Thursday, 29 October 2009

A date at last

Well,I know when my next hairdressing appointment will be, last week of May just before my exhibition opens in the Chapel Gallery in the south of France. If anyone is going to be at the Spanish end of the Mediterranean  from 28 th. of May till 20 th. of June just let me know and I shall let you know where to go.

Somehow Julie gave up on the idea of May and decided that she would like to be in France for the warmer weather in June. This suits me perfectly, I thought this was going to be my last opportunity for an all over sun tan and chance for swimming in the sea, June is perfect. If I have any fans out there worrying about sun damaged skin, don’t, I go early or late and lather myself, usually no help available, with high factor sun protection. The aim is for a golden glow rather than a piece of old mahogany!

Yesterday I had to make a rare visit to the bank so I took the opportunity to see a very nice woman who was able to castrate my credit card! Why don’t you want the male bit at the front of the name? Soon she was smiling and didn’t even ask for photo ID which I had been told on the phone that I would need, fat lot of good that would have done since my passport still has the picture of a terrorist with a beard! Not exactly a good likeness. Thanks to a reminder on a blog by Lucy, the androgynous owner of this card can now request another card for someone else at the same address. Just wonder if she would be as careful with my slim credit limit as I have been!

Really must change the passport which now only has a year to run. The fees are high for new biometric passports but worse you need to conform to so many rules about size, degree of smile, quality of lighting, tone of background, what hair covers, endless list… How on earth do you get a glamorous photograph to conform to all these rules? In the past I would make beautiful small monochrome portraits and give them rich blue and burgundy tones with selenium. Even the horrible one I now have was done like that but before it got into the passport they scanned it on the worlds worst scanner, took out the toned colours increased the contrast and reduced the size. Clients have treated my work badly in the past, that is their problem not mine, but this took the biscuit! I breaks my heart but I may have to pay someone to do it and asking for maximum femininity in the result is going to confirm all their suspicions.

 I have been waiting till the facial hair had really gone and I now get a quick clearing of strays about every two months so it is essentially gone and I no longer have any reason not to get the photograph done. I had a session of electrolysis two days ago and agreed too take some family photographs at Aly’s birthday party just after christmass so she still refuses to take any more money, we are more like friends now and she was so pleased to have smartened up her web site with the pictures I did for her.

After reading Melissa’s post about the loss of her twin sister I immediately decided to call the sister who should have been my twin. Knowing that she would probably be working in her garden before lunch I warned Julie because she knows that we may only phone once a month or so but will chat for over an hour. I plugged in the head set ready, can’t be bothered holding up telephones for more than a couple of minutes and certainly not for an hour. Just before I got the chance to call she came in from the garden and called me!
We live five hundred miles appart and have been doing this trick for decades now, as I said we should have been twins, she was a complete opposite to her real twin.

 I guess I used to look at her and think that should have been me.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

No pictures

Finally after months of trying to save my tooth, then root canal work and rebuilding and everyone’s holidays overlapping, finally I have a mouthful of teeth again. The pleasure of being handled by Norma was somewhat spoilt by her stern lecture on the life without toffee and other such treats. Neither of us want to go through this again as much as I enjoy her warm embrace.

Directly after the dentist the car required it’s annual test. I was to be picked up from the garage but got a panic call about feeling unwell but my friend needs to get ready for two and a half weeks on the road selling her wares at craft shows up to 500 miles away and still needed some help getting ready. Could I use my origami bike to get to her house. Darn thing is so small it took an age to find, it was in the sauna with other stuff hidden when we cleared up for the window job six weeks ago. In the rush to get the car to the garage I forgot my bag with money, camera, phone, iPod and all the other stuff we carry about these days so first had to go home and hope Julie had not decided to go out. My glow completely masked the Chanel by now and m I was soaking from the inside but what fun flying through the autumn leaves. Quick change then another crossing of the one and a half mile bridge and zig zaging through the road works and traffic cones which cover the city at the moment. She has one of those useless husbands who can’t be trusted with any delicate jobs so I sealed the joints which had been leaking on her caravan when being towed in the rain, it was so neat it looked more like customized stripes. At least I was able to help with a few jobs and let her rest up. She is like a machine, did not know that she allowed herself to be ill!

The biking about was great except the wind kept changing direction but I guess that just makes the exercise that much more intense. The guys, independent father and son garage I have been using since the father started in business, gave me a hard time about my toy bike so I gave them a lecture about bicycle design and geometry but they are not convinced, no engine and only two wheels. At least they liked my new improved look!

Real life biking is a lot harder on the rear than the exercise bike, especially over the bumps.

The car was fine, I hardly use it now and hate to take it out in the rain!!

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Time passages

The year has changed, it always catches us out. You think summer will blend into autumn then wham the leaves are ripped off in the first gale leaving the first skeletal forms to remind you of the dying year.

This year is more poignant than ever waking to the news that a dear friend has lost their sister after a long illness. Grieving for the loss of warmth and sunshine seems so trivial at this time.

Time changes too. The long case clock ticks away our lives as it always has and is easy to change. For a long time this was really all I needed to change, I do not own a watch. Insidiously clocks have got everywhere forcing the passage of time and life before us. Weeks can pass before they are all found and a means to change them remembered, I have just recalled that there is one in my darkroom thermometer! No need to change that really as time does not exist when I go in there.

