Thursday, 30 September 2010

Visitors 5 Time for a hot bath - updated

After our visit the underground we backtracked and headed off to the ski-resort town of Ax-les-Thermes. S and I were here a few years ago, and I was here earlier this year with the French family.
We pottered about the town before having lunch outside a restaurant in one of the side streets.
The French family had told me that water runs down the road in Ax, but I had not tracked it down.
Here then, in the Road of the Steps, is one such stream. We were disappointed to find that the water was cold.

One of the earliest surviving buildings is also to be found here, having survived the numerous fires which swept through the medieval town.

survived the great fire fire of 1615

Then it was off to show them the hot spring water gushing out of the spigots and the open air basin where people can sit and soak their feet.
Our main purpose here however was to visit the hot spring baths housed in a new building in the centre of town. It took some finding though. It is on the same side of the road as the Casino (roulette, not supermarket). It opened for business last year and the main pool area is modelled to look like a Roman bath house, complete with red floor to ceiling columns.

You give them money and they give you a plastic key card which will give you 2 hours in the baths. For every extra 30 minutes or part thereof that you spend inside the baths, you have to pay another 3 euros. You can find leaflets that will give you 2 euros off the 15 euro entrance charge.
Card into the turnstile and through into the changing area. A lady handed us a blue plastic hangar and explained what to do. You go into a changing cubicle on the dry side, lock your door behind you, change into your costume, then leave you cubicle using the door on the wet side. Clothes into a locker using your plastic card, take the key out of the locker door, then off to the showers before splashing through the foot pool and into the main room of the bath house.
I went cautiously down the steps into the sulphurous water. It was warm, but not overly so. The sides of the pool was divided into alcoves which had different kinds of jets. There were usually neck/ shoulder jets, Jacuzzi style jets, powerful jets which buffeted your sides or buffeted your buttocks.
There was a tropical rain shower at one end, and in the middle of the pool were foot grilles complete with railings for you to walk into. (couldn’t understand the point of the latter).
Not all parts of the baths had active jets at the same time.
A new law of physics was noted, i.e. that the size of the speedos decreases inversely to the folds of the paunch.
Tired of the jets and the bubbles, we went through watery passageway and out into the sunshine. There were more neck jets, bubbly bits , a volcano of water bubbles, a whirlpool whizzy bit etc. There were also loungers where you could soak up the sun’s rays. There was a bit of a breeze, so not an option in my opinion. The outer 2 levels explored, we headed back inside. The ice cold showers were ignored, the hot steam room never found, but the hot water bath was tried out. Here at last was the hot water. Not boiling hot but really nice and relaxing.
The two hours were nearly up, so it was back to the showers, changing cubicles, card into the turnstile and out to freedom. Still now I know the ropes I will definitely be back there soon.
There is only one downside to the experience. You, your costume and your towel come out reeking of sulphur. The next day I could still taste it. and smell it, despite having a proper shower.
I went back in to the Baths with his camera before drying off. Here are two of his shots. One in the main baths and the other of one of the 2 roof terrace baths.

Indeed as you walk along the banks of the river which runs through Ax, there is a strong smell of rotten eggs.
One of the many delelict hotels in the town and which backs onto the river, is currently for sale at 160,000 euros. Not bad for a hotel with over 50 bedrooms, It must need a hell of a lot of work.
Another abandoned hotel has a plaque on the wall for the famous composer born there. One Gaiten Marcailhou d'Aymeric 1807 - 1855. Didn't you always just wonder what happened to him? Well he died in Paris and was one of the teachers of Foix's very own showstopper tunesmith Gabriel Fauré.

