Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Five Hundred Years of the Medici Codex

Our friend Antoinette tutors Jean-Louis Sureau, the director of the Royal Chateau of Amboise, in English. Recently he gave her four tickets to an invitation only event at the chateau and she invited us to accompany her and her husband Niall.

The Sorbonne Scholars are a group of Renaissance and early Baroque music specialists and they were on tour performing the Medici Codex. This is a compilation (or as the conductor put it, a 'best of') put together for Pope Leo X (second son of Lorenzo the Magnificent of Florence) and used for the marriage of Lorenzo II de Medici, Duke of Urbino and Madeleine de la Tour d'Auvergne, which took place at Amboise in 1518. The Duke was Leo's nephew and the celebrations were designed by Leonardo da Vinci, who by that time lived next door to the chateau in Clos Lucé, at the invitation of François I. Within a year of the marriage taking place both bride and groom were dead, orphaning their baby daughter Catherine.

The video is just a short taste of the evening

The style of music is polyphonic and complex, using both voice and instruments together, as a signifier of how magnificent the performance is intended to be and befitting the courts of great patrons of the arts such as Leo and François.

Jean-Louis Sureau chats with audience members after the show.

We feel really privileged to have got to see this concert. Amboise wasn't on their original tour list, but someone at the chateau convinced them to stop off and perform. They even agreed to being outdoors, and we all felt lucky that the weather held.

A musician holding a serpent and a sackbut chats to a father and daughter after the concert.

Video by Simon, text and photos by Susan.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Hippies for a Day

On Sunday Susan and I participated in our third Bouchon du Blanc. The first we went to (2014) we were along and last time Susan's sister and brother in law accompanied us. This time we went with Jim and Pauline, who turned out to be the perfect companions for a day of 1970's hippie madness.

We borrowed someone's beautifully painted Renault as a prop.

This is an incredibly well organised event, starting with a cup of coffee at 8.30, and moving on to la Gabriere for casse-croûte (baguette, terrine, boudin noir and red wine) before returning to le Blanc for lunch. Lunch itself was 3 courses - main of meats and salad (including some perfectly cooked cold sliced roast beef), before fromages and finishing with apple tart. All of it was extremely tasty, well presented and well organised, and at 15 euros a head, incredibly good value.

We then had a little post lunch relax before moving on the day's main even, the traffic jam. We did almost two circuits of the town before pulling into a car park, and walking past the now abandoned cars to a refreshing reward of a cold drink and an ice cream. All in all an excellent day. And we all behaved.

Monday, 18 June 2018

Claudette's Little Joke

Because we have two work cars we keep one at Saint Pierre des Corps and the other at home, the plan being to rotate which car we use. Lately, however, the car at home (currently Célestine) has been as busy as the car at Saint Pierre des Corps (Claudette). This means we have to do minor maintenance on the run, as it were: when we work from Saint Pierre des Corps we arrive at the garage just before 8am, check the water and oil (and occasionally the tyres too), and then we are off for a day's driving.

A couple of weeks ago we did all that, collected the clients and started the drive to Cheverny. About 5km outside Tours I noticed a fine spray of water on the windscreen, which was odd - it wasn't raining. I said (jokingly) to Susan that I hoped I had put the radiator cap back on. When we arrived at Onzain (to view Chaumont from acoss the river) I checked just in case.

I hadn't put the radiator cap on.

I usually put the radiator cap on the air filter cover on the passenger's side of the car, and it wasn't there, so I grabbed a plastic bag out of the boot and taped it around the filler, then when we arrived at Cheverny I left Susan and the clients at the chateau and drove off into town to see if anyone could help. I called at a garage that appeared really busy, and the mechanic spent ages looking for a screw cap that would fit, but with no luck. In the end he fashioned a cap out of the bottom of a brake fluid bottle, and fastened it with a Jubilee Clip.

That worked well the whole day, and after we dropped the clients back at the their hotel we returned to the garage. Susan walked up the street, looking to see if the cap (solid brass) had fallen off, while I scanned the garage forecourt. No luck. Then, for some reason, I opened the bonnet (hood) on the driver's side...

So that's 48 euros I saved on a new radiator cap (I know!!), and hopefully a lesson learned. I may not be so lucky next time.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Thunderbolt's Way

As any fule kno, there are two ways of getting from Sydney to Southern Queensland - drive to Newcastle then take either the New England Highway (inland) or the Pacific Highway (coastal).

There is another route, one which avoids the main highways and gives spectacular views and that is Thunderbolt's Way. The road was mainly unsealed when we lived in Australia, but these days it has had a make-over. Although it wouldn't yet qualify as a highway (some of the sealed surface had been washed away) it's not a bad road.You really do need to make sure you buy fuel before you start, because there isn't a lot in the way of services along the way - only one town (and no other settlements) in the 200km between Barrington and Uralla.

Barrington Tops

Due to lack of awareness we managed to be driving on the first day of the summer school holidays, something I only realised the day before we left. This filled me with trepidation and the fear of hours sat behind caravans. We did have issues crossing the Tomago bridge (that's a problem I can remember from almost 50 years ago), but one we turned off the Pacific Highway at Twelve Mile Creek we encountered almost no traffic - the roads were empty.


Talking of traffic jams and the school holidays, this afternoon we will be in le Blanc, traffic jamming. This will be our third go at the Bouchon du Blanc, which starts at 15h (3pm) and given good weather should be a blast.

Saturday, 16 June 2018


It's been raining a lot here in France lately. Proper downpours causing small landslides and everything. While we were in Australia I photographed a similar heavy shower from my parents house.

Simon Says:
Something that interested us about the Idiot Wagon is that although its European air conditioning coped with the Australian heat (all the way up to 45C and beyond), its European windscreen wipers couldn't cope with Australian rain.

Friday, 15 June 2018

Josh and the Dairy Sheep

My cousin Josh is a sheep farmer. If you want to gain his attention you have to be prepared to talk about sheep farming. Fortunately, I am happy to talk about sheep farming, so we did while I was visiting his father, my uncle Ric. Josh, his wife and daughter came to dinner one night and we talked about sheep farming in Australia and France.

The finest Awassi ram.

Josh already raises sheep for meat but he is also in the very early stages of an ambitious new project.

The Awassi rams check us out.

He has planning permission for a 3000 head herd of dairy ewes. The dairy itself and the ewes haven't arrived yet, but when we visited Uncle Ric a herd of about twenty rams were living in his house paddock. 

Thirsty rams take a drink.

The rams are handsome beasts, a Middle Eastern breed called Awassi. They are used to being handled and are very tame.

Ric and Sheila's farm near Geelong.

Josh's big idea is to sell milk powder to the Chinese, many of whom, like himself, are bovine lactose intolerant. He's hoping to be able to undertake a study trip to Israel to see sheep dairies there.

At the dinner table at Ric and Sheila's. Josh in middle.