Tuesday 30 March 2021

Another plastic rant...

I stood in the gardening aisle of our local hyper-market looking glassily at the rows of various sized buddhas and Easter Island heads, all made of plastic or resin - the same thing pollution wise I imagine. Duly took a picture so I could write this post and then found another absurdity which somewhat trumped (ugh, still difficult to use that word) plastic deities, (and I may well have ranted about such items before). In the pet section while looking for a bag of dog rice I noticed the area of dog toys/dog grooming, dog crossword books, etc, in which was probably the clearest message that humans have certain reached the point of stupidity beyond belief. 

lavender, rose and lemon flavoured dog poo bags

Dog waste bags . . . fair enough. I'd rather pick our dogs' poops up with a large leaf if available and hide it under a bush, but if one is in a city centre with no foliage of a usable size within reach, then, yes, poo bags, good. BUT, rose, lavender or lemon scented plastic bags . . . with appropriate colour coordination. Come on! Really? 

Imagine the product meeting on that one . . . 

'So, Barry, you're thinking colour . . . Like it, liking it! Appealing to the feminine middle age demographic? What about blokes - should we consider a more . . . powerful bag - explosions, car chases, war . . . thinking, silver, maybe sport orientated? Football team colours? Black? Oh, they exist . . . okay. iPhone shaped dispenser? Gun shaped?' 

At the other end of the spectrum, or at at least in that emporium, were the 100 percent bio degradable, eco-friendly, packaged in cardboard with a friendly poo illustration, versions. They are even organic. Seems a little excessive, unless you were planning on eating them. To my mind, these really should be the only ones offered, and it would give more space to buddhas and Easter Island heads.

Friday 26 March 2021

Secondhand tech

 Yey! new-old camera.

My old Lumix (had been consistently used for many, many years) died a few days ago and after looking at prices of new ones I wandered virtually over to 'Le bon Coin' a great source of buying just about anything second hand.

After wading through the numerous choices (obviously phones have largely taken over from small cameras) I found one which looked good, had all its bits, cables etc and sent the seller an offer - as it suggested on the site that you could. She accepted and four days later I went to pick up the very carefully wrapped package from our local grocery shop. I don't know if all countries have this system but it certainly works brilliantly in France. Much cheaper than La Poste and almost always utterly reliable.

I'm delighted with my purchase. I think it has perhaps never been used as its screen suggested I set up the clock and date which was pre-set for 2008. Date set, a few snaps taken, provided card checked and the photos are now on the computer. It works perfectly, the screen graphics a tad laughable if I was worried about such things, but happily much simpler to operate than my last, well over-complicated Lumix, and a lot better made - metal body and chunky, possible to get wrong, on and off buttons, etc.

Thirty two euros plus six postage. Happy scavenger.


Wednesday 24 March 2021

The tea time sessions: comment te dire adieu

Direct from the tea time studios, (Mark and Kate's sitting room) aunty Françoise's: Comment te dire adieu

Review of LONDONIA

I forget to look at Twitter but it gave me a prod this morning which was nice as I found a lovely review from the neuroscientist, John Kealy.


Sunday 21 March 2021

pre-loved stuff

Following on from a previous post featuring rescued DVDs from our local, and truly excellent second hand emporiums, Emmaüs and Aspire, here is another recent batch. It has become a slight vice, but a very small and inexpensive one, and it's helping these organisations, and we take the watched-but-not-to-keep ones back, thus continuing the recycle cycle going.

Someone had obviously had a big clear out of their library as there was a whole new selection and some really excellent titles - most of which we had never heard of.

'This England' was magnificent as was 'Dirty Pretty Things'. 'Mickey Blues Eyes', a perfect and silly trip back into late 90s film with Mr Grant, and top left, a surprisingly good romantic comedy with meaningful story and good humour. 'Lucky You' was also really good, and 'Reign over Me'. 

We're halfway through watching 'There will be blood' (long film, worthy of not falling asleep in!) which is totally amazing in all ways, harrowing, and incredible, eerie and tense soundtrack. Endless Summer still to go but Mark had picked it up in Aspire with raised eyebrows and said: "Wow, classic!' so I'm hoping it'll be a winner.

There is a smaller pile of films we had started and then stopped due to just sheer awfulness, but at 50 centimes, always worth a shot... They will be heading back next week along with the bathroom sink and shower tray from a spot of demolition yesterday.

Sunday 14 March 2021

The tea time sessions: 3. Is you is or is you ain't my baby?

Welcome to Kate and Mark's sitting room for our version of Louis Jordon's classic song.

The lives of inanimate objects

If someone (a scientist, probably) suddenly announced that the objects we surround ourselves with had a conscious existence, I for one wouldn't be overly surprised. Or maybe it's just my sometimes, over sentimental character. When I had to sell my old Morris Traveller to a specialist in Bath, the guy drove me sobbing to the station... and when our old, cow-painted Citroën Visa finally failed I drove it at the speed of a milk float to the breakers and, again, made a fool of myself while oil-stained blokes looked on obviously thinking, err, right . . . okay . . . 

