Sunday, 26 February 2012

Living in Hebden Bridge too.

Hebden Bridge

This post is very much about the Yorkshire bit of our lives at the moment. It is another month before we go back to France, and I need to avoid spending time just planning what happens when we get back there. It is very tempting to fill Yorkshire days, especially winter Yorkshire days with thinking about how I’m going to develop the garden in France and who will be staying in which bedroom when the large number of planned guests turn up at various stages from May onwards. So, to avoid that, I am spending time enjoying living in Yorkshire, which has the added bonus of being closer to the children and the grandchildren.
Hebden Bridge is a truly interesting town. So many things happen where you find yourself saying....“ only in Hebden Bridge....”
things like:

 a broken down car at traffic lights.....within seconds, 6 people arrive to help push the broken down vehicle to the side of the road, and to help the driver determine the problem;

cut hair from my husband’s barbers,  collected by artists to create art installations, bird lovers to build nests, and a bird loving teacher to provide materials for her next adult nest building class;
free cups of tea and biscuits at the Thursday morning cinema showing of whatever happens to be on at the time, and entrance still only £5.00;

geese and rare breed ducks wandering the streets around the town centre, completely ignored by residents, much photographed by tourists & brilliantly planned steps by the river from which children feed the ducks ;

more than a dozen gorgeous places to stop and have coffee, or fabulous fruit and herb tea infusions, despite the fact that it only takes 10 minutes to walk around the whole town.....but they all seem to be busy, hope they’re all thriving;
some great eating places, ranging from a greasy spoon to really posh, and everything in between, Greek, Turkish ( fabulous by the way ),Italian( 2), Thai, French, Pakistani, Chinese, fish and chips ( posh and less posh but excellent) several excellent pubs serving very interesting food, nothing like the normal boring pub pile em high steak and chips places....etc etc;

the canal, the river, the gorgeous railway station where people arrive early for their train because of the great bacon butties, the alternative technologies centre, the trades club for live music, the health food shops, the independent craft shops, the market, my reflexologist, the footpath up to Heptonstall , Hardcastle Craggs, all within walking distance of our doubt, it is a good place to be......and Manchester city centre is 25 minutes away by train.

So....looking forward to being in Caunes again soon, but relishing the time spent in this lovely bit of Yorkshire, as the signs of spring appear.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Spreading wings

Adventures without one's parents

Tomorrow my daughter goes to Amsterdam with her boyfriend. They found a cheap flight and are going for a short break. It isn't her first visit to Amsterdam as my brother lived there for years, and we used to take regular trips to see him. We got so blasé about the city that we sometimes even spent long weekends there, not doing any touristy things at all.... just staying in his flat, eating, drinking, chatting, catching up, watching films etc.
Our daughter is well travelled, she made her first transatlantic trip at 9 weeks old. Since then she has travelled throughout Europe, a little bit of North Africa, the US and to Australia with us. Then... 3 years ago, she started going places with friends, and even.....alone. It started with a trip to Spain with a friend and her parents, then a city break to Rome, then a month travelling around Ireland, then 4 months in Australia.

I love the idea that she is discovering the world for herself now. I think that she is excited and delighted by beautiful old churches, castles, galleries and fountains and statues and architecture and fabulous landscapes and mountains and lakes and oceans and botanical gardens, people watching, and sitting watching the world go by from pavement cafes.

When she lights candles in gorgeous churches, will she make sure she names the people, in her head at least, for whom they are being lit ?
Will she remember that she always used to demand ice cream as a reward for venturing into yet “ another church”. ?

Will she drag her boyfriend around the Van Gogh museum and tell him which paintings she loved the last time she was here, and which one her little cousin Michael stood in front of and copied into a sketch book ?
Will she try to find the tree in Vondel Park where she and her cousin spent hours climbing, before drinking excellent hot chocolate in one of the brilliant cafes in the park ?

Will she decide to go to Anne Frank Huis again....or will she remember how emotional it made her.... and give it a miss ?
A while ago, when Mark and I were in Venice, I remember saying how I wished she was with us, that she would love it. Mark said he thought Venice was one of those places you had to discover for yourself....and that she would have that pleasure to come some day.

