Tuesday 13 December 2011


Checkeed shirt, chickens, porch, rocking chair, searing heat, banjo-boy. We have three of these items, well on the way to the deep south. Oh, we're already in it.
Ezra after three weeks of owning the instrument, Keen!! and the voisinage are having a rest from full-on drum practice.

Monday 12 December 2011

Edge of water

I was going to post a blog about Satie's leg, or rather his lack of leg. The runty one (Italian Greyhound) now has three legs, following two operations to try and salvage the front drivers side leg. Yes, amputation. The vet and I looked at each other sadly, and both said the word. There was no other solution.
We often, me and the hothouse residents, wonder what happened to the leg in question. Well, not often, that could be said to be. . . odd. It's sad to think of it alone in a bin somewhere in Carcassonne; maybe I should have brought it back and made a sculpture.
Enough. Instead of photo of Satie, tripodular runt, here is a nice picture of a crazed fountain in Bordeaux that Mark snapped. I was especially impressed by the water spray issuing from the horses nostrils, and the webbed/lions feet/hoof arrangements. Fab. As for those cavorting three, and a fish in the foreground . . . imagine the meeting when the sculptor had proposed this edifice. "You want to what? with how many horses? oh, all right then."
No money scrimped there; presumably they weren't teetering on world financial collapse at the time.
Hoorah for ostentaious wonderments.

Tuesday 29 November 2011


I hate this time of year. After a while my body accepts that if I sit down longer than about five minutes it starts to freeze over. The urge to get back into bed with hot water bottles and two duvets is ever present.
After a few weeks it becomes easier-ish, but the memories of being permanently warm and even very hot, die hard. One method I have found over the years is to dance around like a total pillock. Various songs do it, 'Blackbox, ride on time', yes, I don't know why either, but I think Suzie mentioned it once too. Bob Marley+ Funkstars remix of 'Sun is shining', 'Sex bomb' by Tom Jones and ? 'Badder Badder Schwing' by Freddy Fresh, and anything 'Latiny' hence this wonderful track above.

Think the link has gone so here's a pic of Lalo Guerrero instead.

Tuesday 15 November 2011

November 15th

Or is it May?
Weird, and wonderful. The plants are full of spring colour, boosted by the rain and warmed by the gentle sun . . . aaaahh. Hope we don't all suddenly get a very abrupt shock.
This purple thingy is a wonderful specimen which only flowers very late on in the season. Therefore it sometimes it only gets a couple of weeks before frost zaps it. This year it has been nodding its multiple violet heads happily for about six weeks.
None of our elderly voisins are saying anything like; "ooo, it's going to be really cold this winter, the chickens have been roosting with their feet facing the South", or "rats have been seen making duvets." I spoke to someone just down the road yesterday. He can't remember a mild November like this in his last eighty odd years . . .

Saturday 12 November 2011


This is a photo of the vile mess of wires next to the computer desk.
Also a portrait of the inside of my brain when I try to use internet banking. This morning, being rather tired, and attempting to log on while playing air guitar to Radiohead . . . I locked myself out AGAIN.
There must be a whole department devoted to idiotic folk like me, in each internet bank.
'O God, it's her again.'
I must have wasted a large tree's worth of paper by now in the endless letters which arrive with the new secret code. I faithfully mark the important data down in it's super crack-proof code: the name of a fish we had when I was five; the date my friend sprained her foot in 1982, etc, etc. And then . . . promptly forget it. Which pretend name in the address book? which address book? Maybe I marked it down in that tiny handmade paper book from Paperchase. Or did I try to memorise it all? Try meditation, perhaps that will draw it out.
Ommm . . . Arnold the rabbit, 1433, Mr Ayton the pervert janitor from junior school. Crap, all wrong. Hit the button 're-register' and do the whole thing. Again.
I remember whan the bank only used to open from 3.00p.m until 5p.m.
Ooh, those were the days. Well probably not. Must try harder.

Sunday 6 November 2011

Damm, that's a hot instrument y'all

Just the thing for a dark depressing, rain-soaked day, (not that I am really complaining . . . much.) Little film of Stan playing Ezra's handmade, plank guitar.
Nothing more to be said really.

Saturday 29 October 2011

Instrument airing

These instruments form just ONE of the 'gamelans' that the Hothouse compound owns.
This the 'Salunding' given to Mark by his teacher in Bali. Most wonderful carved red, gold and green metallophones which give an extraordinary cross section of bell tones.
Another gamelan is in the garage . . . sadly, and sadder still, the really huge gamelan, which fills about the size of say, the floor space of the Café de Commerce in Limoux, is still housed in someone's grenier waiting for the moment that one of the French communes wake up and realise what an incredible teaching tool it is.
Mark can get a group of twenty children, adults, aged folks, anyone, to be able to play a gamelan piece together within two hours. The music school of Carcassonne have expressed interest. We'll see.
This film is of the medium-sized gamelan being rehearsed in the Théâtre Municipal of Carcassonne for part of a piece of music called . . . err, Contentless, or was it Endless? Oh, yes, I remember: 'Timeless'. I can't recall much about the actual performance other than I felt very cold, wanted to watch a re-run of Life on Mars and eat some custard.
The interlude bits by my husband were of course brilliant. If you want to see more, look at Youtube 'hothouse'.
And, if anyone has loads of money and fancies building their own gamelan pavillion with resident teacher, in their garden, let me know.

Saturday 22 October 2011

Papa's got a brand new bag.

