Friday, 24 July 2009

Latest!! - Storms leave beautiful light and colour in their wake...

Dawn towards the Swiss Alps and Gruyere... Wednesday 22nd July.

North Nor-West, towards Lausanne and the Jura, following spectacular thunderstorms earlier, Thursday 23rd July.

Nice spot, 'ere.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Claude Nobs, BB King & The Montreux Jazz Stupidity Festival...

I'm one of those people that like Jeremy Clarkson. Actually seeing that written I realise of course I don't "like" him, but I do find him funny at times, thought provoking certainly, and I like to watch that petrol head programme even though I am not myself a petrol head.

Be that as it may, I have for a long time, supported Clarkson's continual jibes at the Health & Safety people in their yellow plastic over jacket thingys and the constant calls for sales staff in places like Café Néro, to tell you that the double espresso you just ordered is HOT!!! There are times though, that Health & Safety type rules and regulations are not only adviseable but simply good common sense for the well being of all.

European countries have their own versions of H&S and as an example, the Austrian instigated little number whereby the carriage in a vehicle of a fluorescent yellow reflective jacket for use in the event of a breakdown, became law, was adopted by the French.

Switzerland while not a member of the E.U. is still part of Europe which some people seem to forget, and they have interpreted different rules and laws to suit themselves. Fair enough one may think. This became all too clear last Monday 13th July when I went along to Le Petit Palais, in Montreux where B B King was to hold a blues guitar workshop free to all comers. I went to one some years ago and it was quite simply wonderful. This guy is now 82 or 83 years old and he still feels that he wants to hand something back and so for any interested people he will get his band together, sit on a small stage for at least an hour and maybe longer; in front of a welcoming audience, talking to them, answering questions, play short blues riffs, telling stories and then end up with a couple of full blast blues numbers. Great. And this is FREE. Thanks B.B.

However on this hot day, with temperatures hitting the low thirties the room quickly filled and included, elderly people, kids who hated loud music and cried; all the while being ignored by their parents, and some babes in arms. Some even took the guitar workshop in the programme title too seriously and turned up with guitars in huge cases which they placed on the floor of the crowded room allowing people to trip and fall over them and into the laps of those lucky enough to have bagged a seat. Many more crowded at the doors and tried to push their way in.

About 15 minutes after B B King had been on stage talking and playing, Claude Nobs - THE Director of the Montreux Jazz Festival since 1967, which he started with nothing but a bit of string, a marble, some bubble gum and a couple of thousand US $ in his pocket, pushed his way into the room, got onto the stage and announced that BB King was there to provide a workshop and further; as there were outside a few (hundred it seemed) people still wanting to get in, everyone in the room should move around along the walls, so that these others could come in and climb into the gangways and aisles and spaces at the feet of those sitting, and thereby fill the room way past its legal capacity.

As the heat in the room increased, it was easy to see the discomfort on the faces of some of the people and eventually, not long before Mr King finished, they pushed, much to the annoyance of some others, their way out.

It was a good thing no-one fainted, or collapsed. No one had a heart attack, and no security nor medical people were needed. But if they had been, I would not like to have guessed the unpleasant outcome. That function room at Le Petit Palais, surely even in Switzerland, has a limit on the amount of people it should be accommodate at any given time.

Claude Nobs stupidly flouted any rules that country, that town, and that hotel's management must know exists for the well being of all.

The general policing on Saturday 11th, the evening of the Brazilian Night was woefully inadequate to the point of non-existent. There was an air of menace and threat once some of the pissed-up idiot country yokels arrived mid-evening and decided to push their way through the overcrowded pathways outside some of the venues.

This used to be a great Jazz festival, but for me this year, coupled with the near extortionate prices of most of the gigs it has become a has-been festival. I'm not saying that some has-beens are not good, but just a quick look at the list of acts suggest that has-beens possibly out number the maybes...

Friday, 10 July 2009

Montreux Jazz Festival... 2009

Off to Montreux Jazz Festival tomorrow night for the freebie stuff, that's to say swilling draught Swiss beer from plastic cups while listening to one of several high-school bands from USA playing Glen Miller or Benny Goodman classics, other compositions, maybe their own, and watch the odd solo effort by an enormous kid, the size of a small elephant in a school uniform...

Usually though, these high school or university jazz bands are excellent. There's even one or two from the UK this year, so we'll pop along and have a listen...

