Sunday, 26 March 2017

Pacific Gull

Pacific Gull Larus pacificus.
This immature (< 4 years old) Pacific Gull Larus pacificus cruises past my position on a New South Wales coastal headland. The water is a beautiful blue but I don't suppose the scavenging gull cares. The species is fairly common, and much larger than the better known Silver Gulls. This behaviour of patrolling the seashore alone is typical.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Meals On Wheels in Preuilly

The Aged Care Facility (EHPAD Maison de retraite) runs the meals on wheels service for the elderly in Preuilly and surrounding villages.

Residential wing of the Maison de retraite, Preuilly-sur-Claise.
Three times a week a panel van driven by Flora does a circuit around the district, delivering a full meal of soup, starter, main course of meat and vegetables, cheese and dessert to elderly people. Flora drives 120 kilometres each time and delivers 33 meals.

The meals are made by the cooks at the Aged Care Facility in collaboration with the dietician. Special diets are catered for and replacement dishes can be provided if the service is asked for them in advance. The meals are delivered cold and reheated in the home. Monthly bills are sent by the Treasury in Ligueil  and the meals cost €8.90 each (subsidies can sometimes be obtained from the Aged Persons Association).

New wing of the Maison de retraite under construction in 2008.
The service covers the communities of Preuilly, Bossay-sur-Claise, Boussay, Chambon, Chaumussay, Charnizay, Petit-Pressigny, Saint-Flovier, Tournon-Saint-Pierre and Yzeures-sur-Creuse.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Budget for the Restoration of the Chapelle de Tous-les-Saints

At the last meeting of our town council the budget for the restoration of the Chapelle de Tous-les-Saints was discussed. Quotes from tradesmen are in and the work will start this year with a spend of €169 829. That will allow the building to be made watertight and the wall paintings to be protected.

Sabine de Freitas, the wall paintings conservator, checking the condition of the chapel's danse macabre.

The work envisaged is as follows:
  • roof €20 594
  • carpentry €38 421
  • masonry €45 720
  • protection of the wall paintings (and some other decorative work) €21 254
which is a total of €125 990.

The current state of the carpentry.

It will be funded as follows:
  •  Ministry of Culture €56 000
  • La sauvegarde de l'art français €21 000
  • La Fondation du Patrimoine and the subscription they administer €25 600 (to which the public can still make donations big and small)
  • two parliamentary reserves €11 500
  • L'Association des vieilles maisons de France (the Old Houses Association of France) €5000
  • Credit Agricole bank €5000
  • La Société Archaeologique de Preuilly (SAP) €5000
The town council has already agreed a grant of €11 840 and will advance €22 519 (which they will get back when the sales tax is reimbursed).

The council agreed and passed this budget with 13 votes of assent and one abstention (Guy Buret).

According to Bernard de la Motte, president of the SAP, at this point there is a shortfall of about €15 000 before we can complete the project. (We don't need to find the full €43 839 as the Ministry of Culture will grant 40%.)

Other budgetary issues discussed at this meeting were
  • a bypass for the town centre
  • finishing the 'Heart of the Village' improvements
  • work on the old girls school, the front of the abbey and the sports ground
  • roadworks on certain streets and parking at the champ de foire

Thursday, 23 March 2017

La Maison d'Adam

La Maison d'Adam is one of the unmissable sights in Angers. It is one of the outstanding architectural testiments to a medieval heritage which are scattered about the city today. The 'House of Adam' (also known as 'the House of Adam and Eve' or 'the House of the Tree of Life') was constructed towards the end of the 15th century. It was acquired in 1900 by the local artisans association and is sometimes referred to now as the Maison des Artisans.

Situated in the Place Sainte Croix, by the apse of the cathedral and on the crossing of the two major commercial streets in the city, the 'House of Adam' is the most exceptional of around 40 extant timber framed buildings in Angers. Its dimensions are imposing, its structure complex and its decoration enigmatic. It is truly one of the most remarkable works of carpentry from the French Middle Ages.

Samson slaying a lion.

It owes its name to the statues of Adam and Eve which once stood either side of the Tree of Life on the ground level corner of the building, and it seems to have been known as la Maison d'Adam since at least the 17th century. Recent dating evidence puts its construction at 1491, and the original builders and subsequent owners were apothecaries.

Mary menaced by a dragon.

Today set back from the square, originally it sat right on a major crossroads, flanked by tall thin merchants houses. Its ideal location permitted the double fronted facade that was twice the normal length in both directions, and six storeys high instead of the normal four storeys.

The multiple gables, the decorative lozenge shaped fills, the deeply moulded horizontal string courses and corbels supported by thick carved posts illustrate in magnificent fashion the skill of the carpenters at the height of their powers. The corner tower houses tiny offices known as écritoires or comptoirs.

It is the richness of the sculpture that above all marks this building out. The decorative themes range from the naturalistic, like the knots in a tree, to the stylised twisted flutes on the posts. There are numerous carved scenes and each post has a character figure or an animal. The themes are either religious or mythical on the one hand or vulgar and profane on the other.

The shawm player (left) and the bagpipes player (right).

The religious subjects include the Virgin Mary and the Angel of the Annunciation, the Pelican (symbol of the Resurrection) and Saint Michael or Saint George slaying the dragon. Then you have the lovers, the flute players and a selection of fantastical creatures. All of this was once painted in bright lifelike colours, but any remaining original paintwork disappeared with a major remodelling in 1814.

The Tree of Life.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Out Hunting in the Forest

The other day we were driving through the Forest of Amboise, between Chenonceau and Amboise, and a large black and tan hound came lolloping down the road towards us. He was on his own and as cars spotted him they slowed down. He came right up to the car going in the opposite direction to us, and then right up to us. He seemed to be checking the occupants and hoping to see someone he knew. We drove slowly and reluctantly past him (we couldn't have fitted him in the car even if we'd wanted to pick him up). 

A bit further down the road we came across a group of chaps with cameras and binoculars. We drove past them, thinking they were birdwatchers on an outing, but soon we encountered a group of mounted hunters. That was who we were looking for, as we realised they must own the dog (and in fact, the chaps with cameras must have been hunt followers). 

We pulled up and I jumped out to tell them about the dog. They thanked me and said they would send someone to fetch the errant beast, who had obviously got separated from the rest of the pack.

Then I asked them if I could take a photo and they agreed. The jocularity I captured was because there was some banter about whether I wanted to photograph the young and handsome members of the group or the old experienced hands.

The horses have all been clipped because they get too hot otherwise in their fuzzy winter coats. Riders generally like to clip horses if they are going to be working because if they get sweaty it takes them a long time to dry off so they can end up first too hot and then cold and wet. Also at this time of year they will pick up quite a lot of mud and if their hair is long it will get matted and be more work to groom.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

The Eleventh Annual Cowslip

It is a tradition of ours to post a photo of a coucou (cowslip) every year as soon as possible after they flower.

Last week I commented to Susan that the coucou were late (6 weeks or so later than last year), and then almost immediately we saw our first. They are not as numerous as they have been in past years, either - many councils have mown the roadside verges already.

Here are some that have just about survived the carnage.


Brexit March: We will be in London for the march against Brexit on the weekend. We are planning to meet friends and family at Victoria station, then the group calling themselves RIFT (Remain in France Together) in front of Buckingham Palace, before moving on to the start of the march at the Hilton Hotel. I'm hoping to catch up with my friend and former colleague Emile there too (he has the 'reverse' issue to us, being an EU national living and working in Britain). If you are planning to be there too, get in touch and maybe we can co-ordinate something.