Friday, 31 August 2012

The weighty matter of packing

I am stressed.  Preparing for a relaxing holiday is stressful.

The Gardener says, in gung-ho tones, "Passports, tickets, money!"

I say "Shoes, toiletries, clothing!"

and add, sotto voce, "and the rest.... list for house sitter, mostly to do with pets' bodily functions, instructions re peculiarities of said pets, oven, heating system, doorbell, where everything is situated, who to call on for help and/or information", and so much more.

I curb my natural tendency to pack as though I am travelling to Outer Mongolia where the nearest chemist or corner shop may be some days' hard travelling away. I fill the wash bag to cope with all contingencies; I pack changes of comfy shoes, Kindle, phone, sterling and euros, list of emergency contacts, and so much more. I unpack when the scales show that I must, and reluctantly discard the least essential items, although I feel that it's all essential. Except for the bathing costume - I unpack that and hide it. I hate swimming, and now I can't possibly be coerced into it.

Meantime, The Gardener stocks up on cameras,  iPad, cables, chargers, and not much more. Is he really intending to spend a week in the same shorts and t-shirt? I re-pack for him, adding changes of comfy shoes, t-shirts, shorts, a hairbrush, and take some of his techie stuff out of his overloaded hand luggage and put it in mine.

All has been weighed and re-weighed; all just meets the rather stingy weight limitations of the airline.

Now we just have to clean, hoover, wash up, fluff cushions and pets, walk Flossie for the last time, and then we can set off for the airport and the handover there to house sitter Lesley of car keys (The Gardener's car; mine is still in the garage awaiting parts) and the 3-page list of information, instructions, handy hints and general neurotic ramblings that I've compiled with detailed diligence over the past week. I've also had my hair cut and coloured, my painful back massaged and my toenails painted a delicate pink. I'm ready. I'm exhausted.

The forecast for where we are heading is for rain. I don't pack raincoats or umbrellas, but I would if I had the weight allowance.

Tickets, passports, money, my eye.

See you in just over a week's time. Majorca, here we come!

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Holiday miscellany

The Gardener is a keen photographer, and it's catching.

Earlier this month, he gave me a present.

A Leica Digilux 2, in superb condition; not a camera for the lazy snapper. I struggle, and have much to learn, but will rise to the challenge!

Bank Holiday Monday was wet, windy, and just the day to go out for coffee. 

I took photos; I need to practise.

So did The Gardener. The waitress must have thought we were mad, taking photos simultaneously - of a simple espresso.

He captured perfectly Flossie's anguished gaze if one of us leaves the pack (I was just across the road buying ice creams.)

Today the sun is shining - of course - as it does when people have returned to work after a wet holiday. 

Up to North Hill with Flossie this morning, after an anxiety-provoking consultation with a garage about the car's enfeebled headlights. An impromptu drive, no cameras to hand.

North Hill is guaranteed to calm the troubled mind.

Men were clearing the ragwort, pleased with the success of last year's efforts, as there was less of it this year to poison the horses.

There was much ball-chasing, dashing about, tongue flapping, grinning madly. That's Flossie, not me, of course.

Then we walked under the trees to cool down.

A slight bulge appeared to the side of this tree; I got my phone camera going.

The bulge shifted shyly.


Your tree, Exmoor pony. Sorry to disturb you.

On Friday we are off on our one-week holiday to Majorca, in search of sun and warmth. Rain or shine, there will be photos!

Monday, 27 August 2012

Flowers drooping in the house

Sorry, Jane, but today's flowers are getting a bit past it.

But it's too gloomy and wet outside to do much about them, or to photograph them where they are usually placed.

It's August. AUGUST! Feels like March.

We don't approve.

Thank goodness for flowers, even if they are a bit tatty.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Feels like....


Yesterday it rained again, and cabin fever struck, so we went to Porlock Weir.

Which was all green, grey and pink.

The sun gleamed out for a moment, but that was all.

These little cottages will be reclaimed by the sea some day.

