Tuesday, August 24, 2010


The priest who took the whole service in Occitan

Is this Wee Willy Winkie?

What a little angel, one of the servers at Mass

A quick rehearsal a lot like E. Harling on Sunday mornings!

A cast of thousands!

John, with Robert and Renee

Why is this man playing a cushion?
Actually he was very good.
A man of straw!

Make hay while the sun shines and boy did it shine.
It could be 1950 or even before apart form the wires and cars in the background.

Espinas, before you ask, is the name of the village up the hill and on Sunday we had a really lovely experience at their summer festival. Every year they try to recreate the village as it might have been in the past and this year it was especially well done. All the inhabitants dress up in costumes from the past and in the afternoon they do hay making using the old fashioned machines and animals. There are men with saws 10 ft long showing how whole trees were cut into floor boards, there are clog makers, oil and juice pressers, the school is set up as it would have been before the war, and there are models all over the village showing people undertaking various activities. It's always amazing.

First thing in the morning we got up and went out with our neighbours Mme. Renee and M. Robert Lafon (who have kind of adopted us). We went to mass in the open air and the whole thing was said in the local language Occitan. We could understand some bits but most was totally incomprehensible apart from the odd sentence which made complete sense, a very odd sensation to suddenly hear something you understand in a sea of stuff you don't. We managed a bit with Robert whispering translations into my ear and also with the crib sheet. We joined in valiantly with The Lord's Prayer which as you can see is quite recognisable if you know any French, Spanish, Italian or Latin, although saying it is another matter! Robert was sniggering at our efforts, shame.

Paire nòstre que siès dins lo cèl, que ton nom se santifique, que ton rènhe nos avenga, que ta volontat se faga sus la tèrra coma dins lo cèl. Dona-nos nòstre pan de cada jorn, perdona-nos nòstres deutes coma nosautres perdonam als nòstres debitors e fai que tombèm pas dins la tentacion mas deliura-nos del mal. Atal sia!
After mass which was really beautiful we had a few glasses of cold sangria and watched all the local people folk dancing. There was a man on the accordeon and another playing a set of pipes which looked rather like Northumbrian pipes rather than Scottish ones, the music was perfect for the whole setting and I felt quite emotional. We then went home and Renee announced that we were having lunch with them, which we did en famille sitting in their kitchen and enjoying a lovely family time together, I was very proud of John who can chat away in French like anything now. It was a really special and precious time and we feel privileged to be included in their family times.
We were included again later on when we headed up the hill to take part in the Espinas harvest supper, country soup, coarse pork pate with salad and gherkins, pork with a parsley and caper sauce, white beans, grilled lamb chops, grilled sausage, bread, bread, bread, and some bread, cheese, and peche melba, wine flowed at will and we all munched and sipped and slurped and chatted (although I was driving so chateau de la pompe was on the menu for me.) Coming home at 1am we couldn't imagine ever eating anything again! Also the temperature was 27 degrees at midnight, stap me vitals! It was a great day. An uncle of a day and a joy to live through.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Hello My Old China

Ages ago I mentioned that we had made an amazing find at a brocante, a sort of attic sale. So, as promised here are some pix. Now most of you reading this will know that I am keen on pots so when I saw the cheeky gleam of gold in the bottom of a dusty box I was quick to investigate what proved to be some rather nifty gilding on some rather splendid plates. Had a quick butcher's underneath only to see the magic words Limoges and Porcelain. The old ticker started to bump a bit and a rough count up revealed about 30 plates and some serving dishes. On brushing the dust off a bit more we decided it was worth asking the price which turned out to be a measly €50 so we snapped them up and rushed off home where careful washing revealed 17 dinner plates, 6 smaller dessert plates, 6 pasta type dishes, a large serving platter, a large plate and a beautiful bowl. Blimey. Our neighbours reckon €50 was too much as no one want old stuff any more but I'm not so sure, I think we got a bargain and anyway I love them.

It's been a good week for Limoges (which is kind of the French Stoke On Trent) pottery as we were in another brocante, this time a shop, and I fell in love with a fabulous mortar and pestle, which also turned out to be Limoges by a designer called Robj. He's very interesting I googled him but it's too hot to write about him now, another time when my wrists are not sticking to the keyboard, nice image sorry. I think design decor and function come together perfectly in this piece and the fact that it was all shiny and gold had nothing whatsoever with my decision to buy it.

Also...I have finished all my French planning hahahaha so let the inspectors come and see if I care.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

This used to be a blog about archaeology.

This used to be a blog about the dig where I work in Egypt but in recent times it's been much more about our summers in France. However, I am a very proud Auntie today as my godson and de facto nephew Dan has been awarded a place to study at Lampeter and being a sensible type he is going to study ARCHAEOLOGY! Hooray.

I thought I'd repossess the blog for archaeology just this one time and offer Dan and anyone else reading, a list of things which are very rarely found by archaeologists.

10-Dinosaur Bones
9-Mummies (errr actually as an Egyptologist...)
8-Precious Jewelry
7-Alien Artifacts
6-Treasure Chests
5-The Lost Tribes of Israel
4-Whole Pots (who wants whole ones?)
3-Secret Tunnels
1-A Steady Job!!!