I found this quote which unravels some of the mystery. "Marcailhou was the true creator of the modern French waltz. Famous throughout eternity, Marcailhou's waltzes remain a reflection of their time like the white or pale pink camelias which our grandmothers were so fond of during the Second Empire". (Maurice Ravel, 1933)
The town must have been quite something in its heyday. You might even have been able to have a go on their own waltzer?? Any of you who skipped the last bit won't know what the hell I'm talking about. STOP PRESS this hotel was in the papers today1st October due to its parlous state. After being lived in and wrecked a bit, by squatters, the building is in danger of falling down. The owners don't seem keen to spend any money to make it safe, so it looks like the town hall will have to step in and do some emergency work. The town hall is not happy, as there are numerous other buildings in town that are in a dangerous condition and it is not their remit to step in when crap owners don't maintain the properties they own. They hope that someone with a lot of money will appear from nowhere and turn the building into something useful....... If this was Weston-super-mare, there would be an inexplicable fire, thus enabling redevelopment of prime real estate (allegedly).
Here is another run-down hotel. As many of you linguists will know, the French drop, or rather don’t pronounce their “H” s. Here is a perfect illustration of this practice.

The sun was still shining, so it was time to take more photos.
Next to the baths there was a smaller open air basin in which the weary traveller could dip their feet for free. This young lady has not quite got the hang of it, she will have to take her shoes off first.

Across the road, in a small park, a game of petanque was in progress. I like to be where the action is, and there was an article in the Depeche all about them a few days later.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Visitors 4 – Caving in

On the Wednesday I had booked for us to go the Grotte de Niaux. This is one of the most famous prehistoric caves in the region. It has cave paintings from 12 -13,000 years ago and is one of the few such caves which people can still visit. The humidity / carbon dioxide levels are carefully monitored and the number of visitors per day is limited, with a maximum of 20 visitors per group. This is why booking ahead is usually necessary.

I had got us on to a tour with an English speaking guide. although J and I both speak some French.
We arrived early so that we could take some photos of the entrance to the cave and of the village of Niaux, nestling below us in the valley.
Halfway up the twisty road to the caves, we found the road blocked by a locked gate.
We hung around as did the occupants of the VW camper van behind us.
I soon got bored and started to walk up the road. Of course as soon as I did this, a staff member drove up in her car.
We drove up to the car park, the car dwarfed by the height of the cliff. The village was shrouded with whisps of mist, which the sun had not yet burned off, despite being 10am.

Before setting off we were issued with flashlights and footwear was checked. All the notices said that due to the nature of the terrain, sensible, enclosed shoes should be worn. Of course there always has to be someone who turns up in flip=flops (thongs for any USA or Aussie readers (ah those were the days)).
“Do you have any proper shoes to put on?” asked our guide. No, she had lived in flip-flops for the whole of the year and would be perfectly okay. If I had been the guide, I would have told her to piss off, but, she was allowed to continue. Lord knows what would have happened if she had slipped and injured herself.
We set off down a manmade tunnel and through a door, into the first bit of our cave trip.
The floor of the cave was very smooth and in places wet and slippery, with small stumps of rock beginning their ascent towards the cave roof (give them 100,000 years).
As we walked along, following as near as possible the path taken by the guide, we passed lots of names and initials daubed onto the rocks. Most of these were dated from the mid 1600’s.
We slipped and slid our way through caverns and eventually came to the black chamber. Before entering we all had to switch off our lights. The guide kept hers on and we followed her into a large chamber and over to the beginning of the metal railing. The maximum time of our visit in this part of the cave system was 25 minutes and we could see the electrical monitoring equipment flickering away.When we were all assembled, she trained her light on the cave wall in front of us and there was a collective “Ooh!” as we got our first look at an animal that was painted over 12,000 years ago.
As we moved from one part of the wall to the next, we saw bison, horses, antelope?.
It is thought that this chamber was used for special ceremonies, with dancing. Only one portion of the wall of the chamber was painted on, as was often the case in caves with paintings.
There were other paintings in a long gallery that was not accessible to us, but the greater percentage of the drawings in the caves was there for us to see.
Like the underground river that I visited recently, the caves are a no photography zone Niaux cave art taken from the internet.



