Monday, November 30, 2009

Spiders, bats and candlelight

On reading Jean's post about Christmas at A Very Grand Pressigny, I was filled with nostalgia and anticipation about our place in Brittany.

We haven't spent a Christmas there yet, but that could all change in 2010.  Everything has now been done to prevent heat from sealing windows, fitting internal doors, floors laid, boarding and insulation installed throughout.  The wood-burning fire is just waiting to show off and we are just waiting to see if it's man enough for the job. To back-up the wood burner we have heaters in every room (new and ever-changing regulations).

Not so long ago we had bats flying around our  electricity-less, mouse infested, draughty, cold and uncomfortable spider paradise.  We were able to see daylight from any room and I know there were more creatures iside than was ever intended. Nature had already took a stranglehold of the exterior and was rapidly reclaiming the interior.

How well we remember our pre-electricity candle-lit evenings of a thousand shadows amidst a total building site of an interior.

I think this is par for the course for all who buy French properties for renovation.

It has been a labour of which we eagerly wait and hope for love to evolve. Okay, so we fell in love with it first and its been hard labour ever since. We were smitten, but had we known then what we have since experienced we would perhaps have thought twice about getting involved in such a venture. It was all to do with the heart rather than the mind, so perhaps we would have been prepared to go through anything anyway.

We're glad we didn't give up. Too many give up at the first and subsequent hurdles.  Too many throw in the towel instead of resolving to work hard through all the storms and disappointments to the point where the sun shines and burns brightly (this is beginning to sound like a marriage!)

Anyway, such ventures really do share some of the characteristics of a successful marriage...commitment, dedication, sacrifice and love.

Well thanks very much Jean! Because of you setting me off,  I have no room or time to write about  today's experiences. I'm only kidding, of course!  It has been good to ramble on a little about the place.  It brought back some fond memories.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Church, carols, birthdays and bright lights.

The skies were dark and angry and the rain eventually poured on the way to church this morning but once inside it was warm, bright and friendly. The 18-26yr old Young Single Adults spoke to us...and the theme was?  You've guessed it!

Steph...Knowledge of Christ.
Deb...Who is Christ?
James...Suffering of Christ
Hannah...Death conquered through Christ
Daryl...Personal testimony of Christ in scripture and beyond.

Lydia, Deb, Suzanne and Martha also sang to us.
The other meetings were similarly uplifting.

This afternoon we dropped David and Helen Bourne into the centre of Newark ready for the Christmas Carol singing by the Carlton Male Voice Choir and the official turning on of the lights.

We missed the lights but dropped by afterwards to see them on our return from the family gathering to celebrate Ashley's 24th birthday.

It was a jam-packed day but very enjoyable.

Check these out...

David Bourne and John Collier up in bright lights...they sang really well.

Now our turn...

Bev and me up on the big screen at last...

Can't resist another...this time with Helen.

Bev with Edith later on...

Edith with...

Some of the lights just before entering the square (Bev in the car dazzling me)...out of focus but never mind.

Yes, it was a really good day with the family and, even though Juli was too far away to attend she was able to sing 'happy birthday' to Ashley with us via hands-free mobile.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Lost for words

We've seen rain, snow, sunshine, family and friends.
We have laughed, had good food, good company and great experiences.
We've lived and loved this day.

I should write all about it but I'm just too tired.  I'll have a hot drink instead and go to bed happy.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Tragedy for Stefan, family and friends

What a tragedy this story is from The Times today...

"A former university student and grammar schoolboy was crushed to death in the back off a bin lorry after falling into a life of drink and drugs.

Stefan Tomkins, 31, was killed after he fell asleep in an industrial refuse container as he sheltered from the rain. He was unable to escape when the bin was emptied into the back of a truck containing a powerful crusher".

His parents had thrown him out of the family home because of his lifestyle and it's effect on them.  How must they feel now! I really feel for them.  Where can they turn for peace when something like that happens?

Tomorrow we go to the's a place where we go for peace amongst other things, but first we'll be attending our church welfare meeting tonight. 

For those who don't know, our welfare meeting is a committee that meets every month in an effort to identify and assist those in need. Such committees are replicated throughout the world within our church. No doubt Christians the world over and across hundreds of denominations are involved with similar good work. It's a shame Stefan won't benefit but hopefully others will.

I feel very fortunate that up to now I'm living a tragedy-free existence...long may it continue.

On the way home I was not too proud to stoop to pick up a penny.  I didn't even look to see if anyone was watching.

Today marked my last full working week at Vodafone.  I'll only be working Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in future and painting Thursday and Friday.  I feel quite pleased that I've actually done something to change my life experience...hopefully for the better.

So, from next Friday I'll be posting my efforts over the two days, and the expectation is that I will have produced one marketable work of art each week.

Mmm!  Do I feel pressure already?

Preston Temple...

We'll pick Jon up from Leeds on the way...really looking forward to the day!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Film night.

The Times newspaper have listed the 100 best films of the decade and guess how many we've been to see?  Only nine...

  • Devil Wears Prada
  • Hotel Rwanda
  • About Schmidt
  • Finding Nemo
  • Gladiator
  • Being John Malkovitch
I don't believe it!  In the background I have a quiz show showing on TV and just as I typed Malkovitch, Jeremy Vine asked a question about the film and said Malkovitch at exactly the same time.  Now what are the chances of that happening? It's amazing!
  • Minority Report
  • The Queen
  • Bourne Supremacy
I think the reason that we've only seen nine is partly to do with us never considering '18' rated movies or '15' without close scrutiny and boy, you certainly have to scrutinise 'em these days.

We've seen a lot more than nine but for some reason they aren't in The Times top 100.

Tonight we're watching Catherine Cookson's 'Dinner of Herbs'...old but good!

I was ill this afternoon and I've put it down to the beef we had on Sunday that I made sandwiches with today.

