2009. The Next Bit

JANUARY
02-01 HAPPY NEW YEAR….
Although I’m a little late I hope you will accept my warm wishes for the happiest New Year to you all. I seem to be a little late with everything at the moment. Christmas and new year seem to have washed over me and already I’m looking at Hubs back to work and Moo back at school, still at least I might actually get things done. It’s amazing how little I’ve actually managed to achieve in the past 2 weeks, I stupidly thought that with Hubs at home for so long I would have more time not less, but sadly not! We have had a brilliant time though, it’s been so nice to spend time together that’s not rushed, a luxury in fact and one we have been making the most of with lots of family walks and activities and lots of snuggle time on the sofa. And not much else. But now we are back into real life and Hubs heads back off to Antwerp on Sunday, should just be 3 weeks at a time, but oh the joys of a freelancer, they are already mutterings of schedule change… We had a very different new years eve this year, no sorry, last year, than the one previous. From the dizzy heights of the Capital city to rural calm. From the bells of Westminster (albeit from a bedsit window in Pimlico) to the tolling of the local church (my romantic notion of standing in the garden together listening to the new year bells rather lost some of its charm when we got outside and realised that it was REALLY cold and our kitchen clock is actually about 5 minutes fast…). From the sound of revellers partying into the morning, (and police sirens that almost inevitably followed them), and fireworks lighting up the orange sky for miles around to the sound of distant cattle and the stars lighting up the dark heavens for millions of miles. What a difference a year makes. The only downside to the whole Christmas period is with Moo and her sleeping patterns and mood swings. Normally she is a regular sleeper with no problems at bedtime but for the last 2 weeks she has been a nightmare. Obviously with all the excitement about Christmas we had been expecting a few bumps, but what we didn’t factor in was the desolation and devastation that would be caused when she realised that Christmas was over. She has been queen ratty and has cranked the whinge-o-meter all the way up to 11. (hubs is currently upstairs trying to explain to her why at 11pm she should be asleep and not in fact prowling the upstairs hall yelling about how sad she is that she can’t get to sleep and its making her cross – I sent up ‘dad’ this time just in case it makes a difference, but I fully expect to be up and down all night again dealing with little miss stroppy pants. (Another reason why blogging has been so infrequent – I’m knackered!). So I’m stealing some time down here in the living room on my own catching up. Time on your own is a strange thing. I am quite a solitary person by nature so time spent alone has never been a problem. Obviously since having Moo it has been virtually non-existent. I have a fair amount of time when she’s asleep and a couple of hours 4 times a week when she’s at school (but let’s face it when the drive to the supermarket is 45 minute round trip not including shopping time that doesn’t add up to a lot of ‘me time’). Being the only driver is a bit of a bore as every outing tends to end up a family expedition. I keep promising Gordon that we will have a day out together, just the two of us, but I can’t see that happening for a while (Gordon is my trusty car just in case you didn’t know). I did manage to get a couple of solo visits to feed the horse and chickens and I have to say, I loved it. I do however now want a horse as well as some chickens. Probably best start with just the chickens. Well Hubs has returned from the battleground upstairs, battered but not bloodied, so I’d best off and be ready for the next salvo.
07-01 Feeling blleeuurggh!
Along with most of the rest of the planet, so it would seem, I have succumbed to the dreaded lurgee and I feel awful. I have been putting up a valiant fight for the last few days with early(ish) nights and lemsip and paracetamol, but I’m finally giving in. I have flu. Bum. It’s been a pretty up and down week anyway with Moo resolutely ignoring all our efforts to cheer her up from her post Christmas blues and quite frankly, being a right pain in the behind. Her blues compounded by the fact that after 2 wonderful week’s daddy went back to work on Sunday, and it was back to school on Monday. She finds it quite hard still at school, but is slowly getting the hang of it. Her teacher says she is very quiet, but is starting to open up a bit more now she is learning some more of the language. It pains me to think of her having a hard time, but she does say that she enjoys it at school, and it would do her no good whatsoever not to be there (if you see what I mean). But I have decided to hold off on her going full time until she is a bit more confident. She’s very like me and will not even attempt something until she knows for sure she can do it without messing it up which often means she won’t do it at all. It’s not a character trait I’m proud to have passed on as the fear of failure has held me back so much in my life and I have missed so many opportunities because of it, and I am desperately trying to encourage her out of it and who knows it may help me out a bit too. All that said she seemed quite excited as we headed back on Monday morning with homework book proudly clutched in her arms (a pictorial representation of our Christmas the highlight of which seemed to be chimney trashing the Christmas tree at every opportunity, and an Aladdin doll from Santa). The day got better and better for Moo as in the afternoon on the way back from the supermarket, it started to snow, and snow and snow! Moo was in raptures and informed me that Santa himself had sent her the snow as he knew how sad she was about it not being Christmas any more. How cute is that! So long walks through the village in the afternoon punting out snowballs at random passersby, trying to stop Moos hat slipping off her head (anyone with long thick hair will appreciate this particular problem, and watching the tow truck untangle the front end of a Renault 5 from the wall of the mairé’s office (oops!). As much as I was loving the snow I was mightily relieved to see the ‘camion du sel’ spraying the road to school. The following day saw a grand snowball fight erupt outside our house with us and the neighbours kids, and a few passersby who joined in for good measure. Although I think top honours for the day go to Mr.G, our elderly neighbour who got proper stuck in after a stray ball knocked off his cap as he wandered past the battleground. In the end I was the only adult left in the fray and of course the kids all ganged up and I ended up looking like une bonne femme du neige, and although that was probably what tipped my germs over the edge I wouldn’t have missed it! Although we haven’t had any more snow it’s been cold and dry enough for it to hang around, but the roads have mostly been cleared (apart from a few slippy patches I discovered this morning), and I dared a drive out to the big town today to get in some supplies. The best of which is a ‘window helmet’ for moo. That’s a balaclava by the way. Window helmet is a term coined by my brother many many years ago and it has stuck with the family ever since. I have always thought there was something a bit, well, stupid looking if I’m honest, about balaclavas, but I am prepared to make my child look like a fool as long as it keeps her head warm. We had another little pootle in the garden today, (but a much shorter one with less snow thrown about), and we decided it was about time to broaden chimneys horizons and took her into the front garden. Up till now she has been confined to the back garden, mainly because a cat on a lead looks REALLY stupid, but I decided to lose any credibility I may have left and take her out front. Big mistake. An eager kitten, a lead, and an apple tree full of feeding birds. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.
Well I’m off to dose myself up and tuck myself into bed now (after I have removed a small person who I heard switching rooms about an hour or so ago, still the bed will be nice and warm for a change), and try and sleep off this wretched cold.
10-01 Tis the season to feel lousy….
Fa la la la la….I’m getting a bit bored of this now. I’m not very good at feeling ill (even when do have the luxury of a nursemaid), and I’m getting cross with my germs. I thought we had a break through yesterday as both Moo and I were feeling not so bad, as I said to hubs, not quite at deaths door but down the end of his street. We decided to venture out more through necessity than anything else as we were perilously close to running out of coffee, and that would have a TOTAL disaster. There are many things I can live without, but deprive me of coffee and it would be the end of all things. Anyway we made it to Super U for supplies and decided to take Tom for a spin at the plage as he was in the car anyway. Tom is what Moo has decided to call her bright pink princess bike by the way, I blame the parents. Anyway as we arrived we were greeted by the truly awesome sight of the frozen lake covered in snow. It truly was a sight full of glory as the sun began to set behind the forest the dying rays falling on to the surface and turning the entire lake into fire and ice. Evidence of young love before our eyes as there in the middle of the ice and snow was an enormous love heart inscribed with the legend ‘ALICIA I LOVE YOU’. And of course I didn’t have my camera with me. A grand romantic gesture. It brought tears to my eyes. Or maybe that was the wind. Of course as we get older and wiser (i.e. more cynical) it would be deemed foolish and downright dangerous to go to the middle of a frozen lake to write a frivolous message. Oh for the foolish spirit of young love and the grand romantic gesture, when was the last time you did something foolish and wonderful for the person you love, too long for me, but I am quite determined that it won’t be too long before I do it again. Hubs look out. After a little ride around the lake path (well a very small part of it I should say it is about 5km after all). We took ourselves off home via the local bar to see how Mr & Mrs HV were doing and warm up with a coffee. It’s so nice when you go into a place and are greeted with a big smile and a hug. Moo was full of tales of bike riding and new colouring books and anything else she could think of so I went across the road to visit Mme Sophie, otherwise known round here as the baker of wonder. Again to be greeted warmly with a ‘bonne annee’ and a kiss (no hugs though, the French don’t do hugging, In fact it was interesting to find that there is no word for hug just ‘serrer dans ses bras’, literally close in your arms). The baker of wonder truly is a wonder. An ancient traditional stone baker’s oven with Sophie tending the organic handmade loaves to absolute perfection. I resisted the temptation to buy one of everything and opted for the still warm brioche aux fruit. It almost made it home this time. And so an early night was deemed necessary and all was well till Moo woke me up at 4am saying she felt poorly and got into my bed then promptly threw up over herself, the bed and me. Joy. So a quick change of linen and hot bath later were in order. Chimney, who unlike most cats has developed a love of water, was perched as usual on the corner of the bath but, possibly due to the hour of the day managed to drop off, both figuratively and literally, and joined us in the tub. A deal of floundering and scratching and hair drier action later we stumbled back to bed, but sleep was not an option as Moo was wide awake and wanted to play. And so the day began. Things didn’t get much better. It was one of those days you just want to write off as a bad job. Moo has only managed to keep down a couple of bits of toast and I’m not that far behind. I switched on the main computer to find that only half the keyboard was working, I’m really starting to get the fear of that machine, just about every time I switch it on something goes wrong. I opened the washing machine door to exchange the now vomit free sheets for the as yet vomit covered pyjamas to find it was still full of water. It’s not supposed to let you do that. I went to fetch the mop from the shed and after I had managed to defrost it and start mopping the floor the wringer on the bucket snapped. And almost simultaneously Moo’s stomach decided that it really didn’t want that toast after all. At least I already had the mop out. Oh yes and the bathroom tap has developed a nasty slow drip – like water torture at the moment. Despite all the yuck we have still managed to have a nice day together and in between crisis’ we have done lots of colouring in, played a bit of star wars Lego and had 2 wonderful Skype chats, first with my mum and dad who were just checking in to see if we were OK (!) and second with hubs in Antwerp. For those of you who do not know about Skype, it’s a wonderful (and wonderfully free) programme that allows users to talk to each other via the computer for free, it supports web cams too so not only can we talk to grandma and grandpa and daddy wherever they are in the world, we can see them too. A real pick-me-up and much needed today. So now I’m off to prepare a light tea which I’m sure will be an ‘aller retour’, but the mop has not yet been put away. Hubs, I think you may have to wait a while for the grand romantic gesture.
15-01 The French are sick….no really…
So today’ French word s are ‘gastro entérite’ not a difficult one to learn, but according to the news (and Mr.M our neighbour- so it must be true), most of France is suffering from it at the moment. Molly has been proper poorly today and was sick at school, unfortunately, without me realising, our home phone was on silent so all of ‘Maitrees” efforts to get in touch and tell me Moo was poorly were in vain. So I arrived to find her shivering wrapped in a blanket and just wanting to sleep. So I have poorly child and mum guilt too. Worse than that we got home and I found that my UK stocks of Calpol had run dry.
So we have been to the pharmacie and have a bottle of ‘French calpol’ – dolaprine – in case you were wondering. She was nearly asleep in the car on the way back so I got all proper mumsy and we got in our jama’s and went bed with the shutters closed and a hot bottle. So now it’s evening and we’ve just got up after a few hours sleep, goodness knows what this will do to sleeping patterns…she’s still ‘not hungry’ but at least has had a little bit to drink. So we are snuggled up on the sofa watching cars under a duvet. No school tomorrow for Moo and I’ll keep you all updated as to how she is doing. To be honest I’m a little bit over January as it seems that all that pretty much all that has happened so far is illness, with a few days of snow thrown in to cheer us up, either myself or Moo has been under the weather for weeks and I’m a bit bored of it now. Still it will all be cleared up soon I’m sure, and at least I’m feeling better now…… well until the gastro hits anyway. Bonne weekend…. I have been looking into a new way to host the pictures on this site as it’s taking up quite a lot of space and time to update them, but I have been a little bit distracted, I’m sure you will understand, so bear with me and I’ll get on with it as soon as we have stopped throwing up.
23-01 Mulch ado about nothing
Before I begin I would like to wish my sister and her husband a very happy 21st wedding anniversary. Congratulations you guys. I can’t quite believe you are really that old now……. It’s a shamefully long time since I wrote my blog and for that I sincerely apologise, but as today’s title suggest, there really hasn’t been too much to report. I can assure you that in-depth descriptions of myself and Moo’s various bodily fluids are really not what you want to hear about. The January illness train is rolling on, but hopefully will soon depart for good. At the end of two very long weeks, that feel like a lot longer, I am left today with a nose that rivals Rudolph himself and a vast pile of soggy handkerchiefs but, hands down, it beats the stomach bug of doom (as it has become named around these parts). There have been a few points of interest including a birthday party, the only kid’s party I have ever been to where hardly any of the kids ate any food – we are not the only passengers on the sickness train. It was touch and go whether we would attend, but Moo had picked up a bit by the Sunday morning and had been looking forward to this for such a long time that I decided to take her, but stay in case she got too tired or crabby (a cheap excuse for me to stay and drink coffee and chat.). The party went well and after the organised games and the garden free-for-all the other parents arrived to collect their children. A few of us gathered around the kitchen table studiously ignoring the banging and crashing from upstairs, and talked well into the evening. Well mainly I listened, but was surprised and delighted to find that I caught the gist of most of what was going on, and even managed the odd comment or too, whilst explaining that although I knew what they were saying, I’m just not fast enough to join in fully. This was taken in good grace and I feel I made a few more friends that day. As long as they talk slowly to me that is! A few hours later with Moo tucked up in bed I thought about updating the site, really I did, but a few hours total concentration on trying to understand a conversation took its toll and I was felled by a horrendous migraine, and of course, we had run out of ibuprofen. Typical. The first night in 2 weeks that moo has slept through and I didn’t sleep a wink. By the time Monday morning rolled round Moo’s temperature had shot up again so it was back to the sofa for her and dealing with the plumber for me. In all honesty ‘dealing with the plumber’ entailed me showing him the bathroom and getting him a coffee. So really quite easy, but nothing feels that easy with the leftovers of a migraine’. I also had the spectre of the census forms hanging over me. It is time for our department to be accounted for and the forms have been sitting in the letter rack glaring at me for the past week, daring me to pick them up and try and figure out what the heck I’m supposed to write. I can’t even figure out a job description for Hubs in English, never mind in French. But over the next couple of days they were done and I waited nervously to see if I had done them right…. After another couple of ‘duvet days’ watching films and Moo being waited on hand and foot, the time came on Thursday for Moo to go back to school. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth and Hubs was enlisted via mobile phone to reinforce the ‘you must go back to school, even if you don’t want to’ message. Of course the heartstrings were pulled to great effect by Moo who insisted that ‘she didn’t understand anything at school’ she ‘had no friends’ there and generally that putting her back into that ‘horrible place’ would be tantamount to child cruelty. I almost wavered. Had it not been for the fact that the census lady was arriving at the house in an hour to discuss our forms I may just have cracked. But off she went with her wobbly lip, leaving me to wallow in the guilt of parenthood and worry about my census forms. As it turns out I need not have been worried about either. Mme C. arrived, checked the forms, pronounced them ‘parfait’ and left. And when I went to pick Moo up from school she was smiling and kissing her classmates as she walked out the door. Today has been mostly about trying to catch up with all of the things and people I have been neglecting for the past two weeks. A lovely visit to Mr & Mrs HV after school, resulting in a HUGE box of eggs to take home, apparently the chickens are a little over-active in the laying department and she keeps finding eggs all over the garden, so omelettes all round and crêpes for supper (for the next couple of weeks at least), Banking in the afternoon a long awaited very long walk for chimney, and finally tidying up the leaves in the front garden that have been rotting in big piles since late October ( I bet you were thinking that the ‘mulch’ reference in the title was a spelling mistake – it may have taken a while to get there but it’s amazing the lengths I will go to fit in a pun – I blame my father). Tonight Moo is finally back in her own bed, the cat isn’t trying to break out of the house and I have written my blog. So time for a hot bottle, a hot toddie and bed. I would say that normal service will be resumed on the blog, but hubs gets home on Sunday, (YEAH), so I’m not making too many promises. Oh and in case you were wondering he’s ‘un informaticien du le spectacle de theatre’. Well he is now anyway!!

