Sunday 28 October 2018

In my next life...

I'd like to be a musician, or possibly a dancer. If, we get a choice in such things, and I do believe in some hopeful, abstract way that one's soul might return to this wonderful and messed-up place we call The Earth.
I think I've been a reasonably good person, so far - at least enough not to return as a dung-beetle, a leech or a self-obsessed, narcissistic, country-ruining politician. Hopefully.
Over the years I've photographed my incredibly talented (I am allowed to say that, even though I am British, as it's true) pianist husband in his various groups. Working at a Conservatoire now, he has been fortunate to meet several wonderful fellow musicians and I've visually recorded them all, with various degrees of success. I have a degree in photography but also have an inbuilt tendency to feel fear at any sign of new technology, so the workings of my Canon have been mysterious for a long time.
So, yes. Being a musician. I have been, to a very small extent - sang in a rock band, played snare in a samba group, but to really have that deep musical knowledge I regard through the lens as I snap away at their postures and expressions, suspended somewhere in another world of music, is something else.
Which instrument in this imagined new life would I choose? Probably the cello, or double bass, maybe a bass bassoon. Something with a woody resonance that creeps through into your core. Alas, in this life, I'll probably have to make do with singing a few covers, or perhaps my own stuff - novels and songs. Why not?
Here's a bit of a blues song written years ago when Ezra, aged about four (now twenty) became obsessed with train journeys. and asked me if we could go on that Dirty Train to Wallsall. I presume we must have been standing around in Birmingham New Street at the time. Can't recall now.

I'm on a dirty, dirty, dirty train to Walsall, a dirty, dirty train to Walsall.
Man, it is so far and there ain't no restaurant car, I'm on a dirt, dirty, dirty train to Walsall.
Lord, I'd give my soul for a hot bacon and tomato roll, I'm on a dirty, dirty, dirty train to Walsall,
etc, sung in a mournful blues fa├žon.

Anyway, back to the real thing and here's some photos of Mark playing with talented colleagues: flautist, Julie and percussionist, Julian; and in another group, Viola player, Yesault.

And possibly my favourite photo: Mark, Yseult and dancer, Yuko.

Sunday 21 October 2018

Bonjour, Toulouse!

Yeah well, it wasn't exactly the same numbers as the London Stop-Brexit rally but a few of us Brits in Southern France got together and with permission, bien sur, of Toulouse Mairie, were allowed to make our own small version in the main square.
A few hundred leaflets handed out, much tweeting/Face-booking, and poster holding later we acknowledged it had been worth doing. All the French who had stopped and talked with us were either for Britain remaining within the EU, or happy to discuss the subject, sometimes not really knowing much about it.
The poster announcing that London is officially recognised as the Fifth biggest French city, just before Nice, was read many times with many very raised eyebrows.
No one told us to get off back to the rock and apart from one bloke on a bicycle who methodically made one of the A5 leaflets into a paper aeroplane, curled his lip slightly and threw the dart at us, there was no animosity, no slavering Frexiteers, just polite and supportive interest.


I knew there was a reason I kept the Carnaval hat.

Saturday 13 October 2018

Permaculture and making soil

As an antidote all the crushingly depressing news surrounding us on all media, I opted for re-exploring the subject of Permaculture; something I find fascinating and hope-inspiring.
A few Youtube videos later I felt encouraged to attack our summer parched garden. I'd already made heaps of cuttings from various attempts at an autumn cut-back and had been considering where to have a large bonfire without setting fire to any trees.

Supposing I didn't do a bonfire, let alone several? Or drive a car load of green stuff to the tip.

After watching one truly amazing gardener dumping all his green vegetation along with cardboard, paper, kitchen waste, pine needles, etc etc, I emulated this - not very correctly - but with what I had.
The idea is to not disturb the soil by much digging and turning but to add moisture and rotted down plant material so that you actually leave new soil to develop as the debris gradually breaks down.

The more serious Permaculturists - if that is a word - do a lot more preparation than I did; one guy driving to his local forest, felling semi-rotten trees, hauling them back and burying them in trenches and then covering it all with grass cuttings, leaves, compost, etc, etc.

In a piece he had prepared earlier (hello, Blue Peter) he planted young lettuce plants within the foliage mulch and you could practically see them starting to grow enthusiastically. His garden was a truly beautiful tapestry of plants, vegetables and fruit trees. Ours is a windswept, ragged thing with some nice bits I've managed to keep watered enough over the very long, hot dry summer. It'll be an interesting experiment to see if my mulching attempts bear fruit, or at least potatoes bigger than marbles.

