Monday, November 13, 2006


Cheerful Monday morning making Moroccan soup with chickpeas, spinach, apricots, lemon, chili and cinnamon - so good I managed quite a long trek in heavy mist and drizzle up and over the high hills this afternoon. Perhaps not quite my daily 10kms, but not bad for a grim November day. Adequate preparation for smoked trout pasta later, I dare say.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

witchfest review

Back from the bizarre experience that was Witchfest. A great deal of concentration required not to stand on trailing cloaks or get wands up the nose. Interesting that the atmosphere was completely normal - no sense whatsoever of special energy or powerful focus - just too much shopping on hand, maybe? Having said that, I had a truly awesome experience of connection with an absent loved one in the shopping hall, and made one very happy purchase. Talks were embarrassingly basic and simplistic until the great Ronald Hutton took the stage and wowed several hundred people with his intellectual integrity and passionate commitment to the cause. And he was funny ...
Also met several people whom I've known well for years on the internet for the first time in the flesh, and was not disappointed. Dear friend Zoe especially :-) and my tarot reading colleagues from TABI. That was the best part of it all, prosaic human contact. What it lacked for me was, well, magic ...

Thursday, November 02, 2006


Off to England early tomorrow for Witchfest International (in Croydon!)and then a few days with oldest and dearest friends. Just as well, I'm not doing any work at the moment ...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

always judge a book by its cover

A day of choosing photos, out of hundreds, for cover of new short canal guide which is due out in spring. This is in addition to The Long Thought - seems a good idea to get two books out of 18 months work :-) This whole cover business is so important, it pays to take the time. My Walking in Finistere cover took almost a month to decide, and I lost long arguments about the back cover pictures of Discovering the History of Brittany - the satisfaction of now clearly being right is not enough compensation either.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

melacholy day

I can't do better than Auden today. What misery.

Like love we don't know where or why,
Like love we can't compel or fly,
Like love we often weep,
Like love we seldom keep.

I'm writing a poem about éoliennes and feeling like shit.

ADDED: but the day got a whole lot better ....

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


I have to be in the mood for crepes, and usually that means lunchtime only, but tonight was an exception. At the best creperie in Morlaix had an excellent meal - ble noir crepes, a) tuna, garlic butter, seaweed and lemon filling (top favourite) b) roquefort with walnut salad. I won't bother to mention the creme brulee ice-cream and the ... Accompanied by cider, naturally, and animated discussion of American literature and society, the French education system, why I loathe John Donne, are writers ever good people (no), etc.

Sunday, October 15, 2006


When You Are Ill

Driven by demands
Of frustrated tenderness,
I am restless far away

Wanting to touch your face
Make soothing soup
Read something silly aloud
Or simply watch you sleeping

But I want from exile,
Not nearly near enough

Friday, October 13, 2006

back again

Two weeks in Morbihan finishing my 360km love affair with the Nantes/Brest canal, and also doing the work for some historic walks I've been asked to contribute to a new book for next year. I am ALL WALKED OUT and starting to get injury prone as a result, despite going to bed at 8 every night and resting as much as possible. Time to stop walking and start writing again, although my head is full of poems and very little else.

Friday, September 29, 2006


A week in bed (ill, unfortunately) followed by a week with no computer as my lap-top finally died, taking many of my secrets to its grave. That's a relief. New machine now all set up, but the difficulty of buying anything here is so frustrating (even for an exceptionally patient and undemanding person like me :-)). You can spend half an hour talking specs and models, choose a computer, get your money out - only to be told they don't keep stock, in a tone that suggests you've made some nasty distasteful proposition. It's crass to actually want something NOW in France. Anything commercial anyway.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Blain - never again (OK, only rhymes in english)

In the last few days I have walked through electric storms and torrential rain, been bitten on almost every inch of my face and body by mosquitoes and acquired a most peculiar and painful red rash on one side of my neck. And I was just expecting sore feet. Feeling particularly savage about Loire Atlantique as I start to write up my notes - the canal was filthy and 'management' consisted of the most hideous architecture imaginable (I have called it 'toytown urinal meets swiss chalet twee,' a description which errs on the side of charity) and slashing down as many trees along the towpath as possible (to be replanted, of course - with firs!). Also in sour mood with the town of Blain where the chateau managed to close itself for no apparent reason (apart from my arrival) after I had arranged to spend half a day there to see it. There is little to do in Blain for that length of time - sitting on a bench studying a street map was the best value: 'rue Wootton Basset' (no, seriously) and also the allée Nominoe leading into the impasse Erispoe, which is a great joke for Breton historians. As poetry has recently re-entered my life (thanks to a very special man) after a long absence, I think I shall begin work now on an Ode to Blain ...

Saturday, September 09, 2006

english out

Interesting day at the market: for the first time in my years here, I am on the receiving end of anti-English abuse (what an insult - it's worse than being called a girl). An elderly Breton stops to tell me, seriously and vindictively, I should not be selling books in English and furthermore the English should get out, or be chucked out, of Brittany. After a short while it is not pleasant and my mate on the next stall gallantly intervenes, eventually leading the man away and continuing the argument with him. Five minutes later, Christian tells me gleefully that apparently I am responsible for the death of Jeanne d'Arc. This cheers up all the traders enormously on what had been a slow day and leads to serial jokes along the lines of - don't ask her, she'll have you burnt at the stake, and, how could you do such a horrible thing to poor Jeanne (well, she deserved it and I did warn her) etc. I am having a sign made for next week - it will read, in French: I AM WELSH. PLEASE DON'T HOLD ME RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ENGLISH. If any English people ask me what it means, I shall say ALL NATIONALITIES WELCOME HERE, but if they don't buy a book, I'll burn them right up.

