Friday, December 01, 2006

More doing

Progress report on another element of the exhibition - 'real' sunflowers preserved in 'exhibition cases' on a background of re-used brown enevelopes...

Done is good!

Maybe 'doing is good' is better. I don't know. I'm sitting here pretty shocked that I've made it to the end of November without falling asleep at the wheel, or getting carted off on a stretcher from some meeting, or having a heart attack on a plane. OK OK I'm maybe exagerating a bit, but it's been a long long year, and I've been trying to do too much as usual.

Anyway, a health-imposed break from the mad running around has been an opportunity to get some stuff done, rather than just doing it.

Of course I'm still enjoying a few blogs of a morning and came across this post on gapingvoid, where hugh mcleod is collecting 500 word manifestos. Hallelujah. Making is good. But to avoid never finishing anything, (who me?), done is good.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

On the road again

Long trip. Late at night. Torrential rain. Roadworks. And just to cap it all, suicidal French drivers. Time to be afraid. Very afraid. It's the best way to stay alive under these circumstances.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Autumn and still more Strawberries

Yes I know, these aren't strawberries, but when you've seen one you've seen them all, and you saw one last time. But we did just have another few this morning, and very nice they were too. But instead of another photo, here's a shot of the first beech leaves turning taken in the luvverly sunshine.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Global warming?

We picked this in the garden yesterday. October 7th at 750m altitude. It looks good enough to eat. Which is of course what we've done.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

A rainy day in Swansea

That's all I have to say about that.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Sunflowers on canvas

I ordered a few sheest of different fabrics for inkjet printing and have been trying them out. Getting the printer to take up the thick sheet is a challenge, but it sort of gets there with a very subtle bit of encouragement. Choosing the print setting is hard because there isn't one for the kind of stuff I'm using, so I'm having to test a few to see what works best.

The idea is to be able to add other media to the sheets, like this first one is canvas, and I'll be adding fabric and acrylic paint to that.

The next experiment is getting the right adhesives ...

On the tarmac again

Off to Swansea this afternoon for a couple of days, back here late Friday and (probably) off to the southeast of England next week. I expect to clock up 14 or 15 hours on the tarmac this week. I'm thinking of getting my own plane. Smaller of course.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Sunflowers and window frames

As some of you will probably know, I've been working on a photography/multi-media project this year. So far the ingredients are sunflowers and window frames. The central idea is about how framing affects what we see, and our choices in that. As I've been looking at framing in its widest sense, I've been wandering off into issues of preservation and decay, aging and the cycle of life. But I think I'm now seeing all that as a different project. Maybe the sunflowers will feature there too, I don't know yet.

Anyway, acquiring and experimenting with the window frames was the first stage, and I think I'm pretty happy with all that. I'm still photographing sunflowers, even though they're looking pretty old and tired now. My current stage is experimenting with different printing techniques and materials for the image, and the paint and other media I'm using too. I've found some A4 sheets that go through my inkjet printer that are made of a whole range of materials: canvass, silk, linen and cotton. And I'll be sending some images to be laboratory printed onto canvass too.

The plan is to be able to show some of this work to the local town councillor for culture and see if I can get a date for an exhibition in the art gallery some time next year.

Fishing and wood

We caught some little fish. Well, they did. I was just enjoying the spectacle and the sunny afternoon alongside the Allier.

And, as I said, the wood's in ...

There's something primieval about a pile of wood and an open fire.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Wooden walls

Given last year's disaster stacking wood for the winter - I'm pleased to report a successful morning stacking logs of oak and one or two other bits and pieces. Last year, Bunny passed on the planks from his rotten barn for us to burn, and they were full of nails. I almost stood on one, twisted to avoid it succesfully, but then lost my balance and dislodged a pile of unstacked logs onto my prone body. Very painful. No planks, no nails, no twisting and no pain.

Which is just as well since me an my li'l lamb are orf fishing this afternoon. Not that I have any idea about fishing, but I know a man who does. I'm planning to take some photos along the river and in the woods, although the weather doesn't seem too encouraging.

Congratulations to the Ospreys for last night's trouncing of unbeaten Premiership team Gloucester. It's not before time, and let's hope there's more of that to come.


