Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A Journey of a Different Kind

I've been battling to find the time to write about the last couple of weeks on the road, before we began to settle in to Melody, our brand new leisure home in Pors Peron on the coast of Finistere. And we've been here just short of three months now!

In the meantime, I read a blog written by Martine Cotter, which influenced my thinking hugely - hence this blog title of A Journey of a Different Kind. I've put the link to Martine's blog at the end of this post and I would encourage you to read right through to the end.

Reading Martine's Travelling Family Blog, in all it's raw vulnerability, I realised it's not that I was battling to find the time to write, it's that I haven't been writing truthfully. In fact, I haven't been living truthfully. I've been doing what I've been doing ever since I left South Africa sixteen years ago. Hiding who I truly am and trying to fit my square self into a round hole. I can see my reflection now in how and what I have written since I landed in Ireland, and in our subsequent years in France.

I wrote quite a lot whilst in Ireland ... about one hundred-and-thirty artist profiles, over six years, for a national magazine; I published a book entitled "Tea 'n Turps" using twelve of those profiles; an artist self-help book "The eArt Directory"; and loads of articles for interior decorating and general magazines in Ireland. Even then, I was writing as I heard English being spoken, in the Irish vernacular, still hiding my own identity.

It's just a fact of history and geography that southern hemisphere folk and northern hemisphere folk are different animals in so many ways. The ingredients of these northern and southern cultural recipes - distance, weather, geography, history and a myriad of cultural influences, all play their part and flavour our blood with different herbs and spices.

Right now I need to be the straight-talking South African that I am. The one who has felt quite lonely in so many ways for the past sixteen years. I need to acknowledge who I am as an individual, because that too has influenced how I've handled the cultural differences I have willingly faced.

Maybe then I'll find both my writing and my painting mojos again.

The blue print I was born with, my early years and upbringing, my (horrid) school years, my parents and sisters, and the social skills I learned (or didn't learn!) along the way, shaped my adult self and formed the mask I have which meets the world. Just like everyone else on earth. So I'm far from perfect.

I love Ireland just as much as I love South Africa, but of course it's different. A mother loves all her children to distraction ... but it's a slightly different love for each one, not more or less, but because they are very different individuals.

Both Alan and I feel so at home in Ireland ... but we were very lonely there. As is the way in South Africa, we're used to inviting folk around for dinner, and receiving return invitations back to friends homes. There would be at least weekly return invitations to each others homes back where we lived.

However, although we got to know many people in Ireland, and invited them around, in the fourteen years we lived there we can count on one hand only, literally, the folk who invited us back to their homes for a meal or social event. Perhaps it's because the Irish have huge families and large circles of friends they went to school with, and that takes up all their social energy. Or perhaps it's because I'm rather shy, not such a great small-talker, albeit a straight-talker when I do talk, who is also a bit of a hermit - and I got worse as time went on and I lost my social confidence. However, Alan is very affable, full of life stories and "hail fellow well met" bonhomie which generally balances out my social inadequacies.

Nevertheless, lack of social life excluded, I have some very precious Irish artist friends with whom I get together, usually in a pub or cafe, each time I go back. I hope they know how precious they are to me. They are the gems I found in those Connemara years and I love them dearly.

I have battled creatively too, trying to immerse myself in a different country with a different culture, different colours, different smells, different skies, and vastly different subjects. No-one was interested in my Africa-ness; in my paintings of leopards, lions, rhinocerus and elephant all executed in the warm colours of the country of my roots. I think that's when I began to try and hide where I come from. I felt I had to try and fit in, try and be one of the crowd ... and artistically, that haunts what I do to this day.

This is what I used to do:

And this is what I've tried to change to:

I ended up painting abstract horses and floral arrangements!! (See my website https://lyndacookson.blogspot.fr/)

We moved to France three years ago and our social life picked up dramatically. We got to know many of the English folk who pop back and forth between the UK and Brittany, and have formed some good friendships with some lovely folk. But you know what? I still feel different! Ugh!

What made me realise that it may be a northern and southern hemisphere thing, is that the person I feel most relaxed with, is another crazy artist who is Australian and lives much of the time in Brittany. I don't seem to be able to analyse it deeper than that, except that I know that she will always forgive me for my little inadequacies. Even if she judges me in the moment, that judgment passes soon and I will always be welcomed back into another good aul' swaying, nothing held back, southern hug each time we meet. She too tells me that she feels different and feels folk cannot relate to who she really is. We have so much more to give with nobody who understands what it is we have to give! Not their problem really. It's our problem LOL.

