I was looking anxiously at the road, nearly half way from Goulien’s village to Michel Hervé Julien’s bird sanctuary where I have been studying kittiwakes for over a month now. September 1990 and I accepted the offer to keep an eye on the reserve while Pierre – the curator of the site- and his wife Cat went off for a well deserved holiday. The place was closed now, kids back to school and my only job was to keep an eye so late tourists wouldn’t trespass or that the Ouessant sheeps (Ushant dwarf sheep, black or white) were OK. The phone would ring the odd time, but not that often. I was waiting for Sergio who I had told in a letter that he could come and visit. It was a bit lonely to say the least and I was missing my friend. I told him I had a surprise, and that he should come for the week. Sergio was just back from India with his parents and that tribe of natural born travelers never turned down an adventure. He left a message, hardly audible on the sanctuary’s office answer machine. “ cccreeech… ‘ot your letter… Creeech… sounds good, I’ll be there in a couple of days!”. So I was waiting, looking at the road towards Goulien, anxiously.
Tag: short story
The Kittiwakes of Goulien
I spent the best part of my very late teens hanging on to a mountain rope above the tumultuous and moody Atlantic Ocean, crashing against the cliffs of Cap Sizun, rocky lifeline to a hundred metre drop. Goulien is a small village of the Western Breton peninsula, Penn Ar Bed or Finistère in French, both meaning “The end of the Earth” – even if some linguists might think differently, you get the idea- a region close to my heart. I had left behind the old salt marshes further east; I was growing into a young man and the politics on the bird sanctuary were starting to get to me. An opportunity came along – still with the same charity- so I packed my bags, my binoculars and headed west right after Easter and for the summer. My Dad brought me that time, a father bringing his son for his first “Walk About”, my Right of Passage. As soon as we crossed the county’s border, my heart felt lighter and my muscles started to relax one by one. “This is it” I thought, this is actually happening! The car was speeding towards the sunset and I drifted away from this land, thinking about my new home when Dad decided to break this peaceful moment of communion…
A Noël Tale
My last Christmas in France was 25 years ago, having since dedicated my life to my new found love: food and wine; from the kitchen first to specialized retail adventures. My point is, in the world of fine dining (I am trying real hard not to use the word “Gourmet” here), when the last few days before the climax of Christmas reach its peak, it’s all hands on deck to advise, suggest and supply the goods for all the gentle folks of a well tuned-in modern Ireland. Rushing to Dublin airport on the 24th to head back to France for a couple of days wasn’t somewhat appealing to me so I didn’t bother. And since I don’t fly and the Ferries are off duty, the choice was somewhat simple…
The Con Artist
You know, when you have to survive, one has to do some pretty crazy things. Well, when I mean survive, I really mean having enough money to have a bite to eat and most importantly, a few bob for a beer or two with your friends. It was in November 1991, and the autumnal air was brisk in Rennes, the Breton Capital. I had recently joined my comrades from secondary school and their rogue theater company called “The Smoking Dogs”, a “troop” made of former students from the college (Lycée) Alain-Renée Lesage, conveniently named after the Breton born playwright from the 17th/18th century. Funny really, the irony, knowing that he was born in Sarzeau, the birth place of our theatrical mutiny, where the father of my friend “ The Hero” had a country restaurant, HQ of our young lucubration. We moved to Rennes, Breton Mecca for students of all kinds: Law, psychology, history of art to just name a few and an absolute magnet for late teenagers and young adults who had a thirst for identity, music and art in general. The City allowed us to be us, yet to feed the need to be unknown again. We were broke but we managed with our few gigs here and there, chipping in when the going was good. I wasn’t an actor in the company, but a musician; Tom, our friend and director had had a vision and he wanted the dark concept of our plays to mix circus themes and live music on stage. I was happy to get the job, accompanying the talented Ronan on guitar with my tin whistles and sometimes playing riffs of bass to the performing actors. “The Hero” and Sergio were in charge of the lights, especially the pursuit projector following the every moves of the comedians, not an easy task!
