Tuesday, 9 August 2022

Celebrating weeds

Bee numbers are down, it's evident even in a wildlife garden such as ours but there are a few wild plants in particular which they, mainly bumble bees of various types and hover flies, are drawn too, the main one being a grey leafed specimen with extraordinary spires of yellow flowers, the Mullein. 

Apparently Monet appreciated it and left it to grow amongst the sword like iris leaves and climbing clematis in his garden. It's one of the few plants still blooming in our drought ravaged garden so I'm happy each day to see it somehow putting out new flowers and the bees droning with their orange pollen sacks in the early morning before the sun strikes the rather weary tree tops. 



Wednesday, 3 August 2022

Defining oneself

Sometime I envy folk who always knew what they wanted to do . . . a doctor, a lawyer, a wedding cake maker, something more tangible than being a writer.

For about twelve years now I've been writing for on average an hour first thing in the morning - first thing being around 6:00 am - and when things have been chugging along nicely, coming back to the work of the moment several times a day, other jobs permitting. With this routine I've written nine novels, a volume of short stories, penned many illustrations, and have felt this all to be vital for who I am. I can say I am a writer, thankfully given affirmation from both marvellous and supportive friends and family, and, more importantly if one is counting success as a published book, from agent and publisher.

However . . . to keep kicking away at the publishing door for the next published tome is hard and demoralising work. My agent and I parted ways amicably after Londonia didn't become a Netflix series, and I've been going through the dreary process of hunting down another for a few months now for several months without success. Perhaps there is a message here, myself has been saying to myself. These summer months have been the most full on I can ever remember apart from my London styling days. Writing has been pushed back to a few blog posts and tentative starts at other books, as keeping our surrounding vegetation alive and completing our building project has taken over.

But it's ok. As the summer has dragged on in its fierceness - I can now see why Vivaldi hated the heat and accordingly stuffed the hot part of the Four Seasons with angry violins - helping the garden become a serious life support system for all the birds, butterflies and weeds of the area was at first tedious, then challenging and now a meaningful routine. 

As for the agent hunting. Is it worth it? when they all seem to be hunting the latest money spinning police series or escapist something. Maybe I'll just wait, put out the odd tentative feeler when climate reality smacks a bit harder. Hopeful dystopia must surely have a place on high street bookshelves . . .  or not. Time will tell.

When the garden, hopefully, comes off its us-life-support-system in the autumn, and the building work is rounded up into a fully functioning guest space maybe I'll properly start up the writing again. However, as I feel increasingly that things generally are not heading in a super direction, perhaps I'll go for a more artisan approach: handmade ink drawings, pen to hand-fabricated paper - not fingers on keyboard. Practice what you preach? Twelve years or so going on about speculative and mostly dystopian futures . . . maybe it's time to write in a way that my characters might, small scale, human-made materials; a quieter and satirical peer into the world turmoil.



Wednesday, 20 July 2022

Presenting the Elon Musk hyper-fly swat

Technological breakthrough. Recharges in nano-seconds. Ergonomic, sleek design. Excellent weight distribution resulting in 100% accurate hit. Titanium and moon rock storage carrying case available - price on demand. 

Loyalty card option: for every ten swats purchased, 14 crypto-pence added to your very own Mars time- share condo pod.



Monday, 18 July 2022

Building site playlist



Most builders, plumbers etc we have encountered on our building reconstruction year have appeared with special dust/accident proof radios which blare out a cornucopia of current French chart stuff - in fact, less cornucopia more old croissant and dregs of coffee; just my opinion of course.
Our playlist - thank you Spotify - built for fuelling the moral at the start of whatever physical task is to be undertaken, needs updating and a few over-listened-to songs booted off but many remain as staple, super-energising and sometimes nostalgic works of pop and rock. 
These songs will forever hold images of these dusty and paint-covered moments in time, yesterday for example: What have I done to deserve this by The Pet Shop Boys on a searingly hot day sanding a ceiling in the top room. Or, tiling to the musical mayhem of Mr Bungle (see above).
If you have a few minutes . . . it's not the best live recording but marvel at the sheer energy, timing and eccentricity of this group, and the extraordinary vocal talent of Brian Patton. Shame they disbanded years ago . . .

A selection of other tracks:

Ibiza: Sleaford Mods and The Prodigy
Vicar in a Tutu: The Smiths
Scarecrow People: XTC
Goldfinger: Shirley Bassey and the Propeller Heads.
Take on Me: Aha
Total Football: Parquet Courts
Dare: Gorillaz
Psycho Killer: Talking Heads
Kick in the Eye: Bauhaus
Banana Skin Shoes: Badly Drawn Boy,
Cape Breton Wedding Reel: Boys of the Lough,
I see you Baby: Groove Armada
The Number One Song On Heaven: Sparks
Photoshop Handsome: Everything Everything
Jobseeker: Sleaford Mods
Human Behaviour: Björk
Bout de Bois: Salut C'est Cool
Tequila: The Champs
Americano: The Brian Setzer Orchestra
Egg: Mr Bungle
Boys and Girls: Blur
Such a Shame: Talk Talk
Hogwash and Balderdash: Black Midi
Elvis' Flaming Star: Pond
I'm so Excited: The Pointer Sisters
Our House: Madness
Dead Horse: Yard Act
The Wine Song: The Cat Empire
Let's dance to Joy Division: The Wombats
It's a Sin: The Pet Shop Boys

And . . . I'm too Sexy, Right Said Fred. I know, but it works for DIY.



















