Verdi’s Requiem

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We went this evening to Verdi’s Requiem at the Bozar concert hall in Brussels. There were several sections with a back beat you couldn’t lose it. There was one where four additional trumpets, up on a balcony, were ushered into sound by the conductor. And throughout the piece the alto struggled with the orchestra and the choir, swinging her head sharply from one side to the other, and came out on top like a dog with a stolen shoe. It was a great slab of music.

Hilary Mantel on history

“[History is] what’s left in the sieve when the centuries have run through it – a few stones, scraps of writing, scraps of cloth. It is no more “the past” than a birth certificate is a birth, or a script is a performance, or a map is a journey.” [Guardian, 3.6.17]

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This is the engagement ring my grandfather gave my grandmother in Barrow before the first world war. It’s engraved on the inside, from him to her, George to Nell, and the date, 1909 I think, or 1911.

When my grandmother died my aunt wore it.

She gave it to my sister, My sister gave it to my daughter. My daughter wears it now. I wonder who will wear it next. Or if it will fall down the drain when someone’s washing up, fall through the sieve.

It isn’t the past, of course. But I don’t think it’s the present, either,


Eddie Jones on rugby and cycling

The rugby team of La Rochelle, near where we are spending this long weekend, is doing unexpectedly well. Tonight they beat Lyon, the league leaders, away from home in the rain to go second. There was one try – we heard a cheer from the nearby bars of Châtelaillon as it was scored.

This is à propos of this quote about Eddie Jones, England’s (to me) faith-inducing head rugby union coach:

Jones watched the Tour de France, liaising with the Australian team Orica-Scott. “The cyclists ride 240km and then have a 45-minute cycle to their bus,” he said. “Imagine asking a rugby player to walk five kilometres to the dressing room after a game: they complain if they have to walk upstairs. Cyclists deal with that and stay in two-star hotels: their mindset is they will put up with anything to get the job done. I am not saying rugby is soft in comparison, merely that we do not know how far we can go.” (The Observer, 6 August 2017)

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The photo, taken in a bar in Haaltert, shows the finish of the Round of Flanders in April this year. Like the rugby in Chatel this evening, as I walked through the interconnected villages that spring day everyone was aware of the race going on. I don’t know which is tougher – I could believe it is the cycling – but the toughness is part of what makes us want to follow both these sports.

On the moules again (3): Châtelaillon-Plage, Les Boucholeurs and La Rochelle, western France

If there’s anywhere to go for mussels, this is it. Here in Chatel there’s a mussel-and-oyster stall at the bottom of the road. As for Les Boucholeurs, the next village down, it is named after the bouchot, a stave in the water on which mussels are reared.

public sign PRIORITE AUX CONVOIS CONCHYLICOLES Les Boucholeurs 1117.JPGAcross its fine new promenade, shellfish cultivators have right of way.

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Because you can get mussels anywhere, I put off the pleasure and, at lunch at Mirko al Mare on 1 November (packed with a jolly All-Saints-Day holiday crowd, flowers presumably previously deposited on family gravestones) ate instead lavagnons, which I’d never heard of before. They were good (with apple and calvados) though I couldn’t swear to tell the difference, out of the shell, between them and vongole and palourdes.

Today we went to La Rochelle on the bus. Let’s have lunch at the café de la Paix where Simenon used to go: they’ll have mussels, of course they will.

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Mussels if in season said the menu – which they are. We have no mussels, said the waiter. Or, he corrected himself, we have no mussels left.

Good fish soup though, and Muscadet by the glass.

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