Sunday, 17 September 2017

Moments in time

Odd how one static image can bring back everything to you in a sensual deluge.
We're all so used to firing off rounds of digital images, most to be discarded on a dusty corner of the computer somewhere, but occasionally there are one or two that completely capture a particular moment.
When I look at this picture - taken in Bordeaux on a searingly hot day in August - everything streams back to me: traffic noise, laughter from people standing in the 'mist fountains' near the river, scents of summer-weary vegetation, the heat rising from the crossing I was walking on, and that strange extra jolt of happiness of a moment in time - me with camera, two guys in a vintage Renault with a sunflower.


Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Building No 60

I'd slightly forgotten about my sub-blog of buildings but this sighting of a bungalow around Bournemouth somewhere had to be recorded.
Luckily I was on a bus otherwise I might have been compelled to ring on their doorbell (which must have a tune - I wonder what . . . something minimal; a simple, 'ding-dong'?) and ask if I could see the interior of the house. Judging by the 'garden' I could imagine a house full of carpet and armchairs covered with plastic; a lonely microwave in the kitchen and a freezer full of ready meals . . . or not. Perhaps it's an orgy of colour, musical instruments, stolen Fauvist paintings and a pantry full of home-made conserves. How fascinating it would be to see behind those flowery net curtains.
I wonder what the garden once might have been like when the bungalow was constructed in the 30s (?), certainly not an airport runway - how could anyone want/need so much tarmac? and where are the fleet of cars that require the tarmac?
Or . . . this could be some sort of alien observation craft; look at the plinth the building sits on - almost unconnected to the ground as if ready to move off in the bleak early hours to another suburban destination. So, maybe no carpets and armchairs, just banks of bleeping equipment, harvesting the movements of city-dwelling Sapiens.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Nope . . .

Cream-tea diet does not work. (See last post) 'Gosh, really?', you may say with a wry and ironic smile. Yes. I put on about 2 pounds in eight days, even though I was fairly active.
Oh well, back to the reasonable-sized breakfast (egg on toast) larger lunch - stir fry/curry, or similar, and small supper, salad/soup . . . maybe a small piece of buttered toast, bitsy bit of cake, and no wine, or at least one small glass.
If I do this, I can keep to my desired - or at least, getting-into-favourite-trousers weight, while my lanky husband laughs and crams as much cake into himself as he pleases.


Yes, strange, and unfair. Mark can still get into the pair of checked  flared trousers he had when he was eighteen that we found at his mum's house. 

Thursday, 7 September 2017

The Cream Tea diet

I'm trying this one out . . . or was. I've just spent seven days with Mum back in the UK, mostly wheeling her around tea-shops between downpours.
It's a guaranteed brightner - 'oo, lets have a lovely cup of tea, AND a scone, jam and cream'. Whatever the prevailing mood - and being trapped in a care home doesn't make for elation on the whole - Mum rallied with the sight of the afore-mentioned calorie-laden trio being placed on whichever tea-room table we happened to be sitting at. As did I. Really, what can be more wonderful than a good cream tea, and I think I could be now classed as an expert.
Cake . . . well, you just eat it, really, but the scone thing allows for a bit of architecture and sculpture, cutting at the right point, spreading the jam, heaping on the cream, and then not dropping the whole thing if it's all fluffy and crumbly . . . Hm, could I have become obsessed?
I reckon, and I could be wrong, that if you eat a sensible breakfast, a not too calorie-stacked lunch and a light salad/soup/stir-fry in the evening, the cream tea can be wedged in at about four 'o'clock and not make a great difference to the flab - especially if, as I was doing, you walk up and down hills, push heavy objects about, and worry a lot.
So. Tomorrow morning, I'll do a weigh-in and may regret my greed, or not . . . could be the next fad.


