Monday, 31 March 2008

cautionary tale

Maggies back! Shes been in Budapest on an organised trip for cheap dentistry. Her UK bill would have been vast so she decided on grin -and-bear it ho ho holiday and treatment at a fraction of the price in the company of similarly iDENTified folk. She had six - or was it seven?- teeth extracted by someone trying to sell her implants and is on her fourth dose of antibiotics. She loved Budapest and met nice people but says (through gritted teeth) that she would not recommend it.
On the plus side, she ran into an Aloe Vera conference where hundreds of women were dressed as Aloe Vera singing-and-dancing plants - that sounds worth loosing a molar for! Actually no it dosn't. But it sounds quite fun.

poets corner

This from Annie
- a poem of great skill and complexity,
peppered with philosophical profundity -

Three cheers for the skills of Hall and Beer,
Who remind us of what we ve been doing here.
Indeed if it wasn t for Beer and Hall
Perhaps we wouldn t exist at all.

Can this be the commencement of a regular poetry slot??
We hope so...

Sunday, 30 March 2008


Some may have recognised the car lurking in amongst the socks and pants at market today! Thankfully they didn't sell it. Some may think it is my car. To clarify it is normally our car but today it was definitely his car!
photo: katrina head

Saturday, 29 March 2008

c'était une bonne soirée

A friend of iain's had rented a house at Alet for a week, keen to see our beautiful region. But all was not well. The house was tired and the weather atrocious. With 2 teenaged twins and nothing to do on a wet day (every day!) it was not a dream holiday. So he asked them to come to us for meal and to try and give them at least one fun night in their holiday. It was fun. Ingrid is an artist, working with glass, ( so she was delighted to meet Vanilla. John is university so Bob and Pete were good for him and the Bowyer children seemed to get on with the 2 young Phillips, even managing a darts match out in the rain. All very jolly. Had it not been so incessantly wet, we could have invited even more fascinating people for them to meet. Oh well, next time. Thanks to those we could fit round the table, for the damp holidaymakers meeting you all was the highlight of their week.

My photos of the evening are rubbish but the wisteria is coming out!

Friday, 28 March 2008

Hall at home

Mr Hall received us into his gracious home, where a fine time was had by all...

thanks Iain, your cooking is a miracle, your friends fascinating, your company divine.
Oh lord, I'm gushing: but it was a good night! Over to Mr Hall -

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

le foot, c'est pas bien

Went to the Café de la Gare to eat with Liz and Frank and watch le foot, the friendly match between England and France. France wouldn't have scored at all had it not been for a remarkably dodgy penalty and England might have scored had any of their players been any good. They were all Chelsea/Liverpool/Wigan players and that was just the French... though of course the French didn't play Chimbonda, the ex-Wigan boy. Just as well.
(No idea how to spell Chimbonda, thats a phonetic version of his name. Chant it and you'll know who I mean.)
But seriously - you'd think that the boy David would have run about a bit for his 100 th cap - I guess I'm just a sentimentalist. Seems like yesterday he was a god, but actually it was a demi-decade ago.
So, here is what we drank:

Though that wasn't all - there was more of the same ( its very good) and then café cognac. The trick is to pour brandy on a sugar cube and sip the coffee through it. Very good for the health of the body, the teeth and the brain.
28th Mars, the self same Café de la Gare in Tilling has a Soirée Cubaine avec Latino Power. After that there is a disco au M'k for raising funds for the handball club of Couiza (Avenir Handball Couizanais). Be still, my trembling heart...

by popular demand...

....Ian has a shower

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

they're back!

hurrah for Andy and Louise, home at last! Perhaps a little cocktail is called for???

Monday, 24 March 2008

easter illustrated

I Wish I Was a Punk Rocker (with flowers in my hair)

It was Easter and there was a cake and there were fishes

and of course, there was wine.

Thanks Pete, Annie and family, great night.

easter review

Woken at 9.00 by the Carnival band, processing past the impasse, and put to bed by them at midnight doing the same. They wear the traditional white frock over black clothes and a bowler hat, paint their faces white and have a painted on black eye apiece. Don't ask, I dunno.
Hall and I bumped into them coming from the market (kind Mr Hall was taking buckets of wine to the needy) and we got fleeced of our change. Naturally we assumed this was a charitable endeavor but later it seemed that the charity in question was to fund the troups excessive drinking.

