Thursday, March 27, 2014

Eve of departure, and the Moncontour magnolia.


Little more I can do now: the alarm is set for 3 am tomorrow morning; I have cereal bars and fruit juice and Kendal Mint Cake and books on the Kindle; I have packed everything I can, unpacked most of it at least once because I still needed it and packed it again, written extensive notes to myself about things I have done perfectly easily before or could very easily have kept in even my increasingly sieve-like head anyway, emptied everything that needs emptying and charged everything that needs charging, written my will... 

Molly has extra meat for tomorrow's dinner and Tom has been given special dispensation to have a Mars bar for breakfast on the way back from the station at 5 am.

On the way back from further last minute provisioning (done at least in part to give Mol a ride in the car to distract her from rolling furiously and indignantly on the carpet having had her ears cleaned, another job that couldn't possibly wait till I got back, after all, that moment, just 36 hours after my departure, will be a world away), I decided to do something I have been meaning to do every spring for the last seven years, that is, photograph the magnolia tree in flower on the ramparts of Moncontour. 

This isn't such a difficult thing to do, but difficult enough, since a clear view to it can only be obtained from a point on a fairly narrow winding road up the hill away from the town where stopping the car is very dangerous - not that this prevents smitten tourists, sometimes in camping cars, from doing so anyway.  Since the only place you can safely stop and park is several hundred meters further back up the hill, and there's no easy turning, I hardly ever think to do so in time, at least not when I have the camera with me. Anyone who knows a magnolia tree knows that their moment of early spring glory is a brief one, and year after year I've failed to get around to taking the photos.  This time, though, I thought to do so in advance, 

 And since to look at things in bloom,
Fifty Springs is little room...

Sadly, it was not a very bright spring day and rather too late in the morning, so the contrast of lights and shadows which show the picturesquely irregular shapes and planes of the ancient town's walls and roofs to best advantage, and which seem to make the magnolia stand out all grand and emblazoned and Tree-of-Gondor-like, was absent, but you can't have everything. And perhaps that perception of the tree is enhanced by the way it rather flashes upon the eye, surprising every time.  


In the long view it's scarcely noticeable, in fact.


The yellow specks on the walls below it are primroses.



The one above caught the great flocks of jackdaws and pigeons which swirl around the old bell tower, built by the Spanish in the Wars of Religion in the 16th century. These birds are a perpetual headache in terms of their destructiveness, since all they want to do is roost and poo all over said tower, which was lately restored at great expense of time and money by a special firm of scaffolders and builders from Provence who specialise in such lofty edifices, but they are very much a part of the atmosphere of the place.


By approaching on foot, and by climbing up on a wall and focussing the camera between trees, I found there was another spot with a view onto it.  The higher eye-level shows more interest in the roof shapes, but also the rather dour modern extension to the old religious hospital building on the hill behind.

Unlike Houseman's narrator, I've had my fifty springs, rather than anticipating them. It seems important to try to get round to at a few of the things one hasn't got round to yet, at least some of the smaller ones even if the bigger ones remain out of reach, and even if they don't quite stand out as brightly in reality as they are in the mind.  As a dear friend said, now's the time.





16 comments:

Nimble said...

Pink blossoms! I appreciate your effort. We're just getting our crocus and daffodils now. Forsythia and flowering trees are still to come.

polish chick said...

thank you for the little taste of spring. we have been promised a definite maybe in the spring department…by mid april. usually at this time we are at least not knee-deep in freshly fallen show, alas, this year is different. still, there is a beauty in the sparkling fluffy stuff, even if it's past its expiry date. and really, what CAN one do about the weather, other than dress for it?

have a lovely trip and take good care of yourself.

marja-leena said...

An nteresting pilgrimage of sorts, Lucy! I love the contrast of the beautiful magnolia against the ancient town. Ours is somewhat late this year but starting to show promising glimpses of colour, as are some other spring flowering shrubs.

Wishing a safe journey! Greetings to Robbie and V.

Dale said...

:-) xoxo

The Crow said...

Take care, friend. Safe journey, and drink in the comfort of being among friends who understand.

Ellena said...

Your alarm will be going off in two hours. Not wanting to wake you, I am whispering "bonne route dear Lucy".

christopher said...

Once again, I am pleased to have you as a friend. You had a visitor to Compasses recently at my suggestion, a poetess from Singapore, who was looking at collaboration. I trust your journey will go well and that Tom will putter about the house just fine without you.

zephyr said...

i believe your alarm has sounded and you are on your way!
Safe travels, dear friend.
And thank you for these photographs. i love each one of them.
Yes. Now.
Will eagerly await news on the other side.

Lucy said...

Three of the clock and all's well, so far! Woke without the alarm, kettle just boiled and bathroom heater on.

Thank you my dears!

Rouchswalwe said...

Tom should just about be enjoying that Mars bar ... I hear the crinkling of the candy paper.

Thank you for the magnolia photos! Sending you warm thoughts on your journey.

tristan said...

i'm pleased to inform your friends that you arrived safely and looking un-frazzled ... top marks for initiative and organization, then

Lucy said...

Thanks all. Back safe and sound, and getting a post together, but today was beautiful weather and a walk on the beach in the morning and an afternoon's gardening took precedence.

Tristan! Your early start makes me feel a fraud, more of that anon!

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Lucy, I got the chronology all wrong and thought you were leaving and returning last week so I've been waiting for a report of your voyage.
Anyway, glad to know you're back safe and sound and happy to see the magnolia tree and the bell-tower.

Sheila said...

Lucy, this is beautiful. i'm so glad you did take the pictures, and it's hard for me to imagine them being more beautiful with different weather, but I trust your judgment on that. I wonder who planted the tree....

Clive Hicks-Jenkins said...

I enjoyed this enormously. I've always relished your ramblings in France, but life has been so full of late that I don't get around blog-world as much as I once did, which is a definite loss in my day-to-day. (Must try harder!)

Jackdaws. Mmmmmm. We have 'em here, and rooks too, and it's true that between them… and there always seem to be jackdaws where there are rooks… there is the tiresome combined mess of roosting detritus and droppings. (They seem to drop far more twigs than ever get used in the nests.) And yet, and yet… I do love these benign and clever acrobats, that always bring such liveliness to the garden. It's true that I occasionally get weary of clearing twigs from the flat roof outside our bathroom… though I use them for kindling when dry… and I get cross when the rooks leave the lawn looking like a minefield in their hunt for leatherjackets. Nevertheless, I'd be bereft without them, and I welcome the sounds from the rookery as they get well and truly into major egg-laying mode. I can imagine how they'd love that wonderful tower!

Lucy said...

Hello Clive, I'm very touched that you read back this far then!

It's an odd thing, and the bird book confirms it, but we don't get rooks in this corner of France. It's quite local absence, a friend who lived and was a nature warden on the Ile de Bréhat said he had seen them there. At my primary school there was an old plantation of Wellingtonias and other trees at the bottom of the grounds with a magnificent rookery, and the rooks were our playground companions. The jackdaws here seem to mix with the ordinary carrion crows quite freely. We get ravens on the coast, magpies of course and a lot of jays, who are quite bold in the gardens. At some times of year the daddy-long-legs reach plague proportions, I almost wish something did mine the garden for their beastly offspring!