Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ab Circle Pro update

My Ab Circle Pro is a feature in my living room. I'm used to it now, so much so that when I visited a friend who has her own ACP obsession - keeps her ACP in her lounge - I didn't even remark on it. Along with the comfy chairs and television, the ACP seemed to be in its rightful place.

In my case this isn't testament to my regular workouts. In fact, my ACP would be gathering dust except for the efforts of my housekeeper. She treats it like everything else in my house, including apples in the fruit bowl. She polishes it weekly.

I didn't reject my Ab Circle Pro. The opposite. It rejected me. Sorry, that's not quite right. It ejected me; spat me off.

This happened one ordinary Saturday morning. Al and I were home alone. He was in the shower; I was in tee-shirt and knickers, assuming the position on the ACP for a few intense arse swinging moments.

So, head up, back straight, working those abs then WHUMP! I'm splayed painfully across the machine. My right knee had somehow lost purchase on its knee pad thus upsetting the entire apple cart: me.

I whimpered a little. Al strolled in drying one ear with a towel. Wanted to see what the crash was. He raised his eyebrows and strolled back in the direction from whence he'd come. He'd had his inward chuckle at the beknickered idiot hanging off the side of the contraption.

I gathered myself up and pushed the machine back into position by the armchair.

That was at least three months ago.

They say you should get straight back on the bike if you fall off. I've done this a couple of times in my life, even after someone ran me over back in the day. But that's my bike. I actually still get a buzz out of cycling.

Get straight back on the ACP? Nah. It's not as much 'fun' as the adverts would have you believe. And pity my second hand machine didn't come with a guarantee. Discovered a couple of days ago that part of the knee pad that had rejected me so spectacularly had actually split.

My Ab Circle Pro is going for a ride to the tip come the next hard rubbish collection. Dare say she might find a few of her fellow rejects there.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Oh yes, I'm the French Pretender.

I'm sick of saying I'm a qualified middle school French teacher and this being my little joke. That is, I'm crapue at French and you'll be pleased to know I don't teach French at my school.  Perhaps if I did, I'd be heaps better at speaking it.

Recently, on an impulse, I grabbed my '4th form' - me, 4A - French text book from the book shelf. Il faut practiquait - I must practise - my French.  Did I just use the correct conjugation of the subjunctive? Beats me.

Within the pages of this tome, Chez les Francais, first published in 1969 - thus state of the art in 1971, my fourth year of high school - I found an essay I'd written in French, in form 5, for which I'd received A minus.  It's beautifully handwritten, and in the judgment of my teacher, whose expertise I had no reason to doubt, it was worthy of a high score.  Interestingly, I can no longer remember lots of the words and constructions I'd almost faultlessly written, aged 15.

Don't know what happened to my skills in form 6, HSC.  Despite my teacher's optimism, I infamously scored 49 percent and thus Failed my second favourite subject.  Fail.  Failure. Fraudster. (See how it gets in?)

What a surprise then, when I enrolled at Melbourne State College the following year and was permitted to continue my French studies and still qualify as a French teacher.  The fact that I'm only qualified to teach to year 10 was due to my choosing to major in English rather than French.

I successfully completed two years of university level French, and loved it.  Some fellow French students and I formed a French folk singing group and had the audacity to perform not only around the college but at events at the Alliance Francaise.  We attended French galas, saw the opera, Carmen, the libretto of which we'd studied in our second year.  Great music and lyrics and hilarious for us late teens.  I can still sing lots of it now.

I was seventeen and eighteen during those two years of French study.  I was insanely confident swanning around with my guitar and my repertoire of French folk songs.

As it turns out, I've only had the opportunity to actually teach French for one semester at year 7 level.  Hence my lapse in skills.

At my fourth French conversation meet-up last week, I really did feel like a fraud explaining my qualifications to this woman I'd just met. (Well, she asked, I think.)  Another comedy of errors, literally.  With my paucity of vocabulary, tiredness - I'd been marking year 8 exams for the previous three hours - and my new friend's 'idiosyncratic' accent - I'm being kind - we were stymied.  Perhaps it was just that eating my poached eggs and carrying on a conversation in French required too much multitasking.

So.  I've decided to go back to basics.  My old French text book is a good place to start. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Night terrors?

In the small hours, Al's 'action dreams' kick in.  Can't call them nightmares. Not for him anyway.

His dreams involve sudden violent jerks and starts; actions, like flinging his hand back and smashing the bedhead - catching a basketball, he said on waking, because he'd actually hurt himself.  Or leaping over the side of the bed to land on all fours on the polished boards, seeming so surprised to wake up and find himself down there.  Last week, making some gruff devil noise, he snatched the pillow out from under my head.  He's also given me a few quick boxing jabs in my belly - as many as he could get in, apparently, before I woke and stopped him by yelling, and clouting him back.

He apologises then falls immediately back to sleep.  The dreams continue for a couple of hours, with me waking him when he's at risk of harming himself or me.  I'll manage a couple of hours' sleep before the alarm goes off.  Given his dreams, me having diabetes and checking my blood sugar for possible hypos and the fact that I've always been inclined to insomnia, it's no wonder I've got black rings under my eyes.  I tend to hit a wall early in the afternoons that has me struggling through meetings.  (And they're invariably tedious, repetitive and useless, which doesn't help at all.)

Al's sort of dream disorder was explored on Embarrassing Bodies a couple of weeks back.  A night vision camera filmed this man and his wife.  In the green light we saw him sit up and peer around, walk, all while soundly asleep. 

Al's done lots of this in his time.  It's usually prompted by him needing the toilet.  Occasionally I've had to steer him towards the bathroom, given he's opened the wrong doors - a cupboard, the kids' bedrooms.  A few times he's lined up a convenient corner or other 'receptacle'.  See, I have to be vigilant.

The 'action dreamer' on Embarrassing Bodies began to resolve his issues through anger management counselling as opposed to medication.  In his case, therapy revealed that he did have anger issues.

I suggested to Al that he might need therapy.  He says not.  "I'm just taking a protective role in something I've seen on TV.  Don't you ever do that?"

Perhaps, but it's all happening in my head.  I don't act it out. 

Last night I could no longer tolerate Action Man.  Given I now have a made up 'guest room' where son Pete used to be, I grabbed my pillow, jelly beans and blood testing gear and abandoned the marital bed.

Still took me an age to get back to sleep, given I was mulling over the significance of us not sleeping -as if - together.  I'm not into separate beds as a solution. 

Then I dreamed bizarre extra-worldly colourful markety narratives.  I can't remember why I was riding elevators and escalators.  Too strange.  Waking up, again, had to grope around in the dark for a distant light switch so I could check to make sure I wasn't hypo. I was okay.

Probably after five, I fell into a desperate recurring dream.  Won't bore you with the details, but in these dreams, Al finally, inevitably realises that he got a bum deal with me, and sometimes the kids, and he decides to leave. In last night's dream he was taking his chances with a young adoring athletic woman with wild springy curls.  As usual, nothing I can say or do will make him stay with me.

And then I wake up, sobbing - yes, my own action dream - in my freaking guest room. I listen for Al moving around the house getting ready for work.  Nothing.  I stumble through to our room and he's made our bed.  I was going to get back into it.  I'm even sadder.  We haven't spoken this morning and I can't bear it.

Seven-thirty and I stagger through to the kitchen.  Clearly he's gone to work and didn't want to wake me.  I'm still sad from my dream.  It's as though he really has left me this time.

Over by the kettle, he's made me a thermos of real Earl Grey tea.  He's warmed my special mug by half-filling it with boiling water which is still hot.

Why do I worry?  Back for more action dreaming tonight. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Outside my comfort zone on a Saturday morning.

I arrive at the agreed rendezvous point.  After some small talk with a few strangers that doesn't really go anywhere I decide to approach the man sitting quietly at the end of the table.  He's alone.  Looks young; at least twenty years my junior, but what the hey?  I'm also here alone to meet new people.  I take my drink and sit next to him.

He seems more than happy to talk to me, despite my age.  He's fashionably dressed in a well cut black zippered jacket. 

'Hello, my name's Fraudster.  (Well, obviously I told him my real name.) Have you been here before?'
'I've been once before,' he said.
'What do you do for a living?' I asked.  Cut straight to the chase.

'I'm a photographer,' he said.
Okay.  Interesting.  He asked what I did and I told him I'm a secondary English teacher.  He seemed interested that I'd taught VCE and expressed admiration for the expertise he assumed I must possess.

My next question.
'Where do you live?'
He told me he lived in an affluent Melbourne suburb.
'Wow!' I said. 'Do you live in a house or an apartment?'
'I live in an apartment,' he replied. 'Where do you live?'
I told him and we agreed that this cafe meeting had been convenient for both of us.
'So,' I mused, 'do you own your apartment or are you renting?'
'Renting,' he said, before telling me that he also owned an apartment in another wealthy suburb.
'Okay, so you must be doing well in your profession!' I dare say I was beaming at this stage.  He was smiling and fielding my questions well.  And then I hit him with it.
'Are you married?'
'No,' he laughed. 'I was in a relationship but it's over now.'
'Sorry to hear it,' I said.  'Are you sad?'
'I was, but I'm getting used to it.'

At this stage I leaned back in my chair, took a breath and laughed, perhaps hysterically.  My questions were bordering on rude.

'Sorry!' I wiped tears from my eyes.  'I'm not normally this nosy! I'm just making conversation.'
He wasn't offended; had probably experienced such curiosity from a total stranger before.  This was his second meeting, after all.

