Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Books and boots and collages and goodbye 2014

Before any Old Year's Night meditations, I want just to share the delights of my Christmas haul of books and music:

This is mostly acquired by ordering the things I want over the preceding weeks and months, then Tom snaffles them away and brings them out for me at Christmas. I do the same for the things he orders. This works pretty well, ensuring each of us gets what we want, with even the occasional element of surprise when we forget what it was we ordered in the first place.

Also, though again not really a surprise as I had to try them on, but an unexpected pleasure nonetheless, since I didn't know such nice ones existed, the Best Pair of Wellies Ever. I have long needed a new pair of possibly what are the most important items of footwear, along with good slippers, for my mode of living, since the old ones, either by the action of garden tools or by the weakness of polyurethane or whatever they're made of these days, acquired a small hole just before the toe, leaving me always with an annoying wet patch on my sock, where the bunion would be if I had bunions, which I'm happy to say I do not, since I have always used my feet well, run around barefoot through most of my childhood and beyond and never worn stupid shoes. Flat-footed feminist and proud, that's me. Anyway, these are not only quite beautiful, with their foliate decoration, but also very comfortable: snug, supple and warm, they do not pull and twist one's socks off inside and are easy to pull on too. Who said progress isn't what it used to be? (And yes I know I've said more about the boots than the books but I've worn the boots and haven't read the books yet, or only a bit.)


So, the end of 2014 is nigh.  The year when I said goodbye to the dearest of beings, and cried an awful lot. When paid work and poetic inspiration finally dried up altogether, and I let them go without much struggle; when it seems to me a process of stripping back and stepping back, of detachment and patience and acceptance has been required. And yet, it's also been the year when things and creatures and places and people were found or re-found, or they found me: Jordi Savall and Patrick O'Brian, sculpted stone and Quess'quitricote and greyhounds, Père Lachaise and the Ile de Batz ... and more and others I'll not name but treasure them up in my heart. 

And I continue to come back here ( more often this year than last, in fact, 90 posts this year against 75 last, for what it's worth) and to treasure and appreciate my friends here, old and new, for new friends continue to appear, to my great satisfaction. So thanks and love to all, and may all manner of things be well for you for the coming year. 

And on that note, my final end-of-the-month collage for December, followed by all of them for the year past. I'm pleased I've kept up this practice, albeit erratically, which seems at once to show how long and rich and change-filled the year has been, and also, paradoxically, how it has flown by. 

  1. Winter wheat field.
  2. Meadow pipit; winter bird flocks are mixed and indistinguishable, sometimes the camera allows an id I wouldn't get just by eye.
  3. Ditch water. Not as dull as it's made out to be.
  4. Redcurrant jelly, from the summer's crop, with Port. Very good.
  5. Sushi birthday.
  6. First frost and slippered feet.
  7. Christmas Eve.
  8. Christmas Day dinner. Guinea fowl and three types of stuffing.
  9. Hat and gloves. What to wear when taking a turn in the frosty garden.
  10. Frosty garden, from the bedroom window, New Year's Eve.
  11. Ivy on the compost bin.
  12. Rosehips.


(For the rest, month titles link to original posts.)












Begin again...

Monday, December 29, 2014

'Now this bell tolling softly for another...'

Christmas Day being spent in time-honoured fashion, just the two of us, eating, drinking and opening a few things, we rather reluctantly took ourselves out on a lunchtime buffet invitation on Boxing Day. At the last minute I picked up the bag of remaining bread crusts, which, with typical largely self-defeating parsimony, I collect over time and freeze, and which had not succeeded in being transfigured into stuffing, and said we would go to the beach afterwards, the weather notwithstanding, and feed them to the seagulls, which would also give us an excuse to leave early.

