15 December 2008

I’m so cross …

I’m so cross with myself.

For lots of reasons … mostly that I haven’t made a post since 9 October because I’ve been so distracted reading other people’s and generally spending too much time surfing. In my head, I have written a post almost every day but haven’t physically done so and it makes me so angry with myself because this was meant to be like a diary : capturing a record of things I’ve seen and done, mostly for my own benefit and enjoyment.

I’ve so enjoyed everything I’ve written up till now and when I take LB for his daily walk I’m planning the next post; but then guilt takes over and I don’t write anything at all because I can’t just write a few words – it becomes an essay, as Lucy Corrander knows ! She sent me a quick email and my response to her was almost a post in itself.

Another reason I’m cross is that I forgot to take my camera with me the other day and missed three ‘photo’ opportunities. It had been raining hard for 46 hours and within twenty minutes of it stopping I went out with the Tibetan Terror. The mass of water was rushing along the irrigation canal and at one point I could hear some 200 metres away the sound of water falling – impressive and slightly scary to see. Later, I missed being able to capture the golden watery sun on an old building, the grey rain clouds in the background. Doesn’t sound half as interesting to just describe !

And then, when I have had my camera, missing an opportunity. I’ve seen something interesting (but that’s subjective anyway !), gone past it, thought ‘damn’ and instead of turning round (assuming the opportunity was still present) carrying on, cursing myself for being so useless.

So, having scolded myself thoroughly, I’m hoping to do some back dating of a few things : quite a bit of cooking, so a few recipes perhaps and a fairly epic (for me) removal and replanting of some olive trees for a job. Now – get over being cross and get on with it !

09 October 2008

love thursday : friends

I was starting to write this post for my Love Thursday offering before I realised that the Shutter Sisters had called this week’s post ‘Friends’.

I have just driven Petunia and her other half to the station to start their journey home to England. We’ve had a lovely ten days together and Petunia and I have caught up on each other’s news and spent last night with a couple of glasses of sparkling wine setting up a blog for her : Panglossian Prose. Just before we got into the car she asked for a photo be taken of the two of us and I realised that we hadn’t taken photos of just the two of us this trip. Her other half obliged by taking at least three, because we both blinked at the wrong time, and it set me thinking about how negligent I have been towards keeping in touch with my friends. We all know that the sign of true, long-standing friends is that it takes but moments to catch up where we left off, but I wanted to use this opportunity to apologise (yet again, but publicly this time !) to all the people I know who may be thinking of giving up on me …

Most of my girl friends go back quite a long way and I started counting the years we had known each other :
Claire – 47 (gulp !); Zoë – 41; Phillippa – 37; Petunia – 35; Louise – 28 (I’ll have been in contact with you before you read this !); Di – 27; Sandie – 26; Emma – 25; Melanie – 25; and many more since. Now I risk offending people I may have forgotten, so I really just wanted to say to you all : “You’re all so special to me. Thank you for being my friend”

This is a picture of a more recent special friend

27 September 2008

happy birthday, Lucy !

Happy Birthday, Lucy. I was reading Esther’s blog and so happy to hear she is back on Earth and writing about her new life and adventures. She mentioned that she had a strong feeling that it is your birthday today and then later on your Loose and Leafy blog that your brother was holding a pot (with the new bamboo?).

I went to some friends for dinner last night and there were two cakes that I was going to take a picture of to post as a birthday cake for you, but they got sliced up and divided before I had chance. So I took a picture of the portions (oh yes, I had a piece of each) on my plate, they were a sponge with chestnut purée and cream and the other was a prune tart with a filo pastry topping. Unfortunately the photographs made it look a mess – but they tasted wonderful. Everyone at dinner sends their best wishes – they sat for nearly ten minutes whilst I (bored) enthralled them with the tales of my blog and my loyal follower and other sweet people such as Barbee, who have left kind comments on my posts.

So, I’m posting a picture of a giant birthday cake and some sunflowers and hope you have a lovely day in delightful Dorchester.

