Thursday, August 25, 2016

Rainfall from a sunny sky

Sat working in the under the lilac tree this morning, struggling with an inconsequential poem, then  replying to my French client's request for more flea work. Seems that September is going to be busy. Sat there in the sun, and then one of those rain showers from a blue sky. Listening to the rain spotting the leaves but unable to see rain, and still in full sunshine. Then one big drop bounced off the area of concern and I knew it was time to come indoors for a few minutes.

Our tomatoes are starting to fruit now, and are really good. Nice to know that something has survived the gastropod ravages. We ate little corners of a few plums from our tiny plum trees. They would have been great, if they hadn't all be slimed and eaten.

Lorraine had returned home with lovely hair from the hairdresser. Meanwhile Beth had a day off work and was sorting out my payment from the Theatre place.  John and his pal Matt and Matt's dad arrived, and took all John's stuff and the table and so on. It's good to shed things from a house, it makes every thing feel lighter.

Meanwhile I'm still trying to cling onto holiday feelings. Spent an hour or so this afternoon listening to music while Lorraine was at acupuncture and the house was empty.

In the evening, we ate salads (for the great food change is ongoing) and watched the final Hobbit movie. Beth came back from seeing a play at the Marlborough, and is talking about putting the Christmas show on there.



Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Down in the dungeon

After a slow breakfast, Toby still feeling rough. Lorraine and I walked him to the station. A very warm day for blighty. Had coffee and hung out chatting till it was time for him to go. Sad to see the Tobster off at Brighton station. They really need to sort Star Trek beaming out.

To the shops then for a wee bit, before returning home. Excitingly collecting from neighbours two things that have been delivered: an amazon firestick which will let us watch net flicks, and a coffee maker like the one we used in France, and a bit like the one Anton has. It uses capsules, and delivers rather excellent coffee and of course is a tremendously middle class purchase.

Early this evening much sorting of our dungeon, which is where everything is poked until its fate can be decided. John and his mate Matt are moving into a flat in Hove shortly, and we have donated my old Calliope scratched wooden table and two chairs. This activity gave us an opportunity to have a good sort out in there, well mostly Lorraine as I find it hard to stand up there and we also have a pile of things to take to the tip.  Amazing the psychologically benefits of a neat dungeon. Something in the basement of the mind is tidier.

The commencement of The Great British Bake Off this evening had smiles on the lady's faces.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Cream tea for Toby

Toby still hoarse and feeling rough with a nasty cold bug. Taking judicious lie downs during the day. Still we managed breakfast, and lots of chats, and after Beth had got back from work and the dentist with half a frozen face we all took a late afternoon drive to Steyning for delicious rhubarb scones, cream and rhubarb jam. Toby enjoyed the cream tea, and we were talking about how much Romy, as a connoisseur of the English cream tea, would definitely like this.

After this, Toby and I had a fast cold drink in the Preston Park Tavern, then home again after half an hour or so, to let Toby crash out again.  Lorraine cooked supper (the days' meals apart from the aberration of the cream tea under the new healthy eating regime) eaten with a resurfaced Tobs watching Robot Wars on TV.  The fridge has a sheet of paper Beth printed out with meal suggestions plus a few motivational phrases, such as: 'You are not hungry, you are bored. Drink some water & learn the difference'.

Really good to see the Tobster despite him feeling ill. Sorted out a few bits of admin first thing this morning, and chatted to Mum during the course of the day too.

Lorraine took a really good photo of Toby on his own phone, which should go here, when I can get him to send it...


Monday, August 22, 2016

A hoarse Toby arrives

Monday. Feeling a bit Mondayish and sprang up and sent off emails, and got to grips a little. Was offered a good chunk of freelance starting at the beginning of September, which is dead handy. Felt somewhat better. Lorraine and I then headed off into Brighton, received a poetry rejection email while out. Am on a poor streak at the moment with poems, stories etc. being widely rejected.  There are tides in the affairs of writers. Bah.

