Thursday, August 30, 2007

Brilliant and beautiful # 2

This is my lovely niece Bee.

Well, in fact, that was her on her fourth birthday (I think), a few years ago now. But as you can see, she's still pretty cute ( Billy the Bear, who also appears in the photograph above, is still very much around).

Bee (my sister's daughter, not my Aussie brother's,) is a twin, her sister Tom ( they are actually called Tabitha and Tamsin, you can tell they were children of the seventies...) is lovely too, but I don't think I've a picture of her handy.

Bee lived until recently on a pre-war wooden racing yacht, Gymea, in a place almost unbelievably fortuitously called Avalon, up the coast from Sydney, with this rather gorgeous Australian boatbuilder.

In the photo below, she looks a little like a deranged woman coming at her aunt with a winch handle, but I show it to give some idea of the nature of their living accommodation. If you look carefully on the left of the picture, you can see her cat, Willow, curled up in a shopping basket. We are about to go sailing; when Gymea is about to go sailing, Willow gets in her shopping basket and goes to sleep.

Here we are sailing, Tom and I. Tom was allowed to steer and looks like a natural. In fact Mikey the boatbuilder is a very good sailing teacher.

This is how you got to and from Gymea. There were no jetties or anything, you just pulled the canoe up onto the beach. (That's me paddling ineptly in the front, and Mikey, looking like the second last of the Mohicans in the middle. He didn't much like being a passenger.)

However, Gymea is now sold, and Bee is mostly living in her workshop, while they build another boat to live on. Perhaps because she has more landlubber time, she has started a blog. She very cleverly ran her computer off a solar charger on the boat, but I don't know how her internet access worked. At the moment she is writing and documenting much about the little boat she is building for herself, because that's what she's doing at the moment, which seems a good place to start. The photos are lovely. But she also makes wonderful, very special and precious jewellery, full of dragons and fish and stars and suns and moons and irridiscent enamel work and other marvels, which, with any luck will perhaps feature later, she lives in a beautiful place, is soon starting a psychotherapy course, has an amazing memory for detail, loves to write, so all in all, with a bit of encouragement, she should find plenty to blog about... if the bug bites.

So go over to bumble and give her a blog-warming!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Descent into Antworld

OK, so this is where I swallow pride in large doses and get really confessional.

I have only just worked out how to use the macro setting on my camera properly. This is largely because I am a total techno-nitwit. My excuse for not improving this sorry condition is that I have an aversion to instruction manuals only obtainable on disc, as the more detailed one for the Powershot is. I love blogging, Wikipedia, Amazon, messing about with Photoshop (even in French) and Picasa (thanks Joe for putting me onto it), but manuals (and Ikea catalogues) need to be on paper.

Anyway, what you have to do is turn the button to P, or AV will do it, and that way when you press the macro button it actually works! Press it a bit harder and you get Super-macro. ( So, Gran, you make a hole in the shell, put the egg in your mouth...). Leave it on auto and it doesn't work. I found out by chance following an exchange here with my friends Lee and Avus about depth of field. Previously, I mostly relied on the zoom, which was OK, especially when I discovered how to turn on the digital zoom,(which wasn't very long ago either, oh dear, oh dear); better for insects etc, when you don't really want to get too intimate, like these cricket-type things,

The second one was very big, three or four inches perhaps (that's big for a bug in Northern Europe).

But with the super-macro, you can get right up and touch the subject, and if you've a lense protector and UV filter, like I do, you have to. The problem with this is, it will sometimes focus on the specks of dust, fingermarks, dog saliva etc on the filter, or sometimes you get a reflection of the lense surround, as in the one below, which I rather like and decided not to crop because it echoes the shape of the tree knot.

So, armed with my new knowledge, I set off to get up close and personal,

to say nothing of low down and dirty,

with the old tree stumps which I'd previously been acquainted with at a slightly more respectful distance in the second valley,

and their denizens.

Little did I know, however, while taking an insect's eye view of everything, that this wee hole I was jamming the lense up to was none other than the entrance to...


