A wonderful sunny day in Dungeness leaves me finding it very difficult to select only four pictures to show you. The above seems to nicely sum up the semi-tamed wilderness. The open aspect was, I assume, one of the things that attracted the late and great Derek Jarman here. The garden he built is very much a part of the landscape. So many of us fence or hedge our little plots ferociously to keep out the rest of the world but Jarman's garden is totally open to street and neighbouring plots alike. The environment might have defeated many gardeners but here we have an amazing mix of succulents, iceland poppies and a large collection of aesthetically arranged iron work and drift wood. Wonderful... worth the drive for this alone.
I'm beginning to see where old Van Gough was coming from.
On the sunflower front I mean, not so much on the cutting-your-ear-off-and-sending-it-through-the-postal-system (that's a bit weird, even to me who has one broken ear anyway). Amazing that these tall colourful roundels of flower come from such a small seed in such a short time. Excellent value.
We seem to have spent much of this Bank Holiday weekend on the road. This is a major departure for us as we normally avoid such apparent daftness at all costs. Saturday morning saw us leap into the PlanarchyMobile and head West to Welsh Wales. Teen Dee is spending a week there on a riding holiday whilst nearly-a-teen-herself-Kay engages in a multi-activity holiday at the same PGL camp. The journey down there was pleasant enough but for the £4.80 fee for entering Wales.
A fiver, to go into Wales, are they mad? (I'm still in shock.)
The centre itself seemed very pleasant and the girls hardly even gave us a wave as we left them being introduced to the rest of the gang. I still feel incredibly guilty leaving them anywhere like this even though they both asked for the holiday. The helpers (students I assume) at the place seemed to be split straight down the middle in personality type. There were the hyperactive boys (how long can they keep that up?) and the very mumsy but totally knackered looking girls. Trainee teachers? I don't know... I just can't imagine wanting to do anything like that at that age.
Anyway, after dropping them off we drove vaguely Norf and crossed back into
Engerland (for free) without even realising. But then we did realise
we'd just driven across another pay-to-use bridge. A woman came out
of her front door for 50p.
"Oh sorry, I thought the place was called Toll," claimed Mrs.Planarchy.
The expression on the tollmeistress's face suggested she'd heard this one before.
So now we'd paid 50p and hadn't even changed country..... and it was a very little bridge too. Later that evening Zee's uncle remarked that 30 years or so ago they'd nearly bought this little toll cottage... a money spinner looking at the number of people that crossed whilst I was taking a photo (no charge).
From the Whitney-on-Wye Toll bridge it was a mere hour or so round Gloucester and down to Stouts Hill (above) where we were to spend the night with Zee's Aunt & Uncle. They own a Timeshare week in one of terraced cottages behind the main building which has previously seen service as a prep School where, we were informed, a very young Stephen Fry spent a few years (not very happily I seem to recall). A very pleasant spot though, nice and quiet with wonderful views and both indoor and outdoor pools (and a fishing lake with Emperor Dragonflies too!). We stayed until mid-afternoon on Sunday after a very pleasant barbecue with various of Zee's cousins. Then just the mere matter of a couple of hours or so back down the M4 homewards listening (with gathering tension) to the cricket. We just made it home in time to see the last couple of overs and a rare England victory.
And still no calls from the girls so we have to assume they're having a good time I suppose.
On Wednesday, in the midst of his excellent series upon the River Fleet, dg updated us on the rain situation since St.Swithin's Day. Amongst his conclusions were that we've had a wet time since July 15th. I countered surely not and he revealed his source as a weather station just up the road from me in Epping Forest. It indeed shows that we have had rain (albeit very little) on more days than not. This week too has given us at least two days of pretty heavy rain, noticeable to me on my morning run in the forest when, for the first time this year I think, it has still been noticeably squidgy underfoot the day after.
But sadly the many ponds and lakes scattered around here tell a very different story. Even yesterday the one above was almost completely devoid of water. The picture was taken from the middle of the pond where I could stand without leaving an imprint. There was just a small puddle of water remaining of only a couple of square yards in area and less than inch in depth.
Despite this, one male Emperor and at least two male Ruddy Darter Dragonflies patrolled their territories' over the barren soil waiting in vain for a female to fertilise (and if she had shown up where would the eggs have been laid?). My fear is for future year's dragonflies..... will the eggs laid earlier in this pond survive the drought (some can I believe) or will the larvae have already hatched and died as the pond dried up? Dragonfly larvae spend between one and three years in their aquatic larval stage so we could have lost several years' worth here. Looking for a ray of hope, any larvae that somehow have survived should at least have a slightly easier time reaching adulthood if the pond does refill as any fish that the heron didn't get as the pond shrank will also have died.
As for where the heron has gone since his little ponds dried up, your guess is as good as mine.
I like chimernees. This one in Annecy is simply irresistible with its little tiled roofs, much more dramatic than the ones we have back home.