FEBRUARY
04-02 Hallelujah, it’s February!
It’s been a funny old week or so. We are, thankfully, back in the land of relatively good health which is a brilliant place to be after the last month (January officially sucked). We had a lovely week with hubs at home but waved him off again (a couple of times), on Sunday – but more about that later….. He arrived last Sunday, after a dramatic journey featuring late trains from Belgium and a mad dash across Paris in a taxi (I was ever so jealous!!), at the local train station. I am NOT missing the airport run every couple of weeks. Moo was so excited all day but when the time came to leave took so long getting ready that we were actually late picking him up. Months of being early when its 150km away and when it’s 8km we managed to be late – go figure. We have had a nice cosy week, with a few outings for chimney and tom (Moo’s bike) alike, but spent most of the week indoors still getting over our bugs and undoubtedly passing them on to Hubs. We did have a nice trip out to ‘the big city’ on Wednesday and joy, found the H&M sale! Moo seems to be sprouting again and her jeans were distinctly on the short side. She’s going to be about 8 foot tall if she carries on at this rate, at age 4 and a wee bit she is already in size 6-7 clothes. She has always been tall and quite forward thinking for her age and it’s often difficult to remember that she is only 4 and a wee bit. I’m sure we are as guilty as anyone of expecting too much from her at times, and forgetting she is still a child with so much to learn. She is having a few difficulties at school, and after a chat with her teacher we have decided that after the holidays she will go full time. At the moment she only does mornings, but Maitress thinks that she will benefit more by attending afternoons too as this is when much of the ‘learning’ gets done. I must admit to a few collywobbles on her behalf, but my head knows that this is the right thing for Moo – well it’s pretty sure anyway. She has been pulled up this week for lazy writing, and trying to get out of work with the ‘je ne comprende pas’ card, so we have been hitting the books at home too and although not particularly willing, she is getting on well. There has been much bribery on my part, with the promise of an hour or two on the x-box for good behaviour, but by far the best incentive at the moment is the ‘5 star fish tank’. A big star chart with 5 spaces for stars awarded for good behaviour, good work and helping out around the house. When the 5 stars are achieved the reward of an item for the fish tank is received – just wait till you see how creative hubs and I have been with the craft foam….pictures to follow! We had a small incident with Moo on Saturday as we were rushing to get out to la poste before it closed. She did not want to go out. A small tantrum (more of a tant really), and the tears were flowing as we left the house. As I was locking the door I heard the volume of crying increase and I turned to see an ashen faced hubs walking Moo back from the gate to the house with his hand on her head covered in blood. We rushed her straight back in and I fetched the first aid box full of dread and trying not to imagine the worst. Thankfully she only had a very small cut on the top of her head, totally disproportionate to the amount of blood on the floor, and hubs and her coat, her top, her shoes and of course her brand new pink skirt…..even Chimney managed to get in on the act and somehow ended up splattered. Needless to say la posted was postponed and we tried to console Moo with tales of misadventure from our youth with numerous head bashing stories and the showing off of scars from long ago. It seemed to do the trick and soon she was laughing her socks off at the thought of mummy going to work with an eye patch on and the numerous pirate impersonations that inevitably followed. (If you must know I tripped on a rug and managed to fall into a set of low shelves, the corner of which intersected with my right eye scratching the surface quite badly. ‘Ha – har me hearties’ reverberated around wherever I went for a couple of weeks and I even found a parrot in my locker at work one night – oh, how I laughed….). On Sunday it was once again time to say au revoir to Hubs and off we went to the big city train station to wave him off. We got back to the car and tried to pay for our parking, but the machine wasn’t playing ball and refused my ticket so we were stuck there. There was a number to call, but no payphone and, of course, I had run out of credit on my mobile, so we ran back to the station hoping that hubs had not left, grabbed his phone and had a hurried conversation with a very bored man in the car parking central control office somewhere in the city. I managed to gather that I had to push the button near the exit, but wasn’t really sure to which button he was referring, so with hubs now needing to dash for his train I handed back the phone said goodbye again and headed off to try and find said button. Thankfully there was not a large variety of buttons to choose from and the very same bored young man obligingly raised the barrier and we managed to escape for a well earned ‘treat’ at the golden arches. Since then it has been the usual gloomy day or so after hubs leaves with little sleep and to make things worse we had to watch the UK being blessed, (or cursed depending on your point of view), with lashings of lovely snow. All we managed was a small flurry on Monday that had gone within an hour. But so many things to look forward to. Tomorrow Moo has another birthday party to attend and, joy unconfined, our good friend JJ has managed to get a bunch of time owed from work and is arriving on Friday for a few weeks holiday. Best tidy up a bit then.
08-02 Be careful what you wish for…
The day of the birthday party dawned with the ground and the sky full of snow, suddenly the short drive to the next village seemed as far as a trip to the moon. By 11am we had over an inch and a half and counting so a snowy walk with chimney and Moo seemed the best course of action. As we were out the clouds disappeared as fast as they had arrived and we were bathed in glorious sunshine. After a rapid snowball fight and a quick bite of lunch the sun had done its work and the roads looked fairly clear, so the party was on again. Again I stayed to help (glutton for punishment or what?), and had a lovely afternoon ploughing my way through conversations, but seeming to make myself understood. Towards the end of the party Moo had a small tussle with one of the boys over the possession of a toy gun, but it was nothing more than too many sweets and too much excitement. All was forgotten 10 minutes later, well by us anyway. I received a phone call from the mother of the boy later that evening to profusely apologise for the bad behaviour of her son and she hoped that Moo was OK and I was not upset (at least I’m pretty sure that’s what she said…). I was taken aback to say the least, but touched that she called. I have been feeling a bit low and hit the wall on Thursday. Despite the fact that life is good I was feeling very sorry for myself and confess to having a bit of a cry. But one well chosen and perfectly timed word from an old friend snapped me out of it and made me realise how blessed we are and I just needed to pick myself up and get on with it! Thanks Mate. I got on with it in the form of checking train tickets to Belgium next week to go and see hubs and found a good deal for nearly a week away. Feeling better already. Friday saw the last day of school for Moo for 2 weeks and a trip to the local station for the simple task of buying the tickets. Hmm simple. Right. When we arrived armed with my little pieces of paper with the times on the computer said no. Well actually the computer said nothing as it decided to pick that moment to malfunction in a terminal fashion. ½ an hour of watching the station staff flounder was enough and as I left the blinds were pulled and the ‘ferme’ sign applied for the rest of the day. So back to t’internet to try and book. Of course my bank card was one of the few that the Belgian Train company do not accept so after a quick call to hubs, I tried again using his. Thankfully I realised just before I confirmed that of course to get the tickets you need to have the card that you booked them with…doh! So I tried the ‘new ticketless’ option where you can print at home. All was well until I tried to add a child to the booking. You see for ticketless booking all passengers need a separate e-mail account and mobile number. So big deep breaths and onto the phones. I get very nervous on the telephone and even though I know that I know the French, it all flies from my tiny brain as soon as I have to speak it, and the fear of a question I don’t understand is almost paralysing at times. But God was smiling and I got a LOVELY man who although he didn’t speak English was very helpful and spoke slowly and helped me spell everything out to make sure I ordered them OK. So fingers crossed our tickets will arrive in the post before Wednesday…. So that was the tickets from Paris to Belgium. I would need to return to the station the following day and hope the computer was fixed enough for me to get the tickets from here to Paris. I had just about had enough of the day and was glad to go to tea with Mr & Mme W in the next village. They are becoming really good friends and it was nice to be able to relax, enjoy great food and watch Moo play with their 2 kids, and listen to her speak French when she thought I wasn’t listening! I can’t remember what the dish is called but its pork in a cream sauce with carrots and mushrooms. For the whole of my life I haven’t eaten mushrooms as the texture does something funny to my taste buds. But out of politeness and to try and encourage Moo to eat them, I tried one, and had a revelation. I actually liked it! A whole new world of food has opened up to me and much to hubs delight I may actually start cook them at home. After a wonderfully relaxing evening I was ready to face the joys of the local station again, .but one again the snow came down over night and covered the roads in white stuff. More snowmen and snowball fights, and once again the afternoon brought more sunshine, so I was able to get there in the afternoon. All went smoothly and we are now booked all the way. Fingers crossed that French post is quicker than UK and the other tickets arrive in time….. This morning we took Chimney for one of her walks and my quiet evening evaporated as we met Mr & Mrs HV, who are catering the local football club do tonight and have been let down by the people who were supposed to be helping, so…..tonight Moo and I will be helping out at the salle de fetes down the road. So a quick update for the site, a quick tea and a quick call to hubs, and we’re off out again. You may be wondering why my friend JJ has not merited a mention yet. Well she hasn’t arrived yet, she has been snowed in and is awaiting a ‘weather window’ so Lord knows when she will get here, hopefully before we bog off to Belgium……
11-02 Run run as fast as you can….
Sunday night was very funny. All I was really doing was collecting and washing glasses and eating the occasional piece of galette that floated past the bar. It wasn’t until a crowd of guys had congregated at the end of one of the tables with a few bottles of cassis and vin that we were told that they don’t normally have chairs at this do and we could be in for a long night….I however made my excuses at 9ish and we wandered home. The next morning Moo had slept in – woohoo – as I was wandering about in my pyjamas, at around 10am, the front door opened and in walked JJ. Hurrah,. She decided to dig out her car and travel overnight as it looked to be the only night for about a week where she would be able to get through the snow on the UK side and the storms on the French side. Good decision. It was so nice to see her so unexpectedly, she had of course been trying to ring me before she set off but we were out and then when she rang in the morning we were still in bed, both unusual events, but it was better for me that she just ‘popped in’! We spent the day relaxing, stocking up on veggie options and hiding from the rain. By the early evening the wind was getting to scary levels so we battened down the hatches to await the predicted 150km winds. An early-ish night was had although sleep did not come for a while for me as there was large something blowing its way through the village. I don’t think JJ had the same problem after an overnight ferry and a long drive, although I believe there may have been issues with Chimney and a duvet cover at some point….. We let JJ have a lie in on Tuesday and Moo and I did breakfast and writing practice and general mucking about upstairs. By lunchtime we kicked her out of bed and went to see a few friends then had a lovely walk around 2 of the local villages (with a very conveniently placed boulangerie at the top of the hill – most of my walks are planned that way). Home to a hearty meal of lentil and veg stuffed cabbage leaves (a rather nice recent discovery of mine and another vegetarian recipe I know that’s not just pasta and…). And oh yes I suppose I had better pack for Antwerp. It’s just as well I did pack then as I made the near fatal error of hitting stop and not snooze on my alarm and woke up an hour later than I had intended. Lots of headless chicken impersonations later I was just about ready and realised that JJ was still in bed (she had offered to take us to the station). She woke and had a leisurely shower and it was only when the church bells struck that she realised that she hadn’t actually reset the time on her alarm yet and it was actually an hour later than she thought and now understood why I was actually getting a little twitchy about leaving soon!!! I went to grab my phone, only to discover that for some reason over night the screen had decided to turn completely black, brilliant! So we jumped in the car without phone, and headed off only to discover that not only was it really ever so foggy but we were stuck behind a big van with no hope of overtaking. I have no idea how she did it but time seemed to have slowed down for us and we made it to the station with about 5 minutes to spare. And then the boot catch stuck. JJ dived in the back and started to dismantle seats, threw us our bag and we ran. I didn’t really get the chance to say Thanks for the lift and looking after the cat, see you in a week! We made it to Paris without further incident and found our way to Gare du Nord and onto the train to Belgium. So here I sit wondering how to connect to the free broadband while Molly and ‘travel bear’ have a play in the seat next to me. I do however NEED to find the bar as I have only had ONE cup of coffee so far today and, those of you who know me will know just how serious that is. And to the grumpy man in the seat in front – if you wanted peace and quiet that much you should have paid extra and booked yourself first class! Now, did I pack Moo’s trumpet…….
17-02 Waffles and champagne and noodles, oh my!
Sadly I didn’t have the trumpet. But instead decided that this was the perfect time to ensure that we both knew how to spell the word ‘bum’ correctly and giggle rather a lot. On arrival at the station my quest to find a pay-phone ended after a thorough search revealed none. Well strictly speaking there was 1 but in order to use it you had to have a Belgian blue card and all the station shops were closed. Oh the life without a mobile phone. I’m sure the last time I travelled without a mobile there was at least a pay phone to use. So we gave up and hailed a cab to the hotel and paid (through the nose) for 20 minutes internet credit so I could at least let hubs know I had arrived in the country. 20 minutes later hubs arrived and we got to his room, and then sent him out to get supplies (COFFEE). All was good in the world again. The next morning hubs headed off to work and Moo and I and travel bear headed off (rather later), to discover the joys of the city. We took a most exciting ride on a tram to the top end of town, found a rather nice cafe that served giant waffles then headed off to see the cathedral. It looked lovely from the outside, but the scot in me didn’t think that 8 Euros was a reasonable price to pay to have a look round, Instead we spent that money on a sticker for travel bear’s case and, maybe, another waffle or 2. Disaster struck on day 2. As we were heading to the station to purchase a new sim card for my phone, (which, incidentally, you can buy from a vending machine for 10euros, which is a brilliant idea!), we lost travel bear. After retracing our steps to conduct a search, travel bear was still missing, presumed lost. A lengthy reassurance later, Moo seemed satisfied that travel bear had in fact just gone off to do a bit more travelling on his own and was probably having a lovely time and was meeting more friends and having exciting adventures. The promise of another waffle seemed to fully stem the tears. After the loss of our companion shopping wasn’t quite as much fun so we abandoned it quite quickly and did some cooking instead. Valentine’s Day dawned and for the first time in years it was a real pleasure to be wished a happy day by the man himself in person. Due to the nature of work and life we have been apart for the last few, and even if it was only for a few minutes before he went to work, it was a lovely few minutes! Moo and I had a ‘site visit’ today and it was brilliant to actually see Hubs at work, and made it a lot easier to understand what he was actually talking about on the phone each day. I’m not allowed to describe in detail what goes on in the rehearsal space (it’s all very ‘secret squirrel’). But suffice to say that Moo was kept well entertained by the highly trained acrobats flying through the air at great speed, and launching themselves into a large pool, and I was kept entertained by the fact that the highly trained acrobats were nearly all wandering around in their Speedo’s. Travelling back through the city centre reminded me just why I always avoid shopping on a Saturday, eeeww it was horrible! That evening we had a wonderful steak dinner with champagne and chocolates, thanks Hubs, and thanks to ‘kung-fu panda’ we actually had relative peace to enjoy it, and with 2 days off for hubs coming up it was quite a party mood! Sunday was Zoo day, and I have to say it was brilliant. There are many fuzzy pictures of fish and monkeys and all of us in silly animal masks, and of course the regulation 100 or so pictures of penguins that I always take (well they are just so cute…). Monday we tried to shop, and although Hubs did find a beautiful leather jacket at an incredible bargain price for me, the shopping muse was just not really with us, just a bored 4 year old, and it’s not quite the same. We headed off to Wagamamas for an incredible Japanese lunch and Moo was a star with her chopsticks and most adventurous in her choice of menu, once again I think thanks are due to ‘kung fu panda’. Our night ended in the best possible way with a big family cuddle in the big hotel bed. What a way to round off an amazing few days. Our holiday was over far too quickly and Tuesday it was back to work for Hubs and back home for us. It was a relatively uneventful journey and our ‘spare time’ in Paris was taken up drinking coffee, going on merry-go-rounds and trying to spot the Eifel tower. We must be the only tourists in Paris who didn’t see the darned thing! Back to Gordon who we had abandoned in the car park at the local station last week and the sudden remembrance that I really did mean to put diesel in him before I left him, and the equally sudden realisation that the local petrol station was closed by now. Hmm, a slightly nervy drive home on fumes, but we got there and were welcomed by a wonderfully clean house, a big pot of soup and a happy cat. I can thoroughly recommend a ‘house sitter’ when you go on holiday, what a nice welcome home after along and tiring journey. I have about a million and one things to catch up on this week as well as getting Gordon ready for his first big test. The Controlé Technique (French MOT) is due very soon I need to get new tyres and lights fitted, before I even begin. Hopefully there won’t be too much else wrong with him as I don’t have that many limbs to spare…..but I’m sure there will be more than that later in the week…….Molly also has a couple of social functions to attend and of I might actually get round to spending some time with JJ!
26-02 Where did we get to? Ah, yes.
OK so to sum up, had a visitor arrive then we went to Belgium, (which was BRILLIANT – see previous blog). We came home, did lots of catching up and patchwork and walking with JJ (which was most relaxing). I saw Moo kissing her first proper boyfriend (which was so sweet), and have her first full day at school (which was a bit nervy for me, but overall a success).We ate lots of eggs and interesting soup, turnip and black radish the runaway winner, (which was a leap into the unknown) ate quite a few delicious crepes (which was very cool) and I discovered the cost of tyres (which was not so cool). Nearly caught up, now let’s continue. I now do a fine repertoire of star wars characters as Moo is insisting that she wants Luke to cook the dinner, Han to help with spelling and the emperor to do almost everything else. Leia got a turn to drive the car yesterday. JJ has headed south for a few days to visit some other friends and I’ve been chasing round in circles of French motoring and vehicle registration procedures trying to make sense of any of it, to get Gordon ready for his CT. Yesterday saw a flurry of panic as I realised that once again I had fallen foul of ‘advice’. After a swift phone call to the DVLA, to a wonderfully helpful chap called Alex, who assured me that it was nothing that couldn’t be sorted by the use of ‘next day delivery’. A couple more calls and a race against the ‘midi fermature’ deadline saw me handing over an eye watering amount of Euros for the assurité livraison. If it’s not there by lunchtime, I’m gonna kick right off! Big thanks to my sis for being my UK liaison. I just have to take a moment here to bow to the organisational prowess of my sis*. If ever we need a family event to be organised we all turn to sis., and let’s face the logistics involved in trying to co-ordinate my family would tax the most organised mind. You see, to put it mildly, I would call myself ‘organizationally challenged’ and to me my sis’ abilities seem like a super power. I kid you not. Anyway, the afternoon was taken up securing and paying for 4 brand spanking new tyres for Gordon. Cue-more eye watering. A visit to the park was most definitely in order. It’s been gorgeous weather today, and Moo and I had a lot of fun running about pretending to be in star wars. Today is tyre fitting day. Oh yes and trying not to cry when I find out how much the new headlights are going to cost.
*now I do have 2 wonderful sisters but anyone who knows our family knows which one I’m talking about here. No offence big sis.
28-02 NOOOOOOOOO!
It’s been a painful few days. I took Gordon to have his tyres fitted, had a lovely child-free meander through some local stores, (Moo was spending some quality time with her new love ‘D’, after school so I didn’t have to drive back at 130 all the way to make it for the bell – Thank you Mr& Mme W, I owe you one), and then returned after the appointed hour had elapsed to collect him. There he was in the car park with his shiny new wheels, looking very smart I have to say. Inside, I was presented with the bill, so I closed my eyes and paid. When I opened my eyes I saw the other piece of paper, the one with the really big number at the bottom telling me exactly how much it was going to cost to have his suspension replaced in the very near future. Quel domage. It was a quiet drive back home with lots of numbers swimming around in my head, but however much I reworked them it wasn’t looking good. Now even with my strictly limited knowledge of auto-mechanics, I know that dodgy suspension is a BAD thing (something that costs that much to repair has to be bad), and would need attention before attempting any motor vehicle test. And with the addition of new lights, the test itself, then the cost of making him officially French, (a process which seems to involve giving large amounts of cash to various different Europe wide organisations in order for them to tell each other that a car that was made and purchased in Europe is allowed to be driven in another part of Europe), all added up to a number nearly 4 times the amount that we paid for him. Now admittedly he was very cheap, but even so….. I arrived to pick up Moo, from our friends impromptu after school club, with a heavy heart. But the contagion that is children’s laughter soon shook my mood (well that and some strong coffee and lots of chocolate biscuits). I wrenched a tearful Moo from the grasp of her beloved and went off to tell Hubs about Gordon. The news was met with the same sadness by Hubs, but after a brief discussion it was decided that we have to look for another car. The cost of a small (very used) French car will be less than sorting Gordon and much as we love him, I fear our time together may be drawing to a close. He has been a wonderful servant to the family, going above and beyond what we could have hoped, for such a small outlay he has MORE that paid for himself, several times over (including the incident with the alternator back in July). As we discussed our next move I heard a small sob, which grew, in seconds, to a heart-rending lament. Poor Moo was in despair at the thought of losing Gordon, and could not contain her grief for another second, pleading with us not to get rid of him. Talk about guilt. After half an hour or so she seemed a bit more accepting and was wondering if we could call our ‘new car’ bum-bum. Ah the fickle-ness of youth. Young Mr D, be warned. I have been a bit glum to be honest. I am gutted about Gordon, but equally gutted that he had his tyres fitted before we found out the rest. At least I hadn’t ordered his new lights yet – there are some benefits to being so disorganised – or paid out too much on his new nationality so I guess it could be worse, and I know it’s only a car, but I will miss him when he’s gone.

 