Roasted Cherry Toms and Pea Quiche
It was a funny day yesterday… I was enjoying my breakfast, a nice mug of breakfast tea in one hand, the other holding the left side of my face, elbow on the table while listening to the usual gobbledygook on the radio, bis repetita placent blabla that it becomes quite entertaining and then voosh! Lights and radio out, silence broken only by the cats purring somewhere under the table. I just cursed a bit but without real conviction, accepting while looking at the ESB reminder pinned on the “do not forget” board in front of me and for the past ten days. The skies were grey, raining and humid, it was going to be a long afternoon… No TV, no internet, too sad out to go for a walk or even a drive so I did what I do sometimes, sat in the hall of the cottage and went through six boxes of pictures, a life documented like many others, six boxes and something like 25 years in the making, moments I remembered a bit more than others, I couldn’t stop…
Leaving Glenveagh and Saffron Scones
I had my first real interview radio yesterday; not about work, just about me and my Hungry Breton Alter-Ego. It was quite fun, exciting and intriguing to have a producer and radio presenter interested about my life! During the pre-interview of the “Late Lunch with Gerry Kelly”, the lady asked me a few questions about myself and what caught their attention was my time I had spent in Glenveagh National park, summer of 1991, working on a clearance project of the cute but deadly Rhododendrons that has plagued Ireland since it had been introduced from Asia… Rhododendrons acidify the soil and create erosion as a consequence, as pretty as it may look, it is a curse for native species… If you want to hear my interview, click on the link, it starts at 32:50…
Fresh Fig with toasted St Tola and Aronia coulis
Not a lot of people know this, but I grew up in a school until I was ten years old. My Mother was a teacher and we had moved a fair bit by the time I reached the age of five. Questembert first, after I was born in the Sacred Heart Clinic in Vannes, just off Roosevelt avenue, then Belz, not too far from Auray where a Guineafowl kept on chasing and terrorising me, where my child minder used to call me “Figure de poire”, “Pear Face”, a nice lady though… Then finally Vannes. By the time I was five, I had lived in three schools. In France at the time, a teacher didn’t earn a lot of money, but one of the perks of the job came with a descent amount of holidays, and a “logement de fonction” ( work accommodation) for the whole family, until you were senior enough and with a reasonably comfortable income to get your own…
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Thanks a Brunch!
It has been a year now since I have renounced eating meat. It has been in my mind for the past six years, I may well have spoken about it before, well maybe not as directly but yes, it has been one year. Apart from that time in October 1st where I was invited by Chef Richard Corrigan at his own table, in his own restaurant and a beef Wellington might have been produced; it was Sunday brunch, my last real Sunday brunch, nearly a year ago. As I am typing this few short lines of my introduction, I can feel a frisson down my spine, and I swear, I clearly heard Anthony Bourdain whisper in my ear: ” you did good man, you did good…”. Is it cold here? Did you feel that?
The Organic Car Crash
I don’t know if any of you have ever driven off a cliff and lived to tell the tale? Well I did. I wasn’t driving though; it was just the Universe putting four actors in a play, act 1, scene 1 taking place in our favourite dive, “The Cactus”. It was a normal Friday evening in July 1994, Sergio and I were sitting at the bar enjoying a few glasses of Pilsner, listening to “22-Pistepirkko”, a Finnish band who played within these stone walls only a year earlier. Good times. Little did I know that in a few short months I would be on my way to Ireland and little did I know that a couple of hours later I would find myself waist deep in sea water and mud…
“Cherry Times” a June Tale and a Goat’s Cheese Soufflé recipe
I don’t know what it is about June, forget about July and I may as well scrap August altogether, taking the risk of being quite unpopular with people around me, I must say that I don’t deal with summer – or whatever they call it here- very well. The idea of contemplating these three long months, feels like bracing myself for a quiet and deadly storm, “Waiting around to die” from Townes Van Zandt keep on a ringing when I should be happy, when I should be whistling to the dog and the cats in the kitchen ” Le temps des cerises”, Cherry Times… Cheery times! Now I get to think about it, it’s a beautiful, seasonal and yet a pretty heart wrenching song too. I mustn’t have been the only one so, the summer takes as much as it gives I guess, and June gives so generously!
– “Come on Captain sail on that ship of yours through them dark troubled waters, you hear?”
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