Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Weekly Photo Challenge’

I asked the faithful light

Diu absentia … long in absence I have been.  I make no apologies.  It’s just a bit of life in my life.  Nothing dramatic.  No imprisonment, no hospitalisation nothing really to write home about.  Nothing to write about.  Except write I will.  It’s what I do.  Potted and neatly in a nutshell I have been moving rather a lot these past two months – US to England, England to France, France to England, England to France – friends and relics (stet) and Christmas with my most loved.  In Grenoble a temporary tiny flatlet with a view of snow topped mountains and on February 1 moving all I own from the flat in Cantal that I persist in calling home because it’s where I feel home, to our permanent Grenoble place-until-summer.  And beautiful it is.  But more of that another time.

No shadows lurking in my cupboard, nothing to make me startle and stare wide-eyed in horror, just life and settling and I will give you more of it, I promise … much more.

Shadows and startling seem to be the order of things in this world just now.  I rather feel that people are having to wear their most politically correct attire for dread of offending someone.  Anyone!  But I have always been the gal to stick her head above the trench and get it picked off by a beady eyed sniper far away out of sight on the other side of no-man’s land.  So I have a commentary on the world at large.  It is unhappy, it is uncomfortable and it is unpalatable for many.  For many others it is hopeful because it has been increasingly uncomfortable and unpalatable these umpteen years and they desire that there will be green shoots which might give they and their loved ones a future in what has been their shiny world rusted and corroded to dust.  Whether I agree or disagree with either side is neither here nor there but I  give a gentle reminder that alongside it’s bolder, brasher brother ‘Greed’, that ‘Fear’ is the greatest eroder of hope, of decency, of love that we, as humans  have in our armoury of weapons of mass self-destruction.  Try not to be led by fear.  Try instead, to be led by love.  It is, after all la fête de St Valentin who was beaten, stoned and decapitated under the rule of Claudius because, put simply, he believed that young lovers should be allowed to choose to marry as Christians.  Choice.  That’s the thing old Valentine was about and he suffered a particularly appalling death for his conviction.  In 269 AD.  Please let me trust that we have evolved and progressed in almost 2,000 years.  Just please.

My picture, which shows a rather perfect half (insert favourite cheese) moon, sentinel above a stone tower whose keepers can’t make their minds up whether to restore it’s authentic stone or leave it suffocated by the corset of concrete rendered upon it some aeons ago by zealous betterers, taken in the last 10 days in Gieres, a pretty commune just outside Grenoble it is offered for this week’s photo challenge captioned ‘Shadow’ (you can find the glories of the entire gallery here) – the moon’s shadow may not be apparent but it is there and, I would postulate, is not alarming at all.

dscf0079

PS:  The title is taken from Cat Stevens’ (one of the enduring loves of my life) beautiful song ‘Moonshadow’.  Here are the lyrics and, as a bonus, a lovely clip of the man who stole a little of my heart in nineteen seventy-something singing it …. give them a read if you will – if I ever lose my mouth –  I won’t have to talk ….

Moonshadow

Oh, I’m bein’ followed by a moonshadow, moon shadow, moonshadow—
Leapin and hoppin’ on a moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow—

And if I ever lose my hands, lose my plough, lose my land,
Oh if I ever lose my hands, Oh if I won’t have to work no more.

And if I ever lose my eyes, if my colours all run dry,
Yes if I ever lose my eyes, Oh if I won’t have to cry no more.

Oh, I’m bein’ followed by a moonshadow, moon shadow, moonshadow—
Leapin and hoppin’ on a moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow—

And if I ever lose my legs, I won’t moan, and I won’t beg,
Yes if I ever lose my legs, Oh if I won’t have to walk no more.

And if I ever lose my mouth, all my teeth, north and south,
Yes if I ever lose my mouth, Oh if I won’t have to talk…

Did it take long to find me? I asked the faithful light.
Did it take long to find me? And are you gonna stay the night?

Cat Stevens

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
image
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.