What a great song, Mr Brown. I especially like Peter Cook and Dudley Moore's version: Mama's got a brand new bag by 'Bo Duddley'. I might try and load it up here.
This photo is of my bag - one of them. I have quite a few. Something that Mark cannot understand. Women and bags. Men and gadgets. However all my bags come from vide greniers (car boots) so I feel I am allowed to have a selection.
This one is from Alet-les-Bains V.G, thank you Caroline if you read this. My long-term favourite is a small tardis-like object from Oxfam in Ormskirk. Now about five years old it's still going strong despite the once cream suede now being dingy grey-brown. I also have a lot of old shoes; silly shoes with very high heels that I will probably never wear, but again . . . there is something about shoes, fetish objects.
Bags and shoes obviously occupy a large percentage of many a female's brain space. One only has to look in Vogue to see about thirty adverts with Kate moss draped over a large crocodile skin bag wearing very little other than . . . well, nothing really, except a lot of mascara. This is serious accessory madness however: bags anonymous. Bags to show you have more money than sense; shoes to be able to walk the tarmac from the taxi to the make-up hall in Harrods.
I looked up the ten most expensive bags in the world. The top one is . . . please sit down, if you are not already, or find a sick bag.
The Hermes Birking bag created by Japanese designer Ginza Tanaka at $1.9 million.
Well, it is made of platinum, and has over 2,000 diamonds on it.
Why? What possible use could it be; one would be mugged within twenty seconds of leaving the house, but I suppose you would have your matching diamond-incrusted body guard with you.
The world is a sick place indeed. By the way, the number 10 bag was a snip at £38,000, or a tad more if you wanted it made of chinchilla skin. Urrg, think I need to go and lie down for a bit and analyse why I need a bag at all, or at least why more than one.

Sunday 9 October 2011


Back after very odd two weeks in UK. Basically clearing out Mum's house, taking as much stuff as is allowed into the home and the rest to friends, Oxfam and the dump. Dreadful.
Good highlights though, seeing friends and family, swimming once in the sea and seeing films in large building called a cinema - must remember to do this from time to time.
Actually, one film I saw was so boring I'm not sure if I just fell asleep and imagined I had been in afore-mentioned edifice. It was called 'I don't know how she does it' hopefully to be renamed, I don't know how the script writer got away with it'. Had good actors in it too, like the father in Little Miss Sunshine, whoever he is. Must have been desperate for money?
I asked a couple after the film what they had thought. They said: "Err, nothing happened" Good comment; spot on, I thought.
I also got a tattoo! It's been a bit of a year for me, and I wanted to finish the last day of it with something a bit unusual . . .
On the last day I cleaned up the house, went to see Mum and set off back to base. Seven hour coach journey follwed by sleep in Stansted airport overnight. Awful. Had just got to sleep, then at 3.00 am the staff came and moved everyone through departures as we were rather cluttering up their nice shiny hall.
Had breakfast at 5.00 am and watched people queuing to buy duty-free perfume as soon as shops had opened their doors. What recession . . .
Then sat for another five hours, but did get a lot of writing done.
Back home. Wonderful, despite mess from the two men folk on their own for two weeks. Love them.

Sunday 25 September 2011

Please don't go . . .

Summer, we love you.
What a beautiful patch of time this last few weeks has been. The manic re-greeningness of all plantage and the time of salad on the table prolonged.
Sadly, I have to leave the Mother Ship and travel back in Ryanair space pod to the grey rock tomorrow. What to take...? aqualung, moon boots? Actually the weather looks all right for the next few days, but I don't want to go all the same.
Going back to earlier blog re aging parents and the lack of a manual in this situation means an unknown and taxing two weeks, hopefully with highlights such as a bit of London nostalgia- wanderings and buying a bra in John Lewis. Wooo! Somehow the down to earth 'fittings people' in the underwear section don't trouble me as much as the stick-thin doll like assistants in lingerie shops over here. I don't think in fact one can say 'John Lewis' and lingerie in the same sentence . . . big white pants come to mind rather than lace-encrusted nylon cheese wire.
Anyway. What was I saying?
No, it will be good to see Mum, family, and to get a lot of things sorted out, but I hope there still might be a few sun soaked days left on my return.

Saturday 17 September 2011

Happy New Year

Ughhh, not that again . . .
Yes. That time will be upon us all very soon, and remember folks, it could be the last one, unless you have a seat reserved on the green lizard escape ship when it slips out of Bugarach around December the ?
So, what better way to celebrate the ultimate one, than to have Les Malfonctionnaires play for you. Solidly booked up until December 28th . . . er, not quite,  we are looking for a home for New Year's Eve. Les Malfoncs are all house trained, very friendly, and will play until you shake your asses off . . . so to speak. Check our face book page or site: http:/www.lesmalfonctionnaires.com

Next gig: La tournebelle, Gruissan 29th October: 04 58 75 40 84

Men, not in black.

Blog post for no other reason than I love seeing men in flowery shirts. Here is husband (looking a bit 'aprés repas') in lovely daisy print, and Chris in super pink number, more flowers please . . .

Friday 16 September 2011

Onwards and forwards...

The boy person has grown up a lot over the summer, (as is to be expected . . .) I am no longer allowed to say: "it's time for snuggly bed" . . . (well, only to Mark), and if I walk with him to college, the gap widens between him and me as we approach the establishment; all good normal stuff.
He has been through many many phases: reptiles, roller-blading, mice, electronics, chemistry, Japanese cooking, knitting, art generally and drumming. The last two are the ones that are sticking the most, and in particular the art of animation at the moment.
Here he is with parrot helper (providing hideous squawking and ample amounts of poo) working on his program 'Flash' for animators. I think this one might last as a life-interest - a good melange of imagination, drawing skills and techno. Time will tell.
I think I may have only just figured out what I want to do many decades on from him, and if he's anything like us he may take a very wandery path through life's forest, going off at tangents to look at a new butterfly here, falling into a muddy pond there, but generally having an interesting time.
Or maybe he will be one of those people who say 'I just always knew I wanted to be a . . . Probably simpler, but in the world as it is now perhaps it will be easier to turn a hand to cooking, gardening, writing, taxi driving, whatever; seems like the days of sticking it out for the gold clock are a long way lost.

