Project Blackbird Snack Bar

Project Garden

I love projects, I have about sixteen on the go at the moment. Yes they are exhausting and yes it is a little sad when I consider that I will never finish them but they were so exciting in the beginning. There was the great project for an art piece for my sister’s kitchen, his and her wedding masks, the garden and all its many projects, the website design project, the fiction book, the eat healthy project, the get up early project, the walk to the beach every day project, the make a stick trellis for the raspberries project… until yesterday I thought it was just me. I’ve been reading (listening to) the book Happy by Derren Brown. The subtitle is, Why more or less everything is absolutely fine. Very uplifting. Derrren is the illusionist, magician guy from the telly and he’s very interesting. Anyways, it’s a long book and I’ve been reading (listening to) it on and off for months and yesterday he had started talking about death… yes, I know, interesting. He was saying, among other things, that humans love projects. All humans. So it’s completely natural that I love projects. Funny thought, lately, I have been falling out of love with my projects.

Project Potatoes

I get very excited when I think of a new project, I fall in love with it and fantasise about us walking together along a sandy beach into the sunset. It’s all very romantic. But just at the moment when the project becomes real, the love disappears, the sand becomes stony and there’s a thunderstorm. This is at the precise point where I have to jump into the unknown. Maybe I have to learn something new or share something stupid or risk looking ridiculous or I just don’t know what to do next. By that point I have committed and have to stay with the new project until death do us part. Very often I can’t wait for death to do us part. Now I think the problem is I commit to the project before having a good look at what exactly is involved. I will be more careful in future.

Project Jigsaw

Like our blackbirds. I say OUR, they are in fact wild blackbirds but they do seem to be getting friendly. So, back when Eilish was still here, she and I researched home composting. Before I go any further let me be clear – the research was not in a scientific way… we searched on Youtube for a video about home composting. It was very interesting… and confusing. So in order to get started we stopped watching and summarised what we remembered (not a lot) from the fifteen videos we’d already watched and began home composting. This is a perfect example of a project.

Project Trellis

We already had a compost bin but it was stuffed to the top with rose bush pruning that was not turning into compost. First step, empty the bin. Then start adding vegetable peelings, paper towels, grass clippings and leaves. Keep the bin uncovered. This did mess with the structural integrity of the bin but I found a bungie chord to sort that. Finally, add water regularly. Only a week had passed when Eilish spotted the first member of our blackbird family popping in for a nibble. Yes, popping into the compost bin to root around in our leftovers! Well, we thought it might be the leftovers but there were bugs in there too so maybe that’s what they were after.

Project Blackbird Snack Bar

Last Friday I was sitting in the garden sending a text to my mother, telling her about the blackbirds when one jumped up on the compost bin. Since I had my phone in my hand I turned on the video and watched him getting started on his own project. He stood on the edge of the bin for a long time looking in, looking around, looking back in again. He walked around the edge of the bin and nearly toppled a few times but fortunately he had wings to help him balance. He washed himself, got interested in other birds and possibly me filming him. Then after a very, very long time, four minutes and ten seconds to be precise… he jumped in. He’s right to be careful, there are a lot of dangers around but the compost probably smells irresistibly good.

Project Walk to the Beach

From now on I’m not going to fall in love with the next irresistibly lovely smelling idea, I’m going to take my time looking into it and walking around it. I’ll tell myself I have plenty of projects, finish one of them first or better yet, finish them all.

Project Masks (Hello Roisín!)

Also, wouldn’t it be amazing to have a camera permanently mounted over the compost bin? We could watch the blackbirds when they are inside the bin and we could set up a live feed to a website and… NOoooooo! Danger danger, that’s a project luring me in, stay back! Have to go now, I think there’s a an old camera in the attic.

May you be well, Mairead.

Posted in Gardening, Life Story | Tagged , , , ,

Another New Normal

True Love

Eilish is gone. No, she’s not dead. She’s just gone home. We are learning to live in this new normal. How many new normals will there be?

A friend reminded me that Darwin’s theory was not about survival of the fittest but survival of the adaptable and we are learning to adapt. Denis is adapting well to my nagging. Didn’t Darwin talk about supporting your wife’s adaptability? Yes, I definitely remembering hearing something about that.

Before she left Eilish made us a Victoria Sandwich. It’s ok there’s no bread in it…

Anyway, the garden will never be the same, which is a blessing but now I have to adapt to doing the gardening on my own. So far I have fixed the compost heap with a bungie cord, pulled more than six weeds and watered Denis’ basil plants. Not entirely sure but I may need to increase my efforts.

We tried to kidnap Sadie…

The house also will never be the same, Denis emptied the dishwasher on the first morning AE (after Eilish) so that either means he’s going to keep doing it or next time it’s my turn. I would like to include optimism in my adaptability so I think he’s going to keep doing it.

These lovely things popped up in our front wasteland

We have a grocery delivery today and in the spirit of adaptability I added a game of chance to keep our spirits up. There’s a window of two hours during which the groceries will arrive. Today, if they arrive in the first hour I will get them and unpack them and put them away, all on my own. But if they arrive in the second hour Denis will do it on his own. We’re halfway through the first hour, anyone want to get involved in a side bet?

The old road…

Oh, the dog is gone too. Eilish took Sadie, with her. Yes we are grieving. Ok she was very annoying when she barked but she only barked when someone came to the door (not a lot of that lately) or when we kissed (also, not a lot of that lately) because kissing is like attacking someone with your teeth to Sadie… Or when any of us picked up the door keys or when the seagulls made seagull noise or when a cat sauntered through the back garden. Or when she heard an unusual noise or… actually, she barked a lot. But in the evening when we all sat down to watch Downton Abbey (family show, no violence, no bad language, no sex scenes, nice costumes, perfect for Sadie) she sat on my lap and fell asleep. Awww. Making it impossible for me to get anything from the kitchen so Denis had to serve me. Awww. .

Look! The strawberries are nearly here!

We’ve been in contact and unfortunately Eilish is very happy at home and not interested in coming back so we’ll have to carry on without her. Maybe have a mother-in-law section?

May you be well, Mairead.

Posted in Gardening, Wilderness | Tagged , , , ,

We have a flour mountain…

Sadie’s favourite place to watch the neighbour’s cat

We seem to be settling into a bit of a rut here at the moment, one day is very like the rest with spikes of excitement on grocery days and 5km walk day but last week there was a huge spike.

Sadie’s “well, any chance of a walk?” face

We now have roadmap of the proposed situation for the next four months and in celebration Denis and I walked to the petrol station to buy a newspaper. It’s less than 2km but this was Saturday morning and the new 5km walking limit didn’t start until Tuesday. Anyways, it was a beautiful sunny day. When we arrived I waited outside, Denis went in with his makeshift mask.

Flour Hero!

Ten minutes later from my seat on the curb, I am speechless, Denis is standing in front of me with two bags of precious flour. They have a small shop in the petrol station and I did tell him to keep an eye out for flour but I never thought there would be any. Oh the excitement. We have been eating Eilish’s creations ever since.

(This is the only picture of the Curney Cake, you’re lucky to get it, normally there no time to take a picture before I eat it)

But now I think I might have a problem. I am secretly cutting slices from the Curney Cake (an absolutely delicious crusty scone cake with sultanas and orange zest) and slathering it in butter. No one knows why the cake is getting smaller and smaller, except me. Also, on an unrelated matter, no one knows why my cheeks are getting chubbier, I might be allergic to one of the plants in the garden? When Tuesday (the start of the 5km walking) finally arrived Eilish and I set out for the sea and we brought a picnic and the dog. Another beautiful day. Another Curney Cake, this time as well as butter there was Rhubarb Jam. Yes Eilish has made three and a half pots of Rhubarb and Ginger Jam. Yes I’m eating that too. But at least we are walking everyday.

View from our picnic

Oh, full disclosure, we drove to the beach and had a little walk, no need to over do it on our first day. Must rush, there’s an emergency in the kitchen – the Curney Cake is all gone, I need to tell Eilish. Only two and a half kilos of flour to go.

May you be well, Mairead.

Posted in Travel

New Normal Gifting

Eilish modeling my scarf

I could hear Eilish rustling papers in the larder and wanted to know what she was up to, she told me to stop being so curious. Next thing she arrives out with a brown paper parcel tied with yarn. It was for me! The scarf she’s been crocheting for two weeks is mine! I have been eyeing it up since the day she started and she must have noticed. A note fell out as I was opening it. A very funny note about these strange times and our little community.

Brown paper parcel

On Sunday my FenceChat neighbour Aileen put on her angel wings and sent some self-raising flour over the fence. In case you don’t know, flour, of any variety has been impossible to get in the online supermarket delivery. That’s ok I don’t need the extra calories but we were missing the creative possibilities. Eilish’s hidden break-the-rules tendency comes to the fore when she thinks about baking. She’s been scouring the cook books looking for a recipe to break. The contents of our larder has constrained her a bit but in spite of that yesterday she made apple and clove queen cakes and tomorrow she has promised raspberry buns. I will need to increase the number of 2km walks and I’m searching Youtube to find out how to let out my jeans.

We’re nearly finished the most difficult jigsaw on the planet

In other news, my mother told me a story that made me cry. There’s a school near her nursing home and this week lots of letters arrived from the children. My mother got one from a ten year old boy and she read it to me. It was adorable and as newsy as a ten year old boy can be but the line that got me was, “everyday on our way to school we wave at your home” I’m tearing up again now, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I shared the story with Eilish and I couldn’t get past this line and again with Denis. It just doesn’t get old for me. I’m imaging the boy and his mother or it could be his granny driving him to school, maybe there’s a brother or sister and the adult is kind and she says, look here we are, start waving! Of course they’re not going to school at the moment so he waves in a letter. Isn’t that beautiful? I’m dribbling on the keypad. Oh and my mother has written back to him. She used her last stamp! Holy god, I’m in bits.

