Showing posts with label Gamone. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gamone. Show all posts

Monday, May 22, 2017

Gamone sera chaud

Un stock de bois a été livré ce matin par l'entreprise Barraquand.

Cliquez pour agrandir un peu


Il faut que j'engage maintenant un jeune costaud
capable d'empiler tout ça sous l'abri.
A première vue, je dirais qu'il y en a pour
une bonne journée de travail.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Vue de mon futur balcon


Mon petit balcon sera construit par Fred.

Friday, January 13, 2017

We’re a family of self-made men

Skyvington males have always been do-it-yourself champions. I’m convinced that this is a genetic feature of our nature. Back at the time they were cavemen, each Skyvington fellow surely made a point of ensuring that his family occupied an impeccable dwelling, full of all the latest stone gadgets.


Our do-it-yourself behavior was transmitted from fathers to sons, and still is. As for daughters, I’m not sure. But this might well be the case.

There’s a problem, though. In today’s world, it’s becoming more and more difficult to carry on behaving like a do-it-yourself Stone-Age person. Many everyday activities can only be handled efficiently and successfully by teams of experienced people. Otherwise, Barney Flintstone is certain to run into trouble. In fact, troubles of that kind have revealed to me my amazing Stone-Age mentality and behavior.

Before going on, I must say that I’m slightly worried to be publishing this coming-out on Friday 13. Up until midnight, I’ll be afraid to step outside, for fear that a rock might tumble down on me from the slopes up behind Gamone, and squash me into food for the wild beasts.

My grandfather and my father were both pure specimens of Stone-Age self-made do-it-yourself men. They transmitted this style of existence to me, and I’ve passed it on to my son. I could literally write a book about typical events in the existence of those four males. Here are a few random examples:

Pop (my grandfather), an only son born in London, decided as a boy to board a ship and take off to a sunny but harsh land in the Antipodes, where he settled down, built up business activities and raised a tiny family. (We Flintstones have never been big-family people… since a tribe of kids would make it difficult for us to carry on building our do-it-yourself environment.)

Bill (my father), an only son born in Queensland, decided as a young man to drop the automobile existence his father had prepared for him, and invent a new existence as a cattle grazier in the bush.

• As for me, born in NSW, I decided as a young man to avoid any life-style that my father might have imagined for me. I made Pop’s return trip to the other side of the planet. Finally, in typical Flintstone style, I settled down in an ancient stone house in the wilderness of the Vercors. My do-it-yourself genes were then called upon to build all kinds of things in and around the dwelling... which I now share with a Stone-Age dog named Fitzroy.


Chino (my only son), born in France, decided as a young man to drop any kind of scholarly existence that his father might have imagined for him, and to invent a new existence. His do-it-yourself genes encouraged him to build a delightful house on the cliff tops of Brittany where he now lives like a solitary Flintstone. An observer, examining our residences in Gamone and Kerouziel, might conclude that they’ve been brought into existence according to similar principles, but independently, by a father and a son.

Today, I’m intrigued (but not unduly troubled) to discover that my Flintstone do-it-yourself lifestyle is falling apart at the seams, because there are limits to what a caveman can accomplish all on his own. Yesterday, just to give readers an example, I installed a charming steel fence in front of my stone house, to keep out mountain lions and wild elephants (remnants of Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps). Unfortunately, nobody had ever informed the Gamone caveman that pure steel chains weigh as much as a dead mammoth, making them quite unsuitable for ordinary people. A female member of another tribe, Martine, has just informed me (using her modern telephonic system) that she likes the look of the enclosure. She believes that her muscles have been toughened up through trudging around constantly on the mountainous slopes to deliver messages to outlying tribes. So, she thinks she might even be strong enough to move the chains. We'll see.

Click photos to enlarge them.

