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I don’t mind making jokes – but I don’t want to look like one

I’m currently back in France for a few days before heading to the UK for two weeks and I thought it would be a good idea, since I seem unable to find any time at all to write anything new in this busy busy whirl, to re-post some of my old word. So for your entrèe here is the start of my love affair with le Cantal ….

Half Baked In Paradise

There is always a why.  In every situation there will be a reason.  Sometimes it burnishes the surface and gleams for all to see, sometimes it lurks deep down but take a look and there will always be a blazingly obvious reason why.  For many a move to France is all about the lure of more house and land for your money.  For some it is the culture – the perception that life in France means wine, food, wine, more food, wine.  You get my drift.  For us it was about people.  We had friends here.  French friends.

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When we announced our intention to friends in other parts of France they literally laughed, then looked puzzled when they realised we were serious and then set about trying to dissuade us from such terrible folly.  The Husband with Two Brains had lived and worked in Grenoble for 9 years in the…

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You don’t need a weatherman

This place, this place, this place.  However hard I try, I do miss this place.  Snapped last summer during le canicule (the heatwave), this is my corner of France parched, thirsty – gasping for water but still flaunting green trees.   And there’s a tower beckoning Rapunzels and Ladies of Shalott from far and wide.  Or in my case just girls that never grew out of romantic ideas that a tower in a fanciful mind will make all those whimsical dreams come true.  And give roots.

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My offering for Claudette’s Emotography Challenge (free-form simplicity – just a  simple ask that you offer a photograph along with the notion of the emotion it was prompted by or that it provokes in you) screams homesick to me.

Hence the necessary PS that my title is the teeniest stolen snippet of  Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues

More stern and splendid than mere kindness

I’ve mentioned before the wise advice of a friend to ‘find the purpose in the way things are’.  The last three months have necessitated reaching out to those words and hugging them close and often.

Let me elucidate.  When I moved to France.  To Cantal.  To the pays perdu that I persist in calling home, I cleaved to it.  I knew I was home.  Clock forward two years, two months and a few days and  I was thrust into a New World.  The New World.  A doddle for a cosmopolitan gal like me.

Or not.  The fact is that I struggled to settle and root even a  little here.  The fact is that my heart and my eyes and ears and all my senses were gazing, reaching and yearning for  France.  The fact is that I went through the motions every day.  I strove to get myself into a groove on my long playing record that would make a melody that I could sing along to.  Hallelujah and pass the tambourine, I got there.  I AM here.  And I now honestly  feel that I can love the one I’m with (or more accurately, in).  I have retrieved my inner explorer and pressed re-set.   I am finding so much to be enraptured by.  And why on earth wouldn’t I?  What an opportunity I have.  To live on another continent, find the beauty and the warts and the eccentricities and get under the skin of a place that is such a collosal collision of cultures that a few meagre months or years can never do it justice.  And, I finally get to live with my Two Brained husband –  one love.  My love.

And as it happens (such a coincidence) One Love is the prompt for the Weekly Photo Challenge beautifully represented here by people far smarter and more creative than I.

The picture?  Walking up Mount Eisenhower in the Presidential Range of the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  It was a tough walk up because, apart from being relentlessly uphill and steepish, at the time I had neither crampons nor poles to walk with and above the line it was frozen to the sleekest shiniest glass  whenever the canopy of trees gave a skimpy opening for the glacial breath of winter to polish the ground with her frigid glaze.  And all of a sudden this …. my Narnia moment.  Paradise frozen – water (my enduring love) stopped in it’s tracks until Spring decides to wave her wand, scatter her fairy dust and let it flow once more.

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PS:  The quote is C.S Lewis from The Problem of Pain … known for the Narnia Chronicles it is worth getting to know Lewis, the Christian writer whether or not you believe in his God.  He said ‘love is something more stern and splendid than mere kindness’ and though I am a true devotee of kindness I support his assertion unreservedly.

I’ve got nobody to hug – I’m such an ugly bug

I’m not an ugly bug. I am a really really ridiculously GOOD-looking dog.  A dog with a serious message to share.   I am The Bean.