May you be well, Mairead.

Posted in gratitude, regular | Tagged , , , ,

The TO DO List exploded…

My porridge sends you a heart!

We are still working away in the garden but we have slowed down. Thankfully. My back was starting to ache and Eilish was getting better at being the boss of me. She has a very productive way of getting me off a chair, she goes out into the garden and leaves the back door open. Did you know the east wind is still blowing? The east wind is very cold when you’re sitting in a chair. Fortunately she’s ready for a break now too and I’m encouraging her to take one, she really needs to slow down… I’m not getting any younger. Where would we go if we took a break, though? We’re already on a break, aren’t we? What kind of un-magical rethinking made this seem like work?

The cherry blossom on our route turned to confetti

I blame the TO DO list. We were moseying along from weed to hedge, to seedlings, to shed, cutting and picking and shredding and painting. Happily doing just one thing at a time and getting loads done. Then I thought I might be missing something, forgetting something. I came up with a great idea (not) to make a TO DO list. I was thrilled. I wrote down all the jobs we were doing and every time we had a good idea I added that to the list. When it came to two pages I felt very productive. Well I was productive, I had produced two pages of words. That’s great, isn’t it? No, it’s not.

The shed disguised as a beach hut

I could have sat looking at that productive list for a long time, if it wasn’t for the open door and the east wind blowing. Instead I got to work. Every time we stopped for a drink or a meal I would return to the TO DO list to scratch off something and I soon realised a mistake. It was only the first mistake. I had made the items on the list too broad, not detailed enough. Each item could easily cover twenty steps. Some steps needed two lines. Two days in I decided we needed a more detailed TO DO list. It took me an hour and more paper but I had a great list. I took a drink break and then went back to the garden.

Bluebells turned up in the front garden

Today I looked at the list. The ginormous list. I am overwhelmed. My overwhelm is slowing me down, I am doing less. I have slowly increased the number of drink breaks and even added a sit-quietly-in-a-dark-room break. I no longer care about the east wind. I wrap my blanket around my legs to keep warm now when Eilish goes outside. We will never, I repeat, never finish the TO DO list…

Our prize rootball… we celebrate every success

I’m starting to mumble to myself here in my dark room and just now I heard myself ask, Would it be ok to tear up the TO DO list? No! It would not be ok, I heard the garden police reply. Do the garden police even exist? They might not. I’m tearing up the TO Do list.

May you be well, Mairead.

Posted in Gardening | Tagged , , , ,

Community Spirit


(There was rain, beautiful rain)

I want to tell you a story about something that happened before I started writing about the new normal journey. The day after Eilish arrived in Greystones, Denis began feeling unwell. He rang the doctor and spoke to the receptionist who explained the procedure. He went on to the HSE (Irish health service) website to fill in a form for a test and then he went into self-isolation in our bedroom. I moved into the box room and we all lived happily ever after…

(The rain fell on the farmyard manure)

The next day I got up early to go to the supermarket. I wanted to do the shopping at a time when it would be quiet but when I got a text message from my sister-in-law, Helen, wishing me a happy St. Patrick’s Day I realised… it was St. Patrick’s Day. The supermarket wouldn’t be open early. Something cracked inside and I realised there were some things from now on that I couldn’t control and shopping in a quiet supermarket was one of them. Later that day I looked at the click and collect options and I booked a slot for the following week. Ok, I can do this, I’ll go to the supermarket early tomorrow instead but in the meantime I know we will have food next week no matter what.

(And it fell on the wire that will hold up the climbers)

Next morning, I delivered Denis’ breakfast and got dressed up to go to the supermarket. I hadn’t realised I was so tense, after all it’s just a supermarket trip, what’s so scary? When I opened the front door there was a leaflet on the porch floor.

(The leaflet, I’ve covered the personal details)

It read,
If you are self-isolating, I can help. My name is Orla… I’m part of a local volunteer network and live in…. My phone number is…
There was a list of things she could help with including talking on the phone. There were phone numbers for the HSE and Alone (charity for older people) and there were guidelines about the virus. At the bottom of the note there was a note saying how she and her neighbour had used hand sanitiser before preparing the leaflets and how they had used it again between visiting each house.

(Sun came out and painting moved to the fence)

I don’t know Orla but in that moment I loved her. I’d never heard of a local volunteer group. Did someone see the same news reports as me and instead of getting anxious, got organised? Orla was somewhere out there with kindness in her heart and a bundle of notes under her arm and if she was doing that then I could do this. I could be organised too.

(One down only 12 more to go…)

I got the groceries, it was very quiet in the supermarket. I went to the chemist, there was a small queue. All was well. Later that day I sent Orla a text to thank her, she said it was happening all over Greystones. She said she lived on the next green to me. I said I was really grateful for her note and we were fine for food but if there was anything I could do to please let me know. I made her a card and when I took Sadie for a walk I posted it in her post box. First, I laminated it and wiped it down with hard sanitiser.

(One and a half done… more to do)

While I was delivering the card I noticed there were children in Orla’s house (no I was not staking out her house…) Can you imagine the stories those children will tell their grandchildren about this time? They will say that their mother printed and cut up leaflets for nearly two hundred houses and that she sanitised her hands every time she popped one in a letter box. That she walked to every one of those houses letting people know they were not alone. That she went to the supermarket for her neighbours who couldn’t. That she chatted on the phone to strangers, reassuring them. I can imagine memories like that having the ability to sustain communities long after this is over. There’s a bigger prize than normality waiting for us on the other side of this.

May you be well, Mairead.

Posted in Life Story | Tagged , , , ,

Hidden Shed Treasures

(I suppose white is bright…)

And now we’re painting. Not art, no, the shed. Well it was bound to happen. I blame Eilish. She saw the old paint tins that I was storing until next year or the year after when I’d get the date right and take them to the town council car park for the toxic dump day. I never got the day right and here we are with a hidden stash of rusted paint tins. I’d never have opened them. I might have started burying them but I’d never have opened them. Eilish opened them.

(My shine a light on Easter Saturday night… Christmas angel from Sally)

The first surprise for me was that they are not rusted on the inside. Nope, not even a little bit. The second surprise was that even though we bought them for one purpose they can be used for something else… like a shed. I know, crazy right?

(We found this in the larder… yes, we ate it… at Easter. The rule book has been burned)

Eilish painted the shed door on a day in the recent past, as I no longer know what day today is it could have been Thursday or Friday or Saturday? Then yesterday I painted one side, we are very grateful that there are only two sides accessible therefore we are more than halfway finished already.

(Long life custard… I’m not sure it means you will have a long life if you eat it but I’m willing to experiment)

I have secretly dreamed of painting the shed for years. I have. I’d see brightly coloured little sheds on Pinterest or in the paint catalogue at Woodies and I’d think, some day…the day came. If only I had been buying the paint in Woodies, a brightly coloured shed might be in my future but no, our rusting tins of paint contain only white.

We like finished.

And therein hides a dilemma. Did I mention we got some jigsaws from the Cork art and craft shop that delivers? It’s called it’s well known in Cork so of course Eilish knew about it but when her daughter-in-law, Helen, suggested we might get some project supplies, Eilish and I did something we’d never done before.

(Jigsaws are fun…)

We went online shopping. Now there’s pyjamas and unmentionables (Eilish doesn’t like when I call them knickers) arriving tomorrow, the jigsaws arrived on Friday and there was a crochet kit too. We started the jigsaw and pretty soon just wanted it finished. Jigsaws are very frustrating. You get one piece to fit and you think, I can do this, this is great. Then the next 64 pieces you try won’t fit, I can’t do this, this is soooooo frustrating. In the midst of the frustration it’s really hard to notice that you got that jigsaw to have a jigsaw experience. And jigsaw experiences contain both highs and lows. Like life. Wishing for it to be finished is like wishing your life away.

(Seen on our 2km walk. There’s a lot of beauty out on our street that I hadn’t noticed before)

I’ve know about this dilemma for a while now but I forget… like in the middle of the jigsaw or painting the shed or when we can’t get flour in our supermarket delivery or when the lockdown is extended. So today I’m going to remember that gratitude is the cure for wishing my life away. I am grateful that the people in Vibes and Scribes are working. I’m grateful that my Mam taught me to bake scones when I was a child and that baking them still brings me joy. I am grateful that Eilish will never let a half empty rusty tin of paint be wasted. I am grateful that I am here and now and safe and well.

May you be well, Mairead.

PS. Eilish has just uncovered a rusty tin of blue paint, we haven’t opened it yet… I am beyond excited!

Posted in Travel

The shredder is all mine…

(Growing baby daisy’s in the maternity ward)

The gardening continues. I’ve just realised this might be why my dabbling in the garden previously didn’t bear fruit (pun intended.) It’s a continuous game, gardening. Persistence is rewarded and popping in and out once a month is very much discouraged. Maybe that’s why a team of gardeners is a good thing. We have a team here at the moment one of us is part-time but we’re getting the most out of him. In spite of his protests about being too busy I’ve seen him secretly checking out the growth of our seeds in the maternity ward.

(Here we are in prenatal… with little Rose)

So last weekend was the first weekend Denis was able to get into the garden. Eilish had a list of jobs ready for him and I learned a thing or two about keeping him on point and not wandering off to do something he liked better. The phrase, oh no you’re not finished here yet! stops him in his tracks. Let me just write that down for future use.