Thursday 8 September 2011

The turning year

In Autumn a young man's fancy turns to the thought of . . . how to keep warm.
The impending time of soup, fires, healthy striding walks in frosted landscape. Shit.
No, its not that bad really . . . I just hate to feel that time of freedom, carefree dressing etc, ebbing away. Those dark mornings, cringing in the bathroom, fumbling for a pair of socks in the semi darkness. Anyway, hopefully a good few weeks to go.
This the new wood pile, handsome is it not. Not very well formed when one looks closely, but then I always say, or rather I said yesterday: a person whose woodpile is immaculate has too quiet a life.
The wood delivery people are called 'Belamie' delightful name, and delightful family. The mum and dad watch with pride whilst the 'boy' huge seventeen-year old or thereabouts wields the chainsaw on the truck.
This time we all watched sadly as one of the tyres on the lorry deflated with a pathetic hissing. I paid them extra as the culprit nail looked suspiciously like something from our compound. They assured me this could not be so. As I said: Belamie - good friend.
An enlightening thought has just occurred - well, something that is of enlightenment to me. When I lived in a filthy, post-student, crumbling house in West Norwood we had a landlord named Mr Bellamy. One pronounced the word with the accent heavily on the bel rather than the amy. It never occured to me to think of the origins of the word. But then this is several decades ago and my French was limited to 'der beers si vous plate'.
Mr Bellamy was about as far as one could get from a good friend. A miserable bastard dressed in biege acrylic, he ignored the fact that the loo froze in the winter and that there were mushrooms growing out of the skirting boards, just kept taking the rent. I wasn't even allowed a cat, which I did obtain - "Hide Wandsworth, Mr Bellamy has arrived for the rent."
Anyway, back to the wood pile.
The trees growing or rather rampaging behind it are some sort of weed tree that came over from Japan. I rather like them: Amazonian in character and lushness, they hold the soil down, and (hopefully) stop the bank collapsing. They do need a bit of a cull however. We have had the annual Autumnal discussion, 'to have a chain saw or not to have a chain saw, that is... etc. As usual we have decided it's too scary so it will have to be the previous house-owners dressed in shorts and sunglasses ploughing through the undergrowth as effortlessly as if they were cutting flowers.

Saturday 3 September 2011

Going with the flow.

We actually all got a day out, everyone, even runty dog with re-broken leg.
The sea was calling again. Opted for a place called 'La Palme' near Port la Nouvelle as it had some interesting features such as an eerie looking pumping station.
Took the N road and then a yellow road through some pretty villages. Stopped for a pee and then noticed. . . we had a flat tyre. Holiday spirit prevailed, no-one went: "awww its not fair, ******* typical", or anything else. Swerved our way to Sigean, pumped up the tyre and just got to a Renault garage before it shut for lunch.
I love this bit . . . Mark said, "Nous avons un plat" unlike him to say something idiotic in French: hoorah. Being so close to lunch the man obviously thought we were very excited about going to eat our main course or something. How we all laughed . . .  sorry Mark.
There was to be the usual two hour lunch gap so we walked into the town very slowly with hobbling old dog and hopping runty dog. Had a look around for food, not too much on offer. I quite liked the look of a dark mysterious tapas bar with scary looking men smoking on the doorstep, but considering Mark was wearing a pink flowery shirt and holding a tiny dog we might have not been too welcome, or possibly beaten up.
Were about to give up when I saw a sign down the road saying 'Le Potager' on an old black wooden door. Further investigation revealed the wonderful bistro pictured above. My sort of restaurant. Great decor, not at all pompous, plants, old chairs, interesting crocks, even checked table cloths.
We were greeted by the Chef, and I was amazed to recognise him as the man who used to run the restaurant 'Marmite du pecher'(which was brilliant) when we first lived in Limoux.
We ordered. Very reasonable priced menu at 15 euros. The chef came to talk to us, and asked how we would like our fish cooked. The gaspacho was superb, grilled dorade with chunky chips 'copuios' (large) and fresh, my red fruit pudding light and acid sweet, mmmm.
Wish we had this in Limoux!
Car was done. Got in it. Drove to La Palme - not grabbed overly; then being impatient to get in the sea, went to La Franqui.
Last time I went there, the sand was blowing horizontally and a menacing sky painted everything a monotone grey. This time there was enough wind to make the waves a bit exciting to play in, but sun and warmth to make strolling a pleasure. Nice . . . will return. Tired and still very full up from lunch, drove home to seething parrot who was mightly pissed off at being left alone all day.

Tuesday 30 August 2011

Funny thing life, part 2,675

Or not.
Not funny if relatively near the end of it one finds oneself in a home a million miles, mentally, from the one you know.
Hot on the heels of the distressing time with Mark's mother, my mum had a stroke and went into hospital. Then followed weeks of me voyaging back and forth to the old grey rock to try and work out how to comfort, how to proceed in the next chapter of life - the ageing parent part of the manual has not been overly explored . . .
Having said that, we did try very hard to get her to come down here. Planned the small 'granny house', a cute mini-house next to ours where she could have listened 'ad infinitum' to Ezra playing the drums and Mark tinkling the ivories. Maybe that's why she couldn't quite make the move. Actually, it was the pull of Dorset for her: the rounded comfortable hills, familiarity, knowing where she was on the planet. Perhaps we all become thus, even us wanderers . . . we have been here now for nearly ten years and this landscape seems to be where I feel at home; possibly a bit nearer the sea . . . not sure, but I would like to grow a bougainvillea/lemon tree in the ground.
I found mum a very nice 'home' with the help of my cousin. An old early C20th manor: a bit creaky and warmly comfortable, not sterile and brisk like others I saw and have visited in the past. Huge forest grounds, with perhaps a glimpse of the distant hills near the sea when winter has removed the leafage.
Mums room is like a little cozy sitting room with quite a bit of her own furniture and personal items, pictures etc. A little eyrie, up in the tree tops, peaceful. However it is not, or ever will be true 'home' and Mum will probably never really accept the move, despite lack of alternatives - meaning her house, but I hope it will become easier for her.
So, we should all probably plan for this stage. Several friends are already on the lookout for a domain where they can be surround by likeminded folk with live in staff etc. Sounds good, but I suspect we'll just muddle along hoping that not a lot changes until we just fall off the Earth one day with no complications.
Recent events have meant I have changed my direction (again) am now writing a book, not a kids one this time, and am loving it. At the moment concentrating on being in the studio is not possible, being on the move and writing is the silver lining for the present time.