Happy Birthday, Lucy. I hope you sort out your annoying feed problems with Pictures Just Pictures and wish you a wonderful year to come.

25 September 2008

love thursday : mugs

I love my tea mugs.

I drink a lot of tea – builders’ tea (strong with milk), chai (spiced black tea with milk), early grey, green tea, ‘sleepy tea’ last thing at night (a caffeine-free herbal tea usually with chamomile and other calming blends) and I have a bag full of boxes of different flavoured herbal teas and infusions.

I use different mugs and cups for different teas.

My favourite builders’ tea mug has had a crack and a broken handle for months and it is difficult to move around when hot, because it burns your fingers. I found a new one to replace it in a shopping trip to Tesco when I was back in the UK. If you imagine a mirror image of the handle, it would make a perfect heart shape, so this is my first picture for ‘Love Thursday’ which I found on the Shutter Sisters blog – a love-themed photograph every Thursday.

19 September 2008

anyone for tea in the garden ?

I’ve just got back from my week’s visit to the UK. It was damp and green unlike here, which is dry and baked brown. However, last night the heavens opened and it rained consistently for many hours leaving the earth soft and claggy. Now it’s raining again. I hope it isn’t going to have a bad effect on the grape harvest vendanges which appears to be underway. As I drove home from the airport yesterday afternoon, I passed several tractors with their little trailers bumping along behind – I’m sure our local wine co-operative is getting really busy.

Whilst I sort myself out and make some retrospective posts, I just wanted to put up these two photos I shot in Whittards of Chelsea.

The garden sets are : mugs in the shape of a terracotta flower pot with a coaster on top, presumably to keep your tea hot whilst you are gardening (I like what’s written – ‘I don’t go to the gym ... I garden’ & ‘You’ve got to propagate to accumulate ...’); tall mugs like long toms; sugar and creamer set of small pot with a spade-shaped spoon and watering can milk jug; and I believe the tea set has a watering can for a teapot.

I love Whittards and think these are so cute. Perhaps they are rather twee, but they made me smile even though I resisted the urge to purchase anything other than some teas.

02 September 2008

don’t play again, Sam ... or quelles mauvaises herbes !

We went for our morning walk joined, as usual, by Sam the Golden Retriever. Sam’s owners let him wander around all day whilst they are at work. He’s often waiting for us because, quite understandably, he loves to go for walks with people. I feel so sad for him – I think he’s a young dog and obviously needs lots of exercise which is why, no doubt, they let him out in the morning to spend the day following people up and down the canal.

The problem is : I’ve often found him in our chemin – so he has crossed the main road, which can be very busy at times. Also, he’s a large dog and the the track along the canal is somewhat narrow. On Thursday, last week, right at the start of our walk, he knocked me down. He’d just met up with us, was full of beans and so happy to see L B. They started running up and down using me a ‘home’ and Sam ran into the back of me, causing me to twist my left ankle, come thumping down on my right buttock ending up flat on the path. What a great game this is, thought Sam and came and threw himself down between my splayed legs and rolled onto his back, muddy paws in the air. L B, being the intelligent dog he is, realised with my cry as I went down and the moaning as I lay motionless that something was definitely not right and promptly jumped on my stomach, growling at Sam.

There the three of us stayed for some moments until I felt able to move the two dogs away from me and work out whether I could get to my feet and if so, would I then be able to walk ? Luckily I was able to do both and was glad that there had been no-one around to see how inelegantly I scrambled upright, clutching to the chain-link fence for support. I gingerly placed one foot in front of the other and hobbled slowly along with one hand against the fence. They started again ! Racing up and down the path and spinning round at the point I stood. “Get away, dégagez, you blasted animals !”

I walked for a little, but progress was slow and they carried on their game of tag until I decided I could take no more and headed for home feeling somewhat sorry for myself.

The ankle swelled, the buttock and pelvis felt slightly bruised and everything ached and creaked, so no more walks for L B and I until yesterday morning.