     

Saturday, 16 July 2022

H20 two

Following on from my last water-themed post.

I've always been totally drawn to getting in water. My childhood is highlighted by memories of visits to Southgate Baths in North London and our annual holidays at the Dorset coast where Mum and I would stand in utter awe at the glittering blue expanse before hurrying down the cliff path and plunging into the waves. But it's not just the obvious waters such as municipal pools and the sea, I only have to pass a reservoir, river or pond in the warmer months and the urge to immerse myself surfaces much to the eye-rolling of Ezra if we happen to be on a explorative road trip. 'Mum . . . really'?


         Local pond surrounded by keep out signs, which I ignored a few nights ago - great swim!

We were lucky enough to have inherited a pool with our previous house, a typical rectangle of turquoise which we and especially I used intensively from early May through to late October, and thus the urge to get into any available water was somewhat quashed for many years, although ocean visits still remained the top experiences. 

I assumed when moving to the Loire and seeing the vast placid expanse of blue water that I would be able to get in it but sadly it is not recommended/forbidden due to the mysterious currents. There is one area where the Vienne meets the Loire where it is possible but it's not near enough to be very useful. Last year I did find a pond in a forest not too far away but it's on a path frequented by marathon trainers which provokes all that embarrassment of peering about while balancing on one foot trying to get knickers on at speed before a team of lycra clad folk storm past.

This year in part due to the early and scary heat, I spent time seeking out other water possibilities and am contented to say I have found the perfect spot within cycling distance and or excuse to take dog slightly further afield. The Changeon river starts near Gizeux and doesn't pass through any industrial areas - it probably has its fair dose of unpleasant stuff sprayed onto the vines of the area but the fact that water lilies and dragonflies are very present makes it an attractive proposition at an air temperature of 38 degrees or so. I just looked it up on the map and the surrounding forest appears to be called: Le pont de paix intérieur - the bridge of internal peace. poetic! I've swum there about six times now and so far and its a marvellous, and indeed, peaceful, close to the day at about nine o'clock.




dog that shuns water... weird.


If we are evolved from fish life then I for one am certainly less evolved, happiest when feeling my limbs free and weightless when moving through water. 


                                  Not in the local river... idea of what we may have evolved from

Tuesday, 12 July 2022

H20

While gawping in disbelief as people loaded their trolleys with plastic encased water in the supermarket yesterday, I recalled that I had written an article for Ecohustler magazine around the time Londonia was being launched - a couple of years back - about bottled water companies. I think I'll put it here on the blog so a few more people might read it and re-consider the wonder of tap water . . .

Aside note; part of the reason for the supermarket visit was an attempt to buy mustard. Such a small, basic commodity, who would imagine it not being on sale in all its usual guises of mustard with cognac, mustard without cognac, mustard with bits in it, or not; strong, less strong, old style, smooth, diet mustard (I jest) and all the rest of the over-choice. But it wasn't there in any form - at all. It seems that there just isn't any of the yellowy substance, mainly as the great drying out of everywhere includes Canada which is the top mustard seed producer of the world. Weird what you think you know . . . I'd always vaguely assumed that Dijon and its surrounding area was the main producer.

Anyway, back to the article. Excuse the background colour - I couldn't seem to paste the copy onto blogger in a usual way . . .


The money being made by corporations selling plastic wrapped water is like something from a dystopian horror movie… oh wait...


The characters in Kate A Hardy’s new dystopian novel Londonia, set in 2072, rely for their water on the deliveries by the ‘water mec’ and harnessing rainwater. Here she explores how today’s bottled water industry has turned this primordial resource into a vast money-making enterprise.


                                      


In our current time when water appears mysteriously and almost unceasingly from our taps is there any need to buy bottled water when so many in the world have virtually no access to this life vital resource?


I can vaguely recall early holidays to France when I first noticed bottled water for sale. Maybe it was important in some areas where sanitation was _un peu dubious_… but certainly not everywhere. I now live in France and have noticed over the last couple of decades, the supermarket shelves telling a very different story.


Our local hyper-planet of largely un-needed stuff recently proposed a _Fete d' l'eau_, or water party, sadly not impromptu water fights and people dressed in scanty swimming attire, just another cynical attempt at mass selling. Fete de being wordage used in French supermarkets to drag you in and spend money on special offers/seasonal goods/bulk buy, etc.


