Wednesday, September 30, 2009


The 67-year-old Israeli pianist and orchestral conductor Daniel Barenboïm has always appeared to me as a brilliant star of hope in our troubled heavens: the kind of fellow who makes me feel that there might be rare reasons to love my humankind.

The former child prodigy has taken up the piano once again, playing the Chopin concertos at the Salle Pleyel with the Orchestre de Paris. His personal masterpiece remains the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, founded in 1999 with a Palestinian academic, Edward Saïd, and composed of young Israeli, Arab and Iranian musicians.

The word "prodigy" comes from a medieval Latin term meaning omen. In the minds of his admirers, Barenboïm remains no doubt an omen of future peace in the Middle East. But I fear that countless discordant sounds will have to flow under the many bridges of hateful dissent before we hear any kind of harmonious finale.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Virtual dream house

During my week in Brittany, the focal point of my attention was my son's recently-acquired house on the cliff tops at Plouha.

To a casual observer (such as me), it looks already like a real house surrounded by vast grounds with luxuriant greenery (including a cluster of maritime pines and half a dozen rhododendron trees).

But it remains a virtual home in the sense that François is devoting his imagination and energy into transforming this simple abode into a cozy cocoon of intimate harmony. The present symbol of this ongoing transformation is his newly-constructed attic, with windows looking out onto the wonderful waters that separate France and England.

My son's dreams, over the last year or so, have embraced the idea of moving around on a moped to create movie documentaries about exotic faraway places such as Madagascar, Burkina Faso, etc. That was his primary dream, and it has become a reality in that, at present, his movies are indeed being produced and screened. By the same token, his place on the cliff tops of Plouha can be thought of as a dream house in the sense that François discovered this amazing site at exactly the same moment that he learned that his project of moped movies had been accepted. Call it a double dream come true.

Here's another ordinary view from the field in front of his house:

While speaking with genuine enthusiasm about my son's dreams, I have to admit that my own dream home at Gamone has become, by the force of things (as they say wisely in French), a project that concerns, henceforth, only me. This is normal, in the modern world, where a son is no longer expected to inherit, let alone develop and bring to fruition, the dreams of his father. If my son doesn't mind, I'll borrow the title of this blog article, Virtual dream house, and make a lukewarm attempt, with a wisp of paternal sadness, to convince my readers that I was thinking, in fact, about my humble home at Gamone.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Ocean silence

My short trip to Brittany is drawing to an end. Yesterday afternoon, we returned to the cliffs of Plouha to inspect the work being carried out by François on his future home. He hasn't yet completed the electrical wiring and plumbing, which means that he carries on residing at Christine's place in nearby Gommenec'h. Meanwhile, he has built a totally new upper floor, which will be his bedroom and office. He has installed a pair of large roof windows, which open out onto a magnificent ocean view. François has already set up a chair and a makeshift table on which he has posed a telescope, purchased for ten euros in a second-hand shop. Clearly, he has spent quite some time peering out over the waters, because he seems to have acquired precise knowledge concerning the appearance and daily behavior of the small boats that drift around there for one reason or another.

There's an atmosphere of misty solitude, silence and peace… which reminds me of my cliffs and mountains at Gamone.

The path along the top of the cliffs used to be the regular itinerary of customs inspectors on the lookout for smugglers. François tells us that local folk are aware of the existence of tracks, hidden beneath the ferns and bushes, that lead down to the edge of the water, but it would be dangerous to search for them, since the cliffs are often abrupt.

Moving cautiously to the edge of the path, you can glimpse a tiny pebble beach alongside jagged rocks that are the home of cormorants and gulls. But the only access to this beach would be from the water.

This tiny rocky island has a curious name, Mauve, which has nothing to do with its color. It's funny to think that, beyond the horizon, the English Channel is one of the world's busiest ocean itineraries.

For the Skyvington family, the custom officers' track is rapidly becoming one of our busiest photographic itineraries.

On the way back to house, I made the remark that it's a setting I would like to rediscover in winter, when the sea and sky are the color of steel, and the fields are icy.

I've spoken of silence. In fact, one hears constantly the soft eternal sound of water lapping up rhythmically against the rocks. One imagines this magnificent site, too, in a tempest. I have a sudden vision of the past, with uniformed customs men slipping and sliding on the damp stones as they pursue, shouting, a fleeing smuggler, who finally disappears into the thicket. Truly, it's a place that stirs constantly the visitor's imagination.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

He is the champion

I'm happy to see an Australian road cyclist achieving a major victory, and I'm tremendously pleased that the victor should be Cadel Evans, who has had a rough time this year. I hope he'll have a better employer next year, and that he'll be present in Geelong (Australia), in a year's time, to defend his rainbow jersey.

