I’ve shown these photos before. I’ve even shown them in a previous WordPress Photo Challenge. But I’ll never forget this February sunset from a few years ago in Laroque d’Olmes. ‘Dramatic’ doesn’t seem an overstatement here.
This is my contribution to this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge inviting shots of a sunrise or sunset. Click on any image to view full size.
This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge invites us to show images of where we’d rather be at the moment. Well, I’ll tell you where I’d rather not be, and that’s here, in North Yorkshire.
I love Yorkshire, and I’m happy to agree that it’s ‘God’s own country’. But frankly, life here is a little trying just now. Like most of England, we had The Beast from the East a couple of weeks ago bearing snow, blizzard and fierce wind. And much of the rest of the time it’s been raining. This photo was taken a couple of months ago: since then, things have only got worse.
So how about a little trip back to the Ariège, where we lived from 2007 to 2014? Here’s a selection of photos, all taken there in March or very early April. Down in the foothills of the Pyrenees where we lived, blossoms were out, and wild daffodils carpeted the more out-of-the-way hills. At the weekend we would head off for Montségur and higher land to enjoy the snow that was still thick there. We were never fans of snow-shoeing, but now I’d be more than happy to exchange their crisp deep snow for our thick deep mud.
I don’t think the humans in my life whom I love would be happy for me to plaster their images all over the blogosphere. I have no pets, beloved or otherwise. So I’ll have to look a little further.
Here’s a little miscellany of images, beloved images:
The Yorkshire Dales, whose rolling hills, bisected by ancient drystone walls I missed so much during our years in France.
The Pyrenees, from their richly flowered springtime meadows through to winter, when their rocky slopes are covered in deep snow, and which I now miss every single day. I’ll miss the shared picnics on our walks together, when our French friends pooled resources, and we ate everybody’s offerings of home-cured sausage, local cheeses, bread, home-baked cakes together with wine and somebody’s grandfather’s very special eau de vie.
Springtime daffodils. Every year I go into deep mourning when they wither, die and finally become untidy heaps of dying leaves. I’m happier now as they thrust their sheathed stems through the hard soil, promising to flower soon- but not quite yet.
There are books: I need a pile beside my bed to get me through the night.
A single, perfect cup of coffee from Bean and Bud in Harrogate.
Skeins of geese flying overhead mark the seasons here, and I love their haunting, raucous cries.
And so on….
The Pyrenees seen from St. Julien de Gras Capou in summertime.
A shared picnic near Montaillou, in March.
The Nidderdale Way.
Near Pateley Bridge.
We’ve already seen our first daffodils in North Stainley this year.
Just a random pile of books. I don’t think I’ve read most of these.
Our beloved Bean and Bud,
Geese flying uncharacteristically untidily over Marfield Wetlands.
I’ll end though with this. I wasn’t beloved of this elephant in Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu, who was only doing his job when I visited him ten years ago on my Indian Adventure. But I felt beloved and very special when he raised his trunk and brought it down upon my shoulder – his very distinctive way of blessing me.
Click on any image to see a slideshow of the photos, full-size.
We’ve been getting in touch with our inner Ariègeois(e) today.
We spent six years in France, living in the foothills of the Pyrenees in the Ariège, a département where almost everybody still had firm roots in the simple self-sufficient lifestyle of their forbears. Nobody that we knew would have considered installing, as David Cameron recently has, a faux shepherd’s hut in the back garden. Instead, most people had a serviceable shed, built of bits of this and that and adapted to personal requirements.
Nobody that we knew ever bought firelighters for their wood burning stove. Instead, we’d all hang around as the weekly market packed up, rescuing the wooden fruit boxes, now empty of peaches and pears, which when broken up provide perfect kindling material.
Everyone we knew never left home without an ‘au cas où‘ (‘just in case’) bag, to fill with wild mushrooms, or walnuts, or sloes, or chestnuts, or apples, or any free food that came their way.
That’s been us this week. We don’t need a garden hut. But we have got a wood-burning stove. And today we’ve been re-purposing the wooden casing that our delivery of logs came in. It’s soft wood, so we know we can only use it sparingly on our stove. But it’s there – and we will use it. So here we were, sawing it into manageable lengths, sorting and storing it.
We’re the odd-bods who gather the discarded fruit boxes at Ripon market. We’ve been breaking those up today too, for kindling.
Once, this was a pallet. Now it’s firewood.
Once, this was a fruit box. Now it’s kindling.
And yesterday, our friend Gillian had us over to raid her plum trees. We came back with a pail full of greengages, and a pail full of czars. Today was the day when we started to convert this ripe fruit into chutneys and cakes and hooch and crumbles. Our French friends would definitely approve.
Czar plums, waiting to become something hot and fiery.
Greengages, waiting to become something warm and comforting.
We had quite an arresting sunset the other night. As with all sunsets, it was evanescent: here at one moment and gone the next. I’ll show it to you at the end of the post, together with the rainbow that briefly accompanied it in a rainless sky.
That sunset though reminded me of another sunset, even more dramatic, which we experienced in France in February 2014. Evanescent it might have been. But it’s etched in my memory forever.
Now then. Here’s our English sunset, from just a couple of weeks ago. Which do you prefer?
When we lived in France, the easiest way to persuade a French friend that you did not have their interests at heart was to produce a spiced dish, especially one with chillies in.
‘Oh, we love spicy food’, declared Henri and Brigitte when we broached the subject of cooking them a curry. All the same, we were careful. We dished up a korma so mild that it barely qualified as spiced at all. ‘Ouf!’ exclaimed Henri, after the first tentative mouthful – ‘are you trying to kill us?’
With this in mind, it was a huge surprise to us when one Friday in Lavelanet market, we came upon a man with a stall full of chillies. Orange chillies, yellow chillies, green chillies, purple chillies, fresh chillies, dried chillies. He had no customers at all. So he had time to chat to us, and explained that he’d come to love chillies, and to be passionate about seeking out new varieties, growing and using them. He was one of two such growers in France. We bought from him. He had other English customers. The French? Not so much.
That was five years ago. After relying on northern Europeans to bail him out, slowly but surely he started to attract a few French customers too. He’s still in business. Perhaps, despite the danger represented by a Red Savina chilli rated 500,000 on the Scoville scale, he hasn’t managed to kill anybody off yet.
M. Chilli’s smallholding, devoted exclusively to chillies, chillies, and more chillies.
I can’t look at a picture of the Pyrenees without wishing I were there.
When we lived in France, these mountains were the constant backdrop to our lives. They were our playground, where we would enjoy flower-studded meadows in the spring, clear bright summer heat, autumn colours to rival those of New England, and glittering winter snowscapes. Winter and summer, we walked these mountains, climbing hundreds of feet to be rewarded over a leisurely lunch-time picnic by views of valleys, forests and dramatic rocks, before we had to descend to the foothills once more.
They were a natural boundary – often a barricade – between France and Spain, and the few roads linking these countries make wonderfully scenic journeys in their own right.
Travelling to our French town from England, we always knew we’d arrived ‘home’ when we caught sight of the Pyrenees once more – almost always as the sun was setting. The first glimpse of those jagged peaks, whose shapes and names we came to recognise so well always made me as emotional as if I’d just met once more a long-lost friend.