MARCH
02-03 Spring has sprung.
What joy, sunshine and spring flowers! The last 3 days has seen the return of my favourite season. There are crocuses and primroses dotting the lawn and the thoughts of becoming the next Monty Don flutter briefly through my head as I gaze out of my bedroom window listening to the sound of birdsong and breathing in the fresh morning air. Then without warning a blur of brown and black at my side as Chimney launched herself at the open (upstairs) window in an attempt to hear the birdsong from a much closer range. Those of you who know my natural ability for lightning quick reactions, in the hours of am in particular, may be surprised by the fact that I did in fact manage to catch said cat before she made her first solo flight. They will however not be astonished by the fact that in the process of my rapid response I managed to bang my head on the window, stumble backwards and knock over grandad (who has only just gotten over the digging up incident). 1 annoyed cat, 1 pot full of earth and one slightly throbbing temple. As the manure trailer rolled by and filled the air with ‘aroma of nature’, I rushed to get to the window again before the cat. There could only be one more thing to complete this perfect moment…. “Mummy, why does your bedroom smell like poo? WHAT have you done to granddad? AAAAAIIIIEEE chimney did bite me mummy, MUMMY!” Ah, must be Monday. After a rather less eventful breakfast, I was delighted to discover that it was Mr. O’s week on the school run (in September my neighbour Mr. M laboured hard and sweated over the production of a school run rota, which to this day I cannot decipher so on a Monday I just hang around outside with my car keys, and if the others don’t drive up, then I know that it’s my turn) , and I headed back indoors for a relaxing morning surfing e-bay France for small/cheap/OK/relatively local cars, and drinking coffee, while JJ caught up on some sleep downstairs. That’s better. After lunch, JJ and I headed out for a pootle and enjoyed the fine weather and spectacular views, before returning to get Moo from school, hung around till ‘la vieux four’ opened and stuffed ourselves silly with freshly baked brioche. This is only Moo’s second week at school full time, but the difference is amazing. I mean she’s not exactly leaping out of bed or anything, but she is all of a sudden keen to learn again, and most importantly she feels much more part of the group. When I through the classroom window and see her clapping her hands and laughing with the other kids it makes me feel so proud. We all still have a long way to go, and a lot of things to learn, but today it feels like we are getting there.
09-03 A smashing weekend
Well, what a weekend. We had a frantic last week with our visitor with lots of shopping and sightseeing (which included a trip to Le Mans to pick up hubs- Yeah!). We waved goodbye on Saturday afternoon and set out for a drive. We found a lovely spot near a lovely church with a pond and Moo and Hubs had a nice explore, then we caught up with some friends and had coffee. So really a lovely day out. Apart from me crashing the car of course. Oh, did I not mention that? I was coming of a roundabout, (near the aforementioned lovely church), checked my mirrors to see if anyone was behind, looked out the front window to see the car in front had stopped very suddenly, sadly I did not stop quite as suddenly and ended up about a meter or two in front of where I should have been, crumpled into the back of the car in front. Thank the Lord no one was injured, but we were all very shaken up. We pulled over and got out as the man in front explained that the car in front of him (by now long gone) had braked sharply and so did he. A few phone calls later and lots of people had arrived to hand over forms and generally point and sigh. The gendarmes arrived and were fully satisfied that they wanted nothing to do with it other than to get a copy of my documents. At that point the truly wonderful Mr & Mrs LV arrived to pick us up and take us back for a drink,(the aforementioned coffee with friends) and a sit down. Once the formalities had been sorted the shock kicked in and I burst into tears .After that and another coffee I was fine, and ready to be regaled with tales of what Moo & Hubs had been up to while I was trying to keep it together and fill in accident forms. Their walk (many times) around the duck pond was interesting, with Moo asking many questions, like “why does everybody look so cross?” “Why is Gordon all crumpled?” and on the arrival of the police “Have they come to take mummy away?” .Thankfully not. But Hubs said that the thing she was most concerned with after the initial shock was if she would be able to get her leap pad out of the car, and what he was most concerned with was stopping her from shouting “BOGIES” at the police (kids TV has a lot to answer for). So here we are car-less once more tripping through the minefield that is French insurance, and trying to figure out how best to dispose of the remains of our beloved Gordon. Although on a brighter note I think we may have found another car, not entirely sure how we are going to get to it yet, but that’s another tale for another day.
12-03 The wonderful world of buying a car!
Woohoo! We have found a car, a delightful looking Peugeot 106 in, liveried in what can be politely described as turquoise. I have managed to obtain Insurance from the very wonderful Eurosud and the unbelievably helpful, (and thank the Lord, fluent in English), Marie-Eva. I would also like to take a moment to thank all the folks on the Anglo-Info forum for the help and recommendations; I really don’t know what I would have done without you. And I have secured a lift tomorrow to pick it up, Mrs LV I salute you once more. Mme A and Mr O have filled in for my ‘school run’ week, Mlle A has been ferrying our family around to banks and train stations as required, and Moo has almost come to terms with the loss of Gordon. So all in all, a pretty good few days. Once again I have been overwhelmed by the kindness of friends and neighbours. I am still amazed at how nice people are. Does that make me a bad person? Perhaps just a cynic. I have had my French skills tested once more (although thankfully not when dealing with the insurance), and have managed to successfully find out about and reserve a car, almost entirely in the native tongue, just a little help with numbers, so I am quite pleased with myself. The man at the Garage even complemented me on my language (although I do begin every conversation with the statement – Pardon ma Francais, c’est ne bon pas, as at least it gives me a chance and most people will speak nice and slowly!), so I was a little bit chuffed. The wonderful Marie-Eva held my hand through the process of insuring our new purchase and patiently explained the various pieces of documentation that I needed to send, and profusely apologised for the fact that in France insurance was so very expensive and to gain your full no claims bonus it takes 13 years (!). I was actually quite impressed with the price, as a new driver who had no no-claims to start with it was really a little cheaper for me, but I can imagine that the 13 year rule comes as quite a surprise to most ex-pats who are used to getting full discount after just a few years (and it also explains why most people have been regaling me with tales of exorbitant insurance payments). Hubs and I hitched a lift with the after-lunch school run on Tuesday, to stock up on provisions at the local village and had a glorious walk back through the country lanes. To my shame it’s a walk I haven’t done since getting Gordon, although in fairness, it’s not too much fun when you have a grumpy 4 year old for company! On our return I went next door to see Mlle A to ask for a lift to the nearest bank to start shuffling money around and had a lovely chat with her about all things French and neighbourly. It’s been a while since I have seen the neighbours, as we all tend to hibernate in the winter, so I was a little nervous to ask her for a lift, but she was really pleased I had felt that I could and was only too happy to help us out. In fact when I told her that hubs returning to Belgium the next day and I was on my way back to book a taxi to the local train station, she insisted that she take him, even when I told her he was leaving at 7.30am! Absolutely brilliant. As ever the day Hubs left was a bit glum, but Moo and I got out and about with Tom (her bike), and had a picnic at the church across the road admiring the spring blooms. Today I asked Mme A if I could get a lift to the bank (for more shuffling of funds), and was a little dismayed when she said she was busy all afternoon, but without a moment’s hesitation she thrust her car keys into my hand and waved me off with an ‘a tout a l’heure’. I wondered if now would be a good time to remind her that I had in fact crashed my car at the weekend and had never driven a Left Hand Drive before, but the fact that I couldn’t think of the French quickly enough combined with the overwhelming need for a jar of coffee won out and I was on my way. The drive went well and I am really pleased I have now had a little try in a LHD car before picking up mine in the morning. Although it may be some time before I stop banging my hand on the driver’s door when attempting to change gear……
16-03 And the truth shall set you free….
Verity. c.1375, from Anglo-Fr. and O.Fr. verite “truth,” from L. veritatem (nom. veritas) “truth, truthfulness,” from verus “true” . Mod.Fr. vérité, lit. “truth,” borrowed 1966 as a term for naturalism or realism in film, etc.
Verity has truly set us free. She is the new car you see. That’s her name. Verity. And although the camera did lie a little with her colour, the truth is she is green. Very green. Vert in French – very vert! Friday was a glorious spring day and myself and Mrs LV had a marvellous drive to pick her up in the morning and a beautiful, if rather circuitous, drive back, we inadvertently discovered some extremely pretty villages on the way back, and I only bashed my knuckles twice when attempting to change gear with the wrong hand. As Moo was being wined and dined by the neighbours today we stopped for a lovely and relaxing lunch, what a luxury, a whole lunchtime when I didn’t have to encourage someone to eat, and then I set out to see Gordon. He is still where we left him as I am rather unsure what to do about him now. After repeated attempts to contact my insurance company they still have not been in touch to tell me what to do with him. He cannot be driven as he has no front lights or grille, and although he still starts and drives ok it is forbidden to tow in France. I am at a bit of a loss. Whilst I know he will end up in the scrap yard, the four new tyres are nagging at me, maybe we could sell them, but then we would have a car with no tyres to get rid of, and it still doesn’t answer the problem of how to move him. I’m not very good at this. So instead of addressing the problem I have put a notice on his window saying ‘awaiting recovery’, plundered his interior of radio and safety equipment and will be making another attempt at contact today. Verity has already done good service as we took full advantage of the lovely weather and we spent the weekend lounging around at our local plage, we even managed a little paddle, (although in truth Moo must have a lot tougher feet than I as all I really managed was a dip of the toes). Oh the joy of spring. The garden is bursting with primroses and my neighbour Mr. G Furnished us with a magnificent bunch of daffodils that have been split between Moo’s room, my room and the living room, although the living room bunch are under review due to repeated cat intervention. So life is slowly returning to normal, whatever that means. Moo has been revelling in the age of 4, and seems to be constantly trying to find new ways to drive me slowly mad. She is dipping her toes back in the world of the tantrum, (hopefully short lived), and is taking personal glory from the amount of times she can say ‘bum’ within the course of a day. Still I guess it could be a lot worse. At the moment I seem to be doing lots of sleeping. I don’t know if it’s my brain telling my body to catch up or if I’m coming down with something again (please NO), but every time I sit down I seem to nod off, even after a little doze in the morning sun, I still felt the need for a sneaky nap when I had packed Moo off to school this afternoon. I had hoped that I would feel a bit more awake this evening, but my eyes are telling me a different story, so I’m going to call it a (very early) night and hopefully I’ll be a bit more awake for tomorrow, when I will fill you all in on the further adventures of ‘Travel Bear’.
18-03 The further adventures of Travel Bear
Those of you who follow this site will know that on a recent trip to Belgium, something very distressing happened. On a busy morning tram Moo became separated from Mr T Bear. After retracing our route several times and enlisting the help of many fine Belgian commuters and transport workers it became obvious that Mr Bear was not to be found. Moo was inconsolable. Travel bear was a Christmas present, he came in his own little case and Moo had decided that he would go ‘everywhere’ with us. He had already covered a fair few miles, but that fateful morning was the one time he travelled out of his case. We managed to persuade Moo that as he was indeed a travelling bear, he had gone off on his travels and was exploring the world and having new adventures and meeting new friends and although he was sure to be missing her, he was safe and having fun. This tall tale stemmed the tears, but ever since she has been asking where he might be going and if he would ever come home. All that remains is an empty case with a lovely ‘Belgium’ sticker, (purchased the day before the parting of the ways), stuck to its lid. Till now that is. My truly wonderful sister-in-law (who gave Moo the bear originally), heard this sad tale and managed to find us another travel bear. When I heard this, a plan was hatched! Requests have been sent out to our friends and family around the world, and anyone who happened to be going on holiday anytime soon, for postcards. Not just any postcards, but postcards to Moo from Travel Bear documenting his travels and telling her that he was going to come home. So far we have cards coming from Belgium (his starting point), America, Canada, lots from the UK and I have decided that the final one will be from Paris, and then one day there will be a knock at the door……. When a few more cards have arrived we will start planting them in the mailbox for Moo to find, and I will keep a map to mark his adventures. If per chance any of you reading this happen to be in far flung places (or know anyone who is and is a big softie like me!) and wish to contribute to Travel Bears adventures, there are still a lot of places he could have been…and if you happen to pick up a ‘name place’ sticker for his case too I’d be very much obliged!!
23-03 Some mothers do av em
A mixed bag of a week has just passed. It started with a major disappointment. Hubs Daughter AJ was due for a visit over Easter, and when ringing to confirm travel arrangements he was told that there had been a mix-up with dates and she would not be able to come after all. We are all gutted, as this means we won’t now get to see her till the summer, so quite a few tears here. But, ever onwards. Verity is shaping up nicely and we seem to be getting on. I haven’t bashed my knuckles on the window for about 4 days now, getting used to putting on the seat belt may take a little more time however. I have finally had some communication with the insurance company, so that seems to be moving along now too, and through the wonderful website ‘ANGLO-INFO’, I have found someone who can move Gordon for me. It really is a great site for people who live abroad, bringing together helpful information and wonderfully helpful people! We have had the first communication from Mr T Bear, who has made it all the way to Canada (his travel page will be on the site later this week). I wasn’t actually going to start delivering the cards till next week, but I dropped the post and lo and behold Molly found the card addressed to her, and we are off! Moo was thrilled beyond belief to hear news from Mr Bear and we have looked on the map to see where he has gone, and where we think he might go next. Thanks to everyone who is joining me on this silly adventure, and feel free to join in if you haven’t already. It has been a week of glorious sunshine here and I have been inspired to actually start work on the garden. The back now boasts a medium sized plot ready for vegetables and fruit to be sown after another dig over this week. I had planned to have a larger patch, but after a few hours hard digging (and only a small plot dug) I scaled back my plans a little, I’m sure my back will thank me for it in the long run. The front now sports a border of beautiful primroses, which had popped up all over the lawn over the last 2 weeks, and as I didn’t want to lose them all when the strimmer comes out, I have moved them into the border between the roses. I mean it’s not exactly Alan Titchmarsh level gardening, but it’s a good start! Yesterday was of course Mothers day, and I received a lovely card form AJ and was amazed by the computer prowess of Moo as an E-card arrived from ‘her’! I had a lovely day and managed to get Moo dressed in time for the arrival of the bread van, so fresh croissants and strawberry tarts were bought and consumed in a matter of moments. We ventured out to the garden in the afternoon (to manoeuvre the afore mentioned primroses), and I had a lovely time pottering about while Moo rode her bike up and down the path. It was only when I went back inside I realised something was amiss. To start with Baghera was in the living room. Baghera is one of the cats who live next door, and while she will sometimes bring us small dead gifts, she is not in the habit of coming inside. As we arrived she made a swift exit through the living room window and into the back garden. But hang on a minute, when I went outside the window was open but the shutters were closed, and if the shutters and window were now both open…. Chimney was gone. Moo insisted that we make a search of the house in case she was still inside, (not likely), while I was pondering how on earth she had managed to open the shutters. That’s when I noticed that Moo had gone rather quiet. I turned to her and her eyes were brimming with tears and she said ‘mummy please don’t get cross on mothers day’ and dissolved into sobs. When I had managed to calm her down she told me that when I was outside getting the gardening bits together she had climbed on her stool and opened the shutter so chimney could see into the garden. When she heard me coming back she suddenly remembered that she was not supposed to play up near the windows, got down, moved her stool and came to meet me, and in her panic, forgot to close the shutter properly. So the cat had been out for at least an hour already and had gone, well, who knows where. Moo was sincerely upset and realised she had done wrong, and spent the next 20 minutes calling all over the house before giving up and coming back into the garden. We carried on in a rather more sombre mood, with Moo constantly asking if chimney was ever going to come back, or if she had gone off on her adventures just like ‘travel bear’. After about half an hour I decided that I’d had enough of moving flowers around and packed up the tools and took them to the shed. Who should I meet, but a very nonchalant looking Chimney, covered in brick-dust and cobwebs, perched on a high shelf. As I brought her back in Moo rushed up and hugged us both and promised never to let her out of the house again. I assured a very worried looking cat that she only meant for the next couple of weeks, but with the looks I’ve been getting since I shut the windows again, I’m really not sure she believed me.
28-03 What a difference a day makes…
The day after I posted my last blog I had the most wonderful e-mail. AJ’s schedule has been rearranged and she now will be joining us for a few days next month after-all. Joy unconfined, what super news. And just the lift we needed. This week has been mostly about Moo. Whoever told me the ‘2’s’ were terrible lied. They are nothing compared with the 4’s! My beautiful princess has turned into a squealing banshee. Ok so not all of the time, but it certainly feels like it at bed times. Normally bed times are quite a placid affair, so it has taken me a little by surprise that things have gone so wrong so quickly. From a story and a cuddle to screaming and throwing things in one fell swoop. She has been trying out the odd daytime tantrum to little effect and seems to have switched her attention to night-times. We have had tears and tantrums and slammed doors, toys thrown, cats terrorised water poured onto the bed, you name it she’s trying it. Which makes for a rather grumpy household. The worst night consisted of a litany of things she hates, including school, the house, living in France, the cat, me, her bedroom, her ‘friends’, the lot. Mostly I can just let it wash over me, but I must admit to a teary phone call to hubs that night. These are the hard bits, the bits when a real cuddle would be much more welcome that a virtual one (however nice). With much reassurance I was soothed and had an early night not much looking forward to the getting ready for school battle I faced in the morning. The next day dawned and to my utter astonishment Moo was up and dressed and asking to get to school early so she would have time to play. I just don’t understand. The battles decreased as the week wore on, but it’s still not even close to back to normal, and my nerves although a little frayed are not quite as shattered as they were. As well this week I have managed to procure a new ‘carté gris’ (registration document), for Verity and to my delight I found that I could do this at the local Maire, just down the road, instead of going on a 100km round trip to the prefecture, as I was first told. It’s amazing what you can find out if you ask the right people! I have also managed to secure an appointment for Chimney at the vet (next Thursday), for her ‘big op’. She will hate me in the short term I’m sure, but will be thrilled beyond meows when she can finally get out and chase all those big fat birds in the Garden. And I can stop worrying about her knocking herself out as she launches herself headfirst at the window. We are off to Belgium to see hubs this week-end, we were going to go today, but the lovely man who is helping me fetch the old car could only do so this afternoon, so I’m just sitting waiting for him now, in splendid peace as Moo is having a ‘play day’ with some school friends (thank you Mr & Mrs W, you don’t realise just how welcome that is!). So we are off in the morning for a jolly to see ‘real daddy not flat daddy’, as Moo has christened Hubs’ on screen image. So having dropped Moo off, I am now at home, alone, and loving it. I have packed for the week-end, finished tidying up and the lovely man will arrive here in about an hour so we can fetch the stranded Gordon. Aaaahh that’s better. I will not be posting till we return from Belgium as my little laptop has had a partial breakdown and only half the keyboard is working, which makes blogging a little tricky. So I will wish you all a bon weekend and hope that I remember to change the clocks tonight or it will be a very short trip away indeed!

 

APRIL
04-04 From Paris in the sunshine, to unforgiving kittens
Well I did remember to change the clocks, but still managed to screech into the station just as the train was pulling in. Aside from that we had a very smooth journey with a wonderful taxi ride across Paris which did the decent thing and was bathed in magnificent spring sunshine. Moo was agog and full of wonder and delight as at last she got her heart’s desire and, at last, saw the ‘tour Eifel’. Paris in the spring, you just can’t beat it. Our few days in Belgium were lovely, and we managed to find the huge park in the city centre, that we had somehow missed last time, and spent much of our time there, relaxing in the sunshine. Aaahh. The day of our departure dawned too soon and off we set again, with slightly heavier baggage (we did manage to fit in a little shopping in between relaxes). This time the Paris transfer wasn’t quite as pleasant. We had oodles of time and decided to go via the Metro, only to be faced with seemingly endless security and armed soldiers patrolling the stations. I suddenly remembered that it was the G20 summit and all though it was taking place in London, the security in Paris had obviously been ramped up for the occasion. Once again I felt feelings of overwhelming gratitude that I no longer live in London, where it seemed, at one point, that every time you faced the grind of the daily commute there was the added worry that you might not actually make it at all. After Paris came an extremely tedious wait in Le Mans for the next connection, then the joy of home and an extremely over excited kitten. Little did she know what was in store. The next morning she was whisked off to be ‘done’ at the vets, and I spent a lovely day with all the windows and doors open whilst uprooting yet more primroses who had risen triumphantly to take the place of those I dug up last week. My borders and baskets are now full of the things and I’m afraid that the next lot may well fall to their doom under the strings of the strimmer. In the afternoon I went to pick up a very bemused and angry little kitten that, in the words of the vet’s receptionist, has ‘beaucoup de character’. Guess she got bitten then. When home and released from her carrier she proceeded to wobble her way round the house for a few hours trying to figure out why her back legs appeared to be no longer functioning correctly, before giving up and crashing out in her bed for the rest of the day. I then had the task of trying to stop a very curious Moo from waking her up to either try and inspect her rather gruesome looking stitches, or just laugh at her trying to walk in a straight line. Moo’s behaviour in Belgium was almost angelic, and had it not been for a spectacular bedtime rumpus one evening I’m not entirely sure that hubs would have believed the problems we have been having of late. She seems a little better at the moment although with 2 weeks of Easter holidays looming I’m not counting any chickens. I have been shopping for the holidays and along with countless bags of chocolate, (which I WILL NOT EAT before Easter), I have been stockpiling yellow card, pretty ribbons, finger paints, glue and all sorts of random craft objects in the hope of keeping us amused, that, and desperately praying for sunshine. Before I sign off I must say a HUGE thank you to my two knights in shining armour who rescued my crippled car last weekend. Gordon is now safely tucked up in the garage until we can decide exactly what to do with his remains, and I can’t thank you both enough for your help. Now where did I put those praline filled eggs…?
07-04 My baby’s all grown up…
Today was a very auspicious day in hillywilly’s world. Today I got to have the windows open all day, and the doors. Today was the day when Chimney was to be allowed out on her own. There was one slight hiccough in proceedings when Moo burst into tears, grabbed the cat and wailed that she didn’t want me to let Chimney out. After much cajoling she explained that she loved the cat very much and didn’t want to ‘never ever see her again’. In the mind of a 4 yr old, all this talk of the cat’s freedom, and releasing her to run free, meant that as soon as the door was open, Chimney would disappear into the woods never to be seen again. I patiently explained that this was not the case and that Chimney would just be going out to explore and play, but this was her home, and she knows how much we all love her and she would be coming back to see us all the time. As I took her into the garden, I fervently prayed that this would be the case. Fortunately for me, she did not disappoint, and spent the first 5 minutes tentatively sniffing the grass and keeping just out of arms length just in case I changed my mind. After her initial sniffing, and when she realised she was indeed free to roam, she set off up the cherry tree like a cat possessed, and made it to the very top in about 3 seconds flat, and there she stayed. I was a little concerned that she was in fact stuck, but turns out she was just stalking a nest in a neighbouring garden. When she realised that unless she had sprouted wings overnight, there was no way to get to it, she came down again and started load testing the lower branches, we had a few near falls, but all was well. Then the big test arrived in the form of Baghera (the big bad cat from next door who has been monitoring chimneys progress through the kitchen window since her arrival). Baghera patiently waited at the bottom of the tree for an audience, and being a little taken aback with the speed of chimney’s descent, (I think the technical term may be ‘freefall’), assumed the arched back hissing position. Chimney was having none of it and hissed right back and proceeded to chase big bad Baghera right back to her own garden. It made me so proud! So the first bout went to chimney, but I’m sure this isn’t over. Moo and I spent a lovely morning on ‘Chimney watch’ in the garden chatting to Mlle A from next door and swapping plant cuttings and recipes for dandelion jam (think I might leave that one to her though). The cat finally got bored of the garden and went off to explore the derelict building and the ‘secret garden’ next door, but kept popping back every now and again to say hello. In the afternoon I took advantage of the weather and the ability to have all the doors open, and cleaned the house while Moo played outside, listening to all her ‘chaton reportage’. As it started to get a bit chilly Moo and I headed inside to watch Peter Pan, and Moo was over the moon when Chimney decided that she had had enough of the great outdoors for one day, hopped back through the window, curled up beside her on the sofa, and fell fast asleep. When I heard Moo whispering to the cat ‘I’m glad you love me too and came home’ I thought I was going to cry.
11-04 Joyeuse Pâques!
Happy happy Easter one and all. The good news is that I have survived the first week of the (rainy) Easter holidays without too many emotional scars. Moo has actually been very good (apart from a few pitch battles at bedtimes), and we have had a very pleasant week making Easter pictures, cards and cakes. With the moods she had been in lately and the forecast for a rainy week, I was approaching this week with dread, but the rain only began a couple of days ago, so we have been able to get out and enjoy the beach and the forest before taking refuge in finger paints cotton wool, and a multitude of Disney films. We have both very much been enjoying the magic of DVD for allowing us to watch our favourite, Peter Pan, in French. We had a great fun indoor Easter egg hunt yesterday, even more fun when I realised we were still 2 eggs short and I had no recollection of where I had actually put them. They were eventually tracked down (behind the curtains in the bathroom and in the bread basket, in case you were wondering), and we set about the task of making them disappear once more…. Despite a couple of ‘interesting’ and very late bedtimes for Moo, I have managed at last to get my head well and truly stuck into my favourite pastime of reading. It’s been a while since I enjoyed such an engrossing book, (Shantaram, by David Gregory Roberts). It was possibly a little too engrossing as I found myself in bed listening to the 4 chimes that told me I should have been asleep a long time ago, ah the perils of the ‘just one more chapter’ self delusion! Chimney has taken to life as an outdoor cat, like the proverbial duck to water and she has perfected her hop up to the window and has even taking to knocking on it with her paw if it happens to be closed….. She has had another show down with Baghera, with the same result, and has confused the rest of the local feline population by cavorting around outside in the pouring rain. She is a very strange little cat. The other good news is that Hubs has managed to get off work an hour early tonight. Doesn’t sound like a lot I know, but it is the difference between him being home with us tonight by around 10, or not arriving till late tomorrow afternoon. So in this case that little bit does mean such a lot. We are also preparing for the arrival of AJ and her grandma – sometime on Monday afternoon, and I have to say we are all getting mighty excited. So a busy week done and another one ahead, so much for the quiet country life!