Truly ‘t is a rare bird in the land

Those of you familiar with my nonsense will know that I refer to my spouse as The Husband with Two Brains or HB². But he has another moniker, one that arose when he wasn’t even in the same country as the protagonist, let alone the same room.

Some while ago, probably 6 months after I moved to France, I was taking coffee with Raymond (adopt French accent, for he is indeed a proud Frenchman). Raymond came into world of HB² quite by chance some 20 years ago. A knock on his office door, a frantic colleague needing help with someone he suspected to be a Frenchman who had appeared uninvited in the lab. Under gentle interrogation it transpired that Raymond had spent all his savings on a single air fare to New York in pursuit of an Astronomy Professor that he particularly admired. He being, at the time, a student and general helper at the Astronomy faculty in Nice. Picked up by the Police wandering aimlessly, he somehow persuaded them to put him on the Amtrak to Boston from where he found his way to Harvard and there the story brought him into my husband’s orbit. Struck by his tenacity, his extraordinary affinity with the night-sky, which is akin to the ancient astronomers who first mapped and tried to understand the world beyond our globe, and touched by his desire to learn, my husband took him in and found him work in his lab. Eighteen months later he returned to France to complete a degree having finally accepted that to be taken seriously in the world of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Cosmology and all the attendent highbrow orbits he fancied dabbling in, he must have a degree. Since that time, Raymond remains devoted to Two Brains and I would suggest with some reason.

Back to the café where I had enjoyed a coffee and a chat with the same Raymond and asked his advice. I was concerned about my husband at the time for reasons I now fail to remember – living lives separated by 3,000 miles nurtures anxiety, or at least that has been my experience. As we stood to say our au revoirs, Raymond clasped me by the shoulders and, as he faire les emphatic bises (the air-kiss-kiss we do in France but with supplementary vigour to impart fortitude), declared that my husband is really un cochon rouge – a red pig. I queried this with a smile intended to make me the fool and a gentle ‘quoi?’ and he repeated ‘il est un petit cochon rouge’ – so in fact not just any red pig , but a small red pig. My husband stands almost 6′ and though of light and lean frame is not one to ever be described as little, particularly in France where most men are of, let’s say more concise hauteur. Including Raymond. To be doubly belt and braces sure that I understood him Raymond then announced in English ‘he is a red pig, a small red pig’.

Later that evening on the phone to The Brains I asked him, having Googled colloquial, slang and vernacular French all afternoon in vain. I enquired in a roundabout Winnie the Pooh sort of casual way what calling someone un cochon rouge or indeed un petit cochon rouge might mean. The answer came back ‘red pig or little red pig’. So not helpful at all. Accordingly spurred by what had now become an obsessive need to understand, I made a full confession, including sharing my troubled mind over he who owns both brains and was subjected to a stunned and complete silence. The identical stunned silence it turned out that Raymond employed a few weeks later when asked what he had meant by calling The Brains a red pig. He claimed he had said ‘un petit cochon rose’ and meant that my husband is more sensitive than he lets on. Less macho, less girder-built. I can firmly report that he did NOT. No sir. Not. At. All. I heard him entirely distinctly and he called my husband a little RED pig. Of course it has stuck. It begged to and would have been dreadfully rude to ignore it.

Therefore, when staying in Boothbay Harbor, Maine as recommended by my blogging friend ‘The Weird Guy with a Dog’ whom I wholeheartedly urge you to check out, and confronted with this wingèd porcine outside a pretty store selling eccentric ironwork, I was minded to abduct it but made do with a photograph for now. I perfectly intend to own it when we have a house to put it on – after all who can resist such a wondrous hog, seemingly dancing in the air, gleeful cheeks a-puffing, perky ears a-flapping and that tail uplifted with such blithe abandon. Nothing at all like my husband but portraying perfectly the joie de vivre I suspect we all aspire to and with the added advantage of telling you which way the wind blows. It is a rapturous porker, a piggy I will dream of until I return to make it my very own. I was inclined to share this story by the Weekly Photo Challenge prompt this week ‘Rare’ – if it piques your interest, you can see a sensational selection of entries here.

