Sunday, 31 December 2017

A dog's life


Yes, we do spoil her, and the other Spanish greyhound who (and I say who as they are beings, although regarded largely in Spain as objects, along with wardrobes, shoes, etc) live under our roof. By some happy little twist of fate - for them, and us - they ended up gracing our sofas rather than slumped miserably in a concrete pen somewhere.
Anyone looking to take on a 'second-hand' dog, consider one of these magnificent hounds.

Amongst their many attributes:

Sweet nature, playful (when not too psychologically damaged by their previous existence)
non-smelling, except for a slight odour of warm toast,
practically no hair-dropping,
will walk for hours, or will make do with a couple of half hour walkies per day and then flop to any available soft surface (preferably a sofa) and remain immobile until food/more walks happen,
and, so beautiful to look at - rather like sharing one's abode with a couple of elegant deer - with long waggy tails.

Bali, in the top photo, is, I think, a true example of what these dogs would be like if they were not beaten, dragged behind vans, stabbed to make them go faster, and all the other horrors they see and/or experience.
She is completely confident, funny and utterly loving, having escaped the normal 'Galgos' life at an early age (abandoned pup). Our other dog - Gala is gradually becoming less neurotic over the years. She would always scarper at the sight of Mark, and just about any other man for the first two years, but with the introduction of Bali, her fear has slowly dissipated. Now she will share the sofa with him, take food from him and generally is part of the pack.


A link to one of the Galgos adoption sites who operate in the UK, France, Netherlands, etc.

Monday, 25 December 2017

Christmas day walk

Up somewhere as high as possible . . . this is a good one. Up at Saint Salvayre above Alet les Bains where there is one house and a minuscule church. It seems to be becoming a small ritual each 25th December - a sit in the church, which is always open, and a think about what all the day's celebrations are founded on, then a long dog walk over the moor-like hills, chat about the year passed and year to come; and home for presents and nut roast.

Happy Christmas 2017 to any readers out there in Blog-Land.

Tiny church at St Salvayre

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Friday, 22 December 2017

getting things into perspective

Worrying about whether you've got everything ready for the festive-madness? There might well be a few other life-forms out there with similar anxieties . . . or not . . .
I preferred to watch without sound.

Monday, 18 December 2017

Let there be light

A new sub-sub blog featuring weird lamps. I think if I had my time at art school again, I might have chosen light design. What a wonderful thing to create objects that are beautiful and have a useful function. However, I probably would have turned out things that were not un-akin to these beauties I found recently at our local junk/recycling emporium.
Straight from a room that might have featured in Blue Velvet - number one: a bizarre but intricately made, 1950s? lamp with small drawer in which to keep your earplugs, condoms or false teeth, teamed with a later added lamp with tasseled lampshade from about 1973? Rewired by Mark and now gracing my bed-side table - also an abandoned item from 1950, (table not Mark)

Number two: An angry-looking red ceramic bear grasping a green ceramic tree, complete with plastic fluted red and white lampshade and red matching flex/switch.
I assume this was produced for a kid's bedroom . . . happy dreams . . .
Anyway, I love it and it now sits on a small shelf in our kitchen overlooking the breakfast scenario each morning.


Friday, 8 December 2017

The world belongs to those who check


I read this sentence somewhere a couple of months ago and it's taken up residence in my brain. As I am a checker anyway - doors, windows, gas off, crossing off elements on lists, etc, the phrase made me feel comfortable with this odd side of myself - someone often rather too spontaneous in other ways.
Anyway, a couple of days ago I had an MRI scan booked in and I didn't check what I was supposed to take until late in the preceding evening. When I did look, there was all the stuff I had imagined I would round up: medical card, forms to fill in, etc, and . . . oops, a product that would be injected into my veins that I had to go and obtain from a chemist.
Arg. Scan at 10.30; not a good idea to turn up without the required fluid as there might be much sighing and 'c'est pas possible!' - ing, from some scary reception woman. Extra stupid also as this could well be some special thing that should be ordered. Why hadn't I checked? I'd thought about it a few times, but kept putting it off until way after shops would be shut. Some internal subconscious revolt perhaps? True, my memory kept presenting me with images and recordings of a small constricted place filled with resounding pneumatic drill noise - something I was not overly keen to revisit.
I drove to a pharmacy and the assistant searched out the required box, placing it on the counter with a frown. 'Madame, this is this bit here on the 'ordinance' but that bit there - we don't have it'.
'What is that bit' I asked. She went to check and didn't know but reiterated that they didn't have it. And then said I couldn't have the first bit as there was no signature on the 'ordonnnance'. 'But it was sent to me like that' I protested, looking a little wild as the scan RDV time was looming. After some more checking I was allowed the box without the other bit. I drove to two other chemists who also didn't have the 'other bit' and then to another where the pharmacist informed me I didn't need another bit as it was all inside the box I already had from the first pharmacy. Mm.
So, I did get there on time and the receptionist was actually really friendly, although there seemed to be some confusion over what sort of scan I was having and why I had an ordonnance for a box of blue fluid anyway. She went to check and nope, not needed, so I donated it to them in case someone like me hadn't checked what they needed to take with them, and took my place in the waiting area while trying to ignore the now vivid thoughts my brain was presenting of potholing and other claustrophobic situations.
'Madame 'Ardy?'
'Huh? Oh . . . yes.'
I followed the efficient assistant to a changing room, removed all metal from my person, handed her my carefully translated 'histoire' of what I personally thought they should be looking for in my neck/jaw and then followed someone else to the machine.
Things have changed since the last time I was slid into one of these things some years ago. No music in the headphones (utterly useless as the drilling, whapping sounds overpowered all other noise by 100%); more comfortable, and there was a  rubber HELP!' bell, which I'm sure I wasn't offered before.
Weirdly it was quite pleasant lying there analysing the different beats, rather like reclining after one too many mojitos in an (admittedly over-lit) techno dance club, especially as two of the medical team had a quick dance in the adjoining room that I could see into - hands above their heads, styrophome cups waving about as the pitch increased to 'donk, donk, donk, donk, don,don, don,don, do,do,do,do d,d,d,d, baaaaaaarp'.
I was removed, asked if it had 'passed well' - 'bien passé?' and shown back to the changing room.
Out in the reception area after a few minutes I was handed one of the large, beige, scan envelopes. 'No chat with doctor'? It was all in the envelope. 'Au revoir, Madame'.
Had they read my rambling notes? Possibly not. Anyway, there was nothing sinister noted, everything in the right place and no explanation for the trigeminal pains (see a few posts back).
This particular version of Trigeminal Neuralgia I negotiate around every now and then seems to be termed 'Atypical' or in fact, Atypical of an Atypical form, i.e no one has a clue what it is and/or what I can do about it, other than to smother it with fairly hefty drugs every day.
I'd rather just live with the attacks, and work out what's not good to do - another system of checking. It's rather like having a small sadistic personal trainer living within myself - check: don't drink coffee, not too much tea . . . oo, steady on, is that the third cup today? Very little alcohol, check: are you sitting in a good position, check: how long have you been sitting at the computer - enough. Get off your arse and go and do some digging/walking/looking at stuff long distance. OK, sorry. Yes, you're right. I was slumping and yes, it's time I got off this.