Café at the Priest's house museum in Wimborne, Dorset. Good museum, divine garden, handsome tea-room, friendly staff and 50p second-hand books. Got a great one printed in 1935 - 'trees of the wayside' Scone rating: 4 stars


                            tea-room with a view (Branksome Chine, Poole) Scone rating 4 stars


               The reliable 'Cloister's' tea-room in Wimborne, Dorset. Scone rating 5 stars.

Monday, 4 September 2017

We know how to have fun

The British on the beach.
Took me back to summer holidays with my nan. We'd sit on the sand near the beach wall; her with her chiffon scarf pulled tight over lilac-rinsed hair, fag in the corner of her mouth and copy of the Mirror flapping in the sandpaper wind haring down from the West. We didn't have a wind-breaker but we did have a thermos and checked blankets. I loved it, especially when she promised chips on the way back to her bungalow.


Thursday, 31 August 2017

Plastic rant

Again . . .
A couple of posts back I'd gone on about the overuse of plastic, mainly in the form of containers in the home. This is a following rant about water bottles and the encouragement to buy them constantly by the manufacturers - not exactly the right word . . . the gatherers/ robbers? of water itself. Actually, do Evian/Perrier/Buxton, etc, etc have nature's go-ahead to take water, encase it in plastic and sell it to us? Anyway, they do it, and we buy it - a million bottles a minute as a rough estimate (Guardian), bought and discarded.
On a long, cross-city trip yesterday, I decided not to buy a bottle, or even carry a re-used bottle. It was fine. I drank a mug of water, topped up with another in a café along with a cup of tea, peed on the train (in the correct place) and arrived hours later at my destination perfectly hydrated - wee still the right colour and no headache. Sorry for the bodily info, but I do wonder if we all get so bludgeoned with info about fluid intake that it's become a sort of mania - fuelled by the bottled water companies.
Yes, it's vital to drink enough unflavoured and unsweetened water but most (unless you are in somewhere that doesn't have the privilege of good sewage systems) tap water is perfectly good, more than good. We are so bloody lucky to be able to turn on a tap and drink.
Take a bottle of tap water with you - a small glass one, or a fancy little designer bottle for that purpose; resist the urge to buy another small plastic bottle with a special 'feeding stopper'. There's something slightly repulsive about those, to my mind - an ever-ready 'teat' to suck on, made of even thicker plastic.

So, now we are brain-washed into feeling fresh mountain water must be available at every second of the day, what about other ways of companies providing it while still making money?
How about . . . large, (preferably, metal) water containers - a bit like the office ones only bigger, stationed in shops, in stations, everywhere that we normally buy bottles. You could pay, say ten pence for a paper cone of water, throw it in the recycling box and go on your way, happily re-hydrated and free of to carrying anything extra. Companies could jostle/bid/share (ha-ha) for who was positioned where; there'd be less ferrying water about, less plastic at every step, less waste, less space taken up in shops . . . simple! Better still, would be the re-introduction of free water fountains everywhere but then the massive bottled water industry would squirt to a gradual halt - not going to happen. But maybe it has to along with so many other huge changes we need to make to halt the environmental mess we are already in.


Saturday, 19 August 2017

Last gig for The F.E.W?

or maybe not.
I hope they may get together from time to time, my lad and the others to have a mad intensive rehearsal and then perform where they all first got together in our small French town.
The end of an era . . . Ezra off to Bordeaux, and the other two F.E.W members, William and Freddie in Toulouse. Many happy memories and great to see their progress from a few tentative number's in Carl and Lisa's garage to energetic and captivating performances for various town and village fetes over the last three years.



Wednesday, 16 August 2017


I seem to be suffering from an increasing sense of panic every time I walk into a supermarket. I try not to walk into them too much but for certain things like dog biscuit and bulk-buy tins of tomatoes and 'fosse-septique (cess-pit) cleaners they are useful. We buy most of our stuff in a small co-op organic shop down the road - yes, it's more expensive, but . . . it isn't, as the nature of shopping there compared with the grocery-sheds is utterly different. I go in and buy milk, veg, flour etc, and don't get distracted by anything else NEW, or on special offer, or 'oo, that looks nice, maybe we should try it, and we could use a couple of new mugs, and well, I suppose we could have a bottle of fizz, and maybe a cake, and some ice-cream, and the towels are looking a bit sad; look, they've got green ones in, those would look good in the bathroom . . . STOP! what did we come in for? Dog biscuit and shoe polish.' Yes.
The worst aspect of the sheds/shopping cathedrals is the amount of plastic everywhere, especially in the home-care and toiletries sections. What do we really need for both cleaning ourselves and our dwellings? Not much. Some soap, a basic shampoo and a clothes wash/washing-up substance.
This picture is of a locally made product called VAM, made of vinegar, herbs and water. It's brilliant; I wash surfaces, floors, showers etc, with it, and if you want some heftier cleaning - add bicarb of soda. Job done, and you can take the bottle back and refill it.

We NEED more of these products, and more ways of re-using containers - for everything. It's mind-numbingly terrifying to read about the amount of plastic that ends up each day in our oceans. I've started taking a bottle of TAP water out in preference to buying yet another small individual bottle of water shipped from  hundreds of miles away - like Scottish spring water in our local French airport - uh? Deranged!
We are mostly all blessed with clean drinking water and it's just advertising hype that keeps the pressure on to buy 'pure mountain' water.
Apparently, more than 60 million plastic water bottles are thrown away to end up in landfill and incinerators every day . . .

Friday, 11 August 2017


Mark wearing exactly the right shirt to go with the rust and grey paint of this rivet-pocked lieu - part of the disused submarine mending-place (not the right title I expect) in Bordeaux's eerie and photogenic quays.


Saturday, 5 August 2017

furnishing for nowt

or almost.

Luckily, our lad who is about to go off to study fine art in Bordeaux (see a few posts back), is completely laid back about 'old stuff' furniture- and crocks-wise. I heard several other parents, while in various queues in the estate/renting agents, agreeing to all sorts of white melamine construction projects with their offspring. Anything to avoid a trip to the giant blue and yellow shed, hours of frustration with bits of chipboard and allen keys, and possible return journeys to the establishment as something is missing . . .
So . . . for 130 quid so far we got a lovely chest of drawers from 'Le Bon Coin' - a sort of on-line 'free yourself of unwanted things' site, a book shelf from Emmaüs (like Red Cross) a big rag rug, a large, deep set of shelves and a rather nice (library?) ladder from a junk market. The ladder will be clothes/electric guitar cables hanging space as the flat is too small for a wardrobe.
We did buy a bargain oblong oak table but couldn't get into the ridiculously tiny doorway so it will now grace our kitchen and he can inherit the drop-leaf table that has followed me about through about six house moves.

Shoebox, but at least now a clean off-white rather than gruesome pink shoebox

Still to go - bed with storage underneath. And again, no flatpack as if I end up having to assemble one it will be disaster: a hedgehog of bristling nails where I have misinterpreted the instructions - or rather ignored them. Our friend Ed makes a mean bed - solid, easy to screw together and whatever length you like. I'd get an old one but the lad is topping 6 foot and still growing, so to restrict his growth by an old 1920s wooden bed frame might be a tad cruel.
Everything else should be gleanable from our house with a few things to find from junk shops, and the construction of a couple of hand-made shelves in the 'kitchen' which is a small dank cupboard under a sink and a two-ring electric hob. We weren't looking for luxury but a shelf might have been nice . . . still, the landlord did offer to pay half for any improvements - fairly unusual, I would think.
In two months time and he'll be in his student pad sorting out his new 'on-his-own' life while we sort out our new 'without-boy' life. Weird!

Monday, 24 July 2017

We learn something every day

Like, be extremely careful when grinding coffee when tired, hungry and you are using an old machine from the 1970s with no security thing.
So, yes, I know now, after an emergency trip to the doctors this morning, and will certainly be eyeing that small beige and smoked-plastic lidded appliance with fear and a certain respect in future. Mark jumped to its defence after the event and assured me it was fine and that he will always grind the coffee from now on . . . As he is a pianist, I'm not sure how sensible that it. I feel a flea-market trawl coming on for a different model (coffee-grinder, not husband).
Anyway, I was useful down at the surgery as there was some sort of small meeting going on about who should do what, and at the centre of it, a very young bearded man wearing a 'Let's go Surfing' T.Shirt. Yes, he was the student doctor doing a trial period, and I was to be his relatively interesting patient (compared to haemorrhoid checking and poking about in people's ears, etc, I probably was).
One of the senior doctors showed us into a room and explained where everything was: plasters, needles, aesthetic stuff . . . and then left.
He asked what I felt about pain. I said 'Fab, love it, thanks.' He got the irony, snapped on some bright blue plastic gloves, placed a small, paler blue 'table cloth' over me, and a still smaller one with a hole for the finger over my hand. Just like ER, except it was deadly quiet, no trolleys being wheeled frantically about, talk of 'paddles', and screaming relatives. We talked about Brexit, which was more painful than the needle he jabbed repeatedly into my index finger, then he sewed, tongue sticking out slightly, just like I do when attaching a button.
The 'real' doctor returned and inspected the work, said it was excellent and then they both said it should all be fine but to rush to the main hospital if it turns black or hurts a lot more. I bestowed much thanks and we returned home to have the delayed breakfast, after Mark had cleaned out any me-debris from the grinder.
So, I'm writing this with a finger throbbing like the walls of a disco but so far it looks a fairly healthy pink, and I'm excused from doing any washing up, which is more than good.


Thursday, 20 July 2017

Being in a play

It felt like it down at the vet's yesterday.
I only went in with 'lampshade dog' to get her wound looked at and there was drama. On a small scale, nothing Hollywood-esque but the whole spectrum of emotions on show.
A man had brought in a very hairy and ancient dog. While the man was talking to the receptionist the hound shook itself releasing a cascade of ticks. Women shrieked; the man left the reception and started squishing the ticks; a vet appeared, shouted a bit and and joined in while I ran about pointing out escaped ones. The floor was quite disgusting with streaks of blood and small grey spots of ex-tick.
After the squishing, the vet asked me where our dog was and I explained I couldn't get her out of the car as she is now so terrified of going into the building. We pushed and pulled her out of the car and into the surgery where he syphoned off a load of yucky stuff from her leg and said all was well.
As I was leaving, a terrible (human) howl emanated from the back of the surgery, followed by a sort of gasping/crying. I left as Bali was attempting to lick the tick blood up, and a completely out of control mega Heinz 57 mutt had been brought in that had maiming and killing written across it's brindled brow.
Bali wouldn't now get back in the car. While I was stuffing her in, a woman came out from the vet's, face red and blotchy, shaking body, eyebrows converged in that sort of abject misery that can only mean something very, very sad.
She stood, unable to even unlock her car as her hands were so tremulous, tears starting afresh. I wondered if I should do something - that weird moment when you feel it could be further upsetting for the person if you enquire, or suggest help.
Shutting the door on the dog, I went over and did enquire.
"Mon Chien est mort!' The dog had died under anaesthetic. The eyebrows converged more, so I hugged her. And she wanted me to. How weird and strangely wonderful that humans can make contact like this with a total stranger in times of immense sadness. I know I would have wanted the same thing.
She then apologised for having bothered me! The French politeness thing had stepped back in. I told her that I could sympathise as our old dog had been put to sleep the year before. We smiled sadly at each other and I drove back wondering at how rich in drama twenty minutes of a day can be . . .

Monday, 17 July 2017

More London wanderings

with added culture.
Last night, I went to the Proms - something I haven't done for years, and I bought a seat, not being able to face the standing up thing. It was worth every atom of electronic money transfer, not so much for the Beethoven, exquisitely played though it was, but for the John Adams piece: Harmonium.
Such power and inventiveness . . . the number of choir members, the percussion, Oh! Visually stunning too.

