Thursday, August 31, 2006

more canal stuff

Spent a day in central Brittany walking a very sad stretch of canal between Pontivy and Lac de Guerlédan. Because the barrage at the lake cut the canal in two in 1930, commercial traffic stopped and this section has never been restored or maintained as a canal, although the nasty tarmac tow-path must get its share of walkers and cyclists. The locks are all in dismal state and many of the lock-houses have been abandoned. The landscape is uninteresting and there are few buildings of note along the way - one chapel with excellent painted ceilings, a square-towered manoir and a mill midstream on the Blavet. The barrage is grim, like a concentration camp - and not improved by the driving rain that plagued me much of the day.

Sunday, August 27, 2006


For the first time, it was dark when I got up to go to the market yesterday morning. And I wore jeans, jacket and proper shoes. It must be autumn. Today on my regular 10km circuit, the gorse and numerous heathers were out, mushrooms burgeoning everywhere and blackberries nearly over. All the land is wet and steamy, where the rain has soaked down into the earth's latent summer heat. I've started cooking red cabbage again and eating inside and not taking the dogs out in the evening. It must be autumn.
Great market - highlight was meeting a couple who arrived holding a copy of my walk book they'd bought on a ferry, and were pleasantly surprised to encounter the author and keen to tell me how much they enjoyed the ones they'd done. In fact, they'd come to Morlaix to do the city walk in the book - now that did make me happy. And they were such nice people, I wish I'd had longer to talk to them.
Today I'm working on the canal material. Serious and focused again. It must be autumn. Not August.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

good day, bad day syndrome

Tuesday a very good day. Meeting with charming Directeur of SMATAH, a group that manages the canal in Finistere. By chance, also encounter charming French journalist there (at a lock-house in Chateauneuf-du-Faou). Drive about looking at quarries and bourgs close to the canal, which provides some interesting new perspectives. Wednesday a terrible day. Unproductive morning with carnal thoughts interfering with work in a way I do not normally allow. Afternoon, went on a walk with the Queffleuth group in torrential rain and was soaked to the skin within two kilometres. Turned into a bit of an endurance test, despite some good company and a positive spirit of discovery that does the others credit. I was out on a limb and too preoccupied to make a sparkling contribution. Tea, feeling dismal, soggy and exhausted, with my Czech friend in Plourin.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


In answer to D's (DW not DP) query about my resolution of last weekend - I have kept one part but not the other ;-) In fact, did something incredibly stupid on Thursday. Serious madness. Now, on reflection, I think I might quite like to do it again.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

market forces

Brilliant market session this morning - sun shone, I shone, sales shone. Met a handsome and engaging Frenchman (yes, another) who bought my history book, (ADDED this does not do him justice: from our subsequent acquaintance I must change the description to highly intelligent, interesting, funny, stimulating and generally amazing Breton man; ADDED AGAIN - this doesn't do him justice either, he's extraordinary, ADDED AGAIN - there are no words to describe this man) and lots of other lovely people it was a pleasure to sign books for because I knew they'd enjoy and value them, and maybe even come back and tell me so. Lazy afternoon, picking blackberries and reading a Philippa Gregory given to me by Erik, my Breton mate with the bookstall opposite. Dogs glad to have me home for once and in a mood to give them attention.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


My friend Jude with her Alfa Romeo Spider. We are so going to be the coolest women about town (OK mainly country, but look out the Café Terrasse in Morlaix).

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Our local Pardon today at the Abbaye du Relec. A service in the ancient abbey church followed by procession carrying relics through the woods to the sacred fontaine. Even as an observer, it's a profoundly moving experience, from the swell of Breton song from the belly of the church spreading over the many waiting outside, to the simple faith of the costumed women carrying their Lady's image on aged shoulders. As they wound their dignified way alongside the lake and were then lost among the trees I was both tearful and happy, separate but bound by the love of the land that underlies all devotion here. And not a foreign voice to be heard, except the French :-)

