Thursday, April 30, 2009

When I feel good...

I've just been forced to change all passwords on my work PC (we have to change them every month here @VF).
At one time I had Libra Gemini/Clarify, Dise, Total View, Beano, Hermes, CTI, Planview, VF Intranet and Wert...and if left unused for half an hour I had to re-login again.

I even have to use a card and password to get into work.

Are we getting too security conscious?

Having to do these things doesn't make me feel good

I have no passwords at home because I love the idea of being open, accessible and transparent...with honest and friendly people of course.

I've just read the paper which has reminded me to get more security in place...too many unfriendly people out there.

Anyway, I wanted to explore what makes me feel good because sometimes for no apparent reason I am, and I feel I'm about to slide into a state of frustration if I let these passwords get me down.

McTell once penned the words...'When I feel good I think I can live forever and when I get down I know some day I'll die. 'Till then I'm happy that we're together. I'm happy with you, without you I'll sigh. I'm happy with you , without you I'll cry. I'm happy with you and without you I wanna die'

I took my wife to hear him sing these words then turned to her and smiled.

It's good to have a good wife who makes you feel good.

What else makes me feel good?

Walking and talking, hot bath, good book, time in the garden, knocking down walls, helping someone in need, being with friends, being on holiday, writing, riding a bike, watching live sport, being with family and hearing nice things said about me.

Actually, the list is endless and it's a wonder I'm not continually happy.

I've got a lift back from Sunderland this weekend...I'm happy!

I'm wondering if feeling good continually is possible because I've certainly not managed it yet.

I'm just waiting for something to happen to disappoint, frustrate or annoy me. Perhaps you need the rough to fully appreciate the smooth.

Anyway, right now I feel...pretty darn good!
Family time (before Ashley & Amber met and married)...

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

You are what you eat

'The way he treats his body, you’d think he was renting'.
~Robert Brault,

I just couldn't eat the second cob I'd made for lunch today. I've been conscious (I've noticed that unless you can spell a word it's difficult to find it in the dictionary...I had to look up conscious) of my expanding waist of late and am battling the effects of sitting down all day. I refused sweets and cake in favour of planning to go for a walk after work and do some jobs after tea.

We enjoyed the walk across the fields after work and down to the old brewery and back. When we got back I sanded the skirting in the hallway which Bev is painting as I type (this is a 50/50 marriage). It's a great feeling to have made a little progress.

Soon we'll sit down to a hot drink and I fancy a piece of cake!

I didn't eat the second cob because I think the cob tasted off. I'm trying to be honest here!

The best news of the day was that Ashley felt he did really well in his second and final interview for PSO. He'll know the results in a week or two.

I'm off onto facebook now to see if Philip can give me a lift from Sunderland after the fight this weekend.

Back to France 2003

I ran upstairs and was sick when I got home on Saturday the 15 November 2003. I'd just got back from helping Jon plasterboard his ceiling and walls. It wasn't sudden...I felt ill as soon as I arrived there.

I stayed in bed the next day (Sunday) and In the evening Bev drove me to the Flinns to sleep over ready for the drive to Portsmouth. The hope was that I'd improve but I got progressively worse and feared I'd have to pull out of the visit altogether.

I woke up feeling marginally better but on the journey got worse again. We caught the ferry with just minutes to spare and although the ship was fairly luxurious and the crossing calm, it was a gruelling 10 hours spent curled up on the floor thinking my life was about to end. The Flinns photographed the's what friends are for!

Another 2 hours drive to Gary's just about saw me off. A quick call to Bev and I crawled up those dusty old steps thinking I would die in bed. Threw up and spent most of the night coughing.

The Next day (Tue) was my 4th day unable to face food. We arrived in Josselin (via Bel-Air) about 10:15. David & Eileen went into the bank while I stood outside in a daze.

We arrived at the Notaire's offfice with 10 minutes to spare to wait for Trudie. She arrived late thinking we were to have met at her place first.

The notaire thought we hadn't paid his fees and local taxes but after he agreed we had, the papers were duly signed in his office (etude).

It's important to point out here that between the preliminary contract... the signing of the final deed (acte authentique) and the final act of sale (acte de vente) you should thoroughly check the property out and mention at the signing anything that doesn't match what you think you are buying, because at this point the notaire can withhold funds from the vendor to pay for replacements and repairs. After the signing it's too late because it's sold subject to the condition its in at the time of completion.

