An Introduction To The Bastides.

This morning I received an e-mail from the agent selling my French house. Attached was the document for me to sign giving the solicitor the authority to sign the contract on my behalf. Three of the original errors persisted. I responded by asking the agent whether I should alter these by hand. My signature has to be witnessed before I send it back by snail mail. I used the word “Aarrggh” in my e-mail.

Although I have featured the house in earlier posts, now is perhaps an appropriate time to respond to the request of Aussie Ian, the Emu, for images of the exterior of the house and its environs. This is a batch of colour negatives made in September 2003, five years before I bought the house from my friends Maggie and Mike. I scanned the pictures today.

No. 6 rue St. Jacques is an 18th century terraced house in the village of Sigoules. The longer of these two images includes Nos. 8, 10, and beyond.

As is evident from these views of the street, the house is situated at the top of a steep hill. Fortunately it is at the town square end. The first three pictures look down the hill from outside the property. The others look up.

Maggie and Mike in garden 9.03

There is a small patio garden which is a veritable sun-trap.

 

During my stay with my friends, we took a number of walks. Here Maggie and Mike pass a man-made fishing lake on their left. Berries, crocuses, and oaks all enlivened the countryside.

The path we were taking led to hills from which we could admire vineyards and the valley below.

Beaumont is one of the bastide towns to which my friends introduced me.

Built during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries ‘bastides were developed in number under the terms of the Treaty of Paris (1229), which permitted Raymond VII of Toulouse to build new towns in his shattered domains, though not to fortify them. When the Capetian Alphonse of Poitiers inherited, under a marriage stipulated by the treaty, this “bastide founder of unparalleled energy”[5] consolidated his regional control in part through the founding of bastides. Landowners supported development of the bastides in order to generate revenues from taxes on trade rather than tithes(taxes on production). Farmers who elected to move their families to bastides were no longer vassals of the local lord — they became free men; thus the development of bastides contributed to the waning of feudalism. The new inhabitants were encouraged to cultivate the land around the bastide, which in turn attracted trade in the form of merchants and markets. The lord taxed dwellings in the bastides and all trade in the market. The legal footing on which the bastides were set was that of paréage with the local ruling power, based on a formal written contractual agreement between the landholder and a count of Toulouse, a king of France, or a king of England. The landholder might be a cartel of local lords or the abbot of a local monastery.’ (Wikipedia)

During the medieval Hundred Years War between England and France, the French rapidly fortified those towns that had not succumbed in the early destruction. Ownership tended to fluctuate between the two warring Houses, and when it was their turn, the English made good use of the fortifications that had been so effective against them. In fact, various websites inform us that Beaumont-du-Perigord was founded by England’s King Edward I in 1272.

The main feature of all bastides is a central, open place, or square. It was used for markets, and for political and social gatherings. I will introduce some of these in a follow-up post featuring more of these photographs.

For our dinner this evening, Jackie reprised yesterday’s chicken and black bean meal with all its accompaniments and the addition of equal excellent chicken chow mein. She drank Hoegaarden and I consumed the last of the Malbec and a glass of the 2016 vintage.

 

 

From Autumn Leaves to Snowdrops

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.

Bill Edney had the unenviable task of getting those of us schoolboys at Wimbledon College who could not manage Latin through ‘O’ Level Geography after several terms without a teacher. Today I remembered a different anecdote from that told in the link highlighted above.

Sheep, I know do not like long, lush, grass. How do I know? Because Mr Edney, a bluff countryman, publicly humiliated a classmate by ridiculing him for writing in an essay that sheep “like long, lush, grass”. According to the master they most definitely do not. How were we townies to know that? This lasting intelligence prevented me from seeking ovine assistance on our patch of overgrown grass. Having no sheep, I sheared it myself.

Grass cut

It still looks manky at the moment, but should perk up now the air can get to it.

Gazebo Path

This exercise exposed the tortoise, removing its hibernation cover.

Heligan Path

Close examination of this view along the Heligan Path reveals that

Crocus

purple crocuses are now emerging.

Crocuses and snowdrops

These paler ones share with snowdrops the shade of hellebores in the Weeping Birch Bed.

Bee on Hellebore

During the morning the warm sunshine brought out insects such as bees on hellebores

Bee on snowdrop

and on snowdrops;

Red Admiral on laurel

and a Red Admiral butterfly basking on laurel leaves,

Red Admiral on autumn leaves

seeking camouflage in autumn leaves,

Red Admiral on snowdrops

and slaking its thirst on snowdrops.