This evening I repaired the wing of the chair MIL knocked off, but had to go out and buy a countersink bit (left mine in France).

While we were out we checked out the two new shops that have just opened...Next and Peacocks.

In Next we saw a long slim 3' high solid oak sideboard with drawers and cupboards...perfect for the right-hand side of our fireplace in France. It's so elegant and timeless.  If it's in the sale in January we'll be tempted beyond our ability to resist.

Finished the for the film.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Christmas plans...

Oh my word, we almost slept in this morning! It was a rush to get up and out.  I am feeling every single one of my 32 years!

I'm at work now and thinking of Christmas. It's fast approaching and there is still so much to be decided.

We still aren't sure if Boxing Day will be spent in Sunderland, Mansfield, Leeds or Newark.  We don't know where the tree will be located and we haven't even started with presents (children excluded).

Are we bothered? No!   It'll be an uncomplicated and simple time. We'll be together somewhere and we'll be happy enough.

This year we've asked for a card through the postal system with an additional wrapped card inside containing our children's Christmas memories.  We'll put these under the tree...wherever that may be.  It's going to be so good to open and read them on Christmas morning.

There is also a family challenge out there with the adults only, to come up with the most original and thoughtful  present...costing under £5.  We're offering a prize for the one voted the winner.

We'll be starting the day on our own with a traditional early morning walk.  It's a great way to begin the day.  When the kids were growing up it was a time to reflect and talk about the Christmas Story as well as things we appreciate in life. It wasn't always a popular activity because they were eager to open their presents but they now look back on those times with do we!

By lunch time we will be at Martin & Sarah's for Christmas turkey.

That's it! The rest is as clear as mud...for now at least!

We've been out visiting tonight and, although enjoyable, we are back feeling tired and the worse for wear.

Time for bed.  Let's hope we don't sleep-in tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Black, white and grey

I was trying to think the other day of when I first became aware of colour. As a kid everything seemed to be black or white...planes, bikes, cars, ambulances, footware, police uniforms, newspapers, photographs, watch-straps and TV.  Then there was grey for things like overcoats and battleships.

Americans spell it Gray and are convinced they are right, but we were first!

All right clever-clogs, I know black and white are colours too, but you know what I mean.

I think it was lipstick that first made me aware of real colour. No, I didn't have a use for it, but I remember my mother scrubbing up once or twice and giving me a smacker on the way to a rare outing.

It may have been my first sighting of a ladybird or the blue twist of salt in a packet of crisps or even the blue tissue of the individually wrapped fruit.  Incidentally, I emptied the contents of a crushed packet of crisps recently and was shocked at how much we pay for so little.  I've gone right off crisps. Mars bars aren't as big as they were either.

Bev also noticed that schloer bottles have become smaller but the price has increased.  In France you may think you are buying a tin of paint but when you open it you'll find only two thirds.  French paint sucks!

Anyway, I concluded that the first colour I became aware of other than what was caked in my nappy, was red...probably my own blood as a result of my dad's army issue leather belt.

I also remember watching the animals being slaughtered in the slaughterhouse down by the quay and watching the blood flow.  I can't believe they used to allow us kids to line up and watch.  Once, a bull panicked and escaped, which sent us scurrying down the alleyway with the beast not far behind us.  That was real fear for all concerned I suppose but more particularly for me who only had two legs.  The alleyway is still there and so is the shop at the bottom that I ran into for safety.

I also remember the black shawled widows bent over with age and who I imagined at the time to be witches.  If I thought one was looking directly at me I wouldn't dare make eye contact in case she turned me into a cat or something.

Black & White is the theme for our team Christmas decor this year...thought I'd just mention it.

I wish the newly proposed employee pension plans were as black and about confusing!

Black things that I like...liquorice, black pudding and that dress Bev once wore.  I'm also partial to black BMW's although to be honest I'd take any colour.

Today has been a bit grey but at least I haven't been rained on.

I'm looking forward to relaxing tonight.  I've just made tea for Bev (I don't do it as often as I should) it was only a jacket and filling but she appreciates things like that when she's tired.

I'm off to put a little colour back into her life.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Aladdin stages

Just a little reminder...Sunderland 1 Arsenal 0.   Miracles do happen!

It's freaky weather today...thunder, lightning and lots of rain.  It's a good job I'm indoors and nice and warm.

Spent the whole evening preparing a surprise while Bev is out (it's for Christmas so don't say anything!)

Sarah, Me,  Martin and Lawrance...ready and waiting.

Starting to fill up...

The cast...

More photos to come of the performance.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Bev should soon be arriving in Sunderland.  Yes, she's left me!

I've been trying to put my finger on the reason.  Was it because I took half the ceiling off the main bedroom yesterday?  Was it my acting last night?  Is she really a closet Arsenal fan? Was it the thought of another week with me?

No, It's because our baby Juli needs her Mum!

Isn't it strange how the house feels empty when the person you love isn't there?  I'm trying not to feel the void. Norah Jones isn't helping.  Martin showed me how to transfer my CD's onto the mac and put Norah on there for me.  I'm looking forward to getting all my CD's transferred...not on a Sunday though.

I've been quietly reflecting on life since Martin and Sarah left an hour or so ago.  Quite often church has that affect on me.

Knowing as I do that there is life after death makes me think even more of how I'm living the one currently being occupied and what I think I should be doing with the rest of it...or what I can be doing to make the most of it.

I've been wondering about the things that may be considered clutter.   Should I have a blog for instance?  If yes, does it need to be daily?  Would I be able to create more time to study scriptures and French if I was blogless?  Would the lack of one contribute to more relaxation and time with Bev?

These are some of the thoughts floating around my head today.

I've concluded that I've been writing a daily journal all my adult life and I'm not sure if I can stop now.  I need to express myself and make sense of my daily experiences.  Yes, doing this on a blog is more time consuming, but much preferred to the journal in the attic option. I love to meet real people the world over and share thoughts and ideas.  Some people spend hours on games, TV or just lazing around so I don't consider time spent on what I do as wasteful.  It energizes me as I do something constructive!

