Kitchen Garden Guides

Monday, December 7, 2009

Diamonds and Seals

Some days are more "paradisey" than others. I have so often written about the shack being in paradise, but even paradise can have a rating! Today is 10/10 for sea and sand but a little lower for temperature and wind. It is lucky indeed to be here when the sea is this clear, this brilliant and the sand such a pure white as to take your breath away.  As the tiny waves form a crest and are about to break onto the beach, it is as though each is filled with thousands of diamonds, polished by sand and sea, destined to be washed up onto the shore, such is the clarity and sparkle of the aqua water.

And so it was that this beauty drew me out on my board this morning; I just had to be there, to touch the diamonds and be a part of the day. I am very much at home paddling my board and prefer it to a canoe because I can drag a foot in the water or scoop up and handful of those sparkling jewels and splash my face, and I enjoy the cool water coming over the front of the board as I head out through the waves. I can also roll off the board into the sea on a hot day to cool down and easily climb back on again. If I am careful, I can leave my hat and sunglasses on the board while I am swimming about and diving down to touch the sand below..... if I am not careful enough, I end up having to dive down and get my sunglasses off the bottom and ringing out my sodden, floppy hat!

This morning I paddled out around the point and across the bay to the far end of North Beach.... what a totally inadequate name for such a beautiful place! There were a dozen or so old tractors and their trailers on the beach, used by the locals to launch their fishing boats....The sea was calm and it only took me 15 minutes to reach the end so I continued on past the rocky promontory to the next bay. Because the tide was in, this little bay was cut off from walkers who might come along North Beach and so I had a tiny patch of paradise all to myself. I put my board up on the beach and went for a swim in the deep, cool, crystal clear sea, afterwards drying off in the sun by sitting on the end of my board on the beach. Truly, I thought, this must be heaven.... no people, the only sounds being the tinkle of the tide on the sand..... just me and 2 seagulls.

Not being in any particular hurry to return I paddled on again, marvelling at the serenity and beauty of the high, red cliffs, the sparkling clean water and brilliant blue sky. The wind had been slowly rising and the time came to turn around as the trip back would be into the wind and therefore into the waves and not as easy as the outward journey. The work took more of my concentration on the way back and I was glad to hold onto an old boat mooring after paddling for 1/2 an hour.... the only place to stop and not be blown backwards. Another 10 minutes or so and I was back on the beach in front of the shack, looking forward to a coffee.... but that's another story.

This evening the wind died out completely as the sun approached the horizon and so lured me down to the beach once more. I walked in the cool, still water, the only sounds my footsteps and occasionally some distant birds in the sandhills. This is another rare and beautiful treat.... to stand still and feel total silence.... not a ripple of the sea, not a bird's call..... nothing..... and no-one else in sight. Such silence both empties and fills your head and is almost impossible to describe.

As the sun became a rich, golden ball, reflecting its glory on the calm water, a lone seagull flew silently by and tiny fish scurried here and there in the shallows. A metre or so away a stingray glided slowly by and another 4 or 5 metres further out to sea a seal's nose appeared, then the hump of its back broke the surface and it was gone again.... Usually I see dolphins fishing close to shore on still evenings like this but although I saw several yesterday, there were none tonight.

Paradise excelled itself today.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Feast For All The Senses


When I arrived at Les Fontenelles in the first week of August it was obvious how much work Ian had put into the summer garden. Look, there's even Bari cucumbers !

As well as all this, the salad garden, which has some afternoon shade in summer, was full of lettuce and my favourite taste sensation, fennel flowers.

image Next to be harvested were the potatoes. It had been very dry and the crop was disappointing but the potatoes were excellent and lasted us for more than 2 months.

We had to eat Charentais melons daily, to keep up with the bounty and on top of our own melons, old M.Gary, who farms some of Ian's land, kept leaving us more at the back door!

image On and off over the next few weeks we spent hours sorting bean seeds for next year. And the dresser in the kitchen was lined with other seeds we collected from our own and other fruit and vegetables given to us. The weather was hot and very humid and I took on the job of chief pool cleaner, having to spend time in the pool, scooping out leaves and vacuuming the bottom. It was a hard life but someone had to do it !

image One of the gite guests did this beautiful little water colour of Ian's row of cherry tomatoes in pots. Luckily he left out all the messy bits! Oh to be able to paint like that....

