Archive for April, 2008

Whale gets worried

April 30, 2008

Whenever CC or Jay leave the house for any reason the Whale starts clockwatching. If, in his opinion they are overdue he starts asking me where they’ve gone and what they are doing.

As I don’t subject them to detailed questions when they go out (they are adults, after all)  I often can’t give him the answers. So he frets.

Then he annoys CC by ringing her mobile to find out where she is. Jay, (perhaps wisely) refuses to carry a phone.

This weekend they had a trip to Amsterdam  ( a belated birthday treat for CC), and, as usual, Whale’s parting words were,

“You’ve got your phone haven’t you? Don’t forget to let me know when you arrive.”

It’s about a four hour drive on a good day so when I heard a message come through on the spare phone on the desk, I ignored it. (It’s using up the 5 euros on the  sim from Bear’s new phone so the only texts it gets are from Orange). Naturally Whale wanted to know what it was but I assured him it wasn’t for him.

All through lunch he sighed and mumbled and at half past two he asked me to ring them. I said they might have stopped off on Brussels on the way and not to worry.

At three, he could stand it no longer. He dialled CC’s mobile.

“I sent a message to mum’s mobile ages ago.” was her response.

So I looked for my phone and couldn’t find it until I rang it from the landline. Where was it? Under some papers on the desk beside the old one.

Oh dear. Sure enough, the earlier message had been from them, saying they’d made good time and were enjoying a beer.

After a grovelling explanation and apology I thought that now, Whale would settle down and relax. But no. A while later, he presented me with a bit of paper.

“CC sounded a bit worried when I rang her.” he said. “Would you mind sending this message for me.”

It was a fairly long note – Whale isn’t au fait with text messaging  – but I duly sent it.

Back came the reply. “I wasn’t bloody worried! We’re having a drink in a bar.”

Yesterday they were due to come home, and Whale started panicking before lunch. At two o’clock he was getting desperate.

“They said they wouldn’t be back before six” I reminded him. But by 2:45 he could hardly keep his hands off the phone. Despite my efforts, he still managed to ring them twice, leaving messages on voicemail because CC refused to answer.

They didn’t get home until after seven because of roadworks so they were keen to go upstairs and relax with a bottle of wine.

During the evening Whale called me.

“They’ve been up there a long time and haven’t had anything to eat yet. Will you go and see if they’re all right?”





On gardening

April 28, 2008

Pat and John-G have posted lovely photos of their gardens. Let me take you from the sublime to the ridiculous with a look at my puny efforts.

Last Autumn CC and I planted a new flower bed with perennials etc. and I have been looking forward to seeing the results. But after waiting and hoping I had to admit defeat. There was nothing but one lupin, one heuchera, and one rose (but I had planted the other one upside down!) plus a heck of a lot of weeds. So yesterday, while the sun shone, I weeded the garden and sowed some seeds to (hopefully) make a herb garden. There are more seeds in the pots and we’ve protected them with plastic because the cats have tried to use them as toilets.

In an attempt to put a bit of colour by the patio I planted some tulips and other bulbs in here. Something tells me they shouldn’t be in a straight line though.

 And then there’s all the weeds on the patio . . . . . . .




Now, my bay tree seems to be suffering as its leaves are turning brown. Is it because there are two many plants at the base? Or do you suppose animals have been nibbling its roots? This is what happened to a fig tree I put in a couple of years ago. It just keeled over because the roots had disappeared.

But to finish on a note of (relative) success, I’m quite pleased with the bank which has been transformed from a jungle of cotoneaster into a rather more interesting rockery.

Bear’s back

April 24, 2008

Whisper it softly, but Bear has come back in a very good mood.

It seems his week went extremely well. He stayed with both his daughters (Norwich and Sheffield) and an old friend in London and was able to visit his brother (who is feeling much better after having to go into hospital).

There were a just a couple of problems:

His mobile phone was on it’s last legs so we went to buy him a new one for the trip. Bad idea, as phones are becoming smaller and more complicated. We asked for a phone without all the extras but there was no option but to buy a neat little number that folds in half and requires rather dainty fingerwork. Needless to say, despite the fact that I went through the essentials with him, Bear couldn’t figure out how to use it while he was away.

