Sunday, 24 November 2013

A francophile's dream

A francophile's dream: living on a barge moored in the heart of Paris, (in this case the 1 arrondissement), with a bicycle, on which to discover the charms of The City of Light, parked at the front door.

Inexplicably, I fell so very French when I'm in Paris ambling along the the banks of the Seine, or riding my bicycle through the verdant green hills that engulf our village.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Where is Rêve?

Like subscribers, I too have been asking this question, as has my fellow contributor, Laura. For those of you who are wondering about what has happened to Reve, Laura has now received the answer, which can be found on her inspiring blog.

Shopping in 7ar. Paris 2013
My days appear to be getting more complicated -  dealing with the escalating issues with our French house and my father's unexpected death at the hands of a drink driver (as well as working full time).  Unfortunately I fell that I can no longer be involved with Reve and I am temporarily scaling-back my presence on line until my life is back on an even keel. Watch this space...............
A bientôt.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Joie de Vivre Lost?

Searching for some French joie de vivre? Apparently so are the French according to Claudia Senick, a professor at the Paris School of Economics and the University Paris-Sorbonne. In a land renowned for its rich culture, refinement, wine and food, that also manages to provide its citizens with free education and healthcare, a 35 hour work week and a retirement of 60, it appears that all is not well......

“It has now become common knowledge that the French are much less happy and optimistic than their standard of living would predict,” says Senik, "...there seems to be something about life in France that makes people more anxious and less cheery than those in other places". 

Foreigners who manage to turn their dream of pottering around in their own quintessential French maison or chateau into a reality, are not immune from this French malaise. The longer expats live in France, apparently the more miserable they become too. 

Predictably, Senick’s research findings have been  inflammatory, sparking much debate.  Despite the statistics, omnipresent gloom hasn’t been our experience in France. One of the  reasons we instantly fell in love with this country was because of the warmth, good humour and generosity of the French. 

On a perfect Provençal summer’s morning - the air thick with the drumming of cicadas, we chanced upon this group of antique dealers who were having a jolly time, oblivious to their national malaise. After agreeing to us taking their photograph, they beckoned us to join their train……. There was a lot of French joie de vivre to be had on this day………

Senik’s data has been interpreted differently by Orion Jones. Jones suggests "It may be the language of happiness that eludes the French rather than the underlying condition. Unhappiness, after all, often implies the desire for change—in circumstances, or even in oneself—and so dissatisfaction with life despite its material benefits suggests a kind of idealism—of intellectual vision of possibilities beyond the actual..."  

So have the French lost their joie de vivre?  I’ll let you be the judge...........

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Domestic Therapy

Life is predictably capricious. No one is immune to its challenges and the odd 'left ball' it throws their way. How an individual responds to daily pressures and huge emotional upheavals is as individual as their fingerprint.  Meditation, prayer, exercise and even knitting have all been cited as therapeutic responses to stress.

After  the unexpected death of my father caused by a drunk driver, I have found the rhythmic nature of knitting woollen squares, calming. Like meditation, the movement of the needles focuses my mind, providing respite from unwelcome thoughts and emotions. Knitting also gives my agitated hands something to do and anchors me to a seat.

Rediscovering the benefits and joys of this craft has sent me foraging for old knitting patterns in the attic where I managed to locate an eclectic collection of instruction booklets. Some of them had been purchased during my early twenties when knitting was à la mode,  and others were inherited from my mother and great Aunt, who had impressive knitting skills, which  unfortunately weren't genetic.

One of the gems that has resurfaced may have practical appeal to a lover of tea, but I can't envisage any of its suggested products as items on my tea-tray!
Inherited knitting patterns from the early 20th century, offering some cosy
activities for a cold night.

Sunday, 28 April 2013


Vale to my Father - a distinguished physician and scientist who had great compassion. I have learnt so much more about him from others since his passing, and also much about myself. 

Father was walking when stuck by a car, (driven by a very drunk 60 year old female driver) and sustained horrendous head injuries. I have had to find strength for my father, who was taken off life support almost 2 weeks ago and forgiveness for the drunk driver who took his life away when she swerved around a stationary car to hit him without braking. 

Father gave unconditionally to others - generous in spirit and humble by nature. He adored our mother who predeceased him, and gave his children a strong and loving family that will be sustained for generations to come.

Please to do not leave a comment. Instead take the time to focus on those you love

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

The Sleep Thief

Waking up in the morning feeling more exhausted than when you went to sleep? Tired and fuzzy headed, you're dragging yourself through the day? Snoring? Noticed that your memory is not as sharp as it was last year? Secretly think that you're "losing it"?

Welcome to the insidious world of sleep apnea. One in which energy and patience are in short supply, motivation is minuscule and problems magnified.

