Friday, 7 June 2019

June in Brittany

We are sailing home ... or something like that.
Left the river Vilaine, and David sailed to Lorient, south Brittany, where I joined him, together with our dear friends Samir and Souaad. Some happy days sailing to Brest, where we changed crew. Lots of lovely sunsets!
Then we changed languages too, Italian took over from French, and pasta triumphed as our staple.
Moored off the island of Ushant (Ouessant) waiting for friendly winds... and soaking in the tremendous quiet...

Sea like liquid silver, says Tilla my niece.

Monday, 20 May 2019

Back on Stroemhella...

Still travelling.
much happening.
Friends dying
empty spaces 
forgotten places
But always sun returning
new faces 

Remembering remembering

Below: David on Stroemhella in the marina at St Malo, Brittany

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

From the silent mountains

In Norway visiting family and friends! Snow sparkling in the sun. Or mist swelling up the valleys. Or hail spitting down upon the wooden chalet where we spent a weekend, and when possible drove up to the ski slopes...
Here you see Christiaan in ski gear, preparing himself a hot-dog, barb-a-q tucked into the snow behind him, and family gathered round.
I didn't even try skiing, since I have a (no one quite sure of diagnosis) badly bruised left knee which continues to be painful when walking. Fortunatley nothing broken. Time will heal, as it does everything...
Anyway, I am very happy here, imbibing wonderfully fresh air (does one imbibe air??)  and greatly enjoying the extreme quiet that pervades here in Nedre Stokka (Stavanger).
Beside and below, two scenes from the enchanted spot in Saida, north of Stavanger (about the same latitude as Bergen, but then inland).

The roofs of the chalets have turf growing on them, a form of insulation. It can be very wet and cold. Below a typical photo taken through our windscreen, driving on the way up. Yes, very wet.

But the drive back home to Stavanger, on Sunday afternoon, clocks just moved forward so an extra hour of sunlight, was sheer beauty. Along winding narrow roads, bordered by sheer deeply-cracked rock faces which often gleamed wet in the sunlight, resembling freshly-cut coal, or beside the still waters of an endless fjord.

During the day, here at home in Nedre Stokka, Stavanger, silence prevails. I shake off the problems of Brexit and property developers in Amsterdam, concerned with making as much profit as possible. What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world? And lose his soul. Is how the verse continues. But Shakespeare understood the seduced human heart, and in his final play, The Tempest, one of the "baddies" speaks the memorable words: My soul? That is a deity I think not on. So there you go. But as you know, I do think on it! Back to the Metaphysical poets. Or, here's a poem I wrote in 2011, in beautiful Tuscany, central Italy

Returning to Italy, summer 2011

1. This is like coming home:
harvesting the good memories
of sunlight filtered through green leaves
of sweet silence after rich conversation
of the kindly night, warm and soft
through which the crickets send their scratchy song
under the pale half-moon.

2. To paint an Italian landscape

High high on a Tuscan hilltop
before me the intricate landscape
spreads to the mauve horizon
midday stillness
the small lizards scuttle into private cracks
between hot bricks.
From an unlocated source,
softly into the full stone tank
the unimportant water falls and falls.
Birds are silent.
Silver-grey of the olive groves
bright green of the fig trees, dark green of the pointed cypresses,
and the distant vineyards thin hairs of purple-green
combed out across the slopes
curving above Poggibonsi, Cinciano, Val d’Elsa.
Square campanile, like fingers of remembrance,
mark every distant peak.
Receding into purple haze, range upon range of hills
each fainter than the former.
Such sturdy quietness, such golden radiance.

Everywhere the white dust penetrates
gently blowing, impertinently present
a dry powdering upon the greens and golds,
muting the sunflowers and the terracotta roofs,
a reminder…

3. To paint the memory

Words surge unfailing, process across my stage,
bow, turn cartwheels, grimace, giggle,
begging to be selected, in order to survive.
Some of them old, wobbly, raggèd and patched and worn:
will have to be dismissed.
But the old may be polished stones
can be fitted into new patterns
re-arranged and threaded into surprising forms.
Fallibility fades, reassurance remains.
Voices of those I love
the words forever remembered
on and on and on into the silence

Greetings from the Norwegian woods.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Wild winds, polluted seas

Today I left the boat, in favour of dry land. A month of urban busy-ness lies ahead... But also some time in the beauties of the Norwegian winter landscape.
Here is David closing the hatches, as it were...

The wind is whirling the leaves and pushing people as they hurry along. We make it to Vannes, only to find there are two hotels with the same name, and I'd reserved a room in the wrong one!
Happily, the first hotel kindly cancelled the booking and I was given a room in the one we wanted (same name, part of a chain: hence the confusion!). So now we're housed in the Hotel Ibis opposite the railway station in Vannes, whence we depart on Saturday morning.

I spent a quiet restful day, watching the French TV and feeling extremely glad I don't have one at home.
Full of bad, sad news about events one can do nothing to affect or alter. Like Brexit.

But here's a photo of the robin who sang so gloriously every day at dawn ... and through the long afternoons.
Filling the air with rapture.
And often on an evening walk along the riverside, this was how it looked:

Or like this one below (I've made this one my screen-saver...).
Whatsoever things are lovely, think on these things...

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Still in Brittanny

Rural peace and dramatic seascapes while the British parliament (representatives of the Briitsh population, so they tell me) votes about Brexit (to stay or not to stay). The whole story is so degenerate (good word!) I refrain from further comment.

I've been playing with my photos, here a couple of examples. Tomorrow I set off for Vannes, and thence back to Amsterdam. Two pix of David looking westwards towards the Atlantic...

Sunday, 24 February 2019

The days and minutes in between

There are several weeks uncounted for, from early January to 14 February, when I arrived in France...
Two of these were spent in Italy, first in Follonica and thereabouts (Tuscany); after which I took the freccia bianca and trained northward from springtime on the Mediterranean coast to the snowy north of Piedmonte, and my dear city of Torino.
Follonica: spent a restful and mind-clearing week with Roberta and Walter speaking as much Tuscan Italian as possible (!) and relishing Roberta's superb cooking.
Some sunset views from outside their house in Follonica, looking towards the Island Elba

We went for long walks along the beach, and skirting the fields where wild asses roam (no, actually, where donkeys / jennys (??) are kept. I am told a female donkey is a "jenny"; these were kept for their milk, which has special properties...

From French Brittany in February

Spring is here, clumps of celandine glow golden in the grassy verges of the steep pathways leading from the river Vilaine up to the medieval centre of La Roche-Bernard.
A totally photogenic part of Brittany, the southern part near the Gulf of Morbihan.
I arrived here on St Valentine's Day (appropriately) to be met by David in the railway station of Vannes.
After a short drive we reached the marina here in La Roche-Bernard, and there was our boat Stroemhella, idling at her moorings...
A new chapter begins.
Below: shining celandine ; Stroemhella at her mooring ; hazel catkins...

Beyond Stroemhella the steep bank of the river Vilaine.

And this is spring in northern Europe.