Friday, September 29, 2006

Flying and spitting feathers

I've been jetting across the channel more than usual this month and it's had its moments I can tell you. The worst was coming back to this little corner of paradise on 12th September just in time for my daughter's birthday. I got to check in about five minutes after it opened and joined the back of the already impresive queue. It took a full hour before I got to the desk and got checked in. I spun round the corner to get through security, only to find the queues just to get into the queues stretching right back past the check-in desks to the front doors of the terminal building. I tried in vain to explain that this was going to take more than an hour and I'd miss my plane. "Join the queue sir." It was stressful, but I eventually got into the plane some 20 minutes after it was due to leave and they shut the door behind me. Phew.

Spitting feathers? Why? I'm convinced that this was a conspiracy by BAA and the airlines to put pressure on the government to relax the security measures. Which they did indeed do, up to a point, the following week. Ryanair had launched court proceedings against the government to 'make a point'. And BAA, struggling to maintain higher security staffing levels for an extended period were no doubt happy to reduce the number of security lanes open and watch the queues grow. It was a mess. I was lucky, but many weren't.

So at least I got here in time to enjoy my daughter's 9th birthday. And a good time was had by all.

Monday, September 04, 2006


I used to believe that intent and some degree of focus had a sort of momentum that carried me roughly where I wanted to go. I'm beginning to have doubts. Here I am three years after moving to France spending more and more time in the UK. My downshifting plans, more self-sufficiency, less impact on the planet etc. is looking decidedly rocky. Two return flights a month, 250 miles round trip at the French end and seemingly endless miles in the UK. Although when you take a family approach to the question, we don't do too badly on the fresh produce from the garden front. Still, we don;t own our house here yet, so some of the more dramatic insulation and building innovations are on ice. And busier in Blighty means less time to generate stuff here.

Well it's called francerant, so the odd rant is par for the course.

On the up side, we had a fantastic contribution from the Pompey Batala crew to put some rocket fuel samba in front of the local public, and there's a small core of folks willing to give it a try. And I'm getting more and more interest in my photos, (see the Flickr link on the right there).

I plan to spend October not going anywhere and with that intent and some focus hope to get roughly where I want to go. Which is right here.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

I can't believe it's not Blogging

Last post on 2nd May? Another era. A symptom of having more work involving more travelling and not yet getting on top of the wireless or at least mobile Internet access. Then I could blog from anywhere. So far I know that I can e-mail in to my blogs, but haven't got into the habit. Easiest option maybe. Then there's wireless hotspots at the airports I fly through every month, and the Starbucks I pass through occasionally. My mobile card wireless system is not forgiving or intuitive, but I suppose it should work. Certainly the Orange or Vodafone wireless dongles seem pretty expensive for my purposes - I couldn't justify it 'just' for blogging. But there's nothing stopping me from blogging from the internet cafe's or friends' and family's PCs. Except the way I've been working this year, especially the past two or three months.

Trying to keep trips away from home to a minimum, and to maximise the work (and other) return, I've been pushing myself a bit too hard. Driving a hire car 2,000+ miles in ten days maybe Ok once in a while, but it's not a good way of life. Staying with friends is great too, but a different bed each night has been tiring. Being a sensitive sort, I miss my own space and my own time. I don't need much, but it's often hard to find the half an hour a couple of times a day I do need when this is what I'm doing.

So, with one more trip before a decent summer break, I'm piling ideas and thoughts and observations into a (portable) melting pot to reflect on here in my little corner or paradise. Ideas like looking for a space to call my own while in the UK. Enough but not too big or homely. This is my home, with my small but perfectly formed family, and I don't wish it otherwise. So maybe renting/borrowing a room from family or friends. Somewhere to leave a ditty bag of toothbrush and shower gel, a suit, and a few good books. Somewhere with web access, and of course, not too far from work and family.

The journey's got a little longer now, since Ryanair first stopped services to Clermont-Ferrand, and, in June, to St Etienne. Now it's Lyon. Which is more than 2 1/2 hours away. The plus side is that there are more companies and more destinations back to the UK. So I don't have to get up at ungodly hours to get to Stansted for 6:30 am flights. Big plus side in fact.