The Captain and I lunched extremely well at Alison and Martins and then dined to excess with Peter and Annie. The photos show our friends either looking manic or daft, as is the way with high-octane events .
I particularly enjoyed the bit when Iain carelessly asked the distinction between the Nag Hamedi Library and the canonical gospels. I was still elaborating the finer points as they put my coat round me and bundled me into the snow.

Heres some great reading about the Tilling region -!,,2210123,00.html

And since all my photies of last night are rubbish, heres one of some art...

Sunday, 23 March 2008

jazz night

It was ages ago but it was a fine night out. Cafe de la Gare, Quillan. After an excellent set by Stan and wonderful band, we were treated to Madame singing Edith Piaf. She was magnificent. A regular night is promised and is highly recommended. A recent report suggests lunch at Cafe de la Gare is terrific local cooking at a bargain price. And big portions.....

easter sunday

Its Easter Sunday and its snowing so we decamped to the café.
Welcome back to Steve and Claudio and a sad goodbye too as they leave for Zurich tomorrow. Come back again soon guys; but leave the snow in Switzerland next time...

So, has Marcus got dandruff???

A lamb in a snowstorm.

Friday, 21 March 2008


I'm back. I was in the snow, in the Alps, skiing. For those who have never been to the Alps, a photo of Mont Blanc and some more Alps... and our chalet with sunset. It was all good.

Monday, 17 March 2008


Jamsie has a great site of the region and the above link, (or here
gets you to the photies of the Toques et Clochers - I didn't go this year on account of accruing sobriety. Its quite fun being sober but I don't sleep as much as I do normally. Which means I paint more and clutter the world with my debris...

OK, gossip.

Nice gossip first: Miate is out of hospital and getting weller all the time. Hurrah!
Health gossip: a Tilling resident, on hearing that the best way to unblock his waxy ears was to rinse them with urine, did just that.On subsequently being asked whose urine, said - I dunno; it was dark.
Gus gossip: "My computer beat me at chess but I beat it at kick-boxing."
Blog news: where is Mr Hall??? Where indeed. Come back soon! I'm off away tomorrow and don't like to leave the post unpersoned -

Sunday, 16 March 2008


Its Palm Sunday, here called Dimanche des Rameaux. The priest gives out branches in the church which you take into your house for luck for the year. Pierre kindly gave me a bit of his.
Pete and Annie gave me the medal to St Anthony of Galamus, which they'd unearthed in an old tin. Students of the deeply weird will know already that the catholic church has no such saint (check out catholic encyclopedia on line) Oe er.
And the little pot was a gift to my dressing table ( from new friend Rowena. (Shes having an open studio on 12 April, see - one for the diary, more reminders nearer the time.)
What a great day!

resurrection shuffle

let your magic tortoise go

To Jims yesterday, to see if it is the time to de-hibernate his tortoise. He has left strict criteria but not details about constancy; that is to say, the temperature is fine but will it last?
I muse on the I Ching and the symbolism of the line, Let your magic tortoise go. Decided to look it up and see if there is further info but cant find the book.
So hang out by the Aude with Lily. Will return to Oswald later.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Les Cloches et Le Vent

Stan Adler listening to Mark Lockett premiering his piece, Les Cloches et le Vent... a huge success and sealed by the pianist and composer hugging on stage at the end. I was too engrossed to have the camera ready for that, dammit, would have been a smashing pic. You'll have to imagine it.
Mark played Philip Glass, Debussy, Mompou, Messian, Chopin, Arvo Part - and more - without a score. He sat there and played like it was normal. The audience were left wondering if he was actually human. So proud to know these guys - musicians all seem like gods to me.

The event kicked off the Toques et Clochers in Limoux. It won't all be to that standard but it bodes well.

Toques et Clochers? Difficult to explain... Toches et Clochers are the bell towers of these parts, often walls with several bells in them. They are distinctive and specific to the region. So sometime ago - dunno when - the local vintners started to raise money to protect them, restore, rebuild, whatever. They do this by having a weekend party where you taste and buy wine, each vintner donating a chunk to the cause.
There are functions around this simple premise and this year the party is in Limoux. The town centre is closed off and buses run up and down, hither and yon, so no chance of drunk driving. There are artists in caves (cave being where the wine is stored, as I'm sure you know) and cultural events. You can't just get pissed, in short.