Next to ripen were the figs, grapes, apples and walnuts.... so much produce and so much to learn.

image The birds didn't eat the figs, unlike in the Adelaide hills where the parrots would have devoured them, but the squirrels ate or collected the walnuts, which was very new to me. Ian says he has about 20kg of walnuts now, despite our daily efforts to eat them. They were the best tasting walnuts I have ever had.

image We collected 3 boxes of fallen apples and took them to Rene who crushed them for us and took some of the juice for payment. We froze it in one litre bottles.

The very worst of the apples were later rotovated into the next empty bed in the vegetable garden to help add some organic matter to the hard clay.

image A plate full of home grown fruit plus some of the peaches we picked from the little park in Beaumont.

Autumn is a time of abundance.

Lacanau Ocean

Before I left France, Ian and I had a week in Lacanau Ocean; this does not mean in the Lacanau ocean but rather that we were at the Lacanau which is on the ocean, as opposed to the Lacanau that isn't ! It is a surfers' paradise in summer and one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline I have ever been to, which is something coming from a woman who has spent 51 years on Australian beaches !


We stayed in an apartment overlooking the sea for a very reasonable price for 7 days in October. It was warm and sunny mostly and we ate every meal on the balcony. We slept every night with the doors open, to the sounds of the waves pounding the beach.


Funniest thing was the fact that I was obviously not the first Australian to think this is a great place.......

image image

Evidently the apartments we stayed in can house 16,000 people when full in summer but during this whole week in October we only saw 2 other rooms in use. The development along this Atlantic coastline of France is very well controlled and when you are on the beach, you can barely see the buildings but, at the same time, from the apartments you can see the sea but not the beach.... very clever.










The waves were often huge; much higher than the surfers out catching them. I am not normally scared of the sea but this was big ocean stuff; much bigger than we get in the gulfs in South Australia. One day the tide was out further and the swell greatly reduced so I decided to go for a swim. Well, after my head thawed and my heart began to beat again, I just made it back to the apartment in time for a strong hot chocolate.

One day we packed up lunch and went for a walk to L'etang de Cousseau, a small lake in a nature reserve, accessible only by foot / bike. It was about a 10km walk, all in all, through some lovely oak forests, with ericas in flower and lots of ferns and plants I didn't recognise. Along the way we feasted on the delicious fruits of the arbutus or Irish strawberry tree which were laden with their sweet, red berries.

image These delicious arbutus fruits were much sweeter than any in Adelaide
image The oak forests were so green and lovely, much better than this photo shows

image Blue ceramic tiles depict the bird, animal and plant life around the lake
image We sat by this oak tree, next to the lake for lunch

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Where to from here?

I need to make some money.... so yesterday I started looking at my skills, small though they may be.... I woke up at 5am this morning and by 10 past I had plan !

Yesterday, I thought I'd like to write for a gardening magazine; including some anecdotes of gardening in another culture and language. Who would publish my stuff? And anyway I want to write a book and not give my writings to a magazine. I have started the book, by the way, and that is a work in progress.....

imageThis morning I had the idea to sell stuff from Hugh's garage; like a garage sale, but including cakes, desserts, pies, breads, jams, seedlings, plants.......and maybe some French tablecloths I brought back with me..... and gardening advice. Hugh could add some of his specialties and we could call it "Mother and Son" or "The cook, the chef and the gardeners" (based on 2 popular local TV shows) or just "Hugh's place".


And I have taken some great photos of this and that, both here and in France and I would just love to print some and sell them as gift cards or even creatively framed. I got some great ideas for doing this from an artist's studio in France. I could even see if some people I know would like me to sell some of their gorgeous handcrafts.


I could set it all up in Hugh's great little lock-up garage..... I am going to need another fridge/freezer.... and Hugh's oven is not that good.... I need a little business card and some labels.... and a couple of nice signs..... and lots of customers !! Maybe I could also have a stall at the Grange market on whatever weekday that is on.

It would just be an ad in the paper for a garage sale and signs out on Port Road...... every weekend..... and just see what happens.

Am I mad? No, please don't answer that..... I already know !

ps  this is my new favourite font.... sorry if you don't like it Hugh !

