Sunday, September 28, 2014

Me, old?

I’m now sort of semi retired.

At the beginning of 1973 I started work in Barclays Bank. The following year saw the start of equality at work and it certainly applied to banking, though there were one or two little details that were overlooked.

Equality meant that our jobs were now pensionable and most of us didn’t see the need.  Up until then, women depended on their husbands to provide pensions and so on. (1974 remember). Today I’m very pleased to have taken up the pension. Even though I left the bank at the end of 1984 that nest egg was patiently waiting for me.

A couple of days ago I celebrated my 59th birthday and decided to take a lump sum and reduced pension from Barclays Bank.

In reality I will probably continue to run my own business here until I’m 70.

Monday, September 08, 2014

My son has two very different homes

Olivier is studying finance alternating with working in a bank. He has to run two homes now as they are 250 kilometres (about 155 miles) apart.

Last week we took him to his university town; Rennes. His apartment is close to the metro/subway/underground and two or three stops away from where he will be studying. He’s sharing with 3 others and we were impressed with the apartment. A big living room and a good sized kitchen which is well equipped and two bathrooms! He lives on the 6th floor.

The historic centre of Rennes

After we dropped him and half of his things off we headed for the town where he is working in a bank. A beautiful little town called Château-du-Loir; we had to deliver his belongings to his apartment there which happens to be in a Château! I didn’t get the chance to go with Rob and Olivier to view the apartment, but they were full of it when they came home and the caretaker had given them a tour of the rooms which weren’t lived in by other tenants.

We were really tired when we arrived there in the evening and took his things to his room. The caretaker was really welcoming and offered to show us the Chambre Royale, which is a suite of rooms. It was beautiful and spacious with lovely furnishings – ideal for a romantic couple of nights… if only…

Rob asked me if I’d like to stay for a couple of nights – it was all arranged beforehand in secret!

We had a lovely stay there and enjoyed just being quiet and exploring the town for a couple of days. It also meant that I had time to make up Olivier’s bed and hang up his clothes etc. I think that he was glad that I had because he arrived pretty late a couple of days later.

An imposing entrance

Stairway to our suite of rooms

We ate outside

I can't resist a tree

Le Salon

Stained Glass doors
(I took lots of pictures of these)

Our bedroom

The Chambre Royale is self catering and there is a small kitchen with an oven and microwave and basic utensils. I recommend Château des Remparts if you are in the Pays de la Loire region of France and looking for somewhere different to stay. Mickael the caretaker speaks a little English and some Portuguese too.

Friday, August 29, 2014

50 years on: Growing up the hard way

50 years ago this week, my best friend at school was killed in a car accident. She was 8 years old. It was the summer holidays and I was staying with my town Granny at the time. She saw something about the accident in the local papers but didn’t mention it to me as she wasn’t sure that I would know who was killed.

I remember it was the evening of the Sunday when I got home that my mother finally told me about the accident. I was sat on the toilet and she stood the other side of the door and said to me that I wouldn’t be seeing my friend anymore. I asked her if my friend had moved house (friends often moved without notice as far as I was concerned). When she said that my friend hadn’t moved, there was a pause while she waited for me to realize what had happened. I think you can imagine how upset I was.

 As it happens my country Granny was there (probably having brought my two sisters home from her house the same day). My granddad had been run over and killed by a car a few years before, it can’t have been easy for her. She simply told me not to cry as my friend was up with Jesus. That’s all that I needed to comfort me and I still have the picture in my mind of a boat sailing through the stars with my friend sitting in it and Jesus standing at the head of the boat.

Over the years I’ve often wondered what my friend would have been like – would we still have been friends?  When my youngest sister married in our village church, I was one of her bridesmaids and I took one of the flowers I was carrying and left it on her grave. Not long after that I saw her surviving twin brother and told him that I’d left a flower for her; he was so pleased that I still thought of her.

I used to think that my mother was a coward for the way she gave me the news. Now that I have three children of my own, I realize how difficult it must have been for her. I’ve always been grateful to my country Granny for knowing exactly the right words to comfort me.

The first morning back at school made me realize that the news wasn’t just mine. When the teacher walked into the classroom, one of the boys put up his hand and proclaimed “Sir D…… is dead!”

Monday, August 25, 2014

Flies and not nice


A couple of weeks ago we had quite a few flies buzzing around the house. There is a farmyard across the road so it’s no surprise in hot weather. Olivier suggested I buy fly spray or sticky strips. I think sticky strips are disgusting to look at and spray means humans get dosed with chemicals too.

 I researched online and tried out three homemade traps: I cut three plastic water bottles in half and put sugar syrup in one, cider vinegar with water in another and the third was a fruity smelling washing up liquid, in my case grapefruit, with water. The tops of the bottles were turned upside down and placed to make a funnel down to the trap. The idea is that flies are not clever enough to find the way out again.

 Results: Not one fly got caught in a trap and I have the feeling that not one fly was tempted. I managed to swat one or two in the early in the morning when they were still sleepy. I got double scores a couple of times when I managed to swat mating couples (you can really creep up on them when they are at it). The flies have disappeared now as the weather is a lot cooler. Perhaps they took the hint?

Not nice 

Rob and I are trying very hard not to use the word nice. I didn’t realize how much I used the word. The challenge is to find another adjective to use. The synonym finder has been very helpful, but is a little heavy to lug around in my handbag .

 One afternoon while out on a walk, we went through the alphabet trying to find alternative words to use. We haven’t found a nice beginning with X yet.