We were told that the bison always had the same short spear like marks painted on them, but that they were not spears or arrows.
Over the years, some of the drawings have been all but destroyed by moisture seeping into the cave, numpties had also graffitied some of the paintings (probably those 17th century vandals.
We were surprised to learn that the caves, although vast, were never lived in. They probably lived in the entrance of the main cave. This cave was obviously a very important site, as the artwork was added over a period of at least 1,000 years, before being abandoned. Some of the drawings were done using charcoal and this has enabled carbon dating to be carried out. The other paintings were made using specially prepared paints. The only colour that I saw apart from black, was red.
Our guide also told us about the drawing of a weasel that had been found elsewhere in the cave system, of which they were very proud as no other cave in the area had a picture of such an animal. We did not  see the weasel, nor was there a picture of the drawing anywhere to be found, so again, thanks to the internet, here is the famous weasel.


Our time was up and we left the chamber, switched on our lights and headed back the way that we had come. There was a pit which had been excavated showing how much the floor level of the cave had risen since the drawings were done.
Definitely somewhere to visit, before it too is closed to the public, as will surely happen someday.
The whole visit took about an hour and a half, so you can work out that we had to walk quite some way to get to the main cave. We were not allowed to dawdle en route either, and our guide kept up a very brisk pace.
Since our visit, I have learned that the school project, being prehistoric man, means that classes will be visiting Niaux and the Parc de le prehistoire. Looking back at the speed of our walk and the slipperiness of the route, I wondered to the headmistress just how the children would manage it. “Yes one must walk very fast, but we have taken a class of 4 to 5 year olds there a few years ago.....”
One more out in the sunshine, we handed in our lamps and wandered about, taking more photos of the views out over the valley, and anything else moving or not. Here are some of them.

early Canadian troglodytes
smokeless zone

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Visitors 3 - Another fine Mas

For our next trip out together, we headed westwards. The weather was still glorious and we explored the entrance to the cave system and descended to the river bed itself. I am sure that when I was there before, there had been a lot more water.
Our first photo stop was at the Eglise de chemin decroix de Raynaude, which has a cross path with 14 chapels perched on the side of the hill behind the church.
I have spoken of the caves at Mas D’azil before, but have still never shelled out the coin to visit the cave itself.
The larger hole on the left is where we went exploring, the smaller hole on the right is the road which runs through the mountain and pops out in the village of Mas D’azil itself.

The village was our next stop, and we wandered about the streets.
I found this corner of the village, which I had not seen before.
It has a bridge across the river, a fully air conditioned public toilet, and an old mill.

There was a family enjoying their midday meal outside in the square next to their house, sitting at a table, with their washing on driers around them.
Time was ticking, so following my GPS instructions, we headed off in the wrong direction.
I turned round at the first opportunity and the GPS eventually got with the program.
We arrived in St Lizier and parked in the car park near the Palace of the Bishops. St Lizier is listed as one of the 2 “most beautiful villages in France” in our region. There are 300 in France. I have visited it before and the choir performed in the Cathedral here 2 summers ago.
When S and I first visited, two years ago the Bishops’ Palace was being refurbished as a major tourist attraction. Indeed it is a world heritage site! It was supposed to re-open last year. We found out that it was still not open. It is not scheduled to open until February 2011. Part of it has opened as an apartment hotel.
We wandered around again. J and I went into the Palace grounds and I followed a fingerpost sign and found this.

A few bits of masonry a cross on a stone plinth and 2 park benches.
We regrouped and ate our picnic at a stone table. I was able to put my pocket knife to good use for a second day, slicing sausage. Could anything else costing £70 be more useful???
Putting our rubbish in the bin (other visitors had not been so courteous), we walked down the road into the village with the Couserain hills on our left and ahead of us. This is hot air balloon country, but I can’t remember if we saw any floating on high in the distance.
There are lots of details to photograph, both in and around the Cathedral and its cloister and in the little twisty streets.

