Celebration

Apart from having a nasty flu bug, and mail still not connected which is a right royal pain, I have two reasons to celebrate. First, today I was offered a contract for the sequel to Abomination. I’ve been writing blurbs and tag lines, a real chore. Does anybody actually enjoy writing blurbs? It means there won’t be an unreasonable hiatus between volumes one and two, nor with volume three if I send the manuscript in soon.

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I’m also pressing ahead with the follow on series to The Green Woman. 60k words on the clock of volume two so far. I’m hoping to give the whole thing a makeover. That might take us into 2017 though.

As if that isn’t enough to celebrate, our house-buying plans are going smoothly. The obligatory once-over has revealed nothing more terrifying than dodgy electricity (we knew that from the porcelain plugs and switches), and a bit of lead piping that ‘needs watching’. There are no drains worthy of the name, and heating seemed to come mainly from the adjoining cowshed. But it’s the south, the winters are mild, we’ll dig a drain and change some of the porcelain light switches. Our youngest is trying to convince us to get a herd of llamas for the grass/meadow since the stabling won’t be a problem, and I don’t think you have to milk llamas. Not like goats that don’t eat the right kind of grass either.

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As an aside, I have been asked why I don’t write about my ‘experiences’ living in France, and I suppose the answer has to be, would you write about your experiences living in a semi in Stoke? If that’s what you know, there’s nothing extraordinary in it. I’ve never bought a house anywhere but France, never dealt with workmen anywhere but France, never had children or sent them to school, anywhere but France. There’s a lucrative market in writing ‘humorous’ books about life with the baguette and beret brigade, which generally involves poking fun at the ‘French way’. Sod that. I live here—if they do it, chances are I do it too. Seems to me, the people who write these slapstick comedies don’t really live here. They’re voyeurs, ex-pats, people who feel their real lives are somewhere else.

So, I won’t be writing posts about how hilarious French plumbers can be, but I hope I’ll be writing pieces based on our new found country peace and quiet. I hope. Just so long as the neighbour doesn’t decide to swap his sheep for quad bikes…

Finbar Congo and Papou

While I’m waiting for the Finch Books site to go live, and to stop myself from going completely barmy, here’s a Finbar post. The last six months have seen such a change in his behaviour I’m still not used to it.

Finbarlying down

In the six years he’s been with us he has been bitten, chased and bullied by other dogs, culminating in a very nasty attack by a Weimeraner that almost punctured his lung and got him 20 stitches in his right flank.

He became very wary of all dogs, and had a tendency to get his retaliation in first if ever another male dog approached with remotely ambiguous intentions. Letting him off his lead became a nerve-racking experience. Would he just scare the daylights out of the other dog or trample it to death? I even bought him a muzzle so he could practice running around with other dogs without biting their backsides when he caught them. It didn’t work. He just pulled the muzzle off with his outsize claws.

Then he met Congo.

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Congo is a Weimeraner, big and bouncy, and as far as Finbar was concerned, a serial biter. At first he would freeze and refuse to go a step further when he saw Congo. Then the penny dropped. Congo liked him. And when he ran after Congo, it was Congo who was scared. That was at the beginning of the summer and since then they have been best friends. Congo is big enough not to fall over when Finbar barges him, and not fast enough to ever beat him in a race. It has given him so much confidence that he even invites other dogs to play with him and doesn’t have to be put on his lead every time another dog looks sideways at him.

Last week we met Papou. A galgo from the same awful hole near Seville that Finbar was rescued from.

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Papou is nearly twelve but he still enjoys a short 40 mph sprint. Galgos aren’t demonstrative dogs unless something winds them up. Then they lose it completely and have so much fun they end up doing themselves an injury. One reason Papou doesn’t encourage Finbar who is younger and stronger to chase him. Papou is sensible.

Finbar and Papou hanging

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and just doing what dogs do.

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It might not seem like much, for a dog to go out for a walk without being constantly on the look out for trouble, but it’s a big step forward for Finbar and makes me feel happy for him. Maybe soon we’ll be able to think about adopting that friend for him.

