Friday, 27 December 2013

Tis the Season

'Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

Hey!  I said not even a mouseA critter behind the wall is disturbing my Christmas Eve tradition of present wrapping whilst guzzling sipping wine. The creature is making so much noise I am fearful we will soon have no insulation left. This may be the season of goodwill to all men but that does not include mice and if they think my sofas are on their Christmas menu, think again. Meanwhile The LGB is wallowing in the long awaited bath complete with bubble bath, candles and wine whilst morphing into a prune. (Yes, we have a functioning bathroom and even builders can be in touch with their feminine side! I could be in big trouble now.)  I hope he is out by Boxing Day because we are spending the day with Old Bones on Bikes.  The rain is lashing at the window pane and the wind is howling a gale.
Bah Humbug!

We have a table and chairs set up in the upstairs makeshift living room. Christmas morning I headed upstairs with our traditional breakfast of Buck’s Fizz and scrambled eggs with smoked salmon on toast. I'm no Nigella, but I make a mean scrambled eggs.  These however looked watery. I had poured hot water on the plates to warm them and forgot to pour it off before serving up! Scrambled eggs on soggy toast!  
Bah Humbug!

Where else would you want to spend Christmas?
After a luxuriant shower (did I mention we have a bathroom now?) we made a little effort and dressed up in something other than work clothes. On Christmas day traditionally we go for a long walk but the pouring rain scuppered our promenade this year.  More Buck’s Fizz it is then.
Bah Humbug!

The starter was king prawn and lobster cocktail. I bought frozen lobster. I could not have dealt with the demise of a live one on Christmas day (but that bloody mouse better stay out of my way). I've never cooked lobster but there was no problem there, plonked it in hot water and hey presto.  The LGB then took a hammer to it. He asked if I wanted to dress it. What! I'd managed to pick out a few smart clothes for myself, the least dusty ensemble I could find but I certainly wasn't going to start thinking about dressing a lobster.  Apart from assuming they would look good in a contrasting shade of orange or green for a chrismassy look I really wouldn't know where to start.
Bah Humbug!

The next stumbling block was how I would cook a sumptuous meal for two on a one ring camping gas burner, a gas oven with no temperature control and one saucepan. The gas burner is fed by a hairspray size canister which unfortunately has a habit of catching fire.  Subsequently I have to stay within view with my pompier hat on, ready to flick the safety switch off before the thing explodes and ruins all the LGB's hard work. Watching a saucepan of potatoes cooking is neither convenient nor stimulating.  Everyone knows a watched kettle never boils. The gas oven is a one heat setting burns cooks all.  The control knob just turns round and round. The LGB says if it’s brown it’s cooked and if it’s black it’s ******! You get the picture.
Bah Humbug!

All mod cons here
Self combusting gas ring

The LGB decided to throw another spanner in the works and make my task a little more difficult by doing a little plumbing on the only day of the year we are meant to do no work and placed a step ladder in the middle of our makeshift kitchen! With my lonesome saucepan and the limited cooking facilities and a little jig around the ladder I did manage to produce an edible spread fit for human consumption. The LGB thoroughly enjoyed his festive feast.
Ah big hug!

The beautifully decorated shop fronts.

Strasbourg Markets

Before Christmas we enjoyed a few days in Strasbourg with friends.  It was well worth the nine hour plus drive to get there.  It has been a crowd puller for hundreds of years.  We stayed in Maison Rouge a great hotel situated in the heart of the city. We were a stone’s throw from the main square Place Kleber that housed the biggest Christmas tree I have ever seen and an amazing light and music show across the fa├žade of a building.

The historic centre is an island circled by the river which was our circuit for the first day.  La Petite France was my favourite area. It was full of fairytale character and teeming with old higgledy piggledy timber framed buildings.  Artists sat in the streets peddling their wares whilst painting.  The LGB bought me a very pretty watercolour from a lovely man. The second day we wended our way up and down every street possible and viewed the beautiful Gothic Cathedral. The third day we took a train to nearby Colmar another wonderfully historic town with more fabulous Christmas markets. We came across more artisan stalls there with beautiful handmade pieces. Well worth the visit.

