Friday in Sydney...and yes, the bag made it.

Sitting in the rocking chair, spring, Sydney, Australia, a whole other hemisphere.



I almost wouldn’t know I’d been away for three months except for residual occasional signalling with my windscreen wipers, better comprehension in French class, and a total mistrust in the value of change I hand over; scouring the recipient’s face while s/he checks it, still sure the coins will turn out not to be what I’m expecting.


The garden has been having a high time and the house was just possible to locate, but only because I recognised the car.

..

The flights back were fine (except for the young woman who must have brushed every tooth individually while the rest of us queued for the toilet with crossed legs, which actually made it easier for the food trolley to get past) and the plane delivered us to Sydney on a lovely warm Sunday afternoon. Then I opened my suitcase which survived the journey, and three days of Welsh weather emerged - cold, windy, and rain with intent. Funny, I had no urge to try a bracing picturesque walk in it.

The laundry basket of mail contained about three shocks, the most exciting being the notice from the electricity mob saying if I didn’t pay up by several days ago, they’d turn off my power. I’d thought it was all being paid automatically...I think I’m the only person in Australia, possibly the world, who smiles every time I get an electricity account. When I signed up, the agent asked me what title I’d like. I don’t like titles, but apparently the computer is excruciatingly polite and can’t function on a first name basis. I asked what the options were. She said, “Mr., Mrs., Miss., Ms., Doctor, Lady, Honourable...”
“Wait,” I said,”I’m a lady. Can I have “Lady”?”
“I don’t see why not,” she replied.
So now each bill is addressed to Lady Kerry Millard. It makes me smile. And maybe that’s why they didn’t dare douse my lights.

............

There’s a new Premiere since I’ve been away and several new ministers, Council elections have been held (which I didn’t vote in and therefore will be fined but will feel all smarty-pants when I tell them I’m exempt because I was overseas), a house just around the corner is missing like a lost tooth, the supermarket has to be accessed via a maze of temporary walls behind which we’re assured a facelift is happening (although a door was open and I spotted a guy eating a hamburger), and there’s a new apartment block on my usual walk to French. Then again, possibly I just didn’t notice it before. Oh, and the Americans are having an election. Still. Same one.


In the bookshop today





Thanks to a trip all the way around the planet I now know how to operate an impressive array of flushing, switching, opening, locking, showering, bathplugging, water tap operating, hand-drying, soap dispensing, rubbish bin opening, ticket-purchasing, cup-holding, stirring, drying and public transport systems,
although the GPS is still in its case.



I’ll let you go now, but this needn’t be good bye. Thanks for coming on this trip with me; it’s been fantastic having fellow travellers on my shoulder! But do pop in again, because I’ll be pressing a bit more of life between the pages each week.

Friday...will my bag make it?

From my modern desk, Prestige Hotel (“Prestige” equates to expensive because it’s near the airport), Roissy, (Paris), France, between Staplehurst, Kent and Gordon, Australia. (Staplehurst-Charing Cross-Paddington-Bristol Temple Meads- Bristol Airport- Charles de Gaulle Airport- Prestige Hotel)





...

As we flew into Paris last night, I could see the Eiffel tower all the way down and even after we’d landed. I knew it was the Eiffel Tower from that distance because it looked exactly like those tiny keyrings everybody tries to sell you here. That thing sure is big. Funny, I thought I glimpsed it in London ( it has a tendency to move about when you’re trying to get to it ), but must have been mistaken.

If you’re leaving a friend’s house in Kent to return to Australia
it’s a scary moment when you lock the door behind you and drop the keys back through the letterbox. Always pretend to do it first, walk away a few paces, and if you don’t suddenly remember something vital, repeat in earnest then proceed to Bristol.

...

I was looking out my side of the train at all the railway tracks as we came into London, then glanced out the other side and there was the London Eye (a giant ferris wheel) the Thames and Big Ben (although I know that’s really the name of the biggest bell). I got some good shots of this side of bits of the bridge we were on.




Don’t believe the friendly helpful information guy at Charing Cross. Proceed directly to Paddington as the internet suggested, down miles of steps with the handle on your bag getting wobblier, rather than taking two trains as he suggested but which may have been on the level and you’ll never know.




