Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tuesday 30th August

When I was speaking to my sister on the 'phone the other day, my niece and sparkly nephew-out-law came in (to her house in England, not mine). Sparkly N-o-l insisted he wanted to talk to me as he had something important to tell me.  This turned out to be that whilst working at the Royal Opera House the other day, as he does, he found himself caught short and availed himself of the facilities of the Royal Toilets!  He knew how this news would delight me, as I was privileged to visit this illustrious petit coin myself during a guided visit that he kindly took me on, as documented in this post, with photos.


At last, a new painting on Glenn's blog! And such a lovely one.  I'll post it here very small here as a taster.

There, and I did it using a URL link, so it's not like I've nicked it or anything....  It's called Winter garden, Pembrokeshire.   There's a handful of paintings on-line there now, all beautiful, though  I still think perhaps Muggy weather, Newport Bay might be my favourite.


Made a phone call to sign myself up for a life-drawing class in Lamballe, once a month for 10 months.  I've never done real life-drawing before, only clothed figure drawing.  The idea of commiting myself to going somewhere doing some art with other people around, and to using some of the poor neglected materials I have lying around is exciting. But I'm also interested in the idea of moving towards the human form, going against my resistance and tendency to stay safely with natural and abstract things. 


Make stock, take stock

I tell myself I'd stay right here
live on pea soup, burn cones and prunings,
sweep floors, take notes about the Duino Elegies
(which I still read like listening to music),
resist all efforts to make or give away
anything of my own, let the dregs settle
render the fat, and this way set aside
an uncomplicated life time.


Also set about reserving a hotel in Pontorson, near Mt St Michel for my birthday in December.  It's my half-antique one, and while I'm not bothered about it from the ageing point of view - if ageing bothers me, and I can't say it doesn't, one day doesn't make a huge difference one way or another - I had a strong impulse that it was better to get right out of town for it.  I have to admit, after years (getting on for 50 of them in fact) of being Pollyanna-ish about it, a birthday just before Christmas is, and always has been, very largely a short straw, and the last couple of years the elements have conspired to make it particularly unfavourable. 

But actually a dark winter night on the Mont might be rather a wonderful way to celebrate, weather permitting - if we can get out of the village and onto the main roads out there we should be OK.  The return e-mail from the hotel, which does good wines and a very good pré-salé lamb, and an excellent deal on half-board, was warm and friendly, carefully translated into English after the French, though I'd written to them in French, with a 'PS - the dog is welcome for free'.

It's good to have things to look forward to, even, or perhaps especially, if it's a leap of hope to do so. 


Photos: pond stuff again.


I think that's probably enough of Three Beautiful Things for now.  I find it hard to keep to daily posting, hard to keep with the beautiful, in the sense of the positive, the shapely and the life affirming, and hard to keep concise.  Feast or famine seems to suit me better.  Still, 3BT is a fabulous idea, thanks Clare. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday 29th August

The Quiet American promises home-made trout paté (with a deliciously softened t and a nicely accented e-acute) when we come tomorrow evening, and I promise the tarte tatin we didn't have the other night when  dinner was cancelled owing to bad news.  We feel cheered and a little defiant, but not inappropriately. 

(Now there's a mish-mash,  tarte tatin italicised, 'paté' not, at what point can Anglicisation be said to have taken place, I wonder?) 


I have cut the grass, which makes everything in the garden look better, and puts a layer of cuttings over the apple waste on the compost heap that was drawing the wasps.


Photo: Sun through sumac.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Saturday 27th August - double ration again

A parcel arrived from my sister.  It contained fabric samples, in every kind of red and a few more colours besides, of shot silks and velvets and chenilles, tapestries and brocades and even a Morris print (Brer Rabbit, in red and hemp).  We ran our fingers over the textures and drank in the colours, a perfusion of joy.


Red silk and velvet notwithstanding, we struggled with difficult things through the morning.  At lunchtime we ate slice after slice of good white bread and butter, and some chocolate spread, and felt much better.


A warm blade of sunshine falls on an especially deeply coloured lemon in the fruit basket on the windowsill, making it glow, and scent the air with a perfume of lemon oil. Kennst du das Land …?


