Friday, 30 November 2007

Golf balls






The trees have grown taller since I was in Cyprus a good few years ago, so this set of golf balls on the top of the Troodos mountains are not so obvious now as they once were. At 6,500 feet up they should have a good range at whatever it is they do. The temperature change when driving from the coast to this spot is very noticeable. It was summer when I was last there, and the coolness was a welcome change from the hot, burning heat of the coast. This time, at the beginning of winter, I was glad I had remembered to take a pure wool sweater - and I wore it long before we got to the top. I would not like to be there when the sun goes down.
In fact, it was the lack of sunshine that spoiled our visit to the Greek Orthodox Kykkos monastery. It is filled with mosaic wall pictures, many done in the late eighties, using gold leaf that glitters and glistens in the sunshine. I thought it was the most amazing place and persuaded dh to make the trip, but when we got there, the sun disappeared, it was cold within the monastery walls and the mosaics didn't sparkle. The church is small, and claustrophobic. The thick, suffocating incense doesn't help. Almost everything seems to be made of gold. Chandoliers, cupboards, screens, everything. It is a working monastery, with monks in black robes whizzing about. It is definitely worth a visit, but try and do it on a sunny day.





The picture of the mountains doesn't look impressive, but I think you can click on it and get a larger version. You need to imagine that this covers an area that takes an age to drive through. It's like the old trick - you climb to what you think is the top of the hill, and there's always another just beyond it. Well, driving through the Troodos is like that. You think the next bend in the dirt road will take you out of the mountains, but it doesn't; it just shows you another corner. It has a charm and beauty all its own and if you are not terrified you will wreck your vehicle, it is exciting to drive the dirt roads.
The other thing that Cyprus has is history.
In particular, Roman history. There are catacombs and ruins all over Pafos, some in the grounds of hotels, others just off main streets of the town. The picture I have here is of the Asklepieion - what I tend to think of as the theatre. The lighthouse is some distance behind it, though it appears to overlook it here. We went and sat on the terraces, and did what everyone does - tested the acoustics. They work, of course.

It must have been pleasant to sit there and enjoy a play in the warmth of a summer evening with the sea breezes winding in across the back of the neck. The whole Roman settlement is built on a bluff overlooking the harbour with the sea on one side and the harbour on the other. The site is huge, and more than half of it is yet unexcavated. The House of Theseus is vast - the inner courtyard is as big as a bowling green, and rooms surrounded all four sides. I'll put some pics of that up tomorrow.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

An award!

Two bits of news before I go back to thinking about Cyprus.

First of all I'm up for an award for Dark Pool on one of the review sites. Here's the url so you can have a peek and vote for me!




Secondly, I hope to join in a fun-filled online discussion on Saturday 1st December. Treat yourself to tantalising excerpts from Anne Sole and M C Halliday, Savannah Chase, Sloane Taylor and Jen Black, Jess Dee and Tess MacKall. Prizes galore, and it runs all day.

See you there!

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Brrr it's cold!



We missed the three days of storms and had a glorious week of temperatures around 24 degrees. To be honest, the night we arrived was full of thunder, lightning and torrential rain and we wondered if we'd done the right thing in arriving so late in the season.

Next day however, the sun chased the clouds away out over the Med and from then on it got steadily warmer and brighter. We hired a car on Wednesday and toured down the west coast to Limassol, stopping off at Aphrodite's Birthplace on the way. The white cliffs and the turquoise sea are stunning on a sunny day.

From Limassol we toured up into the Troodos mountains hoping we could find Kykko Monastery, reputed the be the richest in Cyprus, and where Archbishop Makarios is buried. We did, and found the place strangely oppressive. More on that tomorrow, when I dig the pics out. We crossed over the hump on the way, driving into and out of the snow line and goggling at the weird golf balls perched all over hilltops in Cyprus. Huge golf balls, with notices declaring that photography is not allowed, and, of course, absolutely no information as to what they might be doing there. They reminded me of the early warning stations on Fylingdales Moor way back in the sixties.