20-04 AJ’s visit and dandelion jam.
So much has been going on, but not very much has happened! We had a wonderful few days with AJ and it is a joy to see her growing up into a thoroughly nice young lady, but don’t tell her I told you that as it would do her street cred no good at all. We picnicked at the plage and trawled the local beauty spots (although as AJ had seen most of them before Moo and I took grandma round while she spent some quality time with her dad eating cakes and listening to loud music), and we even managed to fit in a bit of shopping time too. I introduced AJ to the delights of jam making, with an experimental recipe for dandelion jelly. With a seemingly unending supply of the blessed things in the back garden and an internet search results page in hand we decided to give it a go. None of us were entirely convinced, especially as the smell of boiling dandelion heads is just a little bit like the smell of pee. But when we tasted the final product all doubts were firmly banished. It’s very hard to describe the taste, but it’s a bit like sweet honey and tastes amazing with cheese. The only trouble is that as I gave a jar each to the neighbours and Hubs took a jar back to Belgium, I find myself with only the tiny taster jar left and as Hubs trimmed the lawn to within an inch of its life, there’s not nearly enough dandelions left to make another batch, and I am left marvelling at the fact that after almost a year of cursing them in my lawn, I actually want them there now. Au contraire. At the end of the week AJ and her grandma took themselves off to Paris for a couple of nights to enjoy the shopping and sightseeing in the capital (I’ll leave it to your imagination to decide which of them wanted to do shopping and which the sights), and by all accounts had a great couple of days. As ever there was an AJ shaped hole in the house after she had gone, but we are already looking forward to her return at some point during the summer holidays. We spent a couple of quiet days, mostly in the garden, before Hubs had to return to work early on Monday morning, leaving us with a hubs shaped hole to be going on with too. This week heralds the return of school and maybe even the return of a certain bear, but that very much depends on the tantrum levels as hubs and I have made the decision that Travel bear will not come home till the behaviour improves. At this rate he may be away for some time yet!!
25-04 Little miracles and ‘special things’.
This week has been marked by a severe lack of motivation on my part! The weather has been amazing, and there has been much garden pottering, and the gardeners tan is looking reasonably healthy already, as are the radish’s. We have lots of them coming up, perhaps a bit too liberal with the seeds, so I think I will have to find some interesting radish recipes in a little while. We also have carrots sprouting, the beginnings of courgettes and potiron, (a type of yellow squash), along with a few tomato and strawberry plants. For such an amateur gardener as I, it is like witnessing a small miracle with every little shoot that appears. We also have a pot for garlic and, rather ambitiously on Moo’s part I feel, and avocado seed. I’ll let you know how that one goes. We are also developing an interesting ‘feature’ in the back corner. We are building a cairn. Let me explain how this came about. Moo has, over the last few weeks, developed somewhat of an obsession with collecting ‘special things’. Now what Moo regards as ‘special’ may be somewhat different to what may normally be considered ‘special’. It started off quite harmlessly as little shiny bits of paper or brightly coloured objects, picked up and kept in a ‘special box’, but soon developed to encompass absolutely any tiny thing she could see, including hair, tiny stones and dust (there’s plenty of that for her around here). It was OK for a while, until she started to get fretful and teary when she lost or dropped them. Then the tantrums started. It’s hard to respond logically when a child is screaming at you because you are sweeping up all the ‘special things’ from the floor and putting them in the bin. Last week Hubs tried to lighten the mood and pretended to eat some of her ‘special things’, but the resulting hour of tears was far less amusing than he had hoped for. It was getting to the point of madness for all concerned, but slowly and mercifully her fixation appears to be waning. Apart from the stones. Every day she returns from school with pockets full of stones, and a trip across the road to the car can take about a quarter of an hour. When I returned to collect her from a birthday party on Wednesday afternoon, she rolled up at the door with her party bag full of sweets and treats in one hand, and a carrier bag full of stones in the other. The mother of the birthday girl was a little bemused, but said Moo was free to stay and clear the rest if she liked! So what to do with all of these stones? After a quick ‘Google’ to find a few examples, I introduced Moo to the world of cairns, and managed to convince her that this would be a wonderful thing to do with all of her ‘special’ stones. So the pile of stones and gravel has begun, at least it keeps them out of the house. I managed to gain some motivation towards the end of the week and made a small table for the ‘what on earth are we going to put in it’ nook, in the bedroom, and a small set of shelves for my cookbooks (and assorted stuff) in the kitchen. They turned out not too bad and only a tiny bit wonky, I mean they won’t will any prizes for carpentry, but they are pretty good for me, just, please, don’t tell me they are special.
27-04 Bon Anniversaire
When I was invited out for a picnic with friends on the 26th, the date started ringing bells in my head but I wasn’t sure why. I checked the calendar and my diary for birthdays, anniversaries but there was nothing. I check to see what bills were due, did I have a meeting or an appointment, was it something to do with the school? It buzzed around my head like an angry wasp, but I could not think why the date was significant. So I just got along with pottering in the garden in between the rain breaks, and trying to find activities to keep the Moo amused. Baking played a significant role in these activities and Moo is becoming a dab hand with biscuits and many were baked, iced and distributed to the neighbours. When there are only 2 of you in the house it’s not a good idea to have 30 odd freshly baked biscuits in the kitchen. Of course we had to sample a few, just to make sure they tasted OK of course. Moo is now at the age where ‘helping’ is something that she likes to do and, apart from the ‘helping to clean the floor by blocking the sink in the toilet and letting the water run over’ incident, it is mostly appreciated. She is becoming most adept in the kitchen, and has turned in to great little sous chef, helping me prepare the vegetables and measure ingredients for a variety of different dishes. As we were standing side by side in our matching ‘big cook, little cook’ aprons, preparing tasty treats for our picnic, all of the niggles and tantrums of the past few weeks left my mind at the precise moment that she looked up at me and hit me with a huge grin and the words that all of mankind longs so much to hear, ‘I love you so much’. The moment didn’t even lose its glory when she repeated the phrase with a ‘uniquely Moo’ addendum, ‘I love you so much it made me pump’. As my laughter subsided it suddenly occurred to me why this date was so important to me. It was on April the 26th last year that we picked up the keys to this house and our new life. An entire year has somehow passed and although it is all logged in the archives of my mind (and probably more accurately of this site), I still can’t quite believe it. So our Sunday picnic became a significant celebration for us, and what a glorious afternoon. Fine food, a little wine and the company of good friends. Bon.
30-04 The social butterfly….
And so the seemingly endless round of soirée’s continue with another one yesterday and a whole weekend of socialising ahead. The social whirl is hard to keep up with and remembering the names of all the new acquaintances and friends is becoming rather difficult. Fitting the lunch dates and the evening rendezvous in the calendar whilst trying to ensure that no one is left out is a bit of a headache. And she’s only 4 and a half. In the last week alone, we have had 2 birthday parties and a picnic, and there are another couple of birthdays next week too. (There must be something about long lazy late summer evenings……). Her diary is extremely full, and a lot more exciting than mine, but I believe it is the fate of most maternelle mamans to spend most of their social time as their child’s’ +1. It’s so nice to see her socialising with the other kids and speaking to them with growing confidence in their own language. I managed OK myself too and instigated a few conversations with the other mums without the safety net of my bi-lingual back-up as she was far too busy trying to halt the children’s attempts to defy death by climbing and jumping from the trees in her garden. I find I understand the vast majority of the conversations now, but I’m still a little lacking in confidence skill and speed of thought to join in a lot, but my efforts are appreciated, and the conversation about the renewed presence of the dreaded ‘poux’ was most enlightening! The approaching May holiday weekend will continue the programme of festivities with 2 days of fêtes at the nearby village with barbecue’s and bouncy castles among the attractions and we are very much looking forward to it, even more so as it is also a holiday weekend in Belgium, which means Hubs gets an extra day off and is coming home for a long weekend that starts tonight at 9pm when I collect him from Le Mans! The best and biggest joy for me is that the utterly wonderful and heaven sent Mme W, has offered a sleepover to Moo tomorrow night, so Hubs and I get to go out and play with the grownups for once. I am very, very excited about this. It’s been such a long time since I’ve been ‘out to play’. Hubs and I have managed a couple of dinners but I can’t actually remember the last time I spent an evening in the pub listening to a band with other adults. It’s the simple things

 

MAY
09-05 That was the week that was…
It would seem that this has evolved into a weekly update, that was not my intention, but it’s been a pretty full-on week for me, and my time seems to be disappearing more rapidly that it did before. Last weekend’s festivities were quite lovely, with the Friday afternoon spent watching the folk dancing and drinking coffee with friends, and the evening watching a band at the local bar with Hubs and Mr W, sneaking him the odd cigarette after the kids had gone home. The evening was something of a treat as it was ‘sans Moo’ and I got to stay out late with the grownups- a rare treat indeed these days. On Sunday we had the village fête and despite the lack of the advertised bouncy castle and the not particularly lovely weather, we had a wonderful time watching Moo participate in the sack race, 3 legged races and the tug of war – she did us proud. After our ill fated attempts at knocking tins over with bean bags, and a pleasant half hour watching the fierce competition in the boules tournament, the wind and rain got the better of us and we decided to call it a day and head for home, to conclude a wonderful holiday weekend with a few rounds of ‘guess who’. Playing ‘guess who’ with a super tired 4 year old is a very interesting experience, but somehow hubs still managed to let her win. We deposited hubs at Le Mans on Monday and the week has sailed by at a rate of knots. Tuesday was taken up with garden pottering and washing, Wednesday was the day of (very) belated birthday presents with the arrival of a package from the UK for Moo containing a Disney princess frock, which I have struggled to remove her from since, and the arrival at a local store of a bargain price sewing machine for me. In the afternoon Moo and I took a walk down through the village to do the recycling, and as well as enjoying a beautiful sunny walk in the country we also encountered some of the villagers that we hadn’t met before. It’s amazing the number of conversations that are started when you have a 4 and a 1/2 yr old in a princess dress as your companion! Thursday saw me chained to the computer for the day trying to plan and book our family summer holiday to America. After 6 solid hrs of searching, I finally managed to figure out a route that was possible and would only give the bank manager mild palpitations. I still find it quite amazing that it will be (much) cheaper for us to fly back to the UK then to the US, than it would be to fly direct from France. What’s all that about? Still, Its booked now and after spending that long frying my brain in front of a computer screen, I just couldn’t face the blog, so I sat in the garden listening to the squeals of delight as Moo took on the boy across the road with ‘pistolets d’eau’, and after tea I made a few chocolates for my friend’s birthday the following day. Friday was another bank holiday, so Moo and I spent the morning sorting out her bedroom and clearing out the vast number of suddenly too small clothes and shoes. Well in all honesty I was doing the sorting out while Moo wandered around in her new dress insisting that princesses didn’t do tidying up, that’s what the servants are for. Must have words…..A glorious afternoon spent with Mme W and her family celebrating her birthday, eating gateaux and sneaking her the odd cigarette when she thought her children weren’t looking. I was all set to update the site last night when Moo decided to throw a major bedtime wobbly and ended up not settling down till after 11, so the only realistic option for me after that was bed. And here we are at the weekend once more, heading out to buy a new swimming costume for Moo as the school swim sessions resume on Tuesday, and although swim suits are stretchy, I’m really not sure her old one was made to stretch that much! I would like to say that I will update more regularly next week, but with hubs arriving home tomorrow afternoon, and my parents arriving on Wednesday for their annual visit, I’m not sure that’s going to happen.
12-05 Pacifiers, dummies and anticipated arrivals.
‘But mummy I NEED it to get to sleep!’, ‘But Moo you have NEVER used one, even when you were a tiny baby, you didn’t’, ‘But I NEED it NOW!’ And so to the top of the wardrobe and into the ‘baby box’ to retrieve the pacifier that hasn’t been used since she was about 3 months old, and after a quick wash, it was into the mouth and fast asleep. I must admit that I’m not particularly thrilled at the thought of her using a pacifier at 4 and a ½, but at the moment it’s anything goes for a relatively stress free bed time. I was extremely confused, (no change there then), until I was speaking to hubs about it and he had the sudden brainwave recollection of ‘Timmy’ and all became clear. Timmy is a lamb. Timmy is a lamb from Shaun the sheep. Timmy is a lamb from Shaun the sheep who is seldom seem without his pacifier. Shaun the sheep is a DVD that is seldom off at the moment. Hopefully the Timmy phase will pass quickly. Aardman animation has a lot to answer for. Now on that occasion Hubs brainwave was superb and accurate, however, that’s not always the case. Last week he made a quite wonderful faux pas. On return from an evening in a Belgian hostelry, Hubs checked his e-mail and was startled and a little dismayed to see a message reminding him not to forget that Mother’s day was rapidly approaching, as he had indeed ‘forgotten’. As he is a good son, he immediately ordered flowers to be sent to his mother with a lovely message wishing her a happy day. In work the next day he confidently reminded all his colleagues to be good children, and was a little put out by the strange looks he was getting, until one of his worked mates explained that although it was indeed Mothers day in Belgium and the US, the date for mother’s day in the UK had long since passed. (And just for the record he had remembered it then as well!).After a quick call to reassure his mother that he had not in fact gone completely mad, all that was left was a confused florist in the North East of England, but apparently the flowers were lovely. So Hubs is now home and family life has resumed once more. It was supposed to be the first school swimming session today, but due to the aforementioned impending weather and the fact that it’s an outdoor pool, means that it has been cancelled, so we are off to stock up on torch batteries and candles, as we have already had a few short power cuts today, and the storm hasn’t even reached our region yet! Hopefully I will get the chance to post this before it goes again. We are all looking forward to with great anticipation to a couple of arrivals tomorrow. My parents visit is at last upon us and god and my directions willing, by tea-time they should be here. I think however that another arrival may get Moo a bit more excited. You see I have a sneaking suspicion that, tomorrow morning, a certain adventurous bear may find his way back home at last.
15-05 More arrivals and departures that Clapham Junction
Last Wednesday was a wonderful and truly joyful day. We had a lovely muck about in the morning, then Joy unconfined as at last. Mr T Bear returned home. Moo was in heaven as she talked Travel Bear through all he had missed in the last few months and brought a selection of toys down from her room to greet their long lost companion. Then, in the afternoon, it was off, with a big bag of carrots in hand, to see Chewie and Sticky, 2 donkeys of our acquaintance. We first encountered Chewie and Sticky last August, and were regular visitors until one day in October they just disappeared. Moo was most concerned, but we made a collective family decision that they were ‘on holiday’. The months rolled round but we never saw them again, so it was a great delight to us all when the returned to their field last weekend. So off we went to ply them with carrots and stroke their noses, and introduce them, at a safe non-chewing distance, to Travel Bear! After that we had a lovely drive round the countryside and headed home to prepare for the arrival of my parents. Not that I was over excited or anything. We didn’t know exactly what time they would arrive, but around tea-time was a good guess as they rolled up just as the soup was starting to warm. Much hugging and kissing and marvelling at my mum, (who has lost 50lb in 6 months and looks terrific!), then the eating commenced. After that it was time for cake and a showering of gifts upon us. It was a little while after that that it slowly dawned on me that whilst unpacking the contents of my parent’s car there had been one thing that I was expecting that was not there. It was rather a significant thing. There was supposed to be an air-bed in the car from my sister-in-law. The air-bed that Hubs and I were supposed to be sleeping on. The air bed that she forgot to put in the car and that was still in Oxford. Many blankets were gathered and Hubs and I settled down for a night on the floor. But do you know what I couldn’t have been happier. Despite a few creaks neither of us suffered from a ‘night on the tiles, and we spent the next day, happily pottering around with the folks doing a little shopping (air-bed included), and walking and after school even a trip to the plage. Although the weather was a little on the chilly side, Grandpa kept his promise and went ‘hunting for sharks’ in the lake with Moo while the rest of us sat and watched their feet turn blue. Today we were going to go to Paris, but after seeing how much it would cost for the 5 of us to get their by train, we decided to take a drive to Le Mans instead. I feel quite bad as I know they really wanted to go, but over £300 for a travel for a day was just not do-able. So it will have to be next time. We still had a fun day out and Moo was super happy as she twisted grandpa’s arm and we all ended up in McDonalds.
19-05 Knick-knacks and picnics
Saturday morning was spent mainly in the ‘stuff shop’. A wonderful shop nearby which sells, well, stuff. The variety of goods is so varied that it would take far too long to list, but suffice to say many ‘knick-knacks’ were purchased and my mum delighted herself by completing her holiday present shopping in one fell swoop. We ambles along to the annual ‘picnic du voisin, at the local village, only to find that due to my mis-translation of the time, it was all but finished, but we picnic-ed nonetheless. An invitation to take part in a talk with games and a wine tasting had us all rather excited so off we trooped into the hall. Well the talk turned out to be a very long lecture on the source and usage of spices in mediaeval France, Now I know that many people may find this an interesting subject, and I could probably stretch my attention span to about half an hour, were I not desperately trying to understand and translate the rapid flow of academic French I was confronted with. Hubs used the ‘bored child wild card’ and made his escape quite swiftly, but it was an agonising 45 minutes before we saw an opportunity to leave without appearing extremely rude. And judging by the expressionless faces of those we left behind, it wasn’t just my lack of linguistic skills that were making the ‘talk’ a little dull. We spent the rest of the afternoon at home with ‘the boys’ watching the football and mum, Moo and I pottering about in the kitchen. I love pottering with my mum, cooking together, sitting doing our knitting, solving crosswords, chewing the fat. We have always been very good pottering partners and it’s what I miss most of all. Their last night with us came to an end too quickly and the morning saw them driving off to Calais to embark on the next round of the family pilgrimage, and whilst we were sad to see them go, we will see them again in a couple of months for our summer holidays, and whilst the new air-bed did us a good service, it was nice to sleep in our own bed again. And so to Monday and the mad lunchtime dash to Le Mans to drop off Hubs and get back in time for afternoon school, then back home to begin work on the bomb-site formally known as my home. I was looking forward to a quiet relaxing Tuesday with Moo packed off to swimming and me with a leisurely couple of hours at home, but a phone call from a harassed sounding ‘swimming mum’ asking me to fill in for her put paid to that idea. So off we trooped to the outdoor pool praying for sunshine, thankfully we were not disappointed. Sadly the pool seemed to be expecting half the number of children and all the carefully explained games and activities turned into an exercise in crowd control, but we had fun anyway! Home again for tea and a movie and to start organising a series of activities for the next few days as there is yet another bank holiday weekend and the kids are all off school from tomorrow. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.
20-05 Assumption on Ascension
It is a beautiful sunny Wednesday morning and Moo and I were having a lazy wake up in bed plotting what we would do for the Ascension Day holiday’s over the next few days but the need for caffeine was calling. So I ambled downstairs in my PJ’s and filled the kettle looking out of the kitchen window at the birds flitting around in the garden, ah peace. My reverie was broken by the appearance of a little girl at the gate. A little girl that I normally take to school. My brain swirled in confusion as I checked the calendar, and was not calmed when I saw that it was, as I had thought, Wednesday. The kids don’t go to school on a Wednesday. I hastily checked the school holidays calendar that we received in September, and there in black and white (albeit tiny print), was written: Pont de l’Ascension: de juedi 21 au dimanche 24 Mai, (mercredi 20 travaille toute la journée), which at that precise moment I understood to mean that this Wednesday they were in school. And so I have just proved that it is in fact possible to get Moo ready for school in less than 10 minutes, much to her confusion. I thought about explaining in detail my misunderstanding, but decided to use honesty as the best tactic and declared to her that ‘mummy’s an idiot’. Rather sadly for me, this explanation was accepted without hesitation or argument. I managed to get her downstairs for a rudimentary breakfast while I exchanged my cow print PJ bottoms for something more suitable for the school run, and threw on a jacket. All children safely delivered to school by 9.01 am. Now about that coffee…
22-05 A black eye and a black mood. But not for long.
After bundling Moo off to her surprise school day I decided to take advantage of my unexpected free time by sorting out itinerary for the next trip to see hubs. After a frustrating search through one of the world’s most frustrating websites, I divined that in order get the local train to Le Mans we would have to leave at 6.25am, and then wait 5hrs for our connection to Paris. Hmm, time to find a cheap/safe car park near the station methinks. The rest of the journey seemed straightforward enough so I wrote it all down to take to the station later. I picked up Moo for lunch and was thrilled to hear her teacher telling me how well she had done that morning and how much she was progressing with both her written and oral work. The praise from her ‘maitresse’ along with the promise of steak hache et frites for tea at the local bar as a ‘well done’ treat, had Moo beaming from ear to ear. After lunch I decided to mow the lawns. Out came the mower and the extra long extension lead. The back was done and all was looking lovely but as I, rather over enthusiastically as it turned out, pulled up the extension cord the plug end whipped up and caught me square in the left eye. After a great deal of cursing at my own ineptitude, I carried on coiling the cable, until I noticed the blood on the floor. It turned out to be quite a small cut, but at first glance in the mirror I was more than a little concerned. Mopping up and sitting down with a coffee seemed the best course of action. I did eventually get around to mowing the front, but with rather less good will than the back. By the time I was done Moo was home and champing at the bit for her tea, but we had to go to the station on the way to buy the tickets. Now normally the station staff are more than helpful and patient with my staggering French, but not today. Today I was served by Mr Surly, who did everything in his power to make it as difficult as possible. After a cursory glance at my list he then proceeded to tell me that it was not possible to book any of the tickets I wanted and conjured a price that was over 200Euros more than I had calculated. After a brief exchange I took back my list and stomped back to the car with Moo, who chose this point to decide that she had to go to the toilet immediately. Back into the station to find that the toilets were locked and Mr Surly, who I assume had the key, had disappeared. Without enough time to find a conveniently located shrubbery, an accident occurred. So back home to change before going out again to the pub for tea, which by now should probably be more accurately called supper. To say I wasn’t really in the mood by then was putting in mildly and the dull ache that had begun with a plug in the temple, was now threatening to split my head in two. But a promise is a promise, and much as I tried, Moo could not be persuaded to postpone. When we arrived I was greeted with such warmth and affection, and not a little concern over my developing shiner that I couldn’t help but start to smile. As we sat waiting for our food, a friend passed by on her way home and stopped to have a drink and a chat. I explained my plight over the train journey and the landlady, who had also joined us for a drink, insisted that, should I manage to get the tickets, she would take us and collect us from Le Mans, thus negating the need to leave the car. After a wonderful meal we headed home laden with eggs from the landlady’s over productive chickens, and after a short and extremely pleasant telephone conversation with a quite charming lady at the SNCF ticket office our tickets to Belgium were booked. She even managed to knock 20Euros off the price I had found earlier. Moo went to bed like an angel and further inspection of my eye led me to think that I may just get away with a small yellow bruise, rather than the anticipated black and blue. Even by my standards it was a bit of an odd day but, as ever, the company of friends helped turn a black afternoon into a golden sunset.
25-05 Its a funny old day
After a few days holiday, a little sunburn and much Papier maché we were having a grand old time as we headed off to the ‘fete du lac’ yesterday. I didn’t really know much about this fete as this time last year I was in UK buying a car so we missed it, so off we went expecting a little bric a brac and a few ‘saussice et frite’ stalls. As we got about a kilometre away and saw the cars jostling for side of the road parking spaces I realised that I may have underestimated the size of today’s event. I ploughed on regardless hoping for a space a bit nearer and was rewarded as a prime spot was vacated just as I arrived lake side. First we headed to the ‘bricolage’, (car boot type sale) and were instantly rewarded with a few magnificent bargains, and encounters with friends who plied Moo with extra pocket money, which was duly spent on a beach ball, sweets and a ride on the carousel. With my rummaging needs sated for the day we headed to the beach to consume our lunch and watch the various games and displays and have a ‘paddle’. Not satisfied with just a paddle, Moo stripped to her pants and t-shirt and waded right in. As I was lingering knee-deep keeping watch something quite wonderful happened. Moo decided to swim. Properly swim, for the first time ever without any of the usual arm-bands or flotation devices she normally insists on. She just swam, with only the aid of a huge, face splitting grin. I was so proud that my heart took over and I ran and gave her a great big hug. The fact that I was wet through from the waist down mattered not a jot, till the moment had passed and I realised that I would soon be driving home with a very soggy bottom! As it turned out the soggy bottom was the least of my worries. When we got back to the car I found I had been well and truly boxed into my parking space with only about 20 cm manoeuvring room at the front and a ditch at the side I didn’t think we would be going anywhere too soon. Now I don’t know if there is a patron saint of parking, but if there is they answered my prayers as just as I was about to give up hope, the man who had parked next to my bumper returned to his car and promptly left. Hallelujah. We proceeded then to get stuck in a traffic jam. I was a little stunned as it is normally considered unusual to see another car on this particular road, never mind the hundreds that were parked on either side of what is a very narrow 2 lane track. We waited on for about 20 minutes until we slowly inched forward, and it was revealed that the source of the jam was a man who had decided just to stop on the road to have a chat to some friends he had encountered, c’est la vie. Once home Moo contented herself with playing around with her new purchases while I spent a thoroughly depressing 90 minutes with the football, desperately hoping and praying for some kind of miracle that would keep my team in the premiership next season. As the final whistle approached the agonising realisation that the miracle was not going to occur began to sink in. And then it was over. NUFC are now a championship side. If you have ever been through the pain of relegation, you will know how I feel right now. And if, over the next few days, anyone says ‘it’s only a game’, I refuse be held responsible for my actions. Still at least we might actually win a few games next season, and we are sure to have the finest ground in the league…..
29-05 The milk and human kindness
A couple of days ago my neighbour came to call and started talking about milk. At first I thought she wanted to borrow some, then I realised she was asking me if I wanted some. I was a little confused. She explained to me that they were on the way to a local farm to get some milk, and did I want any. I thought this was a little odd, in a nice way, but said yes and went to fetch my purse, she waved me away and told me it was free, and would be back later. Now I was really confused. My French still isn’t really up to discussing agricultural politics, but I had managed to understand that the farmer in question had too much milk and was giving it away to anyone who arrived with an empty bottle in hand. She duly arrived with 2 litres of milk, and waved goodbye. I must say it was delicious. It’s been a very long time since I have had milk straight from the cow. Rice pudding was made and latte and hot chocolate consumed, with just enough left for the morning. It was that evening when looking through some French news, I realised the reason, and scale of the milk issue. The farmers are protesting about the wholesale price they get paid for their milk, which is around 20cents a litre, (around 30%less than the same time last year) whilst the retailers are selling the same milk for over 1 Euro a litre, (10% more than the same time last year). You can see the problem. Well they have had enough and decided to protest by stopping the supply of milk to retailers, but of course daisy and her many friends still need to be relieved of their burden, and so the local farmer’s answer was to milk as usual , but let the tank stand full until it was drained by the locals. Although we didn’t see the sight of milk being poured into the main street, as happened in Paris, there was a plentiful supply for us all. And even though it did halt production at the local bel cheese factory, as one of their casual workers remarked to me, ‘ah oui, but now I have an extra day in the sun with my family, and 20 litres of milk in store, it’s not so bad’. The protest continued, and so did my morning delivery, but in much greater quantities. By day 3, I had 7 ½ litres of milk. Now I do like milk and so does little Moo, but 7 ½ litres of the stuff….! I had to politely tell my neighbour no more, and try and figure out what to do with it all. We had milk sponge, milky fish, milk shake, and I haven’t consumed that number of lattes since I worked in the west-end! Even the cat got in on the act, and I managed to get her to drink from her bowl, by filling it with fresh creamy milk. Mind you if she thinks she’s getting that every day, she will soon be sorely disappointed. Eventually we consumed the lot, and I was quite frankly, delighted by the taste of a simple glass of water. I do not know if the farmer’s demands will be met, but if they decide to take this action again in the future, I will be behind them all the way, with empty bottles in hand of course.

