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Posts from the ‘Walking’ Category

How it feels to be this alive

My spouse, who I generally refer to as ‘The Husband with Two Brains’ or HB² lived in Grenoble throughout the 1980s and regularly used to say to himself when he looked out of the window of his house that he must never take the view for granted because one day he wouldn’t be there any more.  I feel exactly the same way.  I love this place, experience it as the most natural of alignments as though I was born to be here and having the mountains so close by to explore freely and at will has been the greatest of gifts.  One day this time will simply be a memory, as indeed will be every moment of this little life I lead, but surely the silver lining is that I had this time, that I was granted the rare delight of living here, and the opportunity to get out whenever I want to and explore the other-worldly delights that such a naturally stunning place affords free of any charge.

The picture was taken in les Alpes Belledonne last summer.  It was an eerily beautiful day …. by turn brightest bluest sky with flouncing little fluffs of low cloud and a sudden mantilla of mist lending an ethereal atmosphere to the sturdy peaks and an irridescent sheen to the water.  It was unforgettable, I hope … for who knows if I will always have the gift of easily bringing memories forwards.  Who knows how motheaten my mind may become and how many moments will simply be lost like so many fragile bubbles too delicate to do anything but pop and fragment into the ether of my psyche, that curious morass of matter weightily wedged in my skull.

I share the moment with you in response to the weekly challenge tagged ‘Out Of This World’the many laudable entries to the gallery found here

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PS:  The title is from The Cure’s song ‘Out Of This World’ which instantly popped into my still vaguely functioning brain when I saw the challenge.  I can only hope that I will always remember how it feels to be this alive because I know that I am prosperous indeed.  I chose the clip simply because it was shot in Nyon which is not far from here just over the border in Switzerland on Lac Genève.

My first husband went to see The Cure in Amsterdam in the same era as HB² was living in Grenoble first time round.  He secured himself a fine viewpoint in front of everyone but regrettably failed to realise that he was standing precisely on the spot where the safety barriers would rise out of the floor as the show began.  As Robert Smith, wax faced and angsty with his extra-long pullover sleeves all ready to flop foppishly at his thighs as he performed, took to the mic, the aforementioned husband that would be for a while, was raised almost messianic in front of him …. I believe the stunned expression on the artist’s face was worthy of one witnessing something quite out of this world …..

When we look back at it all as I know we will
You and me, wide eyed
I wonder…
Will we really remember how it feels to be this alive?

And I know we have to go
I realize we only get to stay so long
Always have to go back to real lives
Where we belong
Where we belong
Where we belong

When we think back to all this and I’m sure we will
Me and you, here and now
Will we forget the way it really is
Why it feels like this and how?

And we always have to go I realize
We always have to say goodbye
Always have to go back to real lives

But real lives are the reason why
We want to live another life
We want to feel another time
Another time…

Yeah another time

To feel another time…

When we look back at it all as I know we will
You and me, wide eyed
I wonder…
Will we really remember how it feels to be this alive?

And I know we have to go
I realize we always have to turn away
Always have to go back to real lives

But real lives are why we stay
For another dream
Another day
For another world
Another way
For another way…

One last time before it’s over
One last time before the end
One last time before it’s time to go again…

Coup de Cœur – Part Nine: And don’t be afraid of the dark

An occasional series chronicling the tale of the restoration of a former medieval watch-tower in southern France …..

It is Monday and the observant among you will note that I have missed two Monday’s in my quest to populate each start of the week day with posts about Marcolès.  The gloaters will be congratulating themselves that I had entirely misjudged the calendar.  In my world there are no excuses but I do allow reasons.  Simply put, the first of the missed Mondays was Christmas Day and, to be entirely frank, I rather thought that you might be otherwise occupied in your own  frenzy of something or other.  It happens I was engaged with my own Christmas thing and if you behave reasonably decorously, I might even share the detail.  I fully intended, however, to start the year with a zip bang boom and publish Part Nine on New Year’s Day.  Things, however, reasons indeed can occur with quite breathtaking force and this year, last year as it is now, that is exactly what happened.

