Sunday, January 31, 2010

Frostscapes, and goodbye feeds.

Winter's not done with us yet, nor I with it.


A year or two ago I dsicovered the wonders of feeds.  I spent an unconscionable long weekend transferring all my blogroll to RSS, and whenever I took on a new blog, I clicked that little orange icon and on they went.

I've just spent the best part of today deleting them, or most of them, as I thought.  I left on those which have been long dormant, in case they should reawaken, a few who post relatively infrequently but I want to know when they do, and a couple who, for different reasons I don't have on the blogroll, and it's handy to have them to hand.  This still left me with an overwhelming 24 feeds.

I couldn't keep up, the feeds had just become overwhelming and a source of guilt, telling me always just how long I'd been neglecting you all for.  Neither will I do any other kind of feed reader, Blogger Followers (still haven't a clue what that's about, though I appear to have 20 of them, not many compared to some, but Blogger won't tell me who they are anyway...), or that kind of feed blogroll thing lots of other people have.  From now on it's up and down the blogroll in the old-fashioned way, which will probably be quicker as I won't have to wait between feed and going to the blog to comment, especially for the Typepad ones or people with loads of posts per page or fussy widgets...

This has meant that in the last few days I think I've managed to visit almost everyone and comment on most, an infrequent state of affairs which, by definition, won't last long.  Sorry if I've still missed you, I'll be along as soon as I can.  Likewise if you're a new but fairly regular visitor, I'll get you on the sidebar very soon. 

I may even find time to write something half-worthwhile here one of these days.  Still, pictures are probably more interesting, and quicker to look at.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Seeds and pods

Just by way of posting more big photos, some croppings I didn't get around to posting back in November.

This last one, below, was cropped too small to be able to post it big, but I like it anyway, so I'll post it smaller.


I'm hankering to take more pictures, feel quite deprived of it, but seem to lack the opportunity, or the inspiration.  I don't quite know what I'm waiting for.  Spring, I suppose.  I've still got a few left in the store cupboard, anyway.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Misty, an experiment.

This is an experimental post.  I've ventured into editing the html to expand the width of the layout on this blog, so that perhaps I can post photos in the extra-large format so kindly provided by the new post editor, but which has always been useless since my blog is too narrow for it.  In Blogger Help, I found this useful forum discussion, so here goes.

A misty morning, after the snow,

Lapwings flying into the misty blue,

and a curious arc of refracted light, like a colourless rainbow, which followed us round.

Now, let's see if that's worked...

Yes, it has!  Slightly embarrassing, somehow, seeing them that big.  I expect I'll get used to it, but I shall have to do something about the banner, which is now too narrow.  Probably time for a new one anyway, though I think I like this one more than any I've had before .  Thanks to jstngav5 for the tip.  I feel very intrepid messing with html like this, but quite emboldened!

So now I've widened the banner too, and gone back over the last few posts to embiggen some of the pictures, this is fun...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Snowscapes again

From a walk Molly and I took a day or two before the thaw set in. We slithered a bit, and it was rather grey and sombre, but it was not bad walking. We went to the bottom of our frozen hill where we hadn't dared drive, and looked detachedly at the main road which was clear and free of snow and ice and where cars were speeding nonchalantly, as if we were on the threshold of a different world. Then we turned and decided to explore the hill roads while the light lasted.


It all seems a long time ago now.  Despite it being still only January, and fairly cold, the earth is tipping, and the season is changing.  I know this partly because of  involuntary memory, an increase in its intensity. 

So today's sherry, as I poured it and took the first sip as the sunlight slanted across the room, wasn't only something I knew as a souvenir of growing up and family custom.  I smelled the strange smell of the sideboard cupboard, of glassware in the confined space of old wooden furniture, and felt and heard the gentle, tactful action of its door closing on the ragged velvetty seal around the frame, the texture under my fingers of the slightly lifting walnut veneer pattern, which looked like a friendly, ugly little face, on the bowed front of it, and the movement and light tapping sound of its small hinged brass handle.  And I breathed in, momentarily, the air of a family Sunday at home, of modest, limited, slightly constrained conviviality, the cheerful expectation of a good meal - Sunday roasts could generally be relied on to come out well, though the exact hour at which they would be served could be variable - and of a not altogether unpleasant dullness and ennuie, a restful boredom.

This is not especially a memory of any season, but for me this kind of identic, involuntary recall tends only to happen in the transitional seasons of spring and autumn, so a visitation from it is particularly welcome and exciting at this time of year.  Something to do with light and brain chemistry I suppose.


