29 March, 2009

Murphy

I thought I'd let you all know that Murphy's bandage came off today. It could have come off a couple of days ago, but he kept licking it and we were worried that the new skin wasn't tough enough yet and he might lick the wound open again, so we rebandaged it.

He's a very happy dog, and none the worse, thank God, for his injuries. I also think he's none the wiser, which is a shame, but he's not blessed with great brain power!!

I'll leave you with a picture of all three puppies. I need to go to bed. I was going to bed early tonight, then all of a sudden I looked at the time and it was an hour later than I thought! D'oh, clocks go forward tonight!

Whining Expats - Again!

Aaargh! This is a topic which is driving me nuts.

Why oh why do these people think that they have to justify their overseas life by bashing the UK?

In the last couple of days, my mum's inbox has been overrun by an email discussion (by people who seem to think that everyone in their address book is interested) about how Britain is going down the pan.

Now, ordinarily this would not be blogworthy or interesting, or even that irritating, but the vast majority of these people haven't lived in the UK for at least 20 years!

What do they know?

And why do they care?

And, possibly more to the point, why does this irritate me so much?!

27 March, 2009

Jobhunt

I haven't posted for a few days because I have been applying for as many jobs as I can in the UK. I am determined to find a job so that Isla and I can move back there in time for the Autumn school term.

It's frustrating though! I have been constantly updating my CV for each and every application, trying hard to sell myself on covering letters and making myself sound like a generally all round fabby person who they really NEED to employ!

There's one job that I'm really rather hopeful about. The application had to be posted, not emailed, and I ended up having to send it express delivery, in order to get there by the closing date. €44 it cost me! If that doesn't prove drive and determination I don't know what does!

Joocey and I have been talking about housesharing the year after next, when she'll be qualified, and we've been looking at houses to rent. We've found the perfect one for both of us, but it states no children and no pets. I really hope we can negotiate something with the landlords, because I so want that house, and it's something that I could afford on my own for a year probably.

I am determined that I will get a job. I need so much to start afresh, away from France, and away from the goldfish bowl that is this community.

I want a new life!

22 March, 2009

Mothers Day Comfort Food

I hope you've all had a lovely Mothers Day! I've had a great one!

Isla and I spent this afternoon cooking again. She's only recently got interested in helping out, and I really enjoy cooking with her. It also means that she's more willing to try new foods, if she has helped me cook it! She can be a bit of a wuss when it comes to new things, so this really helps.

Today, as it is Mothers Day, we have cooked proper comfort food. Childhood food. We had Sausage Casserole for dinner - not the aforementioned Italian Sausage and Bean Casserole, but a homemade recipe that my mum made years ago when I was a child. It's cheap and delicious.
For pudding we made a syrup songe. We are a little bit skint at the moment, so it's a case of looking in the cupboard and finding what we can make! I was desperate for a little sweetness, and not having any chocolate in the house, decided that we should make a pudding. Syrup Sponge is a real childhood dessert - definite comfort food!
It's the first time I've ever made it, and I was stunned at how well it turned out. It was absolutely delicious - spongy in all the right places, and gooey in all the right places! Even Isla ate it, and she's not big on spongy cakey type things. In fact, even my mum ate it, and she's not a pudding fan at all. She said it really did remind her of her childhood as her mum used to make it when she was small.

In those days, my Grandma was cooking for five people on a tight budget, so consequently I imagine that what they ate had to be good, solid food. Meat, two veg and potatoes, followed by a good, stodgy pudding. Rationing was still in force until three years after my mum was born, so it must have been difficult to cater for a family.

My Grandma has never liked or enjoyed cooking, unlike my mum and me. She did it because she had a family to feed, and she still cooks for herself to this day, because she likes to eat a well balanced diet. She still does it because she still can. She has taught me one thing though - the ability to make really good mashed potatoes! No lumps in mine!

Anyway, enjoy the recipes, and the rest of Mothers Day!

This week, my preferred method of exercising is dog walking! It's much more interesting and fun than working out on the cross trainer and exercise bike! Also I reckon it's probably better for me to walk up and down hills and throw balls for the dogs, and it's also much more enjoyable.

The weather has been amazing over the last few days, and it really does brighten everyone's spirits when the sun is shining.
We've been sitting outside in the evening having drinks, having friends pop round for drinks and generally all feeling a lot more positive and cheerful about life!Well, today is the Spring Equinox, so maybe that accounts for the more upbeat feelings.

