Rooftop swimming pool

I have no idea how people work without a schedule. Take our builder and various contractors as perfect examples. They rarely give a day (let alone a time) for when they’re coming round. It’s always a case of “John will be round to see,” or “Frank wants to see it.

I understand that they need to fit in these annoying fix-ups when they can but they must be disappointed a lot with no-one being home. It’s not like people are home 24/7 (or 24/24 as they say in France).

You could be visiting next door or just walking back from the shop down the road and they’d have missed you. Whereas, if you KNOW they’re due to put in an appearance in the afternoon, say, then you could make sure you’re around. Surely that’s the beauty of having a mobile phone.

And so, today, Roofer John and his buddy turned up, completely out of the blue, to see if they could trace the cause of the leak. In fact, Builder Dave’s text read:


“John will be there next week I’ll let him know” – the lack of punctuation is his.

Still, I shouldn’t complain because they did turn up and I was there. And they stood and looked and debated.

John was convinced the problem lay with the ceiling lantern, an opinion which changed by the time they left.

It’s definitely the ceiling lantern,” he asserted. “It always is.

I’m certain that it’s not the ceiling lantern,” he concluded an hour or so later.

The plan was a simple one. They filled the roof with water, creating an 8″ deep pond atop our extension. If the leak was in the fabric of the roof then it should start dripping at some stage. A good plan, I agreed.

I was a bit concerned that it might start leaking after we’d gone to bed because given the gallons of water up there, I could get up to an extension awash with water with the diminutive size of the bucket. Roofer John told me to ring him as soon as it started dripping, regardless of the hour. And with that dire warning, they left.

We were sitting having lunch about 15 minutes later when the dripping started. I texted John and, satisfied that we possibly had a solution, we enjoyed our salads.

His buddy turned up half an hour later and unplugged the outlet so the water could drain away. The next step is to completely clean the roof, dry it then apply another layer of fabric on top of the old one. It won’t be me doing it, I hasten to add. 

The one thing they (Roofer John, Builder Dave, John’s buddy) keep stressing is how fragile the roof surface material is. A small pebble in your shoe could puncture it, they say. I wonder they use it if that’s the case. There’s always a need to go up there and try as I might, I can’t guarantee I haven’t taken a small pebble up on the sole of my shoe one time or another.

Anyway, let’s hope this fixes it.

Meanwhile, I made my Christmas cake. I know I’m almost a month late but, to be honest, I completely forgot. Still, it’s done now which means the house was filled with delicious smells as it cooked for the requisite 4.5 hours.

Then I made a roast. A Monday roast. That might seem completely wrong but given I didn’t cook anything the whole weekend (tapas Saturday, Chesil Sunday) I thought I should.

Mirinda’s choice was Persian chicken. It was super yum.

Mmm Persian chicken…
Posted in Gary's Posts | 1 Comment

Living in Farnham

Our Lo-carb Life is sometimes punctuated with celebrations. Birthdays, Christmas, Hope and Gratitude, etc. This time of year there’s one that we don’t always remember, possibly because it occurs around the Hope and Gratitude dinner time. This year, however, we didn’t forget.

Quite a few years ago we moved from Haslemere to Farnham. While it wasn’t our first time living in Farnham, it was definitely the nicest one. Right by the park, no big hill between me and the shops and no awful neighbours to block us in.

We’ve gradually made our house into a piece of us, an addition to our personalities. The extension, the stained glass, the Library, the pixie garden, they are all part of us.

We love living here. And so, when we remember, we go out and celebrate our Move to Farnham. This we did tonight.

Normally we wouldn’t go out to dinner on a Sunday night but we love the Chesil and it is always very popular of a Friday and Saturday night so, Sunday it was.

Chesil, Winchester

And it didn’t disappoint. They regularly change their menu so we are always treated to something different. Tonight I had the sea bream ceviche followed by the venison on rosti while Mirinda had the pate followed by the lamb.

My sea bream was superb

The meal went down particularly well with a five year old chianti classico and finished with the usual espresso martini. Food rarely gets better than this.

“To Farnham!”

Posted in Gary's Posts | 1 Comment

Why is every play such a performance?