Seaside excursion

In yesterday's blog, entitled Castle in Brittany [display], I briefly presented the Roche-Jagu castle, on the banks of a tidal river called the Trieux. Here's a splendid view of the site [photo © Olivier Chapuis]:

Motorists cross over this river near the lovely port of Lezardrieux:

The estuary of the Trieux is located a few kilometers to the north at the village of Loguivy.

Small boats based at Loguivy place lobster traps out in the Manche [the French name for the English Channel].

After leaving Loguivy, we drove to the secluded beach village of Bréhec. I took the following photo of this tiny poem of peaceful Breton beauty from the slopes of a neighboring promontory:

François took Christine and me to lunch at the Safran: a small restaurant near the beach.

It's an excellent place, with fine simple dishes. I was amused to learn that the friendly woman who runs the Safran actually migrated to Bréhec, not so long ago, from the mountain town of Villard-de-Lans… just up the road from my home in Choranche. As they say in the classics: It's a small world.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Castle in Brittany

Christine took me to a nearby castle named Roche-Jagu, high above the River Trieux on the edge of a vast wooded domain.

This castle, which dates from 1405, is owned and managed by the regional council of the Côtes d'Armor, which has perfectly restored the ancient edifice and planted flowers and vegetation.

At present, the castle houses an exhibition of the paintings of Maurice Denis [1870-1943], who lived not far away, in Perros-Guirec.

The global effect of the castle, the paintings, the gardens, the river and the surrounding landscape is superb. In the midst of the history, the culture and the sheer beauty, there's a huge accent, too, on ecology. I was overwhelmed by the splendor of the place.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Dog with a ball

Christine's dog Gamone (daughter of my Sophia) is enraptured by this soft rubber ball… which once belonged to Natacha's dog Jojo.

She takes it around with her and deposits it at the feet of anybody who's likely to toss it away, so she can race after it. That is truly Gamone's idea of bliss.

Gamone is capable of chasing after that ball until she's totally exhausted, almost to a life-threatening degree. This happened recently when a visiting child carried on throwing the ball for half an hour.

I built this pine-wood kennel long ago for my first dog, named Bruno. Then I brought it up to Brittany in my trailer, and it has become Gamone's rainy-days shelter.

Christine told me a delightful story. At the seaside, her dog loves to swim. At a nearby beach, orange buoys are attached to lobster traps. Gamone has got into the habit of swimming out to such buoys to make sure that it's not her rubber ball that's floating out on the water. After taking a moment to verify that this is not the case, she swims calmly back to the beach. I wonder what Gamone must think when she sees a reddish moon rising over Gommenec'h.

Old-time Brittany

Christine lives at Gommenec'h. Yesterday morning, François drove me to a splendid little village, not far away from here, named St-Jacques. Alongside the church, in the middle of the village, there's a typically Breton stone calvary.

There's also an ancient holy well.

Following a local custom, François and I threw coins over our shoulders, into the well, while making wishes. Later, my son took me to a grocery shop, run by an old lady named Madeleine, in the nearby village of Le Faouët (not to be confused with a town of that name, elsewhere in Brittany).

We had a beer there, in a setting that looks as if it has emerged from the 19th century.

It's the kind of universal village store in which you can buy bread, fruit and vegetables, newspapers, cigarettes, etc.

In fact, it reminds me of country stores that still existed in Australia when I was a kid… with, of course, one big difference. In my native land, it would have been out of the question to sit down at a table and drink a beer.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Rapid trip to Brittany

The weather at Gamone has been damp over the last week, preventing me from carrying on work in my future rose garden. So, I decided to leave my dog Sophia in the excellent boarding kennels at Alixan, just alongside the Valence TGV (high-speed train) station, and to spend a few days in Brittany. Truly, crossing France in a TGV is a luxurious experience, which is not only rapid but relatively inexpensive (compared to a car trip).

Yesterday afternoon, as soon as Christine picked me up at Guingamp, we visited our son's recently-acquired property at Plouha, where he is busy restoring the house. The view of the calm English Channel from this field of cauliflowers in front of his house is truly breathtaking.

