Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Remains of the Mouse

Rushing out the other morning, we skimmed (mercifully) over the nether half of a mouse, thoughtfully deposited on the top step by our cats. (One assumes…). George hurriedly flung it onto the autumn leaves, (which I heard this week are in fact Very Good for your flowerbeds and not just the laziest place to chuck them).

Coming home several hours later, we couldn’t help but notice a sort of creakily squelching sound emanating from the vicinity of the late mouse…

Closer inspection revealed a Hedgehog merrily chomping on the remains. He stopped and stared back at us for a moment, then as soon as we'd gone indoors, set to again with gusto.

We watched him through the window as he enjoyed his lunch; from time to time he'd turn it over, steadying it with his paw and considering another angle to dive in from... Short of tossing it high in the air (and Throwing Up afterwards), he was just like a cat! I knew they ate leftover kittysplodge, but a vaguely recognisable body part...?

A quick search online unearthed a multitude of Hedgehogs Eating Things – mostly fruit and veg, fortunately. The commentaries are sometimes slightly gooey, but I suppose I’d be the same were it mine own hedgehog, and some of the youtube clips do show them being most appealing pets… (Although we don't hear the hedgehog's thoughts on ranging free round the carpet).

Anyway, after consuming its own bulk in Mouse, this hedgehog scuttled off through the leaves, climbed the three-inch fence and nose-dived onto the concrete, then hurtled across the yard and up the garden path. Watched with great alarm by Daphne-Cat, who was evidently relieved to see it come out underneath the other side of the car instead of climbing up to where she was sitting on the bonnet. (She was probably miffed too, having put those Nethers by for later).

It is, of course, heartwarming that the poor old Mouse did not die in vain, and that the hedgehog and no doubt many ants benefitted... Not to mention The Hapless Worm - usually on the menu yet soon to feast upon the bacteria and tiny particles that once were mouse.

It's a Jungle Out There - thank god we're not at the wrong end of many food chains...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


What makes a man Irresistible?

Great sense of humour? Pulsating brain? Bulgy brave biceps and a sixpack, or Lots of money? YES! - All of those!

And so inevitably, I fell for Earl Okin the moment I first saw him – twenty years ago performing at The Stables in Milton Keynes.

Oh Thrilling memory! How he entertained us with his clever songs - his deep sexy growl, the words that… Understood and went deep to the Heart of us, throbbing with witty passion.

It has been an everlasting love.

And now we discover that He’s coming to France in December! Oh the Joy, once more to see him lope sinuously onto the stage in those... hunky spectacles and cheeky spats.

Oh! Soon to gaze upon his handling of a guitar… that Trumpetty thing he does with his lips…

I feel compelled to share the Power and Thrill that is Earl Okin, so I’ve succeeded (at last) in posting a video clip. Sadly it’s full of blonde women feverishly pouting at him – Fools - They're too late!

Because Earl and I are made for each other – we’re so alike it’s quite terrifying.

So - What d'you think?

(I suppose Harrison Ford comes a close second)...

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sleeping with The Fridge

‘I know!’ beamed George over cooling Weetabix in a recent heatwave. ‘Tonight we’ll take the mattress down and sleep in the Bunny Room!’

Brilliant idea! Not actually with the bunnies… for only their memory-much-hallowed remains. (And perhaps the odd wayward wisp of tail fluff clinging to the depths of the chimney).

For several years Roland and Olly had shared their Room with every tat-filled cardboard box we hadn’t unpacked since moving in. After their tragic departure George leapt into action chucking, tiling, painting, furnishing with snaffled bits and pieces and Loh! it became a real room!

Why on earth had we put up with festering sweatily upstairs for almost a week of boiling temperatures?

That night, armed simply with mattress, pillows, radio, gripping Harlan Coben "Tell No-one" in The (baffling) French (mine), George’s magazine of music accoutrements for problem-free performances and where to get them cheap, glass of water, alarm clock, notebook for overnight mustn’t-forgets or blockbuster inspirations, and the phone - we arranged our new quarters.

‘Comfy?’ murmured George. ‘Very,’ said I, snuggling down in blissful cool.

George had hardly set off on Major Snoring when there came a deep rumble from the walls.

