Archive for September, 2008

Forbidden fruit
September 19, 2008



There’s nothing like a bit of fresh fruit to start the day with, especially when it has been plundered the night before. It was my 67yr old friend who made me do it – honest! She led me into temptation by leading me past the fig tree in her lane. She had tried to get her hands on some earlier in the day, but being too short had failed. Frustrated, she knew exactly who to call; a lofty, 5’10 fig addict – me.


We did it under the dead of night. Not because we were ‘stealing’ (I had been assured that the tree was in a garden that hadn’t been tended to in years), but because we had decided to go out for a meal first and collect them on the way back – that way they would be extra fresh for breakfast.


With only the moonlight to guide me, I reached over the wall and pulled down branch, after branch, after branch.  A white, milky substance oozed from each fig where it had been removed from the tree.


“They look just like little breasts,” I said, rolling a nipple-like stalk between my fingers.




“Oh yes,” said my friend, giggling. “I’ll never be able to look at a fig in the same way again!”


Our laughter must have drawn attention to our presence, as we heard something rustling in the undergrowth behind the tree.


 “Let’s go,” whispered my friend as she darted off down the lane – she may be a pensioner, but she can’t half lift her legs when she wants too.


“But I thought you said this garden was….oh never mind,” I said, trying to catch her up, figs bouncing around in my hand bag.


When we reached her terrace we burst into laughter.  “Oh, I haven’t had so much fun in ages,” she said, trying to catch her breath.


“Me neither,” I replied, legs crossed, trying desperately not to wet myself.


“I know where we can get our hands on some more,” she said with a twinkle in her eye.


“Aren’t we getting a bit old for plundering?” I replied.


“Absolutely not!” she said, sinking her false teeth into one of the juiciest, ripest figs I have ever seen. 







There she blows
September 17, 2008


How come 2 nights in a tent can make you feel like you have just given birth and haven’t slept in week? In fact, I am so tired that I think I had better post this post tomorrow, when I have had enough sweep to swot the mistakes (yawn…)


To persevere…on Friday night the boyfriend and I (yes, we are still together after all his recent shenanigans) decided that it would “do us good to see the sea.” After an ‘Augustus horrendous,’ a long weekend away seemed like just the ticket: it would blow away the cobwebs and give us a chance to start afresh. With a combined budget of 300 Euros for 3 days we went…you guessed it…CAMPING – and you know how much I love that! 


The following morning we packed the car* and set off for the beautiful seaside town of Collioure, just South of Perpignan. The local weather report predicted sun, with a little cloud cover and the ‘chance’ of high winds. As it was rain that we were trying to avoid, we didn’t give two hoots about the ‘chance’ of high winds (big mistake!)


After 1hr 38 mins on the road we stopped for a picnic at a service station near Carcassone. I can see why some people refer to it as “the windy city”- it was blowing a hoolie! I must have looked like I was ‘under the influence’ as I weaved my way to the shop to buy a bottle of water. When I returned the boyfriend had found a table, opened the picnic hamper and was trying his utmost to keep a hold of its contents. “Are you sure this is a good I idea?” I said, as I grabbed a plastic plate mid air.


“Just stick some food on it,” he said, handing me the salad bowl,  “the weight should keep it down.”


I loaded my plate with tomatoes, herring, eggs and lettuce and sat with my back to the wind. It was impossible to eat. Every time I opened my mouth it filled with hair – yuk. Without a clip to tie it back I was forced to move round the table and face into the wind. Now I had bits of lettuce flying up and hitting me in the face – thankfully the rest of the salad was heavy enough to stay on the plate. Suffice to say, we ate quickly! Before our digestive juices had even had the chance to kick in, we were back on the road, hoping that the wind would subside as we made our way further south.


An hour later and we were at the campsite. Had the wind had subsided? Oh no, if anything it had got worse. At this point any sane person would have gone in search of hotel or a pitch with some shelter at least. But our budget was tight and a sea view was a must, so we chose the most impractical spot ever – a very windy one overlooking the Med! How we struggled to erect the tent. I even had to dive into the car at one point to shelter from an unexpected squall. Once it was up it was evident that we would need some big rocks to secure the base.


“Are you sure the tent won’t blow away?” I asked my boyfriend, as he rolled an extra large boulder onto one of the guy ropes. 


“Oh it will be fine,” he said, laughing at me. ”I spent 8 years in the Marines, and have set up camp in the most hostile of environments. Once the wind was so bad that it shredded my tent. This is nothing. Trust me. You won’t even notice the wind when you are inside.”


Humbled, I went to bed that night happy in the knowledge that our tent was safe and that we would have a good night’s sleep. As I slipped under the duvet I even remarked on how romantic it was that I could hear the sea “crashing against the rocks and the wind rushing through the trees.”