François happens to have settled in what can be described as a genealogical setting. His mother's Breton ancestors have lived for centuries in the nearby farming country, while his father's Skyvington ancestors came from Dorset, on the northern edge of the waters you see in the above photo.

Aging ghost from a ghost town

This year, my home town is celebrating the 150th anniversary of its proclamation as a so-called city... which no longer exists in reality, because the former municipality has been dissolved into a geographically broader entity that might be described as a regional administration. In a foreword to the following commemorative book, for example, the senior elected individual refers to himself, not as the mayor of Grafton, but as the mayor of the Clarence Valley Council.

Today's my birthday. I was born in Grafton (New South Wales, Australia) exactly 69 years ago. Now, if you want to know what Grafton was like when I grew up there (up until I reached the age of 16, when I left for university studies in Sydney), well you should simply go there today. Little seems to have changed. Nothing whatsoever appears to have evolved in a positive sense. It's a place devoid of visible development, of civic progress. A place where almost nothing of significance ever happens (apart from their antiquated colloquium on science and religion). The "city" makes a brave effort to take itself seriously (for example, the authorities commissioned the above book, written by an outsider), but the major economic actors moved out of town long ago, just as most of the dairy farmers on the banks of the Clarence abandoned their time-honored activities. Today, the global scene in Grafton is one of genteel decadence. When I last visited my birthplace, in 2006, I had the impression that I was wandering around in a ghost town whose ghosts are kindly requested to stay away from the few remaining pubs that still attract customers, and to keep off the streets after dark. I'm told that it remains nevertheless a nice town for people who like a quiet existence.

As the sole resident of Gamone, and happy to remain so, I guess I should appreciate that viewpoint. But I'm sure I would be terribly frustrated if I were obliged to reside in Grafton. I'm much better off here in my adoptive home in France.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

French presidents are funny fellows

Instead of "funny", I was about to write "horny". Thinking of male political candidates eager to win (girl)friends and influence people, Confucious might have said: Every election is an erection. But it would be a mistake to highlight the purely sexual aspects of what I have to say. In French presidential funniness, horniness is no doubt a significant element, but it's not the sole driving force.

You can never predict what a French president (or ex-president) might do next. Look at Nicholas Sarkozy, for example. Who would have imagined that, shortly after his election, when his legally-wedded first lady walked out on him, he would promptly get himself linked, for the better or for the worse, with a young Italian pop singer? Today, he's involved in a different kettle of fish: the Clearstream affair.

Using all his presidential might, the French president is currently pursuing, in the law courts, a former prime minister, Dominique de Villepin. In a nutshell, Sarkozy claims that somebody tried to frame him, with electoral ambitions in mind, in the context of a Swiss-based banking scandal. So, there'll be lots of legal fun and games in France (for TV audiences) over the next month.

Concerning Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, I can't figure out yet whether the funniness is basically primitive horniness, or whether there might have been (past tense) something far worse at stake, such as a fuzzy desire to be accepted as a vigorous potential pretender to the British throne. For me personally, if were called upon to choose between Prince Charles (accompanied by Camilla) and Giscard (accompanied by Anne-Aymone), I would hesitate for a long moment. All these people have the stuff of monarchy... but there's an obvious passport obstacle in the case of Giscard. Maybe he was trying to solve this problem by means of a union with Lady Diana. I haven't had time to examine all the details of the situation, but I would imagine that the following scenario could have been enacted at that epoch:

Phase 1: Giscard, having seduced Diana, obtains a divorce from Anne-Aymone. The president can therefore marry his English princess, and they have a splendid son, say Nicholas Dominique d'Estaing. Automatically, at the desire of Diana, Giscard and their baby are naturalized as British citizens.

Phase 2: The English-speaking people of the planet (even in faraway outposts of the ancient empire such as my native land) are so overcome by the sheer beauty of this new entente cordiale between England and France that they launch a plebiscite aimed at replacing Charles by this glorious dauphin named Nicholas Dominique d'Estaing.

Phase 3: In fuzzy circumstances coordinated by the efforts of the European community in Brussels, with a little help from George Bush (who never really understood the possible consequences of what he was doing), Elizabeth accepts the idea that the next king of England should be Nicholas I.

