Wednesday, July 28, 2010

In which we are not afraid to make a scene.

We've a fairly busy day today, I mean for us, whose default mode of living ( I don't really like the word 'lifestyle') is quiet, remember.  We have friends coming over who wanted to go camping up on the coast above Erquy.  Their boat gets in at St Malo this evening, and the municipal campsite they were interested in doesn't take bookings, you just have to turn up and see if there's room.  So, to ensure that they had somewhere, we went up this morning to reserve a pitch by putting a something on the spot - a borrowed 'throw-up' tent ( OK, that doesn't sound good but 'instant erection' would have sounded worse...).  Then this eveniing we'll drive over to St Malo to meet them so they can follow us back to the site. We could have had them to stay and taken them up there tomorrow, but there was a not unreasonable level of anxiety about coming over without the certainty of a place, which we sought to allay by promising that we would have somewhere  sorted out by the time they arrived.

Anyway, that accomplished, we set off home again, only feeling a little anxious about whether they'll like it, whether the throw-up tent will get stolen or thrown up on or whatever, and anything else our minds could scout around to get anxious about given a slightly unusual situation and responsibility.

As we'd be travelling this evening, we decided perhaps we could justify eating out at lunchtime and just taking some sandwiches with us this evening, so we thought we'd stop in Erquy, but then we took a wrong turn and got a bit more fraught, but finally we stopped in Val André, found a place we'd eaten at before which was OK, and ordered. Molly was brought a bowl of water, I found a loo and felt much better, and so far so good.

We asked to share a starter, which came after a bit, rather a small plate of grilled shellfish and a small and rather rock-like bread roll)  but then the service got slower and slower.  The patronne, a brusque but quite pleasant woman, it seemed, took our order, but she wrote nothing down, rather having the air of someone who believes themselves to be far too much in control of things to bother with such details, and various other younger women served and cleared.   We sat over our empty starter plates too long, which is always a downer, they were taken away but then nothing happened and nothing happened,  After about 45 minutes we began to think about the little time that we'd have to come home, take a break, sort out extension leads etc for our friends, then set off for St Malo.

I went into the restaurant and asked if it was coming as we were a little pressés, that we could otherwise pay for our starter and drinks and leave.  Young woman #3 disappeared into the kitchen, some muttering of the kind which gave away that we had been forgotten.  I waited, waited, put my head around the kitchen door and repeated that we could pay now...  No, it was coming , there had been a mistake, but it was coming now... 

I sat down, after 10 minutes got up again, but brusque patronne said brusquely 'It's coming out now!'.  ( No, you're right, I am quite familiar with the several ways one can say sorry in French and did not actually hear any of them...),  So I sat for another 5 minutes then cracked.  I ordered Tom to take Molly out, I'd sort out paying for what we had had and we'd go.

In the ensuing fracas (italicised or not? Is it a fully adopted English word, what do you think?) the following arguments were put forward.

'If you were in a hurry, you shouldn't have ordered a starter.'

That from the young man behind the bar who was the first line of defence.  I said that I didn't know it was going to take so long.  Now, I said, we had lost our appetites, which was true.

'You should have said if you were in a hurry.'

I should have said if I didn't want to be still waiting after an hour?  I replied, adding that in fact I did say, about 20 minutes ago.

The patronne is coming, he announced, and retired from the field. 

She said that I had not said 20 minutes ago that we needed to hurry now; she had taken our order and I had not told her ergo I had not said it. 

She said that the magret de canard took a lot of preparation, that's why it took so long.  I said I had been told there had been a mistake and that was why.  Ha!

At this point the food arrived at last, and she said that if we left the food would all be thrown in the bin, was that what I wanted?  

At this point I did begin to weaken somewhat as I do hate waste.  Could it not be eaten here?  I asked.  

By whom? She parried.  No, it would all go to waste!

Fortunately Tom then swung in with reinforcements.  Too bad, he said, no we would not stay and eat the food,  Indeed, to have slunk back to our seats, stuffed it down and paid up would have been ignominious and unacceptable.

Brusque patronne then offered a compromise.  And if she were to pack the food as take-away so we could eat it at home later?

I conceded and said we would pay the price of take-away, which I guess we did, because the bill was smaller than it would have been, and food and face were more or less saved on both sides.

Brusque patronne offered Tom an 'au revoir' as we left, to which he replied, 'Ah non!', so I guess we had the last word.  We drove home feeling considerably better than if we'd just put up with it, despite the rather uncomfortable heat of a pizza and a plastic ice cream box of magret de canard and its garniture on my lap.

