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Four Brothers in The Ossau Valley, Day 6

I love maps. I just love them. It’s the certainty of them, I think. And the comfort that when a map says this road goes here – then it does. And this mountain is here, it’s this high and there’s a cliff there. This valley is this low, and if you take this path, you can cross the stream… here! And so you do.

Four Brothers in The Ossau Valley, Day 5

They go low, so we go high. We drove south past Laruns into the mountains up to the Lac de Bious-Artigues at 1400m altitude. We were shocked, shocked I tell you, to find the car park by the lake full, with well-equipped and, worse – fit-looking – hikers setting forth. We were most aggrieved, having had the forests and mountains to ourselves the previous two days – well, except for the cattle and horses, but they didn’t clog up the paths, they weren’t smugly thin and they didn’t have hiking poles and expensive walking gear.

Four Brothers in The Ossau Valley, Day 4

After walking up through the early morning village of Bilhères, where we were living for the week, the path levelled off and we passed by some lush pastures and entered the forest. An old forest, big trees, venerable; moss hanging low from branches in the shadow of mountains. Steep mountains, high, stooping down to the valley floor and the running steam that we could hear but not see, far below.

Four Brothers in The Ossau Valley, Day 3

We were hungry and empty when we ate on the unlikely named Col Deus Coïgts at 1068m. We’d climbed up from the villages of Louvie-Juzon and Castet on the valley floor at 400m and it took us four hours to get there. The woods around us as we ate, with tall beech trees reaching up imperiously, were a thing of inordinate beauty. A tree creeper climbed up a bark twenty metres away, doing his methodological thing.

Four Brothers in The Ossau Valley, Day 2

Never miss an opportunity to enter a boulanger’s shop in the morning. I recommend it. The smell of the fresh bread and pastries, the look of their stacked fine golden familiar shapes. The appetite for a holiday breakfast and the anticipation of that first bite of crunchy crust. The taste of the soft white bread, with butter and tea. It’s all right there in the ringing of the bell when you open the door and step inside to the cheerful ‘bonjour’ that awaits you.

Four Brothers in The Ossau Valley, Day 1

When I awoke I heard bells. No, a bell. Must be the church in the village, I thought and it must be later than I’d expected. I checked my phone: 5.29. Hardly the church – it was the bell on the animal in the field we’d heard the evening before, when we stood out on the balcony and gazed out into the valley, soaking it in.

Why are Writers So Happy?

The question was ironic. The questioner was commenting on the subject matter of the three readings at the Cork International Short Story Festival at Cork City Library, one of which was by me. The event was showcasing the Smoke in The Rain Anthology, the 2017 From the Well Short Story Competition, organised by Cork County Libraries and Arts Service and it was very kind of The Munster Literature Centre to do so. In fairness my story was probably the darkest, but Mary Rose’s wasn’t all sugar and spice either. Anne’s was a bit more uplifting, about a boy coming to terms with his grief after his father’s death – yeah, I know, says a lot about the others doesn’t it?

Cycling to Coomenole

I cycled over the road to Coomenole. It isn’t a long cycle from Baile an Chalaidh, but there are a few climbs and my legs aren’t what they used to be, so I took my time. Thanks be to God for the granny cog on the old Bentini. I got there in about 45 minutes, with a couple of scenery breaks on the hills (ahem).

A Picture of a Man

There’s an amazing scene in the film M by Fritz Lang* where a serial killer of children is put on trial by the local criminal fraternity and the parents of those he has murdered. They decide, not surprisingly, that he must die for his crimes. And in the scene, the murderer, Beckert, played wonderfully by the wonderful Peter Lorre, tells them all that they cannot kill him, in fact they have no right to try him at all, because he is a man.

The morning sun, the evening sun

The morning sun talks about today. The evening sun talks about tomorrow. I love the evening sun the best. The morning light’s a wonder, and it’s fresh. And whiter than the evening light, and pristine cool. It floats up over the hedge, bundled with optimism and energy, rising, encouraging something meaningful from the day. Expectant with significance, the morning sun.