La Belle France

I do love France. I love the cafes, croissants, la langue, fabulous food, doorways, windows, shutters, markets, brocante, roses, faded hues, towns on rivers, straight trees, Tarte Breton, chateaux, Monetesque countryside, Muscadet, pre-dinner drinks in little bars, Brie, bread, big ripe red tomatoes, Leiseur salad dressing, French radishes, chatting in badly grammatical French, buying great memories in markets, cafe grande and much more besides. Lots of people have thought that I’m mad to love these disparate things over the years – but pah to them I say – it’s the small stuff that matters!

This is a small photo montage of this trip. Somewhere in between Rennes and Chateaubriant – La Bas Quibut – sort of Loireish. Lovely…

France – we shall return.



Yes I am alive. But just stupidly busy. My lovely part time life has turned into a full time writing roller coaster but I’m not complaining. Not at all. To be able to do something that you love and get paid for it is fab. But doesn’t leave much room for anything else!

The urchins are of course always in evidence and the smallest girl child does love a selfie.. “Show me, show me,” she says and just loves to see herself captured on the phone. They make me smile. Because apart from all the madness in the world, it’s all really about family isn’t it.


Plenty of silliness. That’s the ticket!



You’d have to be a hard hearted sort not to love a donkey wouldn’t you? With their woofly noses and long soft ears, not to mention their gentle dispositions they are a study in patience. For last Christmas we adopted three from the donkey sanctuary here on the sunny Isle – Daisy, Dylan and Doris and under instruction from Father Christmas they are duty bound to visit. Often.


The Urchins do like a donkey (thankfully) and like the café even more for endless chocolate cake and drinks so it’s a popular choice for a visit. And they have little Shetland ponies too…



It’s a grand spot, free to get in to and it’s got miles of muddy paths and space to run and test your wellies out in!


Great fun and then time to repair to the café for the aforementioned cake..


By the way and just in case you didn’t know, if you close your eyes then food tastes better. I leave you with Miss Phoenix demonstrating same…


Ah the logic of the three year old!

Flippin’ ‘Eck!


No I’m not dead. I haven’t been hiding and I have no excuses for my 3 month long absence here apart from working, learning lines and seeing quite a bit of the small people.

It’s funny when you write for a living (which I now do), because writing for yourself becomes a bit of a bus man’s holiday. Every  time I’ve sat down to write on here I find that I can’t quite be bothered. Which is silly and not good.

So here I am. Back again at the kitchen table pounding away on the laptop with the broken screen so that any instructions at the top are completely obscured by a huge black smudge. This makes for interesting guessing as to where those instructions might be and for some super swearing when it all goes horribly wrong! But anyway…


It’s still winter, not that it seems to have been terribly wintry – more rain than you can shake a  rain stick at, howling gales and general wetness all round. The garden is trashed and there’s no hope of anything happening out there till things brighten up a bit but I’ve been ordering seeds and thinking about where things might go from the comfort of indoors. I’ve got some cut flower seed from Higgledy Garden – Cornflowers, Chrysanths and the exotically named Eschschlzia which I hope to fill many vases with over the summer…..And of course, I have my seed source Dave from the golf club who has given me, as always, French Marigolds, Lupins and chillies. So a few to be going on with.

In other news, the small people have been much in evidence, especially the smallest one who now comes to keep me company on a Friday if I’ve not got anything on – at 7 months he’s a dab hand at admin and invoices :0)

All of the urchins and an extra one – Finn (our other grandson) were with us for Christmas Day (yes I know it’s nearly February but hey, I’m a bit tardy at the mo’) which, as you can imagine was not a quiet affair!! Guess which child likes having her photo taken the most..!

So that’s pretty much where we’re at. The new year began with a bang and then a month of sobriety, staying in and watching too much tv. What does the year hold? Who knows, but if it’s even half as good as 2015 was then I’ll be happy at that. It’s started well so long may that continue.


