Tuesday 28 April 2015


Isn't the brain an amazing thing? So many hundreds of memories stored in that flabby looking cauliflower in one's skull, along with sounds, smells, tastes, pains and pleasures. Yet, sometimes it doesn't quite operate as you expect - where did I put my passport/socks/bag/keys, et al - and sometimes the more random 'not working' leads to somewhat disastrous consequences such as putting the wrong fuel in the car . . .
I happened to recall the time I did this, just now, as I was planning a trip involving said airport.
Here (and for sake of a wee bit of book promo) is a short extract from the second book in my trilogy 'Staying out of the Midday Sun' based on my wrong fuel plight. Interestingly my mother was treated to a barrage of swear words that even I didn't realise I knew.

"I think we should fill up," said Holly as a service station came into view on the motorway. "It's much cheaper in Spain."
     Peter pulled in and Holly filled the tank, revelling in the view of distant mountains while the fuel gauge clicked. She paid and they joined the motorway again.
    About three miles down the road the car started making odd hiccuping noises, then juddering violently. Holly had a sudden flashback of the petrol nozzle. It had been green — unleaded petrol. "Jesus fucking H Christ, I just put the wrong fuel in the car!"
    "What shall I do?" said Peter, gripping the steering wheel tensely.
    ". . .I don't know. I never did this before, did you?" 
    "It would be difficult on a bicycle."
    The car kangerooed along; another garage came into sight.
    "Pull in!" shouted Holly. Peter swerved in and screeched to a stop, Starsky and Hutch fashion. They went to the shop, tried French and English but blank looks prevailed from the hairy-looking attendant.
    Holly frowned at Peter. "Can't you speak any Spanish?"
    "Only, dos cervecas por favor."
    Holly tried again, speaking in an idiotic slow mixture of language and gesticulations and presenting a sketch of an empty fuel gauge. The man brightened and in turn drew her a picture of a cloud and a wedge of emmental cheese. The shop was suddenly full of a stream of lithe young German men buying lager and porn. Holly's plight was forgotten.
    They went to the next door café and tried phoning the insurance's breakdown company. After many attempts Peter reached a real person who insisted on putting him through to an English-speaking advisor.
    "Ah, yes, err, I, ow you say, is happen to my muzzer, five ears in ze passing."
    "Look, can I be put back to the French advisor I was speaking to?"
    "But, I muz elp you, eet iz impo . . ." Then there was silence.
    "Shit, the mobile died," gasped Peter. "Now what?"
    "Pay phone over there," said Holly. The machine chomped its way through euros while Peter paced as far as the telephone cord would allow.
    "Three hours, is that the soonest? okay, merci."
    "I thought they would just siphon the fuel out, like they did when I lived in Peckham," said Holly. "Didn't realise they would have to send a tow truck out."
    Eventually, the truck arrived. A tanned man dressed in shorts and Johnny Hallyday T-shirt jumped down from the cab and expertly moved the car onto the ramp. They drove back over the border to the nearest French town with a registered garage. The owner came out smiling wryly. He had obviously seen it all many times before.
    "Er  . . . ça va coûter combien, environ?" asked Peter, nervously, waiting for the noncommittal shrug.
    "Moins de deux cents euros monsieur."
    "Less than two hundred," said Holly. "How much less? Three cents, thirty euros?"
    "Well, we are rather between a rock and a hard place, aren't we?" smiled Peter. "It can be part of my birthday present . . ."
    "I'm sorry. So stupid of me."
    "It could have been worse, the other way round . . . diesel into an unleaded can be a write-off apparently."
    "I bet this establishment makes its living from twerps getting their car's stomach pumped, being just over the border," observed Holly, a little later, as they sat in the sun outside the café next door.

 Image from Breakeryard.com

Monday 27 April 2015

Car Boot Booty

Or in this case - Vide Grenier Booty, (Vide Grenier = UK's car boot sale or USA's garage sale) and this one, last Sunday, was the first haul of the year.
We are total Vide Grenier (empty-out-attic) addicts. The first of the season and it was a good start.

For twenty euros:
A large, ancient but pretty bedcover, daft red shoes (rather a good make), two antique lace curtains, a retro board game for Ezra to study the elements of (into making his own board games), the oldest recording of the Carnaval de Limoux, a text book on Easter Island, a rather beautiful ash tray for our 'Workaway' guest, four porcelain ramekins, a bundle of old wooden and wire plant ties, a white mohair jumper and a wooden bench.
This was a particularly good example of how V.G's should be: friendly and no stupid prices - the concept being that you offload a pile of stuff you don't want, earn a bit of cash, have a natter with your fellow stall-holders, drink coffee provided by the village holding the event, and try not to come away with more than you had taken there in the morning.