DSCF7024

PS: The quote is Martin Luther, Priest, Scolar, questioner and reformer ‘A faithful and good servant is a real godsend; but truly ‘t is a rare bird in the land’. Raymond has been a good and faithful servant to The Brains these more than twenty years and as you will discover when I write more of him is surely one of the rarest of birds you will encounter in a lifetime. Actually Luther was uncommonly fond of his rare birds giving the accolade to wise princes and even more to upright ones. That would probably apply today though to politicians rather than princes, I would suggest.

A hungry dog believes in nothing but meat

Built by an enlightened reformist …. sorry?  Say that again!  You can’t seriously be saying that this place was built by an enlightened reformist?  Yup!  It is part of the Peterhof – Peter the Great’s Summer Palace which in modern terms is about an hour from the centre of St Petersburg (as the architect of its conception, birth and building modestly called it  and it remained until being renamed Leningrad and abruptly returned to its original name after Glasnost in the late 1980s).  St Petersburg was the icing on the bun of Peter’s vision.  He felled forests and built it as ‘The Venice of The North’ as a celebration of his victory in the war against Sweden.  I have noted before that you would if you could.  I’m honest enough to admit that I might ….

When I was raising my daughters I used to challenge them regularly when they asked for something they ‘needed’.  I used to ask them what they really and actually did need?  Mean wicked mother that I was, I started to gently confront them when they were about 3 years old.  Because from where I’m sitting what I really NEED is little.  I need enough food to fill my belly and no more.  I need shelter.  It can be as simple as you like but would ideally keep me warm in winter and cool in summer and would clearly vary according the climate I live in.  My body is my greatest gift and to have it functioning fully is preferable.  At the moment I have a rickety leg as a result of a foolish fall 4 weeks ago and I am learning how frustrating it is to NOT be able to move fluidly if at all.  Clothes on my back, shoes on my feet are probably a need.  And enough money to buy what I can’t grow or make myself.  Those are needs.  The rest – the car, the travel, the extensive wardrobe, the TV, the wireless, the CDs, the phone, the IT paraphenalia etcetera etcetera ad tedium – those are wants.  And I think it is extremely important to do an audit from time to time and remember what the difference is.  Call it a sanity check – call it a ticket to self-righteousness but I do believe it’s important.  Peter, THAT Great Peter, you see thought that this extraordinarily extravagent building (which is just a tiny wing  of one of his Palaces) was needed … I’d say it’s the icing on the cake, le cerise sur le gateau, the cherry on top which is why I’m having this little moment of pondering cherries because it happens to be the weekly photo challenge this week ‘The Cherry On Top’ and here you can see the rest of the entries, all wonderfully creative and worthy.

DSCF6362

PS:  The title – Chekhov’s ‘The Cherry Orchard’ (I would, wouldn’t I?) – one young intellectual (Pishtchik) to another (Trophimof) when talking of borrowing money  notes that just as all he can think of are bank balances and interest rates a hungry dog thinks of nothing but meat, a metaphor for single mindedness born of discontent … in this epoch the Chekhov generation of intellectuals were exchanging earnest views which led to  the discontent that in turn gave birth to  the Revolution of 1917 … I think we might do well to learn from that – after all that revolution led to a system of government that most in the ‘modern’ world believe to be unworkable.  It is also perhaps worth noting, given that the Cherry on the top of the photo for me is the modern Russian flag a-fluttering in front of the ludicrous affectation of the supposedly enlightened Peter, that the US, the UK and France all seem to be craving strong Government whilst simultaneously being afeared of the strong arm of Putin …. perhaps a return to understanding what we need as opposed to what we want is required.  Perhaps.

