Friday, 27 May 2016

And Now it's Ten Years

They may not be the world's stunningest© photos, but they are three of the first photos we took in Preuilly sur Claise, ten years ago today. They are photos of a house we didnt buy, and here are the reasons:

We thought it was a bit weird. Turns out that compared
to other houses we looked at, it wasn't.

It didn't have a staircase of its own, but rather a staircase shared with the
almost fallen down house next door. Next door's bedroom door is on the left.

It is right on the main road. We didn't know then how busy the road
can get (we saw it on a Saturday afternoon), but it was a lucky escape.

The other reason we didn't buy this particular house is that it had an enormous semi-cellar (110m2) with one very small window, and a sub cellar beneath it. We did seriously think about the house, but we decided in the end that we just couldn't work out something sensible to do with all those rooms/half rooms/cellars.

All this means that the bottom photo is the first photo we have that shows anything of Preuilly sur Claise. It was taken at 14h50 on the 27th May 2006.

You can read an almost 10 year old account of this buying trip here

Thursday, 26 May 2016

A Sign

I'm posting this just because I thought the sign was charming. It fits in perfectly with its surroundings.

2 points if you can tell me where it is.

Answer: Martizay. 2 points to The Titteringtoness who was spot on.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Rivarennes in the Rain

Rivarennes is a small village on the River Creuse in the Brenne. I was invited to go over there to check out the surrounds and the appointed day turned out to be thoroughly miserable weather wise, but thoroughly enjoyable company and scenery wise.

Nottingham Catchfly.
I am super pleased with this photo of Nottingham Catchfly Silene nutans (Fr. Silène penché). They are night flowering, and the flowers only last a few hours. Normally when I see them the petals are rolled back on themselves and the flower is dying. Because it was such a dull moist day they were in good condition for once and I got this nice shot of them with artistic droplets of water. They are a common plant here on flinty chalk soil, growing in dry sunny places.

Built in the 14th century to control the river crossing, the Chateau de la Tour was captured by the English in 1370. It is privately owned.

Eileen on the track through Les Chézeaux.
Eileen and Andrew are the energetic new owners of a tiny house, a large garden and a parcel of woodland in Rivarennes. They asked me over to check out the nearby nature walk of Les Chézeaux, which we were hoping would reveal lots of orchids. Later in the year there will apparently be Martagon Lilies Lilium martagon (Fr. Lis martagon) flowering too. The latter is a species on the north-eastern edge of its range and there are only ten sites in the Brenne where you can see it (most of them near Rivarennes and the surrounding villages along the Creuse).

The oldest house in Rivarennes.
This house, known as Le Pavillon, may not look very special but it is a 14th century tower house. There is an inscription above the door which refers to the killing in the church of a local lad by the lord of the chateau in 1626.

Jachère fleurie.
This lovely patch of jachère fleurie has been sown in the water meadow on the edge of town. When I visited it was dominated by Dames-violet Hesperis matronalis (Fr. Julienne des dames) and Oxeye Daisy Leucanthemum vulgare (Fr. Marguerite). Both plants would be native to this spot and the reason this jachère fleurie is better than the average non-native cosmos heavy effort is that Indre Nature have an office in Rivarennes. Apparently they have had to put a sign up asking people not to pick the flowers. It hasn't been very successful though. People are regularly sighted bearing away armfuls of flowers. Infuriating!

Grass Pea.
The pretty little Grass Pea Lathyrus sphaericus (Fr. Gesse à graines rondes) is uncommon, but there was a nice patch of them growing by the bike path. I've only ever seen single plants before.

A mutant Monkey Orchid.
In the end we only saw one species of orchid in flower, which was disappointing. There was a Lady Orchid Orchis purpurea (Fr. Orchis pourpre) which had been picked, and some other orchids not yet in flower. All we saw in flower were Monkey Orchids Orchis simia (Fr. Orchis singe), at least one of which had been picked, and one of which had a mutation and was 'limbless'. They should look like this, with 'arms' and 'legs' which remind one of a monkey.

