Mont d’Olmes: local playground for skiers. You wouldn’t travel any great distance to spend a holiday here, but for locals, it’s the ideal winter sports spot. It’s a wonderful area for walkers too. We’ve only just begun to discover the wealth of footpaths, mainly across truly ‘sauvage’ slopes, with views downwards to Montségur, Roquefixade, and northwards almost, it seems, as far as Toulouse.
It’s alright waxing lyrical though. For many people living in the area many years past, and until the early years of the 20th century, these slopes were the places where they came for long hours each day, working both on the surface and by crawling through narrow airless tunnels, mining talc.
The trucks that used to transport the talc from the mines.
The old mine workings. Can you spot several tunnel entrances?
Talc? Yes, that stuff you sprinkle on babies’ bottoms. That stuff those Olympic gymnasts plunge their hands into before taking to an overhead bar. That stuff that apparently still has many industrial uses, notably in the ceramics industry and for plastics paints and coatings. This soft soapstone was found here on Mont d’Olmes and is still mined in nearby Luzenac. Here though, all that is left are the gashes in the mountainside where the workings once were, and a few ancient trucks once used to transport the material down to civilisation.
Come and take the path we took last Sunday. We walked in more or less a straight line, up and down hill after hill, as the path became increasingly rocky and impassable.
Our path onwards and upwards.
So many paths! But you’ll never meet a soul.
Apparently this plant is carniverous, feeding on passing insect life.
Early morning mist burning off in the sun.
Our reward was the occasional handful of raspberries or bilberries, then a lunchtime picnic by l’étang des Druides. No, sorry, l’étang des Truites. Whatever. Nobody seems to know which name is correct. Some say the person making the first map of the area misheard and wrote ‘truite’ – trout – instead of ‘druide’. We saw no trout. We definitely saw no druids. But we had a jolly nice picnic. And I paddled.
Our first sight of L’étang des truites or druides.
Our picnic spot.
Told you I paddled!
More of the picnic spot.
And then I ruined a perfectly good day, in which morning chill and mist had given over to hot sunshine, by falling flat against the rocky path, cutting open my face and chipping three teeth. I hope the druids weren’t lining me up for some kind of sacrifice.
Our homeward path.
Lavelanet, then Laroque lie far below us.
People often hang these thistles on their doors to bring good luck. Maybe if we had too I wouldn’t have had my little accident.
August 2020, PS. Don’t worry. I’m fine. The chipped bits, which were only small, have smoothed down nicely.
August is traditionally Silly Season in the media. I’ll join in. I’ll pretend that it’s the two windows you can just about see that are the subject of this post. We all know it’s really the washing line. And its contents.
Disclaimer: this is not our washing.
These are Silly Season entries for both Monday Window and Jude’s Photo Challenge, which is this week about colour with a bit of zing.
It was Sandra who got me into this. I love her blog A Corner of Cornwall. She’s a big reader, and often joins in Six Degrees of Separation.
On the first Saturday of every month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. Readers and bloggers are invited to join in by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book.
I’m a big reader too – less so during Lockdown, for some reason I can’t explain – but rarely blog about my reading choices. It got me thinking…
The given starting point this month is the only book I haven’t read: Jenny Odell’s How to do Nothing. I will read it, because according to the summary, it shows us a new way to connect with our environment and reveals all that we’ve been too distracted to see about our selves and our world.
It made me think of the first book I read when Lockdown began: Katherine May’s Wintering. This book, part memoir, part researched observation shows how winter can bring strength, and inspiration as we bring different ways of coping to this most demanding of seasons. May looks at the animal world (bees for instance), at different cultures who know a lot about winter (the Finns for example), and at her own experiences to show that winter can be far from negative. Instead, it can be one of healing, renewal, acceptance and a source of strength.
From wintering to winter. Elisa Shua Dusapin’s Winter in Sokcho takes us to South Korea, to the dreary life of a young woman living in a dreary seaside town on the border with North Korea. She meets a French comic book illustrator, a guest at the hotel where she works. We never get under the skin of the characters in this story. But this distance, this cold, this feeling of the characters being trapped in their self-appointed roles, these vivid descriptions of an unwelcoming chilly town, overshadowed by its proximity to North Korea is what gives this book its power.
And still in South Korea, we go from Sokcho to Busan, a city my daughter was lucky enough to call home for a year, and which we were lucky enough to visit. Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee is a family saga which takes us from early 20th century southern Korea, in a fishing village not far from Busan, to Japan in the late 1980s. This is a troubled period of Korean history, dominated by its difficult relationship with Japan. The book begins with the story of Sunja, who comes near to bringing shame on her family by becoming pregnant to a rich wheeler-dealer before marriage. It’s about resilience and emotional conflict passing down through the generations. It’s about well-drawn characters making their way in the world, sometimes with great success, but rarely able to escape from the shadow of their past. It’s a real page turner, from which I learnt much about this period of Korea’s history.
From one family saga to another. Laura Cumming’s On Chapel Sands isn’t so much a family saga as a family mystery. Laura’s mother Betty was adopted, was briefly kidnapped, and set Laura sleuthing to uncover the whole story, never taking bald facts at their face value.
Another mother takes centre stage in Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet. O’Farrell imagines the story of Shakespeare’s marriage to Agnes, and the devastating death of their eleven year old son Hamnet. Reading this book during the time of Covid 19 gives this story of love and loss a very particular immediacy.
We remain in a similar period for my last link: The Mirror and the Light, by Hilary Mantel. There is a denseness to this 875 page book, with its enormous cast of characters, some of whom merely have walk-on parts which gives this tale its richness. We all know the story. We all know what happens to Henry’s queens. We all know what happens to Thomas Cromwell. And still we want to turn the page.
I’m looking forward to seeing where all the other chains lead – from the single starting point.
These flowers are for Becky, indefatigable host of Square Perspectives. She has encouraged us to look for an astonishing range of perspectives over the last month, and to share our findings with contributors in every continent. Thank you, Becky.
Normal service will be resumed in August. Whatever ‘normal’ means these days. The flowers will bash on regardless.
.. when you cut it, when you split it, and when you burn it.
So goes the old saying. Well, wood warms us thrice too. We don’t fell trees and we don’t split logs. But we do burn wood, in our wood-burning stove. And before that, we forage in the woods nearby to supplement the wood we buy for the winter months.
This was the week when we bought, sorted and stacked the trailer load we’d ordered. It burns calories alright. From our point of view, it’s worth more than any gym membership. And eeh by gum we feel right proud when all is safely gathered in.
Canary Wharf, Crossharbour, Cutty Sark, Mudchute, Pudding Mill Lane, Royal Victoria, West India Quay, Woolwich Arsenal.
Is it any wonder I love travelling on the Docklands Light Railway in London when I visit, with all those evocatively named stations, speaking among other things of London’s past as a thriving port? A port complicit in many things we’d rather forget, such as the slave trade, but can investigate at the Museum of London Docklands.
The journey is a window onto a watery world of harbours, jetties, watery cul-de-sacs and wharfs: old and new in close juxtaposition. And the windows of the train carriage itself reflects the cosmopolitan society that London has always been.