31 October, 2008

Halloween

Happy Halloween!!

I have had the choice of two parties to go to tonight - I have chosen the one that is one mile away from me as opposed to the one that is 60 miles away!

Isla is going as the Bride Of Dracula!

I'll just go as me with a witchy hat!!

Have a spooky evening!

30 October, 2008

R.I.P. Big Jim

I just discovered tonight that an old friend died on Friday. He wasn't a very close friend, not to me anyway, but he was a nice guy. I knew him because he used to work with Colin (my ex and Isla's dad), and he used to drink in the pub where I worked. Colin was quite close to him and another guy he worked with - I think he saw them as sort of father figures, as his dad died when he was young.

I don't know what he died of - he must have been in his 60's I would imagine, so too young for it just to have been old age. Apparently he hadn't been well for a long time, and was no longer working.

The guy I found out from only found out today from another friend - he used to work with him too. I have told Colin's sister, so hopefully she'll be able to let him know, and tell him when the funeral is.

He was a great guy, and I'm very sad that he died.

Rest In Peace Big Jim.

28 October, 2008

Birthday In The Mountains and Double Birthday Party

We got up yesterday at 7am to go to the mountains to celebrate Sibyl's birthday. We left at just after 8am and headed south. We went down through Auch, Lannemezan, Arreau, St Lary Soulan and then through the Tunnel de Bielsa to Spain. We only went down as far as Bielsa, where we did a little bit of shopping (cigarettes and booze mainly) and I got a few miniatures to add to my collection - I have started collecting miniature bottles of alcohol ever since our trip to Cognac in April.

After that, we had a drink in a small bar there which was lovely, and headed back up the mountain towards the tunnel. We stopped at a layby, on the side of the road, next to the river. We had our picnic and champagne, and then went down on the rocks in the river to take pictures of Sibyl on her birthday drinking champagne in the mountains in Spain! We sent an MMS to her sister with a picture on it too! It was great actually because she's been wanting me to take some new pictures of her for Facebook etc. so it was the perfect opportunity for a little photoshoot with a stunning backdrop.We got home at around 5pm, had to rush around feeding dogs etc, and get sorted for going out in the evening to celebrate Sibyl's and Edith's birthdays. We ate in the restaurant in La Sauvetat, and the meal was fabulous. The restaurant has recently been taken over by new owners, and the food and the service is excellent. They are really lovely people too.

As you can see from the photos we had it all looking beautiful beforehand, and afterwards it was total devastation!

Some people left at around midnight, but my mum, Sibyl and I stayed behind to chat and to help the owners clear up. We finally got home around 2am, so we've all been a bit knackered today!

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27 October, 2008

Describe your memories of some major world events that have happened in your lifetime…Part 1

I have just published this on my other blog Memoirs Of A Mother, but thought it deserved to be on this blog too.

The two major world events that I can remember are the death of Princess Diana and the collapse of the twin towers.
I was 20 when Princess Diana died. I had been out on the Saturday night in Dumfries and stayed over at my then boyfriend’s (Jamie) house. On the Sunday morning, I got up quite early and a friend and I nipped out to Tesco’s to get some sausages and bacon for a proper fry up. When we got to the supermarket there were rows and rows of newspapers with the headline “Diana Princess Of Wales 1 July 1961 – 31 August 1997”. I didn’t believe it – I thought it was some sick jokes dreamt up by the media. We got back to Jamie’s flat and the first thing I did was turn the TV on. I can’t remember if we ever actually got our fry up because we just sat staring at the TV watching the reports coming in about her death. I drove home somehow to find my mum, dad and Grandma doing the same thing – just transfixed by everything we were seeing. What amazed me was the public outpouring of grief. I didn’t think that we, as a nation, had that sort of public grief within us. The sea of flowers around Kensington Palace was incredible and it struck me that Diana herself would probably have preferred people to make donations to the charities of which she was patron (or any charity really) rather than spend the fortune that must have been spent on those beautiful flowers.The tide of grief that swept through the country even had an effect on the Royal Family themselves, shaking them out of their private grief because the public needed to see that they cared. Public pressure on them was incredible.

