Monday, April 27, 2009

A Plague on your House, Friends Reunited

'Tony C has left you a message on Friends Reunited'

And with those few words, my very first boyfriend is catapulted back into my conscience after over 30 years.

Not ' the love of my life'  sort of first boyfriend, more 'the mistake we all make when we are young and hormonal'.

Shall I/Shan't I?  

Of course I shall, just to satisfy my morbid curiosity.

Don't know if its the write person but it's me, Tony

Ah, good to see you got the hang of that ole spelling thing.

What do people expect of you after you haven't so much as heard their name mentioned in over 30 years? 

Hey, how are you? Married/Single? Children/Not?

Maybe we could reminisce about...

'The Time You Had My Name Tattooed on Your Arm' - and spelled it wrong!  

I can still remember the total horror that someone had had my name tatooed onto their arm for ever.  I remember you eventually changed it to 'Mother' although it never looked that good. What does it say now? How did you explain it away? And how the hell could you NOT know how my to spell my name!


'The Time I dumped you at the Smokie concert and you put your fist through a shopwindow and arrived home covered in blood so your poor mother thought you'd done away with me'

That was a really memorable occasion.  My poor father had worn a hole in the pavement by the time the concert finished - and was less than impressed to see his lovestruck daughter appear on the arm of her new beau. That said, he was infinitely preferable to the one he replaced.

or maybe even

'The time you ran into myself and new boyfriend in Weekes and threatened to kill him. We had to call the police to escort us out safely'

Yep, that was a good one too! The less said about that day, the better.

Ah, memories, memories....

I couldn't even remember who you were when I saw the message, in fact I thought it was someone from my primary school.

So, will I contact you?

Not in a million years!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Crocs, shocks and socks..... a modern dilemma

When Crocs first sprung onto the fashion (or lack of) scene, my initial reaction to this bizarre cross between clogs and gardening boots was 'not in my lifetime'. Why on earth would anyone put anything so ugly on their feet?

A while later and, well, I've kind of grown to like them, and in La France Profonde, where comfort and utility take precendence over beauty, I appreciate their usefulness.

So, not long ago I bought myself a natty pair of sky blue ones decorated with flowers. I think it's fair to say that they've hardly been off my feet. They are supremely comfortable, and what's more, they don't make you feet niff. (If only I could persuade DS to wear them!)

But, I've come across a little problem with them. Within a few hours of wearing, I've turned into my very own Van der Graaf generator - and not the 70s prog rock one either. I build up so much static that I'm throwing little bolts of electricity like some sort of modern day Zeus. I've always had a bit of a static problem. I have fond memories of the firework displays that my bri-nylon nightie used to produce as a child not to mention the time in Harvey Nicks when I went to call the lift and a spark of electricity a good 3 centimetres long shot from the end of my finger when I went to press the call button. My loud shout of 'bugger that hurt' drew some very disapproving looks.

The cats don't come near me, having all got shocks when I stroked them, particularly Barney Bananey, who even got a little bolt of static right on the end of his nose. I was on the telephone out on the balcony when I accidentally touched a screw, discharged the static and promptly dropped the telephone over the edge and only minutes later as I walked through the french door back into the dining room, I produced a crackle of static with attendant mini-lightning bolt that even the CH pronounced impressive - and it bloody well hurt too!

So, my dilemma is this. If I wear socks with my Crocs will I have more or less shocks? I'll look pretty stupid but life might be marginally less painful for all of us.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Que la vie est belle...

Today was one of those day when the whole 'living in France' thing seemed to all make sense.

We woke up to blue sky and a mild breeze and, after coffee out on the terrace, headed off to our local market. You can tell that summer is on the way, the market is bustling with stallholders and people have come out of their winter hibernation to jostle each other for the best apples, the most juicy asparagus, the last few croissants.

It isn't a huge market, but once the winter is over, a quick tour can take well over an hour as you stop to greet friends and acquaintances that you sometimes may not have seen for some time.

We stopped at the local cafe for coffee and were soon joined by various friends, all enjoying the early spring sunshine and catching up on 'important local information' - never let it be said we gossip! We commented on the basket of the French lady sitting on the next table. It was so perfect it looked like a still life. Luscious vegetables and the greenest frisee lettuce peeped out while a gorgeous looking handmade 'pain' artisinal completed the picture. My friend compared it with her sorry little plastic bag and we agreed that we haven't quite got this market look right yet!

Eventually it was time to head home for lunch. Waiting on the doorstep was a dozen eggs from my neighbour, who'd heard from my daughter that our hens have gone broody and aren't laying. They were so fresh they were practically still warm.

Fresh egg mayonnaise with the sweetest of red peppers and a warm baguette on the terrace in the sunshine.

Que la vie est belle.....

Friday, April 17, 2009

The (head) Light that Failed (sorry Rudyard!)

Well, the Grand Gasguzzler has been playing up again - it's just like a naughty child. It waits until your back is turned then does something wicked.