And of course it's not just work, it's work I like and is interesting. Work I'd be hard pushed to find here. So far, three years down the line, it's do-able, but making it sustainable is a fine line. So that's the kind of thing I'll be mulling over from the end of July, before heading back over the Channel at the end of August. And being here for a few weeks in a row means I'll be able to spend more time on my photography, my garden, and my blogs.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

A new map of the world

It's not quite cruise ship mentality. I haven't (yet) said - if it's Tuesday it must be Cairo. And the day I do seems far away. In fact living and working across two countries seems to be pretty good. I got back on Saturday from the latest foray into old Ingerlund. That was a long day - setting off at 7.30 am and getting here at midnight after the ferry crossing and an eight hour drive. But after a couple of days of a Bank Holiday weekend to recover, I'm back into the swing of things here in this rural French backwater.

My day spent following up last week's meetings and developments, with my office shared for a couple of hours with my 8 year old daughter doing her homework on my laptop. She interupted me less often than work colleagues often did in my previous 'employed' life. It's not hard to be in a good mood at my desk, with the sun shining outside, the birds singing, and the swallows doing acrobatics in the courtyard. Lunch out on the terrace, a ten yard stroll into work, tea and hugs on tap. And after work we all wandered down to l’assemblée to carry on the cleaning inside. Still a bit to do before Sunday when we plan to get together as many of the village as possible for a short prayer to the virgin saint and a chat. I'm not religious myself, but many of the older folk are, and it will be good to all get together again. Some of the younger ones are more interested in a chat and a wee drink. But apparently 'twas ever so!

My digital camera is missing between the seller and my house, so I still can't bring you any photos of progress. I've got some films to be developed, so we'll get them up here at some point.

Anyway, a new map. What's all that about? Well, when I was commuting to work, I had two different lives effectively. Work and home, two different cities, two different social groups. And yet a normal enough life these days. My journeys to work aren't the same, sometimes much shorter, sometimes very much longer. But I still have a 'twin' map in my head. It's a new map, but has much in common with the old one. But the experience of living in the places on the map is very different. I like it a lot. As for my ecological footprint, well, that's another question. And one I'll try and answer. But not yet.

Friday, April 14, 2006


We have a little place called L’assemblé or La maison de la Béathe, couvent, chapelle (amongst other names) in the village. And it's got a bit neglected over recent years. But, as I mentioned some time back, some folk here used to go over there from time time, especially during May. Well the thoughts about doing something to clean it up dust it off and use it again are coming to something. A few folk met up here on Sunday afternoon for a chat over coffee and cake, and we decided to go for it a week Saturday, and try and meet up once a week during May. George even put a little article in the weekly rag about it, and the other idea of opening up a neglected lane in the village too.

I asked if folks had any old photos of the place, but it doesn't sound too promising. I'll make sure and get some this time around.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Bin a sheety sort of week

I got back on Sunday from a 12 day sojourn in the UK, covering three different projects, mother's day, an under-6 rugby festival and a two-day delay in my return flight due to a French air-traffic control strike.

I won't get into all the debate about what the French strikes and demonstrations are about - it's several essay's worth, and I'm not sure anything would be clearer anyway.

The under6 rugby festival on the other hand was fantastic. Around 34 kids under 6 playing rugby and having a fab time. On a Sunday morning. England should be the best in the world in about 15 years time.
One of the two Lincoln teams having a morale-boosting talk by the coach between games.

The three projects are all very different, and I love having the diversity. One is a 'main' one, in the rural service development field (no pun intended), one is an environmental leaflet on Ecological Footprinting, and the third is photographing four secondary school heritage projects around the country.

The Severn Bridge, by one of the school's pupils, after a visit.

Since I got back, I would say I've had a sheety week, first my septic tank was emptied, and then our neighbour delivered several cubic metres of 'fumier' for my gardens. I'd forgotten how heavy this stuff is on the end of a fork.

The friendly septic tank man on the job.

I think I'm going to get some delivered in the autumn for next year - this is a bit fresh and full of straw. So guess what I'll be doing over the weekend?

Monday, March 13, 2006

This site is just wonderful

The web is great. Millions of pages about almost everything you could possibly want. No news there. But what I have always most loved is the passionate specialisation that we now all have access to. You love something very very specific? Express yourself! Share your passion with others and inspire them. This site is just wonderful. Like Seth, (which is where I got this link), trying a new one every morning is guaranteed to get you off to an innovative day. Challenge your habits, try something different, and rejuvenate yourself! Thanks Ian. No really. Thank you.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

La Chasse

This is nothing to do with flushing toilets, but hunting. Now I was a vegetarian for ten years, and although I have dropped off the meat wagon, I consider myself to be pretty tolerant of the local customs here. But not at any price.

