Thursday, 27 February 2014

I am lately of the impression that I  may have been misnamed as a child, it isn’t that I do not like my name , I am quite fond of it actually, but I am beginning to think I should have been christened Canute.

What do you mean who is Canute?  You know Canute, of course you do, everybody knows Canute,  he was the 11th century English king who sat on the beach at Southampton ,on his throne,  surrounded by assembled courtiers and dignitaries, crown and sceptre and all and bade the sea to retreat. As an expression of self belief and confidence or even possibly incipient megalomania  you have to admit it is pretty impressive.  Of course it would have been more impressive had it worked.

 But I digress it isn’t his gasconade arrogance that melds us together, far from it, in fact I am more likely to be the one insisting "no no after you" and apologising to the little wavelets as they canter up the beach soaking  my slippers than trying to force them to return poste haste whither they came. No it is the endless tide of detritus in this house of ours the flood of which I fight a losing battle on a daily, nay, hourly basis. Of course with the weather we have had of late it may as well be the sea I have as my adversary, the floor is so muddy form dog, cat  and human traffic that it looks horribly as if the tide has been forcing its way through the french windows with each high tide. That high tide occurring  on a daily basis at  around 5.30 in the afternoon when my sons  return home from college.

I really can not understand how it happens. A week ago the place was pristine, well alright if not quite pristine at least very much cleaner and tidier than it is now. We had a guest for the week and in a mad frenzy of domestic madness I swept ,polished, washed ,scrubbed and generally did the job of an overworked underpaid skivvy in order to make the place look less like the aftermarth of a alcohol and drug fueled rave in a student share house and more like country living interiors on prozac, chilled  and inviting without giving the impression that if you move the skilfully scattered cushions on the well plumped sofa your hostess may tear your hand off with her bare teeth.

Other people manage it why can't I ? I know its possible, after all I have dropped in unexpectedly  on friends who have a pack of house hounds and found not a dog hair in sight. I have visited others whose windows glisten in the sun and not with dirty fingers and dog noise trails like mine do, friends who have wood burners yet whose floors do not resemble the forest floor and whose dinning room tables are not buried under so many layers of trash that it  takes an archaeological dig to find the  telephone  before it stops ringing. In Hampshire cobwebs are called sluts lace, if that were the case I could open up a wedding shop with the amount of them that festoon my beams.

I used to be really quite good at it, really  I was, I have been in my time quite house proud but things changed and now somehow I have lost  the will to be a maid of all work. I will not hoover on demand, have no desire to dust things whether with feathers or otherwise,  even  to artfully drape throws on the corners of sofas is beyond my yearnings. I would far prefer to  lounge here amidst the flotsam of family life, lazy Labradors at my side jostling for ownership of the sofa, bobbing along happily and  read a good book.  I have fallen out with housewifery and there may well be no going back. Like poor old Canute I may as well admit defeat and surrender myself to the sea of domestic disorder and be done with it.I know when I am beaten.

Today there is a pub on the site where King Canute is reputed to have tested the waters, as it were. Over the years the sea has been pushed further and further back by successive land reclamation projects so perhaps you could say he achieved what he set out to do in the end after all , but, just like my attempts at house cleaning and tidying, it took much much longer than he had anticipated.

 I would like to think that on a quiet foggy night on the edge of Southampton docks sits a  ghostly figure on his carved wooden throne smirking and muttering "I told you so"  under his breathe as he watches the waves languidly licking the edge of the concrete docks and his feet stay dry. Perhaps if I wait long enough the tide will subside and I will find myself high and dry with everything washed clean by the receding waters. Meanwhile I can but dream.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Window dressing

 Welcome to 2014. 

Wherever you are in Europe or New York the weather has been wet cold and very windy and here in Brittany the dogs have moved inside as their dog barn is having a new roof fitted and the bad weather has stopped work. It is going to be the most expensive  kennel/log barn in France by the time its done but it was either that or let it fall down and since it has managed to stay up for at least 300 years so far it seems  mean spirited to let it tumble now. Its a great big barn with an almost finished splendid new roof and beams which will hopefully stand for another few hundred years.

