Friday, February 20, 2015

Drooling over the New Look and Christian Dior

Thursday 19 February 2015

Brilliant blue skies 6 degrees warming to 16 later

A good to be alive day with many small birds tweeting and a blackbird tink tinking on the roof of the barn.  Fuelled by tea, I leaped out of bed, informed OH I was going down town and to my surprise, he hauled himself up too and surprised the dog by accompanying us part way along the road to town before getting out for a walk.

My trousers are 'descending' as the locals say, so went to the charity shop to see what was on offer.  Found a brown leather belt, a white leather belt and a rather strange yellow crocodile effect one, complete with Radley style dog badges.  I could hear the voice of Del Trotter in my head, saying 'wear that one, gel, and you'll knock 'em bandy'.  Three euros. Cant go wrong at that price.  There was a ravishing, full length wool coat but it was brushing the top of my shoes.  I looked like I was standing in a hole.  'Ah' said the German lady who helps out there 'you need to be taller'.  She was, of course, much taller than me and looked really good in it.  

Sometimes I find brilliant things in this shop - a beautiful tapestry jacket with exquisite buttons and from some snazzy Parisian boutique, Per Una blouses from the days when Per Una was still pretty and floaty, heavy cotton sheets that pin OH down and stop him stealing all the covers from me on a chilly night.  Today, there was a lot of tat and faded bling.  The German lady was sifting through a bag of china figurines, of the type which are included in the three kings cakes and lie in wait to break the teeth of the unwary.

King Cake (Northern style)

King Cake (Southern style)
The cake traditionally celebrating Epiphany in France and Quebec is sold in most bakeries during the month of January. Three versions exist: in northern France, Quebec, and Belgium the cake called galette des rois (which can be either circular or rectangular) consists of flaky puff pastry layers with a dense center of frangipane or apple. In the west of France a sablé galette is made, a form of sweetcrust pastry. In southern France - OccitaniaRoussillonProvenceCatalan where it´s called tortell - the cake called gâteau des rois or royaume, is a torus-shaped brioche with candied fruits and sugar, similar in its shape and colours to a crown. This later version is also common to Spain and very similar to New-Orleans king cake.
Tradition holds that the cake is “to draw the kings” to the Epiphany. A figurine, la fève, which can represent anything from a car to a cartoon character, is hidden in the cake and the person who finds the trinket in his or her slice becomes king for the day and will have to offer the next cake. Originally, la fève was literally a broad bean (fève), but it was replaced in 1870 by a variety of figurines out of porcelain or—more recently—plastic. These figurines have become popular collectibles and can often be bought separately. Individual bakeries may offer a specialized line of fèves depicting diverse themes from great works of art to classic movie stars and popular cartoon characters. The cakes are usually sold in special bags, some of which can be used to heat the cake in a microwave without ruining the crispness of the cake. A paper crown is included with the cake to crown the "king" who finds the fève in their piece of cake. To ensure a random distribution of the cake shares, it is traditional for the youngest person to place him- or herself under the table and name the recipient of the share which is indicated by the person in charge of the service.
Formerly, the cake was divided into as many shares as there were guests, plus one. The latter, called "the share of God," "share of the Virgin Mary," or "share of the poor" was intended for the first poor person to arrive at the home.
The French President is not allowed to “draw the kings” on Epiphany because of the etiquette rules. Therefore, a traditional galette without figurine or crown is served at Elysée Palace in January.

The market was quite busy for Winter and to celebrate, two of the cafes had decided to close for the day.  Was obliged to go to Croaky Joe's and had to sit inside as the terrasse was packed.  Was amused to listen to a group of Brits who had had to come and sit down to recover from the shock of the cost of cheese on the market.  They were looking glum and the woman was not helping things as she looked at the weather on her phone and told her family that it was going to rain for the next six days.  

