Monthly Archives: December 2011

The lady of Shalott – a pastiche

I’m not one for writing poetry. I read a lot of it and I’m rubbish. However, I found this when I was tidying up today. I wrote it back in 1994. It’s a pastiche of one of my favourite poems – about the ruination of the Lady of Shalott. It’s old-man-Victorian-melodrama about women looking at a man’s helmet and his feathers and then ‘blooming’ before dying. It’s a bit rubbish, so I re-wrote it. I don’t believe ruination comes to a dame just because she looks at a man’s helmet.

Anyway, here it is:

The Lady of Shalott – a pastiche

On either side the by-pass lie

Old tenements of time gone by

That stink to hell and hurt the eye

And leave the residents asking why

This place is festering, left to rot.

And up and down the people go

Gazing where the cold winds blow

Round a derelict there below

The derelict of Shalott.

 

And moving on a flatscreen clear

That blazes before her all the year

Shadows of the world appear

There she sees the by-pass near

The lady of Shalott

And on the pavement there unfurls

A handsome boy with golden curls

He catches the eye of all the girls,

Smooth Dean Lancelot.

 

But in the screen she still delights

To immortalise its magic sights

With ink upon her paper, white,

She tells of all the violent nights

To the people who forgot.

That night she sees a crackhead, dead,

And two drunk lovers off their heads

“I’m half sorry for the shadows” said

The lady of Shalott

 

And on the screen a flash goes by

All around boys look and sigh

They stand about and wonder why

They’re not driving that GTI

Of smooth Dean Lancelot.

A dealer he, he roams the streets

Followed by guys who’d kiss his feet,

“Another year, they’re just dead meat.”

Writes the Lady of Shalott

 

Often through the purple night

He’ll prowl around til morning light

Getting young kids high as kites

Who have no sense of wrong or right

Snorting coke and smoking pot.

Although he holds a mobile phone,

It’s rarely used, he’s all alone

He rings and gets the engaged tone

Of the Lady of Shalott

 

For she knows better, she is wise

She understands his reddened eyes

And she sees thru’ his shallow lies

The mobile phone and the GTI

Of wicked Dean Lancelot

She leaves the screen and fits the latch

She knows Lancelot is no catch

“In me, he’s finally met his match”

Said the Lady of Shalott.

 

It’s funny because I guess I wrote it about someone but I can’t remember who, and I don’t know if it was someone specific. I like that I called him Dean. Deans are often rogues. Sorry to all my friends called Dean (well, one of them) who is not a rogue and is lovely. I like how she fits the latch too and just goes back to observing the world, and he’s left all alone. I was a cool 20-something!

I also found some quite profound haiku. I might put those up too, another time.

Good night, dear readers. Enjoy the best of the new year. Enjoy the coming days and the shorter nights. Enjoy each other and keep warm with ones who love you.

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New Year, new stuff

I like to have resolutions and I like to look back at the end of the year. I’ve done my looking back – what I hoped for from last year and working out what worked well and what didn’t work so well. Now I’m onto looking forward. Of course, I’m guided by my list of stuff from the previous post and shan’t regret anything, achieved or not.

I quite like a blog I’ve been reading recently about having 1,000 new experiences in a year. I like this but I don’t think I’ll be able to manage 1,000 in a year mainly because I do much of the same stuff and I live a very simple life. To do 1,000 things that are firsts or unique demands a very stimulating place to be and to be honest, I think I’d struggle in Tokyo to do 1,000 new things in a year. I might aim for 100 new experiences. And I’m starting yesterday! I did a lot of new stuff yesterday and doubt very much that in the next month, I’ll do as many as I did in that one day!

And my ‘resolutions’ are more of a ‘to-do’ list… so some I’ll get through, some I won’t.

1. Do some appliqué stitching on a design. I have something in mind!

2. Knit some socks

3. Make something in patchwork, even if it’s very small

4. Knit a hat

5. Knit a cat costume

6. Finally get back to water-colour painting. Have paper. Have stretching tape. Have paints and brushes. Have no board. Grrr.

7. Do more art

8. Listen to French news more

9. Read 10 more books in French

10. Grow a wider variety of stuff next year and don’t sow the whole packet!

11. Finally have some success with carrots

12. Paint the front wall and build a small herb garden

13. Make tin-can planters and tea-light holders to hang from the trees

14. Finish painting the gate!

15. Render the outside wall of the lean-to

16. Add some lean-to art

17. Finish painting the lean-to window frames

18. Make curtains for the lean-to

19. Find some cheap chairs to renovate for lean-to sitting

20. Paint the rest of the laundry lean-to

21. Sort out the doors in the laundry lean-to

22. Sort out the floor of the laundry lean-to

23. Fit some shelves and curtains in the laundry lean-to

24. Paint the laundry lean-to shutters

25. Paint the ceiling in the dining room

26. Paper the dining room walls

27. Make curtains for the dining room and the living room

28. Strip and re-paper my bedroom

29. Paint the window frames in the bedroom, the kitchen, the dining room and the living room

30. Sort out the entrance way

31. Plant leeks, parsnips, turnips, swede, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages, potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, gherkins, melons, peppers, chili peppers, corn, peas, beans, borlotti beans, broad beans, courgettes, pumpkins, squash and plenty of other things

32. Get my perennial garden going and sow some aqualegia, some dicentra – lots of other flowers in my virtually flower-less garden

33. Make a pillow-case lounger

34. Turn Jake’s room into a craft room

35. Get my sewing machine set up permanently

36. Get some more chickens

37. Fox-proof the garden, and César-proof the hedges

38. Make a display out of some of my travel treasures

39. Learn to crochet

40. Make bunting for the garden

41. Plant two new fruit trees

42. Organise a party for my 40th Birthday… it will be here, on the 15th December, 2012. Clear your diaries, book a room with me! I WILL have the best-laid birthday feast, I promise!