That was the word I couldn't remember... but luckily we didn't need it, the weather staying dry if not actually sunny for the party on Saturday night(as mentioned elsewhere no sunny saturdays for an age!). The party went well I think with everyone seeming to enjoy themselves..... the experiment of mixing bloggers and ordinary folk went OK with none of the mere mortals realising that there was not just one but two bloggers in their midst... soon we will have infiltrated all of society and Bloggers will rule (cue evil cackle closely followed by men in white coats).
But now the holiday is behind us, the party is over, it's raining and my running time this morning was the slowest ever .....walking up mountains is obviously no substitute for pounding the pavements.. or maybe just too much French Fromage.... ah, yes, the cheese.... maybe it's not so bad after all, there's still some of that left.
OK, so I have started sorting through the holiday pictures. This is my favourite so far. It was taken at the bottom of the "Rampe Du Château" in Annecy. There was also, for those interested in such things, an "Escalier du Château" and indeed at the top of both a Château also.
Annecy is about an hour and a half's drive from my brothers place and though we've meant to go before, somehow the totally relaxed feel of his village and its environs has meant that we've never strayed more than a few miles from base. Thus I'm glad it rained for a couple of days as this lead us further afield. We thought maybe if we could get out of the mountains maybe it wouldn't be raining and on this occasion this was indeed the case. Very pretty is Annecy... there may be more to come.
So, holiday over. DKNZ famille safely returned to Planarchy towers.
So now what? Surely there must be something for a post? Several hundred pictures were captured digitally and even half a roll of lovely old Velvia 50 was dutifully finished off through the old 35mm. Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Or France to the UK? Or why UK airports are so downright depressing compared to any others (except LAX in the US of A)?
Nope.... all that can wait, which means I'll probably never get round to covering it at all. At the moment my main concern is the weather.... after a gap of several years we've decided to restart our annual summer "garden" party this year. Tomorrow.... and it's raining. We stopped doing them after two of the rainiest Saturdays the East End of Londres has ever known..... luckily we still have the... what are those things called? Begins with a "T" I think. You stretch them out over the top and it keeps you dry..... nope, mind completely addled by too much (?) wonderful fromage français.
Still, it's good for the garden (the rain that is, not the cheese).
So, with a liking for France well and truly established we've spent quite a lot of time there recently. Though actually it was mainly 2003 when first my brother re-introduced me to skiing, then the DKNZ four spent a wonderful sunny two weeks there in the summer and finally Zee and I spent an equally enjoyable long weekend there in October arriving along with the first of the season's snow.
So that's where we've gone... a leetle village called St.Jean D'Aulp just an hours drive from Geneva... drop in and see us if you're round about that way.
Though we'll be home again very soon so you'd better hurry.
So, yes, somehow it was 20 years before I visited France again. It wasn't a conscious decision and in the meantime I'd joined the rest of the UK holidaying public and visited Greece, Spain, Austria (summer and winter), Switzerland, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium(!), Iceland, Italy, Singapore, Indonesia, New Zealand and even (briefly) the US of A. But somehow not France.
Then came one of Zee's special birthdays and I arranged a long weekend to Paris. We glided in luxury under the sea and into the French capital with the champagne still swirling round our heads. The (Algerian?) taxi driver spoke very little English and our French remains somewhat basic but he was clearly very proud of his adopted city and gave some wonderful sights on the way to our hotel without taking us on an unnecessarily long diversion.
I'd memorised enough French to check in at the hotel but they had responded in perfect English before I'd even opened my mouth. It was a wonderful weekend spent lazily wandering around the art galleries and tourist sites and watching the world pass by from pavement cafes.
Our favourite meal was at a little ( and I mean minute) pavement restaurant called Il Piccolo just up from the hotel where a charming waitress with no English but an alarming resemblance to Brenda from Six Feet Under provided us with a near perfect evening. A close second was the far more expensive dinner at the hotel on our last night. The only real annoyance of the whole weekend came not from the often reported snootiness of some Parisiennes but from fellow Brits who loudly refused to attempt even the most simple request in French. How hard is it too utter a simple s'il yous plait or merci?
Whatever the reason for my twenty year absence from France I was now keen to return...
Not much to look at really Dragonfly larvae are they? And they spend several years like this before emerging into the more beautiful sight that is the adult which lasts for only a few weeks in most cases. These are both Common Darters from my parent's garden pond.
My second trip to France wasn't really much more enlightening than my first. In fact it was just a trip through on the way to Spain, again with school. The only thing I remember was a game involving passing the sheets from one sleeping compartment to the next... via the windows. I think we lost a few sheets that night. Why? We were oiky 15 year old Grammar school boys, why else?
The third trip was the first time I tasted France properly.