 

JUNE
01-06 Flying cats
I have discovered this week that our cat can fly. I always knew she was a bit special/strange. She has been showing herself to be a fearless climber for a while now, and even at this young age has shown considerable skill with her acrobatics, but aeronautics came as a bit of a surprise even to me. It first happened, (well I first saw it happen), one evening last week as I was getting ready for bed. Having managed to entice her back inside for the night with some food, I shut the doors and windows downstairs and head up. After realising the futility of throwing herself against the glass to try and execute an overnight escape, she glumly followed and proceeded to her usual spot in the bath to wait for me. I should probably take the time now to explain that our strange little moggy will only drink from the bath. I have tried may different ways to try and convince her that this is not normal cat behaviour, but she will not be swayed and every night she will go and sit in the tub and meow very loudly till I perform my duty and put a little water in for her to drink. So anyway, after her drink she sauntered into the bedroom and jumped on the window ledge while I pottered/faffed about for a few minutes. Then I decided it was time to get the cat in and close the window for the night. Chimney however had obviously decided that she did not want to stay in for the night, and reasoned that as I had already closed all the windows and doors downstairs this may well be her last chance of freedom. She arched her back with such determination that I knew what she was about to do and tried to reach her before she toppled to what I assumed would be at least a broken leg. Of course I didn’t reach her in time and was left open mouthed, framed in the upstairs window, quite frankly, a little in awe of what I witnessed. As she, and my heart, leapt I watched for what could only have been a second or two, but it felt like so much more, as she stretched herself out and glided gracefully to the ground. And it really was quite graceful. She landed with barely a sound, around 10 meters down the garden, took a moment to compose herself, and, with a cocky little upward glance at me, sauntered off through the gate for an evening of adventure. I think I’d better try and warn the birds to look up as well as down from now on.
05-06 Flaming June
The month has started by more than living up to its reputation. It is glorious. The garden is thriving and the first crop of radish’s are in and consumed, more of that later, and the rest of my fledgling plot is coming along nicely. I am watching the cherry tree like a hawk and at the first sign of proper red, the ladder is coming out and whilst the birds will probably still get the majority, I am determined that this year I will at least get some. It’s a bit of a learning curve this gardening malarkey, as I’ve never really had a garden before So far I have learned that next year I’m going to stagger the radish planting. I wasn’t really expecting that many to grow, and as Moo is not that keen on the humble radish there has been an awful lot to consume. So I decided to get creative. Enough of buttered radish and stir fry, time to get busy. There were of course the inevitable soups, but I was after something a bit more….’cakey’. Hmm. Well you can get carrot cake so why not? The carrot and radish cake was a resounding success, so flushed with this I made biscuits. Not quite so good. But the ‘piece de resistance’ has got to be scones. The humble cheese scone redefined by a little bit of radish. I was actually quite amazed at just how good they are and can thoroughly recommend trying them. Particularly filled with nice soft brie when they are fresh out of the oven. Sadly the good weather seems to be accompanied by bad health. The school once more has succumbed to the ‘grande rhum’, and little dears have been coughing and spluttering for a week or so now. Moo and I have had a couple of rough nights but now we seem to be over the worst. Hubs has also had a very bad cough and cold and has been feeling quite miserable and poorly. These are the hard times, when I have to look at him feeling so blue and I can’t even give him a cuddle. But that will be remedied tomorrow as we have booked a trip to Belgium for the weekend and at last I can give him a big hug. And a couple of radish scones.
07-09 All the fun of the fair
So a wonderful weekend with hubs and Moo, the highlight being that there was a fun-fair in town, so off we trooped on a stormy Sunday afternoon to take in the delights. And it really was a delight. It’s been so long since I have been to a funfair, and it really didn’t disappoint. Moo was entranced by the sights, sounds and smells and spent her pocket money in the blink of an eye. Fortunately the ‘bank-of-dad’ has not yet had too many lending restrictions placed upon it so she was able to secure adequate funding for the day. Watching her go for broke on the junior bumper cars had me fearing for the time in the future when she will be requesting driving lessons, and even though he still had a stinking cold, Hubs could not resist the plea for us all to go on the water ride together. As we lined up for our boat the heavens opened, and we were soaked before we even got on, but we weren’t going to let a little rain dampen our spirits, well Moo was clearly not going to let a little rain dampen our spirits so we had little choice but to soldier on. The hall of mirrors seemed like as good a place as any to dry out, and many slightly steaming families seemed to have the same idea, and whilst I know that conventionally it’s very bad form to laugh out loud at the appearance of a complete stranger, it was impossible not to. We had the most fun of the day pointing and laughing at our distorted reflections, and ended up staying in there for about half an hour, crying with laughter. After we were sufficiently dried out I was delegated the task of accompanying Moo on the ‘pirate ship carousel’ which at first glance held no fear, but as I watched it twist and spin and rise and fall at ever growing speed, the fear of a reappearing hot dog grew ever stronger. Moo looked a little terrified, but as it was her idea to go on there was to be no backing down, I don’t know where she gets that stubborn streak…. Almost as soon as we got going the fear turned to laughter as we were thrown around inside the tiny boats, occasionally seeing the blur that was a waiting, watching hubs as we twirled passed, and all I could do was hug her and laugh like I haven’t laughed for years. However, there is one small tale of woe to report from our expedition. Hubs has lost his grab machine mojo. Hubs is a past master of the grab machine, and has never walked away empty handed, until now. Many Euros were bid a fond goodbye as we went from one machine to another, but it just wasn’t his day, and whilst Moo was briefly distressed at the lack of a prize, I think this may haunt Hubs for many a long day. In all fairness he is ‘carrying an injury’, with his big bad cold, and you can be sure he will rise to the grab machine crown once more when he is back at peak fitness…….
10-09 Yesterday I met an angel in Paris
The train left Belgium 10 minutes late, not so much, we had AGES to cross Paris and make our connection. We watched the storms rolling across the sky as they followed us for most of the journey, and were quite snug as the rain battered the carriage windows. Then, about half an hour outside Paris the train stopped, and we waited and we waited, and just for fun waited some more. As the minutes ticked by I realised that the ‘ages’ we had to cross the city were rapidly becoming too short. By the time we got going again we were 50 minutes late, leaving just over half an hour till the next train was due to leave. Now officially the time it takes to get from gare du nord to Montparnasse by metro is 25 minutes. Having done the journey several times now, I can only assume that the official who recorded that time must have been a member of the French Olympic running squad travelling at a time when the metro was closed to the public. And they certainly did not have a tired, grumpy 4 year old and a heavy suitcase to contend with. A taxi was our only realistic option, and even then it would be a close thing. I don’t know if you have ever tried to catch a taxi from a main international train station at around tea-time in the middle of a storm, but as we stepped outside and I saw the queue my heart sank and the hope of making our connection seemed to wash away in the rain. Unused to the idea of waiting, Moo marched right up to the head of the line, and as I tried to explain we had to wait at the other end, an angel appeared. There is a man at gare du nord whose job it is to see that the taxi queue remains orderly, and that people take their turn… There is a man at gare du nord who told us that he has a little girl at home around the same age as Moo. There is a man at gare du nord who took pity on us and ushered us into the first taxi ahead of a hundred or so patiently waiting customers. There is a man at gare du nord who truly is an angel. Merci Monsieur. We told the driver our destination and our plight of timing, he just smiled an assured us it would be ‘pas de problem’. A dramatic and fast paced ride across the city ensued, and despite our hurry I enjoyed every second. Swerving in and out of nonexistent lanes, undercutting a police car on a roundabout, racing past the eerily glowing pyramid of the Louvre, passing through the Arc de Triomphe to the accompaniment of booming thunder, and there is nothing quite like the sight of lightning forking to within an inch of the Eiffel tower. Magical. We pulled up at the station with minutes to spare and with Moo clinging to the back of the wheelie suitcase, I ran. We got on the train and collapsed into our seats, moments before it pulled away on the last leg of our journey home.
12-06 Bedtime glories
In comparison with our weekend, the last few days have been a little…boring, to be honest. Settling back in to the home routine, such as it is. I feel I should possibly not have commented on the glorious start to June, as since I did the weather has been atrocious. Wet, cold and grey. Moo and I have been watching a lot of films. We managed to make it to the swimming pool on Wednesday afternoon and although it was lousy weather Moo still wanted to go in the outdoor pool, mainly because there is a big water-slide outside, but we had fun swimming in the rain for about 15 minutes until the cold got the better of me and we headed back indoors. Moo is really coming along in the water, and her confidence is growing each time, it’s so good to watch her progress from week to week and it makes me so proud. Also this week we finally got Moo a proper bed. She has been quite content on her old bed base and mattress while we hummed and hawed over the ‘new bed’ purchase changing her mind on an almost daily basis as to what she wants. She had seen a country cottage enclosed bed that she liked for a while but at nearly 700Euros we decided to wait till she had gone off that particular idea. Thankfully she did! But I decided enough was enough and it was time to get her a plain old bed, rather fortunately my decision coincided with a sale at a local furniture shop and I managed to pick up a bargain at 40Euros. So now she has a ‘big girl’ bed and at last I can see the floor in her bedroom as there is ample space underneath to hide a multitude of toys. As I was telling hubs about the new bed Moo disappeared upstairs, only to reappear a few minutes later having changed herself into her pyjamas and insisted that it was time to go to bed. Now those of you who know Moo, either in person or through reading this site, will know that it’s normally a bit of an effort at bedtime and we have had some long running ‘bedtime issues’, so for her to ask to go to bed at 7.20 was an offer I couldn’t refuse. I quickly said goodbye to hubs and by the time I got upstairs she was already under the duvet with her night-light on, waiting for me to close the shutters. A quick story and I was dismissed and downstairs having a coffee by 7.35. Now I’m sure the novelty of the new bed will wear off quite quickly, and the usual struggles will resume in time, but for now, its goodnight from me, and its goodnight from her.
16-06 Must clean!
Well the ‘big bed’ still seems to be weaving its magic spell, not quite at 7.30, but it’s still a very good thing! I have been having a very busy few days around the house, which started by cleaning a few mucky fingerprints from the window and turned into a full scale 3 day assault with the marigolds on. Now I’m not really a neat freak, (by any stretch of the imagination), but I do like a tidy house, after Moo has gone to bed obviously, any hope of a tidy house before that is false and doomed to failure, but the ‘deep clean’ is something I tend to avoid for as long as possible. But once you have one shiny clean window pane, it rather shows the rest up, and when you have a full set of gleaming windows, well the white cotton curtains take on a rather dingy appearance, and so it goes on. My well of enthusiasm ran dry at the end of day one, unfortunately only the upstairs was done by that point and I dragged myself through to the end of day two with a heavy heart and wrinkly hands, trying to find things for Moo to ‘help’ with without meaning double the work for me. I failed, miserably. But she meant well I’m sure, although I did have to explain that while it was very good of her to bring the curtains back upstairs for mummy to hang, it may have been a good idea to wash the jam off her hands before hand. So all that is left now is to re-hang the curtains, after a boil wash to remove the aforementioned jam, but as I can’t do that till morning I am going to enjoy this evening soaking in my shiny clean bath in my sparkling bathroom with a big glass of local brew as my reward for a spotless house, well till Moo gets up anyway.
19-06 Hubs is home and this time not just for a week!
So here we are somehow already at the time we have all been waiting for – summer holidays! Hubs is now finished in deepest darkest Belgium, well till the end of September anyway. We had a late night run to Le Mans on Thursday night to get him and bring him home just in time for his birthday. Friday morning, before school, saw Moo and I frantically decorating the living room with streamers and a birthday banner, so we could have a ‘birthday lunch’ when she came home for dinner. And it was lovely. Hubs refreshed from a lovely lie-in and a heap of cards to open and trying to adjust to the fact that he was home for a good long while and not the usual few short days. After Moo was sent, rather reluctantly, back to school Hubs and I had a leisurely wander round and found the perfect way to spend his birthday money, a fab rug for the living room and a copy of Mary Poppins. In all honesty I think Hubs was far more excited about viewing the new DVD than Moo, who took quite a lot of persuading, but dad’s promises of magic drawings and renditions of supercalifragilisticexpialidocious convinced her into it. With the evening’s entertainment sorted and a steak dinner consumed we all crashed out on the sofa and fought to keep our eyes open till the end of the film. Only Moo managed to achieve this and woke us up to tell us it was bedtime. How right she was.
23-09 Multigym madness
The soundtrack to last evening was a steady stream of half uttered sentences ‘where on earth does that…’ but if that goes there’…….. ‘Damn thing isn’t properly…’ a few mild, but totally necessary, expletives through to discussion of people in a factory deliberately mislabelling parts in order to deceive and confuse, (well you would wouldn’t you?). It can mean only one thing. Self assembly. We have been out and bought ourselves a multigym in attempt to regain a reasonable level of fitness (more of that in later posts I can assure you!). Even hubs looked daunted when we opened the boxes and saw the sheer volume of parts and scarcity of instructions. Getting it here was fun in itself and I wish I had a camera to record the look of utter disbelief on the face of the kindly assistant who brought the very large boxes out to the very small car. He obviously didn’t realise he was dealing with people who used to cram huge theatre sets into the back of small wagons. After a little jiggling we got the boxes in and closed the boot. I could tell the assistant was deeply impressed. How to get Hubs in was a slightly more complex matter as the front passenger seat was rammed up against the front window with a large container on top. After a short trip to the supermarket it was decided that cowering on the floor in the back under the said box, just would not do, so more adjustments were carried out enabling both Hubs and Moo to sit on the back seat without too much squishing. Sunday and Monday were (amongst other things), set aside for assembly and with one look in the box I decided that I would be best suited to making sure the workman had enough tea. After an heroic struggle against all the odds of tiny and badly drawn diagrams, an alarming system of labels, and a little encouragement from the sidelines (Moo’s Monday morning comment of ‘haven’t you finished it yet’ went down particularly well), Hubs conquered and we now have a shiny new multigym ready to hone us into chiselled individuals. All we have to do now is use it.
28-06 Spectacular spectacular
This week was a momentous week in our household, many months of preparation and rehearsal all coming to a head on Friday night for the fin d’annee spectacle d’ecole. Moo has been practicing her singing and dancing, mostly in secret so it’s a big surprise, for weeks and has been reminding us to make sure we didn’t forget the date for just about as long. We arrived at the appointed hour (20.15 – in costume), and proceeded to select our position (not quite front but centre) and wait till the spectacle began. The appointed hour, 20.30, came and went without much fanfare and people still milling around chatting and sorting out the vast amounts of cakes which had been donated for refreshments. Most people were in their seats by around 20.45, poised with their cameras at the ready to capture those magic moments. With bottoms already beginning to numb, it became clear that there was a problem backstage concerning microphones and batteries that would take more than a moment or two to resolve. 21.00 saw the arrival, and fitting, of new batteries and at last we were underway. The ‘big school’ (7-10 yr olds), kicked off with a funny drama concerning the office of the Mairé and a wedding. Although I didn’t get the full measure of wit, I got enough for a few chuckles, but Hubs was left more than a little bemused. After a protracted scene change it was time for Moo to shine. The ‘moyen section’ writhed and slithered on stage to perform their contemporary dance interpretation of the origins of life ‘micro cosmos’, and I have to say, as someone who has seen a fair bit of contemporary dance in her time, they did a rather super job. After the dance came the singing and we were treated to a couple of numbers they had learnt during the year, but sadly not my favourite ditty ‘je fais pipi sur le gazon’. I charge you to look it up – you will be amazed, and possibly a little disturbed! After the singing came the much needed interval, starring the aforementioned patisserie, which was much appreciated by all. By this point it was rapidly approaching 22.00. Moo (not to mention her parents) was seriously flagging, and as ‘act 2’ featured only the older children, we took the cowards way out and made our farewells citing a tired grumpy child, rather obligingly Moo decided to almost fall asleep in my arms at that moment, so our getaway was covered. We made it home around 22.15 and put moo to bed lavishing her with praise for a fine performance and collapsed onto the sofa with a big glass of wine, complimenting ourselves on our exit strategy. We were even more thankful when we saw our neighbour returning with a sleeping child in his arms at around 23.30. And so the spectacle d’ecole finds itself in quite illustrious company as it is only the 3rd time in my life I have left a performance at the interval. The first was ‘Napoleon – the Musical’, I don’t think I have to add anything further as to why we left at the end of act 1, the title should tell you all you need to know. The second was the world premiere of ‘Lord of the rings – the musical’ at Drury lane in London. Despite the multi-million pound budget, the lure of act 2 was about a million times weaker than the lure of the pub across the road. I may well have to volunteer my services as an ex-theatre professional to the spectacle d’ecole next year, if only to keep the running time down, as there will be no interval get out for us by then.

 