A perfect spotted cow under a small, top-lit, cumulus cloud.


 Rilke on Rodin:

I realised immediately that his house meant nothing to him ... it concerned him not in the least and placed no burden on his loneliness and composure.  Deep inside himself he carried the darkness, refuge and peace of a house over which he himself became the sky and the surrounding forest, the vast expanses and the mighty stream that always overflowed.

( From Lou Andreas Salome's memoir, translated by Andrea von der Lippe)


Photo: in the laundry.

I liked the way the sun through the laundry room window passed through Molly's old striped bed cover and lit up the plastic laundry basket.  The photo was much crisper and more literal than I saw it, so I played with the editing until it looked more like I remembered.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thursday 25th August

There must be some special law of entropy governing the plastic food containers that I seem to be constitutionally unable to throw away, despite the fact that more of them accumulate than I can possibly ever re-use. They gather in unruly, chaotic heaps, bottoms without lids, lids without bottoms, in the kitchen cupboard amongst the cast iron casseroles, ceramic baking dishes, mixing bowls, funnels and colanders.  Their propensity to disorder must be partly a result how light they are, and the number of different shapes they come in.  However, today I tidy them up into matching stacks, with their matching lids, and at least manage to reduce the volume of cupboard space they take up.  It can't last, I know, it's just not in their nature to behave, but it is, for the moment, a pleasure to behold.


I rather like this calm, patient, autumnal rain.  Just now it suits me.



 [shield] bug on a [potentilla] flower [I think]

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wednesday 24th August

A wasps' nest in an old mole gallery at the bottom of the garden which we have been leaving alone has been getting to be a worry.  I phoned around and found the cheapest professional to do it in Loudeac.  He was well equipped, and trudged down the garden in an all-over green body suit with matching face covering, powder gun and pickaxe, and came back with a large soggy papery mess in a bin bag, which he took away with him.  Killing anything is not beautiful, but the relief that it is done and we can sit out in the evening without being harassed, and that that our Charmless Bulb-growing Neighbour's small children can pick up their windfall apples in the autumn without being stung to bits, is a good feeling.  


A Hercules transport plane, which I could hear before I saw it, flew so low over the garden that is seemed scarcely higher than the treetops, and the reflective glass in the cockpit windows was so clearly visible that I waved at it, even though I'd no way of knowing if anyone on it saw me.  Near as it was, the deep thrum of its engines was astonishingly gentle and soft, and it had the ponderous, grey dignity of an unexpected large mammal moving through a landscape.


The prospect of reading the last section of David Lodge's Therapy before bed.  It's the first Lodge novel I've read, and I'm enjoying it very much.  Not least because I think of one or two people I've known who are great enthusiasts for him, and the new insight it seems to give me into their characters.  These include a shy but very quietly clever French woman of my acquaintance, whose eyes twinkle a little when she mentions him, and who reads the novels in translation.  I wonder how on earth some of it can successfully be translated, as his writing seems so very British, but I'm glad they are appreciated.  Comic novelists seem to inspire a particular kind of affection and sense of ownership, it seems to me.


Photo: garden collage,


 Tom was bemoaning the scruffiness of the poppy seed heads, and they do look somewhat sere and dingy, but I do like the form of them, and the fact that some of the poppies are still only just coming into flower.  The sedum are just beginning to flush red with flowers, and already the bees are trying to feed from them.  I know it's ridiculously late to have tomatoes just flowering, but these are self-seeded things, which are rompsing away all over the place in the beds; they are so lush and lusty I've not had the heart to get rid of them, and who knows, we may get a few late fruit from them yet. 


Failed to post yesterday, owing to busy-ness, no excuse really as busier folk than me manage it, but not to worry.  An extra one for today anyway.  Not sure how long to go on with this, a bit longer perhaps.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Monday 22nd August

The rest of the cauliflower, a big one, after Tom's pickling activities, made into curry, using this recipe.  It really is as good as it's cooked up to be.  Instead of boiling the eggs. though, I followed one commenter's advice and simply poached the eggs in the sauce at the last minute.  It reminds me a bit of the way R used to do it, only she sort of scrambled them into it.