Yes, yes, I know it's tiny, but like I said, this is Northern Europe I'm talking about. And there were a lot of them, and they were very cross, and pouring out very fast. So I didn't have much opportunity to photograph them in their terrifying multitudes, because before I knew it they were all over the camera and making their way up my arms and one of them even tried to bite me on the neck... aarrgh! I'm not sure there aren't one ot two in my clothing still. I think I'll stick to the zoom for bugs.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Brilliant and beautiful # 1

The Molés came to lunch yesterday. Feeding French people is something I cannot but approach with a little apprehension, but with them very little. They are unfailingly enthusuastic and appreciative. I cooked and cooked and we sat outside and ate and drank for about five hours; I can do it if I try.

When we had been here two or three years, I went into the art shop in Lamballe one day, and started talking to a very friendly lady working in there, in fact it was a fortuitous one-off, she was just helping out her friend who owns the shop that day. She asked if I'd be interested in helping her young daughter with her English. I said why not, and we exchanged numbers, but then months went by and nothing happened. Then some time later, I was at a point when I began to feel life here had hit the doldrums; there was still (and always will be) an enormous amount of work to do on the house, but that was not always in my power to effect; a return visit to England to a school reunion had rather left me wondering where my life was going, seeing the über-career women and mothers all my peers had turned out to be, who, I was fairly sure, were not all significantly cleverer than I was, (though I realise now they mostly were significantly more focused and harder working, had probably made fewer bum decisions...) Anyway, suffice to say I thought perhaps I should make the effort to take a step outward.

So I called the family and went to see them. Anaïs was then a delightful little sprite of about eleven. I hadn't much clue about teaching English one-to-one setting a child of that age, but we persevered, and bit by bit we started enjoying ourselves. They told their friends, who told other friends, and for a time I was racing round Lamballe and its environs of a Saturday in between their various dance, football, babysitting and other commitments, gulping down a quick sandwich and letting Molly out of the car between whiles.

A couple fell by the wayside, and it calmed down, and I just had Anaïs and her brother and a pair of very lovely sisters from another family. Now all is changing. Anaïs turns 18 next month and has just received her Baccalaureat, with a good mention. A joke was made yesterday about how perhaps she could come back and start giving me lessons in French, and Tom said he thought in fact that the family had already given us some excellent French lessons. I knew what he meant but lacked the words to explain it at that moment. We have been generally very fortunate in the contacts we have made since we came here, but this family have been an exceptional blessing. They are dynamic, open, affectionate, cultivated, funny, unaffected... I cannot find enough good adjectives. They love their local and regional heritage ( Frederique comes originally from a Breton-speaking family in Finisterre, Jean-Jacques is Lamballais), the paintings of Matthurin Meheut and things Celtic, but are well versed in wider French history and culture too, are happy and interested Europeans, and open to the wider world as well. Anaïs can tell me more about the Enlightenment from her studies than I've ever learned, including the English speaking figures of the time, but dislikes much about modern French literature; the sentences, she says, are far too long and there is too much bad philosophy! Phew, it isn't just me then...

As you can see, she's very beautiful. Mind you her mum's pretty gorgeous too,

( Tom's come over all daft on account he gets to give her a squeeze...), and her dad's not so bad either.

It is a source of great wonder to me that the little girl I met then has turned into this fabulous, amazing grown-up creature, so full of potential and promise. I suppose parents must feel like that all the time. She may not be mine but I'm absurdly proud of her all the same, and will miss her hugely, though I look forward to seeing her from time to time and catching up with what's happening in her world, which thanks to her and her family, is a little bit our world now too. And I'll still give lessons to her little brother Max, which I need to keep me up to speed on French provincial youth culture, and who wears Nike and who wears Vanns, and whether you should tuck your trousers into you socks or not... He wasn't here yesterday, because he's been away playing football in the Ukraine.

Since she was three apples high she has wanted to be a journalist , and now she is off to university in Lannion to take communication studies. Such a combination of brains, beauty and personality must surely go far. So just remember, when she appears on your screens or newspapers or wherever in a few years time, you saw her here first!

Saturday, August 25, 2007


It seems I was fated to live with deafness.

My mother was losing her hearing well before I was born. By the time I was adult and she was elderly she was quite deaf. I wasn't particularly patient or sympathetic.

