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Posts tagged ‘Mountains’

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!

You set my soul alight

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a Muse in the wardrobe.  A little creature that is hard-wired to your inner creative that you can take off its hanger and plug in to waft around your space like a visionary air freshener,  inspiring as you respire making the process of conceiving and forming as easy as pie.  Failing that, I suppose we all have a mechanism that works in a sort of a way and for me the sort of a Muse is generally a mountain or some water.  Up at 7,000 feet plus in the pre-Alps of the Belledonne mountains above Grenoble you find lakes.  The ones in the picture are called les Lacs Roberts.  Align them to a perfect sky (note the sticky candy clouds in the otherwise perfect blue – imperfection is perfection I always feel)  and something in me soars and sparkles and I feel the inspiration bubble.  Whether it makes any sense to anyone else or whether it is just garbled rubbish is neither here nor there – the fact is that my soul is free and light.  It’s a start.

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PS:  The title is from a song called Supermassive Black Hole …. My husband is another sort of muse for me though I don’t keep him in a wardrobe on a hanger – he of the two brains who has been working to get the first images of M87 a common or garden supermassive black hole and looks to the stars for his muse (when he’ not looking to me of course!)  The song is by The Muse … it amused me.  Here is is:

Many more fine interpretations for the weekly photo challenge entitled Muse can be found here

What good is the warmth of summer

Living where I do, the winters are measured on a scale of cold to bitterly cold but when the sun shines, no matter what the actual temperature I feel warmed.  This picture was taken on a cold day in early Spring when our breath froze as it hit the air, the trees were bare of leaves and the snow still iced the high peaks ahead of us.  And yet I feel its warmth and as John Steinbeck said ‘what good is the warmth of summer without the cold of winter to give it sweetness’.

So there you have it, my offering for The Weekly Photo Challenge entitled Warmth.

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And we were young

Gone but not forgotten  – the Weekly Photo Challenge.  In this Centenary year, a memorial to the Great War dead of the little Commune of Lugarde, high up in Cezallier, Cantal keeps watch in all weathers.   The names, too many, cut down when they were young.  Gone, they can’t return but we can remember them.

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The title is from A E Housman’s Here Dead We Lie:

Here dead we lie
Because we did not choose
To live and shame the land
From which we sprung.

Life, to be sure,
Is nothing much to lose,
But young men think it is,
And we were young.

Sounds like a whisper ….

When I was at school I learned French. In fact I began learning at the age of 8 in Mrs Noble’s class. Mrs Noble liked me, having despised my older brother (the loathing was mutual). Given that I generally hated my brother (also mutual and absolutely compulsory at the ages we were), I loved Mrs Noble, which might have been why she liked me. Life is like that. We tend to like those that love us. Unless they are insane stalkers.  But that really is another story.

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I adored the sounds of the words and I enjoyed learning. At secondary school I was, to be fair, generally mediocre at the grammar and indeed only actually began to make friends with conjugating after moving here in September last year. But I perfected my accent and frankly I was waiting for the call to star in the remake of 80s sitcom ‘Allo ‘Allo. I listened to Jane Birkin breathing her way through Je t’aime  and wanted to BE her.

Adulthood and a cheese business that took me back and forth to Paris to the gastronomic chaos that is Rungis Market.  Ad hoc travels to Provence, Normandy, The Auvergne in search of the perfect morceau to bear triumphantly back to Berkshire in the overstuffed boot of our car and present to our customers who would sigh in ecstasy and run home to devour their new best friend with gusto and self-congratulatory glee that they had found this ‘maaaarvlus little place’ which sold all things French-Cheese without their having to bother at all with la manche.

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During all this time, I listened French. I loved the sound. Compare the way that airport is said in English – two clipped syllables uttered in a reasoned monotone – with the same word in French. L’aeroport. The aer has the lightness of a soufflé and that for me is French. That for me defines what I adore about the language. Of course regionally and even more microscopically the way words are pronounced, the way sentences are constructed, varies. Standard French, the same as BBC English is not the standard at all. My radio station of choice when out in my car and indeed in my home, now that I have discovered the joys of listening on-line to the wireless, is RBA 104.4 Bort les Orgues. The main reason for my slavish devotion is the woman I know as ‘Over Enunciating Announcer Lady’. She is bliss. When she does her petits annonces I am captivated by her emphasis. ‘PerDU, un beagLE tricoloooooR a Bort les OrgUH’ or even more deliciously the moment when behind the wheel shortly before Christmas I heard her utter ‘Soob Millie Mettre aRAY ….. a Champs sur TarentaiNUH’ and realized it was a shout out for The Husband with Two Brains’ presentation on trous noirs and his observatory in Hawaii. Her fabulous iteration gilds my days and she has unwittingly helped my French from stuttering to fluttering over the last six months.

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That moment driving to Lyon in April when I realized the strange sensation I was experiencing was seeing Spring burst forth to greet me with its bumptious greens and yellows and pinks and whites and mauves in great swathes before my eyes is replicated in my sudden ability to assimilate and respond to a barrage of French with relative ease. But even in areas with harsher tones the words have elegance to me. Somehow Tortue sounds so much more evocative than Tortoise particularly if you can perfect that mysterious swallowed ‘r’ that the French absorb by osmosis in order to bewitch dull English girls like me later in life.

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I have lived in Italy and speak decent Italian, I learned Russian for six years at school but for me French is candied grace and refinement. If it were a scent it would be captured in a bottle made of a glass so fragile that you would think it was a bubble. Even in Cantal where we live. THAT Cantal recently described as le trou (the hole) by a friend in Grenoble … repeat after me. – Non, il est pas le trou! It isn’t. Fact. But that is not what we are talking about here and despite being innately discursive I am determined to stay en piste for this moment. No. Say Grenoble. Gren. Oble. Now say it with a French accent (it is after all French). Can you hear the chicly swallowed G? The way the ble whispers away at the end? That’s French. I speak it comme une vache espagnole but I hear it fluently. And it is music in my ears.

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PS: My title is taken from a song by the brilliant Tracy Chapman. She was Talkin’ Bout a Revolution – something else the French do rather well ….

It should be noted that this piece was originally written for a writing competition … it didn’t make the cut but I rather felt it worthy of a place here nonetheless …. you are free to agree or disagree or remain Swiss and neutral.  And the photographs of mountains?  For me learning the language is like walking in the mountains: sometimes the climbs seem endless and the struggle never ending, you feel you won’t ever reach the top, you feel the task impossible but when you turn the corner on the path and take stock of how far you have climbed and breath the air and survey that vista, the effort evaporates.  And  aside from that, I simply love them.