The cough/cold virus I have more or less shaken off now, but one of its symptoms (I assume) was blocked ears, tinnitus and earache, which the introduction of a warmed-up mix of olive and tea tree oil followed by self-syringing with a poire effilée , normally quite a satisfying experience (yes, I know, I must be weird), only made worse.  It has more or less subsided now, except for a strange echo effect in the upper frequencies of my hearing, so that Molly barking, announcements over the supermarket tannoy and excited female newsreaders and reporters bringing us the latest on the situation in Libya produce an effect that is distorted, broken and generally irritating inside my ear canal.  

Not much good to be said of this really, though it is clearly not life threatening and will no doubt pass in due course.  However, when the opening to the 2nd movement of Dvorak's New World symphony was played on a music starter question on University Challenge this evening, those plangent, cliché cor anglais notes echoed complete and whole and perfect, so it was in fact not unpleasant, beguiling almost ...

Photo: collage

Chestnut woods late in May.  Not so fresh and light now, but still cool and pleasant, a green thought in a green shade.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sunday 21st August

The button tin was old before I was born, as are some of its contents, like these splendid cover-your-own buttons, which true to their word have not rusted, and are endorsed by the strangely bisected face of one of those Ideal Homes-type post-war ladies ubiquitous in the imagery of my childhood who all looked Janet's and John's mummy.

I went to the tin looking for a missing button from a shirt I haven't worn for ages because every time I get it out to wear, I am reminded that it's missing a button, and then I found the button somewhere quite recently, and now I can't recall where it was, but wherever it was it wasn't in the old button tin, or its environs.  But plenty of other interesting things were, and by the end of the morning I had lined up a good strong dog-lead swivel clip, so I can mend Mol's extending lead, a long piece  of bright gold velvet and some blue ceramic beads to sew onto it for a table runner, and three large, round maroon, Bakerlite buttons, rather art deco in style, which I'm fairly sure came off an old coat of my mum's, and which will just go nicely with the sleeveless thing I knitted from some thick soft yarn I bought in Lidl.  The pattern was designed by moi using a piece of squared paper and I'm afraid it rather shows, so I probably won't wear it out of the house, but it is the most delightful sunsetty colours, and will be very warm, and the buttons will give it the added values of nostalgia and continuity.

My make and mend ethic is something of a silly conceit: the things I make I often don't need, or cost more to make than they would to buy anyway, and the things I mend I have often replaced already, or they are just as wearable holey as darned, or the repairs will only hasten their falling apart.  I strain thriftily at gnats and swallow wasteful camels.  But it makes me feel wholesome, and I do enjoy it, I really do.

I decided to move the buttons round on the shirt, replacing the missing one with a lower one, whose absence will be less visible. This is a sure way to make the stray button reappear.


Lining drawers with a roll of red tissue paper.


The evening air through the window upstairs is cooling at last.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Saturday 20th August

A couple of videos for Saturday night

~ Snail, the best I could find to explain how they move so as to deposit a line of blobs of slime:

In fact I think I've got to add this next one too, which doesn't show the slime thing quite as well but just for the really cool millipede that keeps trying to get into shot:

~ And while we're about how creatures do things we'd never thought about in ways we didn't expect, here's one forwarded to me by the rather good company, Canine Concepts, who supplied dear Mol's waterproof coat ( a useful creator god in the shape of interfering dog-genetic buggering human breeders having failed to do so).  This is how dogs drink. 

Well, who'd have thought?

Finally, just caught a bit of a Radio 4 tribute to Robert Robinson, who died lately.  A quote from him:  

There's no such thing as a good listener, just someone waiting for their chance to talk.

 As I remember it.  I don't think it's necessarily true, but it doesn't do one any harm to think on it.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday 19th August - six, no less than six, beautiful things.

 The pretty new checkout girl at Ecomarché looks puzzled when we ask for our Radio Times.  Her colleague at the next till grins and goes and fetches it - she doesn't know the routine, I say.  Then we go to the fish van in the car park, and buy sleek and fresh lemon sole fillets; no, no winkles today, I say.  

