In villages all over the world bells mark time. They mark the hours, often the half hours and even the quarter hours through the day and sometimes throughout the night. They call to prayer, they toll for the dead, they ring out joyously the news that two people are wed. They sound their eccastic pleasure on Christmas morning and in France they are silent from Good Friday til they sound sonorously, building slowly, softly, increasingly exuberantly on Easter Sunday. After they have flown to Rome to be blessed and have dropped their goodies for the worthy on their flight home, of course. Here in my village we have eight-til-late bells tolling out the hours and giving a single bong for the half hour. I rather think I know their secret – shhh, don’t tell but … they are mechanised. However a human person, possibly the Priest himself rings the bells for Mass. He’s a dashing figure who wears his Catholic robes with a panache that the kings of couture would applaud on the catwalk. He is also quite clearly tone deaf and devoid of any rhythmn. A far cry from the rehearsed peels of my village church in England. That was melodious this is frankly cacophonous.
Church bells to me are the soundtrack of ordinary life. They mark out that rhythm that man has lived to for centuries. It matters not whether you are part of the Church. It matters not, indeed whether you have any religious faith. The bells provide the backdrop to life itself.
My birthday is at the end of September. My youngest daughter came to stay for a week and wanted to take me for lunch. Her treat. This is a HUGE deal when the daughter in question is a student. We drove to Brioude. Its a town I have wanted to explore for a long while, just over the border in the Haute Loire (also part of the Auvergne Region). We had very delicious lunch and then walked in the rather insistent mizzle that marked my birthday out from the WHOLE of the rest of the sunshiney month. We heard the bells of the Basillica and we knew instantly from their sober tone that they were marking a funeral. No-one needed to tell us to be quiet as we passed the building, the bells did it for us. And somehow, those bells wrapped us for a moment in the huddled sadness of the group waiting to greet their loss for the last time. Brought us to a halt, illicited respect. Yes, bells are the soundtrack to ordinary life and that soundtrack is played in simple notes that mortals simply recognise and divine.
These bells are in Sainte-Anastasie in the Cezallier Cantallien. They sit in a fine clocher-peigne which for non French speakers translates as a ‘bell comb’. It describes perfectly the open structure that prettily suspends the bells rather using than a tower to house them.
PS: Zuzu, George Bailey’s ‘little ginger snap’ is quoted in the title … at the end of the magic that is Frank Capra’s ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ squeezed tight by her daddy whose Guardian Angel (second class), Clarence has literally been his salvation she tells him this fact. Her teacher told her so ….
This piece was originally written two years ago, in response to The Daily Press weekly photo challenge (Extra)Ordinary – all other entries are here
Given the title Half and Half for this week’s photo challenge I immediately thought of The Bean. She’s half Jack Russell and half Chihuahua – a feisty combination particularly if you are a rat since both breeds are bred fundementally for snapping and trapping rodents. I get asked all the time what she is. I could answer ‘une croix’ which means a cross but the correct expression is la moitié x and la moitié y which means half x and half y. I learned this from the delightful middle child of friends of ours. He must have been 6 at the time and it was a relief not to have a poo-related conversation. This particular evening he fired moitiers at us all and we had to act them out. I thank him for the half fish-half hippo, half dragon-half horse, half raptor-half mouse etc etc because it really really helped my French. With his growly childish slightly lisping voice it has taken a while to tune my lame ear in but he and his beautiful siblings are always forgiving of this apparition of a lady who speaks French like a two year old. Middle child also happens to adore The Bean despite the fact that she once bit his nose. She has no idea how lucky she is. But I know how lucky I am to know, love and be loved by the three of them.
Here comes The Bean, running back from a shady ditch to jump in the car for the obligatory post walk drink, served from her bespoke bowl made from the bottom of a small mineral water bottle, and a treat from her personal supply kept replenished in the car at all times. As you can see from her tongue she was a hot dog … a condition she has had to get used to these last few weeks as we boil and frizzle in France. The picture is a little blurry – life here is a little blurry in the heat but it sort of seems to fit the challenge in that she is half the frame – give me some licence here, please!