We then promptly got lost on the back roads heading home to Paphos. We should have had a jeep, for the 15 miles of dirt roads roared up and down hillsides, careered to the edge of sheer drops and of course the storms had cut deep gulleyes and channels where rainwater had taken the fall line down the mountain. DH, who has more knowledge of cars than yours truly, moaned and cringed and prayed that we wouldn't get a puncture, knock the sump off or otherwise damage the car. Anxiety spoilt his view of the wonderful pine forests with sun shining through the trunks...and the views across endless mountain ranges. I offered to get out and remove fallen rocks from our path, and had my hand on the door handle when I realised that I couldn't step out unless I wanted to drop about fifty feet to the stream below. "Oh, well, I can't get out here," I said, mistress of cool. DH ground his teeth and failed to respond.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Cyprus

We're off on holiday again - Cyprus this time. The temperatures should be a little warmer than the 7 or 8 degrees we have here, and I hope we'll see a little sunshine instead of the horrible grey murk and rain that hangs over the north east today.

However, it won't be all fun and games. I've printed out the first two pages of the wip, and I'm packing those, a notebook and a pen. I should make some progress with the rest of chapter one before I get back, and I'm taking Georgiana D of D and Pride and Prejudice with me as reading material. How's that for dedication?

Only a week this time. I've been to Paphos once before, but it was a long time ago and it will be interesting to see how much the place has changed. The downside is I shall have to get up very early, and I shall miss Cranford part 2, and Strictly Come Dancing! I'm not daft enough to phone in and vote on SCD, but I do like watching the amazing, intricate things they do. The energy levels of the professional dancers are amazing. I guess they must have fast twitch muscles to be able to do all they do.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

A new beginning



Started reading about the Duchess of Devonshire today.

I guess I've also started the ball rolling on the next epic. I roughed out a plan yesterday and filled in some detail today - checking for names appropriate to the time period, adding motivation where it needs to go, thinking out the relative back stories of the two protagonists and what the main bone of contention between them is going to be. I think my critique partner would say that was the most important thing of all! She's most concerned that my stories have a Spine.

The Regency is not a period I've studied, so on Lynne Connolly's recommendation I've ordered The Reign of George III by Steven Watson from an online book supplier. I remember those pale blue covers with the dull red border from my days in libraries - a whole sequence of thick books covering every time period from 400AD right up to the present day. Now I want one, of course, they're out of fashion and rarer than hen's teeth in my local libraries, hence the online purchase.

I'm planning a re-read of Pride and Prejudice, and I've got the dvd too, so I can have hours of fun doing research. This time I'll read all the footnotes! I'm happy to say that dh finally got hooked into P&P the last time I watched it. Yesterday I watched the Making of P&P yesterday and one of the examples was where Lady Catherine comes to tell Elizabeth she can't marry Darcy and complains about the windows being "full west"... dh enters the room, watches, smiles, turns to me and says "We'll have to watch it again." Success!

Friday, 16 November 2007

Money

Today is the day the UK goes mad and gives money away left, right and centre.

Last year they raised 33million for children. This year they want to better that figure. On the Terry Wogan Show Radio 2 (yes, I still listen!) listeners were phoning in and almost throwing money into the pot. One tempting offer was to attend the British Grand Prix, meet the driver of your choice, meet the team, see the workshops, sit in the car, all the sort of stuff petrolheads adore, champagne lunch - the bidding went to £100,000. Gulp.

Two 6-course meals at the Sharrow Bay Hotel on Windermere plus a trip on the lake and a big Audi to drive - I think that went for £30,000.

Have lunch with Terry Wogan and Roger Moore - you've got to be olver fifty to know who they are! The last I hear that was £70,000.

Now I feel cosily secluded from the madness. The closest it encroaches is the Pudsey van parked right across the street from my home. No doubt Paul will be out in the cold with the BBC tonight while I stay warm inside and watch it on tv.


At the College, Children in Need seemed to be an excuse for the students to dress up, wear something outrageous and almost illegally sexy, to barge into classrooms, workrooms and libraries yelling and falling over with laughter - and waving buckets into which everyone was supposed to throw money.



The first time it happened was a surprise, and welcomed with good humour - but the 31st time it happened the old patience did a u-turn and flew out of the window. And it happened every year, without fail. For the students, it was new and exciting, but for the staff - the phrase sitting ducks comes to mind. OK, I'm an old Scrooge...but am I alone in noticing how often these days we're asked to donate for this cause or that, sponsor this run or that walk, attend this party but pay for the priviledge as the money's going overseas?

I'll let all these go by and just keep quietly donating twice a year to the RSPCA and Dogs Trust.


And admiring the Pudsey van.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Celebrate

Celebrate! At the auction this morning, Siren Publishing bought the Triskelion Contracts on the list to be auctioned, along with the publishing software for a total of $1,500.00. Loose Id was there, too, but they bid only on the contracts (not the software) and offered $750.00.

