Friday, 28 October 2011

Getting out and about.

As the rest of my family had arranged to do a variety of separate things without me today and as it was, incidentally, a very nice crisp, sunny autumn day, I decided to go for a long walk around one of my favourite local beauty spots. I am sure I have mentioned this place before.

They call it Dovestone Reservoir because, so I am given to understand, of a rock formation which
is said to look like a dove. Personally I have always thought it bore more of a likeness to a duck but I suppose Duckstone Reservoir lacks a certain something.

Be that as it may, I had a happy stomp around bot
h the lower and the upper reservoirs, trying to avoid an annoying family being bossed about by a mother who felt that she had to train her children to ride their bikes and her dog to walk properly to heel in ringing tones which I am sure could be heard from the other side of the water.

The local birdlife was sunning itself very confidently – so confidently that I wondered for a while whether I had taken a picture of a bird that had just accidentally popped its clogs in a photogenic perching posture. But no, I think it was just resting.

On my way round the upper reservoir I was just reflecting that it was a good job we had had a few days of dry weather to get rid of some of the larger mud puddles which were still there in reduced form on the path when I successfully put my foot in one of them up to the ankle. This led to some rude words being said, not I hasten to add in ringing tones which could be heard from the other side of the water, and gave rise to a “Which shoe has had the mud bath?” photo.

Fortunately I had already rolled my trousers up so I did not end up with muddy trousers as well.

By the time I reached the end of my
walk my shoe and sock had dried off nicely so, despite this small mishap, a good time was had on the whole and I returned home without further incident.

Earlier today I read with only a modicum of interest that aging French singing star Johnny Hallyday is making his UK debut next year, coming to perform in the Albert Hall. Not that I have a burning desire to see this man who was a star in France when I went there for the very
first time while studying A Level French more years ago than I care to remember. I am just rather surprised that he has not been here before.

I suppose it’s a measure of the insularity of the British that most people here have never heard of him. But then, unlike la Bruni (aka Mrs Sarkozy) he was not able to marry a French president to promote himself internationally. Mind you, I suspect many people still don’t know who Carla Bruni is either.

I do wonder about the advisability of dressing in all that glittery gear at the
age of 68 but he does still seem to have all his hair which is more than can be said for some of his age. Of course, if he were British he would be now be Sir Johnny and would probably appear alongside Sir Cliff (Richard), Sir Elton (John), Sir Paul (McCartney) and even Sir Mick Jagger.

That's how it goes; you start off as a rebel and end up a pillar of the establishment. I suspect that on theo ther side of the Channel you have to do something rather intellectually challenging beofre they give you honours and titles.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Back to the blogging board.

Having been reminded by my friend Colin that I’ve not blogged for a while, I decided it was time I got going again before the world collapses around me. And collapsing is certainly what it seems to be intent on doing.

There’s the Eurozone going strangely berserk and looking as though it’s about to implode. The sums of money talked about stop having meaning for me and when they discuss “buying” countries’ debts, well, my m
ind just gives up on the whole thing. And just where is all this “extra” money to shore up failing economies and guarantee loans going to come from. A part of me wants to run to the bank, demand all my money and then go home and hide it under the bed.

Then nature is going a little crazy as well. We’ve had a period of continuous rain which reduced everything around her
to one huge muddy puddle. Then, in a surprising reversal of what usually happens, we had about a week of sunshine (well, part of the time) and fine if windy weather while other often more weather-fortunate parts of the country still had rain. This meant that we have been able to take ourselves off on long walks, admiring the autumn scenery. And then, as the autumn leaves pile up everywhere I noticed something odd about one of the bushes in the garden. Having gone through flowering in the spring, produced its crop of little white berries and lost most of its leaves, it is now flowering once again. Madness.