What the Bloody Hell - ? Surely, even our industrial machine afficionado next door would balk at midnight mowing?

Could it be our classic-car-loving neighbour opposite, testing the engine on his Citroën Traction for an imminent rally? Noo - he does urgent tweaks with the sunrise.

Probably an unusually Heavy goods train - ignore it and go to sleep.

A muffled yet terrifying explosion burst into our dozings. A crackle, a buzz, a tinkling… a shudder.

‘Go and see what it is!’ hissed George.

I fib. But he didn’t get out of mattress either.

And then it dawned on us – the Bunnyroom Fridge! We never spend time with this fridge because we have a tiny one in our tiny kitchen. This one houses overload – wine, beer, water, bread, ice cream... Pack of emergency apero nibbles for those awkward unexpected landings of the ‘God - Did you eat All those peanuts?’ and ‘Couldn’t they flaming-well phone first?’ variety.

Anyway, The Fridge was obviously struggling. Too much ice cream? Too few defrostings? Didn’t it like its new position stuffed discreetly behind the bookcase?

A fleeting moment in Dormant mode was inadequate, before it cranked up its gears and blasted off again like something out of Terminator. In fact, I’m sure I heard it take a step.

Blimey - is it dangerous? Or could it be that all fridges sound like this, but are ignored under the cacophony of radio, pan-clattering, talking, singing and general everyday trumpetings…

The Fridge spat, revved up grumpily and continued its ranting.


When the sun finally lasered through the unaccustomed glass door, we’d managed approximately four minutes sleep.

We scrunched up our mattress and bits, and abandoned Sleeping with The Fridge for ever.

But the dreadful thing is – Every Night for five long years, we shut our poor bunnies in with That Thing.

And they have big ears...

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Is this the way to Amarillo...?

… again?

Driving is of course fraught with danger and divorce, particularly when heading Beyond Familiar Territory.

I was definitely not made for driving – I hate it, and never have any idea where I am. On the other hand George, whose ridiculous eyes cannot sensibly be inflicted on a steering wheel, automatically commits a journey to memory after a single trip. Hence George navigates our outings and I hyperventilate them.

As for SatNav, what’s the point, I’ve always thought. I already have to concentrate Really Hard on the road - how could I watch a second version on screen at the same time? George, however, has long dreamed of satnav, foreseeing the end of all those hysterical Completely-bloody-lost-again Exchanges we… exchange.

And Loh! Conveniently timed for an imminent far-flung birthday party, our junk mail this week klaxoned a portable satnav on very special offer. We found our way to it Hotfoot. It sounded perfect – George would consult the screen held on his lap, and I would listen to the soothing yet no-nonsense Voice of Brian. George merrily set up the Essential Stuff.

Initial test-drive was disappointing – thirty kilometres into the wilderness, Brian shut completely up. This turned out to be a faulty fuse in the car cigarette-lighter-charger, but we had to ricochet around thirty or forty other and very different kilometres before we made it home and found out. After all, we’d both been too mesmerised by satnav to take any notice of the actual roads...

Our second satnav trial was much more fun – George fascinated by the detail onscreen, and I building up an easy reapport with Brian. I picture a sort of Peter Donaldson (R4 newsreader), as he gently tells me

‘In 250 metres, turn lef... D475.’
and reminds me as we approach, ‘Turn left... D475.’ ‘Turn LEFT!’

Then, as we sail past the turn he says (without a word of reproach), ‘In 100metres, Turn left... D476.’ He Knows Where We Are, and is determined to persuade us into a leftly direction. If we’ve bizarrely ignored his instructions for the back road, he knows exactly how much leeway to allow before, ‘Perform U-Turn... whenever possible.’

And if you ignore that, you can practically hear him flipping pages growling, ‘Where the bloody hell are they going?’

Every so often, there’s a twinkly burst of strings to Warn us. We’re not sure what of – we did think speed limit entry, exit, breach… Our own readings don’t always agree, but who are we to question the Mighty Brian?