There was no sunshine today. It was fine misty rain followed by constant pouring rain finishing with big, occasional drip, drip rain. While the girls weren’t happy that this meant there’d be no walk (Freya hates the rain so only Emma was truly upset), it did mean the leak was given ample opportunity to make itself known.

It took a while but, sometime in the early afternoon, the highly recognisable and annoying ‘drip, drip, drip’ into the yellow bucket made it clear that the ceiling lantern is blameless. I texted Builder Dave as soon as the drips started and he’s organising the roofing guy to come round next week.

The day was a bit of a shut in, though I did go into town where I had a delightful coffee with Lizzy. She told me her not so delightful news regarding her job but, other than that, it was a lovely hour. Mind you she’s wanting to head off to LA forever so I have to take advantage of seeing her as often as I can before that happens.

At home I was busy doing bits and pieces of stuff while Mirinda worked on her DBA. The house was very quiet, punctuated with bits of relaxing, study perfect music coming from the Sonos. Eventually Mirinda retired to the library where she lit a fire and bathed herself in incense.

Then it was time to go out because tonight we were off to the Yvonne Arnaud to see Alan Bennett’s play The Habit of Art.

Before tonight I knew nothing about WH Auden. (Well, apart from him being a poet which is possibly why I didn’t know anything about him, given I’m not a big poetry fan. Actually whenever the poetry programme comes on the radio, I switch channels.) After tonight I feel like I need to know more.

Also Benjamin Britten, the composer. Obviously I know his music but I knew nothing of the man.

The play is about a play being rehearsed. The play being rehearsed, Caliban’s Day, is about a meeting between Auden and Britten in the sunset of their lives. It is also about their biographer, Humphrey Carpenter and his meeting with Auden.

Apart from these principal players in this drama, the overall play is a general treatise on Art and how it affects different people and the Artists who create it. Is creative output habit or inspiration? Is it fear or folly?

In true Bennett style, the play is very funny though I should possibly amend that statement. There were three older people sitting behind us who, in the interval, were quiet damning in their criticism of the play. The most vocal claimed that she’d only laughed once. I was surprised they stayed for the second half given how much they hated it. The two people sitting next to me certainly didn’t bother returning.

I think the reason certain people wouldn’t like the play is because it paints a picture of both Auden and Britten that, while honest, is not particularly complementary. Another reason is because the majority of people who attend the theatre at the Yvonne Arnaud pretty much like seeing safe, friendly plays rather than something that tweaks them out of their middle class complacency in any way.

Still, leaving the safe brigade sitting in the straitjackets of their own preferences, we loved the play. While absolutely nothing like The Prisoner on Wednesday, it was still a delight. Apart from the performances and the story, it was about actors rehearsing a play and that’s always going to be fun.

We recognised so many people we’ve worked with in the past. George (played excellently by Alexandra Guelff) the ASM who always tries a little bit too hard to be liked by and helpful to, everyone. The old grumpy, just hanging on, Fitz (Matthew Kelly) who is probably what I would have turned into had I stayed in theatre.

The rest of the cast likewise highlighted the different, disparate elements that go into making a play. The playwright (a rather manic Robert Mountford), the serious, method-like actor (switching between Scottish and English accents perfectly, John Wark), the competent, never frustrated Stage Manager (Veronica Roberts) and the ‘ingenue’ young actor starstruck by everyone around him (played rather oddly by Benjamin Chandler).

All round it was a marvellous play with plenty of laughs (for me, anyway) and a delight in its shock value. The threat of fellatio on stage was enough to raise a few hackles.

The performance followed a drink in the bar above the Angel Coaching Inn, somewhere neither of us have ever been…

Staircase at the Angel and Mirinda moving through a panno

…then another night of tapas served in the Top Bar.

Lots of Garys in the lift

…making the whole night just about perfect. We even managed to park across the river in the smallest but best car park in Guildford.

A very natural poser in her sleeping bag
Posted in Gary's Posts | Leave a comment

Construction impact

This morning I was up and ready to go off to Woking at the usual time. I said goodbye to Mirinda and the girls and headed for the bus stop.

On the way I noticed that the traffic was horrendous. Bumper to bumper and not a lot of movement. So, the business of the demolition and reconstruction of Farnham has begun. This is clearly what it’s going to be like most mornings for the next five years.

