Friday, September 29, 2006


A week in bed (ill, unfortunately) followed by a week with no computer as my lap-top finally died, taking many of my secrets to its grave. That's a relief. New machine now all set up, but the difficulty of buying anything here is so frustrating (even for an exceptionally patient and undemanding person like me :-)). You can spend half an hour talking specs and models, choose a computer, get your money out - only to be told they don't keep stock, in a tone that suggests you've made some nasty distasteful proposition. It's crass to actually want something NOW in France. Anything commercial anyway.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Blain - never again (OK, only rhymes in english)

In the last few days I have walked through electric storms and torrential rain, been bitten on almost every inch of my face and body by mosquitoes and acquired a most peculiar and painful red rash on one side of my neck. And I was just expecting sore feet. Feeling particularly savage about Loire Atlantique as I start to write up my notes - the canal was filthy and 'management' consisted of the most hideous architecture imaginable (I have called it 'toytown urinal meets swiss chalet twee,' a description which errs on the side of charity) and slashing down as many trees along the towpath as possible (to be replanted, of course - with firs!). Also in sour mood with the town of Blain where the chateau managed to close itself for no apparent reason (apart from my arrival) after I had arranged to spend half a day there to see it. There is little to do in Blain for that length of time - sitting on a bench studying a street map was the best value: 'rue Wootton Basset' (no, seriously) and also the allée Nominoe leading into the impasse Erispoe, which is a great joke for Breton historians. As poetry has recently re-entered my life (thanks to a very special man) after a long absence, I think I shall begin work now on an Ode to Blain ...

Saturday, September 09, 2006

english out

Interesting day at the market: for the first time in my years here, I am on the receiving end of anti-English abuse (what an insult - it's worse than being called a girl). An elderly Breton stops to tell me, seriously and vindictively, I should not be selling books in English and furthermore the English should get out, or be chucked out, of Brittany. After a short while it is not pleasant and my mate on the next stall gallantly intervenes, eventually leading the man away and continuing the argument with him. Five minutes later, Christian tells me gleefully that apparently I am responsible for the death of Jeanne d'Arc. This cheers up all the traders enormously on what had been a slow day and leads to serial jokes along the lines of - don't ask her, she'll have you burnt at the stake, and, how could you do such a horrible thing to poor Jeanne (well, she deserved it and I did warn her) etc. I am having a sign made for next week - it will read, in French: I AM WELSH. PLEASE DON'T HOLD ME RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ENGLISH. If any English people ask me what it means, I shall say ALL NATIONALITIES WELCOME HERE, but if they don't buy a book, I'll burn them right up.

Monday, September 04, 2006


Getting ready for my Loire-Atlantique trip now. The first five chapters of The Long Thought are pretty much empty pages as yet, whereas the second half of the book is nearly finished. It's been an odd piecemeal construction over a long period of time, but I'm happy with how things are turning out. This week I'm completing the initial research which will enable me to walk a 125km stretch of canal with the right sort of thoughts in my head and a certain preparedness for important sights. Pretty sure that the excessively watery nature of the terrain out there will lead to some emotional turbulence, but there are also good historical pegs along the route from Alain le Grand to Spanish prisoners of the Napoleonic Wars to American shelling of villages by the canal. I also intend to develop the psychology of walking theme in this particular chapter - if the weather is anything like last week, I'll certainly be asking myself profound questions like - why bother?