Of course, Wikipedia is but one source of worrying tale:

A number of road accidents in the UK have been attributed to misdirection by satellite navigation systems. On May 11, 2007, a driver followed satellite navigation instructions in the dark and her car was hit by a train on a rail crossing that was not shown on the system. In Exton, Hampshire,the County Council erected a sign warning drivers to ignore their "sat nav" system and to take another route, because the street was too narrow for vehicular traffic and property damage resulted from vehicles getting stuck.[
On March 25, 2009, a man drove down a steep mountain path and almost off of a cliff after he was allegedly directed by his portable GPS system. He was finally stopped by a wire fence. “

Well Pchaw! That kind of thing happens to us all the time…

For after just one (correctly-charged) outing, I have overcome my misgivings about this robot machine. I think Brian will be the end to much disagreement on George's part, and the perfect companion if I want to run away and join the circus.

Now – how did George actually plug it in?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Looking Good Feeling Good

Oh Pain Excruciating!! And still one ear to go!

I don’t know why I should develop Allergies at this tender age, but all of a sudden my pierced ears refuse to let earrings In, my nose is streaming (cats? dust? general breathing?), and my eyes retaliate Redly and Voluminously at a miniscule whiff of makeup.

To start with the ears… I mean, it’s thirty years since mum greeted my newly-perforated lobes with ‘Aaaaaahhhhhh! Oh Dolores – you had such Perfect ears!’ (True – I coyly did).

I remember being very concerned the first week that I’d forget to turn the studs and they’d refuse to let go without flesh attached, but my flatmate was brilliant (being an experienced wearer) and stopped me being So Soppy.

Since that first trepidatious experience, ornamenting my ears has been a delight - dangly, delicate, sparkly, colourful, bizarre… Fluffy purply cubes, miniature red and black fans… a Crayfish-shaped pair sent from Japan by my brother and his wife. (I thought they were chopstick rests till it was explained they Came Apart).

Now, though, something inside seems to be rebelling against Anything Decorative, and I have to catch my moody ears on a Feeling-Good! Day - even then I must be satisfied with the jaunty one-earringed pirate look.

The eye-makeup allergy is even more annoying. Ravishing though I am naturally, of course, just a Teeny Tinge of shadow, highlighter, eyebrow pencil, liner, mascara, blenderbrush… is Indi-flaming-spensable if I’m venturing beyond the garden without a balaclava. And you can't get an Ornamental balaclava anywhere…

But I really can't believe I’ve had to take up Anti-histamines - the nose-blow was just too constant. I have no idea where these Histamines are coming from but if I find out I’ll give them a Damn Good Thrashing.

The chemist said it’s quite common for people Beyond Youth to develop allergies – just one of those things we must Shrug at.

But what can be the cause? The dregs of the Ash Cloud? Our cats exuding toxic fumes in their Ripe old age? A secret bio-weapon bunker under the abandoned village butcher’s shop? Or simply the inevitable effects on a Delicate organism of Chemically Modern Life?

Of course, In My Day, we didn’t have Allergies.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Such is Life...

A few days ago, George and I went to a funeral in the cemetery we live next-door-but-one to.

Agnès, living between us and the gravestones, used to say how handy it was that when her husband departed she’d just pop him in a wheelbarrow and tip him over the wall.

Well, he did indeed go first and was tipped several years ago; last Wednesday was Agnès’s own turn. And though painfully moving, it was a funeral above all of Great Joy.

A long-time and beloved inhabitant of the village, Agnès drew a goodly crowd of mourners. We all stood shivering bleakly in the unseasonal icy wind, as the coffin was transferred from limousine to small table in a special space among the graves.

Then an employee of the funeral-arrangers read several speeches: ‘The children of Agnès wanted to say…’ , ‘The grandchildren of Agnès wanted to say…’.

Don’t know why the family didn’t read themselves, but maybe it is better to leave your words in the hands of someone who isn’t going to dissolve into a lump of Sodden Gaspings… (I don’t think people yonder round the coffin could hear me).

And they were beautifully read. (Although the fella in charge of the tape recorder added some unsettling Jerks to Edith Piaf).

The mourners then queued up to wind round the graves and past someone with a basket of rose petals. You pick up a petal, and take it to place on the coffin while saying a last goodbye. It’s a lovely idea…

At our previous funeral, we didn't understand Petal Procedure, and the dazzling sunshine and quick-march on that occasion stopped us from seeing what everyone else was doing. And we had to shuffle with our guilty slips of rose past a Guard of Honour (the defunct had been a high official).

