Friday, December 31, 2010

Hats Off

And so ends the year of my big adventure.

I was very surprised by the number of people who said to me, both in print and face to face, "Hats off to you, sir!", when they knew what I was doing. This seems quaint and old-fashioned, but I like it.

Similarly, in France I have frequently had the word "Chapeau!", which means exactly the same thing.

I am a hat-wearer myself and have a bit of a collection. It seems a shame to me that hat-wearing went out of style. It is particularly a shame in the area where we now live. Our local market town of Esperaza at one time had 36 hat factories. There were others in nearby towns. Now there are none.

But have you noticed that the wearing of hats is on the increase? Shops and market stalls have piles of hats. This very week we have seen people queuing to try on hats at Mirepoix market.

Tom Mix (above) would be pleased.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Well, Well, Well!

Our old friend Peter T Labrow has been busy lately. Not content with putting in a full day and more at the coal face of his marketing business and watching his massive collection of DVDs, he has been writing his first book.

The Kindle edition of "In The Well" is now up and running on Amazon. The print version will be coming soon.

What is it about? Amazon has this to say:

Trapped. Missing. Cursed. Fourteen-year-old Becca Edwards and her stepbrother have fallen to the bottom of an ancient well. Their parents are away; they won't be missed for days. The predatory man who had been stalking Becca now switches his attentions to her best friend. Two women who know where Becca is trapped are desperate that she should never escape. Over the course of a week, family, friends and strangers are drawn together by a terrible shared fate - from which not all will escape.

'The Well' is a darkly gripping tale about how we respond to the hand fate has dealt us - and the consequences of our choices.

Set in Bankside, a quiet Lancashire town that hides many secrets, The Well deftly intertwines a story of supernatural horror with a tale of one of the greatest fears of modern life. As the book progresses, the two stories become one- driving relentlessly towards a single, thrilling finale. The Well is a fast-paced, riveting story that will grip you - and keep you guessing - until the very end.

Do you want to be in at the beginning of a new publishing phenomenon? You will find the book here:

p.s. Peter points out that I have neglected to point out the role of my very own wife Gay, who test-read two earlier versions of the book. He says "all the test readers really helped to refine the book and give it much more depth, Gay's input was excellent."

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Click Here

Happy Christmas everybody.

Click here for a bit of fun:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

End Of The World Part Three

Our friend Valerie, who lives at Bugarach, is quoted in the Telegraph article mentioned in my last post.

She has now been approached by the Norwegian news agency, and is being interviewed on BBC Radio Five Live at 1725 GMT today.

With BBC iPlayer, you can listen to the programme (5 Live Drive) on your computer for the next 7 days.

You will find the programme here:

To use BBC iPlayer outside UK you must first download Expat Shield from here:

End Of The World Part Two

The Daily Telegrarf has now got hold of this story. under the headline "
French village which will 'survive 2012 Armageddon' plagued by visitors".

The fame of the tiny village and the mountain of the same name spread. I am not sure the inhabitants will welcome this. It is likely to have the effect of attracting even more Noahs.

Monday, December 20, 2010

2012, December 21

The Pic de Bugarach, at 1230 metres, is the highest summit in the Corbieres region of the Midi. It is roughly 20 kms from our home, as the bird flies. We can see it by walking up the hill to the Puivert castle.

There is something very strange about Bugarach. In fact there are many things very strange about it. The most obvious is that it is upside down - the oldest geological layers are on the top, which should not happen.

Many people believe that there is a colossal cavern under the mountain, with a huge lake, and a civilisation, earthly or otherwise, fully equipped with flying machines. Mysterious lights are to be seen hovering around the mountain at night. There are tales of close encounters.

The tales really are many and varied, but Bugarach has been hitting the news lately, at least in the local press, because it is featuring largely in the growing apprehension about 2012. I am sure you know that, according to some interpretations, the Maya predicted that the world will end in December of that year. A slightly less apocalyptic version is that the world as we know it will end, and a new era will begin.

Well, it seems that you should come to Bugarach, where you will be safe. It is one of the few places in the world which will be exempt from the destruction involved. This whole area is already home to many alternative, hippy types, attracted by the various Rennes le Chateau, Templar, Visigoth and other histories and mysteries. We are knee-deep in these people at the Sunday morning market in Esperaza. Strangers there have tried to engage us in conversation about 2012.