(FenceChat location)

He fixed the fence between our house and my friend Aileen and now I’m not worried about falling over it during our weekly FenceChat. It’s a new app like zoom but no one freezes, except from the cold.

He also hammer-actioned some screws into some wood and fixed the shed door. It seems lifting the door with one foot while undoing the bolt was not the intended way to get into the shed. We are saving a ton of time without all the gymnastics.

(Can you see those fabulous hammer-action screws?)

Then Eilish found my new favourite tool – a shredder. It was at the back of the shed and one of the things I didn’t know I was grateful for… I woke up on Friday morning with a brilliant idea. With all our enthusiasm in the first weeks we had filled three huge garden bags and numerous smaller black bags with garden debris. Then we had run out of bags and no way of getting more so we were at a tipping point… On the one hand neatly cut plants and pulled weeds, on the other, towering piles of plant cuttings and weeds. I have to be very particular when taking photos for you, one centimeter too far to the right or left and you will be horrified.

(Denis was a little too wide angle on this shot… but there’s me and my shredder)

I started using my shredder (it’s mine) on Saturday. By the way, I’m the only one allowed to use the shredder, safety issues, you understand. Stay well back now. (Don’t tell them but it’s nothing to do with safety, it’s all about the optics, I look like I’m doing a lot but the machine is doing it all. Kinda like how I used to think about ironing before I realised no one was noticing my neat piles of ironed clothes left lying around the house for weeks. The noise of the shredder ensures everyone knows I’m hard at work…)

(Here’s Denis working on the fence or maybe he’s doing a little dance?)

So now I’m shredding (well ok the machine is shredding) the contents of the garden debris bags. On top of that we can use the shredded material for mulch (impressed? that’s a new word in my vocabulary, maybe I will become a gardening app next?) on the front garden. It works best with woody material so the weeds will have to turn themselves into compost on their own. For that purpose we have found a good spot and they are hard at work.

(Even with that big pile of rubbish, this is still my favourite spot to sit and do nothing)

Well to be honest they are slow at work, very slow but that’s ok, slow is acceptable too. I can feel myself slowing down too, is it time to sit and enjoy the garden yet?

May you be well, Mairead.

Posted in Gardening, gratitude, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , ,

The fairy princess and the dragon…

There will be a short story time interval from the garden…

Dorothy's Garden(Disclaimer:This is not my garden. This is Dorothy’s garden. One day my garden will grow up and be like Dorothy’s garden… maybe)

Once upon a time there was a little fairy princess called Betty…

Betty didn’t know she was a fairy princess, neither did her family or her friends or any of the people in her town. But she was.

Rain plant(There was rain)

They all thought what she did was just normal, ordinary, nothing special. This is what she did… every night when she fell asleep she made bandages in her dreams and every morning she walked through the town handing the bandages to everyone she met.

Rain Pegs(Rain here too)

Then one day everything changed. A huge angry dragon arrived at the edge of town and started screaming fireballs out through his mouth and down Church Street. Everyone was terrified. Including the fairy princess but she had a job to do so she carried on. It was a little more difficult today as everyone was hiding in their houses so Betty had to push her bandages through letter boxes or leave them in porches. The dragon had made everything very hot and Betty’s clothes and hands and face were getting a little scorched but she kept going and eventually had delivered all the bandages… except one.

Shed Love(No rain here… impressive, right? Yes, there’s still ivy but this is a marathon not a sprint)

Betty knew who this one was for and she was more than a little afraid but she carried on. On to the edge of town where the dragon stood. When he saw Betty coming towards him he hiccuped and the fireballs stopped. Betty held out her last bandage and the dragon took it. Then Betty turned around and walked back through the town towards home. All the townspeople looking out their windows were astonished and started to clap. Betty heard the clapping and joined in (she really didn’t know she was a fairy princess but everyone else in town was starting to suspect…)

Buds(Look! Buds!)

Next morning the dragon was still there and Betty did the same thing she always did, she gave out her bandages and as she approached the dragon he hiccuped again then reached out towards Betty and took his bandage. Betty turned around and walked home clapping along when she heard the townspeople from their houses.

Worm(Can you see the worm? Gardener’s friend)

This went on for weeks. Betty was running out of un-scorched clothes. The townspeople were wondering if they’d every walk down Church Street again when one morning as Betty was handing the bandage to him, the dragon spoke…

Thank you.

Seed Sprout(Sorry it’s a bit fuzzy in the seed maternity ward… one of our seeds has sprouted!)

We are the townspeople and we are beginning to suspect that we have some fairy princesses living among us.

To a fairy princess called Val, thank you, x.

To my fairy princess sister in law, Helen, thank you, x.

To the fairy princesses who take care of my mother in the nursing home, thank you, x.

To the fairy princess guy with the tattoos in the supermarket click and collect in Greystones who keeps us fed, thank you, x.

There’s every likelihood that you are a fairy princess too because I’m beginning to suspect you’ve been one all along, thank you, x.

May you be well, Mairead.


Posted in Travel

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

(This is clematis and it is going to look beautiful soon… possibly)

New experiences continue here and we’re like children (nice children, not cranky children…) as we discover different ways to be in the world together. Denis has returned to the fold and we welcomed him with open mouths as he is cooking again. I can hear him chopping while I type – there isn’t a nicer sound.

(You think you’re missing your hairdresser? Sadie is so concerned she needs Denis to reassure her that Eilish isn’t going to stab her)

Our latest endeavor has kind of snuck up on us. Like everyone else I’ve been doing a bit of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle for years but now I realise I was only playing at it! HaHa, Ha, I laugh in the face of my previous efforts. Here’s what’s happening…

(You can’t eat yarn…)

Yesterday Eilish came in to measure my head. Oh yes, I’ve forgotten to tell you why but first… she arrives over with her knitting, her needles and yarn in a bag. I thought I recognised the bag… And then I thought I’d wet myself with the laughing. You’ll never guess what the bag was? No don’t try, you won’t guess. It was a Tesco Finest Oatmeal and Linseed Loaf bag… (our favourite bread, that we can’t get any more by the way…) Inside you could see the yarn peeping through. Now this is more like it, now we can honestly say we are, REUSING our plastic. Also, every time I look at the bag I remember with affection the bread, oh how we loved you, Tesco Finest Oatmeal and Linseed Loaf, sniff.

(Here are our potatoes, can you see anything? No, me neither but soon…)

So back to the knitting and my head measurements… We are getting all our groceries from click and collect so someone else does our shopping (thank you ❤) and I collect it in the car park of the supermarket. It works well for groceries. Not so well for hairbands. My hair is growing and it’s getting in my face and I find myself swearing and flailing my arms all around the place when I realise I’m about to touch my face to get the stray hairs back. So I thought, wouldn’t a hairband be very useful? And there was a hairband on the supermarket website shop, perfect, right? Alas, no. When the delivery came the hairband was in the Not Available list. 😟 Eilish could see more swearing and flailing in her future so she offered to rip some of my crochet squares ( I have sensed for a long time that she didn’t like my crochet…?) and use the yarn to make a hairband. RECYCLING!

(Hairband doing its job, send Eilish your head measurements if you want one we have 6 stamps left and loads of crochet squares… we’ll happily send you one (free, we’re just having fun here) and then you’ll be recycling too…😁)

We were talking about opening up a website shop because she’s already on the second hairband and I only have one head. But then we realised if the shop was successful we’d never have time to go out in the garden… I can probably wear more than one hairband at a time.

(My favourite gardening tool at the moment, fantastic for management of strong emotions… I hear)

I wish I had a story about how we are REDUCE -ing but with all the baking we’ve been doing nothing’s getting reduced except the contents of the bag of flour. That reminds me… Eilish was telling me that during the war years people used to sew flour bags together to make bed sheets. Yes, I did wonder how comfortable paper sheets could be… turns out the flour bags were made of cotton… oh right.

May you be well, Mairead.

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Learned Experiences

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(Our shed-growing daffodils are still going strong)

I realised something today. Although it seems like NOT a lot is happening here, there’s a lot happening here. Only last week I learned how to make a loaf of brown bread that would not break your teeth. As Denis and I get older we become more fond of our teeth so this feels like perfect timing. Up until now I did not think this was possible but kidnapping Eilish has opened up a whole new range of experiences.

It’s harder than you think… one of the projects we intend to master

Did you know you have to feed plants every week? You do! Eilish has a catchy way of remembering, Miracle Grow Every Friday. Yes that’s it, ok, not very catchy and yet I have remembered it. She did steal it from a lady in a garden center and we do have to change it to Miracle Grow Every Tuesday but still… We’ll see if it makes a difference in the garden.

This one does break teeth

There’s an north east wind blowing today. Did you know that? Seemingly, it’s a very cold wind when it blows. I have a weather app on my phone and I can connect with Met Eireann (weather office in Ireland) but Eilish is her own weather app. In the distant past when she lived at home in her own house and I’d ring her for a chat, the first thing she always wanted to know was, what was the weather like with me. And I’d squint out the window or look at my app to tell her. These days, I always know the weather! Ooh that feels like a change in pressure, did you feel it, Do you think it might be going to rain a bit? That’s the kind of thing I find myself saying. One day I’m gong to be a weather app too.

(The knitting)

With the change in the wind and the lowering of temperatures neither of us wanted to go out in the garden today. Probably just as well as we have a few other projects to dip into. The first is knitting. We found a knit-along channel on YouTube called Arne and Carlos. They are two Norwegian guys who have to quarantine in their home for two weeks because they were travelling outside Norway. Norway’s got very precise instruction. Anyways they thought it would be a good idea to organize something to keep them company and to keep other people company too. So they designed a bunch of knitting block patterns. Eilish and I are learning how to knit with two different colours at the same time. I don’t know what it’s called but there’s a lot of counting and Eilish has learned to swear…

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(These might be weeds, we don’t know yet)

I can’t imagine how Denis is going to cope with the changes in the two of us when he gets out of self-isolation tomorrow. Not that he’ll have time to notice… he’s on dinner duty for the rest of his life after this.

