Thursday, November 22, 2018

Taking a Slight Detour...

  Well, here we go again. I flew to Barcelona last week (Thursday to be precise) and immediately had a totally frustrating encounter with the Airport car park since I couldn't find the way out and Son was waiting outside in the car for me, ready to rush me to their new Apartment. Hah! Drawing a veil over that, we raced back to Barcelona at high speed and managed to arrive in time for Son and Partner to whisk off to a film presentation. It was something that Son had done the music for, so it was important for him to be there and I guess it was also a nice social event. Anyway, it meant that I had sole charge of Little Grandson for the evening (lovely) and he showed me round the new Apartment, including the outside space which has an enormous Avocado tree (with ripe avocados growing on it). I was pretty impressed with it all, and we then had soup and pasta for supper before collapsing in bed. Well, I collapsed and he went to sleep quite cheerfully after a Dinosaur story and a couple of songs.
     Next morning we were up betimes, as Grandson had an early hospital appointment, after which we were setting off to drive to France and look at the house I liked. Easier said than done of course, as the hospital appointment went on longer than expected  (they were checking him for Asthma and Allergies, which does take quite a while). And then the traffic going out of BCN was just awful.. Friday getaway I suppose. However, we did make good time, stopped for lunch at a French "Aire" where the food was excellent, and got to Bize Minervois just on time.
     The Estate Agent, the lovely Richard Pullen, was waiting most patiently for us, no mean feat  since he and his wife Chitra were planning to drive to  Barcelona (!) to visit their daughter who is at University there. Anyway, we all piled into the village house which I had loved at first sight. And Son did his very best to examine everything closely - as did I. I hadn't really done this the first time, and so needed to look at the details. I still  loved the house, and the space and feel of it, but I could see the impracticality of it. No central heating, no gas in the village, and the fact that the second floor was only accessible through the rest of the house - so not exactly right for letting or BnB. Son also spotted water stains in various places and was adamant that the small swimming pool, which is almost completely under cover, was not right either. All in all, a thumbs down for the house - which I had to agree with. And when we went out into the village for a walk about, at about 5pm on a Friday, and it was deserted! No shops open, no people about. So that was quite decisive for me - I  can't imagine living somewhere that felt so lonely. We walked by the river, and though it was really lovely, it was also deserted. And it was cold. In fact the whole weekend got gradually colder and wetter!
    To cut quite a long story short, we then found the Air BnB which Son had booked, and which was very nice and very comfortable. In the evening we drove to the restaurant I vaguely remembered in Le Somail (an organic restaurant right on the Canal du Midi). This was one of the highlights of the trip: lovely food and very welcoming. Little Grandson fell in love with our waitress Pauline and did drawings for her throughout the evening. And so to bed, knackered!!
    Next day, colder and wetter, Son decided we should take a look at Narbonne, which was only a short drive away. And lovely.. it is a beautiful small city which reminded me of Cambridge, and on the Canal too. So though I was disappointed about the house, I was immediately cheered by the thought of moving to Narbonne. Even the fact that it poured with rain while we walked around didn't deter me. We visited the Tourist Centre and looked in some lovely shops - and may I say Little Grandson was a pleasure to have around the whole time. We then drove around the area, and to the beach and the salt pans, where we tasted the different flavours of salt and then found the restaurant (which Son had discovered) in a derelict-looking wooden hut which turned out to be a fabulous seafood restaurant, crowded with French people enjoying huge platters of every kind of shellfish: we ate oysters, crab, prawns, sea snails (a bit too chewy for me) and all sorts of fresh fishy things - all mopped up with lovely french bread, and then topped off with ice dream for dessert. After that we drove back around beautiful countryside, past lovely vineyards and stopped to sample some of the wines too. A great afternoon even though the weather was awful.
   After supper at 'home' and a good night's sleep. we set off cheerfully next day, only stopping in Perpignan briefly as it was still very cold and  rainy. Perpignan, I have to say, was not a happy place. Everyone was so grumpy, and we met the archetypal bad-tempered French waiter when all we wanted was a warming cup of hot chocolate - no chance. The most exciting part was when Grandson discovered a market stall selling live snails - not that the poor things knew they were destined to be escargots! Anyway, we made a sharp exit from Perpignan and headed back to Barcelona!!
  Back in BCN, where incidentally it was also cold and rainy (it had been an unbelievable 5* there too) we touched base briefly before Son delivered me back to the Airport. Then a pretty unremarkable flight to Gatwick where Daughter was waiting to meet me. Home, to bed, and a couple of days feeling totally wiped out. Time to adjust, physically and emotionally, to a slight detour! 

