Tuesday, September 02, 2014

August collage



I have, as anyone who reads here and can remember, mixed feelings about August. 'The yellow Provençal August the English dream of', Iris Murdoch called it, and British school summer holidays being fairly short compared to much of the world, a great deal of hope and expectation has always been placed in what often felt like the disappointing scrag end of summer. This year both spring and summer have sometimes seemed sad and difficult, and I welcome the change in the season. We've had a man up on the roof to fix a potential source of weather worry for the winter, and are working on other areas of weatherproofing which will, we hope, make winter less of a source of trepidation, so autumn can bring it on, and I'll happily wave goodbye to August.

Yet it can be a rich, fruitful and colourful month, and I'm often surprised by my own appreciation of it. Here's some of it.
  1. Bee on an umbel.
  2. My red onion crop, grown from sets and not ever so large but really very good, sound and firm and shiny and very tasty. 
  3. Maize crop, and those scrawny thistles which come in a very pretty blue.
  4. Courgettes. I bought one plant only from the market rather than growing from seed this year, and that is enough really if one doesn't love them to distraction or want to fight the battle against marrowfication.
  5. in amongst the bearded barley... I somehow missed photographing the wheat and barley harvest, with the straw in big lush heaps, then in big rolled bales studding the fields, and then the tractors beetling about with their wagon trailers gathering them up. We find we still enjoy the sight of this.
  6. Landscape looking inland.
  7. Another umbel, hogweed seed head I think; you're supposed to be able to use these seeds as a seasoning/flavouring, and when crushed they do have a unique spicy aroma, but I don't quite have the foraging nerve to mess with umbelliferous plants, when they're good they're very good, when they're bad they're toxic.
  8. Tiger moth on flowering eucalyptus.
  9. Blackberries. A good year for these, as it seems to be for most fruit. I've not gone picking yet, and may not do so, we don't eat huge amounts of jam and jelly, and I still have crème de mûre from last year - we don't drink huge amounts of kir either - but they are good to munch on in passing.
  10. Knapweed, a very August thing. There are a lot of thistley things about at this time, I like their purples and blues.
  11. Cob nuts, we bought these in fact, though there are a fair number in the hedges too, but not so big.
  12. Pumpkin in flower and fruit. Again, I bought plants, a potimarron and a butternut, but they're very stingy and will probably yield no more than one fruit each. I really will plant more seeds next year. And blog more, and read more, and carry out many other good resolves.

Friday, August 22, 2014

On the Sainte Jeanne # 2


So, well-padded in our life jackets, we had to slither down a rather steep ramp, not to a teeny tiny green tender in fact, but to a waiting inflatable boat, known as a Zodiac.


This was possibly the most exciting part of the whole trip in terms of speed and closeness to the waves, but I was not able to take any pictures as we were told to put our cameras away, to avoid their getting wet and also so we might have our hands free to hold on, since we all sat round the edge of it. A couple of trips and we were all aboard, and were very happy to learn we could divest ourselves of the life jackets, they were only for the trip across.

Early in my short-lived career as a primary teacher, I was set to work with two five-year-olds to make a big long poster-type-thing illustrating their recent trip somewhere or other. One of them, when I suggested making a picture of how they went on the coach, had no difficulty in drawing a recognisable picture of a such a bus and a group of children outside it waiting to get on board, though she had never in fact had such a view of it.  The other looked bothered, struggled and failed to represent an image of the inside of the coach from her seat as she recalled it.  This was a textbook case some Piaget-designated shift in cognitive functioning, probably involving other terms I've now happily forgotten, that takes place at that kind of age and stage, whereby we learn to de-centre and see ourselves in situations from the outside. However, it seems to me the second, less advanced child's view was more true to perceived reality; having been unable to catch a satisfactory sideways-on view of the Ste Jeanne from the shore, once on board it wasn't possible to do so, of course.  


But I was able to pull this jib sail up.  

Otherwise, the images one could collect gather were all from the viewpoint of on board the boat, looking up and down and out and along, various masts and booms and bowsprits and such like, skyward and seaward, at various angles:


















or at various sheets and halyards and stays and shrouds and other bits of cordage, and various marlin spikes and cleats and clews and other satisfying bits of gear and tackle:

























However, we were joined for the party by a diverse small fleet of other craft, 


which afforded the opportunity to get some longer shots, notably the Pauline, about which I've written before. I photographed her rather a lot,








and also the two smaller old-style sailing boats we had already seen waiting in the harbour


this slightly larger one with the dark hull was Mimosa,


but the slightly smaller white one I didn't catch the name of (on enlarging it a lot it may be Léon, I'll have to check the full-size photo).


It was very calm on the sea. Later Mimosa changed her regular jib for a Genoa, a term for which I had to search my memory and, chiefly, the internet. Whatever its appellation, I found the bold black shape of it aesthetically very pleasing.

We didn't really go anywhere much, pootled about in the bay, went a bit further up the headland towards the seashore quarry for the famous pink sandstone (not pink granite here, whatever anyone tells you...), which had been the Ste Jeanne's main source of cargo, all the way over to England sometimes, and also her nemesis when they overloaded her with it.  But it was deeply satisfying, we came away very relaxed and happy.  