The evenings were magical when the stalls were illuminated. The smell of mulled wine, gingerbread men and bretzels wafted through the chill air. Many of the shop fronts are elaborately decorated with huge efforts made to outdo one another. I have never taken so many photos in one place.  It was a great kick start to Christmas.  

Building update
Family bathroom up and running. Tiling to finish.
Plumbing for bathrooms completed.
Unit for family bathroom sanded and painted.
Kitchen ceiling plastered.
Angouleme stone to finish fireplace ordered and collected.
Logs stacked.
More details to follow.

By now Christmas will be over, but I hope you have all had a wonderful time. I wish you health and happiness and all that your little hearts desire for 2014. Thank you for popping by the blog and for your comments on the blog, facebook or by email. Each one is much appreciated. xx

Did I mention we have a bathroom now?

Thursday, 5 December 2013

It's Rained, He's Plastered and I'm Annie Sloaned.

Summer arrived!  There was no forewarning.  Spring didn’t stroll along with us, holding our hands and lead us sedately into summer.  There were no little teasers for the heat to come. There was no mellow preamble, just wham bam here I am. The heat was intense with no let up.  However, those sizzling days of summer now seem a distant memory.  The cranes are departing to warmer climes shouting their goodbyes as they fly overhead.  Since the last post basically it has rained every day which meant the LGB couldn't do what he planned to do so he's plastered every day.  Let me rephrase that because that doesn't show the LGB in a very good light. The LGB has plastered every day, not the LGB is plastered every day, although I am sure he would not turn down the opportunity to get plastered any time soon.

A couple of boring little photos of plastering in progress.

He was coming along swimmingly with the fireplace and chimney in the kitchen/family room when Sod’s Law came a-calling.  No sooner had he opened up the roof and begun building the chimney than the rain arrived and he had to cover it all up.  Do you know the Charente is meant to be the second sunniest department in France?  Well someone tell the Big Man because you could have fooled me.  I have hardly been further than the post box for days.  It is during these days of relentless rain I miss having a shopping mall close by just to escape the weather and enjoy a mooch in the dry.  Then to rub salt into the wound we had a flurry of snow …….in November!

A tasty tease of the fireplace coming along nicely or so the photo would have you believe.  We are out of the picture having a domestic about how we are going to get the heavy lintel into position. More about the fireplace to follow.

But every cloud has a silver lining and the rain has meant we have just knuckled down to working indoors.  The bathroom floor has had a fourth coat of varnish.  The LGB has worked like a Trojan from morning until late and has now plastered every ceiling and wall upstairs.  What a difference it makes!  My next job is to paint the rooms.  White to start, until I decide on colours or wallpaper!  Sales of paint brushes will go through the roof.  I’m still not washing the brushes!

Whilst the LGB has worked his little socks off my days are much easier. I have been varnishing doors and I have spent many hours sanding down a unit for the family bathroom. It would have been easier to head to everybody’s favourite Swedish shop for a new one. Why do I do it? I seem to be under the delusion that I was put on this earth to rescue things that other people have made redundant and save them from the scrapheap. One person’s junk is my piece of well-made furniture at a fraction of the cost of a new piece (unless you go to the Swedish shop).  This one has dovetail and mortice and tenon joints. (I wrote that like I really know what I'm talking about, didn't I?) Other bits I have bought have place names and surnames pencilled on them, maybe the maker or the client’s name? I do wonder at the history of my bits of junk, who owned them, where they were housed. Hence the garage is full of pieces of furniture waiting to be spruced up.

Doors mid varnish

Bathroom unit before I started work on it

When I was back in the UK I partook of an Annie Sloan furniture painting afternoon at Marilyn & Melrose in Alnwick, Northumberland. Annie Sloan developed paint that you can use on almost anything even fabric covered furniture and shoes!! If you don't believe me have a look wriggle test here! The afternoon was enjoyable if a little pricey at £65, but we did get a delicious slice of cake and coffee.  The LGB says if he stands still too long he is fearful of being Annie Sloaned!  That could become a bit of cockney rhyming slang ‘Cor blimey, he was Annie Sloaned last night!’

