Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Christmas 2010

Well after my last post about the balmy weather the snow God obviously heard me and decided to sprinkle a few centimetres of the white stuff over us just before Christmas. This is unheard of here and so promptly caused a 19 hour power cut on Christmas Eve.

Fortunately power was restored in time for me to cook Christmas dinner. We also managed to get the satellite dish connected so we had TV over Christmas. Inspired by Gordon Ramsay does Christmas, we had scrambled egg and smoked salmon on toasted croissants for breakfast and then went for a walk. Most of the snow had melted by this point but there was enough to create the feel of a white Christmas.

The rest of the day was spent eating and resting. For the first time in many years we didn’t have to worry about how much we drank because we didn’t have to drive various parents everywhere.

On Boxing Day (not a holiday in France) we went for a longer walk around the lake and visited some neighbours. It was all very non commercialised and low key.

As we now have a ceiling in the dining room we have decided to have a New Years Eve party amid the building site. It has given us a focus to work towards in our endeavours to make the place feel comfortable and we are looking forward to welcoming our English neighbours to see in the New Year with us.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

In transit

We are slowly making progress into our new life in France. For a start, the snow and freezing temperatures seem a bit of a distant memory as we bask in daytime temperatures of 12 degrees. The other thing that seems different is the daylight. We are no longer surrounded by buildings, we are few hundred miles further South and the clocks are an hour ahead so although it has been grey at times it hasn’t had the oppressiveness of the greyness in England.

We now have a warm room to sit in, our clothes are sorted (nice clothes packed away in boxes and thermals, work clothes and wellies are unpacked), we have a warmish kitchen, an area that has potential as a dining room space, Internet (except for two days when we didn’t have it!) and now we have TV via a satellite dish temporarily installed on the end of the terrace.

On a spiritual level I am not entirely here. I still dream of packing up, dangerous journeys and not reaching my destination but last night I was in France in my dreams for the first time. I have not entirely finished all my business in England and have a long way to go before I have things set up here (Governments don’t understand this, expecting you to be either resident in once place or another; they don’t understand that you can be in-transit for a while even if your body is in one place.)

The cat also seems a bit in-transit as well. Some days he is bold and runs out exploring his new environment, getting muddy and excited; and some days like today he prefers to sleep under the bed all day.

But, at the end of the day I can sit and watch Herman’s sheep as they make their way across the field in search of warmer and lusher pasture, and look out at the tidy wintry field that is South West France.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

The shortest day

It is the shortest day of the year in a few days and one of the main things I notice is that there is just that bit more daylight than further north. It is 5.30 pm and I have just taken this photo of the sun dipping behind the trees. Now, as I look out of the window it is almost night. Dusk does not hang around here for long.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010


God it's cold in the kitchen! With a temperature of 1.7 degrees I have to dress up in thermals to cook the dinner! Main problem is the butance gas freezes at 4 Celcius so it is a race to get the dinner cooked before the temperature falls! Once on the plate the distance from the kitchen to the dining table is enough to cool down the dinner considerably! Mandi the cat decided that today he wouldn't venture out of the warmth of the bedroom and really, we should have done the same!

Early days

The first few days here have been spent acclimatising to the change in environment. For a start, we are now ‘camping’ in one room, with the rest of the house looking like a building site! (And now full of our possessions in boxes and packing, spread randomly around).

We have arrived to typical winter weather. The nights are cold and clear; going down to minus 5 or 6, and the days are sunny and crisp. The contrast in temperatures between first thing in the morning and the evening requires maximum flexibility in terms of clothing and heating.

When we arrived the temperature in the bedroom was 6 degrees and in the kitchen around freezing. With our heating we managed to get the bedroom up to a comfortable 18 and now it feels quite comfortable. However, the kitchen was 0.1 degrees this morning and I can only cope with 10 minute spells at the moment!

However, the positive thing is that washing dries on the line in two hours! Unheard of in the UK.

Plan is to finish the kitchen ceiling and insulate it as soon as possible so that we can get some heat in there!


Sunday, 12 December 2010

We made it.

When I asked people here how their move went they all sighed and said pretty much the same thing. "Well we made it". It's only now that I can fully appreciate what they meant!

We made it but the journey was long and stressful! We were still packing the trailer at midnight on Thursday and putting the last things in the van as we were due to leave the following morning but somehow we made it onto the ferry and heaved a sigh of relief. We drove in convoy with Ian only managing 55 mph (less uphill) and me behind with the cat. We kept in touch using walkie talkie radios. Friday we stayed in a nice hotel but collapsed into bed and passed out. We overslept the following morning but continued our drive southwards by mid morning and got here, finally at 8.00pm.

So we are here and keep having to remind ourselves that we don't have to go back

I will write more details as the days progress but for now we are resting!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

One step closer

Today we drove up to London to collect the trailer. The snow here has gone but from Crowborough northwards it was still there beside the road with a most spectacular hoar frost through the Ashdown Forest. On the way there we stopped off to get rid of some scrap metal we had collected in the course of our work. I have never been to a scrap metal yard before and it felt very much like a scene from Mad Max minus Mel Gibson. The old copper and lead pipe paid for the fuel we used today.

The car park by Ian's garage was covered in a thick sheet of ice, so prising the trailer from its cave was a long job, involving a lot of digging, scraping and heaving. It was a hectic day but eventually we got here with the trailer and managed to park it outside the house. Tomorrow we start packing!

Monday, 6 December 2010

D (for departure) Day

Well, we've gone and done it! We've booked the ferry crossing for Friday morning. Over the past week the house has got emptier. Yesterday I gave away my bed frame and now we are sleeping on the floor. This evening the dining table and chairs went to a good home.. The kitchen is half packed, most of my clothes are in a suitcase and the cat has definitely realised that something is up!

We have no snow here but tomorrow we are driving up to  London the get the trailer, and that is still snowed in. I think we will have to do some digging.

I still don't know whether everything will fit in the trailer, van and car but I suppose we will sort out that problem if and when it happens.

Am I exited yet? Well, I don't really know. Sometimes I feel a twinge but then I think of all the things to do between now and getting on the ferry and I have to put my excitement to one side. Maybe when we are driving to the port I will feel a bit exited?

The journey down will take two days as we are driving slowly and in convoy. Thursday night we are having fish and chips at home, Friday night we are eating in a hotel. The hotel is cat friendly and will let us keep Mandi in the room in his crate.Mandi has a very special travel crate designed for a small dog so that he will have room to move around a little.

By Saturday evening we should be in the house..

Friday, 3 December 2010

Halted by the cold

The limbo continues and our progress has been slowed further by the coldest December that I can remember; with no sign of a let up! I went into town today and was stunned by how cold it felt. I had underestimate the weather and did not have nearly enough jumpers or socks! Tonight the temperature is -8 and there is still 10cm of snow and ice everywhere. We are making good progress with the jobs in the house but desperately need two snow free days to do the necessary outside jobs and then to get and load the trailer. We have not booked our tickets yet but hope to go next Thursday. I have now got rid of most of my furniture and we have packed most of our things. Last night I almost felt exited. If we have a thaw tomorrow and manage to get on with things I will more so.