43. Repurpose Steve’s old bed in the garden. Oh will you see!

44. Work on the ‘small steps’, petit à petit, l’oiseau fait son nid…

45. Make some more bird-houses (you’ll see those too!)

46. Get busy with the festivating and make lots of home-made ornaments. This year’s were a winner!

47. Propagate succulents

48. Have 10 hammock days

49. Finally get over to the Cote d’Argent

50. Make my feet look nice again

51. Add a little loveliness to my life every month

52. Spend less than I earn

53. Make a start on the cabin as it transforms into the most amazing uber-kitsch stopover point for anyone who wants to stay in it

54. Paint some more t-shirts

55. Make 10 completely new recipes

56. Go inside the chateau at La Rochefoucauld, instead of just looking at it from the outside

57. Document my village on camera

58. Document La Rochefoucauld on camera

59. Go to lady lunches with friends

60. Learn two new recipes off by heart

61. Read two more Dickens novels

62. Read some Victor Hugo in French (one of my 10 books!)

63. Plant a rose bush

64. Spend a day in Limoges

65. Go down to Rocamador

66. Go on 10 new long walks

67. Have a proper picnic with a proper picnic blanket

68. See a French film in a French cinema and laugh or hold my breath in all the right places

69. Go to see something at the Carmelite music hall

70. Celebrate 14th July in France this year – first time since I was about 8!

71. Do 100 blog posts

72. Join our local library

73. Go on a 30 km + bike ride (and I know the exact route!)

74. Bike ride at least once a week

75. Scan all my non-scanned images and back them up

76. Do at least one vide grenier

77. Go to at least five vide greniers and spend less than 10€

78. Paint the kitchen blue and re-tile the back wall

79. Put some shelves in the kitchen and make a cute under-sink curtain to hide the storage!

80. Make a big tote bag (I’m such a child of the 70s… I’m sure my mum had a huge tote bag she made herself!)

81. Go to two festivals I’ve not been to before

82. Make macarons of my own

83. Knit some super-cute leg warmers

84. Upcycle a really cheap piece of furniture into something really, really gorgeous

85. Try three more French cheeses to add to my repertoire

86. Try Pomerol

87. Not end the year with a white tummy and body and brown arms, legs and head

88. Wear a hat when gardening

89. Learn more than the basic functions and stitches on my sewing machine

90. Paint some pebbles. You’ll see!

91. Can more and freeze less

92. Start an art journal

93.

Stuck now.

I’ll have to come back to this. How on earth did that guy find 1000 things to do??!

To the life less lived…

It might seem funny to some people that I have no regrets for anything I’ve ever done. I’m never sorry about stuff either. That probably sounds really arrogant but I always used to say to kids ‘Don’t bother saying Sorry. Either you meant to do it and you’re not sorry, or you wouldn’t have done it’ and it’s as true now as it ever was. Plus, we say sorry because we regret stuff and I can’t regret anything.

I think of life as a series of learning curves. I would. I’m a teacher. It’s all about learning. I’d rather take a lesson away from stuff than take a regret. I’m human. I make mistakes, but I don’t regret them – that would just be wasted energy. And if I make the mistake once, I learn. Sometimes it takes me a lot longer to get the message. It took me 10 years of being miserable in teaching and three job changes before I realised the lessons within:

1. I’m not cut out for bitchiness or misery and I can’t work with people who would rather be mean than be nice. That’s an important lesson. Now it means I only surround myself with people who are nice not mean and the occasional showdown with an imbecile in an office or on a phone-line is easy to walk away from.

2. I’m not cut out to be in the teaching profession as it is right now. That’s neither of our faults. It’s a different beast than one I can ride.

But I bet I have another 37 things I’ve learned – not regrets for crappy stuff, but lessons that life has taught me – sometimes in really, really tough ways and sometimes in really, really lovely ways.

3. Family are who you are and nobody knows you like they do

4. Sometimes, people let you down. It’s not because they want to let you down, but because it’s the only way they can get out of whatever it is alive. Sometimes, they’ll rob your promotion. Sometimes, they’ll not do the things they say they’ll do. Sometimes, they really, really land you in it. But they’ve got their own stuff going on and not a lot of it will actually be to do with you.

5. Don’t regret the end of friendships or love lives. These things always have a sell-by date. Sometimes, that date is the day you die. Sometimes it’s the day after you met. But it will end some day. That’s the only thing that’s inevitable about it. So enjoy it while you can. Friendships are like cream cakes. If you don’t make the most of them whilst they’re available to you, then they’re going to go sour. And they will sour eventually. Such is life. Some friendships are like a tin of hot dogs – they’ll last for ages and are great in an emergency. Their best before has been wiped off and you can’t really remember what it contains, but it’s great to have as a stand-by.

6. Never be afraid to let people into your life. By shutting people out, the loneliness will drive you mental. It’s only when you let them in, and let them see you that you realise how connected you are. This comes with a cost – and that’s that things always change and decay. Such is life. It IS better to have loved and lost.

7. Our time on this planet is brief beyond belief. Look at some video footage of how small earth is compared to the rest of the universe. Imagine the size of you on that planet. We’re not even anything as a planet, let alone a person. And our time on this planet is short when you put it in perspective of how old the galaxy is. You’re virtually insignificant. That is, except for your nearest and dearest. They’re what is important, not whether you have the latest iphone.

8. Sometimes, you can’t do right for doing wrong.

9. If you need to tell someone to appreciate you, they’re not going to. Ever. Even if you tell them. In fact, that’s counter-productive. If you aren’t appreciated, move on. This is very true of jobs. I reckon a very good employee is appreciated for about a year.

10. Everyone IS replaceable, but everyone is unique.

11. People make mistakes. Step away from those people who keep making the same one.

12. If it looks and feels like an episode of Jeremy Kyle, steer the hell away from it. The same is true of car crashes and imploding stars.

13. Sometimes, children don’t appreciate their parents until they’re old. The lucky among us get to tell our parents just how much they mean to us.

14. Some people have very crap parents and won’t feel the same way. But I do believe, even of the worst parent, they’re doing the best they can in the best way they know how.

15. If you go around seeing the worst in everybody, it’s all you’ll ever see. 99.999% of humankind are good, helpful people who might not have you as their main priority, but who probably think like you.

16. We G8 or G20 countries are blessed beyond belief. We’ll never fully appreciate what it is like not to have to worry about where our next sip of water will come from. 1 in 5 people on the planet have that worry.

17. You can’t carry around middle-class white person G8 guilt and you can’t just keep doing charity to make up for your accident of birth. Your birth might have been an accident, but it is up to you how you use it to do the most of what you can in life.

18. Despite this, altruism is THE best gift of humanity. You might not have a lot to give away, so give the most of yourself to everyone you can.

19. Forget religion and politics and banks once in a while. Nothing is too big to fail is a very popular meme right now, but it’s true. Nobody exists right now who remembers Ghenghis Khan. Time might be a tough salve on a personal level, but on a global level, we’re very good at forgetting the worst wounds inflicted upon us by the worst men (or women)

20. If you don’t celebrate what is good in life – literature, art, theatre, music, community, singing – then you forget what mankind can do right when we put our minds to it.

21. And if you think mankind has made some terrific achievements, go and look at the world. Whatever we can do, Nature trumps, every time. Look at the stars. Look at the river. We are fascinated by these things much more than we ever are by stuff than man can do. And they’re just small stuff for Nature.

22. Don’t be cruel.

23. Especially, don’t be cruel to animals. They need us to look after them. That’s the best we can do.

24. Many animals are better than some people.

25. Everything changes. People don’t like this. It can be scary. The most miserable people are those who haven’t realised that it is the nature of mankind to change and those who try to cling on to the past.

