In something of a departure from my normal rantings, today there will be rather more photos than words. We have just arrived back from the Midlands having spent the night in Royal Leamington Spa. This is a lovely town which grew prosperous as a spa where the wealthy came to take the medicinal waters. Judging from the crowds of youngsters in the park in the hot sunshine (29degrees C – that’s 84 F), the waters have turned to beer and cider. Wow – once the world gets to know this the town is gonna boom. I must say that what impressed me was the huge cosmopolitan diversity of good natured folk – the boozers, snoozers, cruisers, rowers, throwers, snoggers, sloggers and bloggers all getting along. If we could get rid of all the nonsense (tribe,religion,social class) of this world and just let all folk live with enough beauty and dignity we’d crack it wouldn’t we. SO WHY DON’T WE? For a couple of magic hours I kinda saw a bit of a vision of hope in Jephson Park.
But, comrades – the park had to be there. And it is there because of public funding. In the short term you could save a fortune by closing it down. I bet there are grey gutted bean counters who could tell you to the cent. The park was constructed originally for the wealthy visitors – but the poor were allowed in between 7 and 10am. After that you had to pay. Since then municipal (public) funding has opened the show to one and all.
Various monuments around the park attest to the philanthropy of various men who probably sought (perhaps egotistically) a form of immortality. Well guys, you have lived on far as me and I’m sure as far as all the folk basking in the Autumn joy. Edward Willes, Henry Jephson, Dr Hitchman and Alderman Davis you boys all done good – and you’re still doing it. Also my sincere thanks to the Warwickshire District council for funding the facility. I guess you guys are under pressure but as long as folk have souls and hopes, you should never take the short term view.
As I write the crows are calling out their names and scribbling their graffiti tags on the wall of time. They write a heritage on each dying moment of future. Chance has brought me for a short while to hear them. Yes – there is joy. Yes there is!
Emma thinx: Go to the park. Ask why?
I had cooked too much couscous. Some neighbouring folk were chatting and kids were playing. The air was warm and the sky darkening to allow that visual harvest of stars which is such a joy away from the cities. Here in Charentes regular folk can see the show. In the UK few people live in the countryside and the urban poor are not encouraged to look up – except to the bosses. There was wine to finish from the curry night and we set about the endless task of re-arranging the affairs of men over an impromptu meal of “N’importe quoi pimenté”. In France you can always be sure of a conversation. In the first few moments Capitalism was defeated as were religions and communism. Soon enough we were in the furrows and the SOIL. If ever you find yourself somewhere deep in a French philosophical tangle – get out your spade and turn over some manure. It’s a show stopper. Once you tie your beliefs and actions to the power and thrust of the land you have raised your tricolore and you are marching in step. During the meal the name Pierre Rabhi emerged and I realised that I had never heard of him. He appears to have been and to be still influential in France in the “back to the soil” movement which more critically appears to me to be about getting back to simplicity. He has created the expression “une insurrection des consciences” (revolt of the conscience) against the unsustainable values of our hi-tech world. He’s an interesting guy. I can’t find any interviews etc in English but here is a link to him talking in French.
Everywhere you see those wretched signs proclaiming that “La Rentrée” is upon us. As always in the commercialised world it means that you’re supposed to be buying stuff. The UK equivalent is “Back to School”. All manner of sexy satchels and cutie calculators fill the shops. I just feel so sorry for the kids as the shades of the prison house start to darken their dreams. Even now as an adult the thought of the classroom and its cruelties evokes the dread of tyranny in the heart of the powerless. It’s like those advertisements for sausages where a grinning pig carries a steaming banger on a fork. Bon courage les enfants.
The above old French picture is in a similar vein.
Emma thinx: The naked furrow is already stitching the robe of Spring.
Now and then you will have suffered me burbling on about being a Buddhist. Well, actually I’m no more a Buddhist than the pope – although he hangs out with monks. The reason I say that I’m not one is that I’m just too jingle jangle desire driven. Anyway – last night on the good old BBC I watched a programme all about Buddhists fronted by a lady called Bettany Hughes. What I loved about her was that she is a real woman – and apparently has a normal proper figure. She has a kinda finger in the chocolate -“ooh it’s so sticky” Nigella Lawson style. If ever they bring out a “Grub of the Gods” TV show I think this lady should be dipping her spoon in the warm honey and asses’ milk crumble. I can just see Gilles edging up closer to the screen. As for the Buddhism, well- I’ve always given it a good go. Many years ago I worked with a guy who I thought was a real transcendental. He told me about the Buddha and one day to help me he gave me one of his home made cakes. The rest of the shift just passed in a buzz of of unwordly pleasure. We were working in a mattress factory and if you bought anything that I made that day I’m just so sorry if your bed collapsed or if all your discs slipped out. I don’t know if I went to Nirvana but I reckon I got to one of the suburbs and would have got there if all the bus drivers hadn’t been stoned.
