Saturday, August 31, 2013

Nantes-Brest Canal

I never tire of the Nantes-Brest canal, despite writing two books about it and doing many talks, walks on the subject. My favourite part is the Aulne in Finistere, where I walked this morning. Hope one day I'll find the time to write a little guide Along the Aulne, because it is one of the loveliest rivers in Brittany.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Festival Fisel

At the Festival Fisel in Rostrenen yesterday to hear some music but mainly to see the dance competitions, underway after a long delay which the packed hall didn't even seem to notice. The danse fisel, product of this area, is one of many variations of the gavotte. The children's event was impressive partly for the incredibly crisp clean movement of the boys' back-flicks and their timing, but most of all for the assured future of Breton dancing into another generation.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Day off

Went to Douarnenez for a relaxing day off. Still too warm for comfort, but we had a good meal on a shady terrace at La Trinquette, my usual lunch spot overlooking the fishing port (in photo). I had a scallop, bacon and tomato kebab with saffron sauce and my companion a fillet of lieu jaune in shellfish sauce, both followed by chocolate fondants. Then we walked right along the Plomarc'h in glorious greenery to see the extensive remains of a Roman garum (fish sauce) factory above the water. Next stop the famous Boat Museum hoping to see the exhibition of the Viking ship excavated on the Ile de Groix (a recent visit). Unfortunately another hot dog issue, so I had to stay outside with Tex in a shady spot, but was delighted to find bargain of the year in the shop: 100 prints by Mathurin Méheut, my favourite Breton artist, for 13.50 euros. As each one can be torn out and framed, this is fantastic value and a very satisfactory souvenir of a lovely day when for once I had nothing to do but enjoy ...

Saturday, August 17, 2013


No, not the football team I supported so fervently in my youth, but the real thing. I'm writing about wolves in the final section of my chapter on the Monts d'Arrée and made yet another visit to the Musée du Loup at Cloitre-St-Thégonnec this week. I do their book fair every year and an occasional walk from the village, so it's familiar territory. This time we walked in blazing sun right up onto the Landes de Cragou, a typical terrain of the Monts d'Arrée's distinctive landscape.
An unpleasing irony is that the wolf museum does not allow dogs in, so it was a fleeting look on a very hot afternoon. I just wanted to get a bit of the atmosphere of the days when wolves were common in Brittany and look again at some examples of the oral tradition. It was ill-advised to call a wolf a wolf in those days: Yann and Willy were apparently preferable modes of address. Hard to imagine the circumstances - it makes me think of Ogen Nash:  If called by a panther, don't anther.

Go away in the name of St Hervé if you are a wolf,
In the name of God if you are Satan.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Day out in Pays Bigouden

Pleased to take my friend Jeanne out for her birthday on a leisurely trip around Pays Bigouden. First we visited the Menhir of the Rights of Man, named after a ship wrecked here in the 18th century, with a commemorative inscription put up by Major Pippon from Jersey who was one of the survivors. Lunch at Pors Poulhan consisted of moules frites (J) and delicious fresh sardines (W), followed by a strange yet ultimately yummy concoction of chocolate and salted caramel. Time for a stroll along the coast at Penhors and a paddle for me and the dog. Beautiful day, all well with the world.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Quiet time

As I seem to be the only person on the planet who does not like hot weather, I'm having a few weeks at home with no trips away until September. This fits in with work, as I'm now on the chapter Moor, which is mainly about my own area - the Monts d'Arrée. Today I visited the Maison du Recteur at Loqueffret for some research about the rag-and-bone trade that characterised certain communities for centuries. Next door is one of the very few churches in Brittany dedicated to a female saint - Jenovefa in this case, sister of Saint Edern who has his church at nearby Lannedern.
Lots of interesting and varied work outside the book lately, with a fun interview with my friends from Spotlight Radio (who are very good at editing, and needed to on this occasion as I forgot the thing I most wanted to say about Morlaix and had to stick it on at the end). I've written an article for the Brittany Ferries magazine winter edition, started a leaflet for a local commune and finished my commissioned Nantes piece. Wish I'd taken the time to write the Nantes section for my book at the same time, but it will have to wait its turn.
This week I did a tour of Quimper for visiting Canadian academic Chris Andersen and his wife Nish. That was a very interesting encounter as Chris is working on a project about nationalism and identity involving Brittany. We had a stroll round the town and then  (yet another) delicious lunch at Chez Max.
Other than that, I've been to a couple of festivals, including jazz at Chateauneuf-du-Faou in pouring rain, and walked a lot. Despite how this may sound, there have still been many hours at my desk writing, with Barzaz playing in the background.