Tuesday, December 2, 2008


December 2nd 2008

There are things about living here that I really love....the mediterranean climate, the snowcapped mountains, the food, the relaxed way of life, the wine (obviously) but doing up a house in France? Forget it unless you fancy an early grave and a headful of grey hair. Today we went to pick up our new windows from a shop called La Peyre. If there were prizes for the shoddiest treatment of customers, rudeness and general 'couldn't give a *%$ attitude', La Peyre would win hands down.
Arriving back at the house with the windows and frames, we discover that one of the frames is missing, we have a box full of someone else's order and the handles that we asked to be flush with the unit are great big chunky clunky handles (sorry if this sounds petty but these things matter to me.) To add insult to injury, because our chief builder wasn't there to collect them and pay the balance, we lost the 400 euros discount that we got through him ordering them for us (even though his team were at our house waiting to fit them.) My initial instinct was to drive them back to the shop and demand our money back, but that means living in a dungeon with boarded up windows and no natural light for another two months. So we are biting the bullet, driving back there again, for the fourth time in a week tomorrow, to pick up the frame, and living with the aformentioned handles.
The builders broke a floor tile trying to fit them as they arrived with no instructions and Iain said he nearly burst into tears earlier with the stress. I am taking the path of least resistance and consoling myself with the fact that nobody died and I will never have to go through this again because I will be carried out of this house in a box. Hopefully not sooner but later.
My only consolation? I have found a fab hairdresser who still managed to make me laugh as he cut and coloured my hair while all hell was breaking loose downstairs.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Some pictures

Some of you have asked to see pictures....Tallulah and Oscar keeping still for once and below, Livvy and Issy the night we first saw Oscar....

This is our village, I know I'm biased but it really is one if the prettiest I have ever seen....

And finally, our house, it's a bit of a jungle in the garden but we love it!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

November 30th 2008
Last night we decided to have our first open fire. God knows it's cold enough, after six months of mediterranean temperatures we are all struggling with the sudden cold snap. You can see snow on the caps of the mountain range behind the village and the new underfloor heating can't be used yet so we are all swaddled in layers. We did everything right, had the chimney swept, uncorked the wine and Iain started building a fire while I finished off some work upstairs. Half an hour later, the sound of coughing was followed by billowing black smoke curling up the stairs. Iain had put on a tree trunk sized log, which failed to catch fire and proceeded to fill the entire house with acrid black smoke. This happened to us in our old house in Hertfordshire, when we had my brothers-in-law Gary and Phil for dinner. Despite the fact it was freezing, we had to open every window and door and spent the whole evening trying to warm up again. He says there isn't enough draw on the fire to take the smoke up the chimney (never mind that people have been lighting fires in this house for 40 years.) Apparently it is my fault for asking if the builders could block up the opening underneath the fireplace so that it looks more pleasing to the eye. It was only a question and if they'd said no Karen, that will fill your house with black smoke next time you light a fire, I would have happily gone with the flow. I would rather have a working fireplace than one that looks a bit more symmetrical but cannot be used, but no use, it was falling on deaf ears, it is still my fault for posing the question, according to Iain.
This is where divine retribution stepped in. 'You haven't helped by putting a tree trunk on the fire,' I said, to which he said 'RIGHT, I'll take it off and YOU can make the fire instead.' So he picks up the burning ember, which weighs about 7 kilos, with a pair of tongs and runs so fast out of the house that he stubs his big toe on a stone wall before tossing the flaming ember over the terrace, along with his reading glasses which also fly off his head into the undergrowth. Did I laugh? What do you think? I built a smaller fire which was warm and toasty all evening (although it did smoke a bit,) we all went to bed looking like Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins and the toe is now three times its usual size and a deeply fashionable purple.
I wasn't even supposed to be here, I should have been on plane to London on Thursday evening to interview Claire Richards, who used to sing in Steps (that's a manufactured pop band a la The Spice Girls but less successful for those of you who are interested.) But she was caught up in the anti-government demo at Bangkok airport and still can't get home from her honeymoon as the airport has been closed for days due to the presence of 170,000 protesters. More upsetting was the fact that I had arranged to have my very long, very out of condition hair cut and coloured before meeting some friends for a night out. So instead of being pampered and supping cocktails with my London buddies, I've spent two days ridding the house of three months worth of builders dust and rubble and watching The X Factor and I'm a Celebrity. Aah, the glamour of the Cote d'Azur.

Monday, November 24, 2008

November 24th 2008

Yesterday I competed in the 10k Grasse run with 1800 other like minded lunatics on what felt like the coldest day of the year so far. Today I can't bend my knees or negotiate stairs. The race started in the centre of Grasse and looped up to Magagnosc and back down again, so uphill for 5k (horrid) and downhill for the last 5 (expecting easier but still horrid).
Now I knew I wasn't going to win (the fastest time was under 30 minutes) but anyone who knows me will tell you that I'm a teeny weeny bit competitive. I try and beat myself on training runs, comparing times with my previous run, working out kilometres run to the nearest centimetre, resetting the milometer and doing the entire route by car so I know exactly how far I have run (I used to work for The Sun so I always add on half a k for good measure) and if I run in 35 mins and 55 seconds, I'll always round that down to 35 mins. You get the picture.
So why, in amongst a crowd of almost 2,000 runners was I pushing myself to overtake every other runner I could see, knowing full well that at 42, just finishing the course without having a seizure was a major achievement?
My friend Lucy is a very good runner and we made the mistake of talking strategy in the car on the way there. Other people are asking, what time are you trying for, so I am thinking, everyone else is really fast here, I'd better run like the wind and damn the consequences.
The highlights were the bands playing jazz, bongo drums and Maroon 5 along the course and seeing Issy and Livvy on the balcony of their friend Lily's house cheering me on. Even if I came last they wouldn't care. And of course, the finish line.
Lucy came in at just under 50 minutes and my time was 51.59m, so a result, even if I was confined to the sofa for the next 8 hours with throbbing calves the size of melons. I suggested stopping off for a late lunch after the race to save me cooking, to which Issy said: 'In your running gear? I don't think so.'

