Friday 5 July 2024

The Accordeon and Heritage museum

It has been two years since we were last in Tulle, and at the time they were talking excitedly about the new town accordeon and heritage museum that was being built in an old bank building.   It has been finished, so we went to take a look.  Well worth the visit.

There is an excellent display of the history of accordeon making, plus a more general history of the development of the town.   There is even a real accordeon that you can play (in the vault so no-one outside can hear)

The accordeon and town histories are brought together by the following story:   The town was one of those taken by the military wing of the german national socialists, but was retaken for a while by the resistance.  Retribution followed in the shape of the schutzstaffel who rounded up the menfolk and murdered some 900 of them by stringing them up.   These same thugs went on to Oradour-sur-Glane where they killed the populace by shutting them in the church and setting fire to it.   One of the Tulle residents was taken prisoner and while at Limoges was able to steal back an accordeon made in Tulle, and escape.   This device is exhibited in the museum.

Evening concerts

The accordion festival featured continuous free music on outdoor stages, plus some paid concerts in the theatre.   We went to an indoor one all three nights, they started at 6PM so we could even watch the footie after.

First one, on Friday evening, was by a female group under the name of Oum Pa Pa, who presented very well-played music with a humorous stage show.  There were two flutists with the accordion, they played piccolos as well as the normal C flutes, very well and in tune.   Hard to do.   You can find them on YouTube.

On Saturday there was a pair of musicians, Ablaye Cissoko and Cyrille Brotto who played gentle improvised music on an accordion and a multi-stringed instrument I can't identify.

The last evening, Sunday we had tickets for Théo Ould and his solo show.   Fabulous.  With adaptations of classical music (Rameau, Bach, Shostakovitch), and modern electronic/acousic (Thomas Gubitsch, Régis Compo) pieces, he amazed me.   You can find him on YouTube too.

Wednesday 3 July 2024

Accordions at Tulle

We're just back from the accordion festival at Tulle.  We were there in 2022 and had a good time so we went again.   It was less good this year- fewer visitors, and the small groups of musicians travelling about the town centre in various open-top vehicles were almost completely absent.   The local Maugein accordion factory didn't have an open day.  But there were plenty of more formal concerts that we enjoyed, and the new town museum was impressive.

We had lunch on the way down in a quirky restaurant in the middle of nowhere beside the road.  The cars parked outside gave a measure of confidence, so we stopped and checked it out.   The meat was cooked on an open fire, something you don't see very often.    Half of the room was given to dining tables, the other half a car boot sale.   It turned out that the place was for sale; we were two of the four customers present.   Perhaps the cars were a decoy.

Monday 24 June 2024

Tight rope

One of the entertainments put on in the village this weekend was the "Lonely Circus".   A single guy with a local (Jean-Marc) as a side.   He did slack rope walking, throwing his cap around and catching it with his foot, throwing it onto a water bottle, all while balancing on the slack rope.   At the end he did some leaping about on the tight rope, including standing sideways on it.

He sketched the locals before the performance, and you could keep the sketches if you saw one you liked.  Good fun.   Food and drinks beforehand, music after.   Simple, effective entertainment. Cool.

Thursday 20 June 2024

Fruits rouges

 You know, I don't remember planting this Tayberry, but I seem to have one, and it's making lots of fruit.

Friday 31 May 2024

A walk in the village

Nothing special, just a few things that caught my eye.

Thursday 16 May 2024

Purin d'orties

Purin is liquid manure, and orties are nettles.  It's supposed to be a really good fertiliser: you can buy it in garden centres, but it's easy enough to make.   Since I have no shortage of nettles around here, I thought I'd give it a go.

I collected up a watering can-full of nettles, then topped it up with water.   According to the instructions, you're supposed to shred the nettles but I didn't bother - I figured that when they all go to mush they'll disintegrate on their own.   You then leave it for a couple of weeks to ferment.   Sure enough, after a week or so there were bubbles on the top, and I mashed the nettles back down into the water.

All the sources say that it smells bad.   It does if you catch a nose full of it, but it's not powerful, just unpleasant.

So once the fermentation had stopped, I took some, diluted it about 10 to 1 and put it on the tomatoes.   They seemed to perk up by the next morning.   I'll be doing some more of that.

