Sunday, 26 August 2012

Is it too late to learn the violin ?

Caunes manages to put on some incredible entertainment. The latest has been a series of Baroque concerts held in one of the marble quarries, next to Chateau Villerambert on the outskirts of the village. The setting, while bizarre on one level added a haunting beauty to the music.

We walked from the car park to the quarry, wearing hard hats, and wondering whether the piles of marble rocks, chips, and slabs were securely placed.

Le groupe Opalescences, Saskia Salembier, Mezzo soprano et vilon baroque, Akitsu Orri, Traverso, 
Natacha Gauthier, Violoncelle et Alban Tregoures, Clavecin

After the concert, where Mark admitted he had fallen in love with the gorgeous mezzo soprano who also played the violin like an angel ( if angels were to play violins), we adjourned to the Chateau Villerambert for a wonderful buffet by moonlight.
in the grounds of the Chateau

It was another great night out in Caunes Minervois.


Sunday, 19 August 2012

Lazy wasps and the fish boys

Settling back into life in Caunes Minervois after a 2 week trip to England hasn’t been hard. Not much changed while we were away. The boulangerie has taken on a new assistant, the pool seems to have sprung a bit of a leak,  the hazelnuts have ripened and popped out of their frilly pods and have fallen onto the floor, we are over run with tomatoes and courgettes from my hastily erected  trial veg patch and we found a little wasps nest in one of the aloe vera that proved fascinating to 4 year old Dexter.

We have lots of visitors, some who are making their second visit of the year….which is great as they clearly love the place just like we do.
On a really hot day, we left the pool and ventured to a lake in the Black Mountains, near Mazamet, where it was a few degrees cooler and surprisingly uncrowded.

After the excitement of le Tour and then the Olympics in London, all has settled into a simple quiet routine again. It is perhaps the lull before the storm as our next trip back to England will involve our eldest daughter’s (technically…. Mark’s daughter ) wedding. So, we are making the most of the lazing around in the heat time, and enjoying watching the grandchildren turn into fish as they gain confidence in the pool.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Olympics: part 2

I am still buzzing from the experience of being in the athletics stadium at London 2012’s Olympic park, last Friday and Saturday.

I have already posted about the overall organisation, and the incredibly joyful atmosphere that has reigned over east London during the last 2 weeks, so I am now taking the opportunity to post a few more photos and thoughts in an attempt to share the experience.

We were lucky enough to have acquired 8 tickets from the first ballot last year, for athletics, over 2 days as well as 2 tickets for boxing. Mark and I went to the athletics on both days, and gave our other tickets (2 for each of the athletic days, and the boxing tickets) to our daughters. (Our son and his wife were not able to get babysitters, so couldn’t come too.....hence Mark and I went twice).

we took our seats early, and watched the stadium fill up

the velodrome

All this meant that we were in the stadium on the evening that Ennis won gold in the heptathlon, Rutherford won the long jump, and Mo Farah won the 10,000 metres. We had great seats, with an excellent view of the finishing line, and we could feel the heat from the flame.

We also sat just behind a woman who delighted us by telling us she had been at Wembley in 1948, as a 7 year old this was her 2nd  London Olympics.

I have already posted about how tremendously uplifting the atmosphere was, and how goodwill to all was apparent everywhere.  For me, such a positive spirit of camaraderie, where each athlete’s efforts were supported and cheered, was by far the best bit. While I could wax on about atmosphere and happy fans for ages, I do want to share a little of the excitement we felt from what we actually witnessed in the stadium.

Jess Ennis was clearly the darling of the crowd. We watched her shot put and 200 metres on Friday, and then on Saturday night, with one event left, the 800 metres, she was poised to win the heptathlon. It seemed that as long as she turned up, and didn’t break a leg going round, the gold was hers. It was, and she was determined to give the crowd something to cheer about as she crossed the line first, despite only needing to finish in the pack. The roar was amazing. I can honestly say I have never heard anything like it.
Jess Ennis, about to cross the line in the final win gold

Greg Rutherford then went on to win gold for Britain in the long jump, and when Mo Farah crossed the line in first place in the 10,000 metres, I thought the stadium would explode. He hugged the other Brit in the race, his daughter ran onto the track, he hugged her, then his very pregnant wife appeared on the track and everyone was cheering, crying, flag waving and generally involved with the extreme emotion of the whole occasion.

The climax of Saturday’s session was the 100 metres women’s Brit running, but you would not have known that from the noise in the stadium. It had been the same the night before when a tiny Ethiopian woman stormed to victory in the women’s 10,000 metres.  The crowd roared in encouragement and delight at winners, and those that finished miles behind the winners. Lapped runners in the 10,000 were applauded with as much vigour as those that led the race.

The noise, the sheer power of all that effort,  the pure emotion and joy will live with Mark and I for a long time.
I dont know who she is...but I felt like she looks.....all day.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Olympic tale: part 1

When interviewed on a local Wisconsin radio station on the 4th July 28 years ago, I told the interviewer that as a European, I struggled with the idea of patriotism as it often felt like nationalism which has so many negative connotations.

My planned trip to the Olympics in London 2012 , whilst eagerly anticipated, was viewed with some cynicism related to the expected hoo ha of patriotic fervour, massive crowds, awful transportation infra-structure, oppressive security measures and the prominence of sponsorship deals with MacDonalds, Coca- cola and Visa.

I want to post about the sporting achievements I saw later.( I was one of the 80,000 to be in the athletics stadium on the day Ennis, Rutherford and Farah won their gold medals within 45 minutes of each other). Today I want to concentrate on the powerful feelings of pride and joy the trip has left with me.

First: The transportation system was faultless. Everything worked perfectly, trains, information, volunteers providing could not have been better. We walked from one train to the next, they were clean, rarely crowded and there were plenty of them.

Second: Olympic Park was beautiful. The stadium architecture was interesting, the planting of millions of wild flowers was an ingenious idea and despite the biggest MacDonalds in the world, it was possible to avoid it and eat other food. My fears about oppressive security were also unfounded. Pleasant and smiling security people checked bags and wished us a great day, quickly and efficiently. No real queues and no hassle at all.
Third: The volunteers were astounding. They were everywhere, providing information, directions, humour and smiles by the mile.
Fourth: The crowd was the best part. Everyone seemed thrilled to be there. Costumes and flags were in abundance. Communication between fans in various languages took place everywhere, with smiling as the universally understood sign.

Here is some of the evidence:

Cynicism abandoned, and a childlike wish that all nations could be as happy together as they seemed during our fabulous two days at the Olympics of London 2012.