Monday, November 2, 2009

So, what's been going on?

It has been a long time since I have felt a passion to write. When you change your life your world turns somersaults and backflips until you find a mental space to call your own again. Then just when you think you are on the road there, you come to an enormous round-about and start spinning again, unsure how and where to exit to find peace. Then it is time to go somewhere familiar, somewhere you know will nourish the roots of your soul and allow new shoots to grow and lead you to the light again.

And so I have come to the shack; far from France, alone and unannounced. I am sitting at the window, watching a neighbour gently rowing a little dinghy to her favourite fishing spot.There is a cool, light breeze and the exquisitely clear water is almost silently lapping the shore.


I went to bed at 8pm, exhausted, and woke at 7am, refreshed. The sounds of the sea in my ears, the salt in the air and comfort in my heart have massaged my soul all night and released the tensions and worries. I have read an article in the (Australian) Organic Gardener magazine and suddenly and unbelievably I feel compelled to write, for the first time for a year or more.

What is it I have learned in these last 51 years? What is the meaning of life as I see it? The equation is simple: Love in your heart plus soil on your hands equals inner peace and happiness. One without the other is not enough. Substitute anything else for either and you will suffer from an addiction as sever and unrewarding as drug addiction.

Inner peace is difficult, if not impossible, to define. To have it you need to be able to recognise that you feel content, safe, satisfied, loved and loving. I also need to feel I have space and to feel free.

One day in France I reached inner peace. The story of my last 3 months in France cannot be told in a few lines. But basically it is that age old one of 2 people in love, tearing their separate lives apart to be together and their struggle to weave the tattered warp and weft into a strong, long-lasting and beautiful new fabric. I am back in Australia to let the warp catch up to the weft so that when I return we will both be following the same pattern.


It had been a hectic first 2 months for us, with the gite to look after (like a bed and breakfast/ holiday apartment in one end of our house), dozens of people for me to meet, the KGI weekend to prepare for and friends coming to stay. What a way to begin a new life together!

Where there's a will, there's a way, they say, and my willpower is fierce! I worked from sun-up to sundown, all the time missing the things that had previously given me a solid ground to stand on. While I cooked for 20 guests, while I weeded and sowed and prepared the garden, while I painted rooms, while I shopped and slept and cleaned, I had only a suitcase of belongings. Everything I needed to use belonged to someone else. On top of all this, everything was so much harder and took so much longer in another language. The spice rack in any supermarket is arranged in alphabetical order but what if you don't know the French for cloves?

We worked hard together and Ian was wonderful but we had no time for sharing and sorting our thoughts and we each had to manage as best we could until our commitments were finished. That day finally came and I awoke feeling ecstatic that I had actually made it through; not just through the busyness but also through the intense and difficult inner struggle to accept everything around me as my new life.


In the vegetable garden that morning, while Ian went off to get a wheelbarrow, I stood up from planting some seedlings and had an overwhelming sense of inner peace. There began half a day of happiness for me before my world began to fall apart. Ian's struggle had led him somewhere else, with a different set of problems to sort through and I had not been there to help him on his journey because of all the demands on us by others during those 2 months. It was devastating.


Neither of us had the strength left to deal with anything. Words would not come and thoughts would not form. There was only pain and anger and resentment. I booked a flight back to Adelaide, unsure what else to do. The day before I left, the words began to flow, the love held true and understanding followed. As Ian stood on the train station platform with tears in his eyes, I so wanted to get off the train and for us to just go home together. But I didn't. Despite all the expense, coming to the shack was the best thing to do; it always is, always.


Thursday, September 10, 2009


This little corner of France is as if transplanted from another time in history when life moved more slowly, people cared about simple things and food was at the centre of every day. Even shopping in the supermarket brings pleasant little surprises like the labels on chickens, assuring the customer that they were raised for at least 85 days or even 100 days, in the open air. And the naming of the regions in which all the fruit and vegetables are grown, and realising that most of the fresh produce in the local shops, including the supermarket, is grown in this region - Dordogne, or the next - Lot et Garonne. Other pleasant discoveries include the fact that even the cheapest sheets available in the supermarket, are 100% cotton and that a loaf of bread made with organic flour is 0.75c!