I remember the funeral very clearly. Everyone in the country had the day off work, so everything was shut, at least for a half day. I think there were probably very few people who didn’t watch the funeral. The moment that really got to me was seeing the coffin being transported through the streets with wreaths on top, and a white envelope with “Mummy” written on it. Of course, after that I cried throughout the funeral service.
I understand why I cried at the envelope – two small boys had just lost their mother – it was sympathy with them. But why did I cry watching a funeral of someone I never knew and never met? I’ve never particularly been a royalist, or an anti royalist – it doesn’t mean a lot to me.

Maybe it was because she was such a public figure – the poor woman had lived her life in the spotlight and she eventually learned how to use that spotlight to her advantage to help causes that she believed in. I think she was a good person, and too young to die. And I think it was because those two little boys were left without a mother.
Diana Princess Of Wales 1 July 1961 – 31 August 1997
NB. Photographs Not My Own Work

23 October, 2008

Childhood Days Part 4

Malawi has a lake. Funnily enough it is called Lake Malawi! It is 365 miles long and 52 miles wide. A mile for every day of the year long, and a mile for every week wide. It is extremely beautiful, and apparently even now, a lot of it is very unspoilt by tourism.

We used to go up to the lake quite often. We had some friends who worked for a tea estate in the south of Malawi, and the company they worked for owned a cottage on the lake shore. It was a beautiful cottage, but unfortunately I don’t have a photo of it because all of our pictures were on slides. One of these days we are going to get a slide scanner so we can have all of these wonderful memories on disc and easily accessible.

Anyway, we had a boat of our own, which was an inflatable boat with an outboard engine. However, at this cottage there was a solid yellow boat, which we used to use when we were there. The outboard engine fitted on the back, and instead of a mast we had a Carlsberg beer parasol! We have some fantastic photos of me and my cousins trying to push the boat into the lake all with different silly hats on! My younger cousin had a bucket instead of a hat though! One time we were there with some friends – my friend RP (who was one of the friends who lived next door to us) and her mum who was my mum’s best friend. My mum and dad took me and RP out on the boat one day. Quite often we would jump over the side for a swim, and we asked this day if we could skinny dip. My mum said yes of course, so we stripped off our swimming costumes, and we were about to climb over the side when all of a sudden my mum said in a firm but not too loud voice “STOP!” We stopped. At the lake we all knew that if we were told to do something we had to do it.
About 100 yards away from us were some hippos in the water. Hippos are extremely aggressive animals, and will attack humans or boats. We hurriedly got our legs back into the boat and my mum tried to start the engine. As always happens when you are panicking, it wouldn’t start, and wouldn’t start. Eventually it did, and we sped (I say sped, I think it was only a 7 horse power engine!) off back to our cottage. That was quite a scary experience!

Another place we used to visit at the lake was called Cape Maclear. I’m not sure where the name came from, but the water there was beautifully clear so maybe it was because of that. There was a lovely white beach (although there was a it of a problem with red stinging ants there) and a place called Otter Point.Obviously it was a place well known for its otters – I never knew there were otters in Africa – didn’t twig with the name until now! D’oh!

Anyway, we used to snorkel around Otter Point looking at the beautiful tropical fish there. They would have mainly been cichlids I think, but I’m sure there were other species there too. They were beautiful and the colours were lovely.
One day we were up there with some friends and their kids who were on holiday from boarding school. I can only have been about 4 I think. Anyway, my mum and dad went off for a swim and decided it was quiet enough to have a little skinny dip. My mum slung her bikini top and bottom over her arm and carried on swimming. When they decided it was time to come out of the water my mum went behind a rock to put her bikini back on. The bottoms were easy enough, but the top had gone walkabout (or swimabout!).
She peeked out from over the rock to shout to our friend who was sitting on the beach to swim out to her with her other swimming costume – there must have been other people on the beach. The friend shook her head, and wouldn’t bring the costume out to her! She kept her waiting for a good few minutes just to wind her up, but eventually took it out to her!