 He was completely right........ as always.......

I’m glad we have been lucky enough to be able to give Jess a taste of other places, but I hope that she has amazing adventures discovering places for herself

Next trip Jess ????

Monday, 13 February 2012

The cabinet in Caunes

My grandmother's cabinet is now in Caunes.

Tomorrow is St Valentine's day, which is always a little strange for me. My amazingly beautiful mother died on 14th February.....29 years ago, when I was 28. So, from this year onwards, she has been gone from my life, longer than she was in it. I am always surrounded by her though.... I actually only have to look in the mirror sometimes to see her. I often catch her looking at me in the rear view mirror of my car. But I am also surrounded by things that were hers, or remind me of her.

The china cabinet was my grandmothers.... my mother's mothers. Mum loved the cabinet and it should be hers now, but mum died years before my grandmother, so it skipped a generation and came straight to me.

The egg cups in the bottom of the cabinet were the ones mum made us boiled eggs in when we were children, and the Spanish fans were the ones she used when she got hot on holiday. Most of the other things in the cabinet were either my grandmothers, or have been added to over the years by me.... a few presents, a few touristy acquisitions.

Mostly, the cabinet makes me think of my mother, and her mother......the 2 women who influenced me more than anyone else as I grew up. I hope they would be pleased that the cabinet has made its way to France, and that when I am in Caunes, I am still surrounded by the things that remind me of them.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Things done..... and not done.

The never ending " to do " list

Each trip to Caunes begins with a long "to do" list....some things are accomplished, while others transfer to the "to do, next time" list.

Here is a summary of this trips "done" things.

Make a bread bag.......... DONE

I have owned this gorgeous 1950s fabric ( yards and yards of it) since my Auntie Mamie died in the 1970s. I have kept it and thought about her, every time I have considered using it. Finally, I have made something I know she would love.... a bag to keep my bread fresh, and away from surfaces where it might attract insects. I also made a table cloth, and have enough left over for a dressing gown ( note to self.....task for next trip. )

Frame and hang photos of the children to make the place feel more like home.........DONE
The idea was to fill the long downstairs corridor with photos of the children and grandchildren from holidays in France over the last 20 years. I also bought frames to keep empty, to fill up and add to the gallery over the next 20 years.

Find antique lace panel curtain for toilet door......... HALF DONE !

I failed to find the perfect antique panel, so this machine made cow motif curtain will do until I succeed in my quest..... I think the boys will like the idea of cows on the toilet door.

.....and talking of toilets, we have never quite managed to organise having locking toilet or bathroom doors in the houses we have lived in...... so this was a great success for our "to do" list.......

Put  (working) locks on bathroom and toilet doors.....DONE

our visitors will be most impressed

Put our names on the  front door ........   HALF DONE

We managed to remove the previous owners' names from the door, had our own plaque made......but then broke a screw while we were putting it on the door, so it is transferred to the next time list.

Build bunk beds and organise boys' room........DONE

Paint and put up spice rack................DONE

This was an old bookcase that I salvaged from our old house in Mankinholes at the very last minute, thinking, it just might come in handy in France.

Drive the ridiculously large car Mark insisted we have.....and feel confident about it .........DONE......what was all the fuss about ?

Supervise the replacement of the horrendous pink bathroom.......DONE

Can't believe how much better this looks !

We also visited Narbonne on probably the coldest day the world has ever known, saw frozen waves, and lots of people wearing lots of clothes, huddled around cups of hot chocolate. We visited Minerve, which was gorgeous and look forward to returning when the weather is a little warmer. We went to the Carneval in Limoux, and went for a few very very cold walks around Caunes. It is such a beautiful place.


We fed the birds, and watched them from our terrace. We were delighted to find goldfinches, chaffinches, blue and great tits as well as thrushes, blackbirds and sparrows.

We failed to do any gardening ....too cold and too much snow, Mark failed to play golf for the same reasons....and I failed to practise the piano ..... for different reasons.......laziness probably being one of them.
All these things.....and I don't doubt, many others, will be added to the "to do" list for our next trip. 

