évènements inattendus

July 30, 2012

Many of the walks out from the hameau are nicely circuitous and also flexible in length. Usually, my early evening routes are 7, 10 or 12 kms of up and down hill and through varied scenery – vineyards of course, holm oak woodland, garrigue type scrub, wild flower knolls, along streams, village roads – all without seeing another human at close quarters. Work goes on in the vineyards until dusk and many vehicles use the small road network – most drivers make acknowledgement (crazy English – walking!!). It’s possible to cast the eye across 180 degrees and see not a sign of human life – no buildings or roads – apart from the obvious tending of the vines. Yesterday’s stroll encompassed Les  Mattes and the wild flower knoll (on a previous post) now ploughed up for the planting of more vines. Areas get left fallow and then bought back into use on a cyclical system. I was keen to find the correct route, having failed last time, around Le Grange de Péret. Then I ended up ploughing through bramble and  jumping ditches!  The land that I presume goes with Le Grange is quite beautifully managed – as though unmanaged – with well selected objets left as though . . . .  such as this part of a camion.


. . .  opera pours out of the open windows of Le Grange and lots of German voices to be heard yesterday – thought so!   Just before the buildings I found 2 plants of Echinops ritro, thrusting out of the path edge. That was my ident anyway! Native to here, yes, but strange in this very rural landscape although there is plenty of a dwarf and very pale papery Eryngium which looks at home with the other flora.

Round the bend into the back end of Lenthéric and its many domaines, decided to stop by some varied cultivation – quite a relief after acres of vine stripes – and monitor the tomatoes.  There should be a photo of the guardian – four paws – here, but he was too busy trying to eat the camera. Farm dogs – usually hounds for la chasse – make a lot of noise and fuss, need to sniff, and quite often accompany whoever for a few metres along until boredom sets in. Sort of predictable and quite amusing!

Strolling out off the village to the moulin, a strange sweet smell wafted from the west. Very sweet but also pungent . . .

 . . . dark skinned blacks, of course, to avoid skin cancer. A big surprise to see a herd – more than 50 – in this area. We’re used to goats and some pale cattle inhabiting the oak scrub, but the warning is the sound of bells as against  ‘perfume’!

Little piggy bottoms! And a poem that some might find tasteless and some tasty! and a video – poem by S. Milligan.

In  England once there lived a big
And wonderfully clever pig.
To everybody it was plain
That Piggy had a massive brain.
He worked out sums inside his head,
There was no book he hadn’t read.
He knew what made an airplane fly,
He knew how engines worked and why.
He knew all this, but in the end
One question drove him round the bend:
He simply couldn’t puzzle out
What LIFE was really all about.
What was the reason for his birth?
Why was he placed upon this earth?
His giant brain went round and round.
Alas, no answer could be found.
Till suddenly one wondrous night.
All in a flash he saw the light.
He jumped up like a ballet dancer
And yelled, “By gum, I’ve got the answer!”
“They want my bacon slice by slice
“To sell at a tremendous price!
“They want my tender juicy chops
“To put in all the butcher’s shops!
“They want my pork to make a roast
“And that’s the part’ll cost the most!
“They want my sausages in strings!
“They even want my chitterlings!
“The butcher’s shop! The carving knife!
“That is the reason for my life!”
Such thoughts as these are not designed
To give a pig great piece of mind.
Next morning, in comes Farmer Bland,
A pail of pigswill in his hand,
And piggy with a mighty roar,
Bashes the farmer to the floor…
Now comes the rather grizzly bit
So let’s not make too much of it,
Except that you must understand
That Piggy did eat Farmer Bland,
He ate him up from head to toe,
Chewing the pieces nice and slow.
It took an hour to reach the feet,
Because there was so much to eat,
And when he finished, Pig, of course,
Felt absolutely no remorse.
Slowly he scratched his brainy head
And with a little smile he said,
“I had a fairly powerful hunch
“That he might have me for his lunch.
“And so, because I feared the worst,
“I thought I’d better eat him first.”  Roald Dahl

Just another strange sighting of a doorway in Aigues Vivres – close by here. Hooves, yes, but of what. I’ll stop now as it’s getting ghoulish! 

