It was hot and sunny and we were walking a walk that I had tried in the last gasps winter but the waymarks simply stopped – trees felled or fallen … it happens. The Bean and I, that day in the snow decided to call it a day, even though it meant a near vertical scramble back down what is in fact the edge of an ancient (no seriously, it’s 10th century ancient) quarry to the car. That had been March. Now in July we determined to find the main event – 10th century cottage remains … their owners driven out by the plague it is thought. The plague – up here where the air is clean …it makes you think! In the hot sunshine this beauteous butterfly did aerobatics thence alighting and sunning its stunning wings and then again making a beeline for my exposed skin and delighting in intruding. It hurt by the way. But I didn’t flinch … such an up close and personal experience with so etherial a creature who would be dead by dawn was an unmissable feast … I hope it was good for flutterby too.
PS: Shortly after the picture was taken and for the next 2 hours straight as we walked, the heavens opened in a deluge of biblical proportions and we were quite literally drenched to the skin. I wonder about what butterflies do in the rain. Just a ponder. The cottage ruins were worth it incidentally despite the fact that visibility was practically zero. Just walking in a place that was a community a thousand plus years ago and seemingly wiped out in a whisper of invisible venom made me shiver far more than the saturating rain ever could.
The title is swiped from a 1996 movie starring Robert Redford and Michelle Pfeiffer which I loved and am reminded to seek out again
Here is The Bean demonstrating the joy of being outside in uninterrupted open space. The grass tickles her underside, the sun beats down on her topside and she is solitary except for the necessary human behind the camera capturing her off-season delight at a mountain to herself. This was June last year but here it is mostly off-season
In the high range of extinct volcanos that spirals upwards to its climax at the Plomb du Cantal, July and August bring all manner of tourists. Hikers, bikers (those using their own pedalling power and those with petrol horses between their leathered thighs), caravaners, motorists and wanderers. For a couple of months it is difficult to get around without coming face to face with far too many bothersomes for my liking. I’m a bit schitzophrenic about tourism to be honest – I want it and encourage it because I want the region to thrive but I detest it because I have the soul of a hermit.
It’s a family trait – I remember well a holiday in Scotland. We normally went on that unseasonal cusp between Winter and Spring, but for some reason, this particular year, the sharabang north happened in August. We went to the gloriously named and, as it turns out, hugely popular, Trossocks. Each day my father got us out of bed earlier and earlier in the morning and drove us hell-for-leather to avoid the ‘wagons ho!’ of caravans in convoys sometimes hundreds long winding relentlessly towards whatever beauty spot had been picked by one of them and seemingly passed on to all the others by osmosis and which always seemed to coincide with whatever the parents had planned for our day out. From our hotel. In our estate car. With no caravan. We had no caravan. We did not WANT a caravan. The wagoners seemed quite happy to chug along nose to tail. We werent. Selfishly we preferred the wilderness to ourselves and would park the car and stride or, more accurately scramble for those of us on more juvenile, less emphatic legs, penetrating deeper and further into the hills through prickly heather and crunchy bracken and the odd morass of unsolicited bog, each day dragging our picnic bags and groundsheets and rugs to happily enjoy some family isolation. Every day, every SINGLE day at around 1 o’clock my father would bellow ‘bloody hell!’ as he spotted life trudging towards us. We seemed to magnetically attract others. I think the truth was that no-one else shared our desire to just BE in unperturbed nature without the company of strangers who, though Blanche Dubois took such comfort in the kindness of, sometimes, indeed mostly, one could not stand to be near. I haven’t changed.
PS: The poetry lovers amongst you will have spotted that the title is stolen from The Lord Byron ‘I love not man the less, but nature more’ from There is Pleasure in The Pathless Woods which, albeit referencing the seashore and woodlands rather than mountains, pretty much captures my attitude perfectly.
I didn’t celebrate le fete de St Valentin this year. Actually, I don’t ever celebrate it. I always understood it was for wannabe lovers to declare their interest (anonymously) by the sending of a card or a gift to the object of their desire. At school, a post box was positioned in the foyer and we could pay 5p to post a card which would then be delivered on the big day to the classroom of your crush. You could send as many as you wanted, so some (admitedly including ever-hopeful me) would hedge their bets, all unsigned, the handwriting disguised and finished with a flourishing and mysterious X. On the day, the cards would be delivered by a crack team of first years and I would affect nonchalance when year after year there was no card in the pile for me.
Clock forward all these decades and Two Brains is my Valentine every day. Last summer we walked a glorious walk in the Cezallier to a little Chapel, originally built in the 13th century high high on a rocky outcrop looking over the Vallée de la Santoire and the Plateau du Limon. Battered by the elements it was in a sorry state when in the 19th Century it was entirely rebuilt but houses a bell dating from the mid 1600s and a confessional of similar age and a truly resilient Madonna dating with the original chapel. And the name of this lovely place – La Chappelle de St Valentine, naturally.
PS: The Victorians started another tradition which remained popular until the mid-20th Century. The Vinegar Card was basically a chance to wittily, waspishly, waggishly and entirely socially acceptably slanderously rebuff, dismiss and humiliate the recipient. I’m not ashamed to admit that in the past I could have sent one or two ….