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Posts tagged ‘Snow’

Those that keep silence, suffer more

This year my husband and I agreed to spend Christmas apart. Fear not, this is no dramatic announcement of impending divorce, but rather a reflection on the bloated airfares during the season of goodwill. In due time, I will tell of why we presently live one on either side of the Atlantic Ocean, but for now I will keep my council. It was my very own idea and I feel that it was a worthy protest, though I imagine it was inconsequential to the point of silence to those responsible for pumping up the prices with such unfettered glee.

Unwilling to risk being peeved by my own decision, I settled on a different solution to the celebrations than sitting in solitary splendour brooding over a meal for one all the while being eyed meaningfully by The Beady Greedy Bean.

In France, as in many other countries, la veille de Noël (Christmas Eve) is traditionally the biggest celebration. A large and lengthy meal with your loved ones culminates in the stealthy arrival of Père Noël (insert your own word for the snowy bearded wonder with grandeose paunch and snazzy white fur-trimmed scarlet suit) who soundlessly leaves gifts around midnight. It is a time of great joy and festivity for most but for others, to many others, it is a sad, solitary night, a time to dwell on past pleasures and the knowledge that there is little solace in the idea that the sun will rise again on the morrow. I speak of the old and alone. Those whom, for whatever reason, have no-one to care for them, those that subsist on tiny incomes and those that tend to be invisible to the masses. So I signed up to assist the Big Christmas Eve dinner laid on by a wondrous charity called Les Petits Frères des Pauvres. Translated as ‘Little Brothers of The Poor’ you may recognise the international federation it belongs to. If you don’t, I urge you to check it out for yourself. If you feel so inclined.

Donning the compulsary Bonnet de Père Noël, but fortunately no beard nor plumping suit, I had three seniors to collect from their homes, because I had also volunteered my car named Franck. I had one gregarious gentleman (aged a twinkling 98 if you please) and two lovely ladies (87 and 89 respectively). I delivered them to the venue, parked Franck and then joined the, incidentally mostly millennial, gang to serve dinner, play games, sing songs and greet Père Noël bearing gifts at midnight. Before we started and after we had seated our table after table of venerable guests there was a silence to remember those who fell serving in the Résistance. Grenoble is one of three cities and two villages awarded the Ordre de La Libération at the end of The Second World War and it is hard to describe how moving it was, that moment of respect standing head bowed amongst those who were directly touched by the indescribable bravery of those who refused to be cowed.

It was 2 a.m when I finally took my exhuberant and energetic charges home to their still silent dwellings. We had sung songs I knew and others I didn’t, played games that had to be explained to me and others that were comfortingly familiar and danced polkas they foot-perfect, I flat-footed. I feel tremendously priviliged to have been allowed to join in and to give beaming cheer where otherwise there would have been the bitter chill of loneliness in a world that too often scurries past rather than observing, for a moment, and perhaps acknowledging that, if we are deserving of conviviality and gaety and levity and simple companionship, then they surely are too. The waning years of human life should not label the bearer untouchable and past your sell-by date and fit to be cast into a metaphoric bin as though your odour is no longer tolerable.

I was motivated to share this moment by the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge labelled ‘Silence’ and as ever you can view, if you feel disposed to, the far more meritorious entries to the gallery here.

The picture was taken in Massachusetts in February 2016. Of course the United States has seen far more than it’s share of snow this winter season and the fat lady is not ready for the final song yet. I imagine, amongst all the chaos and hardship such weather induces, there has been that sense of muffled stillness that snow produces. That softly muted quiet that I love. Because silence can certainly be golden. It can also be heartbreakingly heavy.

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PS: The title is taken from C S Lewis that wisest, gentlest most considered of scolars. He said ‘I have learned now that while those that speak out about their misery usually hurt, those who keep silence hurt more’ … I recommend to everyone that, apart from the ‘Chronicles of Narnia’, you should read his work more widely and that his letters, published in several volumes to the many he corresponded with contain much wisdom, whatever your beliefs or views on faith and spirituality. That aside, I did, of course that morning in the woods, feel that I had stepped into the kingdom of Narnia.

