Saturday, August 1, 2015

A rant about being ripped off by the French taxation authorities.... and why there is no French word for entrepreneur

Friday 31 July 2015
Cool and showery and warm later
25 degrees

FB friend from Lakes asked to see further details of our main house.  I wonder if synchronicity will work so that she takes it over?  That would be so lovely and would mean we could keep in contact and I could see how the house and gardens change over the period of their ownership.  Look at her house on Rightmove.  It is lovely and very clean and the kitchen is huge.

Down town to meet Monday's buyer and go and sort out his insurance.  The skies turn black and there is torrential rain and we have to share a very small umbrella over to the insurance office.  The price for insurance is 300 euros and I assume that he will think this is reasonable in comparison with UK insurance but things must have changed a lot in the eleven years we have been over here and I leave, thinking I hope he doesn't buy an expensive car when he moves over here or he will die when he gets the quote.  I have to pay 700 euros a year on the Qashkai.  OH is very keen to change it and is trying to interest me in a range of ugly French bricks such as the C Max.  I had a test drive in one once and detested it.  Also, according to my accountant, depending on the type of car you get and the emissions, will affect how much write down you are allowed.  In the UK, when I was an accountant, you could write down 100% of most cars.  If you get a gas guzzler here, you can only write down 50% of the value and in any event, the value is capped at 18000 euros. Most new cars cost more than this - what a fiddle.

Accountant also told me, to my astonishment, that unless I subscribe to the services of an invigilation company (more than 300 euros a year) that the tax authorities will assume I am earning some of my revenue on the black and tax me on 125% of my earnings.  WTF? Everything passes by the notary.  I have no opportunity to hide anything.  My favourite Bushism is 'the French have no word for entrepreneur'.  There is just no incentive to do well here, with the 20% VAT and 45% tax.  Really pissed off.

Back home and pleased to find that the NZ man has cancelled.  Weather atrocious.  He has not managed to get on a plane and will be coming in a few weeks time, hopefully when weather is glorious and he will be desperate to buy something lovely, like his colleagues did.

Completed paperwork for new offer and entered up a new property.  Spoke to lady who is coming over next Thursday and has had the brilliant idea of bringing over lovely vintage VW camper vans and renting them to people who are on holiday.  Line up some visits.  Once again, my major competitor is also out with her.  At least I am in first.

Suggest to OH that we look at some properties on Rightmove and he says that he will need to organise buy to let loan first and the best thing to do would be to buy in an area which will give us the best yield and this wont necessarily be in the area where the boys are.  This, I feel is Grade A backsliding and we have words.

Lots of clients and a surprise meeting...

Thursday 30 July 2015
Cloudy with spits and spots of rain 23 degrees.

Up early and alas the bags are still there so try and cover them up with foundation and look like former Chancellor Nigel Lawson (post diet version) so try again with powder and that is even worse so wash it all off, put on sunglasses, bright red lipstick and brush hair so it stands out and hopefully distracts with its wild abundance.

Went for revisit on house where people are signing Acte de Vente Monday next.  Lady from South Africa had some rather exuberant extensions, sunhat, bright blue and red shoes and outfit.  Her OH looks like Philip Larkin (pre diet version).  They attract the attention of passing traffic.  I am dressed in a green and white polkadot Boden summer dress with blinging handbag and feel very retro (provided I keep glasses on nose).  Revisit goes well and owner shows them how things work and the only hic occurs when I accidentally turn off the electrical circuits (whilst showing how meter works) and there are terrible wails from upstairs as the small girls are temporarily deprived of TV.  We then go down town and try to open a bank account and the bank wants chapter and verse so I say we can set things up on their UK bank account.  We then elbow our way through market crowds and have coffee.  Back home for quick lunch.

In afternoon out with Spanish/English couple.  Man is quite withdrawn but OH battles on through introduction talk and I listen to the Spanish lady who says they have been married for 31 years and I am wondering how the F she has survived so many years of marriage and developed so few wrinkles.  She has wonderful bone structure and must be in her early 50's.  She doesn't have any bags either.  We set off and see four houses and the only one they like is the third one with the huge black dogs.  They are twin sisters and are utterly thrilled to see me and OH again (we really do need to sell this house....) and get out their special large pebble and chase it around the courtyard with their noses at breakneck (and ankle) speed.  We say our farewellls and agree to talk next Tuesday and I decide we have earned a beer so sit down town and enjoy a long cool glass and the sunshine and feel like we are on holiday with all the other happy people and flowery balconies and bunting.

