Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Decorations

Quite Christmassy down in Felletin, our local town. The main street's lined with Christmas trees adorned with purple and silver bows, the overhead Christmas lights are up, flickering coloured lights flash from streetside windows and are reflected in the puddles and wet cobbles. Very festive. But there's one particular house that always puts on a brilliant show, as if to say "y'ain't seen nuthin' yet!" Took a quick snap of it at dusk on the way home from visiting the post office. Went there to buy stamps and send my Christmas cards, but the damned place was shut so, as usual, my cards will arrive late. Gave Jock a longish walk in the gathering darkness on the way home. I think I may have tired the old boy out. Keep forgetting he's aged about eighty in doggy years. Fed the brute when we arrived home and he's now kipping in front of the kitchen fire. Suppose I ought to do something about Christmas decorations. There's a holly tree with berries just up the back lane. That'll do for moi.


  

Long time no bloggeau

Ain't blogged lately. No real reason. Mainly laziness and the fact that nothing much has happened recently. It's a dull time of year. Still, Christmas is fast approaching and Georgie's due to fly out next Sunday so that's something to look forward to.

Talking of Christmas, I was invited to a Christmas lunch for all the elderly locals at the village Mairie a week ago last Saturday. It's an annual event, paid for by the state, and it's the first time I've been invited. Taken me seven years to be officially accepted by the community, or maybe in previous years they just thought I was younger than I really am. Anyways, having been invited I had to go, despite severe misgivings about being the only Brit there. Plus, of course, my rubbish parlez-vous lingo and the fact that none of the locals speak a word of Anglais.

The 'do' kicked off at mid-day. Six hours later, I finally staggered off home, feeling somewhat wobbly. Amazingly, most of the oldies were still at it, noshing, boozing and nattering. They're tough critters round these parts. I just couldn't take the pace. Called it quits after the pudding cake. Neighbour Colette seemed a bit disappointed that I didn't stay for the final onion soup (apparently a traditional end to a boozy lunch), but I just didn't have room. Lost count of how many courses the ladies of the community had knocked up in the Mairie kitchen. Must have been about seven or eight, or more. And I definitely lost count of how many (free!) bottles of plonk and glasses of champagne the lads on our table got through.

On arrival at the Mairie there was much hand shaking, smiling and kissing as the locals greeted each other. Most of them have probably been chums since primary school and, indeed, are probably related in some way. It's a close community up here in the remote hills. Despite hardly knowing anyone (well, maybe a dozen or so), I was warmly welcomed. I think they know me as the artist that showed his paintings at the village fete a couple of years ago. But, other than that, they probably refer to me as that Anglais who lives by the church.

Introductions over, we took our seats. Neighbour Alain perched me next to him. Sat opposite were an elderly couple (Marcel and Lorrine?) who, despite being married for sixty-odd years (I found out later) held hands with surprising frequency. Very cute. Marcel is a farmer, aged 81, who apparently gets up at 4am every day - yes, every day (that's 3am in English money). Lorrine told me, a bit guiltily, that she stays in bed 'til about seven. I told them that I generally get up at around 6.30ish to let Jock out. Didn't tell them I then go back to bed when Jock comes back in. Marcel's quite a character with his toothless grin. Kept telling funny stories, even though I didn't understand a word. Massive hands for a little bloke, with sausage-like fingers. Typical local farmer.

The official dignitaries sat at the top table. The mayor (another farmer) sat in the middle, flanked by his wife and some local official. Also on their table were neighbour Chantal (or is it Chantelle?) who is the mayor's sister and who does most of the paperwork and running of the Mairie, and a couple of local cops (gendarmes), plus others. They were the youngsters of the gathering. Having a couple of gendarmes present didn't seem to put anyone off. Again, they're probably related in some way to most of the guests. And, perhaps surprisingly, they didn't start breathalising anyone when people started leaving before the dreaded onion soup. Mind you, I could imagine one of the gendarmes saying "breathe into this bag, uncle" and then being told "shove it up your arse, sonny." That's the way things are round here.

Can't remember exactly what we ate, but it was all fairly simple and very delicious. I think different courses were prepared by different ladies of the commune. The starter was a sort of crab seafood thingy. Bloke next to me didn't like seafood so I had a couple. This was followed by a bit of quiche. Then a sort of lemon sorbet (bit weird having pud before the main course, thought I). Then a bit of fish in sauce - had two 'cos, again, the bloke didn't like seafood. By this time I'd lost count of the wines I'd had (both white and red) so my memory was blurred. Then meat, mash and a stuffed Proven├žal tomato - luverly. Then lettuce with sauce and a bit of cheese (there were other courses but I've forgotten what). Then a super-duper slice of raspberry ice cream cake with meringue - stupendous. Then, er, chocolates, coffee and a glass of some lethal pear-flavoured paint stripper. Then a quick getaway after saying thank you to the dignitaries and before the onion soup.

Took a couple of snaps of the Christmas lights outside. Bit blurred, but that was exactly how I saw them. Staggered off down the road as the lads, and probably some of the lassies, continued demolishing the vino stock. Arrived home, got a bollocking from Jock about leaving him alone and in the dark for so long, gave him a walk, lit the kitchen fire and poured a welcome scotch and dry on the rocks. Perfect end to a damned good 'do'.











Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sunny

Odd for November but we've just had three sunny days on the trot. Warm too. Great for dogwalking. Yesterday I dragged Jock up the Pierrefitte run to see the view from the top. On a clear day you can see right across to the distant mountains of the Massif Centrale (or whatever it's called). They're clear of snow at the moment but that'll soon change! Great walking up there at this time of year with the trees showing off their autumn colours. Good views too on the drive home, looking out over Sprocket Hill towards our hamlet. Nipped down to Felletin in the afternoon to do the EuroMillions lottery. Didn't win but apparently some French person did. About £130 million. Scary. Took a snap of Felletin from the road out of town on the homeward drive. Looked a lot better in reality. Ah well. For the evening run Jock and I nipped out back up the granite cross. Amazing colours in the setting sun. Saw a couple of timid deer but the photos were rubbish. Gets darkish at about sixish nowadays. Soon be the shortest day already. My, how time flies.

P.S. - Took quite a few snaps yesterday but couldn't decide which ones to leave out so I've shoved the lot in. All too soon the leaves will have gone as autumn ends, but at least I'll be able to look back at these snaps and remind myself of all the colour that disappeared into winter's grey. Bleugh!






















 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A sunny walk out back

Bright sunshine this morning. Warm too. Really pleasant change after the freezing cold and snow of the last few days. Took wee Jockie for a walk out back. Took my camera too despite already having a million boring photos of dogwalks. Was half hoping I might see the last of the migrating cranes heading south. But none showed up. Good colours at this time of year though. Green leaves turning to brown, yellow and red. Seemed to be lots of red about including holly berries, rose hips and some other plant with pinky type berries or flowers - haven't a clue what it is but it certainly brightened up the hedgerows. The clear morning air led to great views. Strange to think that yesterday I couldn't even see across the valley for mist and cloud. And today, at the top of the hill behind our house, I could see forever.

Walk done, I slung Jockie into the dogwagon and headed for Felletin to buy bread and milk. Also planned to have a crack at tonight's EuroMillions because there have been about half a dozen rollovers and the jackpot now stands at about 80 million euros (should come in handy). But..., the lottery caff was shut. So, this afternoon, I shall head for the lottery caff in Aubusson. Complete waste of money of course, but ya gotta be in it to win it.











 

Full moon and splinter

Brilliant full moon with a halo last night. Bit tricky to photograph though. Tweaked it a bit but it still isn't anywhere near as impressive as the real thing.

Er, it was a bit tricky to photograph not only because it was night time and I didn't have a tripod, but also because the end of my right index finger (the camera shutter finger) was covered with an Elastoplast. This was the result of a self-administered operation to remove a quarter inch splinter gained when hurriedly picking up a log from the woodpile without gloves. I knew the splinter had to be removed immediately so I fitted a new blade to my scalpel and got stuck in. Cutting the skin in line with the splinter proved a bit difficult because I'm not left-handed. The operation was made even more difficult because I'm squeamish and therefore kept pulling my finger away from the shining blade. However, I eventually cut through, squeezed the embedded end of the splinter towards the entry point, grabbed the emerging other end with a pair of tweezers, pulled, and out the little bastard came, followed by a trickle of blood. Washed the cut, applied Savlon and then a plaster. Operation successful. Celebrated with a well earned scotch.

 
 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Heading south

Must have been last Monday evening. Walking Jocky in the forest out back. Suddenly heard a funny old noise. Sounded like a bunch of chirping frogs. But there wasn't a pond or lake for miles. Stopped and listened a little more closely. I recognised the noise but couldn't place it. Then I remembered: migrating cranes. Hurried to an open clearing and looked skywards. Spotted a long ribbon of cranes flying high and heading south. The French call that ribbon a 'bande'. At a guess, the bande consisted of about 400 birds, or maybe more. A magnificent sight. Then they were gone and the sky was silent. Walked on a bit further and heard the distant chirping again. Rushed to a open space and spotted a second wave approaching. Another bande, bigger than the first. Watched in awe as they passed overhead and slowly disappeared in the southern sky. A sure sign that summer was over. Always amazes me how they follow the same route going north in spring and south in autumn. Not exactly sure, but I think they spend summer in Russia and winter in Africa. Shall have to find out more.


Unfortunately I didn't have my camera when the cranes flew over (above photo borrowed from internet). Took it with me the following evening when I walked Jock up the Sprocket Hill area. Clear blue sky, but no sign of any cranes. Great shame. I've witnessed this magnificent spectacle about seven or eight times and every time my camera's been left behind on the kitchen table. Typical. Maybe I'll be lucky next spring. Anyways, while I was up there I took a few snaps. Nothing special, just a cloudless sunset. Took the camera out again the following evening, up the Cemetery Run, in the hope that I might catch a few late-flying cranes. None appeared, so I snapped the old orchard trees that will be the subject of my next painting, a few cows in the far field, the low sunlight hitting some forest trees, and the view across the valley towards our hamlet which I've used as my new header (our house is on the left). Arrived back home and snapped some white smoke coming out of the chimney. Good to know the fire hadn't gone out. Noticeable that the evenings are getting chillier and shorter. Gets dark at about seven. That'll be six when the clocks go back later tonight. Also snapped yesterday's sunrise. Red sky in the morning, shepherds' warning. The warning was a day early. Sure enough, we had a flurry of snow this morning. Not much, just a dusting. Freezing cold though. But then, around midday, the sun came out and the snow disappeared.

Those cranes definitely moved south at exactly the right time. Amazes me how they know when to go and which route to take. Truly incredible.







 
 
P.S. - Clocks gone back. Winter time begins. Sunday dawned a bit snowy...