Category Archives: Everyday stuff

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. What it means to me.

Prompted by WordPress’s own Daily Prompt, I get to thinking about what the change of seasons means for me.

What I won’t be doing this autumn season

I won’t be sitting down to write a poem about it. Keats did it better than I could.

Regular readers will know it means I won’t need to tramp through the vineyards much more taking photos for the Wednesday Vine Report. The harvest is almost finished – much later this year than I can remember. Mademoiselle Merlot has gone to the cooperative along with all her cousins and we will meet again soon in a bottle of the lovely red stuff. The Wednesday slot will be taken up with visits to different Domaines and some very serious wine tasting. What a treat! I can’t wait.

season's Merlot

good health to you!

I won’t be wearing what I’m wearing today for much longer. Here in the south of France afternoons are still pleasantly warm, but the wind changed today and there is now a definite chill at night and in the early morning. Flip flops and thin cotton shirts won’t be enough.

I won’t let myself rush into winter, though. One of the things I enjoy about living in France is they don’t hurry you straight into preparation for Christmas. They celebrate autumn here with seasonal displays in shop windows featuring mushrooms and chestnuts. In the hairdresser’s there might be a few fairies and elves, too, sitting on tree branches – maybe a gnome and toadstools.  Colour charts will tempt you to come inside and have your hair turned to burnished copper or bronze to match the season.

The French make chestnut everything from soups and pâtés to delicious sweets and desserts.

 

season chestnuts

chestnut season

chanterelles

much sought after

Chanterelles grow wild in the hills. They hide in leaf litter under chestnut trees. They are highly prized and wickedly expensive. Nobody will tell you exactly where you can find them and who can blame them. Fried lightly in butter, they are sinfully delish!

What I will be doing this season

Drinking more red wine. This is a certainty. There are so many more Domaines to discover and somebody has to do it.

I will bring down my winter woollens from the loft and take up summer clothes and beachwear to hibernate till spring.

I might just pop into the coiffeuse and have those auburn streaks put in my hair.

And I will be writing, writing, writing. I still haven’t decided which novel to polish first for publishing on Amazon. One day I lean toward the family saga, the next I want to do something darker. How about I work on all three?

Well, you know I love variety in my life!

Thanks for visiting my website. PLease call again. Leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.

Cheers!

Celia

Alien in my garden? Don’t look if you’re squeamish.

There was an alien invader on my garden wall. Coincidentally, I’d just written the post about cicadas and their life cycle. It’s certainly an alien concept, living alone underground for all those years. The video clip I linked explained why we’d been finding holes in the soil and we’d found empty nymph cases which we assume had fallen from the trees and shrubs.
So, when I saw the nymph attached to the rear wall of our house, I assumed it was empty.

alien cicada

I didn’t want to get too close

But it moved. And it split. I thought this transformation would be over in seconds, but, no. It takes a while. You have to be patient. And the longer I stood there with my camera, so close to this alien on my wall, the jumpier I got.

Can you bear to continue?

alien cicada on the move

it’s coming out!

I switched to video and waited. And waited. And waited some more. Nothing was happening. This video clip would use up all my Coolpix memory and take hours to upload to YouTube with our crappy Broadband speed. I’d no choice but rely on stills.

alien cicada

feeling squeamish yet?

Ah, Jeez, it’s like a blob of green snot. With eyes.

Can I hold on? Dare I stay here? What’s going to happen next?

cicada alien

getting really spooked now

Is that thing looking at me? Look out! It’s moving again.

cicada alien

I’m willing it onward.

Oh, help. I don’t know if I can stand much more. Its legs look slimy and its eyes are weird. If its wings come out in a hurry, will it fly straight at me?

cicada alien

a face only its mother could love

At this point, I can hear an alarm. It’s the bread machine which lives in the utility room. This is a coincidence. Only the other day, I recorded a short clip of dough going around. I called it alien bread because it looked so weird.

 

I have to go and take out the loaf. Normally, I love the smell of freshly baked bread. Now? After getting so close to green snotty insect life?

But, I have witnessed something wonderful, haven’ t I? How many people get to see the birth of an adult cicada? I dash back with my camera at the ready.