I was glad of this, being tetchy and disinclined towards either the food or the company, both of which were perfectly pleasant, the fault was with me. It was raining when we left but we headed beachward anyway, and when we arrived the rain did clear somewhat, and we had quite a long low tide walk. It was, in fact, a perfect Boxing Day place to be: chill and damp and blowy and empty of any souls except ourselves, a feisty little sandy coloured dog and his chap, and a handful of lonely, mewing seagulls, none of whom were interested in the bread crusts, and way off in the distance, a harvesting tractor like a toy, plying its way between the mussel posts on the far away tideline - people work on Boxing Day here. 

We set off back with pink cheeks and aching ears. Within ten miles or so of home, near Quessoy, we noticed black smoke blowing across the sky in front of us, and cars stopped with hazard lights on. Some way ahead, on its own, a small green car very much like mine, hazards also flashing, at first seemed to be the source of the smoke, till we realised that in fact the fire was coming from another vehicle, less clearly visible, in a field off the road. After a few moments waiting, we turned carefully in a driveway, where a woman stood grim-faced under an umbrella, with a look of an impassive but resolute witness, and returned home by another way. We were unsettled and a bit jumpy the rest of the way, but got in, lit the fire, made tea and did our best to put it from our minds. 

Living here as we do, we aren't automatically connected to events, don't, I'm afraid, tune into local TV or radio, or take a regular local paper; we have to make the effort to find out about things, or else we learn things by chance in conversation, which is hit-or-miss, especially since old Marie next-door-but-one moved on anyway. The following day curiosity drove me to the computer and the Télégramme, where we learned that the burning car contained a fatality, a man of 59 who, inexplicably, had lost control of the vehicle, hit an oncoming car - presumably the small green one - and gone off the road, the car instantly bursting into flames. He was, as the gendarmes delicately put it 'carbonisé dans l'habitacle, les témoins n'ayant rien pu faire'  - 'burnt to a crisp in the driving seat, the witnesses being able to do nothing'. The young family in the other car, a couple in their thirties and their four-year old child, were taken to hospital, shocked but unhurt. It had happened no more than half an hour before we got there.

Something of a 'for whom the bell tolls' moment.  And yet, 'any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind' isn't really true for most of us, it can't be, we couldn't survive if it were. I'm left pondering this matter of closeness of death and disaster, the difference which distance, or ignorance, makes to us. It's about  personal fear: it could have been me... if we'd been on that road a little earlier... Yet in terms of probability, a miss is as good as a mile, and I don't think that's the whole story, though what else is compassion, fellow feeling, that trite word empathy if you will, but a sense putting oneself in the place of? And I'm wondering why my imagination, which seems dismally impoverished in terms of an ability to construct fiction, visualise some spatial and constructional project Tom has in mind, or even know which colours of wool will go together, has been working with great energy and creativity when it comes to the last few moments in that car, and what it contained when we saw it, in a way it doesn't, or at least I have not too much difficulty curbing it, with the Malaysian air disaster, say, or the Greek ferry, or a similar road accident in the next department, or even the same crash on a day when I wasn't anywhere near it. I wonder if he was someone known to anyone I know (even dwelled briefly on whether it might have been someone we'd seen at the party earlier; it wasn't); I hope not, but of course he was known and probably dear to someone, may have had a dog waiting at home... enough.

I don't want it brought any closer, but then again I do because I want to know the facts, out of morbid curiosity or to contain and make them safer; had he been drinking, or burning the candle at both ends, was the car not roadworthy, did he pass out? Much of which will never, presumably, be known anyway, but we tend, I think, to want to believe there was some 'good' reason why it happened, a kind of superstitious rationalism which we hold to, that if one just follows all the right and correct and logical procedures, these episodes of cosmic injustice won't happen to us.

But now I am home and warm and safe and looking forward to a walk after lunch; a distance of time is already establishing itself, and I'll post about something more cheerful next time.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Happy Christmas...

... one and all, and thanks for everything.


