Be seeing you.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Be seeing you.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
I'm probably the last British person alive who hasn't come across The Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain before. Catalyst out in Arizona drew my attention to them with a video of their wonderful rendition of the them from 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly' over at his, and I ended up spending too long on Youtube watching more of them. As it was, I found it hard to choose between this one ( Streisand's tear-jerking 'You Dont' Bring me Flowers' as you've never heard it before) and their wonderful modern jazz version of Kate Bush's 'Wuthering Heights' . On their website(link above), they describe how '... the Orchestra takes us on “a world tour with only hand luggage” and gives the listener “One Plucking Thing After Another”. '
Withal, their one of the most amazing and amusing things I've seen for a while; they range between deliciously funny, oddly touching and very melodious. Have a closer look, you won't be disappointed!
I finally finished another Inktense painting, was rather taken with purples, blues and greens, so plums seemed the thing to do...
Thursday, June 25, 2009
We set out early, just a day or so after the longest day, as it looked set to be hot, and I wanted to take a longer walk.
We passed Victor's place. I always like the industrious orderliness of the place, especially since he stopped keeping rabbits.
And there is Victor, going into his garage. I wonder if that vine ever produces anything.
Looking through the gap between Victor's barn and one of his many woodpiles, an old set of ploughshares, and beyond, red roses round the door of the scruffiest house in the village. (I keep meaning to put together a pictorial map of the village; I made a start, but it was complicated, I wanted to put too much detail in. I may take a template from Mappy and try that way...)
On Brochain's corner, the iris foetidissima is flowering. Very smelly iris! It's berries are interesting in winter too, perhaps more so than the flower.
We walk up to the ridge road. It is growing warmer, and the sun draws the moisture up from the earth, so that it condenses in droplets like fisheyes on the underside of the plastic mulch round the maize plants.
Rather than turning at the second road to the left, which is our usual circuit, we carry on down the lane towards la Tantouille, once the hideout of Chouans and vagabonds. Each break in the hedge gives a subtly different vista onto the countryside inland.
The trunks of aspen trees also seem full of eyes,
and I catch one of these meadow brown butterflies resting, which is unusual. They are more shadowy and elusive than the later gatekeepers which they resemble, and float over the fields of wheat and barley in a quite linear and purposeful fashion.
That stalwart icon of Brittany, the artichoke; Brittany Ferries was founded on the strength of this vegetable, you know!
Ancient granite crosses at the roadside like this one are sometimes called Merovingian, though who knows if they really are? They must be of great age to be so worn and weathered.
A peaceful Brittany Spaniel had a good look at us. These dogs were a 19th century creation, bred from crossing English setters with the general purpose mutt favoured by the Breton charcoal burners. Some are quite graceful elegant creatures, others hang their heads low and seem to have an rough-edged independence about them, more of the charbonnier's mutt than the setter. This one has a sweet face though.
So there it is, midsummer, sunny and warm and fine and dandy. Yet, though I took scores of pictures, I ditched most of them. They were, quite simply, uninteresting; flat, overexposed, without shadows or highlights. Many of those I have used have been cropped or had their levels fiddled with to help them along. The brilliant meridional midsummer sun, even at this comparitively early hour, was simply too much. Doubtless a better knowledge of apertures would help the over-exposure (I have tried but seem unable to retain anything I learn...), but this wouldn't change the lack of obliqueness of the light which, for me, makes photographs interesting.
So, am I seriously complaining about it being summer? This is, surely, what we spend the springtime in exquisite anticipation of, and what we are looking back on in the delicious, heartbreaking, attenuated melancholy and nostalgia of autumn? Because this is it, isn't it? This is the moment, the splendid, effulgent mid-point, the sun at its height, the hours and hours of generous daylight, the sheer luxuriance of it all, especially when it's doing what it's supposed to do, and showing up all sunny and warm for a change. We should be feasting on this glut of sunlight, 'just soaking in the light, as if refueling after the long dark winter', as Marja-Leena says, who being Finnish, has a special feeling for the summer solstice!
