Tineke Bot sent me a photo of land at Châtelus, taken from their house in Choranche.
[photo by Tineke Bot]
Click the photo to enlarge it slightly.
A base jumper had taken off from the cliff above Rochemuse : Tineke's property, located behind the photographer. He was blown onto the top of a tree in Châtelus. A rescue helicopter arrived on the spot. It was a complicated and risky affair, and it took many people several hours. The fellow's life was at stake, as he could have slipped to his death at any instant. Happily, the base-jumper finally managed to get down safely out of the tree by his own means. All's well that ends well.
I have the impression that the following YouTube videos are composed of base-jumps from a site in Presles located above the Rochemuse estate in Choranche. Often you glimpse a small lake: the electricity dam located between Châtelus and Choranche.
Je serais content de recevoir des informations précises
Google's famous Street View gadget has been reprimanded, from time to time, for displaying roadside individuals who are easily identifiable. A jealous husband might discover, say, that his wife was photographed in a conversation with a male neighbor further down the road. And that might create problems. So, people's faces are blurred, to make them as unrecognizable as possible. In most cases, this technique works well.
Google seems to have decided that the same process should be applied to dairy cows, so that no jealous bull would ever see red.
Fitzroy, who often roams around the neighborhood to visit his lady friends, told me that he would feel more at ease if Google were to extend their privacy blurs to cover, not only cows, dogs and cats, but the entire range of four-legged creatures. I suspect that, from time to time, my dog might be boring into attractive young wild boars, and he doesn't want this news to spread around Choranche and Pont-en-Royans.
Just over a year ago, in July 2015, I stumbled in the steep staircase at my house in Gamone and had a nasty fall, bumping my head. Doctors have told me that I could have easily killed myself. I'm convinced that the only creature who knows exactly what happened is my dear dog Fitzroy, but he has never told me. Today, in the house, Fitzroy remains constantly a yard or so away from me. Whenever I move up or down the staircase, Fitzroy accompanies me immediately. When I open the bathroom window, Fitzroy immediately places himself between me and the opening, with such determination that I once imagined incorrectly that I might have actually fallen from this window.
Since then, I've never got back to driving on the road. Theoretically, I'm still quite capable of driving. I once demonstrated this capability to my son, on the lawn of his house in Plouha. Above all, I have good eyesight and, since the accident, I've never touched a drop of alcohol.
These days, whenever I need to drive into town, I call upon my friend Martine. She's an expert driver, who looks upon my Kangoo as an excellent vehicle for picking up a fortnight's groceries. Martine has even suggested that she might assist me in getting back into action as a driver. But I'm not at all convinced that I need to do so. I'll soon be 76 years old, and the narrow roads in the vicinity of my house at Choranche are not reassuring. On the contrary, they can be dangerous. So, why bother getting back to the wheel? In spite of all my likely progress, I would be a permanent public danger.
Yesterday, my neighbor Gérard phoned to say hello. He was astounded when I told him (to explain why I haven't visited him over the last year) that I no longer drive my Kangoo. He told me, literally, that abandoning the wheel was surely the worst thing that could possibly happen in the existence of a citizen of Choranche. (To better understand his point of view, you need to be familiar with the steep and narrow winding road that leads up to Gérard's house, which is nevertheless just a few hundred yards away from Gamone.) The news that I had given was as if I had just told Gérard that I was stricken with a major health problem. And he sympathized with me, even to the extent of suddenly referring with pain to his recent personal loss of his mother and two sisters.
To drive or not to drive. That is the question. And I'm more or less convinced that the ideal answer is... Martine.
NOTE A few days ago, the local doctor in Pont-en-Royans (an intelligent Rumanian lady with whom I communicate most often in English) told me that I would recover some facial nerves that were damaged in the fall if I were speak out loud as often as possible. This is not a simple task for a solitary individual who doesn't often use the telephone. So, I've decided to read out loud (in front of my dog Fitzroy) the French-language movie script on which I've been working: Adieu, Abelone based upon The Notebook of Malte Laurids Brigge by Rainer Rilke. If I work at this task long enough, I might even end up obtaining a role in the future movie.
