Sunday, 31 August 2014

Free Wine!

Back in the land of Blighty after an interminable wait to get off the ferry. Disembarkation involved lots of reversing practice six inches from a couple of coaches as I was parked in a corner spot at the bottom of the boat's hull.  Yikes!  Uniquely on this getaway Louis and I both came back unscathed. There were none of our usual little forays to hospitals, pharmacies or dental practices.  The van is in one piece too so that counts as a rather successful holiday.

Now I'm home and all is quiet as Louis is spending time with his dad and then goes away to stay with relatives until Thursday evening.    It's probably time for a bit of calm as there's been some jolly decent partying going on over the last couple of weeks.   Thanks to all our new friends who helped Lou and I lay down very pleasant memories in one of my favourite parts of the world.

This caught my eye in E Leclerc, the big hypermarket near the ferry port.  It's the self same device that I came across in Le Vignoble at Plymouth's Royal William Yard when I went out with Salty Dog back in June. A chill cabinet dispenses little tasters of wine when a credit card type device is inserted into it.  Except this one was free. Imagine the scene if such a thing existed in an English supermarket.  There would be carnage and maybe fights over the claim to free booze.  It would be something akin to the parties that I hated in my undergraduate days where there was too many people scrabbling greedily for too few drinks as hardly anyone had brought a bottle. In St Pol, nobody skulked around the machine getting pissed up for gratis. What's more the machine was completely unsupervised and seemingly you could help yourself to as much as you wanted.

 I moderately tried a couple of snifters of a couple of wines that were outside my price bracket.   They were  yummy enough to make me contemplate a bit of wine machine abuse.  The thought occurred that to avoid drink driving I could stay on the supermarket aire, unatmospheric as it is, and pop back in for shots every half hour or so until closing time.   Perhaps I could have brought my own olives in a little bowl to enhance the experience.  'Je reste ici'.  I tried a joke on a dour French couple, the only other people availing themselves of the opportunity for a bit of 'degustation'.  They did not find it funny.  'Pas en France' the lady scolded me.  I scuttled away with a 5 Euro bottle of fizz instead.  It came in jolly handy.

For last night I had the most fun that I think I've ever had in a car park.  We joined up with some other motorhomers, that we'd just met, in the lovely scenic free aire just outside Roscoff for an impromptu pasta feast provided by Paul and Sue from Manchester,  drinks which included my Vouvray and lots of laughter.  I'll tell you more in another post about a thrifty tip too far from Paul that made me giggle my socks off.  One post about motorhome toilets in a week is enough though.   To think that if I'd have given way to temptation I would have missed a brilliant evening!

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Une Petite Promenade en Velo

The campsite, Le Plage, where we've been staying during the last week, does exactly what it says on the tin.  Access to miles of sandy beach that then gives way to craggy coastline is right outside the back gate.   There's a track that was historically used by customs officer s to keep an eye on nautical to-ing and fro-ing. No doubt local wreckers might have used it too.  Today it makes a great cycle path and I've been taking solitary trips out whilst Louis hangs out around the campsite with his mates. Everybody's happy!

My favourite little jaunt takes in the picturesque little port at Kerity.  I then whizz past a myriad of lighthouses at St Pierre before reaching the wonderfully named Chappelle de la Joie where I've taken to stopping awhile, gazing at its beautiful modern stained glass window and contemplating my navel.....and other things.  My mind has been working overtime on dreams and schemes this fortnight I can tell you. We leave here today and I'll be missing my little coastal bicyclette trips but  I've spotted lots of motorhome stops along the way  to use when the campsite is shut. Its got me thinking about a childfree return to the area later in the autumn, with the bike on the back of the van of course.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Or Better?

Do you remember that I creatively visualised Louis catching a fish the other day?  Well here's the urchin Louis, who sorely needs a haircut before starting his new school next week, with his first. Not the ruddy great sea bass that I imagined but a perfectly serviceable sardine. Bless! At least it's the right silvery colour.  Perhaps this is how this process works.  You get small versions of what you wish for first off maybe?  I'm sure that there's situations where that might not be advantageous at all!

I asked for a benevolent grandpa to teach Louis to fish 'or something better'.  Well what do you know the enhanced wish came true in the form of a second fishing lesson off the harbour at Guilvinnec from Bob, the dad of Ollie who is Louis' partner in crime.  We ate the entire catch of three fish supplemented by moules, more sardines and langoustines from the fish van.  Oh and frites from the fast food bar.All washed down with something cold and white for the mums of course.   I'm liking Louis' latest hobby - a lot!

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Porta Potti Blues

WARNING: DO NOT READ THIS POST WHILST EATING!

The Porta Potti is a two - sworded invention.  On the plus side it allows the motorhomer the freedom to go off grid without having to resort to primitive toileting arrangements such as digging holes. Somewhere in my wilderness backpacking kit I've got a folding trowel expressly used for that purpose.  At worst it becomes a seething cauldron of noxious sewage right there in your compact living space.

Things were going swimmingly the other evening.   I was tucked up cosily in my bed above the cab reading.  Louis was in the bathroom.  Suddenly my peace was disrupted.  The door opened, an unpleasant aroma hit my nostrils and he yelled, way too loud for someone who was just five metres away.  'Mum I need your help!'  'Shut the bloody door and sort it out yourself!' was my first compassionate response.  After all aren't children supposed to be encouraged to sort out their own problems? But it was not to be.  My friends will confirm that I am one of the most easy going people on the planet.  But on the rare occasions I'm riled lift off at Cape Canaveral looks a bit lame.  It's all over in minutes. After all that maxim 'Don't let the sun go down on your anger' is a goodie. While my wrath is in full flow I am a force to be reckoned with.  Harbouring ill thoughts and letting them fester, indeed like an ill maintained Porta Potti, is another matter entirely.  Bearing grudges never did anyone any good.  It's why that bloke with the long hair and whiter than white maxi dress talked a lot about forgiveness.