Suddenly someone shrieks and calls my name and who should it be but FB friend and neighbour of dearest matie Mrs Noddi and we have another beer and they head back to the Ariège.  I feel non compus mentis so go for walk with dog to clear head whilst OH rustles something up.  Ring owner who has had low offer and tell her that I have been able to get buyers to go up by just 2k and to my surprise she accepts so ring buyers and they shriek with joy and tell me that they have just got engaged.

OH makes pan fried hake, new potatoes, veg, poached nectarines and ice cream and I try to watch episode of Are You Being Served and pass out at 10.  10 seems to be the witching hour, beyond which I cannot last...

Catch up day and the beauty of vintage postcards

Wednesday 29 July 2015
Cool and showery

Spent most of day catching up with paperwork.  OH went down to the new rental unit and I took the opportunity to email people who said they were interested in coming back and potentially buying one of our rental units and they got back almost right away and said they would get back in mid to late October.  Transmit this information to OH and he grimaces and I remind him that he said he would have the place finished for the end of August (another ha!).  He went fishing and I weeded and tied up tomatoes.  Have manic cherry, misshapen beef heart, still green normal and malevolent black Crimean varieties.  The green bean plants look very small and weedy but keep on producing.  There are peppers and sweet piments, main crop Amandine and salad La Ratte potatoes.  Nectarine absolutely laden with fruit.  Made warm potato salad with veg and chorizo followed by poached nectarines and vanilla ice cream.  Yum

Here are some of my collection of vintage French postcards dating from the Edwardian era through to the 40's
Gently the mother leans over the cradle of the pink baby and in her half open mouth appears a white pearl

What to reply to the call of an awakening love, when the heart echos what the ear hears

A new load of modern babies

This lady reminds me of me in one of my earlier incarnations

Can I borrow your lipstick.  Go away, you pervert

Clothing clash, the beauty of English coinage and catching up with dossiers....

Tuesday 28 July 2015

Cloudy and cool rising to 31 - less humid than before

Wake at 5 am and it is still dark so attempt to catch up on blog lag.  Eight months since I started already.  Laptop seems to have appreciated the weeks rest.  I will take off all the photos and documents.  Like me, it is full of old stuff which slows us up - kilo bites of stuff which takes up all of our memory and makes us sad.

Discover to my delight that client for today has cancelled.  I could open for Hamlet.  I need to sleep away these bags before I go out and terrify the general populace.  Put away all of my stuff, resolve not to take so much stuff next time (ha!) and admire my new handbag which is cream in colour and has many pockets and a big silver badge.  On the edge of being bling...  Stroke the English coins, the chunky one pound nuggets, the silver five and ten pences and the big brown pennies like the Quality Street Christmas boxes of my childhood.  Each coin special and individual and solid.  Euros are flimsy in comparison and the one, two and five coins are virtually indistinguishable.   

OH tries on his new shirts and tops and some of them clash horribly with his head (he has a somewhat florid complexion) but he is very happy with them.  Caught up with the emails and general business and tasks on computer then I go out and hack at a Photinia which has aspirations to be a tree until it gets too hot and come in.  Try and speak to a notary who is never available and always says they will ring back and don't and spoke to my colleague who is very wound up because we are still missing the local planning document and this notary is meant to be chasing it and isn't.

Speak to eldest son of German chateau owner and, unsurprisingly, he says that 200k is far too low and they want 400k.  The youngest son then rings and says that in his opinion, the massive creeping mushrooms are not dry rot and that the other son should get some analysis done and can I get an alternative quote for the roof.  The current one is for 250k which everyone finds extraordinary.  If there is not actually dry rot and I can get a quote for over 100k less, then my guy can up his offer and we can arrive at a deal.  