But my favourite site is the potager, nestled into every back yard and piece of vacant land. I crane my head over ancient stone walls to see what is growing and am never disappointed. Such a prospect was what lured us to recently walk down a small laneway in Beaumont - a village about 20km away. That and the sign saying a public toilet was to be found down there! Certaily there was a great vegetable garden but we found something even more wonderful. Well, the toilet was shocking but while Ian sat at the table in the park next to what was once the site of the baths and wash house, waiting for me, he noticed he was sitting under a big, old apple tree and so picked a lovely ripe apple to eat.

image We sat a while, marvelling at how rich a green the grass was for late summer and I began to notice what was around us in this little, old park.....fruit trees... and all were ready to pick! Out came the bag I always carry in my handbag and we collected and ate apples, peaches and figs..... just a few of each.... leaving plenty for others (or for us if we go back soon!) This was a delightful experience and could easily happen everywhere in suitable climates but it was especially lovely next to the old spring and public wash house, imagining people over the centuries chatting away while washing their clothes and themselves and collecting water, children climbing up and getting figs and peaches and apples and maybe other fruit from trees now dead. Of course, this was the day I forgot to take my camera!

image From our home fruit garden we are now picking a delicious green-skinned fig, lots of cooking apples, a few grapes and loads of Charentais melons. The cumquat is flowering and the little lemon tree is producing its first lemons, in a climate where it has to be taken inside for the winter.

image Rhubarb and cherries are in the freezer but the plums and pears did not produce well this year. Luckily the neighbour, Evelyn, has given us several baskets of mirabelle plums which are a superb yellow fleshed variety, as well as some sweet, white peaches from a tree she grew from a stone.

Drying on the shelf of a beautiful dresser that Ian made many years ago are our ongoing collection of fruit stones which we plan to germinate in the hope that some will be as productive as Evelyn's peach. Anybody have any tips for propogating peaches and plums from stones?



Whenever it rains, the weeds grow a foot higher here so we have been dealing with them using my lazy gardener method. You don't dig or pull, you just trample the weeds down flattish, place a thick layer of any old paper over them, watering as you go, and then cover with straw. It is a kind of self-composting layer which also acts as an excellent mulch.


So there I was, using up junk mail, newspapers, old bills and magazines, some in French and some in English. I learned a few new French words from the junk mail, as I always do because the descriptions have photos, like an illustrated dictionary. Some of the magazines were very thick and I needed to tear them up, revealing articles on everything including gardening, animal care, advertisements and cooking.

It was a hot morning and I was working in the sun, trying to get the job done quickly so I could go for a swim in the pool before lunch. I was trampling and ripping and watering and of course the wind came up, threatening to blow it all away if I didn't get the paper wet and the straw on fast enough.


I opened a French magazine and there was an article on a beautiful garden where the people are growing a range of native French and European plants and doing some creative things with stones and paths. I stood there looking at it all and thinking we could do some of this ...... dreaming, as gardeners are wont to do..... when suddenly I was brought back to my senses when I realised the hose had been dribbling water across some glossy paper and into my shoe and the wind had strewn some of the dry paper across the yard! I put the magazine aside to look at again over lunch, and got back to work.

image Later I opened an old English magazine and there on the pages I had just torn out was a section called "7 recipes for 7 days"..... not a very imaginative title but the 7 soup recipes looked great.... and I had a few things in the fridge that needed using up and one of the recipes looked perfect..... I was getting pretty hungry so I quickly finished the weed mulching, gathered up my "new" magazine and recipes, a little damp and torn by now, and headed off to cook the soup for lunch, forgetting all about the swim, in my enthusiasm to share my finds with Ian.

He laughed a lot, as he often does at this crazy Australian woman who has come into his life, and said "Here's a great title for a chapter of your book..... Recipes from the Compost!" So there we have it, I am going to include in that chapter recipes which I have saved from the scrap heaps of life. I have quite a few old recipe books bought from garage sales or salvaged from second hand book shops and some recipes given to me by people who have torn them out of magazines destined for the recycling bin and now some rescued from becoming compost in an old French garden.