Thursday, November 20, 2008

November 20th 2008

Was rudely awoken yesterday morning by blaring Barbra Streisand from across the balcony at the apartment as Issy and I sat outside eating breakfast. Then constant mobile phone ringing and loud chatting....people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, it will be stored as future ammunition should I need it. Sadly bad nighbours make you a bit petty don't they, usually I wouldn't even notice things like that.
My day got worse when at lunchtime we started getting ready to come home and I couldn't find my purse. I searched high and low turning the apartment upside down twice and clearing out the car, but no purse. Panicking now as all my cards, cash, receipts for work, in other words a large chunk of my life are in that purse. Issy was more concerned about missing out on an ice cream so I hunted down all the euro change I could find in the car so she didn't go without.
I should add at this point that the kids are immune to these kind of traumas as I have a habit of losing important stuff. I have driven off with my purse resting on the roof of the car four or five times now, and once destroyed two mobiles in three days, shutting the boot on the first one and then leaving its replacement, yes, you've guessed it, on the roof of my car!
Got home and spent an hour hunting everywhere, imagining huge bills being racked up by some opportunist purse finder. In desperation, I drove to the supermarket this morning, as that was the last place I remember seeing my purse when I paid for groceries two days ago. A longshot I thought,until the cashier smiled as I was mid way through my broken French, told me I had 'beaucoup de chance, meaning a lot of luck) and went to the safe to retrieve it. A very honest shopper had found it at the till and handed it in intact. I don't think I should be allowed out alone.

Monday, November 17, 2008

November 17th 2008

I was in the middle of an important email for work last week when Iain yelled Rosine is here. That’s my lovely Italian neighbour. She said, in heavily Italian accented French, I’m here to show you how to collect olives and with that she marched me off down the garden. I have the best intentions but if it was left to me, they’d shrivel up and die so thank God for Rosine. We have eight trees, one of which has the most amazing ripe black olives on it. She reminds me of the old villagers in that advert for Olivio. She is shorter than me (about five foot) and well into her 70s but wasted no time foraging through the branches and in an hour, between us we collected 8 kilos of olives. Then she set up a makeshift olive table to sort good from bad, weighed them with a set of amazingly archaic scales and finally we left them soaking in a basin of water. She told me ‘beaucoup du sel et un bonbonniere pour demain’ but I don’t even know what a bonbonniere is so I have to knock for her at 3pm so she can take me to the shop in Grasse to buy one. Then she is coming back to help me soak the olives in the right amount of salted water with a bouquet of laurel and rosemary from the garden. She has restored my faith in neighbourly relations, even if it did cost me a much needed magazine commission. She was waiting at her gate for me so she could show me where to buy the bonbonniere and I spent the next hour practising my French as she chattered away. It truly is the best way to learn. She gave me a jar of her own olives harvested from last year...delicious, hope mine are as good. Spent the weekend in Mandelieu, the weather was amazing, me and the girls were in bikinis on the beach, which is bizarre but fab for mid November. My lovely Dutch neighbour Rudolph told me that the Parisien problem may soon be over...she is searching for another apartment as she finds it too noisy. Hang out the flags. Lastly, I had my experiences of ex-pat life published in the Sunday Times yesterday. As a writer I’m used to seeing my name in print and it was a small piece but a huge buzz, as for the first time I’m writing about our personal experiences rather than someone elses.
Thanks for all your comments.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

November 13th 2008

Aren’t men funny creatures? Why can’t they just tell the truth? Case in point: last night Iain says he and Brian, our lovely bro-in-law who is staying at the moment to work on the house, are popping over to a friend’s empty apartment half an hour away by the coast to measure up for some work that needs doing. They’ve been working all day here and I thought, ahh how conscientious to be bothered to show up after such a long day. Suspicions were aroused when they both came downstairs reeking of aftershave, freshly showered and spruced up, Brian with his hair gelled, in a white linen shirt (you wear white at your peril here at the mo) jeans and loafers and Iain looking no less dressed up than if we were heading out for supper.
Me: What time will you be back?
Him: Dunno, later.
Me: Are you coming straight back or going for a drink after? (I didn’t mind, honest)
Him: Weeellllll, we are popping out for a pint to watch Mike (our plasterer) practise with his band.
Me: Hmmm where is he playing?
Him: Well he’s only practising in the downstairs room at Sullivans (a lively little open-all-hours pub in Mandelieu which specialises in Guinness)
Me: So if he is only practising, why does he need an audience?
Him: We are going along to give him moral support (which has to be the best excuse I’ve heard for going for a beer possibly ever.)
Ten minutes after they left, the girls and I are hunkered down on the sofa watching The Dog Whisperer when we all hear a loud scratching sound and high pitched squeaking coming from upstairs. My first thought is it’s a rat. One of the reasons we got rid of our walnut tree next to the house is because at night when you heard crunching and shone a torch up to watch the cute red squirrels having a midnight feast, what you actually saw was a big fat rat with a fleshy tail tucking in right above your head. Livvy said, I’ll go and have a look and the worst thing is, I let her! She was too scared to go upstairs and what kind of a parent am I to let her even if I do have a pathological fear of all things mouse-y and ratty. So I went up gingerly, throwing open doors one at a time like Cagney and Lacey and found Spike, our Abyssinian cat locked in Brian’s bedroom. Oh the relief.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

November 12th 2008

I have followers! To all your guys who are following and the ones who posted comments, thank you thank you thank you. I was moaning to my bro-in-law Gaz (or Saltydawg) the other night about how no-one is reading my blog and he said he'd poke me (is that the right term) on his blog and here you all are. Think one of the problems is that haven't actually told anyone I'm doing this, always going to be a problem if you want people to read it!
Anyway, Dougnut-ella comes from Donatella because my awful neighbour in Mandelieu is a poor man's version of Ms Versace, but with bad surgery and long bleached blonde hair which would look great if she was 25 but not so good on a woman knocking on the door of 60. Spent the weekend there and she was nowhere to be seen but I'm sure I haven't heard the last of her yet.
One of my journo friends in the UK emailed me to say how she is really into dressing up and wearing make up at the moment. Since I arrived here five months ago, I've probably worn high heels twice (given that I have a collection to rival Imelda Marcos, that's not good value for money) and have given up on the little make up I used to wear altogether. The heels don't work on a drive that resembles a black run, and living in a rural village in the hills of France, you look dressed up in jeans and a T shirt. It's quite liberating but I sometimes miss going off to an interview dolled up in my latest purchases.
Took the girls to the Armistice Day Parade in the village yesterday. It was very humbling, old men and women from the village wearing their medals, barely able to shuffle aong but standing proud of their contribution to the freedom we all take for granted. All the children carried red white and blue balloons to the cemetery, which sits on a cliff edge overlooking the valley. A saxophonist played, everyone sang the French national anthem The Marseillaise and then the Mayor read out the names of all those who died in the First and Second World Wars. He must have read out 30 names, just from our tiny village. The balloons were released, carrying messages of peace from the children and I'm not ashamed to admit I had a huge lump in my throat.
This afternoon, we are picking olives in the garden. We have eight trees and my Italian neighbour Rosine (who is the pole opposite of the other heathen) has told me they are ready and not to leave it too late. Apparently I need a net to catch them all when we shake the trees and a bonbonniere to soak them in water and salt before they can be eaten. There is a local mill where you can swap your olives for the equivalent amount of locally produced olive oil, which sounds like a great idea as we will never get through them all ourselves.

