Tuesday 31 December 2013

London wanderings

Hoorah, back in the land of empty hills, less traffic and enlarged duck livers.
Yes, just in time for 'Réveillon' or New Years Eve; the emphasis here being on obscene amounts of food rather than drink that seemed to feature in most UK parties I can remember (or not).
I went back to spend Christmas with Mum in her home; a quiet affair along with the other residents dressed in their best, and silently sporting the required silly hats, etc. A handsome Christmas lunch and attentive kindly staff still wasn't enough to dispel the sadness for Mum and the others at not being in their own homes, but . . . c'est la vie, and as these places go, she's in a very fine one.

A couple of days after, I packed my stuff, said goodbye to my generous UK family and departed for LONDON. Yes! A whole day on my own to wander lonely as a cloud, urban pigeon or enthusiastic traffic warden.
Equipped with over-insured hire car, I ventured into the West End; past favourite buildings and parks, expecting the usual traffic-snarls, but was amazed to find it was QUIET. Of course, post-festive slumber and rest from shopping; but surely the sales would be in full madness along Oxford Street? Nope, pretty quiet there too. Great. An easy drive around London, stopping like bemused pensioner at any recalled shop front or familiar road: Oh . . . that's where the police stopped me, driving down a one way street the wrong way with a styrofoam cup and bacon sandwich in one hand, and the A to Z in the other. 
First nostalgia stop: Titian house in Nassau Street, just off Goodge Street, where I lived for a couple of years in the mid 80s
My flat, about the size of a Transit van, and a filthy pit, was at least hyper-central; the area oddly village-like in the early mornings and at weekends.
Jasper, a character in my book Going out in the Midday Sun, enjoys the delights of the same flat. I may post an extract, if I can figure out how to patch Word into this blog.


Next stop, Spitalfields: mainly as the lead character in my current book lives there in a church (Christchurch).
Unfortunately, the Vicar wasn't around and his housekeeper\wife\? was not full of festive help and told me to go away (more or less) when I knocked on the rectory door. I did however find my ex-employer/stylist, Sue, was still in residence at one of the beautiful old houses on Wilkes Street; we had tea and a chat, and she gave me a parking permit, allowing me continue my 'flanning' around Brick lane and the now-ruined Spitalfields market. I say ruined from my perspective, as someone who loves 'real' places and hopes hopelessly that things will stay as they are.
When I worked as Sue's assistant, the market was a magical place full of exotic smells: tropical fruit, stacks of lilies, earthy veg . . . and sounds: barking vendors, birds foraging endlessly for discarded fruit, and lorries arriving and departing loaded with world-wide produce. Now it's a vast cavern of arty gifts, cafés and expensive clothes shops, that looks like a lot of the rest of London.

Shop fronts/landmarks from around the area.

The fabulous blue of the Sandy's Row Synagogue

 The Cat and Mutton pub in The Broadway - not sure if this the original name, but I think it's fantastic.
A Victorian? 'false frontage' standing in front of a recent office building.

 An interesting bit of Spitalfields.


Below, the London fruit exchange.
I went in and asked if they would like to take a very brown banana I found in the car in exchange for a nice ripe mango, but they weren't interested.

Probably my favourite London café, featuring 'London's noted cup of tea', and still going strong on The Farringdon road.

I then got lost as The knowledge what I once had, has been replaced by bits of Toulouse and Marseille. Ending up somewhere in Shoreditch, I spied another magnificent church (St Leonard's) and risked a residents parking area to go and look in more depth. The church in my novel, and in my mind, became replaced by this one as I looked around. Christchurch, Spitalfields - pah! St Leonard's - Mm . . . yep.

While lurking around the back and checking out the graveyard, I met one of the Church trustees, and, along with two other visitors, was given a guided tour of the crypt, the highpoint of which, for me, was the monstrous old oil boiler, and the complex, rusting electrical system - apparently this was the second church in Britain to run on prayer, candlelight and electricity.
Deciding I was harmless, Robin (above) the trustee let me in and introduced me to Paul the vicar - it was his birthday and was marking it by playing the organ at that point. The building is beautiful, and in need of some restoration; if my book ever propels me towards fortune, I will give them a large donation for their kindness in letting me amble about - even in the vestry, as I planned where my character and her horse would live.

Above, the bandstand on Arnold Circus, behind the church - surrounded by, possibly, the oldest Estate in the world, (according to Robin) a collection of beautiful striped orange brick buildings, glowing in the winter sun.

