Monthly Archives: August 2015

See how big and strong I’ve grown

What better way to start the week with a little Manchester love? Here’s The Mock Turtles with Can You Dig It? They’re no Stone Roses, but still.

This is Martin Coogan, brother to Steve Coogan. Manchester does have some talent (present company excluded of course) Steve Coogan does make me laugh. He plays such a great selection of people with no self-awareness whatsoever. The Courtney Love/Steve Coogan story has to be the most unlikely coupling of celebrities ever, except for Gareth Gates and Katie Price.

Anyhow… it’s been the last week of the summer holidays here and I’ve been as busy as usual. Most of my little students are already back to lessons with me and last week was no exception. I’ve still got Sunday 13th September as my End Goal – once I get past the Les Dames de FER foire, I’ve got a bit less on the old agenda.

The new refuge website is almost ready. There has been some toil behind the scenes, let me tell you. Nobody usually ever stops to thank Sophie, the president of the refuge, but I will. A full-time job as a full-time volunteer. André, who designed the site, has also done a lot of the data transfer which saved me a job. I’d volunteered in a mad moment, thinking my summer would be quieter than it was. Luckily all I had to do was sort through the photos and try and make sure everybody had a photo and that they had a pretty one. It’s not so easy since some dogs are in foster care and have photos that are years old, but apart from that, it seems to have worked.

a vos marques
pretsAs for the other things, I’ve uploaded my book called Finding Shelter to Kindle. It can take up to 72 hours to be published, but then it is available to all. I’ll share the links here when it’s uploaded. If you can read this, you can read the book, should you so wish. I guess you might be interested if you’ve stuck with me so far. Honestly, I can’t believe I finished it but I’m also kind of excited to start the next book. To finish with the advent calendar that I did last year, without saying who was adopted, seems as good a cliffhanger as any. Between you, me and the doorpost, Tulipe is now reserved which leaves Gentil.

adopted august

There will always be Drack, who died before he could find his forever home, and so the calendar will never be completed with ‘adopted’ signs, but let’s keep our fingers crossed for Tulipe. She deserves a home. Anyway, given the way the public responded to the appeal for Bob, I could write a book about that experience! That gives me a good title for the next book: Viral Dogs. Dogs In Cyberspace. That’s only funny if you remember Pigs In Space. How bad is it that the Muppets are my greatest cultural influence?

By the way, eight of those dogs went to English-speaking homes and at least six went to homes in Northern Europe, so it was well worth doing the posts in English, German and French. I’ve already got my plans for Christmas 2015, although truth be told, the dogs we have left who have been here longer than a year are the ones who are going to be hard to home. Mind you, I thought that about this crazy lot, like Ufo with seven years at the refuge, and Usty, Tino and Edge with a whopping fifteen years between them. I will be very pleased if all my Christmas dogs find homes again for this time next year. I’ve also been charged with the calendar for 2016 for the refuge, which I’ve also got some great plans for.

I’m really hoping that the book raises some money to help me buy more camera equipment for the refuge. If nothing else, it’s not just a shameless demand for money. I did put some work in to it! I’ve got my eye on some professional backgrounds and various props, as well as a good tripod and some lighting equipment. I’ll settle for being able to buy a subscription to Picmonkey for 2016 (that’s about fifteen copies) though in reality it would probably have been more sensible to take on a hundred hours of content mill writing and put the measly earnings from that in a pot instead. If it looks grim, that’s what I’ll be doing this November instead of churning out the second in the series.

I spent a lot of the week smelling of cake as well, and not in a good way. It’s been disgustingly hot here and being stuck in a hot kitchen on Wednesday making cakes for the Charroux Literary Festival kind of took the proverbial biscuit. Worst thing about it was making seven cakes I really, really wanted to test.

Today is a planning meeting for the foire – the end is nearly in sight. When you organise something, it’s always fraught with ‘Will people come?’ so cross your fingers that we have good weather. Then I’m back to lessons.

Not a week for turning heels and watching television then. When will it be winter again? I could do with a break!

Enjoy the Mock Turtles and a bit of Manchester loveliness. Have a good one!


Perspective Pushes Through

A bit of the lovely Amy for you this Monday morning with Tears Dry On Their Own

I never hear her any more without the profound regret of a huge talent gone. I loved Back to Black. Some lives are too short. I can’t listen to Janis Joplin without the same feeling either. You’ve got to love a bit of heart and soul first thing on a Monday.

Truth is that it’s getting busier and busier, though I shall be glad to get back to a routine of lessons since my diary can’t cope with changes and alterations. I’m too old to make sense of it any more.