There’s a fluttering noise. Have I missed the final stage? Have I missed the chance to take a photograph of brand new, shimmering wings.

I round the corner.

The wall is empty.

But the nymph case is gone, too.

fat sparrow ate the alien

fat bastard!

I am bereft.

After all that? That poor little blob of green snot had lived all by itself in the dark, underground, waiting for its chance to emerge as a new creature with wings, to rise into the tree tops and sing its little heart out (if it’s a boy), only to get picked off the wall by Captain Fat Jack Sparrow.

I want to cry.

Its struggle for life is unbearable.

I’d never make a wild life photographer.

But you can see why I like writing stories where strange things happen.

Summer at the market. More sexy French food.

You can tell summer’s here. The aisles in the markets are full of summer visitors and lots of them are children, eating pastries in their push chairs or tagging along at the side wearing that out of school for the next two months face.

At Clermont l’Hérault, the Wednesday market features in one of Mick Alec Idlelife’s stories. He’s currently working on reformatting a collection of stories with unusual endings for ebook publishing.  There’ll be more news about him soon.

In the meantime, here’s what we saw (pun intended) today at the market.

It looks like an ordinary saw. It’s amazing the notes he can saw from it and the sounds carry so far . . .

We filled our bags with fresh fruit and vegetables. All the seats on the pavement café behind the stall were taken.

summer fruits

Irresistible!

Himself went next door and helped himself at the sausage man’s stall. The sausage man knows us now. When he sees himself coming, he gets out a big bag. The aromas, the colours and the sounds of a French market are always a delight.

And would you believe it? We found a new bar, or at least a recently refurbished one. Neither of us had noticed it before, but today, large and welcoming, a fifties style retro diner with a terrace overlooking the market canopies. So, of course, it had to be done, didn’t it? Up the stairs to a view over the market. The ideal spot for people watching.

summer hats and shades

summer hats and shades

A writer always watches people. Look at these two. Are they together? Or did two people wearing hats like that just happen to stop at this stall at the same time? What is she looking at? What is he looking at? I know ‘cos I was there.

Holidaymakers?

Certainly.

French?

I think not.

This picture is crying out for a caption. Why don’t you send me some ideas? Just for the fun of it. I’ll look forward to that.

Don’t forget to FOLLOW CELIA so you don’t miss new posts.

Cheers!

Edit: 13th July – I was contacted by Natalia Paruz – ‘The Saw Lady’- you should visit her site. Her music is beautiful. And watch the video clip of the musical saw festival. You will be amazed.

The Wicked Stepmother and school holidays. 10 WEEKS!

WS=Wicked Stepmother   GB=Gollum Boy, the online gamer  BP=Biological Parent

School holidays have begun. The only students attending collège this week are doing final year oral exams in preparation for lycée next September.

wicked stepmother picnic place

rock formations at Moureze

GB has one more year in collège. He handed in all his text books on Tuesday. He said it was painful. Wicked Stepmother thought he meant he was heartbroken to see them for the last time. (Joke)

No, he said, it was painful because they were so heavy.

On Wednesday he floated off, sans text books, for  the morning bus and probably floated back at midday to make his own bacon sandwich for lunch. We weren’t at home to witness. Himself and I were entertaining visitors and actually having a rather nice picnic in the hills above Clermont Hérault with a large ready-roasted pintade from the market, tomatoes, cheese and crusty bread. GB would not eat this fare and, anyway, picnics are for boring old farts.

pintade for wicked stepmother lunch

pintade is a guinea fowl

When we arrived home, the kitchen bore the evidence of GB’s culinary efforts, complete with tomato sauce-streaked plate left where he’d finished with it. GB was where we expected him to be: glued to the X-Box, the 10 week holiday grin already secure upon his face. (We noticed it when he came down to see if we’d brought back any chocolate biscuits.)

His final day at collège this semester was Thursday last. The grin grew even wider.

‘What are you going to do with all this time off?’ said BP.

‘Hmmph!’ GB replied.

Nothing more was said at the time.

On Friday, GB spent all day gaming.

gameaddict

 

On Saturday, GB spent all day gaming.

gaming addict

did you know such organisations exist?

On Sunday, there was a sea change.

Oh, yes.

