Storm in a cafe

Today we took the number 67 bus to its terminus at the Stade Charlety. The Stade is a big old football stadium and it’s just before the Peripherique which circles Paris. I have to say that it’s not a particularly inviting part of Paris.

In fact the only sights seem to be of old men pissing against the side of buildings. While this isn’t what most tourists come to Paris for I’m tempted to think that it is the Real Paris.

I don’t mean that to sound harsh. On the contrary, I love Paris. I’ve also seen men pissing against buildings in London and Sydney so it’s not like I’m being judgemental at all. It’s just that the real city tends to be hidden beneath the romantic idea of the tourist where old men do not piss against buildings. Unlike at home.

Anyway, that was our trip to the ‘burbs…sort of. We then caught the next bus back to the Marais, our new spiritual home. Well, we managed to get as far as Chez Julien which serves up some pretty special fare as long as your wallet can stand it.

I had cod while Mirinda went for the scallops. Both meals were superb. And the glass of pinot went down a treat.

My cod – simply perfect

The atmosphere at Chez Julien was a lot better than the one we were surrounded by at breakfast. It all started off perfectly fine.

We have decided to try each of the row of cafes – one per morning. Yesterday it was Le Pain Quotidien and this morning we went one further along, Les Marronniers.

We order scrambled eggs and coffee, both of which were delicious. Halfway through breakfast, a big group of people with cameras, bustle and far too much make up entered and started acting like they were on a film set.

The cafe had lined up a load of breakfasts for them ahead of time and they were basically trying to organise themselves for whatever they were intending to photograph. Eventually the manager of the cafe had had too much.

I’d been watching him and he was getting increasingly more and more annoyed. At the point when they were arguing about filming inside or out, he stepped into the melee and told them he wasn’t happy. This had not been what they’d agreed, he said, and it was all getting a bit too disruptive.

I can faithfully report this because the conversation was had in English given most of the people with the cameras and make up seemed to be American.

While it was all a bit hectic and not what the manager of the cafe had envisaged for a Saturday morning, it was a bit of fun and excitement for us. Particularly given we were sat in the middle of the maelstrom, so’s to speak.

We left before anything much was done so I have no idea how it was all resolved. I hope the manager was left happy though because he seemed like a very nice fellow and he doesn’t need his cafe blemished by arrogance.

Our next stop was for a bus to take us to the botanical gardens, the idea being to possibly have lunch in the mosque like we did years ago.

Which reminds me. Yesterday we were going to visit the Museum of Jewish History and Art. We’d seen the signs for it last time and managed to find it yesterday. However, just like the synagogue in Florence, the security was far too invasive for our taste. They didn’t get our tourist Euros. The same as Florence.

I’m sure it won’t bother them because, as Mirinda says, they prefer to zap people with x-rays and lock them in glass boxes rather than suffer against the tiny chance of someone proving a security risk.

That is, of course, their choice just like it’s ours not to subject ourselves to it. The fact that some places can get away with an amazing amount of this kind of thing says a lot about what people will put up with rather than the necessity.

But that was yesterday. Today we promenaded through the gardens, enjoying the few flowers and the erection of a new exhibition space which I think is going to be some sort of pop-up geodesic biome. There was nothing to indicate what was happening but it was a mammoth undertaking with a crane and dozens of workers trying to put it all together.

While in the park we also indulged in a couple of ridiculously expensive cups of coffee and a wander up to the labyrinthe.

The labyrinthe is an amazing spiral of hedges which lead to the Buffon shelter at the top. The idea is that the inside of the hedges is a world for the young. Small bodies run around, squealing with delight, unseen by the adult world strolling around the paths. A fantastic idea and so nice to see the kids actually using it.

Of course there was a sulky teenager with his phone but otherwise, the little kids were indulging in a world of their own, darting around like sprites in a forest.

Speaking of phones, the other night we watched an episode of Would I Lie To You? where Jennifer Saunders said that she deliberately walked into people looking at their phones. It was actually a lie but I’ve started doing it just for the fun of it.

So far I have managed to collect two people both of whom apologised for me bumping into them. I call that a 100% score for me and none for them.

But back to the park.

There were a lot of people in the park, enjoying the sunshine and general cold. Mirinda rather wanted to visit the big greenhouses but was put off by the long queue outside. It turns out that there is an orchid show on at the moment and the long, long queue of old people was eager to see it. We decided against it. We don’t like to queue on holiday.

Not queuing, posing

Having walked and bussed, we wound up back on the Ile Saint-Louis. This is where our favourite street is, the rue St Louis en I’Ile. Given we were in our favourite street, there was only one thing to do and that was get an ice cream. Of course.

