Sunday 29 October 2023

Friday 27 October 2023

6 days to go...

Not to the end of the world, and nothing important on a scale of events going in the world on as I write, but, in our little household, fairly important. 
The end of our Kickstarter crowd funder is looming, along with a more ramped up polite request for money . . . we've come a long way, the sum now over 2,400 but there's still a fair bit to find. It's been a lot of work and still will be with all the 'rewards' to prepare and post such as the hand-stitched CD covers - and making up of CDs and bigger artworks. But it will all be worth it, and I know the end result will be an audible treat packed with drama, mystery and humour surrounded by a rich tapestry of sounds and music, and, of course, the marvellous voice talents of Steven. 

Below, an extract of myself reading the part of the story where Hoxton, our heroine, visits the rather creepy, Bert-the-Swagger, in search of 'antique' 2020s smart phones for her pampered Cincture clients.

                                                    My Londonia style CD covers.

Tuesday 24 October 2023

Meaningful presents

We have a huge colony of blue tits in the garden, enough that they pretty much queue up outside the one nesting box we attached to their favourite tree in the front garden. I found another box in a vide grenier (boot sale) recently but we still need more - especially as I read that the tit family are one of a few birds that actually eat processional caterpillars, therefore we need to add more homes to the pine trees in the back garden. Given more time we could make some . . .  or not . . . or I could give in and buy some from the scarily expensive local garden shop. Then our lovely friend, Louise, came back from the UK with a present for us and our bird population. 

This is an exceptional object - made by her mother's boyfriend - exclusively from old recycled bits of garden sheds and other collapsed garden edifices. How marvellous. I love the added decoration of a painted butterflies, ornamental stick, and the fact that it's a two tier logement allowing two feathered families to inhabit the box. Think he should start building tiny houses - I'd buy one. 

Friday 20 October 2023

Making a soundscape

14 days to go with our Londonia to audiobook, Kickstarter campaign, and it's looking good with over half the amount raised. THANK YOU! to our lovely backers!

Mark - pictured here with one of his smaller pianos :0) will be in London today making recordings of the Thames, pub interiors, and backstreets (avoiding present day giveaways of sirens, traffic etc - no mean feat!) to add into his Londonia soundscape for the audiobook.

Looking forward to the rich tapestry of the end result!  Link below if you'd like to support our atmospheric glimpse into 2073.

Monday 16 October 2023

Dog, I and lad road trip

He's not a lad anymore (25) but our road trips started when he was - around eight or so.

We had a free day so perused the map for a short while pinpointing a town we knew nothing about, not too far away but with some potential interesting stops along the way - probably not the usual things folk stop for: castles, famous monuments, prettiest villages of France, etc; rather, abandoned quarries, desolate unused railway stations, abandoned railway lines, and lakes, in case it was still warm enough to swim.

The town chosen was Bressuire, between Poitiers and Nantes. We stopped to give the dog an airing at an actually very pretty and interesting village called Curçay sur Dive atop a hill with panoramic views of the Anjou and Torraine landscape. The most interesting part was a small field at the top of the village where many species of vine had been planted in rows with accompanying notices describing the types of vine, age, original region, wine produced etc.


Dog aired, we moved on to Bressuire via Thouars - a town I think I have blogged about before which is a strange melange of faded grandeur and desolate concrete infested buildings/vast car parks. I don't think we gave it and its rolling countryside enough chance and will return to re-explore.

First impressions of the Bressuire were ones of the same faded grandeur and eclectic mix of post war/70s/80s buildings but with a more thriving atmosphere than Thouars - the main street being full of fairly up market chain shops. Soon, architectural detail, faded or otherwise, disappeared in significance as lunchtime arrived. Having decided against a picnic, we'd assumed we'd find a nice old fashioned bistro with cheap menu - sadly not. There seemed to either be plasticky, over-lit bars or a choice of two very expensive restaurants towards which well-dressed people were heading. One was fully booked anyway and the other, 28 euros for two courses - prices have certainly gone up . . . that used to be a relatively expensive evening eatery experience. I stopped trying to find an excuse for why we should go ahead and treat ourselves as the mental sum became around 70 euros for lunch - and the dog wasn't even included in  said treat.

The bakeries were shut. I had a banana and some cashew nuts in the car. Then we noticed a kebab place. The right choice, 8 euros a head with some spare meat for the dog, and the most smily restaurant owner I can recall.

Dog preferring wheely suitcase path

Fuelled, we decided on a walk to the factory area near the station, pulled mainly by the site of a bizarre blobular - new word - metal water tower. The station has had much revamping with new areas of planting, benches, sculptures etc, slightly spoiled by the glowering form of a vast abattoir at the top of the hill. We passed by feeling guilty about the kebab and then followed a path back down the hill and into a lovely and contrasting area of meadowland with winding brook and young willow trees. The town and region have spent much on this area, re-digging the river into its wandering shape and thus recreating previous wetlands and helping biodiversity, and probably feeling guilty in turn about kebabs and all the other stuff that starts its product life from the scary abattoir. 

The path continued into the grounds of the impressive and in parts crumbling castle/chateau that looks over the town. More money spent on gardens, metal structures and potagers of unusual vegetables and fruits. The grounds were lovely, enhanced further by a troop of handsome black goats (gated away from the edible stuff). We passed through the entrance gates and back into the melange of over-the-years architecture and searched out a cup of tea in the previous fully-reserved brasserie overlooking the very magnificent town church.

it was time to return to household chores and angry neglected chickens. I had saved them a pitta bread though, so all would be forgiven.

Thursday 12 October 2023

Dog and I road trip

Too many jobs to do; too many protesting body parts, so I decided to take a day off - with the dog. And, aware that this period of crazy late summer weather will end any day, I was keen to get a last wild swim in.

The dog doesn't really appreciate the road trip idea but sits upright on the back seat, eyes fixed on the road ahead - so maybe she does, difficult to know. We headed north with lakes in mind - the sea is my biggest pull but that would be a serious dawn to dusk road trip. About half an hour away is the lac de Rillé, a large area of water, part bird observing place, part human enjoyment - fishing, small boats etc. I'm never sure if you are allowed to swim there, but have done.

Rillé's South end

On the way we stopped at a favourite small walk of mine passing by the moulin de scée and its clear little river, so the dog could undertake the morning doings in some undergrowth, then on to Rillé where we walked the lake's ragged circumference, ate sandwiches - well, I did, and peered in at various access points in which to enter the placid water. There were too many fishermen however, and I'd forgotten my flip-flops so was unsure of what lay beyond the reeds. 

                                              The new bird observatory structure at Rillé

Feeling deprived of the swim I decided we would investigate the lake at Hommes, just a few KM away. This was easier - set up for swimming but as it was October, not a soul about. So, the last wild swim of the year was a placid, warm, smooth swim, none of the battering and oh, so wonderful waves of Brittany on our recent trip there. But non the less, a lovely close to the season - unless the weather continues in its worryingly hot trend. I already feel the thought of one-more-swim sitting at the back of my mind.

Hommes was a tiny village devoid of cafés or at least open ones. We had a quick explore then drove on to Savigné sur Lathan a small town which was mostly being dug up for G5 cable laying... it must have had an illustrious past as there were the vestiges of a town wall, moat and a few majestic houses but now it appeared beyond quiet and rather more crumbling than repaired. I sat on the bar's terrace for a while anticipating a cup of tea but no one appeared so we left, did a final tour of the empty streets and returned home, sand still between the dogs toes and in my shoes from the beach at Homme's lake.

                                                             This town needs vegetation....


                                                                    Tired and sandy dog

Sunday 8 October 2023

Dog walk stories: No 3. Good Reverberations.

Good reverberations. © Kate A Hardy 2023


So, this was a makeover?

Alan squinted across the restaurant's newly painted stark interior; he felt like collapsing to his knees and howling. 

