Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Blog ennui notwithstanding, daily posting will commence on the morrow.

Not much fuss these days about November daily posting, I hesitate even to refer to it as Nablopomo, since, having done it most years for quite a long time, the word is becoming a bit, well, naff.  Nafflopomo.  Anyway, I am undeterred, have signed up for it officially and will attempt to get something out everyday.  If nothing else, it makes me bother to pick the camera up and use it more, and perhaps hold the somewhat evanescent thoughts and impressions which it still occasionally occurs to me might be worth sharing here long enough actually to do so.

So, it's blowing a hoolie out there and a wet one too, but Jack-o-Lanterns is still flickering and gazing orangely out into the darkness and keeping the ghosties and geesties and bugaboos at bay, and that'll be worth a photo or two anyway.  See you tomorrow!

NaBloPoMo November 2012

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Donkey days

Last weekend saw a kind of donkey festival in our commune of Plémy that of the next but one, Quessoy.

This was given the waggishly punning name of Les Chic'ânes, which, rather ungrammatically, means both 'Chic Donkeys' and, well, chicanes, as in, chicanes, on a sporting track, or I suppose as in chicanery, funny goings-on... well, anyway, not to worry, a pun is a pun, it needs no real point.

I only attended the local one, which really was very local, some five minutes walk away, at a farming hamlet I sometimes drive past, often on purpose to look at their growing collection of pet donkeys, as well as a small herd of miniature black sheep, a couple of ponies, and a pleasant potager.  I don't tend to walk there much, so I've never spoken to the people there, and don't quite know what belongs to who, whether the whole settlement belongs to one family, or whatever, but when I've seen people there they always look quite cheerful and friendly. I ended up going there two days running, as my camera battery ran out quickly on the Saturday afternoon.

There was a small bar, a tent offering crêpes, and a sawdust toilet,

with information and displays (not of an overtly practical nature I hasten to add, just samples of sawdust and some posters and leaflets...) run by a lively and attractive hippyish woman of a certain age, the kind I instinctively warm to.  Oh, and a strangely-dressed man on the Sunday telling unintelligible (to me) stories and singing unintelligible songs in a laughably awful voice.  There were the usual local suspects, such as our neighbour Victor with a group of fellow ancients, and other familiar faces, and some I'd not seen before, 

such as this chap whose facial furniture was so impressive I had a paparazzi moment with the zoom, taking in a donkey's ears into the bargain. And there were a few dogs, as well as Mol, on the scene.

Really though, the occasion centred entirely on donkeys, which pleased me greatly because I love donkeys.    I think they have the most beautiful faces,

the most gentle, wise eyes, 

and the loveliest, softest ears.

To me they are among the noblest and sweetest of beasts, and I believe our species' abuse and slandering of them is one of our many sources of great shame. 

Happily, the people running  this show were very keen to redress this; the commentary over the PA was a paean of praise to donkeys: they are not stubborn, it was said, though they can be mistrustful; they are never vicious, unless they have been subject to ill-treatment at our hands, they are especially gentle towards children. They also seemed favourably disposed towards dogs,

though one or two people, not the donkey experts themselves, on seeing me approach the penned-up ones with Mol, asserted that dogs and donkeys didn't get on at all. 

Nevertheless, she and they touched noses amiably, all ears were pointing in the right directions, and though they seemed curious and a little cautious, there was no sign of distress on the donkeys' part.  

There were donkeys of many sizes and colours,

acting in a number of capacities.

There were of course donkey rides,

and endless circuits of the field were made by donkey-drawn conveyances,

I think this man must have walked a fair number of kilometres by the end of the weekend, but he kept on smiling.

On the first day, five of the resident group from the farm were all roped together, held by one older chap, meeting the public.

They skipped and danced and jostled a bit, but they were only wearing head collars, not bridles and bits, so that with their combined strength they could very easily have hauled their keeper  anywhere they wanted, but they were very well behaved and good humoured.

On the second day, the same group was loose in a fenced off area - no serious wire or electric fence mind, just coloured tape - and were preparing themselves for one of the main events of the day:

the freestyle-group-donkey-jumping.

