Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Sister Jill

Yesterday was the 60th birthday of my sister Jill Skyvington, who has just spent Xmas here at Gamone with her husband Kim Taylor, their lovely daughter Indiya and Indiya's friend Kyle. During their stay, I wasn’t particularly active at a photographic level. I was otherwise busy, while sensing that my family friends were taking care of images through constant Facebook activities. A single photo emerged from my old Nikon, but it happens to be superb.

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On the slopes of Gamone, Jill grins with glee, surrounded by donkeys and the dog Fitzroy (held by Kyle). In the background, a giant walnut tree had been toppled on the previous night by an unexpectedly violent Xmas tempest. My old donkey Moshé is the rightmost beast, observing calmly the scene. For Jill, Kim, Indiya and Kyle, this was indeed an authentic vision (amongst others) of my home at Gamone.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Bon appétit !

This Dawkins fellow has an amazing talent for finding the right arguments, the right words and the right ideas. I would designate him, in a nutshell, as a scientific poet, a poetic scientist, a great poet who also happens to be a creative scientist, whose various books on genetic themes are masterpieces of adventurous thinking.

I agree entirely with the gastronomical slant in the title of his autobiography. Dawkins is a master chef who proposes us countless delicious dishes that are all variations on a single theme. Their basic ingredient is indeed the wonder of science.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Gamone Press first copy

It arrived by mail this morning from the printing house in England: the first copy of the first book to be published by Gamone Press.

The look and feel of the final product are fine… although I can still see room for minor improvements.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Fire in Choranche

There are no longer many old buildings in the village of Choranche. So, it’s a pity to see one of them destroyed by fire.

The shabby Café du Centre was run for years by a charming lady, Paulette Chomette, who died earlier this year.

I had often thought that it would great for the life of the village if this old café were to be restored in one way or another. For the moment, I have no idea of the extent of structural damage to the interior of the building, but I guess it’s too late, sadly, to imagine that the old café might be brought back to life.

Here's an image of the café taken by Google Maps in May 2013:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

There will be smoke

Yesterday morning, my new chimney at Gamone became fully operational for the first time. And the dense column of smoke arising from the rooftop chimney was a friendly sign.

I lit up the stove and fuelled it with two or three sturdy chunks of extra-dry firewood. Then full steam ahead! During the first hour or so, I was anxious… like the captain of the Titanic looking out for icebergs. My imaginary “icebergs” would have been spots (literally hotspots) in the vicinity of the stove where the temperature might have appeared to be excessive and dangerous. In fact, there were effusions of all kinds, both from my recent paintwork and from the iron stove itself… but nothing of an alarming nature. The stove even emitted a wonderful “song” brought about by mysterious metallic vibrations. After an hour or so, everything seemed to settle down into a kind of harmonious cruising state. And Fitzroy took advantage of the delightful warmth that was permeating our ground floor.

Driving down towards Pont-en-Royans, Tineke and Serge noticed the smoke, and they drove up here immediately with a bottle of fine wine to celebrate the new warmth of Gamone. In fact, they came upon me in a state of turmoil, trying to unblock the kitchen sink. Serge helped me rapidly in the search for a solution to this problem, brought about primarily by the disastrous plumbing carried out by an unpleasant local "plumber" (hired in 1994 by the Grenoble architects in charge of the restoration of Gamone)… who hasn’t spoken to me for years, ever since I told him frankly that he was a lousy tradesman. The basic problem is due to the fact that the waste-water evacuation tubing—integrated into the reinforced concrete slab beneath my house—isn’t sufficiently sloped, and the slightest muck blocks it. Happily, I can live with this plumbing problem, provided that I respect a certain number of constraints.

PS It's Wednesday morning, and I've just had an opportunity of confirming an interesting aspect of this particular stove (the Bradford model from the French Invicta company). If I place three or four chunks of wood in the stove before going to bed, they burn slowly all night, keeping the house warm. Then, this morning, I found that the wood was all burnt, leaving a layer of hot coals in the stove. All I had to do, this morning, was to put more wood into the stove, and it blazed up within a few minutes. Incidentally, I've just ordered (through the Internet) some obligatory instruments.

