Monday, 2 August 2021

Jean's post

I have occasionally been asked why we bother to have a house in rural France.  When we’re constantly patching up a crumbling old building, grappling with doing it in a different language and there is no handy B&Q around the corner, I sometimes wonder why myself.  Especially this year when we have had to jump through so many hoops to get here.  I was pondering this very thing on the way to the supermarket the other day.

Back home in the UK our nearest supermarket is almost three miles away.  It can take between five and forty five minutes to get there, depending on such things as time of day, how many sets of temporary traffic lights there are, or whether or not there has been a crash on the M1 and traffic diverted through the town (which happens more often than you might think).  The run is generally a load of aggravation, avoiding near misses with other drivers, navigating the speed bumps, avoiding the sunken manholes and potholes.  We go past two huge building sites where hundreds of new houses are going up which will soon be occupied and adding more cars to the already busy road.  We go alongside grass verges choked full of litter, into a scruffy little town where Tesco has seen off most of the other local shops except for the charity shops and hardware store.  Metal buckets are seemingly not big sellers in Tesco. 

From our house in France the nearest supermarket is 11 km away.  It rarely takes longer than the usual twenty minutes to get there and if we encounter six other vehicles going either way the road seems busy.  The run takes us along smooth and winding roads flanked by fields of endless sunflowers and the grass verges are neat and well maintained.  We rarely see any litter, potholes are scarce and the only likely hold up is getting stuck behind the occasional combine harvester.  Or sometimes having to wait for a little family of deer or wild boar to cross the road.

On the way there we drive through two sleepy hamlets of old and crumbling buildings very similar to ours and pass three ancient châteaux.  While in town we pick up bread from the boulangerie before heading for the supermarket.  Ponder no more, I thought.

Mind you, we have to get there well before 12.30 when they close for two hours for lunch – this is in rural France, after all!

Saturday, 31 July 2021

GZ's post

Being with all our  friends and newly met family in Aotearoa New Zealand felt so real, the time since February 2020 has been a living dream.

We have done our best to be positive and creative in house and garden, doing things that we have been promising to do for years.

The Blogosphere has been a great help to many, the ability to express feelings and reach out to others. Saying things that are difficult to voice in person. New connections made, some old ones disappeared into the ether. 

This has given us all a chance to step out of the rat race, evaluate who we are and what we need. To realise too what us humans are doing to our world.  To decide where and how we go from here.

Thank you Tom for the invitation. May you never lose inspiration.

GZ. x

Sarah's post

“Use your head, can’t you, use your head, you’re on Earth, there’s no cure for that.” Samuel Beckett

She could recite her whakapapa back to the Kingi movement on the north island. She descended from prophets and warriors. But despite her royalty, the charges of cultivation of marijuana still meant she would go to jail. The night before Bella Toa was locked up, she picked two men to sleep with. 

One man was her ex-husband. Pete looked like Sean Penn with a few less teeth and was a recovery expert in the local support group. Unlike Bella Toa, Pete’s whakapapa was a vague recollection of Pakeha settler/farmers and shop keepers. Robbie was her best friend, a stoic Ngai Tahu stonemason who used to scoff at Donna Toa’s penchant for Pakeha men and then one day saw the way Pete looked at her.

Robbie and Pete were both sea people and crewed the Taonga around the harbour on Saturday race meets. One day, long before the raid, Bella Toa found a new song and played it for them. I love this song, she said. Listen to this. She’d been divorced from Pete for six months and as the song played, all three stared at each other.

Who sings this?

David Gray.

And the room, laced with divorce and love and potential, morphed at the sound of this name spoken aloud. The same name of a man who’d opened fire on people across the harbour twenty years ago, when Pete, Bella Toa and Robbie had stood together, listening to the gunshots crack across the water out near the sand spit, near where the albatrosses wheeled about their cliffy nests. 

That’s a pretty fucking weird name for someone who wrote such a great song, said Robbie.

Driving. Before Portobello, where the bottom road traces the edge of the peninsula, Robbie pointed out the iron door set into the sand stone cliffs. That’s where his ancestors were locked up at night, he said to Bella Toa, before the treaty, back when they were indentured labour to the colonists. Building this causeway which they drove now, in a Mitsubishi Magna, with buckets of rocks. Bella Toa didn’t know how true this all was, about the iron door in the wall or the buckets of rocks. She was on her way to court at the time. She was probably going to jail. She lit a cigarette and wound down the window a notch, careful not to let in the cold.

They’d grown the crop in the hills up near the hydro. High country on a north facing slope. It was a family venture, she and two of her sons worked it but then, weeks before harvest, her oldest son had a nasty breakup with his girlfriend and that was that.

This is our whenua, our country, our womb, Bella Toa said in court on sentencing day. If I want to grow weed in my own country, who are you to say that is wrong. This is my country. What are your laws except colonial travesties? These are not my laws. This is bullshit law.

A Maori woman arguing for her pot-smoking family didn’t go down well. The judge, all but putting on his black cap, said law is law and you are sentenced to two years in prison for cultivation and supply.

The night before, Pete, now to be the full-time parent of their youngest child and ex-husband of a felon, asked Bella Toa for a pre-jail bucket list. I’d like to have you in my bed tonight, she said. And I’d like Robbie too.

And so Bella Toa made a slow dinner of boil up and they sipped on the pork broth, gnawed at the bones and ate huge chunks of potato and kumera, drank wine until her brow became sweaty with anticipation. At some stage of the night Bella Toa got up from the bed to make them all cups of tea. Kettle whistled on the gas flame. She returned with the tray wobbling with cups and teapot and milk jug, to see the two loves of her life sitting side by side in the bed. They’d thrown the covers aside and were comparing their penises.

