“Doing [My] Research”

One of the benefits of a thoroughly wet day, apart from watering the garden, is that it gives an opportunity to finish reading a book such as

Apart from the evident foxing, this virtually unblemished dust jacket has protected and preserved

the gold embossed design on the cover of J.M. Dent’s first edition of the work for 66 years, 40 of which have stood on my shelves in various abodes. Even the desiccated spider which slid from between two pages as I opened them left no mark on the almost pristine leaves.

Mr Gibbings has treated us to another delightful ramble into his mind and his talents. He takes us along the river of Paris from its source to its mouth, diverting from his poetic prose descriptions into the realms of history, pre-history, geography, nature, geology, myth, and legend. We are treated to anecdotes picked up on the way; to the Bayeux tapestry; to relations between England and France, and even Quebec; to the Lascaux caves; to the art of Sisley and Monet. And much more. All this with effortless humour. The many wood engravings number more than 50.

As usual I have reproduced complete sample pages

in order that the elegance of both engravings and writing can be displayed.

When, after drafting this, I settled down to start on my next book, Jackie decided to offer an image of me “doing [my] research”.

On Sam’s stag day in December 2007, we toured the wine tasting establishments at Margaret River. I had enjoyed the samples so much that I enquired about the cost of shipping a case to England. It was prohibitive. I had no such problem with the superb bottle of Ringbolt Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 brought all the way from Perth by Mick and Gay on their recent visit. This was a superb accompaniment to Jackie’s chicken thighs marinaded in sweet chilli sauce; vegetable rice, and broccoli served for our dinner this evening. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden.

Cave Dwellers

On a warm, sunny, morning, Jackie drove me to Lymington hospital for a physiotherapy appointment. This had been rescheduled because I forgot the first one. Apparently, although it still looks pretty manky, and required the physiotherapist to cut away scabs clinging to the parchment of dead skin, my hand is healing well. I’ll spare you the photographic evidence. Later, I walked around the garden where Spider on cranesbill geranium

a minute spider clung to one of the many different cranesbill geraniums;

Glechoma

a glechoma has produced tiny flowers which neither of us has ever seen before;

Lonicera

a rich carmine lonicera adorns the arch leading into the planned rose garden;

Aquilegia and ornamental grass

and ornamental grasses cast their shadows across pale lilac aquilegias.

I needed to climb onto the Ace Reclaim bench to photograph this unidentified clematis,Clematis 1Clematis 2

because it is so close to the fence that it is our neighbours who are getting the benefit of it. Clematis Doctor Ruppel

Jackie had no difficulty in identifying the marvellous magenta Dr Ruppel variety ascending the weeping birch, because she had planted it beneath that tree.

The Heligan Path sign

I thought it rather generous of her to have added a dedication to The Heligan Path sign.

As you approach the entrance to Lymington hospital you are currently greeted by a sparrow concerto of splendid amplification. This comes from a colony inhabiting the walls. The architects have provided a facade of stone chunks without apparent grouting. A strong metal grid covers this, presumably to prevent an avalanche. These, the head gardener tells me are cages called gabions.Wall with sparrow

The birds flit backwards and forwards to and from the crevices behind which they are nesting.Sparrow 3

This one appears to be carrying food for chicks.

Sparrow 2

Various males stand guard outside their respective entrances.

Sparrow 1

You wouldn’t want to tangle with this one. (Click on him to reveal his malevolent visage).

The house sparrow is an Old World sparrow believed to have evolved in the Mediterranean region centuries ago. It is unlikely to date as far back as the times of the Neanderthal or Cro-Magnon humans. The latter term for our ancestors comes from the name of a hill in the village of Les Eyzies de Tayac in the Dordogne in Southern France, within reasonable driving distance of my house in Sigoules. This was where bones were discovered by workmen in 1868. These people were also cave dwellers, and lived on this hillside:4182885-cliff_dwellers_cave_Les_Eyzies_de_Tayac 2960806-The_National_Museum_of_Prehistory_Part_II-Les_Eyzies_de_Tayac

One former resident, surveying the valley below, has been preserved in stone.

Perhaps far more famous are the caves at Lescaux where early folk have left their marks on the walls. Chris and Frances were rather disappointed a few years ago when they took a trip from Sigoules to see them. In order to preserve the artwork intact, the public are not permitted to enter the original dwellings, and are shown around a replica, at the speed with which anyone who has been marshalled along a crowded art gallery will be familiar. Here is a two and a half minutes guided tour taken from YouTube:

There was no YouTube in prehistoric times, so people told their stories in scratched markings and pigmentation. 13000376 In Argentina’s Patagonia stencils of human hands, together with other rock paintings depicting the life of hunters who lived between 13,000 and 9,500 years ago, cover the walls of the cave known as the “Cueva de las Manos” which literally means, “the Cave of Hands”. Perhaps these people didn’t live long enough to be inflicted with Dupuytren’s contracture.

This evening we dined on a tangy variation of Jackie’s cottage pie topped with sheets of mature cheddar cheese; baked carrots and leaks; stir fried cabbage, onions, and peppers; and piquant cauliflower cheese. This was followed by Lidl’s Deluxe New York cheesecake, use by 18 May. Jackie drank her habitual Hoegaarden and I relished my customary red wine, in this case the last of the Cotes du Rhone Villages.