Tom, still younger than she was then, is now deafer than she ever was. His loss of hearing has been rapid and steep, and getting steeper. We first noticed it around the time we were first married, 12 years ago, when we went for a walk to look at an eclipse of the moon. I remarked on how astonishingly loud the grasshoppers were, and he said what grasshoppers? A few years later, he was apparently ignoring people who spoke to him from one side or a distance, sometimes causing tension or misunderstanding.

When we first came here, we had no television. We listened to the radio, enjoying the early evening comedies, the News Quiz, 'Clue, Dead Ringers (always better on radio), but progressively these became impossible for him. We got television. The television grew louder and louder; I would ask for it down, frustration and argument ensued. When I spoke and he couldn't understand, I was mumbling. I remember my mother accusing my father of mumbling, which he did rather. Worsening communication for whatever reason can, of course, lead to a loss of confidence in what you have to say. She very largely gave up on television, or had it on very loud. Fortunately my father was fairly hard of hearing too. In fact I do have a very poor voice for deaf people, crackly and not low, childish, range and volume limited, jagged when I raise it, as my teaching tutor once pointed out, I've learned to project it better of recent years.

This was possibly the worst time; unhappiness,bewilderment, denial, resentment abounding and rebounding around the walls with the evening news. When he finally had a hearing aid, and turned the set on to the volume it had habitually been, he apologised for subjecting me to it and risking my hearing as well. At some point we discovered teletext subtitles, which were a help.

With some support and encouragement from friends, he finally had a test, some four or five years ago. It confirmed a loss of around 30%, which must be significantly more by now. Cost and inertia, some resistance, meant he didn't go for the hearing aid straight away, but was able to adjust to the fact, to accept and tell people that he was deaf. The fear and misery around it ebbed.

I have said ruefully that our mother spent our inheritance on hearing aids, which were mostly not used, broken, not serviced and otherwise abandoned. Those who supply hearing aids say complacently that most people settle down with them satisfactorily after a period of adjustment and tuning. I feel the truth is more that most people resign themselves one way and another to their limited usefulness. Tom has not only lost volume, but more importantly, definition of sounds, and whole areas of pitch. Mozart, he says, is full of holes, and I imagine the music unravelling like dropped stitches in knitting. Hearing aids can do little to redress these problems. I would say though, it is necessary to be persistent with going back and having the instrument retuned; computer technology exists now which comes far closer to allowing a hearing technician into the person's head to hear what they hear, and a good and experienced one will take time and trouble to adjust it. However, it has now rather reached the point for Tom, where to crank up the higher sounds any more would mean that every knife put down on the kitchen counter would be an unbearable explosion, while making little difference to the subtleties of human speech. One of its main useful functions has been that he can hear himself better, so doesn't talk so loud one to one or with small numbers, but then he better accepts me telling him when he's talking too loud now anyway.

More useful in some ways than the hearing aid is a set of cordless stethoscopic earphones which enable him to hear TV and music, even through walls and at quite some distance. Watching him some way down the garden animatedly conducting the Sibelius symphony I was watching on the Proms was a funny moment. They have made some pleasures possible again, but reinforce his isolation in other ways, and we fear that feeding high levels of sound into his ears in the way they do may be ultimately worsening the condition. I can't easily reach him to communicate when he's using them. In the open-plan, free-flowing space we live in, it is quite useful to be able to enclose ourselves in our own bubbles, I sometimes use the phones myself if I want to watch something he doesn't, particularly while doing something else where I need to move about, the sound quality is excellent. But the walls of these private spaces are not porous, we can't toss a question, exchange casual remarks. Or rather he can, I can't, and if he does he won't hear the reply. Watching TV together, we can't really share the jokes, comments, reactions to what we're watching. Having been around people who compulsively chatter and commentate through films, this is not necessarily a bad constraint...

