Monthly Archives: June 2010

A few words about my Gramps

It’s nine years since my Gramps passed away, and it would have been his 79th birthday. Funny to think he’d have been so old! It makes him seem so young when he died.

The things my Gramps taught me:

  1. 7 x 7 = 49. He was obsessed with times tables and Pythagorus. He liked things to make sense. He was an ordered and rational man, and yet he still bet on the football pools each week.
  2. There’s no substitute for butter. Hovis with Country Life butter for breakfast, with a glass of orange juice. No simpler or finer breakfast.
  3. You might not achieve what you want in this generation, or the next, but one day, someone will live out your dreams. It might not be you, but the foundations you lay are as important for others as they are yourself.
  4. You can get a whole biscuit in your mouth very easily.
  5. A shirt can come in many colours and a real man can get away with lilac, pink and yellow.
  6. Family are more important than any other thing in the whole wide world. They might not be there when you need them, but they’re never more than a call away and they’ll always love you, no matter what.
  7. The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.
  8. Get your kicks when you can. You’re a long time dead. He taught me this by not doing this. He saved for 40 years and never got to enjoy retirement.
  9. Smoking is not good for you!
  10. Photography is an art.
  11. The fuchsia is the princess of all flowers, with her ballerina skirts.
  12. France is a marvellous country.
  13. Map-reading is a lost art.
  14. A map can tell you many stories.
  15. Reading isn’t just for girls.
  16. A real man can walk a little dog and not look like a wuss.
  17. Your family will always have faith in you.
  18. You don’t need an expensive car to get from A to B.
  19. You don’t need an acre to enjoy your garden.
  20. Enjoy the sun whilst you can.

Whilst I love photography and gardening, my Gramps lives on in me. When I work hard, that’s a testament to him. When I use my mouth more than my brain, I can hear him chastise me. But, most of all, I see his smile whenever I imagine him, and I remember what an amazing man he was. You don’t need to be famous to be magnificent.

Thanks to

Je me suis fortifie

Having just had my ‘justice réparatrice’, I feel a little restored.

At first, the lad was very unrepentant… he said I shouldn’t have been taking pictures of him and that his disfigurement (on his face) meant he was very sensitive to photographs of himself. I was wondering whether he was going down the line of ‘Islam forbids photography of animate objects’, which I can understand; however, it’s still allowed to take pictures of criminals ‘for identification or pursuit’ – and you’d have to be a very devout Muslim to go with the ‘no photography’ route. What would you do about t.v. and the like??! Surely film, images, videos etc are outlawed??! Why would Islamic terrorists go on video?! Hmmmm. I’m sensing a hypocrisy of Al Jazeerah… still…

Anyway, his arguments about disfigurements didn’t wash with me, on account of my hands. As soon as he said that, I slammed my hands on the desk and showed him them.

“I have one finger and one thumb on my left hand. I can’t hold on to things. Taking my camera was easier than taking candy from a baby. If I got all hot and bothered every time anyone took the piss out of me, I’d have been in prison a long time ago.”

I reminded him, also, that he shouldn’t have been there. If he hadn’t have been there, he wouldn’t have been photographed in the first place.

I’d also like to think that he can’t really have got to grips about the whole CCTV thing… we’re constantly on camera, whether we like it or not. Is he going to take issue with the British Government and the police and anyone who has a camera??!

I’m just lost in a little bubble of non-logic, reading an Islamic site about images and photography, and it seems a little bizarre that it was okay for Saddam Hussein to have his picture everywhere and a load of statues. Very un-Islamic!

I think, however, my piece de resistance was when I showed him my jewellery that I may have to pawn… my present from my Dad, a gold chain; my Nana’s engagement ring diamond; my Gramps’ ring; my bracelet from Phil; a pendant from my Mum for my 21st birthday… and I told him about not having anything for Jake for tea, because I couldn’t ebay and sell the things I needed to sell to make money. Then his sister said she’d replace it. I don’t know whether she will or not, but it was nice that she did. This is maybe how it should be. He isn’t an adult, fair enough, but there’s no punishment for children. They can be lawless. Maybe their parents and family should make reparations. I felt a little bad, but then again, I didn’t. It has meant an end to ebay for me for the meantime, and I’m out £250 just from the camera, let alone the phone.