Wicked Stepmother had nothing to do with it and remained, her own thin grin firmly in place, out of sight.

Biological Parent put the question again.

‘What are you going to do with all this time off?’

No answer. Not even a humph.

‘If you can’t come up with ideas of your own, GB, I’ll think of some for you.’

No answer.

‘I’d like you to come down at three this afternoon and help me in the garden.’

Three o’ clock came and went.

deadline

three o’ clock deadline

BP went to the garage. He walked over to the electricity control box.

power control

power control switches

Our power controls are different in France from what we were used to in the UK. We don’t have ring circuits here. Each room can be isolated by the switches on the main control box.

At 3:15pm last Sunday afternoon, two rooms were blacked out.

At 3:15pm last Sunday afternoon, the plug was literally (almost) pulled on activities at the top of the house.

At 3:15pm last Sunday afternoon, there was no X-Box, no YouTube live streamed games/tutorials from Syndicate the #1 UK gamer. The lights were out. The sockets were dead.

BP waited in the garden where GB’s old bike awaited cleaning and maintenance before we sell it.

Power was not restored until 6pm. So, GB still had minimum 8 hours game playing from when he got up to lights out. I think it’s way too much.

Wicked Stepmother plans to show this post to BP, especially the picture about 10,000 hours spent by the age of twenty-one. Isn’t that such a waste of a young life?

What do you think?

Waiting for Gary. Second attempt.

Friday June 14th.

Time: 10pm.

Conditions: warm. A good night for waiting for Gary.

We’d been to The Shack for mussels and chips. We love that place. Salubrious, it isn’t. Situated right next to a main road and a filling station, it hasn’t got the best of views. What it’s got is atmosphere – maybe it’s because I’m such a truck lover I like places that look like truck stops. Anyway, food’s good and hot and there’s plenty of it.

Mussels

good food for Gary watching

Himself and I had a litre of vino collapso between us and wended our way home. It wasn’t properly dark. June days are long and neither of us wanted to be indoors, so we decided on a spot of Gary watching.

You can’t wait for Gary without the special equipment. So, out came the special equipment.

Gary watching equipment

special Gary watching equipment

After a few sips of the special equipment, Writer in Languedoc thought it would be a good idea to make a little video clip. No sooner had I stopped filming, but, you guessed it! The little bugger shot across the wall behind me and hid behind the French window shutter. You can view the video clip here.

Now I know you can’t compare my efforts with those wonderful wild life programmes we see on television. You know the ones I mean, where people talk in hushed voices while they’re waiting for the wolf, or the bear or the yeti. But when the very creature you’ve been waiting for shows up the second you put the camera down, the frustration of Gary watching must come close to waiting for a . . .  rhinoceros or a lesser spotted alien.

Himself went indoors. I stayed put.

11pm. It’s dark. There’s a chattering noise from behind the shutter. A dark shadow of movement. Stealthy hands pick up the camera. Shush. Don’t breathe. When he moves, it’ll be fast.

There he goes!

Gary

Gary the Gecko caught on camera

Gotcha! Not quite all of you, Gary. You move so fast.

So photographic ambitions mount. I shan’t settle till I get a good photo of Gary hanging around in the lamp light, catching moths and chomping them.

iMac on order

The Dog’s Doodahs. New Mac on order.

iMac

My new baby

My new computer will soon be on its way.

Isn’t he going to be the dog’s doodahs?

Why have I chosen a desktop?

I like to have a fixed workplace. When I sit in my workroom, I know I’m at work. I’m not going to get distracted by that pile of ironing or the view of the garden that needs weeding, or get up to put the kettle on. I don’t need to be able to pick up my machine and take it somewhere else.

The people at the other end of the Apple helpline in Ireland were really helpful. They wanted to make sure I was making the right choice for me and the way I prefer to work. They also talked me through other requirements and answered my questions about guarantees. Because my home address is in France, my purchase had to go through Apple France. That’s the way it works.

Ah but, says I, I want a qwerty key board please, not a French one with all those extra letter ‘e’s and everything else in a different place. No problem says the delightful Irish Ray, we can do that for you. So, I tell him how I first fell in love with the iMac on a pre-Christmas shopping trip with my sister and niece in Bristol. They were busy looking at clothes and cosmetics but the sexiest thing I saw that day was the iMac in the Apple store. He was standing there looking so beautiful I just had to go in the store and play with him.

