Sitting here in the sunshine, with a view of the sea, clear skies, and the temperature a balmy 28degrees, what more could one wish for?
The New Year has started well for the Speers, a two week holiday in the Dominican Republic. How spoilt am I?
Not that getting here was a dream, far from it. Snow, flight cancellations, airport closures, and a 10hour flight. To be then subjected to three days of a hurricane and an earthquake on the west coast. Not surprising that JS resorted to chain smoking cigars and I was booking in an all over spray tan.
Sunshine arrived, tempers mellowed and the pina colladas are on tap.
There is a private transfer to and from the Punta Cana airport, in a white Mercedes, with uniformed chauffeurs and iced pink champagne in the CD compartment! Thrilled with the thought that we may be seen by the other Thomson lot having such VIP treatment, waved a royal goodbye to our newly acquired friends, told them we would see them at the hotel, whereupon they said they would probably be there before us as they were arriving by helicopter!
Decided to go for a horse riding experience on the beach yesterday,JS said he would film it, but not participate. ! Now, many moons ago, both my parents, sisters and brother all took up serious horseriding.I took up ballet, squash and men, in that order. I have little experience on horseback but it seemed a good idea. Arrived full of enthusiasm, as you do when you are a total novice. I, finally mounted Caesar, a grey 17hand stallion (see, I know all the terminology!)Went up one side, over the top and landed on the other side! Old Caesar knew he had a challenge on his hands.Mounted,at last, the Spanish instructor told us all to gently tap the beast and head on down the beach. I honestly never did a thing but Caesar certainly did. With no regard for a rising trot we went straight into a full Wild West gallop. Pelvic control totally out of control, gripping for dear life with every muscle, trying desperately to avoid trampling all sun worshipers, innocent children and beach bars. I lost site of the rest of the possy, felt I could hold on no longer, when C had had his fun and decided to deposit this idiot into the sea, and so he did! JS wanted to know why i did not hang on so he could have filmed it!
Following a storm, what follows….., the mosquitoes? Problem solved, call the fumigating exterminater.At precisely 6pm, this apparition arrives. The management decides to find the smallest Dominican on the island, attatch a dyson vacuum to his back, a diving canister to his front, and bright red electrical tubing connecting the two together. Ignite the three of them and even Osama bin laden would be proud. The mosquitoes are flushed out of their homes, furious at such disregard for their habitat, head for the clients, have a feast, and promptly go home to digest us! Job done and dusted.
Christmas this year was a dream. We did a house swap. Our lady from France and her entourage arrived at Chateau Harborne for 10 days and lord and lady Wellington took up residence at St Blaise.
We had under floor heating, HD TV, crystal glass and the Plough Pub up the road, and our guests had three dogs, DIY heating, no crystal glass and the nearest pub was 2miles away!!
We dined on take aways,majestic wines, all the family arrived for Christmas and we had a grand a party of friends who dropped in for a little”Boli”, pure heaven, thank you Frank and Sarah.
We were invited to Hagley hall for Boxing Day Lunch, normally a magnificent brunch cooked by our chef Buzz patching, but this time….Lord and Lady Cobham had heard that OLIF was in the vicinity, so who better to invite to impress their guests. I turned up in a little black number, edged in pink, what a mistake! When in the country you dress like a countrywoman. fur lined brae and knickers, thick 30 denier tights(not stockings!)With the compulsory tweed skirt to the ankles, four cashmere cardi’s from Harvey Nicks, a shawl draped around the shoulders, a string of pearls, and a pair of Hunters.
No exaggeration, it was 3 degrees outside and -6 inside the hall. We were introduced to the entire family, from Great uncle Nic to the past Lady Lisa Cobham. The highlight of the day was Lord Cobham test running his new toy, a remote control aeroplane, flying at great speed and perfect co ordination above the heads of his guests and the priceless Renoirs. What really really good fun. Perfect hosts.
Having bought out the entire stock of M&S,cheddar cheese, high baked water biscuits,marmite,and sloggy underpants for JS, we were back on easy jet heading for fr. Tummy;s nicely full from the vindaloo the previous night.(I do miss the UK)
10 days at St Blaise, just time enough to have our 400.000th french lesson from our delightful French professor, two hours on plus-que-parfait du subjonctif! Simple really!
Tash has a two hour driving lesson, having passed her theory…just. there was a little hiccup on question 23.a picture of a nice French gentleman about to cross the zebra crossing, at 12noon. Asked if he intended to cross or was just admiring the view, do you continue to drive without stopping, an acceptable French law if the pedestrian is just loitering!, or do you stop and allow him to pass. What French individual loiters at a zebra crossing at midday? FOOD, RESTAURANT, AND WINE are the ONLY criteria at this stage. GIVE WAY, they could beat you up if you don’t.
She can take her practical test after the compulsory 20 hours. The test involves two questions initially. The first on the mechanics that go on under the bonnet! And secondly a high way code question. The test takes 30 minutes, of which there is no practice emergency stop, because they don’t believe in it, parking involves reverse until you hear a clunk at the back, followed by a further bump at the front, repeat the procedure and your there. Finally, particularly in Tash’s case, remember to go round the islands from right to left, not right to left. After all this hard work, you part company with the examiner, and wait three days for the result. This way, the examiner does not get beaten up by the disappointed candidate!
Now we are off to Marrakesh for Js’s 65th birthday. Tash and Jill join us and we introduce them to the snake charmers, the story tellers, the belly dancers and the haggling. Tash comes into her own, a French speaking city, and can she bargain. She bought Jill a carpet, JS a pair of camel slippers, and me a 22 year old dark haired brown eyed marrakeshian! That’s my girl.
