Thursday, July 31, 2008

Roadside collage

Already, much of what is here is going over, July's colour lapsing into the dullness of August. Some of the barley is harvested, the rest and the wheat will soon follow.
Lughnasadh, Lammas, loaf-mass.
(Molly is doing very well; no further anaesthetic, poking or incisions are recommended, at least for the moment. Tom says he'll never get cross about her barking again, and if he does I'm to remind him he said that. But I won't.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Elephant heads, and a nice award.

The heads of elephant garlic which have been featuring quite a lot here this season have got a look in at here at qarrtsiluni, where one of them in a state of transformation, which is to say undressing itself, has been published. Thanks to Dave for polishing it up a bit too.

We thought they probably shouldn't be allowed to flower, but they were so lovely we left them, then cut them off and brought them into the house in a big jar on the windowsill.

By yesterday they were beginning to smell a bit, well, garlicky, so they had to end their days on the compost heap. The gargantuan bulbs themselves we have started eating: roasted with spuds, or sliced or crushed in soups and sauces. They are delicious, but moderation is advised. The flavour is very mild.


I have been given an award! Crafty Green Poet (she's crafty, she's green and she's a poet, and very good at all of them) has given me this one.

I don't usually get these, and just assumed this was the kind of blog that didn't. I didn't really mind as the problem with them is you have to make invidious choices between your friends, and anyway, as the sort of kid who hated sponsored events because you had to go around badgering your sponsors, I'm a bit disinclined to do the legwork. But still, it's very nice.

I'm supposed to choose seven other bloggers to award this to. As it happens, I find it very difficult to choose between any of the blogs I visit, because I think you're all 'brillante' in your own way, and what I love is the variety. However, what I'll try to do is select the seven blogs most recently added to my blogroll , and say a little about them. This also had the useful function of prompting me to tidy up my blogroll, since I'd got very lazy about that since I started using feeds.

Windy Skies (India) - Anil lives in Bombay. He posts fairly infrequently, but often at length. Wonderful writing, seems to me to have an insider's knowledge with an outsider's wonder at it all, and subtle, illustrative photos, dreamy, gentle, all in extraordinary light. Train journeys across India, the window his companion, discoursing on Indian cinema, memory, custom, human geography. I love this blog!

Works well ( UK, and occasionally France) - Barrett Bonden. The endless fascination of practical things: motor bikes, septic tanks, kids scooters, garlic crushers, all with a good salting of dry humour. And more besides, books, refelctions, reminiscenses from a clearly very clever man, with French connections. I always get too caught up chatting here.

My mark of humility (USA)- Elizabeth. A family blog, very loving and happy atmosphere. One of the really nice things about Elizabeth, though, is that she's a very appreciative, conscientious, kind blogger. She thanked me for leading her to another blogger who's work she was enjoying, which pleased and surprised me. and her computer and someone she knows have just been struck by lightning!

From the House of Edward (USA) - Edward is a gorgeous dog, who lives with Pamela, who's a designer. This blog is a total charm and nostalgia fest; as well as the adorability of Edward and his adopted sister Apple, there's much civilised chat, books and poems, and the most fabulous collection of pictures of the kind you remember from childhood and haven't seen for years: Victorian paintings and children's book illustrations, art nouveau fantasies in dolly mixture colours. I don't know where Pamela finds them, but they're so beguiling, and it's all beautifully put together.

Kolokolo - (Czech Republic) Julia is an American living in Prague, and so another displaced person, which always draws me. Despite having a five-year old and very small baby in tow and working from home, and playing the piano and more, she still sometimes finds time to blog! I have an especial affection for this one in fact because James was my first blogging baby; there was a short post left there late one night saying, in effect, I'm having contractions and just off to the hospital, see you after the birth, which I thought showed devotion to the cause above and beyond... Oh, and one of her favourite books is 'The Riddle of the Sands', which is rather intriguingly unusual.

Accept all offerings - a new blog from a very old and dear blogging friend. Herhimnbryn was one of my very first visitors, and has always been incredibly lovely, faithful and intelligent in her commenting. Clearly she has been for many, and her original blog, Secret Hill, was deservedly popular. Then she took a longish break, and has now cleaned her palette and come back with this wonderfully stripped-back offering. Saying a lot with a little was always her strong point, a few words, a photo, often black and white, occasionally a video, always eagerly awaited.