There is a second part to my Christmas which I will chronicle separately in due course

And your bonus: The Tremeloes singing ‘Silence is Golden’. Although Frankie Valley and his Four Seasons recorded it first, this is the version as an English girl that I remember best.

The road less traveled by

This Eve of Christmas I wish you all a peaceful and joyous festive season and the hope that whatever path you choose from here that it may bring you to the best of all things yet to come in your life.
My picture, taken in the woods near home in Massachusetts reminds me of the wisdom of Robert Frost and fit’s perfectly, at least in my opinion, the photo challenge set by WordPress this week titled ‘Path’ … if you are twiddling your thumbs for a moment you might like to take a look at the full gallery of beauteous entires here
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And PS:  I have  tended to opt for the road not taken in my own life and it has made a difference which others will doubtless take pleasure in judging the value of.  And so,  living as I did this past year in Massachusetts which, though not the birthplace was the home and deathplace of Robert Frost, this poem which has been tucked snugly in my heart for as long as I can remember, seems appropriate to share with you as we all gently propel through the holiday season and towards the New Year.
‘The Road Not Taken’
Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

The minute his heart didn’t feel quite so tight

As previously noted I am fresh and frisky from celebrating my first Thanksgiving.  To mark this momentous, and possibly newsworthy occasion I set about making a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner.  I like the idea of Thanksgiving and would be very happy if more nations adopted the notion.  Pondering, however fleetingly to reflect on what one has to be thankful for can never be a bad thing, surely?   After one of the most epic Googlings of all time I concluded that this year I would be cooking two turkeys in the space of a month and a day because it is unforgiveable to not serve turkey for Thanksgiving and equally de trop to forsake the fowl for Christmas in  England where we will be celebrating this year.  Having settled on what I thought would be a good enough array of trimmings to sink a dry-docked battleship and simultaneously feed the navy on the leftovers I set about the bird.  The fact is that I have never ever been knowingly under-catered and being in this land of the copious plateful  it surely would be hugely rude to break my habit.

Turkey then.  The first challenge was to find one small enough for HB2 and I to eat on our own and not have the poor fellow (and The Bean who is NOT poor) gobbling nothing BUT Gobbler for the rest of November, the entire month of December and ad nauseum (potentially literally) beyond.  But find one I did and once I had apologised to it profusely and several times that it had not been pardoned by The President and instead had found itself in my poshed up paws, I brined it and roasted it exactly as I always do at Christmas. We don’t possess a roasting pan so we bought two disposable ones and cleverly fastened them together to form a sort of dutch oven with the aid of bulldog clips pinched from top secret paperwork Two Brains is working on.   The turkey was duly ready on time, The Bean had welded herself to the the oven door by the snout, intoxicated with the heady cooking aromas of a bird that weighed 1.5 times a Bean.  We lifted it onto its plate and one leg fell off. Fortunately my deft husband managed to snatch it in mid-air before it reached the shark-like jaws of the waiting Bean.  We managed to wedge the leg vaguely in it’s original position and if you didn’t look too closely it looked only slightly inebriated and wholly enticing.  I should own up that our own impending inebria helped this vision enormously.