The device on the left is a smoke detector, and they are now obligatory in all French homes. The slightly more complex device on the right is a carbon monoxide detector, and the presence of such a detector is highly recommended in any dwelling that burns fuel (inside the dwelling) for heating. When the ordered goods have arrived (within a day or so), if the Good Lord has saved me between now and then from being consumed by fire or gassed, I intend to install such a pair of devices at two strategic spots in my house: on the ground floor (where the stove is located) and on the upper floor (with the bedrooms).

Friday, December 6, 2013

Habemus invictam

Trying to capture an image (for posterity) of the very first wisp of white smoke emerging from my new chimney at Gamone is like taking photos of a polar bear in the Arctic snow. At this time of the year, almost everything in the sky of Choranche looks like wisps of white smoke.

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To obtain this proof that smoke does indeed go up the chimney that I designed and erected (with constant help from my friend and neighbor Serge Bellier), I burned no more than a bit of paper and a few wood chips, because I’ll only be taking the stove up to its operational temperature over a period of a week or so, to give the metal time to gradually expand and creak itself into shape.

My only blog reader who’s likely to understand the title of this post is my son François, who also installed a French-manufactured wood stove of the Invicta brand. I was almost going to write Habemus poelam, but Christine would have lost no time in correcting me. The modern French word poêle can indeed designate either a frying-pan or a wood stove, but the ancient Romans only used poela in the first sense. They did not use metal stoves for heating. Their domestic heating installations were based upon steam generated in the cellar by a hypocaust system associated with a furnace (in the style of a pizza oven).

This is the same kind of system that was used to heat up water in a pool—called a caldarium—in the splendid Somerset city of Bath.

At Gamone, my living room is already well heated by my fireplace… provided that I keep the glass cover down, instead of raising it so that I can warm my toes while watching TV: a great pleasure, which I often share with Fitzroy, lying in my lap. Incidentally, talking about Fitzroy, I bought him an elegant cushion yesterday, which I promptly lined with an old pair of ski pants that I’ve outgrown.

For the first time in ages, Fitzroy spent the entire night on the kitchen floor in his new bed, which he guards jealously as if it were a bone that an evil passer-by might try to steal.

PS Don't be too alarmed by the grubby state of my kitchen floor. Apart from the fact that I'm only slowly emerging from the lengthy period of construction of my wood shed [display], not to mention final operations concerning the installation of the wood stove (during which time my tools were often left lying upon the kitchen floor), the current dirty state of the floor is due above all to the fact that the evacuation system for used sink water is clogged up once again. I'll fix that tomorrow, and clean up the mess in the kitchen. One thing at a time...

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Robespierre on stage

On the extreme left-hand side of the political chessboard, Jean-Luc Mélenchon is a brilliant orator who has been trying to persuade us that a remake of the French Revolution of 1789 is about to unfold. At times, though, one has the impression that Mélenchon tries a little too hard. Last Sunday, for example, he tried to persuade TV-viewers that vast throngs of leftist militants had assembled on the Avenue des Gobelins in Paris, to take part in a protest march concerning tax injustice. In an interview conducted by the distinguished journalist Claire Chazal of TF1, we can see members of this supposedly huge crowd in the background behind Mélenchon.

The problem is that somebody up on the balcony of a nearby apartment building took a photo of the global scene, which actually looked like this:

Clearly, there were no throngs of militants, merely a few dozen friends of Mélenchon who were happy to behave like movie extras, grouping themselves together to form a dense background giving the visual impression that they belonged to a huge crowd of similar militants.