26. Only ever look back if you want to see how far you’ve come or enjoy the past. Forget all the rubbish. It just weighs you down. Make it your life mission to only remember the good things having learned from the bad then left them behind.

27. Nothing you do is unique. Someone’s always done it before you. What’s intrepid to you is a cake walk to someone else.

28. Ask yourself ‘will this matter in 10 years time?’ and ‘will anyone even remember?’ and you’ll find, when the answer is no, that your troubles will be a little lighter.

29. Find your sanctuary in life. Sometimes that’s a person. Sometimes it’s a place or a state of mind, but keep it with you always – if only as a state of mind.

30. Don’t accuse people of stuff. Mostly, if you accuse them of a thing, it’s usually something you are doing yourself. There’s this woman I know. She’s a Jeremy Kyle show thing. But she likes to say ‘take a good look at yourself!’ when really she’d do well to apply that to herself. Know that most accusations are transference and guilt. And then let it go. People are only human and it’s not about you. It’s about them.

31. Remember in your sad times that though there are sad times, they never stay sad. Like the sun always comes out, and it does, it ALWAYS comes out, something happy will come along. It just does. That’s life.

32. And know that, when there are happy times, enjoy them, but know they won’t last. That’s life too.

33. You might lose out sometimes if you put your trust in people. But mostly you won’t. Don’t let the trustworthy out there get soured by the untrustworthy. You’ll always get back more than you put in.

34. Share. Gift. You’ll always get back more than you put in on that, too. Don’t be afraid to put your emotions and energy into people – more than they do for you. Life isn’t a balancing of books, a scratching of backs. Enjoy the giving and expect nothing. If you expect nothing back, you can’t ever be let down.

35. Whilst you shouldn’t expect or demand anything in return, if you expect people to act as you would do, mostly they will. And if they don’t, don’t concern yourself with it. Step away from the wreckage of it and just forgive them (to yourself) that they let you down. They had their reasons. Either they’ll beat themselves up more over it than you ever would have wanted them to, or they won’t give a shit. And if they didn’t give a shit about letting you down, you’re lucky they let you down because at least you saw the truth in them. They might be a minority, but there are some people out there who are twisted up beyond belief.

36. Most people don’t need you to tell them what their weaknesses are. If you need to tell them, they won’t believe you.

37. Support all the good people you know as much as you can. And then some. The more you support them, the more they’ll support you. Pay it forward.

38. Some people will go out of their way to help you. A guy in Tokyo once drove me and some other gaijin across town in his tiny car because we were lost. We only wanted directions, but that man’s magnanimity is more appreciated than he will ever know. Most people are good like that if they’ve got the ability to be.

39. Don’t bother listening to me and my lessons in life. Better people have said what I say in better ways hundreds of times over. Note to self: read more, listen more, talk less, write less. Someone, somewhere has the answer to your question, the words you need to hear.

There you go. 39 pieces of advice. I bet you already think like this already, mostly. Meh.

I think it comes down to this, for me.

Look for the light and accept the darkness. 

My year in 12 stops…

January brought mild weather, Steve and Jake’s return from England and new shoots. The new year was tetchy and difficult but I managed to get out and plant some stuff. My first shoots came up and I suddenly felt like I was in business. I waited a long time to get busy with the greenery and it was worth the wait.

First shoots of 2011

The garden was about all the solace I had that January. Sometimes, life really pulls the rug out from under you. Hopefully, this January will be a whole lot more soothing.

If I had to sum January up in ten words it would be:

things fall apart; new shoots emerge from the frozen lands

February was much less traumatic at first as the boys settled back down. But February was the month of loss. First Basil, my most beloved of animals, then Saffy, our rescue spaniel. February was pretty crap too. The only good thing about it were the snowdrops appearing and the arrival of Mr Fox and Mr Bird, our two new cats. By April, Bird had disappeared. Life is crap sometimes when you have people and animals in it who die or disappear, but it’s all the better for having had them in it.

February Fox

And if I had to sum up February in ten words, I’d say:

Winter bereavement and sadness  give way to sunshine and snowdrops

March – the best thing I can say about it is that nothing died. I started gardening hard and trying to stay on top of everything for Jasmin’s arrival. Oh the hours I worked! I dug and dug, planted and planted, pruned and chopped. The trees blossomed and life returned. My feet ached and my legs ached. I can’t believe how much stronger I am now. Now I can dig for hours, I can weed for hours. I’ve done thousands of squats and pulls and all kinds of bent over maneuvers. I never thought I’d be this strong again.

Spring returns

My March ten words would be:

Ah! Sakura! Ah, Hanami! Subarashi’ito Omoimasu! Sugoi, desu ne?!

Okay, so that’s nine, but they’re in Romanji Japanese, so I don’t care.

April was only about one thing: my Nana’s birthday. Various friends and relations descended on the area to celebrate her birthday. Unfortunately it didn’t go entirely to plan, what with my step-mum’s gall bladder playing up – on the positive side, I realised how important it is to learn words like vesicule biliaire  and to know internal organs. They never teach you those in school, do they?!

My brother Al and my lovely Nana

April went in a whirl, with my mum arriving at the beginning of the month and the rest of my family coming over towards the end. My mum and I planted potatoes and dug stuff over. We went for walks and I wished she could come and live over here all the time. My dad, step-mum, Nana, step-aunt and step-uncle, step-second-cousin, sister, brother-in-law, uncle, aunt, brother, step-brother and step-brother’s girlfriend all arrived en masse – and then we were fourteen. Amazingly, we all managed, despite gall stones and dropping to thirteen, then food poisoning and dropping to twelve… If April was anything it was:

Family and friends bring much-welcomed happiness from British shores

May is the beginning of my work year in many ways. It’s when the marking season begins. This year, I had a double whammy of marking and I got to go back to England for a few weeks. But I spent the weeks before in a harvesting and planting chaos, picking 15 kg of cherries, bagging up turnips, thinning out lettuces, picking early tomatoes and sowing lots of radishes.

May's lettuces

So if May was anything, it was this:

Much hard work, backache and red pens bring early rewards 

June was just work. Work, work, work. Whether I was in Manchester or whether I was in France, I was all about work. I pruned, weeded, tried to keep on top of things (girls are so much more hard-working than boys and nobody can deny it) as in my absence, things fell into ruin. Potato crops became sown with weeds; my pea patch disappeared in convolvulus. It was so dry we needed to water all the time. It hadn’t rained since March – and that’s a very long time. We’d long since run out of stored water. We had courgettes and tomatoes coming out of our earholes and for the first time, I made courgette flower fritters. They were okay. I can’t understand why they’re a delicacy though.

June's courgettes

June wasn’t much different from May, to be honest.

Back and forward between the rainy city and my courgettes

And July followed in the same pattern. More to-and-froing. More weeding. More heat. More sunshine. More vegetables. More tomatoes. More courgettes. More eggs.

July melon... small but delicious!

This was the month when I was spending three hours in the garden, five hours marking and trying to do everything else in between. I went back to Manchester for 10 days and it was much more peaceful than it had been the time before. I confess, I ate a lot of my sister’s toffee crisps, though.

Hopefully, that’s the last time I’ll have to to and fro with work. It might even be the last time I’m able to. You never know. When Steve and Jake go back permanently, it’s going to get a whole lot harder to up and go for a week or so. I shall rely on housesitters and dog sitters and cat sitters and chicken sitters!

If July was anything, it was this:

Melons, strawberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, tomatoes, courgettes, potatoes, peas, beans, beetroot

August saw me mostly here on my own, what with Steve and Jake being back in England. It rained, a little! I marked until the bitter end. I picked ripe pears and peaches, began to dig everything over. It’s funny to think that August marks the beginning of the end, but it was getting more autumnal. Some trees were already losing their leaves – it’s been a weird year, weather-wise. I harvested and pickled and jammed and stored and froze and dug.

When the boys got back, we went to Bordeaux for the day. I don’t feel like I need the holidays so much here – not that every day is a holiday, but it certainly seems to be a different pace. I no longer have traditional weeks and weekends, only days without clients where I do other work, like online translation or writing or marking, or days when I weed and I don’t weed. It gets easier, I tell myself this!

August pears

And August in 10 words?

Silent harvesting and some rainfall with slow Autumn moving in 

September brought Jake back to school, lots of school events and new friends. It brought an end to the riots that had plagued my home city and a bit of calm. Jake presented a wreath at the war memorial in memory of France’s war dead, from both world wars and campaigns since then in North Africa and as part of Nato and the UN. September was all about the grape harvest and all the ways I could use up our 150 vines’ worth of grapes, too. It was a last minute rampage of harvesting and I began to understand why Harvest Festival was such a big deal.

Remembrance of the war dead

September in 10 words would be:

La Rentrée, school days, motor shows and preparations for winter

October meant a trip to Galway to celebrate Mossy’s 40th birthday. It was days in pubs drinking Guinness and listening to Irish music, trips to the Galway Aquarium and birthday kebabs. It was a time when the future of us three was thrown up for challenge, and it meant plans for Steve and Jake to return to the UK in June 2012. Sometimes, doing what is right doesn’t feel very good at all. Things began to get colder here, though not as cold as it was the year before.

Autumn colours for the sumac tree

If October was anything, it was this:

Changes on the horizon as things come to an end

November was a bit more settled. Things found order again. I dug and dug and business picked up. It was the season of mushrooms and foraging and hedgerows and winter sunrises. Nothing much happens in November: there is nothing to plant, only mulching and digging over to do in the garden and it was time to batten down the hatches for winter’s arrival. I started to get all crafty, knitting and sewing, painting and drawing in preparation for Christmas. Home-made presents are the order of the day.

November sunrises

If November was anything it was this:

Nesting is always such fun when you have craft supplies

December started with sadness: our chickens were taken early morning and I felt rubbish. There was a long period of cloud, rain and darkness as the winter set in. The heavens opened and the river returned and then I began all my preparations for Christmas. It’s so important to bring a little life and light into your life in the winter months.

December wreath

December means only these ten words:

Brightly shining stars, family and gifts of love from home

Reflections on the year gone by…

Okay, so most of my tick list things from 2011 are still on the list… though I know a lot more of them will get done this year. I think there were a few things that weren’t on there that maybe should have been and a few things have been accomplished that I wasn’t expecting. I’m not going to beat myself up about the to-do list because that’s just all a bit pointless.

Tick list 2011 read:

Home

Home has to be my big one, since it’s been the focus of 2010 to get a new one!

  1. Finish painting all the ceilings in the downstairs rooms – kind of. We kind of have finished one. Mostly. 
  2. Paint the front room cream, hang pictures, get new flooring, make curtains and nets, paint window frames, put new doors on the door frames to the wash room and upstairs, make and paint new shutters, make cushions and a curtain for across the doorway, put up shoe shelves in the entrance and paper and decorate.
  3. Add work surfaces in kitchen, paint walls peach, make blue polka dot curtains, add shelves and cupboards for my panatry (sic – a word used by Danielle for a pantry, which I like so much more than pantry, so I’ve adopted it)
  4. Decorate dining room, strip floor, xenophene it, wax and polish it, make curtains, new shutters and paint window frames.
  5. Decorate my bedroom, white walls, strip and xenophene floors, put lambris up for the ceiling, make curtains and put up voile panels.
  6. Decorate Jake’s bedroom, paint walls, strip and xenophene floorboards, make curtains, new shutters and paint window frames.
  7. Secure the annex (that sounds like a Nazi war manoeuvre!) and make new shutters, sort out window frames, secure roof, xenophene floorboards and replace where needed, wallpaper, curtains (God, I’m going into about 2017 now!!)

I hasten to point out that many of these to-dos are for Steve :)

It’s been a combination of lack of funding for titivation and a distaste for French paint and lack of time due to work/garden. Oh well. It’ll get done this year, I know it. 

He’s going to be a VERY busy boy in 2011!

In all seriousness, I hope I do as much myself. I like seeing the fruits of my labour.

Outside

Less important, but we’re Englishers in France – it’s vital we live up to expectations and do up the house so that it sticks out like a sore thumb and everyone knows we’re English. If you have a nice-looking house from the outside, you are English, or you bought from an Englisher. It’s the law for Frenchers not to bother with the outside of their house unless they live in a new pavilion or they are renting it out.

  1. Check roof
  2. Put new gutters in and water butts
  3. Paint exterior walls on road side
  4. Paint the lean to windows
  5. Finish painting gate. Alright, I started it in August and this might be why I’m known as ‘Arfur’ – ‘Arfur Job’ – can’t believe I still haven’t done this one!! 
  6. Render the rest of the lean-to
  7. Paint inside walls in both lean-tos
  8. Put up shelves in lean to
  9. Sort out new polytunnel fabric.
  10. Sort out middle grass field
  11. Dig over vegetable patches – this has taken up most of the year!! 

Plants

  1. Plant peas, beans, carrots, potatoes, leeks, cabbages, melons, strawberries, herbs, onions, garlic, chillis, spinach, chard, cauliflowers, lettuces, tomatoes, gherkins, sweetcorn and so on – this was my big success. I’ve managed to get everything growing and had a very, very productive and green year, back-breaking though it has been. 
  2. Keep a garden journal of weather and temperatures and harvests and plantings – kind of. I got waylaid around May and forgot about it until September, next year, I promise to add 10% to my garden journalling!

