Le Gite Fantastique!

I’m in France. Since last we communed, I spent a few more weeks in Mansfield, caring caring caring – and I do care – then I came back to France, not to sit in the shack counting mice and singing sweetly, but to work alongside Simon and Lucy (formerly Cyrus and Ruby), helping them turn their beautiful farmhouse home into a fantastic, super-rentable gite.

And it’s proving itself an epic summer thus far. I’m in good shape. I kept up with the fitness jag while I was in England and I’ve been working like a wizard since I arrived here. Consequently I’ve lost more than two stone. So that’s good. Less good is the fact that my back is still knackered. But I did see a couple of physiotherapists while I was in England and I have a regimen of exercises that is helping. I also saw doctors and dentists and eye-doctors while I was in England, as I’m finally starting to realise that taking care of myself is not in fact a complete waste of time. It’s the exact opposite. That’s something I have learned. Took me a while, but … I got there.

So I’m looking after myself, and I’m working and I’m playing – we got the electric guitar set up in the Fun & Games Barn yesterday – look…

But the only writing I’m doing is for the site we’ve set up for Le Gite Fantastique! Which means the five books I wanted to write and self-publish by the end of the year have turned to three. And why not? I’m as fickle as I am free.

So, part of my work here is taking care of the online stuff. Thus far a website, a Twitter feed and a Facebook page. Ultimately, the primary concern of the website will of course be the booking of holidays. For now, however, we’re concentrating on establishing the personality of the place. This means lots of blog posts about the people themselves, the stuff that’s happening now and all the stuff that’s happened in the past two years, since they moved in, before one of them even existed.

This one…

So my own life for the moment has become kind of melded to the life of this place, which is so wonderfully hectic that frankly, I need more words.

And they are here. Please pay a visit. Maybe like the Facebook page. I’m not really sure what that means but I know I want it. Weird. A comment would be lovely too. The lack of interaction inherent in a brand new venture is a tough nut to crack. If you’ve a mind to, help me crack it.

I hope you’re enjoying your summer.

X

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Oops

I’m in France. I’m at the shack. I’m writing five books. I’m going to publish them all myself over five weeks. I’m going to become a self-publishing sensation. (Keep hope alive.) But in the meantime, I keep getting distracted. A few days ago, for example, I started tidying at around 11am – organising rather than tidying; the living room, the kitchen, the shed – and suddenly it was 7pm and all I’d had to eat were two slices of toast. So I stopped organising and started cooking.

I took a long time over the meal, reducing the sauce slowly. Meanwhile, I started a fire outside, put on some music and took out a table and chair. I had enough wine left in my box for one single glass, so while the spaghetti was cooking, I poured it and took it to the table. Everything was perfect.

When the food was finally ready, I dished it up and made my way outside. Just as I was leaving the kitchen, however, my fork began to slide off the plate. Foolishly I made an attempt to stop it, which was when this happened.

IMG_1235

I heard the wet splash and felt the plate become light before I’d really realised what had happened. ‘Did that really happen?’ I wondered, although only briefly, because the evidence was overwhelming. Then, wishing that someone else had been there to see it, but accepting that there wasn’t, I took a photo.

Then, very calmly, I grabbed most of the spaghetti, plopped it back on the plate, took it through to the kitchen and put it back in the pan. (Thankfully, I’d made enough sauce for a second plate.) Then I set about cleaning up the mess, starting with the wall.

Then I started laughing.

I laughed quite a bit. Not hysterically – not even remotely like a madman; just the right amount.

Then I threw the unsalvageable remains onto the fire, and took the second batch outside in the pan, just to be sure.

While I was eating, I realised that in the past – at pretty much any point in the past – there is every chance that, having done the same thing, I would have flown into something of a rage.

I then realised that – on the whole – I am fairly intensely happy. It’s true that I am growing increasingly tired of solitude, but that’s OK.

Life is good.

I caught the fork by the way.

 

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Gold

gold

Last weekend I popped down to London to do some secret stuff. The secret stuff finished a little earlier than anticipated and I found myself in Paddington on Saturday afternoon, at a loose end. So, what I decided to do, was walk.

First I found a map in the street. Then I started heading south.