May you be well, Mairead.


Posted in Travel

The Journey

(Practicing Garden Therapy)

Today is the day we were booked to travel on the ferry from Rosslare to France ❤️ then onto Spain ❤️ on our journey to Portugal ❤️. Right about now I would be writing my first post from the car park of the services area near Gorey. But everything changed and here we all are on a different kind of journey. Together.

(Watching Eilish playing in the shed)

I’m sitting in my garden and I can tell you one thing I didn’t know before, I am very lucky to have a garden. I have been neglecting her but she waited, hibernated even, let herself go a bit with the grief of missing my care. I’m sorry, garden. I’ll do better. I think that’s one of the things this journey is going to be about – gratitude for the things I didn’t know I had.

(We are collecting sticks… I’ll explain another day)

Another thing about this journey is that there’s three of us. Denis, whom I’m usually living with in close confines, has been self-isolating for the past ten days, we talk on the phone now. I suppose I should add him to the list of things I’m grateful for. I didn’t realise how much I have got used to his presence. I am finding it surprisingly easy to be annoyed by his absence which I find surprisingly easy to turn into annoyance with him but he’s taking it well. I’m obviously not trying hard enough.

(Aren’t they lovely?)

Eilish is here too, Denis’ Mom (Denis and his five brothers all call their Mam, Mom – might be a Cork thing.) Eleven days ago we gave her an ultimatum and bundled her into the car to come live with us. Right about now I sense she’s ready to bolt. I’m really grateful she’s here though because she’s a huge distraction. You know, like Netflix?

(The description said they were ground cover and seemingly that means less weeds?)

When I’m not watching her we’ve been navigating a way to be two strong women sharing one house… politely. (Politely because Eilish doesn’t use swear words, I love them! I have found a way to make her laugh when I’m swearing though, I love to make her laugh.) She has a very different way of looking at things and she definitely thinks there’s one right way to do stuff. I don’t think there’s one right way… and I know I’m right…

(That’s wild garlic. Liam, one of Eilish’s sons, gave it to me last year and it survived!)

We are very alike in many ways, we like crafting and more recently gardening and Denis, we like Denis, mostly. We are also very different. She likes crafts to be exactly like the pattern intended, I don’t like following the pattern. I think weeds are just flowers planted in the wrong place and she thinks that’s crazy talk. I bet when she reads this she’ll say, Now, don’t mind me, Mairead but maybe just take a few more pictures of the garden and say less?

(Look! Ivy grows in our shed!)

It was my Dad’s birthday yesterday, he’d have been 99. I was thinking of him and the time of the petrol crisis (that was when we thought not having petrol was the worst thing that could happen to us.) He had a petrol station during the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s and the petrol crisis was a highpoint for him. He realised that how he behaved then would underscore the rest of his business life. So he was kind. He rationed the petrol so there would be enough for everyone. Even if you weren’t a customer, even if he didn’t know you or would never see you again. Thirty years later people from different parts of Ireland were dropping in to thank him and remind him of how he helped them when they most needed it.

He reminds me that my behaviour now will underscore the rest of my life. I’m negotiating my way through this and it’s not in every moment but most of the time, I try to be kind.

May you be well, Mairead.

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Back in Ireland

(Passing gates, grass, hedges and ploughed fields on our way home…)

We did indeed have calm seas with just a bit of waving motion which I don’t like so I went back to bed until it passed.

When we finally arrived at home trick or treat was in full swing. It was pitch dark, children and adults were wandering on and off the paths. Fireworks were exploding and it took a bit of effort to negotiate the reversing of Ruby into her spot. The freezer had defrosted itself while we were away so that needed attention. Everything else was fine.

Now it’s the next morning and time to write a to do list, hug the washing machine and get the groceries. Oh and empty Ruby, we couldn’t face that in the dark last night.

I do have another project in mind and as you know, from past experience, I have to tell you about it in order to do it but I’m not ready yet… instead I’ll write to you in a week and bring you up to date.

For now: Thank you for reading. To those who emailed or texted or commented or bought my book I really, really appreciate the time and effort and expense you expended.

Thank you for joining us as we wandered this autumn around France in Ruby. Mairead and Denis.

(There we are in Greystones)

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Nice Calm Seas…

(That’s the door of the church)

We are (hopefully) on calm seas somewhere near the south-west coast of England if you are reading this on Thursday morning. There’s hardly a puff of wind and it’s very cosy onboard… but that’s tomorrow. Today, we are in Cherbourg in the camping car parking where we started six weeks ago. Remember? We had to empty the vinegar water from the fresh water tank. No such jobs today, instead we are waiting to board the ferry at 9pm.

(The back of the church)

On route from Bayeux this morning we stopped in Sainte Mère Église. It’s a town made famous by the old black and white movie called The Longest Day. The movie tells a story from 1944. You might remember yesterday I said Bayeux was the first town to be liberated by the allies? Well, Sainte Mère Église was the first village.

(Can you see the replica paratrooper hanging up there?)

It was late at night June 5th 1944, 14,000 paratroopers were dropped out of planes over the area. They were part of the D-Day invasion. By sunrise the German troops had left or were dead and an America flag was flying from the town hall. One of the paratroopers that night was John Steele. He was a bit unfortunate, his parachute got stuck on the church steeple as he floated into the square. He had a knife to cut himself down but he dropped it so the best he could do was play dead while the fighting was going on all around him. He was 32 years old at the time. Eventually one of the German soldiers holding the church cut the straps of his parachute and dragged him up onto a tiny balcony.

(Can you see the America flag?)

We’re in Sainte Mère Èglise because we need a boost of electricity, the grey days are causing havoc with our solar production. So while Denis got to work at the supermarket plugged into an hour of power for €2, I walked into the old village. It was buzzing. Villages in France are rarely buzzing on a Wednesday morning but this isn’t France.

(That’s a Roman road marker (that little cross on top was added later) the Romans did battle here too)

Well no, it is… but it’s also a tiny bit of America. Everywhere you go you hear American accents, you see American flags. This village is a kind of showcase of how great America was. They were the heroes, everyone was grateful to them. They saved the day. It must be lovely. It is lovely. But it’s also sad. Mainly because you can still imagine what happened here, what happened all over France, all over Europe during the Second World War and the First World War. What’s happening still, in war. You’d think we’d learn, we humans, I mean.

You’d think we’d be doing things differently now. Mairead.

(Here’s Sainte Mère Église)

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Here’s the story with the Bayeux Tapestry…

(This is where you will see the Bayeux Tapestry)

We’re in Bayeux, an absolutely beautiful town and home to the Bayeux Tapestry. A 70 meter long, 58 panel, linen craft piece housed in the dark in a big house in Bayeux. You cannot take pictures of the tapestry… but fortunately they have replicas and photos they took themselves so I have something to show you.

(This will give you some idea of the length of the Bayeux Tapestry, it goes round the corner in the distance and as long again on the other side)

First, a few things you need to know about the Tapestry – it’s not tapestry. No, it’s embroidery. Tapestry is weaving threads. Embroidery is sewing stitches on fabric and I love sewing and embroidery. I mean I love doing it, I love the simple stitches coming together to decorate a piece of fabric. I’m reticent to admit this but… I don’t love the Bayeux Tapestry… I do appreciate all the work and I LOVE that it’s a story (oh yes I forgot to tell you – it’s a story) but it’s mainly horses and soldiers and the colours are verging on dull. Sorry, Bayeux, I love colourful and hearts.

(Here’s the basic ingredients – linen fabric with design drawn on and thread for the stitches)

Leaving aside my crafting preferences it is well worth a visit. They don’t exactly known who made it or where it was made (possibly England) but it was definitely handmade and definitely not long after 1066. Because it tells the story of the Battle of Hastings in 1066. It used to be displayed in the cathedral of Bayeux for two weeks every year in order to tell the story of local history. As most people at the time were illiterate, the Bayeux Tapestry was like a picture book story.

So here’s the story…

(Like I said, horses and soldiers)

In 1064 King Edward the Confessor (king of England) sent Harold the Severe to visit his cousin William (he was at this point called William the Bastard…) in Normandy. He wanted Harold to pass on a message that William was his choice for king after he himself (Edward) died. Harold passed on the message and even fought a few battles with William while he was in Normandy. Then he went home but before he did he made a solemn oath to William to support him when he became king of England.

(This bit is Mont St Michel, do you see a green hill with some arches on top?)

Then Edward the Confessor died. Harold, who seemed like such a nice guy until then, decided he wanted to be king and reneged on his promise. He was crowned king of England. Word got back to France and to William in Normandy. He was, as you can imagine, furious. What about the solemn pact? William could not stand idly by. He waited for good winds in the right direction and set off from St. Valery to the coast of England with a huge fleet of boats and soldiers.

(More horses and soldiers fighting)

Harold the Severe heard the news from way up in Yorkshire, 400 miles away. At the time he was fighting off a different enemy but when he won that battle he raced down to Hastings (near the south coast) to sort out William. It took 58 panels to tell the story and the ending was not good for Harold. He was killed with an arrow through the eye. Willian was the new king of England and they changed his name to William the Conquerer (fortunately). I think he was also king of Normandy.(Here’s a lovely silver brooch all the way from County Wicklow! It was in the museum area to explain some of the brooches seen on the soldier’s clothing)

Anyway, there’s a postscript to this story. Nearly 900 years later, Bayeux was the first town freed in 1944 by the Allies and there’s a huge British graveyard here. On the Bayeux Memorial across the road from the graveyard there’s an inscription in Latin: Nos A Gulielmo Victi Victoris Patriam Liberavimus. It means, We, once conquered by William, have now set free the Conqueror’s native land.

