Big jeans woe

Another morning at the gym; another solid work out.

And I think my jeans are getting too loose…again. That’s really, really annoying. Okay, I can put another hole in the belt but I really dislike wearing loose jeans. Mirinda thinks it might just be my thighs losing a bit of mass over the last month away from the gym. I’m going to cling to that before committing to buying a new pair of smaller jeans.

At home I Skyped with mum during which I fixed up her spam email problem. I’m sure I’ve done this before. (Maybe I should just check every now and then.)

After lunch, I took the girls to the park, noticing the number of brown leaves now starting to litter the grass.

It’s interesting that the same isn’t happening at the house yet. Maybe our trees (and shrubs) are waiting for the REAL autumn start date. Speaking of the garden…I planted even more daffodil bulbs, including some in the front garden. Spring will be very yellow at our place.

Then some very good news regarding the sale of the cottage. Matt, the real estate agent called to say he had two prospective buyers who had viewed and were very interested. This is in spite of the awful tenant telling them how bad everything is and generally trying to scupper the sale.

Anyway, one of the interested parties has been for a second viewing along with a builder to ascertain how much essential work would cost. The other party is planning to do the same this week. Matt is quietly confident that one of them might just make an offer at close to the asking price.

To say I was overjoyed is really understating how happy his phone call made me. While we’re not banking on anything, the truth is, a little bit of weight has been lifted.

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First thing Mirinda and I left the house as far as the park when she turned left to work while I went right to the gym.

I had a good solid work out, feeling pretty good afterwards, then continued on, into town for a Starbucks and shop before heading back home.

At home it was a lot of admin as well as setting up our new printer. The old printer died just before I went away with the Weasels. Because I knew I’d forget it wasn’t working, I left a note on it saying “Fix this before using!” It was very irritating though possibly not as irritating as not being able to fix it. I ordered a new one and it turned up today.

It’s white and very pretty.

It also prints…well, now that I’ve set it up it does. Trust me to get one that needs a lot of fussing and fiddling. Fortunately I quite like that so it’s not exactly wasted time.

The admin was basically paying people and forwarding emails…that sort of thing.

In the afternoon (after taking the girls for a walk, of course) I planted some flox in the Day-z Bed as well as some more daffodils ready for next spring. There must be close to a thousand dotted around now.

While they wait for spring, the park is starting to go all autumn.

A grime old day

Though it’s not at all cold. Well, for me, anyway. It was cold but it’s now slightly warmer.

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The lovely days

At last! A Sunday spent as a family. It feels like an age since we’ve been able to do that.

So…shopping, Skyping, yoga, going to the garden centre, taking the dogs for a walk then, finally, a Japanese feast for dinner.

Pretty close to perfect.

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A plague of custard

You’d think I’d have had enough of Weasel-time after the last couple of weeks but nothing of the kind! Today I was off to the Globe to see King Lear with them.

Before I headed down to the theatre, though, I had to pop into the flat to collect all of the old £1 coins which will no longer be usable after next weekend. Given Mirinda had a quite nice collection of around £100, we couldn’t really ignore them. I’ll take them to the bank during the week.

Of course, having been to the flat, I had to take a photo of the Maine Tower progress, particularly given I’ve not seen it for over a month.

It was then on to Borough Market for cheese and saucisson before meeting up at the Anchor (as per) for a few much appreciated pints of beer and some rambunctious fun. And then the Globe.

Now Lear is not a play I’m comfortable with. It’s very easy to put the king’s strange decision to divide his kingdom between his three daughters then change his mind because only two of them flatter him mercilessly, down to some sort of advancing dementia but I don’t buy it. I think it’s a cheap device to give a bit of family drama and send Lear gradually mad.

Still, I was looking forward to this production because I’ve yet to see it at the Globe. And I do LOVE Globe productions. It’s also the last play under Emma Rice’s artistic directorship…which is very sad if you ask me. Directed by always reliable Nancy Meckler, Lear proved to be a good, solid production with plenty of laughs, chills and madness.

Nancy was artistic director at Shared Experience for 20 years and we saw and enjoyed a number of her productions. In fact I think she borrowed from her production of Mother Courage in terms of the beginning and the end of this Lear. The cast entered wearing modern street clothes, stuffed packs on their backs, as if a motley crew was arriving for work. I didn’t think it worked but I guess it did bracket the play.

