Sunday, 26 August 2012

Auvergne summer

Summer came to the Auvergne in August and it was very, very hot, up into the 30's Centigrade. We drove down on a hot, sunny day and it got hotter and hotter. No one moved much, as moving seemed not worth the effort. People sat under trees for shade and to try and catch any little breeze that was available. The late evenings were full of people in the village sitting outside their houses, chatting with friends and families in the cooler darkness. The weather was perfect for the kermesse held in mid-August, with a church service for St Ferreol, followed by a sale of home made patisserie, and a fete with a lottery(3 tickets for 10euros), in which I won a voucher for 20euros worth of flowers,(winnings shown above) then a meal for everyone, with bread and patisserie made by members of the local hunt ( la Chasse) who used a bread oven belonging to people who have a house overlooking the village.
A couple of weekends later , the village held its final Marche du pays, an evening event when local vendors of sausages, aligot (an Auvergnat speciality, recipe here) omelettes, bourriols ( a type of local pancake made with buckwheat flour) and local Auvergne wines and soft drinks. Everyone buys a bit of what they fancy and sits down at long tables and benches in front of the Mairie and eats and chats, generally socialising with friends and relatives. There are usually a small group of musicians playing local music on the bagpipes and accordian, to add to the gaiety.

Our latest outing was a coach trip to the national Museum of the Resistance, followed by lunch on a boat which started  and ended its trip on the Truyere river just beneath the Viaduc de Garabit. Lunch was a four course meal, with a starter of salad, pate de foie gras, then duck leg and vegetables, followed by cheese and either apple tart or ice cream, and finally coffee. A long day which began with the coach party leaving at 6.30am, before sunrise, which we watched as the coach made its way to Mont Mouchet, with a short pause for a coffee just as we went on to the A75. The site is interesting, with a monument, walks in the surrounding forests, and a well-laid out and informative small museum.

The visit to the Garabit Viaduct, built by Eiffel,was interesting, as at  the end of the trip, the boat went almost right underneath it, perfect for taking photographs. We finished our day out with an hour's stop in St Flour, in the old town, and paid a brief visit to the cathedral, before having a quick coffee on our way back to the coach. A grand if somewhat tiring day out.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Summer reads

I recently re-read Jane Gardam's Old Filth for a book club meeting, swiftly followed by The Man in the Wooden Hat. I first read Old Filth about 4 years ago and thought it a wonderful read. I enjoyed The Man in the Wooden Hat just as much, as it did give further enlightenment about the central relationships in Old Filth. Discussing Old Filth without revealing what happens in the next book was a bit complicated, as many of the others in the group had not read it, although one or two had, and I don't like to give away the plot when talking to people who haven't read a book under discussion, unless perhaps they have no intention of reading it.
I have a certain sympathy with Edward Feathers, sent home to England from his Malayan childhood, even though that childhood was very deprived, as I too was sent to a boarding school in England, while my parents were working in West Africa. But Old Filth, as he is usually referred to, had no mother and was ignored by his shell-shocked father ; the aunts to whom he was ostensibly sent merely passed him on to a couple who were cruel and uncaring of the children in their home. Old Filth's first school seemed to be the saving of him, as the headmaster cared deeply for the boys in his charge. Edward makes friends with another boy, Pat Ingoldby and becomes almost adopted into his family, spending many holidays with them, until the outbreak of the Second World War. His experiences during this event varied from the horrendous to the faintly ridiculous and obviously marked him for life and affected his relationship with his wife.
Although I had read Old Filth a few years ago, I seemed to have forgotten some of the details of the story, so was glad to re-read it - as a general rule, I don't do a lot of re-reading, even though it can bring out much more of a book than a first or second read can.
Another re-read was Anna Sewell's Black Beauty, last read, I think, was as a youngish child. Again, I obviously recalled some of the main characters, both human and horse, and several incidents, but I had forgotten quite how didactic in tone this story is, both about human behaviour to animals and also to each other. It is still a perfectly readable account of a horse's life and is still a suitable read for a child.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Ann Tyler

Ann Tyler's Ladder of Years was a recent Book Club read.. Billed on the cover of my edition (bought new) was "her best book yet", Since this title was published in1996 and she has written several more books, all well -received by critics, this comment is merely publishers hype. It was a good read, though, and a good introduction to Ann Tyler for me, as I've yet to read more of her work. The story is centred on Delia, youngest of thee daughters of a Baltimore doctor. She starts a relationship with Adrian Bly-Brice, despite having been married to her father's successor for many years, and later, while on the annual family holiday at the seaside, Delia starts walking along the beach and just carries on, leaving children and husband behind. After being given a lift by a young man in a borrowed vehicle, Delia ends up in a small town, where she finds herself  a room and a job, and begins to do things she has never done alone before, such as eating a proper meal in a proper restaurant.
Delia is having difficulty with her children, who are growing up and leaving home, a stage of life which she had never actually gone through, as her husband took over the family home as well as the doctor's practise, and her father remained in the house until his fairly recent death, as has one of her sisters. Delia's emotional difficulties were a rich source of our discussion of this book, and caused many to think about exactly how independent we were as modern women. I look forward to reading many other titles by Ann Tyler.

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