Sunday, 28 September 2014

Neun-und-neunzig Luftballons


Well, one anyway.

A crisp early-Autumn morning, a blue sky, and this balloon was drifting past the house.  At ground level the air was still, but the ballon was moving swiftly; it was lost to view in half a minute.



It seems to be advertising the Loué brand of eggs.  Loué chickens are free-range, raised on various affiliated farms in the general area, and the village of Loué itself is about half-an-hour's drive from here.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Festival de la viande

Eggs come from chickens, vegetables grow in the ground, cereal comes from grain, and bacon comes from pigs.  I remember quite distinctly being shocked as a kid when it finally dawned on me that you have to kill the cute little piggy to get the bacon.  This undoubted cousin to the Three Littles who so bravely defied Mr BigBad the wolf, met his end to provide me with my breakfast.

They don't take any prisoners in the Mayenne.  I played with the Evron Harmonie recently at the opening of the "Festival de la Viande", the meat festival.  It's basically an agricultural show, like I used to visit with my parents on Southampton common.


I went in to have a look at the show, and to get the free drink for having played.   There were all sorts of things on display, more or less related to farming; tractors, fencing, dodgy-looking veterinary tools, plus wine, double glazing, and the inevitable bank or two.   And of course, animals.

The cow in the picture below, having won the big prize, is announced as having been sold to SOCOPA (the local abattoire, and (possibly) the biggest single employer in Evron), to be made available in meal-sized bits via Super-U, a local supermarket.  And this notice in the Super-U itself announces the availability, in affordable packages at the meat counter, of the female Rouge de Près breed, Ermintrude, another prizewinner, whose preferred meal was daisies and grass, who liked running around and preferred Bach to Mozart.



I must try to find out if mayenne children are as naïve these days as I was then.  I kind of doubt it.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Counterbalance for a gate

The fields around here, when they have a gate at all, have a big one.   It's so that lots of cows can squeeze through at the same time, and big bits of agricultural machinery can pass through too, though not at the same time as the cows.  They have to stand a bit of abuse too, so are built to be strong and long-lasting, which makes them heavy.

I came across this gate on a random bike ride today.  It doesn't have traditional hinges, but pivots on the left-hand post. The right-hand end of the gate rests on a cradle.  To open, you lift it off the cradle and walk the end in a 1/4-circle.

This is the first one I have seen with a dressed stone as a counterweight, and I particularly liked the holder that has been built for it, specially shaped.  The holes in the stone testify to a previous life, and the gate looks well-crafted.   I find a robust beauty in this sort of craftsmanship.




Friday, 12 September 2014

Visitor

This green lizard came visiting today.  I think it's a juvenile, on account of the white stripes down the side.


Thursday, 4 September 2014

Angry trainer

It's la rentrée, the time when French families come back from their holidays, workers go back to work and the kids go back to school.  It's the time for vide greniers, that is, car boot sales, and they're always good for a nosey browse.

The cross-trainer is a recently-invented excercise machine, you can work quite hard with it, and it has the advantage that there is little or no physical shock transmitted to the body; i.e. it's low impact.  It's also called a elliptic trainer, and the French call it a vélo éliptique; an elliptic bike.  I call it an angry trainer just to be awkward.

Our little gym in the gîte features a stepper, a rowing machine, an excercise bike and a treadmill, but up until now, no cross-trainer.  Since I'm on a fitness kick at the moment (part of managing diabetes) I have been on the lookout for one, to add a bit of variety to my indoor training.

Well I found one at the car boot last weekend.  Domyos brand, a good name for gym kit, not a current model but only a couple of years old and according to the one careful lady owner, scarcely used.  50 euros, say 45 quid.  I bought it.  Looks like a bargain.  If it falls to bits in a fortnight I'll let you know.



It's not for heavy use, (recommended 45 minutes/day average) and I won't come close to that.  I was a bit worried that, since it is intended for relatively light use, the resistance available would be inadequate; I wouldn't be able to work out hard enough.  Well, after 45 minutes on the lightest setting, I'm pleased to note that this is not the case.  But it told me I'd used up over 500 calories.  If my treadmill ever told me I'd used that much, I think I would have killed myself; just 150 calories on that and I'm knackered.   They can't both be right.


Saturday, 30 August 2014

BFS Convention 2014

The biennial convention of the British Flute Society was held this year at the Warwick Arts Centre. For me it's a "must", an opportunity to submerge myself completely in the world of the the flute and its music, renew friendships and make new ones.

Accommodation was the student digs on the Warwick University campus.  It's perfectly adequate for such an event and is lifted from looking like a 1960s council housing estate by careful planting schemes.  The many varieties of mature and nearly-mature trees that were everywhere around were especially effective.



The convention progamme included as many as ten formal recitals that you could go to each day, ranging from serious to light-hearted (Supercalifragilistic for a quartet of baroque flutes, anyone?) plus workshops (e.g. circular breathing for flutists), lecture-recitals, and informal performances of flute groups in the foyer.

Highlights?  Well I'm always willing to learn things, and the piccolo has always sounded to me like it well deserves its nickname of "The Shrieking Stick".  But not when it's played by Peter Verhoyen it doesn't.  He gave a wonderful performance of delicate and refined playing of modern pieces I had never heard of.   You can fnd him on Youtube:



I've always been suspicious of much of the music of Arvo Pärt, and had considered his piece Spiegel im Spiegel to be devoid of merit, until the interpretation by Christopher Lee, with Richard Shaw on piano, moved me to tears.  He's on Youtube too, but not playing that piece.  (You have to add "flute" to the search or you get that other Christopher Lee.)

I am currently studying one of Piazzolla's Tango Etudes for flute.  The Tango tradition is one of aural and improvised composition, and is in danger of losing much in being written down.  (Like ragtime piano music.)  So it was a treat to discover ethnomusicologist Dr Jessica Quiñones and her insights into these pieces in her lecture recital.


Other highlights?  CDs at 80% off from a shop clearing down their stocks.  You can hardly get them at that price at a car boot, and there are never flute ones there anyway.  I bought lots.

Lowlights?  After the Saturday night concert (the last night that most people are staying) the bar was shut.  I mean, what???  That's the time you want to kick back, have a few drinks and circulate with your friends.  Big opportunity lost.

And I decided to miss playing in a big flute choir in order to see/hear an interpretation of Jouers de Flute by Rousell (a piece I like and have played), only to find that the programme had been changed.

But, it was a good convention, I'll be there if I possibly can, in two years' time.



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