The lemon sole, dusted in flour and fried in oil and butter mixed (I'm too lazy to clarify butter) is perfect, firm and golden. I enjoy our Friday morning shop in Quessoy.

Our friend D is weak and dehydrated with radiotherapy, and of course with what it is treating.  His wife J is more desperate and tearful than we have ever seen her.  The taxi/ambulance driver, Vèronique, when she takes him into the clinic, insists he sees the duty doctor, who admits him straight away, fearing that a hot weekend at home might be the last straw, and then requests a consultation with the chief oncologist, and by this evening he is settled in, on a drip, and already more comfortable .  J is high with relief.  These back-up, ancillary/para - medical people - taxi-ambulance, pharmacists etc - who are not afraid to issue directives and insist with the medics (who, in their turn, are not too proud to listen) are one of the things that make the health system good here, I think.  

J and I arrange to go and pick sloes in the arboretum tomorrow, and then I'll take her on to visit D at the clinic.


Tom makes a very handsome jar of pickled vegetables: cauliflower, carrots, and shallots - to go with a meal next week.  The recipe called for small pickling onions, but shallots were what was available, and they are much prettier, with their soft mauve-pink tint, and I'm sure a better flavour.  There is honey in the pickling liquor, and tarragon, fennel and bay leaves.  I snitch a very small floret of cauliflower as it is cooling, but don't say.

Then he goes and does final battle with a flatpack chest of  drawers, which the leaflet said would take 30 minutes, but which has been ongoing since yesterday, and Tom is no slouch when it comes to assembling flatpack furniture, believe me.  The drawers don't line up, and need re-jigging, it is heavy and awkward, and by the end some slightly off-colour remarks are being made about the manufacturing credentials of the PRC, but by tonight we have a completed chest whose drawers open and close properly. Then he sets about rubbing down the gesso on a canvas for a still life.

I say I don't believe anyone else has a husband who is so Good At Jobs.  He shrugs modestly, and says perhaps M does, and he's sure P does...  

Pshaw - I snort - they can keep them!


An on-line friend sends me a link to a beautiful short story she has written.


I weed the whole azalea bed.  The camellia (sorry Dumas) we put in this year has plenty of strong green shoots on it, but also a tight ligature of bindweed. We don't - touchwood - get enormous amounts of bindweed in the garden, and I am reminded of not only its strangulating ruthlessness, but also the satisfaction of carefully unwinding its spiral from the host plant and, with a final sharp tug, removing it.

Photo: collage

- best of the webs, and a Japanese anemone (might be worth a click or two to enlarge.  B/W shows up line, as well as form).

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Thursday 18th August

~ A misty, dewy morning and for the first time for ages I wandered around the garden with the camera before breakfast.  The swallows, I counted twenty-two at one sitting, were lined up preening and chuntering on the wires, and the garden was festooned with beaded spiders' webs, which an hour later had all but disappeared, evaporated with the mist.

~ Molly and I went out a little later in the morning to pick blackberries.  We didn't get too many, but I came back with a few scratches and nettle stings, and my sandals (not good footwear for foraging really) and the bottom of my trousers wet and seedy, so something of the job description of blackberrying was fulfilled.

~ Photo:

Snailtrack, also early this morning.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wednesday 17th August

~ Tom is looking for pictures of oranges, with leaves, for a painting reference.  An image search is put to me as a job, so I can settle into it browsing the internet looking at and collecting mouthwatering pictures with no sense of guilt whatsoever.

~ Potatoes or dumplings in the chicken soup?  As if I really needed to ask...

~ Photo:

The cats at no 32.  Also Josselin.
Or - Instances of the number 2.
Or - where's my bike?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tuesday, 16th August

~ I went out to give J a lesson on forwarding and copying e-mails and text, so she can keep their numbers of distant friends informed about D's health, which isn't good now.  We had tea after, and Tom walked in unexpectedly, having been out and about on other business and thought he'd look in and see D.  The latter was at his radiotherapy session, and we left together, drove off separately but met up and got out at the top of the hill to give Molly a run.  She decided she'd swap cars for the rest of the journey, and we raced each other home (not at speed, just to see whose route is quicker), Tom taking his preferred wider, longer road past the house with the yellow pvc windows and up the Plemy road, and I the winding water tower route, past the donkeys and the black sheep and the house with the peeling gate and pink hydrangeas that I suspect our neighbour C may be renting, taking refuge from being divided into one less part than Gaul between his turbulent and rotund wife and his tungsten sparrow mother.  Tom was home before me but only just. 

