Fete des Voisins, Sorrel Soup, Sole facon Taille

We’ve barely been back two days and already the tempo, colour, shape of our lives has changed.   We had decided to book ourselves onto an afternoon ferry to give a bit more time to ready the house and garden for an absence.  I had left the matter of moving pots to shelter until the morning which was, with the benefit of hindsight, an unwise decision.  It was extremely hot work and I had to keep breaking off to cool off indoors.  I did have another task which I should not have delayed and this was the matter of booking myself and sister Lis into the Autumn Lib Dem conference in Bournemouth.  This would be the last day on which we could benefit from the Early Bird saving, a worthwhile £30.  So I settled to do this but was somewhat thrown when required to upload a mugshot, with some specific requirements regarding background etc., in order to process our bookings.  This took time and fortunately Nick was able to provide a photo of his sister taken at a family wedding and fortunately she carries her years very well.  I took a hasty selfie which was horrible but would do.

So we left the house and I sat, very overheated, in the front of the car with my legs wrapped round a large hanging basket which might as well travel with us, as languish at WK.  Many more containers were travelling with us in the back of the car.  Our crossing was uneventful and we arrived at 104 with just enough time to unload cold stuff into the freezer and fridge, and the rest of our cargo outside or in the house.

We were expected at Le Vast for an evening barbecue and French pool for the men.  We inspected Alain’s brood of hens, and his two lady turkeys in a small separate compound.  One for Christmas and one for New Year apparently 🙂  We also admired his polytunnel/greenhouse in which he was growing tomatoes, peppers and aubergines.  All very fine plants.  We sat with our mutual friends the Poulets and Bougouins and ate whelks with mayonnaise, mini quiches and sausages and pork fillet chops.  Cheese and Brigitte’s fruit salad and finally we could rise from the table for some pool.  Noe had been ensconced on the sofa in front of the screen watching cartoons and I joined him and tried hard not to fall asleep.

Saturday morning I spent a couple of hours at Le Dranguet, took two dips and rounded up some terra cotta pieces with Noe for the construction I have planned to make with him.  Nick and I made a short excursion to the new Carrefour supermarket which has opened up since we were last in St V and then I cooked a stuffed half marrow, one of two from the garden at Le Vast.

On Sunday we were due at Fete des Voisins at midday.  We went last year and met many of the people along our stretch of road.  This year the format was changed to a daytime event involving a BBQ preceded by oysters, platters of tuna or cuttlefish tomato salad, couscous.  And several different cakes/desserts.  How the French love their puddings!  We sat with the Osmonts, Huguette, M. Dubois.  Nick produced his cork trick to entertain a youngster next to him who was there with his widower grandfather.  There was singing by the old-timers.  One of the attendees, noted for her cookery, asks me for a recipe for scones, in French.  At a suitable moment we headed for home but not before we had been exhorted to return in the evening for aperos and leftovers.  Wishing to be neighbourly we agreed.  I could not resist the cuttlefish, or the chips.

Monday and I start the day with a bit of gardening and I knock up a sorrel soup mix.  (I am somewhat surprised to see an unfamiliar plant in one of the troughs I have sown with tall annuals!)  We are due chez Taille for aperos at 11.30h.  I have a feeling where this will lead and sure enough we are invited to a very light lunch.  Having quaffed bubbly et avoir grignote sur des bouquets, grises et crevettes, Francois produced a fine sole prepared as lightly floured and fried goujonettes with fine green beans.  Just that.  As we leave I am surprised to hear Nick issue an invitation for Wednesday.  We decide to throw in the Tuttles for good measure.  I want to make it simple and light.  After a few appetisers I serve our guests my beignets de poisson, Pollack strips in a light beer batter and am over the moon when Francois tucks in with gusto and he is delighted because I have evidently found a way of serving this fish to Fefe which she will enjoy eating.

On Thursday, in the morning, Anne and I drive to Confort Pour Tous at Reville.  This is a point of accumulation of goods arising from house clearances and donated articles.  I am after some bowls and dishes to use as draining dishes under my garden pots.  I find a selection of dishes that will work and we have completed our mission when I just happen to spot a rather nice rocking chair.  It is cane and bamboo, evidently oldish and nice because it has a wide seat.  I’m inclined to sound Nick out and then I learn that the chair only came in that morning and is unlikely to survive Friday and the weekend.  I buy it.

I have invited Christine to come over  in the afternoon as she would like a lesson on making Thai Red Curry fish cakes.  We make up a batch each, cocktail-size, and whilst she runs her tray over the road to put the little appetisers in the freezer I set out cards for a hand of Spite and Malice.  It is fine enough to sit outside in the sunshine and enjoy our pleasant interlude.  We make an arrangement to play another hand on Saturday, when Christine will give me her master class in making the mini savoury croissants she often brings as canapes.  But during the evening I receive a phone-call from England which will change all that.