A sad day and soon the darker evening will envelop us but thoughts are with Melissa.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Life returning

I have been waiting for two weeks for the promised contact to discuss an appointment to remove a lump from my calf. After just short of two years waiting they sent a date and time which clashed with the only thing which I had planned for November or December. I had bought a row of tickets for a popular Scottish play about a group of women doing the weekly wash at a public laundry called “The Steamie”. I know it sounds dull as hell but it is a modern Scotttish classic about female camaraderie, there is one guy in it the manager of the place naturally! Four of my women friends were to join me for a meal before the show, I imagined a great night out. Not a word back about when I could expect an alternative date, more than two reminders seems crazy so I wait…

Phone call from France to say that Julie’s sister wants to visit on the way to Malta, why not? Visitors for a week, that immediately solved the question of when should there be a party, excuse 60 years since the family first moved into this house so with the sister visiting we  picked one of those days. It also solved the problem about who does the cooking, she is bringing the chef! It also solved the theatre question, I think she  has to take my place, especially since she knows all the others and she is on a “see all my friends” mission.

The phone is getting warm with all the calls to set up a busy week of dinner parties and stand up parties etc. I was wondering where to put the latest wine purchases, looks like I need not bother It is just going to be drunk!

Can’t believe how hard this cold has hit me, even with the antibiotics I am still coughing. We both need to get out more so we went for a walk to the shore to watch the swan sized ugly ducklings and get chilled by the cold easterly breeze off the river. We get to really see what is going on because Julie now makes so many stops to rest along the way. Need to keep up the exercise to maintain stamina which has dropped since she was walking round Porto. I have to be careful to do a lot extra because if I go at her pace I shall get really out of condition.

The autumn colours were starting to look good but we have had two days of wind and rain and the early fallers have been brought down in drifts. The upside is that the walnuts are falling into the street from a tree which I keep an eye on, not a bumper year but food for free! Now the forecast is for gales from the west so goodbye to much of the autumn colour for this year

Going to have a busy couple of weeks. The house is still in upheaval after the window job, still needs some cleaning up and a little redecoration to cover some slight damage and blend in the new with the old. At the moment there is nowhere for guests to sleep and my pores are desperate for the sauna to flush them out.

Strange how on holiday Julie wore nothing but skirts but at home she almost never does, that is my job and it feels so good to have that freedom of movement and coolness of the air. Have also finally found where Julie put the Chanel when the bedroom windows went in. 

Bliss regained .

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

What is man? For Lori, been as nice as I can.


Male humanoid, sperm donor in reproductive process.

Characteristics such as greater height weight and strength compared to female. Hormone testosterone produces hardened features, deeper voice and a full body hairiness like an ape. Dress sense nonexistent, prefers clothing in shapeless rough materials the colour of excrement. Sweat is an acceptable fragrance and hair styles are based on toilet brushes. Emotions mainly retarded, close bonding only insofar as it provides success in allowing mating to occur. Once successfully mated allegiance returns to male pack to socialize getting loudly intoxicated fighting over allegiances to groups of ball hitter kicker throwers or comparing choice of transport or earning capacities, competitiveness is all important.

Female humanoids fooled by pheromones find them attractive, that is until they find out just how disgusting they really are but then it is too late...


Not really a fan of man, find few redeeming features, sorry.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Antibiotic cure


The antibiotics have kicked in and at last I am not a full time heap of coughing misery!

We were able to sit out and have breakfast, well lunch it was so late, on the bench in the warm glow of the low autumn sun which now sneaks under the branches. The first skeins of migrating geese flew overhead honking away north!

An afternoon giving the grass a mow, never going to be a lawn!, and some general tidying up helped clear the lungs as well as the garden. Now that I have a positive view of the future plans are being made to improve access from the garden down to the greenhouse / conservatory which gives us a sunny sheltered place to sit in sunlight and extends our short summer a month or so at each end. At the moment a rough path of stepping stones winds down to some awkward steps which Julie is finding difficult to negotiate. I did once manage to get a wheelchair bound friend into the shelter by balancing his chair in one wheel to the top of the steps then got a lift down but this last year has seen a great decrease in strength. I would say more than the 20% or so often quoted so do not plan the one wheel trick again! I am now wishing I had done this project before the loss of “T” but just plan to take my time, it will be some excercise after all.

Word has got round that we are no longer in quarantine and invites out are arriving. Yesterday went for afternoon tea, very civilized life I lead! We arrived a little earlier than expected so while the cakes and biscuits were being finished I was asked wether I could bring in the washing from the line in the garden. This girl was most upset when I first restarted painting my nails about eight years ago, thought she was going to burst a blood vessel! For christmas she gave me nail polish , in multiple layers of wrapping so that everyone’s attention was drawn, now she gets me to bring in her knickers from the line. Definitely on side now.

Now that the evenings are longer I have restarted  a long term project. There is an unpleasant smell which I have come to love. The small zizzy tingle and sometimes acrid smell of well burnt hair from my home laser machine adds one more victim to the list. There are countless more to go but certain areas need to be clear, a hairy cuff protruding from a sleeve is a real turn off and with so many 3/4 sleeves the arms have become a priority for the burner. You need the patience of Job, whoever he may be, to do this as each scan area is only about a square centimeter and takes about 30 seconds. Switch on some music find a warm spot and a pool of light and it is not so bad. For someone like me with no income but infinite time it is an excellent solution. If my blog posts slacken off or I seem to have stopped commenting, you know where I am!

We are reaching that time of year where we get some marvelous sunsets over the river, unfortunately we face exactly the wrong way so miss most unless we are out. Sometimes we get a hint of the missed glory when the whole sky lights up as it did the other day. Sunrise has moved right round so there is hardly any morning sun in the front of the house now. This made it difficult for Julie to take her one year on snaps of one of our projects. Sorry as interesting as these are they are not being posted!