I can have a weekly blog journal, but the one thought that is ever-present is one of the sense of loss at me not knowing what my Mother was doing, thinking or feeling on the days leading to her death. I understand the fact that she could have been too ill to communicate anything, but on the other hand she may have been happy, well and vividly expressive and I would have wanted to share it with her.  I just don't like the idea of my children not knowing what occupied my time and thoughts up to the very last day, so I'm afraid it will remain a daily blog journal.

It's my life and I want to communicate every single day one day at a time.  A week is too long and the content too selective for a complete picture.

The format can change however, and I'm looking at how I can incorporate everything I need to...paintings for instance, along with my life history and learning French which were destined to become separate blogs in the near future.  Some days will be very short with only room for one short post which could well be "Too tired to write and it's been a rotten day".

I think change is necessary.  I never want to stagnate, vegetate or grow old alone and forgotten. I never want to be mediocre even if I am. I never want to close my mind or dampen my will. I never want to be toothless AND thoughtless or without opinion. I want to learn, grow and experience.  I want to participate and contribute, empathise and commiserate. I want to give, love, feel, share and do until I'm not able to and hope that it will be up to my very last day.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Storm before the calm...

Bev is off to rendezvous with her daughters-in-law @ the Showcase Cinemas in Nottingham, leaving me behind to get on with things.  I feel more like Cinders than Aladdin but Hey!Ho!

I'm very much looking forward to the end of this hectic, hectic week!

It's cold, overcast and drizzling so I'm working on the front bedroom.  Here is my list for today (yes, where would we be without them?)
  1. Remove the 16 hinges and four handles from the wardrobe doors in preparation for painting them.  No, you fool!  The doors... not the hinges and handles!
  2. Remove the remainder of the wall-paper that was put up to hide the cracks in the ceiling.
  3. Cover the door-less wardrobes before sanding the ceiling or consider marriage counselling.
  4. Re-direct the position of the light switches from the loft.
  5. Fill the cracks in the ceiling.
  6. If time, sand the dried filling.
  7. Tidy up (if you know what's good for you).
Also...learn the lines that you forgot at the dress rehearsal last night.  Tonight is the night and I can't afford people laughing at me (fat chance!)

Catch up with Blog posts (done!)

I enjoyed The Machinist's Wife, French Fancy and especially A Foreign Quang as it coincided with my thoughts in the wake of our current flooding.

Robin has just called by to borrow a spade and we've tentatively arranged to go around during the week to see the still without a name baby.

Right!  I'd better get moving.  This is the nearest I'll get to being a "Twitter".

Now, do I take the radio to listen to Arsenal beating Sunderland as they surely will? Mmmm, yes I will, because you never can tell!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Children in Need...

I compiled this quiz for our workplace today. Can you answer any of them? By the way, I do not watch soaps...I had to look them up...except for the Simpsons and Ena Sharples.

Thanks Eileen for the answer to the minim question.  It would have been embarrassing to have set the question and not be sure of the answer...I was a 1/4 out!  It's no wonder I didn't get past grade 1V.

Unfortunately I'll miss most of CinN tonight as I have a dress rehearsal for the performance tomorrow night.  I'll catch a little of it but there is no way I'll be in a fit state to follow it into the early hours.

Children in Need General Quiz.

1. Name five colours beginning with 'P'.
2. What is the nickname of the bronze boxing medallist in the Beijing Olympics of last year?
3. Model 5,202,412...the last ever, rolled off the production line @ Halewood. What was its name?
4. Which "always will be famous” 18yr old was photographed cleaning toilets in December 2000? His Mum is even more famous!
5. What is the name of the Vodafone Group CEO, his star sign, when he was married, how many children he has and which army is he a reserve officer of? (1 point only, because we ought to know something about the man who regularly sends us emails and keeps us employed).

*Bonus question: Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special winners 2008…who were they?

6. Holby City...when Jess Griffin first arrived, what job was she given at the hospital by her dad?
7. What is the name of Emmerdale's Chastity Dingle's son?
8. Ena Sharples sat in the snug of The Rover's Return with two other women. Name them and which one wore the glasses?
9. Charlotte in LOST became a Cultural Anthropologist. Why? (5 points)
10. Who lives in the home of the Simpsons?

*Bonus question: The actor who played "Callan" died this week. What was his name? (15 points)

11. In any competition, what was the longest penalty shoot-out before someone MISSED?
13. Sunderland beat which team to win their last FA Cup Final and who managed that team?
14. The Premiership has how many teams, what is the name of the ground of the team propping it up and has Derby County ever been a Premiership team?
15. Notts County was established in this year.
16. Forest's City ground has what seating capacity?
*Bonus question: There isn’t one. Make one up and if you get the answer correct, give yourself 5 points

17. Who sang "My Ding A Ling" (5 points)
18. Who won 2007 "X" Factor, where does he come from and what football team does he support?
19. What is the value of a minim + a crotchet + a semi-quaver?
20. Robbie Williams met up with which group this week in preparation for Children in Need today. Where did they meet, and what was the final song sung?
21. Who is currently # 1 in the singles charts?

*Bonus question: Which group opened last year's Children in Need show?

Children in Need XTRA bonus questions 10 points each correct answer...

21. When was the very first broadcast for Children in Need, how long was the broadcast and how much did it raise?
22. What year was the first dedicated 'whole evening' programme for raising money for Children in need, who fronted it and how much did it raise?
23. How much was raised last year for Children in Need
*Final random bonus question: Up to August 2009, how many VF employees were there in both Newark sites?


Thursday, November 19, 2009

End of the day...

What a day!  We are out on bail at last. I tell you what, these government officials are pretty hot.  Yes, of course I'm kidding!

I've just arrived home with Bev and MIL and my eyelids are as heavy as dumb-bells.