Good God (or The Devil) is in the detail

My home is in France.  I will reside in the USA until mid-October. My heart breaks for this place.  Of course my heart breaks for France.  It’s my status quo.  That my heart is breaking is hardly surprising.  Here, numerous lives wasted by guns.  In France, just about to lift it’s highest possible security alert after the abominable attacks last year, 84 literally mown down and numerous others injured many left in a life-threatening condition which you can seamlessly translate to ‘if they live they will have a steep slope to climb if they are ever to live a full life again’ in Nice on 14 July.  A bloodbath on 14 July in France, by the way, is akin to a massacre on 4 July in the USA..

And then there are those others.  The copious blood spilled in numerous locations which cannot have escaped your attention, lives exterminated, bagsfull maimed in other places.  None of it is justifiable to a reasonable person let alone a pacifist.  None of it is right to a rationalist let alone an  idealist.  All of it bids to erode my inate and possibly foolish optimism.  But I will not let awful un-lawful acts rule my life.  I will strive to find a way through.

How so?  How on earth? First I must comment that what happened in Nice is in all likelihood not a terrorist attack.  You can play with the semantics, of course and you can tell me that most nutters root back to religion, politics or any combination therein that feeds their sick souls but I don’t count that.  An organisation has taken the most half-hearted responsibility for the 19-tonne truck deliberately barrelling down le Promenade des Anglais just when it was bound to be full of revellers gathered for le Fête Nationale.  They were clearly going  to.  Fear bolsters up their macho resolve, so to claim responsibility is almost inevitable.  Some sort of tenous connection makes us all feel even more scared.  When I was growing up in England it was the IRA – any mention had us quivering in our boots, soiling our knickers and feeling very very insecure.  The world moves on.  Though I must say that I fear that the IRA never really went away.  And the recent British Brexit vote that narrowly resolved to leave the EU (or UE if you are French) will add fuel to that nicely  weakening fire.   So claims are made and responsibility often falsely attributed and we all quake and shake and wonder if we can really really go out of our front door safely and if our babies and their babies and their babies not even thought of are ever EVER going to be safe.

I put two notions to you.

The first is this.  We have become an increasingly tiny planet.  By this I do not mean that the world has physically shrunk from a big fat fully inflated and energetic basketball to a teeny weeny, possibly depressed  ping-pong ball but rather that we know what goes on in every crevice and we feel a part of it where once we did not.  Media and especially social media shout and scream at us even when we sleep – buzzing and bleeping and flashing that something is happening.  I remember Gerry Anderson’s ‘Thunderbirds’ – I remember those puppets being woken by the bleep-bleep of a catastrophe.  And they went out and resolved it.  Solved it.  Made it all right again.  Kept us safe.  Now we all bleep and buzz and ring and weep.  It is not healthy.  We cannot absorb it all.  Leeloo in the 1990s sci-fi film, ‘The Fifth Element’ starring Bruce Willis, of all people, could not absorb it without breaking down with the sheer emotion of it, and she was manufactured to be the savior of humankind – it’s too  bluddy much for one person, one creation, to take in:

The second notion is born of my idealistic nature.  I think that if we can, and do spread love and decency and kindness and tolerance eventually (not in my short life-time), eventually the world will see sense.  I will leave the notion of spilling blood to others.  But I will give you this thought.  This weekend I had a situation that should have ruined my relationship with my husband.  This weekend I was told I was hated by his son, by one of his son’s closest friends.  This weekend I could easily have told my husband I wanted to terminate our relationship because of his closest kin, his spawn. But I didn’t.  I squawked and I cried and I shouted and I threatened but I stayed.  Out of love, I stayed.  I am imperfect.  If I can reach into my vat of love, we all can.  I say this because I am absolutely unperfect.  Blemished and scarred and not at all pure.  So it stands to reason in this tiny brain of mine that we CAN all tolerate if we firstly want to and secondly  put a little thought into the process.  Here’s the thing, we can all be decent just because we want to be decent.  It is absolutely in all our hands and minds and hearts to want to change and to stop being selfishly driven by our own needs and to accept that we are all particular and that none of us is  a better particular, a more worthy particular than any other.