Monday, September 04, 2006


Getting ready for my Loire-Atlantique trip now. The first five chapters of The Long Thought are pretty much empty pages as yet, whereas the second half of the book is nearly finished. It's been an odd piecemeal construction over a long period of time, but I'm happy with how things are turning out. This week I'm completing the initial research which will enable me to walk a 125km stretch of canal with the right sort of thoughts in my head and a certain preparedness for important sights. Pretty sure that the excessively watery nature of the terrain out there will lead to some emotional turbulence, but there are also good historical pegs along the route from Alain le Grand to Spanish prisoners of the Napoleonic Wars to American shelling of villages by the canal. I also intend to develop the psychology of walking theme in this particular chapter - if the weather is anything like last week, I'll certainly be asking myself profound questions like - why bother?

Thursday, August 31, 2006

more canal stuff

Spent a day in central Brittany walking a very sad stretch of canal between Pontivy and Lac de Guerlédan. Because the barrage at the lake cut the canal in two in 1930, commercial traffic stopped and this section has never been restored or maintained as a canal, although the nasty tarmac tow-path must get its share of walkers and cyclists. The locks are all in dismal state and many of the lock-houses have been abandoned. The landscape is uninteresting and there are few buildings of note along the way - one chapel with excellent painted ceilings, a square-towered manoir and a mill midstream on the Blavet. The barrage is grim, like a concentration camp - and not improved by the driving rain that plagued me much of the day.

Sunday, August 27, 2006


For the first time, it was dark when I got up to go to the market yesterday morning. And I wore jeans, jacket and proper shoes. It must be autumn. Today on my regular 10km circuit, the gorse and numerous heathers were out, mushrooms burgeoning everywhere and blackberries nearly over. All the land is wet and steamy, where the rain has soaked down into the earth's latent summer heat. I've started cooking red cabbage again and eating inside and not taking the dogs out in the evening. It must be autumn.
Great market - highlight was meeting a couple who arrived holding a copy of my walk book they'd bought on a ferry, and were pleasantly surprised to encounter the author and keen to tell me how much they enjoyed the ones they'd done. In fact, they'd come to Morlaix to do the city walk in the book - now that did make me happy. And they were such nice people, I wish I'd had longer to talk to them.
Today I'm working on the canal material. Serious and focused again. It must be autumn. Not August.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

good day, bad day syndrome

Tuesday a very good day. Meeting with charming Directeur of SMATAH, a group that manages the canal in Finistere. By chance, also encounter charming French journalist there (at a lock-house in Chateauneuf-du-Faou). Drive about looking at quarries and bourgs close to the canal, which provides some interesting new perspectives. Wednesday a terrible day. Unproductive morning with carnal thoughts interfering with work in a way I do not normally allow. Afternoon, went on a walk with the Queffleuth group in torrential rain and was soaked to the skin within two kilometres. Turned into a bit of an endurance test, despite some good company and a positive spirit of discovery that does the others credit. I was out on a limb and too preoccupied to make a sparkling contribution. Tea, feeling dismal, soggy and exhausted, with my Czech friend in Plourin.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


In answer to D's (DW not DP) query about my resolution of last weekend - I have kept one part but not the other ;-) In fact, did something incredibly stupid on Thursday. Serious madness. Now, on reflection, I think I might quite like to do it again.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

market forces

Brilliant market session this morning - sun shone, I shone, sales shone. Met a handsome and engaging Frenchman (yes, another) who bought my history book, (ADDED this does not do him justice: from our subsequent acquaintance I must change the description to highly intelligent, interesting, funny, stimulating and generally amazing Breton man; ADDED AGAIN - this doesn't do him justice either, he's extraordinary, ADDED AGAIN - there are no words to describe this man) and lots of other lovely people it was a pleasure to sign books for because I knew they'd enjoy and value them, and maybe even come back and tell me so. Lazy afternoon, picking blackberries and reading a Philippa Gregory given to me by Erik, my Breton mate with the bookstall opposite. Dogs glad to have me home for once and in a mood to give them attention.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


My friend Jude with her Alfa Romeo Spider. We are so going to be the coolest women about town (OK mainly country, but look out the Café Terrasse in Morlaix).

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Our local Pardon today at the Abbaye du Relec. A service in the ancient abbey church followed by procession carrying relics through the woods to the sacred fontaine. Even as an observer, it's a profoundly moving experience, from the swell of Breton song from the belly of the church spreading over the many waiting outside, to the simple faith of the costumed women carrying their Lady's image on aged shoulders. As they wound their dignified way alongside the lake and were then lost among the trees I was both tearful and happy, separate but bound by the love of the land that underlies all devotion here. And not a foreign voice to be heard, except the French :-)

Sunday, August 13, 2006


Dismal Saturday. For some reason (probably lack of KoS), market was dreary and unproductive. I felt very unengaged with the whole business and thus repelled most potential punters. Spent the afternoon reading a crap book in tent in the orchard with Brian constantly trying to force his way in. (He's a dog, for any late comers to this story who think it might be more interesting than is actually the case).
Sunday, gave tarot readings at English sale held in go-kart arena (now that does look fun, I always enjoy a bit of aggressive driving). Very tired emotionally (not as salacious as tired and emotional) after this, but still had two internet readings to do at home, so seriously in need of copious amounts of vodka this evening. Am going to give up drinking this week, I swear, and indulge my other vices to excess instead.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Rade de Brest

