Week 532

Sunday, 3rd March, 2019

We made the right decision to stay at home today. Very unwelcoming outside – wet, grey and windy. So many bushes and particularly hydrangeas are budding up in anticipation of the Spring warmth. Daffodils have been flowering so early that many are already starting to go over.

Looking back, I find that 10 years ago today we had heavy snow in our Yorkshire, quarry garden but that it didn’t last. In retrospect, it seems a lifetime away. Our working lives were in their last few weeks although we couldn’t exactly be sure of that. Things were still being negotiated.

We still owed £65,000.00/€76,000.00 on our mortgage 10 years ago although it turned out that we only had another five weeks of paying it. At the signature of a pen, we stopped work, paid off our mortgage and set off for Greece. Now, in five weeks time, we are going back to see what has actually changed 10 years on.

Monday, 4th March, 2019

A quiet day at home in the morning and Health Club in the afternoon. We are beginning to pluck up courage to book our future trips but we will obviously spend some part of the summer in our deliciously, warm and sunny garden. We’ve decided to do it in comfort by ordering more comfortable garden furniture.

Reasonable price for Sofa, 2 x Arm Chairs, coffee table plus weatherproof covers. I ordered it and received an email back within minutes to say that it would be delivered on Thursday. It’s coming from Farnworth in Bolton, Lancashire. There is only one day this week that we will not be at home and that is …. Thursday. We are shopping in France. I emailed them back and received a message by return to say it would arrive on Friday instead. Incredible service!

Tuesday, 5th March, 2019

Did the pheasant cross the road?

A busy morning out around the area including collecting ‘repeat prescriptions’ – Makes us sound so old. – and trips to Asda and Sainsburys. We leave the house at 1.00 pm and return from the Health Club at 4.00 pm. It does take a chunk out of the day but it makes us feel so much better. The trip from our house to the David Lloyd Health Club takes about 5 mins and there are notable views on the way. Before we drive through a heavily wooded stretch of road, we pass a couple of farmers’ fields which, on some days, are full of sheep and on others are covered in pheasants. Now I love pheasants to eat and the males look absolutely wonderful.

Back 60 years ago in rural Derbyshire, Dad used to go on a New Year’s Day pheasant shoot and then hang his kill in an outhouse to ‘mature’ before they were roasted and eaten. To a young lad, they seemed very strong in flavour. The joke was that game should be hung until it moved involuntarily (with maggots) before it was ready to be plucked, gutted and roasted. Dad also joked of running pheasants over on the roads around our village and sticking them in the back of his car to be taken home. For quite a few years, Pauline and I have been buying pheasant carcasses for about £3.50 each and enjoying them roasted at home.

As I drove to the Health Club today, a magnificent, cock pheasant scurried out of the woodland and across the road towards us. I didn’t have time to think but jammed on my brakes as ABS kicked in and I ground to a halt. Fortunately, the car coming the other way also saw what was happening, braked and the startled pheasant stepped back in to the woodland. It lives to be shot another day before ending up in my oven.

Wednesday, 6th March, 2019

A fairly uninspiring day of grey clouds and spits of rain which is a pity because our village has suddenly become a riot of colour with carpets of crocus and daffodils in full bloom and trees and bushes – cherry, magnolia, forsythia all shocked into colour by the recent warm weather. The two elements seemed rather incongruous as we drove out to Tesco this morning.

I had a task to do before I went out. It is Day 7 of my ‘challenge’, from an old, college friend, to review books which have most shaped my Life. For my final day, I recalled my post-formal education influences and described my personal attempts to widen my knowledge of the world of Music & Art. These were areas in which I felt my personal education was badly lacking.

I forced myself to buy and play classical works – starting with Chopin and Rachmaninov, moving on to Mozart, Beethoven, Sibelius and Shostakovich. Often, I hated what I was hearing but, by constant repetition, I began to learn and to love the music. For the first time, I found music profoundly moving. The Études and Nocturnes of Chopin could reduce me to a blubbering wreck. I learned something about myself that was a little frightening but I was pleased that I had confronted it.

