Saturday, May 1, 2021

Awakening senses.


How do I capture that special fleeting moment , when all comes together in what seems perfection . Can I recall it in sufficient clarity ,  my prose do it justice , to recreate those feeling and emotions . Well, I can but try .

That day started with overnight rain , vaguely impacting on my semi-consciousness through noise on the terrace . The rainfall was bypassing the windows , thus there was no wind accompaniment . For me, the day proper started with an enthusiastic dawn chorus , dragging me into wakefulness; it was time to emerge and see what was causing all that excitement. 

Stepping out onto the grass all my senses came alive to create a picture , an experience almost too special to believe . The rain had stopped, leaving  trees , grass , everything, freshly washed ; bursting to celebrate this special day. Leaves were dripping with joy , and wet grass was urging exploration . The wetness was not dank , but uplifting ; encouraging all to go forth into a joyous world . 

There is something memorable , especially in this dry part of the world , of walking over wet grass. It must be recalling England’s greenness and a childhood when rain was only fun. But here ,an intense sun  burst from behind the clouds, turning water droplets into jewels and streaking this picture with shafts of light,and strong shadows  . A morning stillness and silence completed the perfection . I stopped, breathing the freshness and trying to keep hold of  this exceptional moment . The simplest things are often the best .

Oh no!  the grass has been recently rotovated , sanglier had broken their way through the electric fence ; our grass must be greener ourside of this  fence. This needs a prompt response or our greensward will soon turn into the Somme. A wire fence alone will not keep out these mobile bulldozers. Investigation determined that it was now possible to replace our placid electricity with something fierce : 15,000 volts instead of 8,000; with shocks lasting twice as long . That should certainly stimulate their senses. Perhaps they will arrive ‘bien cuit’. I can but hope.


But the day has more to offer . Scents from rose displays , wild flowers,  and newly cut grass with wild fennel . A picture of days gone-by , the cutting done by hand with vintage ' faux avec pierre d'affûtage ' ( sythe ). Its owner nearly the same age ! 



Monday, April 26, 2021

Pool Fantasy


Children splashing with  laughter, pure enjoyment on their faces . A tropical heat, an in-pool bar and a (few) cold Bacardi and coke . Relaxation , not a care in the world. That is the picture of the perfect swimming pool. Perhaps possible if the pool is not your own .

 Proprietorship fundamentally changes all that ; pools are an awful lot of work. On holiday the behind-the-scene effort is fortunately  not visible , but with a pool of your own , then you are that effort . 

It starts with construction, which at first thoughts you would think was the major job. Our son’s new pool , albeit not large at 2.6m by 6 m , was  constructed in an incredible three days : 

  Day 1: large lorry mounted digger drops small digger into garden .This excavates for pool , large digger removes spoil onto lorry.

Day 2 : Fibre glass pool arrives , lowered into position by crane lorry ; edges of pool strengthened with concrete . 

Day 3 : Plastic box complete with pump, filter and valves connected to pool pipe work . Pool filled , ready for swimming ! Impressive. 

The team install two pools a day in the summer, with longer daylight hours. There must be a big demand for new pools in this part of France.

A pool requires plenty  of water . A decent sized pool will need the equivalent of 200 days water usage for a family of four . Then there is the need to replace evaporation and water lost through cleaning filters . During periods of drought , that  water may not be available from your water company. For us that is not a problem , or option, as we have no connection to mains water ( too far away). The existing 10 m deep well could not provide enough , so a 100 m deep borehole was required.  

With a drying climate , we still need to be careful with water . So to minimise evaporation, the pool was fitted with a floating cover , which also warms the water. This needs to be unrolled then re-rolled  between pool use. The pool also has a winter cover to exclude leaves during the off season.

To keep the water clean in the summer, a pump and sand filter remove the bits and dissolve chlorine for disinfection. An underwater robot is needed to clean the floor and walls , usually twice a week . Surface debris is partially removed by the pump , but still needs net removal. The sand filter needs weekly backwashing to stay clean. 