Now groups of believers are to be seen on the mountain, robed or sometimes completely disrobed, holding ceremonies and muttering imprecations. There are walking paths up, down and around the mountain but walkers are having to take unexpected breaks until the chanting is done and the paths cleared. A local information centre reports that 70% of those calling in to their office were randonneurs or walkers - now 70% are of a mystical persuasion. M. le Maire has been quoted extensively in the press, expressing his concern about the effect all these people are having on his area. Even the local housing market is being affected as, believing that Bugarach will be safe from the worldwide disaster, believers buy up houses so that they can move into this haven well before the due date.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Emperor Strikes Back

Vlad the unsmiling Czar of Russia (did you notice that he didn't even break into a smile while singing "Eye find meye treel on Blurbirry Heel", which flashed around the world's television screens this week) has been troubling me again.

You may remember that during my walk, he was sending his Siberian winds to shorten my stride (on my blog here and here).

Today he really outdid himself, probably because we all laughed so much about him "singing the blues". I think he is no stranger to retribution.

I walked home from Quillan. The temperature was minus 2 degrees Celsius. When I arrived at the Col du Portel, after climbing 320 metres, I also emerged from the woodland which had been protecting me from the wind. And the wind-chill factor.

The effective temperature must have dropped to minus 12 or so. I was wearing thick mittens, but completely lost the feeling in, and use of, my fingers. At some points the wind stopped me in my tracks. When I arrived home my legs and even my stomach were bright red, even though they had been protected from the wind by several layers of clothing.

This was one of the toughest walks I have ever undertaken. I am really glad I was walking only 18 kms and not 30 or more.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Brilliant In Provence

We arrived back from Provence yesterday. Brilliant sunshine all the time, but very cold after the first amazing day at 19 degrees.

I am under strict instructions from "Tales from a Garden" to show photographs from our trip, so here they are.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Ups and Downs, Terrain and Temperature

I haven't walked for a while because I have had a bad back and a cold at the same time. These aren't things which go together, as you find out when you sneeze.

So it was a bit of a weakened Vic who today walked home from Quillan. We drove there, of course, I had the usual coffee and tabnab, then I walked along to the barber's. We had seen Pierre in the cafe - he did seem to be dashing about and carrying things. I had been standing outside his shop for a few minutes before I saw the sign saying he would not be open today until 9.30. Being my normal early self, it was still not yet 8.30, the usual opening time. Gay by this time had driven home. I didn't hang around.

I am quite habituated to the 18 kms walk, with it's initial 6 kms climbing from 290 metres to 600 metres. I had to pause on the really steep bits, but it was the effort required for the small hills at the end of the walk which made me realise (yet again) that a cold can really take it out of you, not to mention that a bad back can be quite debilitating.

We were covered in snow a few days ago, but two or three days above freezing have cleared it away completely. Today the temperature is 15 degrees and tomorrow it is forecast to rise to 17, although it will plunge back to 5 or so on Thursday.

We are off to Provence for a few days, so it is likely to be even higher than 17 where we are going.

Friday, December 3, 2010

I Can Still Read


I was talking to Bob Lim last night on Skype. He asked about my eyes. When I told him the latest he reminded me that I had not mentioned this on my blog and that people could be interested. He's right.

To remind you, last November I went along, I thought for a new pair of specs, only to find myself sent to the eye hospital for a diagnosis that I am in the process of completely losing my central vision. I will reach a stage where everything looks to me just as it does on the tv screen when they have blanked out faces to preserve anonymity. I will not be able to see faces and, appallingly, I will not be able to read. My eyes are pretty much well down this road due to a condition called pattern dystrophy. I have had the condition for a very long time and it is just now approaching a serious level. I mentioned it on my blog because there was a possibility that it could seriously affect the Big Walk - and in fact it did so because I could not read maps and my ability to walk on rough and uneven ground was severely compromised.

I went for a checkup this November and found, to everyone's surprise, that there has been no measurable deterioration since last year, which is better than the best possible expected outcome. A year ago I was told that not only is there no treatment, but that the only thing which coould "possibly" slow down the rate of deterioration by "up to" 40% was the consumption of Omega 3 in quantity. Since then I have been taking some special Omega 3 eye tablets and also have retreated from being a strict vegetarian and have been consuming fish. This, or something, has done the trick, although I understand that I should not expect the problem to have stood still - it is just having a rest before resuming the onslaught.
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