I like walking. I’ve been doing a lot of it over the past couple of months. Usually I walk in and out of Mansfield. Occasionally Nottingham. But this was walking in London. Walking in London is different. It’s better. I don’t want to be all oooooh London, but … it’s just more interesting than most other cities in this country. There’s just a lot more going on.

So as I walked, I looked and I listened and I thought about stuff.

I walked through Hyde Park.

Naturally, for the first summery Saturday of the year, Hyde Park was packed with people. All kinds of people, enjoying the sun, enjoying each other. Friends and families. Lots of couples. Naturally. And naturally, it made me feel a little yearnsome. It has been a while. A very long while since I’ve actually been involved with anyone.

But the yearning isn’t as barbed and bitter as it used to be. I’m sure this is due in part to the fact that my libido is no longer the trapped angry hornet it used to be, but also due to the fact that I’m a little better at being alive these days.

Then I walked through Knightsbridge, and saw the rich people. Great, golden gangs of them.

Immaculate, exotic people, some of them with their kids, streaming out of ridiculous hotels and into ridiculous cars.

Again, there were a few pangs. Not just for the glamorous women with whom I suspect I would have had very little conversation in common, but for the money.

I’d still like to have money. I’m convinced I could do some pretty impeccable things with it.

I believe my pace may have quickened at these thoughts, for I have things to do. I have plans. I need to get a move on.

Then I saw this car:

obscenity

And I thought, no matter how much money the owner of this car gives to charity, no matter how much joy his money brings to other people, this car is a fucking obscenity.

Then I kept walking, heading south.

 

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Week Four :: Say No More

bellypork

bulk :: 12st 6
gym visits :: 4
hours of badminton :: 2
miles swum :: 0.5
miles walked :: 14 (or so)
episodes of Breaking Bad watched :: 21

I am sitting on a train on an icy cold but excessively bright Sunday morning, before 9am, and I’m reminded of a very similar morning almost exactly three years ago when I was in Krakow, on the train to Auschwitz. That was a bleak day.

The bleakness of the Holocaust, one of the darkest of moments in the history of humankind, bleeding gradually, self-centredly, into my own hopelessness. That night I made my way back to Krakow, picked up my bags and ate my last bowl of soup. Drifting back to the train station to catch the overnight to Milan, an old homeless guy asked me for tobacco. He wore glasses. I remember thinking, you don’t often see homeless people wearing glasses. Probably because it’s so difficult to hang onto them when you have no bedside table on which to lay them carefully at night. I remember thinking, this man could be me, or rather, in ten or fifteen years, I could be this man.

Today is different.

I’m not going to a deathcamp for a start. Pretty much the polar opposite actually. Which is good.

It’s later now. I’m back home. Back in Mansfield Woodhouse.

Because I’m not yet quite prepared to talk about the reason I went to Nottingham this morning, there’s nothing much to report this week. So little in fact to report that it could easily seem like not much is happening in this adorable miraculous little life of mine. But that’s not the case.

First up – quite apart from my mum continuing to get better and starting to slip the odd ‘yo’ and ‘bitch’ into her everyday conversation, and quite apart from me spending more and more time streamlining my gut – I’m also working on the first of four books I intend to self-publish this year. This one will be funny and light and will cost me nothing but time (which I have), so I have nothing to lose, and much to gain.

No point saying any more about that yet though.

So we’ll say no more. We’ll mention briefly that my pig of a pot belly is receding, that my muscle mass is increasing and that soon I’ll be popping down to London.

Then we’ll stop.

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Week Three :: Life Is Moreish

blossoming

bulk :: 12st 8
gym visits :: 4
hours of badminton :: 2
swims swum :: 1
muscles pulled :: 1
pulled muscles butched out :: 1
episodes of Breaking Bad watched :: 10
blips :: 1

My mum had a bad night last night. She was up four or five times with diarrhoea and then vomiting. This is not as rare an occurrence as it should be and whenever it happens, she sleeps late, understandably, and whenever she sleeps late, I imagine she has died in bed.

I can’t help myself.

This morning that fear was particularly bad, I think because I was eager to punish myself for the thoughts I had yesterday – thoughts I almost scrubbed out, or at least cleaned up, but then didn’t because … well, because they were real.

