Sunday, 11 November 2012


Piper at Vimy Ridge Remembrance Day Ceremonies, 2011
 It has been said of me that I am such a sentimentalist that every day is "remembrance day" for me... and in fact I don't take this teasing badly, as I believe that our memories are essential ballast that keep us sailing forward in some sort of balanced fashion. Remembering the First World War -- and the end of it, on November 11, 1918 -- is out of the question for any of us living now, but we can remember other wars, and other battles, and other times of conflict, personal or political or international, and meditate upon those aspects of  human nature that we deplore, and those we admire and seek to emulate. Even for those of us of pacifist persuasion, this is a good day to contemplate clear-thinking courage.  Last year at this time, with my friends Conny & Sheila & Brian,  I took a tour of several WWI cemeteries in France and Belgium, and we were fortunate to be  present at Vimy Ridge on the very day of the remembrance ceremonies. It was an enormously poignant occasion -- speeches, music, veterans carrying flags and of course a piper, whose playing brought tears to our eyes. I've always had a special place in my heart for the bagpipes, as did my mother, and I have always been very proud that my late husband's cousin John was a pipe-major of some reknown. Here's the piper from Vimy last year, and I regret he will remain nameless.

One of the reasons I wanted to go to Vimy Ridge was to see the monument about which I'd read a few years ago in Jane Urquhart's THE STONE CARVERS, a novel that just about everyone has read but, if you are one of those few who have not, I recommend that you hie yourself off to a bookstore or the library to remedy this lack. I went back to the novel after my visit to Vimy, and found it even richer the second time.

The wonderful waterfall in the Ourne, November 11, 2012 
 Not much time for reading these days, as the days dwindle down to a precious few -- those final autumn days suitable for planting the last of the tulip bulbs among other outdoor chores. There has been a lot of rain in the last while, which makes the heavy clay soil here much easier to dig, so I'm doing as much work as I can before the inevitable cold weather comes. The rain has made a glorious change in the little stream that runs by Mas Blanc, and now there's a wonderfully loud waterfall again, loud enough that it can even be heard indoors... white noise, indeed.

And as you can see, the rain has had a marvellous effect on the cistern below my terrace, an enormous repository for spring-water that flows beneath the property, especially after heavy rainfall. The cisten was built in the 1700s, and until the flood of 2002 had a red-brick roof with a metal door that could open into the deep cavern so that the water was accessible. Now there's a flagstone roof and a small hole for the hose that can be inserted if we need to pump out water. When it is full to overflowing, as it is here, there's something magic in this  precious abundance. Makes me want to write a poem about happiness.

Sometimes joy, like water,  cannot be contained......