Friday, August 26, 2011

Perfect Peace shattered by Drink & Dial

"How smoothly did your move to France go? What about logistics? How did you organise your furniture? What was the reality of those early, first weeks?"

On being asked some questions about how we made the move to our tiny village in France (over eight years ago), a story about the night we finally got our own bed delivered sprang to mind. It still makes me laugh.

What an evening we had planned? Here was something to celebrate. Almost the end of May; the last time we had slept in our bed was back in January. We had thought it would be a huge joke to pretend we were eighteen and use camp beds until our container arrived. But it wasn’t a joke at all. It was perfectly miserable. Due to circumstances beyond everyone’s control, our container was delayed for weeks.

So hideous had our ‘camping arrangements’ been that we ran out and bought a splendid sofa bed. Even so, when our container arrived, we just wanted to get into our wonderful, large, wooden framed bed with its super comfortable mattress and stay there.

After a heavenly meal and many, many glasses of wine, with not a care in the world we snuggled into the old familiar comfort, with full intentions of having a long lie in next morning. The utter tranquillity of the hills of southern France...

Ringing. Loud, bloody awful ringing.

Some loud bell thing was making a hideous sound. In the room with us. We jumped up, Larry shouting, both of us unused to the horrible sound.

It was definitely the phone, making an unbelievable din. It seemed unfair, cruel beyond belief to be awoken on such an important night, back in our beautiful, comfortable bed.

My mind spun with possibilites. Who could it be? What time was it? Middle of the night, early hours of the morning? How long had I been asleep; minutes or hours? How come anyone had our number?

The shrill sound could only mean a crisis; clearly someone must be dead.

My interest and concern as to whether my kith and kin lived or died may be interpreted by the following exchange.

‘You answer it; it won’t be for me...’ I said, pulling a pillow over my ears, which did nothing to dull the noise.

‘No! You get it; it will be one of your friends...’

Larry, furious at his sleep being interrupted, weirdly assumed that one of my cronies was ringing for a chat. I knew it had nothing to do with me and stuck to my guns.

‘I haven’t made any calls. No-one I know has this number. We've only just got the thing! I hardly know the number myself!’

A little change seemed to come over Larry and I noticed he was looking at the phone intently as if willing it to stop. It didn’t. Eventually my hero leaned out and gingerly picked it up.


‘Hi Larry!’ screamed a female voice, ear-splitting enough for me to hear.

The woman on the line had obviously downed a drink or ten before dialling. A very one-sided chat followed, Larry making faces, rolling eyes and jabbing a finger at his temple, (indicating a nutter?) as he muttered;

‘No, no. We are not eating out in restaurants permanently; just getting used to everything here…you know...’

Pause, more shrieking.

‘It’s very beautiful, yes. No, not at all like the Mediterranean. No yachts. What? Well, it’s about three hours drive to the sea. No, we don’t have a pool.’

The fiasco continued with Larry eventually trying to finish the chat by telling her how great she was to have called us, politely saying we were exhausted, in bed and it was three am. The voice on the other end just continued; she was at a party and well, you know...Larry was soooo missed.

More faces made at me, coupled with a little 'what can I do?' shrug.

I responded by making violent stabbing actions at him and at the phone.

After about twenty goodbyes had been said and the phone replaced, Larry began, with a certain attitude, to re-arrange his pillows, shake the duvet and with a massive yawn, prepared to lie down.

I began the enquiries.

‘How did she have our number?’

‘Well, um, I must have left a message, or something -’ was vaguely muttered before disappearing under the duvet with a sort of mad grin. I continued with my investigation.

‘When, exactly, did you leave a message?’

Painful groan in response. Eventually I dragged the answer out of him. It was simple. The day we got our phone installed, while I was once again out exploring the village, Larry had spent the afternoon happily downing Gins &Tonics, flicking through his phone book.

And leaving messages with our new number for friends, neighbours and ex-work colleagues, connecting us with some people I had hoped never, ever to come across again.

Marvellous early days memories - always much funnier looking back...

View from quirky village house - to the Pyrenees

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Irish Thatched Cottage for sale!

Ireland. I was born there and some special parts of it hold a place in my heart.
There is one large special county whose countryside consists of rolling hills, clear rivers, forests, mountains with magical names; the Knockmealdown, the Comeragh, the legendary Slievenamon and Mauherslieve and the Galtys.

We are in Tipperary, Ireland’s largest inland county, probably the lushest part of the island and the perfect place for thriving dairy farms. The famous black and white cattle can be seen all over the county in the rich pasture land, shelter provided by massive trees.