Finally managed a day of research ambling around the peninsulas and promontories edging the most fabulous roadsted in Europe. The Rade de Brest is a stupendous natural harbour, an inland sea big enough to house and hide a dozen fleets. Here, by the little settlement of Landévennec with its famous ancient and modern abbeys, the mighty Aulne disgorges itself - and so technically here ends the equally mighty canal. St Guenolé, who founded the original abbey in 485 first settled on an inhospitable island opposite and used to look longingly across at a beautiful wooded valley where mist rose like smoke each morning. I wanted to find that view, and to overlook the strait where the Viking fleet appeared on a fatal morning in 913, the Goulet where the Cordelière was blown to smithereens in 1512, and the scene of lethal German submarine runs in WWII. This cradle of a major port and regional capital is a vast arena, different from every angle, full of light, shadow and deceptive directions, calm, emotive, redolent of death and loss, beautiful, ominous -the source of many long thoughts to draw together themes in this final chapter of the book. Then I shall have to think about writing chapter one.

Monday, August 07, 2006

death penalty for cruelty to houses

Weekend: ten hours at the market on Saturday (annual all-day event, and unable to get the car out so stuck) nearly finished me off, but excellent trade. Sunday usual walking and working, then a great deal of alcohol, a fire spiced with sage and spending the night outside. Slept very badly, and then knocked for six by singularly unpleasant email first thing this morning. Still managed to do two tarot readings before heading off for another Luzec outing: first to my favourite house, La Maison Cornec, a typical maison anglaise (from the wealth of linen trade with England), dating from 1702. I know this place well and looked long and hard for a house like it before settling for something more like 1800. Found one that would have done very well, but English peole had put in a spiral metal staircase and fucked up the sleeping area beyond repair. The death penalty should be reintroduced for that sort of insensitivity. Characteristics of this beloved house include an external stone staircase and an avancée, used for the dining table, the first step up from living in one room - a strangely significant development in lifestyle.
The theme of the excursion was energy - they have a charbonnier reconstruction site at Cornec - and we then went on to the nuclear power station at Brennilis and then the Yeun Elez, the tourbière that is already very familiar to me from the peat levels in Somerset.
Need peace, sleep and a day of freedom tomorrow.

Sunday, August 06, 2006


In response to another question prompted by my Lammas ramblings - why do these things at all? I can only answer for me. For many paganism is not a religion, but I think I can stand the word well enough. It is an active, participatory phenomenon: no creed, no intermediaries between human and divine, just personal choice, experience, commitment and responsibility. This very freedom makes the Sabbat festivals special as they are shared occasions, important to many thousands of people all over the world. Sacred times, sacred spaces. For me each event is about personal concentration, connection, contribution and celebration, but also primarily about the natural progress of the year, to which my psychological and emotional state is irretrivably linked (and I'm not just talking about moon cycles). I live in nature and my life moves with it, comfortably or agitatingly part of a greater whole. I didn't celebrate Beltane on May 1st, because a fertility ritual seemed inappropriate when many trees were not yet even in leaf - the reality of very late spring in Brittany this year was more important than a date on the calendar. That integrity of experience is essential to me as a pagan. Enough. I'll leave my dangerous Thelemite leanings for another time.

Thursday, August 03, 2006


Lammas at last. Gathering up all the harvest stuff - oats, nuts, fruits, flowers - and holding ritual in the hazel bower (very four of wands it looks too) at the top of the orchard with sun streaming into my face; good meditation afterwards in the same empowered space. Earlier did special lammas tarot reading for myself, but rather a sorry tale unfolded. At least the Hanged Man did not appear to urge the lammas theme of sacrifice, as I was half expecting. So the struggle goes on.
Lammas meal tonight: homemade plaited loaf, cheese from chap up the road, ripe tomato broth with fresh herbs & bread fried in olive oil and an enormous fruit salad. All very suitable, all delicious.

Monday, July 31, 2006

lammas preparations

Sunday - walked myself into a better frame of mind early in the morning. Beautiful, fresh day in the hills - impossible not to feel the folly of one's ways and draw strength from a wider perspective. It's my personal formula: spirits always expand in proportion to the physical views.
Afternoon spent in preparation for Lammas. Cut ten foot lengths of hazel from one of the prolific trees in the orchard, fixed them into the ground, bent the tops over into the middle and wove all the thin leafy branches together to make a bower. Went to the one field in the lane still not harvested and cut a few sheafs of oats from the edges where they'll be missed by machinery. Today making some figures from lavender and baking lavender biscuits ready for the celebration. The anticipation is as important a part of festivals as it is of sex, with that subtle flicker of happiness and physical agitation, the build-up of desire. Can't wait.