 

My Perfect Pergola

Having returned for Mark’s party we planned to stay on until the end of the first week in July.  Much of this time would be filled by gardening, I have the bit between the teeth with planting schemes and Nick has found the oomph to build the pergola.  During our stay he does this single-handed; no small feat given the weight of the solid oak uprights.  The finished article is fabulous and before we cross back to France he gets in behind the dark-leaved Sambucus nigra ‘Eva’ Black lace which has put on so much growth this year and cuts back virtually all of the vine we planted a few years ago to await the pergola construction.  Paul gave us this plant, it is a white grape and it will be interesting to see if it is similar to our French vine.  We know the name of neither.  Nick finishes with two strong, woody lengths which he feeds along wire to make contact with the pergola.  Our next task will be to choose some suitable fruit cordons to plant along the uprights and train along wires.

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I have come to terms with the idea that my idea of a wild flower patch along the far wall, between the two flowerbeds isn’t going to work.  We have had a good crop of nettles whose early growth provided leaves for soup but the nicer wild flower seeds I scattered have come to nought.  So I dig up and pot all the cowslips and primroses which had established themselves there and Nick digs over the rest and sieves the soil.  When Paul and Viv call in to see us Paul observes that their father was always a siever, Paul is not.

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I work hard with my pots and buy a few extra plants.  I love the Tibetan cowslip, the bright red Lychnis and the Harebell plants I buy from the lady who has a stall outside her cottage in Martinstown.  IMG_6963 (2)40We are on our way to Abbotsbury where I top up with a lovely dark-leaved Geranium, a fabulous orangey yellow Canna, some so-called ‘Dwarf’ Gladiolus, an Alstroemeria with more reddish colouring to the flowers than the variety I already have, and an interesting plant with a spreading habit and white flowers like Periwinkle but with different leaves, and whose name escapes me.

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On the Sunday before we leave for France we drive to Codford to have lunch with the Allens.  Mike and I have collaborated over a chapter in his book Molluscs in Archaeology and I have two other chapters in the volume.  Getting all the chapters submitted, refereed and polished for publication was at times a rollercoaster ride for Mike and Julie.  I don’t know how Mike kept his nerve.  The finished article is something to be very pleased with and I am delighted to have contributed material based on my work as an environmental specialist.

We sit in their garden of many rooms, and enjoy quiche and salads and bubbly.  We have promised ourselves this small celebration for some weeks, when the going got tough over one of the chapters which gave us grief.  All’s well that ends well, more or less.

Before we board the ferry at the end of the week I have a Splinter lunch with my breakaway reading friends in the village.  We discuss our communal reads and it is my turn to suggest a book.  I offer several titles and we settle around The Reader on the 6.27 by Jean-Paul Didierlaurent.  I have already read this novel and enjoyed the fact that, having been written in French and is in translation, the style nevertheless retained that ‘je ne sais quoi’ subtlety which French writing often has.

I play some bridge before we leave and enjoy it………..

 

 

Gardening here, gardening there………

After the Hamiltons leave us it is time to get back to full-blown gardening.  We have finally decided to tackle areas of the flowerbeds where they have been pretty much undisturbed for some years.  This involves digging out the soil, wheelbarrowing it over to a ‘processing’ corner where Nick laboriously picks out all the weeds, grass and roots and then sieves the earth into tubs.  It will be mixed with our own compost to make serviceable soil to dig back in, and to use for potting up the seedlings and offsets that are being discovered.

After trying for about five years to sow seed from Mme Heurtevant’s Sweet Cicely, when I get in round the base of the parent plant I find about eight plants quietly getting on with life.  That particular flowerbed contains Yellow Flag, a large Euphorbia, a Daphne odora, an evergreen Honeysuckle, a large Alstroemeria, an Agapanthus, a Forsythia, and Centaurea dealbata.  This latter flower is a child of the plant which Andy planted at 88 Pep as part of his esteemed collection of species when he planted up the newly created garden he masterminded.  Lost within all this foliage is a ‘blue’ rose which, after Nick and I have drastically thinned out that particular border, may be able to thrive.

When I tackle the complementary bed on the other side of the path that leads from the terrace out onto the lawn I find a myriad tiny seedlings of Sarcococca hookeriana as well as about a dozen decent small plants.  This all has to be rooted out and then I am able to replant uprooted Schizostylis coccinea – the Kaffir Lily under the shrub.  Again much foliage is cut back.

I notice that in amongst the poppies and other wild flowers which are allowed to bloom around the Mimosa there are splashes of blue, and it means that at least some of the wild flower seed I cast in that area has germinated.  I hope the Cornflowers will now continue to flower there as long as we leave the wild unmown patch.  As the weather is dry I put out my willow goose and cockerel to add a bit of interest.

