Faugères is celebrating 30 years as an appellation and quite a few went along to celebrate too . . .
 . . the venue is shaded with large cedar trees – all ages had fun.

Walking back in the evening sunlight, a glimpse through large metal gates of a most traditional ( in the Italian style) garden – green, trees, simple clipped hedging, raked gravel paths and probably water somewhere – that was, oh so compelling, in simplicity on a hot summer evening.

An experience that was repeated the following day  in Margon.  Pretty building with plain sophisticated exterior spaces . . .

Clipped groups of laurier sauce form the structure of the parterres. Robinias  rise up through for secondary height and scale. This form of edible, native bay gave its’ name to Laurens – by the Romans – and has a softer foliage than the native bay in UK. 

The ‘bowling green’ is the central green space centred on the double staircases and terraces that emanate from the building. Other garden elements – potager, arbours, framed vistas, orchard and tree collection, pool, stream etc  – have a place within the geometry of the site. Effective and appropriate and well restored with sympathetic materials. The sublime . . .  

and now the ridiculous, to my way of thinking anyway. Nearby another well publicised garden, apparently constructed by the owners ‘love’ of the Villa Adriana near Rome. This garden however is built of concrete – some natural stone admittedly is evident (it was a quarry) but difficult to identify. I am also very fond of Villa Adriana but not in this pastiche reconstruction. Best left as  it was and still is – a thing of beauty.  This garden was heaving with family groups and  ‘craft’ (can hardly call the stuff on sale, craft, but . .  ) – seemed like the whole of Languedoc had decamped here at 6 euros ahead. Margon is free, the gracious owners who became guides for the afternoon, are not intent on running the property as a business, was relatively empty! So what do I know about what the general public expect and like from ‘open gardens’. 

 Similarities with the original Villa Adriana may be that extravaganzas happen here in the form of son-et-lumiere with flooded arenas as they did in Roman times near Tivoli. 

It’s a mostly concrete landscape . . .

 . . with a lot of hideous features. Showing my intolerance!

Go, my songs, seek your praise from the young

and from the intolerant,

Move among the lovers of perfection alone.

Seek ever to stand in the hard Sophoclean light

And take you wounds from it gladly.  Ezra Pound   Ité

le cirque nouveau

May 24, 2012

There was a walk I started recently which I couldn’t conclude – frustrating and unsatisfying although around a beautiful landscape nevertheless. Yesterday I went back and hurrah!! found the correct path to the summit and the view of Lac Salagou. The last stretch was mountain goat territory but nonetheless fine, as the goal turned out to be quite breathtaking. It’s a recent man-made lake and reservoir excavated from the basalt rock formation – the strong burnt sienna tones seen in the image below on another day. 

The descent is circuitous but strangely evocative of a journey of discovery.  . . .  glimpses through vegetated vistas . . . the odd fellow traveller (one with a mountain bike on his shoulder!!)  why!! must have read the wrong guide book . . .

 . . passing down by The Orgues , fluted and awe inspiring although these formations not as dramatic as those seen here . . .

 . . it’s a strange feeling being encircled by majesty and the natural environment – humbling. Ah, Little Prince, what wise words were written for you to speak! 

“Good evening,” said the little prince courteously.

“Good evening,” said the snake.

“What planet is this on which I have come down?” asked the little prince.

“This is the Earth; this is Africa,” the snake answered.

“Ah! Then there are no people on the Earth?”

“This is the desert. There are no people in the desert. The Earth is large,” said the snake.

The little prince sat down on a stone, and raised his eyes toward the sky.

“I wonder,” he said, “whether the stars are set alight in heaven so that one day each one of us may find his own again . . . Look at my planet. It is right there above us. But how far away it is!”

“It is beautiful,” the snake said. “What has brought you here?”

“I have been having some trouble with a flower,” said the little prince.

“Ah!” said the snake.

And they were both silent.

“Where are the men?” the little prince at last took up the conversation again. “It is a little lonely in the desert . . .”

“It is also lonely among men,” the snake said.

The little prince gazed at him for a long time.

“You are a funny animal,” he said at last. “You are no thicker than a finger . . .”

“But I am more powerful than the finger of a king,” said the snake.

The little prince smiled.

“You are not very powerful. You haven’t even any feet. You cannot even travel . . .”

“I can carry you farther than any ship could take you,” said the snake.

He twined himself around the little prince’s ankle, like a golden bracelet.

“Whomever I touch, I send back to the earth from whence he came,” the snake spoke again. “But you are innocent and true, and you come from a star . . .”

The little prince made no reply.