JULY

02-07 A visit to the local pool – welcome to hell
Well July has arrived in a hurry here. It has come upon us most unexpectedly! Since hubs got home the time has flown and here we are with Moo at school for the last day of school before the summer holiday, most excited there is a school picnic for lunch and she is, for the first time, staying all day. It will be most strange for her not to be home at lunchtime. Strange, but nice! Although if the predicted ‘grand orage’ arrives it will be a rather soggy lunchtime. Yesterday we had a busy morning in the garden. I saw hubs approach the apple tree with a determined look on his face and a saw in his hand, and knew he meant business. Not that he was chopping it down you understand, just giving it a much needed ‘trim’. I’m guessing its around 15 years since it was last tended as the branches were trailing on the ground all around it cutting off about half the garden and reaching out over the fence, putting passersby in grave danger of Newtonian style concussion. Much sweating and sawing occurred and after an hour or so the tree looked less like a weeping willow and more like an apple tree, and we have an ‘extra’ 10 metres of garden. With that done we decided to have a nice relaxing afternoon at the local swimming pool. Really Hubs and I wanted to go to the lake, but the lure of the water slides was all consuming and off we went to the 7th circle of hell. I think the entire town had decided that it would be a good day to visit the pool and it was packed to the rafters with screaming excitable children. Moo had a great time and met a school friend for a mad splash fight, but it was all we could do to endure an hour and a half before we had to get out of there or lose our sanity entirely. Next time I think I may have to use the ‘parents prerogative’* and insist on the beach instead. Which is where we are hoping to head to this afternoon, weather permitting, to enjoy our last child free hours of the summer? *The parents prerogative of course being to lie blatantly to your child about the opening hours of the pool/shop/park/ice cream van – delete as necessary.
05-07 Coughs and sneezes and overnight guests
Poor Moo has the most terrible cough. She arrived home from school on Thursday, tired but happy, having greatly enjoyed the picnic which was thankfully dry as the storm did not hit until around 3ish. We were delighted by her end of year report which showed massive improvement in all areas, with lovely comments from maitress about how well she is doing, and how much she is looking forward to welcoming Moo to the ‘grand section’ next year. A celebratory dinner was had and a family snuggle on the sofa before bed was a reward for us all. Moo slept soundly till around 4am, then the coughing began. It didn’t really stop. Friday saw us all confined to base (apart from a stocking up trip to the pharmacy), as we were all rather tired and a little grumpy. We had been due to attend a soiree in the village hall in the evening to celebrate the end of term, but I attended only long enough to transmit our apologies and receive wishes of bon courage for the night ahead. By the time I got back to the house Moo was asleep in her daddy’s arms, so I took her straight up to bed, and in all honesty we soon followed in anticipation of another sleepless night. At 7am the next morning we were surprised and delighted to find we had all had a good night’s sleep, and Moo seemed full of beans again and not nearly so poorly. After the usual breakfast and tidy up I left Moo with Hubs and trooped to the local town to do the posting, banking and shopping. It was quite liberating to have the car to myself on such a beautiful morning, so down came the windows and up went the volume on the stereo. I was having a wonderful full throttle sing along when the second, rather temperamental, speaker decided to kick in and nearly shattered my eardrums. I’m sure I saw the cows in the adjacent field jump. At The supermarket I loaded up the trolley with various pizza bits crisps and chocolate, not for me you understand – we haven’t fallen off our health kick quite yet, but for the anticipated arrival of two of Moo’s school friends who were coming for an overnight stay. Moo has been high as a kite for weeks waiting for the big day and had been planning the tea menu with much precision for just as long. Back at home we played and painted and waited for the appointed hour of 4pm to arrive. Every hour Moo counted the chimes of the church clock and when they didn’t arrive at 4 on the dot she began to fret! Fortunately it was not long before they did arrive and with a flurry of overnight bags and pillows they had disappeared up to Moo’s room without so much as an Au revoir to their departing parents. Hubs and I enjoyed a relatively peaceful half hour or so, if you discount the giggling yelling and crashing from above, whilst they bedded in. Then it was time for DIY pizza. Chimney, who had been conspicuous by her absence since shortly after 4, made a timely return to profit from the toppings which were as much on the floor as on the pizzas. Cooking and consumption rapidly followed and then it was time for the kids to watch a movie and for me to arrange some beds. After the movie, which seemed to be much shorter than usual, les enfants retired to the garden for half an hour to tire then out before bed. The timing couldn’t have been better as our neighbour was tending to his garden and took great joy in watering not only his veg but 3 very excitable children. Bed time went rather smoothly considering, and all were scrubbed, into PJ’s and tucked in, in less than half an hour. As I closed the door on the giggling I went and watered my veg with nothing in my head but the large bottle of wine now chilling in the fridge. Just a couple of ‘visits’ upstairs were needed before 2 out of 3 were asleep. Sadly number 3 was Moo and her cough had decided to come back with a vengeance, so we took her in with us for the night so at least our 2 guests could get some shut-eye. Hubs decided to try and get a few hours on the sofa as I sat up with moo rubbing her back and trying to soothe her to sleep. When I woke at around 5am and found him wrapped in covers on the floor beside the bed, I’m guessing the sofa idea didn’t work too well after all. At 7.30 I was greeted at the bedroom door by 2 washed and dressed smiling children eagerly anticipating the promised homemade pain au chocolate for breakfast. I wrestled Moo into some clothes and we went down to bake, waking hubs on the way so he could at least have a little time in his bed! So here we are breakfast done and dusted, and jolly nice it was too, with Mary Poppins in French keeping the children entertained while we await the arrival of Mr et Mme W, while I mainline coffee to try and keep my eyes from falling shut and wondering when Hubs is going to appear….
10-07 Where does the time go?
I’m finding it increasingly hard to find the time to do…well most things really! Now that Moo is on school holidays it makes me realise how much I appreciate those few hours a day. Much to Moo’s initial displeasure we have undertaken a programme of ‘school work’ for an hour a day so she doesn’t fall behind during the holidays. Also with hubs at home too, time I would normally spend pottering or blogging is spent making up for all the time we spend apart. And with the added exercise regime, which is going rather well thanks for asking, there goes another hour or so a day. I’m having a great time you understand, but ‘regular’ life seems to have disappeared for the moment, and my normal activities have fallen to neglect. Falling behind on the housework or gardening is not something I will ever lose sleep over, but I am greatly regretting the neglect of my imaginary friends, (more about them later in the week), and I can only apologise for my absence of late. As Moo has been getting over her lousy cough, and the weather has been rather disappointingly cloudy and rainy for the last week or so, we have been engaged in mostly close to home or indoor activities. Much painting and drawing has been done and ‘the house of Moo studios’ has been quite prolific in their output. We took a trip to Le Mans this week to get a few bits for our impending holiday, (10 days to go – WOOHOO!), and came back with a couple of toys for Moo and a new TV. Not exactly what was on the list, and not exactly hand luggage……We have been looking around for a new TV for a while, the old one is a little on the clunky side these days and needs the addition of a strategically placed DVD case wedged above the appropriate connectors to play certain films or games. But our ‘managers special – no box’ bargain has served us well for the last 10 years considering the number of moves it has survived (6 in case you are wondering plus 6 months in a damp garage with only a wrapped around duvet for protection). So we started looking on-line for a bargain and thought we had found one, but decided to wait till after the holiday to make the purchase. But Lo we arrived in the electrical shop and there it was, almost exactly the one we were looking at but at over 100E less and once it was explained and understood that this was the price as it was a ‘special du magasin’ and came without a box, we found ourselves in the grip of fate and decided to make the deal. Moo and Hubs disappeared for a browse while it was wrapped in an industrial amount of bubble wrap and I dealt with the formalities of the purchase, quite why they need to know my place of birth I’m not sure, but hearing the assistant struggling with ‘Audinboorge’, gave me a little insight as to how I must sound when groping for French pronunciation. Hubs desire to get the TV in place and picture perfect had to wait a while though, as we had been invited round to a house in the village for drinks that evening. Mr R & Mrs A are an English couple who own a holiday home in the village, and were quite delighted to discover that there was another English speaking family just up the road. They made us most welcome and plied us with fine wine while I fell deeply and profoundly in love with their 3 English setters. We stayed until Moo got too restless then bid farewell to new friends, with the promise of a steady supply of baked beans on their holiday visits! I put Moo to bed and Hubs launched himself into the job of sorting out the TV with great gusto. I must say it is a very nice TV and the picture quality, (after prolonged fiddling about with every function that could be fiddled about with over the course of 2 days), is superb, but I am beginning wondering how long I will have to marvel and show vocal appreciation at its sheer wonderfulness each time it is switched on. Perhaps it’s just a boy thing.
21-07 And so it begins.
So here we are in America, doesn’t time fly! The last few weeks have gone by in a blur, and I can’t quite believe we are on holiday at last. Hubs and I had planned a nice early night, but when it reached 9.30pm and I Once I had taken care of that small formality, we sat down for a little drink before bed, then another one. Kicking the end out of a big bottle of Vodka till 3 am was probably not the best preparation for a 24 hr journey, seven stage journey, but by the time our sense chimed in it was way too late. The journey began with a 6.30 taxi ride to our local station, for our connecting train to Paris. Then a supposedly 2, but what turned out to be 3, hr wait for a connecting flight to London. We were shuttled around GDG airport while easy jet found us a plane and filled it with fuel. As we flew into the UK we just happened to be flying over our old town and we saw our old house. The sight of the concrete jungle below was quite a thing. So many houses all packed together, more in one street than is in our whole village now. I haven’t been back to England in just under a year and I can honestly say I have not one single regret. The grey skies and driving rain did not help I’m sure. Anyway, onwards and upwards. We caught our connecting bus to Heathrow, and despite a few ‘oncoming traffic’ and roundabout heebie jeebies from me the journey passed quickly. Despite all the horror stories of terminal 5, it was the best airport experience I have ever had. Self check-in, nice coffee lounge and helpful courteous staff making the whole experience actually quite pleasurable. Even when hubs was being frisked at security we had a giggle with the guards, I think that opening his case to find George , moo’s beloved bear, softened their attitude considerably. And so we boarded flight 299 to Chicago, weary, but not yet broken. 8 hrs in the air passed without too much cause for complaint, a couple of meals a couple of movies, and entertaining ourselves and the cabin staff by wearing our eye masks over our mouths ‘swine flu protection’ style. (There were quite a few of those on our flight although most of the mask-ee’s removed them for eating anyway so one wonders what the point actually was in the first place). We disembarked with our luggage and raced towards immigration. We were only 3rd in the queue and so we figured we wouldn’t be too long. We figured wrong. The first lady had 2 children with US passports, but a foreign one herself, she also had somehow figured that she didn’t have to fill out the immigration forms for her kids, even though it was reinforced several times on the plane. 20 minutes later it was the turn of the young single Arabic man. Now young single Arabic men who have Pakistani stamps in their passport do not get through US immigration too quickly these days, in fact I’m not sure he got through at all as he was escorted away by a very big very stern looking official. Then it was our turn, our passports were scrutinised and our fingerprints taken. With British passports and French residency he was a little suspicious of us, but then he asked Hubs what he did for a living, and was delighted to find out he worked in the business of show. His attitude changed entirely and we had a pleasant chat and he waved us through with a salutation of ‘ I hope you folks have a super stay, and then he resumed his stony expression and called for the next in line. We passed through one hour later and saw the face of my patiently waiting parents. A quick round of hugs then into the car for the last 2 hours, most of which passed in a dozing haze and then we at last arrived. Moo was dispatched to bed with no complaint and then 24hrs after we set out we were sitting on mom and dad’s porch with an amazingly good cup of coffee watching the fireflies chasing round the pine trees. Time for bed I think.
22-07 Time for the chop and a “Ye-haw”
Thoughts of a lie-in were thrown out the window at 6.30 when I heard Moo up and about, but it was poor grandma that bore the brunt as Moo was actually up and about at 4.30 and ready to play. The morning was lazy as we all gradually surfaced although grandma went for a well earned nap around 9ish and dad took us for a drive around the area. It really is beautiful and we took in the locale and the surrounding countryside of their town. We got back to the house for a big American breakfast on the porch, listening to the music coming from the church tower across the lawn. Then it was time for the beauty salon. Moo and I were booked in for the big chop in preparation for our desert adventures. The local hairdressers eyes lit up as we walked in and told her we both wanted ‘a lot’ cut off. She participates in a programme called ‘wigs for kids’ which is a charity that, rather surprisingly, makes wigs for kids who have lost their hair through illness. I was delighted for us to join in this programme and actually went a bit shorter than originally intended to help the cause. In the end Moo donated 6 inches and I gave up 8. After that we headed into town for coffee and were greeted like long lost friends by people I barely recognised who had met us the last time we visited 3 ½ years ago. Then it was time to hit Wal-mart. Hubs was like a kid in a candy store and I lost him for an hour or so in the clothing section before he emerged with a cart load of bargains (of course I was completely restrained in the shoe department….). We met up with the folks and went to a fantastic Italian restaurant and filled ourselves to the brim with pasta. And then it was time for the main event of the day. The Green County Fair Rodeo. We were well equip with cowboy hats, star-spangled apparel and a bellyful of ‘yeehaws’. The rodeo was an amazing spectacle with genuine cowboys wrestling and roping cattle and of course riding the broncos. We had a great tine cheering them on and marvelling at their skill. But the most absorbing sight of the evening by far was the menu of the lady who was sitting in front. As dad was warming the seats for us she consumed a burger and fries. As we arrived she was tucking into an enormous kebab, soon after that had been devoured she dispatched her mother to fetch her an ‘onion blossom’, or to put plainly, a deep fried sliced onion, with cheese and sauce. As we left she was contemplating a funnel cake (deep fried sweet batter with powdered sugar), or perhaps the deep fried cheese curds. It will not surprise you to learn that she was a rather large lady. Now speaking as someone who has always been on the ‘rubenesque’ end of the clothes rail, I don’t often comment on the weight of others. However, it is often said here ‘eating as much as I like is my choice’, but then there are bitter complaints about discrimination when the cost of the health insurance is twice the price of someone who is not as heavy. There is no choice without consequence. And what about the 15 stone 8 year old who can barely climb the bleacher steps as he has weight related arthritis because his mother lets him get through 5 cheeseburgers in the hour we were sitting there. What choices will he have?
23-07 A full day of wonder.
Thursday dawned and today we were taking the kids to the zoo in the big city of Madison, around an hour away. I joined our good friend Mrs D with her grandson and Moo in the car and a friendship was formed faster than you could blink. Now little G has just been to visit with his other grandparents in Tennessee and by the time we reached the zoo Moo was twanging like a southern belle. Lord alone knows how she will sound by the time we get home. The zoo was amazing and free too. We strolled around looking at the bears and lions and penguins and giraffes and all the other animals you would expect to see in a zoo, but for Moo and Little G the highlight of the trip was playing in the park and watching a tiger taking a poo. 4 yr olds, what can you do! For lunch we headed to the amazing Ella’s deli. Now Ella’s deli does have fantastic food, but what makes it so very amazing is the interior. It’s hard to describe what it looks like but it is a kid and ‘kid-ults’ paradise. To begin with there is a full size carousel in the parking lot. When you walk through the door it is an assault on the senses. The whole deli is filled to the brim with automated models of cartoon and fictional children’s characters, harry potter whizzes by your head on his broomstick criss-crossed with batman and spider man, Popeye and Betty boop peek out from the corners and all of the tables are filled with toys and games. The look of wonderment on the faces of all who pass through the doors is a sight to behold. It was not only Moo and little G that were awestruck! The meal was delicious, and although we passed on the 32 scoop sundae, the slightly smaller ice-creams had the top button straining. After the meal the kids took a ride on the carousel, although the wisdom of a carousel ride after all that food may be a little shaky, they managed to retain their lunch and had an amazing time. A few tears as we had to leave and part company with her new best friend little G, but with the assurance that we would take her back to the farm to see him again, we set off for a small trip around the state capitol. To be honest by this point the jet lag was starting to hit and we were a little weary as we wandered round the beautiful Minona Terrace, and the journey back home was spent with mum and dad rather redundantly pointing out the sights to 3 sleepers in the back. After our nap and several coffee’s it was time for my driving lesson. I have never driven an automatic before, so I felt it was to at least have a try before I got behind the wheel of an 8 seater for our ‘road trip’ tomorrow. Now mum and dad have an amazingly large car, an old 3.8 litre Buick Park avenue, (which actually has more floor space that a flat that hubs and I lived in once), so after my 1 litre Peugeot, I was a little nervous to say the least. But with a couple of instructions we were off. And although it is the size of a small tank it handles better than Verity. As I tried to stop my left foot pushing down on the non-existent clutch dad introduced me to the joy that is cruise control, and I was able to perform a small tap routine on the floor as the car drove itself and all I had to do was steer. we drove around for about an hour and performed various manoeuvres (reversing in that thing is really a matter of some guesswork as there is a 6ft bonnet and a 5 ft trunk, and you can’t actually see either end of the car), but when dad was satisfied that I was not going to kill us all we headed home. Now the plan for the evening was supposed to be that Hubs and I were to go to the local drive-in move, but I was shattered already, and with the ‘big trip’ commencing in the morning, it was felt that the best idea would be an early night all-round.

 

ROAD TRIP!!

