Monday, 31 December 2012

Writes of Passage.

                          The Bridge to Nowhere, Belhaven Bay.


So my friends, 2012 passes and despite adverse predictions we’ve made it to the end. Is it a time to look back or a time to look forward I wonder? I could certainly look back at a year filled with catastrophic natural phenomena and self-inflicted human disasters, yet another year of self-serving, lying, mendacious politicians, senseless celebrities, widening economic recession and more than a few needless tragedies, I would also need to take time to celebrate a year of creativity, compassion and human achievement, to welcome the potential of new generations and mourn the passing of old ones. But such things are better said in better places than this wee blog and by folk better at it than I, so let me keep it personal.
 

If I had to label the year I’d put it down as a year of change. When it started I was long term unemployed and despairing after many hundreds of job applications seemed to be getting me precisely nowhere. Then a job came out of the blue. I now work full time for a charity supporting people suffering from autistic spectrum conditions. The money is rubbish but the job is great and rewarding in ways not experienced before, working as I did for a huge private sector company. Having said that I also have to live in the real world and reality tells me that without more income something is going to have to give. That decision will be one of the key challenges of 2013

The Lovely G and Jess
 

My Lovely G has been ill for quite some time and although thankfully she is slowly getting better, there has been stress and worry for both of us as well as yet another hit on finances to cope with. Luckily we have been able to offset impact with canny financial planning – all down to G – and that has helped tremendously. She has been helped by some great people in the NHS but undoubtedly there is a long road ahead. This year has proven how close we are and how good we are for each other. That’s the major plus to be taken from the year I think. That strength will carry us through anything. Health wise my type 2 diabetes has kick started a change in me and I'm now wearing trousers six inches smaller in waist size. It's been quite a thrill buying clothes that are smaller sizes I can tell you. I can't remember ever having been able to do that before. Hopefully that will continue too - but Christmas has taken a temporary toll I'm afraid.
 

I’ve taken on an additional role within Children’s Hearings, a voluntary organisation I’ve worked with for ten years, protecting vulnerable children in the local area. So far the impact has been noticeable but fairly low level but there are major changes afoot that I can see will take significant attention to get through across the first half of 2013.

Our niece Emily who arrived in March.
 

The major impact from all of these has been a loss of  that ‘free’ time which I had a huge overabundance of previously and time that was often given over to blogging. Can you believe it will soon be FOUR YEARS since this wee blog started? Phew! - and there have been almost 600 posts too! 

Time for blogging and indeed inspiration for blogging has been much missing in the latter stages of this year and I'm sorry about that. I miss it.  I’ve often relied on the weekly ‘Sunday Post’ poems to keep things ticking over, not something I’d ever planned. They were always meant to be a wee ‘extra’ not the main event. Still, I’ve been glad to have them on many occasions as they’ve kept some kind of forward momentum. That’s been a worry and I’ve by turns felt lazy or guilty for not being as involved with writing as I had been. I gave serious consideration over the last few months to stopping. What’s the point of a blog if you don’t actually blog? Strangely, when I was in the throes of pondering just that a fellow blogger pal posted on exactly the same thing and she worked through the reasons why she should keep going. That saved me a lot of work and showed me that as usual, I’m not - and we’re not - alone in facing these kinds of challenges. She came to the conclusion that we write ultimately for ourselves and our own pleasure, not solely for others. Comments and interaction, feedback and followers are a welcome and even treasured part of blogging but ultimately she identified that it’s something in ourselves that propels the need to get something down on paper not just in doing so for others. So thank you Jane at ‘What’s making me feel good today’ for sorting out some of those niggles that had been troubling me. There are times when we can and will write and times when quite simply we can’t and we shouldn’t cut off the chosen medium for what may be a short term issue. Even if it’s not short term, if the quality of what is written is satisfying and therapeutic to us as writers then isn’t that all the justification we should need. 

And so ‘Crivens Jings’ will definitely be staying. I’ve programmed the next three months of Sunday posts already and have more poems in the pipeline. I’ll be blogging ‘properly’ when I have time and I have something to say and just as importantly I’ll be reading and commenting on the blogs I follow regardless { something that’s also been remiss recently – commenting, not reading folks!}

The two of us at my niece's wedding
 

But for now I’m going to have to go. I truly hope you have a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year wherever you may be. Take care of yourselves and I’ll be seeing you all again in 2013.

 

Happy Hogmanay!

 

Here’s tae us!

Wha’s like us?

Damn few!

And they’re a’ deid!

 

Slainte!

 

Listening to:

Sunday, 30 December 2012

The Sunday Posts 2012/Silver



Slowly, silently, now the moon
Walks the night in her silver shoon;
This way, and that, she peers, and sees
Silver fruit upon silver trees;
One by one the casements catch
Her beams beneath the silvery thatch;
Couched in his kennel, like a log,
With paws of silver sleeps the dog;
From their shadowy cote the white breasts peep
Of doves in silver feathered sleep
A harvest mouse goes scampering by,
With silver claws, and silver eye;
And moveless fish in the water gleam,
By silver reeds in a silver stream.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Misery Bears Christmas.