 I am not sure if the dogs will ever want to move back into again as they have made themselves so comfortable indoors. I am also not sure if my Salle  will ever recover from the dog hairs and muddy paw prints it has had inflicted upon it. I look at the state of the room and wonder what visitors must think, possibly that I have lost the plot, or as if  some sort of domestic disaster has struck, normally it is relatively tidy and sort of clean although I would never recommend eating off the floor here, what sort of a weirdo does that anyway  ? Especially when I have amassed such an assortment of wonderful plates over the years, some people have shoe fetishes, me ?  I am beguiled by good sturdy colourful plates, proof of which is that the weight of my everyday plates recently  caused the plate rack in the kitchen to try and make a break for freedom  so all my plates are piled up on the kitchen table  and we have had to clear space to eat at meal times. It looks like some massive closing down sale in a ceramics factory. Or as someone less charitable might see it possibly, the left overs from jumble sale.

Anyway I digress .Normally what people think of my house is of no concern to me but I have been passed the task of online house hunting for a friend who wants to move to France and is vaguely computer illiterate and so my days have been filled with interior shots of some interesting places of late which made me ponder upon how others see their homes and we ours. It has afforded me a great opportunity not to deal with the state of mine as well of course.

I am an expert in the field of international house hunting having had a mother in law who was for ever travelling the world and getting me to search out places for her to settle. It filled many a happy hour for me, even if she never actually bought anything in the end. She was a property voyeur and we formed a great bond oohing and gasping over houses that no matter how divine or perfect she thought they were she would always turn against at the last minute. She once almost bought an olive mill in Greece for us for Christmas but that idea lasted all of two days. So if anyone is looking for a retreat in France, Spain, Greece, Morocco, Egypt Portugal or Italy I am your woman!

One thing I can not help but notice is that there are  massive  differences in the way different estate agents  present their houses for sale , the Spanish ones usually look as if the person has popped out to get something and are very much lived in. Bags of shopping on the table, a meal laid, washing up in the sink and not very decorative underwear and assorted washing hanging like bunting in the bathrooms. The French houses look on the whole tidy but abandoned, apart from some very rural ones which just look on the verge of collapse . A  few years ago a Paris  apartment was  unlocked after 70 years of abandonment , goodness knows  how it survived the war untouched but it did and when you look at the images and read the article here  you will be amazed,  it isn’t unique though, some of the houses I have spied online this week may look less grand but there certainly have the same time warp quality about them. I saw one in France yesterday which had been unlived in for several years but still had a large multi pack of incontinence pads on the bed of the master bedroom not something to inspire when one considers it was sold fully furnished.  The English rural properties seem to look like sets from Country Living magazine and likewise  the English owned property  for sale in France is often easy to spot with its artfully placed cushions and fresh flowers, you can almost smell the fresh coffee brewing. Perhaps its to do with the price range in which I am searching but whatever the reason I think incontinent pads or not I prefer the natural state of the some of the agents photos which for me capture  the take me as I am feel about the European mainland to the window dressing of the English ones.

Oh dear I wonder if that is a reflection of  my state of mind! Well who cares, I certainly don't I am who I am dog hairs and all so happy new year to you and may it be a picture perfect one for everyone!

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Christmas is coming ...

The journey to school today was treacherous, only -3 and yet after an afternoon yesterday of heavy rain the roads shine with the secret of black ice and the frost has turned everything white. I drove gingerly down dark lanes to the village , the last day of school before the Christmas holidays begin, and watched as the boys climbed onto the bus leaving the air filled with the scent of aftershave a sign that they are really young men now and not boys any more.

Here in winter the journey to school is done in darkness, the sun crawls out of bed about 8.30 am and before that the countryside is dark and silent except for the odd optimistic cock crow and the dogs barking at unseen movement in the night. Often, at this time of year, on returning home I crawl back to bed for an extra half hour snuggled under quilts before I get up to start the work of the day, it is too early to go and tend to the goats, sheep and poultry and it saves electricity. it is like an illicit pleasure stolen from the busy day.

 Yesterday the arrival of the day was heralded early when I was greeted by our dogs at the kitchen door, in the night  their run had been opened and they were running free,  the poultry run gate was wide open too and our birds were missing. No sign of struggle  no stray feathers just emptiness   I have yet to  meet a fox who can unlock a gate so I blame a two legged predator. One goose returned forlorn and lonely later in the day, not a scratch on her, her mate sadly I imagine  was ear marked for someone’s Christmas Lunch. The ducks and chickens wandered back in dribs and drabs during the day. Not a good start to the festive season. I hope he tastes good.

