Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Weather Watch

There was an extremely strong wind yesterday with much rain and hail. It sounds like and looks like there is a repeat performance. We can hear the wind whistling as it gusts around our little home.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Blackcap identification and Common Toad rescue

I think this was the little bird who hesitated in the bare hedgerow to watch me watching him/her, as I stopped on the group walk. What a surprise because I've never seen one of these before. It had an almost white body with greyish brown wing feathers and a little feathery black cap which seemed to blow in the breeze, and a strong looking beak. But was it a Marsh tit or a Willow tit. I am not sure. I must learn to look more closely at colour of legs and beak!

I exercised a Common Toad rescue service as Toad was swimming in the water stop cock chamber. The water level (8 inches deep) is that of the water table. I don't know how long he (possible a she) had been there because I know the lid has been off the hole for some time! It's not somewhere one looks at everyday!! I rescued him or her because I like holding toads / frogs and it couldn't get out of the water chamber by itself, so I took it to a stone near a log pile where he rested for a while. When I returned about an hour later he was not there, so had obviously gained enough strength and breath to go to a safer place. He/she was a beautiful golden brown with such lovely bronzed eyes.

Appassionata, Improvisation, Classical, Contemporary Piano

One can only be astounded at the technical and emotional brilliance of listening to and watching two international pianists perform at the Nouveau Theatre in Chatellerault.

An English Suite no.3 in G minor by JS Bach creates awe as Akiko Ebi's fingers re-create sounds centuries old on the new Steinway on stage. However, imagine the sound on harpsichord as the powerful piano sound of today was non-existent in 1715 for these dances!
Beethoven's Appassionata Sonata no.23 in F minor opus 57, reminded me that it was a very long time ago that I could once play snippets of this challenging composition albeit never with such accomplishment! Oh, such magic in her fingertips. Oh, how I wish that I had practised more! It is tempestuous and was written when Beethoven was beginning to go deaf in about 1803 - 1806. Then Akiko played two other pieces which were not on the programme. (Note to myself to find out what they were!)

After the interval, the piano having been tuned, Jay Gottlieb altered the mood with Gershwin's Suite from Porgy and Bess. Then he played Keith Jarrett's Köln Concert Part 1, which has evidently only recently been transcribed to notation. This jazz music was transcendental with beautiful ostinati (repeated phrases, melodies, or chords) and ladled with consonance and dissonance. So sonorous. So technically difficult! When I closed my eyes I saw two shades of bright turquoise with two shades of purple. Then... as if there could be a "then" after hearing harmony and disharmony ... we headed into Hindemith, Aaron Copland and other twentieth century composers. The penultimate piece Techno Etude no.2 by Karen Tanaka captured my soul as I imagined a funeral pyre sailing in the ocean, far out on the seas. It was meditational. No one clapped inbetween these pieces so it was heavenly!

What a wonderful evening! And what joy to go out, dressed in black with my red silk jacket not worn for years, accessorised with ear-rings and a necklace, a splash of perfume and able to wear small-heeled shoes because the right foot bunion is removed. Mmm... woman!

Also, thank goodness that "the very nice car breakdown man" arrived to start the car engine, because Sweetpea had the previous day, left the internal light on and this drains the battery ... and Captain Sensible had not charged the charger to charge the car battery! We need a new set of jump leads!

With "beaucoup remerciements" to my piano teacher, Laurie Clément and her husband Yves, and to all "The Association of the Friends of Laurie Clément" for organising and establishing what appears will be an annual concert.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Une Vie Toute Neuve - A Brand New Life

Very highly recommended. This is such a powerful Franco-Korean film with brilliant acting and photography under the first directorship of a woman whose life experience influenced the subject matter. My interpretation is that the theme of being abandoned and adopted had religious tones, linking a father and a daughter in real life with that of the father and the child of spiritual Catholicism / Christianity. The shiny black shoes and the pretty coat lead the child to a new life not of her choosing. Friendship, death, suicide, survival, hunger, greed, anger, love, care, compassion, broken promises, deceit, trust, acceptance, disability are all portrayed.
I weep with warm tears as the song of hope, remembrance and opportunity is sung again by those not yet chosen, as the central character leaves the orphanage for her third home.
We were reading French subtitles with Korean language. A smattering of English - - - smile for the camera. For me the film was educational.

Why do lovely little lambs gambol?

... because with sheer luck they avoid getting fleeced!

The little lambs in front of the house amuse us immensely, as they spring into action, jumping and running for no apparent reason other than to play, and pester their mother!