Stomach protesting, I headed off in a vague direction towards Hackney, where I thought I could remember a wonderful old formica-infested café; alas it had long gone, but I did stumble across 'The Broadway', Hackney's colourful market street, stuffed with interesting shops and cafés. So stuffed in fact by the before-mentioned and a riot of happy arty/middleclass folk enjoying the afternoon sun, that I thought I had stepped into a film shoot; Hugh Grant about to appear at any moment hurrying along to the pub he would be drinking in for Take Five of Three weddings, a funeral and a pot of jellied eels.  Talking of which, after a stroll along the canal to admire the giant latticed-metal gasometers glowering in the distance, I remembered I was hungry and so to F. Cookes eel and pie shop sitting unbudgingly on the Broadway.
It was just like the one I recall in Greenwich: all tiles, strip lighting and ancient posters about how EEL is good for you. I'd always ducked out of actually ordering the fish, opting for PIE, but in the light of - what the **** is actually in a meat pie, I opted for the hot eel and liquor.
I'd so love to be able to say it was delicious, but it was truly vile. I had to hide most of the gelatinous/spiny stuff under the spoon, much to the delight of my neighbour- a local man- who said, and I quote: 'Fuck! you didn't try ve EEl did yer?' Well, it was worth it for the mug of Creosote, and the happy knowledge that F. Cooke's emporium would withstand any amount of planning applications from Costa's or Starbuck's who would be met with a resounding FUCK OFF from themselves and all local residents.

After a quick tour of the Barbican, I got stuck in a huge traffic jam in Islington, got totally lost and eventually arrived at my friend's flat keening for a cup of tea, and to put my feet up.

In the morning, duly refreshed I made my way to Stansted, returned the car and fought my way through the crowds to customs.
I was glad to see Ryanair have now introduced a 'Menopausal Women' fast lane, complete with cold air misters, free ice cube-full drinks and gentle doe-eyed young men giving shoulder massages; thus avoiding all the sweating and swearing of and from wild-eyed women (like myself) removing and re-doning layers of clothing throughout the whole preparation-for-flying process.

Happy New Year.

Sunday 22 December 2013

Merry Christmas

From the Hothouse.

Alter of the micro-church up at St Salvayre on the same hill mentioned in previous post.

Building 31

Small concrete shed on the very top of the 'woolly hills' above our town.
I suppose it's function is something to do with the radio masts, but I like to imagine an old guy sitting in there next to a small wood-burner, looking down onto the town and all its festive scurryings as he pours a thermos-cup of coffee and sighs with relief that he is alone up there with just the sound of the crows in the scattered clumps of box trees.


Saturday 21 December 2013

Science faction?

A very favourite cartoon that had graced our webby office walls for many a year. Sorry, for credit - don't know who's it is.

Friday 20 December 2013

Lucky dip

I went into a city yesterday, albeit a small one, to do a minuti of Christmas shopping.
After ten minutes of being smacked in the eyes by hard-sell gift adverts I'd had enough and headed towards a cake shop. Who spends a hundred and forty euros on a perfume gift-pack?
I did venture out of the cake shop again, but only to the rather nice 'Esprit de sel'. A shop stuffed with desirable objects of the culinary, decor, toiletry world; but even in there I experienced a sort of things suffocation.
Do we need a vase in the shape of a semi-squashed paper cup, or a plastic donkey post it note-holder; or room spray that smells of 'coin du feu' (the corner near the fireplace) certainly not ours; it probably smells of an overlooked dog pee or two and dead spiders - if they have an odour.
The point being, I think we have in the West have reached thing saturation. We don't need anymore items for the sake of them, books, yes, plants, yes, nice cake, yes, but not things you reveal on Christmas day and wish you hadn't: 'ha ha how drole. Angel and devil salt and pepper shakers - real china too'. As for electronic gadgets . . .
Anyway, lucky dip, yes.
My mother had a wonderful and eccentric friend, Margaret, I think - this is going back a few hundred years now. She had a great outlook on life and found a partner with the same outlook at the great age of eighty; they married and continued along life's highway until pegging out at about ninety I seem to remember.
Anyway, again . . . I once went to a Christmas lunch that she was also invited to. I can't recall anything much about the day now, other than her presents.
She appeared with a cardboard box full of small badly wrapped festive packages: 'Lucky dip' she called, and everyone took something from the box. 'everything from Oxfam, and nothing over fifty pence.' (probably about four quid now?)
There were varied expressions on faces, but mine was of delight as I unwrapped an orange and brown 70s tie, proposterous in its very being.
I wore the tie for several years at art college, teamed with skinny jeans, white shirts, braces and stilettos (it was the early eighties); unfortunately it was lost on some hovel-move or other, but I still remember it and Margaret with affection.

Wednesday 18 December 2013

We need dogs!