What a lovely joie de vivre that gives me...... skippity doo!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


At the Villereal market last Saturday there was a young lady we hadn't seen before, selling her fruit and vegetables. She looked ever so gorgeously hippy so we wandered over to see what she had on her stall. Her sign proudly announced her tomatoes, zucchinis, capsicums, melons etc were raised "pleine terre" (the name for unofficial organics here in France) and incorporating permaculture. I bought a couple of her round zucchinis to stuff and then I noticed she had a leaflet which I picked up too as it is always good to get to know the growers we buy from. As luck would have it, Sandrine and Rene lived only a few kilometres away from us and were offering farm visits and as we have the KGI get-together happening in a couple of weeks we thought this might just be the kind of place it would be great to experience.

So, today we visited Sandrine and Rene and their 2 dogs, 2 angora goats, 150 chickens (meat and eggs), who knows how many rabbits, a couple of dams full of fish, an array of summer vegetables and a poly tunnel to keep things going into winter. Rene is Austrian and next to the front door he has a keg of beer on tap from which he pulled us each a glass and himself a big stein before sitting us down at a shady table for a couple of ripe figs and a chat!

This is their first year and their enthusiasm bubbles out of every pore of their tanned skins. They have a dream to live a natural existence amongst well-cared for, loved (and eventually eaten) animals and to produce food from soil enriched with humus and all good things, in the style I am so at home with..... semi-organised chaos.

They knew of Bill Mollison, the Australian who first created a style of thinking and living and growing called permaculture and asked me if I had a copy of "Introduction to Permaculture" ..... which I have..... in French, which I have not and which is hard to find evidently. Please let me know if you have one I could lend them!

Sadly I didn't take my camera today but those of you coming to the Kitchen Gardeners weekend in September will get to meet Sandrine and Rene, and they will show us the beginnings of their dream and provide us with  BBQ of some of their chickens and rabbits and salads from their garden. What do they want in return? Ideas, friendships, contacts, fun and a chance to relax amongst their fields and forests, overlooking their lake, with like-minded people. Of course I offered to bring a cake..... an offer no-one has ever refused, yet. I am so pleased to have found this lovely couple and hope it is the start of a long and happy relationship for us all.

Bon appetit!

Friday, August 28, 2009


image We all know the scene already..... an early morning cup of coffee, summer mornings gardening before the heat sets in, breakfast outside in the garden, a few jobs to get done before lunch, neighbours calling in, letters or emails to write, cooking, cleaning, a bit of watering in the evening and so the days go by in a pleasant rhythm. This could describe almost any domestic life anywhere in the world, from China, Japan and Singapore to Rome, London, Adelaide and New York. It could be the life of many African villagers,  rural South Americans or city dwellers in Adelaide.

But when you move from one side of the world to the other, there are so many differences.... some hilarious, some obscure and some very strange. I have moved from a place where seeds sown need daily or twice daily watering to ensure germination, to south west France where a bag of opened compost gets wetter because of the humidity and seeds sown in the shade need no watering even when temperatures reach 37C ! I even sowed some radishes in the full sun and forgot to check them for 2 days, when I found them happily germinating, the topsoil still damp, even though I was wilting from the heat.

Humidity also means that, unlike in Adelaide where food stored  in or out of the fridge always needs covering to stop it drying out, here vegetables go soggy and mouldy after only a few days of such treatment and are best left uncovered. Clothes can hang all day on the clothes line in 30+ degrees and still not be dry! Pots of herbs and flowers abound in this part of the world because of the humidity and our array of potted herbs is flourishing with little care. The grass is green even towards the end of summer but whereas I see it as lush and beautiful, Ian sees it as coarse and sparse..... something we only just discovered yesterday as we sat under a magnificent horse chestnut tree, having lunch, chatting. I have bare feet all the time just to feel the green grass on my feet whereas Ian asked me how I can stand walking on the poor, sparse grass! Compared to Wales, this lawn is a disgrace, evidently, but compared to late summer in Adelaide it is heaven!

image Shopping is very funny here and deserves a whole post of its own. As far as I know this is the only part of the world where absolutely everything except restaurants, closes for 2 to 4 hours over lunchtime. It is peak tourist season and millions of people crowd the villages from sunup to sundown daily but beware! If you want a sandwich or a drink you must buy it before 12 noon or have to eat in a restaurant or wait several hours for the supermarkets or bakeries to re-open. It is no good thinking you will pop into the garden centre or hardware shop on the way home unless you are aware of the time, and don't expect the check-out operators to be in a rush to get you through before closing time either..... here there is no rush, except on the roads, but doors close at 12, promptly, and may open later..... or not. Opening hours are brief and impossible to understand for me. How can a shop advertise "open 7 days" and then not be open for 3 hours a day and not on Sunday afternoons at all, or on Thursdays or any other time they decide to take a holiday? C'est la vie, it seems.

