Sunday, 31 July 2011

Visiting friends... or should it be friends visiting.....?

One of the nice things about living (albeit for only part of the year) in Le Petit-Pressigny is that it is close to some of the main routes south. Our friends Sue and Dave called in yesterday, to overnight with us on their way south to Limeuil in the Dordogne. They arrived mid afternoon, having spent a couple of nights at Versailles, very kindly bearing gifts of Champagne, chocolates (my favourite Green and Black's) and a beautiful hibiscus.

We had a very British cup of afternoon tea, and fortified by some cranberry and white chocolate cookies, set of to the nearby village of Le Grand Pressigny. Antoinette wrote about the church a couple of days ago, and Jean regularly updates us on life there. In fact I think we might even have met Madame Andre ….

 Where did they get those hats.......?

We’ve only visited LG-P a couple of times, but yesterday the weather was perfect for a stroll up to the chateau to see the much talked about extension. I liked it and so did Sue; it was fitting and different. The views, both of the chateau and the village below were magnificent. We didn’t have time to go into the museum but that is something which has moved nearer to the top of our list of ‘must do’s’.

Whether it was the hard winter, or the hot and dry spring and early summer, I'm not sure, but there were an awful lot of empty 'planting holes.

We wandered to the river area where the Claise and the Aigronne meet. Sue and Dave are both camera enthusiasts so I took their lead and wherever they framed a shot I did the same with my little point and click.

We came home and enjoyed the champagne (well Sue and I did, Tim and Dave were on speciality British beers!) and a nice relaxing meal together with a lot of laughs and good shared memories. They set off after breakfast heading for their gite.

The weather this morning is beautiful – the best of our holiday so far – so I think I will sit in the shade and read, do a bit of gardening, take a walk and generally relax, because tomorrow (or by the time you get to read this, it will be today) we're off to the Brocante at La Celle Guenand.

Watch this space ........

P.S. If you are travelling our way, we'd love to see you!

Saturday, 30 July 2011

The Church of Notre Dame at Yzeures-sur-Creuse .....

As is usual, with even very small French towns and villages, the church was magnificent. I love the carved detail around the small side door. The church of Notre-Dame was rebuilt in the nineteenth century. The first church was built on the site of a Gallo-Roman temple of Minerva.

By the time we arrived the church was locked, so we weren't able to look inside. We will make a return visit, especially as the Intermarche and the Brico are just up the road!

Friday, 29 July 2011

Can you follow a tree key........?

At Yzeures we decided to have a look at the river, and were walking through the park when we noticed this tree, near to the swimming pool complex …..

The closest I can get in my tree guide is an Indian Bean-tree (Catalpa bignoniodes), but the leaves, although hairy, weren’t quite the right shape.  It did have the long bean-like capsules.The leaf has dried out a bit here!

Perhaps someone will be able to identify it, although it will probably be difficult from my not such clear photographs!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

A sign of things to come .....

After our trip to the Brico we wandered around Yzeures-sur-Creuse, and at a charcuterie, this sign caught my eye. Doesn’t the pig look jolly, especially in the light of his certain fate …..?

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Window art .....

 On our way home from an afternoon out - at the Brico - we stopped off in Preuilly-sur-Claise to take a photograph of these shutters….

and how about a catch like this to go with them….?

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Wild flower garden ......

Last summer we noticed that the area behind the village graveyard in Le Petit-Pressigny, near the recycling bins, was rather overgrown and strewn with rubble. What a difference this year!

Wild flowers have been sown/scattered and the display is wonderful. 

Apart from providing cover and food for wildlife, it requires far less maintenance than a traditional lawn area and the wide range of wildflowers provides colour and interest from spring through to the end of summer.

Besides the beauty of the display, the flowers also have a beneficial effect in attracting insects to the area, which will soon find its own ecological equilibrium. Its difficult to feel overstressed when watching honeybees working away, or butterflies floating from flower to flower. Perhaps a small bench would be a useful addition....? 

I remember Niall and Antoinette doing a post a few months ago about some wild flower seeds they had been given as a present. The next time they visit we’ll walk them across to view the display.

The photographs don’t really do it justice. It’s just hard to imagine just how big a pack of seeds was used …….

Monday, 25 July 2011

Monday music .......... my desert island disc collection part 12

The last day of term was emotional as I said goodbye to two colleagues who were retiring, Sue and Barbara. Our school is a close knit community and both will be sadly missed after 34 years of blood, sweat, tears, laughter …..and EXCELLENT TEACHING. 
 Sue is unfailingly smiling and very positive, and although a mathematician, has been a fantastic teacher of science. Barb is my assistant Head of Science (but more importantly, my friend), and I have worked very closely with her for 27 years. In that time we have job shared, brought up our families, taken holidays together and shared very happy, and also devastatingly sad times. Barbara is one of the best teachers I have ever met, and I feel like half of my 'double act' has gone. I hope my Hardy can survive without her Laurel!

