Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Just singin' and dancin' in the rain

13èmes Rencontres INGENIEUSE AFRIQUE Festival de musique et d'art africain.

The town was taken over by the festival for 3 days, and a little African market sprang up in a car park which was blocked off specially by the Mairie. You could buy African cooked specialities at the little restaurants that sprang up, buy African clothes, wooden carved masques, etc. There were classes that you could sign up to, to learn to play different types of African instruments and drums etc. Of course the weather turned from sunshine, to rain for the next three days.
At one corner of the car park, a man dug a small pit in the grass and set up his bicycle wheel powered bellows to enable this charcoal filled pit to get up to the required temperature for him to demonstrate how bronze items can be made using clay moulds. No security barriers, the crowd pressed closely about a metre away, sparks flying everywhere, a health and safety nightmare.
I watched as he made something that looked like an oddly shaped duck. The small crucible in which the molten metal was contained was shaped like the bottom third of a one litre plastic bottle of water.
He emphasised the need to be careful, as he started off by tapping the excess molten metal off the lip of the crucible as he tried to pour the metal into the tiny opening of the mould. He quickly got fed up with that method as it was too slow and just used his hands (yes the crowd did gasp) instead to knock the excess onto the ground. Once the mould was full, he poured the rest of the molten metal onto the ground. He then took off one of his sandals and started hitting the red hot slag with his foot. Again more gasps of disbelief.
He put his footwear back on, (after all you never know what bits of broken glass etc might be lying around).
On evening one, I was on the point of going out to the first concert, but thunder, lightening and torrential rain changed my mind.
Evening two and despite the drizzle I headed to the Halle au Grains to listen to the free music concert. The place was packed and I could not really see much. I like to be at the front at concerts to see what is going on. After a few tunes, I headed home, determined that the next day, I would get there early to get a good viewpoint.
When I arrived the audience was clustered around something going on in the middle of the Halle floor.
According to their publicity, La Complet'Mandingue was born in a small village in the Drome (an area of France). This kind of magic place which inspires simplicity. It is a magician who leads the musicians to meet, to share their love of the music, and more precisely that that of percussion. This group has built up a repertoir inspired from the traditional Mandingue music, this music comes from West Africa where rhythm is part of each moment of their life.
Playing their portable balafons, they were somewhat bizarrely dressed, a bit like a cartoon band from a Disney film perhaps. You may or may not notice that many African instruments are shaped a bit like willies or boobs, or maybe my glasses need replacing. Last week I was forcibly removed from the LeClerc fruit and vegetable section!!
















The young lady certainly knew how to handle her coconuts, but it seemed to me that most of the men were not doing a good job eith their bananas.
Once they had marched off, I went to the front of the stage to wait for the concert to start.

First, one of the musicians who had been running music classes came on stage to give us a couple of songs. Zacky Diarra with his n’goni.




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And especially for Hilary who has probably just finished her bottle of wine and is now resting in a horizontal position.
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I have no idea what the difference is between a n’goni and a kora. I might try to find out one day.
Ba Cissoko ; a group from Guinea (I think) which fuses traditional music with a more modern style followed him. The leader of the group was the first person to electrify the kora, earning him the title of the African Jimi Hendrix.



The performers certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves, and were all smiles.
While the drummer (whose birthday it was) was doing his thing. A man vaulted over the security barrier, shortly followed by his? young lady, for a bit of wild dancing.
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How different from a great many western groups who come on grumpily just to do you a favour.
In the middle of all the excitement, the organisers received an envelope from the Mairie, stating that their festival had been voted the best organised, best publicity, nicest people etc etc of all the summer’s festivals held that year in the town, so they could come back next year for a 14th year. And the summer isn’t over yet..... plenty of time to watch people in restaurants blowing smoke in each other's faces. As Dickens wrote in Great Expectations "What larks Pip, What larks!" (from memory)

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Sunday, 16 August 2009

Things that go bump in the daylight

Every now and again the Moroccan lady next door goes a bit loopy. She and her husband have recently returned from a two week holiday in Morocco.
They returned to find that their landlord had removed the rickety, dangerous wooden fence from around their garage roof top terrace, leaving it in a more open plan condition.
Their garage roof was a bit of a nightmare, it was littered with gas canisters, broken plastic chairs, a pair of crutches, large baby doll, old boots, plastic bags, scraps of food, bits of old wood, etc etc. I have never seen her husband do anything except drive his car, sit in the town square, or carry the occasional shopping bag full of groceries.
So, a girl comes back from her hols. All is calm, then her husband goes out. She then starts shouting. I am inside and can hear her vocalising but I ignore it. Banging, dragging and crashing sounds follow gradually seeping into my subconscious. No of course I wasn’t sleeping, I was just … resting my eyes.
The lady is dragging stuff about the garage roof and muttering darkly. She starts picking things up. Going to the front edge of the garage and hurling stuff onto the driveway below. This continues for some time, but due to the delay between pressing the camera shutter and it taking the photo, I only succeeded in getting one action shot. The angle of the shot also hides the amount of stuff thrown out.
