Sam appeared and was somewhat calmer, but they always go mad when we get down to a grassy track away from the canal as we’ve turned for home. The tag started again and I spotted a short, thickish stick which I picked up with a thought of using it in some way to keep Sam at bay ... too late – he’s a Retriever, after all – he grabbed the stick from my hand and started galloping up and down with the stick protruding from either side of his mouth at knee level ! Not a good idea. Luckily his attention span was short and he dropped it a little further along, to investigate an interesting smell. A little further along, he came rushing out of the undergrowth, with L B in pursuit, carrying half a dried baguette. He ran L B followed and I wondered how far L B would go before he realised that Sam wasn’t going to stop this time and was taking his prize home. Not very long and we enjoyed our Sam-less walk all the more until we got to his place to see him swallowing the last mouthful. L B sniffed at the crumbs, but Tibetan Terriers aren’t too fussed about scavenging for food.

Back to this morning : Sam’s obviously been in the water already and seems relatively calm, but continues jumping in and out of the canal, shaking furiously, jumping straight back in. Even L B stands back and I’ve already got wet shoes, splashes on my trousers and a couple of wet, faintly muddy patches on my calves where he has pushed past me. When we get to the open area where the potager is right next to the canal I stop momentarily to take photos of the new growth on the courgette plants as a follow-up to my earlier post. The two of them are playing along the verge and in and out of the vegetables – oh yikes, please don’t let them have done any damage. L B starts rubbing himself along the ground and I realise that I can’t see his white eye ... It is totally closed by some innocent-looking grass which acts like irreversible velcro and hermetically seals whatever is underneath. Then I see he is absolutely covered in the stuff around the right side of his head, the short hair on his legs and around the paws. I sit on the bank and try in vain to part the fur over his eye. A local dogwalker with his tiny Yorkshire Terrier – who yaps frantically at these two when ever we meet him – offers to go to his nearby house for scissors, which I decline (I hope, graciously) as I don’t have my glasses with me.

I put L B on the lead and walk as fast as my fragile ankle will allow, to try and stop him from rubbing his face. By the time we’re nearing the end of the canal he has managed to put his head in the dirt a couple of times and jump in and out of the canal as if he were able to gain some relief from this horrible stuff. Another dog walker holds her dog and stands out of the way. She asks if Sam is my dog and says he often follows her. I tell her he is not, but not to worry as he will probably follow us and not her. During this time she has looked down at L B and the expression on her face as she says “Je croîs qu’il y a un petit problème ... I think there’s a small problem... ” makes me glance at him to see that all of the right side of his snout has grass sticking out of it and where his eye once was is now covered in grey dust. I mutter about the mauvaises herbes and getting back to sort him out and she says it will probably be necessary to take him to the vet. Not again, I’m thinking, we must have bought shares in the veterinary practice by now – how I wish I’d taken out what seems now to be a most reasonably priced pet insurance and wonder if Sam’s owners are covered for any accidents he may cause ...

I see Sam’s garden gate is open and bundle him through, pulling it to until the bell clangs and I rush on. By the time we cross over the road and get to our chemin all L B wants to do is put his face down and not move. So I pick him up and carry all 8kg of him up the hill and the rest of the way home. In the house, he stays in the kitchen were I put him down, whilst I search for the seam unpicker – some tip I’d read about on a pet-grooming site.

It took 35 minutes to free his eye, some of the fur round is nose and the stuff that had got into the (already short) hair between his pads. His eye, which looked extremely red, now looks fine and I’ll spend the rest of the afternoon carefully freeing the fur on his legs. If I thought he looked a bit wonky after his dog grooming with Amandine, you should see him now !

29 August 2008

beautiful bramleys

I’ve just been looking online to see the best way of storing the Bramley apples that Rosemary gave me from her tree. It’s been very interesting. Traditionally people have wrapped apples in newspaper or tissue paper but some sites have said it is not necessary with Bramleys. Another, horticultural, site – possibly for commercial growers – says that if a Bramley is dipped in warm water before storing it increases its storage capacity as the natural wax from the skin melts to form a contiguous surface which inhibits infection. Fascinating ! Another site suggests putting them into a plastic bag with one hole which allows a certain amount of humidity which is necessary to keep the fruit fresh, but not so much as to encourage moulds.