We popped into Amorino where a young chap took a great deal of care to make us both ice cream cones that looked like flowers. He was very good but we did wonder how he managed in the summer when the people demanding ice cream would be out the door and up the hill. He couldn’t really take half an hour per cone then.

There are other ice cream shops in this favourite street of ours after all. Still, that wasn’t a problem today. There was another couple ahead of us who were equally amazed at what he was doing so it was all very entertaining.

And the ice cream was so worth waiting for. Forget the pretty petals and floral art, the ice cream was perfect.

The macaroon has ice cream in the middle

Having had our dessert we then went to Chez Julien for our main course before heading back to the hotel for the usual afternoon siesta. We did stop off on the way to see what a concept store was.

We’ve been seeing a few shops labelled as such and I have no idea what it means. The one we entered was, supposedly, about making things natural and safe for the environment. As Mirinda pointed out, the best thing for the environment would be to stop making stuff that people don’t actually need.

Still, there’d be little use for an empty concept store so they’ve filled this one with alternatives to plastic. Mind you, I was a bit dismayed to see a big jug of free water with those little non-biodegradable cups next to it. If they really cared about the environment they’d supply glasses with a sign suggesting bringing your own container to fill up.

But maybe that’s not the concept they’re going for. It seems to me the concept is one of capitalism with the veneer of green credentials. Destroy the planet lovingly, perhaps.

More to my mystification was the concept shop full of women’s clothing. It was called Women’s Clothing Concept Shop. It all looked very normal – a bit Dorothy Perkins. The shop next to it was more outrageous and yet was a normal, non-conceptual clothing shop.

Saturday afternoon Marais

We do live in a funny old world. And sometimes, we live in a very romantic world.

Tonight we returned to Diva’s Kabaret and once more we had a fantastic night with Sweety Bonbons, LaDiva Live and Lara Fullcamp. This time we only ordered a single charcuterie and cheese platter between the two of us. This was perfect.

Mind you, Mirinda had insisted on having a falafel from the famous falafel vendors of Rosieres street before the show. They are known throughout the western world for the best falafel ever. Mirinda thought hers was pretty good but I think it possibly filled her up a bit much. Still, I managed to eat most of the platter before the Little Blue Elf took it away.

The Little Blue Elf is a new addition to Diva’s. Well, new to us anyway. He is part of the waiting staff and he’s quite small and thin and has blue hair. He’s also about 12. He was very good though and made sure we were well provided with drinks and eats.

The guy behind the bar remembered us and Sweety Bonbons might have. She pretended to very well if she didn’t remember. Mirinda is a big fan so it’s probably good that Sweety didn’t make a big mushy fuss.

While the show was brilliantly funny, again, the best bit was the huge surprise at the end.

LaDiva Live of the wonderful voice

LaDiva was about to sing Non, je ne regrette rien when she grabbed a chap up from the audience to sing with her. He was quite good and enjoyed his moment on the stage. Then, for the last bit, LaDiva grabbed another chap from the audience to sing along with them both. He was a bit self conscious but joined in enthusiastically.

The song ended in a black out. Then, as the lights came back up and with LaDiva having left the stage, the small bald chap got down on one knee and looked up at the other bald chap and proposed. The room went mad!

Such excitement and joy and cheering and clapping. It was an exceptional moment. The second bald chap will remember it forever and so will I. Tremendous fun.

While it would have been impossible to get the actual proposal on video, below is the end of the song. The chap on the right proposed to the chap on the left who, through his shock and surprise said yes. My apologies for the quality of the video but the person in front of me kept stealing focus!

What a wonderful way to end the night. Brava!

And I think we should all be invited to the wedding.

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Business pyjama woman

The other day Vivienne asked me if we had a favourite restaurant in Paris. I shook my head without really thinking. Our favourite used to be the Polidor and it’s still up there. However, our most favourite has to be the truffle place we went to in December.

It was the place where we took Bob who had never tasted truffles before. He ordered the burger and still has no idea what truffles taste like. That may be as is however, I LOVE truffles and made sure I was soaked in them when we went.

This Paris visit coincides with the time of our anniversary of arriving in the UK (19th February, 1998) and we needed a celebration restaurant to mark the occasion. Mirinda was very quick to suggest the truffle place (she calls it Tartuffe) which we visited today for lunch.

It’s called Artisan de la Truffe and is superb. Mind you, if you didn’t like truffles it would be like slow torture given the aroma assaults you instantly having walked through the door and everything has truffles whether large or small.