In a Flintstone universe such as Gamone, many things in the modern world remain total mysteries to a caveman such as me. For example, nobody has ever told me how to use a common gadget such as the mobile phone... which I still tend to call, in Cave Talk, a portable telephone. I've often observed people in cities staring lovingly at such devices, and using their thumbs to click at them (as I saw Najat Belkacem doing yesterday evening). Those are operations I've never once tried to master in my existence. I'm even told there's a language called Texto, which remains as unknown to a caveman as Mandarin.

I imagine that some readers who don't know me might imagine that I've often been joking in this article. Less than they think...

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Moment of intense joy

Since yesterday evening, my house has been
invaded by a continuous mysterious piercing sound.
I searched its causes everywhere, without success.
This morning, I discovered that the disturbing sound
came from a faulty smoke and CO detector.
So, I took it outside and left it on a table.
This afternoon, in the cold, the strident sound
went into action once again.
Enough was enough.
I finally stopped the sound. Forever.


Click to enlarge slightly

Not since my first kiss have I felt so elated!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Besoin d’un nouvel appareil ancien

Il y a quelques semaines, si l’on m’avait demandé de quoi j’avais besoin, j’aurais dit immédiatement « De rien du tout ! », ni de gadget ni de quoi que ce soit. J’étais un homme comblé. Un point, c’est tout. Eh bien non. Il me manquait une nouvelle version d’un appareil aussi ancien que les voyages du XVIIIe siècle aux Antipodes. J’ai besoin d’un baromètre.


Et pourquoi donc ? Aurais-je décidé de décorer Gamone pour donner l'impression que je navigue sur un grand bateau comme l'Exodus de mon roman All the Earth is Mine ? Non, la réponse ne concerne que mon humble maison choranchoise. Plus précisément, de mon poêle fonte de chauffage Invicta Bradford qui brûle du bois.


Hélas, avant-hier, rien à faire : j'étais incapable d'allumer ce poêle. Je ne comprenais pas du tout quel était le problème, car mon bois était sec et j'avais tout ce qu'il fallait pour faire l'allumage. Finalement, je me suis dit que j'allais le laisser tomber. Il y avait sûrement un blocage dans la sortie de fumée. Je me suis donc tournée vers mon système de secours : l'ancienne chéminée dont je me servais pour faire des flambées avant mon installation du poêle. J'ai pu donc passer une soirée agréable en regardant la télévision, juste à côté de la chéminée.

Puis, Tineke m'a dit au téléphone : « Tu sais, William, l'autre jour nous avons aperçu un ciel lugubre bizarre au-dessus de Pont-en-Royans. On s'est dit qu'il y avait certainement une énorme zone de basse pression sur Gamone. »

Voilà donc l'explication. Et voilà pourquoi j'ai besoin d'un baromètre à Gamone, pour mieux comprendre le temps qu'il fait.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Chien rencontre son cadeau de Noël

Cliquez sur la photo pour l'agrandir

Fitzroy salive de plaisir. Il n'a jamais de sa vie vu un os aussi grand !

C'était une idée de ma conductrice M, qui connait bien les animaux.

Une heure après cette prise de photo, Fitzroy avait reçu son os à côté de sa niche. Et, au cours de la nuit suivante, des monticules ont fait leur apparition tout autour de la niche.

Un jour plus tard, un ami de Pont-en-Royans s'est arrêté à l'entrée de Gamone pour dire Bonjour. Fitzroy, attaché à sa laisse, a dû penser que cet homme est venu pour prendre son trésor, car il est devenu étrangement agressif pendant un moment. Tout s'est calmé rapidement.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Il paraît que j’ai réellement laissé des plumes

Quand je suis tombé dans l’escalier en juillet 2015, mon nerf facial a pris un sacré coup, et les dégats n’ont pas encore disparu. Vont-ils disparaître magiquement un jour ? On verra. Comme disait François Mitterrand : « Il faut laisser le temps au temps. » Je veux bien. J'ai déjà laissé quelques plumes. L'idée de laisser également quelque temps me paraît raisonnable...


