Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Living a new life - I've moved

I have moved. I left one bubble of confinement in my old house, and entered a new one, deconfined it's true, but a bubble nonetheless. The new house bubble where everything is different, nothing is in the same place, none of the old habits fit - turn right to go to the fridge, not left for example. The actual moving was as awful as moving always is, and just had to be endured. It was exhausting. The pre-move was also exhausting, the confinement was stressful, and getting used to a new place to live is tiring. I feel zonked.

To get myself out a bit for some fresh air and leg-stretching, I've been to discover the surrounding area. We are now right on the edge of Montpellier and there is a lot of open space with parks and eco preservation sites. In fact, I'm much nearer to walks along paths rather than roads than I was before when living in the middle of a village.

Yesterday I ventured along the riverbank of the Rieucoulon stream. Accessed over a wooden bridge, the path runs alongside an allotment with a view on a Laotian pagoda (of all unexpected things).

Laotian pagoda Vat Xieng-Thong
A little internet digging revealed that it's a cultural centre and temple. With such an auspicious start to my walk, I wondered what other exotic prospects lay before me.

It wasn't all eastern promise however, and there were no mysterious figures flitting among the trees, so I strolled alone through a shady reed tunnel mulling over what might be at the other end...

Shady reed tunnel
I turned a corner and to my surprise, I came across a substantial metallic structure which turned out to be an old windmill.

19th century windmill
According to its plaque, it used to pump water from the water table of the Rieucoulon stream to the gardens and fountains of the Château de Bagatelle, one of Montpellier's "folies" and now a cultural centre (maison pour tous).

Plaque on the windmill
The rest of the walk was pretty but less structurally dramatic. I saw toads and frogs and tadpoles in the stream and these pretty pink flowers on fluffy heads that become lethal weapons when they dry out, turning into a head of deadly spikes. I've been pulling them out in my garden where they are further advanced and have gone from fluffy to razor sharp.

Pretty and fluffy for now...

There must be a lot of water that flows periodically because this water evacuation ditch is pretty substantial. I felt sorry for the crumbling arch which is miraculously still standing despite seeming to defy gravity.
Collapsing arch
The return walk took me along a shady path through small patches of vineyards. It's difficult to believe that a major transport artery is a kilometre away at most. It was so peaceful and hardly anyone about.

I can see myself enjoying living in my new home for very many years (fingers crossed).

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Day 56 Covid 19 LAST DAY of Confinement

Theoretically. If we're too naughty they'll bang us up again.

Just in case anyone thought they could anticipate being liberated and sneak off to the beach, the weather decided to cooperate with the government and we've got a day of determined rain. Further anticipation is being dampened by having to continue to stay at home to telework, and no liberation parties of more than ten people (who are at least 1 m apart), in any case the bars and restaurants are closed until June.

We had our weekly barbecue yesterday when it was fine. They have been a great success, and it was agreed that they will be continued so that's a Covid-win. I have put on a kilo since the start of the confinement which is pretty good as the average is 2.5 kg.

How am I celebrating today? Packing boxes, that's how. All very tedious and boring, so here is some more Covid-humour.

One of the best things to come out of all this is seeing how creative people have been, and praise be for the internet for bringing it all to us in our homes!

I had all sorts of high hopes of doing interesting high-brow stuff like listening to serious podcasts but it all fell by the wayside in preference for light-brow humour and absolutely nothing that required intellectual effort. I think my mental charge was sufficiently heavy (what with buying a house in the middle to add to the fun) that I couldn't face anything more taxing than, for example, searching out my ten favourite albums for a Facebook meme.

I was only able to do that because I found my box of old LPs in the garage (moving is so handy in many ways...) and was able to rediscover my old friends which I had forgotten all about.

"Nice tests facial recognition"
Yesterday I was clearing out the kitchen cupboards and found the usual suspects right at the back such as pots of herbs dating back to 2007 - garlic, and fried onions all stuck together. They had to be prodded and excavated out so I could throw the glass pots into the recycling bin.