Needless to say, Mélenchon has lost a lot of his dwindling credibility as a consequence of this staged affair  One wonders, too, why the people at TF1 apparently condoned this unethical media behavior. Retrospectively, however, we can understand what must have happened. The people in charge of the TV crew, finding Mélenchon all alone on the empty avenue, must have said to themselves that the forthcoming interview would be somewhat ludicrous unless they could enhance the setting a little...

Dylan meets Springsteen

It’s rare to see an image of Dylan looking happy. This encounter between Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen took place at New Haven in 1975. The photo was displayed on the French GallicaBNF website.

Condemned to owning the latest iPhone

Readers of my Antipodes blog will have no doubt gathered that I’ve been living for the last two decades in a context (mountainous slopes, etc) that is potentially dangerous, and I increase the risk of accidents by doing potentially dangerous things such as wandering around on the slopes and working on various building projects (carport, firewood shelter, wood stove for heating). For these reasons, I’ve always known that I should carry with me, at all times, a portable phone. In many ways, this is a somewhat peculiar necessity, because I’ve lost, almost totally, my former (Parisian) habit of talking with friends on the phone. The underlying problem, here in Choranche, is that my circle of friends has been reduced drastically, and that I no longer have any personal or professional contacts that necessitate the use of a mobile phone. To put it frankly, the last time that my life style might have derived benefits from the presence of a mobile phone, this gadget hadn’t even been invented yet!

Another factor that plays a role in my lack of enthusiasm for mobile phones is my writing activities, which extend from this humble blog through to more in-depth preoccupations. See, for example, my previous blog post, entitled My first publication. As far as I’m concerned, these writing activities necessitate a fully-fledged iMac computer… although I imagine that certain bloggers do in fact succeed in blogging from an iPad or an iPhone.

My Internet connection is with Orange, who also take care of my satellite TV. This company has just suggested that I should integrate my mobile connection into a global contract with them. Cost-wise, I can do no better. And, since I’ve been using an iPhone 4S, they immediately suggested that I trade it in for an iPhone 5C. So, I find myself condemned (as it were) to owning the latest iPhone. Poor me!

My first publication

I’ve just sent off an order for 5 copies of the very first book published by Gamone Press. It’s a hefty novel of 388 pages printed as a Demy Octavo paperback. Here’s the cover spread:

Click to enlarge

I believe that copies can be ordered through the international distribution channels of Lightning Source. For the moment, though, I’m not yet aware of how exactly this operation is carried out in the various countries.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Great dance mashup

It’s three decades since the companions of Ivan Doroschuk—of the Canadian Men Without Hats group—pranced around the village on their virtual pogo sticks, performing the strangely-named Safety Dance.

Earlier this year, an imaginative and finely-tuned mashup illustrated this celebrated song by means of images from dozens of different movies, of all kinds.

If ever an extraterrestrial were to acquire and view this mashup, he would surely form the opinion that we earthlings are weirdly-agitated creatures, who never stand still. Well, maybe we are

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Anglican diocese of Grafton

In the mid-1950s, when I was a teenager in Grafton and an active member of the Anglican community attached to Christ Church Cathedral, I would never have imagined that, one day, from my home in the mountains of south-east France, I would be reading the following solemn statement published by an archdeacon of the Grafton diocese:

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Click here to see a shocking page of their website, against a background of jacaranda blossoms, on which the diocese includes a link to a 31-page document, created in 2004, bearing the sad title: Protocol for Dealing with Complaints of Sexual Abuse.

I made allusions to Grafton’s unpleasant history in this domain in my blog post of 16 June 2013 entitled In the shadow of Grafton's cathedral [display].

Today, I have no desire to wade through the sordid tales and events that have been unfolding in Sydney’s ongoing Royal Commission into child abuse. But, for readers who might like to follow up these stories, I include here a list of links to relevant Australian media accounts.