Up to now, the hunters go after the wild boar that damage their fodder crops. Fair enough. They have a glass or two, allegedly, before heading off of a Sunday morning into the woods. The season is during the winter, so avoiding certain wooded areas while a hunt is on is not too onerous either.

But it now transpires that cages are being built in one of the fields nearby for rabbits to be kept for a couple of weeks before releasing them . This is with the express purpose of hunting them for sport. To me that's a whole different ball-game. I'm not happy because this means that our vegetables will be at risk, (when this was done once before, our nearest neighbour lost most of her garden to them). I'm not happy because the implication is that hunters will be wandering around the fields nearby shooting rabbits. Gone are the worry-free bike rides for my 8yr old. I'm not happy because no-one told anyone in the village this was going to happen, it had to be discovered. I'm particularly not happy because it's our friend bunny who has offered his field for the cages to be built, who was here having a beer with me the day before we found out, and he didn't think it worth mentioning to us.

So, we have an active lady in the little hamlet the other side of the field from here who wrote a letter and has done the rounds to collect signatures. The letter asks the hunt chairman to stop the project, at least while we have the opportunity to find out more about what's planned. I don't hold out much hope that they will take any notice, but it's as well to let them know that we're pissed. Personally I'd have written a different letter, and found it hard to decide whether to sign this one or not. Fighting and conflict is not my style. And we have a friendship involved, plus an influential person, the hunt chairman, who could sour other things for us with his other hats on. But what the hell, we signed, and it's in the lap of the gods for now.

Schools out

We've had a little questionnaire from the school recently asking about possible changes to the school day. The reasoning is that the teachers have noticed the pupils work better in the morning. So they want to make the morning session longer by half an hour. The various options include starting earlier, shorter lunch breaks and finishing earlier. So far so good.

Some while back, we had a questionaire from the local education authority about the school week. This is currently a messy affair, with The primary schools sitting Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, with two out of three saturday mornings thrown in. (The secondary school is in the same four weekdays, no Saturdays, but they also do Wednesday mornings.) We duly filled in our preference, which was for the four current weekdays with shorter holidays to make up for the lost Saturday mornings. The edict now comes back, (without any news of how parents voted), saying that as of September, there will be no school on Saturday mornings but every other Wednesday morning instead. One rubbish idea replaced with another rubbish idea. If you want to continue your weekly Wednesday morning activities, of which there are many, you no longer can.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Structure hunger

Apparently we all need structure. This is supposed to be a psychological need. And if you start from the extreme lack of structure it makes some kind of sense. But it also illustrates the firmly held beliefs of some that less structure has its own advantages too.

I'm talking about the experiences of monks, shaman, and various others who retreated to places devoid as much as possible of stimulation. Places like deserts, remote islands and caves. Here they experienced no social contact, no daily routines, in caves no day or night, perhaps here too they even deliberately deprived themselves of any light at all. The images and writings we have hint at hallucination as well as transcendent spiritual experiences. Maybe the two are indivisible.

A far cry from the modern world perhaps. But the flexibility of my chosen lifestyle requires careful tweaking to ensure that I have enough structure for my well-being. There are times when I create structure, but few when I have too much. On balance this is as it should be. The structure I create can be temporary, original and firmly in the present, rather than ingrained habit, inherited, and based in the past. Lack of routine invites me to constantly review the balance of flexibility and structure, and to renew aspects of my life as often as it feels right. In many ways it is challenging, and overall I feel more alive and aware than I ever remember.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Back in paradise

Eleven days in limbo, or at least that's what it feels like in some way. Do you remember that story about Einstein's theory of relativity? (don't ask if I mean general or specific or I'll have to slap you.) It's got something to do with twins and clocks and heading off-earth at the speed of light oir some such stuff. Anyway, the upshot is that time passes at different speeds in the experience of the twins.

Well it sort of feels like that, but the strange thing is it's not a symmetrical feeling. Which means that when I'm here, life goes on at normal speed in the UK, but when I'm there, life here seems to stop. Or at least I expect it to stop, and so I expect nothing to have changed when I get back. And often that's the case. Mind you it may have a lot to do with the fact that it's the middle of winter, and life slows down somewhat.

Ah well. Whatever.