In the past year we've probably spent more than double the value of the car on repairs to the braking system. Nothing important then! Each time I take it in, I get the combined forces of Monsieur L senior and Monsieur L junior telling me that 'Madame, it is really time to get a new car'. Of course I know that, but with british TV seemingly happy to show unlimited re-runs and commission nothing new and with the US money for films practically dried up, and, on top of it all, the ****** people who were supposed to be renting our house pulling out at the 11th hour, costing us thousands of euros, we are a bit 'fauche' to say the least.

"I can do you a nice family car", said Monsieur L junior, "and if it's a case of credit, I can give you a little bit".

"So how much are we talking about?" I enquired

"12-14,000 euros will get you something nice and it will pay for itself in a year with the amount you spend on petrol"

I blanched slightly. They might as well ask for the moon.

"When Monsieur goes back to work I'll have a look at it but in the meantime the Grand Gasguzzler is juddering when you brake and......" damn, what's the French for 'misfiring'? A visual display will have to do.

"I'll take it out for a spin and have a look" said Monsieur L junior.

We hopped in and set off in true French style, not quite burning rubber - it's an automatic after all - but I don't think it's ever been through all 5 gears so quickly!

"Ooh la, that's les disques" he announced. What? Again? We only had new disks last year.

"It's a design fault. It's very hilly here and I've been to LA, it's very flat. This car isn't designed for hilly terrain"

I didn't want to point out that LA isn't America, any more than Paris is France. When I last checked there were a good few hills.

So far the engine was running smoothly. Just my luck that it wouldn't play up with a mechanic at the wheel.

"It's worse going uphill" I said weakly.

"We'll find a hill then" and sure enough, it started to misfire.

"That's les bougies causing that"

The headlights? Oh come on, do I look like I just got off the last boat? How can the headlights be making it misfire?

I smiled politely and made a mental note to find a new mechanic.

So, he took the car in, replaced the disks, replaced all the headlight bulbs.... and do you think it solved the problem?.......... yes, it certainly did.

But my amazement was short lived when it was actually pointed out to me that I had misunderstood the word 'bougies', my addled brain had taken the word for 'candles' and transposed it into 'headlight bulbs'. In actual fact bougies are spark plugs. DOH!!!

It bloody did! 10,000 Frenchman can't be wrong and this little one certainly wasn't!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wow, a social event!

"I've got us tickets to the soiree du vin in the village" announced the CH with a flourish the other day.

'To the what?' I asked.

The Soiree du Vin, as it turned out, was a fundraiser for our local cat charity, Les Amis des Chats. Wine tasting, nibbles and good company in the old hotel in the village that has now been renovated as a frou-frou art gallery. Fabulous! Except for one teeny weeny thing, I don't actually drink wine (meths and other assorted cleaning products yes.... wine, well, to be honest it's wasted on me if it doesn't come in a screw top bottle). Still, never mind, I was quite sure the CH could help me out there.

But first, what to wear? In La France Profonde, I have little need for a posh frock and tiara. In the summer it's light cotton flowing stuff and in the winter anything that doesn't go with wellies is pointless.

I rummaged through my cupboards in the hope of finding something that might fall into one (or even all) of the following categories a) vaguely fashionable b) clean c) still fits me. The last one was arguably the hardest.

I dismissed the gorgeous velvet suit I'd worn for my wedding (not as long ago as you may think) as hopelessly dressy, the MaxMara suits I'd worn in my days of gainful employment had little chance of doing up (note to self: you ain't never gonna get in them so just give them to charity) but the green bias-cut skirt looked hopeful and it even went with a vaguely new olive green cardigan. That's the clothes sorted out.

Now for the footwear.

Surely I must have something more than the green wellies or sky blue crocs with flowers on that are my normal footwear and my brown flatties really should have gone in the bin months ago. Time to bite the bullet and go in.

In the deepest darkest mouldering depths of my wardrobe, under the piles of painting clothes and 'things that were put out of the way' when the house went on the market were to be found a stack of real, proper grown up shoes.

I hauled them out.

A pair of gorgeous Marc Jacobs sandals - slightly mildewed

Another lovely pair of LK Bennett sandals - not bad nick. I put my feet in them......blimey, when did my feet get so big... or should I say wide!

Ah, those beautful Olivia Morris slingbacks - wrong colour even if I could manage to walk in spike heels.

Eventually I found the perfect ones. A pair of plain Escade court shoes. But wait.... what's this? Heels! I haven't worn heels in, well, nearly five years.

I slipped them on, a little tight but I'd manage. That's me sorted.

So, the evening arrived, I got dressed up in my finery and put on my shoes. So far, so good.

Half an hour later I was back in the bottom of the cupboard. How on earth did I ever wear these things? The balls of my feet were already numb. Another suitable candidate (or should it be candidates) was located, still had a heel but it didn't feel quite so much like walking with a pair of skyscrapers strapped to my feet and with less risk of broken ankles on our uneven French pavements.

Off we set, with the CH looking smart in his suit that hasn't fitted him in years - all that hard work he's been doing but it's soooo unfair. How come life in France makes him thinner and I've just piled on the pounds?

Now the great thing about any social event in La France Profonde is the lack of social conventions. Back in the motherland, a wine tasting evening would require, as a minimum, smart casual. In France it can mean anything from Chanel and diamonds to a clean tee shirt. Sure enough, the great and the good of the village were gathered in droves and the wine was flowing. We wandered round, him with a glass of wine, me with orange juice, looking at the paintings and objets d'art on display.

