New toy

Some of you may remember that a couple of years ago I bought my first ever mobile phone, a little Wiko Goa. It was tiny but it did the job, and it had a camera that I was thrilled to bits with. When it liked the lighting, it took gorgeous photos. Unfortunately, in June of last year it stopped receiving emails, and sending me the photos it took was taking days, literally. it got very possessive of its pics and in the end, refused to part with them at all. So I treated myself to a new phone, an ultra cheap Chinese phone but which claims to have a super camera.

I’ve had it for a fortnight now, and tried out the camera during the freezing cold miserable weather we’ve been having. I was a bit disappointed with the result; everything looked over-exposed. However, on fiddling about with it this morning, I discovered I’d had the flash turned on all the time, and it actually takes pretty good photos for a €60 phone.

These are the photos I took this morning.

Sky fish

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Every time I stop, Finbar jumps over the parapet. Even though the tide is coming in, it’s not the moment to fall in.

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Pont de Pierre east-facing.

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Pont de Pierre shady side.  bridge2

Life is one event after another

Walking this morning and being struck by the effort that goes into the organization of something that looks spectacular, but means nothing finally to most people. I wonder why so many families drag babies in pushchairs onto a replica of a Russian frigate, a small three master that is really only a collection of yellow-painted timbers and a lot of old rope. There is nothing to see, too many people milling and trying to discover what they have missed, jostling to get from one end to the other of the tethered vessel, staring at ropes and wondering if that is really all there is to it.

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Sometimes, walking streets and stones and grassy paths, I think I know this city, that I am woven tightly into the fabric of this corner, where I walk and watch the changing seasons. The pavement cracks, the weeds, unpulled and thriving, the cracked drainpipe that leaks green and ferny into the gutter, the places where bollards cluster so nothing wider than a cat can pass, I know them all. The smells of cooking, urine and waste bins, the canary singing at a window, the exchanges with the old West Indian woman who never ventures past the doorstep, the homeless men sitting in the sun, brief words of commiseration, a smile, Enriquetta who shuffles her cataracts and her sciatica to the market and back, to and fro, back and forth, a weary, cane-tapping tide, all familiar threads of the fabric.

Breaking into the rhythm are the knots of women, shoe-horned into their stylish suits, walking stiffly in uncomfortable shoes, shrill-voiced and high-decibel laughter. Men, condescending in sports clothes, or suited in ugly, ill-fitting gear, officials, on their dignity, gather round. Clipboards, briefcases, or trendy bags, milling, talking at one another, opening a worthy event that draws the crowds, a replica of something long dead, a ship sunk years ago. They don’t see what is here and now, the cloddos in the sunny doorways, the papers blowing, the gum on the pavement, things not worth organizing an event for.

I live beneath the surface, and that means invisibility and expendability. These smiling, scented and powdered people are the veneer, the sheen on the crust of misery. A child reaches out to a green beetle, bright as an emerald. Its sharp-suited mother grabs its hand, drags it away and crushes the emerald with the toe of a shoe. Soon, even the child will not know why the bright green creature should not be more than a smear on the pavement.

Blessed are the rich and the loud, for they shall inherit the earth. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, kiddo. They already have it. All that does not reflect their bright, shining faces, they stamp on and destroy. They are the veneer on this world of green beetles and rampant wild flowers, the ferns climbing through the damp of a broken drainpipe. They are the cleaned up façades of lurid yellow stone, polished metal and brand spanking new electric blinds. They make a social event of an obscure passion, the planks and paint that creak in the waves mean only the people they will meet, the laughter, hollow and grating, with slick and smart, spic and span people like themselves. And they will endure, for really, the veneer is all that matters.

Agapanthus and holiday traffic

Not being the kind of people who go on annual holidays, we had gone completely over our heads that this weekend is the deepest darkest traffic black spot of the year. It’s known as the ‘chassé-croisé’ when the July holidaymakers hit the road home and the August sunseekers stream south. Most French people holiday within France, mainly along the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts. Consequently the motorways going south have huge tailbacks. Not the ideal moment to try getting in and out of Bordeaux and taking the motorway that links both coasts.

