Category Archives: 52 Mondays

52 Mondays #43

Yes, I know it isn’t Monday! I’m trying to catch up before it is too late!

52 Mondays43I love this time of year. It’s all about crisp mornings and warm fires, hot soup and days where you go from needing your winter thermals to feeling like you are being boiled alive by mid-afternoon. It’s like the year is giving you one last shot at being warm before the winter arrives. It is without compare my favourite season – when the clocks go back I have an extra hour in the morning and the day feels more relaxed.

I don’t mind the dark evenings – just an excuse to break out the knitting. I’m still on a pair of socks I started in about April. Oh well. The heel is turned and it’s all easy from here on in. I confess I need something other than socks though, for a little while. I’ve been getting busy on Ravelry trying to find things I want to knit next. I have been knitting a new scarf every year, which is something I’ll probably get round to later on – I am probably going to go back to knitting Carlos and Arne’s Christmas baubles as they are relatively quick and keep me from getting bored and putting them to one side.

It is a full year since I picked up my lovely Canon camera, my 40th birthday present from my family – and oh, how I have enjoyed it! Can you believe I have taken five thousand five hundred photos? I was going to post every 100th photo, but that still would be 55 photos! Perhaps I will do that over the next month? I’ll see! My camera goes everywhere with me and I am totally in love with it. I hope to be able to pick up a couple of second-hand lenses over the next year or so, so that I can get even better shots. Still, I love the way so many of these have turned out!

First shot


The first I took was this shot, this time last year. It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t start with a photo of my dogs. I suspect there are an awful lot of dog shots in here! Two more dogs later and I’ve still got similar photos to share.


Except now there isn’t much room for me between all of the beasts. Oh well.

Shot 102


A hundred photos later and it is the first frosts. This is the lake at La Côte du Boeuf in Verneuil. I’m guessing it was my magazine run, and it was obviously a frosty one! Last winter was so mild – I do wonder if this one will be horribly cold. I hope not.

I’m out in the garden today, then a couple of classes this evening. Still got a fairly sizeable translation project to finish off which I am enjoying immensely – love it when work is fun!

52 Mondays #42


Well, I missed a week that I didn’t think I’d missed. Ho hum. It’s been busy as anything though things are settling down a little. The main busy-ness in my two-week hiatus has been the whopping Hope Association Booksale, which raised 20,433€ this year – another record-breaker. All the money is split between refuges and associations, helping animals in need across the region.

IMG_5285Verity, Jocelyn and I ran a stand for the Refuge de l’Angoumois, where we walk dogs. Well, I say we walk dogs. Jocelyn is apprentice-in-training to Nicky, the dog groomer, and I take photos. This is recently becoming videos – you’ll understand how far things have come when you know that most dogs had a face shot and a body shot on arrival and then not much else – the staff have more than enough to do besides trying to take appealing photos – and so often, the dogs are gone before a photo has made an impact.

Our stand was very busy – often busy enough to warrant needing three or four people talking to interested individuals. Fingers crossed, but two dogs have found a home off the back of the event, and hundreds of people now know there is a refuge when they didn’t before. I spent the week before printing off the prettiest pictures along with a bit of info about the dogs. Ralf earned over 100€ with his ‘Euro-A-Pet’ booth.


He even found a girlfriend, bless him. He had a lovely time and met lots of doggies. He seems to get very upset if dogs don’t come over and say hello to him, and is fascinated by the little dogs and the kittens. Both Frank and Harry found a home (yes!) and I am very glad to have been able to find homes for all five kitties. To be surrounded by such a caring community makes all the difference – and so many people said that about the booksale – it’s the people who make the event magnificent.

Last week was a tough refuge week. Two dogs died – unusual I know – but one of them was Lou, the Leonberg cross. He was coming up to ten years old, so he was old for a big dog, but that is beside the point. He had been at the refuge for four years. Sadly, so few people want a big dogs.

LouLou had a stomach torsion on Thursday – something big dogs can be prone to – and even though it was operated on quickly, he didn’t make it. It’s beyond sad to me that such a handsome and marvellous dog can spend four years waiting for a home. He was gentle and sweet. I had lots of kisses from him this time last week when I was doing his video montage.