Monday, November 10, 2008

November 10th 2008

Doughnut-ella next door came rushing out of the apartment and spent ten minutes screaming at me on the landing about what a bad neighbour I am, how noisy we are and rude etc etc etc. Standing next to me waving finger in my face...telling me she is going to call the police about me!She is mental, I told her so, also told her everybody in the block hates her, (well I know of at least three people who do) that I won't ever speak to her again until she can talk in a rational manner and finished off with DROP DEAD as I slammed the door in her face! The girls were doubled up with laughter behind the front door and I didn;t know whether to laugh or cry.
As we left she was on her balcony shouting into her mobile at the Garde de poste! Instead of stock cubes next time I'm asking Sarah to bring me a large bottle of ketamine!
Tomorrow is Armistice Day and it is a bank holiday in France. What a great idea, if there ever was a good reason for a bank holiday, this is it. In the village, they have a church service followed by a procession to the graveyard where all the local children release balloons in memory of the dead. Issy is keen to do it so we are going to go along, and as we haven't found anywhere to buy poppies here, it's one way of marking the day. It has made her ask questions about the past that she would never have done normally.

Friday, November 7, 2008

November 7th 2008

Half term ....Livvy’s friends over from the UK, all our friends with homes here out for the holidays so a big social whirl for a week. I always look forward to these times, catching up with gossip from home and friends I don’t see from one month to the next. The only fly in the ointment has been our hideous neighbour at the apartment. She is Parisien and frankly gives Paris a bad name. She looks like an older, more surgically enhanced version of Donatella Versace (don’tella!) and has a face like a slapped arse. All she has done since she started renting is moan at us for non-existent noise, moving the furniture at the dead of night (as if) and is always sticking rude notes on our door mat.
Last week was the final straw. We left Tallulah for less than two hours to pop out for a bite and when we got back was a rude note in very bad English telling us that the dog had been barking ‘during hours’ and we are breaking the rules and next time, ‘Take it with you’ underlined. I tossed it back on her mat and went to bed, only to find back on our mat in the morning. I put it in the bin, but one of Liv’s friends retrieved it and screwed it up and left it on her mat again. When we got home we saw she had rammed it into our door frame with such force it was almost impossible to pull out. As she is such a stickler for the rules, I complained to her about all the stuff she leaves on her terrace, banked against the glass divider. It looks like Steptoe’s yard. A small victory, she moved the stuff but before I could celebrate she stuck a dead plant up there so I bought a huge eucalyptus bush which blocks it out. Cow! Am trying to train it over the glass so it throttles her!
We have had rain non-stop for a week, although we aren’t as badly affected here as the Loire and Rhone Alps which have been completely flooded. It’s made usually pleasurable activities like shopping in Cannes and go-karting with Liv’s friends very wet and miserable (for me) although they seem to have enjoyed themselves. Think the summer is well and truly over.
Apart from problems with the Prima Donna, staying here has been a welcome relief from the dust and dirt at home. Went back at the weekend and was amazed to see how much more light we get in the house and on the terraces now that three of the most overgrown tress have been cut down. The treehugger in me wasn’t sure it was the right move but there’s no doubt it has made a huge difference and finally the house we bought for the view actually has a view.
One of our friends asked what we were struggling to get out here – she always brings me the weekend supplements that are never available – but this time I requested stock cubes (the French ones are full of herbs and salt and really mask the flavours of any sauce) while Iain asked for Cadburys. Two family bars of fruit and nut and milk chocolate duly arrived with Sarah and Iain requisitioned both to take back to the house with him and him alone.
When I got up and saw them positioned on his bedside table ready to take home first thing (he’d rather forget his keys, wallet and the dog than chocolate) I quickly chucked them both in the fridge under the smoked salmon and jumped back into bed. He got up and growled, ‘where’s my chocolate?’ before turning my wardrobe and drawers upside down. I held out for about 10 minutes, pointing out that he would be sharing the stock cubes via risotto, gravy and casseroles until he compromised on leaving the milk choc here. So next time I do roast chicken, I will make sure his portion is gravy free!

Friday, October 24, 2008

October 24th 2008
Am staying at the apartment for the next week during half term and I have never been so keen to pack my suitcase. Usually I leave it til the last minute if I’m packing for holidays or a job abroad but this time I can’t wait to get started. Taking all the things I can’t use here at the moment like scented candles (they’d look a bit silly in a building site, apart from which there’s nowhere to put them) and bath essence (no bath here only showers). Everything is covered with a fine layer of dust, it will be lovely to feel clean again and not have to wipe or wash stuff every day.
At the moment we have one ancient two seater sofa in the house which we all have to share, everything else is wrapped in protective plastic and out of the way on the terraces. Iain reckons the really dirty work will be done in the next couple of weeks but am not holding my breath. He is staying here to oversee the work while me, the girls, Livvy’s two friends Em and Em from the UK and Oscar will be in the lap of luxury!
Issy and I were walking home this week from school and she told me what she had for lunch and said jus d’ananas, without thinking. She couldn’t remember what it was in English (pineapple juice). Then she was talking about helping the teacher in English and mentioned that the other kids had to do it toute seule (all alone). We laughed about her coming out with these random French words, it’s fantastic that she is starting to think in French. She was also mortified when I answered one of her teachers with pourquoi instead of quoi. Two months ago, she wouldn’t have known that I’d made a mistake but now she can pick me up on my rusty French.
Heard about a rather nasty creature down here which can be very dangerous. La chenille processionaire is a long caterpillar which is extremely poisonous. It lives in pine trees and gives off toxic spores which can kill a pet and blind a child. It has no predators and the only safe way to get rid of one is to douse it in petrol and set it alight. They hang in white sacks at the top of pine trees and if you spot one you need to call the pompiers right away. Have warned the girls that these caterpillars are not for bringing into the house.
Popped back to London for a couple of days to work on the new remake of Minder for Five. It stars Shane Ritchie as Arthur Daley’s nephew Archie and newcomer Lex Shrapnel as ‘minder’ Jamie. They were both on good form at a photo shoot in Spitalfields, and Shane’s agent Phil took me on a tour of the area and showed me where jack the Ripper’s first victim was found. Spooky! Have a feeling Lex is going to be a big name, he’s done a few movies and reminds me of a young Chris Ecclestone.