“You move me to pity–you are so weak on this Earth made of granite,” the snake said. “I can help you, some day, if you grow too homesick for your own planet. I can–”

“Oh! I understand you very well,” said the little prince. “But why do you always speak in riddles?”

“I solve them all,” said the snake.  And they were both silent. Saint-Exupéry The Little Prince

enough said!

May 22, 2012

Near Abeilhan . . . . things of beauty!

Mad Patsy said, he said to me,
That every morning he could see
An angel walking on the sky;
Across the sunny skies of morn
He threw great handfuls far and nigh
Of poppy seed among the corn;
And then, he said, the angels run
To see the poppies in the sun.  James Stephens  In a Poppy Field

wet 24 hours

May 20, 2012

Since my last post, it’s poured. The celtis in the back garden look even more beautiful with drooping branches coated in rain drops but bereft of the normal bird life – it seemed sad and rather lonely.  A certain important, to me and his parents and close circle, small person was visiting. He’s left babyhood behind now and entered into toddlerhood although he doesn’t toddle at all – just strides or runs (a new skill) exactly to where he wants to go. Being extremely intelligent and resourceful (of course),  he searches for ideal surfaces for necessary activities.  The low window on the street side is ideal for lining up small vehicles . . . 

. . . . it’s ideal also for looking at the rain. We watch it gushing out of gulleys and down pipes – camera shake allowable in the bad conditions I feel . . . .

 . . eventually we make a foray onto the back balcony, even if we get wet, it’s fine. Bazonka H!  Thanks for the pix, Tom! 

Say Bazonka every day
That’s what my grandma used to say
It keeps at bay the Asian Flu
And both your elbows free from glue.
So say Bazonka every day
(That’s what my grandma used to say)

Don’t say it if your socks are dry!
Or when the sun is in your eye!
Never say it in the dark
(The word you see emits a spark)
Only say it in the day
(That’s what my grandma used to say)

Now folks around declare it’s true
That every night at half past two
If you’ll stand upon your head
And shout Bazonka! from your bed
You’ll hear the word as clear as day
Just like my grandma used to say!  Spike Milligan  Bazonka.

le hameau

May 19, 2012

In this hamlet, a few buildings have a sense of decrepitude and look like a set from a Zeffirelli  production. Some are for sale and some look quite tantalising with masonry –  schist or granite rubble – laid in a higgledy piggledy manner. 

Tactile constructions that have seen many years and many comings and goings. A more recent construction with a simple rendered finish has a decorative layer of planting – delicious scent from philadelphus  – and a combination that makes the kerria  just about palatable (not a great favourite with me).

Parthenocissus only works on its own – vigorous and strong  – glossy green all summer and then a red sheet in autumn  . . . .

 . .  and another simple effect, something more delicate but, also tough – echeveria –  tumbling through the railings on a south facing aspect . . .

 . .  plants defined as architectural work well on this corner within the hamlet.

And out in the vineyards, loose but well crafted layers and courses of schist retain the terraces and edges and boundaries. The vines are looking exactly as they should at this time of year – all very promising!!

The light drops at about 9.30 in the  evening and the swallows inhabit these narrow streets – swooping and calling – they have the stage to themselves  . . .  . .

In all its raucous impudence
Life writhes, cavorts in pallid light,
With little cause or consequence;
And when, with darkling skies, the night

Casts over all its sensuous balm,
Quells hunger’s pangs and, in like wise,
Quells shame beneath its pall of calm,
“Aha, at last!” the Poet sighs.

“My mind, my bones, yearn, clamoring
For sweet repose unburdening.
Heart full of dire, funeral thought,

I will lie out; your folds will cling
About me: veils of shadow wrought,
O darkness, cool and comforting!”  Charles Baudelaire  The End of the Day

And down by the stream, life gets very active, but no servants, thank goodness with this new government – :

‘The frogs are busy in the ditches, and the moon slid to her setting. Some happy servant had gone out to commune with the night and to beat upon a drum’  Rudyard Kipling  Kim


May 15, 2012

In Bédarieux, watching the laying of new setts in the streets of the old town and then photographing the work caused some interest and surprise!  I like watching organised and efficiently carried out hard landscaping. The more elderly citizens were quite vocal with quite a few  ‘Ooh là là’s’ as this upheaval caused disruption to their weekly market shop. I knew the stone wasn’t the usual granite and  it looked too pale to be black limestone but was sure it was limestone nonetheless. 

Later on, arriving at the  Cirque de Mourèze, a few kilometres to the east,  I learnt a lot more about limestone – dolomitic stone – set within a natural amphitheatre type landscape. 