PS: Do I wish I had a million dollars (or whatever inflation has done to the million since George Bailey exuberantly made his wish in 1946) … not really – give me the love of beautiful children, my tiny Hot Dog and HB², the place I adore, and I feel as I do – the richest poor girl in the whole wide wonderful world.
In my quest for discipline and structure I have now decided to join the Weekly Writing Challenge. This week, by the skin of my teeth the subject is Irony.
Let me tell you about the duvet situation – We have one of those adaptable popper-together-clever duvets. It means we can sleep comfortably in all seasons. I bought it when I lived in a balistically cold farmhouse and winter set in. It is stuffed with Hungarian goose down which makes it light and pliable to snuggle into. When we moved here it was summer so we put the lightweight cover on our bed and the heavier one on the guest bed (it is the only duvet we possess and of course we intended to buy another but so far … well, so far, we haven’t). Now we are entering our second winter and winter is winter here in Le Cantal. Snow is guaranteed above 700 metres and we expect some by the end of this month. But guess what? The winter duvet remains on the guest bed (and we expect guests during the winter) and the summer one is on our bed meaning that my night attire is less allure and more velour. The siren Two Brains married only 16 months ago is a distant memory as I pore longingly over catalogues of thermal bedsocks.
The duvet dilemma got me to thinking about things that people will consider normal but which are infact ridiculously ironic. For instance that dinner service. The expensive one you lusted over – perhaps your friends and relatives gave you pieces as wedding presents or perhaps you treated yourself and knocked a hole in your bank balance which took a long time to mend just because you could and you wanted to. Either way, it sits in the cupboard to maybe come out for high days and holidays whilst you use the cheap stuff which you don’t like so well, doesn’t match and doesn’t send that little thrill through you when you look at it. Or your best shoes – the ones that you only wear for hatchings, matchings and despatchings and are scuff free as a result of never having been worn but for the same reason are acutely uncomfortable and when you do put them on you crave, after a while, the old pair that is falling apart but which actually fits your foot like a foot-glove.
Now, before you think I am insulting your intelligence, let me tell you that I have the most wonderful example of irony straight from house of Two Brains. Settled? Let me begin.
There is a special place in Hawaii where there are many observatories. It’s called Mauna Kea. It’s a volcano and it divides the ‘Big Island’ into sunny side and rainy side. The air is clear and bright and the stars, well the stars shine like you will probably never see them shine, even in a heavenly place like Cantal which is also clear and bright but just not so high and mighty. One of the observatories is the SMA (Submillimetre Array) and Two Brains is its Director. Some while ago the combined boffin power of the force that drives the SMA decided to invest in a new Receiver Set – one to be put in each antennae (there are 8).
These receivers would work at the shortest wavelengths. They were cruelly expensive, costing the sum total of all the other Receivers used in the Array combined. But cruel as the cost was, the atmosphere is crueller – it turns out that the shorter the wavelengths the more signals are absorbed except in a totally crystal clear atmosphere – and that, as Clever Hans would tell you is like finding a needle in a haystack – possible but not at all probable. They tried and tried and in the end, after much head scratching they decided to let go. So the most money was spent on the most useless equipment. And if that isn’t ironic I don’t know what is. But let’s face it – for us mere mortals who beat ourselves up about spending too much on a food mixer only to find that a hand whisk is just as functional and less time consuming to put together and wash, it’s a teeny bit heartening too.
PS: The title comes from my favourite movie ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ … “You want the moon, Mary – just say the word and I’ll throw a lasso around it” – amongst all the ironies in my life the real irony is that it is wonderful when I care to stop and look …
<a href="http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_writing_challenge/oh-the-irony/">Oh, The Irony</a>
This is where I say thank you to the lovely Bendilyn Bach, writer of a blog that I read and unfailingly enjoy, by the name of ‘Loving a Frenchman’. I’m saying thank you to Bendilyn not just for writing words that never fail to please me, for making me smile or think or both but also for nominating me for a Liebster Award. The Liebster, as you may have found out on your blogly travels is a way of paying it forward and saying ‘take a look’. The formula is simple – I now answer the questions Bendilyn set for me and her other nominees and then I nominate 11 Blogs which I love for the award and ask them 11 questions which they in turn answer. I have laid out the rules below. And in case you missed what I said THANKYOU BENDILYN!