Ah, if only events had happened like that! The world at large would have had fabulous reality resources for TV, and idiots like me would have been able to talk at length about these celebrities on the Internet.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Apple hit me on the head

Seeing that blog title, Corina is going to think: "Poor William was down on his knees adjusting computer cables when his MacBook rolled off the table and bounced on his skull." And she might add: "Let's hope his machine didn't get damaged." Well no, it was a quite different happening. Over the last day or so, I've been thrilled to find myself gravitating genealogically, like a wandering star, towards Isaac Newton. Scientifically-minded observers might call it a hypothetical Newtonian relationship. I can hear other readers saying: "A fortnight ago, he gave us his links to William the Conqueror. Today, it's Newton. He's out of his mind. At this rate, tomorrow, he'll be talking to us about his relatives in Nazareth." Apples have indeed caused tremendous upsets in human history, ever since Adam and Eve. And I don't deny for a moment that more recent impacts with these fruit of knowledge might have damaged my brain...

Here are the basic space-time elements of the global situation:

It's impossible to be much more precise than that, since it's hard to associate these individuals with exact dates and places. Notice the existence of Newton's maternal uncle, the Reverend William Ayscough (pronounced askew), who detected the genius of his 12-year-old nephew and arranged to send him to Trinity College (where William himself had been educated).

Now, here's an equally vague fragment of my own family tree:

In both cases, the Ayscoughs are located in Lincolnshire, and the time frames are equivalent. It's funny to see that my ancestors Thomas Latton and Mary Ayscough were married in London (at the Church of St Benet Paul's Wharf) just a month after the marriage of Newton's parents. Besides, my ancestor John Latton (at one time deputy lieutenant of the county of Surrey), son of Mary Ayscough, was born in the same year as Isaac Newton, son of Hannah Ayscough.

I'm tempted to imagine that the two individuals named William Ayscough in the above charts might in fact be identical, in which case my ancestor Mary Ayscough would have been a first cousin of Isaac Newton. Devil's advocates will point out to me that Newton's uncle William was a clergyman, probably a Catholic priest. So, it's hard to admit the sinful speculation of Father Ayscough as the father of Mary. I disagree. Ever since the apple of Eden, anything's possible.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Cheap website

These days, if leaders of political movements want to influence people, their Internet presence must be impeccable. Here's the web page of Ségolène Royal, which hit the world yesterday:

The thick black frame around the video is not particularly aesthetic, and the presentation of a dozen buttons is boring. Furthermore, this allegedly professional website is based visually upon a free Microsoft background image:

It's the sort of basic website that could have been assembled by an average schoolkid. A single adjective springs into the minds of connoisseurs: cheap. Is Ségolène Royal no longer in contact with talented photographers, web designers and media experts? Today, would-be leaders can no longer get away with cheap stuff like this. There are simply too many brights kids around. And they're going to vote for tomorrow's leaders.

BREAKING NEWS: The website's getting worse. Yesterday, we saw a typical specimen of amateur web creativity at a junior college level. Today, we're informed by a big banner that the creation of Ségolène's website will be a "participative" affair, with various Socialist Party committees throughout France taking turns in contributing various backgrounds. This morning, to start the ball rolling, they've moved down to an infants' school level.

[Click the image to see what happens.
Maybe the website has been hacked, and this is a hoax.]

If this process continues, Ségolène will soon be demonstrating that even a year-old baby can participate in the creation of a website. Maybe, for background: a dirty diaper.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Request for help from a US resident

In the context of my family-history project entitled They Sought the Last of Lands, I would like to obtain copies of two rare books:

-- Life of John Pickering by Mary Orme Pickering [digitized from 1887 volume]

-- Dialoge or Confabulation between Two Travellers, etc... written circa 1580 by William Spelman, edited by John Edward Latton Pickering [digitized from 1896 volume]

The above-mentioned Pickerings are paternal ancestors of mine. Both documents are available from Barnes and Noble in the form of free eBooks, but you have to be a US resident to obtain them. Maybe a kind US reader of my blog would be prepared to obtain these eBooks and email them to me. I would be truly grateful for this help.

Deplorable habit

French youth are shocked to discover retrospectively that the former president Jacques Chirac once had a deplorable habit.

Even at public meetings, when he should have been paying attention to what was being said, he was constantly taking or making calls on his iPhone. Observers affirm that Chirac was such a heavy phoner that, at times, smoke could be seen coming out of his iPhone. It can be said today that Chirac's phoning habit was therefore dangerous, because everybody knows that iPhones tend to explode from time to time.

[Click the image to see the original photo.]

Monday, September 14, 2009

Income tax

September 14: the eve of the final date for a payment of income tax. Even my magnificent dog (adjectives fail me when I evoke Sophia) sensed that there was urgency in the air. In fact, Sophia senses everything in my existence. So, I invited her to jump into the car and accompany me down to the post office at Pont-en-Royans. Taxes are less painful when you pay them with your dog.