UPDATE: Click here for another exciting approach to restoring any damaged brain functions.
Maybe I’m exaggerating when I refer to these huge pieces of freshly-shot wild boar as medieval meat.
You’ll have to excuse me. My head is in the historical clouds. I’ve been preoccupied for several weeks now by my work on the next book to be published by my Gamone Press.
It’s not so much the meat itself—which has been cooking slowly for the last few hours, in white wine, in my marvelous French-made SEB slow cooker (“crock-pot”)— that is medieval, but rather the means by which I obtained it. In a pure feudal spirit, one of the hunters who had killed the animal, on the outskirts of Gamone, dropped in yesterday with a big white plastic bag holding the pieces of wild boar. In contemporary terms, this spontaneous gesture is the way in which the hunting community (often denigrated by rural newcomers) expresses thanks to the land-owners on whose properties they’ve been operating.
To tell the truth, it took me some time to become accustomed to all the agitation and noise of hunters on the slopes opposite Gamone. I suppose I imagined naively that I might get hit by a stray bullet. These days, on the contrary, I’m fond of these wild weekends, which must be thought of as expressions of ancient traditions in the valley of the Bourne. Besides, Fitzroy and I are well-placed—on our Gamone balcony—to see and appreciate what’s going on. This afternoon, for example, two hunters were wandering around with their dogs in the tall grass on the slopes. Suddenly, the fixed gaze of my dog led my regard towards the presence of a big roe deer, sprinting down towards Gamone Creek, just a few meters below the hunters and their dogs… who were clearly unaware of the deer’s presence.
For Fitzroy, too, there’s the pleasure of gnawing into a wild boar bone.
Getting back to my future book, I’m often tempted to say that living in a place such as Gamone without seeking to find out a little about the previous occupants strikes me as mindless, indeed immoral. I didn’t invent Gamone. I only “own” the place in a short-lived legal sense: the time to write a book, you might say. To use a quaint Victorian term, Fitzroy and I are lodgers at Gamone.
My historical research unearths many surprises, some of which are pleasant with a touch of sadness. Today, if somebody in this corner of the world were to evoke the name of the Macaire family, they could only be thinking, normally, of my aging neighbor Paul Macaire and his dear wife. You have to delve into local history to learn that members of this family once attained great world heights… but outside of France. These illustrious Macaire individuals belonged to a celebrated category of French religious expatriates: the Huguenots. Funnily enough, insofar as these Huguenots disappeared from the local scene, the French are not particularly aware of their existence and of the gigantic role they played on the world scene. I would bet that, if you were to carry out random street interviews in nearby Pont-en-Royans (once 100% Protestant), few people would have the vaguest idea of the meaning of the term Huguenot.
In this global context of forgetfulness and false ideas, I am keen to write my Gamone book during the all-too-short time that I remain a lodger here…
In French, the word for mists is brume. So, the new calendar that was invented in the wake of the French Revolution of 1789 invented the lovely term Brumaire to designate the autumn month extending from the middle of October to the middle of November.
This morning, my surveillance camera was awoken by the first rays of light streaming down through the mists.
A few seconds later, the romantic charm of the misty morning was shattered by the arrival of an unexpected vehicle, which made such a noise that my dog Fitzroy seemed to fear that we were being attacked by an army tank.
What the hell was that? I suddenly remembered that my neighbor had told me that they were planning on starting the construction, this November, of an outdoor swimming pool! Why not? At a lifestyle level, nothing could be more pleasant than lounging in the sunshine of Choranche on the edge of a pool of clear Alpine water, while a barbecue on the lawn exudes a mouth-watering aroma of grilled sausages. Chilled beer? Or would you maybe prefer a glass of icy Sauvignon?
We often tend to forget that Choranche is just a stone’s throw to the north of Provence. From a sunshine viewpoint, however, you need to be a champion stone-thrower to cover the distance.