Me photographing J and I, I photographing J and me

I spotted a sign for the library, so went to investigate. The door was open so I walked in.
It was a very small room, with bookshelves round the wall, fair enough. However today appeared to be Scrabble day (French version) and two games were in progress with 5 ladies participating. I had a little chat with them before leaving. They wished me a happy holiday. How could they mistake me for a tourist? It was probably my sister and her hat.
There was a passion fruit plant complete with small orange coloured fruit, and there was also a kiwi plant growing in the same small street. I have not seen kiwis growing before, although I know that there are kiwi farms in the Ariege.

is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's a kiwi

Tour of the village completed, we had a drink on a terrace overlooking the main square and the Cathedral. The restaurant seemed to be packing things away, despite it not being very late. When I went off to enquire about the bill, he found out that the waitress had gone home and forgotten all about writing down out order. Doh!!

Friday, 24 September 2010

Visitors 2 Lazing on a Sunny afternoon

Having ironed out some of the kinks from the long hours of travel, it was time to hit the road. The first stop was the small village of Alzen about 30 minutes drive away. We wandered around looking for white cows. There weren’t any, they must all be up on the hill pastures for the summer.

busy bees

The Eco Rural museum was open as advertised but we did not go in. We just explored the surroundings. There was a selection of farm objects outside, presumably to tempt the weary traveller to part with 5 euros or so and see what the tiny museum had to offer.

There were some animals in byres. The farm is also a place for school trips, with a classroom and presumably they get to see the goats, sheep, calves, duck, horses and big fat sow.that we discovered snoring peacefully in her stall.

After exhausting that area of the village, we headed back to the car and had a picnic on the park bench.
Then it was back on the road, towards the Col de Peguere with its panoramic, but hazy, view of the Pyrenees and the nearby Tour Laffont.
We arrived at the col and got out of the car. There were some vehicles parked and a few people about. Music was blasting out from a parked cat for the benefit of the elderly lady sitting across the road in her camping chair, reading. Very annoying, but what was funny was that the Countin Crows tune that we had just been listening to in my car, came on her radio.
We headed back homewards but stopped off at a roadside hotel / café which had a shaded garden and a superb view out over the valley. Drinks were overpriced, but it was a nice spot to relax. They had a swimming pool hidden below where we were sitting, and a sign on a tree warned to beware of Archery. Upon returning home, my sister found that “Auberge les Myrtilles” at Col des Marrous is listed in my Michelin guide. Does that make me a posh traveller or what?

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Visitors 1 Janes, planes and automobiles

A few weeks ago I had a couple of visitors. J and I from Canada. J is one of my sisters. They stayed for a week and tried to fit in as much as time and jet lag would allow. They even made it to the coast for 2 days. It also happened to be my first week back at work after the 8 week summer break, so I only managed a couple of days of outings with them.
They were due to arrive on the Saturday having flown in from Ottawa to Frankfurt and then from Frankfurt to Toulouse. I had worked it out that they would probably reach my house at around 2pm.
The phone rang, and I learned that they had missed their connecting flight from Frankfurt to Toulouse. They were now on standby for the 14:30 flight. I re-did my calculations and reckoned that they would be with me by about 6pm if everything went well.
I decided to walk into town and get some cash, buying a baguette on my way back and still be home before they made it to mine.
As I strolled along through a car park under the dappled shade of the trees, a small red car lurched in my direction. I am used to erratic driving so it was not too noteworthy,
Of course it was J and I. I had spotted me crossing a road and he had circled round to try and find me. He must have the eyes of an eagle as I was in disguise.
Anyway, money dispensed and baguette purchased we managed to meet up again at my house.
I had been out into town the previous weekend to take some photos to help guide them to my house. I learned that I had given the wrong instructions for the first roundabout off the dual carriageway, oops! (I have amended my instructions as a result).
At some point we strolled into town and they got a chance to see parts of the medieval architecture and to marvel at how quiet a town can be despite it being the tourist season