Back to St Blaise-hoping you are keeping up here!
We have now upgraded to a free sat box. Simple to buy, simple to transfer to France, but not that simple to install! We have Buzz patching in the lounge, JS on the roof hugging the sat.dish, and me up the ladder hanging onto the aerial cable.oh yes, we have Jean Pierre on the mobile a few klm away instructing the three of us what to do. Then the arguments start! Js cannot hear what buzz is saying, I am trying to convey the instructions, Jean Pierre has lost reception and the dogs realize its best to hit the bunker! We now have superb reception, excellent sound, but only in German!
Everyone, under the age of 20, and over 50 have all been offered the pig flu jab. So that’s us three isn’t it! Tash and I march off to the designated area in the market place of Draguignan.next to the fresh goats cheese stand and olives freshly picked from your neighbours stand, lurks the injection into your bottom stand. One quick prick, as it were and we are done!
Now its Js’s turn! Weeks go by, and the big wimp has decided that similar to the mad cow’s disease, pig flu had gone from these parts, so no point for the vaccine. Then, a chest infection develops; Tash and I convince him it could be the start of the dreaded lurgy! Since now the market stall has moved on, panic sets in. we are onto the internet to try and seek out the nearest vaccination centre. Bingo, 50klm away, in the darkest corner of the var, JS has spotted hope. Off he trots, having carefully rubbed the possible injection site with numbing cream well beforehand. Greets the nurse, drops his trousers and the nurse back off. In comes the male doctor, ticks JS off for frightening his nurse, injects his arm and leaves with the words…”les Anglais!”
There is much “new development” going on in Draguignan. Unfortunately here, the French have little respect for “old” buildings” they are keen to bulldoze them and replace with smart ultra modern ones. Well this time they were caught out.
A brand new gendarmerie was to be built in replacement of a pre war Georgian style majestic building that once accommodated the army. Work got well under way, unlike any of our mason work! There were absolutely hundreds of workmen, JCB’s, site manager’s etc etc.THEN; everything came to an abrupt halt. Someone spotted an unexploded world war 11 bomb! What great excitement. It was broadcasted on all the national radio stations, we heard about it in German on our TV! (just checking if you lot have read the previous paragraphs!) The bomb disposal unit were contacted; all the local mayors of course, every dignitary were there, or rather some miles away discussing “what to do”. Then, whilst all this discussing was going on, off went the bomb at 2am! So that was that, and work continued, and no one mentioned a thing!
We recently met Tash’s boyfriend’s grandparents. Lovely pair couldn’t understand a word they were saying, because it was all in Provencal. Tash was pretty useless this time in translating, but we just smiled and waved the arms. Speaking of arms, this 70 year old had no signs of “aging arms” you know what I mean, that awful wobbly bit that develops overnight from somewhere, and gets more wobbly every week! Well Grandma Moriano had none of this. WHY?? Tash says if you had cut as many french loaves as she has in the past 60years, particularly rock hard one day old ones, then you would have no wobbly bits either. So there you go girls, get yourself a stale french baguette, and slice away.
I see in the UK you continue to be conscientious with your recycling, and that the dustbin men/women are collecting twice a year now! Dare I say it, but we have collections every day and it all goes into the same bin! Mind you, the french only have empty wine bottles and various cheese wrappers!
We have a new doctor in Figanieres, Docteur Philippe Folio. Charming middle aged gentleman, cannot speak a word of English, understands about as much English as we do French, so JS fills in the prescription,Dr Folio signs it, he doesn’t charge us the statutory 25euros,because we have taught him a little English, and we haven’t grown a tail or died yet! Well done Shipman.
Tash starts Lycee tomorrow. Usual reluctance, but on Mondays, the canteen serves curried frogs legs, quite delicious apparently, so it’s worth turning up! Also, tomorrow is “Give your blood day” so all 18 year old students can offer their blood. Unlike the rest of the world, France offers a donor an incentive, give your blood and we will give you a bottle of wine! JS is queuing up at 9am.
Tess is continuing to work for the NHS at Russell’s Hall. A wonderful teaching hospital, fantastic experience, BUT, too many patients, too few therapists, and no where to park the convertible BMW!
Ok that’s it; you will be pleased to know!
Dogs need walking, JS wants his supper, Tash needs her eyebrows’ waxing, and I just wish you were all here for a big hug.
All my Love
TJ.cannot wait to see you and have cuddle xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Tash. Will see you tomorrow, so hope the eyebrows have calmed down! xxxxxxxxxx
DD and Al. have we stopped the smoking yet? Love the witch xx
Mr and Mrs Reynolds. And Ozzie. Big kiss to all and looking forward to seeing the wedding photos.
Mummy. By the time you receive this I will be by your side at the priory, looking forward to the arrival of your new hip. Perhaps we could go skiing this year, as you do at 90years old.
Frank and Kate. Have you done the full investigation of the uses and abuses of arnica??
June. We arrive 13th march, so we will meet up.
M &M. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Barbara. Will try to convince Paul this week for an extension of the water shoot, directly into the pool.
Joe and Val. keep the pendular exercises going! Hope you don’t have a better tan than I have when I see you.
Cag.any chance of you coming to see me and my Mum at our old working place? or we could go down to the Sir Harry for a pint of diamond white!
J&J. P & J. have started the complete refurbishment prior to your arrival! Hope you will be impressed.