I mention this because we later found out that although there was electriciy, water and septic outlined in the house sale leaflet, they were only nearby and certainly not connected.
To connect and comply with regulations was an extremely unpleasant and expensive shock.

It was true that there were pipes leading to where a toilet should be installed (which we did, and used it for about a year), and it was also true that a septic tank was in the garden. But there were no pipes leading from the house to the septic tank or filtration pipes from the tank underground.
We laugh about it now, but at the time, our garden resembled First World War trenches as we installed the filtration that we thought was already there. And guess who had to rake a years worth of excrement from the end of the open pipe 30 feet short of it's destination?

We used candles for light for a long, long time and David eventually created from nothing an outside solar panel shower and modesty screen for when we weren't staying at Gary's. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Such luxuries were way ahead in the future.

Getting back to the present, the signing was completed...what we thought we had and what we actually had was legally ours.

It was back to Bel-Air with the keys then off to Lorient via a brief visit to Les Riviers.

I almost passed out in Brico Depot. Home at last, phoned Bev, threw up.
I woke up after having about 2 hours sleep and felt strangely a lot better so decided to chance some soup. The rest of the holiday (if you can call it that) saw me much improved in health and we made good progress with clearing overhanging branches, brambles and weeds, clearing gulleys for drainage, buying and setting up a temporary bathroom, measuring for cables...miles and miles of them and pipes, buying a large water heater and other electrical bits...tons of sockets, removing old beams from David & Eileen's place, and a host of other things including me catching fire from a candle I forgot was near me.
I think the hectic work schedule set the tone for all future visits.
Our next visit to Bel-Air was the 14th Feb 2004, two and a half months down the road. Can't wait!
The power shower...
The bare facts of renovation in rural France

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Thinking of France more than the language isn't good

So, what preparations am I making for France? (it's a question and a reminder as it's just over 3 weeks before we go again).

Well, I've brought my French dictionary to work and Hugo's French in 3 Months that the Flinn's bought me about 3 years ago. Yes, I should be ashamed of myself as there are two books and I'm still on the first.

Here are some phrases I'm likely to use in the future...

Sors les ordures (sore layz ohr dur) -Take out the garbage (If you are talking to a friend or family member)
Sortez les ordures (sore tay layz ohr dur) -Take out the garbage (If you are talking to someone you do not know well)

Le retour à la maison était un véritable cauchemar (leh reh toor ah lah may ohn ay tay uhn vay ree tah ble kohsh mahr) -Returning home was a real nightmare

Karen likes my blog layout and wanted to know if it would print out.
She selected a few lines and pressed 'Print' printed the entire blog from a printer we aren't allowed to use.

Karen running downstairs in a state of panic is what has just tipped the day in favour of 'Good'.

I'm working on 2003 when we went to France to officially sign everything and make the property lawfully ours. Watch out for the French Experience #2.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Variety, influences and differences

Karen is back at work today lamenting the loss of her friend who died on Saturday.
Tara, sitting opposite me has her thoughts firmly on her holiday next week and Kirsty is strangely quiet but I know that thoughts won't be far adrift from her recent house purchase.

We're all totally different and doing different things. For me, it's recovery time after yesterday. Thankfully, my work responsibility is varied and light for the day and comprises of looking after company and individual transfers, tariff changes and incoming faxes so it's relatively easy to cope with a few stray thoughts about yesterday.

Where the heck did my lunch break go?

Anyway, yes, we are all different but have some things in being fat, thin, stupid or ugly and even have the same or similar belief system, abilities or expertise. Outside of these we are thankfully unique in how we think and who we are.

Two of my favourite unique people who also have that rare blend of humility, humour and vitality are Gordon B Hinckley and Jane Girling. One died last year...perhaps a little longer, and the other this year.

One I listened to a lot and the other I worked with every day and couldn't avoid listening to even if I wanted to.

Both stepped into and out of my life having made a difference to how I currently think.

Both will be forever remembered.

I wonder if I'm making a difference in anyone elses life? I think I'm supposed to!
I think I'd like to!

This day has zoomed by.

I walked down to meet Bev after work and we drove to see Janey. Just typical of her to have picked a brilliant spot to rest...right under a beautiful tree currently in a late full bloom (when she was at work she was always blooming late!)

We (Bev) noticed that it's the first cemetery we are aware of with all the headstones facing the visitor. Very pleasant. I might change my mind about being cremated.