Whilst all this different country and different culture stuff was going on I was also, initially, battling with a step-daughter issue, closely followed by a decade of looking after my Mum whose Altzheimers was progressively worsening. All rather emotionally draining which didn't help in the least.

It's all past now and except for a deep-seated feeling of being so very, very tired, I'm trying to give body and soul the attention it's needed for so long. "Now and Zen" sits alongside my desk, peacefully reminding me each day to work at keeping in balance. Let's hope that for once in my life, when I find that balance, I won't go and make some silly decision which upsets it all again! LOL I tend to do that.

 "Now and Zen"

Martine Cotter's Travelling Family Blog : https://travellingfamilyblog.com/

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Leaving of La Ville Oger

We're on the move again ... these pics were taken during our last walk down the lane behind our house, on a beautiful sunny day, with nevertheless a bit of a chill in the air. This is the countryside around Lantillac, 8 kms north west of Josselin in Morbihan, Brittany.

We spent the last day, 30 April 2017, in our 400 year old stone tower farmhouse scrubbing, sweeping, vacuuming and mopping. We were exhausted and prone to silliness.

The giggles started inside me when I was trundling down the road pushing Alan's wheeled office chair (which wouldn't fit into Milly without being dismantled) and my precious antique bar stool perched upside down on top of it, to be stored for the month at our neighbour's house about 200 metres away. It wasn't a quiet operation with the noise of the wheels on the tar surface, so no sneaking down the road taking my chairs for a walk, for me!

Next chore on the list was to take the recycling to the village bins down the road. Whilst loading the plastic and glass rubbish into Milly, along with Bridie who was being banished with me and our muddy paws so Alan could do a final floor mop, I thought I would connect up the hose and fill our water tanks ready for the road.

Then we were off. Bridie, me … and the trailing garden hose … plus the plastic doo-dah that the hose rolls up onto. Happily bouncing down the driveway and onto the road. I had forgotten I was busy filling the tanks before I left! And to cap it all I was totally unaware of my folly.

Just longer than the length of the hose down the road, I met an oncoming car, another neighbour, so I pulled to the side of the narrow country road to allow her to pass. She didn't pass. She just sat and stared. So I looked in my rear view mirror … and I'm still giggling at the memory of what I saw.

Alan was hurtling out of the driveway, arms flailing in a futile attempt to call me back and stop me, with a look of sheer horror on his face. Alan never runs. He's a no-flap walker. So already I was smiling. Then I noticed this long green snake trailing behind me with the plastic doo-dah on the end, stopping my neighbour from comfortably passing me … and my silly exhausted giggle escaped!

You know that uncontrollable giggle which happens when you're nervous or very tired? Well that was me. I couldn't even tell the story to Maggie, my neighbour, with any sense of intelligence at all, a few minutes later when I arrived at her house to drop off a couple of ladders. She gave up on me … I think she thought I'd finally flipped!

And I'm giggling still, as I write this.

Our first night was spent at the beautiful lakeside in Lanouee, just 10 kms or so down the road from Lantillac.

This will always be my favourite village lake. It's beautiful in all seasons and thoroughly used and appreciated by the folk of Lanouee. As well as the ducks! (None in this pic though)

 Milly the Motorhome still looking clean on the first night on the road.


Above and below are the lovely views around Lanouee lake.

We had another good chuckle on the first morning on the road.

We were servicing Milly at the water tanks when a little white car zoomed around the corner and pulled up in the road next to us. And I mean in the road. No pulling off to the side to let others pass or anything. Luckily there were no others.

I was busy persuading Bridie to not go and eat the car's occupant whilst Alan went over to the beckoning man to chat. Next thing, I see the guy jump out of his car and whip around to the back seat from where he produced a cellophaned package of some sort. The conversation between himself and Alan was short, and within seconds he was back in his little car, zooming off again. Alan came back with laughter in his eyes … he was a sock salesman!

A sock salesman. Way out in the country. Maybe he's found it's a good way to snare sitting ducks.

And on to our next experience .......

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A Teaser

There are a few folk asking where we are right now ... and I promise a blog is in the making.

My hurdle is however, that although most of the words have been written, yet remain unpublished, I don't have a facility for editing and checking the compositions of my photographs, on my laptop. And for me, a huge part of blogging is all about the images. As good as I can make them. So you have to wait for another week!

