Category Archives: life


Those of you who read my blog regularly know that I’m a massive fan of Mavis at 100$ a Month. I love Mavis. I love her name. I love her onesies. I love her garden.

Mavis’s blog documents her life as she and her family live off 100$ a month. Not only that, but she grew over a metric tonne of her own produce in her own back garden in Seattle. That’s over 2,000 pounds of produce, or over 1,000 kilogrammes of stuff. This year, she wants to grow even more. Oh. My. Days.

As the growing season starts, I’m kind of in a period of anxiety. The garden is a mammoth task for me, especially when I work so much and when I spend already such a lot of time walking the doglets. Sometimes, I get the urge to concrete it all over and just buy a load of carrots and stuff.


That defeats the purpose.

I moved here with the dream of being more self-sufficient. I love growing stuff. I love my garden. I love the whole plot-to-pot seed-to-stew thing. I wanted to live in the countryside so I could grow my own, not so I could sit in a darkened room that is either nice and warm when it’s cold outside, or nice and cool when it’s too hot outside. The aim was that if I could grow enough stuff, I wouldn’t need to work so hard.

That’s becoming even more important. The queues in the supermarket were EPIC this afternoon. The woman right in front of me had one trolley of normal stuff and it came in at just under 200€. I reckon that’s one week’s worth of shopping for a normal family in France these days. She didn’t have loads of expensive stuff, and she did have a lot of fresh produce, but even so… 800€ a month to feed a family. It’s a lot. I know it’s not just a France thing, either (though things are sometimes disproportionately expensive here) as The Telegraph had this headline today: Waitrose says food prices are going to rise sharply. Another article said: “Rising prices will take the annual food bill for the average family to over £4,000 within a decade, up from £2,766 last year, heaping further pressure on already-stretched households.”

It makes you wonder how one family can live on 1,200€ a year, that’s £738 or 910€. Of course, Mavis has it a little easier in some respects. Firstly she gets coupons, and she is mad for couponing. Second, she lives in the land of Costco. Third, she has a supermarket that will give her out of date veg that she then recuperates. Still, she is a hardcore couponer, bargainer, barterer and gardener. And she doesn’t have animals to feed as part of that, I’d guess, since my pets and chickens cost me a whopping 60€ a month.

Still, at the moment, I am living on soup from last year’s paltry crops and I guess it will see me through to the sandwich time, round about March. I have more than enough in the freezer to give me a soup a day for a good couple of months.

Anyway, recalling that I came here to garden organically, to grow enough to eat, to live more naturally and to spend less, I am fully geared up for the coming season. I’ve got my seeds sorted.



I’d like to better Mavis, but having a full-time job kind of precludes me from doing that. Instead, I would like to set a yearly target of a quarter of what she grew last year. 250kg of stuff might not sound like an accomplishment, but we will see. Food is just going to get more and more expensive, and become more and more of a commodity. It’s also going to get more and more intensively-farmed. That’s not good for anyone. I’d like to make sure that I commit to bucking the trend, even on a personal level.

A lot depends, of course, on the winter. I got no fruit last year. Nada. Zip. No apples. No plums. No nectarines. No walnuts. Oh, I lie. I got some quinces (more quince jelly, anyone?) and some pears, since the secret garden is more sheltered than the main garden. It was a bad year for ratatouille veg. The onions went to seed. The tomatoes just had enough. The courgettes died in a late frost (not falling into THAT trap again) The aubergines never got enough year.

So, what does the contrary LJ plan to have growing in her garden this year?