Friday, October 17, 2008

October 17th 2008

I was hit by the stark reality this morning that I am earning less money than ever before. On the upside, I am also cooking more than ever before. Every time someone starts working on the electricity supply downstairs, the internet Livebox is unplugged , meaning I can’t call anyone from the landline, which is an internet phone, and can’t email or research on the web. So, unable to work, I go down to the kitchen and prepare something to eat. Yesterday it was beef lasagne (even though I don’t eat beef) and today’s effort is melanzane parmigiana (or aubergine bake).
Went out with the running club again. They are really friendly and normal, not like the freaky people you usually meet at running clubs, and my local restaurant owner David also runs with them and he is quite easy on the eye so that makes it more fun! I’m even getting up at 7am on Saturdays to go with them, most unlike me.
Have arranged to go skiing with friends for three days between Xmas and New Year to Sestriere in Italy, it’s four hours drive from here and looks amazing. We are burning through the cash which is not good when we have so much to do still but figure that can be a little Xmas pressie for all of us. Kitted the girls out today with ski gear at Decathlon, 600 euros later I still haven't got their skis or boots yet. I can feel a beans on toast month coming on very soon.
The girls are doing trick or treat in Valbonne on Hallowe'en, each with their respective friends. Am pleased they still want to do stuff like that although when Livvy described what she is planning to wear (fishnets, heels, black skirt and devil horns) I nearly wet myself. She will be jailbait but all her friends are doing the same. What happened, I thought she was 13 not 17. She told me today that she and her four best friends at Fenelon are the only ones not to be invited to another girls' Hallowe'en party because this girl says they always get all the attention from the boys and it’s her party so she wants the boys to look at her and not them! How funny, her friends are all very attractive though and witty and funny, makes me fear for the boys really and the havoc that lies ahead!

Monday, October 13, 2008

October 13th 2008

Spent the weekend surveying mess and wondering if I should clear up but there seemed no point as the kitchen wall is coming down this week which means more chaos and dust. You might get the impression that I'm feeling sorry for myself, you would be right.
Feel a bit guilty because Brian and Iain have been working all day long taking out the old kitchen and constructing it as a makeshift in the laundry room until the new one is fitted. Men love making something out of old bits and pieces and they are really enjoying themselves but I can't shar their enthusiasm for what now looks like a botched together series of battered white units, ancient cooker and hob all in a tiny space where you can't swing a cat. Made the mistake of saying this and referring to it as a 'bodge job' which didn't go down too well.
I remember Iain leaping into action to save the hideous old kitchen units at our cottage in Hertfordshire so he could turn them into a workshop at the back of our garage. He was in his element while I was fuming that despite spending a small second mortgage on a new kitchen, I still had to look at the naff stuff we'd just replaced. In the spirit of recycling and being green, I shouldn't moan I know. At least we have ordered a new kitchen, despite the fact that we are rapidly running out of cash. It's high gloss, red and very modern, and is arriving the week before Christmas. With our usual immaculate timing, it is being fitted in three days and the granite is arriving on the day we leave to go to the UK for a pre-Xmas family visit. The kitchen guy said of course it will all be finished that Friday, or else at the very latest the following Monday, three days before Christmas! And in the presence of a house sitter rather than us. I have a feeling this is another episode that will not go to plan.
On the plus side, I have joined a running club in my village. It is full of very fit French runners which serves two purposes - I am running faster and further than I usually do and pracising my French between puffs. It should be good training for the Londn Marathon next year, if I don't collapse on a hillside anytime soon.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

October 7th 2008

Where to start? It's my birthday today, 42, and I do feel it. I was going to let it pass by without too much trauma but it feels wrong not to celebrate so Iain and I went out to lunch in Ventimiglia, about an hour drive and just over the Italian border. We had to look for a kitchen and floor tiles and everyone here says Italy is cheaper so off we went. As usual we gravitated to the most expensive shops and ended up finding nothing cheaper than here, so nothing ordered yet.

Funny how the moment you cross the border, you can see the difference between the Cote d'Azur and the northern Italian coast. It's much more industrial, less picturesque and has a totally different feel to it.

We went for dinner last week to the parents of a friend of Livvy's in Chateauneuf. Lucy runs a catering business and served up a table laden with delicious curries, which was mannah from heaven after four months in a relatively spice free zone. It was like the Waltons around the table, four adults and seven kids, all tucking in noisily. It made me realise how much I miss my friends and getting people round the table for long, wine fuelled suppers. It's great to be making friends at last.

We are out a lot at the moment to try and escape all the mess at home. All the furniture is under sheets of plastic, there is nowhere to sit or chill out or eat meals, and it feels like we are a million miles away from any kind of sanity. I find myself lingering in kitchen showrooms, desperate to make myself a coffee and read the paper and pretend it's all mine! I have come to the conclusion that Iain really enjoys the drama of living on site during a major renovation - he loves the banter with the builders, the bartering on prices and watching everything materialise from a shell whereas I prefer to just be around for the end result. Never ever again.

The weather has cleared up and the last week has been glorious. Chilly mornings and evenings mean we can no longer eat supper outside but by 10.30am it is in the low 70s. We spent all weekend at the beach although I regretted going for a swim on Saturday. After 20 minutes in the water I was practically hypothermic when I got out and spent the rest of the afternoon with my teeth chattering much to Issy's amusement. The summer beach ban on dogs ended on October 1st so Oscar and Tallulah can come with us from now on. They love the beach, they chase each other and dip their paws in the sea and wear each other out.

