Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Boarding a Brittany Ferry - Updated

I've just returned from Brittany.

Now I accept that after five return trips in seven months, and this having been my, what, must be nearing fifty trips in all since 1998, so I accept that after so many crossings I  should feel a little less-than excited by the whole ferry experience, and I am somewhat jaded now, but ...

As usual I arrived in good time. I feel it is polite and reasonable to arrive in good time so that the ferry company can process my paper work and line me up for boarding in an orderly manner. Better for them, not so good for me.

As usual I was waved to the queue for small cars. As usual I took my place, switched off the engine and prepared to be patient.

As usual I waited and I waited and I waited.

And as usual other cars arrived after me, some of them an hour after me, and as usual they drove past me and to the boarding point.

And as usual I waited and I waited and then I was waved through and stopped to be checked and searched, which does not concern me, not at all, security is important. So I was questioned and my car was searched and then I was told to drive to the boarding point.

And as usual there I waited and I waited and I waited some more.  

And as usual other cars appeared and drove past me and onto the ferry.
Four other lines of cars drove onto the ferry.
And some camper vans and motorbikes, and a couple of white vans.

And as usual I waited and I waited and I waited .

Finally, after a wait totalling some 2 hours, and there being only five cars left to board, I was waved forward and signalled to board.

I drove onto the ferry and was pointed to The Ramp to Deck 5. The one that terrifies me, the one that I repeatedly ask not to have to use, the one that I hate more than  I can say. While the  three cars behind me headed for the smaller ramp.

And so I proceeded up The Ramp until, almost as the top, I was told to stop and to park,
On The Ramp.

And there I parked,
On The Ramp.

And when we arrived in St Malo guess whose car was the very last to leave the ferry?
The very last to leave the ferry.
Yep, that's right, the little blue Corsa that had been left on The Ramp.
I was the fourth to last to board and the very last to leave.

Now, I know that Brittany Ferries have quite a challenge to load all of the lorries and camper vans, the caravans and boats, the bikes and cars. I know it takes time and skill to cram everyone on board. I know that there are times when delays will occur. I know that someone will have to be last on and someone will have to be last off.

But why does that someone always have to be me?

I am seriously considering my options for my next trip to France.
This could be the end of a long relationship with Le Bretagne.

I booked another crossing for November.

It's important when one has a house in a small French commune to be present for certain events, such as the 11th November parade from the war memorial, round the church and back again to listen to the mayor read her speech.

But, this time Brittany Ferries, this time a certain French Corsa will be rocking up 46 minutes before the ferry is due to set sail which is, I believe, the latest that once can do so and still catch the boat.

No more sitting waiting for 3 hours while everyone else drives on ahead of me.
No more frustration as late-arrivals zoom past with a supercilious smile in my direction.
No more stress.

I will arrive just in time and no earlier.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

The Eden Project (Part Three)

It is not all hot and steamy at The Eden Project, for which I was extremely grateful because much as I love steamy rain forests, it was nice to walk into the Mediterranean Biome where you will find:

A perfume garden
A Mediterranean garden
A citrus grove
A South African garden
A Californian garden

"Meander through the landscapes of the Mediterranean, South Africa and California and discover the amazing variety of plants growing in these warm temperate regions of the world.  

With the sweet aromas of herbs in the air, you'll take an unforgettable journey through a paradise of brightly coloured flowers, gnarled trunks and bountiful vines."

The above website has a Google Street View virtual visit which is interesting, but of course you miss the scents of this biome and scents are, for me, what it's all about. 

I remember the cork trees from my childhood. We used to pass them on our way back to The Rock of Gibraltar after sorties into Spain. So exotic in the days before mass foreign tourism, to live somewhere like that, I have only just come to appreciate the courage it took for my parents to move abroad with us.

So, these cork pigs made me smile.
And remember...

 The Rites of Dionysus.

My favourite book, and one that I listen to on Audible when I can't relax sufficiently to fall sleep, which happens most nights since I was first diagnosed, is The Secret History by Donna Tartt.
And if you've read it you'll understand why I was fascinated by this.

Here's the link to The Eden Project site 

A cautionary tale for those who ferment the fruits of the vine.
Or for young Greek scholars in works of fiction.

And then, after meandering, lunch at the Mediterranean Terrace.
Lamb tagine with couscous and a Cornish beer.
Delicious, absolutely delicious.

