Shades of Brown

check your Farrow and Ball colour chart

I am steadily ridding the world of horrid shades of brown. It’s not that I don’t like brown, but I dislike some of its manifestations, which could be named:

Glastonbury 16             Slug            Dysentery           Other end            Disgust

Most of which were in both our UK and French houses in abundance

Our UK home is on an island along with thirty-plus other houses. At the moment the small Victorian iron bridge – the only access to our homes – is being closed at night for repairs and a neighbour asked us all on the facebook page to vote on the colour/s it will be re-painted

The first person said ‘rust colour’!!

But, rust aside, the two colour schemes favoured are dark and light grey, and blue with white/cream. No-one has discussed the actual shades yet but the population seems split firmly down the middle on this, and I fear another ‘Brexit’ type situation – ‘Bridg-it’ perhaps?

The thing is, people in the UK tend to form a very strong opinion (as we have recently seen) and are polarised in their points of view. I do hope that families on the Island will not be torn asunder by such an important matter!

Personally I don’t think it matters which colour scheme suggestion they go with in name (if indeed we even get to voice an opinion) because surely it’s not whether it’s blue or grey, but whether it’s the right blue or grey, etc that matters

And oh please, anything but rust!

 

 

 

Are You Really Going Out In That?

More stories of spandex. And inappropriate smoking

IMG_2469Running isn’t for everyone. But if it’s your thing – if you are used to just popping out and running fairly good distances – and then suddenly you can’t anymore… well, it’s hard to explain how that feels

Tonight the towpath beckons and I decide to do a couple of miles. I’m easing myself back in slowly after hurting my ankle back in March. It seems incredible that an injury caused while standing still can have set me so far back

Sadly, this will be the year I hang up the Hawaiian bikinis for good (it probably should have been a few years back!), but even that sturdy and sensible one-piece swimsuit won’t wear itself. So I’d better get on with it before the summer hols

There’s a honeysuckle that stretches along the path by the river, and as I pass it the scent is incredible. I fill my grateful lungs with the perfume, taking a reward for my small discipline this evening and feeling so glad I came out

Breathing is everything. I mean, obviously, because we wouldn’t be alive if not breathing, but also in running terms. It’s easy to put one foot in front of the other but it’s the right breathing that allows you to run. If you can’t match your body’s oxygen requirements you’ll just be exhausted in no time

Of course, there’s an exception to prove most rules:

Norman, a friend and associate in Singapore, is a hard-living heavy drinker who has chain-smoked all his life, but after suffering a heart attack in his late fifties in 2008 he told me he had taken up running on the advice of his doctor. He was fully expecting to hate it. Yet in 2014, while I was injured and had to forego my first ever marathon place at Brighton, he was running regularly and looking forward to his first marathon in Singapore. By the next time we got together for a few drinks a year later he had run two marathons and I was absolutely in awe of him

I asked if the second one was much easier

Norman told me how he had struggled on the second one, but had really enjoyed the first one. He was eating up the miles, he told me, and he only stopped for a cigarette at eight miles, twelve miles and twenty-one miles. I honestly thought he was joking. I didn’t know it was possible for a smoker to run a marathon, let alone to stop for a fag break along the way

I wonder if he stopped for a Scotch too?

As I hit the end of my two and a bit miles I stride out a bit, get a bit of momentum going, and I feel how my lung capacity has improved

I am no Norman. But for the first time this week, there is more in the tank 🙂
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Framed at Last – ‘Our Auds’

a story and a collage sparked this post

I finally bought a frame for the little collage of Audrey that C made last year. The picture is SO Audrey, I just love it. It was hard to get a decent photo in situ, so please try  to see past the reflections to find her in the bottom left cornerIMG_9973

Yes, Audrey was a chicken. We lost her in August 2015

You might think that ‘a chicken is a chicken is a chicken’, but ‘our Auds’ was a special kind of gal

We had ten chickens in 2013, various breeds, but Audrey and Gertrude were the only legbars. They could not have been more different, both physically and characteristically. Auds was top girl of the flock from the beginning. Not in a bullying kind of way, but in an ‘I’ll take care of this’ sort of way, and Gerts was her hench-chicken