My friend John let me know.   Our mutual friend, who some of you will have known as ‘Pan’ was  found dead on 30th December where she had been lying for two full days with her faithful dog Stewie next to her in a motel room in Maine.  I broke down in selfish, desperate, angry tears.  I cannot do better than John’s tribute to her, nor the words later written by my friend Embeecee so I am not going to write a tribute to one of the smartest, sweetest, kindest, most genuine, faithful, loyal friends I will ever have. I was humbled by her lifestyle.  She drove a huge truck  wherein her company had modified the tractor so that she had a tiny weeny kitchen in which she created real food and she lived, when not in the cab of her lorry off-grid in the farthest reaches of Maine and was building what she dubbed her ‘She Shed’ with her own bare hands.  She was nothing short of inspirational and should have been a mascot for the millennial trendies who, rightly tout all sorts of ways that we can improve the impact we have on this increasingly throttled and tattered planet of ours.  The fact that her footprint or at least her tyre-tracks were mighty was a result of delivering all the stuff that those same entitled, possibly deluded but at least affecting responsible folks needed, wanted, in all weathers, in all conditions and mostly not  kind, spoke volumes to me of whom she was.  We can and should have feminist icons but the real heroines are just quietly getting on with what is needed and topping it off with a smile.  That was Linda.   So I will not write a tribute, no.  Instead I dedicate not just this episode but every single one in the series past and future to the memory of a woman gone wholly too soon, who had no idea just how rare a mind she was, who was generous to beyond a  fault, who was modest and self-depracating who was wise and who gently councelled me as the big sister I never had.  Ridiculously and genuinely modest, she was far more concerned with the welfare of those she cared for than for herself.  We met over a blackberry cream scone that she had invented.  Blackberry will always be my go-to taste of all that is good in humankind hereafter.   She had set herself to help with another project I have upcoming.  Her reason for offering was so that my husband and I would have more time together.  Selfless?  She defined it.  We fully intended to surpise her with a visit to Marcolès when it is finished.  Her life finished too soon … sometimes I get pretty damned fed up and find it ridiculously difficult if not impossible to find the purpose in the way things are.

One of the last comments she left on this series (Part Seven actually) contained the words ‘you know your photos are art, right?’  They actually aren’t – I come from the little lauded myopic point and shoot school of photography.  But.  She had an idea that I could produce a book of my pictures and words which the  tourist industry of Cantal could use to promote the area.  There she was again – always thinking of the other person, people, never considering herself.  So I think that a walk round the village and it’s surrounds is the best homage I could pay to her memory.

Here is Linda’s  Marcolèsian walk crafted with great love and an aching heart.  There are no pictures of our house and there is no commentary – you can make it up yourself as she would have, rather let’s just stroll the place that she would have seen when she graced Marcolès with her extraordinarily unassuming presence.

PS – because there is always a PS and Linda would be disappinted if I omitted it …. the title is from a song.  A song that was written by Rodgers and Hammerstein for their œuvre ‘Carousel’.  But the relevance is that Gerry and The Pacemakers recorded ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ in the early sixties.  Gerry and his P’s were from Liverpool, the song became the anthem of Liverpool through thick and thin – it is sung jubilantly at football matches and desperately in times of strife.  HB² (my husband) is Scouse (from Liverpool) and Linda, a woman who researched and upturned every fact that she could about just about anything, was delighted that he came from the land of the Merseybeat.  She got to know what he does for a living through our friendship and her own independent research and was questioning of articles she found in the press as a result.  That was the way she was.  Intelligent and inquiring, she instinctively researched and in fact held  many theories that my husband adheres to.  She would tell you she was not particularly bright.  I would argue she was among the most brilliant stars that have graced my galaxy.  And that of my fêted husband. And, here’s the thing, he agrees.  This song, written to illustrate the moment of moving on from this earth to another place seems highly appropriate.  Walk on, Linda, walk on, with hope in  your heart – I know I will never walk alone because you were, and are my friend, my true true friend.

The featured image for this post, was her favourite of all I ever posted about this place that would have adored her and I wish she was here to make it so.

You’ll Never Walk Alone

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark

At the end of the storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark

Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on walk on with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone

You’ll never walk alone

Walk on walk on with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone

You’ll never walk alone

Oscar Hammerstein/Richard Rodgers

Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all

If you’ve taken even a cursory interest in my drivel over the past however long, you will know that I wander around a lot both actually and metaphorically.  A friend from my teeny tiny tot-rearing stage recently commented on FaceBook that she never knows where I am.  Tempted though I am to serenely claim that I am being mysterious and elusive, the truth is that I generally have no idea quite where I am, what I am doing nor where I am going.

Appearances are often deceptive and I know that I am a confusing condundrum.  I present as ultra-outgoing and sociable but the truth is, that although I find it quite easy to be the happy-go-lucky life and soul of the gathering, I am in fact rather the hermit and I certainly need time to recharge and that time is generally taken alone.

Enter my wanderings.  I walk muchly and often as a solitary bee (with the noble and frankly ego-centric exception of The Bean and of course, when available, a goodly dollop of husband) and I find my re-set button pressed gently and effectively when I do.