Anyway, after placing Agnès's petals we all left, filing past the yawning family tomb where Hubert-from-the-wheelbarrow was waiting, and assembling to share nibbles and fond memories.

Our hamlet has had several terminal departures in the last few years, and the For Sale signs will bring in a whole new feel to the place. GONE the pensioners, Come the Parisian second-homers and maybe some young families.

I wonder who the Bijou close-to-grave amenities will appeal to.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bun Disposal

‘Tis the season for George to make his Hot Cross Buns and as usual, he’s made several batches in pursuit of Perfection.

He remembered that last Easter, the buns turned out just a little heavy and somewhat bland... their Crosses detachable, and able to exclude draughts from under the front door.

He’s always ready to learn, though, from his mistakes (or the Faulty Equipment he’s obviously plagued with). So this year he managed to produce Really Leaden, vaguely chilli-flavoured buns, with Crosses that could make a nasty dent in the wall if chucked with gusto.

Was he downhearted? Sadly, No - he consulted several million cookery sites and asked for tips from Everyone including a professional chef we met, and the village baker. Who was slightly baffled but kindly suggested he may have put too much flour in.

He has kept trying, and we have kept eating them. (In fact, they’re not too bad if drenched in brandy and flambéd, or used as the Very Base of a Trifle)…

But there IS a limit to how many we, our friends, acquaintances and passers-by can eat, and now our waistbands and our freezer overfloweth.

When I spied two forgotten buns lurking at the bottom of the tupperware this morning, I decided in a Flash of Inspiration to break them up for the Bluetits. After all, there's butter and sugar and stuff of such ilk, and the birds would at least enjoy the Currants...

Well, me and the Bluetits had to give up, but there's a Woodpecker still trying to tunnel into one...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Darth WHO?

‘Ah, oui,’ said the neighbour on the other side of our rampant leylandii… ‘That would be great!’

Oh Hell! Why did I ask?

Well, because they’re our leylandii, they’re growing at the rate of Woody Allen’s pudding in “Sleeper”…

(I should point out that the pudding in the film is doubling in volume every 3 seconds).

… and when I asked him last year he said Don’t worry - he’d take care of it. So I suppose I imagined...

This year, the trees have grown at a ridiculous rate, and in France it’s definitely the Owner of the Hideous Greenth who is responsible for obliterating it, specially on the neighbour’s side; I reckon we’re lucky he's never retaliated for our blocking out half his sun...

Any enthusiasm we have for gardening is in the less daunting tasks: George mows the grass and tramples mole-mountains; I rip out Brown things and stick in red and yellow and blue and variegated ones.

A gardener would be splendid but beyond budget, particularly one who does Trees. Such gifted artisans are regarded with Awe, and arrive Proudly Overendowed with accoutrements both terrifying and ear-splitting. And Very Large invoices.

We have been advised, by leylandii-neighbour and by an unbiased neighbour opposite who simply dreams of owning such an implement, to buy an electric Saw-on-a-Stick.

This sounds a little scarey to me – waving a pole around with an uncontrollable slicing thing on the end, surely demands Years of Training and indestructible body armour. I think all we have is a pair of goggles and an ancient horse-riding helmet. (Although they worked for Darth)...

And, we must do our duty.

After in-depth study of this week’s junk mail we have pinpointed the weapon. Tomorrow we shall sally forth to procure one, and later this week, when we have no students, no urgent appointments, and no more Excuses, we shall Lop these Fiendish Leylandii to within an inch of their very souls!!

And May The (Ground) Force be with us!

...(to appreciate the Full Hilarity of that jest, it might help to know that 'Groundforce' was a gardening programme well-beloved in the UK)
I realise it might not help...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Madame Doolittle, I presume...

“ ’allo? – Madame Doolittle?”

“…Ouiiii…” I confess cautiously.

There is a profound sigh on the end of the line, then someone pulls herself together and focusses on script:

Allow me to introduce myself, Mme Doolittle,” she rattles off Frenchly, “I’m phoning on behalf of EDF GDF Solar Water or One of those Powers-that-Be Anyway to offer you a rare and unmissable opportunity -” Large intake of breath “- This week, our representative will be in Your Back Garden offering Free Quotes on revolutionising the way you use Your Power-that-Be so When will you be in, Mme D?”

