Monday, 2 April 2018

254. Spring has sprung..

30th April. I've been aware, almost subconsciously, for some time that the most prevalent car colours here differ from those in the UK. When I was out earlier, I looked down a long line of parked cars and noticed that the colour of every last one lay somewhere on the monochrome spectrum between white and black. I'd say that most were various shades of grey.

When we used to come down here on holiday years ago, if we saw a red car coming towards us it could almost be guaranteed that it would be displaying a UK registration. Then when we were in England a couple of years ago, it was noticeable that electric blue was now the "couleur du mois"! (Or as they have it there - the colour of choice). I'm not sure what this proves - if anything. It's just an observation. Now we have "expert colour psychologists" who can decrypt our colour choices.. If you wish to lose the will to live, read this! You've been warned. (I'm not an Express reader by the way.. ☺)

28th April. For 4 years in the mid-1990s, I had the great good fortune to be working in the vicinity of Venice. At least once or twice a month throughout the year, I would manage to find the time to visit this most wonderful of cities, even during the chill month of January, when the bitingly cold wind off the sea had the ability to freeze one's face into a rictus. At times like that, Venice would be almost deserted and, looking out across the misty lagoon, it seemed that all an artist would need to render a faithful image of the view would be a thousand shades of grey. I would walk and walk until I had to seek refuge from the cold in the warmth of a café. There, I'd order a hot chocolate which was almost of a blancmange-like consistency and if it was really cold, I'd have a brandy with it. Once warmed up again, I'd set off once more. The intervals between stops would become shorter and shorter as the cold bit.

At the other extreme lay August. I was there once on 15th August (an Italian holiday) under a burning sun, with humidity to match. Groups of tourists were being marshalled through the narrow streets by guides - each holding a whip aerial with a distinctive object tied to the top of it - a pair of luscious red lips, a toy rabbit, an inflatable duck, the more bizarre the better. These groups of tourists appeared to arrive in waves - and the heat and the humidity combined with the jostling to make for a not very pleasant experience.

I was there with a friend one day during one such occasion and we were walking along the waterfront with its row upon row of gondolas bobbing up and down on the choppy waters. We walked past the Hotel Danieli (highly recommended) and after a few yards, we came across a restaurant that overlooked the lagoon. A card in its window announced a seafood buffet lunch for 55,000 lira.. This worked out to something around £22.. It was "an offer I could not refuse"! One of those lunches that will live long in the memory. Some time later, we emerged blinking into the sunlight and waddled off in the direction of Harry's Bar*.. for one last attitude adjuster before heading back to the train station.

* unless I'm very much mistaken, clicking on this link brings up the voice of "Papa" Hemingway, who sounds as if he's well on his way to being "completely relaxed"..

A visit to Venice has to be made at least once in a lifetime. There really is nowhere else quite like it anywhere in the world (including Las Vegas!). And no, in all my visits there I have yet to experience any of the smells that generations of hack writers ascribe to Venice.. (the video is best in full screen)
Seems like we've turned the clock back again.. as we've had rain, rain and more rain. We were out at a dog obedience class this morning - as Nutty's behaviour needs modification. It's almost as if he has a split personality. He's no longer allowed out in the garden unless he's on the lead as he constantly demonstrates destructive tendencies.

This year, our long-suffering lawn was finally looking as it should (especially as it's been well watered these last few months) - but Bulldozaire decided it could be improved with the addition of a large hole scraped in the middle of it. This was just one of his party tricks.. Others include rounding off the corners of a Persian carpet in the study; rounding off the corners of the bedspread; ripping holes in the pillowcases; retrieving savoury & unsavoury items from the laundry basket and chewing them. He seems to have a contrary nature: he will do things as required of him - but only if he wants to. Madame broached the surgical option with me but, as a card carrying male, I'm reluctant to consider that option until we've exhausted all the others. If only I could tell him!             

19th April. Spring came and went in a week.. yesterday we had some of Madame's relatives (from Andernos-les-Bains) for the afternoon. We ate outside and the temperature was a whisker under 30°.. I was down at the beach this morning (yes, in shorts and a t shirt!) with our 4x4 cocker spaniel at 9.30 and it was like summer. Cloudless blue sky, blue sea and white breakers. This weather changes everything. I think I'll be going for a ride on my ebike this evening along the Nive

11th April. "Allez, allez, allez!" (if you have to ask what this refers to, you wouldn't understand!)

4th April. I removed the cover from the table on the terrace yesterday - always a good sign - and we had lunch out there for the first time this year. Think it was about 20° - give or take a degree. It looks like a morning for a ride on my e-bike as well - as the forecast seems to indicate that rain could be on the agenda this afternoon.

The arrival of warmer weather changes everything here - my shorts (!) will soon be making their first public appearance of the year, our plancha (right) will be dragged out and then we tend to live outside until late October/early November (fingers crossed). I'm surprised that the plancha has still to make an impact in the UK as they really do lend themselves to impromptu eating outdoors. I'd've thought they'd be perfect for those unpredictable (polite term!) British summers. From the decision to eat outdoors to starting cooking takes no more than 5 minutes - that's as long as it takes to heat up the cooking surface - plus the cooking surface is far less messy, more versatile and much more convenient than that of barbeque. They excel at cooking fish for example. Eating food cooked on a plancha is highly enjoyable compared to the forced smile of eating something part-cooked or overcooked (ie, burnt) on a barbeque. Here's someone showing how it's done in the US. There's a business opportunity here for someone.  

Hibiscus
2nd April. We've been busy in the garden tidying things up after the last wet three months. I noticed the wisteria (known as glycine in French - you'd never guess) is out. And after 10 years of effort, the lawn finally looks dense and green (with no burnt patches from you-know-who). The hydrangeas (hortensia in French) are off and running too.. and our small palm tree (left) in the front garden is pushing out these large buds and is poised to sprout its yellow blossom and shower everything with pollen. There's also a couple of hibiscus trees (with 5" trunks) that produce spectacularly blue flowers that have just started to bud. Everywhere we looked today, nature was in motion - at last.

Here's something I caught on the radio earlier today.. It was new to me and it sounded as if it could have been an old Irish air. But - it's called "The Ashokan Farewell" and surprisingly, it was written by Jay Ungar back in 1982. Well done to him! It was also used as the title track to the PBS series "The Civil War" (which I've just started watching.. really excellent so far).

If ever a tune was written for a 5 string banjo and guitar it was this one.. See here. However, the all-time definitive banjo and guitar track has to be this one. It still leaves me speechless!