Yet, whereas Gertie has grown to be tall, upright and necky, with a signature rockabilly quiff, Audrey was always very low-built and purposeful, and, I thought, looked a little like Margaret Thatcher. Her disapproving mannerisms and discourse somehow exaggerated this resemblance

Her instinct to roost was all-powerful and she would stay out on top of the coop in any weather, so Baz would go out and put her to bed at night. Sometimes some of the others would join her, but this was intermittent, whereas she was constant. When we were away our lovely neighbour Sue would ‘tuck Audrey in’ for us

Audrey first got sick in the New Year of 2014. The vet said she was beautiful but basically inferred that she was a bit of a runt really. An x-ray showed a growth, possibly a tumour, in her stomach and a serious heart murmur was diagnosed. Realistically there was nothing much they could do, so she was given antibiotics and came home with a short life expectancy. It was a shock. We set up camp for her in the living room so that she could keep warm and we could administer her meds. That first evening as the sun started to sink she caught us all offguard by flapping out of her enclosure and up onto the back of a chair. She just wanted to roost – even indoors!

She would sit calmly on our laps, watching telly and chattering to us – always a very vocal chicken – and she came to work with me for a few days, where we set up a holding pen for her in my office, but she sat on my lap much of the time. You see, we’d never had a sick chicken at that stage and we just could not imagine losing her – or any of them. I remember that we found ‘the Secret Life of Chickens’ online for her and she watched it with intense interest on a laptop

When she was boxed-up in the car and we reached about a mile from home, she would make very urgent and specific calls, as if she had reached the distance where she regained contact with her flock. We noticed this near the same spot on outward journeys as well. After a few days we took her out to visit the other girls, where Tilly, a thug strong and fearless pirate of a Blacktail (also the complete opposite in character to her own sibling, the sweet-natured Fudge, and no stranger to being disciplined with the water pistol) had established her dominance. Audrey was weak and tiny, but she feathered and flustered herself up to look bigger, and she demanded that Tilly back off. And she did. Auds was back in charge and wanted to be with the flock, so she went back out to the coop that day, though she took a few days off roosting. It’s a very high coop to get onto but we put a small table in the corner of the run to break the climb and it wasn’t long before she was back on top each night

And that became the marker for her health. If she couldn’t get up to roost we would keep a closer eye on her, but she was fully aware of this and was an accomplished actress – chickens are very resourceful – and Baz continued to put her to bed every night so she wouldn’t get cold

She had further illness in 2014, and we took her to the vet several times but she was so plucky and determined that putting her to sleep was never an option. In the meantime we lost two other chickens, brave little Babs on Remembrance Day after a stroke, and Coco after a badly broken leg that wouldn’t heal

In early spring 2015 Audrey became terribly sick and the huge doses of antibiotics seemed to be doing as much harm as good. She had to come indoors and by the Friday morning after the last dose of meds she was no more than a handful of feathers in the corner of the travel cot. Baz said a final goodbye to her before leaving for work and I stayed home to deal with the inevitable. I put the telly on for her and kept chatting to her as I loaded the dishwasher, then turned around to see her waddle over to the water bowl for a good drink before eating some grit, and then some treats. Incredibly, Auds was back in the room

So we accepted that she was ‘different’ and allowed her to live the life she loved – outside, telling other chickens what to do. There was never any trouble, no-one ever picked on her like people say they will, and Gertie was always watching her back. At the age of two and a half, while we were on a weekend away, Sue was herding them back into their run when Auds had a little fit and was gone. When I saw Sue’s number come up on my phone we all knew what was coming, and she was as devastated as we were

So, yes, Audrey was more than a little bit special to us, as plucky a character as can be. If you are still reading this, I thank you for your time. Even I think that writing an obituary for a chicken is a bit mad and hugely indulgent, but it was the timing that caused it. You see, I am enjoying a lovely summer-sky story about a character named Audrey on Our French Oasis, and then I put the picture up last night. Things, they say, come in threes, so this post makes a trilogy
Audreynotwell.jpg‘Our Auds’ during a rest spell indoors. See the resemblance to MT? It’s uncanny

 

 

 

 

Pushing Up Strawberries

You’d look good in compost

We pass a horse-drawn funeral cortege and the hunched driver looks pale and gothic. It prompts a short burst of conversation, during which both of us say we don’t care how the other deals with our mortal remains once they are no longer required

‘You’re going in the compost,’ I tell Baz. ‘You’ll go lovely in the strawberry bed.’