The second hiccup was that when his daughter took him to the station yesterday morning they found the trains were cancelled because the copper wires for the signal had been stolen. They were supposed to be laying on a bus but no-one knew how many seats there would be or even when it might turn up.

He explained the urgency of his journey and was advised to get a taxi to Derby and reclaim the fare.

He did just that and the rest of the trip was uneventful.

So just before 7.30 p.m.  I backed the car out of the garage and made my way to the station. It was the first time I had driven for some time and I felt anxious – not about driving as such – but mentally crossing my fingers that parking would be straightforward when I got there. Then it started to drizzle: not enough to require wipers but sufficient to smear the wndscreen so that I had to peer through the clearer parts.

Phew – the front of the station was virtually empty – but I had a good half an hour to wait. I sat on a bench and tried to work out how I felt. No – it definitely wasn’t the excitement of meeting someone you have missed. But, then I felt guilty about that. A bit of mental practice in putting on a welcoming smile, a conversation about the weather ( yes, the French are always talking about the rain here) with a woman who came and sat next to me, and the wait didn’t seem too long.

The TGV from Paris pulled in exactly on time and Bear and I approached each other on the platform.

He let me drive home and went so far as to say he wasn’t nervous and then he settled down to unpack his case and tell me all about his week. He even spoke to CC, Jay and the Whale and didn’t put the telly on.

How long will this last?




Last day of holiday

April 23, 2008

So what has the past week been like?  Heaven.

And it’s amazing how clean the living room was without crumbs, crisps and vestiges of food surrounding Bear’s armchair and spreading all over the floor.

It’s such a shame that one person can completely alter the atmosphere in a house. This week the ground floor has been free for everyone to come and go as they please.

We’ve played music instead of having the TV blaring out all afternoon and evening.

We’ve had meals all together at the table and we’ve had conversations and laughter. Something that doesn’t normally happen chez-nous.

Last night was the ‘climax’ with CC’s birthday meal – a long, leisurely evening starting with champagne and nibbles, continuing with a smoked trout starter and a main course of vegetable lasagne ( lovingly put together by Jay) interspersed with the odd moment of riotous dancing and ending with a superb chocolate cake before we all collapsed on the armchairs to watch a couple of episodes of Armstrong and Miller on DVD.

The cats probably missed Bear more than we did but last night Chloe slept on my pillow (she usually sleeps in the bed beside Bear and has refused to snuggle down with me in his absence) and this morning Toby finally deigned to have a morning cuddle, lying on top of me like a proud sphinx and extending a paw to ‘hold my hand’ while I stroked his head wth the other one (a favour normally reserved for Bear).

As a ‘last day’ treat Yvette and I had a ‘girly lunch’ at the local restaurant and then we went back to her house and she took me round the ‘wild’ part of her garden where she has a wood and a field full of wild flowers.

Five more hours and Bear returns.



Invited to Lunch

April 21, 2008

Yesterday we were invited to lunch with Yvette. It was to be a belated birthday celebration for her and a slightly premature one for CC (who will no longer be 35 tomorrow).

Last year it was warm enough to eat outside but this time Yvette had lit a fire and we admired the garden from behind the window. If you look carefully you will see a red squirrel (actually he is almost black) playing by the tree.  Apparently they frequently come to visit and Yvette puts out nuts for them. We did see another one who came closer but the camera was not handy and he disappeared before we could take his photo.

We ate and drank exceedingly well – two bottles of champagne, an excellent gewurztraminer and an interesting bottle of red (with a photograph of Yvette and her husband taken 18 years ago) and only just had room to put away large helpings of the birthday cake which she had ordered from the local baker. It was served with coffee and followed by a choice of cognac, calvados or vodka.

Once home again we needed to rest our hangovers before settling down to an evening of television – the first since Bear went on holiday.

It is a relief that, finally, the main road into the village has been properly re-surfaced. They are still working on the major facelift but we can now came and go by car without risking  the suspension.


April 19, 2008

Almost American has tagged me and the questions are probably more interesting than a report of what I’ve been up to so far this week so here goes:

1 What was I doing 10 years ago?

Well I as nearing the end of my teaching career. Despite the over zealous government intervention that really ruined teaching as a profession (at least, as far as I was concerned) my last school was the best.

it was a Middle School ( 8-12 year olds) near Great Yarmouth which ran a secondary type timetable. That meant  we were able to teach our favourite subjects most of the time and get to know a larger number of children. During the last few years I became a ‘floating’ teacher which meant that I didn’t have a class of my own. Therefore I was free every morning to run music groups until assembly time.