Tagliatelli and truffles

Lunch was an enormous success which is more than can be said for the Pompidou Centre which had a queue stretching around the block. Needless to say we didn’t visit. Last time there wasn’t a queue but that was because of the strike which meant it was actually closed.

Not that that stopped us enjoying ourselves.

There was a bit of wandering around, but then we visited the Library. The building once housed the very first library in Paris. Unfortunately the Revolutionary Army redistributed the books but then, quite a while afterwards, it was reopened as a public library.

Bibliotheque historique de la ville de Paris

It’s a lovely space, kept quiet by the attentive eyes and ears of a French librarian. There’s a few bits and pieces dotted around the main room in glass cabinets. Colour plates and letters and various bits of library paraphernalia.

It was originally a house. In fact it’s one of the oldest private mansions in Paris having been started in 1559. Diane d’Angouleme, the illegitimate daughter of Henri II acquired it and it became know as the Hotel d’Angouleme. Following a number of owners and some changes to the size it came into the possession of a chap called Antoine Moriau.

Antoine was rather fond of books and managed to build himself a bit of a library devoted to the history of Paris. He bequeathed it to the city of Paris and it became the first municipal library in 1759. Shortly afterwards the revolution stripped it all out and gave the poor the books to eat.

By 1969, a lot of books had been regurgitated…I mean recovered (and a lot more purchased) and it once more became the public library which we visited today.

If I lived in the Marais, I reckon I’d sit and work in the library. I felt quite at home.

By the time we finished it was beer o’clock so we sat in a delightful little bar where we were royally entertained by the floor elevator. The barman demonstrated his magical skills as the floor opened, the little cage appeared and he put an Otto bin on it. It all created quite the stir.

The other place we visited was the National Archive.

Like the library, this was also once a house. Well, two houses. Sort of. One of them was owned by the Rohans (I’ve written about them many times but most notably when we first visited their Josselin castle back in 2007). The other was the Hôtel de Soubise. Together they form the archive.

The archive was created thanks to the French Revolution. Before the revolt, there was no central archive, just disparate piles of paper records dating back forever. The Revolutionary Council took over the Hôtel de Soubise and filled it with every bit of documentation they could find.

Napoleon promised a purpose built archive which was never built and so it remained where it was and so it still is today.

Normally you can wander around the original Hôtel de Soubise but they are currently mounting a new exhibition so we could only wander the ground floor. Which was fine.

The first room (of which, mysteriously, no one knows its original use) contains a lovely exhibition of various archival things pointing out why it’s done, how its done and why we need it. There were some fascinating objects and I felt very at home.

Behind this first room there’s a few of the apartments to walk around, some furnished, others empty except for scaffolding and workmen tapping away behind screens.

In fact, I was originally going to title this post after one of the exhibits. It stated, in part, that there were 60,000 lists of grievances from the clergy, nobility and the third-estate dating back to 1789 in the archive. Clearly they were well pissed off.

Instead of that, I spotted a window display for a women’s clothing shop with Business Pyjama Woman on the window. I was wondering, if she was a super hero, what her super power would be. Obviously she’d fight crime in her jimjams but, apart from sleeping, I wasn’t sure what else she could effectively do in nightwear. To ward off criminals I mean.

Either that or the shop was suggesting that business women would attend meetings in their pyjamas because they were so overwelmed with work they didn’t have time to change.

The truffles wore us out so we headed back to the hotel for a bit of a nap before heading for the Duc des Lombard for some excellent jazz.

This is our third visit to the Duc des Lombard and, gloriously, I was remembered by the waiter. Such a nice chap. As opposed to the freaky guy with the video camera.

We saw Olivier Temime and his quartet playing a tribute to Clifford Jordan and it was fantastic. I particularly loved the pianist – Olivier Hutman – but they were all amazing. So laid back and cool. As usual Lombard proved to be an excellent night of jazz.

Unfortunately the freaky, curly headed chap with the video camera was intent on spoiling it for everyone. It made it all worthwhile, however, when Olivier came down off the stage after the gig and told him off. It was (sadly) all in French but you didn’t need to understand the words to realise he wasn’t happy.

Freaky curly headed guy kept apologising and making some lame excuse but it didn’t please Olivier. Mirinda said that, had she spoken French, she’d have told him she was a lawyer and he had every right to demand the tape. Such a shame she doesn’t speak French that well.

Of course, my little snatch of video was fine. As were the little snatches by just about everyone else. The freaky curly headed chap was just taking the piss. And being annoying.

As you can see, we weren’t at the front like in December. That didn’t matter. It all sounded fantastic and we left, filled with jazz.