The Montebello had been so very perfect - snug, intimate; all red cloths, chianti bottles and candles, and that reassuring, badly executed old mural of mountains and sea. Now it was modern - everything out of an Ikea catalogue, grey, white, beige, plastic, ugly, and the bloody lighting! Yes, you wanted to see your food, but not interrogate it.

"Have you reserved, sir?"

Alan started, surprised to see that the waiter requesting information was dressed in a long-sleeved T-shirt emblazoned with a smiley pizza, the old white shirts and bow ties dispensed with.

" . . . Yes. A Table for two - Reed."

"Yep - over here, sir." The youth busied about with paper place mat and new tinny cutlery. "Drink while you're waiting?"

"No - thanks. I'll wait till she arrives."

She . . .

It was some months since he had done this - dared to accept a suggestion from Date 'n Co. The last one had been farcical, frightening, even. She'd looked nice enough - under the dim lights of this pre-relooked restaurant, but when they'd got back to her flat it was evident that she had somehow deducted twenty years from her age on her profile. He wasn't agist at all, but her resemblance to Aunty Vera, a crabby relative who had always imprisoned his ten-year-old self next to her crimplene-clad bosom was just a bit too worrying. Maybe this laboratory-style lighting had its uses after all . . . 

Alan's sweaty fingers prized open the plastic clad menu. He wasn't hungry but could have downed two bottles of just about anything to keep the clamouring nerves at bay. Glancing around the room he observed the couples discussing, gazing at each other, laughing, chinking glasses. Why did it seem so easy for other people? Or maybe it wasn't. Maybe they had terrible lives and were just seeking a momentary relief - photographing themselves to plop a few self-congratulatory images on Inster-whatever.


He looked up and saw a woman hovering at the opposite side of the table, her hands awkwardly clutching a pink shiny bag. Alan got up abruptly, causing the carafe of water to judder. He grabbed at it, preventing the small wave which would have headed in her direction.


She nodded. "That's me."

He wondered whether to nip round the table and pull the chair out for her, or would that be taken as some sort of male presumption? Old fashioned, chivalrous, out of touch. He gestured to the chair instead.

"Please, take a seat." 

Shit - sounded like a job interview. He could feel the sweat patches increasing, his armpits becoming soupy. 

She nodded again, a flush spreading across her plump round cheeks. Alan thought she looked rather like the milk maid in the print that hung on gran's kitchen wall - take away the purple and pink splodgy shirt and gold chains, and yes, she could be an older version of the timeless milk maid who stared benignly as you went to the fridge.

Alan searched for the first phrase. "Did you find somewhere to park?" - duh, obviously, or she wouldn't be here . . .

"I came on the bus - I don't drive."

"Ah - I see." A bus . . ."A long journey?"

Alan let the word bus sit in his mind. All the angst in his mind seeped away for a moment. 

"From King's Cross," she continued. "I don't own a car . . . I'd rather take the bus."

Alan wanted to ask an odd question, but his mouth uttered something more normal.

"Would you like a drink?"

Juliette shook her head, blond hair undulating. It was rather lovely hair.

"I'll have a glass with the meal, thanks."

He wondered whether to go for the: what do you do? question as he'd stupidly failed to make a note of what she did do. All those profiles had become confused in his head - hairdresser, secretary, hotel receptionist, teacher, estate agent . . . She was studying her menu now, just glancing at him quickly from time to time over the top of the plastic that glinted under the ridiculous spidery lamp. He should have put on the newer shirt that hadn’t been quite dry. Marlene next door said it suited him - blue to go with his eyes. Eyes that had once sat within wrinkle free skin, eyes that had scanned London cars' number plates for far too long.

"Are you ready to order?"

The t-shirted youth was back, pen poised over a pad.

"Oh - err, yes - or do you want longer," asked Alan of his companion.

She smiled up at the youth and Alan noted the gap between her front teeth. A little shiver of pleasure passed along his spine.

"A carbonara, please. And a glass of white - house white."