Anglican Church official Pat Comben quizzed in Royal Commission over response to child sex abuse at North Coast Children's Home [link]

Cleric quits over abuse handling [link]

Abuse claim priest has quit [link]

Anglican directory of clergy a 'stud book' [link]

Brutal assaults at a NSW orphanage [link]

Church to audit child sex abuse settlement [link]

Church dissent over abuse approach [link]

Abuse diocese puts community first [link]

Smiling bishop Keith Slater failed victims of sex abuse in their hour of need [link]

I'm not sure I'm still a Christian, Anglican priest Pat Comben says [link]

Bishop ignored child sex charges [link]

One of the articles contains the following sentence:
The protestant community in Grafton seems close. One could well imagine the conversations at the "dinner parties with a bit of red wine" that Pat Comben, former diocesan registrar, touched on in his evidence to the commission.
That allusion annoys me in the sense that it gives the impression that Grafton Anglicans were in the habit, in a mildly inebriated state, of passing around fragments of sordid information at private dinner parties. That vision of events is far removed from my memories of Arthur Edward Warr, Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, dropping around for weekly chess evenings with my paternal grandfather, with tea and biscuits served up by my grandmother. But I have to admit that, as a boy in Grafton over half a century ago, I had no contacts whatsoever with what might have been thought of as the upper-crust Anglican community of the city.

These days, as a confirmed atheist who looks upon all present-day religions with the utmost disgust, I'm quite delighted to observe that an organization such as the Anglican Church appears to be coming apart at the seams... but I'm immensely sickened by the case of those countless kids who were handled as sexual objects by vile males who were supposed to be the children's guardians.

POST SCRIPTUM: Many former residents of Grafton are aware, I believe, that their “city” has been going slowly down the drain, in countless ways, over several decades. Today, as a symbol of that civic and economic decay, the local mayor and his councillors don’t even talk of Grafton any more. They ramble on stupidly as if they were living in a vague place known as “the Valley”. Be that as it may, I have the impression that the reputation of Grafton is likely to suffer indelibly as a consequence of the ongoing Royal Commission. We can no doubt think of those links in the above blog post as nails in Grafton’s coffin.

Rotten luck

Maybe God exists, and He cares for all of us, even those amongst us who happen to be sinners… and criminals. But there are times when everyday crooks are likely to be so dismayed by their amazing rotten luck that they might be forgiven for wondering whether the Creator is indeed making an effort to protect them. Worse still, these run-of-the-mill lawbreakers, whose only preoccupation consists of trying constantly to earn a dishonest penny, might even be led astray into atheism of the worst kind…

Consider, for example, this item of news from rural France. Etampes is an ancient and charming small town to the south of Paris, midway between Chartres and Fontainebleau, which has often been used as a setting for movies.

As an enthusiast of pumpkin scones [click here to see my blog post on this subject], I’m impressed by the beauty of a famous red pumpkin variety that bears the name of this town.

Surrounded by such celebrated places as Paris, Orléans and Chartres, Etampes has always found it hard to shine in the domain of historical celebrity. In other words, it’s a quiet town, where nothing much ever happens these days. There’s not even an autoroute or a high-speed train line in the vicinity of the town, whose residents must get fed up with constant allusions to Etampes as a “gateway” into the Ile-de-France region surrounding Paris.

All in all, it’s the kind of environment in which low-level robbers might hope to earn a modest living, without taking too many risks. In any case, that was the intention of two naive delinquents who used a pistol, late last Wednesday evening, to hold up a young couple who happened to strolling through the wintry streets of the sleepy town. What could be more straightforward, more normal?

Now, to understand the rest of this trivial story (which nevertheless made its way into all the French media), you have to know that the outskirts of Etampes were chosen as an ideal site to set up the training school of the National Gendarmerie Intervention Group [GIGN = Groupe d'intervention de la gendarmerie nationale], the elite special-operations squad of the French Armed Forces, trained to perform counter-terrorist and hostage-retrieval missions throughout the world.