According to the press release issued by Siren Publishing, they intend to immediately release all these contracts back to the authors, no strings attached, as a publicity stunt to give them exposure. They deserve all the publicity they can get for this generous act.

I have to admit I don't know Siren, so I'm on my way over there to have a look right now. This is the url -

http://www.sirenpublishing.com/

A good day for an auction

My book arrived from play.com today. Perfect new paperback all the way from Jersey. I ordered it Sunday, and it arrived second class post today. I am well pleased, and I can now return the library copy and let someone else enjoy it.

Today is auction day for the Triskelion author contracts. A strange business, but one I hope will soon be over. Evidently more e-publishers have closed in the last couple of weeks and I have to admit I'm wary of going the e-route again. Two closures out of two e-publishers does not exactly inspire me with confidence to go for a third.

I'm mulling over my next direction, writing-wise, and fell across Streatlam Castle. Not literally, of course. Built in 1718 on the site of a fifteenth century castle, it was demolished in 1927, and then, incredibly, blown up by the Territorial Army as an exercise in 1959. Hard to believe that it was allowed to happen, even if it was a ruin by then. When I found it was only 3 miles from Barnard Castle, I must have driven by Streatlam Park countless times and never realised a beautiful castle once stood there. Ah, England! It's a funny old place. I'd like to show a picture, but I think I would be breaking copyright if I did. Sorry.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Tynemouth

Left the computer to its own devices and nicked out for the whole day yesterday!

Prowled round the outlet centre at Royal Quays, then down to the Fish Quay at North Shields for fish and chips at Kristian's - scrumptious, eaten in the open air, watching the boats on the river.

Then on to Tynemouth and a walk along the sands. It was a gorgeous sunny day, but cold. The air was crisp and clear and the waves rolling in were high and spumy. Half a dozen brave souls were surfing. We watched the waves topping the breakwater at Tynemouth and crashing over it until we got too cold, and then walked on.
Finally, to the Metrocentre, where I bought a new coat. All in all, a good day. We didn't take the camera, though, so no pics.

Sunday, 11 November 2007


I’ve been reading the Victorian House by Judith Flanders.
I first got hold of it because I wanted to check when candles gave way to gas light and gas light gave way to electricity. I found the answers I wanted, but got totally sidetracked along the way with everything else. Fascinating details. I’ve ordered a copy from play.com – the site advertises “no delivery charges” and await its arrival with interest.

Amazon charge £6.99 against play.com at £7.49 – but then Amazon has a standard delivery charge which last time I checked was more than 50 pence! Also, the last time I used Amazon I had to wait ages and ages for delivery. I hate waiting - for anything! I avoid queues, would rather go without than wait in a queue.

Friday, 9 November 2007

Back to normal routine

My Victorian tale is coming to a close with the critique group so on Monday I began at Chapter One checking for errors and inconsistencies. Believe me, I found them. I also did a bit of re-writing. Some sentences just look so clutzy that I couldn't stop myself tearing them apart and rebuilding them in a simpler format. Sometimes I got muddled between gas and electric lighting, or days and dates. I'm up to Chapter Nine, so only another nine to go. Sigh.


I still have the last few scenes of the latest tale to write for the first time, but it is almost a done deal, and I don't have any worries about it. I'm keen to get on with something new, something in a different period. I do wonder if I should try a regency, but it is hard to think up an angle that hasn't been done already.


Still no word on the Viking story, still no word on the Victorian and still no word from People's Friend. The whole publishing world is silent.
And France seems a long way away.
A frosty morning a la Francais - until the sun comes up
Tonight I shall watch The Tudors. I missed a good deal of it while I was away and saw it for the first time last Friday. I thought it both flashy and inaccurate, but easy on the eye. Catherine has the Spanish accent, (I wouldn't know if it's the correct accent for her part of Spain!) but I never envisioned her with blue eyes. Anne doesn't seem terribly attractive, though Henry does, but rather prone to fly into rages between one sentence and the next - and rather young. He was born in 1485, and 48 by the time he married Anne. She was 26 when she died, and yet last week they look of similar age. Did Margaret bring about the demise of her aged husband so she could be with Brandon? I could be wrong but I thought the Duke of Richmond attained adulthood before he died. I do like Sam Neill, though and I think he's on the way to being a great actor.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007


French food has quite a reputation.


I’m not known among my circle of friends as a food critic, but I find eating in France interesting.
I hate their habit of not eating until 7pm at the earliest, by which time I’m usually ready to take a chunk out of the table, and of allowing cats to sit on white table cloths whilst you eat. (My dh chased it, upon which it looked outraged, gave him a filthy look and prowled off to find a more amiable patron.)