A Bear is not just for Christmas.


As I raise a wee glass of something Scottish and take a bite of a mince pie - probably the first of many - I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas - unlike my wee pal Misery Bear above - and all the very best for a stupendous New Year from The Lovely G, Jess and I here in the house of Crivens Jings. Thanks for coming along with us in 2012. We hope to see you all again next year too.

Slainte!

Alistair.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

The Christmas Sunday Post 2012



Christmas Eve

On window panes, the icy frost
Leaves feathered patterns, crissed & crossed,
But in our house the Christmas tree
Is decorated festively
With tiny dots of colored light
That cozy up this winter night.
Christmas songs, familiar, slow,
Play softly on the radio.
Pops and hisses from the fire
Whistle with the bells and choir.
My tiger is now fast asleep
On his back and dreaming deep.
When the fire makes him hot,
He turns to warm whatever’s not.
Propped against him on the rug,
I give my friend a gentle hug.
Tomorrow’s what I’m waiting for,
But I can wait a little more.

Bill Watterson

Sunday, 16 December 2012

The Sunday Posts 2012/Nothing Gold Can Stay



 
Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Dedicated to the 27 souls lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Poem by Robert Frost
Photo by Alistair
 

Sunday, 9 December 2012

The Sunday Posts/There's a little green eyed idol



The Green Eye of the Little Yellow God

There's a one-eyed yellow idol to the north of Khatmandu,
There's a little marble cross below the town;
There's a broken-hearted woman tends the grave of Mad Carew,
And the Yellow God forever gazes down.

He was known as "Mad Carew" by the subs at Khatmandu,
He was hotter than they felt inclined to tell;
But for all his foolish pranks, he was worshipped in the ranks,
And the Colonel's daughter smiled on him as well.

He had loved her all along, with a passion of the strong,
The fact that she loved him was plain to all.
She was nearly twenty-one and arrangements had begun
To celebrate her birthday with a ball.

He wrote to ask what present she would like from Mad Carew;
They met next day as he dismissed a squad;
And jestingly she told him then that nothing else would do
But the green eye of the little Yellow God.

On the night before the dance, Mad Carew seemed in a trance,
And they chaffed him as they puffed at their cigars:
But for once he failed to smile, and he sat alone awhile,
Then went out into the night beneath the stars.

He returned before the dawn, with his shirt and tunic torn,
And a gash across his temple dripping red;
He was patched up right away, and he slept through all the day,
And the Colonel's daughter watched beside his bed.

He woke at last and asked if they could send his tunic through;
She brought it, and he thanked her with a nod;
He bade her search the pocket saying "That's from Mad Carew,"
And she found the little green eye of the god.

She upbraided poor Carew in the way that women do,
Though both her eyes were strangely hot and wet;
But she wouldn't take the stone and Mad Carew was left alone
With the jewel that he'd chanced his life to get.

When the ball was at its height, on that still and tropic night,
She thought of him and hurried to his room;
As she crossed the barrack square she could hear the dreamy air
Of a waltz tune softly stealing thro' the gloom.

His door was open wide, with silver moonlight shining through;
The place was wet and slipp'ry where she trod;
An ugly knife lay buried in the heart of Mad Carew,
'Twas the "Vengeance of the Little Yellow God."

There's a one-eyed yellow idol to the north of Khatmandu,
There's a little marble cross below the town;
There's a broken-hearted woman tends the grave of Mad Carew,
And the Yellow God forever gazes down.

J Milton Hayes
Photo by Alistair.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Relieved to be home........





Leaving work it’s sleeting heavily and some big wet flakes manage to get down the neck of my anorak and make me wince as I walk the few moments to the car. I’m shivering and rush the last few yards less than manfully, watching the lights flash as the car unlocks to let me in. Inside, hot breath hangs in the air and starts to mist the windows as I fumble keys to turn the ignition on, wincing again as previously set blowers hurl freezing cold air at me, adding further insult to injury already inflicted by the weather. The setting was fine when the engine was warm on the way to work but not welcome now so I turn it down and adjust to clear the front windscreen, wishing that the cars designers hadn’t decided that this model didn’t need heating in the front window for some small economy in price. Because of their laxity I have to sit and shiver for a few moments muttering invocations to myself to man up and not be such a wimp before I can switch on the lights and pull out to head home.
 

By the time I’ve skirted the edge of the small seaside town and near the road that’ll take me home the sleet is falling ferociously and the window wipers moved from intermittent to fully on, leaving icy streaks which catch the light of the few cars that meet me on the way. At the roundabout I give way to let a car pass and take a second to pour steamy breath into cupped hands to try and heat my cold fingers while I look longingly at the engine temperature gauge stuck firmly to the bottom of its range and wish I carried driving gloves in the car. Once I get moving properly the car will heat soon enough but that’s small comfort as I leave town behind, move through the gears and head into the countryside.
 