Forgiving and Remembering. Mairead.

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I might be hallucinating…

(We found another amazing Beautiful Village of France)

It’s a wee bit dreary today. I’d love to sit by the fire eating some scones just out of the oven. I suppose it had to happen, I’m suffering from scone-sickness. Croissants, even the ones with almonds can only do so much but when it’s cold and wet and the skies are grey there’s nothing like a hot scone.

(This is a classy village)

There’s nothing like a scone in France either. They have no idea what a scone is. That’s probably the reason the French have such amazing pastries, they are searching for the perfection of… the scone. It’s the one recipe I remember all the ingredients for. In fact I could tell you now, sitting here in the bed in my two winter fleeces and my hat, how to make scones.

(Isn’t it gorgeous? It’s called Saint Céneri Le Gérei)

First you’ll need a pound of self raising flour. That is not a metric measurement and I’m sorry about that but it’s how I learned to make scones and it’s part of the mystic place the scone has in my heart. Also, self raising flour might be just in Ireland… sorry about that. Then you’ll need some butter, 2 ounces is perfect. Also, 2 ounces of sugar. Then one or two eggs and enough milk (doesn’t have to be cows milk, almond’s milk or rice’s milk will work too) to bring the eggs up to a mug full. No I don’t know the size of the mug. It’s my favourite mug, if that helps?

(Full of pretty houses)

Now, before you start, feel your feet on the ground and muster up a good strong grateful feeling in your belly because this opportunity to be as one with some scones has arrived in your life. Then… begin. Weigh out the ingredients and break the eggs into your mug and add the milk or milk variant to them. Chop the butter up into little lumps. It would be great if you had one of those old fawn coloured ceramic mixing bowls from the 1960’s but if not any big bowl will do. You’ll also need an oven tray.

I nearly forgot, turn on the oven to very hot, 200 degrees C or whatever that is in your oven.

(And streets…)

Sieve the flour into the big bowl, pour in the sugar, then add the butter. Rub the butter in with your fingers. Now, take your time, this bit is not to be rushed, this is the best bit. You have to take up flour and a bit of butter reverently in each hand, hold your hands over the bowl and rub your thumb against your fingers so the flour and butter can get mixed. Repeat until the mixture in the bowl looks a bit like breadcrumbs.

(Pretty church)

You might need to wash your hands now, although you should have washed your hands in the beginning, to be honest the rubbing gets your nails lovely and clean… Now it’s time to add the egg/milk mixture. Pour half of the egg/milk mixture into the flour/sugar/butter mixture and using a blunt knife mix the liquid into the dry. Add more liquid until the moment when everything seems to gel. There’s no separation, no bits of flour or butter on the edge, instead there’s one big lump of dough.

(Pretty doors…)

Now, hold your horses, just because this is dough doesn’t mean you have to be rough with it. That’s only for bread and pizza. Scone dough is precious, you continue as you started by treating it with reverence. Take a handful of flour from the bag and shake it over the table (or counter) then place the scone dough, gently onto the bed of flour.

(Here’s the end of the 30km speed limit just in time for the narrow bridge…)

The plan here is to gently shape the dough into a ball and then gently flatten the ball so it’s about two inches high. Then you need to cut the dough into squares with a sharp knife or if you have a scone cutter, into circles. When that’s done, get your oven tray and shake a little flour from the bag onto it and then place the dough scones on the tray. Leave some room between each scone because if you’re lucky your scones will get bigger as they cook.

(Where two roads meet in the village)

Now put them into the hot oven, close the door and set a timer for 16 minutes. When the timer goes off, open the door, turn the tray so that the scones near the front are now near the back and the ones near the back are near the front. Close the door again and leave for 5 minutes, they might be done or you might have to leave them for another 10 minutes. No one knows… that’s part of the mystery of the scone. When they look absolutely gorgeous, they’re done. Take them out.

(There’s even some lovely lichen)

Put them on a cooling tray and take a picture, send me the picture. (No, wait… don’t send me the picture, it would be too upsetting.) Now, slice the scone in half, spread butter and jam on each half and eat it… slowly.

I can almost taste them, Mairead.

(There it is, Saint Céneri Le Gérei)

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The Lovely Gentleman of La Flèche

(That’s the gate of the military school on the right and the spire of the church with the ashes to the left)

We spent three nights in La Flèche, the longest we’ve stayed anywhere this trip. On Saturday I went to the tourist office and got a booklet with a walking tour of the town. Then I took a seat outside a cafe, had a cup of green tea and started reading.

(This old shop used to be a haberdashery, selling buttons, sewing supplies and material, sigh)

I hadn’t got very far in my reading when a gentleman who had been sitting outside also, approached me nodding at the booklet and saying something in French. I think he was saying are you enjoying your holidays? but he suddenly stopped when he saw the cover and said, oh you are English! I said, oh yes I’m Irish.

(This is France)

He knew loads about his town and was very interesting. He told me how I could get into the military school if I had a ID card with me. Just be brave and knock on the door and say you want to see the church! He proceeded to tell me that the hearts of the King Henry IV and his wife are in there. Well, not their entire hearts… there’s a story.

(Another little laneway)

The King had always said he wanted his heart buried in the church but that may have just been his way of saying he loved the place. Anyway whoever was in charge of such things took him at his word and when he died they put his heart (or the ashes from his heart, maybe) into an urn in the church. Then when his wife died her heart went into the urn too. Then something they hadn’t anticipated happened – the French Revolution.

(Vintage travel)

In the heel of the hunt the poor king and queen’s urn was taken out into the streets and burned. All was not lost though, some kind gentleman swept up as much of the ashes as he could and kept them safe. These ashes, of the ashes, are in the military church. My new friend was in a hurry to go off and meet his wife so we parted company and I went down to knock on the door of the military school with my Irish driver’s license.

(Another one of the old signs)

I could still be there knocking, for all the good it did me. French schools are on mid-term just like Irish schools. There was no one around. But at least I was brave enough to knock. One other interesting thing he told me was about the river. I’ll tell you tomorrow but in the meantime see if you can guess, there’s a hint in the following photo…

The kindness of strangers. Mairead.

(La Flèche on the Loir)

And here’s La Flèche on the map…

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Do I look stupid in this?


Well, hello you! Here we both are (you and me) in the last week… of France, of the daily blogging, of the travelling, of the waking up in a new place every morning. Now what? What will we do next week? What will I spend my daily budget for writing on? What will you be reading with your morning coffee?

(Flowers in the park in La Flèche)

Will we try something different? Have you ever heard of NaNoWriMo? Well if you haven’t you might like to google it or hang on, listen, I’ll give you a synopsis: It’s 20 years old and began with a few people challenging themselves to write 50,000 words of a novel for November in 1999. The novel doesn’t have to be finished. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be 50,000 words. (Yep, I know, that’s a lot.) It’s a way to build the habit of writing every day for the month of November. It’s like a kickstart to your next book. Do you want to write a book? Ah go on, you do!

(Look at that lovely sky)

Will we do it? Are you even remotely interested? If you have even a smidgen of interest, could you consider making a commitment? Even to tell one other person? Could you tell me? I won’t tell anyone… unless you want me to.

(And this lovely lane)

What’s stopping you? If you start this November you could have your novel published by next year and then you’ll be able to start your second book, it all starts with this first one. Don’t let anything stop you this year.

(That’s the military college in La Flèche)

Can I tell you a story about what stopped me for so long? Yes? Ok. Once upon a time, I had ginormous fears about what might happen if anyone else saw my writing (let’s be honest I still do…) Or if I told anyone I wanted to write. Or, god forbid, I wrote a book and someone thought it was awful. I would shudder just thinking about how terrible it would be if I made a show of myself. That might be an Irishism, I mean I had ginormous fears about doing something that would make me look stupid.

(Walk towards the light…)

That was enough to stop me doing something that felt very exciting. Something that made me smile just thinking about it. Something creative. Something that was just me expressing me in the world. Looking stupid is not terminal. Stopping myself expressing myself could be.

(Very old gate)

A weird thing happened when I finished Everyday Fearless… nothing. Yes, nothing bad happened when I finished writing, finished publishing and finished sharing my writing. Nothing. To be clear, when I risked looking small and stupid, nothing happened. In spite of it not being perfect, the writing police did not prosecute me. I’m sure some people think it is awful but the big gang of people I imagined laughing at me, didn’t show up either. On the other hand they’re all still out there or more accurately in here but now I know the thing that lowers the volume on their laughter or their criticism, is expression. My expression. Expressing myself. Express yourself. Writing. Or painting. Or drawing. Or whatever creative pursuit excites you.

(Attic windows, red brick chimneys, the church spire and a blue sky – happy day)

Will you take a chance? We could make a show of ourselves. Don’t think too long about this, it’s nearly November. You and I have writing to do. Are you ready?

Making a show of yourself is not terminal, Mairead.

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Living the Dream

(Beautiful trees in the campsite)

As I write I’m in the laundry room of the campsite in La Flèche standing guard. This is a lovely campsite with hot water in the showers and toilet paper in the toilets – it’s the little things. They also have washing machines – two and a tumble drier – one.

(Instructions for the washing machine)

I was very excited when we checked in yesterday and spotted the laundry room. So this morning after coffee I gathered all the dirty washing including sheets, pillowcases, towels and tea towels into two pillowcases and hobbled over to buy the tokens and some powder. But when I got to the washing machines they were full of someone else’s clothes. Never mind, I can wait.