Italy – The Slideshow

TG and I went to Italy a week or so ago and it was shut. No really. There were holiday resorts on the coast from Bari to Otranto that were so shut that if tumbleweed had blown past us it wouldn’t have been a surprise. There was not a man, woman, child or dog to be seen in what were akin to post apocalyptic towns in the middle of nowhere. But anyway apart from that it was great. We flew across the snowy Andes and landed at Bari – on the unfashionable coast and headed for our first night’s hotel in the dark.

I hadn’t expected to like Bari – a shipping port but it was charming. An old town and a new sensitive redevelopment of the esplanade made for a very pleasant evening of pizza, pasta and a drop of plonk. It was but a pit stop on one of our odysseys but we had a little walk before setting forth.

There was the fish market with its blue rowing / fishing boats (of which more later) and a man bashing seven bells out of a poor octopus

And then we were off

To Alberobello – land of the Trulli – little tiny houses / farm buildings which were dotted all around the countryside leading to the town but concentrated into a town within a town in Alberobello. They were quite astonishing and had been revived as shops and hotels and with their whitewashed walls were a peaceful spot despite the tourists. Actually there weren’t that many people about as it was not just the unfashionable coast but also October – which suited us just fine!

And then it was on to Ortusi – the white city. Now if you watched the cookery programme where Georgio Locatelli went to Puglia with his art historian mate Andrew something then you’ll recognise this. Again, another amazing spectacle that you come upon from below so that there is just a sheer hilltop white town with every house whitewashed. How anyone ever finds their way back to their own house from Tescos I’ll never know…

There was a quick sojourn at Lecce (very quick as it was hot and shut)

And then on to relax for a couple of days at Otranto

A quick dip in the Adriatic right down at the bottom of the heel of Italy where you can go no further downwards

And then on to Gallipoli. I hadn’t quite known what to expect of this town of previous horrors but it had a very pretty harbour where we had some lunch – me an unidentifiable but delicious fish – TG a nice safe pasta. The sun shone and it was glorious.

There were the prerequisite blue boats

And an Ape which had been given a whole new lease of life!

We carried on to the outskirts of Taranto and stayed in a rather lovely hotel which was an agriturismo – a sort of working farm with a hotel and spa

A novel way to store your fruit and veg..

And then the last leg via Matera and the Sassi. This is a UNESCO world heritage site and despite the weather being a bit pants and the light being therefore a bit dim I hope that you get the sense of enormity of what was originally and what still is to some extent, a cave dwelling community. From the unprepossessing town of Matera you climb to the top of the hill and are confronted by this most astonishing place.

It’s hard to see from this picture but the whole of the rock is a maze of caves

Quite quite amazing

It was an interesting trip. I don’t think that I have ever seen so many olive trees in my life (and not a picture was taken..). We met and spoke to some wonderful people including the lady in a restaurant who spoke no English but by the power of my awful Italian and sign language we had a whole conversation about sons and mothers and Nonna Tina who must have been 80 if she was a day but was still cooking in her own restaurant and blew me a kiss as we left. I don’t think I’d necessarily want to go again (there are only so many closed towns and olive trees a body can do) but it was a great insight into a different part of Italy, away from the crowds and the obvious lakes, Romes and Florences which we all flock to. We drank some great wine (and some awful stuff too), ate lots of pasta and caprese and the thinnest loveliest pizzas too and came home physically knackered after all the walking but feeling brain rested. Marvellous.

Belated Bestival!


Bestival was its usual bonkersness.

I dipped in and out.

Drank cocktails.

Watched some very good little bands.

Watched only The Jacksons on the big band front.

Walked miles.

It was a colourful affair.

With bubbles.










I love these naughty urchins. They are the smileiest, silliest, most loving little people I know. Now that I can have odd times of the week off with my new job, it seemed just the thing to accompany them and their slightly frazzled Mama to Robin Hill for some fun and frolics…

Robin Hill here on the sunny Isle is just the place to run off some steam, feed the carp, get soaked and generally behave like children in the acres of wood and park land.

It is transformed into Bestival land in September which is in itself fab but for now is child land.

A lovely day was had by all – except that they think that I’m the same age as them so there was much up and down the slide and I have the scratches to prove it…

And of course there are those for whom butter wouldn’t melt…

I think we’d all reached critical mass by the end of the day…