Subtitling is also a benefit I've come to quite appreciate, and we bless the advent of DVDs which almost always supply it, just when watching videotapes was becoming impossible. I've grown quite reliant on it too, especially with films where the screen dialogue seems woefully lower in volume than all the bangs and crashes and incidental music of the soundtrack, and apparently quite important things are said off-screen which are completely inaudible. Television subtitling often obscures too much of the picture, and on live programmes and news is sometimes wildly out, sometimes amusingly so, like when they said Prince William's girlfriend had been remarkably sportive for the last three years ( I think they meant supportive...)

Loss of hearing set in at the same time as we came to France. It soon became clear Tom was not going to make much progress in understanding French, though he has made some; distinguishing sounds being difficult in his first language, it is naturally more so in another. This makes life more difficult for him, but has done much for both my confidence and my French. Old-fashioned gender stereotyping prevailing as it tends to in our marriage, where he does money and building, and I do cooking, and er, yes cooking, and most of the housework, and yoga with Emilie, and coffee with Fi, and blogging... oh, and putting drops in the dog's ears ( in fact, we're neither of us incompetent at any of those things, we just have our preferences, except he couldn't put drops in the dog's ears, and would probably get tired of yoga and coffee, ), I feel it redresses the balance somewhat when I have to take charge sometimes and do the more worldly stuff. Additionally, being here means we can have private conversations in public places as loudly as necessary with less concern that people are listening to us, or we are intruding on them.

I do very little cussing under my breath when he gets on my nerves, but if I want to, the option is there and he won't hear me...

And yet, and yet. It's perhaps easy enough for me to speak Pollyanna-ishly about the silver linings, I only live alongside his deafness, not inside it. The erosion of beloved music, one of the most important things throughout his life, the alarm when sounds which have become distorted, liminal, unidentifiable, the sudden clatter of the spin drier in the other room, the crack of a plastic bottle expanding, press formlessly and alarmingly against the curtain of deafness, or the sorrow that just when he finally realised he could actually make friends, be socially at ease and appreciated for the charm and humour he never fully knew he had before, he must now feel partially excluded from their conversations - people are kind and make efforts, but that is a difficult one; too much and he feels like an object of pity, a source of embarrassment, not enough and he's out of it - all of these losses, and more, I do not experience directly.

My mother, though no great socialite or people-person, relied very heavily for her sense of self and self-worth on her relationships with her outer world, specifically her children. Being withdrawn by deafness from verbal communication with us lessened her. We raced on without her, talking together sometimes as if she wasn't there. The stimulus of conversation reduced, rather out of the current of things, she became vague, slow, stewed too much on past things, resentments.

It is easy to condemn as unjust and ignorant the perception of deaf people as slow or stupid, but it requires examining. Eventually if you cannot receive certain stimuli, you will become dull to them. Think of the word intelligent. For Tom, much of the spoken world is becoming unintelligible, he can make less and less sense of it. And the presumption that not having heard equals not understanding, therefore stupidity, is sometimes one that he takes on himself, it is not imposed on him. So when I have read out loud from something 'Brahms', but he has heard 'Mahler', and continues under the assumption it is Mahler in the case, until I tell him that it isn't, I was reading from text so I wouldn't have said one when I meant the other, he may well jump to a defensive 'You're saying I'm an idiot, how do you know it wasn't your mistake?', when all I'm saying is he must have misheard. But such occurences are doubtless inevitable, and quite possibly go with the age gap territory; loss of certain powers do not equal loss of self, but it sometimes feels as if it does, no doubt. He does OK.

Others, like my sister-in-law, whose hearing loss began much earlier than Tom's, but is I think now slightly less severe, expend huge efforts, and put themselves under a lot of strain, in anticipating, interpreting, looking for cues and clues, and generally pretending understanding, which he doesn't, though he does sometimes laugh along with a conversation and respond to the general atmosphere when he hasn't heard what's been said. His mis-hearings are astonishing, dada-esque, bizarre and sometimes hilarious, bearing no resemblance to any remote probability of what I might have said. I always mean to write them down.

But, withal, I think I can truly say that for him, the loss of social interaction and conversation is not as hard as it was for my mother, or would be for many others. His greatest source of strength has never been the world 'out there' but his inward life, one of ideas, mathematic, scientific, spiritual, and a personal imagery and narrative of remarkable vitality, clarity and strength, fed by meditation, reading and writing. Of late he has voiced the sentiment that perhaps going deaf has enabled him greater access to his inner world, which is largely where he prefers and needs to be, and to push the sometimes abrasive, angering outer one further to the margins.