The other dog was a mistreatment case that had come in – the second from the same guy – and the dog died from secondary infections. That’s the second dog this year that has died at the refuge as a result of the actions of their previous owners. You really do get to see the best and the worst of people. Saturday wasn’t much better. Verity and I went to help out in the morning as they were short-staffed and I ended up transporting three kittens to the vet to be put to sleep – two suspected to have feline typhus. Between coryza, cat flu and typhus, many of the kittens this year have been finished off before they have even started life and it makes me really angry that people just let their cats breed with no forethought or care. Every litter takes a year off the life of the mother and it’s just another form of cruelty if you ask me. Fox and Bird, my two beautiful males, born with feline HIV; Clint, left to die with cat flu at less than four weeks old. It makes me so angry that people are so thoughtless – all for the sake of a few quid savings in not getting their cats sterilised. The people who drop these litters off at the refuge are little better. They wash their hands and it becomes someone else’s problem. They subject these kittens to a short, miserable and painful life, mitigated only somewhat by the fact they are cared for and looked after in their final days.

Today, I am taking video footage of six old-timers, dogs who have racked up an enormous amount of time between them for no good reason than they are big and they are male. Ufo, Wolf, Paulo, Nichmann and Artiste are up first. Then hopefully the three brothers, Usty, Tino and Edge. Hopefully it will help them find a home before it is too late for them to enjoy it.

Yesterday, I had my first day off in ages – lit a fire, went for a walk with the dogs and came back to a warm house and a lot of admin. Though it’s the holidays, I’m still running about 75% of my lessons, so I’m not being too hard on myself for not getting more done.

Time to get the cleaning started and get on with the day’s tasks I think!

52 Mondays #40

First grey week for a while and the first rain we’ve had for a while.

52 Mondays 40

That’s next year’s rape seed in the field on the left – coming on great guns.

It’s not just a problem to navigate the rain showers this week, but the hunters too. Thursdays and Sundays are the busy hunt days, so we go off up to the forest on those days where the paths are quiet and the hunts are more organised. Nobody goes off-lead if they can’t stay within 10 metres of me.

It’s been a busy Dames kind of a week this week. I ran a course on blogging on Monday (this is not my only blog, or even my most successful blog, but it is my favourite blog to write). Don’t feel cheated on, I beg you. Though it was wet and misty, it was still a fabulous morning. Village halls in rural France on a Monday morning might not strike you as the most vibrant and idea-packed kind of places, but ours was. I love sessions like that. We stopped for lunch at the local restaurant and I listened to other women describe perfectly the kind of life I lead too. We all moved over here to renovation projects (minor) and bigger gardens, to spend more time in the garden and a bit of time prettying up the decor, only to end up a few years later in a mad swirl of work and social lives and family life and every single one of us had put our potager plans for 2014 on hold this year.

I’ve also been writing a mini self-evaluation pack for the ladies (and myself of course!) and their businesses – and having done the time assessment this week, I am pretty sure where I need to make changes in 2015. I need to be more productive and less busy! Time for some serious rethinks and shake-ups. It really was a wake-up call. Perhaps now is the time to say that I started a pair of socks in March and I am STILL knitting them. That’s how busy my life has been. It has been a fury!

The self-evaluation pack sounds like a rigorous and frightening wake-up call, but it is pretty gentle and upbeat. I’m hoping it will be useful for lots of ladies in business out there. I’m pleased with it – though of course, typically, it is unfinished. That’s a tomorrow job. I need to find a more gentle name for it though. At the moment it sounds like the colonic irrigation of the business world.

Next week, I get to wear several hats all at once, because it is the enormous Hope Association booksale. A few of us are running a stand for the refuge we volunteer at. I’ve got 150+ dog posters to print out – so that’s my doggie weekend set out. I saw a cute photo of a dog in a kissing booth, so I’m going to rent out Amigo and Ralf for dog snogs. All proceeds to the refuge. I’m sincerely hoping the two little cats in my bathroom get to find a family – they sit looking out of the window all sad and forlorn. Life in a laundry is no fun. Sadly, with the dogs and the main road and the particularly cat-unfriendly wildlife round these parts, being an outdoor cat in my neighbourhood is a job with a short lifespan. They are cuties though. I just can’t spend any time with them, and that’s sad.

