Les poissons en France

Friday, January 30, 2015

A Fluke

Some of you will know that we have been going to the Bridge Club in Gourdon for a number of years. We go because we enjoy playing bridge although we are far from competitive - you can't be when you play at our standard. We have met some lovely people and enjoy the social contact.

For about 18 months we were bottom each week. This did not bother us as we just liked playing. We were offered lessons but quite frankly once a week is enough for us - we have a life outside of bridge, although we enjoy playing with friends.

Therefore it is with utter amazement that I have to record that this week, the once in a life time event happened and we were second with 59%. Top is usually about 63%.

 Yes I know we are boasting but the nicest part is that we are having the mickey taken out of us by everyone at the club. In particular the chairman, who sent us a photo which he had taken, he said "to immortalise the moment", actually he was taking photos of everyone anyway.
We feel that we have totally integrated when the French feel comfortable enough to pull fun of us and know that we will not be offended.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

How Black is Black

We went today with friends to the Musee Pierre Soulages at Rodez, and we were prepared for something different.  We had been to an exhibition of the works of Pierre Soulages at the Pompidou Centre in Paris in 2009 and so the thought of a whole museum devoted to the works of this one artist was slightly daunting.
The exhibition we saw in Paris consisted of a collection of large canvases, totally black, showing the effects of light falling on textured surfaces.  And, to be honest, how many black paintings do you want to see, even if they have different markings on them?  So, we went today with an open mind.

One of the main things we wanted to see was the architecture of this museum, opened only last year.
This artists impression doesn't do it justice, but it was pouring with rain all of the time we were there!
The buildings are constructed from a type of steel(?) that corrodes and so it all has a reddish brown rusty colour.  The units appear to be sat on a lot of dark grey granite chippings and it achieves a striking effect.  Inside, the decoration is all dark, with lots of black walls, either painted or covered with what appears to be huge thin panels of slate - and lots of spot-lighting.  We found the building very impressive.
Once we started to look at the art within the Museum, we were pleasantly surprised as it covers examples of his work from 1947 up to modern day, including lots of work on paper.  
It was the art printed on paper using different techniques that Sue and I found the most interesting, although we differed in which areas of his work we liked the best!
(The quality of these photos is not good as they won't allow flash)

So, a nice afternoon with friends, lots of ideas for the artists, and somewhere where we will happily go again.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Nous avons Relooké notre chambre

We've been redecorating our bedroom, or 'relooker' as the trendy French verb says!
This started out as a quick repaint in the same colour to cover over the marks which have been with us now for about 3 years.  But ... as is the way with us, ideas got in the way.
 New duvet covers necessitated Sue making matching pillowcases, and then we became inspired by an artist I have recently discovered.  He is Brian Clarke who is actually one of the leading contemporary stained glass artists who also paints.  However he was commissioned to decorate a house in London and his designs were the inspiration for us to paint a motif on our bedroom wall.
( http://www.brianclarke.co.uk/work/works/item/209/5) 
 After trial and error with studies on lining paper and then stencils we have arrived at a result we are happy with.
This evening the room was finally set up with the new bedding, all ready for our cat, Cleo, to christen.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Our Deer Family

As a gardener I moan about the damage that the deer do but I can’t help 'ooh aahing' when I see them. I am happier now that the garden has matured and that I have sufficient to share with the wildlife.
We have just spent the most wonderful 45 minutes watching the deer in our alley. Since last summer we have regularly seen Mum and the twins and watched the babies grow up. In the last couple of weeks I have seen a lone deer in the field next door several times and have been trying to see if it was growing antlers – aged eyes is the problem. This morning “he” was in the alley about 40 metres from our window so, having located the binoculars, we were able to verify that he was a male with antlers about a foot (30cm) long. We rarely see stags and they have always been alone. Therefore it was a total surprise to see the male joined by Mum and the twins and feeding together for about half an hour. It’s not the rutting season which is August so we can only assume they were playing “happy families”. They certainly made us happy.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Saga of the Yellow Chair

You have heard the story of The Yellow Brick Road, well this is the story of The Yellow Armchair. Oh, have you got a coffee, you'll need one, it's a long story.

You will recall at the end of last year we gave our bedroom a lick of paint but it has turned out to be a bit of a make over or as the french say a "relooker".  The new bedding is shades of brown so we decided it needed something to give it a lift. After much discussion we decided that a yellow chair was just the thing. However there is obviously not much demand for yellow chairs, surprise, surprise. Eventually, after three days on the internet, I located one in the UK. Unfortunately they do not deliver to France but suggested we try their German site. Despite the slight disadvantage that we do not speak German we established that they did not have any yellow chairs.

Not to be deterred, we enlisted the help of our UK shipping agents, better known as Pat and Mel. They have in the past sent us parcels using their pet, cheap logistics company "Parcel Pete". Unable to find the weight of the chair we made an estimated guess based on the size and weight of our office chair and were satisfied that Parcel Pete would solve our problem. So we ordered the chair for delivery to Pat and Mel.