We, as in humans generally, and not just to pose next to in a Victorian photographic manner: my dog and I are slightly amused, or confused . . .  
This, if you are new to this blog, is Mark (the one on the right) and new super-dog, Gala.
Amongst the many reasons we acquired her were: companion for small dog (bereft of ancient other dog, Una, who passed away in the summer - sob) guard dog and the thought of being able to help at at least one abandoned Spanish greyhound (Galgos/Galgas) But the main reason was one of serious enforced exercise.

The runty small dog can make do with a vague amble down the road or a boot up the arse to send him out quaking to take a pee. We needed something with an urge to walk, for hours, possibly days.
Greyhounds generally fit this requirement admirably. They will walk anywhere at any pace for as long as you like, then slip gracefully onto any soft surface (preferably the sofa) when you return to the house, and remain there until food or further suggestion of walkies occurs.
This morning while watching 'Telematin' and exercising! I saw a feature by the lovely 'Fanny-Bidget Cohen' about moving around - i.e how we are formed to move, run, catch, climb, dig, etc, etc, not drive, look at screens, and eat iced buns while doing so. Of course we know these things, but it's always good to have them reinforced from time to time.
So, the big dog . . . brilliant: you have to walk her in any weather, for at least twenty minutes at a time, even in vile, freezing drizzle, thus returning to the house, limbs tingling, heart rate increased and generally feeling better.
Even when I lived in London in a tiny flat, the same applied - walking George the manic Jack Russell/Fox Terrier with added bonus heart rate increase as she would invariably try and attack any other living dog/cat/duck/pigeon.
I'll have to try and find a picture of her - well before digital, and stored in a shoebox somewhere along with all the other London memories.

Sunday 15 December 2013


On a forage to our local junk recycling emporium yesterday, amongst other treasures (large piece of 70s fabric for thirty cents, five glasses for a euro and a plastic cassette carrying case that Ezra is going to turn into something else) I found this absurdity.
We have a loo wall covered in such tat, but this piece is a Mona Lisa.
Added to the super-kitsch photo of frolicking Spaniards, is the fabulous attempt at micro-DIY. In fact, it looks just like something I would have done.

Oh, the key hooks have fallen off our costa blanca key holder. I'll just do a quick repair job with a large hammer and an assortment of nails, screws and allen keys (and anything pointy that happens to be gracing the floor of the shed). Shit, the bar's made of plastic not metal . . . never mind I'll just hit it a bit harder. There job done.

Saturday 14 December 2013

Colney Hatch Lane (misplaced blog post)

I'm just re-editing the blog from day one with a view to printing the whole thing up. Somehow this post has moved from 2009; I can't seem to move it back, so . . . here it is, a piece of the past in 2013.

The last part of this time's London perambulations.
Took the 134 bus from Highgate to Muswell hill - my childhood home of 13 years. Most shops have changed, of course, but joy, the pet shop and most important, the old coffee and tea merchants emporium is still there. This ancient shop with its coffee roaster in the window and dark wood shelving stuffed with spices and jams was a place of wonder when I was a child, and still is.
Bought a few packets of nutmegs, mustard seeds etc, and listened to an elderly lady recounting exploits of her morning to the shop keeper.
When she had completed her shopping, she was helped on with her small rucksack, and set off to walk to Kenwood, which I think must be over 4 miles away.
After she had left, the shopkeeper told me the lady had just celebrated her birthday of 103 years. I also left and walked briskly up the road, aching feet bones and dodgy hip forgotten - I am young, I am young, etc.
Looked in on my junior school playground, and then tried to remember where there had been a species of Lyon's tea rooms near the bus station, to no avail.
Bus to Colney Hatch lane, where we lived in a ground floor flat of this block in above photo.

Wednesday 11 December 2013

unwitting art

What is the point of trying to create art I thought to myself as I stepped back from this wonderment, backlit by the morning sunshine. It's all around us; created by us, knowingly or otherwise.
The person who concocted this gate did so out of necessity: keeping dogs in or out, people in or out, whatever, but they made it from what was available; probably from that fly tipping site I noticed just down the road.
If I passed this in the Tate, hung in the main gallery, or in a dare ye to enter gallery near Bond street, I would have admired it as I did this morning, for its colours, its random construction and sheer boldness. Whether it had a price tag of seventy thousand pounds or it was about to be loaded into a skip, it was art either way, to my mind.


I'm writing a book at the moment set in 2090.
Here's an extract set in a shouting-house (auction rooms) after the early 21st century furniture lots have been sold.

Tuesday 10 December 2013

frosty dog walk

This morning at -1 degrees, but with sun shining and mist rising from the river.
Some leaf-snaps as I had remembered to take the camera.

