Saturday, 26 September 2015

Slip Sliding Away.....

Another three months have simply disappeared, it seems. After an exhaustingly hot, dry summer, we've moved into Autumn with a stark weather-change, fierce winds and heavy rain for days on end gradually giving way to pleasanter dry, sunny days of temperate nature. The change was noted by us but also our neighbours, most of whom are less than amused by the sudden nature of the weather changes we've had in recent weeks.

The veggie patch/potager is reaching its end, though we still have some Aubergines and Toms producing, and the Courgettes also appear to have a second-wind. Leeks, Cabbages and Caulies are all okay, too. The freezers are groaning under the sheer weight of stuff and we had a pretty fair crop of Pots, now bagged up and out back in a cool, dry area. The Beans were not as good as last year though we have a reasonable amount to shore us up through winter. The Peas were a wash-out, sadly.  Strawbs did well as did the Rasps and the Grapes. Both the Melons and Aubergines were disappointing this year. But as everyone else around us were also grumbling, we can't be too surprised - all down to just too, too dry this summer. Not something to generally merit complaint, I feel.

We've done a fair bit of musicy stuff with guest-lists for a few US visitors on the Festival circuit here in France. We hooked up with Florida bluesman, Selwyn Birchwood, a genuinely nice, unaffected young guy who is destined for greatness, I'm sure. He keeps picking up awards in the USA, has a solid recording contract and is a guy we first met out in Portland, Oregon at a Blues Festival a few years ago. So it was good to catch-up again.

In addition, at the same event, we were guested with US soul-blues singer Otis Clay, another lovely guy. I already knew his manager and she had also come across with him. He brought a wonderful 10-piece backing band, Horns, Female vocalists, the whole damn caboodle along with him and put on a terrific live show. At the end, after a wonderful encore of top soul material - Dock of The Bay etc - he literally staggered from the stage, down the ramp to the green-room pouring sweat and clearly exhausted. He had been playing under strobes etc in temps of about 37C and is in his seventies these days.

We followed that festival in Cognac with a blisteringly hot festival in the midi-Pyrannees region in Cahors, a,lovely town encircled in a loop of the River Lot. Here temps were about 40C every day, with little respite in the steamy evenings. Again we had guest-lists with a few visiting US players, including Gospel singer Ruthie Foster, who was charming, friendly and extremely pleasant, despite having a positive 'anti-thing' about Press in general, I later discovered.

Next month we're off to a blues-cruise affair on a big boat out of Stockholm. It will be interesting to return to Sweden for a few days and I've already arranged meetings with some musicians up there and some guest-lists with a few of the US players on the cruise itself. Knowing the Swedes, I rather fancy the cruise will be a bit of a blues/booze cruise with plenty of projectile vomiting going on. We will see. We have Passes and cabins etc thrown in for the event so only have to cover our travel and we have found a failry central place to stay on airb&b, at a very reasonable price. We're already looking forward to it.

Sadly, a few months ago, a very good friend, a UK guy living out here, passed with a massive heart attack. We were terribly saddened by his death. He was larger than life, incredibly helpful and friendly - a truly lovely guy who knew his days were numbered but kept on as if he was in best of rude health. He died while out in his garden cleaning his terracing areas in torrid heat. His wife had told him to stop cause it was way too hot but he ignored her and the rest is history. We went to the Crem in Niort and I spoke at the service.

Then, as if that was not enough, in th past few days two more friends have upped and pegged it. One is a very old buddy of mine from my yoof in Scotland. He died in his sleep and the funeral is in Glasgow next week, so I'm down for that and have booked my flights etc. It will be interesting to see who else attends!

In addition, on the very same day, we learned of the death of a French near-neighbour and friend of JVP's. She took her own life, much to our astonishment. But, of course, you never really know what's going down at times. We attended the funeral yesterday where there was a huge turn-out, illustrating clearly that she was widely loved and admired.  A tragic end, it seems.

Our two dogs took to fighting viciously, ripping each other apart at every opportunity. We struggled for about six weeks but despite trying parallel walking, muzzles etc., it continued until we reluctantly returned the older of the two, Benny, to the refuge he came from. The other dog had been with us longer but it was still a near-impossible decision. JVP was so upset by the loss/departure of her clear favourite hound that after much soul-searching we reversed the process, so to speak, and swapped Golly for Benny with the refuge. So, Benny is once more with us. JVP is happier though I miss Golly and feel guilty about it in some way. So Golly will have to return and we'll try the services of an animal/dog behaviourist who lives  and works in the region, at great expense.



Ruthie in action

I've been asked to take over the Features Editor position with one of the UK's leading blues magazines and have just started this recently. It takes a fair bit of my time each month and is something I can easily undertake. It's a useful number, especially with the extra access and perks it throws up for us both. JVP is now 'my' official snapper and also gets Passes etc. She's enjoying the photography thing and has loads of stuff published already -  a huge change from the world of midwifery!   I'm also working regularly with the principal US blues title, so with all the others too, have plenty on my plate.  Indeed, in amongst it all, I have a chance of steady work as a music hack with a title in northern Sweden - a strange idea but one I'm not totally averse to!

As for the immediate futire, Time for some plonk, I reckon. Take care out there.