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The weather is very hot and although Nick and I are on a mission to ‘get back control’, get some exercise and lose weight (too much wonderful food in South Africa) I find I have to work for perhaps an hour then retreat indoors and find another task.  No shortage of those!  There are jobs to do all over the garden so it is a matter of chasing the shade as the sun traverses from east to west over our south-facing house.

After the weekend during which the Tuttles arrive, we then have them over for supper on Monday evening.  We socialise again on Wednesday when Dede and Francoise invite us for supper after the hottest day of the year so far, and according to BBC news, record highest temperatures in parts of the UK.  The following morning I cycle down to the slipway by the oyster park.  It is high tide and I meet up with the Burnoufs and their other guests of the previous evening for a swim.  The key factor is that is high tide, so the sands and the oyster tables are nowhere to be seen.  There are just some steps to descend and then Plouf, into the sea.  With the seawall and the side of the slipway it feels a bit like a seawater swimming pool.  The following morning I repeat the exercise with Anne, having sold the idea to her the previous evening when the Poulets came over for curry.  They brought Noe with them and I was all set to give him his spaghetti Bolognese when his mother arrived to take him home to bed.  Another time I will make sure his meal is ready when he arrives in order to avoid the sight of his sad little face as he wished me goodnight 😦

Late on Friday night Nick and I fetched up in Poole and we are almost the last to check through customs.  We have Cybs and Eamonn staying with us for the next two nights as they have a family event.  We have come back for Mark the Greyhound’s 50th.  I spend a good hour watering into the early hours of Saturday.  During the day we tackle garden no. 2 and Nick makes good headway with the pergola he is erecting.  Once plants have been rescued from the brink I can put it off no longer.  Strawberries must be harvested before too many more rot away.  I find fruit-picking such a chore, so boring.  Nick and I spend an hour picking about 12lb of fruit.  IMG_6949 40Then it has to be picked over, quality control……  I chuck out squishy fruit onto the lawn for the blackbirds to pick over…………..Cue jam, ice cream, freezing, feed supper guests on Wednesday.    As we eat home-grown globe artichokes, asparagus spears, new potatoes, rhubarb – some of this produce brought across from France – it does give us pleasure to feel that we provide a regular if small input into our diet.  The jury is out on the gooseberries we picked just before leaving.  Let’s hope these gooseberries don’t make fools out of us!

The Sound of a Cock Porping

These memorable words were uttered by me during the delicious dinner that our house guests had treated us to, on the last evening of their recent stay chez nous.  Rosemary and James had taken us to the Hotel Fuchsias, an establishment we are fortunate to have just five minutes along our road.  Screw-top wines are pretty much unheard of in France and the sound of a cork as it is drawn from a wine bottle is unmistakeable and presages the deeply satisfying experience of the first sip of good French wine.  Unless, of course, the wine is ‘cocked’.  Which it wasn’t 🙂

Our guests are on their way to Mayenne, an area we had not heard of, and after people make landfall at Cherbourg we at St Vaast La Hougue are ideally placed for friends and family who plan a stay further afield in France and would like to make a stopover to see us.  Our dinner had followed a very agreeable afternoon spent at le Jardin botanique du Chateau de Vauville. 452c52c6c31516534ac43ea259824176 The garden was begun in 1947 and wanders over four hectares on a windy site within 300 metres of the sea.  Wikipedia tells me that it contains more than 900 semi-tropical species of plants from the southern hemisphere set within windbreaks of diverse Eucalyptus and bamboo. Collections include Aloe, Phlomis, Euphorbia, Hemerocallis, Agapanthus, Gunnera, Echium pininana, and  palm trees.

The gardens are one of the first destinations we visited when we first moved to France.  On one occasion we went there with Pam and Andrew Tompsett and the impression we gained from Andrew was that here was a garden in need of rather better management.  This time it was rather sad to see that the owners appear to have decided, but perhaps by default, to run with all the plants that will grow like topsy, and diversity has dropped considerably.  They are also allowing space to adventives such as Iris foetidissima.  IMG_6471 (2)40 I still think that two of the most impressive ‘rooms’ are the Bamboo Theatre and the High Forest of Palms.  IMG_6466 (2)40Throughout there are still wonderful trees there, notably statuesque Eucalyptus and interesting conifers.  Earlier in the year you can enjoy the Camellia, Rhododendron and Azalea and now it is the turn of the Hydrangea which are just beginning to flower. IMG_6477 (2)40