MIR scanner with its placid grey coating and one without. Might be more difficult to convince people to be slid into the second . . . and no wonder it's a tad noisy . . .

Monday, 4 December 2017

Things that turn out to be a good idea

This year when the chimney sweep arrived back in September he sighed at the sight of our awful old fireplace.
"Madame, il faut que vous débarrassez de ce truc. Vraiment, c'est dangereux!"
He swept, sighed more and handed me the piece of paper stating he has done the deed - with the box marked 'unfit', for the third year running.
I watched his van fart off down the road and thought, okay, I suppose we'd better do it then.


                        Bizarre fireplace we had inherited

So, we did.
The demolition was interesting, the selling of the apparatus on the 'Bon Coin' even more so. A bloke turned from Montpellier with a van and a mate. Even with them and the two builders it was almost impossible to get it in the van - the biggest, heaviest fire 'insert' any of them had ever seen. They did eventually tip it in then set off back up the motorway to install the thing, hopefully more carefully than it had been in our house.



The stove arrived. We'd gone for a 'Jotul' model, as although it was scarily expensive, I wanted something from a country where they really know about cold - Norway. It was installed, terrible 'making good' work done which had to be re-done when I complained to the shop owner (I've rarely seen a French man look embarrassed). I filled and patched up the remaining defects, painted the wall and we lit the first fire even though it was about 35 degrees outside.

Now, in December, I'm thanking the chimney sweep: no smoke-filled house, less wood used, more space in the sitting room, and above all, we are warm! all the time; it even heats upstairs by a simple operation of 'leaving the doors open'.
If you are reading this and considering buying a stove - get one. A big one, and, although it's an investment, preferably one made where they really know about cold.

More space, less soot, and total warmth

Saturday, 25 November 2017

39 years

That's the gap between the first time and the last time my bloke ate in Mac Donald's.
Here for your delectation is an interview with him on the subject:


                                                 Dr Lockett eating a small cake in Lourdes.

Me: "So, Dr Lockett. When did you first sample a Mac D's product?"

Dr L: "It was in LA in 1979 during a full-on filming session for - err, I forget the film title, one of those USA youth nostalgia things - American pudding or something. Anyway, I was in a band who were performing in a prom dance scene. Lunchtime arrived and we were bused to the place of the yellow arches - in McCarthy Vista (odd road name, eh?)
As a vacillating vegan/vegetarian/macrobiotic type, I remember feeling as if I was entering a giant plastic version of a Hieronymus Bosch painting full of hellish meat smells. Anyway, I decided to go the 'whole hog' as it were and ordered a Big Mac."

Me: "Nice?"

Dr L: Putrid. And vast. I also had strips of greasy cardboard called 'fries' and a vanilla milk shake the size of Florida."

Me: "So you felt quite full up then?"

Dr L: "Understatement."

Me: "So, fast forward to 2017, and your second Mc D tasting event. Why, in fact, did you go in one of these establishments."

Dr L: "Despite hanging around in a queue outside the 'Capitol' opera house, no-one had a ticket to sell, or rather there was some woman but she refused my reasonable offer and flounced off home to watch Netflix and probably bin the ticket rather than give way . . . where was I? Oh, yes. So I had to buy an actual box-office ticket and felt guilty about spending money on food too "- (sob).

Me: "And Mc Do was on the square, quick and cheap."

Dr Lockett: "Yes . . .yes. I admit, I entered the place."

Me: Did you see any leering clowns?"

Dr L: "No. But also few actual people. They seem to have installed sort of petrol-pump machines where you poke the screen to order what you want - or at least have resigned yourself to eating ."

Me: "Fish Mcmuffin? Locust-burger? a bag of salad?"

Dr L: "Don't hate me but . . . I did it - purely as an experiment and/or conceptual art piece. 39 years had passed so I ordered exactly the same things."

Me: Big Mac, fries and a vanilla milk shake."

Dr L: Nods. "Except they don't do milk shakes now. So I had a beer. That was okay."

Me: And the 'food'.

Dr L: "Putrid but not so vast - possibly the difference between the French and American market. I'd imagine now in LA you'd have to bring a trailer to 'take out' a Big Mac and fries."

Me: "What was the taste like:"

Dr L: "Fries - greasy cardboard - at least some things in life stay the same, eh? The meat. Oof. Right, let me think about this . . . tasteless, anaemic, steamed beige flannel, with a hint of kerosene."

Me: "Sound like the dog treats we give the hounds if they don't bugger off when we're on a walk."

Dr L: "No. Those are quite tasty."

Me: "So, will you be going into the place of the yellow arches again in 39 years time."

Dr L: "It's a date. I'll be a hundred. If I make it we'll both go and have a dystopia burger, fried grass and something distilled out of wasps."