Friday, 16 October 2009

Not at my best

Great start to the day, visit to the cardio nurse for regular check has my BP up again! It had been lowered and regular for ages! After nearly two weeks my cold still has me coughing and, well TMI, she scurried off and got me an appointment for this afternoon to get seen! My favourite doctor is so hard to track down but one slot was found for the end of the month, this is so much easier than negotiating with the receptionist who will tell you to come back on a Thursday morning to try for one of several slots for the next Monday available in the next town! Luckily I live two minutes walk from the health centre and can play their games if only I can remember the byzantine set of rules. They say you can phone at 8 am and for fun I once tried it with multiple phones set to redial. In eight minutes I got eighty engaged tones, I gave up, by ten past eight I had walked down the road and made an appointment!

Twenty three months ago I requested the removal of an annoying lump on my calf, I have an appointment. How did they know when I had organised to go to the theatre with four girlfriends with a meal before the performance, my idea and I bought the tickets two months ago for us to have something to look forward to, how did they find out? Only once in this time have I managed to speak to anyone organising the minor surgeries and that was when they phoned to ask if it was possible to go at that very moment, they knew I was negotiating the purchase of my new windows, how I don’t know but they must have somehow! Hope the one with the knife is better at their job if I ever get called in!

Hardly finished lunch when the doorbell rang and there was a dozen bottles of wine. Wow that was quick I thought, that star trek thing really works! But no this was not the order which had been placed a couple of hours ago but a present from the south of France sent via the friends who had driven down just after us, even sent a kilo of air cured ham to eat with it! Cheered me up quite a bit.

We are starting to come to compromise over cooking. Julie loves to cook but can make two pans greasy boiling an egg! Then she puts them in the sink along with anything else that should not go in the sink! She hates any preparation work so, 1 she will do it and get frustrated, tired and angry and make a mess everywhere then get exhausted doing the cooking or 2 I do the preparation quickly and cleanly then let her enjoy the cooking. Number 2 is her preferred choice, she has said so many times. So why is she going the number 1 route and moaning about it? Clearly some way to go.

Our neighbours gardener has just retired from working on the local farm. This has not resulted in any diminution in the quantity of free samples he is able to find! A large head of broccoli has just been converted into soup. The one trip out we made this week was to stock up on food. We made a rough list then decided it was time for a trip to but wholesale sacks of onions, potatoes and such that will keep, save a fortune but we need cash I said. Going some way off route to get this stuff first I asked the keeper of the cash for the money, blank stare…

Old dog new tricks springs to mind but never a dull moment so far.

I have antibiotics, locum doctor, probably the only ones who now work on fridays jumped when I coughed, he was listening to the innards at the time and I was trying to take a deep breath as instructed. Girl in pharmacy grinned and said she was three weeks into this on with still no sign of an end, we coughed and chatted hoarsely until the prescription was made up, seems I am the first one who actually likes the cough mixture!

Sat out in sun for a while under chestnut tree which I planted to give us shade in our old age. The new neighbour had just cut down an ancient pear tree and the world needed a replacement, this year I finally sited my grandfathers old teak garden bench under it. Don’t be fooled by the pictures I have photographed my suburban paradise with an ultra wide angle lens to turn it into a parkland.



Strange how quickly things change. Last week I was trying to catch up on blogs missed since I went away and there seemed to be an endless supply, now I am twiddling my thumbs wondering why so little is coming up on the reader. Some of this is probably my fault for having settled into a small, lets call it a select group of bloggers which swirl around. In the past I would try blogs of bloggers to find like minded souls. Now I realise that I have been doing this less and less having forgotten that since all human life is out there I occasionally came across some things a bit unsavory even to an open minded soul like mine. Let people use their body parts however they wish but I find psychological humiliation and bullying really unpleasant. Perhaps I was on a run of bad luck or had had an unusually run of good luck to find those I have found.

A while ago I finally signed up on utube to be able to post occasional comments and more easily keep track of those who I found interesting. Today yet another has posted to say that they are to take an extended break!

No doubt you have been in a noisy room full of people when there is suddenly silence. That is how it seems here at the moment. Perhaps I should go away and read a book for a day or so and comeback to some friendly chatter.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009


Sort of back in real time. We have both been struck down with really bad colds since returning and now cough duets. I was sold some cough mixture to help loosen up, I was told that it would taste like hell but was the best they had, I love it and will miss it when the cough stops, lots of licorice, yum.

Quite a shock getting back in more ways than one. Our cards had stopped working but we did not expect them to fail on the first visit to the supermarket on the way back from the airport, only bought essentials and have been living off them and cans for a week. Finally ventured out today once cards had been revived. The colds were bad and the physical cold after the high twenties was a shock. Having to wear clothes again! I miss the sparkle off the toes but I am not going out in these temperatures without socks.There was a lot of unhappiness on the blogs when I returned in July so I kept away just incase, you did not let me down! Do you all wait till I am away?

Never again will I leave the epilator behind! A months re growth was a bit much to take off everywhere but I did it yesterday when there was some good light. Re growth is so soft compared to the stubble which came after I shaved, how could I have been so dumb?

We had a wonderful time with the food as you probably figured out, you just have to be an omnivore to really enjoy France. So much choice we never got round to snails though they were available to buy at 6.90 euros per kilo if you wanted them. By walking in the hills around and on the sandy shore line and the odd bike ride I came back almost exactly the same weight as when I set off, that is a first. Will power was the answer, not always taking a starter dish or forgoing a desert. They thought me a little odd at first knowing what a fan of the food I am. The figs kept me regular!