The sun is shining upon Gamone. Yesterday, on the slopes of Choranche, I donned my beekeeper’s clothes and attended the second hands-on session of the local association. I have no images, for the simple reason that our white astronaut uniforms and leather gloves make it difficult to take photos. But it was a thrill to ease apart the wooden frames and to discover that the bees of Choranche had been making hay (honey, rather) while our sun was shining. What fabulous little well-organized stealthy beasts! I’m immensely dismayed by the fear of crushing a single one of them (an inevitable accident) when replacing a frame.
This sunny Sunday afternoon, on TV, I’m watching the Paris-Roubaix cycling race. All’s quiet on the Western Front.
One of the most interesting individuals I encountered when I came to live in Choranche in 1994 was the Dutch painter Bob ten Hoope, who had decided to set up his home in Pont-en-Royans back in 1954. In the beginning, I was impressed by his sketches of men playing cards in a local café.
But I soon learned that this was a small domain of his work, which encompassed large oil paintings of nudes and many local landscapes.
It was through her friendship with Bob ten Hoope that the sculptor Tineke Bot discovered this region, and decided to settle down in Choranche.
— photo by Roger Latton 
The last time I saw Bob, maybe a decade ago, he had set up his easel and painting material on the Rouillard Bridge, just down the road from my place. He was already afflicted with arthritis in his hands, making it extremely difficult for him to carry on painting. Finally, he decided to move back up to his native land.
And that is where he died, last Saturday, 18 January 2014.
My English cousin Roger Latton (on my paternal Pickering line) came to visit me last summer, with his wife Sue. An excellent photographer, he has just sent me this splendid panoramic image of the Bourne Valley at the level of Gamone, taken from the Croix de Toutes Aures (a spot just above my property):
Click to enlarge
On the left, there’s a corner of the cliffs of Presles. In the middle, the Cournouze promontory is crowned by clouds. On the right, the Bourne Valley is closed by the twin mountains of the Barret and the Trois-Châteaux. This is surely the most spectacular photo of my corner of the world that I've ever seen. Bravo, cousin Roger!
Following up on my previous blog post [display], I wish to tackle here the interesting questions of basic distinctions—both structural and purely visual—between an authentic old-fashioned wood-burning oven, on the one hand, and a trivially-decorated concrete shit-house, on the other. In a nutshell, it’s the same kind of distinction that exists between two vastly different kinds of bread that we encounter these days. Once upon a time, in France, loaves of bread were generally round or oblong.
Industrial sliced bread (of the kind I recently purchased for my Australian visitors at Xmas) then arrived on the scene… without making any kind of gigantic impact in France.
Notice the striking geometrical contrast between the lovely curves of old-fashioned bread and the harsh rectangularity of the plastic-enclosed industrial product. That’s exactly the distinction that concerns me between a nice old-style stone oven and the nasty flat rectangular shit-house shape that arises inevitably when you’re tempted to install your bread oven inside an external structure made out of so-called CMUs (concrete masonry units) of the kind used to erect modern housing.
Now, I’m not saying that everything of a flat rectangular kind is necessarily ugly in the bread oven domain. That would be a stupid evaluation of the historical situation, because countless ancient bread ovens were incorporated into farmhouses of a basically rectangular architecture. All I’m trying to say is that we should strive to steer clear, as far as possible, of the ugly shit-house shape derived from the use of CMUs.
In the catalogue of examples from the oven manufacturer, let’s start with the worst. Here’s what I would call a Mickey Mouse oven:
I have the impression that a pizza emerging from such a flimsy oven (if ever such an emergence were indeed possible) would have a curious flavor of lollipops. Such an oven might maybe produce cup cakes (?), but nothing more substantial.
This second example embarrasses me a lot, because I must admit that my Photoshop vision of a “dressed up” wood oven in my Gamone cellar was largely inspired by the following esthetic atrocity, which stinks of pretentious nouveaux riches design:
Fortunately, not everything is mildly nauseating in the manufacturer’s photo album. Here’s an oven that I would qualify as “heavy-handed, but not at all bad”:
And here’s a second example that I would qualify as “bad at the bottom, but quite good at the top”:
From a design viewpoint, the creator of a structure housing a wood-fuelled oven should do his utmost to move away from the flat verticality of the amorphous shit-house model, and he should make the structure attractive without any need for abominable decoration. In the context of this noble ambition, a fundamental factor is the nature and quality of the building materials. You can’t build the Parthenon using nothing more than CMUs and a painted plaster coating.