Me: "OK. You're on. Thank you Dr Lockett for your time."


Jim Delligatti, inventor of the Big Mac. He died at the age of 98 so he must have steered well away, and consumed a lot of broccoli.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Building No 61

Building and pool - our local freshwater pool, fed by the incredible 'Alet' source that just runs and runs - even after this amazingly dry summer.
The pool is only open between July and September; it's then cleaned and emptied and spends the rest of the year inviting people like me to imagine 1960s film set scenarios involving bronzed, perfectly -teethed people clad in candy-spotted bikinis or striped swim trunks with belts (see marvellous pic below), keep fit sessions on the poolside, martinis, and possibly Burt Lancaster passing through on his tour of residential pools in the neighbourhood.

Alet's wonderful 60s? early 70s? architecture

 A couple of groovy guys with belted trunks    And a happy spotty lady

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Taking the time

just to look - and refresh the other senses.
I have a fairly busy morning - post office, emails, phone calls, housework, editing, etc, and I nearly didn't join Mark on a dog walk, but I did, just to the point where I doubled back across the fields and they continued onwards. As a 'psychogeographic' nerd, I love to see familiar objects including people (and dogs) from far away in relation to myself.
So, I stood, or rather, leant into a sturdy cypress hedge out of the brisk northerly wind and waited for them to come into view along the sandy track that leads into the hills. I must have missed them, or they took a different path so I didn't see the figure of Mark and the three varying sizes of dog shapes pacing the path. But I did observe in detail everything else: the sunlight encroaching onto the distant hills, highlighting in green-gold every clump of brave trees that cling to their summits, the swift multi-toned clouds, black dots of birds, a red tractor - stark in contrast to all the autumn yellows and browns, the scent of cold earth and trodden grass, the sounds of nothing other than wind in branches.
It was perhaps only seven minutes or so, but nourishing for my senses that were about to be put back into normal daytime activities.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

I can't believe it's not, was, is, might be, might have been, maybe never again, butter

Interesting how we all act on 'scientific discoveries', or on what 'they' tell us - they being government groups set up to inform us about what we should be eating and doing in order to maintain our health.
I recall the NO FAT scare in the mid eighties? well, for the last few decades in fact. I had friends who went on scary diets where they would only drink skimmed milk, eat no-fat yogurt and special no-fat cereal bars, and cook with one squirt of an oil spray - not even a squirt, a microscopic misting of oil.

I was looking for an 80s diet food image but couldn't resist the sauna exercise suit . . .

We kept on with the butter - in fairly modest quantities. It tastes nice, where as Utterly Butterly, does not. We kept sloshing the oil into bolognese, stir-fries, curries and so on, and after having blood tests for a medical 'M.O.T' discovered that our cholesterol levels, etc, were fine.
It's like eggs in the 1970s. After Edwina Currie's (what sort of a name is that . . .) declaration that salmonella was present in most of the UK's eggs, sales crashed and four million hens were destroyed. It seems she had meant to say 'much' rather than most; what a difference a tiny word can make. However I think 'much' would have still had a fairly drastic outcome.
And how many veg and fruit a day is it now? Five? ten, eight and half, does that count peas? How many peas is a portion? Who decides all this and how much fruit and veg do they eat?
We're having a butter shortage in France at the moment which has been compared to shortages during the war. Shelves are devoid of the rectangular foil packets but plenty of Marge-U-Like, or whatever the French equivalents are. Apparently this is due to lower milk yields, a bad grazing year (dry weather) and massive exports of butter, cream and pastries to the newly-French patisserie-loving Chinese, who will no doubt in time be having a health crisis and told to eat, 'I can't believe it's not butter' instead.


                                                                         mm, yum

Rationing would probably be good, for our own sakes as well as the long-suffering dairy cows. Less butter, from better cared for animals. Anyway, we should all eat less of everything in our overloaded part of the world: less fat, certainly less sugar, less alcohol, less meat; more cabbage and lentils, and more education about how to cook, shop, avoid food manufacturers hype, and take anything 'they' say with a massive shovel full of salt.


Monday, 6 November 2017

Friday, 3 November 2017

Back from computer holiday

not that the ailment has gone away, but I've just decided to write through the pain . . . such a hero.
Trigeminal Neuralgia. What a bastard thing. It has been called the worst pain known to man - yippee, and it is certainly pretty vile.
I think I have a type which is a little unusual - always against fashion, that's me . . . most people have a 'typical' TN which seems to be set off by touching the face, cleaning teeth, etc; mine (I hate to say this - as if I'm rather attached to the thing!) appears to be rather more random, and I suspect is linked to another pain - in the neck - literally. I've had this one on and off for about thirty years and various tests have revealed nothing. I reckon it's one of the pair of Submandibular glands that reside under one's jaw bone and produce saliva - my personal theory, and one that was crushed by a particularly vicious old 'specialist' I saw a couple of years back who told me the two could not possibly be related. Excuse me, I live with this . . . you don't.
So, what's it like, this TN thing?
Imagine some repulsive and abusive old relative that you only ever see once a decade phoning you up and telling you they are going to come and stay for a while. Before you can protest, they are at the door, pushing it open and hauling their case up the stairs. They settle in, take the best armchair and show you their new range of taser weapons which they will zap you with if you don't do exactly what is required.
You creep about doing all the right things or what you imagine are the right things, but inevitably they are not and you receive a few warning stings in the face. You know they are not going to move out in a hurry so continue to walk on eggshells, placate, move quietly, but then remember that the old sod actually likes taunting you, and whatever you attempt to do to improve the situation, won't. New tasers appear: ones that send zig-zags of hot electricity coursing through your teeth, tongue, scalp until you weep.
Yep, it's that bad. After a few days you start to contact the bailiffs (doctors/acupuncturists/neurologists, etc) to try and evict the offenders, now well and truly ensconced in your sitting room, feet up on the sideboard and all the weaponry lined up.
Last time, the growling Dickensian uncle as I like to see my own particular TN, grudgingly packed up his torture equipment after a month and shuffled off to catch the bus back to wherever he came from. I sighed the biggest sigh of relief ever and started my life up again. This time, he's outstaying his 'welcome' and more bailiffs will have to be contacted. In the meantime, I've realised it doesn't make a salt grain of difference if I write or not - something I have been avoiding as it seemed to make the pain worse, so, YES, I can lock myself in a room he doesn't know about and get back to my latest book at least.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Computer Holiday