Also spoke to English lady whose house received an offer whilst I was away.  I had it on market at 159k and the offer came in at 130k which I thought was on the low side but apparently another agent has put forward an offer of 95k rising to 105k.  That is a taking the piss offer. However, it always amazes me how people refuse just to spend a bit of money on their houses in order to make good the faults before exposing them to the public.  It is the equivalent of sitting in a shop window with your knickers showing and runs in your tights.  I think we can arrive at a deal with some skillful manoeuvring.  She doesn't have to convert her euros immediately and can wait for the exchange rate to improve in favour of the Euro once all the crap with Greece settles down.

OH went fishing and I made tuna salad with all our own veg - potatoes, tomatoes, garlic, piments and beans.

Friday, July 31, 2015

La rentrée and an amazing event...

Monday 27 July 2015
Damp and cool 20 degrees

Daylight is seeping through the curtains as youngest got up at 5.45 and clumped around. Opened them to avoid going back to sleep.  Had actually had a good night as I had found strange green yellow pillow under WF's bed.  Sprayed it with lots of room freshener, put on two pillow cases and tried not to think why it wasn't white.  WF came in and we had a hug and then he left at 6.15 and he and his lovely red hair disappeared up the road and fortunately I was too tired to leak any more tears so I stuffed things into my bags which now resembled badly behaved bricks, and lugged them downstairs.  Walked leisurely to station and got early train to Barnham.

I had a twenty minute wait so had cappuccino and flap jack from an African man in a small booth on the station.  In the UK for the past thirty five years.  It is all work, work, work here, he commented.  In African, when you are rich, you have a good life with servants who do your garden, cooking and look after you.  Here, everyone works hard whether you are rich or poor, it is all the same and the hired help is ten pounds an hour.  Take me with you - I miss the sun.  I wonder how many people feel they are in the right place and right now.  So many more are always longing for something different in some time in the future.  Made me think of the mindfulness conversation with the Buddhist monk young woman on the flight out.  The importance of living in the present.

Caught connecting train to Gatwick and sat in an area with lots of room for luggage and was joined by two ladies from Texas and we had a long chat and I told them that what most UK people thought they knew about Texas was formed by the 80's TV series Dallas and they said there was seaside and mountains and desert and, way back when the mother was young, they could just walk over three bridges into New Mexico and now it was far too dangerous with the drug cartels.  I said there wasn't the problem with gun crime here as, in general, few of us have guns and that we stab each other instead because we do have access to knives.  We all agreed that you have to be a lot more up for injuring someone to do it with a knife.  They talked about mass shootings and how everyone in Texas carries a gun and the daughter said if you want to see a firing squad, just get up on a stage in a Texas theatre and draw your weapon.  We laughed a lot and were stared at by the other occupants of the train who were busy texting people they already know instead of meeting new ones.  Left them at Gatwick and thanked them for their conversation.

Fortunately no one insisted that I put my hand luggage into the measuring rack because I would have had to bounce on it to get it to fit.  Looked at the shops and got a really nifty phone charger that would fit in my bag.  More coffee then flight was called at 11 and I was boringly stuck on the aisle with no window and the woman sitting there didn't once look over into the vast blue bowl of the sky.  Flight passed quickly and my heart was leaden as I stopped back into France.  I have too many responsibilities.  I cant bear to be parted from my children and I just cant step back on the treadmill and carry on for heaven only knows how long with this rotten job.  

Telling OH what we are not going to do, I have discovered, is not a successful strategy so decide to introduce the house letting and purchasing in UK idea.  If he is not up for that, I shall go back on my own and we will see how he gets on by himself over here.

Everyone else's partner was waiting eagerly for them in the arrivals lounge.  Mine was outside, next to the car, and on the opposite side of a substantial concrete wall.  He heaved me and the cases over it and I fell asleep on the way home.  Got back and had to go down town immediately to meet renters coming to stay in little flat and give them the keys.  Back home and OH informs me that I have a client tomorrow and need to make appointments and I just crack and sob for about ten minutes and say I just cant go on like this and need to be near the boys and to my utter amazement, he said he had been thinking ab out it whilst I was away and he would be up for buying a house to do up in their area, possibly on a buy to let mortgage.  We could work on it over the winter and all be together at Christmas.  I go from being desperate to being ecstatic.  WF rings to make sure I am back OK.  Still heard nothing from eldest RJ.