BTW, the above dialogue was all conducted in laboured French.  That was the funny thing about the whole experience.  From my perspective it was a bit contrived as I struggled to apply some of the few words I have in my store.  I knew the verb 'to rent' hence me chucking in a question about whether he was renting his flat.

When  I returned from France, mid-July, I was desperate to keep up my French speaking skills.  So I did the obvious; searched the web for a suitable group.  Unfortunately, the small French conversation meetups are oversubscribed. I was unable to secure a spot at a meeting for two months.

Saturday was my first meeting and leading up to it, I was a nervous wreck.  It's not knowing what to expect.  I nearly cancelled.  What's worse, the meeting would be held at a cafe that specialises in crepes and chocolate.  Basically, I was heading off on my bike, not only into gale-force winds but also a potential diabetic nightmare.

Worst case scenario?  I'd be working the room explaining, in faltering French, that I couldn't eat anything because I have Type 1 diabetes and I can't guesstimate the carb count.  I even practised saying it.

I considered calling the cafe beforehand to see if they had anything I could toy with while I honed my French conversation skills. But I stopped myself.  I'd simply say, if anyone asked, that I wasn't hungry. Je n'ai pas de faim.

Does this sound ridiculous? How about the fact that I couldn't sleep the night before the meet up brunch?  I was as nervous as if I was going for a job interview. .

En route to the venue I got lost in those labyrinthine North Melbourne streets.  Made a left instead of a right and cycled up hill a few blocks in the wrong direction, as it transpired..

I asked a couple of strangers for directions, because, in my vanity, I'd worn my contact lenses and  I couldn't read the map on my iPhone without my reading glasses.  They had no idea being New Zealand tourists checking out Victoria Market.

A couple of extremely obliging parking inspectors came to my rescue.  (Another first:  I've never spoken to a parking inspector before.  Who does except to curse them?)  One was instantly talking into his collar to get a Google search on the address and soon I was back on my bike and pumping it back up the hill from whence I'd come.

At the meeting I spent a pleasant enough hour, initially making French small talk with a few people before settling to interrogate the aforementioned photographer.  Hard work; intellectually demanding.  The second hour was much easier.  Most people left and three of us remained.  And spoke English. 

Think I made a couple of friends, oiled up my French speaking skills and no one force-fed me crepes and chocolate.  I'd call that a good outcome.

Back for more in a couple of months.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012



Peered closely at the digital clock simultaneously reaching for the 30 year old glass Moccona coffee jar that still contains my handy store of jelly beans.  I had that feeling.  Vague; light-headed; spacy; heart pounding.  I grabbed a handful, stuffed them into my mouth and started chewing as if my life depended on it.  Worried then that the chewing motion was further depleting what little glucose was in my blood, exacerbating the hypo.

That was the reading on my blood glucose meter..  I'd checked my BG while still lying on my side ( - thanks, Accuchek Mobile, for inventing a meter that doesn't require me to mess with test strips.)  Al had already woken at the tell-tale sound of my jellybeans rattling in the jar. 

'I'll get you a juice,' he said.
'I may not be here when you get back,' I murmured, but he'd already darted off to the other end of the house. I thought I might lose consciousness, as in general anaesthetic black-out

I tried to relax; reduce the palpitations that had increased since I'd seen how low I was. I breathed through the fear of losing consciousness which has only happened three times in 31 years. 

Somehow the horror of that first time hasn't left me.  That was back in 1985.  We'd just flown to England; my first time dealing with the change in time zones with my relatively recently diagnosed diabetes.  I was on three injections a day - two fast-acting insulin and one fast-acting protaphane combo - and somehow the exhaustion of the trip had me waking out of a deep sleep and jamming a couple of complimentary hotel toffees into my mouth before passing out.

Props to Al.  He managed to call for help and get my 28 year old body into undies and tee-shirt before the ambulance arrived.  All while I was seizing.  Al says I was out to it for about twenty minutes.  I was conscious when they put me into the ambulance and took me to Emergency at London University hospital, where of course, I was discharged within an hour or so.  I didn't need an ambulance, I needed a shot of Glucagen.  But I didn't know that.  I didn't know that the n-th degree of a hypo was losing consciousness.  Just part of a steep learning curve on a lifetime journey.

I recovered quickly from that hypo, as I usually do.  It took a bit longer for the cuts on the palms of both hands to heal.  I used to have long nails back then.  While I'd been seizing I'd clenched my fists, my nails consequently digging into my palms.  I'd also bitten chunks out of the insides of my cheeks.  No doubt the mother of all cold sores that plagued me for the next six weeks was a result of that hypo fear too.

I didn't think all this today as I was breathing through that hypo, but I was mindful of the same pre-losing consciousness symptoms.  When my blood sugar is that low it seems to get me in the eyes.  Hard to describe.  They 'burr' and feel like they're turning in my skull.  It's a terrifying feeling, as if my eyes are being pressed with wads of cotton wool.  Why cotton wool?  It sounds so benign and fluffy.  Soft, thick pressure?  Feel like I'm back in France searching for the right words.  The other feeling that I get when I'm this low?  Imagine having your eyes pressed into your skull as you're pushed backwards off a cliff with no safety harness.

Then there's the heat and drenching perspiration and no energy to throw the doona off.

But I got over it. And this has only ever happened to me when I've been sleeping.  When I'm awake I test frequently to avoid being stricken unawares.

Glad today, as I frequently am, that I'm working part-time and today's a day off.  I struggled out of a deep sleep at 8.47. 

Damn you, digital clock.

BG 9.0

Thanks for reading.

* That's a.m.
**  Normal blood sugar ranges between 4 and 8 mmol.  Yeah.  I wish.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Tech savvy.

Yesterday, I had three free Embertec Automatic Power Down plugs fitted. There was a moment of embarrassment when Enzo, the fitter, appeared from under my 'home office' - for tax purposes - desk covered in fluff.

So, a two-fold Sunday mission.  1.  Vacuum under my desk and clean the desktop - that's the timber, not the virtual desktop - and 2. find out why my printer isn't working.  Reasonably straightforward, except perhaps for fixing the printer.

BTW, I'm really missing son, Pete.  He could pretty well fix anything technical around here.  Now he's a 'man who's moved out' he rarely gets in touch, despite my attempts to lure him home with pork roasts, crackling, apple sauce and gravy.  Hoping he gets over this phase.

So, the vacuuming was going well, almost aerobic.  Had to strip off a couple of layers getting into the far corners.  Was going brilliantly until I sucked up a pin.  Not me.  The vacuum.

My desk is hard-wood; about two metres by one.  I carefully pulled it out from the wall to release that tangle of cables.  Alternating between crawling under the now dust-free desk and rolling across the top of it, I followed each cable back to its source, ensuring each plug was firmly in its correct hole.

Still no response from the printer.

Contemplated braving the Sunday bum's rush out at DFO - Direct Factory Outlets; Aussie religion - and buying a new one.  But decided instead to email myself at school and use the printer there.

So everything is pristine and squared on the desk.  I've thrown out receipts from 2007, bent paper clips, old CDs and other dusty detritus.

On a whim, I pulled the printer out from wall again and had a bit of a feel around the back.  Where I found the on/off switch and suddenly the printer is spitting out recipes for beef stroganoff and fish pie - some 1970s comfort food for the winter months.

You'd think I'd have learned my lesson.  A couple of weeks ago I was chatting to the Telstra help-desk in the Philippines, trying to fix my modem.  The guy was checking my line at the same time as I glanced down to discover I wasn't actually connected to the telephone line.  The plug was lying innocently by the wall.  Rather than admit to my idiocy, I acted all grateful; pretended he'd magically 'fixed' something at his end.  You see I'd already spent twenty minutes with the automated service prior to being put through to a human for further assistance.

The IT Crowd definitely had it right with that line 'have you tried turning it off and on again?'  For me, however, it's more a case of have you tried plugging it in and switching it on?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Comforts of home

Woke up from a dream yesterday.  Won't bore you with the details but in the dream, Al was telling me we were heading off to London. Now. Two weeks after returning to Melbourne from that other side of the planet.  I quite emphatically told him, in this dream, that I wasn't going with him.  Don't know how it ended and who cares?  Just a dream.  However, it's clear I've been processing the whole travel thing in my subconscious.  If I could blink myself over there for a weekend of cycling along the Loire in good weather, then blink myself back again for my structured three day working week, I'd do it.  But I'm not yet ready for the trauma of packing and travelling.  

I'm relishing the comforts of home, which aren't overrated at all when you feel like being home, although curiously, I'm finding it hard to bond with television, despite my efforts.  With enough couch rolling I'll probably get back into it.  Perhaps wine is the missing link.  I'm on my eighth AFD - alcohol free day- following ten weeks of quite solid quaffing not to mention self-medicating after dad died..

I've just been to Highpoint shopping centre, swanning around.  I overuse that expression but it seems to describe my gait perfectly.

Why write about Highpoint again?  It's still the same place as it was when I wrote about it last year. (Link here, if interested.) One of the things I missed overseas - only a tiny bit and I got over it easily cycling through the French countryside - was the sense of belonging to a community.  At Highpoint today I went to see my niece, Moss, in her little 'kiosk'. Got her a coffee; had a chat because I hadn't seen her since she left home this morning and I needed to catch up.  Moss is living with us for the time being.