A mile on warmth slowly begins to permeate the car but the sleet has been replaced with snow which is getting heavier by the second and already the road edge is creeping white in the headlights. This is the first snow of the Winter but although I love snow and even don’t mind driving in it – up to a point – I’d rather the first snow wasn’t happening after a hard shift and a 10pm finish. After a day like today I’d prefer to get home quickly and not have to be giving some serious extra concentration to getting there without damaging me or anyone else. Unfortunately, judging by the way snow is swirling disorientatingly before me as I ease off the accelerator, that’s probably not going to be the case tonight and I find myself wishing that I’d listened to that little voice that had whispered about visiting the facilities before hitting the road. Typical! I know that the road home will take me inland heading across farmland towards the Lammermuir hills and that just below them the road will hit a bowl in the landscape that seems to collect bad weather and can be especially treacherous in winter. Even now I can barely see more than ten yards ahead so I switch on my rear foglights and prepare to be some time on the road.
 

Ten miles down the road the snow is coming from every direction – at one point bizarrely even appearing to be going up – and my speed has slowed to a crawl. The road ahead is completely white and even though it’s dual carriageway I can’t see either the side of the road or the dividing white line. Thankfully the barrier separating the two carriageways gives me a marker and I steer vaguely somewhere between it and where I think the side of the road is. There are only a few souls unlucky enough to be out in this and we have made a slow procession heading home and I’m happy enough to tuck in behind a small lorry and set my tyres in his tracks. The journey home usually takes a hair over thirty minutes but I’ve been on the road for forty minutes and to be honest I haven’t a clue where on the road I am. I’d normally call to let G know I’m going to be late but there’s no way I’m giving myself any distractions and unfortunately the car isn’t techie enough to be bluetooth’d, never mind being voice connected with the phone, so I hope she’s not worrying and keep trudging on until I realise the car is speeding up which makes me think I’m going downhill. Out of the gloom there’s the eerie amber glow of an illuminated road sign which tells me that it’s snowing. No shit Batman. The one useful thing the sign does do is tell me where I am as I know there’s only one on the road. The bad news is that I’m only halfway home and my heart sinks while my bladder gives me yet another accusing nudge that I should have gone before getting in the car. There’s no way I can risk stopping for a pee. Knowing my luck tonight I’d get run over and that’s not the kind of headline I’d like in the local rag.

I feel the car slow and recognise the incline at the edge of the bowl where the worst of the weather always is. I feel somewhat relieved that I’m out of the worst even though evidence beyond the windscreen doesn’t back that up, but miraculously, within a few hundred yards the snow eases, starts to come at me from just one direction and I see the edge of the road for the first time in quite a while. Within another half mile, the snow has changed to sleet and unbelievably the road is now just wet with sludge which my wonderful, amazing and fortuitously good buy winter tyres make short work of. I’m confident enough to get a bit of a move on and find that the decision is a good one as the road condition keeps getting better with every hundred yards until I’m fairly tramping through the last few miles to home. 

As I pass Dunbar there’s barely any sign of the weather I’ve just come through and as I pass the last roundabout I know I’m minutes from home and more importantly at this time, a loo. Soon I’m coming up the drive faster than normal and I scrape to a halt by the side door of the house. G barely gets a shouted ‘Hello!’ as I head to the downstairs toilet scrabbling desperately for my zip.
 

And that my friends, is where this wee story will end.
 

Be assured that in future I’ll be paying attention to that little nagging voice in my head. It’s not easy driving though weather like that at the best of times. With your eyes crossed it’s murder!
 

See you later.
 

Listening to 

The Sunday Posts 2012/When you are old



When You Are Old

WHEN you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim Soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

Wiliam Butler Yeats
Photo by Alistair.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

The Sunday Posts 2012/mask



We Wear the Mask

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,--
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be overwise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!

Paul Laurence Dunbar
Photo by Alistair

Sunday, 18 November 2012

The Sunday Posts 2012/Cloths of heaven



He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

William Butler Yeats
Photo by Alistair.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

They did grandly and all that men can do.........




Like many millions the world over I stopped a moment to stand with quiet respect in memory of those who sacrificed in conflicts around the world. As I always do on this day I thought on my Grandfather as his life was the only one within my knowing blighted by the horror of war, although when I knew him I was very young and was prevented from truly understanding his experience by a family protective of me and I now see with an adults understanding, even more protective of him.

Sam Robertson enlisted in The Royal Scots Fusiliers early 1915 and on completing basic training was sent to a place called Gallipoli. He and his 900 comrades were immediately put in the front line and within ten days 480 of them were dead. Months later he and what was left of his battalion were evacuated. Half of the men were sent to Palestine. The rest, including my Grandfather were sent to The Somme. One unfortunate who's experience encompassed two places now synonimous with carnage and the hellish brutality of war.


