Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Norma keeps going

I wrote about a year ago that my cat Norma was getting older and more frail and that there would come a time soon when I would need to consider having her put to sleep. Despite my concerns at the time she has kept going, although now each week I notice that she is that little bit thinner and that she doesn't always seem to know where she is. I have been having thoughts of taking her to the vet more frequently but knowing when the time is right is hard. However, I think I have found a good indicator. Tonight I cooked her some white fish as a treat. It has always been her favourite and when it was steaming in the microwave in her younger days she would climb on top to get at it. Well, that is a bit beyond her but as soon as the smell wafted out she was up, pacing the floor and miaowing (rather loudly as she is deaf). As soon as it was down on the floor she pounced and ate the whole piece in 5 minutes. I will keep this as my indicator of her quality of life. When she is no longer interested in coley fillets then I will know that the quality of her life is no longer good.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Happy Burns night

This weekend we put down the laminate floor in Ian's living room. The actual floor took about 4 hours to do, but clearing out the room, removing the carpet, taking it to the tip, levelling out the floor etc, took three times as long. At the tip, we were getting rid of our old carpet and another couple were throwing away their laminate floor. As I have said earlier, we are now thinking of our homes in terms of their rental potential as opposed to personal preference.

As the potential date for moving to France moves nearer and nearer and the plans become more and more real people keep asking me 'what are you going to do over there?' The honest answer is that in the short term I don't know. We have plans for the llama farm and bed and breakfast but they will take a year at least to get off the ground. I have also made some tentative contacts with regard to some possible teaching work that may or may not materialise. Ideally I think I would like to find a part time job locally in a clinical capacity as I think that would be the best way to integrate with the French community and would improve my French greatly. I am qualified but I have no idea what work is available and whether anyone would be interested in emplying me. There have only been two other times in my life when I have not had a job to go to. One was when I started work and the other was when I returned from travelling. In both cases I found jobs pretty quickly. When I was travelling I really enjoyed the uncertainty of not knowing where I was going to go the next day and what I wanted to do. The whole world was ahead of me and didn't scare me a bit. When I returned to the England I got more senior jobs, got a mortgage and although I didn't have children to tie me to one spot I did what most other people do; stayed put and settled down. My big move was when I moved to the coast from London 8 years ago although  the move was dictated by the job and not for any desire for a seaside retirement.

So now at the age of 51, I am off on another adeventure; the like of which I have not had since my 20s. I am a little anxious but really exited by the idea of the freedom . (I may not find the reality so great but watch this space!)

Tonight is Burn's night and I am off for a Burn's night celebration and to eat my first ever haggis!

(Overheard in Tesco: Couple buying lottery ticket. Her to him "if we win the lottery today maybe we can find somewhere nice to send your mother!")

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

The mad hatter's tea party

The discussion in today's meeting went something like this

"I would like us to think about how we coped in the recent snow..Well we realise that we could improve communication a bit. And we've found out about a really good way that we can do it.. Apparently there's a way that we can send SMS messages to everyone who signs up to the service to tell them when we are cancelling classes.. really..yes.. is it expensive? Well we get 2000 inclusive messages and then we might have to consider whether we can afford to send any more.. but we might not need to tell everyone in the school. well apparently you can work it out so that you just send the message to specifc groups. really, that's amazing.. yes, apparently other universities have been doing it for child's primary school does it..I suppose we should look into it..."

I sat there wondering whether I had somehow entered a parallel universe and decided that if I even attempted to say anything that I considered sensible I would sound like the madest mad person from the planet mad. Instead I sat quietly and thought of llamas.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010


Ian says that men have 2000 words a day to use up and women have 8000, which is why he thinks that I am going on too much about things and I think he is disinterested sometimes. Today I spent most of the day in my office working alone and my 2 hour French class was not enough to use up my 8000. Ian had a stressful day at work so he had already used up his 2000 words before I spoke with him on the phone so was not up for more conversation!

The snow has gone (although there is a possibility of a little more tomorrow). Pretty much everyone was fed up with it as most people were unable to get out and get on with their normal jobs. Staying indoors was warmer and safer but everyone seemed to have a bit if cabin fever after a few days. Things are slowly returning to normal and we are getting back into the normal routine.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

More snow (hopefully the last for a while)

I can feel my shoulders and upper arms stiffening up as I sit here. My lower back is also feeling a bit tired and  I'm longing to lie in bed and feel that intense almost painful feeling that you get as your muscles start to relax. The cause of my fatigue is the weather. The predicted 'light sleet' or 'scattered snow showers' turned into 10cm of snow over the road, car, street and everything that Ian cleared on Saturday. The snow was rather soggy and on top of the icy slush made the roads even worse than they have been in the past few days. Coupled with this, most people did not stay home today so there was gridlocked chaos across the South East. I accepted defeat and did as much work as I could from my home computer. I then decided to try to clear the snow. I find the activity quite therapeutic and probably did it for longer than is wise for my age and body! Still, the road is now clear!

The temperature has now gone up a little and by the end of the afternoon there was the start of a thaw. In town there was little snow left, but up here there is still a good covering.

I put some fat balls out for the birds and the jackdaws found them and were happily tucking in. They are a little large to hang off the tree to feed but that didn't stop them trying! I rather like them. They feed in a gang, with one keeping watch while the rest feed.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Pictures of the white stuff.

Ian and I have just returned from a walk up on the Downs. The footpaths were well trodden down and there were more people there than there were in town or on the roads, mostly enjoying the chance to have fun. I saw several grown men and women screaming down the hill on sleds made of tea trays, skateboards minus and the wheels and sheets of plastic. In fact the slope was so well compacted down it would have rivaled many of the groomed pistes in the Alps.

At the top of the Downs the snow was pretty deep in places as you can see from how close it came to the top of Ian's wellies. The sky was quite grey and but everywhere you looked was white. It was almost like a whiteout conditions that you get skiing.

As it was 2 degrees above freezing today and some of the snow was beginning to melt I think we all thought we should just get out and look and it while it is still there as it is so rare for this part of the world!

Friends in important places

......or neighbours actually. Ian was out with the snow shovel clearing the 10cm of snow that fell last night and joined in with two neighbours who were clearing the snow off the steep slope up to The Close. One of them works for the highways department which is why the grit box has been filled and the road was gritted the other day as he couldn't get out to go to work!

Saturday, 9 January 2010

New layout

As with previous years, I have changed around the layout of the blog for 2010. The new picture on the header was taken from the house when we were last there. I must admit I have played around with the colours a bit but it was still and impressive sunset!

Snow and sea

It has been snowing on and off all day. Ian drove down from London last night and said the roads were very bad, black ice on all the roundabouts making it impossbile to stop. I drove to work yesterday. The roads around work were icy but I managed to find a convoluted route that got there by mostly gritted roads. It is unusual that the snow gets as far as the sea front but I took these pictures yesterday.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Artic chill

It has been cold and snowy as predicted. This means that the virtually no one got to work yesterday and a fair few stayed at home today amid recommendations not to travel unless it is essential. (Quite what constitutes essential is not clear, although for most of my work it is not essentail for me to sit in my office and do it and no self-respecting student would consider it essential that they turn up for a lecture! We have had some watery sunshine today but the temperature was too low for it to melt the ice.

Yesterday I spent some time shovelling snow, which was better than going to the gym and reminded me of my days in Nova Scotia when I used to shovel out the whole drive and the snow drifts came to the top of the windows! Today I wandered out to put some food out for the birds and made some spicey parsnip soup (good to keep you warm!)
Despite what has been reported in the press our street was gritted and our bucket of grit filled so that we can keep the Close clear (not that many of my neighbours seem to see that as their job). In Canada you were expected to clear snow from your drive unless you were disabled.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Coming home

Home now and back to work tomorrow! We had an interesting drive back, breaking the journey on the way up by staying at a bed and breakfast near Limoges. We have stayed there before and I can recommend it; especially the three course meal in the evening, which is exceptional value and very good. As we got to the Limousin the weather got worse and the snow started falling. However, we made it there quite safely and fortunately there wasn't much more snow overnight. Even if there had been there wouldn't have been a problem as the local farmer attached the snowplough to his tractor and cleared all the roads in the commune, making it easy to get up to the main road. The temperature did not go above -2 degrees centigrade all the way home but the journey was fine.

As we left the land we drove past the former mayor and his hunting mates butchering a deer that they had shot that morning. He called us over exitedly and told Ian that they had shot the animal on our land and amongst other things, that we could have a quarter of it! Ian nodded and we drove off. "We will have a quarter of that deer for our freezer when we are next here" he said matter of factly! "But we don't have a freezer or an oven?" I said. I felt a bit strange about it all as we love seeing the deer running across the land and although this one may have been older and in need of culling I don't feel that great about it. However, the creature is dead now and we should eat it.. Ian is planning to stop the hunters coming on the land when we are living there. It won't be a popular move but their presence with all their dogs is not good for the llamas or horses.

Snow is expected here for the next week. It is the coldest spell for 20 years. I remember the one in 1981. I was living in London and the cold spell  lasted 2-3 weeks  with the roads remaining  icy and snowy for most of the time. It was turned into a disaster by the media then and the same is happening now. It is just snow! We will survive.

Ian sent me this picture and said it was very sweet. I said it was unless you were a French hunter when you just see two meals with one shot!