Monday 8 August 2011

Family break in Nice

what sort of deviation . . .

We never did find out as we left Salon de Provence to go to Nice for three day family break.
Nice was California-esque as we expected but ace place with excellent art galleries and miles of fantastic promenade for people-watching. Worth doing too! More leathery-brown old women covered in gold than one could shake a poodle at; posing men in tight white jeans, and beautiful young things in Prada.
We were mangy by comparison, but I did paint my toenails.
More photos to follow.

Monday 18 July 2011

Potato saving scheme

In the early spring, I dutifully put in the seed potatoes and looked forward to our rich bountiful harvest . . .
Due to a very dry, late spring, they came up and stayed rather . . . runty to say the least. One or two flowers bloomed and withered. As the ground was becoming akin to Death Valley, I dug them all up in one go. They made a fantastic curry and a further dish of 'poor man's potatoes'. Hummm . . . roughly two potatoes for the price of one, plus the faff of putting them in, compost etc. Usually a totally effortless vegetable, maybe better next year . . .


This always varies according to whether one gets distracted by the cat scratching the sofa, phone call or whatever, thus differing (is this a word?) the texture of the cooked spuds.

Boil water, put washed but not peeled spuds in, roughly chopped to big bite sizes. When possible to poke with a fork, drain. Heat olive oil to dangerously hot, throw in potatoes and lashings of chopped garlic plus some fresh red chilli if you like things a bit 'piquant'. Leave to stick to the bottom until someone says: "is something burning", turn them over (spuds, not person) and cook until well- browned. Turn into fancy rustic dish and serve with sour cream and chives, home made tomato sauce, or HP is pretty good.

Sunday 17 July 2011

Yes we love our car.

We love it so much. We clean it every Sunday, Mark spends hours with the T-cut getting that deep long lasting shine. Not.
I just had to post this; it could be art, or it could just be an indication of how much the cleanliness of our poor car does bother us.
Its a CD of Mark's film music, with a very black banana skin stuck to it  and a plastic sweet box adhered to the banana with some interesting species of mould. He found it, not when cleaning the car out, but trying find his phone.

Le bore de France

Well it would have been churlish not to go and see them set off - hardly taxing since it was about 100 metres down the road.
It was raining in a sort of Irish mist way and quite chilly. We stood near the fire station and watched herds of adorned trucks and cars with happy (or possibly not) waving people hurling stuff out of windows. Key rings, hats, crisps, useless plastic clacky noise-makers, and much more assorted twaddle. No sample gas bottles were thrown into the crowd when Butagaz or whoever they were appeared, but we did all get sprayed with water by Vittel which was crap as everyone was already wet and cold.
Someone told me that 39 tons of plastic rubbish is produced in the Tour de France publicity caravan and that most of it is thrown away after about an hour . . . don't know how anybody has calculated this but it sounds plausible. I mean what is the world coming to!
A gendarme told me that after the silly wagons it would be about an hour to wait in the drizzle, so we went back and had lunch and returned. Another half hour and it started. Thousand press cars and bikes, police, medics etc and then huge pack of sinewy, shiny, lycra clad men appeared, (I liked this bit). It was impressive, and not just their buttocks; the thought of them all cycling to Montpellier, the huge serpent snaking its way across the département, would be good to see it all from a plane.
So me and Ezra enjoyed the 20 seconds, and then it was all over. We walked back eating small greasy cakes and sporting Skoda hats to the sound of a few melancholic air horns.

Friday 8 July 2011

no dog is an island

Just got in from mad driving day to and from Montauban, as the boy person wished to explore it (good choice - most elegant place) and then searching for a certain bath in the hideous planet of Castorama in Toulouse.
Returned without bath as it was worryingly long and I was to tired to go and find bungee ropes etc. At least I know where the bloody place is now. Was I just pooped or are French road signs really bad?
Inevitably, there is a sign, then it just melts away at the next junction and says Paris or something, and one has to go back to where one started and drive slowly avoiding collisions with peeved 31 plate drivers, and all the time looking for the elusive blue or green directive, until you see it half a kilometre away under a shadowy flyover.
Anyway I waffle.
The house seems to smell odd these days. I think it might be Una pictured above. She is about 130 in human years so entitled to be a little whiffy. They both wagged so fondly on our return I thought I would just put them on my blog instead of the impressive photo of the bridge in Montauban which I can't download as the USB cable seems to be tired too.
This is an example photo of the extent these dogs need to snuggle. Here they are in about 28 degrees on the sheepskin island instead of that awful hard concrete.
Small dog's leg has been passed by the vet as being fine. He is still hopping though with one dandy leg proffered as if waiting to be passed his fallen silk cravat.