I’m sure there are other stories of the lake – as I think of more, I will be sure to post them!
NB. Photographs Not My Own Work

21 October, 2008

These Boots Are Made For Walking

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Now, I'm not usually a shoe girl. Women with shoe fetishes are a complete anathema to me - I just don't get it. What is so great about shoes?

But boots on the other hand...

I love boots. I have loved them ever since I was a student and bought myfirst pair of heeled boots. This first pair I lovingly reheeled and resoled about five times until they finally died! They were like an old pair of slippers, and I have never found another pair quite as comfortable as they were. I will never stop in my quest to find them though!

I don't have that many pairs of boots. It's not a fetish, just a great liking! I have probably around ten pairs, which isn't too bad. I don't own a pair of normal shoes - I have tackies - trainers - (a work pair and a normal pair), flip flops (again, a work pair, normal pair and pretty going out pair) and I have boots. This tends to leave me pretty short of shoes to wear in the summer, but loads for the winter!

I don't spend a fortune on my boots - they are always extremely reasonably priced. However, what's reasonably priced for me is probably not what you would consider reasonably priced. My last pair of boots was from Lidl, they cost me 15.99€. Euros, not pounds! The pair before were from Leclerc and were 7.99€. And they're really nice boots. The most expensive ones I have bought were worth 75€, but I got them in the sale at 25€!

See, I might moan about living in France, but it does have its compensations - cheap boots!

20 October, 2008

Dauphinoise with a twist

I did an interesting meal tonight. The original plan was to do pork chops with Dauphinoise potatoes. I had a couple of pieces of Roquefort in the fridge though that needed using up, so I did a slightly different sauce.150g piece of Roquefort
As much cream as required for sauce for up to six people (the cheese is strong, so the taste will be strong too)
Potatoes for up to six people

Peel the potatoes and slice them. Bring to the boil. Drain, and place in an oven proof dish.

Melt the cheese in a saucepan over a low heat. Once melted, add the cream. Bring to the boil gently, then simmer for a few minutes.

Pour the sauce over the potatoes, and bake in the oven at around 180°C for about 30 minutes.


Roquefort often goes with pork, so this is a perfect accompaniment for pork chops, pork fillet or even roast pork.

19 October, 2008

Le Rosbif

Last Sunday, while I was still away from home, I invited the family for Sunday dinner! It felt a bit weird, but it was great! I did the typical English Roast Beef - the french think we eat it all the time, but given our misconceptions about them, that one's pretty tame!

To cook the perfect roast beef I have always used the recipe out of the Good Housekeeping cookery book. It's about 50yrs old, still gives all the temperatures in Fahrenheit, and the weights and measures in pounds and ounces. However, it is my bible - I swear by it for good, proper home cooking.

Here are the recipes I used for the perfect roast beef, and even more perfect Yorkshire Puddings. I know they're perfect because my dad's from Yorkshire, and he's always used this recipe too! And he's great at yorkshire puds!

If you ever want larger copies of these recipes, leave a comment and I will email them to you.