One of the reasons for going was to measure up a gallery space situated in an old chapel. I had been offered the chance of an exhibition there for some time and had told them that next May / June would be good. Julie wanted May, she likes the cooler weather, my vote would be for June so that I could spend the mornings getting a seamless suntan on the beach! The exhibition space inside the old church offers some challenges, I love the rough whitewashed walls, obviously if I framed up pictures like I would in a regular selling show I would need two cars to transport them so I am working on some other ideas. This is just being done for my vanity and pleasure and to show people who know me just what I have done, any sales will just be a bonus.

Oh yes and as you can see the date with Alain has given me my first change of hair style since I was at school nearly forty years ago a couple of years before my old profile picture was taken.

Saturday, 10 October 2009


Back home again. Strangely I have never felt homesickness about leaving my parental home mainly because I felt driven out even though in their eyes my parents thought they had given me a good home. Physical comfort but emotional desert and unbreathable air! When I do feel home sickness is when I leave this little corner of France so back home again is absolutely correct!

A strange absence of vehicles greeted us in the parking but the next generation appears to be nocturnal especially in the hot summer months so we did not think too much about it. There was to be a four day life coaching course running in the restaurant for the last days of our stay so we have had to leave the luxury of the old granny flat with en-suite facilities and have to use L’s room which was an absolute tip when we left for Portugal. He just camps here between seasonal jobs and even then often just stays out especially when his girl comes down to the coast for her weekend job, someone is having some fun. By some miracle the room was reasonably useable and we were so tired we hardly noticed at first anyway. Fell asleep is the best and correct description! Our sacrifice of the room for this long weekend paid for the tickets to Portugal!

We had to be fairly self-sufficient for these last days since Y would have to be around much of the time to organise the B and B guests and extra help for the quicker than normal lunches. Naturally they had broken one of the vehicles and it was away in hospital already, L had gone for a sleepover! He would not be back with the van till his turn to help out in the evening. We dare not take Sophia’s 4x4 until it was sure that it was not needed. A lazy start suited us, I finished the child’s high chair with a final full coat of paint then read till lunch, scraps arrived from the course lunch before we could even think what we were going to do.

Not wanting to hang around the house for four days we did eventually get wheels and made trips out. We made the long hot climb which before had been shaded, up to the Marine Memorial Chapel, there had been an unexpected diversion through the pines and vines on the hills of La Clape near Narbonne probably due to a bike race. We rediscovered the small coastal villages which we had not seen for years. Much has changed but 75 kilometers of coastal walks have been created along this ancient coastline. We were diverted to Gruissan, once all built on stilts and the setting for a once popular film “ Betty Blue “. On the Saturday modern life nearly stranded us, France still tries to have weekends so petrol has to be bought by confronting self service machines which speak strange tech French and in our case spat back all our cards which came into force on the first of the month even though we had called before leaving to say where and when we would be using the darn things, This happened to us once before when we drove deep into the country to a two Michelin star restaurant and I was to pay for this outrageous treat, all I took was reading specs and the card and it failed to work! We had enough fuel to get back home and borrow another card, I can hardly remember the numbers for my own cards but now have Y’s number etched into my skull and it will not fade.

The weather was a bit strange, still in the high twenties but feeling less with the lower sun this time of year, the wind dropped with calm air over most of southern France. When there was wind the sea was calm when it was calm there would often be rough seas but still great temperatures for a swim. Julie, who these days does not like the extra trek to the naturist beach, decided the weather was ideal, there was a cloudless blue sky from horizon to horizon, so we managed to spend one whole afternoon swimming and reading and me taking long walks. I have started using the iPod on some of my beach walks, set on random the pace and cadence changes, sometimes with the right tune you can work up a real catwalk hip swinging strut which brings out a real beaming smile!

Food was stocked up for easy light vegetarian meals with artichokes, French beans to eat with vinaigrette and chicory which we pay nearly a euro per piece but there cost little more for a kilo bag! The evenings at the restaurant were not full at this end of the season so we got several meals as a treat, how else can we honestly recommend the place to anyone? A change from our all veg meals in the house! When we had the lobster the battery was being charged for the camera!! Veal kidneys had been ordered for me as a special treat, C must keep a list of my requests, we got tongue and sweetbreads on the last trip. I get to slip my iPod onto the dock and pick my own music selection.

Before we knew it the long awaited holiday was over. Just as well with the money all gone and the comatose credit cards. With the circumstances we had nothing to carry off home except the tin of cassoulet which we had given up to eat the lobster, it was the perfect gift for our neighbours. Scottish friends had just phoned to say that they were on the Atlantic coast but would visit if there was a bed free, they had collected rash purchases for us before like a marble topped cast iron table which would be a bit tricky by air, they will bring back some wine for us. We made the decision to abandon most of the mid season clothes we had taken and not needed so that in future we only need hand luggage and can save hours of checking in and can visit at short notice at any time of year.

I did get transport on the Friday so went for a couple of hours on the beach by myself. I switched my super cheap mobile on to keep an eye on the time, on holiday I need to know the time! The thing burst into life all excited, a call had been made on it from Spain and now someone thinks I am going to make expensive calls in France. At least I now know I can be rescued from the beach if the car gives trouble! Still quite relaxed about my date, I think. I am in a bit of a mess after my swim having forgotten that my hair was still braided up from the trip and getting more than a little ratty and sticky with all the salt so I had to go home to get cleaned up, all vestiges of the soaking in Chanel from the duty free will be long gone! I wish I had been able to totally relax and enjoy the touch of a new human being. This was not the quick hug and kiss I am used to but close personal attention which I have not experienced for countless years. There was some pop playing in the background, when I was able to name the singer as Lily Allen we knew we were on the same wavelength, we may be both getting on a bit but still young at heart! My French is embarrassingly bad considering how many times I have visited but I have spent too much time giving the kids intensive training in English which they now appreciate. Any how we were getting along just fine, one to one is not so bad if nobody else is listening in. When I was asked to turn round and bend forward it was done before I realised that I had understood! He says he does not get to do this very often but it gives him great pleasure, I got that too! We are going to meet again, he was pleased when I told him how often we may be visiting France now there are no work restrictions. I was not really sure about this but it went much better than I could have ever imagined. Perhaps we can come back for the almond blossom in February / March, must work on this.