Friday, July 28, 2006

low day

Too tired to do more than pick at The Long Thought, although I did unearth some interesting 19th century salmon fishing memoires (sic)today at the library. Feeling very low and dispirited, typical post-book syndrome but more too. At least it's market day tomorrow, although I'm not sure even the K of S could cheer me up at the moment. Need a holiday - last time was walking the volcanoes in the Auvergne in May 2005. A long time ago.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

over, and out

Took guided walk out yesterday afternoon, around the great loopy bends of the canalised Aulne at Chateauneuf-du-Faou. Old and new faces, very well-behaved group on the whole (even Kay and Steve) :-) Good preparation for getting back into the Long Thought tomorrow. On the way home managed to see the Serusier chapel paintings in the town for the first time, as the church has been closed for years for renovations.
Finishing second draft of Me and the Goddess Athene tonight, even if I have to go without sleep. Then it'll all be over. I'll be free. Trop contente!

Monday, July 24, 2006

itinéraire culturel

Out with the Luzec historical crowd today for a 'cultural journey' in blazing heat. Started in Relec Abbey, with its damp Cistercian atmosphere and dreadful accoustic (sorry, excellent, according to the locals). Jean-Marie Ploneis, a linguistics professor (who recently bought a copy of my history of Brittany) gives a brief talk to introduce La Quévaise, a form of medieval monastic land tenure significant to the environmental and sociological development of the Monts d'Arrée and the Trégor. His words reverberate around the lofty ancient abbey and are totally lost in an aura of green mould. Then we all trail off in about thirty cars to the archaeological site of Goenidou to stand around listening to him speak more distinctly in direct baking hot sun for an hour before someone suggests that moving into the shade might prevent a few early deaths. Louis Elégoet, who has the merit of being very attractive as well as a fervent, devastatingly lucid historian, is also of the party and has much of interest to contribute. I admire his work greatly and always enjoy the chance to see him in action. Home exhausted and shrivelled for that well-known sun-stroke preventative: ice-cold vodka. Always works.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

me and the goddess Athene

Finished the first draft of this book 6pm Sunday, after an incredible stint of writing lasting from 3pm Saturday with a very short interval of sleep in the middle. In fact have written fairly solidly since Wednesday and am completely shattered, but quite satisfied. Not a hint of Five of Cups style agonising. Wanted to do it on this day, three month anniversary of the death of one of my closest friends, who would have laughed herself even sillier than usual over this one. Love and miss her very, very much today and every day and for the rest of my life.
There's not going to be much more to do to Me and the Goddess Athene, another week should see it off my hands - then freedom, no more fiction, back to identity, history, landscape, all the truly sustaining things in life. Can rush off to the Rade de Brest and get on with all the research that's been piling up for The Long Thought which will soon be very much shorter...

Saturday, July 22, 2006

my great love

Here's a picture of my great love, Rufus. Now, he's a King of Swords too.

Friday, July 21, 2006

from my window

I am asked: where do you write? what do you see from your window? My office overlooks the garden but in summer trees obscure the longer view up to the main hamlet, which with its stone houses and slated roofs retains a medieval air. I love the huge, unusually spreading, pine tree in my garden, its cones cracking like rifles in this heavy heat, and the wild rose clothing the roof of an old agricultural building which now houses a multitude of junk. Unfortunately I cannot see the orchard which rises gently and expands to about an acre beyond the pine, but invisibility is good for an outdoor refuge.
Inside, I do not have a desk by the window, prefering to work facing a blank wall - so there is work-top round two sides of the room and a large table in the middle, providing different spaces for different projects, but it's true that every few minutes I swivel round for a glimpse of green and space for a new thought to creep in.
My armchair is by the window, although the thickness of the old walls makes the inner sill a comfortable place to sit and watch the small herd of white Charolais cattle grazing in the field a few metres away: the house shakes as they run about and I've often whipped out the modem cable thinking thunder was echoing down from the Monts d'Arrée...

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

sad day

Very sorry to say goodbye to S&J, after a night all sleeping in the orchard (before the rain came pouring down). I took them to the Cap Sizun peninsula - with fleeting visits to three very different sacred sites, Pleyben, Menez Hom and Lesconil, as final treats - and sadly watched them head off down the coastal path to start another long walk from the shadow of a large menhir. Wished very much that I was going too. Their visit has meant a lot in many ways, and I honour their individual and joint beings here, although not as fulsomely as they deserve. Am saving my tears for later, lol.

Sunday, July 16, 2006


Got up very early on Saturday. The market was even more fun than usual. K of S: bliss. And the weekend got even better with the arrival of my old mate Steve from Glastonbury days who has illustrated two of my books and is a fine writer himself though of completely different ilk. Fetch him and his lovely partner Johanna from Morlaix station and then have a long food, drink and talk filled evening which has done a lot for the general state of my spirits. Today take them up on the Monts d'Arrée and to the powerful alley grave at Mougou Bihan. The house next to it, which I have long coveted, has a for sale sign and the agent is a long-term acquaintance of mine. I resist the urge to call there and then on the mobile.
This evening to Guimiliau to see the parish close, finest example of an extraordinary blossoming of competitive religious architecture in the 15-17th centuries, thanks to wealth pouring into Léon from the linen industry. It is a distinctive, some claim unique, style for which this area is rightly famous.

