News April/May 2015

Time for another newsletter. For much has happened these last few weeks. Just like all the other weeks. There were many high high’s and many low low’s. There always, are but this time things were really hectic. The computer went down, we got serious problems with part of our old central heating system, our accountant discovered that he had made a mistake in our tax return documents, costing us another, extra 2.000, - euro’s and I got almost killed when a crazy Frenchman overtook a truck between Limoux and Couiza, just when I came from round the bend (in the road). Tired, a lot of stress, some rather turbulent personal experiences and all that in an uneasy world.

It is as if a new crisis is looming over the horizon and I feel that France, this beautiful, wonderful France is in a pretty sorry state.

But some good things are happening as well, as you will see in this newsletter. Wonderful guests, wonderful tours, a great trip to Holland and I did it, I really di dit, I finally reached the ripe old age of seventy, while still feeling like a man of forty.

My birthday

I was born on May 14th 1945, a few days after the Second World War ended. I survived the Hunger Winter (Hungry Winter) in the belly of my dear mother. It was a very bad time in the part of Holland where we lived, the part that was still occupied by the Germans. It was a very cold winter and there was hardly anything to eat. But we survived.

We grew up in very sober conditions, there was not much to eat and people were working hard to rebuild the country. And it was  a tense time, the time of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. I can still remember when I joined the Royal Netherlands Navy in 1964 that I thought: “if I will ever live to be 50 years of age, I am a very lucky guy.

And here I am, 70 years old(young) now, and living in one of the most interesting periods of time in the recorded history of mankind.

We properly celebrated this happy occasion early in May in Franeker, Holland, in my favorite Chinese restaurant. With my closest friends and all my children and grandchildren. Dear friends, thank you all for your gifts and for writing such nice memories in this special ‘Memory Book,’ And thank you for your generous contributions to my birthday present. A financial contribution for trip to the magical and mysterious Ethiopia, one of the places I always wanted to visit. I will send all of you a personal ‘thank you’ note.

And thanks to all the other dear friends for your lovely birthday wishes. I counted no less than 88 good wishes on facebook and linkedin! Waw.

Finally, back in France, and on the day itself, we took a glass of Blanquette in the Jardin de Marie in Rennes-le-Chateau and had a cosy, private dinner with Joke and Franklin in that crazy restaurant La Poule et Bicyclette. Thanks again!

 

Groups and guided tours

In April we had a few guided tours. And we have a lot more coming in May. In May the first large groups arrived. First a group from Sweden, 33 people altogether and then the first of our familiar ‘Stavoor’ groups, for people who are about to be pensioned of. It is hard work especially for Joke and Franklin and Axel. Preparing breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee, tea, towels and toilet paper. But it is also great fun and the people love it to be here and to be guided to all those interesting places. Like the caves of Jesus and Mary Magdalene in Baulou and the initiation caves of the Cathars. Like the Rock church of Val sans the wonderful city of Mirepoix. Like the labyrinth of Nebias. Like Rennes-le-Chateau, Rennes-les-Bains, Alet-les-Bains and Bugarach. And the cave of Mary Magdalene of course.

 

To the heart of the Roussillon

The Rousillon is a special area. It belonged for a long time, from around 1050 to 1659, to the count of Barcelona. Later it was part of the kingdom of Catalonia. The Spanish influences are still  visible. In the language, in the dark skin of the people and in the churches and cathedrals. All paintings, statues and panels are  more explicit, even cruel. We often see seven daggers sticking in the body of Mary.

Sometimes I have to get out of the house. Be on my own. To explore new things. This day I made a grand tour to the heart of Rousssillon, visiting many places that I had heard about or read about. I first went to Belesta, a lovely village between Maury and Ille-sur-Tet. But the church was closed. South of Belesta are the most curious rock formations, surrounded by beautiful fields of pink and white roses. From the road we saw part of the enigmatic Orgues d’Ille sur Tet. In the cathedral I saw a king playing harp. Then I went up into the mountains. A small road, deep ravines, all wooded land no houses. Until I came to the Relais de Serrabone and had a great lunch. Then up the mountain to the abbey. Located in a place far away from anything. A quiet place with a peaceful energy. The beautiful Black Madonna that was originally in the abbey was no longer there. It now was in a lovely chapel in Boule d’Amont, some 10 kilometers to the south. What a beautiful chapel, what a wonderful statues. Then on the road again to anther chapel, La Chapelle de la Trinite. With this magnificent wooden statue. Next I went to the very ancient church of La Bastide, another magic place, with another Madonna with child. From there north to Vinca, a bigger city on the road from Perpignan to Font Romeu. With, for the first time some paintings of Mary Magdalene in a special chapel. A choir was signing. It always sounds so beautiful in a church. On the way back I paid a short visit to the church of Eust, a well know church located high upon a hill with another Madonna with child. Then I went to Ille-sur-Tet, to the incredible rock formation calles “Les Orgues,” the organs. What a fantastic sight. Enjoy! Finally back to St Paul-de-Fenouilledes, with a short visit to the aquaduct in Serre de Verges. A back through the Gorges de Galamous to Bugarach and Les Labadous. My friends, what a great day!

Going up and going down

To the Netherlands, I mean. Whenever I go by car to Holland or back to France, I always try to visit some places where I have never been, or places that I would like to see again. Like this time. On my way to my favorite hotel Cosmos in Contrexeville I had some time to spare, so I went up the hill to the magic cathedral of Fourviere in Lyon. But I do not advise you to try it by yourself. It is an extremely hazardous enterprise. Getting halfway the crowded tunnel off the road and then finding your way to the top of the hill. The cathedral is one of the richest places I have seen in France. Incredible. Next to the cathedral is a small chapel with two beautiful black Madonna’s. One is original and one a copy. But to make sure that this is a true Christian place, the church has placed a huge golden statue of the virgin Mary on top of the chapel. Effectively Christianizing the place.

