Monthly Archives: February 2016

Beyond the Sky

Bit later than my usual Monday offering, but here’s a real bit of soul for you with Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Gonna Come

Sorry, Otis. You did a great version, but I prefer Sam’s.

I’m playing catch up following a weekend away for a friend’s birthday. She took us all to Bordeaux for the weekend – funny that it should remind me so much of Liverpool with all of its fine buildings and its sad history that meant so much abuse of so many people’s civil rights. Everything sure is connected, when you think about it.

Still, it was an amazing weekend and Bordeaux is a fabulous city. I’m at that point in my life where I’m a bit awe-struck around cities, despite having lived in them all of my life. Bordeaux feels big and bewildering, a labyrinth of buildings and people. I felt like the original country bumpkin. Going shopping was like visiting a load of old friends and catching up with them. I didn’t buy anything, feeling like the poor church mouse displaced to fine, civilised surroundings, but I still enjoyed it nonetheless. It was mostly nice to see just so very many people and to spend a bit of quality time with my friends. It’s only about an hour and a half away from us here, but it certainly makes our nearest town seem very small and pokey, and very provincial. We even managed a Starbucks!

In fact, I would go as far as saying that the thought of Starbucks was what got Natasha and me out of bed on Sunday.


We even managed a few cocktails and I got my makeup out.


We weren’t in some 1980s tacky cocktail bar – our friend Sara got a bit trim-happy with the umbrellas and adornments.

I confess it did feel quite lush to spend a Saturday lunch having a meal with friends, followed by a bit of shopping and a hot chocolate at a pavement café. Still, you can take the country girls out of the country and put them in a fancy boutique hotel, but you can’t stop them giving weird gifts from charity shops.


I’m pretty sure this is how I looked, out on the town after six years without a blusher brush.


A bit out of place with the make-up bags and the city girls.

We had a great weekend and lots of giggles. I feel very lucky this Monday morning to have found such a great group of ladies to keep me entertained. We’re all as special as each other, it must be said.


So happy birthday Sarah and thank you for a wonderful, wonderful weekend. Thank you ladies for giving me a great laugh. Mostly thanks to the dogsitter who even managed to keep the fire going and didn’t complain once about the smells.

This week, I’m back to the train-train. Daily routines seem a bit more sparkly though. Standing in fields being shouted at by crazy people who are arguing about whether or not they can keep a dog in a cage on a chain is about as social as it’s likely to get.

Have a lovely Monday and I hope it’s blooming where you are. The cranes are flying north and the plums are bursting into bud here. Still, with an icy wind, the spring seems a long way away.


Living easy

It was the 36th anniversary of Bon Scott’s death on Friday, so here’s a little celebration of what an immense talent the guy was to start your Monday off with Highway to Hell. 

Yes, I’m still in an AC/DC vibe. I have no reason for it. Blame it a little on watching re-runs of Supernatural. As the saying goes, therein lies the problem. It’s a Stairway to Heaven, but a big old Highway to Hell. Wherever he is, I’m sure Bon Scott is enjoying it. They’re definitely a band who I came to love. I saw them at Donington back in the day, but I was there for Metallica and Motley Crue, not AC/DC. Truth be told, right now I could start every Monday with a bit of AC/DC.

Anyway, I gave in to the vibe and here it is. Don’t be surprised if it takes over for the next twenty Mondays or so.

It’s been a cold, yucky, miserable week. Tilly was back at the vet on Tuesday – she’s got ear problems that might mean surgery if the swelling in her ear doesn’t go down, but other than that she seems to be in okay health. She’s an old girl now. I’ve got a right house-full of stinky dog pensioners. Even Heston’s like “Meh… I’d rather nap.”

He and Tobby had a mild run-in over who owned the lake in the garden. Tobby really does think it’s his job to intervene and stop people having any fun. He’s like the fun police. The big sister you never asked for. “No. You are not having fun in that lake. Stop charging about.”

It’s been dry for the last week or so, but the river is still in full flow. It takes a while to subside again and for the water table to drop back down again. It’s been a two-hat kind of a week for most of it – far too cold and icy for a couple of days of dog walking, then bright blue skies by Friday. We went out for Chinese on Friday lunch with a few of the volunteers from the refuge. We’ve got it to a fine art of getting in, eating and getting out before going off to the refuge. No messing about on our watch.

I think the poor weather and general February misery has definitely contributed to the sense of general grumpiness I had last week. It was just one of those weeks where nothing seems to go right – expenses here, there and everywhere. I started a few art projects that just didn’t seem to work and no good photos, and then I started a new knitting project and the wool’s not right. I just feel generally nadgy and grumpy because it’s so grey and yuck.

So what am I loving in all this gloom?

♥ Early morning birdsong. It’s now getting light by 7am and the birds have started being the thing that wakes me up rather than the four or five cars in a row that constitute the morning rush hour.

♥ Knowing that we’re nearer to April than December.