The picture is in response to the Weekly Photo Challenge ‘Detail’ – my title is a bastardisation of the known (‘The devil is in the detail’) and the less known but proper (‘le bon dieu est dans le détails – ‘The Good of God is in the details‘).  With my mish-mush belief system I can take from both and manipulate you as all good terrorists do.  What I will bring to you is the detail of harmony, peace and tolerance – not things that just magically happen but things that require work.  My picture illustrates this through the idea of a diversity of lichens co-existing on a rock.

If this is my rock then let it be known that every religion,whatever colour,  LGBT, men, women, straight and yet to be determined, able bodied, disabled, are welcome,  Don’t rock me and I won’t rock you.  Fact.

DSCF7784

PS:  I find it interesting that ‘The Devil is in the detail’, most notably attributed to 20th Century German Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is the accepted venacular over the original le bon dieu est dans les détails which is attributed to Gustav Flaubert (author of my beloved Madame Bovary) who died twenty years before the turn of that century.   God-Devil.  Good-Bad … personally I think we are better placed attempting to be good ourselves rather than bathing in books and falling back on them when their language will surely fail us so long after they were supposedly penned.

Only those who attempt the absurd

The first time I saw this place, I was on honeymoon three years ago (or thereabouts).  The place my husband had chosen for this special moment is owned by the most delightful of men.

A self-proclaimed Royalist, he is married to a psychiatrist who practices her head shrinking in Marseilles some 5 hours south-east of his bijou chateau in Aurillac.  They speak every day, and lovingly, by phone and sometimes he goes to see her and sometimes she comes to see him.  At the time we had no concept that the next 2 ½ years would see us in the same tub.  The mere notion would have seemed absurd.

 A man of short stature and with magnificent, almost Dali-esque, waxed moustachios he is quite clearly Hercules Poirot’s long-lost, should be discovered twin, separated at birth.  He is positively a mine of information, a historian and a trawler of knowledge with that sponge-like ability to soak up every last teeny drop.  Rather like a human hoover, he vacuums up all the   specks of material in his path, then assimilates them, files them according to relevance in the boggling laberynth that is a mind and brings them forth at the precise moment of crowning relevance.  And with quiet aplomb.   Like nurturing a perfect fruit to pluck and present it at it’s precise moment of optimum ripeness.  His great joy, therefore, apart from providing an impeccable interlude for his guests, cooking delicious local recipes from local ingredients and sharing, free of charge the contents of his not insignificant cellar, is to impart tips and advice and to guide his guests to even greater enjoyment of what is  already a perfect break.  Never to debate or undermine, he coaxes your holiday spirit out of hiding, assesses it with the expert eye of the head of a great household assessing the crystal and silver and porcelain laid for a banquet and only then makes suggestions which are as carefully and thoughtfully shared as a glorious vintage from a gleaming decanter and your breath baits as you wait for the treasure to be revealed.  For treasure it will surely be.  He is quite one of the finest  souls I have ever encountered in a lifetime studded with fine souls.   The most absurd thing, or perhaps the most sensible, is that he does not advertise his wares at all on the interweb … like the wild mushrooms he served to us in a perfectly executed sauce, you have to know where to seek him and sometimes I wonder if we dreamed him into being in our collective-romantic.

On our second morning he suggested we visit Rocamadour.  It is just over the border in the Lot departement.  Although it attracts tourists like a swarm of bees to a pollen filled flower-garden I would recommend anyone in the faintest locale to go.  It quite literally is built onto the rock and cleaves and clings to it with majestic defiance.   That it is medieval and that they managed to believe and then achieve this is beyond my puny imagination ….

Since that entrancing start to our married life, I have been back to Rocamadour just once with my eldest daughter on a blistering hot July day when even the rocks seemed to be clammy with salt perspiration rather than the usual cooling dampness of vast stones.  I took this picture that day and it seems to fit the weekly photo challenge this week titled ‘Look Up’ and as ever you will find all the other laudable entries here.

