Sunday, 17 March 2013


Well now we have March after the Ides, and we've all mainly survived in one way or another. Visitors coming to France earlier last week were rudely surprised by rough weather around Paris, a snowfall that caused havoc at both major airports not to mention highways and train travel... At this moment of writing, I learn there are still 9000 bags unclaimed at Charles de Gaulle airport, a result of the delayed and cancelled flights. All the while snow was falling in the north of the country, here in the south it was all sunshine and light... and here at Mas Blanc there were all sorts of flowers blooming, narcissus, daffodils, and these violet by the barn....

Doesn't this just say "spring is here"?
Now, however, as I write this, there has been a downpour of rain, so thick it is almost like snow, for more than 24 hours, and the stream beside Mas Blanc has risen at least a metre... it's a wonderfully turbulent torrent of rushing brown water, and there's something rather beautiful about its force, as well as slightly daunting... I am glad not to be outside, and am staying in by the fire.
Yesterday, however, when the rain was still light, I ventured out to the teashop, TEAPOTES ( in Anduze, to give a poetry reading with my good friend Sharon Black, a Scottish poet I've mentioned here in an earlier posting. She and her husband Alex and their daughters live in the Cevennes, and during the last few years we've become such good friends that Sharon and I work together on polishing our poems, giving and accepting advice from each other. It's a system that's working well, and yesterday, with an audience of friends and poetry-lovers in the upstairs room of TEAPOTES, we dealt with the question "What makes a poem?"  For more about Sharon, you can google her name directly or go to the site which is the retreat she and Alex have been running for some years now. A truly wonderful place.

Here we are, Sharon and I, yesterday, having just finished our reading, and feeling mighty pleased... neither of us threw up or fainted, always a concern for writers before a public event...

Poetry, after all, is meant to be heard as well as read.....
Are we happy, or what? We survived! and it was FUN!


Friday, 8 March 2013


I have nothing to say that would be more important than supplying you with this post by JULIET YOUNG, about the powerful new movement here in Europe called  FEMEN, with headquarters in  Paris, just 3 hours up the railway line from where I live... Although here in Anduze there was a marvellous dance-manifestation last week -- everyone dressed in red & black -- to make a visible statement about ONE BILLION RISING .... well, it's pretty conservative in the French countryside, and we'd be unlikely to see what you'll see on this site supplied by Juliet,  such wonderful, beautiful,  strong young women marching bare-breasted and painted with slogans, armed with fury alone... Such deep, enormous desire for justice and equality makes me feel old and tired, actually, not that I've given up, I just don't have the same energy for the battle... but I certainly support the young ones out there on the front line... The French  newspapers have been doing their part to observe Women's Day, lots of features about important women,  diligently trying to make it look as if, in this society,  women count as much as men do.... but every woman here knows the truth... All to say, have a look at Juliet's most recent posting and then you may also like to look at her blog... her photographs of Paris, however, may have you jumping on the next flight over, so be careful.... read with caution... But first, FEMEN...

Friday, 1 March 2013


Indeed, March 15 is one of those dates we all carry around in our heads because somewhere along the line most of us studied JULIUS CEASAR (usually in Grade 10, right?) and we've never forgotten the dire warning to "beware the Ides of March"... It's also a good roadmarker on the way to the first day of spring and whether or not there's still snow on the ground, you can believe in the turning of the seasons... it WILL happen, honest it will.

Here, where I live in France, we're missing the snow cover but it's snappy- cold, nevertheless ... not a day goes by that I don't have a fire in the fireplace, and even if not blazing it takes away the chill. So I am in and out and in and out and  in again with big blue IKEA bags of wood and kindling.

How lovely it must be to not feel the cold... and as I watch the life of birds and animals in the stream below this house, it does amaze me. Does not that little beaver feel chilled to the bone? (Yes, we have beavers here, who do grave damage to trees but never seem to get round to building lodges and dams... they're smaller than their Canadian cousins, but  "busy as a little castor" would be an appropriate phrase...
and I suppose I should thank them for bringing down trees I can use for my fire.)

You can see here the result of  their labour beside our stream
Besides critters such as castors, who tend not to be often visible, they just leave their trace in fallen trees, there are fish and birds to delight the eye, and in the past few years I've been writing poetry about the life  I observe in this little stream (the Ourne). Two poems (Small Fish... and Heron Departing)  found their way into  Issue #103 of THE NEW QUARTERLY, one of my favorite Canadian literary journals, alongside BRICK.  If you don't know TNQ, now is the time to have a look, they have a website you can access in a minute!

You'll be doing yourself a great favour, for this magazine is a repository of some of the best poetry, fiction and non-fiction memoir and reviews that you'll ever come across. I've been a fan for 20 years!

Speaking of the fish-eating heron, we also are often visited by egrets, so white you'd swear they bleach themselves daily... brilliant, graceful, and crazy for fish. This one may be building a nest nearby, I certainly hope so. The photos were taken from my study window yesterday morning.

Coming in to land, checking the water at the same time
And there's breakfast, getting snapped up

And it's down the hatch, and a stroll in freezing water in search of more!