Other stuff

  1. Get to know a whole load more about birds and nature – I don’t want a bird coming in my garden that can’t be recognised! Bird identification books are already set out by the window! the hoopoe was the highlight of the year, but I can now spot a chaffinch from a great tit, a swallow from a housemartin and a goldfinch among the blue tits! 
  2. Improve my French, bien sûr! Read 10 books in French by the end of the year (now this is sounding like The Great Gatsby and Gatsby’s list always makes me sad!) – I am no longer terrified of the telephone, can have a conversation about internet connections and have read a good few… Steve Berry, Robert Crais, Agatha Christie, Michael Connolly, Patricia Cornwall – I probably guess it might be 10?? 
  3. Go on at least three long walks a week with the dogs – not when I have men to sort out, crops to plant and harvest and so on, but in the winter seasons, when I’ve got time on my hands, the dogs have been walked a plenty… and I still get lost! 
  4. Get a couple of goats or sheep! – that’s on hold for a little til things are settled down. 
  5. Go to the Alps or to the Aquitaine coast for walks and bicycling in the summer – not yet, but maybe…
  6. Bring a little order to my chaotic life!
  7. By next November, have a freezer-full of stuff to get us through the winter – yay, I am most happy about this one! 
  8. I feel I have to have 10
  9. But I can’t think of another 3
  10. So I’m just going to have 10 numbers.
On top of that, I have built up my client list, written for a local newspaper, become a delivery girl, written three e-books, made my first euro online, worked for a translation agency, realised I didn’t want to be a journalist and eaten my first entirely home-grown meal. I’ve made jellies and jams, sorbets and ice-creams, been to Galway and knitted a-plenty! I finished my first scarf in January, my first cardigan in September, ponchos in November and now I’m on to another cardigan. I can now rib, increase, decrease and do shoulder shaping. 
Some very crappy stuff has happened, like Basil and Saffy and the Chicken Ladies dying, but on the whole, there’s been lots more good than bad. And I know next year will get even better.
Would you believe that from 2005-2008, I couldn’t even be hopeful about the future? That in itself is a big accomplishment. I have not and will never ‘beat’ bipolar disorder, but we live together fairly harmoniously. I steer away from sad stuff and listening to music that makes me ache, and this Bipolar Disorder brings me lots of creativity. I think that’s about as much as I could ask for! When a solemn man asks you what you have to live for and you can’t think of anything, that’s the worst feeling in the world. Knowing I’ve got stuff I want to do again – more than a lifetime’s worth! – that’s my biggest achievement this year. There are some people responsible for that. Their name is FAMILY and they are legion!

The stars are brightly shining…

Amid all the commercialism, it can be easy to forget the ‘real’ message of Christmas. The first and most historical is that those there Romans once they’d put aside their heathen ways were unlikely to win over the dark nations without a few parties. The most significant of those are Easter and Christmas. I know people get upset about all the bunnies and eggs at Easter, but they’re as much a part of the festival as anything: rebirth, renewal, spring. New life. And Christmas? It’s no secret the Romans married it to Saturnalia, the festival to celebrate the passing of the world from long nights and remind us at the darkest of times that the light will return.

Christmas Eve walk

For me, Christmas is about that – the returning light. When you’ve had darkness from five o’clock until nine o’clock – all those sixteen hours of darkness can seem like they’re never going to disappear. Winter hits me hard when it first arrives. I’ve got a friend who gets depressed around the middle of June because he says it’s all downhill from there. In a way, he’s right. The days darken a little every single day after that, and by bringing all this light and shiny life inside, the berries of holly, mistletoe, the evergreen pines and ivy, the baubles and the lights – we remind ourselves of the natural order of things: just as light disappears, so it returns.

It’s also about a family. Whether it’s about the holy family or about your family, for some of us, it’s the only time we have with our nearest and dearest. This year is the first in many years that my sister and her husband haven’t worked on Christmas Day – and we all struggle to make sure everyone sees someone who’s family. It reminds us of the importance of the people who we love – whether they’re a happy accident of birth or whether they’re the people we’ve found through life that bring us a lot of light and love.

My garden - Christmas morning 2011

The second thing I do is ring family. The first is open my presents. That’s natural.

Whether it was those early mornings as a child when we’d all get up to get presents out, sitting around in our pyjamas and dressing gowns, or whether it’s a little later as a grown-up opening them on my own, presents are my family’s way of showing how much we care about each other. And it’s never been about cost. Sometimes, we’ve got a lot of money. Sometimes, we’ve got none. Either way, the best gifts are those that show how much our families or friends know us and care, no matter if they cost 79p or nothing, or whether they cost £200. It’s our way of saying ‘you mean the world to me’.

My sister’s was the first I opened yesterday and I was weeping as soon as I opened it – with joy, of course. Toffee Crisps. Not really my chocolate of choice, but a real family thing – as much as Blue Ribands used to be. My sister has ALWAYS got Toffee Crisps in her fridge and it’s just this thing we have between us – me snaffling her Toffee Crisps. I might live in the land of the chocolaterie these days, but a Toffee Crisp isn’t just a Toffee Crisp – an inelegant, bright-orange, sugary treat – it’s sisterhood. There was all sorts in that hamper, and every single one of them was thoughtful. From spices that cost the earth here to instant coffee (it’s all about quality in France and do you know what? I just can’t always be bothered to brew the cafetiere… and British instant coffee might be the source of ridicule – it’s on the shelf with chicory coffee and the French see it as some terrible throwback to the war, but our instant coffee beats much of their cheap ground coffee hands down!) and Viennese biscuits and hair dye, every single thing in that box was a treasure. Yes, hair dye. Over here, it costs a small fortune and I can’t fathom why. The home dye job is about the easiest way to do something about being glamorous.

Abi's Christmas Hamper... mmmm....

My mum’s also got me laughing and smiling. How well she knows me! Wool was the first thing out – three huge, rich burgundy balls of wool and a cute cardigan pattern. That’ll keep me busy for a couple of weeks and help beat off the darkness! Some netting to keep the birds off my sweetcorn (of course, I’ll plant them their own corn!) – an Alys Fowler recommendation I’d seen in The Guardian a couple of weeks ago and thought ‘Yes!’ – and my mum just must have known, a thousand kilometers away that’s what I was thinking. A weeding pad with ‘Keep Calm and Get Weeding’ on it – oh how I love it! All kinds of knitting accoutrements – and nothing I already had. How can someone know that you are missing 6.5 mm needles and stitch holders??!

