There is a short article in DT by Jane Shilling about the Britons’ love of living in cul-de-sacs and it brought back memories of my childhood in a “no through road” in Aberdeen. It was unfortunately not signposted as such, so we did occasionally get lost motorists, who then had to do a three or more point turn in a very steep and steeply cambered street. Entertaining to watch, as were all the learner drivers brought to practise in this particular purgatory. I don’t think the milkman’s horse was too keen on it either, though he was regularly rewarded. Taxis used to refuse to come down it in snowy weather.
But the best point of our cul de sac was that it ended in an entrance to a park, “our” park.
At that time there was no conservatory or greenhouse in the park and not many visitors, but there was a small eminence that had been designed to look like a grotto and planted with rhodedendrons and other sizeable shrubs and which was ideal for childrens’ games. We were in ignorance of the fountain’s history, but it was great for paddling in the summer. This was our playground and we didn’t bother the neighbours. Very few children from other nearby streets ever came to it, so it was definitely “ours” and our parents knew we were safe there.
Now I live in another cul-de-sac and the driving instructors still bring their pupils to practice three point turns, but there is no camber to speak of and the entertainment is not the same.
We’ve just returned to France after a few days in Italy, no thanks to French railways. Normally we accept that as soon as we set foot on an Italian train, the entire railway system collapses. Not this time. Arriving at our local French station to catch the 9.24 train to Ventimiglia we found a scene of chaos. There was a local railways strike and some idiot had left a case in the middle of the concourse to boot. Station staff were thinking of evacuating the station, so we rushed on to the platform before they could chuck us out. Time passed and the 9.24 disappeared off the board. Lots of would-be passengers simply went home, giving up any idea of travelling that day. When we finally got to Nice about an hour later, we learned that the next train to Italy would be in four hours time. That’s the EU in action! Do not hesitate to cause problems for other member states! Read more…
I’ll stand your sixpence, Ferret.
I found mention of this new trend in Paris in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
Sheep have been brought in to keep the grass short in public spaces in Paris, at the behest of the present socialist mayor, Bertrand Delanoe. The original article on this in Le Figaro, now behind the paywall, mentions 170 of the fleecy lawnmowers. FAZ mentions four sheep dealing with 2000 square metres of grass in the 19th arrondissement. What I have not discovered so far is what protection is provided for the sheep. Fences to keep them out of the traffic? Shepherds to prevent them disappearing to the nearest halal butcher? Face masks to protect them from traffic fumes? Seems a very trendy “green” idea, but not very healthy for the animals themselves.
I realise this may be coals to Newcastle for many cherished colleagues, but for me my first visit to the Wallace Collection yesterday was a real eye-opener. The venue was suggested by the friend I was meeting who recalled having been taken to see the collection at the age of nine. Despite having taken her degree in art history, she had never visited it again. Admission is free, though donations are gratefully received, and this makes it an ideal art gallery to visit if one is in central London with just an hour to spare. The collection is in Hertford House on Manchester Square, just behind Selfridge’s.
This link gives an idea of some of the exhibits; not just paintings, but china, glassware, weaponry, and other objets d’art. Read more…
I have just read this book, having often come across the title and the name of the author. A record number of “westerns” have been based on his work, however loosely. It took a sale offer from Amazon to persuade me to download it on to my Kindle. ( Yes, you can take the girl out of Scotland, but you can’t take Scotland … )
The story is set in Utah around a Mormon community in the 1870s and does not paint a very flattering picture of the followers of Joseph Smith. Their attitude to women closely resembles that of Muslims, which is not a compliment to anyone. In fact Grey’s publishers originally edited it very considerably in order not to offend. (Sounds familiar.) The brutal Mormon elder is ready to stoop to any crime to force the heroine to become wife number X and his band of god-fearing Mormon thugs terrorises the local community into helping him. As the story unfolds, we discover just how appalling these self-appointed “bishops” and “elders” can be when they set eyes on a woman who attracts them. Mormonism seems to be or at least have been a licence to rape. What is pleasant in the book is the description of the countryside and the animals, with some passages of “purple prose” - no pun intended.
The author was christened Pearl Zane Grey, so it’s understandable that he dropped his first name. (What is it with the inhabitants of Ohio? John Wayne was originally christened Michael Marion.) Grey trained as a dentist, married a graduate in English who was able to help him with his work, and had his first book published in 1910. Having always associated him with cowboy films, though one gets some good storylines there, I was impressed with this book and I may even go back to Amazon and splash out another 99p. But if anyone comes round to the door to proselytise for Mormons, they will get an earful. It seems they have not changed. Our niece in Colorado is married to a former Mormon, who refused to obey orders and no longer has contact with his family. Still, the lucky girl doesn’t have to deal with a mother-in-law.
French President Francois Hollande today spent about ten hours visiting the Salon de l’Agriculture – not in any sense a vote collecting exercise. He is apparently not very popular with country people in France, but then he’s not really got a lot of fans in any section of the population.
A few years ago we too visited this exhibition, which demonstrates the wide range of agriculture in France. The weather was very cold and snowy in Paris then as now, so it was quite comforting to spend the day in the warmth. Once you have paid your admission fee, you can actually eat and drink for free from all the samples that are waved in front of you. There were all the different breeds of French cattle and sheep and pigs and also some foreign guests. I had to go to greet the Highland cattle on display. I never knew how many different varieties of goat there are. Visitors are not permitted to feed the animals on display, which may have accounted for the very unpleasant expression on the face of a rather large mule. I’m sure he felt he deserved a carrot for standing there for so long with all these people streaming past him.
Different halls contained the produce of France’s overseas territories, the poultry and rabbits bred in farm yards, hunting dogs, horses and donkeys. The whole exhibition covers a vast area but the cheese, wine, sausage and other samples keep the visitor going, especially the seafood nibbles from the Caribbean. From the Channel, Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts, the Alps and Pyrenees to the pastures of Normandy and other less well-known regions – I even discovered there is a Berry donkey – it was an impressive display of the wealth and variety of France’s produce.
Has anyone else been receiving odd messages via the DT, presumably from Facebook? I was told the other day that three people had “unfriended” me, which seems unlikely since I wouldn’t touch Facebook with a bargepole, however heavily disinfected. Brother-in-law did join, for reasons best known to himself, and put everyone else’s name down. Today, however, I am informed that two people want to “rebound” with me. Are there some very bouncy Tiggers out there? Who would want to deal with such a bunch of illiterates? Is it American? (Sorry, LW, nothing personal.)
The festival of Bread, Love and Chocolate starts today, having been heralded yesterday by a group of lanceurs de drapeaux dressed in red and yellow medieval outfits parading through the streets to drums and horns, tossing their flags very skilfully. Well, they didn’t drop any while I was watching.
This is a celebration of baking and chocolate, held in the square outside the Musee Peynet with all his drawings of “Love is …”. It’s always held round St Valentine’s Day, which this year is the day after Ash Wednesday and therefore in Lent. So all the stalls offering Italian delicacies may be tempting people to break their Lenten resolutions. I shall steer well clear of any meat products.
As for the weather, we are surrounded by snow-covered hills and it is cold out of the sun. But I shall not complain.