Spiralskies - I'm not sure that Jen is such a recent addition, really but I had to get it in. It's one of the funniest on my list, unfailingly, and anyone who has the least recollection of Keith Chegwin must read this post, and must read the comments. Yes, I know there were 64 of them at the last count but it's worth it, you'll see. At a time when I didn't feel at my most like laughing I laughed until the tears ran and I was in danger of fusing the laptop.

I won't go and tell you you've been awarded, if you drop by you'll see, and please feel free to pick up the little badge. Sometimes it seems quite hard work keeping up with everyone, but I do cherish both old and new contacts.
Molly is much herself, since yesterday really. J and D invited themselves round as they thought we needed it, having been fretting on our own for too long. Mol adores D, mostly because he gives her tidbits, which he was strictly forbidden to do as we've got to be very strict about what she eats; allergic reactions to food can apparently exacerbate the recurrent infections, so she's on a very special and expensive hypoallergenic form of croquette containing little but duck meat, cassava, potato and beetroot. She likes it, but misses prawn crackers, almonds and toast. Anyway, the visit seemed to cheer her up (I put out some bits of potato he was allowed to feed her, so neither of them suffered too much). We've started walking gently again, so I'll start 'Out with Mol' up again very soon. She's back to the vet tomorrow, but they've told me she can have breakfast, so they can't be planning to knock her out again just yet, which is one of the most distressing things, as she has to have a lot of anaesthetic and comes round screaming and very unhappy, and seems to take ages to recover.
So far, so much better. And being grown up about the fun I missed in Hebden Bridge.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Toads and sprouted cobnuts.

A few times lately I've been moved to get out the colouring sticks. I used to draw and paint quite a lot at various times in my life. Than I discovered digital photography and my idleness realised it had come home. I always wished I could be more loose and imaginative in my style, I always end up labouring, and as often as not my pictures look as if they might be illustrations for (slightly weird) cookery or children's books, bold/unsubtle; I suppose I feel a bit the same about my photos. These are done in Derwent watercolour pencils, and I kept them to A4, so they'd scan. Photoshop and Picasa are handy for tarting them up a bit and ironing out somewhat the wrinkles in the paper which occur because I never think it's worth using good watercolour paper, then wish I had.

The first was done to illustrate a poem I wrote about toads, herewith included. This one obviously wouldn't do for a cookery book. Unless you were one of Macbeth's witches. Apologies to lovely (toad-phobic) sister for any distress caused.


From the fervour of their parents' pilgrimage
- who, in passionate self-abnegation, urgent
with procreative zeal, hung their spawn
about the pond in viscous rosaries -
are born toad tadpoles. Innocent
of the orgiastic rites from which they came,
these oblates feed on slime, slowly
putting on arms and legs, to undergo assumption
onto land. They'll live as eremites
in cells of earth and stone, unmortified
by cold and damp, until the spirit moves them to intone
their chiming canticles on moist spring nights
and calls them in their turn to make
their progress to the water.
[Still can't quite decide between 'eremites' and 'hermits' in that line...]
The other painting was of a sprouted cobnut I dug up in the vegetable beds. The voles bring them over from next door and bury them all over the garden, then forget where. Inspired by Marja-Leena's gorgeous scanner art, I tried to scan it, but it didn't really work, so I drew it instead.


Poem and cobnut were inspired by qarrtsiluni's new 'Transformation' theme, which is yielding some wondrous things, as ever. They've accepted some of my photos, which is nice, I'll say when they're up there.


Molly's brighter, and has bursts of cheerful energy, though she often flakes out immediately afterwards, and sometimes seems uncomfortable, and is a little distant. I was able to clean round her ear by giving her a gentle, warm, not all-over, shower, which rather distracted her from the fact it was actually the hurty place I was cleaning, and Betadine I was using. She has to go back to the vet next week and I don't know what they'll want to do, but in the meanwhile, we're all just relaxing a bit in the sense of relief. Thanks again for kind words and concern.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Thanks so much for all the kinds words and I'm sorry to have been so elliptical; I was just so tired.

