Meet my other half at The Ranch

Amidst recent bouts of coughing and spluttering I have also been over at one of my favourite places – The Carrot Ranch. There Charli Mills gave me a space to bare all and let readers get to know my other half. Thanks, Charli!

via Raw Literature: Meet My Other Half

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Raindrops keep falling on my head…

Ever wondered why Sacha Distel snatched this song from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and sang it ever so suavely on his own TV show? Not just to show off his chic Gallic style and toothy white smile. Not even just to practise his perfect English while singing in an extraordinarily French accent. He was simply warning all us daft Brits, trying to get the message through our thick skulls that life in France is not all year-round sunshine and cheese-and-red-wine parties out on the wooden sundeck.

It rains in France. It pours in France. But how many of us expats think of that before we move here? All the British “Let’s Be Crazy and Move Abroad” programmes are filmed in the summer and I have never watched one where they didn’t choose the ‘away’ location. No wonder. All they see is the startlingly bright sun shining from perfectly blue skies. And all they hear are the cute little French birds twittering in the swishing green trees. Who wouldn’t want to move here?

But this is winter and I haven’t seen a glimpse of the sun’s shiny face for months now, and the only swishing sound around here is the rain running off our roof onto the slimy moss-covered deck below. Every single bloody day. Honestly. This is the worst weather France has seen for decades. I have lived here for the last three of them and cannot remember rain like this.

And the raindrops are not just falling on my head. They are soaking into my shoulders and chest and throat and lungs, making swallowing feel like a traipse through a field of barbed wire, and changing the ordinary act of breathing into an exhausting, debilitating coughing contest. I fear they have even dripped through into my soul, making me tired and depressed with a slouch to my step which is not usually there.

But on the météo tonight they promised us a truce. A ceasefire, a break, a lull in the daily downpours. I for one will be watching and waiting. And Sacha, if you can see us from up there, can you make those stupid raindrops stop falling. Please?

Photo courtesy of Audiophile

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La Vie est Belle

As she runs downstairs, late as always, her perfume lingers on the landing then slowly makes its way under my door, floats across the room and seeps into my nostrils which are half asleep. They had determinedly been ignoring my ears’ attempts to wake up by listening to the morning news, and would have stayed happily horizontal for many more minutes if they hadn’t caught the waft of that aroma. It shakes them to their senses with a long sigh of contentment, and a Hollywood-sounding “That’s my girl”.

For this smell is her smell. She leaves it on her scarves and coats, cushions and fluffy blankets, towels and sheets. It saunters through the house with an air of superiority. A self-satisfying strut. Because it’s strong. Strongest in the morning, fading slowly to a hovering hint as the day changes from grey to blue to black.

I meet it in the street sometimes and always remark “La Vie est Belle” to its bearer. She usually agrees with a nod and a smile, or a long look of “Are you talking to me, you foreign weirdo?” But this is France remember, and the words make sense here, but my pushy interruptions often don’t.

One day she will take it to another home. Her home. The one she will make for herself and her loved one. The one she wants to make now. And it will settle into her furniture and her rugs, her bedclothes and her bookshelves. And I will smell it only when I go there. For a cup of tea, or a sandwich or a home-made four-course meal. Nudge, nudge…

But I will keep a little bottle here and I will spray it when I need to. When I want a little reminder that life is indeed beautiful. And that she is one of the reasons why.

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Photo courtesy of Lancome.com

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It’s time to anal-yse this

One of my colleagues recently told me that she thought I was ‘anal’. As a Scot, brought up in the sixties, this is not a word I’d readily use about myself, or anyone else for that matter – it has way too many unsavoury connotations. But this colleague lived in San Diego for three years so maybe that explains things. Maybe it doesn’t, but please do not take offence at this thought if you in fact live there today.

Anyway, I harrumphed around the office for a while after she said it, then got to thinking about why she might have said it as she watched me sweep cake crumbs from under a coffee table. There’s a clue in there somewhere, I’m sure.

Yourdictionary.com defines the word thus: someone who is really uptight and particular and who always wants things a certain way…

Who? Me? What do you mean? I’m the coolest person on Earth.

Yeah, right. My last post was a blaring example of this anality, analness, analment or whatever the noun may be. All that complaining about incorrect spelling and horrible grammar rules. I’m sure I didn’t make many friends along the way there.

But my colleague wasn’t talking about that. She was talking about the side of me which can’t stand crumbs or leaves or bits of fluff on our office floor. She was talking about how I constantly straighten cushions and clean coffee stains and remove broken fingernails and stray eyebrow hairs from students’ desks (but thank God someone does it). How I gently push the ‘Come In’ sign just a little higher up on its miniature chain to make it hang perfectly, and wipe the dirty fingerprints from the many sticky glass doors in the building.