Marine memorial chapel. La Clape


Trams and things

Typical blue and white tiled facade.

Breakfast in the cafe next door, a fraction of the price you pay in France, no wonder the locals are in and out all the time, tall milky coffee in a glass and pain au chocolate! Then ready for the day.

We first wanted to see the old market so set off on foot up the street of shops which we came down last night. Julie and Y are completely different shoppers, one wants to look at nearly everything, the junkier the better while the other hates shopping. I pushed them both into a closing down sale of accessories and set off in search of the top I had lusted over the night before. Did not note the shop because the thing was in the window but how was I to know that they would change it before I got up! Julie and Y came out each with new necklaces and bits, the necklaces never came off for the whole trip, Y slept in hers!

By now we need another break so stop at the Majestic Cafe which is aptly named. Built as a grand cafe in the 1920’s it is one of only two remaining from then and still putting on the style. There was another which was recently sold to Mcdonalds for the site! Fabulous coffee and an almond cake with the most stylish servers you will find anywhere.

Hardly out of the cafe when I spot a shirt for Y in another sale, they are everywhere! A 50’s print shirt which gets worn for much of the rest of the trip before being purloined by Sophia on our return! The market takes up a whole block partly under repair as usual and all run by women of close to retirement age which gives it great character but does not bode well for the future. There were fruit and vegetables we had never seen plus every shape and style of bacalhau, salt cod, that you could dream up plus all the parts of a pig you would never eat either smoked or unsmoked! The place was full of art students painting and sketching away so I did not feel so out of place when the camera finally came out.

We could not find an easy bus to the river so jumped in taxi again and within a couple of minutes were on an hour river tour first up river then almost out to sea. What poverty there is with shanty houses hanging off the cliffs, old abandoned factories and warehouses litter the shore as picturesque ruins. By the time we get back we can do nothing but find shade and lunch on the shore. All the businesses are run by local families who have obviously lived through times of hardship and poverty we can hardly imagine. It was like being in a Fellini film set from the 50’s or 60’s, quite the opposite to the Majestic of a few hours before.

The heat was exhausting and I was thankful that Y had braided my hair up for this trip as soon as we arrived but the church of San Francisco was just a few hundred yards up the hill and proved to be a cool oasis for us. They started to use gold leaf to decorate the interior and got a bit carried away using 440 pounds of gold. We had the place to ourselves for about half an hour before others started to arrive. With all that gold you would think they would have fabulous post cards to make up for the photo ban, no.

At the foot of the steps from the church was a tram stop so we used our magic cards for a trip out towards the sea. The 1890’s trams have not long been restored and make an interesting contrast to the modern fleet of buses and the metro. The sea breeze revived us for the wandering back to the hotel and cold shower.

Trying a typical local restaurant was not the best choice but my squid was fine so I was happy, live and learn, more research for tomorrow!

Next day we walked to the nearest square to find some transport as another tram drew up. Y was sent to try her fast returning Portuguese to see if the magic ticket worked on this city tour, in prefect Glaswegian we were told no but hop on for a chat and us being on would draw in paying punters. This is how we learned about the local corruption which is rife, the driver is an engineer who has been abroad most of his life and was on the point of returning to help his old mum. Soon we started to attract paying passengers which he greeted in whatever language was necessary! Then we set off to the other side of town. His parting was a question, what do you call a tram enthusiast? A tramsvestite! Apparently I had been a distraction while he was telling his stories, I had been too interested in the details of the tram to notice so I guess he thought I was a…

We were hardly off the tram when journalism students asked if someone would be filmed while discussing the public transport system, by now we could give them enough for a half hour documentary. This was to be a museum day, decorative art and modern art but first we visited an amazing neogothic bookshop with an unbelievable staircase, postcards rubbish and me unemployed!! The underwear shops were even more fun, for this trip I had had to offer Y a loan of my knickers all hers had been washed to death, do not use linen wash!

Better organised we found a bus back to town which took us to The Hole In The Wall where we got a really good meal, by now we have the portions worked out and factor in the salt cod fish balls which just arrive while you wait so only ordered two main dishes. We could not leave without at least a glass of port, we ordered two and got two glasses and they left the bottle of exceptional tawny port on the table! Real value for money. We wander home happy.

By now you have a good idea how we spend our time, a handful of postcards have been written to report on our travels but a people week of looking for somewhere to buy stamps has got us nowhere even when we got directions. The post office was 21 st century chic built into a ruin which is for sale and we had passed several times each day. One year old guides are useless so much closes without warning so we give up and go to the Majestic for a final lunch in style, the new credit card fails to work! Lucky still had some cash. Thursday dish of the day was octopus so that was easy, don’t get that at home!

Three days at this pace feels like a week away so stepping back on the metro just before our ticket expires was almost a relief. The airline charges so much for hold baggage that a full plane had almost none and the cabin was full to overflowing! It was almost 1:20 am after we had driven over the mountains back to France.