I like their habit of eating outside in the sunshine, of taking time over a meal and rarely, if ever, pressuring a customer to move on and free a table for the next customer. I also love (most of) their crème brûlees. I think of possibly 80, only two have been less than good.

It isn’t that I think their chefs are better than English chefs though they do seem to have more of the good ones than we do. But we’re getting there. French customers seem to have higher expectations than we do, and they are not slow to make their views known.

Their produce does seem to be fresher than ours. Walnuts fell off the trees at our door while we were there, and I collected a huge amount and laid them out on the bolly floor to dry, in a a big flat circle. Almost every night something nudged and rolled those walnuts along the floor, while we were asleep just on the other side of the wall, wondering what was out there.


Farmers harvest vegetables take them to a local market and sell them the same day. Tomatoes bought under these circumstances are gorgeous, and sliced, covered with garlic olive oil and fresh basil and eaten in the sunshine with fresh bread, are just divine. Avocados this year in England have been sorry things, either rock hard or bruised and going brown inside. Bought in Monsieur LeClerc’s supermarket, they were at a peak of perfection, soft and fresh, with skins that were hard and peeled off like thick paper. Prunes from Agen, about 60 miles from Bergerac, were so much more plump and juicy than the ones that come all the way from California.

Bananas came from the Ivory coast, not Costa Rica.

Bergerac is not a huge town. It sits on the Dordogne, not far from the sea, and French rivers provide fresh water fish. Pike is always on the menu, as well as bigger, fatter sardines than we usually see here. LeClerc’s beautifully arranged fish counter is four and five times the size of the counter in my local Tesco, and yet we have the bigger population and are supposed to be a nation of fish eaters. Perhaps we are just a nation of haddock, chip and cod eaters. Mind you, I don’t think I want to go as far as having a tank with live crabs in it just waiting to be selected…

The meat counters boast cuts of meat we never see in my supermarket. Rabbits are always on sale, and boar and duck, with pates and sausages of every variety. My mouth is watering just thinking about it, and do you know, I can remember the different smells of the meat and fruit counters – then there are the bread counters and the patisseries – expensive, but to die for and only to be sampled now and again.

I think it is time for lunch…I’ve talked myself into it.


Friday, 2 November 2007

Bordeaux


Bordeaux...

was a surprise. We expected a seedy, industrial port like Marseille, but instead found a gracious city on the banks of the Garonne with Roman remains, medieval churches and broad streets lined with tall 18th century buildings.

We hadn’t looked it up in any guide books, so we knew little about it. We got some idea of its size on the motorway approach and began to quake about driving into the capital of Aquitaine. Then we remembered that the French are very good at directions for Centre Ville and providing huge underground car parks for when you get there, and relaxed a little.

The river is huge. It makes the Tyne look like a brook, and at the end of the bridge, the road led up the hill through towering old buildings. Um, we said, looking around. This is nice. We went with the traffic flow through a huge archway that made me think of Aosta’s Roman remains, avoided the road works, missed the first car park sign and caught the second but missed the entrance.

Round the square we went once more, spotted the entrance and dived into it. No time for mistakes here, or the traffic will be upon you, horns blaring. Down we went, found a spot and then we had the afternoon to enjoy Bordeaux. Bill got very brave and asked directions of a passing Bordelais. “Centre Ville?” The man looked puzzled, as well he might. I pretended I was finding something in my purse. Haltingly came an explanation. I could tell by Bill’s slight widening of the eyes that he’d followed the first couple of sentences, but as the French speeded up with the man’s enthusiasm, all was lost. He thanked him profusely in French, and backed away.

We headed, as directed, into the Place Pey-Berland, and gazed open-mouthed at the Cathédrale Saint-André de Bordeaux. We’re not unused to cathedrals in the UK, but this one was huge and sat plonk in the middle of a large square surrounded by restaurants. We marched into Le Café Francais and opted for service en terrasse, face a la cathedrale. We ate the day’s special offering: pieces of different varieties of fish with garlic lemon-butter sauce, chestnut flavoured potatoes and a vegetable. I scoffed the lot, and had to be restrained from licking the plate.

Inside the cathedral I was struck by the huge musty darkness of one end and the light, brightness of the other. It was like two churches joined together in the middle. They say the foundations reveal (or hide, depending on your point of view) Roman walls. Pope Urban II consecrated the building in 1096 and it is now a monuent of France. The Royal Gate is from the early 13th century, while the rest of the construction is mostly from the 14th-15th centuries. 15 year old Eleanor of Aquitaine married Louis VII here in 1137, a few months before he became king.

