The Garden Of Delights


Here is a photograph of yesterday’s Barnet (Cockney rhyming slang – Barnet fair – hair. Geddit?)

This morning Jackie drove me to New Hall Hospital for a physiotherapy session with the excellent Claire who expressed surprise and pleasure at my progress. After she had strong-armed my leg she had taken the straightened knee to just one degree short of perfect, and the bent position to 105 degrees, already acceptable, but aiming for the 120 target.

There had been a nasty motoring accident on the Salisbury road, causing major delays and lateness for my appointment. We therefore took a diversion on our way home. Once we noticed that the signposts in all the tiny villages we wound our way through were pointing to Shaftesbury we realised that something was awry.

Never mind, on the road to Nunton we passed the patterned fields of Longford Farms Ltd,

and the neighbouring rolling landscape.

On the corner of Whitlock rise and the road through Bishopstone, climbing up to the bungalows above, Jackie spotted a sight to behold. She turned the car round and parked in the street beside a garden. I just had to disembark with my camera. At that moment a friendly woman with a small dog carrying out guard duties also left another car. She was the creator of what had attracted us.

She was thrilled that I wanted to photograph this Garden of Delights. She said most people simply take a shot in passing, whilst waving at the figures on the bench, imagining them to be living humans. She asked me to be sure to feature the boy on the donkey. A neighbour had given her the doll to complete the look. The wheels turn in the wind, and at Christmastime the lights are all lit. Local children love it. Having given me the information she entered her house saying she would “leave [me] to it”.

We struck lucky with The Talbot Inn in Berwick St John where we lunched. My pork Madras curry was the best I have ever tasted in a pub, and Jackie found her Italian chicken with spaghetti equally to her liking. She drank Diet Coke and I drank Ringwood’s Best.

The Fovant BadgesThe Fovant BadgesThe Fovant BadgesThe Fovant Badges

Soon after this we found the A30 to Salisbury and set off home. At Fovant we found a good view of the remaining Badges,

The Fovant Badges plaque

which are explained in this plaque. This final image will need the double enlargement to read the detail.

This evening I watched the football World Cup semi-final match between France and Belgium. Following the lunch we enjoyed earlier, we had no further need for sustenance.

P.S. For a short video of the badges see the comment of efge63 below.



The Challenge

Pomport war memorial 2.13‘Les Hauts de Hurlevent’ is the French title of Emily Bronte’s awesomely tragic masterpiece ‘Wuthering Heights’.  Last night I watched the film version in English with French subtitles.  Tom Hardy is a magnificently brooding and vengeful Heathcliffe; Charlotte Riley a perfect, spirited, Cathy; and Sarah Lancashire a strong and motherly Nelly.  Everyone else was well worthy of their place in this gripping dramatisation from the screenplay of Peter Bowker.  Catherine, I cannot resist reporting, was played by Rebecca Night.

Clad in a warm dressing gown, under a duvet, reclining in bed with the Wordsworth biography in my hands; a cafetiere and cup on the bedside table; I thought of my late friend Ann.  It is my custom, on solitary mornings, to read in this manner until the coffee is consumed.  Realising that, in this room which has not yet received whatever sun may be on offer during this freezing season, I have only been half-filling the cup, I remembered Ann’s tale of her and Don’s trip to Norway for her son Ally’s wedding.  There, the natives only half-filled coffee cups so the drink would be at least tepid before it was finished.  This must have been at the back of my mind.

Swollen ditch 2.13Setting off up the D17 to Pomport I reversed the loop discovered on 3rd.  Perhaps it was something I said: the donkey virtually ignores me now.  rue Cailloud 2.13Before I had left the village, a vicious Auster tearing up rue Cailloud bit my fingers and sent the ubiquitous maple leaves bounding alongPomport church 2.13.  After the usual half hour my hands were warm and I’d raised a sweat which cooled and dampened my shirts.  Yes, I’m back to the four layers.

This time the downward stretch tested the knees.  I had to lean backwards and apply my brakes, especially after I paused to take a photograph and couldn’t help but start off at running pace, such was the incline. Downhill from Pomport 2.13 Fortunately, before descending steeply, the path flattened out enough to make this possible.

A trio of deer scutted, one after the other, between the bare vines.  Since it is always three I see together in the forest in Minstead, I wondered whether, rather like one rule of planting, that is the requisite number for company.

Mistletoe 2.13Clusters of mistletoe clung to their hosts.

This was a most pleasurable walk on a beautiful morning.