  • parsnips – because even the random French fella who came to Christmas lunch liked les panais. I have just realised I’ve got three different types of parsnip. Oh well. One of the packets is well past its sell-by date; 
  • brussels sprouts – because the older I get, the more appealing these are, and I like them with butter and pine nuts;
  • salsify – because I like to be contrary and grow unusual things – I have never tasted it, and it might be vile. I planted some a couple of years ago, but it didn’t grow. Rubbish.
  • swede – because mashed swede is divine.
  • lettuce – even though I don’t much care for it.
  • kale – because I like soup. A lot.
  • sweetcorn – because this is God’s gift to the vegetable garden and despite the fact I am surrounded by maize, not a stick of it is edible. It’s so rude. I never get the French. You can buy sweetcorn in cans, but not frozen, and you can’t buy it fresh, or at least I’ve never seen it.
  • broccoli – for broccoli and St Agur soup. It’s not Stilton, but it will suffice. I’ve got purple and red and green.
  • leeks – because homegrown leeks are the most amazing things ever. It makes shop-bought leek taste like watery, tasteless nonsense
  • tomatoes. And more tomatoes. And more tomatoes.
  • tabasco peppers
  • cayenne peppers
  • chili peppers
  • pumpkins – if only because they look so damn cool in the vegetable patch!
  • butternut squash – because it makes immense soup and is great roasted
  • carrots – because last year’s carrots were great
  • beetroot – because I can’t get enough of roasted beetroot
  • aubergines – ratatouille. Just ratatouille.
  • spring onions
  • red cabbage – because there’s nothing nicer than pickled red cabbage with stew. There just isn’t.
  • cornichons (gherkins)
  • courgettes – even though I’ve still got freezer courgettes from 2 years ago
  • onions – which hopefully will not go to seed this year
  • garlic
  • savoy cabbage – cabbage with butter. Yum.
  • spring cabbage
  • cherry tomatoes
  • cauliflower – for the cauliflower cheese and for the cauliflower soup
  • artichokes – for the blue air
  • romanesco broccoli – for it is so very pretty
  • peas – pea soup. Really. And pea risotto.
  • broad beans – I’m currently working my way through last year’s frozen ones and they are soooooo good.
  • haricot beans
  • borlotti beans – for bean casseroles.

I’m sure I’ve missed some!



I do have a whopping great selection, but as with all seed, it’s a case of use it or lose it. I’m getting better at reclaiming seed from things, or letting a few things go to seed. Still, having spent £28 on all my vegetable seeds for this year, the cost of all these seeds is not such a big deal.

Now… to get the soil ready! You just know I’m being over-keen and there’ll be a terrible freeze like there was last year.

Resolutions 2013

Well, I confess I’ve been procrastinating because I hadn’t finished this project. Hence no blog. However, I have finished lots of other things and I feel a big sense of achievement. Whoo!

First, I saw this super-cute idea on Crafting a Green World for displaying your resolutions

And I thought that was a great idea. I was all set to cut out the circles when an idea caught me. I say an idea. In actual fact, it was laziness at not wanting to cut out all the circles. As a child, I could never colour inside the lines, or cut out a perfect shape; as an adult, I’m little better.

I decided to do leaves.

I like the leaf idea because, as the year progresses, the resolutions will ‘fall’ off the tree as I do them, and just like in winter, I will have bare branches ready for ‘leaves’ next year. Also, I will be able to see them much more easily. Also, as the year goes on, I can add to it and take away.

Oh, the cleverness of me

resolutions 2013 lady justines blogAlso, I thought that it would be a really organic idea, both literally and metaphorically. I cut some branches of hazel, which made me miss my old twisted hazel in my garden back in Bolton. I shall have to plant another. Then I used up some old wool, threaded a tapestry needle and poked it through the shapes. Leaves are easier than circles because it doesn’t matter if they’re wonky.

I read a lot of stuff about not having resolutions, but to be honest, I like doing it. It’s a big part of my new year. They’re also less of a list of resolutions and more a list of things to do. That way I keep moving. If I don’t, I’m like a shark. I’ll just die.

Frankly, that is my approach to everything. There are people who live without destinations in mind, living from one place to another, but I like to know where I’m headed. Not to the detriment of places I might stop on the way, but I’m too lazy not to have goals. If I didn’t have a to-do list, I’d sit around, eat sweets, watch old movies and turn into Jabba the Hutt in my onesie.

I like to know where I’m headed, roughly. You can’t chart your progress unless you know where you are. It gives you something to look back upon, watching your starting-point drift away as you sail towards a new destination. You can also work out how far you have to travel, like those countdowns on planes and ferries that tell you how far you have yet to travel, and you can see your destination drawing nearer. Plus, planning can be fun. It’s like when you get out all the seed catalogues and think about what can be and what your garden can bring you. There’s nothing wrong with a little visualisation to kick-start the process.

resolutions - lady justines blogSome of these things are just habits to change. But instead of putting them in a blog post I don’t revisit all year, I thought this was a cute way of putting them up so I can see them.

My big one this year is to finish what I start. About six years ago, all the people I worked with had to complete a Hay Group leadership analysis on me. Nice. It’s like being under a microscope, professionally. They have to fill out all kinds of answers about you and identify where your weaknesses are. It’s a 360° analysis by the people who work for you, those who work with you, and then the people you work for. Talk about intense.

Anyway, apart from my obvious lack of modesty, which strangely did not come up, the only thing people said I had as a fault was the fact I don’t always finish what I start. This is true. I am an enthusiast through and through. What I always liked about being an enthusiast is that I get fired up, inspired, then off I go. It’s a great energy burst. Call me an activator, a divergent thinker, whatever you will, but my one great habit this year to build is to finish things off. Properly.