Now we are enjoying a little break in Strasbourg at the Christmas Markets. Hopefully some time in the not too distant future I will post about it.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

My Knight in Shining Lycra

Running Hummock

Oh ye of little faith.  I did it – I completed the pledge.  In fact for good measure I did 34 days of continuous cycling. Through wind and rain I was there battling the elements.  I have to admit I didn’t cover any great distances on these knolls and hummocks, in fact one evening after a late finish I cycled a few times around our field!  Did I enjoy it?  I cannot tell a lie – no!  The hills were alive with the sounds of me groaning. I am not sure what was most difficult; the hills or keeping my face resembling something that looked vaguely human. Every time a car passed I tried to relax my face and look like I was really enjoying the torture.

The LGB tells me I pull very strange faces when I am merely putting on my mascara.  Can you imagine what my boat race resembles when I am schlepping up an excruciating gradient?  I have the agonised look of someone sitting in a dentist’s chair having her wisdom teeth extracted through her backside. I would win any gurning contest hands down.

Trying hard to look normal on those hills.
photo courtest of

We have just returned from the UK where I persuaded the LGB to come for a little gander on the bikes with me. The day before he had purchased a new Trek bicycle and was keen to try it out. It was lovely being back on the country lanes with the odd gentle incline. The bridge over the ford is only a couple of feet wide and I have to admit the first few times I gingerly teetered across it, gradually building up confidence and speed. On this occasion with me leading the way and the LGB following up the rear, I admit it to you dear readers, I was showing off as I scooted across the bridge with confident rapidity. Suddenly I heard a clatter and the air clouded with the expletives emanating from the mouth of the LGB.  He was hanging over one side of the bridge and the new bike was hanging the other side of the bridge.

Site of catastrophe!

Unfortunately, I am not good in times of crisis. Nerves take over and the giggles kick in. It took a while for him to extricate the bike from the grips of the bridge rails. His wheel was all skew-whiff and the bike scratched and unrideable. (Is that a real word?)  As luck would have it a knight in shining lycra pulled up, offered assistance, straightened out the LGB’s wheel and we carried on our merry way with the LGB commenting that at least his bike didn't look brand new any more! It’s at times like this one feels a bit of a silly billy wearing a padded gusset, a cycling helmet and sitting on a good make of bicycle with not an inkling what to do with a wonky wheel. We carried on, the LGB nursing a grazed arm and knee and enjoyed an 18.5 km ride.

Some building news, because after all this is a blog about our house build.

I bought a selection of sample paints last time we were in the UK, painted pieces of wood and finally made a decision on a colour for the kitchen units.  You will know by now the deliberations I have gone through to arrive at my chosen paint colours. I chose Poetic Justice and Fog. The colours proved to be aptly named because by an ironic twist of fate I was left in a fog when I sauntered up to the paint counter with my paint order to be told they have discontinued the colours. Back to the drawing board, or colour chart!

I have made a decision for the flooring! Yes really. Travertine stone in random sizes. Quick put the order in before I change my mind.  I chose the accent tiles for the en suite too!  I’m getting good at making decisions.

The LGB has plastered another bedroom.  The French tend to just dry line their walls but the LGB likes to give himself a little extra work and has decided to plaster every ceiling and wall!  It’s a nicer finish, so I am not complaining.  I am actually full of awe and admiration that he can get the walls so smooth when he can’t even pull the bed covers straight. I might get him to ice the Christmas cake.

The stone fireplace is well under way. I have painted a couple more windows and a headboard for my niece. We have finished insulating the loft. 

At this point I would add a few photos but the ones I downloaded yesterday seem to have disappeared! Another blonde moment. I really will try to keep the blog more up to date.  Thank you to all of you who continue to comment and sorry I don't always reply but you know the situation.  I will just have to spend more time in McD or Quick Burger!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Pledges, Wedges, Sludge and Suds

The Pledge

I’ve done it I’ve taken the pledge! I’m not talking furniture polish here of the Mr Sheen variety.  I have no need of polish in my present circumstances but I am looking forward to the day when I will need to dust the furniture, for a week at least. And no, I haven’t pledged to abstain from consuming alcohol.  Given up drink, heavens no.  I have taken the pledge to cycle for thirty days.  Not continuously you understand and no specific distances stipulated, I just have to go for a ride every day for thirty days.  I may live to regret the decision and that is all I have to say on the matter for now.  I found the pledge at 30 Days of Biking.

