Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Last weekend I was at my father's for a while. It was my mum's birthday on 26th. On Sept. 1st it would have been their 56th Wedding anniversary. Well - it still is, will be. We did some gardening and I found this beautiful little jay feather.

I've read a few books by Hilary Mantel, all excellent, different, beautifully written, moving. This was in a July paper, but I only read it on the train last weekend:

The work of mourning is real work, like shovelling corpses, like sifting ashes for diamonds. When someone dies, we exist for years on a thin line, a wire, stretched tight between remembering and forgetting. When something touches that wire and makes it vibrate, that's a ghost. It's a disturbance in our consciousness, in that deep place where we carry the dead, like the unborn, sealed up inside us.
Hilary Mantel

Jays always make me think of mum - she used to keep some jay feathers in her jewellery box, I loved looking at them when i was small - mum and dad found them on their honeymoon in Scotland, all those 56 years ago.

We sat for a while by mum's grave on Sunday, put in a plant and left some flowers and the jay feather.

This is one of the most persistent memories and images from our holiday, my dad:

Friday, August 24, 2007

messing about in


This was in the Cele - a tributary (or somethingorother) of (into?) the Lot.

If larking about in the pool was a work-out for the thighs, canoing wasn't half a work-out for the shoulders & biceps.

As Ratty says, there is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.

It was wonderfully green and dappled and tranquil, like another world...

The river was full of these dazzling darting beauties with their irridescent bodies and smoky black wings. We thought they might be damsel flies - not sure, can anyone identify them? (picture will enlarge)

And i could have spent the whole day taking pictures just of the water.
(slide show will go faster/slower/pause with controls at bottom left)

I do like the Thames, really I do. But ....

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


The worse thing about the dismal weather over here is that I can't wear sunglasses to hide the devastation wrought around my eyes by my swimming goggles. Or would it be better to get scornful or bemused glances from people for wearing shades in 16 degrees and rain than to receive pitying glances for having such saggy baggy weird lizardy googlie rings around my eyes?

Nonetheless I was down at our local leisure centre and in the pool by 9 am yesterday, doing lengths. Are you impressed? I was impressed with myself, you can probably tell. Particularly given the contrast between the nature of this experience, and my time in and around the pool in France.

The water temperature was 27 degrees on our arrival, we enjoyed a simply delicious evening dip after a scorching day of driving. After 2 days of greyness and drizzle, the sun returned and the temperature fluctuated between about 23 and 26/7 degrees. Luxury for those such as me who have been known to shiver swim in Yorkshire waterfalls and scottish lochs. There were a number of starlit dips. No skinnydipping unfortunately - not quite the context for it.

Lots of sitting by the pool reading. And watching the swifts which did regular fly-bys, skimming, dipping and sipping the water.
In the water at least once nearly every day.

Not many lengths were swum. Plenty of larking about occurred.

High points were the pushmepullyou-with-inflatable, 5-on-a-lilo and synchronized swimming. Blimus those synchronized women must have muscles of steel. Except that then presumably they would sink.

I've not laughed so much for a long long time.

And here is the house where we stayed, the Ancien Ecole

which had this photograph on the wall

and this dining room

and some of these

and these views.

I do like living in London, really I do. But....

Monday, August 20, 2007


Hard to believe, as i look disconsolately out at the grey, grizzling, chilly london sky, that we were baking lazily in the Dordogne only a few days ago. Avec rose. Poolside.


I sent No Postcards.
Which felt extremely liberating.

I didn't miss the internet, not one little bit (though some of you did wander through my thoughts).
But I was glad to have a laptop to offload pictures from my memory card ... i took a few... and will try to be selective about which and how many I show and tell.

And there are compensations for being back - I'm looking forward to catching up on all your blogs which will help to counter-balance the tedium of trawling through all the work emails which have piled up in my absence. So poo again, to work - but also yay! hello again everyone!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

fur 'n feathers

I take it absurdly personally when we get new and different birds visiting our garden.

Recently we've had a woodpecker on the bird tree quite regularly, which I take as a compliment specifically for me. I hoped to get a pic., but he scarpers as soon as you get near the window. He is very dashing with his lovely scarlet pudding-basin hairstyle. I'm very happy to see him, though I wish he was less jumpy.

I was also very happy to see a wren in the garden yesterday. I used to see one quite often, but its been a year or two, so i'd feared they had abandoned me. Wrens are the smallest native British bird, shyly brown and sweetly round, with alert little tails, I love them and they are all called Jenny. Including the boy-wrens.

We also now have a regular troupe of goldfinches visiting. This is since a friend told me that niger seed is almost guaranteed to attract them to your garden. And it worked after a couple of months. They treat it very much as an all-you-can-eat-all-day buffet, they always come in pairs or larger groups - sometimes they fight a bit over the seed, always they are bright and lovely.

We also have starlings in the garden - they seem to have more specific meal times, which is a good thing as they are very rude, loud and ill-mannered, frequently chasing away smaller birds. Their feathers have a beautiful blue-green-oil-sheen.