On this occasion I was justifiably cross.   Very cross.  I may  have said the F word in front of an eleven year old. Okay, let's come clean.   I did say it. I'll spare the vivid details but the situation involved solids, the open - close mechanism going into the toilet canister being repeatedly used without success and half a tonne of loo roll.  After half hour spent doing one of the most unpleasant jobs ever, I slept with the window open to air the van and got bitten to buggery by the local mosquitoes during the night.

Then there was the indignity of the clean up at the chemical disposal point the next morning.  It's a job where I'd rather have privacy.  Here it's  thoughtfully sited next to the washing up area where Louis' friends were doing their chores so no chance of that.   Kids take a keen interest in the grosser things in life and their noses were practically under the canister. 'Whose poo is that?' they kept asking. 'And why is it that colour?'  The chemicals added to the toilet make the contents a lurid green that Fungus the Bogeyman would be irresistibly drawn to.

If you visit someone in a motorhome there will usually be rules around when the toilet can be used. As a general guide the facility is there for decoration only unless in life death situations.   You may feel that this is unreasonable but I hope I've shown today that that near embargo on its use is an entirely sensible precaution from both a sanity and sanitary perspective!


Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Murderer!

I am one of those people who are of the opinion that if you eat animals then you must be prepared to kill them.  However up to now I've been all mouth and no trousers on this front.  Lou's new fishing hobby has made me revisit this idea though.  That beautiful sea bass that he is going to catch at sometime is going to have to meet its maker at one or other of our hands.

Yesterday I lost my killing cherry. That's aside from the flies, mozzies and wasps that I'm unable to coax out of windows. They meet their maker at my reluctant hands and  I always feel a bit bad.   A fishmonger visits the campsite in the evening.   I chose sardines for tea that had already been decapitated and were ghoulishly dripping blood. Nothing that a rare steak eater can't handle.  Lou opted for the langoustines that were still merrily waving their claws around. 'How many do you want?' I asked.  'Seven.' he replied 'Six to eat and one to keep as a pet!'

In spite of a plea from Ollie, Lou's newest friend, to save the crustacean with the most appealing eyes  as a domestique, all went in the pot, boiled for two minutes after I'd thanked them for their sacrifice. Very delicious they were too. The experience brought me nearer to my hunter gatherer roots and that's no bad thing in a world where pre prepared food is the norm.


Tuesday, 26 August 2014

A Wet, Dry Run

It  tipped down torrentially in Brittany all bloody day yesterday.   The track between our pitch and those opposite has become a rivulet veritable as you can see.  Ooh la la!  I feel a bit sorry for the tent dwellers.

It's not supposed to do this of course. When you imagine a holiday the sun shines all the time - unless you go to the Lake District, Cornwall or Wales that is.  You're a glutton for punishment if you do and only have yourself to blame.

I viewed the day as a try out of what it would be like holed up in a motorhome with a prepubescent son if I was living in it as my main home.    Lou is changing after all.  I seems that I am even more embarrassing than on the last holiday and  under no circumstances can I  dance anywhere near him.  There also seems to be some love feud thing  going on between him and a young geezer called Archie over a ten year old blonde!

It's a worst case scenario as we will have the car  at home to escape to some warm pub or coffee shop haven - if it's okay to be seen with me of course.  But what do you know? The experiment worked really rather well indeed.  Lou read his latest Rick Riordan book voraciously and gamed a bit on his phone.   No doubt my scant knowledge of Greek mythology will be tested sometime soon.  I read, cut lino to set the limits of what crafts are possible in the van, blogged ahead and schemed and dreamed about the new life I'm planning for us. We marked our territory at different ends of the van, no urine involved I hasten to add. And there's enough space for us to harbour no homicidal thoughts  towards each other Hurrah! Something tells me this could be a goer!

Monday, 25 August 2014

No Cheese Like Cheddar

Lou is a fussy little sod when it comes to food.  I'm not sure how it happened but I hope with all my heart it passes.  Me?  Well I'll eat almost anything except salad cream, semolina and tinned prunes.  Children of the sixties will realise that there is a school dinner theme going on with the latter two. I was forced to try and eat them approximately once weekly and missed out on swathes of playtime as a consequence.   When another small boy was sick in his it truly reinforced the idea that we were dealing with devil food here. I still retch at the merest whiff of a prune can being opened.

One thing that I have managed is to get Lou to try and accept a range of cheeses.  Even stinky blue ones.  There's one thing we're in agreement on in France.  In spite of the massive range of truly excellent from age on offer,  nothing comes close to being as good a cooking cheese as the vintage cheddar that we brought to use up from home.   It set off the lovely ham in our home prepared galettes so nicely.   Emmental (known to Lou as rat cheese) and Comte just don't have the same potency that we know and love.  Sacrilege!  We've resorted to pre shaved Parmesan from the supermarket as a substitute.  Acceptable yes, but it's come at a cost both financially and in terms trying to source locally.

If anyone has any ideas about an acceptable French cheddar substitute let me know.  Otherwise I'll have to stock the van with a bigger block next time.  

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Techno Wizardry Update

I risked life and limb to get this shot of the seagulls at St Guenole, a beautiful cycle ride from my van, re enacting  a famous Hitchcock film.  Now Nana Lovelygrey has always said it's lucky to be shat upon by a bird but I really don't think so.

My new phone has replaced the camera that I used to carry.  I think I mentioned before in passing that I'd got one.  Even before its contract was half way up it was clear that my cheap as chips Sony Xperia T wasn't cutting the mustard.  The battery died in a couple of hours even with little use.  The company's recommendations to remedy the situation were laughable. Fixes involved turning every function but the phone off when not in use. This would have rendered it, a so called smartphone, as useful as a model that I could pick up in Asda for a tenner. They offered to have a look if I sent it back but that would have left me phoneless for over a week.  Even for a girl who tries to live simply, this was unthinkable in a techno age.

