Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Wot no posts?

An original title. Not. Since I'm not getting back to it, I thought I'd say why. I reckon that its the dramatically increased use of my PC mouse that has led to a kind of RSI shoulder pain that makes my typical use of the PC too painful. I've been doing the absolute minimum for the past couple of weeks, and even that's only led to a very limited improvement. I've also started some simple exercises, and hope to get the area a good going over by a masseuse later today, (once she gets back from collecting mushrooms). (Giroles for those who are interested.)

I've been doing more work on processing and preparing photos recently, and this means more mouse than normal. Any recommendations? I thought that a wireless mouse might help me find a better position. I need to do something.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Cutting the lawn's quite a big job

We don't really go in for boasting round here. Certainly not of the mine's bigger than yours type. But i have to take my hat off to my next door neighbour. I've had some lawn mowers in my time, but I've never had one as big as his. I tackle the little lawn in the courtyard myself with a Briggs and Stratton four-stroke; I need a fairly hefty strimmer, sometimes fitted with a blade for boundaries of the garden walls and potager, (two-stroke); but I need Dan the man with his John Deer and hay-cutter for the (albeit small) field out the back (Diesel). The picture is of the round bailer that collected the paltry amount of hay; not even enough to make one round bail. Still it makes me feel less guilty when we go and get a small sack of hay every month for the apple of my eye's guinea pigs.

We're well into hay-cutting season now, although the weather isn't helpful. It's all over the place at the moment, sun, rain, hail, thunderstorms, sun and wind. It's great for bird watching. We get the best views of the red and royal kites at this time of the year. Getting a picture is a challenge, but I'm still at yet. If I get one, you'll be the first to know!

The round bailer disappears off to the barn, not quite enough for one juicy round bail. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Church and the People

Sunday was a special day for the young man I'll call Brown. Brown was going to get his first bit of biscuit and glass of plonk in the church, all dressed in a nice white frock. He wasn't alone; there were 23 pure and dedicated young people. And just to make it extra special, the Bishop had made a special trip up the road for the occasion. Hat and red frock and everything real pukka.

The transitional children had prepared an exhibition on the transitional papacy, with some material on both the late Jean-Paul and the new Benoit. Candles were lit, the choir was well-drilled, and the young folks had been catechising for months and rehearsing the ceremony and their celebrational song at the end for weeks.

With the sun shining, the crowds began to gather, and before long there was standing room only in the church as syblings, parents, godparents, grandparents and other extended family squeezed in amongst the sometimes bewildered regulars to welcome these children into the adult world of the catholic church.

There are not many ways that we in the west still celebrate the rites of passage from child to adult. The church still does, even as its influence in its host cultures continues to decline. The families are quite adamant that their children will be baptised, confirmed, married and buried in the open arms of the church. Even if most of them have absolutely no idea of appropriate behaviour at such a ceremony.

I'm not religious. Good luck to those that are; anything in that line that helps us get through our lives is OK to me. Organised religion is not my thing.

There could have been a focus on these young people. There could have been some respect for the rite of passage that some significant adults in their lives were trying to celebrate with them. There could have been some awareness of the social context - simply that there were other people in the place. I wasn't expecting reverence, or devotion to the holy trinity.

But there were none of those things amongst 90% of those present. Adults and children talked freely throughout the service. Several times the elderly were denied the courtesy of a seat where they asked for it and had to move embraassingly (for those who had any awareness) further down the pews, looking for somewhere to sit. When the climax of the ceremony was past, (the first communion taken), the new young adults started to move to line up and face the congregation to sing to them, the number of people that were bolting for the exit was astounding.

These are young adults who have just made some effort to celebrate a rite of passage, to accept and recognise the traditional values of their society. I'm not naive enough to think they were all in it up to their hearts, but they were there, and they made the effort, they participated. And they and the service were treated with disdain, ignorance and neglect by their community.

What kind of impact did that have on them? Adolescence is not an easy time, but nor do we have to provoke disrespect by flaunting it. We do not have to encourage our young people to undervalue their communties by flagrantly and rudely undervaluing their positive efforts.

Do we?

Thursday, June 09, 2005

She's still standing

Bunny scuttled up the tree unaided and pulled up his chainsaw on some of the uniquitous bailer twine that litters the area (clogging up my strimmer on a regular basis). He set to trimming the odd few dry branches, and then went for it. Two large branches, one overhanging the road, the other overhanging the house and courtyard. Like a hot knife through butter.

A bit of ground work to slice up the pieces, and there you go. Job done, aperitif time.