Friday, July 14, 2006


Out early for a long trek far and fast up and over the Monts d'Arrée. On the way back risk (rather, send the dog first) the snakes and tics to climb a rocky peak and look down to the settlement of Relecq with its 12th century Cistercian abbey. I need this physical release today and push myself hard. Hoping to shake up the bits in my head like a kaleidscope and dislodge the malevolent korrigan that's taken up residence there - succeed for the duration, but it all falls gently back into the same old pattern at the end.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Zizou - encore

Bollocks to all this 'Moment of madness' 'red mist' crap - it was for Zizou a moment of sanity, of decision and clear sight. He made a choice and he will live it without fear, regret or pretence. Unlike Materazzi.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

long day

Have worked twelve hours today after a bad night. Three chapters of Me and the Goddess Athene, two tarot readings, 5000 words of research notes. Knackered. Bed.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


Every day I have more emails than I can easily handle (without getting a secretary or giving up writing). Today, for example, there's the aftermath of my international slanging match about Zizou with various people around the globe to contend with, a message from the Daily Mail who have enjoyed Five of Cups but are not going to review it, a very kind offer of free DVDs to promote my walking book from a lovely couple who have made a recording of photos set to music from their experiences of using the book, a request from a Spanish property company to link with my Brittany Walks website, a few Five of Cups fan letters, a query about walking around Paimpol, an interesting suggestion from an attractive man I met recently, supportive friends' enquiries after my health (mostly drunk lately thank you), and a lot of arrangements to be sorted with summer visitors. That's in addition to about thirty-five daily tarot-related messages and a lot of mail from various pagan groups. It's not the time in replying that matters but the thought that must precede each answer, and the careful calculation of tone and true intention behind the requests, ideas and opinions. I don't always get it right unfortunately.

Monday, July 10, 2006

chez moi - encore


Today the memory is more painful. So is my right eye – a lighted match head flew into it last night, about a minute after Zizou was sent off. An exquisite paradigm of displacement. I can’t bear all these fucking patronising, supercilious pseudo-explanations of what he did. To hell with the ‘pressures of being the French national icon’ (after all the racist taunts he has endured he could do without that particular calumny) and ‘pent-up frustrations of another mediocre performance’. For a lesser man – Beckham, for example - that might serve for motivation. But for some more evolved beings, there is no fight, no flirtation with darkness, no simple succumbing to its lure when the challenge is too great and others’ expectations too high. It is precisely in the absence of danger that some seek the violent comfort of the shadow-self and own their darkness. Maybe not such an unfitting end to the career of the greatest footballer of my lifetime and a man I admire as much as any other on this earth – on terms I can understand in my own heart.

Sunday, July 09, 2006


Stopped watching when Zizou left the field. Not much point after that or any doubt about the outcome. Don't even feel like drinking. Outside a huge yellow moon rises above the Monts d'Arrée. I wander about in the orchard and totally fail to rise above this disaster.

sports day

I only have French TV and only terrestrial at that, so no Wimbledon for the last five years. An English friend takes pity and invites me to watch both finals this weekend. A real treat, and ice-creams thrown in too! We have fun and a great match today with my hero Federer trashing the young upstart Nadal.
A French friend has invited me for le foot tonight but I must be at home and able to me lâche un peu because it's going to be one hell of a night. I'm in a mad mood anyway and the vodka is ready for any eventuality. Actually I have two bottles of champagne in the fridge which might come in useful - one from a friend and one couriered over from a French company I mentioned favourably in an article. Now that is style à la française.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

market day

Excellent morning at the market. Great sales, nice customers, good atmosphere. K of S betrays not a hint of wands today, but who cares anyway in the face of such physical perfection?

Friday, July 07, 2006


Drive for half an hour through the wildest uplands of Finistere to the pretty little bourg of Bolazec, regular half-way meeting place with a good friend and fellow-writer. We lunch in the little bar/restaurant as usual: 5 courses for 10 euros (about £6.50?) - rice, fish and egg salad, followed by smoked ham in spicy mushroom sauce, followed by a platter of chips and roasted chicken pieces, followed by cheese of many kinds, followed by tarte aux pommes. All this with unlimited wine, water, bread and coffee with chocolates included. When we come out much later after a very happy time and interesting talk, my car has ceased to function. Various handsome passing Frenchmen having failed to make any impact on the problem, I am forced to call on the local garage owner, who turns out to be the nicest of the lot, but sadly cannot fix the car at once. So a good day turns into a bad one as I loathe the restriction of being carless and dependent on others. Get a lift home, very, very grumpy and much fatter than when I started.
I broke down in a forest in the middle of Poland once. Half a dozen paralytically drunk Poles swayed out of a cabin and surrounded the car, insisting on opening the bonnet and fiddling about with the engine. Arguments then broke out about what was wrong and a few punches were thrown, but they got the thing going and then lumbered back among the vodka bottles triumphantly. In fact, from my extensive travels round that extraordinary country, I would have to say that drunken Poles are surprisingly good at pretty much anything.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

in denial

Morning of tarot - one professional reading, one online freebie, both interesting and revealing. The Five of Cups has attracted a lot of attention among people who know nothing about the subject, so that’s good work. My new Druidcraft deck arrived in the post and we have a first run together for the short spread. I like it, but no coup de foudre.
Talking of which (for those who have kindly enquired after the King of Swords) - en route to the library I drive past him sauntering back to work after lunch, and he really was sauntering. The physical gait is revealing and it is starting to confirm something I’ve been thinking about lately – but am not yet prepared to entertain as a serious notion. Could he be not the King of Swords, but the Knight of Wands. Aaaarghhh! And worse, a Knight of Wands reversed? No, I’m in denial, but really need to see some urgent evidence of that sword.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

so happy

France 1 Portugal 0
Exhausted, hoarse and all four letter worded out, but o so very happy. Zizou finally made the jump from my third favourite man in the world to number 1, because he's simply THE BEST. OK, so he played crap, but comme même ...
And we won.