I dropped my wedding ring off at a jewellers.  Needs resizing to cope with my arthritic clicky knuckle. (If you have any inclination to take up knitting after a twenty year hiatus, I'd advise against it.  My hands are wrecked!)  Whilst there I was able to ask after a former student of mine who works there part-time; find out what she was doing.

Dawdled a bit further along, gawping at this and that and stopped to chat with a friend who works in a kiosk at the other end of the centre.  Good catch up.

On my return walk I stopped to take advantage of a free power saving plug offer at another kiosk.  The young woman who served me was a former student whose brother I used to teach. Another good catch up.

Yeah, boring blog, I know, but it was really good to speak to people in fluent, idiomatic Australian English.  No searching for the right word.

In France I knew no one.  In eight weeks we only met three Australians.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Post-trip debrief back in Melbourne

Arrived back in Melbourne last night.  Interesting that I've got a winter garden happening here, as opposed to all the greenery and flowers blooming in France and Germany.  However, the weather is quite similar to that on the day we left Munich on Friday.  Except it's not raining here.  The sun's up and it looks like my washing will mostly dry on the line.

Before I put our wonderful holiday to bed, I must mention that our final few days in Munich went well.

Despite my concerns re McRent, the rental company from which we hired our van, the handover was better than expected.  We'd felt ripped off in 2010 when we were forced to pay 100 euro for an alleged hair and smudge of 'shampoo' in the bathroom as I mentioned in my previous post

This time we had to return the van on the date planned between 9 and 10 am.  I'd awoken at about five.  Special combo of anxiety and the fact that it was light outside.  I'd started my cleaning frenzy by seven.  I was quite irrational but determined that the van would 'pass' the inspection.  Unfortunately, it started raining which made it particularly difficult to keep mud and footprints out of the van.  I covered the clean floor in towels and Chux cleaning cloths and we used these like stepping stones to avoid 'recontamination'.  

We were also concerned about being charged for a faulty latch on the rear door of the van.  When we'd returned our van in 2010 we were charged for a key that snapped off inside the lock.  Surely not our fault but rather the quality of the key?

As per instructions, we filled the tank with fuel then dropped it into the carwash prior to returning it.  McRent pays for this final exterior clean.

Upon our return to McRent, Sulzemoos - 27 kilometres from Munich - we were greeted by a delightful bloke.  He seemed impressed by our efforts.  He climbed a ladder to inspect the roof, lest we'd damaged it in some way.  We had been concerned about hail storm damage, but we were clear.  He surveyed the vehicle, muttering 'Gut, gut,' while I hovered around in my massive yellow Vietnam rain poncho.  In one hand I clutched a trigger bottle of all purpose cleaner; in the other a Chux cloth, ready to pounce had he suggested, like his female counterpart two years earlier, that the van was not clean.  Must have looked a tad insane.

Perhaps it was this insanity that led me to take close up shots of all the surfaces in the bathroom as proof of their gleaming condition. 

I needn't have been so concerned.  The fellow assured us that it wasn't our fault that the door latch had broken and that it was easily fixed.  We passed with flying colours, apart from the 302 euro that we had to pay for damage - our fault - to the table top in the van.  Otherwise, we got the rest of our 1200 euro deposit back.

The guy at McRent could not have been more obliging on our return, including driving us and our bags back into the village to catch our bus to Munich.

BTW we also did well selling back our bikes.  We'd originally paid 260 euro for two second hand bikes.  We sold them back for 120 euro.  We couldn't have rented bikes for eight weeks at that price.  Definitely the way to go if you're ever considering a similar trip.

So, props to McRent.

And props to us.  We drove 3000 kilometres and cycled 685k during our eight week holiday.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Au revoir, France...

It's our third night in Strasbourg, Alsace, and tomorrow we cross the Rhine and make our three and a half hour journey back to Munich.

I've forced myself upon several unsuspecting people in Strasbourg over the last couple of days in a bid to speak just a little more French before I return to Australia.  So the receptionist at this camping got it.  She's Venezuelan and speaks French with an odd accent but she's amazingly fluent.  She, like everyone else, complimented me on my accent, that even I have to admit is pretty damn good.  I keep crediting my French professors and teachers, and they've played their part.  The big thing is though that I have a musical ear, am a good mimic - can rip off just about any accent after a few minutes exposure - and I studied drama.  I'm a ham, and ham it up I will.  That all equals good accent.   Pity about the paucity of my other language skills, like being able to find the right word when under a bit of stress.  Sometimes it happens.

Back in 1985, when Al and I first came to France, we had an accident on our second day here.  Yes.  Some cross eyed long haired fool in a rickety old Citroen pulled out in front of our little orange combi unexpectedly as we were going up a mountain.  Al slammed on the brakes and the guy driving a minibus load of schoolgirls behind us slammed into the back of our van.  He immediately blamed us and seized upon the opportunity to escort us to the gendarmerie - the cops - to sort it out.

When we arrived at the police station, this young fellow started to explain that we'd caused an accident.  I understood this, unbeknown to the young guy.  In archaic sort of French I interrupted.  "Excusez-moi!" I said in a wobbly voice.  "En Australie, quand on frappe dans la derriere c'est votre faute!"  (In Australia, when you hit someone in the rear it's your fault.)  The young fellow quickly changed his tack and bowed his way back out of the cop shop.  He then made it his business to help us fix our van as best we could.

But back to today.  I've bought bread that we don't need just to have the interaction in the boulangerie; I've befriended the owner of a restaurant and told him our life story and how 'triste' - sad - I am to be returning home after seven weeks in France.  A couple of days ago a beautiful young waiter in a restaurant gave me an impromptu French lesson - I was trying to work out a conjugation.  That earned him a five euro tip.  He reminded me a lot of my son, Pete; such an obliging young man; polite.

Anyway, I really am triste to be leaving.  It's been an amazing holiday, and ride, literally, given it was a cycling holiday.

Think we're planning to be back here in two years for the fete du velo, the highlight of our time away.

Dare say I'll shed a few tears as we cross the Rhine tomorrow, but it's best to leave wanting more.

On Wednesday we have to face 'the inspection' by McRent, the company from which we rented our van.  Last time we were charged 100 euro because the delightful young frau who inspected the van - that I'd scrubbed on my hands and knees - pronounced - after inspection, 'Zis van is not clean. Zere is a hair and zere is shampoo.'  This time I'm ready for her and she will be challenged!

But that's Wednesday.  Prior to that we have to find our way from our camping in a suburb thirteen kilometres out of Munich back to the bike shop to get our refund.  Hope Sat Nav Jane's up for it.

So, til we meet again, la France.  Missing you already.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Gigny-sur-Saone, Bourgogne, France

Been out riding our bikes through the French countryside near our camping ground at Chateau l'Eperviere in Gigny-sur-Saone.  It's in the Bourgogne.  Beautiful day after a couple of wet ones.  I've been trying to drink in the sensations again. I'm not given to description but this is it.  Spreading, enormous fields of sunflowers, barley, corn, wheat - lots of it harvested and now the fields are dotted with round bales of hay.  Cows in the meadows; families of cattle it seems.  Maybe I don't get out in the countryside enough at home, but I'm not used to seeing the bull amongst the cows and calves.  Makes for a pleasant vista for the cyclists, us.

There are also the tiny ancient villages through which we cycle.  They all have their ancient church at the centre and their village squares with monuments to local saints and those lost in the wars.  Old stone houses with wells out the front, now often full of flowers.  Reminiscent of my English childhood days spent at my uncle Charlie's farm, where at five, I learned to ride a two-wheeler and first experienced the wind through my hair and that feeling of speed.  Pervading all is a sweet wet smell of hay.  Probably a bit of manure too, but I quite like it.

Sensational.  We stayed at this place in 2010 early in that trip through France and England.  So glad we returned to Gigny-sur-Saone.  Have a bit of a lump in my throat right now, given we're just seven days shy of having to get back to Munich, sell back our bikes to hopefully get half price for them. The day after that we must return our 'camping car'.  Don't want to.  However, I will be glad to connect with my own shower and toilet.  (Let me just say, I don't like having to deal with the ablutions of men, other than my husband, in these unisex 'sanitaires'. Can never get used to men pissing in front of women as they do here. Find it disgusting and sexist. Men can whip it out along the road, whenever the urge takes them.  They wouldn't take kindly to a squatting female though. Sorry.)

Anyway, I am very grateful for the opportunity to travel as we do, and for a working life that enables us, as Australians, to take Long Service Leave for a few extra weeks whilst still being paid.  Lucky country.

On another note, I was really concerned about my bike.  It was scraping and clanking and eventually the handlebars seized almost completely.  Great for riding in a straight line but a bugger when you need to go around a corner.  Had a brilliant idea this morning.  Asked at reception here if they had any oil.  They did.  Presto, new bike.  Amazing what a bit of oil can achieve.  Wish it would do the same for my arthritic hands.

So here's to France, WD40 - oil - and a non-ironic adventure filled final week in Europe.

Note: rather than being due to the end of a brilliant holiday, my melancholia could be the result of having run out of Harmony Menopause tablets.  Just saying.

Cycled about 30 k today.  Have done several hundred kilometres since we picked up our bikes in Munich what now seems like months ago.

Monday, July 2, 2012

European Cup at Gigny sur Saone.

In a bar at a camping at Gigny-Sur-Saone. Geez I wish I was into sport.

Have had filet de boeuf - medium - & creme brûlée for dessert a the restaurant at this camping in the grounds of a chateau in Bourgogne. Delish if a trifle expensive

Popped into the bar for a bevy afterwards - 9 pm - & everyone is absorbed by the European Cup. Do not speak!

