Monday, 25 October 2010

Back from holiday

I'D HAVE been back blogging earlier but we've been on holiday in France for a fortnight. When we got home there was a pile of paid work to get through and that came first. It's all squared off now, so it's blog time again.

Our summer holiday was necessarily late this year because I took part in the Edinburgh International Book Festival. I may not get a chance like that again and I wasn't going to miss the experience for the sake of going on holiday which could be postponed - which it was. We stayed in a little narrow flat in the village of Lauzerte which is on the border of the Dordogne and the Lot. Lauzerte is considered to be one of the prettiest villages in France - a bastide village, which means it was built as a fortified settlement about 800AD on its hilltop site.

It has 360 degree views, as have so many villages and chateaux in that part of France. Perhaps it was all part of a defensive plan - they could all keep in touch and warn each other of impending danger. More will follow.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Not a breath of "fresh" air!

I smelt it before I saw it. The heron had been dead several days, lying hidden amongst the long grass by the roadside. I don't think I've come across a dead one before, and the process of decomposition was quite advanced. His - or perhaps it was her - eyes were crawling with tiny flies and even the dogs were put off by the rotting smell. But it's nature doing what nature does. The dead body will support all sorts of insects and worms and grubs, and before long only a pile of slate grey feathers will tell the tale that something that lived has been reclaimed.

In old Celtic mythology the heron was regarded as a bird of ill-omen. Perhaps it's the way it stands with its head hunched into its shoulders, looking as though it's contemplating villainy or evil. The novelist DK Broster in her classic Scottish novel "The Flight of the Heron", based on the 1745 Jacobite Uprising, describes how it was considered unlucky in those days to meet a heron when you set out on a journey. It all seems a bit hard on a bird that is shy and withdrawn.

There may be dignity in dying but, looking at that corpse, there's no dignity in death.