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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Is it a viper..?

The saga of our visiting snake continues. This holiday we have been providing visiting opportunities for some of La France Profunde’s native wild creatures. Some wilder than others.
My innocent – bless – relatives were so fascinated with the snake referred to in an earlier post, Wimps Abroad, that they spent some considerable time – when they could have been lazing about, drinking beer and sunbathing, or even playing boules with the locals or doing a spot of gardening – crouched by a hole in our stone garden wall, poking each other and exclaiming ‘It’s moving!’ ‘I can see its head!’ ‘Watch it! It’s coming out!’ and suchlike excited commentary. It was like listening to giddy children watching a live birth.

Instead of rushing to boil water and warm towels, I poured myself a generous gin-and-tonic and left them to it. It was only later, when the photographs were pored over by us and our neighbours, that the question arose: was it, as we’d anticipated, a harmless grass-snake type of serpent, or was it a venomous viper? Apparently it’s all in the eyes, harmless snakes have harmless-looking round eyes: venomous vipers have snake-eyes vertical slits. But the photographs do not prove anything one way or another. The snake did not come out of its hidey-hole and bat its eyelashes, like Kaa in Disney’s Jungle Book. It stayed put and thereby set us all a-tremble. Would it return later and bite one of us when we weren’t looking where we put our big clumsy feet? Would it shimmy up the back wall and slide into the bedrooms at night where we lay asleep and vulnerable? Probably not. We wittered on about these issues at length. It hadn’t been all that threatening, just lurked in its hiding place, keeping its head down. So we drank some more beer and eventually forgot all about it.

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.

Back in the Old Country

Here we are, back home for a week. Too much traffic, too many noisy kids, too many people in the supermarket checkout queue. But still… people say ‘How’re ye?’ They talk to you, in proper sentences, they put you right if you take the wrong road, they’re not too busy to spend five minutes explaining where your old bank has relocated to.
For sure, all the millennials are glued to their mobiles, pavement cyclists still try to kill you, but they apologise, with charm, at the same time. It’s a dangerous world, the Old Country, but friendly: know what I mean?
And did I mention how feckin’ stunning the Old Place is? Just so’s you’ll know you can believe me, I’ll post a photo.

Another day, another Bank Holiday…

Early black clouds soon clear and there we are, a patch of blue and only a few drops of rain. Perfect, no snow and hardly even windy. What more could you ask?

Soon, the picnic basket will be packed, the route checked for roadworks, the car filled up with fuel and we’ll GO! Just have a quick look at emails and the news feed… and check what time the snooker final is on to record for himself…

Nothing like a BH for getting us out into the fresh air. Yes, there will be traffic jams and too many people out there, vying for space and queueing up in all the chippies and ice-cream parlours. But that’s okay, that’s what families do on a BH, they take the kids, or the grandkids, out somewhere nice to spend some quality time together. Lovely.

Breakfast pots are done now, and I’ve fed the birds; those two new baby blackbirds are fat as cuckoos. Might just pull up a few dandelions while I’m in the garden, they’re a bugger this year. The garden is greening up nicely. Must remember to take my camera…

Why is it that people always call on a BH? I’ve been on the phone for what seems like hours. Must admit that I did make the call to my friend, to make sure that we’re still on for lunch on Wednesday – we are – and then she had to tell me all about her grandkids, they’re off camping somewhere, with their mum and her new friend. She and Stuart are a bit lost without them, they usually take them to Scarborough or Blackpool on May BH… Than my sister rang, to see if we’re still coming over to visit later this month… of course we are, I told her two weeks ago I’d booked the tickets…

Might as well have a bit of lunch now. We’ll only have a snack. He’s just said the snooker is on in an hour. I forgot to iron a few napkins for the picnic basket, only need the two now, it’ll only take two minutes…

Well, okay, we didn’t go. But we could have gone, if we’d wanted. It’s just that I’d forgotten to cook the chicken portions and the scotch eggs were past their best-before date and I didn’t fancy the cheese. He said he didn’t mind; he’d be quite happy watching the snooker. And we wouldn’t have to fight with all the traffic and the crowds in the shops and all the usual BH stress. And remember, there’s another day off at Spring Bank, if we plan it carefully we can miss that one as well.

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.

 

Retro Happy

We’ve done it. We’ve joined the hipsters. Good joke when you think we were there the first time round. I’m sick of feeling envious of these Millennials coming into the pub with their brand new vinyl, which they then flash about and pop off to their mates on Instagram. Why shouldn’t us wrinklies join in?

So we signed up for it. After a quick peruse online, we went off to the city and spent a day browsing the Hi-Fi shops. You can spend a fortune on a deck, which is what they call them now, and I felt like the proverbial hick listening to the sales spiel about interfaces and negative bluetooth capacity. I don’t even know what bluetooth means; I ignore it on my digital radio and it doesn’t seem to make any difference to Ken Bruce. But my partner understands the mechanics, in fact he seems to enjoy the techie stuff at least as much as the music, so that’s all right then.

We ordered one and it arrived a couple days later. After he’d spent several hours trying to get it to work with our complicated home cinema equipment, the penny dropped and we could listen to our original old scratchy LPs; I refuse to call them vinyl, it makes me think of toilet paper, though I think that was Izal, remember scratchy Izal, back in the dark ages? Some things are best left behind.

So now I’m seeing and hearing a whole new side of my tech-lovin’ partner. I knew he’d been a bit of a punk, back in the day, but turns out he’s also a closet Black Sabbath fan, who knew? Makes my Gilbert O’Sullivan crush a bit tame, don’t you think? Still, I haven’t dug out Tull’s Thick as a Brick yet, that’ll show him.

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