There is also a Bramley Apple website hosted by English Apples & Pears Limited, located in England’s orchard county of Kent. On the home page they say that Bramley’s are grown only in Britain. Rosemary would like to beg otherwise. She doesn’t actually LIKE apples, well not raw anyway, and decided she wanted to grow a Bramley to prove that it could be done, as everyone had told her it wasn’t possible to grow a Bramley in the South of France. (If you don’t like apples that much, Rosemary, why would you even have had the conversation with someone ?!) Anyway, I have seen the dear little tree – which fruits better with a Cox’s Pippin as a pollinator – I have got frozen, cooked windfalls in the freezer with some blackberries and then six perfect Bramley’s weighing 1.12 kilos appeared on my doorstep the other day.

You may have noticed that I said that the Bramley fruits better with a Cox’s Orange Pippin as a pollinator ... yes, I then got a bag (1.45 kilos) of small, but delicious, Cox’s.

The French don’t seem to me to have the same interest in apples as we do in the UK. There are usually four or five varieties : Granny Smith; a French Russet or Pomme Gris, which I use in cooking; Braeburn; the Pink Lady variety from New Zealand (what about the food miles !!) – which I remember costing considerably more than other apples in the UK but doesn’t seem that more expensive here, no doubt because it is grown in this country; and the Golden Delicious – which frankly I can’t imagine why anyone buys ! There is a very large growing area around Brittany, Normandy and the Loire Valley, but perhaps the French prefer their apples as cider, Calvados or pommeau !

So English Apples & Pear Limited, perhaps you really meant that Bramley’s are only grown commercially in Britain ? The rest of the website has a rather dire video, about making a traditional Bramley apple pie, under ‘podcast’ – I watched it till the end but I don’t know why anyone would; some rather yummy recipes and an interesting history of the Bramley apple – its bicentenary is next year. What I’d like to know is : where did the pips come from that the little girl planted in her garden ? !!

Anyway, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll probably make juice with the rest of the Cox’s – I believe that it freezes well – and I’ll just leave the the Bramleys in the bag they were given to me in, in the coolest place I can find, which (for the next few weeks at least) is exactly where they are on the floor in the kitchen.

If you’ve got a moment, perhaps you would take the time to vote in the poll and / or leave a comment. Thanks for looking !

26 August 2008

a curious thing

I was looking out of the kitchen window just before taking L B for our walk and to my horror saw that the pathetic things passing themselves off as tomato plants were looking extremely droopy. I usually try to water early in the morning as I’ve read so much about it being preferable, because plants are less prone to any airborne fungal infections than if they’d been left damp overnight. I do wonder if that is the case, as it is still so warm I’m sure that any water on the plants would dry / evaporate before nightfall, but I’m trying to do the right thing and Patrick our professional gardener in the French gardening group is always banging on about ‘the fungus’ ! I’m watering every second or possibly third day and am slightly alarmed at how badly they are in need of water and I’m relieved when back from our walk that they are looking slightly better, but it has obviously affected them.
Along the canal are many potagers in gardens or small pieces of enclosed land. But there is one potager that is planted in some very fertile soil just by the canal, in open land – the canal is redirected onto this land every few days through carefully dug furrows – unprotected from walkers and their dogs but more importantly unprotected from the variety of wildlife that lives around here, namely badger (although I haven’t seen one recently) fox, hare and of course Nature’s rotavator : the wild boar – sanglier. There was evidence of the boar just a few days ago where they had been digging holes near a tree root making a slightly precarious section of the pathway even more so. But, it seems, very little damage or nibbling has affected these beautiful specimens of tomatoes, carrots, aubergines, peppers, celery, parsley and basil. Where was the slug damage when they were first planted ? Are all the slimy beasts hiding out round at our place ? !