So here I am anyway. And though the trip didn't quite go as planned, although it was pretty good all things considered. One thing I expected to come back with is some work starting in February, but that won't now happen before the end of March. Which is just as well, because I've got some creative seeds to sow here. There's a distinct possibility that we could get a fledgeling youth samba band together in the coming months. Exciting as that is in itself, it's just one part of a whole raft of creative activities that could take off. So I'm in a kind of rat-tat-tat-tat-ta mood today. I'll let you know how it goes.

My good mood is helped by the stunning rugby result on Sunday, (Scotland 20, France 16), which I haven't been able to make much of here as you can imagine. (No comments about Saturday please! It's cost me a bottle of wine already.)


Monday, January 23, 2006

Magic places and nation states

My mates have been looking for a place to buy in Spain, and they visited somewhere at the weeknd. I was giving them some thoughts on the photos and description when these thoughts came up ...

It sounds like an incredible place, similar to this area in some ways. The generation gap is certainly a feature as people left to find work in Lyon and Clermont-Ferrand, keeping their parents' and grandparents' houses as they have passed on, and using them for holidays. I think the repopulation here is about 10 years ahead of Eljas though.

There's something magic about these places, and the village sounds fantastic; a link to the past, and to a pre-Nation State diversity that Spain certainly has, and maybe France has hidden for a while. I mean by that the cultural and linguistic diversity within a country's borders. We have grown up with this idea that our countries are monolithic, because that's how they are presented. But during the WWII period for large parts of the world, and continuously since then in 'pockets' it seems, (Yugoslavia for example) the indivisibility of the nation state as we have accepted it is not so obvious. Countries that can find a balance between the advantages of strong countries, (don't ask me what they are!) and the cultural diversity and local accountability of regionalism or federalism seem to me to have something special. Spain, Germany and the UK since devolution for example. And almost despite itself, France to some extent too.

It's another fascinating field of thought; I could live forever and still not have the time ...

Especially now, since I'm packing for another sojourn in Britain starting tomorrow for about ten days. The other half of my home and away lifestyle is about to kick in, and the build up always has an undercurrent of anxiety about it. Nothing serious you understand, but it builds. And my li'l lamb asks me why I have to go, and asks me not to. That's the hardest bit. So light posting, if any, until 5th February!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Putting my foot down in France

I've found quite a few ways of not settling professionally in France. Translations of my CV, leaflet and website into French was the foundation for a campaign targeting local authorities, development agencies and European-funded projects and project areas, (like Leader). Several dozen mailings later I got one invitation to tender. I tendered but didn't get the contract.

I went for an interview at the Chamber of Commerce in Le Puy, but decided not to follow that opportunity up after getting some 'not happy' vibes while there.

And an underlying 'all or nothing' approach to setting up as self-employed. To pay the tax and NI, you need a decent turnover, so there would be no point in starting if I haven't got a customer base.

Now I think I've found an alternative. With a few friends, I am going to set up an association that is dedicated to 'the cultures of the world'. We will be able to apply for grants for project ideas. I can work or volunteer, depending on my wishes and the project's needs. Haven't got a name for it yet. The first activities will be teaching English, especially to children and beginner adults. But the opportunities are endless - samba band, oral history, photography and so on.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The big party

My partner in crime is 21 this year. But a very big 21. If you get my drift.

So we're having a big party. She comes from a large family. Number 10 in a line of 14. And we've been having an annual round of big 21sts over the last few years. Just about everyone comes, and they all have families. And that's not even counting the very good friends, and my small but perfectly formed family. So we're expecting about 100.

And given the date is the 14th of August, we're booking things early. So we've got:

an invitation list;
a venue;
one band, blues;
some accommodation sorted.

We are still working on:

a particular group of friends, who play samba reggae;
more accommodation;
the wherewithal to do a spit roast - proving a bit tricky;

I am still working on:

that special present - I have ideas, but finding a way to do it and keep it secret is the challenge!

Looking forward to it already!

Monday, January 16, 2006

Decisions decisions

At 14 I didn't know what I wanted to do. The lucky amongst us have probably been following their chosen passionate path since they had a 'road to Damascus' experience at the age of 3 days! Sunday lunch with one of our neighbours covered many topics from the mundane to the esoteric. One that struck me was the current debate they are engaged in as a family about the future career of the daughter of the family.

