“Thrones” of the world

A little stroll along the “Boulevard de la Bastille” at the moment, and you will see the latest photographic exhibition mounted on huge placards, and dedicated to “thrones” of the world.

From the desert of Morocco

to the arctic circle

From the Mekong Delta

to one of only 2 of its kind left in the suburbs of Paris

And just who is this emerging from a tin shack in the outback of Australia? and what is he doing?

And these photographs in these urinals in Iceland we are told are of the bankers who led the country into the financial meltdown!

The pictures are an eloquent social commentary; but also have their serious side in reminding us of the UN statistics showing that well over half the world do not have proper sanitation.

This final speaks for itself

and well deserves the title “throne”

Bob

A long, hot summer

After the longest and coldest winter for many years, indications are that the summer is equally likely to be the longest and hottest for many years.

From the blossom on the trees

to the hedgerows full of flowers

it appears that Spring has finally sprung. And is it my imagination, or are the primulas stronger

and more profuse this year ?

Even the gorse looks “jolie” in full bloom

The blossom and flowers indicate warmer weather. The swallows also have returned – I saw a lone one over Surtainville a week ago Monday, four over the port at Portbail last Thursday, and then again four over Surtainville the same day; and today a lone one over Pierreville. The cuckoo has been heard at Surtainville and at Pierreville; and there are even some reports of the Hoopoe in the area. Flies, butterflies, honey bees and bumble bees have also been in evidence over the past two weeks; and today this little chap decided to take a walk along the road

Will it last? local folklore says yes – for the first time for years we have only twelve moons (spring tides have been very high, but this is also supposed to be an indication of a good summer). And … the magpies are nesting right at the top of the tree, not in the middle

Let’s hope the summer turns out to be the best for years

Bob & Marjory

Sun and Snow

As yet another blizzard blows in, some pictures of  Pierreville in the snow from last week. Starting with a snowman??

and then some of the garden

and across the road

New volets were fitted to our upstairs windows today. We hope we’ll be a little warmer.

Keep warm

Bob & Marjory

La Foire Internationale de Caen

Managed to get there on Friday afternoon. Expo this year was  “The India of the Maharajas”

India of the maharajas

a history of Rajasthan, that told us of the importance of the elephant in Indian society

elephant

of the importance of the tiger in the life of the maharajas 

tiger

and of the religion of hinduism in the life and culture of India

ganesha

And at the end of the expo a chance to buy spices from India

spices

and to visit the bazaar

bazaar

Of course, the fair is more than just the expo. 1000 exhibits, 50 countries, 30 restaurants; and much, much more.

Well worth a visit, even if just to the websites –

www.caen-expo-congress.com

www.indedesmaharajas.com

Had to visit Friday, because last weekend was the “journees de patrimoine” and this weekend is of course, the first day of the Chasse. Our friends are involved in the Chasse, and today were doing the meal for the chasseurs! We ourselves were awakened at 0900hrs by the noise of the guns around us. Next week is the Foire de Brix (St. Denis). We will not be here, as we are setting off on conges (annual holiday). Summer’s over, but still lots of things happening locally.

Bob & Marjory

Plants and Flavours of Autumn

This coming weekend at Omonville-la-Rogue, an expo organised by the Hague tourist board

PSA2009_mini

Expos in the garden and courtyard include ornamental plants, fruit trees, ancient and forgotten vegetables, garden furniture, and food and other products derived from gardens and plants.

hague expo

Also in the Manoir du Tourp and its grounds are the on-going exhibition dedicated to Alexandre Trauner, cinema set designer who worked with Jacques Prevert (his house in Omonville-la-Petite well worth a visit );

trauner

the photographic works “Regard sur La Hague” of Philippe Mauger; photographs of gardens; books about gardens, and particularly in the Cotentin; and photographic books of local history and culture, such as “Paul and les Autres”.

Also a bonsai exhibition, and a chance for youngsters to create and play their own musical games.

Plenty of fun and things to do for all the family. Visit www.lahague.org or www.letourp.com for more details.

Bob

Les Journees de Patrimoine

Didn’t get to the Expo at Caen this last weekend. Instead on Sunday we went for a “walk down memory lane” with our neighbours, visiting the chateau at Briqueboscq, and then the water mill at Belle Fontaine – in process of  being restored.

chateau

Francis spent his childhood around the chateau, but had never been inside. Unfortunately this was not possible on Sunday either. But the exterior was well worth a look, and the history of the place as told by the present owner, though somewhat repetitive and dry at times, was interesting.

chateau2

 More interesting was Francis’s memories of the German occupation of the chateau; and the factory in the grounds producing rocket bombs to be aimed at London. 