Nothing planned for Friday until 5 pm ! I thought I would have been anxious or excited or something. This is something completely out of character I have let myself in for and I am so calm perhaps because he is such a sweet and charming guy. I only worry about getting transport!



Is my poor brain really getting so old that it manages to forget that we did once make a trip to France in August, so I lied.

When I thought back I realised Y and C got married during August!

It was a long time ago and far far away in Normandy where C had been born and brought up. Y and C had been traveling the world working to pay their way, useful to be a chef, you can work anywhere. While in Brazil Sophia was conceived and they decided a bit unconventionally for such an unconventional couple to get married. The French will have a party with the slightest excuse and if food is involved will come in droves, we had one of those.

It was mostly C’s family then again he has seven brothers and one sister so that was a crowd to start with. Little wonder that the parents died young and left the neighbors to finish the job of raising the family. This was about twenty miles inland in the bocage where centuries of use had worn the roads into deep trenches with shady trees forming a canopy above. Cattle never got lost! You did not want to meet traffic head on but there was so little anyway. A small contingency of Brits came. I went with Julie, her mother and her cousin in an old VW camper.

C was to impress his family with a slap up lunch feast so headed off to Les Halles, the big food distribution market in Paris and filled their little estate car to overflowing. We took up residence in the old family home which was empty of all furniture except the dining room, this is France! A superior form of camping, as time went by the place filled up.

I started to scythe a space under the trees in the orchard for the pre wedding feast, exhausting in the heat. Between times we sortied out to markets the like of which no longer seem to exist where local producers came with whatever little they had to sell. I remain haunted by ”the photo which failed at the end of the roll”, an old woman held out an open bag to receive the bunch of small chickens which the seller held by their necks! The ones which get away haunt you for ever, why use a camera, perhaps the faded memories are better.

As the preparations progressed I was asked to drive the camper to collect the communally owned tables from a local farm. I went with C and a new arrival, Fred, It was not a long drive through the sunken lanes, we drove into a medieval farm yard, chickens and animals wandering about. Greeting the farmer we were ushered into the kitchen for a friendly drink. Spirit drinking is not my thing but to be sociable I accepted my glass of pastis and sat at the kitchen table and tried to make sense of the conversation whilst watching the chickens pecking around on the dirt floor. The conversation went on for an eternity because C had been away for so long and there was much catching up to do, I sipped away at my drink then politely placed the empty glass on the table. In a nanosecond it was refilled! Eventually the second glass was empty but I hung on to it for dear life in my new wobbly world. Then people were on their feet and much hand shaking was is progress and C told me that the tables were at the back of the barn and could not be got out so we were to return the next day. I did manage to drive back but mainly because it was impossible to drive off the road since it was only as wide as the van and as deep! The next day I made myself scarce to avoid a repeat performance.

Fred had squeezed his family of wife and small children into a Lancia Fluvia sports car which he said was not running smoothly, could I take a ride with him to try and find the fault? Well he drove that thing all over the countryside at speeds well over a hundred miles an hour and we just could not find anything wrong with it at all!

C spent a couple of days preparing his feast, legs of lamb went into ovens all over the community, cases of langoustine crabs and various shellfish were coked at the last minute. Smoked salmon and sliced cold meats spread on platters, chickens roasted and much I have forgotten, all spread over about 7 metres of table. After everyone had arrived at the house garden and drunk a champagne toast to the couple a procession made it’s way to the orchard and the spread laid out for them. The whole scene was as if from the Bayeux Tapestry, C’s family are pure Norman, probably Vikings who have not moved for nearly 2000 years. Eating and drinking proceeded for several hours before someone announced that there was a ridiculously short time left before we were supposed to be before the local Mayor for the ceremony, an old Le Manns style race start ensued.

The ceremony took place in the tiny local school hall with everyone crowed round a huge table. The mayor, a small guy with a big sash and his young glamorous assistant presided, children hung with their noses just over the edge of the table, couple and witnesses formed up on one side. Every time he managed to get his tongue round some fiercely Scottish names of bride and witness the cheer from the crowd was as loud as when France scores a goal in the world cup. Before you knew it the ceremony was over and the designated photographer was allowed less than two minutes to get a picture on the front steps of the beaming bride bulging with here five months belly and clutching her small fox terrier Spotty instead of a bunch of flowers next to here new husband and a swirling chaos of guests. Then they were gone. The air filled with the noise of car horns as the drove around randomly to make sure everyone knew something had happened then they went to the local cafe to drink. Having little stamina most of the Brits took a late siesta!

The real meal took place in the evening! We drove some miles to a hotel and had a sit down banquet. The only dishes I now recall are the quails stuffed with currants, The French bit off the heads and crunching noises followed! The pike in a butter sauce was exquisite and the tower of profiteroles higher than I thought possible. In the early hours of the morning the old black dressed widows who had looked after the kids when younger got tired and I grabbed the chance to escape by being a bus driver, by now we were exhausted. It was some hours later when the riot returned to the house. It is traditional, at least was then, for the new couple to be given a mixture of white wine and chocolate in a chamber pot which they are to consume, symbolic of what to expect from marriage? I don’t know. Sensitive Y substitutes one of her mothers large ceramic bowls to soften the blow!

The couple retire as they are supposed to while the party just goes on and if anything gets even noisier. Exasperated and unable to sleep Y finally driven to her wits end strode out stark naked with large bump and screamed that she wanted some peace to be able to sleep, she seemed to get their attention.

The following day the French returned to do the pre wedding lunch again! Most of us Brits had slunk off to visit Mont Saint Michele and laze on the beach all afternoon. Y’s performance was not going to be beaten and we had eaten enough food for a week.