So, we’re off tomorrow instead for a couple of days at the country retreat, and have an extra day of sanding and painting here. Finbar and I took our usual walk along the river and through the flowers. Having marvelled at the Agapanthus since they began to flower, it eventually occurred to me to take a few (not very successful) pics. They are massive—some are over my head height. I actually took the pictures four days ago but my phone has only just sent them to me…

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Hugh’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Week 20- “Solitude”

I’ve posted this pic, not because it’s specially good (it’s not) but because it made me smile. Solitude it is, taken at dawn this morning down on the quays at Bordeaux, with a thick mist on the Garonne. Calm and peaceful. Except, if you look in the middle of the bank of mist, you can see the Horned One making its way up from the sea…

Actually, the horns are all that you can make out of the towers at either side of the new Chaban-Delmas bridge.

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Visit Hugh’s blog for some much better, proper photos of solitude.

Hugh’s weekly photo challenge: week 17 ‘Calm’

I saw Ali Isaac’s entry for Hugh’s weekly photo challenge and decided to post a couple of pics of one of my favourite places, the Garonne river.

This one was taken at Tonneins, close to where we hope to be moving shortly, looking towards Agen and the hills of the Nérac region.

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The photo below is of the same river Garonne ,taken at Bordeaux last autumn on a particularly placid morning. I walk here every day and find the atmosphere soothing, even though the river runs right through the city and a busy artery isn’t far away. I’m glad that the house we’ve found in the countryside is also close to the Garonne. To move away from the ocean is a wrench, but at least we’ll have kept the river.

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If you want to join in, here’s how.

1. Take or choose a photo that you’ve taken that for you denotes, calm. 
2. Create a new post on your blog entitled “Hugh’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Week 16 – “Calm”
3. Add the photo(s) you have taken to the post and tell us a little about what you are showing.
4. Create a pingback to Hugh’s post or leave a link to your post in the comments section of said post so that other participants can view your post.

Another grand day out

Yesterday we went to start the proceedings for the acquisition of what will one day be our new home. Buying a house takes ages in France and as our place is on agricultural land, it has to be offered to the local farmers’ association first. They won’t make up their minds about whether they want it for many weeks.

We talked to the grand-nephew of the owner about aspects of the property that he would know about, like who has been responsible for cutting and baling the hay, who is responsible for keeping the vegetation along the stream under control, and something that has been worrying me, how will the neighbours take to Finbar.

There is a section in the country code referring to sight hounds that forbids their use as hunting dogs, and insists that they must be kept on a lead at all times. Hunters hate them because they chase anything that moves, and particularly rabbits and hares. Chase, but not necessarily catch, the reason for the Spanish Galgos being abandoned in their thousands after every hunting season. In the countryside, the hunter has a lot of privileges, and can chase game that have been started across anybody’s land. There have been cases where a deer has taken refuge in somebody’s front room, only to have the hunters barging in claiming that the poor creature be handed over. Hunters are trigger happy. They take pot shots as animals and people that annoy them.

The good news is that not only are the neighbours not hunters, but there aren’t many rabbits to send Finbar crazy. Even better, deer come onto the property to drink at the stream. As long as Finbar leaves the deer, the sheep and the owls alone we should be okay.

I did try to take some photos of the house, but after a single shot the camera gave up the ghost. My phone only does outdoor pics with any great success, so for the moment, until I get the pics other people took, I’ll just post a few photos of the nearest small town.

Tonneins in on the banks of the Garonne, built on river cliffs with a promenade all the way along the foot of the embankment. In the main square there’s a bandstand with a splendid view of the river. The guy in the pic is nothing to do with us.

Hundreds of cranes flew over while we were there. You can just about see them, tiny specks against the white cloud.

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Looking downriver towards Bordeaux

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Along the walls there are old stone water chutes that send rainwater cascading down to the river, after a brief and picturesque stop over in a stone basin.

 

 

Beneath the bandstand are the public toilets. Not a place I would visit in the normal course of events, but somebody had a pressing need, so down we went. They were medieval but clean. The picture is from the toilet window. There were cormorants flying past, out of the shot too quickly though.

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And finally, the kind of strange shot my telephone does best—the ghost in the machine type shot.

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I’ll post the pics of the house anon.

More gulls

More gulls and the effect of light. The eye doesn’t pick up the change, but the camera does. From the same place, at the same time, photographs taken into the light and with the sun behind. Stunning difference, but it takes technology to see it.

Silver

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Blue

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Gold

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Winged light

soaring simplicity

effortless grace

buoyed up by river mist

suspended from the stars

skim the waves

find what was lost

and guide it home.