Anyway, this morning I am shocked to see what had been gloriously green courgette plants only yesterday now collapsed from the centre and covered in mildew. Some of the tomato plants also look sad, but nowhere near as sad as mine did earlier. Then on the way home I notice that some of the trees planted along the roadside have turned their leaves in and downwards. It hasn’t been terribly hot in the last couple of days – early 30°s but we did have a mistral wind for about 24 hours – that causes worse evaporation than the heat of the sun. So perhaps the mistral was the cause ?

21 August 2008

home doggy salon

Amandine has just left in her smart little black Renault Clio with racing wheels. As she walked up the path I noticed from behind that she has no shoulders and I wonder how she carries a handbag – obviously diagonally or surely it would keep slipping off ? I've just paid her €20 to clip L B and I’m astonished that she charged so little and relieved that it’s all over. L B on the other hand is rubbing himself along the ground and mussing up his ears and quite happy to go with her to her car as she packs the accoutrements away.

She sounded about 12 when I phoned her to book the appointment and didn’t seem to me to be an awful lot older when she arrived an hour and three quarters ago, wearing a baby pink t-shirt with sequins and sparkly silver flip flops. She was very business-like, handled L B very well and played with him for a moment after she lifted him down from the grooming table, but so laid back I felt that a bomb could go off and she would hardly react. She had no option but to shave off his appallingly matted coat and we discussed how she should tackle his head – I didn’t want him to have a pointed snout “he’s not a poodle” I kept hearing myself say. The lady he used to go to, who’s salon is called Le Chien Coquet, has two poodles tied up whilst she works and L B came out with the look of a new breed of dog, the Terrioodle.

I was hoping not to have to have him shaved again – I would really like him to grow his coat to look like a proper Tibetan Terrier and whilst he would never be as stunning as Fabulous Willy who won best in show at Crufts in 2007, I feel that it shouldn’t be beyond my grooming capabilities. After all, I did have Gizmo the Shih-Tzu who lived in this area 12 years ago and I never had to resort to such drastic measures. But TTs have this double coat, which keep them cool in Summer and warm in Winter, and we live in the countryside full of viscious flora that find L B’s coat a perfect place to attach itself to to transport seeds to other places. Indeed, the garden here has an ever widening patch of particularly nasty grasses and pretty ground-cover plants which produce burrs the size of peas and as sharp as needles !

His last toilettage was in March and I have been very good at brushing him since. Whilst he was injured – a pulled achilles tendon – I had not been taking him on our usual walk and he remained on the lead and walked mostly on the road. When the vet gave the all clear to start taking him for his proper walks where he bounds around like a mad thing, I started to lose the plot with the grooming. We walk alongside the irrigation canal and he hops in and out of it to drink and cool down. Add to that his harness (easier to grab him when he’s being uncooperative), rolling in the dust and rubbing his face along where they’ve been cutting grass and in the space of three days his under coat rubbed into a dense layer of felt ! This must now be causing L B to heat up more and it became a harbour for sharp bits of undergrowth and grass seed which weave their way in and can go in only one direction. So, needless to say, we’ve been in and out of the vets with a grass seed in an ear, another in his paw ... It has become ... dangerous.

I feel so ashamed that I seem incapable of keeping him knot-free, that I have not been in touch with his breeders to let them know how we’re getting on. The kennel that he came from – l‘Empire de Mistral – is in the middle of the country near Marseilles. They have seven TTs and they are never shaved. I think I will have to contact them and confess that spending nearly an hour every day just doesn’t work for us and is it a total travesty to keep his hair short ?

I bought a shaver, thinking that I would be able to groom him myself. I downloaded a useful e-book on dog grooming at home which has some really good tips and thought I would have a go. I didn’t read enough of the book, just skimmed down the pages, in my eagerness to try and bring relief to my poor prickled baby. Result : stressed L B, stressed me, burrs and hair stuck to everything including my face because I was so hot, there were rivulets of perspiration running down my face and cleavage, aaaarrrrgggghhhh ! Get him done professionally, which is where dear little Amandine came in with her myriad grooming combs and brushes and a much more serious-looking heavy-duty shaver.

