Sunday 26 September 2010


Not a lot has been going on round here these last few days, but here's a few things that have been keeping me busy. We hosted a 60th wedding anniversary party here this weekend, and on the Sunday morning, one of the guests buzzed the house a few times trailing a "60 Years" banner from his powered paraglider. Here's a photo and a short video:

I have finally finished the tiling job that I started in March. My excuse for the long delay is that I've been busy with guests since then, and you really need a good day to get going on a tiling job, or else you end up spending your time just cleaning your tools. Here is a picture of the tower, with the mosaic in place. Thank you to all my blogging friends for your suggestions on the design, which were taken into account in this final version by the wife. I cut all the round tile edges by hand, using an angle grinder. It's a bit tricky. And finally some pampas grass looks nice against the bright morning sky.

The St Suzanne Harmonie played at a wedding on Saturday morning. I took a rest in the coffee shop just outside afterwards. This is a video of the scene. You can hear church bells, a disco, bagpipes and traffic noise.

Thursday 23 September 2010


The main colour in the garden at the moment is from two kinds of plants: Dahlias and Asters. I noticed that the Aster left behind by the previous owner is doing well here so I invested in some more last year. Most of them survived the winter, and are now brightening up the beds with their cheeky daisy-like flowers, that really seem like they should belong to the Springtime.

I just tried to order some more but the website bounced my credit card. Looks like it's some other supplier's lucky day, then.

Tuesday 21 September 2010

Journées du Patrimoine 2

Following the visit to the "Petit Bordeaux" we made our way homewards via Le Mans. Seduced by several notices beside the road as we went, we followed signs to a "friterie" (chip shop, I guess) for lunch. They led us to a lakeside shack run as a fishing operation by a couple of brits, who fed us lunch in the form of a burger that was basically an English Breakfast-in-a-bun: fried mushrooms, fried egg, bacon, tomato and onion. Oh yes, and a beef pattie. With chips, of course.

It was nice to be served vinegar with the chips; I do like my chips with salt and vinegar. There was a French chap at the next table who asked what the brown liquid in the shaker was. We explained that it was vinegar. Vinegar in France is sold unmalted, and is a clear liquid, so he didn't recognise it. He didn't believe it when we told him either, because he took the top off the dispenser and sniffed it, just to be sure.

The fishing operation comprises three lakes, stocked with carp and catfish. I was surprised by the combination since I thought that the catfish would eat the young carp. But apparently they don't eat the big ones, and for the period in the year when the carp are spawning they don't feed so you can't catch them. So people fish for the catfish at this time.

Most of the customers are British fishermen looking for a peaceful week's outing with good fish. Accommodation is in bivouacs (I called them tents but was gently and firmly corrected) and facilities there are basic but friendly, and the food is English. Sounds to me like a good option, if you're into carp fishing.

On to the Manoir de la Massonnière in the afternoon near Loué and on the way home. A much more formal French garden, with a seriously impressive vegetable area. And a frog.

Monday 20 September 2010

Journées du patrimoine 1

Once a year France celebrates its heritage by opening up buildings and gardens that are not usually open to the public. The options available can range from a guided tour of the Elisée Palace (6-hour queues), to a farm having an 'open day' (no queues), and are generally a good excuse for a day out.

The "Journées du Patrimoine" took place this last weekend, and since it was a nice day on Saturday, the wife and I went out to see what was to be seen. As it happened, we chose to visit a couple of gardens that are normally open to the public anyway, but that doesn't diminish their appeal.

The first one is a really lovely little garden just a short drive South of Le Mans. Called Jardin du Petit Bordeaux it is not large, but is laid out so that as you wander around it, the vista it presents changes constantly, giving you something new to admire every few paces. It was started some 25 years ago by its owner and is meticulously maintained. Well worth a visit if you like gardens and are near le Mans.

Thursday 16 September 2010

Garden Update

The drought this Summer has checked the growth of the Dahlias somewhat, but the other plants are doing well enough. This is a small view of the end of a flower bed round the back of the lodge.

Along the front of the bed are Sage plants, this is their third Summer. They are quite drought-resistant, and have flowered well, starting to leaf out again now we have had a little rain. The big pink mass in the middle is Sedum, another plant that copes well with dry weather.