'twas the summer of 1982. We'd just finished University and having already toured the Norf of Engerland thought it was time we had a look at a bit of France too. Somehow we chose a camp site near Trouville-Deauville just far enough outside of the town to make it too long of a walk to do more than once a day. Everyone else on the campsite had at least one car parked by their tent. The eleven of us had two rather beaten up shopping trolleys. I can't imagine why we didn't seem to fit in. On one occasion ferrying all our gear into town we were stopped by the local police who wanted to know where we got the shopping trolleys from. "The ditch!" we responded. "Then put them back in the ditch, " they replied. We did so, waited ten minutes and then retrieved them.
Apart from this, dancing in the town square to "Come On Eileen" from an enormous ghetto blaster (it was the eighties!) and an awful lot of arguments (11 "friends", not enough tents or money what else do you expect) I have only one other significant memory... the picture above (which I've shown here before) of the four male members of our party attempting (badly) to re-illustrate the cover of the Clash's "Combat Rock"... I'm the "blonde" one on the left.
So overall did I think "France" was welcoming to us?
No, not really... we were ripped off in two cafes and a restaurant and nearly lost all of our luggage thanks to a most unhelpful station master in Rouen.... on the other hand we were a pretty weird, if not downright scary, bunch. One all maybe?
It was twenty years, nearly a whole life time (at that point), before I returned to France... so you can wait a day or so to hear about that, can't you?
One of the problems with growing your own food is, in the first year at least, growing the right amount. We're clearly not going to have enough onions to last the year whilst courgettes, conversely, are in a major surplus. We started ours early so for the first few weeks we could palm them off to other friendly neighbouring allotment holders. But now there are just too many to go around.
We really like courgettes but even so are running out of good recipes. The Beeb's web site has 29 courgette recipes and we've been through several but our favourite remains an adapted Australian Women's Weekly Zucchini Slice one given to me by a former work colleague. When I say adapted I mean we leave out the bacon and downsize it to 60% of the stated quantities (unless the four you are serving are very hungry indeed). It's like a light and fluffy quiche (thanks to the self raising flour) without the pastry and highly recommended. As a boost it uses grated courgette and seems to work just as well with frozen as fresh... so the freezer is currently filling up with bags of grated Zucchini... not quite a year's worth but it won't take long.
My first experience of France was, like many others of my generation I'm sure, the school day trip to Boulogne or Calais. I'm sad to say I can't even remember which one it was now. It wasn't just my first visit to France either, it was my first abroad. Not that it was very foreign as far as I remember. All of the shop people spoke English and knew perfectly well that we really only wanted flick-knives, bangers and crap statues of the Eifel Tower. Well, that's what I came back with anyway. Except the flick-knife which cost too much. The hundred or so bangers lasted a couple of weeks and the Eifel Tower paperweight a few years but the memories a lifetime (except the bits I've forgotten.. like where it was I'd been). One boy in our class had enough money for a flick knife which he greatly enjoyed showing off right up until we got to customs back home where it was promptly confiscated.
Anyway, in case you haven't gusessed it's that time of year where we go on holiday and leave you with lots of pre-written posts giving you clues as to where the Planarchy household have decamped too. Can you guess where it is yet? (Not Germany.)
It's also traditionally the time of year when my visitor stats go through the roof... though maybe not this year looking at the material I'm leaving you with.
It is the habit in some quarters, I have heard, when one is having a party to tie balloons to the gatepost. For Witchy's annual Bloggers Barbecue there are somewhat larger balloons flying overhead.... this makes it much easier to find.
Thanks Witchy.... an excellent evening as ever.
I overheard Kay and two of her friends discussing their band (Kay is the drummer by the way) and was shocked to hear one of them remind the other two that she was no longer in the band but was instead the stylist.
The stylist? I nearly spluttered my tea all over the table.
Now, I've been in several bands through the years, some of which really existed and actually played music to other people but never, ever have any of them had a stylist.... and I really hoped I'd passed some of that punk ethic on..... but, it would seem, apparently not.
Then again maybe that's where I went wrong.
A family meal in a small local Italian restaurant at the weekend to celebrate Zee's birthday. By chance the restaurant has the same name as one of the pairs of shoes she bought in Noo York. Which is just bizarre. To book the restaurant, who's name I had forgotten, I had to look it up in the paper version of yellow pages... amongst the other Italian eateries was one called Tarantino's.... is it just me that thinks this an off putting name for a restaurant? I love his films but would really rather not eat them thank you very much.
Anyway, I digress. As I booked, the guy on the other end of the phone asked if it was for a special celebration. Before my brain engaged I'd told him it was my wife's birthday. We were dreading candles on the pizza or alphabetti spaghetti spelling out "Happy Birthday Mrs.Planarchy" but as it turned out they'd just chalked up "Happy Birthday Zee" on a board opposite our table. Since there was a party of 40 celebrating someone else's 50th birthday most of the attention was focused there anyway. Teen Dee and youngish Kay were a delight with Dee becoming extremely embarrassed every time anyone mentioned her antics of the previous Sunday. She keeps telling Kay that it's over and no-one else needs to know.
"Err no, actually I think they do," states Kay each time... clearly enjoying a bit of revenge for the fearful time that her elder sister put her through.