I really did mean to come and visit all your blogs today, but I had to finish 'The Children's Book' instead, since for some days now I have been waking up in the night and thinking about it and wondering and worrying about the people in it, almost to the point of getting up at all hours to continue reading it.  I am, as Dick said he was when he finished it, now feeling quite bereft.  As ever, when one is feeling any grief or loss, I am not in a critical frame of mind about the object of  my bereavement, and rather lacking in articulate things to say about it.  Neither, please, do I really want to know just now, from those cleverer and more clear-sighted than myself, about its faults and failings and why I shouldn't really have loved it as much as I did.

Anyway, as I have perhaps said before, I am a bear, if not of little, of very slow and ponderous brain, and most things take me quite a time to mull over.  I will say, however, that though I have been thoroughly absorbed and intrigued by AS Byatt's books in the past, and have come to feel involved with and to believe in her characters, and generally to admire her talents enormously, I realise that this is the first time I have genuinely been moved by her writing.

Now, since Molly is very much better, and can be left alone for a few hours, (with blankets and hot-water bottles of course!) tomorrow evening, I'm off to make cock-a-leekie for Burns Night.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Ballade des dames du temps jadis...

The sad decline of Melusina.  How are the wine corks fallen...

(Where are the snows?)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

And so back to bed, plus cause for relief.

(I might have cropped this to remove the background clutter, but I thought Fire Bird might like to recognise the blue enamel containers.  Do you still have the other two?)


I've been glad to immerse myself in fiction; Mol's been ill again with ear trouble.  We'd already resolved no more surgical treatments, anaesthetics, waking up in smelly vets' cages in terror, courses of painful injections etc etc, we'd take our chances managing it more gently and less invasively.  Took her to Emy, her regular vet, on Tuesday, who agreed with us, and gave her one jab and strong oral antibiotics and some painkillers, and we've just been waiting it out.  She was subdued and poorly yesterday and today, but then, this afternoon, got up, demanded a walk and her dinner, following which the offending abscess went pop and she's now very busy cleaning herself up. Nice!  But it's surprising how welcome such unpleasantness can be. I'll take her for a shave at Emy's tomorrow so I can more easily treat it with beta-septigen cream.

Relief is quite as good as any other pleasure, and better than some.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

...and Dick the shepherd was probably blowing his nail also.


And that's all I've got time for, because I'm reading 'The Children's Book'.  Sooooo good!

Friday, January 15, 2010

A few more snowy minimals...

... before it left us.

Before the thaw, one last demonstration of foul temper from the weather: on the Tuesday, a burst of freezing rain.  I've never seen frosted glass that looked like frosted galss before, but that was how our Velux skylight looked,


There is very little snow left now, just the sodden, sooty, smudged aftermath, and now a night of fog and cold and high winds.  Remarkable moments of peace and beauty, and of warmth and fun and conviviality, but this is a hard, hard winter, all in all.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

January foxes

The pond fish hang beneath the floating ice,
and toads hunch like pebbles
in earthen forms under black plastic;
cold- and tepid-blooded things,
held in a torpid equanimity of snow.

Inside our fences, I've seen the tracks of foxes -
they must have climbed over the mesh -
I've heard them too, as I've stood outside at night,
feeling ice crystals compact beneath my feet.

The house behind me glowed red as wine, or as a vein,
gold as a honeyed hive, stood solid, brown as bread, yet
a few bare paces made a distance from it, nearer
the glassy strands of frozen roads, the wide blue bands
of snowbound fields, and shreds of blue-black woods.

Their call is hard to name: bark, yelp, scream...
jagged as breaking ice, chill to freeze marrow,
a cry that pities nothing, least of all itself,
harsh, horny, hungry as they are, the January foxes.

Out in the night blue snow, the red fox blood
scalds through famine and through desolation;
seized in their own rank heat, they couple
in the leafmould's crackle, through ice-strewn streams,
in ruts and stones and stubble,
and fallen trunks of dead and hollow trees.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

And speaking of abundance...

There's a new poem from Joe at Compasses.  In answer to my asking what I should draw, a whole late Christmas stocking full of darkly glittering things which make my fingers itch most greedily.  There are divinely sharp pencils, spiral shells, bread and apples and tangerine peel, a lacquered box and an open book.  It's a delight, go and read it.

Which was why I started posting today, then I got distracted.

Stores: more snowbound musings.

Snooker on the box, a blanket and a warm spaniel, and sunglasses, yes really, against the snowglare coming through the windows, what more could a man want?