But he also needs me, and I him. I would not have him retreat into a 'world of his own', while I go about my business in a parallel existence, simply supplying one anothers basic needs, relying solely on touch and eye contact, which, without a more complex understanding, would surely lose something. Communication was ever our sure foundation, now it needs extra care.

Conversation while travelling in the car is difficult, best avoided at trickier driving moments. I can't speak to him over my shoulder casually, or from another room. It is perhaps similar to being with someone whose first language is not the same: one must talk clearly and precisely, start and finish sentences properly, generally better to form the thought fully before voicing it, and not expect to be picked up and followed automatically. A delicate point of negotiation is who makes the move toward whom to facilitate hearing. Protracted conversation requires more energy and effort and becomes tiring on both sides, a raised voice can easily be conveyed and received as an impatient or one, generalised frustration and anger at communication thwarted can seem to be directed at the other person. Yet in more relaxed, intimate situations sometimes the barrier can seem to soften, be momentarily forgotten; it is as though tension and strain can set up its own resistance to mutual understanding.

He reads this, most of the time. Not until after I've published and I rarely talk about what I'm writing beforehand; I don't write it especially for him and I don't feel I need his approval, I do not see this as a channel of private communication with my husband! I have said that I wouldn't want him to submit comments, but I didn't see why I should be able to make what I wrote available to the world at large and not to him. (I have the impression most people's husbands/wives/partners/significant others do read their blogs, or can if they wish... I don't know how others feel about this?) Having this opportunity of expressing myself truthfully and sometimes intimately, but in a way I wish to be heard, has become a valued outlet, in ways I hadn't foreseen, and also, sometimes, something I can share or offer to him.

People meeting Tom for the first time are often shocked, embarrassed or distressed by the extent of his deafness, which he never tries to conceal. Their compassion is appreciated. But as I watch him now working in the next room, singing, giving me an intermittent commentary I'm not obliged to respond to, talking nonsense to the dog, and I think of how full of plans and projects and dreams he is, I am somewhat surprised that this is a man who is 70 next month, and who seems to me to be neither failing nor unhappy. He may struggle to keep up in company, but he has a degree of presence in any conversation, his voice and delivery have weight, and should this ever veer toward pomposity, the word 'gravitas!' and a wink will surely suffice to leaven it.

It was a relief to escape my mother's deafness, I longed to enter a real, normal, world out there, without such annoyances. Now I see that the real, adult, world is one filled with unexpected contingencies, where you have to take what comes and work with it, again and again, with sermons in stones and blessings in adversities, if you're lucky. The difference in our ages being as it is, it always stood to reason he would come to need me one way or another. But because emotional neediness, dependence, imbalance was not part of the deal when we came to one another, necessity now is only an easy yoke, a really very light burden.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Not bread alone

Wonderful, wonderful Tartapain bakery, Yffiniac!

Not only do I say this because they produce excellent wholemeal, moist and soft-crusted, small walnut and raisin loaves, and another similar with sweet dried fruits, a big round gallette au four and a lovely light oily baguette they call a guilette which is a little like ciabatta, to say nothing of kouign amann nearly as good as you get in Finistere, not only because all the girls who sell the bread are young and lovely, and all the boys who bake it are young and comely, but also because they have just done a marvellous thing.

On approaching the counter today, I looked down and saw my purse was not in its habitual pocket in my bag, which was gaping open. I ran back to Tom, who gave me his wallet, then retraced my step back to the petrol station over the road where I had first got out of the car. My conviction, however was that I had never replaced the purse after taking it out that morning for a stamp, and I remembered it had been lying on the table, so I didn't worry unduly, and we went about our business.

On getting home, no purse. Not under the car seat, nowhere. I rang the petrol station, no luck.

I rang the bakery. The joy in the girl's voice when she told me they had found it, and repeated my phone number back to me was nearly as great as my own. Now Tom's gone to fetch it. I feel like that woman in the Bible who found a lost coin and called all her friends to round for a party, probably spending the refound money in the process, and spending all the 70 odd euros in celebration, including champagne and flowers for the lovely young people at Tartapain!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The déchèterie, and other waste matters.