Spoke to her a while and left a flower.

Back home now and too weary to do anything other than totally chill.

Bev's watching her gardening program which ties in nicely with the variety theme.

Why can't all flowers begin with 'F' for flower? Primula's, petunia's, pansies and pelegoniums are easier to remember if they begin with 'F'...frimula's, fetunia's, fansies and felegoniums sounds fine to me. Forget me nots and fuchsia's won't even need to change at all.

Anyway, I'm being a bit of a rambling rose today.
Thank goodness for variety, influences and differences.

Jane Girling...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A marathon day

A full day packed with incident and colour.

We drove to Luton and caught a train from there to London. Sarah (the theatre nurse) asked for a single to St Pancreas (via the pancreatic duct no doubt) which brought a smile to the hardened ticket collector's face...and ours!

Bafta arrivals, London eye, Canary Wharf, No 10, Westminster, Big Ben, underground stations galore, machine gun toting police, sword bearing soldiers and stone faced Nelson as well as the thrill of the race and flag waving demonstrations.

We've seen kind people, tearful people, rude people, dangerous people, pretty, funny, tired and courageous people.

The Queen was home and the Palace looked truly majestic against the cloudless sky.

The Union Jack fluttered briefly and perchance I saw a curtain twitch as our eyes met in a moment of mutual recognition...or perhaps it's my imagination breaking free of this exhaustively long queue for the runners 'meet and greet'.

St James's Park with it's lawns thick with people sitting, chatting, laughing or dozing in the warm sun and harmoniously sharing the occasion with the pelicans pure and white reflecting against the shimmering and glittering water, or space with the squirrels and a varied selection of birds. Life feels good right now.

Today's been everything and now we are as tired as Martin as he crossed the finishing line.

A few photo's of Martin. Well, he could be in the first catches the atmosphere.

Well done Martin...finishing in that heat is no mean thing. You were the star of the show.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


The weather is nicer than we expected and Bev is already in the garden.

Last Saturday we had a jumble sale type of activity @ Tuxford to raise funds for an orphanage in Kenya and raised £1100. The organisation is local and is called Children in Kenya (CHinK)

MIL really enjoyed herself and typically bought a load of rubbish to bring back home.

If anyone ever reads this and would like to to sponsor an orphan for £10 pm (every penny gets there) please let me know. Your £10 will feed him or her, educate and clothe them every day. A little goes a long way over there...especially when they have nothing. We plan to go over and help out with building the school house next year and we are really looking forward to making a difference.

Actually, it's best if you just visit the website...

For now...the hallway! Today's the day we make a good impression and substantial progress. I've only got 4 weeks before going to France and these jobs just have to be done.

Go for it Ken!

Friday, April 24, 2009

The French connection

I didn't hear the dawn chorus again this morning but I feel great all the same.
The morning sun is shimmering through the dining room flooding it with warmth and light.
This is a vast improvement of the weather of two Friday's ago as we walked the streets of Oxford.

We had to wrap up well but still enjoyed the experience. Apparently all our most promising students would study in France back in the days before cornflakes, colour telly, computers and karaoke.

There was a spat between the two sovereign heads...not for the first time I suspect, resulting in France spitting their dummy out along with our students.
Thus Oxford was born and quickly became the new centre of academia and all things fine.

This of course may not have been the's just my interpretation as I shuffled behind a multi-national mix of tour junkies following our pidgeon toed but excellent guide.

Who'd have thought there was such a connection to our most prized of cities. I was only really interested in 'Inspector Morse' and where they filmed but I certainly got more than I expected.

We trundled every street as if it was Venice and learned loads about the place. My favouite building was the Radcliffe library. I really felt something for Dr John Radcliffe.
Had he lived, he would have been 302 years older than me.

Apparently he was just a humble Yorkshireman born in Wakefield who graduated from Oxford and went on to become the Royal 'Diagnostic' Pysician to William 111 and Mary. In 1707 he was worth £80,000 ( started out charging 20 guineas a go).

He died in 1714 in Carshalton (I passed my swimming test there in the '60's) and bequeathed £40,000 to the university to build the library.
They started building immediately after the funeral. The sad thing was that he didn't even see the plans.

The building was the first circular reference library in the country and is widely regarded as the hub of oxford university. The place certainly left an impression on's incredibly beautiful.

I can't help but wonder how much £40,000 back in 1714 is worth in current money.