Hopefully, we’ll raise a bit more awareness of the refuge and maybe even find some dogs some homes! So many returns at the moment for absolutely pathetic reasons. Last week, someone brought a dog back because he digs. Honestly, if that’s a refundable situation, I need to take mine back. I’ve just decided their holes are where I should plant trees. I know it is impossible to live with a dog that just isn’t fitting in to your lifestyle though. I just wish people would be honest. There are teething problems you know you can cope with, and teething problems that deprive you of sleep and rest and safety. And there are homes for all dogs, I believe that.

I’ll also be touting the Hope Association calendars, which I was very happy to collate. I REALLY hope there aren’t any errors or spelling mistakes, though there are bound to be. It all ended up a bit of a rush on my behalf, but next year will be better. Sneak preview of the front cover for you all…

front pageAnd yes, those are my four at the bottom. I figure they’ve all been helped by HOPE to some degree. Tilly came to me via the Hope Association. Amigo and Ralf both came from Mornac SPA which is supported by Hope. Heston, well, he’s the most tenuous of links, but he is just so very handsome! I’ve put lots of the Hope volunteers adopted dogs on the inside pages, though. It was really nice to do – collecting all those photos of happy endings. So many people who work so very hard for the animals in their care as well. So many associations and refuges benefit from Hope’s support that it means the booksale weekend has become a lifeline. Such a mammoth organisational and voluntary task for so many people as well – I promise to give you photos – normally, I just get bogged down with books.

It’s also a Dame-tastic weekend as well, and I’ve got lunch planned with a few of the ladies up in Deux-Sèvres. Might as well multi-task whilst I can.

I’m pretty sure that by Tuesday the 21st, when it is the holidays and when I have my first day off in three weeks, I will be quite ready for a rest! I said earlier this week though, if I wanted to slow down, I could. It would be very easy not to do any of it. I just love each of my different lives here so very much indeed.

Have a lovely weekend, whatever you have got planned.

52 Mondays #39


How can it be that the year is so full with photos? How quickly things change!

Last week was another epic busy one (when are they not??!) and I hurried from work to errands to dog walks. I got to spend a good Friday afternoon at the refuge and had forgotten the memory stick from my camera, so spent the afternoon walking dogs I know and love. Just waiting for someone to help me walk the big dogs. Much as I love the littlies, it is the bigguns who have my heart. Lots more dogs went off to Germany to be adopted from German refuges. The hounds which are so hard to find homes for here (even Breton spaniels, believe it or not!) quickly find homes in Germany. The oldies go too, and the ones who need medical treatments. I have to say, I know how they feel. I’d adopt a hound (beagle please) and an oldie or one who needs a bit of TLC. Those are my favourites too.

Sunday, I spent most of the day in the garden trying to prepare the garden for winter – mostly clearing suckers it has to be said. The fruit trees in my garden are not in great shape and they really could do with a big clear out and some better stock putting in. A job for half term I think.

Then we went for a long walk in the forest – it has to be said it is not easy walking four dogs in the forest when you are a single girl – usually at least two on a lead if not three. Amigo is generally trustworthy, but he has been known to trot off from time to time. Ralf knows many things, but his recall is z-e-r-o and although it would be no effort to catch him if he ran off, he’s better by my side. I love Ralf, but he isn’t blessed with brains. He is like a funny super-sized puppy. Heston doesn’t go off lead in the forest. He does come back when he runs off, but that walk is entirely on his own terms and it’s happy coincidence that he stays fairly near. Just far too many exciting things for a teenager to smell! He’s always on the 10m training lead so he can smell stuff, but he enjoys the stimulation of new stuff to see. After endless socialisation in La Rochefoucauld, he is now less barky when we are out in public. I don’t care that he’s barky if people park outside my house. My Heston is a super dog and he is so smart. I wish I could spend all day training him. I know he’d never get bored.

After a long summer of no forest (it’s too full of people who don’t have their dogs on a lead and don’t have good control of their dogs, sadly) it is nice to get back there. It’s definitely my home from home. On the days where the hunters are out in the fields and woods around me, it’s usually quiet and gun-free. There is a lot of deer and boar damage to the paths and woodland, so it seems it hasn’t just been a bumper kitty year. That mild winter has meant bumper litters for the foxes as well and there is so much fox spore around on our usual walks – rabbits too. Rabbits are Amigo’s thing. He spends his walks with his nose down holes and comes home with muddy chops.

