Sunday, September 25, 2011

In which we continue our love affair with things aeronautical

Tom's birthday often coincides with the weekend of the Journées du Patrimoine, (Heritage Days) a state sponsored initiative whereby paying museums and other sites of interest open their doors for free, and other places not normally open to the public make themselves so.  This was quite clever of him, though not as clever as my youngest niece who emigrated to New Zealand in her childhood to find that her birthday coincided with Waitangi Day, so that for ever after she could be assured of a public holiday for it.

But we've had some good days out gratis in September, and if we are at Kerbiriou, as we have been for the last couple of years, Yvette and Paul always have a local paper with a list and articles about what's available on the days to look at over breakfast.  Last year we sampled Morlaix museum and gallery which had a contemporary art expo on at the time, but I'm afraid the most memorable thing about the occasion was that I became rather impatient to leave and tried to do so by an emergency exit which set all the alarms ringing and a man had to come running to stop them and tell me off.  We also went to a mediaeval festival at a château nearby, which was quite good.

This year though, the day dawned chilly and grey, and we didn't really fancy gardens or a reprise of the museum, but looking through the options in Ouest France for the area, I saw the naval air base at Landivisiau was open, with a selection of aircraft from the vintage to the latest jet fighters.

Now despite the fact that if Tom is asked, as he was by Barrett Bonden not long ago, about his time in the Air Force, he is likely to give a terse and unenthusiastic reply to the effect that it was mostly a story of  years of frustration and boredom, it doesn't take much for his eyes and enthusiasm to kindle at the very thought of military aircraft, and for myself, since my adolescent dalliance with Biggles, I have always had a penchant for any kind of flying machine.

So the birthday outing was decided.

There were plenty of different flying things to look at,

of all shapes and sizes.

There were glossy smooth surfaces,

and  rougher, more weather-beaten ones.

And there was a real live Rafale, the French answer to the Eurofighter, which really floated Tom's boat (or lifted his ailerons, or whatever), with a real live Rafale pilot, who looked like he might have just completed his final adolescent growth spurt, and who was very happy to enumerate, in delightfully careful English ('I have trained in the USA') the reasons his aeroplane whupped the ass of the Eurofighter in every possible way.

Tom was certainly fairly well sold.  The other day I heard strange heavy metal sounds coming from the computer accompanied by gasps and exclamations.  When asked he replied 'I'm watching a video of the Rafale taking off!'

For me, though, that these spiky-looking weapons platforms all bristling with their unfathomable killer technology don't do a great deal for me aesthetically (and I'm not up for arguing any moral points about modern warfare here); the only thing that really caught my eye was this screen in the front of the cockpit, with its dragon-fly iridescence.

So which was your favourite Thunderbird?  Mine was, of course, Thunderbird 2, all lumbering and gentle and capacious,  motherly, you might say. 

 Indeed, rather like this lovely beast, a Breguet Atlantic 2, (except sadly, unlike Thunderbird 2, it wasn't green). 

I liked this plane so much, and took pictures of all sorts of bits of  it from all sorts of angles,

including its innards,

We happily queued for quite a long time to see inside it, it is enormous and full of screens and knobs and buttons and seats and bunks and nooks and crannies (but I couldn't photograph anything inside), it needs a crew of at least 13, and it seems to me a wondrous and complex organism. 

I also liked its charming and dashing flight engineer, who showed us the outside.  Looking up into its workings, I asked him if he or anyone understood all of it, or did everyone who worked on it just know a part, and he looked dreamy and approving and said he felt he was just beginning to, that he had worked with this and only this plane for twenty years and he was still learning.

In fact the whole occasion was notable as much for the conviviality and charm of the people we met, from the pilots and engineers to the rangy and very young aviatrix from the local flying club who showed us the little WW2 era wood and canvas monoplane with a dashboard like a Morris Minor, to the naval officers who were clowning for the groups of kids, wrapped up against the cold and stoically eating their picnics, whom we sat with for our lunch - buns and hot chocolate in one of the hangars.

A remarkably enjoyable day out.  

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Small numbers of things around the Bay of Morlaix

One drop of water in a field of cabbages.

Two new apples in the garden at Kerbiriou,

and two old boats at le Dourduff.

Three mushrooms (and I don't know how many islands).

Four by four by four.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


You are not leaving me behind, says Mol, I am posting myself on the luggage, on my own car bed.