We saw a
different aspect of nature’s crazy diversity the other night. We had spent the evening at the home of some old friends of ours where we had been very well fed and watered and then sat around talking and listening to music until the small hours. Eventually we decided that it was time to call it a night and as the night was clear and fine we opted to walk off the alcohol instead of spending an extortionate amount of money on a short taxi ride. So off we went, staggering slightly but definitely not rowdily drunk. Imagine our surprise as we got a shortish way down the road and discovered we had company of sorts. On the opposite side of the road a fox was busily scavenging in the bins in a pub car park. He looked up, weighted up our threat-potential, clearly judged it to be absolute zero, finished his rummaging in the rubbish and went on his way with scarcely a backward glance. I half expected him to swish his tail at us disparagingly.

With all this exciting stuff going on in Europe, my life seems very pedestrian: a fair amount of babysitting (including some amateur nursing as ALL the grandchildren managed to be ill at the same time) while my daughter discovers the delights of combining work, studying A
ND motherhood; some very pleasant early morning runs and later in the day long walks; a good deal of DIY (I have become an expert painter and decorator); and making clothes for teddy bears and producing strange woolly animals for the aforementioned grandchildren.

I am not complaining. We have managed the odd lunch with friends and we have been to the cinema to see Woody Allen’s latest offering, “Midnight in Paris”. Very good it was too. We really enjoyed it, even the cameo of Mrs Sarkozy as a sort of travel guide. This was still slender Mrs Sarkozy before she started to reproduce. Since then she has done her bit to boost her hubby’s popularity by being the first President’s wife to give birth in France. Jolly good show, Carla! Now let’s see if she can keep that little girl out of the public eye. Don’t get me wrong, I quite like Carla Bruni and discovered her as a singer long before she set her sights on the Elysée Palace.

All in all, life could be a lot more difficult and unpleasant. My friends in Vigo were complaining of storms yesterday. And then Ireland and Italy have had to suffer floods on top of their monetary problems. And then, the poor Italians have to suffer the embarrassment of Berlusconi on top of everything else.

That’s all for now. I have to get ready for the arrival of a number of small people who need entertaining for the afternoon.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Is it really so bad?

Is it really so bad? OK, so now it’s official: the UK is the worst place to live in Europe, well at least in the countries included in the uSwitch quality of life index. Apparently we have the worst weather, the second lowest hours of sunshine, the highest cost of living, the fourth highest retirement age and fewer days holiday than other places. (Once again, I have occasion to be glad to be born when I was and so to have been able to retire at 60. Phew, what a relief to be old enough to do these things.)

We even die sooner than the French do and our government spends less on health and education than many other places. We even come behind the Irish with all their current economic problems. And still we’re not out on the street protesting?

(At least we don’t live somewhere like Saudi Arabia where you can be punished for protesting, not just with time in a cell or a fine but with a number of lashes. Women are banned from driving because freedom of movement puts them in danger of sinning – just by giving them the opportunity to do so – and so they need protectin
g. Men of course don’t need such protection. Is it because they are all strong enough to resist temptation? A woman who protested by getting in her car and driving around was sentenced to 10 lashes. Her sentence was removed by order of the king who is described as “gently pushing for reform”. There has been no official confirmation of the ruling but it seems that Princess Amira al-Taweel, wife of the Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, tweeted: “Thank God, the lashing of Shaima is cancelled. Thanks to our beloved king. I am sure all Saudi women will be so happy. I know I am.” Maybe she should also get in a car and go for a drive instead of being so very grateful!!!)

Despite all the talk of how awful it is to live in the UK, it really doesn’t seem
so bad at the moment. The sun has been shining nicely all week. So what have I and all the other ladies on our row of houses done? Washed everything that wasn’t pinned down, of course. There’s nothing like a bit of good weather to get us filling those washing machines and pegging stuff on the line. It’s just as if it will stop you having to wash it all on dull, wet days.

But that’s not all I’ve done. We’ve been out and about, taking the kids to paddle in the sea last weekend – only the British paddle in September, I’m sure.

And yesterday we were off having lunch with friends in Manchester where we saw that the deck chairs were out so that the workers could catch some midday sun. Splendid.