Examine garden and the vegetables seemed to have survived my absence.  Fat green peppers, cherry tomatoes ripe, green beans, cabbage, piments and trees laden with pears, apples and nectarines.  

US woman has signed the release document so the whole sorry affair is at an end and I will never have to communicate with any of them ever again.

Walking in the rain and the wind gets up...

Sunday 26 July 2015
Cloudy start with torrential rain and very windy

Woke at 6 am.  The bags under my eyes are turning into suitcases.  Rain forecast.  Note from emails from colleague that she is up and working at 4 am on a Sunday.  She will burn out and is not even making enough money to currently cover her advertising.  Read my new book - Sue Townsend's The Woman who went to bed for a year.  Very much empathised with the main character.  Got up at 9 and had shower and did dishes and then bought ticket to Gatwick online and walked down to the station to collect it.  Violent gusting wind blowing around the no win scratch cards, burger boxes and flyers.  Empty bottle of Vodka rolling around on the steps of the Good News Anglican church.

Got back and WF was cooking breakfast of sausages and egg.  No oil or butter or marge in the cupboard so egg welded itself to pan.  Surprisingly, found some brown sauce in the cupboard.  FB'd eldest RJ and WF rang him and finally he responded by FB at 11 am to say he would try and get over in the afternoon.  Went together to Post Office (when did that start to open on a Sunday?) to pick up yet more of OH's Ebay purchases and then walked to Gun Wharf Quay which is shopping outlet are.  Lot more expensive than Commercial Road and WF didn't plump for anything.  Had cappuccino in Café Nero and then tried to walk along front by Spinnaker Tower which WF refused to go up due to violent winds - had to hang onto him to stop being blown about.  He is very sold on his size 11's.  Spire of the tower so high. Rain started again in earnest so we got back and I did his ironing and some more crying.

Was interrupted by a group arrival - family of another girl from Cyprus who is the unlucky new occupant of the incontinent ferret owner's room.  I had investigated this room as potential lodgement for the weekend and it was just chock full of stuff.  Boxes are ranged along the whole of one wall and the odour of paint and ferret urine are fighting it out.  It is badly orientated and dark because it looks onto the laundry extension.

The sun came out and I went in search of the good looking curry house I had seen this morning but it had vanished amongst the plethora of shops on the main street.  Saw food I didn't know and vegetables I didn't recognise.  Came back and ordered from restaurant we do know - I had chicken rogan josh and youngest mixed grill and it came with Peshwari naan, poppadums, salad and raita.  Watched Dragons Den and Have I Got News For You with Clarkson in chair.  Couldn't keep awake beyond ten pm.

Heart ache

Saturday 25 July 2015
Cool and sunny with tiny cloudlets 22 degrees

Awoke at 6 am after battling all night to get comfortable on one very small pillow.  On getting an early cup of tea, find a bike in the middle of the very narrow living room.  The long line of houses are very quiet here in the early morning, in marked contrast to the village where cousin lives, with its wealthy but toiling inhabitants.  The skies are full of chunky white clouds in a gentle blue sky and there are the calls of the gulls and the smell of take out and a brisk breeze.  I finish off my novel and go back to sleep and later find some microwave porridge and honey and have more tea and wash up the dishes mountain.  The family next door are wandering around in their PJ's, the kids parked in front of the telly.  

I am putting out some washing on the line when a girl appears.  She is from Cyprus and studying for a Masters in Business Relations.  She disappears into the shower and is there for 25 minutes.  Thank heavens I had boys.  I would have been ruined.  I am amazed to find she is the same size when she finally emerges.  She asks if I know how to turn on the oven. There is a large manual full of instruction books and clearly labelled House File.  I point it out to her and she said she hadn't had time to look through it (she has been in the house a whole year).  If you have the brains to do a Masters, surely you can read an instruction manual?  Is it me?

Make youngest porridge at 10 am having left him a lie in.  He normally leaves for work at 6.15 in the mornings.  I then pop into town to get some money and he can sort out his laundry and wake up properly.  RBS is the only bank closed all weekend so cant get out English cash with passport - get some off my French bank account and try not to think of exchange rate, which is currently 1:1.42.  Go to Waterstones and look at books and Costa Coffee and have caramel cappuccino and Belgian fudge brownie.  Get back and WF has surfaced and we had back down to Commercial Road and he buys two shirts, three t-shirts, trousers, shorts, bedding and I get some knitted tights for Winter.  We then have a bacon bap and coffee and I get him to put Whats app on his phone and send him a message saying helli because I am not wearing reading glasses.

We then hit Asda to do some food shopping and he is very careful to avoid products showing 'red' for sugar.  Unlike France, all products here have colour coded bars for sugar, fat, salt etc.  He is a frugal shopper and I have to encourage him to get something nice for the week.  We are looking at the cake selection and he spots a cheese cake and says Oh that looks lovely and I bet it would taste good and I haven't had cheese cake in years.  He puts weight on so easily and it is at this point that I get a huge lump in my throat and I am so glad I have tissues in my bag and am wearing sunglasses.  I so wish he was back at home where I could look after him.  I miss him so.  I miss him every day.  

Eldest is still not answering his phone or my FB messages - he knows I am here - does he not want to meet up.  Get back to WF house and OH sends message to get Paracetamol and antihistamines so pop back out on my own to Asda where I can cry in peace on my way to and from the shop.  Asda would only sell my two packets of paracetamol at a time.  Don't know why they have this rule - you can kill yourself with just one packet.

Have lovely supper (with the cheese cake) and watch Love Actually and WF plays games on computer.  Cyprus girl comes back at midnight and I go to bed and take an age to sleep - so much late night traffic, people being dropped off.  Toss and turn and regret not having got some new pillows.

Think about the situation in France - we have a mortgage on the house, the exchange rate is terrible when going back into sterling and the house needs work.  One option would be to let the house out and use the cash from the upcoming rental unit sale and rest of OH's lump sum to buy near Portsmouth.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Torrential rain and the joy of seeing youngest offspring again

Friday 24 July 2015
Heavy showers 21 degrees

Again, awake at 5 am.  Started to read wonderful Raymond Chandler pastiche novel called Don't cry for me Aberystwyth.  Eventually everyone woke up and cousin took me into Andover to try and get some cash out using card and passport.  No RBS in Andover and no other bank would give me any cash.  Went to her shop and watched the rain through the windows and it smelled sweet and heavy and had a slight metallic overtone.  Very quiet morning with only two clients and one had driven from Bournemouth!  She said the traffic was terrible and cousin started to look anxious as she had promised to drive me down to Portsmouth and rain was now torrential.

Looked through some lovely magazines and found a delightful flower petal brooch so started to construct it with felt base and daisy petals made out of scraps of brightly coloured fabric, found in the scrap fabric bag.  12 pm arrived and I went to have my nails done in a neighbouring unit.  I have only once had a manicure and it was in France and their way of doing it is very different - in France they soak the fingers in warm soapy water and then push back the cuticles and cut off virtually all of them.  It had cost 12 euros and I had a french manicure which was gorgeous with pink nails and white tips.  Felt elegant, hand wise, for once.  The English nail lady, wearing violently blue hair, started by buffing and filing the nails and this took out most of the horrible ridging on my thumbs and then she took up a scraper tool and cleared out just the dead part of the cuticle.  Base coat to protect the nail from the chemicals in the varnish, three top coats of aquamarine varnish, and top coat to seal in the colour.  Perhaps I am unfair on my home applied varnish - two hastily applied varnish coats and I expect it to last for a few days.  I am currently typing this on the 29th and there are only a few tiny chips.  

Back to shop and ate sandwich and carried on making brooch.  Lady came into the shop to hold the fort and cousin and I headed off at 4 pm into heavy traffic.  Took an hour and a half to get down to the coast but finally arrived at a very long street of terraced houses and stopped in front of a narrow property with a thick moustache of a privet hedge.  A hammer on the door and thumping of feet on the stairs and there was my youngest WF and my heart just burst with joy so see him and hold him and hear his voice and be near him again.  He is and always will be my baby.  Haven't seen him since his graduation a whole year ago.  He looked well with a little bit of stubble and hair neatly cut.  Cousin had wee stop and then left and hugged youngest again and we had a cup of tea and we had dinner of chops, peas and baked potatoes after a quick trip to the shops as the cupboards were absolutely bare.

