Concert in Bréau

I’ve just been to an excellent concert of baroque music, organised by Christine Capieu.  Seven musicians of a very high level.  I’ve played in the past with all except Stephen, the recorder player, and Nils, the cellist, but frankly they have raised the level of musicianship to a professional level, and I no longer have a place in this group, at least not for concerts.  (Anyhow, at present, I still cannot play the cello because of the numbness and sensitivity in the fingers of my left hand).  So now I can just enjoy the music as a member of the audience.

The ensemble consists of two wind instruments (flute and recorder), two violins, a bass continuo and harpsichord.  As well as well known pieces by Bach and Telemann the programme contained some fascinating pieces by composers I had not heard of, like Babell and Merula.  At no time was I bored though; there was an energy and sense of really being an ensemble that was most impressive. OK I could detect one or two slightly dangerous moments and one or two problems of intonation, but I’m quibbling.  It was a concert to enjoy from beginning to end.

Nils, the cellist – a Swiss man from Valleraugue – was in a different league from me as bass continuo and had the stamina to be playing pretty well non-stop for nearly 90 minutes.  He and William, the flautist, are I think the only two non-professional musicians, but they held their own really well. Stephen Rivers-Moore (English, married to a French woman, known in the village as much for his plumbing skills as his music) was outstanding.

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Stephen (recorder), Fanchon (violin) and Nils (continuo)
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Nils, Stephen and Pierre Paolichi (harpsichord)
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Christine singing Bach (she played harpsichord in much of the programme)
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Jacotte and Fanchon (who lives in Bréau). Both trained as violinists.

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The all important continuo section

 

First meeting of our local council

Just been to the first meeting of our local council, following last week’s elections. No surprises in the election of mayor and his three deputies, nor in the divvying up of all the various committees.

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Alain Durand, outgoing maire, opens the proceedings
Under the watchful eye of Marianne, representing the Republic of France
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Alain Durand re-elected maire.
Yves Martin, as the most senior councillor, puts on the tricolour sash
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Yves turn to get the sash, when re-elected first deputy
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Pierre Pialot re-elected second deputy
Serge Recolin, third of the three deputy maires
Serge Recolin, third of the three deputy maires.
Gave a very correct speech, thanking fellow councillors for electing him.

When the session was opened to the public, Margaret said she regretted the absence of women amongst the office bearers. She was right, of course, but it did not strike many chords amongst those present.  To note that of the 11 councillors, four are women, and only three are not from local families. One wonders how much this represents the composition of the commune.

[Thierry: d’autres photos]

French local elections

Today’s results of the first round of local elections make predictable but very depressing reading.  The Socialists have taken a hammering and the Front National has made horrible advances, including gaining control of towns like Beziers (albeit in a coalition with the UMP).  In Nimes, our nearest big town or city, the right won half the votes, and the FN a quarter, beating the socialists into third place.

The Press is blaming it all on Hollande, but I don’t think it is as simple as that.  It is true he lacks charisma and decisiveness (on the issues that matter – though scarily proactive in Africa), but really this is a statement about economic malaise, blaming problems on immigrants, a protest against unemployment, a disaffection with traditional party politics, mistrust in the EU.  An abnormally low poll also helped the far Right.

Is this a temporary protest vote or an alarming long-term trend?  I don’t know.  It is bad enough knowing there are so many racists and people prepared to blame immigrants for all their ills.  It makes you despair of democracy.

In the small, local country communes like ours the situation is quite different and almost farcical.  In small communes you don’t vote for a list, but for individuals, who may or may not ben on the same list and these are invariably non-party, at least in theory.

In Bréau there was just one list of eleven candidates.  And then Christine Capieu (with whom I play music) put herself up as an individual, alternative.  Pretty predictably the eleven ‘official’ candidates won, although with a surprising number not getting all the votes (you have the right to cross out names) and Christine got a respectable 75 votes.

breau-electionsBecause the 11 candidates got over half the votes cast, no second round election is needed.  Unlike Paris, where things are looking very tight for the socialists, who did not come top in the first round.  Their contender would be the first woman mayor for Paris.  Fingers crossed.

The only bright note locally, is that Doulcier (liste divers), the excellent mayor of le Vigan, was returned with a resounding 60% of the vote , the Liste Divers Gauche got 24% and the Liste Divers Droit a paltry 17%. It would be wonderful if he could now prise back the job of President of Le Pays Viganais (the community of regional communes, which increasingly has the real power) from the mayor of Molières.

So, short term, will Hollande survive?  Long term, when will the French finally have the courage to completely reform their system of local government, still based on the communes, in place since 1792?

 

Chenilles processionnaires – processional caterpillars

The moment I was dreading – the caterpillars coming down from the pin maritime in front of the house.  Steve spotted the first crawling down the drive way – luckily when the children were playing elsewhere.  I quickly disposed of them (don’t ask how).  But after the family had left, I narrowly missed grabbing a second lot climbing up the drying sheet.  — And then a third procession on the same sheet.

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The sticky bands round the trunk are clearly no use at all – the caterpillars must be dropping off the branches. I now scour the ground round the tree several times a day. Not the moment to test out whether the local know-alls are right and the caterpillars are dangerous for children and dogs, or Margaret’s German reference book, which implies that it is a reared species, icing on oaks, not pines which is dangerous.

Kate and family end short visit

They were only here for four and a bit days, but managed to pack a lot in.  And the weather was fine and sunny almost al the time!

Otto and Willow ae reaching the age (2 and 4) when they can potter around on their own much of the day (disregarding squabbles, usually started by Willow winding Otto up…).