Hopefully the Resolution tree will remind me frequently about my challenge this year.

Two things I’ve finished this year include a present for a friend that I can’t show yet because I haven’t given it to her yet, and this truly mixed-media picture I made for Mme. V.


* like Peter Pan, who originally uttered these words, it is not my own cleverness at all, but somebody else’s. Also like Peter Pan, it didn’t stop me claiming the accomplishment as my own even though it is so not. In fact, even before it came from Crafting a Green World, it came from a Thanksgiving Tree on Make Them Wonder. I love how ideas travel. And meh. When I saw it was leaves in the original, it totally made me smile. Even my own adaptation was just an inadvertent rip-off. Such is life.

Countdown to the new set

I’m struggling to think of even one resolution for the new year. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink. I am frugal. I could do with some more exercise, certainly. There will be a good few resolutions that will carry over from 2012 into this year, so at least it will keep me busy. Out of the 50 so far, I’ve only done 22 of them. I say ‘only’ because that’s still a lot of stuff I’ve done.

My resolutions 51-60 from last year were as follows…

51. Add a little loveliness to my life every month. I don’t know whether I did this or not. I think I did. I wasn’t really keeping check. 

52. Spend less than I earn. Definitely. I was a frugal creature this year. 

53. Make a start on the cabin as it transforms into the most amazing uber-kitsch stopover point for anyone who wants to stay in it. I made a start. Let’s just say it’s a work in progress. I haven’t got any photos to show you yet, but it looks a whole lot better than it did.  

54. Paint some more t-shirts. I painted a couple for Steve and Jake for their birthdays. I don’t know why but I can’t find Steve’s photo. It was AC:DC’s Hells Bells in Latin. It was pretty good. I did a couple of others as well that are knocking about. I did this one in 2010. I realise it’s not everyone’s strawberry daiquiri, but I thought it was pretty good. 


55. Make 10 completely new recipes. This is another that I don’t know if I did or not. I think I did. Like I made these mincemeat chelsea buns on Christmas Eve. 



I’m trying to think of any recipes I’ve made that I hadn’t before. A chickpea and chorizo soup. A beetroot chutney. Probably I did this but next year, I want to keep them all as archived files so I remember what I did!

56. Go inside the chateau at La Rochefoucauld, instead of just looking at it from the outside

la rochefoucauld chateau


As I had expected, it was very wonderful. It has a great library, fantastic staircase and is actually a U shape, not a square. I need to do more visitings of places.

57. Document my village on camera. I did a little. I started with La Rochefoucauld, rather than my own village. I did some, but not enough. 


58. Document La Rochefoucauld on camera. As above. 

59. Go to lady lunches with friends. I did plenty of lunching. So much lunching that I need a diet. 

60. Learn two new recipes off by heart. Honestly, I don’t know. I have such a wide repertoire now that I can’t remember much using a recipe book. I guess I did, if I can remember the things that I used to make. Meh. 

Anyway, with only five days in the year left, I better get on with thinking about what I want to do in the new year! 

What else did I achieve in 2012?

I’m up to 41-50 out of 93 resolutions. I must be the craziest resolution maker in the world. In 2011, I made these resolutions:

41. Plant two new fruit trees. I planted another apple and another cherry. This year better give me some actual fruit. I fear, with all the insects flying around today, that there will be another dearth of insects come real spring and I’ll be pollinating with a paintbrush. 

42. Organise a party for my 40th Birthday… it will be here, on the 15th December, 2012. Clear your diaries, book a room with me! I WILL have the best-laid birthday feast, I promise! Well, I didn’t organise it. Okay, I organised six of them so far. I have Madame Verity to thank for achieving this one. And it was the most memorable and fun birthday of my life. Yay!!


43. Repurpose Steve’s old bed in the garden. Oh will you see! I dismantled the bed, set up the soil but didn’t finish the planting. It’ll happen. One to carry forward! 

44. Work on the ‘small steps’, petit à petit, l’oiseau fait son nid…  I have no idea what I meant here. I think I was being crazy.

45. Make some more bird-houses (you’ll see those too!) I made some. I will make more! 


46. Get busy with the festivating and make lots of home-made ornaments. This year’s were a winner! Yay! I even got a tree up this year!

Christmas collage

47. Propagate succulents


48. Have 10 hammock days


49. Finally get over to the Cote d’Argent. I didn’t get there, but I did go to St Palais for the day. Next time, I’m taking the dogs and camping overnight. Mimizan-Plage, you are mine!