However, I don't really fancy eating it now. 

Pizza anyone?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday 25 July

~  Turns out there's a new, very full edition of Rilke's poems, translated by Snow, and with the German (and presumably French, where applicable) text in parallel.  Hit the one-click button!

~  Last week we stumbled on Robbie Coltrane's B-Road Britain.  Tonight he travels through Yorkshire and Lancashire, and we are  quite delighted by the lawn-mower collection, the dock-leaf pudding contest and most of all by his conducting the Grimethorpe Colliery Band playing Elgar's Nimrod. 


Water melon and hydrangea, a piquant little combo.  The watermelon I bought first for its miniature beauty - a whole full-sized one is too much and the pre-cut chunks always seem to be a bit mushy and need to be eaten quickly.  This one was no bigger than a honeydew and claimed to be pipless, though in fact it did contain very small and quite swallowable seeds.  It kept very well, and while internet browsing for recipes I found one for a salad, containing, along with the watermelon, cucumber, feta cheese, red onion and Kalamata olives, dressed with some honey and a lot of mint and lime juice.  Apparently such salads are all the rage, and the recipes urged not to be put off by the oddness of the mixed flavours.  I baulked a little and served the onion and feta separately, but the combination really was zingy and delicious, with the lime and mint tying it all together.


I've been doing the Three Beautiful Things format for about a month now.  It's been a great help, and generally very satisfying, but I think I'll ease up now.  Once again I must express my admiration for those who have kept it up over a very long period.  Being terse but not banal really is a challenge and a discipline.  I may still do one now and then, perhaps every week or so, or if I'm feeling a bit blog-blocked or in need of the good medicine it provides, or just for the joy of it.

However, things will be getting busier here for a while now, one way and another, and I'm not good enough at the being terse bit to find the time to keep it up.  Also, I think I'd like to get back to writing more, less often, perhaps the odd poem or some of the writing ideas I've been working on the side, or simply just some more series of photos - I've still got a backlog of damsel-flies!   

So thanks to Clare for the idea; had she been able to patent it and claim royalties she'd be able to swaddle Baby Badger in ermine.  And thanks to the rest of you who have stopped by, read and commented. See you around.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Saturday 24 July

~  For a few minutes on the road I'm stuck behind a small tractor with an open trailer on which is a pile of garden rubbish bound for the tip.  Though brown dead matter, it is speckled and patterned with textures of stems and seedheads, and not a few still blue and pink cornflowers, and looks rather like pot pourri.

~  Books of poetry, in French, by Heather Dohollau, a new discovery and a new project, quite a long story already, of which more perhaps later.  But why the knife, you may ask?  Because these books are exquisite artefacts in themselves - even if the lettering on the spine does go the wrong way, never can get used to that - they are handmade with uncut pages.  Should one cut them all at once, or as one goes along? That is the question.

~  It's more chilly than it has been, and rather nice to put on warmer clothes and close the French windows for the evening.

Friday 23 July

~ At the plan d'eau, what seems to be a fishing class for children is taking place.  None of the participants looks much above 12; good-humoured and smiling mothers and fathers supervise the proceedings.  We negotiate our way between plastic pots of earthworms.  At the end of the row, an intense and serious dark-haired and pink-clad very little girl manoeuvres her sleek rod and its bright orange float, while a boy has caught a red-finned fish, a roach perhaps, about the size of a goldfish.

~  It is so long since we've had anyone over, we find there are no paper napkins except Christmas ones, not enough middle-range wine glasses - only six very precious ones or lots of mustard glasses, and, most of all to our surprise, hardly any white wine, only a Savennieres I've been saving so long I can't easily bring myself to use it  just because it's all we have.  We were both quite convinced we had plenty of spare white wine.  Tom disappears, exasperated, with Molly.  I wonder where they can be, until he returns with a wodge of white serviettes, glasses of many shapes, and a fragrant Saumur to bring a smile.  And Mol's had another turn around the plan d'eau too.We pretend nostalgia about pavement cafes in Saumur, not far from where Molly was born, and admit that mostly we remember only the difficulties of gradient and one-way systems in the town.

~  A last glass to accompany the washing-up.

( Sorry, no photos available tonight).