Great news! Yesterday afternoon, I was thrilled to learn, by chance, that there’s a supply of superb construction stones just a few kilometres away from Gamone, in the village of Auberives-en-Royans. The stone costs next to nothing, but there’s a hitch. The purchaser has to sort through the huge pile of stone in order to to extract the actual fragments that he wishes to purchase. So, next spring, I foresee long hours spent in the Auberives quarry, with my Kangoo and my trailer in the background. Meanwhile, here’s a specimen of this wonderful limestone that I brought back from Auberives yesterday afternoon:
Insofar as one might fall in love with stone, I fell in love immediately, yesterday afternoon, with this magnificent limestone product. Admire its cream-hued density. The firm at Auberives, Fromant (my enemy, a few years ago, in the battle—which we won—to prevent quarrying next to Gamone), designates this stone as Rencurel (the next village up from Choranche). I learned with stupefaction that the small quarry in question belonged to my former friend Roger Zanella [deceased a few years ago and buried in the cemetery of Choranche], who was one of my primary contacts during my installation at Gamone. (I could talk for ages about my friendly contacts with Roger.) If indeed Roger’s limestone were soon to house my bread oven at Gamone, that would be (in my mind) a minor but magnificent miracle. In the case of Roger Zanella (a native of the Vercors, of the Bourne, and a celebrated hunter), all was authenticity. There was no place for decoration.
For my future wood-fuelled oven, I'll have to select and bring back to Gamone an adequate stock of this splendid Rencurel limestone. Then, starting next Spring, I'll erect patiently my Gamone bread oven—day by day, stone by stone—which will emerge slowly with all the sensuous pastel-hued roundness of a nicely-baked female from Auguste Renoir.
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:
In my blog post of 18 September 2013 entitled Country lanes [display], I indicated that the mayor of Choranche and his municipal councillors may have stirred up a hornet’s nest when they decided to open a public enquiry into the possibility of transferring the ownership of various public pathways into private hands… and, particularly, into the hands of the mayor himself (a cattle farmer) and some of his close councillors. Well, the "poor fellow" hit the jackpot! And everything is blowing up in his face… to the amusement of rural newcomers such as myself.
As I suggested in the above-mentioned blog post, I’m not experienced in grassroots political activism, and I’m simply too old to get involved in such stuff. Besides, it’s difficult for me to tolerate people whom I look upon as fools. My personality is not exactly that of a diplomat, and I soon get hot under the collar when I find myself in opposition with the opinions of other people. Let’s say that the Creator never intended that a lowly earthling such as me should get involved in any kind of politics. (In fact, God once suggested that I might be better off getting involved in the priesthood, until I told him to kindly fuck off, and allow me to make up my own mind about what I should do with my life.)
Let me get back (before being drawn into the higher realms of theology) to what I was about to say: namely, that I’m not in fact one of the revolutionary host who have been marching past our village hall with pitchforks in their hands, ready to storm the Bastille if ever our mayor refused to liberate the pathways of Choranche. But I approve wholeheartedly of all that they’re doing, with great skill and determination, and I’m lending a constant hand in the backdrops. In other words, I’m just as liable as any of them to be guillotined by the authorities, or maybe assassinated by furious peasants.
This afternoon, down at the Rouillard Bridge, in glorious weather, I met up with six friendly fellow citizens of Choranche: Aimée and Bernard Duret (owners of a lovely guesthouse in the village), Henri-Jacques Sentis (former mayor of Choranche), Georges Marbach (internationally-renowned speleologist) and my close friends Tineke Bot and Serge Bellier. Our mission was to explore Greenery Lane: the pathway that was the subject of a document that has received enthusiastic reactions at all levels, from the community of municipalities alongside the Bourne, right up to the Vercors Regional Park. You see, although I quickly lose control of the situation when I try to speak with others, I remain a perfectly competent writer (often with the help of Christine and Emmanuelle), capable of winning friends and influencing people. And my simple paper on Greenery Lane (for which no personal credit is due) apparently rang a bell in the minds of many folk.