And don’t tell Bobbies they look cute in their helmets. It’s tempting. There are lots of them on the railway; presumably they’ve discovered it’s quicker covering their beat this way than on foot or bicycle.




.........


As you fly out of Bristol after dark on a Friday night, and over the last shreds of England, you’ll see hundreds and hundreds of pale milky green rectangles below, lit up like so many windows in a jack-o-lantern. Each small cluster of street/house lights has one, larger clusters many. You realise they’re playing fields. Each represents a tiny patch of intense feelings, victories, hopes, anxiety, excitement, flirtations, disappointments, futures in the balance, each self-absorbed and unconscious of the others, many that you can see probably don’t even know that others you can see exist. Kind of like us.



On to Singapore...

Wednesday: Mists and fruitfulness and dinner down to the Pub

Desk overlooking twilight, Kent, Jolly Olde




Today was a day of work ( the cartoon variety ), walk, getting short-changed at the sandwich shop ( they NEVER manage to look as if it was a genuine mistake...much like it’s impossible to not look like you’re trying to look innocent as you go through Customs at the airport...) and scientifically packing for the complicated next legs, plus washing a jumper which I desperately hope is dry by tomorrow when I’ll be wearing it. Luckily my friend has an airing cupboard where the hot water heater is...I’ve been tempted to crawl in there myself.

......


I love that there are miles of Public Footpaths here, beside or across fields, down the sides of garages, around ends of hedges and criss-crossing each other in scrubby corners. You wonder where the other paths are going to/coming from.



I love that there’s a stile leading out of the local park.

......

I love that from the train you see chipper little communities of allotments, neatly laid out, vegetables, sheds, pathways, the occasional story behind the patch where everything is overgrown.

......

I love the large woman in pink bringing a mug of tea outside to the carpenter who has been working up a ladder on her roof.



I love the two young men who giggle when the Decidedly Quick Train rips past the small station and gives us all a fright. ( I visited the station today. I was practicing for tomorrow).

...

That doors on neighbouring houses in estates are painted different colours.

...
That the woman in heels and a swishy calf-length skirt on her way home from work is unaware that a well fed black and white cat leapt out from under a hedge just after she passed, chased her clipping clopping shoes and flashing white shins along the footpath, pounced without conviction, then disappeared behind her under a fence.

...

A pub tea of local bangers and mash decorated with a garnish of apple and leeks, then tomorrow I begin the trek home.

........................

Tuesday: Phrightening Pheasant

Comfy couch after a glass of red and cold lamb and mashed potatoes, sticky out bit south of London, UK

.....................
Today required a bit of attention to an editor and publisher who are expecting work at various points. The problem with working while you travel is that you have to work while you travel. The good bit is that you have work which you can do while you travel. The bad bit is that you have to do it.

...

An orienting wander into the village on my own for a cuppa and lunch despite the cafe proprietor’s reluctance to let me order Earl Grey Tea considering my North American accent was followed by a trip home to regroup and a setting forth again to follow one of a number of circular walks described on cards of different colours.

.........................................................

Various pheasants and I startle each other. They will be getting more startled when the shooting season starts. I’m glad to be wearing blue. Public Footpaths take me over stiles and across a newly ploughed field which makes me also glad that I checked with my friend whether farmers tend to shoot walkers. ( Farmers are obliged to reinstate public footpaths across their fields after ploughing / harvesting / whatevering )

....................
........................................


The leaves are beginning to turn, the air is cool and in the evenings is laden with fog and woodsmoke; geese flew over in formation yesterday. A biplane and a helicopter flew over today.




Tomorrow I plan the last leg of this wonderful trip, i.e., what socks I need for Singapore.

Monday: The Great Crested ... What?

Cosy house, Kent, about to put the kettle on, England

...


The Great Crested Newt (I’m sorry, but it’s hard to imagine any newt being very great) is endangered. So endangered in fact that knee-high blue plastic fences (people’s knees) are put up around building sites to keep them from getting in. Or it might be out, I’m not entirely clear. Judging by the number of controversial building projects scattered around the region which are held up or abandoned completely because of possibly disturbing the Great Crested Newt, (including a footbridge across the railway line which people have been wanting for 100 years) locals have come to the conclusion that their numbers must actually be in plague proportions.
What I wonder is if anybody has asked the newt how disturbing it finds all that bright blue plastic.