Friends, true friends, I have few and, in keeping with, I believe, many, Social Media has interfered with this natural equilibrium.   I partake less and less in the babbling noise, the king for a day, something to say because I am a self-invented expert-ness of it.  I will flatter myself that I was rather good at it but it is akin, I think to rather good at tooting cocaine … it falsely bolsters you up and erodes your olafactory receptors to the detriment of having a decent pair of nostrils with which to twitch and inhale sensitively your surroundings.  It has a place, of course it does (Social Media, not cocaine) but I think we really do need to be a little careful of this creeping addiction.  And the way in which it induces behaviours that we would not normally indulge in.  Think selfies and I will rest my case.  For the avoidance of doubt there are those of you here in this blogging place, where we actually give some thought to what we are spewing out, that I do consider friends even though we have never met.

I do have a few lifers.  I use the word wisely, for it surely must be some sort of sentence to be embraced wholeheartedly to my bosom and kept there.  One such is JimPig.  He came to me through a husband who was to prove diabolically damaging but The Pig stayed and I am glad he did.  When we met, I already had a daughter and he had a son.  I taught his son to skateboard.  This made them both happy.  My girlie was shy of 18 months old when we met and I made him her honorary Godfather.  He bought her a chocolate stegasaurus from Harrods which stood on her special things shelf for years until she took it to a ‘show and tell’ aged 6 and the teacher confiscated it because it was chocolate, stashed it in her cupboard from where it fell on the floor when the door was opened and smashed into irrepairable pieces.  The head teacher gave the 6 year old a ruler from Australia as a consolation.   It didn’t work.  My daughter is still stinging from the loss of her precious dinosaur – the scars will stay for her lifetime, doubtless.

JimPig is probably the greatest waste of academic talent I will ever meet.  I hope he is because any greater would be dreadfully sad.  Not that he is sad.  His grandfather died when he was a Trinity Dublin under graduate and left him a legacy which was just enough to live a simple life on.  A selfish life some would say.  He is a linguist.  He speaks eight languages fluently.  Not that he will ever admit he is fluent.  Linguists are like that.  He looks like ‘Where’s Wally’ (that’s Waldo if you are from the US side of the Atlantic and as I am reminded by the quite marvellous Mel (of France Says) in the comments and one whom I certainly consider a friend ‘Ou est Charlie’ in France).  Uncannily like him to the extent that when Wally was at the height of his sneaky powers sometime in the 1990s I walked into a large bookshop in Oxford and asked for the lifesize cardboard marketing Wally which they duly allowed me to bear delightedly away and stash in the boot of my Volvo three weeks later.  The Pig feigned delighted when I presented it to him as a gift.  I am sure it was feigned because I don’t think he either knew who Wally was or cared to find out.

It was the aforementioned daughter who christened him JimPig and no-one, least of all she, knows why.  She was two years old at the time which is forgiveable.  The rest of us were clearly not concentrating which may be less forgiveable.  On her eighteenth birthday she had an interview for a London college and I suggested that we have grown-up lunch at the place of her choosing and invite The beloved Pig.  She chose a very fashionable Italian restaurant for the flimsy and entirely defenceable-at-eighteen reason that it was known as a fertile celebrity hunting ground.  We were late.  There was a blizzard and we were tottering on foolish heels on frozen Mayfair pavements which I find iron hard and unforgiving at the best of times.  When we arrived there was a rather tatty bike chained to the railings outside.  We made eye-contact, nodded and mouthed ‘Pig’ in unison.   Inside we were relieved of our chic designer tweed coats in which instants before we had been proud to be seen  but which all of a sudden made us feel like hulking hicks from sticksville on account of the frankly frightening volume of furs that adorned the unfeasibly high-cheekboned, skinny thighed, sky-scraping legged Slavic ladies being lunched by slavering red-faced pinstripes quietly drooling across tables far too tightly squooshed into the odd interior of this modish canteen which included an incongrous porthole with views of raging seas behind it.  It had the effect of inducing a sort of hypnotic nausea which seemed rather inappropriate in an eatery.  In the midst of this, entirely oblivious to his contradictory appearance was The Pig.  Wearing worn to softly transparent chinos and battered converse high-tops and with his shiny anorak on the back of his stylish but clearly, from his air of sitting on a wasp, wholly uncomfortable chair and his wreck of a  rucksack stashed on another he was reading Herman Hesse in Italian.  Because he could and because it was an Italian restaurant.  The staff were clearly bewildered by this apparition.  Was he so rich that he simply didn’t need to care what others thought, or was he truly a tramp?  We sashayed over and joined him, landing proper smackers on his waiting cheeks – no air kisses shall pass on my shift absorbing but ignoring the collective startled intake of breath from the other, clearly far more sophisticated than we, diners.  As it turned out lunch was mediocre but the company was divine.  The Pig is hyper smart and raises you to levels of mental agility that are simultaneously stimulating and exhausting.  When the bill came I was rendered white at the gills appalled … I was paying and it was twice plus some what I had expected.  Of course I seamlessly effected nonchalence but kept the receipt and on checking at home discovered that each and every one of the small bottles of water we had drunk had cost £10. I counselled the daughter earnestly and urgently that in future it would be far better if she always insisted on the finest vintage champagne … I know for a fact from her friends and her husband that she took this sage advice earnestly to heart.

