Sunday, December 30, 2007
Here's one of my recent efforts with an old window frame. This time for my brother in law. It's a great way to make a living. (That was irony or sarcasm or something, I was never very good at explaining grammar.)
Obviously, which side of the road we drive on;
Which way round the spine of a book reads;
Which way round the brakes on a bicycle are;
Whether your light switch goes up or down for on;
Does your adjective go before or after the noun?
Let me know the things you've noticed ...
Friday, December 14, 2007
Imagine one of these windows in a completely ruined state; no longer in a building, lying on the ground, glass cracked etcetera etcetera etcetera. Now imaging sanding, cleaning and polishing said frame, choosing a photographic subject, and bringing the two together and you have ...
Thursday, December 13, 2007
It's harder and harder to look forward to Christmas while having stomach-churning moments in the face of consumption consumption consumption. We do what we can. It's not much.
On 21st we will have a modest camp fire. More CO2 - true. But also a genuine celebration of the winter solstice and the start of the sun's return. A recognition of the importance of the most basic elements of life. Our increasing self-sufficiency for at least our vegetables relies on following and understanding seasons and growth. Our heat comes from burning wood grown locally and replanted in biodiverse patchworks.
We have continuously reduced our electricity consumption over the past four years.
It's a journey.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Friday, December 07, 2007
After a swings and roundabout year in the garden, we're digging into "la cave" and the garden for meals. My better half is about to embark on a day of quiche-making and freezing, which will no doubt include the above in some form. No fresh tomatoes of course, but sauces made and bottled during the summer are coming in handy. The leeks are still in the garden and falling to temptation from time time. The carrots, spuds (Manon and Rats), onions, garlic and shallots are all taking part. Add to that lot a few frozen beans and mushrooms and an indian or caribbean recipe or two and the possibilities are endless and mouthwatering.
Friday, November 30, 2007
Following some great feedback from folks about birdinabox, I've also opened oiseauxmignons - a kind of french birdinabox, and sunflowergems with a smaller number of cracking images. Links are also under my profile photo on the right. Some sheep stuff to come soon.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
I've been producing little (mostly) square cartoons that I've referred to as birdinabox for a while now. Al started by having some redundant business cards that I'd cut the address off after I moved, combined with an idle afternoon making finger blobs with my daughter. A set of them is on my flickr pages. Now I've just started to make them available through a cafepress shop too. Have a look. Let me know what you think. There are more images and more formats for other products to come.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Saturday, November 17, 2007
The chilly start this morning didn't encourage me to leap out into the great outdoors, and indeed quashed my plans to hit the trails on the mountain bike. But it did have one unexpected benefit, which is that the mole hills stick together in convenient lumps, making it much easier to pick up and move. Half an hour of pottering about like that and I'm back indoors for a hot lunch in front of the log fire with a tolerable sense of merit.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Bernard le NeN
And Galerie La Rage
quotesoftheday " The easiest kind of relationship is with ten thousand people, the hardest is with one." -Baez, Joan
Friday, November 09, 2007
If you have food in the fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep... you are richer than 75% of the world's population.
If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, or spare change in a dish someplace... you are among the wealthiest 8% of the world's population.
If you woke up with more health than illness... you are more blessed than the million who will not survive this week...
Source unknown, via Evelyn Rodriguez
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Later on I passed a track that I seemed to remember headed down to a ruined mill complex alongside the Doulon. I was a bit out in my mental map, but found it anyway. It's more complex and fascinating than I first thought, and seems to have several layers of development and the remains of a small footbridge, maybe big enough for a horse but not a cart. I don't know what information I can find out about it (or water mills generally) locally or on the web. Worth a try. It reminds me of neighbours who have built their own house having failed to find a water mill in anything like restorable condition. It would be ambitious, but ...
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
These from an interesting passage about life and experience...
"Age is no better, hardly well, qualified for an instructor as yout, for it has not profited as much as it has lost."
"Man's capacities have never been measured; nor ar we to judge of what he can do by any precedents, so little has been tried."
"Whatever have been thy faliures hitherto, 'be not afflicted, my child, for who shall assign to thee what thou hast left undone'."