There's a young Asian girl I've seen around there, presumably an adoptee, she's often in miniature blue overalls, a busy, managing, energetic child, and she was very much in evidence on this occasion, in red jacket and hard hat, involved with every aspect of the proceedings.

The donkey received their pep talk from their boss, then they were off.

He only waved the stick at them and just touched them occasionally with it to keep them on course, there was no hitting involved.

It all happened quite quickly so I had to catch the action as best I could.

Sometimes there was a refusal or the hurdles got tipped over,

but there was always the ringmaster's assistant to run behind.

After the show, everyone gathered amicably together at the fence for a chat and a fuss,

 hooves and hands were shaken,

and affectionate gestures exchanged.

It was altogether a fun and friendly event, and good to see people so kindly and enthusiastically working with and  promoting these lovely animals. I hope they do it again.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Create or consume? Some autumn snaps and snips anyway.

Creative flare. Careless pointing of the camera into the light can sometimes have quite agreeable results.  And of course it is 2012, and not quite the end of it, so if you like you can believe those iridescent globules of light are something to do with the Mayan calendar. 

Creative flair.  I don't seem to be able to muster very much. I miss the small computer, find it hard to apply myself to sitting at the desk.  Further research discourages me from the whole idea of a tablet device, tempting little shiny widgets though they are.  Apart from anything else I don't think many of them, perhaps the undesired I-pad aside, would be much use for blogging or for commenting on blogs, which though I am less assiduous than I used to be, is still one of my main requirements. One or two of my betters have chuckled a bit at my pretentious parroting of reviews which say that tablets are designed for the consumption rather than the creation of content.  'Won't do for you,' said Tom 'you are a creative spirit.  Wherever you go in the world something is created.  Usually mess and mayhem.'  Or something along those lines.

The impulse when on my couch I lie in vacant or on pensive mood, usually vacant, to reach for an electronic device and graze has to be satisfied by the Kindle, but I resent paying any money for stuff on that.  It's fun seeing what you can get for nothing though. Carlyle is a good companion on Novalis (the link is to a cheap e-book but I think I got it free), since he more or less says don't worry, I find him largely impenetrable and slightly bonkers too, but stay with it and you won't regret it.  I'm coming to like Carlyle. wryly lamenting the laggard intellectual ways of 'the Scotch philosopher and the English unphilosopher'.  

Lowering the tone significantly I've also been reading Elinor Glyn's Three Weeks, which might seem a little desperate, coming across it I was roused to curiosity by the rhyme that my mother used to quote, and which my friend H is always slightly surprised and tickled that I know, since it dates from her youth too:

Would you like to sin 
With Elinor Glyn
On a tiger skin?
Or would you prefer
To err
With her
On some other fur?

Poor bloody tiger, you died in vain, it really is a dreadful book.  It's not like I don't have any decent things to read around either, electronic or otherwise.

In fact too many, I am threatened by drowning by the tide of good reading matter, books, magazines, blogs, and I'm not getting round half as many of those as I should, even though blogging in general seems to be a little quieter than it was.  And as I say, creative activity on my own part seems to be at something of a low ebb; I do wonder if perhaps whatever force I had is pretty much spent and if giving in to being mainly a consumer of others' creative output might be what I ought to be doing anyway. Consumption and acquisition are such negative ideas, but someone has to be the audience after all, and there's just so many lives and talents deserve one.

Supposing I said I was going to stop trying to turn out any worthwhile content here, limit myself to commenting on other people's blogs and answering the several e-mails I seem always to owe peoplewith the thought and promptness they deserve?   In both instances I often seem to find I have more of apparent interest to say for myself. But if I did that, I know I'd instantly regret it, find I had something desperately important I wanted to say, perhaps experience a sudden burst of creative fervour and start writing three poems a day or something, then have to go through the fraught business of reinventing myself, which I suppose then might make it worthwhile.  But if that didn't happen, what would I do with all my holiday snaps? 

So in that spirit here are a few snaps and snippings of the season.