We never usually get to meet in an impromptu way outside the house like this, and of course it requires a wasteful duplication of car use. Nice though.

~ A basket of greengages on the table, rapidly diminishing.  They are meltingly sweet, their insides taste gold and their skins green, even with your eyes shut.


Cadeaux et souvenirs, loto et tabac.  Old couple seated in a restaurant window, Josselin.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Monday 15th August

~ Today was Assumption Day, and a public holiday - this fiercely secular country is remarkably attached to its religious feasts, movable and immovable. I decided to say 'begone dull virus' and take myself out.  In Quessoy, a small town near here, there is an odd little shrine which I've never quite established the status of, one of those  modelled, I suppose, on the grotto at Lourdes. It's in a woody, gated garden and driving past on special days, including Assumption, I've observed candles lit which twinkle among the oak trees and give it the air of a something more ancient, a sacred grove, perhaps.  However, I've never had the camera or been in a position to stop at those moments, so today I decided to make a special expedition and try to look closer and take some photos.. 

But it was not to be, no candles, it looked gloomy and unpromising, so I passed it by.  It remains a mystery, which may be no bad thing.  Mol and I had a good walk in the arboretum, where we met a cheerful group of handicapped people having a picnic, and on the way home stopped at the sawmills, where I filled the car boot up with chunky offcuts of wood for winter fires.

~ Brother Phil has sent me a scan of the 1911 census, just made available, for our dad, who was just three at the time, and his family.  We couldn't work out who the baby of ten months was, I said it didn't look like Victor(known as Dick) or George or Horatio, in fact it didn't look like anything so much as 'Bagins', which I remarked would have been an interesting prefiguring of the spate of Tolkien-inspired names in the Glastonbury area (land of our grandfather's birth) some 60 years later.  Finally we worked out it was probably Bevis, and recalled that Uncle George was originally Bevis George. I remember Bevis as being a popular name of the time, from another children's book.  Phil and I chat by e-mail, recalling bits and pieces told and remembered about long-gone aunts and uncles and the places they lived, and other family lore.  We have become the elders now, I suppose, accruing enough patience and curiosity to pick over the residue of stories and  memories left by the tide of time, which washes away more and more, while leaving other stuff behind in its place, perhaps about us, when we will be the long gone aunts and uncles...

~  Photo - 

I like the exercise of picking out an odd single photo to put on these posts, trying to resist using more and making little series and photo essays. While we have established that flowers and vegetation are fine, it's good to have a change.  This is my sister-in-law A in Mayenne, in the kitchen there.  It's not a flattering portrait, she's very much more beautiful than this shows, so I hope if she sees it she doesn't mind.  But there's something lovely in the light and the atmosphere there, and I like the feel of the photo.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sunday 14th August

~ Delicious caramel flavour cough mixture can't stop me coughing at 6 am.  I come downstairs and cough freely on the sofa for a while, and wish I had the energy and the will to keep my eyes open and do something more constructive (didn't I used to blog at this hour? Those were the days...).  I fall asleep and don't wake up until 8.30. So then, it being Sunday and I being poorly (-ish), I allow myself a day on the sofa to answer an e-mail to a friend and read the second half of Atonement.  I feel too desultory to write, but finish the book, then write the e-mail and take Molly for a walk, so that's not too bad. I certainly found Atonement a gripping read, I don't mind that he's wordy and allusive and uses a lot of adjectives and changes of pace and style, but I did feel a bit toyed with and cheated at the end.  Actually that reminded me of the end of Villette, I wonder if anyone else has noticed that?

Not sure what the beautiful thing was there, maybe lazing on the sofa with a book.