20 things about me

1. When you buy a greetings card are the words or the picture more important to you?
- The pictures, my mum and I make cards, so the words are always exactly what we want them to be.
2. What's your favourite kind of cake?
- Not really into cake, but I really like juicy lemon cake.
3. Do you ever make gifts for people, if so what, or do you buy them?
- Not gifts, but cards.
4. What's your favourite holiday - i.e. Christmas?
- Christmas and birthdays.
5. Are you going on holiday this year? If so, where?
- Unfortunately not, but I have Disneyland Paris planned for Isla's 10th birthday next year.
6. What was the best party you've ever been to?
- Probably my friend Lyndsey’s wedding – the reception was a ceilidh complete with Scottish Country dancing – fab!
7. If you are married, describe your wedding. If not, what would your ideal wedding be like?
- The reception would be a ceilidh (see above). The wedding would be simple. Personally I’d do it in a registry office in jeans, but the bloke may not like that! If it was a white wedding (I’d have a cheek!) my dress would be a sort of medieval cut – long, simple with long sleeves, and obviously the bloke would wear a kilt.
8. What's the most romantic thing that's ever happened to you?
- Nothing! I’ve never been out with a romantic man!
9. What's your favourite romantic song?
- Will You – Hazel O’Connor – it reminds me of one of my exes
10. Which celebrity would you like a dream date with?
- Ooh, probably Ewan McGregor, but he’s married!
11. Which female celebrity do you find beautiful?
- Nicole Kidman
12. Which male celebrity do you think is attractive?
- Ewan McGregor, David Tennant, Robert Carlyle (in a strange way)
13. If you could be a fictional character from a book who would you choose?
- probably Claire in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series
14. If you could be in a television sit-com, which would you choose?
- MASH
15. Which character would you like to be?
- Obviously the one Hawkeye finally falls for!
16. What's your favourite girl's name?
- Isla (of course)
17. What's your favourite boy's name?
- James
18. What's your supermarket of choice?
- Sainsbury’s in UK, Leclerc in France
19. What is your best character trait?
- Honesty, loyalty and dependability – I sound like a Labrador!
20. What is your worst habit?
- Intolerance and irritability – oh, and smoking!

Old Plans and New Ambitions

For those of you who know me, you’ll know that I am pretty passionate about animals and their welfare. A couple of years ago I started a correspondence course in animal care. I started the course, and was doing very well and getting great marks for each assignment (in French!), but life got in the way, and what with one thing and another I kind of let it drop.

I have regretted letting it drop, but never really got around to picking it back up again. When I started it I had some sort of vision of working in a veterinary surgery as a secretary/veterinary nurse – the two posts are often doubled up.

However, now I have a new plan.
The other night I was flicking through the TV channels when I came across a programme about RSPCA Inspectors. As I was watching it I though “this looks like my perfect job”. I have always wanted to work with animals in some way. When I was at school I always wanted to be a vet, but my sciences weren’t up to scratch frankly. We have always had animals ourselves, from dogs to chickens, and we have rescued some of our dogs – two privately and some others from rescue centres. Animal cruelty is something I feel extremely strongly about, and I have long wanted to work on the animals’ behalf against it.

After I watched the programme I did a little research into the possibility of working for the RSPCA. As I read through the job requirements I kept thinking “I could really do this”.

I have recently learnt about the Five Freedoms For Animals, and I would like to work to ensure that every animal has a decent life, and that people who inflict cruelty on them should be prosecuted and banned from ever having animals again. It’s something I feel very strongly about.

The Five Freedoms


1. Freedom from Hunger and Thirst - by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.
2. Freedom from Discomfort - by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
3. Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease - by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.
4. Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour - by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal's own kind.
5. Freedom from Fear and Distress - by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.

So, I have decided to finish the animal care course. Then I would like to find some work experience for the SPA (in France) or with a vet. Then I would like to apply to the RSPCA to train as an Inspector. My idea is to do it to coincide with Isla starting secondary school, so that relocating won’t be so hard for her as she would be changing schools anyway. Also, by the age of 11 her French will be so well instilled into her that she won’t forget it. I would like to be located in the South to South West of England eventually, mainly because I know people in that area, and because it would be close to my Grandma. Ideally I would be able to work in Scotland, but the SSPCA (Scottish equivalent) seems to require volunteers, and while I would gladly do the job purely for job satisfaction, you can’t live on fresh air.

Now this is in no way set in stone, but it’s the only idea I’ve had in years that excites me, and makes me think that I do perhaps have an interesting and useful future.

18 October, 2008

Back to normal

Well I’m home now! It feels a bit weird – I’ve been housesitting for about a month, and moving my stuff today was a mammoth task. I should really have had a removal van!

My mum is still not home – she’s got another few days of dogsitting, and is enjoying her peace and quiet! Our dogs can’t quite believe I’m home, and one of the cats won’t leave my side!

I’ve enjoyed being away – running the B&B etc, but it’s nice to be home. And I get to sleep in my own bed tonight.