Now, I hear that more interference has abolished Middle and First schools in favour of Primary schools for the 4 to 11 age group in that area. I’m relieved to be out of it.

2 Five snacks I enjoy

Not a good question when I’m trying hard to lose weight. But I love:

any kind of dark chocolate

French patisseries

biscuits (especially covered in chocolate)


       and oranges.

3. Things I would do if I were  billionaire

Sometimes, if I can’t get to sleep, I daydream about sharing a lottery win of anything up to a million with family and friends – but a billion – I can’t really get my head round that. It may sound daft, but I think it would have a negative effect on everyone.

What I’d really like, in this dreamworld, is to be able to provide enough funds for CC and Jay to set up in business, for the Whale to have a team of carers 24/7, and for the Bear to have his own house (and housekeeper), close but separate from me. I’d like a house with an enclosed garden for the cats and enough income to be able to live without finding there’s too much month at the end of the pension.

Family and friends would have enough for a comfortable retirement.

Our village would receive an anonymous gift to use for the benefit of everyone.

Anything remaining would go to charities.

(I’d better start buying some lottery tickets . . . .)

4. 5 jobs I’ve had

Started helping in my parents’ hardware and electrical shops when I was 12 and ‘graduated’ to taking over during their holidays by the time I was 18. This was enough to tell me I didn’t want to do this all my life.

Trained at music college and then taught at a variety of schools: Infants, Primary, Secondary Modern, Middle and Grammar as well as giving private piano lessons and evening classes for adults.

5. 3 bad habits


Putting off the ironing till it’s piled up so high no-one can find anything to wear.

Sitting at the computer when I should be doing other things in the house.

6. 5 places I’ve lived

Norwich, London, Wisbech,  various villages in Norfolk and France.

7. 5 people I’d like to know  more about

I’m not going to tag anyone specifically but would be very interested to know what other people have to say in response to these questions. So if you feel inclined to take up this tag please let me know.


Empty Armchair

April 15, 2008

Since Bear’s visit to the neuropsychologist you may have noticed that I haven’t blogged about his behaviour. This is partly because they did find some abnormalities that could account for moodiness (and lapses in memory and concentration) and partly because nothing really outstandingly funny or awful has happened.

However, today, I can report a certain levity of spirit in the house: music playing instead of the eternal TV blaring out all the afternoon: friends popping in and remarking how relaxed we all seem because

Bear has gone to England for the week!

He had been talking about a visit for months but we were beginning to believe it would never happen.

He would set his heart on certain dates and then when he rang his daughters one or other would say it wasn’t convenient. Then his knees started to play up, and, on top of that he caught a bad cold.

His brother was admitted to hospital and he was very worried that it might be the end of him. Jay offered to drive us over but Bear got in a strop and refused. Fortunately, his brother recovered enough to go home and seems to be over the worst, so Bear has arranged to go and see him one afternoon – as a surprise.

On Saturday he bought his train tickets and this morning he actually accepted a lift to the station in Jay’s car.

Whew. Although I did feel sorry for him, setting off on his journey all alone, it was a relief to feel the atmosphere in the house become lighter somehow. He may not have been as moody as usual recently, as far as I’m concerned, but he is always pretty miserable when it comes to Jay and CC. He makes them feel uncomfortable in their own home.

He refuses to eat   ‘en famille’ and always wants his dinner on a tray in front of the telly. Tonight we are celebrating with a relaxing family meal accompanied by gentle background music so that we can actually enjoy a conversation.

His armchair is empty and the TV will be switched off.

Suppository for sore throat?

April 13, 2008


Pascal came on Saturday morning to finish the tiling. The new toilet is at last complete with grouting and Bear has only just noticed the slight discrepancy in the colours. And, we even have a toilet roll holder in position.

How long did it take from start to finish?

Only a couple of months.

But Pascal demonstrated another string to his bow this weekend. On Friday evening when he came to check on the tools he had left in the garage he noticed that I was coughing and I admitted I had a sore throat.

“What you need is a suppository” he said earnestly.

I looked surprised.