In fact most of our luggage pertains to her.  As well as her car bed there is her proper bed, with pillow.  The violet coloured fleecy blanket on top of our (single, small) suitcase is the one which we have to have to spread on our bed so she can come up and join us when we have tea in the morning (don't tell the B&B and gîte owners where we stay, at least we try to save their beds from dog hair).  As well as this there is her food, bottles of water to go in the car, her bowls to eat and drink out of, her brush, her towels in case she gets wet, her ear and eye drops, pain killers in case she twists or sprains anything or gets ear-ache, her healthy treats and the carrots she has bits of when we have our early evening  drink. Have I left anything out? Oh yes, car lead and two extending leads. 

Anyway, she certainly enjoys it when we get there.  You can tell because she does this a lot: what we call Doing a Mad Dog, which involves rolling around on her back waving her legs about and making very fearsome and gruesome noises.  We respond by saying 'Have we got a Mad Dog? Mad Dog, Mad Dog!'

Sometimes she then gets a bit embarrassed and rights herself, especially if she thinks she might be being photographed.

Other times she doesn't and the performance moves on to a new phase.  But I think I've said enough.

She makes us make ourselves ridiculous, we know.

More on the trip anon.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Flight 4: littoral

And finally, more shoreline shapes.


So that's about it, I hope I've done it justice.  I wanted to get it finished before our September trip to Kerbiriou for Tom's birthday, on which we are off tomorrow.  I'm such a spoiled brat.

The full collection of photos from the plane trip is on Picasa web albums here.  

Thanks again to BB and Mrs BB, and to everyone for such an enthusiastic response.

Back in a few days. 

Flight 3: plotted and pieced

As promised, more pictures patchworked.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Flight 2: miticulture

I've long been somewhat aesthetically taken with with mussels and their cultivation, visual as well as gustatory; here's a previous photo post about them.

This went a stage further on looking down at the mussel beds from the air.  We must have been quite lucky with the state of the tide, so that their serried rows hovered visible just below the surface in the aqua- and ultramarine of the bay, their graphic, human-ordered geometry offsetting the random figuring and curves of the rocks and shoreline.

I took a lot of pictures of these, and make no apology for including a lot of them here. 


Studying the satellite imagery of the coast here also, it becomes apparent just how extensive the mussel fields are, miles and miles of inshore waters delicately striated with them. One tends to think that human dominion ends at the edge of the land, that the islands stand in untamed ocean where fishermen and mariners take their chances on the surface, whereas often they are almost joined to the mainland by areas of miticulture, plotted and marked out by human agency, made mysterious in their partial concealment by the rise and fall of the tide.

I've heard though, that shell fish in general and mussels in particular, as well as being good and healthy food are relatively sustainable and ecologically benign in their cultivation, especially compared with rapacious over-exploitation of totally wild fish species or other more toxic forms of fish farming, which I rather hope is true, as not only do I love eating them but find the sight of the mussel beds rather beautiful and fascinating.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Flight 1

So off we flew over Trébeurdan and Trégastel,

and over this spine of an empty island called the Île de Tomé.

and on towards Paimpol.  This island above is the Île de Béniguet,

which lies next to Bréhat, where Heather Dohollau lived for many years and which was the inspiration for many of her poems:

at the first sight of the island
among an excess of fragments
like a Leonardo painting 
or a Patinir

I've picnicked by that boathouse on  Bréhat, but it looks like there's no one there today.

This is the Île de St Riom, an old monastic settlement, its owner is restoring the monastery buildings, which you can just see,

And this is the Abbaye de Beauport, which was the mother house of the St Riom foundation where mediaeval pilgrims on the Camino coming from Britain, first came ashore on the continent.

We travelled on down the coast, the western side of the Bay of St Brieuc.

In truth, despite poring over Google Earth and the Michelin atlas, I couldn't identify every place we saw.  The port above is St Quay Portrieux.

It struck me how little we know this coast in detail, with its varied beaches and small cliff top roads, though we drive much further afield to explore sea-girt corners and interesting by-ways.  We should remedy that.

We flew back to Lannion over the Trieux estuary,

with the elegant suspension road bridge at Lézardrieux in the distance.

We flew over woods and fields, see the row of beehives in the heathlands above,

and saw people growing things,

and cropping and packing the things they grew.

And most and best of all the iridescent, silky sea,

and the endless, enamelled, shapes and patterns and textures of the coast, and its natural and human life and movement.

How lucky I am to live here, and how lucky to have friends who want to help me see it in a new way.

So that was the itinerary, but needless to say I took many more photos, so I will post more over the next few days.  Because it was such a wonderful experience, I am loath to discard any, however mediocre and blurry, so may end up making patchworks out of scraps and snippets.

(And this is my second attempt at this post.  A catastrophic glitch occurred owing to working on two computers at the same time, and all the text was lost, so this one is rather terser than the first version, with fewer links, for which my apologies.)