Surrounding the Sedum are three types of Dahlia, each with lilac flowers, in dark lilac, a lighter lilac, and light lilac with white flecks. To the right of the Sedum you can see the Lupin-leaves of several Tree Lupins. They are self-seeded, this is their first year; they will grow to about a metre high next year, cover themselves with highly scented Lupin-like flowers in shades of white to pale blue, then die, to grow again from seed. I like this shrub, though it takes a little trouble. Any readers who want some seed can email their addresses privately and I'll send some.

Then, at the back of the bed, from left to right, some Pampas grass, a gift from Leo, some seed spikes of spent Hollyhocks, a Prunus shrub and a few blooms of Ron's Orange Dahlia can be seen.

That's all, folks :)

Sunday 12 September 2010

Versailles 4

Another aspect of the Versailles palace that intrigued me was Marie Antoinette's fake village. She had it built, full-size, so that she could play at being a peasant girl or milk maid. In all its twee perfection it looks for all the world like an 18th century Disneyland. Truly there is nothing new under the sun.

Saturday 11 September 2010

Versailles 3

Well, how do you describe a concert? The musicians were of the very best in the world, the setting magnificent, and the staging everything you could ask for. A once-in-a-lifetime thing. Even the lighting of the chateau on the way out was dramatic, too.

Friday 10 September 2010

Versailles 2

There was an exhibition of sculptures by Murakami in the chateau at Versailles when we were there. This artist is well-know for his quirky and imaginative works. They were interesting, but not what I would describe as in keeping with their surroundings.

Thursday 9 September 2010

Versailles 1

It's one of those things I would have regretted very much not having done. Sir John Eliot Gardiner was conducting the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists in a performance of Monteverdi's Vespers, "Vespro della Beata Vergine" at the King's Chapel in the palace of Versailles. Not something that happens all that often, and as a fan of Sir John and the music he makes with his instrumentalists and singers, I just had to go.

The concert started at 9PM and ended at 11, and Versailles being about a three-hour drive away, an overnight stay was mandated. So there's an opportunity to visit the chateau there too, and so the wife and I spent a short break of just over a day exploring it and its garden.

The chateau and gardens are as grand as you would expect, and are well-described elsewhere. You need much more time than we had to explore them fully, but you can still enjoy a short visit.

Even on a wet, windy and cool September day the queue for tickets was surprisingly long, and we spent an hour waiting to buy ours. But when we got to the actual point of sale, we discovered three manned ticket desks that were being fully used, and six automatic ticket machines that nobody was touching. We bought our tickets at the automatic machines without a problem.

We mentioned this to our local contact, who was most disparaging: "They're awful, they should direct people to the machines, but they are afraid that if too many people use them, they will lose their jobs. They're mean-spirited, always on strike, too"

If I was going back, this is what I'd do: I'd look for the queue for tickets, on the left as I approach the palace main entrance. Then I'd look about 50 yards to the right for the exit from the ticket sales office. I'd go in the exit, find the unused ticket machines on the left, and buy my tickets. I'd have saved an hour at least. Of course, I can't suggest that you do this, it would be anti-social of me to do so, so I won't.

The roof is in the process of being re-gilded, and this picture shows the effect of the renewal, and what time has done to the old gilding. I also love the way these stairs have been worn, but only at the side by the balustrade. Whose marks in time are these....

Sunday 5 September 2010

H2 Handy Recorder

I bought myself a portable sound recorder last week, an H2 "Handy recorder" manufactured by Zoom, via Thomann, an internet music equipment vendor. It's a neat device, with lots of features, and I'll use it mainly to record my flute practice so I can hear what I sound like.

Thomann like to do "packages" of multiple products so that you spend more, but the price for the recorder alone was the same price as the recorder plus headphones, so I got them thrown in. I also bought an SD memory card for 25 euros but it only cost 15 because it brought the order price to the level that meant the 10 euros postage was waived.

It comes with accessories, including feet, so it can stand up, and a little hat to keep its ears warm when it's windy.

Friday 3 September 2010

Painters' course - addendum

I got permission from the participants to put their pictures up, so here's Willie, Sandra and Carolyn hard at work. Plus, an image from the evening of the village fête on the 15th August, of the footbridge lit up with candles.

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