Still, being able to speak to him, challenge his views and tell him how it went down, it did make things feel a little better.

Unfortunately, I’ve just learned according to Islamic scriptures, the Angel Gabriel forbid Angels to go into houses with dogs and pictures. That’s me damned for eternity then.

La justice reparatrice

Funny how ‘restorative’ in French (fortifiant or remontant) means giving back vigour or health: a tonic. I was going to say ‘le rétablissement judiciare’ – re-establishment of justice, but reparative justice seems to be the phrase du jour. I hope the justice I get this afternoon does restore me! I need a little bit of a tonic.

I think I hit the wall yesterday. This is a marathon runner’s term for when you are at about 19 – 21 miles in, and your mile takes you twice as long as your usual mile. You feel like you can’t go on. You want to stop. The end feels as far away as the beginning, and you can’t see the point. You question why you’re doing it. Every part of you aches and you tell yourself you’re punishing yourself needlessly, that you could have a more simple life. It hurts, physically and mentally.

My problem was I hit the wall on lots of things yesterday. I hit it with my marking: 270 scripts in out of 500 – it’s a little early, but it’s all downhill from 400 onwards. I hit the wall with the whole ‘France thing’ wondering what the point was and how we’re going to get through. We’re so unbelievably poor right now it’s untrue. It seems ages off to my marking payment. I didn’t even really have a fiver to lend Jasmin. I’m filling us up on cheap starch and crying inside every time Jake drinks a glass of milk since it’s costing us more than squash (growing boys, LJ, growing boys…) and worrying I’m stunting his growth by cutting back on meat for him. Steve’s had it up to the eyeballs with pasta and rice, though potato salad seems to restore him to his former self. I wonder how long that will last??

I hit the wall with how long I’ve got left, what I’m going to do with the house, how we’re going to get everything over to France, how we’ll cope… I feel like I’m holding all of us up and it could all come falling down at any minute. I just want it to stop for a bit and give me a break. Honestly, it’ll be easier with Steve in France. I won’t have to worry about him there. I can manage to feed Jake and live off spaghetti and tomatoes myself. That’s fine with me. I can’t do that to another human being, especially when it’s Steve. I can’t stop worrying about all the expense of living over there and keeping this house running here, because this house just isn’t selling.

I feel like punching my prospective buyers. If I had any morals, I’d tell them to get out, but I’m so desperate for an offer, I smile politely. They offer silly figures and hope I’ll accept. They never raise their price and I can’t afford to drop my asking price (and, neither should I! The last time a house sold around here for what they offer was back in 2002. Things just aren’t that bad!!)

So… the wall. I lay awake in bed thinking about it, stewing over things, worrying. I owe money left, right and centre. I’ve got my mortgage payment to make on Friday. I’ve got debt upon debt at the moment. I can’t see a way out. I know it’s there… when we’re in France, things WILL be easier. I can start looking for work. I can start advertising. It’ll be a tough winter, I know… we’ve not grown half the things we will need for the winter. But… I hope we can still manage.

So… how do I break through ‘the wall’? Just the same way I did in the marathon. Gritted teeth. Determination. A one-foot-in-front-of-the-other, one-movement-at-a-time approach. Focus on the end-goal. And the eye of the tiger…

I used to have my tracks set out for my marathon. I know, about 2:45 hours in, I’m going to need a bit of a boost, musically. This gives me a real ‘dig-in’ mentality. Is there anything better??!

As soon as I hear that gritty beat, slow but steady… I dig in, grit my teeth, suck it up, stop being mard and go for glory!

And then, it’s all downhill. My final song, round about 3:25 is this one…

Cheesy ice-hockey song. Still, it really picks up your feet that last half-mile. Sometimes, my mind is running so fast to this song, my poor old legs couldn’t handle it! I’d almost fall over. It was like putting rocket fuel in a robin reliant at that point.

Actually, thinking about it, the England team could have done with this before their match yesterday. Dismal performance. Dismal. So much, by the way, for my bet that England would face France. No chance!!

Anyway, because I love Jensen Ackles, because he is the most handsome man on the planet, and because I love the man laughing in the background, here’s Dean from Supernatural doing his take on The Eye of the Tiger:

I shall grit my teeth, dig in, suck it up and get tough for these last few days. Duh…. duh duh duh…. duh duh duh… duh duh duhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh duh…. ad infinitum

La roseraie

I’m in love with the roses in my garden, already, but I’m definitely planning a few more ‘rose’ areas. I’d like them all along the length of the veranda, really, to go with the beautiful ones already planted.