The staircase screams to me of Escher and so I snipped him for my title:

‘Only those who attempt the absurd will achieve the impossible.  I think it’s in my basement – I’ll go upstairs and check’ – M.C Escher

DSCF7893

PS:  Last year we revisited the chateau we had stayed in for those first enchanted days of our marriage, armed with a book.  It was a copy of my late and always lamented father-in-laws opus‘The French Cheese Book’ because our host had lit up at the unimagined absurdity of an Englishman taking the time to journey throughout France discovering  well in excess of 700 cheeses, but more than that to have spoken to multitudes of makers,  farmers,  dairy owners, researched the history of the terroirs, their people and their production and produced a work of such magnitude about FRENCH cheese one of which,  by the way is a delectable little chêvre disc made in Rocamadour.  These two men come in many ways of a common mold and it seemed entirely reasonable to give him a copy of the book, inscribed with our thanks for making the first days of our married journey so magical.  He regarded it with the exact same reverence with which I look upon him.

… with great love

The world feels particularly alarmed at the moment.  The U.S are afeared at what their election will bring given that one candidate is a proven loose cannon  and the other a proven liar.  Last week a woman who I knew for a short while as a colleague was savagely and barbarically shot, kicked and stabbed to death whilst going about her work as a Member of the British Parliament, serving constituents who had elected her for her talent and energy and goodness and days before that a twisted maniac massacred 49 innocents just being themselves in a Gay nightclub in Orlando.  Today my country of birth opted by a slender margin to exit the European Union and exercise it’s right to navigate the world in splendid isolation.   All of these things are quite shocking to digest.  I need not and will not comment – my opinions are of no interest to those taking the time to read my words but I do have something that I hope might strike a different and more harmonious chord.

I am currently in France having been whisked here by a circuitous route to delay my guessing the destination by HB² (my husband) so that we could spend our wedding anniversary in the place we were married three years ago.  Today I am sitting at my table in the place I call home.  My world is rosy.  I am fortunate.  This week along with the delightful, other things have happened in my personal life that could certainly anger me, engender hatred and lead me to feel that the best thing is to curl up in my cave and live my life as a strange old hermit (complete with splendid false beard).  But being the cussed optimist that I work at being, I know that I am better placed and better off endeavouring to find value in the way things are trying to effect other lives as decently as I can.  Last week, the extremely lovely  @Turtleway whose beauteous blog you will find here graced me by beginning to read every post I have ever written.  This is either brave or foolhardy but in any case  remarkably flattering.  She asked me in response to a post I wrote about Oradour sur Glâne in France, which was the object of a genocide in the dying days of WWII how we can avoid hating when we come across atrocities.  Which we do almost daily with modern news transfer being as rapid as it is and Social Media rampantly passing on the attrocious and the marvellous in an entirely unfiltered manner.  I thought for some days before I replied and then I said this:

‘The first thing I must say is that I understand hatred. But it was my youngest daughter, then aged about 10 years old who asked me to stop using the word ‘hate’ because, she said,  we should never actually hate anyone or anything.  By definition it is a cankerous emotion. She is now 21 and her views have inevitably become a little less pure but she remains true to the essence of what she said. For my part, I feel that hating and being angry are well and good but that they don’t resolve anything, they do not bring back the dead, they do not comfort the bereaved and they do not heal the wounded. In fact they probably feed the perpetrators. And I refuse to grace wicked, evil people with anything that might make them feel anything other than the odious bile that they have become. So I try instead to count my own good fortune and to understand what I can do to help. I am a highly emotional person by nature and tend to ricochet between highs and lows without warning. My own balance is maintained by seeking out the good in every situation and by attempting to not fuel the fire with a whirlwind of anger but rather to damp it with the dew of decency. Different people use different mechanisms. I must stress that I am not perfect. I feel anger and rage and bitterness and fury and sometimes I let those feelings begin to tarnish my insides. But I try to remain mindful and conscious and to take a beat and if necessary many many beats whilst I get to a mechanism that can quash the negatives and allow the positive energy to release so that I can be of some use. This is not forgiveness, this is not excusing this is simply trying not to become dissolved by fury and outrage but rather to evolve by maintaining a stance of dignity and warmth of spirit.