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thursday 22 July

~  By the old railtrack, where we sometimes walk, is a yard, once perhaps a siding for the railway, now a place of light industry.  There is a  a scruffy concrete and corrugated workshop full of tools and machinery, which I rather like, at one end, and a little garden at the other, bright and flowery and well-tended, terraced up the slope.  Two elderly women, both in print skirts, striped and floral, t-shirts and cardigans in greys and pinks, stand talking animatedly, beyond my hearing over a courgette plant, two large fruits of which one is carrying under her arm.  They gesticulate and wag fingers, then suddenly bob towards each other and kiss on both cheeks symmetrically, whether in belated greeting or premature goodbye is not clear, as they go on talking afterwards  without apparently any intention of parting.

~  I park right up by the church, which is shady and quiet, though a heavy haul back up afterwards with a full basket.     The smells of the market drift up the hill, paella and cheese and roasting chicken and charcuterie and frying pancakes.  I buy Cornish pasties (yes really, I know I know, but they're a charming anglo-French couple who sell them and the pasties really are good ones, please don't tell the I'm-more-French-than-the-French-and-what-did-you-want-to-come-to France-for-anyway brigade...) for lunch for us today,  olives and red onions and feta cheese and fresh figs for friends for dinner tomorrow, and, from a beguilingly louche and gaudily cheap stall I've not seen here before, gold nail varnish for my toenails for who knows when.


Mineral, filtered, clear.  
Light coming into the kitchen.  Nothing arranged, or I might not have chosen a plastic water bottle - fizzy, another moral compromise; I don't buy the still stuff but use the filter jug behind.  I liked its refractions anyway.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wednesday 21 July

~  A different kind of finch song in the garden, not for the first time, is that of a linnet;  this is the second year they have been around.   

~  Our ISP has been cajoling me with a 10 euro voucher code for photo developing.  I finally take it up before it runs out, and it pays for  the enlargements for the photo competition, another picture besides, and postage, so an unsuccessful submission won't end up leaving me too much out of pocket. 


Light on water, filtered through reflected leaves, is something I keep coming back to at the moment. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tuesday 20 July

~  Mol has her second haircut of the year.  I know I always go on about this in a daft and doting fashion, but it does give me such pleasure to see the smooth high dome of her forehead, her paws all neat and round and trimmed, and feel her muzzle like soft velvety moleskin again.  And she's just so good and patient, as is Cécile, who does it.

~  Following the discussion on varying feelings about the young of the species, in truth, lately we've had some quite cheerful moments around other people's children, our favourite restaurant of the moment, Le Vivier in Erquy.  It's a bustling, convivial kind of place with a pavement terrace - which has a good awning in case there's a change in the weather - where you can look at the waves breaking on the many headlands, the boats bobbing in the harbour, the perfect shape of the little red and white lighthouse, or just the many and various people sharing the place with you, who you may well see again and smile at and greet as you all stroll along the harbour afterwards.  It's called Le Vivier because it does, I'm afraid, have a tank full of large live crustaceans as its main attraction.  Presumably they are the ones that are eaten, but we've never seen them actually take one out to that end.

This also came to mind reading Hliza's post about how sometimes she eases up on the 'don't play with your food' bit with her kids, and lets them have some fun at mealtimes.  While we've sometimes had meals out ruined by badly behaved - or just too young or too tired - children, this particular family were fine, at least once they'd got their food and Tom had turned off his hearing aid on their side.  And, as I say, we like the lively busy-ness of this place.

At Le Vivier

Seafood is slow food, which doesn’t mean it’s always dainty or refined. 

The children wriggled and jumped like little fishes, except the tiny rusty-headed baby who slept wrapped so tight in the bright striped cotton sling around its mother that neither of them quite seemed to have a separate form from the other.  But the sister and brother knelt up on their chairs to peer into the tanks of imprisoned crabs and lobsters, they giggled and exclaimed and stared and showed off.  The girl’s face, holiday-coloured, kindled when she saw us get our meal:

‘Moules-frites, moules-frites!’ she chanted under her breath with glee.

Theirs came shortly afterward, everybody’s chips together in a big bowl in the middle of the table, and the deep shiny enamel pans of mussels, two placed in front of the parents, the children with a plate each and the shellfish scooped out for them from the juice, a handful at a time, keeping it all hot.

Whoever said don’t play with food had no idea.  This is surely what food was first: things in shells to be pulled apart and broken, handled and sucked and licked out, the debris discarded, tossed aside, or else perhaps piled or lined up, prettily or methodically, counted and compared afterwards, made into stuff of games and rhymes, mischief and fidgeting altogether forgotten in the intensity of concentration on the task, sticky busy fingers - just eat it all up while it’s still warm!