It’s a huge cavernous area 0f over 340 hectares surrounded by eroded limestone rocks in many strange shapes. The entrance was fairly garden like  . . .  sheltered and dry conditions . . . sisyrinchium bellum in flower below cistus, coronilla, helianthemums and lonicera periclymenum. Buxus and  rosemary and other taller garrigue flora encroached some of the criss crossed path network leaving very slim routes. Very pleasant. 

Very pleasant unless, like me, you choose a specific walk from a recognised book of walks. Mmmm – the author is either colour blind or doesn’t know left from right – so 3 hours of walking fairly fast took me to the south not to the north (The Mount Liausson Ridge) perimeter.  Maddening when you know that the position of the sun shows you the sensible orientation but the book says the opposite. This is the second hiccup with this book – only one last chance tomorrow – yes, it is a threat, and maybe the bin is the end of this relationship! 

It is a dramatic landscape however. Some of the formations are tagged in a literal way such as The Sphinx! Will I bother to answer that riddle – probably, but without a guide-book.

The tree is here, still, in pure stone,
in deep evidence, in solid beauty,
layered, through a hundred million years.
Agate, cornelian, gemstone
transmuted the timber and sap
until damp corruptions
fissured the giant’s trunk
fusing a parallel being:
the living leaves
unmade themselves
and when the pillar was overthrown
fire in the forest, blaze of the dust-cloud,
celestial ashes mantled it round,
until time, and the lava, created
this gift, of translucent stone.  Pablo Neruda  The Tree Is Here, Still, In Pure Stone

La chapelle caché

May 13, 2012

The Carte de Randonée 2644 OT  shows the symbol for a chapel on Mont Cèze.  Mont Cèze, a holm oak landscape, is directly opposite this retreat – it’s the main view from the terrace – so today’s light breeze meant a good day for a short climb.  It’s only 270m altitude and so  a 60m change in level gently winding around the mountain – south west slopes are vine clad and north east are all holm oak and arbutus with some sweet chestnut, and decorative shrub edge – on tracks of loose schist.  Erica arborea, Cytisus, Genista and pink and white cistus are still in flower frothing over into the light made from the clearings.

Signs of Roman villas were found on the mountain and the surroundings, in this area of Languedoc. First sign of the little chapel is quite charming . . .

. . .  at only about 8m x 4m, the modest chapel  . . . .

. .  empty and with a little restoration but open to all who visit. The view to the south and Murviel-les-Beziers far in the distance. Slippery descent down the south easterly aspect  on the fragmented stone curves past banks packed with the colourful native plants quite zingy in tone . . .

. . . and down around the feet equally colourful with yellow horned poppy and more ‘wild’ textured scabious, centaura and eryngium thrust up through schist layer . . . . .

Figs are fully leafed up and iris still provide wonderful spreads of strong colour . . .

. . . and appreciate the organic knobbly trunk of the ash in the linear landscape of vines but cast my mind back to the chapel hidden completely from view.

Others taught me with having knelt at well-curbs
Always wrong to the light, so never seeing
Deeper down in the well than where the water
Gives me back in a shining surface picture
Me myself in the summer heaven godlike
Looking out of a wreath of fern and cloud puffs.
Once, when trying with chin against a well-curb,
I discerned, as I thought, beyond the picture,
Through the picture, a something white, uncertain,
Something more of the depths–and then I lost it.
Water came to rebuke the too clear water.
One drop fell from a fern, and lo, a ripple
Shook whatever it was lay there at bottom,
Blurred it, blotted it out. What was that whiteness?
Truth? A pebble of quartz? For once, then, something.

Robert Frost  For Once, Then, Something


Was taken with the mass planting of libertias under the robinias outside the Festival Hall. Libertias receive a bad press generally as the foliage tends to brown/blacken in winter time. They’re great for difficult corners on planting beds – I find anyway!

Under Hungerford Bridge, blocks of bright colour are welcome in the Scottish mists that seem to have clothed the south east – it’s May after all!  Mandela casts his eye across a wet landscape . . . .

. . . and no chance of these chairs being occupied this evening. I’m glad, as empty chairs make a good composition . . .

. . and although the weather sucks it means rather nice photographic views. Good comes from bad.

Just a fleeting visit out on the terrace of the National to enjoy the well scaled planting in the raised planters. Needs a jolly good weed though!

When I wake the rain’s falling
and I think, as always, it’s for the best.

I remember how much I love rain,
the weakest and strongest of us all;

as I listen to its yeses and no’s,
I think how many men and women

would, if they could,
against all sense and nature,

tax the rain for its privileges;

make it pay for soaking our earth
and splashing all over our leaves;
pay for muddying our grass
and amusing itself with our roots.