As 'Bunny' said on his way out of the gate, looking down at the extensive debris "You can tell I've passed through anyway!"

If anyone fancies some lovely acacia for carving or other woodwork, let me know. (You collect!)

After a bit of tidying up of the smaller dead branches, 'Bunny' goes for the big one. Posted by Hello

The branch is just falling out of the picture to the bottom right. Posted by Hello

The old dame with her new scar. This morning, she almost looks a little more elegant, a little more fragile. Posted by Hello

Acacia tree flowers - insect party Posted by Hello

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Acacia in bloom

Our old acacia tree outside my study window has the faded glory of an elderly ballerina. Her form and stature are stunning; her few feeble limbs reveal their age. This week is her annual triumph, a single ringing ovation in the year that keeps her spirit alive. Her flowers are a delicate and pure white; and where they still flourish, they attract such numbers of adoring insects that the courtyard itself is almost vibrating in accord with the thousands upon thousands of busy wings.

Today, our grand old lady is having an operation. One of the largest old branches has become dangerous and our neighbour 'bunny' is coming down shortly to help me remove it before it falls. Wish us all luck, especially our dame.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Village is Growing Again

After a many years of decline, our little corner of paradise no longer has any uninhabited ruins. I met one of our neighbours yesterday who was saying how lovely it was now to walk from her house round to where they keep their two veal calfs and to the chickens. For years, she said, it was too sad to walk past the house that is now being renovated, and past our potager that is now under cultivation for the first time in 10 years. Both were in a tragic state of decay and neglect. She used to take a different route just to avoid the sight. For her it was no longer sad, but a great pleasure to walk past.

We met because I was recovering the fallen stones from the dry stone wall that runs along the front of our potager. Quite a few had fallen onto the side of the road over the previous years, some through collisions with tractors, and some being gradually pushed by two shrubs that have taken root in the centre of the wall. It looks better already, but I'm quite keen to rebuild the wall as it was. Most revuilding of walls here involves replacing the dry stone with large flat cap stones technique with mortar and rounded tops. The effect is very different, and being an old traditionalist in such matters, I intend to stick with the dry technique. It's a long time since I did any, and even longer since I learned how to do it, but it's got to be worth a go.

My mind then started wandering to the other remaining walls in the village, and how they are slowly decaying. Wouldn't it be great to get some kind of little project together to recover and rebuild the walls? Work otu a plan with the neighbours, so that practicalities like getting around with farm machinery can be accommodated, and then run holidays for people wanting to learn how to do it from a real craftsman (not me!), make a real difference to a beautiful place, and have a superb holiday at the same time! Any takers?

Putting worries in the garden

My love of gardens keeps me healthy, and ensures I spend at least some time every day away from this machine and in the fresh air. My garden is also where I do quite a lot of thinking. I've been out early today sowing my carrots before the phase of the moon becomes less favourable for root crops and more favourable for flowers. I've been following my lunar calendar this year as most of my neighbours do; I don't know if it will make any difference, but its a fun way to have a bit of pattern and structure in what needs doing when.

Having got my hands dirty with the carrots, I decided to dig up and use the self-seeded flowers from last year's dead heads. The common name for the ones I just moved is 'soucis', worries. i thought it was a nice idea, putting my worries in the garden. If I find myself worrying inside, I'll just remind myself I've already put all my worries in the garden. Great!

Monday, June 06, 2005

Kids games were conveniently placed in front of one of the beer stands at the Organic Fair yesterday! Posted by Hello

Relaxation is hard work

Our project has a few different elements, one of which is relaxation therapies. My partner in crime has started an individual enterprise as a relaxation massage therapist, or some such title, and we spent yesterday at one of the area's two organic fairs doing free demonstrations of acupressure - or seated/chair massage. We expected about a dozen people during the day but it proved very succesful, with only time for about 60 minutes break all day. P.I.C. worked on 20 people, I had to turn away another 7, and all in all a lot of interest. We have to see if that turns into calls and bookings now.

The fair itself is pretty good, lots of excellent food, good music, useful information for the alternatively minded gardener, cook, young person, environmental activist or home improver. My favourite bit of the day was the wooden games provided my a local association; it turns out that they rent them out for a couple of euros for two weeks - fantastic! The apple (of my eye) talked me into a couple of games yesterday, and I reckon we'll borrow some when she next has visitors for those rare wet days in the summer.