Sunday, August 13, 2006


Dismal Saturday. For some reason (probably lack of KoS), market was dreary and unproductive. I felt very unengaged with the whole business and thus repelled most potential punters. Spent the afternoon reading a crap book in tent in the orchard with Brian constantly trying to force his way in. (He's a dog, for any late comers to this story who think it might be more interesting than is actually the case).
Sunday, gave tarot readings at English sale held in go-kart arena (now that does look fun, I always enjoy a bit of aggressive driving). Very tired emotionally (not as salacious as tired and emotional) after this, but still had two internet readings to do at home, so seriously in need of copious amounts of vodka this evening. Am going to give up drinking this week, I swear, and indulge my other vices to excess instead.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Rade de Brest

Finally managed a day of research ambling around the peninsulas and promontories edging the most fabulous roadsted in Europe. The Rade de Brest is a stupendous natural harbour, an inland sea big enough to house and hide a dozen fleets. Here, by the little settlement of Landévennec with its famous ancient and modern abbeys, the mighty Aulne disgorges itself - and so technically here ends the equally mighty canal. St Guenolé, who founded the original abbey in 485 first settled on an inhospitable island opposite and used to look longingly across at a beautiful wooded valley where mist rose like smoke each morning. I wanted to find that view, and to overlook the strait where the Viking fleet appeared on a fatal morning in 913, the Goulet where the Cordelière was blown to smithereens in 1512, and the scene of lethal German submarine runs in WWII. This cradle of a major port and regional capital is a vast arena, different from every angle, full of light, shadow and deceptive directions, calm, emotive, redolent of death and loss, beautiful, ominous -the source of many long thoughts to draw together themes in this final chapter of the book. Then I shall have to think about writing chapter one.

Monday, August 07, 2006

death penalty for cruelty to houses

Weekend: ten hours at the market on Saturday (annual all-day event, and unable to get the car out so stuck) nearly finished me off, but excellent trade. Sunday usual walking and working, then a great deal of alcohol, a fire spiced with sage and spending the night outside. Slept very badly, and then knocked for six by singularly unpleasant email first thing this morning. Still managed to do two tarot readings before heading off for another Luzec outing: first to my favourite house, La Maison Cornec, a typical maison anglaise (from the wealth of linen trade with England), dating from 1702. I know this place well and looked long and hard for a house like it before settling for something more like 1800. Found one that would have done very well, but English peole had put in a spiral metal staircase and fucked up the sleeping area beyond repair. The death penalty should be reintroduced for that sort of insensitivity. Characteristics of this beloved house include an external stone staircase and an avancée, used for the dining table, the first step up from living in one room - a strangely significant development in lifestyle.
The theme of the excursion was energy - they have a charbonnier reconstruction site at Cornec - and we then went on to the nuclear power station at Brennilis and then the Yeun Elez, the tourbière that is already very familiar to me from the peat levels in Somerset.
Need peace, sleep and a day of freedom tomorrow.

Sunday, August 06, 2006


In response to another question prompted by my Lammas ramblings - why do these things at all? I can only answer for me. For many paganism is not a religion, but I think I can stand the word well enough. It is an active, participatory phenomenon: no creed, no intermediaries between human and divine, just personal choice, experience, commitment and responsibility. This very freedom makes the Sabbat festivals special as they are shared occasions, important to many thousands of people all over the world. Sacred times, sacred spaces. For me each event is about personal concentration, connection, contribution and celebration, but also primarily about the natural progress of the year, to which my psychological and emotional state is irretrivably linked (and I'm not just talking about moon cycles). I live in nature and my life moves with it, comfortably or agitatingly part of a greater whole. I didn't celebrate Beltane on May 1st, because a fertility ritual seemed inappropriate when many trees were not yet even in leaf - the reality of very late spring in Brittany this year was more important than a date on the calendar. That integrity of experience is essential to me as a pagan. Enough. I'll leave my dangerous Thelemite leanings for another time.

Thursday, August 03, 2006


Lammas at last. Gathering up all the harvest stuff - oats, nuts, fruits, flowers - and holding ritual in the hazel bower (very four of wands it looks too) at the top of the orchard with sun streaming into my face; good meditation afterwards in the same empowered space. Earlier did special lammas tarot reading for myself, but rather a sorry tale unfolded. At least the Hanged Man did not appear to urge the lammas theme of sacrifice, as I was half expecting. So the struggle goes on.
Lammas meal tonight: homemade plaited loaf, cheese from chap up the road, ripe tomato broth with fresh herbs & bread fried in olive oil and an enormous fruit salad. All very suitable, all delicious.