Sunday, June 27, 2010

Rufus Bathing in the River

Rain and Shine

  Weatherwise, this last week and the one that went before, couldn’t have been more different for the time of year. This week, we have had cloudless skies and temperatures above 25°C during the day but nicely cool at night. The preceding week was cold and wet – so chilly to necessitate the lighting of a fire in the evening.
The responsibility for this state of affairs lies squarely on the shoulders of our visitors from Wales, who were here the first of these two weeks. They brought the bad weather with them, and thankfully took it away again. Thanks Dave and Jo.
Instead on sunbathing in the dappled shade of the walnut trees and sipping a G & T they were obliged to huddle indoors with books or listen to the amusings of Peter Ustinov or Alan Bennet on tape if they could hear above the rain drumming on the roof of the serre. They made brave sorties into Conques, Rodez and Figeac but altogether I think they had a sad time of it.
We did have a pleasant evening out together when we dined at the auberge in Mourjou. Excellent meal and good company – thank you both.
Since then we have been getting on with chores despite the temptation to bask in the sun along with the lizards. I have finished decorating the main bedroom – although not yet finished the quilt. The theme is sunflowers and I have framed several pictures for the walls. Below - I am sewing outside on the terrace.  
Jim’s vegetables are growing well and we have been eating potatoes and a first picking of broadbeans. Delicious.  
We have made a couple of evening strolls up to Peter’s Place (still no bench) with bottles of beer and found it too hot to stay there long even as late as 8 o’clock. One evening as I sat down a snake slithered off a branch of a bush about a metre away. I was too concerned to prevent Rufus seeing it to notice what it was before it was out of sight. Pity, because I had my camera at the ready for just such an event.
We have been dancing around the garden trying to get decent pictures of butterflies. The air is full of different kinds – not rare, so far as we know, but just varieties we don’t see frequently, or at all, in the U.K. I have had to purchase another butterfly book, unfortunately it is in French – what did I expect!  
This is a Purple Emperor – only the males show the purple flash and only from certain angles. I had wondered why so many of these were fluttering together in the same place until I read up on them. I found out they were attracted to rotting or decaying material and saw that Rufus had left something aromatic underneath the Hortensia bush nearby!  
And this is a Knapweed Fritillary – there are a lot of butterflies that look like this in colouring but this one is perched on some Knapweed to make it easy for me.  
Firstly, our old friend bramble, or  blackberry, this one with pink flowers which are rather pretty and I expect we shall be glad of it during blackberry picking time but at the moment it impedes progress on walks and Jim has to keep strimming to clear the paths and poor old Rufus is ripped to shreds on his belly.
Secondly, a pretty little flower related to the snapdragon - Pale Toadflax
Another walk we take is along the river. Rufus likes this too as he can go swimming. Only a good idea if you want a wet dog for the rest of the evening. (See video clip at the beginning) (Still working on how to insert this in the blog) And finally a good view of the river from the walk.    

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Corsets and Street Theatre

Thursday is market day in Maurs – well, market morning as they start to pack up at 12 – 12.30. We usually go, if only to enjoy the convivial atmosphere and to buy plants for the garden.
Apart from the usual kind of stall – vegetable produce, meat and cheese vans, kitchenware, clothing, handbags and shoes there is always one stall that I find fascinating.

We call her the corset lady and she really does have an incredible selection of old fashioned underwear. If she objected to my photographing the stall she made no comment as I had previously rescued a couple of oversized bras that the wind had blown astray. I haven’t bought anything here.

If we miss anything from our life in Cowbridge it is the drama so it was with enthusiasm that we travelled to Capdenac Gare last weekend for the 14th Festival of Derrière Hublot ‘Arts de la Rue’ . The events were taking place in a local park. We had bought two tickets for the only event requiring payment but that was for tomorrow. The Tourist Office told us everything else was booked. Unbelievable!

En route to the park we saw these decorated buildings:

 There were about 5 or 6 all in a different colour. We understood it was a competition for the best decorated house over the two days.

The proceedings in the park were still being set up – no beer tent, no music stand, no food stall and very few people. There was only one event and that seemed to be for children. It began to rain so we left.

On Sunday we arrived in good time for the 2.30 performance of 2Rien Merci by Moulinoscope.

This was the ticket office (behind it is the main auditorium):
At 2.30 the girl rang a bell and on presentation of our tickets (€10 each) we were each given a walnut. Half our number was ushered into a hessian covered caravan, the rest to hang around waiting.