Not too sure what it means when an event like this can slip your memory. The event got Julie thinking about catching up with her little sister and my fate was sealed.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009



The new business which I had been helping get going at the beginning of the year is going like a fair so we are left to our selves much of the time. This suits Julie who just wants to read and unwind while I keep myself occupied with anything and everything. There is endless washing, the French love linen napkins, fortunately in this heat, usually 28 degrees by lunchtime, this is no problem if only someone will hang them! The sun and heat are quite damaging so there are always repairs and painting jobs to do, C is a sweet guy but there are lots of things he just will not do, the blog is not long enough to list them!

I knocked apart a high chair for children and re-glued and painted a solid three coats so that Sophia can do her final decorating flourishes. The dining table on the terrace looks like new again with a solid French racing blue. B & B guests often eat here in the mornings so I felt they should be somewhat smarter than Y’s happily tatty! I am on Sophia’s side with the new style of presentation which goes with the newly built restaurant. Obviously we had to do some extensive testing of the new menus often sharing a table with some of the many people we have come to know over the years of visiting. It was quite late in the season for many of those with holiday homes and the vendage was still in progress for those involved with the grapes so there were not as many visitors as usual.

The grape picking has changed a lot in the time we have been coming here. Thirty years ago the fields were small and planted with hand tended bushes which were hand picked by teams of workers to a strict set of rules to conform with the Appellation code. A few times I have had to do some of this back breaking work to help someone get the last grapes in before the time deadline. They could only pick on dates decided by the local group and once started there was a strict order for grape varieties and a date after which they could not be included in the valued appellation wine. Since the local co-op went bankrupt many have taken to making their own Vin De Pays with different grape mixes.

Nobody wants to work the fields by hand now so the old fields get grubbed up, excellent winter fuel, and they either get paid to never grow grapes again! Or they form large prairie like fields of wire trained vines which can be harvested by an enormously expensive machine which straddles the rows with the driver in an air conditioned cab! Along with the ridges covered with ever more huge windmills the romance has abated somewhat.

The windmills do help with navigation when you are biking on the winding tracks through the unmarked back country, I forgot how hard this was, lungs bursting and throat rasping with the effort! Out of condition as are the bikes which I so carefully trained the kids to maintain. I would have done more but the saddle was too low for extended use and corroded in place! And falling apart! We abandoned most of our clothes at the end of the trip hoping that we could just arrive with hand luggage to save time and money and to save thinking about what to pack! Just passport and pills! If I could just find somewhere where I could keep a bike safe from their hands…

The heat just continued, how they survive the August heat I do not know. That is the only month we have not sampled and now doubt that we shall, Julie does not do well in the heat so I usually get a time on the beach by myself to walk in the surf and sometimes just float like a cork. At the cooler times we could get out to eat oysters at the coast where the oyster farmers can only sell the shellfish with white sliced bread and butter and white wine, or we go for a staggeringly expensive ice cream concoction at a beachside cafes.

At night in late September I still have to sleep uncovered it is so warm but Y has organised a wee trip to Porto on the Atlantic coast of Portugal. She is a dreamer and usually greets us at the airport with dreams of crazy voyages but now that she has some money again we are to fly to what she says will be a cooler place for three days, I think C is glad of the peace of three days to himself. We pack for cooler days and take Sophia’s car since that seems to be the only means of transport working and head to Spain for a late afternoon flight. It takes hardly any time to fly since we pass back into Scottish time zone!

The Airport is the complete opposite of where we landed in France, this is acres of polished granite as far as the eye can see with integrated parking and new metro system built into the main building. We later find out how this happened. For 11e each we are able to buy a 72 hour transport pass, since we are here for almost exactly 72 hours this is great. We wave it in front of the electronic sensor and are on our way into town 11 kilometers away. As luck would have it we came out of the ground halfway up a hill, we soon discovered the whole place is hills and every corner takes you up or down! We come out of the ground to be confronter with a church completely covered in blue and white tiles, exactly what three ceramic fans were hoping to see! From here it was downhill on black and white cobbled marble pavement through one of the most popular shopping streets. I spot a perfect asymmetrical top in a window and aim to return when they open. This city was once rich but has fallen into decay and like many other places seems to have been allowed to go too far before restoration starts so smart often has boarded up nearby. We are not staying at the Hilton but at a simple hotel / hostel on the edge of the old town which we find easily. Once we climb the marble stairs to reception Jeronimo greets us and Y’s Portuguese finally starts to come out, just as well, me and Julie know not a single word at this point!

Our bags are thrown into the room on the top floor, a quick wash and we are off in the taxi called by Jeronimo to the opposite bank of the river to get a night time view of the city, we get an exciting high speed trip through winding back streets to drop from the cliff top to the river bank. I look at the view and let them argue about restaurants, I know when it is best to keep out of the way of two sisters. The choice was obvious but … we sit down at the rivers edge looking directly across to the old port with a huge arching newly restored bridge to the right and the old river boats which brought the port wine down river anchored in front of us. We are gastronomic tourists! I choose their famous tripe casserole and get some funny looks saying “are you sure?” Julie chooses a creamy dish with salt cod, the other local speciality which we have yet to find a good example of, Y chooses something with 3000 calories which she read about on the plane, we say we are full when offered a taste! The best salt cod ever and my dish was great too, the portions were more than generous. We had been the last to arrive at ten pm so got prompt service, at eleven pm we were drinking our coffee in short shirt sleeves and still quite warm, so much for cooler!