Each village has an emblem. The emblem for Biddenden is two women in long frocks standing side by side. In truth, they are just standing side. They are known as the Biddenden Maids and were Siamese twins born in Biddenden in the 1100s, joined at the hip. They had 20 acres and became philanthropists, then emblems.



We went to Hastings for fish and chips for dinner. Tall black tarred net hanger shacks hunched along the seafront. Pitch and tar used to waterproof wooden huts also mean spectacular fires from time to time.The delightful and slightly giddy Victorian pier was dark for winter. The menu has a plethora of fish and the buildings have a gracious air about them. I believe there is sea about but it was dark. And wasn’t there some kind of fracas here once?...

Between the two photos below is a statue of Queen Victoria. I just missed her...

..................

Sunday: Misty at both ends and Gypsies in the middle

Comfy couch, livingroom, Staplehurst, Kent, Garden of England



A misty morning, a lazy breakfast, a walk to my friend’s family farm along country lanes and public footpaths.
Gypsies are moving their Gypsy Cob ponies back to stables for winter. The piebald markings are cheerful; the more white the better, we’re told. Two leggy foals parallel park against their mothers. The grey haired man with an empty black feed bucket invites us into the field to take photos. I ask where his interest in this old breed comes from. His response includes “heritage”, “generations”, “handed down”, “Gypsy and proud of it”. This last phrase is uttered rapidly as if he has had to say it often but the challenge implicit in the words isn’t reflected in his tone; the declaration seems oddly out of place, I suspect even to him, as we chat here together. However, the fact that he makes it speaks volumes.
A fighter pilot was shot down over a local field and is still remembered; the little cross is tucked in beside a hedge. Kent is between mainland Europe and London where defense was fierce and bombers jettisoned their payload before going down.

...........................................................

My friend’s mother lives in a converted Oast house which the family used originally to dry hops picked by hand, then later by machinery. This part of the world is known for its hop gardens and Oast houses. Renovations of old buildings must use only the original openings in walls for windows and doors, which is why so many ancient cottages are still dark. Oast houses had big doors to wheel vehicles in, to bring hops through, to help dry them in the kiln which is the round part with the pointy roof (the white bent tip is a cowl which moves with the wind to help draw the smoke away), and to haul the compressed hops out again. On top of that, good light was needed because monitoring the colour as hops dried was crucial. Oast houses converted to cottages are absolutely light and delightful.

Some relative of mine on some side of the family several generations ago, I think, worked, or lived in Tunbridge Wells, at a Hotel, maybe the main hotel, or coach house, I think it was big and had lots of windows and was famous, possibly, quite possibly as a chef, I think, who developed a special recipe for plum pudding, or fruitcake it could have been, maybe the Queen ate it, or a relative of hers, anyway, the name Tunbridge Wells is deeply ingrained in my family folklore so we went there.

.................................

Roast lamb for dinner. Sorry, sheep.

Saturday: Gorillas in the mist...no, my mistake, sheep.

From the same comfy chair, Kent, not too far from the English Channel

...

Did I mention that when you step off the train in Carmarthen in Wales after a trip from Paris, the first thing you notice is the smell of cows in fields? It makes you smile.

Staplehurst in Kent has heavy damp autumn air which smells of newly turned soil. That makes you smile too.

.......................................

A Saturday morning misty walk to the butcher and tiny crowded fruit and veg shop in the village is best followed by a ploughman’s lunch at a real Kentish pub, then a drive through villages in landscape which is rolling and then rolled flat. You pass a shallow, narrow ditch, I mean canal, dug to defeat Napoleon’s feared invasion. Presumably the horses would get a foot stuck in it...? Your excursion ends at an endless beach along the English Channel. (Is it called the French Channel on the other side?) The tide is way way out so your admiration for swimmers of said Channel evaporates as you realise they simply wade across.

..................................................................................