All done? ; now I can lie back and enjoy . Ah, not so simple! All this hardware doesn’t last for ever :

... the pump’s water seal needed replacing as did the seal on the multivalve.

... the electric pump timer and it’s capacitor both needed replacing.

... Leaks from  the fibre glass  pool liner  need periodic sealing , and twice substantial repair . 

... A major leak from the outlet pipe work required excavation and repair . 

... Flooding of the house basement from the pool pump was narrowly avoided . So a separate pool house was built , and pump relocated .

 All this work requires a period of recuperation . What better than lying by a pool , in the sun and with drink in hand . Perhaps I can forget all the work that enabled that.

Coordinated digging

Flying Pool

Monday, April 19, 2021

A Year On

A beach in Collioure , a glorious Monday  but with hardly anyone around ; the latest ‘couvre-feu ‘ in effect. A now tranquil scenery reclamed from the hoards, but a disaster for the 'commercants'. Was it only  13 months  ago that the virus impacted lives so fundamentally, starting with the first lock down ?

Our response to this forced isolation was intense garden activity , and the establishment of a potager . The threat to the supply of toilet rolls was a  media event  ; so perhaps we would have difficulty with fruit and veg. The reed beds meant we could use recycled water and there was a space amongst recently planted fruit trees . Confined to a 1 km radius , digging could provide an outlet for spare energy .

As with all our projects , this one grew in extent and expense .Chancellors are currently spending stratospheric sums to maintain economies ; so I have followed their example . Concrete paths , greenhouse , wind break , birds netting ; let alone fertiliser , plants and seeds. This is an  investment in the future ; our children's , paid for by savings in our overseas holidays .

The area under cultivation has grown four fold ; that was an awful lot of couch grass to be removed , involving deep digging and microscopic removal of every last morsel . Twelve months of perpetual effort ; not forecast.

But now I can sit back and enjoy , hopefully , the fruits of all this effort.  More so in the evening ,as with no cars and planes , human noise has virtually disappeared . Swish, swish , the hypnotic rhythm of the sprinkler; a blackbird rummaging amongst the mulch of wood chippings; cicadas starting their evening call.  A relaxation earned is so much more pleasurable .

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

 Moving On

 The first physical manifestation is the arrival of acres of cardboard and yards of sticky tape. Familiar shapes of home transform into giant brown blobs or into a series of indistinguishable boxes. For domestic relocation , a van fills the street  outside to cart all to its new location . For international transfers, a ubiquitous container is the transfer medium. We are moving again .

Newly married , we decided to invest in a freezer so as to preserve the allotment produce and take advantage of bulk purchase of meat . The salesman tried to sign us up for a life membership for a new freezer centre ; but we opted for just the freezer . Not just any freezer , but an almost commercial size one that minimised purchase tax . The delivery men almost failed to transfer it to our first floor flat and through to a spare back room .

 Filling it involved weekly trips to the Central Market ,at close when bargains could be had ; then  to be delivered in rucksack, by bus. Purchase of ‘half a pig’ , was just that , including half a head . I am sure it winked ; so it went to a grateful dog . That freezer enjoyed six  different garages , so moving was less stressful . The puzzle was that at its end, some twenty years later , it still contained frozen gooseberries from a much earlier time . The move was international now , so freezer and fruit were left behind .

Different countries offered new purchasing opportunities , so part container allocation grew to filling a 40 ft one ; 60 + cum metres . Despite leaving for a new assignment with just suitcases , we invariably returned with a container. Repeated international trips filled both house in France, children’s houses and also the garage .Abroad , packing involved a small army over several days . Unloading in France, it was two men with a forklift truck, leaving in time for dinner.

This week that cardboard again arrived ; spare and newly purchased furniture packed up ready for shipment in an opposite direction; for family relocation to the southern hemisphere this time . After twenty years we can finally see the end wall in the garage ! The container was topped up with continual deliveries following internet purchases ; getting stuff is far too easy  . Of note was four years supply of Cola Cao ( the Spanish cannot be without it ) and the ultimate in eco mattresses ; comprising coconut and seaweed, allegedly edible for ultimate disposal ?  .

Aquisition , then moving on, is a family preoccupation .

