Flamants de la camargue

Posted on May 7th, 2017

Late winter is when the flamingoes of the Camargue wetlands are at their finest. Thousands assemble near the coastal town of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer,  growing brilliant red/pink plumage to attract breeding mates.
These are flamants roses or pink flamingoes, who conduct an elaborate mating ballet with necks entwined and low grumbling. Eggs are laid in April/May at the Lake of Fangassier, the only flamingo breeding site in France. Around 10,000 birds live here all year, but the population swells to over 40,000 in summer. It’s a pleasant two-hour drive from here and well worth the effort.

The ex-votos of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer

Posted on May 4th, 2017

Saint Sarah, Patron Saint of the Gypsies

The small town of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer lies on the coast, next to the marshes of the Camargue. It is famous for the legend of the three Marys, saints Mary Magdalene, Mary Salome and Mary of Clopas, first witnesses to the empty tomb of Jesus. It is thought they sailed together from Alexandria, landing at what is now Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. The town is also the destination for Roma gypsy pilgrims who arrive each year at the end of May for the festival of their patron Saint Sarah, who is supposed to have come with the three Marys as their dark-skinned Egyptian servant.
The church at the centre of town dates back to the 9th century and contains a pagan altar from 4BCE. On display within the church are numerous ex-votos, thanking the saints for rescuing loved ones. A crypt beneath the church contains a shrine to Saint Sarah.

Survived a 2CV accident

During the fete the floor collapsed – everyone was saved

Further photos may be found: HERE

The best of friends

Posted on April 14th, 2017

At a time when British newspapers rail against the European Union, blaming France and Germany for all Britain’s self-inflicted economic and social ills, the French media have adopted a more considered and adult approach.
It was not always so, for in 1901 France experienced a wave of anglophobia. It was the time of the Second Boer War of 1899-1902 and Britain was holding Boer women and children in inhumane concentration camps. The French were incensed, so after Queen Victoria died in January 1901 their anger was directed towards the new King Edward VII. When the French satirical newspaper l’Assiette au Beurre published the cartoon above, the King was quick to complain to the French ambassador, Paul Cambon. The French Government prosecuted the newspaper for “insults to good morals” and ordered all copies be removed from newsstands. The publishers responded by printing a new edition with the offending face covered by a blue skirt, whereupon the prosecutor dropped the case.

The artist responsible for the caricature, Jean Veber, maintained his condemnation of British conduct in the Transvaal with a special edition of l’Assiette au Beurre:

It is estimated that 28,000 Boers died in the camps of starvation, disease or exposure. Children under sixteen represented more than 22,000 of these deaths.

Time to recover

Posted on April 14th, 2017

Our injured woodpecker

During dinner at home last night we heard a loud crash from the kitchen, as though the entry door had slammed. The door was securely closed, but a bird lay injured on the ground outside. Confused by reflections of the sunset, it had flown into the glass window of the door. I feared it had broken its neck, but it managed to stay upright when placed on the woodpile. Black and white plumage with a red underbelly identified it as a Greater Spotted Woodpecker. We often hear but seldom see woodpeckers in the forests around here. After a while it was showing no signs of recovery, so we placed it in a cardboard box for the night. This morning, fearing the worst, I opened the box and was delighted when our woodpecker flew away into a nearby tree.

The circus comes to town

Posted on March 19th, 2017

Two or three times a year playbills appear on every post in the district announcing the arrival of the circus. It’s a very small affair, with only one van, one trailer and one show.  The entire event takes only four hours between arrival and departure. I suspect it takes longer to affix and retrieve the posters. Last week the circus set up alongside the village school, with several clowns, a miniature horse, a goat and a performing dog. Happily these were the only animals and appeared well cared-for.
Lamentably France still allows wild animals to be exploited in travelling circuses, yet the practice is totally banned in European neighbours such as Sweden, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Croatia, Holland, Hungary, Austria, Bulgaria and Greece. France might take note that total bans also exist in more advanced societies such as Iran, India, Mexico and Bolivia.

 

There’s no honour in cruelty

Posted on February 27th, 2017

The end of February brings the end of the hunting season. The woods and vineyards are silent again. I no longer have to wear bright clothes and Saffy a bell for fear of being shot. No more excitable men wearing army fatigues, rushing around in four-wheel drives, talking agitatedly to one another on their mobile phones. Our wild birds and animals can begin the spring mating season in peace.