From where Steve’s jumper is hanging to the beautiful roses planted where the buanderie starts, I’d like a really huge row of beautiful hybrid tea roses. I’m planning on taking cuttings from my own rosebushes, including the one my Gramps bought me when I moved into my current house in 1997, which is a deep red. I’ve also got a beautiful yellow rose and a terracotta one.

I can’t decide whether to go for one colour, or a variation on colours, like yellow and red, or whether to go for the profusion of roses. I think I’d like a kind of rainbow of roses, in a jumble of sweet-smelling gorgeousness!

Gertrude Geckyll from David Austin Roses


Huge white blooms from David Austin roses

And the worst thing is I’m stuck here in England and I can’t get into my court yard to enjoy it! Jake also doesn’t yet realise I’ll be sending him out with a shovel every time a horse walks by!

Les Ecures – Juin 2010

Some photos, finally, of Les Ecures, when I was over last. I had, annoyingly, to wait for Steve to retrieve them from the camera, then he left them at his mum’s. Grrr.

And breathe….

Mes cerises

I am taking cue from Le Lezard and I am going to weigh and price up everything I pick. This overlooks the fact that I often eat as I pick. I consumed my own bodyweight in cherries when I was picking these. I need one of those weigh-bridges like they have in ports for a ‘before’ and ‘after’ weight.

The courtyard

It wasn’t massively sunny, and neither is it now, but the space is amazing. I can’t wait. I’m going to fill this courtyard with roses, as Madame had already done.

I want more and more roses, everywhere!

More please! I love these roses so much!

And underneath the fruit trees, once I’d finally got to grips with the tondeuse a gazon!

And cue flounce

Oh how I long to be in France. The shit is still hitting the fan, ESSA-wise. I had a visit from the deputy head (finally! It’s only a month since it happened!) which was mainly prompted by my calling the papers. Amazing how quickly things move when the press are involved.

The deputy head, Sandy Reid, was mostly bothered about damage to the school reputation. She wasn’t bothered about me, my safety, my story, my losses. She was bothered about the good kids getting tarred with the same brush. Not that that’s true. The story will be page 7 or so, with a small little column. It’s local news in a local paper. It’s got a small readership of people who mostly are elderly. But at least it’s public. I don’t care about the phone or camera any more. I just want justice. And if that’s justice-by-media, so be it. In many ways, that’s way more damning than actual justice. I don’t agree with it. But if the law won’t help, then what’s the way forward? If the school don’t take some responsibility, fair enough, but it’s not a good sign. I don’t know why communications failed so badly. I do know the school didn’t contact me between the 8th and the 17th June. That’s not good enough for me. It’s a month since it happened and they were just dragging their feet even more.

It did make me realise I’m a total flouncer. I like to flounce out of jobs. I’ve flounced out of three so far. I didn’t use to flounce in my early life. I flounced out of a Topshop job on behalf of my sister. I can’t remember why, but it involved me going into Topshop in Bury and throwing a dress back at them and saying my sister wouldn’t be working there any more. I gave up each of my jobs with a little sadness: greengrocers, milk-rounds, kitchen jobs, waiting on, pub jobs. I even gave up my first teaching job with sadness. Not so much after that.

My second teaching post, when the deputy asked me if I was jealous of a newly qualified teacher, after a stand-up row for 4 hours, I laughed. I told her she’d have my notice on Monday. She did. I had a new job three weeks later.

I moved then to a council job. When the shit hit the fan with an incompetent old bitch who tutted publicly in meetings when I spoke, cornered me in empty offices to give me ‘a piece of her mind’ and called me ‘young lady’, we were offered mediation. I accepted. She refused. Wigan did nothing to enforce better behaviour, so they had my notice a week later. I had a job two weeks after that. I move quickly!

Finally, when the third school I was in did not support me during some scandalous gossip and name-calling, I walked. I really flounced. I stormed off, giving the head of education in the local council a massive sounding-off about judging me a cheat when he was the one shagging a maths consultant on a pool table a few months before. I did the whole ‘How dare you judge me!’ speech. I told the deputy off for having no backbone and told them they’d have my resignation. They did.

