Monthly Archives: April 2012

What’s a girl to do when it’s raining?

I’m busily planning a little perennial garden – there was not much here by way of flowers when we arrived – a few dahlias, a few daffodil bulbs in the poly tunnel, a drift of snowdrops in the winter. There are a few self-seeded honesty plants here and there, and a couple of shrubs that flower, but by and large, it’s either green, a tree or functional. Or the dandelion lawn. Madame clearly wasn’t too fussed by anything floral.

I’m of a different ilk. Sure it can all be function, but a garden is a thing of beauty, a treasure. For me here, it’s a huge outdoor room and I want it to be amazing. I spend most of the day out there in the summer, and I like it to be beautiful as well as functional. Sure, there’s a place for vegetables and fruit and herbs, but there has to be a place for a few flowers too. When you’ve got an acre of land, not everything has to be purposeful.

It might be wet today, but it’s been a very dry year overall and unless you can keep things watered, it’s hell on earth to keep things alive. Most of my recuperated water goes on the vegetables, but I tend to use a lot of grey water for the plants. I don’t like using grey water on things I’m going to eat, like tomatoes. I just don’t like the idea of my shampoo suds or soap suds helping my tomatoes grow. However, the grey water seems to be just fine for the plants – last year’s hollyhocks near the washing machine outlet were phenomenal triffids – obviously a bit of dirt and suds didn’t hurt them any.

We don’t have very much used water that’s not grey – other than the toilet. The bath ends up underneath a peach tree. The sink and bidet, who knows where. At least it’s very environmentally friendly. See. Everything comes full circle. Soon we’ll all be using chamber pots and digging holes like we did in the past. Madame probably did a sensible thing, not getting a fantastic septic tank. I know a couple of villages near me that have recently had mains plumbing installed – I wonder if it will ever happen here? I know every President since Mitterand has been saying they’re going to get France on mains plumbing by this or that date as part of their election campaign. It seems a bit far away for me. And when it comes? If it comes? I might only connect up the toilet and keep recuperating the rest for my garden!

So, despite the dryness, I’m planning a bit of a flowerbed with some perennials and annuals in there. I’ve done a pinterest board of stuff that’s either in the vegetable plot or starting off in pots for the flower garden.

As to what’s going – or gone – where in the garden…

Plot 1 is the big plot that was potatoes last year. Now it’s beans, peas and turnips at the moment. I’ve alternated every three rows and left a space for tomatoes and corn. I’m doing a square of corn this year and covering it from the birds, who demolished it last year. This year, I’m wise. I’m sitting there with Noireau and a shotgun. Woe betide a bird who eats my corn.

Plot 2 is the little plot that was just tomatoes last year. This year, it’s just potatoes.

I bought a pack of Sirtema potatoes. I have three rows of these in in the very back plot. These are  ‘half-precocious’ potatoes, so they should be ready in 110-130 days. That’s around 27th July onwards. The Sirtema potatoes are good for mash, oven and in stews. They take longer to fill out and have a flesh that crumbles. In the back plot, I’ve also planted two rows of Charlotte potatoes. I bought twice as many Charlottes – 3 kg – they’re also half-precocious and will be ready about the same time. I need to plant another patch of them in over the next week. These hold their shape better, so they’re perfect for salads, frying or chopping and frying up as rissoles.

Plot 3 was a mixture of tomatoes, corn, courgettes and beans last year. This year, it’s root crops – carrots, onions, beetroot. My parsnips will also go in that plot, as will the lettuces too.

Plot 4 is the big plot. This year, it’s going to be mostly tomatoes with some other bits and pieces thrown in, like courgettes, peppers and aubergines. It’s the Italian garden.

Plot 5 will be more potatoes and then rows of cabbage. Last year, it was peas and tomatoes. I think this covers all my vegetable delights!

Unbelievably, I could still do with another vegetable plot. I’ve probably got a good 60 m² of vegetables, and it’s not enough.


Top Ten Tuesday

Today it’s films. This is hard. I like films, and there are a lot I liked to watch once but wouldn’t watch again, even though they were good. And the ones I’ve seen numerous times, like Grease and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure are ones that are throwbacks to a very young me and aren’t really what I’d class to be ‘great films’.

So I’m going to get them out of the way first – the ten films I’ve watched over and over again. I make no apologies that these are from my teenage years, on the whole, and they date me. I don’t care.

1. The Lost Boys. I watched this over and over. I know all the words. It’s like Twilight but with vampires who were dangerous and not wet. Robert Pattinson does nothing for me. Kiefer Sutherland was one naughty vampire with great fashion sense. So I thought then. Dianne Wiest always plays a great mum, and she always reminds me a bit of my mum. Corey Haim was classic. His hysteria, his ‘fashion sense’, his one liners. His reaction to his brother’s vampiric state: “You wait til Mom finds out, bud…” – genius.