24-07 DAY 1   I-O-WA and off we go
And so the road trip has begun and we are making our way through Iowa, the Hawkeye state, complementing the fluffiness of the corn and the vastness of the plain. I suspect that there will be a quite a lot of that on this trip. We picked up the 8 seat Chrysler with no hiccups and I got to drive the Buick back to mums place and despite a small detour (mother’s directions rather than my driving), we were all back safe and ready to rock. So we are 7. Hubs, Moo and I, Mum, Dad and two of our great friends Mr & Mrs D. We set off 10 minutes behind (dad’s) schedule and had a ‘moment’ or 2 programming the sat-nav, but we were off and running before too long. Our first gas stop has given birth to our first ‘road game’. We are on a quest to find the hottest road stop snack, full details of which will follow. I really don’t know what to expect on this trip, other than that by tonight we will be in Kansas, but I know it will be fun! On our lunch stop we found a wooden fort with a kids slide and of course moo was all over it and compelling the ‘adults’ to join her, which of course we did, I went first and found the really hot bit at the bottom, then hubs decided to follow me down in spectacular style at full stretch and full speed, shot off the end and landed with quite a ‘whumph’ on the gravel, too much applause. After that grampa and Mr D’s efforts seemed quite tame. We travelled on again and at the next gas stop it was my turn to drive. I loved it, long straight highways and cruise control. In all honesty Moo could probably have driven that stretch of road in this vehicle, but it was very cool to be driving across the heartland of America. Cool until we started to approach the toll. Not that I have any problem with toll booths we have quite a lot of them in France. The problem was the sudden animation of the 4 other back seat drivers informing me of the presence of the toll booth and furnishing me with full instructions. I’m not entirely sure the sarcasm got through, but thankfully I managed to negotiate the booth without too much strife…..We found the nights lodging, in Topeka Kansas, with no problems, checked in, freshened up, cracked open the wine and headed out to find ‘the outback steakhouse’. mum and dad were causing much hilarity in their attempts to find directions on the sat nav and by the time we set off the ‘kids’ in the back were in tears of laughter and when we were on our third trip round the highway intersection the decision was taken to just go to the nearest place to eat, sadly it was too late for Moo and by the time the marvellous food arrived it had to be automatically boxed as she was fast asleep snuggled up next to grandma. It was at this point hubs divulged that his ‘stunt slide’ of this afternoon, may have been a little too daring and he had been in agony for most of the day and feared he may have cracked his tailbone. Still only another 2500 miles left sitting in the van…..
25-07 DAY 2 From prairie time to Mountain Time
We awoke early and were quite surprised to find it was dark. The enormous boom of thunder quickly gave us the reason. The noise of the sudden rain was deafening and Main Street in front of the hotel was a raging torrent. Hubs had already gone for a proper look and by the time I had showered it was all but passed, but I could watch the storm progressing across the wide Kansas sky. As we started the drive we wondered at the vast emptiness of the plain, and then we wondered some more, and then quite frankly we got bored. Kansas is dull. I’m sure there are lots of very interesting things in Kansas, but interstate 70 is probably not the best place to see them. In fact just about the only thing that kept us going was counting down the miles to the world’s largest prairie dog, which is apparently over 8000lbs. sadly that attraction slipped by. As grandpa and Mr.D caught a few zzz’s Hubs and I got a little stir crazy and started laughing uncontrollably at the slightest hint of a joke, but Hubs stole my thunder as we crossed the state line by declaring the immortal line ‘I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore’. I’d been looking forward to saying that for several hundred miles. Gutted. Almost as soon as we crossed into Colorado the scenery changed dramatically, as did the time, gone was an hour and the flat prairies gave way to the rolling hills and lush green pastures, so much landscape after such flat desolation was a wake up for the senses and the first sight of the Rockies too my breath away. Driving through Denver was something else, the glinting skyscrapers rose up before us on the left and the mountains on the right all before the backdrop of the gathering black storm clouds. Awesome. The rain storm broke and we stopped for gas to let it pass. I jumped in and bagged the last driving spot of the day though the mountains to our destination for the evening. What a glorious drive. It was hard to keep my eyes on the road as we passed though the ski resorts of the rich and famous, and saw the lodges perched precariously atop the mountains. We couldn’t believe our luck when we pulled up at our hotel in Avon. Once again Hubs had struck gold with his internet booking. We checked to our lodge hotel and Mrs.D related to us all that the regular room price should have been around $450 per person, (I can thoroughly recommend Colorado out of season!). After a brief consultation of the maps and a little group discussion, we decided that as our original destination of Arizona was another full day’s drive away, but the canyon parks started in Utah ,a mere 5hrs away, that we should head there instead and have a bit more time relaxing and a bit less time driving. With the business of the day concluded we headed down to have a bite to eat, although not at the hotel resteraunt which was charging $17.95 for a sandwich, (even if the room rates are out of season, the service prices aren’t), and headed to the hot tub. This is the life.
26-07 DAY 3 Rocky mountain High to desert storm
At around 3 am I woke with a start to the sounds of another storm so up I got and sat on the balcony to watch the lightning flash’s silhouetting the craggy mountain tops. At around 5 am I woke again as Moo climbed into bed and performed her infamous starfish manoeuvre, so I took the easiest option and made myself a nest on the floor. After not much sleep and a good workout at the hotel gym, I opted out of today’s driving which was a relatively short 5 hr stint. Passing through the Millionaires paradise of Vail lusting after the $20million resort homes, and seeing the vast amounts of wealth in this one small section was in stark contrast to just a few miles down the road where we were greeted with ‘closeout’ notices and run down trailer parks, the homes of those who service the millionaires in their paradise. The mountain roads were winding and a little scary in places, but beautiful beyond words. Following the great Colorado river as it cut through the mountains, looking at the old abandoned gold mines that littered the mountainside reminded us all of the rich history of the region. Quite how the pioneers on their wagon trains traversed this country without the aid of the I-70 or the union pacific railroad, and with the added bonus of Indian raiding parties waiting on mountain ridges is a true wonder. Once again the country side around us began to change and flatten around us as we headed further west. The pioneers must have found Utah a great relief after Colorado – well until they reached the canyons anyway…… We entered Utah and found coffee and an information point at one of the rest areas. While hubs and I strolled around, mum went in search of information. As we strolled we saw they Moo co-erced Mrs.D into a walk up a nearby hill, followed by a couple of expectant circling buzzards. Mum returned slightly exasperated after her exchange with the information lady, whose stock answer to most questions relating to the area seemed to be “it’s in the book”. Perhaps she was on commission from the tourist board of Utah for the number of information books she got rid of, or perhaps she just wasn’t too bright. You may think me harsh, but when she asked mum where she hailed from and mum replied Edinburgh Scotland, tourist lady replied in all seriousness “that’s not from round hereabouts is it”. Thankfully the Buzzards went hungry today and we all reconvened at the van for the final stretch to Moab, our destination for the next 2 nights. We checked in and headed across the car park to a rather convieniently located ‘Denny’s’, for lunch. I am slowly re-learning American portions so ordered a ‘half-salad’ which was more than enough. The size of Moo’s dinner was still a little surprising though, and when it arrived she looked agog and asked if this was for sharing. For a kids meal to arrive with a full plate of fries and 3 burgers, leaves you in no doubt why there are so many weight problems in the US. Thankfully she’s a sensible girl and only had ‘enough to be not hungry anymore’, and the rest was boxed to be thrown away some time later. We headed off to downtown Moab to buy a swimsuit for mum, (who had left her’s in the drier in Wisconsin), and then as the others headed back to the hotel pool Hubs and I did the unthinkable. We walked (mainly as the thought of getting in the van again was too much for hubs still aching ‘tail’). In the land where the car is king people who walk are frowned upon, in fact when I visited mum and dad a few years ago we were actually stopped by a passing patrol car as someone had called in that two people were walking so they ‘must’ be having car trouble. I kid you not. Anyway I digress. We walked the main street and perused the agreeable souvenir stores which dominated the town, and managed to limit our purchases to a couple of nice little trinkets, whilst being enticed and excited at the photographs and paintings of the canyon views that we were about to see. A pleasant walk back to the hotel to join the others who were now refreshed and full of tales of Moo holding court with a group of French tourists in the outdoor hot tub. At last it was time and I bagged the first proper canyon drive. Despite mum worries I was fine on the ‘little’ roads, most of which are in fact bigger and in much better condition than the roads at home, although admittedly normally there aren’t sheer drops on one side to contend with. After the small winding climb we were suddenly on a great flat plain with colossal rock formations of the most magnificent shape and colour all around us, dwarfing the vehicles and rendering the van almost silent, aside from the gasps of wonder and amazement. I have seen lots of pictures of this place and the landscape has been featured in many films, but until you are amongst them you cannot grasp the sheer scale and eerie beauty of the place. As the driver I was getting a little frustrated at the calls of ‘look over there’ and ‘wow look at that’ and resolved that someone else would be driving back! We stopped at many viewpoints and snapped enough pictures to make a flicker book, but as the evening drew to a close, the rain clouds moved in and the view of a lifetime appeared before our eyes. A magnificent rainbow formed right ahead of us spanning the vast canyon. Cars littered the roads, ignoring the official stopping places, in order for the passengers to view and capture nature’s wonder. The heavens were really putting on a show for us and as if a full arc wasn’t enough, we were treated to a second arc as well. Wow just doesn’t cover it. After we had watched the rainbow for a while, until it started to wane, we decided to head back to the hotel for the night, and come back to see some more of the park the day after tomorrow as it was, all of sudden, getting pretty dark, pretty quick. As we drove back we may well have been on a different road entirely as the encroaching darkness threw up a totally different form and colour to the stones. Quite frankly it was a little spooky. After a ‘room buffet’ Moo was put to bed and the rest of us sat around chatting and drinking beer. Mum and dad retired early but a few more beers (and possibly even a brandy or two), were consumed. Then we noticed the lightning. Hubs and I bid a swift goodnight and headed out to the hotel parking lot for the most amazing hour of yet more natural wonder. We stood in the warm stillness watching one bolt of lightning after another hit ground somewhere in a far away canyon, and suddenly the reason for the single charred tree in a group became strikingly obvious. I don’t think I’ve ever said wow so many times in one day, and hope I haven’t run out as tomorrow we head for the ‘real pretty park’. I can’t wait.
27-07 DAY 4 Canyon lands, crazy yoga lady and the Moab brewery
We awoke relatively early and joined the breakfast buffet brawl. As always with this kind of hotel’ the breakfast room has enough space for around 30-40 people. Now as there are around 200 rooms and 2 working toasters it shouldn’t take too much imagination to envisage the scene. Hubs scored some coffee and I muscled into the toaster queue and commandeered them both, much to the chagrin of the hungry masses. Armed with muffins, bagels and toast piled high I grabbed a fistful of condiments I headed back to the relative sanctuary of the room and attempted to rouse the sleeping princess with the promise of a hearty meal. Then we set off for the ‘canyon lands’ national park around 40 miles away. We took a rather unspectacular drive to the park wondering if anything really could top what we had seen the night before. Not long after we arrived we found that it could. We wound our way around gasping and gaping in wonder at each turn, it is impossible to describe the richness in colour or the sheer scale of the canyons. I have discovered that my vocabulary is sadly lacking, in particular for the variations in hue of the colours orange, red and brown. We took in the glorious sun baked vistas and then headed to one of the many picnic spots and unpacked the cooler for lunchtime in the shade of a, somehow, flourishing tree. After a hearty bite we decided to head off on one of the trails to the recommended ‘upheaval dome’. Now as the crow flies the trail is 3km, the said crow obviously didn’t wind its way round the zigzags that our path took as it felt like much more than 3km. Or maybe that was something to do with the fact that it was around 1pm and we were walking uphill in the blazing sunshine at high altitude. Thankfully we had heeded the advice of taking plenty of water with us, and resting on the way. As we neared the top of the ridge I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who was wondering if this view would really be worth it, but oh my goodness it was. As we walked the plateau what we saw before took what little breath we had left clean away, Whilst most of the rocks in the canyon had a smooth and rounded look to them, the upheaval dome was a jagged and violent scar, over a mile wide at points, ripped into the very fabric of the earth millions of year ago by what many believe to be a meteor strike. The colours of this rock so very different to its surroundings, with pale grey and livid green shards emerging from the burnt ambers and dappled reds of the land. There have been fragments, (although given the size of the ‘fragments’ I would at the very least refer to them as boulders, but then I’m not a geologist so what do I know), of similar rock found over 500 miles away from the site adding further credence to the meteor theory. The other theory is that a mass of salt in the earth forced its way to the surface at a weak point in the crust and the crater is the ‘breakthrough point’. However If I had to imagine the site of a meteor crashing, this would be exactly it, so, with my vast geological knowledge, I’m most firmly in the meteor camp. After a slightly less arduous climb down we headed off again to another part of the park and another trail. Mrs D mum and Moo decided that they had had enough climbing for one day and stayed with the van and the water supplies while the rest of us headed ‘trail ward’. Dad and Mr D forged ahead while hubs and I lingered over photogenic pieces old deadwood and cacti. When we rounded the corner together, once again my adjectives failed me as we caught our first glimpse of the ‘Mesa arch’ and it was all I could do to give his hand a big squeeze as I whispered a huge ‘wow’. A single arch hewn by lord knows what, bordered on one side by a smooth flat welcoming surface and on the other by a sheer drop of almost ½ a mile to the canyon floor. Inspiring, truly. As often at these viewpoints we were by no means alone, but there was always the space to feel solitary, (there is many a picture of me looking solitary and rather wistful at various points during our trip apparently I ‘do’ wistful looking well!), and it was here we met ‘yoga lady’. As you may guess from her nom de plume she was rather into yoga. We first saw her doing a headstand against the backdrop of the arch, an odd but rather wonderful sight, so hubs snapped a picture or two. We told her that she looked amazing and she was thrilled. She told us that she just felt so inspired by the landscape and that her yoga was an ideal expression of that and she just had to try out some moves. She readily agreed to do some more as we photographed her and the results were quite frankly, stunning. After an exchange of e-mail address’ and a promise to send her some pictures our brief encounter was over, but it is one I will never forget. Back at the van it was decided that we should head back to the hotel for a well earned dip in the pool (and hot tub of course), before we headed out to celebrate the anniversary of Mr and Mrs D. On the advice of the hotel front desk we headed to the ‘Moab Brewery’ for dinner and were not disappointed. In fact if you ever find yourselves in the Moab region of Utah I can highly recommend the grilled almond chicken, And whilst we all agreed to the adage ‘what happens in Utah stays in Utah’ I can tell you that during our visit to the Moab brewery a member of our party was the recipient of a ‘good spanking’, sadly I am not at liberty to divulge who it was,( I probably should point out that it was merely an item on the cocktail menu, but where’s the fun in that).
28-07 DAY 5 Arches re-visited chilli burgers and comic book guy.
In the morning, after the now customary breakfast buffet brawl’, we packed up, checked out and headed back to the ‘arches’ park, to finish off our tour. In the morning light we passed all that we had seen before and were amazed to see it all looking entirely different, again, in a different light. It is no wonder that there was, and is, such a strong belief in the spirits of nature. Everyone in the van saw entirely different forms in the rock, one particular stone resembled something different to every one of us, a camel, an eagle, the face of an Indian brave and the silhouette of a penguin, and I’m positive if we drove past it at a different time of day or in different weather conditions it would look like many more things again. It is no stretch of the imagination to believe that these rocks are alive, and even less of a stretch to understand the beliefs and fears that these canyons embodied for the people who first travelled across them. The grand arch was indeed extremely grand, and extremely busy, but even with the volume of people, there was still a certain peace about it. We wandered around and made many additions for the photo flicker book, including the obligatory ‘small child pushing enormous boulder’ shots, and conversed with a few other visitors from many corners of the earth. Before long it was time to put the canyons behind us and made a push for ‘home’. Hubs and I have already decided that at some point we will be back to visit more of the canyons as we have had an amazing taster, but there’s a whole lot more hole yet to see. We headed out of Utah at around lunchtime, and decided we had best stop somewhere for gas and lunch as we had no idea how many miles we would have to cover before the next chance. Well at ‘Papa Joes stop and go’ we ordered a few chilli burgers to go, my thinking being that a burger could be eaten whilst driving as it was indeed my turn again. What I didn’t count on was the chilli bit of the chilli burger would actually be a full portion of chilli-con-carne, atop the burger, atop the bun, and that there would be enough to feed at least 2 people. Hmm, best just do with some crisps till its someone else’s turn to drive. The rest of the drive was reasonably uneventful other than the once again spectacular views once we entered Colorado, it really is the most beautiful state and I can only imagine the glory of it when it is covered in the winter snow. The Holiday inn at Vail was our next stop where we took full advantage of the guest laundry. Mum, dad and Mr and Mrs D headed out for an explore as we took Moo, on her insistence, to the pool. The outdoor pool was a little on the chilly side this evening and I found that swimming at a higher altitude is extremely hard work, but thankfully the hot-tub was on hand. Hubs and I took turns in the super hot sauna and feeling thoroughly refreshed headed out for a swanky dinner in millionaires paradise. Or rather to the MacDonald’s across the way from the hotel, but it made Moo happy anyway! We also got a free meal courtesy of a local comic book store owner. Hubs had sniffed out the shop and popped in before tea to find out when it closed, got chatting and told the owner we would be back after taking his daughter to McD’s, at which point he produced a free meal voucher and gave it to Hubs. People are very kind. We did indeed return and hubs picked up a t-shirt and we had a good long chat with the owner who plied us with freebies of posters comics and badges to take with us, he was especially impressed with Moo’s flashing Spiderman flip flops! We returned to the hotel to meet the returning folks, laden with bulging carrier bags and a vow to return to the shops in the morning….
29-07 DAY6 Vail – Hays. Big shopping, big driving.
The morning took us to downtown Vail, a very upmarket ski resort, which was full of quite wonderful (and in the main hideously expensive) boutiques and galleries, side by side with the ski /sports shops. However it did seem that unless you were willing to part with the thick end of a few hundred dollars everything you purchased was emblazoned with a variation on the theme of ‘look at me I’ve been to VAIL COLORADO’. We all of course succumbed and will all now be sporting our various ‘VAIL’ shirts across the globe. We wandered in and out of a few stores with Hubs assuring me that if I saw anything I liked I could have it for my upcoming birthday, however my taste once more exceeded our budget with only thing I really, really liked the look of came with an attached price tag of $15,000, maybe next birthday….The next ‘big push’ saw us saying goodbye to Colorado and hello again to boring flat Kansas. The tedium of driving for several hundred miles straight and seeing, well, nothing, really could easily send one quite loopy. Thankfully I had hubs as my ‘shotgun’ and he was able to keep me relatively sane and awake for my next stint. The weather, which had been most obliging for us so far, took a turn for the worst as we ploughed on though Kansas and as we stopped for a change of driver the storm clouds on the horizon were looming in a most menacing fashion. I’m glad to report that it was my dad who took the next and last slot of the day as we ended up driving through the heaviest rain I have seen in a long time. Once again an eerie silence descended upon the van as day turned to night in a matter of moments. For around an hour we crawled through the pouring rain slowly edging towards or destination of the Hays, Ramada. It was a joy to us all, but especially dad I’m sure, when the sat nav finally told us that in 1 mile we could finally turn left. Another room buffet consumed and another pool to sample. It was by far the biggest and most fun pool on the tour so far boasting a waterslide which Moo took full advantage of, even hubs with his slide sore tailbone had a go, however in my humble opinion, although the hot tub was large the seating was a little on the rough side.
30-07 DAY 7 We’re off to see the wizard.
We set off early as we didn’t feel that Hays had that much to offer the casual tourist, and anyway we had another destination a couple of hours up the I-70 that a certain little lady was almost bursting with excitement to see. The Small town of Wamego Kansas would not normally have caught our attention had it not been for the multitude of billboards up and down the interstate proclaiming exit 338 to be the home of the wizard of Oz museum. Now any regular readers will now just how much excitement that would cause in the mind of Moo. It has been her favourite film for a long time, and when I mentioned that we would be passing through Kansas she immediately asked if we knew the way to the yellow brick road, and all of us in the van had been on ‘munchkin watch’ through the entire state and back, well at least it made passing through the state a little more interesting. As we took exit 338 Moo yelled from the back ‘Mummy are we really on the yellow brick road now?’ The Museum was small, but perfectly formed, but as we walked in Moo fell silent and gripped on to me as hard as she could. She could barely look at the exhibits and said almost immediately that she wanted to leave. Brilliant. But we found a little room with a TV which was showing the movie where we had a sit, and she explained to me that it was a ‘just a bit too much’ and we had a little chat about the meaning of the word overwhelming. After that we started again at the beginning of the museum and it was the joy to her that we hoped it would be. The collection of original artefacts on display is quite stunning, as well as items donated by the family of L.Frank Baum, (the author), and MGM studios there are items made by fans such as a stunning full size Oz quilt. As we tiptoed through the haunted Forest past the flying monkeys, Moo let out a tiny scream as she saw the wicked witch above us on her broomstick, but thankfully we were creeping so quietly we didn’t disturb her, phew. After the very reasonably priced gift shop we headed across the road for some proper home-style cooking in a fab little diner. Moo, with the aid of her good fairy Glinda magic wand, magic-ed us up a great dinner and just as we were about to leave Wamego we were lured into a work-wear shop where dad had spotted some nice looking cowboy boots. Well what an Aladdin’s cave that turned out to be. A vast barn of a place paced full of cut price boots and clothes. Molly fell in love the instant she spotted the gold tipped pink leather cowgirl boots, big sighs of relief all round when we found that not only did they have them in her size, but they were also in the sale, better than ruby slippers any day of the week! Once again however my good taste foiled Hubs attempt to get me a birthday present as the pair I fell in love with were on sale for a cool $299. Completely unmindful of the already restricted space in the van, T-shirts, hats and boots were purchased all round and squeezed in around the passengers. As we left, Moo had her one big cry of the trip. But even that only lasted about half an hour and given the excitement of the morning, it was not really that surprising. So at last we were leaving Kansas and heading for…. Kansas City, which isn’t actually in Kansas, but in Missouri, and before you ask, I have no idea. As we criss-crossed the quite frankly terrifying city highways I thanked my stars it wasn’t my turn to drive. For a country that has so much space they do seem to pack in all the interchanges startlingly close together, and at one point dad had to exit left, cross 4 lanes of traffic to exit left again, get to the middle lane and then take the next exit right, just to get towards the city centre. Scary stuff during the tea-time rush hour. As we pulled up to our final hotel of the trip, the van saluted Hubs’ hotel booking prowess one last time. The ‘Sheraton suites’ was both luxurious and extremely well located for access to the ‘old town’. Which isn’t really that old at all, just built to look that way. Moo dragged my parents for the obligatory swim while Hubs and I headed to peruse the stores and hubs tried to entice me into choosing a birthday present. He even took me into my favourite shiny things shop, but even the lure of the iconic eggshell blue of Tiffany’s didn’t work (although I did see one thing I really liked, but you guessed it, about $2000 over budget). I was quite satisfied to wander about the town and admire the many street performers artistically scattered around the Spanish style architecture, in the glow of the setting sun. We headed back to the hotel to find Moo waiting, still in her swim suit ready for round 2 at the pool, as Mum and dad headed off to find a meal. We obliged and enjoyed a wonderful outdoor to indoor sunset swim in a gloriously empty pool and then rounded off with the now obligatory hot tub session. Back to the room and time for a bit of a splash out as room service was ordered, delivered and consumed whilst watching a movie on one of the 2 LCD screen TV’s in the room. The folks arrived in from their (a lot more expensive than room service), meal, and we sat up and chatted for a while and then headed towards the most comfortable looking bed I have ever seen in my life.

31-07 DAY 8 Birthday shopping at last and the long ride home.
Whatever beds they have in the Sheraton suites I want one, it was even more comfortable than it looked. All my best intentions of visiting the hotel gym were gone the instant the alarm clock rang and I rolled over. Nestled in duvet and pillows there was never going to be any other outcome than at least another hours slumber. I eventually managed to drag myself up and into the shower to find my folks had not found the sofa bed quite so alluring and had managed a swim. For the last time we packed and dragged a reluctant Moo from her own personal LCD TV, and headed off towards the ‘hallmark crown plaza’, for what turned out to be an extraordinary brunch. Inside the mall we were steered towards a restaurant with a large model steam train outside. Once inside we were seated in railway style buffet cars and watched model trains whizzing about all around us. The waitress arrived at our table, dressed in an old-style engineer’s outfit, and with a heartily called “toot-toot” our drinks order was taken. Now I have to take a moment here to salute her. Granted it was still early in her shift, but the obviously obligatory ‘company toot-toot’ table greeting was delivered with enthusiasm and a smile. Perhaps by the end of ,what looked to be fast becoming, a very busy lunch rush, it would come from behind gritted teeth and far-away eyes while she sought out her inner happy place, but I’m pleased to report that we got an excellent toot-toot and all, especially Moo, were quite satisfied. Our food was ordered over a table telephone, and double checked by the scrupulous Mrs.D (who for those fleeting moments bore an uncanny vocal resemblance to Rosemary the telephone operator from the cartoon Hong Kong Phooey), and then by the wonder of American diner magic it was delivered to our table by a train that ran on overhead rails and dropped the freshly prepared food onto trays that then glided smoothly from roof to table level. Brilliant. It caused a few moments hilarity in imagining the chaos below when there was a missed tray or an early drop, as there inevitably must have been every now and then, Sadly, the quality of the food did not match up to the presentation and I found the memory of brunch repeating on me for most of the rest of the day. We split up for an hour or so of speed shopping, with Moo and Dad heading off to the fountains in the outdoor plaza, both, I’m fairly certain, glad of a legitimate excuse to avoid yet more shops. Well speed shopping was the idea, but the first shop hubs and I found ourselves in was a wonderful tiny jewellery store called Bacara Designs. As we pored over the lovely pieces and conversed with the superbly chilled out owner, hubs was finally able to buy me a birthday present as I at last found the perfect pair of ear-rings to match my rather unusual wedding ring, (and rather fortuitously I also happened upon a perfectly matching bracelet too). After a quick trip to the ‘crayola megastore’ to furnish Moo with a new colouring book and pens for the long drive home, we were done, and re-joined the others who were by now gazing longingly at the bathing-suit clad children revelling in fountains as their parents enjoyed leisurely picnics in the mid-day sun. The van somehow seemed hotter and a little more cramped for a while after that (the cramped conditions were of course nothing to do with the vast array of freshly stuffed goodie laden carrier bags that we had acquired in the last day or so….). So we began counting down the many miles that made up the journey back to Wisconsin, willing the ‘arrival time’ on the sat nav to somehow magically lose an hour or two. We all took turns behind the wheel and tried not to make too many stops on the way back, and rather surprisingly I couldn’t entice hubs back to the same service area where the slide/tailbone incident occurred. Can’t think why. My turn at driving, glad to say, was rather uneventful. Other than realising that someone had at some point re-set the van clock to the correct time without me noticing and all the while I had been recalculating the arrival time to compensate that extra hour. When the penny finally dropped that there were still 2 hours to go and not the one I had thought, there was nothing else to do but find a rest stop, get the biggest coffee on offer and take my place once more in the back seat. We actually made good time, though it didn’t feel like it, and were dropping Mr & Mrs D off at the farm at around 8.30 pm. We sorted out the luggage said our goodbye’s and were back at mum and dad’s by 9 o’clock, tucking into a light supper, before we all fell asleep on our feet. It was an amazing journey with so many miles and so many highlights. It is certainly something I will never forget, and it has given us a love of the great American road trip, and the next ones are already in early stages of planning. Well, they will be once hubs finally gets his driving license anyway. Moo was, of course, the star of the show, and did the entire journey without much complaint and only one real cry (although as it was when she left behind her friends in the truly magical land of OZ and, according to Mrs D, sitting next to Mr. D is enough to make anyone cry, I’m certain it will be forgiven by all). She has developed a taste for the hotel high life though and, of course, she gets to have the last word. As I was tucking her up for the night she was telling me how much she had enjoyed the trip, but had the look of girl who had lost a dollar and found a dime. I softly asked her what was wrong. “Mummy I’m so sad” she said with a big sigh “but why sweetie” I enquired “Because Grandma hasn’t got a hot tub”….

 

So I guess if you are at this point, you are expecting to read all about August and September, well, they didn’t happen. Of course thy did ‘actually’ happen, I’m not so magical that I can erase time. That would be quite handy at times I’m sure. To be able to get rid of those ‘moments’ we all have that we’d rather we hadn’t, to get rid of days when we were ill and feeling grotty. Hmmm. But I digress. There are no weekly updates for the next 2 months, the last proper entry you will find is for our big road trip in July (and it’s a jolly good one, even if I do say so myself). After that, Hillywilly (that would be me), re-designed the site and then kind of lost track for a while. I’ve been struggling ever since to get back up to date and have decided to give up on that and I’ve gone with a monthly summary instead.

So here goes;

AUGUST
August began with my birthday and I was spoiled to bits, discovered ‘real’ Mexican food and had a party, jointly celebrating with my mum. We then went out to a farm and shot up some old TV’s, some evidence of which can be found on the gallery page. Yee-haw indeed. Another brief few days in the states culminating in a day trip to the magnificent city of Chicago. On reflection it may not have been wise to have packed a full day’s sight-seeing in directly before a torturously long trip back to France, including an hour long stop in our former place of residence for a ‘catch up coffee’ with some wonderful friends, but you live and learn. A big thank-you here to Mr. W for picking us up at a rather ungodly hour at the train station and putting up with my incoherent jet-lagged babble all the way home. So 5 days to recover then it’s off to Disneyland, via Charles De Gaulle airport to collect AJ, on the busiest (and hottest) weekend in the French summer calendar, to meet up with various members of Hubs family who were over for a week with their assorted offspring. It was busy, hot, expensive and quite breathtakingly magical. Even the hardened Disney cynic that I am, (having worked for them in my former theatrical career and since becoming a parent, wept at the price of their DVD’s and merchandise), was utterly enchanted. Watching Moo’s face as she met Belle, her favourite princess, hugged Balloo and watched daddy getting a ‘monster hug’ from Sully was worth every last cent. Holding her hand as she braved the mightily scary ‘Tower of Terror’ ride was something I will never forget, although I’m not sure if it was her or me gripping hardest. After Disneyland we all had a day together in Paris and enjoyed a wonderfully relaxing cruise on the Seine courtesy of Mother-In-Law and her ‘club card’ points. Then it was goodbyes all round as we headed off back home for a couple of weeks with AJ. Chilling on the beach was high on the agenda. All too soon our time was up and AJ had to go home. Hubs took her to the airport, I took Moo to a sleepover, and we met up in Paris to go to the ‘Rock-en-Seine’ Music festival. A grown up night with too much alcohol and frantic dancing. A perfect end to a perfect summer.

 

SEPTEMBER

September started with Moo returning to school, and whilst she wasn’t too thrilled at the prospect of not being on holiday any more, it wasn’t nearly as bad as we feared. The first couple of weeks were spent trying to get back into the routine of early starts and an organised bed-time (as it’s now late October and I still haven’t managed it, I’ll leave you to be the judge of how that went). We enjoyed a marvellous evening in Le Mans with the W family watching the spectacle of the ‘Nuit de Chimres’, when the architecture of the old town is transformed by the power of projection, and comes to life in astonishing and beautiful ways. If you ever happen to be in the Le Mans area during the summer it is an absolute must see. And then the time we had all been dreading arrived. Time for hubs to go back to work. As fortunate as we are to have had such a long summer off together I still felt crushed when he left again, knowing it would be 5 long weeks till we saw him again. I know it’s not really that long and it’s not as if he is off doing anything life threatening or heroic, but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel like I’m missing an arm when he’s not here. Fortunately for Moo and I the pill was made easier to swallow by the arrival of JJ for an open ended visit and the surprise visit of my best friend and Moo’s God-mother, LD, for a week-end break. Fortunately for Hubs he was off to Macau for a week-long site visit before returning to soggy grey Belgium. Not all bad then. It was so wonderful to catch up with LD. It’s been over a year since I saw her, so a couple of VERY late night chatting sessions were most definitely in order (apologies to JJ who was kept awake by childish giggling from the next room, I told LD to keep it down a bit…). And she even managed to figure out what’s wrong with my foot, a mystery pain in my heel that I thought came out of no-where but is actually connected to the time I dislocated my big toe last year, and although it’s not entirely better it feels better knowing there is a reason for it. I can thoroughly recommend having a trainee osteopath as a best friend, although I would also recommend living a bit closer to gain the full benefit. So LD left and went back to school, and all of a sudden it was October.