Her direction was excellent though and while Kevin McNally was a very good Lear, I thought that Saskia Reeves as Kent shone out completely. She was utterly believable. An excellent performance. In fact, the sisters were excellent too. I’d go so far as to say that the women in this production outshone and dominated the men. To be fair, that IS the play but even so…some excellent casting.

Of course, as usual, it’s the ensemble that matters at the Globe and the cast all worked beautifully together. As did the band.

This was the final performance (I think) so Lear pulled down a bit of the scenery and then a whole bunch of steeple jacks arrived to start stripping everything away. It was an amazingly efficient display of aerial acrobatics. Most notably, the ushers did not usher us out as quickly as possible. In fact they didn’t usher us at all.

Of course we went for beers afterwards…well, most of us did. Starting at the George and ending up at the Coal Hole, we had a few pints followed by a bratwurst from Herman the German before heading home.

It was a lovely day and, best of all, we had our very own King Lear with us! This is Darren shortly after being mistaken for Lear at the Globe after the performance.

Is that Kevin McNally?

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A whole lot of Lizzy; a little bit of Frank

Life has quickly gone back to normal. The fact that some stupid truck driver, unaware of the height of his truck, ploughed into the Wrecclesham bridge, toppling over and causing absolute mayhem for most of the day for road and rail users alike, was not as abnormal as one would think (or wish).

As for me, This morning I returned to the gym and was relieved to discover that there was no sudden difficulty in using any of the machines. I always think I’m going to be struggling after a break but I guess two weeks isn’t long enough for the muscles to forget.

I’ve just realised that I forgot to mention the most amazing news from Wednesday. Being Weigh In day, I was dreading looking down at the numbers, particular given the last time I had finally dropped below 80kg. I figured two Weasel weeks would be enough to increase my mass considerably.

For reasons both glorious and mysterious in equal measure, I was 79.5! That means that I gained 300g…which I can’t believe but thoroughly approve of. It’s particularly gratifying when I realise that it’s slightly more than a bag of spinach.

But back to today…at the gym I discovered a new running machine that I can actually use without falling over. It sort of has robot legs with stirrups for the feet and handles for the hands. I can’t remember the last time I actually ran and the feeling was quite alien though exhilarating.

Full of vim, I arrived at Starbucks to discover that there was still no hazelnut syrup. I tried the almond which I liked slightly more than the pecan but it still wasn’t good. (I could have had the sugar free version of hazelnut but I don’t like the chemical aftertaste from the sugar substitute.)

I was waiting for Lizzy who I was having a coffee with. I’ve mentioned Lizzy before. She worked at Starbucks years ago (and still remembers my order) and has since been honing her skills by gaining a squillion degrees and qualifications. She’s really very clever and determined and is considering a big life change. She wanted to pick my brains so we met for a coffee.

There followed a most delightful hour. It’s such a delight to sit and chat to someone with a desire to experience life to the hilt. She is also superb company and is happy to listen to my nonsense. (That’s not self deprecating. I’m quite proud of my nonsense but not everyone else enjoys it.)

She has taken some interim shifts at Starbucks so I’ll get to see her more often which is obviously lovely.

Then, almost as soon I reached home, I realised I’d forgotten to buy a few things that I needed. I would have made Mirinda a coffee except that that was one of the things. I went back into town.

Obviously I ended up in Starbucks and this time Chantelle was in. I haven’t seen Chantelle since the beginning of September when we originally went to Province. In the meanwhilst, she’s been to Greece and looking very brown and well sunned. She said she’d had a brilliant time but now had a bit of a cold which was pretty obvious given her croaky voice. She then got all excited telling me about Frank.

Frank is a six week old French bulldog puppy who is ridiculously cute. She’s picking him up permanently after he passes his eight weeks (always the case) but she pops over and sees him quite regularly.

The rest of the staff reckon she’s worse than a new mother.

I think it’s cute.

On the way back home, the traffic in the Borough was pretty full-on. There was talk that the truck that crashed into the Wrecclesham bridge this morning was to blame but I think it’s these renovations…

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Stink, crackle, FLASH!

After a very odd but fierce rain shower, that sent the dogs scurrying for cover, the day turned out beautiful. I almost thought I was back in southern France it was so blue. Actually, I’m not sure why the dogs were in such a panic. I’d only just bathed them so they were already damp.

Originally I’d thought to go to the gym this morning but, given I had a Talking Newspaper, I figured I’d go tomorrow rather than leave the girls on their own for an extra couple of hours. And so I bathed them, changed the sheets and basically pottered around a bit (I also uploaded my WA17 photos to Flickr) until it was time to head off.