 Do you know what or who a “nice-nelly” is?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Hot weather

Rob was on holiday last week so it was a busy one. On Wednesday we went with Olivier to Saumur to help him clean up his apartment and bring the rest of his belongings home. Not an easy task as it was very hot and humid. He bought us lunch at Mcdonald’s and I tried a chicken burger with avocado sauce – delicious, needless to say I ate a salad with it. We finished the cleaning in time to go for a drink before the inventory.

Rob and I spent a very pleasant hour waiting for him to finish in the park at the top of his road. We found a shady spot to sit and listen to water running – bliss on a hot day.

I love trees

I had a walk around the park and discovered a charming alley. Eventually the arches will be covered in roses.

On Friday we went to visit one of Rob’s colleagues who is working at Georges Clemenceau’s holiday home in Saint-Vincent-sur-Jard, Vendée. There is an excellent gift shop, I bought a rose scented drawer sachet and some rose scented sweets in a pretty tin. We also bought presents for up and coming family birthdays. Again, it was a very hot day, the sea looked very tempting.

On the way home we drove through storms, the temperature dropped by 15°C within an hour. There was a lot of rain once we arrived home. It disappeared very quickly and by Saturday you wouldn’t guess it had rained at all.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Thanks to LinkedIn

I found a missing blogger.

Green stuff...

A couple of weeks ago one of my students asked me to help her write a letter to a company in the UK. She wanted to buy a specially adapted mouse for her husband’s computer as he has Parkinson’s disease.

A week later the letter had come back as the company was not at the address. I tried phoning the number which appeared on the website and a nurse on a stroke ward somewhere in the UK answered. She was very nice but couldn’t help our quest.

The following Saturday I decided to see what I could find out and came across the French website of a company that sells the same adapted mouse . I contacted my student who emailed back a few minutes later to say that a mouse was on its way! When she came for her lesson last Thursday she came bearing a plant as way of thanking me for my help. Her husband is very happy now that he can use his computer with ease.

This is an excellent year for hollyhocks. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them grow so tall. One in our garden is more than twice my height! I dragged Rob out to take a photo so that you could see it. I’m 1 meter 67 (around 5’ 6”)

To finish off; I received a message from Dom at the weekend. They live in the Boivre valley which is a protected site of natural interest. They discovered a deer at the fence at the back of the garden, eating their plants.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Weird and Wonderful

Exceptional sites this weekend:

We live next to the ‘Mairie’, town hall and if there is a wedding on a Saturday afternoon we usually hear and see some of it.

This Saturday was different. I heard the sound of bagpipes coming up the road. Fortunately I was in my office which is upstairs and when I looked out of the window I saw this little band coming towards the house.

They are a traditional Breton band of musicians so the bagpipes are in fact cornemuses. Isn’t it interesting that one of the men is wearing what looks very like a kilt? Must be the Celtic blood.

Afterwards they went into the town hall garden and played to the newlyweds and guests.

Last night I was closing the shutters upstairs before going to bed just before 11.30 and saw a row of lights. At first I thought that they were cinders from a fire floating through the sky. I ran downstairs to get my phone and was lucky enough to take some pictures. My phone is just a humble Samsung with no smart bits.

I was facing the East and the lights were moving from North to South. They were a reddish colour and seemed to flicker like flames. Very beautiful and I didn’t feel threatened of frightened by them. In the picture they are just above the streetlight. I didn’t count them, but there must have been around ten of them. I’ve always wanted to see a UFO so I feel very privileged.

The sun sets at around 10 o’clock here so I wondered if perhaps it could be the reflection of the sunset on a flock of swans flying over. A bit late for that perhaps. Do swans fly at night?

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Pretty Purple Poppies

Last night I managed to get some pictures I wanted before it was too late.

These poppies are grown to provide morphine and other pain killers. They are also very beautiful, but only last a short while, the petals fall very quickly.

As we finished our walk at the end of a hot day, it started to rain. No surprise as the sky had begun to look very moody.

Then there was a rainbow – as always they look better in real life

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Introducing Holly the Cat

... and that's all you get

Already a week has gone by since Dom, J-M and their cat Holly came to stay. Needless to say the weather was bad, but we still managed to enjoy ourselves. Dom brought a bottle of champagne with her. She’s had another paper accepted. She’s hoping to become Doctor before her 26th birthday in November. She’s also got a job next year at the university in Poitiers for a year. After that they will travel and work abroad.

J-M’s pupils are preparing for the baccalaureate in June so he’s almost at his first year’s end as a philosophy teacher. He doesn't know just yet where he will be sent next year – hopefully not too far from Poitiers.

Holly the cat? She’s gorgeous and very well behaved. Didn’t jump up anywhere she wasn’t supposed to. When we went into town for a look around the shops we left her with Rob. She spent quite a lot of time sat on the windowsill by my desk studying the hens in the farmyard below. Rob and I missed the patter of tiny paws on the stairs after they’d gone home.

On the Sunday morning we went to 4 Brocantes (sort of boot sales)in the villages around here. None of us found anything interesting enough to buy. Unfortunately, there are so many during the spring and early summer months now that real treasures are hard to find. Dom made Aubergine (eggplant) Korma when we arrived home for lunch. It was wonderful. There was enough for me to have the next day for lunch so I was very happy.

Just over a week ago Olivier had an interview with a bank and then dashed to the University in Rennes to attend some speed interviews with even more banks. He needs to find work for his month on month off university course. At the moment he’s waiting to hear so everything is crossed for him.

Stop Press One of the banks have contacted him today for an interview!
Stop stop Press He has a skype interview next week!