Monday, November 25, 2013


A couple of weeks ago now, Princeling, his mum and I decided we should thumb our noses at the wind and rain and general signs of coming winter, and arranged to go to the beach.  It was a Sunday and by good fortune a window of quite nice weather opened briefly for us. Nevertheless, Tom and Molly weren't really up for slightly chilly messing about on the beach activity, so they stayed snuggled down on the sofa for a cosy Sunday afternoon, which is pretty much just how I found them a few hours later.

It was quite a little walk to get to the beach, but the boy didn't make too many bones about it, only mildly demurring that the beach might be 'trop windy' (anyone who says bilingual children don't mix up their languages has clearly not met the ones I've known). He's a good walker but as often with little kids it's the boredom factor that can be the problem, but once the sea was in sight he was off ahead down the steps,

'Hurry up!'

'How to amuse them today?'

There was long jump,

which his mum joined in.  I just took the photos.

Then there was timed running: see how long it takes you to get to that rock and back (the equivalent with an athletic six-year-old of throwing a stick for a big energetic dog)

On your marks...

get set...


Which rock?

Some other people had a real big energetic dog, who was enjoying playing with seaweed,

we didn't try this with Princeling, though he picked up quite a lot of it, along with bits of driftwood, reed heads and other items of vegetation. Iso objected to the idea of bringing smelly seaside stuff back in the car, but we negotiated, held onto the driftwood ('que le bois?') but left the seaweed in the car park.

We scrambled on some rocks, for which I needed my hands free so didn't take any pictures, and we made seagull noises. A sand angel was made,

and there were smiles all round. We agreed we should try to do it more often, as you always do.


*Yes, I know it's glaringly obvious from the footwear clues that these photos were not really taken in sequence.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Tom's hot stuff

Well, I finally finished Tom's red Lang sock wool scarf.  It just went on and on; sometimes I was knitting with it wrapped round both our necks, and from time to time asked 'are we there yet?'  But he just kept replying 'no, make it longer!'.  I felt like Rex Harrison's pope Julius to Charlton Heston's Michelangelo, amended to

'When can I make an end?'
'When it is finished!'

At last I came to the final section of grey on the second skein (I love that word, wool and geese, two of the loveliest things the world has to offer), and if it were to end as it began that had to be it.  I washed and blocked it, hoping that would widen the rib a bit, which it did slightly but not very much, though it made it more supple and amenable to being stretched and opened out anyway. There was enough left to make a fringe, which took quite a while too.

then it had to be trimmed. After that, I wetted the fringe and tried Elizabeth Zimmerman's trick of whacking it very hard while wet on the edge of the sink.  This had the interesting effect of making all the separate fine strands curl and cling together into chunkier cords, probably in terror at such violence.

It really is absurdly long, but he seems pleased with it,

 the extra length, he says,

can always be wrapped around twice.

Anyway, while I knit, or put on tassels, he cooks.  Inspired by Rick Stein, it must be said, he is coming over all Indian flavoured.  This one was a great success, in my opinion:

I love curry, and I love mussels.  What could be better then, than curried mussels?

I'm not talking about the pathetic teaspoonful of curry powder the moules frîtes places stick in the poaching liquor and charge an extra euro for, which generally passes for curry and therefore daringly exotic in French terms (and often all shoved under the blanket heading of créole, whether from the French West Indies, Pondicherry or Africa), but a really well blended light curry sauce, with onion, garlic, chopped fresh tomatoes and ginger as well as a good dose of chilli and other freshly, and quite coarsely, ground spices, reduced and brought to high heat, then the mussels cooked in it.  Bloody delightful; some wedges of lime and slices of cucumber to freshen it up and some naan bread which I buy and freeze on the rare occasions I see them.  And beer, of course.

This one wasn't quite so photogenic, but tasted pretty good too.  Chicken, pullao rice and Bombay spiced potato (with mango chutney on the side).  He is also making proper ghee by clarifying, simmering and straining unsalted butter; this meal used rather a lot of it.  If we go on like this we'll both be needing great big scarves to cover our great big tummies.

In fact, studying more authentic cookbooks, it becomes apparent that a lot of real Indian food is in fact quite dry, as this was (though the ghee helped offset that...). Coming as we do from the land which (allegedly) invented chicken tikka massala, we find we rather like a bit of extra gravy.  There was just enough for me to have as leftovers for lunch the following day, and I took the liberty of adding some tomato passata and a drop of light cream, which worked very well, though I didn't tell him I'd done it till later.

Life is sweet.  And savoury.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Seven years, one thousand posts.

Well, here it is: today is the seventh anniversary of my first ever post here, and this is my one thousandth post.  It's been good.

I shall continue here, much as ever, though it must be said things have changed a bit.  In essence, blogging is still an important part of my life, but not quite as important as it has been.  It's easy to lament the changing times, blame Facebook, regret one's lost readership - or waning commentariat, in fact my stats and followers are still pretty much as good as ever they were - or apologise for one's own lack of motivation.   I know full well I simply don't put the effort into reading and commenting on other people's blogs or even replying to comments on mine; I've become a rather less sociable blogger, so I really can't grumble about anyone else's levels of attentiveness. Often I do still read, reflect on, am charmed, interested, (mildly)annoyed and generally enriched by what others have to say, but I don't end up responding to them in comments.  I don't know why I've lost the will to do so, I am sorry about that.  The corollary of this is that I'm really not so disappointed or depressed when I receive less response myself, which is surely no bad thing; I'm not sure one should be too reliant on strokes from others for one's moral and spiritual well-being - though be assured I always like the strokes very much!