Saturday 7 December 2013

It's December so it must be . . .

Christmas . . . unless someone discovers very quickly that Jesus was in fact born in Woverhampton on the seventh of July.
Yes, we are shuddering inexorably towards that crucial date for which a hanger's worth of festive twaddle must be bought, obscene amounts of food stocked and permanent smiles fixed as much-loved relatives such as warty and irritable Aunty Joan are welcomed to the hearth and table.
Each year my keening for a lonely beach and a small fuggy café where we can sit eating egg on toast quietly reflecting on the year, increases. But fun must be had, Mary Poppins watched, paper hats worn and terrible cracker jokes read.
I love it really.
No, I do, it's just all the overfed lead up to it - like some glittery nightmare turkey increasing in size each day, stuffed with internet purchases and credit card limits. What is it all really about?
Jesus. A baby who was presented with three gifts: an iphone, a play station and Grand Theft Auto.
I think we have lost the plot, or it was lost for us by desperate manufacturers.
Anyway. This post was meant to be about the yearly visit of the postmen, bin men and firemen and the delight of receiving their calendar for the coming year. Not.

Why don't they make something different? I don't want three dreadful calendars that are so covered with ads that you can't write take dog to vet on them. Or at least it could be a cheeky one with firemen sliding down greasy poles wi nowt on . . . but then thinking about some of our local firefighters . . . maybe not. Just a promise to turn up if one's house catches fire would be fine. I'm happy to donate, but we don't need a calendar - thanks.
The firemen calendar is informative on the whole: pictures of people dressed in dark clothing directing water onto flames and the like. The postmen and bin men ones are usually a selection of choc box images: flowers, kittens, palm trees on white beaches, simpering kids; well I suppose a snap of a couple of overflowing bins or the local tip might not be considered . . . nice.
One of my favourite images in our 1970's photo-plastered loo is a 1974 calendar pic of three bin men in Collioure (highly picturesque seaside town) The choc box idea went a little askew that year . . .

Friday 6 December 2013

1918 — 2013

We are all on the planet for such a nano-particle of time in relation to space, galaxies, stars, the Earth itself. But some people stand out in this passage of time that each of us experience; people who make such a monumental difference to our human world that when they move on it seems impossible that they have done so.

Thursday 5 December 2013

Building No 30

I'm not sure if this should be classed as a building. But rather than start a 'folly, or bizarre, seemingly useless constructions' sub-blog, I thought I'd lump it in with the buildings.
I've noticed this square shape in the hills many times while driving southwards from town, but never actually got close to it. On a dog walk yesterday, I discovered, after a wrong turning, that I was approaching afore-mentioned object.
It sits on the crest of a hill, guarded by two giant rabbit ears of cypress, facing the distant snow-covered Pyrenees. Built of various types of stone and Toulousian brick, it is topped by nothing: no statue of Christ, no bronze sculpture of famous local wine maker. It has no door, no interior,  and no plaque stating why it is there.
I might go back each week and place a different item on top, a sort of changing installation, but as no one apart from me and a few disinterested sheep will notice, perhaps not.

Tuesday 3 December 2013

The road into winter

I'm finding it hard to deal with the cold this year. I know people live in - 40, etc and I'm not grumbling, really. I think it's mainly the early morning starts (5.30) in order to get boy on right train each morning.
By the time it's dark, fire lit, shutters shut, I could quite happily snuggle into bed, but really, six o'clock - a bit pathetic.
Yesterday really was 100% leaf-pile hibernation temptation, today less so as the sun is shining brightly and the washing is steaming gently outside rather than on various strings hung around the house.
Summer is a distant memory, awakened by the sight of cushions in need of a wash in the sun shelter, a tangled mess of swimming goggles in the shed and the brown crumpled heads of roses still clinging to leafless stems.
Was it ever really 42 degrees? But then, I can remember standing next to the same roses looking at the heat haze in July thinking, 'could it ever have been - 4 degrees?'

Sunday 1 December 2013

Post for Claire

As you go through life, you meet people - those that visit your life for a brief time leaving good or not so good memories, and those that remain strongly part of your existence, even if you see them infrequently. One such friend is celebrating a big birthday today.
All residents of the Hothouse wish you a fabulous birthday, and send-virtually a large pink rose. Hope all the kids are with you and that the day is very special.

Saturday 30 November 2013

Sometimes you just need to be be shown the way

The banjo had been languishing in a web-filled corner of Ezra's room. Dropped, I think, due to lack of peer interest mainly - not a great Bluegrass scene in our region . . .