Both are loved by fellow teachers and their pupils. I've chosen this version because it was recorded at Live Aid 1985 (although without Neil Young - which gives me an excuse to choose a fantastic Neil Young track in the future). The coincidence is that Barbara and Sue were both born in the same town and went to both school and college together. Today's choice of music is for Barbara and Sue.

I know that they have both made the right decision, but life without them will be very different .......

Sunday, 24 July 2011

The Édouard André petit jardin ...........

When we were walking around Le Petit-Pressigny during our Whitsun break we came across a petit jardin that we hadn't noticed before.

Édouard François André was born in Bourges, Cher (17 July 1840 – 25 October 1911) and was a French horticulturalist and landscape designer. During his life André designed around a hundred public and private landscape parks, mainly in Europe.

He was appointed Head Gardener (Jardinier Principal) of Paris and designed and planted the Parc des Buttes Chaumont and Tuileries Gardens.
In 1866, at the age of 26, he when he won the competition to design Sefton Park in Liverpool.

The distinctive features used by André in his parks include harmonious placement and pleasing arrangement of artificial grottos, waterfalls, mountain-style stone structures.

Édouard André died in La Croix, and was interred in Montmartre Cemetery, Paris.

This photograph of the petit jardin was taken today. What a difference in seven weeks ......

Friday, 22 July 2011

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Countdown ......

Two days to go, but first a couple of hurdles to overcome.

Today, a trip to Alton Towers with over a hundred Y8 pupils – IN THE RAIN!

The forecast isn’t good so I suspect I will be walking from café to café with some marking and a very good book.

Tomorrow is our last day of the summer term. An assembly, DVD and tidy up and I should be waving goodbye to my class just after lunch.

Then, a taste of things to come .........

Monday, 18 July 2011

Monday music .......... my desert island disc collection part 11

Joni Mitchell was my 'rock' during the mid to late 70's. Together with Heather, my best friend at Uni, we must have worn deeper grooves in the vinyl records of Blue and Miles of Aisles. We had a brilliant time, and more than a few adventures together. It is one of those rare friendships that mean that even after 30 years of meeting up only occasionally, we still instinctively know what the other will think about something. 

I still have the vinyls and Tom will often go into our 'music room' (a very grand name for Rhiannon's old bedroom) which is now packed with guitars, recording paraphenalia and a hi-fi stack with turntable. Tom has taken to touring charity shops looking for old vinyl records, with a strict 50p spending limit - or so he says! Last night he managed to buy four Morrisey records through EBay. His most prized is an original vinyl pressing of 'Grace' by Jeff Buckley - not a charity shop aquisition though!

From so many excellent Joni Mitchell tracks I had chosen to take this one ...... 'Circle Game'. I can join in, sing along with the audience and make believe that I am not alone on the island.

Then Tom had his say! He couldn't believe that I wasn't including 'A Case of You'. To prove a point Tom has been playing it on his guitar all week, and I must say he's got it pretty well sorted. So, since I am already cheating, I'm going to take both.


Saturday, 16 July 2011

Been there, done that and bought the t-shirt ...

Last Saturday was a really good day! The week at work had been busy, fraught and emotional, and I was in need of a relaxing day. Tim was at a conference so I decided to drive to Bridgemere garden centre in Cheshire, which is about 20 miles away.

I always have a good time there and bought a couple of plants. I am overrun with lavender in France but the hard winter in the UK devastated the ones in my garden. So I bought some French Stoechas (Anouk). 

  In the evening Tim, Tom and I went to the LG Arena at the NEC in Birmingham to see James Taylor in concert. More about the concert another day, but here is just a taster.

He was absolutely phenomenal - praise indeed! What do you think?

His band was made up of very accomplished musicians and singers, but for me the very best bits were when it was just James, his voice and his guitar.

The lady singing along with him is most definitely NOT me - a friend seemed to think that she sounded like me. Do you think she is trying to tell me something!!! 
I don't know who she is, but I wouldn't advise her to audition for Britain's Got Talent anytime soon. However she was obviously 'in the zone' and enjoying herself.

So, to go back to where I started... been there, done that and bought the t-shirt...

Thursday, 14 July 2011

The generosity of friends ......

On our way home from the déchetterie in Le Grand-Pressigny, we called on Tim and Pauline at Le Moulin de la Forge to drop off some keys.

Pauline gave us a pot of her shallot confiture with strict instructions not to open for at least 6 weeks. We also travelled back to the UK with pots of Antoinette's damson and Maureen's strawberry jam. We'd eaten them before I thought to take a photograph - both were delicious, and full of fruit.