I have hired a car. It has French number plates. Suddenly, no tail gating, no drama swerve overtaking – I just drive along and everyone thinks I’m one of them. In my poor old Britmobile every Frenchman sees me as a chance to re run the battles of Agincourt, Trafalgar and the sinking of the French fleet by Winston Churchill. Instead of a GB sticker I have a white flag. Road accident figures are far higher in France than in the UK with a far lower traffic density. They’ve got some balls though – I’ll give ’em that. The lady in the hire car office was fantastic. Even though I speak in normal French every day of my life, she saw my UK licence and reverted to sign language, mime,TALKING VERY LOUDLY and pointing. I took to nodding, turning down the corners of my mouth and shrugging. Who needs language?
How do you know about wines? In Asda in the UK there’s a lady called Philipa who writes stuff on the back of their bottles. Very often she says “good with sausage”. In France some bloody poets have been given the job and you can have softly fruity or mellow with hints of fruity bramble. I stand there for ages trying to choose. One day I’ll pick up a Premier Cru Bordeaux and it will say “Bon avec saucisse”. If it’s under 3 Euros I’ll buy it.
Emma thinx: Language -the rough translation of intuitive understanding.
There are many types of folks. Stern warnings about stereotyping from chairpersons of the non judgemental, well paid, busy-body community seriously disturbed my ability to tell the difference between a looter and an impulse buyer. Accordingly I have had to look for areas away from the front line of correctness to spot tell tale signs of discriminating differences between groups and individuals. The most obvious has always been the like or dislike of olives. Now – I make no judgement – but aren’t the olive lovers passionate, witty, sexy, talented and probably related to various Greek gods? Aren’t lovers of anchovy stuffed olives actually Greek gods in themselves? Luckily my tribal pheromones repel non olive eaters so I am unable to judge them. A similar thing applies to sausages. Most folk can eat a sausage. Only those born poor or divine choose sausage over all other food. “Would you like the fillet steak Madame? – It is the finest cut in le monde and will be paid for by your publishers.”
“Non – I will have the saucisse de Toulouse with some ketchup.” This has never happened but I am planning. In France we have SAUSAGE. The choice of sausage is so great that I am afraid of geting caught in a hypermarché vortex of infinite choice and be trapped in a condom shaped time cocoon for ever while I choose my sausage. While I await recognition by the Romance reading masses, my choice is often a reflection of price. There are dried sausages, garlic sausages, chicken sausages, horse sausages and I’m sure that somewhere there are sausages made entirely of old minced up sausages. Enough of this trivia – my choice for today is that of Andouillette. Strangely for a poet this word rhymes with the French word “Toilette”. Now you can see why I am a poet. The Andouillette sausage is made from the bottom end of the pig’s bowel. As I said – only those born poor or divine…….Let them eat Sausage!
I’ve been married. I’ve been a mistress. I’ve been a tandem cyclist. But – at last the French Government have given me an official status. I am a concubine. WOW – my legitimacy and heritage go back to ancient Greece and Rome- (and probably modern Rome if anything they say about Berlusconi is true). I am a concubina. This status is enshrined in the register of tax payers and residents. My relationship with Gilles is described as a concubinage. I always knew that some day I’d be a something.
Peach Jam. Today it rains and I have taken to La cuisine. I know – I know I should be writing a romantic novel, but there is something about the sweet more-ish-ness of jam that is so sexy. Gently she let the jam spill from her engorged lips between the ruthless hard muscles of his pecs. It mixed with the salt and musk of his recently spent passion.
“Oh, Emma,” he gasped as he still shuddered with lust….”Why…oh why the jam…”
“Because – my hero – my rock hard man, jam just won’t set without pecs in….”
See – women can multi-task!
Emma thinx: concubine – sexy but prickly.
Bats – in St Savinien we have some very rare and endangered species. They live in the old quarry caves that pepper the town and also in our Préau (Charentais rustic car port/barn). Last night I sat in the garden being buzzed by dear little bats. Somehow the flap of their wings just inches from my face felt like a privilege. I just sat there, feeling the current of air created by their wings of stretched skin. It seemed like I was part of Nature. Then I went indoors to watch the world news. I felt that Nature was part of me and that I wanted to reject it. Kids under 10 years old out looting at 2am in Manchester UK. Tribal groups in Pakistan murdering each other when their enemy is poverty and lack of opportunity. I went back to the garden to see the bats and the stars.