I stumbled on a famous Indian restaurant in Grasse last week so we are off to try it tonight. The girls have been moaning about how awful school dinners so they are really excited about going out. Today Livvy had a raw omelette with a meat filling which sounds vile. How can it be that school dinners here are worse than in the UK? Especially when the cost per meal works out at 6 euros (over £4). We really thought they would be eating fantastic local produce but there's a yawning gap between what is available in the supermarket and at restaurants and what is served up in the school cantine. I now feel bad about putting anything that isn't home cooked on the table so have been spending hours making lasagnes, roast dinners, Morrocan tagines etc to make up for the lack of decent food during the day.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Franglaise Au Sud

JUNE 21st 2008
After so many farewells that my liver was in dire danger of collapse, we arrived in the South of France ten days ago having left the UK on the hottest day of the year so far, in fact possibly the only hot day of the summer, looking like the Clampits in a car packed with two stressed cats, a dog, two kids and everything we had forgotten to put on the removal lorry.
My husband Iain assured me we would arrive about 10am at our new home – a Provencal villa in Le Bar sur Loup, perhaps one of the prettiest villages on the Cote d’Azur - and be able to get straight into the house. Instead we arrived at 6am and had to break into the garden lugging a huge cage as the cats were about to collapse with stress and heat exhaustion. I would happily have killed for a Starbucks at that point. We waited three hours for the sister of the owner to come and let us in.
Opened the door to be greeted by piles of dust and rubble everywhere, windows you can’t see through because they are so grimy and three loos which don’t work properly. The house hasn't been lived in for three years, but somehow it looked much dirtier and unloved than when we viewed it in April. I found a bucket, broom and mop and have spent pretty much every day since cleaning.
The removals men arrived in a 50 tonne articulated truck which couldn’t get down our drive or the road leading to our drive because both resemble black runs in a ski resort so Iain had to hire a smaller van in Grasse and the guys had to transfer everything (100 + boxes) as well as furniture into the small van before dropping off each load on our drive. Then the van got stuck on the drive and Iain had to tow it off in our Jeep, crashing into next doors fence in the process and ruining one of the tyres. What a way to meet your new neighbours! Our burly removal men couldn’t wait to leave, telling us it was the most difficult move they have ever done.
To make it look a bit more like home, Iain hung a valuable painting we bought years ago on the wall only for it to crash to the floor and smash where the hook had worked itself loose. The spiral staircase is a nightmare....the cats won't go up or down it and the dog can go up but not down so keeps getting stranded at the top and has to wait for one of us to carry her not insignificant chubby body down again.
And last night, just when we thought we were pretty sorted, the electric gate gave up which means we all have to shimmy through a fence, clamber across rocks and jump down a four foot stone wall every time we want to come in or out.
But in spite of all that, we have not had a cross word since we arrived. The weather has been beautiful (we so picked the right moment to leave the UK) and waking up and seeing mountains outside the bedroom window instead of grey clouds and hearing birds singing instead of the sound of boy racers hurtling down the road is something I will never take for granted.
Iain has started doing pilates by the pool with me every morning...so far he's up to 20 mins but keeps collapsing in a pool of sweat and moaning about how boring exercise. I'm not giving up on him or that belly!
Our two girls, Issy, eight and Livvy, 13, are settling in brilliantly. After loads of rows and spats they are really getting on - no TV, friends or language skills is probably the reason but long may it last. They are both checking out their new schools on Monday and are a bit nervous I think.
The house has great potential although it will take a lot of work and money to turn it from the shabby unloved space it is now into the light airy contemporary house we dream of. We only have one set of neighbours, an Italian couple, in their 70s. He speaks no French and she stops for a half hour chat every time she sees me. She has lived here for 57 years but still speaks with a heavy Italian accent so a lot of the time I haven’t a clue what she is saying, I just nod a lot and say ‘d’accord’. She gives us plums and tomatoes from her garden and at the moment she has 20 relatives from all over France staying with her! We miss our friends and family but can honestly say we are not missing the UK at all. We will be on Broadband in ten days, in the meantime I am using the connection at the local hotel, a converted chateau complete with lovely waiters, magnificent views and great coffee. Could it be any better?

JUNE 27th 2008
The weather is unbelievable, 33 degrees every day, barely dropping at night and so hot that I can't sit by the pool until about 5pm every day. I know that will bring a tear to the eyes of those who worry about me and the weather.
It's all go chez nous - Iain has been filling in holes and painting out grape vine borders across picture rails so that it doesn't look quite so hideous. The only time we are in the house is to sleep - the rest of the time we are out and about, which is lovely and so different to what we're used to. The other night we all walked up to the hotel bar in the village and played cards on the terrace with a glass or two of rose before dinner. We never did that at the Builders Arms in Potters Bar!
Issy turned nine on Tuesday so we went to Moorea beach in Juan les Pins where a pug was body boarding in the surf, I kid you not. It's that kind of place. We were surrounded by fit young 20 year olds sporting tiny bikinis, boob jobs and Vilbrequin shorts so we fitted right in!
The best news is that both girls got into the schools we wanted. Issy is starting the local village primary in September. The head showed us around on Monday and introduced her to a little girl called Olivia who is English. She started last September with no French and is now fluent. That gladdens my heart. Liv had her interview at Institut Fenelon in Grasse on Monday afternoon and she was offered a place in the international section where she will have two thirds of her lessons in French and one third in English. They have offered her two weeks of intensive French lessons at the college, a week in July and a week in August, to get her a little more confident for September. It is a fantastic school, the best we could have hoped for. Fees are around 2,000 euros a year (I can’t believe it either) and there was a league table on the office wall showing that Fenelon came 12th overall in France for Baccalaureat results last year.
Yesterday we found two plum trees in the garden, along with the olive trees, oranges, lemons and figs. I may struggle to find time to work as there’s so much fruit waiting to be picked. It’s a good incentive to dump the toasted muffins for breakfast and start the day a bit more healthily.