I know a bit about Eleanor. In my mind, she always looks like Katherine Hepburn. (Amazing what a film like The Lion in Winter can do.) After Louis repudiated her, Eleanor of Aquitaine married the French-speaking Count Henri Plantagenet in 1152. He was born in Le Mans. Within months of their wedding, Henry became King of England. Lucky Eleanor. Two out of two. The French called her Alienor, and her dowry, when she married Louis, consisted of the Guyenne, Gascogne, Poitou, Limousin, and Perigord regions. That’s a hell of a dowry. It must be almost a third of France.

For three centuries afterwards, Bordeaux was ruled by England, and the city flourished, primarily due to wine trade. I was so impressed I bought a guide book, intending to read and find out more with another visit, possibly a long weekend, in mind. I was amused to find these opening lines: “Bordeaux began with water which seeped into its name and continues to saturate it. And the truth is, it’s still flowing…” Pierre Veilletet, Bords d’eaux.

The Place des Quinconces is said to be Europe's largest municipal square. It may well be so, but now ultra-modern trams use it as a terminus, and a permanent sort of fairground occupies a good deal of it. The smell of popcorn and candy floss made my stomach heave but what had caught my eye was the Monument aux Girondins. I could hardly miss it. I had seen it from way down the Crs de 30 Juillet - a huge white fountain adorned with a 43 meter high column topped with a statue of "Liberty breaking its chains".

I wandered around in amazement. It was built, according to the guidebook, “in honour of the influential local deputies to the 1789 Revolutionary Assembly, later purged by Robespierre as moderates and counter-revolutionaries. During World War II, in a fit of anti-French spite, the occupying Germans made plans to melt the monument down, only to be foiled by the local Resistance, who got there first and, under cover of darkness, dismantled it piece by piece and hid it in a barn in the Medoc for the duration of the war.”

This cheeky maiden peering around the corner was just one statue at one corner and there were four corners. Each statue was totally different, and there were another four corners on the second story, so to speak.
What made it weird was the fact that the funfair was jammed in right behind it, so close that it was impossible to get a clear shot of the whole thing. Huge red and white pylons shoot up from the middle of the chariot...
Out at the front, another lady plus outriders, drives her four horse chariot down to the river. If she ever breaks loose the pedestrians on the Crs de 30 Juillet had better scatter for she doesn't look like much would stop her and I did worry for the horses. They had finned feet rather than hooves.
Perhaps you can see why I was entranced.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Autumn in France


We set off for France in high spirits on 4th October. We did it the leisurely way by driving down with one night in Folkstone, one night in Tours and arrived midday Saturday at the Mill in bright sunshine. It was warm, too, with the trees still green and only the merest hint of orange here and there.
Sunday was a surprise. Gunfire woke us early in the morning when it was barely light. Bill looked out of the window while I stayed snug and warm in bed - "there's a deer running over the field." A moment later, "there's dog chasing it."

"It must be la Chasse," I groaned. We remembered that the rural French are still hunters at heart. The crack and bang of gunshot sounded all morning, sometimes so close that we thought it wiser not to venture outide. We've been told that the hunters shoot more huntsmen than they do game, but even so....discretion, and all that. We passed a small group of three or four as we drove off to LeClerc's for food, and they each bore huge, lethal looking rifles. One small, rather chubby man hugged a rifle that, if it had been stood on its butt beside him, would, I swear, have been taller than him.
We were there as Clerk of Works at the Mill, you might say, for our friends are extending the building. Monsieur Grenee the builder and his brothers roared up at 7.55am on Monday and began work. The weather was brisk, but by 9.30 the sun had cleared the trees and clearing brambles, which is what we chose to do, was hard, sweaty work. Those runners go everywehere. Grab a stalk, pull and the line zips across ten and twenty feet of open land with ease. Branch lines career off in three and four other directions, and among trees, they climb through the trees and root on the other side, pulling the poor little walnut saplings into a deformed hunchbacked thing. After three or four days at work with a rake and secateurs (professional size!) we had a huge bonfire that lasted all day.
By lunchtime it was too hot to work, so we sat on the bolly in the sun. I dragged out the laptop and started work. I felt like one of those famous authors photographed in exotic locations - Arthur C Clarke in Sri Lanka springs to mind - but found I can't drink wine and do anything sensible on the computer. Sad but true.



