Monday, 30 May 2016


Mondays in Milan / Les lundis en Lombardie

This painting by Bernard Zenale (or somebody in his sphere) depicts a flagellation. The painter and architect was born in the 1450s and died in Milan in 1526. The Flagellation dates from 1515-20 and is oil on wooden board. It hangs in the Castello Sforzesco in Milan.

He seems to have become a master painter and member of the guild of painters at a remarkably early age (maybe as young as 15, but certainly by the time he was 17). Although not originally from Milan, for most of his career he was based in the city. Leonardo's arrival in Milan was hugely influential and as a result Zenale's style changed markedly around 1500. By 1513 he was working primarily as an architect rather than a painter and was appointed to the Duomo project in 1519, becoming chief architect in 1522. You can see his architectural interests reflected in the painting above, and his use of perspective is skilled (he even wrote a paper on the subject). He appears to have been a wealthy individual, owning two houses and some land near Milan.

Our posts on Mondays are all about the northern Italian city of Milan. To read more click here.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

The first time we saw our house

Ten years ago today we drove into Preuilly specifically to look at a couple of houses we had seen advertised on the internet.

The first was an interesting collection of three buildings, none of which had functioning bathrooms, and none of which you could reach from the others except via a courtyard shared with a fourth building. Far too confusing for us! (But not for someone else, who bought the collection, and has placed one of the houses back on the market).

The other was a building we were told by the estate agent was too small for us, so needless to say it was the biggest house we looked at. It is also the house we now live in.

I am not sure what was going on in our heads at the time: we both owned digital cameras, we almost instantly decided this was the house we wanted to buy, but we took only two photos of the exterior and none of the interior.

 We did take some more photos of Preuilly sur Claise (4 of them),
one of which is currently the header of the blog

We wrote about the whole life changing three day weekend in one blog post five months after the event.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Our first proper pictures of Preuilly

After spending an evening at the Gerbe d'Or in Loches talking about the boulangerie (see yesterday's post) and deciding that the only option would be to demolish part of it to make a courtyard, we decided that we were being silly, and that there were sure to be other options.

We had decided we liked the feel of Preuilly, so the next day (a Sunday) we spent the morning in the Brenne, then drove to Preuilly to have lunch. We lunched at l'Image, the first of many pleasant meals we have had there over the years. It was Mother's Day, so we were lucky to get the last free table in the place.

Our first proper picture of Preuilly. 12h38, 28 May 2006

Our second proper picture of Preuilly. 12h39, 28 May 2006. If we had known
we would still be here ten years later we would have taken more photos

The meal was enough to convince us we really did like Preuilly, and to return on Monday check out other houses on the market.

You can read an almost 10 year old account of this buying trip here

Friday, 27 May 2016

And Now it's Ten Years

They may not be the world's stunningest© photos, but they are three of the first photos we took in Preuilly sur Claise, ten years ago today. They are photos of a house we didnt buy, and here are the reasons:

We thought it was a bit weird. Turns out that compared
to other houses we looked at, it wasn't.

It didn't have a staircase of its own, but rather a staircase shared with the
almost fallen down house next door. Next door's bedroom door is on the left.

It is right on the main road. We didn't know then how busy the road
can get (we saw it on a Saturday afternoon), but it was a lucky escape.

The other reason we didn't buy this particular house is that it had an enormous semi-cellar (110m2) with one very small window, and a sub cellar beneath it. We did seriously think about the house, but we decided in the end that we just couldn't work out something sensible to do with all those rooms/half rooms/cellars.

All this means that the bottom photo is the first photo we have that shows anything of Preuilly sur Claise. It was taken at 14h50 on the 27th May 2006.

You can read an almost 10 year old account of this buying trip here

Thursday, 26 May 2016

A Sign

I'm posting this just because I thought the sign was charming. It fits in perfectly with its surroundings.

2 points if you can tell me where it is.

Answer: Martizay. 2 points to The Titteringtoness who was spot on.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Rivarennes in the Rain

Rivarennes is a small village on the River Creuse in the Brenne. I was invited to go over there to check out the surrounds and the appointed day turned out to be thoroughly miserable weather wise, but thoroughly enjoyable company and scenery wise.

Nottingham Catchfly.
I am super pleased with this photo of Nottingham Catchfly Silene nutans (Fr. Silène penché). They are night flowering, and the flowers only last a few hours. Normally when I see them the petals are rolled back on themselves and the flower is dying. Because it was such a dull moist day they were in good condition for once and I got this nice shot of them with artistic droplets of water. They are a common plant here on flinty chalk soil, growing in dry sunny places.

Built in the 14th century to control the river crossing, the Chateau de la Tour was captured by the English in 1370. It is privately owned.