Sadly not able to post much at the moment, or continue writing my latest novel due to a tedious neuralgic problem in my neck and face . . . boring.
See you soon, hopefully.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

3 - 1 = 2

It's a week since the lad departed for art college and I am now able to go into his room or find an odd sock of his under the sofa and not feel sentimental - too much anyway.
The first few days were not unlike being dumped after love has gone astray, and I don't mean that in a weird way! But after listening to a Ted Talk about love and the brain, it does make sense. The     'hippocampus' (still can only see a large grey lumbering mammal wandering around a university grounds on seeing this word) deals with all this emotion stuff and when the love object is removed the 'hippo' part of the brain increases the desire and longing to see them constantly. Of course the difference is that he still seems to like us, will return home and we will, hopefully, slot back into all the stuff we usually do as a family, rather than the 'being discarded by a lover' situation - unlikely to ever see them again apart from odd furtive glances behind the cheese section in the supermarket if you are still live in the vicinity of each other.
So what have we learned and discovered?
I still like Mark (husband) a lot (phew) and he, me. Good. The bathroom stays clean. I am becoming aware that there is actually more time available, in fact several friends after listening to my pathetic sighing about absence of lad said 'Freedom!' and, 'just give it a couple of weeks and you'll be VERY happy with just you two'.
I don't know, but I think about him a lot, wonder what he might be doing at various parts of the day. But then I do that a lot about family and friends anyway - I wonder what Katherine might be doing now, or Mark, or Rosemary, or Penny, or Jo, or you, dear reader. Are you sitting with laptop, cup of tea and pile of things you should be doing nearby?
Fascinating that, isn't it . . . imagining everyone you know engaged in all these different things we all do all the time: eating, walking, driving, thinking, queuing . . . but then if we were telepathic, we'd all know what we were all doing all of the time. Social media would be even more exhausting.
My current novel, at the moment called Brassica, features a clan of people from some future Earth time who are telepathic, have more or less forgotten how to speak but are having to converse with my main character, 'Hamish', who has arrived from 1992.
How did I get onto this. Anyway, the point being, my brain is no longer solely occupied with 'is the lad okay, or not'. Onward.


The Hippocampus, which is actually Greek for Seahorse, not large grey, university-haunting mammal

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Life stages 2 - following last post

'Funny thing, life' . . . a phrase Mark and I say to each other at least three times a year when considering an landmark event/family issue or general 'what is it all about' moment when looking at stars, etc, etc.
These last few days have been the most 'funny thing, life' bit of time I can recall. Son is now installed in his tiny but welcoming flat in Bordeaux and everything for all of us has changed. That last half an hour before we went our own ways - me to drive back, him to walk to art school - was as distinct and hyper-memorable as the half an hour driving to Birmingham maternity hospital knowing he was going to appear and everything would be different.
The moments ticked away while he played guitar and glanced out the window for his friend to turn the corner into the street, and I fussed about in the kitchenette like a distracted mother hen - a last bit of checking if he knew where the tea-towels were, and, 'don't forget to eat lentils', 'floss your teeth' 'clean the shower' . . .
    9.00 a.m came. We hugged. We left the flat: he to walk with friend to the school and me to sit in the car, part wondering if we had turned the ring off on the stove, part in shock at the fact that 'this was it'. As if ordered, the day was about as dreary and melancholic as could be. A grey drizzle flecked the car windscreen, water gathered and dribbled down the glass as I stared out at the street, uncomprehendingly. No tears, just a sort of shut-down feeling - the end of a nearly twenty year period of everything from changing nappies to packing his stuff away in his room. Bollocks, of course. I know it's not the end of anything, just a change, a readjustment, a different arrangement of our family arrangements. That's what I told myself as I drove off the wrong way and got totally lost in the outskirts of Bordeaux.


The drive back was not too bad - one or two friends said they howled a large portion of the way home. I took a different route from the motorway, visited a place we (son and I) had stayed in a few years ago. The same old café was there with same old dame cooking and serving. I ate an excellent 'pot au feu', wrote to the lad reminding him again of flossing, lentils, etc; had a stroll around and drove homewards.
This was the bit where it really struck me. On walking into the house (husband out) everything seemed exactly as usual, except it was all exactly un-normal with this massive portion of us missing. Yes, I did weep, hugged dogs and made tea, and when Mark returned it became gradually less tragic.

The next day, lovely friends visited who had all experienced the same 'deconstruction' of the domestic everyday and assured me it would become easier, indeed easy within a couple of weeks or so.
I know they are right, and two days on, it is a little better - with jolts of sudden sadness overlying the general slight melancholia. I've re-done the bureau walls, hung new pictures of us all, and will, at some point, tidy up his room. I had shut the door on it as I see the interior on going to the bathroom, but I've opened it again so that it's still totally part of the house - drum kit, abandoned socks, books that he'd decided to leave.
So, what don't I miss? slight arguments over the use of the general computer, bit of fussing over some  foodstuffs - 'but, I don't like onion', and . . . yes, I miss everything else.
My iphone, eighty percent ignored up until now has suddenly taken on new mega-importance: sending texts, odd pics of the dogs, and a mobile possibility of a quick bit of communication at any point in the day if we are needed. Now I understand the importance of that phone call back to my mother from my own art school days. Standing in a freezing corridor waiting for the call box was perhaps a tedious way to spend twenty minutes but to her . . . no mobile phone, no texts, just hoping for a call to reassure, or a letter describing the week.