19 March, 2009

Google Maps…

…is so cool! I have just been looking at Edinburgh on there, because the street view thingy is done! It doesn’t seem to be ready for many other places, but I have just looked at all the places I lived and worked, and where friends lived! I am well impressed! Just looking on the streets thinking “Oh, that shop’s gone, that one’s still there, and oh my god they built a supermarket there!”

I can have a nostalgia trip without leaving my sofa! Great – much easier on the pocket!

17 March, 2009

Non believers - and I don't mean of the religious type!

Now, I know I keep going on about it, but guess what...I'm going to UK in a few weeks! Can you guess I'm excited! I am so looking forward to putting my feet on British soil again - even if it isn't Scottish soil! It's not as far away as here, and that's good enough for me at the moment!

I've been applying for jobs in UK, in the hopes that I can arrange a few interviews for when I'm there. My mum and dad are being pretty supportive, and that fact the my friend, who is moving back for good, is also updating her CV and jobhunting is kind of spurring me on a bit. I like to think that we are being mutually supportive on this one!

I got an email from another friend last night with a link to click on - I didn't. He said that apprently "there are ten applicants for every job in UK right now". I don't need to hear that. Especially when moving back is what I actively want to do.

Living in the Gers (aka back of beyond) may be right for some people - ie. people of a certain age who have a guaranteed income like a pension or some other means of survival, but for me, at 31, it is not right. There are even fewer jobs here than there are in Britain. We live in an agricultural area, and what jobs there are go to the French first - and quite rightly too really. It should be the same in Britain, but without wishing to get into a highly controversial debate, we won't go into that.

I don't like people trying to enforce their ideas on me, as though they are the only ones who are right. Factually, they may be right, but there has to be the right job out there for me somewhere.

I have actually booked my ticket back, but if I am offered an interview after the date on my ticket, then I will contact the airline and delay it. And if I have to start straight away I will do that too, get myself sorted with a house etc, and come back over a weekend to collect more of my things and Isla.

I want this. I need this. I think Isla needs it. I want to change her school anyway, as I am so not happy with the one she is at now. She also needs some schooling in English, and she could keep up her French by coming back here every summer.

So, to all the naysayers who think it's not a viable option - please keep your opinions to yourselves!

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

15 March, 2009

Plum Blossom and Laptops

Isn't it pretty! A lot of the blossom is out in force and it's lovely. Spring has sprung!
Remember how I said that the disc drive in my laptop had stopped working, and that I'd been quoted €241 to get it fixed, and found someone else who would do it for €50? Well, I got the phone call to say that the drive had come in, so off we went to Auch to pick it up. €45 later I was the proud owner of a new disc drive! The shop man didn't put it in for me, but I had seen the guy take out the original last week to check the part number, so I figured it couldn't be that hard. It was just a case of unscrewing a screw, taking the old one out, and popping the new one in.

Easy...in theory!
I undid the screw, and the original came out easily enough. I popped the new one in, and realised that the fascia on the new one didn't match the laptop. I had a little look at both of them, and realised that the fascia just popped off, so I swapped them. So far, so good. I tried to do the screw back up, but it just kept on going round and round. I took the drive back out again and compared the old and new. Ah ha! There was a little bracket attached to the original, that just had to be unscrewed and attached to the new one.Slight problem - I couldn't get the screws to move at all. I tried, my mum tried, my dad tried. All we acheived was hurting our hands! We each tried it again with someone else holding the drive - no luck. Then my dad came up with a plan - and just thinking about it makes me cringe!

I held the drive, he held the screw driver. I had a hammer (yes, you read that right), and hit the screwdriver and he turned it! With a particularly stiff screw (read into this what you like!!) it can help to hammer the screwdriver into the screw head whilst turning. Anyway, it worked, and now my computer is the proud owner of a new disc drive!

So, I can proudly say that I fixed my laptop with a hammer! And it works...touch wood!

Three cheers for brute force!

Also, I've been posting a lot about Murphy recently, and ignoring my girlies, Champers & Islay (yes she has the same name as my daughter - we adopted the dog when Isla was 4 and couldn't change the dog's name). So, here's a photo of them today after a walk! Islay is on the left and Champers is the soggy one on the right - she loves her swimming!

14 March, 2009

Exercising is good for you?

I have decided to act on my, if not precisely New Years then certainly Spring resolution. I am exercising. Put out the flags, blow the trumpets, ring the bells and anything else you can think of to celebrate something surprising!