Ha ha I've got a steady job although admittedly not as an archaeologist, however, I've always managed to keep involved and I'm really proud that Dan has chosen a similar path. Mind you he is interested in Romans and what have they ever done for us??

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Things to be found in the country

Why is everywhere always up hill? At least it's picturesque.

A butterfly with amazing camouflage

Wild honeysuckle
I think these might be cherries but we didn't eat them just in case.

A stone water cistern with very interesting corbelling (honestly)

Wouldn't mind living here

This is a bit more in our price range however. A shepherds hut, look at that amazing drystone construction! No mortar in sight. (And no that isn't the drystone shepherd).

These little shelters are all over the place to shelter the men who had to be out on the hills in all weather. Some are even tucked into the construction of walls. I've seen stone age dwelling built exactly like this. Hey ethnoarchaeology...get a grip girl you're on holiday.

While the chutney bubbles, the cats zizz and John reads the local paper dictionary in hand I'm about to blog again, it must be a record, well I need something to distract me from the vinegar fumes and the fact that I have managed to choose the hottest day of the year so far to make my annual batch of chutney. It is 8pm and still too hot to open the windows. Good thing we joined the cats for a zizz earlier. I'm glad I decided to attack the wisteria whilst it was cool this morning.
I've mentioned our walks which take us all over the region and allow us to get up close and personal with the wildlife and the countryside. Well the most recent one took us the the valley of the river Lot and we had a truly beautiful walk during which we encountered all kinds of fascinating things including a very shy deer who bounded off before we could photograph it. This is really just to share some of the things we saw. Better go, I can hear the chutney making ominous noises!

Millau pictures for your delectation

I forgot to say that the height of the highest pylon makes the viaduct taller than the Eiffel Tower! There is a vid of the boat ride on my FB page too

Millau Viaduct

On Tuesday we had a marathon day out to go and see the viaduct at Millau. I've been wanting to do this for ages and at last we had the chance. This viaduct is a road bridge which forms part of the A 75 motorway but it is not just any old bridge oh dear me no. Designed by the French structural engineer Michel Virlogeux and British architect Norman Foster, it is the tallest bridge in the world, with one mast's summit at 343.0 metres (1,125 ft). It opened in December 2004 and you can see it by linking to the webcam http://www.leviaducdemillau.com/english/webcam.html

It costs €7.90 to cross and it is well known for being super busy during the holiday season. Last weekend was one of the busiest in the French calendar as everyone began to go home and they calculated that about 60,000 cars crossed it last Saturday alone.

I'm not big on numbers but here are some fairly staggering statistics:
2,460 m (8,071 ft): total length of the roadway.
7: number of piers
77 m (253 ft): height of Pier 7, the shortest
343 m (1,125 ft): height of Pier 2, the tallest (245 m/804 ft at the roadway's level)
87 m (285 ft): height of a mast
154: number of shrouds
270 m (886 ft): average height of the roadway
4.20 m (13 ft 9 in): thickness of the roadway
32.05 m (105 ft 2 in): width of the roadway
85,000 m3 (111,000 cu yd): total volume of concrete used
290,000 metric tons (320,000 short tons): total weight of the bridge
10,000–25,000 vehicles: estimated daily traffic
20 km (12 mi): horizontal radius of curvature of the road deck

It all makes for a huge impression on the viewer. We not only went over it but also under it by road and then, very excitingly by boat on the river Tarn thanks to Les Bateliers Du Viaduct. Add to that a picnic lunch under a convenient tree, with a good view of the viaduct and the presence of a friendly and hopeful local dog and you have the makings of a spiffing day out which is exactly what we had. I'm going to post pictures separately so please move onto the following post.


Just a mini blog before the marathon tale of going to Millau. We drove a long away all the way across the department of the Aveyron on Tuesday to go and see the spectacular Millau viaduct. On the way I saw something that I had not seen for years, probably not since I was a child visiting France with my mum and dad, and that thing was a poster for a wine called Vin Fou made by a winery called Henri Maire.

The posters were very distinctive with red and green lettering and they all said Vin Fou (meaning crazy wine). Some them then said Henri Maire the name of the winemaker (the Henri seems to vanished here, couldn't find a better pic sorry. Others said Oh je l'aime which means Oh I like it, the wine that is... When I was little these posters were everywhere and we used to play a car game guessing which one it would be. If you got it right you got points and you got more points for an Oh je l'aime because they were less common.

As far as I know my mum and dad had been spotting the posters since they first came to France on a tandem in 1948! I was really excited to see an extremely rare Vin Fou as we returned home on Tuesday and immediately reverted to being 5, screaming, "Vin Fou, Henri Maire" at the top of my lungs to the consternation of John Mike and Sue. Anyway once they understood, photos were taken for your delight and I was thrilled to find that Henri Maire is still going and still producing Vin Fou in the Jura region. http://www.henri-maire.fr/accueil/

So I think a little purchase might just be coming on in honour of two outstanding parents who gave me more than I could ever thank them for, without me even realising it.