Who Said Romance is Dead

Now my man is not the most romantic homo sapien, any mention of St Valentine’s Day and he goes all ‘bah humbug’ on me.  I have had one bunch of flowers from him when he came home from the pub at closing time but I think my brother knew the florist and she was selling them off cheap. 

Courtesy of Toon Pool

He buys chocolate quite often but for his own consumption and usually of the dark variety which I don’t care for. Lucky for him I’m a cheap date; I’m not a big drinker as I am always the driver, I don’t hanker after all the latest fashions, have no desire for a flash car (although I wouldn’t send a Mercedes Sport back if he bought me one) and I don’t have regular manicures, pedicures or hair dos (some think I should).  However, I must admit I’m no Liz Taylor but I have always had a desire for a huge ‘eff off’ solitaire diamond, but I’m not holding my breath for that.

He has however excelled himself in my books; he’s plumbed in my washing machine! What more could a gal want. No more visits to the launderette.  No more will I have to share a machine with a hairy arsed trucker who puts his flip flops and dog blankets in with their smalls.  Said machine is temporarily located in the downstairs loo.  I can sit on the throne complete with soft close lid and fill the machine in comfort.  The only downside is my drum will only fit about 5 kilos whereas the launderette had the 18 kilo machines.  Still, it’s a small price to pay.  Who says romance is dead!

Septic Tanks and Stink Pipes

We are not hooked up to mains sewerage here.  This means we have had to install a septic tank or fosse septique.  This requires a 4000 litre concrete tank that catches our pooh, pee and waste water.  The pooh settles at the bottom of the tank (the sludge layer) and the liquid goes through pipes to a 30 square metre filter bed and finally down a 20 metre pipe. A very nice lad from SPANC has been out to inspect and passed it.  We just have the 20 metre trench, a grease trap and a stink pipe to complete the process and be awarded our certificate which will take pride of place on the wall next to my 10 metre Swimming Certificate and the LGB’s City and Guilds Building Certificate.  The stink pipe has to pass through the roof and beyond the roof ridge line.  It does what it says on the tin and carries the smelly gases and thus the stink and throws it out through the roof pipe to be wafted away by a passing breeze and blown through someone else’s open window and in turn we get someone’s smells floating through our window.  There’s lovely.

I continue to paint as and when I am not needed by the LGB (the windows that is not amazing masterpieces).  I am looking for flooring for the ground floor.  Of course everything I like is hugely expensive so a compromise has to be reached.  The LGB wants to start the fireplace before the bad weather sets in so that we can get a wood burner up and running that means thinking of a design and ordering stone.  I am all for that, I don't fancy showering in 1.5 degrees again this year. Decisions, decisions.

Wash Day Blues

Hey boys, do you think I could renew my membership with you at the Wash Day Blues Club.  It’s just that after the LGB kindly plumbed in my washing machine I discovered the drive belt has gone on it and the drum won’t go round!  Would that be okay then? No, no ‘hairy arsed’ is an English term of endearment we endow on hard working macho truckers. Yes, really.  In fact I have my own hairy arsed builder at home.  So when you’ve finished washing your sweaty vests and y-fronts can I use that machine!

Sunday, 25 August 2013

We Are Still Here!

A La Carte

Most visitors arrive with a little offering; a bottle of wine, groceries for the duration of their stay or a bunch of flowers. This lot - nothing, not even a morcel of cheese.  Nevertheless, they ascended upon us, treated us like a five star restaurant, ate their fill and caused irreparable damage.

'What do you fancy from the menu Minnie?'
'Oh Mickey you spoil me. I think I’ll have the stuffed sofa seat cushion. What about you?'
'I’m going for the cushion back with stuffing and as a special treat let’s share a little cushion piping shall we?'

War has been declared!  We shall fight them on the settees.  We shall fight them on the sofas.  We shall banish the mouse from the house.

More unwelcome visitors. The mice among the clothes was bad enough now we have found the little sods have been squatting in the sofas we have stored in the house and munched through two sofa cushions and worse still through the covers too.  My fault entirely, I should have removed the covers as I have done with the other sofas. Do you think patchwork settees can ever catch on?

A delicious helping of stuffed cushion


Back to the building work.  Come on in.  Wipe your feet – on second thoughts wipe them on your way out!  Let me show you around.  It’s been a long time since we were all on site.