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There are many unusual shrubs too but the under-storey is now very depleted.  There is just one tiny colourful corner where some unusual flowers abound. It was lovely to find Bletilla in flower. IMG_6497 (2)40 I should love to try this in my garden.   I doubt the garden still boasts 900 plant species.  Even the circular lawn which used to be ringed by Agapanthus and Hemerocallis has changed shape and character and there are rather too many spiky Cordyline.  And then there are the water bodies which have been completely taken over by Gunnera.  Happily one of the ponds at Le Jardin de la Sagesse had a population of cute little frogs whose colours were metallic in appearance.  I don’t think they are native species.IMG_6494 (3)40 There are stone seats and some sculptures.  My favourite stone feature is the Green Man who is carved into the wall by the Chemin des Fougeres and whose perimeter is clad by Trachelospermum jasminoidesIMG_6482 (2)40To the best of my belief the chateau itself has not been opened to the public and remains a private residence.  IMG_6488 (2)40You get glimpses of it above the high walls and there is a corner where you can peer over a picket fence which runs along a wall by a back gate.  We’ve been visiting Jardin du Chateau on and off since we came here in 2005 and it has been interesting to observe the ecological succession that has taken place.  Aided and abetted I think by a lack of resources, human and financial, on the part of the owners to stay on the case…………… But it still makes a good afternoon outing.

 

Two Good Walks and Parting Shots

It’s to be a weekend of exercise and as much restrained eating as I can manage.  It’s a simple equation: x calories in and y calories out.  My x and y values must be equal at the very least and preferably the value of y should exceed the value of x.

It’s the second Saturday in the month and with typical village rigour this means it’s a day for the Winterborne Walkers.  Sheila has planned us a route that starts from The Woodpecker pub in Charlton Marshall.  The walk makes a circuit back to the pub and will start with a bit of a climb to Spetisbury Rings then loops round taking in Crawford Bridge and a lovely little church with Medieval wall paintings,  tucked into a secluded corner of countryside.  The beautiful of Crawford Bridge (listed as a scheduled monument in 1955) gives us a wonderful view of clear water, swans including a family with five fluffy pale mink-coloured cygnets, and a heron.  IMG_6433 (2)40

Later we arrive at the St-Mary-the-Virgin Church at Tarrant Crawford.  This simple church dates back to the 12th century, and is all that remains of a wealthy Cistercian nunnery – the 13th century Tarrant Abbey – to which it may have been a lay chapel. Our way takes past several water bodies and across a raised path with railings which incline pleasantly outwards.  The environs appear to be part of a large landscaped garden but although we have passed several residential properties it is not clear to whom this garden might belong.IMG_6451 (2)40 As we continue we also get a second sighting of a swan family below a small bridge, Aand as we watch the birds it is fascinating to see that the young mimic the body posture of the adult who appears to be in charge.  Must be the mother……..IMG_6442 (2)40The walk route we have taken is very agreeable and later when I surf to look for a particular bit of information I come across this website, which describes several walks taking The Woodpecker as the starting point.

The following day we have planned to walk with Maddy and Andrew on Portland, at Church Ope.  As a spontaneous and last minute decision son Dan and Jake had booked into The Old Workshop overnight with a view to climbing at The Cuttings on Portland.  Unlike a lot of Portland, the limestone walls at The Cuttings are not natural; as the name suggests, they are the remains of an old railway cuttings. The railway itself, which serviced the island’s quarries, is now long gone, but it has left a crag with easy access.  Dan and Jake head off after breakfast to stake their claim and we rendez vous with M and A in the carpark opposite the Museum at 11.

We walk along the cliff top, following the track of the old railway until we can progress no further, our passage being prevented by The Verne.  Instead we clamber down onto the area known as Penn’s Weare, as described by the blogger on this website.  The topography is undulating but a bit craggy too and the area is popular for those who like to go bouldering.  This is a lovely area to walk, the flora is wonderful and diverse.  I see several spent ‘flowerheads’ of a Broomrape and eventually find one in perfect condition. There are 200 species of Orobanche so I feel I have little hope of identifying my specimens although there is one species O. hederae which parasitizes ivy exclusively and there was certainly some ivy around.  IMG_6464 (2)40 The tiny florets of Pyramidal orchids are just beginning to open. IMG_6457 (2)40 We continue until we come to the cliff top on the eastern margin of Church Ope Cove.  We scramble down a narrow steep track with my enemy ‘scree’ very much in evidence.  Thank goodness for my walking pole which gives me a third leg.  And for the hand of Nick.

The steps up from the cove are a bit taxing but welcome…………….. calories out.  The four of us head for the Cove Inn at Chesil where we order lunch (calories in and too many!) and are shortly joined by the climbers.  Dan treats us all to lunch.