However cheered up quickly, and had a fast haircut, while Lorraine waited in the cafe next door. We went off to look at coffee machines, having been inspired by the place in Collioure which had a coffee maker that produced some lovely coffee. An idea enthusiastically taken up by Betty. A spot more shopping, and Toby called, en route to Brighton. We met him at the station and cabbed home. Toby very hoarse of throat and feeling shattered. When Betty got home, and Toby had had a quick rest, we made off to the Shahi for a cheeky curry. Beth and Lorraine being very sensible. Me, not so much. We left early as Toby was very tired. Home, and listening to Spotify and hanging out before we all went to bed.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Home sweet home

A  restful night in my own bed without having to donate blood to mosquitos. Calliope woke me to get up and feed her and Brian. Cups of tea in bed. Then breakfast, finding out about what had happened to Beth in the last two weeks, speaking to Mum and gradually unpacking.

A Maureen shaped fairy had visited my room, and left me a water bottle with a note about watering plants. Much discussion about diets. Lorraine joined the Slimming World site, and Beth and Lorraine spent much time poring over ingredients, cookery books and listing allowable foods. Gradually getting myself sorted out after our trip, catching up with this blog and a generally recovering from yesterday's epic journey, and freeing space in the spare room for Toby when he arrives.

Last of the Olympics tonight. For me, the 2016 Olympic games will always be the French Olympics.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Interlude in Paris

The ghastly ducks quacking on Lorraine's phone this morning, and I slumped down to make us tea before our epic journey back to Blighty. A last pack and clear out, and then to the car. Dropped our recycling off, then Lorraine drove us to Nîmes under a leaden sky. Made excellent time, and despite being a bit stressed by having to buy petrol (first find a petrol station, which was tricky) and ridiculous things like having to queue for ages for the men's loos at the station, and finding it hard to get onto the platform, we made our train in time, and headed off to Paris.

France for the most part swathed in low cloud, skimming the hills and blocking the views. The train did not serve coffee today, so we had a breakfast of coke and small pieces of cake. Made Paris Gare de Lyon on time, and then caught the metro up to Gare du Nord. Eventually we found the left luggage place, dropped our cases off there fore a few hours and sauntered out into Paris.  Ended up on the Rue du Faubourg Saint Denis after walking about in what seemed quite an African area, passing hairdressers with dozens of well dressed African ladies having their hair fixed. We found a bistro called Le Napoleon. We had wine and food there. I had the best of it I think, with an onion soup with a melted cheese topping, and duck and fried potatoes. Sat in Le Napoleon for a couple of hours. A lively argument breaking out on the street outside at one point, which everyone seemed to enjoy, and others sitting at tables chatting for hours too. At one point a man came and sat on the pavement opposite, who I photographed below. A lot of need in Paris, people begging or with mental health problems very noticeable to the stranger. No worse than London though.

Then back to Gare du Nord, gathered our cases, and went through passport control. Drank some cold beer there. Then we boarded and had a game of scrabble on the train ending just after we popped out of the English end of the tunnel. Hopped off and then caught the train to Brighton. After a few stops it filled with drunken, drugged people heading off to Brighton for a night out. By the time they burst out at Brighton, they were almost incomprehensibly off their faces. Wandered what someone from France newly arrived would make of them.

A taxi home, arriving a bit before 11.  It had been a long journey. Beth sleepily in bed, Calliope incredibly vocal when we got back.  Ate some pizza and drank a final drink, and repaired to our own comfortable, cool bed. Bliss.

Below a man on a busy street in Paris.



Friday, August 19, 2016

Last of the summer wine

Last full day in Les Mages. Off to the village again this morning, and after buying some bread and more sausages, we had a coffee in the Tabac.  A day of squeezing as much out of our last poolside day as possible. Have really enjoyed swimming. Just enough to do about five or six strokes before you are at the other end, but repeat lots and you feel as if you have swum a little. Sitting about reading more Senghor poems in my bilingual edition. I really like his poetry now even more than the first time I read it.

Plus games of scrabble, and ate a handsome sausagey repast in the evening. Then rushing about packing. Another nice chat with Lucy, a lovely person. Turns out her son is going to Stirling too, where Sam will be doing his PhD.

More Jeux Olympiques on TV too. Also we put in a good effort at wine drinking, with a fair amount needing to be polished off before leaving, both pink and red. And a can of Heineken.

Below a glimpse of the Tabac, a nice butterfly, which looked black and yellow, till it spread its wings and it was orange and red too. The little lane we stayed at the end of. The corner of our bedroom.






Thursday, August 18, 2016

Steam train

A chat to Lucy this morning, the owner of the place we are staying. Her son who has passed his A levels with flying colours, is now trying to work out which University to go to. In England or Scotland.   