~ We keep the curtains open until last thing at this time of year, often don't close the back ones at all.  Sitting where I am now, it's almost dark, and I look out on the open timbers of the lean-to barn.  The familiar form of a blackbird sweeps up and lands on them, silhouetted against the last light in the sky, its tail and head cocked upward, I imagine rather than hear its jagged call.

~ Mexican orange, second flowering.  They smell delicious.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Saturday 13th August

I've been promising clams for the end of the week. I always assumed these amandes de mer (above) were a luxury version, judging by their size and glossiness, and that the price might be per clam.  But looking closer, it really was per kilo, and they really were about eight times cheaper than these palourdes

from the bay of Mont St Michel.  (I think they're known as carpetshell clams elsewhere).  

The amandes really were absurdly cheap, so I bought rather a lot of them.  They turned out to be  dog cockles, which are scarcely considered worth eating in some parts of the world, though they are a plentiful, sustainable source of protein, largely a by-catch, and so really just the kind of thing we should be eating.   However, there's a reason they are not considered a delicacy, delicate does not really describe them, they rival whelks for, er, robustness of texture, and they were rather hard work. But the magic trick of steaming shellfish and watching them pop open like Chinese water flowers (I haven't seen those for a long time...), the alchemy of the court bouillon made from the tail end of some cheap rosé and the stalks of the parsley, lemon thyme and fennel which went into the garlic and herb butter I stuffed them with, and mopping up the juices with crusty bread, were all rather wonderful, and the real palourdes were delectably tender by comparison.  

Also there was ...

this French food blog I found looking for advice and recipes as to how to cook them.  French foody stuff doesn't usually do much for me, for a variety of reasons, but this is lovely, cheerful and quirky and original, though it's more fussing over food and  wine knowledge than I can aspire to, it's a nice place to wander.

Then there was 

~ the Viognier we drank with it.  I like a nice Viognier very much and will drink it with pretty much anything.  This was an Ardeche one, as were the first VDP ones I came across, but it was labelled  Indication Geographique Protegee, which I'd never seen before but apparently it's just a European version of VDP.  In fact I have two whole bottles of real Condrieu which I got for my birthday last year and didn't drink then, and which I am too much in awe of and have wanted for too long to quite have the nerve to broach  now (or is it breach?).  But I get them out and look at them sometimes.  I've never tried a New World one - how would I have done?  

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday 12th August

~ Dr Ban, the Asian rheumatolgist, is, by general consent, the best in the business hereabouts.  Fierce and delicate and direct, he manipulates Tom's arms and shoulders rapidly. 
'This way now. Pain? Pain now?'   
His English is so unhesitating, curt and quickfire that there's no question of trying to stay in French.  He is warm and kindly too, pats and squeezes our hands and shoulders reassuringly, is funny and responsive.  He drives the dreaded cortisone jab straight down into Tom's shoulder from the top into the socket so quickly and lightly that it is barely felt. 
' Hey Mrs Kempton, you don't want to watch? You can watch, it's a movie: Mr Kempton and the Needle!'
The phone goes mid-injection.
'Oh that'll be President Sarkozy.  He needs me.'
'He's heard you're the best too, then?'
'That's it.'
It's done, at last.  Let's hope it's fixed it. 

~ Stopping at the top of the hill above Hénon, it's very clear, and the dark blue band of the sea in the distance never fails to steady and lift the spirits.

~ Pink water lily in the pond, which needs clearing.  Oddly it's a task I enjoy so much I tend to put it off, thinking there must be something more disagreeable I should do first, which is a little hard on the fish who must be gasping for some more oxygen to the surface.  Thanks for the encouragement to keep on photographing flowers; the water lilies just clamour for it every time.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Thursday 11th August

~ Yesterday I dug up an accidental potato plant which had planted itself by the compost bins, and which I had been rather whimsically earthing up with grass cuttings.  The yield was not large, but there were enough for a small bowl for my lunch, with chopped chives, some mayonnaise and a little tinned tuna.