Some while later and utterly turkey-comatose  we drowsily talked of Christmas.  For what sort of a Christmas would it be without a fine turkey bird bronzed and gleaming like a drumsticked Olympian God?  Well actually last year we were only three for the feast so we had guinea fowl and two years prior to that, our first married Christmas, and alone together in France, we  had a collective rush of blood to the head and opted for a fish.  A turbot in fact which we bore enthusiastically from the fish store on Christmas Eve, like Samuel Whiskers and Anna Maria preparing to set about the unfortunate Tom Kitten with suet and string. On Christmas Day  it occurred to us that we had not asked the chirpy girl on the fish counter to faire vider le poisson (to wit, gut the beauty) which would not be a problem for either of us except neither had the teeniest clue where a flat fish stashes it’s innards.  Hallelujah and pass the tambourine for Google …. a swift search revealed that they are, indeed not remotely where one would expect them to be.   Standing majestic and mighty  over the fish like Christopher Lee in role as a High Priest preparing to slaughter a virgin Two Brains plunged our sharpest knife from on high with lethal accuracy and our sharpest knife rebounded like a comedy rubber blade off it’s innocuous lily white skin as though it were a trampolene.  After a short pause I rather tentatively suggested scissors.  I’m not too humble to share that this was, frankly, a moment of genius.  The fish didn’t stand a chance against my snippers and I rather smugly and, may I say, with positively surgical dexterity, cut it open and  emptied it’s vital workings.  That complete, we stuffed the neat little cavity with herbs and citrus and stood reverently surveying it’s  buttered and lemoned and parsleyed allure … it had the air of a slightly macabre still-life …. strangely attractive (something I was once called by a drunk in  a friend’s living room and which I embraced as a compliment – one must cherish such delights from wherever they stem, I have always felt).  So there’s one personal myth burst … I have merrily told everyone over the years that Christmas isn’t Christmas without a turkey bird but clearly my tongue is forked …the truth is that two out of three of our most recent Christmas meals have been devoid of the indispensible gigantic fowl.

You might ask what has prompted this little sojourn into my various kitchens and indeed what value you have gained (except to know who to call if you ever need to gut a turbot or stick a stray leg back on a turkey) …. the answer lies in this week’s weekly photo challenge titled ‘It’s Not This Time of Year Without ….’ of which a cornucopia of sparkling entries here.

What can I not do without as I join the merry carnage that constitutes the season of goodwill and until this year was all about Christmas but now includes Thanksgiving too in my half-baked paradise?

Snow.  I absolutely must have snow.  Or at least I must hope it will snow.  And that is really what it is all about for me.  The notion and hope of decency and delight.  The idea that people can be kind to one another.  The concept that sharing is the right thing to do.  I have always included waifs and strays at my table.  And I always will.  Maybe in the run up to Christmas I will include a few of their stories.  Not because I have a trumpet to toot but because humble stories can speak to good hearts.  And because a humble story is where it all started ….

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PS:  The essential PS.  The title is from ‘How The Grinch Stole Christmas’ by the masterly Dr Seuss.  My third daughter can still recite it word perfectly having done it as her School Christmas Play at the age of 9 and her younger sister can recite it word perfectly because she sat in on all the rehearsals waiting for this inevitably late mummy to pant up the school drive to pick them both up.  The very end goes like this:

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!
"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store."
"Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!"
And what happened then? Well...in Whoville they say,
That the Grinch's small heart Grew three sizes that day!
And the minute his heart didn't feel quite so tight,
He whizzed with his load through the bright morning light,
And he brought back the toys! And the food for the feast!
And he, HE HIMSELF! The Grinch carved the roast beast!

This perfectly Christmassy image of snow covered holly was taken in Cantal.  In February.  Holly is called ‘houx’ in French (pronounced oo) which I always take every opportunity to say because it amuses me.


							

Won’t you join the dance?

Out walking on Saturday after a fresh tumble of damp sticky snow, we came across this ravishing creature.  It has the look  of a crustacean feeling its way across the sand and brought to mind instantly the creations of Dutch artist Theo Jansen  who creates fantastical kinetic sculptures which echo the most outlandish elements of beast, bird and bug.   Life imitating art as the photo challenge requests this week …

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PS:  As for me, I was in Wonderland with  Alice, listening intently and trying not to put a foot in the soup as the Mock Turtle tells the story of the beauteous Lobster Quadrille.  But try as I did, I couldn’t find a partner for this shrimp – perhaps I should join the dance – after all, it is what gave me the title.