Mum's Santa Sack

My Nana doesn’t need to give me a gift at all – because she IS my gift. I phoned her and she reminds me of all things I had forgotten – how me and Abi went down to the beach on Christmas morning in Mexico and watched the sun come up over the sea, then she says we went to her room, all three of us, and sang a carol at the door. I don’t remember doing it, but it sounds like something we’d do! I do remember ringing her room and telling her she’d need to pack her suitcase and go down to reception. We were trying to prank her but I was laughing so much that as soon as she answered, all she heard was me going ‘hee-hee-hee, hee-hee-hee’ and Abi and Al laughing at me laughing. Imagine getting a phone call of someone laughing insanely and saying nothing! But my Nana had sent me some money to spend in Moulin de Tin Tin – my current favourite shop.

Yesterday, the day was bright and cold – I’d set off to my dad’s about elevenish. I make no bones about it – my dad’s roasts are a masterpiece. Cooking is my family’s way of being a family – whether it’s a slice of Mary cake or whether it’s a Sunday roast. Al was cooking for his girlfriend, her daughter, my mum and step-dad. Abi was cooking for her husband and my Nana. My dad was cooking for me and my step-mum, as well as assorted guests. We have it down pat and I would challenge you to find any family that are so kitchen-gifted. There’s never a let-down. I’ve eaten Christmas dinners at other people’s houses and they are never the same. Never. Our family’s gravy is thick and sumptuous. Our roast potatoes are crisp and fluffy and crunchy. Nobody (except my sister…) does carrots like my Nana. If I had a last meal choice, my family’s Sunday roast would be it. Dad had done scallops and bacon on a bed of rocket and salad leaves, then the standard turkey with pigs in blankets, stuffing, roast, boiled and gratin potatoes, roasted leeks, sprouts, gravy. Brenda had done her Christmas ice-cream bombe and an apple topless tart. Then cheese. All this after a mountain of aperitifs, champagne, wine, crackers, dips, nuts, cheeses, charcuterie, dried sausages, gherkins, sausage rolls, sloe gin truffles, chocolates. I’m not eating again for weeks.

My own efforts seem a little humble. I’ve made most of my presents this year, and whilst there are some I can’t put up yet because they’ve not yet reached their recipients, I’d done a set of paintings for Brenda and my dad. I thought it would be nice to do their wedding love song words on a kind of painty-collagey thing with a photo I took of their wedding rings, all in a kind of  a heart shape. I’ve also been busy with the jigsaw and the dremel and I’ve done some other stuff, but I’m not putting that up yet!

Painting I did for my dad and step-mum

My best gifts, as always are the things that no-one could put in a package – not easily anyway! My mum, dad and respective step-parents, my sister and brother-in-law, my brother, my Nana. Family are a blessing when you get a good one! I know not everyone is so lucky. My dogs and my cat – who always bring light into my life, no matter what the weather and really are the best friends you can have. And then my friends, those people who make my day a whole lot brighter even if all I do is bring them to mind. The night was star-bright last night – and you can’t put a price on that beauty. This morning, I watched the sun rise from the warmth of my little house and with all these things, I am one blessed creature!

The little lights of my life...

Outsource, outsource, outsource!

Language is as instinctive to us as breathing and pumping blood around our body. Mostly, we just do it. We don’t even really know HOW we do it, just that we do. In all the millennia we’ve been grunting and communicating, we have really only thought about the brain behind language in the last 100 years or so. Sure, we know about vocal chords and how they operate, and we know we have universal grammar and a need to speak, but how the hell all this cacophony came about is still up for debate. Stephen Pinker and Noam Chomsky offer lots of interesting theories.

Because we ‘just do it’, many people assume everyone can ‘just do it’. Not only that, they assume that they can ‘just do it’ in public and as a profession. Universities ask them to ‘just do it’ and there’s an expectation that in this age of almost-universal literacy in the UK, that everyone should be able to ‘just do it’.

Oh but it tires me to see the consequences and have people think I can ‘just do it’ and so can they!

My main bugbear right now are translated sites. French websites are APPALLING. Like, really, really bad. Kind of like websites were in the early 2000s. Hand-made. Cluttered. Clumsy. All in tiny font with nasty blue underlining for hyperlinks. Too much information and confusing layout. They look like I made them ten years ago. And I mean that as an insult. I’ve got a working knowledge of html coding, fairly basic knowledge of CSS and I can add a < B > here and there in my coding if I want to or need to.

Not only do big sites like the government sites need something doing with them, but local sites too. By and large, the internet still isn’t a way of gaining business in rural France. The English-speaking residents are in fact the pioneers in this world.

But their English is SOOOO bad it hurts my eyes. It offends my sensibilities. And I know I’m not the only one. Grocer’s apostrophes litter the text. Sentence fragments that make no sense leap off the screen and slap my face with their wanton disregard for useful grammar. Spelling mistakes scratch at my eyes and their offensive nature is as repugnant to me as fingers down a chalkboard. It’s like someone got into my brain and filled it with velvet and felt. And velvet and felt give me the creeps. I can’t touch them.

Not only that, they then go on to use a translation site for their ‘multi-lingual’ needs. I know we laugh at foreign errors in translating into English. How I laughed at the Greek menu that offered ‘spaghetti with cock’ – I’m hoping that was chicken and not some Celebrity-Junglesque nightmare. How I chortled over ‘fishes (from fishermen)’ on the same menu. How I smirked at the sign in Japan that said: “DO NOT appear to a veranda.” We applaud their desire to communicate in other languages, but we really, really wish they’d asked someone to check it over.

But we accept that Johnny Foreigner will make mistakes with their translation and we applaud their efforts. What I don’t like is that Jilly English-speaker thinks that she can put together a website, even paying for a web designer, and it’s just as gibberish. It’s unprofessional, crappy and it OFFENDS MY EYES!

It offends me that Jilly doesn’t even think of outsourcing. She just assumes she can speak English therefore she can write it and therefore every single rule of sense is automatically imprinted on her brain, a bit like Neo when someone plugs into his brain in The Matrix and he says ‘I know Kung-Fu!’ – like someone’s come along and plugged into your brain with everything you need to know about English.

Sometimes in the past, I have tentatively broached the subject with the Jillies of the world. Would you like someone to write the text for your website and make it look fabulous?

No. They’re alright, thanks.

Why not?

Is it that my meagre 0.05€ a word is too much? Would 30€ be too much to ensure your website is written in beautifully-constructed, professional English by an expert linguist?

Yes.

They’d rather butcher it themselves, thanks.

Butchery is quite a useful analogy here. To the skilled meat-cutter, be they chef or butcher, they can joint a pig, do those racks of ribs with frilly bonnets on them. They can slice steak so thin that it’s almost transparent. I do it and the plate looks like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, except not quite as elegant. But just because I can wield a knife and I’ve been cutting my own carrots since I was three does not mean I am a master butcher. No. I still cannot slice a turkey. I can kind of do two or three bits, but no more. If I de-bone a fish, it looks dreadful.