By 3am the romance had worn off. I hadn’t slept a wink. The boyfriend, who was “used to these kinds of conditions,” had been asleep for hours. The fact that the inner compartment of the tent was lifting, to the extent that our heads physically left our pillows, didn’t seem to bother him in the slightest. While he lay there dreaming (and snoring), I lay there waiting for a tree or some other heavy object to fall on my head.


At 4am I was still awake and in desperate need of a pee. Torch in hand I ran to the toilet block, dodging the odd low flying branch on the way. They were locked. I couldn’t believe it. Am I the only person who needs to use a toilet in the middle night? A wee in the wind was out of the question. All it takes is one big gust and…well… I don’t think I need to go into details.


Bladder giving way, I ran to the children’s facilities. I had walked past them earlier in the day and noticed that they were doorless. No doors meant no locks – it also meant no privacy. As I crouched over a toilet the size of my left buttock, I prayed to god that the night watchman hadn’t seen me. If he had, he would be wondering what on earth a grown woman, without a child, was doing in the children’s toilets at that time of night. Worse still, he might come to check it out. The fear of being caught in the act made me perform it all the quicker. Mission accomplished and dignity preserved (that’s assuming there weren’t any night cameras) I dived back into my tent and waited for dawn.


By 10 am the following day the wind had reached new heights. It was so bad that even the boyfriend had to admit defeat: “these tents from Argos are not as strong as the ones we had in the Marines,” he said as he chucked it half broken into the boot of the car. Luckily I had brought a spare; my pop-up doll’s house from ‘The Mutant’ (cheaper than Lidl, for those of you outside France). It had initially been earmarked for the dogs but as it was so windy they had ended up sleeping in the car. It did us proud. It was so small it was relatively unaffected by the wind. The fact that we put it up on the other side of the campsite, away from the sea, probably helped.  However, where it kept one type of wind out, it kept in another type of wind in – the boyfriend’s. He woke up hiccupping and burping several times during the night. After each outbreak he would drift back off to sleep within minutes. I lay awake for hours. I could have killed him. By Monday I was on my knees with tiredness.


That said, we had a good giggle, ate some delicious seafood and managed to have a swim in the sea – which was a very refreshing 20 degrees (brrrrrrr).  I may be a bit on the tired side tonight, but the cobwebs have certainly been blown away…far, far away! 



The doll'd house braving the wind

The doll's house, braving the wind, with the boyfriend's tent in a sorry state on the ground behind.


*But you don’t have a car, I can hear some of you cry! I know. My boyfriend has managed to get one on loan from a friend for the time being. Still not sure what kind of deal he has done to get it though?

September 9, 2008


A big thank you to Confused Take That Fan, 30 (one of my favourite bloggers) for this delightful award. It is lovely to be appreciated and to know that there are people out there reading what you write.

As with all awards there are certain rules to follow:
1. Link to the giver
2. Nominate up to seven other fab blogs and link to them
3. Leave messages announcing their rise to greatness.

I am not sure who has, or hasn’t had this award, so if this is coming to you for the 2nd/3rd time, you know you deserve it!


Belgian Waffle

A bitch about Brittany

Hadriana’s Treasures

What French Dream (Very Lost in France)

Menopausal Old Bag

Dulwich Divorcee

Bubble and Squeak




Must try harder
September 3, 2008

Sonny woke up at 2.45 this morning and didn’t go back to sleep until 6. He couldn’t sleep. He was “too excited.” Today was his first day at primary school – he has already spent three years at the Maternelle. We have been preparing for it for weeks. Scouring the shops, trying to find everything on the list that was given to us by the school at the beginning of the holidays. Fortunately we had 8 weeks to go shopping, as the list was long and my comprehension of it left me lost in the aisles on more than one occasion.


And it is not just me who has struggled with it. Even some of the French mums have complained about how they have had to go hither and thither (screaming children in tow) to lay their hands on some of the items. If you leave it to the last minute, like most of the people I know, you can be sure that the supermarkets (which devote 4 aisles to this stuff in July and August) will be missing at least one of the items on the list. So, it’s everyone back in the car, off on a wild goose chase in search of a red, plastic jotter cover. And it does have to be red. A green one will not do. We must “Respecter les couleurs, les format, les consignes,” or else!



With this in mind, I went shopping for the following:


·     1 trousse (pencil case) – I didn’t see that on the list until now. My son has consequently gone to school without one. That will be a rap over the knuckles for me then.

·     2 stylos à pointe tres fine, 0.3mm: vert et rouge (pens) – After

     10 mins of scanning the shelves for these elusive, little buggers I gave up. There were hundreds of green and red pens, but could I find any with 0.3mm tips? No! Given that this was the first item on the list (if you don’t count the trousse) I wasn’t off to a great start. Exasperated, I grabbed a pack of 0.4mm ones instead. I know I am not “Respecting the blah, blah,blah,” but 1mm isn’t going to make that much of difference, surely?