What has kept me going in all this? Gin and rosé, video-aperos, and regular phone calls, and of course many snuggles with Kittypoo who has established herself as head of the household and has us all thoroughly trained.
Kittypoo relaxing on the piano

Monday, May 04, 2020

Day 50 Covid-19 Korean K-drama on Netflix

South Korea makes some great tele series, called K-drama. This post is a 'pense bête' for me as I usually look out for actors I've seen and liked in other series when starting another and as I can never remember their names, I've listed them here with photos.

Series I've enjoyed:
  • Stranger
  • The Heirs
  • Life
  • Black
  • The Tunnel
  • Misaeng (Incomplete Life)
  • The Lies Within
  • Misty
  • Healer
  • Signal
  • Vagabond
  • Mr Sunshine - historical
  • Pinocchio
  • Cinderella and the Four Knights
  • Boys over Flowers 
  • Descendants of the Sun
  • Suspicious Partner
  • The King - Eternal Monarch
  • When the Camellia Blooms
  • The K2
  • Hwarang - very nifty costumes
  • Itaewon Class
  • I can hear your voice
  • Secret Garden
  • Memories of Alhambra
  • Crash Landing on You
  • Was it Love?
  • Live Up to Your Name

Choi Jin-hyuk - The Heirs, Tunnel

Bae Doona - Sense8, Stranger

Cho Sung-woo - Stranger, Life

Park Shin-hye - The Heirs, Pinocchio, Memories of Alhambra

Lee Min-ho - The Heirs, Boys over Flowers, The King - Eternal Monarch

Kim Nam-joo - Misty

Lee Sung-Min - Misaeng (Incomplete Life)

Lee Yoo-young - The Lies Within

Ji Chang-wook - Healer, Suspicious Partner, The K2

Kim Hye-soo - Signal

Cho Jin-woong - Signal

Bae Suzy - Vagabond

Lee Kyung Young - Misty, Stranger, Sense8, Misaeng

Park Min-young - Healer

Song Joong-ki - Descendants of the Sun

Song Hye-kyo - Descendants of the Sun

Jin Goo - Descendants of the Sun

Kim Ji-won - Descendants of the Sun, The Heirs

Jang Hyuk-jin - Suspicious Partner

Nam Ji-hyun - Suspicious Partner

Park Seo-joon - Hwarang, Itaewon Class

Go Ara - Hwarang, Black

Park Hyung-sik - Hwarang, The Heirs

Lee Bo-young - I can hear your voice, Pinocchio

Lee Jong-suk - I can hear your voice, Pinocchio, Secret Garden 

Jeon Hae-rim (Ha Ji-won) - Secret Garden

Hyun Bin - Secret Garden, Memories of Alhambra, Crash Landing on You

Yoon Sang-hyun - Pinocchio, I can hear your voice, Secret Garden

Son Ye-jin - Crash Landing on You

Kim Nam-gil - Live Up to Your Name

Kim Ah-joong - Live Up to Your Name

Friday, April 17, 2020

Day 33 Covid 19 Masks Galore

We're still here confined, banged up, locked down. Yay...

This week's main activity after teleworking has been making masks. There has been a national dearth of masks, the government having taken over the monopoly of acquiring and distributing them. Government monopolies rarely result in efficiency or efficacy and the mask situation has been no exception. Even essential health workers have been hard pressed to get their hands on a mask so you can imagine that non-essentials like charities dealing with the homeless and vulnerable get nothing.

The FFMC34 (Motards en Colère) decided to take action and help out by making masks for local groups that go out into the community to bring aid to the homeless and needy. It followed on from watching a video tutorial by an emergency doctor on how to make masks from kitchen paper and tissues that were as effective as the ordinary medical masks.

