Wednesday, 31 December 2008


That's it...

Happy New Year to all who pass this way...

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

La Fêtes des Lumières - Lyon 5 - 8 décembre

I've just come back from Lyon and the annual Fêtes des Lumières... a Merci à Marie... and while there, being mesmerised by the anarchiac French art thinking and the adventerous nature in which they put festivals together, I visited the Musée Des Tissus...and found the most inspirational exhibition I have seen for a long time.

In amongst the 16th Century Iranian silk garments was an exhibition of paper dresses and accessories - knocked me out they did... but you'll have to come back and find this edited so that I have all the right names and details. Anyone going to Lyon should see this. They will not be disappointed.

Then, once sated on artistic endeavours and feeling peckish, those who eat meat should head to chez Léon and having eaten well and inexpensively, take a pee, and while doing so, have a look at the works of art in the loo...

Once I have learned how to download photos off my Samsung U900 camera phone, I'll upload them to here*

Les Lyonnais Bouchon...

# Sausisson à la Lyonnaise, pommes vapeur,
sauce vin rouge et sa garniture...

# Andouillete à la ficelle, sauce moutarde,
flan de courge et pommes gratin au muscade...

# Côtes du Rhone - Chateau des Amoureuses -
07700 Bourg St Andéol.

Voilà !

Saturday, 22 November 2008

First Snows of the Winter

At about 5am this morning a huge crack of thunder pierced the pitch dark and silence of a late November Saturday morning...
Getting up a few hours later to make tea and start the day we were welcomed with the sight of the first real snow of winter.
Forecasts suggested a metre of snow higher up and so a little randonnée or raquette may be in order... but with the wind from the north blowing across the lake winter has arrived...
Light the wood stove, crack open a bottle of wine and curl up...

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Friday, 7 November 2008

More rock an' roll...

He can close his eyes and
feel, the weight of her mouth on his.

He can close his eyes and see
her still body sleeping, lost in
myriad dreams.

He can close his eyes and remember
the photos he cannot find.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Time to burn Catholiks...

...while America sleeps or indeed parties in a frenzy and Republicans wearily shake their heads and wonder how they lost having McCain and Sarah Palin on the combined ticket...that part of Great Britain called England is gearing up to that other party held on that island's shores each 5th November...Guy Fawkes Night.

"Remember, remember, the fifth o' November!" went the rhyme I would as a kid chant without ever really knowing or wondering where it came from.

Much later having moved to France and living amongst Catholics as if it makes any difference at all on a day-by-day basis which of course it does not; I encountered an English woman who had with her husband and large brood of kids moved to this same area. She happily announced to a bunch of immigrants to France from eastern Europe, South America and North Africa gathered to learn French in a rundown Collège, that she and her family celebrated Guy Fawkes Night with fireworks and a bonfire.

I distinctly recall the sight of their faces. Some just thought she was stupid. Others were quite horrified that their beloved religion was the subject of such mockery, and even others thought the savagery of the English and their ignorant celebration of that memory quite odd. She was oblivious to those others.

She made an effigy of Mr Fawkes, a Guy; which would be made of old clothes; paper stuffed down an unwanted pair of hubby's jeans, a threadbare pullover stuffed likewise and tied to the "legs". A mask depicting the cartoon face of poor old Mr Fawkes would adorn the apology for a head and the finished item placed atop the bonfire to burn - as Catholics were burned, centuries ago in Merry Olde Englande.

And as the whoosh of the rockets, the cracks and bangs of the fireworks, children's delighted shouts and the crackling roar of the bonfire drew the attention of her neighbours and they peered from the nearby chalets to find out the reasons for this unknown celebration; she could tell them in her gutteral estuary tones...

"It's Guy Fawkes Night innit? We 'ave a bonfire, fireworks and the kids hold sparklers and we 'ave baked beans and sausages, and sometimes spuds cooked in the coals of the bonfire! What?
'ho's 'e? He's the Guy. He's the guy what tried to blow up Parliament...'oh long time ago, now..."