My failing eyesight was another reason for an update.  The screen was too small even when I'm wearing glasses.   So going against my previously held view that involved buying older technology to save money I coughed up and bought a near new all singing and dancing  Galaxy Note 3 and stuck my old simcard in it.  After all something that's being used many times a day shouldn't be a constant source of annoyance.  Thriftiness doesn't necessarily mean sticking with the cheapest option.  It's about making wise decisions that are a best fit with your own personal philosophy and lifestyle.  My old phone has been passed onto Lou. He's delighted with his own exclusive gaming console.

While I'm on the subject of phone I might as well mention that call costs in Europe have come down since 1 July.  Three cheers for Three, my own provider who now let me use my text and call allowances and 25Gb of data whilst I'm in 16 different countries for nothing!  For someone always hopping over the channel that represents a really good deal. It means that Louis make his nightly call to his dad unfettered by time limits and I can chat with friends as mood takes me.

Tethering is not included though.  I've been blogging on the phone. My use of predictive text has never been fault free. Howlers have been deleted or amended as I've noticed them.  But this is a small price to pay. International communication that used to represent a financial headache is now worry free!


Saturday, 23 August 2014

Parents: By Our Loom Bands You Will Know Us

'Can they come and do loom bands in the van.' Louis asked as he turned up after going out in search for friends at the campsite.  There was a gaggle of them of various ages.  'Now have you asked your parents if you can come in here?'  I said.  'After all I could be a mass murderer. '  'Yeah' said Lou nonchalantly.  'She told them she was a psychopath last year.  The kids' eyes widened and they ran off, shortly to return with Mum in tow - and Dad, a sergeant in the Met - oops!  Obviously one to investigate potential threat seriously.   He took one look, pronounced that I was alright  and then the parents settled down to share a bottle of red. Meanwhile the kids strew elastic over the floor and helped themselves to chocolate from the fridge.  I hope the scary routine gives them food for thought before entering anyone else's tent or motorhome willy - nilly in the future.

The loom band craze is great.  Really! It gets kids away from all that electronic gadgetry that is such a lure.  Come to think of it, there's some adults I know who might benefit from a bit of weaving.   And now you can spot those of us with children a mile off. Sgt Ian sported a very natty multi-coloured necklace that I sure will be hidden under the uniform when he returns to work. And here's my latest offering from Lou. 'Wow!' said Fiona, the kids' Mum.  'A double fishtail.   They take ages.'  You see we're all picking up the lingo too!


Friday, 22 August 2014

Everything I Need: The Conclusion

Here's the view from my bedroom window at Ster Greich just before I went to sleep there.  Stunning!  As I've said before I enjoy a life without want in my van. Currently the sea is my bath.  I am squeaky clean albeit salty.  As for Louis, that's an entirely different kettle of fish.  I've stepped down the usual nagging about hygiene while on holiday.  Until he smells it's fine!

New kit in the van is as rare as rocking horse droppings but there have been some additions lately.  The bluetooth speaker, a gas top espresso maker and a couple of replacement cereal bowls have all enhanced motorhome life in a way that doesn't happen in a house.  I'm so much more appreciative of all I have when there's less stuff around me. Odd but true.

I'm as happy as I've ever been living this simple way of life.  And so I've decided, with 99% certainty, to take the plunge, give notice on  Lovelygrey Cottage, put my furniture in storage and live in the van for a while. It will mark a new chapter in my life. Some will think that I'm a little nutty but hey, I've lived with that label perfectly happily for a while now.   I'm spurred on by the idea that you have more regrets about the things that you don't do.   The time is right too.  It's something that Louis is fine with now but unlikely to relish as a teenager in two years time.  

 It'll mean that I can  save hard and also  gives me ultimate flexibility to move back into somewhere with four walls and a roof at short notice with a potential advantage over other buyers or renters.   After all there won't be another property to dispose of when the ideal home materialises. Meantime, through the winter months, the sea may become a bit chilly for ablutions. Friends with nice bathrooms take note.  I might be calling in favours!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Imagining Fish

After pooh - poohing my idea that angels provide guidance in my life, my little bro' came up with a corker.  He told me how he had used creative visualisation to connect with a higher being to find him someone to marry. And now he's engaged.  'Isn't that exactly the same as asking your angel?' I asked.  He refused to have it.

Anyway, I chose yet again to ignore my 2014 spending rules and bought the book that he recommended.  'Creative Visualisation' by Shakti Gawain is an absolute corker so I'm well chuffed that I broke my own self imposed laws.  It's full of wisdom that no doubt I'll dip into as mood takes me.  The basic technique is simple though.  Get into a state of deep relaxation, imagine what you want in life and afterwards say to yourself:

This or something better
Now manifests for me
In totally satisfying and harmonious ways
For the highest good of all concerned.

The bit I like is the 'something better' part. It acknowledges that sometimes what we wish for ourselves can be limiting.

The book encourages trialling the method by asking for small things first. So no ideal house or husband to start with then.  Or even a combination of the two.  Some stay at home bloke welcoming me with stew and dumplings after a hard days work on winter evenings.   Now there's an image I could go with.  But as advised I stuck to a simple request.

Amongst the bike bits and school sports gear that we bought on our pilgrimage to Decathlon, the outdoor superstore we threw in a fishing set for Louis.  The instructions perplexed us and we only ended up knotting a whole load of line and stabbing ourselves a good few times with the hooks..So I visualised Louis meeting a kindly grandpa figure to show him the ropes.  What do you know! As I swam in the sea watching Louis rig up his rod, the very bloke showed up. Now Louis can cast expertly.  This leads on nicely to my next visualisation trick.  How about a tasty sea bass? 

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Sofa on the Beach

Here's Porzou, the place we were camped up by yesterday.  Not bad considering it cost nowt.  Oh I did have to stump up 4 Euros to top up with water.   Some of us 'camping caristes' even baulk at that.  We're mean buggers.