The opening procession has local grandees in robes from each commune carrying a model of their bell tower on their shoulders; a charming ceremony. After that you pay for a glass which you can fill however many times the ticket you buy with it says you've paid for; you can buy a holder for the glass that you hang round your neck. Then, weird really, everyone starts singing and putting their arms around strangers and saying how much they love them. Late Saturday is the high spot for this, followed by the Ancient Rite of Vomiting, often done communally and nowhere near the portaloos which will be full by then.

Notwithstanding, its well policed, quite safe, very festival of fools but with art, music, oh and food, there are always great food stands. I'm supposed to work today - which is why I'm not exhibiting this year - but if I've got over Lorraine's party by this evening might pop down.

birthday girl

you know those parties where your photos come out blurred and some of them are videos?
Lorraines was like that.
I did get one good photo but it was of the fridge magnets.
One of the videos was quite fun too but the machine wont let me upload it.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

election not a scandale

Just spoken with the mayor and showed him the figures from La Depeche re: election results and they are totally false, he says. He followed me round the various departments in the town hall where I was attempting to get planning permission for 2 gates for our land on the mountain, cheerfully telling all that they were totally false.
I MAY get permission to reinstall 2 gates on, gosh, April 1st -

In the meantime, heres a picture of Miate at Annie-the-potter's vernisage in Quillan.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Jean-Luc RIP

Shocked to discover that Jean-Luc Robin has died.

Funeral mass on Monday at Rennes-le-Chateau, 10.30

Nice interview with him at

I have grateful memories of little kindnesses over the years and wish love and strength to his family and friends.

election smelection??
has our election results. It was Jim who bigged this up; that in the results is a figure of 17.75% for spoilt papers. Baffled, we looked at other communes. The marks there were rarely over 4%. 17.75% is large enough to make a difference, so I decided to investigate.
That is to say, I asked Andrée.

Andrée said the figures were wrong.

Fair enough, makes sense, but on my walk I bumped in Fabien who is the reporter for La Depeche, where the figures come from. I showed him the printout I'd taken to Andrée and he said they were real, that they were accurate. It was big, sure, but in Esperaza there were people who liked to write **** the commune on their papers.

Extraordinary, given that the system accommodates protest votes admirably - P.P., for instance, a communist who is much liked locally, wasn't standing but still got 4 votes. Many names listed also weren't standing but got one vote - probably geezers who voted for themselves or their best mate.

I suppose that if you voted for Mickey Mouse his name would appear on the list.

I left Fabien looking thoughtful though. Yesterday I asked Philippe, another journalist, who shrugged and flickered an eyebrow several times. Today I will get to the Town Hall and ask them.

Oh, excitement apropos the new Mayor. Patrice stopped me in the street; he has a friend who wants to buy a bit of land that we own by the river. He wants to mine sand from the river-frontage bit of it. This land is actually let to Marcel who has goats and hens on it and gives us eggs and vedg in return, excellent system, and anyway, I said to Patrice, I didn't think he'd get planning permission. Its on a flood plain.
Thats OK, said Patrice; my friend knows the new mayor.
It was Ian who pointed out that the new mayor may well change the flood-plains hereabouts as there hasn't been a flood in 25-plus years. We could now be the owners of valuable building land - lets build a street of affordable housing by the river!

Tuesday, 11 March 2008


The photie of the rainbow is a bit frail but clicking on the pix makes them bigger - the rain brought out the wild iris and the bee orchids and the white violets and the almond blossom... lovely in the hills this morning and very fresh still after the rain, though the clay that attached itself to my new waterproof boots made walking something of a challenge.
Worth it.

Monday, 10 March 2008

election thrills...

... voting took forever because you have to kiss everyone or at least shake hands. I messed up twice; first time they gave me a list and I took it into the little booth and it had crosses already on it. Can't be right, I thought. Went back to the desk (more kissing, more handshaking) and found I'd taken the list of foreigners with me - well, they gave it to me, of course I did. Then I took the lists with me.