Well, who can I talk to? They're all English or Dutch. I've said it all to Al & he gets the blog shoved down his throat. He's happy that I'm playing on my phone & resting his ears.

Swear the guy behind the bar is a polyglot. He's real good at flipping into another language when he's had enough chat though. His language talents are wasted in a caravan park. He should work for the United Nations. He does Dutch, German, French & English with fluency. Amazing.

My legs ache. Need a barstool.

Just chatted to the polyglot bartender. Says he identifies with Basil Fawlty.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Lost in France

My husband has a special quality. It has served us well through the 33 years we've been together. We're not unlike Jack Sprat & his wife.

I'm obsessive-compulsive which led to six or so years of panic disorder in my 30s, given the OCD/Type 1 diabetes special combo that I am, amongst other things.

Al is the opposite. Totally 'she'll be right'. In him, it's bordering on over-relaxed disorder. Usually his calm counteracts my anxiety. But not right now.

Because, right now, 1pm, I am sitting in a hot campervan. Sick. And stuck.

You may remember that in an instant of over-relaxed carelessness, Al lost our passports & cash in Vietnam? Well, today he has lost his keys. Not the van keys. Our Australian house key - no big deal. But also the key to the bike lock. No big deal?

Actually, it is. We'd taken my bike into a repair shop today to get an inner tube replaced. We parked the van & Al locked his bike onto the bike rack on the van. We always lock the bikes up. His is locked onto the outer rim of the rack. Mine generally sits on the inner rim.

So we have our coffee while we wait the half hour for the bike repair. Al decides to go to the supermarket while I stay at the bar-tabac drinking gallons of tea cos I'm not well. (I was outside, BTW. Not spreading my germs, I hope.)

And somehow, in all that, he loses the keys.

I returned to the bike shop, which was closing up for a two hour lunch break, and in faltering French - my language skills falter when I'm on the verge of tears - & with lots of miming, explained the dilemma.

The bike shop owner got it. He'll be back at 2pm with an angle-grinder or hacksaw. I hope.

Ironically, on our return from Vietnam in January, we had to take Al's bike to our Melbourne bike shop to get the D lock cut off. Because Al had lost his house & bike lock keys with the passports, cash & credit cards. His bike was locked on our porch.

Forty minutes still to wait. Least it's not so serious this time. We will look back & laugh - when I can bring myself to speak to Al again.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

La rhume et la grippe en France. Farque alors!

Made one of my infrequent phone calls a couple of weeks ago to sister Reggie. She commented on how relaxed I sounded on my cycling holiday in France. Of note, she said, was the fact that I hadn't mentioned my diabetes at all. Well, I've still got it. Don't mention it much, just the rare blog. I know I should be a proud advocate of Type 1 D, but it gets on my nerves. Generally I play it down.

My diabetes has been our constant companion on this trip. Al carries juice packs on our long cycles. I've been hitting the carbs & taking more insulin during the rides; something I'm experimenting with as per Ginger Vieira's book. I've actually managed my blood glucose really well this way. We stop cycling after an hour. I check my bg., have some insulin, eat a croissant!! Lol. I'm in France. Have also had 'pain chocolat' - more or less a chocolate filled croissant-ish treat. I bolus for roughly half the carbs & 'roule' on. That's ride on. Bgs have almost invariably been normal & I don't think I've gained that much weight. If I have it's more likely due to fromage, pate and grands vins blancs sec.

So why am I going on about D now? Because I've got high bg that I'm constantly bolusing down, my throat hurts, nose & eyes are streaming. Yes I've got a cold. And I'm pissed off at getting it & I know exactly who gave it to me. I didn't get away quickly enough.

Al & I took refuge from the rain in the medieval town of Loche in a bar. Ordered our drinks. Sat down. No other customers. So far so good.

Then in came a paisley panted bespectacled American tourist with her emaciated blond friend. They ordered their drinks & got their novels out. Paisley pants sat with her back to me at the next table. As she settled to her book I heard her gurgling the mucous back in her nose, followed by some soggy tissued wet nose blowing. Sneezing.

'Oh-oh,' I said to Al. 'She's at the droplet infection stage!'

'Why do you always think you're going to get it?'

'I always do. Come on, let's go.' I knocked back 100ml of wine in one gulp & we wandered off to find somewhere less toxic to eat. (Btw we had crepes & they were disgusting clot cold abominations with which we toyed. The maitre d was all effusive & wanted to know if we'd enjoyed them. 'Pas mal - not bad,' I lied.)

Anyway I'm still cross with selfish snotty paisley pants. She should have read her book in her room rather than spreading her germs. Just in case there was someone around with a chronic illness who's now going to struggle with the complications of this cold & have to do extra blood tests all night, & for the next few days, to keep her bg under control in a bid to shorten the duration of the cold & avoid subsequent chest infection. Grrhhh!

I wrote a little note in French for the pharmacist & Al cycled off into the village - St Amand-Montrond - to get me some cold & flu tabs. I've isolated
myself to avoid spreading it. Wish frickin' paisley pants had done the same.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Fête du Velo d'Anjou - cycling festival of Anjou

With no planning, & in complete ignorance, we somehow lined ourselves up for the rides of our lives. Our visit to Saumur, Pays de La Loire, coincided with the bike festival. Today, Sunday, the roads on each bank of La Loire have been closed to motorized vehicles & opened to cyclists. We had NO idea.

Yesterday we cycled towards Tours & found ourselves on what Al says was the best ride ever. We had the river, the vines, the flowers. And les troglos. We cycled along le parcours troglodytiqes - the 'way' of the rock-dwellers. These amazing homes/shops and so on are half-building half-burrowed into the rocks. Incredible. On top of all this, higher up stretching to the horizons, are vines, we discovered on another 'slightly hilly' cycling trail.

Thought it couldn't be better. We decided to stay another night & cycle in the other direction towards Angers.

This morning to our bemusement & delight, we discovered thousands of people en velos - on pushbikes. What was happening? We'd seen the posters everywhere yesterday. What's all this 'fête du velo'? Where's the fête? We knew there was some sort of expo on the banks if La Loire at Saumur. People were dressed in vintage retro style. Saw a few people carrying cycle wheels.

Last night our camping was full of cyclists of all persuasions. Still didn't twig.

Today has been supreme. Bikes everywhere & everything for the cyclist - food, wine, music, repair stations. I could even get croix rouge - red cross - assistance if I need it.

Everyone is out on his/her bike. Every type of person imaginable of every age. It's been so congenial. Even got in some decent French conversation with a couple with whom we - I - chatted on a pitstop.

Probably cycled 55k. But on flat car-free roads.

Best time yet.

Friday, June 22, 2012

There are three people in this relationship.

Always wondered how we'd go with a threesome. No. I'm lying. But there are three of us now, winging our way down southish in France. We picked up a passenger. Jane. At Leclerc Supermarche.

She's proved useful & paid her way already. I've handed the reins over to Jane & Al's happily acquiesced to her guidance. He doesn't question her directions; doesn't swear at her. Well, he ignored her wise counsel once but ended up listening to her once I'd insisted that we weren't going on toll roads or motorways.

I didn't quite trust her at first. Had my Michelin spread queasily on my knee, as usual. I followed the map as long as possible. That is until Jane & Al conspired. 'Go across the roundabout and take the third exit on your right' she said in her clipped English voice. I was no longer able to find the place names on my map. Had Jane dropped out for some reason we'd have been farqued. Al says not. Says he'd have driven to the next village & asked directions.

But Jane was wonderful. I dropped my shoulders & watched the luscious French countryside go by. Al swung the van down tiny lanes that we'd never have found without our savvy passenger.

She led us past a magnificent chateau - de Courgeres, I think. Only eight other people there enjoying the perch in the moat & the classical gardens. Jane led us there through the back of a church. Thought she was leading us up a one way street but we have to trust.

Had lunch in a restaurant strictly used by local people. A bell announced our arrival & every - every! - diner turned to unabashedly stare at us. We were seated, opposite each other, in the middle of a table for ten, who all stared & wondered.

Then the young waitress insisted on speaking to us in perfect English. 'Il faut practiquer - you have to practise,' she said. Not sure if I've conjugated that French subjunctive correctly. Turned out she'd lived and worked in Sheffield, UK.

We had four courses for 10 euro each. Wasn't photo-worthy but good enough fare, especially the cheese. And it came with a choice of red wine or cider. I went with the red and a litre bottle of table wine was plonked in front of us. We could have as much as we wanted. Same with the cheese.

The other thing about Jane is she doesn't mind being popped into the glove box while we're doing our tourist thing.

She may be just a voice in a box, but Al & I have talked freely to her all day; chided her when a lane's been too narrow; congratulated her for taking us around busy Le Mans so we didn't even notice its existence.

She got us successfully to this municipal camping in Sable sur Sarthes. It's a bit windy, but that's really not Jane's fault.

And to those of you who are sat nav/GPS savvy, apologies. As I've said before, I'm easily entertained.

And thanks to the Kiwis we met in Beaune for planting the idea. Think we'll be enjoying the roads even less travelled for the next three weeks.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Mont St Michel & Falaise.

Al is climbing to the top of the cathedral on Mont St Michel because that's what he does. I've decided to forgo having a heart attack in the place of my French dreaming.

Has just got a bit noisy. Another massive tour group just passed through where I'm sitting. No cars on this little island but thick with tourists from all over the world. Bumper to bumper. You have to keep moving. And heaps of school kids on excursions, charging around like they own the place.