Wild honeysuckle - woodbine - chèvrefeuille. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Monday 19 July

~  As we are not seeing any other human beings today, we can have plenty of chopped spring onions in our lunchtime sandwiches.  I rather like their American name, scallions.  The ones you buy here are large and bulbous, the long straight ones seem to be unknown.

~  Molly's friend Moos is unusually pleased to see us when we go to take him out for a walk in the afternoon, while E, his human companion, is out for the day visiting friends; he's often rather reluctant to leave home with us.  The dogs skip across the low trickle of the stream and up into the woods, but fairly quickly tire of the heat and the prickles of the cut furze on the path in their feet.  We head back to the garden for a bit of stick chasing instead.


More insex, damselflies this time.  I'll be getting a strange reputation if I keep this up.  I mean, what is he doing  there, with the end of his lower body holding her between head and thorax ?  I'm sure one of my bona fide naturalist blogging friends can answer that: I'm really just an anthropomorphic voyeuse.  Still, at least you don't have to get insects to sign a release paper when you take their photos in intimate situations.  Crow wondered what happened if they are startled into flight in this state; the answer is nothing at all, it happens quite frequently, and they just carry on regardless.  On a somewhat more anodyne note, see how the blackberries are setting fruit...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sunday 18 July (with 2 extra)

~  Sunday swimming is back on.  There are just enough well behaved people to make it feel like a sociable activity, but not enough to feel crowded, and the length swimming lane is respected, though I'm the only one using it. And the grass and the trees and the sky surround the pool, thanks to glass walls and a rural open location, and the moring sun flickers off the water against the tiles like small white flames.  Molly and I walk the railtrack on the way back, and come home for caramel ice cream.

~  ' I do like hearing the kids next door' says Tom. 

Marcel and Michel, the francophone Dutch-Thai métissés infants next door are squawking at about average levels, not quite the tantrums of about 10 minutes earlier, nor the rather infectious giggling of ten minutes later.  I am immediately suspicious; as far as I'm aware, Tom's subscription to the Friends of Herod has not been allowed to lapse, yet his tone sounds sincere. 

He continues 'because it reminds me that they're there and not here.'

~  I sit in the shade of the laurel hedge and write an e-mail, it's good to be able to do this without being cooped up indoors and tied to the computer desk.  Out of the open French doors ( and no, not all doors, or windows, here are French, exactly!) floats a Vaughan-Williams symphony.

~  You can hear them cutting the second field of barley in this hot dry spell.  I take Mol down the road, and find Gwen and the children, our former next-door neighbours, watching their dad working the combine.  They left over two years ago, but the house is still empty.  We've missed having them around, Tom included, Friends of Herod notwithstanding.  We chat for ages, and it feels quite like old times.  I ask what they'll do with the house.  Gwen says they don't really know, they could sell it, but Sebastian, the 10 year old, won't hear of it, he wants it for when he grows up.  He loves the house and has good memories of living here, she says.


The gateway to the Manoir de Vauclair,  the only listed heritage building in our commune.  Once part of a long ancient perimeter wall, only this arched entry way remains.  A 'pinhole' setting this one, of a number taken in response to a departmental competition for photos of these listed structures.  Not sure whether to submit any of them.  They stipulate no edited images, not sure what that means nowadays, and the pinhole might be ruled out.  But the lonely leftover gateway in the middle of fields and nowhere is an intriguing spot.   

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Saturday 17 July

~ To keep this little notebook as refreshingly speedy as it is now, and its small memory unencumberd with clutter, I must find different, efficient ways to use it.  Thinking I can't really do photos on it, I then realise that one can pop the camera's SD card straight in and work with the photos from that, then remove it leaving no trace.  On-line documents and web-albums offer more possibilities.

~  Remembering Jos the still life painter from Bogard, relaxed and popular and very busy last night at the vernissage of an exhibition he's having at Erquy.  We catch him for a few seconds to say hello and goodbye, and he points at me and tells the stranger he's talking to on the other side 'She's a good writer!'  I know it's flattery and tell him so, but I enjoy it anyway. 