Some encouraging words, a few swift demonstrations, and a palpable enthusiasm for stringed instruments from a visiting friend was all it took. Yeehaa! Back on board.

Thursday 28 November 2013

New dog, old clothes

Or new dog, new clothes - recycled clothes in fact and recycled dog.
Having adopted another greyhound-type animal, the question of winter coat occurred again. Being sofa snugglers, when not racing after small animals, they do get cold very quickly.
Mark had done a quick tour of the town's dog shops, but all clothing is aimed at stumpy, fatter models of canine beasts. Also having to part with forty euros for a plastic squeaky mac thing sporting the words Princess or some other twaddle was not going to happen.
I looked on the net and there were four million sites advertising stuff from sensible waterproof padded jackets to velvet DRESSES with matching pillbox hat: ****!
The things I liked seemed to cost about sixty or seventy euros; the words, sod that, coming to mind, I went on a hunt through my old gardening jumpers and found my very favourite old brown one, bought on ebay about ten years ago. Perfect: warm, bit mothy, but not too bad. I dissected a leopard skin skirt that I had bought at a boot sale thinking I would team it with some long black sexy leather boots . . . but never quite did.
Result a rather fetching, to my mind, warm and slightly mad-looking dog coat for zero euros.


Wednesday 20 November 2013

Poopburger, darling?

I'm still not sure if this is real . . . probably not, I think the plastic pointy hand and daft narration give it away.
Anyway, following on from the meat question on last post. Perhaps we are only a step away from Soylent Green . . . pass me the Lentils PLEASE!

Tuesday 19 November 2013

A meaty question

We have two dogs. We had two dogs - one died, the small one left on his runty own-ness and so we got the new big dog (see previous posts, if you wish).
The new dog is big enough to require double the food of the old dog and due to certain . . . squishy 'movements' needed a diet of chicken and rice, to calm things down. Things are more 'compact' now, but the question of which food still remains.
For ease, most people reach for a bag of 'crapocrunch' or some similar dry pellets. The new dog, having been given chicken, attempts to wrinkle her nose up in a sneer at the site of the identical round things but as her rib bones are evident (second hand dog) I feel compelled to make sure she eats enough to get her to the right shape.

I looked up about the origins of the 'kibble' or dry food. Of course I knew it wasn't going to be happy ruddy-faced farmers rounding up a few choice beasts and telling them their time was up, but just reading about how the sludge that becomes the pellets is produced was enough to forget that avenue.
Canned stuff? The labels show happy bounding dogs, usually glossy red setters or cheeky Jack Russells, happy, healthy, grinning pets. But what is in the tins? Rather a lot of water, and all the same crap that goes into the dry stuff. It's all right for an emergency but then the small dog then suffers from the afore-mentioned squishyness.
So . . . real food. The chicken question.
This shouldn't really be a question. Millions of people are starving, why am I worrying about what my pets should eat? But it is a question.
We eat hardly any meat, Mark being an occasional fish-eater only. Sometimes I will buy a minuscule portion of steak and share it with Ezra, and only if it's proved to have been a happy beast before its demise.
I had been buying the very cheapest form of chicken: very yellow, 'grain fed' fresh. Fresh, what an overused word that is. Fresh. Would you buy a bird that was labeled: a bit past it, not too old, stale? No of course not, but it is way overused, conjouring up images of 'just killed' lovingly prepared, farmer's wife's table etc. I once saw a huge truck on the motorway emblazoned 'beyond fresh', bet the company weren't to happy with the ad agency when they stood back and looked at that one.
    Oh yes, the chicken . . . I suddenly realised I couldn't buy any more of the bargain ones after I was trying to get the flesh off from one particularly manky specimen. It looked undeveloped, the ligaments twisted, the leg bones fragile. Of course I had to go and look up factory farming . . . I wish I hadn't. It's all there in our minds of course, hidden away like some hideous corner of the shed that needs clearing out, but three minutes of Youtube info was enough.
    No more cheap chicken. So how could I resolve buying more expensive meat for the dogs? I just decided it was buying meat, full stop — for whatever reason, it's the same issue, for us or dogs. We eat very little of it, we don't need to and the dogs do need a certain amount — even though some people would disagree over this subject itself.
    So resolved, for now anyway. They get smallish amounts of happier poultry, some minced general meat from the supermarket offcuts section, when it's not too fatty, the odd tin in desperation, loads of rice and scraps. I feel better about it and they seem content.
    The whole eating meat issue is one of such enormity and complexity that one could fill several blogs. In France it's especially tricky. People seem entrenched in their need to consume meat; there are public leaflets in doctors surgeries pointing out the dangers for children of vegetarianism.
    A French friend of mine, only yesterday said she would like to cook less meat, But my husband, he wants meat at every meal, in fact he needs it. I did point out that Mark (6ft 6 and deemed totally healthy at recent MOT) never eats meat and lives mainly on vegetables, cereals and pulses.
    At Ezra's Lycee (high school) every meal has meat: that's just one school in a smallish town in France, times that by every school in every town, not to mention the cities it's a pretty scary view into how much meat (at what dubious quality, and with how much animal suffering) is being produced at breakneck speed to feed this . . . habit really.