Saturday, 27 November 2010


We are still heading forward, inching towards leaving..but with no definitive end in sight. Our first date was to be 1st December but that edged towards the 5th, then the 6th and now maybe sometime the week following. We still have a lot of jobs to do and our progress has not been helped by a sudden early snowfall. Snow by the coast is an uncommon event (although we seem to have had a fair bit over the past two years). Autumn has only just gone and suddenly we are in the middle of winter as this street scene shows.

This rose is doing its best to survive under the heap of snow! It's the earliest snow for 17 years but at the moment in the South East seems to be confined to Eastbourne for some odd reason, as Hastings and Brighton are clear.
 I must admit I didn't think we would have to deal with snow again and it has thrown us a little. Never the less we are getting there although the logistics of loading up, tidying, cleaning, handing the keys to the estate agent, manhandling the cat into his crate; and driving down through France through what is likely to be winter weather does fill me with some panic! Ian's IBS has started to play up in anticipation.

So, I am half moved out and half here. I am in limbo. My mail is now being redirected, my car is currently on EBay looking for a new home, we had farewell drinks with friends here on Thursday and have a family Christmas tomorrow and then technically we are gone..only not quite!

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Warm and furry

We called in to see Ian's mother the other day while we out her way, and she decided that I might find her sheepskin footmuff a useful addition to our French home. With nightime temperatures of -12 at the moment by the land this may be the case (although I can't imagine us ever having time to sit still at the moment). In the meantime Mandi the cat has found a use for it as a bottom warmer!

Friday, 19 November 2010

Changing times

It's now just 4 weeks since I left work for my new life. I am amazed at how much we have managed to do since then and my everyday life has changed beyond all recognition. I have gone from spending 40 hours a week sitting on my backside to days of physical activity. We usually get off to a slow start as neither Ian or I are morning people, but once activated we work hard until about 7.00 p.m.when we stop the hard work but then I then cook dinner if I am not too sleepy! I pack boxes, lift things, paint, hold screws in place, shop, wash, clean etc etc. and the most interesting thing is that even after only 4 weeks, my body is metamorphosing. My rounded shoulders are gradually opening up, my feeble arms are getting tiny muscles and my legs can leap upstairs without noticing. Of course this change is not pain free, and my body feels worse than it used to after a day of mountain biking, but I am optimistic and convinced that this will be a temporary thing. I even enjoy the odd bit of computer work that I still do, as it is a nice rest. I can definitely appreciate how unhealthy my previous life was.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Post script

It certainly is a dark month in more ways than one! Condolences also to Shirkaholic.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Virtual death

Even in blog land death is not far away:

I learned from my blogging friend The Chairman that The Irascible Fairy has died. Readers of his blog will know that he has been ill and in fact he hasn't posted for a few months. I only knew Richard through blogging in that strange kind of friendship where you share secrets with someone that you don't know at all. I never met Richard but I think if I had, I would have liked him. He taught me a new word...."coruscates" It means to give off or reflect light in bright beams or flashes.. to sparkle.

In his profile Richard wrote this:

I dream. I am falling endlessly through a blue and cloud flecked summer sky. Around me the music soars and coruscates.

I can imagine that wherever he is, he is coruscating now.. In memory of him I plan to use this word as often as possible!

Fiona, from Two Sheila's and Dog, posted that her mother died yesterday. I send her and Richard's partner Gavin my condolences.

Monday, 8 November 2010


The strangeness continues as we progress slowly through the process of packing and decorating. The work on my house consists of two steps forward and one step back. The backward step involves Ian finding some electrical or plumbing abnormality that  requires fixing at once. The latest discoveries have been a leaking lead water pipe, a leaking radiator, an unearthed lighting circuit.. the list goes on. I go out to Screwfix or B&Q to buy more plaster/electric boxes/plumbing bits etc and Ian continues with the repair. We are progressing but I can't predict what we will uncover next and what other jobs we will need to do so although the day that we depart for France is looming, D day is still uncertain!

Friday, 5 November 2010


There's something about working 9-5, five days a week that means that you never have to think about what day it is. Life follows its regular, routine pattern; you get up, go to work, your day is organised for you, you come home, wait for the weekend, when your time is your own, but mostly you wake up around the same time anyway. It is quite freeing not to have that structure anymore, but yesterday I truly forgot what day of the week it was and although tomorrow is Saturday, for me it will be the same as Friday,

Sunday, 31 October 2010

A nice break

We actually had a proper 'weekend' for the first time in ages! The occasion was the wedding of an old friend of Ian's in the New Forest. We decided to make a little break of it and stay in a hotel on Saturday night. Unable to find a reasonably priced bed and breakfast in the area we decided to look further afield and ended up doing an Internet search for hotel rooms in Bournemouth. We were amazed to find a very good deal at The Chine Hotel in Boscombe, where we got a room and breakfast for two for £52.95. It was almost too good to believe and we turned up expecting a catch and expecting one of the poorer rooms in the hotel but too our surprise, this was the view from our window.

The service was good, the room comfortable, the breakfast was good and all  in all we were very satisfied.

Ian used to live in Boscombe in the 1980s and had a small house there. It was his first house, he had no money, and learnt most of his D.I.Y skills renovating it. We couldn't resist driving by to have a look and Ian was surprised to see that the gate that he repaired 23 years ago was still there!

Ian remembered Boscombe as being the rougher end of Bournemouth and was surprised to see how much improved it was. The beach is a surfers paradise (but colder and greyer!) and the seafront itself quite unspoilt.

The weekend concluded with a visit to a friend on Ian's in Wimborne and a pub lunch. All in all a much appreciated break from D.I.Y.!

Friday, 29 October 2010

Ridding myself of possessions

I remember now why I haven't moved house very often; at least not since I started acquiring things! I actually find the process of sorting, packing and moving quite stressful, and not being one for creating lists, I wake up at odd hours with a long list of must do's circulating around my brain and hence find myself blogging at 4.45 a.m. in a vain attempt to make myself feel sleepy again! I suspect that today it is not going to work! Just to add to my sense of unreality it just worked out that this highly complicated and stressful move coincides with Ian and I finally living in the same house at the same time! For me, at the age of 51, this is a first! How mad is that! Actually, I think I might quite enjoy that bit if we weren't having to focus on a whole other life project at the same time! So, this is a time of massive transition for me and maybe I need to allow myself a few sleepless nights to help me cope!

The end effect of all this sorting and packing and trips to the dump is that my life should be lighter and less full of clutter. That's what I said last time I moved 8 years ago and I made a resolution not to acquire so many things and to be more organised. I must have forgotten that somewhere along the way!

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

It's all there in black and white

It's been five days since I left work and I have never been busier! I soon realised that the weekend is no longer a relevant concept as we continued packing, cleaning,decorating, repairing etc. We are progressing and the new kitchen is almost finished! It is very monochrome! I think Ian is very clever!