The world we live in is full of hatred.  Today Social Media is positively crackling with rancor and bitterness or exultation and self-congratulation depending on which side you take at the result of the self-proclaimed ‘Brexit’ vote.  It turns into yet another reason for people to sling mud.  I choose not to.  I urge others to join me.  I hope one day you will.  And to paraphrase John Lennon, the greatest of pacifists, the most gifted of men, diabolically slain so many years ago by a twisted soul, maybe, just maybe one day the world will live as one.’

Here are two little beetles simply working together, spreading their beetle love and working as partners to further beetlekind.  This ties in nicely to the photo challenge this week of which  here you can find lots and lots of far more admirable examples  And yes, using a picture of beetles when referencing a Beatle is entirely deliberate.

DSCF7392

PS:  The quote comes from Mother Teresa of Calcutta – ‘None of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.’

In my mind I am free

I consider myself to be pretty fortunate.  It’s not that I have led a seamless life.  It’s not that they had a canteen of silver spoons at the ready to shove into my gaping, greedy mouth at birth, it’s certainly not that life has dealt me no challenges.  Not at all.  I’ve lived a life.  On occasions a seat of my pants-on-fire scorching my behind sort of life.  But the thing is this.  I embrace the challenges, I smile at the misfortunes because they make me the person I am now and they led me to where I am now and in the great scheme of things I am pretty damned prosperous …. which is not to say monetarily rich.  I do not measure wealth and success in pecuniary increments.  So although I may not do it immediately, I do always search for whatever the mechanism is that works to put whatever the adversity may be in a positive place and I do always get there in the end.

Around two months ago I went back to France for a quick visit to make sure my plants weren’t expired in my flat and my car hadn’t entirely given up the mechanical ghost.  From there I flew to England to make less necessary checks on my ludicrously independent and gloriously enduring mother.  And my daughters (the three out of four who live there) came and visited.  One daughter (one more than I might expect) said it was a shame I wasn’t staying longer.  I explained that I had an important follow-up appointment with my physician after my oncologist had delivered her verdicts.  This left the said daughter entirely unmoved (we lived my cancer a few years ago which is hard on children of any age and  it’s easier for them to button their ears to any talk of the on-going care I have, easier to imagine I am now immune.  I am, after all,  their indestructible mummy).  So I mentioned an appointment with a bloke the same afternoon.  This had the said girl-child herding me tout de suite to the airport to ensure I did not miss this incredible, enviable and  priviliged opportunity.

So who was it that so impressed a 20-something?  Who could it possibly be?  Royalty?  No.  Hollywood A-lister?  Nope.  Rock legend?  Nah.  I cogetated this and I realised that there are only a tiny handful of people who could possibly engender such a response from pretty much anyone.  A response that is mid-way between hugely impressed and achingly envious.  The Pope might be one.  The Queen of England another.  The third and in this case the actual is Stephen Hawking.

I am seldom lost for words.  This is a trait.  A personality thing.  I’m articulate and gregarious when the need arises.  I write words down  too and from time to time I believe they are almost coherent.  But this day.  April 19th 2016.  In Cambridge Massachusetts I was humbled to the point of speechless.  I had no concept of what to expect.  The preparation that goes into getting this man into a room however big or small is immense.  The deference with which he is treated I would mostly sneer at since essentially the circus is just that, an act put on for an audience who need to believe that this person is not of the same world as the rest of us.  But in this case it is entirely justified.  That he gave a talk that I mainly understood even though it was to an assemblage peppered with the greats of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Harvard University; that he is brave enough to sit before any gathering, withered in his chair and at the effect of software to speak the words he has written for the occasion and the pregnant pauses in delivery that are inherent in the system; that he has such a self-depracating sense of humour.  All of this I had not imagined even though I imagine I have quite a fertile imagination.  I simply had not gone there.  Which is the point.  This is a man whose life should have been at it’s end at 21 years of age.  He says everything else has been a bonus.  And he has taken that bonus and run with it.  I felt the withered insignificant teeny tiny little squib in the room.  This was like listening to God (I have my own mish-mash belief system that does not allow for a single deity and which I need not share since it is merely mine).  I came out of that room entirely changed.  A better person.  Purer.  Which is the other point … the title of this weeks photo challenge is Pure.  And this man, with his failings, with his warts, with his reliance on science to keep him going is about as pure a mind as I have ever encountered.