4th July 2008
Had to have Tallulah, our miniature Schnauzer, shaved, she was coming in covered in sticky weed from the garden and I’ve been going demented trying to groom her all the time. She now looks like a comic book dog but is a lot cooler, cleaner and more comfortable. It’s so different being here but a much more cheerful place to be than the UK. They haven't heard the words credit crunch yet so we are in a blissful bubble of ignorance, while all my friends at home are emailing me to say how depressing it is.
Funnily enough, I am spending far less down here than I did at home (probably because I have no friends here!) Going out is cheaper, the food and wine are better and I guess we are just doing more at home.
We have been coming to the South of France for five years, and every visit made us more and more reluctant to return home. We stretched ourselves financially to buy an apartment on the coast near Cannes, and I can honestly say it was the best decision we ever made. Picnics on the beach, barbecues, lunch in the beautiful nearby medieval village of Mougins, it made Hertfordshire feel very lacklustre by comparison.
It came to a head in summer 2007. We were spending the school holidays at home for once and I decided to use the money we would have spent on holiday and splash out on some fabulous outdoor furniture for the terrace: a sofa with fat cream cushions, coffee table and dining table seating eight. It arrived on a sunny afternoon in early June and I started planning barbecues, lunches and summer parties with a vengeance. Instead, summer was cancelled and I spent the next three months running to and from the garage with armfuls of cushions every time the sun made a brief appearance through the rainclouds.
Sometimes it’s the little things that force you into making the biggest decisions. The sun was out, it was boiling hot so I put all the cushions out and switched on the kettle. By the time I’d taken the teabag out, a huge black cloud was directly above my furniture, raindrops bouncing on the cushions, and I just thought ‘Enough’.
Fate took a hand after that. Iain and the girls were overjoyed at the idea of living on the Cote d’Azur and when we were offered full asking price for our five bedroom Victorian house in Little Heath, Hertfordshire at the end of January, there was no reason not to go for it. Looking back, I realise that it could have been very different if we’d waited three months longer.

16th July 2008
The internet is still not working after five weeks! Am trying to be calm and collected but I’m not used to being out of touch for so long. One of the reasons for coming here was to slow down but I expected it to be a gradual thing rather than going from frantic and frenetic to zero! Not complaining. The weather is glorious, waking up every day to hot sunshine is something I'm never going to take for granted, especially when friends tell me how naff the summer is in the UK. We have been exploring our surroundings, going to the beach (but only about once a week as July and August are very busy) chilling by the pool and thinking about the work we want to do to the house. We are going to enjoy the summer here without doing anything and start in earnest in the autumn which will give us time to get quotes in. An old family friend is out here managing Simon Fuller's property renovations and he is recommending good tradesmen to us, so fingers crossed maybe it will be a smooth ride! The girls are enjoying having a three month summer holiday, swimming every day, doing arty stuff and watching the occasional movie (we have a TV but no reception yet which means DVDs only, no bad thing!) The animals are all settled in and loving the wildness of the garden and I am enjoying doing very little for a change. Have a fair bit to write in the next week or so and have just turned down jobs in Arizona and Germany because I'd rather be here this summer and ease off the travelling for a little while. Iain has just been biking with his friends around France and is back later today. He is planning to set up the property rental company this summer, managing apartments for holiday rental, ready to start work on it this autumn. He is managing our apartment now half an hour away in Mandelieu and it’s so nice not having to rely on a sub standard expensive service like the one we had before we arrived. I think it will take off, there seems to be a big demand here and very little in the way of companies offering a good, value for money service.

28th July 2008
Am currently at MacDonalds on the WiFi as still not connected after a seven week wait, hopefully it will be happening in near future but thank God for a Blackberry otherwise I would be bankrupt by now! We have builders giving us quotes as I am now ready to crack on with the work for autumn and get the house looking the way we want it. We don't spend much time inside which is just as well! We’ve had major septic tank problems which meant emergency pipe work, Iain digging trenches in 90 degrees and no loo facilities upstairs for two weeks. Think it is going to be a bottomless pit where money is concerned but fortunately we have no regrets (yet). We were adopted by a big beautiful boxer who took a shine to Tallulah while she was on heat, he came one night and refused to leave, scaring the cats witless. He is a lovely old thing, big and slobbery and very affectionate. He followed us to the village yesterday after his third day at our house and we bumped into his owners, who were calling all the dog pounds trying to find him, so a happy ending. Then he turned up at 9pm last night thrilled to see us and we had to ring his owners to collect him. I think he prefers us to them! The girls are at French today for two hours which gives me a little time and peace and they are doing a tennis club next week from 9-5 each day. I’m looking forward to some me time after nine weeks of relentless mummy duty, selfish I know.

4th August 2008
First things first, we are finally connected to the internet after seven weeks and lots of shouting in the Cannes branch of France Telecom. Hang out the flags. Have at last been able to do some work and talk to people without incurring a phone bill that is £500 a month. Have since spoken to a friend who lives in Chamonix and she says that after two years, her phone still doesn’t work properly, the connection comes and goes at will and it’s something you just get used to. As someone who relies on the phone for a livelihood, that’s a bit worrying. The weather has been really hot, even at night it doesn't cool down much but think we are adjusting to the climate difference now. The last few weeks have passed by in a whirl, we have been busy getting quotes and trying also to enjoy being here without thinking too hard about everything that needs to be done.
The girls have got used to the pool to the point where they don't go in it everyday which is something I thought I'd never see, but it just shows you how the novelty of everything wears off. Time was when they’d have killed to have a pool in their back garden at home in not-so-sunny Hertfordshire. I think they are itching to make some friends. They have been on msn a lot recently and with that in mind, they started tennis school today. They are also learning golf, archery, circus skills and going to a water park. It's my first child free week since beginning of June, so a great opportunity to chill out and try and do some work. A team of builders started today, digging up the back of the house to create a new staircase. I am trying to see the bigger picture but there's brick rubble everywhere. It will be great when it's done, then only another eight months or so before it starts looking like a proper house again! On one hand it feels like we are finally doing something instead of talking about it and on the other, I have quite got used to the house in its current quirky state and am dreading the mess of the next few months but it is one good excuse not to do any housework for a while! Our friends Sarah and James arrived last week and spent a couple of days with us before heading to their place in Mandelieu for a month. It's so nice to have friends nearby after two months of talking only to each other! I’m really looking forward to having a social life again. I'm not complaining, we love our drinks at the hotel and our card nights and they are showing the new Narnia film next week on a screen in the village square for everyone. There is certainly a community spirit here and the locals are very friendly – without exception, everyone I pass on my morning walk with the dog says bonjour - but I sometimes miss popping into my local deli for coffee or a glass of wine with my mates.

