Saturday, 6 December 2014

Buzzing around

Beautiful Stoodley Pike
I have so many potential posts buzzing around my head at the moment.
I have been wanting to blog about gardening in the Minervois, comparing it with the Yorkshire gardening I do, including some details about a wonderful gardening course I went on in Caunes, just before I left.

I want to write about some of the walks I've done since being back in Yorkshire.

I have loads I want to write about working in the Hospice shop.....although, the manager and I have joked about the TV sit-com we could maybe the blog will have to wait until we have become famous as writers of the latest block busting TV show. Now Miranda is ending her show...maybe she’ll be available to play one of the volunteers.

Christmas meal with the staff and volunteers from the Overgate Hospice shop in Hebden Bridge.
I have made some breakthroughs in my family history research and want to share some of that. Discovering the dying words of a great uncle and aunt, through a “War Cry” article from the 1920s, was quite something. So I now have the urge to share a little about the life of my great uncle Leopold his wife and his amazing children.

Miriam of my great uncle Leopold's children, who devoted her life to the Salvation Army
Today I became livid to discover that the law supposedly ending the use of wild animals in British circuses has been stalled due to the outrageous ignorance and stupidity of 3 Tory mps. I blogged earlier in the year about the awful situation in France, when I stumbled upon tigers and a hippo being caged up on a traffic island in Carcassonne prior to being dragged around the French countryside in wagons no bigger than a postage stamp. Now I find that the Brits are just as bad. Aggghhhh. all these things pile up in my head, and Christmas approaches, and there are walks to go on, French to practice, my up and coming 60th birthday party to plan, grandchildren to spend time with, concerts in Hebden Bridge to attend, and of course, the shop to work in......nothing is getting written.

I am reading blogs, perhaps not interacting through commenting as much as I’d like to.....but time just seems to dash on.

Anyway, if I don’t get around to blogging again before Christmas, I hope you all have a really happy one.

 I will write the things I am thinking about.....but  it may be a while before I get around to them.

In the meantime, I’m just going to include a few photos of my very small and crowded “workspace”. Calling it an office would be overstating things. It is more like a very crowded cupboard. I hope to be spending more time in it soon, so I can get these buzzing blogs written.

All of the above photos show my "workspace"......the last image being my grandfather, with his 3 wives. Technically, only the first, Hylda, was really his wife. My grandmother, on the right,Queenie, was the third.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Attic emptying and the joys of other people's junk.

I think I can do without this in my home.
I rarely visit car boot sales in England. I used to go to antique fairs quite often, but now,only go to one if it is very local and the parking is easy. Partly this is because I believe I have conquered my hoarding tendency, and am realistic enough to know that my little Hebden Bridge house is already stacked so high with much loved treasures and there really isn’t any more space !

France is somehow different. The house is bigger I suppose, so there is more room to display amazing finds. The real difference however, is that vide greniers are just so much more fun than car boot sales......and the weather tends to be better !

A gorgeous old French board game.....ludo with horses.

I have made some great buys over the last 3 years at vide greniers. Children’s toys are always available, and our grandchildren have benefited from many French children growing out of their toys and buggies.

Liam...thrilled with a 1 euro purchase.

 I have also started a pot dog collection,

This was the first dog ...the pack now consists of 4 of them.....and I reckon I've got space for another few.
 I have found some other great pottery, acquired fabulous casserole dishes and remain constantly on the look out for framed photographs of soldiers. I am also seriously upset when I see old photos, no longer wanted by family members, for sale for a few euros. So far I have resisted the temptation of providing a home for hundreds of strangers photos. Mark is hoping I manage to keep resisting that particular temptation.

Here I am trying to decide whether to give this portrait a new home. I resisted...this time.
I have used vide grenier visiting as a way to discover new villages in the Aude and in the Herault. Every Sunday, from May until November, I have been spoiled for choice as to which towns and villages to visit. Sometimes I manage to fit two or three in on one day.

The Bram vide grenier was held in the grounds of a chateau.

The moment of purchase, captured .....buying a gorgeous jug and bowl set.
Sometimes, the stalls are spread out along a river bank, or the canal. Sometimes they are just in a car park or a field...but usually, they wind around the village streets. Some people set their stalls up outside their own home....others arrive early and set up with a picnic to sustain them through the day.

Some people sell all their old rubbish, and there are usually some dealers who clearly make a living out of taking their stock from one village to the next. Those are the boring stalls, with the unrealistic prices. I think I've seen that sanglier ( wild boar) at several vide greniers over the last 3years.

Sometimes you wonder who on earth would buy some of this stuff !

The best stalls are where the family has had a sort out and is getting rid of things...emptying the attic.....which is what vide grenier means.

There is usually an old tool stall....dealers.....who come to each vide grenier
Some displays are brilliant
This tile pot stand has lovely little rounded feet....and I love it. I splashed out on this cost me 5 euros.

People chat, people bargain,  I practice my French and most of the time everyone smiles. Sellers being happy to not have to take stuff home with them, and buyers pleased with their bargains.

There is no doubt about it...other people's junk can be fascinating....not sure that the crib looks very inviting with the fox in it though.

I love this pharmacy jar. It is Limoges pottery, and cost me all of 2 euros....and I love the idea of having a pot of the elixir of long life sitting on the piano.


Saturday, 15 November 2014

Yorkshire catch up time.

Amazingly....this is in Hebden Bridge, not Caunes. Sun shining, window boxes still blooming away.
It is well over a month since I posted a blog. It is weeks since I returned to Yorkshire. Since we arrived back, life seems to have been very hectic. So this is a bit of a catch up on what we’ve been up to.