Saturday, 23 October 2010

You can have your cake and eat it

This was my farewell bespoke cake, made for me by another of my talented colleagues who, as well as having a full time job as a lecturer, two children to look after, studying for her PhD, also runs her own cake business! Thank you Tania!

Parting gift

This is a picture of Simone- The contortionist llama, mentioned in my previous post. I feel quite honoured to have her as she was made for part of an exhibition of circus animals by my colleague Victoria. She was a gift to mark my leaving and my colleagues thought she was appropriate obviously because of the llama connection but also because apparently I always stand with my legs twisted around each other!

Friday, 22 October 2010

The leaving

Well, my last day at work has been and gone. All in all, leaving work was actually very pleasant, and not in a negative way. I spurned the idea of an official leaving event, with presentations and speeches and organised something myself that involved maximum activity and minimum opportunity for discussion. And so it was, 16 of us went to our local bowling alley and together we did two games of bowling, ate a meal in a basket and then had a go at Laser Quest; where grown men and women put on belts with flashing lights and carry laser guns and try to shoot each other in a dark room with scary music playing! I enjoyed every minute!

Earlier that day my colleagues had presented me with a clay llama, made by Victoria, the pottery teacher. I will post a picture of it and more information later. Similarly, my colleague who makes fantastic cakes made me a big cake of 'the house on the hill', complete with mountain bikers and a French flag ribbon.

When I arrived at work yesterday there was a large bouquet of flowers on my desk and throughout the day, I did various little jobs that I had saved up interspersed with farewells to different people. It all felt very positive.

At 3.30 my colleagues came down and helped me transfer my possessions to my car, using the opportunity to remove any office furniture that was better than they had into their own offices like vultures pouncing on the dying! I returned by office key, made one final defiant gesture and left my unwashed mugs in sink, waved goodbye to everyone and left! It felt good.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Last week

Today is the first day of my last week at work. This morning it was cold and crisp as I left the house and got on my bike. I could see the sea from the top of my street and the horizon was a deep blue line against the paler sky. The leaves are falling from the trees in earnest. I am feeling quite content with no sign of panic and I am actually looking forward to the rest of the week.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Progress notes

I am still without a kitchen, but work is progressing and Ian is working hard at home while I finish my last few days at work. I am currently clearing out my office, which is as bad as my home for being full of junk and unsorted bits of paper!


Yesterday I found myself totally glued to the television or to the Internet, watching the rescue of the Chilean Miners. I saw almost every one of the 33 step out of the rescue capsule that had pulled them some 700 metres from below the the ground, and step into the arms of their families, friends and waiting dignitaries.  I can't remember a time when a news story has gripped me so much, except perhaps watching the events unfold on 9/11. This was totally different.  It was a wonderful positive story of people working together to save other people with a happy outcome.  I know that after this initial euphoria, it won't all end happily ever after for them all (one wife discovered that her husband had a mistress for years while he was missing in the mine!); life is not really like that. The cynic in me also noted that the politicians were there, and milking the event for their own gain; but yesterday my cynical side was pushed very much to the background. Someone commented on Facebook that it was the best reality TV show they had ever seen!

Monday, 4 October 2010


I have no kitchen at the moment as we ripped out the old one at the weekend. As usual once we had stripped everything out we realised that there was more to than we had hoped. C'est la vie! Plugs needed replacing, walls re-plastering, floors levelling. The most peculiar thing we found were some pipes buried in the floor, wrapped in old plastic bags. Unfortunately these seemed to be still connected to the heating system and Ian was for once stumped! We called my friendly plumber but no reply!

Tonight we went to Screwfix and B and Q to buy the rest of the bits we needed to finish the kitchen and who's van should I see parked outside but the Plumber's! I hid behind it until he left and pounced! I stood between him and his van until he agreed to come round next week and remove the wayward heating pipes! In fairness to him he said he was very busy as everyone had switched on their heating systems and found them broken!

Monday, 27 September 2010


The Universe works in mysterious ways as no sooner had I changed the banner at the top of the blog to demote the llamas to a less prominent position, they suddenly re-inserted themselves into my consciousness! I occasionally do a Google search of 'llamas for sale' and this time I spied someone selling a whole herd for a very reasonable price on the condition that the herd stayed together. Obviously an opportunity too good to miss and a quick email established that they had not been claimed. However, here is where the present interfered with our plans for the future as this news coincided with the weekend that Ian was finally moving out of his flat.

I arrived at his house on Friday evening. "I'm nearly packed; just a few bits of wood to remove from the loft tomorrow" said Ian; so with that I drifted off to sleep imagining some light packing, moving and cleaning the following day! Well, the few bits of wood turned out to be a loft full of tools, boxes, old cupboards etc and with 20 minutes to go until the new tenant arrived, we were still removing them from the loft! It really was like a scene from one of those DIY programmes where they are finishing off as the owners walk up the path!
Like one of those programmes we made it by the skin of our teeth, drove back to my house and were so tired yesterday it took us all day to recover! During our recovery we looked into the how's of transporting llamas to France and considered how we might  do it and whether it would be possible! I eventually phoned the seller of the llamas in the evening only to be told that someone had bought them that afternoon! Well I was a little disappointed but also relieved as logistically it would have been a nightmare!  However, what it did was re-ignite the llama flame and for that I am grateful!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

My grandmother's chair

This is my grandmother as I remember her in her later years. She was in her 90s here and in the winter she would move this chair into the sun and sit, looking out over her garden, snoozing, or just looking. I always remember her in this chair. She had two of them and they were her mothers' I think. She only ever had the money to get one re-upholstered and the other languished in it's original covering. She particularly liked the chairs because she was quite short and they were small and upright. When she died I couldn't bear to throw them out and no one else wanted them, so I took them to my small flat. I had every intention of getting them re-upholstered but never got round to it and in the end they have just cluttered up everywhere and had been and been virtually destroyed by the cats who seemed to think the rough wool covering was a perfect claw sharpener!

I still couldn't bring myself to throw them away despite their poor state but Ian insisted that if they came to France they must finally be re-upholstered. After a few attempts at finding an reasonable upholster I eventually stumbled into Chris from Valley Upholsters. He works with a partner in a smallish mews workshop near the station and mostly does contract and commercial work. However, he seemed genuinely interested in the chairs and knowledgeable about their construction and for a very reasonable sum of money put his heart and soul into rebuilding, restoring and recovering them. I got them back yesterday and I think my grandmother would be delighted to think that her old chairs will now be used again, and with any luck could last another 100 years!

About to jump

I have been experimenting with a new layout as I was getting a little bored with the other one. The banner across the top was taken from the terrace in France in the middle of August. There was not a cloud anywhere. The background is from a blogger template but I thought it fitted quite well. The sky and clouds seem to fit quite nicely with my current mood and feelings as it is like I am just about to jump out into space and float away freely to whatever awaits! (Well on some days it feels more like I am going to jump and land flat on my face, but I try not to think about that too much!) I also changed the description slightly as the dreams of llamas and cycling everyday seem a bit of a long way off at the moment!

