Thursday, May 18, 2017

Pretty Feline in Pink....




Another month racing by; time-management failing dismally, punctuated by the weirdest extremes of temperature! However, here's one feline looking suitably pretty-in-pink, yet snooty/snaky, curled up in the sunshine on a shawl that I brought back from the Witches' Market (El Mercado de las Brujas) in La Paz, Bolivia - a long time ago now.


Strange to think of the origins of objects - preferably old and/or second-hand - that end up becoming part of the fabric of our everyday lives, and rather sad when we no longer notice them as we should...


Here are some of the flowers I pass by, on my usual way to work. I always keep an eye out for the changing plants in these beds, set next to the tram stop, and try not to just take them for granted as I race on. These looked all the more delicate today, with their ruffled petals and raindrops.


With their bold pink colour, the rosebushes along the canal have likewise come into flower, so much so that it is hard to remember the biting cold period when we actually had to break the ice on the canal when rowing!


Sunday, April 30, 2017

A Blessing of Unicorns...


The month has run out on me, so no time to write anything to accompany these beautiful, beguiling beasts - the mythical unicorn - symbol of purity, incarnation of Christ. Or so the legends go.
This fine specimen is in the Palais du Tau in Reims, the Palace of the Archbishop, in which the kings of France resided before their coronation in the cathedral Notre-Dame de Reims.


In fact, the sculpture dates from the 19th century, part of Eugène Viollet-le-Duc's restoration project of Medieval buildings and is set alongside the customary lion figure. The relationship between these two noble creatures has been highlighted in many myths, the most famous of which is surely the Lady and the Unicorn in the Musée de Cluny (Paris). The unicorn here in the Palais du Tau no longer has its spiralling horn but assumes the standard 'begging-dog' position. As for the regal lion, he seemed more mealy-mouthed than majestic, but nevermind!


The vast tapestries that cover the walls of the Palais du Tau are from the 16th century. These are full of intricate detail with symbolic meaning that is largely lost on us today, but are well worth discovering. Although we probably cannot really relate to the piety of the menfolk, the quirky expressions of even the humblest of the animals displayed are still revelant today. None of us have had the privilege of actually seeing a 'blessing' of unicorns, but how magical is that term of venery? That led me to look up other, equally unusual terms for animal groupings and I was not disappointed:

A pitying of turtle doves, a phalanx of storks, a parliament of rooks, a wisdom of wombats, a scream of swifts, a scurry of squirrels, a scourge of mosquitoes, a cackle of hyenas, a convocation of eagles, a crash of rhinoceroses, a charm of magpies, a kit of pigeons, a lamentation of swans, a scold of jays, a skulk of foxes, a shrewdness of apes, a flight of swallows, a flamboyance of flamingoes, an army of frogs, a murmuration of starlings, a sloth of bears, a mess of iguanas, an unkindness of ravens, a gaze of raccoons, a bellowing of bullfinches, a bouquet of pheasants, a barrel of monkeys, a labour of moles, an ostentation of peacocks, a pandemonium of parrots, a puddling of mallards, a pounce of cats, a fluther of jellyfish, a bloat of hippopotamuses, a business of ferrets....
and the list goes on....

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Election Day....


Screaming point here - Election Day in France. It's anybody's bet who will win this first race, but I think that whichever two do ride home, there will be a lot of losers too and not necessarily the also-ran candidates. As many people keep their cards very, very close to their chest, despite talking politics non-stop, there is no real way of knowing how things will turn out until the results are announced. That moment might well prove to be explosive and so everyone will lose out as the notions of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité are put to the test, now and then for the final round in May.

Right, I'm off to vote!


The day after. Mixed opinions all around, but rather somber all in all...


Floral Starry Night....

Night Sky Petunia
True wilderness is short on the ground in a city, even more so when you live on the fifth floor of a block of flats. Nevertheless, glimpses of the weird and wonderful of Nature are still to be found, even if not strictly speaking very 'natural'.


Cue in the many cultivars that I love to gaze at in the local garden centre and the latest find that really took my breath away.... The Night Sky Petunia. The paint-splash petals truly resemble the stars up in the firmament above and underline how nature is able to replicate itself, albeit with a little help in this case.


I was not the only one to be amazed by the Night Sky; when I returned, they had all gone!


However, the other flowering plants were still there to be admired, revealing their often subtle magic.


All those veined petals, feathery leaves, tiny hairs and downy layers - often barely visisble at a distance.


Some the beauty is pure, obvious elegance....


Some is just plain simplicity...


Or just bright and jaunty...


Well, as a tenuous (and rather depressing) link to starry skies, here's Don McLean's Vincent.