Today, I’ve got a planning meeting for Les Dames de FER, the association I am part of, for local business owners of the female persuasion. Days like this make me miss the conviviality of office work and make me miss my Anne Pilling and remind me how much fun it is to work together. It must be said, I am surrounded by talented, vivacious, dedicated and enthusiastic souls and I very much enjoy their company. I have a feeling 2015 will be a wonderful year for Les Dames.

From 4pm, it is heads-down through to Sunday morning – and I’m hoping for sun and warmth to get outside once again.

52 Mondays #38


Definitely feeling the autumnal winds this week, warm as it has been. It was so warm last Monday that I practically overheated. But it’s 21°C these days, and cooler at night, and the long nights are settling in.

Things are settling down into a bit of a more regular pattern at the moment. I’m still trying to fit new clients in here and there – and it is not easy. French schools finish so late that it doesn’t leave much room for changes and alterations. Plus, the autumn takes adjustment as well. The hunt season has started and now it is not just a question of finding a place to walk that keeps the dogs from boredom, but also finding a space that isn’t filled with men with guns. Luckily, when the hunters are hanging around the places we usually go, we can head off over to the forest, which tends to have organised hunts on particular days – days which usually balance with the other hunt days. I am not much one for early morning walks – too many lone guys out with their dogs and a shotgun – so it’s midday walks right now.

Still, it is a very busy time. I’ve got a couple of meetings planned with Les Dames de FER, the group of local ladies in business. We have a couple of training sessions planned that I’m leading, and it is also gearing up to the Hope Association book sale on the middle weekend of October. They all feel like very far away events but I know they are getting ever closer.

And it’s time to wind the garden down – so I’m still hacking back trees that have sent out spontaneous re-generations. I think the flooding had a lot to do with it. Three flooded seasons in five years is not good for these trees and the plums and the cherries are sending out their distress signals. I have managed to completely clear the bottom of the garden of plum offspring, but it does feel like a never-ending task. Thursday, I’ll start the cherry offspring and get a little closer to the house. It’s another of those things that you seem once in a while to get on top of, and then you head straight into the next year and realise it is all beginning over again. I feel very tired at the moment, in between huge bursts of energy, and often find myself wanting a willing clone who could help out a little. At the rate I work, I think four or five clones might be enough to make a really good job of all the things I’m trying so unsuccessfully to do.


52 Mondays #37

Okay… two days late. Better than last time!


It’s been a busy week already. One of those weeks where everything that can go wrong will go wrong. On Saturday, some fool decided to open my gates and let the dogs out. I caught up with that fool, who lied, and then confessed. Yes, she saw the dogs, yes she heard them. Yes she slid the latch back. Yes she opened the gate. Yes, she closed it behind the three dogs that got out. Really, I should have a sign on the gate. I guess the right thing to say would be ‘Attention aux chiens’ or ‘chiens en liberté’ but if you can’t see there are four dogs loose, then a sign like that isn’t going to make the blindest bit of difference. Maybe I need a no entry sign. In four years, only a handful of people have ever come through those gates on the sly – and it does seem a bit over the top to have a ‘Dogs on the Loose’ and a ‘No Entry’ sign, when really I should have a sign that says ‘Idiots: None today, thanks.’

Luckily, I caught up with Ralf five minutes down the road. The cows that got loose a few weeks ago moved more quickly. Just as I’d rallied the search parties, cancelled my appointments, managed to find paperwork for one dog but not the other, then found the other, Amigo came sneaking back in. Then I saw Mr Heston’s fine feathery tail rooting around Mr Richon’s bins. He managed to avoid being run over, by my manic gesturing to the speedy drivers.

On Sunday, the manager at the refuge sent out an alert about a cocker spaniel that was due to be put down. This little six-year-old female, Daphie, had done nothing wrong, just had been attacked by the owner’s other dog, and the owner had taken her to the vet to have her put down. The vet called Nanou, the directrice, and Nanou put out the alarm. The owner had, quite perversely in my opinion, decreed that the dog couldn’t go to the refuge, and if no home was found in 48 hours, she would have to be put down.