50. Make my feet look nice again

Lovely lady feet!
Lovely lady feet!

That’s not bad going. I can see where I’ve spent my time this year, and if there were to be a toss-up between painting a ceiling and having an actual rest in a hammock, well, I know which one I’m glad I did. The ceiling will always need painting!



I used to love doing surveys. I was a total Myspace survey geek. There’s something kind of insightful about doing them and I think I feel like I know myself a little better. I got this one from The Curious Pug. She’s a girl after my own heart. She crochets. She likes surveys. She always has great links.

This one is a list of firsts:

First thing you do when you wake up…

The first thing I do is have myself a Heston and Tilly love-in. Now we don’t all need to get up and wee before we burst, we have a little doggie love.

First thing you reach for when you open the refrigerator…

Usually something liquid. Diet coke. Milk. Juice.

First thing you do when you get to the gym…

My gym days are long behind me, much as I loved Virgin, Esporta as was. The first thing would have been to dump my stuff. My gym is the house these days. Stacking logs and shifting dirt is enough for me.

First thing you do when you get home from work…

I have the luxury of doing very little work that is not at home, so I get to teach or write or mark in my pjs. Tonight I’m sporting the fleecy spotty lilac pjs that my excellent sister bought me, coupled with my Hunter welly inserts which are damn warm. I went out to put the chickens to bed before and they kind of stayed on my feet.


Admit it. You never saw anything so elegant.

Anyway, if I am out of the house, when I return the first thing I do is look for Tilly since she’s usually on the back of the couch looking for me. Then I pet the doggies. Then I look for carnage, the scene of a disembowelled duvet, a chewed hat, the remnants of a sock. It goes one of two ways after this. Either, my things are safe and I am happy. Or something has been wrecked. Sometimes this is amusing. Sometimes, it is sad, like when Heston ate my fluffy pink Kangol hat which has been everywhere with me.Then I check emails, facebook and the likes, make a drink and leave it to go cold whilst I get hung up looking at 25 terrible autocorrect accidents or the likes.

First car

The first car I owned myself was a 1986 Mark IV Ford Escort I bought off my first proper boyfriend. It was silver. It was the least reliable car I ever owned and I used to have to coast from Horwich to Chorley of a morning.

First accident

This is a bit random because I don’t really remember my first accident. I vaguely remember cutting my hand open and I remember being in hospital having some stitches in my head once. I think someone bought me a lego fire engine or helicopter for my pain. If it’s the first accident in a car, that would be when an articulated lorry ran in the back of me.

First thing you wanted to be when you grew up

I think I either wanted to be a teacher or a dictator. Or a writer. I don’t think I really knew until I was at University and my friend Rafiq was having such a great time on his teacher placement that I knew I wanted to do that as well. Up til then, I would have liked to have been a psychologist. I was such a little worker bee that even from about 12, I wanted to be in a profession that would always guarantee me work and a living and I could never really be made redundant. I was always a bossy child, so anything that involved telling people what to do would have been right up my street. I’d like to have written advice columns or have been a go-to girl for people who needed an opinion and had none of their own. 

First choice beverage

Something caffeinated. Coffee. Diet Coke. Either is fine, depending on the weather.

First choice breakfast

A pain aux raisins and a cup of tea.

First choice dessert

Ironically, for someone who likes chocolate, it would not be chocolate. Give me a steamed sponge pudding and custard any time. Or something fruity. Fruit and custard is a winner for me.

First song that comes to mind

Because this post is a follow-on, I can’t help but go A-Ha. Instead, I’ve got a little Life of Agony groove on.

I’ve got another little one to go with it as well… big voices, these two.

First major purchase

It went like this: car, house, good stereo.

First job

I had about five little jobs I used to do, collecting milk round money, working in a greengrocers, working in restaurants and bars, working in kitchens. My first big girl permanent full-time job was as an English teacher in Chorley. Chorley is always amusing to me. Even the way people in Chorley say Chorley is funny.

First time I flew on a plane

I can’t even remember. It should be more exciting, right? To me, a plane is just a big bus in the sky and it’s a whole lot less comfortable. In fact, when I was just thinking before about going to work in the Emirates (yeah, right! I have some weird daydreams!) I thought I’d prefer to go by car and drive there. Now I live on the mainland, I can drive to Kamchatka or Korea if I feel like it. That’s pretty cool. I can even drive to South Africa or Thailand. Madness.