On the way back, we were halted by my neighbor Madeleine, who had been waiting in the middle of the road to give me a plate of figs:

She suggested I might make jam. I replied that her figs would surely be devoured within a few days, before my thinking about jam. In her usual unpredictable, totally random but lovely style, Madeleine (by the roadside, alongside my automobile, with Sophia awaiting impatiently our return to Gamone, a hundred meters up the road) started to tell me the history of the silver plate upon which her gift of figs was placed. I'll spare you the complex details about something overflowing, long ago, and eroding the silver plate. But I know already that, because of this fuzzy tale, the figs will taste all that much more delicious.


For as long as I've known Christine, I've associated this famous photo, entitled Provençal nude, taken by Willy Ronis in 1949, with my ex-wife and her family context.

There are two reasons for this association. First, I believe this image has always been a favorite of Christine's father: a keen photographer who married a Provençal girl. Second, above all, this scene of a girl washing herself in a delightfully old-fashioned rural setting evokes the context of the family's ancient manor house in Brittany.

Willy Ronis has just died at the age of 99. I don't usually publish nude photos of myself... but I'll make an exception, in honor of Willy.

Christine took this photo long ago at Le Ruflet. Clearly, I'm sure you'll agree with me that the inspiration of my wife was not solely me.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I love butterflies

When I happened to complain recently about grubs that are eating my rose leaves, Christine reacted on the phone as if I might be a psychopath who's declaring war on innocent butterflies. A wise employee in a horticultural shop also concluded rhetorically: "You're not talking about massive destruction of your rose bushes. You're merely losing a few leaves from time to time. Why worry?"

Consequently, in a flash of light, like what happened to Saint Paul on the road to Damascus, I decided to change my evil ways. Now, when I come upon a lost grub, I lead it back to a nice supply of rose leaves.

The Dalai Lama would love the new me like he loves grubs.

Great fig tree, but low yield

This little Mediterranean fig tree, given to me by Natacha and Alain, is coming along really well. What I mean to say is that it looks beautiful, and it surely has a promising future at Gamone.

The fruit is delicious. But, for the moment, the yield is somewhat low. Like one fig a year. Here's a photo of this year's production:

That reminds me of my former French sheep station, which my aunt Nancy once described with pride to her golfing friends at Pymble.

Ladies: "How many head of sheep does your nephew run?"

Nancy: "Five."

The important thing is to believe in expansion, and to have confidence in the future.

Life after M

You'll have to forgive me. My August 2009 was a harsh month, which I'm not likely to forget in the near future. To maintain minimal Internet contacts with the outside world, I was obliged to set foot almost daily, for weeks on end, in places of Purgatory (a little less nasty than Hell) that are intent upon reducing the peoples of the Earth to gut-level subservience: a slow and nasty kind of alimentary intoxication, not unlike subtle poisoning carried out in the context of the Accursed Kings of France, or in Agatha Christie novels.

Attention: I'm not suggesting for a moment that any fast-food outlet is deliberately trying to execute any kind of malicious poisoning plan. It's not at all deliberate. It just happens to be falling out that way. The saddest and most dramatic experience of all, when you're dining in this kind of place, is to lift your eyes (from your hamburger or from your computer screen) and take a quick look at your neighbors. There's a distinctly fast-food customer profile, a customer outline, a customer model, a customer contour... And it's not nice. It's a big, bulky, flabby, two-handed hamburger-guzzling shape, constantly asking for more fast fuel, like a diesel engine that starts to splutter as soon as the fuel gauge runs low. It's hard to nurture an admiration for one's humankind when you observe them devouring rubbish in a fast-food place.

But stop! I can't be totally sure that my Antipodes blog would emerge unscathed if such and such a corporation were to attack me for being verbally unkind to them. (What fabulous publicity!) My title proclaims: There is life after M. I'm here today as a survivor, to spread the Good News about our earthly sustenance.