At that point, I decided to work for myself. Why not? I’m reliable, efficient, honest, hard-working and loyal. I have done okay. I could have done better, but then I haven’t really been bothered. Plus, I’ve had 3 years of shit hanging over me which I needed to deal with. I needed a bit of early retirement and life and priority-adjusting.

Then, the council and the country start getting shirty with me, so I’m off-ski. Cue massive flounce, as LJ sticks out her tongue, puts a thumb to nose to ridicule Bolton and does a great big raspberry.

Moi, j’adore la famille Reptily!

I confess… I love this blog:

It’s a French family’s account of their small-holding. I love it because the husband’s screen name is ‘Le Lézard’ which might as well be Steve’s name. I love it because it is filled with wonderful ideas that I just might try. I love it because the photographs are wonderful.

I love their garden and their potager. I like the way it’s aesthetic as well as functional. And I love the way they’ve just reminded me I could make cider. I don’t know how, but I shall endeavour!

They have had, in previous years, a cost sheet for all the money they’ve saved on items from the garden that they’ve grown, for instance, the weight of the beans they’ve picked, and how much that would cost. They also have a spreadsheet of how long they’ve spent, doing what and what the weather was like. Loving it.

How beautiful is this?! I love the curving sweep of the cut grass, and the hilly little sweeps of uncut prairie … it’s very … Hobbitesque!

But, now I’m just wondering if we can use our grape press to crush apples and what we’ll do with the cider we produce. Yum.

ESSA Academy = lying weasels

Just an update on my mugging and robbery…

I’d been robbed on a Friday afternoon four weeks ago by a gang of 50-100 kids who swore at me, harassed me, shoved me, jostled me and then stole my phone and camera. The police were brilliant. I got a good view of the lad who stole my camera and the one who assaulted me most. The police got the lad who assaulted me straight away.

I went into Essa Academy on the Monday morning. No-one was available. Not the head. Not the deputies (who were allegedly both teaching – which in my school-leader opinion is a crock of shit. Deputies teach negligible time tables and the time-tabler who puts all the senior staff on time table first thing on a Monday morning is a moron. I can’t remember the last time I had a Monday morning without some incident to sort out from over the weekend.) Not a head of year. Not a junior member of staff. Nobody. I went home. I have no phone on which to be contacted, since they stole mine, so I left my email.

Apparently the deputy came down at 4:30 when I was working. Then next day, the school liaison officer from the police came. She was brilliant. I told her about it. She knew who the thief was and she went off to do her bit.

Nothing very much happened the week after – I’d tried to get in touch with the school, but it wasn’t happening. I exchanged a few emails with the deputy head, Sandy Reid, but I got the distinct impression she wasn’t convinced and that it was just a minor incident to them.

The week after was half term. I gave them the benefit of the doubt of not being in school. The police woman called me on the Wednesday on Jake’s phone, told me they’d caught the lad, he’d confessed and that the school would make restoration of the camera/phone. All was well. I agreed to drop the charges and go for restorative justice, knowing that a reprimand is neither here nor there and I’d not get any sort of punishment further than that.

I got an email on the Tuesday (8th June) to say the deputy would come down to see me and explain. I mailed back to say Wednesday or Thursday would be fine. I stayed in. Nothing. Not an email. Not a call. Not a note. Nothing. I mailed back on Friday to say I was not available on Mon-Weds because I was at a senior examiner meeting *trying to rustle up a little professional courtesy* and still nothing. I emailed the deputy again on Wednesday, having left my new number last Friday, and said she should contact me as soon as possible. I got a phone call mid-morning, but we were cut off. I tried back instantly. No answer. I left a message.

The police woman called me mid-afternoon to say she’d take the girl (I assume!) and the lad who’d stolen from me to the police station. He’d lost the camera, so I’d not get that back. Neither would I get the phone back that the school had agreed I’d get back.

After stewing over it for some time, I called the Bolton News. Surely a story about a woman being mugged by 50 kids was interesting to them, especially in light of a similar thing happening at the weekend. Garry Newlove sends a message to us all. Teen yobs rule the street and are ungovernable. They phoned me back, I told my story. Now I’m waiting for a photographer and hopefully it’ll be in tomorrow night’s paper. Who’s to say?