I spent Sunday morning sharing her story and then fielding calls from all over France saying they would take her in… it does restore your faith in humanity. I needed a bit of faith-in-humanity restoration after the arson attack at Manchester Dogs’ Home in which 60 dogs perished on Thursday. I felt quite empty on Thursday night, and only five hours’ hard labour at the refuge on Friday made up for it in any way. Dog kisses have a way of making things a bit better. Finding a home for that little cocker was the least I could do to set the balance right in the universe. On Monday, I went to pick her up and drop her with her new foster home (and hopefully an adoption will follow) – she is just delightful. She is a tiny little girl and the sweetest little thing – a real happy little dog.

But… on my way back from dropping off Daphie, my engine management light came on. Cue generalised panic and worry. Luckily, the very fab Honda Angouleme man fixed it in an afternoon – and I know business in France often takes a hit for being slow and difficult (hands up whoever has stood for an hour waiting for service in an otherwise empty shop?) but I have always found the mechanics to be really proud of what they do and to take real care in providing a reliable and economical service. Still, it wasn’t cheap, but at least no little orange light of engine doom.

The rest of the week has been gardening central. The weather has been just glorious – though storms tonight – and I’ve been adding to my compost heap. Pruning mad. The last of the fruit is ready to be brought in and I think it’ll be back to grape jelly for this year’s meagre harvest. August was too cool to be of much use, but dry as well. No idea what the big boys of Cognac will say about this year’s harvest, but if you ask me, it’ll be a poor one. Hazelnuts are finished. Walnuts are coming in. The seeds I planted a couple of weeks ago are going great guns and hopefully I’ll be able to overwinter them safely enough.

2014 is definitely on the turn. The dahlias are the only flowers still going strong. My aspens have decided the year is over and even the final apples are ready to go.

IMG_4655 IMG_4657 IMG_4658 IMG_4659 IMG_4661 IMG_4663 IMG_4668

As for the rest of the week, I’m hoping for good weather to make sure I can crack on with gardening before it’s too late to do anything useful. The dogs, as ever, are pretty useless at gardening.

my big ralfieIMG_4696IMG_4693

Yes, that’s a leaf on Tilly’s head. She doesn’t even care.

Anyway, I best get on with lesson planning for the morning!

52 Mondays #36

Channelling the White Rabbit. Yes, I’m running behind again. Took the photo. Didn’t upload it.


Next year’s rapeseed has been planted already and the fields are busy, busy, busy. I’ve been busy, busy, busy too – trying to stay on top of the garden. We have had the most delightful weather: 26°C all week and lovely temperatures. Perfect for a bit of hardcore pruning. I’m gradually working my way around the garden. Most of my clients have started back now, and Les Dames de FER, the federation of women in rural enterprise, is kicking up a notch after the summer vacation. Seems like I have been doing nothing but playing catch-up, but a few days of grind and I am more on top than I was. If you’re lucky, you might even get tomorrow’s 52 Mondays on time.

Tomorrow I’m switching back to early morning walks – it is getting dark too early to walk the dogs after I finish my lessons. At least two or three lessons last week finished in darkness. Still, it is warm and the weather looks to continue this week – up to 29°C and just delightful for me. Nothing needs water and it’s giving me time to catch up in the garden too. I even planted some of next year’s perennials a couple of weeks ago – most of which are popping up their first shoots. Foxgloves, rudbeckia, echinacea, nigella. It will certainly take the pressure off next March and April!

52 Mondays #33


This is Ralf. Say hello to Ralf. Will tell you all about Ralf another time. I seem to have missed a Monday somehow – not surprising! – and the summer is almost gone. 

Just as a follow-up, wanted to share some news I got about Smoke yesterday. I obviously don’t need to say how marvellous this news is. It gives me hope for all dogs who have been in refuges across the world for years upon end. 

“He’s good. And his name has changed to Scratch – don’t ask me why, it
just happened! A bit shy – he has to be coaxed a lot, but he is very
happy being stroked, having an ear scratch etc etc. For some reason
he has taken up residence in the hall – he has his bed there, but we
are gradually moving it closer and closer to the sitting room so
hopefully he will be esconced in the warm bit of the house when the
cold weather comes and all doors to the hall are firmly shut to
preserve heat!