 

There have been many hunting accidents across France since last September – most of them sad while others arouse anger at such gross irresponsibility. Here is a small sample from the past five months:

  • Saint-Michel-Chef-Chef; September 2016. A hunter shoots a woman in the thigh while she is gardening.
  • Saint-Claude; October 2016. A hunter is found unconscious in his hide after shooting himself with a crossbow.
  • La Motte-en-Bauges; October 2016. A hunter in his seventies shoots and kills a horse after mistaking it for a deer.
  • Campsegret; November 2016. A hunter is shot dead by his colleague during a wild boar hunt.
  • Génébrières; November 2016. A hunter shoots himself in the head while seated in his car with the gun between his legs.
  • Valdeblore; November 2016. A hunter is seriously wounded in the legs by a wild boar.
  • Courtomer; November 2016. A hunter is shot in the head by her companion aiming for a hare.
  • Jeu-les-Bois; November 2016. A hunter is seriously injured by a wounded stag that he was intending to finish off with a dagger.
  • Perriers-sur-Andelle; November 2016. A sixteen year old hunter is killed by another hunter who was closing his weapon.
  • Renage; December 2016. A father finds a bullet lodged in the wall 50cm above his sleeping young daughter’s head.
  • Saint-Julien-le-Coppel; December 2016. A bullet from a boar hunt 600 metres away passes though a front door and into a cupboard.
  • Bressols; December 2016. A hunter after woodcock is shot dead by his companion.
  • Castelnou-Camélas; December 2016. Three dogs are killed and three more and a hunter injured by a wild boar.
  • Blain; December 2016. A 25 year old hunter shoots and kills her father during a boar hunt.
  • Martizay; January 2017. A hunter is shot in the leg by his female colleague during a night duck hunt.
  • Nonac; January 2017. A walker is shot and seriously wounded by a boar hunter.
  • Couffé; February 2017. A deer escaping hunters crosses a road then collides with another hunter, breaking the deer’s neck.
  • Chateauroux; February 2017. A 22 year old man is shot and killed by his great-uncle.

“Il vaut mieux regretter de ne pas avoir tirer que regretter d’avoir tirer”

A dirty weekend

Posted on January 23rd, 2017

Sixty metres of iron piping being removed

We have been without a reliable water supply for the weekend. Our house is too far from the village to connect to town water but we have a forage, a well with a submersible pump more than sixty metres down in the limestone water table. The water is good and clear, but the high levels of calcium make it harsh for drinking. On Friday morning leaks developed in the pipe and the pump lost power so we were forced to minimise use over the weekend. This morning the pump and vertical piping were replaced and we’re happily back to regular showers, laundry and dishwasher.

When the well is dry, we will know the worth of water – Benjamin Franklin

The new submersible pump awaiting installation

Joyeux Noel

Posted on December 19th, 2016

Merry Christmas everyone. This is the hamper that our local mairie in Ménerbes delivers to all residents over 65 who vote. An appetising selection of apéritif wine, duck liver, smoked trout paté, pork terrine with armagnac, duck with foie gras, Cotes de Duras red wine, prunes in armagnac, Provencal biscuits, orange-chocolate croustillants, apple and toffee compote and Arabica coffee. We expect an election soon……
Note that secular France forbids official recognition of any religion over another or none, so it’s “Best Wishes for the New Year”.

Black & White Photography

Posted on December 19th, 2016

Waiting for a table, Trattoria San Giacomo, Bellagio

I have chosen another set of Black and White photographs that are reasonably pleasing, to my eye anyway. This is the second set (forty images), which can be found: HERE .  I hope you like them. (The first set of B&W photos can be found: HERE)

Staircase, Caixa Forum, Madrid

Quarry carvings

Posted on November 20th, 2016

The other side of our truffle-oak field, not 200 metres from the house, is a small abandoned quarry. More than ten metres deep, the stone-cutters created a subterranean vault. The quarry was abandoned well over fifty years ago, when the stone seam was exhausted or when accessibility prevented newer, more efficient cutting methods.
Since then, perhaps 30-40 years ago, a local artist created some extraordinary carvings on the walls. Very few know of their existence and fewer have seen them. The artworks include Mexican-style symbols, a recessed staircase to nowhere and geometric patterns. Some are incomplete while others have been traced onto stone walls and never begun. More photos from the quarry can be found: HERE