And my feathered lunch companions thought so too.
I know, perhaps I shouldn't have fed the finches, the blackbird and the robin but I did.
And we all enjoyed the encounter.

A corner of The South African Garden, the fynbos habitat of ever-greens that have to cope with a soil that is low in nutrients and a landscape that is prone to bush fires.  

Today, in the wild, fires are deliberately started because many of the plants will only germinate in the ashes after a fire.

Nature's own phoenix plants.

Back outside, another insect artwork.

And a collection of horses

" James deCaires Taylor's hybrid sculptures fuse oil extraction machinery with the equine form, referencing the working horse whilst drawing attention to our ongoing dependency on fossil fuels and the potential apocalyptic outcome of climate change. Each of the horses has a different rider. The suited figures illustrate an attitude of denial or ambivalence towards our current climate crisis whereas the young riders represent hope in effecting future change."

There is so much more...

The Core, the outside gardens, the zip-wire ... 
But I hope these posts have given people a taste of The Eden Project and that you'll all go ans visit and support this educational charity and all of those who are dedicated to it. 

Saturday, 20 August 2016

The Eden Project (Part Two - Greenery)

Where do I start?
How much do I include?
What do I say?

Perhaps just random pictures that 'speak to me'?

Staring with a pitcher plant.
I had one of these in my kitchen in Brittany because in rural France, especially in 'The Backside of Brittany' as I affectionately call the region in which I semi-live, flies are an issue. There is no escaping that fact. Flies are big in Brittany. They're also big in Normandy, as we discovered during a holiday in the most fabulous large converted barn that I have ever seen. Seriously, it was amazing, but les mouches were a feature that must be endured. Ditto Brittany.

Not being a fan of noxious sprays, I mean, if they kill insects they're not going to be beneficial to humans, or of those strips of yellow sticky paper which I have before now, become entangled in myself, and not liking to have flies fornicating on my worktops and buzzing round my baguettes, I tried installing a fat and hungry pitcher plant. 

It was moderately successful, though not plant enough for the job but I live in hope that one day someone will breed a pitcher plant that can clear a kitchen in minutes.    

I like learning, Those who know me will confirm that. My walls are covered in certificates from 6 week courses on human origins, and Italian/French/Swedish exam passes, to my degree in Modern Languages, and all the rest like gliding, archery, swimming etc etc, proof that I like to learn.

So I like the educational stuff at The Eden Project.

Rice growing.

I should have included these guys in the previous post. I missed them so here they are now. I am pretty sure that given the right tools I could knock up a fairly decent one of these, but since I never have the right tools (witness the day I almost severed my arm while trying to trim as Christmas tree trunk with a new bread knife), I shall desist. For now.
Watch this space.

Lots of pretty flowers ...

Ah yes, food. I am fond of food. Especially that which grows in tropical places.
These are papayas.

and a satsuma...

Sunflowers always remind me of holidays in Umbria when the Ragazzi were children and I was still married. No nostalgia, at least not for the marriage, we are better off apart and much more affectionate and nice to each other when we have several degrees of separation.
But I do miss the sunflowers..

Any guesses?


Correct! A banana flower. 
Apparently the banana plant is a herb. 
Should I go into the botanical stuff? Or let you research it if you are so-inclined? 

Love these strelizias.  When I went to Madeira, back in 1987,  I bought three seeds and duly planted them in large pots of a sand and compost mix. And I waited, And  waited, And waited some more. Nothing happened. So once day I thought I'd throw them out and I discovered that one of them had put down a large tap root and lo, it grew into a lovely plant. Patience rewarded. But to see them in all of their glory I recommend a trip to Funchal.

Lovely smelling flowers...

Grapes. I once picked grapes, back in 1975. In those days the grape-growers employed groups of teenagers to stay in their barns and travel round the farms picking the grapes by hand. I was a good grape picker, hard-working and enthusiastic, as is my way with any work I am employed to do, so I was promoted to a room in the house and extra rations.

Apparently machines now harvest the grapes.
Which is a shame.
I'd love to pick grapes again.


Greenery ...

And finished, for the second part of The Eden Project.

A rather random post, for which I apologise, but that's how I feel right now. Random.
Yesterday I e-mailed The New Employer (with whom I have been employed since 2008) to advise them that there is more chance of a potato growing on a grape vine than of me going back into the Corporate Cage and the world of cyber crime. In so many words...

