Saturday, July 19, 2014

Molly passing; some links; alpaca

Thank you so much for all the truly wonderful, heartfelt and heart-warming support about dear Mol, here and at Tom's place, by e-mail and letter and in person. We really have been quite bowled over by how much affection, sympathy and kindness could be prompted by one small, rather eccentric, not very socialised dog and her, not always very socialised either, humans. People are marvellous sometimes, nearly as marvellous as dogs.

I find myself reluctant to post again, and let the photo of her slide down from the top of the blog. It seems like another of the many small lettings-go we are doing, each of which can feel like a relief and kindness or else a betrayal and abandonment. We are gradually rearranging and adjusting things,  having to think again and again as to which habits and routines we need to maintain and which were instituted because of, or indeed by, for she had us well-trained, Molly.  There is much to be caught up with in house and garden that was rather let slide in her last days, weeks, months even, so we do not as yet feel we have abundant time on our hands, though we are constantly aware of how much detail has gone from our life.  We are cleaning and clearing, keeping and discarding and re-purposing things, the last sometimes a positive and creative action; for example the purple fleece blanket we used to put on the bed so she could come up and join us for morning tea, still good but rather rough and worn and always, even when washed, with a residue of Molly hair, I shall sew inside the beautiful red cotton cover my sister brought over for us but which proved to be slightly the wrong size for our duvet, to make a new piece of bedding with the relic enshrined, as it were. Other items I will take to the local SPA dog refuge, but that's not a place I can face just yet.

Yesterday we went to settle up the final account with the vet, we'll get Mol's ashes back at a later date - much as she loved this garden we simply couldn't just dig a hole and put her in it, come in at night and leave her out there, nor could we simply ask for her body to be disposed of and that an end to it. It was a wobbly moment to call Emy (the vet) again and talk about it, but it did drive me to sort out all the medicaments, throw some out and return some, and in fact it was nice to see Emy and her husband Paul again. I shall miss them as friends, if not all the reasons for having to see them. They too were lovely, with just the right balance of brisk and stoical good cheer and gentle kindness.  I really don't know how vets do it.

I do wonder if people live longer these days because there are fewer deaths. I've had so few really to grieve in my life; I minded my parents passing but I was still young and they had been old by my standards then (I was born to them late); I bounced back and moved on into the life I'd yet to live, lightened and with a sense of freedom, I have to say, from worry and sadness and a little resentment at their decline and the demands it placed. Not a very worthy thing to admit but there it is. Yet I've found the losses that have hit me of late, even those which couldn't be called shocking or unexpected, have seemed to age and diminish me, physically, mentally and in spirit, as though some of my essential life stuff really has been taken away and may not, this time, be restored. The skin around my eyes seems more discoloured, thin and lined, my body more squashy and shapeless, my mind more weary and reluctant to address things, I am more ready to despair and abandon. It seems to me quite possible that mourning too much death could shorten your life.

Enough. I know I owe it to them to live better and not waste time, dogs especially do hate wasting time. I have had and still have so much love and beauty in my life. I am often joyful and always grateful. I shall keep coming back here, and Molly will appear here again, many times, you may be sure. I have been reading back through the Out with Mol blog , lately neglected but always maintained, with enjoyment as well as sadness, and may do something with some of it, we'll see.


Other stuff.  I hesitate to even hover round the edge of the matter here, but these articles I've found quite helpful.  Not that they particularly make one feel any less despairing, but they do, for me at least, shed a bit of light on things I either didn't know about, or have read or heard about over and over but still find it hard to get straight in my mind.

9 questions about the Israel-Palestine conflict you were too embarrassed to ask
11 crucial facts to understand the Israel-Gaza crisis
Israel's Gaza invasion is all about tunnels

I imagine this probably provokes eye-rolling in most quarters, since anyone who's remotely interested knows everything contained (and all the answers) and can't understand why I even need to read them, and anyone who isn't simply feels sickened, bored, hopeless, apathetic or whatever. But I found them clearly written and, as far as I can see, unexceptionable in their editorial line.


