A Knight’s Tale (141: Why I Bought No. 6, Rue Saint Jacques)

Just before I spent the week in Eymet with Maggie and Mike in September 2008, culminating in agreeing to buy their house in Sigoules, I enjoyed various locations with Mike and Heidi, Emily, Oliver, and Alice. One of these was at

Onesse in Les Landes. Oliver doesn’t seem to be in this family shot.

I am not sure where this beach was, but I remember picnicking on the bank in the foreground.

We took a number of walks in the sun-dappled forest with its tall pines, red-brown streams, and sandy banks of bright purple heather.

The farmhouse and its field; the nodding sunflowers; and the village perching above it are all outside Eymet, while the colourful garden and the church spire behind the rooftops are probably inside it. Without notes I am a little hazy after fourteen years.

I really regret not being sure where this wonderfully sensitive sculpture of an unknown soldier adorns a war memorial. Maybe someone will enlighten me.

Our accommodation in Les Landes is forever afterwards known as the gite from Hell. When the barbecue turned out to be a toasted sandwich maker and resin oozed out of the garden table onto my trousers we began vaguely to wonder whether all was as it should be.  Michael and Heidi were expected to share a single duvet.  Heidi said they would just have to snuggle up.  It was when Michael went for a bath that serious alarm bells rang.  If these bells had been wired up to the domestic electricity supply, and needed activating after we had switched on more than a couple of appliances, they would have fused the system.  But that came later.  Back to the bath.  Michael, a builder, could see that a hole, near the plug hole, eaten away by rust had been plugged with some very soft substance, which he recognised, but the name of which currently escapes me.  When confronted with this the female proprietor denied that it existed.  When pressed, however, she allowed us to use a shower in an annex to her own house, saying that the plumber would come on Monday.

It being August, surprise, surprise, the plumber was on holiday.  Her husband, however, was a retired builder.  He was unable to work because only one quarter of his heart was working.  This after major surgery.  I checked this statement most thoroughly, fearing the truth may have been lost in translation.  Veracity was absent, but certainly not subject to any problem with the language.  Quite apart from the unlikelihood of the story, we knew that the gentleman concerned was building a house further up the hill.  However, out of the goodness of what was left of his heart he undertook to replace the bath.

After three more days we had a new bath.  It fell upon Heidi to sample this new fitting.  Having completed her ablutions she came into the living room with the circular plug adjuster in her hand.  When attempting to turn it to let the water out it had come apart in her hands.   A bath we couldn’t fill had been replaced by one we couldn’t empty.

The next day it was the electric iron that fell apart in Heidi’s hands, and a while later the whole electrical system fused.  Michael investigated the fuse box and established that there was insufficient supply to cater for the various appliances in the house.  The proprietor said that we should not have more than two appliances on at any one time because the utility company did not supply enough juice.

When it came to depart Michael demanded his deposit back from the female owner and her daughter, who, as to be expected, refused to return it. I gathered the rest of the family into the car, hoping that the resultant multilingual slanging match might subside without an audience. This was not to be. Moreover the husband with the allegedly dicky heart and his son-in-law surrounded my son with threatening gestures. “Oh, dear,” I thought. “I’m going to have to get involved.”

I disembarked and squared up to the father; Michael confronted the son-in-law. Now the numbers were even the battle ceased and off we went.

The rest of the week was spent in a three star hotel at the expense of Brittany Ferries, who also refunded the rental of the establishment and gave Michael a £200 voucher for a further trip.  This, however, put my Francophile son off arranging such a holiday again; my friends in Sigoules were struggling with a bridging loan; I had the cash and couldn’t afford to buy in London; so I bought No. 6, rue Saint Jacques.

Completion could not have come at a worse time than December of that year.

Narcissism Personified

We enjoyed glorious sunshine throughout this rather warmer day, beginning with a drive into the forest.

A trio of ponies cropped the verge of Burley’s Bennett’s Lane, until approached by a horse and rider. A jogger had paused asking me if I wanted to take a picture. Not wishing to disturb her rhythm, I waved her on.

Just around the corner more ponies, one seemingly narcissism personified, carried out further roadside maintenance.

At the end of Bennett’s Lane we turned into Mill Lane, where Jackie parked and I wandered past the house to the left of this picture, admiring its

garden’s display of daffodils.

My target was a reflecting pool above which pussy willows burgeoned, and beside which lichen-covered twigs littered the turf.

Residents here enjoyed spacious, colourful, landscapes.

While I wandered, Jackie photographed a weather van bearing a dog she thought might be a Labrador.

A string of horses stretched across the road beside the junction at Burley War Memorial were oblivious of the traffic tearing down the hill to the left of the picture. As Jackie drove up the slope a motorcycle sped past on the opposite side. It would have needed to avoid the leading equine.