As John Steinbeck said, It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.  Imagine the ramifications if the sleep committee is on strike. Chaos - on a personal level, professional level and physical level. A lack of sleep plays with the mind and dampens the spirits. There is a feeling that your life is slow motion while everyone else is is in "fast forward".

This is the world in which I've being living for the last 24 months. My malaise developed gradually so I was caught unaware. As young as I am, I have obstructive sleep apnea!  Now my malady has been diagnosed by a careful process of elimination, life is generally looking brighter for everyone here at Number 8 - with one obvious exception which has me trying to reassure myself that  "Beauty has a lot to do with character" Kevyn Aucoin.

I have to go to bed looking like a WW2 pilot, with a breathing mask over my face from which protrudes a log tube attached at the other end to an air pump which hums through the night! My frizzy mop pokes out of the sides of the head piece so I resemble Mo from "The 3 Stooges"! Practicality is "the order of the day" - forget feminine, forget romance. 
WW2 pilot Courtesy Google

With the current daily temperatures hovering in the high thirties and the night time temperatures in the twenties, the head gear has been so unbearably hot and uncomfortable that I've been removing it in my sleep. Hopefully within the next few weeks, the weather will be cooler so I will be getting the full benefit of the air pump.

But I'm not alone. A practitioner in hospital said that currently, about 1 in 100 adults wear a similar contraption to bed, but the ratio should be closer to 1 in 5. Age is not an excluding factor. There are children as young as 4 
with sleep apnea, some of whom were initially incorrectly diagnosed as having ADHD.

The long term effects of leaving this condition untreated include a significantly increased risk of having a stroke, heart attack, dementia and accidents as well as falling asleep while driving! Type 2 diabetes has also been linked to obstructive sleep apnea.

Laugh and the world laughs with you, snore and you sleep alone (Anthony Burgess)
I no longer snore, but I'm very unattractive when I sleep. 

Perhaps you're being visited by the sleep thief?

Monday, 11 February 2013

A Dog's Best Friend?

This little fellow stood here patiently for over an hour. We passed him in Lugano as we strolled down to the shores of the lake for lunch. On our return journey up the hill the dog was still in the same spot, optimistically hoping that somewhere inside there was a friend who would throw him a tasty morsel.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Snippits from Life in France - "Ring them Bells"

“ Home is the wallpaper above the bed, the family dinner table, the church bells in the morning, the bruised shins in the playground, the small fears that come with dusk, the streets and squares and monuments and shops that constitute one’s first universe”.  Henry Anatole Grunwald.

The rhythmic chiming of clocks and church bells immediately transports me back to my pre-digitalised childhood - the days when mantle and grandfather clocks were wound by hand and church bell ringers weren't almost extinct. A simple, secure childhood filled with love, adventure and laughter. 

Throughout my travels across the length and breadth of France the sound of church bells has been a scarce occurrence, so it was quite perplexing to be welcomed to My French Folly by pealing church bells at 7 p.m. on a Tuesday night - our first night in residence.

Amidst the dust, rubble and disappointment that greeted us courtesy of My Man on the Ground, (the scoundrel parading as our renovation project-manager) I felt unexpectedly at peace hearing these bells. By habit I counted the chimes. 3 different sized bells were identified without a discernible pattern to their ringing. ......100, 101, 102....... When the last bell was finally struck, a lingering, deep, resonance echoed across the valley.

The village's own 19C Notre Dame
By the next day we realised that our watches could be abandoned.  The bells rang 8 times on the hour, 4 times every half hour and come 7 o'clock, (a.m. or p.m.) the bells went bezerk. An irritation for some, reassuring for others.

Inquiries about the origin of this 12-hourly phenomenon usually met with similar responses. " I don't know" or "it just is". My curiosity was eventually satiated months later when exploring the remains of the 12C Church, (affectionately know as La Vieille Eglise), with a local historian.  No bells can be heard here now - the steeple collapsed a few centuries ago as most of the footings of the church subsided into the soft earth of a reclaimed swamp.

The remains of the village's La Vieille Eglise

The 7 o’clock ritual was a call to prayer. Nestled in a valley at the foot of the village, it is understandable why the ringing of La Vieille Eglise bells was so prolonged and varied – the sound had to carry up to the surrounding houses, across fields, and through the forests to neighbouring hamlets. Quite some distance.

Today the chiming emanates from the grand 19 C church, perched in the centre of the village directly opposite My French Folly. With only 10% of the community attending church regularly and the proliferation of timepieces, from watches and mobile phones to almost every technical household item, it is heartening that this centuries old tradition continues.

A bell's not a bell 'til you ring it. A song's not a song 'til you sing it. Love in your heart wasn't put there to stay. Love isn't love 'til you give it away. Oscar Hammerstein 11
Inside the remains of La Vieille Eglise

Friday, 25 January 2013

If the cap fits .........