Walking in I was rather dismayed to notice that the fence around the kiddies playground appears to have been the victim of a bit of domestic violence. At least I assume it was domestic. I guess it could have been someone from out of town taking out their frustrations against the Establishment or maybe someone who has failed at all attempts to have a child and, in a fit of pique, they just lashed out at the reminder of their inadequacies.

Actually I reckon it was probably a bunch of pointless teenagers with nothing to do, time on their hands and some sort of mind altering substance who were playing a strange game of push ‘n’ shove against the fence, causing it to, eventually, topple a bit. Whatever, it’s not a good look; something you’d expect a little further up the hill rather than here.

I had a glorious re-union in Starbucks with both Sarina and Emily welcoming me back, saying how good I looked for the break. Sadly they were out of hazelnut syrup so I was forced to have pecan which, I discovered, is an inadequate substitute. I’ll try almond tomorrow if the situation remains unchanged.

I was prepared for another boring Talking Newspaper edition (Haslemere this time) but my team made it very difficult. They kept insisting on making me laugh and enjoy myself. Even so, I managed to remain unfazed and without cheek as per orders.

The biggest surprise came as we were starting to read the final set of news stories. There’d been an odd smell for most of the recording and a couple of strange crackling sounds through the headphones. When we stopped for the halfway break, we looked around but couldn’t find anything untoward. (We always check the exhaust fan first because it’s been known to be a bit dodgy.)

The smell dissipated so we continued on. Then, as I said, during the final round, there was the return of the smell followed quickly by the crackling sound then, to everyone’s surprise and mortification, a big bang. The overhead flouro light had blown. Fortunately it didn’t shatter otherwise my three readers would have been covered in glass.

Pete (the engineer) and I removed the grill and the bulb to find that the connector from the electricity to the capacitor (I think) was black and melted (obviously the cause of the smell). It was all a bit grime.

Pete then called the head of technology while we soldiered on and finished the edition. Liz did ask why I hadn’t mentioned the light on the recording because the listeners would have loved it so I had to explain to her that my orders were to say nothing extraneous. It’s a shame because I’d have had a field day before. A pity, really.

That was pretty much all the excitement one needs in a day. So I went shopping, walked home and waited for Mirinda to get home (about half an hour) before cooking dinner.

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Returning to the status quo

Sleeping in my own bed last night was superb. I slept the sleep of the coma only a lot shorter.

The morning (well, until 10-ish) was spent finishing up my washing which I started last night and going through the massive pile of mail.

The ‘mail’ pile, incidentally, was reduced to a slightly smaller pile of stuff to chuck and three pieces that actually needed some sort of attention from me. Like email, I tend to spend most of my time sorting massive amounts of dross from the few diamonds of actual and required correspondence. Most of my life seems to be made up of deleting things. [Sigh]

Speaking of deletion, the ailing cherry tree in the Crazy Bed is no longer ailing. In fact, it’s no longer in the Crazy Bed.

Where once was cherry

It’s been sick for as long as we’ve lived in the house, blossoming for about a day once a year and the rest of the time looking like a victim of agent orange. Originally there was another tree in front of it but that went ages ago. The cherry hasn’t killed anything else so we figured it was Prunus localised.

Anyway, it’s gone now, thanks to Dave the Gardener and Sam, the new lad. And we now have a big gap. The idea is to get a birch…or a beech, I can’t remember which and, anyway, why are the two names so close together? It’s like having an oak and an elk rather than an elm. Naturally I’m going to have problems remembering which one I’m talking about!

Moving right along…

After Skyping with mum, I popped around to Sue’s to pick up the girls who hadn’t seen me for a fortnight. Emma, as you’d expect was full of surprise and delight, jumping around me and generally excited beyond belief. Freya, on the other hand looked around to see if there was anyone else around worth greeting, ignoring me. I queried her inaction towards me but she just focused on other things. I figured she was doing a Day-z (ie pretending she doesn’t like me anymore because I went away) and ignored her behaviour.

Back at home we had lunch before heading up to the park, which they were both more than happy to do. If Freya had been cross with me, she quickly got over it.

The park looked lovely, though the weather was a tad gloomy, and there were plenty of people out and about including a little fluffy thing that spent time running away from Freya who also ran away from the little fluffy thing. It was very funny to watch as they ran in opposite circles trying to get the other to chase them. At least they both had a bit of a run from it.

Emma, of course, had eyes only for her tennis ball and therefore managed to get a lot of exercise.