I may look like a handbag dweller (I am Metrically less than 4 kilos which makes me Imperially 8 and a half pounds) but I am feisty and fit.

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In order to keep my sleek appearance  I take a lot of exercise.  I walk many miles a week with my humans – mostly my mummy (because he is busy doing something called ‘bringing home the bacon’ although in truth I have not seen any evidence of this bacon, to which I am very partial) but bestly with both of them.  We walk and hike on trails here in the USA just like we do in Europe.

The winter here in New England has been unusually mild.  I am grateful for this fact.  I like snow but I am told that sometimes it falls in metres rather than inches and being quite economic in the leg I would soon be unable to walk at all.  We had some of the deep stuff but mostly it was the sort of snow I am used to and I had plenty of fun diggering and snuffling on my walks.

But now it is really quite Springy here and this is the point of me hijacking my mummy’s blog.  I got a tick.  I didn’t feel it.  It just sat on my back which is black.  Then it started to grow – at first my mother thought I had some sort of blemish.  She can be exceptionally stupid.    Obviously a dog as beauteous as I has NO blemishes.  These little blighters sit on leaves and blades of grass and wait for a likely victim (they call it a host but surely a host invites people to the party and I did not invite any ticks to mine).  They can crawl but they cannot leap or fly.

By the time my retarded people realised what it was, several days had passed and it was Sunday with no vets except emergency ones  open.  So they did what all humans do and they Googled.  I don’t really know what Googling is but it seems to be regarded as a fast track to wisdom.  Personally,  I prefer to use my nose.  I’m a dog – it’s what we do.   My daddy was satisfied to discover that his method is the right one.   You take tweezers and make sure you pull it hard and straight without pinching the skin.  But mummy was insistently maverick.  She had found an article written by someone who suggested something unbelievable.  My daddy was mistrustful.  But he agreed to try it.  Probably in the interests of shutting her up.   When he was deciding on a career many aeons ago, he considered being a surgeon.  He did a very passable impersonation of having trained thus as he got ready for the operation.  Sterilised tweezers were laid on the table for the inevitable moment when she was proved wrong and he was proven right and he had to operate with pincers as he had first suggested.  He donned blue surgical gloves and I was taken upon mummy’s knee (which I like very much) and stroked tenderly whilst she held my head in a vice like grip lest my teeth got the better of me and decided to nip.  Which I have to own up, they occasionally do.  Under stress, you understand.  Like the time when someone tried to sit on me when I was a puppy – I was under a cushion and they forgot to check – I was extremely small and the posterior bearing down on me was extremely large.  I had no choice.  Anyway, he  started to rotate the critter quite rapidly with his pointy finger.  His face had incredulity virtually tatooed on it and he was clearly just going through the motions to keep her quiet, so imagine his amazement when after about a minute the tick leapt off me.  Maybe it was dizzy with all the whirling although I don’t think ticks have ears so that can’t be right.  Or maybe it just didn’t like the sensation of being whirled but whatever it was, it jumped leaving no bits of itself in me although it had made a crater in my skin to sup my sanguine fluid out.  Which is extremely rude for an uninvited guest.

And to prove the point that we weren’t fantasizing, two days later I got another one (purely in the interests of research you will understand) and the people did the same trick again and after about a minute it simply flung itself off me.

Daddy put the  tick  into a pot full of something called Gin and covered it with clingfilm.  Mummy says Gin is  also called mothers ruin – well it ruined this mother.  After several days it was very definitely a dead tick.  I don’t know if it was helplessly drunk before it’s demise – I am not that well acquainted with tick habits and I don’t intend to enlighten myself further.

The day after the first tick was removed my daddy rang my mummy and said he was going to the hospital.  He had removed a tick from himself after a run and left it wrapped in paper in a freezer bag in the kitchen.  His work people told him not to take any chances.  He asked mummy to take a picture and send it to him so the hospital could identify it.  I don’t really understand how they do these things – I just know how to pose for pictures and I know it makes them smile so I have become something of an expert at it because it usually generates pats and treats.