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Going where the Weather suits my Clothes...

       Well, this is another 'volte face' from me, and after another long absence. I'm moving, and not just back to Hove, but on to France! The last few months have been pretty stressful and I finally came to the conclusion that I need a complete change of scene: in fact a complete change of  Life. So in my absence from Blogging I've been exploring on the internet, in property magazines, and asking anyone who was willing for their advice and help. It turns out that people are mostly inclined to be very helpful, and so I found myself at the end of September whizzing off to the Canal du Midi area of France to meet some Estate Agents and look at a few properties. This entailed flying to Carcassonne, hiring a car from there and driving to Lezignan Corbieres where I was met by the lovely Lorna Roscow and her husband Jason, and sheperded to a dear little house in Fabrezan for a 3 night stay.
       ( I should say that the journey from here to Stansted was a bit of a nightmare, as the first train I boarded was cancelled before it even moved. Altogether the journey took more than 3 hours. And the train fare (£60.60 for a return) was more expensive than my return  flight to Carcassonne!! )
       Anyway, that aside it was lovely once I got to France  (after the unpleasant car-hire rip-off) and driving  in France was as good an experience as it usually is on their superb roads. Glorious weather, boiling hot, clear blue skies and friendly people. What more could I ask. The next day Lorna and Jason took me around and showed me 3 houses - one of which I had thought might be perfect and was a great disappointment - and a couple more which were nicer, but not quite right. ( I should tell you that my wish list contains 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a swimming pool, near the Canal du Midi.)  Thankfully they were happy to do the driving so I could look around at the villages and the countryside, and I'm absolutely sure that it's the perfect location...
      Next day I had another morning with Lorna and Jason, though nothing I saw quite hit the spot. And then the afternoon adventure began with a phone call from Richard Pullen (of Pullen Estates France) who was keen to show me 3 properties, and also to get me involved with a TV crew (French) who were doing a short piece on why English people might be buying property in France to escape from Brexit... Ho ho, I certainly fell into that category and so I was perfectly willing to be interviewed, tho' I didn't fancy the driving through unfamiliar territory to get there! Richard bravely and very kindly offered to come and collect me (and then drive me back) so that is what we did. And one of the houses I saw that afternoon may well be the one for me! I think the test for this is whether or not you can  picture yourself in the house and I can - I have been back here in boring Shoreham for nearly 3 weeks (18 days to be precise) and I am planning to go back to Bize Minervois very soon. Hopefully with Son who, if you recall, lives in Barcelona and is therefore only a two and a half  hour drive away from the house I like.  He has an unerring eye when it comes to property and I always value his opinion.  Fingers crossed....

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Another month goes by..

      I can't believe I have let another month pass without writing anything. And tomorrow I am off again to Barcelona, this time taking my Big Grandson for a family visit. I'm so looking forward to it
and so is he. Not only because it is still lovely and warm in Barcelona, but also because we will be staying with Son, his Partner and little Grandson (who is tremendously excited by the way). This will be Big Grandson's first trip to Barcelona, and we are going to do the street art walking tours and probably also going to the Picasso Museum, as well as going to the beach and swimming in the sea. All these arty activities are because Big Grandson is going to be starting his GCSE years when he goes back to school, and one of his chosen subjects is Art with a capital A. He  has even been painting and generally experimenting with paint in the holidays. Some of his canvasses are really good in my opinion: he has used feathers and paint in a very interesting way.
     Yesterday we even trekked up to London to see the Frida Kahlo Exhibition at the V & A Museum. It was a bit of a mission because our train to London was cancelled, so we had to go from Shoreham to Brighton and then change on to a Victoria train so the journey took us 2 hours. I had joined the V & A as a Member in preparation for our visit, as the exhibition was completely sold out and pre-booked. It was worth it because as a Member I can take up to 4 children under 16 for free, and use the Members' Room - and there's no charge for entry to special exhibitions. Brilliant as far as I'm concerned and it really made the visit easier. Grandson really loved the Frida Kahlo and was so interested in her life, He made notes in his little book and was impressed with her clothes and jewelry: her artificial leg was the object of much fascination for both of us. It was incredibly decorated and somehow symbolized her bravery. She must have been in pain every day of her life, and she died at only 47. It was an amazing experience seeing all this come together, and Grandson bought paints and brushes as well  as postcards. He intends to put together a project on her, so watch this space.
      When we come back from Barcelona on 31st August, Daughter and family are moving again, to a larger house in Hove, and Grandson will have his own room again. They are literally moving the day after we come back, on 1st September. And then School starts again on 4th. Here we go again...

