Saturday, March 7, 2015

Were men more beautiful in the 70's?

Friday 6 March 2015

Brilliant sunshine
Ground frost rising to 12 degrees

Have to go to big town to source fuel for the petrol stove.  In our little town, I was informed that this is a winter product and so is no longer stocked in March, because it is no longer winter.  With the sunny days, the temperature at night drops like a stone, are these people mad??  Find a store where they still think it is winter and buy two huge containers just in case they change their mind soon.  

There are many bags of seed potatoes on the shelves and a chart showing the earliness of their harvest, taste, keeping potential and susceptibility to blight.  I hesitate.  OH wants to go fishing at the start of the season on the 15th and the rotavator was playing up last year.  I am not capable of controlling the rotavator.  It has a kick like a mule and, in the way of most machinery operated by blokes, breaks down all of the time.  We have very heavy clay soil which wraps itself around the blades in great chunky blocks, and has to be laboriously scraped off.  I have tried Charlotte as an early potato before and it has great taste but is appallingly attacked by the blight.  Amandine and Binje are great main crop potatoes.  I am always tempted by the very small bags of ruinously expensive 'heritage' potatoes.  They are often strange shapes and hues and if I saw them on a counter, I would not buy them.  Who says advertising doesn't work.  There is something about 'heritage' that makes you feel that you are buying something special and not something that resembles Chucky's head.

Dog is chomping at the bit so we head off around the lake.  Few people around.

Spot the heron?  He is being hassled by some ducks

Beautiful tree form

Glossy celandines welcome the sun

'Tree' house
photos Leaving Normal.  Please give link back if you share

Nearly back at the car, some soggy spaniels run up and their owners are English and it transpires that they are looking to sell their house in our town.  My crystal is nestled snugly under my jumper, and is obviously working overtime!

Back home and spend afternoon on paperwork and ringing up suspects.

Watch a programme on songs of the 70's.  Songs of the early 70's really resonate with me because they are associated with the way I felt at the time or by things that happened.  

this one gave me goosebumps.  I was living in Suffolk, Woodbridge, and I was 17.  I dressed up in my new short multicoloured yellow and orange dress and wedges and went to walk around town.  A guy came up to me and said his friend would like to go out with me.  I looked over and there was the most beautiful guy I had ever seen.  Later he gave me this record.  I wonder where he is now and what he has become.

and, oh the lovely Mark Bolan

But my most special memory of this period is going to see Godspell at Wyndham's Theatre in London in 1972.  A very forward thinking RE teacher had the most enthusiastic class ever when he proposed the field trip.  At the end of the show, I charged up on stage and fought my way through the crush and got David Essex to sign my programme.  He was stunningly beautiful with his dark, curly hair and deep blue eyes.  I looked up at him and was shining like an angel.

Friday, March 6, 2015

How much sharper than a serpent's tooth (is the drill of the dentist)

Thursday 5 March 2015

Sunshine!!  5 degrees rising to 12 degrees

Thursday is one of my favourite days of the week.  I get to go down the market, root around in the charity shop, and drink coffee and catch up with friends.  Today, oh joy, the sun has made its reappearance and bright puffy clouds are scudding along at great speed.  The lawn is sparkling and dewy.  Whatever it is that is in the loft that given me a night's respite from its rootings and chewings, and I feel ready to get up and welcome the day.

OH declares his intention to come down and work in the rental unit whilst I 'gallivant' around the market.  I put on my new crystal and think 'synchronicity', I am ready for what you are about to send my way.  We park up on the outskirts of the town and are cutting through the narrow cobbled streets towards the centre, when an English couple stops us and asks for directions to the market.  OH immediately engages them in conversation (think he misses being in sales) and they say they will be looking to buy in the area - OH immediately tells them that I am an estate agent (without letting me get a word in sideways).  Ah, says the man, that is synchronicity....   OH goes off to paint and I take them for a coffee and they are charming and coming back with their family in the Summer to check out the area.  We swap details and they leave smiling.  How good is that!  I rub my crystal and say, well done you.