Another taxi called by the waiter had us back quickly and cheaply to the hotel where we all lay naked trying to cool down. This all sounds quite erotic but has become somehow quite normal, in fact after thirty years I don’t think Y even bothers to look closely any more and even though we have spent hours on the beach and I have been lying just a few feet away I don’t think she has really observed some significant modifications! Well it is so warm I shall have to sleep naked on top of the sheets for three nights. If she ever gets her nose out of the airport thriller she bought in Gerona perhaps she will notice!

Two and a half days to go, I don’t care what we do so will mostly tag along and enjoy the ride if they don’t just wander off and get lost, think taking two cats for a walk…




Tuesday, 6 October 2009


We tried a new way to the sun, unfortunately the times seem to have changed since I first investigated this route and we have to start off at 2 am.! Well at least it was fun driving on empty roads for 90% of the way. The airport at Edinburgh was a hive of activity at 4 am, the first people we met were the couple who run the gallery where I have been exhibiting. They had been sleeping in the airport with uncountable others. Our cheap airline has the last gate, it took an eternity to get there before joining the pantomime of disorganization which seems to be the trademark of cheap Irishair.

No idea which way we flew, cloud all the way then we climb down into the heat of mid morning in Carcasonne. Y had just arrived at the moment we collected our luggage which took 2 seconds after arriving at the carrousel! Parking was all of 30 feet from the terminal and free! We think we are going to love this airport, how wrong can you be?

I had hoped that we would visit the old town again and have a cassoulet for lunch but Y just wanted to head home for an early lunch just one hour away. Arms ached waving to people we know on the way through the village. We have arrived near the equinox and they expect a little mixed weather so Y suggests that we go straight to the naturist beach after lunch! I am starting to enjoy this holiday already! What joy to be in the water again and to be able to dry in the warm sunshine. About 140 flamingoes in the lagoon on the way home. After our early start we headed to bed earlier than usual There was an almighty crash of thunder like I have never heard before followed by torrential rain but after a few seconds I just fell asleep again. We woke to find a sodden world and sediments dumped by the torrents which had flowed everywhere. As soon as the sun came out the place started to dry out at an impressive rate but it would be a few days before we had the comfort of cushions! With the sun came Babette, always a keen hugger and kisser! Our tidy up was rewarded by a lunch of wild mushroom soup with quenelle de volaile and a fish mousse wrapped in a fine fillet of salmon Julie had a tresse de poisson, several long fillets of different fish plaited together, then a hard pressed espresso. This could be dangerous for the waistline!

I cleaned their car till it was only dirty! Then we headed off for supplies to be self sufficient, I need my fix of artichokes especially. Figs and Muscat grapes I get from the garden.

Sleepless night followed by a 48 hour flu like cold took care of the rest of the weekend, I ached everywhere but started walking in the hills around the village to help clear my head. Even longer walk the next day because the kids ( in 20’s but…) took the cars, then lazy time reading and cooking.

Julie had her hair cut just outside the supermarket last time we were in France, It was OK but… I started to ask around about hairdressers, Sophia and Babette were unanimous that the place to go was Le Jardin Du Coiffeur in Leucate so I got Julie to call and she got an appointment for that afternoon. I enjoy watching this process though I have not been to a hairdressers myself since I was at school 40 years ago. This guy was a magician with the scissors and as with most skilled workers was a joy to watch. Determined to get the old hippy Y to get her unruly mop done too.

Now that the basic week here is four days we had tuesdays to thursdays to go out as family of tourists and we did. A day at Collioure swimming off the beach in the heart of the old town and visited the ancient Abbey at Fontfoide passing the largest graveyard for 2CVs that I have ever seen. Between times the seamless suntan was worked on by frequent beach visits. Eventually on Friday Y went and had herself transformed, at last the two sisters were stylish together!

The family beach visits tend to be wet costume affairs, C has never been to our Aphrodite beach even though he has by far the best figure for it! Being mid to late 20’s the kids are just not ready for the naturist way so continue to pose in their beachwear! The naturist beach is a much more relaxed place, everyone has plenty of space and naturally give each other an instinctive balanced space which never gets invaded. Well until now! In over 20 years I have been generally happily ignored, so I was more than a little surprised to find a well tanned and oiled body with more than his fair share of equipment come and pose just eight feet away on an almost deserted stretch of sand, there was as tangible sense of disappointment as he was ignored by me. Thinking perhaps I had not got the message the performance was repeated the next day. All I could think about was what would you do with something like that? Does it live down your trouser leg or what? Must have thought it was an offer not to be refused. You bonjour everyone you meet here so I gave the blandest bonjour of my life as I passed on my way off the beach an hour later to show that there was absolutely no interest. Never been tried to be picked up while naked before! Only gay guys ever seem to find me attractive!

I like France and the relaxed and naturally stylish way many of them have, and all the life on the street. I suppose there is something of a template of an ideal stylish sensual woman I would be searching for if I was in the market, imagine my surprise when I found myself getting a bit tingly when Alain comes up to me and says things about my eyes then brushes away the curtain of hair to see them better! A shortish hippy type about as scruffy as me but charming as hell. Lives are busy but Y helps make a date to meet again for the end of work the next Friday when we return from a short trip. My French is hopeless but I am sure we shall manage somehow. I leave them to chat for a few moments then hear her surprise when Alain describes me as elle! This is the second time we have met for half an hour each time and he thinks of me as she! Said it was the soft small breasts showing under my tee shirt that clinched it, they are almost nothing! Obviously I am putting out the right signs. Y is not completely on message about the changes even though she was the first one I told about the facial hair removal all those years ago.

She is told by him that it makes no difference anyway!!

I have a week to anticipate this rendezvous.