From a history of the regiment written by John Buchan.

July 26th. The attack on Guillemont.

"The attack was delivered by the 89th and 90th brigades and in the latter was the Manchester regiment and the Royal Scots Fusiliers. The Fusiliers assembled just east of Trones Wood, an indifferent jumping off ground - with D company in trenches north of Guillemont/Trones Wood road, A and B companies were south of the road and C in an improvised trench near to D. The frontage of the battalion was about two hundred and sixty yards.

The attack started at 4.45am and almost from the first things went wrong. The Manchesters were late in starting. Colonel Walsh was to move forward in support with the Fusiliers battalion headquarters and two companies of the 16th Manchesters but the two companies never appeared, and communication with the first wave very soon became impossible. Meanwhile the Scots Fusiliers had made straight for their objective, but the advance on both their flanks halted, and presently they were a lone spearhead without support. There was a heavy enemy barrage on the east front of Trones Wood and the Guillemont Rd was swept by machine guns. It would appear that D company and about one third of A company reached the east side of Guillemont village and that B and C companies were on the western face. The commander of D company Lt. Murray, forced his way back to headquarters about noon to say that without immediate support the battalion would be cut off. He himself had been right through the village. But there were no adequate reserves available and soon nothing could move and live on the ground between Trones Wood and Guillemont. Everywhere, except in the Scots Fusiliers sector, the attack had failed, and the battalion had to pay the price for its lonely glory. Colonel Walsh could do nothing but hold the trenches east of Trones Wood until relieved on 1st of August.

The Royal Scots went into action with 20 officers and 750 men. Of these 3 officers and 40 others, chiefly headquarters staff, remained with Colonel Walsh at the close of the day, and later less than 100 others dribbled back through another brigade. The rest of the battalion were dead, wounded or captured. Total losses were 633 men.

The division commander wired to Colonel Walsh during that day 'I cannot tell you how grieved I am for the loss of your splendid battalion and above all for those still left in Guillemont. They did grandly and all that men could do'

The scanty remains of the battalion moved north on 11 August to Bethune, where for two months while it regained it strength it stayed in a relatively quiet part of the front."


In some three years in front line service my Grandfather went 'over the top'  on several major offensives, survived being shot three times and was returned to the trenches on recovery each time. He came home suffering from what we now call post traumatic stress disorder. In his day it was called the less technical but probably more accurate name of 'shell shock'. When I knew him he was completely bedridden and could barely speak. He shook constantly. Cared for within the family, my job was to shave him which is why I remember him so very clearly and so fondly. He died in 1968 when I was nine having suffered for more than fifty years.

The tragedy of war is that it affects not only individuals but families and communities. The effects last generations.

see you later.

Listening to:

The Sunday Posts 2012/Remembrance Day



This weeks poem is dedicated to the memory of the fallen, the departed and those who suffer the effect of war regardless of nationality.

 
Here dead we lie
Because we did not choose
To live and shame the land
From which we sprung.

Life, to be sure,
Is nothing much to lose,
But young men think it is,
And we were young.

Alfred Edward Houseman

Sam Robertson.   Royal Scots Fusiliers 1915-1918
Thomas Hughes.  Royal Flying Corps   1914-1918
Sam Robertson.    Bomber Command.   1944-1945

Sunday, 4 November 2012

The Sunday Posts 2012/ You who sleep alone



All You Who Sleep Tonight

All you who sleep tonight
Far from the ones you love,
No hand to left or right
And emptiness above -

Know that you aren't alone
The whole world shares your tears,
Some for two nights or one,
And some for all their years.


Vikram Seth
Photo by Alistair.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

The Sunday posts 2012/Teddy Bear



A bear however hard he tries
Grows tubby without exercise.
Our Teddy Bear is short and fat,
Which is not to be wondered at;
He gets what exercise he can
By falling off the ottoman,
But generally seems to lack
The energy to clamber back.

Now tubbiness is just the thing
Which gets a fellow wondering;
And Teddy worried lots about
The fact that he was rather stout.
He thought: "If only I were thin!
But how does anyone begin?"
He thought: "It really isn't fair
To grudge me exercise and air."

For many weeks he pressed in vain
His nose against the window-pane,
And envied those who walked about
Reducing their unwanted stout.
None of the people he could see
"Is quite" (he said) "as fat as me!"
Then with a still more moving sigh,
"I mean" (he said) "as fat as I!"


A bear, however hard he tries,
Grows tubby without exercise.
Our Teddy Bear is short and fat,
Which is not to be wondered at.
But do you think it worries him
To know that he is far from slim?
No, just the other way about -
He's proud of being short and stout.

A.A. Milne.
Photo from the amazing 'Little Handfuls' mini bears.
http://mylittlehandfuls.blogspot.co.uk/
http://www.facebook.com/LittleHandfuls
 


Sunday, 21 October 2012

The Sunday Posts 2012/A Dream within a dream



Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow-
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

Poem: Edgar Allan Poe
Photo by Alistair.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Holiday Day Two.