Yeah! 'eesa Cafolik, innee? Yeah, I know you are too...but that's different, innit?"

Yes. 2008; we celebrate the burning to death of a Catholic in 1605 in what is called the Gunpowder Plot.
...and here's a nice picture of Mr Fawkes and his mates shown with the kind permission of the artist Mr Crispijn van de Passe of the Netherlands.

We've moved on haven't we, we English?

And The World Awakes...

... this morning to be given the truly momentous news that America has elected its first non-white President in Barack Obama. It was quite a telling moment watching history being made when the families of the President-elect and the Vice-President-elect took to the Chicago stage at the end of Obama's speech of thanks, acceptance and acknowledgement; that the majority of those now in the White House are black.

When the reality of that hits home to middle-America; the fly-over States, how will they react?

They've moved on, the Americans. Haven't they?

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Soldat du Jura

Ist November and an empty All Souls' Day walk led us to a small stonemason's and sculptrice's workshop where the low whirring of a small hand held drill broke the quiet.

The Tailler de Pierre was a top a step ladder and smoothing the skin of the nearly finished monument to fallen French soldiers of the First World War. This was a new monument being carved 90 years after the end of that enormous conflict and would replace the crumbling original somewhere in the Jura, on the other side of Switzerland.

I have often been surprised, saddened and occasionally sometimes shocked at the sheer number of names of the fallen French on the monuments in the smallest town or village as I have travelled in this beautiful, complex and very proud country.

Differences of language and lack of understanding the tongue of someone who lives, at nearest, only 22 miles from the shore of Britain has hindered our ability to share the pain and through that become the friends that we truly should be.

Certainly so, 90 years after the end of The Great War...

There's another shot here....

It snowed on Thursday... October 30...

It snowed on Thursday last... end of October and still in the colours of autumn. It lay deep and crisp and even upon the farmed fields, in which grazed the surprised beasts of the fields and the beasts of burden.
The callous farmers left their charges to nuzzle for grass and didn't bother to haul the rolls of hay; the bales of straw to make their beds...
But of course the following day with a bit of sun and the rise of temperatures most of the snow was gone and autumn returned to continue its seasonal tussle with the witch of winter.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Yesterday's hike - Cirque de Fer du Cheval

Fog across the lake and an invisible Switzerland encouraged a foray into the mountains towards Samoëns and Sixt. We thought it should be sunny further back into the Chablais and away from Lac Léman, the surface size of it holding the damp cloud close to the French shoreline, and the surrounding villages and up onto the plateau de Gavot. A picnic bought at La Croustillante and we were off...

The sunshine hit the high mountain tops and tree line above us although not often penetrating down into the Dranse valley below Morzine. Les Gets was quiet as we drove through and as we descended down towards the Tanninges/Cluses valley floor we were disappointed to see the mist filling the valley and away towards Samoëns and further on towards the mountains surrounding Chamonix.

The weather of late had meant warm autumn sunshine and over the past few weeks it had been dry mostly with little rain. This suggested the waterfalls in the park would be mostly dry but even then a peaceful almost empty valley in which to walk awaited us.

We met a parapentist who had hiked up to a Col and launched himself off. Once he'd landed and was packing his 'chute we asked if he'd had a good flight and he was almost speechless through the beauty and the wonder of it all.

"Grandiose" was all he could say, smiling and wishing us a good sunday walk.

We sat upon rocks in the midst of what at other times of the year would be a raging torrent, and too dangerous to attempt to cross, but today we sat, ate, greeted a cyclist who was carrying his bike to the end, the height of the valley before setting off to ride down. A few other hikers walked past; otherwise all was quiet. And very beautiful.

A few more still photos taken show one of the many waterfalls; this one still in action. We'll have to return next May or June to catch the splendour of the snow melt.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Pienza, Florence - 4th September 2008

Trattoria - La Chiocciola, Pienza
Cucina Tipica Toscana

Carpaccio della Casa - thinly sliced Turkey with shavings of Truffle and Wild Boar Sausage.

Pappadelle and Wild Boar Sauce.