The bar in which we had been drinking the coffee has recently undergone a substantial renovation.  It has lost its squashy sofas and the days newspaper.  The bar stools, which accommodated bottoms of all sizes, have also been culled.  The lighting is subtle - which means for old gits like me - you cant see what you are drinking after twilight falls.  The older clientele are perching unhappily on the new stools or are parked at the spindly tables.  In the toilet, there is more subtle lighting, including fish shapes, circling around the walls.  If I didn't love the people behind the bar, I would not be going in their any more.  The new owner is looking to attract younger clientele and will be opening up a music venue in the back room. The people who live down town will really love that and the timid policeman will not be sleeping easy in his bed.  He is the one who went around to see the woman with the dogs who were aggressive with me.  He told her that I had complained and when she started to argue with him - he just passed the phone over to me

I leave when I see the owner approaching and I know he is going to ask if I like the change and I know I will have to say no.

Here are some photos of today's market:

1950s booklets

Hats ahoy

Anyone for pork?

Telling a story

Supine jeans and very scary leggings

Mountain chic

Installation or for sale?  Figurines demand table status

OH rings me up and is very excited.  A Chinese guy who he recognises from the gym, is visiting one of the other flats in the building.  I am to go immediately and find him and show him our flats.  I go to the Chinese restaurant and explain slowly and carefully to the Chinese girl on reception that I am looking for the man who is Chinese who goes to the gym and does he work here?  She smiles and nods throughout and then says, Do you want to eat?  I say do you understand me and she smiles and says No.  I run around to the gym and rifle through the membership cards to see if I can find a Chinese name.  No joy.  I hover in the queue and wait for the receptionist to get around to me.  Behind his head is a large screen, advertising the various membership options and services available.  Who should pop onto the screen, carefully massaging green slime into a smiling and happy client's back, but the Chinese guy.  Aha moment!!  He is not there but will be there later on in afternoon.

Unhappily, I have a date with my dentist.  He is from Corsica and he is absolutely gorgeous with black hair, malteser brown eyes and great teeth.  He is also very solicitous and keeps asking me if I am OK.  I tell him he will know if I am not OK because I jump.  Ah yes, he says.  He immobilises me and pumps in great, jump inhibiting, quantities of anaesthetic and takes out my fragile crown.  The receptionist comes in and there has been a mix up between two clients and they and the nurse try and sort it out on the screen there and then. You are getting a little break, Signora B, says the dentist happily.  My breathing at this point has almost gone back to a normal rhythm.  I hate the smell of burning tooth, the sickliness of blood on my tongue and especially the various drill noises - the high mosquito whine, the droning of the medium needle but what I particularly hate is the deep grinding of the heavy duty jobbie.  I make the mistake of opening my eyes and see that he has a needle the size of a mutant wasps sting and is about to insert it into my tender gum.  I ask him if he has nearly finished and he has.  His nurse is a trainee and keeps running into tables and my feet.  Finally, after an hour, it is over and I have a temporary crown which is slightly too long but I will have to put up with for ten days.  I go and slurp a coffee and get pitying looks from people on surrounding tables.  

I go back to the gym and the Chinese guy isnt there and so I leave a message and go home and feel exhausted and discover people have been falling out on the group and someone has left.  PM people and tell the offenders they are on point.

Great British Sewing Bee semi final night and it is leather and lace, with a wetsuit to alter.  I loved Neil's contribution of a well fitting halter neck rubber top and lovely lace skirt.  The winning article from Debbie was a bit of a monstrosity.  I do love Claudia Winkleman - she gives wonderful innenuendos such as 'they want it stiff and big' and 'this is my first time boning'

To bed early. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Gijon - stepping out into a new morning

Wednesday 4 March 2015

Brilliant blue skies followed by big black skies and torrential downpours then ....  more brilliant blue skies.  Great skeins of cranes passing overhead, daily.

Nothing too interesting happened today, so instead I thought I will give you some pictures of the city of Giijon.  Pronounced Hee Hon like a donkey speaking chinese with a definite downward accent on the Hon.  Never heard of it?  Neither had we.  It is the capital city of the northern Spanish region of Asturias.  A city of nearly 280000 souls on the sea.  Stupendous golden sands, sea air that has travelled thousands of miles to reach this patch of earth, tiny shops selling just a couple of lines (notably a string and rope shop), rich culture and heritage, a place to discover and savour.  And of course, hacer el paso.  El paso happens every evening when the population take to the streets, walk around in their finest clothes, eat tapas, encourage the children to play and have fun, drink wine and beer and talk as loudly as possible.  There is no such thing as a silent Spaniard.