And sometimes, of an evening, both male and female members of this army unit are likely to don civilian clothes and go for a walk through the deserted streets of Etampes. Well, the future robbery victims chosen by the above-mentioned delinquents happened to be a pair of GIGN trainees (a young guy and a girl)… who noticed instantly that the pistol pointed at them by one of the would-be robbers wasn’t equipped with a charger. Now, that was indeed a silly omission, particularly when you happen to be holding up two members of the GIGN, in the hope of getting hold of their cash. Things happened so quickly that the pistol-wielder didn’t know what had hit him. His unarmed mate escaped, but was rapidly cornered by local police.

Normally, when residents of Etampes happen to get a glimpse of these GIGN guys engaged in training activities, they’re easily recognized, because they look something like this:

But how can an unskilled everyday delinquent be expected to recognize GIGN personnel when the crime-fighters don’t even go to the trouble of wearing their distinctive gear? Indeed, if GIGN members are allowed to roam around the quiet streets of Etampes of an evening dressed in civilian clothes, they must be considered as a potentially grave danger for unwitting robbers and miscellaneous delinquents... and there should be a law against situations of this kind.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Vegetal ball

My maternal grandmother, Mary Jane Kennedy [1888-1966], used to tell me about her first doll, when she was a little girl up on her father’s bush property on the banks of the Clarence at Riverstone (Seelands), above Grafton. Her Irish mother, Mary Eliza Cranston [1858-1926], had used a short stout bone from a steer to fashion a doll for her daughter. It must have been a rather primitive creation, with a painted face and rag clothes, but my future grandmother was enchanted by her “little bone doll” (as she put it). Whenever my grandmother told us this story, she insisted above all on the idea that a loving mother, with a little bit of imagination, was capable of performing acts of magic in the eyes of her offspring.

My Fitzroy receives lots of bones every time I buy minced lamb at the supermarket, when the butcher supplies me with a big bag of tasty odds and ends for my dear dog. As for toys, he invented one for himself this morning: a round pumpkin or squash (I don’t know which) that he found in the weeds on the edge of my vegetable garden.

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Fitzroy knows that his vegetal ball can roll. In a nutshell, my dog has reinvented the wheel. His ball seems to have a mind of its own.

So, he has to keep an eye on it, unless it suddenly decides to roll away and hide in the bushes.

Once it escapes, by rolling down onto the road, Fitzroy has to run to keep up with his vegetal ball.

Fortunately, because of its color, the vegetal ball is easy to see in the icy greyness of Gamone.

Furthermore, although you wouldn’t describe it as edible, the vegetal ball emits a subtle effusion when you happen to sink your teeth into its skin. All in all, it’s an excellent toy... invented by Fitzroy.

Helico visit

In the early hours of the morning, when your house is lost in autumnal mists, and everything around you is so quiet and motionless that the landscape and its creatures (including humans) seem to have gone into hibernation, there’s nothing better than the low-altitude flight of a helicopter over your roof to jolt you back into reality.

I recognized immediately the blue aircraft used by electricity engineers to verify that recent snow has not brought down branches over their landlines. They swooped down low over Gamone to get a close look at the various lines, then they disappeared up over the slopes on the other side of Gamone Creek. Their visit lasted no more than half a minute: a short lapse of time during which Fitzroy and I—and no doubt the donkeys too—wondered whether we might be under air attack by the forces of a hostile village. Thankfully, our visitors did not stay for long. Helico fuel is expensive, and this is not the right time of the year for sightseeing.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Construction of wood shed

In my previous blog post, entitled Wood shed finished [display], I stated proudly that the structure was “sturdily-built”. Prudent, I had preferred to wait until the entire construction process was terminated successfully before showing how I had gone about building the shed. It would have been so embarrassing to have described my building work, only to be followed by a dramatic image of a pile of wood and tiles beneath a mound of snow on the lower slopes beneath my house. But I really don't believe we're likely to be faced with such a situation.