OCTOBER
Time for JJ and I to make jam. Lots of jam. With the abundance of apples in the front garden and the plentiful supply of blackberries in the hedgerows the shelves in the shed were already starting to creak under the strain of jam and jelly. When my neighbour Mr. G delivered a basket containing 10 kilos of peaches, they almost gave up entirely. Much experimenting with flavours was done, but still my favourites are apple and chilli jam and peach and lavender jelly. Just as well really as, even after JJ claimed her spoils when she left this week, there is an awful lot left. Jamming aside, October has proved to be a good month for Moo. She is getting on so well at school and in a meeting with her teacher, and my good friend Mrs. W there to help with translation, I was told that Molly no longer speaks any English at all in school, and is speaking French almost natively. Her writing is coming on a well, although she prefers to act and sing, she has a great sense of theatrics and an intuitive artistic ability. Looks like another one heading for the arts, and whilst I’m thrilled that she is doing so well I wonder if anyone in our family will ever have a flair for mathematics and accountancy. Moo has also started attending the canteen once a week for school lunches, this is a big step for both of us and she seems to be enjoying it, but all of a sudden I am told that my lunches are merely ‘okay, but not nearly as good as Dominique’s’. I May have to re-think these school lunches after all. October has also seen a big potential change for me as well. As I write I am awaiting my SIRET number from the French authorities to enable me to start-up my own web design company, HillyWillyDesign. Taking a hobby to a business is a big step, but one I hope will be fun and profitable. MUCH more news of that to come.
Well at last I’m done and up to date. So from now on I will try to be a better blogger and keep the updates more regular. Now where have you heard that before?
22-10 The story of a long search.
It’s not in the cupboard under the stairs. It’s not anywhere in the shed, or the cave. It’s not been muddled up in the laundry or put in the fridge accidentally whilst stowing the shopping. I had a good look in the garage, cleaned out the car, and it wasn’t there. I’ve been looking everywhere but I just can’t seem to find it. I even checked in-between the cushions, but to no avail. I thought I spotted it near the multi-gym, but that just turned out to be something sticky the cat had brought in.
It’s been gone for ages and I’m really starting to miss it now.
You see, when Hubs was home for the summer, I knew I had mislaid it, but we were so busy it just didn’t seem to matter that much. A trip to Disneyland with Moo and AJ, numerous in-laws, aunties and cousins so soon after our return from the USA left me too worn out to hunt it down. Then when AJ went home Hubs and I had a wonderful ‘grown-up’ day and night in Paris where we were fortunate enough to have tickets to see a simply stunning concert by the recently reformed band ‘Faith No More’. On a side-note here I would just like to point out that, after my initial wrong-footedness, my sojourn in the mosh-pits of Paris was an unqualified success.
When Moo re-started school and life began to return to normal, I felt sure it would turn up somewhere. But we then began to stare into Hubs last couple of weeks at home before the next long stretch away and there seemed to be too little time to form an adequate search party. When a rogue local goat car-jacked us and then, even after Hubs noble attempt at goat-herding, chased us down the road, I’m almost certain I saw it flapping around in his mouth. However as I watched him grow ever smaller in the rear-view mirror, It may just have been a corner of Hubs’ jacket flapping around in its mouth that I had caught a glimpse of.
As Hubs flew out and back to work in parts foreign, looking for it seemed a little pointless so I made some jam instead. Then JJ arrived for one of her bi-annual visits loaded with gifts and an ominously large collection of empty jars, which we have proceed to fill over the last few weeks with various concoctions and have left the shed looking more like a confiserie and not very much like a shed.
When my darling friend and Moo’s god-mother announced a surprise week-end visit from London, all thought of a further search were put clean out of my head. Well I wasn’t very likely to find it on the beach now was I?
And so here we are, just the two of us once more, all of a sudden surrounded by mists and beautiful Autumnal scenes rapidly approaching the end of October. As I strolled though park hand in hand with Moo, kicking our way through great piles of crunchy leaves and watching the squirrels frantically gathering their winter stores, there among the shiny conkers, it quietly lay. All this time I thought it was gone, but it was there right under my nose all along. There was a slightly awkward moment when I had to face down a rather hungry and aggressive looking little squirrel who had taken a fancy to it, but a few scary faces and a determined attitude secured my prize.
So now I have at last found my motivation it’s high time I put it back to work, there’s a lot of ground to cover.
Thank you for your patience and keep an eye out for shifty looking grey squirrels.
24-10 Off we go again
And so tomorrow morning we are off, for the last time, to Antwerp to visit with hubs. The last time in Belgium as soon Hubs will be off to parts even more foreign. Macau to be exact. Yes, rehearsals are over and the venue is finally built so it’s off to programme the show. It’s such a long way away … but let’s not think about that just yet. The journey to Belgium is a pretty easy one, once you have the tickets. Booking the tickets is another matter entirely. Yet again the blood sweat and tears have been shed over the SNCF/TER/and THALYS web-sites. At first I thought it was just me and my lack of language skills that was making it such a difficult task, but as my French has improved more than a little since the first booking experience, I have now realised that it really is the system that is way too complex. You see you can’t just type in ‘Home – Antwerp’ and find the trains you need. You can just use one site to find the trains from home to Paris, but then it only gives you the national trains not the local ones so you miss half the services and most of the cheaper trains. So it’s 2 sites open for that journey, each with their own uniquely complicated booking procedure, then another one open for the Paris to Antwerp leg. Then you actually have to find trains that get you where you need to be when you need to be there, again easier said than done. If you do manage to find the required transit then you have to book, again a different procedure for each site. You just have to hope that by the time you have booked the seats on one site, the seats from the other site have not been sold. It’s only happened once, and although the refund procedure is quite clearly stated, I wouldn’t recommend trying it. Timetables checked and rechecked, tickets booked, head in pieces. The one compensation is that the delivery service is excellent and I have never waited more than 2 days for them to arrive (and even though you have to use 3 sites to book the tickets are all printed by the same company and issued from the same place, but they do arrive in several envelopes….)
So after the mind-numbingly painful task of booking the tickets we are off for ‘vacances Toussaint’, and I must NOT forget to change the clocks tonight, although at least we would be early….. Now I really must finish packing. I have never had my luggage checked on this journey, but by the law of Murphy it will be this time for sure. It is an interesting case, containing as it does lots of Jam and pickles for Hubs’ colleagues, an air bed for Moo, a Witches costume, a crocodile and a big pink kangaroo

 

NOVEMBER
05-11 Oh, this is Antwerp.
Sitting here watching ‘something’ on Belgian channel 4. Its a game show which largely seems to involve various members of the Belgian public being pushed into a small swimming pool by large ‘comedic shaped pieces of set, whilst dressed in none too flattering silver jumpsuits. Then watching at all again several times. I’m not entirely convinced that I have fully grasped the complexities of the scoring system, but enough to say that the blues are almost definitely in the lead. I think. Once more the trip to see Hubs brought us to Antwerp. When you arrive at centraal station you cannot help to be impressed with the architecture, the crisp,modern functionality of the vast station extension with its dazzling shopping arcade of diamond merchants to welcome you. Then passing through into the beautifully restored building which housed the original ticket hall. The ornate and intricately sculpted ceiling and the spectacular clock in the grand hall are quite a sight to behold. As you approach the wide exit doors the anticipation of the architectural delights in what must be a beautiful town square, is almost tangeable. Across the barren and featureless vista the mess of toughened glass and concrete that is the new metro station entrance and the bright yellow hotel complex opposite, assault your senses, and instead of the ‘wow’ you were expecting to release, spouts forth a deflated and rather disappointed sounding ‘Oh’. And such as it is with me and Antwerp, I keep trying to find the beauty and joy in the city, but keep getting left with the disappointed ‘oh’. It’s not all bad. There’s a very nice park that is littered with bunny rabbits and it has a great play area. The aquarium’s good – so good we got to see it twice – small but well appointed, and a very good ‘shark tunnel’. Although Moo was slightly disappointed with the lack of hammer-heads, but a good day out none the less. I’m sure there are many nice things in Antwerp, we just can’t find them. Given the frustrating lack of internet at Hubs hotel while we were there, we did things the old-fashioned way and took a trip to the local tourist information (TI) to try and find some fun things to do with small person in half term. I rehearsed in French German and English, (the first 2 of which are ‘official languages’ the last widely spoken), so I could find the right information and left the office clutching an out of date flyer for the aquarium and an advert for the local themed ‘ball pit’, only 4 bus rides away, and once again was left with that slightly deflated feeling. Hubs and I came up with a couple of new slogans; “Couldn’t get a cheap flight anywhere nice? Visit Antwerp”, being a particular favourite of mine. I feel that the TI office may be in need of a radical shake up considering that Antwerp Zoo, a fine attraction we have previously visited, is a round 100 meters from it and not a mention was made of a there even being a zoo. Perhaps there has been a fall-out between TI and the Head zoo-keeper? Perhaps they don’t like ‘outsiders’ coming to their zoo? Or perhaps it’s just because we are in Belgium….. No that’s highly unfair, I cannot tar the whole of Belgium with the ‘Antwerp brush’, as I haven’t visited anywhere here other than Antwerp and I am sure there are lots of really nice things close by. Like Holland. We always have a good time there as it’s where Hubs is, but I’m quite happy that his time there is almost up, (not nearly as happy as he and the rest of the company are mind you), and that at some point in the next few months we will be visiting him somewhere far more interesting. Hmm best brush up on the Cantonese for ‘is there a zoo around here ?’
I have since learned that the programme I mentioned is a popular favourite in the week-end tea time schedules back in the UK. Who’d have thought…?
Not again…..
When we returned form Belgium we discovered that the computer was broken, again. Another day, another power supply needed. So while I await the return of Hubs to get a new one and fix it I have been relying on my little EeeePC. Its a great little notebook, but doesn’t quite have the necessary ‘oomph’ for all the web work I need to do its quite hard to work on a design layout when your screen is only teeny. So I have been using this as an excuse to be lazy and not do any writing for HWW. But there is just so much going on that you will have to excuse the odd blip on the site, lack of new pictures or wonky alignment for now.
12-11 The countdown
So it’s only 5 more days till Moo turns 5. Where has the year gone? When I asked Moo what she wanted for her birthday she said ‘a party’. When I asked her again a few weeks later, desperately hoping she had changed her mind, she said ‘ a party’. The invitations have been printed and distributed via the ‘home work book’ system ,( a great system for getting a message to the teachers or the other parents), The date has been set (Weds 18th), and there is no going back. Now I have been to many a child’s party, and they are not top of my list of fun things to do, and the idea of having all those children running around our house is enough to make me feel quite faint, but she has her heart set on it and I just couldn’t say no. So preparations are under way, the list has been made, and the panic has set in. A houseful of 3-6 year old French kids high on sweets and pop running around looking for mischief. Please Lord let us have a freak sunny warm day next Wednesday, so at least I can throw them in the garden! Her actual birthday is Monday and the cake for school is to be a number 5, so I’m told, covered in chocolate. That’s my girl. There is a big pile of parcels in the corner and a bike in the shed (although at the moment the bike is in bits waiting to be re-sprayed, and if I don’t get a move on it will end up as a Christmas present and we will have to fall back on the standby gift), but I am waiting on news of the best present of all. We are all waiting and hoping to see if hubs and makes it home. We have told Moo that he won’t be here as that is what we thought, but it looks like he may get a long weekend and be able to spend this happy occasion at home. I haven’t said anything to Moo as I don’t think I could bear the disappointment if it all goes pear shaped, but I am really looking forward to seeing her face if we get go to pick him up at the station tomorrow night. The look on my face will be pretty good too.
14-11 He made it!!
Hurray hurrah hurroo, Hubs made it home for the ‘birthday weekend’ despite the best efforts of Belgium and Thalys to hold on to him. I mean leaving half the train in Holland when all those people were waiting for in in Brussels was a bit silly don’t you think? The discovery that his phone was out of credit so would not accept roaming calls as soon as he crossed the border made the did he catch the train or didn’t he wait, all the more exciting. I managed to convince Moo that we were just going for one of our dark walks as we hung around the station watching the train he was hoping to get empty, and at the same time answer the question with an emphatic no. The next train was due in half an hour so we took a stroll around the town square and moo happily scooted around the fountain not believing her luck at being allowed to stay out playing so late – thank goodness it wasn’t raining! The local tabac provided us with a snack and then it was time to try and get Moo back to the station. As I was ‘Doctor Who’ at the time (more about that on a later date…), I convinced her that there may well be an alien invasion force on the train and we must go to the platform to check it out. Thankfully the hoards of Raxacoricafalipatorious decided to travel on to Laval that night and Moo was only a tiny bit disappointed to see Daddy instead of the family Slitheen. (If you have no idea what I am talking about please consult any avid Doctor Who/Sarah Jane adventures fan and it will all become frighteningly clear). Moo was a trifle overwhelmed by the sudden appearance of Hubs, but soon got over the shock and was high as a kite for the rest of the evening, by the time a very late bed-time had arrived she was exhausted and after a short story collapsed in a happy sleepy heap. We weren’t that far behind her. Today has been a day full of playing and mucking about, with a little covert birthday shopping in between and Moo and I are comfortably stationed on the sofa watching Peter Pan, while Hubs slaves over a hot stove to prepare a wonderfully smelling lasagne for our tea. Just the way a Saturday evening should be. We don’t get too many of those and when we do they are things to treasure so I’m off to join the Lost Boys and Tink for an hour or so before tea. Lovely.
22-11 The aftermath
For once on a Monday morning it didn’t take the might of an army to raise Moo from her bed. Well not after I reminded her it was her birthday anyway. Hubs had spent the night before hanging up banners and balloons and was rewarded with a beaming smile as she walked through the door. A few carefully selected presents were laid out with breakfast, with the promise of more to open at lunch-time. The new clothes were put on immediately as was the princess ring (I’ve been struggling to get it off ever since), and Moo was packed off to school with her ‘5’ shaped chocolate covered cake. So far a success. Lunch was more presents and playing with the barbie princess set and using the phrase over and over again ‘now that I’m 5…’ After school, the last of the presents, for now, a birthday pizza and a family phone calls before wrestling a very excitable girl to bed. Hubs had to leave early the next morning, but the excitement of the birthday party scheduled for the next day kept a big smile on Moo’s face.
The balloons were all over the house, the valuables were locked away and there were enough snacks to feed a small army. We we ready. Moo was on eggs all day asking every half hour or so ‘is it time yet?’, and prowling around inspecting my handy-work to ensure everything was just so. As it approached the appointed hour Moo relentlessly questioned on who was coming. The RSVP is quite a casual thing here so I wasn’t quite sure how to answer as we had only 6 confirmed attendees and with the cold and gastro bugs doing a round of the school, I was a little concerned that we could be a little light on numbers. This is my first ‘party’ here, and the first time Moo has ever expressed any desire to have a proper ‘do’ before so I was desperately nervous on her behalf. By 2.35 my worries were allayed as the house was filling up nicely and the decision to fill the house with balloons was already confirmed as a bad one, I think I will probably be picking bits of burst balloon out of the rugs for a week at least. A stack of presents were piling up as the kids were busy ransacking the rest of house and consuming bon-bons at a rate of knots. In total we had 8, which was quite sufficient to ensure sustained jollity for a couple of hours. A couple of mums stayed for a quick coffee before taking advantage of a child free couple of hours in the afternoon, and then we were left to our own devices. The time passed quickly and I was only called on a couple of times to referee, and dish out juice and cakes. Before I knew it the doorbell was ringing and they were off, leaving behind them a sea of debris worthy of a small riot, but the Lord smiled upon me and as Diane from across the road came to pick up her little brother she took pity and helped me clean up. Thank-you so much! Moo was worn-out but went to bed content. The next day I awoke feeling like my head was in a bucket, rather handy as a bucket was required to collect the content of my stomach soon after I packed Moo off to school. And that has been the rest of my week. I have barely been able to function for the most part thanks to a bout of gastric flu. The high point of having to spend all this time in bed is that I have been re-visiting the wonderful Dr. Who wrapped in the comfort and warmth of an early Christmas present from my best friend LD. Never has an electric blanket been so appreciated. Hmm Christmas presents…best start thinking about that now I am up and about again. Well, maybe a bit more Dr. Who first.

 

DECEMBER
01-12 HAPPY DAYS!
I would like to begin by saying a big Happy Birthday to the most gorgeous, funny, talented and charming 14 year old I know. (That’s you by the way AJ). I am so proud to be your step-mum and I can’t wait till we can spend a bit more time together. Summer seems like such a long time ago already. I hope you have a wonderful day my darling.

And then it was December. Oh my. I won’t beat around the bush I’ve had a rubbish week or so which have felt like an eternity. Since Hubs went back after Moo’s birthday I have been feeling like the party balloons that survived the big birthday popping session. Slowly deflating. To be frank I’ve been miserable! But thankfully the gloom is passing and all is looking brighter, certainly round the village.
The Christmas decorations are almost done and we are just awaiting the tree which is expected today. When you can look out of your window and see the pretty lights twinkling in the trees, you can’t help but smile. We are a little behind in our house with only the advent calendar and the invitation to go and meet Santa next week marking the festive season. This year I’ve even gone so far as to make my own Christmas cake and mincemeat. Ho Ho Ho indeed. For more of my thoughs and seasonal reflections visit the ‘Random’ page.But by far the most exciting event to occur of late is something that makes me a little squeamish. Teeth. Wobbly teeth to be precise. Moo is now the proud owner of two extremely precarious looking gnashers. I am a self-confessed denta-phobe and, whilst I have no problems with regular oral hygiene, the sight of those tiny teeth wiggle around and twisting at ridiculous angles is quite stomach wrenching to observe. But observe I must. Moo was of course delighted to discover that she was the first in her class to have ‘dents tremblent’, and avails herself of every opportunity to show them off. I must be brave, I must be brave. And what of the tooth fairy? Well there isn’t one in France, just a ‘petit souris’ (little mouse) who comes along and replaces the precious pearls with a shiny coin when they eventually evacuate. Doing our bit for Anglo-French relations, he has morphed into a fairy mouse, who incidentally collects the teeth to build a pure white castle for the mouse princess. I have no idea if this last bit is true, but it was the best I could come up with when enquiring minds demanded to know what he did with all those teeth he collects. The excitement has worn off a little for now, as Moo becomes impatient with her self imposed soft food diet and her aching gums ( I can already see the big boys sprouting forth) and every day enquires, ‘but WHEN are they going to pop mummy’. I know when they are going to come out. On the exact day when I don’t have the requisite coins in my purse, I can almost guarantee it.
But now I must away as decorating calls. Not the Christmas kind, but the paint and ladder kind. We have been promising to decorate Moo’s room for a while now, and with the arrival of a beautiful new birthday bedding set from her Godmother, we now have a theme and a colour scheme. I managed to make her a co-ordinating lampshade last week, and the curtains are earmarked for a little renovation, all that is required now is a little motivation. I wonder if you can get that at Super-U?
08-12 A night to remember…..
Social gatherings are not really my forte. They never have been, and I don’t think they ever will be. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good party, and I do miss the fun of an opening (or closing) night ‘do’, particularly as many I was fortunate enough to attend had an open bar. If I have allies, even just a few friendly faces to hide with in a corner, or make a spectacle of myself with on the dance floor, then I will have a great night out. But put me in a room with a large group of people I don’t know and I get really uncomfortable, add to the mix the fact of a different language and it’s akin to the 7th circle of hell. Quite why I agreed to buy tickets for the village soirée is a something I do not fully comprehend, but a twisted sense of doing the right thing and making the right impression must have kicked in, and when the local Maire, who is also our landlord, arrived at the door selling tickets to the annual village fundraiser I found myself inexplicably nodding my head and handing over the cash. I put it to the back of my mind and forgot all about it till I was out shopping for tea, then I suddenly remembered that it was the evening of the soirée and tea would not be necessary after all. I toyed with the idea of just not going, but as I had been previously whingeing about sitting at home every Saturday night, I felt it would be rather churlish to sit at home on a this Saturday night when for once I had somewhere to go, and besides which Moo had already decided that she wanted to go, so I didn’t really have much choice. I got ready, in what I thought was an acceptable manner, smart but not too dressy, and as I looked in the mirror I actually felt this might not be too much of an ordeal after all and I might just even enjoy it. My appearance was greeted with a ‘wow’ from Moo, but just as quickly as she had boosted my ego, it was flattened it in a way that only a child can. ‘Mummy, your dress is exactly the same colour as poo, you look like a big walking poo!’. Awesome.
We arrived at the salle de fete to find it bursting at the seams, I had no idea there were even this many people in the village. There were a few friendly faces, Mr. G from next door, a few ‘school mums’, and the lady from the bakers van. Sadly our allocated seating was nowhere near any of them and we ended up at the far corner with a couple of other kids and a pleasant enough, but in no way interested in making new friends, family. It would be a long evening. We were all seated by 8.30, and patiently waited for our meal, and then waited, and then waited a bit longer. Thank goodness I had given Moo a light tea earlier or she may well have eaten my hand, I was considering it myself by the time the kitchen doors started to show some signs of movement. Of course as we were in the far corner it seemed like an eternity before the food actually arrived, but at 9.45 I had a steaming plate full of pig in front of me. There is really no other way to describe the meal in front of me, I have never seen so much meat on one plate before, with so many different types of pork served up for so many diners I fear for the porcine population of western France. There was boiled ham, roasted pork, 2 different kinds of sausage, pork shoulder, saussicon and, as a nod to the arable farmers, a potato. It was a strange but delicious meal, accompanied by some local and very potent alcohol of some description. By the time plates were starting to be cleared Moo had given up entirely and was dozing lightly on my knee, I have no idea if there was to be a pudding course, but as it was already 10.45, and the plate clearing did not seem to have any sense of urgency about it, I decided to use Moo’s fatigue to my advantage and bail out. As Moo woke up she asked if there was to be dancing at this party, and was almost tearful when I told her that for us the party was over, but the promise of a dance when we had made the 5 minute walk home, cheered her considerably. We took a quick turn around the living room to one or two of Disney’s greatest hits and by the time I had carried her halfway upstairs the snores were coming thick and fast. I don’t know if our ‘early’ exit will be considered a social faux pas, or if it was even noticed, but I have given up trying to figure out village etiquette, it’s even harder to understand than French, but I think it will be a while before I bemoan my Saturday night status again.
A bientot.

 

 

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