The following day is a busy one, I must prepare the garden for our leave of absence (which means moving a number of pots to sites where they will not bake), drive into Dorchester to collect a couple of items, visit my mother.  Nick adds a bit more wood to the pergola he is constructing in the garden.  In the afternoon Joy and Tricia pay us a visit and I must abandon them to Nick.  We are getting dab hands at this commuting business.  Just before supper and with the early evening sun smiling down upon the garden, I take a few photos.

We go to bed not too late and rise an hour earlier than we normally do in order to leave the house feeling calm and collected.  We achieve this.

 

Chickens, Piglets and Deer

It was with a great sense of relief that I found the passports tucked out of sight in my kitchen.  Apart from the gross inconvenience of having to get replacement passports for all four of us, being unable to travel (at least Nick and me, since the Tailles would be able to travel on their Identity cards), we would have missed the banquet planned for other Francois’ 60th.  Anne had planned a meal at home, to be cooked by a young friend of their son, who has trained as a chef and is about to open his own restaurant in Cherbourg.  In the event it was a truly delicious meal with turbot for the main course and two twists on an old theme which were inventions of Brice.  One was the mini Croque Monsieurs that Brice made in canapé form, the other was the fried potato cake that contained a raw oyster in the centre.  This accompanied the turbot and was possibly a bit rich, but then the whole meal was a gastronomic indulgence for which much dietary compensation would be required in the ensuing days.  Typically, the dessert course was not skimped.  There were two gateaux both heavenly.  The only ‘mouche dans la pommade’ was the apparent inability of Mr Picky to compromise his extreme pickiness to the extent that he would at least go through the motions of tasting food he never eats, whether on the basis of taste or principle.  Plates of good food were sniffed, grimaced at and went back to the kitchen virtually untouched.  He cooked his goose that night with his hostess and also with this one.

There followed some days of energetic gardening.  In my quest to shave a kilo or two before my walk with Lis in September I need to up my exercise.  Walking is good but I can find that boring unless I have a companion and a good route.  Active gardening gives the added advantage of bending and lifting which is good for my flexibility too.

At the end of the week Anne and I board a ferry for our appointment with Kim.  With Saturday to spare we drive down to Lyme Regis which Anne instantly likes and after to Hawkchurch where Liz is ringing for a wedding.  We watch the wedding party as they exit the church then repair to Parricks for a cream tea.  This is a bit of an indulgence because I am expecting Cybs and Jean for a curry supper at TOW after their willow day making obelisks and mini-hurdles.

And so we do our Piglet day and it is rewarding and quite intense.  I hesitate to say it is ‘fun’ because it is taxing but satisfying and there is always a sense of working against the clock.  At the end of the day we do end up with our individual and very respectable piglet.  I feel that now my first ever weaving, a badger, will be recognised as such when set aside his future garden companion.

On Monday I must put Anne on the ferry because I am staying for some Godalming days.  During this time I will have lunch with Vikky and with Sonia the following the day.    It is really good to meet up with Sonia after too long an interval and I am so surprised when she tells me, just before we part, that she has had a major illness to overcome.  Which she has, and courageous she has been.  My penultimate engagement is to attend Ted’s Sports’ Afternoon and this is followed with ‘The Weekend Starts Here’ at the Withies.

The timing of my spell with Ted has worked well.  I return to Winterborne ready to do the third day with Kim that will be required to put the finishing touches to my deer.  I stow the animal into my car and drive to Sandford Orcas.  I find I have arrived half an hour early so Kim takes me for a short walk further down her lane to show me some willow sculptures which she had started, but not quite finished, and which she has inserted into gaps in the hedge.    During the day I weave in extra sticks that add bulk to my animal, form to the legs and the distinctive features that will define my creation as a ‘Roe Doe’ 🙂

I had already earmarked the early days of June for some political activity and for a catch-up with bookish friends.  There is a Splinter lunch at Jan Drew’s and the Shaxsons come for coffee the following morning.  My principal mission though, is to do a bit of volunteer work for the Lib Dems ahead of the General Election on June 8th.  I deliver leaflets in my village and gain a huge respect for postmen who have to run the gamut of so many nasty letterboxes with stiff, tight-arsed, grabby brushes in the aperture which mean you end up scrumpling your stuffer as you shove it through.  On the two days before GE day I work out of the Lib Dem office in Yeovil and spend some of that time delivering leaflets with Paddy Ashdown and on the day I conduct some ‘knocking up’ over the ‘phone and this is my first experience of canvassing.

The following day I am sorry that the excellent candidate for Yeovil was not successful.  I did learn during the course of my phone calls that several staunch Lib Dem voters would be voting Tory in this instance in order to stop the Labour Party gaining ground.  In the event they, and people like them, were not successful because the Labour party made a surprise comeback, only just failing to obliterate the Tory overall majority and certainly wiping out their hopes of being returned with a bigger mandate.  Up yours Theresa May!