Ian is on his way back from France after unloading a van load of boxes at our neighbours' house and trying to finish putting in the ceilings in the kitchen. This job took on more of a sense of urgency after he got up to make tea yesterday and realised that it was only 11 degrees in the kitchen! Ceilings and insulation make a big difference! I think my electric Teasmade is going to come in rather handy on the mornings when it is my turn to make the tea!

When he arrived there was no power to the house. We are still on a temporary supply until we have finished all the wiring and had it signed off by the local inspector and it had tripped out at the main switchboard, which happens to be on a pole in our neighbours hedge. Every time he re-set it, it tripped again, until he discovered the black and crispy plug socket in the bedroom! He later discovered that the pole had been hit by lightening a few days before, causing one of our neighbours plugs to fly out of the socket and across the room! Time to get the lightening arrester fitted!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Last minute panic

Suddenly I feel that the speed of events is picking up way too fast! Of course this is not true as we have been planning our move to France for more than two years, but all of sudden it is within touching distance and in some ways I can't believe we are there. It feels a little unreal and all those feelings of excitement and hopeful anticipation are being swept away into a tide of uncertainly and doubt and to make it all worse I am beginning to realise that I will miss my job and work colleagues! It's a strange feeling. I don't get it all the time but I am glad it is there as to really leave somewhere hating every last minute would be a bitter experience. At other moments I can get a sense of a new life ahead and an uncertain but exiting future. How great to still be able to have adventures when you are the wrong side of fifty!

Very soon there will be no time for these feelings as we will be totally caught up in the logistics of packing and moving. Ian is there already. Olga, a Russian woman from his previous workplace, was interested in his flat and she moves in next week. She is exited and Ian is rushing round trying to pack up his things. Tomorrow he drives down to the house with a full van of boxes and plasterboard, hoping to finish the ceiling in the kitchen before the winter starts. On his return we will start the final countdown.

Monday, 6 September 2010

The earth moved...

Well, it did for one of my closest friends, who now lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. They were close to the epicentre of an earthquake measuring 7.1 magnitude. These are her words:

an amazing 24 hours. the earthquake the most terrfiying thing ever. It felt as tho the house was picked up and dropped many times. I woke leapt out of bed shouting "earthquake" ran to Owen's room and was screaming at him to get up. It was so loud as the ground groaned. The house shook and china and glass crashed around us. We are all happily ok but left with a chimney that needs to be pulled down.

and from her husband

we are ok after major earthquake here in Christchurch. Our chimney is a gonner and a few precious things lost but we are fine if shaken. On top of it all, it is my wifes 50th birthday today - what a way to celebrate.

I called tonight on SKYPE and ironically had the best quality SKYPE call I have ever had annoying echo or time delay.. She had gone to work. The schools are closed and they are still experiencing after shocks. Last night Owen slept under the table and they slept on a matress in the living room. As I spoke they had another aftershock.  Someone had suggested that they go out for dinner, but I don't think there was anywhere to go out to!

End of an era

I am an occupational therapist. I do not talk about this specifically in my blog very often as I moved from clinical practice many years ago into teaching and did not want this to be a blog about occupational therapy as such.

When I did my training occupational therapy was a diploma and became an honours degree course in this country in 1991. It had already been a degree course for many years in the United States prior to this, and about that time a new breed of occupational therapy academics were emerging; helping us to back up our observations with science and developing theories to help us to understand what we were doing. One of these pioneers was Gary Kielhofner. In the early 1990s his youthful enthusiasm and ideas inspired us to think about our profession in a different way. His ideas were amongst those that guided me to towards my degree and PhD.

I met him on a couple of occasions. He became involved in some projects that were happening in my previous workplace and spent a few days with us. I didn't find him an easy person to work with at that time and I didn't always agree with him but found him interesting and charismatic as always!

He had just bought a farm with his new wife and it was rumoured that he was trying to cut down on his work commitments and spend more time there. Two weeks ago he became ill and was taken to intensive care. He was diagnosed with malignant lung cancer and died at the end of last week. He was 61 years old.

My profession is suffering from bereavement at the moment.

Merging lives

Apologies for the lack of posting. Contrary to what some think I did in fact make it back from France but was thrown immediately into work without time or energy for a moments reflection. However, this period of my life is now coming to an end.

This time I have returned in a different mood. Of course I will not miss the frustrations from work, but at last, thankfully, I am beginning to appreciate the things that I will miss. The colleagues who I can chat and joke with over lunch, the way I am challenged by some of the things I have to do (in a positive way) , the grateful students, and the not so grateful and the students that I know I have made a difference to! I can finally say that I am glad and sad to go. This trip was different to the others. Up until now I have had my time in France; a working holiday, my work life, and home lives here and at Ian's place in London and I have managed to keep them in separate boxes. Now, they are merging together, and my 4 lives are becoming one. In a couple of weeks the London life will cease when Ian rents his flat; and I already have some potential tenants for my house and I can see a real end to these lives soon.... and in the not to distant future my main life will be in France. This is important to realise I think. One thing I learnt over the summer is that for our change to work we must make a 100% commitment to it. There can be no going back and forth to England every month because we feel like it (although some trips will be necessary at first); we need to work hard to make sure that we integrate into our new life in France and not spend most of our time with other English people, I need to work the two days a month that I have been offered in Bordeaux and maybe look for some other work to keep me interested until our B&B is operational; I need to try to learn to be French for a while even if, for a while, it means putting my English bit on hold. (I can easily revert to it if necessary).

Friday, 27 August 2010

Time to go already

All to soon our three weeks are coming to an end and we are, as usual, rushing around trying to finish off things before we return home. The weather has continued to be hot, which has been a problem for working. Yesterday the temperature reached 39 degrees again but this was accompanied by a strong wind that was so warm it took my breath away as soon as I stepped into it. Last night the temperature didn't drop below 29 degrees in the room and neither of us slept that well. However, today the cloud came in, the wind increased again, the temperature dropped slowly and by afternoon we watched as brief but heavy rain storm raced across the land towards the house. When it hit us it blew down the ladder that Ian had used to get onto the roof! Just as well I was there and not too p*ssed off with him as I was able to put it back and enable him to get down. He has been trying to finish the soffits. This was a job we started last year but could not finish as we couldn't access one side of the house and ran out time with the tower. The disadvantage of not having soffits is that Renata redstart and her family now think that the roof is the perfect place to raise a family and have moved in; covering everything with bird sh*t. We are on course to finish all but the front of the tower, for which we need to build some scaffolding to reach. Hence I fear we will not deter Renata this time round.

We spent a day in Bordeaux this week and I have provisionally agreed some dates with the school to do some teaching. It is not brilliantly paid but is a start and will certainly help me to settle into my new life.

The local Mayor (think Vicar of Dibley) owns a airstrip that he uses for microlights. They had an open afternoon and we dropped in briefly to see what was going on at the same time as group of monks from Plum Village, mindfully watching the scene! The whole thing was quite bizarre!