The woman had some experience of living over here and remarked that the locals were not at all interested in hearing about personal problems.  I reflected on this - it is true that they never, ever discuss their private lives or those of their relatives, with their work colleagues. You have to become an extremely close friend of someone before they will say anything and even then, it will only be occasionally.  The great British tradition of having a bit of a gripe when you are fed up, just doesn't happen.

I was just about to try and insinuate myself into their conversation - you never know if they are looking to buy or sell - when OH rang up and informed me that he had gone on an alternative walk and was no where near home and could I come and get him.

Back home for early lunch.  Those bloody ISIS people are still killing and blowing people up. Deaths in Copenhagen and Egypt.  Russian bomber planes chased away from coast of Cornwall by RAF.

After lunch, I was required to assist with wood cutting duties.  OH extended a long line of cable and put up the horse and started cutting the pieces of stacked wood in the far shelter. He must have cut about four large logs into chunks when the chain came off.  He rested the chainsaw on his knee and tried to get the chain back on.  No joy.  He then moved to a tree stump.  Again, no joy.  He moved into the kitchen and I loaded and stacked the logs.  An hour later, the chain was still refusing to tighten and I said I had had enough of playing with the chainsaw and wanted to go swimming.

OH decided he had not had enough frustration for the day, and I left him to battle with getting pod casts onto his Ipod.  

Took the chainsaw to the local DIY store and the guy in there performed the same operation as we had been doing for the past hour and a half, and the sodding chain tightened immediately.  He then undid it, and it refused to tighten.  I left it with him.

The pool was busy with annoying rugby players who didn't look where they were going and small children who didn't get out of the way.  I have now taken to swimming into people too. When in Rome, etc.   Practiced eye exercises whilst swimming up and down.  Wonder how long it takes before you 'see' the effect?

GBSB was brilliant tonight.  First task was to remake a 50s classic 'Walkaway' dress which, apparently, one could whip up in a morning before going out to lunch with friends.  Morning, for me, would have to start at just after midnight.  Lovely stylish shape to the dress.  Remake challange involved taking a pair of curtains and turning them into something wonderful.  All without patterns.  Very impressive.  Lastly they had to make a 50s garment in sheer material.   Nightmare to sew and the winner was a very stylish blouse.

Some exquisite Dior dresses showing the New Look.  Gave me goosebumps

 this lady seems to have accidentally been given a lampshade to wear.
 can you just imagine how fabulous this would be to wear?  How it would swish as you walked?

 the lampshade is back.  This was a core day ensemble of the New Look - love the contrast of the black gloves and the white shoes
 is there anything more elegant than full length gloves?  I think women today have a completely different shape from women in the 40s and 50s.  No one now has the shape of the model in the black ensemble.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Bug tussling and blown tyres

Wednesday 18 February 2015

Cloudy 10 degrees with drizzle

Conversation with OH this morning - OH 'I had to get up in the middle of the night'  Me 'that was quarter to eight'.  He is not good in the mornings and was in a complete fog when I woke him up with a cup of tea.  Said he was out fishing with Ed Milliband and Ed was a completely rubbish fisherman.  Think lack of fishing activity is getting to him.

He dropped me off at the supermarket to get some oil for the heater and went to get a birthday card. He was absolutely ages.  Finally he turned up and parked at the far end of the car park and started gesticulating.  I had to drag over the heavy fuel oil to the car only to find out that we had yet another puncture.  Fortunately all of the stuff to change the wheel was still in the car so it didn't take too long.  

Back home for lunch then to garage to declare unhappiness with tyre.  Had to go alone as OH went back on painting duty.  The garage man said the tyre had been driven on whilst flat and was completely knackered so I had to have another one.  OH was not pleased. Monthly budget, like the tyre,  well and truly blown.  Walked the dog and mulled over whether I should go and do a Show in the North where I could have free stand plus accommodation. Need to get the website up and running first.  Had felt excited about the prospect at first but then remembered Shows are very hard work and you don't necessarily get as many clients from them as you would wish.  Also clashes with Blues Festival, unbelievably.  I would have to create an Association, which means having to share control with two other people and I don't want to do that either.  Unusually for me, felt indecisive.