We ventured out again this afternoon. Almost every verge has its carpet of primroses, celandines, as in Sandy Down,

and daffodils, as in Church Lane, Boldre.

A few sleepy ponies waited for a bus on Jordan’s Lane, Pilley;

others played with the traffic.

From her spot at the end of the road, Jackie watched me communing with the ponies,

and recorded her discovery of the reason that so many road signs are bent.

This evening we reprised yesterday’s pasta arrabbiata and runner beans with more of the same beverages.

A Tryst

Today I scanned Charles Keeping’s next seven illustrations to ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’ by Charles Dickens.

‘ ‘Go, sir,’ returned Dick, leaning against a post and waving his hand’. He is quite clearly drunk.

‘The boy threw his wasted arms around the schoolmaster’s neck’ is a typically tender scene.

‘They drew up there for the night, near to another caravan’

‘The game commenced’ leaves us in no doubt that these are three rogues and the un-pictured gentleman facing them will lose his money.

‘One young lady sprung forward and put the handkerchief in her hand’ pictures a rare act of kindness.

‘Miss Brass went scratching on, working like a steam engine’

‘ ‘Hallo there! Hallo, hallo!’ ‘ faithfully depicts the author’s description of a scene in which two characters are now clearly recognisable.

This afternoon we drove to Everton Garden Centre the where we purchased a garden water feature which we hope to set up tomorrow, and continued with a short trip to the east of Lymington.

We stopped at Saint John the Baptist Boldre Parish Church, in order to photograph

the clusters of daffodils on the bank and around the grounds. The first two of these images are mine; the rest Jackie’s.

While I was wandering around the side my Assistant Photographer featured in her third picture,

a horse, protected against our currently cold nights by a rug, trotted over to the fence between the field and the church. I thought perhaps it was interested in me.

No such luck. I had noticed a gentleman take up a seat in the churchyard. His equine friend had found a way to get to the church fence where her gentleman friend was waiting to continue the conversation that ensued. It was clearly a regular occurrence.

I comforted myself over the rejection by communing with a bay pony on the verge further along the road.

My next conversation was with a family of donkeys;

then alpacas at East End where stands

one of the three mimosa trees was saw blooming today, and numerous gnarled oaks awaiting their own plumage;

a lone thatcher exercised his craft.

Variously coloured crocuses are bursting through the soil before the war memorial on South Baddersley Road.

Jackie’s final offering is a rook she photographed from Hightown Lane yesterday.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s savoury egg fried rice; tempura prawns; and a rack of pork ribs in barbecue sauce with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2020. This was followed by Bakewell tart and New Forest Rhubarb and Ginger ice cream.

Walking in Aquitaine

With five more chapters of Little Dorrit under my belt I now present five more of Charles Keeping’s splendid drawings.

‘Mr Flintwinch held the candle to her head’.

‘It was a charming place, on the road by the river’ is reminiscent of the paintings of John Constable. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Constable

In ‘He applied spoons to his eye’, Keeping has ably depicted that Young Barnacle had not exactly engrossed the assembled company.

As the artist shows with ‘Now or never was the time to speak to her’ never would have been preferable.

Charles Keeping will not be constrained by the blocks of type on his pages.

‘The brothers, walking up and down the College-yard, were a memorable sight’, gives him the opportunity for a double spread.

This afternoon I scanned and labelled another set of recently rediscovered colour slides. These are from France in April 2009.

During my sojourns in Sigoules I walked many miles in and around the town.

The blossom trees in the first picture were in the garden immediately across rue St Jacques from my front windows; the white blob receding in the far distance of the garden collecting tyres was on regular five mile circuit; for a while cattle in the field behind the supermarket were displaced for development; the church and war memorial are at Ste Innocence, near Eymet; I would pass the ploughed field on another circuitous ramble. What was built on the development site and the trip to Ste Innocence are described in https://derrickjknight.com/2012/06/10/le-code-bar/

I passed these rape fields on my fairly regular 8 mile walk to Eymet. It was probably a little after this particular time that I began to struggle with this one. The general advice when encountering the marathon runners’ “wall” was to run the through the pain. I had never experienced that particular difficulty, but surely, it seemed, the pain in my left hip would benefit from such an effort. Not so. 6 months later I was fitted with a new one. Although I continued walking very quickly after the operation, I never ran again.

Chris, Frances, and Elizabeth were staying with me that spring. We took the opportunity to visit Chris’s long-term friend Mike Ozga and his wife Oonagh who lived about 30 miles away.

A walk in the Dordogne woodland ensued. I wondered whose fossilised skull had been covered in moss.

This evening we reprised Jackie’s scrumptious beef pie dinner with similar beverages.