There's been a yellowhammer in this spot, a long lane between cropfields and pastures with no human habitation, leading down to the hedge with the mirabel trees, for as long as I've been walking it, 12 years at least.   Surprisingly, though, I've never seen it before, only ever heard its humble request for 'a-little-bit-of-bread-and!'.  This morning he obligingly perched in the top of a small oak tree, and stayed there a good while.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday 16 July

~  Bread made with organic spelt flour - farine d'épeautre biologique - being sold very cheaply in the supermarket, is obviously not widely appreciated.   Spelt is a primitive kind of wheat and has a soft and substantial texture, and is, I'm convinced, happy food, thanks to its high magnesium content.  We make cheese sandwiches with it - with raisins for Tom and tomato for me - and thinking about it makes me start looking in Norman Davies 'Europe: A History', initially the capsule entitled 'Tammuz' about how 'Europe chose wheat'; then because of the beguiling way the book is laid out, with capsules then notes on capsules, then maps and appendices and so on and so on, I spend a long time after lunch browsing in it.

~  Up the coast to Erquy again, with the verges laced with the green and yellow tracery of fennel, and the scent of it drifting through the car windows, and the sky dramatised by every form of cloud, mackerel and mares' tails, anvil and cumulus and cumulo-nimbus, all in Rilke's 'delirium of uselessness... and their vacationing edges dare transparencies.'


Rainbow, a real one, though somewhat tweaked...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Thursday 15 July

Moo are having a 48 hour 30% off sale, ending at one minute to midnight tonight.  I allow myself to be sold to, and find 20 photos to turn into postcards.

~  I go out briefly, and when I come back, my new refurbished teeny-tiny shiny white dolly-sized notebook computer has arrived.  Eventually I remember you have to press the button on the Livebox ( I just mis-typed that 'Lovebox', which sounds much more interesting...), and lo!  I am connected.  I find my way to my Gmail, and find a mail from someone I always love to hear from as the first message on my new toy.  Still need to find my way around it, and preferably order myself a new miniature pair of hands, so I'm not posting from it now, but I was able to read some blogs from the sofa, without trailing cables.


Pansies.  Somewhere on the way home from Morlaix, back in April.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wednesday 14 July (Bastille Day)

~ The other day, I asked myself why buy beer, even quite nice, artisanale Belgian, French or  Breton beer, from a big supermarket when there's a micro-brewery, the Brasserie de Launay, just down the road?  So I stop by the roadfront house by the old Gare de Moncontour, peer through the glass door into the front room which has been turned into a plain and makeshift little bar, then find the young chap with the long dark pony-tail, who I've seen coming and going around there, in the garage space next door, with some large vats and tubes, and a couple of big buckets of fragrant brown mush which I take to be something to do with hops and malt.  He is graceful and pleasant to talk to, and I follow him over the road to a storeroom.

You have an accent, he remarks, (which can be a polite way of saying your French is rubbish...) and suggests that  English people often like the rousse, the darker beer more like an English bitter, it's even made with English hops, or maybe malt - giving me a name I forget now but which I'm sure I've heard Rouchswalwe, our resident brewing expert, mention - and persuades me quite easily to take a bottle of this as well as some of the blonde which I tend to prefer in summer.  They are unpretentiously bottled and labelled, and are both very good.  Tom has not drunk beer for a long time, but is rather taken with the idea, and we share the bottle of rousse this evening.  It has a good head and flavour, and does taste a bit like a nice British bitter.  I think I'll go there again.

~  Having swallows as next door neighbours - they're nesting in the garage again - you begin to understand something of their language.  The calls this afternoon are quite different from their usual exuberance, or the histrionics provoked by cat, magpie or even sparrowhawk.  They are quieter and more earnest, as if they prefer not to waste too much energy.  I step outside and see a couple of them pursuing a hobby, at one point seeming to make contact with it.  This is quite brave as the small falcon is very agile, and could turn and catch one of them.  It wheels round and they chase it quite low overy the roof, so I can see its streaked breast and Egyptian-looking face.  I never see one of these birds of prey without an intense feeling of wonder and privilege, though I would be sad if it ever caught one of our swallows.


Hoverfly shenanigens.  Not something you see every day.  Perhaps not something you'd want to, but I do like hoverflies, so I don't mind them making more.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tues 13 July

~  Despite the palaver involved, I like making chicken stock.  This morning I strain an especially rich batch, made using an extra carcase from the freezer.  I remember reading a preview of a TV programme where Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall was encouraging hapless urban youngsters to learn to cook from scratch.  One very unimpressed youth said of the chicken-stock-making process 'It's what they did in the stone age, innit, boil up a load of bones in a pot...'