 

 

 

 

Lightning trip to Lyme Regis

Back in the autumn of ’16 the Tailles suddenly announced that they would like to make a short trip to the UK.  We have been leaning on them for a good while to cross the Channel with us, so we jumped at the idea and immediately pencilled in a window.  As things then shaped up we ended up booking a trip of three days immediately after the second election for French president where, fortunately, the French demonstrated good sense and voted for Macron over Le Pen.  This would fit in just nicely before their trip to Frejus.

And so it was that we crossed the Channel, enjoying views of Old Harry rocks and Brownsea Island.IMG_6833 (2)40 IMG_6914 (2)40IMG_6917 (2)40IMG_6918 (2)40We would have two full days to give Francois and Fefe a flavour of our lovely county.  On the first day we were aiming for Lyme Regis via Milton Abbas and Cerne Abbas where, after the statutory viewing of the Giant, we went to the New Inn for lunch and were lucky to find that their fish and chips was a of a high standard. IMG_6846 (2)40 IMG_6860 (2)40

 

 

 

 

 

Nick chose a smoked fish platter.  After eating we sat outside whilst Fefe enjoyed a relaxing cigarette with her coffee and then it was time to head off for Lyme Regis.WP_20170509_14_34_58_Pro (2)40

Nick has the luck of the devil when it comes to parking and he managed to get us into the small carpark down by the frontage, next to the Museum.  We would then spend a very contented hour and a half enjoying the walk along past the Sundial house and the assorted shops and cafes along the stretch that allows the visitor to look out from the beach to the small harbour and on out into the expansive Lyme Bay.  IMG_6864 (2)40IMG_6867 (2)40IMG_6899 (2)40IMG_6902 (2)40

The following day I messed up in terms of losing some good sightseeing time.  In the process of shuffling handbags I mislaid the black wallet in which I was carrying all four passports.  I got as far as believing that it had fallen out of my bag on the previous day and tried to get in touch with the police to report the loss and see if the wallet had been handed in at any of the venues we visited.  I discovered that these days there is no real police ‘service’ anymore.  You speak to anonymous people who tell you that you must deal with the matter online.  That even if it had been handed in the police would not be at liberty to hand the lost item over in the event of fraud.  Not to mention that each passport would have our mugshots to validate our claim!!!  Not wanting to burn my bridges by invalidating our passports (which would happen once the loss is reported) I phoned all the venues we had visited the previous day.  It was whilst conversing with my last hope that I noticed the wallet hidden by some pots in the back kitchen.  When I saw it I knew instantly that I had been in the process of moving it when I suddenly remembered that I should light the oven to cook our breakfast rolls.

So after that debacle we were late setting off for the day.  We went to Dorchester to buy a couple of things for the Tailles and picked up some sandwiches at M&S. IMG_6881 (2)40 We had our statutory bottle of Rose in a cool box and we ate our small picnic on the grassy cliff top at Preston. IMG_6875 (2)40 We then drove over to Portland for a quick breezy walk around the lighthouse and Pulpit Rock,IMG_6901 (2)40

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then back to Winterborne K but not before we stopped to take in the view along Chesil Beach which never fails to please.  IMG_6895 (2)40

So ended two full and active days with the Tailles in Dorset.  Nick and I both felt that it was a major achievement to root F and FF out of their agreeable sanctuary on the quay at St V.   That evening we ate supper at The Greyhound.  The Tailles may well have eaten fish and chips again, I do not recall.  However Fefe’s ecstatic experience with the Rose wine on offer at our local pub is a whole other story which, however, must remain between Jackie who served Fefe and the Lights!

Phil’s Ashes

At the beginning of May, Nick and I made a visit to Kilve on the Somerset coast.  We were to rendez vous with Jenny and John, Liz, Charlie and Amy.  We had a task to perform, a ritual, the scattering of Phil’s ashes.  John and I enjoyed a friendship with Phil’ which extended over many years.  John first met Phil’ ‘behind the scenes at the Museum’.  I met Phil’ when I joined the Conchological Society of Great Britain and Ireland in 1981.

Liz is Phil’s daughter and she had planned the scattering, partly to involve people like me who were unable to be present at Phil’s funeral.  We met up at the Chantry Tea Gardens, tucked back in a secluded position not far from the beach at Kilve.  A path leads down from the chantry through fields now used as a car-park to the beach which William Wordsworth, the Romantic poet, who lived for a brief period with his sister Dorothy at Alfoxton House, described as “Kilve’s delightful shore”.  The beach is on the West Somerset Coast Path.  Kilve had special significance for Phil’ whose geological speciality was the Jurassic.  As we accessed the shore we walked over ammonite fossils embedded in the limestone pavement.  We picked our way over the mixed flag and boulder shore until we reached a point just short of the cliffs where we could descend to the water line.  The sea received the ashes and I read out some postcards, three of the many Phil’ had sent to me whilst he was conducting fieldwork along the Dorset coast.