I stood at the bus stop, occasionally glancing at my bus app to find out how far away the bus was. After standing there uselessly for half an hour, chocking on the ghastly car fumes that no-one but me seems to care about, I knew I’d never make my train. I went back home. My decision was made even easier when I realised the bus had been six minutes away for the last 20.

Being fortunate and a volunteer, I had the alternative of working from home, which I did. Next week (and subsequent weeks) I’ll take the bus in the opposite direction and train from Aldershot. Much less traffic that way.

Anyway, it’s always lovely sitting at the dining table researching the war dead, so it wasn’t a problem at all. Add to that the fact that Mirinda was working from home and everything was just about perfect. We even both had an OMAD Friday together.

Of course, Truly Unreliable John failed to turn up to put water all over the ceiling lantern as I predicted but, given it’s supposed to rain most of tomorrow, that might be taken care naturally.

One very exciting thing that happened today was my discovery of a Jutland Museum in Denmark. I am (roughly) planning to visit it over a couple of days sometime soon. It looks amazing. Plus I’ve never been to Denmark.

Posted in Gary's Posts | Leave a comment

Leak investigation

I was rostered on for a Talking Newspaper today. I had a message from Builder Dave on my way to France saying he was going to come round and try to find out where our leak was coming from. This meant a lot of emails begging someone to swap with me.

It wasn’t until Tuesday evening that my final desperate email was answered in the affirmative. Good old Mary came to my rescue.

This meant I could be home when Dave turned up at 9am this morning, which he did. Before him, the guys who were going to dismantle the ceiling lantern turned up and started.

First thing in the morning I’d moved everything to the sides of the room given they were going to pull the whole thing apart and there’d be mess.

I’d forgotten how heavy the recliners are.

The empty space

I took the girls to the office and we worked doing some essential research regarding a possible move to France. (Given the fascist rhetoric coming out of most mouths these days, it might be our only recourse.) I also did some tax work.

Meanwhile the guys took every pane of glass out, lifted the frame, investigated then double sealed it all before rebuilding it. The conclusion was awfully inconclusive. Well, except that it probably wasn’t the ceiling lantern causing the leak.

It’s head scratching time

So, the next test will be for John (ceiling lantern company boss) to come round tomorrow and pour water all over it. I won’t hold my breath as he’s not the most reliable person I’ve ever dealt with.

I managed to get everything back, after cleaning the floor, and it was all back to normal for when Mirinda came home.

I made my signature salmon and avocado for dinner.

The griddled veg was perfect

It was delicious.

Posted in Gary's Posts | Leave a comment

The prisons inside us

This morning, after the gym, I went to Nero’s. What a difference. A seat, small queue, no screaming babies, chattering hordes or noisy students. A very pleasant coffee was had. I think this might be the way to go. As much as I love going to Starbucks, at 9am, Nero’s is altogether more pleasant.

Bliss

I noticed, as I left the bus at East Street Shops, that the hoardings have started going up around the Woolmead. This is going to cause some havoc to the traffic for quite a while but, and I mean this most sincerely, I’ll be very happy when it’s gone

The Woolmead is ugly and building it was possibly the worst decision ever made in Farnham. Mind you, there could be worse ones coming on the other side of the road but that’s for further down the line. For now, just blocking it from view is great.

Hide it away

Something that does concern me though, and it was mentioned on Monday by David. The Woolmead takes up the entire block so, as they demolish it then build a replacement, where are they actually going to work? I suggested they might use skyhooks but I think an Interdimensional Space Rift might be better.

After the usual day of housework, dog walking and general devil-may-care stuff, I showered, changed and headed off for London. There was an amazing chance meeting with Lizzy outside Farnham Station which made me smile.

Ages ago, I spotted an ad for a production coming to the National. It was a play called The Prisoner and was co-written and co-directed by the legend that is Peter Brook. In Paris in 2006, we saw a production of Athol Fugard’s Sizwe Banzi is Dead (or Sizwe Banzi est Mort in French) directed by Brook and it was excellent…though a lot of the text was lost on us.

Peter Brook is a giant of British (and French) theatre and the author of The Empty Stage, a book we avidly studied as actors/directors/theatricals back in the day. To see his work live is a sort of nirvana for us.