Hah! “That does not interest me!” I say and put the phone down brusquely - Just as our wise neighbour Adrienne has taught me.

Or at least, that’s what I mean to say.

But I can't. Instead I picture her with all the other Call-Centrees who phone to catch you in just as you’re savouring your lunchtime sarny.

There they quiver - ranks of shabby, despairing souls frenziedly working their way down each column of the phone book, microphones glued to their heads and keyboards bleeping as they flinch from fiendish Boss-with-a-big-stick.

How do they stand the constant rebuffs, the insults and the Permanent Failure… I just can’t bear the thought of making it worse…

So I say, “That doesn’t interest me For The Moment, I’m afraid... Well, no, I certainly don’t rule out the idea completely... No, next week wouldn’t be quite enough Thinking Time for me… Thank you for calling though - do you all work such long hours or are you on detention (ha ha)?... Hello? Oh dear, are you alright?"

At this point George is losing patience and angrily waving a forkful of saucisson & potato at me. "Will you please just hang up!" he hisses. His own method of halting sales flow is to say in appalling French, "Sorry, I'm English and I didn't quite catch that...", and they've Gone! (One day, we'll miss out on something that really WAS unmissable).

"Pardon?", I resume to teleseller with glaring shrug to George, "Oh, yes we are so, I'll let you get on now… Have you got many more to call? Right, well have a good rest-of-the-evening then… Hello? Hel- You’re not crying are you? Oh lord... oh..."

"Oh - Just Bugger Off!" I yell when I've put the phone down.

So, IS there a good way of dealing with this constant irritation? (for constant, it is). Do you snarl; do you chat while chomping on with your meal; try to sell them something, perhaps; play your kazoo at them... What do You do?

Because of course, you can't be too nasty to them - you never know if you're gonna come back as one...

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Protectively garbed and brows furrowed, Luc and Fabienne peered down at the tray set out on the garden table.

‘Hi you two,’ we cried jovially, ‘are you doing a jigsaw?’ ‘Noooo!,’ snorted Luc, ‘we’re doing Nature! Experiments with slugs...’

Oh! Little Tinkers.

Sure enough, there on the tray were two black shrivelled-things, perhaps lacking the enthusiasm of these eight-year-olds.

‘Look!' continued Luc proudly. ‘We’ve got grass, garlic, ice, snow and chocolate. We’re seeing which they like best.’

‘Yes’ said Fabienne seriously. ‘They tolerated the ice very well, but didn’t seem to like the garlic… ‘ She removed a glove and scribbled some notes.

‘You’re not hurting them, though, are you?’ I whimpered.

‘Of course not!’ tutted Luc, ‘Slugs are one of our favourite things!’ And he wafted a slice of compensatory cucumber at where their eating ends probably were.

Fabienne pointed at a plastic box on the floor: ‘Yeah - See this?’ she growled. ‘This is their new home – we’ve put leaves, sticks, rocks and dirt in it – it’s perfect for them!’

It did actually look very comfy. Why had I never thought of Pet Slugs before…

'I bet you don’t even know what they eat!’ challenged Luc.

‘Well,’ I muttered, ‘They’ve always enjoyed our Pansies… And You’ve just demonstrated that ice is acceptable…’

‘But what they Really like,’ he said with a sigh, ‘Is Kale and Green Lettuce. They like sweet things too, so you can even let them eat cake! Tiny pieces, of course’ he added in the interests of slugs-confronted-by-ignorance.

I’d had No Idea! It seems there’s more to slugs than meets the eye - I wonder if they accept mature members in their Nature Club…

The next time we dropped in on his parents, I couldn’t wait to ask Luc how the slugs were getting on in their custom-constructed aquarium.

‘They’ve gone,’ he shrugged. ‘They could have escaped, I suppose, or maybe a bird ate them...’

He stared at me with a mixture of bafflement and concern: ‘Dolores, you’re not crying, are you?’

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Boots Wellington

Yesterday I launched myself on the garden. It was chilly and grey with a delicate drizzly haze – Perfect.