First heard about MSM in a high school French class. Something in a text book? I also remember the entertaining stories in my French class at Melbourne State College. Monsieur John Johnson told us stories of tourists parking at the base of the Mont. While they were sweating up the lanes and steps their cars were covered by the swiftly rising tide.

Despite the hundreds - thousands? - of tourists here today, most bused across the causeway, and despite the rampant tourism - every shop sells tourist tat, food and so on - this is the most incredible place I've seen over here. And that's saying something.

Al & I first came here in 1985. Neither of us recalls anything specifically touristique back then, just a line of campervans, like our combi, stretching towards MSM as far into the distance as we could see. We dropped a u-ey. Couldn't be bothered waiting.

Now all is for the tourist. Our van is parked perhaps 3 or 4 k away. We had to walk. Got a bum steer from the carpark attendant who told us we couldn't take our bikes. Could have saved my legs & avoided a hypo had we just taken them. Al is such a goody two shoes. He has to ask.

Tourism clearly rules. Brand new hotels & restaurants line the road up to the causeway. Monstrous carparks have been built; trees planted. Suppose it is 27 years since we were last here. Glad I saw it back then. Like I'm glad I snorkeled on the outer Great Barrier Reef off Port Douglas, Far North Queensland before the developers got there.

Anyway it's 7pm now, hence tense change. Back in France. It was a beautiful walk across the causeway watching MSM getting larger & more detailed as we approached.

Left MSM at 3pm and have been driving since. It's now 7 & we're back for our third visit in Falaise, Normandy. Right now I'm sitting on my fold out chair gazing up at the castle of William the Conqueror. Yes. That old. Can't believe we're here. Big relief to head to a place where we know we'll find a great camping. It's situated right at the base of the castle which looms atop a rocky outcrop. It's an astonishing vision. Like MSM & so much in France & Europe it makes me aware of my tiny part on the continuum. Need to drink some wine - a delicious Sauvignon from Le Touraine - to stop me getting all philosophical. Or sickly. One of those.

The camping at Falaise is quiet apart from birds twittering, and not much changed since 1985. Not a popular destination. Weird. Suits us.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Vannes, Gulf of Morbihan and the rest.

Well, here we are in rainy, cold Vannes on the Gulf of Morbihan. We've driven here today from Nantes. Had a brilliant pitstop in an historic village called La Roche de Bernard, just before you get to the Gulf. Goes way back to the 15th century and earlier. It's a seafaring sort of place. Lots of tortuous lanes winding up from the river. It was the place of a famous battle between the Royalists and the Republicans during the revolution. Now, at this time of year, not quite the 'high' season, it's a quaint, beautiful old place. Hard to believe people were beheaded in the village square where we had our grands cafes cremes..

We wandered around, as we do, getting wet despite our plastic bike jackets, because the weather here is...merde. Shit.

We've had two sumptuous meals today. Meals. Well three if you count the Special K and 'soja milk' we had for breakfast. Our staple. Supposed to mitigate against the fromages, pates, beers and vins blancs secs - dry white wine. (Okay, so I only managed one AFD but hey, that's better than nothing. Just.)

The first repast was a 0.35 euro baguette purchased at the Carrefours Supermarche. We filled it with some ham and a soft cheese and ate it in the van in the carpark outside Maccas. Rain was hammering against the sunroof as we ate. The sandwich was delicious.

The third gourmet experience was also in the van. Al fried up some garlic, onion and mushrooms in 'good' o-live oil, added tins of tuna, carrots and baby peas and there you go. Even better that he follows through by giving good dishwashing while I write my stupid blog..

We're staying right on an estuary here in the municipal camping Conleau in Vannes. We ventured out around the point before in our plastic ponchos and popped into a bar that had a great music mix. Bit sort of bossa nova and bass is all I can say. There was a Spanish rendition of Sting's Fragile in there, but that's all I know. Better than sitting in the van in the rain.

Anyway, I'm very easily entertained. Have already mentioned that I'm fascinated by how others 'ablute'. Had an interesting toilet experience at the local bar. Clearly there used to be four 'stalls' in this big room that now contains a urinal in one corner and the toilet bowl diagonally opposite in the other. The toilet facility has been modified to make it disabled friendly. Despite this being an old building everything in this 'bathroom' is state of the art automated including the lights. Don't sit too still too long or you're in pitch darkness. (Not that I did - didn't have my iPhone with me.) The flushing action on this low, seatless toilet was idiosyncratic, for want of a better word. After I'd pressed the button water was so slowly dispensed, filling the entire bowl to the rim, that I had a bit of a panic. Had I blocked the pipes?? I leaned down to push the button again, prompt a bit more action, but before I could the entire bowlful was sucked away down the u-bend, so swiftly I jumped. Well, I thought it was funny.

So despite the rain, I'm having a good time.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Culture shock or alcohol overload?

We're in Nantes, a huge city in France. We arrived yesterday just as the weather cleared and we sat in the bar at the camping, Al drinking his 1664 biere- beer - and me supping on one of the most delicious Chardonnays, from Bourgogne, that I've ever tasted. That makes about 6 weeks of solid drinking for me. Not good, even though I'm having yet another trip of a lifetime.

So today I was determined to go alcohol free. Lately it's been a case of trying to keep off alcohol until after 4.30 in the afternoon. But it's really hard to resist a bevy with one's duck confit.

The other day we stopped for lunch in a place called St Georges sur Loire on the way out of Angers - Angers brilliant BTW. The restaurant was called Hotel de Tetes Noires. That sounds a bit like hotel of the black heads but we didn't let that deter us. We'd visited the place a couple of days earlier in search of change in case we got stuck on the peage - tollway - again. It looked 'local' and friendly, hence our return visit.

We were ushered into a large old dining room. It was a bit tardis-like - bigger on the inside. The tables were all set for for fine dining with white napery. lots of glasses and cutlery. The walls were painted with old fox hunting scenes. The floor tiles were colourfully patterned and old.

The waitress remembered us from our Sunday visit looking for change. She was from New Caledonia, which seemed to make us kin. I didn't mind. Love it when people are prepared to chat and share a bit of their life story: how she misses NC and her son and daughter and grandson after six years of being in France. She screwed up her nose a little to tell us that she thought the French in France are not as friendly as those in her native NC.

Anyway, we ordered cuisse de canard confit - duck thigh cooked to perfection; the best duck confit I've eaten in my life. It was served with an assiette des legumes - assortment of vegetables. Yeah, big deal. But it was. Exquisitely prepared and arranged veges: a slice of a dense, tasty mushroom frittata, zucchini, potato, sweet potato, carrot, tomato. But each vegetable was carefully prepared. The sweet potato was a small breaded disk, the potato and zucchin stood to attention and each had a pureed delicious piped topping, as did the tomato. Slivers of apple were arranged around the plate with the duck leg in the middle of it all in a slightly sweet apple flavoured gravy. May sound odd but it was perfection. Couldn't believe it for 13 euros each. So good.

I started off writing about overdoing the alcohol, and I have overdone it. Haven't written my blog for a few days because I'm boring. Sleep, cycling, driving, the usual panic trying to drive through cities. 'Head for the Centre Ville! Left, left, left! Why did you go right?'

'Fuck, fucking, fuck!' Seriously. I've never heard Al swear so much. Well, not since we were here in 2010.

The trick with heading for the Centre Ville is that after you've driven three times around the roundabout you've usually figured out in which direction to head.

Have been totally overwhelmed by Nantes today. It's huge and busy; an incredible mix of medieval and ultramodern. Witness the mechanical elephant. Nantes, I think, is the birthplace of Jules Verne. My head is almost exploding trying to take in all the cathedrals and chateaux. I need to draw breath.

Cycling into the centre from the camping ground was terrifying, despite all the marked cycle paths. What a day to decide not to have any wine.

Think I'm at the culture shock stage of our tour because I'm too exhausted to try to speak in French. Yes, I've definitely had a bad French language day. Tongue-tied again, probably because I've been over-indulging for too many days, starting back with my dad dying over a month ago now.

Ah well. Better put the kettle on.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Angers, Pays du Loire. Or bust.

Sunday. Rain.  And it's set in according to my iPhone weather forecast.  Popped in to a Maccas for a cafe and wifi use to see whether we could manage a visit to my cousin, who lives in France.  Needed to check Google maps because her place wasn't listed in our Michelin guide.  Tant pis - too bad.  Seems she's 250 k south of where we are.  That's a big round trip when your days are numbered.  Next visit, it seems.  (And hi, Penny, BTW.  Was so good to hear from you.)

Instead we headed further west along the Loire valley to a place called Angers.  We're just winging it here in France.  We've no idea what we're cherching - searching - for.  Chateaux? Voies vertes - like our rail trails in Victoria - or veloroutes - shared bike/car trails along the Loire?  Found a good one yesterday.  50 k.  Brilliant.

Angers, according to the yellow patch on the map, is a big place.  Supposedly there's a 'camping' in the centre. We stop for a wonderful lunch in a place called Noyant.  (Duck confit cooked in cider with mushrooms, a ratatouille modge thing, asparagus cooked in butter and saute potatoes. Delish. All that was left on our plates were denuded duck thigh bones. Al finishes with a creme brulee. Excellent fare at a roadside pub.  Apologies for my tense swapping, BTW. Not enough battery to proof and edit! My excuse and I'm sticking with it.)