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Good things # 4: cards, solstice, and another marvellous machine

And of course I had nice cards for my birthday too. An odd thing is that the half-dozen or so I generally get are often thematically quite similar every year, though they are sent by different people who don't generally know or see each other. The themes vary from year to year; one year it might be bold blocks of jewel colours, another there might be more photos; this year it was fine line work with subtle, somewhat 'dirtied' colours (which I love), foliate forms, repeating small motifs and insect wings - butterflies, dragonflies and a saucy Victorian naked fairy! (I also had a Quentin Blake illustration and a primary coloured bit of typography, but I've left those out of the picture for aesthetic consistency).

But the cards are down again this weekend, as we tend to put up the Christmas ones and fairly simple amount of decoration around this solstice time, and light plenty of candles. Tea lights and glasses are so cheap and plentifully available, there's no reason one couldn't do this all the time over the winter, yet it feels like a luxurious extravagance.

As I say, not oodles of decoration and only from the solstice to Twelfth Night, which is about the right length of time, I think. We have a very small artificial tree which we've had since our first Christmas together, some twenty-two years ago, and a collection of bits and pieces of varying degrees of charm and tawdriness. Seeking out holly, despite our village being named for the tree, is a bit of a waste of time, as the birds have usually stripped any berries off it long since, but ivy is most certainly not in short supply, and I do bring in a bit of live evergreenery.  I was rather taken with my own tastefulness in the arrangement over our Chartres labyrinth:

And finally, not to be outdone by the cider press, Tom got out the new garden shredder, which is fortunately a much quieter and more compact thing, and made a start on the mountain of hedge cuttings. Half and hour and several large bin bags of minced up leaves and branches later, there was no noticeable dent made in this, but we have high hopes, and Tom had fun, as can be seen in this wonky little video.

A very happy solstice to all.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Good things # 3: the cider press cometh

'I think they're making moonshine up the road,' said Tom 'they've just dragged some big machine thing up with a tractor, and now there's all kinds of noise coming from up there.'

So I went up to have a look, and next to Victor's house, with Victor in attendance, was a big noisy contraption I'd never seen before, powered from the tractor by all kinds of filthy wheels and belts and other gear and tackle though not a lot of trim,

as well as a thick hosepipe emanating from Victor's sister Hélène's shed, and there were apples everywhere:

They were emptied into a big wet hopper, where they seemed to receive some kind of very perfunctory washing, then scooped up in these baskets and conveyed to the top of the contraption, then squashed between a stack of metal grids, from which the residue of pulp was tossed aside

and the juice squirted out from a tap at the other end.

'How old is it?' I enquired above the din.
'I dunno,' replied Victor, 'old.'

He's well gone ninety himself. I also asked if they did anything with the discarded pulp. He said they used sometimes to give it to the cows but not any more, there wasn't much left in it anyway. The blackbirds like it, he added, but he thought it was perhaps the pips they were interested in, which had never occurred to me before about blackbirds going for windfall apples. I assumed the juice would be sour and horrible, but he said no, it's very sweet, and as I ducked away I stuck a finger under the stream and licked it, and indeed it was, so I gave him the thumbs up and he gave me a grin. 

The people who brought and worked it would be moving on to the next job, they make a tour. It won't in fact become moonshine, but will stay as cider, though Victor is one of the only farmers still alive who has the right to make 'Calva' (a term which is not only geographically inaccurate but rather glamorising of the product in question), he no longer does so; the travelling alembic doesn't come round any more, though there's one at St Laurent, but, he said, no one really wants the stuff now. I bought a litre bottle from him for 50 francs when we first came, and in fact it wasn't bad, at least as hot grog with lemon and orange and brown sugar. 

Anyway, if my description of the workings of this formidable engin is not adequate, here's a video I spliced together  from three separate ones I took, so you can work it out for yourself, though make sure your volume levels aren't too high, it really is very noisy, and no one's wearing ear protection! Victor, as regulars of this blog will probably recognise, is the little Tom Bombadil-ish chap who stalks off across the shot at the end, and the fat dour bloke is his nephew, one of the many Marcel/les of our village, who looks as if he's more used to drinking cider than making it, and probably won't make as old bones as Victor. The two anonymous entities covered in apple pulp are the machine's owners. 