Saturday 25 June 2011


We played Limoux for the Fete de la musique last Tuesday - Le Fracas (our samba band, that is). Fantastic. Played between 12.00pm and 2.00pm in Rue de Augustins for the benefit of two shop owners and a dog. Somebody was jiggling about in an upstairs window, but they might have just been telling us to bugger off as it was siesta time.
Limoux never seems to quite get it together for this countrywide festival; the shop owners were trying their best to get things moving with people dotted around strumming guitars, but I got the feeling there would have been more interest if it had been some sort of eating festival. I could be wrong as we had to leave soon after; maybe it was pretty damned hot later . . . I think not however as a near-tropical rain torrent announced its presence in the early evening.
Better luck next year.

Tuesday 21 June 2011

Helas . . . pas de vache.

I was hoping to load up a little film of the Visa's last dreamy perambulation to the casse auto, or rather, sweat-inducing nightmare crawl with line of 'faché' drivers as car was only moving at about 10 KM per hour but blogger told me it was a bad film? Okay, was not a masterpiece worthy of Cannes, but neither did it contain violence, swearing or dodgy people in tight leather outfits
Shame, as I wanted to broadcast all the little squeaks and grinding noises which had become so familiar to me. Oh well . . . here is a picture of the vache's rump instead. Anyway, sob, she is no longer with us and I will be looking out - in a relaxed fashion as we will try and make do with one car - for another old character motor to take us to the dump, etc.
So, if anyone has an old Renault 4/5 Citroen Ami/ Ford Capri/anything else interesting, let me know.
On a serious note, I went and bought a bike helmet this morning as I intend to get out more on my wonderful shell-suit coloured vide.Grenier  bike. This was prompted by an awful piece of news from my godmother. One of her friends died from a head wound after falling off her bike while just 'nipping to the shops' makes one think . . .

Friday 10 June 2011

Don't panic.

Good old Douglas Adams, wherever he is; somewhere exciting I hope.
Fellow H.H.G.T.T universe fans will remember the famous words on the cover of 'the book' (not the bible) mind you, if it did have, 'don't panic' printed on the front it might get a bigger readership these days . . . I often recall that phrase and many others from his writings, and I think I might finally know 'where my towel is' so to speak.
Had a bit of a revelation the other day re stress. We were in a fairly thick and muddy patch of it. Art trail and all associated music events etc, dog with broken leg, mother staying, all normal work to juggle etc. There was added stress to do with 'who had put what where', and 'why was this lost' etc, etc.
I started to get a niggly jaw sensation which was the build up to a lot of horrid neuralgic pain I had had before. My body was saying 'bloody well calm down' basically, so I did.
Have done a lot of cogitating over the last few days about what we call stress, what use is it etc, then I read an article which really did put all our stupid ideas about how much pressure we are under into context.
We all can give examples of how cruel life can be but I think this is the one that will remain in my head as a reminder of what we have, and why we should never moan.
There are people living in the jewelry quarter of Calcutta who spend all their waking hours (including kids) sorting through buckets of other peoples excrement in the sewers to find (if they are lucky) some tiny fragments of gold they can sell back to the manufacturers in order to keep themselves and their families alive.
Puts worrying about whether Mr Bricolage are still stocking the tiles you have run out of somewhat in perspective.
A lot of our so called stress is self imposed, especially for self-employed bods like us. We take on too much; it seems like a good idea at the time, or sounds interesting or is just crucial to keep the bills being paid.
The point is - must stop rambling - if one tackles the same amount without adding stress into the mix it works better. A bit of adrenalin is good, keeps the mind focused; angst and worry just muddles everything.
So I have been for a week now, not stressed. I am less cross with the boy, I let more stuff wash over me and don't soak up other peoples stress and turn it into guilt. I feel better, people are saying I look loads better, I seem to have lost several frown lines. Nothing else in my life has changed, I'm just trying it without adding my own self imposed stress baggage.
Well, we'll see . . .

Tuesday 7 June 2011

Artists a suivre 2011

WELL DONE Victoria, Caty and the team for the brilliant event, as ever.
As I ran a similar art trail for several years in the U.K, I know how much work it takes, how much free time one gives and how much you want to thump the odd moaner who has to have their say . . .
Stress levels were at a high point in the hothouse (see next post) as we worked our way through art expo with sound installation, (with lovely Sue doing salon du thé) samba gig (in the rain in a barn), improvised music, rock gig, Baroque music, jazz....
I loved my venue, the 'vestiere' at Couiza: high ceilings, no yellow walls, and the sound worked really well in there. I had to stay each night as the security was pretty basic, but enjoyed waking up in the loft-like space before hastily shoving the futon away as people arrived.
Here be photos, in no great order.
Samba gig: Gawd, and blimmin ek never 'ad to play in a dirty great barn before . . .
Expo space and salon du thé
Les Malfonctionnaires gig, Saturday night at les pres en bulles. (Me singing - third pic down).
Today. Clearing up and sleeping.

Tuesday 24 May 2011

Seasonal fruit stress

Mark suffers badly from this. I have a milder form, but nevertheless it kicks in around early to middle May depending on the weather/how the trees are feeling.
The first attack is cherry time. We watch the blossom come and go, salivate as the tiny green fruit swell and the suddenly they are ripe, everywhere; people kindly bring them, ask you to take as many as you wish from their trees, the fruit calls out as you pass: "eat us" before we fall and are wasted.
Added to Marks heavy work load, a hernia op chez moi, and certain areas of the house reconstruction, the increasing pile of cherries wait be stoned. The special plastic box comes out - its yearly airing, and everyone is sticky with purple and red juice for a while.
Pots of rich dark jam in the shed, a happy feeling that winter will be all the better for increasing the jam stocks.
We failed this year with strawberry. SAD. Next stop apricot.

Monday 9 May 2011


Superb entrance to an abode in 'point courte' another favourite seaside haunt at Sete.
Translates roughly to: s***heads keep out.

More blog soon, too much going on . . .