We didn't have the spot quite to ourselves. Some random French people had taken a massive '80s sofa to the beach, as you do. We were invited to take a seat  The occasion was a big multi - generational hen/stag party.  So much nicer than my own affair where I had to gingerly remove a pair of M&S blue pants from a heavily oiled Tarzan-a-gram to reveal an animal skin thong below.  I still suffer PTSD at the thought!

Now Lou is a sucker for a TV wedding.  'Don't Tell the Bride' is a favourite as is 'Marrying Mum and Dad'.  Odd choices for an eleven year old boy but there you go. 'Can I organise your next wedding pleeeease?' he asked for the umpteenth time as we strolled back up the sand. I finally caved.  The promise of a big settee by the seaside sealed it.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Yep, Anatomically Corect

I've spoken about the lion in the confectionery shop in the walled city of Concarneau before but didn't have a picture. As you can see, a fair few bars of Dairy Milk went into making him!



Yes he has a willy. I wonder if the chocolatier had detailed knowledge of lion anatomy or if he flopped out his own todger for reference.

Louis ran ahead through the main Ville Close tourist drag.  'I'm going to see if the chocolate lion has balls.' he explained to the puzzlement of more than one or two English tourists. Oh yes, indeed he does!


Monday, 18 August 2014

Free Five A Day

Look at this marvellous selection of veg. They're of a kind and quality that would have tempted me to have made an impulse purchase if I'd come across them in a shop.   I'm especially a sucker when it comes to multi - coloured tomatoes.  What was especially good about this lot was it didn't cost a penny.

Don't worry. I haven't taken to robbing allotments although according to Mama Lovelygrey who has one, some people do.  No, this lot was given to me by kind ladies from the Prince de Bretagne veg company.  They were doing a promotion on the ferry. It  would have been thrown away if I and a bunch of hungry scavengers didn't take them. What sacrilege! Romanescu and Chorizo cheese anyone? I've always thought those pointy bits look like one of Madonna's bras.

Now here's mystery veg. It's not often one stumps me. I'm quite good at food quizzes.  Someone on Facebook said it was salsify.  Cheers for that Roz but I'm not sure. I think I had that in my Riverford box once and it was smaller. This is mooli sized. And no it's not a mummified condom or the rear end of a dachsund as Helen and Alison thought.  This is definitely edible and not in a strawberry flavoured rubber Johnny kind of way.   Further suggestions gratefully received, sensible and otherwise.  Oh and what to do with it in a van equipped with two rings and a barbecue.  Our cooking methods are limited by this.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Best View In France - Not!

Bonjour mes amis.  We arrived yesterday evening in the country that I view as my second home.  Yes France, All of your beautiful beaches, mountains and cities are mine all mine.   I shall take my pick of where to stay by your stunning Breton coastline for the next fortnight. One day I might choose one place with an idyllic cottage to settle for longer but for the moment you're my favourite place to satisfy my deeply ingrained wanderlust.

This was the view from the motorhome  window last night.  Don't worry that my journey seaward has been curtailed.   I chose to stay here. Really!

E Leclerc at St Pol, a branch of my favourite French supermarket chain, is just ten minutes from the ferry port which was dark on our arrival. Camping on its doorstep in the free quiet motorhome aire adjacent means as soon as it opens we can stock up on goodies francais before moving down to more scenic stops.  Folk music at Concarneau beckons after lunching on the cheese from our early morning supermarket sweep.

 Lots of the supermarkets around these parts provide parking for us camping caristes.  They recognise that we bring in business.   Goodness knows what would happen if I camped up outside a Sainsbury's branch in the UK but I'll hazard a pretty good guess.  The relaxed laws on where I can stop and stay in my behemoth is one of the reasons why I love this land so much.




Saturday, 16 August 2014

Nanu Nanu Shazbot

Photo: Eva Rinaldi
It was probably inevitable that I was going to post a tribute to Robin Williams after hearing about his death. But first let me tell you what I was up to first thing yesterday morning.  After going downstairs for my obligatory morning cuppa I came back upstairs to wake Louis up as Zombie Mama.  She looks and sounds exactly like me but instantaneously turns into a fierce undead creature who tries to suck his brain out of his nose.  Lou loves the fusion of fear and mirth that my transformation brings.  We end up having a great big play fight and crying with laughter.  Sometimes one of us get hiccups.

In the depths of my depression I didn't relish  moments like that.  I still had them but they didn't bring the joy that they do now. Yet I was able to mask the feelings of despair so that Louis was unaware of what I was going through.  I didn't miss a day of work either.  Looking after my kid and holding down a job were pretty much all I could manage though.  Looking back, I'm proud I prioritised those two activities.  And I'm also grateful that things didn't get a whole lot worse.  Even though life didn't seem worth living I was never tempted to contemplate suicide.

Back to Robin Williams.  Another good, talented and wise person takes their life.  Even those with many gifts are not immune from this horrible illness which has tragic consequences for those who have no rest from the damaging thoughts that it provokes.  Rest in peace, good man.  I loved you as Mork when I was a child and in Awakenings and Good Morning Vietnam.   You will be remembered for the happiness that you brought to others and the compassion that you showed during a life well lived.

It seems an appropriate time to re-out myself,  a happy, busy and strong individual,  as someone who has suffered mental illness.  Thankfully with drugs, self-help therapy and time I recovered fully.  I  hope with all my heart that I stay well and continue to really enjoy life, especially larking around with my son as that is priceless.   There is still stigma attached to mental health problems and I'd lie if I said that I personally hadn't come across it.  But it's dwindling and will diminish further if the message that no-one is immune is put out there as often as possible. So I share my story of personal hope freely.  If it persuades one person to seek help before another life is prematurely cut short then it's absolutely worth it!

Friday, 15 August 2014

Little Wren

Little Wren, one of my younger friends who's only in her twenties, has been jilted.  Silly boy for he wouldn't know beauty, intelligence and general all round loveliness if it gave him a big bop on the nose.  Her passing shot across the bows was ' Karma will come and bite you on the arse!' That line made me giggle a lot.  I may well plagiarise it at some time if I can find a use.