Happily, no football on the telly tonight.  Watched recording of the Beverly Hill Billies again. Granny mentions that she wants to get away from all them city folks and back to good old Bugtussle.  Amazingly, there is actually a town by the name of Bugtussle

Bugtussle, Oklahoma is an unincorporated community[1] located off Bucklucksy Ln. on the shores of Eufaula Lake, adjacent to Robbers Cave State Park, in Pittsburg CountyOklahomaUSA,[2] with a population of "a few hundred". The community began in 1903 with the construction by a Mr. Ran Woods and others, of a two room log schoolhouse on the site. The schoolhouse is still standing, and was once attended by former speaker of the US House, Carl Albert. The settlement was allegedly named by Mr. Woods who felt that the bugs at the site were so numerous, that they were a never ending "tussle" for him to deal with.[3] The name "Bugtussle" was also the name of the town where the fictitious Beverly Hillbillies of TV series fame, had once lived before moving to California (according to some episodes, although other episodes alluded to other possible places of origin).
Bugtussle is about 6 miles (9.7 km) northeast of McAlester. The town was renamed Flowery Mound about 1907, but the original name persisted.[4]

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

This just wouldn't happen to Catharine Zeta Jones...

Tuesday 17 February 2015
8 degrees with rain and sunny spells

To the garage with the utility vehicle to discover what the damage is going to be following the MOT.   I arrive and am ignored so employ my usual tactic of getting into one of the brand new cars and starting to press all of the buttons.  The owner appears and seems hopeful until he realises it is me and I am back with one of my selection of dodgy cars.  Ah, Senora B, he grunts.  We go over to the car and he stands by the engine and motions me to open the lid.  I struggle to find the lever and he stands in the rain and scowls.  Finally I find it and he says there is no fuel leak from the pump (phew) and it is not worth putting back on the engine cover because it is knackered.  He chucks it back at me and I put it in the boot.  I then show him the tube that is hanging down.  He says that whoever put in the new engine, put in a tube that was too long.  I remind him that it was his garage that put it in and he says no and I say yes so he says OK, bring it inside and he makes me drive it onto the ramp, without giving me a clue if I am safely on the tracks or not.  He is in such a bad mood, it makes me want to burst out laughing.  A minion comes over and they try pushing the tube back under a metal shelf and it keeps popping out like a Jack in the Box.  

I go for a coffee over the road and sit at the bar for at least ten minutes before the owner stops talking on the phone.  I attract his attention by finding the remote control for the telly which is blasting away on the wall, turning down the volume and turning off the sport.  He is over in a jiffy.  I don't give him back the remote until I leave.

I think that this wouldn't happen to Catharine Zeta Jones.  She wouldn't be sitting in the equivalent of the failures cafe on the Apprentice, gripping an oily remote control and waiting for a bad tempered and aged garagiste to fix an eleven year old car with more rattles than a maternity unit.  I don't know why Catharine Zeta Jones pops into my mind at times like this.  Perhaps because she is so poised and glam.  Then again, I wouldn't fancy her old man, not in his current state.

Back at the garage and the owner has decided that it must be that the tube has stretched. Haha.  He says he can find a second hand one and fix it so I head down town and find OH in the rental units and he sends me for bread and cakes and we have a cup of tea and I scrape paint off the windows and clean off thirty years of grime.

Back home for lunch and again to the garage where it appears that I went home with the car keys in my pocket.  I give them the keys and they rev the car for at least ten minutes and then I am free to go and so I take the dog for a walk.  Sun has made a brief appearance. Home to clean up the kitchen and living room.  Wood fire has turned the fine white curtains into an interesting butterscotch colour.  Wonder what our lungs look like.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Gritting my teeth day....