(Twenty six minutes left)

There’s one very handy thing about paid washing machines (and driers) they always tell you how long until the load is finished. There was just ten minutes left. So I waited 10 minutes and the machines stopped. And then I waited for another 10 minutes. I waited and waited for the owners to turn up. They didn’t turn up.

(Instructions for the compost bin)

I took out the clothes from one of the machines and put them on top and put one pillowcase full of mine in. Then I went to remake the bed. I retuned 10 minutes later but they still hadn’t arrived. I kept coming back, no sign of them. My first laundry had finished, I put it in the drier and then put the second laundry in the washing machine. I sorted the recycling, learned how to use the compost bin, studied the terrorist leaflet (!) and went back again.

(What to do if there’s a territory attack)

Now, my first set of clothes were dry but… there was still 36 minutes left on the drier and 37 minutes left on the second washing. Having some time to spare I began figuring out how this might work… Does the drier wait with my 36 minutes until I put more clothes in? Or does it just tick down to 0 and I lose my 36 minutes? Or what if the person who’s laundry I’ve been waiting on puts his/her laundry into the dryer with my 36 minutes? Before I had convinced myself to go door to door around the campsite I took a moment to notice it was probably 50 cent worth of dryer time. I went off to think about some project ideas.

(Not my laundry)

Then I came back to find my laundry almost finished but you’ll never guess… you have guessed, haven’t you? Are you still there? The other person’s laundry was tumbling around in the dryer… in my 36 minutes of dryer time!! So now I’m standing here with my wet clothes waiting for the dryer and if past experience is anything to go by the owners of the clothes in the dryer won’t be getting back anytime soon!

(My view for the past hour)

Oh, you’ll never guess this – the dryer just opened by itself! Should I just pop the clothes out? And pop mine in? But what if they’re not dry? Moral decisions and dilemmas… this is my life now.

Before you go to bed tonight hug your washing machine, Mairead.

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The doors

(This door in Couhé)

I love old doors in France, especially when they are framed by stone or wood or greenery. This town was mentioned in the old sign yesterday and now here we are rambling along its streets. It’s full of lovely doors…

(Multiple doors and a gate, yummy)

It was a grey day and we were tired. I think the dark mornings and the short days are telling us something… hibernate? Whatever, we found the cure is going for short walks multiple times in the day. It works and it means we don’t get caught in the rain anymore… that’s said with more hope than confidence. As soon as a rain shower stops we jump up and grab a ten minute walk. So far so good.


We were looking at the map today and I noticed Chartres. Do you remember when it was so hot I wouldn’t walk 30 minutes to go see Chartres cathedral? I’d have loved rain that day. Or would I? So quickly I seem to forget that every weather has a downside and an upside.

(There was a tiny door round the back!)

That night in Couhé at ten pm there was a group of people playing loud music in the square. Not a lot you can do about that when you don’t speak the language and you’re just visiting. So it was lovely when the rain started and they went home.

Every cloud, Mairead.

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A sign of the times…

(This barn wall looks like a piece of mosaic art)

Sometimes when I can’t think of what to tell you at the end of a day I look at the pictures I’ve taken. I’m often surprised at what I see. In the moment when I take a picture it’s because something feels right. Plus, I always take more than one. To have six pictures on a blog I have to take at least three times that amount. Then I have a choice. Maybe not a choice of subject but a choice of angle or light or detail.

(The river)

I’m just using my phone so it’s not complicated, the most important part of the process is – take a picture. I know if I don’t have a picture on a particular day I can always use one of the spares from a previous day but it feels like a mistake. I imagine you will understand better what I’m saying if there’s a picture of the thing I’m talking about. I wonder if the blog is about pictures more than anything else.

(Can you see the two Christmas trees?)

Anyway, just now I was looking at a picture of an old signpost attached to a building in the town of Chaunay, where we stayed on Monday night. It turns out the picture tells a short story of our journey this season. Here’s the signpost:

(Signpost in Chaunay)

I took the picture because I love… old signs, the colour blue and the feeling I got when I saw it. There was a scaffolding around the building and the sign was up on the second floor but I didn’t climb the scaffolding… I stretched a bit instead. Then I walked on. Now as I’m looking at the picture I notice what it says…

(Still autumn, barely)

At the top it says, Vienne, the department. Next line says it’s the R10 road from Paris to Bayonne. Next line is the name of the town, Chaunay. Then there’s an arrow showing the direction and distance to the town of Chez-Fouché, 5.2 kilometers and the town of Couhé, 10.6 kilometers.

(Night sky in Chaunay)

As a signpost for modern travel it’s not much use, it’s too small, the font is minuscule, there’s too much information on it, it only gives the closest towns not the biggest towns, its flat on a wall so you’d have to stop to read it.

As a signpost for going slow and stopping to look at the little things, it’s perfect, Mairead.

(There’s Chaunay on the N10)

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I’m not looking forward to Christmas…

(More pictures from Aubeterre, here’s the square with all the restaurants)

I’m not sure if I told you that Linda and I are running a workshop on Saturday 9th of November, about two weeks time. It’s our tried and trusted crafting and mindfulness workshop with the added sparkle of Christmas. I know it’s way way too early for actual Christmas… but it’s perfect time for playful Christmas. What’s playful Christmas, I hear you ask?

(Exceptionally Closed!)

As a child you might remember looking forward to Christmas? Maybe you still do! I did when I was much younger. Back then it was magical. My mother started telling Christmas bedtime stories at the beginning of December. I planned my gift list. No, not the gift list for others… the list for me. I looked forward to Christmas movies, Christmas food, Christmas chocolate, Christmas cake, Christmas… well, you get the idea.

(Cute alleyways)

Then I grew up and it was a shock to realise I was in charge of arranging all those Christmas things. The elves were missing and someone had to cook seventeen things and the seventeen things had to finish cooking at the same time on the same day. And the gift list? All the things on the list had to be wrapped. You know the saying that it’s the thought that counts? My thoughts were not entirely loving.

(Cute windows)

It took years of getting it wrong and being a right pain but eventually I came up with a system. It worked, the food got on the table the presents were wrapped but my back ached and my spirit was less than merry. I really needed a playful Christmas.

(That’s the church built into the chalk hill)

Playful Christmas isn’t a perfectionist, he doesn’t need seventeen dishes, he wraps with brown paper and newsprint. He starts planning early but not in a manic way… in a playful way. Playful Christmas reminds you that it’s the loving thought that counts and no one needs your well chosen gift anyway…

(Playful baubles)

So, back to the workshop, if you’d like a taste of playful Christmas, join us in Glendalough on Saturday 9th, November, 2019. You’ll get to make cute gifts, Christmas cards and among other things you’ll learn to wrap with brown paper and orange slices (very in at the moment.) Click the link to visit our website and book your place. And if you know anyone who would like a playful Christmas please, please share this email with them.

Happy, happy this moment! Mairead.

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We are lost…

(Cute touches everywhere, like flowers in the stone fonts)

Aubeterre is one of the Beautiful Villages of France. It’s on the official list but even if you didn’t know about the list you’d think it was beautiful. It’s old stone houses are perched on a couple of hills and there’s even a church built into one of them.

(The house of the potter)

We found it by accident yesterday, a wet and dreary Sunday. Everything was dripping rain, the shops and cafes were closed, there was nowhere to buy even a bottle of water but this place warmed our hearts.

(Pretty tiles)

There is seriously no end to the beautiful places you can find in rural France. Sunday’s and Monday’s are still quiet days though, where the baker gets a break from the 4am start. Sometimes even the supermarket has no baguettes on a Monday morning. This can cause serious anxiety.

(Pretty windows)

The days are getting shorter now and the temperatures are decreasing it’s nearly time to go home – only nine more days and it’s probably just as well. They say it takes less than a month to build a habit and I can confirm that because I have built a solid baguette habit in that time. I’m on one half one a day but I feel the pull to go deeper.

(Look, someone lives there and sits outside at a little table)

You may not have read the reports but baguettes are just a gateway confectionary. They lead directly to pastries and this country has more varieties of pastries than we have potatoes. There’s the croissants, innocuous enough on their own but some days there are no croissants left… so, what do you do? Leave empty handed? No. You choose a pain au chocolate (kinda croissant with chocolate chips). That there is the slippery slope.

(Pretty cafe and restaurant and Jesus)

You may not have heard of the Viennese Almonde yet but you soon will. It is quietly taking over the lives of those who take one bite. No one is immune to its power. Just say No! That’s all you have to do, but saying no is what’s difficult.

(Lovely shades of green just don’t drink the water…)

You naively go into the boulangerie thinking, you’ll just get a baguette, a skinny little trifle of baked goodness. What harm could that be? While you wait – because you must wait, there is always a queue. The boulangerie ties with the mobile phone provider for popularity in France. Every boulangerie has an entrance door and an exit door – have you ever wondered why? I have. It’s because they are very busy…

(More pretty flowers)

Anyway, while you wait your eyes stray towards the adorable cylinder-shaped-just-for-one-4-strawberries-suspended-in-jelly-on-a-baked-meringue-base. Just looking at it and your mouth gets to work preparing to bite into it while your head screams, Noooo! That’s when the Viennese Almonde seems like a good idea. It’s almond, so basically healthy, right? It’s bigger. Yes. But. You won’t eat it all, will you?

Save yourselves, we are lost, Mairead.

(That’s where Aubeterre is located)

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We might be in a movie…

(Grand Hotel de Bordeaux)

We left the small town of Créon early on Saturday morning to drive to a lakeside campsite just north of Bordeaux. The journey took about 30 minutes.