He still has the odd accident – usually a widdle during the night –
but the floors are tiled so not a problem. He isn’t part of the pack
yet with Eco and Sophie, but there is a lot of sniffing and
tail-wagging going on so I’m just leaving them to sort themselves out.
Sophie had a bit of green-eye (which surprised me a bit – she is
usually the first to make friends) but we do equal love – just wish I
had 3 hands for 3 simultaneous ear scratches! They co-exist happily
enough, but they aren’t friends yet – and may never be, but they all
appear happy enough which is fine.

We have a system where we set out together for walks, and someone
takes the Labs on for a big walk, while Scratch has a gentle amble
home – he makes me laugh because he is always much more enthusiastic
when he knows he’s on his way home. And he is not at all impressed
when the walk home involves stopping to pick blackberries – he sits,
looks at me with those fabulous eyes and does ‘that’ sigh ……

He only snaps if someone goes for his neck – either grabbing his
collar, or going in for a hug, so I have instructed everyone,
including visiting kids not to bother him too much – a stroke or pat
on the way past is fine, but he is not Eco or Sophie (who are so soppy
it is embarrassing) and can’t be treated the same way. Thus far, no
more snapping ….. and if I do need to round him up if some halfwit
leaves the gate open, I just grab the lead and click it on and he is
fine. We use a harness for walks which I think he finds a bit more
comfortable and there is no problem getting it on.

Taking him to my vet next week for a controle technique – decided to
wait until everyone back at school – he has no pressing health issues
I am aware of – still has the shakes, but that seems to be connected
to needing food, so he gets 3 small meals a day which has helped. He
does drink a massive amount, and his wee is clear which doesn’t seem
entirely right, so I will flag that at the vet. And get his nails cut
which might cut down on the slithering on our hard floors – we have
fixed a runner for the 6 or stairs up to our quarters which has helped
a bit.

Will send some photos once Maya is back from the UK – she swiped my
camera and I have a granny phone!

Hope your lot are doing well, and everyone at the refuge are well and happy.”

If only every dog ended up in such a wonderful, caring and sensitive home!

52 Mondays #31

Okay – we’re way past the 31st week of the year (isn’t that depressing?) and I’m playing catch-up, so here is 31…


Judging from the colours, it was late in the evening; pretty sure this was the evening that Heston and Amigo chased a deer across three fields. That was Heston’s last shot at freedom for a while! To be fair, I can hardly blame him. That deer was just standing about waiting to be chased. 

That was a busy refuge-y week and the same week that I took long-time refuge veteran Smoke up north to meet his new family. He is worth a post of his own, so I won’t say too much about it. 

I have been pretty busy with new clients, strangely enough. One family are down here from Paris for the summer. Not much of a summer if you ask me – this week doesn’t look like it will get up past 24°, and last week didn’t either. More sun next week though. Feels like early-onset autumn. Guess that is what happens when you don’t have much of a winter. I keep looking at log piles and thinking it’s time to put an order in, and get my chimney swept. That’s how I know I am proper rural French these days. The vines are already losing leaves here. The apples are in and the pears have been and gone. 

I’m also teaching a guy off to Las Vegas with his friends to open a catering business. Visas are all agreed – he just has his language interview to get through. Seems a bit harsh. His English is way better than many people I know. He leaves at the end of September, having had an illustrious career in Paris and Avignon already. He is a patisserie chef and no doubt his macarons will charm the Americans. 

Tomorrow, you might well get this week’s 52 Mondays… if you are lucky!


52 Mondays #30

Yes, I am a lot behind. Been a manic two weeks and just catching up. Will be trying to make up in August for all the time I have missed.

This is now 12 days ago…


In fact, I think I took this on the Tuesday. I’d gone out on the Monday evening to take the photo, but a deer disrupted our trip and Heston came back from his chase far too tired to continue any further.

IMG_2493Wouldn’t have been so bad if Mr Seed Pod hadn’t taken off a little friend.


But my little Tilly decided chasing a deer was a much too energetic a pastime and even the thought of it tired her out.

IMG_2500In the end, a very short walk and I ended up going back the following day to take the photo. At the moment, the landscape is changing daily. Crops are harvested, fields are filled with haystacks. The sunflowers are in bloom.