I came away from the event quite unwarrantedly cheerful and excited.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Good things # 2 - The Supercols' Christmas video

Hooray and hurrah, it's that time of year again, and I have received Li Yi and Colin's Christmas video! 

This is the fourth one of these I've posted since 2010, which most certainly constitutes a tradition. As I've probably mentioned, these two are very dear friends of my very dear niece in the UK, and I've never met them but they send me, with many other of course, their Christmas video because they know I will love and treasure it, and because their warm-hearted, creative generosity knows no bounds. They make these in a very hands on, low-tech, glue-and-scissors kind of way (this year with paper dolls using brads, which brings back memories of Clive's maquette exhibition) and they take almost distressing amounts of time and patience over them just for the love of it, and for no reward save the making itself and, I hope, the knowledge of how much it will touch, delight and amaze those of us who see it.

Previous videos can be seen on Vimeo: 2010, 2011, and 2013, and there are links with some of them about how they made them. Not quite sure what happened in 2012, I think they might have been getting married or something... In fact if you're over there on Vimeo, do sneak a peek at the Colin's wedding speech film to Li Yi. I don't quite feel at liberty to link to it, but it is there on a public channel, and if you're anything like me it will, like the rest of the videos or more so, make you laugh and cry at the same time, quite immoderately.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Good things # 1: good news, sushi and beer

One of the main happy things to happen this week was the very straightforward run down to the big, really quite remarkably big, out in the fields down a road of its own, with bags of easy parking, polyclinique outside Pontivy. A very lively ophthalmology department (it was Wednesday afternoon and full of families of bespectacled children) shunted us through fairly efficiently, confirmed the cataract diagnosis and the imminent necessity of surgery, gave us outpatients dates for the right eye in January and the left in February, and a pile of paperwork, prescriptions and instructions (two Betadine showers in the preceding twelve hours and don't-forget-to-wash-your-belly-button seemed a bit like overkill but we accepted it, after all you don't want belly button fluff finding its way into your vitreous humours, do you?). Nothing to it, seemed to be the general attitude. Tom was much cheered, until he made the mistake of too much googling and learning rather more than he wanted to about the exact nature of the procedure. Serves you right for looking, was my attitude. But the rapid deterioration of his vision really more than outweighs any trepidation, and we are much relieved.

So then on to my birthday. As I say, it rained most of the day, but I went about my usual Friday morning errands and then we went up to the big supermarket near the big town, to carry out a plan hatched a while back and which we have been very much looking forward to realising. In the last couple of years perhaps, sushi, indeed much Japanese food, though I've yet to come across tempura, has become popular here. There are a couple of little restaurants in St Brieuc, and a small enterprise has also set up within the supermarket preparing it sur place. They are right next to the fish counter, and simply transfer pieces of salmon, tuna and bream across directly and stand there with their sharp knives and rolling mats making the stuff. It's very good, but expensive, not much cheaper than going down town to the restaurant for it, so we've only ever tended to buy very small amounts and take it home and eat it slowly with some ceremony, but I decided for my birthday I'd like to have a sushi blow-out, and with going out in the evenings getting a bit problematical with dodgy night vision etc (Tom's is failing, and mine's never been great, and if I drove I couldn't drink anyway), it seemed like a good solution.

The lady serving was very friendly and encouraging, and happy to be photographed, 

and we really did buy rather a lot, though we turned down the special Christmas packs designed for French tastes with a blob of foie gras stuck onto one or two of the maki.

and yes, we did eat it all. There were two pieces of sushi and one of maki left, but I made short work of them at lunchtime the next day (there's also a tub of pickled ginger left but that keeps and goes with anything, or indeed with nothing, I just eat it on its own, sneakily, straight from the 'fridge). We have our own chopsticks, mine are smaller and round and more polished, Tom's are matt bamboo with the partial square cross section. I put spoons out too, just in case.