Tonight was our chance to sample his work again. This time the play was based on an event that happened to Brook in Afghanistan. He came across a man who had been “…condemned to not sit inside, but to sit outside, of the prison for his whole sentence, staring at it.” The memory had stayed with him and this play was the result.

Of course, dinner was first. Originally we were going to meet at Mirinda’s club for dinner but, given the play was on the South Bank and her club is north of Covent Garden, we decided Canteen was a better option.

The Thames by night

But what of the play? I absolutely loved it. I thought the premise highly original, the concept of imprisonment outside a prison yet holding us by our own guilt was marvellous. I adored the pared down dialogue and action, the meditative quality of a man struggling to come to terms with what he had done. It was 80 minutes of fantastic performance.

In saying that, it would obviously not be for everyone. As an actor, I would have loved to have worked on something like this but, not all audiences are actors (not many in fact) so it’s an opinion not universally held. Even so, I thought the audience enjoyed it very much given the feeling in the room and the applause at the end.

The Dorfman is an intimate space and the cast needs to connect with and hold the audience from the off. This happened beautifully. The ensemble work of the cast of Hiran Abeysekera, Herve Goffings, Omar Silva, Kalieaswari Srinivasan and Donald Sumpter was flawness.

In the foyer

It’s hard to believe that Peter Brook is 93 years old when he can produce something as beautiful and original as The Prisoner.

Posted in Gary's Posts, Theatre Review | Leave a comment

The dead, the crippled and the lost

The title of this post comes courtesy of Richard Burton. He says it at the end of The Longest Day. While we were away John and Darren were dismayed that I’d never seen the film. I was told to rectify the situation as soon as I could.

So naturally, being the sort of fellow who does what he is told, I downloaded it to my phone and started watching on the train home from Ashford. I finished it this morning on the way to Portsmouth.

It might be because I was just there, a tourist of the Normandy landings, but I thought that the film was superb.

I loved the depictions of the people and the events that really happened. Had I not known that these people were real I would have thought the performances were a bit cheesy. Particular John Wayne (who I’ve never liked much except as the Centurion in The Greatest Story Ever Told) but the guy he played, Benjamin H. Vandervoort, he fitted to a tee.

In a film with many, many terrific moments, a particular favourite for me was when the French soldier said he was going to get a tank. He managed to evade German bullets and bombs and returned in a tank with which he completely destroyed the casino in Ouistreham. I’m sure quite a few people would love to do the same.

I also loved Robert Mitchum’s ever present yet never lit, cigar.

So, thank you John, thank you Darren and, most of all, thank you Richard Burton for such a succinct definition of the pointlessness of war. I can only hope that Brexit doesn’t sink us back into a mire of murderous conflict that sees no winners.

Posted in Gary's Posts | Leave a comment

Leaves of Mr Hardy

Today was national pumpkin day. Why on earth do pumpkins need their own special day? What have they ever done to deserve one?

I had nothing to do with pumpkins today. In fact today was one of those rare things in my life, an FATN Magazine recording. A time for more interesting, lengthier pieces with which to delight our listeners. We hope.

First up though I went to the gym in order to rid myself of at least some of the French excesses of the last few days. It was very quiet. In fact, afterwards I had the entire changing room to myself, something that rarely happens.

My day was clearly progressing too well because as I reached Starbucks I was dismayed that there was a queue almost reaching the door and every seat was taken.

Going against all logic, I joined the end of the queue and immediately became subsumed into the general melange of din. Deaf parents, screaming infants, barking dogs, chattering students, all of them contributing to the big ball of noise.

I lasted about a minute before leaving and heading for the studio. It would prove difficult without a coffee but what could I do? What could any reasonable person do? I decided that, from now on, after the gym I’ll go to Nero’s instead.

But that was for another day. Of course, because I didn’t have a coffee I arrived at the studio far too early. Fortunately I have my own keys. I sat and read and waited for Clive, the presenter for today.

Then, because everything was going so well, Judy forgot she was due to record with us. Clive rang her, reminded her then we waited for her to arrive. It meant a late start followed by a late end. Poor Clive had a luncheon engagement he had to rush off for.

My stories were fun though I was a bit baffled by my poem. There’s always a ‘Poetry Corner’ section which the presenter puts together around some sort of theme.

This month the theme was autumn. My poem was by Thomas Hardy. The metre was a bit odd when read but suddenly appeared when spoken. Most peculiar.