Then from beneath the pelt that came off him like a tiny sheep, emerged this delicate-framed cartoon dog. I’m not sure about the finished ‘look’ – I’ll get used to it, I suppose, and of course it will grow back. But to have all this done in our own environment and a totally stress-free L B – it was worth every centime !

17 August 2008

what a wonderful world

As I sit typing this, LB has gone back down the road to investigate an interesting smell. I wouldn’t normally have taken him for a walk today as I have to go gardening this morning, but yesterday we didn’t go and he took himself off for an hour and a half, when we were at Phillippa’s cleaning her house for the next summer renters. Usually I arrive and get straight to work and leave him to his own devices – it’s quite possible that that’s what he usually does and I’m blissfully unaware, but he does come to find me at various times whilst I’m cleaning and he has that air of ‘I’ve been off on an adventure’. As it was, the outgoing renters were late leaving so I had a second breakfast with Phillippa of the knobbly end of a warm baguette I had just bought, green tea and a delicious melon smoothie she had made. LB disappeared at this point and every half an hour I went to see if he was back, getting more and more concerned until Philippe jumped in the car to drive up and down to see if he could see him. Philippe came back – no luck, but moments later his friend Arnaud (who he’d telephoned en route to ask him to look out for him) arrived with LB running up alongside. Arnaud had seen him just at the bottom of the drive, nonchalantly sniffing around, so he clapped his hands to hurry him back. I’d been calling and calling and the little b*gg*r had ignored me, so I thankfully tied him up and returned tearfully grateful to the housework.

So this morning I thought we’d go for a rapid walk – no camera, no stopping to pick up treasures / fallen fruit etc. Not long along the canal path the rustling on the bank that I have heard frequently in the same place over the last few days, turned out to be a loir (glis glis) that hopped out of the water and up and further along the sound of a much larger animal that darted out in front of a startled LB – it was a hare, almost the size of LB and he fled up the road and off back into the undergrowth. LB started to run after it but didn’t go far and turned round to look at me as if to say “what was that ?”. Even if I’d had the camera, these two things happened so fast I would never have managed to capture them, but I regret not taking it – I realised that I have been walking past the most beautifully shaped walnut tree and the sun was shining directly on it like a spotlight and amongst the ever-ripening blackberries a spider, striped like a wasp, lying in wait on her web. As far as not picking up things – how could I resist a perfect piece of Eryngium that had been cut some days ago and blown into my path ? – part of the Christmas decorations; one or two blackberries to eat along the way and a few hazelnuts.

The temperatures have changed – it’s going to be a clear, hot day but the nighttime and early morning atmosphere is refreshing and we think that the brief heatwave canicule is over. Last night Alain told me that one day in Draguignan the temperature was 43°. So, gardening this morning is going to be very pleasant with perhaps a swim at the end and when I got home from our walk, Riviera Radio was playing Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World”.

13 August 2008

here comes the rain

Just about to go off to bed, switching channels (as you do !) and turned on to Arte to see, who I am sure was, Ravi Shankar playing two numbers with his other musicians. Then on come George Harrison & Ringo Starr and a bunch of other people who get introduced later on. It turns out to be the Concert for Bangladesh in 1971 and now I can’t go to bed because this is amazing.

Then it starts to rain, torrentially, between George Harrison singing “Here Comes the Sun” and Bob Dylan’s “It’s a Hard Rain that’s Gonna Fall”. The roof over the terrace is leaking and I get soaking wet trying to move pots out to where they’ll get some of this rain. Watering this evening was almost a waste of time but everything will benefit even though it’s not for long. It may not have rained a few kilometres away, so we’ll be extremely grateful and listen to the rest of this concert through the thunderclaps.

There’s obviously a ’70s theme to Arte tonight. The next offering is a French film called : What a Flash. There are painted bodies, breasts and willies everywhere. Just before I switch off, there is a scene of a naked man (there is no reason to assume !) in an hammock with his lunch or casse-croûte in his lap. A man, full face to the screen, is eating and then out of picture comes a hand to help themselves to the picnic baguette. With that image in my head, it’s definitely time to switch the dishwasher on and get to bed !