Talking of stars – I woke up at 3 am and looked out of the window. In St. Savinien, Charente, 17350, there is very little light pollution. The sky at night in rural France is the most fantastic floor show. I remember it from mon enfance- before the cars and the madness of it all. Obviously it’s just a dome with holes pricked in to keep us fooled. All the same, I had to reflect on the painting by Titian in the National Gallery in London of Bacchus and Ariadne (Check it out here). I won’t bore you with the arty farty guff but it is a painting crammed with love and passion. Bacchus throws the crown of Ariadne into the heavens and above her it burns as an immortal constellation. If you’re able – go and see it. IT’S FREE. You don’t have to loot it or steal it. Several times a day you can get a free guided tour of selected works in the gallery. A deeply intelligent person will chat to you about the paintings. You will feel humbled and ashamed that you know nothing. At the end you will know more than you thought you could know. As a poor scum bag from darkest London with an average IQ destined for the honourless, wealthless drudge, I started to go see this stuff. It didn’t change the world but it changed me. Educators! Stop just jumping the kids through the hoops, then turning your back when they fall. Batter and discipline them until they know what they are worth! Just remember all those free tours and the sweet folk who lecture to anyone- ABSOLUTELY ANYONE – are part of civilisation and a law abiding world.
And finally a few words about La Bise – this whole Euro kissing thing but also taking in the hand shaking thing. If you were young and you were expected to kiss older folk and expect them to address you in a caring yet senior manner would you then go and smash up their home/shop/car/business? I tell you – you would not! Parallel so called communities have no hope. Community means everyone. Not this community or that community -teenage looters, ethnic rapists and Nazis are communities. In France the word has slightly more meaning…….but erosion and diversification do their work here too. Kiss before you smash. – Vive La France.
Emma thinx: Search for your darkness and see the stars.
To all problems there are several answers. Sometimes we have been shown the way to do things. Sometimes you already know instinctively or most often you put forward some idea based on your own life – whether or not it has worked out for you. Several callers today have raised the issue of the riots in England. Responses range between – “Oh yes – we have the same problems here – they put all the no hopers together and – bof – they smash the place up.. it is normal quoi?” An old die hard hippy assured me of the answer – “I say – put your sack on your back and go off to find the road….this works every time.” Watch out for petrol bomb throwing peace and love hippies coming your way guys. The fact is that no one knows what to do. The French suffer similar nonsense with about the same frequency. Very few problems cannot be solved with a shrug and a long lunch.
A tearful neighbour appeared this afternoon. For a while she chatted about kids and holidays. Suddenly she said “Fremus……is dead.” To my shame I had no idea who this person was. I looked at her with incomprehension. “The dog – he had an operation on his foot – he died.” Given the utter merciless savagery of the human species, it is always a surprise to me how badly we take the death anything close to us. The French are probably about 15% more sentimental about animals that Brits. They also stuff geese with corn by force feeding to create foie gras, eat horses and boil live crabs.
Everything I know about life is this – We favour what we know more than things we don’t know. We love whatever loves us but not necessarily in fair proportion. If you can’t love – don’t hate. If you still hate – know. If you can’t know – learn.
Plants arrive. Gilles has been in full “main verte” mode. He went to Intermarché to get something for dinner and came back with half the Amazon Rain Forest. You can’t take the soil out of these folk. A full set of horny handed digits trumps any boast, accolade or triumph. Who cares about your Ferrari? Look at my fingernails!
Emma thinx: Consistency – the thickness of our contradictions.
To be one of the professional classes in the UK is a kind of shorthand for having a posh job as a lawyer, architect, doctor or dentist/headteacher etc. Now, I am sure that in the great cities of France, snobbery and all that “I’m better than you” stuff goes on. I’m not an expert on social class here but I can tell you that here in rural France the feeling is entirely different. Many moons ago in London when I was divorced and looking to get a life together I drove mini cabs, worked plucking turkeys and as a cleaner.(Check out my story from those days here).Some folk are great wherever they are. Some folk are arrogant pigs wherever they are. I can say that in the UK the “upper classes” generally treated me with surly superiority. The difference is embodied in the idea of respect. Quite simply tradesmen are still respected here. A plumber is a guru of plomb. A lorry driver is a guru of judgement and shunt. An artisan boulanger is a guru of cuisine and life.The French bemoan the fact that that there is a shortage of electricians and car mechanics. They believe that the reason is that less and less respect is shown for “trades”. They are right of course. One day there will be a super rich elite class here who will just buy underlings, snap commands and point at them with superior brusqueness. But it won’t be for a while I can tell you.The reason I got on to this is because today a further delivery of sand and cement arrived for Chateau Calin. My ex husband was a lorry driver and he was a sweet straightforward guy. (The world treated him like a piece of merde). We broke up when a lot of my posho pretensions (French speak, ART, Opera etc) pissed him off. The VM driver guy who brought the materials is a gent. He is a solicitor of sand. He is a guru of gravel. He is an accountant of aggregates. As the rasta boys used to say in South London – “Hey – RESPECT man”.