Ravioli with Ricotta and Sage stuffing with fricassé of Sage leaves in butter.

1/2 bottle of Rosso di Montalcino Vendemmia 2005, Carparzo Montalcino -13%.

Ristretto and square of dark chocolate.

What more could one want for lunch on a warm late summer day in Chianti country?

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Freedom ??

Banksy's CCTV....

There are occasions when I get frustrated with living in France; this large beautiful country with at least three police forces.

However I do not often get angry with it. One of the reasons for that is that La Belle France celebrates its freedom by not watching its people all of the time.

If I were now living in the United Kingdom would I be angry? Would I be just frustrated or would I be frightened? If frightened; then what about?

Perhaps the suggestion, hidden among myriad CCTV cameras all around the country, that a passport would be needed to buy a mobile phone. And it is alleged, all to help fight terrorism and crime.

Britain must get rid of the corrupt Government that is (nu)Labour.

In the last 11 years it has lost freedoms gradually being eroded away in such a manner that many people do not notice.

I read a newspaper piece recently by Anthony Beevor where in a review of a book about the Nazis before and during the war, he suggests the Nazis 'sold' their awful policy to the German people in just such a manner.

If people do not make a stand at a time like this over such a trivial matter when will they stand?

Monday, 20 October 2008

Wiltshire Landscape

Pensive Thoughts From London

I love this bloke's pensive thoughtful regard as he gazes towards the Serpentine and across Hyde park on an overcast day.
The only overcast day during an 8 day visit to England.

Perhaps he was admiring the Frank Gehry pavilion outside the Serpentine Gallery.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Gateway To A Dream...

Some days are spent painting the houses of local people, whether or not they be absentee owners, and although I don't mind the hardship of it all, the white gloss painted ones are somewhat harder to do than the Lasured chalets I prefer...
So at lunchtime after a sandwich, I take a walk and here I found a wooden bridge across the edge of a pond, in the Chablais woods where ice would form in the winter and decades ago be cut and transported down to the grand hotels in the towns below and used to keep the wine chilled, the fish and meats fresh and add to the comforts of the rich guests.
All this was long, long ago. Now though the wooden bridge is used by ramblers and hikers and sometimes just has to be seen resting amongst the reeds blowing in the breeze of an autumn day.
The calm swish of the reeds the only sound.

Last view of the mountains for a while....

Went out for dinner last night with Ruth & Bill; they picked us up at 7.45 pm and off Bill drove up the mountain to a little chalet restaurant and while we tucked into the delicious mountain fodder of beignets des pommes des terre and fondu savoyarde it started to snow. Looking out of the window in the street lamp below standing sentinel amongst the tall pines the snow fell as if it were mid-winter rather than 3rd October...

A few days before it had been like this ...golden leaves and warm autumn days...
but as I'm off to see family and friends in England for the next few days, I thought I might leave these scenes up here for anyone passing ...

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Lausanne's M2...

I like the way the Swiss don't seem to bother always with the second, the third or even the fourth of their languages in their country. Here in Lausanne's new Metro; the M2, you have your instructions quite clearly in French and then... English. Simple, neat, and they acknowledge that most people do speak English as a second or a third language. That should not be enough to allow the Britons to go about their business without bothering to learn another language.
These people are just taking the M2 for FUN!! Saturday and the new M2 is up and running up the hill into town and beyond and at each stop there is a musical event of some sort to inaugurate the new service...a folk group with costumes I could not identify but with most of them playing a variation of the bagpipe. Wonderful sounds of lowly laments.
And there at the Metro stop Riponne - M. Béjart, in the square outside the Musée des Beaux-Arts was an enormous stage onto which Amadou and Mariam were led - and off they went; a free concert to inaugurate a new Metro system...

Brilliant. London might do as well for the Olympics in 2012

Monday, 15 September 2008

Siena - Italian style

The preamble around the Place dei Campo was done and dusted the imagined roar of the crowd as the horses thundered dangerously three times around the hysterical baying locals faded and lunch was sought...
The tourist trap restaurants selling beer and table wine and not offering a lot of choice in the food stakes; we sloped off to the little place in the square opposite the church.