H. and I get into the heart of the town ( Aix en Provence) at about 8am. It’s just a 7 minute walk from the University district. We both enjoy this early morning visit. H. likes to participate in, and monitor, all the deliveries, rubbish collections, painting over of graffiti, washing of the streets, painting of white lines, setting up the market stalls, all to his satisfaction. ( a mayor in the making and hugely better looking than B. Johnson!).  And I enjoy understanding the public spaces – free of crowds – and the architecture, which becomes more difficult as the day moves into full gear. We both enjoy the freshness of the morning. 

We discuss the pros and cons of vehicles – the blue bike got a thumbs up from him.  The church spire looked beautiful  – good enough for me! 

The east end of Cours Mirabeau at the  junction with Rue de l’Opéra and Rue d’Italie, a  vehicle for him and, water feature and landscape space for me! 

A group of posulants heading off somewhere and the odd car and of course, driver,  hanging around waiting . . . . .

 . . .  the law courts just opening doors (what a frontage!)  . . . . off down Rue Joseph Cabbesol, echeverias hanging, with style, from a balcony . . .

 . . . We’re almost the first visitors to Parc Jourdan . . .

 . . . although those with dogs beat us to it. Short post and purposefully long poem from Maya Angelou. Hurrah and bazonka H.!

We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace
We, this people on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines

When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear

When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it. Maya Angelou

Sunday, 22nd July, was pirate day in Hastings again following on from 2010 when the world record for The Largest Gathering of Pirates was recorded by the Guinness Book of Records at 6,000 participants. This year the record was easily beaten and so stands at 14,000.

Not such a great and joyous event for me was my first visit to the allotment for 5 weeks. I didn’t expect much – except a lot of weeds –  and that is exactly what I found  . . . the leeks had bolted and flowered but looked attractive and consequently may retain their place for insects to visit . . .

. . . . .  much growth and rather messy in appearance after weeks of rain.

The paths have lost their definition – surfaces covered with weeds . . . .

. . but good to see the Hebe parviflora hedge flowering . . . .

. . splendid flowering on the agastache, above, and the many hundreds of Allium sphaerocephalon, below,  . . .

. . . and great wafty growth on the Stipa tenuissimas – moving like bows on the violins in an orchestra,  in the breeze.

To contribute to Pirate Day, the Red Arrows turned up and put on a wonderful display of dancing in the skies above the sea . . . show stopping . . .

. . . .  every little boys or  girls dream to do acrobatics in the sky.

Wild nights – Wild nights!

Were I with thee

Wild nights should be

Our luxury!

Futile – the winds –

To a Heart in port –

Done with the Compass –

Done with the Chart!

Rowing in Eden –

Ah – the Sea!

Might I but moor – tonight –

In thee! Emily Dickinson  Wild Nights – Wild Nights

À côté de la gorge

July 20, 2012

Roger Deakin’s  text on the chestnut woods in Hérault in Wildwood, was the inspiration for this outing but not exactly following in his footsteps. It proved to difficult to locate his sweet chestnut heaven. Olargues is a market town in the centre of the chestnut area. It sits on the  river Jaur between the Caroux and Espinouse  mountains. Very attractive from a distance and also within. Big blowsy blue hydrangeas setting off the orange trumpets of a campsis.

The railway bridge in Olargues was built in 1889 by Eiffel! To span the river and ensure that the famous fruit from this area reached the Paris markets by the next morning. Railway now defunct but bridge forms part of a Voie Verte (greenway for cyclists)

Gorges de Colombières, just nearby, and on the Orb river was our chosen chestnut heaven. Part of the Haut Languedoc Regional Park, which includes prehistoric traces of troglodytes and most likely wild boar.

Dry stone walls retaining the terraces of chestnut trees wind along the narrow paths leading eventually to 850m.

The route is shaded and circuitous – sounds of fast flowing water, the odd echo of folks calling out and some birdsong  – bring another element to the magical journey . . .

