July 30, 2012

WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT ?

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We watched the opening ceremony back to front – we were out on Friday evening and came home as the second half of the athletes were parading into the arena.  So last night we caught up by watching the first half on BBC i-player.

an olympic spectacle 6I thought the bit about the transformation of England from a green and pleasant land to industrial bedlam was the best bit of the whole ceremony.

an olympic spectacle 5 The arrogance and smugness of the giants of the industrial revolution who made fortunes from the sweat and toil of the workers came across very well I think.

an olympic spectacle 2 I didn’t quite understand what Rowan Atkinson was doing there but he was very funny. 

an olympic spectacle 3 I just loved the bit with the Queen and James Bond – what a star she is to agree to taking part in such nonsense……and as for the corgis ……marvellous !!

an olympic spectacle 3a Some of the bits were hard to fathom and if it hadn’t been for the commentators on the TV explaining the meaning I would never have known what it was all about.  But it was great entertainment.

The thing that impressed me was how technically brilliant it all was, and how it went without a hitch.  The potential for calamity with all those people involved must be huge, but it looked perfect to me.

I was also enormously impressed by the professionalism of all those who took part.  Every time you saw a close-up of the performers they were putting their hearts and souls into it.

an olympic spectacle 4 I thought the lighting of the cauldron was inspirational and quite moving.

There were bits that went on too long and that I didn’t see the point of, such as the pop music and dancing section, and I also found the part about the NHS rather odd but the Mary Poppins bit was lovely !!

I have never watched any previous opening ceremonies so I have nothing to compare it with.  You can debate endlessly whether or not we should have spent so much money (although I have no idea how much) on such a spectacle – or even hosted the games at all – when we are in recession – double dip, no less.  But for me I think it was a job well done and I enjoyed it.

July 29, 2012

THERE AND BACK AGAIN

The weather in the UK had been awful for weeks when we set off for France at the beginning of July.  Rain, rain and more rain.  Reading other blogs I could see that it was also disappointing in our part of France for the time of year, but it is always just that bit warmer, drier and brighter than at home in the UK, so I was really looking forward to the holiday.

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The journey there.

We could hardly believe our luck as we stayed dry all the way to Folkestone but when we got near to Rouen it started to rain.  Just north of Le Mans we felt as though we were driving through a waterfall on the motorway as we entered a sudden huge downpour.

weather3 weather4 A motorcyclist shelters under a motorway bridge in torrential rain.  I’ve done that a time or two and it is definitely not much fun.

The driving was hard work and dangerous.  Cars were still travelling at 130 in torrential rain even though the visibility was terrible.  There was a lot of spray from other vehicles and many of them didn’t have their lights on, still overtaking.  We felt very uncomfortable and could see how someone braking, skidding and colliding with another car could easily happen and then there would be a huge accident.  So we left the motorway and travelled on the ordinary roads for a while.

weather5A break in the storm near Yvetot. 

The rain would clear for a while then within moments we would be in the middle of another storm.  We rejoined the motorway just south of Le Mans but after a few kilometres we gave up and went back onto the “red roads” again.  It was just too risky and we felt that we would rather arrive later than not at all.

weather6 Sunset over the river at Barrou.

As we neared Tours the rain stopped, the grey clouds disappeared and the sky looked a lot less threatening.    In the end we arrived just over an hour later than we expected.  As usual it was warm and sunny in Le Grand-Pressigny.  Bliss !!

We met up with our friends Chris and Gail at the PreHisto and then we all headed to Barrou for the evening, looking forward to some live music at the “Barrouders” festival and maybe a sausage and some frites !!

weather1 The journey home !!

We had mixed weather for the two weeks, some very bad and some very good.  On the day we travelled home we had clear blue skies and temperatures up to 28°C all the way.

It was a great holiday and now that I can nearly see the bottom of the laundry basket I shall have time to tell you all about it ……….. !!

Bon dimanche à tous …….

July 22, 2012

FANCY A LITTLE FLUTTER?

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Which horse would you put your money on ?? !!

Any idea where we saw these two hopefuls ??

Enjoy your Sunday !!

July 2, 2012

SHADOWS, BEAMS AND THE LAUGHTER OF CHILDREN

The inside of the Château at Fougères was just as delightful as the outside.

We arrived at the same time as a coach of young children, something that always makes me nervous.  Not only do we dread the guided tour, but we also dread having to climb over clusters of noisy little kids all the time to see what we want to see, scurrying ahead of them to keep out of their way.

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On the first count we were lucky.  The entrance fee was very modest and we were pleased to find we could wander round by ourselves.  The ladies in the office were extremely helpful, handing us a pamphlet in English, storing our jackets and motorcycle helmets so we could explore unencumbered and pointing us in the right direction to start the tour. 

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There were numerous displays inside showing how the structure was built.  It was fascinating.  Everything was beautifully and intelligently displayed.  We could see that an awful lot of thought and work has obviously gone into getting it right.

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On the second score we were also lucky.  The children were very young and well supervised.  This little group were all dressed up to take part in a little play.  What fun that must have been.  We never did anything like that when I was that age.  You will notice that my posts about châteaux are full of images and ambience but short on history.  I love history and it fascinates me but the way it was taught when I was at school bored me rigid.  I dropped it as a subject as soon as I could and looking back I am certain that was the influence of the individual teachers concerned.

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When I was at grammar school (from age 11) our history teacher was called Miss Northrop and I can see her now, standing at the front of the class, arms folded over her ample proportions, immaculately turned out in tweed skirt, twinset and pearls.  I can’t remember a single thing she taught me and she seemed to spend more time ticking us off for not wearing the right length of socks or being seen in town with our blazers unfastened and having our berets stuffed in our pockets instead of on our heads than teaching.

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I think that’s why I took up science subjects instead.  The physics/chemistry teacher was a real nutty professor type, with untidy hair, remnants of his breakfast still on his tie and his jacket buttoned up wonky.  He was a plump middle aged eccentric, a piece of chalk permanently behind one ear, not afraid to perform very risky experiments in class and I worshipped him. 

This is almost certainly why I spent my whole life in male dominated activities, doing the stuff boys do and shunning the girls’ activities.  Making explosions in the lab was much more fun than learning how to sew or make macaroni cheese !!  Although I do love macaroni cheese.

(I suppose having vast numbers of male cousins in a village where there were hardly any girls of my age could also have something to do with it.  During the school holidays it was a case of go out and play cricket, climb trees and catch newts, or stay indoors by myself !!)

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There were lots of different levels to explore inside the château.  The lighting was designed to display the features of the building to their best advantage. and, like the outside, it was a photographer’s paradise.

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There was interesting furniture everywhere and lots of curiosities such as this model of a château near Paris.

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Then there was this shadow mobile.  I’m not sure of its purpose but I seem to remember it had a room all to itself, !!  It’s interesting how often we see things like this in France, but rarely in the UK I think.

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There were only a handful of adult visitors that day, including ourselves, and it was actually quite nice to hear the laughter of little children coming from another room somewhere in the château. They were very well behaved and the ambience of the place was such fun that hearing their chatter and giggles was just right.

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We have visited many French châteaux, ranging from the small and crumbling to the enormous and very grand, but this has to be one of my favourites so far.

A place to become thoroughly absorbed in its atmosphere and let your imagination wander.  A magical place and we were there midweek when there were no crowds, just a group of very happy and very lucky little children to share it with us.