Bliss!

08 October, 2008

Italian Sausage and Bean Casserole

Click on the image to enlarge.

I cooked this last night for the guests - my temporary job! Anyway, it was delicious -I used Toulousaine sausages instead of Italian ones, as they're kind of hard to come by in SW France! You can use any sausage really, as long as there's a high meat content. Go easy on the beans though - symphonies are meant to be played by orchestras, not bodily noises!


It was really delicious though - served it with herby roast tatties and roasted mediterranean vegetables.

Return to normal service

Normal service will be resumed shortly. I'm just rushed off my feet at the moment what with one thing and another.

So, hang in there!

Here's a photo of Isla on her bike, being very grown up, riding home from school!

03 October, 2008

Pies

This blog has only been up since 21st September, and already I have quite an interesting cross section of world readership!

Cool!

Accents

I came across this on another blog that I read - Outlandish Observations. It is a test to see how clever you are at recognising other peoples' accents.

I was crap, although I got the UK ones alright! When it says guess the city, don't bother, because they sound nothing like the places they supposedly come from - they were probably just students hanging about!

Anyway, for a go, click here.

02 October, 2008

House for Sale in SW France - please let the video load

video

5 Random Things - getting to know me a bit more

Some of these posts you may recognise from my previous blog, which I have had to take down for a number of reasons. This blog is not controversial at all, and will be just what the title says!
1. I almost drowned when I was about eight. We were at the lake in Malawi, only it wasn’t the usual cottage we were staying at. This one was much further north up the shore, and there was a hell of an undertow. My mum and I were jumping waves and the undertow pulled me under the water and away from her. I can still see the water above my head. Luckily, she spotted a foot, and grabbed it. Once she had pulled me out and given me a cuddle, we went straight back to the waves, with her gripping on to me more tightly. It was the right thing to do as I was not left with a fear of the water at all, apart from once when a canoe I was in toppled over into the water and I had to fight to get it the right way up again! But that’d scare anyone!
2. Childhood diseases – I never had any of the normal ones as a child. When we moved back to UK and I went to schools there we had to fill in medical forms. One question was “Have you had Chicken Pox, Measles, Mumps or Rubella?” Well, the answer to all of them was no. Then there was a little space where you had to write down the illnesses you had got as a child. Mine read “Malaria, Dysentery and Bilharzia”! I think the school nurses probably had to look that last one up! I have since had Chicken Pox by the way, at 26yrs old, and a very nasty experience it was too!
3. I went to one of the best private schools in Britain. And hated every single second of it. Slightly interestingly, it was the same school as both Tony Blair (our not-so-revered ex PM) and Tilda Swinton (mad-as-a-box-of-frogs actress). I went to a prep school before that, and was a weekly boarder which wasn’t too bad, but the senior school was a lot further away so I had to be a termly boarder. The reason I went to these schools was because when we first got back to Scotland, I went to the local primary school, and the teacher was thick as shit. I had to write something once about something exciting that had happened to a member of my family, so I wrote about when my mum went inside the pyramids when she was 15. The teacher scrawled across the page in bright red ink “Don’t be stupid – everyone knows you can’t go inside the pyramids”. My mum was furious, mainly because the teacher hadn’t checked her facts, so promptly withdrew me from the school. I went to boarding school with the Enid Blyton view of it. I thought it would be all midnight feasts and playing tricks on the teachers! Unfortunately, it was one of the most miserable experiences of my life. I would never put a child of mine through that, although, at the time my parents were trying to do the best for me. I ended up leaving the senior school before they asked me to (something to do with smoking on the roof at midnight at 14yrs old), and went to a state school in Dumfries, which was a brilliant experience, and I made most of my lifelong friends there.
4. I broke my leg two years ago. Isla had just had a pair of kittens for her birthday, and I was going to check on them before I went to bed at about 12am. They were in a small room outside for the first couple of weeks with a litter tray etc. It was dark, and I fell over a flower pot! I was totally sober, unfortunately. If I had been drunk, I may not have hurt myself. I screamed loudly. My mum, who was playing freecell on the pc at the time had the presence of mind to write down the number of the game she was on, and came running out at the same time as my dad. We phoned the SAMU (paramedics) who turned up within about 20mins – not bad for a rural area. The problem was, that at the same time as checking the cats I was going to the loo – we have an outside toilet, which serves as a swimming pool changing room. So, there I was lying on the floor, desperate for the loo, and not just a N°1 either! My mum and dad helped me to hop inside, sat me on the loo and left me to it. By the time I had finished I was close to passing out. When I injure myself, my blood pressure tends to plummet and I have in the past, passed out and had convulsions. Wanting to avoid this, they lay me down on the floor with my leg raised. The one problem with this was that the bathroom is very narrow, so the paramedics couldn’t easily get me out of there without a stretcher, so the pompiers (firemen) had to be called as they are the ones with the ambulance! My mum obviously needed to go to the hospital with me, but both she and my dad had had a couple of glasses of wine, so couldn’t drive. She phoned our friends who were there in minutes. By the time we got going in the ambulance I had managed to have a diet coke and a fag, and intraveinous painkiller, so was feeling ok. We finally got home around 6am, whereupon my dad had to go to the pharmacy and buy some crutches and get the prescription of anti-phlebitis injections which the district nurse had to give me daily.
N.B. Don’t break your leg in France – it’s an expensive occupation.
5. I cry at things on TV. All sorts of things. I like soap operas. Ok, I know that’s a bit sad, but they really are total escapism. I don’t like all of them. The mains ones I watch are Eastenders and Home and Away. I have actually found myself crying at them, but then I cry over anything remotely sad, even RSPCA adverts! I could never watch Animal Hospital because it would have had me blubbing! Some films leave me wrung out like a dish cloth! The animal ones are the worst – like Black Beauty, Lassie, Homeward Bound, especially when the old retriever limps over the hill – I need king size elephant strength Kleenex! Even a song will get to me sometimes, if it reflects how I’m feeling. I’m a real cry baby! And yet, in real life I tend to bottle emotions up, and eventually the bottle bursts and I lose my temper spectacularly, and it’s over fast. I suppose the crying at films thing releases pent up emotion better than losing my temper! There’s less shouting anyway!
NB. Photographs Not My Own Work - except my broken ankle!