. . . blechnums poke out of the stonework at eye level  . . .

. . . and much lichen as little pollution!

In the open ledges, heather in flower . . .

. . .  and within the wooded areas, dead limbs have crashed down – some are felled but some left to rot –   and a beautiful majestic final offering.

My eyes already touch the sunny hill.
going far ahead of the road I have begun.
So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;
it has inner light, even from a distance-

and charges us, even if we do not reach it,
into something else, which, hardly sensing it,
we already are; a gesture waves us on
answering our own wave…
but what we feel is the wind in our faces. Translated by Robert Bly  Rainer Maria Rilke

playgrounds for all

July 18, 2012

Beautiful hot days in Aix-en-Provence. Those of us that have small people to care about search for the shadiest play areas. Towns folk and visitors also walk on the shady side of the street! In the gardens of Pavillon Vendôme, we were almost the first group to arrive late afternoon. But the play area quickly filled up. Les mûrier platane – a fruitless form of mulberry with a tabulate habit – ensure shade here . . . .

. . . the park, once  the garden of the pavillon, is in the quartier faubourg des Cordeliers. Wondrous carving around the entrance.

Plane trees and cypress form simple but, correct and beautiful, structure.

Aix is in full festival mode . . . street theatre and fringe musical events happen seemingly spontaneously . . .

The Clock Tower joined to the Hôtel de Ville was once the symbol of local power in the city. A former belfry, the astronomical clock was added in the mid-seventeenth century. Four wooden statues symbolising the seasons appear in turn and it gives a playful feel to the square. Opposite sits the bibliotheque with carving on the portico just so similar to the Pavillon entrance. The same craftsmen?

Overlooking the town from Les Lauves,  shady areas in the garden around Cézanne’s atelier. A play ground of sorts – maybe too flippant a conjecture!

The Irish lady can say, that to-day is every day. Caesar can say that
every day is to-day and they say that every day is as they say.
In this way we have a place to stay and he was not met because
he was settled to stay. When I said settled I meant settled to stay.
When I said settled to stay I meant settled to stay Saturday. In this
way a mouth is a mouth. In this way if in as a mouth if in as a
mouth where, if in as a mouth where and there. Believe they have
water too. Believe they have that water too and blue when you see
blue, is all blue precious too, is all that that is precious too is all
that and they meant to absolve you. In this way Cézanne nearly did
nearly in this way. Cézanne nearly did nearly did and nearly did.
And was I surprised. Was I very surprised. Was I surprised. I was
surprised and in that patient, are you patient when you find bees.
Bees in a garden make a specialty of honey and so does honey. Honey
and prayer. Honey and there. There where the grass can grow nearly
four times yearly.   Gertrude Stein Cézanne

avignon – short stop

July 16, 2012

From the TGV station into town to pick up a local train – a reed bed in a contemporary water feature is a surprise. The station building itself is a thing of wonder . . .


. . . jumping off the bus at Cours Jean Jaures – more water and time for a chat and gentle reflection.

Down the busy Cours in full festival mode – a joyful holiday feeling. It’s fun here.

. . . but off the main drag, there are shady places for sitting around and contemplating . . .

Luscious foliage on the rocky water feature and equally on the magnolia.

Must return!

Dont tug que may tot jorn prendo plazer. . .

Verses, chansos, siruentes, pastorelas,

Dansas, descortz, redondels, viandelas,

Am bel so gay, melodios, plazen,

Balan, trescan o lors obran fazen;

E motas vetz, per fugir ad enueg,

Per los jorns loncz, o can fa longa nueg,

Legen dictatz, gestas o bels romans.


From which a great number of people always take pleasure. . .

verses, chansos, sirventes, pastorelas,

dansas, descortz, redondels, viandelas,

with pretty tunes, gay, melodious, and pleasurable,

as they dance and leap around or do their work;

and, frequently, to raise their spirits

on long days, or when the nights are long,

they read verses, tales or romances.  Raimon de Cornet

les dunes de la plage

July 6, 2012

At Portiragnes, wide dunes run along behind the beach landscape. They’re impressive. A seemingly native environment that appears sustainable and well managed from the onlookers point of contact. Eryngium maritimum (sea holly) is in full flower  – stunning steely flower heads  – thrusts itself into the full frontal now. Glorious show stealing and why not!