This afternoon’s mission was a total success. Not only did my friends discover all kinds of visual hints (under the expert guidance of Henri-Jacques) enabling them to detect the existence of the ancient weed-covered pathway as it winds up the slopes, but they started to clean it up, cutting away piles of branches and throwing boulders out of the way.
At one point, we ran into a couple of strands of barbed wire, blocking the pathway, dating from the time when my neighbor Gérard Magnat had cattle. Earlier in the day, I had phoned Gérard, who confirmed that we were free to cut through this barbed wire. So, in front of a bank of cameras (well, let’s say, at least one smartphone), I took a pair of wire-cutters out of my bag and cut through the barbed wire, saying: “I declare officially that Greenery Lane has been reopened.” The crowds cheered, and my donkey Moshé brayed. Champagne flowed… at least in our minds. It was a lovely afternoon. And Greenery Lane will soon become a magnificent pathway for romantic wanderers.
I didn't hear the noise of the impact, but my photo proves that the catastrophe did in fact occur... this afternoon, at an undetermined moment.
A low-flying cloud apparently hit the hill just opposite Gamone, and then subsided into the Cirque de Choranche, where it is henceforth firmly entrenched. The cloud has descended upon a rural pathway, blocking it completely. The mayor has called upon emergency services, equipped with helicopters, to see if they can dislodge the cloud, which threatens citizens of the commune with its terrifying vaporousness.
Here in the Old World, the rural landscape has naturally inherited a vast assortment of ancient and less ancient man-made features. This is particularly true in the case of thoroughfares. In south-west England, for example, I've always had the impression that the main roads between big towns are often simply macadamized transformations of the old pathways used by horse-drawn vehicles. Passengers on the upper level of double-decker buses hurtling along such country roads are anguished by the experience of brushing up against overhanging branches of trees. On my few occasions of moving around in such settings in Britain, I've often had feelings of claustrophobia, and wondered what would happen if a driver were to find he had a flat tyre on a narrow road of this kind. The truth of the matter, I think, is that well-heeled Brits in this part of the world drive expensive vehicles that simply don't break down... As for the rest of humanity, they're no doubt smelly creatures from the mainland continent. So, as Shakespeare hinted, all's well that ends well.
Here in France, fortunately, narrow major roads of that British kind do not exist, since the state has systematically intervened to make sure that the public administration can knock down old buildings and acquire the necessary land surface to create thoroughfares of a decent width. And users of our rural roads include, of course, not merely local residents, tradesmen and tourists, but agricultural workers as well.
In the middle of summer, the mayor of Choranche (an agriculturalist) decided to set up an official enquiry into the idea of selling off some of the ancient public paths in Choranche. In the context of the enquiry, which culminated in a public meeting last Monday evening, residents of the commune (a hundred or so individuals) were surprised to discover that there had never been many significant requests to privatize parts of our public domain, apart from a few flagrant cases of tiny sections of paths that happened to pass uncomfortably close (for certain residents) to their houses... for the obvious reason that, once upon a time, householders were more than happy to have a track from their front door to the village.
In fact, the only noteworthy case of a lengthy segment of a public lane crossing a large area of privately-owned land concerns land owned by... the mayor himself! Insofar as it's thinkable that the mayor may have taken advantage of his elected role to tackle a purely personal problem (I hasten to point out that I totally refrain from expressing publicly my personal opinion on this matter), we might well be heading towards a situation in which the conclusions of the ongoing enquiry will be simply nullified by an administrative tribunal invoked by citizens who feel that the mayor has gone too far.