This is the home of slow food and nothing is as important as food..... quality is number 1 and absolutely everyone discusses it at length.... men, women and children. Local is paramount and the only good food is that produced nearby.... the French are fiercely proud of the quality of their local food and will tell you, while throwing their hands in the air, that such and such is produced elsewhere but is inferior. Even the enormous supermarkets mostly stock French foods and very local where possible. Small producers rather than huge agribusiness are the main suppliers here of fresh fruit, vegetables and even meat. Everything is labelled with not just country of origin but also district.

There are two things completely lacking though, here in beautiful south west France. One is online facilities for bill paying, looking up local businesses and products etc and the other is flywire screens! Is this because there are no flies? NO! How can such a civilised place be so uncivilised about flies? Either you keep the windows shut from early morning until night or you put up with flies buzzing around the kitchen and beetles and moths bumping into you while you sleep! Luckily, having stone walls over 18 inches thick and lovely, old tiled floors means the house is always cool so it is not too much of an issue..... yet!

image A few days ago we had a BBQ for about 20 people, for Ian's birthday. I saw octopus in the supermarket seafood display and thought it would be something Australian I could cook, and very cheap..... so I asked for a kilogram of it. The girl serving picked up the whole octopus and said it was 1.6kg..... well, there didn't seem to be any choice so I took it.


The finer details of shopping in another language are hard to work out! I marinated it in olive oil and lemon juice and we cooked it on the BBQ to the delight of the visitors who had mostly never had it before. I also made humous and a peach tart and have requests for the recipes which is very nice, especially knowing how great the cooks are who came to the BBQ!

The vegetable garden is coming on a treat and we are picking from it every day. See the photo at the top. I will take photos of the garden soon to post here, Christie, and I am not sure why I haven't done it yet. The days just seem to be full of .... well .... living .... and being here is enough just now.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


It is time to start my new life and new blog but the first post is a scary one! Do I start with why? Or where? Or just launch in? I have picked fruit and veg from my new garden and sown seeds already too....

OK..... in the next few days I WILL do it.....for sure ..... then there will be no stopping me!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Men Don't Dance Anymore

There is a great Beccy Cole song called Men Don't Dance Anymore.... I can't find a video clip of it unfortunately but I found this poster and liked the humour

Well bless my soul what's wrong with you all crowded round the bar
The girls are on the dance floor while you brag about your cars
You don't have to move like Elvis to get out on the floor
'Cause men Don't Dance Anymore

Well you shake my nerves and rattle my brain but you just don't docey doe
You're all standing still while the play every song I know
Don't you know what those RM Williams boots are really for
Men Don't Dance Anymore

Let me show you something that will drive the girls insane
Every woman in this place will want to know your name
Clap your hands, shake your hips, turn around like this
But Men Don't Dance Anymore

Bop Bop A Lula a wap bam boo I think you're almost there
The girls are going crazy but you ain't no Fred Astaire
And now the boys are in a conga line and heading for the door
Men Don't Dance Anymore

Couples on the dance floor that's how it's supposed to be
If you don't know what to do..boys just follow me
Step right, step left, pelvic thrust, shake your head
But Men Don't Dance Anymore
Oh No Men Don't Dance Anymore
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Monday, March 23, 2009


I have put together a series of photos depicting the interesting and quirky details of village buildings in south west France. Ranging from windows only as wide as a hand, to beautiful street signs and from wooden beams to door knockers. Coming from a modern country like Australia with no buildings dating back further than the 18oo's, I found it fascinating to wander the ancient streets of France and imagine the lives lived during the history of these buildings, most dating from the 1300's.

These are streets and buildings still functioning today as towns, homes and businesses. Despite the ancient exterior appearance, inside is modern, clean and functional. Rooves are often fitted with TV aerials and satellite dishes but advertising of any sort is rare and finding a particular shop or business can be extraordinarily difficult as addresses are vague and signage almost non-existent.