Either way, I know Essa Academy have got no reason to restore my phone/camera. I don’t mind that. What I do mind is the lack of communication, the lack of punishment for the kids, the lack of sense of community or respect. What I mind is waiting 10 days for  a response to an email. What I mind is being fobbed off as if it’s some unimportant issue. What I mind is the school not actually personally talking to me. What I mind is my next-door neighbour’s son having been mugged by teenagers who beyond a shadow of a doubt went to this school. What I mind is that a similar incident occurred two streets away. What I mind is that they give out ipods to their kids who have no respect for their community.

And what worries me most is that I could have been seriously injured by a group of kids. I could be dead. And that’s not being melodramatic. That Friday afternoon, anything could have happened. Now, they know where I live, they walk around brazenly, and I am too afraid to go to the shop when I think they might be there. I make no joke. I’m a feisty woman who walked the streets of Rio without fear, and yet here, in my own home, I am terrified.

Bisous, Sky TV, a bientot!

I like to rant, but I’d like to stop and have a little ‘big up of the day’ to SKY TV.

I like they have a Scottish call centre. It’s impossible not to like Scottish people and at least they have a laugh with you. They’ve always provided a good service, never cold called me to prompt me to upgrade and they’re just brilliant. I wish there was a Sky in France : (

The lady in the ‘cancellations’ department was great. She said ‘don’t ever come back!’ and told me a story about her dad living in France and getting his wine from the market in a big vat for three euros – and the best wine she’d ever had. Most people when you cancel seem to think they should persuade you not to… not Sky. I promise, when and if I return, I shall have Sky.

I like Vodafone too. They’re always good to me.

J’en ai ras le bol #4: encore une fois.

Some fucker has dinted my car and driven off. There’s a fuck-off big dint in it and I’m major pissed off. My car was keyed last year and has a good few other knocks as well, but this is huge. This is a real dent. You couldn’t NOT know you’ve done it. I can’t believe my car alarm didn’t go off. What’s worse is that no-one stopped to say they’d done it, which is horrible. Accidents happen, but not to take responsibility… that disgusts me.

A couple of years ago, I ran into a car parked behind me. I was in a rush. I hadn’t eaten. I was in a right stress. I should have looked, and, to be honest, they should have thought more about parking there, but it was my fault. I went and told them. It was no big deal and we sorted it out. It actually did more damage to my car than theirs. That’s just grown-up, adult behaviour.

Since then, I’ve had a car bump me and then not want to give insurance details until I forced the issue by calling the police. I couldn’t believe they were arguing the toss about handing over insurance details. It’s the law. It was pointless to get into it. The police came and sorted it in two minutes, but her attitude was appalling. She was going too fast round a blind bend with no lights on in the snow at 8:00 in the morning. She couldn’t stop and drifted into me. Totally irresponsible, and then not taking the blame afterwards.

Some twat keyed my and Steve’s cars last year and didn’t think twice about it.

Then that loser who cut me up then developed a scouse accent to yell at me because I had the temerity to take a photo of his car. I won that argument just by laughing at his fake scouse accent and inviting him to have a shot. I hate men who are taller, wider and more aggressive just getting in my space and trying to intimidate me. I just kept walking in to him and forcing him back, inviting him to have a shot at me. Twat. Why would you bother developing a scouse accent for a street row? Did he think it would scare me??!

I fucking hate people!!!!!

Sometimes, I know I’m lucky I don’t have a gun to hand because I escalate so quickly, think later, talk first. I know it’s not good and I get into situations I shouldn’t, but then I also think (when I do think about it afterwards!!) that I have the right to tell people that they’re knob-heads or to protect my property from swarms of youths. I only get into it if they start something and don’t act with morality, sanity or respect. There’s a level of selfishness in this world that I can’t stand.

And… I commented yesterday on the pointlessness of landlines, since the only person who rings me on it is my Nana. Other than that, it’s cold callers. They get a two-fingered salute from me as well.

What really pisses me off is that you can say ‘no’ in five ways and they still don’t get it. Today I had one from some health and safety initiative charging £99 to come and look at my electrics. *She managed to get that in before I’d said fuck off*

No matter how many times you tell them you’re a sole trader, they don’t care. There is no point having a land-line these days, since the only people who ring it are ringing for some kind of cold call. Grrrr. The sooner they’re banned, the better.