The hearty vegetable soup in Le Code Bar was just what I needed.  It was followed by an absolutely delicious kind of spring roll made of warm, moist, leek wrapped in thin layers of lightly crusted ham topped with melted cheese.  The main course, piled on a platter for two, consisted of three tender turkey thighs and a section of the neck with a mound of glistening pasta.

Now, Majid and Shafiq, the manager and chef of the Akash in Edgware Road, have for years been upping the ante in an effort to make me sweat with the heat of the chillies.  I swore I had a cold on the one day they managed it.  Today’s meal came with a challenge from Max in the kitchen.  Fred told me he had said ‘if he eats everything I want to see that’.  Always up for such a test, carefully removing them from my plate and arraying them on the empty platter, I returned the bones.  Max came out to see for himself.  It was then that I realised I had been closely observed by all the assembled company, who demonstrated their appreciation in the customary manner.  I hastily informed them and Max that, as usual when I’d dined in Le Code Bar, I would eat no more today.  And I had had no breakfast.

The Shearing

Gate to Chateau, No. 6 attic next door 2.13Side gate to disused garden 2.13Chickens 2.13Garden across from No. 6. 2.13rue De La Mayade 2.13 (2)This crisp, bright, morning following about fifteen hours of rain, I ambled around Sigoules with my camera.  The photographs will form the bulk of today’s post, which will please Louisa who always checks their lengths before deciding whether to read my offerings.36 rue St Jacques 2.13

Studio Hair 2.13Coiffure Viviane 2.13No. 36 rue St Jacques is an unoccupied hairdresser’s that has been empty as long as I have known it.  The tiling and lettering on the facade dates its heyday.  Sigoules has more than its share of trichologists.

Coiffure Mixte 2.13Le Temps d'une Coiffure 2.13As a child in Raynes Park I was always given a short back and sides.  Apart from being the fashion in the ’40s and ’50s, that was all my parents could afford.  Because my locks are so fast-growing I needed one of these every six weeks.  Mum quipped that I was costing her a fortune.

For about thirty years Michael of ‘Jeffery and Michael’ in Little Venice was my hairdresser.  During the Newark years Phil cut the family hair and became a friend.  As I was in London during the weekdays, I continued with Michael who, when he retired, offered to continue to serve me from his home.  I was then beyond retirement age myself, and focussing on balancing my own loyalty to my clients with my desire to cease my main occupation, so I declined his offer.  For the next six years I tried a number of alternatives, but constant moves of home meant I never kept one for long.

The worst disaster was a visit to a barber’s in Westbourne Grove.  He began by taking low-set clippers straight up the back.  Knowing I would have no option but to allow him to complete the destruction, like a resigned sheep, I tolerated the shearing and emerged a skinhead.  After all, my preferred length would have looked rather ridiculous with a prepared cricket pitch running through it.  Perhaps I would have been safer in the hands of Sweeney Todd.  ‘See you again soon’, he said, preparing to allow me to kick free and scamper away.  ‘I might be some time’, was my reply.  I wonder if he ever saw me subsequently entering the establishment of Kris from Latvia across the road.

The proprietor of ‘Studio Hair’ has given me a couple of good cuts, but I am not here often enough to be a regular.  I was very pleased, therefore, to find Donna-Marie in Ringwood (see post of 10th December 2012).

Judith and Roger joined me for the Code Bar feast at lunchtime when we spent an enjoyable couple of hours together.  Among the topics of conversation was their 2006 cruise in pursuit of the total solar eclipse they viewed in Libya.  Carefully planning their accommodation they had booked a cabin with a balcony on the correct side of the ship from which to experience the rare phenomenon.  When underway they were informed that the vessel would then be approaching from the opposite direction.

Our meal, accompanied by red wine, consisted of onion soup; stuffed avocado, pate, gherkins and onions; steak and chips; and creme brulee for Roger and profiteroles for Judith and me.  Frederick knew I would choose profiteroles because he had read my blog.  My friends were suitably impressed with both the fare and the ambience.


rue St Jacques from garden on corner 2.13

Last night I watched ‘La Dame En Noir’, the French version of ‘The Woman in Black’, a gothic treatment of Susan Hill’s ghost story.  Directed by James Watkins, this was beautifully and terrifyingly filmed in marvellously muted colour.  In order not to spoil it for future viewers I will simply say that Daniel Radcliffe is superb in the lead role, as is the supporting cast, especially Ciaran Hinds and Janet McTeer.  Hearing dubbed French supplemented by subtitles in that language I was able to follow it well enough.  Afterwards I watched it in English.  The actors’ voices were then much more part of the performances.

