Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Loir et Cher

Just arrived at our cheapie hotel on our way home. It's called an Ibis Budget and it opened less than 2 weeks ago.  Feels like we may actually the very first people to stay in this room! It's basic but v well designed - little loo cubicle, smart spacious shower, basin, desk, double-bed, aircon, upper single bunk, and quite good TV channels.  All up (including secure parking and breakfast €54.90 which is about £45.
We'll head off into Romorantin for supper in a few moments.

I just want to bid farewell in my mind to Tom and Sally Vernon in their amazing house, in a deep, steep, forested valley on the southern edge of the Cevennes. A heron coasted by the mysterious terraced wooded garden this morning.  A nightingale was singing last night. The rain had kept everything pristine - every wall, every nook and cranny, every step and wall is filled with tiny flowers. There is an amazing perfume from the Provence roses which Sally has tucked in everywhere, and soft wild campanula softens all the edges.  It is completely magic. The three house cats disdain to be stroked but control things pretty well.  The Vernons say it's quite something that the chasseurs have not so far shot these beautiful animals. Many English residents find their beloved moggy left on their doorstep, shot, because the locals think they are too much competition when it comes to catching wild things.

The little village of Valleraughe - just further up the valley - is (very slightly) reminiscent of a coal-mining village in Wales, something like that - made of dark stone, not much space, tall houses and passages, walls, the river rushing down the middle....   It is, very surprisingly, a centre of Protestantism with no less than five sects discernible. It was a silk-weaving town, maybe some of the Huguenots fleeing the pogroms after the Edict of Nantes and the infamous massacres of St Bartholomew's Day settled there .... but the Vernon's house is not the only great edifice built for the production of the finest silk imaginable.

Sally has been saying there has been a scourge of illness lately - cancer is so prevalent that no-one raises an eyebrow nowadays when someone's diagnosed. She was going to visit various sick friends in hospital today....   Last night, some friends came round with a piano for them. It was strapped to the back of a trailer and Andrew took the opportunity of playing it - it's a lovely upright Bechstein and in perfect pitch too. See the little video clip on FB: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10150845558522869&notif_t=like

They'll have brought it into the house by now, using a tractor to unload it.  It will live in the huge new salon they have made... I wish I was there to hear and see it.

Tom has spent his life as a musician, writer, broadcaster, thinker, cook, film-maker, actor, traveller and host...  He is a true polymath.  Now he has been ill, and is working through the considerable indexes of his life's work... trying to bring together the many recording media which have come and gone in his lifetime, to make sure everything is accessible for the future. Among his works are at least 2 CDs of original songs written and performed by him - some political, some romantic, some funny and all bitter-sweet; he recorded a huge amount of Dickens' work on  BBC Radio London, he produced and recorded many rare operas, he wrote and made TV films using his 'Fat Man on a Bicycle' brand - around England, Scandinavia, Europe, and further afield. His 'voice' in all this is so humane, so loving - the whole thing needs to be archived properly and made available again to the public. He was hugely popular till the everything at the BBC went wonky - the great exodus of real broadcasters and producers was a massive cultural loss to Britain and the world. I hope he can maybe get some sort of grant to help him get all this work gathered up and properly presented - it might make him some money (and why not?) but the world would be a richer place if all this was available again.  It was really lovely to see him and Sally again. They look absolutely happy in their mountain valley, with their fantastic garden, rushing river, lush forests, and that amazing old silk-merchant's house.

Today we had a divine drive through the Cevennes, where the wildflowers along the rocky verges were so rich and varied it was completely indescribable. Each section of road seemed to attract a particular combination of flowers - some pinks and blue, some pinks and purples, some red, some white, some blues and purples, some brilliant yellows.  There were millions of them. Stunning, breathtaking.  We went through medieval country and Roman, had lunch in Marejols which has 13 towers and 3 fortified gates (but a lot of closed-down shops in the centre). We were rushing along through the most spacious, beautiful countryside... we must come back.  There is so much more to explore.

Now - being really tired and with supper to find, I will end for tonight. Tomorrow we head up to Calais, having done more than half the journey from south to north today.


I will add a postscript. We drove into Romorantin to find supper. Parked, strolled, found a place near the river Sauldres with its weirs and lovely old bridge.  We could have a demi-menu for €11.50 - quite a good price for an evening meal.  Andrew had an assiette de crudités  which turned out to be green and red tomatoes with strawberries and lots of flowers, and I had a tartare de concombre which was a little dish with chunks of cucumber, covered in cream, and the plate on which this sat was fantastically carefully decorated with hundreds of individual elderflower florets and petals of gorse (?) or some other yellow flower.  It was nearly impossible to eat - the cream being far too runny, the flowers being far too flimsy.  Really weird.     The main course was salmon for A and chicken for me...  it took a very long time to arrive, and was mostly out of a packet, I think.  My glass of rosé never arrived.  A party of Dutch tourists arrived, ordered, and waited and waited and waited.....  We thought it was all rather funny.  On the way back to the car, we found two women holding a bundle (surely not a baby?) and wailing and rushing about, outside a vet's.  They shouted at us - incomprehensible - but it seemed they wanted to ring the vet (office closed) using our portable... but I had left my mobile in the hotel by mistake.  The bundle was a dog. They were running around, really distraught.  Nothing we could do.  They were shouting, running, waving at empty shops, the older one holding the dog in a huge pink blanket, the younger one wailing and calling out. No-one answered.

We have filled up with diesel in one of those sensible pay-by-card-automatically pumps which are open 24/7 as they say. Now back at the base, dog tired.

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