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PS:  The quote is from Herman Hesse’s 1920 work Wandering:’Home is neither here nor there.  Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.’   My picture is of Grenoble which is my home for the moment.  I have read Wandering only in English, The Pig has, quite naturally, read it in several languages.  It is only when I consider the cover now that I realise The Pig looks rather like Hesse.

The Pig, by the way, like my two brained husband has no Social Media accounts.  Interesting.  Perhaps.  Do we think?

PPS:  I couldn’t possibly write a piece in response to a challenge called ‘Wanderlust’ (the full library of noble entries here) without adding this moment from ‘A Fish Called Wanda’ … I quite simply couldn’t – enjoy.

Long Time Passing

Some time ago, when we were fledgling lovers, existing in the protective bubble reserved for the newly amorous,  Two Brains brought me to a place called Vassieux-en-Vercors.  The drive up from Grenoble is littered with sombre reminders of a time, only decades ago when the spectacular landscape played backdrop for the most merciless realities of a world at war – we stopped at various places, never idly.  Here it is impossible to forget how cruel and cold humanity can be.   Here no bubble is sufficient to protect you from nauseating emotions wrought from the darkest, starkest of realites.

Vassieux sits on the Drôme side of le Vercors.  The Vercors is nicknamed ‘the flat iron’ for a reason … it is a high plateau with higher peaks frilling it, thrilling visitors  and chilling those that know the secrets that it keeps.  Mountains tend to do that.  They look, are, so magnificent but they are unyielding, unforgiving places by default without being privy and council to the Résistance called le maquis in a brutal global war.  Huge harsh lumps they are – they don’t actually ask for delicate humans to impinge on them but sometimes flimsy mortals have no choice.

The war, that war of 1939-45 invited such necessity.  Men whose country was overtaken by a callous regime they did not invite nor condone, who wanted it freed and reverted to the values it held dear, who did not want the uneasy treaty of Vichy but rather actual and total freedom, those men, those women for can we just agree that men and women are equally people, those people formed the Résistance.  And the ones who under that same treaty were told they had to go and do work in Germany.  STO it was called (Service de Travail Obligatoire … I don’t honestly think you need my translation) – those young men, they said non and they joined the Résistance.

What happened in 1944 was disgraceful.  Not simply by dint of the deeds of the enemy (German in this case) but actually and tragically because of the behavior of the high fallutin’ tootin’ allied commanders.  Another time.  Really another time I will feel fully equipped to tell the story.  In the meantime all you need take to heart is that this village, and all the others barborously besieged, is a defenseless duck sitting pretty on a flat plane.  That it can’t have been difficult to overpower it, however hard les maquis tried to fend  off the merciless assault is painfully, graphically clear.  And there are references to the places they fought  and fell all around and not just here, throughout this great monolith known as le Vercors.  Villages burned,  Villagers slain. Men rounded up and annihilated standing proud against cold walls in the place they called home because it was.  Their home.    It is not pretty.  Not at all.  It is tough beyond the bounds of that pathetically soft word.  And then you visit the Nécropole and you  walk, sapped of strength, sorrow wrenching bile from your throat among the bare little crosses, pure white standing proud in pristine gravel and you pathetically collapse as though a razor has slashed your heart because you are facing a family – a grandmother, her two daughters and all the children of one of them including a baby lying side by side, their lives extinguished mercilessly.   Every single one of them.   See it, feel it and tell me, tell me not to weep.

My husband  had the immense privilige of spending time some years ago, with Robert Favier (known as Mattres) who was created Chevalier de Légion d’Honneur having been a high ranking leader in the Maquis.  Monsieur Favier,  died in 2010 aged 96.  HB2 also met Joseph la Picirella who founded the original museum in Vassieux.  He made it because he could and because no-one should forget what happened.  Really no-one should.  He also died in 2010 aged 85, he was little more than a boy, therefore, when he joined the Maquis.  His museum is still there where he built it, just behind the church.  The French Government built another museum, the official museum, which sits perched 400 metres above the village and is of deliberately austere design.

To walk the walk I walked, in the footsteps of those braver than brave maquis was humbling.  A privilege beyond privilege.  And here are some photos.  Because my words are meagre and poor.  I will leave you to imagine it for yourself or simply to enjoy the beauty of the place.  The choice is yours.  Mine is not to tell people what to do, simply to bring you to a place that savages my senses and of which, when I am confident that my thoughts and facts are accurate and well-founded, I will write in greater depth.