But then I know most of the film inside out.  Maggots, Michael. You’re eating maggots. How do they taste? This is only one of the lines from the film that have made it into my day-to-day discussions. I can’t eat noodles or rice without quoting David. That must make me very annoying indeed. All this, though, and a bloody good soundtrack. Echo and the Bunnymen’s rendition of People are Strange is very, very good indeed. It’d be in my top ten covers.

I watched this at the old Mayfair cinema in Whitefield – and I’ll even hazard a guess there was some impromptu snogging on the back row.

2. The Outsiders. This movie is a who’s who of Brat Pack acting. Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Tom Cruise, Emilio Estevez, Ralph Macchio, Matt Dillon. I know all of this inside out as well. I always cry when Johnny Cade dies and I always cry when Matt Dillon goes loco.  I even read Gone with the Wind and Robert Frost after this. That’s what this movie did. It introduced me to the delights of Vivien Leigh. I think all teenagers should watch it. It’s a great movie, even if it is old. My favourite moment as a teacher (and there are many) was when I overheard two little lovely but semi-literate hooligans whispering ‘if you were in this book, would you be a Greaser or a Soc?’ to each other. They both agreed they’d be Greasers. That’s why I loved those boys. That and the bit when I was reading and I started getting a wobbly voice, one of them said, in a very manly voice: ‘would you like me to take over the reading, Miss?’

Boys, even Greasers, are lovely, mostly.

3. Grease

It’s funny that so much stuff from the early eighties is a throwback to the late 50s and early 60s. And Grease is one of those things. When I was 8, I was in Mr Parkes’ class. He read us ‘Danny the Champion of the World’ and let us put our heads on the desk to listen to him. He had two pictures, one of John Travolta and one of Olivia Newton-John. He was cool and therefore those images were cool too. And there’s just no way that Grease is ever uncool. John Travolta might be old and fat now, but he was utterly adorable as Danny. There’s never been a Danny like him. It’s another movie where I know most of the words, all of the songs, and it’s great that Jake can play it on the bass guitar. I think he loves Grease too. And Danny when he’s doing Greased Lightning. Oh. I would. I so would.

And from Frenchie to Marty Maraschino (what a great name!) to Jan and Rizzo, those Pink Ladies were the business. They were so cool, in fact, that we all dressed up as the Pink Ladies for my sister’s hen do.

4. Silence of the Lambs. Has ever a film been so mis-quoted, or so quoted? Can anybody eat fava beans? Can anyone drink a chianti without making some joke about it? Still, it’s genius. Jodie Foster is great and Anthony Hopkins, the crazy gentlemanly psychopath serial killer. Why not? I just wish they hadn’t messed with the ending of Hannibal. Is it really so unbelievable that Clarice would be attracted to Hannibal? And these two just get in the way of the rest of the plot. I only have say ‘roomy!’ now, or ‘it puts the lotion in the basket or else it gets the hose again’… it’s quintessential craziness. And as part of my gothic literature course in 1992, I got to study this marvellous book alongside Iain Banks’ The Wasp Factory. Now that’s a genius bit of craziness too.

5. Strange Brew. You’re either in this cult classic fan club or else you’ve never seen it. It’s pure genius. I love it because it’s a pastiche of Hamlet and they’re two odd Rosencrantzes and Guildernsterns. I love it because of the jokes. I love it for the steam roller moment and I love it for the Omega Man beginning. I love it for the line ‘you can’t split pleas… two bowls of split pleas to go…’ and Doug when he’s talking about going to prison. Bob asks him where he’ll be… ‘In the cafeteria, selling smokes’. And the line ‘if I didn’t have puke breath, I’d kiss you.’

In fact, there are too many very, very funny lines in this. I love it because the coolest people in the world know about this film and it’s so unknown. It’s probably got all the jokes in that Bill and Ted stole. And then it still had a few for Wayne’s World. If there are two goofy men, it’s probably just a pastiche of this film. Plus, I have a small crush on the Mackenzie brothers. There. I’ve said it.

6. Rebel without a Cause.

I don’t know whether it was the poster company Athena that made me love James Dean with my whole heart, or whether it was Affleck’s Palace in Manchester, but I loved him. Again, I think it was an 80s revival kind of a thing. Sal Mineo was adorable. I wore odd socks in homage to him for weeks. But it was James who won my heart. I’ve got about 10 or so biographies about him. Yes, I was that little teenage girl who loved a boy who’d gone off the rails. Story of my life.

7. The Breakfast Club. I think it’s one of those questions all girls should have to answer… were you a Molly Ringwald or an Ally Sheedy? Miss Popular or Miss Weird? I was of the Ally Sheedy variety – down to the dark hair, the long fringe and the black clothes. And the boys all split up pretty well, too. Were you a jock, an outsider or a nerd? This is teen angst at its best and its worst. Unlike the film, though, we knew that even a detention couldn’t break the social barriers between the jocks and the nerds, the Miss Populars and the Miss Individuals. I don’t think I ever fell out of love with Molly Ringwald’s boots in this film. Most teenagers don’t feel very good about themselves, and this film isn’t your typical teenage despair film. They all leave that room happy, having got one up on the teacher, and even though you know, come Monday, that things will be back to normal, it’s still nice for a little while.

