May 2, 2015

Random few days...

 Been getting the garage hung for the OFF, the schismatic branch of the Artistes a Suivre. Esperaza is participating with a glad heart and if it weren't for the traditional note of panic all would be perfect. Date for the diary; 13th May, private view at mine which is in Rue Victor Hugo opposite the Grand Hotel.
(I looked up the address in the deeds and thats what it said - no number, just 'en face de la Grand Hotel'.)

Kat is opening her gallery too. I fear this is all happening the same night as the Florilege for the AaS but you can always come on afterwards.

Et voila - snaps of the last few days - men up to their waists in the river Aude
 Yawning rabbit -
 Market setting up this morning
There was a large police presence outside the Mairee at about 7.00am. I'm guessing that there will be searches and questions asked today. Not clear yet which way the weather will jump but heres hoping for a decent Sunday, policemen permitting. 

Bob arrived last night and so did Claudinne who is only here for the weekend. She tells me that in France it is well known that the La Middleton was pregnant with twins but she was too thin to carry both so opted to abort the male. 

April 30, 2015

Cold here in January

Max has developed a wheeze for the intrepid to escape Esperaza in January - he has sent a fine plan;
 This idea is simple: we purchase a school bus in Hungary and drive it to Bamako as part of the 2016 Budapest/Bamako Rally, and once in Mali, we donate the school bus to a local charity. Fun and worthwhile in one go! There will be a strict limit of 12 participants, and so I would urge to you consider this seriously and places will be assigned on a first-come basis ..

The costs will be of three elements:

1)      The school bus will cost approximately $13,000 to purchase and drive to Africa
2)      The individual costs for the journey will be approximately $1,000 (including an allowance for visas, insurance and vaccinations)
3)      The airfares from Bamako home.

The initial entry fee will be US$1,100 per person for the vehicle. I believe that it is quite reasonable to seek sponsorships for this amount from admiring friends and relatives. If you like, I can produce a “sponsor sheet”; we will, of course, offer any corporate donors the option to place logos on the vehicle, and have several “action shots” of their generosity for their own use!

The individual costs will become clearer in due course; we will be joining a group, and as such visas will be obtained together and the insurance coverage will be coordinated for us. Please note that the visa issue for non EU, US, Canadian, Australian, NZ passport holders may be more difficult, and plans should be made as soon as possible.

For those with concerns about security, it is important to know that the rally organisers have very strong relationships with the governments of both Mali and Mauritania. The vehicles will be protected by their respective armed forces, and unless there is a sudden flare up in the region, the program will go ahead as planned.

From Bamako, Royal Air Maroc can fly you to a variety of European gateways for about US$ 400, and thence on to your home airports …

I would really appreciate it if you can let me know about your participation; I will need to make some final preparations, confirm our participation to the organisers and generally confirm our January plans within the next month.
email me at vanillabeer  at and I'II forward queries and avowals of intent.

Andrée in trouble...

Andrée has taken a tumble and fractured her left wrist; she's also bashed her head. She will be staying with Paulette, her sister, (see below) in Carcassonne for the next 5 weeks. Easier to get to the hospital - and she needs TLC. 
Completely refused to come here.

April 29, 2015

Sewing night at Louises'

As usual, a creative evening at Louises where coconut cakes and macaroons were eaten, blanquette drunk. It was good:) Erm, spot the bum?

I had a heart full of song as Max had given me a boxed set - virgin, unused - of opera records from 1956. I had started on Carmen before going out and realised what a treasure he had parted with. Each opera is complete and unexpurgated.  The sound is amazing. I had forgotten pre digital. In my study is a decent record player and nice speakers - they were a gift from R.B. Kitaj, actually, not that I'm braging, much -  so impressed with the sound that you are invited round to listen. Get in touch if you want a seat; tomorrow its Carmen, after that its Faust by Gounod (as and when), thereafter Rigoletto, Il Travatore and La Traviata - by the man my mother insisted on calling Joe Green. 

Saw Roy and Jo today, Roy is on the mend, mercifully. Saw Andree who was good enough to call the garage in Toulouse that had rescued our broken van. It seems it's not really broken, it is in fact dead. This van is no more.
Anyone got a cheap van for sale?

Lovely day, that aside: saw many other friends and actually got some work done between times. Took me a while to get going on account of Maxs' corrupting influence the evening before.
And my neighbours, Jeanette and Louis are back from the cote d'azur, looking marvellous but sad that their old English Setter has died - diabetes got him.

Sweet story; was standing in the 8 a 8 paying for my shopping when I noticed a bloke standing in the square with his arms wide open apparently addressing a plane tree. On pointing this out to the proprietor Alain, he replied that the man would be unlikey to get a response. The man leant forward and kissed the tree. Voila! He's kissing it, I said.
Alain didn' miss a beat. 'welcome to Esperaza', he said.