A number of us volunteered to get to work, and in two weeks we made around 3600 masks that were distributed to four charities. My contribution was 260.
260 masks, an FFMC34 initiative for charities without masks
You might think that having nowhere to go we might be saving money like mad. That's what I thought until I realised that in fact it's costing a fortune in food alone. Added to that the fisc that has started (belatedly) the prélèvement à la source (PAYE) system taking tax money directly from my salary but is also continuing to take it out of my bank account despite action on my part back in February to avoid this. I'll get it back later I expect but in the meantime... YIKES.

My mini trampoline has seen regular action, to the extent that it's lost 2 tabs connecting the springs to the base. It's showing its age but can still be used as long as you jump with care. I'm trying out interval training so doing a 'jog' for thirty seconds then a 'sprint' for twenty seconds and repeat twice more. It's much kinder on the knees when you run on the spot on a trampoline... as long as you don't fall through the hole.

In contrast to the trampoline, I'm continuing with my ballet based movements for the over 50s (http://www.balletbasedmovement.com/), very enjoyable exercises to lovely music, and movement that's a bit different from yoga and my exercise mat. Here's the introduction to the series.

Kittypoo is having the time of her life. She's got us all under control and jumping to attend to her every whim. She looks very contented with life. Glad someone is!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Day 11 Covid 19 How do you pass the time?

Day 11 and I'm getting into a sort of rhythm which it will probably be difficult to quit once the barracks doors are reopened. You know the score... just when you're at cruising levels of containment activities, it'll be back to work and we'll be in shock all over again!

But that is all in the future, something to look forward to.

In the meantime there is telework, exercise and finding things to do.

We are allowed to go jogging beyond the front door but I've always hated jogging, so I'm currently congratulating myself at not having thrown out the mini trampoline I bought over a decade ago and haven't used in almost as long. It's proving to be a merry little activity, bouncing in various ways for 10 minutes or so at intervals during the day. I've even got the instruction leaflet which I found when I was going through a bunch of papers. Glad I never invited Kendo Bled (?) into my home to throw out stuff that no longer brought me joy. You never know when it might bring you joy and much needed exercise relief in the future!!

Finding things to do

Housework is very very boring, and there is a whole internet out there to explore. I've drifted into a daily theme. One day I might be listening to some of the excellent podcasts on Radio 4, such as File on Four or Out of the Ordinary, with lots more to explore on Sounds.

The other day I watched video after video of Dame Emma Kirkby, enjoying the brilliant lightness of her soprano voice singing early music, plus a masterclass that she gave which was very interesting. There's a wonderful recording of the Messiah from 1982 with Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient music performing in Westminster Cathedral. Emma Kirkby's voice is that of an angel. Here she is singing some Purcell.

Another day the theme was ballet and I watched a number of beautiful performances and discovered the videos by a former Royal Ballet Company dancer Claudia Dean. I am no ballerina. I had some ballet lessons when I was knee high to a grasshopper but was convinced my teacher didn't like me. At the end of each lesson we finished with a butterfly dancing in the middle of a circle of the other dancers. I always wanted to be the butterfly, but her choice was based on who had been the best pupil, and obviously even at that young and tender age, it was clear that a career as a ballerina was not going to be my path in life, and I never got chosen. Even on my LAST DAY! I've never forgotten it (as you can see...).

Anyway, I'm sure my whole life would have been different if I'd had Claudia Dean as my teacher. She is motivating and fun. She is no longer dancing, but is now a ballet coach and she makes these merry videos not just of coaching, but dealing with ballet issues, messing about with her sister (who is not a dancer), and doing little tests. One that I enjoyed was testing the English way of dancing to the Russian way. I didn't know there was one, but now I do!