It’s not so much the money but the savagery that’s important to me. I like my language to be aesthetically pleasing. I’d like my steak to look neatly cut and my carrots to have been through a mandolin if I am in a restaurant. I don’t expect it to look like someone’s mum chopped my food up on my plate because I’m too special to manage a knife myself, thanks. I’d write them for nothing, if I could, just to make it all beautiful.

Some people write with natural talent – unpolished finesse. They write beautifully because they can, just like some people are natural artists or musicians. The rules make sense to them. Spelling is easy. The cadence and rhythm of the words comes naturally to them. Some people are great functional writers. Writing serves a greater purpose – to communicate – and they do that just fine.

But to everyone else, outsource to someone else, for God’s sake, before I end up removing my eyes because they offend me!

And know that, if you don’t, other people are casting aspersions on your professionalism. If I can tell you didn’t hire a specialist web designer or writer, so can others. And if you’re too cheap to do that, then what else are you too cheap to do? I’m not the only one to think if you buy cheap, you buy twice.

If you’re too cheap to pay for a writer for your gite website, are you too cheap to get good linen or mattresses? Will that 30€ you’ve cut from your web budget have been spent elsewhere or will there be other 30€ cost-cuttings here and there?  If you’re too cheap to pay for a writer for your restaurant website, are you too cheap to buy the good cuts of meat?

Not only that, it looks like you don’t care. Like ‘making do’ is acceptable.

Not a one of us goes into a primary business wanting to create a bad image. Few of us start off a business with a lot of money. It’s understandable why people would want to do something themselves if they can. Few of us are web designers AND marketers AND writers AND advertising blurb writers AND able to run front-of-house and behind the scenes on whatever business it is that we’re running. If we’re sole traders, it’s only us and whilst we might be experts in one thing or another – usually our main business – we don’t profess to be experts in everything.

That’s why it’s important to outsource your image. Whether that’s your website, your marketing materials, or how you present yourself, your image – like it or not – is what gets people coming to buy whatever product it is that you have on sale. People buy through recommendation and reputation after those first few have dipped their feet in.

So if you’re trying to start a new business in a new area, trying to attract new customers through adverts, websites and image, why on earth would you want to give the impression that you’re cheap and unprofessional? Marketing is the last thing you want to skimp on. If you buy images from shutterstock or hire in a professional photographer and web designer, why on earth would you do the writing yourself?

At some point, people think ‘I know I can point-and-click with this here basic digital camera, but I know I can’t take a professional-standard image… I’ll leave that to the professionals’ so why do they think ‘I know I can write with this here laptop, so therefore I must be able to create professional-standard text… I’ll do it myself’

I despair.

And just to clarify, it’s not word or grammar snobbery. It’s just sense. If I think it looks cheap, others will too. If I think it doesn’t read well, others will too. Just because I can tell you it looks like a six-year old’s writing doesn’t mean it will slip through other people’s nets. You don’t need to be a professional photographer to know a photo looks home-made, and the same is true of writing.

Bah.

End of rant.

p.s. If you have some writing you want me to polish, feel free to send it my way!

p.p.s. This isn’t intended to be me drumming up business. I market better than this!

Getting playful

I’ve always been an art lover. Art, painting, photography, making stuff – it’s second only to writing for me. Just like reading is my inspiration for words, looking at other people’s creative stuff is my inspiration for my own art. I only think I chose words because they’re easier to master. After all, I’ve only got 26 letters and a handful of punctuation to master.

Though I always knew I couldn’t make a living from being artistically creative (or an easy living, at any rate!) – I’m just not as comfortable with drawing and design as I am with words, but maybe that’s just a practical thing – it’s surprising how it’s threaded its way through my life. Ironically, I did better in Art at GCSE than I did in English. I went sensible for A level, though a large part of me wishes I’d not bothered with A level French (though it’s turned out to be fairly useful, I guess!) and only picked up A level Art when I started teaching. I did it at night school from 1996-7 and got myself a C grade. Not bad. My final piece was shit. I should have done watercolour and ink and I went for acrylic. Bah. Still, I got some nice pieces out of it and fell in love with chalks and inks – something I’d not had time for at GCSE. Considering I only did a couple of hours every week, I’m pretty pleased with that there C grade.

I picked up photography Level 3 at night school from 2003 – and this is where I found my love. It MIGHT seem quick, but if you’ve been in a dark room for 3 hours trying to get the perfect print, you’ll know how frustrating it can be too. I can work my way around Photoshop and Macromedia products, but I love the darkroom most. It’s funny. It’s part science, part art. You just can’t get a ‘perfect’ print, where you can in Photoshop. My camera was a creative tool and one I could master.

By 2004, I’d gone on to Level 4 qualifications – degree level – and it was a whole lot more complex: thermometers and push processing, part bleach, lith printing, toning, filters and apertures in the darkroom as well as on the street. I think, by the time I got to Japan, I was au fait with my apertures and filters and I pulled out some pretty nice shots. Same for Morocco.

I guess I was thinking I’d put creativity aside (aside from writing, that is!) for a couple of decades, but looking back, I haven’t at all. It’s funny that I seem to spend much more of my day creating than I used to, but only because I’m not creating in the classroom. And the last couple of weeks have been a hive of activity here. In all honesty, I can’t wait to get my darkroom set up (my Dad brought my enlarger over and so now I have ALL my kit… not only that, I have the space and the plumbing and electrics to have a permanent darkroom in the cave… it’s not wine in there, but with the wine I made last year, I think that’s for the best) and I’m going to have a ‘create space’ too. I’ve been coveting creative spaces for a while and I just can’t wait to create my own. Knitting boxes, sewing machine permanently set up, fabrics, art supplies, paints… instead of all those little boxes I have round the house, I’ll be able to put it all in one space.

I’ve hand-made all my cards this year, and I was pretty pleased with them. Some designs worked better than others.

Christmas card design
Christmas card design

I’d actually been sitting and drawing these at a street sale I was doing and a couple of people came and bought them off me, though that wasn’t what I was there to sell, so I was pretty pleased. Does it mean you’re a professional if you’ve made 4€ doing something?

I’ve also been doing pencil crayon stuff like this:

Pencil crayon Chrysanthemum

But I still think this looks more like a cabbage than a Japanese mum… oh well…

Still, photography remains my main medium, though I’m getting much more into others. I thought I’d put a few of my favourites up, because they’re a part of my life I’ve loved – mainly because I got to do several things, create, play and also meet people.