Monday 18 April 2011


blogger won't upload the film, too big? too Hogarthian? Anyway, here's two photos of the event including one of Dr Mark Wyatt Lockett conducting band of urchins.

Fracas de Limoux

Fracas - loud, chaotic sound - something like that. I thought the name sat nicely between 'Fecos de Limoux' (carnaval) and Fricassée de Limoux, the local dish of pork and beans.
Here we are, (photo seems to have moved to following post . . .) performing for 'Toques et Clochers' on a beautiful Saturday in Limoux before the surging hoards of piss-heads appeared.
As we are, none of us, svelte 23 year old Brazilians, the Dickensian look seemed a good option. A unique (I think) melange of pulsing street sounds and 'my old man said follow the van'.
Perfect day for the grand drinking binge; seemed to be good humour all around and some excellent street acts, notably the wonderful 'Compagnie Stromboli' theatre of the absurd, of whom I sadly have no pics. Only heard one ambulance in the night, and pretty much the only reminders the day after were a few abandoned socks littered around the streets...?

Sunday 17 April 2011

The boy done good

Ezra with CHEQUE for first prize in children's section of the Toques et Clochers painting competition. So proud I nearly dropped the camera . . .
Thought they might have given the parents a 'well done' for making him prize in the form of a magnum of blanquette, but a most generous prize quand meme, thanks S.D'Arques.

Friday 8 April 2011

Grand design

Just in case we forget how amazing nature is.
Makes me feel somehow hopeful, despite us unloading toxins into the air/soil/sea, that the natural world will prevail. Talking of dumping stuff in the sea, I read with amazement that the hole in the crippled Japanese nuclear power station has been blocked with a mixture of . . . sawdust, newspaper and a form of liquid glass. I remember doing exactly that to my cousin's red Spitfire in about 1976, surely things must have have moved on a bit?
Anyway back to the vegetable featured above.
Err, not much really, except that when I see these bright green kings of the legume world I always have to take a few minutes of silent contemplation over their sheer magnificence. Ezra says he saw an 'expose' about them in the Paris science museum. Apparently, even under super-magnification, the spirals keep on spiralling, seemingly into infinity. Well, it makes a change from thinking what is outside our universe, where does it end? etc . . . but similarly brain-taxing on a slightly different scale.
Enough. Back to the washing up, invoicing and cat hair removal. Safe, small activities of no wonder.

Tuesday 29 March 2011

Funny thing life...

Mark and I say this to each other at least once a week.
The moving forward through the various stages of our existence's; the seasonal comings and goings, the familiar, the uncharted . . .
Had a good chat with above pictured boy-person this morning on the usual walk to college. He has suddenly made a leap forward in the life thing. The realisation that what you get out of life generally depends on what you put into it. This is a wonderful moment - if it will last. Less nagging re homework, jobs etc.
Ezra has acquired an interesting mix of genes from us, as far as learning goes.
French for example. I muddle through, unashamed of errors, picking up mostly from what I hear/see in conversation, lazy? possibly, to busy to really make time. Mark is very different. He constructs the grammar perfectly, works hard at it and enjoys the learning process.
I think Ezra is in the middle somewhere, but I hope he leans in Mark's direction for his current school work. On the other hand he is becoming a fine drummer from just listening to music and years of table tapping - something to be said for finding the way yourself too.
Part of this morning's chat included the recounting of a dream in which he was living in a small basement of a factory making buttons, while his friends were outside being well known rugby players/writers etc . . .
He asked me if he didn't do well at school would he not be successful in life, big question for 7.30 in the morning, and very important to reply properly even if one is still mentally in bed. I seemed to say the right things, and he went off determined to do well in his French evaluation, having STUDIED for it - a possible first.
I watched him turn the corner towards college, and walked home my head full of memories of his stages so far in life.

Wednesday 16 March 2011

A lasting impression.

I liked this lady. Somebody else did too. She has been reposing on a sunny step overlooking the sea in Cerbère since 1940.

Wednesday 2 March 2011

Time lost.

The brain, as I and many thousand others have observed, is complex, to say the least.
I once heard a memorable program on radio 4 by a very eminent prof of the brain woman who described the emotional part of the brain as a series of tiny see-saws.
I always remember this when experiencing a day of 'ups and downs', such as yesterday.
The morning was dullish but satisfactory in acheiving 'stuff'. Washing, shopping, trip to insurance broker to ask why we had an unfathomably weird letter from them, which they in turn had no idea about either, etc etc.
Home, lunch, went to make several boring but important phone calls . . . no sign of phone book, slim orange thing pictured above. I bought this because it is bright orange and thus CANNOT be lost. Spent about an hour looking all over the house. First in casual hopeful way - of course it would just be under a pile of papers. Nope. Then in more intense way - possible sensible places: in-tray, drawers that contain important items etc. Then in deranged, irritable way: fridge, sock drawer, dog beds etc. Nowhere.
Cloud of grey descended; made sure that everyone else joined in as I wanted to share my fury. Dogs sulked, cat went out into the rain, and Ezra became strangely helpful. Tried the 'count one's blessing thing. No good. I knew what I was cross about on a world scale was so pathetic that it could not register, but the day continued thus, briefly up-lifted during a gardening episode.
Tried different looking techniques from time to time - quick furtive scramble through piles I had already looked at, a nonchalant glance under the sofa . . . nothing. Accepted I would have to find all the numbers another way, then I found it. In Ezra's room, under a massive pile of electronic bits I was moving so he would be able to find the bed.
Mood lifted, the lights came on, the dogs smiled. Everything for just a moment was completely perfect . . . in fact, has continued to be so, despite sullen grey drizzle outside, and the fact that all the boring phone calls still have to be made.

Sunday 20 February 2011

The morning before....