In the scheme of things, it's not so catastrophic, I suppose, or life threatening or hopeless. Molly suddenly became very painfully ill, apparently from a complication from last years operation, an abscess or some such, we don't exactly know. We spent a long and difficult day in and around the vet's at Plerin on Tuesday, but it's not really resolved. She's dosed up to the eyeballs with painkiller, cortisone and antibiotics, the last she needs to continue taking at least until the end of August. She's still troubled by it but not suffering so much now, but the whole matter is very up in the air, I don't know if we'll have to go back today, tomorrow... and I worry at the consequences of so much anaesthetic and antibiotics in her system. The expenses incurred are the least of it. I'm just relieved that I don't have a full family and working life that a dog would have to be fitted around.

It's so bitterly disappointing and disheartening to be back here again, after all the heartache and hard work of the ear operation last year, when everyone here was so supportive and lovely I don't know what I'd have done without you, that I don't think I can face giving blow by blow accounts of it and presuming on everyone's interest and kindness again, but I'll be back and forth, and once again, thanks. We're all a bit better rested now anyway.

The disappointment is compounded because I was supposed to be flying to England yesterday to see lovely sister, meet up with rr, and travel with her to Yorkshire for the wedding party (I do think of it as such, though on the invite it's a Civil Partnership Party) of Tall Girl and L, which has been planned and looked forward to for ages. rr and Tall Girl are probably the people who've been in my life longest of anyone outside of family, and letting them down like this is wretched, but I know I can't leave Tom and Molly to cope alone, I'd worry too much anyway.

So that's my tale of woe, which as I say, is not enormous in the scale of things. As matters calm and clarify, I'll try to get back with more interesting stuff here and brief updates, and to get around all of yours too. Much love to all and huge amounts of gratitude.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Apologies and uncertainties...

Sorry not to have been communicating much. In danger of blathering on self-piteously but really I think I'll just make my excuses and have a bit of a break here. Tiredness and worry and disappointment will, I hope, abate and I'll explain myself better later.

Bear with me, back soon.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ghazals, glorious ghazals...

Totally Optional Prompts has been encouraging my ghazal habit! So here's one I prepared earlier (it won't be the last, I'm warning you...).

Ghazal - 'stone' radif

A heart that is broken will mend, but can end up a lot like a stone;
what is tender and fleshy is sweet, but will rot, not endure like a stone.
If the field that you sow in is bitter, the plough's blade will break as it turns,
the seed corn will wither and die there, and all you will crop will be stone.
"You'll have garnets and rubies, my darling, to drip from your fingers like wine,
but if blood's what you're after" he told her, "you'll not get a drop from this stone!"
The clay that lies cold in the earth comes to life in the potter's warm hands,
then fired in the hot kiln's red heart, the pot is as hard as a stone.
At night she would call to her lover, "I am here at the foot of the stair -
it's you that I want and you only, have mercy, I'm not made of stone!"
The old woman sat by the river, and smilingly held out a hand,
"Come cross over now, dear, with me; we'll hop over water and stone..."
"Open your hand, Lucy, show me, what you have there, your fingers curled tight!"
I yielded. "You lied, that's not treasure, all you have got is a stone!"

Oh, sod it, here's another.

Ghazal - 'mind' radif

Cracks and flaws in spirit, fears of error, conspire to shake the balance of a mind,
but shafts and shadows change as days move onwards, and sunlight's angle slants a cast of mind.
As cruel besetting soldiers hurl their torments at citizens inside the hungry walls,
so do the demons of the smaller hours, pelt their cruel jibes and taunts at besieged minds.
The day had turned from red to gold to silver, and found her long already on the road,
her eyes on hills ahead, the road before her, and never a backward glance to sway her mind.
I'd sit all day and watch the swallows flying, a whirl of life, quick fragments of the sky,
bursting from mudded nests, all streaming sunwards, a sight to quite entrance an earthbound mind.
Gone is the dried and gnawed-at bone of morning, the weariness of empty afternoon,
the deepening of twilight, wine's warm welcome, the drawing-in of night grants peace of mind.
You'll tussle with the words and thoughts and fancies, and seek elucidation of some kind,
but when will you admit and see the light,girl? You'll never find the answers in your mind!