Once the roof has been almost cleared, she stomps, or waddles and rolls back into the house. She returns with more items including rugs, which join the growing pile on the drive.
Hmmm I think to myself. I hope her husband doesn’t swing into the drive too fast, or he will crash into that.
The husband returns and stops before hitting the pile. I whizz off to get my camera again, but miss the initial getting out of the car, what the f*** look while the camera gets itself ready.
He stands trying to take it all in.
She comes out of the house onto the garage roof and starts shouting again. Words are exchanged (but not in French) and he reluctantly starts picking stuff up and taking it out onto the pavement, piling it up outside my wall.
A while later, there is more shouting, and a three-seater leather settee appears. Some time later this goes back into the house as negotiations are finalised and the treaty signed.
When I speak to Madame later, she tells me rather gleefully, that the lady is not at all content…
I am happy because they seem to have got the hang of phoning up the council to get the stuff removed, and furthermore the absence of the railings means that the granddaughter and grandson are not outside.
The little boy is a bit of a pest as he just keeps repeating Monsieur, Monsieur if he sees me in the garden. The girl chooses to use any vocabulary and just screams and screeches non-stop for hours at a time whenever she is outside and they never tell her to shut up. Her noises are so piercing that even if I am inside with the windows shut, there is no escape from it. Even Madame finds it too much.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Bad to the bone

People watching, was popularised in the late 1970's in a book "Manwatching", by Desmond Morris, of "The naked ape" fame. http://www.desmond-morris.com/
Now it’s not like me to have a go at people. I can put up with a lot, but there are some things that for whatever reason, jar with me. Here is an example of a perfectly innocent youth who ticked most of my “despair” boxes.



















Well what’s wrong with him? I don’t hear you ask. I am sitting in the sunshine at an outside café which has a good view of the chateau from my seat. To show that I am not a tourist, I choose a seat with my back to the view. I can now people watch. This lanky 6ft something youth turns up and sits at the table next to mine. He too chooses to sit with his back to the castle. He IS a tourist and he seems to be travelling alone.
He has a huge rucksack and carries a pop-up tent in its green carry-case in one hand. This is fair enough so far. It is 3pm ish in the afternoon. His tee-shirt and trousers look to be in pristine condition. He sports open sandals and immaculately clean feet and has obviously not walked far. He is probably 18 to 21 years of age.
Here is the list of his “crimes” some of which you may sport yourselves, blissfully unaware of the mental torture that you may be causing to others. We will start from the top.
1) He is wearing a really stupid hat with a little turned up brim all the way round it, which offers no real shade, looks like it is meant for a girl, is immaculately clean of course. What message is he trying to convey? Hello, my name is Delphine?
2) He has blonde hair, which is fair enough (geddit?), don’t we all. However he manages to push three of my “bloody hell look at that twat buttons”.
2a) pony tail. This only works if you are a huge biker or Hulk Hogan sized, as of course, self-preservation comes first. If you are working in food preparation, and combine the ponytail with a hairnet, then good for you.
2b) This is combined with a weedy little plait, wound round with little beads or some-such. This really is an insult to men everywhere. If he is so desperate to get in touch with his feminine side he should wear a bloody dress!
2c) His chin sports a whispy, longish goatee beard. Frankly on him this just looks ridiculous. Someone with dark hair might get away with a tidy goatee, but this whispy, bum-fluff effort will have women and / or men running for the hills.
So really it is his head and headwear that is offensive.
In my role as a people watcher I have also decided that he is a phoney.
Remember when you were little and in trouble with your parents. Which of us hasn’t packed our little red, plastic suitcase with some toys, declared that we are leaving home, and marched off down the drive, ready for said repentant parents to fetch us back with an apology before we reach the gate.
Which of us has then not hung around said gate, saying “they’ll be sorry when I’m gone”, until finally getting fed up and returning home in time for tea or a television programme?
Well I decided that this was such a runaway, except that he had just made it to the pub and had a beer and then when his parents still hadn’t come to fetch him, he ordered a pernod and water. Instead of a toy, he brought out a big comic book and read his way through it.
After 2 hours, I got fed up waiting for him to start off or resume his camping trip, or to make the short trip back up the driveway of his parent's house in time for the cartoons on TV.. So we will never know the truth. Perhaps he was from the good old US of A doing Urp in three weeks? Surely not! :-) Yep, bad to the bone, that's me!, but perfectly formed and the epitome of sartorial elegance.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

New boutiques and panties.