On our journey home in the dark we passed dozens of homes with curtains open and lights on.  It was interesting to see how people decorate their walls and rooms. I'm glad I'm back in our house with the lights on.  I've closed the curtains cos I don't like people being nosy! Ha! Ha!

I'm now about to have a hot milky drink and a chocolate biscuit before hitting the pillar...make that pillow (I've got my wall on the brain).

Lots happened today but I'm just too tired to write now.  I'm even too tired to check on my blog friends.

I like my blog friends...It's nice to know there are good people out there.

I've been longing for this...the end of the day.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bev at the bottom of the garden...again!

I almost choked when Bev casually mentioned that Keith Woodward had died yesterday.  Keith is a good friend of the family as well as being Serene's dad.  What she meant to say was that Edward Woodward the actor had died.

I've never been happier to hear of his demise even though I liked him a great deal.
I've enjoyed his acting ever since he played 'Callan' between 1967-72...especially the early B&W episodes.

Here he is with 'Lonely'.


I don't know why I liked it so much because he always ended up killing somebody...usually a Russian agent. 

I suppose he was the less glam pre-James Bond without a hint of adoring women.  He was a cultured, chess-loving reluctant government assassin who was every bit as lonely as his 'snitch' and every bit as much an outcast too.

Speaking of government officials...I reckon we'll be getting a visit from one soon if this (see picture) turns out to be what I think it is.

Bev dug it out from the garden the other day.  Now I know why she's always anxious to spend time in the garden.


What do you think?  It looks like she's already been nibbling at it!
She took it into work yesterday to get the verdict from the 'Professionals'.  She insists a bird must have dropped the seed but I have my doubts.  Can you remember how often I've said how happy I THOUGHT she was  down at the bottom of the garden... for hours on end? Well, now I KNOW she was really happy and I know WHY!

We'll just have to see what government visitors we get over the next week or so.

On the way home tonight I accompanied Sonia down the dark alleyway and across the dark field as she was too afraid to go alone and needed to get home quickly.  Normally she would walk the long way round. She was surprised as we eventually approached where I live as she'd been passing the house every day admiring the progress but had no idea I lived there.

Tonight I have to finish the quiz for Children in Need day at work on Friday.  For once I'm certain to get all the questions right...but still not getting a prize!  

(There's something going wrong with my text size by the looks of it.)

Congratulations to Niki on the birth of her baby girl yesterday...and Robin, of course!  No name yet.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Forty people gave blood yesterday from my workplace and I was one of them.

I was pleased that my iron levels were above means Bev is giving me a balanced diet.

I was horrified at the form I had to fill in regarding lifestyle... and the size of the needle, but soon I was content with my life's blood ebbing away.

As I was stretched out recovering on the couch gazing at the grey clouds and lashing rain outside, I considered what else I could donate for the good of others.

Organs! Yes, they'd have to wait until I die but I could do that! Will there be implications?  Not to my health I concluded, but what about the resurrection?  Nope! I don't think there'll be a problem as a good proportion of deaths are of the blown to bits variety covering all wars and even times of peace.  It very nearly happened to me once...I suppose it can only happen once anyway.

When I was 21 I lived in Leeds and worked in a carpet shop for a while (it's now a restaurant).  One of my responsibilities was to light the boiler on the Winter mornings.  It was a monster of a boiler. To light it I had to screw up a few sheets of newspaper, light it, lie on the cellar floor, turn the gas on and stretch over to the pilot lights with my blazing newspaper.  Yes, you've guessed it.  I became the recipient of a blow-back which knitted my eyes together and frizzled my hair.  I was dragged out by my feet by Melvin and spent the rest of the day at "Jimmies"Hospital.  I wasn't exactly blown up but it felt like it.

Anyway, back to the resurrection.  I'm undecided. If I donate various organs I may have to organise a search party to reclaim what's mine and argue the toss if they haven't the common decency to return what originally wasn't theirs.  It sounds as if it could be fun! We'll see!

Perhaps I'll keep my eyes as they won't be much good to anyone else and I may well need them to go looking for other bits.

The resurrection is an interesting topic.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The strange case of the Darwins...

It's really too cold and blustery this morning to contemplate a paddle in my non existent canoe.  What fancy I take it anyway and plan to disappear?  My broken, deserted-washed up on the beach-red canoe will be the only clue to my supposed untimely and tragic death?

Once things have quietened down my wife can join me in faraway Panama City clutching a purse crammed with falsely claimed life insurance and pension funds. We could then peacefully live out our days in exquisite excess and kindlier climes to those offered by the harsh North-East of England.

Perfect! And it almost worked...not for me Mr Squeeky Clean Ken, but for John & Anne who are now left high and dry without a paddle between them.

Last week the Times featured this strange case of John Darwin who faked his own death with help from his devoted wife Anne way back in 2002. They intended to live a cosy life with life insurance and pension claims.  They were rumbled last year and last week the sentence was at last announced and justice metered out which saw them stripped of all assets and consigned back to jail...straight to jail, do not pass "GO" , do not collect £200.

I may already have told you about my connection with this case, but it's worth repeating.

No, I didn't sell him the canoe or arranged the life insurance.  Nor did I ever live next door to them even though I'm from the region in question.  I never did nor ever will meet them, yet there is a connection which was in evidence a long, long time ago.

Flash-back to 1968...I had recently left school and was back home in my native North-East England and shortly after that returned to live with my mother for the first time in about eight years.

To shorten the story, I was pushed into a relationship with one of the daughters of my mum's best friend and duly obliged.

I remember well my feeling hot under the collar as we sat in front of a blazing fire on the sofa in their front room with her sisters and mother watching our every move.  The family delighted in plying me with information that made her blush but I eventually found the opening to get ourselves excused so we could be alone before it got too late.