Last week was a bit of a mad one – trying to get the refuge website sorted out with plenty of photos. I’m kind of there. A few more and I think I’m ready. The Notorious Bob reached seven million people in the end. He’s on a trial adoption about fifteen miles away. Nobody flew in from the USA with a private jet to come and pick him up, but he certainly reached the nether edges of the globe. At the end, I started getting all the sad messages from people who had lost a dog and were convinced it was Bob. It does make you realise how hard it can be to recognise a dog from a photo in a pound. I’m sure many people look at photos of lost dogs when they are searching for their own and they end up thinking a dog is not theirs when it really is. It is tough when you are so desperate to find your dog that you wonder if he’s made his way over the channel or over the Atlantic. Stranger things have happened, I guess.

I’d picked up a book when I was on my brief UK holiday… Arne and Carlos’s ‘Knitting Scandinavian Style’ which has some amazing patterns in it. I’ve started on a pair of socks (because, yes, winter IS coming, Game of Thrones geeks)




7 colours of wool, innumerable changes of colour, complex knitting patterns, DPNs, heel turns and watch me go! I do like complex knitting. It gives me something to think about. I do about three rows a day once I’ve had my lunch – so it’ll be Christmas by the time they’re finished.

I’m also putting the finishing touches to the book I’ve been writing – hopefully I’ll have a September 1st release. It’ll be on Kindle, but you can download the Kindle app to any smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop so you’ve no excuse not to buy it.

The final preparations are also underway for the Dames de FER foire on September 13th in Condac. I’ve got a to-do list as long as my arm for that. I’ve set the 14th September as an intermittent goal post after which I can slow down a bit, but I can’t see that it’s very likely. It’s more like a milestone to pass rather than a finish line. This evening is going to be nothing but Dames-y.

Last week, there were quite a few festivities as well. Lots of lovely evenings with friends. It felt almost like a mini-break to get out and sit under umbrellas or pergolas of an evening and have a bit of company. My Friday evenings are not normally quite so lovely these days, and I had a most marvellous time, including picking up a goodie bag including this very lovely item.


Any guesses?

Nik uses it to plant strawberries, but I shudder to think of its origins. I was admiring her planter collection some time ago and she’d obviously thought she’d pass it on. At the moment, it has Marmite and Angel Delight in it. In their packets of course. Even I am not so strange as to eat Marmite and Angel Delight in one sitting. I’m very much going to miss my Tuesday lessons at their house, let me tell you.

There were storms a-plenty this weekend and one of my cypresses has lost a huge limb. A plum was uprooted as well. Today’s going to be a tidy-up job. Bloody weather. In fact, it’s as gusty today and I’m not looking forward to trying to get anything done out there. Don’t know what happened to August. To be honest, quite often it’s a catastrophe in France. I think it upsets the universal harmony when all the Parisians move out of their home and make for the coast. I blame it on them. They’re all returning northwards now so fingers crossed that September ends up better than August.

I’d better go and batten down the hatches!

Oh how I want to be free

Bit of Queen for you this morning. You can’t beat Queen if you need a Monday morning boost. Here’s my favourite cross-dressing mustached man with a vacuum cleaner for you

I most love this video because of Freddie Mercury dancing. Who doesn’t love that?!

I have to confess I don’t know what happened the last couple of weeks or so. I’ve been insanely busy as per usual. Last week was one of those weeks where you don’t seem to achieve anything. I made lots of phone calls, spent a lot of time sorting things out, but don’t feel like I got anywhere.

I say that and I’ve spent the weekend managing the notoriety of one of the refuge dogs. I did a post for Bob last Friday… and Bob went viral! Three million views, seventy five thousand shares, offers of homes from the UK to the Philippines, from Canada to Australia.

bob poster

It’s also true that Bob has now made the average number of shares to find a home skyrocket. Now I’ll have to say ‘On average, a dog needs 3000000 views and 50000 shares to find a home.’ Thanks Internet. You just made my job insanely hard.

I ran the advert together on Friday afternoon and it just seemed to take off. Forty or fifty shares by tea-time. Seventy thousand views by bedtime, and eight thousand shares. When I woke up on Saturday morning, Bob’s post had been shared over ten thousand times and he had two hundred and fifty thousand views. That just got silly. I spent all Saturday evening trying to manage the posts. He has four hundred comments!

So if you saw Bob on Facebook, or you shared him… whooooo!

It was silly that he’d been at the refuge for a month. He’s a great dog.

Admittedly, it’s not the kind of content you want to go viral. What’s the point in three million views when the vast majority are out of the country? Even though the post clearly said he was in France, I did spend a fair few minutes explaining to those people who’d not read it that he wasn’t available for adoption in Australia or Canada. Well, not easily anyhow. Plus, there must be Bobs in shelters there, I’m sure of it. And then when he was reserved, there were still loads of people sharing him. Oh well. I got what I asked for, in spades. Who moans about going viral?!

