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?

Thursday 8 February 2024


La Bierre is a song by Jaques Brel, that I am trying to learn on the accordion.   It's not easy.   By happy coincidence, I am also trying to brew some beer, that will likely lead to more satisfactory results, and quicker too.

I'm using a beer kit that I bought in England.  For a modest outlay in hardware you can get all the equipment, and the ingredients you can buy in a tin.   The quality of the result is entirley down to how well one follows the instructions.

I have to admit that mine took a bit longer to finish fermenting than the instructions led me to believe, but that might have something to do with the fact that I didn't actually open the tin until a couple of weeks past its "best by" date.  Mea culpa.

Given that the resulting beer doesn't cost much as these things go, (Pie and a pint for 15 quid??) I'm sure it won't be long before the government starts taxing the ingredients on health or some other grounds.

And talking of governments, I see the first chipping away at the use of burning wood for heating has started.   Strictly controlled in some areas of France, plus a news item on TF1 explaining how wood smoke increases risks of cancer.   Can't have the plebs getting cheap energy now, can we?   And did you know that growing your vegetables contributes to global warming, according to the Wonderfully Egotistical F**kers?

Saturday 3 February 2024

Art forms

They call them BDs in France, it stands for bandes déssinées.  In English they're called comic books, which seems a bit derogatory to me.   Graphic novels is probably better.

Browsing in a bookshop the other day, I happened upon a BD on the subject of Led Zeppelin, a group I have admired since I was young, that is to say, for a long time.  So I bought it, and am enjoying reading it.

It works on the well-tried presentation principle: "tell 'em what you're going to tell 'em; then tell 'em, then tell 'em what you've told 'em".   Each chapter starts with a short text explaining the theme of the chapter.  This is followed by several pages of BD,  and the chapter ends with two pages of fuller, textual explanantion of what has been shown.  Different artists are used for the BD sections of each chapter.

I like the format, and note with pleasure that the series includes books on several other well-loved artists: David Bowie, Pink Floyd, and others.   I will buy more.   I see that Amazon UK sell what I presume to be English versions; the one I have is in French.

Monday 22 January 2024

Wet walk

We have all had some exceptional rain recently.   I went for a walk along one of my usual paths.  It was more difficult  than usual, as parts of the route were flooded.

The river down the road was much higher than usual, but still below the level of the arches of the road bridge, and not yet overflowing the pedestrian bridge.

A bit farther along, the water works by the mills were united into a single lake rather than separate streams.

And on the way back, a dip in the field next to the path, turned into a river and poured itself onto the path.

At this point I had to turn back at get home by a different route.

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