I have, in effect, burnt my bridges. Which is something I am rather prone to do.
Time to put Plan J into action.
Another fleeing to France, do you think? After all, it has been 10 years since I last escaped from the Rat Race and became A Mouse In France!

Friday, 19 August 2016

The Eden Project - Cornwall (Part One)

I'd been promising to visit Val for months, years perhaps, since we'd spent that wonderful weekend in Glastonbury and she'd moved west from Somerset but, well, time passes quickly and if we're not careful it slips away from us, doesn't it?

Last month I finally did it. I undertook the road trip to Cornwall, not without some nervousness, which admission may surprise those who know me and my regular returns to Brittany, but St Malo to home via Portsmouth is a route I know well, Cornwall is another world and one I have not glimpsed for 52 years.

I hired a car for the adventure. A proper grown-up car. When I arrived to collect it I was offered a very flashy saloon. The rental lady was proud of it. "Here is your car!" she announced, with a flourish, and I would not have been surprised had she lovingly dusted the bonnet. "Oh dear," I replied, "it looks a little posh, do you have anything smaller, less businessman-like, how about a jeep?" There was no jeep, I was given a Fiat which I adored. Really, I was high up and felt safe and feisty in my Fiat.

So much so that I did consider calling the rental company to say, "I'm sorry, I lost the car, how much do I owe you?" and keeping it.

Moving on from admissions....

The Eden Project.
For those who are unfamiliar with it, it is built on the site of a former clay pit.
It is an educational charity.
It opened in March 2001.
It is amazing.

This link shows the construction work required - Building the Eden project biomes

But this post would be long if I were to attempt to cover all of The Eden Project in one go, so I am splitting it into several, starting with the art work at Eden because that is so amazing and I would love to be able to make some of these sculptures and paintings for my French garden.

Which reminds me of a house near Callac that always makes me smile whenever I drive past and which I fully intend to use as an inspiration soon..

I am rambling, I do that a lot these days, when I am not intensely focused on some free online course or improving my language skills.

Back to Eden and the art work.
Like large insects among the flowers...

And this in the Rainforest Biome

And the wall paintings...
The work of  the Peruvian shamanic artists Montes Shuna and Panduro Baneo, they illustrate the link between the shamans and nature through Peruvian art.

I was very taken by the wall paintings. They are primitive yet powerful, and mysterious and magical. They remind me of the paintings at Lascaux and Chauvet's cave, created by ice-age artists to portray their world and, I believe but of course no-one knows, to draw on the power of the nature.

So here are some of the paintings...

The origin of ayahuasca and chacruna
When the powerful vegtalista  (a shamanic healer) Ayas was buried, the ayahuasca vine grew from his head and the chacruna bush from his hands. Ayahuasca is used by vegetalistas to contact the spirit world.

Dance of the spirits:
The spirits are rising from the earth, dancing for joy at seeing the plants and flowers; huarmi caspi which is used as a medicine by female healers, and sacha granadilla, serves as both a medicine and a perfume,

Spirit woman of the toe:
Leaves and flowers of toe or datura are smoked to relax the mind and to treat epilepsy. The sap from the stem and root are said to induce visions. This is a strong narcotic, over-use can be fatal.

Birth of the Spirits
When this spirit was born, so were two plants: tobaco bravo, to purify the place of birth, and camapnita del campo, to announce the birth. The sun and moon are seen giving energy to the birth of the spirit.

Spiritual Purification
Two plants, the canelilla and the huambisa chacruna are shown purifying the body. The body is covered in yellow clay to aid the spiritual purification process.

The Spirit of Chiric Sanango
As a teacher plant, chiric sanango has both male and female energy. It is used to treat arthritis and rheumatism. It increases energy and clears the mind.

More about the paintings can be found  here

And there is a wealth of information on the Internet about Peruvian shamanic rituals but I am not including any links. I have mixed feelings about such things, and there have been some serious accidents when people have taken part in purification rituals and drug-induced attempts to contact the spirits so I leave such things alone.

Besides which my mind is so fast-moving and randomly firing that I spend my time trying to quieten and control it rather than stimulate it.

But the scientist in me admits to being fascinated and curious...

And as I am so fond of telling The Ragazzi : A chacun son goût ....      

So, that's a brief look at the man-made treasures of the Tropical Biome.
Plants next and then The Mediterranean Biome