Anyway, I shall be reviewing my resolutions 2012 tomorrow – feel like I’ve still got a lot to achieve!


Resolutions 2012

Today, i’m a little ick. It’s the first day in two years I’ve had to cancel work because I don’t want to spread my lurgy. I’m so very sick that I have a bag full of Moore-ish tiffin to eat, just about the nicest thing there is in the whole world, qnd I couldn’t eat even a piece. That’s the problem with not being ill often… when I am, I’m a total wuss.

Anyway, yesterday, I was thinking about my resolutions at the beginning of the year and working out my tally out of 93. I know 93 is a bit of a random number, but there you go.

From 11-20 are here:

11. Finally have some success with carrots. Did that! I had 10 kg of the beasts. They were small and I should have thinned them out, but I had some at least!

Carrots - Lady Justine's blog

12. Paint the front wall and build a small herb garden. No. Didn’t get there. Another one to carry forward.

13. Make tin-can planters and tea-light holders to hang from the trees. Yes to the tin-can planters; no to the tea-light holders.

Decoupage on plant pots - Lady Justine's blog
Decoupage on plant pots

14. Finish painting the gate! Another miss. Again. This has to be my first spring task!!!

15. Render the outside wall of the lean-to. Nope.

16. Add some lean-to art. Nope also

17. Finish painting the lean-to window frames – I need new windows, so I’m foregoing that. Steve painted the shutters though…

Pink shutters - Lady Justine's blog

18. Make curtains for the lean-to. Ha ha ha

19. Find some cheap chairs to renovate for lean-to sitting. Likewise.

20. Paint the rest of the laundry lean-to. Finally, a lean-to related task completed

So I’m at 9 out of 20. That’s not bad. It’s almost 50% This year, I think I need to make like Boxer and work just that little bit harder. If I knit a pair of socks by the end of the year, that would be 10 out of 20 so far and I can live with that!

I’m off back to my sickbed. Is this what happens to your immune system when you are 40? If it is, I don’t like it. It’s a night of Glee for me in bed with my knitting. Between electric blankets, hot water bottles and these super-cool fleecy pyjamas from my sister, I think I’ll survive. If I’m not up to eating chocolate tiffin by tomorrow, I’m booking a plot in the cemetery.


Do you like these pjs? I’m in total love with them. If I just taught by internet, I could wear them all day.

Anyway, I better be better tomorrow. I have things to do. I hate being ill. In the words of Ms. Sweet Brown, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

I’m hoping to make some sweet Christmas rolls with Moore-ish mincemeat. I’m very Mooreish at the moment. January, the lady behind Moore-ish things, is the ideal woman to make anyone feel better. She knows comfort food like nobody does!

If you are too far away and you fancy a little chocolate tiffin yourself, here’s the BBC Good Food recipe. January’s has meringue in it – and between that and the glacé cherries, they’re my favourite bits. All wrapped up in chocolate. Yum.


The jar of good things

Sometimes, it’s very good to focus on the good stuff and not the negativity. It’s the choice of whether you go around looking at the world through gloomy grey glasses or whether you look at it through rose-tinted spectacles. Though being Pollyanna all the time isn’t realistic, it does help us stay focused on the nicer things if we do something that reminds of all the stuff we do that rocks.

Especially me. I’m terrible at remembering stuff. Plus, I need some rose-tinted specs for when I look back on things, so I remember just how cool they were.

This is why, when I saw this on Facebook (and nowhere can I find the original source, which I hate…) I thought it was a really good idea.



So I decided to do my own take on it with my own jar. I’ve decided to go from birthday to birthday, so this is great stuff that has happened from my birthday.



It might end up being a hair-brained scheme I never complete, but I thought it was a good idea. At the very least, it will be nice to open it on my 41st birthday and realise how great my year has been.

Even if there was a tornado.


On the beauty of nylon

A couple of people have sent me off on a nylon frenzy these last couple of days. Oh how enlightened I feel!

Since 40 (used to, maybe!) marks the passage to ‘old age’, On Saturday I will be spending the night with eight very good friends in La France, getting my groove on, granny-style. There will be nylon. There will be polyester. There may be sparks. There will hopefully be lots of laughs. We’re watching two films from my youth, Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club. I can dream about being Molly Ringwald again. There will be duvets and there will be takeaway curry. There will be bed socks and dressing gowns and curlers, and, if the truth be told, I’m looking forward to another 40 years of such pursuits.

I did do an internet search for Brentford Nylons yesterday when I found myself explaining to several bemused Russians about what I was doing over the weekend in light of the Emmaus. I’d like to share a little something I found that might ease you into the mood I’m hoping to recreate on Saturday. If nothing else, you’ll see how advertising has evolved these last 40 years!


