Vikings, this way please

This is a new sign that has gone up next to the cycle track that runs along the banks of the Garonne. I’m assuming it’s the work of some bored municipal official with a sense of fun.

Road sign

Taking the directions in reverse order: yes, you can cycle to the station in less than five minutes from here; cutting across country there is a cycle track as far as Sauveterre-de-Guyenne in the Entre-Deux-Mers; you can get to Sète in Provence by cycling along the Garonne then following the Canal du Midi. But Norway????



Lathraea clandestina

This is a post for no particular reason except that I thought you might be interested. Lathraea clandestina, known as Purple toothwort, is a really strange and slightly creepy plant that grows in profusion at the bottom of our ‘garden’ by the stream around the willows.

When I first saw it in March I thought it was a clump of crocuses—it’s the same sort of purple. On closer inspection it turned out to be not crocuses, and there were clumps of it everywhere. The flowers are large and like hooked teeth and grow at ground level in big clusters. There are no leaves.

It gave me a slightly uneasy feeling so I looked it up on a plant site. It’s native to south west France and northern Spain and grows from the roots of damp-loving trees like willows and alders. A complete parasite, it pokes its head(s) out of the soil in March and flowers a single large purple tooth flower on each scaly stem that you see only if you scrabble the leaf mould away. In June the flowers form pods and explode with uncanny violence. When the spores are dispersed, the plant sinks back into the ground again, leaving no visible trace at all. Hence the local name, Clandestine.

I don’t know about you, but it makes my flesh creep.


May 8 Victory in Europe Day

(Crédit photo : Eric FEFERBERG / AFP)


Well, Le Pen was well and truly trounced in Bordeaux with a whopping 86% for Emmanuel Macron. There were no spontaneous celebrations, unlike when François Hollande was elected, but civic duty had been done to block the unpalatable FN. Bordeaux is typical of one of the many French Paradoxes. It has a reputation for being snooty and bourgeois, it has some very snooty neighbourhoods and a lot of ‘old’ money whispering around. Yet it votes left in all the elections, and just to be contrary, votes without fail for a right-wing mayor.

Whatever you think of the liberal policies Macron will no doubt try to introduce, he actually does have an idea of economics and has more than the simplistic ‘It’s the fault of the immigrants’ reply to every question. But nothing is less certain that, just because the French voted for Macron as president, they will vote his way in the legislative elections next month. Some call it keeping a balance. Others call it utter chaos. This is France, so don’t imagine that the FN will roll over and die. And expect Jean-Luc Mélenchon to get back in the saddle and bring the young people out on the streets behind his far left party. The fun isn’t over yet.

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


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


Pont de Pierre east-facing.


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.




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…




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.


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