~  It's easy to overdo petunias in town plantings, but the deep violet ones in abundance in the containers in Moncontour spread a most voluptuous scent, reminiscent of jasmine, all around the town.


Upside-down trees at the watermill.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Monday 12 July

~  I have to talk to the helpdesk of the bank where we hold our UK sterling account.  The perky young English woman with the Estuary accent tells me they are in fact in Malta.  She says she envies our being in France, and we chat briefly about the weather, the relative merits of our two adoptive resident countries, the problem of living on an island against a larger land mass, and other related matters.  It seems to me from experience that people on these services are often quite eager to make this kind of conversation;  I really don't think this is only PR, or even boredom, but a genuine need to break through the impersonal and displaced character of the relations they have with you, and to see each other as living real lives in a real place.

~  A line from White Egrets: 'Swifts practised their archery...'


~ A trio of corvids, two jays and a magpie, in the eucalyptus.  I am not sure how the balance of power lay; with corvids there almost always has to be one.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sunday 11 July

~  At last the rain, soft warm drizzle for all the morning, and the smell of it on the road and last night's harvest dust.

This afternoon's Early Music Show, (the link is to listen to the programme, it is an hour long but very well worth hearing) with the Tallis Scholars, once again confirming that no one does it like they do. Their director spoke of how the surface texture of the music must be flawless and beautiful, with no conflict between any of the voices, as they are quite a small group.  As well as their usual Renaissance repertoire, some familiar, some not, there are two new pieces by very young composers, winners of a competition run by the National Centre for Early Music ( that link contains audio of both pieces, as well as the runners up) in York. Settings of a George Herbert poem and a Latin liturgical text and conceived for performance by the Tallis Scholars, they are not pastiches of Renaissance music, but create a unique musical space in the same way, and are remarkable and beautiful works.

~ Hot flowers.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Saturday 10 July

~  In memory of my sister, her family and friends in New Zealand have set up a prize for 'wearable art' as part of a festival in their local town, which has just been awarded for the first time. My brother-in-law, H, forwards a letter from the prizewinner, who he didn't know before.  She tells how she too is grieving, for a husband still living but permanently hospitalized with early Alzheimer's disease, how touched she was by the sight and courage of H and his son together at the prize-giving, how thrilled she was by the prize money and how useful it will be as things have also been financially hard for her since her husband's diagnosis.  Once again I am struck by how people go on making and doing beautiful things even in sadness and difficult times.

~  We say we'll just make a start on the Radio Times crossword after lunch, and we get it finished, as we always have to once we've started.  Tom as the scribe does all the hard work while I just shout the answers.  We complain as usual about the badly done clues: anagrams of words not included only indicated, key-words like 'out' not properly used.  I get an alternate letter one which are usually my weak spot (I'm better at 'sounds like' ones), and we find we know more about the TV-based clues than we think we will, as usual.

~  Made a slideshow video at last of our walk at the Chaos de Gouette on Monday with Gillian and Barley, aka Rosie and Porridge, the bouleversantes, brilliant and beautiful Bitches about Brittany.  With music, which I don't know will be everyone's cup of tea. 

 I've given up with Vimeo as all they do is put me in an endless queue to convert, or fail to do so telling me only that my compression rates are wrong, without telling me what that means or what I can do about it, even though they've successfully converted a video made in just the same way before, and anyway, I don't think I should have to have a degree in geekiness to upload something made using standard up-to-date Windows software to their site.  So I'm afraid it's back to Youtube, which is a shame, as I made it HD enough to view full-screen but with Youtube that goes all wibbly-wobbly.  Rant over.  Ranting is not a beautiful thing, but Gillian, Barley, Molly and the Chaos all are, so please find the time to give it a look! 

PS Just going over to check the link, I find Gillian/Rosie has posted her lovely pictures of the same outing, which are better yet and quicker to look at, so hurry on over to her place and see! (And she's spelled 'Gouët' right too.)

Friday, July 09, 2010

Friday 9 July

~  A bottle of Ch'ti  beer, chilled.  It has a champagne-type wired cork, which explodes from it vehemently; it doesn't foam, but a mist rises from its pebbly brown glass rim.

~  Tom waters the garden with the hose.  A blue tit flies down onto the white Winchester Cathedral rosebush and hangs from its stems and leaves, drinking the droplets.