In spite of Little Wren's feisty show of wit she's hurting and feeling pretty sorry for herself.  So, I've found a place for her under my wing. She stayed over the other night for food, a bit too much wine and carefully selected music that veered away from the theme of love, including the very rude 'Dear Penis' song recently shared at Gnat Bottomed Towers.  Thank you Aril very much for that one.  As someone who's supposedly older and wiser, of course I couldn't help doling out helpful relationship advice.

The idea that a forty something single mum, who's fast approaching divorcee status, is well qualified in this department is, of course, slightly ludicrous.  I'm not exactly a role model.  But I might just have something useful to say for after all you live and learn.  What I know is that focusing on making the lives of you and your kids as happy and fulfilling as possible is time well spent.  That means building up a close circle of people for mutual love, laughter and support,  sticking fast to deep seated values and beliefs, noticing the little things that bring joy to each and every day and doing whatever brings happiness and meaning.  Once you've sussed this you've have something  very precious indeed that you'll want to preserve at all costs.  Someone will recognise that and not want to wreck what you've built but want enhance all lives concerned a lot more. Until then take no prisoners and don't accept second best.    I'm an optimist and truly believe that  Karma will indeed bite me on the arse one day.  It'll be in a good way.

Just one more word Little Wren. I know fate comes into the equation but for the moment nothing good will come about from hanging around on Tinder.  Ignore what the blurb says.  Real life is way better!

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Itchy Feet

Even though an imminent move to my Brixham house is not in the pipeline my feet are feeling pretty tickly. The landlords refuse to carry out an essential repair. My leaning bath means that every time I shower there's a small flood on a carpeted floor to clear up.  Goodness knows what's happening to the floorboards underneath.  So alarm bells have started to ring in case something bigger goes wrong in a house that's in dire need of having a bit of money spent on it.  What if the ageing boiler broke down and needed replacing during the cold winter months? Would there be an unacceptable and chilly delay then?  It's not a good thought.

That old chestnut of an idea of a temporary move into the motorhome is rearing its pretty little head again.  But whether that's feasible with an eleven year old in tow might be debatable.  So another rental property could be on the cards. I'll bide my time to find the right one.  Maybe a bit of that variably successful cosmic ordering could come into play?  Let's give it a go!   Dear Universe, I need a house that's pretty similar in layout to the one that I'm in but in a better state of repair and cosier in winter because it is better insulated.  It must be in a quiet spot, have parking for my motorhome and somewhere sunny for me to sit.  Location is a factor too.  Close proximity to the A38 or A380 for easy access to everywhere else would be good.  Maybe this is the time to think about a move away from the village where I currently live. After all, however convenient from a childcare perspective, it might not always be a good thing to live in the pocket of an ex forever.  Ten to fifteen minutes driving distance may be healthy for us both.  Let's see how that pans out!

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Bears, Blueberries and Brittany

The holiday season is here for us all.   In three days Lou and I head for a Breton fortnight and I think I've got it sussed.  Call me nerdy, but my favourite Breton folk band, Dremmwel, who sometimes wake me up on Brittany Ferries L'Amorique, are playing at the Concarneau Festival des Filets. on Sunday for free!  It would be rude not to head down there.  That's going to be followed by a night or two at my favourite motorhome aire, a meander across to Benodet and then seven nights on a campsite called Le Plage that's just fifty metres from the nearest endless sandy beach where I'll swim, read and walk.  Louis will no doubt make a gang of friends and I won't see him unless he wants money or ice cream.  I reckon it will suit us both nicely.

My old friend, another Julie, posted this picture of her and her husband John on Facebook yesterday.   It's a lovely reminder of another holiday way back in 2000 walking eight days around the  Wonderland Trail that circles Mount Rainer in the Washington state of the US. My dear departed friend, Lori  was with us too. Those memories that it invokes are exciting ones . 'Is that the spot that we saw the bear?' I asked her.  It was indeed.  Not only did we spot the fella, the only one I've ever seen in the wild, walking in the distance but there were pawprints in the earth right by our tent and large squishy purple turds by the nearby blueberry bushes.   Someone had eaten too much fruit!  I idly wondered as I filled my nalgene bottle with the  big fat berries that made a welcome supplement to our dried food breakfast whether that same bear had picked of each delicious morsel carefully with his paw or just ravaged the whole bush.  I also was a bit concerned that he might sneak back whilst I was foraging!

A trip Stateside is planned in 2015.  'Do you think Louis is up for walking part of the Wonderland Trail?' Julie asked.  Wilderness hiking is long overdue and its one of my favourite pastimes ever!  I'll have to try to persuade him!


Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Little Bricks

Photo: Foolishlego
Artists eh!  Where do they get  their ideas from?  'Jake and the Cucumber' gives me hope that some of the things that go on in my own head are pretty rational after all.

For the fourth day in a row I've got up insanely early.  When I finally get back to my usual routine of crawling downstairs at 6:30 for the first big cuppa of the day, it will seem like I've had a lie-in.

I promised Lou that he could go to Legoland if he passed his eleven plus and frankly I've been dreading taking him since the letter saying that he'd been successful came through the door last autumn. Perhaps it's the imagined themed area the size of a planet where adults  get  to tread on more bricks than they do at home that is putting me off.  Anyway, when his holiday club said that they were arranging a trip and was anyone interested, I nearly snapped their hand off.  Even though it involved catching a coach from Exeter Services at 5:30  with an 8:30 pick up this evening it's worth it.    I managed to keep it secret from Lou until yesterday when one of his mates blabbed. Even though he wanted where he was going kept secret he asked for a clue. Today's blog title was the one that kept him pondering.