♥ Bowls of porridge and golden syrup. And having to explain Golden Syrup to everyone else in the world who thinks the idea of a man-made sugar syrup is quite rank. In fact, I love it so much I’m making treacle tart for my French students this week.

♥ My new haircut. First time in three years.

♥ Scanning in old photos so I’ve got a digital copy and finding such treasures.


I think this explains why I love knee-socks, corduroy and polo-necks so much. I’m not sure if my sister still loves dungarees quite so much.


I loved this dress as well. You’ll notice I’m still wearing a polo neck. Here’s to polo necks. I was like a child version of Howard from The Big Bang Theory.

Anyway, have a good week and enjoy what remains of winter wherever you are. Here’s to longer days and spring flowers.

A sudden sense of liberty

Perhaps one of the weirdest music videos ever – one of Manchester’s finer bands, New Order with True Faith. 

I’m kind of hoping that’s the end of the wet spell here – the river Bellonne – a part-time kind of creature – is back and my garden is submerged.

wet garden


It’s not really a surprise at all given how wet it’s been.

It’s the school holidays this week – not so much of a holiday for me any more. I’ve got three clients who are off this week and I’m teaching almost a full timetable. Sadly, I’ve got about twenty errands to run and things to sort out, so it certainly won’t feel like much of a holiday. I’m back to being constantly at the vet’s. Tilly’s still no better and although she had some tests last week as well as antibiotics, she’ll be back in this week for more tests and more medicine. What she has really governs whether or not I can step up to foster two little spaniels who are absolutely overwhelmed at the refuge. I’m at that point where I realised that I’ve had only ten days without other animals here since the middle of last June and I need a break. I might feel differently by Friday, but being woken up at four am every morning for the last week has exhausted me and I’m afraid I’ve lost all my patience after being unable to spend even five minutes without having to intervene in fights, or listening to howling and barking for hours on end if I’ve separated Lucky from the others. Terriers are too tenacious for me and my old giffers. We’re such a bunch of old grumps.

As it is, I’m running a backlog of tasks and the rain and wind isn’t making it any easier. Last night, I swapped watching a film for catching up on jobs and to be honest, I’m glad I did. I prefer to start my Mondays with a little less on my plate and I’m feeling fragile this morning. I’m hoping I can clear the taskboard with the enforced indoor confinement. I feel grouchy and crabby and I’m in need of a week off. Luckily, next week (dogs willing) will be a little quieter and I should be able to do a little more.

So what have I found to love in the last week?

♥ My friends’ photos on Facebook of weddings, babies and kittens. What’s not to love about other people’s happiness? Another friend posted that she was sad about all the jealousy and meanness that such photos provoke, and how she felt unable to post nice things just to avoid pissing other people off. I think that’s sad too. Knowing my friends are happy is a marvellous joy for me, especially to see the photos from those friends who I know have faced trials and tribulations.

♥ All the lovely volunteers who come and join us every week at the refuge. Whether they be silly or serious, a bit tapped or a bit sentimental, it is so nice to be surrounded by so much kindness and love. I wish I could bottle what they’ve all got. And when I get a bit tired of dealing with people, they pick up the slack. How fab is that?

♥ The conseil and the staff at the refuge. You have no idea how much they all do, that’s all I can say, and if you did, you’d love them all with your whole hearts too.

♥ Old episodes of House. Hugh Laurie is a genius. Whether it be Blackadder or Jeeves and Wooster, I love everything he does. I shall be very sad when I’ve finished watching House. It’s been an epic, long three-month Netflix Marathon of a sort. It’s not really a marathon if you do it over three months is it?

Anyway, have a good Monday. May yours be as productive as I hope mine will be.


I’m a midnight animal

Lita Ford’s been helping me break the nasty AC/DC habit I’ve had for the last few weeks or so (there just isn’t better DIY music, I promise you) and here’s Lita looking lithe and lovely in Shot of Poison 

And who says the 80s contributed nothing to music??

It’s been a week filled with errands of one sort or another. Lots of comings and goings and droppings-off and pickings-up. Lucky my little visitor Jack Russell fella has been at the vets to have his male appendages off. He took a couple of days to settle in, and true to terrier form is persistent in only the way a terrier can be persistent. I know lots of dog trainers and dog enthusiasts who say you shouldn’t judge a breed by its stereotypical qualities, but of all the dogs I have here, the only ones who persistently keep trying to do something you don’t want them to do are terriers. Tenacious and stubborn should be their middle names. Like the terrier pups I had here during the summer, they think other dogs snarling at them is kind of meaningless. Doggie manners are something you have to teach to them rather than something they know instinctively. I’ll tell you something – it makes training Heston seem like it was the easiest thing in the world. I know he had his moments, and he still loves to bark at things, still goes mental at visitors and still finds it tough not to be distracted on walks, but he is generally very biddable. He learned his name in a day, learned to come in ten minutes and even though he sometimes gives me a bit of “Do I have to?” attitude if he’s outside and doesn’t want to come in, it’s nothing on a terrier. Lucky will happily bumble about the garden and has had seven happy days of clicker training to “come” without much by way of progress. Thing is, it’s just so vital that he does. A dog who runs away when you call them is not just a pain in the arse but a liability too. Thank God all of mine will do anything for a biscuit or I know them well enough to know when they’ll get selective deafness.