Daddy’s tick was a Deer Tick.  My tick was a North American Dog Tick.  I think this is a bad name because clearly no North American dog actually wants to be associated with these vile beasties.  They steal our blood.   Deer ticks carry Lyme Disease.  This is a very bad disease and it can kill people.  It can also affect dogs.   My daddy is fine because the hospital gave him antibiotics but he did have the start of a bullseye blemish where it had started to bite him.  This is a sign that the tick is infectious.

 

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Deer Tick

My people now spray themselves with DEET and their clothes too.  They went to the hunting store to get some.  The hunting store is full of stuffed animals.  I did not go with them.  I do not want to be stuffed.  They also annointed me with anti-tick drops which last a month.  I despise these.  I have them inflicted on me in France where my Vet refuses to believe that they hurt me very badly.  Because I can’t talk human (though I bark very eloquently if you speak dog) I can’t explain what the problem is and they say that my skin doesn’t have any signs of anything bad.  But I really really NO like.  I try extremely hard to rub the stuff off.  Therefore, they used trickery by getting me in the car (which I love), taking me to the running trail (which I love) and with my guard down they squoze it on me and then took me for a long, reasonably fast, run.  Each time I tried to roll they distracted me and by the time I got back I was so tired I had forgotten it.  Until next month.  Sometimes being a dog is very very hard.  This is why I have to have a cupboard full of snacks.  Because my life is tough.  It’s a dogs life ….

PS:  The title is from one of my mummy’s favourite childhood songs – Burl Ives ‘The Ugly Bug Ball’.  Interestingly even the bugs seem not to have invited ticks to the party ….

 

Whether they had one or not, upon thars

These cows are blended cows.  Not cows that have been put in a blender – that would be grisly and hopefully illegal.  These are half and halfs and the palest are known as jaunes (yellows).  The ancient cow of Cantal is the Salers.  They were originally black and you still find blacks amongst them.  They are celebrated and fêted and look as though they have migrated from Spain to avoid being Matador fodder.  The more familiar Salers these days is a ruddy red – deep auburn and hardy.  And pronged with splendid Harley Davidson handlebar horns.  They are emblematic of their place.  Their rich creamy milk goes to make the many cheeses for which the region is renowned – most commonly Salers itself, the ubiquitous Cantal, St Nectaire and  Bleu d’Auvergne.  Their meat is prized in the region and in Paris too – in fact if you visit the Cinquieme Arrondissment you will find that in addition to being the Latin quarter it is also a veritable hive of restaurants specialising in produce from Cantal including wonderful dishes based on Salers beef and veal.  These cows are bovine A-listers in our locale.  But some farmers,  breed them with the great white  Charolais, themselves beef royalty the world over.  This breeding produces the yellows.  They too are prized – their meat is sublime and the price is good.  It is called progress by some, meanwhile the purists  frown.   I stand neutral.  I’m not a farmer, not a native of Cantal and have no right whatsoever to judge.  I just  love cows.  I find them to be rather harmonious creatures.  So they seem appropriate sitting in their stunning landscape under a rudely blue sky on December 28th last year as my illustration of Harmony the word named as prompt this week for the Weekly Photo Challenge.   I think you will agree that the panarama too is pretty easy on the eye – the grassy Plateau de Limon looking  across to the Cèzallier mountains beyond and in between the snail like crater of one of the numerous volcanoes that gave the region it’s personality all those aeons ago.

But wait!  There is one thing  – if you look at the foreground you will see diggings.  Not the minings of moles but mole rat shovellings  … these pesky rodents have multiplied alarmingly in Cantal in the very recent past and they have become a tremendous nuisance.  The question is can we live harmoniously with these critters or should steps be taken to eradicate them?  I’ll leave you to ponder the damage they do to this wholly agricultural territory versus their right to peaceful occupation.

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PS:  The title is from The Sneetches by Dr Seuss, a story of creatures identical in every way to one another except for the stars on the bellies of the entitled ones … the moral is elementary – after all what hope have we of saving the planet if we can’t co-exist with our own without dwelling on what they have or have not upon thars!