Dog food info: In case anyone wants to try it.

Two dogs: one pathetically small, one medium sized =two meals a day:

One 'outdoor' chicken, one carrot, one courgette (grated!) two cups of rice, bread and scraps (not onion-dangerous) This seems to last for about two and a half days. About the same as buying five tins of the better quality dog food and crunchy pellets for padding: no squishy stuff, no dog farts (more of there with the dry stuff) and their coats/eyes etc look to be in excellent condition.


Saturday 16 November 2013

Enough, thanks.

I've just spend a fascinating afternoon with a lovely friend who will be sadly departing from this world much sooner than he should.
I've never talked to anyone with such ease about that . . . you know, the 'what happens at the end', thing.
He was told just over a year ago that he would be shuffling off, but he's decided to samba off: living it all to the full and he looks bloody amazing with it. He's got it sorted. Of course there are the bleak days, the rain-filled grey days or the days of such beauty you can't imagine not being on this turning planet, staring at an endless blue sky, a storm wracked sea-scape or a snow-capped mountain range.
Every day counts; you can see it in his eyes, his smile and the movement of his hands as he describes places, friends, family, music, art; dashing boredom to the floor and grinding it to dust.
He's worked out the end too.
Not many people do this. There's so much stacked against you: doctors, law, attitudes, yourself too: all those years where we talk about everything else down to the most intimate details of sex, childbirth, love, hate, but not death. Something to stuff to the back of the wardrobe in the mind: worry about it when it comes to it.
It's a thorny subject, but this afternoon I felt privileged to have had a heartfelt talk about IT, and I admire this man so much for having the courage to do what he's going to do, when he feels right about it, where he wants and with the people he wants around him
The answer is in his fridge: a small packet behind the cheese and the salad perhaps. His way out, under his control.

Thursday 14 November 2013


I had to go to Carcassonne today to challenge Ezra's school as to why we had received a huge canteen bill. Matter resolved, and surprisingly easily, I had an hour before the train back. The local café seemed to be closed and my favourite second hand shop not open till 10am.
I decided to see what photographic wonders there were within about 200 metres of his place of learning.

I was glad to re-visit this rock. I took a picture of it before but it must have moved and the image was blurred.
I think it has been put there so that the small plastic chain attached to it will stop people attempting to park next to the building. Seems like a large thing to move for that purpose. Or maybe the rock has always been there - the shopping precinct built around it.
Just opposite the rock and the precinct is an impressive gate. Usually, this is shut, but today it stood invitingly open. The garden was a wasteland with bulldozer parts scattered amongst the trees. The door was open and as my son wasn't with me saying 'Mum! you can't just go in there', I did.
It must have been an important house in this once-elegant area of the city: a 'Maison de Maitre'.   Little remained inside of its original charm, and I didn't inspect too far as most of the ceilings looked as if they were about to meet the floors. I suppose it will become flats, each with plastic windows, egg-box doors and plaster-board walls.
    It would have been wonderful just to be able to peep back into time for a few minutes and see the place as it was before the corrugated shops and car park on the other side of the road.

As I returned to the station I saw a very sad palm tree . . .

 . . . and a small red alien waiting for an intergalactic bus, a few meters from the school.

Sunday 10 November 2013

Further proof

That the world is an unbalanced and dangerous place.
I had just finished reading the latest update on typhoon Haiyan in the Gruaniad and a shopping ad popped up to the left of my screen 'suggesting' I might like to part with over twenty euros for . . . well, I'll come to that in a minute.
For a start. I don't use 'La Redoute' catalogue, don't think I ever have, and Mark certainly doesn't. Not for any reason other than we shop (for clothes, etc) exclusively at Parchemin - the local recycling place (often mentioned on this blog), the equivalent of car boot sales - the vide grenier, and occasionally out of desperation, at a shop. Okay, Amazon, very occasionally, if Mark needs shoes - size 13 is impossible to find here.
So why keep prodding me virtually with info about pans, dresses, televisions, shoes and SLIPPERS when I'm not going to press 'yes, proceed to marketplace, thanks.' Surely the info-gathereres for La Redoute and other mass consumer organisations have realised I'm not worth the bother.
Anyway: here's the item I started going on about earlier - and, I almost had to start a new World's Most Stupid Items blog in incredulity of the crass, pathetic, absurd and wasteful nature of these . . . things.