We ended up outside on the step in the freezing cold.  I almost wished we were back on the least I was warmer and a lot closer to her. I eventually edged closer and held her hand before plotting my move to kiss her goodnight but was horrified that a drip had formed at the end of my nose and was threatening to drop at the crucial moment.  I'm sure she saw it shimmering in the frosty air and illuminated by lamplight.

Anyway, before that fateful moment, I had learned that her younger brother had died.  Isn't it funny how you wait for positive conversation to be romantic but when you get news like that, all you can do is stare ahead in silence after an awkward apology and search for something comforting to say.

I wouldn't recommend first dates in February.  I don't think we felt inclined to see each other again but the family remained friends.

Fast forward 40 years...and my sister and I are reminiscing about the old days and she suddenly remembers the Jones family and recalls seeing my "girlfriend" in the newspaper trying to get a petition together to stop easy access to death certificates for illegal passport use.

Then it dawned on me.  I had read about John Darwin assuming the identity of a baby boy that had died from Sunderland's East End...only now was it confirmed to be the brother of my first date and family friend.

That's it!  A sad case and painful memories for many reasons.

We've gone from Flash-Back to Fast-Forward and now it's almost  time to watch Flash-Forward.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Another special day...

I've been that busy this afternoon transferring everything over from my old pc and emailing family and friends that time has caught up with me.  I've had emails from 2006 to read through and decide if I should has worn me out!

Its been a really good day all the same although MIL is very quiet and didn't eat with us today.  I hope she hasn't remembered the conversation with Juli last night!  I'll do some investigating tomorrow.

I wanted to post something about the Darwin couple but it will have to wait for another day as I'm out of time and should be tucked up in bed.

Thinking about it, perhaps it isn't really suitable for Sunday anyway.

I should remember to keep Sunday special...which has been the case today.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Tip, rehearsals, siesta, decor and football.

It was dry when we got up so we crammed the car with all the rubble bags and emptied them at the local tip. From the tip we cut across country and dropped something at the Flinns before carrying on up to our rehearsal.

The rehearsal went really well and it was great to see youngsters, students and oldies like me struggle to get the songs, words and dances together.  It's going to be great next Saturday...and a laugh, as I'm sure there'll be some who'll forget their lines and cues.  Hopefully not me.

The weather turned wintry on the way back to Newark so we stopped for a meal at Lord Ted as a bit of a treat.

It's way too wintry now to work on the wall and garden, so it's a little siesta and then we'll be starting the front bedroom.  It's our goal to have it all finished and move back in by Christmas.

Actually, we started it a while ago and have already dumped the carpet, but we can do some more on it now.  I only have this bedroom, front wall,  garden and a little bit of the kitchen to finish and I'll have completed all of the jobs I set myself this year...and a few more besides!

I enjoyed last night as we chilled with the Flinns.  It's only a couple of treats and general chat about anything and everything but we find it very relaxing.

Juli must have read my blog because she rang us there to ask when I'll be available to do some work.  I guess she's lucky I'm ahead of myself.

Actually, I remember now.  She phoned her grandma (MIL) and congratulated her on overcoming her fear of water and flying. She didn't read my blog carefully enough, and almost caused civil war.  Sorry Juli, I don't think I can help you now.

Mmm, I don't know!  I suppose she did at least warn me of what she'd done.  She also told me that she's unable to post comments on my blog.  My comments on a few other blogs haven't posted either so I guess there could be a temporary hiccup.

England play Brazil this evening so it's bonding time with MIL again.  Hopefully she will have forgotten the conversation with her granddaughter last night, in which case Juli could still be lucky.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A chilling Friday the 13th...

My thoughts on this Friday the 13th go to Chris and Juli and family.

I was intrigued by the fact that they met each other on the 13th. It was the 13th that the offer was accepted on the house they currently are moving from...which is number 13.  They met each other on the 13th and now today(the 13th) they become the legal owners of the new house... which is also number 13.

I hope everything goes well! We're thinking of you.

The number one (1) resonates with us Juli...

You were our first-born. You were the first to bring joy into our lives. The first of our children to leave home...which brought us more joy (kidding!) The first of our children to be married...even greater joy, and I'm not kidding! You were also the first of our children to have beyond measure.

Sooooo, I hope you realise that whatever you do next also brings with it expectation. No pressure!!

Up to now, this Friday 13 has to be my happiest.

I've just had my 1/2 yearly PD at work and they are happy too.  Our little team have saved the company so much money that we are rolled out to the powers-that-be as shining examples and a pattern for the future.  Although our individual bank balances will remain impoverished, it's nice to be appreciated.

Tonight we are chilling with David and Eileen... quite appropriate for Friday the 13th!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Je suis très èttonné que

Yes, I was amazed to see on Roy Evans Burstiner's blog the photo of Jacques Brel.  I've been trying to remember his name for months as I'd like to download some of his music from iTunes. 

I don't know what he sings about-probably politics and love- but he sings with passion and conviction and has a voice so powerful it makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.  I know he isn't a native of France, but the sound of the French language he uses is very attractive. It sounds raw and unrefined unlike those who covered his songs. My impression of the short introduction to him is that he was the Dylan of France. He also reminds me of Piaf the way he seems to wear life on his sleeve(is that the right expression?) and just sings his heart out and lets his emotions flow.   I saw a documentary about the 60's and 70's and there he was.  I can't say I approve of his lifestyle but as a singer he immediately caught my attention.  He's definitely up there in my top 20.

This post has published prematurely again.  It published as I was fiddling around trying to get French accents.  Can anyone let me know how to use French accents on my keyboard?

I'd like to finish the post if I get back in time from my meetings tonight...hopefully about 10:00pm.

It was pouring with real English grotty rain all the way to Bridgford but I had a fantastic time trying to learn the song Arabian Nights. The car rocked and I got a few strange looks as people overtook me.

On the way back home the rain had passed so it was easier to drive and sing.  More strange looks but I was determined to learn the song during the forty minute drive.