PS:  When you have digested the place, when you have taken it all in your sturdy stride, you might answer me a simple question.  What did we learn?  Because from where I am standing, sitting, lying down on a bed of flowers, nothing has changed.   When will we learn to leave well alone?  When will greed release it’s toxic grip on humanity?  When?  Can I have it now please?   Because little girls picking flowers should NOT be perpetuating a scenario that ends in their husbands pushing up daisies for the sake of yet another bloody war.  When will we ever learn?

The primrose path of dalliance

Up in le massif de la Chartreuse where the boozy monks make their famed green elixir, we happened on these perfect primevères perkily posing on the muddy, rocky, thorny path up to Mont Rachais.  I love Primrose and can never see them without being reminded of the supposedly curmudgeonly Queen Victoria.  When Benjamin Disraeli died, amongst all the  extravagant floral tributes was a simple wreath of  Primrose with the message ‘His favourite flowers’ written in the Queen’s hand.  An unlikely pairing – she the Monarch, he a Jewish novelist, and we are not talking heavyweight tomes here but rather the Victorian precursor to a celebrity memoir with a heavy emphasis on the gossipy, with not an aristocratic bone in his body they nonetheless shared a true and deep friendship that had nothing to do with his being her first minister though I am sure it helped the process immensely.  He loved primroses, and wrote to her ‘I like them so much better for their being wild’ a fact with which I am wholly as one with him.  The untamed, the untarnished, the unfettered have always called loud to me.  There is something remarkable about flora and fauna that survive and thrive with no interference from human(un)kind … a reminder that often the best way is to leave well alone.

I have no particular reason for sharing my simpletons philosophy except that the picture was taken on my road travelled, not the one less travelled by, which is my preferred route but the one I am choicelessly taking with every breath, every heartbeat, every step of this one little life I am living through and in which I try to be as tolerant and uninhibiting as possible for the rather dull and untrumpetworthy reason that I actually do not believe I am any more important than anything on this earth we call home. Certainly no better than the brave primevère blooming in February at 1,100 metres altitude.  In fact put like that, I’m rather feeble in comparison, I would aver.

The Road Taken happens to be the title given to this week’s photo challenge of which you can find a full arcade of entries here

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PS:  The title is plucked from Hamlet.  Ophelia  genially berates her brother Laertes, reminding him that he should refrain from pontificating whilst he himself blithely flies in the face of his own wisdom.

Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,
Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven,
Whiles, like a puffed and reckless libertine,
Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads,
And recks not his own rede.

If the cap fits, wear it but it’s probably better to tighten your hatband and admit that casting those boulders in fragile huts of glass does nothing whatsoever to enhance one’s credibility.

PPS:  If you ever get the chance, do visit Hughenden Manor in Buckinghamshire (Disraeli’s home) and if you can make it in early spring you will be treated to a carpet of primrose that will melt your heart.  I promise.  The promises of nature, you see are only broken when she is tampered with.

I asked the faithful light

Diu absentia … long in absence I have been.  I make no apologies.  It’s just a bit of life in my life.  Nothing dramatic.  No imprisonment, no hospitalisation nothing really to write home about.  Nothing to write about.  Except write I will.  It’s what I do.  Potted and neatly in a nutshell I have been moving rather a lot these past two months – US to England, England to France, France to England, England to France – friends and relics (stet) and Christmas with my most loved.  In Grenoble a temporary tiny flatlet with a view of snow topped mountains and on February 1 moving all I own from the flat in Cantal that I persist in calling home because it’s where I feel home, to our permanent Grenoble place-until-summer.  And beautiful it is.  But more of that another time.

No shadows lurking in my cupboard, nothing to make me startle and stare wide-eyed in horror, just life and settling and I will give you more of it, I promise … much more.

Shadows and startling seem to be the order of things in this world just now.  I rather feel that people are having to wear their most politically correct attire for dread of offending someone.  Anyone!  But I have always been the gal to stick her head above the trench and get it picked off by a beady eyed sniper far away out of sight on the other side of no-man’s land.  So I have a commentary on the world at large.  It is unhappy, it is uncomfortable and it is unpalatable for many.  For many others it is hopeful because it has been increasingly uncomfortable and unpalatable these umpteen years and they desire that there will be green shoots which might give they and their loved ones a future in what has been their shiny world rusted and corroded to dust.  Whether I agree or disagree with either side is neither here nor there but I  give a gentle reminder that alongside it’s bolder, brasher brother ‘Greed’, that ‘Fear’ is the greatest eroder of hope, of decency, of love that we, as humans  have in our armoury of weapons of mass self-destruction.  Try not to be led by fear.  Try instead, to be led by love.  It is, after all la fête de St Valentin who was beaten, stoned and decapitated under the rule of Claudius because, put simply, he believed that young lovers should be allowed to choose to marry as Christians.  Choice.  That’s the thing old Valentine was about and he suffered a particularly appalling death for his conviction.  In 269 AD.  Please let me trust that we have evolved and progressed in almost 2,000 years.  Just please.