Market days bring crowds and the streets are bustling but the rest of the week is quiet and perfect for photography. Everything closes for lunch and siesta between 12 and 2 or 3 or even 4 and the villages become ghost-like, with only the restaurants showing any signs of life at all. Pots of plants are everywhere and indicate that people do actually live inside. During winter there was not a lot of colourful plantings but come spring, doorsteps will be edged in pots of geraniums and window boxes will overflow with colour.

Luckily for the visitor, French people have kept their beautiful, old buildings and not demolished them in the name of progress. To their way of thinking it does not matter what a building looks like on the outside, it is what is inside that counts. Renovations are only carried out to stop complete collapse of the walls. So they remain living history; a rare and wonderful thing in this era of cheap and nasty architecture.

Long live the French village.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


It was time to start reading a new book. I have finished and enjoyed "The Private Patient" by P.D.James and also a wonderful book that I found in a second hand shop in Moonta, called "Spice Travels" by Ian Hemphill. He is a spice merchant from Sydney whose passion for spices has led him all over the world in pursuit of knowledge about the growing and processing of every spice on earth. So, I had 2 choices left, both recommendations from son Alex. First "The Ancestor's Tale", nearly 700 pages of Richard Dawkin's fascinating and beautifully written book on evolution. Second, "A Short History of Myth" by Karen Armstrong.

I have read about half of the introduction of each....and here I am thinking about humans being meaning-seeking creatures who conversely also have an imagination that allows us to think of things that have no existence. It is going to take me a long time to digest both of these books at this rate! As I gaze out of the shack window, while my mind considers facts and myths, the fact that is most noticeable is that the wind is coming up yet again while Roger imagines the feats he could achieve windsurfing, now that Langmuire has arrived.

The wind wriggles into life in some most interesting ways. Some of them are universal, some local. Some are obvious, some only observed by crazy people like me who seek both the real and the myth. Some beneficial, some not, but all a very real part of existence for every living thing on earth. So, who is Langmuire?

DSC_0001-4 As the wind strengthens, it has various universally understood effects on the water beginning with ripples and waves and progressing to what we call white-caps (or white horses) from about 10 knots and then white foam forming in lines directly downwind at about 15 knots. I cannot explain the scientific reason for these white lines but I do know they are called Langmuire's Circulations, after a Mr. Langmuire. In my photo at left the white line cuts across the sea just below the writing.image


In the photo at right you can see that the lines extend downwind of the reef.

This is the point at which Roger goes windsurfing as he knows there is enough wind and he can see the direction, without even going outside.....thanks Mr Langmuire! 


Before Mr Langmuire visits, though, other things happen..... the horizon turns from a soft blue, blending perfectly with the sky, to a sharp, dark line heralding the arrival of the afternoon sea breeze. If I am walking on this beach on a still day, before the sea breeze arrives, it is totally silent, as where I walk is very shallow and there is not even a ripple on the shore sometimes. There are no roads for many miles and rarely any people.... just the pure, pristine sea, and me. As the wind begins to rise, I can hear it far out at sea. It is quite beautiful and unreal to hear the wind in the distance but it be completely still where I am standing. As the first tiny flutters of breeze erratically approach the shore, the movement of the surface of the crystal clear water reflects on the sand below and makes delicate patterns, like light glistening through thousands of pieces of glass. It is quite breath-taking.

These first breaths bring pockets of air from who knows how far away. Some are hot, some cool and eventually they mix to form a  breeze uniformly cooled by its drifting across the sea. Even on a hot day, the air doesn't need to travel far across the sea to cool down or far across the land to heat up. Just sitting in the shallows instead of further up the beach makes a hell of a hot day into a pleasant one.

Just before Mr Langmuire arrives though, sand and seaweed start to blow along the beach, the windows start whistling, it becomes a challenge to sit outside and read without losing your hat and the local gulls start playing in the wind.They flap upwind for a while then turn like an acrobatic plane and shoot down the beach at break neck speed, without so much as one flap of their wings. They do this over and over on windy days, especially the larger, darker gulls, who also use the wind to hover as if in a windless cage, just outside our window, even in what seems like a gale, showing us just what nature can do, unaided.










Nature does very well when left alone..... here are a couple of recent examples.