Thursday, September 13, 2007

This blogging lark

I've been writing a blog for about three weeks now, first elsewhere and then here, so I'm having a think about it all.

So far I've had 2 comments, both from this lovely lady in Kentucky: - she has lots of dogs and posts super pictures and sweet stories about them. I wonder how she found me? I wonder also why nobody else comments. I'm a beginner, I must be getting loads wrong, but if everyone just keeps quiet about it I'll never know and just bumble along none the wiser.

And I've one other link, from Holly of which is called "A Liberal Life". Holly is a keen Lib Dem (and a keen lots of things actually!)

I know only too well how Holly found me though: I have been badgering just about everyone I know, and many who I really don't know, to come and read my stuff here. It should be embarrassing and that it isn't is probably not a good sign about me. Sorry.

Please let me know what you think of the show so far - which sort of post do you like to read most, is there anything that bugs you about the blog (other than my harping on about it), anything else you'd like see here?

Friday, September 7, 2007

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Another Journey

We set off from Horley railway station: small shops, weedy car-parks, and the yellow stockbrick Victorian house with a neon sign upstairs advertising tattoos. I have to force myself to notice things so familiar.

South London arrives with angled lines of near-black brick terraces. Next to the track is a jumble of garden sheds, tarpaulin-covered shacks and secret dens. At Clapham Junction a weatherboarded station building with sash windows looks out of time. A sole trainspotter registers our engine's passing.

Into Victoria and onto the tube; from the outer reaches of the Picadilly line I see a sign for Heathrow Palace Guest House.

Carrying my bag along interminable corridors at Heathrow, the walking shoes begin to make sense: "Ugliness well spent" is B's verdict.

Eventually, we get out to the plane (18 rows of seats - not exactly jumbo). Aeroplanes puzzle me. They travel so fast, but no part of them appears to move: speed with zero haste. With rigid wings and engines whose working baffles me, they seem sustained by a joint suspension of disbelief in the intuitive truth that such a thing cannot possibly fly. No flapping, no feathers, not even any sails; only the sight of re-fuelling robs them of their mystery.

About three-quarters of the way to Munich, the pitch of the engines drops, and shortly afterwards my ears pop. For many more minutes we are in cloud, then suddenly we see land, much closer than I expected. Far lower than at Heathrow we are still over countryside, the fields divided into strips, not a scrap wasted or uncultivated. A brown river curls between separate halves of land.

Very close to the ground we are still turning, and as we land we seem to bounce and brake sharply. Then the opening announcement is in German: we have arrived. Glorious sunshine, Simpsons clouds, and the wonderful feeling of being just far enough away from home.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

From Toulouse to the hills by train

There was the usual high speed train trick: somebody started to move the platform. A few minutes later the train is darting forward, uncannily smooth for its speed.

The sun is out here just as it was at home, but here its heat seems stronger. Pale stony soil and bleached stubble stretch out on either side of the track's low embankment. Grey woods look even greyer in the distance, and cars as small as toys shoot along on an invisible road. There is an un-English absence of hedges. Suddenly against the sky I see a stepped wall of bells, improbable and over-dramatic as stage scenery.

We slow in respect of a small town but don't stop, like passing a lesser picture in a gallery. By unspoken agreement all buildings are ocher, cream, pale grey - anything but white. When we pass a lone exception it is clear why: it seers the eye with brightness, even in autumn.

Then for once the train is delayed, and we wait and wait in the middle of the faded dusty landscape. The small far clouds are unmoving and even in September the sun bakes the train. I look out and long for the garden I have been ignoring for the last six moths, and the verdure of England at the end of a wet summer.

Eventually we move off towards the next town. Gardens, edged with serried ranks of trees, all contain some version of a swimming pool. The houses are small, single storey, with shallow-pitched roofs bearing inter-crinkled red tiles. Everywhere everything looks rectangular. At each few houses there is a well, an orchard, immaculately tended rows of vegetables.

A line of plane trees, like English willows along a riverbank, marks a canal, from which a barge protrudes above the horizon. A few minutes further on, a driveway through fields is picked out by a double file of mediterranean pines.

Without my noticing, the clouds have gathered, and the light is no longer as clear. Vines replace stubble, overlaying each hillside with a directional grain as though a comb had been passed through them. Like trees in a plantation they seem a muddle until you reach just that point when you see plumb along the line. Each vineyard brings yet more long green walls, all on little wonky legs.

Beyond Carcasonne we travel up the valley of the Aude, through towering gorges with the modest river that carved them bubbling along below. The water is shallow and beautifully clear; as usual with natural things I ask it its prayer, not really expecting an answer. The following day I lean over the bridge on a wander through town and a reply comes to my mind. It is what it does, and it does what it is. So I began to write.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007