My picture, which shows a rather perfect half (insert favourite cheese) moon, sentinel above a stone tower whose keepers can’t make their minds up whether to restore it’s authentic stone or leave it suffocated by the corset of concrete rendered upon it some aeons ago by zealous betterers, taken in the last 10 days in Gieres, a pretty commune just outside Grenoble it is offered for this week’s photo challenge captioned ‘Shadow’ (you can find the glories of the entire gallery here) – the moon’s shadow may not be apparent but it is there and, I would postulate, is not alarming at all.

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PS:  The title is taken from Cat Stevens’ (one of the enduring loves of my life) beautiful song ‘Moonshadow’.  Here are the lyrics and, as a bonus, a lovely clip of the man who stole a little of my heart in nineteen seventy-something singing it …. give them a read if you will – if I ever lose my mouth –  I won’t have to talk ….

Moonshadow

Oh, I’m bein’ followed by a moonshadow, moon shadow, moonshadow—
Leapin and hoppin’ on a moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow—

And if I ever lose my hands, lose my plough, lose my land,
Oh if I ever lose my hands, Oh if I won’t have to work no more.

And if I ever lose my eyes, if my colours all run dry,
Yes if I ever lose my eyes, Oh if I won’t have to cry no more.

Oh, I’m bein’ followed by a moonshadow, moon shadow, moonshadow—
Leapin and hoppin’ on a moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow—

And if I ever lose my legs, I won’t moan, and I won’t beg,
Yes if I ever lose my legs, Oh if I won’t have to walk no more.

And if I ever lose my mouth, all my teeth, north and south,
Yes if I ever lose my mouth, Oh if I won’t have to talk…

Did it take long to find me? I asked the faithful light.
Did it take long to find me? And are you gonna stay the night?

Cat Stevens

A beautiful and terrible thing

You may recall in a post from a couple of months ago entitled Two Lymes and a Lemon I told our collective tale of woe.  To recap The Brains and The Bean were both being treated for Lyme disease and I had taken a fall on little more than a gentle stroll up Arthurs Seat in Edinburgh.  The Lymes are doing well, though those familiar with the disease will know that it is the hidden damage that is hard to quantify … there may be none, there may be much but life, in our collective opinion (Two Brains and I have pulled rank on The Bean and made the decision for her) life is too short to worry about mightbees.

But.  Big but. It seems little old attention seeking me has been less fortunate.  My leg continued to give me grief and it became apparent that I have something called Foot Drop (which sounds like the Dropsy so loved of Shakespeare but is in fact a condition that means I can’t lift my foot.  So my left side wafts with my usual elegance and grace (no, really) and my right side has a high step and flop-foot  like a bizarre half human-half duck creature).  Eventually, having travelled to France for a couple of weeks and back to Britain for a couple more weeks with the Agèd P and returned to Massachusetts, I was able to present myself back with the Doctor who was clearly concerned that I was still having problems and indeed those problems had increased.  So I had an MRI.  Actually I had two, because I’m greedy …. one for the ankle and one for the calf.  That thing when your Doctor rings and opens the conversation with ‘you sure did a number on that leg’, that thing is the unwanted herald that you know  the news isn’t going to be an invitation to pop the cork on a good bubbly.  And it wasn’t – a fractured tibia at the ankle, a severe tear to a tendon and muscle down thereabouts and a fully snapped ligament. And moving up to the calf a further fracture to the fibular and somewhere in the whole mess a squished perineal nerve which is the thing that sends the messages to your foot to move up and down.  Hence the one-sided duck-walk.  I’d prefer a cake-walk.  For now I have to settle for a comedy walk since it appears the ligament (its the one that joins the tibia to the fibular) may be responsible for the fact that my foot is increasingly insistent that it needs to, really and honestly needs to, veer outwards giving me a gate that amusingly resembles the waddle of a penguin.  An odd bird indeed, that 6′ penguin-duck-bird.  One specialist has given me a prognosis of running again next summer, tomorrow I see a second.  What will be will be but the whole damn sorry scene does bring to mind Dumbledore in Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone ‘The truth is a beautiful and terrible thing and should therefore be treated with great caution’.  I really, really wanted the truth but it turns out not THIS actual truth.  Heyho.  So many worse off.  Too many.  Far too many.  And I dedicate this piece to all of you.  You know who you are Terry and Clare and Kerry and AJ and Kat and I’m sorry I can’t do links because my Mac has decided I’m moaning too much and has malfunctioned to take the attention away from my whingeathon.  Next stop Apple Hospital.