“Didn’t they treat you with them when you were a kid?” he asked.

Now, I’ve never had occasion to resort to any medicaments that weren’t swallowed or rubbed in but I did remember that a French friend of ours dosed his children with ‘suppos’ when they came to stay and were suffering from tummy upsets.

Pascal went on to explain that a chemist he knew had told him that drug companies were inclined to reduce the active ingredients in their tablets so that you had to buy more. The best way to get a reliable cure was anally.

When he arrived on Saturday he produced a couple of these.

“Two doses and no more sore throat.”  he assured me.

Well, we’d run out of Lemsip, cough sweets weren’t doing any good so what was there to lose?

I unwrapped one. It smelled strongly of camphor and eucalyptus. Both good for the throat – but . . . . . .

Oh, what the heck, give it a try.

Well, I’m not totally convinced but I admit the sore throat did ease a little. However, it was a bit disconcerting – or was it my imagination – that I could taste camphor and eucaplytus at the back of my throat.

Our Cats

April 9, 2008

Parsley on the computerSeveral of my favourite blogs feature cats. Sophie has been helping at her local cat refuge and she lives with Chaddy and often mentions him. Caturday is almost entirely devoted to cats and Lorraine at Me and the Cat doesn’t have a cat – yet – but she’s a definite catlover. Keith sometimes writes about Sooty (AKA Pyewacket).

So (to show off how I’ve learned to add pictures all by myself) let me re-introduce my little family: the topcat is Toby, about 14 or 15 years old. He is neutered but still enjoys chasing all the girls. He also takes over the computer chair and protests loudly if anyone disturbs him. He will then proceed to walk all over you while you’re trying to concentrate. He’s the one who sleeps on our bed and wakes me at crack of dawn with a carefully aimed paw. If that doesn’t work he chews my hair.

Next in age we have the twins, Mustard and Pepper who will celebrate their 10th birthday in May. They have always been close, sharing licks, beds and armchairs, but they have different personalities. Also, while Pepper is slim and elegant, her sister is inclined to have a ‘middle-age spread’. Here’s Pepper on the radiator, looking as though butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth, and Mustard – in pensive mood below.


Poor Holly tends to be the odd one out. None of the other cats likes her and she’s not too keen on them either. This results in a fair bit of spitting and sparring from time to time but I’m really pleased that Holly now feels comfortable enough to come and sit on my lap wherever I am (instead of just on ‘her’ armchair) and she will  come and sit by the television of an evening, although the other cats are nearby. She has recently copied the others by climbing all over the computer when I’m busy.

All these four cats came with us from England, together with Kipper, our elderly white cat, who, unfortunately, died a few months after we brought him over, at the age of 16.


Parsley and Chloe are both French. As the two youngest they get on well together and often play at chasing each other round the house. Chloe is still the most reticent of all the cats but she is beginning to hold her own.

Parsley enjoys sitting on top of the computer when I’m busy but she also loves exploring empty bags and boxes – and even the laundry basket.

Chloe is still a bit nervous about going outside into the garden, although she likes chewing grass. She  is happiest when she’s eating or curled up on a radiator.

 If you click on the links for their names you can read the stories of how each of them came to live with us.

Fourniret update here



April 8, 2008

raised beds?Yesterday we woke up to snow, this morning it was freezing but this afternoon, guess what – bright sunshine and warmth!

No more excuses, I had to start on the garden.

This year I had an idea that raised beds would be the answer for the vegetable patch ( as I can’t work on my knees, or even crouch down) and I spent hours on the internet trying to track down an affordable means of achieving this.

They don’t seem to go in for such a thing in a big way here although I did find one example in a gardening catalogue at 155 euros a square.

Eventually we found the answer locally – squares in willow at 11 euros 80 each. They weren’t as high as I’d hoped but it looked like being the best on offer.

So I’ve just had a go at putting them on the potager. Now, I admit I’m a crap gardener but I did scratch my head over how to do it at first and then there was this eureka moment.

If I dug trenches all round the squares then that would produce the earth to fill them up as well as making them higher for me to work with. The soil was damp and heavy so I only managed to do two and a half.

But perhaps you gardeners out there will see something I didn’t. If I’m heading for disaster please tell me before I do any more. 

If anyone is interested in the Fourniret trial I’ve written about it on my other blog, here.