Close encounters?

Before that I explored the dazzling streets of South Kensington: not so much as a black spot of time-trodden gum on the pavements, no drifts of London dust just rows of gleaming white and off-white mansion blocks and mews adorned with prim window boxes and manicured olive trees (!) Global warming is well and truly happening in London. I would have taken a sneaky picture of the mother taking an iPhone photo of her three designer outfit-clad offspring sitting in a restored open-top Aston Martin outside their town-house but it felt a little creepy. I would be a rubbish photographer for any of those screaming pink mags called WTF! or similar.



Lone Ginko and bike outside Imperial College

After gawping at houses and people, I ate a curry in 'Little India', beguiled into stepping inside by their sign that read: The Manager Eats Here Too. I'm sure he does; it was delicious, especially the fresh mango at the end.

The owner also eat s here

At the end of the evening, I walked towards Knightsbridge and found a bus going towards King's Cross. It was completely full so I sat on the stairs and then was informed by a recorded and polite lady that I should get off the stairs which I did. the message also said that anyone standing upstairs shouldn't be. We waited while the bus reverberated but didn't move and the message kept playing. Eventually an elderly Indian guy in a beige safari suit went upstairs and told everyone standing to get get their arses downstairs and they did, muttering apologies.

The following day dawned uniformly grey and slightly chilly for mid July - perfect for walking, observing, musing, and asking people if I can take away part of their souls.



   rice and backache

local resident (park near Tavistock Place) and his dog - he said the dog makes a better picture but I think they were both beautiful


one of the photos I will make into a pen and ink drawing for 'The Hundred and Fifty-Eighth Book


                                 window-keep-opener and mural in The Half-Cup on Judd Street

I ate possibly the best beans on toast in the UK in a small café, drank a vast mug of tea and hunted a bus going towards Hampstead Heath - my chosen place to continue 'Hamish's' tale - and claimed the front upstairs seat.
Arriving at the destination, I consulted the map then completely ignored it, as I do, and got utterly but usefully lost. If we didn't sometimes get lost we wouldn't meet such interesting people, n'est pas, such as the bloke striding purposefully towards an oak tree that had the girth of an elephant. He proceeded to fling his arms around about the tree, or rather stood there looking as he was trying to prevent the tree from moving forwards as the arms were almost straight due to the trunk's expanse. This is something I occasionally do when moved by the sheer wonderment of ancient trees, but only when I know someone else won't be observing me. I had to ask him.
    "Is it a very special tree?"
He turned and grinned as if they were recently married: "Oh, yes. Absolutely."
I then asked him as he obviously spent quite a lot of time on the Heath, where the ladies' pond was. He pointed out a route which I followed for a while before being distracted by a clump of gangly pine trees atop a hill. I sat for a while near the trees and thought about all the paintings and engravings I had seen of this this piece of the Earth, and how, (if I shut my ears to the various calls of 'Maisy, come away from that!' 'Pickle . . . no! and 'I thought you had the poo bags', etc) similar it seemed, apart from the Shard and all the rest of the glassy-grey structures clustered in the distance.

The ladies' pond  

I did eventually find the pond, and although the changing rooms had developed a little since I was about thirteen (last time I visited) the water, ducks and over-hanging trees still looked the same.
Pond-swimming. How glorious, especially in pale, drifting mizzle. Several other ladies were in the muddy, olive/brown water, swimming slow, quite majestic breaststroke, a certain calm expression on their faces, quite like (mostly) grey-haired otters, peacefully cutting through the water between ducks and life-saving rings. I'm reading 'Sapiens' at the moment and I suddenly saw us as the animals that we are - interesting book which does have the effect of making you look at all human behaviour in a different way.
After a chat with the life-saver and leaving my pink towel on a hook (hello anyone who might find and use it) as I wanted less baggage, I continued walking the Heath, drank a hot choc in 'the Brew House' briefly visited the grand 'Kenwood House', enthused over various greyhounds and reached Parliament Hill (Kite Hill). The view over London Town would have been dramatic at this highpoint but alas the mizzle had turned to drizzle, almost everything obscured except the Shard's sharp triangle and the lumpy sword of the Post Office Tower plunged into Fitzrovia.

useful view-map of central London, including heights of buildings

Time portal?

Back at base (the wonderful and super cheap, St Athan's Hotel, Bloomsbury) I collapsed for a while and then ventured out into the madness of Trafalgar Sq, Covent Garden etc to people-watch, wander, and avoid all the antique map shops of Cecile Court (wallet-empying danger).


New residences on Charing Cross Road                sushi break 

LOTS of hen parties                                                       The Texter


This elegantly-dressed young man had just graduated from theatre school


                            sigh . . .

a quiet symphony of inner city colour         and the more garish tones of just one evenings rubbish . . .

The next morning, I walked from the hotel to Golders Green (with a short bus journey in the middle and a wander around Camden).
I wanted to visit all the highest points of London, The Flagstaff being the highest - apparently. I arrived, admired the flagpole, and the Whitestone pond (which used to be used for rehydrating the London horses after their trek up Hampstead Hill) talked to a grey-hound owner and went in search of The Pergola - another viewpoint. Here, you can almost forget you are in London: beautifully maintained gardens full of roses, jasmine and herbs and a magnificent brick and stone pergola/walkway. No one was there. It was impossible to imagine the seething crowds of Oxford street only a few miles away.

Map of an unknown continent (or a stone paving slab) near Camden


The brilliant tip bowl of a café housed in the old 'Palmer's pet store', where I used to nag Mum about buying a crocodile, Camden


The Whitestone Pond and Flagstaff, and my tired feet 

the magnificent Pergola and gardens

After exploring the area, I walked back to the Flagstaff and down into Hampstead where I ate beans on toast (again) in a friendly café called 'Polly's and talked to a man wearing a fabulous outfit who didn't object to me recording it, and him, for the blog. (Hello, if you see this . . .)

Then waited for a bus and availed myself of a chair that the newsagent had left outside. He came to have a chat and said that he had put it out there for people who'd got fed up of waiting for the No 46 - 'the worst bus in the world'. The bus arrived and seemed quite good really - wheels, engine, seats, etc.


                        I loved this: soap maker, AND philanthropist

                                                                                                   The Chair

A textual slice of London building materials

After a sleep and foot-bathe, I strode (sort of) out generally Southwards on a 'Derive' which ended up being quite a long one from Charing Cross to beyond Tower Bridge, fuelled by some excellent and super value healthy grub from 'Gaby's on Charing Cross Road. I had often eaten there as an impoverished on-dole-Londoner back in the 80s and I was relieved to see the establishment still going strong.


I hadn't been to the South Bank for some years and was overwhelmed by the amount of pubs, eateries, boutiques, and new buildings, some of which were just absurd. I mean look at this.


It's the sort of thing I might have drawn in a notebook if my (then) under-ten son had said 'Hey, Mum, let's draw mad buildings that would fall over. And this one . . . pregnant penguin inspiration - has to be.


But then someone designed and got away with that weird bowed over, telephone thing . . . not actually in this skyline picture


And then there's The Shard. Impressive, a little violent-looking and difficult to clean, I'd imagine. I went in an old pub, (about the only old thing still standing around the base of the pointy triangle), ordered a gin and tonic and then got cornered by a youngish beer-smelling man who said he was from Fife and that he's like to talk to me about what I was drawing (a very, very bad rendition of The Shard). We had a surreal chat in which he asked me if I thought that there would be a lot of wobbly-wobbly, dark wooded lanes within the top of the building. Who's to say, I said. I haven't been up there - yet.