In this blog post, I intend to present a few images, taken at the start of October, that highlight some of the more difficult phases of the construction process. As explained on 8 September 2013 in Getting ready for the cold season [display], I started out by bolting a metallic base onto each of the six hefty pieces of timber to be used as upright posts.

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For each post, I then dug a hole 50cm x 50cm x 50cm and placed the post in the hole in such a way that its lower edge was more-or-less at ground level. To hold a post upright, I surrounded it by a couple of chestnut fencing stakes, and used struts of timber held in place by steel clamps to secure the post while I adjusted its verticality. Throughout the entire construction process, I made constant use of my precious collection of steel clamps (which have gathered rust through being left outside in all kinds of weather).

Once each of the six upright posts was surrounded by a block of concrete, my friend Serge Bellier used a simple hand-saw to level off the posts at the top. Then I was faced with the question of how to raise the heavy horizontal beams. The following photo shows you the makeshift system I invented for this task:

Placing a beam on the foreground posts was a slightly more difficult operation, since these post are considerably taller than the posts on the valley side. The following photo shows my enhancement of the block-and-tackle solution to deal with this increased height:

As you can see, the main difference is that the ladder had to be held in place by chains to prevent it from toppling over. The next photo shows the last of the four big beams being raised to the top of its supporting posts:

Here’s a closeup view of the block-and-tackle system at the top of the ladder:

It goes without saying that, when carrying out such operations, I was wearing a hard hat at all times, and never positioned at any moment beneath the beam being raised. Once the beams were resting on top of the posts, I used an assortment of nails to fix them in place.

The remaining phases of the construction process were quite straightforward: installing rafters, corner stays, and finally the tiles. I didn’t bother to take photos of these activities, because they weren’t particularly photogenic. Concerning the final result, I’m particularly pleased with the system of corner stays (there are probably more technical terms for these various pieces of timber) that keeps the structure perfectly rigid.

It was a matter of creating a set of triangles covering every point at which the global structure might be capable of shifting under the weight of the tiles and snow.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Wood shed finished

Except for a few details (such as screwing on the final side tiles, aligning and protecting the protruding rafters, and paintwork), my wood shed is finished and operational.

Click to enlarge

The piles at the rear are composed mainly of wood that Gérard Magnat delivered in September [click here for my blog post with a photo of that pile of firewood], whereas the front pile is some of the extremely dry wood that the Barraquand firm in St-Laurent-en-Royans delivered a few weeks ago.

The structure is sturdily-built, and unlikely to collapse under the weight of snow. As you can see in the following photo, there’s an appropriate system of braces beneath the roof. Besides, I’ve systematically used timber of dimensions somewhat larger than what you could get away with.

The position of the wood shed is ideal in that firewood can be delivered just alongside it, and it’s not too far away from my front door. Meanwhile, there’s also a large stock of dry firewood inside my cellar: enough to keep the house heated until well after Xmas.

For the moment, I haven't yet got around to lighting up my new wood stove, because it hasn't really been cold enough, and the fireplace is perfect for watching TV of an evening (often with Fitzroy dozing on my knees).

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Say cheese... with an echo

For several years, my favorite cheese has been Ossau-Iraty, produced from unpasteurized ewe’s milk in the Béarn and Pays basque region of south-west France. In 2011, at an international cheese fair in England, a cheese of this variety was awarded the prize of the World’s Best Unpasteurized Cheese.

Even in France, this product is not nearly as well-known as celebrated cheeses such as Roquefort, Brie, Cantal, St-Marcellin, Comté, Gruyère, etc. Maybe the double-barrelled name is a minor stumbling-block, in that it’s slightly complicated, and many French people wouldn’t feel comfortable trying to pronounce it. At the supermarket, I’ve got into the habit of simply asking for Ossau… and the cheese lady knows immediately what I mean.

Well, that’s going to have to change, because the producers of this cheese have launched a TV campaign designed to demonstrate how the name of their product should be pronounced. And the least that can be said is that this is likely to give rise to a lot of decibels in French supermarkets. In fact, the next time I intend to request a slice of Ossau-Iraty, I should probably think about taking along a megaphone, combined with an electronic echo box.