But she didn’t die. She got up just before noon. Feeling better, but looking frail and tremulous, and still all churned up inside. Her insides are in turmoil. Which is apparently par for the course.

She’s doing the crossword now, afraid to eat for the moment, a hot bag of wheat snaking round her belly.

She has a check-up at the hospital in three weeks’ time.

In the meantime, we soldier on, and rise above. And I am working quite hard on some books. Three books to be exact. And on my health.

Speaking of which, I’m very much enjoying myfitnessplan.com. A friend suggested that my filling it in was a sign of tremendous anal retention on my part, and that may well be true. But it’s working. As in, it’s making me very aware of what I’m putting in my body, and how much work I’m doing to burn it off.

It also tells me when I’ve gone too far and drifted into ‘starvation mode’, which is good to know, because even though famine chic might sometimes feel more attractive than middle-aged blubber-slick, it really isn’t. Plus, apparently, you don’t actually lose any weight in starvation mode. So what’s the point?

Finally, my mum has definitely been bitten by the Breaking Bad bug. She still can’t remember what it’s called – ‘Something Bag?’ has been her closest guess so far – and whenever I remind her of Mr White’s name, she insists on singing, ‘Walter, Walter, lead me to the altar’ – but that aside, she’s actually started suggesting we watch it now, and last night she described it as ‘moreish’.

This pleases me immeasurably.

She’s alive, goddammit!

And so am I.

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Blip

hulk

I went swimming this morning with my sister. When I got back, I was in such a good mood. Then my mum said, ‘Can you try not to leave the place in such a mess, please?’

It took me a second to realise what she meant.

I had neglected to wash the dishes from last night. Nine times out of ten, I do it after the meal. Occasionally, I leave it till the morning. On those occasions, I wait till my mum is up because I don’t want to wake her with sounds of crockery clashing through the wall. Today, because my sister came to pick me up and take me swimming, I forgot. I left a dirty frying pan in the kitchen sink, filled with dead soapy water, and a couple of plates.

‘It was disgusting,’ she added.

Immediately, my mood – which had been pretty ecstatic as it goes – fell through the floor.

‘One time,’ I said, seething. ‘One time I didn’t do it, because I happened to go swimming, and you’re having a go at me.’

She had done the washing up in my absence.

She said something like, ‘Have I made you angry?’

I had sulked past her to the computer in the corner of the living room, where I’m now typing this.  She said the last sentence in a funny voice, I suppose trying to make light of it.

‘Yeah, you’ve upset me actually,’ I said, not in a funny voice.

‘Why don’t you go somewhere and have a little cry?’ she said.

‘Why don’t you go somewhere and fucking die, you ungrateful old cunt?’

I didn’t say that.

But words of that ilk were firing through my head. I stopped them. I did actually feel like crying as it happens. I immediately thought, ‘What am I doing here?’

I thought, I don’t have to be here. I could be on a beach somewhere. I could be halfway up a mountain. I could be anywhere in the world doing just about anything.

We haven’t spoken for about 25 minutes.

I know I have to rise above this. She didn’t really say anything wrong. I did leave the kitchen sink in a bit of a state.

But I am still quite angry that she very very rarely expresses gratitude and yet, at the first possible opportunity, is happy to express criticism.

Still. I don’t like me when I’m angry.

I will rise.

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Paris Match, Marie Claire, Elle, etcetera

I was recently approached by one of the esteemed publications in the title of this humble blog post and asked if I’d like to be interviewed. Naturally, I jumped at the chance.

Now, there is a small chance that if you don’t live in France, you haven’t heard of etcetera magazine.

Not to worry.

But just to give you a tiny idea of the kind of magazine it is, let me tell you, it has a columnist called Reg who writes about French film stars he’d like to diddle. It has another called Mr Tickle who – sadly – isn’t as much fun as he sounds. His column concerns itself with European politics and has all the joie de vivre of a rectal biopsy. It has other columnists too, who, although they may not be trained or experienced journalists, do at least live in France. You can’t take that away from them. It also has advertisements for local services and useful tips, such as how to most effectively clean your oven.

The production values are not great, if I can say that without sounding disparaging. I don’t want to sound disparaging. They are all fine people expressing themselves as best they can and I say good luck to them.

Also, they’ll interview anyone. Look…

interview, etc

Thanks, Gayle!

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