Walden: or life in the woods. Henry David Thoreau
Friday, October 12, 2007
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Another of my little expeditions starts tomorrow with a drive up to Caen-Ouistreham to get the ferry to Portsmouth. After that I’ll be in Lincoln, Sheffield, Winchester, Farnham, and Newbury before heading to Stansted for a flight to Prague. I’ll be at Europarc 2007 in Český Krumlov for a few days, and then heading back here to the hills of the Massif Central, and hopefully to some more Indian summer weather. I think I’ve cracked blogging, tweeting and flickring away from base now, so keep your eyes peeled.
Friday, September 14, 2007
Thursday, September 06, 2007
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Sounds a bit like that dozydotes an marezydotes an lilamsee divy etc. thingy.
In fact me an l'il lamb made a pig at the weekend. i think he turned out pretty well. Shame we can't animate him; he's got a future this guy...
Sunday, September 02, 2007
Saturday, September 01, 2007
Friday, August 31, 2007
Thursday, August 30, 2007
While surfing through LinkedIn contacts I came across a guy called Tim, who has a website. And on this website he tells us why the site is called otterstone.
Sea otters feed on clams and sea urchins from the sea bed. To crack open the tough shells, the sea otter pounds them against a stone which it balances on its chest. An otter keeps a favourite stone in a 'waistcoat pocket', which is a fold of skin under its armpit. Otters carry their favourite stone with them at all times throughout their life no matter what else happens.
I've had one or two breathtaking moments watching sea otters do this, when I lived on the shores of Loch Etive in Argyll, but I didn't know that they kept the stone! That's outstanding! Thanks Tim.
(Credit to Mathew for the photo.)
Been sketching with li'l lamb since she got back from her first day at school. This is my effort, it's not Leonardo but it whiles away the time and keeps the eye hand coordination in use. Lamb didn't like her effort, but I might get permission to show you a part of it. Don't hold your breath.
I mentioned the festival recently with a view to putting up a photo or two of what I got up to. Here's the first one. A print from a lino cut. Great fun to do, absolutely compulsive, transported be straight into 'the zone.
Friday, August 24, 2007
Monday, August 20, 2007
Friday, August 17, 2007
Thursday, August 09, 2007
I also came across a new composer at the annual concert in the local church. Two Dutch guys, Pieter Grimbergen and Erik Lips, have put this on every year since 2002, and it attracts a full house every time. The new (to me) composer is Carlos Guastavino. I'm looking for some recordings to listen to.
And we're doing a local series of our first gigs as a Batala band - Samba Massif, at Langeac, (today), Brioude, (Saturday), and Blesle (next Tuesday).
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Well it finally happened over the pas few weeks, Monsieur Barbaroux (RedBeard), aka Jeremy the Beer has opened his brasserie to great acclaim and high demand. Long may it continue. He is the only organic brewer in the Haute-Loire, and well worth the short diversion. The man lives and breathes his beer-making, and it shows. He brews four types, and has chosen to name them after himself, after a fashion. Hence Barbe Rousse above, followed by Barbe Brune, Barbe Blonde, and Barbe Blanche, with the expected variations to the beard on the label as well as the name.
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Monday, June 18, 2007
There are many and varied responses to the recent election of Sarko, including many asides during a recent concert by Renaud. But this one made me giggle a bit.
I found it while looking through the other acts that will be at the 6th Aperos Musicales in Blesle from 10th to 14th August. It looks like a great long weekend, and one that includes our newly-formed Samba Massif. We will be leading the torchlight procession to the last night firework display.
Our first booked appearance will be a little before that though, at the 'Festival des Créatifs' on the evening of 3rd August at Domeyrat where this photograph was taken at a rehearsal in May.
Friday, June 15, 2007
Which is why I think that the French state is so controlling, interventionist and even socialist at times. With such an anarchic mix of individuals battling out their rights, it would otherwise be very hard for anyone not prepared or able to fight for their right to live, eat, learn or whatever.