And to finish some photos of happy fluffy stuff, which is no more nor less inappropriate than happy fluffy stuff ever is. This is from an outing that we made a few weeks ago, while my sister was still here and Molly still able to set out for a ride in the car quite cheerfully.  Things closed in and I didn't get around to posting them at the time, but they merit showing, I think. A little while ago we saw some alpacas on the telly, and immediately felt we just had to meet some, and of course I love the fibre they make as well. A quick search revealed there were some just down the road (well, almost). Quelvehin Alpacas is on a straight road up a hill a few kilometres out of Pontivy, it's a beautiful place, made and run with real love and care by Steven and Jayne, who also run gîtes, which would be lovely to stay in, and courses on alpaca care and management. Jayne made us really welcome and gave us a load of her time and told us all kinds of things about these delightful creatures, a subject clearly dear to her heart.

Alpaca are South American camelids, like lamas and vicuna, related to camels but no humps. Other alpaca farms, there aren't nearly as many in France as the UK, tend to concentrate on breeding white ones because the fleece can be dyed, but lately there's more and more interest in the natural colours, and there's quite a range, through all kinds of browns and greys to quite a black black.

Alpacas are the most cartoonishly endearing animals imaginable, and the babies, known as cria, are endearing to the power of ten.

They were quite friendly and amenable to strokes,

though, Jayne chuckled, most of all when they aren't pregnant but would like to be, that makes them very affectionate.  This embarrassed Tom rather.

They seem quite affectionate with one another too.

Alpaca come in two types, huacaya, who have soft, woolly, curly fleece, and suri who have silky, straight hair


This lady was a suri (it had been raining). They are more delicate and difficult to raise. In fact alpaca are quite delicate anyway, they barely have enough milk for their young and are exacting about their diet.

We went on to visit the yearling young ones, who had struggled to survive in last year's wet winter, even with all kinds of extra care.

They all seem to get on well with the handsome resident Weimeraner.

In the final paddock were the boys.  Now, alpaca, unlike camels, won't spit at you.  But they do sometimes spit at each other, and it's mainly about sex.  If the girls think that the male on offer is too young and green and just doesn't take their fancy, they'll spit and kick at him and just not co-operate.  If, on the other hand, a fanciable more mature chap hoves into view, they will um... sit down.  This is what is required. 

Atlas, above, is one such comely fellow, and you have to admit he looks pretty cool.

We tended to think Solomon, above, didn't look too promising by comparison, but were assured he'd done all right for himself, with a few handsome cria among his progeny.

They were all in the field together and seemed to get along very equably.  However, we were told, when the males have been taken off to meet their designated date and then come back to the paddock, all the other boys spit at them and give them a good kicking, then everything calms down again.  Jealousy I suppose. 

Lovely creatures, lovely place, and I came home with 200 grms of the most heavenly alpaca yarn, handspun by Jayne, the colour of milk chocolate.

A few more photos on a web album here.

It's nice to be back, withal.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014


 7 April 2000 - 8 July 2014

Goodnight Mol.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Melusine, or never on a Saturday

Apologies for absence on the blogging front; a visiting sister and other distractions are my partial excuse.  I have, however, deadline cleaving as ever, on this the last day of June and final day for submission, managed to make something other than knitting and complete my offering to Clive Hicks-Jenkins' latest Artlog challenge, and made a puppet complying with the theme of myths and legends.

I chose the mythical figure of Melusine, who is something of a favourite of mine. I was determined to make her from old felted jumpers, old t-shirts, scraps of wool and other textile and knitting related materials which were waste or which I had already, and knowing I would leave the making of her quite late and be short of time, and that sewing to any kind of perfectionist standard often discourages and deters me from finishing things, I would deliberately make her in a rough and improvisational manner. In fact on researching the story, I learned that one of the best known versions of it from the Middle Ages was that of Jean d'Arras, and was part of a cycle of stories designed to be told by ladies at their spinning and needlework, which seemed appropriate.

The tale goes that Raymond of Poitou, founder of the House of Lusignan, was came across a beautiful woman, Melusine in the forest one day.