12 August 2008


I picked my first blackberries of the season this morning – 210 g which I washed and froze straight away. I’ll put them with the windfall Bramley apples from Rosemary & Eric’s and look forward to blackberry and apple pie or crumble when the weather cools down !
Because there was so much rain in May this year – how we needed it – the blackberries or ronces have actually grown into fruits rather than shrivelled after flowering. There’ll be lots more over the next few weeks but the best ones are always out of reach, aren’t they ? I can see me falling into the irrigation canal before the end of the season !

07 August 2008

ferret sitting

I’ve been ferret sitting for Rosemary & Eric up the road. Odd little creatures with a pungent, but not altogether unpleasant, odour. L B was fascinated by the smell on me when I came home, but not too bothered about the creatures themselves when he followed me up in the afternoon to check on them. I told Rosemary that I hadn’t really understood why people kept ferrets until I had been looking after their three : Maud, Marge and Taz.

What a bundle of fun they are, but being new to them I was glad of the footless socks to cover my arms and the gloves to protect me when transferring them in and out of their cages.

13 July 2008

blasted mosquitoes indeed !

I’ve spent all this time ranting about the mosquitoes from last night
and sitting outside are some bits of a pale yellowy/salmon oleander, to
try and strike some cuttings from – probably not the best time to take
them, but you do it when you can – and some bulblets of Belle de Nuit
(Mirabilis jalapa)

blasted mosquitoes !

Blasted mosquitoes kept me awake last night !

For once I managed an early night – light off by 23.15. A few minutes later : high pitched humming (what noise do they make ?) of another mosquito. Switch light on quickly. Can’t see it and then can’t hear it. Switch the light off. More humming getting close to my ear. Same thing : switch light on, look around, humming stops but this time I’ve seen you on the wall above the light. ZAP ! Light off. Little while later : humming ... Switch light on, can see the blighter but it’s beyond my
reach and I really don’t feel like getting up. Lie in wait for it to come closer ... at 04.00 I wake up with the light on and the electric fly & mosquito zapper tennis bat across my chest.

Blog Image

(An earlier version of this bat only had one set of wires – that receive the charge from the two AA batteries. One visitor put it close to his nose and pressed the button ... many expletives and a very sore nose tip for a good few days, not to mention acute embarrassment ! This version has another set of wires on either side which stop direct contact with nose tips.)

Decide to go to the loo and coming back into the room take a swipe at anything that looks like a mosquito. Get back into bed. Wide awake by now and thinking of all the possibilities of blogging. More humming. Light on. Can’t see anything but humming is constant, not fading in and out of earshot. Switch the light off. Hummmmmm. Light on. Nothing. Decide that I’m obviously hearing things, which tends to happen when you’ve had a night like this. Light off. Must try and get to sleep. Mind working on overdrive. Perhaps I should get up now and write a damned blog and then perhaps I can get some sleep ?! No, need to rest / sleep. Watch as it starts getting light and dawn chorus starts at 05.30 (almost on the dot !). Must try and think of things that will make me sleep.

Start thinking about the diseases borne by these pesky creatures. One of them is here
in this part of France and spreading north : Leishmaniasis. I was looking at a poster in the vets on Thursday morning (and then again yesterday afternoon) warning of the dangers of Leishmaniose to animals,especially dogs. Last year, at some enormous expense I bought the special white plastic collar impregnated with something that would keep mosquitoes away. I think LB wore it for a few weeks and it’s still hanging on the handle of the door cupboard. Don’t remember why I took it off nor why I never put it back on him. I suppose it’s one of the risks you take. It certainly does exist – Pudding, Phillippa’s darling departed French pointer, got infected but it was diagnosed quickly by her vet and Pudding went on almost unscathed for some years. Then, what about the horrid ticks that the damp weather also encouraged to breed so rampantly ? And then the other day I was reading about Chiggers, I’m sure something like that has been biting me round the ankles when I’m out in the garden. Interesting that a few weeks ago I looked like a battleground of bites – all over : how do they get you on your bottom ? Thinking about it, haven't had any bites from the blasted mosquitoes in the last few days. Am I so full of insect spit that I’m toxic to them ? .....