Yes. Cow udder slippers.
Who, when, where, and what %#@!!xx%* meeting saw the birth of these? How could people have sat there and said: congratulations Mr Pratt, those certainly will keep feet warm and raise a chuckle.
Let's look at them seriously. How long would they last? (About a day in our house, before they would be covered in clumps of cat hair and stove spillages.) You might try and wash them but I doubt if the jaunty teats would stand the washing machine for long. The local tip would soon beckon, and new daft footwear would have to be sought. Perhaps La Redoute would have come up with goat testicle slippers by then.
Are they warm?  I doubt if warmth is in the equation - purely a joke: over twenty euros for a joke. Twenty euros - probably well over the monthly wage for the person who guided the sewing machine over these monsters, possibly in the Philippines . . . before the typhoon struck.

Friday 8 November 2013

Street art

I stood and looked at this for several minutes until Ezra pulled me away. The friendly chaotic jumble of it under that very angular metal staircase.
It just seemed to represent the variety of human characteristics: one correctly put up, screwed onto the wall with precision, some with 'this'll do' overly long brackets, wonky ones and one just mysteriously vanished. Mine would have been the lopsided beige job - bunged up with the wrong brackets, screws bashed in with a hammer as I would have forgotten the drill.

Thursday 7 November 2013


That the world is a mad and dangerous place.
I went into 'Decathlon' the other day (mega sports shop chain in France, and probably elsewhere) to get a pair of sensible shoes as walking the dogs in flip-flops (me, not the dogs) had become unrealistic in November.
I located the shoe section and then had a quick wander around to look at what people actually buy under the umbrella of sport. Mostly, what one would imagine, if not a bit excessive: bikes, swimwear, fishing clobber, tents, a kilometre of ski equipment, pink girly dance wear - for men too; hiking stuff, etc, but then I ventured into the isle of SNACKS.
You go for a walk or a run. Good. What do you need to replace the water you have sweated out? Water. Bit of fuel? - banana, a handful of dried fruit and nuts?
There was an isle as long as a bus full of alternatives: yellow, blue, pink and orange water substitutes, all incased in future landfill. People must buy this stuff - lots of it, the manufacturers continually producing more effective, and more colourful ways of hydrating.
There are millions of people in this world desperate for a container of pure water, folk who walk miles every day to a stinking hole of tepid water and then return so their family can just about survive.
Jog, run, cycle, hike, but just take a bottle and re-fill it with clean, ordinary, but luxurious tap water.

Sunday 3 November 2013

Size of thighs

When browsing the Guardian-online earlier I noticed an article about how women now have something else to worry about: not just their thighs size, but the GAP in between . . . WHAT!
Of course, I had to then look up lots of info about this and got sidetracked onto terrifying Tumbler sites where people (women) take photos of their gaps and their progress in making the gaps wider.
WTF is wrong with us that we should worry about such things? I say, we as it hasn't yet crossed my mind: fat ankles, yes - I'd rather have lower limbs like Bambi . . . or perhaps not literally; finding footwear could be challenging, but yes, svelte, perfect, sexy, smooth, all that stuff, but they remain quite . . . chunky - not the end of the world; occasionally cause for a moment's wistful reflection, but really, life is too short.
Of course if you type in 'starving women' or something similar, you really get to see what a thigh gap is, plus exposed ribs, collar bones like wire coat hangers, etc. Why do people want to emulate this when they have no cause to? Is it for men? I don't think most men I know would like to caress bones; soft curves, or toned muscle seems more likely.
Is it a power thing? women to women - hey look at me! I've got a chest like a pre-pubescent boy and an impressive gap.
Every now and again there's a bit of press hype about how the 1950s fuller figure is returning to the catwalk - err, where? A bit of info about how eating miniscule amounts is generally not a great idea, but celebs now seem to be aiming for size - 0, and what they do, people will follow. Sad.
I'm now going to eat some fabulous coffee and walnut cake (A Mark triumph) and take the dogs out, just enough to wear it off a bit, and not look at my thigh gap on my return.

Not me

Actually a Romanian model with a natural 20 inch waist and proud owner of an impressive thigh gap. She claims to eat masses inc choc and crisps.
I'm not sure where she keeps her internal organs: perhaps in a matching clutch bag?