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Its only Polite !

…..Polite to let them in first or give up your seat to ladies and the elderly . “David ! what are you doing ?” said a shocked mother who just witnessed her son try to board the bus in the order of the queue. In Southport , the Lancashire retirement capital, ladies board first ; I had just returned from Birmingham  where no such custom existed.

 We had just visited an amazingly preserved Roman amphitheatre located in the middle of the Tunisian desert : El Jem. The official entry fee was in cents , but the guide would offer a private tour behind the scenes for a few dollars buckshee ; initiative exemplified . The train was crowded as it rocked back to Tunis and ,to my consternation,  a lady many years older then myself , offered up her seat . In Arab custom , it’s very much a man’s world.

The waiting area in the laboratory had been zoned to minimise the spread of Covid . If all the people visiting were sick , or testing for something ; then this was indeed a sensible precaution . However the layout was puzzling as there were two adjacent seats . So I remained standing . To my horror , a young lady stood , offering up her seat to the apparently elderly gentleman now standing . Oh dear , it seems as life is catching me up !!


Saturday, March 27, 2021

 Moon Thoughts

A blackbird searching for worms in the early morn, special  stones in a bowl, a passenger leaving the flight before it stops , and a golden hue over the bay of Calvi . All these have one thing in common : a full moon . 

Tonight sees a full moon rising in the east . It would have been spectacular except for a patchy cloud covering . Worm moon is one of the names given to the last moon of winter , or in the case of this year , the first of spring . The worms are rising , and thus our blackbird pair were busy feeding in preparation for their forthcoming brood.

The special stones are ( perhaps ) Amber and Fluorite . Amber is actually fossilised tree resin ,
much valued from antiquity to the present as a gemstone . It has also been used as a healing agent in folk medicine. Fluorite is the  stone of positivity . They were laid out under the full moon to recharge their anti arthritis properties .

For stories of ‘daring do ‘ it is difficult to beat that of the flights of the Lysanders over occupied France . Flying at night , with only navigation a map and compass , the pilot used moon light to search out hidden ( from Nazis'  ) landing strips . The plane avoiding actually landing  and the agent , well padded , had to leave ‘ at low altitude’. The welcome was hopefully Bonjour and not “ Halt “ ( with  German accent ) .The Germans knew little about the aircraft and wished to study one. Soldiers captured an intact Lysander in March 1942 when its pilot was unable to destroy it after a crash, but a train hit the truck  destroying the cargo.[19] . A lucky plane  indeed ,which managed to repatriate 128 agents .

Our Corsican holiday was in Calvi , with its pristine beach , magnificent food and wine . Whilst partaking of the latter one evening , a bright orange globe rose over the hills to the east , illuminating the bay and burning the view into our memories. 

Full moons are always special.

fuzzy moon setting clouds now !

Wednesday, March 24, 2021


 School Support

 The evening was warm and still , with the sun settling quickly over the Canigou. There was still time to enjoy an interlude from  the incessant wind. Supporting our local Lycée was our duty that night ; achieved through the enjoyment of a meal prepared by the students . Rillettes de saumon au curry, sablé à l’encre ;Risotto aux gambas ;Cheese-cake marron . The menu didn’t disappoint; supported by Deprade Jorda’s rosé; and  concluded with a Torres 10 brandy by the fireside.

As ( grand) parents , it is our duty to support school activities . Lycée C. Bourquin maybe a political name , but it offers a catering and hospitality speciality. Given that tourism is Argeles’s  raison d’être ; then this speciality is logical and welcome. More so, in that it offers for sale it’s culinary output . So we can fullfil our obligations  through the simple expedient of consumption .

So this evening , as we dined on our balcony , whilst watching the evening shadows lengthen , we could do so in the righteous  ambiance of support for our local educational establishment. Grandparent duty fulfilled. 


Staffordshire pottery, chinese pattern, malawian cloth, Argeles wine and food. Internationalism at its' best.

Awakening senses.

    AWAKENING SENSES How do I capture that special fleeting moment , when all comes together in what seems perfection . Can I recall it in...