You might discover a delightful pink tea shop on the way home run by a lovely gay couple, men, each delicate teacup being different, each tablecloth different, then discover how ingrained certain stereotypes are when the men’s wives turn up.

........

On the way home the temperature may fall as the sun, already low, gives up the ghost. At the same time you see that mist is beginning to fill the darkening fields, the hedges behaving like the sides of a wading pool. The road is perfectly clear but on the other side of the tangled and shorn hawthorn, blackthorn and rose, sheep and cattle stand legless in the spreading wisps of cotton wool. Your camera tries its best but hasn’t a hope.

.........

In the evening you might pootle along to a village supper where yet again you discover how paltry your knowledge is of theme songs of movies and famous bridges of the world. Except for Sydney’s. And “Titanic”.

Friday: I went to Kent

Leaning back chair, lovely snuggly house, Staplehurst, Kent



From Carmarthen in Wales by car to Swansea, coach to London Victoria coach terminal, train from Victoria Station to Maidstone East in Kent, bacon lettuce and tomato sandwich and cuppa, lift with friend to her house in Staplehurst through lovely lovely lovely countryside.



Communication may be a bit infrequent over the next week as the internet at the house may not want to co-operate. Speaking of communication...

A welsh chap behind me on the bus to London made a very many kilometers long, loud, and personal phonecall to his girlfriend despite the driver asking people to keep calls quite and brief. His accent stopped being cute just the other side of Cardiff. His girlfriend was worried about giving her dog chocolate, but our hero said chocolate is perfectly fine for dogs. Swear. No it’s perfectly safe. I mean, says he, what about those chocolate drops for dogs? They have chocolate in them. Trust me, he said. I should know. I used to eat them...



London’s Victoria station starts out looking exactly like a shopping mall. As you wheel your bag along past women’s wear and mobile phone shops, you have JUST reached the conclusion that you have entered a trendily named “Victoria Station” retail complex which has nothing to do with public transport when you spot a sign actually mentioning trains.
You watch the board for your platform number, then make a dash to the waiting train, settle into your seat and prepare to enjoy the green fields slip past as the woman in front begins a loud and animated dialogue to her husband in a language you don’t recognise and you wonder for the whole hour to Maidstone East what she can possibly have so much to say about.



Then you find yourself being driven amongst hedges, winding roads, pointy oast houses (originally for drying hops), through rich late evening light to a cosy house with a garden in the back from which broccoli is snipped for dinner. Ah, this green and pleasant land.


Wed-Thursday : Tenby

From the funny foam cube seat, Penrhiwcoyon Cottages, Wales



Yesterday I wandered down to the train and caught the two carriages which rattle up and down the line between Swansea and Pembroke Harbour. Tenby is a lovely town which I stumbled across last year knowing nothing about it except that it was a dot on the map I could visit for a day. I loved the narrow cobbled hilly roads, then found not only castle walls inside the town, but a small harbour along which runs the most delightful rainbow of houses....

...........................................

This time I booked into a bed and breakfast for the night. My room had a pale blue and white theme, sweet curtains and pillows, and solid timber furniture. I had travelled light so, not wanting to waste the wonderful wardrobe, hung up my two jackets (one warm and one waterproof), my pyjamas (they got quite a shock...I hope they don’t begin to expect this) and my change of undies (ditto).

........
...........

Tenby, as it turns out, also has two long soft sandy beaches reminiscent of those at home, an island just offshore with a monastery, seals and puffins (which I didn’t see) and an ancient history including mastodon teeth (which I did see). Everybody seems to try to outdo everybody else with the ancientness of their history. I think mastodon teeth are pretty good.

......................

I caught the two carriages back again today. I’d paid for my ticket on the train by credit card; I tried to pay cash in the station but when I held out my banknote to the woman behind the counter, she said that they don’t take Euros in Wales. I’d filled my wallet with the wrong foreign currency.




Tuesday: Rain, rain, go away...Oh. You did.

From the corner of the comfy couch, Carmarthenshire, Wales


......

The wet windy morning of sheeting rain helped some people sit down long enough to get a bit of work done, even though they still lapsed into looking at properties on the internet and trying to plan an interesting overnight trip somewhere in Wales. By the time the work was finished, the rain had turned to the misty variety and the wind had gone wherever wind goes.