8. Pretty in Pink.  You know, I know and she knows that she should have gone for Duckie. Biggest love-gone-wrong story ever. I’ve never been an Andrew McCarthy fan. He’s too drippy, ordinary and fey for my liking. Duckie, though. Oh. How I love strange boys in tight trousers. I like that Pretty in Pink was called Rose Bonbon in French. I also loved Iona’s record shop, Trax, which is an epic kind of record shop. I’d have loved to have worked there. I don’t think I consciously modelled myself on Iona, but I feel more and more like her as I grow older. I’ve got three John Hughes movies on this list, and it’s no surprise. I don’t think a director/producer had such a track record with teen movies as he did – genius.

9. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off… because what girl didn’t want a boyfriend like Ferris? Sometimes, I deliberately channel the economics teacher who always asks his unresponsive class ‘Anyone? Anyone?’ before answering the question himself. Plus, Ferris is fun. And cute. I’d have liked to have had a boyfriend like Ferris.

10. 10 things I Hate About You. Favourite Shakespeare Play + Julia Stiles + Heath Ledger + I want you to want me. Genius.

Now, don’t beat me for the fact these are all American. I could have added Maurice and I cried buckets and buckets when I watched this at the Cornerhouse as a little 14 year old. Love’s still love, no matter who the lovers are. I thought it was one of the saddest stories I’d ever read, and then ever seen. Mostly, English film seemed to be in the Merchant&Ivory camp or like Kes. I’d also make no excuses for having Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure on there – as that’s as much a part of my growing up as The Lost Boys. Grosse Pointe Blank would be on there too, no doubt. This is definitely not a list of great films, just a list of films I’ve seen many, many times – mainly because I was too young to know better! Then there are films like Thelma and Louise which I’ve also watched lots of times, too. Far too may to pick just ten! And then Pump Up The Volume. 

Defying the laws of gravity

Today’s feel-good Monday song is Queen. Few bands make me feel as good as Queen do. What I like best is the wonder of Freddie’s flamboyant vocals and style compared with Brian May – who’s really one of those geeky guys who spend most of their time in their library or in their bedroom practising guitar and never playing. It’s almost like a science to him.

And my favourite Monday song from Queen?

Don’t Stop Me Now

It’s like a shot of Cuban expresso followed by a full-fat coke and a packet of Haribo sours. When I used to run a lot, I’d set this as my ipod track for about the end of the second hour, when I used to hit ‘the wall’. How did I ever run for two hours? I must have been bonkers! I got to the point where an hour didn’t seem very long at all and it just wasn’t enough. It used to give me great pleasure to just stick my ipod on and run – start off with some quick beats to get me going and then end up with some power tracks to push me through the wall. I used to feel like I could run for ever when I was listening to this track.

I could have, as well.

It was when I stopped that it all started hurting. Endorphins are great. Our body’s own opium to get you through pain. That’s why the running felt great and it didn’t feel so good after. It started with creaking Achilles’ tendons, then aching feet. Those first few steps when I’d get out of bed, I’d hobble around like an old lady – whether I’d been running the day before or not. I went to my doctor first. I’d explained the problem and then he said I’d got something called plantar fasciitis – the thing that holds the muscle and skin to the bone was aggravated on my feet. I got a podiatrist appointment with the NHS. He told me a) running was banned and b) I was to lose a third of my body weight. I weighed nine stone, so that would have been three stone, pushing me into severe anorexia. I’ve been seven stone and I was extremely ill. I was proud of being nine stone. It was a lot of muscle tissue. I’d started at eight stone when I started training, and I was still in the same dress sizes, just a stone heavier. No flab on me. Thunder thighs!

I cried for three days. No running. Then I realised the podiatrist was ridiculous.

I went to my trusted physio. He’s the only physio Freddie (Andrew Flintoff) will have, and the man is an absolute genius. I’d come back from Japan one time in absolute agony. I’d done the Nagano marathon course – mostly hilly terrain and one of the most demanding I’d done. It took me about three hours thirty – one of my longer marathon times – and then I’d spent four days walking everywhere in Tokyo. By the time it came to fifteen hours of sitting down for the return flight, I was in pieces. I got back and went straight to the physio – my hip flexors felt like they’d been tightened and would not release.

“Lie on your front,” he bossed me. Physios are the only people who ever get to boss me.

“But it’s my hip flexors.”

“Just lie on your front.” He started getting out the ultrasound and the heat lamp.

“My hip flexors are here…” I pointed, petulantly, to the aching part. Maybe I really thought he didn’t know where hip flexors were. Seven years of training and the man doesn’t know where hip flexors are.

“Do as you’re told.”

I did.

Twenty minutes later, I popped off that table like he’d given me new hip flexors. It was seriously like Jesus curing the lame. In fact, maybe Jesus was a physio. I tend to exaggerate, but I had been a cripple when I walked in, and twenty minutes later, I was walking, running even. Turned out it was a trapped nerve round my spine. He was the one responsible for getting a ‘malingering’ footballer back onto the pitch when no other physio could. Same problem.

