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I Went To France And It Was Closed

29 Aug

Some things I learned on holiday

Six Word Saturday

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French People Take Holidays, Too

A Jock-in-the-bush

A Jock-in-the-bush

I went to visit VivinFrance and her lovely Jock – as in Jock, her delightful Scots husband, not jock, her meathead athlete; though he could have been a meathead athlete in his day, I suppose: he did once play ice hockey in Canada.  

The trip was organised fairly last minute but Viv had some ideas to entertain me: a poetry workshop with two of her writer friends; a meal at the excellent restaurant in the village; shopping on Saturday.  

Unfortunately (for me, not them; I have nothing against the South of England, honest), her friends went to Cornwall as I arrived in Europe; the restaurant closed so the owners could take a holiday (at the height of the summer season: the French have their priorities right); and Saturday was a public holiday, therefore many shops were closed.

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My hosts are lovely people

I didn’t really learn this on holiday but I need to shoehorn in the fact that when I went to bed, I found a box of fudge under my pillow, called Mrs Tilly’s.  

I was too tired from the drama of flying alone to take a photo of my delight that night, but here’s a dramatic re-enactment from the next morning:

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I like to go with the flow

France being closed didn’t bother me – I was with my dear Viv and we read poetry (some), talked poetry (more), critiqued poetry (a lot), wrote poetry (a little).  We managed visits to a supermarket and a hardware store that I thought was a supermarket (schoolgirl French never covering le tool shop), as well as the fulfillment of a childhood dream when I entered a pretty boulangerie-patisserie straight out of a French text book drawing.  I bought elephant ears, a French biscuit.  First introduced to me by blogger Laurie, who sent her home made version from the States, I have long wanted another go at them.

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Nostalgia is weird

On our daily walk into the village – There was fighting on this street during the war, Viv casually threw out; as if the French also have lots of history.  I thought it was only us Brits – we popped into a corner shop and I spotted and had to purchase a box of Maizena!

If you don’t know, I lived in South Africa for fourteen years and learned to make gravy with cornflour – Maizena, a popular brand.  If there was any other brand of cornflour, I never saw it nor bought it.  Even now, nineteen years later and back in the UK, the grocery list often says ‘Maizena’ instead of ‘Corn Flour’.  Of course I had to buy a box.  Probably the oddest souvenir I’ve ever had.  But I don’t care – Maizena!

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French folk are funny

DSCN3782Viv, her lovely friend Annette and I rested during a trip to the seaside (I don’t think France wanted to meet me – even the tide was out).  A man on a bike shouted as he passed, A kebab of old people!  It was funny once translated, until I realised that I was part of the kebab.

I wouldn’t mind, but I don’t think he was really French: he was on a bike but he had no garlic, onions, beret, baguettes or striped shirt.

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Goats and lemurs get me going

DSCN3828We had a trip to the zoo: Zoo Champrepus.  Say it aloud; it’s fun, especially with the French rising inflection.  I haven’t stopped saying it since I got back. It’s up there with ‘giggle’ and ‘hitch’ as one of my favourite words.

Our first stop was to feed popcorn to the goats and I was chuffed when a goat stood up against me to make sure he got his fair share i.e. all of it.  It was the highlight of my day until we visited the lemur enclosure at feeding time.  The animals wander around amongst the visitors, who are not allowed to touch them. However, they are allowed to touch us.  One cutie pie, deciding he hadn’t been given enough, stood up against my leg, wrapping his adorable little paws around me and giving me his best Puss in Boots from Shrek impression (previous post refers).  I’m in love.  I haven’t felt that aglow since my wedding day.  In the zoo shop afterwards I bought a lemur cuddly toy, lemur keyring and whatever lemur else I could find to remind me of my new favourite animal.

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The little fellow who won my heart

The little fellow who won my heart

French food is the best

Viv and Jock fed me well, including Jock’s homemade Waldorf salad and Viv’s (drool) garlic lamb; but the culinary highlight had to be a trip to their favourite restaurant with some old friends and a bottle or three of good French wine.  