......

A walk into town passed through the indoor markets and ended up at a cafe above a craft shop overlooking the town square. The back of a statue of an undoubtedly noble person faces the cafe (if a back can face), and to the right loom the black ruins of a castle though which public servants pass on their way to lunch. There are slots through which archers defended the alleyway between PCs and panninis.

...............

The cemetery slides up a hillside, a small chapel with a red door anchoring it at the foot. The recent fashion for marble means that it is tempting to overlook older stone engravings which are relatively indecipherable while the more modern headstones look freshly minted and are easy to read. The finely cut and self-controlled wording, often picked out in gold, somehow speaks of trying to contain the messy grief behind it all, but doesn’t fool anybody. Placed by the headstones are flowers, plastic and freshly cut, sometimes both in the same bouquet, some colourful, others serene, some blown over, glass domes protecting browning posies, three slightly puckered deflating balloons with stars on them and the remnants of wrapping paper, and most wretched of all, soggy stuffed animals and garish disney characters on tiny graves in a desperately sad cluster of impossibly small plots at the top of the hill. It took a few moments for the meaning to sink in.

..................

Here graves sport small marble cubes on which are written tributes from family or friends, neighbours, workmates, or drinking buddies at the Boars Head Inn.

The 20 year old soldier died in June,1945.

Cemeteries are always places to contemplate the strangeness of the cycle of life, which, of course, isn’t a cycle at all for each individual. Children who are 82 when they die, their parents 73 and 81, all buried together.

I wonder if it’s OK to step off the footpath in my wanderings, out of respect, then notice that the whole place, including mounds, has had its grass slashed by a ride-on mower.

Time to head home because tonight dog training is on. Tomorrow I head to Tenby but without technology so won’t write again until Thursday.

...

Monday: Carmarthen in Colour

From the dining room table, Carmarthen, River Towy, Carmarthenshire, Wales


By the time four years of plague had finished with Carmarthen, the cemetery, which is just across the road, had increased in size by a third. Nearby houses were knocked down to make room. This little cottage and the two on either side are the only original houses left.

......



Today started out with misty rain which made me wonder how smart it was going to be to visit the laundromat then walk home with newly dried clothing in my backpack. The risk-taker in me won out. Some people bungee jump; I wash my socks.

...........................

The thing about Carmarthen folk is that they may lapse back and forth between English and Welsh three and four times during a sentence, possibly even a word. This leaves some other people on the cusp of making appointments for hearing tests when they haven’t been able to understand what on earth the waitress said to that elderly customer even though they eavesdropped with full concentration but were totally misled by hearing the words “tea” and “scones” at the beginning.

The driver of the enormous truck who took a wrong turn and ended up with his gigantic blue rig squeezed onto a cobbled pedestrian area did a magnificent job of not looking embarrassed while people stopped to look and the police officer strode away shaking his head, trying to work out whether creeping forward between banks and tearooms and women’s clothing shops and around the town statue held more promise than trying to back out again past real estate agents, tea shops and women’s clothing shops.

...........................

I casually hand over coins to pay for lunch and for laundrette and for a woolly hat, just like a pro, exactly as if I know which coin is which. The only thing giving me away is then feebly asking the waitress/ laundress/ checkout chick to count it for me. I resist the thought but know I’m getting a preview...I remember my grandmother doing the same thing, but because of failing eyesight and powers of addition rather than unfamiliar currency. It’s amusing when we begin to understand our parents, sobering when it’s our grandparents.

............

Sunday: Yorkshire pud and Welsh bull

From the comfy armchair, Elim Road, Carmarthen, Wales
..................

The day dawned (OK, so maybe I don’t know how it dawned exactly, but when I got up) with a soft misty rain. It was a beautiful morning to go exploring through a tunnel of branches over the road which is so beautiful I want to keep taking photos of it, and wander along country lanes between sloping fields of dairy and longhorned cattle, and black and white sheep. Everything is so green and fresh; ferns and ivy grow on elderly stone walls, holly and fuschias pop up here and there, and the hills with black/green hedges stroking their contours and lone white houses roosting here and there take the breath away.
The narrow roads curve and are edged with compact hawthorn hedgerows from which come the delightfully musical song of invisible sparrows. I can’t decide which is the safer side to walk on so tend to weave back and forth as my theories change.