Last dog walk for a little while

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Life stages

So, the 'boy' is off at the end of this week - boy being son, Ezra, now nineteen and about to commence his five years of Fine Arts training.
'But what happens at the end of all that?' he asked me recently. 'Who knows?' I'd replied, usefully, being one of two parents who have never put 'getting a good job' as a top priority after any education phase.
A, there are few 'good jobs' to be had these days, even if you have a first in whatever you had studied - plenty of bods with doctorates wandering about C.V in hand, and B, few people really know at that age what they really want to do, especially artists.
Actually, I didn't just say, 'Who knows'; I said lot's of encouraging things about life lessons, artists being creative and free thinkers, craftspeople, problem solvers, innovators, and all the best rock bands have emerged from art school - an exciting possibility for Ezra as he is rapidly turning into a multi-instrumentalist.
These last few days have been emotionally charged - for me mostly - as we sift through his belongings and decide what should be taken and what should remain at the Mother Ship. How crap of nature to provide women with the menopause as their offspring are about to jump the nest. I only have to look at a pair of his socks and tears threaten to emerge.
It's all good: he's going to a wonderful city, not too far away, but far away enough; the college is everything we had hoped for; and it's time - time for him to look after himself, budget for food, learn that clean underwear doesn't miraculously appear in a drawer . . . It's all good and my intellectual (?) rational side knows this but it doesn't stop the emotional and sentimental side sidling over and prodding me every now and again: 'remember when he made that?' 'Oh, look his first jumper' . . .


Monday, 18 September 2017

Moments in time

Odd how one static image can bring back everything to you in a sensual deluge.
We're all so used to firing off rounds of digital images, most to be discarded on a dusty corner of the computer somewhere, but occasionally there are one or two that completely capture a particular moment.
When I look at this picture - taken in Bordeaux on a searingly hot day in August - everything streams back to me: traffic noise, laughter from people standing in the 'mist fountains' near the river, scents of summer-weary vegetation, the heat rising from the crossing I was walking on, and that strange extra jolt of happiness of a moment in time - me with camera, two guys in a vintage Renault with a sunflower.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Building No 60

I'd slightly forgotten about my sub-blog of buildings but this sighting of a bungalow around Bournemouth somewhere had to be recorded.
Luckily, I was on a bus otherwise I might have been compelled to ring on their doorbell (which must have a tune - I wonder what . . . something minimal; a simple, 'ding-dong'?) and ask if I could see the interior of the house. Judging by the 'garden' I could imagine a house full of carpet and armchairs covered with plastic; a lonely microwave in the kitchen and a freezer full of ready meals . . . or not. Perhaps it's an orgy of colour, musical instruments, stolen Fauvist paintings and a pantry full of home-made conserves. How fascinating it would be to see behind those flowery net curtains.
I wonder what the garden once might have been like when the bungalow was constructed in the 30s, certainly not an airport runway - how could anyone want/need so much tarmac? and where are the fleet of cars that require the tarmac?
Or . . . this could be some sort of alien observation craft; look at the plinth the building sits on - almost unconnected to the ground as if ready to move off in the bleak early hours to another suburban destination. So, maybe no carpets and armchairs, just banks of bleeping equipment, harvesting the movements of city-dwelling Sapiens.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Nope . . .

Cream-tea diet does not work. (See last post) 'Gosh, really?', you may say with a wry smile. Yes. I put on about 2 pounds in eight days, even though I was fairly active.
Oh well, back to the reasonable-sized breakfast (egg on toast) larger lunch - stir fry/curry, or similar, and small supper, salad/soup . . . maybe a small piece of buttered toast, bitsy bit of cake, and no wine, or at least only one small glass.
If I do this, I can keep to my desired - or at least, getting-into-favourite-trousers weight, while my lanky husband laughs and crams as much cake into himself as he pleases.


Yes, strange, and unfair. Mark can still get into the pair of checked  flared trousers he had when he was eighteen that we found at his mum's house. 

Thursday, 7 September 2017

The Cream Tea diet

I'm trying this one out . . . or was. I've just spent seven days with Mum back in the UK, mostly wheeling her around tea-shops between downpours.
It's a guaranteed brightner - 'oo, lets have a lovely cup of tea, AND a scone, jam and cream'. Whatever the prevailing mood - and being trapped in a care home doesn't make for elation on the whole - Mum rallied with the sight of the afore-mentioned calorie-laden trio being placed on whichever tea-room table we happened to be sitting at. As did I. Really, what can be more wonderful than a good cream tea, and I think I could be now classed as an expert.
Cake . . . well, you just eat it, really, but the scone thing allows for a bit of architecture and sculpture, cutting at the right point, spreading the jam, heaping on the cream, and then not dropping the whole thing if it's all fluffy and crumbly . . . Hm, could I have become obsessed?
I reckon, and I could be wrong, that if you eat a sensible breakfast, a not too calorie-stacked lunch and a light salad/soup/stir-fry in the evening, the cream tea can be wedged in at about four 'o'clock and not make a great difference to the flab, especially if - as I was doing - you walk up and down hills, push heavy objects about, and worry a lot.
So. Tomorrow morning, I'll do a weigh-in and may regret my greed, or not . . . could be the next fad.


Café at the Priest's house museum in Wimborne, Dorset. Good museum, divine garden, handsome tea-room, friendly staff and 50p second-hand books. Got a great one printed in 1935 - 'trees of the wayside' Scone rating: 4 stars


                            tea-room with a view (Branksome Chine, Poole) Scone rating 4 stars


               The reliable 'Cloister's' tea-room in Wimborne, Dorset. Scone rating 5 stars.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Plastic rant