Monday 16 February 2015

Brilliant sunshine then lots of rain
8 degrees rising to 12

Woke up early and wrote for an hour.  Worried that early typing activities are ruining my eyesight so turn up text to really large size. Have taken to doing eye exercises during my walks but this is somewhat hazardous as I am both short sighted and cross eyed and can't actually see where I am walking.  May be better to do these whilst I am swimming as it is quite hard to fall over in the water.  People swim into one another all the time in our pool.

Had FB message from French guy (no idea at all who he is) who informed me that French is dying out in France and that English is taking over.  He quoted stats showing that English speaking countries have stronger economies and brighter futures.  I pointed out that it wasn't the fact that we were English speaking - it was that we had a culture of encouraging enterprise and entrepreneurs. Thought of great George Bush saying, 'the French have no word for entrepreneur'.  A friend working in France tells me the latest madness that people are no longer allowed to develop outbuildings next to their houses, if they live in a rural area. The buildings will have no value and will not be maintained.  Well done, French administration.  Lets see how long it takes you to do a U turn on that one.

Went to motorway exit and waited for clients.  They were late and didn't apologise.  Man was pleasant and woman looked like she had swallowed a prune.  An aged relative was parked in the front seat and she didn't get out of the car all morning, so they had to make sure that she was facing south and kept warm.  We set off, them following and I nervously put on the GPS and really hoped it wouldn't take me back up the scary stony road which it had selected last time I had been to this particular property.  Fortunately it didn't and I learned a new way to chop off a huge section of road in order to get from A to B.  We got to the house and the mountains and meadows were sparkling and the house looked great.  

I found the key and we went in and opened up the shutters and the house was terribly cold. The man was enthusiastic and the woman still said nothing.  I wondered if she was mute. The only time she showed any reaction was when I was having trouble opening a side door and she attempted to wrestle the key off me and barked 'give it to me'.  I retained hold of it. If anyone is going to be breaking keys, it will be me.   We went round the house and gardens and she checked on Granny then we were off to the next house.  I got a bit lost and we did a bit of unexpected dirt road driving which meant their delightful conker coloured car had a mud skirt by the time we arrived at the next house.

The mountains had retreated behind a curtain of approaching rain so we started with the interior.  'lots of sodding dusting here' said the woman.  That put a damper on things.  We went back downstairs and the owner took them out to show them his garden, which is his pride and joy.  The other owner offered me a coffee so I gratefully accepted.  She told me about their previous life as successful estate agents, letting agents and property developers. Back in the days when houses were 250000 francs in the Lot et Garonne.  'We were selling 6 houses a week!'.  Resisted grinding my teeth.  Not that effing easy these days, lady.  She said they were going to go and live in Spain in an area where 'quality Brits' live and not the package holiday lot.  I had had enough and went to retrieve my clients from the garden with the hope of getting them back to my town and making them fall in love with it.  They declined, saying Granny needed to get back.

Felt rather fed up.  Went back home and discovered the water pump is pumping constantly and so we had to turn it off which meant we had no cold water in the kitchen.  OH did list of our expenditure this month and said it was too high.  He went back down to the rental units and I walked the dog in the rain and then rang people up.  Last week's first client said he had decided against the only house I had managed to show them - neighbour too close and garden too steep and the second client said he had only just got back to his remote island and didn't want to be pressured.  Ate mince pies.  Prepared mussels, squid and prawns for paella.  OH arrived back home in bad mood so I went for a swim.  Apparently the pool now always closes at 7 pm so I only got a 15 minute thrash up and down.  Preston North End against Man U in the fakup.  Lost 3-1.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The lovely Graham Norton ...

Sunday 15 January 2015

Lots of rain - 4 degrees warming to 13

OH took dog out for constitutional and I baked lemon meringue pie and mince pies. Listened to Graham Norton.  He is the only 'celebrity' I would actually invite to a party.  He is on the Radio and does a particularly amusing agony aunt feature, accompanied by a lady presenter.  They have quite different opinions of the issues and then the public chips in.  I used to greatly enjoy reading his agony aunt column in the Saturday Telegraph.  He has a lot of compassion, our Graham, and much empathy.

