Don’t Lose that Holiday Feeling

You know how it is…you go on vacation, have a great time, swear that you’ll change when you come home, talk to your family, drink less, dump the junk food, exercise more, ignore the small stuff that winds you up and makes you a grumpy bear. Then you come home, and reality bites. We’ve all been there, for sure. How is it possible to hold onto that optimistic vacation mood when you’re back in the rat-race, when the morning alarm sets you in motion for the day, when you’re working for the man or, increasingly, you don’t even know who you are working for? What then, Happy-Chops, or should that be, Sad Face?

Well, I’ve been thinking about this: there must be a way to keep smiling, or at least stop living out your days behind a clenched jaw and gritted teeth. No, I don’t mean win the lottery, or inherit a fortune and an island in the Caribbean, though that would be pretty awesome. And this is what I’ve come up with so far:

Stop predicting

No-one does this more than me: I am the original prophet of doom. Even though my predictions are generally way off, I always think I ‘know’ what’s gonna happen. This is so wrong: nobody knows. So don’t do it. Just stop it, okay? Wait and see. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Think new day, every day

Okay, so yesterday was a bummer and gave you a headache. And today you’re not going to take shit from anyone. But, you know what? Today might just be the day someone smiles at you and treats you like you’re a human being. Or you could reverse this and try using the smile technique yourself. It’s amazing the difference a little friendliness and politeness makes. It’s positively contagious, and I mean positively. Try it, I’m pretty sure you’ll like it. And it works, too.

Don’t give yesterday’s hurt a free ride

You know how sometimes you are so pissed off about something, you just can’t stop thinking about it? Even though you can’t change it or control it? So, what happens is, you are so intent on replaying your pain that you don’t leave any room for a little joy to sneak into your day. So, thinking that one through, how are you ever going to feel better, to feel happy again? You’re just letting the pain take you over. And that hurts, you know how much. So here’s what to do. Allow yourself one hour a day to obsess on the cause of your unhappiness, no more. Set the alarm if necessary. After 60 minutes switch the thought off. You can go there again tomorrow, and the next day, for as long as you need to. But I think what you will find, if you do this and don’t cheat, is that each time you will need less time to relive your pain. And what does that mean? You will have more time for joy. And that’s a good feeling, right?

I’ll come back to this topic again, so check in from time to time and let’s see if we can keep smiling together.

Happy Holidays!

 

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Hunters’ Feast

We joined the local hunter’s club for their annual feast yesterday. For six hours we dined on fresh produce, venison, local cheese, cakes and wine in company with around 100 local hunters and their families. A delightful, friendly, fun day, with much warm hospitality and good humour.

The meal was conducted at a leisurely pace, with breaks for the odd unexpected fanfare from a little chap with a genuine French hunting horn, a surprisingly competitive tombola – after which widespread swapping of prizes took place – loud snatches of song and lots of franglais with our nearest diners. Spontaneous outbreaks of applause rippled around the large dining area: I have no idea what prompted these but we joined in merrily, clapped and cheered along, presumably to thank the organisers, the chefs, the horn-player, the singers, the waiters-on and the clearers-away. And, of course, the bold hunters for providing the huge amount of game in the first place. I am no gourmet and have not previously eaten much venison, but theirs was succulent and wine-soaked and very delicious. Even the Bambi jokes didn’t spoil my enjoyment.

 

 

Duck Weather

Today the wood is calm. We awakened to rolls of mist filling the valley, dark skies and not a hint of sun. It’s now noon and I can make out the foot of our garden and tall trees on the valley’s far side. The sun is making brave attempts to break through, though I think it may be closer to evening before the day brightens, if it does. We must watch and wait.

The canicule has departed, leaving us with torrential rain, thunder and lightning. Yesterday we drove to the airport and the journey home was similar to driving in a fishbowl: rivers of water on the autoroute and visibility no more than two metres. Luckily no one was driving in the typical French manner: right up your rear bumper. And today there is no signal to be had on any of our 5 cellphones or the laptop. Such are the joys of summer in South-West France: a feast of delights when the sun shines, dark ages gloom when the storms come. But do we care? Do we ‘eck as like! We can take whatever the weather throws at us, we’re from strong northern stock and used to the unpredictability of UK weather. Just like these two.

Wimps Abroad

Sitting out on the garden swing seat with partner, something rustled nearby. Partner exclaimed, Holy Shit! and gasped that it was a massive snake and that he had just startled it enough that it fled into our cellar. Spent next several hours trying to (a) ignore it and hope that it would go outside again, (b) make noise to scare it to go outside again, (c) with Aussie neighbour, who ‘knows about snakes‘, try to locate it where it was hiding under the staircase to see if it had buggered off. It hadn’t: its black and white zig-zag scales were clearly visible behind some breeze blocks. We gave up, left the cellar door open and went out for the evening. Much mickey-taking from friends about snakes and wimps. Typical, no respect, these Aussies.

Next morning, strong smell of fox in cellar, no sign of snake. Hmmm. Glad we don’t keep hens.