~  Saints' motifs and emblems, from the windows of the monastic chapel at Pontmain.  The cock, the two fish together and the keys are St Peter's, the dove and the upright fish are with St Francis, the dove held in his hands.  I forget who had the little beehive cell like an igloo. 

(I can't find any very useful links about Pontmain as a place; most of the available information about it, both on-line and at the place itself, concerns the story of the apparition of the Virgin Mary to a group of children there in the 19th century, which led to it becoming a shrine nearly as important as Lourdes, apparently, rather than the resulting 20th century art and architecture there.  It's in the Mayenne, near where my brother lives.)

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Thursday 8 July

~ Out last night, so a  little grouchy and hungover first thing, but then the very young temporary posty stops at the gate and takes a slim Amazon package from the back of the van.  White Egrets, already, that was quick.  Anticipation sweetens the morning; I put it aside but go about my tasks with fresh energy and the thought of an afternoon's reading in the garden ahead.  Suddenly, so many things seem rich with possibility: the cluster of reddening cherry tomatoes on the plant by the front wall, the brown thrush which flutters out of the bank behind me and flies off into the oaks, then its tentative song from the trees, even my old dirty white plimsolls wedged into the window frame to keep it open for the paint to dry, or the sensual and and satisfying accuracy of the expression 'a lick of paint'...

~  Later, I weed the pond, pulling out many of the waterlily leaves smothering the surface, and some of the floating oxygenating weed too.  The water level is parlously low, it is warm and smells rank and oozy, and the slabs around it are almost unbearably hot to hands and knees.  I put the hose into it and top it up, an extravagance, but the goldfish, pink-veined white, scarlet and truly gold, come to the surface to thank me, gulping at the air with O-shaped mouths.

~  I didn't pull out any flowering water-lilies,

they are, I think the most shameless vain tarts of flowers, hardly ever take a bad picture.  It must be because they live permanently with their own reflections that they think so well of themselves.  I keep meaning to go into the park in St Brieuc with the camera, where I've noticed they have lemon yellow ones.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Wednesday 7 July

~  E's yucca is flowering, a tall spire of many thick white waxy blossoms.  I hope it last for a while so I can get back with the camera.  I begin to notice that yuccas are in flower all over the place.

~  I paint my toenails at last, two shades of purple - aubergine and a slightly glittery pinkish one - with an edge of dragonfly-emerald.

~ The pink oriental poppies are over now,

 but I just found their photos. 

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Tues 6 July

~  The first broods of swallows are all out and flying, scores of them, whirling and chattering learning the ropes, and pretending there are sparrowhawks and cats round every corner.  Working out on the front of the house, I have them for company as they perch up on the electrical installation.  One of them lands on the road and sits there pecking at the tarmac, much to the consternation of its brethren, who scold it until it takes off again.

~  Tom has a lovely new audiologist, who is fitting him with a new appareil auditif  - a so much nicer term than 'hearing aid'.  It is matt grey, which is also nicer than the old  shiny beige 'flesh- toned' ones.  (Whose flesh? I often wonder, remembering the infant teacher I sat in with in early training days, who put a pot of lurid pale pink mixed-up powder paint in front of a group of 5 year olds, including the only black child in the school, and said 'There, that's for doing people's faces.')   As he is acquainted, or re-acquainted, with a new range of sounds, his face brightens: 'This is exciting!' he says.  In a rapidly shuttled mixture of French and English, we try to describe sound impressions, and agree that, as for smell, there really aren't enough good words in either language.

~  So many delightful pictures from yesterday's walk I can't choose between them.  So for now

~  a quick study of the aforementioned Japanese-looking stoneware bowls, melted butter for the use of, dipping asparagus, artichokes etc.  Or, as tonight, tartare sauce.  Or soy. Or whatever. (They are small, no more than 8cm diameter.)

Monday, July 05, 2010

Monday 5 July

~  I wake, as I often do lately, from dreams of my sister.  They are not exactly happy dreams, often sad or troubling, or both, but they are sometimes beautiful, I think, and I welcome them all anyway.

~  A wonderful river walk at the chaos, with Rosie and Porridge.  The dogs are each intrepid in their own ways, and make us laugh, and the scenery is beautiful.  We lose each other, and find each other again, we take pictures and talk of important and less important things, we come back tired and relaxed and go our separate ways.  Molly is incredibly thirsty and drinks off two bowls of water striaght when we are back at our car; she forgot she could drink the river.  I look forward to going through the photos soon, meanwhile,

~ four lots of gear and tackle, ancient and modern, from my brother's place.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Sunday 4 July

~ I get a stroke of work done in the morning, and paint most of a window frame before the sun gets round, which should give it long enough to dry before it has to be closed for the night.  This gives added relish to a lazy rest of Sunday spent pleasing myself.

