Heat-addled thoughts…

It’s the BH weekend and the weather is amazing, really HOT sunshine, really BLUE sky, NO clouds and WIND-FREE. Can this be miserable Brexit Britain, or have I been suddenly transported to a parallel universe? (If only.)

Don’t you just love it when you can venture outdoors without your fleecy jacket and double-thickness leggings? Couple weeks ago we woke up to 10 centimetres of snow. That was AFTER Easter, yes, really. We were visited by what was referred to in the media as the ‘Beast From The East’, i.e., perishing cold temperatures and biting winds from chilly Scandinavia.

Like you, I’ve seen those dark Scandie thrillers, where they all wear wooley jumpers with reindeer and snowflakes on them, a bit like the ones daft Brits wear at Christmas, to show they’re not taking the whole Christian festival thing too seriously. But, in Scandie-land, those jumpers cover up dark secrets like dragon tattoos and multiple body-piercings. Could it be that Brits are slipping down that road too? For all we know, they have already arrived. Could you imagine our – current – PM with ring nipple-piercings? Tastefully done, of course, and linked by an ‘I Heart Brexit’ padlock on heavy duty chain? She could go the whole hog, of course, and have her longshanks tattooed with leopard markings, all the better to adopt the current political craze, the Power Pose.

Must be dehydrated, drink more water…

Drafted the above in May, still hot in Albion now, in August, what a crazy summer. We pathetic Brits are not built to withstand heat. Like the witch in Oz, we’re m-e-l-t-i-n-g…

Here’s a pic of our neighbour, also going nuts!

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.

End of a Manic year…

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Is it possible that we will get to the end of 2016 without catastrophe? Retrospectives are everywhere, seemingly more so than usual, though I think that’s probably the Year of Mania effect. Russian ambassadors are being expelled from the US as a result of the alleged Clinton election hack furore. Putin is playing the moral high card of non-retaliation, for the moment. Syria still teeters on the brink, its war far from finished. Hopefully Syrian residents will be able to wake up intact in the coming days and weeks. And the rest of us, too. Yes, it could get that bad.

As if on cue, to show the state of mania in today’s world, one-time DJ Noel Edmonds has been on the radio, explaining that cats know they shouldn’t kill mice and birds, but that if we just say ‘that’s naughty and if you don’t do it you will get your reward in heaven’ our cats will understand and cease the slaughter of their little furred and feathered prey.

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Of course they will, and Donald Trump is a frisky lamb with a comb-over. But the real poser is, does Noel’s patient instruction work in the human world? Or, perhaps, why doesn’t it? Remember the immortal words of Yoda, my go-to philosopher: Patience, you must have.

Speaking of fake news, and who hasn’t been lately, I hope the brilliant press cartoonists will keep up the amazing standards they have exhibited in recent months. Don’t believe what the columnists are writing? Just look at the political cartoons and then you can work out your own, rational, response.

For the moment, mine is: A Happy and Peaceful New Year, May You Have.

Hats – and other Headgear – Off to Christmas!

Two sleeps to go… so much to do. Festive foray into the madding crowd today to pick up the pork joint and other last minute essentials, more mince pies, more sprouts, (forgot those, we’ll have spinach) and one of those special cards , you know the type, Happy Christmas to The One I Love. Can never make a decision on those and always end up, after much procrastination, buying one when there are only three left in the rack. Without correct sized envelope: will it need a trim? And either tres formal or gushing. Went for formal, managed to get a half-decent one and only 99p. What a bargain. Next year I’ll just write I Love You, Sometimes, Happy Christmas! on an Amazon carton and fill it with wine, chocs, nuts and a copy of Computer Shopper. Or maybe, if I’m feeling kind, which is not likely, a copy of Dogs Magazine. He always enjoys that sketch on Peter Kay’s Car Share, you remember the one? Ah, fond memories of nights spent in the woods, or sometimes only the car park.

Anyway, never mind that, what I started this post for was to report on Christmas Hats. You know there is a special day for wearing Christmas jumpers? And intellectually challenged people join in and wear them? Well, today, my bus driver was wearing a full Santa outfit. And saying Ho, Ho, Ho! to passengers as they boarded. Brilliant! Usually the driver ignores your frantic waving from the bus stop and sweeps by, swooshing puddles at you if he – it’s usually a he – can manage it and then laughing his head off. Or making you get off again because there are already 156 people standing and you would just tip the balance, with your tartan shopping trolley whacking into people’s shins. Oh, the shame! But today: what a jolly chap. He even stopped at red lights, stayed within lanes on the suicide roundabout and picked passengers up at every stop. I think perhaps he was the real Santa. A bit like the real Trump in appearance but with full Santa beard and long white curls, instead of a weird straw-coloured comb-over. And better messages to the world, or at least to his surprised but thankful bus load.

And the other headgear? We’ve become used to Santa’s elves in the pub after work, with their Spock ears and red and green costumes. So yesterday. But last night two chaps and a woman came in wearing roast chickens on their heads. Honest, they had their heads in the place where the stuffing usually goes and they looked  flipping ace. I almost choked on my Balti from laughing. Wish I’d taken my camera.