We asked the Mayor if the Russians were landing on his airstrip. He didn't laugh at all but said that the Gendarme had asked him the same question a few weeks ago!

We had a full moon at the beginning of the week. When the moon is full you don't need any lights to see outside.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

A second French wedding

When we arrived the temperature was comfortable, reaching 22-25 degrees during the day and 12-13 at night. This was just right for working in. However, for the last few days the temperature has crept up into the mid 30s, reaching 39 degrees yesterday afternoon and not going down much below 26 at night. This has been pretty uncomfortable and made us reassess the need for some portable air conditioning for the bedroom!

Yesterday we went to the wedding of the farmer's son. Ian visits the farmer (M Mulatier) often and talks about tractors and machines. His son has two children and he and his partner were not married so I guess eventually the presuure to conform got to them, or it felt like now or never in terms of timing! In fact, it was a double ceremony with their wedding and the baptism of their second child. I hope it was a buy one, get one free deal!

This was the second French wedding that I have been two. As France is a secular state everyone must marry first at the Marie. So, following the trail of hedge clippings laid that morning (a tradition) we headed up to the Marie in Thenac in our Tranist van, with the air conditioning on full blast. In due course, the procession of cars arrived, with lights flashing and horns blaring. Following up behind was this tractor, decked in flowers and various banners!

The banner reads " convoy of happy angels".

Nothing was quiet about the arrival; there was lots of shouting and cheering and the wedding was conducted by the local Mayor. The bride and groom say "oui" and then the Mayor reads out a long list of relevant French legislation and law, things are signed and everyone leaves, heading for the proper ceremony in the church.

The church in Puyguihelm is spectacular in that it is perched right on top of the hill, with the doors opening onto the most wonderful panorama over the vineyards of the Duras region.
The searing heat make it look more washed out than it actually is.

Fortunately the ceremony was not a full Mass. As in the UK no one but the priest knew the words or the tune of the hymn but at least he had a wonderful voice! Being a dual event the service was still quite long and by the time it finished I was soaked in perspiration and longing for a cool drink.

As the couple left the church for the obligatory photos their friends had a special guard of honour with hard hats for her (she is the manager of a building site) and toy tractors for him. This was accompanied by heart shaped confetti (with no one complaining about who was going to sweep it up, the priest just being relieved that he had managed to save two more souls!).

The day finished with a 'Vin d'honor' in our village hall where I thought I was drinking grapefruit juice but alas it was a local cocktail containing something very alcoholic! I was served in a refridgerated fountain which meant that we all drank more than we should. However, I noted again the phenomenon that alcohol improves my French!

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

The Russians are coming

Our three weeks seems to be racing by and already I can tell that we will not get all the things done that we had on the list, but that is what usually happens. We are aiming to finish off some more wiring and to plasterboard the rest of the ceiling in the kitchen. Ian intersperses this less interesting activity with sojourns on the digger! I can hear it whirring in the background!

On Saturday evening we went to the soiree jambon braise in the village. The committee de fetes in the various communes usually organise an event each year to  raise money for local projects ets. I suppose it is a bit like the English village fair. Tickets are 18 euros and you turn up with your own place setting (knife, fork, plate, bowl etc). There were about 100 people there; a mixture of locals, French, English and tourists. The food consisted of an apperative, tomato soup with tapioca, barbecued pork with pepper sauce, braised haricot beans with garlic and pig skin, cheese, cider and dessert of cherries soaked in alcohol and ice cream. This was all accompanied by wine, music, etc. and I must say was enjoyable enough to justify the hangover the following day.

On Monday night we went to our neighbours to finally eat the leg of venison that as been in their freezer since February and was given to us by le Chasse as it was shot on the land. I must confess it was very tasty and I only had a slight pang of guilt when I thought about the four lovely deer that have been running across the field all week.

We caught up on some local news. Now France has become too expensive for most English people the Russians are arriving. In the nearby village of Thenac the Chateau has been bought and beautifully restored by a mate of Abramovich and the rumour is  Abramovich himself has bought the neighbouring hilltop! The reaction of the locals has been mixed but I am not going tho say anything bad at all!!

Saturday, 14 August 2010


We have had  a few visitors chez-nous over the last few days. On Thursday Julie from my French class came for lunch. We sat in the sun on the terrace and looked out into the field while her partner and Ian discussed the problems of building in France and the UK. It was very pleasant. Just as they were leaving Ian's friend from the north of France arrived. He is staying with us for a few days to help Ian and also for a change of scene for him. He arrived complete with his pop-up caravan. This was a bargain Ebay purchase as it cost him all of £200 and as it folds into a trailer, means he does not have to pay the higher tolls on  the motorways. It comes with all its original fittings and is now parked under the trees.

Yesterday morning we were looking out of the window just as a hot air ballon glided into view. At first we thought it was going to put down in the field, but it managed to stay aloft for another kilometre or so and we saw it ditch in a nearby farm.
The final group of visitors have been of the wild variety. We have seen several deer and hare but the most frequent visitors have been the praying manitis (is the plural mantii or mantises?). There are lots in the many that I abandoned my strimming so that I didn't kill any more. One in particular has taken a likeing to the house, despite all our attempts to rehome her in the field, she keeps coming back!

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Connected to the rest of the world

I haven't minded the fact that we have had to get all the hot water from the shower , or that I have been cooking on a camping stove, or that the toilet has until recently flushed directly into the field, or that we have no TV.. However, I have missed the Internet. When we were here last we signed up to a new WiMax service. "It will be installed within two months" said the girl, from the comfort of her Parisien office. Two months came and went and still no sign. Ian called once, and then again and then eventually, 4 weeks ago, got through to the installer who came out with the age old excuse ,'sorry, my van broke down'. He agreed to put us in his diary for first thing Monday. By 10.00 o'clock on Monday, when there was so sign, Ian called him. "Sorry, I forgot. I've just got back from holiday". (In France the customer is always wrong!) We agreed to reschedule until today. At 9.30 there was no sign and a call confirmed that the installer was lost! Eventually, however, at 11.00, he found us and started his work installing an arial pointing at the only transmitter that was not obscured by a hill. As you can see we now have Internet access. It is a little slow for uploading things and at times has been a bit hesitant, but at least we can now stay in touch with our virtual lives and virtual friends!

The dumper truck made it down in once piece without any more problems. However, getting it off the trailer and into the field was another matter as it starts with a starting handle. Two grown men could not get it to fire so ended up bump starting it down the field. In the end there was a puff of white smoke and it coughed into life and trundled around the field with Ian cheerfully in command!

Friday, 6 August 2010

Fly free water butt! Fly free!

Tonight we are staying in the Premiere Classe hotel in Rouen, which is neither premiere or classy but does have free Internet. The dumper is still attached to the trailer although the water butt that Ian fixed on to it with straps managed to disconnect itself and fly free somewhere south of Calais. The first we knew of it was when we were stopped by a 'securitie civile' man who told us he had been driving behind us as it launched itself into the air! We said sorry, decided the water butt was not worth rescuing, and continued on our journey. Later on we heard a traffic announcement saying that there was an object on the road south  of Calais and to take care. We suspected the water butt!

We ate in the only restaurant in the area, the Campanille. Campanille and Premiere Classe are operated by the same group. The meal was expensive and just ahout edible but being English we didn't complain!

Thursday, 5 August 2010

All aboard

We are off to France tomorrow for three weeks and I am feeling a bit stressed as I still haven't finished the packing! I am quite good at last minute packing, but I need to be totally focused and alone. This time I had Ian looking over my shoulder so I am convinced that I have forgotten something very important. Ian arrived mid-day with a dumper truck on his trailer. When I got home at 3.00 it was covered in small boys, staring at various mechanical bits!
We now start the slow and tedious journey to the Dordogne; never going above 90 km an hour! We should arrive some time on Sunday, stopping overnight in Rouen tomorrow. The good news is we should be getting our WiMax on Monday so I may manage blogging on the go!

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Happy Birthday

Despite her protests to the contrary I think my mother quite enjoyed her 80th birthday party. We had tea, wine, sandwiches and cake in the company of the other residents. We didn't stay late and we cleared up afterwards and my mother even managed a smile for the camera! This is all of us! (Photo by Ian).

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Some you win and some you loose

I have been trying to buy an ice cream maker for ages. I started by scouring eBay, but missed out on a few bargains. I bought a Magimix one from John Lewis but decided that it was rubbish (and it didn't work properly) so I sent it back and today I saw quite a nice one on eBay that was local, so would save me the £8.00 postage normally quoted. Ian  suggested I bid with 20 seconds to go with the maximum price I was prepared to pay. With 6 seconds to go I was the highest bidder, but in the end I lost out!  Never mind! I'll get the ice cream machine one day!

In the meantime Ian bid on a second hand dumper truck somewhere up near Birmingham and he won it, so is driving up on Tuesday with the trailer and then we are taking it down to France on Friday. That marks the start of our three week trip. I no longer call it a holiday since we spend most of the time working. The good news is that we should be getting our WiMax connected on the 9th August so no more walking up to the neighbours' garden to use their wireless network!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

My Brompton

I have been trying to rid myself of some of my bicycles before I go to France. The Brompton, my folding bike that I have had since 1997, was on the list to sell. However, it has been saved by the possibility of the part time job in Bordeaux. The school is 6 km from the railway station, and as the train looks like it will be the best option for travelling, the Brompton will come in handy. Now we come to problem two. I rode Brommie for 5 years and did not one single bit of maintenance on it apart from mending punctures! Ian was horrified at my neglect and decided that we needed to do some work on it. I also needed some new handlebars after falling off and damaging the originals in the first three weeks of owning it. So.. we replaced the chain, cogs and jockey wheels, put a new front brake, cables and saddle; and I bought some folding pedals. We then decided to try a bit of customisation for the bars and brake levers and 'stole' some riser bars and mountain bike levers off of one of Ian's bikes. This is a bit radical as anything like that can affect how if folds. However we experimented, it worked and now I have the first ever' pimp  my ride' Brommie!

Brommie with riser bars
Ready to ride
And it still folds

Monday, 26 July 2010

Logo launch

So here it is.. the logo..

As explained in an earlier post, this was done by my neighbour Dave. This is a scanned picture of the original pen and ink drawing that we have. I may at some point experiment with a bit of colour but at the moment we have the black and white version for letters, cards etc.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010


We edge slowly towards France. Thinking about everything that needs to be done in a short space of time fills me with panic but each day more jobs get done. Ian arrived at the weekend with 30 packing crates and insisted that I start packing so that he has somewhere to put some of his things when his flat is rented. I went a good way to filling them up with my books, photos, and contents of some cupboards but Ian is most concerned that I start on my wardrobe! That is a job for later!

Today I took Mandelson the cat to get his pet passport. He was micro chipped, given two rabies jabs, and had a blood test (that can only be done at a government approved, i.e. expensive, laboratory) and today I had to go to pick up all the documents. Total cost was approximately £200  which makes it more than double the cost of my passport! There is a space on the document where I can put his photo but as I can never get him stay still long enough to take a photo of anything other than  his a*se I don't think I will bother!

My mother told me that she is waiting until her 80th birthday (in two weeks time) before renewing her passport, as then she won't have to pay.

Talking of Mandelson (this time Peter), I saw an interview with him the other week about his memoirs where he confessed that he wants to be a farmer. This is a quote from an interview with him from the spectator:
If you ask me where in 15 or 20 years' time I'd like to be, it will be probably on a farm somewhere close to the land, getting up early in the morning ... I want to be near land. I want to be able to grow my own food. Look after my own farm animals, worry about the weather and get the timing of my harvest right.

Where we go Peter Mandelson follows!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Black Nana

When I was younger and my grandmother was still alive she showed us this old family photo on a tin plate image. The baby was my grandfather, Thomas Welch, with his mother, Mary  Miriam Price and his father,  Thomas Welch who was a postman. The older man in the hat is my grandfather's mother's father, Luke Price, who was a lamplighter from Merthyr Tydfil and the old lady in bonnet was my grandfather's mother's mother,  Mary Du Prez. When I first saw this photo I said to my grandmother:

"who is the black woman in the photo?"

"Black woman!? She wasn't black, she just worked with coal and it tinted her skin"

No amount of explanation would ever make her see this any differently! After my grandmother died we had some contacts with the other side of the family who knew more about her and had a big picture of her on their wall. She was known to them as "Black Nana"

Monday, 12 July 2010

My Grandmother

I mentioned my grandmother in the previous post. One of the things that I did this weekend was to scan all my mother's old family pictures and I plan to post a few from time to time in case anyone out there is interested!

My grandmother was born in Camden Town, London. I can't remember the exact date but she was christened Dorothy Turner. There are quite a lot of old family photos and although they were not a rich family I would guess that they were probably what we would call upper working class at the time. This was her, I assume around 5 years old, in a wonderful posed picture! She was quite a character. She was quite short (not much more that 5 foot tall) and I remember her as being rather round in her younger days. However, whereas nowadays people may think of diets and toned bodies she thought of herself as a 'mere slip of a thing' and quite voluptuous! Here is a great picture of her in her bathing costume! She described the young Dorothy as being very popular with the boys! (Although in those days this had the much more innocent meaning of 'flirty'.)
She met and married Thomas Welch when she was about 19. He was a childhood friend and they had know each other pretty much all their lives.  He played the piano and piano accordion and she sang soprano. They loved music and seem to remember them saying that for a while they performed together in music hall. One of her regrets in life was that she was never able to train as a singer as her mother wouldn't let her. She was devoted to Tom, as she called him, for the following 60 years, although she also deeply resented the role that had been placed on her as a woman of her day. I think she was actually rather envious of her grandchildren for the opportunities that we had and in another life she would have loved to have been an independent woman.  

Thomas and Dorothy Welch on their wedding day (They got married on Boxing day, a common day to get married on as people would not need to take time off of work.

Weekly update: on destiny

Time for my weekly post. I seemed to have settled into a once weekly post at the moment. I would like to do more but will have to be content with this. There are no shortage of things to write about and I often compose blog posts in my head whilst on the way to some place, or when on the train, or when sitting at my desk trying to work! However I never seem to get time to write them all down.

I had plenty of time to think on Friday as most of it was spent sitting in the car park that is the M25 (composing blog entries in my head). I went  to Windsor to take my mum to a hospital appointment that lasted all of 20 minutes. What was nice was that we then had plenty of time to talk and have lunch together; a rare occurrence in these days. She will be 80 in a couple of weeks so we talked about that and also about my planned move to France. To her, this must seem like the end of the earth, but then she thought that when I moved from London to Eastbourne! Anyway, I think she is coming around to the idea. We looked through her old photograph album together and that prompted her to talk about my grandmother (her mother)

"She always wanted to run a bed and breakfast..she rather liked cooking and always thought it would be a lovely thing to was one of the things that she regretted not doing.. ." (She had many regrets about her life)
Funny, I never knew that about her. I also never knew that my grandfather  learnt to speak French quite well at the age of 50. My mother couldn't remember why he suddenly took it up other than to say that he was rather good at spoken French (not something I have inherited!).

So, perhaps, somehow, without realising it, I am attempting to live out some of the unfulfilled dreams of my Grandparents by going to France, to breed llamas and run a small B&B. Mind you, unfulfilled dreams are always full of excitement, fun, positive thoughts, hopes and wishes, whereas the reality may be less dreamlike!

Monday, 5 July 2010

A good book

One of the problems with spending my days reading student work, documents, academic papers etc. is that by the time my head hits the pillow I am too tired and brain dead to do anything other than listen to the radio as I drift off to sleep or at best, do an easy Sudoku puzzle (on my tiredest of days I can't even do the simple ones). I used to like reading, but these activities are not condusive to sitting down with a good book. This is something I hope to rectify when I start my new life away from full time academic life. Occasionally however I find a book that breaks through my tiredness and inertia and I read it to the end. The other week I picked up an old copy of Tom Simpson's 'Touching the Void' from a shelf at work. Tom and his climbing partner were caught out in an accident whilst climbing in South America and, in what is now a well known incident, Tom's partner eventually had to cut the rope that was holding Tom precariously above a crevasse and leave him to what he was certain was his death. Tom survived and the book is really an incredibly powerful account of his survival. I'm not to into the climbing details but the book got my attention and I can recommend it. (Don't bother with the film, it doesn't come close to the actual words.)

The joys of summer

Summer is here in full swing. We have had about three weeks of warm, dry weather give or take a few showers. Summer is a little late. This time last year I was already picking the last of the blackcurrants but this year they are only just ripe enough and I am still picking the last of the strawberries! Nature in early summer is almost terrifying with the speed with which it takes over. I like it but it so quickly gets out of control. I can remember coming back to Eastbourne from Brighton after spending two weeks in hospital and rather than feeling pleased to see all the lush greenness of the Downs I found it rather overwhelming and that is how Ian and I felt looking at my garden this weekend! The weeds were waist high, the plants over grown, the hedges encroaching on the flower beds. We worked hard and filled three wheelie bins (mine and two belonging to the neighbours) and still only managed to do half!

Monday, 28 June 2010

Moving on

Ian is now back from France and taking stock before he finally finishes off his flat and rents it out. Of course he spent Thursday and Friday of last week looking at more pictures of heavy machinery. This time it was a dumper truck which he assures me he will need and an old ride on lawn mower (although we have no lawn yet!) Fortunately he missed out on the bidding which was a relief as I am not sure what we would have done with them between now and our next trip.

I got some ideas for out logo last week from my graphic artist neighbour, so we played around with them a bit and made a decision. All will be revealed when we have the final drawing! We are edging forwards slowly! Tomorrow I have my last French class.

C'est l'heure de dire adieu

Last week I was thinking about all the nice things about my job that I will miss. I have not had to wait long for a few things to happen to p*ss me off and make me long for the French fields!

A new government tends to galvanise  inactive civil servants into a spurt of action (in fear of their jobs and pensions no doubt!) I remember it when New Labour came into to power and it is no different with the ConDems. A young girl came from the Department of Health to tell us about how things will change. (I know I am too old when I refer to them all as 'young'). Apparently we are going to see fewer acute hospital beds (no change there, every government has tried to do this but no one has worked out yet that the only people misfortunate enough to stay in hospital are those who can't be anywhere else as they are too ill). We are also going to see more services provided closer to home. (Been tried before and in principal everyone agrees with this except services closer to home are more expensive than centralised services). Students are to be told (by whom? the government? ) that they must challenge practises they see that they think are wrong. "Well look what happened to me when I did that" piped up one student. Of course they should challenge but my experience of that is that it makes them unpopular and then they fail their placements. OK they should do it tactfully but they are STUDENTS and, as the word implies, they are still learning. The final one is this new thing that they are going to focus on called re-enablement; except that it is not new but another word for rehabilitation, which we have been doing since the end of the first world war!

Sunday, 20 June 2010

You can't tax some perks

I was most disappointed to discover that one of the blogs I read regularly has been mothballed. The Jobbing Doctor wrote about life as a General Practitioner, with its ups and downs, frustrations and bonuses. I enjoyed his musings but know that for many Bloggers who write about work related matters,  no matter how hard you try to keep your identity a secret you are eventually 'outed'. It is usually not a problem if you don't have too many readers but as the Jobbing Doctor's posts got more and more widely read I would guess it got more and more difficult for him to stay unknown. Or..maybe he just got fed up with it and needed a rest. Either way I will miss his thoughts.

The lack of JD prompted me to search the blog sphere for other interesting blogs to read and one of them that I found was "Hold my hand": a social worker's blog by Doris Plaster. Her post about a dying resident in a nursing home was really very moving (The Language of Love) and caused me to reflect on my post yesterday, where I was bemoaning the lack of perks in the public sector. It made me realise that my professional life has been full of all sorts of wonderful bonuses.  I often tell students, when they are struggling to come to terms with the difficulty of the cases that they have to deal with, that as therapists we often get to work with people at the lowest point of their lives. We see people do amazing things, fight against all the odds, we see the best of people, the worst of people and in some cases we can make a very small difference to their situation. That is truly a privilege and, if you like, a perk. And the best thing about it is that David Cameron and readers of the Daily Mail can't do anything about it! So thank you Doris for helping me see my work in perspective! I am very pleased to be leaving this bit of it now but it is nice to be able to go thinking of the good things about it!