Mission accomplished we drove back to Watchet and checked into our B&Bs.  We were booked into The Bell Inn to eat supper but made a detour to drink a jar or two of cider at The Old Cider House, Pebbles Tavern.  This was an enjoyable occasion, the pub we had chosen had given us a table in a cosy snug just off the main bar.  The meal was good and the conversation was lively and we ranged over many topics.  How Phil’ would have loved the banter.  The following morning we dispersed after a special, heart-warming experience.

Subsequently I would write my contribution to an Appreciation of Phil’ for our in-house magazine.  This runs as follows:

I met Phil’ Palmer when I attended my first Conchological Society (CS) meeting in October 1981.  That day is vivid in my memory as if it were yesterday; it has huge significance for me.  I had been joined to the Society during the summer and at that meeting, the first of the CS year, I met other elder statesmen of the conchological world, well known names in the annals of the Society’s history: Peter Oliver, Bob Scase, Fred Pinn, Dr Sandor (I never did know his first name), Tom Pain and Stella Turk.  It was her first council meeting since becoming elected President.  I would say that Stella and Phil’ are the two people to whom I have the greatest debt when it comes to the way the course of my life was changed forever on that October day.  Phil and Stella have died within six months of each other, both in their 90s and I feel the loss of them both.  It seems appropriate that I would take a ‘phonecall from Phil’s daughter, Caroline, with news of Phil’s passing, whilst I was working a shore in Salcombe during a CS field trip.

Phil’ was an intelligent and gifted scientist and modest with it.  He also had a wonderful sense of humour. He was hugely helpful to me with his advice and encouragement over the years, as I made the shift from a random collector of pretty shells to someone who needed to apply herself a bit more and would eventually ‘get science’.  Phil’ was good with beginners but they needed to demonstrate a willingness to learn.  He was a stickler for accuracy, a bit of a pedant (note the apostrophe after his name!) and did not suffer fools gladly.   At one meeting he once gave me a minor ticking off for using the word ‘creatures’ in the context of an animal or an organism.  Creatures he said were created, this did not apply to living things.  He was a natural teacher, with a great ability to share his knowledge and explain his reasoning.  He was meticulous in collecting and processing samples, both Recent and fossil.  He had a phenomenal ability to write well both scientifically but also in a more popular vein.   He sometimes had his own views on taxonomy even swimming against the tide: he tried to make a case for using the genus Littorivaga for the saxatilis complex (Palmer 1989).  My first insight into Phil’ the Stickler was on the subject of scaphopods, when I waved a ‘Dentalium’ under his nose (his chosen molluscan group).  He corrected me and delivered an explanation as to why Dentalium was incorrect and I should use the genus Antalis.  You never forget little lectures like that.  He wrote an article for the CS newsletter (Palmer 1983) ‘On referring to Scaphopods’  and was taken to task by Dennis Seaward in an edgy rejoinder (Seaward 1984), a correspondence I enjoyed.  Phil’ wrote prolifically and could be very witty.  The most enjoyable, laugh-out-loud piece written by Phil that I ever read appeared in CS newsletter in 1990, entitled ‘A Scurrilous Tale of a Conchological Term’.

Phil’ was part of the cohort of ‘British Marine’ in the Society which included Shelagh Smith, Julia Nunn, Celia Pain and others.  He once referred to the group as ‘The Marine Tendency’ (paraphrasing the Trotskyist ‘Militant Tendency’), which moniker appealed to the renegade in Phil’.  We formed a distinct minority group in a Society which, at that time, was dominated by the non-marine element of membership.  Non-marine molluscan collecting and mapping formed the original thrust of Society activity, marine recording coming later, and in some ways remained a poor relation for a good while after.  It would be Dennis Seaward who would be the person to lift the ‘British Marine’ game.  These days there is a more even distribution of spheres of interest in the Society, including molluscs in archaeology.

I am indebted to Phil’ for a valuable friendship that lasted from the moment we met.  He took an interest in my family and was later blessed with his own granddaughter, Amy.  Having a passion for photography he taught me how to use an SLR camera.  He taught several people over the years, I imagine Caroline was his first pupil.  But he disliked having his own photo taken, it reminded him that time did not stand still.  This is why my selection of photos for this article shows Phil’ typically engaging with colleagues in the field.