My living room is suffering from schizophrenia.  The lower half is decorated for Christmas, the tree glistening in white and silver and the sideboard is staggering under a Scandinavian themed display of candles baubles and reindeer in red white and silver. The top half looks like a slum dwelling things are piled up in heaps,  the floor is there somewhere but I can't find it and on one chair is a large collection of birds nests cleared from a windowsill to make way for the  nativity set when we remember where we put it last year. I keep telling myself all will be well  by Christmas eve but I am beginning to have my doubts. The kitchen is no better, I  made marmalade yesterday and  it has been added to the jars of pickles chutneys and jams that are heaped on the farmhouse table, One end is cleared for eating but the other is a mass of vegetables and fruit ready for preserving and cooking. In one corner is a  not insignificant mountain of shoes and boots waiting for the children to try on so we can discard or pass on any that are too small or beyond repair. Outside the  door is a unruly collection of orange boxes ready to be broken up for kindling.

This is country living, real country living not the photo shopped kind where photogenic women wear designer Wellingtons which will never come into contact with mud. Where floors and sofas are free from signs of wear and tear and dog hair and where children are only in evidence by their  hand crafted wooden toys and not as in my case by PS3 controllers, last nights empty juice glass and odd socks. Where cats in their generosity leave dead mice on the carpet as gifts and  the French windows have a tide mark of dogs nose prints at Labrador height. This is real country life mud, dirt, mess and all, this is home and where better to spend Christmas than here.

Christmas is coming and I am glad to be here!

Friday, 19 April 2013

The countryside in springtime

It is a glorious sunny day, a really beautiful breezy blue sky day. Along the lane the katkins  have decked the hedgerow with yellow and green, the primroses are out and the last of the wild daffs bob their heads, The washing is blowing on the line. In the garden hens and ducks are pottering about , the geese are marching purposefully up and down the drive and the sheep have posed themselves in a most  picturesque manner in the shade of the elm tree on a bank amidst the daffodils as if waiting for a passing artist to capture them on canvas. Goats and dogs bask like beached  dolphins in their run, sleeping in the sun . All is right with the world.

 Nature is brimming with bucolic bliss; The air is full of the trill of varied bird song, the sound of cocks crowing, hens clucking  and the increasingly agitated tap tap tap as our slightly deranged gander  head butts the window attempting to get at his own reflection in the glass. The tranquility is  broken only  by the whine of a neighbouring farmers chainsaw , doing his bit for the environment by lopping about ancient oaks whilst balancing somewhat precariously on the roof of his tractor cab. thus setting off the goats doing whatever that strangled cry they make is called at the top of their discordant voices; sheep bleating and the dogs ( not wishing to be out done by the cloven hooved creatures of the household) howling like the hounds of hell, this annoys the geese who honk and call upon the ducks for aquatic support which in turns frightens the hens  who are convinced in true hen tradition that the end of the world is nigh,and it is so noisy I  have to  retreat inside in order to talk on the telephone.

The village church rings out the midday bell. The farmer descends from the dizzying heights of his tractor roof and climbs into his little white van and retreats to his farm for lunch . the animals, having satisfied themselves    of a job well done chasing the farmer away with their combined cacophony ,settle themselves down after all their exertion and all that can be heard is bird song, until 12.30 when the little yellow post van arrives and  honks its horn and it all starts again it all starts.

I  do love living in the countryside, it is so peaceful here.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

For those in peril on the ( bathroom ) sea

Being as it is Holy Week and the wild daffodils are bobbing about  jauntily on the banks in the lane,  I was determined this morning to drag myself out of the pit of despondency into which I seem to have fallen this  long and drab winter,  heft myself out of the treacle well where I seemed to have become mired and engage myself in the spirit of Easter with all the promise of new life and new beginnings it brings.

I had been out and cut a branches for the Easter tree,collected snow white duck feathers to cover up the rocks and old iron weights that are holding them in place in fine and jolly yellow tin bucket and ferreted about the house to retrieve the Easter decorations. My spirits if not lifting were at least getting a bit of an airing and the  chilly breeze was doing its bit to blow away a few cobwebs in my head.

 I unearthed the Easter box with its assortment of ceramic rabbits, wooden decorations and  eggs decorated by the children over the years and all was going splendidly, after a fashion, (despite two bunnies needing their ears glued back on and a rabbit missing his carrot ) until I went over to  check my secret chocolate supply to make sure I have enough to do a two Easter egg hunts for mine and the neighbours little ones.  It was then that I found myself standing in a puddle with on the kitchen floor. Having first glared daggers at the cat suspecting him of  anti-social toilet habits, I ,  upon looking up, saw a wet patch on the ceiling from the bathroom above. 