Tomorrow I'm looking forward to decorating our hall at a total price of a few quid. Life is good.

Speaking of French connections...Frederick ( our exchange student from France way back in the 80's) has made contact. I'm really looking forward to 'catch-up'.

I'm off for a slow walk over the field to work now.

The Radcliffe library...note the twisted bikes in the foreground.

The french word for library is la bibliotheque

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Get it right! France update.

There was very little air last night and for some strange reason we didn't have a dawn chorus. I woke up feeling very groggy and every bit my age and not full of the joys of spring like yesterday. What a difference a day makes.
After a good bath I felt a different person and decided to search for my 2003 journal to see how accurate my memory was of buying our house in are the results.

It wasn't Summer when we decided to buy a place in France. We set off on Thursday 22nd May 2003 for Poole to catch the Condor ferry to StMalo. We met up with Phil & Pat in the B&Q car park and then drove straight onto the ferry.

Our friend Jill and her husband met us as we docked and we followed them to their place (actually they had two properties) near Guilliers. We had something to eat in Guilliers itself.

It wasn't until the Saturday (rainy) which was the 24th May that we saw Bel-Air and signed the agreement before going off to Mohon to celebrate at Brumbilly's ( I think that's what it was called...I'm feeling groggy again!

Eileen has just emailed me her account...she is always more accurate!

On the day we bought Bel-Air, it wasn't quite like you said. We got the addresses of two properties to look at. We went to Bel-Air first, looked through the windows because we didn't have the keys and fell in love with it, then looked at the other property until it was time for the estate agents to reopen at 2. We managed to get the keys and at that time we told them we definitely wanted to buy the property for the asking price. We all felt anxious at lunchtime that we might lose the house and decided to go for it there and then before we had gone inside. I remember the discussion. I also remember thinking - that's two houses David and I have bought before we've actually gone inside - did the same with 124 Davies.

We went back to Bel-Air with the keys and had a good look round. We then went back to Josselin to sign the paperwork.

Thanks for that Eileen.

The weather dramatically improved after this and we still went to see other properties while exploring the area. We visited Vannes, Auray, Lac au Duc, Cruguel, La Gascilly and Roche Bernard and Gary's place at Radenac. Goodness knows how many villages we passed on the way.

We also experienced our very first Fez-Noz, although our poor command of the French language resulted in the locals at the door thinking David and I were gay. You must think carefully before opening your mouth.

Anyway, that's the official record but the feeling was the was fantastic to have a house in France after all the dreams, plans and 'What if's'. It was the real deal!

The real deal right now is dealing with the here and now. Karen's (she sits next to me) friend had a brain haemorrhage last night and therefore will be leaving at lunch time today to help out. She was out shopping with her last weekend and is understandably upset at how sudden and unexpected it all is.

Apparently they were buying clothes and things for the forthcoming holiday...a holiday that will never now materialize.

I'm starting to change my attitude for today as I've a lot to be thankful for...excluding our greedy politicians of course, who currently occupy front page status for awarding themselves allowances and pay rises beyond our capacity to understand. My blood boils. Perhaps the French weren't far off the mark with the guillotine! Somebody should give them the chop, that's for sure!

A vigorous reality shake in the hope their heads might roll off is my unrealistic and unkind thought of the day. Better still...let St George's dragon slay the greedy beggars on this 'proud to be English' day that no one is allowed to celebrate in case we upset someone.
Don't worry, I've already repented and am ready to stand in line and be good...until tomorrow!

The French for Accurate information is...les reseignements precis (with accent)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

1st Class Stamp

Absolutely shocked! I went to buy a first class stamp on Monday for my grandson's birthday card and was charged 39p. This was more a kick than a stamp. I checked yesterday that he received it and he had...I was ready to be the grumpy old man waiting at the gates of my local sorting office.

In the evening I walked to the White Hart in the centre of Newark for an Artists meeting to sort out this year's open studio programme. I declined the role of chairman as I'm just too busy catching up this year, but I left with the promise of being involved. As I walked home through this beautiful town centre, Bev rang to say she would pick me up (in her PJ's). Before reaching home, Ash had pulled us over to say he'd passed the interview for the PSO's and is very happy.
On balance, I prefer the best news last. The stamp no longer affects me. Fewer people will get a Christmas card this year.

