Thursday, 19 September 2013

The first  weekend in September we went to Lausanne, to visit a young friend who works there. We stayed in Ouchy, on the lakeside, which was busy on Friday evening when we arrived. We spent Saturday visiting La Chaux de Fonds, which is the main centre for Swiss watch making. We last visited La Chaux de Fonds about 20 or so years ago, while staying in a gite in the Franche Comte area, just over the border. The town seemed to be much brighter and more lovely this visit, possibly having benefited from the success of the Swiss watch industry. We paid homage to this by spending some time at the Musee International d' Horologie, which is a fascinating place. The following day we visited a couple of buildings not usually open to the public, but that weekend were, as part of the Swiss/European "Jours de Patrimoinie"or European Heritage days. We visited a concert theatre at Vevey, which is a building site at the moment, as it is undergoing major restauration work, and we had a walk along the lakeside, past the statue of Charlie Chaplin, and also paid a short visit to the Alimentarium, a museum about food, how we taste it, digest it and so on. It has lots of interactive features, and as it was a weekend, there were plenty of families all enjoying finding out stuff about food.
 Then we drove up into the mountains, to visit Leysin, to visit what was an hotel and tuberculosis sanatorium at the end of the nineteenth century and is now the Swiss Hotel Management School. Leysin is also a winter sports resort, and has beautiful south-facing views, which we could only get glimpses of through the clouds which kept drifting about. We drove back down to the lakeside via a more-or-less single track road, which at one point gave us views of Lake Geneva and the valley through which the Rhone river runs. Amazing.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Le Vaulmier, in the heart of the vallee du Mars

In the Cantal, summer continues, with hot sunny day, clear blue skies and warm calm evenings, although my favourite swimming pool, open-air, is now closed. Sunday was its last open day this season, and I had the pool all to myself for at least an hour, until a family came and swam. Swallows are gathering; yesterday there were flocks of young birds flying all round the house and perching on the electricity lines, presumably practising before setting off for Africa. Life in the Val du Mars is quieter, as most of the summer visitors have left, with only a few walkers enjoying the peaceful mountains and valleys. Most of the traffic is now local farmers and others going about their daily business, and other departmental numberplates are fewer.
Reading still continues, however, along with decisions as to what to say about a classic novel.
Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse has long been called a classic, but when first published in 1927, it was its modernity that drew comment. This novel, first published in 1927, was a first read for me, despite having read other books by Virginia Woolf. I had a copy with a lengthy introduction, which I skipped, and with notes at the back, ditto. Only after reading the whole work did I dip into the notes and introduction, as when originally published, neither introduction nor notes would have been available; both are products of years of interpretation by a large variety of scholars and critics, and are useful if making an in-depth study of the work. But I think it would have been written originally for entertainment; that is to make the reader think about the events, emotions, actions of the characters she wrote about, to present a different way of expressing how other lives are lived, and how other people think and feel about what is going on around them, while participating in those same events. That at least is the effect that reading this story of the Ramsay family and their guests, on two different summer days, had on me. This is a book which I will probably re-read. Alongside To the Lighthouse, I've also been reading A Writer's Diary:being extracts from the Diaries of Virginia Woolf, the one-volume edition recently republished by Persephone Books. Reading the two together certainly gave me a lot more insight into what Virginia Woolf was trying to achieve in her novels, and other writing, and the sheer hard work she did to obtain the effects she sought.

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