Sunday pests

The local Catholic priest has never tried to convert me to his religion. That's understandable, because there's no longer any such individual in the neighborhood. A visiting priest does the rounds of the dozens of churches in the district for masses and marriages... particularly since the latter give rise generally, at the end of the betrothal, to a generous donation in crisp brightly-hued banknotes. This morning, for example, it was the big Sunday for Choranche, and my neighbor Madeleine was thrilled to inform me on the phone that there were at least two dozen aging individuals in the congregation. Just try to imagine that pious flock emerging from the doorway of the village church, seen in this old postcard (expertly tinted by a minute of Photoshop):

Burials, on the other hand, are taken care of by a compassionate middle-aged lady who lives at Pont-en-Royans. That solution might be thought of as a regression by old-timers who remember priests in black soutanes and altar boys in white laced cassocks. But it can be said that nobody buried under the auspices of this kind lady has ever complained of their treatment.

Meanwhile, this morning at Gamone, I received a visit by three young women on foot, members of the Jehovah's Witness organization. Now, if there's anything that drives me momentarily but furiously mad on a sunny Sunday morning, when I'm calmly devoting my time and energy to a subtle blend of gardening and computer-based work, it's a visit from Jehovah's Witnesses. I see them as pests, to be chased away. To be honest, it hasn't happened for ages... and I don't think it will happen again for quite some time. Let's say that I have a method for dealing with such individuals, in a totally spontaneous but well-oiled manner. The underlying rule is to dominate totally the discussion (in fact, a monologue), bringing up various well-chosen topics, and consistently refusing to allow them to get a word in. I do this reasonably well in the sense that I have a fair amount of experience in lecturing and industrial training courses in computing, where you don't really expect listeners to intervene verbally. Little by little, I allow them to start a sentence or two, which I exploit immediately in a harsh demonstration of their stupidity, ignorance, etc. This "dialogue" is conducted politely, almost respectfully, but I am constantly waiting for one of my listeners to pronounce a few words that might be construed as an attack on science. Then I pounce. This morning, one of the poor women started to say: "But, after all, Darwin's ideas are merely a theory, which can be contradicted..." That was largely sufficient for me to explode in an almost dignified style. I told the women to piss off immediately, and to never come back to Gamone to waste my time.

My farewell tactic is always the same, seemingly spontaneous, but in fact well-oiled, like the rest of my diatribe. Calling the three women back, I stammered out something along the following lines: "Excuse me for getting so upset. You must realize that I'm particularly fond of Charles Darwin. Criticism of his brilliant ideas upsets me immensely. I should force myself to remain calm, but it's stronger than me. You know how it is. In a rural setting like this, people tend to get upset by encounters with strangers like you, who drop in unexpectedly and start trying to tell us how to think. Besides, I must warn you that it would be unwise for you to visit local folk such as myself at any old time of the day or evening. You know, in the dark, all the local people have weapons, and one never knows how we might react if we were visited by individuals in the twilight, with the dogs barking, etc."

I don't mind being considered as a little crude and crazy. After all, I look upon Jehovah's Witnesses as immensely mindless creatures, on a cerebral par with medieval theologists. Readers will notice that, in what I've said, there's nothing that might be construed as an explicit threat, merely almost-friendly general advice, to avoid the possibility of nasty happenings. In parting, rapidly, the women wished me a happy Sunday. And I did the same. Needless to say, I've lost three would-be friends. But I believe I'm perfectly within my rights to discourage vigorously, in my own style, such visits from religious proselytizers.

A minute after our separation, as the women were retreating on foot down along Gamone Creek, with Sophia continuing to bark gruffly, spasmodically and dispassionately (in the way she barks when minor events are unfolding before her eyes), there was a totally-unplanned Magic Moment. A series of three loud gunshot bangs rang out across the valley from Châtelus. The three females looked back up over their shoulders, half expecting to see me with a gun in my hands. I waved a farewell. It was only this morning that Madeleine, after describing the mass at Choranche, and knowing that I don't read newspapers, added: "I forgot to warn you, William: the hunting season started yesterday." Yes, Madeleine, I saw three wild birds at Gamone.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Cadel's bike breakdown... like my Internet

This photo shows Cadel Evans in the recent Tour de France:

These days, he has been competing splendidly in the Vuelta, the road-cycling tour of Spain. In fact, he could seriously contemplate winning it, since he has been just seven seconds behind Alejandro Valverde. This afternoon, after a trivial mechanical breakdown, Cadel Evans had to wait by the roadside for an entire minute until the Silence-Lotto service vehicle finally dropped by. That's a hell of a lot of silence. Cadel's chances of winning the lottery have suddenly dropped considerably. To zero, you might say. That sad and silly incident no doubt puts an end to one of Australia's biggest hopes for a great cycling victory. And it probably terminates Cadel's top-level cycling career.