The sunflowers continue, though many have gone over and been blown or battered down by wind and rain.  But they are still a feast for green- and goldfinches.  I was tidying up the veg beds the other day, and went to clear out the cold frame, which has been invaded by nettles.  I lifted the clump and a small newt and a midwife toad looked up at me balefully from under them, to say nothing of the spiders.  A group (or a charm, if one is being accurately lyrical) of goldfinches chided me with impatience from the eucalyptus tree, as good as saying I was keeping them from their lunch, and indeed, as soon as I walked away they were on the sunflower heads.  I'm chased out of my own veg patch, which I suppose is how they feel.

So I took a walk, there are some late butterflies about, more really than we've had through much of this apology for a summer (yes I know August was three hot days and a thunderstorm, and I don't really mind cool summers, and those of you who are sweltering and gasping under rapid desertification elsewhere on the planet will chide me, but it really has been fairly lousy).

There was a peacock on Marcelle's shabby chintz Michaelmas daisies,

and a comma on the bramble leaves.

The brambles themselves offer colour, though the berries are finished,

 there are late flowers of knapweed and hawksbit,

and pretty leaves of this and that.

To me, umbelliferous plants are like wading birds, an area where my taxonomic awareness and smart-alec need-to-know identification skills let me down, getting vague and hazy, consequently I miss out on foraging opportunities, some  of them are delicious, it seems, others toxic. 

I believe these things which seem to flourish most of the year, rather coarse and rank but with  interesting lines and forms and geometries, are hogweed, which are not edible, maybe toxic, except they're said to yield a seed which resembles cardomon in flavour, but I hesitate to risk it.

Even the commonplace bracken, as it begins to turn to yellow, becomes more apparent and pleasing in its forms,

and more delicately translucent.

Another creature joined us, walking always ahead of us;

despite its being put into this landscape purely to be blown out of it, and despite that I was a human with a dog with pointing a black mechanical device at it, it didn't bother to fly away or even hide, but trotted in front of us like a barnyard fowl.

It turned out to be a black pheasant, though I couldn't be sure of this until I enlarged the photos.  I've not seen one of these here before.  Though pheasants are introduced game for the hunting season (which seems to be depressingly and oppressively noisy and well-subscribed this year) a number do survive and breed; I was delighted back in the early summer to encounter a handsome red, gold and green cock pheasant with a brood of chicks pottering along by the side of the road as I was driving past.  Someone told me some years ago in the UK that this newer strain of black birds tend to unsettle and stress out the older multicoloured ones.  Likewise, the white-ringed ones apparently drove out and displaced the original smaller ones without the white neckband.

Back to the vegetables:  pumpkins, or rather winter squashes, the real pumpkins aren't on stream yet,  and pink onions are furnishing the kitchen.

Tom has tried his best but had to admit that he just can't really get to like pumpkins; he'll eat them in soup with some enjoyment but that's all. Oh dear, there go my plans for a pumpkin based cuisine and diet.  Molly really likes them though, so Tom will have to have pease pudding or something and the two of us will thrive on a beta-carotene cucurbit rich regime.

You can't go wrong with pink onions, though.  We've eaten most of them already, so the celebrated Roscoff rosés' keeping qualities remain largely untested.

And what better in which to cook these delights than this cast iron enamel, not quite Le Creuset pan in the most sublime shade of deep violet, posing here with one of the runts of the pumpkin litter and sundry other items of autumn produce?  A snip from Noz at just under fourteen euros.  I have such things already, in dark green, butter yellow and black, but you can't have too many cast iron enamel pans can you, and I didn't have one quite this shape and size, and certainly not this colour... oh OK, so I'm a feckless spendthrift, an unfettered consumerist junkie with no conscience and an obsession with bowls and saucepans.

Fed up with rainy days and damp air, though it wasn't really cold, we lit the first fire the other night.

A sawn up beam, Tom's been busy, and a branch of rosemary.  The rosemary was bullying everything else in the vicinity and getting sprawling and ungainly.  I miss it in the kitchen but not in the garden, and it burns with a friendly and fragrant flame.

Enough already.