Interesting juxtaposition of recent and traditional

First person on the paso

Beautiful artwork

Best type of graffitti

Fabric flowers at the Casino

Venturing out for breakfast

Heading out to the theatre

Plaza in sepia

New morning

Mad birds and English women venture out in the morning rain

Plaza in colour

After the dance is over

The pigeon takes to posing

Last photo before leaving

These are the photos I take when I get up early, leaving OH to mumble and grab the sheets, and head out into the new morning, fresh and cleaned, and enjoy the city to myself.  My photos are as precious to me as anything I could purchase.  If you wish to use them for a non commercial purpose, please let me know and link back to the site.  

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A day of surprises and some knots untie themselves!

Tuesday 3 March 2015

Grey and cloudy with light rain
12 degrees

A day of surprises.  First thing when I get up, I turn on my phone.  Yes I know it is a bad habit and I am welded to it.  I find a message from a client who has finally got to the end of a thorny problem and has done it without the help of the notaries.  She is buying a 1950s property which has some archaeological vestiges on the site.  The land registry plan is not clear as to who has ownership and the notaries, who are officially in charge of establishing what is what as far as the Title is concerned, develop 'sloping shoulders' and suddenly become unavailable to speak to on the telephone.  I dig out the name of the former owner and pass it to the client and hurrah, it transpires that the vestiges are not with the property so the buyer is immensely relieved and is now just anxiously awaiting her visa and shovelling snow.  New England, it appears, has much more savage weather, than Old England.  

The second surprise came later in the day.  I get a call from a seller - the one who has gone a bit bonkers and dropped her house to such a low price that I told her to raise it again - rings to say that she has two offers but there is a problem.  I say your price is far too low and you are giving the house away.  She says, I know, but we just want to sell.  It transpires that one of the offers has come from my people who made the offer in January

and who have come back in with a direct offer.  She says that they have made an offer at the new price she was asking on the private ad but she told them that they were introduced to her by me and if they want to buy, they must go through me to effect the purchase.  They suggested to her that, as I "hadn't done much work", they would pay me half fees(!)  She also said that she had another offer and she was waiting to see if they would raise it to be higher than my former clients and she would ring me back.  I thanked her for her honesty and hung up.  The sneaky bastards!!!  I will wait to see which offer the seller accepts.  I am inclined to agree with her that, if my people do buy, they will never be happy in the house because they are dishonest people.

I am also a great believer in synchronicity, and what goes around, comes around.  Feel the need for a new crystal and, on the advice of a reiki friend, go and look for some laboradite. This is such a beautiful feldspar crystal with stunning reflects of shimmering blues and golds.  My friend says there is nothing like it for synchronicity.  She also says that the crystal finds the person, like the wand finds the wizard...

google images

The lady in the shop says they are also strong against negativity (I am still thinking sneaky bastards at the back of my mind) and need to be cleaned once a week by leaving them in water overnight and then on a windowsill to absorb sun or moon rays.  They says as they absorb negativity, they become less brilliant.  Will be an interesting gauge.

Go for a swim, which is less than blissful as it is full of people larking about and bashing each other with swimming aids.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Latins and their fags (cigarettes)

Monday 2 March 2015

Clear with drizzle 12 degrees

Woke up dreadfully early.  The night air was alive with owl hoots, shrieks and twoots.  The constant rain must have been a real bind for the barn owls, especially.  Their soft feathers have no waterproofing so they cannot hunt in the rain.  We have a large barn and I imagine them perching on a high beam, watching the floors and walls and twisting their heads at Exorcist angles, their huge eyes glimmering in the faint light.

Any type of rodent eating owl would be welcomed by us in our loft.  Something is gnawing its way through the ceiling above the kitchen.  On a rare sweep past with the brush on Sunday morning, I discovered a pile of chewed wood chips lying on the kitchen floor.  So far, I have put out 12 packets of poison and two traps and it is still running about.  It has heavy feet and I am not keen to meet it, whatever it is.  All of the packets of poison have been taken away from their positions.  Watch this space.  I really, really, really hope it is not a very large rat.  And his mates.  I know for a fact that they won’t be running a restaurant up there.  (à la Ratatouille, a film which I love)

Drove through the morning mist to the notary’s office for completion on a sale which has taken eight months to get to this date.  The parties battled remorselessly even down to the price of the piano, so I was somewhat surprised to discover that the buyers had come over a week ago, and had been staying with the seller.  They were now uber pally and the signature was over in no time.  The seller, who had spent at least six months cursing the buyer to the far ends of Hell, got up and kissed them and said congratulations.  He then said he was very happy with our services and invited me to take on two of his other properties.  Fortunately I was sitting down at the time, in a strange mock Louis XV chair which has recently made its appearance in the notary’s office, or the shock may have well taken my legs out from under me.