I am pretty sure my Nan had lots of those Brentford nylon blankets. I’m also pretty sure my Nana, her daughter, was a cotton girl herself, even when it wasn’t fashionable. I’m sure we never got on board with the Seventies chez Lee. No Smash. No Imperial Leather. We did have Angel Delight once in a while. As you can see from the following picture, I was quite a dazzling array of fabric. Copper lamé and brown corduroy. A Seventies dream.

lameIt’s little wonder my hair was so static. Strangely, apart from the grey hair, it’s much the same. I still love corduroy though. I’m such a Seventies throwback. And just to finish it off, Seventies’ style, here’s Hot Chocolate with Emma

Anyway, Saturday is going to be old-lady-tastic and anyone who knows me knows I’m not going to age either gracefully or with any dignity.

p.s; For a disco anthem, it’s pretty depressing.

Old stuff and new stuff and stuff to bring you…

… happiness

No more, no less.

Today has been a day of purchases, joys and frustrations. Yesterday, my laptop died. Mon pauvre!

dead computerI bought this laptop in 2007 when I had money to burn and when I also had Basil, my venerable cat. The venerable (bulimic) cat threw up on my very expensive carpets, never on my kitchen floor. He threw up on my couch. And he threw up on my laptop. I took it to PC World and a man sucked his teeth when I showed him the cat-sick keys I’d tried to clean. It was relatively new but there was still no way I was cracking open that baby at PC World’s costs. He told me it would be an expensive job. I told him I’d buy a £7.99 USB cable and plug it in. So I did.

After that, the keyboard sat happily on top of the cat-sick keyboard and everything was fine.  When I moved to France, Madame V bought me a azerty French keyboard, and so that’s always to hand as well. The touch pad was too far away so I plugged in a mouse. Adaptable I am. Still, I like my technology and it did feel a bit like giving an artist a packet of crayola when she usually paints watercolours. But I made do. I took as much software off as I could and kept everything on USB drives.

Last summer, though, it was getting full. I’ve got software I work on and with a paltry 16 GB hard drive it was not playing. 10 GB of stuff on a computer is nothing. Steve rescued some memory from another dead laptop and put that in, but then it got too hot. It was either freezing or over-heating. I messed with the internal fan temperature shut-off temperature but it had still had enough. I knew it was dying. I couldn’t run anything with sound or video on it. I used this here slow laptop on which I type right now for nothing but Skype for my lessons, and everything else on the cat-sick laptop. Slowly, each USB port died. This slow laptop doesn’t have a working CD drive, so between the two I could just about cope.

Down to one, and I’m basically in deep trouble.

Especially when that one can’t cope properly with even just Skype and nothing else. No Microsoft Office, no photos, no files, no Dropbox, no Adobe. Just Skype and a handful of anti-virus anti-spyware cleaning programmes. I’m a paranoid girl!

So, I took a breath and found one I liked. In the end, when I went in to Darty, having sized up the one I wanted, I asked if they had anything on offer under 400 euros. Yes, he said. They had this baby:

annoying new computer


Lovely, non?

Well, it would be except the muppet who sold it me successfully removed the Darty Windows 8 stuff, but has left it without the discs to reinstall it. I can get no further than the log in screen which needs a password.

Now. I have an option. That is to get under what’s on there and install Windows XP. It’s not a guaranteed copy and let’s just say it might get messy. Do I really want to do that to this new treasure, so early in its life?


Unfortunately, I’ll be (attempting to) teach tomorrow online, cannot get back to Darty, which I cannot guarantee would be open anyway and so I’ll have to wait til Monday. I’ve got 1,000,000 and 1 things to do on Monday and I do not relish the thought of a 50 km round-trip to chastise some idiot for his inadequacy.

Tuesday is busy; Wednesday is hell. Thursday is mayhem; Friday… well, let’s just say if I have to wait a week to use a computer that functions in any kind of way that is better than the one on which I am currently typing, then I might explode.

It’s almost taken the fizz out of the best part of my day. Nay, my week. Perhaps even my year.

That is the happy event of Mme V and I visiting the Emmaus in Angouleme. This is a Catholic charity shop – only open on two days of the week for purchases. And when we pulled up, it was like hell on earth. The carpark was heaving. There were people everywhere. We were looking for nighties for my birthday party next week. Since I’m 40, I need old lady nylon.