~ For lunch, asparagus,green - I can't be doing with the violet-white stuff . This also means getting out the little fine earthenware bowls, one with  glazed blue inside, one coppery brown, each with a single spot of slip decorating the outside.  They are just the right shape and size for melting butter and dipping the spears in.

~  A fine weatherbird at Pontmain. 

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Saturday 3rd July

~  Some friends hand us on their copies of The Economist.  By the time we get to read them they are often no longer relevant, and they often become onerous clutter.  But I always try to look at the reviews in the back, which sometimes yield some surprising treasures.  I find one of Derek Walcott's latest, and perhaps last, book White Egrets.  The review begins

'Modern  poetry seems all too often to be associated with coy, small-minded ironists; teasing, finicky word players who often write in disappointingly short lines and seem to lack the ambition, the emotional force, the rhetorical reach, and even the range of subject matter of great poets of the past. Where to go these days to find the real thing?'

which caught my eye.  I know next to nothing about Walcott or his work, except something about his reputation getting into trouble last year, but the more I read of and about this book, the more I like the sound of it, so I order it from Amazon.  I like having a book in the post to look forward to.

(The link is to an interesting-looking website on Caribbean arts and culture, and contains the Economist review and others.)

~  Argentina v Germany.  I down tools from scraping paint at 4 pm and give it my full attention.  So glad I did.  Tom's deaf-people's subtitles are at the top of the screen instead of the bottom, and have the added bonus of covering up Maradona's face most of the time, but happily they fail to do so after the second German goal.  Some interesting language: an Argentinian is 'swallowed up and dispossessed', and then there are Gary Lineker's puns, which are truly cringeworthy and therefore right up my street.  Of the psychic German octopus (oh go and Google it yourself if you don't know...), he says 'Anyone who followed his tips would be squids in!'.

~ Redcurrants.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Friday 2 July

~ At the Carrefour supermarket, a new, smart weigh-it-yourself system for the fruit and veg.  I look for the code to put in, but there isn't one; instead, the machine itself, unbidden, suggests options.  My apricots might be apricots, or they might be carrots or nectarines.  How does it guess?  I try a pale purple striped aubergine, it suggests aubergine or red pepper.  Intrigued, I conjecture that it is scanning the colour, but when I try a yellow courgette, it doesn't offer, as I imagine it might, bananas in addition to the correct option, but only yellow peppers.  I lurk around and watch other people's offerings, potatoes, it seems might be themselves or they might be pears.  With oranges, all citrus fruit are suggested, including limes and lemons.  I feel I need to observe this further to establish more idea about how on earth it is functioning, before I venture to ask anyone.  I hope this very rudimentary form of artificial intelligence has not put anyone out of work, but the usual faces seem to be occupied elsewhere, stacking shelves, and it really is very intriguing.

~  Today is my father's birthday.  He would have been 103 years old, he died in 1988.  He was a Somerset Masters, and there is a cider apple which bears his name, the Harry Masters red, though I think it is no relation.  This is him with me as a baby (I've posted this before.)

Here are his two eldest boys

~  my two eldest brothers, along with my dog, enjoying a walk in the woods at Pontmain.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Thursday 1 July

~  We have to wait at the temporary traffic lights at Quessoy.  A huge tipper truck, a blue rectangle with a broad yellow stripe down it, is pouring its load of molten macadam onto the road.  The hot tarry smell of it pours into the car through the open windows.

Wolf Hall, finished.  Oh, I am going to miss Thomas Cromwell.  Sometimes I'm not sure he could really have been so utterly likeable, but that's part of the wonder of it, that she makes you believe he was, malgré tout.  And there will be a sequel.

~  I seem to have collected quite a lot of bugs.  Hoverflies aren't really too difficult, they stay quite still.  The really quick and tricky little buggers are these things,

humming-bird hawkmoths.  Quite frequent,flying day and evening.  In the heatwave of 2003, we had convolvulus hawkmoths, a handspan across, counting their tongues, and painted like something on a Japanese ceramic.  I've not seen them here since.  Perhaps if this weather keeps up... unfortunately, the weather the lizards and hawkmoths like is also the weather of hornets and ant invasions.