At the moment I’m using my old Eee PC – a cute very girly white pearl shell thingummy bob with a tiny screen and miniscule keyboard. But, it’s doing the job okay so far.

My old machine died a protracted death. It was sad to witness. Much choking and switching itself off and me getting very annoyed and frustrated.

But I’m sad at his demise. It’s like saying goodbye to an old friend. Worse, before he goes, I’m going to rip his guts out.

Apologies to my followers. My posts are likely to be fewer and further between until I get my new setup organized.

Learning the hard way. Is it wicked to let it happen?

learning the hard way

sometimes you have to learn the hard way

I’m the one who is supposed to be wicked. I’m the stepmother, the one who might not have the child’s best interests at heart. The one whose motives are always going to be suspect.

I’m having one of those days. Stepmothers will know what I mean. Ladies, if you’re contemplating becoming a stepmother, better read up about it first. Especially if the ex-wife is a late wife. You are taking on more than you know. This isn’t the place to go into too much detail, much as I would like to. The bereaved child is a very serious subject and deserves more than a post on a blog. In any case, the specific issues of being stepmother to a bereaved child are not what I wish to address here. I have something much more generalized in mind.

A Facebook friend recently shared a piece about the benefits of allowing children to be bored. Some university prof had just come out with something I’ve been saying for years. If your ten-year-old is bored, let her fix it. It’s her problem, not yours. Wow! Somebody got paid to write this down?

I remember a time when Gollum Boy was little and in a strop. He wasn’t getting his own way. Father had other things to do just at that time and couldn’t do whatever it was young son wanted. Young son pouted. Young son wailed. Young son went into a tantrum because he’d learned that tantrums usually worked for him. But, on this occasion, I was in charge.

The tantrum was building into meltdown because father wasn’t available. I said, ‘Why don’t you find something to do that makes you feel better than how you feel right now?’

‘I’m BORED,’ he shouted.

‘I’m busy,’ I said and left him to it.

I went to the kitchen and clattered about doing a bit of washing dishes etc. When I went back to the living room, young son had found something to do. AND SOLVED HIS OWN PROBLEM.

Now we’re getting to the crux of this.

Here’s what I think: if you ALWAYS fix things for your kids, they never learn how to fix it themselves. In the case of the university professor and current thinking on childhood boredom, the fixing of the problem by parent figure doesn’t allow the child to use his/her own creativity. Eventually, according to the prof, children may lose the ability to use their creativity. They might forget how to imagine. So, by fixing the boredom problem, you could be doing more harm than good.

Back to this morning. As you know, the young son in my Wicked Stepmother Chronicles is now Gollum Boy, addicted to online gaming and not wanting to do much else. If you’ve read my previous posts, you will also know that we have been having an ongoing battle between the three of us which came to a head when Gollum Boy almost passed out at school.

You have probably also worked out my methods by now, too. It doesn’t take an expert tactician to see that I have employed an attack and immediate retreat modus operandi whenever these issues crop up. I have my two penny worth, say what I think needs to be said and retire from the theatre of battle to let biological parent and teenage son sort it out between them.

Still with me? Good. Here it is, then. School holidays are over. Back to school. On the third day, Gollum Boy is too tired to get up in time to catch the school bus. The last time this happened, biological parent (BP) drove to school and arrived at the same time as the bus so errant teenager didn’t get into trouble for being late. On his return, the BP said,

‘I’ve told him. This is the last time I’m getting him out of it. Next time he misses the bus, he’ll have to catch the later one and face the music when he’s late.’

Guess what happened this morning.

The alarm must not have gone off was the first excuse. There followed a volley of further excuses as BP hurriedly got into his shoes and rushed out the door to drive Gollum Boy to school.

I was waiting for BP’s return. I reminded him what he’d said the last time this happened. But I added more.

‘You’re as good as stealing from him,’ I said.

‘Don’t be dramatic.’

‘Don’t be in denial,’ I came back quick as a flash. ‘You need to hear this. You’re stealing from him. You’re robbing him of opportunities to learn from his own mistakes. We both know why he couldn’t get up this morning. He NEEDS to experience the discomfort of being in trouble for missing the start of classes.’

robber

stealing away your child’s chance to learn the hard way?