I hadn't understood quite how literal it was. When the French talk of Le Liste it is in fact a list. A bit of white paper with 19 names on it. I took the two lists into the little booth and had a think. I'd messed up again for sure; nowhere to put a mark. Tottered out of the booth and two friends were there and they said; take the list you want and put it in the blue envelope. Ignore the other. Its easy.

Once they said that I remembered everything else I'd been told; to whit, if there is someone on the list you don't want, you can cross their name off and replace it with another, from the other list or indeed anyone you like. I could have written my own name or Hall's, anything as long as there are only 19. Less is fine. More and its invalid.

I chose a list, put it in the blue envelope and handed it in, signing another list to say I'd voted and had my voting card stamped. I got to keep the card, I suppose its there for the next time.

A French friend took me for a coffee and told me how she had voted, which simply embarrassed me, then demanded to know what I had done. I had done exactly the opposite of her and said so, smiling and shrugging: she told me at length why I was wrong. Fortunately I could defend my decision to my satisfaction at least - but this was when it dawned on me that the French have none of our scruples about private matters. The rest of the day - market day, busy - I was evasive and explained the English stance.

Another curiosity that emerged was that only the government can hand out black writing on white paper, this a remnant of Napoleon. Eddy had been handing out flyers for Mark Locketts gig on Friday 14th ( Echos des Cloches at the Musée du Piano, Limoux, FREE, 18.30 h., music by Ravel, Glass, Arvo Part, etc and more importantly premiering a new piece by Stan Alder, be there!) - Eddy had forgotten this law and handed out said B & W flyers on election day. Waiting to see if they drag him off in chains.

-It is also illegal here to name your pig Napoleon.

Anyway, voting carried on all day to much chatter and hubbub. Its a social event and the more elderly were dressed up for it. The noise carried on after midnight as the counters counted and their cars blocked the little road. People outside on mobile phones reminded me of the farragoes of previous London elections... this is much more empowering.
The radio says that the results are uneven and so was the turnout. I'm off to the bakers to find out who won.

-Hall has abandoned Tilling and gone skiing in the Alps.

* Back from Bakers - pain au chocolate and croissant almond - and Torrances' team are the winners. Not my choice. Tilling seems largely apathetic this morning, perhaps they are tired after yesterdays excitement...

Saturday, 8 March 2008

garths birthday

Happy birthday Garth! Great party xxxxxxxxxx

PS since writing this, there has appeared what may be called an inappropriate comment - some kind of spam thang - if you go to comments, its a good idea not to open the first one.
Since then we have found out how to prevent this happening... though not yet how to delete the one we have. Working on it.

Friday, 7 March 2008


Poll card has arrived; now for politics. Brits can only vote for the local folk (municipale not canton) but there are 19 of them plus the leader, the mayor. Since there are two lists thats erm, 2 x19 +2. And we know them all and some will be hurt and possibly jolly cross.

The evening de l'amité was wonderful. The candidates had done research and come up with good solutions though the funding mechanisms seemed vague... loved the idea of the community compost heap. Cheap too. After the addressing, it was question time which was where the fun began. There were in effect two questions; when will someone repair the road to Pailiers and why did you support the creche being closed? They were obsessively and alternately addressed by the crowded room after which it was time for a drop of Blanquette Ancestral, normally too sweet for me but there was an air of hysteria that required some attention.

Here, a charming small child entertained himself quietly throughout the event. No doubt training to become mayor.

The other list, Une Dynamique pour Esperaza, seems to have as many claims to power as Cultivons l'Avenir - but no foreigners on the list. Saunieres lot have a Dutchman and a Brit (from Malta) which I cant help feeling prejudiced toward. It does reflect our multicultural community. Saunier himself is Spanish, from the last wave of immigrations here.

I ask around, naturally, at what the French inhabitants think. A phrase has come up often and in different contexts; 'who will steal an egg will steal a cow'. This has been applied to both prospective leaders. I detect smearing....

Thursday, 6 March 2008

they're back!

Katrina and Peter return from being elsewhere. Welcome back! And thanks for dinner tonight...

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

captains table

on Sunday we will be voting in our new mayor and excitement has reached fever pitch (see photo) There are two 'lists' in Tilling this year - first time, they say, for decades - so there are choices, though how real they are is a moot point. Meeting tomorrow night at the Centre Culturelle to ask searching questions; watch this space!