Monday, 20 September 2010

Underground river - Taking the splish

Last year Madame (my rentee from downstairs) told me how she was going to visit the underground river La riviere souterraine de Labouiche, as it was the only local attraction that she had never visited. Her cousin had worked there for many, many years, and still she had never visited. How he would laugh, she said, when he heard that she had visited it at last.
I happened to have picked up a leaflet on the river in the local tourist office, so I loaned it to her, saying that if she did visit it I would like to come too, as S is not keen on visiting caves.
Fast forward to three months ago this year. I was sitting outside, looking at the free guide to local events and attractions published by La Depeche. Madame started telling me all about her cousin, and never having visited the attraction and that she must visit it this year. She would have to find out its opening hours.
I flicked through my guide and showed her their advert.
To cut a long story short. About 3 weeks ago we set off in my car to experience what is billed as the longest publically available underground river, boat ride in Europe.
We parked in the shady, wooded car park and entered the welcome point building.
We were in luck, the next trip was in ten minutes. We spent the time looking at the odd bits and pieces that they had for sale in the glass cases, the old photos, the model of the river etc.
More people trickled in, 4 of them speaking English.
Tickets were checked by a young lady, and we followed her to the entrance. Of course the entrance was nowhere near the building. We crossed the main road, walked alongside the main road, walked down a crumbly, zig-zaggy path and steps, and eventually came to the entrance. Madame having had tendon surgery earlier this year on one leg, I wondered how she was going to manage the reverse trip. I would certainly be struggling in the heat.
Our party was 13 in number. We were left in the hands of our boatman. He was probably a summer student and spoke a few words of English.
One by one we climbed into our metal boat, sitting on the wet metal plank seats.
There was no photography allowed, so I will borrow some photos from their website.
 In the UK the wearing of miner’s helmets would have been compulsory. Often we all had to duck low to avoid the low roof, and also lean in to the centre of the boat to avoid the overhanging rocky sides.

The river was quite narrow, and we often had to park up to let returning boats pass. There were 18 boats on the river at a time, being the high season.

The rock formations were spectacular, with the usual stalactites and stalagmites. There were also stone pillars formed by the twain meeting. There were also formations of wafer thin stone, which looked like sheets of smooth chamois leather. Another feature was lots of little drinking straw sized tubes of stone hanging from the roof, which we were told were hollow down the middle.

There were also names for some of the stone formations, e.g. the mushroom.
The boatman propelled the boat by using rubber coated steel ropes to pull us along. It was far from a silent experience. The metal boats frequently banged into the side and into other passing boats, with eerie sounding bangs and each impact resulted in quite a jarr to the body.
It was far from a comfortable 1.5 km ride and we also had to change boats 3 times as the river is on different levels. Each time climbing or descending slippery steps to reach our new boat. The furthest point of our voyage before turning round was a small cavern which had a waterfall jetting out of the rock into the pool. I suspect some human help due to the shape of the water jet, but who knows.

There are no fish in the river, and in most places the water is about a meter deep or less. In the light of the lamps along the side of the river, the water had a light green / blue tint.

We were told that there was a species of salamander that lived in the caves but they must have been sleeping off the excesses of the night before, and we didn’t spot any.

The whole trip probably took about 45 mins to an hour.

To exit the river, we had to climb a few hundred steep steps, It was here that Madame ground to a halt, and we sat on a convenient bench whilst she got her breath back.

We spiralled up into the light and popped up very near to the entrance building.

Madame was tres hot and fatigue, so we sat in the sunshine and had a drink at the conveniently placed café. A pleasant way to spend an afternoon.

So that’s grotte 1 marked off my long list of “caves to visit in the region”.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Contract or no contract

Time is running out. The contract for my school admin post runs out on the 31st of September. Friday 3rd I received the paperwork to fill in to try and get myself renewed. Headed “To be returned no later than July 27th”, and having heard that Sarkosy was axing lots of school admin posts to save money, also does not fill me with much hope. However we will see.
The following Monday I took the form to school to get it signed by the headmistress ready to hand in at the College in town on my day off on Wednesday.
Of course there was a strike on Tuesday by around 2 million public and private sector workers about the Government’s proposals to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62. There is a follow up strike later this month.
On the Wednesday I duly handed in my form, wrote “lu et approuve” and signed my name 4 times and now I just have to wait.
Hopefully I will hear soon, and not on the 1st of October. Fingers crossed for me please folks. taxe fonciere (income tax bill) arrived today....

