Tuesday, 27 December 2011

First Ski Randonnée Of The Season

Quiet, deep and crisp and (mostly) even, with just the ski tracks of the previous skier ascending Aux Gets, in the Haute Savoie in the Portes du Soleil area.

The sky heavy with more snow clouds sweep in above us as we climb and the wind gathers strength keeping the prospect of more deep soft snow at bay, this little lot is likely to blow into drifts and change the conditions before our descent... but we have the whole of winter before us and hope that it cannot be as bad as last year.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Quenelle de Brochet

Lunch in Lyon last Sunday was at little place called "Café Du Soleil" at; 2, rue St Georges (Place de la Trinité) 69005 Lyon. We just stumbled upon them but from now on whenever I am there I'll call them first as we were lucky to get one of only two free tables. They only had laid about 13 or 14 tables and a rough guess would be for a total of about 50 people, but I digress. I had not realised before going in that their speciality would be quenelles, and specifically Quenelle de Brochet.

The photo above does it no justice whatsoever but it ate like a soufflé. And for fun I have linked above, an English language recipe for anyone competent enough to attempt. For myself, as much as I have loved discovering quenelles, I am cooking Queue de Boeuf, a simple recipe today.

You can't make omelettes without breaking eggs...

And so the old saying goes...

I cracked one egg and there were the two yolks; I cracked another and there were two more... I shall have to speak to my missus and find out where she shopped last weekend. Maybe we should stop using the farm next to that new Nuclear Power plant.

I cannot for the life of me reckon this is just a coincidence...

The omelette? Well with a little salt to assist a good whisk and some fresh ground pepper, on whole meal toast it was a good set up for the day; a five hour hike up around the crêtes from 1160m (the rough old car park) to about 1700m where we sat on the side of a ski slope and set up the camping gaz stove to boil water and add to a proper Japanese Pot-Noodles. Mountain tucker at the beginning of December needs a little more than a sandwich.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Lyon - a lesson

This past weekend has been a lesson in how one should not ASSUME things. One should check and go off and find out... and so it was assumed that the Fête des Lumière in Lyon was running from this weekend through to next weekend as the actual date of 8th December would fall during this week.

Rail tickets were bought, hotel was booked and off we went only for 'someone' to say she obviously thought that the 'lights' would be on for the whole week... Not so.

And so we decided to spend our time at the 11e Biennale de Lyon, subtitled "A Terrible Beauty Is Born", the oft repeated line from the poem 'Easter 1916' by W.B Yeats.

Mmmm. Difficult and inaccessible I would say our general reaction was.

The photograph above is of an installation that suggested a result of a collison of the moon and earth. Oh well. We had a good dinner that night in a Bouchon Lyonnais, so not all was bad.

But it gave us the chance to wander Lyon and look.

Next year, we shall book as far in advance as possible and make sure that we get there for the colours and the lights....

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Wisteria Weeping

Shortly before we travelled to Turkey to explore Istanbul and the Greek-Roman ruins on the coastline either side of Antalya in Anatolia, I was talking with my neighbour whose wisteria I love and suddenly a wind picked up and the petals started to fall...

It was almost as if the wisteria was weeping and shedding the petals from its flowers by way of saying that Spring was over for another year...

The petals lay as a narrow light blue carpet along the length of stone wall.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Wisteria Watcher

My neighbour's Wisteria this year is looking spectacular. More so that is happens to grow on a North facing wall. I have had to wait until now for the sun to come round and light it well in the late afternoon... summer approaches.

A close up frame of the only room occupied frequently during the winter months when one tends to hibernate in these cold climes...

However my new neighbour next door has taken charge of a small house and he has been out in recent days photographing the wisteria flowers that came as part of the deal. He told me enthusiastically how he had been sending the photos to family across France, and here is a shot taken as I approach my front door, showing the established Clematis growing beside the continuing 'tiges' of the wisteria.

The perfume of the plant is a wonderful welcome home.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Lac d'Arvoin - 1663m

Sunny warm and blue skied walks
above lakes; below lakes above snow flat,
ice flat blue below powered peaks.

Lower levels wooded slopes a verdant verte
of fresh growth, soft brush-tipped ends
curving, freshly in the rising breezes.

Under snow covered ice, trails crack
sandwiched between crunching boots and bubbling creek.

Raquettes mounted clacking forward,
the panting of pole planting patterns;
Stop! Breathe. Look about;
the furthest stone strewn slopes
covered by snow traced tracks of
heavy hoofed winter woollen'd beasts.

Silence completes among the trees,
personne probing -
the bark of dogs a valley distant,
only the crack, of falling frozen rain,
dripping slowly melted in the pine top sunshine.

Snow deep and wind blown slope;
a dreamlike piste demands a carve,
instead we trudge, upward to waiting lake
and perfect peaceful picnic...

Friday, 25 March 2011

Rock Bottom by Geoff Baker

I always seem to have more than one book on the go at any one time.

Rarely are they novels. They tend toward the autobiographical, the travel writers of a half a century ago walking across unexplored desert terrain which I read with a tinge of sadness and regret as those 'lost' places are now found by ever more people...

But these past few months have been an exception and I have bought The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; as a new American edition threatens to do away with the word 'nigger', which I don't use but which I think in this case illustrates a country's history and this should be taught and properly explained. But that is just a personal opinion. Also I have never read the whole book and only had passages of it read to me when I was a child in the Cub Scouts.

