Sunday, 18 May 2014

Clear Blue Flame.....

Twenty-six degrees today, with full sun and clear blue skies set for at least a couple of weeks to come: most welcome; seems like Summer is about to catch us all out here. I'm just back from a short visit to Sussex and London, visiting friends, one of whom has terminal lung cancer and only a few days, weeks at most, left. All very difficult and distressing. As I flew back home, J flew out to see her old friend, from University days about 40 years ago, for what will be the last time. She flew out on the same plane I came in on, so our paths didn't cross as she was in departure lounge as I arrived.  She simply left the car in the car-park for me to collect. I return to collect her again tomorrow.

Old Jack is now having problems. He's been deaf for many years, lost his hearing while we were still in Sweden, and has been blind in one eye for over twelve months; now, he's beginning to lose the sight in the other eye. In addition, he's partially incontinent, though this is sporadic. As he is otherwise seemingly fine for now, we're managing to cope with plenty of clean-up operations. However, it can be but a matter of time before he must go, too.  He's over fourteen years old now, so has outlived the average span for the breed and still has reasonable mobility. So, all in all, he's had a fair innings, as is euphemistically often said:

Last month we attended a lovely, small blues festival in a nearby town: Terri'Thouars Blues Fest is held annually in Thouars. The 2014 gig was the tenth annual event and was excellent. We both had a blast. I was covering it for a UK blues magazine and so had full all access passes for us both. In addition, an old sort of guitarist buddy from New Jersey was booked for it, so we spent much of the time eating too much, drinking way too much and shooting the breeze together. J got roped in to doing some translation work for the local press when they came to interview a couple of US bluesmen who spoke no Froggo at all:

One of my own favourite US bands, Delta Moon, from Atlanta Georgia, also played, with a great set, much as I'd expect from an outfit of their calibre:

This shot was taken at a small venue where the amplification/sound system was sadly wanting, but they did their best in the circumstances

Toby Walker had the packed hall eating out of his hand with some great acoustic picking and a few words in local lingo scribbled in felt-tip on his inner arm phonetically. This was taken as he came off stage still pouring sweat visibly:

Other than that, we've been working - or rather, J has been working - in the garden trying to create a veggie plot where there was none and some shrubbery and fruit trees etc. A kind neighbour who runs an organic farm in the village came on a small tractor to help clear the initial plot for us, a greatly appreciated gesture:

The cats are all doing well, and have resettled into their Froggo-life happily, catching countless shrews and mice with the odd lizard and rabbit thrown in for good measure. At least they eat the rabbits though, sadly, the poor lizards are simply slaughtered and discarded for me to dispose of. I've taken to throwing them to the Hens, who of course, as always, will eat virtually anything presented to them. And they say Pigs are the most voracious; having kept both Pigs and Hens over many years, the Hens win hands down:

Ginger, who was the smallest kitten a year ago, is now a mature though incredibly affectionate and clingy sort of cat nowadays. Here he is trying to pretend he cannot be seen, hiding from both us and the sun, I expect:

Ironically today, the temps are much the same, if not higher, up in our old stomping ground in Sweden. It can be like that sometimes in Summer, as our old friend and neighbour, Hakan, might have said. We both miss Sweden a lot. It's an odd society but very beautiful and in Summer the colours etc.., are at times little short of breathtaking.

In truth, I miss it more than J; indeed, I'd sell up here and return to the North at the drop of a hat, or beret, maybe; J, on the other hand, misses it but is not so sure about returning to Scandawegia. Frankly, and I'd never have thought I'd say this, I miss it most in winter. The extra low temps, the snow , the Aurora etc., were all simply incredible. At least we have the memories, if nothing else. And.....who knows.....

For now, it may not be moonshine time but it sure is red plonk time for me. A bientot!:

Delta Moon in good form.

Friday, 14 March 2014


Weather here continues to be great, with plus-20 temps most days, and clear blue skies and sunshine. We manage to eat al fresco most days and, if eating early, the odd evening too. It's definitely the precursor to Summer, I'd say. It makes a welcome change from Winter, and being back home also a welcome change from sad old Blighty.

J spends most of her days in the garden, trying to change the overgrown field into something resembling a garden plot. Our local farmer has offered to come over and plough a potager/veg plot for us but he is waiting till the ground is harder so the tractor tyres do not rut too much. In the meantime, we will plant seedlings - yet to be bought, but abundant everywhere - in large pots and go from there.

This is the garden in its current state:

An improvement on its condition when we snuck out for a week or so in October last year. Then, we were faced with this:

Fortunately a couple of kind Brit neighbours came over to help tame the beast, so it was more like this by the time we returned to Blighty:

You just can't leave gardens alone over here. The growth is phenomenal! And the effort needed to clear it all, equally enormous.

