Reading My Way Around the World

Thursday 12 May 2016

Rouen in the rain

It feels like only a few days since we landed home after the last trip and here we are off on the road again.   Frankly it's hard to stop thinking that we're getting too old for this craic.  (For those of you in America - craic is not some kind of drug - it is an all encompassing Irish word which can mean fun or nonsense or this sort of thing - in fact now that I think of it, craic has many many uses).  But we'll fight the urge to say it's time to give up and motor on - for another while at least.

So we got off the ferry in Cherbourg yesterday evening - beautiful crossing - I'd forgotten we were on a boat and got a shock when I looked out the window and saw we were moving - and then a stopover in Rouen.   It poured with rain so there was no chance to get any decent photos - I love this city - this is our second time for a stopover here and we've seen slightly more of it each time.   The Seine runs through the centre - these huge European rivers are magnificent.
This shop front looked like a sweet box
One thing I love about being in France is that French people let you try out your few words of French, no matter how bad it is.  In most countries where people speak English they'll step right in and take over in English.   It's much more fun having a go in another language without correction.
Lights reflecting in the rain

Now we're heading towards Germany - as our first night's concert isn't until Saturday we have plenty of time to make it up the country.   So tonight we think we'll head for Holland and stop over in Eindhoven perhaps.   We're not sure if we've ever been there - at one time we travelled a lot in Holland and then the folk club scene dried up and we haven't been back much in nearly 10 years. It'll be nice to see another architecture for an evening.
The old centre of Rouen

Before the single currency in Europe it used to be great fun coming home - to leave Berlin in the morning, change currency and have lunch in Holland, change again and stop for coffee in Belgium and finally have dinner in France.   That used to tickle me pink :)   Isn't silly the things that make you smile.   Life's undoubtedly a lot more practical with one currency, but not nearly as exotic.

Not a great picture but I thought - there's a French car -
pink furry dice, pink steering wheel, pink car!
What else would a girl need :) 

 As the old blues song says "Further on up the road!"

Sunday 1 May 2016

The May Morning Dew

Happy May Day to you and yours.

Today, Bealtaine, is one of the ancient Celtic Fire Festivals, - I've written more about it here and about the tradition of MayFlowers where I come from.

This is positively my favourite time of year to be at home and in this old garden which was planted back in the 1930s and still has traces of violets and cowslip through the lawn as well as these lovely buttercups - although they look more like Marsh Marigolds to me.

The large golden flowers of Marsh-marigold certainly look like the cups of kings and the Latin name Caltha is derived from the Greek for 'goblet'. Hence, Marsh-marigold is also commonly known as 'Kingcup'. It is a widespread plant of ponds, marshes, damp meadows, ditches and wet woodland and, before the draining of the landscape for agriculture began, was a conspicuous spring flower. Source : 
 There are so many traditions around May Day across these islands and indeed across a lot of Europe - the 1st of May is Walpurgisnacht in Germany and is an important witches' festival.

To the Celts, the winter sun reigned from sunset on 31st October (Samhain) to sunrise on 1st May (Bealtaine) and on that day, his daughter, the Cailleach Bhéara (The Old Woman of Beara) turned to stone.   Then the summer sun reigned for the other six months of the year.

In Irish traditional music there are many many songs about May - particularly in the first line of songs - One morning in May ... or As I Roved out one May Morning.  But my absolute favourite is a quite mournful piece sung by the wonderful Dolores Keane who comes from the West of Ireland.

Happy May Day and may summer bring you blue skies and big smiles.  Do you observe any MayDay traditions where you live?