Fortunately there were two rooms to choose from and I took one upstairs with a new mattress which was very comfortable.  This house is 100% better than former house which had a year's worth of loo rolls bursting out from the under stairs cupboard toilet and thousands of flyers and junk mail in the hallway.  Had to go to bed at 10 as was completely bushed.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

To Alton, home of novelist Jane Austen

Thursday 23 July 2015
22 degrees Alton, Hampshire

Woke up at 6 with a thick head so had lots of water,  back to sleep and felt much better at 8.  Had toast and tea and talked to cousin about all sorts of things and she told me about her last trip to the US and how her sister (who lives in the Californian desert) has a mania for having the air con at at ice cold levels and is very difficult about where to sit in restaurants and wouldn't stop in a motel until she had checked out the room and specifically the size of the closets and she wouldn't walk down stairs that weren't air conditioned and her mania for packing and repacking her suit cases.  Decided it may not be a good idea to ask her if we can come and stay for a week or two.  That amount of time with OH may just push her over the edge.

Second eldest daughter decided she would come on day out with us so we made a packed lunch and set off down the narrow lanes with their high hedges.  Everyone drives massive four wheel drives even though you barely get an inch of snow and the landscape is relatively flat.  They travel at some speed too - I suppose you get used to it.  Down to the mellow village of Alton and the former home of Jane Austen.  A rambling spread of lovely red brick buildings around a jewel green lawn and garden full of hollyhocks, herbs and insects.  Of Georgian date, the interior rooms are well dimensioned with Laura Ashley wallpapers and sash windows overlooking the village or gardens.  The table where Jane wrote is so small - barely larger than a tabouret seat and very low.  All of her major novels were published here in this ocean of tranquility.

We had our lunch in the gardens and watched the other visitors - mostly very overweight English ladies of a certain age, with a small sprinkling of Italians and Canadians.  On the way out, we discovered the kitchen, separate from the house and there were bonnets and dresses to try on so second eldest daughter and I dressed up and I was dwarfed by a particularly large bonnet and cousin had hysterics.  Went for clotted cream tea in nearby tea shoppe and it was delicious with Earl Grey tea, fruit scones, strawberry jam, mounds (lashings?) of clotted cream and all served on translucent and delicately sprigged china.  Then to Basingstoke where I purchased a new and capacious handbag, a notebook for recording brilliant ideas and a half year diary in bright colours and which I stand a fair chance of finding in the chaos of the kitchen.

Back home and discover eldest daughter (32) and son (26) have arrived and there is a letter saying that eldest daughter has just been accepted at Southampton on a nursing course (her third degree) and cousin is ecstatic and bursts into tears and there is lots of joy and gin.  We then had to decide what to do with the bursting punnet of gooseberries picked up in Alton village and we get out Delia Smith Summer cookery and cousin says we will make an American all in one pie and it would have been a lot easier to make if we had not had the gin.  No wonder it is known as mother's ruin.  We manage, eventually, to produce roast chicken, mash, veg, rather tart gooseberry pie and custard.  Lovely to be eating around a large table full of family.  

Cousin's children are very well travelled.  Youngest, (20) daughter is currently off surfing somewhere exotic.  My youngest hates travel and eldest never manages to hang onto money long enough to get the cash together to go.  Still don't know if he is going to be able to get any time off on Sunday to come down and see me and youngest.  My youngest WF says sleeping arrangements could be difficult as some rooms in the house are taken and others are being decorated.  One room, which had been locked, is now open and it transpires that the former occupant had kept a ferret which had peed everywhere.