 Advance notice!!! Poulet-Bicyclette opening on May 1st with a disco... no doubt doing the funky chicken. Sigh. Be great to have them back though, a sure sign of summer.

April 27, 2015

Aint nature wonderful

 Rather a poor photo of the bees swarming, either coming or going from the old chimney on the terrace, who knows?? Most exciting, the air deafening with their buzzing and stray ones bombing about.  Now they are settled in - or seperated out, I dunno - though not before Bob got one in his shirt and had a nasty sting on his tummy.  He's back in England and it still hurts :(
And I should not have claimed good weather for Esperaza. Just after the swarm the rain started, not heavily, but accompanied by great gusts of wind. So strong that it blew open the gate in the garden that seperates the rabbits from where the flowers are. Were.
Heres dawn this morning, still blustery but very livable with.

April 26, 2015

sun persists

There are reports of rain all over France....well, we had a bit of rain last night and enough distant thunder and lightening to frighten the dog. Here's todays market snapped from the Patisserie. Bumped into loadsafriends, quelle plaisir :) Also the Mayor who was surprised at the lack of questions about policy at yesterdays' meeting.
 The bad news is that the Cafe du Pont is closed for good. My (informed) informant said it was complicated; there were infringements of the license, too much late night noise and underage drinking. But the clincher is that bills are not paid and the landlords are taking it back.
Pity. Will miss it and the clientele and the happy laughing staff.

Below is a snap of the first vide grenier of the season, at Luc sur Aude. Tiny but delightful. No treasure alas.
Bob is off again, being taken to the airport by Rushton whose bride is on Bobs flight. I'm getting sad.

April 25, 2015

Reunions de Quartier

 After the chaos caused by the lack of information which resulted in a petition asking for the Mayors funding to be pulled - that one, way back - the Mayor has called regular meetings with each part of Esperaza to talk about whatever we want to talk about.
 Nice notion.
Today was the turn of the centre of town, thats me and my neighbours; off we went at 10.30 to the MJC.
I thought it rather a good turn out at about 100 people. One friend said that it was poor given that it was the centre of town. Whatever; it was lively.

Here is our leader, Georges Revert with some of his team - listening. They concientiously took questions from all over the floor and chief topic was traffic. No-one likes it, in a nutshell. Cars are fast, cars are dangerous, there isnt enough legal parking. Me, I hate it all plus the big lorries - when I said so everyone agreed. There was massive agreement all round, in fact, plus fears for the wheelchair users who are forced to use the roads because the pavements are unusable due to parked cars, tree roots and simple non-existance of pavement.

For one insane moment I thought our leader would suggest banning pedestrians. He didn't. He didn't offer any direction except that traffic calming measures cost too many sous and that the young were uncivil. (Incivilite? Perhaps it has other connotations...)

It was something of a theme, this call to address incivilite. The mayor agreed with all our difficulties and rather threw the ball back at us.

 Questions were raised about a well-known dog - not Lily, phew - who barks constantly and disturbs the neighbourhood. The owner as it happens in on the Mayors council though no-one mentioned her name :) A petition has been signed against the dog, the council addressed, the gendarmes told and some little steps (electric collars) taken but actually nothing can be done, said the Mayor - except to keep the process going, to keep complaining to the owner. Very wearing.
                      Heres Mayor Georges, in statesmanlike black and Bernard Laurens, his money-man.

 Don't want to minute the meeting so heres a quick precis:

Building starts this year on the Maison de Sante.
Moto's, their noise, speed and nastiness on the mountain, will be addressed.
The Gendarmes have had a directive to address incivilite.
Camp site is being renovated to a three star level - 10 new showers and disabled facities
An elderly lady who was afraid to go out at night asked for surviellance cameras, a call that was ignored by the council and greated with silence by the townsfolk, thank heaven.

Security is an issue. It was clear early on that this is now a town of older and nervous people. Lots of complaints against the young, against the hippies, against those that urinate in corners, tear up lotto tickets and leave them in the streets, let their dogs loose to shit everywhere, take drugs in the square.

Most people were clear and to the point. Most had ideas; if there can't be pavements, paint white lines and make safe pathways. If the corners are treated as urinoirs, disinfect them from time-to-time.

It was apparent that the Mayor had heard it all before. With luck the possible draconian 'protective' measures will cost too much to implement - I think its safe to say that the Brits enjoy the freedoms of this little place and the downsides are as nothing compared to the cities most of us have come from.

We'll see. Anyway a nice concluding speech from the Conseille Generale bloke said that we can join  the Petites Freres de les Pauvres and visit old people who've been abandoned by their families (?), that Micro-Credit is available if people need to buy for instance a fridge or need help with housing and that if we are perplexed we should ask at the town hall and stop small problems becoming big ones. Amen to that.