For a couple of months now I have been very VERY sensible about eating and consuming DRINK . . . all blown in one day of festivities.
Carnaval started with lavish meat fest as film reveals. 8.00 in the morning. Chorizo, slabs of bacon, sausages oozing in grease, white bread, bits of preserved duck fat, and as much hearty red wine you could shake a 'carabène' at.
Mark turned slightly pale and headed off home to eat some hippy food; I waded in and tested the fare.
After a few blanquettes and chardonnays on the tour of the cafés it was time for a very late lunch. I did avoid the fois gras, not for any particular reasons of animal ethics, (which were by that time rather shredded) but because I remember last year feeling somewhat . . . close to death by the time we had to hit the square again.
Gambas, followed by magret de canard, which was delicious. Not a vegetable in sight except for a wilting leaf next to the gambas. Tiramasu. Hot chocolate as I have given up coffee . . . ugh.
Oh, let me sleep, but no, we all created massive group indigestion by dancing around to carnival tunes, and then it was time to go out again.
More chardonnay, pastis, etc, although I did pad it all out with evil WATER. 'It rusts you', people said, but I really didn't want to visit memories of lying in bed, groaning and watching the Waltons as I was unable to change channels (the days before remotes).
After the tour, back in café, lots more jiggling, getting quite entertaining now with people standing on chairs singing about having no trousers on and then adding visuals.
Fancied a small fruit salad, or a perhaps even a whole sun dried tomato canapé (not a sofa), but instead there was a vast array of fois gras on toast, duck bits, white bread rolls, sausage rolls, brie, chorizo and jambon du pays. Decided to start blanquette diet on the spot, and joined in with more carnival jiggling - YMCA and even Plastic Bertrand?!
Only one member of our group pushed the satin-covered boat out a little too far. Although quite slight in frame, and having drunk several months worth of Ricard over the day, he did still manage to perform, with the odd lurch into the crowd; then back at the café he became strangely fixated with asking me what the translation of: "Oo, aa, will you be my girl" was in French.
Off out again for the 10.00 p.m tour, pushing our stomachs before us, more wine, pastis, etc etc,
then back to burn the carnival effigy. Was rather relieved to find we were not going to eat onion soup at 1.30 in the morning, which I have done with another band before.
Today, have gained seemingly 2 kilos.
Back to the pumkin seeds, veg etc, but will enjoy that culinary departure again next year.

Le sorti...

Great time had by all despite later rain.
Me with newly 'primped' colorette, and faluche (hat) rather squashed by the precipitation.
Way too much wine and food, aching body parts, quiet day today . . .

Friday 18 February 2011

19th Feb 2011...Carnaval.

Yes folks the year has spun round again to this foolish time.
be in Limoux 11.00 ish in the square, to see Me and Mark dressed in...?
Or 5.00, 10.00 to see the traditional swishy satin stuff.

Wednesday 16 February 2011

End of the world. 12? 21? Dec 2012 Bugarach

Well, which is it?
Seems there is a choice of dates regarding the fin du monde. Or maybe we are in for it two times - the first date might not quite end enough - lets leave it 9 days and have another go?
Either way, it's going to be interesting up there in that small village, although probably not for the inhabitants, unless they are planning were to sell/rent their abodes out for a huge sum and bugger off to somewhere with palm trees and curving white beaches.
Think I might start a secondary end-of-world theory to appose the main 'around-here' theory that a space ship is going to appear from under, or within, Bugarach mountain, possibly chauffeured by the Green Lizard people.
There is without doubt a space vessel under our shed.  I've often heard odd clanking in there, and someone has been at the jam stocks, and I'm sure once or twice I have seen rats carrying large pieces of sheet steel towards the noble structure after dark. It would explain why Mark can never find any tools - nothing to do with me . . .
Rats are far more likely to inherit the world, or at least its smoking remains, than lizards, or is it that giant lizards are going to arrive from space? Will have to question the small brown ones in the garden. I observed a few yesterday basking in the early spring sun. They didn't seem to be any different - no sitting in deck chairs with smug expressions or looking at estate agent magazines from galaxies beyond.
Just looked up some Mayan info; there is another date. The 23rd Dec 2012 which is heralded as IT. So perhaps December is going to be less heavy on the Christmas madness, a little more concentrated on the DIY side perhaps. Bunkers and the like. Bricolage should do well.
Perhaps it's all true.
I did see a film at the cinema, when I was about eleven, about The Nazca lines in Peru: the immense patterns drawn on the Earth's surface that can really only be appreciated as forms of animals, etc, from the air. If anyone is really anticipating the arrival of a passing space vessel, there might be a better choice of bus stop, not rural France.

Saturday 12 February 2011

yellow wool, sun's rays, happy dog.

And happy us. What a great few days, very aware of the lack of water around however. Could do with a wet spring.
I looked in my diary for this time last year and we did have a similar episode of sun-filled days, before a massive dump of snow squashed the over-optimistic almond blossom and nest builders. Maybe not this year, hope not, the woodpile is rapidly reaching the sawdust and beetles level.
Today preparation of CARNAVAL. Check out the Limoux square next Saturday at 10.30 to see Mark dressed in a way he might have been about 30 years ago . . .

Tuesday 1 February 2011

Its Tuesday, it must be Esperaza...

Just back from the UK where weather was like here today, perhaps slightly more vile, only just . . .
Cannot find USB cable to load up recently taken snaps so here is one of Mark's favourite places. Not.
On a Tuesday and Wednesday he loads up his ancient tan leather greek bag with music and heads to the MJC building in above-mentioned town.
I like this edifice. It should really be on the outskirts of some mouldering Russian industrial town, an occasional venue for a vodka-laced dance event - echoing concrete and David Lynch film set corridors. The 'caretaker' (odd word to use when describing the gentleman in question) has asked Mark many times not to stick posters on the wall of the 'music room' - small dingy room with Dickensian desks and matching dust, presumably as this could leave small grease marks on the ancient, grimy, cracked paintwork. He has also requested that the windows always remain closed so the piano cannot be heard especially between 12.00 and 2.00 p.m when he has his siesta . . .