bloody wednesday

Bad day - torrential rain, bad news from one quarter, no news from another.
Good day - worked hard, good book to review in post, sorted a lot of stuff.
But tonight's the night ... allez, allez, allez les Bleus

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Lovely Swedish visitors - an internet pagan friend plus husband and small son - have departed and I should be working. Instead I'm thinking about why I don't like summer, even though it's a lovely day, fresh but warm, sunny but not broiling.
It's something to do with my same old process versus result issue: summer seems unsubtle, stagnant, too complete. Already the life and vivid colour has gone from many of the trees. All my best things are effortful. Irony is a struggle, walking is debilitating instead of energising. Lammas/Lughnasadh is not my favourite festival - celebrating a result comes hard for these reasons, though I'll make bread and biscuits and be pretty damn thankful for my personal harvests when the time comes.
Winter is my favourite time - the light, the air, the inward focus, the power of latency - although I also love the transformation of autumn and the potential of spring. Yule and Imbolc are high times, my true celebrations, although the sexuality of Beltane rarely finds me unmoved ... Summer on the other hand, leaves me cold.

Monday, July 03, 2006

heavy monday

Huge thunder storm in the night but still heavy and too oppressive for words. Finding it impossible to work or think today: hot, restless, unsettled and unproductive, although I did manage a couple of scenes of chapter 10 of Me and the Goddess Athene. Lay on the grass in the orchard in the shade of my beloved oak trees and read Labyrinth by Kate Mosse for a while, but Brian would insist on sitting on the book to divert my attention to himself. Try having the 'dogs should be heard but not seen' discussion with him again, but it goes nowhere as usual. Fortunately the big chap Rufus is in the mood for a fight and drags Brian off by the scruff of his neck for a bit of snarling and snapping. Totally quiet in my beautiful green oak walled room. I watch the insects in the grass beneath me, so purposeful and preoccupied. This weather always brings out lurid fantasies in me, so I while away the time, not entirely unhappily, one way and another.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Friday, June 30, 2006

busy and troubled

Working, getting house ready for visitors, cooking (beef in wine, salmon with maple syrup jus, courgettes in strawberry vinegar, baked apricots - that's for your information, R), working, watching football (what a choice, Germany or Argentina), going to radiology clinic, working, sorting out new stock for market tomorrow, doing tarot to complete my monthly quota of free online readings, working, thinking troubled thoughts, hoping and failing to hear from someone important, working, swearing a lot, trying to decide if I'd really choose the King of Swords over James Blake, working, writing a poem in French, planning a new book with a friend in England, thinking a lot about a friend who is ill, working ...

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Athene has deigned to return and we have had a good day's work together on the book she is goddess-writing for me. Fortunately we share a sense of humour, although only one of us has developed the ability to laugh at ourself.
So many tributes to Five of Cups coming in now, I'm feeling maybe I did the right thing to see it through after all and my grim winter was not in vain. What does send ice to my heart is the inevitable 'What's the next novel about?' 'When will it be out?' This is becoming a serious dilemma. I swore never to go down the fiction road again, but into, or perhaps out of, my head fully formed has sprung another in entirety - plot, setting, characters, the lot. I'm scared of the subject matter but also dangerously attracted to it. It may well prove as irresistible as the King of Swords. I'm prepared to put down a mental marker for 2008 but nothing, absolutely nothing and nobody is going to come between me and my canal book. There's a true labour of love.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

'on est content'

France 3 Spain 1.
ZZ - "On est content." On est fière de toi, Zizou.

chemin creux

Took guided walk this afternoon. Good group, nice route including this typically Breton chemin creux. Stopped in La Feuillée, highest village in Brittany, in appropriately leafy square for cold drinks and extraordinary gooey walnut cake superbly made by my friend and neighbour Jeanne. Surprisingly hot on exposed stretches: forgot my hat too, so a bit boiled and headachy now - and that's before tonight's match. Not enough vodka in the house to drown potential sorrows later.

Monday, June 26, 2006

chateau du taureau

I've waited several years to visit this sea fort, despite writing about it in various books and articles and often gazing at it longingly from the shore. It was built to protect the Bay of Morlaix after the English raid of 1522, itself an act of reprisal for corsaire attacks on Bristol. The English managed to sack Morlaix, in the absence of soldiers and merchants, but many hung around to get drunk and were still sleeping it off when the Comte de Laval and his troops swept back and butchered the lot of them. The motto of Morlaix, with a pun on its name, allegedly comes from this event: 's'ils te mordent, mords les!' Too good to be true? Vauban inevitably upgraded the place later, but it finally became the sad prison of a few deluded and/or murderous aristocrats, whose families were happy to pay for their incarceration, before falling into disuse.
The fort has just opened to the public for the first time and I've had to wait impatiently until today because half the world wants to see it. Got the early morning sailing from Carantec, sandwiched between a party of elderly French visitors and about fifty infants plus harrassed teachers. Ten minute trip across the bay and once landed, I ran straight up to the top terrace to get a clear look around before the place was overrun - forty minutes later we were all summoned back to the boat, so not exactly an in-depth study but at least a place of the imagination is now transformed into experience, and next time I'll know what I'm talking about ...