Since we arrived back from the UK the LGB has built a temporary staircase.  At the time I wondered why he was expending his time and energy building something that would later be pulled down; however, it really has made life so much easier than climbing a ladder. 

Dolby surround sound cinerma screen

We have put the picture window in the kitchen/diner.  The mountain of earth has been moved and we have a view down the garden. We sit in our reclining garden chairs like Derby and Jone in an old folks home.  It is like having our own little cinema screen, but the only action is when the wind blows and the trees sway a little or a deer wanders through the garden, but pleasing to us! The front door is in and I am chuffed to bits with that. 

I Can Sing A Rainbow

I have actually made a decision about the colour for the windows, yes really.  It is a lovely shade of snotty green. Actually, I don't know the name of the paint colour, probably something like rolling stone moss.  They always have marvellous names for paint colours don't they; watermelon pink, clotted cream, driftwood grey. Sometimes we would never guess what the colour may be.  The career's adviser never told me I could have a job naming paints.  I'd be a little more real so you would really know what colour you were getting; shitty brown, gloomy day grey, varicose vein blue, yellow jaundice, pasty face pink.  I'm liking this, I could go on and on. Anyway, I have chosen snotty green and I am quite happy with it – this week!  So the picture window and the front door frame have been painted. I’m even washing the brushes!
The LGB has plastered the family bathroom.  We have made great progress with the insulation and plaster boarding the ceiling and the walls.  What a difference!  It really is all coming together.  The electrician is getting us all wired up before we get cut off again.

We have had many visitors not including the rodents and I will write about that soon. They had all been forewarned.  People holiday abroad and complain because there are building sites next to their hotels, but we actually have friends and family coming fully aware they are staying on a building site!  No refunds or compensation will be given! Amazingly, everybody so far has enjoyed their stay.  The pee bucket, concrete floors, make shift shower, downstairs toilet with no door (there is a curtain for some privacy) is putting nobody off.

A rather rushed and disjointed post I’m afraid, my apologies. 

Sunday, 16 June 2013

No Place Like Home

Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.  Believe me when I say the way we are living at present is humble at best or basic for want of a better word, but we are glad to be back. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and it has.  Strangely, calling France 'home' has never tripped off the tongue easily, but this time it does.

Circumstances meant our stay in the UK was much longer than we had first intended.  Our journey back was uneventful.  The LGB disguised as White Van Man was pulled over by customs.   When he got out as requested Mr Customs said ‘I used to have one of those’ The LGB thought he was referring to his trusty VW van.  He was actually referring to the neck cushion the LGB still had hugging his neck like a pet ferret.  Just ten minutes earlier he had walked into the Eurotunnel building with it around his neck and me bent double laughing at him and still a few hours later put diesel in the van with his appendage still attached.  And he accuses me of having ‘blonde’ moments, the cheek of the man.

No great surprises awaited us; the neighbours spied our arrival within seconds, there was nothing nasty lurking in the post box and the grass and weeds were waist high - happy days. We walked around grinning like Cheshire cats, happy to be back – to be home

Tackling the Jungle

The LGB had hardly started strimming before the local farmer called by and offered to cut the grass for us (I think he felt sorry for the LGB!) and the next day Hugh arrived with his strimmer to give us a hand. Our first night back we stayed with The Old Bones On Bikes and Thursday evening ate with the Welsh Contingent; good food, laughter, banter and easy company - back to normal. 

In a Lather

All good things come to an end.  The euphoria lasted all of a day before I discovered a sodding mouse had moved into a chest of drawers in the garage. Obviously thinking I had nothing better to do during these lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer he left his mark over seven drawers of clean, ironed clothing. 

Now there is nothing I like better than to spend a few hours in the local launderette where the smell of wet doggy blankets assails the nostrils at a hundred paces and strangers' short and curlies cling to the glass of the washing machine door.  Where is the Levi man in his undies when you need him?  I filled two 18kg machines and a 10kg machine.  I usually like to live and let live with critters but……..

Sadly the other things that had grown were the two of us!  I think our clothing was giving us hints whilst we were in the UK but the scales on our return confirmed the bad news when it squealed in breathless agony as we stepped on and each of us declared they must be wrong or faulty.  