I don't know about you but I found this torture enough at 14 in Wales in 1976. In fact i still don't know what career I want, but I gave up worrying about it a long time ago, and indeed have been celebrating this freedom for many years. In France it is so much harder. Every metier is coded, classified, tightly defined and immutable. The choice of metier puts you into a 10 year logical tube of further education and training. Escape is discouraged, hard, and requires another 10 year logical tube journey. How scary is that?

Now I may be exaggerating a bit, for clarity obviously, but this poor girl looks positively traumatised by the experience so far, and she seems a long way from making a choice. My 6 penn'orth was to describe my first three metiers, (not including all the school and holiday jobs of course - life is too short!). They were gardener, RAF navigator, and geography researcher. I tried to get across that finding something you love and really want to do is more important than anything else. And for most of us that means giving it a go. There are no wrong decisions. There's also the fact that, even in France, the idea of one life - one metier is rapidly disappearing. So even if a choice has to be made, it's only about the first metier, not for the rest of your life. Does that make it easier? I hope so.

Friday, January 13, 2006

The peace of freedom

So there was my French routine. Not the can-can, just my (week) daily activites. And how good it felt yesterday and today to depart from it. My partner in crime is in pain, and apart from my healing or at least comforting hands massaging her back, neck and head, which is already in the routine anyway, I was able to help her out with a number of things that would have been impossible or very painful. And I found time elsewhere to catch up on work. No problem. No stress. No conflicting work/life balancing decisions. Just the freedom to do it. This is what our life is about, and what has brought us through the milestones of the past few years to get here. And the future is more of the same, better and more enjoyable. I can't wait. I love it here!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Not a daily routine

My home and away lifestyle is in fact two lifestyles. I spend most of my time here in France, and a significant minority in the UK. They are worlds apart in terms of anything resembling a daily routine.

Here I get up around 6.30 or 7.00, shower and get the fire going. I'll set out breakfast for the gals while my partner in crime gets li'l lamb out of bed. We usually have good time for a chatty breakfast before the gals head off, one to the school bus and the other into the woods for a walk. I wash the dishes, chop some wood for the day and head up here to the office and start work about 8.30. We're taking it in turns to massage each other mid-morning since last week. (We both have knotted backs and shoulders.) So yesterday my turn, this morning her turn. Followed by a cup of tea and some more work.

Lunch sometime between 12 and 2.30, but not (usually) the whole 2.5 hrs. French TV lunchtime news usually has a lot of bits about rural parts of France, cultural and environmental as well as the main news, and that's great. Even in the winter, a quick coffee outside sets us up for some more time at the desk.

If it's quiet and sunny I might get out into the garden for an hour, and then finish off the afternoon here until li'l lamb gets back from school, or it's time to pick her up from after-school gym or judo or whatever. It's great to be able to be there when she gets in and pick up her experience of the day, spend some homework time together and then maybe a quick bike ride round the village or a game. Perhaps some more wood for the evening.

Back to the office for another hour before reading a bed-time story, and then dinner for two in front of the log fire. The evenings are variously reading, games, a film on TV sometimes, or we have a chatty dinner that goes on til bedtime. (This is especially the case in the summer season, when my partner in crime's been out earning a crust.)

It's a very balanced week too, I don't work much on Wednesdays, since there's no school, and so I spend time on English curriculum workbooks and following the questions with my lamb out into the garden, onto the web or wherever. One of her friends comes round every Wednesday afternoon for some English conversation with us too, and that's fun. Tomorrow we're making crepes, but only if the pupil can remember all the tools and ingredients we've been learning!

There's school on Saturday mornings, so I can get some more office time then if I need it. If not, it tends to be domestic time, cleaning, laundry that sort of thing.

The weekend is almost always spent with nearby friends or neighbours. We're chatting over the idea of opening up the little house I've been talking about, so that's the topic of conversation for now.

It's a very calm and relaxed routine, different from the summer, and very different from my UK time. I'm chilled most of the time, can choose when I work most of the time, and interuptions for an apéro are easy to accommodate and enjoy.