Rather than marvelling at a plasticky shrine to merchandise together, the fact that the excursion is in someone elses hands  leaves me time for the more traditional outdoor based pursuits that I've envisaged sharing with my son since he was a babe in arms. Give me swimming or mucking about in the woods in preference anyday. He'll enjoy himself more with a group of small boys who are similarly enamoured with construction sets anyway. You may gather I'm a bit grumpy.  It will pass once I get a  night's kip of normal duration!

Monday, 11 August 2014

Grabbed By the Throat

Yesterday was very lazy was to give that poor old knee a chance to heal again. I discovered, to my cost, that the physiotherapy prescribed gentle run at this stage in its recovery is just too much.    Despite the prominent silly side to my nature, I really can be quite sensible. High physical activity levels are my preference but I know that once a joint is inflamed it's not a good idea to keep doing what you've been doing that caused the injury in the first place. Duh! So rest I will and that's why I spent most of yesterday on my bed.

As well as popping those anti-inflammatories, I decided to use the opportunity of a  enforced slow down to try out some hippyfied self healing. After all I was in Glastonbury at the weekend so those Arthurian vibes  must have rubbed off.  It's not just physical well-being I'm after but the whole kit and caboodle of being tip top mentally, emotionally and spiritually.   Over the years, practically every complementary practitioner I've encountered has made reference to tightness in my neck area or problems with communicating.  A blocked throat chakra has, of course, been mentioned.  I absolutely understand where the problem might have originated from. Conservative seventies society, with the threat of a clip around the ear for talking out of turn, didn't exactly encourage children to express themselves freely.  During adulthood those patterns of having difficulty asserting myself continued and were reinforced.  I didn't believe for a long time that  I was entitled to give opinions or tell others when I was unhappy with their actions.

Blogging was the first act that started to rectify this state of affairs.  I experienced real terror to begin with at the thought of sharing words with anybody else but now written expression comes easily. Guided initially by the principles of Toltec Wisdom  I've made some inroads this year into having a more well-rounded spoken voice too.    It's way off perfect yet but work is being done, including noticing what happens when I suppress what I think I should be saying.  The outcome of remaining schtum when I really should have spoken up isn't usually good.

So, for example,  I'm trying not to contain anger and annoyance towards others like I used to. Sure there are times when diplomacy is still the answer but now I'm much more likely to tell people when they've pee-ed me right off.  This doesn't happen often I hasten to add as I'm a mellow,chilled girlie with high tolerance thresholds.  But some things absolutely need to be said.  When my heckles rise, it can be a little alarming purely as it's  out of character.  Rest assured, my state of wrath is done and dusted in minutes. I learnt a long time ago that grudge bearing does not make for a healthy inner life.  People don't really need you to give them a hard time forever.  After all I believe that the majority of us out there are trying to live a good life most of the time

And practice makes perfect doesn't it?  I do admit that my outpourings can lack finesse.   'Blimey!' said Scary Secretary after I recounted the tale of how I'd expressed one grievance.  Now, as you'll guess from her pseudonym she isn't exactly noted for tact herself.  'Did you have to spell it out quite as clearly?'  And my answer was a resounding yes.

For at the moment I'm proud of myself when I speak out even if my wording is a little clumsy.  With this comes acknowledgement that I have a right to express displeasure.  I don't have to try to be nice all the time or indeed  liked by everyone. This has wider ramifications for what I will be able to speak out about at societal as well as a personal level as I mean to more often in the future.

Maybe there is a technique to refine but that will come later.   I think expressing anger in love is probably what it's about.  This is a good article. Could a throat chakra meditation help in this process?  Well there seems no harm in trying. Here's the one that I use

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Staring at the Sky Again

Earlier readers this morning got a completely different post which I've somehow managed to erase from the annuls of the world wide web. Oops! I'm absolutely shattered today in spite of a mid-morning nap which could be why things are going tits up. That's what comes of burning the candle at both ends, two nights in a row, at an age where I really should know better.  I drove home early to avoid the weather warnings and M5 crowds and am now in the throes of one of the laziest days ever.

Yesterday Red Mel and I headed out into the Vale of Avalon to the Glastonbury Extravaganza, like a little Glasto  in the grounds of the abbey but with better toilets.  Robert Plant, who is now the spit of a very old lion, and his band 'The Space Shifters' were headlining.  With their mix of new stuff and a few old Led Zep tracks, they were show stopping.  So was this bloke, George Ezra, with his deep, deep baritone voice that betrays the fact that he's only 21.  If Lou is as accomplished at whatever he ends up doing at that tender age I will be dead proud.  Dancing activity was curtailed by a bit of a knee setback.  I'd have been up the front but the jogging has caused some pain.  Nothing I've done wrong said the physio but still a bummer.  Didn't stop rather a lot of jigging about on the spot!

  

Mr Eavis surprised us with fireworks at the end of a wonderful day which started and finished with staring upwards.  Well it wasn't quite the finish as there was  interminable wait for a shuttle bus livened up by the very buoyant 'Dave the Drunk' in the queue behind us.  'Pessimists are never disappointed!'  he shouted at the queue behind us as we finally boarded.  Then there was a long dark drive back to Bristol.  Boy was it worth it!

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Early Bird Catches the Balloons

If all was going to the plans that I made last week I'd be in the van in a remote field in Wiltshire now.  But rigidity isn't one of my character traits.  I change my mind as often as my knickers! All sorts of different opportunities come up in life and I reckon that the ability to be flexible is definitely a positive.

So instead I'm in Bristol with Red Mel as she's house sitting for her son. She got me up at stupid o' clock this morning as it's the balloon festival this weekend. We were in Grenville Park at seven eating bananas and blueberries and watching this lot take off.  What a good way to start a day!

Friday, 8 August 2014

What I 'Forgot' to Say.....

I visited a residential home the other day to do an assessment.  However good some of these places might be, the idea that I might ever have to live in one gives me the wooblies.  Not sure where I stand on the euthanasia argument.  I like to think that life is pretty sacred  but could well veer towards the pro-assisted suicide end of the spectrum myself if cooped up with a whole load of other people who seemed to be waiting to die.  We never know how we might react if personal circumstances change.