I celebrated by going for a coffee and Nutella crepe.  When I first came over to this country, eleven years ago, people didn’t snack.  They ate their main meals at lunch time and soup or cheese in the evenings and they were all slim (apart from the old guys with the huge paunches).  Today, in the bar, I was not the only one tucking into a sugar based snack.  Some were having biscuits, some muffins, some brownies.  Quite a few were having beer.  How on earth do they do back to work in the afternoons when they have had beer at lunch time?  The locals have definitely expanded and, interestingly, the shops have responded.  I used to be classed as extra-large and so consequently refused to buy any clothing over here, relying for years on the internet with less insulting labels.  Now I am a medium.  Young girls in particular have expanded, and happily show their expanses of white and tattooed flesh on every available occasion.

Another big difference I notice in Europe, compared to the UK, is the amount of people who smoke.  In the UK I didn’t know anyone who smoked.  Over here, I know very few people who don’t.

 image Leaving My Normal iPhone 

The fact is that smoking is socially acceptable in France and statistics reveal that the number of women taking up (and dying from) smoking is on the rise.  One in three French people smoke and take it up in their early teens.  This is compared to one in five in the UK. These figures hide the fact that smoking in the UK is more class and age based than in France.  

This is from the Ash website

There is a strong link between cigarette smoking and socio-economic group. Smoking has been identified as the single biggest cause of inequality in death rates between rich and poor in the UK. Smoking accounts for over half of the difference in risk of premature death between social classes.
Death rates from tobacco are two to three times higher among disadvantaged social groups than among the better off.
Long-term smokers bear the heaviest burden of death and disease related to their smoking. Long term smokers are disproportionately drawn from lower socio-economic groups. People in poorer social groups who smoke, start smoking at an earlier age: of those in managerial and professional households about one third start smoking before age 16 compared with almost half of those in routine and manual households.
In France, people of all socio economic groups smoke and most of them have been smoking since their early teens.  The ban on smoking in bars and the raise in prices have had limited effect.  The dangers of smoking and the scary messages on the fag packets have meant that there has been a boom in 'vapotage' or e-cigarettes which now account for 25% of smoking related sales in France.

Serbia tops the list with 2,861 cigarettes per person.  If the population of Serbia is 7,276,604 million people, then that would mean almost 21 billion cigarettes were smoked (20,818,364,044). If a pack contains 20 cigarettes, that would be a little over 1 billion packs of cigarettes (1,040,918,202). If you subtract the 14.9 percent of the population that is under the age of 14, that would mean the adult population smoked 166.5 packs per person. If you assume that the average smoker consumes 1 pack per day, that would mean that roughly 50% of Serbs would be considered regular smokers (46.5%). 

Back home and do update on contacts and email the suspects (prospects who are not answering their phones or my contact emails).  Feel rather tired.  Must not eat lots of sugar at lunchtime.  OH ventures out into the rain with the dog and I prepare squid, mussels and langoustines for his signature chili seafood ragout.  Go for a swim and there are only six people in the pool.  Bliss!

Monday, March 2, 2015

February round up

Sunday 1 March 2015


February is now complete and the prevailing feeling of the month was ennui.  I haven't sensed boredom in so many years now.  Perhaps it is because I am now involved in dog walking every day.  Our dog used to walk himself in the local area - we are far from roads - and would always return during the day.  Now he is 12 and his eyes and ears aren't so hot and so when he wanders off or chooses to follow walkers into the wood, he gets lost and is then sad and confused.  Last year he had a week on his own in a village 12 kms away and another time went down onto the big main road where, fortunately, he was picked up by the local dog warden and taken to a railway hotel owned by a (rare) dog lover.  The local policewoman came around to see me and told me that the next time, I would be getting a fine, so we do dog walking.

In past years, we hibernate in Winter, emerging to work or shop or go to the gym/baths. This winter we have pounded the roads, severally and jointly.  The winter has been exceptionally wet and grey and especially February.  Massachusetts has had the coldest winter in decades, to the extent that the sea was coming in as slush - this amazing photo was taken by a surfer

Nantucket slush wave

When I got to the top of the dunes I see that about 300 yards from the shoreline that the ocean was starting to freeze.  The high temperature that day was around 19F.  The wind was howling from the south west, which could typically make rough or choppy conditions not good for surfing, but since the surface of the sea was frozen, the wind did not change the shape.  Photograph Jonathan Nimerfroh

At the very end of the month, positive things happened.  I met a stimulating business mentor, I gave up a very bad habit, I developed a vision for this blog and for my group, my cousin invited me to Houston in the Fall, I had a visit on the top rental unit.  I also started seeing repeating numbers which I take to be an excellent sign.