What happens when we return to the UK, I don’t quite know.  We seem to go into famine mode and seek out all the things that aren't readily available to us living in the wilds of woolly.  We indulge in the odd Indian take-away (even though the LGB makes a mean Indian).  We enjoy a portion of fish and chips, especially when they are eaten from the paper on the coast at Seahouses in Northumberland.   Pub grub, a couple of restaurant visits and my Dad’s sweetie drawer all help to expand the waistline. A little helping of will power would solve the problem but will power is on ration when we are in the UK.  So we just get fatter.  I have a feeling the strimming will be a lot easier to tackle than the slimming!

Health and Safety won't allow the newspaper any longer!

Just in passing, I would like to say the Charente is very hilly! I only went for a 4 mile ride and it was tougher than 20 miles in Hampshire!  This could put a spoke in my cycling career!


Monday, 3 June 2013

My Ride in Photos

When I last posted I had no photos so for the last couple of rides I have taken out my trusted little Samsung.  This one behaves and the photos end up where I can upload them.

I usually head straight for the ford for no other reason than loving the route.  It's just down the road and a nice tranquil start to a ride.  This marks the Hampshire/Berkshire border.

I'm not sure how much use the little red box gets in this quiet lane.

I love this entrance.  The big house?  Not really for me, but I would love to have a look around nonetheless.  Nosey?  Me?    

I was dismayed this morning to see a dead swan on the road ahead.
On closer inspection I identified it as a cygnus tesco bagus!  I should have gone to Specsavers.  

This is what you would call a country pub.

St James' Church, Finchampstead is set in a beautiful position within a pretty village with little more than a pub and a few houses.

That's me!

I was having a little gander at the lake when I spied a cyclist heading off down a path.  I took the same route and enjoyed a wonderful ride around the lakes.  I only passed two people who appeared to be bird watching.  I am feeling a lot more comfortable being in secluded places alone.

We return to France on Tuesday.  The hills of the Charente will be a challenge I'm sure.  

Hopefully, some building progress too.

Monday, 13 May 2013

On Yer Bike!

Apologies for posting without photos, but I have a new camera and being the techno whizz I am I can't work out how to upload photos.  Thank you for the advice some of you have offered but I still can't do it!

I've bought a new bicycle and before I go any further I will offer my beginner’s tips in case there are any other cycling virgins out there.

Handy Hints

Thongs are a big no no unless you are up for a little masochistic bottom flossing.

When planning a route avoid places with names like; Bramshill, Farley Hill, The Downs, Lower or Upper anywhere because the clue is in the name – chuffing hills.  If you go whizzing down a hill, the wind whooshing through your hair, legs akimbo, inevitably you have to get back up the other side.

Keep your mouth closed.  Flies supposedly contain some protein but I would rather have a handful of peanuts any day.  

Choose your cycling clothing carefully

courtesy of

I think I paid more for this push-bike than I did for my first car.  In fact I paid more for the blooming helmet than my first car.  My old bicycle is hard work; I can only equate the difficulty of riding it to a jockey riding a donkey in the Grand National.  Whilst my new bike is not quite a thoroughbred it is proving to be a good little runner. I figured if I paid a little more for a bike guilt alone may will get me out riding.  

I have many pieces of exercise equipment.  I have an exercise ball, an abdominal roller, a lateral thigh stepper, a dyna-band, a chest flexer and a mat to name but a few.  In the old house I always managed to get these into the water heater cupboard and squeeze the door closed.  They never saw the light of day again until the next piece was shoe-horned in.  I am sure a psychoanalyst would have a field day about some event during P.E. in early childhood, a Freudian gym-slip or something.  It is a standing joke now if I see a piece of equipment and mention that it looks good the LGB will ask if it will fit in the cupboard!  So, my thinking is that the bike won't fit in a cupboard and each time I pass it in the garage it will look at me accusingly and remind me that I could have had a nice little beach holiday sipping Pina Coladas for the price I paid for Bella the bike.

I rode it back the 13 kilometers from the shop the day I bought it and nearly put it straight out to pasture.  Only yards from the shop a van pulled across in front of me. I had to get off and walk up one hill. I felt every bump on the road and I thought I may have to have the seat surgically removed at the end of the ride. But I persevered and we now have a passionate love affair going on.