(Driving over the Dordogne)

We’ve bypassed it many times but we’ve never been into the city of Bordeaux but on the recommendation of friends – thank you Astrid and John – we decided to have a look. We found the campsite, the information said it was near public transport so we parked up and set off to find the bus stop. It was just outside the gates and the driver was waiting for us. He then drove us to the terminus of the C tramline. It took about 20 minutes to get into the center of Bordeaux.

(Sanna sculpture by Jaume Plensa)

We didn’t have a big itinerary planned, we were just going to soak up the atmosphere. First step: follow the crowd off the tram and into… the longest shopping street in Europe. We can now tick that one off our bucket list. It was very long but it wasn’t very crowded at 10.30am. We walked for a while, me taking pictures, Denis calculating how long before we could have a coffee. Not long, as it happened, we sat down looking out on the world as it shopped. Then we were off walking again.

(The French Camino goes through Bordeaux)

I love the idea that the French have their dinner at lunch time so that was one thing I definitely wanted to do while we were in the city. As déjeuner (midday meal) starts at noon… before long it was time. This turned out to be the high point of our day but not for reasons you’d imagine.

(This was my view)

We sat at a table outside a lovely looking restaurant facing each other. Does this happen to you? One person gets the best view and the other hears a commentary of the scene? Denis had the best view and was keeping me up to date with the traffic and the scooters for rent. Like the ones we rented in Lisbon. Then he started doing a survey on the number of cyclists wearing helmets. It’s not compulsory to wear helmets in France when you ride a bike. Two out of 25 cyclists surveyed were wearing helmets.

(My duck salad)

It was about this time I noticed the group of five men about 200 meters away running down the street in our direction, probably for a bus. Up until then nothing was happening in my view. So I put down my fork in anticipation of starting a commentary but I continued chewing (an amazing duck salad, by the way). Then the guy in front stopped and turned to the second guy and punched him full on in the face. They weren’t running for a bus. The second guy went down. The first guy turned and ran… straight into a scaffolding, fell, got up… and started running towards us.

(Nice buildings in Bordeaux)

I was trying to tell Denis that there was something happening but my words got stuck and anyway he was devising a new survey about takeaway food delivery logistics and didn’t notice I was mumbling. The guy in front (you know, the one who had hit the second guy?) approached our table. I was trying not to look but at the same time to look because I had a sudden thought that I should be a good witness. But I had to let that dream go my eyes were in touch with fear and he said, Don’t Look! I did see he had a shoulder bag that looked like it was a woman’s Burberry. I was well into a story about how he stole it and the gang of guys behind were trying to get it back for the owner when he ran into our restaurant.

(Old shopping arcade)

I could hear shouting, our waitress was backing away from the restaurant door. I couldn’t see into the restaurant because the windows were mirrored on our side. I was not getting anywhere explaining to Denis. Then the army arrived. I. Kid. You. Not. Six soldiers in full khaki with guns walk from a side street to another side street not 6 meters from me.

(Longest shopping street in Europe)

I’m gesticulating discreetly to Denis, he sees nothing. Six more soldiers pass. I can take no more I catch the waitress’ eye and point to the soldiers. (Did I mention the guns were big? They could definitely be useful with the Burberry guy.) She moved from her spot staring into the restaurant and walked over to me, saying, “Ah, no, madam c’est normale.” (This is normal.) We went home after lunch and fell asleep until it was time to go to bed.

Maybe we stumbled onto a movie set? Mairead

Ps. I hope this doesn’t put you off Bordeaux, it’s a really beautiful place.

(There’s Bordeaux!)

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Funny name, adorable place

(There’s Denis racing over to the coffee)

We drove to the town of Le Bugue on Tuesday morning with a bag of dripping clothes and my nerves on edge. We had checked in the Campercontact app and were heading for camping car parking very near the center of town.

(The market was here earlier)

On the way there we passed the most amazing chalk cliffs. Each one more jaw dropping than the next. You could see people walking on ledges or standing at balconies cut into the cliff face. One cliff had a couple of two story houses built into it. This is the busiest tourist area we have seen on this trip, the traffic was mad and the roads were narrow and there were few places to stop. We kept going, promising to return.

(That’s someone’s front garden!)

Then the first thing we see getting into La Bugue is a market! I don’t know if I mentioned previously but we rarely land in a town on the right day for the market and this was the second time it happened this week. We were over the moon. Well to be honest we should have been over the moon but I was still a little moody after the lightening episode, coffee was all I wanted.

(So old)

Our parking was indeed close to the town – about 3 minutes walk over the Dordogne. It also was a little soggy because it seems the whole world had torrential rain on Monday night. We parked up and headed off to find a cafe.

(Reflecting on the Dordogne)

The town was full of people, chatting and buying and selling and generally having the craic. We found a spot for coffee. I started reading the Lascaux book and Denis was reading his phone. We hadn’t two words for each other.

(Hello I’m France, nice to meet you…)

I cannot give you any historical information about La Bugue but I bet it’s absolutely steeped in history like all the towns we are landing in lately. Yet here we were, oblivious. Can you see us? Are you shouting at me? Wake up and look at where you are!

Some days I’m just not at my best, Mairead.

(There’s La Bugue)

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The Writing on the Wall


(Here’s a river that was probably around since the beginning of our story… it’s the Corréze river which flows through the ancient town of Corréze. This river is a tributary of the river Vézère which runs through Montignac (the town near the cave) because I have no pictures from Lascaux but loads around Corréze…)

We were in the town of Montignac on the night of the thunder storm. I had a plan to go to the most famous cave in the world next morning and tell you all about it. It was going to be very interesting. You would have loved it. I would have loved it. But it was still raining the next morning, it rained all night, I didn’t sleep well, our clothes were wet. That’s why I didn’t go to see the Lascaux cave, just ten minutes drive from our camping car spot.


(The town was definitely around when the cave was found)

To make up for it I bought you a book called See you in Lascaux, by Brigitte and Giles Delluc, who are experts in the Lascaux paintings. Fortunately, for all of us, Angela CaldwellI translated it into English. I’ve been skimming it so I’m ready to tell you a story about the caves. Then when you’re here in the dry season you can go yourself and hear the real story. Ok?


(Here’s the old river Corréze, possibly looking like it would 17,000 years ago, possibly)

First thing you need to know is that nobody actually visits the cave. Humans are a toxic cauldron of fumes and chemicals that are bad for the real cave and ever since 1963 it has been closed. The historians, or as they are more accurately called, the prehistorians, found a way to share this amazing place with the world and created a copy of the cave. We went on a tour years ago and the copy cave is very realistic and also the tour was really very good.

P1080552(Very old Michelin signpost in Corréze, may have been up on this wall when they found the cave in 1940)

Long, long ago in the Magdalenian Era which was 17,000 years ago (I read that in the book) some people began drawing on the walls of the cave in Lascaux. They drew goats, bison, oxen, horses and stags. They used various natural occurring dyes to colour their drawings. They were telling stories about what was important to them. And then they left. Not sure why. Could be a previous global warming. Could be the cave flooded. Anyways, they left and the cave was forgotten. No one knew the cave even existed until one day Marcel Ravidat was walking his dog, Robot. (No his dog wasn’t a robot, that was just the dog’s name. Yes, I agree, a little confusing.)


(Very old buildings in Corréze)

Marcel was an apprentice car mechanic and only eighteen years old. It was a Sunday in September, 1940. A few months earlier Germany had invaded France. Probably not the happiest of times. Anyway, Marcel and his dog, Robot, were out for a walk and Robot starts barking in the general direction of a hole in the ground. Marcel, who in the book is described as obstinate and adventurous, was all for going down into the hole.


(From 1940? Maybe?)

I would just like to stop here and say there is no way that I would ever climb down into a hole in the ground. Which leads me to wonder if there are any treasures I have overlooked and although it must have been difficult for his mother aren’t we all glad Marcel was obstinate and adventurous?


(Old stone bridge in Corréze definitely around in 1940)

Unfortunately Marcel was a little too big to fit in the potentially dangerous hole in the ground. So he came back on Thursday with his friends Georges, Simon and Jacques and they forced their way into the hole. They were all stunned by what they saw and went off to tell local teacher, Léon Lavel. News spread very quickly and the place was overrun with visitors. It still is. Marcel and his friend Jacques were unofficial gatekeepers of the cave while the experts figured out what to do.


(I just love these little doorbells… also in Corréze)

Time passed and Marcel joined the French Resistance – of course he did and he also went to fight in Germany – his poor mother. But he survived and came back home to Montignac where he was a guide for years at the cave. In spite of the fact that there were experts from all over the world studying the cave it was Marcel who noticed the fungus spreading and damaging the walls in the 1960s.


(More beautiful ancient buildings in Corréze)

The book doesn’t say what happened to Marcel, what he did when the cave was closed and he was no longer involved in guiding people. I suspect he found other adventures and if he married I bet his wife had stories about his obstinacy. Maybe he’s still alive. Oh, I googled him and he died in 1995, he was 72. I’m surprised at how sad that makes me feel.

Be as adventurous as you dare and as obstinate as that requires, Mairead.

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Thunderstorms Always Include Lightening

(One Mississippi)

My shoes are still soaking, so are my second best pair of jeans, socks, raincoat. We walked back from the town last night after dinner. All day it was hot and overcast. Funny weather. The kind you know means something is coming. What could it be? What’s coming?

(A different happy day)

Rain. It could be rain is coming. It was rain. Rain came. Buckets of it. We weren’t very far from town, just far enough to get totally soaked and totally frightened to death. Well I was totally frightened to death. Denis thought it was a “new experience”.

