Tuesday 28 June 2016

Vivaldi rocks

Well, when your flute teacher is the soloist in a Vivaldi concerto, and you can get a free ticket, it would be silly not to go, wouldn't it?

Friday 24 June 2016

Stamp collection

We got a package in the post the other day, with an extraordinary collection of stamps on it.  Many are priced in French Francs, and seem to date from decades ago.  I'm surprised they're still valid - are they worth anything, I wonder?

Thursday 23 June 2016

Self-seeded poppies

I've not seen this colour in any previous year's poppies.

Wednesday 22 June 2016

Journée de patrimoine des moulins

Mill heritage day, when people are encouraged to open up their privately-owned mills to the public, was last Sunday.  We went to see this one in Ste Suzanne, that we had never seen before; the moulin Gohard.  It used to be a paper mill, paper having once an important industrial product of Ste Suzanne.  The wheel serves no function at the moment, but it does turn, and was turning when we visted.  The paddles are of a shape I hadn't seen before, long and narrow rather than broad and short.   They look like they are designed to apply a lot of force, rather than to move the wheel quickly.

Monday 20 June 2016

A noisy noise annoys

There is some big machinery working in the field next door, making a racket.   The farmer is cutting down what I imagine must be the raw ingredient for silage.  As far as I can tell, it's all random weeds, I don't think he sowed anything there this year.

The machine doesn't turn very easily, and the technique seems to be to go around the field a few times widening the swathe each time, and once there is enough space for a turning circle, to go zig-zag from the top of the field to the bottom.

The machines look quite menacing, parked up for the weekend.

Sunday 19 June 2016

1,000 words per picture

The French love their graphic novels, collectively known as BDs, bandes dessinées.    I indulge occasionally, but it's not an addiction for me.   However I do like illustrated books, perhaps it goes back to a childhood thing; I had many as a kid.

Here's a couple of books I like.   "Santa - My Life and Times, an illustrated Biography", I bought because I liked the artwork done by its artist (Bill Sienkiewicz) in another book of mine on Jimi Hendrix.  The one on the right I bought at a car boot sale today (€5).

The fables of Jean de la Fontaine were originally known to me through their english variants: The Hare and the Tortoise, The Ant and the Grasshopper, The Fox and Grapes, number among them.  In the french version, the tales are in verse, and I believe young french children still learn (some of) them off by heart in early school.  Their rhythm and cadence are a foundation for the spoken language.

I can't show you the illustrations in the Santa book, because they're under copyright.  Here's a couple from the Fables.  I think they're just charming.

Saturday 18 June 2016

False friends

English has borrowed many words from French, and their meanings have often been subtly changed.  This gives rise to linguistic "faux amis", or false friends; words that have similar pronunciations but different meanings.

The french word librairie in modern french means "bookshop" (although in ancient french it meant library) and nowadays a library is a bibliothèqe (f).  Modern libraries often lend out more than just books; they lend CDs, DVDs and so on, and so the library in Evron is known as the médiathèque.

They hold breakfast meetings there once a month, (with free coffee and pastries), when they give a themed presentation on their new acquisitions.  Our flute quartet was invited to come and play some american music as part of a presentation of new material of american origin.  The audience numbered about 30, and covered all ages.

I'm embarrassed to say that I hadn't been in the médiathèque before, and it's really rather good.  They have a broad selection of books, CDs and DVDs, and I noticed a few that I would be very interested to read or play.   The discovery of the day was the jazz flutist Elena Pinderhughes who appears on a CD called Stretch Music, with trumpetist Christian Scott and others.  I also learned that there is new (to me) CD of that peerless singer Eva Cassidy, called Night Bird, to which I shall certainly devote an intense listening, as soon as I can.

I joined the library, it cost 12 euros and I  can borrow up to 12 items from each of four different libraries in the area.  As can Anita too.  Plenty.

Friday 17 June 2016

Garden update

The recent rain doesn't see to have harmed the Delphiniums; they are making a fabulous display.  And the rain weighs down the fine grass, giving a weeping effect.

The more robust grass is staying upright, and the new raised veggie bed is starting to like like it should.   Except that the Pak Choi is bolting.  Apparently, if I look it up on the internet, this is a known feature of Pak Choi.   Known to everyone except me, that is.

Stormy weather

We've been having a good share of thundery showers recently.  It's a bit of a pain since I have to keep disconnecting the telephone line, to stop my ADSL router getting fried.  However it makes for some interesting cloud formations.  Here's a couple.  The pictures were taken at sunset, when the higher clouds were still illuminated, and the lower ones were in shadow.

Tuesday 14 June 2016

Birds nest

We have a bunch of these chappies nesting in the rose against the house.  I see them every morning as they pick over the grass seed I sowed recently.

Monday 6 June 2016

Car boot sale

Car boot sales in France go under the name of vide greniers, or empty attics.   I like browsing them, since not only is there an opportunity to pick up bargains, but they're a window into the local culture: we often go to them when we travel, and it's interesting to note the differences in what is for sale.

The ones this weekend were local, and pickings were thin.   There was a stand that had a "help yourself" box, so I picked up a couple of CDs from it.   The squash plant is a Butternut squash, and although I have some seeds planted, they are not up yet.    This plant is starving (indicated by the yellow lower leaves) because the nutrients in the pot are exhausted, but I think it will recover in my garden, and it was only one euro.  The apples were being sold to fund a home for mistreated animals.  This is always a soft spot for me, I can neither understand nor abide ill-treatment of animals, so I bought a kilo for a euro (5 apples).  I was told that they are Jonagored, a type I had not heard of, and they are delicious.  I looked them up, and discovered that they are supposed to keep until April or so, but here they are in in June, still firm, crisp and juicy.  I found a tree nursery (pépinière, m) that sells this type of tree, and I will plant some.   Another reason to go to vide greniers.

Sunday 5 June 2016

Garden weekend

One weekend a year, owners of nice private gardens are encouraged to open their gates to visitors.  This weekend is the one, and yesterday we went to visit two private gardens in Ernéé, a town about half an hour from us.

The first one is a realatively small garden, immaculately maintained, on soil that is acid compared to ours.  There were acid-loving plants such as Azaleas in bloom.  You could have played bowls on the grass (if the garden hadn't been sloped), and there was scarcely a weed to be seen in the flower beds.  The Dahlia isn't supposed to be out yet, but was bought recently from a specialist nursery who had, apparently forced it.  The wood-framed building houses some doves, shade being provided by numerous climbing plants and sgrubs, inside it and out.

I got the impression that maintaining the garden is a full-time job: the lady owner explained to me that they still manage to get 5 weeks' holiday a year, once the garden is sorted out.

The second garden we saw is just alongside the town centre, and situated around a lake.   The water management used to be part of a mill works, although the mill is clearly no longer in use.  I'm quite sure that as the energy shortage strikes harder, these old milsl will be brought back into use.  It's very short-sighted that even today, the dams necessary for their function are being destroyed.  However the lake and the waterfalls made a fine backdrop to the garden,

It features some fine, old, trees such at the Tulip Tree (Liriodendron Tulipifera and a blue-flowered one (Paulownia Tomentosa), and the overall effect is one of great calm.  Nice to see so close to a town centre.

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