I love it!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Some philosophical help with (me) everyday life

A recent essay on Islam online resonated with my recent two geographies, decluttering and home and away thoughts and posts. This is an insightful easy to read essay that intorduced me to the idea of transmodernism. This idea offers a way of looking at traditional societies that does not limit them to the past or identify them as static and obsolete. To me it started to make some sense of the feelings among many in modern or post-modern western societies. These are that the rootlessness, the loss of principles and foundations, is not a price not worth paying for progress. Here Ziauddin Sardar describes another way, and this is the fun bit, that these losses constitute a price that doesn't have to be paid. Reading about this idea has given me something of a conceptual tool relevant to these recent thoughts, resolving my need to embrace roots, tradition, spirit of place and so on, AND be very much part of the modern world. Growth and progress is possible too. And I have found a little peace of mind as a result. The author, a cultural critic and Muslim scholar based in London, writes clearly and engagingly. Give it a go.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Staying a bit sane in the Massif Central

That's what it's about. And the challenge for me is somewhere around stripping away the padding built up over many years and yet renewing and creating new life and experience.

I've been having a declutter, and whenever there is more 'space' more ideas pop in to fill it up. Question. Are the new things different from the old things? Are they more padding or the real me bursting out onto the recently cleared decks? Are they more of what I should be doing or more of what I want to do? Or even more of what I want to be?

So that's a skecth of where I am today. Here in France, weighing up the new opportunities and ideas I've had. What are they? Which ones are really me?

A normal day at the office! My office window today looks west out over the village to the snow-covered hills of the Massif de Sancy. My garden is down below me, hard-frozen ground deciding what I can and can't do there today. Because after a bit of sketching out some pictures of these thoughts on paper, I'll be off out into this superb tranquil, stimulating, clean space to mull it all over. I have some interesting choices to make this year, and I really want to live me, not the padding. It's probably something to do with my age!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Party town

Looks like our village is shaping up to be a veritable party town this year. Everything being relative of course, and in this case I don't mean the village relative to Las Vegas, but the village this year relative to the village last year. And the year before. Maybe even the decade before. Well, we're having a party. And not only that, but I'm hoping a little seed sown over the past few days and weeks may turn into another sort of party.

Our party is for my partner in crime - big birthday landmark, but I'm far too polite to say which one. She is one of 14 children, and although not all will come, it's still a good start. Our bestest friends are already coming, and we will be sending out invitations to our other bestest friends soon. And, there's the WHOLE village too. All 17 of us. We plan to use a small field traditionally used for village parties, set up three spit roasts and a bar, and generate as much self-made music (high graphic link) as possible. Mid-August. If you're free.

The other little seed I hope will grow into something at La Beate, a place I talked about recently. We went to wish the two sisters a happy new year yesterday, and settled in for a natter and an apero, like you do. And I floated the idea that maybe, if they thought it was a good idea, and if a few other people were interested, maybe we could clean up and decorate the little house like they last did, during the month of May, and maybe have a couple of evenings there during the month. Perhaps it would be fun to do, sympa to be working together a bit, and share some stories and old photos. And they liked the idea. So we're going to mention it to a few other people, and see what happens. I might try and get hold of some kind of digital recording gizmo and record a bit as well as take some photos.

Already the idea has further possibilities. One of the sisters suggested trying to get some funds to restore the building properly. And one of the district nurses was keen on some kind of oral history project growing out of this first idea. She sees an impressive richess of wisdom and memory as she visits mostly elderly people all over the parish. Wonderful.

I'm not sure what I'll get up to amongst it all myself, but I hope it works out and I get to lend a hand and take some pictures. We plan to do it in May, so there'll be time to get the plans together and keep y'all up to date. Any tips on oral history projects? Or funding sources?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The big anticlimax

I know it sounds a bit unspectacular as a title, and really it's nothing like that ...

We've had a grand time over the holidays, big French family Christmas, intimate small family new year. But the highlight of my season was the 21st of December. There was a time I used to have a party then instead of Christmas. Christmas is now huge fun with a large extended family. New Year in Oban on the West Coast of Scotland cured me of most of my antipathy towards that event. And getting through two events in a week is about as much as I can cope with these days. (It's the age says my 8yr old li'l lamb.) Thanks!

Still, on 21st, I had my little triumph when the sun decided to show itself towards the end of the day, and I was able to mark the point of the setting sun with a couple of stakes in the garden. This means that I know where to put up my standing stone when the ground thaws out. I found this big stone while clearing part of the garden last August, and have had it in mind to raise it up. But you need to know where to put it so it has some connection, and the winter solstice was the first obvious opportunity. The stone raising could happen on 21st March, 21st June, or during the festivities planned for August. We might even start a trend in March and do all three!