Try to watch American Hustle but am seriously distracted by a car seat which is attached to a wooden base and positioned in front of the main sofa.  From a former car, cousin's OH said he found it very comfortable so, when car was scrapped, he took it out and uses it when he watches Tour de France.  Cousin folded it down and put her feet on it.  So did selection of children.  I couldn't keep awake and had to go to bed at 10

Material heaven and the bottle run

Wednesday 22 July 2015
Deliciously cool

Woke at 5 am, found some paper and wrote for an hour.  House silent, ducks hooting and calling on the stream.  Pigeons coo-cooing.  Cars started leaving at 5.30 am.  Had first breakfast and went back to sleep until 7.30.  Came back down and was having breakfast at the large oak table when cousin's OH appeared, unusually attired in work shirt, tie, lycra shorts and trainers.  He was about to cycle to work in nearby town just 5 kms away.  Although a number of years older than OH, he is still slim and nervously active and watches no telly.  His passions are DIY and classical music.  In fact, no one really watches TV here, they don't spend time with virtual things or people, they spend it with real people.  No Internet, second eldest daughter aged 30 and about to go and work in Bristol, had used up all the monthly allowance by streaming a film.

Went to cousin's shop in Andover which she runs with a German lady.  A divine environment full of beautiful material, pattern and colour.  I check emails and phone and discover OH has tried to ring me many times.  He is with MM and trying to visit the chateau and the old guy with dementia isn't letting him in and he says he doesn't have the keys anyway.  OH very stressed and has been hassling the local agent who is supposed to have the keys and wont let him in without the say so of the renter.  He also left messages saying he cant find the chateau and he has left the client there on his own and another one, saying he thinks he has been caught by a speed camera.  FFS.  I text him the phone number of the renter and then switch my phone off and spend a pleasant morning looking at books, drinking tea and deciding what to make.  Afternoon comes and switch phone back on and OH rings and tells me about an email offer which has come through and says I need to ring owner and I say I will email.  He then starts going on about other people I need to ring - English people to whom he is actually capable of speaking and then he starts giving me a list of things to do so I hang up and switch my phone off.  Bastard - it is about time he got off his fat backside and got things done himself.

Rooting through piles of things in the shop, come across a most divine little patchwork bag consisting of strips of fabric stitched together in vertical panels with boxed base and little handles.  I have brought some fabric with me so get cracking but am challenged with cutting as the cutter blade is blunt and it transpires that I cant multiply 8 x 2 as I only end up with 14 panels.  Have laughing fit.  Three other ladies come in for afternoon session and similarly entranced and all decide to make little bag which cousin sells to them in nine quid kit.  We all finish for five and cousin is dealing with phone client so I go out and look around the commercial zone where she has her unit.  

The day is fresh with scudding clouds and a light breeze.  I find a florists and go in and am washed over with the smell of blooms and foliage and cool damp.  Obtain hand tied bouquet of pink pompom dahlias, tiny white chrysanthemums, feathery pink astilbe and frothing ladies mantle.  Not a garnish carnation or tortured forms of bamboo or orchid in sight.  The florist's partner is a house clearance man and she had a treasure trove of shells, crockery, paste jewellery and a tiny 1930's wedding dress.  There was a stunning ivory manicure set and a mother of pearl phoenix button, gleaming on the dull surface of the desk.

Cousin finished and we drove back to hers.  A knock on the door and it was a committee member come to do 'the bottle run'.  Cousin got a kids low slung trolley from the barn and we rattled off up the road to ask for liquid contributions to Saturday's tombola at the annual flower show.  Obtained about 20 bottles and then to the pub where we passed 1.5 hours and I was expiring with hunger as we had only had a small bowl of chips.  The other lady was all for having another one but I insisted on going back for something to eat so we finished off the chili and cousin had a fourth glass of wine, I don't know how as she is tiny and how can she absorb it? and collapsed to bed, feet and head buzzing.

Over the sea, the sea.....

Tuesday 21 July 2015
Furnace hot at home

Woke up horrifically early after restless night with cramp, heat and rib pain.  Felt exhausted. OH woke up at eight and started going on about things I 'needed' to do before we left.  He also said he wouldn't be checking my emails whilst I was away and I said I was on holiday and I was most certainly not going to be looking at work emails.  We had words.  Spoke to eldest about September holidays.  Finally set off at 11 and, of course, the GPS wasn't working because the end had dropped off the car charger.  OH wasn't paying attention and went too far west on the auto route before waking up and insisting on driving back in the other direction and then striking off into unremembered territory to pick up the northern auto route and cut off the long and expensive corner.  We had quite a lot of words at this point.  Apparently it was my fault for not buying a new adaptor.  Drove in stony silence and got to airport at 2 by which time I had to check in immediately.