 
 
On Mondays there’s a great little market in Mirepoix. Now, strictly speaking, or more accurately, being absolutely truthful - Mirepoix isn’t in Aude at all, it’s in Ariege, a neighbouring area, but from the Villa Cabardes in Lavallette near Carcassonne where we’re staying it’s an easy half hour drive away. To miss it is an absolute no-brainer.
 
 
 

 
Soon we’re parking up on the edge of town and walking the few minutes into the dramatic arcaded medieval square. By the side of the 13th century church, under the window boxes of overhanging painted medieval houses, people are busy buying ingredients for the kitchen; cheeses, bread, sausages, charcuterie, vegetables, fruit and an incredible variety of jams, pickles, honey, mustards - the variety seems endless in such a small place. Mixed in are stalls full of bric-a-brac, clothes, jewellery and antiques, Throw in the odd knife grinder - no I’m not joking! - and street entertainment - and you begin to get the feel of the place. It’s buzzing, yet in a very understated French way. The feel is very much that normality is taking place, as of course it is. This has literally been taking place in the same spot for centuries. Under the arcades, café’s and restaurants are doing brisk trade, offering breakfast, coffee, lunch and any assortment of drinks or snacks to the weary shopper and the overwhelmed tourist. From the shade of the arcade you can enjoy a coffee or a glass of local wine or beer, eat lunch and watch the market at work, see the coming and goings, the meetings and greetings of everyday life take place.

 
 

 Fascinating, fabulous and a fan-blooming-tastic way to start the holiday!
A place like this demands that at the very least you experience its vibrancy with perhaps one, preferably two, perabambulations round the square and through the stalls, a walk through even those possibly less fortunate stalls which overspill the main square into the streets beyond and an {ahem} obligatory stop at one of the numerous cafes at the side of the market. We do the full tour…….



 
The great thing about carrying a camera, is that my hands and much of my mind is occupied; looking for shots; calculating depth of field, ISO, aperture for the light conditions and almost any combination of the above. Distracting and fun as it is none of that guarantees a decent photograph but it leaves precious little time for shopping which suits me fine. I’m not a shopper unless there’s ingredients to be bought for a meal at the end of it. Unfortunately the same is not the case for The Lovely G. who also has both hands and mind free to get up to all kinds of mischief. Thankfully she is as distracted by the sights sounds and smells as I am and we complete at least one circuit without any financial impact whatsoever. The second circuit costs us a few Euros spent on some bracelets she tells me are ‘shamballa’ style, with a curious but clever slide-y knotted fastening to open and close them. This is demonstrated to me but my mind, as I’ve said, is on things photographic and I’m afraid I don’t pay as much attention as I should, or take the obvious opportunity literally at hand. Thankfully my error is unnoticed/expected/forgiven and we move on. My attention is taken by the sound of bagpipes being played to the beat of a drum and I head over to investigate the din and find two highly photogenic men dressed in a blend of Moorish/pirate gear knocking out some very catchy stuff. I take a number of shots trying to cope with the fact they are standing in bright sun beside some of the glariest backgrounds around. Some work, some don’t and by the time I’ve worked it out they - and the rest of the market - have begun to pack up and leave. Was it something I said or is everyone just camera shy???

 
 
 
 
As the market winds down we too decide to head back to Carcassonne and find a spot just below La Cite where we can park {free} well away from the tourist {expensive} car parks. A leisurely walk up the hill into the citadel via a back gate and a wander through a couple of streets inside the ramparts takes us to one of ’our’ places: La Bar a Vin. It’s a small bar and tapas restaurant under looming ramparts in the walled garden of what has been the house that is itself now part of the bar. The space is shaded by enormous chestnut trees which gives a magical light and cooling shade to the place. We’ve spent a lot of time here over the years, drinking coffee or wine, enjoying the simple food on offer and the comings and goings of visitors. It’s one of my favourite bars in the world and a must visit place during any holiday here. Just one of those great little finds that helps make a holiday special. Today we have a cool drink and share a plate - a crusty bread ‘boule‘, goats cheese and honey. Simple and magnificent in the afternoon sun. The bar is almost empty at this time of the year, very different from the frantic pace of the last few months but the staff are as usual relaxed and funny. It’s a real performance and one that we enjoy.

 
 
 
 
Soon though the heat is getting to us and we head back to the car for the short drive home. For me, the pool is calling……

 
 
 
See you later.


 
Listening to:

Sunday, 14 October 2012

The Sunday Posts 2012/Jabberwocky



Jabberwocky

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

'Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!'

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought --
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood a while in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One two! One two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

'And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
Oh frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
He chortled in his joy.