Again . . .
A couple of posts back I'd gone on about the overuse of plastic, mainly in the form of containers in the home. This is a following rant about water bottles and the encouragement to buy them constantly by the manufacturers - not exactly the right word . . . the gatherers/ robbers? of water itself. Actually, do Evian/Perrier/Buxton, etc, etc, have nature's go-ahead to take water, encase it in plastic and sell it to us? Anyway, they do it, and we buy it - a million bottles a minute as a rough estimate (Guardian), bought and discarded.
On a long, cross-city trip yesterday, I decided not to buy a bottle, or even carry a re-used bottle. It was fine. I drank a mug of water, topped up with another in a café along with a cup of tea, peed on the train (in the correct place) and arrived hours later at my destination perfectly hydrated - wee still the right colour and no headache. Sorry for the bodily info, but I do wonder if we all get so bludgeoned with info about fluid intake that it's become a sort of mania - fuelled by the bottled water companies.
Yes, it's vital to drink enough unflavoured and unsweetened water but most (unless you are in somewhere that doesn't have the privilege of good sewage systems) tap water is perfectly good, more than good. We are so bloody lucky to be able to turn on a tap and drink.
Take a bottle of tap water with you - a small glass one, or a fancy little designer bottle for that purpose; resist the urge to buy another small plastic bottle with a special 'feeding stopper'. There's something slightly repulsive about those, to my mind - an ever-ready 'teat' to suck on, made of even thicker plastic.

So, now we are brain-washed into feeling fresh mountain water must be available at every second of the day, what about other ways of companies providing it while still making money?
How about . . . large, (preferably, metal) water containers - a bit like the office ones only bigger, stationed in shops, in stations, everywhere that we normally buy bottles. You could pay, say ten pence for a paper cone of water, throw it in the recycling box and go on your way, happily re-hydrated and free of to carrying anything extra. Companies could jostle/bid/share (ha-ha) for who was positioned where; there'd be less ferrying water about, less plastic at every step, less waste, less space taken up in shops . . . simple! Better still, would be the re-introduction of free water fountains everywhere but then the massive bottled water industry would squirt to a gradual halt - not going to happen. But maybe it has to along with so many other huge changes we need to make to halt the environmental mess we are already in.


Saturday, 19 August 2017

Last gig for The F.E.W?

or maybe not.
I hope they may get together from time to time, my lad and the others to have a mad intensive rehearsal and then perform where they all first got together in our small French town.
The end of an era . . . Ezra off to Bordeaux, and the other two F.E.W members, William and Freddie in Toulouse. Many happy memories and great to see their progress from a few tentative number's in Carl and Lisa's garage to energetic and captivating performances for various town and village fetes over the last three years.



Wednesday, 16 August 2017


I seem to be suffering from an increasing sense of panic every time I walk into a supermarket. I try to avoid them but for certain things like dog biscuit and bulk-buy tins of tomatoes and 'fosse-septique (cess-pit) cleaners they are useful.
We buy most of our stuff in a small co-op organic shop down the road - yes, it's more expensive, but . . . it isn't, as the nature of shopping there compared with the grocery-sheds is utterly different. I go in and buy milk, veg, flour etc, and don't get distracted by anything else NEW, or on special offer, or 'oo, that looks nice, maybe we should try it, and we could use a couple of new mugs, and, well, I suppose we could have a bottle of fizz, and maybe a cake, and some ice-cream, and the towels are looking a bit sad; look, they've got green ones in, those would look good in the bathroom . . . STOP! what did we come in for? Dog biscuit and shoe polish.' Yes.
The worst aspect of the sheds/shopping cathedrals is the amount of plastic everywhere, especially in the home-care and toiletries sections. What do we really need for both cleaning ourselves and our dwellings? Not much. Some soap, a basic shampoo and a clothes wash/washing-up substance.
This picture is of a locally made product called VAM, made of vinegar, herbs and water. It's brilliant; I wash surfaces, floors, showers, etc, with it, and if you want some heftier cleaning - add bicarb of soda. Job done, and you can take the bottle back and refill it.

We NEED more of these products, and more ways of re-using containers - for everything. It's mind-numbingly terrifying to read about the amount of plastic that ends up each day in our oceans. I've started taking a bottle of TAP water out in preference to buying yet another small individual bottle of water shipped from hundreds of miles away - like Scottish spring water in our local French airport - uh?
We are mostly all blessed with clean drinking water and it's just advertising hype that keeps the pressure on to buy 'pure mountain' water.
Apparently, more than 60 million plastic water bottles are thrown away to end up in landfill and incinerators every day . . .

Friday, 11 August 2017


Mark wearing exactly the right shirt to go with the rust and grey paint of this rivet-pocked lieu - part of the disused submarine mending-place (not the right name I expect) in Bordeaux's eerie and photogenic quays.


Saturday, 5 August 2017

Furnishing for nowt

or almost.

Luckily, our lad who is about to go off to study fine art in Bordeaux (see a few posts back), is completely laid back about 'old stuff' furniture-and crocks. I heard several other parents, while in various queues in the estate/renting agents, agreeing to all sorts of white melamine construction projects with their offspring.
As far as I'm concerned, anything to avoid a trip to the giant blue and yellow shed, hours of frustration with bits of chipboard and allen keys, and possible return journeys to the establishment as something is missing . . .
So . . . for 130 quid so far we got a lovely chest of drawers from 'Le Bon Coin' - a sort of on-line 'free yourself of unwanted things' site, a book shelf from Emmaüs (like Red Cross) a big rag rug, a large, deep set of shelves and a rather nice (library?) ladder from a junk market. The ladder will be clothes/electric guitar cables hanging space as the flat is too small for a wardrobe.
We did buy a bargain oblong oak table but couldn't get into the ridiculously tiny doorway so it will now grace our kitchen and he can inherit the drop-leaf table that has followed me about through about six house moves.

Shoebox, but at least now a clean off-white rather than gruesome pink shoebox

Still to go - bed with storage underneath. And again, no flatpack as if I end up having to assemble one it will be disaster: a hedgehog of bristling nails where I have misinterpreted the instructions - or rather ignored them. Our friend Ed makes a mean bed - solid, easy to screw together and whatever length you like. I'd get an old one but the lad is topping 6 foot and still growing, so to restrict his growth by an old 1920s wooden bed frame might be a tad cruel.
Everything else should be gleanable from our house with a few things to find from junk shops, and the construction of a couple of hand-made shelves in the 'kitchen' which is a small dank cupboard under a sink and a two-ring electric hob. We weren't looking for luxury but a shelf might have been nice . . . still, the landlord did offer to pay half for any improvements - fairly unusual, I would think.
In two months time and he'll be in his student pad sorting out his new 'on-his-own' life while we sort out our new 'without-boy' life. Weird!

