Monthly Archives: March 2014

52 Mondays #14


Bit of a grey and windy one yesterday – though warmer. The blue skies of two weeks ago seem very far away.

It is the end of March and we go into April with grey skies. No frosts though, and it feels unlikely that there will be one; even in the blue days earlier in the year, the night time temperatures did not drop that significantly.

This week is another busy one. It’s starting to get to the point where I am looking forward to the holidays and to having some time off. This is the first time in years I have felt like I need a break – yesterday was my first day off without clients for weeks and boy did I need it! No break for holidays here though until 19th April, so just need to take a deep breath and get through it! Ironically, it is my English clients in the UK who are adding substantially to my work load – it is their holidays and I have a couple of students who are desperate to cram as much in as they can. It does seem that French students are much better at balancing their workload and although the Brevet and Baccalaureate approach, they are so used to tests and evaluations that it feels much less stressful.



The crops round here are all shooting up, the rapeseed is in flower and I’m just waiting for blue skies to capture the striking yellow landscape at its best. This week, at least, it looks like a week of 98% cloud cover.

Open up your eyes

Okay, it’s a bit late. That’s what happens when you try to squash a dog walk in and your dog gets overexcited when he sees some swallows. I’m working to a tight schedule here! Anyway, the Wednesday Whoo was then a Thursday Phew and is now a Friday Yippee! with U2 and their cover of the Robert Knight soul classic Everlasting Love. 

I can’t tell you how much I love this song. And the U2 version is my favourite. It was released in 1998 and it’s got so many memories for me. My copy of the song was on a copied disc of ‘The Best of 1980-1990’ that Andy did for me – and he’d written out all of the tracks by hand. I’d listened to it over and over as the B side to All I Want is You which came out in 1989. That little 7″ single of mine got listened to over and over – and I’m surprised there are any grooves left on the B side. It still makes me ache to hear it.

Let’s face it: Bono turned out to be a bit of a smarmy, holier-than-thou, shiny-faced do-gooder after “Achtung, Baby!”  and he got a bit unbearably smug. But back in the 80s, he was still filled with all this raw emotion from time to time – I still love Sunday Bloody Sunday – nothing like a bit of a protest song from time to time. Does anyone make protest songs any more? It’s no wonder I grew up so angry.

So what else is warming the cockles of my heart this week?

Teaching Italian – ages since I did (I used to teach a GCSE Italian class about 15 years ago!) although I realised that my mouth was used to French and mangiare took a bit of getting used to. Might look similar to manger (the French for the same thing) but Italian is such a straightforward language compared to French. At least most times you can tell if something is masculine or feminine, just from the word. French – well, that’s a whole lot more intricate. But I love the feel of Italian and once you get back into speaking it, after a minute or two, it feels so smiley and lovely in your mouth. Likewise Portuguese. I love the feel of that one in my mouth. A friend of mine said it’s like speaking with a mouthful of cake. It kind of is.

But much love for being an English speaker. That’s lucky. English has fewer verb endings, fewer irregular verbs and fewer tenses than many other languages, though we often have more words. There is not a massive gap between written English and spoken English, and any formality or plural for you has long since evaporated. Talking to a French-speaking boy who has lived all his life in England and has returned for a term to live in France, he says the ‘tu’ and ‘vous’ thing is a nightmare for him and he’s always using tu instead of vous. I had a student once, an old guy who had decided to learn French and had decided, against my advice, to learn French from an English person, and he spoke always in the ‘tu’ form. It made me feel really uncomfortable when he spoke to me. I thought ‘I don’t know you… it’s like you’re invading my pronoun space!’. We don’t have those linguistic bothers in English. In fact, Italian is much more straightforward over this as well. The French are much more formal than the Italians or the Spanish. Nobody uses the polite form with me in those languages. That’s at least one reason to celebrate speaking English.

So enjoy the words you speak today. Savour flibbertigibbet and flabbergasted and funky, moist and marvellous and gusset. Run rampant with regionalisms, quirks and oddities. Life is always much nicer when we have joyous words to roll around our mouths!


52 Mondays #13


Can you believe it is a quarter of the way through the year? It feels like it has flown by. I wish time would slow down a bit, or else I could make a clone of myself. It is definitely spring here right now – and the trees are in blossom everywhere. Right now, it is sloe blossom, and everything is white around here. The water has finally receded in my garden and the gardening year can begin in full. It is time to rake seedbeds, to plant seeds outside. My lean-to is filled with tender babies who will stay inside until the risk of frost is long gone, but I can get on with other things outside that don’t mind the occasional cold night.

IMG_0522The peaches have blossomed. The plums are beginning to flower. I noticed yesterday that my quince and pear are heavy with buds as well.

IMG_0545The forsythia is now well past its best.

As I open my shutters in the morning, this is the view that greets me.

IMG_0556The week is returning to more typical spring-like weather here – more up and down, more rain, more showers. That is okay with me. As long as the sun comes back eventually.

This week is a mad, busy week. I have new clients starting on Mondays and Tuesdays, and GCSE panic has set in for a couple of my UK-based students whose mock exam results weren’t as good as they wanted. This week will mark the peak of my number of lessons. Luckily, I finished my writing projects and tasks this weekend and so all I have to do is get through til next Saturday evening. Next week is less hectic. Or, it seems so at first glance. I have also my first meeting as a newly-elected member of the ‘bureau’ for Les Dames de FER, as I am now membership secretary and this entails a few more weekly tasks. It feels funny to be still marketing right in among the most busy of my weeks – last Friday I managed to stop in on a ‘virtual’ showcasing set up by a couple of local ladies – and it really was a hive of activity. Less Dames de FER (Iron ladies, if you will), more Dames de FAIRE (ladies who ‘do’) or even Dames d’Affaires (ladies of business). Between bureau meetings, lessons, deliveries, planting, writing, dog walking and generally trying to find a little space for me, I think it is forecast to be the busiest week of my year so far. I think Saturday will come round very quickly indeed.

Twilight Old Dogs’ Home

I’m just going to issue a warning. This is an unashamedly doggie post. I promise not to do one for a while. Feel free to grab a hankie if you are of a sensitive disposition as far as animals are concerned. I’m sure it can’t just be me sitting at the computer having a few tears every time a video pops up of some rottie being rescued in Detroit, or a pack of dogs who have been rescued in Mexico City. This one, at least, is a little closer to home.

A couple of years ago, I read about an old dogs’ home here in France, and I’ve been following their website and Facebook page ever since. The premise of this old dogs’ home – Twilight – is that they would take in abandoned, orphaned, handicapped or otherwise needy dogs from the refuges around the region, and they would give them homes. And boy, is there a need. Last Monday, for example, Nadine, the refuge directrice brought over a shitszu that had been given up. Her owner had gone into an old people’s home herself and there was nowhere for the little poppet to go. She was 14 years old, has a tumour on her stomach, has claws like Fu Manchu, teeth like a row of broken gravestones. Imagine spending your 14 years sitting on the lap of an old lady, and then in your own twilight years, you are torn apart under the cruellest of circumstances. And this is just one example. There are far too many old dogs who come in to the refuge and who just can’t cope.

Angoulême also has a no-euthanasia policy. Other refuges are not so keen on keeping old dogs alive. You might think that is kinder, and I guess, if there were nothing ahead but months and months of waiting and months and months of distress, it might be. Luckily, there are plenty of people who love old dogs. However, that doesn’t stop some refuges having what can only be described as a trigger-happy euthanasia policy.

Nanny Mac is one recent example of a dog snatched from imminent euthanasia and then, following a short foster placement, finding a very loving home.


This is Nanny Mac after her long trip to her new home.

So Twilight was devised by Mike and Leeanne as a way to take the dogs from those refuges having trouble rehoming old dogs, or with a trigger-happy euthanasia policy. And I have been wanting to visit for as long as I can remember. So when I finally got the chance on Thursday, well, neither hell nor high water could have kept me from it.

My friend Jane has the tears of joy record. She cried before she got in through the door. I lasted until I saw Stevie, an Australian collie. Then I was in the kitchen with blind old Stevie, weeping into his coat and giving him the most massive of petting sessions. Stevie is like a celebrity to me – have followed his story and to actually meet him was like meeting a celebrity.

IMG_0630But you don’t get far before you find another dog who melts your heart. They have twenty six at the moment, all living in the downstairs bit of their home, complete with dog beds, dog settees, dog cushions, dog spaces and bags and bags of love. 

Some dogs are filled with energy. In fact, there are two younger dogs here, Fleur and Jacob, who had been abused and then adopted by Mike and Leeanne. There are old dogs with plenty of life left in them like lovely Rex…

IMG_0574And there are dogs like Nana, who is deaf and blind. She gets up once in a while, has a pee, gets into another bed and goes back to sleep again. 

IMG_0632There are, of course, plenty of spaniels to break my heart. Like William, who is ten. 

IMG_0585He is only one year older than Tilly, but he spent five years in a refuge and he is definitely lots less energetic than Tilly. He is so similar though. He just sat in his spot when we came in, ignoring all the other dogs. He moves just like she does and when you give him a rub, his back legs go just like Tilly’s do. Sad to think of what those five years in the refuge have done to him. My little menace is full of energy and she is herself a bit of a pensioner. 

IMG_0646She has Heston though, to keep her young.

There are blind dogs and deaf dogs, and dogs with three legs, like poor Emmy the hound. 

IMG_0589Emmy is lots younger than most of the other old dogs, but she was being badly bullied by the other dogs in the refuge after the operation to remove her leg. She is still a little lost and forlorn, not wanting to go outside except to do her business. There is a plan in place to see if we can release the inner Emmy, though, fear not. 

And there are dogs who have come from a long way away, like Hope. 

IMG_0572She has come all the way from Bulgaria. A month ago, it seemed like Hope had taken a turn for the worse – she has all sorts of tumours and arthritis – but this time, she sought out company in ways that almost couldn’t have been believed a month ago. She has the saddest eyes, so full of two thousand stories of hardship, which is what really makes Twilight such a place of joy – it is a warm, comfortable, happy, safe, loving place for dogs to spend their final days or months. 

And that is the last thing to say about Twilight. It is a place where dogs go to spend their days in peace – otherwise healthy dogs who are not in pain, who are not sick. They are old, they are creaky. They are sometimes suffering from diseases of old age, but they are not ready to cross the rainbow bridge just yet. But eventually, they do. And with thirty dogs of an age, that is a fairly regular event. Last year, a friend gave me a fridge magnet with Loulou the pug on it. But by the time I opened it at Christmas, she had gone. However, she spent her final days surrounded by humans and warmth and love and companionship. And that is all any of us creatures could ask for. 

I just realised as well, as I was reading this through, that I had said nothing of the two people who are responsible for all of this – Leeanne and Mike. You know those people who make you feel instantly welcome, instantly cared about, who are gentle and kind and unassuming and modest, who remind you of the best of people, not the worst? That would be them. When you know the stories of dogs who’ve been used as a football on a gypsy camp, who have been thrown from moving cars, who have been abandoned by unscrupulous puppy farm owners, who have been left in their hour of need, it is easy to become cynical about humanity. Leeanne and Mike need only to say hello and you remember there is much more good out there than bad. I’m sure it’s been said a gazillion times before, but it is very humbling to be with people like this. All your tiny grievances and petty grumbles seem so pathetic when you realise what some people do on a daily basis. They have a way of making you want to do more, of making you realise that you probably have just a little bit more you could do to help make the world a nicer place. Everyone should know people like that. 

Anyway, if you would like to support Twilight Old Dogs Home, you can donate via their website. If you live close, you can always donate cleaning fluid or things for the frequent jumble sales the association hold to raise money. 

IMG_0602Happy dogs, and Happy Emma. 








In the twinkling of an eye

Having just been St Patrick’s Day, thought we’d all like a little Irish today – a little late, but better late than never. Here’s Belfast’s own Van Morrison with Bright Side of the Road. 

I do have a very good reason for lateness. I usually write my Wednesday Whoo blog on a Tuesday night when I am in bed, but I have been getting crafty and gave myself a hand cramp. That happens. I picked up some fabric to finish off a special project I’ve been working on – maybe I’ll post some photos if I take them before I give them away. Sadly, I am usually too excited to give the badly made crafty present to its intended recipient and never end up taking photos of it. This means I forget what I’ve done, from time to time. Like the time I made a full-on wrestling outfit for a 9 year old, complete with hand-painted tattoos to match a particular Mexican wrestling favourite of the time. Gold trousers, complete with the requisite 619 and a muscle tee-shirt that I now have one terrible photo of. I should take more, I know. Or at least write down what I made and who I gave it to!

Sometimes, I get painterly. I’ve painted a good few things for friends and relations. Sometimes, I get sewwy – though usually only where children are concerned, or blinds and curtains. And sometimes I get knitty. Still haven’t quite finished my socks, as I got sidetracked by this current project. Nothing is more me than being distracted mid-project. However, the sock-off is still on. The other lady is turning the heel, so I could catch up!

I have to say, my favourite inappropriate craft gift was a clay model of my sister’s head that I did for my grandparents when I was about 13. I don’t know what happened to that. It lived for a long while on top of a bookcase at my Nana’s and then it just wasn’t there one day. Every Nana should have a clay model of her granddaughter’s head made by another granddaughter.

Anyway, I am celebrating the birthday of a special little girl today and marking the occasion by spending the day at an old dogs home. Tilly has a boyfriend called William in there – expect a lot of photographs over the next couple of days!

52 Mondays #12

52Mondays12More blue skies this week and it definitely feels like spring is here, if the evening temperatures are a little cool. A long, beautiful spring would be just perfect, thank you.

The river in my garden has finally all but disappeared, leaving nothing but sediment and smell. At the moment, it’s a powerful muddy quagmire that can easily take a Wellington boot off without any real effort. I’m sticking to the top end of the garden. I have not planted any seeds directly into the ground yet – bit foolhardy to do so when there have been frosts as late as May (last year) and I lost things to a late April frost the year before. I’m ever cautious now.

That said, most of my plant pots are full. I am sticking to my 6 seeds a day through February and March goal and the lean-to is a happy little sunspot filled with seeds and sprouting leaves and Tilly. She loves to sit right up at the top end, right in the sun, and she just lies there for as long as she feels she is not needed. It’s her favourite sunny spot.

Today is a busy day – fabric to buy for my next projects – and then walkies down at the refuge. Milord, my favourite, is in the process of being adopted, and I really hope it works out. Sadly, one of my favourites died in his sleep last week – he was only tentatively named as he was subject to a court case. He had been starved, chained to a radiator, and it was just too much. This photo was taken when I first walked him in February, when he arrived.

bacchus2He was a lovely, gentle giant – huge – but as you can see from the photo, he was very thin. Barely two weeks later and he died. I don’t have words for people who would willingly do a thing like this to an animal. That’s some of the sad news for the week. I’ve got a visit planned to a very special place later in the week – have been waiting and waiting to go – and then I promise I’ll give it a rest with the doggy goings on. Definitely the kind of place that restores your faith in humanity.

Hopefully, your skies are just as blue as mine today.



Love in small doses

This week, somebody suggested I was an unfeeling soul for being able to volunteer at the refuge without coming home with a dog a trip. It actually made me quite sad that they thought that way. But I do understand it. I think it’s most people’s biggest fear if they volunteer at an animal refuge – that they will come home with an animal they don’t really want, just because some beagle turned on the puppy dog eyes, or some lab cross rolled on its back to have its tummy tickled.

When I thought about it, it reminded me that once, long ago, a guy I knew in another life said I would never have my own animals – they’d always be found ones. I don’t know why he thought that, or how he knew. He was right though. I wonder if I have always been this way?

And then I thought about the fact that many people end up choosing careers where they take on something for a short period of time, care as best they can, then have to let go – be they teachers or nurses, psychologists or child minders. And I think people who choose careers like this are actually well prepared for working in a refuge.

It’s a bit like a GCSE class. You get thrown this motley assortment of hormonal teenagers. There are odd-bods, nervy ones, weird ones, angry ones, aggressive ones, sweet ones and sad ones. You see them two or three hours a week. And you build up this bizarre but incredible relationship over two years. You see them succeed. You see them fail. You see them implode from time to time, and you see them explode rather more frequently. At first, you don’t know their names, especially if they are new to you, but the ones with personality soon make their presence felt. Over the first few weeks, you work out which ones are easy to connect to, and then you work out which ones are ten kinds of trouble and need very firm boundaries. But, by and large, you come to love them all.

The sad ones are the toughest, as they are often quiet and subdued. There are children with all kinds of backgrounds that you can’t comprehend. But when you make a connection to them, if you manage to, it’s amazing. These are the troubled ones you remember the most. The ones that you end up wishing you could give a better life to, or at least a glance into the future to know that things will be okay.

The thing is, though, you have to let go. You have to take a breath as they come to the end of their time with you, and you let them go. You know that in all likelihood, you’ll not see most of them again. You know that even though they are all very special to you, they aren’t your children. And you get good at letting them go. Well, you get used to it. I don’t think there are many times I’ve not seen my fifth year leavers and had a little cry because they’re not mine any more. If you’re lucky, they give you presents. If you’re good at what you do, they leave with results that will take them into the future. And you are happy they are successful.

Walking refuge dogs is a bit like that. You know they aren’t yours. You build up this bond in a short period of time, but you know (or you hope) that it is a finite bond and that they will soon leave you. You don’t know them by name at first – just the unusual ones – but soon you know them. Their success is a joy for you. And soon, you get to know them. You know which ones are headstrong and which ones are jokers. You know which ones are depressed and which ones need a bit of support. You want to spend all your time with the lovelies, but know you need to spend your time with the tough ones. You know which ones will be successful and which ones are going to struggle beyond the institution.

But this reminds me of my first week on teaching practice. We spent a week in a primary school – just to see what was going on there. I was in a primary right behind the mostly derelict Park Hill estate in Sheffield. This expansive Brutalist block of flats towered over everything and to say it was depressing was an understatement. Deprivation and poverty everywhere. I was in with the seven-year-old students all week. I knew then that I could never be a primary school teacher because I’d end up wanting to take every single child home with me. 25 hours of time with 30 students all year, and those bonds would be impossible to break. I’d be smuggling them out in my pockets.

That and primary school children are like a herd of cats. Perhaps not so cunning. A herd of guinea pigs.

At secondary level, you only see students for three to four hours in core subjects. That’s enough time to get to know them, but not enough time to either want to commit an act of murder, or want to take them home. Even so, you still get the odd one who you form this heart-wrenching bond with, and it can be very difficult to let go. Sometimes, you go above and beyond your usual role just to help them out or give them a hand. In my first GCSE class, there was a boy called Matt. He was in with all these crazy lunatics – old habits of giving ‘sink’ classes to new teachers, I’m afraid. I loved all those crazy lunatics by the end of the course (and I can still remember who sat where, and the funny little stories they used to tell me) but Matt was different. He was quiet, respectful, hard-working. He was every teacher’s dream student. And because it took all my time to get all the other Anthonys and Phils and Dawns to pull in the same direction, I never got any time with Matt. I ended up giving him and a couple of other willing volunteers extra classes after school (years before league tables – now everyone is expected to teach after-hours crammer revision classes in English!!) Matt got a C, went to Preston College and now he is a computer engineer. God love him.

And you get refuge dogs like that – the ones that you could easily walk two hours without a pull or a problem. Happy dogs, happy to be with you.

But then you get the ones that are a little tougher. In my first class, alongside my lovely Matt, there was another Matt. He was absent a lot, tall, looked like he was about 27, not 14. He’d been arrested a couple of times on drugs charges and was threatened with young offenders centres. In spite of all this, he was smart and fragile and he reminded me a lot of guys I knew. Sure, he was hard to handle. Many people would just have written him off as a lost cause.

But teachers of teenagers are often (not always!) believers in St Jude, patron saint of lost causes. And whether league tables forbid you from writing difficult teenagers off, or whether you are driven by some inner instinct to do your very best by them in that short time you have, secondary school teachers are often very good at doing that – giving as much as you can (and then a bit) and then letting go when it’s time. It’s your job.

It’s probably why I enjoy walking the dogs – and it’s fair to say I have been doing as much as I can recently. It’s been a welcome distraction, and as a big-hearted lady said yesterday, dogs can’t say anything offensive to you or upset you. It’s true. In that, they differ from teenagers. But you can only do your best. You can give what you can. And yes, there are those who break your heart for a million different reasons, but at the same time, you know you’re just sharing in these creatures’ lives for a little, be they teenagers or other animals.

Will there be dogs that I want to bring home?


Will there be dogs who make me sad they are here?

Of course.

You just have to have faith that they find a future, that their future makes up in some small way for having had a period without a family of their own in their lives, that you can make a difference, even if it is only a little one.

This is my current love. He is called Milord (really!) and he is just gorgeous. Nervous, too distressed to walk. Just wants loves and cuddles.

p1200416The good thing is that dogs are often quickly rehomed. The bad thing is that often they are the cute, clean, little ones. Big black dog syndrome is a massive problem. Sad to think that nervous, neurotic, barky Heston would probably be at the SPA for years rather than weeks.

If you’d like a big pony, can I recommend Iko?

1899911_10203139665229803_2143283914_nLovely big fella. Did an all four feet off the ground jump for joy when I got him out of his crate on Monday. You’d think that would be scary, but it isn’t.

There are plenty of rehomings as well.

Yesterday, I saw that Haribo, a gorgeous collie, Cooky, Vicky and Galaxie have been rehomed. Haribo came in on the 30th January. That makes it a grand total of 41 days at the refuge.

img_4911A friend and I walked Galaxie when she was in the fourrières (the pound for strays) which is also based on the same site as the refuge. Dogs must stay here for a period of time whilst chips and tattoos are investigated, and owners are sought. If they aren’t claimed in the requisite time, they pass into the refuge to be rehomed. Galaxie came in on the 21st of February, making her stay one of 21 days.

But then there are dogs like Gecko and Darex, beautiful, beautiful dogs, cursed with the big black dog label. Gecko has been in the refuge for most of his life.

gecko10Still, that’s not to say they don’t find homes. Recently, Flavio, a dog who’d been in the refuge for most of his four years, found a home. I confess I wept with joy when I read that he’d been rehomed. That’s how it often goes – they leave without fanfare and without fuss. One day you’re walking them (I walked Haribo last Friday for the fourth time) and the next, there’s a new dog in their place. No leavers do for dogs in the refuge, I’m afraid.

Anyway, if you have got a spare couple of hours and you can get past your thoughts that you’d just want to bring all the dogs home, pop down to your local refuge. I can only speak for the refuge in Mornac when I say the dogs are happy to see you, and there might be a lot of barking, but hey, that’s what dogs do. You’ve got to take a deep breath and look past the circumstances that hold them back, only see what they can become and how you can help them do that. And then when you have days like today, you look on the website and you see familiar faces who have been rehomed, as I have today, it really does make the world feel like a whole lot brighter place.

If you are interested in any of the dogs at the Refuge de l’Angoumois in Angoulême, feel free to contact the refuge directly. I won’t be sad if a few dogs are missing next week because they’ve got new homes. I promise.


Just to find you some words

Need a bit of a musical boost to get you through the mid-week blues? Here’s Deacon Blue with an 80s classic, Real Gone Kid.

Following last Wednesday’s Wales focus, thought I’d travel around those politically-charged British Isles with a Scottish band, but I got carried away remembering photo booths and how much fun we used to have in them. Selfies of the past.

I think it probably all started for me around the same time as Deacon Blue hit the charts – 1986 or so. You’d tear them up and share them out – and there was a very well-used photo booth in the bus interchange where we seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time after school, just hanging about.


This is me and my good friend Emma. You can tell this is 1986 or 1987 as we have discovered eyeliner. That’s me with the gigantic eyebrows on the left. I don’t know why my eyebrows are quite so enormous. Nobody in my family  has gigantic eyebrows. I’d put money on the fact I was doing ‘closed mouth’ smiling because I had braces.


It was obviously a thing we did when waiting for buses. This one was after a headbangers’ ball in Bolton. We were waiting for the last bus back to Bury. My friend Danny is on the top right – he died in 1992 and sometimes it’s hard to think that it is 22 years this April since he died – he has now been dead longer than he lived. I can still hear his voice though. I wonder what happened to all the other fragments of moments that we tore up (you can see the rip in the bottom one!) and I wonder if other people have got boxes of photos of selfies from the past, cut up segments of a life they once had?

In fact, the more faded, the more torn, the more wonderful those photo booth pictures are. Selfies just aren’t the same. Not many of us had cameras back then, so photos are few and far between. It makes them more treasured though if you ask me. Now everyone has their phone out at all times, and that’s a good thing because it helps you keep hold of the past in ways we couldn’t do back then – not easily anyway. Some events come back easily to memory – especially from this point onwards – but I wish I could capture them as easily as I can now. I don’t think you can ever have enough photographs

Let’s have a Wednesday Whoo for photographs – an art invented to capture a moment and help us oldies remember our youth!

52 Mondays #11

52Mondays11A week of blue skies, sunshine and temperatures of 20°C – spring is definitely here. I’ve even been able to get out beyond the courtyard to start a little work out there – though I still have a river garden. I’ve cut back 30 vines this week – though the sap is already rising. A bit hard to do the main vines as their feet are still in water. Give it until the end of the week and I’m sure it will have disappeared underground once more.

Yesterday I was a busy lady – spring cleaning and dog walking and errands. It was so hot I was down to tee-shirts for dog walking. Today, more in the garden, more outside and hopefully a little bit of good news to bring you tomorrow. Feels like I’ve gone from a meander to crazy full-time flow again. Let’s just hope that last year’s feeble spring is a ghost of the past and there is a spring that brings me cherries and blossom and an end to my winter wardrobe. I live in hope. Can’t believe it’s already the second Monday in March! Last night, I had a lesson sitting on the beautiful terrace of a new client – and what a beautiful, beautiful evening it was. Teaching in my tee-shirt overlooking the soft hills of the Charente as the sun sets – work doesn’t get much better than that, does it?


Feeling the moment slip away

Last Saturday was St David’s Day, so I’m having an appropriately Welsh Wednesday Whoo today with Feeder and Feeling The Moment.

Wales is always that country I end up explaining in English lessons because my French students don’t really know where it is or anything about it. I have a particularly great postcard of the Welsh rugby union team that I like to bring to my lessons about Wales, and couple that with the arguably the best flag in the world, Wales really does rock. Let’s have a bit of Wednesday from the valleys today…

The second coolest flag, by the way, is Albania…

It’s always the little countries with the big hearts that have the best flags. The Union Jack is so ‘meh’ and even the England St George cross is a bit ‘meh’.

Number three favourite flag would be Brazil, I think. I am a fan of unusual flags. You always know where you are when there is an unusual flag. I think you’ll agree that if you had a dragon on your national flag, you’d feel a bit more fiery of a morning.

So what else is there to love about Wales? Well, what is there not to love? The words, for a start. I had a Welsh-speaking boyfriend once who thought it hilarious to make me say Welsh town names and Welsh words. It’s not an easy language to get your mouth around. Other than that, Welsh stuff is definitely the kind of stuff to make you feel a little brighter midweek. Like my favourite book about Wales, On The Black Hill by Bruce Chatwin. It’s kind of set on the border between England and Wales, but it’s very Welsh. It’s not got much of a plot to speak of, but it is a favourite of mine. Favourite Welsh bands would probably be the Manic Street Preachers or Feeder though there is a special place in my heart for Velvet Underground frontman John Cale. Wales is known for its choirs and choral singing, though that’s not so much my cup of tea. And my favourite Welsh poet? Owen Sheers. No contest.

However, there is a very lovely Welsh Dragon of whom I am particularly fond, our own Curly Sue. She twerked me in church and that’s all I need to say about this lady. That and she did it for pure devilment and also to cheer me up. A Sue Twerk is the best way to put a whoo in your day. You probably might also need to know that she does amazing and great things, cares hugely about all kinds of creatures, is at risk of being the person who gets locked in the cat refuge at night and always convinces me to take another couple of dogs out when we go on our usual walks at the refuge. She also has exceptionally good taste in both men and music. She likes gardening and books and she hates the word moist. She reminds me a little of me. Loving the Sue.

Anyway, Happy Hump Day to you. The week is all downhill from here. Enjoy!