So Much Love to that physio.

Anyway, he set me up with a great podiatrist who gave me orthotics and I continued to run for another two years. The man was David Beckham’s podiatrist when he was at Manchester United, and the hundred quid I paid for those orthotics was among the best one hundred quid I ever spent.

Two years later, not even physios can sort out stress fractures in feet. Only 18 months off my feet could do that. Unfortunately, I piled on the weight. Yes, running an hour a day for 4 days a week, and having a three hour run both weekend days – not such a good idea for legs, or for metabolism. And my feet still hurt. I walk like a grandma when I’ve been sitting down for a while, and I still can’t wear heels.

Anyway, Queen remind me of those fab days running out towards Horwich, days of sunshine and spring, of feeling A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.

Here’s my Much Love Monday Poem – it’s Edna St Vincent Millay – a precocious poet who’s one of my favourites for writing gushy, emotional poetry. Only the young write like this. She’s gets emotion though. Anyone who’s known death or heartbreak will feel this poem!

Sonnet II

Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side,
And last year’s leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year’s bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide

There are a hundred places where I fear
To go,—so with his memory they brim
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face
I say, “There is no memory of him here!”
And so stand stricken, so remembering him!

Edna St. Vincent Millay
Sometimes I feel a bit like this. I found a page of plants I’d written down, a list of shrubs. When I opened it up full, I’d written it on the back of something Andy had written – these unexpected found words always bring me to tears – if only for the sadness of a young life that is no more. I’d rather find a hundred a day than find none, though.
This is from an art journal I found online. It’s so beautiful. I need to start art journaling. It’s right up my street!

Delusions of grandeur

Now from time to time, newspaper articles catch my eye. I’d not even cottoned on to the whole Samantha Brick thing even though I was aware of it floating around the ether. She’s a kind of non-entity journalist who sometimes writes features for newspapers. I don’t want to call her a journalist on account of the fact she doesn’t seem to do much but fluff pieces and it’s offensive to my real journalist friends who really write to call her a journalist. She’d written an article for the Daily Mail (who I now refuse to call the Daily Fail on account of they seem to do extraordinarily well at getting people to visit their site) about how women hate her because she’s beautiful.

It was a non-starter of an article.

Then she was on Good Morning – a kind of magazine-style programme in the UK – and something else caught my eye. Besides the fact she’s kind of ordinary and she has what I’ll call ‘British teeth’ and have done.

It was the fact that my bezzie from high school was sitting besides her. This is not news to me. Emma Kenny has been a regular television feature for the last five years or so and makes regular appearances.

I was wondering what Emma’s stance would be. For one, she’s pretty. I wondered if she thought women hate her because she’s pretty. I’d like to clarify, she’s always been prettier than me. Well, mostly. I know her too well to say ‘always’ because I’ve seen her with a very heavy cold and I’ve also seen her after a jog. Me done up compared to her after a jog, I’d hold my own. Maybe.

You can see it here.

Now Emma doesn’t exactly trash her, and neither does Ruth, or even Eamonn, but you can see they find it a bit amusing. Mrs Brick isn’t really all that. And to be honest, with the 10 minutes of this I’ve seen, I’d have to concur that a) Mrs Brick is pretty arrogant and b) she’s quite deluded and c) these two things might – might! – mean that women tend not to like her very much.

Emma does look like she’s been air-brushed. She’s amazingly beautiful. She’s also very individual and has her own hang-ups.

It did make me laugh over what Samantha Brick thinks qualify as things that mean she’s attractive.

1. Men buy her champagne.

Now, I have a confession. A couple of years ago, I went on holiday with three lovely ladies, Dottie, Anne and Wendy. We went to Spain. Not a one of us is a real looker, though I love these ladies very, very dearly. Mostly, we make our own entertainment. One particular night, we were discussing opening a ‘house of corrections’ for men who would pay for discipline. Dot is a widow in her fifties. She was going to be a dominatrix. Anne is a divorcée in her forties. She was going to be Madame something-or-other. Wendy was going to run the school room, I think. Essentially, we had a whole scenario going. We were in a world of our own, howling with laughter, crying with the thought of this dominatrix parlour. And a Belgian man (he might have had a wife too!) sent over a bottle of champagne. He said we deserved it because we’d entertained him and his missus so very thoroughly.

Now we are all wonderful women, but what makes us amazing is how we laughed and how at ease we are with ourselves. And yes, I’ve had champagne. I’ve had men thrust numbers in my hand – again when I was out with a friend and we were in a world of our own. From time to time, I’ve come across mean women. But I don’t think they were jealous of me. Mostly, they were just mean. I’ve come across mean men, too. Sometimes, people are mean.

But if you’re a nice person, even mean people might be nice to you, even if you’re pretty. Mostly, people are nice to me and it’s mainly because I’m nice to them, I think. It’s not because I’m ugly.

