20 February 2018


Tasha is sleeping quietly on the rug right next to my chair as I type this. What a difference in her behavior now that she is nearly a year old. Six months ago, she would have been running round the room, chewing on whatever she could find to chew on, and barking her shrill little bark. I like today's dog better than yesterday's, I think. Natasha est sage comme une image maintenant.

Here are a few more photos that I took a couple of days ago around the yard. I was using the Canon camera that I hardly ever think to take out and use. I think I've done that camera a kind of injustice by not using it more often. Now I want to give it to a friend. I've often thought about selling it on, for example, the French Au Bon Coin web commerce site, but I've never gotten around to uploading the ad.

I don't think that bricks like the one pictured above, with a Saint-Aignan logo stamped onto it, were used in the construction of our house back in the 1960s. And I don't know why there were half a dozen or more of them scattered around the property when we bought it 15 years ago. Such bricks date back to the days when every little town had its own brick works for local projects. It wasn't easy to haul bricks over long distances in those days.

The vineyard scene above shows one of my favorite views here close to the house. As one local vigneron told me years ago, around Saint-Aignan we have de vrais coteaux — actual hills and slopes — on which grapes like Sauvignon Blanc, Gamay, Cabernet Franc, Malbec/Côt, and Chenin Blanc, among others, do well. In other areas not far away, you see grapes planted on flat land. Apparently, the topography makes a difference in the nature of the wines produced from the grapes. That's what terroir is all about.

Finally, our house doesn't have a roof made with these old terra cotta tiles. People keep stacks of roof tiles to use as spares in case strong winds blow them off the roof, requiring patching. The tiles on our roof are made of concrete, and we also have a stack of them in reserve. Eight or nine years ago a strong storm ripped a dozen or so tiles off our roof, so the extras we saved when we had skylight windows installed upstairs came in handy. Oh, I took this last photo using one of my Panasonic Lumix cameras. Can you see a difference?

19 February 2018

Wintertime flowers and a Canon camera

Because I couldn't call MA yesterday — well, not only for that reason — I called an old friend in California. Her name is Sue, and I've known her since 1975. We met in Paris through another longtime friend of mine, who happened to be Sue's cousin Cheryl. Sue, Cheryl, Walt, and I got to be really good friends when we all lived in northern California between 1986 and 2003. Unfortunately, Cheryl passed away a couple of years ago. Her husband, John, had left us in 1998. We haven't seen Sue in nearly 12 years (time flies).

The real reason for my call to Sue was that she had phoned me while I was in North Carolina and I'd had to cut the call short because I had some appointment or another that I needed to keep. Sue had been traveling and when she returned home she saw on this blog that my mother had passed away. She knew my mother for many years, and MA always described Sue as "such a pretty girl." MA loved Sue's house and yard in the foothills of California's Sierra Nevada mountains.

Another reason for my call was that Sue will be coming to spend a couple of weeks with us in June. We are coordinating our schedules and making plans. One definite stop during her visit will be a trip to the Château de Villandry to walk around in the gardens. Sue has come to the Loire Valley three times since the year 2000, but one sight she's never seen, she told me yesterday, is Villandry, which is only about an hour west of Saint-Aignan. Sue will also be traveling to Croatia while she's in Europe for most of May and June.

Sue and I also talked about cameras. She said her Panasonic had developed a splotch (a hazy dark spot) on its image sensor and she was thinking of buying a new camera. I told her how I had opened up and cleaned the innards of two of my Panasonic cameras recently. She's going to bring her camera to France in June and let me try to clean it. Meanwhile, I want to send her one of my digital cameras so she'll have time to use it before her trip and see if it meets her needs. It's a Canon model (SX700 HS), and I took the pictures here with it yesterday.

18 February 2018

Telephone memories of MA

Today, February 18, would have been my mother's 88th birthday. She left this world 15 days ago, felled by cancer. Mary Allen, as we knew her, always believed she would die young, because both her parents did. That turned out to be a wrong-headed notion. Eighty-eight is certainly a respectable age.

A "burn pile" of tree limbs, branches, and other yard trimmings on a neighbor's property

It will seem strange not to pick up the telephone and talk to MA this afternoon. She had come to Saint-Aignan a couple of times and met several of our neighbors. I had been traveling back to North Carolina to see her once or twice a year for the past 15 years, so I got to know many of her friends and neighbors. We had a lot of people we enjoyed talking about — not to mention all the members of our extended family. RIP, MA.

17 February 2018

Ground and trunks

It's wintertime, of course, and it's raining again this morning. Yesterday, however, was a pretty day, and I enjoyed taking some photos during my afternoon stumble around the vineyard with Natasha. It's slippery wet out there, and branches and limbs litter the ground.

Cyclamens are blooming in the yard, mostly under the big Himalayan cedar on the north side of the house. I've also been seeing a lot of primrose leaves, but there are no flowers so far. Our weekend is supposed to be dry, so I'll be able to get back into the routine of walking mornings and afternoons.

16 February 2018


I took this photo on a dock in the Crab Point area of Morehead City, on the Newport River. Friends of a friend live there.This is the spot from which I took the photo of the new Beaufort high-rise bridge that I posted a few days ago.

The people living there said they just found the dead fish on the dock some time ago. It had been brought up onto the dock and consumed by a bird or mammal of some kind — maybe an otter, they said, though I'm not sure there are otters in the rivers around Morehead.

P.S. I read this information on this site: In North Carolina, "...otters are found primarily in the Coastal Plain, where they can be fairly common to locally common around estuaries, lower portions of rivers, large creeks, and canals — in the Tidewater area and eastern Coastal Plain. Farther inland, they are uncommon to fairly common in the remainder of the Coastal Plain, generally uncommon in the eastern Piedmont, and rare to locally uncommon farther westward. During historical times, it was more widespread, but it has declined greatly in the 20th and 21st Centuries, though it is making a comeback in some places." My doubts were groundless.