The thinking behind it is that I am going to UK in a matter of weeks – you may have deduced from the amount of times I have mentioned it that I am looking forward to it just a little! Anyway, in the space of ten days or so while I am there, I will be eating all manner of yummy foods! Fish & Chips, Chinese, Indian, KFC, and my very favourite…Steak & Ale Pie & Chips! So, I need to lose some weight before I go, so that I can afford to put a bit back on! It's logical to me, ok!!

We have a cross trainer, an exercise bike and a trampoline, so every morning I have been working out. I started off easily with a kilometre on each, and I am doing just a little more each day. When we first bought the machines a couple of years ago I did about 5km on each one for a couple of days, and I ended up with severe stomach cramps because I overdid it. Hence the starting easy!

Elliptical-Trainer-Cross-Trainer-HG-8003-.jpg exercise-bicycle-424

14_Round_Trampoline

I start off on the cross trainer – 1.5km now, then onto the bike where I also do 1.5km, or maybe 2 depending on how I'm feeling in the morning. On the exercise bike it has a recovery metre – as you are cycling it counts your heartbeats per minute. When you finish, you press the recovery button, and it counts down from 60 recording how fast your heartbeat returns to normal. F1 is fabulously fit, F6 is practically dead! I'm an F4/F5 at the moment, so at least I'm not practically dead! If I ever hit F1 you'll be sure to hear about it!! After the bike, I go onto the trampoline for five minutes and bounce up and down waving my arms around! It's an attractive sight!

After the first couple of days my arms were absolutely killing me from the trampolining, but they seems to have settled into it now. It's getting easier every day. After another couple of days I should be able to go up to 2km on both machines.

Only thing is, I think this exercise lark is overrated because I've been doing it for a week, and I'm still not thin yet!

12 March, 2009

Hello Kitty

Now, I'm a fan of Hello Kitty - for those of you who know me, this may or may not come as a surprise. I am, after all, not usually known as a girl who likes pink and fluffy! When I went to Japan on holiday two years ago, it was awash with anime characters, none more popular than Hello Kitty - there are even dedicated shops to the diminuitive kitty!

I thought it was worth googling, to find out what interesting products you can buy with the Hello Kitty logo on, and I found some great ones and some truly bad ones!
Now, I have to admit that the mobile phone and blingy laptop are quite cool, and the iPod speakers and I'd even go so far as to say that I would indeed drive the little Smart car around, especially if it had the groovy exhaust pipe! But a toaster? And an aeroplane? And the bus? And what does that poor pussy cat look like with that ridiculous suit on? How mean is that!

But that's not the worst of it...
Even Isla, who loves Hello Kitty, wasn't impressed with these dresses! And my mate Joocey, who is the biggest Hello Kitty fan in the entire world (well...nearly!) said that even she wouldn't wear one of them!

There's fandom, and there's obsession - and I know what this is! Just plain weird!

10 March, 2009

Another Murph Update

Just to bring you all up to date...Murphy is doing great! The lower wounds have almost completely healed over, and there is new hair growth. The upper wound has shrunk considerably, and again there is new skin and new hair growth.

As for him, he is back to being a happy, bouncy dog and only remembers to limp when he thinks he's in trouble or lacking attention!!

video
I took this with Isla's camera earlier, which is only a small one, so it went a bit wobbly as I was throwing the ball! As you can see, he is a massive dog when he's up on his hind legs!

09 March, 2009

Well…there's a surprise!

You'll never guess who phoned me today.  Go on….try.

No?  Well, it's no wonder really!  It kind of blew me away too.

It was my ex – Isla's dad.  It was nice to talk to him, but a massive surprise.  It seems he's got his life back on track, got a phone sorted, and wanted to speak to us.

You could have knocked me down with a feather!

08 March, 2009

LOST

Lost Season 4

This week I have been mostly watching LOST – Season 4 to be precise.

We tend not to watch it when it's on TV, so that we can watch it all at once because it's such compulsive viewing.  The problem is that it just gets more and more confusing.  People you think are dead turn out not to be, even when you've actually seen them die.  I'm really enjoying it, and can't wait until the end of Season 6 to find out exactly what it has all been about – apparently all the questions will be answered.  I hope it doesn't turn out to have all been a dream!

04 March, 2009

Woo Hoo - Ain't Life Grand Award!

I have just been nominated for an "Ain't Life Grand" award, from Shakepeare's Housekeeper! Thank you!

I have to state five reasons why life is grand - I may have to think about this one, so bear with me!

1) I have an amazing daughter - Isla is 9, she is the most loving little girl, and gorgeous too! I am so lucky.

2) I have a great family - I couldn't do without them. In fact, if my mum had her own blog, which I think she should as she's got so many great stories to share with you all, then I would nominate her for this award, and all the others!

3) I have some great friends. Old and new, the true friends I have are worth their weight in gold.

4) I live in a sunny place! Although I often moan about living in France, nothing can beat the gorgeous hot weather in the summer. There's nothing like sitting by the pool at the end of a day's work, sipping champagne!

5) I'm going on a little holiday soon! Although some of it will be working, helping my friend to move, there will also be some sightseeing in an area of England I have never visited, and some great photo opportunitites! Also, my bestest mate Joocey is coming down to join us, so I'll get to spend some time with her which will be great as I haven't seen her since I stayed with her in Japan two years ago!

There, that wasn't so hard! I guess my life isn't that dull at all!

Ok, I nominate:

VLiF - for our "great minds think alike" moment the other day!
Jo at Life's Perfect Pictures for her great blog
Ben at Ahoy Hanoi for his entertaining blog about living in Vietnam
Joocey - 'cause she's my mate! Nepotism is alive and well!!
and, last but definitely not least
Ness at Drover's Run because she is trying hard to make her dream happen! Plus, she needs a boost after the hair dye incident! Please vote for her to do her dream job here. And no, it's not "The Most Wonderful Job In The World" on Hamilton Island!

More Country Bashers

My last post was about British expats who claim to hate Britain, saying it has gone to the dogs, and what a terrible place it is to live. I agree with some of the comments on the post - I really do think that some of these people are trying to justify their moving here by denigrating the country of their birth.

But it's not just the Brits - in case the rest of you thought you were getting away with it scot free!
The American expats are exactly the same. It's weird, because normally Americans are the most patriotic nation in the world, as far as I can see. But the ones I've met here are all too quick to criticise the US - the people, the country, the politics etc. In the past American expats have criticised their country's presidents because, I think, they feel it is expected of them in order to be accepted by other people. "Oh yes well, I hate Bush too you know", "All Americans are loud, brash and fat - except me", "America is a terrible place" - as if that will make them accepted in a community.

Well...politics has been an issue until now. And here I get into dodgy territory. I am delighted that Obama won the election - truly delighted - it was an historic moment in world politics, not just American politics. And I think that he will be a breath of fresh air on the world stage, and hopefully do a lot of good for both the country and the world. When he won the election I will freely admit that I had a tear in my eye. The US, and many other countries too, do not have a great history when it comes to race relations. It is only 40yrs since the assassination of Martin Luther King, and the Civil Rights Movement wasn't exactly popular - as far as I know - I am surmising here on the basis of what I learnt at school in the UK.

However, I do not think he is the new messiah. He has been put on this pedestal and, no matter what he does, he surely cannot meet the unrealistic expectations that a lot of people have of him. He has an extremely difficult job ahead of him, and there will be many people who are only to quick to criticise what he does.

The wave of hysteria, when he won was unbelievable, even here in France. On one hand, I totally understand that - it is one of the defining moments of our generation, if not the defining moment. However, there's this little part of me that feels that there were a lot of people over a certain age who were, perhaps, acting a little hypocritically. After all, some of these are people who grew up with segregation and saw nothing wrong in it. OK, maybe they've seen the error of their ways, or maybe they are covering up their true feelings because it's not PC.

I don't want to offend any of my readers, many of whom I am aware are from the US. If I have done so, then I apologise. I don't even understand US politics - if anyone out there can explain what the difference is between Republicans and Democrats I would be delighted.

I do believe that Obama will bring in a time of enormous change - however I do not think he should be placed on a pedestal purely because of his colour. First and foremost he has a job to do - and whether he does it well or not, he should not be judged on his colour alone, but on his ability to do the job of President.


I've strayed off topic a little here. The USA is no more a bad country than the UK. Yes, it has it's faults, but so do all countries. In fact, America is a huge country - on a scale that most Brits cannot even begin to comprehend - and there is so much beauty in it. I have only visited a tiny part of it, but there are so many places that would love to visit. I would love to see the coastline of Maine, visit North Carolina, see the Mayflower, go wine tasting in Napa, see the Golden Gate Bridge, visit Montana, travel down the Mississippi on a paddle steamer (this may be a dream - don't even know if you can do that!), or visit the Ben & Jerry's factory in Vermont (?). In fact, I may move in to the Ben & Jerry's factory! People think of the USA as California and New York - they don't necessarily have the imagination to wonder at the scale or beauty of the country, and the friendliness of the people.
As I said before, people come here and reinvent themselves, and the American expats are no different. But USA bashing, or UK bashing is completely unnecessary. We should embrace other cultures, but in order to do that, we should accept and embrace our own, and be proud of where we come from, and not deny our own roots.