By the way, the other two musicians were Samuel Hubert on the double bass and Steve Williams on the drums. All brilliant.

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Wet and drizzle

Sitting in the Caffe Vito tonight, on the Rue des Archives, Mirinda noticed that most of the smokers were young. They were all sat outside, in the covered area reserved for smokers. Heaters were blasting them with warmth. They were in groups, drinking, chatting, laughing. Apart from the smoking, what was most obvious was the lack of mobile phones.

Caffe Vito

At one point, one young woman checked her phone surreptitiously but, generally, there was not a phone in sight. And this was the same inside as well. It was a restaurant full of people communicating tête-à-tête and in groups. It made a welcome change.

There’s a study that shows when people dine with their phones they are sending a signal that they are not for socialising. Caffe Vito was definitely all about the socialising.

The cafe was just around the corner from our hotel and the rain had stopped long enough for us to walk around and take seats in the corner, inside. It wasn’t the only rain we’d seen today.

The weather was awful most of the morning. The rain, though light, was almost continuous. Taking the girls to Sue meant all three of us getting wet. Even though I tried to keep them on the all weather path.

The weather in Paris was about the same. Arriving at Gare du Nord, the rain was slashing against the Eurostar windows. It did not look very welcoming. Queuing for a cab was also a bit damp but by the time we reached our hotel it was all but rained out.

But, back in Farnham…

Having dropped the girls off, the rest of my morning was spent organising myself. This consisted of printing, packing and then unpacking to repack into a smaller suitcase. The house was very quiet without Miss Tippy Tappy continuously walking behind me. Or Emma greeting everyone and everything that passed her window sill.

I had an entertaining chat with the taxi driver about how wonderful well defined seasons are and the sudden appearance of flowers. Normally I’d get the bus but the rain was steady enough to persuade me that a taxi would be a drier option.

The driver, a philosophical chap of floral bent believed that one should look forward to every season and embrace the changes. Rather than looking forwards to the next year, one should live life in smaller chunks to make it last longer.

He was in complete contrast to the black cab driver to St Pancras who kept moaning about the rain, saying he’d had enough of it. He wasn’t happy. I felt like telling him about the philosophical driver from Farnham but it would have been wasted.

Regardless of how miserable he was, he delivered me in good time at the Eurostar entrance. I thanked him, paid and wheeled my way inside. I didn’t have to use the escalators so any fear of my reciting Shakespeare on one was immediately dispelled.

The Bard is barred!

The trip through to the waiting area was, as usual, hassle free. Apart from the kids that is. What is it with parents? When they have one child it seems okay. Two is fine if there are two parents. Then, the moment they have a third, everything goes to shit. Add to the third child a little pink suitcase on wheels with a lead attached to the child and there’s all sorts of mayhem.

Still, the train ride was simple and smooth, like it always is. Why anyone gets a plane to Paris is beyond my comprehension. Regardless of how one feels about the planet, it has to be quicker and easier by train. Of course it could change next year…but I’m trying not to think about that.

The Hotel de la Bretonnerie is an absolute delight. Beams and high ceilings, room on the first floor, separate toilet to the bathroom. Not quite as fancy as the JoBo (where we stayed in December) but just as lovely. And remarkably quiet.

Mirinda decided we were staying so, having had a slight breather, we headed out to forage and that’s when we found Vito’s.

There was some slight confusion over our order. Mirinda hadn’t noticed the food on the front page of the menu and, after I’d said I was going to have the calamari and a Caprese salad, she changed her mind about having veal. She decided to order a Toscana antipasta and charcuterie.

The waiter explained that the Toscana antipasta was a combination of the charcuterie and the Caprese salad. She said to ditch the Toscana and we’d have the Caprese and the charcuterie.

We thought all was well. Then the waiter bought us a Toscana antipasti followed by the calamari. Never mind, we said, this is fine. And it was. Actually, the ham was melt in the mouth superb. The beer was good too.

Afterwards we went for a short wander to familiarise ourselves with the area before returning to the hotel. And bed.

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Who killed the high street?

There’s been a lot of chat in the local paper regarding the possible holding of a weekly market on West Street. The idea is an attempt to cut the pollution by cutting the traffic. Once a week. While I think it’s a great idea, the cries of dismay from drivers has been tumultuous.

One of their arguments has been that holding a market once a week will kill the high street.

Where were these Great Knights of High Street Protection when the out of town supermarkets opened up? Where were these Lords of Local Independent Shops when the Internet started selling things in our living rooms? I can only assume that they never started buying alcohol to drink at home given it would kill the local pubs.

The weekly market, we have been told, will not be in competition with the shops. A market will bring people into the town and create a greater footfall for both market AND local shops.