Saturday 22 January 2011

One small step for dogkind

Yes its that time again. Small dog in pee-stained silly jumper braving the snow. Only a few 'flocons' today. At the risk of being a grumpy old bugger . . . I hope that's it. Not being folks compelled to fix chains to car's wheels or encase ourselves in happy-coloured padded outfits in order to get really in the white stuff, it's just a big nuisance. Rain would be good though, please, or next summer is going to be very drought-like.
Me off to old home rock for a week, bit of London nostalgia, then to Dorset. Back soon.

Wednesday 19 January 2011

Ménage manège

Up until a few weeks ago, I thought the word ménage - house work - was in fact: manège - merry go round.
There I was happily thinking what a wonderfully poetic race the French are, to have such a delightfully descriptive word for this endless chore. I couldn't post a picture of our house in chaos to illustrate as I have just cleared up AGAIN. So therefore, here be a lovely fish dish which I and Ezra enjoyed in Agde in the summer. It was all calm on the terrace overlooking the sea, but I could imagine the piles of washing up, floors to be cleaned etc at the end of the lunch session.
The start of this particularly thorough clean yesterday was because I had lost the key to my studio. I was just about to go in there and START WORK as the period of earlier procrastination-clearing up had just passed . . . Thus prevented, I then cleaned out the car in case the hapless key had fallen to the floor amongst nut shells, dog blankets, discarded bits of instruments and other detritus that we normally convey along the roadways with us.
Gave up and concentrated on boy's birthday. Today, started looking again: pockets, bags, car again, under trees I had pruned, dog beds. Then Mark found the spare key in the drawer that has spare keys in it. Forgot that . . .
"Here, don't loose this one," he said, with the smirk of a very tall and perfect camel, who never looses anything. Except that time of the wallet, the car keys, several very expensive pen knives . . . etc.
The lure of the filthy shed is calling. It hasn't been cleaned out in months; it's difficult to shut the door, let alone find a hammer. The garage - impossible to find anything in it at all unless it is within a few cm's of the entrance. However all this will have to wait, having found the key, must see if it can turn on my brain to do some other sort of work.

Friday 14 January 2011

Body of Christ.

I went to a French Funeral this morning.
It was interesting to note the differences. Several U.K ones I can remember seemed to be rather 'in and out' - bit like life really, on a certain scale. This was elegant, touching, lengthy and freezing.
The priest was majestic in his Polar-white robes, his gentle voice echoing around the ancient stones. Unlike me, dressed in black, complete with VAT inspector leather coat, most folks were dressed casually, no weeping weeds, veils, or crisp once a year-used suits. The coffin was placed in the entrance of the church at the beginning while the priest began the service; we all gathered around and thought about the body inside, the workmanship of the coffin, etc.
This is the bit, where I usually start sobbing. The finality of the human frame incased in wood . . . then to be immersed by flame or soil, but as I had never actually met him, and was there to support his wife, it didn't really seem appropriate.
So the service came to its end; incense was waved, psalms sung and many prayers said.
The moment which will become one of those imbedded memories was when the disc of bread was broken in the total stillness.
A tiny resonant 'criiickkk'

Monday 10 January 2011

Species of sound.

There are two members of the household who really appreciate 'free jazz'. I want to like it very much, but it makes my brain retreat to a small recess at the back of my skull and I cannot really function. Mark love's it, especially when cooking.
This is a film of the other one who loves it. The usually silent feathered-being launches into a wonderful repertoire that Messiaen would have found inspirational.
The other two sounds today issued from the IRM machine surrounding me at the Clinique Montreal. They warned me that it would be loud, and clamped clinical white padded headphones to my head so I could enjoy some carpet adverts in French.
It's an odd thing to be confined in a white tube with huge pulsating noises firing from various directions - a cross between a secret rave in a small operating theatre and some sort of very squeaky-clean torture.
Tried not to imagine they had all left the room and the machine was in fact out of control. The squeezy rubber 'bulb' I had been given to hold in case of distress became an object of increasing fascination . . . just one little scrunch, would anyone appear?
In between the crossfire of sounds there was the possibly worse sounds of French 'popular' music - breathy women singers and voice modulators. I think Wagner would have suited the occasion, or perhaps Dolly Parton, so one could take one's mind off the present and consider how extraordinary it is that she can keep from falling over with her unusual weight distribution.
Back at base now. Current noises are Debs recording a song called "on the edge of madness" and Ezra eating with his mouth open, while watching Carry on Doctor featuring Kenneth Williams making that wonderful 'neeeiieer' sound.

Saturday 8 January 2011

Summer memory

Was just going through a few old photos and saw this one.
Sitting in furry leopard slipper-boots and nasty old jumper, it's difficult to remember the intense heat of that day. We had taken Ezra for an ultra special treat to 'le clos de St Hilare' beautiful eatery in afore mentioned village where Mark sometimes plays the piano.
We sat in their garden and sweated. The shade of the trees made no difference; the air was all full up with some kind of syrup, no breeze. We acted out the meal, a small bowl of cherry tomatoes with a side dish of ice would have been very ample.
To the log pile now - rapidly disappearing log pile - early winter; allowing ourselves a little more heat in the day, tighten belts okay but being cold has to stop. Have taken to having four hot water bottles in bed with us now - glurping rubbery packets of heat. I'm rather fond of them, preferable to waking at 3.00 a.m after a dream of being in a sauna and finding the leccy blanket on.
Anyway, first catkins out this week, and strident blackbird song. Moving in the right direction.