Inside was dark (I struggled to contain my claustrophobia) then we were handed a small torch each. We stood around a contraption attached to a bicycle. The walls were decorated with cuttings and posters but it was too dark to read them. In slow motion and with a lot of fiddling about the ‘actor’ mounted the bicycle and started to pedal. This activated a large wheel behind him with film slides inserted. There was nothing interesting to see except a stuffed, headless duck whizzing round above his head. After a bit he stopped pedalling and let us out.
More hanging around (the other half of our group went into the caravan) when we were let into the theatre proper (relinquishing our walnuts at the door). There were no seats, and again we stood around some apparatus. Presently, (no sense of urgency) the ‘actor’ gave us a film show consisting of the four actors involved dressed in ‘funny’ clothing performing ‘funny’ actions and a lot of close-ups of snails. The whole event took about 50 minutes including all the waiting.

There appeared to be no other events on offer until the evening so after a beer (beer tent now working) and an icecream (ditto food stall) we went home. I thought wistfully of the account of the performance of The Importance of Being Ernest at Bryngarw by ‘Rain and Shine’.

After supper, whilst doing a jig-saw I listened to Bill Bryson reading his book At Home. Jim planted out some beans. We enjoy simple pleasures here in the Cantal.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Ruthie and Roofie

Ruth needed a break from her job in a Care Home where she works hard so she came to visit us in the Moulin for a week.


She and Rufus took to each other straight away. It was love at first sight. Ruth bought Rufus a present of a stuffed, squeaky duck and he loves it. Ruth played ball with him, took him for unscheduled walks in the fields and cooched up on the sofa with him when we watched DVDS in the evening.

Roofie and the Duck

During her visit we went again to Conques where Ruth bought gifts for her friends and family. On a hot day we went to the beach. There was talk of swimming but the water was too cold but we did some sun bathing and had a picnic.

Beach on the Lake

This beach is not on the coast, of course, we are too far away for that.  The place is called  Lake Ribeyrie and is the largest artificial lake in the Auvergne. It is a reservoir created by EDF between 1935 and 1945 in the valley of the Cere at Saint-Etienne-Cantalès. It has many beaches and leisure facilities. It is about an hours drive away from the Moulin.

Map showing Lake

Our final outing was to the Foire à la Cerise (Cherry Fair) at St Constant – just 10 minutes down the road. It was a two-day affair but as Ruth was catching her plane in Toulouse on the Sunday we were only able to enjoy the festivities on the Saturday. When we arrived after lunch we found people playing boule on every available spot. Not a cherry or tombola stall in site. We looked at the schedule of events and decided to come back in time for the Soirée Danse Country (sous le chapiteau, entrée gratuite and initiation) and the Grand Feu d’Artifice.
This we did.
Line Dancing (no we didn't)

Feu d'Artifice

We returned Ruth to Toulouse on the Sunday and we, ourselves stayed overnight so that we could make a trip to IKEA on Monday morning to get some more flooring and other stuff for the house and gite. This enabled us to spend the evening wandering around part of the town and eating out.

 Love a duck!

I think Ruthie enjoyed her visit but Roofie is now bereft. He wanders around in a lacklustre manner pining for his lost love. I have bought him a new ball to cheer him up.

 Longhorn beetle

No. I don't like them either. Next time:'corsets at the market' and 'street theatre'.

Saturday, June 5, 2010


This was the week that Peter and Jennifer visited. They have been regular visitors over the years we have been coming here. We collect them from Rodez, a delightful, small airport about an hour away.

Our first outing was to a pottery market we had seen advertised and it proved to be good. The stalls were set out in a field adjacent to another mill. The standard of the pottery was excellent and we were tempted to buy several bits and pieces.

We were also attracted by the possibily of having the lunch provided - sausage and aligot. Aligot is a dish traditionally made in the south of the Auvergne and made of melted Tomme cheese blended into mashed potatoes, often with some garlic and cream. It is quite delicious and can be bought ready made in the markets and supermarkets.

Another trip was made to Conques. This is our local tourist attraction but well worth the visit. The tiny village of Conques occupies a spectacular position high on the steep, wooded gorge of the River Dourdou, a small tributary of the Lot. It is highly picturesque and peaceful — the Rough Guide to France calls it "one of the great villages of southwest France." Parts of the medieval walls still survive, along with three of its gates. The houses date from the late Middle Ages and are divided by cobbled lanes and stairways that are a pleasure to wander. There several shops selling good quality souveniers, craftwork and postcards and of course, the Abbey itself with the Romanesque carving of the Last Judgment in the tympanum over the main doors.
Tympanum detail: weighing of souls and the gates to heaven and hell

For the third time we had an excellent lunch in the hotel Saint Jacques seated on the terrace.

The bowl of strawberries below is not one of Jim's products although we have been having salad leaves from his vegetable garden and even a serving of small new potatoes, but wild strawberries that grow plentifully here and good served with a bowl of yogurt.

Finally some more flora and fauna - not necessarily to everyone's taste.

 Blossom on Medlar tree