Eventually we finished and I headed back into town. I decided it was about time I had a coffee. You can imagine my dismay when I realised that the queue at Starbucks had not reduced.

I went shopping first, thinking that I’d shop first then if the queue was still there after that, I’d go somewhere else.

But it was fine (though still a bit crowded) and I had my coffee before heading home.

Now, it is important that I report the loss of our first bunch of butt seed tomatoes. They have just vanished.

This morning, Gardener Dave reckoned he found the discarded vine on the agricultural table. He also blamed me, suggesting I’d eaten them.

Cheek.

The rest of the day was spent doing admin while Mirinda worked.

Posted in Gary's Posts | Leave a comment

Schnaffel-Flaps

History has a way of never running quite true sometimes. One only has to look at the current state of America to realise that’s the way of things these days. Too many outlets, each with a different version of the truth, creates a world of distrust and fakery.

For this reason I have decided to write down the origins of the Weasel word Schnaffel-Flaps while it is still fresh in my mind. Mind you, as a sort of caveat, it should be pointed out that I have been proven slightly unreliable in the past and it was a few days ago.

How Schnaffel-Flaps came into being

We were out and about in Caen, looking for somewhere to satiate our community hunger. We were turned away from quite a few eateries and avoided quite a few student haunts before we found a predominately pink place called Casserole & Bouchons where we were welcomed with open arms.

The staff was frazzled (particularly the man), the pace was hectic but the food was, almost surprisingly, very good. What was even better was the surprise free after dinner drink that the frazzled man gave us before we left.

It was very nice (“A bit too sweet for me,” claimed Madam E) and, being Weasels of a curious bent, we tried to work out what it was. I put forward the theory that it was…but I couldn’t remember the name. I foundered a bit, flopping between various liqueurs from many incorrect countries when I accidentally said ‘peach.’ “Schnapps,” said John instantly. I agreed, repeating that it tasted a bit like Peach Schnapps.

Then, for reasons unknown (and, frankly, how they should remain), John decided to say “Schnaffel-Flaps!” As you can imagine this caused great hilarity for a fair few hours afterwards.

And so the word was born. It is a toast, it is a greeting, it is something to say when you can’t think of something more appropriate. It is a Weasel word. Take it away, Lorna…

Before finishing up with last night, I just need to tell the story of our waitress and her summation of my language skills. I was chatting to her in my best Aussie French when she suddenly said, as she walked away, “Your French is unusual.” This caused nearly as much hilarity as Schnaffel-Flaps. I’m not sure what the joke was. Clearly the waitress just mixed her English up and meant ‘perfect.’

So, fast forward to our final day in Caen…

The rest of the Weasels went down to the weekly market while I stayed with Hope and made a video of the house (it’s below) for posterity. After a successful marketing, they returned, the cars were packed and we headed off for home.

The thing is, unbeknownst to us, today was National Dithering Day in Normandy. After a lovely yet unsatisfying run on the motorways of northern France, it was decided that the last bit should be accomplished via the considerably more scenic coast road.

Then we struck an attempt to emulate the Tour de France. We managed to slalom through the stragglers but by the time we reached the peloton it was an excessive amount of very slow uphill miles with nothing but great arses of Lycra to look at.

Slow going on Dithering Day

Eventually we dumped the cyclists only to find the slowest car in France driven by a Belgian Granny without the strength to push down the accelerator pedal. We feared the return of the cyclists we were going so slow.

Then, as if to mock us in our attempt to sample some beauty, the road had a sign saying it was blocked and we should find some other way to get to Calais. Which we did. Still it was annoying.

Then, as if the preceding was considered not enough, we managed to get into the super slow queue for the tunnel train. Some guy in a white car held up everyone in our line for reasons never made clear to us. Eventually, when we did get through, I noticed his car parked up at the security office so I can only hope they were fitting the electrodes somewhere painful and memorable.

Eventually, meeting up with Lorna, Darren and the Anxious Anthea, we swapped over the precious cargo and headed up for the final stretch to the platforms. And then, to ice the cake, so’s to speak, we were left off our original train S and put first on the next train T.

Still, we returned to the UK still happy and John very obligingly dropped me at Ashford for the three hours of trains home all of which was accomplished with minimal (ie no) fuss.