Bev had waited up for me and became the the one-woman audience and usherette for the special performance-without looking at the words. Yes!  That means I've learned all my words now with just over a week to go.  I didn't think I'd be able to pull the song in as well.  A week is just enough time to polish everything up.

Very happy...I just hope I don't have strange dreams as my brain tries to make sense of what I'm cramming in there.

Thanks for the advice Randi.  I haven't tried it yet, but I'll check it out tomorrow.

Bon nuit mes amis.

Next morning.  Oh it's dead easy on the mac Randi!  I've found the shortcut keys and it also works with Word.  Thanks!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

MIL...strong, stubborn, proud and British.

Last night MIL innexplicably conquered her twin fears of water and flying and agreed to come to France with us.

Now I don't often have such pleasant dreams, but this was one.

I've decided to feature her today as my thoughts drifted from Mussolini to her during our two minutes silence at 11:00am. ..she was born around the time he was coming to power and I was comparing characteristics (just kidding!)

She has some amazingly detailed stories of wartime which make nonsense of her claim to be losing her memory.
If there is ever to be another war, you'd want her on your side.

So, she's 78 year old and has been living with us ever since we built the extension to house her and my father in law who has since passed on.

She is as immovable as Monarchy and even looks like QE2 (the woman not the ship).

She is diabetic with high blood pressure and has other conditions I've never heard of or can spell.  Her prescribed pills and potions will keep a chemist open and fully staffed all year round I should think.

Under her own steam she has weekly forages into town and is regularly offered a seat in some shop in order to  recover from the implications of forgetting to inject her insulin twice daily.

She always returns with more than what's on her shopping list and the trolley she drags around with her is falling apart under the strain.

She regularly runs over my feet with said trolley...even when it's easier to miss me. I fancy there is method there!

She is famed for her forever-full bag of chocolate bars and  is now into 3rd generation supply on demand on Sundays at church.

Her generosity and thoughtfulness are only surpassed by her outspoken and stubborn tendancies.

Her tongue can be as bitter as it can be sweet and should you get on the wrong side of her, beware!

She has needles and wool permanently attached to her hands and must have knitted for every baby in the world.

Bev has to regularly check her cupboards and fridge to ensure she's eating enough as well as throwing away what might harm out of date meats.

She regularly leaves taps running...just when I want a bath!

She's well loved by everyone but me apparently.  But even I love her in reality...once I've had my bath.

We watch football together in her living room while Bev watches rubbish in ours and we travel to church every Sunday with her on the back seat trying to put the world right.

Pet hates...she regularly switches the radio on on Sunday when she knows we do everything to avoid it.  I know she's in her own 'wing' of the house, but we still faintly hear it.

Repetition...drives me nuts!

Perhaps sometimes too fiercely patriotic and politically incorrect.

When she leaves her door open and the TV is loud, we get the sound a split second before ours which is why I tend to watch football in her place...I was fed up with hearing her celebrating a goal before it actually happened in our room.

She has a good appreciation and knowledge of the game though and I like her company.

Loves...we love to hear her laughter faintly drift through.

We love to have her eat at our table on Sunday.  Sometimes we engage antlers but mostly we engage in good conversations.

I'm as stubborn as she is which isn't always good, but it's never dull.

Long may she live because I've been misunderstood lately regarding comments I've made and will feel really guilty if she pegs-it tomorrow.

Seriously though, she's great to have around and is as honest as the day is long in her opinions and lifestyle.

You'd go a long way to find a woman like my MIL.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Duck AND lamb tonight!

I am so looking forward to our evening meal.  We have  lamb chops from Mr Bacon the butcher.  I've had my orders to prepare the veg as soon as I get in from work.  I'm already drooling as it's one of my favourite meals. I apologise to all the vegetarians out there but hey, it's a special occasion and I'll be hungry!

So, whats the special occasion?  We'll be eating lamb tonight! Yippee!  It doesn't happen very often.

Last night I watched Flash Forward and wished they would Fast Forward!  I tell you what...the punch line had better be good because I think they were losing the plot a little.  How can someone previously blown to bits suddenly appear as fresh as a daisy?  Mind you, I didn't check to see if she had everything intact but she looked the picture of health from where I was sitting...which wasn't on the edge of my seat. And those commercial breaks every ten minutes are driving me crackers!  No, I can't say I enjoyed the experience.  They need to feed me with more clues and surprises way before the last minute.

Today was overcast with foggy patches.  It was far from beach weather even though some of my thoughts were drifting in that direction.

The last time I was on a beach was in France and, as I walked towards the breakers in the hot sand, I was willing myself to try and remember how happy I was at that particular moment for a future day when winter sets in.  That day was today. The moment was captured and I was walking on that hot sand again. I'm glad I remembered because It somehow put me in a fairly pleasant and positive frame of mind which has lasted right up to this very second.

We have Ken Goddard visiting us tonight and still I'm feeling positive (only kidding, Ken!).  Incidentally can anyone reading this tell me if exclamation marks should be inside or outside brackets?

I blame my English teacher for not inspiring me...or possibly Linda A**** for looking so pretty when the teacher was talking about brackets.  I mean how is a lad to seriously consider brackets with Linda weaving her magic?

Yes, Linda is the one that caused me to want to crawl away and die after finally realising it wasn't her shoulder I was squeezing as we lay in our den down by the lake. I swear my intentions were honourable...dens were far more interesting to me at the time which is why I managed to persuade her to come in...I was never that charismatic or good looking.  That said, it took me all my efforts to persuade her not to come in after that.  Yes, I know... but I was a quivering thirteen year old at the time who blushed at the very sight of girls and she was way too much of a female for comfort. Now if she could play marbles and climb trees it would have been different.

Tonight we're off to Bridgford after Ken leaves and this time I'm taking bread for the ducks.  I know it'll be dark but I think they have lighting down by the bridge.  It could be our winter romantic memory  as opposed to hot sand in summer.