I’ve noticed, too, that the various demonstrations of cries of “Ossau-Iraty” in the valleys are all performed by young women. I believe that this reflects the fact that barefoot nymphs used to work as shepherdesses in the valleys where this cheese is produced.

Meanwhile, the males of the villages were busy making cheese… and playing Basque pelota.

Friday, November 22, 2013

My November 22, 1963

Like countless people throughout the world, I remember distinctly the moment when I learned that John F Kennedy had been assassinated.

On 25 October 1963, in the port of Rotterdam, I had signed off as a sailor on the British Glory petroleum tanker, after a three-week voyage from Kuwait. Then, on Monday 4 November 1963, I started work as an assistant English teacher at the splendid Lycée Henri IV in the Latin Quarter of Paris (where I would end up working for three years).

On 21 November 1963, I attended a reception for new foreign teachers (such as me) at the Hôtel de Ville.

I could hardly imagine that, in the course of the following decades, I would stroll almost daily across that magnificent square (when I was living in the nearby Rue Rambuteau). Meanwhile, I had moved into a room in a flat rented out by a sleazy South American fellow. It was located on the second floor of a building in the Rue Montorgueil, near the great Halles markets (which were still functioning at that time).

                                             — photo by Robert Doisneau

Today, it is a smart little street with boutiques and bistrots.

But in 1963, it was a gloomy and sinister address. That’s where I happened to be located, on 22 November 1963, when the South American fellow informed me that Kennedy had been shot. Needless to say, I was stunned, for many reasons. My maternal grandmother was an Irish Kennedy, and I had always felt a vague kind of kinship (totally unjustified) with the US president. As for my South American landlord, he seemed to quite like the idea that the USA could get rid of one of their leaders in such a spectacular fashion.

Not long afterwards, I was pleased to find accommodation at the Collège Franco-Britannique at the Cité Universitaire, to the south of Paris.

It was a far more pleasant atmosphere than my room in the Rue Montorgueil. Later on, when I was living in the Rue Rambuteau, I would often find myself walking past the southern extremity of the Rue Montorgueil, near the church of Saint-Eustache.

And this corner of Paris brings to mind invariably an image of Jackie Kennedy, in her pink Chanel outfit, on the rear seat of a big black automobile, leaning down over the body of the dying president.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Great weather for dogs and donkeys

This morning, Choranche received the first autumn snow. (Winter won’t start, of course, before a month’s time.)

And the view from my bathroom window proves that I’m unlikely to be dining outside on the front lawn in the near future.

Like last winter, I’ll soon be receiving a visit from Australian relatives who choose this time of the year to drop in on Europe. Inside the house, it’s not at all cold… and I haven’t even got around to lighting up my new wood stove that I’ve been installing over the last year. Outside, my dog Fitzroy adores this kind of weather, and he races around madly, burrowing into the snow whenever he halts. The donkeys, too, don’t seem to be troubled by the snow. Jackie and I had a look at them this morning, and put a small block of hay in one of my old animal shelters. But some of them preferred to stay outside, burrowing into weeds beneath the walnut trees.

The only way in which this kind of weather affects my daily existence is that it would be crazy to go out driving… supposing that I were able to get the car safely to the bottom of Gamone Road without sliding off into the creek. Between now and the arrival of my sister’s family (just before Xmas), I intend to get a set of four snow tyres installed on my car, to maximize the possibility that I’ll be able to collect them at the train station in Valence.

BREAKING NEWS: I've just received an e-mail with a warning for "level 2 snow" in our region.

Level 2 is an orange warning, one step below the red warning.

Click to enlarge

The weather folk explain that residents of an orange zone must be "very careful, because dangerous phenomena are likely". Do you find that clear? Me neither. So, I'll stay at home in front of the fireplace.