I admired a sort of basin type thingy on a tall wooden stand. Closer inspection revealed it to be a wine spittoon so that people could be proper wine tasters. He'd entirely misread his audience as there was no way they were going to let one drop escape, never mind a whole mouthful!

The evening progressed as expected.

The highlight of the evening was a silent auction. We perused the lots and listened to the various comments.

A painting by well known artist XXXX.
"Looks like it was painted by a child"

A resin sculpture by a well known local artist.
I honestly wouldn't give it to my worst enemy

Four hours with a builder.
Now you're talking I thought. No, it's just for building works. Damn!

An afternoon's quad biking with the lovely M. Snakehips himself
Not sure I really fancy having to watch his hands instead of the countryside (Mme O'D, I look forward to hearing how it went).

An Elm tree - guaranteed disease free
"How much did it cost?" asked someone of the donor. "About 8 euros", he replied. Some silly bugger paid 35 euros for it. Still, it's all for charity.

With these charity auctions I'm never sure if you're supposed to bid a ridiculous amount for absolutely nothing or come in below it's real worth and try and bag a bargain. As it turned out, we weren't really in the market for any of the lots, there not being one called 'Job for the CH', who really needs to get back to work.

A few went unsold and the Master of Ceremonies auctioned them off. The lovely Mme P gamely offered an opening bid and look vaguely disquieted to end up with all of them! Seems like the 'crise' had reached even our distant corner of the world.

By now my feet, squished into their ridiculously unsuitable footwear, were throbbing and the walk was more Dick Emery than Erin O'Connor. Every step was becoming agony and I was spending more and more time with my shoes off, cooling my feet on the tiled floor.

"Can we go now?" I asked.

One social occasion a year is more than enough - so that's 2009's out of the way but at least it was a success for the charity, which is the main thing.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Ten things not to do before you die.... Number 2

Don't iron a large spider that's hiding inside a duvet cover. Makes a right mess!

Another reason not to iron........("as if you needed one" shouts the CH from the back row)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Many thanks..

Time to get the barmy cat-woman bit out of the way and say thanks to everyone for their messages following the sad loss of my lovely, funny, deliciously mad Bazil. I know he was 'only a cat' but he wasn't really, he was my cat and I absolutely adored him.

We found him dead on the verge on our hill on Sunday morning and what upsets me more than anything is that it had to be one of our neighbours who was responsible but they neither owned up nor had the decency to tell us but just left him there for us to find. We live in the middle of nowhere, up a 2 mile long lane which leads up to our hamlet of 7 houses, only 5 permanently occupied, and nowhere else. There is so little traffic that it seems almost impossible that he could have been run over but it seemed like he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and was caught on a very narrow piece of the verge which has a sheer drop of about 20 feet down onto the chemin rural below so there was nowhere for him to escape to.

I have my suspicions about who was responsible - either 'the ones who drive too fast' who I know went out on Sunday morning and 'the one who lets his 13 year old daughter drive the car down the hill' and she was staying with him that weekend. Still, there's nothing to be done. I can't turn back time and angsting about who was responsible doesn't do any good.

The CH was truly fabulous - this is a man who feels faint if the dog is sick so having to deal with the end result of a car/cat accident wasn't easy, especially as he was also very fond of Mad Baz. He broke the news to the children, who were absolutely distraught, and insisted that we bury Baz in the garden even though digging a hole big enough for a plant is difficult enough on our terrain. He made him a lovely coffin, brushed his fur so he looked nice for the children to have a last stroke, and laid him to rest on a red silk cushion. He talked me out of my idea for a full Viking burial on our pond saying that the end result, possibly, of a half cremated kitty wouldn't be good for any of us. The children made little notes for Baz, gave him some of his favourite cat biscuits so he didn't get hungry on his journey, put in a toy and even a bit of gold and DS and his friend made a little wooden cross.

The next day the CH and DS edged the grave in stones and covered it with pebbles and now he even has a little cherub. All we need now is fairy lights and we'll have a full blown shrine! Still, no less than he deserved.

We've just had the ceilings replastered in the lounge and Baz would have loved it. He'd have been up and down the scaffolding, paws in the plaster, stealing the sponges and things. The job would have taken twice as long. Then he'd have conked out in one of his favourite places, either in the gutter under an overhang where he snoozed away most of last summer or spreadeagled across the printer with his head hanging over the edge.

I've never known a cat quite like him. He had us in fits of laughter almost every day with his silly antics, running up trees at full speed them more often then not, falling out of them, rounding up the chickens, ambushing us from among the undergrowth in the garden and always there to meet us when we came home.

Calinou, his little playmate, has been wandering around miaowing pitifully ever since, looking for his friend in all their favourite spots.

A friend sent a poem which goes:

If tears could build a stairway,
And memories a lane,
I'd walk right up to Heaven,
And bring you home again.

And I bloody would too, I loved that daft, cross eyed cat.

Batty cat-women moment is now over and normal service will be resumed shortly.