Viv translated the menu (which had no prices listed; need I say more?) but I had no clear idea of what I was ordering; I just trusted it would be good and it was, more than good, viz. photos below:

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DSCN3800DSCN3806Talking of wine, I couldn’t drink when I first arrived in France (surely a crime against nature?) because I was on antibiotics for an abscess, but I made up for it come Saturday-Wednesday and spent a lot of my time tipsier than the hour before a flight.  I don’t think my hosts noticed, apart from the night I sprawled across their couch, giggling uncontrollably at re-runs of M*A*S*H.

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Flying ain’t so bad if you know the pilot

I’m terrified of flying.  Mostly, I’m afraid of take-off; once I’m up there, I’m committed and, as a pragmatist, I relax enough to loosen my seat belt to Victorian corset strength.  Due to the aforementioned antibiotics, I was unable to have a fortifying beverage on either of my outward flights (to Exeter and then Deauville).   I compensated for my unusual sobriety by taking deep breaths, praying really hard, and singing hymns quietly (don’t want people to think I’m nuts; terrified is enough) in the spirit of Whistle a Happy Tune and I Have Confidence.  Musicals are good for more than Saturday nights in bed, you know.  I could have sung Nearer My God To Thee but I opted for Lord I Lift Your Name On High; it seemed appropriate.

It wasn’t so bad coming back because I still had my pickle on thanks to Jock’s single malt; and on the Exeter-Manchester flight I was delighted to find myself sitting next to a FlyBe pilot (one of six dotted about) who had been on a course, and who flew the route regularly.  I bombarded him with questions – How can this thing even take off?  What happens if one engine fails? Why don’t we crash?  When you’re a passenger, do you judge the actual pilot on his technique? – and he gently slapped me about the head with facts, figures and common sense.  He added to his goodness by pointing out landmarks I’d never have spotted, such as Blackpool Tower (you know, that great big pointy thing with delusions of Frenchness) and allowed me to enjoy the first flight I’ve ever almost enjoyed.  And I was sat by the window – not a matter of choice; I always ask for an aisle seat so I can be one of the first off the plane when we inevitably go down.

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Families suck

TB: Did you miss me?

Hub: No, not really.

TB: Why not?!?

Spud: We didn’t have one cross word while you were away; and everything got done.

Hub: Yeah.  We came to the conclusion that you’re a stress head.

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I was going to tell you about the romantic thing the Hub wrote to me while I was away, but I don’t think I’ll bother now.  Suffice it to say, I’ll pay my own way to the moon, thank you very much.  When it opens.

Oops!

25 Aug

Judyt54 made a shocking comment on my previous post – it’s been two months since I wrote it.

I’m sorry folks; I honestly didn’t know it had been that long.  In mitigation, I’ve been working on my second poetry collection; been to see VivinFrance; became a school governor; and faffed about reading free downloads from BookBub.

I’ve been wanting to tell you about France (I got back last Thursday) but I was out Saturday (Spud sang with The Tree of War cast at Manchester Cathedral) and Sunday; had a visitor yesterday; and I’m out this afternoon and tomorrow.

I’m holding up two fingers to you now – no, sorry: three fingers – and swearing on my previous career as a daily blogger that you’ll hear from me again in your lifetime.

Catch Me On The Radio Today

19 Jun

UPDATE:

Here it is!

I received an email out of the blue, inviting me to read a poem of mine on BBC Radio Merseyside.  It’s going out at 13:55 GMT today.  You will hear me calm and steady.  I hope.  Because what I really am is trembling and nauseated.

Roger Phillips has the lunchtime show and he contacted me on Wednesday, to say that all of today’s programmes are being broadcast from alongside the Mersey under the banner heading, Turning The Tide.  They found my poem about living near the Mersey on The Healthy Waterways Trust website, and asked if I’d be willing to read it for the show.  Did Shake have a speare?  Of course I agreed!

Once I told everyone I knew that video didn’t actually kill the radio star, reality – i.e. absolute gut-wrenching terror – set in.  As many of you know, I am a member of Write Out Loud, the country’s largest poetry organisation, dedicated to getting us all reading our poetry in company.  That means I read out a minimum of two poems once a month to a tolerant audience.  I also give regular poetry readings at Walthew House, Stockport’s charity for the blind and hard of hearing (the latter seem to be my best audience, if I’m honest).  I read to other community groups and last year I did a grand tour of two Stockport churches, sharing the War Poetry Canon to commemorate 1914.  I even read the lesson in church from time to time.  So no biggie, right?

Wrong.

A follow-up email from Roger about calling me this morning at nine ‘after the news’ had me reaching for the (carefully lined with a plastic bag and toilet paper to stop splashback) sick bucket.  Did that mean I’d be live on the BBC?  To thousands of Scousers who might find my accent wanting (I’ve moved a lot).  What if I messed up?  What if I threw up?  What if the dogs barked and yapped and yelped and yipped while we were on the phone?  Would Mr Phillips pass the recording of me bludgeoning them with a bucket to the police?  What was I thinking?!

That’s when I gave thanks for Hairy Boy, my first-born child, my clever son, my current favourite offspring, because he had the good sense to fall in love with Hairy Girl.  If Hairy Boy is Mountain Man, Hairy Girl is Mountain Dew: beautiful and smart and – the best thing ever about her; I can’t believe I never saw it before – she works for another BBC local radio station

I sent off a frantic email: Help!  I’m going to be on the radio!  I’m going to snatch my three minutes from Andy Warhol (we have just come out of a recession) and I might make a fool of myself because I only have eight years’ experience of performing poetry! and followed it up with a frantic text: Sent you an email!  Read it!  Today!  Now!  Are you well?  We haven’t seen you in ages xx

She talked me down off the ledge with sensible advice and an admonishment to have fun.  Has she met me?  Fun is my middle name, as in Tilly Illhavefunifitkillsmelikethistensionangstanxietyprobablywillbeforelong Bud.

So Rog phoned this morning (having spent four minutes in conversation, I think we’re close enough friends now for me to give him a diminutive) just after the news (a man of his word) and I recorded my poem, (feeling like Marilyn Monroe, in a breathy, high-on-drugs way; not a breathy, sexy-in-white way, unless you count the zero colour in my face), holding on to my breakfast, grateful to be unlive, and then dancing a jig around the living room when we were done.

Radio – I think I’ve found my medium.  I can sit in my pyjamas, cuddle my sick bucket, and read poetry to the world who, because my poems are for the most part short, won’t have time to reach for the off button before I’m done. 

Next stop: hospital radio; a mostly unconscious audience.  They’re going to love me. 

30 Reasons To Stay Married

1 Jun

wedding1985008

 

  • The dogs wouldn’t like it if we split up.
  • The kids wouldn’t like it if we split up.
  • The record collection wouldn’t like it if we split up.  Apart from Meat Loaf (mine) and The Sex Pistols (his), they’ve been one big, happy family for too long for a separation to work.
  • The Hub wouldn’t like it if we split up.  He thinks thirty years of fights, kids, pets, fights, moving, troubles, fights, problems, woes and fights should mean something.  What a nitpicker.
  • He strokes my hair when I can’t sleep.
  • I pull his hair when he annoys me.  Whose hair would I pull if I didn’t have the Hub?
  • He still thinks I’m beautiful.
  • Poor, misguided fools are my thing.
  • He doesn’t mind that I spend all of our money on books.  Well, he does; but he doesn’t complain about it.
  • He found it perfectly reasonably that I wanted our wedding song to be one written by a country singer about leaving her famous married lover which I discovered in a movie about a whorehouse.

