It’s all worthwhile

It’s only five (and a bit) days late, and it’s long since past Monday, so here’s some Saturday night sparkle with Mr David Bowie and Starman. 

It has been a tiring twelve days. Exam marking is one reason. I’m marking the November English paper and with 22 left to go, the end is just a day away. Two hours of marking and I’ll have finished. I hope. It’s always touch and go because every morning you have to log onto the system afresh and you have a little test to pass to make sure your marking is in line. That’s not easy with English, believe me. I was already in a fury by the time I logged on one day last week that I was inexplicably severe and it set me back a day or two.

How is it that you can start the day in a fury?

It has one word. People.

Do people walk in to restaurants and start a dialogue that goes a bit like this…

“You know the steak? I’d really like it, but can you make it from Kobe beef? I only want to pay five euros a kilo though.”

“Actually, you know that dirt cheap Kobe beef you just found me and you’re selling me as a complete favour? Can I change my mind? I’d quite like Guantanamo Bay lobster.”

“Thanks for air-freighting that lobster in at your own cost… could you do me a favour? Will you cut it up for me?”

“In fact… could you be a complete star and stick it in a blender? I’d like it in a glass with a straw.”

As my friend Julie says, people always want the moon on a stick.

There’s been lots of other project-y stuff I’ve been doing too, though mostly it has been a week of errands and meetings and fairs. It was the Dames de FER Christmas Foire last Sunday – and that was quite marvellous. It was a superb effort on behalf of Les Dames, the association of business women that I’m joint president of – and means a lot of ladies giving up a lot of time to decorate churches and make Christmas wreaths and the likes. By the time I got there, the cake stand rota had long been sorted, and I got to have a few hours of wandering around doing that rare thing called ‘chatting to people’. I don’t think anyone who’s not part of an organising committee for an event like that could ever understand just quite how much work goes in to it.

Monday was a brief hiatus because it was my friend Rachel’s baby shower. For some reason, she is completely against all the names I’ve suggested, and although the baby is due on my birthday, she won’t name it in my honour. I said she should call the baby Marie-France on account of us living in France, but she won’t have it either.

The worst part about the baby shower was that I’d planned a Japanese lesson before it and I had the Japanese version of ‘Heads and Shoulders’ stuck in my head. Nobody should have that happen. I shall be sad to finish my classes at the local primary school in December, though I have remembered just how much respect I have for primary school teachers. Primary school kids are like cats. None of them want to do the same thing at the same time. It really is like herding cats. I used to think the same about teaching teenagers, but that’s more like herding dogs. You’ve got to show them you’re not afraid and you know no fear, yet be respectful of their insecurities. Get them to pull in one direction and you can do an Iditarod with them. You can never do that with primary school children. There’s always one who wants to go to the toilet and one who’s asleep.

Tuesday also passed in a blur of meetings and lessons, exam papers and long phone calls asking me to put the moon on a stick. The trouble is that most people are unable to see the nuances between “Not a problem” and “Are you bloody kidding me? F@(k Off!” and unless you say the latter, they think you mean the former. Not only that, when you say the latter, because “Are you kidding? I’m not doing that!” isn’t strong enough and they think you mean, “Not a problem! Would you like fries with that?” they then get in a huff and think you’re a moody biatch.

Wednesdays are back-to-back lessons pretty much and mean getting up extra early when it’s marking season, so that I can take the dogs out at first light. I go right through eleven hours with an hour break at lunch time when generally my blood pressure goes through the ceiling as I start picking up messages and emails of the “and can I have the moon on a stick?” variety.

By the time I got to Friday, I was very glad to be at the refuge in among friendly faces and people who take the sting out of the moon-on-a-stick people. We were preparing for our “Animals’ Christmas” festivities today – marquees to put up, information sheets to put on enclosures and no end of tidying and tasks. By that point, I think I was running on pure adrenaline. There had been a full moon the night before and I’d left the bedroom shutters open, so I was awake at 5am wondering why everything was so bright and wondering if it was time to get up. It was a morning of meetings – thankfully, Amy and Louise never fail to revive my flagging spirits (and hype me up on coffee)

I’ve got kitten 23 and kitten 24 here as well (I can’t believe it’s been that many this year!) and they’re the most noisy, shouty, fighty, greedy kittens I’ve had yet. They wake up every hour, cry noisily until they are fed, then practically inhale three times more milk than they should be on before waddling about peeing on their bedding and crying some more. I’ve called them Tyson and Rocky since they fight with me every second I’m giving them their milk. Greedy and aggressive. Luckily they’re cute otherwise I’d have let Tobby lick them to death.

Anyway, if you’re very lucky, you might get the usual post on Monday. If not, my to do list has overwhelmed me. I’m only running six days behind on it! Day two of the refuge open days is running tomorrow and then – finally – I might get to breathe for a little while.