Palm Bed

This view across the Palm Bed leads to the grass patch.

Erigeron thinning

Jackie spent the morning clearing and thinning areas such as the erigeron clumps by the windows to the living room. This will soon be carpeted once more with daisy-like flowers.

This evening we dined on roast lamb, Jackie’s sage and onion stuffing, sautéed potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, carrots, cauliflower, and greens. I finished the Cote du Rhone.

What’s Come Up

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE. THOSE IN GROUPS ACCESS GALLERIES THAT CAN BE VIEWED FULL SIZE.

Today, I wandered around the garden contemplating spring clearing, and investigating what’s come up.

Primulas 1

There are many different primulas;

Borage 1

 borage;

Borage 2

pulmonaria;

snowdrops

and hellebores galore;

daffodils such as February Gold and Têtes-à-Têtes;

Crocuses

crocuses;

Iris

irises;

Cyclamen

and cyclamen.

Heligan and brick paths

Views across the garden reveal most of these plants, and what needs to be done. Here we stand on the Brick Path to the left of the Heligan one.

Margery's Bed

The Phantom Path runs alongside Margery’s Bed.

Palm Bed

This is the Palm Bed;

Cryptomeria Bed

and this the Heligan Path winding between the Cryptomeria and Weeping Birch Beds.

This afternoon Jackie lopped the branches off the Christmas tree and filled an orange bag with those and the campaniflora clematis cuttings.

Roast lamb served with Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, crunchy carrots, cauliflower and green beans was Jackie’s meal this evening. I had some, too. This was followed by lemon meringue pie and cream. I drank Vacqueras cru des Côtes du Rhône 2015.

I Didn’t Have The Energy

Once the overnight ice had melted on the pools, the day remained bright and sunny, albeit a bit chilly.

Crocuses

By late morning, perhaps drawn by the sunlight reflected off one of the white tiles left as markers by The Head Gardener when she planted crocuses in the cryptomeria Japonica bed last autumn, even a dozy fly had been tempted out of hibernation.

Prunus pissardi

The prunus pissardi is now in full bloom;

Weeping birch bed

and springing into life are such as the Weeping Birch Bed,

Wood anemone and shadow

from which wood anemones cast their shadows onto the Heligan Path.

This afternoon Jackie drove me to O2 in Christchurch to sort out the billing problem. Despite yawning every few minutes, the young man who attended to me was very helpful. He rang the relevant department and handed me his phone to speak to a young lady. Then the fun started. What eventually emerged was that the direct debit that I had signed on 27th February had expired three days later. Don’t ask. I didn’t. This meant there was none in existence. I could start one now, over the phone, but would have to ring them again on 12th to pay my first month’s account. I indicated my displeasure at having to make another call to do this. I was given the option of doing so there and then. Having received confirmation that I had been credited with £10 compensation, I settled the balance in advance. I didn’t have the energy to continue the argument.

After this, Jackie drove us into the forest beyond Brockenhurst, where we turned round and sped for home in time to be there for Aaron who had come in for a short time to put finishing touches to the hall painting before the stair carpet is laid on Wednesday.

Road across moor

On either side of the newly surfaced road through the moors. If they want to cross it they just do.

Ponies

rounded, healthy, ponies gorged on green grass.

Pony and smoke

One was totally unconcerned by the clouds of smoke billowing behind it.

This evening we dined on Tesco’s chicken breast fillets with bacon, leeks, and cheese; and Jackie’s mashed potato, fried onions, and boiled cauliflower. I drank a very good Chilean merlot given to me by Ian last night. Jackie drank sparkling water.

Spring In Sight

Today began our first serious joint preparation for 2016 garden work.

Heliga

This view of the Heligan Path shows early spring flowers sharing billets with hellebores.

Daffodils

Wherever we look there are snowdrops in profusion; many different daffodils;

Crocuses

a variety of crocuses;

Hyacinth

and even a proud pink hyacinth.

Jackie on Heligan Path bench

Taking the occasional rest on the Heligan Path bench,

Palm Bed

The Head Gardener continued last autumn’s work on the Palm Bed,

Jackie pruning grass 1Jackie pruning grass 2

in particular, pruning the ornamental grass. Two of the camellias, hung with floral decorations, can be seen in the background of the first of these two pictures.