We aren't going just for the ducks as we'd prefer to feed them under Trent Bridge Newark than Trent Bridge's much prettier with the castle as a backdrop.

If we get back in good time, I'll post a photo and you can decide.

We were going to see Paul Smith in Nottingham...the joiner not the fashion designer, but he was unable to make it so we went to our very own Trent Bridge to feed the ducks.  They were all tucked away in bed and missed out on a free meal.

The castle was awake however...and Bev.

and to finish on a French theme...

We saved up to eat at Cafe Bleu once as it was voted the best in the region...and it was very good with it's artistically presented yummies, large paintings, open fires and live music.  In Newark there are literally hundreds of restaurants / cafes and eat-out places. It's quite a romantic place really.  The fact that a river runs through it and is historically important just adds to it.

Wish I had a good camera...or knew how to take pictures.

I've enjoyed today.

Monday, November 09, 2009


This is our first really frosty iced up car day of the year and my thoughts are drifting towards those warm sunny days in France. 

I know this is a daily journal but it seems obvious-even to me-that there is little evidence of preparations for living in France. So, here we go! Our plans are to go around April / May to take artwork, books, ornaments, settees, mirrors etc!

The work we hope to do will depend on the result of our owners meeting.  You may or may not know that three couples bought the property. Fortunately we are all very good friends. We each have separate entrances to our own living room, bedrooms and bathroom, so we have real independence in terms of our own private space.  It's like a row of terraces in simple terms. The kitchen, which runs along the back of the property is shared. The grounds- which house a derelict bread-oven, are also shared .

Because of this shared responsibility relating to the kitchen, dining area and grounds, we have need to gather from time to time and discuss priorities, progress, time scale, cost and who needs to do what in terms of actual work. The outcome has a bearing on what time is left to work on individual projects.

The house...our bit is from the right up to the second down-pipe.

 Here are a few before and after shots...our living room.

As it is now...with bikes and wind-surfing board etc!

The kitchen..

And again...

And now...still not finished but getting there.

Ah! Memories!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

The missing pictures

Today went, lesson and everything.
A couple of photos from last Sunday's family gathering...
So frustrating!  I can't get the photos to upload.  GRRRR!
Oh well!  I must be doing something wrong.
I'll check with Martin tomorrow.

Bon nuit mes amis!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Time to relax

I've been so busy that I almost forgot to post.

As A&A took our car to take Amber's parents to the airport, I wasn't able to get to rehearsals (yippee!)

I still had to practice my lines though.

I've been working on the wall today as it was bright, beautiful, blue and dry.  The two main pillars have now been crowned with blue bricks and the place is looking a lot tidier.

The balance of the time has been with my talk and lesson for tomorrow.

It has been a very hard day but not without pleasure and I suspect tomorrow will follow along the same lines.

All the same I'm really looking forward to tomorrow afternoon for nothing other than to relax, relax and relax.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Feeling better...

This morning I walked across the dew-laden grass shouting what lines I could remember from the Aladdin sketch in the hope that it sticks in my brain.  It's a good job I was alone.

It's beginning to sink in (performance on the 21st of this month), but it's s-l-o-w going.

Tonight I intend to make good progress on all fronts.

For once I'm dreading the week-end and can't wait until it's all over.  This is usually how I feel when I've over-stretched myself. Thankfully it doesn't happen often.

That's it! My working day is over and Bev has picked me up and saved me from shouting my lines to all and sundry as I walk across the field in the dark.

Guess what the first thing I did when I opened the door?  I shelled some more walnuts, picked up the guitar and played while tea was heating up.  We can't manage a large meal so we had a broth and rolls.

Afterwards, we laughed till the tears came as I tortured the script with my outrageous renditions.

We are quiet now so it's a perfect time to prepare my talk for Sunday, leaving Bev to have a good read.

I feel a lot better.  A good laugh always makes me feel good and more able to cope with whatever is thrown at me.

If I make good progress by 10pm, we'll watch the episode of Flash Forward that we missed on Monday.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

A very grand gesture...

Look what arrived!  Walnuts from Derbyshire via A Very Grand Pressigny.  Thanks Jean.  The postman couldn't get it through the letter box...even though we could.  Bev picked it up from the sorting office just down the road. It's inexplicable, but there is something very nice about receiving mail...excluding junk, bills, summons, fines, inland revenue and failed job applications.

Jean sent them to me after hearing that we always miss our French walnut harvest. Jean on the other hand doesn't!

I intend to eat well as I learn my lines tonight.  Yes, tonight!  I don't have to go out after all, although Bev reminded me it is Bonfire Night and we should really try and get to see some action.  We'll see, and of course I'm going to share them with Bev.

I haven't opened the package yet but I hope they are walnuts from France.

From Tuesday a signed McTell CD which is his life story...peppered with related songs...for Ken and delivered by hand by the man himself

Last night was a rare and pleasant experience chewing the cud with Amber's parents over a meal. For a change I ordered something I couldn't pronounce and it was very nice. I followed it up with a sweet I couldn't pronounce and it was even nicer.

Gentle chat with good company makes for a great  end to the day. Sadly, we may not see them for years...unless we bite the bullet and tick off a couple of things from my bucket-list in New York State come next Spring. Mmmm! I'm tempted enough to check flights.

Yes, we will nip out and see what's exploding, burning, sparkling, whirling or fizzling.  Perhaps we'll even go AAAH! and OOOH!  We've had the mushy peas and mint sauce along with the baked potato and hot-dogs.  Later we'll have some walnuts.  For the next hour though I'm very, very,very focussed on guess what?  I'll give you three wishes. Oops! I mean guesses!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Under pressure

I shouldn't really check my email just before going to bed. I was awake most of the night thinking about them it well as McTell songs bouncing around my head.  One email in particular suddenly turned into a 500 watt lightbulb.  It was the one reminding me of the things I've committed myself to.  Without my diary to remind me, they had not so much slipped my mind , as crept up on me.  It's THIS Saturday that I have a rehearsal for Aladdin.  I haven't even looked at the script yet.  I thought I had ages!  If I had three wishes, I know what will be the first!