"Remember that sleeping with friends is lazy and selfish: we don't cook our pets just because we're hungry and they're sitting right by the oven."  —Graham on troublesome relationships
"Dogs and DIY are where relationships end up, not where they start." —Graham on looking for love
"Stay on the moral high ground—it's much easier to swing a baseball bat from there."  —Graham on forgiving betrayal
I also love his sometimes waspish tone and how he is not afraid to reprimand.

From Wikipedia :  Upon joining Equity, he chose Norton as his stage name, which is his great-grandmother's maiden name. In 1992 his stand-up comedy drag act in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe as a tea-towel clad Mother Teresa of Calcutta made the press when Scottish Television's religious affairs department mistakenly thought he represented the real Mother Teresa.

Someone at work has gone on a sudden sabbatical.  Have they jumped or were they pushed? Need to find out.

The good ship Leaving Normal is treading water this month, so far.   Oh yes, a tricky sale seems to have sorted itself out, without my having to get involved - the parties have come to an agreement between themselves.  However, another sale is kicking off again with the vendor being asked to pay for a survey, for which he has no legal obligation, and he has said if the buyer wants it, they can pay for it.  Alternatively, he has suggested I can pay half out of my 'generous fees'.  My generous fees are diminished by the introducer, VAT and social charges and resemble a Maasdam cheese, ravaged by very hungry rats suffering from a cheese deprivation regime, by the time they have finished taking their bites.  The buyer has also greatly benefited from the change in the dollar rate so they can put up or shut up, basically, is the notary's opinion.

Ripped up old, dead matter off the garden during the brief sunny period.  One of the long borders is now completely clear.  Many tiny tufts of Nigella poking through.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Oh fate, you are a stony hearted bitch!

Saturday 14 February 2015
Valentines Day
Absolutely persisted it down all day - 8 degrees

Informed OH that we would win 13000000 euros in the Friday 13th Lotto draw.  Looked at my numbers this morning.  If I had chosen my normal numbers, which I hadn't and instead had gone for a lucky dip (ha ha not), I would have won 13 euros.  Oh fate, what a sense of humour you have!!!

Went for a drive out to a big city a couple of hours away.  Spray on the motorway was dreadful, lots of road works and OH was squeezing past waving lorries and perilously near to the barriers.  Aquaplaned twice.  Arrived a nervous wreck.

Had a coffee and nibble and discovered a material shop.  Managed to get in before they closed.  The owners were dressed as goblins.  I didn't like to ask why.  Didn't find anything I liked but noted the name and address for next time. Noticed some people in furry onesies strolling past the large front window.   Curious...

Wandered round the shops and it started raining in earnest so we went into another bar and were served by Snow White's evil stepmother who was shouting orders at a team of hot looking elves.  Small girls dressed as Snow White and Cinderella in princess mode ran around, shod in perfect small red tap shoes.  A group of 70's hippies came in and a transvestite in a bright pink wig.  We were starting to feel seriously drab and under dressed. I decided it would be a good idea if in future I dressed as a 70's chick.  Clothing was so much more vibrant back then.  Must go to charity store and find something jolly to revamp, à la Sewing Bee.

Apparently it was just a Carnival and anyone could dress up how they felt inclined.  Very amusing group of cackling nuns in the main square.  In a side street, discovered a group of Spanish 'Russians' dancing to Abba.  Only in Spain....

Walked along the lake front and the waves and spray were huge.  People were battling with their windsurfing boards which were being tossed around like flotsam.  

Back home and felt duly refreshed.  Took dog for quick walk and I could see my breath.  OH made cod cheeks in butter, pimientos with sea salt, skate wings and we followed up with cheese and biscuits.

So tired, managed to sleep through both the rugby and football and at 10.30 OH woke me up and insisted I went to bed, where I slept surprisingly well.