But the middle weekend is dedicated to all things Brazilian, although less football more music. And a lot of very good looking slim brown skinned women in shorts or tiny skirts and a bikini top often made out of the Brazilian national flag. Saturday night is Brazilian Night with capital letters and the samba bands, the salsa bands and almost anyone with either a trumpet, that they are half good at, or congas, timbales (bongos as I collectively call them), will be out there in the balmy evening park air playing along too.

Sometimes the resulting discordant noise can be a bit much, but as No.2 son's girlfriend is Brazilian and currently living with us, we thought we'd go ensemble if you will and see how it's really done... In addition to that, her percussion teacher is flying in from Brazil and will be appearing at the Jazz Café so I might go along as a groupie.

in the meantime I thought I'd post a picture of some characters I spotted at the festival a few years ago... a couple of curly haired, very bearded American chaps with a nice line in head scarves...

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Monet's garden - Giverney...

A couple of weeks ago, I found I had a free weekend... the only one before October, which, while something to enjoy, I also found frustrating that I have let work take over to the degree that I cannot be away from here for more than a few days at a time... And I am beginning to get itchy feet and thinking about moving south. I want somewhere without 6 or 7 months of winter to pay for each year. 2 or 3 months of heating bills will be quite enough.

And ground work needs to be done... where to move to, and how much could we muster?

Nevertheless, I left home at 2.45pm one Friday towards the end of June and got to Mrs. Pondlife's office at 4pm, and off we went. After seething in a traffic jam on the auroroute in the Jura for an hour we pushed the pedal to the metal and drove north towards Paris and Normandie picking up two speeding tickets on the way (they arrived chez nous two days after we did), and eventually found our way to our humble tumble down medieval B&B.

The following day Monet's garden awaited.

I had wanted to visit this place for a good many years; it was just never that high up on the list.

It was however, magical.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009


So what's happened to summer??

Last week as Wimbledon sweltered under blue skies and a relentless sun, it seemed, for a while that summer was well and truly here. We had fun and laughs watching the overweight tennis fans in appalling Union Flag sleeveless sports tops stretched over ample girth, fanning themselves with a programme or sitting with a sweater pulled over the head.

Oh! How we laughed. The weather boys and weather girls had forecast sunshine and warm, warm weather but still these dopes hadn't listened. No bottled water or sun hats for them.

Here it was no better.

Did I learn anything from what I saw and heard last week concerning the weather?

Did I hell....

I carried on, blow torch in hand burning off layer upon layer of paint on a chalet's balcony rail, overlooking a beautiful mountain valley, and off I went at the weekend to do other scheduled jobs. And so it rained. And rained. The stripped and sanded wood taking on a new tint as the rainwater hit and stained it. Bugger.

Now, Wednesday and the skies are covered with a chill thick layer of rain heavy cloud, the breeze from the north chilly. Somehow it always seems to be like this early July. Will I remember for next year? Probably not.

Back by public demand --- Coco Rose in a Coriander Pesto (heaven...)

I was looking for something to do with some Borlotti beans or Coco Rose beans, and the basil growing on the balcony and I thought ...

" I know..."

So here again (first published 12 August 2008) is an orgasmic recipe that you might like... and I'm going to do if for dindins tonite.

Pod yer Cocos Rose (Borlotti beans...) cook 'em wiv an onion impregnated wiv a girofle; clove to you... and a peeled carrot...

when cooked, remove from heat and strain off the liquid... let the beans cool...

Meanwhile get a mixer and stick a large bunch of coriander in it, and give it a blast. Add some shaved garlic cloves, some pecorino cheese grated, or parmesan, and some pine kernels; about 50 grams or so... Jamie Oliver would tell you to warm them first... then drizzle...lovely word...about a glass, of olive oil in it, and season with some salt and fresh ground pepper. Mix it all together and you'll have the most orgasmic coriander pesto...
Then, having soaked some dried raisons in warm water for about 20 minutes, drain them and add to the beans in a large salad bowl. Chop up the cooked carrot and onion and add to the beans as well. Chop finely, one or two red onions and add them. Keep back a few thin strips of red onion to add as decoration.
Add the coriander pesto to the beans and mix well. I think they look good in separate earthenware bowls with a bit of red onion stickin' out...
But you know the rest. Just enjoy.