2. She’s never been a bridesmaid.

I’ve been a bridesmaid. Does this mean I’m ugly too? But then Jo and Ruth, who are two of the most gorgeous women I know have been bridesmaids. Does this mean they’re ugly? Or does it just mean they have female friends or sisters or people who value making them part of a big day?

3. She got free champagne on the plane.

I had free peanuts once.

4. She thinks anyone who is mean to her is mean because she’s beautiful. It’s a great, delusional belief, because how do you disprove it? People dislike me – I’m pretty – they dislike me because I’m pretty. It’s not a very logical assumption.

Sometimes, people dislike me – I’m from Manchester. People dislike me because I’m from Manchester. Also illogical. There aren’t many people I dislike because of where they’re from. To be honest, the scouse accent drives me mental, but only the plastic scouser version, and more to do with the type of ‘racaille’ who puts on that voice rather than the real scouse tones of someone funny and scouse, like John Bishop. Although, it is true I sometimes like people because of where they’re from. I usually automatically like people from the North East of England. Having said that, I can’t stand Michelle ‘chicken stu’ Bass and I don’t like her voice either.

I eat cauliflower. People dislike me. They dislike me because I eat cauliflower. It just makes no sense, this kind of thinking.

As you can see, I find all of her ideas rubbish.

And I totally agree with Emma. I would. She took me to Leicester to stay with her sister and we had a cool time.

But I think of the women I know, and mostly they’re beautiful because they’re fabulous and modest and wonderful and dedicated and loyal and trustworthy and honest. Not because they look like Kate Middleton.

In fact, Kate Middleton is a case in hand. Fairly ordinary with some good stylists, make up artists and a hairdresser. But she’s beautiful – definitely holds her own against those considered beautiful by the fashion industry or the movie industry. And the most beautiful women I know are utterly radiant. They almost sparkle. Yet, on paper, they are ‘ordinary’. Whatever beauty is, it’s not what Samantha Brick is. And it’s definitely what Emma and Ruth, the presenter, have.

But I think of the girls I went to school with – fabulous women who live in New Zealand, Dubai, France, the USA, Canada, or those who’ve stayed nearer to home. Artists, architects, lawyers, television presenters, daytime television bosses, actresses, singers – and, more importantly, amazing at whatever they do, whether they are mums, wives, sisters or daughters. Some of these women are absolutely stunning looking – some having grown out of puppy fat and glasses for the full Pygmalion experience. Some of us are quirky and a bit weird looking. But mostly, we’re very, very fabulous and I feel lucky to count myself among them. Emma Kenny is only one example of how fabulous and confident we are. And all of us are beautiful – not a mealy-mouthed, bitter, nasty sourpuss among us – no matter what has happened.

And looking at Samantha Brick on that couch with all of her pathetic reasons for what happens to the beautiful, well, sweetie, they happen to ordinary women too. They happen because a truly beautiful woman is confident, not arrogant, is unaware of just how beautiful she really is, not telling people she’s beautiful when in reality, she’s really rather ordinary. And the most beautiful women hide scars of all sorts, big scars and big hurts and big hang-ups. There were two beautiful women in that studio, and she wasn’t one of them.

A very wise man once said to me: “Do you expect everyone to like you?”

“Yes,” I said.

He smiled.

“Do you like everybody?”

“No,” beginning to get his point and smiling.

He didn’t need to say any more. Sometimes people don’t like other people. There are things that press their buttons and set them off. I have a button that gets pressed every time I see a manipulative woman doing the ‘I’m so helpless and hurt, I can’t live without you’ act to a man. I find it difficult to get beyond this and wonder why she’s doing it. Unfortunately, it’s very effective at getting men to do what you want and I find it difficult to excuse any ugly behaviour where a woman lies about personal tragedy such as rape or cancer just to get a man to love her. That’s possibly my only button and I find it very ugly behaviour indeed, especially when I know of many fine, fine women touched by these sadnesses who appear to sail over it like a swan, all the panic and sadness and tears and anger beneath the surface. I don’t like these women. They might be pretty – ironically, they often are – but I don’t dislike them because they’re prettier than me or thinner than me or younger than me – it’s nothing that superficial. I dislike them because they’re just ugly people and because I’m of the ‘get over it!’ mentality, knowing that millions of people survive terrible, terrible events without turning all nasty and bitter inside. Indeed, it usually makes them more beautiful, if anything.

Lucky for me, I’m surrounded by women who are truly amazing, utterly beautiful and absolutely wonderful. That’s years of considered collection going on, but also the joy of knowing MOST women are like this. And most men too.

What’s new pussycat?

In this amazing and glorious weather we’ve had in the last couple of weeks, we’ve got a lot done outside. I even mowed the grass for the first time since last year. I know I did it a lot earlier last year, and my grass REALLY REALLY needed it, but the rotavator has been hogging all the petrol, I was busy last week and Steve was painting the house. I’m leaving off posting a picture of his painting until it’s all done, mainly because it looks kind of worse, being half done, than it did before. It’s looking wonderful, though. It looks like a brand new house. Amazing what a lick of paint can do. At 8.99€ a tub for a giant-sized tub of paint, it’s a bargain as well. Hopefully, it won’t all wash off or something.