A service was in full swing, at least the incense was; the singing of the choir filled the dome and as more people piled into the huge space, they momentarily dropped and crossed themselves while others left, and turned and crossed, dipped a knee towards the altar and the mother.

An elderly woman in her fragile later years, almost tripped as she turned and, finally on level ground her hand came up and her left thumb pressed the 'on' button of her mobile phone which lit, played a tune and told her she was in touch.

Meanwhile across the square a man was waiting outside the restaurant we had chosen. His choice of shirt & pants could not have contrasted more severely with the bunch that gradually assembled in their bored but safe selection of mid-range greys and something else...

Italian style....

Compare that to Mr Gerrard here... English style; no style.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Lac Léman sunset...

Sometimes you don't have to go very far to photograph a beautiful sunset... just as far as the balcony...

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Tomato... 741 grams of fruit heaven

Aurèle called round last evening and in his hands was a large plastic bowl containing a huge tomato grown in his garden, against the south facing wall. "Sept cents quarante grams", he informed me proudly.

"Just peel it, without boiling it, slice it up", he said, "and lay it out with a few leaves of basil and olive oil..." His fingers pinched together and he kissed the tips of them, in appreciation of good food, as Italians do.

"Voilà, magnifique," he said... "Bon appetit."

He waved as he turned away and walked back across to his own house and I went back in and showed the 740 gram tomato to Mrs Pondlife and suggested we should eat it the next day.

So the following morning before going off to earn a crust, I weighed it, and it came in at 741 grams; so I peeled the tomato that weighed 741 grams and the juices ran through my fingers and into the bowl over which I was working. Then I began to slice the tomato that weighed 741 grams, and the juices began to run quickly. I opened a bottle of olive oil and took a pinch or two of coarse salt and then went out onto the balcony and pulled several fresh basil leaves off the plant that has provided so much this summer. I tore the leaves and the smell permeated the kitchen and wafted into the living room and rose up and into our bedroom above; the fresh fragrant pungent perfume of basil. I sprinkled then over and between slices of the 741 gram tomato and splashed some more olive oil and a few drops of a good balsamic vinegar I'd just brought back from Italy.

I covered the bowl and put it into the fridge thinking we shall have that tonight with some fresh bread from 'La Croustillante'; Numéro deux fils wouldn't want any as he was going into Geneva to meet with mates and find a pub showing the England v Croatia game. But I was more interested in the taste of tomatoes that can weigh 741 grams...

...and so enthusiastic was I in the taste and the supper to come, that I forgot to take a photograph of it... so you'll just have to believe me. However, I went back the following day and photographed some more tomatoes hanging on the vine, and you can see Aurèle's hand giving scale to the tomatoes hanging, still ripening in the September sunshine.

Florence - Modern Frescoes

A comment on modern life... probably much as the original frescoes were a comment on times then. A different religion?

Sunday, 7 September 2008

in caso di neve...

The imagination fires up at the sight of a signpost like this... Siena left, Florence right. It matters not how one says it... It is just the same beautiful part of Italy it has always been.
Some wags had been let loose on one sign close to Firenze, writing the number 3 by Siena and a zero next to Firenze.
And driving along the hilltop roads the cool breezes blowing up and along from the vineyards below there came the signs by the road side... "in caso di neve". Hard to believe on warm September days, the grapes ripening on the vines, ready almost, to be plucked and squashed and selected; maybe for Classico.


Having just got back from a one week scenic drive around Tuscany and eating in some very good Trattorias, Ristorantes, small Enotecas and the odd (very good) Pizzeria I was surprised when the day after our arrival home from the land where Porcini is King, to answer a knock at our front door and find our neighbour Jonna, standing their with a two fists full of cepes, or bolets, or as the Italians call them, Porcini...

Have a look at these beauties fellas...

How to deal with those ? Might just have to peruse my Antonio Carluccio cookery book, The Quiet Hunt, or maybe even Jamie Oliver's Italy... either way, they'll need treating with care...

A little caress.