Friday, June 28, 2013


Some images from our coach trip to the Millau Viaduct yesterday.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Bugarach - Up The Magic Mountain

We have lived in this area for 17 years and visited on holiday for years before that. We have always had the intention to one day climb to the top of the Pic de Bugarach, the mysterious mountain which, at 1240 metres, dominates the immediate area.  Yesterday Gay and I, led by the intrepid Bill Harper, finally did that. Bill is a man who was born not too far from the place of my birth and indeed attended school only half a mile from my childhood home. But I met him only in recent years here in the Pyrenees.

Bugarach is the place which was alleged to be the only safe place in the world when the Mayan so-called phrophesies were scheduled to finish all the rest of us off last December. It is the centre of all sorts of other myths and legends as well, as you will find if you Google the word "Bugarach".

The mountain is hollow, many say, and contains variously a huge lake or flying saucers. The mountain is magnetic, it has upheld the feet of Jesus and Mary Magdalene - all these stories can be found. What is certain is that there are frequently odd characters to be found on the slopes of the mountain, singly or in groups. As we mounted yesterday, we heard chanting in a loud voice. Coming down the path towards us was a man, dressed in mediaeval garb. We spoke the usual greeting. He carried on chanting, wheeled left and down another path, giving no sign that he had seen us.

If you are wondering what Bill is doing in that photo, he is not about to garrotte me. We were accompanied by Bill's springer spaniel, Serge, and I think Bill is looking at the lead and wondering where Serge has got to.

p.s. I wrote the above then went out for a haircut. I mentioned to the barber that we had been up Bugarach yesterday. He said "Did you see any extra-terrestrials up there?"

As usual the photos can be enlarged by clicking on any one of them.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Blog Of The Talk Of The Book Of The Walk

I was invited by Attracta and Owen of the recently-instituted English Library in nearby Quillan to give a talk about Vic's Big Walk and the book of the same name. This took place yesterday in the bistro at Carrefour Supermarket (the library is situated at the end of the Carrefour building).

My talk consisted mainly of reading selected episodes from the book, interspersed with a bit of connecting banter. The crowd was not huge, but made for a more intimate atmosphere. The intimate atmosphere was enhanced, not to say overwhelmed, by the arrival of some French people talking very loudly while I was in full flow. They must have been aware that something was going on but they didn't seem to care. I increased volume and carried on, the noise now being joined by the hissing of the coffee machine.

There was a small charge of 5 Euros for each attendee, which was to cover the cost of tea or coffee and a very nice piece of apple pie. The waitress kindly came round taking orders for these while I was just starting to read the last extract from my book, about the triumphant arrival at the house of my birth.

Despite these interruptions, the event was a success. Everybody seemed to enjoy the talk, and every person there bought at least one signed copy of my book, of which all proceeds go to pancreatic cancer research. I shall shortly be placing a reasonable sum of money on my donation website.

If the last paragraph should happen to remind you that you were thinking of making a donation to help combat this dreadful illness, I have made it very easy for you. On this very page, above and to your right, you will see a big blue button. Pressing this will lead you into the short process by which you will be able to do your bit. Thanks in advance.

I would be very happy to give the same or a similar talk at any gathering of interested people, so long as it is within reasonable travelling distance or in any place to which I happen to be travelling. I already have another one lined up for Provence in October.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Ancient And Modern

My last post showed the very latest form of transport, the Airbus A350, less than 4 hours into its flying career, as it flew over our house to see if we are still here (more about that anon).

On Saturday we made a rare visit to Carcassonne and saw this ancient Austin roadster, which must be 100 years old and obviously still going strong, parked in the Route de Verdun. I wonder if there will be any A350s still flying in 100 years time?

I don't know which model this is, but presumably it is also an A - something.

Did you know that as long ago as the 1930s Datsun, now known as Nissan, were building Austin Sevens, first as a rip-off and then under licence? This was the beginning of Nissan's international success and now here they are returning the favour and building their cars, notably the Qashqai and the Juke, in Britain.

Friday, June 14, 2013

A350 - Maiden Flight Over Puivert

As I was talking to a neighbour just before lunch, I heard an aircraft overhead, looked up, and saw a bit of history in the making.

Today was the maiden test flight of the new Airbus A350 plane from Toulouse, and here it was, accompanied very closely by what looked like a jet fighter, directly over our house.

It was travelling very slowly for a jetliner but by the time I realised what it was, it was too far away for me to dash into the house for a camera.

So I have borrowed this publicity shot from the Internet.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Talk The Walk

Cathar Country and the Eastern Pyrénées
Discover the next English Library's event this monthBibliothèque Anglaise de la Haute Vallée
English Library "Get-Together"
Members & Non-Members

"Seventeen and a half Million Steps for Mankind" . Wednesday 19 June 2013 at 3 p.m. at the Carrefour's Bistrot in Quillan
Vic Heaney – Local Author & Charity Fund Raiser – will be speaking about his mammoth walking project - two years training followed by 70 days walking, at the age of 70, from the Aude to Lancashire - to raise funds for pancreatic cancer research.
All this was inspired by a scone in New Zealand and has been captured in the book "Vic's Big Walk from SW France to NW England".
Personally autographed copies of the book will be available for purchase - all proceeds go direct to pancreatic cancer research. E-book versions are also available on all major platforms such as Kindle, iBooks, Nook and Kobo.
A cup of tea or coffee and a pastry will be provided and a small charge of €5 to help raise funds for the English Library will be made.
Please help us if possible by dropping us an email to confirm your attendance as it will help with the pastries.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

More Blisters In One Day ...

At last we have some sunshine. Not bad, is it, a few days until we are halfway through the year, and the sun has decided to make an appearance in the South of France.

We made our normal Wednesday morning visit to Quillan market, where I took these pictures. Then a meeting with Attracta and Owen about the talk I am to give next Wednesday.

Gay dropped me off at Nebias for the 6 kms walk home. Yesterday I had walked from home to Nebias and back, which is clearly 12 kms. These two were the first decent walks, because of the weather, which I have had since leaving New Zealand in mid-April.

And I arrived home from today's walk with two small blisters, which is one more than I acquired in the whole two and a half years, 14,500 kms of the Vic's Big Walk project.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Walking Men

Just discovered these two other big walkers on the Internet. Those were the days!