Later Lorraine bravely drove us off to St Jean du Gard, a wee town on the edge of the Cévennes National Park. It is one end of a Le Train à Vapeur des Cévennes as Lorraine is a lover of steam railways, and we drove along the twisty roads up into the hills. There had formerly been a large aquarium in St Jean du Gard, but sadly this was closed.  However we bought some snacks from a boulangerie, and had a quick picnic by the side of the river Gardon.

Into the old steam train, and it was full of children as well as adults from lots of different places. It twisted about between forested hills, and stopped at three stations before reaching the town of Anduze which we drove through on the way. I particularly liked it when the train drove through the tunnels (all the windows were wide open) and several adults on our coach started making hou! noises like wolves in the dark. At one point you could hear screaming in the dark from other carriages too, but all done in fun.  Took lots of snaps from the train en route.

Then a return journey to St Jean du Gard and we were desperate for cold drinks and happy to sit in the car with its air conditioning. It is a black purposeful looking fiat, which is larger than the wee one Lorraine ordered. Lorraine dealing well with the driving, although a bit nervous, and having to negotiate lots of roundabouts and the odd hairpin turn on hills.

Home and a plunge into the pool to cool off and a swim, which was lovely. 

Back to the little patio open from the kitchen, where I had a some cold Heineken and read more about poet Léopold Sédar Senghor (one of the fathers of the Negritude movement). Then have a bit of a doze. Woke to have a tasty supper, and play Lorraine at Scrabble. I won tonight, handsomely.  We ate like kings. I cleverly decided to drink no wine tonight, but as before finished the day watching the French ladies handball team get through to the final.  I feel like I know them.

Below a view up the river Gardon, the war memorial,  scenes on and from the train.












Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Back on track

Into the local village of Les Mages this morning, walking under the tiny underpass, past the plopping frogs. A friendly little market there, where we bought vegetables and fruit, some sliced cured ham (which proved to be delicious). The lady we bought ham from was correcting my French in a friendly way, and when I paid her she told me words to the effect that she was charging me a few euros, but the heart of France is free. 

Meanwhile, the butcher’s stand was fun, and he was a real performer. One of the locals was buying lots, and he routinely dropped in the odd extra sausage. We bought some sausages, and were given a really good extra slab of pate for nothing. Then we went into the Tabac, where Lorraine got us coffee, and the lady there remembered us. I really like being in this Tabac as it feels like you are glimpsing a completely everyday bit of French life. Men ordering their demis, and Pastis which changes colour with water, and coffees. There is a lot of gambling there and there is some nasty machine at the end of the bar you can stick your credit card in and play. A pretty relaxed attitude to smoking there too. 

We dropped the stuff off at home, and then went for a wander about nearby. Following the little lane up the hill, we found it led to an abandoned railway line.  Railways the theme of our holiday, we decided to go for a stroll along it. There were bits where trees had begun to grow through the sleepers. Lizards darting along the hot rails. We did this for a bit and then turned back to follow it back into the village.


The rest of the day spent eating the food we'd bought, and lounging by the pool and feeding mosquitos.  Later we played scrabble where Lorraine got a seven letter word on a triple early in the game, and then we ate lots of food and drank lots of wine.

Below a large ornamental fly on the wall of a house in Les Mages (a new project for Mum?). Sun through the leaves of the poolside fig tree, frogs, the line to nowhere, and various closeups of ants and the sleeper wood.











Tuesday, August 16, 2016

L'hou solitaire

Lorraine drove us bravely to the nearby town of St Ambroix this morning. There was a sort of market there, but it was a typically French little town.  There was a market there, which we were hoping would sell food, however it mainly sold clothes and bric a brac.

Brilliantly a chemist was open, and had a vast range of mosquito products. Spray at last. For these winged bastards would try the patience of a Jainist priest.

We had coffee in a place with a rude waitress, then walked about and up a hill with lovely rooftop views of the town, where appalling things seem to have been done by ancient Celts (including beheadings) and a Protestant church was burned down. Speculated if the hill cast a dark shadow on the people of St Ambroix as we stood there.  

We made our way down back into town and found a wee bistro, where we had a nice meal. I had mackerel stuffed with raisins and pine nuts and courgettes cooked in a creamy sauce, which was splendid. Lorraine had a good burger. I was given an artisan beer called L' Hou Solitaire with a picture of a wolf face on it which I liked a great deal. The solitary howl was about six percent and full of sediment at the bottom, but quite tasty.