·     1 gomme de bonne qualitié (rubber) – Got one of those at home. 1 Euro saved.

·     1 taille-crayons avec résevoir (encased pencil sharpener i.e we would prefer it if the classroom didn’t resemble a hamster’s cage) – Sonny wanted to borrow my Cat’s arse pencil sharpener – kids love it. It’s a white, plastic cat, you ram a pencil in its derrière, then listen to it meeowing as the shavings fall into a litter tray under its feet – but I told him it would be too much of a distraction for the other children, and that the teacher might not appreciate it. We went for a batman one instead.

·     10 bâtons de colle a conserver a la maison: founir a l’enfant baton par baton (glue, to be kept at the house and handed to the child, stick by stick) – Found a pack of 10 on special offer. They will be doing a bit of gluing then!

·     1 paire de ciseaux a bouts ronds (round ended, ‘anti-stabbing’ scissors) – Sonny and I had a fight becasue he wanted the most expensive pair. When he refused to put them back, I threatened to swap the batman pencil sharpener for a plain, black one. Needless to say, he settled on the cheaper pair.

·     1 boite de 12 crayons de couleur (coloured pencils) – Made sure I bought coloured pencils and not ‘crayons’, as we know them in the UK.

·     1 cahier de texts, pas d’agenda (homework jotter) – Needed help from a nearby shop assistant for this one. By the look on her face I am not the first foreigner to have asked her this question.

·     1 cahier de brouillon petit format. 17×22 (another jotter) – Hope I got the right one? The dimensions matched, but I didn’t see the word “brouillon” (whatever that means?) anywhere.

·     3 protège-cahiers, format 24×32: bleu, vert et jaune (jotter covers in three colours) – Right next to the jotters. Phew

·     3 protège-cahiers, petit format 17×22: rouge, noir, incolore (smaller jotter covers, in three colours) – Right next to the other jotter covers. Double phew.

·     Du plastique pour couvrir le livre de lecture (plastic to cover the reading book with) – Faced with an empty shelf, I didn’t get any. Am hoping the teacher will have some spare.

·     1 double en plastique (ruler) –  ‘Double?’ Sonny was no help. Didn’t want to appear stupid in front of same shop assistant again, so I asked another shopper who very kindly took me to the right section.

·     1 ardoise blanche (white board for writing on) – ‘Ardoise?’ Found by yet another helpful shopper.

·     1 tenue de sport, surtout une paire de chaussures de sport (gym kit)  – Yes! Another home find.

·     1 blouse pour faire de la peinture. Une vieille chemise a manches longues de papa ou un vieux chemisier de maman conviendra parfaitement (painting shirt) – One of my old shirts, except it is still in the cupboard upstairs. Another rap on the knuckles.

·     TOUTES LES FOURNITURES DEVRONT ETRE MARQUEES AU NOM DE L’ENFANT (MARK YOUR CHILD’S NAME ON EVERYTHING) – The whole lot got stuffed into a plastic bag. But to be fair, the bag did have Sonny’s name on it. Having read the list properly for the first time today, I think the majority of it should have gone in the trousse. Never mind.



Score 12/17


No gold star for me then!


Will go shopping for a trousse today and slip it in with the painting shirt tomorrow. If the teacher tells me off, I will play the Scottish card and say that I can’t read French – which, rather sadly, seems to be the case.


I have heard from a friend, whose son is in the year above, that next year’s list is even worse. She managed to get 18 out of 20, and doesn’t speak a word of French. As she considers me to be ‘fluent,’ I am feeling slightly bad about my score. I must try harder!


What has he done?
September 1, 2008

I am feeling restless tonight and my boyfriend is to blame. Earlier today he very kindly informed me that he has ‘sold his soul to the devil’ to buy me a new car. I am not sure what kind of pact he has made but he looks as nervous as hell and has spent the whole day at the bar drowning his sorrows.


I want to know what he has done but he refuses to tell me. He has tried to fob me off with the usual “it’s nothing for you to worry about” routine, but the tremble in his voice has made me think otherwise.


I have been forbidden to question him further. The matter is closed for discussion. Apparently it is “nothing illegal” and I should “rest assured” that there “won’t be any repercussions” for me should it go wrong (now, why don’t I believe him when he says that?)


As I would rather have no car than a boyfriend involved in something he is obviously not comfortable with, I have told him to call the deal off. I have even given him the perfect get out clause; to buy a friend’s car and pay it off in instalments with my help. But no, he is determined to do it ‘his’ way and to make ‘me’ feel bad for it.


Male pride has a lot to answer for!