Here endeth today's rantings.

02 March, 2009

Expat Britain Haters

I don't get this. Why on earth do some people get a perverse thrill from slagging off the country of their birth? They come up with reasons - I think they're excuses - as to their hatred of Britain.
It's too cold, it's too expensive, people are so miserable, it rains all the time, it's all so built up, it's all ugly, there is nowhere beautiful, the food is dreadful and so on and so forth. France is wonderful, France is this, that and the bloody other - get over yourselves! Why do you feel the need to do this? Does it make you feel big and clever to do nothing but criticise the country from whence you came? Does it give you pleasure?

It drives me mad!

OK, I live in France. But that does not mean that I hate Britain. In fact, it's quite the opposite. I love it, particularly Scotland. The only reason I don't live there is that I can't afford childcare. As a single parent, it's a lot easier for me to stay here looking for work with built in child care (ie. my parents) than pay for it there.
OK, the weather in Britain isn't that great. But it's not constantly bad. On a sunny day there is no place more beautiful than, for example, Somerset or the Highlands, or Devon. The autumn in Scotland is the most beautiful season - the colours are incredible. In France the summers are hot, the winters are cold. Simple. The countryside is not as green as in Britain, and this is due to less rain. So, either more rain and beautiful, lush green grass, or less rain and brown dull fields.

Too expensive - don't make me laugh! Have you tried filling your car up with petrol in France recently? It's cheaper in Britain you know. I've been looking on a couple of UK supermarket websites this evening to make a list of things to bring back from my little sojourn in April, and the great majority of products are cheaper. Yes, this is probably due to the weak pound, but that's not going to change any time soon. About the only thing I can find that is more expensive is cigarettes. Apart from them, most things seem cheaper. OK, in UK there is very expensive council tax, but for most people here it's not that much cheaper. So stop whinging that Britain is expensive because, if you do your research, you'll find that it ain't necessarily so.

People are miserable? Durr, there's a recession on you know. And it isn't just in Britain either. Jobs are no easier to find here, in fact it's harder to find a job in France, especially here, because it's rural and there aren't any! In UK, people can find jobs, if they are willing to do anything. But stacking shelves or cleaning is so below some people that they would rather be on the dole and sponge off the government. And that's good why exactly?

It's all so built up is it? Have you ever been to rural Hampshire? Or Somerset? Or Dumfries and Galloway? The cities are built up, the countryside isn't. You could say the same of France, which has many cities that are hugely bigger than those in UK. Every country has its beautiful parts - don't generalise on the basis of inner cities.
The food in France is, in my opinion, not much cop. It's fine if you like steak, duck, greasy duck or goose liver, or baked bean with sausages which is all that cassoulet is. I'd rather have the Heinz variety personally. I have no idea where France's reputaion as a gastronomic nation has come from. Britain, on the other hand, has some delicious food, and no, it's not all swimming in grease. Steak and Ale pie is the food of the gods! I know that Britain has some wonderful food, because I used to cook it for a living.
Compared to Britain, France isn't so wonderful. The thing that is wonderful about it, is that people can move here, where nobody knows them, and completely reinvent themselves. They can be anything they want to be, and there is no one around to contradict them. The expat community can be great, but you have to be careful who you tell what to, because if there is an opportunity to stab you in the back, there are many people who will do so.

If and when I finally leave here, the amount of people with who I would keep in touch, I can count on one hand. The friends that count are the ones I have had for years. Most of the people I know here are fairweather friends. Out of sight, out of mind, and that's just fine.

So what's my conclusion? France has it's good points, but so does Britain folks. And don't forget that, because, for most of you, it is Britain that is still paying your pension and your health care. Don't criticise the country that is paying for you to live out your old age in another country.

And don't be afraid to be proud to be British, whether it is English, Scottish, Northern Irish or Welsh. Well, maybe I'll let you off if you're Welsh!! But be British and proud. Your country is not awful, it's actually a pretty great place.

NB. Photographs Not My Own Work.