Then came the fun bit.  Besides the nasty weather we had immense trouble finding our camping at Angers, despite us having plotted it all out.  I'm talking serious map perusal and highlighting of appropriate roads.  Somehow, as we approached Angers, we were 'herded' onto the autoroute and then missed our turnoff to the camping.  I swear there was no turnoff!  We drove about 16 k beyond where we were supposed to be and decided to get off the autoroute and turn around; see if we'd have better luck going the other way.

Suddenly, we're at a totally unexpected toll booth.  We had been, unbeknown to us, on 'le peage' - the tollway.

"Quick, Al.  Get your credit card.'
'Fuck, fuck, fuck!' Fumble, fumble, fumble.

Al grabs his wallet out of the glove box. gets the card out, sticks it in the appropriate hole.  Reject. Invalid.  He tries another card.  Same result.  I quickly grab my card.  Uh-uh. I'm invalid too, it seems.  And we have no coins and the machine won't take notes.  If only Al hadn't been so concerned about leaving a ten percent tip at the restaurant.  Farque alors!

We pressed for assistance.  'Parlez vous Anglais?' I ask, knowing I won't be able to explain our dilemma in my crapue French.  'A leetle.'

We explain.  The disembodied voice tells us to insert our credit card again.  Same result.  And clearly she is not able to press the button to release the hapless travellers.  Instead, some music starts playing.  Seems she's hung up.

We're stuck. I grab a 20 euro note - our smallest currency - leap out of the van and accost the woman, who just happens to have a disconcerting wandering eye (no offence but she did) in the car behind.  I wave the note at her and she winds down her window an inch.  I explain the situation in the best French I can muster.  She checks her wallet but only has 15 euro in notes.  Tant pis.

I'm panicking.  An arm has emerged from the third car back and it's making an angry gesture.  I approach the second car back, my 20 euro held in front of me; prayer like.  The driver says he has no money but the passenger springs out, tells me he'll help and approaches the toll booth.

The 'remote controller' is no more help, despite the young gent's perfect French.  The fellow tries our cards again, but to no avail.  At least we know we weren't sticking it in the wrong way - which would be typical of us..  No matter.  Our young gallant darts back to his car and returns with the 2 euro 80 in coins and pays for us.  How lovely!  I tell him, like a lover, je t'adore - I adore you - using the inappropriate informal voice.  De rien, he says.  It's nothing.  And he wishes us a good day and we're through.

We have found our way back to Angers and have located the camping, which is 'a local place, for local people' for League of Gentlemen fans.  Don't know whether there's anything for us here.  But we're resolved to donning our plastic Vietnam ponchos and braving the rain tomorrow.  It seems it's here to stay for the foreseeable future and I don't want it to get in the way of us seeing France, the country of my dreaming.

But I'm wondering whether it might not have been a better option to head south in search of my first cousin.  Wonder what the weather's like there.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Onzain, Loire valley.

Spent last night at Chatres-sur-Cher. Sounds so simple, doesn't it?

We'd left Auxerre reasonably early that morning to visit Chablis. We parked at the Intermarche supermarket to stock up, then left the van in the carpark to cycle into the old town. Pretty, of course: narrow, winding stone walled lanes, all apparently built on top of one another. And then I thought, I'm pretty close to my neighbors back home, albeit in a weatherboard sort of way. Many of the lanes in Chablis won't even admit a small car. On your velo - bike- however, you can go anywhere.

Next drove to Vierzon, about 90k away. This was the closest biggish place to where Al had spotted, on the map & in the camping guide, what he thought would be an ideal camping, between the river Cher & its canal. But the place, Chatres-sur-Cher, wasn't on the map.

Well, getting to Vierzon wasn't a problem. Easy. When we arrived we found it was a sprawling suburban 'working class' sort of place. No indication of which way to go to find our 'ideal' camping.

We stopped in a Maccas. The young girl serving couldn't have been more obliging. She even drew a map with traffic lights and a 'hopital' to show us the way. If only I'd had her 'plan' - map - the right way up when I was giving Al directions.

Al was very kind.

Eventually we found the camp on the road to Tours & it was so ideal that it only cost 8 euros for the site & we could park anywhere cos there was only one other couple there. As an added bonus we'd found the only canal in France without a cycle/tow path so no rides there.

On the other hand, the washing machine was free & it was blowing such a gale that our washing dried within a couple of hours. Also had a bit of an opportunity to develop my French skills when the washing machine flooded. (Pardon Madame. Il y' a l'inundation dans les douches. Excuse me, madam. I've flooded the showers.) Struck up quite a rapport with the patron - boss - as we mopped the laundry floor.

Actually, that camp in the middle of nowhere was wonderful. Big river; sun on my back; no traffic noise. And the woman at reception was delighted - & surprised - to have customers. She spoke absolutely no English so my French got a good workout. Also got the showers & toilets to myself in the morning. Very cleansing.

Now, we're in the municipal camping in Onzain in the Loire valley. Got a bit shirty on the way here. We were searching for a four star camping as recommended by the guide book. Was like solving a goblin's riddle - or is it a troll? - trying to find the place. When we did, at the divorce stage, it was a veritable suburbia of tin cabins & indoor heated swimming pools. Despite the 90 minute search for the sodding place, it wasn't for us. We returned, through the vines and waving barley fields & tortuous villages, to the basic municipal on the Loire. And, btw, right on the cycling route along the Loire.

Hard to remain shitty when you've screamed with joy into the wind whipping through the Loire valley as you cross the bridge - walking your bike because otherwise you'd be swept off.

Tomorrow, a 46 k round trip along the flat between here - Onzain - and Blois. With chateaux to spare.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The trail is slightly hilly.

'Are you enjoying the free ride?' asks Al as we're whizzing down a hill at about 30kph.


I was actually. Poppies and other wild flowers and herbs along the sides of the paths, miles of vines stretching out into the distance. Is there a better view? Ancient stone walls along the lanes, beautiful little villages. Ahh. Too hard to find all the superlatives.

Sky a bit overcast with a few peeks of blue. Perfect temperature for cycling.

But the thing about that free ride? Well, you know. When you're doing a round trip along a veloroute - a cycle route that's shared with cars - you're going to pay for those free rides on the way back.

Forty-four k from Beaune to Santenay & back. But for me it felt like 100. And I've cycled 100 so I know. I'm puffing and panting up those hills. Meanwhile, my companion is cruising gently along. I've dropped down to granny gear and he's still in 3 & 4. Wanker.

However, can honestly say it's one of the most sensational rides of my life. Still buzzing from it now, post shower.

Did have a bit of a contretemps about half way through the ride. Encountered the witch of Santenay. Clearly a mad woman who lives to guard her driveway. We'd done this lovely ride and had reached the destination but we had the temerity to inadvertently park our bikes about a centimeter over this woman's driveway. Her place was next door to the restaurant at which we stopped for a bevy.

Well, she went off her face, screaming & gesticulating. More savage than a German Shepherd guarding another maison along the way.

I did a bit of sarky savage back. 'Oh, mon dieu! J'en suis tres, tres desolee!' complete with a few dramatic actions of my own.

But the woman wouldn't let up. I'd shifted the bikes but she felt she had to start beating her carpet on the wall in our general direction. Farque alors! I lapsed, to no avail, into un petit peu of Anglo-Saxon but it didn't work. Think she got the two fingers though.

Should have had a beware of the dog sign. But which one?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Rainy day in Beaune, France

Started raining around 11 last night at the end of a hottish day - 26 degrees. Al & I had decided to stroll into the old town - our first night of doing other than cooking our own special veg modge with beer, wine & scrabble. (We didn't eat the scrabble tiles, btw.)

We stopped at a bar, of course, and were fortunate to meet 2 kiwi couples at the next table. They were travelling together through Europe. Very nice. Al & I threw ourselves upon them, as you do when you're starved of idiomatic conversation, except with each other. And over here, Kiwis & Aussies are kin. So good to swap stories and get recommendations of where to head next. They suggested Auxerre. Sounds like a plan.

We rescued our laundry before the thunder storm & deluge during the night. We'd strung a line from the van to the electricity box. However, we didn't have the foresight to wind the annex in. During the night it had crumpled under the weight of litres of rainwater. We shat ourselves a bit, thinking we'd wrecked it, but it was okay once the load was released. Phew. (Load of water, that is.)

Today we donned our daggy Vietnam plastic ponchos & wandered back into the old town for Sunday lunch. Very quiet on this wet day. Just a few gawping tourists. We decided to eat at a restaurant which seemed mostly patronized by French families rather than tourists.

Well, the wine was good. A 2010 dry white Savigny-de-Beaune. But the food? Merde. Al had a rare 'flank' of beef with frites. Wasn't a cut of meat I'd ever seen before. He ate it all. Probs cos his mum always made him finish his meal. I had boeuf Bourguignon with gratin des pommes de terre. Blerk. Very dark pool of baked on sauce with great lumps of cheap cuts of beef avec un peu de gristle. Overdone slightly charred on top potatoes which had spent several hours in a bain-marie.

Meh. What the hay? Cute skinny waiter reminded me of son, Pete, so we tipped him 5 euros anyway. He didn't cook the food.

Can't win them all.

Best food ever was a few days back at Hotel des Fischers in the village of Vougeot. The dining room was full of men, workers from the local vineyards I'd say. We had three courses for 13 euros each. The braised porc was the most lean, melt in the mouth sensation, with champignons & chunky frites. I finished with cheese - six different types were brought to the table &, like the greedy pig I am, I had a little of five of them. Don't think you're supposed to do that but who cares? All were soft, varied, piquant. Amazing.