Sunday, June 25, 2006


Lunch for friends today. Was going to produce roasted parsnip and parmesan soup, current favourite, for first course, but parsnips so woody more like roasted treebark, so had to improvise and came up with spaghetti with bacon and sauce made from hummous, tapenade, balsamic vinegar and cream. Definitely going in the cookbook I'll write one day. Then, my famous roquefort tart with garlic and walnut topping, and salads (lentil, tomato, cauliflower and lemon) plus diced roast potatoes with rosemary. Finally, first attempt at chocolate and banana bread pudding, not bad. Cloudy day, only just about warm enough to eat outside. Also inauguration of my sun pond, slightly tardy for the solstice - moon pond next to it still in the crescent shaped hole stage.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

great day

Euphoria last night and then stuffing South Africa in the rugby international this afternoon - que c'est belle la vie! I was in my best Queen of Wands form at the market this morning too, despite absence of K of Sws, and The Five of Cups sold out by midday. Now first letters and messages of appreciation about the book coming through, I'm starting to enjoy the result even though the process was pretty excruciating. Usually the other way round for me, in typical wands fashion - once a book's finished, it's gone, out of my head and heart. On to the next, new projects, fresh creation ... choose another CD. Each book I've written has been accompanied by the same piece of music throughout. It'll be a long time before I listen to the first act of Rameau's Platée again.

le grand soulagement

On continue. On respire. Allez les bleus.

Friday, June 23, 2006

writer's blog

Awake at 4am thinking I need to write something down. But what is it? Up at 5 and stroll round the orchard in my wellingtons with a cup of tea in my hand. Brian is ecstatic to have my company so early and rushes about wildly looking for a stick which is in his mouth the whole time. The sky is absolutely clear blue, air as sharp as a sword cut.
Back from 8km hike to check out a new circuit for next week's guided walk. Was intending to write 2000 words today, but my Athene book is suddenly and unaccountably stalled: the change comes down as swiftly as depression and settles ominously over my day. Can't afford to lose the time, so it's back to some mechanical work on The Long Thought (canal book), which is really what occupies my mind mostly. (That and gloomy anticipation of the match tonight).
In response to question from PB about what I read - currently a history of walking by Rebecca Solnit and The Field by Lynne McTaggart. The latter is an investigation into the 'new physics' that seems to confirm that everything in the universe is connected. Some of us already knew that. Fiction off at the moment, I'm having enough of a struggle with my own.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


This morning at 5.40am I was on top of Brittany's highest hill, drenched to the skin and barely able to see the egg and bacon sandwich in my hand through swathes of mist. Being a committed pagan, the solstice ritual is part of my spiritual year, but this is the first time in all my years in France I've failed to see the sun come up over the Monts d'Arrée, flooding the vast bowl of marsh and reservoir with new light. This was also the first time I took friends along for the powerful pleasure of that experience - in the event, we slogged up the track to the summit in driving rain for twenty minutes and then had to wedge ourselves into crevices of rock to avoid being swept off the top by a bitingly cold wind. Even the dogs' shivering misery was not alleviated by crumbs from our soggy feast. After the first five minutes I gave up saying 'But usually ......' and kept quiet, closing my eyes for some silent chat with the sun god who is just as frustrated as we are by these celtic brumes and buggers off to Provence instead.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

wild day

Woke up in the mood for wildness and physical activity. Trekking across the landes et tourbières I could have been the only person in the world. Not a sound did I hear except for the wind raking the heather and a choir of curlews. It's out here on the feral heathland and sweating marshes I feel most alive, most attuned to the elements, most in my skin. Sitting on a rock in an abandoned quarry, I could see the first nuclear power station in France and the signals mast shelled by Breton separatists in 1974, but what fills my eyes are the oldest hills in Europe and the wide emptiness of the Yeun Elez, entrance to the celtic underworld. This land sheds layers of time in a moment, so there is nothing between me and those who left the menhirs; we are united by silence and breath, stone music and sunshine.

Monday, June 19, 2006

en rage

France 1 South Korea 1. Je suis en rage, moi. Rien à dire.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

working outside

Working outside today. Whacked out my quota for the goddess Athene, finished a book review, drafted a new section for the canal book. Also read some extraordinary stories by Dominic Kerriou, journalist on a French daily paper who came to interview me some time ago and subsequently sent me these examples of his own creative writing. Graphic, modernist and rhythmically structured, and so very much in the French literary tradition - the omnipresent narrator semi-detached from his own observations - whilst imbued with a distinctive Breton flavour. Some striking conceits - the sex-obsessed couple where the woman grows fatter and fatter whilst the man gradually dwindles and dies, the experimental scientist who has trained a mongrel dog not only to talk but to speak various languages, including Breton: "qui n'est pas chose facile pour un chien matiné, meme savant." Great writing, interesting mind.
Now off for medicinal vodka before the big match.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Morlaix market

