Monthly Archives: February 2014

This could take all night

Today’s Wednesday Whoo comes to you with the Foo Fighters and Learning to Fly 

This video has three of my favourite things. First, the Foo Fighters and the almight Dave Grohl. Second Jack Black. Third a great tune. I love Jack Black. Nacho Libre is one of my two go-to movies for duvet days, that and Cool Runnings. You can’t beat a bit of cheesy triumph over adversity to make you feel better.

Following weeks where I have found it very hard to be appreciative of very much, it seems like spring is on its way in (thought it poured down yesterday) and the world is conspiring to send positive signs. From butterflies to rainbows, from bright yellow gorse blossom to the early blossom of the first spring trees, the world is waking up again.

IMG_0471This pair are my first reason to smile in the day, and usually my last smile at night. There is never a time I am sad to be home to see Heston waiting for me in the window and Tilly standing on the back of the sofa looking a little worried like I might not be who I seem to be. There is never a time I don’t find myself smiling to see Heston lying on his back, legs outstretched, totally relaxed, or feeling happy to find a little hot, stinky spaniel right up next to me.

This week is also a good week for me because although it is my holidays (well, reduced hours for me, if not days off!) I get to spend more time at the refuge than usual. I can’t tell you how great a feeling it is to know I am going here – it never feels like a chore. It’s like walking in to a bar filled with great creatures. The longer I am alive, the more amazing dogs seem to me. Why they don’t take the faces off the owners who beat them is my number one reason they are amazing. That they trust humans again after unspeakable tragedies is a wonder to me.

siriusThis is Sirius. Someone hacked his ear off because it was probably tattooed and could identify them. He’s a great dog. He’s the remaining one of my top five favourites from January. That gives me a great feeling of happiness too, because four of my favourite dogs have been adopted in a month – all of whom were great dogs and deserved a great home. Sirius is my current favourite. If anyone tried to chop my ear off, I’d not be so glad to see the species that did it. And yet he is a happy chap. He is ten and comes with a 600€ vet’s allowance because he’s a senior.

mayaAnd this is Maya. Maya’s story is incredibly sad. She was found in a house not far from here, having been abandoned. She was one of several animals, including goats and cats, and several dogs had already died on the premises before the gendarmes and refuge were called. She was so ill that she could not stand on her own for weeks. In order to survive, she had probably had to eat her own puppies, no doubt born in the weeks before the dogs were discovered.

This is Maya three weeks after she first arrived – you can see she is a little wobbly, but you can also see how happy she is too. From the beginning, it was touch and go – I’m not linking to the first images from the animals’ discovery because it’s very distressing, but this is Maya and her son Doudou (along with some of the other rescue animals from this same case of maltreatment) a couple of weeks after their rescue. Now she has been adopted by a refuge director and she comes to the refuge virtually every day where she wanders around freely and if you are lucky she will come over and give you a kiss. That is always the best part of my visit.

If the weather is good, my Mondays and Fridays are refuge days. You can see why I love going here. I might not be able to take all 150-odd dogs home, but I can certainly join in to make their day a little nicer. And one day, I hope to go and see no familiar faces at all. Now that would be nice.

52 Mondays #9

52Mondays9More blue skies yesterday, though rain is predicted all week. Not much sign of it warming up – still 11° most days and not much variation.

It’s been a rainbow of weeks. Rain clouds, heavens opening, then sunshine. I’ve still got the remnants of a river, though each time Heston comes back in from the garden, he smells more and more like bilgewater, so I guess the water is receding. It certainly isn’t running across the road any more, though the fields are still flooded and my garden is still under running water.

Here’s February for you

52MondaysFebruaryI love how the skies get bluer. I know there will be grey Mondays before summer finally arrives, but it is looking brighter all the time. Last year, the grey Mondays probably lasted all the way through until June.

This week I have a lighter schedule as it is the school holidays here for two weeks – a little less busy than usual and a little more time to spend preparing the house for the spring. I’d like to get a little painting done and spend an extra afternoon down at the animal refuge. Hopefully the weather will oblige. Tomorrow I’m going to pick up some more perennial seeds at the garden centre near me. I might also have a little look for a couple of shrubs to plant. We’ll see. My mission here will not be successful until I have a mountain of colour and foliage.