(On the way back through Les Pieux Francis pointed out the foundations of the Post Office, saying that in the war it had been a German block-house (the foundations still visible) with guns trained onto the road coming south from Cherbourg.)

gite

We were allowed a look inside the gite that now takes up one section of the house. It has many of the original features – the fireplace, the doorways, the beams – plus some items of historical interest reworked as furniture, or simply for decoration, placed there by the owners. Will take up to eight people, but we didn’t get the price – probably much more expensive than ours! 

mill expo

The mill at Belle Fontaine is under process of restoration – with a long way to go yet. So far, one of two water-wheels has been restored and is in working order.

waterwheel

 The millstones are in place, but the cog mechanisms are in need of much work, as is the whole of the interior of the buildng. An enthusiastic band of volunteers, sponsored by, amongst others, EDF – have done the research, and begun the process of restoration.

mill workings

For the journee de patrimoine they were there to explain the workings of the mill, and raising money by selling craft works, and crepes cooked on the open fire of the mill. It appears to be part of a whole movement of restoration and revival of old traditions, alongside the windmill at Fierville, and groups like the Battous de Cotentin, and the folklore group St. Ergouffe at Surtainville.

EDF is involved in researching alternative, renewable energy sources. Is its sponsorship of groups such as these part of looking for these renewable sources?

Bob

“Le Mois des Parcs”

In September we are invited to discover the “regional natural parks”  of the Basse-Normandie Region. The nearest one to here is the Park of the Marais – based around Carentan and stretching out to St. Saveur-le-Vicomte, north to St. Mere Eglise, and south to Perrier and Lessay. The salt marshes of this low-lying area of land are home to many species of birds and animals.

heron

seal

From the centre at Les Ponts d’Ouve

marais centre

you can explore the Marais in many different ways, including by boat

marais

either by yourself, or as part of a guided tour.

More information is available on the site

www.parc-cotentin-bessin-fr

as also about the ongoing exhibition of building, using natural materials in the region

terre cru

building

builders

Well worth a visit, if not in this month of parks, than at any other time, to discover more of this region’s fascinating ecology and history.

Bob and Marjory

“Carnaval” – is spring finally here?

This evening we’ve been invited next door for crepes – just a day late – it’s Cendres (Ash Wednesday) today; yesterday was Mardi-gras, Carnaval, or Pancake Day.

crepes

Strange the names and customs for the start of lent. Carnival goes back to the latin – “farewell to meat” – but means so much more these days. There have been  carnival clothes available in the shops for weeks now, and many “carnivals” particularly involving children at the end of their spring holiday locally. And of course, the great “carnivals” in Venice and other Italian towns and cities.

mardi-gras-mask-3

Then again the Spanish and South American traditions of Mardi-gras or “fat tuesday” as seen in the Carnival celebrations in Rio and other places.

27jour3951 

The English affair is a little tame – Pancake Tuesday compares poorly with Carnival and Mardi-gras, and perhaps reflects the Puritan influence of “Shrove Tuesday”, the traditional English name which refers to being ‘shriven’ or confessed and forgiven one’s sins.

One could be forgiven for thinking that these are a reflection of pagan spring festivals rather than the approach of the penitential season of Lent. Especially on such a day as today when the sun is shining, the spring flowers in bloom, the catkins on the trees, the birds are singing (we are of course well past St. Valentine now!). Such a contrast from our last few postings of just a fortnight ago. Is spring here at last? Do we have a good summer to look forward to? 

“Hope springs eternal…” !!!

primula

Bob

Update on the snow!

It’s continued all day – and now we have a really thick blanket of snow –

from thissnow-feb1

to this –021

And this –

snow-feb2

to this –

012

027

013

Already the icicles are starting to form, and more snow (flurries!) forecast overnight and tomorrow.

We’ll have to wait and see what happens: in the meantime we’ve stoked the fire and the central heating, brought in a pile of wood and knocked the snow off; and helped the neighbours clear their stairs, and get some wood in. Time to batten down for the night I think.

Bob

Yet more snow!!

Just look at what we awoke to today –

snow-feb4 

 

After strong, and bitterly cold winds yesterday, it went quiet overnight, and this morning there was an eerie silence, without the usual traffic noise – the sound of the few cars on the road muffled by a couple of inches of snow. 

The house itself, and all the trees in the garden are blanketed with the snow –

snow-feb1

The meteo had forecast some snow flurries overnight, and continuing through the day – I’d say this was more than a few flurries. The 40-year old Christmas tree, planted out after their first Christmas by the people who built the house, and which now has pride of place in the garden looks even more magnificent than ever – pity it’s the last day of Christmas (Candlemas, The Presentation of Christ in the Temple) today.

snow-feb2

Do French children not play in the snow, or have snow-ball fights?!?  Last weekend, talking with a French neighbour about the possibility of snow this week, she asked “Is it really true that children in Scotland play out in the snow?” Marjory, born in Scotland, assured her that this was the case!!

On a different, but related, note, last weekend was the annual count of garden birds, organised by the Normandy Ornithological Group (GON). Very important this year after the coldest winter in these parts for over 50 years. I used to take part in a similar exercise with the RSPB in England, and really do need to get myself organised to join GON next year. If you’re interested in ornithology in these parts (just a few years ago we had English guests thrilled to have seen Hoopoes at Surtainville), you can find out more from Gon’s website – www.gonm.org

Bob