(Ok, I lied about the panties, call it poetic licence, but it was a great album)
I don’t know. You take a bit of a rest from blogging, safe in the knowledge that hardly anyone reads it, to recharge the old batteries and the weather promptly turns to rain for 5 days or so. This makes you feel that you should sleep for as much of the day as possible as the French lessons are on annual leave.
The days drift by and sometimes you look to see if anyone else is writing their blog, but hardly anyone is. They are probably too busy enjoying sunshine, or rain, or perhaps even becoming shopkeepers. Obviously only very few of my few readers will know what the hell I am on about but, like me, my mind is mysterious.
I have just read the Duchess of Kent’s non-fiction book, the moon and the serpent (in French so it was a bit of a hard slog at 500 or so pages). The book is all about one of Princess Pushy’s ancestors, namely Diane de Poitiers, who was the mistress of King Henry II of France, and the triangle completed by his wife Catherine de Medeci (the serpent) in the first half of the 16th century.
So perhaps I haven’t been that idle after all?
Anyway, several times I have switched on the old laptop to write some blog, but workmen have turned up, or I have decided to get some photos ready for the blog etc etc.
Writing a blog can lead some to introspection. Fortunately, being shallow, that wouldn’t give me much material to go on. Blogs can also be an outlet for despair, yearnings, complaints etc but you can read all that in the newspapers whose job it is to keep the nation depressed or fearful.
Perhaps my blog is designed to cheer people up. If anyone reads my blog, I want them to end on a, “bloody hell, poor bloke, I’m glad I’m not in his shoes” and return to their lives feeling lucky with the life that they have got, rather than with a “lucky bastard, he has escaped the world of work and lives the high life in a land of perpetual sunshine”.
So there I am in blog limbo, not waiting to be discovered, looking at an average of at least an hour plus per post, more if there are photos and Blogger decides to make it impossible to move the photos about, or even worse, decides that the hidden html code is faulty and it will not publish the post. So you start from scratch again.
Just to remind you that this is a post about my shed, in case you have wandered off thinking about what to put on your weekly shopping list.
Damn me if I don’t get a comment from small American who shall remain nameless, but we will refer to her as (JNRR), implying that I am falling down in the blogging department. The 13th Aug will be the first anniversary of my new life in France. I might have been in the process of reviewing my year. Lining up the lists of successes and failures, compiling graphs, facts and figures etc as some people do. But not me, anyone who wants to know that will have to wade their way through the whole blog from start to finish just like I had to do.
Sharing the highs and lows as I did, one day at a time.
So as a tribute to JNRR here at last is an update on my garden shed. One man’s shed is another man’s and / or woman’s emporium project.

From this













Via this












To this


















Now all I have to do is fill in the form to say that the work has been completed, someone comes out to inspect it, decides that it is either okay, or too big, too high, the wrong colour etc etc..
Abnormal service will be resumed shortly with hints on tidying up and an African music festival report.
Yes, Rigsby is back on the job.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Spring cleaning

Yes, I know it is July, but Madame decided that today was the day that she would wash her carpets. Having watched Bee-boy’s dad using his karcher pressure washer to clean segments of bee hive, she had decided that it was just what she needed to do a proper cleaning job.
The two rugs were spread out on my new patio area, and after some technical instruction, from Bee-boy’s dad and she was up and running. First the carpet was watered, then cleaning liquid was sprinkled on the tapis.















Bee-boy’s mother also watched the proceedings as we struggled not to laugh at the carpet scene unrolling before us.
Next came the scrubbing with a brush which she keeps for use only when cleaning her carpets.
The next stage was chasing off the soap suds with the pressure washer.













Madame was enjoying herself so much, that door mats and my ground floor corridor carpet all got the same treatment. One obvious problem that I could see was that the patio was not sufficiently sloping to let the dirty water run swiftly to the drain, instead it gathered underneath the carpet.
“What a pity that I just threw out all of those pallets” I said, you could have put the carpets on top of them to hose the carpets down better”. Well one tries to find useful suggestions when one can.
The final stage was to drape all of the washed carpets over various railings.
A job well done, and one that would have normally taken her all afternoon just to clean two carpets!Next year I must sell tickets.