It's also THIS Sunday that I have an assignment to speak in front of the entire congregation, and it's THIS Sunday that I have a teaching assignment.  Well, that takes care of all three wishes...I wish!

I was out last night (great night!), I'm out tonight for a meal with B+A&A+E+A&A's parents.  I'm out Thursday evening. So Friday evening is the only time I have to prepare everything.

I'm also aware that I haven't bought a single Christmas present yet and I should be starting the decorating of the main bedroom.  Let's not forget that I still have to finish my wall.

Yes, I feel under pressure.  My life is exceeding the speed limit at the moment

Help!! If anyone has a photographic memory for hire, I'd appreciate it.  If not, a pause button or a dusty old  lamp will do!

I think I'm A laddin trouble now!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


I was wide-eyed walking to work this morning in the hope of catching sight of my lost friend.  I'm at my desk now and feeling surprisingly okay about arriving empty handed.   It's gone and that's it.  I'll never keep another one.

Bev and I opted for another game last night (Othello) but still she beat me. She was inspired...and very lucky! Tonight MIL joins us to see Ralph McTell.  The last time I saw him live he signed a poster which hung in Ashley's room as a child for years. The time before that was in the 80's and before that at Nottingham University in 1975. 

The first album I bought was EASY and immediately began learning the finger-picking style on my brand new Epiphone guitar. I'd been saving for a year and had just picked it up...the guitar that is!  I really wanted a Gibson just like McTell but couldn't wait five years to save up. I couldn't afford the case to go with it so I wore it on my shoulder and strummed as I walked. It was my most prized possession and I took it everywhere.

I worked at Burtons(not the tailors) as a window display person and every lunch-time I'd go down into the cellar and have a jam-session with others.  The acoustics were fantastic. Mick Ashwin was one of those who became a good friend over the years and eventually played professionally. Every now and then he pops up in my life but I haven't seen him in 10 years or more.

McTell's early albums are superb but he's been extremely tame for many years and no longer cuts it..  He should evoke some very fond memories though and no doubt launch me into picking the guitar up and playing his songs over the coming weeks. No, not Streets of London.  I might even post a session (they reckon you can easily do that on a mac).

That's it! The time is 10:20pm and we've had a really great night.  The man was brilliant!  We shared a few words afterwards and he signed a CD as far as I can tell...that's the name of the CD..."As far as I can tell".  And would you believe we even bumped into Mick Ashwin and had a good old chin-wag about the old days.

A memorable night...and of course he still cuts it !  He's getting better with age which is something else we have in common.

Monday, November 02, 2009

The problem this Monday morning...

I woke up with a start as Bev opened the blinds and shrieked at the sight of her leeks being crushed.  On Saturday she asked me to make sure the fence panel I used to shield the leeks from the fire was removed so that it couldn't fall on the leeks.  I didn't remove it, but pushed it forward to a safe angle. Isn't it funny how you suddenly regret things you do...or don't do.

No amount of flowers will put this right.  I just hope 7 or 8 hours might soften the look I'm expecting when I get home after work.

The second problem...yes, there are more; was when I tried to load a photo onto my blog.  I hadn't done it before from the mac and I've obviously done something wrong.  Everything has frozen. I can export to flickr or facebook  but not my blog. Trying to resolve it  made me late for getting to work, so I ran most of the way and was at my desk with chain and ball rattling with about two seconds to spare.

The third problem was that I reached for my bag to get my diary around lunch-time and it wasn't there...the diary that is.  I knew I'd put it in the back-pack and concluded that  it had bounced out while running to work.  I retraced my steps and also checked the house but without luck.

The slimline leather filofax that I've had for over 25 years containing a current diary with lots of important dates, telephone numbers, valuable information, notes, plans, my entire working life history and passwords has bounced out of my life forever.  I don't think security has been compromised  but I'm gutted all the same!

I opened the fridge at work to see that someone had not screwed the milk top on properly and it had all trickled down onto my lunch-box which was directly underneath.

The filter on the chilled water tap isn't working, I've punched the wrong codes in the drink machine and it's giving me coffee and I'm having nothing but problem emails to sort out.

A pretty grotty day so far.

Reality check...the fiance of Karen's hairdresser has been in Afghanistan for a few weeks now and there has been an unconfirmed report that he has just had both legs blown off!

There are countless people who have problems and I'm annoyed that I thought I might be one of them just because of today.

Here's a few pics taken today of the wall.  I've only got the pillar tops, gate and wrought iron to do.  I'll have to include the drive on my to-do list I see.  It's a shame all the ivy has gone.  It was a lovely colour.

When Martin remembers to send some pictures of yesterday, I'll post a couple.

We are now trying to decide between playing a game (not scrabble) or watch a movie.

It looks like Bev has chosen between forgive and forget...either way I win and live to upset her another day.  On a positive note I may never upset her again!  Mmm!

Sunday, November 01, 2009


The day started with typically English cold swirling wintry blustery winds and lashing rain, but what a great day it's been!

Edith was blessed by her dad and afterwards the entire family gathered for a thanksgiving meal in a  Blidworth which was sunny for a very brief spell as we sat down to eat..

Thanksgiving is a calendar must as far as I'm concerned as we have a lot to be thankful for.  We should adopt it from the Americans.  Amber's American parents certainly appreciated the gesture. We ate, chatted, reminisced and laughed for the entire afternoon and most of the evening.

Martin was chief camera-clicker today and hopefully he'll send a few through in time for me to post.

We are back home now feeling as snug as a bug in a rug and warmed by the thoughts of the day.  It doesn't get much better than this.

Oh, yes it does!  Jon and Serene have just phoned to confirm our eighth grandchild due in May.