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Concrete and Clay

These three words were said today by someone in an attic ... and I they brought to mind the lyrics of a song from the 60s ..."the concrete and the clay" ... and here it is ...
Where are these lovely lads now?

Emotions in the Mind

For the anonymous person who asks whether I will be making an announcement soon .... it is true I HOPE to be making this news available soon. I HOPE.

Meanwhile, I am giving Captain Sensible a lot of angst, which gives him the opportunity to draw on his powers of sensibility to assuage my anguish. I have to say I give him 20 out of 10 for his performance because I know that I am a very difficult person to live with and even just to know!!! At the same time I am trying very hard not to spread my anxiety, fears, lack of confidence, temporary bouts of excitement, flights of fancy, and brain-running-ahead-of-my-feet moments, etcetera out and about but trying to keep everything under control and THAT is difficult for me because I have always lived on the precipice of emotional trauma.

I want to have fun and sometimes the fun has been and is so euphoric... and sometimes the opposite is so horrid. I want to skip and laugh and play ... I want a project .... but I tell myself that I have loads of unfinished projects in the cupboards of my home and my mind ...and why not get on and do them!
So what's it all about?
If I only knew the deep-rooted need in my soul then I could answer that question!!

I have talents but I have become further undisciplined in my early retirement. Yet I have done so much in my life since the opportunity for the troisieme age arrived. I KNOW there is so much I want to do and yet I just don't get on with it! I find diversions, like making a cake! I know I should play the piano more... I know there should be many more "should do's" in my life! I know I must learn not to waste time and I know I want to declutter my life but knowing where to start when the weather is not conducive or when I am too busy are as one perceives, procrastinations!

I started this blog because I wanted to write. I still want to write. I have writings which are most probably completely erroneous. Writing takes discipline though what to write requires care, consideration, and reason. This blog is for me but it's in the public domain so I take the risk of revealing or not revealing the inner workings of Sweetpea in France.

I think I am erroneous. (NB two definitions of this word)

Friday, 12 February 2010

I became rather tired of bright turquoise, pinks and purples for this blogsite as I have been wishing to have something cool and chic but Captain Sensible thinks I should change the template. I am very nervous about doing so because I would hate the blog to dysfunction.
As a compromise I have changed colours, eventually rejecting BBC Grey, returning to a blue of different hue.

Who is reading this? Is there anyone out there? Any comments and ideas would be welcomed.
Captain Sensible will revamp the header and the textual look maybe this evening!

Ideally, I would like Sweetpea flowers at the side of the blog or in the heading but the photos of the flowers that struggled to grow in the garden that I took last year were not good enough.

Voila. Not viola!

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Look at Lovely Little Luscious Lamb without it's Woolly Jumper

A little lamb arrived,
Without it's woolly jumper,
Oh baa and bleat, oh ram and ewe,
It all went in the freezer,
We won't refer to it by name,
When guests come round for dinner.

Sorry to all non meat-eaters. For almost 25 years I was a vegetarian and for much of that time a vegan, so I appreciate how you may feel.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

What's it all about?

Today, 09-02-2010, I have done something that I have never done before.

Q: So, how do I feel?
A: I have been feeling rather nervous, blank, as flat as a pancake, worried, scared, full of anxiety, numb, uncertain, unfocussed, disorganised, jangled, neurotic. Ah.. what's new? In addition, I feel excited, enthusiastic, creative, inventive, and thoughtful in between the afore-mentioned sensations. I have been experiencing interrupted sleep patterns, an inability to concentrate and any form of escapism becomes inviting. Dreams have the potential to become reality. A sense of failure or success may be imminent. I need a glass of wine or something stronger and I am making cakes as a source for comfort. All of that and more .... , .... , etc.
Q: What's it all about?
A: Ssshh ...(I whisper) I'm not yet telling!

Monday, 8 February 2010

The season of Crêpes is upon us

Yesterday, we ate far too many crêpes, confiture and Chantilly cream all because of the walking group's social conviviality after the 10km organised walk through the forest of Chatellerault. We were not very weary as we sat at the table and ogled at the many platefuls of pancakes piled high for 24 people. To accompany this gastronomic or gourmandaise pleasure there were bottles of Loire valley bubbly, Cotes du Rhone wine, cider, fruit juice, tea or coffee. Jars of jam were opened, including my 3 year old "guigne" cherry jam from the Village de Vaux cherry trees. As it was complimented upon many times, I felt a surge of pride! In turn, we commended the two apricot jams, the reine claud plum jam, the delicious raspberry confiture and the orange marmalade. The Nutella was mostly left untouched. Another 10km walk was required to reduce the carbohydrate overload.