They flood when tides are particularly high, and are already equipped with automatic pumps in the downstairs floors, with kitchen cupboards on legs, work surfaces set higher than standard.

I talked once with a woman who lived in one of them, who told me that the loss of their homes was a possibility of which they were always aware, but that no one knew when it might happen, and could occur next year or in fifty years. 

Creating the type of massive, costly sea defences that might preserve the village would also ruin its identity utterly. Better to accept the existing concept of 'managed retreat' and know that one day Porlock Weir would be under the tides again.

Meantime, she felt only gratitude that she was able to live in such a beautiful setting. It was a privilege, she said.

A wonderful sentiment.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

A day out

On Tuesday The Gardener took me to the nearest town blessed with a station, where I took a train and went to London for the day. Thank goodness for a Seniors' Railcard - a rare advantage of getting older - which made this almost affordable.

I met up with the Lovely Son, who is going away for 5 weeks, and whose birthday I will miss. He is growing a beard and moustache. A triumph of hope over experience, we agreed; he says it will soon turn gingery, and will have to be shaved off. Not being a natural beardie, he seemed rather pleased with himself for having got this far, as well as resigned to its likely short-livedness.

He was also very pleased with his early birthday present, a small digital camera (Panasonic Lumix for those who are interested) and we sat outdoors in the muggy air for a while while he played with it. I took cheesy touristy snapshots.

The pigeon controller was there, looking fierce.

And his own controller, a cheerful-looking man with a big gauntlet and a bag of titbits, dealing patiently with tourists asking questions, while his sharp-eyed charge observed us all. There were no pigeons in sight.

Then we braved the furnace Tube and travelled to the South Bank. More snapshots.

We didn't do much; we wanted to spend time together, rather than visit galleries or exhibitions, and time was short.

We did visit here (no not just the cafe!), becoming embroiled in some interactive art (I think that was what it was; yes, I know I'm a Philistine) that seemed to be a horde of people walking - then running - up and down the vast space with an unusual air of determination, some of them peeling off from the group to talk intently to members of the public before rejoining the group without warning. We obliged, listening and er... interacting. They continued their walking/running, then sat, talked, sang; we came away none the wiser.

We wandered around, giving the Munch exhibition a miss (too little time, too expensive) and the LS took photos. The birthday present seems to have been a success.

We drank tea in the cafe, and I looked longingly at other people's very appealing lunches. But The Lovely Son was intent on introducing me to real Mexican food, as opposed to the rather poor Tex-Mex stuff that had so underwhelmed me years ago. 

And so we ambled along to the latest Wahaca, a colourful temporary structure built from containers, staffed by whizzy, cheerful, efficient young people, and ordered a light lunch.

Which kept on coming.

And coming.

Note: IMO, cactus looks and tastes much like courgette. Not interesting except as a first-time experience. 

Everything else was delicious, and redressed the problem of my anti-Mex-food sentiments very nicely.

And eventually, full to the gunwhales, we managed to stagger away and walk again in the now-freshening air, taking yet more touristy snapshots, before braving the Tube, having another pot of tea, and reaching the 5 pm train in good time.

The Lovely Son and I parted yet again. How many times in his life have I said goodbye/travel safely/stay in touch to him before he set off abroad? Too many to count.

I sat in the quiet comfortable train for two hours, finishing the Kindle book I was reading with great enjoyment, and ignored my blistered toes, oddly-striped from where my sandals had leached dye into my feet.

The Gardener was waiting on the platform, smiling, to take me home, and I was pleased to get there, 12.5 hours after leaving the cottage in the morning.

It will take the Lovely Son less time to fly to Mexico City on Friday to spend some weeks with girlfriend and family, a joyous event that I hope will be fully documented by his birthday camera, and relayed home to his vicarious-traveller mother. He can practise his Spanish, which seems to consist chiefly of menu-related nouns, and he can make critical decisions about that beard. Goodbye, Lovely Son-about-to-turn-41, travel safely, and stay in touch.

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