My rants are often about this very controlling culture. But this one is about the strident, polemic individuals, and what releasing them from their social bonds will do in France under Sarkozy. I fear a post-revolutionary anarchy in some watered-down 21st century form.
Speaking of watered-down, surely the definition of tee-total needs to be re-written after this recent display at the G8 summit.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
So we've got a strategy for the mobile phone company's lack of service, either the contract never existed, since they never, ever, even for a second provided anything resembling a mobile phone service, a technical service or a customer service. In which case we will pay them nothing. Or, the contract does exist, or will exist when they supply some kind of service, and when they provide it, we'll pay for it.
The strategy for the mast is more tricky. As I've said, it's turned into a bit of an us and them stand-off in the 'commune', although we do still have two vociferous locals opposing the thing. The rest of the population, or at least the council and their fans, are not interested in any kind of discussion about it.
What's our stratgey? Well, the aim of the Association is to get the thing at least 500m from houses. So that's clear enough. As for what we do to achieve that I don't know. Finding out more is one thing. Tagging along with any other similar efforts in the country is another. And in the meantime, do we wait until anyone discovers they have leukemia? Or do we move? And what if another mast turns up there; the area still has its coverage gaps.
One thing we won't be doing is counting on the support of the local deputy who visited this afternoon. He shrugged his shoulders about that, about the elderly population's increasing isolation as services in rural areas fall away, about the 1,000 farmers (25% of the district's farmers) who are on the brink of bankruptcy this year. He shrugged his shoulders at just about everything. He's been the incumbent for the past 30 years. I must assume his constituency is urban dwellers in work and paying taxes. He's not interested in anyone else.
Do I sound cynical? I suppose I do.
Friday, June 01, 2007
So we have a new generation mobile phone mast capaple of delivering TV and streaming video to mobile phones locally, and of course transmitting signals around 20 miles to the others in the network. The nearest houses are 200m away, while in other parts of the world a precautionary distance of 500m is increasingly being recommended or imposed as part of planning consent.
The question now is what we do here. The association still feels that it's worth trying to inform the rest of the local community about what research we've found about the biological effects of these things, not least because there are still places where there is no coverage that will no doubt see the siting of more masts in the coming months. Some also feel its worth starting or contributing to a national campaign to get a precautionary distance of 500m set at national level.
Mind you, this is the country that denied for years that there were any effects from Chernobyl on France. The cloud somehow mysteriously passed throughout Europe, leaving France completely untouched. I'm not optimistic that they will go for a 500m exclusion zone for mobile phone masts.
If folks are interested, I can post links to the research we've found...
Friday, May 18, 2007
Consternation reigns. Over the past few weeks there has been much discussion and debate, recriminations and disaccord in the village.
A temporary mobile phone mast has appeared about 200m from the houses, and the installation of a permanent one started. And stopped. By the judicious placement of tractors. And a hitherto unkown type of French legal person called a "huissier", which is apparently some kind of bailiff.
The local council have been happy to sell the little patch of land and give permission to install the thing up until now. And then one of the holiday-home visitors turned up and took a different view.
Since then we've had several meetings, an association has been formed, two articles in the local papers, and a petition started. And the work stopped, as I said. In terms of campaigning, this seems pretty good.
But there has been a fair bit of fall-out too. Public arguments between family members, tears amongst the families of local councillors, and lots of people turning away from the issue as a result.
This kind of process seems to be the way of things in France. No prior consultation. People wake up and find something's happened that they know nothing about. No time to find information, no time express an opinion, the panic is on to mobilise and demonstrate. Then the bad feeling, inconvenience and inertia start to kick in. And there's a very rapid demobilisation. The protestors back down, and the deed is done and put down to experience.
Bullying, imposing, destructive and unpleasant.
We're in the middle of the process, and maybe my theory will not apply this time.
But I've been digging around beyond the headlines on the issues of microwaves and their effects and have concluded that:
There isn't proof yet of direct links to cancers or other illnesses.
There IS proof of various biological effects of mobile phones, mobile phone masts, TV masts and wireless networks on the human body, including non-thermal effects at low intensity.
I recognise some of the symptoms in our experience here over the past year.
