Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Michelin Green Guide to Brittany

I'm pleased to hear that two of my books are to be in the recommended reading list of the new edition of this prestigious book. The selection is interesting: Discovering the History of Brittany is an obvious choice, but the other is The Five of Cups, my novel set in the Monts d'Arrée. In fact, however, only the other day I had a letter from a reader saying she was planning a holiday in Brittany on the strength of the descriptions and atmosphere in that tale, so perhaps it's not strange after all. I always thought the cover would make a good tourist poster.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Day 26

Day 26 on my 28-day detox régime. So no meat, fish, dairy, eggs, wheat, tea, coffee, alcohol or sugar for the duration. There's no limit on eating, only on what is eaten. It is sadly true that this does make a hugely positive difference to how one thinks, feels, moves and sleeps. But too limited and boring to adopt for life - my once a year stint is quite enough. This time I've been very good, with few lapses, just the odd cup of black coffee or sip of diet coke when cooking (I use the term loosely, because endless chopping of vegetables and fruit lacks creativity after the first five days). Not quite! A friend was buying me lunch on a shopping trip to Ikea this week and in the absence of anything totally suitable, I had one slice of smoked salmon with my rye bread and lettuce leaves. She had meat balls, chips and chocolate-almond cake. But the point is that because of this régime, I had plenty of energy for four hours in Ikea, whereas usually I would have wanted to sit down after twenty minutes or eat cake or hit people in those circumstances.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Monday's Megalith

This neolithic allée couverte at Mougau Bihan dates from c3000. It has an entrance in the north, a corridor to the burial chamber (without significant distinction) and a small separate cella (front in photo). The giant roof slabs would once have been covered with earth and grass. Inside are carvings of paddles/threshing implements, goddess breasts (raised pairs of dots - I can't really believe in that interpretation) and a hafted axe on the wall of the chamber. The latter, like so many other 'pagan' monuments in Brittany, was daubed with Catholic symbols in flourescent pink paint soon after the new pope's anti-pagan speech. Truly enlightened behaviour.
Theories of an inverted boat-shape for such tombs may explain the oar or paddle type carvings, as necessary props for the soul's final progress across water, presumably accompanied by a psychopomp.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

new novel

Progress on the new novel Walking for the Broken-Hearted is following my habitual and irritating pattern. Something triggers the first thought - in this case an incident related to me by friends - and I know by writer's instinct that conception has taken place. I try and fail to get things written down. The experience is still theirs and I have a long wait for the germination process that brings it into my consciousness and makes it mine. Usually this means several months of nothing at all or the odd desperate thought that leads nowhere. Even co-incidental visits to the setting of the opening scene made no impression, and I started to wonder if maybe I was wrong this time. But yesterday, whilst walking on the moors and thinking about something completely different, I suddenly got the measure of the story, the characters and several clear sequences. And on return to the house I managed to write for half an hour - so alea iacta est and all that.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Vannes is, or was, the least familiar of Breton cities to me, so I was pleased to spend two days there this week. It lacks the university buzz of Rennes and Nantes, and is a softer, more restrained member of the same family. I liked it very much, even though the archaeology museum closed for the winter last week. Why? Does a beautiful place like Vannes have no visitors from October to April? And if not, why not - because the best places are closed maybe?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Monday's megalith

On Monday I fulfilled a long held desire to see the neolithic cairn with its famous carvings lining the passage and single burial chamber on the tiny island of Gavrinis. Of course, no photographs allowed inside, but it was an extraordinary experience. Normally I hate enclosed spaces but there was a palpable calm and sense of peaceful rest in the chamber that made me reluctant to leave. The forceful carvings enhance the liveliness of departure.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Ergué Gaberic

On the trail of Dallam organs for the Briton/Breton links book yesterday. The Dallam family, having left England to escape the puritan revolution in the mid 17th century, for several generations settled in Finistere and made fine organs for some of the most attractive churches. That at Ergue Gaberic near Quimper is one of the most original (i.e. least restored) and still in working order: renowned English musician Robert Woolley gave a concert there.
Finding the church closed I was sent from the mairie to the maison du patrimoine where a delightful and most helpful young woman, Gael Martin, got the key from the rector and let me have a good look inside the church. Pity my camera flash failed to function properly :-(
She was very interested in my project - it would certainly be of great benefit to small places like Ergué Gaberic which have notable heritage features to attract visitors through linkage.