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Auzat – not a cricket tale

We drove onwards to Auzat. Of course the visitor centre was closed for lunch, so we wandered round the streets. We had wondered about the super-huge sports ground that we had seen from up on the hill. We found out that the village had once had a thriving Aluminium smelting plant, employing many people. There was even a short walk along the Chemain de L’Alum complete with information boards and sculptures / bits of machines.
We found a small café by the river and sat and had a drink, waiting for the centre to open.
Not a lot was going on, and it was very peaceful. Even the unhappy child cheered up as her bottle of coke arrived at the table.
Here is a photo of the river.

We finally managed to pay our money and have a look at items excavated from Montreal de Sos. There was not much evidence of 13 thousand items. There was only one glass case with some rusty objects, including nails, bits of blade etc. There were enlargements of some pictures which had been scratched onto bits of slate, and ditto an old board game. I don’t expect that the children or adults who made these marks sometime between 500 and 700 years ago, would have dreamed that their work would be seen in the 21st century.
If only I’d scratched my blog on slates......... Perhaps it’s not to late to start now?
Most of the exhibits related to the way of life of the shepherds, farmers and other ways of life in this hilly region of France. It’s a different world, things just ain’t the same.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Olbier and Montreal de Sos (updated)

“There is a green hill far away, without a city wall” used to by one of my favourite hymns. “Jesus bids us shine” was another one. Of course now I believe there are lots of new, happy, clappy hymns. Not that this has anything to do with anything. A few months back, the phone rang. It was the French family. Are you doing anything tomorrow? Would you like to come with us to visit £^$&&* ?
And so it came to pass that I set off once again into the unknown. As usual, the unknown was to be found up a steep hill, in blistering heat.
We parked the car in a small village called Olbier. There were only four of us, as the father and the eldest daughter stayed a la maison.
We scouted about for the path. Well they scouted, as I didn’t know what I was looking for. The word fouilles was mentioned a lot, and sounding similar to feuilles (leaves), I assumed that I was facing the exciting prospect of looking for leaves, up a hill.
We wound our way up a steep, narrow zig-zag path, which seemed to be made of du;ped rubble. Our first encounter with wildlife was to meet 3 dung beetles who were busy rolling dung balls. This was a first for me, hence the photo.


We continued up the hill and on a plateau, we found a string of horses or ponies with strange metal hoppers on their backs, and another horse which was tethered to a tree by a long rope.

A short distance in front of us were 2 groups of people. One group with little trowels and small paint brushes were, prodding at the ground, whilst another group were sieving soil.
Having watched “Time Team” I now realised that I was witnessing an archaeological dig.
This particular site is where the remains of a small chateau is being excavated, using volunteer labour. This has been happening every summer for the past several years. Stone walls have been exposed where there was once only soil.

scratching the surface
As we stood watching the slow work taking place before us, the string of ponies with their shepherd, set off down the hill with their hoppers full of rubble.


If you are going to work outside, it is always a bonus to have Impressive views like this to look at.

We wandered around the site, reading the information panels. The castle had been there from the end of the 12th to the beginning of the 15th century and in it’s day was one of the most important castles belonging to the Counts of Foix.
There are also some small caves in the hillside, which allegedly have paintings (we couldn’t see anything) of what could be the Grail, or sheep....
We had a picnic looking out over a valley with the small village of Auzat sparkling below us.