- Thank the person who nominated you for a Liebster Award and link their blog to your post.
- Answer the 11 questions they’ve asked you.
- Nominate 11 bloggers who have 200 followers or fewer for the award.
- Ask 11 questions to your nominees.
- Let your nominees know you nominated them once you’ve posted about your Liebster Award.
- Add the Liebster Award badge to your blog!
The questions asked by Loving a Frenchman and my answers:
- Why write?
Because it needs to come out
- What is one item on your bucket list?
To drive an ice truck
- What historical figure would you most like to meet?
- Favorite book.
Le Petit Prince, Antoine de St Exupery
- Favorite movie.
It’s A Wonderful Life
- Favorite song.
How Can I Tell You, Cat Stevens
- What is your biggest regret?
I don’t have them – no rear view mirror or I would eat myself up with guilt and remorse
- What will you never do?
Knowingly eat Andouillette (the dish of death)
- Dogs or cats?
Dogs (but I don’t hate cats)
- Whom do you admire? Why?
The Queen (though I am not a Royalist) – she has the most difficult job, had no choice as to whether to take it and has carried it out for decades with dignity and aplomb
- What can we do to make the world a better place?
Drum roll …. my nominees are:
- The Mindful Expat … I love this blog written by an American Psychologist who, for the love of a French Engineer has found herself in Lyon
- 750 Metres …. the husband of another blogger I follow and love (La Petite Maison Bijoux) writes about gardening in Haute Loire at altitude – lovely pictures and clean, clear script make this a favourite
- Ditzy and Disapproving … the new kid on the blog this is a funny irreverent blog which alternates between the Dizzy lover of all things and the grumpy old woman in the making. The author to my certain knowledge is 24!
- No Blog Intended … another young woman blogging about life in Belgium and the aspiration to study in Russia
- Carls Crafty Kitchen is my favourite food blog …. Carl is a wonderful cook, a great raconteur and a closet comedian
- Create and Consult … Peronel Barnes is a very talented artist and a very smart business woman – her words are worth reading
- Femme au Foyer ... the writer lived in Clermont Ferrand capital of The Auvergne, France with her husband and tiny children and is now back home in the USA with the same husband and an extra even tinier child … this is a warm and lovely journal
- Diving for Pearls – the blog of a one time professional photographer who makes you wonder at her skill and long for her to be professional again. She blogs in a wonderfully conversational way about creating and creativity and peppers her site with the most beautiful photographed images.
- Michael Gordon online is all about the healthier way to be – from barleygrass to magnets, Michael covers it all. And water. And as a BOGOF Michael is an independent celebrant whose other blog Vows that Wow is a great introduction to the alternative means to a baby naming, a wedding or a funeral.
- Living in Light – Bobbi Kumari is the lightest brightest of shiny stars and her fashion designs are wonderful. That she is a Christian underpins her work, her life and her writing.
- The Politics of it All – Another bright young thing – this time Alfie Lambert … smart, contentious and articulate his writing never fails to prick my grey cells in a good way
And here are my questions to the nominees:
- Why should people read what you write?
- Fruit or cake?
- What is success?
- Advice to your 14 year old self
- Favourite place on earth
- Pictures or words?
- If you could spend an afternoon with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?
- First love
- Town or country?
- The greatest invention of the last 100 years
- What is content?
If blogging be the food of life, write on 😉
PS: The title says I would like to dedicate this award to and I do dedicate this award to my husband (he of the Two Brains) and The Bean. One got me through the early days of being alone in the deepest depths of a foreign land and the other makes me a better person – I’ll leave it to you to work out which is which ….