I went further. See, I know what I’d do if I were dealing with one of my own or one of yours or anybody’s child I was taking care of.

There would be an X-Box ban tonight. A laptop ban tonight. A tablet ban tonight. Smartphone ban tonight.

Actions and consequences, junior. We all have to face them. That would be my message.

But I’m the wicked stepmother and I’m getting tired of being the one with the tough love message.

Please feel free to add your comments. Your email remains private.

I’d love to hear what some of you think.

Waiting for Gary. Who is he?

My sister called him Gary. We go in for a bit of alliteration where we’re from. He could be a Georgina for all we know, but Gary presented as a good Cinsault-fuelled suggestion one evening last summer and the name stuck as fast as Gary’s suckered feet. (Clue #1)

geckofeet

what Gary’s foot looks like magnified

The way Gary and his ilk are able to hang on to vertical surfaces, not to mention feel comfortable hanging on completely upside down has interested scientists for years. Only recently have they invented a new glue that mimics the properties of our Gary’s feet. Apparently this new glue is so strong you’ll be able to stick a 42 inch screen television straight onto your living room wall.

Last year, Gary became part of our late night entertainment. We’d watch, in awe, as he lassoed his supper. We’d wonder how in hell he could move that fast and jump out from a perpendicular position without falling off the wall. (Clue #2)

If you followed the previous link, you’ll know who Gary is now if you hadn’t worked it out already. You didn’t really need those clues, did you? He’s the type of his species that like hanging around (Ha, Ha) people and houses. Gary made his summer home behind one of our French window shutters. We don’t know where he goes in winter. We had a very strong feeling he would survive those snows we had in January. He’d got big. Very big. He must be reaching his full size. Maybe this summer could be his last.

So, there I was after dinner last night wondering when he’d show up again this year.

The night was warm. Ten pm and still 25 degrees. The signs were good. I saw bats zipping about beyond our garden gate; a Scops owl was hooping in the distance. I call them submarine birds: their call reminds me of WW2 movies set in a sub with that tooting noise going on in the background. Here, have a listen. You’ll see what I mean.

It was time. I got out the special equipment.

coffee and brandy

special equipment for waiting for Gary

I put it in the waiting for Gary area, directly below his favourite roof space where the outdoor lights attract fat moths for his main course and a selection of juicy six-legged appetizers for hors d’oeuvres.

My camera was charged and ready.

I sipped at my special equipment. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed movement. I looked up at the lights. What was that dark shape?

moth-catching light

Gary’s fave hunting spot

There was movement  all right. From both ends of the terrace. Two small ones, but when I moved they disappeared behind the roof beams. I waited. Gary is not going to like bandits on his patch, I thought. I ran out of special equipment. Took the offered refill from himself who was watching television.

Gary’s not coming, said himself. Not tonight. Why don’t you come indoors and watch the news?

I went indoors to watch the news. I sat. Himself was staring out the window at the light on the wall opposite the one in the photograph.

WTF? Is THAT Gary? Can’t be. It’s GODZILLA!

Too late. My camera isn’t out of its case before he’s disappeared. Probably sorting out the two invaders. Next time I’ll wait longer and double up on the special equipment.

 

 

50 Shades Greyer. Remember Gollum Boy?

gollum

Gollum Boy working at his ‘precious’.

Gollum Boy is 50 shades greyer. You remember Gollum Boy, the teenage person who lives upstairs. He appears at mealtimes and hovers like ectoplasm, usually in doorways. That’s the one.

Well now, it seems he’s not content with the original 50 shades of grey brought about by lack of sleep, no exercise and poor diet, plus an unhealthy addiction to online gaming on his precious till 2 am and beyond. I think he’s going for vampire.

Let’s backtrack a little. I know I have a tendency to wander.

We’ve had school holidays. Two weeks of them. They’re different here in France from what you might expect. Spring holidays follow a regional rota so that schools are not on break all at the same time. The ski resorts couldn’t cope with all those kids arriving at once, you see. So, half-term in February and the ‘Easter’ break can vary considerably from region to region and from year to year. Everybody takes turns at early or late break. Late breakers got lucky this year and had fresh snow in the Pyrenees last Saturday. I know; I saw it on the way to Spain for himself’s birthday.