We then received details of delivery from the carrier about the "30kg" parcel.  Alarm bells began to ring .... Parcel Pete does not deal with parcels over 25kg. Perhaps Pat and Mel have use for a yellow chair or ebay here we come. As always, John set about dealing with the problem. He found a site with a fleet of 29,000 little men with white vans who would give us a quote. Well, a number responded with quotes varying from £140 to £560!! In the event it was decided that we would wait until it was delivered and then review the situation. Mel duly reported that it had arrived and that the delivery man had held it above his head to bring it into the house.  Either a very strong man or it didn't weigh 30kg. Actually it weighed 13kg, so back to Parcel Pete.

Mel tried for days to track the parcel but it seemed to be stuck somewhere. I was convinced it was on the lorry which was on fire in the Channel Tunnel. However it arrived early this morning and was delivered by a charming girl who spoke perfect English ... because her family are English and she has  lived here 18 years!
We love it, but we appreciate there is no accounting for taste!!

A big thank you to our "agents" and we promise we will not put you through this again. No guarantees!!

PS. We hope that our clothes find it comfortable and that our cat doesn't!!

A Long New Year

In France the celebration of the New Year lasts a long time.  In fact the custom is to wish a Happy New Year to everyone, the first time you meet them, throughout January.  It can get difficult to remember who you've already met, especially as the month draws on!

Yesterday we went into Gourdon for a free New Year's Concert.
We didn't quite know what to expect, but we discovered that the musicians were a French equivalent of a Brass Band.  The hall filled up, with late arrivals getting more chairs and seating themselves in the aisles, as is the French way; fire risks and Health and Safety don't impinge on the French persons consciousness.  (Needless to say, the audience were mostly grey-haired!)  Of course the front row was reserved for the Town Mayor and the elected councillors
One of the pieces played was interesting in as much as it featured 3 soloists playing Swiss Alpen Horns, which caused a stir as they entered with these 3 metre long instruments.

A footnote to this performance reflects on the Charlie Hebdo massacre and it's effects on the popular psyche.  At the start of the second half of the afternoon, the band played an extra piece in hommage to the people killed, a Charleston entitled 'Little Charlie'.

If we haven't met up with you yet this New Year, we wish you, 'Meilleurs Voeux, Bonne Année et Bonne Santé'

Sunday, January 11, 2015

We are Charlie

Living here in France through this tragic episode, we have been struck by the impact it has had throughout French society.  The spontaneous gatherings and demonstrations to show sympathy, solidarity and belief in French values, have not just been confined to Paris and major cities.  Our local town of Gourdon held a 'rassemblement' on Thursday midday followed by another meeting yesterday, Saturday mid-morning at the local market.  We think that many French people have felt this attack on free speech as almost a personal attack, an attack on their right to speak freely.  A French couple who we know very well expressed their views that this attack has made them want to reaffirm their French identity despite the many doubts and criticisms they have felt about the France of today.

People, as individuals, are wanting to express their support for this emblem of 'liberté', of Republican France, in whatever way they are able.  This next week, in a room in the town hall at Gourdon, a gentleman is staging an exhibition of his collection of the magazine, 'Charlie Hebdo', almost as his own act of defiance against the extremists.

 Today, Sunday, is to be a day of demonstration in Paris, attended by European leaders.  We see that, to help the public attend, if they wish, buses and the metro in Paris are free and rail fares to Paris are reduced.  It would seem that these terrible events have had a unifying effect on French society.  It remains to be seen to what extent they will alter French politics, which has already shown a drift to the Right.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Planting for Posterity

We took delivery this week of 1000 anemone blanda corms. They are low growing spring flowers and I had the idea of growing them below the trees in the alley so that we would be able to see them from the house . It only took us two days to plant them with our patented planting system!  John wields his enormous spike, which we inherited, to make the holes and I drop in a corm and handful of compost.
We certainly won't see much, if any, of a display this spring; in fact we may not see much of a display in our lifetime so I am including a photograph of what I hope it will look like in the future!!
John continues - once this 'dobbing' was finished, a lonely gardener was seen wandering round the garden looking at all of the dead plants.
The Gardener says that they're not dead, they're just resting!

It was at this point that I saw our ancient barn doors and wondered what was the 'mess' on the floor below. Sue then helpfully said, "oh yes, I thought I heard a Woodpecker!"
This now looks like a job in the future.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

The Juggernaut rolls on

The bedroom has been duly finished and, even I have to say that, despite it all being the same as it was, it does look fresher.  So, onwards and upwards as they say!  And into the bathroom.
Some of you may note the impressive 'masking' of the tiled walls and the hand basin.  In fact, this all took longer to do than the actual painting.  However, job done!  and then I whipped over the little corridor outside the bathroom.  So, a sense of achievement and we can move on to the next project - the remaining bedroom, which must be done by September.  I think I've just got enough time.

Whilst all of this excitement was going on, Our wildlife photographer was out and about and saw something very, very rare.  The reluctant seamstress!  Last seen in the 1980's!
Sue wants new bedding for our bedroom now that it has been redecorated.  She found some duvet covers in the House of Fraser sale (isn't that where everyone shops?)  However, no pillowcases.  So, we bought 5 duvet covers (don't ask why 5, I don't know.  One on, one in the wash, one in the ironing basket and ...?) and at least one of these is being used to make pillowcases.

Wow, and it's only the 3rd January!!