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Saturday, 29 June 2013

NUMBER CRUNCHING (with insincere apologies to Private Eye)

In the past 10 years:-

399 the number of Blog Posts written

40 the number of countries visited

12 the number of windows inserted into our house

8 the number of marathons – that’s a running total (geddit?)

4 the number of our children who have visited us in France

3 the number who haven’t (yet)

Sunday, 23 June 2013


You will remember my writing about the huge amount of snow that fell in the mountains over the winter. La Pierre St. Martin, where I went yesterday, instead of its usual 3m (10ft.) of snow, had 10m (33ft.)  Well, now it is melting and there have been terrible floods. President Hollande visited the area the day before yesterday.

Houses, cars, roads, bridges and people have been swept away, including a friend of a friend. Luz St. Sauveur and Cauterets have been cut off, the roads to them having been wiped out. And when I say “wiped out” I don’t just mean under water or the surface having been loosened, I mean caverns gouged out under the road. It will be months before things are back to normal, whatever that now is.

You can see details on Ecolorado Rafting’s Facebook page. Take a look at the 18 minutes of French TV footage which is linked to there.

My trip to La Pierre St. Martin was to take part in the annual “Montagne Propre” (mountain cleaning) day where volunteers go up into the ski resorts to clear away the rubbish left at the end of the skiing season. This is certainly worth doing not just for cleanliness but also because of the breakfast and lunch which are provided and the free discount card for the following season. I should also say that, in the two years that I have done it, it has provided a beautiful sunny experience high in the mountains wandering around and not working particularly hard. It has also provided the opportunity to visit a station which was previously unknown to me.

La Pierre St. Martin is a bit further than I would normally go for a day’s skiing but, having finished fairly early and with it being only 7km from the Spanish frontier, I thought I would pop into Spain and get some essential supplies (i.e. cheaper wine). I drove down to Roncal but found a) there was no suitable store and b) that it was siesta time and nothing was open. I therefore decided to take a trip along some country roads through the Pyrenees and return to France through the Somport Tunnel which we had last used 3 and a half years ago when we went down to Andalusia. It was an interesting, twisting and rather tiring road to drive, which abruptly deteriorated when I left Navarra and entered Aragón. There were lumps of fallen rock all over the road to catch the unwary and mess up their wheel-tracking. I think I may also have taken a wrong turning somewhere (the Spanish do not always put up signs at the entrance to villages) and arrived in Jaca – where I hadn’t particularly intended to go – from an unexpected direction. However, there was a supermarket there and I was able to stock up on wine and olive oil.

At 255 miles it was a longish day and all spent at a constant 22 degrees, so not a bad day in all.

(Sorry about the lack of photos. I forgot the camera.)

Tuesday, 18 June 2013


Ruth explains why she writes:-

'The old storyteller has travelled on vanished roads in other worlds. Now she importunes the guest at the celebrity wedding of Commerce and Advertising.
'Stop! Listen! My spellbinding story is soon told. It has been years in the making though it measures only as long as my short life.'
'It is a story of Yesterday, and Today walks over it with deaf feet on a road that circles backwards.'
'I have spent my time unravelling the nettle shirts from the backs of princes to give them back their voices and their swan wings.'
'Now they are ordinary people and sing of war and engineering, of drowned valleys and damage, of politics and principles, of murder and gardens, women, men, love and crocodiles. Mine is a story for travellers in unknown and magic lands. Mine is the story of everyday and everyone.'
'My story is your story.'