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Health and safety man is alive and living in France

Ian is still in France. He has been hampered by rain and a rather officious inspector from the SPANC who took one look at Warren's carefully placed plastic pipe leading from the end of the filter bed to the middle of the field, shook his head, wagged his finger and said 'interdit'! Negotiation and discussion was therefore out of the question and so Ian and Warren spent last week digging a trench for the run off, consisting of two further 30 metre drains running across the slope, sand, gravel, yet more pipe and two further inspection holes so that the man from the SPANC could look into them on Thursday and check that they were draining properly! This is in spite of the fact that our neighbours' fosse empties directly into the ground and runs off into the corner of our field filtered only by the grass and the soil. The slightly smelly puddle that collects a the top of the field has been ideal for growing the twisted willow tree we bought from England 18 months ago and is also popular with Sid the snake so we are not too bothered by it but annoyed by the 'health and safety man' mentality that has found its way into the French countryside! If the drains prove to be ineffective then we have to get the run-off from our filter bed pumped up to the ditch that runs off by the side of the road!

You can just see both features in this picture. Over to the right, just in front of the hedge is a lush green patch, which is our neighbour's run-off and at the end of the muddy trench leading away from the filter bed is the forbidden pipe exit!

David Cameron and his ConDemmed party have appointed Lord Young to investigate whether health and safety has 'gone mad'. I think it is probably the people implementing all these policies that have gone mad. Interestingly when Cameron first mentioned these ideas before the election the LibDems emphatically disagreed with him. Funny how madness spreads.

I expect my wages to be frozen after the budget on Tuesday. Apparently my 'perks' are also threatened but as I can't think of any perks that I have had then I can't see what they can do. Public sector pensions are waved around like a red flag by the likes of the Daily Mail as being a perk. Yes, I have a pension and I have paid 7% of my salary every month towards it for  20+ years. Even if I work until I am 70 I will never be able to accrue the 40 years necessary for a full pension. A full pension would give me half my salary on retirement. I will get about a quarter which, without going into too much detail with regards to my salary would give me a pension of about £10,000 per year. Not what I consider a perk after 30 years of public service! Anyway, it will shortly not be my concern as I formally handed in my notice on Monday!

Sunday, 13 June 2010


The day after I found out about Norma I was quite sad and Ian suggested that we stopped working and went for a walk around the land. I was particularly keen to see what had happened to the orchid field. We were quite a bit later than last year, when they were spectacular, but then it has been a long winter and a late spring so everything is a little later this year. This year the rain has meant that the grass has grown up a lot more but although past their prime, we still had an impressive array of pyramid orchids in bloom, along with a host of other wild flowers.

This was taken from the bottom of the field looking up towards the house. There were one or two bee orchids but these were really finished. Our plans at the moment are to leave the field as it is but maybe just to top the grass after the orchids have died back. We also saw lots of butterflies. My favourites were four really pretty black, white and grey ones, which reminded me of Norma. I have always liked the idea that the butterfly is associated with the soul and to me this is more meaningful than symbolic burials or cremations. So when I saw these butterflies floating around over the fields and flowers I though of Norma, free at last from the things that tied her down. Unfortunately they were flitting around too quickly for me to take a photo!
Grieving for a pet is different to grieving about a person. I was sad for a day, less sad the day after and now, apart from getting used to needing one less cat bowl my life goes on as before. With a person the pain lasts longer and is stronger.

When I showed people some pictures of the house after the last visit they asked me if the sky was always blue. Well, it isn't I'm afraid. The weather was quite changeable and we had some spectacular grey skies!

Digger man

Ian spent most of the week with the digger. He is still in France with her but today he has taken a 'day off' and gone to see a Tractor Pulling Contest! I am posting this picture because maybe some of you can identify with the look of sheer concentration and pleasure on Ian's face!


I was really looking forward to a long lie in bed this morning! I always sleep quite badly this time of year with the long hours of daylight and after a week in France with lots of work and a journey home yesterday I needed to catch up with a few hours sleep. However, this was not to be as in the very early hours the jackdaw nest fell down the chimney complete with jackdaw. This is pretty much an annual occurrence and I have discovered that the best way to deal with it is to open the window and the chimney and let the bird work it out for itself. Last time the bird flew out in about 2 hours but this bird is a bit more stupid and is still trying the loud squawks from inside the chimney in the hope that his mates will come and rescue him. Oh well, I hope he will work it out before bedtime!

France were playing in the World Cup on Friday and we went out for a meal in the town square. It was an ordinary Friday night except the local bar had a few more people than normal. Last night I arrived back at the railway station just a the England vs USA match was entering half time. The pubs were spilling over onto the pavement with drunken men wearing red and white and girls wearing very little. Police sirens were blaring as they tried to control the drunken crowds. I had 40 minutes to wait for a bus home so I got a taxi! It was not a great homecoming!

Mandi was pleased to see me but didn't seem to be missing Norma at all. In fact, he is relishing in being the centre of attention for the first time in his life!

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Farewell Norma

I was worried about Norma before I left. I know that she had limited time left but seeing her condition as I left for Ireland I did wonder whether now was a good time to go away. I told my neighbour to phone me if she was worried. Last night, while we were enjoying a meal with neighbours in our dining room (complete with dust sheets as tablecloths, tools all around us and no ceilings) I got a call. Norma had been missing for two days and despite searches and contacting the vet she had not reappeared. The feeling was that she had taken herself off to die.

I spent the night trying to think about places that she might be. I went through all her secret hiding places in my mind and sent a text the following morning. As we were wandering round yet another hardware store I got a call to say that she had been found in a nearby garden and taken to the vets. She was almost dead so the vets had to put her to sleep.

I called the vets, tried to reassure everyone that they had done the right thing, and agreed Norma's funeral arrangements. (A few days in the freezer and the off to the pet crematorium..I am not sentimental about these things and don't feel the need to have some sort of memorial ).

So, Norma chose her time and is now at peace but when I return on Saturday the house will feel less like home without her.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Another day, another breakfast

Hotel breakfast buffets are all the same really. Turins full of curdled scrambled egg, drying bacon etc, plates of cheese and ham, yoghurt, fruit....I find it all a bit overwhelming and I can never decide what I want. Whatever I choose never lives up to my expectations. At breakfast today was a man who looked like the incredible hulk and wore a T shirt with 'World's Strongest Man' on it. I don't know whether he was a true contender or a hopeful but he was still tucking into the third course of his breakfast as I left.

We are off to France tomorrow. I am just there for a week and then come back but Ian has tasked himself with finishing the concrete slab for the garage before he returns. The miracle is that Warren claims he has finished the fosse. He asked us to pay him by return but as he has spent 6 months ignoring our phone calls and emails he may well have to wait a little for his money!

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Small world

l am currently in a hotel room in Limerick on my final duties as an external examiner. For the first time I managed to arrive with a laptop that I can connect to the hotel's wireless network and so it is almost like being at home. Ryan Scare have withdrawn the late evening flight that I used to get and so I arrived a day later than usual without much time to do the required work. Consequently I have been sitting here reading scripts and trying to recover from the enormous meal I had earlier at The Cornstore. Should you ever find yourself in Limerick I can recommend it but working in the evening on a full stomach is not that easy!

On the flight over I found myself sitting next to a woman who turned out to be a good friend of my doctor! It's a small world!