Monday, 24 July 2017

We learn something every day

Like, be extremely careful when grinding coffee when tired, hungry and you are using an old machine from the 1970s with no security thing.
So, yes, I know now, after an emergency trip to the doctors this morning, and will certainly be eyeing that small beige and smoked-plastic lidded appliance with fear and a certain respect in future. Mark jumped to its defence after the event and assured me it was fine and that he will always grind the coffee from now on . . . As he is a pianist, I'm not sure how sensible that it. I feel a flea-market trawl coming on for a different model (coffee-grinder, not husband).
Anyway, I was useful down at the surgery as there was some sort of small meeting going on about who should do what, and at the centre of it, a very young bearded man wearing a 'Let's go Surfing' T.Shirt. Yes, he was the student doctor doing a trial period, and I was to be his relatively interesting patient (compared to haemorrhoid checking and poking about in people's ears, etc, I probably was).
One of the senior doctors showed us into a room and explained where everything was: plasters, needles, aesthetic stuff . . . and then left.
He asked what I felt about pain. I said 'Fab, love it, thanks.' He got the irony, snapped on some bright blue plastic gloves, placed a small, paler blue 'table cloth' over me, and a still smaller one with a hole for the finger over my hand. Just like ER, except it was deadly quiet, no trolleys being wheeled frantically about, talk of 'paddles', and screaming relatives. We talked about Brexit, which was more painful than the needle he jabbed repeatedly into my index finger, then he sewed, tongue sticking out slightly, just like I do when attaching a button.
The 'real' doctor returned and inspected the work, said it was excellent and then they both said it should all be fine but to rush to the main hospital if it turns black or hurts a lot more. I bestowed much thanks and we returned home to have the delayed breakfast, after Mark had cleaned out any me-debris from the grinder.
So, I'm writing this with a finger throbbing like the walls of a disco but so far it looks a fairly healthy pink, and I'm excused from doing any washing up, which is more than good.


Thursday, 20 July 2017

Being in a play

It felt like it down at the vet's yesterday.
I only went in with 'lampshade dog' to get her wound looked at and there was drama. On a small scale, nothing Hollywood-esque but the whole spectrum of emotions on show.
A man had brought in a very hairy and ancient dog. While the man was talking to the receptionist the hound shook itself releasing a cascade of ticks. Women shrieked; the man left the reception and started squishing the ticks; a vet appeared, shouted a bit and and joined in while I ran about pointing out escaped ones. The floor was quite disgusting with streaks of blood and small grey spots of ex-tick.
After the squishing, the vet asked me where our dog was and I explained I couldn't get her out of the car as she is now so terrified of going into the building. We pushed and pulled her out of the car and into the surgery where he syphoned off a load of yucky stuff from her leg and said all was well.
I paid and swiftly left as Bali was attempting to lick up the tic blood, and a completely out of control mega Heinz 57 mutt had been brought in that had maiming and killing written across it's brindled brow.
Bali wouldn't now get back in the car. While I was stuffing her in, a woman came out from the vet's, face red and blotchy, shaking body, eyebrows converged in that sort of abject misery that can only mean something very, very sad.
She stood, unable to even unlock her car as her hands were so tremulous, tears starting afresh. I wondered if I should do something - that weird moment when you feel it could be further upsetting for the person if you enquire, or suggest help.
Shutting the door on the dog, I went over and did enquire.
"Mon Chien est mort!' The dog had died under anaesthetic. The eyebrows converged more, so I hugged her. And she wanted me to. How weird and strangely wonderful that humans can make contact like this with a total stranger in times of immense sadness. I know I would have wanted the same thing.
She then apologised for having bothered me! The French politeness thing had stepped back in. I told her that I could sympathise as our old dog had been put to sleep the year before. We smiled sadly at each other and I drove back wondering at how rich in drama twenty minutes of a day can be . . .

Monday, 17 July 2017

More London wanderings

with added culture.
Last night, I went to the Proms - something I haven't done for years, and I bought a seat, not being able to face the standing up thing. It was worth every atom of electronic money transfer, not so much for the Beethoven, exquisitely played though it was, but for the John Adams piece: Harmonium.
Such power and inventiveness . . . the number of choir members, the percussion, Oh! Visually stunning too.

Close encounters?

Before that I explored the dazzling streets of South Kensington: not so much as a black spot of time-trodden gum on the pavements, no drifts of London dust, just rows of gleaming white and off-white mansion blocks and mews adorned with prim window boxes and manicured olive trees (!) Global warming is well and truly happening in London.
I would have taken a sneaky picture of the mother taking an iPhone photo of her three designer outfit-clad offspring sitting in a restored open-top Aston Martin outside their town-house but it felt a little creepy. I would be a rubbish photographer for any of those screaming pink mags called WTF! or similar.



Lone Ginko and bike outside Imperial College

After gawping at houses and people, I ate a curry in 'Little India', beguiled into stepping inside by their sign that read: The Manager Eats Here Too. I'm sure he does; it was delicious, especially the fresh mango at the end.

The owner also eats here

At the end of the evening, I walked towards Knightsbridge and found a bus going towards King's Cross. It was completely full so I sat on the stairs and then was informed by a recorded and polite lady that I should get off the stairs which I did. The message also said that anyone standing upstairs shouldn't be. We waited while the bus reverberated but didn't move and the message kept playing. Eventually an elderly Indian guy in a beige safari suit went upstairs and told everyone standing to get get their arses downstairs and they did, muttering apologies.