One of their favourite activities was playing int he pile of sand left by Jacky, who is building the bassin.  It shows that for the next few years I must really have a sandpit on offer.

2014-03-16_IMG_0115The jacuzzi is always a hit (though Otto is not so sure about the bubbles).  This time I put the temperature up to 37!  It was like basking in a warm bath that did not go cold.

2014-03-17_IMG_0064The local river is another favourite, and this time, Otto did not hesitate to paddle in bare feet on the pebbles.

2014-03-17_IMG_0133But THE big success of the holiday was the pony ride on the last day.  The young woman who owns the ponies,Vanessa, is charming and immediately put Otto at ease. Otto was in raptures and I suspect that much of the next visit will be spent on a pony.

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More holiday snaps on the grandchildren photo pages 

 

 

View from my desk

I am so lucky to have something like 270% of views from my house, with only a small handful of eyesores (inappropriate houses).  Sitting at my computer I gaze north, towards the village of Serres.  In the fields below the village, are the horses belonging to the centre equestre “La Mouline” and as you can see, the season has just started.

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A digger for Otto

We are having non-stop brilliant blue skies, temperatures now approaching 20 in the afternoon.  PLEASE may this continue in a week when Kate and family arrive.

I think Otto will like the fact that the iew from my house is currently dominated by a digger:

2014-03-07_IMG_0017Poppy disgraced herself yesterday by running over Jacky’s new, second layer of concrete.  I had hidden her ball, but she spotted Jaacky and ran across to meet him.

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Bassin progresses

One of my daily pleasures is having a mid-morning coffee with Jacky, the delightful guy building my bassin.  He is both a true Cévenol – I keep finding he is related by marriage to various people I know, like a goat farmer and wood merchant – but also a classic example of the ‘alternatifs’, who make this part of the Cévennes so interesting: passionate about nature and ecological issues, shares my views on politics (and is therefore correct…) and is a lovely cheerful gentle person.  His partner Marthe Pialat is the painter, one of whose paintings now graces Ed and Jude’s dining room.

Jacky is an artist too, a paysagist who has become the local builder of bassins – natural pools.  He loves creating each bassin to belong to its unique environment, and enthuses daily about my view. By the end of this week he will have completed the second layer of cement; there will then be a third, finer layer and then he will be working on stone walls to hide the cement. Here is a photo I took at the start of the week.  Since then Jacky has completed the wall separating the plant pool (on the right) from the swimming pool (the larger one on the left.

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You can see (below) that the plant pool has now been finished.  In due course, he says, it will have not just plants, but its local population of frogs, dragonflies and other water loving beasts.  The area just above it will include a space for a seat so I can sit watching the wildlife and listening to the water falling from the plant pool to the swimming pool.  The shallow slope for walking into the water is in the foreground.

2014-03-05_IMG_0098The main problem with the site is that the neighbour’s house is very visible.  But Jacky plans to plant along with wall and says that the neighbour’s oak tree will in time spread to hide their terrace.

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There are local friends who think I will have to pay increased local taxes on the grounds that this is a piscine – a swimming pool – rather than a basin – a pool for storing water, on the grounds that it has been given a concrete base. I looked on the internet and distinctions between basins and piscines seems to be a bit of a grey area.  But Jacky says that it is definitely a bassin, because there are plants in the upper pool – and that it is the plants not the concrete which define it as a bassin.  He agrees that one day authorities will no doubt get round to changing the rules, in order to get more local revenue, but for the time being none of the bassins he has been building in this area  get counted as piscines.

Snow in the hills above

We have had a few days of miserable, cold, wet weather with violent winds at night – what a contrast to recent spring weather.  Yesterday walking up my road I saw the hills covered in snow and cloud.

View on morning walk yesterday

 

Today it was still chilly,but gloriously sunny and bright.  So I decided to inspect the snow in the hills above.  I drove up the road past Serres to Salagosse, and then took the road – originally just a track for emergency vehicles – up the hill to join the D48, the main road from le Vigan to the top of the mountains.

It was beautiful, but a bit scary, as the road gradually became more icy.  The last 50 metres before joining the proper road were distinctly dodgy and I did start to wonder if I might have to leave the car until the snow thawed!

On road from Salagosse to D48

Last stretch of road  from Salagosse

 

Just made it to the Col de la Broue, where there was a sign saying parking to put on snow chains!  I walked across to the road on the other side.  Very beautiful, but did not risk walking too far, for fear of slipping.

Col de la Broue

 

Col de la Broue

 

Then back down the main road, stopping for a view of our valley from above the restaurant de la Cravate. (Click on the image to see the larger version, with an arrow pointing at my house.)

 

Zoom in on my house

 

Here it is (bottom right) with the view south towards the sea.  Pic St Loup is the slight hump on the horizon; beside it on either side there is just a slight blue sliver of sea (for those who know what they are looking for…)  I took this with a wide angle lens, so it all looks rather far away.  Well it is – Pic St Loup must be a good 50km away.

View south from above la Cravate

 

 

Then down past the pools where Chris and I took the occasional rather chilly dip

Above D48 on drive down

And then right, down the Arphy-Aulas road

View onArphy road

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Near Aulas I called in on Gill Meller, whom I have only recently got to know.  She lives in a splendid, rambling old house, with  magnanerie above and caves below, completely stuffed with possessions, mainly cartons of books.  I also passed the biggest collection of CDs I have ever seen.  Gill confessed that her husband had been a hoarder, and she was somewhat at a loss about how to start disposing of stuff.  Gill and I share the objective of not leaving an unmanageable mess for the next generation.

I think I have come across a collection which equals Chris’s ten years ago!  I’m very relieved, although sad, that Chris faced up to getting rid of so many books and papers.