Anyway, if the market includes produce of any kind, there’ll be little competition because the green grocers are long gone, leaving food sales to Sainsbury’s and Waitrose. Of course there’s the butcher, the baker and the wholefoods shop but they’re in Downing Street. Holland and Barrett may suffer a bit but I doubt it.

I do wonder whether the people concerned about the death of the high street are also up in arms about the forthcoming shop increase in East Street. The new Crest Nicholson development includes a whole raft of new shops (as well as parking for hundreds of cars) and I’m not sure how any of these new ones will survive.

Rather than markets, something that will definitely kill off the high street is inattentive service.

I’m not what you’d call impatient. I rarely look irritated by inattention in a shop. There is, however, a point at which I’ve had enough. Rather than tut or fume, I merely leave the shop and go elsewhere. Like this morning.

I needed a few chemist type things so, rather than go to Boots I popped into our little independent chemist. I couldn’t see what I wanted on the shelves so I stood and looked like I needed some help.

Obviously I didn’t look helpless enough because the two woman serving ignored me and, instead, served two other people who entered after me. That’s fine, I thought, as I turned and left, I’ll go to Boots.

Having shopped in Boots and started for home I ran into Vivienne and Luna who walked back with me. We had a lovely chat about various things including Mirinda’s definition of a weekend and a hypnotherapist in Farnham who sounds like a total dickhead. As opposed to Vivienne who is, of course, a superb hypnotherapist.

Poppy Watch

Last night’s rain managed to perk up the Californian poppies a bit. It’s not that easy to see from the overhead photo but some of them are struggling against impending doom.

So, to help, I’ve included a side shot.

This very short new section of the blog will continue after we return from Paris. I’m expecting great changes in future Poppy Watch entries.

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What do you mean?

When did it become a thing for people being interviewed to start most sentences with “I mean…“? Even at the beginning of an interview. I can only assume it’s because they’re not sure about what they are saying and therefore need to justify it. Even before they actually say it. It’s an odd conversational tick.

There were not a lot of conversational ticks during Word of Mouth this afternoon.

We were on the lounge, listening to Michael Rosen talking to Irish storyteller, Clare Mulreann Murphy. Clare has a brain full of stories. She doesn’t have anything written down or recorded. They are all stored in her head.

At one point Michael asked if she could tell a story. Her voice was a delight, as you’d expect with a teller of stories. The story was about the Irish gods and was totally absorbing. The three of us were totally absorbed anyway.

Actually, if I’m being completely honest, I was totally absorbed. Emma and Freya were asleep following their walk.

The story was climbing inexorably towards it’s climax. Clare was slowly drawing me into her world of myth and legend. Then, suddenly, the doorbell rang.

The dogs erupted off me and started carrying on like little fluffy lunatics. Clare’s voice vanished into the radio ether. I dragged my mind out of a delightful natural miasma.

It was Richard with the eggs.

Needless to say, I didn’t hear the end of the story. It’s a good job I use BBC Sounds.

Earlier in the day I was at the gym before heading home to ring mum.

She was rather agitated today. She hates living at the home and, worse, The Walker has returned. I have no idea what is true and what is an invention. I think her agitation might be because Denise is away as she has been getting worse each week. I’ll have to warn her. Denise, I mean.

I wasn’t warned when I returned home and spotted what looked like a spattering of cabbage leaves on the raised bed.

From the sliding doors, without my glasses on, I noticed a patch of green on what had been an empty bed. It was a bit odd. I figured that Freya had, perhaps plonked something there. Freya has rather taken to the raised bed, jumping up on the edges whenever she’s outside. Perhaps she’d indulged in a bit of gardening, I thought.

I was wrong.

Mirinda has grown some Californian poppies from seed. They were looking a bit sad and crowded in a seed tray and so she planted them out. This morning before she left for work. I shall endeavour to keep track of their progress though she’s not hopeful.

It rained after dark so, perhaps, they will survive.

A surprising survival is a little alpine plant sitting outside on the terrace. It looked like it was in hibernation but suddenly little white flowers appeared. The flowers keep getting bigger.

The whole garden is gradually waking up with dots of yellow appearing in the Wildflower Patch (that needs another name) and bulbs popping up everywhere. This time of anticipation is like Christmas Eve for a five year old.

Every year I think the bulbs will be killed off because an unexpected warm spell starts them growing only to be hit by a sudden cold snap. But every year, they just sit and wait and grow when they can. Finally, come Spring, the garden is once more alive with colour.