Monday 29 April 2024

Getting the rocks out

The garden here is full of rocks, and I am currently digging over a new area for veg planting.   This means getting rid of the rocks and stones that used to be part of the limestone cliff that underpin the garden.   They are mostly of manageable size; that is, I can lift them, but this monster that I uncovered yesterday needed both me and a friendly neighbour to shift it (see the wheelbarrow for size comparison, and the stone wall behind for the availability of rocks)  Worse, there's this even bigger one still in the ground.   It has defied all attempts to lift it, but it does move a bit when enough force is applied.   I think I am going to have to break it up with my electric jackhammer.

In other garden news, the onions and garlic are coming on nicely, and the potatoes have broken above the surface and seem to have avoided frost damage.   This year I have a small amount of perpetual leeks and perpetual onions.   These are both becoming fashonable for some reason.  I won't be harvesting anything from either of them for a while - I will be reproducing from my existing stock of two examples of each.  Can you believe €10 for one perpetual onion from a nursery?   I didn't pay that much, nor would I.

It looks like there the weather will be much warmer from next Wednesday, so I'll be putting out the tender plants - beans, squash, courgettes, etc.  I'm trying gherkins for the first time this year, and having another go at sweet potatoes following last year's dismal failure.

Saturday 20 April 2024

Not a greenhouse

I can't really call it a greenhouse because it doesn't have sides, but it will at least keep most of the rain off the tomatoes.   The original greenhouse was super-cheap, (€50) but a strong wind shredded the thin pastic covering after a year or so, and bent the plastic joints of the frame.   I got new joints (half the price of the original greenhouse) and a neighbour gave me some new, stronger, white, rip-stop plastic.   I am keeping the whole thing stuck to the ground with two vertical stakes, one each side, firmly hammered into the gournd and tied to the verticals at two points.  I think/hope it will do the job.   The tomatoes will go out into it after the current cold spell.

Monday 15 April 2024

Wisteria, etc

The recent rains have made it next to impossible to work in the garden.   However, the work still needs to be done.   Hence some recent, frantic gardening activity.   As a reward, the Wisteria is putting on a fine display, and the garlic, shallots and onions are coming through nicely.

Monday 8 April 2024

Trip to the Park

The Parc Botanique de Haute Bretagne is about an hour and a half from our place.  We took a day out to visit it, and also enjoy lunch at their restaurant.

I was a bit concerned that we might have missed the flowerings of the early shrubs such as the Rhododendrons and Azalias, but no - in fact perhaps we were a little early.  Many were still in bud.

Not only does the garden feature some impressive specimen plants, but it also offers different vistas that seem to appear out of nowhere, and give pause for contemplation.  It's also pleasing to see that the park is still being developed with new plantings; young trees still supported by stakes and in protective mesh, new beds being populated.

The lunch was good too, in a restaurant that retains its old world charm, with a proper open fire that took the chill off the natural stone walls.

Tuesday 2 April 2024

A book

Waterstone's is always good for a browse.   I'm not buying so many physical books these days; I tend to buy what I would describe as disposable books in electronic form, but reference books I still buy the paper version.

The graphic novels are a case in point.   They don't really work well as electronics.   They're similar in some ways to a film adaptation of a book, they offer a new perspective on the story, and rely on a visual artist's impression of the images, rather than the reader's own imagination.  Some are more successful than others.  This one is a good one.

Thursday 28 March 2024

The British Car Museum

We were up near Kennilworth for an exhibition of miniatures: Anita wanted to downsize her collection, and we went to sell some.  It was held at the National Agricultural Exhibition Centre at Stoneleigh.  I didn't know there is one.

While we were there I checked out the local area on Googly maps and saw that on our way home we would pass the British Motor Museum.   I wouldn't call myself a petrol-head but I do have a passing interest in cars, so we decided to take a look on our way.  We were both impressed.

We thought the building was new, it was in such good decorative condition, but we were told that it had just celebrated its 30th anniversary.   And the cars were immaculate.   I didn't see the old Rover models that I used to drive, but the Queen's old rover was there, and the Queen Mum's limo too.   In fact most cars had something of special interest about them; the first and last production E-Types, for example;

There was some humour too.  Lady Penelope's car, not far from Dell Boy's.

Well worth a visit, even if you're not a petrol-head.