Wish people would stop popping corks out of wine bottles all around the camping. Too tempting. Stuff it. I'm having one.


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Beaune, Bourgogne, France

Takes my breath away.

Circumnavigated les remparts en velos. Slow ride took about half an hour. C. 14th wall. 'Moat' that's now part carpark part gardens. Incredible is the word that keeps coming to mind. Ancient stone walls several feet thick. Turrets, those 'slits' where arrows could be fired at the assaulting enemy. Name escapes me. All so hard to believe now. Drink it in. It's real. The French seem oblivious as they go about their lives, dressed so chic.

Was perusing the bricabrac at the Saturday market here in the centre ville de Beaune. Al was perusing the real-estate in a shop front.

'We could do it, Jules,' he said. 'Swap ours for one here.' I wandered over to the window & briefly, for an instant, entertained the idea. I LOVE this place. It suits me. That is, at the start of summer on a warm blue day on holiday. It's so engulfing. Feel like I'm absorbing richness through my pores. And that's before I get started on Chardonnay.

Not sure I'd manage winter, although the interior of the restaurant at which we had lunch - quiche Lorraine for Al, omelette aux champignons for me - looked very cosy. Suppose I'd sit inside.

I'm like my mother. Lachrymose. The tears come readily here & it's not cos I'm still in the wake of my dad's death, although that's still very present. It's thrown all this splendour into even more relief.

Al's just punctured the mood.

'Good example of why dogs shouldn't be brought into restaurants. It just pissed in the pot-plants.'

Thursday, May 31, 2012


When people back home in Melbourne talk about travelling overseas, they go on about Paris, Rome, Venice, Florence and so on; the big cities. And yes, they're amazing. However, you never hear people raving about Langres or Dijon, Dole or Cluny. But these places are magnificent.

Today we did a short cycle into the old city of Dijon. According to Phillipe, a French traveller we met, Dijon is the most important city in Boulogne. Al & I were gawping around like mooncalves & Phillipe explained all the local architecture to us and gave me a French lesson into the bargain. He showed us the oldest house in Dijon dating from 1483. This, evidently, was where Gerard Depardieu starred in the film Cyrano de Bergerac. The photo in the window was proof. Lol.

It's 3pm now & we're back at the van. I'm glutted on ineffable sights. Have been wheeling my bike around simply gasping in awe at the vistas everywhere. Every corner leads to another fairytale streetscape.

Need to sit back & take stock.

On the church wall there is an owl, symbol of Dijon, that one strokes for luck, according to Phillipe & the number of people giving it a rub as they passed by. I didn't bother. I must have already rubbed such a charm to be having this blissful holiday.

Sorry to bore you with how good it all is. Need to remember what happened back in Vietnam when we lost our passports & cash.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

We're not German, not that there's anything wrong with that.

In some part of my mind, by virtue of having started learning French aged 11 and continuing through 2 years of study at 'teachers' college', I think I'm French. When I get here, I'm all thrilled cos I'm going to speak French and partake of the culture. And when I get here, I'm completely tongue-tied for at least 48 hours.

I can usually manage to ask for an 'emplacement pour un camping car, deux personnes avec electricite, s'il vous plait' and then the person at the desk responds in rapid fire French and a little bit of wee comes out.

Went into a bar in Langres, trying to work out whether they served food, or just drinks. Couldn't remember the verb 'mangez', to eat. 'On peut, er, er...' my fingers are miming up to my mouth. Perhaps he thinks I want to be sick the noise I'm making. I'm remembering 'dejeuner', to dine, but that's not the word I want. 'Mangez?' he asks. 'Bien sur!'

Somehow, I manage to order a chicken liver salad for Al. Mistook volaille - liver - for poulet - chicken. 'This isn't chicken,' Al remarked, when he got his little bowl of tiny turds sitting on a bed of lettuce. He ate it anyway and said it was good. I had a taste. Hmm. Not for me. Glad I had the grilled Langres cheese on little pieces of toast atop egg, ham, tomato, lettuce and delicious mayonnaise. Simple, but good.

Did a few hills on our cycle up to the walled town of Langres yesterday. Only rode about 10k round trip, but felt it in the old calves later. Justifies the bottle of Bordeaux in the evening.

Today, it'll be our fourth night in France. The patron at the camping told me I had a really good accent when I was booking our spot today, here in Dijon on the Lac Kir, right on a canal and cycling paths all over the place. Once again, a little bit of wee came out as I beamed with pride.

Basically, I'm Bart Simpson in that episode where he's in France and he can't speak French and then suddenly it clicks in and it's working. It's a good feeling. Glad all that French stuff got into my long term memory.

Another interesting phenomenon: we hired our 'camping car' in Germany, thus, we have German plates. The English campers don't speak to us, though they're all acknowledging their compatriots all over the shop. Can't think what that's all about.

A bientot.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Can't help it, Al, I'm terrified.

My lament as Al swings that massive van around tortuous, precipitous narrow roads in the Alsace region of France.

Gears! Change down! Edge! I'm going to be sick!

Still, pretty amazing views.

Have tried to train myself to look at the vista, according to Al's instructions. But I can't cos I've got special combo altitude/travel sickness.

Mind you, I'm so lucky to be doing this amazing journey.

Mcdonalds in France: well, on this Sunday morning in Colmar, we were the only customers. Free, unlimited wifi, great coffee and clean toilets with music playing. Just what the doctor ordered.

Munster: beautiful village on the way to Langres. Like so many French villages. Picturesque. Think Grimm's fairytales and more. Cobbled narrow lanes barely wide enough for our van. Arches, steeples, medieval. Windows full of quaint pottery, clothes, patisserie. (Just had a 30 g of carb bite of an eclair. BG will possibly ring the bell on that one.)

Spent last night in a Colmar camping ground on the river Ill. Balmy. Slice of moon & stars peeking through but not til 9-ish. Al beat me at Scrabble. No biggie. As I've said, anyone can. No advantage to be an English teacher. Better off as a finance analyst.

BTW. Props to the French & Germans for taking Sundays off and donning the leathers or lycra for some steep mountain riding. Sundays are siesta quiet. Will be eating in the restaurant tonight. Couldn't top up the supplies with no supermarches open. Bit low on diesel too. If we run out, I'm divorcing Monsieur No Worries on our return home. He suffers from over-relaxed syndrome.

Tip: when you've done your five hours driving and you're waiting in a queue behind a woman of a certain age (Judi Dench?) in a menopausal too tight skirt & 'scuffs' while she plays with her remote control to back her caravan into the spot that you had dibs on on your first reccy of the camp, pour yourself a chardy. Prevents fighting with your spouse who was just trying to find the right spot. (Story of his life.)

A bientot!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Munich, with van and bikes.

I assume no one wants to hear my gushing about our van and bikes, but what they hey?

Yesterday was an enormous day.  Wouldn't have thought it possible to cram so much in.  We're in a big city with an intricate but very functional transport network.  Throw in me with swollen blistered feet.  So first excursion for the day is back into Marienplatz to search for shoes, cos basically, I couldn't walk.  Now I can hobble, thanks to a new pair of Eccos.  Planets - damn you - going in the next charity bin. (First world prob.)

Me: Oh my god, Al! Diabetic feet! They're killing me.  What if I get gangrene? Ohhh! (Whines a bit.)
Al:  You've got blisters! Okay.  Everyone gets them.  Enough.

Next, train and connecting bus out to Sulzemoos - 27 k out of Munich central - to get our motorhome.  It was easier than last time, cos back in 2010 we didn't know whether we'd been scammed when we booked and paid for the van.  This time, we knew that McRent, or whatever they're called, were there with our luxury home on wheels.

Al got straight back into manual mode and driving on the 'wrong' side of the road in an enormous truck.  He had the sweat patches to prove it but have to concede, yet again, that the guy is a saint. Picture me on his right doing the full front seat driver's assistant.  Edge!!  Edge!!  Watch the yellow line!!  You're over the yellow line.  Fuck, fuck fuck!!  Okay, I'm going to try to shut up now, sorry, Al.  Oh mein gott!! Edge, edge!  Don't hit that woman!!  Second gear, second gear!!  (I could go on, and I did!)

Al successfully navigated back to this camping ground, one of the places where we first discovered the joys of campervanning back in 1985 in an orange combi van.  Keep wondering how we managed back then with no communication home apart from the occasional expensive phone call and lots of airmail.  Poste Restante kept us going during those six blissful months.

Having parked our van in the 'camping' we had to get back to Hackerbrucker on the other side of central Munich to collect our bikes.  So, one bus trip and a couple of train changes on the Uber.

Now the fun bit:  finding our way back, on bikes, to the camp.  Not too bad, given the amazing cycle paths and drivers' regard for cyclists.  Should have been a 6 k ride but we cycled on the wrong side of the river and overshot our turn off by a couple of k.

Suffice to say, by 10  last night I was gorged on cheese, seedy bread, olives, pate and chardy and feeling good.

There's something about sleeping in that little cubby hole bed.

Note to self:  a shower token gives precisely 4 minutes of hot water.  It doesn't dwindle out, it shuts off.  I was covered in Palmolive Vibrant Colour Shampoo, having forgotten the soap.  Not to worry.  It rinses off quite briskly in freezing wasser.  The sudden icy deluge seems to have reduced my ankle oedema.  Perhaps I should have tried this earlier.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Day of the Triffids

That asparagus is taking over the city. Clearly it's in season here and the Munchens can't get enough. Took a photo but damned if I can work out how to load it.