Flight was absolutely having and, oh joy, I was seated next to the window.  A young woman sat next to me.  Limpid dark eyes, sparkling white teeth, head band and voluminous ugly brown cotton clothing.  She was an Italian trainee Buddhist monk - ex dancer - on her way to stay in a monastery in Warwick.  We talked about zen Buddhism, mindfulness and reiki. My former impression of Buddhist monks was that they shaved their heads and wore orange and were all blokes - opinion largely formed by 1970's TV series Kung Fu (ah glasshopper....).  The ocean was a blue bowl with tiny white boats, the size of shrimp, their sparkling wakes spinning out behind them.  Within an hour, the white cliffs of Kent appeared, clouds piling up on the like like freshly squirted Chantilly and the Buddhist  and I watched people turn on phones and frantically scrabble for their luggage. You will find people are not zen here, I remarked.  We waited for the throng to go and left last.  The air was fresh and the temperature could not have been more than 22.  It was utterly delightful.  By the time we got into the terminal building, all 223 other passengers had disappeared from sight and we ambled along the long corridors and stopped to admire two portraits of the Queen, done in pixelated form and using real photographs of people.  The Queen as her people.  Loved the symbolism.  

I lost the young Buddhist somewhere in the ticket pickup zone, picked up my bag, which was the last one on the moving carpet and got to the platform just in time to get the train to Clapham Junction and thereafter the connection to Basingstoke.  It was heaving and very very hot.  Managed to find a seat in an area between carriages.  No one was speaking to one another.  After so many years abroad, I habitually strike up conversations but they fizzled out almost immediately.  Everyone was glued to their phone.  No one looked at one another.  I experimentally sang some Abba songs.  No one even looked up so I studied my fellow passengers.  An Asian girl in voluminous black clothing and headscarf.  Eyebrows like Groucho Marx.  Man with glasses in grey suit.  Tie too tightly tied.  Very loose shirt with badly attached buttons.  Asian guy with electronic cigarette plugged into his mobile phone.  He, like me, was very hot and fanning himself.  Woman in heavy checked dress, thick legs encased in beige stockings.  Frowning at her phone.  Everyone was dressed in shades of grey and black and I was a peacock in bright pink and blue.  Finally arrived and the doors opened with a burst of delicious fresh and cool air.  

Texted cousin and sat on bench.  People were scurrying by, everyone plugged into some sort of electrical device.  Non stop flow of traffic.  Coffee and tea shops everywhere.  What was particularly marked was the lack of smokers - they are everywhere in France - here they are corralled into a small corner of shame.  Cousin's OH came and picked me up and we rolled at terrifying speed (low slung MG) through the idyllic country side and villages with names right out of an episode of Miss Marple.  Cousin's husband is a bit of a DIYer and nothing is safe.  Noticed some complicated wire work hanging down by my ankles and there were liberal amounts of Scotch tape, holding things in place.  He is an eye consultant  and I imagine people coming around from surgery with bits of Scotch holding their retinas in place and seeing him at the end of their beds and he is telling them not to touch anything and it will settle down in a week or two.

Arrive at cousin's village and it is chocolate box pretty with knapped stone and flint cottages and thatched rooves.  Village pond with gently weeping willows.  Coots scooting around on the mirrored surface.

Lovely to see cousin and we have cup of tea and chili and then walk.  Evening fine and clear with light breeze.  We get back and she shows me photos of her trip to India and then produces the most exquisite silk embroidered fabric.   I am done in and head up the stairs to gwelli.  Cousin's husband has been working on the house for 18 years.  Paintwork looks as if it has been eaten by rats.  Every other house in the village is immaculate.  Where I am has rat eaten paintwork, semi derelict barn, selection of beaten up cars (in various states of repair) and two large and malevolent cats called Bert and Ernie, despite both being girls.  Bad cramp in night.  Wake to find both insteps fizzing.