....................

On Sunday, pubs and restaurants put on a mid day dinner. We heaped our enormous, heavy white china plates with roast beef and/or pork, yorkshire pudding, parsnips, potatoes roasted or boiled, peas, carrots, cauliflower, lakes of gravy and a good splodge of horseradish. The atmosphere was relaxed and by the time we left, the pub was filling with groups including toddlers and babies. Lovely for families and friends to enjoy a meal out together.



The houses, shoulder to shoulder, sport a multitude of colours. A nearby beach is delightful to stroll along, low tide exposing acres of seabed and tiny shells while castle ruins glance down from the summit of red and grey cliffs. A row of little cottages with chimney pots gaze out across the beach while above them a pink house clings to the hillside. Dogs are allowed on the beach from September until May and are taking advantage of the day which is now sunny with a striking blue sky. Shirley romps and enchants other Sunday walkers.

.....................

The young rust coloured bull in the field behind the house has come up to lie just outside the kitchen door where he can chew his cud and confuse basset hounds.



So far I’ve been getting up earlier that Shirley, so she hasn’t yet joined me in bed. This is not entirely a coincidence. She reduced my pillow by another few mouthfulls of stuffing today, having sneaked up on it from a new direction.

Wind and wain in Wales

From the comfy couch, Carmarthenshire, Wales


Today Wales decided to show off its wind and horizontal rain...beautiful and misty from the kitchen window, billowing hoods and slapping windshield wipers once out in it, bulls in the field behind the house grazing on the long flattened green grass regardless.



Thoughts of picturesque drives along dainty winding roads through charming villages morphed into a late breakfast of tea and cinnamon rolls, and a wander (in the car) down to the undercover Saturday market where parking required patience and quick wits as on Saturday mornings all over the world. I buy a thermal mountaineering pullover. Raincoats and umbrellas, scarves and hats, woollens and gloves on display in shops suggested that the frivolity of summer is over. I understand summer happened on three days in May, and another four in September.

.........


Over lunch I surreptitiously spread out all of my coins, appearing to be counting them, but in fact learning how to identify them. There’s only so much change that little zipped compartment in your wallet can hold before you have to stop paying every time in 20 pound notes.

Grocery shops are interesting in other countries, and of course seeing the Welsh language everywhere and hearing it spoken is a treat. Its melody is reminiscent of Hindi.

......



My niece and nephew and I sit with our identical laptops while the basset, Shirley, manages quite ingenious mischief. She climbs halfway up the stairs, pokes her head endearingly through the rails, checks to see if she’s being watched, then grabs a mouthful of stuffing from my pillows which have been hidden out of her reach...if she’s standing on the floor.

It takes hours and hours to come up with a cartoon, I finally email it off and within minutes it has been approved by my editor in Australia. This technology is amazing. I wasn’t even plugged into anything! I wonder how many people my cartoon passed through? I wonder if there will be lasting effects?



Today I itched to have the camera out more but needed my hands to keep my hood on.
Tomorrow we plan to indulge in a slap-up Sunday Dinner at a local pub or restaurant. I have a feeling that with the cooler weather, comfy food will be featuring big on the agenda!


Hello Wales

Livingroom, 400 year old cottage, Carmarthen, Wales

...


An early start by yellow shuttlebus on a dark and rainy Paris morning, that awkward disassembling and reassembling of computer, camera, belts and bags through security, a flight to Bristol on Easyjet.

I booked my tickets online. When I looked closely at the times of departure and arrival afterwards, I realised two things; not only is Paris so close to Bristol that the flight only takes fifteen minutes, but I must have inadvertently booked my return flight via Amsterdam (one of the choices offered) because it will take two and a quarter hours to get back again. Oh well, I’ve never been to Amsterdam.

We whizzed along the runway (I love takeoffs) then once we’d breached upper clouds, the captain announced that we would be landing in Bristol in one hour. One hour???
Aha. I see... there’s a one hour time difference between Paris and the UK.
Shucks... and I was looking forward to Amsterdam.