What's not to like? Do I dare to feel a little disappointed? Quite simply, like many things exquisitely anticipated or wistfully looked back on, the reality is just a little bit flat, an anti-climax; you've got what you were waiting for, what now? What else is there?
'And summer dreamed sadly, for she thought all was ended
But the joy of spring and autumn, paradoxically, are not in looking forward to or back on summer, but in experiencing that heightened ecstatic speedy vernal tilt, where you want it to stay a moment but its glory is in running through your fingers, or that slow, sad, lingering decline when nothing is so beautiful as what is about to die, and it looks back with love and longing one more time. Experiencing them just for their own sake. We need that, and we need obliqueness, we need the shadows, to know things fully.
But summer is wonderful anyway. I'm really not complaining...
Over at Compasses, Joe speaks of hope and fear. I'm a bit late with this, most of you have already found your way there, I think. Thanks for your continued support with this, we've departed from the original thread now, and are having such an interesting time we're not inclined to stop.
Blogger has started doing something really annoying whereby you can't move photos around once you've uploaded them except by a slow and laborious process of leapfrogging one over another. Anyone else having trouble with this? Just been looking at a friend's lovely new Wordpress blog. It's looking more and more tempting. With the time and frustration incurred jigging this post around I could probably have begun to master Wordpress - and the picture quality's better there too...
Saturday, June 20, 2009
(You'll need to click to see the aphid...)
Monday, June 15, 2009
So, inside, was anything shown?
where a flame, mirrored, burned between ribs,
Sunday, June 14, 2009
On the way round, we met a couple more fetching blondes,
and a burnet moth.
Monday, June 08, 2009
I think we were really less than convinced by the magnetiseur, though I'm not sorry we went. He was a quiet, gentle little man, living in the countryside on the edge of the town. He had a simple waiting room, with a notice saying he was registered for tax and would only see people after they had been to their doctors. His consulting room was plain and old fashioned with a couple of wooden beds and a desk. He told us his father had done this and he did the same things his father did.
He didn't touch any of the afflicted areas, only Tom's head and hovered about over what I assumed was his liver area. He said the liver was important as it was responsible for the toxins in the blood. (The French preoccupation with the liver is well-known, the English are supposed to be similarly focused on their bowels. I was initially somewhat taken aback , whenever one complained of feeling a little the worse for eating and drinking too much, to have it pronounced that one was suffering a 'crise de foie', not least because it could be mistaken for 'crise de foi', to which I was always tempted to reply, no, not at all, I have been happily and constructively agnostic for many years, but thanks for your interest in my spiritual welfare...)
Tom relaxed, and said afterwards that he was concentrating on being open and employing some familiar meditation techniques he thought might be helpful. After a bit, the chap left him there and took an ordinary bottle of still mineral water, over which he did a bit more hovering and stroking, while chatting to me about how his dad used to do this and how he wished he'd learned English but it was so badly taught at school in his day, 'trop literaire...'. I was a little concerned that surely if one is imparting one's magnetic gift to a bottle of water one ought to concentrate and not talk about other things, and did my best to avoid engaging in the conversation, but perhaps I underestimated his facility with the energies. He wrapped the bottle up in a page of Ouest France, and said to keep it out of the sunlight, as that was a different kind of energy which would counteract the magnetism. Tom was to drink a glass of it every morning before eating or drinking anything else, and then to drink it or apply it to the affected area as and when. He said the pain would continue but he had 'coupé le feu', cut off the fire.
We were there about half an hour, and he charged 18 euros. Though he'd said he was busy that morning, and he was open most days, there wasn't a great queue of people, plus he has to pay all his business charges and taxes, so he's not exactly laughing all the way to the bank. We both felt he was sincere.
On the way back, it rained cats and dogs all the way down the bit of the dual carriageway I was dreading, and we found out the Saxo's heater didn't work, so Tom had to keep wiping the inside of the windscreen by hand while I drove, and also that the 'défaut d'étanchéité' that had been specified on the controle technique (MOT) document as needing to be fixed sometime, but which none of us, including our French garagist had been able to identify the exact nature of, was in fact a fault of the seal around the windscreen, and my feet got rather wet. I was tempted to rail against the vendors for selling me a car with a defective heater and a built-in foot spa, but on balance I shall give them the benefit of the doubt that perhaps they didn't know, since it's been very warm and dry lately, and Saturday's conditions were exceptionally foul. They did actually e-mail me this morning saying they hoped everything was OK, so I shall assume their good faith. Anyway, it's better to know about the problems, which are not major ones, now, before it goes in for its overhaul, than on my first day back at work on a dank October morning. Pollyanna rides again.