I'm not sure that the Facebook explanation works as an explanation for a decline in blogging activity really.  When FB did their floatation thingy a year or two back I seem to remember a few pundits saying that it was in fact too late already: the fascination with sharing all of one's life on-line through that particular conduit was already in decline.  Many of my fellow bloggers, I know, largely eschew FB.  I do wonder, based purely on my own experience, if many of us just find that we've more or less shared and told most of what we want to share and tell and are now returning to our ordinary 'meat-world' (anyone remember that rather gross and dualistic expression?) lives, albeit enriched, enlightened and grateful for the people and things we've gained here.

Conversations are still clearly going on though, but perhaps I'm just not feeling so much like talking any more. And perhaps the knitting, in my case, expresses something of a need to return to something more concrete for a while. I do that reading back over one's own stuff thing quite a lot (bet you all do too!) and often get a touch of Jonathan Swift's 'Oh what a genius was on my when I wrote that!' feeling, which is a mixed pleasure, but it's still all there anyway.

For me, the discovery and sharing of photography was always one of the most important things about blogging, and I've really enjoyed that.  But while I'm sure I'll continue to take photos sometimes, of particular things or when I feel inclined, I no longer automatically pick up the camera anywhere and everywhere.  Occasionally I regret this, when something unexpected and serendipitous presents itself, but often I've a sense of being liberated from the necessity to document and make art of anything and everything, and of the time spent reviewing and editing images - though of course when I was more involved and interested in taking the photos, that wasn't a chore but an eagerly anticipated pleasure, nevertheless it was time consuming and difficult to keep up with.  Also, and seriously this is not fishing for compliments or self-pity, there is so much really excellent photography, from people with skills and equipment far beyond what I can acquire, that the excitement that came in with digital cameras initially, whereby everyone could produce quality images with little outlay or training, has inevitably faded somewhat; the world is awash with beautiful photos, it grows harder to add anything significant to that.

Yet, even early on, it occurred to me that one day I might find I was doing it without the camera, framing and seeing and appreciating the visual beauty everywhere without the need of a pictorial record, as I didn't before, and I think perhaps that is what has happened, to a point.  Likewise, I am seeing and appreciating the world generally better for the experience of blogging, without necessarily having to impose the demands, on myself or on others, of actually blogging about it.

However, as I said, I'm not stopping.  I think we all have to go on, or not, as we see fit.  The best blogs, to my mind, and many of them have been going quite a bit longer than I have, do so very largely for the blogger's own benefit, to record and reflect on the things which are important to them, without undue concern as to whether they are becoming repetitious or trivial, whether they're as good as they used to be, or even whether anyone else is paying attention.  I flatter myself in believing that some of my posts are quite useful or informative: there's still a kind of sporadic conversation going on on a four year old post between commenters, usually anonymous, who sailed on the Aztec Lady in their youth: every now and then someone is relieved to know they didn't imagine the existence of a chocolate spread called Nutch; lately a chap on holiday in this area told me he'd found  the post on the painted church at Morieux helpful, and the stats on the one about chestnuts indicate that I may still be forestalling people from eating conkers, or at least providing some diverting illustrations to Hopkins.  I try to describe the place where I live, and those I visit, in (English language) terms which I hope are appealing without being bland and rose-tinted.  I was gratified to see in the on-line visitors' book at Kerbiriou the names of a couple who I know had, by chance, used some of my blog as a guide to this area when they were staying at our friends' gîte a few years ago, which may have been coincidence but they may have followed a link from here.  I hope I can go on doing this kind of thing from time to time, and if the occasional poem still comes to me, I'll still post that as well. and who knows, things wax and wane in importance in life, I may find a renewed purpose here yet.

So, with much appreciation for all the friendship, kindness and encouragement, here's to the next seven.  I'll try to get round you all soon, and leave some comments!  I shan't be doing daily posting this November, as I've been posting pretty frequently lately anyway and have quite a bit of knitting to get done by Christmas.

Here are a few odd photos from the last Morlaix trip, which didn't quite fit anywhere else, just to finish on.

See you all soon.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Fire, rescue with quinces, Mashrou'Leila

1: The radiators are barely coming on yet but we feel chilly and damp.  The beginning of November justifies the first fire of the winter, and our day and our mood lift enormously.

2: B the German Doctor discreetly hints by e-mail that the Quiet American might like an excuse to take a breather from family responsibilities. An hour or two later he is on our doorstep with a box of quinces, and needs very little persuasion to sit by our fire for a little and talk about Indian food.  Grandchild worship is wearing a little thin, it seems; our house is quieter.  I don't quite know what I'm going to do with the quinces, but they are making the back extension smell very nice.

3: My recent, limited, forays into Arab indie music have also yielded Mashrou3Leila.  Lebanese, sometime students of the American University of Beirut, some boys and a girl, an openly gay lead singer, I don't understand what they're singing about, and it may be deceptively political and serious, but it seems fun and lively, and as a lover of aubergines, I couldn't but respond to this: