Sunday, 30 October 2011

666 miles for lunch with Lucy.


The trip meter read 666 miles as we pulled into the car park, we were about two minutes earlier arriving than we had said we would be.


I have met a few fellow bloggers since I started and each one has been a joy to meet and Lucy was no exception. Somehow I had formed a mental image of Lucy from her blog and the few emails we had exchanged and here she was exactly as I had imagined her. If I had learned anything about Lucy it was that she was not afraid to enjoy a decent lunch and that is what we had met up to do. The walk from the car park to the restaurant in the Lanes of Brighton was a only a few minutes so we had the best part of three hours to sit and sip a glass of Tuscan wine and chat about life the universe and everything. It was a fun time which passed in a flash and I can hardly wait until we meet again.
Having come so far is only seemed sensible to pop into the local hospital to see if they could do anything about my small birth defect. We found the place on the outskirts of town overlooking the rolling chalk downs with the sea not far beyond. Heck, this was more like a  smart holiday hotel. They seemed to think it was past it’s prime and renovation was soon to commence to bring the accommodation up to a state the state hospitals could not hope to reach.
No grubby car park with horrendous charges and the reception was exactly like a smart hotel with service to match. A little formal paperwork was soon dealt with and a short walk taken to a comfortable waiting area. Shortly the person who had dealt with the appointment details a month previously found us to ensure that everything was understood then The head nurse who supervises each patient through their whole treatment came to explain about the tour of facilities and meeting with medical staff. Everyone wanted to ensure our comfort and provide drinks while we waited. I was tempted to find a sharp instrument and test wether this was all a dream, everyone was so helpful and friendly and seemed to enjoy the work they did…
Liz, the personal assistant to Mr Thomas and clinical nurse specialist stays in touch with each patient throughout the whole process and she gave three of us her standard introduction to the process and explanation of all required by each patient and then a run through of their procedure with the aid of a cutaway model of the alien structures we were born with. After all my years of interest there were still a few interesting facts which came up that I had never come across. Two of us were all ears but one did not seem to want to know exactly what was going to need to be done, just wanted to wake up fixed! Two of us were somewhat shocked by her attitude as was Liz!…
Julie joined us for a tour round the facilities which normally you would be thrilled to get to use but they start next week to update every room and ensuite facility, those lucky enough to look out to sea will think they are on holiday!
Countless apologies were made for the lateness of the surgeon who had a 12 hour work load before seeing a small group of us. Those with slightly later appointments were former patients returning for checkups and three of us were to see about our birth defects. One of the group had failed to understand that a surgeon can’t expect to be on time and had made some arrangements for soon after the notional time given for her appointment and  Liz asked two of us if we minded letting her go first, she gained no points for not giving full attention and seriousness to the matter! And looked none too happy as she left after her consultation… I got second spot having the longer drive back to my bed for the night so with a good luck message from the other girl I stepped in to meet the surgeon who could decide my fate. Julie joined me for this interesting interview. Liz, and Mr Thomas, a quiet introverted man as she had described him, worked quickly and efficiently through my notes questioning intently all the time and I added information when I felt it relavent. In no time I was ushered into an adjoining room for a close inspection of the defect. Half my clothes were soon on a chair and I was half naked on a couch, something which never bothers me, not really my body!  Another few questions while the defective parts, well those which remain, were man handled and assessed. A cool conclusion was given as to the potential of the remaining material and more than confirmed my intention to opt for a cosmetic procedure. 
Hands and voices are now probably being raised round the world in shock and horror at such a decision. How could you come so far and not get as much as you could? What if you find the perfect playmate in the future? How, why…?
I have my partner of half a lifetime still with me through all of this and she will not be expecting me to be playing away from home and after a lifetime of being unattractive romantically or lustily to more than a couple of people on this planet It is realistic not to raise  my hopes to high that an invisible alteration is going to make me hot property and highly desirable to pounce upon. A recently opened play in London was written by a woman in her late sixties who stated that she had not been touched for over thirty years but wished to have sex with someone she could like as often as possible in the time she still had. I have vague memories from the last century of physical pleasure but know this one will not see a repeat no matter what form I take. I find joy in just being as I am now and hope for more of that when mind and matter are more congruent.
I also want to recover in a reasonably short time since I am the shopper, driver, gardener, half or the partnership and Julie is the brains and not as physically able as she once was. If she remembers she will bring me the occasional hot drink while I recover, unless she is reading a good book then...
At this point I expected a demand to loose weight especially since I have regained some of the summer losses whilst testing the current menu choices in France, I was anxious that I was not going to be really accepted by some of the French family so comfort ate for a while then acceptance grew! No demand for weight loss was made and it would have been so much easier to do if ordered upon pain of refusal to operate! So which parts need hair removal? None!
Then I heard the words “I think we could possibly do this in the first half of next year…”!
I must have had a smile on my face when I returned to the waiting room and the girl who was to follow me asked the rhetorical question about it going well and I could see that it had given her some hope too as she set off for her chance at being repaired.
Now returned home and not looking forward to the darker evenings after the clocks change tonight. Some time in the very near future Liz is going to be telling me exactly how their timetable is for me but already my mind is racing trying to get organised. I still feel like I am in a game like snakes and ladders and will suddenly be flung well back. Just my pessimistic nature based on previous life experience. I will believe it when the stitches come out…
Still feel low writing when I know this is the post Melissa was waiting for and would have enjoyed and shared my joy.