After this quite stressful journey, and despite stopping off for a brioche sucrée at Tartapain, Tom said he felt worse than ever, and that really he didn't think the magnetism had worked at all and the man probably had no special powers. As I can't feel how he's feeling, I'm can't argue with this.
However, though he'd deny, probably rightly, that it had anything to do with it, and that his faith is better placed in antibiotics, antivirals and very strong paracetamol, though he's still getting pains, and coughing from the chest infection, though much less, and feeling exhausted quite a lot, nevertheless he has a brightness and warmth about him he didn't have before, and things are, in a two steps forward, one step back manner, improving. That night, he had a dream of such bittersweet, haunting power and vividness, about being lost and then restored, that it made me cry just to hear about it. We'll never know, of course, and perhaps he's have been making an even better recovery if he'd just stayed at home in the warm, but if we hadn't tried, I'd always have been wondering if it would have done any good to do so. And at least we found out the car heater didn't work.
The other thing that I thought was interesting was that the magnet man said he had seen an inordinate number of people with shingles over the last three weeks, as well as confirming the outbreak of chicken pox at the primary and infant schools I'd already heard about from a neighbour with a young child. Yet, as he said, it makes no sense, as shingles can't be passed on from person to person, but is a recurrent form of the chicken pox virus usually contracted from years before. It almost seems as though the virus has a collective life of its own, in spite of being contained within discrete human bodies, and it rises like a tide. Though this too is anecdotal and probably can't be proven.
Just in response to a few of your other comments on the last post; the dining room really doesn't always look that tidy and uncluttered, when I took that picture we'd recently had people to lunch, and beforehand I'd cleared all the surfaces around to put things on, then everything had been cleared off and the spare chairs taken away so it really was spick and span. But it's all very newly done, so I did want to show it at its best.
One day I'll scan in a few of the photos of the house as it used to be, and you can see what Tom has used up his health and strength achieving. ( I have helped. Helped with the house, that is, not with using up his health and strength, although...)
As to the garden, I must stress I can take no credit there either, other than perhaps making the odd suggestion of plants I like. It's Tom's baby, I am simply the lawn mower operative and occasional weeder, as you can see, not very assiduous in either capacity!
And just a word on computer chairs, though this one looks comfortable and ergonomic, it isn't terribly, and it wasn't the cheapest. But it's probably worth shopping around for a good one, and you probably get what you pay for. I am the world's worst sitter, and cannot maintain a nomal straight posture for any time, but kneel, curl, tuck feet under me, put them up on the knee rest, whatever, which I blame on short legs, and I broke the last ordinary office chair we had.
Oh, and as promised, the funny our friend sent us. I suppose the more religiously sensitive of you may prefer to look away, but perhaps that is to patronise you. Anyway, it made us laugh. It was allegedly a bonus exam question at the University of Washington.
Bonus Question: Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic (absorbs heat)?
First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So we need to know the rate at which souls are moving into Hell and the rate at which they are leaving. I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it will not leave. Therefore, no souls are leaving. As for how many souls are entering Hell, let's look at the different religions that exist in the world today.
Most of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell. Since there is more than one of these religions and since people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all souls go to Hell. With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in Hell to increase exponentially. Now, we look at the rate of change of the volume in Hell because Boyle's Law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of Hell has to expand proportionately as souls are added.
This gives two possibilities:
1. If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell breaks loose.
2. If Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in Hell,then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell freezes over.
So which is it?