  • He buys the most thoughtful gifts: Presidential balls; trips to the Globe, the ballet, the theatre; long socks; Maltesers.
  • He knows me inside out – watching a group on last week’s Britain’s Got Talent, he said he knew which one I found the most attractive.  He was right.  Then he said he knew which one I found next-most attractive.  He did.  And so on, through all five of them.  The man’s a freak.
  • He can fix anything.  He can take an appliance apart, put it back together, throw the leftover screws (there are always leftover screws when he repairs something) in the recycling box and the machine works like new.  It’s scary.  And saves us a fortune (next point refers).
  • He only sighs when my techneptitudinal brain breaks appliances by mere confused glances.
  • He makes me laugh.
  • He lets me make fun of him on my blog; which means he makes you lot laugh, too.
  • He’s a know-it-all but, what’s worse, is that he’s not often wrong.  It’s annoying.  I include it as a reason to stay married, however, because I need the challenge of pointing out his errors.  It’s what gets me through the day since I gave up Sudoku.
  • He’s as hard as nails on the outside but a big, soppy mare over animals.  Which is why we have, in the course of thirty years, owned seven gerbils, three cockatiels, three budgies, five cats, four dogs and several thousand fish.  Why do you think I read so much?  I can’t find him in the zoo and I need to pass the time somehow.
  • He gave me two beautiful children.  And seven gerbils, three cockatiels, three budgies, five cats, four dogs and several thousand fish.
  • He sews up a storm.  Our kids always had the best costumes at school events. 

  • He accepts that I am not romantic and all of my love poems to him tend to poke fun at his own wild romanticism.
  • He cooks like a Michelin-starred chef.  He gathers together interesting ingredients and voilà! a three course meal for brunch.  It does my head in that he’s not well enough to cook anymore.  How selfish of him to get ill like that.
  • He can really drive.  I mean really.  His parallel parking is the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen.
  • He’s the boss.  He says we have to stay married.  You know I’m an obedient wife who never disagrees with him, so staying married it is.
  • He doesn’t like poetry and complains that I should be writing a runaway bestseller to support us.  He totally believes I’m capable of it.  To shut him up, I had a go at NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month – the aim of which is to write 50,000 words in a month).  I managed 12,000 words of a dull romance in which my hero was a traffic warden.  Need I say more?
  • Back to the not liking poetry – he complains that it won’t make us any money and then ferries me around from one free/unpaid gig/workshop/event to another, leaving me with a kiss and collecting me later with another kiss.
  • He has no patience and a short fuse.  This might not seem like a reason to stay married to him; and you’re right: it’s not.  But I have to remind myself as I’m writing this list that he’s not perfect by any means, despite his great husbandness; otherwise, I might start appreciating him.
  • He’ll read this list and write thirty reasons why he should stay married to me, and I guarantee it’ll be all soppy and nice and make me all gooey inside.  He’s really annoying sometimes.
  • To prove the scoffers wrong.  Lots of people predicted that we would break up within a year when we got married.  I don’t know why; it’s not like I broke off our engagement three times or anything…oh, wait…
  • Love.

Happy 30th anniversary, darling.  Love you. x

 

 

 

The Wind in the Willows

27 May

I’ve never liked The Wind in the Willows.  I always thought it a tedious story about boyish animals in which I have no interest.  I never watched Tales From the Riverbank or those interminable Sunday afternoon short Disney live action films which anthropomorphised mountain lions and zebras; though I did quite enjoy the 1993 remake of The Incredible Journey, thanks to Michael J. Fox and Sally Fields.  But that was it for me as far as animals on film and stage are concerned.

Thus it was with a heavy heart I went to watch Alex play Mole in The Wind in the Willows.  My son was the only reason I considered watching it at all – stupid Alan Bennett with his stupid fake creatures pretending to be human.  