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Lewis Carroll
Photo by Alistair.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Carcassonne

Carcassonne - La Cite


We arrived on Sunday morning, a dull grey affair that was disappointingly little warmer than the wet one we’d left behind in Scotland just a couple of hours earlier. The landing approach brought us in a low circle of the huge walls and towers of La Cite, the ancient medieval heart of Carcassonne deep in the south of France and gave us a spectacular start to our stay despite the weather. Like Edinburgh, Carcassonne sits proud on its rock above the sprawling town below but there the similarity ends. Edinburgh is beautiful and I love her, but beside Carcassonne, with her fairytale princess looks, tanned and tall in the sun, she‘s an ugly sister in a dowdy frock.
 
Rennes Le Chateau
 
 
We pick up our bags quickly in the quiet-now-the-summer-is-over airport and collect a hire car just as efficiently and within a short time are on our way to the rented villa where we’re staying. An acquaintance of G has done us a great deal on her holiday home and we find it’s a short ten minute drive from the airport in a sleepy village surrounded by vineyards. A combination of a strange bed the night before, getting up in the wee small hours and getting to the airport by 5am for the flight has left us exhausted and now, knowing we are within easy reach of at least one favourite holiday haunt here - La Bar a Vin in La Cite - we decide to have a nap for an hour before we head into Carcassonne.
 
A Great wee bar
 
 
The Lovely G and I have been here several times before. I’ve been fascinated by this area and its history for longer than I can remember and had always wanted to see it for myself but somehow holidaying here had never seemed a viable option. I never felt I could afford it and then, after meeting G with her Swiss roots, for many years I lost my heart - and all my available holiday resources - to Switzerland. It was hard not to when introduced to her wonderful relatives and such a stunningly beautiful country. But ultimately chocolate box beauty gave way to an insistent longing to see what I’d been reading about all these years: Languedoc, or more specifically, the Haute Valee area of Aude, the edge of the so called ‘Pays du Cathars‘.
 
Lagrasse
 
 
That first visit was six years ago now and since then I’ve been back every year. I found I was instantly and completely at home. Things seemed so familiar, so expected. I wanted to love it and I do, more than I could ever have imagined and more than I can probably explain. I soon laid tentative plans for a holiday home and retirement to the sun but these haven’t happened - yet. For now I have to be content to visit and renew my acquaintance with this unique place, this sanctuary of mine. In the last few years we’ve ranged across the area, from the walls of Carcassonne to La Montaignes Noir, west to the border forests of the Ariege and the snow capped Pyrenees, from Mt Cardou to distant Beziers and Narbonne on the Mediterranean coast. We’ve climbed to mountain castles destroyed in the Albigensian crusades, to Cathar villages, trailed through vineyards dripping with ruby grapes and enjoyed the wines that comes from them as well as the tasty goats cheeses, fabulous breads and honeys that go so well with all. Most of all we’ve followed the quiet river valley of the Aude‘s high valley, from Limoux of the sparkling wines, to Alet les Bains and Couiza and mysterious Rennes le Chateau high on its peak, past the Donjon of Arques, to the spa village of Rennes le Bains deep in its river gorge. All of them have told tales, left indelible marks and made me more fascinated, tempted and haunted by L’Aude than ever.
 
La Canal Du Midi - Carcassonne
 
 
Now we’re here, its time to get started again.
 
I’ll let you know how we get on……..
 
 
See you later.
 
 
Listening to:
 
 

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

York - Je ne regret rien.....



We sit in the large window of the French style bistro and watch the world go by. The bistro is part of a restaurant chain but despite that we like it and its location on one of York’s tiny medieval streets near The Minster is perfect for us. We love York and come here once or twice a year for an overnight stay; to walk its ancient streets and linger in the tiny old quarter under the massive spires of The Minster, enjoying the old houses overhanging the narrow lanes beneath. It doesn’t matter that those lanes are often choked with tourists or that many of the shops are stuffed with items aimed at the same audience. Its just a place that appeals to us. Restaurants, bars and coffee shops can be found every few yards, yet there are sights to remind you that people live here too; the huge market and butchers and bakers shops doing brisk trade in everyday items.
 
We came this morning from Berwick upon Tweed by train, a couple of hours on the limited stop service through Newcastle and Darlington and on down the coast. The weather has been atrocious and raining non stop - so bad in fact that I’ve come without my camera - but despite that we looked forward to getting here. We know where we want to go on days like this and the best route to get there. Once clear of the station at York it’s a ten minute umbrella-covered walk into town and Café Rouge, past the world famous ‘Betty’s’ restaurant and tea-rooms - too rich for our pockets today - and on down towards the spires that loom over the buildings beside them. A right turn and a hundred yards takes us to the half dozen steps up to the door I hold open to let the Lovely G pass then shake off the dripping umbrella before closing it and following behind her. The waiter takes the umbrella and our damp coats as he shows us the table by the window and tells us he’ll be back momentarily in appealingly accented English. Within a few seconds we have menus to peruse while he fetches our drinks and we settle in to enjoy relaxing in the warmth of the rustically decorated room with its display of fin de siecle French poster art, dark wood and painted walls.
 