Ça ne m’empêche pas de vivre. De retour à Gamone après l’accident et un séjour de quelques mois en Bretagne, j’ai dit à ma conductrice M. que j’allais finir probablement par retrouver totalement, tôt ou tard, ma santé d’autrefois. La réaction spontanée de M. à mon optimisme m’a amusé, presque rassuré bizarrement. Elle m'a dit : « Peut-être pas ! »

Friday, November 18, 2016

Some people can do things that others can't

An Australian blogger of my generation has been warning his readers for years that, whenever he happens to receive a living plant in a pot, the poor thing dies sooner or later, no matter how my friend attempts to keep it alive. I used to think he was joking. These days, however, I've come to realize there are real-life people like the blogger who simply don't ever learn what has to be done to keep a plant alive. It's like asking me if I know how to scale the outer wall of a skyscraper. It's simply not in my genes. Let's turn to another simple task.

Click to see the dusty ashes

Few operations are easier in life than lighting a fire in a wood oven. But I'm sure there are many people who wouldn't succeed. My ex-neighbor Bob used to brag about his ability to light a fire anywhere with damp wood. He performed several successful demonstrations, but I couldn't stop feeling that there must have been some hidden trick. The apparent dampness of the wood concealed, say, a few drops of alcohol. Well, Bob was surely no more than a smart fellow. Today, I've come to understand that the successful lighting of a wood fire depends upon a few basic operations of a simple nature. You start with the tiny flame of a match, and then you move successively from one flaming object to the next, of ever-increasing volumes and virulence... until you end up with a big stack of blazing wood.

I'm often intrigued and indeed pleased to see that my son apparently learned long ago all these simple facts of life that have only occupied my brain relatively recently. Better late than never...

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

It can be chilly here in France

A recent survey reveals that 75% of French people say that their homes are excessively cold in winter.

Well, this is not the case for me at Gamone. My installation of a large wood-burning stove has proven to be ideal. I hasten to point out that this success is based upon several additional factors:

• I’ve got into the habit of ordering a stock of high-quality firewood in summer.

• I store this firewood in a large and sturdy woodshed alongside my house.

• I’ve learnt the skill of lighting up the stove of an afternoon, using a tiny quantity of pine wood chips.

• Finally, the cold stove must be cleaned of ashes the following morning.


My house is well insulated on all sides. Besides, if ever the presence of snow made it difficult to go outside to fetch firewood, there’s a stock inside the old stone cave behind the ground-floor level of the house.

In my upper-floor bedroom, study and bathroom, electric radiators switch themselves on automatically when the temperature drops. The use of firewood as my principal fuel means that I would not be in danger in the case of an electricity blackout. And I’ve got a stock of candles. So, the general situation at Gamone is comfortable and reassuring. This is a must when you live on the edge of the French Alps.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Two big poplars at Gamone


The autumn light at Gamone is not ideal for taking a photo of trees. My old Nikon and my eyesight problems don't improve the result. But you should be able to identify the two tall poplars alongside the road leading into my property. [Click the photo to enlarge it slightly]

Often, when I gaze at those gigantic poplar trees, the terrible words of Billie Holiday flash back into my mind:

Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees


The only nasty fruits that hang from my poplar trees are heavy branches that might be blown down onto the roof of my wood-shed or even my house. Consequently, I have decided to call upon a local specialist to remove these two trees, as soon as possible. It's possible that this operation might also destroy my letter box and/or my old cherry tree. But that's neither here nor there...

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Autumn at Gamone

The piles of brown leaves at Gamone have fallen, not from my lovely old linden trees, but from a couple of maple giants. A few years ago, I thought of cutting down these trees, for I'm afraid at times that they could be blown over towards the house. But it's probably preferable to let them live.

Click to enlarge slightly

The next photo shows my apple tree, which has provided me with small fruit this year.


Fitzroy has found a tiny apple, which he is keenly inspecting.