Notable Plants to be Seen at Rivarennes:
Broad-leaved Whitebeam / Sorbus latifolia / Alisier de Fontainebleau (M-J) 
Peach-leaved Bellflower / Campanula persicifolia / Campanule à feuilles de Pêcher (J-J)
Small Teasel / Dipsacus pilosus / Cardère velue (J-J-A)
Narrow-leaved Helleborine / Cephalanthera longifolia / Cephalanthère à longues feuilles (M-J)
White Helleborine / Cephalanthera damasonium / Cephalanthère blanche (M-J)
Bird-in-a-Bush / Corydalis solida / Corydale solide (M-A-M)
Berry Catchfly / Cucubalus baccifer / Cucubale à baie (J-A)
Plantain-leaved Leopards Bane / Doronicum plantagineum / Doronic à feuilles de Plantain (A-M-J)
Small-leaved Helleborine / Epipactis microphylla / Epipactis à petite feuilles (J-J)
Narrow-lipped Helleborine / Epipactis muelleri / Epipactis de Müller (J-J)
Irish Spurge / Euphorbia hyberna / Euphorbe d'Irlande (A-M-J-J)
Bloody Cranes-bill / Geranium sanguineum / Géranium sanguin (J-J)
Isopyrum / Isopyrum thalictroides / Isopyre faux-Pigamon (M-A-M)
Fingered Sedge / Carex digitata / Laîche digitée (A-M-J)
Toothwort / Lathraea squamaria / Lathrée écailleuse (M-A)
Violet Limodore / Limodorum abortivum / Limodore à feuilles avortées (M-J)
Martagon Lily / Lilium martagon / Lis martagon (June)
Great Wood-rush / Luzula sylvatica / Luzule des bois (M-J)
Yellow Birds-nest / Monotropa hypopitys / Monotrope sucepin (J-J)
Robust Marsh Orchid / Dactylorhiza elata subsp sesquipedalis / Orchis élevé (M-J)
Early Marsh Orchid / Dactylorhiza incarnata / Orchis incarnat (M-J)
Military Orchid / Orchis militaris / Orchis militaire (A-M-J)
Wych Elm / Ulmus glabra / Orme de montagne (M-A)
Herb Paris / Paris quadrifolia / Parisette (M-J-J)
Hard Shield Fern / Polystichum aculeatum / Polystic à aiguillons
Soft Shield Fern / Polystichum setiferum / Polystic à soies
Primrose / Primula vulgaris / Primavère acaule (M-A)
Oxlip / Primula elatior / Primavère élevée (M-A-M)
Wild Liquorice / Astragalus glycyphyllos / Réglisse sauvage (J-A)
Common Bistort / Polygonum bistorta / Renouée bistorte (M-J-J-A-S)
Early Squill / Scilla bifolia / Scille à deux feuilles (M-A-M)
A ragwort / Senecio erraticus / Séneçon erratique (J-J-A-S)
Wild Grapevine / Vitis vinifera subsp silvestris / Vigne sauvage (M-J)

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

The Key to Growing Roses

I assume the keys are to make the rose droop attractively.

Etoile de Hollande, one of my favourites.

These photos were taken in Chédigny on 9 May, when the roses were just starting to come into bloom. Their rose festival is the weekend of 28-29 May.

Monday, 23 May 2016

A Copy of a Copy

Mondays in Milan / Les lundis en Lombardie

This painting will look familiar to many readers, especially if they are familiar with the works of Leonardo da Vinci in the Louvre and the National Gallery in London. This is a copy by Marco d'Oggiono of Leonardo's Virgin of the Rock (London version) painted in 1510. Marco was a skilled jobbing painter who had a successful career painting all the usual suspects. There is considerable debate about his dates, but he may have been born in a village near Milan c.1467 and may have died in 1524 (or possibly 1549...). His father was a well regarded goldsmith. Marco is believed to have died of the plague. (Given the number his associates who died of the plague I am amazed that Leonardo managed to make it to die in Amboise of old age...)

Sometime in his early twenties Marco met and began working with Leonardo or with his workshop. By his early thirties he had established his own independent workshop. His approach was to repeat successful or popular subjects again and again, and he produced many copies of Leonardo's work. This painting hangs in the Castello Sforzesco in Milan. It is tempera and oil on a wooden panel.

The back of the painting.

Our posts on Mondays are all about the northern Italian city of Milan. To read more click here.


Law and Order: Strikes and blockades at several fuel refineries have lead to shortages all over France. Yesterday when I stopped off to buy fuel in Descartes neither supermarket service station was operating and the refuelling bays were roped off, with signs saying they would reopen today. The closures are presumably to stop people panic buying and filling up jerrycans. The service stations would normally operate as self-service on the weekends, but there are concerns that unsupervised people will take more than their fair share of fuel.

Prior to my attempt to buy fuel I witnessed what I assume was an asparagus thief being nicked. As I drove along the road between Pouzay and Nouâtre I saw a police car intercepting another car on a farm track in the middle of some asparagus fields. I've not heard of asparagus rustling before, but I would not be surprised that someone attempted it on a quiet Sunday in the middle of nowhere, and most years I hear about some sort of vegetable larceny. I'd be interested to know how the police happened to be there. Did the asparagus farmer call them?  Did the police just happen to be passing? Do the police patrol the asparagus patches during the season? (This last seems the most likely to me.)

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Birdwatching at the Beach

My family at the beach. Typically, they are not swimming or sunbathing, but birdwatching. That's my sister, aunt and mother on the left and my brother-in-law, father and uncle on the right.


Quiz Update: PrédelaForge was the winner, gaining maximum points by correctly guessing that the plate contains mache, beetroot, faisselle and pig's ear. Thanks to all who participated.


Loire Valley Nature: A new entry has been added for the digger wasp Argogorytes mystaceus, an important pollinator of Fly Orchids.

Yesterday we were issued dire warning about a storm starting at about 5.00pm and containing rain, thunder, lightning, hail, Morley's ghost and the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

We knew it was serious because we had an orange weather
warning telling us to be very vigilant

Even la Nouvelle Republique got into the act

In fact, the weather yesterday was so benign that the three minute rain squall we had at 22h56 came as a surprise, as did the two minute shower just after midnight. For the sake of the wine makers I hope this was an across the board experience.