Looking back at at this month, I see the first stirrings of something.  The good ship, Leaving Normal, is still in harbour but she tires of the mooring.  The moon has set and, whilst it is not yet dawn, there is an expectant silence.  The birds in the trees are listening and the first tiny wavelets are starting to swell and push their way along the hull.  The sails are still furled but are all in shipshape condition and ready to serve.  The top most flag responds to sudden stimuli.  The tide is turning.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Culture, kippers and Nanci Griffith (and OH does his best Jeremy Clarkson impression)

Saturday 28 February 2015

Guess what, yes....  am about to develop webbed feet

OH surprised me by leaping out of bed early and saying he had cabin fever and we needed to go to the coast and get some culture.  It was a bit of a shock to be on the road for 9.30 am and driving through the thick drizzle.  Not a lot of other people had had the same idea. We arrived and parked by the shore.  There is quite some reach before the water reaches this shore, so immense cubes of concrete have been piled up in a random style against the promenade.  The massive waves were rolling in at speed, the spray shooting back from their crests, and they burst explosively on the cubes.  The spumy, foaming water shot easily ten metres into the air and the black clothed photographers were periodically hidden from view as it landed on the promenade and road nearby.  Some cars owners were hovering, enjoying the prospect of a free car wash, and wondering how to get back into their vehicles without being soaked to the skin.

We went for a quick shop in the market and discovered the Lidl has different stuff to our local one.  I was delighted to find some Master Crumble, described as muesli, but nothing a Swiss person would recognise.  I have a complete addition to its strange clusters and fruity chewy bits.

  apparently it is full of saturated acids but I don't care

We then took a turn around the fish market.  A woman was poking a stick into an aquarium and trying to separate the lobsters and the crabs, who were establishing territory and waving their claws at one another.  The lobsters were iridescent blue and had a lower waving curtain from which they scooted around the tanks.  Such lobsters are very rare and the colour is produced because some crustaceans are better at processing an antioxidant known as astaxanthin and it was amazing to see them

this is an US blue lobster taken from

The range of fish in a Spanish market is truly mind boggling - from massive sharks to pop eyed red snapper, John Dory, hake (merluza), salt cod (baccalao), gleaming spotted turbot, enormous langoustines (cigales) and shoals of silver anchovies (anchoas).  What did take my eye were the mackerel.  Have you ever looked closely and in its natural state, the fish which provides your kipper.  Each mackerel has its own individual maze like pattern running over the top and middle of the body and a faint mother of pearl sheen illuminates all of the scales.  

We then went for some 'culcha' in the large art museum.  OH picked up the audio guides and marched off, saying 'follow me'.  This is what he does in museums.  He marched into a door and seemed to have trouble getting through it, so an aged museum guide got off her stool and opened it for him.

The first exhibit was called Japanese Garden.  It was moss sprayed in various garish colours.  'This is crap', exclaimed OH, loudly.  I prayed that no one in the room understood 'basic' English.  The guide let us back out again and we went into the cloisters.  OH peered at the signs on the wall and then marched off decisively.  I arrived and had to open the door for us into the church.  I hope he is not going to start having these problems at home.  There were a lot of ancient tombstones.  The audio guide was somewhat verbose and OH charged around the room shouting 'get on with it!'.  Fortunately we were alone.  After a battle, when he insisted on opening the door himself, we found an exhibition of alpinisme which was quite interesting and then some modern art which was actually crap and then, oh joy, found a costume display from which I took quite a few photos.  OH stopped shouting at the audio guide briefly to shout at me to get a move on.  As usual, I ignored him and took lots of images of the exquisite detail on the bodices and jackets.  There was also some really crazy headgear.  Haven't downloaded them from iPhone yet, but will put them on for your entertainment, dear reader, at a later point.

Back home and the car aquaplaned twice, again.  These days out are rather bad for my nerves.  The new Ikea is coming on apace, they are up to roof level and have electricity.  We could go there for lunch, says OH.  I would be going there for, in the words of Nanci Griffiths, for unnecessary plastic items

(Love at the Five and Dime) Nancy Griffiths

If you dont know her, listen and love.