Instantly smitten, he proposed marriage, and she was happy to consent, only exacting the condition that he should never seek to find her on a Saturday. She bore him many fine children and brought him much wealth but of course, in myth as in life, if you make someone promise things like that the one thing they want to do is break the taboo and find out.  Raymond had to go looking, and found Melusine at her Saturday ablutions (sometimes simply in the bath at home, sometimes in a forest pool or spring, the kind of place associated with her).

Oh dear, she was all serpentine from the waist down, and, many of the tales say, with a double tail!

Raymond was shocked, as was Melusine.

Then she was furious.

But also deeply saddened. Jean d'Arras has her say the words:

Ah! Raymond, the day when I first saw you was for me a day of sadness! Alas! for my bane I saw your grace, your charm, your beautiful face. For my sadness I desired your beauty, for you have so ignobly betrayed me. Though you have failed in your promise, I had pardoned you from the bottom of my heart for having tried to see me, not even speaking of it to you, for you revealed it to no one. And God would have pardoned it you, for you would have done penance for it in this world. Alas! my beloved now our love is changed to hate, our tenderness to cruelty, our pleasures and joys to tears and weeping, our happiness to great misfortune and hard calamity. Alas, my beloved, had you not betrayed me I were saved from my pains and my torments, I would have lived life's natural course as a normal woman, I would have died in the normal way, with all the sacraments of the Church, I would have been buried in the church of Notre-Dame de Lusignan and commemorative masses would have been observed for me, as they should. But now you have plunged me back into the dark penitence I have known so long, for my fault. And this penitence, I must bear it until Judgement Day, for you have betrayed me. I pray God to pardon you.

And she showed such remorse that there is no heart in the world so hardened it would not have relented.

Though some say she forgave him his curiosity and for seeing her, but couldn't do so when later in a public row he called her a serpent.  

She resumed her serpent form and disappeared back into the forest, never to be seen again.  But she got to found the royal house of Luxembourg first, anyway.

She appears in many stories and images, too many to link to here, but I'm still enjoying following up lines of research about her, and is perhaps unusual in being an indigenous French myth, of which there aren't too many.  She's an admirably feisty woman, certainly. 

Many thanks to my lovely sister for puppeteering, and to Tom for tolerating the puppet Melusine in the house, as she totally creeps him out!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Monday, June 09, 2014

Collage for May

A bit late again with this, never mind. Things from May, left to right, top to bottom.

  • Chive flowers and fennel, we ate a few with salad but mostly the chive flowers were just lovely and very long lasting as cut flowers on the window sill.
  • Jantien and her sculptures.
  • Hawthorn, or may blossom, of course.
  • Philadephus, form Marcel's hedge. Ours, which is Belle Étoile variety with a moody mauve centre to the flowers, isn't out until June. When Marcel's first comes out if I'm passing I nip a sprig and carry it with me to sniff at; the perfume is overwhelmingly redolent, and has been a joy and a comfort to me most of the years of my life.
  • The Troglogîtes. This is with mega-zoom on the camera as I was coming down from Menez Mickael, having just called Tom on the mobile and asked if he could see me on the track, so he's probably fiddling with his mobile in the doorway.
  • Fern fronds forming fiddleheads.
  • The holly bears a blossom. It really does, I've never quite noticed it like this before.
  • Swallow.  They were late back, the forerunners a good month before the residents. Ours made straight for the garage, where they've built an extension to an old nest, and are in and out very brazenly. We don't disturb them too much; Tom has covered up what he can underneath, and I go in and out, braving the point of a wing tip swiped across my face as we cross in the doorway. I was never more pleased to see them.
  • Sorrel in flower, the soft red haze in fields and verges, mown by tractors by early June.
  • Broom, planta genesta.
  • Oaks in leaf in the landscape, green green green.
  • The first Plougastel strawberries from the market.
I've done a bit of knitting of course, but it's either unfinished or for presents not yet delivered, so needs to be kept under wraps, and we've eaten asparagus, always the green, I don't care much for the purply-white.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Landevennec abbey, museum

Out of the dark,




polychrome, bare-breasted, with saints .

From beeswax and amber, brimstone, horn and gall,

 the pages take flight

out of the dark.