Monday, June 29, 2009


Cycling back from Aqua Gym on Saturday morning, we came across this little critter in a small grassy lane. For years a hedgehog came into my garden in the evenings to rummage through my compost, but I have seen very few of them of late. Also saw a badger recently, only my second sighting in almost twenty years.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A scene of cool repose on a hot summer day

Summer in the Lot is in full swing. On Sunday I attended two vide greniers, literally translated as empty attics, meaning garage sales in the US and car boot sales in the UK. Also went to an annual arts festival in Lentouille- Lentillac that follows the twists and turns of a river valley. The theme this year was wood, and there were old steam tractors and cart horses dragging around logs of wood, people shaping bowls on lathes, treemen swinging about on ropes like Tarzan, trimming dead branches from trees, and lots of art work. This however was the most striking image of the day that had everyone transfixed.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Chateaux tour- the southwest Lot

I joined the group at Labastide-Murat. An intrepid sculptor and architectural connoisseur organises annual explorations of the area for a few lucky invited guests. First stop: a fortified fifteenth century castle.

Then we moved on to a chartreuse, an old convent, this one inhabited by an elegant patron of the arts. We munched on coffee and brownies while our guide and our hostess ironed out details of a commission.

Next stop, was this sliver of building, an old fortified entrance to a no longer existing grand country castle.

Lunch at a recently replanted vineyard: our host proudly introduced us to a fine example of a recent year's harvest.

The afternoon sun blazed down as we bushwhacked through a shady forest to discover an abandoned citadel. Then a visit to Bonaguil, the best preserved midieval castle in Europe. Finally after an evening of wining, dining and song, I stumbled home at 2:30 am.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ballade à Bordeaux

Author/friend Karen Williams was here last week with her doctor husband in tow. They lived in Malawi and Haiti for many years and I have illustrated four of Karen's books. In my 20 years in the Lot, I had yet to visit Bordeaux and reckoned it was about time, so after lunch with a friend in Sarlat, we headed west via Bergerac. Big mistake: it's a rotten road, non stop feux rouges and ronds points and ugly to boot. After three hours en route, we decided to forego Bordeaux for St Emilion where we found a delightful chateau vineyard for the night, the Chateau de Roques. Not only was there a pool but bicycles at our disposal, just what we needed to soothe our cranky nerves. De-stressed and refreshed, we decided to splurge on drinks on the terrace and dinner. The next morning we breakfasted early in St Emilion itself before the tourist buses could arrive and disgorge their noisy contents, and fortified, headed to Bordeaux. After lunch in a shady square, we rented bicycles to get to know the town. It was the first hot day of summer and the quai along the river was fabulous. Everyone was out splashing in the mirror fountains that alternated unpredictably between fine misty spray and undulating gentle waves. The plaque under the magnificent copper fountains said that the statues had been dismantled during the war to be smelted down for ammunition, but miraculously all the parts were discovered hidden in Agen and the fountain was returned and reassembled on the waterfront.

Saturday, June 06, 2009


One of the things that made our exhibition opening a success on Friday evening was the music. Les Fausses Celtics came to play for us in exchange for the portrait I did of the wife of one of the musicians. Barter is making a profitable and amusing comeback in this economy.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

La France Profonde

Thought I had better take a photograph of my verdant vegetable patch, just in case. Sometimes people ask me whether I ever get bored living in the countryside after spending all my life in big cities. Well, one of the things that keeps life "interesting" around here is my neighbour, recently retired Eugene. He doesn't have much to do these days, and he needs lots of attention. Sometimes he is nice, sometimes he is not so nice. Like now. He wants money for the use of the garden, and quite a lot of money. I told him he could help himself to the produce, which is keeping him quiet for the moment. But he is already making noises about spraying the whole plot with sulfuric acid, and unfortunately he is capable of this kind of behaviour.

A circle of ashes, by the way, is very good at preventing snails and slugs from attacking the garden. It's less effective against the Eugenes of the world. Thabo is doing his best to protect the plot.

Monday, June 01, 2009

The Rocamadour Cheese Fair

Some images of the Cheese Fete on Sunday. Samples of cheese, wine, preserves and bread were handed out in generous portions to entice you to open your purses and spend those euros. If at the end of the morning you still needed a meal, grilled lamb was served up with lashings of aligot, a very filling traditional dish of mashed potatoes mixed with grated cheese, garlic, butter and cream. To combat indigestion, music livened the crowd who kicked off their shoes to whirl to the gypsy music.

Rocamadour Cheese on Foodista