Currently, I resemble a horse. 
Courtesy of
My smile reveals a mouth of very large (I would say “oversized”) teeth. Thank you father. When adult teeth superseded my juvenile teeth an overcrowding issue developed in my average sized mouth. So off I trotted with mother to the orthodontist, Mr. Chalmers – an elegant gentleman who always arrived at his consulting rooms clad in an immaculately cut dark suit, a bowler hat and very shiny shoes. Despite the weather, in his hand he carried a wooden handled, black umbrella in a jaunty, but dignified manner. Mr. Chalmer’s eyes shone when I first opened my mouth. 4 molar extractions were promptly ordered so my teeth could be correctly spaced using wire bands. The result? A smile full of very large, straight equine- looking teeth.
Note: Father has large teeth that sit perfectly in his large mouth.

Courtesy of
I have spent the summer vacation (southern hemisphere) sorting through the attic where many treasures, references that aren’t being used, and photos have been hastily stored without a suitable filing system. Being very sentimental, I tend to hold onto items with history and often put smaller ones and professional notes in unlabelled boxes or files. Then there are the lovely old pieces of furniture that  have been stock-piling for the stone cottage we planned to build on our 12 acres in the countryside. However, after buying My French Folly the stone cottage idea is shelved. Consequently I have also been sorting through this beautiful furniture in order to sell it – unexpectedly time consuming. It was during a recent rummaging and organizing episode in the attic that I dislodged a hard-wood table that was precariously perched on top of boxes of files that sat on top of a much loved wooden box of Lego – kept for the hypothetical grandchildren. 
As the tower of goods toppled towards me, my arms haphazardly scrambled to halt the cascade of boxes and the bridge of my nose gallantly stopped the fall of the unusually heavy table. Much blood, pain and swelling of my nose at its point of contact with the table resulted. "Look on the bright side - now your glasses can't fall off and you can wear a pince-nez!" was optimistic Mr R's initial response my mishap.
So with a mouth full of large teeth and a recently acquired huge, red Roman nose, I resemble a horse. More specifically, when I smile I look like “Charlie” , the first horse I rode.  Just hope I don’t find chaff on my dinner plate tonight.

One accident (of birth) + one recent accident (physical) = one horse-faced me.
Courtesy of "Equine Dentist"

Friday, 11 January 2013

Too Hot to Handle

Billabong. Tabilk Winery, Australia

Gardening is spiritual, anchoring me to the earth and seasons – my form of green meditation. While I don’t apportion my time to gardening accordingly to its importance to my life, just wandering around the yard, pulling a few weeds here and there, spot watering and planning my next major activity are incredibly fulfilling and soothing. 

A worm on the 4th floor of Annelid House.
Part of my green landscape is my worm farm that supplies me with lovely, organic fertilizer while disposing of our herbaceous kitchen scraps. Harvested rain from the house roof usually manages to provide the garden with water until early summer. 
Bee-keeping activities have now ceased due to my allergies but I still delight in seeing bees in my garden foraging around in search of sweet nectar.  
So it is with a heavy heart that I have to report the death of the worms in the worm farm due to my forgetfulness.

The 4-tiered annelid-tower has survived in the shade for the last 10 years, through all weather - fair and foul. Kitchen scraps go into its top store, garden fertilizer and compost come out from the bottom– until last week’s unseasonal 41 o C. (106 o F). The weather was so uncomfortable that once I made it home from work and feed the troops, I just flopped around the house preparing the bare minimum for the following day, before collapsing onto my bed.
No thought was given to the new seedlings in my vegetable patch or to my wonderful worms.

Third floor worms
Suffering from the heat, I omitted to remove the lid off the worm farm to allow the tower to cool – a necessity once the thermometer hits 35 o C. My oversight became apparent when my little soil Trojans were to be fed during the weekend. As I approached the worm farm, laden with kitchen scraps, I noticed a cloud of frenetic flies. A foul odor hung in the air. ….. “Something’s wrong.” Removing the lid of the 4-tiered annelid-tower unleashed a sickening smell and revealed a sea of discolored, putrefying worms. Phew!  My supportive family retreated indoors amidst screams of disgust leaving me to deal with the product of my neglect. Not an easy task given the size of the tower, and the stench.

On our 12 acres in the countryside, huge eucalyptus tree branches frequently
fall during strong winds,  adding to our list of chores.
Their removal can consume hours of our time and test our patience.
Yes, lurking under my suburban exterior is an avid greenie – not one who hugs trees in protest, but one who hugs them out of sheer delight; inhaling the sent of their wood,  feeling the texture of their bark, observing the intricacies of their being and feasting on the hues and contrasts of the colours of their bark. Isn’t nature wonderful?