We’ve even got trees growing paintbrushes!

I have repotted a lot of our plants on, and I’ve even done something a little cute with some cheap terracotta pots. I’ve painted them with black gloss paint, then added ‘Yokoso!’, ‘Welkom’ and ‘Bienvenido’ – though Jake asked a) if I didn’t know any words in English and then b) asked if I’d forgotten how to spell welcome. Bah.

Hopefully, give it a couple of weeks and this will start to have some plants in. I’ve planted a whole load of yellow and white plants in it – think it will look mighty fine! I’ve gone for short, bright, colourful things – a mixture of various different marigolds in yellows – to be honest, I might make a bigger series – this was a 28″, 22″ and 14″ series. Given that the pots themselves are less than 2€ each, it’s not an expensive way to decorate. I’d totally stolen the idea from Diggerslist

which of course looks a lot smarter than mine on account of the fact that their plants have grown already. I confess I looked at the picture and then did it my way. The next one I do, I’m going to run a piece of pipe down through the holes so that it’s a bit more stable. They’ve also got a lovely red door and I’ve got cement bricks. Oh well. Steve’s painting will no doubt get round to rendering these bricks, or, at the very least, painting them. And then it will look pretty too. I’d not done ‘Home Sweet Home’ because I like to be a bit more original and not COMPLETELY steal someone’s idea. I love the gloss paint, though. I did all my lettering by hand. I really, really, really want a Cameo stencil cutting machine. I guess I could make my own stencils with OHT sheets and a stanley knife, but I’m too impatient and too lazy to do things properly.

I’d done Yokoso! first and then thought about German and Italian, but then that accidentally looks like I’m welcoming people to some kind of Axis powers summit, so I’d gone for Dutch and Spanish. Steve thinks it’s amusing I’ve tucked them away behind the gates but I don’t want anyone to steal my treasures and also, if it’s only me that sees them, so be it. I might do some for outside the house though, since he’s done such a good job of tidying it up. I thought about doing Kanji lettering, but my Japanese handwriting is not good and it’d look rubbish, so romanji it is. You wouldn’t believe how many languages I went through to get to these. If I do another, I might do an ‘England/Gaelic/Welsh version’ with Welcome-Failte-Croese on it, though that might make people think I know Welsh and Gaelic, though I do not. An Irishman once taught me to ask how to go to the toilet in Gaelic, and I can say Llanfairpwllgwyngyll-gogerychwyrndrobwll-llantysiliogogogoch after a summer holiday in Anglesey with the Ellisons. Japanese is easy after you’ve mastered Llanfair.

In the garden, the beans and peas are almost ready to be staked. Potatoes should be in by now, but Steve’s been too busy to rotavate another time, so I’ll be either digging the plots over (not much of a chore anyway) or planting them anyway. I still hold by the Good Friday planting – it’s a reason not to plant until Friday, anyway!

The propagator is still in full-time use – I guess it will be until the weather heats up properly. It’s a marvel. Whatever goes in pops into life. It takes away all those will they?/won’t they? moments when I wonder what will come up. At the moment, it’s gloriosa in there, as well as some passionfruit – not been too successful – and some Super Marmande. Given that temperatures are due to dip, I’m glad I’ve not planted any tomatoes outside yet.

Since I’ve finally given up Madame Verity’s tresor, I feel I can share with you my joyous vide-grenier find:

If the truth be told, I’d sprayed it with degreasant and it has come up like new, which is a shame. I liked it tatty and unloved. I love the whole cheesy ‘Bromance’ picture, those nasty, nasty suits, the cheesy faces, the lilac suit, the hairy-hands-guy, the tie-pin, the fact it says La Vérité (I think I’m going to rename Verity ‘La Vérité’) – she needs a La in front of her name for when she’s being flamboyant, like I do when I am La Lee. For 1€, it was a worthwhile find. It was in return for this little grannified tea-pot she bought me:

I think this ‘tit-for-tat’ (or ‘tatt-for-tatt’) vide-grenier game needs to stop before we end up with a house full of ‘treasures’ and have to do our own sale, hoping that there might be some ladies out there doing a similar thing as us who will take the whole lot off our hands.

I’m not safe at vide-greniers. I’m still regretting not having bought those Nana Mouskouri LPs. Who’s to say when I’ll see them again?

Probably the next vide-grenier I go to, in all honesty…

Have a lovely Wednesday, all!

Top Ten Handsome Men

Now here’s a list that takes me right back to my teen years. I should mention I kept very detailed lists of who I liked. It changed quite regularly and I had the most huge crush on Axl Rose from Guns N Roses. It was the snake hips. As soon as he got a moustache and looked red-necky, I went off him. Skinny men with big hair and make-up. That’s where I was as a teenager. It’s no wonder I’m confused.