Poor Tilly has not been a well girl. She has a stubborn ear infection and we’ll be at the vet’s this week I think. She’s been sick and tummy troubles abound. For eleven, she’s older than many American cockers live to. I can’t imagine the house without her, but she’s definitely showing signs of her age.

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I’ve even stuck to my photograph a day project – and the things I’ve learned about Photoshop! I’m really enjoying doing it and it does feel good to have found a little passion again. The problem with camera passions is that they’re so very expensive! Even second-hand equipment is expensive. Oh well. Keeps me motivated!

So what am I loving?

♥ Indignant Dog. Lucky is by far the most indignant dog I’ve ever met. His face of outrage at being prevented from doing whatever his little head’s telling him to do is properly comical. For a dog who was thrown out of a third-floor window, he’s certainly not bothered by people or at all scared of anything. The way he bobbles about the garden with his cone on is completely comical. God love him.

♥ Butternut squash and the woman who gave me a nasty, nasty squash habit. I will be sad when there are no more. From the sounds of it, that may be some time.

♥ All the lovely volunteers at the refuge. It’s fabulous that a few more people have become regular faces – especially since they are quite delightful. I got a bit snappy with another new-ish volunteer on Friday. She’d deliberately taken out a dog that had already been out and when I said, she said, “well, she’s my chouchou.” Chouchou or not, that cheated some other dogs out of a walk. I saw her right after in the pound petting puppies. And we wonder why dogs are picking up viruses and giardia left, right and centre. What I’m mostly in love with for the delightful volunteers is that they may very well have favourites, but they’d never cheat a dog out of a walk. There are sadly some volunteers who arrive like the big “I am” and think they can do as they please. They don’t last long, having absorbed a lot of energy. I do hate the Lady Bountiful types who grace us with their presence and feel we should be blessed that we have their company. Give me the ‘come in, get on with it, don’t stop till it’s dark’ volunteers. And I love the people who come to walk the big, shouty dogs and who never forget those dogs who are having a hard time.

♥ People who are kind and have big hearts.

Not loving the gale-force winds this morning and the rain we’ve been having. Last week the Tardoire had burst its banks already in several places and with the water table so high, it won’t take much for me to end up with a river in the garden as well.

Have a great Monday and stay dry!




Everything’s gonna be real fine

I’m trying to have a break from the real AC/DC thing I’ve got in my blood at the moment, so I spent yesterday with a huge Ramones playlist. Here’s one of my favourites for you,  Swallow My Pride. 

Last week was a busy one but I’m back to normal levels of occupation this week. I’ve swapped kittie-sitting for doggie-sitting and Mr Shouty Man a.k.a. Lucky is staying with me for a couple of weeks (as long as Tobby doesn’t go all obsessive again!) and as long as he isn’t tempted to be Mr Shouty Man during my skype classes! Otherwise, he might be sleeping in the cabin during class. To be fair in this instance, my dogs are back to their usuals around puppies – i.e. all of them except for Heston are wondering how long til everything is quiet again and Heston is having a whole load of fun. That’s fine but when it’s peeing down with rain, it’s not so easy to kick them out into the garden. I’m on my third mop and bucket today already. Why are terriers just so tenacious? I’m pretty sure I’d be a terrier if I were a dog. I think people who train terriers deserve a special kind of medal.

Mind you, the last little kitty to go was all shouty as well. His siblings went last Tuesday and he was not happy to be left alone, not one bit. It’s times like that when having dogs and kittens is not a good combination. I’m still not sure I could trust two of my dogs around small creatures, even if I’m supervising directly. Tilly and Heston don’t care less. All Tilly cares about is food.

I’m well into my first month of my photography project. I may be a couple of days behind (I got a late start) but I’m catching up. I can’t believe it’s February already. Just where did January go??!

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I’ve been taking a break from my usual Sunday painting… swapped it for a heavy spring clean and dusting session. I’m at that point in the year where I’m tired of lighting fires and missing thermostats and timers.

Usually, at the beginning of each month, I look back over all the years’ blog posts for that month and see what I was up to. Sometimes, there are big changes – certainly no big icicles like 2012, that’s for sure! February’s usually the month when things start to put on a burst of growth, but also the month that everything floods. Given the persistent rain on Saturday night, it wouldn’t surprise me if we were in for flooding.

So what am I mostly loving?

♥ Finding treasures from the past when I’m spring cleaning… they might bring tears as well as smiles, but there are plenty of good memories to discover.

♥ Remembering all the great times I had as a teenager with friends that I’m very happy still to know in 2016. I’m mostly loving that things have worked out so well for so many. Nothing is nicer than knowing that.

♥ Long chats with friends who can always raise a smile no matter what the tragedy.

♥ Breaks in the rain clouds.

♥ Peace.

Have a lovely Monday.