Thursday 31 October 2013

All Hallows

Pumpkins are in very short supply this year, due I presume to the late spring and summer and thus, Autumn.
This is some sort of squash, but Ezra tackled its short stature rather well, and it looks suitably scary sitting by the front door.
Orange-coloured soup coming up, and an evening in by the fire with an ancient horror film: The Carnaval Of Souls.

Tuesday 29 October 2013

All Saints

Or, Toussaint here in France, is an important mark in the calendar. The florists, garden centres, markets and super-markets are stuffed with giant pots of pink, orange, white and lilac chrysanthemums, which will then appear on graves all over the country.
Once, on a flight back to the UK, I saw masses of the blooms: an oasis of tiny round spots of bright colour amongst pale straw colour and brown autumn-bare vine fields.
Today, we took the dogs up a small lane to raid a neglected pomegranate tree. We walked past the derelict summer house I had noticed and photographed before.
Somebody had placed a solitary potted white chrysanthemum on the centre of the ancient concrete table under the broken veranda where Papy, Mamy, or both must have once sat after working in the vines, or tending the now-overgrown garden.

I liked the idea that the plant was there rather than on their grave in the municipal graveyard. Hopefully their spirits are still gardening and sitting watching the sun go down.

Sunday 27 October 2013

Building number 29

Viewed on a walk to . . . actually, I have no idea, but it wasn't long ago. I think it was somewhere on a road trip that required a loo break.

Something nasty behind the woodpile? It rather reminded me of a giant Darth Vader head.
But being built, I imagine, well before the late 70's I don't suppose this was a sculptural ode to someone's favourite Star Wars character; more a sensible use of corrugated metal and grey paint.

Friday 25 October 2013

Lost and found

Or somewhere between the two.
Douglas Adams had a theory, or rather there was a theory in the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, that all missing Biros slope off to some other planet and actually live a completely separate Biro life. We have the same problem with scissors, Sellotape, glasses, dog leads, well, mostly everything really. But yes, there never is a Biro when you want one, only a broken yellow pencil.
Today, a friend and brilliant wood-worker made us a shoe 'station' for our hall as I was fed up with corralling all the footwear, into various places in the house which never worked - like, the under-stairs cupboard, a dark and fetid place where shoes were piled and squashed under coats and bags.
When he had made the afore-mentioned wonderful item I had to CLEAN things and Turn Things Out, as my grandma would have said.
There was a fantastic fluff collection and a lot of 'Oh, that's where that went' stuff behind the cupboard - then on to the key cupboard. I emptied it all out and discovered that no one had any idea what at least half the keys were for or where they had come from.
Where do keys come from? Why can you never find a pen, but lots of unknown keys instead? Are they lost by someone else and end up our place, or are they ones from some previous house/cupboard/gate/garage and we have just forgotten. I've put them all in a box for now, and perhaps we'll remember what they are for, or I'll open the box, or Ezra will in forty years time, and nobody will any the wiser, but they still won't get thrown out - just in case, even though he may be living seven thousand miles away from this house. 

Maybe I should melt them all down and just make one really big key and a huge door to go with it; or maybe I just need a nice cup of tea. Yes that sounds like a great idea.

Thursday 24 October 2013

Passing time

About ten years ago we bought a piece of land about three miles from us as we had no garden in our town house. We used it a great deal: struggled with oak tree roots, planted olives, made crap irrigation systems and generally enjoyed it - until we moved to another house with a huge garden.
I haven't been to the land for ages and feared a sad sight of withered trees and overgrown-ness generally. Actually, it was okay, more than; most of the trees have survived and didn't look at me too accusingly.
The cherries are now taller than Mark, the olives, small but certainly not dead. Some pin d'Aleps, that I had put in thinking I would transfer them to a useful hedging spot are now vast and happy, sitting at the edge of the field like a row of chunky football substitutes. Don't think I'll bother trying to move them - why I didn't plant them as a hedge at the time, I don't know . . .
I took the dogs for a walk down to the river and passed the land of 'Mr Combe' on the way. It looked strangely vacant, weeds sprouting and no sign of veg. Oh dear, I think he might have passed on to the great greenhouse in the sky - he was VERY old ten years ago.
He used to come up the hill and stand like Columbo investigating a case of particularly runty vegetables - ours. He would squint, suck on his fag and tell us what we should be doing, and, he was probably right.
His tomatoes were always the size of a large gerbil, ours - more shrew-like, but they tasted good. His soil was better, and it was, being near the river; his methods, his tractor (I did point out we didn't have one) his shed, his irrigation system, etc. I did ask him if he could play the piano as well as Mark but he didn't answer.
But, I did like him and his theories, and his super-veg. I salut you Mr Combe if you are no longer with us.
Here is a pic of his dog's house, the hand painted sign that used to say 'danger' now long gone.