Meanwhile, fascinated by how other cultures 'ablute'. Had a tussle with a cloth towel dispenser in the Damen at a restaurant. Was a bit thrilled that there was no lavatory attendant into the saucer of whom I had to throw a coin.

So here's me feeling up a towel dispenser; one of those continuous rolls. I was looking for the magic button to get it to cut me some slack so I could dry my hands. Was it automated? I waved variously around it. No. Nothing to press.

Decided to give the roll a tug. It released a measure of towel. Hands dried, I loosened my grip. Twang. The bloody thing yanked back with such force that I leapt back.

First the asparagus, then the incredible living towel dispenser.

Just sayin'.

Don't get me started on my diabetic nightmare blisters.

This post courtesy of my index finger, iPhone Blogger app and Hotel Jederman wifi. Love this little cosy hotel, where Al and I are sitting in the 'snug' playing Scrabble and having a bevy.

And hey. Think I've just attached a triffid pic.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Munich, day one.

Lunch yesterday at an old 'beer hall' restaurant, Augustiner, I think it's called. It's in Marienplatz, Munich. We had a good feed here a couple of years ago. Given we were tired from travelling to the other side of the planet we'd thought we'd go with tried and true.

My companion had the pork escalopes with French fries and a garden salad. He pronounced it ordinary. The breaded pork was a bit tough, but edible. The fries were hot and like any fries I've ever tasted and accompanied by a handy packet of Heinz Ketchup The garden salad, smothered with a generous squirt of Heinz Mayonnaise from a second handy pack, was quite tasty. Mixed leaves of lettuce and something young, red cabbagey, pickles, grated carrot. Quite substantial despite the small serve. Think Al got one taste. Otherwise, I ate the lot

I chose the 'Asparagus and grilled perch with hollandaise'. The asparagus was, unexpectedly, straight out of Day of the Triffids. It was the feature - about six x eight inch white, fat fleshy 'rods' straddled the plate. My companion pronounced them 'grossen'. They came swamped, at one end, in hollandaise and were accompanied by a lesser sized fillet of perch which was baked to the plate. Imagine being served half a head of boiled celery and you get the picture of the asparagus. Except celery has more flavour.

Ah, it was okay. Nutritious and light. To drink, I had the German dry white and my companion had the German beer.

And in my dad's words, as eulogised recently by sister, Jane: 'Never drink expensive wine. It ruins your palate.'

BTW, it's nearly five a.m. here in our little hotel room in Munich. We arrived yesterday. I've been wide awake since three and I'm wishing we'd brought our travel kettle cos I'd give my right tit for a cup of tea.

Think the theme for the next seven weeks will be my usual: First World Problems.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

The long goodbye

We had a series of farewells for my dad, many of them during his final hours. On the day he died, we mournfully watched him being slotted into the undertaker's purpose built van.  Dad would have admired its simple, clever functionality.  That farewell was a hard one.

After that, as those of you have been there know, you have to organise a major event, a funeral, when you least feel like doing it.  And because the family is all gathered, there is friction, all heightened by profound grief.

We had another deeply sad farewell after the funeral, as dad made his final trip back along the Great Ocean Road in a silver Mercedes.  Ironically, as these things happen, the weather was gloriously warm and blue.  We didn't need the room we'd organised at the local pub for his wake.  We were all out in the sun, admiring what was one of the best views in Victoria, that is, before some jerk erected a couple of god-awful shanty looking two-storeyed shacks in the middle of it.

It was a good wake and we rocked the house back at mum's later that evening, listening to dad's favourite Miles Davis tracks.

But wait, there's more. 

Next day, we had a private cremation to attend.  Another farewell, and Reggie and I did not want to go, having said our goodbyes.  Neither did our husbands, nor our girls, all of whom had been closely involved for the last 30 or so hours of my dad's life.  We were at breaking point but we didn't want to let mum down.

We were all a bit at each others' throats that morning.  Jane was organising herself and her boys for her trip back to NT.  Reggie and I, were seedy, having drunk too much for the previous seven days.  We all had a long drive to Melbourne ahead of us.

The plan was to go in convoy to the crematorium.  I asked for the address about three times in that melee around the kitchen bench.  Somehow, I couldn't get a response.  Mum knew where it was and we were to follow her.  My final question as I was walking out to the car: 'What's the fucking address?'  My daughter told me in no uncertain terms to calm down.  We'd manage.

I wasn't so sure as mum - why wasn't Jane driving?? - zoomed up the driveway, leaving us to eat her dust.  She skidded around the corner and out of sight.

Al set off, driving me and Didi.  He was very calm.  Niece, Moss, drove Reggie and her dad and followed behind us.  Yes, we'd manage.  Didi had the Google map thing happening on her mobile and directed us left at the roundabout.  However, Moss had her right indicator on, so Al, assuming they knew where they were going, turned right, pulled over, nearly got swiped by a passing car, then followed on.

The cremation service was scheduled for noon.  It was about twenty to.

Along the Surfcoast Highway, Al quietly mentioned a sign he'd seen indicating a turnoff to the crematorium in 200 metres.  'No,' I said, 'follow Moss, she knows where she's going.'  Well, her dad's nick-name is Mr Maps.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.

11.55.  Call came through from Jane, waiting at the crematorium with mum.  'How long are you guys going to be?'

'It would help if we knew where we were going!'  All she could offer was that it was near a Lutheran College.  Great help.

By this time, we were well into Geelong and had pulled over to do a reccy.  I gave my iPhone to Moss; think her battery was low.  Who knows?  Meanwhile, Didi, the publicist, was doing her telephone voice with some woman from the funeral directors who told her to ring the Geelong cemetery trust or somesuch.

I'd got the Melways (street directory) out, and located the crematorium.  Surprise, surprise.  It was way back where Al had seen the sign and blithely driven past it under instruction from me.  He was flashing his lights at Moss.  Didi got Reggie on the phone.  World War 3 was happening simultaneously in both cars.  Moss couldn't turn around, and she was on the way back to Melbourne, falsely believing that Mr Maps had got a handle on where they were going. I was screaming and crying.  I had the Melways open on a double page spread and was holding it up at the windscreen in the vain hope that Moss would see it in her rearview mirror, understand my cryptic message, drop a u-ey and follow us back where we came from.

At that stage, had she had one, Didi would have strangled me from behind with a piano wire.  We headed back down the road and at about 12.45, following the really conspicuous sign on the highway, made a left for the crematorium.

I sat in the car for a further five minutes.  I feared I may do physical harm to whomsoever made any remark about being late for dad's cremation.  Reggie and co arrived about twenty minutes later.  She was feeling exactly the same as I was, given she had to dry-reach into the grass after she got out of her car.

Props have to go to the best, most professional funeral director.  From the word go he totally 'got' our collective sense of comedy.  Whilst paying all due respects to my bereft mum, and us, he engaged with all our black humour.  As he waited there, rocking on the balls of his feet outside the crematorium, his hair blowing back in the icy wind, I noticed that his surname was the same as that of one of the wealthiest families in the country.

'Any relation?'  I asked.
'Do you think I'd be doing this if I was?'  he said.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Inertia on a quiet Sunday.

It's been a week now since dad died;  most stressful experience of my life, without doubt.  He was 83, and he had suffered from a debilitating condition for the last two or so years of his life.  Even though on a theoretical level I had been anticipating my dad's death since he was diagnosed, when it finally came, it was too quick, and too slow.

We were fortunate and strong enough to have resisted the local GP's exhortations to take dad to hospital - and pump him full of IV antibiotics to treat him for a side infection.  With her hands on her hips, sister Reggie, a nurse, firmly told the doctor that we'd care for dad at home, according to his wishes.  It was very hard to resist the 'medical model'. The doctor would have liked us to surrender.  "So, you're refusing?" she said.  And that makes you feel like you're doing the wrong thing.

A palliative care team of doctor and nurse - very supportive of our decision - paid a visit; a plan was put into place  I thought we'd have more time.  I didn't think that my dad was about to die.  Reggie knew though.  It was an intense, extreme 48 or so hours for my mum, Reggie and I and our husbands and children.  All of us hands on doing whatever it was we did to get through.  My dad's death was his last gift to us; his last precious lesson.

So much has happened since then, and we've been in the eye of the storm and have just done what we had to do, especially to support my mum, who's lost the love of her life.

Today, Sunday, I'm back at home.  The bleak Melbourne weather, and my mood, have set in.  All my washing is sopping on the line.  Yesterday, I couldn't wait to get home and involve myself in a routine task in my own space, having been in a crowded, tense house for the previous week or so.

I'm wearing worn track pants, a washed out long sleeved tee-shirt; slippers.

My mum is here with Al and I, trying to do her own thing now, without my dad to care for; without his company and assurance.

There's a vague scent of Christmas lilies hanging in the air, from two bouquets of flowers that were left on my front porch during my absence.  On our return, four plastic wrapped copies of The Age were flung around the front yard .  Invitation for thieves.

In a week I'm supposed to go away on an extended holiday which we've been anticipating for the past two years. Must get organised but can't even think about it.

Meanwhile, I've left my school in the lurch, because I can't face anything about it at the moment, yet I know that short of dying myself, there's no way I can leave without writing reports for the 75 kids I teach.

I would return to school if I could just be normal; if everyone would leave me alone.  I don't want to have to engage with people's sympathy.  Nor do I want to be vulnerable in the classroom; to break down; to project.

I hate this inertia on a quiet Sunday.

Apologies to Reggie and Jane for expressing this on a blog.