One of my favourite candid shots in Morocco. I loved these ladies!
Ancient car in Cuba

You can’t imagine how much I played around with this shot! I did once part-bleach it, post-production, then gold tint it then copper tone it. It turned out amazing. I wonder where that is now??!

Whether it’s B&W (some of my favourites) of the Sahara, of Tokyo, of Morocco, of Havana, of Manchester, of Paris, whether it’s colour of Brazil or Cuba or Kyoto, or whether it’s just sheer playfulness (like this next one…) I love playing and creating.

This is pure play. No photoshop. I printed the image from a colour neg of a grotesque in Notre Dame, then reverse printed it (you have no idea how much science there is involved in exposing all that right!) then sandwiched some acetate in there with some carefully chosen words from Baudelaire (over whose grave the Notre Dame looks – ish – ) from Flowers of Good and Evil to convey the terrors of the city. He’s pretty cool!

Today has been much more basic. This year, I’ve made Christmas gifts for my mum & stepdad, my dad & step-mum, my sister & brother-in-law, Jake & Steve… a few people have shop-bought presents, but I would have made more if I’d got my creative vein earlier in the year. Unfortunately, when you’re out toiling in the sun, there’s not so much time for sitting about getting playful, so I’m enjoying the darkness.

This morning, I lit a fire early – Steve tends to do them late in the day and the house is warm at night. I prefer them in the day and let them die out by eight. Might as well. I’m off to bed soon! I need a lot of sleep in these dark days. I got the glue out, the varnish, a few things to do. I’m not posting pictures until after all gifts have been received – don’t want to spoil them – but I’m definitely enjoying getting my fingers sticky again!

Oh the things I can do…

I’ve dropped Man and Boy off at the airport. Hopefully they have winged their way Liverpool-side and I have two weeks of … quiet… Aaahh!

Things I can do. In no particular order.

  • a naked dance. I’m not going to because no more than 10 cm squared of my flesh is exposed at any one time from now until March, but I could do, if I wanted to.
  • listen to the KIIIIINGS very loud. Whoo-hoo-hoo.
  • Get even more baubles out.
  • Eat cake for breakfast. I could do this before, but it seems such an inappropriate lesson for a child to learn.
  • Dance with the dogs. I do this anyway and Stephen laughs. A Lot.
  • Watch girlie things. Glee is on download and I DO NOT CARE if you think that is funny for me to do because I’d quite like to see Dr Spencer Reid’s Mum being a PE teacher bitch.
  • Work at any time of the day, not just when Boy is asleep.
  • Use one plate for all meals.
  • Cycle round and round in my garden. I won’t, but I could if I wanted to.
  • Commandeer all the hot water bottles and duvets and sleep under ALL of them.
  • Eat chocolates without having to share.
  • Get anally-retentive with the housework. That’s how I roll.
  • Watch Criminal Minds again, from Start to Finish. And maybe again. Yes I know who’s done it. No I don’t care. I loves me a Penelope Garcia and a Prentiss and a JJ and a Dave and a Dr Spencer Reid and a Hotch and a Derek Morgan. And then I might watch NCIS again. Just because I can.
  • Watch me some French stuff without having to put the subtitles on for Steve.
  • Listen to Brazilian and Cuban music without feeling Stephen’s music snobbery breathing down my neck
  • Play Bing Crosby from dawn until dusk
  • Break out the festive because as Steve said yesterday, he’s a man’s-man and baubles aren’t very manly. Apparently. I think a real man’s man would be comfortable with his festive side and not be such a miserable Grinch, but there you go.
  • Go to bed at half past eight without anyone laughing at me. What’s that about??! It’s like a competition in this house to see who can see as much of the night as possible. Who wants to be awake at the time you feel all rubbish and tired??! I want more daylight!
  • Keep a clean kitchen.
  • Eat veggie food every day without anybody passing comment about lentils.

But I will miss them a little bit. I won’t miss them bickering. I won’t miss having my head pecked or being laughed at or being the butt of the joke. Give me two weeks and I might have got over my urge to make them live in the cabin at the end of the garden.

The dogs, unfortunately, already have Man and Boy sized holes in their life. Moll is unlikely to vacate Steve’s chair. Tilly spent half an hour looking for him when I drove back. I suspect long walks and a bit of girl time are needed. Besides, Moll will forget all about Steve once my dad breaks out the pork crackling for her. Poor doggies.

Much Love Monday

I didn’t have Much Love last week since the chickens were killed. Not a day for Much Love. I’m still sad about that. It wasn’t a Much Love week last week, but hopefully I can make this week into a Much Love week… I can try!

  1. I ♥ my Mum. Her birthday card for me was beautiful (I’m going to scan it later and I’m definitely framing it to keep) and I wore the gorgeous jumper she bought me all yesterday and I might wear it for the next three months. It’s SO me. Much Love for Mums because Mums like mine are brilliant. ♥
  2. I ♥ my Sister and I ♥ my new furry slipper boots. Have only taken them off to go outside.
  3. I ♥ my brother and his Christmas card to ‘French Sister’. He’s funny and I ♥ his girlfriend Lisa too. She’s got a big heart and although he likes to pretend he’s the Scarlet Pimpernel she forgives him. He better make it up to her because she’s a diamond.
  4. I ♥ my Nana because the jumper she gave me for my birthday is BEAUTIFUL.
  5. I ♥ all the people who sent me birthday wishes and loves. Just because you’re 39 doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter any more and though we shouldn’t need one day to make others feel special, at least it’s a start.
  6. I ♥ the Tilly Popper’s little snores. When you’re all alone in the dark, just knowing someone is there is always a good thing. You can’t always see them, but they’re still there. That’s the thing about families and animals. Plus, you can put a dog on a lead and keep it in your room so foxes don’t eat it which you can’t exactly do with a chicken. Well, you can, but they don’t like it. And I just hope Mr God or whatever was just looking out for some poor foxes who were starving. We’re all Mr God’s creatures. Poor Chicken Ladies.
  7. I ♥ the return of the river and the return of some sun. I feel like I’ve had 3 weeks under a blanket of gloom and I hope nobody got flooded too badly or their electricity wasn’t cut off too long.
  8. I ♥ having RSS reader deliver up stories every morning from interesting people’s blogs… It’s nice to feel like you share in something, even if you are an outsider and it’s also nice not to have to wade through the mire of misery. When will we all play nice?!
  9. I ♥ the approach of New Year. I love New Year. It feels like you get to start afresh, even though you know you can do that any time, and the nights start getting shorter, the days get longer and you can remember that it WILL warm up eventually. Plus I can start planting my seeds ♥
  10. I ♥ growing stuff and I JuSt CAN’T wAiT to get planting… Whooooo hoooo! It’s only a month and I’ll be planting like mad!