Let rain be taxed, they say
for riding on our rivers
and drenching our sleeves;

for loitering in our lakes
and reservoirs. Make rain pay its way.

make it pay for lying full length
in the long straight sedate green waters

of our city canals
and for working its way through processes

of dreamy complexity
until this too- long untaxed rain comes indoors,

and touches our lips,
bringing assuagement- for rain comes

to slake all our thirsts, spurting
brusque and thrilling in hot needles,

showering on to anyone naked;
or blaming our skins in the shape of scented baths.

Yes, they are many who’d like to tax the rain;
even now, they whisper, it can be done, it must be done.  Penelope Shuttle  Taxing the Rain

Le Temps retrouvé

May 10, 2012

In Aix- en -Provence, the view from the flat in Rue Mérindol, shows a sleepy quiet lost in time square.  Only at lunch time is it transformed into a bustly but organised outside eaterie. The fountain is a central feature here. The Romans developed the system of thermal waters issuing from springs into a cures and treatment centre. Fountains and water basins reflect this sense of history in a decorative form throughout the town.

In Place Albertas, an elegant tazza fountain, quite discrete . . . .

. . . and a portico that conveys grandeur and charm too.

Nearby, a more modest frame but equally gorgeous in subtlety and tone.

In Cours Mirabeau, a series of water basins cool the air in this busy thoroughfare . . . . the mossy surface adds to the effect and the sense of the ‘old’.

The street culminates with the impressive La Rotonde . . . . difficult to access as it is the centre of a large roundabout but  just opposite, is something contemporary and ‘people scale’.

And why not use a handy fountain to cool some bottles of rosé . . . .

. . .  up out of town in Célony, there’s nothing to disturb thoughts while wandering around  the old almond trees. Thoughts of taking the experiences of life and transforming them in our own way.

He could say no more because he was overcome with tears. Night had fallen. I had dropped my tools. I couldn’t have cared less about my hammer, my bolt, thirst or death. There was one star, one planet, my planet, the Earth, a little prince to be comforted. I took him in my arms and rocked him gently. I said to him: “ The flower you love is in no danger. I shall draw you a muzzle for your sheep. I shall draw you a fence to put around your flower. I will . . . ”

I did not know what to say to him. I felt very awkward. I did not know how to reach him, how to catch up with him. The land of tears is so mysterious. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry The Little Prince


May 7, 2012

Gloomy weather for the Jack-in-the Green festivities today . But those in the procession were full of enthusiasm. These pix were taken at the top of Croft Road which  links the Old Town to the West Hill, Ladies Parlour and the Castle where the Morris Dancing and the Slaying of the Jack happen at the end of the day. Croft Road is a steep climb even without fancy dress and instruments!

The baby had been nosed with green paint, of course,  but some one was also running around doing blue nosing . . .

. .  the younger element made a presence  . . . .

. . and this coterie always come to the party in style and substance. Like the nonchalance of the rucksack and the dedicated detail of the costumes . . .

. .  and the rear view of a parrot on the shoulder and the quite magnificent ribbons . . .

. . . . and on to some pairs. Some wearing suits and holding hands . . .

. .  and some not holding hands, but being supportive  . . . .

. . and as in previous years, simply the best pair, below. Check out the footwear on the rooster – such dedication to the costume!

And finally, in the misty composition of figures and landscape  . . . .

. . and the flowering performance of the rocket. The sun shone later for all to enjoy! For previous posts on revels in Hastings,  click here and here.

Spring came again, and the flowers rose
From their quiet winter graves,
And gayly danced on their slender stems,
And sang with the rippling waves.
Softly the warm winds kissed their cheeks;
Brightly the sunbeams fell,
As, one by one, they came again
In their summer homes to dwell.
And little Clover bloomed once more,
Rosy, and sweet, and fair,
And patiently watched by the mossy bed,
For the worm still slumbered there.
Then her sister flowers scornfully cried,
As they waved in the summer air,
‘The ugly worm was friendless and poor;
Little Clover, why shouldst thou care?
Then watch no more, nor dwell alone,
Away from thy sister flowers;
Come, dance and feast, and spend with us
These pleasant summer hours.
We pity thee, foolish little flower,
To trust what the false worm said;
He will not come in a fairer dress,
For he lies in the green moss dead.’
But little Clover still watched on,
Alone in her sunny home;
She did not doubt the poor worm’s truth,
And trusted he would come.  Louisa May Alcott

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