~ Lately I have been succumbing to Tom's latest teatime (well, winetime really) television quiz indulgence, Pointless, I do like that Alexander Armstrong.  Tonight I knew, and the contestants didn't, that Skellig Michael was a UNESCO world heritage site in the Republic of Ireland.  This set me to dreaming of  that tiny cone of rock in the ocean, where a thousand years ago and more the monks sat out the Atlantic storms and held their precious texts and images to them, living with, and on, the sea birds at the edge of a darkening world, and of how I hope one day to visit it, and climb the long, tenuous stone stairs up to the beehive cells, before the world darkens again.

~ Straightened my blue room up completely at last after the children had been nesting in it, so it looks like this again,

I like seeing it being used to the full and covered in bedding and bears and books and all their junk too, but it's nice to get it back.  I took this photo before, in fact, to send to MH, my former student, who gave me the beautiful blue pot that has the fern in.  The patchwork quilt was made by my sister Alison, whom we lost last year, for my eighteenth birthday.  I only recently took it out of storage, I don't know why I left it so long.  My other sister made the small patchwork cushions.  The space on the wall above the fern is waiting for a print of Notre-Dame de la Belle Verrière which came from Chartres and which I've still not got around to having framed. (Thanks to Christopher for prompting me to post about the blue room in the last comments.) 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wednesday 10th August

~ Last night, going outside at about 11, strains and snatches of the Tuesday night concert, a mile or two away in Moncontour, float up to where we live.  Electronic and ethereal, it mingles prettily with the chiming harmonics of the garden toads.

~ Doing yoga for the first time at S's house, where her silky, pewter-coloured old lurcher watches me with bronze eyes and a long smile from the sofa, then jumps down and tries to settle next to me on my yoga mat.

~ Sweet peas from A's garden, which scented the whole room.  They're finished now, but I'm still enjoying the photos.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Fun and frolics and some whimsical quasi-archetypes at the seaside.

The weather was good enough on Friday, and everybody just about got out of bed in time, to get to the beach, one of the plages sauvages, the open ones with no buildings and unsupervised bathing near Erquy.

We sat on the rocks and had a picnic,

people wrote their names in the sand,

and everyone, his father and grandfather being first in line, took a turn at burying Benjy,

until only his extremities remained above ground.

- Except for his sister who, wistful and remote, buried her own feet, perhaps pleading powerless mermaidhood in the case. 

Here she is again with her mum.  I was the only one who went into the sea for a swim, which was delicious, and for which I was pronounced 'hard' in admiring tones, though everyone (except Tom, who doesn't tend to) paddled and splashed about a bit. It was a bit chilly, we're having a cool summer after a hot spring, but really if you can't swim in the sea in Brittany in August you might as well give up and spend the afterlife in Centerparks.

Later we had a splendid meal at le Vivier, our favourite seafood joint, where the staff and surrounding diners beamed approvingly at Benjy's rolled 'r's as he pronounced caramel et fraise when ordering his ice cream, and at the scene of a pretty 14-year-old eating her first oyster from her grandfather's plate, which she did with great aplomb and which clearly brought out the inner Maurice Chevalier in one half of a handsome and tanned French couple of a certain age at the next table.

I'm sure we'll remember it well.

Molly has recovered well and seemed to be very much brightened up by her visitors, I think they really helped take her mind off feeling poorly, and when she went for her return visit to the vet at the end of the week she barely noticed, it was just another potentially interesting thing that was happening next.

They are sweethearts, it was lovely to have them.  Now it's lovely to stretch back into all our space again, and  only have to do four slices of toast at breakfast.


I've a feeling that my blogging muscles have got somewhat atrophied, and a fancy to do Three Beautiful Things again for a bit, to get back in the way of it.  I'll start tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

A cat, a kite, and other bits and pieces

As Setu noted in his comment to the last post but one here, Fontaine Daniel was developed as a kind of 'model village' by the Toiles de Mayenne factory, with pattern book, pretty houses built by the owner for the workers rather like Port Sunlight or Saltaire in the UK.  I don't know how common this was in France, where industrialisation didn't follow the same kind of patterns, and I don't know much about the history of the place at all.. (Setu knows so much about so many things, and speaks and writes an astonishing array of languages.  Lovers of land art shouldn't miss his post on American artist Patrick Dougherty's amazing willow installations at the domaine de Trévarez,  )

Anyway. for one reason or another I didn't take many pictures until we reached the lake, so I can't show you much of the architecture, but it was attractive and the houses looked solid and practical and comfortable, which the projects of whimsical entrepreneurs with notions of combining the philanthropic and the picturesque weren't always.  I did snap one of the pretty neo-mediaeval church,

which has an Arts and Crafts look about it.