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I picked this image for no particular reason except that the tree that has fallen into the water is absolutely perfect and it’s reflection entirely unblemished, the water itself seemingly unpeturbed.   Which is probably how I appear.  Deceptive these appearances can be, don’t you find?

PS:  Since the author of Harry Potter (J K Rowling like you didn’t know) is a resident of Edinburgh and the taxi driver who took me to the A&E there sang her praises loudly as the most remarkable woman who gives so much quietly, it felt appropriate to use a quote from one of her characters in my title.

Mirror was the Weekly Photo Challenge a couple of weeks ago …. this is my belated entry

I’ll be your dog!

On a beautiful day nearly two years ago, The Brains, The Bean and I set off for a walk that starts in the wonderfully named St Poncy (if you are English this will make you smile – my American is not good enough to know if Ponce means the same in your vernacular). Along the way three became four and this is the piece I wrote at the time – I hope you will enjoy it.

Half Baked In Paradise

We walk.  The Bean and me and HB2, when he is here makes three.  There are 340 marked PR (petit randonnees) across le Cantal and I have set myself the ideal of walking all of them.  In keeping with the rest of France these are marked walks, mostly circular and varying in length and difficulty.  The simple colour coding system tells you if it is easy (blue), longer and more difficult (yellow) or very long and varying in difficulty (green).  One weekend recently we decided to drive to the far north east of the departement (a drive of about 1.5 hours) and do a nice long green walk.  The duration was estimated as 4.75 hours for the 14.5 km.  We packed a picnic of cheese and bread and tomatos and set off.  The day was glorious – sunny, hot and with a fair scattering of the fluffiest white clouds dancing…

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Two Lymes and a Lemon

In the words of Cyril Raymond to Celia Johnson at the end of ‘Brief Encounter’  ‘you’ve been a long, long way away’ – I won’t flatter myself with his next line ‘thank you for coming back to me’ but I have been a long way away and I’m very much afraid that I HAVE come back to you ….

It’s been a bit of a saga so here is a précis before I dive back into stories of house hunts and refurbishments and hikes (though one does figure here) and generally half-baked meanderings.

Here goes:

  1. June 17th The Two Brained one is diagnosed with Lyme Disease after breaking out in purple patches all over his normally unblemished body.
  2. June 19th He whisks me by circuitous route, lest I guess the ultimate destination, to France.  Grenoble to be precise.  You may remember I have a particular affection for Grenoble
  3. June 21st To the courthouse …. I’m not in the dock and neither is he but I do have another installment for my book ‘The Lying Cheating Lives of Others’ and there will be more of that in later blog posts – a road yet to be trodden but one that I think y’all might enjoy
  4. June 22nd – home to our little nest in Northern Cantal for our Wedding Anniversary.  There is nothing nicer than to be in the village we were married in three years ago drinking a toast ‘à la notre’ in jolly nice French champagne
  5. June 23rd – up early and on the road to Marcolès to find out what progress on the house.   There is progress but it would be wrong of me to spoil the surprise so I will leave you in suspenders til the next installment
  6. June 25th – back to Lyon to drop off car and take a flight.  HB² is confident that a) I love surprises so will not look at my ticket b) I can’t actually see it without my glasses and c) I’m so excited that I will miss the only announcement for our flight.  Therefore I board a plane not knowing where I am bound
  7. June 26th – I wake up in Edinburgh, a city I know quite well, where my grandmother was married in 1918 and where I hounded my elder brother when he was doing his PhD because I could and mainly because he had a ready supply of male friends for the 18 year old me to make cow-eyes at.
  8. June 27th – I pick up a call from my vet who is boarding The Bean.  The words ‘there is nothing to worry about, but ….’ instantly make me worried.  A lot worried.  Because it turns out that The Small But Feisty one has also got Lyme.  Be still my pounding heart.  At least she is in the right place and they say she is responding well to treatment.
  9. June 29th – We decide to walk up Arthur’s Seat.  This is an extinct volcano within the city.  My aforementioned and extremely long-suffering brother lived in a very pretty district at it’s foot and we walked up often.  Actually he used to run it.  At his wedding his best man’s speech began ‘I first suspected that my flatmate might be mad when he asked the way to Arthur’s Seat for a run on a bitterly cold, wet and windy day…. I showed him and some time later I realised it wasn’t a case of might be mad,  he clearly was mad as he set off down the lane in a storm with a rucksack full of boulders on his back’.  He is still that same animal.  In those days there were a few walkers some with dogs and that was about it.  Today it teems with tourists making their way up, taking selfies and mostly wearing entirely unsuitable footwear (flip flops, fashion sandals, even the odd pair of heels) for what is a moderate hike up hill-paths rather than pavements.  We took the road less travelled and benefited from stunning views unencumbered by the masses.  The German girls hogging the peak did move over when I utilised my famed loud and I don’t care who knows it, voice and we duly stood for a moment or two before setting off down again.  All was well and I was lost in thought (mostly quite bitchy thoughts about the unsuitable nature of other people’s footwear) until almost at the bottom, not on a remotely steep bit, I slipped on shail and heard an audible crack.  The crack was nothing to my blood-curdling bellows and the air took on a blue hue as I cursed my way thorugh the early moments of what is actually a severe high ankle sprain coupled with 90% tear to the anterior calf muscle.  I must thank the lovely man from Canada who stopped to help The Brains wrestle me to my feet, the equally lovely café who served delectable lime and coconut cake (I was in shock – I needed sugar) and the wonderful nurse in Minor Injuries at the Western General Hospital.  Later as I limped into a taxi my husband asked how I felt about the last bit of his surprise – did I think I could manage it.  Could I?  I would walk through the fires of a spewing live volcano to do what he had in mind.
  10. June 30th – Two trains to Liverpool for lunch with youngest daughter and two more to Oxford to stay two nights with my mother who had one last surprise – my younger brother flown in from Bahrain to spend an evening with his big sister.   In  life, the real luxuries are the little things.  The thoughtfulness of my husband, the opportunity to see some of my family.  Secrets and lies can be quite beautiful – four of the most precious people in my world kept them and there is no sin in that.
  11. July 2nd – we collect the delighted but subdued tiny dog from her Boarding Vet.  She has anti-biotics and is making some progress.  Lyme Disease is a nasty nasty thing – sometimes, it isn’t easy being Bean.

