Friday, 4 November 2016

236. Season of mists etc

30th November. I've been listening to several versions of Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus - it has to be one of the most sublime pieces of music ever written. I like the interpretation below by the Vienna Boys' Choir (Wiener Sängerknaben). I might have said this before here but music like this is the perfect rebuttal to those who think we emerged dripping from the primeval ooze aeons ago and that we simply exist, without a soul.

Here's a beautifully sung Italian flash-mob a cappella version from the Galleria in Turin.. (it starts at 2:17)

27th November. We were out early yesterday evening in nearby Lahonce at an exhibition of paintings (mainly watercolours) by Madame's painting group. Of course, France being France, all of them had prepared little foodie treats that were laid out temptingly close by - along with some interesting looking bottles. I've met this group a few times now but I'm still embarrassed by my inability to put names to people I've previously met. I was talking to the husband of one of the artists and he is promising / threatening to teach me bridge. He told me that there are a couple of sociable bridge clubs in the area. We'll see. I'm not 100% sure that this is for me. 

24th November. If you're anything like me and you only have to hear the magical thrummm of a Merlin-engined Spitfire for it to send an electric shiver racing through your bones, then this will give you a thrill - and all without having to leave the house! Imagine being given one of these at the tender age of 18.. (Turn the volume up). I grew up close to an airfield where the last Spitfires in RAF service were based. The sight of an all-silver Spitfire flying overhead my school was a daily occurrence in the 1950s. In one of those curious juxtapositions of events, a few months before the last Spitfire left active service in 1957, the maiden flight of the English Electric P1B (below) - a Mach 2 beast - took place just across the Ribble estuary at Warton. I doubt if either of those organisations concerned were aware of the significance of the other.
A large vee-shaped formation of cranes has just gone over the house heading south..  and most of them sounded as if they were chuckling. Seemed like a good idea to me! Why do they fly in formation though? I knew you'd ask.. Look here.
23rd November. It's been raining all day here so we took a gamble and went across the border to Spain for some shopping. As we'd hoped, the supermarket was blessedly free of the seasonal crowds who come in coaches from all over south west France at this time of the year to fill up their drinks cupboards..! There was snow on the mountains there and the car indicated 4½°C (40°F).

Never a Dull Moment Dept: Madame just came out with another of her classic colourful expressions: "passer du coq à l'âne.." or going from the cock to the donkey.. Or, as we'd say more prosaically in English - changing the subject - or, from the sublime to the cor blimey.  Try it out the next time the vicar calls around for his annual sherry.. 

19th November. I came across these lines of Dylan Thomas earlier.. “And I rose in rainy autumn, And walked abroad in a shower of all my days...”. I don't think there's ever been a poet who used words and language quite like him.

The view down the garden has changed during the last week.. We have a platane that overlooks the terrace and last weekend I removed this year's growth of branches - leaving a stark skeleton behind. We also have a maple down the bottom of the garden and within the last day or two it's started to drop its leaves. In this case, a picture's worth a thousand words:

16th November. You can always tell when the current French president is getting nervous about the possibility of a resurgence of support for Nicolas Sarkozy (his nightmare opponent) as some old 'story' gets dusted off anew in another attempt to smear him. The latest story to do the rounds is a "claim" by a French-Lebanese businessman that the former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi gave €50m (£43m) to fund Nicolas Sarkozy’s successful 2007 campaign for the French presidency. Funny old thing, isn't it, that this claim has taken almost 10 years to surface - completely coincidentally - only days before the presidential primaries for the Republicans party.. Sarkozy has been investigated frequently - he's been treated appallingly - he's had his apartment searched while he was away, he's been interrogated for hours, accused of just about everything short of badger watching on Clapham Common at 1am - but all to no avail. The Left-leaning French magistrates have never been able to make any of these unsubstantiated charges stick - so once again, it's out with the smears.. sowing doubt in the minds of the electorate. If he wins through to the second round of the primaries, stand by for more (unproven) revelations. 

15th November. Biarritz was strangely quiet this morning.. This is the time of the year when several businesses take the opportunity to close their doors for a couple or three weeks - either to give their hard-pressed staff a break after the long season, or to re-decorate, or both. Our old favourite Bar Jean was closed, as was the Art Deco Plaza Hotel.. Despite these very minor whinges, it was a pleasure to wander the pavements free of the human congestion of just a few short weeks ago. It's a place we never tire of visiting and having the place to ourselves for once was a treat. In case you were wondering, Biarritz is a town that is active all the year around.. with two months (July-August) when life is very hectic.. but this was it this morning..

14th November. This afternoon a trip to the new IKEA shopping centre just outside Bayonne was called for.. Now known as "Ametzondo Shopping", it's an unimaginably gargantuan complex on 3 levels - about the size of at least 8-10 aircraft hangars (if not more). To your wizened correspondent, it's not on a human scale. In wandering around IKEA, we ended up in what looked like a warehouse, but which in reality was still the shop, with racks laden with goods towering 60 feet - and more - high above us. In the last few days, many other shops have now opened for business in these vast spaces. I found the whole experience charmless and depressing - and I couldn't wait to get out. It was like the foretaste of a "one size fits all" future.. In the middle of all the glitz, the bright lights and glitter, I spotted a lone Basque farmer - wearing his beret - looking lost. I wonder if it will take off with the locals.

