Monday, 27 September 2010

Sunday Turning Monday

   It has been all up and down this week.  Lots of drawing, and distraction.  Peering at vast, heathered mountains in the sun, and three days of watching rain, which sometimes had the look of snow to my Canadian eye.

   Guitar chords are swaying their way in through the neighbours' wall and there are fiddle tunes riding out of the back room.  I have the computer's hush and the cars in the street and a little jumping candle flame.  I like that the apartment has a busyness to it tonight, not just the wind battering itself against the stony sides of the place and rushing in at the chimney to leave soot on the carpet.

   An orange-eyed cat lives on the ground floor of this building, and sometimes sits in the middle of the hallway beside its proper apartment, all eyes and grey hairs.  We have to step around it, all it can do is stare... or so we thought until yesterday when we turned around to find it watching us intently as we fumbled into our front door, two floors up.  It can also creep silently up stairs.

   The nights are beginning to feel heavy and rich, like wooden furniture in dark hallways, and smoke from wood fires on cold, dark walks through piles of leaves.  That is maybe a dream of home, I always dream of home once the nights get longer.  Then all I can think about is how the leaves should be rioting colours all over the place, not just dying meekly. Though, on Saturday there were big, brightly coloured mushrooms beneath the trees, pressing up out of the earth to sit like fallen candy apples, and a lot of pheasants tumbling their reds and iridescent greens down hill past them.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

There may be some cloud

    Two weeks and four days of life in Scotland, so far.  If you were me, these would be the houses you would see if you looked down the street from the kitchen window. 
   But mostly you would see the moody sky and the slate stone roofs.  Top floor living in a granite city by the sea, somehow makes me feel as if I am forever in a great ship, sailing through the ocean, or living in a giant nest beside the edge of the world.

   Sometimes a magpie and crow stop by and work together to strip away and steal pieces of the antennas from the chimneys across the way.  There are doves and seagulls, too, and wild geese have begun to fly south; we stop and open the windows to watch them pass.  We drink tea and speculate if enough moisture is falling or floating that one might say that it is raining, or if we are just in the midst of a spell of 'cloud'. 
   Once, during a torrential downpour, a window like the one you can see above, square in the middle of the roof, was raised and a man pulled himself up and out.  He slipped on the wet slate roof and almost fell, causing the world to freeze horribly for a moment, which I guess gave him the chance to right himself and go about his way.
   The first week was like this, waiting for our things to arrive in boxes, only being able to leave in shifts, in case the boxes should arrive.  Unpacking.  Moving all the furniture around until it was basically back where it was in the beginning.  Lots of sky watching.

   Next there came glimpses of the city, worrying the streets with our footsteps, always the same streets on errands, back and forth.

   I find the city charming with its many towers, old factory buildings, granite houses on lanes, and every now and then a brightly coloured lamp post, or a patch of flowers.  I haven't yet taken many photos of the city, but we have snapped two of the main square:

  Moving to a place where I can already speak the language makes everything seem easy.  I haven't quite gotten used to hearing English spoken outside my window.  My ears seek to understand overheard words in French, the way they used to transform Japanese or French into an imagined English in my early days in other places.  It's lovely to be able to communicate so freely, but a part of me also feels something akin to a loss of privacy.  So it's lucky that I am in a city where there are places where one can slip off to.

The other night we strolled down by the Brig O' Balgownie, built over the Don river in the 13th century by Robert the Bruce...

...and found a land of swans and seals.  Of course, the seals jump up and flip around in the air at odd moments, and are impossible to photograph.  I suppose it was too late for them to be laying about in the sun.

   Further on the river opens up to the sea.

And then, how good to come home to our aerie of stone, wind-whipped and wild from the seashore, to sit out the night as yellow leaves fly up past the window.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Last day in Paris

   The next bed I sleep in will be in Aberdeen.  This apartment is chaotic, and I am hiding from singing painters ("la la la chuis fatigué a la la oui oui oui") and carpenters; all our things are packed in boxes, which should be collected soon.  In between the packing, visa appointments, and looking for lodgings we have been saying our slow goodbye.  Goodbyes are awkward things.

    We stopped in the city of Angers on our way to see my husband's grandmother in Brittany for our 'so long' visit.

   Inside of a castle with a moat full of flowers was a treasure from the fourteenth century that I had been wanting to see for a long time: The Apocalypse Tapestry.  It was like a trip to wonderland, walking up and down the long, darkened gallery before panel after panel of strange beauty.  There were six huge rooms' worth of seven-headed monsters and dragons, horses with men's faces, falling stars, bagpipe-playing angels, shaken cities, nighttime gardens.  It was difficult to take any photos of it in the low light there; this was our best result:

 We stayed until closing, marvelling.

We strolled in an empty courtyard hung with heavy clouds, and then over the drawbridge and on to another day and another walled up place, this time in Brittany.

A doorway into the walled city of Guérande

The next day we flew through salt marshes on bicycles twice our age...

... until we found ourselves within the walls of the city of Guérande eating kouign aman (Breton for "butter cake" yum!) as a cathedral loomed over us.

We strolled a little, peered into windows...

... I liked the butcher's window best.  And then the shops began to close, the streets began to empty, and we jumped back on our bikes, past the tiny stone chapel, past the field with its one lonesome standing stone, through the salt marshes full of egrets, and home in time for dinner.

    On the way back to Paris we made a little detour to see the giant mechanical puppets of Royal de Luxe in their workshop in Nantes.  We arrived there just as a giant elephant came stomping and screaming out of the workshop, sometimes spraying water out of its trunk at passersby.  People waved at us from inside the palace on his back.

 This elephant has come to be a symbol of Nantes, a year or so ago we were thinking of possibly moving from Paris to Nantes, and everything we came across had this elephant all over it!

Inside, there were the makings of a Jules Verne-inspired merry-go-round, which will have three floors, representative of different depths of the ocean.  There will be sea monsters and squids, chariots drawn through the air by teams of flying fish, and so much more.

A walnut shell boat, fit for a tiny child.  In French, one says a walnut shell,  "Coque de Noix", for a little boat that is unsteady in the water and likely to capsize.

There was staff on hand to demonstrate the inventions.  I was copilot in a turn of the century hobby airplane, snoopy hat and all.

Outside, children rode on a smaller, one-story merry-go-round, which had boats bobbing on the ocean, a line of ladybugs in order of size, a sort of air bicycle-for-two held aloft by a fish balloon, a giant cockroach, seahorses, and other splendid things. 

Zoe has also blogged about some of the creations of Royal de Luxe, if you want to read more. 

   And then we were back in Paris. 
   It seems that every time I think about how we are leaving I think of another thing I wanted to see or do, and now it is too late.  Tonight we will meet friends in a church yard, and then other friends at a bar, and then we will go to the airport in the middle of the night.  The summer is ending and I hardly noticed it beginning, and now we are going away.