The international guidelines for public protection only deal with thermal effects.
Around the world, various public authorities are adopting the precautionary principle, and recommending or requiring a zone of 300 m to 500 m between mobile phone masts and schools, hospitals, houses and workplaces.
I want to see that applied here.
My wireless router is going and a non-wireless modem is coming.
In the meantime I'm using my router for three short periods a day.
If the mast stays, then we will go somewhere a bit further away.
With a little help from our friends in Portsmouth - those of the donkey riding fame - we have successfully started Samb Massif, one of the two new Batala kids on the block. Four rehearsals later, we're having a lot of fun and it sounds pretty good to me. We're hoping to confirm our first gig at Blesle when the organisers come and see us rehearse sometime in the next few weeks. that'll be at their 'Aperos musicales' on 14th August.
The other new kid on the block is in Washington DC, where I passed some interesting time while involved with the MASSE project.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
I've had a lovely couple of weeks. Friends visiting, new friendships starting through a shared interest in music, and lots of time in my garden. All that with work mixed in too. A pleasant phase in my work-life balancing act.
As the land begins to transform the views in response to the lengthening days and rising temepratures, it's been a pleasure to rediscover the simplest of sensations. A warm breeze on my face, early morning sun and bird song, and an outdoor fire to help make breakfast a bit more interesting. All shared with children and their delight at sometimes new, sometimes familiar, but always simple experiences.
I get a warm fuzzy feeling when I see children abandoning the DS (the Nintendo not the Citroen!) for a toasting fork and some bread. When the 'Bang-bang' of plastic guns and the 'Mummy mummy' of plastic dolls is replaced by the 'What a wonderful day!' , I am reminded of the reasons why I took the hard steps to move here. I remember why I travel back and forth to sustain this bizarre work-life balance.
Perhaps a little less travelling and a little more local work wouldn't go amiss. That would be a nice thing to look back on at the end of they year. Along with a successful debut year for a new member of the Batala family, if that all comes off.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
Not easy to appreciate its size this way, but how about this one?
Still sceptics, I decided to have a wee scan on the Interweb thingy, and guess what? A marvellous site about notable trees in the Auvergne. And our tree is listed at about 250 years old, a circumference of 7.8m, and a height of 42m. From the list it appears that there are two trees up in the Puy de Dome in La Bourboule that are 43m high. But otherwise, ours is the tallest! And who measured them and when, that's what I'd like to know. I was probably a bit too chuffed with myself at this discovery, but since no-one else seemed to be in the least impressed I quickly lost the self-righteous glow that developed ever so briefly.
Friday, March 23, 2007
Anyway, here are the results, numbered, which are Chloe's and which are mine?
We're seeing all sorts of things besides butterflies, and with a bit of tinkering with the graphics tablet, we might be able to get a few other animals out of them. Any suggestions?
Monday, March 12, 2007
... the pride is almost palpable. That's my girl!
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Thursday, February 15, 2007
It took another hour or so, cost me a new blister, a few scratched knuckles and a soggy knee from kneeling on the grass; but we got there, and Chloe's delighted. We started feeding him from the mountain of compost material that's been piling up in the garden for three years. he's called Clifford by the way. Not the big red dog, but the huge orange pig. As Chloe said, it beats watching TV.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Taken at last week's Batala Portsmouth rehearsal. I get there whenever I can, but my back's been too dodgy to strap on a drum for the last few months. Still, it's fun. There's a bit of interest in the idea of a band here in France, and I'm planning to run an afternoon workshop to give people who've expressed an interest a go at hitting the spot. If that goes well, I'd hope to run a short project of say 10 weeks, aiming to perform in public once or twice. Since talking about it, we've had two offers of gigs and one of a workshop. And we haven't even started yet!
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Chloe's judo club had the parents in for a bit of a demonstration at the weekend, and this is one of the shots I've played with since. I decided not to show the ones of Chloe tackling the massive black belt 2nd dan, but this one, who she actually managed to throw. Once. I don't think he underestimated her a second time. After all you don't learn anything the second time you're kicked by a mule. (Country boy's law.)