The last time I'd been to this particular one  was some months ago.  It had been to take one of the people on my caseload there to live. She has advancing dementia and her husband, who's done an honourable job over the last few years, couldn't cope with her care anymore.  As is usually the case, the woman herself didn't realise that she wouldn't be coming back to her own home again as she chirpily got in the car with me.  If I had told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth that would  have been too distressing for her. In these circumstances I never tell porkies per se.  Instead I don't disclose very much at all. It feels just as dishonest. Lying by omission I think it's called which must be why it jolts my conscience so badly.

'Oh, I'm taking you for a coffee' I say breezily. And yes, we are definitely going to have a cuppa at our destination.  I make sure of that. What's missing from the conversation though is 'And by the way, once you're sat down, I'll sneak out, leaving you locked up and you'll never see your house again.'  Dreadful isn't it? The other way of doing it though where a person might perhaps be dragged kicking and screaming for all their neighbours to see, is far worse.  At least  using my method, their dignity remains intact.  So it doesn't matter in the scheme of things that I'm left feeling like a complete and utter git, sometimes for a few days afterwards.  It isn't all about me after all.   I'm sometimes left thinking that  my former life as a tax accountant was a whole bunch easier.

My lady was in the day room at the home.  I'd worked with her for years and we'd had a fond relationship.  When she was diagnosed she hadn't wanted to live anymore but she said that it was me that had helped her see that there was hope that she could enjoy herself for a while longer. I'd encouraged her to holiday and party until it was no longer possible.  Even so, I didn't expect her to know me from Adam.  But as she saw me, her eyes lit up in recognition and she rushed towards me to give me a great big hug and kiss.  Phew! she hadn't remembered our last meeting when I'd been responsible for her incarceration.  I was incredibly touched.  It's moments like this that remind me that perhaps other people might think I'm doing a good job after all and that career swap years ago was undoubtedly worthwhile.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Courgettes Fit for A Greek

Remember the tomatoes in the foot well of my car that resulted from over-enthusiastic braking? They came from  Mama Lovelygrey's allotment goody bag. It  contained courgettes as well.  Loads of them. Apparently they grow at the pace of Jack's beanstalk at this time of year. Produce grown with love deserves special but albeit simple treatment.  I knew exactly what I wanted to do.  So I turned to a favourite cookbook for inspiration, Sarah Maxwell's Meze Cookery and then completely bastardised the original recipe.

The instructions call for a batter that's left to chill for a few hours before use.  I didn't have time for that. So, to 175g of well seasoned plain flour I added enough  fizzy water, that was  in the fridge and so nice and cold already, to make a thick batter.  Genius!  I replaced the suggested spice, cinnamon, with smoked paprika.  It gave the finished dish a very slight pinky glow.


I know frying food in anything other than a light smear of oil is a cooking technique of the devil but needs must here.  I added about an inch depth of oil to a small saucepan, coated 1/4 inch thick courgette rounds with the batter and fried in batches until golden brown. A light dusting of sea salt and a simple greek yoghurt dip was all that was needed to make a very lush supper that was incidentally, even cheaper than chips!

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Are You Out There Angels?

I had a lovely long phone call with my brother last night. He's just back from a wonderful and much needed holiday in Barcelona.  I thought he'd like it there.  Hearing about his trip reminded me that I really need to go back  and make it inside the Sagrada Familia this time.  There's still a fair bit of annual leave that's unaccounted for before March so I might even get there before the end of this financial year.

In return, I recounted my exploits over the last few weeks and plans for the rest of the year. Among other things, there's the French holiday, a Cornish bluegrass festival in September, a workshop in October and Passenger in concert in November.

'Whoah, let's go back to the workshop, Sis.  What's that about?'

'Oh just one about angel healing'.  I tried to reply at the speed of a racing commentator so he couldn't  quite catch what I heard. But he caught it alright and  I wasn't surprised at the unbridled guffaws heard from the other end of the line.   I couldn't help giggling myself. We are after all both down to earth geezers at heart brought up in no nonsense Essex. Yep, I've  told him about the dowsing pendulum already and that got a similar reaction.

'Why are you delving into all this stuff ?' was the question when the laughter subsided sufficiently to allow him to speak.

'Because I'm single and I can do what I like now.' I replied.  Mr X, a very logical engineer, would  have been unlikely to have coped with such goings on.  'And why are you taking the piss?'

'Because I'm your brother' was the quick response  'And it's expected of me!'.  Fair dues.

Now there's  big  parts of  my brain that are built on science and logic but the spaces in between are filled with the fantastical and creative.   I do believe that I'm protected. After all, how anyone quite as accident prone as me has survived this long  is more than a minor miracle.  So I'm exploring the idea that angels might be able to help me  in other ways and help guide my lives towards a higher purpose. Healing perhaps?  It's something that I do in my job anyway and perhaps a bit of divine intervention might enhance more conventional practice.    And yes, the rational side of myself is telling me that this might be crazy nonsense but the spiritual being in me wants to believe.  Heck, my friends see me as  a bit mad anyway so a touch more wackiness shouldn't do any more harm.  And if I'm right the benefits could be huge.  Of course, I'll let you all know the outcome.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Late Lights Out



"The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime."

This should have been posted yesterday so that everyone else like me who didn't have candles in their house could mark the centenary of the start of World War I with an hour long vigil.   So, I nearly didn't put it on the blog.  Then I decided that it's never too late to give thanks for peace when it are fortunate enough to have it with us, remember heroic sacrifice and mourn tragic needless loss in present times and the past.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Red Mel

Here's Red Mel, one of my dearest friends, doing an impression of that bird off of 'Titanic'.   She had shared a bottle of champagne with me prior to the shot being taken which might account for her sense of abandon.   We then  went on to try out every real ale in her local, aided and abetted by Random Stranger who we invited to tag along with us after finding him drinking alone in the beer garden.  We're sociable like that.  Very woolly heads greeted us when we both woke up on Sunday morning.

