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?