But surely that’s just my over-zealous work persona? On reflection I realise it’s not. I have a certain anal side at home too. Curtains not fully opened in the morning, squinty fluffy throws, the feather-filled sofa not quite fat enough. They all need the once-over from the Queen of Just Right. I’m definitely not the Queen of Perfectly Clean, just the ruler of some kind of weird superficial surface order.

Things get worse in the kitchen, especially inside the cutlery drawer and the dishwasher. I mean, how hard is it to put all the forks together, and the glasses on one side of the top tray and the mugs on the other? Very hard indeed obviously for Hubby and the girlies. What do they not understand?

Which reminds me of a joke. How many men does it take to change a toilet roll? Nobody knows, it’s never been done. Or if it is ever done the paper comes down from the wrong side and I have to turn it around.

Or do I? I wonder what would happen if, one day, I allowed each sheet to come from the back of the roll and not from the front? Would it stop doing its job the way it was meant to? Would we all leave that little blue-tiled space looking and feeling (and smelling) unclean?

Mmm. Probably not. But I’m way too anal to ever want to find out…

Image courtesy of Mother Nature Network, showing the right way for the paper to hang. Take note.

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There, their, they’re…

Words have been my playmates for decades. Ever since the Ladybird heroes of the sixties, Peter and Jane, and their huge black letters introduced me to dogs and balls and trees and toys, I have been surrounded by their magic.

They have taken me to enchanted forests, deserted islands, posh English boarding schools, scary American neighbourhoods. They have pulled me inside books and kept me hostage within the pages until the last one was turned, finally setting me free to return to my ordinary little life.

Those words were correctly shaped, spelt and structured long before my young eyes were allowed anywhere near their tight grasp. They had been checked and double-checked by editors, proofreaders and printers many months prior to appearing on my wobbly bookshelf. They were simply perfect. Each letter was in its place. Apostrophes were where they were supposed to be, or not there at all. All the grammar rules we learnt at school were respected to a tee. Or to a tea, or to a t? Who knows now? In any case, the words I found in all of my books were written just the way they were supposed to be written.

So what the f**k has happened?

I have tried to keep quiet about this, I swear. I certainly have no intention of becoming part of the “grammar police” force, or even worse a “grammar nazi” (I saw that terrifying term used recently on a blogpost).

But I have to speak up now, I’m afraid. I cannot button my lip any longer. Words are being used and abused and I have decided to stand up here and defend their right to exist in their original form, however dull and dreary that may be.

Yes, of course typos can happen and since we are all writing infinitely faster than ever before, mistakes are bound to happen. And there are rarely editors or proofreaders now checking the vast amount of material which flies freely and fitfully around the globe. But surely we should know the difference between write and right? Or there, their, or they’re?

Perhaps it is just an age thing, a premenopausal feeling of being poked in the eye with a blunt stick (I know it’s meant to be sharp but mine never is) whenever I see one of these screeching errors. Perhaps I am simply a pernickety, ageing, horribly difficult to please pain in the bum. But whenever I see a ‘your’ instead of a ‘you’re’ or an ‘it’s’ instead of an ‘its’ I want to spit on the page I am reading, yank it from the publication and then rip it to shreds. Excessive? No, just very difficult to do when reading on an iPad.

So, to finish off this grammar-rant, or maybe that could now be a grammarant, I have decided to provide below a quick review of the main points which bring the mucus to the back of my throat. And as Peter and Jane would not have said all those years ago – Look and F***ing Learn.

PS If the Chief Superintendent of the Grammar Police reads this and finds some grammatical or spelling mistakes, please give him or her my heartfelt apology’s (😉). Remember that this is all just a peace of thong-in-cheek fawn.

Image courtesy of amazon.com

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Fancy a spam sandwich?

After all the Christmas bingeing and before the New Year festivities hit us hard in the belly once more, how about a light dinner? A quick spam sandwich is on the menu here at OMG tonight.

I’ve never really paid much attention to the spam I get on my site. Okay, I admit it, I didn’t really know where it was.

I have read other bloggers’ accounts of the weird and wonderful nonsense they find in their spam folder. But I never thought of checking up on mine. Until today.

I’m glad I did. It has given me a good thirty minutes of guffawing as I tried to work out exactly what someone or something was trying to sell me.

I can only imagine that the following excepts from a much, much longer piece are all about jewellery. How it found its way here along a long, slippery path of bad translation from Russian (?) to semi-coherent English, fills me with wonder. And giggles. And don’t worry I didn’t click on any strange-looking link before copying it here for your delight tonight:

‘Russians have reason to believe in white and black, instead of tones most typically associated with off white.

lindsay lohan begins to be sad and a person understand why. after you tranquil the actual out of, You laboriously show the doll those things your financial allowance is a ring. she still believes that you’re miser, But you part with their money.’