It was an excellent four days. My only complaint would be that it was only four days…but then it wouldn’t have been a Short Weasel Holiday had it been any longer.

Now, the video.

Please note that the following video is over 14 minutes long. While not nearly as long as the interminable Shoah, it is considerably longer than any Youtube video I’ve embedded in my blog before. Therefore, be prepared for it to go on a bit and click off when you’ve had enough.

Without further introduction and warning, here is a (short) video of our Caen accommodation, appropriately titled Hope House.

By the way, the drink the waiter gave us was a shot of Calvados and dashes of lime, pineapple and vanilla all on a big ice cube. It was very nice!

Posted in Gary's Posts, Short Weasel Holiday 2018 | 1 Comment

Long and the short, the old and the blind

Today was Darren’s Day or D-Day as we should probably more accurately call it. From Sainte-Mere-Eglise to Arramanche, we toured the Normandy landing sights (and sites) in order to flood ourselves in that glorious victory.

We (Mirinda and I) toured the area back in 2004 but there have been changes, not necessarily for the better, as well as one place we didn’t get to visit: the tiny town of Sainte-Mere-Eglise.

On the night of June 6, 1944, a whole bunch of guys parachuted into Normandy as the invasion began. There were lots of mishaps including one chap, John Steele whose parachute became caught and dangled from the church steeple. He hangs there still.

Hey John!

Actually, he was only there for two hours, feigning death because of the fire. In the early hours of the morning, a fire had broken out at the manor house across the road from the church (where the Airborne Museum is today) and the entire town came out to try and extinguish the flames. This, naturally included the German occupiers.

As the flames lit up the early morning darkness, the parachutists were lit up in it and the Germans started shooting them, ordering the towns people back to their homes. It looked like curtains for John but he managed to survive, was taken prisoner then escaped to parachute a few more times throughout the war.

We were going to visit the church but there was a funeral on so, after wandering by the few shops, we headed into the museum.

And it was an excellent museum, all about how the town managed and dealt with the Germans then the Americans, war then peace. And now tourists. 

It features full size gliders and other aircraft as well as tanks. I thought it was excellent, particularly the bit where we walked through the body of a plane during the actual drop, men and noise all around and shots being fired from the ground. It was very effective.

Actually, the museum is divided into three distinct buildings which feature various aspects of the D-Day drop. There is also a real Sherman tank which, tank expert Darren, was more than happy to explain to us. Actually I asked him. He does know a lot about tanks. It’s very much like me and containers.

Sherman

Moving right along…

One of the problems with the museum (and something that has been highlighted by both Lorna and John) is the information written on the displays. It tends to be too small and too far down. While the height is not something to overly concern Lorna, wheelchair height is not good for John’s lofty 6′ 4″ given the amount of bending this requires.

Then there’s the colours the designers use for text on background. White text on a light grey background might look all trendy and cool but it’s bloody hard to read, particularly when the font is quite small. Basically you just stop reading.

After filling ourselves with as many parachute facts and figures as we could manage to read, we headed across to the now corpse empty church for a quick squizz. And look who I found, perched up high…

St Seb

Returning to the cars we headed for our next destination, La Pointe du Hoc. The ‘La’ is very important because for reasons unknown, the satnav and the phone refused to find the place without it. The analogue map, on the other hand, omitted it completely. Even with this difficulty, we managed to find it and parked up.

La Pointe du Hoc has changed a bit since I last visited. There is now a visitors’ centre with beefy and serious armed guards who scan and search you when you enter. They are not bothered about scanning and searching people wandering the shell holes in the landscape so we managed to avoid the indignity of being assumed guilty.

I do spend a lot of time having a go at Americans and their so-called culture but this whole ridiculous idea that freedom equals control is beyond me. It’s hardly democratic to assume your citizens are evil just because some are. While Trump might call his reign an attempt to ‘Make America Great Again’ I think it’s actually to ‘Keep Americans Under Control.’

Speaking of Americans, there were a lot wandering around all the sites today. Which is fine. The places are known for the Americans after all and they have ploughed a lot of money into proclaiming their greatness. One only needs to compare the ostentation of the American war cemetery with the more low key Commonwealth and German versions to realise how great they have to show everyone they are. I guess that’s how you convince yourself.

