Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Biology Lesson

We arrived home from Cyprus in the wee small hours of this morning. Temperature yesterday was 27 degrees, today it is 3 degrees, but a lovely sunny day.

These extraordinary photographs are some which Gay took during a walk in Polis Chrysochous while we were away. I didn't have a strong enough Internet connection to show them before.

I know that biologists need to pickle creatures in formaldehyde to preserve them for study, but I have never seen specimens hanging on a fence before. They include are all sorts of giant insects and many varieties of snake.

Of course I am not sure that they are in formaldehyde. They are probably preserved in the all-purpose Cyprus alcohol zivania, the equivalent of Italian grappa. In Cyprus it is used for drinking, cleaning windows, rubbing on afflicted bodily parts - so why not for specimen preservation and display?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Greetings from Cyprus

We are in Cyprus for a week. Most of our walking is being done between Polis Chrysochous (where we are staying) and the harbour at Latsi. We lived in Polis for 8 years and it is also 8 years since we left. There have been many changes in that time, notably in the amount of building going on, the price of houses, and the price of eating out. Still, we have spent a happy week renewing old friendships and wallowing in nostalgia.

The weather is excellent, about 27 degrees every day so far and set to remain so until after we leave on Tuesday.

This picture was taken in Paphos during our journey from the airport. Cyprus has entered more and more into the Christmas spirit every year since we first came here on holiday long ago. Santa looks a little incongruous among the palm trees, does he not? Especially at eight feet tall and being particularly grimy - that beard and the white trimming on his suit were not made for such a dusty place.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Al's Big Walk

I am a bit late with this photograph.

Nicola has just emptied her camera for the first time since the summer.

This is one of my grandson Alessandro, who one day decided that he was going to join me in VBW, and dressed appropriately. How wise of him to wear two caps, and to put the rucksack on his front, where it is much easier to get at the goodies within.

As always, you can increase the size of the photograph by double-clicking on it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Tale Of Two Haircuts

The pictures were taken in Chalabre this morning. Nice day, isn't it?

Yesterday was much gloomier, in more than one way. We drove to Quillan, to visit the market and for me to have a haircut before I walked home to Puivert (18 kms).

There was not much market because it was very wet.

I have a haircut about every 3 weeks. Last time, my friendly barber Pierre told me that a friend of his had just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Yesterday I asked Pierre how his friend was doing. "Il est mort," he said. Pierre was obviously very upset about the death of his friend and how quickly it had happened. Indeed it is very sad. Unfortunately it is the norm.

Pancreatic cancer is swift and savage. This is why it is so vital to fund research to find a cure and/or early diagnosis. And why I would like you to divert some of the money you would otherwise waste on the Annual Shopkeepers' Festival, as Clive James called it, and to put some instead into the fund I have set up for that purpose. The money arrives very swiftly with Pancreatic Cancer UK, where it is applied to good effect.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Recession And Carcassonne

Not getting much walking done this week as we still have Jean visiting.

The weather hasn't been too brilliant, but this morning was lovely and sunny so we took the opportunity to go sightseeing in Carcassonne. For those who don't know, this is a complete mediaeval walled city and one of the major tourist attractions in France. But we have never seen it so quiet as we have today. This confirms what we have been hearing from other sources, that the recession is really biting and local businesses are reeling. None of this will have been helped by the recent spate of strikes over the increase in pension age. For instance, foreigners have been reluctant to fly here because they didn't know whether they would be able to get home. Even people already in France and with an inclination to travel have been frightened of ending up far from home with a dry petrol tank.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

An Early Bath

We have been away for a quick visit to England to see Mary Chapin Carpenter in concert in Buxton. I used to live not far from there and frequently drove through Buxton, or rather round it. I have never before walked into the centre of town and was very pleasantly surprised. A lovely little echo of Bath.

Mr and Mrs Septimus joined us for the concert and for an overnight stay in the quirky Buckingham Hotel, with its amazing breakfast (for example, a choice of 35 cereals), and its 5 minute walk to the splendid Opera House.

The next day, Gay and I went up to the North East to spend a few days with her two brothers - or rather the two who live in England.

When we came back to France on Friday, we had Jean Dolan, a friend from the running club, with us. This is why, for a change, we had company as we did our now traditional Saturday morning walk to Quillan and back.