It’s always lovely being home.

Well, lovely if I ignore the leak in the extension which is drying out. And the bucket of water directly beneath the light fitting which is hanging down because of the leak. And the new spice rack which is now taking up valuable bench space in my kitchen.

Still, it IS lovely to be home.

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Waiting for the call

Yet another fault in the tunnel saw us waiting for our train back to the UK. The sign below stated that the wait could be up to 120 minutes.

Seriously annoying. As it turned out, we were only really delayed by about 40 minutes, which, for me at any rate, was time spent writing my post for yesterday.

But for today…

We had had a marvellous trip down to the Chunnel. After a long and successful trip to the supermarket, we headed out on a scenic route to the Chunnel. Rather than go the motorway, John took us along the coast road, which was much more interesting. In fact apart from boating, this trip has felt like a lot of endless, almost featureless, kilometres of well made but boring motorways. But not this morning…well, after the first bit from Rouen.

We stopped at Cap Blanc Nez for a bit of a wander and look at Dover – it was a delightfully clear day.

Along the French coast

I marvelled at the pock marked hills around the cape. According to John there was a bit of back and forth between the big guns of the Germans and the English across the channel at this point. Eventually they realised it was bit pointless when each side had the same power and intention so they stopped the shelling but the evidence remains.

In the car and after some careful consideration and logical conclusions, it was decided that the reason some of us had dickie tummies yesterday was because we were the ones who had had the steak tartare at the restaurant the other night. It was too much of a coincidence not to be the case. Especially when you consider that Bev was also feeling a bit tummy-troubled in the night and she had a taste of John’s.

(I didn’t eat anything all day (and drank only water and a few black coffees) and felt fine by the time I reached home. Clearly a passing thing…literally.)

So, we managed to reached Blighty and headed down to Battle, back to where we started. Feverish unpacking and moving to other vehicles commenced as everyone prepared for their various trips around England. I took my bag and headed down to the station for my trains home. And I have to say it was very comfortable. I even managed to finish reading Lady of the Camellias.

And so, WA17 has finished. It was a lot of fun with some delicious bits of bad stuff thrown in for good measure. The weather was a delight most of the time and when it wasn’t, it was an excellent source of writing material. Most of the success was due to John’s excellent planning and stewardship. Not to mention the countless hours of driving by John and Darren – I really have no idea how they did it. Extraordinary.

Most of all, I’d like to thank John for my votive candle which will stand in my office as a testament to my former life.

Poor deluded creature

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Bad digestion

Today was mostly concerned with remaining near a toilet. Something I ate yesterday decided to upset my stomach and forced me into a most unpleasant situation.

In fact, I was up and seated for most of the night. The morning saw me washed out and delicate but I was supposed to accompany John on a morning constitutional to the river so I was standing, waiting outside the hotel at 8am.

By 8:10 I decided he must have changed his mind so I went for a walk on my own. At one point I stopped by the river, admiring the ebb and flow of the Seine, and was accosted by John and Anthea. Apparently the meeting time had been 8:30am.

Anyway, we continued on together, making light of life before stopping at a cafe for a morning drink. I told them of my digestive indisposition and decision to spend the day close to the hotel toilet. They understood and we parted company.

A while later I was feeling a bit better and decided to risk venturing out. I really wanted to see the Joan museum but, as is the way with these things, it’s closed of a Monday. Instead I walked up to the Musee de Beaux-Arts where they have a Carravaggio as well as numerous Joan depictions.

I’m glad I made the effort. It’s a marvellous little place, filled with such beauty that I forgot my ailments as I wandered around.

While I thoroughly enjoyed it all, my favourite was this Joan. It shows her vulnerability as well as her determination to do her duty. I always prefer a Joan in ordinary dress rather than armour as well.

Jeanne d’Arc ecoutant ses voix by Leon François Benouville 1821-1859

Having spent a goodly couple of hours looking at art I decided to slowly wander back to the hotel via Joan’s church and the spot where she was burned at the stake.

I have no idea how they know where Joan was burned at the stake but it’s nice to think they think they do. Actually Darren, Jon and I checked it out last night while waiting on a restaurant decision.

Joan’s church is an interesting construction. It was built in 1979, opposite the spot of her demise.

I had thought to join the 5pm petit train but, unfortunately there were only six tourists waiting (they need a minimum of eight) so, instead, I had a beer with Bev and Jon. This was a mistake I would regret a little later.