Aware that this official enquiry had been set up, I hastened to write a document aimed at protecting and indeed enhancing the public nature of the marvelous path that runs along the crest of the hill up behind Gamone. Known in olden times as Greenery Lane (le chemin du Vert), this ancient path—whose geographical contours remain perfectly detectable—was a segment of the principal itinerary between Pont-en-Royans and Presles. It came as no surprise to the mayor of Choranche to see me submit to the enquiry a document concerning Greenery Lane, because he knows that I've been trying for years to promote the idea of removing weeds from this track, setting up pathway signs, and encouraging hikers to discover this fabulous itinerary. Clickhereto download a PDF copy (with photos) of my 22-page French-language paper on Greenery Lane.
In fact, since I have to climb up the steep hill behind my house (donkey territory) to reach Greenery Lane, I don't wander up there very often. Over the last 20 years, my preferred pathway for almost daily walks—once with my dear departed Sophia, now with Fitzroy—is Gamone Lane, which is the non-macadamized extension, further up the slopes in the direction of Presles, of the roadway that leads up to my house and the neighboring Ageron property.
A fortnight ago, when I was wandering exceptionally up along Greenery Lane, I discovered an excellent viewpoint down onto my everyday Gamone Lane (the pathway crossing the slopes).
These ancient rural lanes are patrimonial treasures, which must continue to belong to all of us, both residents and visitors. The idea of privatizing and selling them off is utter heresy. Fortunately, there are now so many informed and patrimonially-sensitive citizens dwelling in this part of the world that the mayor's crazy intentions are surely doomed to fail.
There will be municipal elections in France early next year. Some of us who've attempted to do the electoral arithmetic for Choranche conclude sadly that the commune has a sufficient quantity of conservative old-timers to guarantee the reelection of the present mayor. Fair enough. Enlightened citizens—most often "foreigners" whose ancestors were born in faraway places beyond the tiny confines of Choranche—will continue to oppose any stupid attempt to sell off our country lanes.
I've just heard that another base-jumper was killed this morning to the south of Grenoble, but I don't know yet whether it was at or near Choranche. At the end of last year, there was a mortal base-jumping accident at Choranche. The ensuing discussions, for and against base-jumping at Choranche, starred my friends Georges Pontvianne, of the Jorjane hotel-restaurant, and Bernard Bourne, dairy farmer and mayor of Choranche. They can be seen, in French (with good views of our cliffs), here and here.
Within our tiny village, it's a conflict of two cultures. There are only about 250 daredevils in France who practice this extreme sport (whose statistics indicate that it is only moderately dangerous), but our cliffs in Choranche (just above the Rochemuse floral park of Tineke and Serge) happen to be a world-famous address for base-jumping. Ever since settling down in Choranche, I've become accustomed to the idea that base-jumping is a permanent element of our local outdoor culture... but I must admit that I've never been tempted to get involved in this activity at a practical level. I love to look up at cliffs, and take photos. Before arriving in Choranche, however, I never imagined for an instant that there might be individuals who got a kick out of jumping off cliffs.
BREAKING NEWS: No, yesterday morning's accident occurred in the Obiou range, 70 km to the south of Grenoble, at an altitude of 2,400 metres. For reasons that remain unknown, a base-jumper failed to open his parachute. For the moment, apparently, weather conditions have prevented searchers from reaching the scene of the accident.
This afternoon, I took two photos from the same spot: my bathroom window. In both cases, my Nikon was pointed in more-or-less the same direction: out onto the valley of the Bourne and the Cournouze mountain. The first photo was taken in the middle of the afternoon, when a storm was brewing. In the space of ten minutes, the sky had suddenly turned black.
Click to enlarge
Then the rain fell. Finally, the sun reappeared, and the second photo was taken twenty minutes ago.
Meanwhile, the week-old heat wave had come to a spectacular end.
PS Both photos were obtained with the automatic settings on my Nikon D70s (that's to say, in both cases, I simply pointed and pushed the button), and the published images are totally-untouched screen dumps.