Alarm goes off at 07.00. Switch it off – at least I’m pretty sure I did. Next thing I know it’s 08.15 and I’ve overslept and will be late for work. Not a problem, but leaves me feeling grumpy as I start my day. smiley
Doesn’t last long as I set off to my gardening jobs in Olive, the 2CV. The sky a deep blue, the cicadas chirping ...

12 July 2008

happy cakes ? !

Saw this ad for the first time last night for Mr Kipling Happy Cakes.

It caught my eye because of the cakes being portrayed as flowers and the whole feel of the ad is reminiscent of my childhood – “It’s a hap hap happy day, toodle oodle oodle oodle oodle ay” ...Volkswagen camper van... oh yes ! Vague memories of a family holiday in the early ’60s. We drove to Camber Sands in the VW; parked one side of the dunes and went to find the sea. The tide was out and whilst we were paddling the heavens opened, it poured with rain and because the tide was out it seemed to take forever to get back to the van. We were soaked and so was all our bedding which Mummy had left in the open to air ! On the same holiday we were camping next to a miniature railway, which I seem
to think was in Littlehampton. Mummy threw her emerald ring out with the washing-up water. She never found it.

Fondant fancies; coconut flaky pastry cakes with sweetened shreds of coconut, that fall off and get picked out of the white paper bag; battenburg cake by the length ... can’t remember any others at the moment – from the ABC bakery on the Kings Road, opposite Peter Jones.

It’s harder and harder these days to come up with an ad campaign – some are just totally
cringe-making and I’m sure they’re not meant to be ! So McCann Erickson : in my view, with the nostalgia element I believe you will appeal to a very wide audience – not just children– and I think you might just have managed to successfully change the 30 year-old strapline of “Mr Kipling – exceedingly good cakes” to “Mr Kipling – exceedingly happy cakes” !

I shall certainly enjoy the ad (for a while) even if I don’t enjoy the cakes – too sweet for me !

11 July 2008

& finally ...!

I’ve finally got round to planting out the tomatoes I bought on 17 May. (They languished for three weeks in their pots, so not planted nearly as late as this post) They were surplus to requirements from a local organic market gardener maraîcher, whose fields we visited earlier in the year. I ordered 12 tomato plants & two aubergine plants for the princely sum of 9 euros :

The tomatoes – totally different to the ones I thought I was buying, but all organic (& mostly heirloom I believe) and hopefully having deciphered the writing on the brown parcel tape that was stuck to the side of the pot are as follows :

Cornu des Andes

Coeur de Boeuf

Cocktail Clémentine Orange – planted in a topsy turvy planter

Steack (hybrid ?)

Reine de Ste Marthe

Rio Grande

San Marzano – apparently good for drying

St Pierre

& two unnamed plants

The two aubergines or egg plants :
Ronde de Valence

Violette de Florence

I had been hoping to have got more of the garden organised (hah – hope on …) so decided to put them in the ground at the back – between the pathway around the house (I can’t grow anything up the house unless it’s in a pot) and the Pyracantha hedge. It’s an area over the septic tank – now I’m thinking about it, is that a good idea ?

With these, as a ‘gift’, was a Morelle de Balbis (Solanum sisymbrifolium) – not a true tomato but nicknamed the european Litchi. On this site (which is in French, sorry) they say not to plant it near aubergines or potatoes. Yikes ! I've planted my aubergines next to my tomatoes !

It looks very similar to a tomato and is yet to be planted in a place where I can watch its progression. It is bursting out of its tiny black plastic pot but producing large white flowers tinged lilac/blue, atop a rather viciously spiked stem !

And the other FINALLY ... is I’ve got round to making a blog, having planned – in my head – for many, many months. I lost the first effort of posting this, but luckily I had already written it elsewhere ! So,
here goes ... press ‘Submit’ ......

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