What to wear?  I wanted to look the part but didn't want people thinking 'who does she think she is Lance Armstrong?' Minus the drugs of course, well I do pop the odd Ibuprofen, just for the sore muscles, you understand.  But I have now treated myself to a cyclist's jacket.  It has little pockets on the back for my phone (in case I fall off or get lost), some money (I might need a drink or nourishment or a taxi home), tissues (it’s a runny nose hobby) and of course my lippy (a girl can't leave home without it).   I have also purchased a skort, which is a pair of shorts with a skirt attached and I wear that over my leggings.  I figured it would be a little less scary for drivers coming up behind me and encountering my big arse. They would recognise me as a female in a skort and not as an eclipse of the sun.

I have done a few 9 to 11 kilometer rides and was pretty chuffed to do 25 kilometers one day.  There are no great speeds involved during my rides but I did reach 24 miles an hour going downhill.  That almost made the 30 mile an hour road signs worthwhile. I don’t plan my routes, I just head off.  Dad lives in a lovely area in Hampshire.  I meander up and down lanes; all the places you wouldn't go with a car. I daydream about which gated house I would buy if I won the lottery.  I convert garages and out-houses into beautiful abodes.  I have found terraced cottages overlooking village greens that I never knew existed and small business tucked away behind trees.  I avoid pot holes and when some idiot passes a little too close for comfort I shout 'tosser' and hope he can't lip read in his rear view mirror.

I am frequently overtaken by uber fit young things and wrinkly old things.  Today the only things I managed to pass were a rabbit grazing in the hedgerow and an old biddy with a zimmer frame, no really.  On one ride I thought I would go left at the roundabout until I noticed a fellow cyclist complete with high definition yellow jacket ahead of me.  I knew with a little push I could overtake her.  So, I went for it and I did!  Yay, give that gal the yellow jersey!  How sad am I?

Today I headed off in the rain.  That’s dedication for you!  I just followed my nose. I go down cul-de-sacs and back up again, along unadopted roads and if the name of a road takes my fancy how can I resist turning down it?  Today it was Nutbean Lane and it didn't disappoint.  I approached an old man with a walking stick and a dog and as I drew alongside I said 'good morning'.  The poor old fellow visibly jumped and yelled 'Aaaaahhh' before returning my greeting. I apologised for frightening him and cycled on giggling I'm ashamed to say.

En route I decided I would like to go further than my previous 25 km. I thought 32 km (20 miles) would be a good distance. I was pleased as punch when I reached my goal, but that quickly dissipated when I realised I hadn't yet reached home.  By now I was struggling a little.  My thoughts turned from beautiful lottery win homes to the length of the NHS waiting list for a couple of replacement knees.  I won’t even go into how my derriere was feeling and my nether regions are fairly well padded, how do these skinny Tour de France riders keep going?

With no membership to Roadside Recovery I had no choice but to carry on.  I was pretty chuffed to get back all red faced and wobbly legged to tell Dad I had just cycled 35.405568 kilometers.  He said he had been tip-toeing around the house because he thought I was still in bed!

I am reporting my progress in kilometres because that is what I am now used to since living in France. Okay, I'm lying. I am really doing it because  35.405568 km sounds so much further than 22 miles!

For now I am thoroughly enjoying the freedom the bike offers.  I am not so sure how enthusiastic I will be around the hills of the Charente.  Holland looks like an appealing place to live.  I wonder if I pushed reaaalllly hard do you think I could get the bike in the water heater cupboard?

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Mind the Gap

I have been asked why I haven't been posting on the blog.  Well there is not a lot of building going on at the moment. We are still in the UK.  This is how I came to be on the 8 o’clock commuter train from Richmond to Waterloo. 

It is not a mode of travel I have often taken and a number of things struck me.  As the doors opened I was sucked onto the train with the crowd with barely the need to use my feet.  I had to stop myself from greeting the hoards with a ‘Bonjour, tout le monde’. 

With standing room only for the plebs I had my nose pressed up against the glass door to the first class carriage looking in at the privileged few and feeling a certain amount of seat envy.  While the hoi polloi stood and jostled for a little personal space the lucky buggers behind the glass not only had the luxury of one comfy seat but also a spare one next to them allowing them to spread one bum cheek on each seat if the fancy took them.  