En Vacances…

Here we are, week two in La Belle France. Phew! What a scorcher! is an understatement. Since we arrived, there has been permanent Caricule (heatwave), with warnings on the autoroutes and elsewhere to take care and not do anything too taxing in the heat. So going in the garden has been restricted to the hours before midday and after 6.00 pm. Talking loudly and laughing like maniacs, both of which we tend to do after a few beverages, result in exhaustion and require a lie down in the cool cellar.
We were invited to a BBQ last evening and enjoyed it immensely. There were several nationalities present, in alphabetical order: Australian, British, Dutch, Irish. Fascinating to hear all the different cultures comparing notes on food, customs, language, etc.. Why on earth are we even considering leaving the EU? It’s lunatic, is what it is.

Green Shoots

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Could it be? Is Spring really on the way? The snowdrops have been decapitated in the recent winds, the daffs are nestling in their fat, papery cocoons, waiting for the whistle, and the begonia my sister sent me for Christmas is displaying new leaves. It’s quite an event when I don’t, by default, kill off a plant. I was sure it wouldn’t last, but here it is, Lent’s begun, and it’s still alive, shooting up, as they say of adolescent boys and drug addicts, though not with the same optics.

I love Spring. You can see where you are, for one thing. I could never live in Sweden, even though I worship Agnetha and Anni-Frid. And Bjorn Borg. Can you imagine anything worse, six months of near-total darkness? Or am I thinking of the Arctic circle? Could be, though the thought of cold and ice would probably drum out any worries re darkness. Never mind, here in jolly old Albion we have the proper four seasons, lucky us. Each has its own joys and wonders. Spring can be truly delightful, with crocus fields, bluebell woods and an end to your drippy nose.

Summer often results in the odd sunny day, the occasional butterfly, ladybird and even a bee or two. Not so hot that you have to leave your vest off, or anything, but pleasant, good for attempting a little weeding and washing winter’s smears off the windows. Don’t make the mistake of doing that in Spring, as it’s only too likely that winter hasn’t really gone away.

Autumn is lovely, with chestnuts and mushrooms and crunchy leaves to stamp on and the magnificent colours of tree foliage. That’s if the trees haven’t all been removed from the local avenues by the council, as ours recently were, to keep down the cost of renovating the roads. Such nonsense. Use my council tax to maintain the trees and start subsidising public transport again, you cretins. I will not start a rant about trees combatting air pollution, but I expect you know where I’m coming from.

Winter, I’m afraid, isn’t much fun. We don’t often get ‘proper’ snow, the kind you can build snowmen from, the kind that allows you to stay off school or work because all the roads are blocked by mountainous drifts. We get cold, wet weather in winter these days, with icy roads and pavements in the mornings, just to upset people who are already upset because they have to go to school and work, instead of tobogganing and throwing snowballs at the neighbours.

Still, at least they’re not in Malmo.

 

Bad Month for Black Dog

“…a bad month for black dogs…”

The words echo along the deserted underground tunnel as I jump from the escalator to slink behind a pillar and wait for someone, anyone, to come. It’s true, although every month is a bad month for black dogs, January is worst. How did I come to choose the underground? Let me think, it was accidental the first time, two shouting boys chased me on the street, and I just ran into the first entrance I came to. After that it was easy, slipping down moving metal stairs, between the legs and feet of commuters, I managed to get a biscuit, a chunk of pizza, some prawn crackers and once even an ear-rub from a kind woman. But soon the feet would climb onto a train and leave me alone on the platform. Even the woman who’d whispered soft, sweet words as she rubbed my ears and throat left me. I should be used to it, I know, everyone leaves.

I spent my first weeks in a dark place with many others, young and raw, like me. My mother was there at first, I think I can remember climbing over others like me to get close to her, but I can’t be sure now. There was whimpering, yelping and it was cold, always so cold. I was taken from there in a bag and into a Christmas Day. That place was new and it was not cold, there was no mother, but a lot of sweet food. I vomited and shit everywhere and was put into another bag and left outside with Merry Christmas rubbish.

You don’t want to hear all the story, do you? It’s not a happy one, though there was one happy day, when I found a safe place next to a warm pipe in a cellar. There were others, many others, living there, small creatures with sharp teeth and long tails like worms. They ran about constantly, coming and going through holes between bricks, squeaking and blinking at me, stiff whiskers twitching. Sitting up on back legs and using front feet to hold onto food and other things, I didn’t know what. I had no food, but I ate some scraps that they left on the ground. More vomit and shit came, but before long my stomach got used to the food and I stayed by the warm pipe until my body and legs grew stronger. When the pipe became too hot, I had to find somewhere colder. That was the end of the happy time.

If someone asked me now, what would you like to happen? I would say I’d like to find my mother. I’m sure she was kind, she smelled like me and had ears and eyes like mine. If I couldn’t find her, then I’d like to find somewhere warm and safe to stay, some food that didn’t make me sick and maybe someone to rub my ears when I’m drifting off to sleep. There could be kind people every day in the underground, maybe the right one will find me soon, before January is over.