It's the same with certain items of furniture, well-loved shoes, coats, and yesterday, the antique cooker we have been using day in-day out, since moving to this house.

the last supper (or rather, lunch)

The day had finally arrived. A new interloper (cooker) had been on order for months and was due to turn up at 2:00 pm. The old cooker had provided us with one last bread-batch, lunch and the ultimate pot of tea. It seemed so cruel to winkle it out of its snug place between the fridge and the sink and send it on its way to landfill. I would have given it away but as it was probably made in 1973, three of the rings were failing and it was perhaps 40% composed of grease I don't think anyone else would have been too grateful to receive it. It's amazing what you get used to. On seeing the kitchen for the first time the house seller had explained that the cooker and surrounding stuff was meant to be temporary around thirty-six years ago but somehow it had all remained. 

No . . . I don't want to go . . .

I totally understand. If we hadn't have been feeling flush at the outset of being in our new abode, we probably would have never ordered the scarily expensive new cooker, (enormous justification has taken place, many times, but since Mark makes possibly the best cakes in the world, we do need a decent oven) and would have made do with all the bizarre arrangement. Anyway, it's done now and apart from the cooker, everything else will be scavenged, recycled and bought from second hand emporiums.

With some help we now have the basic kitchen structure featuring the swanky cooker, fridge that was here; weird medieval cupboard, old book shelves, budget ceramic sink, marble worktop made from a worm-eaten buffet and more marble from another old buffet we found in the garage. Shelves will be added, better lighting, a tile splash back of rather beautiful ancient metro tiles I saw on 'Le Bon Coin' if they are still for sale, and a coat of seriously needed white paint. The best thing is having somewhere to chop veg on rather than the old bit of varnished ply-wood that partially rested on the now-departed (sob) cooker. May he/she/ it rest in peace.

                                                  The interloper and work in progress

Below, an extract from my new novel, The Couch. Following on from explaining my earlier theory of inanimate object consciousness, the narrator of the story is, The Couch itself, the story starting in 1975 in a Loire chateau, and ending sometime way into the future.

This extract, East London, 2010 after a wild party.

It is perhaps fortuitous that Rosa chose to have me covered in an abstract textile as most of a bottle of burgundy now decorates my main seating area along with many crunchy snack remains – most uncomfortable in the crevices, I can assure you! However, I remain, even as an inanimate object, more vivant than the few humans left within this room. The partially veiled sun has risen, its weak rays highlighting the debris of the night before. My globular compatriot has also been assailed by beverages, and some of the smaller items of furniture now reside upside down. The television has disappeared along with the laptop computer which were purloined by, I believe the term is a gatecrasher, before daybreak.

Even by the chateau party standards this one was lurid to say the least. I was fortunate to be covered by coats for a large portion of the evening – certain noises suggested the event had navigated towards carnality . . . 

The hoot of a river vessel causes a little movement in the room, and a series of groans. 

Why do human beings poison themselves thus? Having the ability to move around, talk, sing, dance, eat, etc should surely be enough. I would give a layer of horse hair to be able to do any of these things! 


Thursday 11 March 2021

Sunday 7 March 2021

New swimming place

For me, both swimming and walking almost always inspire writing ideas. Walking in our new region, no problem - loads of paths, quiet roads and woods. The swimming aspect is more problematic. I never anticipated buying a house with a pool but our last abode had one and over the years it provided masses of exercise, great pleasure, and general inspiration for my plot lines, characters etc. 

In our new house there is no pool, a small river, but not big enough to get into. The loire is reachable by bike but not advised swimming, the currents being very strong. So I've been on the look out for other wild bathing options. Of ponds noted on recent cold winter walks the one featured below has distinct possibilities.

Pond swimming is probably my favourite form. Possibly because of all the trips my mother and I made to the Hampstead ladies' pond in the 70s - a great green-brown pool of soft water to be shared with ducks and other women as they quietly breast-stroked their way around, hair covered by rubber, flower-decorated swimming caps. 

Tuesday 2 March 2021

Less stress and less expense

We are gradually 'doing up' bits of our new (old) house, no great changes but just finishing off uncompleted projects started by the previous owner and replacing vital things such as the failing ancient cooker. 

The second floor has long been a fairly dead space waiting to be be enhanced and fully used, the shower room undecorated and with a plastic shower cubicle which I disliked and wished to replace with a simple tiled area and glass panels. We allowed this within our budget and duly visited Leroy Merlin (planet of DIY/Hell) to find the simple glass panels, inexpensive tiles, etc, and leave with all that we required, happy in the knowledge we would be improving the house and it was all worth it....

Within five minutes of staring at the mile or so of shower exhibits, gawping at prices and then actually envisaging pulling out the exsiting shower, the cost and disruption . . . suddenly the idea of reusing what we had was an interesting challenge: no landfill, and virtually no cost.


The floor is the original basic mulched up wood flooring - whatever this is called, a tin of blue paint, two sheets of mosaic tiles, a new wall light and a mirror which was, I think, a grandfather clock face surround. The little cupboard came from 'Aspire' ace recycling emporium for 10 euros - quick sand and a coat of the white tinted varnish I used on the floor.

I think if we'd done a complete refit the cost would have been around 2000 euros including building/plumbing help, reckoning up the cost we've spent in all is probably more like 150 euros without tip trips and took two days rather than a week.

Next thing: the kitchen...