By Veronica

Eau salée

A trip to the salt pans on the Ile St Martin today. Normally they would be a beautiful bright pink at this time of year, but yesterday's massive rain and hailstorm put paid to that by flooding them with fresh water (this storm completely passed us by -- we didn't see a drop of rain). We went on a guided tour and I took a few photos anyway -- see small Flickr set, including my spare blip. I will have to go back later in the summer when both sky and salt are more photogenic. We also noted the new bar and restaurant on the site, which we haven't visited for some years -- it's definitely worth coming back on a warm summer evening for the view over the salt pans.

After that we called in to visit J&B in Narbonne for a glass of wine and a chat, on our way to the evening's entertainment at the rather grand Château de Prat-de-Cest. They have concerts about once a month, and someone handed me a leaflet about a year ago, but I've only just got round to doing something about it. The show was called Billie's Blues, a homage to Bille Holiday by Laure Donnat. The first half was dedicated to Billie, with just Laure and a very good bass player, Lilian Bencini, so that she was effectively singing a capella -- quite brave! She has a powerful voice that she uses well; sometimes a bit too powerful/harsh, but on slow numbers she was brilliant -- I haven't heard anyone other than Nina Simone and Billie herself perform Strange Fruit better.

For the second half, they were joined by an excellent pianist, and their favourite drummer who just happened to be in the area and decided to join in. Halfway through the first number, S nudged me and whispered, "This drummer's really good -- look at how much he's doing when he's not supposed to do anything in particular." It was true -- where most drummers would just be tapping monotonously away, he was using the full armoury, with brushes, sticks, subtle strokes of cymbals, playing around with rhythms, and judging by his expression he was in a sound world all of his own. Although the whole of this half was excellent, he really stood out, and I don't normally have much time for drummers. They finished with a dazzling homage to Ornette Coleman, who died last week: Turnaround. We left very contented at midnight -- a lovely venue, nice people, not expensive, and not too far from home. Long live live music!

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