The following day dawned uniformly grey and slightly chilly for mid July - perfect for walking, observing, musing, and asking people if I can take away part of their souls.



   rice and backache

local resident (park near Tavistock Place) and his dog - he said the dog makes a better picture but I think they were both beautiful


one of the photos I will make into a pen and ink drawing for 'The Hundred and Fifty-Eighth Book


                                 window-keep-opener and mural in The Half-Cup on Judd Street

I ate possibly the best beans on toast in the UK in a small café, drank a vast mug of tea and hunted a bus going towards Hampstead Heath - my chosen place to continue 'Hamish's' tale - and claimed the front upstairs seat.
Arriving at the destination, I consulted the map then completely ignored it, as I do, and got utterly but usefully lost. If we didn't sometimes get lost we wouldn't meet such interesting people, n'est pas, such as the bloke striding purposefully towards an oak tree that had the girth of an elephant. He proceeded to fling his arms around about the tree, or rather stood there looking as he was trying to prevent the tree from moving forwards as his arms were almost straight due to the trunk's expanse. This is something I occasionally do when moved by the sheer wonderment of ancient trees, but only when I know someone else wouldn't be observing me. I had to ask him.
    "Is it a very special tree?"
He turned and grinned as if they were recently married: "Oh, yes. Absolutely."
I then asked him as he obviously spent quite a lot of time on the Heath, where the ladies' pond was. He pointed out a route which I followed for a while before being distracted by a clump of gangly pine trees atop a hill. I sat for a while near the trees and thought about all the paintings and engravings I had seen of this London-view, and how, (if I shut my ears to the various calls of 'Maisy, come away from that!' 'Pickle . . . no! and 'I thought you had the poo bags', etc) similar it seemed, apart from the Shard and all the rest of the glassy-grey structures clustered in the distance.

The ladies' pond  

I did eventually find the pond, and although the changing rooms had developed a little since I was about thirteen (last time I visited) the water, ducks and over-hanging trees still looked the same.
Pond-swimming. How glorious, especially in pale, drifting mizzle. Several other ladies were in the muddy, olive/brown water, swimming slow, quite majestic breaststroke, a certain calm expression on their faces, quite like (mostly) grey-haired otters, peacefully cutting through the water between ducks and life-saving rings. I'm reading 'Sapiens' at the moment and I suddenly saw us as the animals that we are - interesting book which does have the effect of making you look at all human behaviour in a different way.
After a chat with the life-saver and leaving my pink towel on a hook (hello anyone who might find and use it) as I wanted less baggage, I continued walking the Heath, drank a hot choc in 'the Brew House' briefly visited the grand 'Kenwood House', enthused over various greyhounds and reached Parliament Hill (Kite Hill). The view over the city would have been dramatic at this highpoint but alas the mizzle had turned to drizzle, almost everything obscured except the Shard's sharp triangle and the lumpy sword of the Post Office Tower plunged into Fitzrovia.

useful view-map of central London, including heights of buildings

Time portal?

Back at base (the wonderful and super cheap, St Athan's Hotel, Bloomsbury) I collapsed for a while and then ventured out into the madness of Trafalgar Sq, Covent Garden, etc, to people-watch, wander, and avoid all the antique map shops of Cecile Court (wallet-empying danger).


New residences on Charing Cross Road                sushi break 

LOTS of hen parties                                                       The Texter


This elegantly-dressed young man had just graduated from theatre school


                            sigh . . .

a quiet symphony of inner city colour         and the more garish tones of just one evenings rubbish . . .

The next morning, I walked from the hotel to Golders Green (with a short bus journey in the middle and a wander around Camden).
I wanted to visit all the highest points of London, the Flagstaff being the highest - apparently. I arrived, admired the flagpole, and the Whitestone pond (which used to be used for rehydrating the London horses after their trek up Hampstead Hill) talked to a grey-hound owner and went in search of The Pergola - another viewpoint. Here, you can almost forget you are in London: beautifully maintained gardens full of roses, jasmine and herbs and a magnificent brick and stone pergola/walkway. No one was there. It was impossible to imagine the seething crowds of Oxford street only a few miles away.

Map of an unknown continent on a stone paving slab near Camden


The brilliant tip-bowl of a café housed in the old 'Palmer's pet store', where I used to nag Mum about buying a crocodile.


The Whitestone Pond and Flagstaff, and my tired feet 

the magnificent Pergola and gardens

After exploring the area, I walked back to the Flagstaff and down into Hampstead where I ate beans on toast (again) in a friendly café called 'Polly's and talked to a man wearing a fabulous outfit who didn't object to me recording it, and him, for the blog. (Hello, if you see this . . .)

Then waited for a bus and availed myself of a chair that the newsagent had left outside. He came to have a chat and said that he had put it out there for people who'd got fed up of waiting for the No 46 - 'the worst bus in the world'. The bus arrived and seemed quite good really - wheels, engine, seats, etc.


                        I loved this: soap maker, AND philanthropist

                                                                                                   The Chair

A textual slice of London building materials

After a sleep and foot-bathe, I strode (sort of) out generally Southwards on a 'Derive' which ended up being quite a long one from Charing Cross to beyond Tower Bridge, fuelled by some excellent and super value healthy grub from 'Gaby's on Charing Cross Road. I had often eaten there as an impoverished on-dole-Londoner back in the 80s and I was relieved to see the establishment still going strong.


I hadn't been to the South Bank for some years and was overwhelmed by the amount of pubs, eateries, boutiques, and new buildings, some of which were just absurd. I mean look at this.


It's the sort of thing I might have drawn in a notebook if my (then) under-ten son had said 'Hey, Mum, let's draw mad buildings that would fall over.'

But then someone designed and got away with that weird bowed over, telephone thing . . . not actually in this skyline picture


And then there's The Shard. Impressive, a little violent-looking and difficult to clean, I'd imagine. I went in an old pub, (about the only old thing still standing around the base of the pointy triangle), ordered a gin and tonic and then got cornered by a youngish beer-smelling man who said he was from Fife and that he'd like to talk to me about what I was drawing (a very, very bad rendition of The Shard). We had a surreal chat during which he asked me if I thought that there would be a lot of wobbly-wobbly, dark wooded lanes within the top of the building. Who's to say, I said. I haven't been up there - yet.