There was little tranquillity though, as two helicopters constantly buzzed along the valley, collecting and depositing building materials to a site in the distance.
Auzat's tannoy system also started up and details of the forthcoming festival, with couscous and dancing, inscriptions to be made by the ?th of July.
After the picnic we had a chat with one of the archaeologists, who showed us items that they had found so far that day. A few bits of pottery and some large rusty square-headed nails. They had recently found a dagger or sword blade. In just a few years, over 13,000 items had been uncovered, some of which could be viewed in the small visitor centre / museum at Auzat.
The eldest of the two girls got very tearful as she wanted to stay and help the archaeologists. It didn’t seem to matter that she knew that she knew that she was a year below the minimum age, to help and that you had to arrange to assist at the dig in advance by letter and perhaps a follow up interview.
She really dawdled down the mountain.
We decided to explore the small village at the foot of the hill. It seemed that many of the houses were not inhabited all year round. :any of them still had the snow boards blocking their entrance doors, and this was July! No wonder villages die out with all these absentee owners.
Here are a few photos of the place.

place de l'apero

the village houses have very thick walls

several houses still had their original bread ovens
 Some of you might be interested to know that this was my 300th post on this blog. No? Oh well, suit yourselves.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

The frogs’ chorus (not)

Yes, after all too short a time away from the rehearsal room, we returned this Wednesday evening. There were many empty seats but 4 new people showed up. Only the first 40 minutes were taken up with bisses and chatting. Then it was into the stretching, breathing and vocal exercises. Our 80 year old member shuffled I very late, without his wife and not looking at all well.
After 2 years slogging away at one long piece per year, with one or two short songs thrown in for good measure, we will be tackling more short pieces.
We began learning “So ben mi ch'à bon tempo”, de Orazio Vecchi
Here is the list for this year, it is not definitive and more songs may be added along the way.

nouveaux chants (New songs)

So ben mi ch'à bon tempo, de Orazio Vecchi

Belle qui tiens ma vie, de Toinot Arbeau

Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern, choral de Bach

And the glory of the Lord, de Händel

Alleluja, de Stephens

Shenandoah, traditionnel américain

Deep River, spiritual

Siyahamba, chant africain

Dalakopen, chant norvégien

Radhalaïla, chant israélien

valse de Bizet

Locus Iste de Bruckner

Trois petites notes de musique

chants repris: (ones wot we in keeping from last year)

a bicoque (le pêcheur et sa femme)

le château royal (le pêcheur et sa femme)

la fanfare du printemps

Signore delle cime

"Cantique de Racine", de Fauré (G. Fauré, local boy made God)

No Beatles or Muppet tunes appear in the list, and will therefore not be harmed in the coming year. I am ‘artbrokenne.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Coume’stock part 3 – Pancakes and screams

I slept well, and awoke to the sound of....... nothing. There was the occasional snore from the neighbouring tent. I got out my little stove and boiled up some water for a hot chocolate. It was going to be a long day. In fact, apart from going for a walk in the afternoon, I slept for most of the day. There was a bit of excitement when a goat who was on an upturned tin bath, found that it was not so easy to get down from it. However help was at hand and another goat leapt onto the bath and tossed him off.

The site was like a ghost town. In the early afternoon, I had a few beers, then I watched the two girls who were going to be turning the cellophane sheet into print. One of the girls had had a former boyfriend who worked for a big Fanzine publisher and who was an expert in this printing process. The girl’s friend had done a course in it, and as the expert, she was in charge. The sun was hiding behind clouds, and they needed light for the process to work.

expert at work

They managed to borrow a couple of lights that were attached to motion sensors and they rigged them up to point up at the printing frame from below.
They turned on the power. Nothing happened.
Those are motion sensors, I said helpfully, you will need to wave in front of them to turn them on.
Waving took place.
Nothing happened.Also, I said helpfully, they might be light sensitive and only come on when dusk falls.....
They reverted to plan A. The sun peeped out and they carried their apparatus into the light, before the next cloud could spoil their fun. They Needed to time it, so they waited until the big hand reached the top of the dial on their watch. They also counted.