They hadn't discussed getting a bottle. Alan felt a bit daft. All that vagueness about what she did, and then the word, bus. He'd been thrown. Anyway, she obviously knew what she wanted - not a bad thing.

He quickly scanned the lines of suggestions, hazarding a guess: "Al'arrabbiata . . .  and a green salad."

"Drink, sir?"

" . . . White . . . actually, Juliette - shall we get a large carafe?"

Oh, God, might she think he was trying to suggest something? get her loosened up? ugh, what a phrase; something his vile brother would say.

"Good idea," she said, smiling and handing the menu over to the youth.

She turned her eyes on Alan: "So . . . what do you do?" She laughed a little - a musical sound amongst the louder chatter and four chord rubbish that filled the room. "Sorry, that's such a dull question - but I'd rather be honest . . . must admit I've forgotten."

A little of Alan's nervousness fell away, a smile emerging. "That's really okay - likewise . . . I failed to note what you do."

The waiter appeared and showed off with corkscrew and beaded bottle, removing the cork with a practiced pop. He slanted the bottle towards Alan's glass and poured a little. Alan observed the ritual knowing his knowledge of wine stopped at if you can pour it, you can drink it.

"Great - lovely, thanks."

The waiter poured nodded and placed the bottle in its plastic gift bag filled with ice cubes.

Juliette raised her glass. They clinked and both swallowed much of their respective glasses’ contents. Nerves. Or . . . were either of them desperate drinkers? Alan hoped the former, his last serious relationship ruined by Sara's obsession with vodka, in all its forms and flavours.

"Shall we return to the dull subject?"

Alan started, jolted away from a memory of Sara screeching with laughter while balanced on a bin trying to draw a moustache on Boris Johnson's face leering across a Brexit poster."

"Sorry - miles away."


The wine was beginning to seep into his hungry stomach. The waiter had forgotten the bread sticks. Sod it. He would just go for it. Say what he had been thinking. What's the worst that could happen? He described the dim night, the monster felt pen and Sara snapping a heel as she jumped down from the bin. 

Juliette grinned. "She sounds like a laugh . . . what happened?"

"Booze . . . and she wasn't into . . ."


"Something . . ." 

Shit. The question had arrived, and they hadn't even got to the bloody tiramisu bit yet. Juliette cocked her head engagingly. She really was very pretty, in that innocent milk maid way - mind, who was to say milk maids were innocent . . . all those haystacks, and belts and braces farm hands. 

Juliette's hand touched his hand. "Go on - you can say. In fact, maybe we should forget, what do you do and skip to, what would you like to do."

Alan downed the rest of his glass and sat up straighter. "Right . . .  I'm a traffic warden, and don't want to be."

She also downed her wine and refilled the glasses. "And?"

The waiter was back. "The carbonara for . . ."

"Me, thanks."

Juliette regarded the plate and made yum noises. Alan thought sadly that he really rather liked her. It would be crap that she would no doubt stare at him with mouth slightly open . . . you like what

Of course, it hadn't just been the vodka problem with him and Sara - she'd gone along with his idea but never really understood him. He looked down at his tomatoey choice and stuck a fork in.

"And?" repeated Juliette, her own fork laden with creamy pasta. "You were about to tell me . . ."

"Oh. Yes. Okay. But promise you won’t just leave."

"Sure - it can't be that weird, can it?"

Her brow was knitting slightly under the blonde fringe. Perhaps she was thinking about really dark stuff. Mortuary raids. Inappropriate behaviour with goats . . . 

"No - no. Not really, just a bit . . . Oh, Hell. Look I like buses, okay? Not just any buses . . . London Route masters, to be specific."

Juliette giggled a little, a thread of pasta clinging to her lip. She popped it back in with a pointed pink nail.

"You'll never, ever, ever believe what I'm about to say."

"I won't?"


"So. I'm a carpet saleswoman, and don't want to be."

Alan swallowed a peppery mouthful. . . "And?