Ireland is a compact place, easily traversed in hours and County Tipperary is accessible by road, rail and is only a short drive from Shannon International Airport.

The place has an ancient feel to it, full of monuments, and most of the landscape has remained unchanged for centuries.

It was in ‘County Tipp’ that Brian Boru was crowned King of Ireland at the internationally recognised Rock of Cashel in the early 11th Century.

Historic events continued when in Hayes Hotel in Thurles the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) was founded in 1884.

Tipperary is a sports enthusiast’s paradise, boasting some of the best golf courses in the entire country. Its rivers are noted for brown trout, with one advertisement setting a gloriously magical scene:

“Imagine golden rays of sunshine reaching through a gentle mist, the dew still on the grass and trees and the fresh country air on your face. Mountains reach high up to the sky scored with gushing streams running to the meandering river as it winds its way though the valley past ancient monuments under the shade of the forest and onwards to the river Suir. Nothing beats early morning fishing in the River Aherlow, in such quiet and tranquil surroundings.” Quite a picture, and all true.

But if hunting is your interest, then Tipperary is where you need to be. It is serious hunting country with five packs of Foxhounds; the Golden Vale, Kilmoganny, North Tipperary, Ormond and the Tipperarys. If that isn’t enough, the world famous and spine tingling Scarteen Hunt covers parts the county as well as neighbouring county Limerick. There are also three Harrier hunts, plus the Ballydine Beagle pack.

Yes, this is Tipperary.

And here’s some good news; there is an absolute gem of a thatched cottage up for sale in the middle of it all. It's called a cottage, but with 3 good sized double bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs it's hardly tiny. Downstairs has a decent sized sitting room, a fully equipped kitchen and a sunroom, the latter providing enough space for some boots & tack, or fishing gear. The house is on about 3/4 of an acre with gardens and outdoor eating areas, lots of room for bar-b-q's and a real plus; a natural stream runs through the property.

It is a well placed house to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the countryside, or to immerse oneself fully in the considerable sporting life of county Tipperary.

In the region of €260,000
00 353 87 41 84 337

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Twitter Thing

This weekend I will have been tweeting for two months, and in only eight weeks my life has been completely revolutionised, online and off. Twitter hasn’t only changed the way I now spend my day; the connection with people who have similar interests has given me a different, fresh look at how I approach my work.

The information one can gather is staggering and the generosity of the people sharing it stunned me during my first days exploring how the world of Twitter worked.

This exploring (or initially a lack of it) produced a real howler during my very first weekend when, without understanding how it all worked, I rushed in and looked up people whose work I admired to see if they tweeted, and was thrilled to find that some of them did.

Not only did they tweet a lot, they gave a fascinating insight into their lives, because they didn’t limit tweets to life as a writer, or a successful agent, or a publisher. I loved hearing what someone might be cooking after a long day, or what the sunset was like in their part of the world. I longed to join in and let them know how my day was going too.

So, without wasting any time, going straight to the top, I flew a tweet off to mega agent Carole Blake, whose book, From Pitch to Publication, is a bible to everyone who wants to write and be published. My tweet was simple; follow me please? Ha! With great tact she responded, explaining that ‘Twitter doesn’t work like that, you have to be interesting first, I’m afraid.’

Far from crawling away with a big red face and forgetting about tweeting, I upped the anti and spent hours of each day during that first week in front of the screen, becoming more and more astonished at the many dynamic and talented people who found time to post such interesting things, sometimes sending information all day, while at a conference; gold nuggets of tweets.

Lest it seem like I spend all day still doing this, au contraire. Far from ‘twittering’ away my time, in my case Twitter had acted as a force for movement. It (or rather the dynamic people I follow) has positively kicked me into organising my days and my time in a far more productive way, especially where writing is concerned.

When I read tweets from other writers, especially women, with lives chock full of family life, often with young children, various other commitments, be it the organising of writing groups, contributing to radio shows or doing voluntary work and compared my life here in the hills of Southern France…enough said!

Since one link inevitably leads on to another, Twitter has re-kindled some interests that had been tossed aside, things I had imagined I didn’t have time for anymore. I’ve found fabulous Art sites, stunning vintage clothes & accessories, fabrics & furnishings; in a sense it shook me up to go back and do other creative things as well as writing. Why limit myself?

Most of all, I love the feeling of being part of a larger world, of being linked, however distantly, to so many people, all of whom have their individual & quirky way of looking at the world.

Of course, we cannot possibly hope to read each and every tweet of those we are following. But, to dip in and out and to feel, as India Knight put it, like one is at a Cocktail Party, able to join in or stand back and observe as one pleases, is for me, one of the best additions and marvellous pleasures of life in the 21st century.