PHOTOS JUNE 2010
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June started off with a bang down here on the farm and I now have a parking place thanks to Bernard from Pionsat Football Club and his son. They came with a huge digger, dug out the collapsed house that was here and two lorry-loads of sand and gravel later then here we are.
Having my own private parking was something that I've been hankering after for years and it's a definite sign of progress that I've finally accomplished another one of my major goals.
I was invited by Marianne the local journalist to go to Marcillat for a meeting on tourism in that area one Saturday night early in June and what a beautiful evening it was.
We went for a drink afterwards and as we were leaving the bar the setting sun was producing this glorious effect in the village square. It was just at the right time too - not too light and not too dark either and with the help of a decent tripod (a good investment, that) the photo has come out pretty well. It does help, having a good tripod.
While I was down the garden checking on the plants my attention was drawn to some movement in the field. We get to see plenty of wildlife here, deer and all that kind of thing. But I never normally have the camera with me. But today I did, quite luckily, and I was able to stand and watch, and reel off a pile of shots as a small fox played "pouncy pussy" with an object in the field.
So absorbed was it with what it was doing that it didn't notice me there so I watched, getting soaking wet in the process, as it rounded up and then captured its latest meal. I really don't know who was the more absorbed in what they were doing, me or the fox.
But talking of gardens and plants, here we have some strawberries. And all grown with my own fair hands too.
There's not all that many as there might be but firstly these are off the scrag-ends of plants from last year that I dug up and moved and also members of the local wildlife community seem to have been helping themselves to them but nevertheless 5 strawberries together with some soya cream is a sure sign that summer is here.
April was famous for the volcanic eruption in Iceland and here's a little-known side effect that I can't see as having been recorded anywhere else If you look in the wheelbarrow at the "tide mark" where the rainwater has been, you'll see that it's red instead of the usual greeny-grey
Anyone who knows anything about volcanoes will of course note that puzzolane - the lava that comes out of a molten volcano - is also red and I'm thinking that this red line is caused by the volcanic ash that is in the atmosphere and which has been precipitated out by the rainfall
Volcanoes spew forth acid, sulphuric acid mainly, and seeing the plants in my garden this year - some going berserk and others doing nithing at all - I'm also thinking whether or not the acid rain might have something to do with this. Is it the acid-lovers that are thriving and the acid-haters who are dying?
Another one of my favourite subjects is the Viaduc des Fades - the second-highest railway viaduct in the world and the highest when it was built in 1909. I have a friend, Guido, who lives in the old railway station here which he has transformed into holiday cottages so I can always wander up here for a quick shot whenever I'm passing.
What has happened to the viaduct is nothing short of shameful but I won't bore you about this here. It has its own web page where you can read the disgraceful story of this monument to French engineering.
Quite by accident I found myself in Montlucon the other day and by even more accident I found myself at the new Intermarché behind the railway station. A crowd of people hugging the fence gave me a clue that something exciting might be happening and sure enough this monster went roaring past a short while later.
It's one of the 141R class, a modified American "Mikado" 2-8-2 built by our old friends ALCO - the American Locomotive Company, which alos built the "Big Boys" one of which features heavily in these pages - in the USA just after World War II to replace the locomotives that the RAF and the French saboteurs had destroyed in the run-up to D-Day. These locomotives were of two types - this one is a coal-burner but others of this class were oil-burners.
This particular one was bought from the French Railway service, the SNCF, in 1976 by a preservation society in 1976 and it took 6 years to restore it into working order. Strangely enough, especially for some of our transatlantic cousins, in July 1987 it was classed as a national historical monument here in France.
Ironically I have a friend who lives in Miramas in Southern France and one of this class of locomotive is a static display at the railway station there.
Pontaumur is a small town about 50kms from here and there are many people in this area who are keen on alternative lifestyles. Consequently there are quite often events happening here that attract my attention. I went there in June for an Eco-building fair but unfortunately it was pretty much a waste of time. There were about 30 stands, of which about 25 were trying to get people to sign up to "Become a Solar Energy Producer and Sell to the Electricity Board".
My own experience of this is that laudable as the aims might be, the people doing the selling are those who sold you double glazing back in the 1970s, cavity wall insulation back in the 1980s and Endowment Policies back in the 1990s. I reckon that in 10 years time there will be a great number of disappointed, if not angry consumers who woll have been well-stuffed by the cowboys and by Government Policy.
This photo is significant, and for two reasons. Firstly, it's the first pic of Caliburn in his new home. At lunchtime I took him for a drive on the new hardstanding to flatten it down a bit. But the ground hasn't dried up enough - hardly surprising as it hasn't stopped raining for a week - and at one stage he bogged down. But I was expecting it and I had the chain winch ready.
It's also significant in the respect that it's the first pic with the new Nikon D5000 . I was in fact all ready to use the Pentax K100D but the battery was flat and the ones on charge wouldn't fire it up.
My mate Terry has set himself up in business as a general handyman cum garden maintenance technician and one of the advantages that he has over his rivals is his tractor. It's bigger than a ride-on lawnmower but smaller than a full-size machine and so he can cut grass (no such things as lawns around here) in a quarter of the time.
There's no harm in the odd publicity photo every now and again.
"Now is the winter of our discount tents" or something like that that Richard III said some time or other. It's mid-June and the weather is disgraceful - cold, wet and windy.
I suppose that the plan is to put all of the tents outside in this weather and for potential customers to see which are the ones that let in the least water. That way they will know which ones to buy for the summer holidays.
Sometimes when you do house clearances you strike it lucky. Kate is selling up and moving back to the UK. Most of the stuff had already been disposed but she did keep a couple of things back for me, including this magnificent "foot forward" tandem, for which I'm extremely grateful.
But what is extraordinary about it is that I've been looking for a bakfiets for years and having a good look at this, I can see that parts of it actually started out as bits of bakfiets and so it will be a comparatively easy task to convert it back.
I could be on to something here.
Keen readers of these pages will recall that some of us have a system of chantiers communaux where we all go round every so often to different peoples' houses and have a blitz on the labouring jobs that need doing. And once the work is over it is then time to relax. After all, these chantiers are as much about social occasions as they are about anything else.
From left to right we have Karl, François, Liz, Strawberry Moose, Terry, Lou, Jean (in the red shirt) and Clotilde. Not to mention numerous bottles of beer, wine, cake, etc.etc.
I'm still getting to grips with the new Nikon camera. From my favourite spot at the birdwatching point near St Gervais as the gloom was gathering and the light was fading one evening in June I took a shot of the Puy de Dome and the lights from the new factory between Les Ancizes and Chapdes Beaufort. A slow shutter speed and a long exposure (and not to mention a good tripod) produced this effort.
And not only that, this image is cropped down from the full-size photo and hasn't been sharpened at all so you can see just how impressive my new set-up is going to be once I figure out how to use it properly.