These apples are tender and sweet, and free of insects and worms.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Not a particularly exciting subject

Few readers will be moved by this image, nor by the French-language article that it accompanies here:


But their subject means a lot to me. Jobs I carried out back in the days when I was earning my living now result in a monthly payment that provides me with my daily soup and puts a spoon of margarine in it.

That last statement might persuade my readers that I don't eat spinach and that I probably avoid butter. Neither belief is correct. Look at these two products in my refrigerator:


At the top, you have one of the finest Brittany butters. At the bottom, it's a soft butter from Normandy. As for my spinach, it's hidden away somewhere in the freezer.

The most interesting fact in the above-mentioned press article about retirement funds is that my automatic benefits will almost certainly go on for as long as me. It's nice to know that. My sole aim now is to survive comfortably for a while at Gamone... while consuming dabs of the world's finest butters from Brittany and Normandy, not to forget an occasional bit of spinach. The global picture is one of contentment.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Views from my bedroom window

I signed the purchase of my Gamone property on 26 January 1994 (Australia Day). In the quaint office of the notary public François Guiliani in Saint-Marcellin, my daughter Emmanuelle, present as a witness, explained that she was amused to see her father buying an antiquated house in the depths of France (la France profonde, normally designating the deep old heartlands of France). Guiliani, offended, politely reprimanded her: “Mademoiselle, Saint-Marcellin cannot really be considered as the primitive backwoods of France.

The site of Gamone was spectacular (because of the magnificent view of the Cornouze mountain), but the house was a shambles. Here are photos of the façade:


Nobody had actually lived there for ages. Inside, there was neither electricity nor municipal water, let alone a WC. Looking back, I realize that I was slightly brain-damaged to have invested in such a ramshackle place. The truth is that I had so little knowledge of this kind of affair that I didn't have the least idea of how much time, money and imagination would be required before people could actually live there.

I won’t go through details of the time and vast efforts that were required in order to convert the Gamone mess into a home. For the moment, I simply wish to draw attention to my discovery, long after my purchase, of an ugly pylon (in fact a pair of wooden posts) right in front of the house. It's still there today, directly visible from my bedroom window.

Click to enlarge slightly

In my regular photos of the valley, you never see this pylon… for the simple reason that I make a point of hiding it. But it’s still there, even though it has ceased to annoy me greatly.

That was up until a few weeks ago. I had received a letter from the French electricity company, EDF, giving me an appointment for the arrival of an employee of the company that reads the electricity meters. Well, my meter is in fact attached to the bottom of that pylon. In a straight line, it’s less than 20 yards from my front door, but the land between my house and the pylon is steep and rugged, and the only way of reaching the counter consists of scrambling down a track that starts on the other side of my house. In other words, that pylon was obviously never placed there with the goal of supporting a domestic electricity counter. Now, this is where my story starts to become interesting but complicated, so I beg readers to bear with me.

If you look carefully at the above photo, you'll notice that the wooden pole carries two distinct sets of cables

• Near the ground, and halfway up the pole, a pair of cables is covered in black rubber protection. This is the supply of ordinary domestic electricity. One cable is for my house, and the other for my neighbors Jackie and Fafa. A little further up the pole, you can see the black cable that runs back up to my house. That cable passes through my electricity meter, located down near the ground (hidden behind the bushes).

• At the top of the pole, you can see three heavy steel cables for medium-voltage electricity. On the right-hand side of the photo, these lines bring in electricity from nearby Pont-en-Royans. On the left-hand side of the photo, after leaving the pole at my place, these lines travel up the hill, on the other side of Gamone Creek, transporting the medium-voltage electricity in the direction of Presles. It is important to understand that, at the level of my property, not one of these cables brings any kind of electricity into my house. In other words, it is totally ridiculous that these heavy cables, carrying medium-voltage electricity, happen to be located just a few yards in front of my bedroom window.