Something happens to you when you come and live here. You find you become rather preoccupied socially with two particular topics of conversation.

The primary thing ex-pats, as I have reluctantly deigned to admit I am, talk about is septic tanks.

France is currently undergoing a drainage revolution, which may prove as culturally significant as the one involving the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the tumbrils. ( Incidentally, a bladed paper cutter here is known as a massicot, I once referred to one as a guillotine and was corrected in a manner that seemed to me somewhere between embarrassed and frosty...). After all, what would rural France be without that delicate aroma of dodgy drains? ( and before you pick me up for smug anglocentric intolerance, Storm Jameson, a more cultured francophile than I could ever be, made the same observation in 'The Hidden River'). And will it affect the flavour of the cheese?( Possibly interesting question, which came first, the smell of the drains or the smell of the cheese?)

Similarly, the corrugated aluminium vans, the rickety 2CVs and Renault 4s tied together with bits of string in which I hitch-hiked my way across the country twenty-five years ago, also one of those things which made France so, well... French, have more or less become a thing of the past. This is thanks to the passage of time and Alain Juppé's spoilsport juppette measures, and also perhaps the tendency of their elderly drivers to assume they still had priorité à droite when joining modern dual carriageways in the path of large articulated lorries, which might have accounted for the demise of a few (vehicles and drivers).

So, yes, where was I? The modernisation of the sewerage system. This is a brave but Herculean attempt to bring the treatment of all of our waste water, wheresoever its origins, up to a satisfactory norme by... well, a certain date. This date keeps changing, because the enormity of the task, and an entrenched attitude which, in my more genuinely intolerant and smart-arsed moments, I have described as 'if it ain't broke don't fix it, and if it is broke don't fix it either', keeps being brought home to those who are trying to effect the change. We attended a meeting at the salle polyvalante, (or as it has sometimes been called the Poll Sallyvalante) on the matter of the new measures.

A bright young lassie from the new body that has been set up for the purpose, gave us a very conscientious Powerpoint presentation, and then opened the meeting to questions. These varied from 'why can't I just mix it with the cow slurry like I've always done?', to 'will I still be able to sell my dilapidated house to a commonsensically challenged English person?' ( ok, I've interpreted that one a bit imaginatively...), to, perhaps the most pertinent, 'who the hell's going to make me do anything about it anyway?' This last received a general laugh from the floor and a sententious lecture from the Mayor on the subject of citoyenneté. Frankly, though, give a French country person, or anyone else for that matter, a choice between citoyenneté and not shelling out several thousand euro on a new septic tank, it's fairly likely what they'll go for, revolution or not.

However, it gives the rest of us incomers something to chew over, so to speak . Is yours an old style fosse, or a toutes eaux model? Will the main drains ever make it this far? How long can we afford to wait for the tax break to get it done? Especially perhaps the English, who, let's face it, are somewhat fascinated by matters lavatorial... and perhaps the Scots and Dutch, who are concerned with saving the pennies, and the Germans, who like to have everything organised and in good order... am I falling into superficial national stereotyping again? I don't quite know what to say about the American; he seems fairly exercised about it too...

I had no intention to expound at such length on the last subject, but perhaps that gives some idea how it gets to one... The other matter we converse on animatedly over our foie gras-free and veal-less dinner tables and 2000 Bordeaux is the déchèterie, which was supposed to be the main subject of this post. Am I convincing you yet of the glamour of life in la belle France?

The dechétèrie is the municipal tip. (It used to be spelled with two 't's, an orthography the signposts to the older sites still retain, but obviously the Academy made a new ruling.) The newly opened one at Hénon is so clean and well- ordered you could eat your dinner off it. When it opened, our refuse bill ( we get that separately from other local taxes) more or less trebled, with a note attached explaining the cost of the project accounted for the increase, so we accepted it and decided we'd best get our money's worth. So it has become THE place to hang out of a Saturday morning.

It is beautifully landscaped, with banks of roses and lovely views.