Another film I saw was called Greening the Desert. Geoff Lawton 's extraordinary project has taken some of the driest desert spots in the world and has turned them into living, green spaces. The before and afters are incredible: literally sandblasted areas of rock made into functioning food-producing gardens. So, if it can be done on an inland desert I should be able to improve our Southern France patch of land.

Wednesday 10 October 2018

Air surfing

I often wonder whether birds really register happiness when flying - like we do when say being propelled along by waves, sliding down a snowy hillside on a sledge or parachuting - not something I've tried...
Today, during a very windy dog walk in hillsides above our town I was sure of it.
The large colony of crows that inhabit the forest on one of the higher hills were all out from the trees this early dusk: diving, swirling, rolling on and in the thermals and gusts of wind. I've often seen them flying sedately from one perch to another, cawing to each other. This was so different. Unless I was reading it inaccurately - and who are we to really know - it just looked like a totally fun bit of time with no great reason other than the pure pleasure of flying.


Friday 5 October 2018

Brilliant Brexit information

The hothouse blog doesn't usually enter the world of politics much - it's not that I don't care, it's just I like rambling on about other things.

However, having immersed myself at some fathoms lately in the Youtube ocean, Brexit has become a total fascination - and horror. I use to watch the odd video - a Ted Talk, a documentary about plants, space, permaculture, animals - all sorts, however, over the last few weeks my viewing, or rather listening while I do household stuff has become about 80% Brexit issues-orientated.

We're always within history being made, if that makes sense, but this feels so bald, so utterly real, so incredibly . . . stupid.

Being a speculative fiction writer a lot of my brain is occupied with future possible worlds; probably half of me exists in 2072's London after some massive internet breakdown has occurred. Which, I do feel is highly likely at some point - goodbye blog. There are reasons I feel compelled to get this into a book form . . .

We have so many greater issues to worry about than wether Britain can scoop back some warped idea of its great past, the main one being, how we might as a race, continue to survive if we keep abusing this planet at such a rate. We are so much more likely to find answers and make a difference if we work together, not fractioning ourselves off and possibly encouraging other countries to do the same. Why was the European Union set up anyway? Largely to prevent further wars breaking out.

We are totally interwoven into Europe - maybe it's not perfect in all ways but only a peek into some real information reveals how protected the small grey rock actually is, and what the Hell will happen if we try to undo all this complex knitting of rules and structure that has been put together over many decades.

Above, one of many excellent videos made by Graham Hughes - Three Blokes in a Pub, featuring himself; the amazingly informed, Jason Hunter, and various guest speakers, all of whom have been fascinating to listen to and are experts in their own fields - if you like this, find the video featuring the medical scientist. Such knowledge!

If information like this had been available at the time of that choice, I feel the government might have been actually using the wasted time to address things that really need addressing and several billions could have been saved for schools, the health service, renewable energy technology, countering pollution . . . If anyone out there still has doubts about what might be beyond the potential cliff edge, binge-watch these well-researched and generously-offered films.

A link here to help them continue their work.

Monday 1 October 2018

a nice cup of tea

Funny how drinks can taste so different according to where you are and what you are drinking them out of.
The cup of tea below was partaken of in a small roadside bar about half an hour from home after an incredibly long journey on many small back roads.
It was only Yellow Label - the tea you dig out when all other tea possibilities have been exhausted, BUT, after a six hour drive, and drunk out of a wonderfully chunky hotel-ware cup, with lorries zipping past it was pure heaven.
I would have done the boring motorway route from Bordeaux after re-installing the lad (see last post) back into his art school life and flat, but as part of the back bumper seemed to be flapping off the car, and, being a story-inventing type person, I could see the thing finally detaching itself to crunch into someone's windscreen - not good. So, after a brief look at a massive scale map, and as usual, not gauging distances, I set off across country and got lost, and re-realised how long driving on small roads does take, especially as French road speeds how now been dropped to 80 from 90 kms per hour.

Still, I saw many wonderful things such as a newly planted forest, unsung and beautiful village churches, llamas, donkeys, distant vistas of the pyrenees, a man walking a pig on a lead, Toulouse-brick pigeon houses, newly ploughed undulating fields, wind-ruffled lakes, and all the different architecture of each region I passed through, rather than three lanes of traffic and the occasional road bridge.
Also, I avoided all dismal motorway service places and stopped in a small grey stone town called Lectore I had visited on the lad-dropping off trip last year. It seemed the same, and I did pretty much the same thing - had a drink and wrote him a letter - something we forget to do back at home when normal life encroaches.
So, despite a sore-ish back, I'm glad I took the longer, slower route. It gave me time to reflect on the happy summer time we spent with the lad, our respective projects to be started in this new phase of the year, appreciation of the landscape I was passing though, and the realisation of just how good a cup of tea really can taste.