Thought you were clever when you lit the fuse

Here’s your Monday burst of music from the uber-sharp working man’s hero Paul Weller.

The lyrics seem particularly poignant to me today. France is still in a state of national mourning following events on Friday evening. There’s no reason it should be any more poignant apart from the fact that it is close to home. Facebook turned red, white and blue and attacks in Kenya and Beirut went without column inches.

It always reminds me of seeing the prayer plaques in Japan, where I’d read things about people’s wishes for world peace, for love, for kindness, for understanding. The one that always sticks with me was the little one saying, “I wish my friends were nicer.”

That’s one thing I never have to wish for.

One of my friends was up in the north of France this weekend. She’s been collecting clothes for refugees and was tired of waiting for someone to take them up there, so she piled up her van and went up to do it herself. It couldn’t have come at a better time. Thousands of people who need to know that they may find a home, that the actions of a few radicalised home-grown terrorists may have cut off any hope for sanctuary in Europe. Seeing photos of Roni handing out gloves to children – it reminds you of what is important in life. I’m glad I have the kind of friends who wear their hearts on their sleeves, sometimes facing great derision.

You see, I never get that. Nobody really ever gets in your face when you volunteer with animals. Sure, there are petty battles and there are times when people burn out, their capacity to feel compassion shot to pieces. But nobody ever thinks anything of you, other than the fact you are obviously a little touched. Roni has to face all the people who think we should close borders and send the thousands of refugees back to Syria and Iraq.

It makes me so sad. Living as an economic migrant in a country of my choice makes me realise once again the privilege of being English, of being able to live and work wherever in the world I choose, if I want. Why is it that I can make that choice, but a Polish or Bulgarian woman who wants to live in the UK is faced with obstacles and thinly-disguised racism?

Don’t get me wrong, we face racism from certain French people, that’s for sure. But that is meaningless. It’s not hurtful or harmful. I don’t face endless obstacles to prevent me doing what I want. Bureaucratic racism is the kind that hurts, as all the refugees in the camps in Calais and Dunkirk are realising.

I do wonder what your life must be like in order that you will set forth on a journey of five thousand miles across two continents with nothing other than the clothes on your back and a desperate hope that some distant country will offer you sanctuary.

I suppose a bit of kindness is too much to ask for these days when everyone is so desperate to hold on to what they have.

Funny, actually, since this term’s exam question is to persuade people to take part in community events. It couldn’t be more synchronous. Most of the responses involve litter-picking and yoga in the church hall. Perhaps it’s time people felt a little more connected to the community that they are a part of.

So, it’s time for a little love this Monday. What am I loving?

♥ The Jam. They’re the right combination of anger and frustration to suit my mood.

♥ My heart-on-the-sleeve friends.

♥ My friends who go out of their way to drop things off to me. Unexpected favours are a gift.

♥ The quiet solitude of the woods as the autumn sets in.

♥ The particularly delicious cheese and onion pie my dad made for tea last night.

♥ Teaching my French students about the life-saving qualities of a cup of tea, and the nuances of builder’s brews and tea as my Nana makes it. Nobody really quite understands the very special relationships that English people have with tea. Life is good when you can have an hour discussing things like “not my cup of tea” with willing students.

♥ My Christmas dog photos. I’m particularly impressed. Here’s hoping this Christmas will be as magical for as many of our oldies and long-termers as it was last year.

This week is a busy one of course. My usual timetable plus GCSE marking plus preparations for various events over the next two weekends. Next week is worse. Luckily, then it is December, my marking is finished, calendars are printed, events are over, students go on Christmas breaks and the bills stop. It’s been a hard three months here with three big bills in succession: buildings tax, habitation tax and the one that really sticks in my craw, business property tax. Hollande you knob, I know you’re otherwise occupied, but tax me for living here or working here, not both. I’m doing one or the other, not both. They don’t charge people for living in their offices. Once next month’s bill is paid, that’s it until the social charges bill at the end of January. Boy do I need a break from bills!

Have a very lovely Monday.


The feeling has gone

Who said the 80s gave us nothing musically? Here’s the very fabulous Ultravox with Vienna.

And because it’s JUST that good, you’ve got the extended version. Just how lucky are you? You can keep your Sir Bobs and your Bonos. Midge Ure gets my vote for the coolest of the Band Aid brigade. I’ve almost forgiven him for the grammatical travesty of If I was. I can’t write those words without flinching. If I were, Midge dear. If I were.


I don’t even know who would say the 80s didn’t give us great music. They obviously were thinking about Wham and Pepsi and Shirley, rather than The Smiths and Echo and the Bunnymen. You shouldn’t ever have to apologise for loving the 80s. The 80s is where Indie was born.

Enough musical pontification about the music of my youth.

With the weekend out of the way and a slow run into exam marking as well as National Novel Writing Month, it’s all systems go. In all honesty, I can’t see that I’ll get past 20000 words for NaNoWriMo… too much other stuff going on. I’ve done both at the same time before, but not at the same time as the other gazillion things I’ve got going on. I was going to say I might cancel my Netflix subscription for a month, but watching one episode of something stretched out in snippets over the day hardly constitutes binge-watching and if I don’t watch something whilst I’m eating, I have a tendency to eat and type and thus get jam all over the keyboard.

What’s worse is the mini-heatwave we’ve been having. It’s criminal not to be in the garden at the moment. There’s a big difference between my garden this year and my garden last year and mostly it’s down to dogs and dads. Last year’s Rumbles in the Jungle between Amigo and Heston really did leave my garden looking like a jungle as I spent two months supervising them in the house. Both needed separate walks and it was impossible to fit mowing the grass into that equation. This year, I have Tobby who is a very active senior and likes to be outside for his daily exercise, but is not good on walks and definitely not up to the kind of walks I do with the other dogs, so I’ve been spending a good hour or so outside on the garden every day, just so he can stretch his legs. You can’t just shut him out because he wanders off to see my neighbours. For an old dog, he is nimble. I’ve seen him get through holes made for chickens.

That’s the good thing about gardens though. They are never finished. Well, big ones anyway. My Bolton garden was always finished. Everything grew so slowly on the poor soil in the damp and the cool. Here, give it a month and you’ve got enough to cut back that you need a whole new compost heap. Luckily, my dad has been on hand with an array of power tools to sort out the trees that have come down in various storms, or that need chopping back or coppicing. Team Lee have whipped that garden into control. Plus, he also has been sorting out the outdoor electrics – and we were both quite tickled to find a telephone extension in Rabbit Auschwitz, the rabbit barn. I don’t keep rabbits in there, I hasten to add. Certainly not rabbits who need a phone call to keep in touch.

This week, I’ve got a few extra lessons here and there, and a whole lot of GCSE marking to crack on with. Smaller numbers of papers than June and July and I’m hoping it won’t stretch out because I’ve got other stuff that needs doing. Like writing a novel in a month.

Nothing like putting pressure on yourself, is there?

Anyway, you’ll forgive me if I’m unusually quiet. Today, I’m celebrating the Tobbster’s seventh month with me. I really did think he’d be dead and gone after two weeks – he was so wobbly. He’s still so wobbly, but he doesn’t seem to care at all. He doesn’t fall so often and he relaxes here. Plus he has a comfy bed.

I’m off to feed him his anniversary croissant and to crack on with my epic to-do list. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it as long as it is!

tobbster rock



World Gone Crazy

What better way to start a Monday than with a bit of Iggy Pop? This is Real Wild Child

This was my Iggy Pop Gateway track. I think it came out when I was thirteen or so and it took me off down a bit of a Stooges trail for a month or so. It’s funny how tunes like this can send you off down a little path. I picked up a copy of The Stooges from a record stall in a Manchester flea market back in about 1986 or 87 and it led me down a little trail where I discovered John Cale and then the Velvet Underground. I love The Idiot. I always thought he and David Bowie had a similar kind of sound. And I loooooove David Bowie. I think I might have to dedicate my afternoon to a bit of Bowie. It’s been a while.

Anyway, it’s back to full-strength teaching this week. I finally finished the refuge calendar and hopefully there are no mistakes or errors in it. I’ve had another few publicity campaigns to finish off and we had so many new arrivals at the refuge this last three weeks that I’m way behind with my photos. I managed to catch up a bit last week and my “working on” folder seems to have diminished to sets of photos of dogs for the calendar that I want to finish off because there were some really nice photos in there that it’s a shame not to share even though they didn’t make the calendar in the end.

cat laughter

The cat laughter ones are my favourites. I loved taking the photos of the cats – there’s another volunteer who takes the photos of the cats and she does an amazing job. This is Ben. He’s just gorgeous. He’s Mr August.

Plus, I got a little time to spend on taking some of my own. I hardly ever take photos of my own these days.


Last week I managed to finish off the epic socks I’ve been knitting. They are an absolute work of art.


I’ve just started a pair of normal boot socks – seems kind of thoughtless compared to these. After that, I’m going to put my knitting needles to one side and do a bit of crochet, with my newly-acquired crochet skills.

I didn’t do anything yesterday other than gardening – it’s that time of year where you’re never sure just whether it’ll turn everything to mud. It seems that it’s always early November that the river returns and everything will be sodden. Seems like it’s been a very dry autumn so far. Yesterday it was a delightful 23°C and it was a sin to do anything other than enjoy it. It was Toussaint (All Saints’ Day) yesterday, so there were lots of people out in the forest enjoying the weather and a day off.