To me, places like these point to a worrying trend. If, in future, we all shop at these vast commercial centres, and read the same books, listen to the same music, watch the same films, buy the same furniture, have the same likes and dislikes, it will be heaven for the manufacturers and suppliers of these mass produced consumer goods. However, if people only have access to identical cultural offerings, how can they ever develop independent and original thought? How can original voices emerge and be heard?

In Bayonne and Biarritz, there are still a number of family owned shops but with the continuing shift towards the convenience and competitiveness of shopping online, coupled with the advent of all-in-one shopping centres (with free parking), the day will soon dawn when quirky individual businesses will be forced to close their doors. In the time we've been living here, we've seen several old established family concerns cease trading.

After that, we drove south to the refreshing normality of Saint-Jean-de-Luz, that dazzled in the bright sunlight. Difficult to be sure but it seemed free of tourists.

We walked along the coastal path from Anglet to Biarritz yesterday afternoon under threatening skies, heading for Le Rayon Vert, a friendly beach-side café for a final drink there before it closed for the season. There was a definite end-of-season mood there - with the staff tidying up things prior to a 3½ month shut-down. The skies outside were grey and rain showers were sweeping in from Spain. The seas were a wintry green-grey and it was difficult to remember that only 2 weeks ago that people were sunbathing. In the warmth of the café, vintage rock and roll was being played..
12th November. England extended their unbeaten run with a convincing 37-21 win against a below-par South African Springboks side yesterday. (England still managed to leak too many points)
11th November. I read somewhere out there in cyberspace this morning that France is a monarchy disguised as a republic - whilst the UK is a republic disguised as a monarchy. I think there's a truth buried in there somewhere.

I think the outcome of the 2016 US presidential election could be summed up thus:

There is good news and bad news:

The good news is that Mrs Clinton was not elected. The bad news is that Trump was.

10th November. I must be getting soft in my old age but this made me laugh..!

One to annoy the traditionalists - an electronic version of J S Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring". To my untutored ear, this sounds every bit as good as the organ or orchestral versions (if not better if I'm honest). Volume to max and open the windows!!
(There was this song by the Beach Boys that was also inspired by Bach - but with a less happy outcome.)

9th November. What is it about this melody that I find irresistible?

I'm not going to talk about / mention / refer to / whinge about / go on and on about the outcome of the US Presidential Election except to say I think the electorate got it about right. In my view, there's long been a whiff of something very unsavoury about Hillary and Bill - plus I don't think she was helped by the fact that the central plank of her campaign was all about her wish to be the first woman president.. I don't think the fact that she was female should have entered into it. It's her perceived lack of competence, sense of entitlement and untrustworthiness that did for her in the end - plus I don't think that the electorate took kindly to her husband lurking in the shadows. I think it speaks volumes for Trump that with only a fraction of the financial resources available to Mrs Clinton (a reported $1.3bn) and zero politics on his CV, he still managed to emerge victorious. I'm glad I didn't have to make the choice between The Donald and Mrs Clinton. Both candidates were flawed but I think The Donald was less flawed where it mattered most. I know it's shallow of me but I don't think I could have stood 4 years of her chipmunk smile..  

5th November. I think the great Irish roar that rose up from the crowd at Soldier Field in Chicago yesterday would have been heard in the International Space Station as Ireland (my second team!) beat New Zealand's All Blacks for the first time in their history.. Here's the entire match - I think this should be watched full screen with a dram of Glenmorangie - and savoured...
 Something completely different for you - a live feed from the International Space Station..

4th November. Turning the clocks back last weekend reminded me that Autumn is making a belated appearance in these parts. Other tell-tale signs: we lit our woodburner last night.. and the Adour was hidden in seasonal mist the other morning. I was further reminded of the change of the season by a welcome email from Perry & Caroline. They're a charming Anglo-Dutch couple who live in on the border of the Gers and the Hautes-Pyrénées a couple of hours to the east of us. This is the real France profonde..(aka "Here be dragons" country!) Perry is a very talented artist whose cartoons always make me laugh. This one on the right captures the essence of the onset of Autumn here.. with that unmistakable smell of roasting chestnuts. Here's another couple of his that tickled me..!
Mamie Wilkinson


Anonymous said...

Two hours of rugby and only one dram? Lesley.

Pipérade said...

.. at a time!☺

Anonymous said...

When wearing Air Force Blue, I used to love standing (a long way) behind any E E Lightning as they lit up and roared off. Mind you with the stations that I served on NONE of them had any planes, it used to be airshows and sporting visits. Lesley

Pipérade said...

Yes, a Lightning display was a sight to behold!☺