An Unknown Soldier

Just before I spent the week in Eymet with Maggie and Mike in September 2008, culminating in agreeing to buy their house in Sigoules, I enjoyed various locations with Mike and Heidi, Emily, Oliver, and Alice. One of these was at

Onesse in Les Landes. Oliver doesn’t seem to be in this family shot from the selection I scanned today from the recently recovered colour slides.

I am not sure where this beach was, but I remember picnicking on the bank in the foreground.

We took a number of walks in the sun-dappled forest with its tall pines, red-brown streams, and sandy banks of bright purple heather.

The farmhouse and its field; the nodding sunflowers; and the village perching above it are all outside Eymet, while the colourful garden and the church spire behind the rooftops are probably inside it. Without notes I am a little hazy after twelve years.

I really regret not being sure where this wonderfully sensitive sculpture of an unknown soldier adorns a war memorial. Maybe someone will enlighten me.

Having read another four chapters of ‘Little Dorrit’ I now present four more of Charles Keeping’s skilful illustrations.

Here we have a ruined uncle well portrayed by the artist;

‘My eldest daughter and my son Mr Clennham.’ The essences of one weak and one haughty captured by the artist’s pen;

‘Oh, Maggy, What a clumsy child you are!’ Drawn to perfection is Dickens’s portrait of this simple soul, including her clothing’s ‘general resemblance to seaweed’;

‘He seemed to have been sitting for his portrait all the days of his life’. Keeping has caught Dickens’s vivid description of the aptly named Tite Barnacle, down to his very clothing.

This evening we dined on a second sitting of Hordle Chinese Take Away’s excellent fare, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Recital.

Sigoules and Eymet

I spent most of the afternoon scanning and labelling another selection of colour slides from the recently rediscovered boxes. Apart from the two of Michael and Heidi, which I now think were taken twelve months later, these were all made in August 2008. During that summer I spent three weeks at various French bookings with my son and his family, saw them on their way to Spain, and stayed another week with my friends Maggie and Mike at Eymet in Aquitaine. As told in https://derrickjknight.com/2012/06/04/the-gite-from-hell/ this set of circumstances was instrumental in prompting me to buy

No 6 rue St Jacques, Sigoules. Mike is seen here opening the door for my viewing.

On this trip I took a few of the many walks around the town and its streets over the next few years. There were hardly any hillside slopes lacking prolific vineyards; vigorous sunflowers flourished in flatter fields; rustic stone buildings provided age-old charm,

My friends had moved from No 6 to be nearer the amenities of Eymet, a veritable English enclave.

Although I had to help Maggie with a pronunciation confusion when she was buying from a fruit seller, there seemed to be more English than French voices heard in Eymet’s popular market. In later years I found it easier to root out second-hand English books on the stalls than French ones.

This was also the occasion of the first of my ramblings around Eymet’s streets and lanes (rouelles). Most French towns and villages have splendid war memorials of which this is a fine example.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s perfect paprika pork; scrumptious savoury rice; and tender runner beans, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Shiraz.

Wetter Than Expected

My plan this morning was to walk along Bisterne Close for half an hour after which Jackie, having dropped me at one end, would follow and pick me up. In gloomy morning light and light drizzle we set off.

The War Memorial in Everton Road, Hordle, had been prepared for tomorrow’s Armistice Day.

The commemorative bench bears stylised pale red poppies and pure white doves of peace.

More poppies grace fences and

freshly mown grass.

By the time we reached Holmsley Passage the drizzle had increased to light rain which

gave ponies a somewhat more than bedraggled look.

Soon the rain had developed deluge dimensions. My readers will know by now that I don’t know when to give up, so we continued to

Bisterne Close.

 

Listening to the increasingly tympanic pattering of raindrops drumming onto the trees, dripping off the leaves, and thudding onto the shoulders of my porous allegedly damp-proof raincoat; peering through specs lacking windscreen wipers, through which I couldn’t clearly see my viewfinder I captured what woodland scenes I could.

Autumn leaves, above

or below, glistened with precipitation.

I resisted the temptation to ask a horse chomping hay for the loan of its cheerful rug.

Here, as on much of the forest terrain, pools were appearing.

Autumn leaves submerged beneath the water where raindrops floated on muddy surfaces until bursting into spiralling increasing circles. I stuffed my specs into my pocket and attempted to employ my dampened eyelashes to provide clear vision.

Fallen trees and their branches, both recent

and longer-lying, settled into their task of maintaining the ancient forest ecology.

while others, now dead, did their bit while still standing.

Some trees sent tentacles in search of rooting soil.

Such bracken as had not yet gathered a fully autumnal appearance was turning nicely.