I’m a pretty tough cookie when it comes to the supernatural, but, even on second viewing, I lost count of the number of times a shiver ran up the back of my neck and tugged at my facial muscles.  The last film scene that had that effect on me was the revelation of Norman Bates’ mother in Psycho.  That was in my teens.

6 rue St Jacques through disused garden gate 2.13Except for the climb back into Sigoules, my walk today was comparatively flat.  On the D17 towards Monbos a woman from the boulangerie was delivering bread to homes on the outskirts.  I took a right turn to Le Bricoty, right again to the Cuneges road and finally right into my village.  The two tracks off the main roads are heavily pock-marked with various materials providing in-fill.

It was just as well that I returned as the church clock was striking noon, for Sandrine was waiting outside to take me to the airport.  ‘It’s Tuesday the twelfth’, said I.  Once again confusion had arisen when booking with her mother last Friday.  Tuesday is ‘mardi’; noon is ‘midi’ or ‘douze heures’; the twelfth is ‘douze’.  Sandrine was perfectly relaxed and most amused.  As she speaks perfect English I said: ‘Lost in translation again’.  We parted with ‘Mardi douze [at] midi [or] douze heures’ from me, and a good shared laugh.

Soup 2.13Pizza slice 2.13Frangipane tart 2.13Yesterday’s soup in Le Code Bar was even better the next day.  This was followed by a large slice of delicate pizza.  The sweet was a toothsome frangipane tart.  Unfortunately I managed to lose the photograph I took of the main course, so I will have to paint a pastoral picture.  This was a beautifully presented terrace of tender duck breast medallions lying at the foot a glistening rocky hillock of dressed pasta garnished with cheese.  The usual lettuce leaves provided a deciduous foliage, and what could be seen of the huge chromium oval platter was a surrounding lake.  Once again I was full to bursting.  Stuffed for the next twenty four hours.

After lunch the fierce wind and I chased last autumn’s maple leaves around the garden.  Since neither I nor my neighbours have such trees I’ve no idea where they are coming from.

I usually have two books, one in English and one in French, on the go at any one time.  On completing Marguerite Duras’ ‘Emily L’ this afternoon I was struck by several contrasts between, and one coincidence in, that and Juliet Barker’s life of Wordsworth.  The French novel is short and concise; a small format paperback with large print running to 152 pages.  The English biography is immense and dense.  It is a large format hardback comprising almost 900 pages of very small print.  Although I didn’t know it before my reading, the novel also features the life of a poet.  It will be some time before I finish the biography, so here I’ll just say a bit more about ‘Emily L.’.  The novel uses the fascinating device of what Jackie would call ‘people-watching’.  The four main characters occupy a bar overlooking the Seine.  The French narrator, falling out of love with her male companion, concentrates on an English couple clinging to love despite the woman’s destructive alcoholism.

The thoughts of the Frenchwoman and her conversation with her man, always using ‘vous’ rather than the more intimate ‘tu’, are interspersed with the words of the husband across the room.  His wife mostly looks at the floor whilst he soliloquises.  Emily is the successful poet who has lost her muse.  We learn why.  An excellent story of the sadness of dying romance, it is given pace by the brevity of the sentences.

People-watching in restaurants is clearly an universal phenomenon.  When in Le Code Bar I listen to all the voices around me, hoping to catch a few words of French.  The speakers’ confidentiality is quite safe with me.  I don’t understand enough.

It Ain’t Half Cold/Hot Mum

rue Traversiere, Sigoules  2.12Waking this morning between a warm sheet and duvet, then being struck by the cold air of the bedroom and colder atmosphere of the corridor through to the equally freezing bathroom, I reflected on the vagaries of temperature.  Climbing into bed last night, greeted by the shock of wintry sheets, I had soon warmed up.  The body has its own internal cumbustion engine.  Blessed with a beneficial blood circulation, I am often oblivious of changes in temperature at home in England.  The climate there is, on the whole, more temperate than in the Dordogne.  Up or down, there is usually a ten degrees centigrade difference.

This area is very hot and arid throughout the long summer months, yet can, for a few brief hibernal weeks, be bitterly cold.  Snow is no stranger to Sigoules, but it is a most transient visitor.  Judith tells me that they went from minus nineteen to plus nineteen in a fortnight last winter in Razac d’Eymet.