In addition to that I found on a Geneva second hand book stall one cold February Friday afternoon a copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover; from the original manuscript or edition published by Lawrence in 1935, if memory serves me well. I can see here the start of a pattern; the desire to read the classics before I die. To that should be added a borrowed copy of Nine Lives by William Dalrymple. His earlier City of Djinns I found absolutely fascinating. A collection of personal histories of a year spent in Delhi. And pretty much anything I can find on India I devour hungrily having been to that enormous beautiful country twice in the last six years.

Jan Morris' Venice is still there by the bedside too, to be dipped into following a long weekend there last September. A stunning work.

All these books have one thing in common, and it is the beautiful and extreme spoken word; the extraordinary use of language of the time and place.

To that pile I have merited Geoff Baker's "Rock Bottom." I thought it might use the word fuck too many times; more than necessary in anycase, but having laughed through the story, often aloud I have to say it is one of the most enjoyable reads I have had for a long, long time. And you can never have too many fucks.

None of the characters are what one would call nice. They are not admirable. They are hard, rude, addicted, self-opinionated modern Britons. Not very likeable at all. There are none that you can hang your hat on, and say I enjoyed him, I liked her and I'd like to read more about these people. But nonetheless I could not put the book down and worked that week suffered.

It is quite simply a view on a particular part of Britain's music industry, the people who play in it, work in it and keep the whole circus of celebrity turning. Geoff baker should know as he worked in that industry, as publicist to Paul McCartney and Linda his late wife, the American photographer.

I hope Baker writes another. And this book will make a bloody good film. I even discovered I feature on page 51... that's to say I am one of the old fuckers, the character Billy Vernon talks about.

Sympathise with me.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Where did this winter go ?

This has been a very strange winter.

Maybe it is me that is strange or perhaps has become so.

I rather miss not adding to this blog, this infrequent record of what I have done or where I have been but as I see the last entry was mid-December I cannot believe I haven't done anything or been anywhere since then, and now it is approaching late March; it is Spring. The sun is staying with us longer; it is gradually getting warmer and the prospect of disruptive snow recedes. With that came the first calls of the migrating Black Kites, arriving back on the shores of the lake here for the next few spring and early summer months. They will gone by the end of July, but in the meantime their trills and calls as they rebuild nests, scavenge, hunt for small rodents and for lake fish straying too close to the surface will enthral me, friends and visitors to the area; along with their acrobatics as they soar on the thermals rising between here and the nearby mountains. Already I have watched as a recent arrivals have been mobbed by crows as they defend their nests.

In the intervening months, I have suffered pig flu' - at least it wasn't malaria - and that stayed until after Christmas. The first ski of the season was January 1st in a crowded Les Gets. Late for us. I have been to the movies a couple of times in the big city an hour from here. I flew to see my family in England in mid-January.

I have enjoyed some long hikes in snow and on ice; bending almost beyond repair one expensive Black Diamond randonnée ski pole when slipping on ice hidden from sight by the fresh thin layer of new powder snow. If I had been nearer the edge of the cliff face down which runs the metal mountaineering ladder I might well have disappeared over the edge and not be typing here now...still the view of the distant mountain ranges would have filled the falling time.

I have with my mountain path mate, trekked from Lac de Montriond to Lindarets; a three hour hike with the first 45 minutes like a never ending stair way, up, up, up until in the winter cool air the sweat on the back of the t-shirt become uncomfortable. The restaurants teem with lunching skiers when we arrive and once fed and wined we descend for two hours along the track leading past the iced waterfall, along the edge of the lake with its track clearly showing where walkers have chanced their luck and left their booted imprints the length of the ice, past the holes cut earlier by chainsaw for the weekend's expected ice divers.

I have determined to get rid of an excess of weight by eating less, eating more healthily and drinking less alcohol although that latter choice may be harder than the others; and of course by continuing to exercise as much as I can.

Monday last I called a friend whose husband has recently dumped her, and suggested a good walk, under the mountain cliffs, in the sunshine, an easy hike and one that should do her good, get her out, get her talking, make difficult decisions easier by being listened to; a problem shared is a problem halved? A solution may be easier to find if that is the case.

I have worked too although not very hard and not very much but that is a consequence of my winter here.

Each week I visit a neighbour. I teach him English. He actually speaks it rather well, in his heavily French accented way. He has much more than a rudimentary grasp of it, but what he needs is conversation and correction and with that in mind we talk. I try and put on American accents and use American idioms and slang; all in order that he might better understand his boss, an American woman, a busy politician of sorts, who speaks to him fast and while either leaving her office or just turning away from him as she has other matters on her mind. No matter that her staff don't understand.

In return he teaches me French. And my français is I think, no modesty here, more rudimentary than his English. But that is what comes of living in a foreign country, and having a shared nationality and language within a family. Each Wednesday evening, I arrive and kiss his wife hello, a French kiss of course. A kiss on each cheek and she of course is French. Very French. If I saw her in a photo or in a film before hearing her speak I know she would be French. It is her very being.

My other non-French neighbours and friends tend to have at least one French family member, or kids born and schooled here, who come home after a hard day conjugating verbs, to a mum or a dad who can help them with (or rather do) the homework given.

Time to walk, to buy baguettes for tea...

More, perhaps, tomorrow.