I then spent the best part of Sunday morning realising that people from all over the world were now liking my Woof Like To Meet page and I had to go through and add ‘FRANCE’ to every single photo I had up. It does say it everywhere, but even so. Then Facebook had a fit because it didn’t like me copying and pasting, or adding ‘adopted’ where appropriate and it blocked me from posting on my own profile for a few hours – which was slightly frustrating! People were trooping through all the photos on my timeline and asking who dogs were that I’d snapped in March. Oops! Nothing like a panicked clear up, is there?

That about sums up my crazy week.

I spent a lot of it on the phone trying to sort out ghosts in the machine. Orders that had gone awol. Post that hadn’t arrived. Emails that had bounced or not bounced. I suspect my hotmail account is having a meltdown, but I can’t have been the only one as I got a group email on Thursday about a meeting on Thursday night and it seems that a few people didn’t get it, or got it late. Luckily, by that point my diary chaos had left it free and we ended up chatting til the wee hours. You know it’s going to be a long one when the drinks come out after the work has been done. We’ve been working on the new refuge website. It’s going to be absolutely amazing. I’m just crying at the length of the list of the photos that need redoing over the next couple of weeks before the site goes live. The Hope Association have just bought some fancy new gear for the refuge that I can’t wait to trial once I get all the other bits as well.

Some of my time was just faff time. Like the fact that my car has had a fault light on since last week and although I’m fairly sure that the good people of my lovely local garage have fixed what’s causing it, the fault light is still on. I’m pretty happy that they got what they should have (or that they would have said ‘Bloody hell! Your exhaust is falling off and hanging on by a whisker!!’) but it still needs a diagnostic. My bike is busted too. Lucky I have legs.

Other faff time was just the inordinate amount of publicity I did for things last week. No wonder Bob went viral! Very heavy on the charity stuff though and not so good for paid work. I worked like a demon though. So much so that I’m sure that’s how I burst a couple of blood vessels in my eye. Yes, that’s how hard I work.

On top of that, Wednesday morning found me shoulder-deep in a flooded manhole trying to turn off my water to see if the leak that had turned into a small stream outside my property was coming from my side (and therefore my cost) or the side of the water board (and therefore their problem and their cost) Happily, the men that turned up said it was their side and if they fixed it or not, the leak has stopped. Still, I had to go and round up more clients for a market we’re doing in September and I hadn’t showered. I don’t know what they thought of the smell. At least my arm was clean from the immersion whilst I tried to find the stop tap.

Worse still, I have no idea what happened to my diary last week – and all my clients seem to have been the same. I missed an appointment and then I turned up for another when they were still away. I’m very glad I wasn’t the only one to have diary malfunctions and email malfunctions. I ended up with a rescheduled-reschedule that drifted from Monday to Wednesday, then weather conditions meant what I was doing on Thursday got bumped to Wednesday so I bumped the rescheduled-reschedule to the only time we both had free – my sacred Friday afternoon, which I did not like very much but the next time we were both free was going to be two weeks on Monday! No wonder last week’s diary ended up with more crossings-out than usual. I think there was quite likely a universal mishap bug going about. I went to do photos on Thursday afternoon at the refuge and ended up waiting for the vet instead as there were so few volunteers. It’s kitty season so all the kitties in foster families got to push in first. It’ll be my time next week so I shouldn’t moan.

A week where I should just have stayed in bed, I think. Design work, photography, website innards, adverts, car malfunctions, oil changes, air filters, diary issues, weather dilemmas, appointment changes, forgotten appointments and cancellations, viral dogs, puppy returns, kitties in every room I have with a door… Perhaps Freddie is right. Life still goes on. No wonder I want to break free! Roll on September where I get a bit of order again.

Bet you never thought I’d be saying that!

I had kind of hoped to launch the book ‘Finding Shelter’ this week, but I’ve not finished the final edit, or putting photos in. That’s this week’s task. I’m going to ride the Bob rollercoaster and hope that some of those 500 people who’ve liked Woof Like To Meet this weekend might buy a copy too. Might as well take advantage of Bob’s notoriety. I think I’m going to call him ‘The Dog That Broke Facebook’ and he could have a series of photos like Kim Kardashian’s ‘Selfish’. ‘Doggish’ by Bob the Labrador.

Anyway, have a good week. If anyone needs a job (no pay), Bob needs a social secretary.

Counting on the night for a beautiful day

I’ve been on Kings of Leon overload this weekend, so here’s Be Somebody to give your Monday a lift.

And heaven knows I need a lift this Monday.

First on the agenda is a market that Les Dames de FER is setting up for September. Luckily I’ve got a whole load of superbly organised people on the team as I’ve got a list of about five hundred questions to work through this morning. All the artwork has been done by the amazing Sylvie and if the market’s not busy in September, it’s not for want of trying! Still, I’m going round trying to round up as many stallholders as I can and it’s not so easy.