So there you have it Two Lymes and a Lemon.  Here are some nice pictures from the Scottish leg of my odyssey and afterwards I will treat you to a PS:

The promised and entirely necessary PS:  Yesterday, I visited my lovely Cambridge doctor for a formal verdict on my leg.  He sympathised with Two Brains having to live with with a caged and beligerent tigress with cabin fever and asked how he is doing (he is a specialist in infectious diseases so had been asked for his opinion when The Brains presented with what appeared to be Lyme).  He commented that it was remarkable that HB² had been running the morning of his diagnosis  with Lyme.  I explained that our daughters and others are convinced he is, in fact, one of The  Men in Black.  The doctor seemed spookily content to agree ….

And for those unfamiliar with the achingly heartrending last scene of ‘Brief Encounter’ – here it is:

In dulci jubilo

I could have called this post ‘where there’s muck there’s brass’ which, if you are British you will know instantly is an old saying from the North of England  that means ‘where there’s sh*t, there’s money’.  But given that many of my readers are not British and on account of the much more important fact that I wanted to give you all a bonus at the end for being SO patient with me as I clawed my way back from the arrid desert of a dastardly writer’s block, I have opted for the title above.

The image was taken in April when we were back in our beloved Cantal for a few days and took the opportunity for a longish hike which promised a waterfall.

Alert as ever, my bat-like hearing was teased by a low humming which rose steadily to a gutteral grumble and finally a spluttering roar as rounding a corner on the craggy track we were ambling along, I was confronted by this.  A tractor with a tank on the back spraying cow dung on the field.  Muck spreading in fact.  Actually, I should say that our olfactory glands were alert to the identity of the machine long before we spied him.

I will forgive you for wondering what on earth this has to do with the weekly photo challenge this week titled Jublilant.  Even for me, this might seem a stretch.  But bear with, do.  In France the farmers always look positivily euphoric when they get the opportunity to splash some dung about.  They sit in the cabs of their tractors with beatific smiles seemingly wafted to an odorous corner of paradise.  I have no explanation for this.  Perhaps you can help me out?  But I do promise you I have studied the phenomena and it is a truism.  The grumpy growers I have seen in England scowling from their cockpit, nose invisibly pegged, mouth set in an inpenetrable line, eyes stony and unyielding are a world away from these merry manure slingers  and even though my nose may be wrinkling decorously at the fetid stench they are generating, they always upgrade my mood as they lift a paw casually from the steering wheel, like John Wayne riding one handed across the range, and bestow upon their mildly stunned audience a  raptuous and infectious grin.

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PS:  I promised you a bonus and a bonus you shall have.  And an explanation.  When I saw the title I closed my eyes and imagined myself for a moment on Christmas Eve, the wireless turned on as I potter through the preparations for the big feast the following day listening to The Choir of Kings College, Cambridge sing carols and hoping this will be one of them.

If you are of my vintage, you will remember that Mike Oldfield produced a thoroughly exhuberent instrumental version.  Here are Pans People,  dream date of every boy of my age and every girls aspiration joyously dancing on BBC Top of The Pops in 1975.

You might have a favourite, I love both and I particularly love that  In Dulci Jublilo means ‘in sweet rejoicing’ which is exactly what I am doing since I purged my clogged creative channel.