So where was Gollum Boy on himself’s birthday you might wonder?

In bed. Online.

Okay, so teenage boys don’t want to celebrate their father’s birthday with him. Understandable. I can go along with that. But, remember also I’m a wicked stepmother and have to guard what I say. When I criticise, it’s always going to sound wicked stepmotherish unless I choose my words very carefully. Remember the pirate lady who wasn’t going to let trouble creep up on her again? The one who was prepared for school holidays and whatever should happen?

femalepirate

ready for anything . . .

Her good intentions lasted a week.

She lost it during the second week.

Have you got a card for your dad’s birthday? she said.

No. Why?

The shop in the village has some, she offered. They don’t cost much.

Afterwards, himself made excuses when no birthday card appeared.

It’s just about being a teenager, himself said.

Actually, biological parent, no it isn’t. (This is where she lost it!) Some teenagers do think about other people, helping out, doing something for someone else. The kids who don’t are the ones who get away with only ever thinking about themselves because they’ve got parents who continually make excuses for them. (Great rattling of cutlasses here.)

The upshot of all this mutiny was withdrawal from theatre of battle by wicked stepmother.

And the result?

A second week spent entirely indoors by Gollum Boy. The weather is warm. The sky is so blue it sometimes looks purple. Down on the beaches, people are dipping their toes. But Gollum Boy says it’s too warm outside for him. Well it would be, she thinks, for anybody wearing thick jogging pants and a hoodie over a tee shirt.

And anyway, the sun hurts his eyes, Gollum Boy says.

I think it makes his skin sparkle too!

The online gamer, the father and the wicked stepmother

online gaming doctor

switched on young doctor

After taking the online gamer, Gollum Boy, to see the doctor,  we have witnessed a few changes around the house:

online gamer's breakfast

from ‘a daring adventure’ blog

+ the online gamer has been getting up in time for breakfast.

+ the father of online gamer has been making sure that online gamer has ceased online gaming by 10pm each night after his 2 hour session.

+ the partner of father of online gamer aka the wicked stepmother (me) has been making sure that their efforts are rewarded with appropriate amounts of appropriately age-sensitive (not too babyish) praise and encouragement to maintain this high standard of determination to take on board the recommendations made by the switched-on young doctor so that teenage online gamer can learn that self-control, personal hygiene etc. etc. are his own  responsibilities.

(Takes deep breath) That was all one sentence. I’ve noticed, lately, that whenever I begin to delve into the realms of everyday matters and how it is we ever manage to live with one another at all, I am swept away in a maelstrom. Thoughts begin circling, spiralling. Too many to deal with. A great whirlpool of them. They bring so much clutter in their wake, these thoughts. Baggage from former lives. Monsters and goblins. Shadows and shades. (No, I haven’t been reading Gothic tales or Joanne Harris)

maelstrom

whirlpools pull you in and down

The truth is we’re all haunted by what has gone before. You can’t ever really get away from it. Sometimes it’s good stuff you wouldn’t want to lose anyway. You keep those good things close by as you sail on. They are your stars to steer by.

But the bad stuff brings squalls. There’s always something from way back that’s never been properly dealt with, because you’ve been too busy dealing with what is current, what is happening now. Behind your back, those old pirates start rattling their cutlasses again, threatening mutiny on your good ship doing okay just now, thank you.

Just when you thought things were on an even keel, they have a way of swashbuckling back up again to bite you on the backside. And they always come when you know you should have expected it.

femalepirate

female pirate

So I shall keep my weather eye out for approaching storms. I shall be prepared. Them there scallies ain’t creeping up on me this time. Look, I’ve got my own pirate outfit and a big bread knife.

Avast there, me hearties, school holidays on the horizon. Splice the mainbrace! Mine’s a Merlot. Sorry, yes, you already knew that – you’ve been reading my posts.

Please click the Tweet button to give me an automatic mention on Twitter. Please come back to read my posts again. Just fill in your email in the box at top right and you’ll get a brief message informing you of new posts. Easy-peasy. Hope to see you again.