For the first few days I was here this time I kept an electric heater on all day in the living room and – unheard of in England – all night in the bedroom.  I slept in my clothes, including socks, and hastily added a dressing gown for my nocturnal trips along the corridor.  Although it is still cold I no longer need the heater at night.  Last week was so much warmer that I needed no heating at all.  Jackie tells me it is now more clement in Hampshire than it is here.

Or have we just become so accustomed to central heating that we forget the freezing winters of our childhood and are no longer robust enough to withstand the temperatures in a mostly unheated stone house?  Mind you, it is refreshingly cooler inside during the summer.

The greatest sudden contrast I have experienced was in Perth, Australia in 2007.  Louisa, Errol, their infant Jessica, and I arrived at 2.00 a.m. on Christmas morning to stay with the delightful Gay and Mick O’Neill in preparation for Sam’s marriage to Holly.  We had abandoned a bleak London to disembark from an Air Singapore plane feeling as if we were walking into an oven.  Even at that time it was more than forty humid degrees, in the hottest summer the Australians could remember.  There, the essential facility for a home is air conditioning rather than central heating.  All the news on our hotel room in Melbourne the following week was either of forest fires or severe flooding in one place or another in that vast continent.  The nearest sylvan inferno blazed right up to the end of Mick’s mother’s road.

Jessica fought a long losing campaign to get me into winter woollies.  As I sit here in a long lanate Lakeland jumper, I am now grateful that she bought me that one.

I warmed up in Le Code Bar with a scrumptious pulse and noodles soup; a vol-au-vent filled to overflowing with a delicious sauce that just had to be mopped up with bread; a large slice of lean pork cooked on the, minimal, bone and a plentiful platter of crisp chips; completed by two fresh coffee eclairs, probably from the superb boulangerie.

Clouds brought both rain and comparative warmth this afternoon. rue Traversiere,  Sigoules (2) 2.12 After tramping around damp and dripping village streets I set off down the D17, took a left turn just before the leisure centre, up a narrow winding byroad, left at the top, and back down past the lake to rue St. Jacques. Donkey on hilltop 2.12 From the top of his field the mud-spattered donkey silently surveyed my passing on the D17.  When I walked by along the hillside track the dogs had their usual go at me.  He left them to it.

Chateau Cluzeau 2.12The upward climb offered a level, albeit rain-veiled, view of Chateau Cluzeau.

Today’s title is a parody that of the 1974-1981 television sitcom series ‘It Ain’t Half Hot Mum’ based on the adventures of an execrable concert party entertaining the troops in Burma.

A City Gent

rue De La Mayade, Sigoules 1.13Today was beautiful.  Crisp.  Frosty.  And sunny. I began by wandering around the village roads then walking up the D17 towards Pomport. House off D17, Sigoules 1.13 The donkey, grazing with the goats, gave me a cursory glance and continued his meal.  He too must have grown accustomed to my presence. Birdfeeder 1.13A birdfeeder had been filled along the way.   Past the leisure centre on the way up towards Pomport I have often noticed a minor road descending the slope on the left.  This morning, ignoring the sign proclaiming ‘no entry except for access’, I decided to take it.  At worst I would have to retrace my steps.  Passing through trees on either side, after an almost right-angled bend a long, winding, calf-stretching climb past several tracks leading to houses eventually brought me  to a flat plain high above the fields below. Pomport from approach road 1.13 Up there were the inevitable vineyards and, fortunately, a junction at which a right turn led to Pomport.   I exchanged greetings with a jogger on this plateau, wondering whether he too would take an undulating route.  I certainly wouldn’t have fancied running down the hill I had just climbed.  I always found it easier to run up a steep slope than down it.

As I entered Pomport I encountered a large group of ramblers decanting from their cars and changing their outfits. Ramblers, Pomport 1.13 They had all the right gear: walking boots, sticks, and protective clothing.  They reminded me of Jessica togging up for one of her beloved Lakeland walks.  In those days, when I did accompany her, I dressed more like a city gent.  Although now I still sport a waistcoat and suit jacket when the weather requires more than a T-shirt and shorts, I do at least wear jeans and appropriate footwear.

Walking down the twisting and turning D17 back to Sigoules I felt the same sharp wind as yesterday.  Obviously it was behind me on the way up, for I hadn’t noticed it.

Upon my return I cooked a sausage casserole.  As it was made with ‘Rose de Sigoules’  (that’s rose as in the flower, not pink wine} 2009, I drank the rest of the bottle.  I used a glass with a yellow ball in the stem which had contained I can’t remember what produce from Carrefour.  Whatever it was Jackie and I didn’t buy any more of it, so we couldn’t complete the set.