5th August 2008
I am sitting on the terrace now with my laptop and a pneumatic drill going in the background, surrounded by about five Filipino workman (they are harder working than the French, who don't turn up to even give you a quote let alone do the actual work.) Thought I was in for a quiet week with the girls at tennis school, instead they are here at 8am and leave at 6pm, which is amazing, but has curtailed the lie-ins, sunbathing and tranquil afternoons I had planned.
On the plus side, they are making great headway. They are constructing a new staircase as the spiral one we currently have is an accident waiting to happen, especially after a few glasses....living in a mess is not ideal but it feels good that we have started work.
Sometimes the water and electricity are on and off while they are working so we are at their mercy. On the upside they are hilarious, we are Mr Iain and Madame to them, which I quite like. They burst into song and are so cheerful. We called several French builders, stonemasons and plumbers and having struggled on the phone in French to arrange a rendez-vous for a quote, several of them didn’t show up, or phone to cancel.
We inherited quirky taste in the house although thankfully all the walls are white which makes it a bit more liveable. It’s a real hotch potch, with mismatched tiles, swirly raised plaster walls, different floor levels and some very odd stenciled borders but we have a great vision about how it will look in the end. I’m thinking quite modern downstairs, completely open plan with lots of windows, dark wood and polished concrete, a bit LA but with a nod to the fact that we actually live in Provence, and a bit more shabby chic upstairs.
There are leaks everywhere at the moment and it's like a domino effect, no sooner do we start something than it uncovers another problem. So far we've had raw sewage pouring into the garden, leaks through the ceiling and a permanently flooded bathroom.
It will be all eco-friendly too, we have a septic tank and are having photo voltaic panels installed on the roof to generate all our own electricity. The French government gives you a grant of around 40% against the cost of installing photo voltaic and you get a cheque for about 2,000 euros each year for the power you put on the grid which should cancel out our electricity bills. It’s a very different prospect to the UK at the moment, with rising costs all over the place. That's the other thing, having no debts apart from a manageable mortgage, and money in the bank to do it all with. I have never slept so well.

12th August 2008
We went to an ex-pat barbecue yesterday, the kind I thought I'd never go to, all Brits talking about the French without a single French person among them. Some of them were quite nice, but one girl was a bit mental, she has 4 kids, the oldest is 17, and is a real party animal. She spent the afternoon walking around in a bikini and high wedges, knocking back the rose and telling me how she strips off in public when she's had a drink....don’t think I’ll be going on the town with her!
Last night we had a baby rat in the garden. Iain was stood over it with a piece of wood ready to kill it but he couldn't bring himself to do it and nor could I so we will leave it to the cats I think!

25th August 2008
The weather has been amazing, really hot and sunny and we are making the most of it but have to say sometimes it's nice to come into the office and get out of the heat. Last week my brother came over with his family and we went canyoning, jumping off cliffs 20 feet high into rock pools. The kids loved it, we were a bit more nervous but it's hard to back out when your 9 year-old has just jumped off ahead of you! It was brilliant fun. They left for home last night and I cried my eyes out, it's so hard saying goodbye. The only thing I really miss about the UK is my family and friends. The girls are brown as berries and loving their new life. We still have no TV so they are out all the time, swimming, playing tennis, on the beach, down by the river and permanently barefoot. It’s so lovely to see them enjoying an outdoor life. That's all I ever wanted for them and now they have it. A lot of our friends are over at the moment staying nearby so they have had lots of their English friends to hang out with this month. It's been a very social time, we've had a couple of pool parties but the highlight was a talent show with my 13-year-old nephew dressed up as Amy Winehouse and the girls as backing singers. The kids performing Rock Star by Nickelback didn’t stand a chance and Amy and crew won first prize, a big bag of marshmallows.
I’m working quite a bit, moving countries doesn't seem to have dented the flow of work too severely, which is a relief. I’ve been speaking to the manager of Riviera Radio about ideas. It's a really naff radio station based in Monaco but the only one in the South of France which is English speaking so I was thinking of offering to do a showbiz slot for them. It is stuck in a 60s and 70s timewarp, the music is terrible and the DJs are cheesy as hell. Maybe a weekly slot about who's doing what to whom in the wonderful wacky world of showbiz, plus snippets of gossip from recent celeb interviews I've done and a round-up of anything cool happening on the Riviera that week for anyone under the age of 70.
Only danger is I've been listening to it a lot and will have to watch out that I don't character assassinate it too much because it is pretty dire. Will let you know if I'm about to become the next Jo Whiley. Meanwhile, back at the ranch there is a hole in the floor and ceiling, a wall gone and a pile of rubble outside the back door. All very scary, just hope the house doesn't collapse now, which is a very real concern given that it was underpinned ten years ago.

28th August 2008
In a bid to fix the nightmare leak in the downstairs loo, which has an exposed pipe literally pumping out water, Iain removed some wall tiles, only to discover roots from a nearby conifer growing up the wall! This is a worry as the tree is a good 6 metres away in the garden and another reason why it has to be removed as soon as possible. Our gardener has told us that once it’s gone, the shrinking roots beneath the house could still cause some movement in the foundations, which is not what we want to hear.
Took Liv to see Madonna this week in Nice, she was brilliant. I'm not a diehard fan but I was impressed by her honed muscles and energy, I was tired just standing there watching her. Off to play tennis with friends soon. We have found a lovely Dutch tennis coach who is going to give us both lessons. All the other coaches at the club are real hotties, mid 20s, fit and tanned and one in particular is scrummy so have enrolled Issy for coaching from next month so I can admire the scenery (that's not the only reason, she likes it really!) The staircase is a bigger job than we thought and not ideal timing given that we are all at home. There's dust and dirt everywhere. The general mood wasn’t helped by the fact that we discovered yesterday that the steps are not wide enough, they measure 19 cms instead of the EU standard 22cms in depth and that 3 cms makes all the difference between going up and down safely and walking like Charlie Chaplin. Pointed this fact out to the structural engineer Medis, who nodded sagely and said no problem, they would redesign the staircase. Now can you imagine an English builder giving that reaction?
When it gets too much we escape to the beach, yesterday we were down there until 10pm, having supper with friends at a little beach bistro in Miramar, where I had the best moules mariniere I’ve had all summer. The kids and the dog played in the sea and it was bliss. It's times like that when you think this is why we uprooted our life.
I’m shattered from all the socializing. Friends have been down all month, staying nearby and after lots of late nights, we are all walking around in a daze. I’m quite looking forward to getting back to normality, some early nights, no drinking and the girls starting school.