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Bye bye July.

      I just can't believe we're at the end of July already. And the school holidays are upon us. Though this year my services have  not been required so far! Big Grandson, being now all of fourteen, has his own ideas of how he wants to spend his days and it's not exactly with his Nana doing nana-ish sort of things. He is going off with his (adopted) Dad for a week next week - they are going to be camping in France, just him and his Father's Father, which I'm sure will be fun. He will be doing French for one of his GCSE subjects, so hopefully they will be speaking a bit of French while they are there. When he comes back I'm planning a day in London at the V&A, including a look at the Frida Kahlo exhibition. He surprised me when I suggested it, thinking that he wouldn't know who she was, but he did and was delighted at the prospect of going. Art is another of his GCSE choices, and he has a pretty enlightened young Art Teacher whom we call Mr. Cool (mainly because he wears a cool leather jacket and rides a cool motorbike to school). I'm pretty sure that Frida Kahlo will be his cup of tea, and he will be interested in her life story. Anyway, that's a plan which meets with his approval so I need to book tickets. Otherwise he seems to be into "chillin" and meeting up with his friends, little Alfie, who comes up to his elbow, and big Kai who is the same huge size as Grandson and with whom he goes to Boxing  on Thursdays - so far so normal.
      Yesterday evening I went to look at a bicycle which was for sale, and  made the mistake of trying to ride it when I could see it was too big and too heavy for me. Haha, I promptly fell over, with the bike on top of me. I screamed and the sweet lady who was selling the bike looked very alarmed and
tried to help me up. I slowly felt around and discovered that I wasn't badly hurt. My chest was painful and I had a job getting up, but no bones broken and only a few bruises. That'll teach me - I really need to acknowledge that I am not as sprightly as I once was.
      Oops I seem to have slipped into August and that's typical of me - I start something and then wander off and forget about it. Ah well, happy August...

Monday, July 23, 2018

Stalled again..

      I don't know why but I can't seem to move in any direction at the mo! The possibility of selling this house came and went very quickly - though it was a positive experience because all the people who came to view were very impressed with what I have done. At least that's what they said after the Agent had shown them round (should that be shewn?), and there were 6 viewings in 2 weeks with one cash offer very close to the asking price. I felt that was a good result and though I definitely felt I couldn't move in a hurry, it did reassure me about the value of my house. After all I spent a great deal of money on refurbishing it, and in the current climate (what with Brexit etc) I wasn't sure about property values, even here in the South East, close to Brighton, which is usually a "hot spot". So a positive response, and I look around and feel that it was worth spending the money to make the house "perfect". Instead of spending a fortune on moving, I'm planning to spend it on nice trips and fun!!
      Big Grandson will be pleased anyway,  because although he would like me to be living next door  to Daughter and Co, he doesn't want me to sell this house - not surprising I guess because when he stays with me he has his own bedroom and bathroom, and I simply let him be which is important for teenagers I think. Yes he plays on his XBox a lot, but we always balance that with stuff we do together, like eating supper and watching a movie :)) - sometimes even playing Scrabble -  and his Mum does limit his game time, which is good. I was listening this morning to a programme on Radio 4 about children with addiction problems related to their phones, screens and social media in general. It's difficult to deal with and obviously something to be aware of and guard against..
      The first trip I'm planning is another Barcelona jolly with the very same Big Grandson. I'm just looking at flights and we are going for a week at the end of August, the week before he goes back to school. We are planning to stay with Son and family in Barcelona and will do some lovely things I'm sure. They are five minutes from the beach and the weather should still be hot. One thing we won't be doing is taking his X Box!
      P.S. I have been watching and listening to the golf over the weekend, as it sort of helps me through my football withdrawal symptoms! One of the commentators happened to mention that "Harry Kane, England Captain" was among the spectators. I felt immensely cheered by that - there he was, apparently wearing sunglasses, enjoying some time off watching the Open. What Larks! 
   

