrusting than this brick water tower, constructed in 1889 and still in use today.
Bravo to William T Coats, its architect; I must find out what else he designed . . .

                                         Photo - wikimedia

Of course, I then digressed into Google image-land and found all sorts of other interesting references to phallic structures and indeed places housing collections of phallic objects, including the
Icelandic Phallological Museum, housing, so it states, a collection of penises from all types of mammals found in one continent; everything from shrews to elephants.


                                Photo -


Sorry, I don't know who this is but I liked the picture. Ah, I just found out - John Marmysz, photo from his blog 'The Nihilist Void'. John is standing next to an Elephant dong.

Thursday 12 May 2016

Broadly speaking

These are just the most wonderful vegetables (pulses?) to grow, and eat!
I literally threw the dried up-looking beans from last year into some badly-toiled furrows on a freezing day back in November and promptly forgot about them and the garden.
Early April, their first leaves appeared, not even thwarted by our one real frost of the winter, and continued to become towering Jack-and-the-beanstalk plants. They flowered and the next time I looked, while trying to galvanise myself into some much needed weeding, the pendulous pods were there, ready to be picked.
So, beans every day, much to our 18 yr old's disgust - fried, boiled, steamed, given away to friends and frozen if we don't eat them all before the plants finally collapse.
I'll hold a bag of beans back, dry them in the sun and start the process again in November. If only all crops were so simple . . .

Tuesday 10 May 2016

Common sense

I was in our favourite small French seaside village a couple of days ago when an elderly friend waved me over to his table outside the café.
'Is it not great zat your London Town 'az a new mayor?"
"Uh?' I had said thinking of the blond . . . person who seemed to have there for ever.
"Yes - et, c'est incroyable 'e is of the workers' party!"
I sat down, ordered tea and discussed this amazing piece of news, feeling pathetic that he, in this tiny village, knew, and I did not. Mind, I had gone away specifically to turn off all stuff connecting me to the outside world for a few days.
So, how brilliant and wonderful to have a Labour party, Muslim mayor born of a seamstress mother and a bus driver father as the mayor of this vibrantly multicultural city of Europe. He probably even went to the same horrible comprehensive school that I went to in Haringey.
I was interested to hear that dear Mr Trump said, (as an exception, mind), that he (Khan) would be allowed in to the USA if he himself (God forbid) becomes president; and even more interested to hear that Mr Khan would not choose to enter (in in fact could not enter on account of his religion) that same landmass if the afore-mentioned other blond . . . person did by some bizarre, freak parallel universe accident/God-joke, end up in the White House.



Monday 2 May 2016

Idea to reality

I've been thinking about making a chicken run/coop, etc for about eight years, but it just never seemed to happen - cost, worry about another thing to deal with, dogs and so on, but when my brother appeared for a small break a few days ago the idea changed to an actual project.
"What would you like to do?" I had asked him, innocently - thinking of all the stacked up DIY failures to be addressed.
"Hang out with you," he had said.
"Could that involve building a chicken shed?"
"Lead me to it!"
What a wonderful brother . . .
I suppose I had thought (as with most building projects that I ever get involved with) that we could slope around the garden a bit and find some old planks, wire etc and cobble something together . . . We share many traits, me and brother, but scale and correct planning of a construction is not one of them. He had stared glassily at my selection of manky wood, etc, and, after a period of thinking/sketching suggested a trip to 'Mr Bricolage'.
So two days later, and a large removal of material from said shop, we have a magnificent pen, coop, and an offspring (Ezra) who knows a whole lot more about measuring wood, sawing, drilling, and general construction that he did a week ago.


The plot - overrun herb garden


                       Brother Adrian in pondering mode


The proper equipment and a bit of organisation before we start . . . 

Hen house, door and walkway


Noticing it was about two hours before his flight home, we led Adrian away from the construction site assuring him we will finish the roof, and pack all the tools up correctly . . .