Eventually it was time to meet up and have dinner. John had booked us into a creperie but we were a bit early so we stopped off in a bar for a beer first (again, I should have had water).

Not long after we’d sat down in the restaurant John suddenly declared he’d have to leave because of his tummy. A little later, after we’d ordered our food, Darren suddenly declared he’d have to go back to the hotel as well.

My crepe arrived and I cut a piece, held the fork to my mouth but my lips refused to open. I started feeling pretty bad and had to leave as well. (Anthea ate my crepe which made me feel better about the possible waste.)

On the way to the hotel I stayed feeling on the edge of a serious bout of puke-arama. Fortunately I managed to hold on until I reached my room and the bathroom sink.

Because the only thing in my stomach was fizzy liquid, it all came back with all the subtlety of a volcanic eruption. The worst bit was how it fizzled out of my nose.

I then collapsed on the bed and was instantly asleep.

Just to ease the awful details of this post, here’s a photo of a typical Rouen building.

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Following Joan

This holiday is rapidly becoming a search for Joan of Arc. Everywhere we go she appears. This morning I spotted her a number of times in Poitiers because it was here that she was interrogated in 1429.

Relief showing Joan defending herself

The interrogation was conducted by a bunch of Bishops and doctors who wanted to ascertain the validity of her claims about hearing the voices of various saints. After three weeks of intensive questioning they decided she was clearly mad enough to send into battle against the English.

I hope the weather was better for her than it was for us. Wandering around Poitiers could have been quite pleasant had the rain gone somewhere else. Still it was a lovely glimpse of somewhere that I think Mirinda and I would love to visit properly.

Here’s a few photos as a sort of taster…

Adam and Eve outside the church

…for when we return sometime.

The post office

Having split up (John, Anthea, Lorna and Darren went one way while Bev, Jon and I went another) we went straight to a small cafe which specialised in serving coffee in the dripping rain. Not that we had a lot of choice. Poitiers is closed of a Sunday morning.

We did eventually rouse ourselves to go and check out a very interestingly painted church with a superb Joan window in it.

Painted glass window of Joan’s interrogation in Notre Dame la Grande church (Henri Carot c1909)

Jon was rather taken with the ceilings in the church given they didn’t seem to be particularly symmetrical. In fact at one stage they looked positively wavy. I rather liked this bit but the big cracks were a bit of a worry.

Talking about church ceiling cracks, Jon was telling me that there is a book which indicates which cracks in a building are worth worrying about and which others one can ignore. That is an amazingly specialised book if you ask me. Not recommended for bedtime reading.

Which makes a nice segue for our next stop which was a small cafe full of books. Everyone is welcome to take a book and read or buy…or both. It had a very pleasant atmosphere and we enjoyed not just a delightful coffee but also a bit of relief from the rain. It also gave Bev’s fingers a chance to get some feeling back in them. Seriously, I’ve never known someone to have such cold hands.

One more photo of Poitiers. Here’s a very odd, narrow building built in front of the old ones behind.

Finally we met up with the rest of the weasels, bought some lunch and headed back to the hotel to collect our stuff and get back on the road again. And what a long and uneventful road it was. We did stop at the strangely named Red Mill picnic place. I say ‘strangely’ named because there was no mill. Even of any colour. Possibly they pulled it down to build the toilet block but felt they really had to retain the name.

And so on again towards Rouen. Our car was okay but, apparently, there was quite a lot of farting going on in Weasel 2. I’m not going to say who it may have been but rest assured it was noted. I’m thinking of renaming Weasel 2 to FartyCar for the rest of the trip.

Finally the journey that felt like it would never end, ended and we checked into the Alba Hotel. This meant climbing up three floors for me. I felt bad enough but poor Bev and Jon had an extra floor to walk up.

In short time we all gathered and went for a walk in order to have a beer. The drive had instilled a somewhat desperate thirst that only cold beer can quench. We stopped at a Belgian beer bar and sat outside and underneath the big clock that is in the middle of Big Clock Road. And Anthea, Lorna and I saw something very, very odd.

A small dog (slightly bigger than a matchbox) was trotting along, wearing a little light coat when it decided it needed a wee. Rather than squatting or hitching a leg, it approached a wall, stood on it’s front legs and did a headstand, back legs in the air, and peed like that, against the wall. It had us in hysterics. Maybe it was an ex-circus dog. Glad we saw it because the like will probably never be seen again.

Dinner was at a lovely restaurant where Anthea explained how she feels about Calvados.

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