Whaaaaat?? I honestly wonder what that sounded like in the original version. Surely not half as crazy? He (but he could be a ‘she’ or an ‘it’ or any other type of undefined alien blobform) then unexpectedly goes on to talk about his cousin and her vast, kitschy pal:

‘your darling chosen a beautifully-designed jewelry which has a an element who was the right and an acceptable size your money can buy. this has been a nothing more than I wished to pay, nevertheless it really had my cousin happy.

her very own very good friend that has kind of kitschy essence. vast and as a result showy is more superior in her opinion. ever so when my girl helps to keep researching it then in order to the group wife’s ring, pulling unfulfilled.’

What is a group wife, I wonder? Sounds a bit too polygamous for my liking. Anyway, to finally make me just long to press on that link and gain access to my own beautifully designed ‘jewelry’, he (she, it, blob) adds a little tiny teaser. The finale of all finales, making me water at the mouth and ready to buy, buy, buy:

‘this woman preserves hitting jane’s partner that alternate moving upward. Eventually, she will get the wedding band she all the time dreamed of. But it will end up pricing higher once time has passed when compared with what if in case he precisely invested in the bridal ring to start with.’

Poor Jane or maybe poor Jane’s partner or maybe poor cousin, poor doll, or poor Lindsay Lohan. All caught up in buying expensive jewellery when all they needed to do was come to my blog, check out my spam box and buy something exceptional at half the cost. I think.

Spam sandwiches. Don’t you just love them?

Image courtesy of The Spam Brand. And by the by, everything printed in italics above is absolutely unadulterated spam. Cross my heart.

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Except for my back which is killing me because I was leaning over from the waist for three hours solid. And my knees have a strange aztec design now ingrained on them, maybe for life, from kneeling on our hugely uncomfortable sisal flooring for the same amount of time. And my nails are all torn from trying to rip sellotape from a dispenser which didn’t want to dispense.

But the pressies are now all wrapped, done, dusted and sorted into huge, ugly carrrier bags which are so damn heavy that I think I might have misplaced something. Not a gift. Something internal.

Meanwhile, downstairs, my girls, who obviously come from another planet, or who were swapped with someone else’s baby at birth (surely not both of them?) were calmly and creatively making homemade gifts for the whole family. They then wrapped and stacked their delights into beautiful, vintage-style packages which they had acquired on a shopping trip to a neighbouring town a few weeks ago. It took them all afternoon, preparing, assembling, then tidying up. All of this was done in a harmonious sisterly mode whilst listening to loud music in the kitchen.

Whose kids are these? They have certainly never seen their mother behaving in such a festive fashion or their father ever even entertain such a seasonal thought.

But what they have done is amazing. Astonishingly simple, yet highly effective. And, more importantly, each hand-crafted gift holds a little part of them within it. And that has so much more value than a little present bought from the shops.

So even if my back and my knees are crying, and my nails tearing up, my heart is humming a little tune. The notes are full of love and pride and wonder at how we have been lucky enough to have been offered the gift of being the parents of these extraordinary young women. Nothing else could make me happier.

Merry Christmas to them and to you all.

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Charli’s challenge

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December 14, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the phrase “only in…” It can be used to tell a story about a profession, a place or situation. Go where the prompt leads you.

This was Charli Mill’s addictive flash fiction challenge at the Carrot Ranch this week. I’ve just ingurgitated my dose and fortunately it has taken me to a lighter level than my last somewhat depressing post.

So, in an unusual ‘back to my roots’ mood, I came up with a wee Scottish story. Just for fun…

The McWedding Day

“Gorgeous fabric.”

Mrs McGregor slid along the polished pew to get a better view down the aisle to the front of the church.

“You’re absolutely right, Jean. But it’s a wee bit short, don’t you think?”

“No, but maybe too tight on the hips. Makes it rather lumpy over the bum.”

The organist struck up the first chords and every head turned towards the beaming bride, entering on her father’s arm.

An old Irish cousin, one row back, whispered into her neighbour’s ear – “Only in Scotland could you comment on the groom’s kilt as much as the bride’s gown!”

Image courtesy of etsy.com

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For adults only…

If anyone had had a camera to take a photo of my face at the precise moment of discovery, it would have travelled around cyber-space for a century or more.

Pure shock, horror, and disbelief.

“Who did this? Who the hell did this?” I muttered over and over, my eyes flitting between my colleagues trying to see who looked the guiltiest.

None of them did, but they were all laughing. And laughing. Because it was me, the mum of the show, the fifty year old prude, the one who doesn’t like to mock or tease or talk about anything ‘naughty’.

