So, I'm back. It was very hot and I've been doing little of note, mostly sitting around on the balcony and reading in my bikini. I did manage to make some notes on my Treo during the first week though, so here you go.
It's +40 here. The river has dried up. I feel sorry for Dad - all the birds seem to have gone elsewhere and its too hot to go walking. I'm quite happy out on the terrace reading and trying to photograph lizards who mock me by scuttling over the edge of the wall just as I get the camera focused. I got some wonderful butterfly photos though. Dad caught one in a jar and put it in the fridge for 10mins so I could take pictures of it warming up which he assures me is how the professionals do it.
A brief thunderstorm has lowered the temperature at least for a little so Dad has been able to go out for a walk to enjoy the wildlife. I, meanwhile have finished another book. Since leaving on Friday I have read:
- Hyperion (1/2) & Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons. Picking up from my bedtime re-reading I polished off these once again. I love them & wish I had bought the Endymion pair too. Wonderful fantasy style storytelling of an SF tale.
- The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder. Dust jacket quotes to the contrary, although I loved Sophie's World this did little for me. It's prettily and engagingly written but there didn't seem to be much of a story or lesson there. It felt more like a story you might read to a child. Enjoyable nonetheless
- Carabas by Sophie Masson. A beautiful reworking of the Puss in Boots tale. Magic and mysterious but perhaps a little secretive, with the explanation not fully explained by the end.
- Popcorn by Ben Elton. I didn't find this a funny book but it wasn't bad. It did suffer a little from heavy handed point making though.
- Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb. This is book one of a series which I picked up from Oxfam. It's not quite your typical fantasy novel, although the setting is right. It follows several threads which meet and part as the story goes on and I would definitely like to see where they are going. The characterisation, always important in a novel of this style, is good and the characters a good mix of those to sympathise with and those you hope will meet a sticky end before the series is out.
- Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn. An elegant tale set in a feudal Japan style society with a touch of added mysticism. Although apparently part of a trilogy, the story is also complete in itself filled with tragic love and honour
- Death's Jest-book by Reginald Hill. This is a Daziel and Pascoe mystery or almost one and 1/2 because one thread deals with the after effects of a previous case - the Wordman. This is somewhat confusing to those of us who saw the TV version where that was all tidily wrapped up at the time but we can only assume that liberties were taken with the text. There's also Pascoe's obsession with Frannie Root which flowers into mutuality and finally a conventional heist to round it out. Enjoyable but I can see why it didn't make it to TV - not enough bodies.
The gym must be getting to me. I actually suggested that Dad and I take the 3 mile circular walk together in the late afternoon. First down the hill to the village where we buy drinks and I write postcards. Then on a long track back up the mountain. There's tonnes of wildlife and I got some great photos of butterflies and bugs. The views as we get higher are breathtaking. We return hot and tired but happy. Last year I would have been completely exhausted by it but apart from a couple of quick stops to catch breath after particularly steep bits I managed fine. I really am getting fit!
We went out on Friday for an explore of the causse - the grassy, scrubby regions on the mountain tops. It's very beautiful in a wild empty way, a little like the Yorkshire moors but the rarities Dad was hoping to see didn't materialise perhaps preferring the shade. Pausing in a village for a drink, we saw the results of a forest fire, very recent by the number of fire trucks around, which had stopped just short of the village. We headed on through the blackened landscape and at the far edge saw a small deer by the side of the road. We descended from the mountain tops to the Gorge du Tarn, a well known beauty spot where we stopped for a paddle before heading back for dinner via another of the causse. Dinner was delicious - not the country cooking of the hotel in our village but refined and delicate. Sated, we spotted another regional delicacy on the drive home - a pair of wild boar by the side of the main road. It was obviously our night for wildlife as we paused twice more on the way back to let a pine marten pass and to hunt for a possible scopses owl which swooped across the windscreen. Finally, we got a great view of a tawny owl perched on a tree by our driveway before turning in for the night. Saturday we braved the roads despite the heat to go shopping - I'll need a wine rack when I get back :) Since then we've been relaxing and reading on the terrace waiting for the heat to drop.
I will miss the escargot for dinner but it feels positively cool in the office now :) The weather didn't really break the whole time we were there and it reached at least 37 every day, I think. After Wednesday's summary I read
- The Scar by China Mieville. Good, but not as fantastic as I was expecting somehow - perhaps the reviews pushed expectation unreasonably high. Anyway, it was another very good book, filled with great ideas. I like the way that he doesn't feel the need to elaborate on all the available stories, leaving some things to your imaginations. I wish he'd told us why the Lover wanted to go to the Scar though.
- Flow, my Tears, the Policeman Said by Philip K Dick. Much more readable than I was expecting - the last PKD I tried to read was Valis, I think. I found the main characters reaction surprisingly stoical but it was actually a pretty enjoyable read.
- Bagombo Snuff Box by Kurt Vonnegut. Short stories written in the era of the magazine short story. All very enjoyable - he's a writer who's style definitely suits me. I was expecting it to be more genre weighted but most didn't include science fiction elements at all.
- Only Forward by Michael Marshall Smith. A re-read of one of my favourite books. Both the character of Stark and his writing style as a whole really strike a chord for me.
- Hexwood by Diana Wynne Jones. Another re-read of a perennial favourite. Full of little complexities. I always find myself wanting to check whether Hume references David Hume in any way.
- Fortunes Rocks by Anita Shreve. A very detatached tale about the doomed love affair of a teen turning adult in turn of the century North East America. Managed to be enjoyable despite the fact that I didn't like the heroine much.
- The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser. A historical biography of the lives of Henrys wives and the tale of their association with him. I found it very interesting, but then I'm a sucker for history. I don't think you could describe it as easy reading, but it was enjoyable
and I feel properly rested. I wasn't quite out of touch - the gite had satellite (but only the free channels) so we listened to Radio 4 a few times - but it was nice to have a break from the whole world too. I may have given in to the temptation to post, but I didn't read anything or do any support (as I understand Alex has alleged) and I feel better for the break, although it's going to take me days to catch up with my friends page now! If I missed anything exciting (apart from Caption, of course), comment and tell me.
I wish Alex had been able to come, but we communicated by text and even a couple of phone calls and had a lovely evening of hugs last night. Cassie doesn't seem to have forgotten me and is looking very well and the plants haven't died so I've decided that Alex is definitely allowed to move in and indeed a date (first weekend in September) has been fixed for this happy event while I've been away. We may even manage a barbeque house-warming :)