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stripping paint

Ye Gawds, it's been ages!

Posted on 2013.05.29 at 09:05
Tags: ,
Six months since the last post and no real excuse either. Except that life kept interfering :-D
So time for the long delayed post on the renovations of the outside of Rivendell, my home. You may remember that the winter before last was particularly cold and we discovered quite a few crannies where the cold managed to get into the house despite the fact that the walls are up to a meter thick. The decider was when we were sitting in the library with a nice fire going and both doors closed and there was a distinct draught coming from the, apparently solid, garden-side wall. I found there were cracks in the old stone that seemed to go all the way through. The problem was partially solved with expanding foam but it was was definitely time to finally redo the outside. I had left those walls deliberately as they were since I bought the house because I rather liked them in their rugged appearance. The house blended into the surroundings much better than the renovated ones did. But 20 years on, there was definitely too little of the lime mortar left between the stones. Remember the blue tits managed to nest in there!
So now I proposed to rejoint the facades on all three sides using lime mortar as it was before. But that was without counting on the 'Architects de France' in charge of historical buildings and sights. My house is 400 years old but it isn't protected. However, it is within 100 meters of the 1200 years old church, which definitely is. Now, just to be clear, I have neighbors just across the road who have done their walls precisely they way I proposed just a couple of years ago. However, the historic buildings architect in charge of our area had changed and the new one thought what the old one did was all wrong. Isn't that always the case! So, instead of getting the green-light as expected I got a letter telling me I had to mortar over all the stones on all sides except for the corner stones and the stairs that lead to the entrance galery on the first floor. I was furious! Changed plans cost more and I really don't like the fully plastered look as well. Still, you can't get around the Architect de France so I decided to half comply. With the connivance of my experienced mason we decided to do the streetsides as required and to interpret that phrase about the stairs widely to include the whole gardenside. So I got the jointed wall I wanted that shows nicely the different developments over the centuries and the Architect de France got what he wants streetside. And here's the results in autumn and winter. I rather like it. Now we just need the creepers to grow up the walls again.

Rivendell new
rivendell new

beau travail

Been travelling North

Posted on 2012.11.25 at 16:14
Current Mood: chipperchipper
Tags: , ,
I have been up North beyond the mountains and it looks like another country up there. It's much drier for one. The rains have been over up there for a month or so while here in Yaounde we still get the odd thunderstorm.

IMG_5946The countryside north of Garua on the way to Marua has still green bushes and fileds but is already turning rapidly yellow and when you reach Marua you feel the proximity of the great desert. Marua is green thanks to many tree-lined streets but there is sand underfoot everywhere. The river is dry already where it flooded only weeks ago and the heat is in the high 30° C. In lany ways Marua reminded me of N'Djamena only about a hundred km north and across the Chari in Chad. I spent a weekend with a new friend in Garua, capital of the Northern Province. he's a Frnech expat working there and had kindly invited me into his nice house and garden. Fun. Then on Monday morning my car had arrived in Garua as well after a three day journey from Yaounde and I headed north to Marua capital of the Extreme North Province. I know, sounds a bit like whoever named them had forgotten there was something north of North Province...

This is a huge continent and a large country with comparatively few people. There are probably just short of 20 million living in this country which stretches from the Gulf of Guinea to Lake Chad. Cameroon has 11 times the surface of Switzerland but just above twice it's population. And yet, you are never alone long travelling in Africa or in Cameroon. The main provincial roads here are not too bad and traffic is a mixed lot of trucks, 4X4s, battered busses and things like this mini bus with it's great load of bags full of freshly harvested cotton.


Volcanic plugs characterise part of the Extreme North Province between Marua and lake Chad while just south of it the rock formations reminded me of Matobo in Zimbabwe. This little village was guarded by what clearly was a sitting king with a head dress like a pharao.

IMG_5949 - Copy
A tip, if you should stay in Larua for a few nights go to the Relais de la Porte Mayo. It's by far the most atmospheric local hotel and has a lovely garden and good food in the middle of town at very resasonable prices too. It's a small hotel though and booking well ahead is necessary. You'd be surprised just how many tourists end up in this far corner of Cameroon. http://www.cameroun-plus.com/file/index.php?p_nid=54732 


Reading Matters - The Last Resort

Posted on 2012.10.27 at 12:07
Current Location: Yaounde, Cameroon
Current Mood: nostalgicnostalgic
Current Music: Callas
Tags: , ,
last resort

Quite a few books have been written in recent years by exiled children of white Zimbabweans. Many if not all, whether they claim to be autobiographical or not are heavily influence by the feelings of the writer about his lost home country and what is happening there. Some find it impossible to jump over the shadow of bitterness to even attempt a balanced view. That is definitely not the case here. I'm not going to repeat the blurb or the descriptions of many others what this book is about. It's about a son discovering his parents and about the son of a country rediscovering his homeland and its people having lived afar for years.

Having lived in Zimbabwe recently for a good three years and become friends with some Zimbabweans of all colours and political inclinations, I have to say The Last Resort, like no other book I have read manages to capture just how extraordinary Zimbabwe and the Zimbabweans are. More than any of the serious treatises and analysis, it manges to give a feel of what living the past few years in Zimbabwe WAS like and how people lived with it. It shows the heart break, the violence, the sheer craziness and the resilience and "we'll-make-a-plan-spirit" that is for so much in the frankly surprising recovery that has started operating almost as soon as the far from safe or perfect ZANU-PF&MDC Government came into being. That same spirit borne of a deep attachment to the country made you feel hopeful in the middle of the deepest crisis when political violence ripped at the social fabric and a crazy inflation destroyed the last of the economy. Throughout it all, Zimbabweans, even those who left, never lost the love for this wonderful piece of earth. There is bitterness, of course there is. But there is also a common, old-fashioned decency that manages to reassert itself in the middle of the worst excesses. It's the same spirit and decency that pervades 'The Last Resort' together with a huge affection for land and people and which rang such an immediate bell with me. Reading it at times horrified at times laughing, I thought: 'This is so right, so true'.

reader in white

Reading Matters - Strange Fortune

Posted on 2012.09.15 at 10:58
Current Location: Yaounde, Cameroon
Current Mood: cheerfulcheerful
Tags: , ,

Strange Fortune by Josh Lanyonstrange fortune, josh lanyon

Well, well, this is a bit of a departure from the Lanyon novels I have read so far. Instead of what I have come to look at as his trade mark who-dunnit style novels featuring one nervy, self-doubting, often writing hero and a dark, and handsome, square jawed, no nonsense police or detective type confronting crime and danger and their own issues somewhere in the States, here we are in a different world. The two hero types are true Lanyon but it's a world inspired by the Raj, the Anglo-Indian empire and the great mutiny. Strange, as in Major Valentine Strange is a literary brother of Cromwell's Richard Sharpe of the Indian adventures. There are hints of the 'Far Pavilions' of the 'Siege of Krishnapur' even of 'Passage to India' and of Kippling. In some ways this even reminded me of Pratchett's 'Nation' and its parallel British Empire, even though Lanyon's creation is quite capable of standing on it's own feet. Lanyon twists things beyond the usual Indian setting and takes us to a parallel world where India isn't quite India and magic is very much alive and kicking – mostly in the heroes' balls. The heroes being aforementioned Major, formerly of the Benhali Lancers, Valentine Strange and Master Aleister Grimshaw, last survivor of a disgraced colonial family and a witch. The story follows the established fantasy pattern. The heroes go in search of a magical object, face many dangers along the way and come to the brink of the end of the world. Finally, well, … you better read it for yourself. Meanwhile they discover things about each other and themselves. This is well crafted, like most of Lanyon's novels and he has invested quite some effort in creating his world and making it coherent in itself. The characters are alive and if there is the odd hint of Indiana-Jones-like settings, the story is all the more fun for it. It's a story more elaborate than Lanyon's lighter novels and it has serious points to make about the choice between right and wrong and facing ones own demons etc. The 'romance' side of it is lightly done and never less than simply part of the story that is more a Romance in the classical and fantasy sense of a story of a heroic quest.

I for one hope that Strange follows Sharpe's example and has a few more appearances to make. After 'Strange Fortune' why not go for 'Strange Times' or 'Strange Friends' :-D



Posted on 2012.08.04 at 09:55
Current Location: Yaounde, Cameroon
Current Mood: busybusy
Tags: , ,
It's been a while moving from France to Cameroon and finally settling in my new house but the basics are there and I spent the last weeks settling in. It's a bit of a barn of a place and I need to turn it into my home. While the house is much roomier than the one in Harare, the garden was always going to be a disappointment. No city has got quite the same approach to gardens as Harare where the average garden size in the low density area is probably about 1/2 acre. Compared to that the grassy yard out front of this place is not even a garden. Still, it's green and luckily the next door plot is unbuilt and huge banana plants as well as a flame tree reach over my wall. So here we go, have a look round the new place which for obvious reasons I call 'la maison rose'.

la maison roseGARDEN FROM PORCH
PORCHSalon von der Esszimmerseite

SalonTVecke links

mouth wash

Landlord to Blue Tts

Posted on 2012.05.28 at 12:44
Current Location: France, Rivendell
Current Mood: cheerfulcheerful
Tags: ,
Try be a good landlord to your feathered friends from the garden and what do you get? A kick in the teeth :-D

Here I was squeezing out of a tiny window installing a little nest box for the Bluetits and feeling chuffed when I saw them inspect it at length. Then what do they do? They go and move into a draughty hole in the stone wall right next to my snug little bird chalet! Well if they all catch pneumonia it'll serve them right!! But it seems they are prospering in their 'cave'. The eggs have hatched and the parents are busy shuttling from garden to house and back giving me a chance to take a few potshots with the EOS:

The 'chalet' on the right and you see Mrs Tit peeking out of her 'cave mouth' not a foot to the left!

Mr Tit looking fluffy and chuffed with himself while hunting for beetles and stuff in the flowering Tamarisk

Mrs Tit looking a bit more stressed out as she shuttles incessantly back and forth from garden to nest:

Can't wait to see the chicks!



Posted on 2012.05.02 at 16:50
Current Location: France, Rivendell
Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
Tags: , , ,
Well it's been a pretty miserable April weatherwise and this has kept me from getting on with installing my sculptures in the garden - at least that's my excuse and I'll stick with it! :-D    Still, between April showers and storms I managed to get the pieces one by one out into the garden and now it really starts looking good; even the ones that were damaged during the transport and that I had to put back together with stone glue. So here is the Zimbabwean Sculpture Garden in Burgundy:

Two friends

The hunter under the Cedar tree




Garden with Kuros

The magical flying bird...

Comfort in Burgundy

stripping paint

Moving House

Posted on 2012.03.15 at 13:51
Current Location: France, Rivendell
Current Mood: draineddrained
As those who follow me may know, I have recently moved house from southern Africa to France. A couple of weeks ago my freight finally arrived and? while most of the stone sculptures are yet to find their place in the garden, some paintings have already been rehung in the house. Here are a few 'before and after' pictures:

Here are the three Cheetah brothers above the fireplace in Harare and in the library at home. The Bookcase has also travelled and provides sorely needed additional space. It now regroups my GLBT books with some space left for more.

The dreaming Leopard has gone from the living room in Zim to my bedroom in Burgundy...

And the younG Kudu bull from the dining room has found a space in the home cinema cum guest bedroom. The m'bira lamp above it, is now in the staircase with Percy Manyanga's cattle painting which was the first work of art I bought in Harare way back in 2008...

Things are slowly coming together. Now if I could just find that elusive spell that makes all the packing material disappear at the snap of two fingers...