Afterwards, a foursome of Fred, Laurence, Graham, and I watched Italy beat France at Rugby.

The Orange Mushroom

Church, Sigoules 1.13Saufiene arrived at noon with two experts to complete the measurements for the home improvements.  After this I visited Le Code Bar and had a beer with David.  I had not realised that they were not providing lunch today because of another private party in the evening.  However, my friend invited me to join him and Francois for a meal at Che’paou.  He insisted on paying, and the two men explained the significance of the name of this restaurant.  It means ‘I don’t know where’, being an onomatopoeic rendering of ‘Je ne sais pas ou’.  Yet another reason for our burgeoning friendship.  I enjoyed steak and chips which matched those of Max.

Marie runs an excellent haberdashery in Sigoules’ newer shopping square.  When I went to collect some dry cleaning from her I witnessed another service she provides.  Seated around a couple of tables in her tiny shop was a bevy of elderly women and one small girl engaged in knitting and sewing.  This reminded me of Tess’s ‘Stitch and Bitch’ evenings in The Village Shop (see 12th May 2012) in Upper Dicker.  Chris, the one male member of this group, used to darn his socks improvising a mushroom from an orange.  That is until Jackie provided him with the real thing.

rue De la Fon Close 1.13Passing through rue De La Fon Close, the older shopping area, I walked the La Briaude loop.  As I leant into it, a chill wind pierced my clothing; tore at the as yet bare vines, rattling their tags; and sent a variety of withered leaves scuttling after each other along the road.

Although closed, David and Frederick called me into the bar to watch the England Scotland rugby match.  I needed no second bidding.

A Watershed


Hellebore 2.13

It is ivy on the wall attracting my numerous noisy little avian friends, not the virginia creeper which isn’t yet foliated.  Last evening, no matter how long or how often I sat patiently waiting, camera in hand, they scarpered at my first movement.  A flurry of feathers and they were gone.  All would be quiet.  Thinking that was that I would walk back inside.  Then the rest of the flock would silently emerge from the foliage and flit away.  Sometimes a tailender would follow afterwards.  It became a game of hide and seek that I was always going to lose.

This morning, before setting off for Eymet, I worked on the garden, trimming and cutting back.  In what is no more than a small courtyard; where plants must be grown in tubs or makeshift beds merely inches deep; uninhabited for most of the year; subjected to often intense heat and long dry periods in the summer, it takes a while to discover what will survive.  This time I seem to have lost only one cistus, though its companion on the front steps has lived.  I am delighted that the hellebore I planted last summer is now in bloom.

Magpies rattled away.

It was a sunless day with light rain on and off.  I walked to Eymet via Ste. Innocence and Fonroque.  The roads were all undulating and snaking, the stretch leading to and past Ste. Innocence being predominantly uphill.  Some way past this village there is a series of steep S bends dropping down to the D933 at Fonroque.  A right turn there took me into the town, and to Maggie and Mike’s home in Chemin de la Sole, which was my goal.Shrine to Our Lady, Ste. Innocence 2.13

I passed the wayside shrine at Ste. Innocence which I described on the 8th June last year (posted on 10th).  I wasn’t adding photographs then.

This walk was something of a watershed.  The last time I made it was in 2009 when I did not know that the pain in my left leg would not go away until I had surgical intervention in the form of a replacement hip.  When I arrived at this famous Bastide town to meet my friends at a restaurant in the mediaeval square, I was completely unable to climb into the bench/table at which we were to eat.  I had to perch on one end without attempting to fold myself up in any way.  On that trip Jackie had phoned me from England to see how I was getting on.  Learning how much my leg was hurting she politely indicated that I might not be quite right in the head.  ‘It’ll be OK’, said I, ‘you just have to walk through the pain’.  Well, you see, the dictum for marathon runners hitting ‘The Wall’, that point where physiological changes make them feel like stopping, is to ‘run through the pain’.  To me it seemed like a transferable skill.  It wasn’t.

Today’s call whilst I was on the move was from Saufiene, confirming the time for tomorrow’s door measurements.  I don’t think he thought I was quite sane either, but he probably considered it a bit impolitic to say so.  For the record, I felt fine on completion of today’s challenge.  Just a bit achy in the calves.

After the usual aperitifs and nibbles Maggie served up a tasty roast chicken meal and a varied cheeseboard.  A good red wine went with it.  We then watched English television during which both Maggie and I dropped off to sleep.  Reminiscent of a Firs gawp described on 2nd June 2012.

Lydie drove me home and we shared our usual warm greetings and entertaining conversation.