The presence of these high-voltage lines has brought about a dangerous situation. In front of my house, more and more slender saplings have branches that rise high enough to enter in contact with the cables, creating a life-threatening danger. I must attempt to find a solution to this dangerous situation, as soon as possible. In a nutshell, I intend to ask the electricity people to move the medium-voltage lines further down the hill. I now know exactly the people I have to contact, and how to do so:

Monday, August 15, 2016

Two ends of the garden hose

My old garden hose has been left out in the sun and the cold for quite some time. So, I wasn't particularly astonished when it started to develop leaks at both ends. My guardian angel Martine brought her husband Denis to Gamone, to meet me and look into my garden-hose problems. The output end of the hose is a modern aluminium pistol, which has developed the fault of spraying out several voluminous leaks. Denis and I imagined that we would rapidly find a simple means of stopping these leaks... but that, surprisingly, would not be the case.


The input end of the hose is connected to a lovely old brass tap in the form of a bird, which my daughter Manya discovered long ago.


Denis rapidly replaced joints in the brass tap, which immediately worked perfectly. He checked the yellow hose itself, which appeared to be in perfect condition. The only remaining problem was the aluminium pistol, which simply offered no possibility of being opened. As Denis explained, the object had obviously been cast by a manufacturer who had done his best to make sure that the purchaser would never open it. So, Denis told me that I should purchase a new pistol device, and trash the old one. This time, I'll buy a low-cost garden-variety hose pistol.

My dog Fitzroy was excited to see Denis fiddling around with the hose, because he loves to jump around in vain attempts to clutch the spray of water between his teeth. As soon as I've purchased a new plastic pistol, I'll have to get accustomed to taking it off after using the hose, and keeping it safely in the kitchen. In that way, the pistol won't get baked by the heat, frozen by the cold, or chewed up by Fitzroy.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Me and my car

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.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Linden leaves blown mysteriously into my house

At Gamone, three big linden trees are located in front of the house, and their dead leaves form a brown carpet, appreciated by Fitzroy.


The dry leaves are light, and they're scattered by the slightest breeze. I've been intrigued to find leaves inside my house, even though I usually close the front door. I imagined that brief gusts of wind carried leaves into the kitchen whenever I opened the door. But there's another explanation...


Fitzroy's bushy tail works like a vacuum cleaner.

Getting ready for a harsh winter

A big truck-load of firewood arrived at Gamone on the morning of Christine's arrival, and the pile of wood has been present since then, covered by a tarpaulin. Over the last few days, I finally piled up the firewood in my shelter, where it's neatly stacked in six rows.

Click to enlarge slightly

A municipal employee, seeing me piling up all this wood, said that I was surely expecting a harsh winter. It's a fact that I now have a huge stock of firewood. Fitzroy watched with interest all this activity.


A week ago, I had moved blocks of stone into the area of my letter box, to minimize the risk of somebody running into either the mail box or the metallic fence posts in front of Gamone.


I also piled dozens of rocks onto the mound between my residence and the road.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

My green mate at Gamone

Tineke took these lovely photos of my mate a few days ago.

Click to enlarge

Although he has been around for quite some time,
I'm ashamed to admit that I  haven't really given him a name yet...
but I'm keen on Bill the Lizard from Alice in Wonderland.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Fitzroy has received a pharmaceutical gift in the mail: a luxurious beauty product

Emmanuelle sent him this gift from Paris. But Fitzroy hasn't yet discovered the contents (not, of course, meant to be consumed).


It's a high-quality shampoo. Emmanuelle assures me that this product should be able to eradicate the nasty smell of a dead wild boar, which has been encompassing my dog for the last fortnight.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Family visits to Gamone

Little by little, members of my Australian family have got around to visiting Gamone.


This was my sister Susan Skyvington, who dropped in for lunch with a Belgian lady friend on 17 May 2015. A month or so later, I slipped down the stairs inside my house... and entered a lengthy period of convalescence, which I spent mainly in Brittany with Christine and our son François.