Fete de vin in the autumn I can vaguely relate to – time of the grape harvest, local wine companies making space for their new influx, a certain celebration of the wealth of different wine types, etc, but not water. What might be next? Air?

A fete celebrating ideas for conserving water might have been nice – water filters, household devices for reusing water, a small talk illustrating where our local water comes from, tap water tasting. . . sadly, no. This was just an excuse to push as much water in plastic bottles encased in plastic packaging as possible.


While the demand is there, and until governments finally wake up to the plastic crisis, Supermarkets will continue this absurd practice, but surely there could be another way?

When I was last in the UK, I visited a local community centre in which, near the entrance, they had installed a milk dispenser – the milk coming from a local farm. You could bring your own bottles, or buy a few glass ones from the machine and fill them. Brilliant! Could this be applied to shops generally? Giant water dispensers where you could fill your own bottles for say, ten pence a go. The bottling companies could take turns so none of them would miss out on profits, or preferably, the nearest source would be used for each town’s supermarkets. Derbyshire – Buxton water; Scotland – Highland Spring, etc, rather than lorries travelling several thousand miles away from France, Italy or even Iceland.


There is also much conflicting information about how much water we need to drink each day. Bottled water manufacturers jumped and have continued to jump at the opportunity to sell varied sizes and shapes of bottles to be carried everywhere at all times; a continual topping up. We have been told in the past that drinks such as coffee and tea don’t count in our fluid intake; now the opposite is said to be true. The fact that my mother lived healthily to ninety years old after drinking approximately 166,000 cups of tea and not so much as a glass of mountain spring water might back up the latter argument.


Before the lockdown, on my last London visit, I experimented on myself with regard to water intake. I drank a cup of tea and a glass of water before setting off on my day’s walking and observing and didn’t take a bottle with me. I had another tea mid-morning, then a glass of water at lunchtime. A tea, late afternoon, and water when I returned to base early evening. No headache, pee normal colour. Obviously if the weather is extremely hot it would be wise to top up a little more frequently, and this is often possible in cities where fountains are provided – which they should be everywhere.


The bottled water industry giants are clever in their marketing; the idea of continual hydration has crept in insidiously over the years, throwing aside environmental impact from the millions of tons of waste devastating the planet. To demonstrate just how much, here is some interesting information from the Guardian newspaper.


Imagine laying out half-litre bottles on the pitch at Wembley Stadium. You could fit 1.7m bottles on the grass, packed into a tight grid. Now imagine building up layers of bottles, covering the same area, to build a tower. To contain all the bottled water we buy each year, you would end up with a 514-metre skyscraper – 200 metres taller than the Shard.

Shops will continue to supply the one and a half billion plastic bottles being bought every day – which largely end up in landfill despite what manufacturers claim – while the demand is there. We can all act on a small scale to change this situation. Try the ‘drinking when the opportunity arises’ thing – Before you leave the house, at the office cooler bottle; ask for a glass when you have a coffee; take a glass with lunch, a glug from a park fountain, and/or carry a refillable bottle.

Think before you drink . . .

Kate’s new novel is set in post-apocalyptic London, 2072, which is described by the author as dyst-hopian - i.e. dystopian, yet offering hope. The book shows the more enlightened inhabitants of this broken, post internet and climate-ravaged society endeavouring to live more frugally, resourcefully and closer to nature.




Guardian image


Wednesday, 6 July 2022

End in sight

Sort of. 

Over the last year I've been walking into our building site with mixed feelings - usually ones of medium-scale dread and slight panic, but in the last couple weeks positivity is gaining hold as we reach the slightly lighter, and more creative tasks. 

The space is beginning to look like a dwelling rather than dumping ground of tools, discarded building materials and renovation debris. Our fabulous builder friend has finished his time with us, the electricians and plumbers have done their mysterious works and now it's down to the family team to complete the rest, which we can do, I think.


                                                                                before


                                                      after - and not finished, obviously

There are still large gaps in the form of windows and doors and as with everyone else trying to renovate at the current time, there are delays but ours are being constructed and will hopefully be installed this month. I've learned a lot over the months: much new French language especially building vocabulary; tiling, plaster boarding, grouting, jointing, basic masonry; organising the order of the various artisans, making the right strength coffee for them, etc.


Some of the rooms have obvious uses - the kitchen and bathroom, others, less so. The salon really needs a wood burner but due to the height of the main house it's apparently not possible; it also has the staircase taking up a chunk of space. Maybe it won't be the salon, more a dining area, the main room upstairs. It'll gradually become obvious as we pass through the plasterboard-jointing/paint phase and we get to source various rescue bits of furniture from our amazing local charity places.


                                                   The space that became the bathroom 



Today will be continuing the wood ceiling in the kitchen, tiling in the bathroom and preparing for B and B guests while imagining a time I can invite them into the new space and not into the house; it's been fine but building site plus guests has been an interesting cleaning challenge . . .


                                    Ezra's work boots which finally pegged out this morning...