We also got Japanese beer, which we enjoyed; it was quite frothy. I got out some of our best hand-thrown ceramics, the little dipping saucers and the pottery tumblers, which are the most heavenly things to drink anything out of, we ought to use them all the time, but I can't get past keeping some things for best.

All quite delicious, worth looking forward to.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

'The general balm the'hydroptique earth hath drank...'

- St Lucy's day. The yellowed copy of the Penguin Metaphysical Poets, passed down from my sister Alison, via my brother Phil, I think. I can't always tell whose writing it is in the margins with the rather lame, A-level notes, mine or theirs.

As often, a remarkably light-filled day, the house filled with sun till it went down behind Victor's barn some time between four and five. 

As always, it was my birthday yesterday. It rained most of the day, so though we went out we didn't walk, but I did today, just from home,

and a number of wonderful and delicious, small but perfectly formed, things have happened, many of them happenstantial and unlooked for, so I will post about them over the next few days.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Cheerful things on winter days

Over the coffee cups:

There are worse ways to linger over the breakfast table. I'm currently rather taken with toning stripes; those two blues are somewhat more different than they appear. They're more fingerless mittens for Jantien's partner Jessie (here are Jantien's finished carmine pink mitts).

And then it's that time of year again, bickering our way through the Christmas card list. It's all right really, we got Lifeboat ones when we were in Jersey, and we keep it sensible, are seldom able to reduce the number much but it's perfectly manageable, we aren't such excessively friended people as to have hundreds to remind that we're still alive every year. 

I broke the back of it today and got the overseas ones off all save the few that go in parcels. I intended to go out and do a bit of shopping for these and other things, but then decided against, since insomnia struck at 4 am, and the sofa downstairs, my big blue blanket, a glass of warm milk with a dash of orgeat and Aubrey and Maturin were beckoning. Life and hours are so leisured these workless winter days, I can easily afford this kind of broken sleep, and in truth rather enjoy it, as it's more or less the only time I allow myself to read and only to read, but it does leave me a bit bleary and disordered and out of sync. Also I thought the O'Brian would lull me into somnolence, lapped by the waves and lost in the impenetrably rich texture of detail and terminology and nothing much happening but exercises, with the men's characters drawn bit by bit in bold yet elliptical strokes, as it has gone on for nearly a third of the book. But then all of a sudden it got exciting with an Algerine galley attacking a Norwegian cat, and quite a bit of blood and thunder and the promise and disappointment of prize money, so it kept me awake longer than I meant it to. 


Talking of cats, I got out of the car in the drive the other day and perceived I was being watched.

A little face looking from the thuja hedge.

Possibly birding but more likely just exploring. I called Tom round and he enquired if she were stuck,

but she said she was OK, and gave his hand a quick pat and a rub with her head before climbing down. Don't know whose she is, she's friendly and seems happy and cared for, but we agreed we shouldn't invite her in.


Lastly, they showed this again in full on telly today, I do like it so much, be it ever so kitsch and camp and tacky and I'll probably be raided by the Taste Squad:

As well as to mark the launch of BBC Music, it's a Children in Need fundraiser thing, it seems, though I didn't know and don't actually follow that. And I'm so far from au courant I don't have a clue who many of the musicians are in any of the genres, but it's nice to see some familiar faces and there's a list of all of them as they appear here.

Tom's ophthalmology appointment tomorrow, so must needs find out where we're actually going.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

November collage

Well, here I am at the end of a month of daily blogging, with only a couple of days off while we were away. It seems a bit odd to be maintaining this tradition with the white heat of the blogging craze long behind us, and I've sometimes wondered why I'm doing it and what I've got to say or show of any importance, but I'm glad I have, it's made me feel more connected with an activity I still value and with all of you who stop by, who I still value too, and I have enjoyed exercising the discipline of making myself sit down and put a post together, I think it's probably done my brain some good, and I have thought to use the camera a bit more, which I've enjoyed too. I rarely think to look at stats any more, but when I did recently, I observed that they spiked dramatically on the days when I used photos, videos and links from elsewhere, so I don't know what's going on there, but not to worry.