When I landed in Bristol I couldn’t understand the immigration girl at first. As I’ve been doing for the past five weeks, I was concentrating on her face and listening to the sounds waiting for them to crystallise into recognisable words, then suddenly realised she was speaking English. And that I speak English.





A coach from the airport to Temple Meads railway station in Bristol, small train to Newport in Wales with the most spectacular gap between the train and the platform I’ve had to leap since a scary bushwalk in the Warrenbungles, change to another small train to Carmarthen, a phonecall to my niece and new nephew by marriage, and a walk with the one year old Basset to fetch fish and chips and Guinness for supper.

Interestingly, as quiet as the French are on public transport, the Welsh are chatty and animated. And I could swear that same father was on the train last year when I was here, threatening to cuff his freckle-faced machinegun-toting son ( being yellow and orange I suspect it was the water-firing variety...the gun of course)

There’s a wonderful petite bald railway chap in Wales at Newport who steps out onto the platform as trains arrive, rattles off to anybody who needs to know exactly the time and platform of the next train to their destination, then melts back into the station again.



This is the view from inside the kitchen door.


I believe I may wake up tomorrow with the Basset sharing my bed.

Piqued by Picasso, packed and pooped

Last evening, 15 rue des Archives, Paris, France, Yurp

..................

The Picasso museum has big old timber doors. And they’re closed until October 24th. Poop Picasso!!!

More time for wandering and tripping over a huge market where the handkerchief ( mouchoir ) salesman had a loud voice, strong opinions, a friendly nature and a bench just opposite where it was possible to sit and tune in to some lively French conversation, particularly as a chipper moustachioed bespectacled patron chose to argue the quality and price of his wares. Talk ultimately and naturally expanded to include the state of the Nation and the world, and finally to the son of a mutual acquaintance, who turned out not to be mutual because the spelling of the surname was different.
During most of this time the customer stood with wallet frozen in hand, arrested during the gesture of passing money across the aisle behind him to his wife, black and white check coated, black hatted and red-lipped, whose hand was frozen in a gesture reaching behind her for money as she sank deeper into animated conversation with the butcher.

par thu shaggy dog....................

During packing a pamphlet came to light suggesting the elusive Picasso might be pinned down in the Museum d’Orangerie near the Louvre, so I was off. Monet was hanging out there, and Cezanne and a few other absolutely delightful characters. Using the audio guide was great- wandering first to absorb without it, then listening to the commentary in French several times. Knowing I have to bump my bags down two and a half flights of gently winding stairs (or do they unwind as they go down?) I resisted buying the museum guide. I’m trying really hard not to regret it.

......A timber cut-out helps gardeners prune the trees to be so ROUND

............

I carried all of my loose change with me today to give to the ring-droppers...I still have all three kilos of it.


................

Dali or bust

Right bank, windy day, Paris

..................

The Rodin museum is on the other side of the river and west, close to Les Invalides with its big golden dome which is not far from the Eiffel Tower. Can’t miss it.

I headed inland to make a shortcut, and after a goodly number of quaint twists and turns, began to worry. Using my outdoorsy skills, I remembered that moss always grows on the south side of trees. Or, is it north? Or is that in Australia? And where are trees when you need them...and where is the blasted moss? Geraniums grow on any old side of buildings so they were next to no help. Well, judging by the sun, I was going either north, or south, east, or west.

I tried downhill. That would surely bring me to the River Seine which I could follow to Rodin. Hotel Seine...sounds promising,...lots of galleries...looks promising...and there’s the river, ...and I’m nowhere near Rodin. Never mind...I like walking...

...............

“Madam...” I turn to see, out of the corner of my eye, a hand reaching down to pick something up. A ring...Hang on...I know that hand...it’s my lady ring scam friend from the other day!! I’m genuinely happy to see her again and cheerfully remind her that we’ve met, ask if her husband is working the Louvre and her sad face appears...her husband is in Romania. Of course he is. Silly me...Why do I have trouble believing her? We part smiling, wishing each other “Bon journee”.