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Heat is ON.

       What a Summer we are having, It's so hot - too hot for many people - and there's the World Cup too. It certainly is a July to remember. I'm quite  happy to stay out of the sun and watch football, but I have also had a couple of lovely days on the beach at Rustington with one of my Best Friends, and we have swum in the sea too. It's glorious and much too good to miss.
       This evening it's going to be the first semi-final of the World Cup, with France playing Belgium. It's bound to be a tough game, and I'm having a job deciding who to support - especially since we (England) will be facing the winners tomorrow in our semi-final. Throughout this tournament I have been cheering for the team which had either a Spurs, or ex-Spurs player, and in this instance both teams have Spurs connections! It's a tricky one! France have Lloris as their Captain and goalie, and as he is the current Spurs goalkeeper, I guess I'll go with France. However, just to complicate matters further, I am going out for dinner this evening too - meeting a BBF at 8pm at Cote in Brighton, which is lovely, but I'm already making plans to arrive early and pop into the Pub opposite where they have a large screen for the footie. If I time it right, I can arrive at 7pm, watch the first half there and then just pop across the road at half time for our supper. And then I'll just have to catch up with the second half later...
       But tomorrow evening, I'll be glued to the England game and unable to focus on anything else except our brave boys and their Manager. Am I the only one who was confident that they would do well in this World Cup? I was certainly in a minority but I have been optimistic about their chances from the beginning. I'm naturally positive and could see that the combination of a young. intelligent Manager with a young and very talented squad would have a good chance. And it has been good to see the pundits growing in confidence too. Lineker, Shearer and Co have also cheered up hugely and are obviously daring to hope for a trophy. There has been none of that awful negativity of previous years.  Yes, it has been a surprising World Cup in that many of the old favourites were knocked out, but maybe it's time they were. Goodbye to Ronaldo, Messi and Co and hello to Kane, Alli and Co.. Gareth Southgate may be guilty of starting a fashion in M & S waistcoats but who cares if he can lead our young Lions to Victory. Come on England!!
   

Thursday, July 5, 2018

En-ger-land..

      Well, I don't suppose I'm the only one writing about the football today. Last night I was glued to the television, just like millions of other fans, and going through very hell as our team fought its way to the quarter finals of the World Cup! And fought it was - I don't think I have seen quite as many deliberate fouls on and off the ball as we witnessed last night. I suppose I should have felt sorry for the poor referee who was mobbed by Colombian players every time he made a decision they didn't like. And there were plenty of those. Our boys, though, were magnificent and mostly kept their cool.
Of course the fact that the Spurs have five players in the England Squad is a matter of great pride to me, and my family. And they all played so well - three of them scoring in the final penalty shoot-out:
Harry Kane, Kieran Trippier and the heroic Eric Dier. What an excitement it was. and what a great result. Now we have to wait for the quarter final match against Sweden on Saturday. And as I have been watching the World Cup every day since it started, I'm already suffering withdrawal symptoms.
Wimbledon is no consolation either, though I expect I will take more notice of it next week.
      The hot (boiling) weather has luckily coincided with the World Cup, so I have  had the perfect excuse to stay out of the sun. Our grass is dry and burned off, and the poor plants are all gasping. I do give them some water, but it's impossible to give them enough. At the weekend I did go to a friend's beach hut in Rustington, which is fairly near, and had a glorious swim in the sea. It was my first swim of the year and just perfect on such a hot day. We also did those traditional "Beach Hut" things like making cups of tea and chasing her dog. And she was doing mini housekeeping in the hut.  It was very funny, and we laughed a lot.
      Moving on, I seem to be undecided about moving on. I was quite sure until last week when Big Grandson said he likes it here, and as he spends quite a lot of time here, that's important. In fact he stayed with me for the week last week as his Mum and the New Bloke went off for a few days holiday to the Isle of Wight. We got on very well and didn't have a single argument which he said was a novelty. Mind you, that house is so crowded what with New Bloke, his oldest Son of 18 and the dog living there permanently, with Daughter, Big Grandson and Granddaughter. And New Bloke's daughter who is 5, comes for weekends. We only need Old Uncle Tom Cobbley and all to top it off - it's no wonder they argue when they must be tripping over each other all the time.
    Ah well, nothing's perfect, I'm just glad it's not me sharing one bathroom with that lot!