Today is glorious. there are so many birds chattering in the early morning sun that it feels great to be alive. I walked to work with Bev this morning and am ready for the challenges of the day.

The French word for stamp is ...le timbre.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The French Experience

One minute we were dreaming of windsurfing the channel and compiling our 'bucket lists' in the back room of our good friends David & Eileen Flinn and the next thing I was reading 'Buying a Home in France' by David Hampshire...a Christmas or birthday gift no doubt given as a result of one of our crazy mad-cap 'discussions' of what it might be like to get away from it all.
Get away we that memorable year of 2000 when the world's computer's still worked and hadn't ushered in global chaos and the end of the world at the stroke of midnight 1999...yes, the world's press would have us believe it would.

We had been tracking Lance Armstrong and planned to be in Paris for his second Tour de France victory. What a victory it was so good to be a part of it all. In fact, we couldn't get out of the centre of Paris as the cyclists zoomed around us...we were trapped and very hot. We paddled...or at least the kids that glass pyramid 'thingy' of which I'll remember in a bit.

The holiday was further entrenched in history when Concorde crashed. The newsagents windows and bill-boards displayed vivid, dramatic pictures, but we couldn't understand the captions...they being in French and all.
We continued our journey out of ile-de-France, across several departments of the Loire valley to the Vendee and then up into Brittany via that frightening bridge of the town twinned with's on the tip of my tongue!

Our friend Gary lived in Brittany (still does) so we dropped in to see him. It was glorious weather and it was easy to fall in love with the place, especially when Gary gave us some idea of how much we can expect to pay for the kind of property he was living in. We couldn't wait!

It wasn't until the Summer of 2003 however, that we determined to buy. Three couples...David & Eileen, Phil & Pat and Ken & Bev.

As romantic as the notion of searching for a French house to buy was, the reality soon kicked in. It was so disappointing to see the actual locations of what looked ideal on the internet.

I was particularly depressed on the very day we struck gold. It was by chance we saw the property as we flicked though a folder at a Josselin English owned estate agents. We saw the property but found out that a couple already had the keys and were looking at it.

The place was typically about to close as it was now gone 12:00 (it always catches us out). We took the address however and went searching for it, found it, fell in love with it (peered through the windows), dashed back with hearts thumping and hopes soaring to learn that the previous couple had also like it and were considering an offer as they looked at another property to compare it to. We took the keys and dashed back to look at the inside, liked what we saw...loads of potential, rushed back to the estate agents thinking the worse and made an offer that was immediately accepted by the owner who was working in the Far-East.

Once verbally accepted it's yours in French law! The other couple..and one notable 'other' also wanted it, but it was too late. He who hesitates, loses. We were on cloud nine. We'd grasped the nettle. We'd done it. We'd actually done more speculation, no more searching, it was ours and, although it was some time before it was legally ours ( the French do things at their own pace) the outcome was never in doubt, there would be no gazumping.

Thus began our great adventure. I'll give regular updates on how it has affected our lives. It'll either inspire you or put you off for life.

An early picture of the kitchen...

And how it was a year ago...everything is fitted now.

View from the bread oven, an early picture of Bel-Air...

And now... And after we got rid of some weeds...

And ivy...

This photo isn't the latest. It's finished now.

This was the back garden...And how it is at the moment.

David & Eileen's living room before...actually, I can find an even earlier one.

And as it is at the moment.

An early photo of our living room...
And now...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Why now?

I've wanted a transparent journal for a long time to replace my 'too private' hard copy, so that family and friends can drop in and see what I'm up to...make sure I'm okay etc!

I also wanted to give an idea of what preparations we are making to live in France.

Ashley & Amber (our baby son and his wife) are here at the moment. Bev&Amber are in the garden enjoying a lazy chat in the warm afternoon sunshine. Ashley is here with me getting frustrated at the speed of my computer.

ManU have just lost to Everton in the FA Cup Semi-Final...justice! Mother in Law is upset and is threatening violence...she's well capable!

As devout 'Mormons' we wouldn't normally watch TV on Sunday, but important live football games is 'my one little weakness' are good period drama's like 'Larkrise to Candleford'.

Well, what do you know. Bev is super calm after I've just spilt the drink over the computer desk that she came in to make for me ...Ashley is cleaning it up right now as I calmly carry on typing. 'Surprised no one is telling me off (I'm waiting for the delayed reaction along with a second drink...ouch!)

Here's our garden starting to blossom...