On my way back, after staying in Holland for one week, I went by way of Cologne and Strassbourg. The Dom in Cologne is a beauty, a marvel. Magnificent. Both inside and outside. And even though the guides in the cathedral told me that there was no painting or statue of Mary Magdalene I nevertheless found several. And friends, what a lively place the old city of Cologne is.

Strassbourg was a bit of a disappointment. Half German, half French. With an impossible road system, all one way streets, making it very hard to find your hotel. In the city are some wonderful waterworks. The cathedral has a huge, huge tower and in some of the porches at the front of the cathedral were only statues of women. In wonderful poses. Curious. Inside the cathedral half of it was sealed off and tourists with cameras were apparently not very welcome. Finally, look at this piece of art near the river, a woman climbing a huge pole and see the lovely, wooden statue in the church of St Jean.

 

Spring

Suddenly the spring was there, springing up enthusiastically out of the earth. Daffodils, tulips, orchids, a whole pallet of flowers. The trees were blossoming. Peaches, cherries, plum trees. And then the first leaves appeared on the poplar trees and the ivy began to cover the walls of Les Labadous. So youngish, so virgin green. But the weather was still unpredictable. One day it was 32 degrees and the next day 15 degrees. And there were some very strong winds especially near the Pech Bugarach. There was not much rain, just a few drops and beautiful, beautiful clouds. They looked a bit like the clouds in Holland, the clouds that can be seen in autumn drifting over the North Sea.

 

The Netherlands

Twice a year I go to the Netherlands. We usually call it Holland. There is much to be done and there are many people to visit. Let me give you some examples. First my publisher, to pick up some more books and to discuss plans for new books. Then the Camera.nu shop in Urk to repair my camera. In Urk, just on a hunch, I paid a visit the flea market where I saw the sailing yacht that I would like to buy some day, a Hallberg Rassy 42. And, just before leaving the market, I saw this beautiful statue of Anna and Mary, a statue I just had to buy. It is a gift to my lovely ex, my dear Joke. Next I went to my accountant for some business discussions. I also had to pick up my new passport at Schiphol Airport. And I always take my car to a trusted motor mechanic for some good and badly needed maintenance. Then I love to visit some Chinese, and even better, some Indonesian restaurants.

And I was there to celebrate my birthday of course. And to visit some friends and taking a day off for myself to visit Harlingen where I had a beer and a portie bitterballen and een patat met mayonnaise and a real vleescroquet. The Dutch readers will know what I mean. I also do some shopping, clothes and some bed sheets in my size, a size that is difficult to find in France. And of course some traditional, typical Dutch products as drop, pindakaas, boemboes, sambal and curries.

Door and I walked around in Franeker and later paid a visit to some old Zuiderzee (now Ijsselmeer) harbours. Lovely places like Medemblik with its impressive mill. And Hoorn, where we visited “Het West Friese museum” with its wonderful collection of statues of various Maries and its beautiful paintings. We walked over the dike along the Ijsselmeer until the clouds came rolling in, and here I took this wonderful picture of my dear Door. Next we went to Enkhuizen, to the Domedaris, where there was a huge flea market. But alas, when we arrived in Enkhuizen the rain suddenly came pouring down. How sad for all the children who had spread out on the street all the lovely things they wanted to sell.

We also went to Zuthpen, to Francis who made a wonderful crystal pyramid made of orgonite, especially for me.

And one more thing. How beautiful Holland is, especially if you take the secondary roads. I immensely enjoyed the tulip fields, dressed in bright colors, the huge trees and magic clouds.

 

Books

My dear friend Abraham Tol has finally edited the second version of my book “Mary Magdalene in France”. It will soon be available on Amazon.com as a paper book and an e-book.

I am working hard, with great help from a dear friend in the USA on editing my book “Men are different.” Using American expressions and making sure that it is ready for the American market.

My German friends and Swedish friends will be busy convincing their publishers of the ‘need’ to translate my book “Jamie on his cloud” in German and Swedish.

Val Wineyard, visiting our place with Kris, has published a new book, titled “Rennes-le-Chateau” where various authors who are familiar with this magical place, have contributed articles. Including me.

 

 

Various

The horse of Anne, our lovely neighbor, had a wonderful time in our garden. Staying here for two weeks and eating the young fresh grass.

Our dear friend Mark stayed with us for a while and of course I took him to my favorite restaurant, Le Relais du Pays de Sault. And as you can see it was a great success.

Our dear dog Ruah is, I fear, nearing the end of his life. But he is still full of spirit and he wants to be with us. When we are at Les Labadous, but also when we take a walk to the cave of Mary Magdalene. But that is too far. He should take it a bit easier. Look at how slowly he is walking back to Les Labadous. On August 10 and 11 there will be a special exposition in the garden of Sauniere organized by my friends here. There I will exhibit some 20 of my most extraordinary Orb pictures. Printed on canvas. Pictures that are for sale. It is oaky now. I am no longer reluctant to do so because by that time the pictures will  have appeared in my e-book  “De Orbs Evolutie,” published by Uitgeverij Aspekt in Soesterberg. So the copyright is safe.

And finally, for your pleasure, a last picture of the Tour Magdala in Rennes-le-Chateau.