Next, I had to try to break in to the world of Opera. It is quite daunting. My local newsagent – back in the day that I was going out to buy physical copies of The Times and we were still buying magazines – had a new publication on the shelves. It was a monthly booklet called Discovering Opera. Each month it featured a major work and was a collation of biography of the composer/librettist, a simple outline of the opera narrative, information of famous artists who had performed in past productions and a Cassette/CD of recordings of significant sections from those productions. Issue 1 was Bizet’s Carmen, followed by Puccini’s Tosca, Verdi’s La Traviata and Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. After two years, Issue 24 and final edition featured Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin.

Of course, Opera is a performance art and we did go to some performances but it was soon apparent that it was not right for me. Music makes me cry. Lots of things make me cry but especially music. I cannot get through La Bohème without soaking my shirt but, worse, I cannot stop myself singing out loud along with the professionals. For that reason alone, I have been banned from live performances.

Thursday, 7th March, 2019

The entrance to Auchan, Coquelles

Up at 5.00 am and out by 5.30 am just as the light was rising. Driving to the Tunnel for an 8.30 am crossing. The traffic was light and very light at the tunnel. Actually, we left at 8.20 am (9.20 am CET) and drove off at 9.55 (CET). Our crossing was ‘free’ because I had pre-ordered £250.00/€293.00 of wine from Calais Wine Store. It was already on a trolley for me when we arrived. We picked another £250.00 worth of additional wine and loaded up the car after putting the back seats flat.

We drove on to Auchan in Coquelles with still signs of illegal immigrant penetration around the area. There was a strong, blustery wind which had a biting edge to it and a group of immigrants huddled together for warmth and protection from the elements in a bus shelter. As we drove past, a Gendamerie car stopped and they began to disperse. After loading our trolley with about £200.00/€234.00 of goods mainly dominated by Duck Breasts, Duck Legs and fish, we set off for Cité Europe a shopping centre located next to the French terminal of the Channel Tunnel at Coquelles.

Lots of fresh fish available.

It is all very convenient. Pauline bought a couple of pairs of summer shoes to add to the other 150 pairs that she rarely wears which are stored in her wardrobes. We bought cheeses and cured meats, some vegetables and lots of large jars of Moutarde Dijon which we love especially for cooking and in sauces.

Off back to the Tunnel sous le manche just 5 mins away at 12.30pm CET. That’s where the fun started. The passports and customs checks are being imposed as if we have left the EU and we immediately get stuck in horrendous queues for checking of vehicles and then for checking of passports. It is taking five times as long as it used to do and is very frustrating.

Things turn uncomfortable at the border.

Just to add to the dissatisfaction, the weather changed rapidly to dark and brooding with blustery, cold and driving rain. As we drove to the UK tunnel entrance, we saw the motorway reduced to 2 lanes with the third reserved for queuing lorries and even worse was the freight queue on the French side. Just-in-Time will certainly become Just-in-Time-for -next-week if we Brexit. The French border is already beginning to look as bad as the Swiss crossing.

Friday, 8th March, 2019

Out with the old …

Quite a long day yesterday and about 4 hours of driving. This morning we were a bit tired. We’ve got a delivery of garden furniture from Bolton. The company have sent me a text to say it will be between 12.30 – 14.30 which is just when we would have been off to the Health Club so tiredness and other circumstances conspire to keep us at home today. As a result, I decided to do a bit of garden tidying.

The hydrangeas are budding and opening so I have pruned back all the dead heads of last year. Quite a symbolic act. Unfortunately, I had only been outside for half an hour and I was really chilled. It is 10C/50F outside but there is a strong breeze and it feels so much colder. Why fight it. I gave up and settled for a cup of coffee.

The furniture has arrived, been unpacked in the garage, had its weather-proof coverings put on and set out on the patio. As we moved the furniture out of the garage and on to the patio, Pauline stumbled and fell, grazing her knee and bruising her ankle, thigh and hip. Fortunately, none of her injuries were very bad but bad enough and warning that we must take more care. The car is now stuffed to the gunnels with folded, cardboard boxes and polythene covers which will go to the local tip tomorrow. Outside, it has just started to rain lightly and we are going to spend the afternoon tucked up indoors.

Saturday, 9th March, 2019

For little Catherine.

When you have sisters in their 60s, you know you are in trouble. I’m in trouble! When we moved in to our new house, Catherine came round and brought us some small, cyclamen plants. Just over two years later, they are thriving, flowering and multiplying. As I photographed these this morning, a huge bumble bee sat on the petals. Signs of a nature’s cycle re-awakening.

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