It looked as if we would be disappointed. We found a room full of old fridges. We went into a room of cheap clothes – 1 euro for a kilo. We found several dressers and a shedload of skis. We found a hangar of old ornaments. We found a room full of table cloths. We found a room full of old 7 inch records by Nana Mouskouri. I thought we’d looked everywhere.

Then we hit the mother lode.

You wend your way in past old jigsaws with missing pieces. You pass old handbags and rows of shoes bound by elastic bands. You pass jumpers and trousers, salopettes and coats. Right at the back of this room, I smelled the heady whiff of clothes probably worn by dead people. Maddie, Mme V’s nine-year-old, broke out in hives.

“What’s making you itch?” we asked.

“Everything!” she said.

Not really surprised.

Anyway, in the very bowels of the bowels of the Emmaus, there were two rails of glorious nylon bed-wear. Nighties with every chance of setting fire to you as you sleep. Dressing gowns with fibres banned by science since the 1950s. It was a joy. It was also quite painful because we hadn’t been to the toilet, and as you may know, when you are 40, or almost, your control isn’t as good as it once was. I never laughed so much this year, except when we two went canoeing. That woman makes my face ache.

emmaus nightiesI tried to get some pictures, but there was a serious crowd in there. If you’ve seen the Sex and the City wedding dress scrap scene, it was like that, except with old people. Every gown we picked out was eagerly and jealously coveted by a woman hovering behind us. We’d put it down for seconds and her greedy little mitts would be all over it.

Anyway, I don’t want to spoil the surprise too much, but I wanted to flaunt a little of my nylon dressing gown. It’s electric blue and quilted. It is the business. We bought quite a few since there were five or six people needing one. I’m going to make a quilt out of them when we’re done with them. A commemorative quilt. How divine! When I’m 80, I’ll remember that day Mme V and I nearly wet ourselves in the Emmaus. I will have to tell you more about the Emmaus, because it was an unrivalled experience.

dressing gown two


Heston barked at it. It’s that bad.

Anyway, having taken me three times as long to type as usual, I’m out of here. Thought it would be good to share! Enjoy!

And… if you don’t hear from me again, I’ve gone up in a spark of static.



Thanksgiving 2012

No, I’m not American. I’m not having a turkey or any other Thanksgiving things, and I know my Much Love Mondays are often little more than a list of things to love, but here’s stuff I’m thankful for. I’m aiming for 100, but as I’m doing this squashed between 200 other tasks, apologies if it seems disjointed!