My greatest debt is that he is the person who nudged me into tackling a taxonomic project after I quizzed him about Chlamys nivea, after a field trip to the Isle of Skye.  He did not know the answer to my question, he said, I had better go and find it for myself.  With my background in modern languages and a modest little GCE in general science, I needed his guidance to conduct a biometric study on shells from several sources, including institutions.  I learnt to do standard deviations ‘by hand’!  The late Nora McMillan loaned me her holdings of what I refer to as the Orkney ‘Great White’, the large white Chlamys varia which can be found on Orkney beaches and, I believe, nowhere else in the British Isles.  These shells are a conundrum in themselves: a project waiting in the wings.  I wrote my paper on Chlamys nivea and it was accepted for the Journal.

Phil’ was at his best on a one to one basis, or with small groups.  Apart from an informal talk he gave at a British Marine workshop I organised, to the best of my knowledge, he never delivered a lecture because he was fundamentally a shy man.  But he was also a maverick and proud of it, and he enjoyed friendships across a spectrum of age groups.

In closing I can only reiterate the sentiments expressed above by John, Phil was indeed wise, meticulous and uncompromising in his principles.  And you could count yourself fortunate to be considered a friend.

References

Palmer, C.P.  1983.  On referring to Scaphopods. The Conchologists’ Newsletter no. 87.  119-121

Palmer, C.P.  1984.  Pax Carthaginis – A Very Old Gamesmanship.  The Conchologists’ Newsletter no. 89.  176-17

Palmer, C.P.  1989.  A Case for Littorivaga.  The Conchologists’ Newsletter No. 110.  200-202

Palmer, C.P.  1990.  A scurrilous tale of a conchological term.  The Conchologists’ Newsletter no. 113.  285-286

Seaward, D.R. 1984.  The New Gamesmanship.  The Conchologists’ Newsletter no. 88.  157-158

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Un Coq pour Madame Poulet

My French friend arrives in Poole on Friday evening, Nick and I take her home, and we all turn in fairly promptly.  Anne and I have an early start the next morning, breakfast, a sandwich for lunch to be made and then a 45 minute drive to Sandford Orcas where we will check in with Kim for a day of willow weaving.  Cockerels are on the menu.  Kim has her demonstration model and she shows the range of coloured willow sticks we have to work with.  Following her example we take our first sticks and form the body and neck, making sure to maintain some girth for the body frame of the bird.  Thereafter we weave sticks to secure the shape, stop it flattening and give it some strength.  Kim demonstrates each stage and we follow as best we can.  She patrols the group, intervening when she sees that one of us might be going adrift and risking the loss of the shape and posture of a cockerel.  In this way we all manage to achieve our own cockerel with a flamboyant tail.  IMG_6881 (2)40

It is always a scramble for me to complete my willow sculpture in the time allotted.  The workshops tend to overrun until 5 pm when Kim becomes insistent that we must finish.  She offers us extra sticks to take away so we can complete our sculptures at home. IMG_6885 (2)40 Anne and I accept this offer and we put our sticks in the bath to stay wet overnight.

Anne has brought us rather a nice surprise from France.  Francois has been ormering with Dede on the west coast and has generously sent four of these delicacies over with Anne for us to enjoy.  I tenderise them, slice them and then turn them through a bit of oil in a frying pan.  We eat these little morsels then repair to The Greyhound for supper.

In the morning Anne works on her cockerel so that it will be complete when she travels back to France.  We are planning a supper at TOW where we will be joined by Cybs, her mother and Jean after their willow day making obelisks and mini hurdles with Kim.  In the afternoon there is just time for a short trip to Athelhampton which Anne enjoys – notably the garden – before we need to get back and prepare the meal.

The following morning Nick takes Anne to the ferry and I settle down to ‘flesh’ out my cockerel with a few more sticks.  A few days later I spray the work with Danish oil.  When Nick and I next travel out to France we take Claud with us.

Later on during a spell of particularly warm dry weather in June, and when we have house guests, I place the cockerel, together with my goose, Clotilde on the lawn by the old Mimosa tree.  Tucked up against a stand of wild flowers the birds look well enough.

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Coffee with Hilary – Canvas update

On my way to Cornwall for Stella’s funeral I stop by to see our painter friend who lives near Whimple.  She is working on two canvasses, portraits of the rear elevations and garden at our French home.  It’s a couple of months since I saw the two pictures and there is more paint on the canvas and the colours are gorgeous.  The two views are representations of the house in early morning and early evening lights.

Hilary gives me coffee and lovely biscuits and then I must get underway because I need to call at Cornwall Gold before Stella’s funeral.  There I will drop off 4 short gold chains and the heavy gold necklace Nick gave me on the occasion of his Retirement party on the Silver Barracuda on the River Thames twenty years ago.

Hilary just asks me to take a few photos for her working portfolio.   I step out of her tiny kitchen into her small courtyard and cross to her studio which is not much more than a shed which has been made secure as a working space for a painter.  IMG_6121 (2)40.jpgSuch marvels she produces from this bijou artist’s domain.

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