Sunday 19 April 2015

Plane tree in sign-eat horror

Isn't nature just incredible?
I've seen many instances of trees - mainly Plane trees, enveloping things but this must be the best.
I like the face too. I would have added one if someone hadn't got there first . . .

Friday 10 April 2015

Songs of Life: No 4

After art college I lived in a grimy house-share with dry rot infestations (and three other ex art college students) and a loo that froze in the winter. Probably to counteract the damp and filth, much time was spent watching (on terrible, early VHS) 1950s Hollywood musicals where everything was colour-heightened: sugar pinks, sky blue and the whiter than white-ness of Gene Kelly's teeth.
I had soundtrack tapes of Some Like it Hot, Danny Kaye films and of course Singing in the Rain in my Morris Traveler; played alternately with Underworld, Ravel and Salsa (had just discovered the wonders of Latin music in a bar in Holborn.)
All the gloom of stomping back from the dole office in Streatham could be wafted away by a few minutes of watching this piece of candy-floss choreography; and, after I finally nailed a job as a stylist assistant I would inflict my tapes on art directors and photographers at the various studios - made a change from the Eagles and J.J Cale.
On my desert island, I would finally have the time to learn the Charleston, and perhaps tap dancing if there happened to be a few flat rocks - with this playing in my mind.

Wednesday 8 April 2015

Hoover bag rant

Or, I should say Miele bag rant as that's the type we possess at the moment.
We inherited a smallish pale yellow aspirator from my mother when she moved to a home and no longer needed to personally remove dust from her surroundings.
It's absolutely fine as hoovers go, except it's almost impossible to find bags for it in a shop, well, actually totally impossible, unless I wanted to drive to Toulouse for a day and mooch around a hundred different electrical sheds in the hope of stumbling upon the right type. Which I don't.
I thought it would be possible to locate the bags in our local mega-supermarket, but no, as the thing is now about eight years old now and probably well out of fashion: I mean yellow, really!
The bag crisis looms every few months or so as we don't go in for huge amounts of dust removal generally - a broom mainly suffices, but as summer approaches and our guest room becomes inhabited, a higher level of dust-attention is needed.
Last time Mark bought some 'fits any size' type bags which were okay apart from a bit of leaking, but even those seem to have disappeared from the supermarket.
Yesterday, I crept towards Amazon knowing it would be the only choice whereupon Mark decided there must be another way - a small local company, somewhere. Nope. But he did find a business called 'Aspirateur sacs sont nous' or something, so I scanned the page(s) in the hope of finding the correct bags.

There were over four hundred types of Miele hoovers listed. Four . . . h u n d r e d. Why?
Why cannot each company make one basic model and upgrade it every few years or so?
Do you really need a hoover called Black Pearl, or Sunshine, or Big Cat and Dog (I liked this one) Passion - (just feel that vibration . . .) Best friend, Blue Moon (singing model?) Champagne! Hey, Honey . . . I've done the hoovering - break out that bottle of Dom. P; Exclusive - what? no one else is going to have one on this planet? Flamenco, Exquisite  (a chunk of wheely plastic, exquisite?) Indian Summer - WHAT?! Meteor - mm, sounds a bit heavy, Jazz, Noblesse - Oh, for God's sake who has the job of naming these things . . .
Anyway, more than four hundred, but not our one.
So, Amazon, and Mark started slipping into the consumer trap - 'Actually, do we need to buy a new bagless type'?
No we do not. I will fabricate our own bags out of old pants if necessary.

Wednesday 1 April 2015

Songs of life: No 3

So, fast forwarding to art college days . . . I've missed out many, many records I played over and over; things that reminded me of early loves, the bus trip to foundation course, terrible discos, etc: classics by David Bowie, The Police, The Stranglers, Rush, Pink Floyd, James Brown, Chic, Bryan Ferry - and on and on, but with trying to keep to the statutory Desert Island number of records, I'm going to zip on to This.
This being Bauhaus: In Fear of Fear, the base line of which made me want to take up the bass guitar (and still would like to) I had a t-shirt with this album cover on which I wore to threads - teamed with skintight jeans, stiletto heals and a Homburg . . .
I could happily prance around in the desert island sand reliving those days of student freedom, shared -house filth, and have the time to experiment with photography, paint, and mind altering substances - if they were allowed as your luxury item(s).