But then, back to these beauties...


I just can't take my eyes off these! I might well have to go back to the garden centre and actually buy a pot this time...

Friday, March 31, 2017

Budding Grapevines.


Spring burst a few days ago, with the first warm days triggering the tight buds to open out from amongst last year's dark, tangled vine tendrils.


Set in the heart of these delicate, pink-tinged leaves are the tiny future grapes, whose growth I will track as these particular vines are just in front of my workplace!


At the heart of the Champagne region, Reims has a key position in the production of the sparkling wine of world-wide renown.


Unsurprisingly, there are numerous references to the place which champagne occupies - past and present - on the town architecture.


I love the way that you can lift your eyes up, and discover something that you hadn't noticed before!


There is no danger of these delicate, future grapes ever being used in the champagne process as they are growing in defiance of the pollution from the traffic that rolls past on a daily basis.


However they do make my day a little brighter. And then, of course, there is the wine itself...

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Nine Lives of a Cat.....




Nine years ago today, our big. bad, batty Siamese cat died: almost as many years without him now as with him. At the time, the children and I were so shocked by the suddeness of his loss, and saddened by the void he left behind him, that it felt truly unsurmountable. 


However, we did resolve to think of him with a smile rather than sadness, as this was far more representative of the effect he had had on our day-to-day lives. As he was forever hell-bent on getting into any available space, it's safe to say that he had an effect on many areas of our lives.


Of course, as a kitten he was always on the look-out for new pranks and foul practices and his beastly intentions could be read by his body language.


When he wasn't skulking around, clambering and clawing his way up furniture or flinging himself off great heights, he would be lolling and lounging around in the most carefree, feline manner.


His earliest forays generally appeared to be quite innocent, but he upscaled these with time and practice.


And practice certainly makes perfect, or purrfect, should I say?


Once he'd discovered an appetite for such antics, there was no stopping him...


Anything or anywhere he could get into, he would, with a certain ease and great, grim determination.


Regardless of the consequences and the numerous trails of devastation he'd leave in his wake.


As he was a housecat, and I often prepared work from home, he would be a constant companion.


Ever watchful for a scrap of activity that he could join in with...


Paws ever ready for action, in whatever form that might take...


Shredding any handy paper, homework to be marked or the odd paper hanky, invariably feeding a serious fascination with boxes that soon grew into a marked fixation.


Of course, this is an interest shared by the majority of moggies, worldwide.


But you do wonder what it is, exactly, that draws them into any box, regardless of shape or size.


And why they feel compelled to radiate such an air of smugness once in their cardboard castles.


They just seem so pleased with themselves, and their latest exploit, even when it's a bit 'passé'.


And this behaviour is something cats simply do not grow out of, even when they have out-grown the boxes themselves!


Or when they are no longer the 'baby' of the family, strictly speaking.


They simply up the ante and become evermore resourceful in doing so...


When they have become mature cats, this tendency seems to escalate.


After all, why limit yourself to mere boxes?


Paper bags will do quite nicely, but something a little more upmarket will go down well too.


Any domain is fair game for the domestic lion, even more so when there is competition, in the form of a human baby.


Always best to mark out the territory as soon as possble so that intruders know their place.


 And to repeat the message several times, for good measure.


We don't want anyone getting ideas above their station...


Or thinking that anything that they can do, you can't actually do a whole lot better...


And with far more style and swagger!


And play far more sophisticated games with any toys that might be hanging around...


And for anyone who still has trouble grasping the law of the land, you can always resort to spelling it out in the bluntest, feline fashion so that there is no room for ambiguity.


Any vantage point will suit in order to keep a watchful eye on proceedings...


From way above, in order to outstare, in the most nonchalant way...


Or lower down, as cupboards do lend themselves to the more dignified, formal comtemplative pose...


But if you want to get a little superior, more original sites are there for the taking.


Feline versatility knows no bounds...


In the kitchen, it is advisable to take the no-holds-barred approach....


The fridge may be a rather obvious choice...


But there are plenty of options, with the various utensils, gadgets and appliances just waiting to be occupied...


No space is too small, and with a bit of imagination, the humblest of places may take on a whole new dimension...


Yet, territory and experience is limitless for the more adventurous feline...


Even if getting stuck into exploratory mode could lead to unexpected consequences - getting literally stuck!


But hey! All in a day's work...


And whatever, a cool stance in required, even when you look plain silly!


And if all else fails, you can simply close your eyes on this world, and just relax...


Or gaze on, with those eyes bright and attentive that burn so many precious, privileged moments into our lives. They may only have 'nine lives', but cats, just like dogs, live on forever in our memories.