58 59 60

As for this week, it’s back to full steam ahead. The November exams are starting this week so I’ll be marking for most of November. It’s also National Novel Writing Month so I’m writing a sequel to Finding Shelter. Because I don’t have enough else to do.

The month also has our Dames de FER Christmas market (22nd November) which should be a lovely day out. Then it’s Noël des Animaux at the refuge the weekend after, which is a good excuse to try and find as many dogs and cats a home as week. That leaves me a weekend or two in between. It’s going to be packed month!

Dreaming til the sun goes down

It may well be that summer is long since gone, but The Stone Roses first album never fails to bring me memories of summer, so here’s Elephant Stone to bring a little John Squires’ loveliness to your day.

Nobody can fail to have a mood improvement with a bit of Manchester’s jangliest of guitars. One of those bands that were good for an album, that provided a soundtrack to the end of the 80, but never came to anything after that. I watched a documentary recently about the rise and fall of the Stone Roses. Didn’t realise what a prize piece of work their manager was, or that he ran the International and the International II. We saw some brilliant bands there in the tail-end of the 80s. I’m pretty sure that’s where I first saw the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but I’d have to get the ticket out to tell you which club it was. Though it was kind of enjoyable to watch the documentary, as Mani (the bassist) and Shaun Ryder were on good form, it’s sad to know that such an amazing band never really got the chance they deserved. My favourite Mani quote, by the way, is “you can’t ride two bikes with one arse.” The man is a Mancunian Wordsmith of the highest calibre. He reminds me of many of the guys I grew up with.

It did get me wondering though, watching that documentary, whatever happened to my bucket hat? I had one. I was wearing it on a photo in Brazil in 2003. I had it in Cuba in 2004. After that, it went missing. It’s in my archives of ‘Hats I have loved and lost’.


I don’t know where this hat went to. I miss it as well.

The other is my pink kangol hat. I know what happened to that. Heston happened to that.


It is of course hat season, which is making me miss these all the more.

I feel like I might stay in a Stone Roses kind of space all day today.

Finally… finally! I’ve got a bit of a quieter week. Many of my students in France are on holiday and I can begin to sort out the work carnage and backlog. I daren’t even show you what my to do list looks like. I wanted to spend yesterday on another craft project, but I needed to get a big project out of the way – the refuge calendar. It’s finally, bar edits and amendments, been put to bed. I have to say I absolutely loved taking all the photographs. I got to visit lots of our adopted woofers and see them in their new homes – and nothing makes me happier than knowing there are happy endings. One of our refuge long-termers, Darius, was adopted at the weekend as well. He reminds me so much of Heston. One of the volunteers, Brigitte, and I were talking about the dogs that circle excitedly in their enclosures. Darius is one of those.

“I’m sure they’ll be calmer out of the refuge,” she said. Yeah, right. Heston has at least one walk a day and he always circles at the gate like a crazy madman.

I did go on my crochet holiday (three hours of a crochet lesson – the best holiday I’ve got going on this year) and it was most marvellous. I’m not sure as I can go as far as saying that I can now crochet, but I’ve done a granny square. Photos to follow. Needless to say, the lady running the course had her work cut out with me, being such a determined knitter with so few coordination skills to speak of, but she managed to get me from ‘tight worm’ to granny square. I’m now officially in love with crochet. Anything where casting off is more ‘Allez, hup’ than Kitchener stitch is good with me. I sense a Christmas of crochet.

Last week also saw the (swift!) adoption of all seven kittens I’ve been harbouring for the last week. I confess, I’ve become a bit of a kitten-fostering fiend. My last two go to their new home this afternoon, but I’m very glad that I will see one of them more regularly – my little Billy No Mates, who had no home of his own, has now found a family with my friend Sylv. She said she’d fallen for my “if you can, you should” line of thought. Obviously, even though she has met all my dogs, she doesn’t quite realise what kind of trouble that line can get you in to.


He’s a bit special and a bit boss-eyed, but he’s my favourite. He was the only one I could tell apart out of the seven. They were all practically identical.

Anyway, not sure if I’ll be picking more up this afternoon or waiting until the next arrivals, but I shall miss having seven identical little faces looking at me.

This week I shall be mostly trying to blast through my to-do list of stuff I said I’d do for people. Clocks have gone back, winter is coming and I’ve got hats to knit. I wonder if I can crochet myself a Reni hat? I bet I can. Just not in corduroy.

Have a lovely Monday and enjoy the rest of your week. May it be as upbeat as the Stone Roses.

The chill that autumn brings

Ah, the very lovely sound of Elvis Costello with She. 

Another of those musicians who’ve aged rather well, thank you. Oliver’s Army is always a perennial favourite. You just don’t get political music anymore do you? I think that’s why I like Bruce so much.

I would hardly credit it, what with it being the first week of the school holidays here, but this week has ended up being incredibly busy. Not sure what’s up with that. I shall be very glad when it is Sunday and I can relax a bit. Next week seems like it will be a bit quieter again, which I am very thankful of.

The weekend has seen the Hope Association book fair, which was bitterly cold on Friday and Saturday. Friday was the second day we’d had frost and it was still -1°C when I got there at nine. I don’t even think it warmed up much. I got straight into bed when I had walked the dogs on Friday night. Saturday felt even colder. Worse is having a house that relies on wood fires – I get in and there’s no point lighting a fire, so I don’t bother, and then the only warm place is my bed.

Today we’ve got a planning meeting for a Christmas fair. People have usually so little idea what goes on behind the scenes. I’ve started using RescueTime again on the laptops because I’m interested to know how long I’m spending doing what, and it’s not a pretty picture. So much of that time is mundane administration, replying to emails, sending out acknowledgements. No wonder I’ve grown to hate my email box. I’ve even had to schedule time to spend on emails in various accounts.

What’s most annoying are the time thieves out there. Last week I spent a good three hours sending emails and answering calls relating to some woman who’s got nothing better to do than cause storms in the teacups of associations here in France. I don’t get it. I simply don’t get why someone would steal an hour of my time telling the most outrageous lies and mistruths that I then have to pull apart and dismantle, when really I should have just told her to take a hike in the first place. As per usual, it makes it ten times worse when that person purports to be in animal welfare. There are many days where I don’t want to answer my phone in case it’s someone who just wants to make drama. I stand by the fact that nobody ever calls you up to offer assistance or help you out, just to give you more stuff that they think you should do for them.

Luckily, the weekend reset all the negative ions in my universe, because I got to spend it with all those people who are just quietly getting on with their animally business, when it’s all put back into perspective again and I get to sound off about all the irritating individuals who’ve pissed on my parade that week, and we all have a collective grumble. I don’t know whether it’s infuriating or reassuring when you hear the same names mentioned time and time again in relation to time thievery and con artists. Honestly, I think I’d lose the will to keep going if I thought it was just me that attracted all the freaks. As per usual, I do seem to bring out extreme oddities in people much earlier than other people manage to spot it. Some would say that’s kind of a gift, but I think I have a very good radar for rubbish. I’m like a threshold freak-outer. I get the first wave of odd behaviour, and other people won’t believe that such-and-such or so-and-so is a card-carrying member of the fruitloop brigade, only for them to realise that I was just a primer for weirdness when those people go on to try it on with them too. Contrary to popular belief, I’m quite good at being diplomatic with crazies. That’s what infuriates them so much. I’m very reasonable. I should be. I used to train teachers. Anyone who has to tell a teacher, thirty years under their belt, that they might want to review their practice, has to have both an elephant skin and a very good ability to outmanoeuvre excuses and get through the bullshit.

By yesterday, my spleen was appropriately vented and my tolerance for humanity had been reset by spending it with decent, hard-working, lovely types who shared their cake and stories with me. I picked up my winter reading materials (at a euro a book, it’d be rude not to!) and I feel fully prepared for the autumn onslaught. Still, I will be much happier once this week is out of the way and I can get back to tidying the garden, trampling on molehills, finishing off socks and sorting out the refuge Christmas calendar.

The calendar, by the way, is looking marvellous. I’m super-impressed. A steep Photoshop learning curve (yes, I finally splashed out) was made steeper by not being able to download it successfully in English and having to work out what stuff was in the kind of French where I have no idea what the English is made it a little more challenging. Very luckily, back in 2007 or so, I spent a lot of time playing with Fireworks (that sounds more dangerous than messing around with photos on a computer) and so it’s all coming back to me. Hopefully, I’ll have broken the back of it by this time next week. I’m undecided as to whether to include Tobby or not. It feels a bit like favouritism, but he is such a handsome boy. He came with me to the booksale and crashed out in the car on the way home. It’s the only time I’ve ever seen him exhausted.

Anyway, enjoy your Monday. I’ll be kitten-wrangling and stall-sorting, form-filling and calendar-making til at least this time next week, I’m sure!

