Thursday, 15 November 2012


I must count as a pretty boring person -- yes, I DO know that this blog is not exactly a ball of fire either -- as I admit my two favorite leisure activities are getting up & going for long walks and sitting down for long, even longer reads. Books & Boots -- that'd be my ideal B&B .... in the hills here in the Cevennes, or in the dales in Yorkshire where I  go walking with my sister, or perhaps in some hamlet in the Adirondacks where my husband and daughter and I used to spend hiking holidays. In another life, in a parallel universe, I am the proprietor of such an inn or auberge, urging my clientele to balance reading with walking and walking with reading.

Today has been the kind of November day that puts to shame everything I've said so far about this month, calling it damp and cold and not-nice (except for being a month of birthdays) ...Today has been sublime... sunny, warm, and absolutely perfect for a really good walk involving some steep paths -- a bit of sweat, good for the heart -- and some lovely meandering flat bits through pine forests after the climb is over. Thanks to my friend Peter  ( who, with  my friend Dorothy, took care of Mas Blanc during the summer while I was in Canada), I have a new stack of marked maps showing routes up in the hills within a stone's throw from where I live, and I am setting out now to time these walks so I have an idea how long they take and whether they are "snack" walks or "real lunch" walks.. Yes, food is always on your mind if you live in France, and a walk without some kind of little picnic is hardly a walk at all.

I took some photos today I'll attach at the end of this... But now, back to books...Yesterday, I went up to the nearby city of Ales to run some errands and to have coffee with the Scottish poet Sharon Black, who has become one of my very good friends here. I brought up the November Birthday issue with her -- why are there so many? -- and she solved it nicely. "Valentine's Day Evening", she said, and then also, in this part of the world, "those long cold February nights when there's nothing to do but...." So that answers that!

Sharon published a book of poems last year (TO KNOW BEDROCK, pindroppress, London, UK) that so impressed me I have sent it to several friends, in Canada and Australia, who have responded with much admiration and delight. I recommend you visit her website, which is easily found simply by googling her name, SHARON BLACK. She's a beautiful woman and a wonderful friend, and even in my times of distress -- of which there have been many in the last two years -- Sharon always cheers me. My husband liked her enormously too, and for that reason I asked her to read Billy Collins' poem THE DEAD at the memorial afternoon we had for Bob last year, as that poem was one of his favorites. But her poems are well worth a read themselves, believe me.

Sharon and I share books back and forth and she's just given me a collection by Elizabeth Barrett  (NOT the one who married Robert Browning), and at the same time has returned one of mine she says she really loves and so I'm going to order it for her from Pedlar Press in Toronto. The collection is called  SLOW CURVE OUT, and the poet is Maureen Scott Harris, whose earlier collection DROWNING LESSONS won the Trillium Prize for poetry in 2005. Sharon and I agree completely ...these are marvellous poems. Maureen's subject matter is the natural world and she manages to bring it so close you feel you are truly part of her world. Which you are... That's the magic of it.... Easy to acquire....

More books tomorrow. And more websites to check too... For now, a few of the day's photos, to give you an idea of just how beautiful this mid-November day has been. (My friend Bob Ferguson celebrated his birthday yesterday by going to the Bob Dylan concert in that's a terrific way to acknowledge that the passage of years doesn't mean a thing....there must be an entirely appropriate line from Dylan's lyrics that could pull this to a close, what might it be? )

There would be more photos to share except that they're suddenly deciding for themselves to slot in sideways. WHY does this happen? WHO can help?

It's the way these vineleaves LOOK like wine itself that knocks me out...
You pass this vineyard on the way to the path up into the hills

These are the berries on the "arbousier" tree, known as the strawberry tree for obvious reasons... Ripe for picking, all along the path...