Fuzzy pictures - fuzzy sound

Well the apple of my eye sung her heart out, bless her, along with one or two other enthusiastic kids. But it's a shame they were surrounded by dozens of nose-picking, fidgeting and mostly warbling co-conspiritors. These people were unfortunate co-conspirators with an unknown professional who chose some unbelievable songs for them to learn and sing. Odd rhythms and timing, poetic language, and bizarre subjects for 7 year olds. No wonder the overall result was fuzzy all round. Not to be too cynical about it, most of them had fun, at least for the first hour or so. After that it rather degenerated as the kids were increasingly successful at ignoring their teachers pleas to sit quietly, and spontaneous games of touch, football, and teasing got underway throughout the hall. I don't think kids were designed for this sort of torture. I don't think parents were either, but this kind of thing is very much part of the job description!

Fuzzy parents Posted by Hello

Fuzzy singing Posted by Hello

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Abuse of power and local rags

Local government. Army intelligence. Notice the similarities? I used to hate our agressive, mocking local paper in the UK, but I know that if any one of its vindictive staff had come across the abuses of power by the public servants in this neck of the woods the feeding frenzy would have made a shark attack look like a girl guides' picnic. The latest episode in the saga is the allegedly clandestine plans for industrial waste disposal under the cover of a small local tip for local waste. It's difficult to get to the bottom of what's been going on, but I'm convinced that the process stinks at least. The behaviour of the President of the Community of Communes is outrageous - I have experienced first hand - and the written evidence I've seen of the man's statements and actions is conclusive.

I haven't found out how the whole dynamics of local politics works here; it seems far more agressive and regularly involves mobs and demonstrations compared with back home. But there doesn't seem to be the same role for local rags or letters to the editor. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the local equivalent of the feudal lord is a principal share-holder in both local papers?

It seems local government is a very different animal here, but maybe I just missed most of what went on in sunny Blighty. There were certainly stories, acusations and court cases; but I don't think I came across anything like this.

I'm off now to listen to 200 kids singing badly in French. For three hours. Wish me luck.

Now where did I put those ear plugs...

Friday, June 03, 2005

Forgetful but not really

Here's a photograph that I meant to put up yesterday with the gardening stuff, but I got caught out by trying to juggle the order of the posts.

Organic local food tai chi massage. Wot?

Sunday is the local organic fair in a nearby town. We're going as we do every year, but this year is different. My partner in crime is part of the 'entertainment'. That means specifically that she's been invited to demonstrate acupressure to all and sundry. You may be aware that my PIC practices reflexology and body massage as well as acupressure. She started her business on March 1st, so this is a welcome event in the promotional calendar.

New leaflet design and some window dressing to get done today and tomorrow. So I'd better get on with it!

We'll call this treasure 'Mac' - a well-loved member of the village. Posted by Hello

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Gardening for health

The average age of the village until 10 years ago must have been about 60. Today I'd guess at something around 50. Many of the older folks here are remarkably active for their age. Taking our recent visitors around for a walk last week we came across two of our esteemed neighbours toiling away in the garden. Both well into their 80s, if not then probably of some 90 years, they were working away with sustained gusto - and happy to be doing so. With the support of local district nurses where needed, the older population here seems to have a pretty good quality of life, and relish the daily life that many would consider hard and uncomfortable. I'm not for a minute suggesting I wish to be these neighbours, but I know how much I get from being out in my garden for the limited time I can be. And the food's good too.

The clash of the new

Lots of rural places have old buildings; some around here are about 300 years old - nothing dramatic really. Of course until recently, maybe 20 or 30 years, everyone round here was from the same genetic stock more or less. But with the advent of incomers from aother parts of France and beyond, some of the genetic differences are becoming more obvious. Like height for example. Most of the buildings are perfectly adapted for their original inhabitants and purposes. Small farmers, cows, bulls and horses mainly.

The clash between the original purposes and the more recent ones of incomers such as myself is usually quite subtle. Last Saturday it was anything but; and the old triumphed. To cut the chase, I walked into a massive oak lintel trying to get into the barn. It hurt. It still hurts.

This is my excuse for being quiet over the last week, although I have managed to get out and take some photographs, as you'll see below.

PS - The lintel seems to be pretty intact.

I've noticed three or four varieties of clover-type plants (you will recognise I'm not a botanist!), and this is the most dramatic. If this isn't a clover-type thing, please enlighten me! Posted by Hello

There's an almost global tradition of using tyres like this; it's sort of an attractive contrast to the surrounding beauty? Posted by Hello

Close by the house are a few handsome examples of trees, some individual, some in little groups like these. Posted by Hello