There are usually sparrows about, which is only as it should be, of course. And tits sometimes. And pigeons loitering under the tree to catch fallen seed. Sometimes the pigeons try to take seed from the feeders mid-flight whilst flapping and falling about in a most ungainly and quite entertaining way. Pigeons (especially the wood pigeons) are just so unfeasibly un-aerodynamic looking at the best of times. Just how do they get off the ground?

Despite the range and number of neighbourhood cats who seem to consider our garden to be their territory (I saw a tom cat spraying on my asters the other day. bloody nerve) - we don't often seem to have unfortunate fur 'n feather incidents. Though every now and then there is a scatter of pigeon feathers on the lawn.

LG has been conducting a fairly sustained campaign for us to get another cat. I blame my good friend P, whose Bengal cat has 8 almost unbearably adorable kittens. There are eight of them (EIGHT) with names I can't remember entirely - but which include Pagic, Magic, Peep, Popsicle and Mousekin (named by P's 4 year-old who also named her doll "Maggot") - and once we get back from our holiday we will be going round there again to waste time at the altar of kitten adulation. They are so small and soft and sweet with such exquisite little faces.

So of course I had to show you the little lovelies - which range from a beautiful grey-tabby, like their mother, slightly gingery tabby, through all grey with white fringed-ears, to black with orange splotches and all-black - at 3 and a bit weeks old.

I read at the weekend about Oscar the Rhode island cat. If you haven't read/heard about him, see Kimy's post here. The Guardian described him as "a tabby harbinger of doom".
But I thought it was a lovely and moving story. I don't think the kinship a lot of humans feel with animals is as one-sided as some people would like to suggest and also, that the fact we find this story remarkable or surprising says something about the significance often given to animals and our relationships with them. Would the Guardian have used this phrase if Oscar was a human being? There are other cultures around the world where Oscar's role would be seen as quite natural and unsurprising.

How different are we really from (other) animals? Mary Midgley talks about how its often assumed that there is an impenetrable and self-evident barrier separating us from other animals. But she suggests that maybe, actually, its more like a chain-link fence. From certain perspectives - eg. from the top, looking down - it might appear fairly solid, and a city broker in suit and tie with laptop might seem clearly very different from other species. But a chain-link fence is mainly holes - which is particularly obvious at eye-level, down on the ground. And of course children are nearest to the ground, and tend to see the holes more than the wire. And in this particular chain-link fence, the holes are big enough for children, at least - and the young of all sorts of species - to pop backwards and forwards to play.

The Oscar story also reinforces my belief that there are forms of knowledge and communication and relationship which have little or nothing to do with the "rational objectivity" which (at least western) societies have made such a song and dance about.

There are animals which know some things we cannot know, for all our progress and cleverness - and some of those are the most important things.

So, in fact - and i've just thought of this! - maybe Jenny Wren came back because she knew I would find her presence consoling.

Right, lecture over.
I am off later today - to my brother & SIL's party: 2 x 50ths and a 25th wedding anniversary. Blimus.

And on Sunday, tomorrow, off to France. We will be in the Dordogne for 2 weeks, in a little village called Soucirac. i don't promise to think of you all and/or miss you (sorry, nothing personal...) but I will be taking some pictures and will look forward to sharing some of it with you when we get back.

oh, nearly forgot. No fur or feathers, but this is my last froglet sighting, just before I went off to Perpignan about 3 weeks ago. Hopping in and out of the pool, so hopefully they can find their way home when they need to. They are fully froglike now, but when I took these pics were still only about 1 inch 2cm+ long.

Toodle-oo lovely blog people, see you again soon.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Perpignan - walls and windows

I didn't manage to get any snaps of Tat's lizards, they were way to quick for me, especially in my slow lolling-about holiday mode. But I liked these lizards.

I didn't see much graffiti in Perp - mainly not very interesting tags. We did pass some great graffiti whilst driving - mostly on the outskirts - so i couldn't get any pics. Breasts seemed to be a key theme....
I saw this one a few times in the town though:

and this was in the park:

I saw some interesting things inonthrough windows.

swanning about:

And here endeth the tour of Perpignan.

I hope to post once more before leaving for a couple of weeks hols. in France.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Perpignan - cinema

Just look at this.

is it a bird? is it a plane?

there is something quite asian about that elephant head. but wings? and a fish-tail?

bizarre, n'est ce pas?

This is from the front of the Cinema Castillet in Perpignan.
As well as this weird and wonderful gargoyle/gutter,
it also has some lovely tiled panels:

which look art nouveau or deco to me.

This must have been a spectacular building in its heyday. (what is a heyday? i know what it means, but wonder what its derivation was....)

Its now a shell, and this is whats on the inside:

I was very pleased at being able to wiggle through the hoardings and get these pics.

It looks as though maybe they are going to keep the shell, renovate and redevelop.
But what do i know?

hope so, anyway.