If we accept the postulate given to me by Teresa during my Freshman year that, 'It will be a cold day in Hell before I sleep with you,' and take into account the fact that I slept with her last night, then number two must be true, and thus I am sure that Hell is exothermic and has already frozen over. The corollary of this theory is that since Hell has frozen over, it follows that it is not accepting any more souls and is therefore, extinct......leaving only Heaven, thereby proving the existence of a divine being which explains why, last night, Teresa kept shouting 'Oh my God.'
(THIS STUDENT RECEIVED AN A+.)
And finally, a quick collage. Evening walks and the low sun have lately yielded a luminosity of linear green maize shoots and the rosy red heads of sorrel, mostly going over now, and those fuzzy etched looking umbellifers I still haven't got around to identifying. These all beguile me every year. Still not disenchanted.
(It should click up big. I used to take ages planning Picasa grid collages, now I just throw them together and take ages clicking on the new Picasa 3 'Shuffle pictures' button till I get one I like.)
I'll once more set about the business of trying to get round you all. I'd have made more headway yesterday, but we had about four hours of power cut, so it was back to Henry Adams and the 12th century, though he tended to favour the 13th. (Damn, finding that Wiki link, I've just discovered he was repellently antisemitic. Wish I hadn't seen that...)
If you've got this far, thanks for reading.
Saturday, June 06, 2009
Molly loves her new car. She raced round when I brought it home on Thursday evening, jumped in and bounced around on all the seats. She was more than usually wild with excitement when I came in, and in the garden kept running round to the fence and looking at it on the drive. Now and then she wanders up to the end of the front terrace and sits looking round at the drive, giving the occasional plaintive woof.
When I was arranging the stuff I'd taken out of the BX (essentials like leather work gloves, the thing you wipe the windows with, extending dog lead, dog drinking dish and bottles of dog-drinking water, dog blanket and towel, doggy bags...) into the new one, she trotted round with me and installed herself in happy anticipation.
I felt a slight lump in the throat when I went to empty all the junk out of the old car, but not too much. In the end it's just a thing, a thing that has reached the end of its useful term, and can now go and be recycled into other things. The memories are as they are, they are not inextricably attached to the thing. I couldn't quite bring myself to leave the old British license plates which were tucked into a pocket of the boot though. We got a little bit all-our-yesterdays when I showed them to Tom: 'We had those on the car when we got married!' he sighed wistfully. I put them in the cupboard under the stairs, I don't quite know what we'll do with them; I imagined them mounted over the garage door like the horse's old brasses in the stable or something, only we haven't a garage. Memorabilia is a tricky matter, you can drown in it.
As I was going about this business, M Turbin, our illustrious and level-headed garagist, called out
"Have you found anyone to take care of those shingles yet?"
Both doctors we saw made a point of telling us, their tongues somewhat in their cheeks, but also with a tone of 'well you might want to know...' that their were magnetiseurs, unlicensed healers, who were supposed to have an ability to relieve the pains of the complaint. The garagist, who had suffered a bout of it himself, after a bit of male-bonding type joshing with Tom about unfortunate places in the male anatomy where shingles could erupt, said that he had had his sorted out by such a practitioner. Later, I mentioned to him that old Hélène in our village, who is now largely blind and nearly ninety, had a reputation for the laying on of hands, but that Tom was rather leery about having her lay them on his bottom. However, that is for the healing of burns, and I was assured that burns require a different gift from shingles.
"You should get onto it. It's a bad thing to have going on too long. I'll call the one in Plérin, he knows me well."
He did so, and almost made an appointment there and then. But I said I'd need to speak to Tom, and that he might need some convincing.
"Well, if he doesn't want to be convinced, that's his choice. He can go on suffering."
In fact Tom turned out to be quite open to the idea. He can sometimes make leaps of faith about the big cosmic stuff I have problems with, but is perhaps more inclined to scepticism on a smaller local level, where I often say 'why not?' (I am, of course, aware that for true believers there is no real difference between the two, the cosmic and the parochial, but that's another thing I struggle with...) I suppose that pain and illness are conditions where, in desperation, one is more likely to be open to possibilities.