Starting the day with humour is definitely one way of beating confinement blues, and I have a good laugh watching Tripp and Tyler videos. If you have ever participated in a video conference, you'll recognise this:

Finally, I've also been watching L'atelier des Chefs chef Nicolas Bergerault who has been making cooking videos from his home. He is stuck at home, like the rest of us, with his family, and so his daughters are filming the cooking with a phone, and he cooks dishes that he can rustle up easily from the stuff in his cupboards. On day one he made a salad of frozen peas with lardons and a homemade curry mayonnaise. On another day he made a spinach lasagne, and on another day he did pasta with an anchovy and caper sauce. His daughters amuse themselves adding the odd silly filter and giggling behind the camera. It's all very homely and merry.

Fun times!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Day 7 Covid19 Lunch

I'm going to lose track of the days, I just know it. Unless I do something organised like count them off on a calendar. Or I could even scratch bars in groups of 5 on the wall... May not go down well with the rental agency when they bring round prospective buyers after-this-is-all-over though, whenever that may be. If ever.

Anyway, I told the boys it would be a good idea to share the cooking. My youngest immediately offered to do a barbecue. My eldest muttered something like 'yeh if I must' in one of those 'at your own risk and peril' voices.

We have a barbecue but needed everything else, so my youngest who can now drive armed himself with the Gestapo-approved food-buying attestation, hopped gleefully into my car and drove to Intermarché. He came back with everything he needed plus one or two essentials such as iced tea.

I remember last year he and his friends wanted to do a barbecue by the river, so I took them to Intermarché, stocked him up with sausages etc. and drove them as far as I could. They had a great time and became great barbecue experts.

So it was with total confidence that I abandoned lunch into the competent hands of my son.
Barbecue champ at work
Actually, when I say 'abandoned lunch', if we were to eat anything other than sausages, it was up to me to rustle it up, so I kept it simple and did pasta and salad. Then we actually sat round the garden table and ate. You might think this is no big deal but my boys wage an anti-table campaign, extremely successfully, and meals are usually taken together but on the sofa. I wage other battles...

A rare experience
We had a nice lunch, talked and chatted and I said how lovely it was to eat and chat around the table, and was told that, yes it was nice, but I shouldn't expect it to happen too often because it would cease to be a pleasant, extraordinary event, and would become boring and annoying. So that put me in my place.

I am, however, grateful for small mercies and will treasure this rather extraordinary UK date Mothers' Day (it isn't until June in France) thanks to the little bugger of a coronavirus. Every cloud, as they say...

Friday, March 20, 2020

Day 5 Covid19 - Shopping

We were out of crisps, and running low on various essentials so instead of waiting until Saturday to do the weekly shop, I went on Friday thinking that there may be fewer people.

If you thought you could still pop to the shops for a quick shop, think again. The supermarkets have instigated a restricted flow of people, no more than a certain number inside at any one time. I had to wait with my trolley outside in a nice orderly line. This being France, you might expect a disorderly line, pushers-in and so on, but no, we were all meekly waiting with our barrier-trolleys ensuring a distance of 1m between us. The over-70s and infirm could legitimately jump the queue and were invited to by kindly security guards as they watched over us...

I waited for an hour to get inside. Luckily the sun was shining and it was nice and warm. I worked on dosing up my vitamin D levels and texting my son on which specialised shampoo he wanted.

Once inside the hallowed halls, we were exhorted over a loud-speaker to hurry up and get on with it so that the people outside could have their turn. No dawdling please, no perusing every single aisle. Just grab what you want (in sensible amounts) and go!

I found just about everything on my list, and chucked in a leg of frozen New Zealand lamb at the end because by that time, I'd been there for 2 hours (including waiting) and was aching for something to look forward to.

When I'd finished I went to the checkout. I had to stand at one checkout, and ping my little hand-scanner at the one next to it. When the woman ahead of me went to pay, she walked down our line, went through the security gate then crossed over to the checkout with the caissière in order to pay presumably so we weren't breathing all over her. She also had a plexiglass barrier between her and the customer.

I felt quite queasy after all the stress of a simple shop and could practically feel my temperature rising as I walked out of the side door to avoid the queuing shoppers. It's a brave new world!