52 Mondays #8

It has been wet and wild here this last week, though we have only caught the tail-end of storms blowing over from the UK. It got to that point where I wondered where the sunshine had gone to and wanted just a little change of scene. Luckily, the weather obliged…

52Mondays8The path normally serves as a rainwater conduit, so the fact that it is dry says something. There is also a runoff pipe under the path which forms a stream along the bottom of this slight valley – all dry today.

Unfortunately, my garden is not so. It is still under water. My over-wintered onions, leeks and sprouts all have four or five inches of water around them, and everything is squelchy. Oh well.

I’m well on with my indoor planting – this mild weather is bringing things up easily. I can’t believe it’s so far into the year already. Time goes by so very quickly. Today I have got some more brassicas to put out – cabbage, cauliflower, kale, sprouts. I’d thought about putting some aubergines in the propagator, but I’ve pretty much convinced myself to pick up four or five plants rather than try to grow them myself from seed. They take so long to germinate and get going. What with the squelching and the mud and the water, there is not so much to be done outside. Let’s hope the rain holds off.

I’ve already taken my dogs out today (you can see them down the track in the picture… bless… The Moog and the Littlest Hobo.) The Moog, by the way, was a stupid dog in Willo The Wisp. Here is The Moog.

Tilly even runs like The Moog. Poor Tilly. She doesn’t think of much except food and bad smells.

This afternoon, I’m going to go down to the refuge and walk some of the woofers there. Hopefully, the mud alley that we usually walk along will be a little bit less moist. I have visions of being pulled along by some huge dog and sliding on my bum through all the mud. I’m pretty sure that it is an inevitability.

Hopefully, you are having a little break in the weather too.

It won’t be long

Today’s Wednesday Whoo is brought to you with the cheese-heavy chords of Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head which is kind of appropriate for lots of us suffering under the damp conditions we’ve had recently in England and France. 

So what brought me joy today? Besides one of my students who sings me her reading and a day that has been brighter and bluer than many of late, mostly I would say Facebook is that thing bringing me joy.

When you are eight years (yes!) into a romance with a social network, you know each other pretty well. You’ve found all the people you wanted to find (one of my good friends Andy from waaaaayyy back in the day was the last piece in my old friends’ collection) and you’ve managed to weed out all the people who added you because they once had your email address from the earliest days of the internet, or you once met them on holiday and shared a cocktail or two, what’s left is a happy bunch of all the people I’ve accumulated over my life, be they friends or family. To see romances and relationships, to see children and grandchildren, to see smiles and weddings, photographs of people’s happiest times, the hundreds of pictures of children and pets, the statuses that make me laugh, the jokes people post, it definitely makes my internet a much nicer place to be.

And, let’s face it, when it comes to the sad times, when you need each other the most, Facebook can be an amazing tool to connect people you can’t be with. I’m not one for text messaging any longer and to be able to have conversations with any number of people when you need to hold each other together – well – that makes life a lot easier.

I am a member of several groups (just about the right number to keep me busy and yet not steal my whole day) and it’s good that when you are trapped in, when it is raining outside, you can always find someone to hang out with, to make you laugh or smile, to have a chat with, it goes a long way to fending off isolation. I can honestly say there is no way I could live out in the sticks without Facebook (or some other social network!) to keep me busy and to keep me sane.

So thank you Facebook. You give me my friends on a daily basis and you make me feel connected even though I might be years and countries away from my friends and family.

52 Mondays #7

More rain, more gusts, more grey. Not as bad as the UK though, for which I am very grateful. Will we have frosts again this year? I’m certain of it. The likelihood of snow before spring seems to be past. And the forecast looks like rain, rain, rain. 52Mondays7Things are growing, though, no doubt about that. Everything is waterlogged though round my neck of the woods, so there is not much going on at my house, other than the river that is still running through my garden. I wonder if it will be there as long as it was last year?

I have begun planting a few things here and there in trays – I’m trying to plant 6 seeds a day through February and March. I’ve started off some tomatoes (not cherry tomatoes, which I ended up with hundreds of last year, and no fat Roma toms at all) and then the usual hardier seeds – leeks, broccoli, cauliflower, red cabbage. I’ve set off some peppers and some chilli peppers as well. Then I’ve planted some snapdragons as last year, I ended up with very few flower seeds at all. Hopefully, the weather will brighten up over the next three weeks as many of my students are off on holidays, skiing and snowboarding as it is the early spring break here. I depend on holidays to get the majority of my garden work done.

And as for my New Year’s resolutions… I have completed my January challenge. In fact, I completed it last week. It’s true to say it has taken my knitting up a notch. Five needles, two colours, a colour chart, increases and decreases and all in French… but it was worth it.

IMG_0430It even looks how it is supposed to look. I am very pleased with it! Miss Rachel, the friend who gave me the Boules de Noël book, will be the first recipient of a Christmas knitted bauble. She’s had worse things from me.

Now I am on to my February challenge. I’m knitting a pair of socks. In fact, I’m in a sock off knitting competition with a very lovely lady. You drop in to drop off and end up leaving with a challenge. I had a sock knitting lesson from a friend’s mum and I feel capable of turning a heel. Grafting the toe might be a little tougher, but I have trusty youtube to assist me.

I confess I am not super-motivated at the moment. January has been a very hard month for many of my friends and family. Today is another tough and emotional day in a series of tough and emotional days for two of my friends. I shall be spending all my day thinking of them. I only wish my love was enough to sustain them.


If I asked you would you stop me from falling?

My final Wednesday Whoo catch-up is a little dance tune called Elysium (I go crazy) which is just about as energy filled as you can probably cope with on a Friday evening.

Probably you think this is an unusual track for me, but it brings back so many memories. Around 2006, I was so into running and I’d go on huge runs – usually between 15km and 20km at the weekend, though sometimes longer. My life revolved around the gym and if somebody had found me a bed in there, I’d probably have taken it. Usually, I’d go straight after work, and sometimes before. Spin classes started at 6.30am and the last fitness classes finished at 9pm, though the gym was open til 11pm. I did love that life. Sadly, shin splints and foot pain gave way to more serious complaints.

Now this world is my gym instead.

skyOn either Monday or Friday I take the dogs for a longer walk. I can’t do it any other days because of the way my classes fall. We’ve taken to going down the new path across the basin of the river that runs through my garden. It’s a small descent then a long straight, then a small ascent, a huge descent and then a gradual ascent and it goes through woodland. It’s my favourite walk because at two points you are on top of the world, looking down over the valley. It looks a long way from one point to the other, and as we walk it, it is 4km. We don’t go direct though.

IMG_0423If I could choose any place to build a house, I would build it up here, with huge windows on all sides.

The river is still in full flow – lots of rain predicted for tomorrow – and instead of watching sweaty fat men and whip-thin muscular women do their paces on the spin bikes, I get to watch Heston and Tilly playing in the water. Both love the wet.

IMG_0411Tilly loves to wade through the water and often goes in much deeper than I’d like. I have visions of her getting swept away.

IMG_0414Heston just gallops up and down through the sodden fields and loves every minute of splashing around.

It’s a big change from that gym world I loved so much, but blue skies, heavy showers, wet dogs and vestigial rivers are what my soul was aching for all along.

gorse2And I never need high energy dance tracks to get me through, though I admit, I was flagging by the end of today’s walk!






She’s got it coming

Wednesday Whoo on a Thursday – you’d think I need it after a 12 hour day yesterday. Here’s the marvellously moustached Beatles with Get Back. 

It was a blowy, cold day yesterday and I seemed to spend the day in various stages of being cold. That’s the problems with winter skype lessons. I need to have jumping jack breaks to stop my blood running cold. I ran the gamut from phase 2 phonics (yesterday was d, g, o and c) through to GCSE English Literature. Did you know that ‘alone’, ‘lonely’ and ‘loneliness’ appear almost twenty times in Of Mice and Men and ‘happiness’ appears only once? There’s your useless fact of the day.

I think, by the time I die, I will be able to read Of Mice and Men without the book. That and Macbeth. I get echoes of Macbeth constantly. I don’t know why, of all the plays, it is this one that I have picked up the most. I must have taught The Taming of the Shrew as many times.

Today, my teaching schedule is much lighter and I’m planning on an afternoon walk as long as the weather holds up. I was going to have a bit of a snooze but old woofers and noisy parrots have other ideas, so I think it will be an early night. There is a storm warning from Meteo France – 120kph winds and buckets of rain. The river through my garden looked as if it was easing up, but I’m sure, come Saturday, it will be back where it was.

The things getting me through this cold and miserable February day are my lovely friends of course. Nothing better than living here when so many people are so caring and kind. And funny. Laughs are sometimes thin on the ground, but my ladies do me so much good, bringing me smiles and laughter and love. They even bring me roast dinners and present me with meals when I step in through the door. I hope their husbands appreciate what lucky men they are. Whether it’s big hugs down at the SPA and cake from dog lovers, ladies who send me funny knitting patterns, ladies who get all frenzied in craft shops and then give me their left-overs, or it is someone turning up with roast potatoes and a crêpe pan, or laughs with Mrs Rachel over things that boys say, I know I couldn’t live here without so many lovelies. If I didn’t have them, I’d certainly have to get back to where I once came from. I love you ladies ♥

Hazy cosmic jive

My usual Wednesday Whoo – and I’m still playing catch-up. Here’s David Bowie with Starman for you to give you a bit of a Wednesday lift.

A song from the year of my birth that reminds me of being thirteen and discovering music myself. David Bowie’s early stuff was always something that I thought my other friends weren’t quite so interested in – so it was something I usually listened to on my own. It gives me a little reminder of the thirteen-year-old me in ways that little other music does.

If yesterday was my crafty love, today is my doggie love. I’m dog sitting for a friend. By all accounts, it should be kind of complicated. Five spaces. Six dogs. One on heat. Three intact males. One old codger dog. It’s like that puzzle about the fox and the hen and the grain. Tilly has just remembered that the parrots are birds and she likes birds. More importantly, she likes to make birds fly out of bushes. So right now, she is sitting right next to the parrot cage grumbling at the parrots, who are teasing her. Heston and his brother are playing tug of war with a rubber moustache. The old codger is asleep.

Now my dogs are a lot of work. It’s lovely work involving walks and training but it’s still not the same as having a cat. However, Tilly wins hearts wherever she goes and Heston is every boy’s favourite football-playing dog. He still barks at people and she still barks if he barks, but they are definitely my dogs and mostly they know what is acceptable and what is not. When everything gets too much for me and I need a boost, I only have to look at my walking boots and Heston gets excited. Like small children, dogs are so dependent on routines that they don’t really understand those things that disrupt your equilibrium. To that end, dogs are fantastic at reminding you of your regular responsibilities. And seeing Heston leaping through the river and through the flooded fields never fails to make me forget my troubles.

On Monday, I went back to the animal refuge near me. I’d not been for a month and it was good to see that one of my favourites, Bounty, had been rehomed. To see other dogs that I have walked often is just so nice. They are so happy to see you. It was extra-nice to see so many friendly human faces, especially lovely ladies who give you big hugs and moist cake. We walked a huge boy, a Beauceron cross who was more of a horse than a dog, but he was so gentle. I walked a rottie, Eron, that Madame V and I walked a while back with Bounty, the setter. You get to know all the dogs and it’s nice to spend time with dogs who are so appreciative of you. I walked a hound, Elle, but her little friend wouldn’t come out of his kennel. I got a bit told off for only taking Elle, so I went back and coaxed her friend out – took five minutes to get him to come anywhere near me, but he was such a sweetie when I did get him out that I was very glad I did.

Anyway, today is a little quieter than yesterday and I am hoping to get some time with my own woofers on a walk this afternoon. The weather has been so unpredictable, who can tell what this afternoon will bring?

Hear me roar

Since I had a little feminine roaring the last Wednesday I needed a bit of energy to carry me through, I thought I’d carry on the theme with Joan Jett with I Hate Myself For Loving You. 

Pat Benatar might have lit the fire under my January motivation, but Ms Jett is definitely picking up the baton in the mid-winter mid-week relay race. I’ve had a bit of Joan before for my Much Love Monday (was it really only October?!)

So what has been floating my boat this week, besides rock goddesses belting out a tune?

Mostly, my craft accomplishments. Winter is made for indoor pursuits. Lacking the handsome Jim Caviezel, I’m making do with a bit of knitting. As always, it is my crafty, creative and super-supportive friends who get me through the days where I’d rather stay in bed with a book. I had a mini craft-in a couple of Mondays ago, followed by a sock-knitting tutorial that just about satisfied my need for all things woollen.

The weather has also been particularly kind so far this year despite the flooding and the swollen rivers. It has been very mild and the first winter so far in my life here in France that we haven’t had any snow. I realise now I’ve said that that it is going to snow for weeks. I blame last year’s long wet spring on my mid-January jubilation that the worst of the winter was over. I’m thirteen weeks into a new dog walking challenge and it can be hard in these wet and wild weeks. So to have not only mild weather but to be able to get out in the garden and start a few things off in the propagator has been a great thing. Nothing makes me feel so filled with life as being outside. It has been my sanctuary these last few weeks and Tilly and Heston have been on some epic walks. It certainly helps clear the cobwebs and clear my mind. Walking is definitely my yoga, just as running was all those years ago. We’re still right in the thick of the hunting season, and there seem to be more hunters this year than any other – including in places that aren’t legal to hunt in or are pointless to hunt in. Oh well. I guess I’m not the only one living in the countryside. Generally speaking, the chasseurs round these parts are polite and careful. Not the idiots shooting in the field opposite the other week, but mostly we manage to avoid each other.

I’ve picked up a couple of new lovely clients too – and it’s weird to know that so many other people around the world are suffering from the mid-week blues, knowing full well that I love my job and I’m lucky to have such great little (and not so little!) clients. Their enthusiasm is fire for my own. No wonder I can get through eight hours of teaching without wanting or needing a break. Sometimes, I miss having big classes, but I am never going to miss the politics that has infected teaching. I occasionally read blogs by teachers, or watch shows about teachers, and I know it is a limited picture, but I often despair. Where there is good teaching, it is often in spite of senior managers and politics and trends and Ofsted and inspections. Grass roots teaching – seeing children enjoying learning – that is something that most teachers went into the profession for. That’s what I have now.

Sadly, colossal cockwomble of the year 2014, François Hollande, is raising my taxes again. By this time next year, I will be paying 26% of every penny I earn over to the government. So much for austerity. Let’s face it, though, nobody comes to France to start a business and make money. Nobody looks at the taxes and the red tape and the impossibility of going from a one-person business to employing someone else to help out and then says ‘I think that looks like a goer!’ – we come here for this…

ILadyJustineAutumn5And this:

IMG_0230And maybe even this:


And as long as you don’t want the crazy sales and the easy business opportunities, you’re okay!

Anyway, long and busy day today so I had better get on with it!

52 Mondays #6

52Mondays6As you can see, the path is wet and there is a stream of sorts at the lowest part of the field. Everything is sodden here. My garden is back under water, the Bellonne river is running across the road as the conduit under the road can no longer cope with it. The Tardoire had receded a little over the weekend, but a wild and wet Saturday filled it right up again.

I’ve started to plant up a few things under glass. I was only just discussing last year’s impossibly late frost (May) which meant that, effectively, the year lost a month of summer and gained a month of spring. I had far fewer summer vegetables and often, courgettes, melons, gherkins and cucumbers just rotted on the ground in the summer storms. I had nothing but male flowers as well for weeks on end. So far, I’ve put some cauliflower and red cabbage seeds in pots under glass. I have a few tomatoes in the electric propagator – definitely looking for more plum tomatoes last year. Can’t believe I am so far behind in terms of planning, but a lot has happened these last couple of weeks and everything else in my life took a back seat.

To that end, I’m going to try to do a Wednesday catch-up Whoo tomorrow, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday too. I need some cheer!