I mean…

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The house of the ladder king

Our medical practice has been closed for five days due to a patient turning up, presenting possible coronovirus symptoms. The place went into shut down and the patients in the waiting room sent home into self isolation. The doctors, the nurses, everyone in fact, was sent home for the full period of closure.

Then, today, the original patient was cleared and the practice reopened and everyone went back to work. Quite a scary thing.

It’s interesting, with the fear over the coronavirus that the gym doesn’t check the supplies of wipes for the equipment. I now take my own because I don’t want to catch any nasty things. Not that it bothers most of the users there. But I don’t really care about them.

Not that there were many there this morning. The top floor was almost empty. Just the way I like it. I had an excellent work out all made hygienic thanks to my personal supply of wipes.

Meanwhile Gardener Dave and Stan were having a work out of their own in our garden. Mirinda had originally said (last night) that she had no idea what jobs to give them. The list wound up being so long that they didn’t finish it.

Unbeknownst to me, one of the list items they did manage to complete was the removal of the nest-work atop the gazebo. I loved this and it was a bit sad. Dave assured me, it was the best thing for it and it would soon enough grow back lush and green. Given it was dead brown before means it will look a lot better. I guess.

The green stuff needs to be draped back over the gazebo but they didn’t have any wire so left it for next time. I’d fix it but I’m not allowed up a ladder.

Speaking of ladders, every day I walk passed a house just off the park which has possibly the National Ladder Collection scattered about its back garden. I have to assume that the person who lives there is a decorator because the ladders are of all types, mostly paint smattered and include those tall, heavy trestle types that can have planks laid between them.

There are ladders leaning against one of the many sheds, a long extension ladder against the side of the two storey house and half an extension ladder on the roof. There’s aluminium step ladders serenely dotted in various spots. It really is ladder heaven.

There’s a lot of ladders in the garden. You’d wonder how the grass gets cut except that there’s no grass because of the many sheds. The sheds are there for the ladders it would seem. It wouldn’t work for us. We’d lose Freya for a start.

Mirinda had book group today so I took the girls up to the park after she left. The weather had been excellent while the gardeners had been working but, after lunch, it rained a bit before going all blue.

The park took a threatening turn at one stage and we had a sun shower.

You can’t see it but it is raining in this photograph

Rain of any substance waited for us to get back home, when it poured for a bit before the sun returned. It was all a bit confused but fortunate as we remained dry.

Also confused was Mirinda. Fallen trees, strange diversions and narrow country lanes turned her journey back from Chawton into a bit of an adventure. Normally it’s very easy and non-eventful but today it was all bit crazy. That’ll be the result of two storms in a row.

I think it just makes for a less than ordinary life which is a good thing. If everything was the same all the time, what would the point be?

Here’s a video of the sun shower.

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Be the difference you can be

A question I’m often asked is why I wear odd socks. My standard reply is that they’re not odd they are just different colours. My question in return is why people think socks need to be identical when worn at the same time.

Or shoes, gloves, even trouser legs.

Years ago I directed a production of The Follies of Calandro and I decided that one of the characters would wear tights with different coloured legs. At the time this was pretty hard to find so it was a case of buying two different pairs and cutting a leg off each.

The woman wearing them didn’t understand but given she had great difficulty remembering her lines, her costume wasn’t uppermost in her mind. Besides, her character was a bit of a put upon, downbeat, negative maid and her leg colour was probably not noticed.

Which brings me, quite naturally, to the colour of my beard versus the colour of my hair.

I have been dying my hair for the last 40 years so my beard is far more natural than my head could ever hope to be. And I have to wonder how odd it looks. But then, I think, why should it be odd that the colour of my beard is different to the colour of my hair?

And what’s wrong with looking odd anyway? Fighting pointless societal norms should be my mission! I think we should live our lives in as surprising a way as possible.

As opposed to Storm Dennis who was more a damp squib than a surprise. Unlike Ciara who blasted Surrey relentlessly, Dennis was just windy and wet as Yoda would attest to.

Wet the weather is now

And so, the morning was mostly spent inside, watching the trees bend and the water splashing off the terrace. There were a few moments of calm but it was mostly continuously unpleasant.

Given I did the shopping yesterday, I managed to remain dry. I spent the morning cooking walnut bread, filling the extension with delicious smells.

According to Mirinda, Sophie has become bored with her lo-carb life. Here at Chez Gaz, we try and create a variable menu in order to stave off the boredom. For instance, I could easily make walnut bread every week but then we’d never have paleo bread. I could make the same salad every day but then even I would get bored.

And so, this afternoon, I pulled out all the stops and made the time consuming but incredibly rewarding, Luxury Shepherd’s Pie. It’s one of Tom Kerridge’s amazing lo-carb recipes which brings Michelin standard food to our humble dining table.

