down in the veggie bed,
I harvested and cured him
and hollowed out his head.
We'll call him Jack o'Lanterns
(though he's really rouge d'Etampes),
and now his brains to soup are turned,
his skull into a lamp.
So why are they marrons glacés, when they are habitually called chataignes, and a marron is a conker? Good question, and one for which, like why you can't find non-cultured, non-UHT, fresh cream as opposed to crème fraiche, I have never received a satisfactory explanation. It simply elicits the the non-plussed response which is not really especially a Gallic shrug but more perhaps the reaction of people everywhere when their own linguistic or cultural inconsistencies and unanswerables are raised.
(The Gallic shrug also is something for which there is no real translation, as far as I know, and of which the French seem unaware as a national habit. My attempts to explain or convey what is meant by the term have resorted to imitation, and resulted in a puzzled and slightly hurt response, along the lines of "Do we do that? Oh dear...". I regretted trying, as if I had unkindly mocked a person for a tic or mannerism, and made them feel unhappy and self-conscious, criticised.)
Howsoever, the coda is always that of course that one should never eat a marron. Unless it is glacé, when it isn't really a marron. I have never understood how anyone above the age of four could possibly be so stupid as to make the mistake of eating a conker, but in case anyone is googling this to find 'difference between horse and sweet chestnut', I've kindly gone through my old drives and folders to find a picture of a horse chestnut, below,
and one of its leaves, below (which was a pretty one I used for a 'Handbook for Explorers' illustration, I am eternally proud to boast).
Pink egret wading dahlia...
And thanks for all the good wishes and kind words.
and in fact I quite like it that so many of the pictures are so bad that much of what to discard is decided immediately, and with what's left I'm often forced to be creative with cropping and editing to make something out of them.
She came out to play with Molly and me in the carpark of the old barracks in St Brieuc the other day, a somewhat grubby and gloomy spot on an overcast day where she was presumably quite in her element.
I hesitated about picking up the Canon as I left the house, but figured that probably by the time I'd slaved over a hot photocopier for as long as it took to provide the heroic Rosie/Gillian with enough work for my classes to occupy them well into next year, never mind the five lessons she's actually taking them for, I wouldn't have much time or energy for a photo-stroll. However, when I got back to the car, Molly informed me in no uncertain terms that she hadn't come all this way to sit in the car and go home again, and that a town car park full of plane tree leaves and offered sniffs and smells beyond all the perfumes of Arabia.
The old barracks is a somewhat forbidding and sombre place, as you might expect, but one section of it seems to have been commandeered to house a music school and other arts educational resources. We watched a harpist unloading her instrument from her car, then wandered around the back of the building, where emaciated buddleia and other weeds colonise neglected angles and rough surfaces,
a modern fire escape, a peremptory afterthought, hangs off the wall like a giant piece of peeling swarf,
yet on further looking offers further interesting patterns and shapes,
and barred windows reveal strange sights.
I sometimes feel I have exhausted the possibilities of the rural corner where I live, in all its budding, leafing, cropping, fruiting, shedding, decaying predictability, its quaintness, bucolic fuzzy livestock, macro-shot vegetation, wide cropped landscapes; I fear I've done it all to death, can't squeeze any more out of it, in spite of myself, boredom threatens, a creeping, contemptuous familiarity. It isn't so, always again something catches, draws the eye and the thought, 'there lives the dearest freshness'... But at those times, I hanker for urban variety, not bright lights or night life or shopping, you understand, just a different visual idiom and stimulus, or even just another context.
So, there I was, relishing urban dereliction, nature imposing on the structures and creeping into the cracks, the accretion of a history not fully understood, the pleasant shock of my own ignorance of exactly what I was seeing, poking the little camera into odd corners, when I heard young laughter and cat calls. I assumed I'd been spied, caught out, and someone was mocking my eccentricity, and looked up to see that, in fact, someone else was playing another version of the same game. Two pretty young women were hanging out of a window a couple of floors up, oblivious to me, Molly or Cheapcam grubbing about below, and pointing a very handsome SLR at the roof of another building opposite where a solitary painter and decorator was clambering on a roofing ladder, his white-overalled bottom in the air. He ignored their attempts to attract his attention and make him look over his shoulder in surprise or amusement into the telephoto eye of the camera. When he finally did turn around and sit securely down, and saw not only his watchers in the window with the sleek black SLR but also me on the ground with the small silver point-and-shoot, laughing at them giggling at him, he fixed us with such a stony, unimpressed, baleful glare, that we all quite quickly withdrew in embarrassment. As I drove off, he was still sitting on the slates, gravely lighting up a cigarette, looking as though such frivolities were altogether a tiresome thing for a man with a real job to do.
Fractals, I said (although I think perhaps I'm facile...).