Saturday 23 March 2024

Wildlife pic

My long-term readers are aware that I'm slowly creating a portfolio of pictures and videos to support my application to become a BBC wildlife photographer.   In a similar but related vein, here is a picture I captured last week, of a Spitfire taking off frem HMS Daedalus, Lee-on-Solent, near my sister's place.

Friday 22 March 2024

The greenhouse

Springtime is the time for planting garden seeds, for veg and flowers.   Anita tends to get upset when I put seed trays on the wooden ledge of the conservatory window.   Despite my best efforts with newspapers and cling film, the moisture always penetrates down to the wood, which means that some repair or maintenance is always needed when the seedlings eventually go outside.

If there's one thing that England does better than France (at least around here), it's garden centres.  There's one near where I used to live, that used to be called Abbey Nurseries but has changed its name.   I often go there for a browse when I'm in England, and this time I spotted a small greenhouse designed for seed trays.  It has four shelves that take five trays each - plenty for me.  At 50 quid, I bought it, well worth it for all the grief saved.

The frame comprises metal bars with plastic joiners; its not going to survive a hurricane, but it's in a sheltered place beside the house so it should be OK.  The shelves are a lightweight metal grille, strong enough to hold seed trays or small pots, and the whole is covered in a ripstop plastic sheet that zips up.  It is tied to the wall and will benefit from thermal intertia too.  I assembled it without the help of the instructions that were hidden in the folds of the plastic cover, as I discovered later.

I have stapled the bottom of the front sheet to strips of wood to give it some weight and to ease the job of rolling it up - it can clip to the top bar for when it's too hot.   It even has the first of the season's tomato seeds planted in it.   Fingers crossed!

Thursday 21 March 2024

A visit to the Spinnaker

The Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth is the landmark that catches the eye as you enter the port by boat.   It's also pretty visible from a long way around on land.   Apparently, it was intended to offer more interest than it does, with more floors, a restaurant and an outside lift.   I'm not sure what ran out; motivation, money or technical expertise.   Apprently, they couldn't get the outside lift to work, and the only way up these days for visitors, is by internal lift.  Shame, that would have been quite something.

However, they do high teas on one of the platforms, and we booked to go with my sister and brother-in-law, since none of us had been there before, and it was something interesting to do.   The views of portsmouth are spectacular, and the high tea is excellent.  Nicely cut sandwiches, clotted cream scones, and sweet cakes are provided to eat, and a choice of drink (we chose tea, natch).

The human eye compensates for the tint in the toughened glass that stops visitors from jumping off, but the camera does not.   So these views of the city look a bit odd, but might give you an idea.

There is a glass floor too, from which you can look down the framework.  Shoes not allowed.

Wednesday 20 March 2024

Old stomping grounds

I used to ride my bike to Warsash, and then walk along the beach or clifftop to Hill Head, and on home from there.  So I enjoy going down to Warsash when we are in England.   This time I went from the village centre out to the spit where there is an old gun emplacement in concrete.

Many years ago when I was an air cadet, we organised a "night excercise"; taking turns with one team defending it and another attacking it.  I'm not sure we learned anything, but it was good fun.

I don't know who Jo Oliver was, but he or she was responsible for this excellent little border garden beside the road. 

Tuesday 19 March 2024

Good steak

We're just back from England, a visit to friends and family, plus some downsizing of Anita's miniatures collection.

Mum's in a bad way.   We visited her on Monday and by Tuesday she had forgotten that we had been.  She has full-time live-in care at home, which seems to me to be an ideal solution.  Her carer is a sweet young lady, and she is surrounded by familiar things in a place she knows.

My sister recommended a restaurant for a meal together that evening, and I was most impressed by her local Miller and Carter steak house.  I don't think I have ever eaten a better steak, not even in the USA where they know a thing or two about beef.   Good call.

Wednesday 28 February 2024

Plastic wine bottles

I was in Noz, buying wine for my sister, and came across these plastic, screw-top bottles of  californian wine. 

I've got to hand it to the americans.   If something can be made less classy.....

Wednesday 21 February 2024

Grubby mitts

Our local Lidl sells baked goods that you can eat for lunch or a snack - croissants, bits of pizza, focaccia bread with things on, and so on.   They have this neat system that means you can serve yourself but can't get your grubby mitts on the product until you have fished it out of its container onto an accessible platform.  Neat, eh?

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