It has been hot. A couple of kids are here and they went to the young folks club. They went swimming in the river Charente. They don’t go to school locally and didn’t really know anyone. They were treated with friendliness and a sense of welcome and interest in them. Sometimes France gets a bad press from Brits. It’simple OK. In France the best and only thing to be in the world is French. So – Duh- be French. You’ve cracked it.
There are many mysteries of life in St. Savinien. One of them is the yellow recyclable waste sack. There is a rota. There are days and times for the collection of the sacks. Everyone thinks they know when these days are. Nobody says they got it wrong. It’s a French thing. I need to shrug more…..
Emma thinx: The world’s oldest profession is respect.
I guess I was having a bit of a Buddhist moment. I thought I’d do a bit of painting. No – not ART. (I think ART is too much about this world and the ego and the me me me.) Nothing wrong with that but the Dalai Lama hasn’t been a Turnover prize winner has he? So – I was blanching the walls. Here in Charente the walls are Blanc, maybe une rose claire or maybe a risque beige. The sun bounces off the pastels while cherubs sleep on my wall. Look – I’m a Tacky Romantic OK. The front face of the house had become a bit tatty and flaky. I started to clean and brush the stone. First I saw a panicking earwig disturbed from somewhere on the flagstones. Generations of them had lived in a certain universe. I mean A UNIVERSE OF CERTAINTY. Suddenly a Mr Brico broom entered their cosmos. As I worked I caught a cob web in my paint roller. A spider reeled out a life saving silk of utter magical strength and mystery…..and landed in my tray of paint. Certainty destroyed again- scales of Time and Dimension overturned and brutalised. We are no less fragile but our scale of Time and power is different. World markets, the circus of greed, the preaching hedonists ( had to put myself in somewhere) will be swept away. All is relative and will change. I work on ideas of acceptance, wondering if I can have a glass of wine before 5 O’ clock.
While I was painting several folk stopped for a chat. As I was drinking a cup of tea, a neighbour remarked that I always had a cup of tea in my hand. “This is how we won the Empire, the World War and the CUP in 1966.” I replied, “What do you do in France?” The neighbour thought for a moment – “We have longer lunches and then it is time for aperitif.” He replied. I thought he was joking – until he came back with a glass of Pineau. Well, it was after 5.
Outside as I write a pigeon is giving it some real wellie. Wherever you are in the world pigeons and cockerels sound the same….yes a cockerel has just started up, probably to out-shout the bloody pigeon. BUT today I saw three butterflies. There has been a shortage and there still is no doubt. In the drought of butterflies a single one is a joy. The fragile motion of its paper thin defiant wings scribbled a poem against the blue sky that left me in tears.
Years ago I did a poem about power and change. It’s silly and banal but somehow I kept it. Check out “I threw a stone”
Emma thinx: To most living things, we are the Tsunami.
I often wonder about punctuation – well should that have been a full stop just then? I think George Orwell decided to no longer use the semi colon, and the BBC have decided to split the infinitive – so there! I did both. But actually, that was not the kind of punctuation I was thinking about because punctuation is what happens in our lives. Just as I was going to bed last night a neighbour arrived with a huge bag of plums! Now this was a full stop. He is a lovely guy with quick cynical blue eyes and a drôle tristesse. “Zay are of course too soon.(big shrug) Zees is ow zee things are now(bigger shrug) – zee summair is in zee Spring and now we ave zee Automne.” In reality he speaks only French – but forgive my attempts to flavour up my blog for readers in Zee Engleesh. During the Royal wedding frenzy he was a marvel – “Oh yes – you must be so proud and so ‘appy…your prince is marrying a woman for queen and babies – oh yes – she is ow’ you say – common but she ‘as zee tough breeding fighting beer drinking football genes of zee anglo peeples- yes?” Yes indeed.
Then there are other punctuations. Beauty is a full stop. In my role as inspector of works at Chateau Calin I went out in the warm sun with a café cognac to view the progress on project patio (I know it’s hell but if I didn’t sacrifice myself someone else would have to stand in). Poor Gilles went off to Bordeaux today on a mission of world control – or grasping a crust if you prefer. I sat on a little bench which we inherited here and I call it Stonehenge. I’ll give you a picture tomorrow and gabble on about henges. So there they were – un-asked for and un-requited. I know – Roses are just breeding machines – sex objects – bee raped – defenceless – aged – humiliated and soiled like the rest of us – but a sudden full stop of rose perfume hit me plain in my gabbling gob. A FULL STOP of utter transcendent joy. While I was there a neighbour came by. She pulled the rose delicately to her face and closed her eyes. I watched her – she is not young, but she breathed in the youth of all time. “It is a kiss.” I said. “You are a poet.” She replied. My life is here – my final punctuated paragraphs will be here.
Emma thinx: Put in a full stop of joy. It will shorten your sentence.