As we entered the village, this cat spied us.

in particular Molly.

Her look was none too friendly - Mol hadn't noticed her at all - and she followed us a little too eagerly.  She had the desperate look of a very young cat with kittens, and they often won't hesitate to have a go at a hapless deaf and short-sighted dog which wanders too close.

The day was hot by then, but then there was water, perhaps non potable for us,

but with a thoughtful bucket positioned below, which Mol appreciated.


A little late in saying, but there's my response to Plutarch's question about kites and swallows over at Compasses/Questions.  I've been fairly slack on the blogging front all round of late, I feel, and have left this response a long time, so thanks to those who still look in there and express interest; erratic and sporadic though I am with it, it's the only prompt type of thing I've been motivated to stay the distance with, and I appreciate the patience of prompter and readers alike.

When I finally settled on a response I found two came along at once.  So I gave Plutarch the choice of which one he preferred, and he chose the first, and we batted it back and forth quite a lot, so I made, and resisted, quite a few changes, and I always like it when we do that.  Like the poem in the last post, it's got quite a lot of end rhymes and its own sort of pattern to how they come, but doesn't fall to any established form.  I'm quite taken with this way of doing things at the moment.

The other one was really a bit of frivolity to loosen up a bit.  Joe liked it less because he has reservations about concrete poetry, which in fact I think I tend to share; it's not something I've tried before to the best of my recollection.  It can easily become a gimmick.  But it has quite a long and reputable history, though it wasn't even called concrete poetry for much of it, what with Herbert's Easter Wings and Hardy's Convergence of the Twain, way before EE Cummings et all.  I was going to mention Clavics, which I gave up on, having bought it as a present for a friend who is a Geoffrey Hill fan and beside whom I am a poetical and intellectual pygmy,  but I quickly realised on googling for a link that getting onto Geoffrey Hill was wandering into areas of Poetry as a Contact Sport wherein I would be rendered a mere squashed bug before one could say enjambment ...

Anyway, my bit of messing about with concrete hinges on the text centring function, and looks like this:

a red lozenge
high over house and hill 
criss-crossed with cane struts  
a ringed line running from
 end to end, its string
strung out straight
 tethers it taut 
to earth, 
its tail 
trimmed and
a tentative
laughing at
looping the
aflap and
swooping with
swapping with
funny or fearful 
fight or flight?

Kites seem to be quite a fruitful source of  memory and imagination for people.  Feel free to share what they bring to mind for you, and indeed, to add a little alliterative dyad tassel to the kite's tail if you wish.


Then in addition, to try to show Plutarch my birds eye view of a kite, I discovered the new insert a drawing function in the Google document we use for the 'test bed', with this result

Then I tried to do a swallow.

Oh well.  Plutarch was very kind about my introduction of graphic elements but gently discouraged their inclusion in the sequence as possibly distracting.  But I have no such scruples here.


Well, it seems to be feast or famine around here.  Having thrown all manner of nonsense in as garnish, I shall probably go missing again for a bit.  We've got E and B and their parents (Tom's eldest daughter and co) coming for a few days tomorrow, which is always a joy but keeps us busy and leaves us a mite fatigued afterwards. Mol's had ear trouble for the third time in 6 months, after a hopeful year free of it, poor mite, after the operation and the broken wag and all, she is a dog of sorrows and no mistake. I'm only being flippant because it makes me too miserable thinking about it otherwise. She's on the mend and the way up again now, loving and cheerful again, fortunately as she has her adoring public to meet.  


I saw what looked like a freshly minted swallowtail butterfly in the garden the other day, I dashed out with the camera but it was gone.  No way of knowing if it was one of the caterpillars, but I'd like to think so.


Must go, promises to keep and far to go etc...