Gardening can only be enjoyable in wellington boots. If it’s too hot to wear wellies, then Don’t garden - you’re just asking for steamy exhaustion, tiny, vicious critters that fight back when disturbed, and a knotty jungle of green that actually grows as you watch.

Not to mention Ticks, which in fact, I have mentioned before…

Gardening in wellingtons is quite pleasant! It’s satisfying to slash away at What Once were Plants, to simply tug off that curly weed thing that in summer coiled like a metal spring round your roses, to boldly go behind the gas tank and be able to See what you’re treading in…

George also donned his boots and, deciding those pesky leylandeii weren’t too bad really, we sallied forth for a walk. We’re lucky to live on the edge of a village, close to forest, field and vines. I will now attempt to insert photo of Vines!

When we first visited this region, I was astonished at what vines looked like –I’d imagined tall, willowy trees, wafting their alcoholic scent for many miles around. Instead, they’re short, knobbly things that you could picture getting up when bored,to wander round muttering at each other...

(Were their rows not so well-regimented for ease of pruning and picking).

Anyway - Wellies add so much to a walk, don’t they; the joy of sploshing through muddy puddles, (particularly having grazed some mountainous residue of recent dog), of charging fiercely through bracken, of skilfully kicking an aerodynamic pebble to watch it land eighteen whole inches away. Of caring not of scuffed leather or snapped heels…

Oh! Black of hue and tractor-treaded
Wherein all sorts of crotte embedded…
To boldly bound through mire & hedge
Is what we Love. Though p’raps a Wedge
Heel… built-in corn pad, GPS…
Could just refine their rubberness
A bit…

PERISH the thought!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Radical Thoughts

(from the teachings of Wikipedia):
The oil of wintergreen is used topically (diluted) or aromatherapeutically for muscle and joint discomfort, arthritis, cellulite, obesity, edema, poor circulation, headache, heart disease, hypertension, rheumatism, cramps, inflammation, eczema, hair care, psoriasis, gout, ulcer (dermatology), broken or bruised bones…

… and haven’t we all suffered from at least seven of these foul afflictions?

Traditionally, now is the time of year when they seem particularly irritating; the weather’s bleak, your best Christmas present is broken and your bottom has become a Pavement Hazard.

Well Au Contraire! (As we say in Bognor). I love post-Christmas. The cold is invigorating yet a great excuse for not gardening; my beloved Betty Boop watch did indeed stop working, but was revived by a new battery; and I have revelled in a guilt-free Christmas sugar mountain.

I once heard that the start of February and NOT January is the best time to revolutionise oneself with diet or things of that ilk - Pchaw to Resolutions of the Brand New Year!

With this in mind, I’ve spent the last ten days shovelling away Christmas dregs in order to consume Everything by the February deadline. Even those ghastly lumps of fruit-tinted jelly that George has weirdly grown to quite like.

From today, 3rd Feb, Things will be Different! (It had to be postponed from the 1st owing to dastardly vat of duck paté with figs that had to be finished). But now, No More sugar, far less alcohol, and mini-trampolining every day to deep-rhythm music from Christmas DVD of ‘TrueBlood’ theme (have you seen this fabulous vampires-in-the-community series?). (I chose a gentle link here, but there are still a few Teeth):
((I can't get this damn video clip to play, but the music's great if you can go to the bother of copy & pasting into the http slot))

What else? Radically get my hair cut for the first time in four months, learn to give proper English lessons and speak proper French, blog at least once a fortnight, write a famous novel, paint the kitchen, chop down twenty feet of our ghastly leylandii, become a radio continuity announcer because it sounds such fun, invent a self-emptying cat tray, travel the world and save people, and… and be generally sort of Revolutionised.

So exciting! Why didn’t I do this last February? Or the Feb before...

Where to begin? Well, the cat tray would be useful but the hair’s more pressing so I'll ring them tomorrow. The leylandii are Huge – I expect George would like to do those. People to save... in times of snow & powercut I usually try to save our elderly neighbours, but they always send me away snortingly. I'm not sure why - But I mustn't let it put me off.

Maybe the best First Thing would be to find that tin of Ivory Cream Steam-defying Washable we bought last summer and - Oh Sod It! Where's that bottle of Wintergreen...