 
The window has room for three tables of two - one on either edge and one in the middle - ours is at the left hand side of the three with a view up and down the street outside. The window sits perhaps four feet above street level and is decorated with gold edged, red painted letters advertising ‘Plats du Jour’. ‘Sandwichs’, Baguettes’ as well as ‘Boisson Chaud’, ‘Bierres et Vins’ and other temptations for rain drenched pedestrians.
 
The rain spattered pavement outside is busy with people coming and going at the accelerated pace of people keen to be out of the rain. It strikes me that this view of humanity has been essentially the same to be had here for several hundred years; people passing by in all weathers loaded with essentials or luxuries. The intentions are the same, merely the clothes are different. We smile across our menus and begin to read. I take a large sip of my red wine and enjoy its mellow fruitiness and perfect temperature as I try to decide what to have. This obvious detail is one of the reasons I like café Rouge so much. Too often a glass of red wine elsewhere is served too cold to taste anything other than wet. But, back in the now, we’ve decided on a light lunch as we’ll probably eat later too, so I skip a starter and choose a steak baguette with salad and thin crispy frites while The lovely G goes for fishcakes, salad and frites. The place has become noticeably busier as the rain continues. We were lucky to get this table by the window.
 
 
While we wait we talk idly across the table, looking forward to a more authentic French experience when we go to Carcassonne in a week. This overnight break has been postponed several times when we couldn’t match my time off with availability at the hotel we had arranged and now the deal is about to expire so we have to take it or lose it. So, we’re using it to get in the mood for France and I hope out loud that the weather there will be better than outside the window, where umbrellas are the essential accessory. Out there, in Scots parlance, the rain is ‘stoatin’: the heavy drops creating large splashes as they explode on the umbrellas, heads and shoulders of those unfortunate enough to be outside. We smile selfishly and I raise a glass to the smiling G across the table. Jings! - its good to be warm and dry on this side of the glass!
 
 
Some time later I smear the last piece of my medium rare steak with Dijon mustard and close a final bit of crusty baguette around it before crunching down on its savouriness for the last time. Wiping my lips with the napkin I sigh contentedly and look across the table to where G is still some way from finished - she’s a more genteel eater than I, especially when famished. I take another gentle sip of my wine and turn my eyes outside again. The rain’s continued unabated and the street has become heavily puddled by the hammering rain and by old gutters overflowing causing walkers to step off the pavement onto the road here and there to avoid an unwanted shower. Time too has marched on while we’ve been here, the light has slipped to the extent that the occasional passing cars now have their lights on, causing the raindrops hitting the ground to dance like a million diamonds in front of them. Pedestrians seek a safe distance pressed against shop fronts until they‘re gone and now seem slower moving and more hunched over than before despite their umbrellas. I muse whether this might be because of the amount of water their clothing has absorbed or dripped into bags of shopping.
Much later after coffee and conversation as warm as the room we both touch the same topic in synchronicity - should we stay or should we go?
 
You probably know my answer to that already, don’t you?
 
I recommend the house red -  preferably a bottle......….and the dinner menu.
 
 
See you later.
 
 
Listening to:
 

I'm back!



No - I've not been in the huff. Or been ill....

I've been on holiday to France.


 Unfortunately my laptop was infected by a virus a couple of days before the holiday so it also had to go somewhere to get fixed which stopped me giving notice of the break..

All's well now so you can expect some posts about France very soon.



See you later - and be responding to your comments!

Listening to:


Sunday, 7 October 2012

The Sunday Posts 2012/Trees




I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth's flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Joyce Kilmer
Photo by Alistair.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

The Sunday Posts 2012/ laugh and the world




Solitude

Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone.
For the sad old earth must borrow it's mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.
Sing, and the hills will answer;
Sigh, it is lost on the air.
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
But shrink from voicing care.

Rejoice, and men will seek you;
Grieve, and they turn and go.
They want full measure of all your pleasure,
But they do not need your woe.
Be glad, and your friends are many;
Be sad, and you lose them all.
There are none to decline your nectared wine,
But alone you must drink life's gall.

Feast, and your halls are crowded;
Fast, and the world goes by.
Succeed and give, and it helps you live,
But no man can help you die.
There is room in the halls of pleasure
For a long and lordly train,
But one by one we must all file on
Through the narrow aisles of pain.


Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Photo by Alistair.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

The Sunday posts2012/ abou ben adeem



Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:—
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the Presence in the room he said
"What writest thou?"—The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered "The names of those who love the Lord."
"And is mine one?" said Abou. "Nay, not so,"
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still, and said "I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men."

The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,
And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest.


James Henry Leigh Hunt
Photo by Alistair.


Monday, 17 September 2012

Man Flu



My eyes water. My nose runs and my head pounds as I go through fits of sneezing and all the while my cold marches to the beat of my heart loud in my ears. In the distance the mournful peel of a  handbell and a sing-song chant.