The Saturday market at Morlaix attracts people from all over our region. Up in the old market square are the food and produce stalls - fish, vegetables, organic bread, honey, cider and local cheeses - then a series of flower-sellers and buskers occupy the narrow cobbled medieval streets leading down to the imposing Hotel de Ville. Between there and the huge pink granite viaduct taking TGVs through to Brest the stalls are many and varied - clothes, shoes, bags, crafts and books. This is my patch, just past the bandstand, where I spend every Saturday morning, with one of the best views in the city, selling and signing books. It's an important commitment for me: some weeks it is the only time when I engage fully with others. It took a long time to win my place, to become part of the weekly pageant, but now I am an accepted member of this specialised community, embraced in the warm and humorous good cheer of my colleagues. It amuses them to watch me acting like a tourist office, giving out endless information to non-French speaking Brits who never think of buying a book, but I have lots of good customers too, including many French, and I enjoy all the stories, all the eccentricities, all the giddying range of encounters. An old Breton stops to tell me that Brittany was once a free state and ends by shouting 'Les Francaises sont voleurs' (the French are thieves) at the top of his voice for several minutes. A Frenchman stops to offer me a kitten and stays for a long time to talk about books and history. An elderly couple go by every week and make sure of catching my eye, to be acknowledged by a smile and a greeting. They are like old friends after all this time and I feel their absence on the rare occasions when they don't appear. Memorable today is the delight with which customers fall on The Five of Cups: to think that while I've been cursing and swearing over the refusal of that book to bring itself to a conclusion, some people have actually been looking forward to the moment of its birth. I hope they won't be disappointed.

Friday, June 16, 2006

it's out

My new novel The Five of Cups is officially out on Monday, but courier brought advance order copies for signing today and I've spent a pleasant couple of hours scribbling in crisp new books and thinking about all these diverse people who like my work enough to buy it - across continents too. I hope they each find their personal connection with the Five of Cups and its own inhabitants.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

lovely libraries

Thursday is the day devoted to my canal/identity book, largely due to the very limited opening hours of the historical research library in Morlaix, evocatively named Bibliothèque Les Amours Jaunes (after work by our local poet mordant Tristan Corbière). I love this place, even though it's nothing like as extensive as the Bibliothèque Bretonne at Landevennec Abbey where I have spent many productive days among the monks, apple orchards and weird periodicals, totally happy in my little cell - for it's a real library where you are not allowed to see the books, only to ask, wait and hope. But at Morlaix the library is upstairs in the Hotel de Ville, a vast room with extraordinarily low velvet-covered chairs. My chin just about rests on the table and I have to type blind, hands practically raised above my head, but I like the other researchers, genealogists almost to a man, and the two librarians. My attachment to institutions has grown and flourished since it became an optional relationship with no pricks to kick against.
Today I worked again on the Rohans and the driving force of family identity that sacrificed the Breton cause to self-interest and the dubious merits of Charles VIII. How truly terrifying to have your destiny shaped at birth - it's almost, but not quite, enough to make one sorry for various royal families.
Good day altogether and I just happened to see the sexiest man in the world in passing as well, so if only Trinidad & T had managed to hold England off for those last few minutes I'd be off to bed extremely happy. As it is, I'll have to settle for very.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

tarot deck in progress

Day in southern Brittany working with my brilliant artist friend on a tarot deck we're planning to bring out in the not too distant future. Here's a glimpse.
Added: in response to query from regular viewer, no, he looks nothing like the sexiest man in the world (aka King of Swords) of earlier post. I know which of them I'd rather meet in a lonely place on a dark night...

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Allez les Bleus

France 0 Switzerland 0. Post-match depression setting in now. Am in my office listening to divine rocker Steeve Estatoff scraping through Je m'en foutre, appropriately enough. It covers the sound of celebratory Swiss yodelling. The South Koreans must be nodding deliriously with joy and thinking, bring it on, mec! How long and insidious are the shades of 2002 ....... allez les bleus. Zizou, my heart.

chez moi

My red boys: Rufus & Brian

Monday, June 12, 2006

Nostalgia day

I'm having a nostalgia day. Too misty and drizzly to be funny and inventive this morning. The weather's lousy too, can't even see the nearest hill. So revisiting old thoughts and ways, looking at stuff I wrote thirty years ago and wondering about people I once knew, in all shades of the word. With the accessibility of the net this kind of exercise can no longer be a dreamy romantic ramble; the harsh reality of photographs is too hard-hitting. But there are a few people out there ... I can still look into their digitally inscribed eyes and think, yes, I know who you are. And there are quite a few I can't feel that connection with at all, but I'm pleased to see their details, like a German friend who at one time was my closest confidante until a sudden split over religion and sudden marriages on both our parts took her right out of my sphere. It gave me a simple pleasure to read her name today and an uncluttered recollection of what was a great friendship and complicity in its appropriate time. Trouble is I can't help thinking it's the things I can't remember that I want to think about.
So nostalgia day is over for another ten years or so. It's been interesting to engage with the past from a perspective other than that of identity, although I suspect that work on this identity-themed book has been responsible for raising the nostalgia Kraken today. The good thing about looking back is that I realise how much better and better and better life gets. I like now best. And I can keep now forever.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Madness or tennis

Full moon day. French Open Mens Singles final day. Madness or tennis, I just can't make up my mind. Hours later and Nadal has won unfortunately, after an incredibly uneven performance from the great Federer. A more complete and elegant player I have never seen, even so. Not a streak of madness there. Would like to have seen a Federer v James Blake final - if the tennis was crap, there'd still be something worth watching.
Rest of today has involved a tarot reading for a friend and a bit of work to make up for all the missed time taken up by football, tennis, rubgy (French club final), football, tennis, etc. Getting on with Me and the Goddess Athene now - have an end of August deadline, but intend beating that into the ground. Summer in Brittany only lasts a few weeks but those balmy days are usually packed with people - I must hit daily word targets before lunch-time. That's my Sunday resolution anyway.
Suitably for full moon, today finished The Historian, excellent Dracula yarn by Elizabeth Kostova. I'm happy to accept the undead are still with us - looking at the Biarritz front row.