We are remarkably lucky in all this, and doing rather well.  Power, phone lines, internet connection and personal and canine health are still holding out - touchwood - and by miraculous good fortune, we seem to have all we need.  I am waiting to stumble upon the intolerable oversight, the one thing we don't have in the house that we can't do without, but so far, fingers crossed, everything has come up trumps; we have reasonable stocks of dog food, tea, coffee, sugar, flour, butter, loo paper, toothpaste, onions, carrots, tinned fish, bread in the freezer, a sack of potatoes in the hall,  as well as quantities of post-Christmas goodies to get through.  Milk - we only use skimmed UHT which we keep stocked anyway - is the only thing we're having to eke out a bit, but when that goes in a few days, if we still can't get out, tea without milk is not unthinkable, we have Darjeeling and white tea and other fancy stuff (strings and ceiling wax are probably to be found in the cupboards somewhere also...).

I don't know how this has happened; I'm never usually so organised or well-supplied, I tend to have over-abundance of some things and be down to the last parings of something else more important.  Now, having to fall back on the lingering contents of the store cupboards, I am finding those kind of things that you buy on a whim, perhaps because they are unusual and/or going cheap, then don't use, because they're a bit special or you can't quite decide what to do with them, or you just forget you have them. I reached into the back of the cupboard this lunchtime, and found a jar of dear little mixed forest mushrooms in preserved in oil.  They made me think of that bit in 'War and Peace' where the Rostovs go galloping off on a snowy hunting trip and meet up with Uncle, who takes them back to his house in the backwoods, where he lives with his housekeeper who's really his wife, and Natasha dances to the balalaika, and they live again in the real Old Russia.  Why did they remind me of that...?  Oh yes, Uncle gives them pickled mushrooms from his larder and several different kinds of vodka.  I think these probably came from Lidl and I sautéd them (dreadful Franglais double past participle) with brown rice, shallots, pimento peppers also from a jar, and frozen peas.  The War and Peace flashback was a piquant bonus.

(I sometimes wonder if there'd be an interesting project in separating the Peace bits from the War bits in 'War and Peace', so love interest and pickled mushrooms could be read in a different volume from battlefields and Napoleonic politics.  I'm sure more people would read it, you could give them pink and blue bindings... ).

So with time on our hands and the need to use stores imaginatively, we are really eating and drinking rather well.  Sunday's lunchtime 'sherry' becomes an everyday event, and while milk is rationed, there are still a couple of small cartons of pouring cream leftover from Christmas, which I can put up with in coffee... The main problem is, if the snow-in continues much longer, we'll get enormously fat. 

We try to go for walks every day to offset the serendipitous gluttony.  Yesterday, Saturday, we couldn't because there was a blizzard.  On Friday, Jean-Charles Gibet the butcher, known to ourselves as Charlie Giblet, was to be seen dispensing viandes to our neighbours.

He has an impressive set of chains on his wheels, which I would have liked to take a 'gear and tackle' type photo of, but on our approach we had to embark on a round of greeting and wishing of a good-New-Year-and-good-health-above-all, so I missed my opportunity. 

A few people, with and without chained wheels, are cautiously driving about.  Seeing them makes Tom restless 'They're getting about...' he frets.  I have so far convinced him that affronted pride is not enough reason to risk himself or the car, that we are fine here, that there is really no justification for going anywhere other than on foot.  The roads are patchy and untreated, save where a tractor with a shovel has scraped them in places; conditions aren't really safe yet.  D and J made a foray the other day from Henon, a bigger village with gritted roads, lower than us and nearer the coast, intending to go to Lamballe, but even in their ancient but very sturdy Subaru estate with 4-wheel drive, found the going too treacherous, and stopped closer to hand, (where they procured some milk for us, but then neither they nor we want to risk venturing through the back hills to hand it over).

But I'm afflicted with the same two-mindedness, as next week and my own commitments, some of them already postponed, approach.  Neither I nor my car are well-suited to difficult driving conditions, especially with dark early starts, and I'm not convinced that anything I have to do is important enough to take the risk, and certainly won't earn enough to pay a car repair bill, but I also can't help the feeling that I'm being a shiftless wimp.  From that point of view, this is becoming slightly less fun.

Nevertheless, I'm appreciative: that I'm warm and healthy,


that thanks to Tom wrestling over the years with enormous quantities of glass wool and polystyrene, we probably have the best insulated roof in the village,

that I'm still finding it all very pretty,

that the Christmas cactus continues to flower, and that I've got so much stored up stuff to live on, in the cupboards and in my head, and I don't mind falling back on it.  I'll sort the rest out as it comes.

Saturday, January 09, 2010