Oh, and my moon radif ghazals were published on the Ghazal Page, here, and here. There really is a fantastic selection there, so please, poetical people, take some time to read some of them!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


(Worth clicking to enlarge. I know, I don't usually bother either...)

Monday, July 14, 2008

14th July

On the terrace, after breakfast

Sun warming my left side, skylark, coffee cooling,
buzz of insects, sparrows chirrup, a sow thistle flowering neatly in the wall.

I examine my legs, in detail, with acceptance.

A burst of scolding in Thai from next door,
in which I catch the word 'mama'; its object cries
in frustration, soon stops.

Sky hydrangea blue, paws plod on gravel.

Why do I think I should be doing something else,
or making more of this than this?


Abram Darby's looking very lovely.


They're making a film of 'The Vintner's Luck', which I'm looking forward to. It can't be as good as the book, which is a must if you like wine, history and angels, or all three, or even if you don't, and far better to my mind than anything I've read by Joanne Harris, whose work's far better known and more marketed, but it's by the director of 'Whale Rider', and shot by someone who did 'Lord of the Rings', and they've apparently roped off huge tracts of Burgundy to do it, so it should be fairly luscious.


We've been stopped in our tracks in a concreting project; we mixed and mixed on Saturday until we ran out of cement, then couldn't go and get any more today when we remembered it was Fête nationale. I suggested we go and storm the gates of Gamm Vert and liberate the sole bag of cement on the premises, but we decided against, and have spent the day so far reading, writing, painting(or watching DVDs about painting anyway), wandering round the garden with a camera, listening to Handel and generally slobbing about. I'm supposed to be making lemon cake to take to our friends' who have a nearly front row seat in their garden to watch the fireworks so we tend to invite ourselves there. The swallows who have decided to nest in our garage since Tom took the door off are perhaps happier. They'd built about three inches of nest, but our noisy concreting activities and coming and going seemed to have put them off, but they were back this morning. They don't have to worry about public holidays disrupting their supply of mud, they sow not neither do they reap...

"What's Africa like then?" "Dunno, never been."

Happy Bastille Day.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Trédaniel plan d'eau, and Cheapcam gets it off her chest.

From reading and writing my other blog, it's evident how often I go to the plan d'eau at Trédaniel. One or two people have speculated about the place, that it seems to be a very rich source of nature and interest, but they can't quite envision it. I half-jokingly suggested I draw a map, as well as posting more photos. Sitting down to my afternoon cuppa, I searched to see if there was any plan of the municipality on-line, but could only find a couple of Google-Earth references, so before I knew it I was thoroughly absorbed in drawing a map of my own based on these and my memory and impressions, even getting out the felt pens and colouring it! The result you see above. Any ten-year-old could probably have made a better job, and it's not remotely to scale, but it's the second time in a week or so I've felt moved to look out the colouring sticks, and I have rather enjoyed it. It should enlarge, should you feel the need.

It also coincided with my downloading poor little Cheapcam's memory card for the first time in over two months, so the photos I've used here are almost entirely from that.

Trédaniel is a commune outside our small cantonal town of Moncontour, a couple of miles from where we live. In the 1990s the population was in the hundreds, but there's been a lot of new building there in the time we've been living here, so it must be more now. It has a few shops, a school, a restaurant, a local produce selling scheme, and a quite interesting old church ( I might post something about that in the future), and the Seven Saints' chapel is further out on its edges.

A plan d'eau is any fairly small artificial lake. This one is there as a recreational spot, part of the landscaping of the municipal area. It is stocked with fish and anglers use it mostly at weekends, you can just go and get a day permit from the Mairie nearby. The watercourse it is part of continues in a number of other smaller ponds on terraces down the hill to the sewage treatment works at the bottom.