The reason for the reverie was that Red Mel leaves Devon tomorrow for a new life in Bristol.  It means that she'll be able to spend more time with her close family, including her tot-aged granddaughter.  I'm very excited at the prospect of having somewhere to stay in one of my favourite cities and reckon that we'll see each other just as much as we do now.  In fact, next weekend we're off together to locate my motorhome that's parked somewhere in a remote field in Wiltshire.  It's vaguely near Glastonbury Abbey where we're going to see Robert Plant in concert so will do as our sleepover spot.

Red Mel's been around in my life for seventeen years since we met at occupational therapy college. We share lots of values, leftie political leanings, a love of creativity, travel and music and most importantly a sense of the ridiculous. There's been lots to laugh about over the years. The 'hot crotch' incident in Edinburgh that sadly I wasn't allowed to capture for posterity on camera  has to be one of the funniest moments in my life and she was there to share it.

So, egged on by me and others,  Red Mel has taken the plunge and completely transformed her life. I'm reassuring her  that she's doing the right thing.   I, on the other hand, am staying put in my job and my present home. 'You've made active decisions to keep things as they are for the moment. That can be just as positive as making changes' Mel told me.  She is a very wise woman indeed.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Porridge Bretagne/Ecosse/Essex!

Instead of an image of a bowl of beige coloured food you're getting a picture of Stonehenge today. How random is that?  It's a good one that Louis took as we passed by at snail's pace on Friday.  Surprising really as he thought he'd taken a photo of my chin!

I'm back to France in a couple of weeks and trying to think of what to do with our fortnight there. No firm plans apart from not driving very far.  The Loire-Atlantique or Normandy beckon at a push but I may even stay within Brittany.  Last year's Santander-Roscoff road trip cost a fortune in fuel, and seeing as I'm saving for a US holiday next year to celebrate being around on this earth for half a century, spending must me more moderate in 2014.  A week in a campsite after touring around free beachside aires de camping car form the bare bones of an idea.  Looking back at my previous post I think Plouha is definitely calling me to return



One thing I will be doing is picking up more of this stuff.  Salted butter caramel sauce is a bloody lovely Breton specialty that needs to become a store cupboard staple.  It's replaced maple syrup as my porridge topper of choice.  My frugal breakfast bowl, made with milk and organic jumbo oats is a thing of joy.  None of that instant oaty crap for me.  The addition of a good  grinding of  Maldon Sea Salt to enhance that sweet-savoury thing that's going on makes it even better.  Scotland, Brittany, Essex:  Food fusion at its simplest and finest!

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Another One Bites the Dust on the Ilminster By-Pass

Photo: Wikipedia 
Yesterday wasn't the best day ever. After saying our goodbyes to Mama and Papa Lovelygrey, Louis and I were bundled into the car with a welcome bag of allotment veg that I stowed behind the driver's seat.The first part of our Devon bound journey from Essex  went tickety boo. Even the M25 was pretty clear and my average mile count was over 60mpg and creeping further upwards.

Then boof!  Suddenly, somewhere near the evocatively named but rather uninviting Solstice Business Park  I had to break hard to prevent us rear ending a Mini. Lou whinged a bit about whiplash whilst I contended with a footwell full of home grown cherry tomatoes!

In spite of never having come across any of those annoying Facebook quizzes, Mr Metrosexual believes that if I were a city I would be Rio!  My propensity to improvise a party in the direst of circumstances has no bounds.  But even my bonhommie was sorely stretched two and a half hours of stop-start traffic later as  I pulled up outside Burger King somewhere near Yeovil.  'I'm so hungry I could eat celery'  Lou said. I myself was ravenous enough to contemplate dirty fast food as the cherry tomatoes that I'd bent down to intermittently rescue from being squished as I accelerated  and braked were insubstantial and anyway, long gone.

Now there was the Ilminster bypass to contemplate, a stretch of road that is prone to dire bottlenecks. I was determined to lift our spirits. There's nothing quite like a cheesy mother and son singalong to Queen anthems and it must have woven its special 'Kind of Magic'. The traverse through the three lane highway from hell wasn't nearly as bad as expected. Door to door our journey was nearly seven hours though.  I can do it in four and a half on a good day.  My petrol consumption suffered too.  A miserable 54mpg was enough to make a fuel economy nerd weep.

Because I am an unrealistic optimistic I expect every day that I take as annual leave to be right peachy. This one wasn't and was made worse by the fact that I had to pack for Scout Camp when I got home. Because of shared parenting I'm used to not having Lou around all the time.  Normally  we at least  talk daily. As a big strong woman I'll reluctantly admit that the annual dib-dib-dobbing trip away is hard to bear as no phone contact is allowed. That played heavy on my mind during the chore.

So today from waking I'll take heed from the words of Leonard Cohen. He needs some attention as I've been neglecting him for a younger model recently.   These are from 'Anthem' the same wise song that features at the top of my blog.

The birds they sang at the break of day
Start again I heard them say.
Don't dwell on what has passed away
Or what is yet to be.

A good reminder that a mindful approach with a focus on the present can get me through pretty much anything.   Cheers Leonard! You still hit the spot!

Friday, 1 August 2014

And Continuing With A Seaside Theme.

You may have gathered  that I have been in a beachy frame of mind over the last few days. That  included four visits to Southend seafront yesterday for a run, a swim out to touch  a boat called Lacy Lady, coffee at the end of the pier and an evening stroll with Mum and Lou.  Instead of subjecting you to some of my ill conceived shots  I thought that  this amazing picture that someone shared on Facebook cut the mustard. You've put up with enough of my crappy photography recently after all.  If you're liking this, go check out the Facebook page of creator Jamie Harkins.  There's plenty there to inspire you to take up a sharp pointy stick and create an amazing illusion work in a sandpit near you!