Grass

My contribution was to cut this grass,

pick up some of winter’s fallen branches, and help Jackie load some of the griselinia hedge cuttings into the car. The heap of these stretches the length of the back drive. We have decided the best disposal method is to bag them up in the large canvas gravel containers and cart them to Efford Recycling Centre. My lady had filled two bags. We took them away, one per trip. Naturally we returned with a large terra cotta plant pot.

Mr Pink’s fish and chips, for our meal this evening, was supplemented by Mrs Garner’s pickled onions; Mr Lidl’s Freshona pickled cornichons; and, in Jackie’s case, Hoegaarden, and in mine, more of the madiran.

Dead Flies And Sherry Trifle

Geoff Le Pard, who entertains us so hugely with stories on his TanGental blog, would have us believe that he was once a lawyer. This cannot be true. No teenager could have had such a past profession. And Geoff is surely in his teens. Who else could so convincingly represent the mind of a nineteen-yer-old, as he does in ‘Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle’, which I finished reading yesterday?

Dead Flies...026We know that this writer is a master of dialogue, which he uses to great effect in this tale of intrigue, crooked dealings, bullying, and burgeoning sexual angst. It is funny too. I won’t reveal the story, but every time I read the name of the character ‘Nigel Sodding Parsons’ – almost always ‘Nigel Sodding…….’, I heard the voice of the hapless Harold Spittle, and could hardly stifle a giggle. Doesn’t that strike a chord with anyone who has experienced the pungent wit of adolescent relationships?

The setting is on the fringes of The New Forest, where Geoff grew up, and where I now live. The story, with its focus on interplay between the characters, and its rising tensions, could take place anywhere. The period, for those of us who lived through the UK’s scorching summer of 1976, is well described; the heat of the sun synchronising so well with that of Harry’s hormones.

Nice one, Geoff.

Amaryllis

Today, the amaryllis that Frances gave us for Christmas produced its final bloom;

Crocuses

whilst our crocuses are reaching their peak.

Billy

Helen brought her grandson, Billy, for a visit this afternoon. I made a print for him to take home to Stephanie and John, his Mum and Dad.

Shelley joined us later on.

After our guests had retuned to their homes, Jackie drove me,

Lymington River 1Lymington River 2

via the Lymington River mirror,

Hatchet Pond 1Hatchet Pond 2Hatchet Pond sunset 2Hatchet Pond sunset 3Hatchet Pond sunset 4Hatchet Pond sunset 5Hatchet Pond sunset 6

 to catch the sunset reflected on Hatchet Pond,

Sunset on heathland

and the flooded heath near Beaulieu.

This evening we dined on Thai prawn fishcakes followed by smoked haddock and Davidstowe cheddar cheese fishcakes, with ratatouille, carrots, green beans, and mashed potato. We both drank Louis de Camponac sauvignon blanc 2014.

Farewell To Westminster

Storm Imogen appears to have slunk away today, which was calm and sunny, brightening our

Daffodil

daffodils,

Snowdrops

snowdrops,

Crocuses

crocuses,

Camellias

and camellias.

Another strip of colour negatives from April 1986 in a brown window envelope in the rediscovered collection were clearly not taken by me, but by staff members on my last day as Westminster Social Services Area 1 manager as I prepared to continue my working life in a freelance capacity. I scanned them and placed them in my negative files.

Derrick 4.86 1

Here I stand in my office in the former Victorian Paddington town hall,

Derrick 4.86 2

and here I am signing a few documents. Through the window behind me can be seen the old St Mary’s Hospital, which like the town hall has been largely demolished and converted to Housing Association dwellings.

I doubt that any Social Services Departments can today afford the luxury of spacious accommodation for all staff, such as the splendid manager’s office, on the walls of which I was able to hang many family photographs,

Derrick and Louisa 4.86

Louisa came to see where I had been working. We stand in front of portraits of, clockwise from top left, Michael, Sam, Louisa, Auntie Gwen, Matthew, Dad, and Jessica. I think it was Becky obscured by her sister’s head. The other two are of me running in a marathon and a twenty mile race.

This brought to an end twelve enjoyable, if very difficult, years in post.

Cicken tikka

Jackie fed us this evening with her delicious chicken tikka; vegetable pakoras and samosas; colourful savoury rice brought back from our recent visit to Dynasty in Brockenhurst; and salad. The red splurges on my helping are Dorset Naga Chilli and Smoked Garlic Jam, spicing it up. The Cook drank Hoegaarden and I drank Kingfisher.