Like little boys, she thought. She stopped and the tea strainer slipped. Pete and Robbie beckoned her over to sit between them in the bed. She put down the tray, climbed over Robbie and curled into their collective warmth.

Friday, 30 July 2021

Tasker's post

Was going to do something different, but this is about something I've just watched.


YouTube link:

On Sky Arts on Friday (UK Freeview 11), a brilliant 2009 documentary about Herman’s Hermits, the nineteen-sixties group many would now dismiss as forgettable and inconsequential.

Frontman Peter Noone, aged sixteen when they hit the big time, was given the brush off by the older Beatles and Rolling Stones as a performer of other people’s songs, and lectured by the opinionated Graham Nash for not using his popularity to further the causes of the common good. Yet they had a long stream of hits and were one of the most successful British bands of their era in the United States.

They were never going to produce a serious opus to influence the future of music. All they ever set out to do was to sing memorable hits. They did that so well. Their playing and harmonies were spot-on. It’s only when you’ve tried to play in a band yourself, it doesn’t matter what kind, that you begin to realise just how challenging that is.

Thursday, 29 July 2021

Freedom of speech

Nigel Farage has just boosted the RNLI's income by about £200,000 by accusing them of being a 'taxi service' for illegal immigrants to the UK. This much-loved and respected institution run by unpaid volunteers who put their lives at risk to save others has been inundated with donations from people who have been outraged by that foul excuse for a politician. 

They have also suffered personal abuse and some cancelations of subscriptions by people who support Farage and everything he stands for. He would let men, women and children drown, but the RNLI would save him if they found him floundering off the South Coast.

Who has the 'courage' to defend his opinion I wonder?

Wednesday, 28 July 2021

Joanne's post


My flower bed has dwindled over the years, from an English flower bed and a raspberry patch to an impenetrable porch of flowering pots. In truth, I had little interest in flower beds until I acquired the care of several grandchildren. 

What to do to keep them busy that first summer? The four of us set to work transforming the neglected bed in front of the house. It was a very big space, and I mentally divided it into individual plots. We began by planting wooly thyme everywhere. Ten years later it has covered the area with my best defense against weeds.

We planted bulbs everywhere. Anemones for spring, then iris and allium. Little flowers at the ground, eye catching blooms at waist level. Every perennial I could find or trade for. My friends had so many to give. Solomon’s Seal, coneflowers to make the bees happy, hibiscus to make me happy.

And on and on this garden went, for four years, and then I moved. Since I took grandchildren with me, we turned our new tiny front yard into a little English flower bed. This time all the work was by granddaughters, as I had moved on to a cane. One granddaughter turned her acquired skill into a little summer business, Weeding by Laura.

Then granddaughters left home and I moved to a home with a tiny front porch. I have culled my love of all flowers to a few to fill out my little porch. Mandevilla, red, white and pink. Zinnia, two great pots full. Salpiglossis, discovered quite by accident, and worth mastering the name. In the fall I collect the zinnia seeds and the salpiglossis in little glass jars, to save for the next year.

If Tom posts my pictures, too, you can smile at the flowers that make me happy.

Rachel's post

Tom has invited me to write a guest post here on his blog.  In the absence of a topic set for the post I have chosen to write about Socrates and philosophy in brief.

Socrates is suitable because both me and Tom hold him in high esteem.  

My thoughts on this are jumbled and came out of my head whilst laying in bed this morning so bear with me.


If I dare to open my mouth and express my thoughts on Covid 19  I have been told, erroneously I might add, that I am a conspiracy theorist, told to fuck off, and other things besides.   That I am a conspiracy theorist is not and has never been true but I have questioned many things out loud on my blog about the scientists, the BMA, the WHO, the statistics and now,  more so than early on in the pandemic,  exactly who is controlling Boris Johnson;  is he controlling himself;  has he lost control of his Cabinet;  is somebody else controlling him;   or perhaps none of these statements are true.   I don't think anybody knows the answers to these questions so I am not expecting you to answer nor least of all do I want political rants.


This brings me to Socrates, because he liked to question everything and to the answers he received,  he countered with another question.  For this he made many enemies and eventually was charged with morally corrupting the young for questioning moral values and for undermining morals.   He was basically a pain in the next to the political hierarchy of Athens.


In conducting his defence Socrates sought to find out whether anyone was wiser than him.  The oracles of the day came back to him and said no, nobody is wiser than you.  Socrates was baffled and he tested what the oracle said.    Socrates who  always claimed to know absolutely  nothing, concluded that "I am wiser than all of them only to this extent that I do not think that I know what I do not know".  

During the pandemic self awareness does not go amiss.


So as Socrates said,  lead a virtuous and a  flourishing life and seek knowledge all the time and everyday question your own life and how best you can live it.  Virtue is knowledge and the soul is far more important than wealth.   The word flourish meant knowledge in the time of Socrates and the only way to flourish was to seek to learn all the time.


Blogging is like a ritual, a ritual meeting space and within these blogs a meeting place of those we wish to meet at least in theory but it doesn't always work that simply.     Being part of a blog we find community fellowship with other but the problem of sharing in public and what you put in and what you leave out puts us  in a position of vulnerability and that can be misinterpreted and abused.   This would not stop Socrates and his questions so it doesn't stop me.