Eileen on the track through Les Chézeaux.
Eileen and Andrew are the energetic new owners of a tiny house, a large garden and a parcel of woodland in Rivarennes. They asked me over to check out the nearby nature walk of Les Chézeaux, which we were hoping would reveal lots of orchids. Later in the year there will apparently be Martagon Lilies Lilium martagon (Fr. Lis martagon) flowering too. The latter is a species on the north-eastern edge of its range and there are only ten sites in the Brenne where you can see it (most of them near Rivarennes and the surrounding villages along the Creuse).

The oldest house in Rivarennes.
This house, known as Le Pavillon, may not look very special but it is a 14th century tower house. There is an inscription above the door which refers to the killing in the church of a local lad by the lord of the chateau in 1626.

Jachère fleurie.
This lovely patch of jachère fleurie has been sown in the water meadow on the edge of town. When I visited it was dominated by Dames-violet Hesperis matronalis (Fr. Julienne des dames) and Oxeye Daisy Leucanthemum vulgare (Fr. Marguerite). Both plants would be native to this spot and the reason this jachère fleurie is better than the average non-native cosmos heavy effort is that Indre Nature have an office in Rivarennes. Apparently they have had to put a sign up asking people not to pick the flowers. It hasn't been very successful though. People are regularly sighted bearing away armfuls of flowers. Infuriating!

Grass Pea.
The pretty little Grass Pea Lathyrus sphaericus (Fr. Gesse à graines rondes) is uncommon, but there was a nice patch of them growing by the bike path. I've only ever seen single plants before.

A mutant Monkey Orchid.
In the end we only saw one species of orchid in flower, which was disappointing. There was a Lady Orchid Orchis purpurea (Fr. Orchis pourpre) which had been picked, and some other orchids not yet in flower. All we saw in flower were Monkey Orchids Orchis simia (Fr. Orchis singe), at least one of which had been picked, and one of which had a mutation and was 'limbless'. They should look like this, with 'arms' and 'legs' which remind one of a monkey.

Notable Plants to be Seen at Rivarennes:
Broad-leaved Whitebeam / Sorbus latifolia / Alisier de Fontainebleau (M-J) 
Peach-leaved Bellflower / Campanula persicifolia / Campanule à feuilles de Pêcher (J-J)
Small Teasel / Dipsacus pilosus / Cardère velue (J-J-A)
Narrow-leaved Helleborine / Cephalanthera longifolia / Cephalanthère à longues feuilles (M-J)
White Helleborine / Cephalanthera damasonium / Cephalanthère blanche (M-J)
Bird-in-a-Bush / Corydalis solida / Corydale solide (M-A-M)
Berry Catchfly / Cucubalus baccifer / Cucubale à baie (J-A)
Plantain-leaved Leopards Bane / Doronicum plantagineum / Doronic à feuilles de Plantain (A-M-J)
Small-leaved Helleborine / Epipactis microphylla / Epipactis à petite feuilles (J-J)
Narrow-lipped Helleborine / Epipactis muelleri / Epipactis de Müller (J-J)
Irish Spurge / Euphorbia hyberna / Euphorbe d'Irlande (A-M-J-J)
Bloody Cranes-bill / Geranium sanguineum / Géranium sanguin (J-J)
Isopyrum / Isopyrum thalictroides / Isopyre faux-Pigamon (M-A-M)
Fingered Sedge / Carex digitata / Laîche digitée (A-M-J)
Toothwort / Lathraea squamaria / Lathrée écailleuse (M-A)
Violet Limodore / Limodorum abortivum / Limodore à feuilles avortées (M-J)
Martagon Lily / Lilium martagon / Lis martagon (June)
Great Wood-rush / Luzula sylvatica / Luzule des bois (M-J)
Yellow Birds-nest / Monotropa hypopitys / Monotrope sucepin (J-J)
Robust Marsh Orchid / Dactylorhiza elata subsp sesquipedalis / Orchis élevé (M-J)
Early Marsh Orchid / Dactylorhiza incarnata / Orchis incarnat (M-J)
Military Orchid / Orchis militaris / Orchis militaire (A-M-J)
Wych Elm / Ulmus glabra / Orme de montagne (M-A)
Herb Paris / Paris quadrifolia / Parisette (M-J-J)
Hard Shield Fern / Polystichum aculeatum / Polystic à aiguillons
Soft Shield Fern / Polystichum setiferum / Polystic à soies
Primrose / Primula vulgaris / Primavère acaule (M-A)
Oxlip / Primula elatior / Primavère élevée (M-A-M)
Wild Liquorice / Astragalus glycyphyllos / Réglisse sauvage (J-A)
Common Bistort / Polygonum bistorta / Renouée bistorte (M-J-J-A-S)
Early Squill / Scilla bifolia / Scille à deux feuilles (M-A-M)
A ragwort / Senecio erraticus / Séneçon erratique (J-J-A-S)
Wild Grapevine / Vitis vinifera subsp silvestris / Vigne sauvage (M-J)