  1. Having plenty of work. That’s a blessing.
  2. My lovely little students who are learning to read and say such insightful things like a weed is a thing in your flowers that you hate and you try to kill it but it never dies.
  3. My teenage students who, at 13, are wise beyond their years. They care about important stuff and big ideas like life and death and God and religion. I’ve had more intelligent conversations with girls a third my age than I have with most people my age.
  4. My adult clients who give me an insight into life around the globe that I could never have had if it were not for them.
  5. The wonders of the Internet, letting me live here and teach in Russia, the Ukraine, England, France, Saudi Arabia… LJ goes global!
  6. Being an examiner, which gives me an insight into teenage minds. The future is never going to be bad when they’re in control.
  7. Being able to sit and look out of my window whilst I ponder on the fact that ‘succulent’ is the word of the year, marking-wise.
  8. Having parents who put up with me when I’m stressed and grumpy.
  9. My sister, who is the best sister I could ask for and always who always makes me laugh.
  10. Madame V., who in my state of constant chaos, has actually managed to arrange something of a birthday party for me, on my actual birthday. Yay!
  11. My lovely friends who never fail to amuse me and inspire me and make me laugh, even if I don’t get to see them enough.
  12. Heston, despite all of his crazy, energy-filled-puppy ways, who is just a happy, giddy, funny dog
  13. Miss Tilly, my American cocker spaniel, who is pretty and neurotic and crazy and cute and has learned to play after seven years of being alive.
  14. When Heston sits on my footstool, with his bum on it like a person.
  15. When Tilly sits on my knee to go to sleep.
  16. When Tilly guards me in the toilet.
  17. When Tilly guards the oven.
  18. When Heston barks at random things, like sieves.
  19. Getting to go to network meetings with talented ladies who just make me feel wowed and inspired and a little bit scared of how great women can be.
  20. Blue skies.
  21. Misty mornings.
  22. Neighbours who stop and chat.
  23. Days when all the people you meet are glad to see you and happy.
  24. Autumn leaves.
  25. Having doggies who need walks and make you stop and go outside to enjoy things.
  26. Coffee.
  27. Cups of hot, milky tea.
  28. Hot chocolate.
  29. Cider. Mmmm. Cold Cider.
  30. Magner’s Cider. Mmmm.
  31. Having plenty of logs and good fires.
  32. Having to ‘commute’ through the Charentais countryside.
  33. Miss Maddie, who taught me that there could always be a tornado.
  34. Having a pile of great books to read, especially books that haven’t been chewed. Heston gives ‘dog-eared’ a new definition.
  35. Electric blankets.
  36. Double duvets.
  37. Wearing thick socks in bed.
  38. Getting into bed with a dog on each side and not caring there’s not enough space.
  39. Hot water bottles.
  40. Making a hot water bottle and having it on my lap whilst I’m teaching.
  41. Knitting. Whoever invented that is a genius.
  42. Galaxy chocolate.
  43. Cadbury’s fruit and nut.
  44. Toffee Crisps.
  45. Having a big garden and plenty of my own vegetables.
  46. The fact that even if you have a crappy-weather year, the garden always reminds you that there’s always next year.
  47. Caramel ice-cream.
  48. Beurre salé ice-cream.
  49. Just all ice-cream. Full stop.
  50. Cake. I keep trying to find a type I don’t like and I’m very thankful I’ve never succeeded.
  52. NCIS, CSI, Criminal Minds, Bones, Person of Interest. If there’s a murder in it, it’s my cup of tea.
  53. Modern Family.
  54. Winter boots
  55. Snow boots
  56. Free ebooks.
  57. Music
  58. Skype
  59. Corn on the cob
  60. Cheese pie
  61. Sushi
  62. Teppenyaki bars
  63. Soup
  64. Catching wild animals out and about
  65. Seeing troupes of wild boar trotting across the road
  66. Inspiring blogs like One Hundred Dollars A Month which make me feel all giddy about gardening
  67. Finding old friends on Facebook that I never thought to hold on to, and seeing that everything in their life is just peachy; it’s always nice to realise that lovely people have had a great life.
  68. My brain, which never seems to get full no matter what I put in it.
  69. My mouth which gives rise to much work.
  70. Having a shelf-full of recipe books and lots of great ideas
  71. RSS feeder which cuts out everything I might like to read on t’internet and stores it for me neatly for me to read later.
  72. Bones, because they keep Heston’s teeth occupied and away from my stuff.
  73. My friends who send me funny emails that make me laugh in the middle of a long and stressful day.
  74. Words. Just how cool are they?! I bet no-one in America is giving thanks for the words ‘flap’ and ‘plop’, two of the funniest words in the English language.
  75. Colours. It would be rubbish to only see things in black and white.
  76. People who can spell properly.
  77. Other people’s blogs. I’m addicted to reading about other people’s lives. I’m such a nosy Parker.
  78. Christmas decorations, Christmas smells, Christmas full stop. I ♥ Christmas.
  79. Mushroom hunts. It’s like a real-life treasure hunt.
  80. Seeing hedgehogs, bats and owls in my garden at night.
  81. Creative people. They’re so much fun. And they never follow the rules.
  82. Punctuation. It governs our words and makes our writing make lovely, lovely sense.
  83. Annie Proulx. If I could only read one writer, she would be that person. Oh, or Dickens.
  84. Not that we need another great Great Expectations re-make, but I can’t wait to see Helena Bonham-Carter as Miss H.
  85. The fact that Baz Luhrman and Leo Di Caprio got together to make The Great Gatsby. Just genius. Thanks for that.
  86. That Colin Farrell wasn’t a total oaf in Total Recall. He’s an oaf in such a lot.
  87. Meeting people from the ether-world and realising they rock even more in real life.
  88. Omelettes. The ultimate in fast food for a hungry girl.
  89. Being able to always have food on the table, even if I’ve had to go out and dig up the last spuds to put it there
  90. The chicken ladies. Always good with the eggs.
  91. My sewing machine. Hours of amusement.
  92. Buttons.
  93. Etsy, which gives me plenty of inspiration.
  94. The fact that the simple life is good for me.
  95. Flower gardens.
  96. Planting trees.
  97. That the worst of my concerns this year have been incredibly trivial in the scheme of things.
  98. Having good health
  99. As Lois would say, having legs that work. Mostly.
  100. Having a strong back.

I don’t even care if this list makes me sound like a very old lady. Very old ladies have clearly had all their life to think of interesting things to do that they can be thankful for!

Anyway, though it’s late, I hope my overseas readers celebrating Thanksgiving have a good one! As you might be able to tell, I had a mushroom omelette. It was a feast.