After these adventures Lorraine and I drove back. Emboldened by mosquito spray, enjoyed a lazy afternoon by the pool again. Reading, swimming and idling. A bit like paradise really.











Monday, August 15, 2016

Poolside

A bank holiday in France. A slow start to the day, and another saunter to Les Mages, with the idea of buying some mosquito spray, but the pharmacy was closed. Luckily we have are plug ins for the bedroom, so the atrocious insects are mainly confining their activities to poolside.

In the village we popped into the Tabac, where we ordered coffee, and got two thimbles of the mind altering strength brew. Then deux demis of beer as it was past midday. We sat in a little booth, with an extremely large stuffed boar’s head above Lorraine’s. It was slaughtered on 31st December 1959, coincidentally the year of the boar.

Came back home, had a spot of lunch and went down to the pool. Me wearing my complete anti mosquito gear apart from when swimming. I went for an explore down by the side of the river and fell down the bank. The water only an inch deep there, and very shallow with lots of what I think are trout in it. Then I returned to the pool, read a little, and so on.

We sauntered early back to the rooms, and cooked Toulouse sausages and potatoes fried with onions and garlic and salad. A fine repast with grapes and cheese afterwards. Listening to music.


More scrabble. Lorraine thinks she is turning me to become a gamer. Judicious quantities of wine. Then a look at what was on French TV in the evening. Death in Paradise spent an unfeasible amount of time trying to decide if it was dubbed or not.  Lorraine convinced that it wasn’t. Then a few more French people doing stuff in the Olympics apparently. Cheering the French on and feeling tremendously relaxed after several wines.

Below Lorraine overlooked, poolside, in the river.







Sunday, August 14, 2016

Wise men

Up late and ate a leisurely breakfast. We walked to Les Mage the village nearby. We walked under the main road by a little stream that plopped with frogs as we approached it. The smell of mint nearby.

The village quietly lovely.  Some surprises: a fabulous mural on the side of a church by Jean Marc Fraisse which featured the three wise men, which we took as a bit of an omen, as the next play formulating in my head is about them. One of them looked quite feminine with a little pencil moustache, which I thought would be a great look for Kitty.

Also found in town a gorgeous mosaic done by Fernand Léger,. I was once a big fan, but when I sat my A level and did some of the work in his style this wasn’t helpful as Léger eschews perspective, which went over the head of the markers.  Lorraine and I nipped into the boulangerie, which also does very good icecream. We had two icecreams and came away with two chocolate brioche too, which we took home and ate with coffee.

A relaxing afternoon spent by the pool. Sitting under the fig tree near the pool, and fruiting vines hanging down over a stone wall.  It is a green oasis, and looks out onto other trees, including a walnut and the river flowing beyond it. We spent hours there reading, swimming and snacking a bit. I ran up for a couple of cold cans of Heineken too which was rather nice.

Working on my Chad poems, one in particular is quite thorny and I can’t get it right. I read it aloud to Lorraine, and on the other side of the thick hedge, was a brief outburst of indignant coughing, sighing, and passive aggressive snapping of newspapers, because I’d broken the quiet of the afternoon.

There is a mosquito in the ointment unfortunately. Poolside is a congregation point of the winged vermin.  This morning I woke up with a collection of bites, which throbbed and itched atrociously as the day wore on. Luckily I have packed my mosquito proof shirt and trousers from Chad.  So sit by the pool after I’ve swum fully dressed and looking a bit of a chump. Luckily only Lorraine and I are there. Also she is using me as a mosquito decoy. Although she did pick up quite a few bites but, unlike me, she endures them stoically.


After we ate smoked cold chicken and salad supper, sipped sparkling Blanquette de Limoux, thinking of Ken and Janet, and also Sam. We cooked with potatoes, and had a game of scrabble, we turned on the TV. To watch Harry Potter et le coup de feu, which I’d not seen all of before. Lorraine looking forward greatly to telling Beth the important fact that wand in French is baguette. Otherwise we flipped a bit onto the Jeux Olympiques, coverage in France all about things like cycling and handball, that the French are good at.  Drank wine. Made off to our bed.

Our door in the courtyard, and work by Jean Marc Fraisse and Fernand Léger.