The picture I have selected to illustrate this fact is taken at altitude above San Pedro de Atacama in Chile.  HB² (my husband to the uninitiated) built a tiny observatory there some years ago simply because he could.  I love this.  Just do it.  Because you can.  That is the Hawking way.  You can if you will.   Stephen Hawking may not have visited this observatory but he will surely know that you need the purest atmosphere to observe the stars.  To find the answers he seeks.  The answers we all silenty crave.  The observatory is in the picture but you may not be able to see it.  A man like Hawking sees what we cannot see, makes sense of what we cannot make sense of, delivers it to the world in a form that from Nobel Prize Winners to young children everyone can have a piece of.  And that, if I may is pure genius.

DSCF2053

And of course PS: Hawking is responsible for the quote in the title ‘Although I cannot move and I have to speak through a computer, in my mind I am free’ (‘How to Build a Time Machine’, 2010)… and that freedom is purety incarnate, surely and defines what I feel makes ME fortunate.

You can find all the other, laudible entries to the challenge ‘PURE’ right here

In dulci jubilo

I could have called this post ‘where there’s muck there’s brass’ which, if you are British you will know instantly is an old saying from the North of England  that means ‘where there’s sh*t, there’s money’.  But given that many of my readers are not British and on account of the much more important fact that I wanted to give you all a bonus at the end for being SO patient with me as I clawed my way back from the arrid desert of a dastardly writer’s block, I have opted for the title above.

The image was taken in April when we were back in our beloved Cantal for a few days and took the opportunity for a longish hike which promised a waterfall.

Alert as ever, my bat-like hearing was teased by a low humming which rose steadily to a gutteral grumble and finally a spluttering roar as rounding a corner on the craggy track we were ambling along, I was confronted by this.  A tractor with a tank on the back spraying cow dung on the field.  Muck spreading in fact.  Actually, I should say that our olfactory glands were alert to the identity of the machine long before we spied him.

I will forgive you for wondering what on earth this has to do with the weekly photo challenge this week titled Jublilant.  Even for me, this might seem a stretch.  But bear with, do.  In France the farmers always look positivily euphoric when they get the opportunity to splash some dung about.  They sit in the cabs of their tractors with beatific smiles seemingly wafted to an odorous corner of paradise.  I have no explanation for this.  Perhaps you can help me out?  But I do promise you I have studied the phenomena and it is a truism.  The grumpy growers I have seen in England scowling from their cockpit, nose invisibly pegged, mouth set in an inpenetrable line, eyes stony and unyielding are a world away from these merry manure slingers  and even though my nose may be wrinkling decorously at the fetid stench they are generating, they always upgrade my mood as they lift a paw casually from the steering wheel, like John Wayne riding one handed across the range, and bestow upon their mildly stunned audience a  raptuous and infectious grin.

DSCF6230

PS:  I promised you a bonus and a bonus you shall have.  And an explanation.  When I saw the title I closed my eyes and imagined myself for a moment on Christmas Eve, the wireless turned on as I potter through the preparations for the big feast the following day listening to The Choir of Kings College, Cambridge sing carols and hoping this will be one of them.

If you are of my vintage, you will remember that Mike Oldfield produced a thoroughly exhuberent instrumental version.  Here are Pans People,  dream date of every boy of my age and every girls aspiration joyously dancing on BBC Top of The Pops in 1975.

You might have a favourite, I love both and I particularly love that  In Dulci Jublilo means ‘in sweet rejoicing’ which is exactly what I am doing since I purged my clogged creative channel.

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.

DSCF4967

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.