Well fed birds have not yet been tempted to strip the hollies of their berries.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s spicy pork paprika, savoury vegetable rice, and tender runner beans with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Cotes du Rhone.

 

 

Who’s The Daddy?

CLICK ON ANY IMAGE IN A GROUP TO ACCESS ITS GALLERY, INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS OF WHICH CAN BE VIEWED FULL SIZE BY SCROLLING DOWN AND CLICKING BOX TO BOTTOM RIGHT

As soon as the shops were open this morning we set off on a slipper hunt for my hospital stay. We found a pair immediately at Stephan Shoes in New Milton. We then travelled to the Community Centre in Milford on Sea, where I might have left my blog card case the other day. There was no-one in the office. Next port of call was Peacock’s Computers who had not yet received a dongle they had ordered for my MacBook. I was also unable to send e-mails and left the machine for James to solve the problem.

Ah, well, I had bought the slippers, and James did solve the problem later.

Whilst I was occupied with the computer Jackie waited for me in the car park behind the High Street. I walked the long way round: past the war memorial and through the graveyard of the parish church of St Thomas the Apostle. Pigeons and other birds occasionally perched on the gravestones, and candelabra lit the chestnut trees.

We then took a drive through the forest. Sun-dappled lanes through which we traversed included Barnes; Undershore, where we happily negotiated motor cars and cyclists; and Shirley Holms alongside which field horses enhanced the terraced landscape.

The more open stretches of Shirley Holms were alive with grazing ponies. I focussed on a family group. The smallest foal clung steadfastly to its chestnut mother. A larger, very similar, junior wandered a little further afield from his white (grey) parent. It seemed to me that the grey coloured adult more attached to these last two was probably a stallion, suggesting that there was no need to ask “who’s the daddy?”. A woman on horseback approached us from further down the slope.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s superb pasta arrabbiata with which she drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Malbec.

 

Watching The World Go By

CLICK ON ANY IMAGE IN A GROUP TO ACCESS ITS GALLERY, INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS OF WHICH CAN BE VIEWED FULL SIZE BY SCROLLING DOWN AND CHECKING BOX AT BOTTOM RIGHT

This afternoon Jackie delivered me to a bench at the crossroads beside the Burley war memorial in order for me to focus on who came by.

There were, of course, many pedestrians,

some of whom enjoyed ice creams;

many were drawn to Spencer’s estate agent’s window, from an upper floor of which Bugs Bunny waved a greeting.

Cyclists and bikers mingled

with the rest of the traffic, including private cars, one huge lorry, and an ambulance. Seeing the larger vehicles careering down the hill and lurching round the bend, heading for my bench, was at times a little disconcerting.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s sublime savoury rice with pork rack of ribs in barbecue sauce with which I drank Patrick Chodot Fleurie 2016

 

 

A Tradition Upheld

Ever since she was a small child, Flo has helped her Grannie put up flamboyant Christmas decorations. Festive trees, having priced themselves out of the market last year, are now half the cost they were then. We all got up early to buy one from Ferndene Farm Shop.
It has also become tradition that Grandpa has to be ‘put’ somewhere whilst the ladies create their masterpieces. I was therefore dumped in Vaggs Lane to walk home. As you will know, this was no hardship. I walked the length of this thoroughfare, along Everton Road, and right into Hordle Lane to home.
Burnished beech leaves brightened the sunlit hedgerows along the verges in Vaggs Lane, Beech leavesVaggs Lane vergeAlpacaswhere a herd of alpacas were outlined by the sunshine.
A Great War memorial stands in Everton Road. The incised names of the Hordle fallen are accompanied by those of the relevant battlefields, some more infamous than others. War memorialThis morning red roses and cyclamens, and yellow tulips bloomed alongside the wreaths.

The now rather soggy unclaimed bear in Hordle Lane still sits on the wall opposite the Peppa Pig mobile phonechildren’s nursery, and another tot has dropped the case from her Peppa Pig mobile phone. MushroomFurther on, an upturned mushroom revealed a pattern of purplish striations.

When I returned home, the front door was furnished with a more joyful wreath than those I had seen earlierChristmas wreath. Apart from the dressing, this had been made from foliage from our garden and branches trimmed from the Christmas tree.

Christmas lightsBy the time darkness had arrived, we had a string of coloured lights in the front garden, Christmas treeand somewhat later the indoor Christmas tree was embellished to Flo’s satisfaction.

We had to dine on a takeaway this evening because the kitchen was full of boxes of decorations. It fell to the Ashley Chinese, The Happy Wok, to provide it. Jackie chose Stella, Flo sparkling water, and I the last of the cabernet sauvignon, to accompany it.

Helen’s comments on yesterday’s post have enabled me to add details of others present in our wedding photograph.