Wednesday, 23 May 2018

A Radishing View

Spotted at Loches market

This impressive pile of radishes was photographed at a Wednesday market in Loches. When Susan commented on the quantity of radishes, Fabrice, the market gardener (right) said that it was as nothing compared to the pile he had put out and sold at the previous Saturday market in Loches.

Fabrice's farm is about a kilometre from the chateau of Villandry. One of his great innovations a few years ago was to install a veggie vending machine near the public parking in Villandry. This area, which allowed camper vans to park for free, has over the past year been completely revamped by the local authority.

The camper van park has been moved, and for a while Fabrice's veggie vending machine disappeared from the scene. The other day we found out why.

His farm adjoins the new camper van park and the council had wanted to buy a plot of land off him, but he refused to sell because it was under cultivation and good productive land. The next thing he knows is that the council are telling him that there will be no place for his veggie vending machine.

He was stunned, and offered to pay for a spot, but to no avail. The vending machine provides a real service in Villandry, to both locals and tourists. The village has no proper shops (apart from tourist oriented ones) and the veggie vending machine was bringing in €20 000 a year. Fabrice said that effectively it was his annual profit. 

Anyway, after a fight of more than a year, his veggie vending machine is reinstated on a new site at the entrance to the new camper van site. Ever resourceful, he tells us he is now planning a steak haché (hamburger pattie) vending machine, which will be stocked with his own beef.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Baby News

Some of you who follow me on Facebook may have picked up that a few days ago I reported flushing a Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus doe (Fr. Chevrette) in the orchard. May is the month Roe Deer does give birth, but I thought she was still carrying her fawn (Fr. faon).

The Bee Orchids are out in the orchard.

She isn't now. Yesterday I was walking through the orchard and spotted brown furry ears in the grass. I thought it was the occasional resident Brown Hare Lepus europaeus (Fr. Lièvre d'Europe) at first, but tucked up under an apple tree was a tiny fawn, less than 30 cm long. It must only be a few days old.

A male Provencal Short-tailed Blue butterfly on its food plant Black Medick, which grows all over the potager.

I don't have the best photos of the fawn because I couldn't risk approaching it too closely or for too long.*

Weevils busily engaged in something on a Pyramidal Orchid in the potager.

Of course, this now leaves me with a dilemma. I need to mow paths and under the fruit trees, especially those that will be ripe soon like the cherries. It will just have to wait until the little fella moves on. The mower will scare the wits out of it. Luckily the Aged One won't be mowing for another week either, as his tractor needs a repair. Hopefully we can leave the two orchards as a haven for the fawn for as long as necessary.

Roe Deer fawn in the orchard.

*Something for dog walkers to bear in mind. If you are walking through lightly wooded prairie at this time of year, please keep dogs on leads. The fawns will sit tight until you are within about half a metre of them. Causing them to run uses up their valuable energy and significantly reduces their chances of survival. Under no circumstances touch them or speak to them (the human voice, no matter how soothing a tone you think you are using, is extremely frightening to them).

Monday, 21 May 2018

A Shed Full of People

Another successful Claise ConneXion event under our belts. Yesterday it was a picnic and orchid walk at Chaumussay, attended by about 35 people. We had about a 50/50 split between francophones and anglophones.

Célestine trundling down the track at the picnic area.

As usual much food and drink was shared. On my table we particularly enjoyed Monsieur and Madame Fouchet's homegrown organic strawberries. 

A picnic shed full of southern Tourangeaux.

After lunch we walked along the old railway line to La Croix Sourd to look at the orchids that grow on the roadside there. The abandoned railway line is in conversion to a green way but not finished yet. The vegetation has been cleared and the sleepers and rails lifted, but a new track surface not laid.

We saw 8 species of orchids in flower. A big thank you is due to Mme Bruneau, the mayor of Chaumussay, who is proud of the orchids in her commune and ensures that roadside mowing is timed to allow the orchids to flower and set seed. Also thanks to her and the commune works department, the picnic area is well maintained, attractive and well designed.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Point Zero

Macquarie Place was the first in laid out public space in Sydney and was used informally as the town square when Sydney was a convict town. It was deemed to be the point from which distances in New South Wales were measured, and in 1818 an obelisk was erected to mark the spot.

 The park still exists, although it is much reduced from its original size, and the obelisk still stands and is still the point from which distances from Sydney are measured.

I used to know this area quiet well: The Basement, a famous Sydney live music venue, was just around the corner. It has recently (in the past month) closed, and its demise will be long be mourned. Not only was it the go to place in Sydney for live Jazz, Soul, and Blues, but it was also the first place I sampled the delights of deep fried camembert.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

(Half) A Day at the Cricket

When we were in Australia we went to the cricket - 5th Ashes Test Match, 4th day. I had bought the cheapest tickets known to mankind ($33 each), which placed us only 5 rows back from the boundary in the families (no drinking) area. That was a deliberate choice, as I have experienced drinking at the cricket before and it just isn't pleasant.

We should have been sitting there.

Susan had never been to the cricket before, let alone a test match, but she agreed to go as a cultural experience. It was fun - the SCG is a great venue. Less great than it used to be back when I started going to the cricket as they have demolished all of the old stands - barring the heritage listed ones - and turned it into yet another boring sports arena, but look in the right direction you get an impression of what it used to look like.

The Ladies' Stand and the Members Stand.

The day was very hot (47.7C in the shade, 58C or more in the middle) and England were toiling. For some reason(!) the English bowlers couldn't get the ball to move sideways whilst the Australian bowlers were able to do it at will. 'Sandy, that...

Playing the spinners with ease (Nice forward defensive, BTW)

Our seats were soon in an unshaded area, so we abandoned them after an hour to stand/kneel/sit on the floor in the shade of the concourse. The view was just as good, and the relief from the sun more than compensated for the lack of a seat. We left after 4 hours (drinks, second session) due to the heat, but it was interesting for both of us, and I took some great photos (289 of them!).

It was too hot for running around. Didn't stop some people, though....

Somewhere in there are some of the finest cricketers of the previous generation

(I realise all of the above is probably Double-Dutch to our American readers, but you get that for having left the empire and not playing proper sports)

Friday, 18 May 2018

An Aussie Icon

Normally those words would be followed by a picture of a meat pie.

Not this time, however. This is the other Aussie icon, an FJ Holden Special sedan from 1955.

This restored FJ is in the Museum of Australia, Canberra

Commonly referred to at the time as "Australia's own car" the FJ Holden is an update of the 48-215 Holden of 1948, an unused post-WW2 Chevrolet design. When we were kids Australia had three main car makers, Holden (yay!), Ford (boo!!) and Valiant (not bothered...). These days there are no major car-makers in Australia.

Brand loyalty is a deeply ingrained thing - I owned Holden station wagons for many years, and never owned a Ford until a couple of years ago.