Anyway, I’m probably not going to atone for my previous sins with this post. And no doubt, if you asked me next week, I’d find a completely different set of men handsome. I like how my tastes have changed as I’ve grown up. That’s good. You can’t keep liking skinny men with big hair and make-up unless you want to fancy Russell Brand. And I just don’t, funny as he is. Noel Fielding. Now there’s a fanciable man.

I digress.

1. Always number 1 in my heart is Sean Bean. I can forgive him his terrible accents (I’d have had to have switched the sound off on Missing if he hadn’t died in the first two minutes… Sean does not do accents. Cf Patriot Games if you don’t believe me. p.s. I was alarmed to find that when I did a little search for Sean Bean the first ‘complete’ Google phrase was ‘Sean Bean Death’ – which alarmed me a great deal, so I clicked on it and it took me to a youtube clip where he dies 21 times. He’s good at dying, obviously. Not so good at accents, but hey ho. I saw him as Macbeth in Ed Hall’s version – wow. Handsome, manly, rugged, well-cut, Northern accent, near enough to touch (I was on the third row) and wearing naught but black leather pants. If a man can carry off leather pants, that man is Sean.

2. Keanu Reeves. Just because. No, he can’t act. No, he can’t do accents either. But he is pretty. And Keanu as Johnny Utah in Point Break. Wow. Like I listened to a word he was saying. He’s not very good at growing beards or moustaches, though. He needs to stop that.

3. Jim Caviezel. Never did a man look so uncomfortable smiling. If Jesus looked like Jim Caviezel, I’d be surprised that all the disciples weren’t women or men who appreciate a razor-sharp cheekbone.

4. John Cusack. Quirky, handsome, funny, sharp. Yes. What’s not to like, there?

5. Christian Bale. I had a three-letter discussion with my teenage penpal Paul about Christian Bale, who had pipped Paul at the post for the role in Empire of the Sun. We were both of the opinion he was a boy who would go far and Paul was a little too old for the part. Plus, he was doomed to have a life in the theatre and to do endless tours. I realised this is quite a fun life when I accidentally propositioned comic actor Tony Bell who’d been playing Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream by telling him he had a marvellous appendage. He gave me his phone number and Yasmin and I ended up partying the night away in the Press Club with the cast of A Winter’s Tale a couple of season’s later. That was when I was La Lee, living a life that seems so far away from mine now – where you just might blag your way into a club with a group of theatre actors for a dance. I was wearing a Jackie-Kennedyesque orange suit that one of my students said made me look like a giant smartie. It’s no wonder I could disco til three in the morning and then turn up at work four hours later – sober as a judge and wondering if I’d really just spent the night with the cast of my favourite repertoire company. Anyway, I digress. Christian Bale. A very handsome man.

6. Matthew McConaughey. If solely for the fact he was in How to Lose a Guy in 10 days which was brilliant – and not a film I thought I’d enjoy, but loved anyway. I watched it four times on my way back from Brazil. It was either that or watch Colin Farrell shouting in a phone-box.

7. Matt Dillon. Ever since he was Dallas Winston, I’ve loved him. I loved him with long hair in Over the Edge. I even loved him with big teeth in There’s Something About Mary. 

8. Robert Downey Jr. Even though he’s crazy and often a naughty boy, he’s still lovely.

9. Ben Cohen. Because rugby men are often very, very handsome.

10. Mark Cueto – because, like I said, rugby men are very, very handsome, especially if they’re backs and wingers.

I make no apologies for this being a girlie blog post. I am a girl. But if you’re a girl and you are in need of a little something easy on the eye, maybe these handsome men will give your day a lift!


Smile at the rising sun…

I’ve run out of Monday songs. It was bound to happen.

So, I’ve decided to go with the most cheerful songs I can find to give you a lift on a Monday Morning, so you can feel that Much Love Monday vibe.

Today, it’s my favourite happy song of all, Three Little Birds. Damn that Will Smith for nearly ruining it in I am Legend. I hate movies where dogs die, even though you know it’s not real. In fact, it’s not just dogs. To me, Chucky is not a horror film, Bambi, however… never even get past the opening scenes. Charlotte’s Web? God no. Even though Wilbur is saved, it’s torture. Just torture. And Watership Down? I’m still traumatised. Just the first few notes of Bright Eyes get me all teary.

Anyway, here’s Bob Marley for you:

If Bob Marley’s words don’t make you feel better, when they can make the last man on earth – surrounded by zombies – feel better, then there’s no hope for you.

So what am I Much Loving?

Loving the sunshine. Méteo France say it might snow. I say Bah. I’m not planting my tomatoes out just yet, though.

Loving cute little love letters from a certain little boy to a certain little girl. Ah, that first love is the sweetest of all.

Loving our day trip out to Aubeterre-sur-Dronne yesterday. Personally, I think it’s not a patch on Brantome, which is delightful, if very touristy – but deservedly so. Aubeterre was lovely though. Brantome is SO lovely it hurts me. Aubeterre has this amazing troglodyte church in the cliff face – completely amazing. We had a picnic on the banks of the Dronne. Not loving the fact that I thought it was the first weekend in each month that is the ‘journée du patrimoine’ – heritage day when you can get in certain places for free. Turns out that’s next weekend. The first of April doesn’t count. Oh well. Dad, not so loving the church in the cave. Me, Steve and Jake, a bit more so. What was totally fabulous though was me bossing the sat nav into going past Villebois Lavalette which my Dad hadn’t seen before and is totally cool. In fact, one of the pictures on Google Earth of V-L is Steve’s. He is very impressed with himself.

Villebois-Lavalette is this fortified castle and church (and their subsequent village, down the hill a bit) on the top of a rocky promontory. It’s pretty and small and kind of a bit (well, in that it’s on a hill) like Carcassonne, though obviously not grand or magnificent.

We’d walked down past the church, which was sending its well-dressed parishioners out into the village with little bunches of a bush. I’d realised it was Palm Sunday by that point, but it still didn’t account for the hundreds of people milling about – very, very unusual for France. The covered market square was almost full and there was an actual queue. Of French people! On a Sunday! Who’d have believed it? Certainly not me. I’m not used to a busy France. In fact, when we got to Aubeterre, that was much more like it, because there was hardly a soul to be seen apart from a raft of tourists of the Belgian/Dutch/English and even Spanish persuasion.

But as soon as I saw this strange triangular biscuit, I knew instantly. It’s the cornuelle – a kind of biscuit. It’s a triangle with kind of little hundreds-and-thousands on it. I believe, and I’ve been wrong before, that it symbolises the Trinity. Or that they had some biscuit dough left and it made a good shape. I don’t know. I don’t know what the pink and white hundreds-and-thousands symbolise though. That God’s got a sweet tooth?

This photograph is not of an actual biscuit, but of a sign. They aren’t THAT big. Whilst they don’t appeal to me – I’m not a fan of aniseed – there was a queue at least thirty people deep waiting for their cornuelle. I’m not sure it’s in the spirit of Lent, eating a biscuit, but there you go.

I still haven’t got to the bottom of why the parishioners were carrying branches of a bush about. It didn’t look anything like palm. And that was the whole point of Palm Sunday. It wasn’t like Jesus went to a garden centre and took some cuttings of a nice box bush. The palms were symbolic. I don’t know what box is symbolic of. Apparently, box is used all over Europe. I’ve taken this information off Wikipedia which says ‘In Great Britain, they use pussy willow…’

Well I never.

I never had a pussy willow palm. I’ve still got one or two palm crosses and they better be made out of palm. At least a willow is a symbol of tears, maybe. A pussy willow – I’m not even sure what that’s a symbol of. I’m disappointed in Wikipedia. I normally take their word for stuff.

But besides seeing well-dressed ladies and gentlemen carrying about shrubs, and queues of people waiting for triangular biscuits, we also happened upon a car-boot sale. I’ve not had the luck to go to that many car boot sales in France. Indeed, the one I did this time last year was the first I’d been to, and the amount of outrageous tat. I was quite prepared. But the very first stall threw me.

You’ll see why from the photograph I took. I think the guy was a bit alarmed. I tried to do it sneakily, but oh my word, I had to have a picture. Just be glad I had no pennies or I’d have bought them.

Nana AND Julio… in one box. It doesn’t bear thinking about. I saw Julio’s autobiography for sale on another stall – the aptly titled Between heaven and hell. God I love France. We saw ancient tills, loads of jigsaws stuck down onto a board and then framed, several pieces of ‘art’ that – seriously – were possibly done by a child of about six. And I bought a present for my friend Verity, which I can’t post details of yet because I know she reads this sometimes and I can’t give the game away. Needless to say it cost me one euro and it SO trumps her tea-pot with the cat. Sorry Verity, but it just does. And when you see it, you’ll know why. Any car boot where you can find Julio memorabilia throughout is a boot sale for me.

Much Love to French vide greniers and bric-a-bracs, because they seem to have hoarded everything my relatives have ever thrown away. I distinctly remember, for instance, doing a nail and thread picture, where you bang some nails into a piece of board in a pattern, then wind some string or thread round it. I could have bought several of these today. Macramé plant pot hangers, strange Spanish memorabilia (I think a lot of the French also went to Spain and came back with a sombrero and a straw donkey, judging from today’s offerings). I’m sure, in among the junk and the excitingly kitsch ‘vintage’ products, there was something of great worth. I might have found it, with my one euro gift.

So, Much Love France, Much Love springtime. Much Love chaenomeles. Much Love pink shutters. Much Love cheap gorgeous storm lanterns.

Now for Pam’s Poetry Corner…

Today I’ve picked Gerard Manley Hopkins – one of my favourite poets – and one of my favourite of his poems. It’s partly because this spring has got into my soul and it’s marvellous. Spring can make me cry it’s so very, very beautiful. Not only that, but the winter is behind, the year is yet to unfold, everything is fresh and new and clean again. Everything is alert and awake. So here’s a little bit of loveliness…

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things –
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                Praise him.