The Dance Is Through

Another Monday, another hair metal tune from my youth. Here’s the fabulous Vixen with Edge Of A Broken Heart

I’d laugh, but if you didn’t look like this in 1989 – boy or girl – then you probably weren’t my friend. I very much like the disembodied hand coming across the screen from time to time. We didn’t have MTV in my house when I was a teenager, so although there were videos to many of the epic tunes of my growing-up years, I’ve often only discovered them as an adult, way after the time they were cool. Still, if this doesn’t show you that girls can wear stilettos and play the drums like Madame Roxy Petrucci, nothing does. The women in Vixen were my style icons, along with Strawberry Switchblade and Lita Ford. If you didn’t look like you’d gone ten rounds with some rick-rack and sequins, a pair of scissors and some lace embellishments in a haberdashery, you just weren’t cool.  Not only were the Vixen ladies uber-cool in a girl-crush kind of way, they also had cooler names than me. Roxy Petrucci and Pia Maiocco were a long way from Vera Duckworth and Gayle Platt. Pia Maiocco is still married to Steve Vai. When I was a youngster, that was like my Kanye/Kim celebrity marriage of choice. Happy Days.

I’m a bit late with the old Monday inspiration today – been a busy weekend. I got so many photographs this weekend that it took me an hour to delete all the ones I didn’t want. I got 32GB of photos yesterday alone and went through two batteries. That’s some heavy duty photography. Still, it was well worth it for the lovely photos. Not only have I got plenty for the calendar, but I have some sweet ‘didn’t quite make it’ shots for the website.


How cute is the little Austin?

There was quite a bit of cat photobombing over the weekend though

cat photobomb

Nobody said it would be easy.

This week is a brief hiatus (and A LOT of post-processing) before the Hope booksale at the weekend. The new banner arrived for the refuge publicity and I’m made up with it. It looks fabulous. I can’t wait to show you the photos of that as well.

I’ve put the montage together for the calendar, so it should just be a matter of dragging and dropping in the images and changing a few details here and there. She says. Nothing is ever that easy is it?

The Open Doors weekend was really successful. Several dogs went on adoption contracts, as well as some cats and kittens. My lovely Pongo was adopted this weekend, along with lots of the littlies and some of the older dogs. I love seeing young people adopting the older dogs – it really does remind you that there is a lot of good in the world. Of course, it doesn’t make up for the sad fact that many of the dogs who have arrived here have come as a result of misfortune or cruelty or death, but it does put a stop to the sadness. Next weekend is even more full-on. I’m preparing my throat for all the chatting. At least I can take a step back into autumn – I spent so long doing Christmas adverts last week that I’d practically forgotten what season it was. Between the Hawaiian garlands, the beach scenes and the snow scenes on the photos, I’m quite out of sorts.

The cold weather is setting in and I don’t think it’ll be long before the fire is lit. Been 5°C a couple of mornings last week when I was taking the dogs out. Tobby took himself off for a wander on Saturday afternoon. Not sure where he squeezed out but for a dog with arthritis, he can sure get in some small spaces. It’s been exactly six months since he arrived here and what a darling he is.

Right… I better get the dogs out and get on with a bit of work!

Have a fabulous Monday!

You can’t start a fire without a spark

Kind of apt, since it’s wood-time round here. Winter is definitely coming.

If you’re needing a musical boost this morning, here’s the Boss with Dancing In The Dark

I love Bruce with a love that is quite unequalled. Sometimes, a band will come along and will stick their hands into your stomach and give it a twist when they play, but those bands are few and far between, and most of them don’t stick around. Can you believe that this track is thirty years old? I still love it as much as I ever did, and every album of Bruce Springsteen’s is as good as the last. I just wish his dancing was a little less like Carlton’s on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Or that Carlton’s was a little less ‘Bruce’. Still, you’ve got to hand it to the guy. Ten years after Born To Run, he gave us Born in the USA and ten years after that, he gave us Human Touch. Another fifteen years on and he gave us Magic. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Stones and I love The Who, but they’re not still making great albums thirty-five or forty years after their peak. He is the definitive workhorse of rock.

Love the Brooooce. I love his Dad’s Army of the E-Street Band as well, who always looked like the oddest assortment of Dads-What-Still-Does-Rock. Nobody looks more like a group of dads who still get together on Tuesdays for band practice.

I could listen to Bruce all day.

I would, but there are garden jobs to be done. It’s that point in the year where it’s a mad dash to get everything sorted before the winter sets in. Seeing as it’s Tobby’s only exercise, I’ve been spending a bit more time outdoors enjoying it with him. Walks are beyond him (although you wouldn’t think so if you saw him galloping about as if he didn’t have arthritis at all… silly fool) I figure a bit of time in the garden does him no harm at all and he really enjoys it.

Though the mornings have been cold – it’s been five degrees here a couple of mornings – the days are still nice enough to enjoy being outside.

autumn collage

Everything is kind of over now. The dahlias are doing their last firework displays. The apples and grapes are all but over. A lot of my flowers have got a second wind and the achillea and rudbeckia have come back into flower. Today it’s another attempt to hack back the giant border bushes around the property. Four hundred metres of border to hack at, mostly involving hidden brambles, which is always fun.