I’m sorry Pauline, but I only managed 5 weeks! The confiture was superb with some strong cheddar cheese and crackers.

 I'll be trying out the recipe which Pauline posted on her blog De La Bonne Bouffe

Monday, 11 July 2011

Monday music .......... my desert island disc collection part 10 ...........

This version of Handbags and Gladrags has special memories for me. It was performed on New Years Eve 2009 by Kelly Jones, the lead singer of the Stereophonics, with Jools Holland and his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra - and what special musicians they are!

 We had just signed for our house in France a couple of days earlier, and were there with minimal furniture and  minimal heat, on a very cold night. We were huddled around the log burner and at this point it still felt like we were living in someone elses house! When this came on I think I relaxed for the first time ........

It was written in 1967 by Mike d'Abo, who was then the lead singer of Manfred Mann, but I first remember Rod Stewart performing it. Then, in  2001 the Stereophonics released a version, and it was  it added to their album Just Enough Education to Perform.

Kelly Jones, who was born a few miles away from me,  has a fantastic raw voice. He is also a very good songwriter in his own right, and as a lyricist is influenced by Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Otis Redding. That, as they say, is good enough for me ....... 

Friday, 8 July 2011

Out and about in Le Petit-Pressigny ..........

Many villages in France have a lavoir, and Le Petit-Pressigny is no exception. As lavoirs go it is fairly unpretentious, but beautifully kept.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Car parade ...........

Last year we were having our usual walk around Le Petit-Pressigny when we realised that something was about to happen. The village centre, which is normally fairly quiet, was buzzing with people. So we did what we always do on such occasions and buzzed with them!

We didn't have long to wait................

A few cars arrived. We wondered what all the fuss was about and decided to buzz off and continue with our walk. As we were preparing to leave horns started to blast and a stream of cars turned into the car park behind the Salle des Fêtes , and indeed parked anywhere and everywhere they could find! I didn't count, but there were probably well over a hundred participants in the parade.

I'm not much good at car spotting, so can anyone help me to identify them? Here are just a few.........

Our neighbours Pascal, Martine and Simone who run the village boulangerie did a roaring trade, as just about all of the participants dashed across to the boulangerie to buy their baguettes.
Cheese, bread and wine were served at the Salle des Fêtes, although I did hear tell that this year they kept an eye on the bottles of wine, because last year when the cars drove away so did what was left of the wine !!!!!!!!!! 

I am exaggerating here :o)

Monday, 4 July 2011

Monday music .......... my desert island disc collection part 9 ...........

Today is a fairly straightforward choice. Do I go for Eric Clapton playing Layla, or Eric Clapton playing Layla?

What do you think?

My first memory of Layla was hearing Clapton (Derek and the Dominoes) playing in the 70's, on the Radio 1 Johnnie Walker Show, and I fell in love with it. 

Saturday, 2 July 2011

A Thursday with a difference ................

Thursday was a bit different to a normal working one, as this Thursday, for the first time that I can remember, I was on strike. I won't go into the minute details, as everyone will have their own opinion. Suffice it to say that although I didn't take the decision to strike lightly, and belong to a union which until now has been opposed to strike action, it was something that I felt I needed to make a stand about. I have in the past (1980's) worked to rule, which arguably had a greater effect on my pupils.

Anyway, the strike action meant that the parents'   consultation meeting planned for the evening was moved to another day. This meant that I was straight online to book tickets to see Paul Simon at the NIA in Birmingham. 

We were able to set out mid afternoon, have a relaxing  walk along the redeveloped canal area and a meal before the concert. I'm cross that I forgot to take my camera so the images are all courtesy of google!

Brindley Place in Birmingham.

After the meal we had some time to call in at a reception at an art gallery where I fell in love with some new Paul Kenton work. I never make my mind up quickly, but today I did, and a large wall we have in France will no longer be bare. I can't wait .................

Paul Simon ageing but ageless, fresh from his triumph at Glastonbury, was absolutely fantastic. He had a great band with him and was on stage for nearly 2 hours 20 minutes. The playlist was drawn from all parts of his five decade career as a performing artist, ranging through 'Simon and Garfunkle', 'Negotiations and Love Songs','Graceland', 'Rhythm of the Saints' to his latest 'So Beautiful or So What'. As arguably one of the greatest songwriters of all time, he was still able to pay tribute to another with a beautiful rendition of 'Here Comes the Sun'

There were so many highlights, but two that stood out for me were a solo acoustic performance of 'Sounds of Silence',

and his final encore of 'You Can Call me Al'. This clip was recorded a couple of years ago and wasn't from his live tour. Most of the audience were on their feet singing with him, although very tight security curtailed the dancing in the aisles!

Whether the strike will have the desired effect, or indeed any effect, remains to be seen.

I had a good day, and by all accounts so did my pupils ......