Tom even got given a smaller lighter life jacket for the return to shore, so he looks happier.


We had proper Italian style soft whippy ice cream cornets on the way back to the car, (with a momentary pang that there was no one to give the last point of the cone with a residue of ice cream in it), and as we turned to look back, we observed the tide had come in so that Ste Jean could come round to the inside of the harbour to pick up her next load of passengers, and so show us a perfect, sideways-on, long view of her in full sail.



A lovely afternoon on the water. For more details about the Ste Jeanne, see the website, or there's an English one from the Erquy tourist website here.




Sunday, August 17, 2014

A trip on the Sainte Jeanne # 1 (before we even get on the boat...)


Last weekend, we headed up to Erquy to take a special 20th anniversary trip on the Sainte Jeanne - it was the boat's anniversary, not ours. As we later learned, she was wrecked in the 1930s off Paimpol, by the actions of a skipper cutting corners by overloading her and relying on a recently added engine to get him out of trouble which then broke down. She was rebuilt and relaunched in 1994. Needless to say, I took a lot of photos, and Tom took some more with my camera, which it's taken me a week and more to sort and edit.

It was a day of a high tidal coefficient, something we've kind of known about in the abstract, but have lately become aware of and interested in, after inadvertently making an evening outing a little further down the bay a few weeks before and finding our usual walking beach non-existent, familiar rocky landmarks disappeared, and the sea beating at the cliff stairs at our feet.  It was curiously exciting and magical and made me think of the Franklin's Tale. (It seems the town of St Malo is even trying to make a tourist attraction of this phenomenon.)


So, although it was nothing like the lowest point of the tide that day, when we arrived in very good time so as to get a parking space, there was not much sea to be seen - all that we could see-see-see was the bottom of the deep blue sea-sea-sea, in fact. 

But we also saw plenty of people enjoying an old fashioned seaside experience,


some having less traditional fun,



And quite a few happy dogs sharing the day, the ice cream and the tidal mud.




all of which did our hearts good.

The Sainte Jeanne, which we'd been told would leave from the harbour wall, was not to be seen there. Le Grand Lejon was there, but clearly wasn't going anywhere just yet. 


Her crew didn't seem too bothered, they sat around nattering and lunching and making fairly merry.  After a while they made to hoist a sail or two.




the main one had a picture of the boat painted on it, thereby creating an always pleasing (to me anyway) mise-en-abyme effect.

Don't worry, though, we were told, the Ste Jeanne was in open water the other side of the fishing quay, and we would be conveyed to her by a smaller vessel. So we went to have a look.


On the way we saw the official tender, painted in matching livery, or whatever boats paintwork is called. It seemed a tiny cockleshell to carry many people, we thought.

Passing the fishing port, very much the business end of Erquy, there were lots of examples of the kind of counter, original, spare and strange stuff, lines and shapes and textures and colours, that I find hard to pass by, though I didn't linger too long.







and  a more artfully arranged exhibition of older gear and tackle and trim, chandlery, books, maps and prints:










 as well as some models of different kinds of old working sailing boats.

Another very minute detail of something, which I reckon is worthy of a digression, was to be spotted down a drain. (And if, like some, myself included, bits of workaday and rugged cast iron street furniture float your boat, the drain cover in itself is worth looking at. No? OK.)


What I spied through the grill, just about visible here as three white stripes, I recognised as a netting needle. When I was about eleven, I had to endure school needlework and 'handwork' lessons.  Despite having stitched and worked a sewing machine and made all manner of things quite competently with my hands from almost before I could walk, I was a hopeless failure and bottom of the class in these areas of the curriculum. Mostly this worried me not one whit, except that those who shone were allowed as a special privilege to do netting.  This involved turning a chair upside down, tying a lot of lengths of string to it, and somehow weaving and knotting in and out of them with a netting needle, around which was wound another length of string. I didn't think this looked a particularly satisfying process, my interest was in the potential product: a hammock. I always wanted a hammock.  I'm not sure where I would have put one at the time, since there weren't really two suitable trees in our garden, but I dreamed of one anyway.  I do now have one, in fact, not made of netting but very handsome blue and green canvas, which can be hung between the timbers of our open barn thing in the summer, but I don't in fact use it much. However, seeing this tool in this context, I understood for the first time that the technique wasn't simply a bit of leftover Victorian effete hobbywork for nice young ladies and gels, but was and apparently still is really used by fishermen for real fishing nets. In these times when fishing seems a murderous, industrialised, globalised behemoth, and indeed, young ladies and gels occupy their fingers principally with checking their phones and Facebook accounts, I find that rather cheering.


Two other old-fashioned sailing boats and a more modern Bermuda sailed, fibre-glass hulled yacht flapped their sails idly in the fishing harbour while the people on them sat about nattering to one another from one craft to another.  We scrambled up the rocks along the harbour wall and saw the Ste Jeanne waiting on the other side.


Unfortunately, the wind direction was such that we couldn't get a nice sideways view of her, but later we were able to. We strolled back to the meeting point and were issued with life jackets, which were rather hot and bothersome and cumbrous,




and off we went.

(To be continued...)