Monday, 6 February 2012

Carnaval de Limoux

The Limoux Carnival

This annual carnival has been held for centuries and its purpose seems to be to make fun of society and its rules. For 10 weeks, 3 times, each Saturday and Sunday leading up to the 2nd Sunday before Easter, different masked groups, representing various guilds, parade through the streets. The first parade, at 11am, is supposed to provide amusement and mock some local or national story from the past year. The last parade of the day, at 11pm, is torch lit and is more sombre and mystical.

We saw the 11am parade on Sunday 5th February. It was incredibly cold, and the snow started to fall during the parade. The musicians, wearing stunning red smocks, looked cold.....there was evidence of frozen moustaches, and clearly, some sore chapped lips attached to trombones, clarinets and various horns.

The actual characters in the parade we saw were monks, nuns, a priest, and a whore. The costumes were caricature like, all participants wearing expressionless masks. From the little we understood, and what we have read about the origins and purpose of the carnaval, it was referring to the Church's role in child abuse cases that have been in the news recently.
Haunting choral music flooded the square as a small crowd started to gather. This is February, it is incredibly cold, and tourists are thin on the ground, so I think we were the only non French observers.

Proceedings are carried out in the ancient Occitan language ( from Langue d’ Oc ..... the Languedoc ) of this region. To our ears it sounded a little Spanish, but some of it was basically comprehensible to our developing French understanding. For instance, it was clear, when the Priest character was being “judged” by the others, he was sentenced to being turned into a lapin, and then castrated.

In between set scenes, the masked figures paraded from cafe to cafe, in a stylised fashion, posing, tableau like and then furiously waving their arms above their heads. All through this the band followed them and played what varied from haunting anthems to almost fairground music.

No... we didn’t know exactly what was going on...... and apparently the origin of the carnival is lost in time, a pagan winter festival possibly, but one that runs for a considerable length of time and coincides with Lent. It has always made fun of local dignitaries, and has always included lewd and rude references..... and encourages members of the public to dress up in outrageous costumes to follow the parade.
This is a parade follower... dressed appropriately.

           The priest turned rabbit is clutching his genitals here !

Whatever was going on.. I am so glad we saw it.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Monsieur le Chat

Monsieur le Chat

I have a very bad record regarding cats. I love them, and never regard a home to be complete without one. However, I am unreliable. I gave "Lily" to an old people's home when I decided I wanted to live in America for a year in the 80s. Then, when I left America, I gave "Nebraska" to a woman who worked at the local vetinary clinic.

"Dillinger" lasted a long time.....but after 13 years I gave him to our lodger, partly because she was distraught that we were moving and taking him with us, but also because we were moving into a rented home for a few weeks....and having a cat wasn't convenient !

Most recently, recognising that flitting between Yorkshire and the Languedoc, would not provide stability for 10 year old "Elijah", I gave him to Carole and Peter.

Wandering around the garden here in Caunes the other day, I think I found the answer......basking in the sunshine, behind the house, between the washing line and the pine forest.... I saw, the one  I intend to call Monsieur le Chat.

He is a real bruiser of a feline.... scarred, raggedy ears, and so tough looking, I am sure he can cope with my unreliability. I presume he technically "belongs" to someone else, but in recognition of the fact that people can never really own a cat.... they are clearly the dominant element in any relationship..... Monsieur Le Chat et moi are going to get on well. I don't have to worry about looking after him, we can just share the same garden from time to time. I love him already.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Bidet on the balcony

Bidet on the balcony

I'm delighted to be back in Caunes, and looking forward to completing a few "projects"....painting a spice rack, organising the granchildren's room, making a bread bag, a few long walks, coming to terms with driving "the bus" ( the 7 seater that Mark insisted we needed in which to ferry all our visitors around )....and of course, some blogging..

We began our trip, being thrilled that the work on one of the new bathrooms has actually started.....and the evidence was....... the bidet on the balcony.  Please understand that these pale pink fittings are being removed from our house......not installed.  Neither Mark nor I could cope with the retro pink shell theme.....however,we have been advised these items will provide  great interest at the next vide greniere ( empty the boot equivalent ).

It is actually quite tempting to turn the bidet into a bird bath somewhere in the garden......but the toilet has to go !