They forgot what they were doing and neither the watch nor their counting figured in the exposure time.
How long do you think it’s been? Said one. I haven’t a clue, said the other.
So they waited another 30 seconds and proceeded to the next phase.
When the swearing started, I could tell that things were not going well.
How’s it going? I asked cheerily.
It hasn’t worked said the expert.
Why’s that? I asked.
Dunno, said the expert. By now her mate had wandered off and was eating pizza.
She eventually decided that it hadn’t worked because the expiry date was passed on the special paint that the process used.
So no print to take back to A.
During the weekend I had been introduced to various people. One of them was a small singer, dancer, musician, clown, acrobat. She was a friend of Bee-Boy’s family. Her family own a creperie in Brittany and she was there with her little red caravan, which had been customised for her by her father. I think that she must have got a grant to have it modified, and that the grant had also paid for her p.a. system and microphone.
She had been rehearsing the previous day when I took this photo. Her small audience were Bee-boys parents and sister, the farmer’s son, and another friend. Bee-boy’s dad had been kept busy helping her to prepare the caravan and props, ready for the apero concert on the second evening.


She may be small, but you are constantly aware that she is around. She squeaks in a voice that would make a cartoon character proud, does excercises, stretches, rehearses,,,, She must run on special fuel. C from the French family, cannot stand the screechy voice.
Talking of fuel, I know that you are worrying about how you get electricity in the middle of nowhere. Well, you use 6 portable petrol generators, and when smoke starts to billow from behind the straw bales hiding them from public view, the farmer runs towards them very, very fast.

petrol generators make light work

Food was only available in the evening from 19:30 H or after the bands had eaten, whichever was the later event.
The meat was cooked over a barbecue. The first night I had the grillade and chips. This cost 10 euros. It consisted of chips and two small shrivelled bits of meat. Of course my new knife enabled me to cut through the meat with ease.
The second night I tried the couscous with meat 8 euros (Couscous with vegetables was 5 euros). There were two tiny blobs of meat in my meal, probably worth about 50 cents.
Everyone was responsible for washing their own plate and cutlery. There was a big tank of brownish water to wash in, then an adjacent tank of water to rinse in. A bag for bones for the dog, and a bin for scraps for the pigs. There was also a draining rack for the washed items.
The time came for the apero concert, and Mathilde appeard in her costume to be made up by one of her pals.

We then sat on a big carpet facing her caravan and the performance of "Ham Gigourbi" began.
Despite her earlier rehearsals, she seemed to make a lot of it up as she went along.
This was a cut down version of her one hour show.

The tall, fall guy

Once the performance ended, she proceeded to serve crepes from her caravan. People were expected to put a few coins into her collecting box. Her show would probably do well at the Edinburgh festival. I suspect that the caravan would get clamped, stolen or both within the first few days though. For me, her performance was the highlight of the festival.

Can you spot bee-boy in this photo?

Eventually the music began. The musical standard of the acts that I watched was higher than the previous evening’s offerings, but they do love to be pretentious and clever, rather than concentrating on a strong tune.
The expected big crowd failed to materialise, and their were less people than the previous evening. This was a shame after all the hard work that had gone into organising the event.
Watching the bands, you were standing on a slope leading up to the stage. This can be amusing for the first hour or so, but after a while of leaning forward its novelty wanes and the legs start to ache.
I have no idea what the last band was like. Once again things were running so late, that I was too knackered to remain leaning, so I headed up the hill to bed. Once again torchless and in the pitch black.
I can report however that the band stopped at around 2am and that records/ cds were played until 5.30am.
At 5.45am, the couple with a child of about 4 who were staying in the tent next to mine, arrived.
Je ne veux pas dormer” said a small voice. This was repeated many, many times, and eventually became a constant scream for the next two hours.........

The t-shirt slogan shoud read "I'm a spoilt, noisy, little ba"""d"
Why one of the f****ng hippy b””””””d parents couldn’t just walk the child around until it dropped from exhaustion (the child, not the parent) I do not know. They just let it scream on and on and on and on.......... They were presumably too right on and cool to give the brat a good clonk to shut it up.
I don’t think that anyone could have slept through the noise.
At around Noon, after a hot chocolate, I packed my tent away into its little bag, and lugged all my stuff back to my car.
So that was my first overnight camping stay at a music festival. I expect that you will all want to come with me next year. Wait, come back, I haven't finished yet. Hello?
Oh well, pausing only to say goodbye to Bee-boys parents, I sat navved my way home, only losing my way once......