In a week's time we will have moved what remains of our possessions - after The Great Sellout of February, March and April, when we sold or donated about 80% or more of our worldly goods and chattels - into Melody, our brand new leisure home (aka a mobile home) where we have based our gypsy lives on the Brittany coast of Finistere, near Douarnenez.

We said goodbye to La Ville Oger, the 400 year old stone tower farmhouse where we spent a very happy two-and-a-half years, on 1 May, and took to the road for a gypsy life.

As soon as my desktop computer is up and running, the promised images and stories will be published. Okay, so it may be two weeks and not one!

In the meantime, Bridie the Beautiful watching the ocean which she met for the first time last week.

Road Trips with Milly's Facebook page : https://www.facebook.com/RoadTripsWithMilly/

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Baking Hot Day near Credin in Brittany

It was a perfect Spring day. Sunny, clear and with a nippy little breeze brushing my hair into my eyes, but keeping the heat away.

It wasn't the day that was baking though ... it was the chefs having fun with the ancient bread ovens near the town of Credin in Morbihan, close to where we live in Brittany.

The bread ovens are at least 400 years old and a huge source of pride and fun for the locals. The oven on the left in the image below, is the back of the oven depicted in this blog. The oven on the right is the one we have in our garden. Both are constantly having bad hair days!

The bad hair has a reason. By packing soil onto the top of the oven, and holding it in place with grass and creepers, the oven is able to retain the heat more efficiently.

A local school organises an annual sponsored walk where participants walk a route which takes them to farms where the ancient bread ovens have been fired up. In French it's called a fete du pain (festival of bread) and the walk is a balade. The brioche, bread, and perhaps croissants, that they make is sold to hungry walkers, alongside the beer tent. I didn't see a coffee, tea, cooldrink or water tent!

We arrived just in time to witness the end of the reheating of this particular oven. I believe it takes about 4 hours to heat the oven in the first place, but there were already loaves being sold, so we assumed this wasn't the first heating of the oven.

We quickly spotted the two chefs who were in command - I think they must have been brothers - by the way they were quietly and efficiently guiding their team of helpers to get the job done. Oh, and by their blue-checked trousers which were very sooty by the time we arrived.

 It was quite evident they thoroughly enjoyed the attention my big long camera lens, pointed in their direction for that hour or so, gave them. And I was invited to "go behind the scenes" a couple of times to get some good shots of highlights of the process.

I stayed well behind the counter when the flaming ashes were raked into a wheelbarrow, and left to calm down and cool awhile. As you can see it was monster hot! After a while it was wheeled away to an unknown hot ash pile somewhere to go into retirement.

The two chefs raking out the last of the flaming ashes

I see it's a double wheelbarrow ... good thing too!

It took a while for those flames to die down

This farm's bread oven is well set up for making bread. In fact, it's the only bread oven I have seen in the area with a shed built on to accommodate all the right furniture for cooling and rising. The baked bread is set to cool on pull-out shelves above the shelf where three huge pans of dough had been set to rise. I'm assuming the warmth from the bread helped with the rising process.

Above is the sliding shelf with warm bread and below is the rising dough beneath

I fell in love with these large basins of floury dough ...
they looked soft and comforting and wobbly!

Here's the team at work. One fella cuts the dough with a plastic "knife"; his opposite
number twists the dough into pieces easy for the next two workers to pick up; the
young girl, later joined in the process by her mother, weighs the dough ready
for the two chefs to flour them, roll them into balls and put them on a tray.

The trays are then whipped across to another "rising" cupboard - the type you see
in a more modern bakery (boulangerie) below

This wide angle shot of the make-shift boulangerie could well be wax models in a museum! It shows you all the lovely old paddles, rakes and shovels, with their very long handles, that have seen many a day of bread baking. They sit happily in amongst normal farm gates and paraphenalia.

After the speedy team effort of dividing the dough into almost (by my count) 100 brioche rolls, and after they had been set to rise for a while, each one was lightly scored on the top before being placed on the paddle, two by two, and slid into the hot oven.

Beautifully risen dough balls ... giving off that delicious smell of raw dough

Each brioche being lightly scored

Into the oven they go!

It took two of the team to close the oven door

Twenty minutes or so into the baking process, I was proudly invited into
the baking arena, and the door of the oven quickly opened, for me
to exercise my right as unofficial official photographer

I thought they looked done enough at this stage ... but the door was closed again.
The aroma of baking bread was over-poweringly delicious!

We couldn't wait to taste our brioche!

What a tasty and fun experience this day of the fete du pain was! Definitely an experience to repeat.