I’m so glad I love my son.  The show was fantastic!

http://theatredelicatessen.co.uk/

The performance space was an old Woolworths, turned into an arts café – a really cool/funky/epic/whatever-the-hyperbole-is-these-days space.  The furniture is unashamedly second-hand, including the bunk beds in the main seating area and old armchairs for the audience in the staging area.  The tables are covered with blackboard paint and there are pots of chalks available for patrons’ use.  Naturally the Hub and I spent a happy half hour scribbling like infants.

About ten minutes before curtain-up, a scruffy little creature began cleaning up, playing Connect-4 with the child (there was only one in the audience; most children clearly feel the same way about performing pretend-rodents as I do) and fussing about, getting in everyone’s way.  That was our first introduction to Mole.

We were ushered into the performance space and – so civilised! – allowed to take our tea with us.  I should say, the first performance space, because this was promenade theatre: the audience followed the cast around from room to room. At one point we sat on a concrete floor.

The use of space and props was clever.  The river was symbolised by a variety of blue material, waved on a string by two of the cast.  Toad’s prison was a stock trolley which Woolworths must have left behind when they cleared out.  As the boat containing Ratty and Mole meandered along (a different trolley, pushed by a different cast member), it was passed by a boat going in the opposite direction – I know this because I noticed it was about ten inches long when it was given to me by the girl on my left and I passed it to the Hub on my right, and so on along the first row.

We moved from Ratty’s home and Toad Hall to the Wild Wood – a bare, cold room with lighting and imagination the only props – on to Badger’s sett and back to Mole’s home in the café.  Mole and Ratty got into the bunk beds and fell asleep and everyone looked at each other because no one was sure if it was the interval or the end.  I think some people left, believing it was the end of the show, but it was actually the interval.  

http://www.springfield.derbyshire.sch.uk/category/wind-in-the-willows-2015/

The child who had been rather apprehensive of Mole at first thought it would be fun to shout ‘Boo!’ in his ear several times.  If Alex doesn’t have a career in acting, he could succeed as one of those street human statues, because he never moved, not even when he heard his own mother scream as she dropped a large cup of very hot tea all over herself, the table (wiping out some creative doodles, a mean comment and a couple of rather lewd suggestions – made by other people, I swear) and the floor.

I think this was Alex’s best performance yet.  He was sweet, funny and stayed in character the whole time.  I know he stayed in character the whole time because I’m his mother, so of course I watched him to the exclusion of all others when he was on stage.  When he wasn’t part of the dialogue he was scratching at fleas, fiddling and reacting to the other actors.  

To be fair, just about the whole cast was excellent, especially Ratty, who had the best lines and made the most of them and the Judge, who was hilarious.  Another was the Gaoler’s Daughter – the inspired casting of a male in that role paid off, particularly at the end, when he kissed the boys.  The Head Weasel was great and had a compelling but deliberately annoying laugh.

This was a well-directed and well-acted production which made perfect use of the unusual space.  But most of all, it was FUN.

Of This And That

12 May

http://www.savagechickens.com/images/chickenapologize.jpg

What Should Be An Apology, But Somehow Isn’t

I’ve had a lot going on and no laptop for a while but now everything’s back to normal.  I saved all of your blog posts that came into my inbox – some going back to January – to read when I had more time.  Then  it occurred to me that I never have more time, so I made the decision to delete them all and suddenly I’m six inches taller because the guilt lifted as soon as the emails went into the trash.

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Feeling Yellow

I don’t think I mentioned I was quite ill with renal colic before Easter.  Then the tests came back and it wasn’t renal colic after all – thank goodness, because kidney stones would have followed, the doctor was a little too eager to assure me.  What I had was a severe UTI (I don’t want to say ‘urinary tract infection’ because that’s a wee bit icky).  It had me flat out for a week (the Tramadol might have played a little part in that) and it was several more weeks before I was all better.