 

A freshly fallen, silent shroud of snow

I think I may need to apologise.  I’m sure the prompt ‘Fresh’ is supposed to encourage me to find a perfect picture of Spring but to me it just had to be linked to the line from Paul Simon’s song.  Maybe I’m not quite there in terms of Spring … it tends to be very brief and sudden here, as I noted last April in my post ‘You can cut all the flowers…’  It’s barely marked at all before Summer, in all her verdent green and technicolour splendour, steals centre stage sometime in May.  We get flowers, of course but it isn’t the English Spring I was used to before moving here.  And the snow is still coming at us.  Not much – I admit this picture was taken in the last days of February but it just seems to fit so well … I love the bright relief that fresh snow lends a landscape.

The chapel is called Notre Dame de la Fonte Sainte and sits in the Pays de Gentiane at about 1230 metres.  It is a place of pilgrimige marked by many crosses on the road that leads to it,  almost as though the visitor should crawl on his bare hands and knees, wearing a hair shirt and do the stations of the cross.  We felt much like staggering pilgrims having ascended from St Hippolyte, gotten lost and trudged through over-knee snow.  The Bean was stoic, asking to be put down when Two Brains tried to assist her in the most challenging parts, so that she could snow-snorkel her Olympic finest through the fresh drifts.  A racketer that we met at the high-point was visibly disgusted that we were putting the little creature through this misery and it was only later that we realised the bornes were in fact strategically placed to view the Chapel below from.  Perhaps we should repent – I think that’s what the Catholics who built the place would bid us do but I’m afraid we just laughed and enjoyed the moment.  And the view of this little gem sitting in her fresh white heaven was surely worthy of every taxing step even though we had shunned the carefully sculpted viewpoints …..

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PS: The song is ‘I am a Rock’ and, like the voice of those lyrics, I seem to be rather wanting to wall myself in more than usual at the moment but I would like to say that in addition to ‘my books and my poetry to protect me’, I am hugely grateful for the support given by those that read my posts.  Thank you and I promise I will stop being gloomy Eeyore very soon.

Gorgeosity and yumyumyum

February was all about the snow here.  It came thick and thicker and The Bean snow-snorkelled through the soft stuff and danced niftily on the icy crusts of the more exposed drifts.  For me, it was the ministry of silly walks as I picked my way over the compacted stuff only to sink thigh high and have to heave my seemingly hulking form onwards (note to self … get some rackets).  We still have snow on the mountains, of course but it’s mostly gone lower down.  For now.  It’s only March and it may return.  The snow poles will stay where they are for several weeks more.  This picture was taken walking at Lac de la Cregut in a break between blizzards the vivid orange of the sign, all of a sudden given beauty by the monochrome pallet created by the snow and the sky, a lighter shade of grey before the clouds begin to tinge with yellow against pure lead ready for the next dump ….    DSCF0843You can see lots of other responses to the title ‘Orange’ in the weekly photo challenge just here

 

PS:   The title?  Anthony Burgess,  ‘A Clockwork Orange’ – slightly more than tenuous but I like it.
       
      

Still waters run deep

We have lots of volcanic lakes here (and ponds and bogs too which the brown signs declare with particular promise though to be frank they probably aren’t exactly dramatically arresting to the untrained eye – which includes mine.)  Lac de la Cregut is a favourite spot for a walk for The Bean, HB2 and I or just The Bean and I when we are sans les cerveaux (without The Brains).  This weekend Bean and I visited with daughter number one and the snow was deep – around knee on me and The Bean had to body surf in the deep tracks made by our cumbersome steps.  The lake is frozen – still, iced, mysterious in her winter slumber.  Still waters with secrets beneath.

This post is in response to The Daily Press weekly photo challenge titled Depth – you can see the collective creative brilliance of other bloggers here

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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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I used to be Snow White, but I drifted ….

Twinkle.  Nature twinkles all the time.  The water, rushing pell-mell over rocks, sparkles in the sun; the leaves dripping with frost gleem outrageously as my breath freezes in the early morning and the grass wet with dew glistens to greet me on warmer days.  But I love this line from Mae West, and we have snow on the high ground aplenty, and its nearly Christmas, and I’m dreaming.  So here is my picture of snow drifting, twinkling down to the Lac de la Cregut in December.

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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.