Founex, ROW80, and The Creatures of Number 37

Founex is a wee village (hamlet?) that's only ten minutes from Geneva but miles away in terms of quiet, open countryside, and fresh air.

It's been mostly grey and chilly these past few weeks, but I think spring is coming this weekend, with sunshine and temperatures rising to 15 degrees. Daffodils and crocuses are already blooming (and look! I know what a crocus is! I didn't, until we moved here. More on this following the photo stream).

Here are a few final shots of Founex in autumn and winter:

At the crossroads

Chateau Bossey

Chateau Bossey on another day

Crossroads at the Chateau


Highland cow

I'm still learning the names of all peaks visible across the lake. I've only memorised two so far, Dent d'Oche (Teeth of the Pasture) and Mole. About 30 to go!,

Very low clouds over the lake

Bonfire night! In the week of Epiphany, all the villages hold Christmas tree bonfires. No one hangs on to their decorations until March around here...

The date above the door of this byre is 1816!

A spring robin! This photo was taken a couple of weeks ago.

I've recently read a dreamy little book called The Creatures of Number 37, by John Watts.

It's one of those stories that's a perfect blend of sad and sweet and gentle, that never forgets the wild world and the dangers beyond. In the tradition of (as reviewers say), the Wind in the Willows and Watership Down, and the Green Knowe stories, with even a drop of the Last Homely House from The Hobbit.

If you're looking for a book to give as a gift at Easter, choose this one!

It makes me think of the contrast between wanderers or rolling stones, and stay-at-homes. As the hobbit Merry says, "the soil of the Shire is deep. Still there are things deeper and higher; and not a gaffer could tend his garden in what he calls peace, but for them."

It's good to get out into the world, and have adventures and climb the high mountains. And the other side is also good; burrowing in to one corner of the land, and learning its ways and feeling a part of its seasonal rhythms. Comparing it to a different sort of story, it's like the difference between Poirot and Marple. Poirot roams, and Marple stays in St Mary Mead, yet both have perception and a storehouse of knowledge. (I wonder what would happen if they each, unkown to the other, were working on the same mystery?)

Coming back to Founex, one thing I've gained since moving to Switzerland is nature that's much closer. We're only ten minutes from a city (not the hour or so you'd need to travel to get out of Montreal), and right on the land. I'm slowly learning the names of more birds, and trees, and flowers. And yet, being in Europe, we're also travelling to more places -- it only takes an hour or two's flight to reach Amsterdam, London, Berlin... It's an exciting balance between staying put and travelling further afield.

Putting on my writing hat for a moment, I note in passing that readers sometimes don't realise how difficult it can be to write one of these pastoral books. The tone has to be just right, not losing focus, not dripping sap. Every story should be pulled up tight, of course, and every word have its purpose in setting the scene and building the characters (and not only in dialogue!). Yet sometimes, when gardens and fields and rivers are the setting, and children run in and out of the tale, some writers meander too far; the narrator gets mixed up with the kids, the animals lose their individual voices and fantastical elements wander in and out with no rhyme or reason for their presence or actions -- even such classic authors as Kingsley, in his The Water Babies, seems to lose sight of whatever ideas he wanted to express when he first started out. I find William Morris wanders quite a bit, too. One of the reasons I enjoy The Lord of the Rings is for the care that went into each scene, each poem, each name, in ensuring that it was one of a whole, and connected to the created landscape and language. I still love Terry Pratchett's line: "Most modern fantasy just rearranges the furniture in Tolkien's attic."

ROW80 is nearing its end. I've been trying to read all the books we own that I haven't read yet, in order to feel less guilty during future book purchases! Also because I really do want to read them; I picked up lots of Somerset Maugham and Graham Greene at the last library book sales, and also a few Bill Brysons, Agatha Christies, and more. Plus there's poetry, a couple of Alistair MacLean thrillers, a Dorothy Dunnett, and more, and they all call to me. I need a week off! But then, I've always been saying that. At least, my Tolkien rereads are nearing the end, and that'll free up more reading time on the commute (and some knitting time, too!).

Do you feel the differences between city and village and country?
Could you live in each of them or do you have a preference?


Lara Lacombe said…
Lovely pictures! I imagine the bonfire of Christmas trees smelled wonderful!
Beautiful pictures of a beautiful and magical place. Some day I need to travel there. In the meantime, I can only live in the country, or at least a place with a patch of country in the backyard and with enough space to stretch my legs.
Hi Denise - wonderful photos of misty, freezing countryside with a chilly Chateau - interesting to find the goats, and the Highland Cattle ..

I love the country, though I'm not countrified per se, I just enjoy the freedom of space - however I miss London too .. and enjoy being near enough to get up on occasions and visit exhibitions etc and see some of the sights.

Yes - I read some stories, long or short, and they don't have the compactness that I like to read .. they're too easy to read, to easy to see through ... but many love that sort of reading and gobble those sorts of books up.

I liked your note on Terry Pratchett's take on "Most modern fantasy just rearranges the furniture in Tolkien's attic." Also your note on Poirot and Marple is interesting ... especially as Agatha Christie travelled extensively around the world ... her capacity of creating stories around a village has been 'pinched' by writers today - which get turned into tv programmes.

Being in Geneva .. would definitely entice me to visit places in Europe .. and then as you say the countryside is just there ...

Lovely read ... cheers Hilary

S.P. Bowers said…
I'm a country girl, though I do envy your ability to travel. And I REALLY want a Christmas tree bonfire.
Deniz Bevan said…
Thanks everyone! Wish you could all come visit!
Chrys Fey said…
Those pictures are so neat! I would love to go there. And it's funny because I love fog so I'd be giddy. :)
Rachel Walsh said…
Hey Deniz!
Your photos are gorgeous. You're certainly living in a beautiful part of the world at the moment - lucky you! And boy, do I envy your being only an hour or two away from so many European cities ... wouldn't even reach most of my own country's major cities in that time! Hope you keep enjoying your adventures... :-)
Misha Gericke said…
Looks like you live in a magical part of the world. :-D

I have to say, I think it's often the most simple books (theoretically) that are the hardest to write. There's just no fanfare and fireworks to hide behind, so for these kinds of books to write, the writing has to be perfect.
Deniz Bevan said…
Thanks Chrys, Rachel, and Misha!

Popular posts from this blog

Contest to Celebrate My 900th Post!

New Goals for ROW80, and Open for Guest Posts!

Some Early Resolutions - Thank You Contest Still Ongoing