 I stumbled upstairs to the kids bathroom ( it is hard to do anything more elegant than stumble when you are wearing soggy slippers and the stairs are winding ) to find we have a small pond growing in there with an attractive water fall  feature, beauteous  and unexpected, splashes its way downstairs. I am normally rather fond of water features  but seaside themed as the bathroom is I had rather hoped I wouldn't be forced to retreat every time there is a high tide.

 Sadly the plumber is not free until tomorrow evening always proving it does not slip his mind ( "give me a call in case I forget" he told me, which is  hardly encouraging advise   is it  when one is paddling  ) so the seaside theme in the bathroom  is now enhanced by a rather colourful tin bucket  .

 Ah well I suppose it means I shall not have to wash the floor this week. One must always look on the bright side, and who knows if the tide rises any higher we may have fresh lobster for lunch if I am nippy enough to turn the wicker laundry basket into a lobster trap! 

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Sunday catch up

It is Sunday morning and I have retreated to bed with a mug of tea and my laptop after an early and industrious start to my day.  The animals are fed and let out, a soul warming beef stew is cooking slowly in the oven and the clay bunnies drying on the kitchen table have had a once over and a tidy and touch up ready to be fired in the kiln later this week.

Outside the day is cold and grey, but I don't mind, I am enjoying  my early morning indulgence and if I can attract the attention of one of my sons before they disappear outside I may even get another  mug of tea made for me if I am lucky. So far the only one who has tracked me down is one of the cats who is trying valiantly to sit on my chest chatting away to me as I type.

We have been busy preparing a new paddock with what feels like miles of sturdy fencing and a new hen run for the chickens.The place is beginning to look like a prison camp! Yesterday was busy , wielding the chain saw to cut back the primeval forest that was once many years ago, I  am sure. a modest privet hedge but now stretched its branches high up towards the horizon blocking the  sun from the garden. Our goats love privet so they are happy to munch and cavort their way through the piles of twigs and greenery deposited in their run.

 Youngest is eagerly awaiting the arrival of his  Breton sheep, The Ouessant is one of the smallest sheep breeds in the world. They originated on Ile d'Ouessant and he is breeding them for the freezer. Meanwhile he  is  using the tall straight privet branches to make them a wattle and daub shelter in their run. His sister is horrified, not at the wattle and daub but the eating part, I am however thrilled the price of lamb being so high as it is!

It seems winter is not keen to leave us and let spring in . We are still threatened with further snow and the remnants from last weeks blizzards rest in the gullies and ditches. Despite all that I was out planting the earth banks that surround the garden with minature daffodils that I have had flowering in the house and are now past their best so that next year they will come up again.

Aha  as hoped a fresh  mug of tea has arrived along with both my boys, the cat has shot off to avoid the commotion of their arrival and I am signing off  as there is no way I can type when they are making me laugh so much with their silly voices and jokes adn tickling each other!!

Happy Sunday to you all!!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

If only life were as simple as Pintarest...

It is the first Sunday in February. I have a large Billy goat head butting the glass door into the garden. A large  grumpy teenager storming about upstairs, judging by the sound he is making he is dismantling his room, because apparently, in his opinion ,I do not care about him and all I am only interested in is getting him to get things done about the house , and a  younger version of the same who is up the other end of the house humphy because he wants to build a forge in the front garden and I have said no and I have only half painted the kitchen cupboards.

On the other hand...

I have a large Billy goat who loves me so much he follows me around like a dog and is even as I type declaring his love by  banging on the door to try and entice me out to play or, failing that,  in the hope I will let him in to follow me about the house and gaze adoringly at me. A tall handsome teenage son who is kind, loving and helps me  as much as he can despite  being in the throws of teenage angst and is learning to express his independance , and a charming smaller version of the same who is ingenious and inventive and up for trying anything oh and a kitchen which is half painted and which I can devote tomorrow to finishing.

Sometimes it pays to look more closely before you decide life sucks. Life  may not be the perfect place that we avid Pintarest picture posters pick but to...... ( to quote a Pintarest post)  it is wise to remember this...

Appreciate what you have and have a happy Sunday..x