(I’ll never complain about fog again)

You’re probably thinking rain isn’t that frightening. Who would be frightened of a little rain? Not me… I’m not afraid of rain. Lightening, I’m afraid of lightening… it was lightening. We were having a lovely meal when it started. I nearly choked on my canard trying to count one-Mississippi; two-Mississippi… to figure out how far away it was. But what does that number mean anyway? How big does the number have to be to be safe? Please god let 4 be a big enough number!

(Lovely clouds)

It’d be ok we’d ask the waitress to call a taxi. I went back to chewing. Excuse-moi could you call a taxi for us please? Confused looks, French words, not sure what that means but no, it’s ok she is calling. Hang on, she’s saying je suis desole…

(Nice flower)

She’s sorry, why is she sorry, Denis? No taxi. The weather is too bad, he’s taking the night off…. What?! My eyes are on stalks. She asks, Do you have an umbrella? I make a smile appear on my face, Yes, thank you we’ll be fine. She is distraught, No! Don’t use the umbrella, it will be dangerous! I make a laugh come out of my mouth, Oh, thank you. We’re dead.

(Happier days)

We’ve finished eating ages ago. Everyone else has left the restaurant. The waitress is closing the door. It’s time to go outside. This is a new experience. Don’t you love new experiences? Don’t I love new experiences? No! No, I don’t love new experiences. I actually bloody hate new experiences! I have rain proof shoes, I’ll be fine.

(Reflecting on nice things)

They’re not rain proof. I can feel the water squelching around my toes. I instantly forget that with the first flash of lightening. I call the son of god, his mother and Joseph, I can’t help myself, I am way beyond dainty cursing.

(Formerly, my biggest fear…)

Denis’s arm is black and blue from the tight hold I have of him. I’m back to counting Mississippis and now I really need to know what number is safe? Is it three?!? The thunder comes at eight and I start to remember the other things that keep you safe… Don’t stand under a tree… ok. Don’t stand in a doorway… ok. Don’t stand out in the middle of a field..ok. But where should I stand? Can I stand in the middle of the road? Do I have to stand? Can I keep walking? Should I run? Not run?

If it wasn’t so frightening it would be beautiful. Unfortunately, the part of my brain that recognises beauty is short on oxygen at the moment. All oxygen supplies are needed for fear production. We’re home. Get into dry clothes. Take a breath. Oh no hang on, what do that say about sitting near windows? Denis, get away from the windscreen!

(Scary bridge on the way to CERN)

Hang on I’ll ask Siri, HEY SIRI! WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I AM IN A MOTORHOME IN A THUNDERSTORM? It took her a moment to process and then she said ok, Married (she can’t pronounce Mairead) I found this on the web, Thunderstorms always include lightening. Don’t use anything electrical… I slowly back away from my phone.

Not a true story, Mairead.

Ps. Is.

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Living Rich in Ancient France


(The single-lane stone bridge into Vieille-Brioude)

Stopping for a coffee or for the night in ancient villages and towns is making me feel a little bit overwhelmed. They are so beautiful, they are so weathered, they are so peaceful… and there’s so many of them. They are telling me something. But what are they telling me? No idea… yet. We keep moving on, as we have a plan to be in a big city by next weekend, but I want to take a moment here to listen to a few of these ancient places.

(On the stone bridge)

We stopped in Vieille-Brioude on our way to Massiac (the Village Étape). Something made me tell Denis to follow the signs. We were on a dual carriageway but I spotted the village in the valley below. A single-lane stone bridge led across a river valley. It was about that time I started doubting the detour. All is well, it was sturdy, we survived.


(Worn down by the years…)

After a peaceful coffee (yes even the coffee has a touch of peace about it) we went for a wander. I took photos of almost every door in the village. They all looked so good, I suppose it helps that the sun was shining but it wasn’t just the sun. Every door seems to tell a story.


(Briode is 4.1km away from Vieille-Briode)

On Saturday after leaving our spot by the river and visiting Puy de Dôme we travelled to Meymac. Here we were lucky enough to wake up to a market on Sunday morning and a story.

(Jean Gaye-Bordas built this house in Meymac during the good times)

Jean Gaye-Bordas was born in a nearby village in 1826. He had a poor start but that didn’t prevent him from leading a very interesting life. He put Meymac on the map with his slogan, Meymac, prés de Bordeaux, (Meymac, near Bordeaux.) Not exactly a catchy slogan, not accurate either as Meymac is nearly 300km (3 hours by car today) from Bordeaux but the people in the north of France didn’t know that nor did the Belgians. They didn’t care, they were delighted with Jean. On with the story…

(The church in Meymac)

You see, Jean had this great idea, the results of which can be seen in the very impressive houses in the town. He had travelled as a young man to Bordeaux doing anything he could to earn a living. He was illiterate but very smart and noticed everything around him. He spotted opportunities, like when he saw a guy sending wine to a relation in Lille (a city in northern France near the border with Belgium).

(The hotel, notice the telephone notice over the door…)

Jean realised, what no one else did, that wine from the south would be most appreciated up north because even back then Bordeaux wine had a great reputation. His idea – travel to Lille and Belgium and go door to door selling wine from “his vineyard in Meymac near Bordeaux“.

(Center of the old town)

You already know Meymac isn’t near Bordeaux and you can probably guess he didn’t have a vineyard either but he didn’t need one. He sold the promise of wine, before it was produced and then used the advance money the Belgians gave him, to buy from real vineyards in Bordeaux and deliver back up north. He was an entrepreneur. You could even say he invented crowdfunding.

(Even the sheds are cute)

Many others in the village followed his example. A lot even made enough money to buy vineyards in Bordeaux, as did Jean. By the time he died on the 30/12/1900 he was penniless. He had won and lost many fortunes. As you walk around it’s possible to see the results a thriving wine business can have on a community.

(Fortunately, we didn’t try to drive down here)

I really like Jean. I was a bit sorry he didn’t die rich but then I realised he lived rich and that’s probably more fun.

Live rich, Mairead.

General Area…

Meymac on left; Vieille-Brioude on right

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The Sleeping Volcanos

(View from the top)

There’s a lot I didn’t know about volcanos. Like, they are called dormant if they’ve erupted in the recent past and they are extinct if they’ve erupted in the distant past. We visited Le Puy de Dôme volcano and it’s dormant… sleeping. So not extinct then? Fortunately, I didn’t know this before we stood on top. As I also didn’t know that recent past, can mean 15,000 years ago, no harm done. Unless we are very unlucky today isn’t the day it blows.


(Oh look a train…)

We were driving for about an hour when we saw signs for Puy de Dôme. We’d been here years ago on the motorbike and Denis said, Pourquoi pas? (his favourite French phrase) meaning, why not? The sun was shining and it seemed like a nice opportunity for a walk. It was… after a train ride up the steep bit.

P1080407(That’s a visitor center on the right)

This whole area, Chaîne Des Puys, is full of volcanos and I learned that there are three different types. (1) The Dome, lava seeps our through a gap near the top of the mountain, leaving a dome shape when it cools. (2) The Cone, where the lava blows the top off the mountain leaving a saucer shape. (3) The Maar, lava and water mix and there’s a huge explosion creating a crater with a lake. There are examples of all of these around here.


(That’s one of the cone volcanos)

The Romans recognised Puy de Dôme as the perfect place to build a temple, so they built one. The ruins are still here. The Romans were way ahead of their time and invented creative ideas for lifting huge blocks. There was a video (in French) explaining how they did it. It involved a notch in the huge stone block and a block of wood, a similar size to the notch and some clips. I wish I had pictures to help me explain but trust me it was ingenious. Oh, now I’m wondering if the notch shaped block of wood might have actually been a notch shaped block of metal… apologies to any Romans reading.


(There was a beautiful view out this window…)

The French recognise the beauty here and have been visiting the Dôme for a long time. There was even had a steam train at one time. It used to be you could drive up to the top too but now you can only walk… or take a little tourist train. We took the train.


(Our fellow travellers)

The train leaves every half hour at this time of year and travels slowly up to the summit, passing walkers and even cyclists. We didn’t wave out at them but they made us feel absolutely thrilled to be sitting inside. One needs to know one’s limits after all… or does one? Possibly one is just choosing an nice easy day in France.


(And Denis on the edge…)

Pourquoi pas? Mairead.

Ps Puy means ancient mountain, isn’t that lovely?

(There’s the Puy de Dôme)

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Village Étape

(Our view)

The difference a few hours makes. We drove to the town of Massiac after the fog show. The sun shone the whole way and the temperature rose… to 23 degrees! That’s 19 degrees hotter than in the morning. Massiac provides a beautiful space for camping cars (that’s motorhomes) alongside the river, so we were very comfortable.

(It’s also on the Camino de Santiago)

Actually this town knows what travellers want. It’s a Village Étape. Literal meaning is a stage village and it makes me think of a stage coach. You know in historical movies when the stage coach stops at an inn and they change the horses? Or the passengers take the opportunity to have a meal? Or stop for the night?

(Petrol pumps are very important here)

Well, these towns are all over France, near the main routes and they are designated places travellers can get a meal, stay in a hotel and buy fuel for their vehicle (oats for the horses?) There’ll be a supermarket, a boulangerie, a tourist office and public toilets. Massiac has all those things and it’s bustling and friendly.

(Can you see the rock in the distance? There’s a church on top!)

We stopped at the Library Cafe this morning before we left, it’s a book shop and cafe. That’s another thing travellers need – books! Unfortunately, none in English so I bought a copy book and a notebook.

Now we’re off to see a volcano! Mairead.

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