The garden in early Spring:
The garden this Summer:
We've taken on a fair sized plot of previously well-manured and used veg garden with a useful stone shed from a weekender, a French neighbour who had virtually given up on it after many years. It adjoins our own land and we'd noted his increasing absences and disinterest, so asked about it. The result, we have it free of charge. It will be used for Pots, Leeks etc next year.
We've been out following the music festival trail around France, meeting many musicians, promoters and organisers etc., and receiving mountains of Press/promo CDs for review etc. The sprog, LVP, made it over for a few weeks with the grandsprog in tow and the weather was fortunately, as above, hot and dry. They seemed to have a good time and we booked them both cabins etc for the ferry crossing on one of Britanny Ferries bigger boats plying the cross-channel routes, together with hotels in Portsmouth each end of the journey to make life easier.
Back in May, I went to cover a Blues Festival in a delightful small Belgian town, Purrs, about midway between Antwerp and Brussels.I arranged accomm thru the online site AirBnB, and it turned out perfect. To my astonishment, the hosts also have an elderly Renault 4 GTL, just like our own, albeit a different colour. We were all equally surprised:
The Belgian R4:
An old war-time fort, now an inviting cafe/bar in Purrs:
Unexpectedly, due to one band I'd expected to meet (Bert Deivert & Copperhead Run from Sweden) pulling out due to illness, they booked in one of my favourite US soul-bluesmen, Johnny Rawls, as a last minute addition because he was in France touring. By chance I 'd received a phone all from his record company boss and band bassist a few days earlier, so we met up by chance.
I caught his soundcheck while having a beer just outside the marquee he was to play, ran in, discovered it was indeed him and armed with me backstage pass walked up to him as he came off-stage, me singing one of his songs back to him. The look on his face of pure surprise, not to say shock, was priceless but we got on well and had a fine time sitting chatting about mutual buddies, one of whom the wonderful Otis Clay, with whom Johnny had recorded a great album in 2014, had just passed back in January. Otis' manager is a close mutual friend, so we got on well discussing the problems she was now facing out in USA - she was also Otis's partner, and J and I were invited to attend his funeral out in Chicago but couldn't afford the travel. We received a copy of the Order of Service etc, however.
Johny Rawls in action in Belgium:
More recently, attending a blues festival in the Nievre/Burgundy borderlands, we found ourselves driving past t a small place named - 'Bellebouche', which I reckon is where a couple of UK bloggers I follow when they post are based. It was tempting to make a detour to see them, but sense and the searing heat prevailed and we passed by. Maybe next year we'll check it out.
We're setting off to a Swedish Blues Cruise affair again in a few weeks time. The boat sails from Stockholm out to Finland and back with about 2,000 Scandinavian music fans and about a dozen bands on board, including some pretty fine US players we already know. We're planning to buy an elderly, preferably 1980s, Saab or Volvo while there and drive back home, so have booked only one-way flights so far.
Towards the tail end of last year/2015, a grey tabby cat appeared around the garden. He was a whole male, looked aggressive and down on his luck, eating the chicken-food etc. As it turned out to be a particularly dry winter, with very little rain and mild weather overall, we started to feed him daily with dried cat-tucker and he gradually worked his way into the menagerie, albeit with a few cat-fights and loads of spitting and hissing from our three moggies. Now, he's part of the family and seems happy to be around, scrounging food and generally making himself at home. A local cat charity helped with a subsidised neutering etc., at a local vet and he's now just another of the cat-gang. It took him ages to figure out how to use the catflap, mind you. We think he was probably dumped by somebody as he's not a known village cat, though he's now part of the furniture and the hissing is steadily diminishing in force. We call him 'Catty' which he readily answers too. Thankfully!
I'm now working regularly with music magazines in Australia and a major title in the USA, so get passes etc., to events almost anywhere and interview access to many big-names, these days. All very satisfying as I also get their albums etc no problem.
We have bought a UK trailer tent, a Conway Camargue affair, that turned up for sale on a French Brit sales site at a very good price; it makes life attending fests etc.,m much more manageable and a lot less expensive. It was owned by a Brit who returned home having sold it another Brit who then went on to buy a campervan and are now moving to live in Spain: if you'd told me I'd be happy to have one of these some years ago, I'd have sneered and laughed like a drain, but it sure is impressive and I'm delighted with it, esp given what we're up to and the travel involved. Although now receiving regular income from some music magazines, the expense of travel and accomm was always a killer at times:
We were also down to again meet Johnny Rawls a week or so ago when he was playing in Lucerne, Switzerland along with Rufus Thomas's daughter, a very fine singer herself, Vaneese Thomas and an old buddy fron North Carolina, ex-guitarist with Otis Redding & Solomon Burke and Stevie Wonder, Roy Roberts. He played Cognac Blues Fest early this year where we again met up. Iggy Pop was also there but he was a prize pest:
Roy Roberts at Cognac:
A bientot. Must try to keep up a bit.....: Johny Rawls and the song we sing together when we meet: