Saturday 26 December 2009

'Tis The Season

This is the doorway from our kitchen to what is now our living room. The house used to be the village café and grocer's shop, and when the door was open it allowed anyone in the kitchen to see what was happening in the bar.
The greenery came from the edge of the wood up the road and this year I was lucky to get there early and find holly with berries- a few days later all the rest been taken.

On Saturday we woke up to snow and had a pretty walk up the hill as far as the old stone cross.
In the early afternoon we tried to drive to a friend's house as she'd got the Christmas edition of the 'Radio Times' for us and they're like hen's teeth round here, but we had to turn back after getting stuck partway up a very slippery hill and narrowly escaping a JCB which slewed out of control on its way down and headed in our direction. More fun as a car skidded into it with the
bucket smashing into the driver's window. Now, that's what I call excited Frenchmen! Enough thrills for the day, thank you very much, and we headed home. It was just starting to go dark when I drew the the snowy scene from the bedroom window. It had a sense of urgency and oncoming night, time to close up the curtains and stoke up the log stove.

At the busy supermarket on Tuesday large tables had been set up, laden with Coquilles St. Jacques, or scallops, covered with seaweed to keep them cool and fresh. I ordered a tea at the café and when I asked for milk, the man asked if I wanted hot or cold..the French rarely take milk with their tea.
A friend's small sons spotted me sketching and came over to have a look- I teach them drawing, and I was pleased they'd seen me working 'out in the field'- such a good example!

It's Christmas Day, and you don't have to be a monarchist to find yourself watching the Queen's yearly speech to the nation!

As I'm finishing off a drawing from the TV, our neighbour from the farm across the road (who's a bit of a 'rough diamond') comes round to use the phone. Apparently, he's no longer our neighbour as he and his partner have split up.. he tells us she's expecting a baby- they already have a six-year old daughter. He's worried because their Alsatian dog's loose in the village, and no-one home. When I ask him he says he lives 'nowhere' at present, but has work repairing and constructing earth-built houses, and the use of the works' van.

We give him coffee and home-made ginger biscuits and he says we can have his remaining chickens, then he asks if we could do a portrait of his daughter sometime, he would really love a picture of Tia.....

Tuesday 15 December 2009

Starry, Starry Window.

I'm woken early by a frantic knocking at the door- there's a train strike, local services are cancelled, and two friends on their way to the States desperately need a lift to Rennes station, in order to catch their train to Charles de Gaulle airport. I check the TGV is still running; Mr Price can take them but as he'll now be very late for work, it means we'll have to do together today's Christmas window painting.
It's at Tregueux, near St. Brieuc, at a bank, and, hurray, when we get there they say we can decide for ourselves what to paint. We've already discussed this in the car- it's a very long window which runs down the side of the bank, and we thought a wide ribbon of small stars, punctuated by shooting stars would look effective. The window is slightly tinted, so we keep to light tones, broken whites and gold-yellows.
The French take a long time over lunch, and so we go to eat at 12.15 at the bar/workman's café just up the road.
In France, even a small village might have one of these; they offer a cheap, mainly home-made meal, usually of four courses. This includes a bottle of red wine, but we can have rosé, cider, or fruit juice if we wish.
It isn't just workmen in here, there's a gaggle of office workers and, next to us, two women with a small child and a baby.
Most commerces here close for around two hours at lunchtime- even some of the large supermarkets, so service is at a 'relaxed pace'. The food's good, too, and it's with food and cider-fuelled enthusiasm that we return to the 'bank job' !
Back at 'Credit Mutuel de Bretagne' the window's taking shape, I'm painting the smaller stars- hundreds of them. People come up and say how lovely, it's a busy place and the girl behind the desk is sick and fed up of people asking for free calendars, which are only ready next Tuesday. There's a sign pinned up about this, but no one notices, and some have come back three times. She makes a strangling sign with her hands....
We make good time and the window paintings finished before dark. I take photos inside and out, it looks good, we're pleased, they're pleased, and we're off and away and home by dusk.