I rang the man this morning. He sounded gentle and kind, and also busy. Country people, it seems to me, may be superstitious and credulous, but they will not continue readily to part with their money for something which they don't perceive to be working. The visit should not, as far as we gather, cost much more than one to the GP, but will not, of course, be reimbursed in whole or part by the health service, the practitioner being unregulated. Looking in the Yellow Pages under 'Soins hors d'un cadre réglementée', there are all manner of services on offer, as well as magnetiseurs, who are by far the majority, there are water-diviners, bone-setters, and the more modern arrivals, acupuncturists, etiopaths, geobiology, shiatsu etc etc. Some of them boast hereditary gifts and decades of experience. As with many things here, there has been less of a break between the old traditions and the revival.
So, we made an appointment for this afternoon. It can't do any harm, except we were both a little reluctant to make the trip; it's a relatively busy road and a time of day which I wouldn't perhaps have chosen to drive so soon in the new car, and for Tom, protracted sitting in the car is fairly miserable. But, we'll give it a go.
I don't know if I'm just an incurable Pollyanna, but I have to say how blessed I feel through all this. I want nothing more than to see Tom getting well, but I feel in terms of the kindness of others we don't lack much at all. Everyone we've had to lean on has been marvellous. Friends pitched in without hesitation: the Quiet American dropped everything when I called on the mobile after the accident, not wanting to get Tom out, came and loaded my shopping and Molly into the back of his car without being asked, hung around patiently while I exchanged details and filled out forms, then chatted soothingly about the fledging blue tits and kestrels in their garden, the seal he and B had seen on the mudflats, and gentle gossip about mutual acquaintances all the way home; A. and C. made no complaint at having their evening totally buggered up when C. came out to see the new car with me, which turned out to be most of the way to Morbihan, then back again so Turbin could check it out, on C.'s urging, then back to the sellers, then home again after much unavoidable form-filling, all of which took about four and a half hours. C. turned out to be a really good person for this mission; he too chatted at just the right level, keeping me alert and positive without being hard work, and though modestly avowing he knew little about cars, he came across as very knowledgeable without being a smart-arse, and being a part-time antique dealer and former probation officer, he cut an impressively 'don't mess with me' kind of figure. Which wasn't really necessary, as the people selling the car were dead nice and straight-up anyway, but it made me feel more confident. In fact when I told Tom I'd tried to knock them down a bit on the question of the cam-belt he was downright embarrassed.
The woman I ran into and her husband who she went and fetched in case the car needed a strong arm, were incredibly good about it, let me leave the car in their yard, and took time to make sure everything was sorted out properly, without any recrimination or aggro at all, though she was shaken and inconvenienced too.
And all the professionals, the doctors, the pharmacists, Turbin, Simone at the insurance, have all been lovely, and even people who don't know there's anything wrong, like the lady at the Presse where we buy our Radio Times when I apologised for not coming in as usual but we'd been busy; she's sometimes rather brisk and terse, but she said that was quite all right, I wasn't to worry, they'd always keep it by for us anyway. And Jos the painter, who we'd not heard from for a bit, delighted Tom and made him laugh with a circulated e-mail funny which he said he thought Tom would particularly enjoy, which is always rather nice. I'll post it soon, as it's worth sharing.
And none of these people read here, as far as I know, so I can't even hope they'll see this honourable mention. I'll try to find a way to thank them though.
So, in appreciation at my happy lot in life, I thought I'd just show you some pictures of home, which is at last turning into something like it should be, and I love it very much. Despite its general shagginess and unfinished paths and other bits, the garden is looking delicious. I often take detailed photos of things in it, I don't very often do wider shots. This is what the kitchen and living room lookout onto.
And below is the new red dining room. It won't always be quite so empty and tidy-looking of course, but we're doping our best to keep it fairly uncluttered.
This is more normal, rather messy living room and bureau zone, adjoining red dining room (strip of wall to the right). Molly's bean-bag cushion next to the desk, so she can feel included.
And this is the hub from whence cometh this blog and more. I've left this one full-size and not moved it, so it should enlarge, in case any of you are nosy buggers like me and want to know what's on the shelves. You'll have to work it out for yourselves, as I must be off to Mappy now to find the route to the hocus-pocus man's house. The top left shelf is Tom's, the rest are mine.