Traditionally, in England, the first date for eating pancakes is Shrove Tuesday (now called Pancake Day for those not following the Christian calendar), which is the day before Ash Wednesday, being the first of the 40 days of Lent. Therefore rich, fatty foods were eaten a plenty before this fasting season. It was a way to use up eggs, flour and milk.
However, in France, pancakes are traditionally served at Candlemas and it was believed that come the evening of that date, if the cook could toss the pancake and catch it in the pan using the main sinistre (left hand) whilst at the same time holding a golden coin in the main droit (right hand) then riches would be for her family that year! I think this idea was before the acceptance of a dominant left-hand and those who are ambidextrous.

Candlemas (Le Chandeleur) is a fixed date in the Christian calendar, appearing 40 days after Christmas Day. It is also called "The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple" as well as "The Feast of the Purification of the Virgin Mary" and in addition "The Meeting of the Lord".

From Candles and coins to crêpes et confitures - a wonderful idea indeed.

As we wound our way through the arboretum of Châtellerault forest, across the bridge traversing the autoroute, returning to the town by another route, one marvelled at how quickly one can escape from town life to tranquil lake with it's birdlife at this time of year, and then further to the mixed woodland called a forest. En route we had a nature lesson identifying different trees and a history lesson about WWII. We saw a pillbox built by the Germans for their ammunitions and the tomb of the postman who was killed by the Germans during the war.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

You see that we have a penchant for les pensions

Today Captain Sensible was EMINENTLY sensible and having received money into the bank for his pension, dashed out to the shops when I enquired as to what were we going to eat for our evening meal. It is true that I did not know he had received a very small income. About 30 minutes later, he reappeared with mushrooms and tournedos. Meanwhile, not knowing his mission, I had been making my new invention of a dessert (see previous posting) as well as some sort of "meatless Cornish pasty" pies!!!! Speak with a Cornish accent now...."they"ll be good for tomorrrer"
So ... for tonight, one large potato made very thin chippies ...and two tournedos fillets (approx 7 euros) with an onion, garlic and mushroom topping, went well with a lettuce and Parmesan cheese side salad. The cheese course was home-made fig bread with a creamy Stilton (opened for a week beforehand and acquired from friends who had been to UK), then my lovely tart for dessert. The steak was served with a Cotes Du Rhone (details later) and the dessert was served with ...(details later)
A girl of my age can't do full reportage at this hour of the evening!!!!!!

On a Theme of Tarts for Dessert, Morning Coffee or Afternoon Tea

This is my own invention based on one or two different French tarts that we have recently been privileged to sample!

Well... de tout façon... anyway ... I shall call it "Demented Apple Almond Tart" with thanks to Bakewell... ooer...Yorkshire or Lancashire... will someone please correct me?

For the method and recipe here it is:

Shortcrust Pastry - I make my own, and wrap it in cling film or in a clean recycled flimsy plastic bag and refrigerate the uncooked pastry. Sometimes, as in this case, the pastry is now nice and short because the butter was not completely rubbed in and it has been in the fridge for several days!
Roll out the pastry. Spread with some home-made red runny jam. Ours was from Violette and is redcurrant. Peel, core and chop into large cm cubes two eating apples and scatter on top of the jam.
Mix together 3 tablespoons ground almonds, 1 or 2 heaped tablespoon gateaux flour (in English that is self-raising flour), 1 egg, or 2 if you like it a bit more rich, lots of milk ( you could add some cream!) so that it is thick but runny. It should pour easily. Pour over the apples, making sure that the jam is sealed in by the almond mixture. Bake in the oven about 200 or 205 degrees Centigrade for about 30 minutes. I have to say we were impressed!!!!!!!

CONCERT DE PIANO A CHATELLERAULT Concert of International Pianists at Chatellerault

Il y a juste 20 jours pour acheter vos billets pour entendre ces pianistes brillants exécutent la belle musique.
Venir et soutenir mon professeur de piano, Laurie Clément.

There are just 20 days to buy your tickets to hear these brilliant pianists perform beautiful music.
Come and support my piano teacher, Laurie Clement.

I first heard Jay Gottlieb at a Chateau near Tours. Unfortunately, I missed the concert last year as I had to be in England for my granddaughter's first birthday.