"I've always had this thing about buses - especially the older ones." She looked a little dreamy for a moment. "Something about that deep reverberation as they wait at stops. The Route Masters were the best - deep, deep reverberation, and the smell of . . ."

"Warm dust," ejaculated Alan. "And those fuzzy velvet seats. And the metal ticket machines."

"And sitting on the top deck with your feet on the bar."

"And the rain streaking sideways down the windows."

"Traffic lights blurring red and green."

Alan's pulse seemed to be in hyper mode. "Did you ever have any . . . sort of . . ."

"Fantasies?" She whispered.

"Yes - that - those."

" . . . I did - do, in fact. Although since the Route master has been taken off the roads, it might be more difficult."

Alan downed another half measure and peered at her through his misty glasses. "Do they involve . . . sex - on a bus."

"Yes." Her answer was hoarsely whispered as if she was already engaging in the act.

Alan slapped his red and green napkin forcefully on the table.

"Would the bus have to be moving?"

"No - stationary would be fine, but better if the engine was going."

Alan feverishly wondered if Jon might be up for a big wad of cash on a Friday evening. His words clattered forth.

"Got this friend . . . she, I mean, he, bought a Route Master on ebay. Cost a fortune. It's not far from here - just off the Holloway Road."

"Does it run?"

"It does."

Alan crossed his cutlery carefully across the large white dish, his trembling fingers causing the metal to rattle. "Did you want a desert?"

Juliette smiled, a red flush appearing on each cheek. "Maybe an Irish coffee - after we've visited the bus. If it's possible."

"Just excuse me for a second."

Alan scooted to the men's, prodded Jon's number into his phone and waited, his, for-the-evening blue shoes jiggling on the tiles, words to himself jangling in the sterile room.

"Please, please, don't be at the flics."

Jon answered sleepily: "Yeah?" 

Alan described the situation. "What d'you reckon?"

Jon snorted into his phone: "Fuckin mad, you are. But, why not - hundred and fifty in cash. Do yer?"

"Yes. Great! Marvelous. Be at yours in fifteen minutes."

The defeatist section of Alan's brain suggested Juliette would have left, secretly appalled by his weirdness, but she was there, nibbling on a breadstick, a pink shoe tapping out some internal rhythm. 

He laid a gentle hand on her back. "Fancy a stroll to a certain bus owner I know?"

She glanced up at him with a cheeky smile: "Next stop, Holloway Road." 



Friday 6 October 2023

The incredible generosity of friends.

Yesterday, just as I was feeling a tad morose about our whole crowdfunding thing, a notification popped up saying someone had pledged several hundred euros, AND, hadn't gone for a reward. 

She wishes to remain anonymous, and fair enough, but I would like her to know - if she reads this - that her contribution kept the whole idea alive!

Onward, with a positive mood, and knowledge that completing the project is now so much more likely.

Thanks so much to all our lovely backers

45% there, and 28 days still to go...

Londonia to Audio book.

Monday 2 October 2023


I have one today. I felt distinctly melancholic for about two hours - various aches and wrinkles which seemed to have joined up enthusiastically to promote the fact I am no longer forty, or fifty, or . . .

Anyway, lovely presents, messages, and counting of blessings saw off the small (pale, it must be said) grey cloud. Stepping out into the garden, I was greeted by an absurdly beautiful, and hot, early autumn day - rather hot for the beginning of October . . .

The day was quiet, even the annoying dogs next door were silent! Lunch outside was perfect; we planted the trees Mark had bought - an apple and a mandarin, had a snooze then did a quick trip to Saumur to visit favourite recycling (and much mentioned on this blog) shop - 5 DVD, jeans, a jumper, two bowls and a book all for 5 euros - gotta love Emmaüs!

Before leaving for home, we did a quick NOZ dash. (See explanation of NOZ a few posts back...) and found this unbelievably labelled wine - something seriously wrong in the marketing department.... 

I am told we will be going out for the evening and that clothing other than gardening stuff will be required . . . a challenge!

beautiful bag made for me by Ezra