These people probably travel on the same train day in day out, surrounded by the same faces but there was no interaction.  Each one was ensconced in their own little bubble world of techno gadgets.  Wires were hanging out of ear-holes,  thumbs were texting with dizzying speed in danger of being disjointed, kindles were being flicked, laptops were being tapped and one first classer was watching Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear whilst texting on his gismo – show off!  More amazingly some were playing with their Pou!  No, not pooh - Pou! These people are adopting Pous. A Pou is a virtual I don't quite know what who live in fear of being neglected, starved or deprived of sleep and if you don't feed, clothe, tickle and take care of them they die!  Oh, don't ask!  It's enough of a worry for me to decide what to cook for the two of us each evening without having to remember to feed, clothe and put to bed some virtual alien pet. 

The Pous have been dressed in their Sunday best

Say please!

The technophobe that I am prayed the LGB wouldn't phone me because that would have meant getting out my little Nokia pay-as-you-go and I could not face the elbow nudging and giggles that would ensue from the state of the arters with their super-duper all singing all dancing gadgets. But I am sticking with my little relic, my little dinosaur of the mobile world because I know how to send a text on it and it is very useful to call the LGB and b*ll*ck him when I lose him in the supermarket.  (He is the only man I know who loves shopping and can spend twenty minutes in the biscuit aisle.) Besides I really shouldn't be let lose with anything of any more technical than a tin opener these days because my 'blonde moments' are getting more frequent, as the LGB likes to point out. I put the kettle on the hob for a cuppa last week - electric kettles do not like gas hobs, they simply melt!

I googled 'old fashioned mobile phones' and an image of mine actually came up.
This one is the newer version!

Another thing that struck me was that I stuck out/stood out like a sore thumb or an overgrown Little Red Riding Hood in my red coat.  I seemed to have broken the commuter dress code that stipulates mornings must be monochrome. ‘You vill not vear colour, you vill not speak to your neighbour, you vill not make eye contact’.

I was meeting a friend later in the day so with time to kill I trotted off to the Tate Modern for a mooch.  I think a visit to any art exhibition would beg the question ‘But is it art?’ I am more of a grand master gal myself.  Dali’s plastic Lobster Telephone just doesn't float my boat (or ring my bell), having said that I love street art and graffiti but I will save that for another post too, together with my visit to The Light Show at the Southbank Centre.

Shivering on a platform waiting for another train, the lady next to me commented on the weather.  As we chatted and established that she was Austrian living in London and I was English living in France she commented that ‘Nobody is at home’!  How true!  We parted company smiling.  My opinion of the miserable commuters was changing. Later I asked a lad for the direction to the nearest tube station.  He was carrying his lunch but turned around and walked me back some way to an information board to show me where to go before retracing his steps.  I have visited London a few times since I have been back and have been pleasantly surprised by how friendly and helpful people have been.  I wasn't too impressed however to be offered a seat on the tube by a young lady.  I'm not sure if she thought I was old or pregnant!  Just a spot of wind love!

There is an amazing employee at Mortlake station called Daniel who greeted us on two occasions with a huge grin, joked and told us the best deal for travelling.  We watched him greet the other commuters by name and they greeted him likewise.  The punk ticket inspector at another station happily posed for photos for us and a flower seller gave us directions with good cheer when I thought she may have been sick to the back teeth of tourists asking the way.  I was heartened by the responses I got from them and others including policemen and a road sweeper.

What a legend.  You just have to smile!
My photo
So, for anyone who says The Smoke is an unfriendly inhospitable place I would have to disagree.  Perhaps my attitude has changed since living in France.  In France it is the norm to walk into a room and greet everyone.  People say ‘bonjour’ just joining the queue in the local shop, walking into the doctor’s surgery or into a bar.  Strangers wish you ‘bon apetit’ in restaurants and even when they walk past when you are munching a sandwich on a park bench.  I like these little niceties.  I do pass little comments and interact with strangers more, whether that comes with age or living in France I am not sure.  But will someone tell the LGB I still don’t do noise and heavy conversation first thing in the morning!  Sometimes silence is golden!