For some reason, the floors inside the Rodin Museum make shoes squeak. There is a hushed reverence, and all that squeaking.

......

I decided to visit the Eiffel Tower again before heading over to the Pompidou Centre for some Modern Art.
Now the Eiffel Tower may be drawn as the biggest thing on your map, but not only is your map fibbing because once you get amongst the winding narrow streets the buildings all around you are also pretty big, but the tower itself has quite a sense of humour and likes to pop up, now on your left, now over your right shoulder, sometimes crouching down so you can’t see it at all. Never mind. Just be determined, head in its direction, whichever silly one it chooses, and eventually you’ll catch it.



Purple clouds were scudding across the sky and I while knew there could be some dramatic photos of the sunlit Tower against the bruised background, the scudding might also mean dramatic drenching so I hot-footed it towards my next stop.

.........

“Madam,..” Out of the corner of my eye I see a hand pick something up...yes...a ring!!! A teenage girl this time. I cheerfully tell her that she’s the fourth to find a dropped wedding band. I head for the footbridge.
“Madam,...”Almost across the bridge, slightly older teenager.
“Madam...” In her 20’s...
A fourth girl, in pink, on the other side tries halfheartedly with another couple but doesn’t approach me.

That’s seven times. I’ve been here less than a week.

OK. I decided that the next time, I would say, “Yes. Thanks, that is my ring”. And after I’d enjoyed watching their reaction, and they’d regrouped and still asked for money, I would say that my husband is a real jerk and I don’t really want the ring and it’s pure gold so if they sell it they’ll get heaps, and go ahead, keep it.

OK, I’d probably give them a couple of euros in the end, but I’d love to see their reaction.

Nobody else approached me.


........................

Incidentally, I’ve been immensely surprised at the vivid colours in the more classical artworks, and the unexpected dullness of the paints in “Modern Art”.


......

A LOT of early modern artists were Jeans, I discovered today. I suppose that having a common name, they needed to do something radical to stand out. They would have then discovered they were in an even more concentrated sphere of Jeans so had to become even more radical.
I believe that’s where modern art comes from.




............



Sorry, it's Tuesday. Art's off.

Pyjamas, kitchen table, two blocks from Centre Pompidou, Paris. Yes, that Paris.

....................

I knew the Louvre was closed today but was surprised (which didn’t surprise me) that other museums and galleries were too. I suppose even culture needs a day off.

What also surprises me is that a cold is supposed to take seven days to incubate, but you only have to be out in wet wind with a green scarf and rain jacket on Tuesday morning and by Tuesday lunchtime you get that feeling that something may be brewing. It is important to try to nip it in the bud as quickly as possible with French Onion soup, a glass of red wine on a red and white checked tablecloth, a platter of delicasies including inscrutible suggestions of something suspended artistically in gel, then after a good deal of wandering, a hot bath with a glass of cold white wine. You may not be cured, but you certainly don’t care any more.

I begin to sympathise with my much maligned GPS, although I’d prefer you didn’t tell it. I followed my curiosity and took a stairway underground beneath a garden and found myself in a cavernous subterranean movie/shopping complex. With lots of escalators. Enclosed spaces with escalators all have that particular smell...it must be the grease. I wandered for miles and suddenly needed to escape...it felt too much like an airport and I wasn’t ready to be in an airport yet. I decided to head for a huge bookshop so stepped over to a helpfully colour-coded map. “You are here”, it said, with a good deal of confidence. Don’t read this next bit if you are a bit delicate...”Bullshit!”, I replied. In a shopping complex which is essentially one long hallway, I’d managed to complete a circle and was back where I’d started. Somewhere there must be a use for me.

.........

A great deal of gardening in Paris happens in tiny boxes. What IS that guy with the motorcycle helmet going to do with the rack of jeans he’s just manoeuvred out of the shop? Why doesn’t somebody invent clothing that actually looks BETTER on you than it does on the mannequin? When you’re staying in a strange building, two and a half winding flights of stairs up, it is a good idea to note the location of buttons which operate the hall lighting in case everything goes off and you end up in pitch blackness when you’re not sure where on the two and a half gracefully winding flights you are. While you’re at it, it would be a good idea to memorise which way they wind.


......