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1st December – Christmas in France

Christmas in France is a lot calmer than it is in either Ireland or the UK. During the month of December I will try to give a flavour of what a French Christmas is like. Tonight 1st December we had the village parade. This morning each house along the route had night lights delivered together with a request to put these in the window while the parade passed. Most of my neighbours did as requested and the result was really lovely. Restaurants and businesses switched on their Christmas lights. The parade marched to the Etang. This is an old mill pond just outside the walls of the ancient village.

The school children had made boats which were tied together in a long line. Each boat had a small night light on it.. There was three chains of boats.

The lights on our Christmas tree were then switched on.

Finally the fireworks started. Having these fireworks on the pond adds to the drama as all the fireworks are reflected in the water of the pond. It was a spectacular event for such a tiny village.

October Diary in MACRO

1st October: The month started calmly enough so I had time to take a macro of a flower

2nd October: Classic cars came to Cucuron to start their rally on the 2nd of October, the Luberon Marathon day. The race ended by the Etang in the village.

4th October: The 3rd October was either too busy or too boring to find a suitable image. I did the fruit shopping on the 4th and the peaches were delicious!

5th October: A beautiful sunny morning with the sun shining in our mezzanine window making shadows on the wall

6th Octobr: And so the house has been shrouded in scaffolding and netting to protect the passers by. One month later we are sill looking out at scaffolding.

7th October: We participated in a farmers market lunch and had a look around the farm where I found this lovely twirl. It is part of the courgette like vegetable called chou chou. I had never seen it before.

8th October: I must have been pretty short of ideas on this day. I do remember reading on the chaise longue and looking up at the halogen light and finding it interesting – so there you have it.

9th October: My painting brushes live on my table in font of me in this lovely bamboo holder.

12th October: Being incarcerated in a scaffolded house is quite depressing so we escaped to have a walk around the village where we discovered that the Autumn had crept in while we were napping

13th October: This will give you some idea of what it is like to live behind plastic coated windows smeared with cement…

15th October: So we escaped the doom and gloom of cement covered windows and headed north to Maastricht where I found this image intriguing – what do you think it is?

16th October: A pretty ribbon on our duvet

18th October: While Ben was in creche we lunched in a rivrside restaurant where the table was decorated with a very pretty fruit arrangement

20th October: Every morning in Maastricht Ash, the cat, visits us. She is now an old lady but her whiskers are as strong as every!

21st October: Maastricht sunrise through the window.

24th October: Michael D, the new Irish President, as seen on the Google debate. This is a capture of the computer screen. I find it interesting that the next picture of Sarkozy was taken from a HD television. The latter is so much clearer.

27th October: President appeared on TF1, French television, assuring us all that he and Anglea Merkel had sorted Europe’s problems………

28th October: The last MACRO of the month as we headed off to Disneyland, Paris with our grandchildren, a world which demands wide angle photography.

Conor’s arrival

On the 6th September Conor Mahon was born. He is the fourth grandchild and the second grandson. The girls Ellie and Brigid are five and three respectively. Ben, our other grandson is six months old. We are overjoyed with our expanding family.

We are very happy to report that Mammy and baby are doing well even if Conor has not quite got the hang of sleeping…

Ellie and Brigid are thrilled with their baby brother and Ben will be delighted with his cousin when he is old enough to play with him.

Visit to a sculpture garden

This was surely “the good wine ’till last”.It’s the West Cork garden trail  time of year and at the end of a week of garden visits we were blase, we had visited some fairly large gardens and some not so large. Each garden had had something to offer but on the Wednesday we set off from Sherkin Island on the early ferry and headed for Glengarriff. 

Three miles beyond on the Kenmare road we were lured into the entrance by huge creeping hands running alongside the road. An old Austin (I think I am useless at car models) with a map reading sheep atop marked the entrance gates.

The owner met us at the small bridge with a map and a list of the sculptures. We really needed a coffee so he lead us to huge picnic tables and served us coffee and warm scones with cream and jam. On his advice we set off on the trail in the opposite direction to that indicated on the map. A party of school children were following the normal route. 

In front of the house as you set off there are several pieces of sculpture. All are animals dressed as humans. They are painted greenish black to blend in with the lush natural surroundings. Everyone makes you smile but some are meant to be thought provoking. “50 degrees – too little too late” is a reclining baby elephant wearing a bikini with a giant bottle of sun lotion alongside.

The trail runs alongside a cascading river. The paths are protected with rails made from tree branches. The bridge across the river sits on two giant tree trunks. You have to be alert not to miss the hidden and half hidden pieces of sculpture. Some are more evident like the huge silver fish suspended from its line over the river. But you have to look at every rock and tree trunk or you will miss something.

Weird faces grin at you from rock faces or tree trunks.

Some pieces are very funny like the pig in the bubble bath with the title “Because I’m worth it”

Interactive games are placed where children can play with them and all along the way there are explanations, both serious and amusing, pieces of information and poems. Each written piece is laminated and framed on a wooden mount. It is impossible, on a single visit, to take it all in. 

From the pond at the top of the trail a huge green frog grins at you while it looks normal that a fish is suspended beside him. A metal door in the side of a huge rock houses the most destructive animal that ever lived. Children are encouraged to open it and have a peek….. scary stuff…..
All the while you are being informed about the flora and fauna, about the creation of man and his environment.

This is a truly magical experience and I would advise anyone visiting West Cork to take the time to wander here.

Dry stone walls

We had to move one of our dry stone walls, around our house here on Sherkin Island, this year. We are very lucky to have a dry stone wall expert resident here on the island, Allen Phillips. His arrival to commence the work on this new/old wall got me thinking of the ancient tradition of dry stone wall building.
The “new” old wall with Barry’s gate reinstalled
We have been building dry stone walls, here in Ireland, for 5000 years. However many of the walls that can be seen along the whole western coast line date from the mid 1800’s. Sone walls were built not only to enclose the land but to clear it of the many stones. The building technique does not require any foundation and despite this the walls are incredibly sturdy.
There are a couple of stone wall types. There is the single stone width. The stones standing vertical with, at regular intervals, a very large stone. Then there is the larger wall with at least a two stone width. Sometimes the centre is filled with smaller stones and shale. A large stone is placed across the width in places to brace the whole structure. :Long ago the base of the wall had the smaller stone to keep out rabbits and the stone size increased s the wall grew in stature. These walls defy gravity.
Patrick McAfee has written several, rather dry, excuse the pun, books on the subject of dry stone wall building here in Ireland. We need to persuade our Sherkin Islander to write what I am sure would be a much more interesting book on the topic! One thing McAfee is good at, is statistics. He tells us that on the Aran Islands there is 1500 kilometers of dry stone walls. The Silent Valley Resevoir Dam wall, in County Down, is 35 kilometers long. To my knowledge Mr McAfee has never visited Sherkin so we have no idea how many kilometers of dry stone walls we have here on the island. We do know however that the tradition is being kept alive and Allen is adding meters if not kilometers to our existing walls every year. He uses the ancient techniques and escues all modern technology when building. Allen does not believe in using cement, spirit levels, or other contraptions, as his eye is more accurate than any spirit level on the market.
Allen’s curved wall
A wall built by Allen over ten years ago
The original stone house 
Many of the original houses are stone built but a lime mortar was used in the later builds. In recent times many, like our own, have been pointed as the lime mortar lets in as much dampness as it keeps out!