01 October, 2008

Ageing & Television

What is it about ageing that predisposes one to watch certain things on television? I know I have touched on this subject before, but it really baffles me!

My Grandma adores the soaps – not a crime in itself, and I have to admit a certain fondness for some of them, but it’s just that she takes them so seriously, and we are subjected to a running commentary on them all. Except for Eastenders, which she detests, and insists on talking all the way through it so we can’t even get the benefit of the storyline. BBC 3 has never been so handy!

One programme, which I think is still broadcast solely for the purpose of the elderly, is Songs Of Praise. I have nothing against religion particularly. Although I cannot for the life of me understand how anyone can have a blind faith in something, I don’t dispute their right to that blind faith. However, I don’t see how watching a programme of people singing hymns can be fun. But the elderly love it. Likewise the Antiques Roadshow – maybe it’s because they are actually younger than some of the items featured!

Old people also love cop shows, but don’t like them being too long! My gran complained when The Bill changed from its half hour slot to a whole hour. I think, that as you age, your attention span must get shorter, which is why things like soaps take on a greater significance, because they can actually hold the attention for that short period. My dad, who is also no spring chicken, has recently declared a great liking for Silent Witness, based on the experience of starting to watch one episode, and sleeping through most of it!

The other thing is the news. My Grandma needs to watch at least two bulletins a day. She hasn’t grasped the fact that when she asks if there is a News on, we can go straight to a news channel at any time of the day. I know she doesn’t have Sky at home, but we have had it for years, and she spends a great deal of time here. I think the technology is beyond her.
At least BBC 24 means we don’t have to miss programmes we like watching – after all, the 10 O’Clock News on ITV is the same time as the Eastenders repeat on BBC3!
NB. Photographs Not My Own Work