Christmas: Why do we do it?

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Our Christmas was not calm, peaceful, or restful. I won’t go into details. Let’s just be thankful for small mercies, shall we?

Christmas Eve:

The eldest didn’t have gastro-enteritis after all.

Second and fourth children weren’t actually sick after the Christmas Eve feast.

Nobody got food poisoning from the lamb.

The mouse that Trixie brought in just as we were serving the meal is now recovering in the garden.

Husbands right hand middle and index fingers were not actually broken.

Christmas Day:

Branwell is eating again.

Little Cat’s diarrhoea cleared up.

The present that Finbar knocked off the tree broke into a million pieces but nobody got upset.

My migraine cleared up nicely before the film.

Finbar’s leg injury is horrible and we’re not sure either how he did it—we checked and there was nothing resembling a wild boar in the garden that could have been responsible—or what to do about it, but it’s stopped bleeding..

The weather is still glorious for a month of April, as the weather man says. Husband’s hand is swollen and bruised but he’ll live. Finbar can’t walk, so I shall stay indoors, nice and quiet, and not tempt Providence (vindictive bugger) any further.

Have a fantastic Boxing Day!

New shoots

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Why is it so hard to paint

The fierce fire, the towering wave,

To smooth the tangled contradictions

That buoy me up and wear me down?

Where are the tranquil patterns

Of sun and shade on fallen leaves,

The elusive glitter of river ripples?

Where the smiles, the tears, the blazing anger?

Is it fear that such brightness, such strength and pulsing joy,

Confined in the bland black and white of words,

Will evaporate like mist in the sun,

And leave the lightless gloom of winter evenings,

When rain beats down and spring seems too far away?

Is it fear of burning in the heat of passions,

Or drowning in tumultuous seas?

No matter, the beauty is this,

It lives and grows, flowers and fruits,

With or without me and my fears.

Cats again

Since our neighbour with the cats was evicted in September, the rooftops have been swarming with felines. Some of the permanent residents were put in a sort of pets’ hotel while the neighbour waits to be rehoused. The local council took away four others, and a couple of cats’ protection associations managed to catch another six that the neighbour for looking after for them on a temporary basis. We caught another one, a friendly female that lingered too long on the bathroom window ledge, and returned it to the cat lady. She’s a nice cat with the rather unusual name of Negrustia.

Last week we caught yet another, a brother of Horace’s (who you will be relieved to know is one of the cats relocated to the hotel) that fell two floors off the roof of the house onto the veranda. The cat was undamaged, unlike the veranda roof which now has a hole in it.

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Remember Horace?

Earlier this week, the cat association brought in the big guns—cat traps. The two most wanted cats, Victor’s Little Sister, and her daughter Isabelle, were still at large. And so was Otto, along with several other unneutered tomcats.

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Victor’s Little Sister

To paraphrase the immortal words of G.W. “We got ’em!” We also got an extremely angry tom cat, one of the cat lady’s outdoor relief projects, which in fact belongs to a couple who live down the road.

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Isabelle

With sixteen cats ‘in care’, and a kitten adopted by a neighbour, that still leaves maybe ten cats and a couple of litters of kittens unaccounted for. The kittens, I fear, are no longer of this world, and the others are either toms or sterilised females. At least the two worst offenders have been neutralised. I hope they find homes. They’re good cats, fighters and survivors.

Unwanted house guests

This is a post especially for Ali Isaac because I promised her I would. These handsome critters called House Centipedes by some, are known in our household as ‘toothbrushes’. The first time I ever saw one was when we moved to Bordeaux and we were camping in the empty house before the furniture arrived. I opened the shutters in one of the downstairs rooms, and this thing was having a fit, running round and round in circles. Scream? They could hear me in the next département!
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With its legs and antennae it reaches about 4 inches long, eats other insects and spiders, bites people, and moves at a speed of 1.3 feet a SECOND. That’s about like lightning I imagine.
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This is what they look like close up

©Kevin Collins
©Kevin Collins

They originated in the Mediterranean area but they’re moving north. Thank you global warming!