People who live in the vicinity of cliffs and mountains soon discover the powerful beauty of straight lines, which determine the trajectories of both light and sound. Early every morning, when I wander up the road with Fitzroy for our habitual 20-minute excursion (giving the dog an opportunity to do his poo, generally on the neighbor's territory), there's a surprising moment when Fitzroy suddenly halts, gazes down into the valley, and acts for half-a-minute as if he were expecting a motor vehicle to appear on the scene. The explanation is simple, although the abundant foliage tends to conceal the facts. Over a short section of our itinerary (no more than a few meters), a straight line connects us to the main road down alongside the Bourne. And if, by chance, a vehicle happens to be moving along the road at that moment, then we can hear the sound of it quite clearly, creating the impression that this vehicle might indeed be heading up the road towards Gamone. Funnily, Fitzroy seems to have realized by now that the ghost vehicle, whose presence he has sensed, is only an illusion, and that there's no point in lying flat alongside the road to await its arrival. But he stills gets tricked for a few seconds, whenever our arrival at that spot coincides with the passage of a vehicle down in the valley. I don't know what kinds of principles of mathematics and physics float around in Fitzroy's mind, but I feel that he has mastered the problem from a pragmatic viewpoint.
Straight lines were invented, as it were, by Euclid, who flourished in Alexandria during the reign of Ptolemy I, some three centuries before the start of the Christian era. In Euclidean geometry, the very first axiom postulates that a straight line can be drawn from any point to any other point. But the universe seems to have mastered the question of straight lines well before Euclid started to think about them... although we now know that a so-called straight line is a simplified version of more generalized entities called geodesics, which play a fundamental role in general relativity.
In our villages, towns and cities, straight lines are relatively recent artificial constructions. In the beginning, most village lanes had lots of bends in them, like creeks and rivers. In Paris, the civic planner Georges-Eugène Haussmann [1809-1891] spent a colossal amount of public money in the creation of straight avenues, ostensibly so that troops would find it easier (if need be) to handle throngs of rioters. And even today, many Parisians speak of this self-proclaimed "Baron" as if he had committed an unforgivable sin in straightening and widening the thoroughfares of the city.
Personally, I'm horrified by the Euclidean linear layouts of cities in the New World, particularly when the streets are numbered and labeled as north, south, east or west. On the contrary, I'm always awed to discover, on late summer evenings, that the setting Sun has succeeded in finding a linear itinerary through the slopes above Pont-en-Royans enabling our faithful star to illuminate the limestone cliffs of the Cournouze, for a few fleeting minutes, with a warm reddish glow. Euclid imagined that all straight lines are basically of the same nature. As for me, I prefer those of Choranche to those, say, of Manhattan. And, if we were to think of Euclid's straight line as an abstract archaic god (why not?), we might say that its temple is Stonehenge.
At this time of the year, I don't usually drive across in the vicinity of Châtelus, on the other side of the Bourne. But I went across there a few days ago for the combined luncheon for the senior citizens of our three neighboring villages: Châtelus, Choranche and Presles. The food (prepared by a restaurant in the nearby village of Saint-Romans) was excellent, but I was dismayed to find that conversation was ruled out through the presence of a DJ who did his best to make everybody dance and sing. On the way home, I was able to take a lovely photo of the cliffs above Choranche in the direction of Presles.
Once upon a time, at an unknown date, a lady in a black robe and hat stepped into the River Bourne below Gamone and got her photo taken.
Here's another photo of the same spot, taken in 1926, which shows a segment of the road that leads from Pont-en-Royans (behind the photographer's back) to the village of Choranche:
In the background of the second photo, you get a glimpse of the Cournouze mountain in the upper right-hand corner. You can also see, to the left, a section of the great limestone cliffs aboveChoranche.
In the middle of both photos (at the level of the house of my neighbor Madeleine Repellin, behind the trees on the left), a kind of small dam—a couple of meters high—crosses the Bourne. It's an ancient structure, perpetually overflowing, that diverts water into the Rouillard mill, midway between Gamone and Pont-en-Royans.
These days, the spot where the lady in black was wetting her toes looks like this:
It's a magnificent place. And Gamone lies a few hundred meters up the slopes to the left.