Sunday 26 June 2011

Pots 1 - Terracotta

I'm not generally a "thing"-oriented person. I prefer functional objects over decorative ones, and I like to keep a critical eye on the things I keep around me. However, I do have a fondness for pots, I have no idea why. So here is the first in an occasional series of posts about pots that I like, starting at the bottom, with the humble terracotta plant pot.

In some ways it is surprising that you can still find them in garden centres: they are buliker than the modern plastic equivalent, heavier, more expensive, more fragile, and not even frost-proof. Yet I find something satisfying in them. Their earthy origins, their weight in the hand, and the way they carry the tide marks from their history of plants they have cradled. Their porous nature helps prevent rot, and if you tap them they will sing their charges' need for water. And when they break, you can put the shards in the bottom of a different pot, for drainage.

Tuesday 21 June 2011

Cultural nuances

We had a wedding party in the gîte this last weekend. The guests were all French except for one English man. This combination highlighted a little cultural difference that perhaps is a reflection of a more profound difference in thought.

There were two different cakes; one in celebration of the wedding and the other in celebration of a birthday, both events being celebrated at the same meal.

Faced with dividing two different-flavoured cakes between 16 people, the English instinct is to divide the two cakes into 8 portions each and ask the diners which flavour they would prefer. This is so that everyone can choose their favourite. The French instinct is to divide each cake into 16 portions and give everyone a smaller piece of both cakes. This is so that everyone gets an equal share.

Curious. And with interesting implications for possibilities of conflict, resolution and negotiation too.

Thursday 16 June 2011

Adults evening

Under-18s keep out! proclaimed the posters. Yep, it's time for the adult students' evening concert at the Evron music school - sorry conservatoire. An evening of performances followed by a bring-and-share picnic. Here's me and Alain with a piece by Celso Machado entitled Sambossa.

Thursday 9 June 2011

Gender issues

The assignment of gender to nouns in English is logical. The noun is masculine, feminine or neuter according to whether the object it describes has these characteristics by nature. (With a few exceptions, like ship)

As a lad learning French, I was puzzled but not dismayed to learn that every French noun is either masculine or feminine, with no apparent rhyme or reason. But I was astonished by the straightforward illogic of German with its three perfectly sensible genders, all assigned to nouns at random. I learn that some languages have even more genders, including one with 14 or so. I guess that gender in language is essentially an abstract concept.

Some curious anomalies arise in French. Vagina is masculine (le vagin) as are breast (le sein) and tit (le nichon). And while penis is mercifully masculine (same word in English and French), dick (la bite) is feminine. Very odd.

Which leads on to the curious fact that some words have one gender in the singular, and the other one in the plural. French for organ (the musical instrument often found in churches) is orgue (pronounced "org"). Our French teacher told us that in the singular it is masculine, and in the plural it is feminine. I pointed out that this must be because only women have multiple orgs. No-one laughed. A bit straight-laced, I reckon, our French class.

Tuesday 7 June 2011

Madonna Lily

I have never before managed to get Madonna Lilies to thrive in my garden. Usually I hoe the buds off in Springtime when they are just appearing above soil. This puts paid to any flowers for a year. If they make it past this stage, I find they usually get eaten by slugs or something. I don't know what eats them, but it completely removes all growing parts, leaving nothing behind except small black turds and the stalk.

These Lilies came up under my trees this year, and it has been so long since I planted them that I had forgotten what they are. I thought maybe they were Fritillarias. Anyway, this year when they came under attack I drenched them in insecticide and surrounded them with slug pellets and they have now flowered. A first for me.

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