There are still things I meant to post about then didn't get round to it, but they can wait and be subjects for later, or not, as it goes. However, now I expect to feel a little like the poor man in the fable who complained that he had no room with his big family in his tiny house, so the rabbi told him to bring the chickens, then the goat then the cow into the house, then to put them all outside again, so the man revelled in all the sudden extra space he had. Similarly, I will, I hope, discover a luxurious access of time, probably early evening, which I hope to use in sitting on my arse knitting, of which I have rather a lot to do before Christmas.

So to round things off, an end-of-the-month collage, on time for once. 

  1. Breakfast, yoghurt and honey. Actually this isn't particularly seasonal but it's nice.
  2. View from the front door early in the month, almost bare branches now.
  3. The man cutting the hedges.
  4. Tom's Christmas jumper, taking a rather long time. Half and half merino wool and cotton, nice but rather fine, half fisherman's rib, mostly big simple rectangles, might be a last minute rush before Christmas. More dark red.
  5. On the Condor ferry on the way to Jersey, rather too warm Australian Shiraz in plastic glasses, but we were in a holiday mood and didn't mind.
  6. First fires in the chimney. We usually manage to hold out till November. This was one of the old beams Tom took down doing the garage job, you can see a nail sticking out of it.
  7. Road through the chestnut and beech woods, see yesterday's post.
  8. Walnuts, usually a basket of them on the table during the winter, good for antioxidants.
  9. Leaf litter.
  10. Skeletal poppy head. More dead heads on a web album.
  11. Foggy garden this morning, only a couple of weeks ago it still looked like this.
  12. Mince pie, the first today as it is the First Sunday in Advent. Enjoyed with tea and Radio 3's Service for Advent with Carols, which ticked all the boxes for such a thing, which are really just two: Oh Come oh Come Emmanuel to start and Lo He Comes with Clouds Descending to close, Sleepers Awake after that was a bonus. I like early Advent, it's really the best of Christmas for me, it feels fresh and ancient at the same time. Some of the liturgy, said the programme notes, dates back to the sixth century in Gaul, which gave me a bit of a shiver.

So, be seeing you, and thanks for reading and stopping by.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Three beautiful things

Two from yesterday, one from today.

1) The way through the woods. This is one of my favourite bits of road to drive through, as I do quite frequently, but most especially in spring or autumn, because the leaves of the beech trees come and go a little earlier than those of the chestnuts they grow amongst, so you have a sense of the first green flames flickering and the last golden ones dying down amongst the not yet kindled or burned out logs of the chestnut trunks. This is one of the things I like about living here where the predominant tree species are chestnut, oak and then, less frequently, beech.

As for the road, it's not so easy to stop on, so I've never really taken photos here. I made the effort this time as it was brighter at last after days and days of rain and fog, and I suddenly realised that autumn would be gone before I knew it. When we first came here, it seemed to me that autumn colour didn't really happen, and I missed it, but in fact what really often happens is that the wet, dull, windy weather of November can whip the last of it away while we huddle indoors and don't see the going of it.

So I got out of the car at the parking spot and and walked back some way to photograph the vista I admire so often while driving.

Typically, however, I found my eyes straying downward to the leaf litter.

The parking spot is under a big stone cross which, I think, marks the boundary between Quessoy and Hénon. Soize's husband, the erudite local historian and master crêpier Quercus (the town's name, Quessoy, coming originally from the Latin for oak, in which the place abounded), tells of how when he was a nipper, the children of the two communes would appoint a time to meet under the stone cross for a battle, a ritualised and generally bloodless affair, I think, superseded in adolescence by a rivalry centring on the differing types of scooter they rode according to the franchises held by the two towns' garages. 