Our Hens have settled back in nicely, producing three eggs a day; remarkable really given I was sure one of them - rescued from drowning at our above Brit neighbours place a few weeks ago - was a Cock!:

The cats are also relaxed, clearly happy to be back where the mice are plentiful:

I'm clearly getting known/accepted by the blues-press peeps and the bluesers' press and promo peeps. Most days I receive CDs in the mail, sometimes a fair number of them. All of which is fine by me. It gives me a variety to listen to and I've come across some stuff that I'd otherwise have entirely missed! So can't be bad, although Lord knows what our mail-lady/facteuse must think of it!  The stuff has a variety of start points from all over UK and Europe and the USA. Similarly, the magazine copies I receive come from far and wide. It's keeping her on her toes and in work, so the Froggo system will be pleased with my endeavours.

Sad to learn of the passing - as the old bluesmen are wont euphimistically to say - of Tony Benn today. He was a man of principle. A rare thing these days in politics!

An apt little number now from a guy from my hometown, Glasgow: the great Jim Mullen, an ex-journalist, I believe:

Monday, 24 February 2014

Travellin' Man.....

Well.......a very long time since I've been here, the better part of a year.  We spent the past summer and Autumn, until January, in a tiny cottage on the banks of the River Wye in Herefordshire, our old stomping ground and an area we both know and love. However, with the rain and high water, it was a tad challenging at times, though thankfully we were high enough to avoid actual flooding:

The summer was splendid, of course, with long hot days. But, sadly, we had no garden or outside space to speak of, so found it less than desirable. Our daughter LVP's child access case has now been largely resolved, save for some tweaking which should happen soon. As a result, she has reasonable staying contact and joint residence and we also saw the grandsprog, Hamish, on numerous occasions, including Xmas, which they both spent with us. Now, however, we're back home in France, where it has also been wet, with regular rain and strong blustery winds sweeping in from the Vendeen coast.

The past few days have been decidedly Springlike here, with clear blue skies, full sun and agreeable outdoor temps. We've spent our time out in the garden trying to get some sense into it; our local farmer from whom we get organic milk straight from les vaches, has offered to come over and plough a big veggie plot for us and also to then bring over a load of organic manure. So it's all looking promising right now.

I've been writing for most of the UK blues press for the past six months or more and  I am now also involved with a French blues magazine, 'Autrement Blues/Blues&Co' that is published nearby - by fortunate chance. I'm doing mostly CD reviews for them at present and will certainly contribute other stuff in the near future. In addition, they run a small blues festival in April and a couple of very good players (Toby Walker & Delta Moon) from the USA will be there, so I've already arranged to meet up with them while they're in France. Indeed JVP had to help sort out the visa for one of them who didn't understand a word of Froggospeak.

One of the nice things about doing this is, of course, the free entry to gigs/press access etc., and loads of free CDs etc. I also met up with one of my favourite US bluesmen, whom I last met in Sweden. I had a message to pass on to him from an old friend of his in Stockholm, so it was a nice reunion;

Eric Bibb:

I also had the good fortune to cover a gig in Oxford of a band from Alabama as they passed through the UK following a festival in Spain. By chance, both JVP and I had been at university with Debbie Bond and her partner, harp/keyboards-man Rick Asherson. Debbie was guitarist in the late Johnnie Shines band until his death and then followed this up by playing backing with the late Willie King until he, too, passed on. Willie was a great laugh and a guy I also knew, admired and was invited to Alabama to play with, prior to his demise.

Debbie Bond:

I also caught up with one of the finest slide pickers on the circuit today. Iowa-based, Catfish Keith, when he played in Wales, in Abertillery:

Catfish, doing what he does best:

From Catfish to cats: the cats are all well, and happy to be home, I'd say. Jack had a fair bit of surgery back in Wales towards the end of last year but despite his age - 14 - is seemingly fairly good. We have our Hens back from the Brits who looked after them for us while we were in the UK and they, too, are fine, giving us a couple of eggs a day, which is all we really need!:

Cats in the Wye Valley, keeping out of the rain:

Well I think that covers most things, and brings it up to date. I started doing this a few years ago following a minor TIA. It gave me a sort of focus. As I'm now a bit better, I might just carry on. I'm waiting to hear if I've got the job of Editor of the main Swedish Blues Magazine. Ironically, it might mean a move back to Sweden, a place we both pine for at times, and certainly miss in many respects. Though, it must be said, not for the expensive wine! Here we buy en vrac from the local Cave which stocks mostly Loire wines in bilk, at about 2.5 Euros a litre for a very acceptable Rouge D'Anjou or a Chinon. Can't be bad - except for the liver, of course, that organ of French mystery!

I'll leave with Toby, who is playing nearby in April and has promised to show me a raggy thing he learnt from an old Delta-blues man, Eugene Powell, many years ago, a piece I particularly like. This one, however, may be more apposite:

Toby Walker plays Travellin' Riverside Blues: