Monthly Archives: July 2015

A wish and a prayer

It’s been too long since I had a bit of 80s glam metal to start the week off, so here’s Cinderella with Gypsy Road

You’d think that I’d have a bit of quiet in the summer when some of my students are on holiday – but it has not been that way. I’ve still got most of my students diligently working away, although the marking has finished now. With kitties and dogs coming overnight, with dog-sitting and late night dog walks, mini book sales, magazine deliveries, dog adoptions, dog viewings, website building and ambitious attempts to finish a monstrous piece of writing, I don’t think I stopped all week. It looks like it’ll be mid-August before I’ve got time to stop again.

I said last week that I was doing autumn jobs – and yesterday and today have been much cooler. Surely summer can’t be over? August hasn’t even started yet! It didn’t really reach that point where you get tired of how hot it is, or you can’t find anywhere cool. I think we’ll have temperature revivals next week though. We even had rain the last few days. I got thoroughly drenched on Friday walking Diabolo, a handsome dalmatian. Then I just got dry before the heavens opened again when I was walking Balou the boxer. I took out a couple of muddy jumpy dogs in between and I was properly filthy by the time I finished.

Yesterday there was a small book sale for the Hope Association just up the road so I took up all the refuge stuff to do a stand there. I managed to resist buying any books which is quite something; I’ve still not finished Go Set A Watchman and I don’t know if that says something about the book or something about me, or both. It’s kind of nice to catch up on characters you have loved from To Kill a Mockingbird but it definitely feels like a determined agent’s work to make a bit of cash rather than anything else. Not to say that it’s not enjoyable, but to be honest, Atticus and Calpurnia are untouchable paragons of virtue in my eyes and I’m kind of torn over seeing them turn back into mere mortals again.

I got to have a good catch up with a few people which I enjoyed very much – I always wish I had more time to do that. Still not quite long enough – since I only saw one lady at the end of the day and she’d been there all day! Two kittens went to new homes, although I didn’t take mine. They’ve been wormed now but can’t be vaccinated for another two weeks, so I don’t want to risk infection when they’ve not benefited from the whole Mum-milk package. And they are so little bother, you’d hardly notice they were here. The boy is an absolute dreamboat – he’s called Dodger. He is so placid and he just loves being petted. She’s a little more choosy. I’ve decided she’s Lady Jane (she’s grey!) and Lady for short. She was Rose at first, but she’s not a Rose, or a Rosie.


She is smaller than he is and less affectionate, a little more shy and much less sociable. He’s just a sweetheart. They’ll be ready for adoption in a couple of weeks.

dodgerThese photos are from a couple of weeks ago – my camera charger died last week and so I am temporarily without camera. This is a bad thing for the refuge since I’ve got a list of thirty dogs to photograph, but it is a good thing for me because it means I can have a bit of a break.

It’s nice to have the kitties though – my house is not well adapted for cats given the location. The road and the local wildlife are not cat friendly. Ralf wasn’t particularly trustworthy around small things either. Keeping them in foster whilst they are so small means that they can be protected from the diseases they will come into contact with at the refuge – things like typhus and coryza, infectious peritonitis and ringworm. It’s a win-win. Recently, the Charente pound set up a campaign with Fondation 30 Millions d’Amis to pay for wild cats to be trapped, sterilised, identified and released. This is a big change from the current situation, which is not good for feral cats. If they can’t be socialised, they can’t be rehomed. Other schemes exist which don’t involve identification – but an unidentified feral cat, sterilised or not, if trapped, is likely to face euthanasia. The sad fact is that trap-and-release schemes also need support for food and other health checks otherwise the feral populations face infighting, disease and even starvation. At least it stops the over-population and inter-breeding that happens though. Not a fate that awaits Lady and Dodger, luckily.

Anyhow, enjoy the delights of Tom Keifer and co. I have cleaning to do!


September’s coming soon

Today’s Mellow Monday comes with the delightful Nightswimming by R.E.M. because who doesn’t love the gorgeousness of this track?

Automatic for the People is perhaps my favourite album of 1992 – it’s the soundtrack to my first year in Sheffield and it’s one of the only tracks I can listen to on endless repeat. (Another is Badly Drawn Boy’s Silent Sigh – I just love the pianos, obviously!) John Paul Jones did the orchestral arrangements I think – nothing he ever touches is bad. It’s a tough call for best albums of that year though, since I’m pretty sure I spent the year being angry with Rage Against The Machine and Angel Dust. That’s a great album as well. They all remind me of Monty’s – this tiny club we used to go to in Bury – I think we’d got past the shiny hair and make-up of Rockworld and sunk quite happily into the grunge era that Monty’s seems to encapsulate in my mind. Those joyful years of being sixteen and seventeen with Poison and Motley Crue were long gone and R.E.M. just caught me at a time when I needed it. I still can’t listen to Everybody Hurts. 1992 was the year one of my best friends committed suicide and I cry before four notes are out. Nightswimming was the soothing I needed after the frustrated sadness. It still brings me a kind of calm.

And true to the song, it really does feel like September’s coming soon. I’m doing all my September tasks – lots of leaves coming down already and it feels like September in a weird way. It’s been so hot and dry here that a lot of plants are packing up and going home early. It’s still super-hot – we had 39°C last week on a couple of days, and Saturday was stifling, waiting for a storm that never came. This week brings a new wave of heat as well. Lots of early morning walks and stealth gardening.

The kitties are now weaned – though there are only two now. The tiny little one didn’t make it – no miracle for her. I knew she wouldn’t and I tried so hard to keep her going. She was only taking food via a syringe and although she was having 8 feeds a day and pooping and weeing normally, she wasn’t gaining weight. The vet said it’s like that sometimes. I took her on Wednesday and the vet said she wasn’t likely to make it. It makes me so sad that so many animals are destined to a short little life of misery. Caring for an oldie is fine – it’s uplifting to know they have some moments of joy with you in the last days of their life. They’ve lived. They’ve had joy, even if they ended up at the refuge for weeks, if not months or even years. You give them what you can. But the babies who are three weeks old and know nothing but hunger and misery and pain – that’s just not right at all. I suspect she just gave up trying to live. 

Amigo is very much enjoying the kittens, though I can’t tell if it’s in a ‘I’d like to eat them’ kind of way. He’s fascinated but there’s some alarming lip licking going on. Tobby kisses them all. He is such a kissy dog. He will happily lie next to Amigo of an evening and wash his head. Amigo’s not so keen, but Tobby seems happy. He’d like to wash Heston too but Heston’s not into boy-on-boy bonding. Not sure why, but Tobby is not interested in stinky Tilly at all. He’s definitely a man’s dog. He got all gooey when he met Jim last week. He even sat and gave him a paw. I don’t get that from him. Tilly and I just have nothing to offer the old bromance-seeker.

Last week was a sorting-out kind of a week and a catching-up kind of a week. This week I’ve got a few more lessons and work to do – but I’ve managed to squash in a cheeky Udemy course, since they were very kindly offering a $400 course for $10. Seemed rude not to. Never mind night swimming, I miss night school. This week will be a mostly cleaning kind of a week in between work, since I’ve not cleaned the house since before the marking started. In Bolton, that wouldn’t have mattered. Here, with four dogs and two kittens, it matters. Plus, I have about twenty favours people have asked me to do – hopefully will be able to sort those out and not feel so flipping guilty that I haven’t had time to do them. I’ve a stack of photos of dogs to process as well. Better get on with it!

Have a very mellow Monday


When I needed sunshine I got rain

Okay, so it’s a few weeks late, but better late than never… Today’s Much Love Monday comes to you with the delightful sounds of Reeves and Mortimer, with I’m a Believer. 

Nothing like the smell of Reeves and Mortimer to give you a bit of a lift. Ironically, my massive workload is coming to an end and it’s time to start on some bigger projects. That said, I’ve still got students to teach. The exam marking, which has taken up a good six week block of my life, is coming to an end and it’s just into the final tidying up stages. Now it’s time to catch up on all the things I’d put to one side for six weeks.

So what has happened in the last three months?

Mostly work. A lot of that. With two sets of cross-channel students, the brevet, the bacc, GCSEs and A levels put a lot of pressure on students and so I’ve been cramming in lessons here, there and everywhere. There’s been a lot of change as well with five of my students returning to the UK. Some of my former students are going back to go to university in the UK as well and they’ve all had phenomenal results.

Then a lot of gardening. A lot. It’s been great gardening weather on the whole and every spare moment in the garden is a pleasure even if it is work. Everything is yellow right now and it looks kind of autumnal. I pruned back the giant hebe bush that brought back such sad memories – It finished flowering much later last year and I spent a lot of time down at the end of the garden with Ralf. Sad to know that he’s not here to enjoy the garden like he used to. I’m still filling in the holes he dug but he had such a great time doing it, I didn’t have the heart to stop him. Tobby very much loves a potter and has really settled in.

IMG_1676His arthritis is still bad, but it’s manageable. He doesn’t fall and he’s much stronger. He’s gained a couple of kilos and is now at a great weight – no ribs and hips sticking out. I don’t want him to be porky – very bad for arthritis – but he didn’t have much by way of muscle tissue either, at 21kg. He wanders around all day with a toy in his mouth, never wanting anyone to play with him. He puts it down to have a wee or to eat but it’s quite usual to find toys all over the garden where he’s dropped one and picked up another somewhere else. Heston’s taken to copying him and the pair of them wander around with toys in their mouth like weird dog dummies.

I had a couple of guests as well. First there was Chops, a Newfoundland. I’d gone to the refuge to drop off some paperwork on Wednesday and saw Chops there – his proper name is Gothic but he suits Chops better. He was one of the Juillaguet 160 – 160 dogs taken from a breeder 20 miles away from the refuge. He was born three days before arrival at the refuge and once he was weaned, he found a home. Unfortunately, dogs who are part of a court case are in legal limbo and he couldn’t be adopted definitively. When his family were moving to Paris and to smaller premises, they brought Chops back. No gentle attempt to rehome him, no preparation. Just a “here’s your dog back!”

Poor Chops was so stressed that I brought him home with me. It didn’t get better either as he was rehomed with someone who called me after three weeks and asked me to rehome him as he’d chewed a slipper and chased their cats. The cat thing happened before they signed the paperwork so I guess the slipper chewing broke the camel’s back. Luckily, I found him another home with a gorgeous family and he is happy as Larry. He looks it from the photos anyway. He had a great time here and played with Heston. I think it was the first time he’d ever played in his life, but he had great fun. Gorgeous dog. I’m so glad that he’s now in a home where dogs are more important than the things they chew.


We went up to eight dogs overnight as well as it was the Hope booksale and I desperately wanted to find a home for Hoppy and Edona. These two came to the refuge looking and smelling like they’d never been cared for in their short lives. Hoppy had lost his paw, probably because of the impacted hair around his feet which had cut off the circulation to his paw. Nicky and Jocelyn cut off over a kilo of hair from each one. Whether it’s because they had to go as a pair or because Hoppy was three-footed, they didn’t shift. I hoped the booksale would find them a home. It turned out that it was the short-term foster care that made the difference and within a week, a lady came for Hoppy and Edona.

hoppy and edona

I fell completely in love with Edona. She is just the sweetest little dog. Hoppy is a sweetie too and I know everyone was in love with him, but Edona had this quiet love and took a bit of time to warm up to you, but when she did – ah! She was only here a week but I miss her. Fatal, this fostering malarky.

They’re now in the UK enjoying life, renamed Charlie and Daisy. You can always tell when people love their dogs as their dogs have names that really suit them. Hoppy is such a Charlie Dog and Edona makes a lovely Daisy. That’s like Chops. He’s Chops through and through. No wonder they’re sticking to Chops!

The garden is back under control and although I’ve not done much by way of vegetables, it’s good to know that it’s a little tamer than it was.


The big cherry on the right was a victim of last year’s storms – it had come down 25 years ago and regrown, and is putting out leaves, but it’ll need taking out completely. I’ve been putting in a couple of shade beds and next year, I’ll put in a few more. There is a fence down the midline of this photo which is about the limit of the flood water. The area is usually under shade as there are several big trees there, not least the fabulous Indian Bean tree and a huge pine.

No shade for the lovely dahlias.


This is a new bed I put in this year. I thought it got more sun than it does, so I’ll be replanting some things in here. I’ve put in a lot of perennials and some biennials. Foxgloves, rudbeckia, physalis, dianthus, echinacaea and verbena are in there at the moment. There are also a few annuals too like the scabious and the cornflowers. Hopefully there’ll be some blooming this year any how.

IMG_1713Besides work, dogs and garden, there’s been a deal of volunteer work, whether it be for Les Dames de FER, the enterprise group I’m co-president of, or for the refuge. I’m now part of the steering committee for the refuge, which is fun. We’re working on websitey stuff and as always I’m stunned by just how much time people give and how much kindness there is in the world.

And then there are walks. Always walks.


Thinking space, reflection, meditation and exercise all in one. Today, a mixed bag of work and dog-sitting, gardening and a desperate attempt to find a little time to myself to read the much-awaited Harper Lee follow-up. I’ve got 3 three-week-old kittens that are needing hand-feeding – though truth be told, two of them are fat and handsome and ready for solids. One – well, I’m still not sure she’s going to make it. She is not thriving, poor thing. The vet can’t do anything and it’s just a matter of time to see whether she survives or not. Not so ill to need to be given a helping hand to a little peace in her short life, not so well that I can put aside my worries that she won’t make it to cat-hood. I can only cross my fingers and hope for a small miracle.

We will see.