I spent some half term time with Jess in Liverpool, seeing her classroom for the first time, since she started teaching in September.

Jess in her classroom
We have ensured we have seen plenty of the grandchildren, including having 4 of them to sleep over for Halloween. The question is, will we cope with all 5 of them next year...or maybe there will be even more by then.

I have returned to working my shifts at the Hospice shop, and am loving seeing all the people I enjoy working with, as well as the excitement of never knowing what treasures have been donated every time I walk through the doors. The customers are pretty wonderful too.

We enjoyed putting an Armistice day window together at the Hospice shop.

I got another “all clear” from the hospital.

There have been a couple of Christmas shopping trips,a meal out with women from the shop, coffee with a few friends to catch up, parkruns with the children and grandchildren, dentist visits, hairdresser visits and even a first session with the personal trainer I worked with before I was ill. I've also managed to spend a bit of time doing some family history research and have made a couple of breakthroughs that are very likely to become the subjects of future blogs.

My cubby hole office ( how dare the estate agent call this a 4th bedroom ! ) where I wallow in my family history research.

So, all in all, I’m not surprised there has been no time for blogging. I had various blogs from Caunes planned, and one or two of them may emerge over time....but at the moment, it’s just a matter of enjoying the new routines of being back in Hebden Bridge.

It is a little strange. We felt more emotional leaving Caunes than we expected. We are missing friends from the Minervois ( looking forward to seeing them at Christmas, when they are planning a quick trip to Hebden Bridge), but we are really enjoying Yorkshire again.

The fact that the weather has been lovely ( until now) has helped. The Calder Valley is stunning this time of year.

Hebden Bridge last week.....looking so beautiful.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Mooching south of the border

Being just 2 hours drive from the Spanish border means that day trips, overnighters and mini trips are all possible. So, as the weather in southern France got a little cooler, we headed south. Our last Spanish trip  in the spring, had been to Figueras, all of 20 minutes south of the border. This time, we went mad….and went to Girona, a further 15 -20 minutes drive from the Figueras turn off on the motor way. ( We, by the way, consisted of Mark and I, and Jane and Steve, who also came to Figueras with us).

So…. Girona. I knew there was an airport there…..part of Ryanair’s collection of destinations….but not much else.  Jane, had been before, many years ago, and knew the cathedral was interesting. Our French teacher in Caunes told us about the walls, some great little places to eat, and where to park the car. ( It was in a large free car park on the edge of the city….unfortunately she didn’t tell us how to find our car again 2 days after we had parked it…… it took us some time to locate exactly where it had been left ! )
The cathedral, from the walls which surround one side of the city

We arrived in time for a quick check in at our very centrally located hotel and a tapas lunch, before heading off to walk the walls around the medieval part of the city, giving amazing views across the city and north to the Pyrenees.

us, looking over the walls towards the mountains
Apart from the obviously fabulous architecture, we were immediately aware of the Catalan desire for independence. Just a couple of weeks after the Scottish referendum it was interesting to see the demands for a similar vote here. The unofficial vote, promised to be ignored by the Spanish 
government is set for 9th November.

in English......for the tourists ????
Our 3 day/2 night trip was spent wandering, sitting drinking coffee, wine, green tea, nattering, discovering the Jewish quarter, the Arab baths, fabulous churches and museums….and one or two shops, as well as eating some great meals and stopping regularly for ice creams ( for Steve...although to be honest, Mark usually joined him ).

alleyways, incredible stone floors, around every corner

Cathedral cloisters

gardens by the was very warm and humid here.... mosquitoes abounded.

wall walking, photo taking, phone checking......

one of the many ice cream shops

tourists at the Cathedral, with evidence of shopping

They studied the maps so carefully

There was also a considerable amount of map reading undertaken, in an attempt to introduce a system to our wanderings. Please note that I refrained from this activity, preferring to document my fellow adventurers attempts to work out where we were and where we might go next.

Wall art, seen in the "modern" town, following an abortive attempt to find a department store, but provided a walk through the less touristy part of the city as dusk fell.

Steve, choosing his ice cream

Musicians entertaining us whilst stopping for yet another coffee.

The archeological museum was a treat.

During our last evening meal, we wondered about a young man who sat in an attic window, reading and smoking. We decided he was clearly a radical Catalonian, probably reading the Spanish equivalent of “Germinal”……the other theory was that he posed as a moody student for tourists like us , every night.
Our angry young man

Finally, on our last morning, we discovered  a very unexpected Girona delight. 

We found the Museum of Film just around the corner from our hotel. It held an amazing collection of early methods of projecting still and moving images and as we were the only people in the place for at least an hour, we took our time and studied….and played with the exhibits.

magic lantern slides

The more recent moving image displays were equally fascinating.

Boots worn by James Dean

The lamp from Sam's piano in "Casablanca"... You must remember this.......

We confirmed our view that Spanish coffee is excellent, that south of the Pyrenees the temperature is a tad higher than north of the Pyrenees, that we feel completely useless at conversing in Spanish and felt ridiculously fluent in French as soon as we re-crossed the border and that we are incredibly lucky to live so close to this part of Spain.

Mark and I are off back to Yorkshire next week, but we are already planning our next Spanish trip with Steve and Jane. It is so good to mooch around places like this, enjoying seeing new things with people whose company you enjoy.

Jane and Steve
Janice and Mark
 ( The intrepid adventurers, as we might have looked undertaking The Grand Tour, 150 years ago.....not sure what the Victorian photographer would have made of our travelling costumes).

 I think it will be Barcelona next !