"Bring out your dead! Bring out your dead!"

Man flu........

See you later.

Listening to:

Saturday, 15 September 2012

The Sunday Posts 2012/Battle of Britain Day.



Battle of Britain day is the anniversary of the heaviest day of fighting during the desperate fight to keep Nazi Germany at bay and this scene depicts the first 'scramble' experienced by 18 year old newby spitfire pilot Geoffrey Wellum in 1940. It captures the intensity of combat these often inexperienced and barely trained young men faced.

 The excellent film is based on his book 'First Light'. The voice at the end of the scene is Geoffrey's.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

The Power of Marketing



I was struck by the cheek of the marketing industry today while in the shower. I saw their shameless attempt to double the profits of the shampoo maker displayed on the bottle instructing idiots how to use the product: at the end of the instructions on how to shampoo your hair was.......

' NOW REPEAT'

Aye - that'll be right!

See you later.

Listening to:

Sunday, 9 September 2012

The Sunday Posts 2012/the life that I have



The Life That I Have

The life that I have
Is all that I have
And the life that I have
Is yours

The love that I have
Of the life that I have
Is yours and yours and yours.

A sleep I shall have
A rest I shall have
Yet death will be but a pause
For the peace of my years
In the long green grass
Will be yours and yours and yours.


Leo Marks.
Photo by Alistair. 

Friday, 7 September 2012

Never Say Never Alistair.



Confession time.....

I've ranted against it. I've been scornful and sarcastic about it. I've belittled it's usefulness and rejected potential benefits but finally I've succumbed and joined the masses.

Some younger family members seem only capable of communicating this way.

I'm not proud of myself.

I'm now on face-pest.

It's not a duplication of the blog, although some posts might also appear there too. It's a personal page - just me,.family, some friends and a few friends of friends. It's relaxed, comfy and a bit less pc than here. I've even got my photo on there.  It's not a public site. That I'm not ready for.

If you're on facebook and would like to drop me a request please feel free.

http://www.facebook.com/crivensjings

See you later.

listening to

Thursday, 6 September 2012

For my Lovely PT


We’ve known each other for a long time and though I’ve changed over time the years have never touched you the way they have me. You are still…..well the word that comes first to mind is beautiful: definitely beautiful. Some might not agree but you are beautiful. You always will be. You’re much older than me but you look amazing, even after all these years. I love the shape of each perfect limb and the strength in you. You move with such grace, such gentleness and yet you have a wildness to you, a need to be free. You dance as if to the most beautiful music: to the song of the sea wind. 

I know your skin isn’t the way it was when you were young. That doesn’t matter. I love the feel of you in my hand, the way you sometimes shiver if I touch you or sigh softly when I’m close and the way I’m always aware of your presence when I’m near you. I love your aloofness, your lofty disdain for the insignificant things that worry me. I love the way you speak. You say nothing and I hear you inside. You whisper and I have to stop whatever I’m doing to catch what you are trying to say. I love our moments together, a sunny afternoon or shared autumn evening in the cool of the garden. Sometimes I just have to sit beside you. It calms me just to be near. 

I love the things you give. They're precious to me no matter how often – or rarely – you might be able to part with them. I’ve tried to take good care of you over the years but I’m awkward at times. I’ve never been confident that way. You understand – don't you. You’ve been so forgiving. I don’t spend as much time with you as I should but you’re always there and that makes me happy. I smile each and every time I see you. I look forward to coming back to you again. I can't imagine being without you.

More than that: I think a wee bit of me loves you. 

I'd never tell you though.
 
You’re just an old pear tree.

 

See you later.

 

Listening to:

Linlithgow Loch




I went to Linlithgow yesterday through work but while there took a walk round the loch beside the old Royal Palace.



I used a polarising filter to bring out some of the highlights in the sky.



Got some of the horizons squint {although I'll fix that in photoshop later}




See you later.

Listening to:



Sunday, 2 September 2012

A tail for Sunday.

Couldn't help laughing at this one.



See you later.

Listening to:

The Sunday Posts 2012/dreams of chickens



For My Lovely G.

Last Night I Dreamed of Chickens

Last night I dreamed of chickens,
there were chickens everywhere,
they were standing on my stomach,
they were nesting in my hair,
they were pecking at my pillow,
they were hopping on my head,
they were ruffling up their feathers
as they raced about my bed.

They were on the chairs and tables,
they were on the chandeliers,
they were roosting in the corners,
they were clucking in my ears,
there were chickens, chickens, chickens
for as far as I could see...
when I woke today, I noticed
there were eggs on top of me.

Jack Prelutsky
Photo by Alistair

The Sunday Posts 2017/ Hush Hush

Hush, hush, time tae be sleepin'. Hush, hush, dreams come a-creepin'; Dreams of peace and of freedom, So smile in your sleep,...