(Our old BX is the car on the furthest left, with the boot open. Tom's taking out a sheet of old plasterboard, I think)

There seems to be a policy of employing people to oversee the workings of the place who have mild learning disabilities. This isn't a facetious remark, but the apparent fact, and they're very good. They have pride in their work, and also something of a mentality that loves and strives for good order, doing things properly and according to rule, and enough determined bossiness to make sure everyone keeps to it. So put your stuff in the right container, OK?

As well as the large open area for garden waste at the bottom of the site, there's one for paper and another for cardboard boxes, one for plastic and one for glass (oops, looks like a bit of plastic found its way in there...)

anything with wood in goes in wood,

and anything with metal in metal.

There's a special one for all kinds of tyres,

and everything else goes into tout-venant.

I was drawn to the variety of forms, a recurrent delight in old-fashioned 'gear and tackle and trim',

and the visible history and range of domestic design, in everyday items,

textiles and papers,

and the curious intermingling of organic and mineral matter; the interesting possibilities of rust.

So I took the camera with me a couple of times and asked the fellow in charge if I could take photographs. His reaction was one of slightly embarrassed puzzlement dawning into pleasure that someone else had an interest in the matter of his work, and afterwards he kept looking at me and grinning. (I had a similar reaction from the driver of the crane-lorry that brought building materials last summer, when I began taking pictures of the vehicle's lifting gear in action, a rather shy awareness of pride in the job. I was much shyer about wielding the camera then, too.)

Another customer, though, seemed convinced that my motives were other, and pursued me, asking a couple of times if I was conducting some kind of an enquête. If I had the quick wit and imagination and lacked the conditioned ineptitude for that kind of dishonesty, I could perhaps have said yes and developed the theme. But I'm more often on the receiving end of wind-ups than the instigator of them, and simply told him, emphatically, no, I enjoyed taking pictures of unusual things, and had no wish to annoy anyone... the camera has given me a different view on life to be sure, and apparently gives others a different view of me. I'm still not confident about pointing it at people, however.

So there you are, how to succeed in conversation and the cool place to be seen on a Saturday morning in our social circle, don't miss out!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Comment verification

Having just been warned by the good Avus of how evil spammers have taken over Nea's blog, and gone to see the devastation for myself, I have put on comment verification.

I have been disinclined to do this in the past, and closer examination of my motives reveals this is the result of vanity, thinking that the extra moments it takes for a commenter to fill out the word verification will put them off leaving a comment, and I will receive fewer comments. How sad is that?!

Anyway, having seen the possible result of not doing, I'll take the chance of fewer nice things said for peace of mind and a clean blog. For myself, I think I very rarely fail to leave a comment if I want to simply because I can't be bothered to read the funny word, and in fact some of them are quite interesting; those disposed to find fortunes in tea-leaves and augurs in birds' droppings can find all kinds of messages of possible import in them!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Spem in allium

Find yourself in a mopey, camelious mood, that won't seem to lift?
The solution: put on the Tallis Scholars very loud, and peel some small white onions. A little masochistic perhaps, the assault on the eyeballs almost makes me stagger, but it gets it out of the system.

Smile through the tears when I realise not only do I make dreadful puns in English, I occasionally do so in French as well, and now I find I have also managed to make one in Latin!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Compasses once more.

Poems nos. 26 to 30 are presently published, illustrated, over at Compasses.

I think I'm quite pleased with the pictures. I had thought the water one, (no 15) was perhaps my favourite, but now, for its achingly beautiful last few lines, I'm not sure it isn't no 27.

Thanks again.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

As above, so below...

The clouds moved in the last couple of nights, so no Perseids for us. However, the glow worms did their best.

Not ideal subjects for photography, though at least they keep still - they've been in the same place for several nights now, the antithesis of shooting stars really, while still being ephemeral little things with fiery tails.

The one below has been 'quick-fixed' (using Corel, often handy but has also been known to turn orange marigolds bright yellow with cobalt blue centres...), which glamourises her somewhat!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Any umbellifers, any umbellifers?

(Tooma - tooma - looma, tooma - looma - looma, tooma - lay - ai .... )