I continued with writing on after the rejigging of chapters four and ten I'd done just before we came away, but soon came unstuck. Further down the line the storyline didn't gell. After a huge internal struggle I abandoned the changes I'd made and re-inserted the Black Moment at chapter Four.

After that, the storyline flowed far more easily. I told myself it was a small black moment that threw the participants together, really made them know what they wanted and that there would be a bigger Big Black Moment further down the line. I just hadn't got there yet. Also, I did not realise exactly how much my face reflected the frustration I felt - but the camera does not lie!

At the end of the first week, the mornings grew colder and we woke to find mists streaking down the valley, and frost turning the leaves outside our door crisp and silver. Bill assured me it was warmer outside than inside, and he was correct. We destroyed a lot more brambles, and the afternoon hours were spent in sunshine on the bolly, writing.



The evening became a struggle to light a fire. The Mill has a grande vieille cheminee, the sort you feel you can walk in and stand upright to stare up the chimney. An open fire roaring away, I thought, how romantic! How wonderful! And sometimes it was, once the wood caught fire. But I'd forgotten such a lot, too. As a child we had coalfires at home and I well remember scorching at the front and freezing at the back. So it was here; no matter how high we built the fire, no matter how many logs we burned in a night, two things remained constant - the temperature in the big room barely lifted beyond 3 degrees, and we were rosy-faced and frozen arsed. And when the indoor temperature falls as low as 10 degrees Celcius, every degree matters.
Since the candles were in the candelabra in case of a power cut, I conducted an experiment to see how far I could see with one candle. Not very far, is the answer. I would not be the lady in the flimsy nightie who flits down stone corridors holding one candle aloft in the horror movies or Northanger Abbey. I lit more and more candles and finally concluded that eight or nine candles, spread around a space about eight foot square, produced about the same light as twenty five watt electric bulb.
And the woodsmoke! I must mention the woodsmoke. We came away kippered, and not only our clothes retained the aroma; I opened up a small, empty tupperware box to wash the biscuit crumbs out once I got back home and reeled back from the smell of woodsmoke coiling into my kitchen. Now I am well aware that we didn't have an adequately prepared wood pile. We scouted the woods on the property for fallen logs and dead trees, and soon realised why every French home has an orderly, well stacked and often covered wood pile alongside the house. The wood we burned would probably have been scorned by any Frenchman with a grain of sense, but then, you use what you have. So what if we had to leap up and open the window because a blue fug had filled the room and we were almost crying because our eyes stung?

The other complication is woodworm, beetles and termites. France has them all, and it is recommended that you do not have wood piles, neatly or otherwise stacked, against the house, because termites live in them and burrow from there to the house. We split open some logs that looked wormy, and found some, 'er creatures; since we didn't know if they were the ones to dread, we burned them. I felt guilty, too.

Everything we washed, we washed by hand as the machine was out of action. (Eventually we went looking for a lavarie, and found one in Bergerac, 20 miles away.) Clothes did not dry outside, for there was no wind; the sun dried them, but a day within the house and they felt damp again. I took to ironing things before I wore them. And I filled a hot water bottle every night and wrapped my ankle-length, longsleeved nightie around it before I climbed into bed. All I can say is its the only nightie I own, and I bought it to wear in France
All this made me think how lucky I am, and how hard life was for our parents, grandparents and forebears. At least I still had a fridge, a freezer, electric light, hi fi, computer. Take electricity away and life would become hard grind just to exist. I dreamed every night, because we went to bed early, almost as soon as it got dark, and the dreams were full of childhood, my parents, people who are now dead, almost as if the woodsmoke was filtering into my dreams and making me think of the past.
I really, really enjoyed my three weeks in rural France, strange though that might sound after all the above. We laughed a lot, and had fun tearing those brambles out. We saw Squirrels (deep, rich red rather than chestnut like ours) running down the bolly supports and up and down trees within a stones throw of us, kept track of tiny lizards, hardly the width of my little finger, with incredibly delicate long toes, and nearly trod on one larger lizard with bright yellow stripes along his back when we stepped out late one night to go for a meal at Lou Peyrol. I gathered basketfuls of walnuts that fell from the trees ten feet from the door. We watched the woodpeckers, the kites and the crows and used binoculars to keep track of the bull and his harem one field across, and speculated as to why a single heron night sit alone for hours in the middle of a green field. We found him fishing one day in the stream that borders the Mill, and that's the closest we've been to such a big bird in the wild.
But I was glad to come back to home - and central heating!