“You’ve given this quite a lot of thought, haven’t you’ says Baz. ‘Have you got a date in mind yet?’IMG_9201.JPG

 

 

Happy Cupcakes

Coffee shop criticisms

C meets me in a coffee shop after school on my day off, allowing me to grab a caffeine hit and stave off that inexorable coffee-withdrawal headache. I’ve noticed that there’s a pattern of general disapproval emerging in the conversations we have

Last week:

(Me) ‘I love the grey they’ve used on the walls here. It would look great in your bedroom’

‘It looks like the colour we used to have in the living room’

‘It’s definitely not the same colour. It’s greener, but warmer as well’

‘Well, maybe not the same, but very similar’

‘I’ll bring the colour charts with me next week and match it’

‘Oh please no, not the colour charts’

This week:

(Me, showing C my phone) ‘Look at this cupcake. How cute is that!’

‘Was that muffin on that counter?’

‘Yes. Look, it’s smiling’

‘And you just went over and took that photo?’

I nod

‘You’re SO weird’

This is teenage disapproval. It’s possibly the worst kind, and it’s not made any easier by the fact that she’s probably right: I am weird, and I do talk about colour charts and happy cupcakes too often

 

 

 

 

Before The Cloak Completes Me

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The veil first appeared in my late thirties. It was as useful as it was disconcerting because it gave me anonymity, allowing me to slip outside in any old thing, without make up or concern. I wasn’t worried because I saw other women wearing the same veils, and sometimes they were more obvious than mine. I felt that no-one cared how I looked, but I knew I could still slip off the veil and shine when I chose, be noticeable, and get attention when I sought it

Around age 45 I had a crisis of confidence. I did something unspeakable with my hair and struggled to find a look that suited me. I chose not to be in most holiday photos. Thanks to good friends and Baz I trusted that I would come out the other side of this ‘difficult’ stage, though that perm was nearly a step too far even for him

And yet a cloak started to descend somewhere shortly after that. Minor health issues sapped my energies and my youth. These were of no interest to anyone but me, and there was no advice on what to expect

While running at the weekend I bumped into a much-loved friend I first met when we were pregnant. I nearly walked right past her because we hadn’t seen each other for a couple of years and because she was wearing her full cloak. When I saw it was her we embraced. And then all the tears came – she’s having a tough time

We have birthed, mothered, menopaused. We have neglected ourselves and deferred, trusting that we would one day have the opportunity to re-invent ‘us’ and to peel back the opaque layers that the years have added. After all, we’re still the same inside, aren’t we…

There is still time before I will become completely invisible, but I feel the weight of that cloak every single day. I urge all women to stop your veil from becoming your shroud. Go out and light up that room. What seemed at first like a convenient homogenising layer of welcome soft focus will inevitably become more dense and will obscure you if you allow it

Be you. All the time. Smile, laugh, enjoy real friends and make time to see each other

 

 

Pigeon Steps, but Progress

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(they’re chicken steps really)

I am pleased with myself this week. Having taken ten days out to recover fully from the flu that rendered me completely ‘speechless’ for three days, I have been out running again

Perhaps it’s the prospect of longer summer evening runs with friends through the Great Park, returning home to a meal cooked by the lovely Baz. Or perhaps it’s just the fear of not feeling good in a swimsuit on holiday. Whatever it is, I am grateful to discover that I have not lost all discipline

I have been doing only 3.5 miles at a time and I covered just ten miles last week, but I remind myself that it’s ten miles more than I have been doing for the last two years. I’ll work out a new route to get back on target for increasing my mileage and I need to start stretching again, as I realise that I am already developing bad habits. I cannot risk more injury, especially with my megalomaniacal left hamstring already getting edgy (after some strenuous furniture moving last week, which always sets it off)

So, thank you to the very kind gentleman in a transit van who waited patiently for me before reversing on Monday evening, and to the other driver who chose to let me cross the road on my way home in the dark. These small kindnesses remained with me, and are part of why I got up early again to run through the frost on both sunny mornings this weekend, breathing in the delicious air and watching the small birds warm themselves low in the hedgerows. Running this week has been absolute heaven