Sunday, January 10, 2021

Out with the old...

In with the... same.

Unlike the Chernobyl nuclear cloud that stopped at the French borders, Jan 1, 2021 did not see the end of Covid-19. We're still wearing masks, still teleworking, still under a curfew from 8 pm (or 6 pm) to 6 am.

Looking back over 2020, it was definitely a mixed bag of good and bad, like most years, but last year, the bad was a shared global bad.

It started with a nasty shock for me in February. I was told to either buy the house I had been renting for 15 years or leave because the owner wanted to sell. I believe I went white, the agent was quite worried. In the end, he had a solution for me because I had decided to buy a house, just not the one I was living in (too expensive) and he had the very thing. I visited it, liked it and we went into lockdown.

Thanks to diligent notaires, a helpful bank, and technology, I was able to complete the process of buying and spent lockdown teleworking and packing boxes, sending my son on endless trips to the tip, and we moved at the end of May.

Despite the problems brought on by Covid-19, Fate gave me a helping hand with timings. After the luck with the house, we were able to go to the UK on holiday, and the confinement restrictions were lifted the day I had to pick up a rental car and drive us to Wales (which had just opened its borders). 

Glorious Rhossili with my mum

Having more online opportunities during lockdown, I explored the internet and found ways to add daily pleasure and exercise. The gyms were all shut of course, but I started doing exercises with Ballet Based Movement for the over 50s with Susan and her mum Elizabeth. Ballet is an excellent way to exercise even if you're not a kiddie or professional dancer, and with the gentle movements and lovely music, it was soothing and also fun.

I got hooked on total escapism with Korean series on Netflix which are wonderfully varied in setting, storyline and genre, often beautifully filmed and well acted too. My link sends you to a list of the series I've enjoyed if you want to try them out.

Last year ended for us with a bang, literally. A couple of weeks before Christmas, my son crashed my car. He was perfectly fine, but the insurance refused to pay for repairs, and we've been without a car since while waiting to find another. Shopping has been a challenge but luckily I have my motorbike and two large side-cases. I can get most of a weekly shop on my bike by keeping to a strict list. Carrefour have been doing regular deliveries too for the big shops. This year has been full of new discoveries by necessity.

Did anyone have the Christmas they were expecting? We certainly didn't. The UK was ravaged by a highly infectious variant of Covid-19 and much of the country was locked down over the Christmas period so we didn't spend Christmas with my mum. Instead I had to hurriedly create Christmas at home along with very many others whose arrangements were totally disrupted. This was a challenge as I'd had bookshelves delivered on the Monday so, together with the 20 boxes of books, there were boxes everywhere. I was thinking I'd have to buy a green marker pen and draw Christmas trees on the bigger ones! Luckily, the guy who was to put them up was able to do the work on Christmas Eve, and I spent the afternoon emptying boxes of books and putting up a few decorations. 

A big thank you to Schmidt for the fantastic shelves and helpful staff. What a relief to have a civilised room at the end of it. I even discovered crackling fire videos on YouTube. The one on the tele has acoustic guitar Christmas music playing. It was so beautiful and restful. Christmas was saved.

I had managed to get to the shops for Christmas food and in the end it was all okay.

We are still here, staying safe and, hopefully, well. I hope you are too. Fingers crossed 2021 will see a lifting of restrictions to civil liberties and we can see family and friends again.

Monday, November 09, 2020

Covid-19 Season 2, Lockdown Day 11

It's been 11 days so far in this the second season of pandemic catastrophe Covid-19 lockdown. Back to teleworking, new and improved this time with a printer and set of shelves to tidy up my files, and it's back to limited outings for walkies and essential shopping. 

Local to me now

The bookshelves in Carrefour have all been screened off but you can buy books on Carrefour Drive and collect them 20 minutes later. Where there's a will... and all that. If bookshops have any sense, they'll set up a 'Drive' system too. Install a table outside, get customers to tell you what they want, shoot off and get it. Necessity is the mother of invention.

Another variation with season 2 lockdown is that you can't buy alcohol after 6pm even in the supermarket. There was much horrified shock on Facebook and the word spread so that we all knew about the dangers of shopping after 6pm. Forewarned...

Pre-lockdown bike ride to Palavas

Meanwhile I finally got round to some tasks I'd been putting off, but was so in need of variety, I was spurred to action. The hedge in the front garden has been drastically pruned back to allow visibility of the front door and hinder the nefarious activities of potential burglars. And Sunday afternoon was spent shortening two pairs of jeans using the visible hem method. If you don't know it, it's really cool and you don't need a sewing machine (although it would cut down on the time it takes!) although you do need to sew. There are lots of videos showing you how to do it, here's one:

While I sewed away, I listened to a documentary on Melania Trump on ArteTV. Do you remember when she read out a speech that plagiarised Michelle Obama's speech? I was shocked to learn that the White House aids did it on purpose because they thought Melania was getting too much attention. The lesson there is never to read a speech someone else has written for you without checking it first! I'll remember that if I ever find myself in a similar situation.

This is the week when we remember those who were sacrificed in the Great War. I watched a live service from Great St Mary's Church, Cambridge on Sunday as I can't access the BBC live. I've also been reading Ben Elton's 'The First Casualty' set in World War I. A disgraced police detective sent to prison for being a 'conchie' (conscientious objector) ends up investigating the murder of a viscount in France. It was a bit slow to start, but there is some magnificent writing on the war in the frontline, life in the trenches, and the abundance of poets (Elton seems to have a thing about war poets). There's some great humour too.

It's a book that's received some scathing reviews, including one by The Independent's Jane Jakeman who describes it as 

a Barbara Cartland story re-written by a dirty-minded schoolboy during a monotonous history lesson.

A bit harsh, it's not at all like that although it was vaguely reminiscent of Blackadder Goes Forth in places. I enjoyed it, she didn't.

To end on a positive note, here's a photo of my purr-sonal assistant being a real help while teleworking at my makeshift desk of cardboard boxes and bookshelf shelves. Fun times.

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 - very interesting about acupuncture
  • Haechi
  • Voice 1 & 2
  • It's Okay to Not Be Okay
  • Saimdang
  • Hotel des Luna - beautiful sets and lighting
  • Dear My Friends
  • 100 Days My Prince
  • The Empress Ki - 51 episodes of action, intrigue, love, death, battle, betrayal, loyalty, and beautiful costumes.
  • The King 2 Hearts - Ha Ji-won not too convincing as a shy little woman, but great as a North Korean special agent.
  • Chocolate - rather melancholy but Ha Ji-won in a wonderful role as chef. Lots of cooking and eating!

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, Haechi

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

Jung Il-woo - Haechi, Cinderella and the Four Knights

Jang Hyuk - Voice
By Kamkrna - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Lee Ha-ha - Voice

Kim Soo-hyun - It's Okay to Not Be Okay, Crash Landing on You

Seo -Ye-Ji - It's Okay to Not Be Okay, Hwarang

Oh Jung-Se - It's Okay to Not Be Okay, Misaeng

Lee Young-ae - Saimdang

Song Seung-heon - Black, Saimdang

IU - Hotel del Luna

Yeo Jin-goo - Hotel del Luna, Moon Embracing the Sun

Go Hyun-jung - Dear My Friends

Zo/Jon In-sung - Dear My Friends