Looking east, a euphorbia – maybe Euphorbia paralias . . .

 . . that sits well now in July with Crithmum maritimum . . . .

 . . . where the dunes run back into sheltered lagoons, sweetly scent Clematis flammula rampages around, in a decorous fashion – the plant is in full flower across Languedoc now . . .

 . . and a contrast to the spiny, architectural form of Echinophora spinosa . . .


. . . .  just coming into flower.

And  Pancratium maritimum – a stupendous eruption through the sand.

Finally. maybe a leymus or marram grass or maybe something else? 

Am I flower, am I grass blade?

Am I almost, but not quite,  a word?

A new island made of hush,

off the map? One thing’s sure:

I’m late for my own creation –

on the eighth day – your afterthought.

You made me and now you must watch

God eat me up bit by bit.   Jo Shapcott  The Second Lie

Many vineyards stretch between this  hameau and Caussiniojouls. Many paths meander through this landscape offering varied experiences. All paths, verges and areas of vegetation are now filled with flowering Bupleurm – small umbels of lime green attracting butterflies and other insects with wings. Clematis flammula  –  frothy and white – is still flowering after a month – lovely to see it spread across the ground like a white lacy cloth  . . .  

 . . .  just after taking this photo, a hare appeared on the path and stopped, stricken with shock at seeing a human, before bounding away.

Beautiful, strong and now, sound stone work on the Château walls. It’s in the process of restoration . . . .

 . .  12C buildings with a 18-metre high castle keep that dominates the area.

Le chat du Château?

Some areas of the village have received the seed sown wild flower mix – decorative but nothing like the natural verges . .

 . .   the odd althea (hollyhock) seeded as village merges with the vines. Just after taking this photo another hare leapt across the path. Two hares – surely that is lucky?

At the eleventh hour he came,
But his wages were the same
As ours who all day long had trod
The wine-press of the Wrath of God.

When he shouldered through the lines
Of our cropped and mangled vines,
His unjaded eye could scan
How each hour had marked its man.

(Children of the morning-tide
With the hosts of noon died,
And our noon contingents lay
Dead with twilight’s spent array.)

Since his back had felt no load ,
Virtue still in him abode;
So he swiftly made his own
Those last spoils we had not won.

We went home delivered thence,
Grudging him no recompense
Till he portioned praise of blame
To our works before he came.

Till he showed us for our good–
Deaf to mirth, and blind to scorn–
How we might have best withstood
Burdens that he had not born!  Rudyard Kipling The Vineyard

Le guide vert refers to Pézanas  as the Versailles of the Languedoc in terms of the town being a royal court for Amand de Bouron, Prince de Conti. In 17c terms, he was a Prince du Sang and son-in-law of Louis XIV. Much of the old town remains unchanged from this time.  The Hôtel de Lacoste is of an earlier construction and was built and used as a mansion. The staircases and Gothic arches are remarkable. This little group was brought along with their teachers to ‘get into the feel of the period’.

 The inlaid pebble pattern on the entrance ground floor level is also quite lovely . . . .

 . .   streetscapes around Place Gambetta. The tone of green on doors and shutters  is fairly appealing – sort of soft apple green – and fits in well with the stone and general ambiance of countryside town. The colour and the town remind me of the Cotswolds and, Pézanas is described by some, as ‘where Languedoc meets the Cotswolds’.

The Ilôt des Prisons and one of the watch towers . . . and parthenocissus, delicately and respectfully, caressing a building.

Doorways are a great feature in the town. In Rue du Château, at  Hôtel de Graves, an ogee doorway.  The door museum is fascinating – the guardian insistent that you should enter and enjoy – and he’s right!

More soft green and, below, an intriguing set up for sheltering cats from the sun!