This week, I’m trying to get the refuge calendar sorted out. The kitties have been fairly willing so far, but I’ve got another eleven months to sort out. It’s the refuge open weekend later this week and I’ll be praying for good weather so I can get the rest done. We had thunder and downpours instead of a photo session on Saturday.


Getting kitties to sit still for a shoot is always fun. Either that or they fall asleep on the job. This little lot will hopefully be having vaccinations and chips in the next couple of weeks so that we can start finding homes for them. I was very glad my little Dodger found a home – there’s always one you fall for, and he was it. This lot are cute but they didn’t need bottle feeding, so you don’t get that same bond with them. They’re just like noisy lodgers.

Yesterday, I did my last crafty Sunday for a while. I was actually putting the finishing touches to a project I started a couple of years ago. IMG_0195

I’ve had this fabric for two years! I’d embroidered some stuff on but the denim was really thick and I didn’t think it would work well with double denim. I’ve sewn some other fabric on the back, but it kind of made the denim a bit redundant. Hey ho. You live and learn. Still, I sewed the backs on, poked them all right side through and then stuffed them. I got as far as stitching them up as well!

Next week’s crafty Sunday will be taken up by the refuge open weekend, and then the week after it’s the Hope Booksale, so the sewing machine is away for the next few weeks. Hopefully I’ll find my mojo again rather than forgetting about stuff for a couple of years again.

Anyway, time I got a move on. Enjoy Bruce and enjoy your Monday.



Everything’s gonna be real fine

Another Monday, another bit of punk rock for you… Ramones, with Oh Oh I Love Her So

I did have a mini-Ramones obsession when I was about 18. Funny, actually, since yesterday I put on this old checked fleece I got when I was about that age from the Army Surplus Stores. It’s still in good shape. That’s how clothing should be. Dirt cheap and will last you a good twenty five years or more. None of this stuff that falls apart. I bought some new socks last week and one has already got a hole in it. What’s that even about??! A week!!

I got some really good stuff at that Army surplus store, including a canvas rucksack and a pair of combat boots that lasted me a good four or five years. The Army surplus stores are like a survivalists’ paradise but the younger me did love a bit of military surplus gear. Those combat boots were a quarter of the price of Doc Martens. I did a lot of walking when I was at university – I got a bus pass that lasted a month and then figured I could save myself the fiver it cost me by walking everywhere. I think it was usually a forty-minute walk to the campus. In the winter, I’d quite often wear that red check lumberjack fleece with a patchwork skirt and my combat boots. No sense of coordination at all, the teenage me. You can still buy those kit bags for a tenner. Even my North Face rucksack has wear and tear. Those canvas things last forever.

I still love walking everywhere. Yesterday, I took the dogs for an epic forest jaunt before the cold weather gets here and I try and spend as little time outside as I can. The forest was busy yesterday, as it gets. We saw a good few people out picking mushrooms, and loads of cyclists. Great to see how much progress Heston has made with other dogs – there were at least five or six dogs off lead whose owners should have known better than to let them off lead. They’d all come up for a sniff. We’ve been working on “sit” and “eyes” when other animals are near. It’s not easy when a Jack Russell is ferreting around, let me tell you. Not one bark though or over-reaction.


Most of the forest is pretty flat – it’s not easy to get a sense of where you are if you are lost (it’s been years since I was lost here though, even though I used to worry about it all the time and draw scrappy paper maps to keep in my pocket!) But today I got a rare view from the top of one of the hills – we walked from the lightest blue bit. It’s a circuit of about 11km. I love this forest.


Most of the time, you don’t see anyone here at all. There are many days when I don’t see a single soul. Better than the fields where I normally go, since there were about five million hunters out this morning with their various setters and spaniels.

After lunch, I did a bit of a crafty afternoon and put together a patchwork curtain for under the sink. I’ll show you the ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos and you’ll see why I have taken to decorating this foul little corner of my house. I was very slapdash in the actual patchwork bit; let’s just say the patchwork queens will be choking on their coffee, but it’s only to go under the sink so I don’t care much. It doesn’t even go with the blue spotty curtains I made for the kitchen window. Like I care about things like that!! As my lumberjack shirt, combat boots and patchwork skirt à la Kate Bush would go to show, I don’t care much for matching things up. I used to be so well-matched at work. It was not really the authentic me, I think.

Next Sunday will be the last day I have without other obligations for a while. The week after, it’s the refuge open day and it’s all hands on deck. I’m also trying to put together the refuge calendar as well. Cross your fingers that it doesn’t look bad! The week after that is the Hope booksale. That is sure to be a busy one. Then it’s half term, when I have to get my act together for my classes leading up to Christmas. So next Sunday, I’m back with my paintbrush and drill and I’m going to put up all the things that need putting up, and paint the things that need painting. I still can’t decide if the former owner painted them cream or if they started white. I suspect the latter.