It isn't a scenic wonder, none come from far and wide to see it, but we like it, on misty mornings, warm days and even in the rain. Molly loves it, and starts to bark well before we turn the corner of the road that leads to it, and as it's also, more or less, on the way to both St Brieuc and Lamballe, it's easy to indulge her. There are, thank goodness, few amenities, no swings and slides, only a rather weedstrewn boules court up the hill, and two benches where you can sit and let the perennial and universal calm that drifts from water, any water, even a municipal fishing pond, penetrate the spirit. The benches are in good order, never vandalised, though a few brambles and buttercups sometimes encroach,

Many of the larger oak and chestnut trees that predate it's construction have been left, and it has been planted with all kinds of flowering shrubs of a robust kind: spiraea, buddleia, hydrangea are all flowering now, and in the spring there are plentiful purple rhododendrons, (that splodge is Mol in the distance below)

and a stand of shrub-sized judas trees.

The rugosa roses produce flowers and hips for a long season.

The water's edge is kept fairly clear of reeds and reedmace, for the benefit of the anglers but also to avoid providing cover for coypu, the giant naturalised Canadian rodents that can destroy banks and spread leptospirosis. But there are a few plant species planted there: these which I can't identify,

and a gunnera which I'm never quite sure if I like, but its forms and textures, in all kinds of states, continue to intrigue me.

In front of one bench is a patch of red water lilies.
Although the verges and banks are mown and kept fairly tidy, there are plenty of places nature is allowed to play a little rough with. Among the interesting wild plants that flourish is mullein, whose prettily furry rosettes and spikes have here been ravaged by the nearly as prettily zingy-coloured mullein moth caterpillars. The moth itself is a dull grey little thing, but the larva obviously have a wild yellow and black youth among the fuzz.
and where the ground slopes away north toward the valley, there is a delightful embroidered riot of wildness and wet, which is especially rich at the moment, with knapweed and bedstraw and umbels of something or other, willowherb, the last of the marguerites, bright yellow birdsfoot trefoil, grass seedheads, thistles (don't tell the Prefecture...), and even at the head of a stream that flows out from the lake, some reedmace, which aren't bullrushes, and Moses wasn't found in them, though Alma Tadema thought he was. (In fact I've been searching for that painting, and there are no reedmace in it! It seems to be a misconception about a misconception about a myth...)

There is a reasonable amount of fauna: herons, green and spotted woodpeckers, finches, tits, a nuthatch or two, I thought I saw a tree creeper once, and a lot of rabbits, since, although there is fishing, no chasseurs are allowed, as it is a public park. During the winter I'm often glad of it as a place where I won't run into them. Even so, the ducks are shy, and prefer the ponds further off where people don't go. Molly is clueless about rabbits, they often pop up right in front of her and she doesn't see them, so busy is she with her olfactory sense. However, an extraordinary wildlife sighting one may experience is of the Beast of Trédaniel, the plan d'eau cat, captured here sunning itself on a rock, and really an enormous creature, quite capable, I'm sure, of taking on a fully grown rabbit.

This is the only picture here not taken with the small camera. I find the place yields a surprising amount to look at and take in and photograph; as well as the entries on Out with Mol, quite a lot of photo posts here have been from time spent there. Yet more are sitting in folders which I've not posted. A post at Jean's had me thinking about how we tend to feel the need to only use, seasonal, up to the minute, current photos on our blogs. I like this seasonality, but also think it might be a good idea sometimes to look over and show older pictures that perhaps were passed over before. So perhaps I'll run an occasional series of back-number plan d'eau pictures.
I'll put a copy of the map in the sidebar of Out with Mol, with a link to this post, and may feel inclined to draw another of the local area which I write about. I suppose security is vaguely important, not pinpointing ourselves too closely etc, but I can't imagine many criminals would take the trouble...

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Walk on the beach - mostly monochrome

When Porridge and Molly go out together, they look like a whisky advert.
So I'm giving this post a black and white theme.
Except where colour is justified.
As has already been noted, we went for a walk on the beach.
The things in the photo below look like sinister alien toadlike creatures - perhaps they were.
A storm blew up, it was quite dramatic.
And we all got quite wet. So we climbed up onto the old railway path, and looked at the beach from there.
And also inland.

And then we went home.

( Follow the link to Rosie's lovely post of the day, with great doggy pics!)

Saturday, July 05, 2008

" I started early - took my dog..."

I really should do it more often.