For me, the spot was for a long time one of the Stations of the Mol, one of those places where, however sound asleep she appeared to be on the back seat, Molly would mysteriously know that we were approaching, and sit up and bark for a walk. As she grew older, the walk wasn't much of a walk, at least not for me, as all she really wanted to do was get out of the car and walk round and round in circle sniffing at things; but even a very little time before she left us, I stopped here and opened the windows for her and she lifted her head and took in the the smells with recognition.

There are more photos on a web album.


2) A box of light at Quai de Rêves. We, the both of us unusually, met up with Iso and Princeling and, unusually, Pascal their paterfamilias, to take in a dance show in Lamballe. A combination of one-woman dance and a fairly uniquely conceived form of digital art, a kind of cube of translucent membrane on which were projected forms and patterns of light, abstract, figurative and ... whatever letters and numbers are, not calligraphic, ummm, typographic? Anyway. These seemed to respond to her movement, but I'm still not certain they did, I think perhaps she followed them, since after the performance the audience were invited to come and play in the box themselves, but it didn't seem quite evident how to make it respond. It was fun trying anyway. Tom was entranced by the dancer (he either is by contemporary dance or hates it) and sought her out afterwards to express a tongue-tied thanks and shake her hand, Iso was moderately pleased, but as a dancer and performer herself said she wasn't entirely satisfied by the dancer's 'vocabulary of movement'. Princeling was only somewhat entertained and started to fidget (the chairs were a bit uncomfortable and it was a bit late) but he had been to a proper restaurant beforehand without a kids' menu and had eaten pintâde and café gourmand without the café, and most amazing of all his teacher was at the show (that one's primary teacher might exist beyond the classroom is a fact fairly bouleversant to a seven-year-old) so it wasn't a bad evening for him overall. I don't know what Pascal thought, he and Iso always seem to get caught up in a bit of networking at these events so I guess that's a positive for them, but for myself I was just happy that everyone was doing OK and the performance was interesting enough and not too long. I didn't take any pictures of it as I'm not sure that's good form and anyway I wanted to watch it, but here are some I took afterwards during the audience participation bit:

The last one is Princeling, with his face blurred because it was dark and I wasn't using flash.

It wasn't a long show, so there was time for a very light meal and yesterday's blog post before we left, the drive there and back (oddly, my eyes, not great with night vision, seemed much better adapted to the road after watching the show than before), a bit of time to socialise, the show itself, then cheese and wine and telly and knitting when we got back, so it seemed a really very long and full and satisfying evening.


3) The chimney sweep's dog.  Having the chimney swept is indeed a beautiful thing in itself; the fire burns clean and bright afterwards and there's that good feeling that something cleansing that needs to be done has been done.  The young chap who does it is calm and careful and hard-working and has some powerful kit for the job. But an unlooked for bonus was this fellow who he had in the cab of his van:

An American cocker spaniel puppy. 

You can bring him in, I said, trying not to sound too desperately eager.  But he said no, he was fine, and in fact the vacuum cleaner he operates from the van is very noisy in the house but the cab is well insulated, and anyway I think he's learning to be a good road companion, and we know from Molly experience that you need to be consistent and not give them mixed messages about when  they do and don't come out of the vehicle. But he took him out afterwards and let us all say hello. He's only two and a half months old, so he's doing very well coming out and about to work with his boss and waiting and so on, though I did notice there was a thick protective sheet on the seat!

We agreed that the most important thing for them is to be with you, not to be alone and to be taken along. The sweep was clearly very besotted with him and very proud - his mum and dad were both champions, he told us. As before, it was rather dark for the photos, and as with Princeling, he didn't care to keep still.

What's his name? - I asked.
Joe, - said the sweep, and grinned - Cocker!


Final day of daily posting tomorrow.