Live From Worktown

I had a poem in an anthology published in conjunction with this year’s Bolton Festival.  I went along to the launch event.  45 minutes on the train then another 45 minutes trying to find the Octagon Theatre, which is a five minute walk from the station.  The Hub’s instruction, via Google Maps (printed out with little arrows drawn on to show me which way to walk.  He seems to think I can’t be trusted to find my own way around) was to exit the station, turn left, follow the map arrows.  What could go wrong?  Plenty, it seems.

For starters, the station had two exits.

I checked them both out and went with the one that most resembled the Google Street View image the Hub had shown me (did I mention he thinks I can’t find my way out of a railway station?).  I exited, turned left, walked and walked and walked for much longer than five minutes, not finding any street names matching my map.  I walked back to the station and started again.

I exited the second entrance, turned left, walked and walked but not quite so far this time before I turned around and walked back to the station, then around the station, then inside and around the station, then I bought thinking time by raiding the vending machine.

Idea!  Look at the wall map.  

There was bound to be a wall map.  

There was a wall map.  

Very pretty it was, too, with a helpful YOU ARE HERE arrow.  I could even see the theatre on the map.  What I couldn’t see was any indication as to which of the station’s two exits I should use to get to the theatre, nor in which direction I should go, nor any street names that tallied with my well-worn and now a little sweaty map.  As pretty wall maps go, it was a bit of a let down.

http://www.lovethispic.com/uploaded_images/13688-Pooh-Bear-Think.gif?1

The chocolate worked its magic and it occurred to me to ask someone – a very helpful news vendor who told me, Turn right [hear that Hub & Google Maps/Right!] out of the exit that doesn’t appear on Google Street View [okay, he didn’t say that last bit but I could tell he was thinking it], up to the clock tower which is the town hall [or courts or something] and the theatre is just behind it. Which it is, if you come at it from the clock tower’s right if you’re heading up from the station, as I discovered once I had walked the long way around the town hall.

The excitement at actually arriving at my destination meant that for me, the anthology launch itself was a bit of an anticlimax, until I was given a free glass of wine.  Everything looks better after free wine, especially on an empty except for a small bar of chocolate tummy.

I chatted to a bewildered Bolton University Creative Writing student, booze making me loquacious and free with all the writing advice she could ever need – Keep a notebook!  Follow the muse!  Get critiqued!  Read my blog!  Email me if you have any questions! – until she was rescued when I spotted a fellow contributor, Julia McGuiness, who once held a writing workshop I attended, and who used a few of my piku in a writing book she wrote [see, BUCWS: listen to me and you too can write long-winded and confused sentences in just such a style].

I took photos on my phone, sure in the knowledge that I could fiddle with the phone charger lead and connect it to my laptop to upload the photos to share with you.  

I did manage to fiddle with the phone charger lead and connect it to my laptop.  

Sorry there are no photos.  It appears that I don’t know what to do once the phone and laptop are connected.

 Julia D. McGuinness Julia on somebody else’s phone.

Spud Acts Again

Over Easter, Spud was at the national Student Drama Festival in Scarborough, sponsored by The Sunday Times, in Joe Bunce’s The Nutcracker [I accidentally typed The Butcracker and I can’t help thinking I’d really like to see that play].  

A committee checks out student productions throughout the year and then invites twelve from around the country to appear at the Festival. The Nutcracker won four awards, including Best Director and The Cameron Macintosh Award.  I suspect Mr Bunce will go far.  I hope Spud is his Facebook friend because it’s often about who you know in the brutal business known as show.  

You can read a little about the festival and The Nutcracker here.  Spud sent me some photos but I can’t upload them.  Is it possible that UTIs can affect your brain?  Mine stopped working about six weeks ago.

The Hub and I are off to see Spud play Mole in The Wind in the Willows.  More of that later in the week, but here’s a teaser:

 

Look What I Did!

18 Apr

 

Somebody went to hospital twenty-five years ago and all they brought back was this lousy mountain man.

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Happy birthday, Hairy Boy.

Love you xx

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