23rd November 2011. This morning I was at the coiffeurs getting coiffed (that's a haircut to you and me..) by the coiffeuse when I asked her about a nice old house across the road that had clearly been standing empty for a long while. In the few years since I'd first noticed it, it had been looking increasingly forlorn and severely in need of major restoration. Apparently it had belonged to a notaire but, for some unfathomable reason, he'd allowed it to go to rack and ruin. However, over the past few months, it has been finally getting 'the treatment' from a small army of artisans who have been hard at work putting it back in order. The word is that it's going to be a bank and I was told that it had been sold 'à la bougie' (English translation here) at the Town Hall.
I had to look this up as it was a new term to me. It seems that this is an ancient method, dating from the 15th century, of controlling the sale of property at an auction. For voluntary sales, properties are commonly sold à la bougie. Whoever is running the auction lights a small candle to start the bidding. This burns until the last bid is made, at which point another candle is lit. Both candles must then burn out without another bid being made, then the final bid is considered as accepted.
There's another of these run-down properties, a large Basque house dating from the '20s, just around the corner from here which is receiving armloads of TLC.. I shudder to think what the final bill will be as there's been a constant to-ing and fro-ing of specialists of all kinds with their ubiquitous white vans outside for at least 4-5 months. The first thing to go was the roof - all the tiles came off and then all the old roof beams were junked before a new roof was built and tiled. My guess is that the new owner won't see much change from a million euros. I remember the asking price wasn't far off half a million - unrestored.
With just over a month to go, you'd be hard-pressed to spot any sign of impending Christmas here - I haven't seen any Christmas lights up yet. It's far from the cash register churning event it's evolved into in the UK with the nature, trend and volume of retail sales being reported, analysed and talked to death by 'retail experts' in the main evening news. Here, I see that the Christmas village for kids is being set up in front of the Town Hall from 1st-24th December.
One thing I do miss about Christmas in the UK is the annual showing on TV of "Where Eagles Dare" - without which no respectable senior programme editor would deem the Christmas period programming to be complete - though I've never quite seen the seasonal link between it and Christmas..
I'm away in the south of France next week for a few days for a meeting with my customer. I've just dispatched an almighty wodge of work (technical term!) to him and so next week, I'm hopping on the TGV to Paris - yes, Paris! - before changing stations and catching another TGV to come all the way back down south again. While we're talking about TGVs, here's a reminder of the current world record holder at just shy of 360mph.. (disregard the typo below - the record was set at 574kmh..)
Having looked at all the options (air, road, train) it turned out that this was the optimum method of doing the journey.. It's only when faced with planning a trip like this that you realise just how Paris-centric the transport infrastructure is. (Note to self: need to brush up on how to knot a tie again!)
Looking out of the window in the last few minutes, it seemed to go dark suddenly in the space of a few minutes. As the sun is well over the yard arm I think the time could be ripe for an 'attitude adjuster'..
26th November 2011. A cold and misty outing on the river this morning in a coxless IV. There was a good turn-out and we managed to put out a couple of VIIIs and maybe 5-6 IVs. As we gained the upper reaches of the Nive we entered a monochrome world - not of black and white - with a weak sun breaking through the morning mist and lighting the scene in the palest of yellows. At one point we looked behind us and an VIII was silhouetted against the golden light as the crew turned it around and - as one - we all wished we'd had our cameras with us.. (14km)
Into Bayonne this afternoon with the dog looking for ideas for Christmas. Spotted a few likely candidates - such as these marrons glacés - and one or two other things.
Forgot to mention that SaxMan™ is back in town.. he was standing outside Galeries Lafayette playing another endlessly repeated riff.
Here's something to take your minds off the cold weather.. this was the absolutely mesmerising intermission act during the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin.. Warning: Don't try this at home! (especially not in your slippers!)
This next one launches into a series of Riverdance clips.. I've heard that many people on the internet are reputed to have the attention span of the average goldfish☺but if you've never seen 'Riverdance' - stick with it.. you'll be amazed! Step forward to around 1:15..
We saw the 'Riverdance' show in the UK and what an unforgettable experience that was..!
And finally, here's something I found earlier - a magnificent slow-motion clip (1,000 frames/sec) of an eagle owl about to rip to shreds that nice silk tie that Auntie Ethel gave you for Christmas last year - it's best in full screen!