Anyhow, now that my (almost) internet-free Sunday is over I better pick up the pieces!

Have a good week!

Drug store lovin’

What better way to start a Monday than with a bit of Otis? I love this tune. It’s a complete feelgood track. Your Monday won’t get better than Otis.

It was a busy one last week, and busy this week too. Last week was nothing but vet visits. I’m sure people will start talking about me and the vet. Our local vet has been off work for a while and her replacement is a rather chatty type. Well, if I wasn’t having eyes checked out and kittens vaccinated, holding dogs in queues at the refuge and having Tobby’s back end checked out, I was bumping in to him in supermarkets. He’s about twelve, bless him. I know I’m getting old when vets look young. He seriously must think I have about five hundred dogs. Even the vet’s secretary looks at me now and says, “Do I bill the refuge or 30 Millions d’Amis?”

Still, sitting around in vets’ surgeries at least beat the weather. It feels more like the end of October at the moment rather than the middle of September (okay, middle and a bit). Yesterday was nicer, but it’s been very autumnal. I’m blaming that for my sudden interest in pensioner pastimes like making soup and getting my craft on. I don’t know why I say pensioner pastimes. The craft world is very much in vogue. Well, it always has been with me.

I’ve been trying to use up all the stuff I’ve got hanging around the house, paint and fabric-wise, as well as spending a little time doing stuff I like, rather than being at everyone else’s beck and call. I’ve been spending my Sunday afternoons doing stuff, if I’m free from other obligations. A couple of weeks ago, I used up some paint remnants and painted a console table a lively shade of green.



I think it looks quite splendid. Nothing like a bit of colour to make you feel more vibrant. Plus, now it’s nice and pretty, it’ll stop me treating it as a dumping ground for things that have been in my handbag too long.


Yesterday, my Sunday afternoon project was to make some tab-top curtains for the kitchen. I actually bought the fabric in 2010 before I moved to France. Not quite sure why I’ve been waiting so long, but I’ve long since used the lining fabric for other things, so they won’t be finished til next Sunday. Best laid plans and all that. Still, it beats spending the day online. I’ve been switching off the laptop from noon until evening and it’s amazing how productive I can be.



I’m now also through the main bit of my sock. They’ve been epic, these socks. Knee-length, seven colours, complex patterns, but they are totally amazing. I shall be very glad when they are finished, and no mistake. No way on earth I’ll be able to go to the fabric shop to pick up lining fabric and not peruse the wool on sale for my next project, whatever that might be. I daren’t look on Ravelry yet; it’s a bit like cheating on your boyfriend to move on to your next project before you’ve properly finished the last.


This week is a week of meetings, meetings and meetings. I really thought I might get a breather after the foire, but no. It is not to be. Maybe next week will be a little quieter. It did get to the point in the week where I was eating tinned stuff as I’d not had a minute to go to the supermarket. Amazing what you can make with an onion, a potato, a can of tomatoes, a can of chickpeas and some spices.

My little Coco was adopted last week. I’d taken Dodger with me because I kind of hoped I could find him a friend. I thought he might be a bit lonely in the laundry by himself. It’s no life for a kitten. I’m not sure I’d trust at least two of my dogs with a cat. Anyhow, I ended up leaving him at the refuge as someone brought in a box of seven tiny kittens. They’d been sealed in a cardboard box and thrown in the bin. A quarantine was needed so I took three. These ones are real hooligans. They’re the Shameless family of cats. I miss my little Dodger. In truth, I have been tormenting myself over him. I hope he is adopted soon otherwise I fear I’ll be trying to come to some solution about how to keep him in a foster until he can be adopted. He is just beautiful. He’s just your average-looking moggy, but he is so gentle and so loving. The new little lot just bomb around like maniacs and hang off my legs like insects.

Today is a meeting about a Christmas foire (ah yes, it’s that time already) and then hopefully back in the garden. I got in a good couple of hours yesterday, trying to tidy up the latest bramble patch and getting distracted by how beautiful everything is


It’s apple season and grape season. Mostly that involves me picking stuff so that Wobbly, Greedy and Needy don’t eat them. There’s been some wind in this house, let me tell you.


Apples I don’t mind so much but I do wish Tobby wouldn’t leave the stalks dotted around the house. It makes a change, him carrying fruit around instead of a toy. He had used it as an opportunity to secrete all his toys and bones in my bed on Saturday when I was out for the best part of the day. He obviously feels like nesting too!

Have a wonderful Monday. Hope you enjoyed Otis.