Reading Matters - Deliverance

Posted on 2012.03.12 at 06:45
Current Location: France, Rivendell
Current Mood: chipperchipper
Tags: , , , ,
Deliverance - A story that waited to be told. The strength of the Special Forces epic - one of many strengths - is the depth of many of the secondary characters. They practically beg to have their own stories explored and none more so than Hooch, the opportunist Delta who falls for the baby jarhead Matt. Now the author of Hooch and Matt has provided just that story. Deliverance is a stand alone story. You don't need to have read Special Forces to enjoy Deliverance. In some ways it may be even better if you haven't because Deliverance is a very different story. Marquesate writing with TA Brown delves into what happens to this couple of American soldiers after they realise they have become a couple and how they live under DADT what happens to them after Hooch's return from a near fatal mission when he has to accept to leave field operations and become a trainer for Special Forces soldiers. Marquesate and TA Brown provide an extensive prologue of the relationship between Hooch and Matt as it developped in the Special Forces epic. Whether that is needed or only nice to have is difficult to judge when you have read the epic anyway. It is certainly a generous helping of background to start with. From there, the story evolves. In typical Marquesate fashion, there apear a number of important and well drawn secondary characters. Matt's mother Anne is one of those strong, warm women Marquesate writes so well. Mandy, the bubbly receptionist could be straight out of Legally Blonde - a dizzy Barbie with brains, empathy and grit added. But Deliverance is above all what it says it is, Hooch and Matt's story. A largely internal journey that takes them places the reader doesn't expect and leaves them both changed at the end. Some of these places may be disturbing; if you aren't keen on extreme bondage for instance. Some of the changes may not be what you hoped for. But looking at the start and who the characters were then, and who and what they are in 2011 when the story ends is not only possible and believable but in many ways seems inevitable. Along the way we do get hot sex, quite a bit of it including kinky bits. Typically for those who know the writers, the sex is part of an ever growing tapestry depicting these two characters and one that, particularly where Hooch is concerned, has strands that are hinted at. Others that are partly developed. But, just as in real life you don't get to know everything about someone, there is much left to the reader's imagination, left in the shadows in which Hooch has survived for so long. For me that is perhaps one of the strongest points of this book. Hooch is a larger than life character at the start. A man who is inhumanely in control of his emotions so much so that he is barely functional as a social being. Hoch fascinates and repells in equal measure. If it weren't for his relationship with Matt, he would be a monster, someone who would make you want leave the room quietly and very unobtrusively before he could take you in his sights. At the end of the book, Hooch has become much more human. There is one scene (I'm not going to spoil it for you) where a mischievious, cheekly schoolboy Hooch of 50 had me grinning like an idiot. There is a danger, however, in making Hooch more human. That of loosing what made him such an attractively scary and deep character. There is no doubt that Hooch is less scary at the end than he was at the beginning. Just how scary can you be when you have a little 'niece' calling you Unca Hooch? If he moved into the house next door, you might actually consider staying in the area rather than calling your real estate agent to sell immediately. Luckily, thanks to those dangling strands revealing other glimpses of Hooch than the ones fully drawn out, he remains a character that leaves you guessing; makes you imagine; makes you want to know more. For me, closing a book and wanting to shake the author, saying 'You can't do that to me! You can't just leave this dangling, leave me hanging!' is a sign of a book that has caught me in its imagination and that keeps its grip after I closed it. Thanks to this, the changed Hooch has lost nothing of his fascination even if we know him a little better than at the start of the journey and know now that it is OK and we won't be killed immediately if we confess we like him.  


The Thermal Advantages of a Fireplace

Posted on 2012.03.04 at 16:37
Current Mood: amusedamused
If you ask a heating technician or a scientist, they will tell you that open fireplaces are inefficient and that most of the heat generated there escapes up the chimney. In some ways they are no doubt right. However, while I was piling up a couple of sters of new firewood the other day I had time to think and came to the conclusion that their analysis of the heat provision of fireplaces is incomplete.

There is much more warmth provided by an open fireplace than meets the scientific eye.
Of course, there is the one coming from the fire and that is indeed not the most efficient way of garnering heat from burning logs. I discovered a second source of warmth while I was piling the wood that had been dumped in front of the grange. I assure you I had strictly no need of an oven for a god hour after finishing the wood pile. So the first time and open fireplace keeps you warm is when the wood is delivered and you have to pile it and possibly chop it too. Then I found there is a second time you are being kept warm and that is when you lug the logs from the pile to the fireplace. The third time is the one your thermal specialist told you is inefficient. The first two are amazingly effective and can provide warm (aching) muscles for hours. And all this without even taking into account the mental warmth and cheer an open fire provide to those who gather around it to read a book and sip a glass of whatever takes their fanacy. talking of which, time to light the fire and open a bottle of Burgundy!

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