It’s hard to believe that the top is cauliflower rather than potato.

By dinner time, Dennis had gone. In fact he left mid afternoon, allowing Mirinda to take the dogs for a damp walk to Frensham. Emma was well pleased.

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Accosted by dogs

Last night, the dogs did something odd. Normally when they sleep with me they have to be in contact with me somehow. Generally Emma is in the crook of my knee while Freya is lying against my chest. Last night, however, they were both on Mirinda’s side of the bed, a goodly distance from me.

This could have lasted all night (though maybe not beyond Emma’s midnight snacking) had it not been for the front edge of Storm Dennis. Yes, hot on the heels of Ciara: Dennis.

Dennis was here today. He was a bit slow in reaching us but, by about 2pm, his full wrath was being felt by our back garden. I assume he was being felt everywhere else as well but I did not dare venture forth.

In fact, I’d already ventured forth (third, perhaps) first thing in the morning to go shopping. Given I keep up with all storm related news, I was aware of the impending conditions so decided to shop for both days.

The park was not looking best prepared for any further onslaught.

The only reason I can think that this corner is so susceptible to muddishness is that dogs regularly take shortcuts across it. This is only since the tree has been down. Prior to the fallen tree (courtesy of Storm Brendan), the dogs could shortcut behind it and the space was a lot wider. Now it’s full of tree detritus.

I’m sure it’ll be devoid of any grass by tomorrow given the wind and lashing rain that was Dennis. Mind you, I don’t think he was quite as bad as Ciara.

I managed to avoid anything like his full force or anything like any force at all. It was looking a bit threatening as I walked home but the weather didn’t deteriorate until after lunch when we could happily watch it from inside. Well, we were happy. I can’t say the same for Emma.

Actually, I didn’t completely escape the Dennis Wrath. In the middle of the night, the bedroom window wide open, a big wind blew in and knocked the bell off the Liberty table. The resultant crash and clang woke all three of us with a start.

I managed to get up and close the window and returned to bed. Almost instantly I was accosted by two fearful, shaking dogs. Freya was doing an excellent impression of a pillow while Emma was pressing up against my chest.

It would have made a funny photograph. Given I didn’t take many today, it would have been handy as well.

In lieu of any other photographs, I took the photo below on my way to Starbucks this morning. It’s a car park and delivery lane (it used to be for Argos deliveries before they moved) and is very rarely empty. I thought I’d take advantage of the lack of vehicles.

I can only wonder what happened to the big blue wheelie bin

The wise motorist would not venture forth in the expectation of Dennis. Fortunately though, Dennis waited for Mirinda to drive home from Bath. In fact, she said, it was an excellent drive with no traffic and the weather was okay.

And so Dennis, slowly and inexorably, increased in ferocity with wind and rain lashing and bashing everything. Freya managed to run out in between showers and Emma just looked sad. I hear tomorrow is going to be worse.

I read on Twitter that someone reckons it’s the fault of the Americans and their habit of naming storms. They claim that we didn’t have as many storms before we started giving them names. Personally, I don’t remember us having a Storm Season at all.

In 1987, the storm that reduced Sevenoaks to One, was simply called the Great Storm. I find that a lot more delightfully British than Dennis.

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A fit for St Valentine

Last week, in the Herald, a letter annoyed me. It was a request for help but put in a way which accuses the person being asked the question. It’s like if I complain about someone parking on double yellow lines, blocking the bus stop and the person replies with “Well, what do you want me to do?” It’s obvious. And annoying.

When people who know they’re in the wrong run out of arguments they resort to this sort of aggressive reply. It’s why I don’t bother saying anything when people are being totally inconsiderate. They’ll just put the blame on me.

Like the guy today on Twitter who said how annoyed he was because the queue at passport control in Amsterdam took 55 minutes to clear. He said it wasn’t the Brexit he voted for. Excuse my word of Indo-European root but he’s clearly a fucking idiot.

(It really irritates me when people say ‘Excuse my French’ then swear using a Germanic word. At what point in history did swearing equate with speaking French?)

Anyway, getting back to the letter in last week’s Herald.

I’ll say one thing for Alexine (great name, by the way) and that’s how concise and free of superfluous words the letter is. Quite often letters in the Herald go on for pages: reams sometimes. But Alexine knows how to make a point and walk away.

Short as it is, it made me angry. So angry that I logged on and dashed an email off to the Herald with my opinion of Alexine and the car parking problem.