2nd September 2008
Here’s an interesting thing. The builders finished the staircase yesterday having made a superb job of redesigning the steps to the new width. They spent around two hours pressure washing our terrace, which has doubled as a builders yard for the last month, mopping floors and wiping down doors and walls and left the place spotlessly clean.
In contrast, we had our Sky dish installed yesterday by a very nice English guy who has lived out here for several years. When he left, I was astonished to find plastic bags, boxes, plastic wire ends and a stray plug abandoned all over the house as well as his empty coffee mug. What cultural contrast between working practices.
Issy started school today. Last night we had tears, understandably as she was anxious about going to school and comprehending nothing. ‘The new kids at my old school were given buddies by the head mistress, then the buddies would go off and ignore them to play with their friends’, she wailed. ‘And they only offered to be buddies for the attention.’ I explained that it would be completely different in a French school and silently prayed that I was right.
This morning, she ate breakfast, then said she felt sick and confessed she was only 10% excited and 90% terrified. Her dad admitted he was 100% terrified (not to her, thank God) and I blithely reassured her on the 10 minute walk to school that all would be fine. I mean, look at the mountains you can see from the playground, we didn’t have those to look at in Brookmans Park, did we? (Weak, I know). No, she retorted, but at least the other kids spoke the same language as me.
So it felt like a miracle when a tall statuesque lady approached us and said, ‘Is this Isabella?’ She introduced herself as Meg, mother of Louise, aged nine, who is in Issy’s class and joy, is English, although she was born in France. To see Issy’s face change from fear to relief as she trotted off with Louise and another English girl Lucy was probably the happiest moment I’ve had since we arrived three months ago. I want her to have friends who are French too, and at a French primary school there is no chance that won’t happen. But a couple of allies to chat to at playtime is going to be a massive bonus.

September 4th 2008
Disaster. Having told me that she reckoned her first day at school scored a surprisingly good 8 out of 10, (a bit of teasing because she doesn’t speak French, but she made a few friends and understood more than she thought she would) Issy has done a complete about turn. She had yesterday off (most schools in France now do a four day week) and had time to reflect on just how awful it was.
My mum told me she sent her an email saying ‘The kids are not very nice and the lunch is awful, raw beef and macaroni not cooked.’ Food is a big thing in our house so that could be a problem. At the beach yesterday, she told me she wants to go back to the UK or be home schooled. Not ideal. I explained that neither choice is possible as I can’t home school her and moving back after three months is not an option.
This morning we were halfway there when she stopped on the old bridge in the village and refused to go any further. The tears started and she begged me to let her come home and ring the school with an excuse. It was horrendous, me cajoling her and trying to get her to walk as the dog ran circles around me and her hysterically crying and telling me how much she hated it. I have asked her to make a big effort for the next few weeks and as a reward for her bravery, we will buy her something amazing. As we walked across the playground, she sobbed: ‘What are you going to buy me?’ There’s a little light at the end of the tunnel. Frankly she came name her price if it means going in without a scene and there’s a chance that she will be happy there. At lunchtime I parked opposite the playground and saw her standing alone by the fence watching other children play. I am wishing the next month away.
Livvy starts today at lunchtime and seems quite upbeat, but as Issy pointed out, she is going to an international section of a French school, where most of the kids in her class aren’t French, and only has 70% of her lessons in French, with geography, history and English taught in English.
As if that isn’t enough, we have no hot water upstairs which meant cold showers last night and this morning. Cue yet another call to the plumber Michel, who at this rate will be able to holiday in the Caribbean next year thanks to our long stream of emergencies.

September 12th
I went back to the UK for the first time this week. I wondered whether I might feel any pangs of regret about the move once I was back in London but I have to say, trundling along on the Gatwick Express through Croydon and working my way through the shops in Regent Street, although pleasant, didn’t make me feel I’m missing out on very much.
After a few days of catching up with my mum and surfing with some girlfriends (okay, trying to surf, swallowing half the Atlantic and consoling myself with the odd cream tea) in Newquay, I was quite happy to get on the Easyjet flight home. Landing at Nice airport at 9.30pm on a balmy Sunday night, getting my luggage within ten minutes and being home within an hour of touching down rounded the trip off perfectly. It cost me 120 euros for the return flight, which is less than a return train fare to Manchester if you book last minute. Of course, it won’t always be so pain free but it was a good first experience.

September 20th
My parents in law have arrived for a week long stay, to savour our new life in France, enjoy some much needed sunshine and chill out. Unfortunately we are getting the first torrential rainstorms of early autumn after three months of wall to wall sunshine, and the builders have started taking the walls out downstairs so the whole place is like a war zone and they can’t even escape to the pool with their books. I think they would happily get on the next plane home, especially as Britain is having an Indian summer. The forecast is set to improve the day before they leave, so Iain has been dispatched to show them the local area and take them to the Monday market at Pre du Lac, near Grasse, which is a colourful array of locally grown and reared produce which looks and tastes like it has never seen a pesticide or a plastic bag.
I interviewed Richard Madeley last week about his and Judy’s new chat show and he was saying how much they’d like to be based down here. They have a house about half an hour away from us near St Paul de Vence, and are planning to spend a lot more time there now that their working schedule is more manageable.
The girls are gradually settling into school but it’s been very tough. Issy has spurned the English girls, who ignored her for much of the time, and has made friends with some of the French girls in her class, which is fantastic. One of them came to tea last week and showed an amazing talent for imitating any animal on the planet: chimps, whales, dolphins, frogs, you name it. We were all in stitches.
Livvy is doing better but I have to spend hours every week translating her homework instructions so that she can get her work in on time. Thank God for the babelfish website, which fills in any gaps.
I found Iain perusing an advert on the web about pug puppies for sale. We have been talking about getting another dog for a while, partly as a playmate for Tallulah and also to pep the girls up a bit. It couldn’t be worse timing but is there ever a good time to have a puppy chewing everything and pooing and weeing everywhere? Maybe better to go for it before everything is picture perfect.
We went along to ‘look at’ the puppies in Vence and came away with the chubbiest of the four, a little boy who is cute, very greedy and such fun. He is called Oscar and really is hilarious. He snores so loudly that I have to put ear plugs in (yes he is sleeping in our bedroom) and farts quite a bit too, which causes no end of laughter from the girls. The housetraining requires plenty of patience, I caught him peeing all over the mohair blanket on our new sofa last night but it’s impossible to be angry with him and his cute baggy face full of wrinkles. He is my shadow and follows me everywhere, even to the loo. He sits on my feet whenever he can. It’s quite lovely to be worshipped.