So if it wasn’t one of them, who was it, goddammit?

“Someone on the bus” my clever colleague remarked. And of course he was undoubtedly right.

Some snotty kid, sitting right behind me, pencil-case to hand, a felt tip pen at the ready, waiting to have its cap removed and trailed across my jacket with the quick flick of an experienced wrist. My drooping hood at the perfect height for his hand. The fake fur inside that hood just thick enough to prevent me from feeling even the slightest scratch of the artist’s tool. Crafty. Little. Git.

I do now remember a lot of hilarity going on in the bus that day. And it was no bloody wonder.

Drawing an almost prehistorically naive picture of a very small part of a man’s anatomy on an ‘old woman’s’ jacket must have made their day. It certainly made my colleagues’ day.

Not mine, however. It took me many long minutes of insistent scrubbing to take it away.

But naturally I couldn’t let it disappear without leaving some evidence of its existence, in true Grotte de Lascaux style.

So let me now make your day too, dearest punks. Cast an eye over this magnificent piece of modern artwork upon textile, circa 2017.

Priceless.

One colleague suggested it may be a double scoop ice cream cone. Nah, don’t think so…

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Flashy Selection Box

Some of you may be wondering what on earth has bitten me and made me start writing all this flash fiction. Nobody? Oh well, I’m going to tell you anyway. Or try to tell you because I’ve been asking myself the same question recently. I did try to explain the feeling as that of an itch being scratched. But I suspect it has become more than that. I think I’m addicted. And it’s not the first time that something has grabbed me and won’t let me go. Small ads had the same effect on me just a short while ago.

But flashing is nothing like looking for a vintage teak table with matching black leatherette chairs, or an absolutely unaffordable house with both a view and a pool.

At least I’m using my brain doing this and not just wearing out my already tired eyes, scrolling and scrolling through the equivalent of a gigantic messy jumble sale.

How does it work, did I hear you ask? Nope? Come on, ask. So, now the flash fiction contest is over, the regular challenge starts with a weekly prompt from an extraordinary lady named Charli Mills. We then have 99 words, no more no less (not including the title) to come up with an idea and turn it into a story, going down whichever path we choose. Charli then collects all the entries and posts them the following week on her site. The variety is amazing. Everybody has a different take on the same prompt, some funny, others sad, or thought-provoking, or troubling, or just downright insane.

And since Christmas is a-comin’, below is a little selection box of some of my veerings into Flashland.

The prompts for these three examples were a more eloquent and detailed version of the following:

1. Self-care.

2. Five things we need every day.

3. A chair on a porch.

As soon as I read the prompt my brain moves into first gear and I’m off. By the time I reach the office I have an idea. By the time I get home it is almost in place, or if my boss has left, it is already on the page at wordcounter.net and ready to be pasted and posted before I leave work. But shhhh…

I hope you enjoy these little snippets of fiction which strangely seem to come from somewhere beyond my normal brain cells.

Blue Moon

She never knew which one to choose. She owned dozens, all lined up in neat, colourful rows inside a shiny, purple box.

Their names were so extravagant – Mayfair Lane, Undercover Show, Pussycat was Here.

She settled for Misty Jade, a colour from the depths of the Caribbean sea.

Slowly stroking the brush onto her short, brittle nails, she dreamt of an island, with warmer climes, where she wouldn’t have to work so hard.

A place where she could paint her nails, lie back and idly watch them dry, every single day. Not just once in a pale blue moon.

S.L.E.E.P.

Heather pulled the pink woollen hat over Emily’s curls.

“What do you need to do at school today?”

“Sleep!”

Emily knew their routine by heart. “Smile. Laugh. Enjoy… I can never say the fourth one.”

“Empathise.”

“Yeah, that. And play.”

“Right.”

Heather prayed hard that her daughter would taste these five ingredients every day of her life, both now and later.

The yellow bus arrived and Emily skipped aboard, grinning at the driver. She turned to wave.

“Sleep well, my petal-face.”

“You too, Mummy. You must try hard too.”

Heather smiled. It was a start. A very good start.

No Goodbye

It was the most beautiful armchair in the whole house. Carefully crafted from a thick coppery leather, it had softened and smoothed since it had left the shop all those years ago.

A faded, red, feather-filled cushion sat far back into its spine, rubbed shiny where her body had pressed hard against it every day, for as long as they could all remember.
They would have loved to drop wearily into its comforting warmth, but it had sat empty for months, ever since she had slipped slowly from its embrace onto the cool porch floor, without even saying goodbye.

P.S. Why not give flash a try? Then we could be junkies together…😉


Image courtesy of notintherulebook

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