Sadly my reply isn’t as short or concise but I was angry when I wrote it. Perhaps I should practice what I preach and write then think. Then read, then think, then amend accordingly once my mood has softened.

Still. I think it’s okay. And it made Mirinda laugh which is always satisfying and part of my job, after all.

Speaking of Mirinda, she headed off to Bath this morning after an Americano ala Chez Gaz and a short stroll about the grounds. I stunned her with my accurate knowledge of the names of some plants. I was quite amazed.

Of course, with Mirinda spending most of the day with Max (and Sophie and Tom and her ex-supervisor) I spent Valentine’s Day researching soldiers. And walking the dogs. I didn’t even go shopping.

Some years I pick something to say about Valentine’s Day and, given the fact that I spent it on my own, I don’t see why this year should be any different.

I was surprised to hear that St Valentine himself was not just the saint of courtly love but also of epilepsy. That’s a bit of a shit deal. It’s kind of like when a new government takes over after an election and the cabinet positions are divided out between your best mates. There’s always someone who gets the rubbish that no-one else wants.

(How does god justify having so many saints anyway? I thought he was all powerful, all seeing, all everything. Why does he need a bunch of lackies to do the work. Why do people have to pray to some bozo who knows nothing about courtly love in order to get a girlfriend?)

Anyway, yes, Valentine was the patron saint of epilepsy. I assume that means you pray to him if you have it rather than pray he gives it to someone you don’t like. Or maybe it’s both. I hear Catholics can be quite vindictive. Sometimes.

Oddly, there’s three of them. Saint Valentine of Rome, Saint Valentine of Terni and one from Ireland. I guess there was too much work for just the one. Too many hearts to match up. A simple human couldn’t possibly compete with Cupid’s arrow.

Of course the whole courtly love thing is stolen from the Roman lupercalia love letter game which I’ve written about before but the epilepsy thing has me baffled.

Newsflash: I’ve just discovered that some experts reckon the whole Valentine’s Day/courtly love thing was invented by Geoffrey Chaucer and St Valentine wasn’t Cupid at all. [GASP]

St Valentine’s skull. They know because it says so across the forehead. I took the photo from

Anyway, that’s all I want to say about St Valentine (I, II & III). At least for this year.

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Static Vegetables

I have started listening to the BBC World Service in the morning. Sadly, the Today programme on Radio 4 has just annoyed me too much. I can’t stand Nick Robinson and the quality of the journalism is not very high.

Something else is the depth of the stories. The Today programme allows a couple of minutes then it’s hurry, hurry, hurry, get out of the studio. The World Service has a lot longer for each story. Each piece, therefore, gets more detail and is more understandable than sensational.

So, this morning, I was listening to an Australian reporter talking about the storms which have all but put out the fires in New South Wales. We heard from Bob, Fi and mum last week that the rain had been prodigious but we hadn’t realised just how dangerous it was.

According to the reporter on the radio this morning it was “Literally raining buckets!

Having grown up in Sydney, I can testify to the danger presented by hailstones the size of golf balls but I think they pale into insignificance when buckets full of water are dropping from the sky.

There was also rain in Farnham this morning but it was falling freely without containers making it dangerous. It was, however, wet.

A bit gloomy on the way into town

There was another container related mystery today, however. Something odd happened in Waitrose. I bought a bottle of beer (that’s not odd), the same brand and size I have bought many times before. Usually the self check out machine will flash red and tell me to wait to have my age verified.

I scan the beer first so it gives the person who can verify my age time to clear it from the machine while I continue scanning. This morning, however, there was no red light and no-one came over to check my age. The machine just let me buy it. Now that was certainly odd.

But back to the weather which, for February, is certainly not odd. While it was a bit grey and miserable on the way in, it wasn’t until I was on my way home that it decided to make me damp. Then, of course, it all cleared up so that, after lunch, we went up to the park for a walk.

I was sitting on my bench, throwing Emma’s ball and playing with my phone when I discovered a handy feature of the Galaxy S10 which could easily have been designed specifically for me.

I’m pretty crap when it comes to taking selfies. I think I’ve proven that many times in the past. However, the S10 has a feature whereby you just wave at the camera and, after a brief interval, it takes your photo. It’s excellent.

Practising with the selfie wave

I posted this photo on Instagram, asking if I should shave or not. It seems people like the beard. Even Sue who we met on the way home said “Love the beard!

If I decide to keep the beard, I might have to stop dying my hair.

In more news from Oz, it seems that Formidable Vegetable won’t be attending Glastonbury this year. They were invited again but feel that they couldn’t justify the plane trips and selfish use of carbon. And, if you listen to their music and check out their ethos, it’s not hard to see why.

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