Finally in Rue Alfred-Saatier at no 12, stands the Maison des Pauvres (almshouse) with another stunning staircase and 18C wrought iron work. The poem is about, for me anyway, the restlessness of the journey of  life – if you let it happen that way of course!

This life is a hospital where every patient is possessed with the desire to

change beds; one man would like to
suffer in front of the stove, and another believes that he would recover his health

 beside the window.
It always seems to me that I should feel well in the place where I am not, and

this question of removal is one
which I discuss incessantly with my soul.
‘Tell me, my soul, poor chilled soul, what do you think of going to live in

Lisbon? It must be warm there, and there
you would invigorate yourself like a lizard. This city is on the sea-shore; they

say that it is built of marble
and that the people there have such a hatred of vegetation that they uproot all

the trees. There you have a landscape
that corresponds to your taste! a landscape made of light and mineral, and

liquid to reflect them!’

My soul does not reply.
‘Since you are so fond of stillness, coupled with the show of movement, would

 you like to settle in Holland,
that beatifying country? Perhaps you would find some diversion in that land

whose image you have so often admired
in the art galleries. What do you think of Rotterdam, you who love forests of

masts, and ships moored at the foot of
My soul remains silent.
‘Perhaps Batavia attracts you more? There we should find, amongst other

things, the spirit of Europe
married to tropical beauty.’
Not a word. Could my soul be dead?
‘Is it then that you have reached such a degree of lethargy that you acquiesce in your sickness? If so,

let us
flee to lands that are analogues of death. I see how it is, poor soul! We shall pack our trunks for Tornio.

Let us go
farther still to the extreme end of the Baltic; or farther still from life, if that is possible; let us settle at the

Pole. There
the sun only grazes the earth obliquely, and the slow alternation of light and darkness suppresses

variety and
increases monotony, that half-nothingness. There we shall be able to take long baths of darkness,

while for our
amusement the aurora borealis shall send us its rose-coloured rays that are like the reflection of Hell’s

own fireworks!’
At last my soul explodes, and wisely cries out to me: ‘No matter where! No matter where! As long as

 it’s out of the world!’  Charles Baudelaire  Anywhere Out of the World

les trois tours

July 1, 2012

The recognised walk  ‘Les Trois Tours’ covers 13 kms of vineyards, woodland, hill contours, hedged lanes and plateau to the west and north west of Faugères. There is the odd glimpse of the tours over tops of holm oaks and through the occasional gap in the vegetation but, it isn’t until one gets within a couple of kilometres, that the ‘goal’ is seen clearly. This is tantalisation in the French manner!!! There is a quick 10 mins walk directly from the heart of the village and there is car access for those less energetic! Perfume from the Bruyères wafts in the air well before the yellow flowering shrubs are seen – more tantalisation! 

Originally, in 16C  there were 3 buildings or towers – the mills used for grinding wheat,when this land was covered with céréales long before vines were planted. Now well restored as a functioning mill with middle building used as living quarters for mill worker and the half tower as a lookout. 

From the half tower, on a clear day it’s possible to see the sea 40 kms away to the south, and the Pyrénees to the southwest, the Caroux to the west, the Cevennes to the north and Agde and Narbonne to the east . . . . 

 . . . .  from the brochure: “The noise is tremendous! It’s almost scary, as we’ve just been told that the roof weighs 7 tonnes , and that to be able to turn the sails in function of the wind direction, the pointed roof is not fixed to the walls!!! The noise comes from all directions… the sails themselves, but also the octagonal axle that taps against a wood carved horses’ head, which shakes free the grain, down between the 700 kilo round stone block, which rotates onto the 1000 kilo “fixed”stone. What a racket… impossible to hear yourself talk! It’s almost a relief when the guide puts the break back on!”

The dry stone walls and their restoration is impressive . . .

 . . . All impressive but this one’s not impressed!

I’m amazed the earth hereabouts

Lets me breathe its atmosphere,

That the voices I hear

Permit me to listen.

When a word soars: such a flight

Through the distances,

You’d need the voice of a nightingale

To take its measure  Jo Shapcott   Born Off

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