Sunday, 16 October 2011

Sunday lunch.

Our escape time here is drawing to a close and the weather is changing from the  roasting hot to cooler low twenties during the day. I even slept under a sheet for the first time in weeks last night, sleeveless tops are not the thing for evening wear anymore.


For Sunday lunch we went to our favourite restaurant just across the garden, someone has to do independent testing to make sure the standards are a high as they have always been. Louise says that I should not be eating between meals, well I am not but some of the meals have been better than we make at home…
So here is a taste of life in this desert corner of France where Julie’s sister and French chef husband have had a restaurant since 1982. The first was in an old vine store just a hundred metres from here, very rustic and family friendly which after the first season cost nothing to advertise since so many customers returned year after year and their children grew and brought their families. Life was more relaxed then and most chose a menu selecting from the 15 foot long cold buffet table of meats fish and fresh salads where you could eat as much as you wanted! So much in the way of vegetables was not common in France. There was a large open grill which burned vine stumps though in high summer you might not be able to see your rabbit grilling because the fire would be in an old wheel barrow at least until the local blacksmith made a custom wheeled BBQ for behind the building. Here was a great family atmosphere and the were in the guides like the Michelin which had them on the map, a rare thing, as good food at moderate prices. They did a roaring trade until my sister in law started to find it too much and their children decided they did not wish to work there, knew how hard it was!
After the business was sold they decided to start a more flexible one in the garden! They had never been able to buy the old building but could build one new to their own specifications as a small Friday to Monday restaurant with a terrace and two bed and breakfast rooms and a kitchen from which they could do catering jobs too. Their daughter is now front of house and is especially interested in encouraging specialist local producers and has wines of the week which she presents with the background to their production as the clients get to taste them. It is called the green roof in french of course but as the government keeps taking away money at the wrong moments then giving it back again it has been several years now without the green living roof. Finally the components for watering and drainage have been ordered and in a break from the past It arrives after I leave! Now a girl no real help any more...


It was too hot for us to eat out on the terrace but others found it to their liking and basked in this late summer sun, we kept out of the direct sun and tucked in to a great lunch.



I found that they had pinched the magazine I had 
bought to improve my French, well my food French.


Starter was so good I tucked right in without  a
 snap. I asked for a second to photograph but...
It was the fish soufflé, light as air.


Julie chose the confite  of duck leg


Pork with palourdes for me


We shared a desert of pear cooked in wine,
really we shared it!



Friday, 14 October 2011

I was a life model today...


The net croaked in and out of consciousness here this morning as I tried to finish reading then comment on  Dru's blog about the absurd difficulty of attending an art class with her daughter. It made me just want to rip my clothes off and wander off into the wilds so that is practically what I did, taking me back to exactly where this blog began some years ago.
The irony struck me, as I spent an hour and a half on a long wander through the surf before going in for a swim, that I feel no anxiety or embarrassment about being on the beach with my hybrid body. As free as I felt there in the past it was always slightly tinged with embarrassment, not at being naked but as not being my true self, to all intents and purposes everyone would have seen an androgynous long haired male, rare on that beach but not unknown.
It is mid October and still warm here, upper twenties centigrade eighty fahrenheit, and there are still quite a few specimens out there on the beach to examine. As strange as we may consider ourselves we exist well within the range of human expression though perhaps those of us who are less than ideal find nakedness better than being trussed up in costumes which just emphasize our short comings and end up more comfortable on the naturist beaches! One woman my age or older strode past me with an energetic gait which could only be described as masculine whilst I "skipped" along. For many and especially single women it seems to be an infinitely safer place than the regular beaches...

The kind of school I was sent to could be a bit like a boot camp at times and there was no point being shy about your evolving body or you would soon be a target for humiliation, some things you learn quickly! I felt little ownership of the shell I inhabited much like a hermit crab, it would have to do until I grew out of it. Being naked on the beach was actually liberating by not having to wear a male beach uniform which branded you it was possible to be yourself and feel free for those brief hours... 

Not to mention not having to lie about in a soggy costume!

Life modelling is hard work! All I had to do was hold a wine glass while my niece drew a design for a ceramic tile, a job you would think I was trained well for with all the wine I have drunk, but even though it was empty it weighed a ton by the time she was finished and all the muscles ached like you can't imagine. She did not need me to disrobe... 




Wednesday, 12 October 2011

12 degrees.

It is only 12 degrees centigrade today and overcast - back home.

32 degrees here and what does a cloud look like?

Need a swim and some oysters for lunch...

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Itsy bitsy, teeny weeny abstract patterned borrowed bikini...



We are now half way through our family visit. For a while I was cursing having brought the laptop with me taking up luggage space and weight and the not getting email updates when we arrived and net contact vanishes without notice… Things we take for granted…
Why did we pack autumn clothes? All that weight and it just hangs on a rack while I live in a borrowed bikini. It is October so leaving sun hat and swimming costumes at home seemed sensible and must have saved nearly 300 grammes! As it has turned out the temperatures have been in the high twenties centigrade and until today had forgotten what a cloud looked like.
A neighbour back home wondered what on earth we were going to do being in the middle of nowhere without a car. Hardly had a moment to do the gardening which I said I would probably do. A trip was made high into the foothills of the Pyrenees to find wine for the family restaurant, we found a Dutchman, hair filled with crushed grapes, who was just starting to pick whilst the vendage down here near sea level is finished and folk are out trying to shoot the prolific numbers if Sanglier, a wild pig which thrive n these vineyards but if they are unlucky like one was it will find itself featuring on the menu here, this week it is as a pork pie!






I had assumed that we would have missed the late summer treats like figs but a few had been saved for me, so high on the tree only I could get to them! Then we fond what must have been some of the last at one of the few remaining roadside stalls, half of the kilo bought did not make it home... Pomegranates straight out of the garden are something of a new treat and there are now some almonds, if I can avoid the bitter trees, and walnuts are about too.
Whenever we arrive my sister in law starts to get wanderlust so we relented and went with her to Cadaqués  in Spain to visit the home of Salvador Dali. 








She chose a hotel near the shore in what was a quiet street when we arrived and even when we got back after a late evening meal, only then did bars and nightclubs open for Saturday night! Thankfully I had two ipods with me, you can never be too sure!, and at three I woke to such a noise I just drowned it out with some of my own! Spain has much more sheltered coastline than here in France and the multitude of small coves offer calm waters and easy access for Julie who is always a bit unsteady getting in and out. There were many such coves within the town foreshore itself. Warm evenings sitting at a beach front cafe with a drink and a selection of tapas while watching the sun set over the sea is hard to beat! On the way home we even found a near perfect beach if the shade of a tamarisk tree and a close by restaurant for a paella is what you are after…





Over a week of daily sea bathing is not what I imagined from this trip but this should soon come to an end as cooler weather moves down from the north. Cooler will mean more easily getting on with small jobs about the place without getting exhausted! I have found a stash of old paint tins and have given up asking what I can paint, they have been very happy so far…
Looks like a chance for a little culture and a market day in Céret, the town where today’s snap on my picture blog, “voyageoftheeye” was taken last year.
When I left here in the early summer I was quite unhappy about how some of those close to me here seemed to feel, the jury is still out on that but though not perfect things do seem to have moved on as the reality sinks in. Some close family and friends do seem to find it hard to reprogram a lifetime of calling your name even if the evidence of their eyes is so absolute! Introductions as X who used to be Y is hard to stop too! Another week to work on that!