“You want me to earn some money? All I have to do is show up? Nah…. not sure about that. What’s in it for me?”

People are so suspicious these days.

We’ve got six weeks before the event and I know it’s going to be all swan-like with lots of flapping beneath the surface to look even slightly graceful on the day.

Then I’ve got another big thing coming, which is a book I wrote last November (!) and have just got around to reworking to make a book. It’s called Finding Shelter. I’m hoping I can have it ready for mid-month. It’s about my year at the refuge last year. This year, during National Novel Writing Month, I’m going to write the sequel. Hopefully it will raise me enough money to buy a dedicated camera for the refuge. Mine is dirty and grimy, the battery died last week and the charger is busted. I’d love it if I could buy some higher-end lenses. I’ve been looking at some ‘professionals’ photos and (in my very humble opinion) all that’s better about them is the focal length I can’t get from my lens. I am very proud of my ability to get dogs to look at the camera and take a winning photo, since most of the other photos I see don’t manage to get that.


Before I do it, I’ve got a few website hiccups to fix. You  know, the kind where your host deletes all your content and can’t find it again. It was partially my fault as I seem to have been in a confused torpor when I was reordering the domain name. I knew I should have set it on automatic!

It’s been hard re-reading it. So much has happened since I finished it last November – so many dogs adopted and some deaths too. Very hard reading the bit about Ralf. I miss that crazy big fool. Tobby just isn’t quite silly enough, giddy enough, stubborn enough or stupid enough. That said, he did get out three times last week – mostly inspired by some little fosters I have here I think. He’s had enough of young and energetic. I caught him trotting down the road like an arthritic Littlest Hobo.

Last week was a very hard week at the refuge – two dogs died of parvovirus (and you can imagine my delight over a thread of discussion on Facebook about how dog vaccinations are just there to rip us off, how we vaccinate too much. As I said there, perhaps a little harshly, 27 dogs died of a completely preventable disease last year at the refuge. No dog died as a result of their vaccination. Watch some dog die of a horrible allergic reaction now… )

Worse still, sweet little Jojo, a fox terrier, died last week too – he’d had parvo earlier in the year and I don’t know if he was just weak as a result.

Then there was Drack.

Drack was a 12 year old shepherd cross who was one of my favourites. He’d been there sixteen months, seen three pen-mates adopted, never had a chance himself. It was tough – he needed a home with no cats and no male dogs. Those are tough homes to find for an old boy. When you’re big and old, that’s two strikes against your name. Nobody wants to take a chance on you. He died of a stomach torsion during the night on Friday. He’d been having increasing problems over the last six weeks or so. 12 is a good age for a big dog, just as 13 was for Ralf. Doesn’t make it better though. No dog should die at the refuge.

What really got me was the reaction of a few people, as if the refuge was negligent in some way. Why don’t we have night staff, they asked. Why are we allowing dogs to die? Suffice to say these are people who hadn’t shared his photo when he was alive or helped me find him a home, so in my opinion, you don’t get to be outraged when he dies. Be outraged at the fact dogs are mistreated and dumped. Be outraged at this careless throwaway society. But don’t be outraged at the hardest-working, most dedicated, most caring team of people I ever met, doing it on a tiny budget with nothing to spare.

I wouldn’t mind but three of our closest refuge/pound neighbours euthanise dogs for space. Two associations exist solely to help deal with the euthanasia/space issue. Another refuge doesn’t always vaccinate, chip or sterilise the dogs that leave them (even though it’s illegal to advertise dogs who aren’t identified). One refuge cherry-picks dogs that arrive. One makes you make an appointment to see their dogs and the woman who runs it would rather poke her eyes out than let a dog be adopted from ‘her’ refuge. One of our English-speaking associations has in its coffers half of our yearly budget and isn’t spending it on rehoming animals. That’s what makes me mad. Mornac is a great place where volunteers are up at all hours sharing photos, writing stories, helping our dogs and cats get seen in the wider world. Many of the staff regularly work twice as many hours as they are paid to, and come back to volunteer when they’re on holiday!! Everybody works so hard, and to be judged by ill-informed people when you have just lost one of the animals you’ve tried so hard to give a second chance to, well, it’s nothing short of soul-destroying.

Anyway, as I said in the book, “Suck it up, buttercup.” I shall take my own advice.

Enjoy the Kings. I am. Today I’m back on punk and searching for energy. Exams are finished, the new refuge website is under construction, my Woof Like To Meet website is gradually finding its content again, my little foster cats are almost all ready to be advertised for adoption, the book is coming together, the September foire is lucky to have a dedicated team to pull it all together and I’m happy to know that today I will be spending my time with ladies who work just as hard as I do, if not harder. Lessons this afternoon and this evening. Busy week right through until the weekend. Let’s hope a burst of energy today will carry me through!