Friday 26 December 2014

Boxing Day

The sky was grey this morning, overcast but high, not oppressive, and the air was still, chill and silent.  A perfect morning for a walk.

I see something new every time I retrace an old path.   This sheltering rock formation had escaped my notice, despite being right by the path.   A tunnel, almost closed at the far end, but you can see a patch of green through the hole at the back.

This spring is often dry, or just a damp muddy patch in Summer, but today its soprano chuckle was the only thing breaking the silence, and its ripples the only movement.

The french for stepping stones is pas japonais, because of the one-step-at-a-time way they are usually tackled.  Despite the fact that the river seemed quite low, the water was running over some of the stones, though not all.  I crossed them anyway, my sturdy walking boots giving their usual confident grip.

A bit farther along and the path becomes wooded.  And there, peeping out of the undergrowth, the only wildflower I saw all along the walk.  A lonely Periwinkle says "hi".

There's a big mill beside the river, and they have recently made a veg patch out of what I take to be a small piece of flood plain.  In any case, I can't imagine that it doesn't flood when the river's high.   The winter leeks are refusing to be beaten down by the frosts.   The line of shrubs at the back will separate the veggies from the footpath.

On into the village of Saulges, and I notice that the place has been decorated with occasional straw bales.  I wonder why.

The homeward part of the walk takes me past a small farm.  These geese made it past Chistmas, at least, but seem to be hostile.   Perhaps it's a "You bastards ate our Cedric" kind of thing.

The lime kiln has been renovated, and the cottage next to it has been pretteyed up and weatherproofed, even if it isn't habitable.  There's always something new, and I notice that the top of the wall now has pansies and primroses on it.

I had always assumed that no-one was interested in this little garden, but I am proved wrong.  It has been decorated with Christmassy baubles and ribbons.  Perhaps there's a house hidden behind the trees that I've never noticed.

Thursday 18 December 2014


We got this helpful little sheet in the post the other day, explaining to us how there are 35, yes 35 different organisations that manage the retirement pensions in France, depending on the type of work you do.   One of them, Agirc, is, according to Le Parisien, not far from bancruptcy.

The one that we're obliged to pay into is RSI, (about half-way down the list) on account of running the gîte, payments that cover the non-insured parts of our healthcare and retirement pension if we ever get one.

Perhaps a little simplification is in order?  Not that I like to mention things like debt crises, government overspend, or anything.

Stop press:  Today (26th December), Le Parisien reports that a joint report from the Finance Office and the Social Affairs Office concludes that more than 1.7 billion euros could be saved every year by economies including reducing the number of organisations involved.  No shit, Sherlock.

Sunday 14 December 2014

The dark side

Had a trip to England to visit friends and swap pressies.   Nice time had by all; a pleasant break.

Though I'm wondering if I'm becoming a bit of a miserable old git.  Twice this break I was accused, in a joking fashion of course, and in the best possible taste,  of being somewhat towards the pessimistic side of things.

The first example was a josh from a good friend that I won't bore you with here.  The second was a gentle chiding from the wife in Marks & Sparks.  The conversation was about these products on sale, called Winter Diffusers (whatever they might be).

Me:  "Oh, look, Winter Diffusers..... now you can enjoy snow, ice, misery and chaos in the comfort of your own living room"
Wifey:  "Or you can marry Mark and it all happens automatically"

Having made a mental note to try to take a more positive slant on life in general, I have to record a failure on the ferry coming home:

Wifey:  "Oh look, we're on a higher deck than usual, deck 9"
Me:  "Hmm, harder to get out if we capsize."

I think I'd better get a grip here.   Marvin the Paranoid Android has nothing on me.

Thursday 4 December 2014

Zen musings

Recently I read a book on Zen culture by Thomas Hoover.   I think it was an Amazon Kindle freebie, since it's not a subject that I would spend money on at the moment.   It seems to cover the subject quite well, in so far as I can judge.  It looks at the political context of the rise of Zen,and then examines the impact on architecture, poetry, pottery, etc.   According to that book, the following haiku is famous:

       An ancient pond
       A frog jumps in
       The sound of water.

Our old cat was not big, but was fearless and took no crap from anyone or anything.   A bit of a thug, if we're being honest.   He was one of a litter abandoned at the vet, last to get given away because he was the most ill.  With a combination of cat flu, and a chlamidial eye infection, his eyes were glued shut in the mornings, but this did not stop him from exploring the kitchen counter whilst being cleaned, until he fell off.

We had a small pond in our old house, it supported a small population of newts, frogs and goldfish, and would tend to get covered in water-weed from springtime onwards.  The first time we took the cat outside, he started exploring with speed and enthusiasm, until, since he had not yet learnt the implications of the different shade of the pond weed from the grass, there was a little 'splash' and he had to be fished out and dried off.

The combination of these random thoughts, whilst driving home the other day, led to the following haiku masterpiece:

     A recent pond
     A cat falls in
     The sound of anger.


Wednesday 3 December 2014

Last day

Our last day in Boston started with the standard breakfast in the hotel, then we wandered into town to find some good coffee.  We trolled around the water front, and made our way via the posh district, then through Boston Park with its fat squirrels, to check out the cinema.

The cinema was showing Interstellar in the iMax, and it so happened that the next showing was in ten minutes so we went straight in for the 11 o' clock showing.   A ripping yarn in the normal Hollywood tradition, but what is it about Hollywood and black holes? "Oh look, there's an event horizon, let's go in see what's there".

This left us looking for lunch at 2:30 and we went to the place we had earmarked for our last, special meal, to see if they would serve us at 3 o' clock when we got there.  Well of course they would, this isn't France, you know.   Very nice it was too.  The restaurant, The Chart House was an old customs house so the waiter told us some of the stories relating to its history.  It has some rather fine American Eagles, too.

It was getting dark by the time we left, and we took a taxi back to the hotel to wind down and pack for the trip the next day.   It was the next morning that Anita noticed I had left my hat at the restaurant.  I'm not sure that on a strictly logical basis, it's worth the time and the 16 dollar taxi ride to fetch it, but then, you can't abandon an old friend, can you?

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