Along a wide gravelly path to the craters of Pointe du Hoc there are now lots of plaques telling the stories of some of the Rangers who so bravely climbed the cliffs on D-Day. We would have loved to have read about all of them but, unfortunately the text was almost impossible to read so we moved on.

The big wide path is new since I visited with Mirinda and I immediately went on about how it just sanitised the place, that the simple path that existed before, taking you between the trees towards the bomb holes was far more esoteric. Lorna then pointed out, immediately deflating and correcting me, that it was probably so ex-soldiers in wheelchairs could access the site with as much ease as possible. I bowed my head in abject shame, bathing in her posativity.

We had a lovely (if that’s quite the right word) wander around with thousands of others including a big school group from Queensland talking about Toowoomba. Madam E was quite taken aback by the sight of a giant penis against the sky masquerading as a memorial to the fallen Rangers who didn’t make it and those that did. 

It was rather windy

We then headed for the American cemetery…except we didn’t get very far because, suddenly, appearing out of nowhere, we found a cidre farm which sold, obviously, cidre as well as Calvados and pommeau. The Weasels went mad and, like the other people there before us, bought as much liquid as could fit in the two cars. It was a sizeable stash of the (very) good stuff.

The chap who owns and runs the place told us that he has taken over from his father who took over from his father. We told him he needed a bigger sign but he shook his head, smiling broadly. His outbuildings interested people enough to stop then peek around at the small sign and enticed them in. He was happy with the level of customers he had. He didn’t need to advertise on the moon.

Exhausted by our wondrous good luck, we stopped at a nearby aire de repose and had cheese and Jesus for lunch among the hedges. Incidentally, I feel I should point out that the aforementioned hedges actually hid a very adequate toilet…or so Lorna swore.

Back on the road we reached the American Cemetery in time to see the lowering of the flag. While very solemn and attended by a whole load of attentive spectators, mostly American, the recorded four gun salute and  bugle we felt was quite disrespectful. A lot of the people visiting didn’t seem to mind terribly much (most of them were recording it after all) but we felt it devalued the sacrifice we were all supposed to be honouring. Why not a real gun? Why not a real bugler? Surely that can’t be so difficult. A local scout group perhaps, could do it as a sort of small gift back from the French. I don’t know but we all agreed it left you feeling a bit flat and distasteful.

Just before we left, John wanted to know why a big bus load of Italians turned up late for the flag lowering ceremony. I pointed out that Italians are always late and that it was a matter of honour to miss most things throughout their lives. John said he was surprised they’d come to the American Cemetery at all. What was of interest to them? We then decided it was all about the image of the little white crosses arranged so symmetrically, spreading out from the pond in front of the massive, Romanesque memorial.

The weird angles are deliberate!

Our final D-Day destination was Arromanche so Darren could climb on and into a bit of the famous mulberry harbour. Parts of it litter the beach in a sort of post apocalyptic special effect. When you look at the size of each one, it’s even more surprising that their construction and design was kept a very close secret. It’s still amazes me.

Weasels and a mulberry

Back in the cars having licked away all traces of ice cream purchased in a handy (meaning open though not the one with Calvados flavour) ice cream stall, we headed back to Caen. We went home by the most roundabout, long winded route possible. There is no-one to blame I’m just going to say that Madam E was navigating and Darren was driving. John and I were merely following and Lorna was but a passenger in the proceedings.

We were after the local Auchan supermarket in order to buy supplies for the long journey home (and subsequent few weeks at home) when Darren ahead of us went a bit mad. As we passed our destination on the left, he went right then did a rather original impression of a U-turn before heading again in the wrong direction. John claimed there were four possible ways of approaching the Auchan and he managed to take three of them.

Anyway, we left them to their shopping as the beer in the fridge back at the apartment was calling for us quite insistently.

Our trip back was not without incident. John took one turn too soon after the big bridge part of the Périphérique which meant going over it thrice. Of course this meant a number of chances to view the boats and the river which all looked beautiful.

At the house and after a few drinks we headed off for dinner at a rather pink establishment…but, given this post has gone on for far too long, I shall talk about that tomorrow.

I shall also explain this:

Posted in Gary's Posts, Short Weasel Holiday 2018 | Leave a comment