Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Wednesday catch up…

We aim to walk each day, although if the temperatures are high we put off the walk until the evening, by which time we are too tired. Excuses, excuses! However, we did walk in the afternoon and were fortunate that both we, and our line full of dry washing, didn’t get wet. Tim found shelter underneath some bamboo plants which are well out of control. Still, this could be an important source of food if the pandas at nearby Beauval ever run short!


P1000345A slightly wonky photograph along the same theme as the teasel one. We estimated the bamboo was about 12m tall!

Yesterday there was some respite from the hot weather. Cloud, a cooler wind with intermittent sun. Tim worked at some curriculum writing, with a deadline of August 1st, called the Great British Make Off. Watch this space!

 I pottered around the house, then set off to visit friends, Niall and Antoinette, in the neighbouring village of Charnizay. It was good to have a cup of tea with them, and to catch up with their news. The wonderful view from their sunny terrace, which must have been taken by mistake when we were looking at my camera.


In France I feel the need to plan what I do well in advance, so often things lack some of the spontaneity which characterised life in the UK. Not that going to work can ever be called spontaneous, but the variations around it often were.  Maybe this is because we are even more remote here, or perhaps I’ve slowed down just a bit too much than is good for a 57 (soon to be 58) year old!

At the weekend we attended a wonderful party, hosted by Simon and Susan, in Preuilly sur Claise. The food, drinks and company were excellent. We had very interesting conversations with guests of different nationalities in a relaxed atmosphere. Elizabeth had made a delicious cake to celebrate the 800th anniversary of S&S’s graineterie.


I’ll bet Colin enjoyed the trimmings. I’m just thinking that had the planned CCC meeting not been postponed, the prototype for this might well have been a bicycle …

Friday, 25 July 2014

Remembering the 1970’s to celebrate the 1950’s…

Last night we helped Jim celebrate his 60th birthday. Pauline had organised a fantastic buffet and drinks in Barrou.

On the way we dodged the lightning flashes and rain which seemed to be falling all around. We were concerned for the farmers, harvesting in the fields and taking their grain to the silos. As we drove home, well past midnight, the harvesting was still happening. Along the road from Barrou to Chaumussay were clouds of what from a distance seemed like smoke, but was dust.

We even got chance to dance the night away, in true 1970’s style (showing our age), around our handbags! A charming Frenchman even brought a handbag and joined in.

A big thank you to Jim and Pauline for hosting a magnificent party.


Taking a breather.


See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. I’ll let you decide which is which!


Shall we dance?

We can’t wait for the 61st…

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

There’s nothing like…

setting yourself up to fail!

My big plan was to do a blog post every day. Other people manage it so why should I be any different. I understood that some days the post might be ‘silent’ and merely be a photograph from our archives.

My reason for the increased posting plan is to keep family, friends and neighbours up to date with our lives. I managed to squeeze a post in on the day I retired, in between work and a celebratory BBQ with friends, but unfortunately forgot to take any photographs!

The rest has been abject failure, even though in that time we’ve done a lot of living! The following has happened:

  • A visit from Liz who moved to France with her three children nearly three years ago. She’s back for a visit with her five children! Henry and Daisy were born three months early. Liz won’t mind me telling you that she is a survivor of breast cancer. Doesn’t she look fantastic?



  • My wonderful TA’s (teaching assistants) took me out to Weston Hall, for afternoon tea. The cakes were delicious, (four cake stands full, between eight of us, and we’d already eaten some off this stand!). I really enjoyed their company. They have supported me, and my department incredibly well over the years.



  • We’ve packed the car to set off for France. As usual, we couldn’t fit in everything we needed, although I seem to have managed four coats and twelve pairs of shoes/boots (and those are just mine!) and six large boxes of Shredded Wheat!  Make sure you don’t tell Tim!! Luckily Rhiannon and Stuart are visiting in August so she has a list of things to bring over – and some to take back!
  • We met my brother and his wife for a fantastic lunch at The Green Man in Thriplow, near Duxford. It is always good to catch up with them.

Is it just me, or does anyone else notice a resemblance to Billy Bragg and Sue Perkins (of Great British Bake Off fame)?


  • We spend a relaxing evening with our friends Anne and Steve, near Maidstone. They are very hospitable, and Steve is always prepared to get up at 5am to send us on our way with a cup of tea.



  • We got a great deal on the 7.35 am P&O ferry from Dover. The cost was £39, which also included a food voucher for £20, which we spent on a waitress-service breakfast in the Brasserie!


  • We’d decided that as we are now people of leisure we wouldn’t bomb off down the motorway, but save the toll fees and come along normal roads. This wasn’t really as successful as we’d hoped. Sometimes life is just too short! To be fair, the congestion in and around Rouen probably didn’t help. At a rest area we ate our lunch next to a couple we’d recognised from the ferry. They were driving to Majorca for two weeks!
  • We arrived, unpacked, had a bowl of soup and went to bed. I have made a mental note that we need more shoe and coat space, and , lots more coat hangers!
  • I started a spring clean, which quickly became downgraded to a surface clean. I’m going to spring clean a couple of rooms at a time. After all, for the first time ever THERE IS NO RUSH! We don’t have a journey home booked yet.
  • Today, I went up to Loches to stock the fridge and freezer. Luckily we have two fridges!
  • Came back and Skyped with Tom, who is off on his bike island hopping again. I’m wishing he hadn’t told me about the snakes and that he is taking a tent! Two questions come to mind…can you pitch a tent on sand and do snakes like sand?

So,now you are up to date. I haven’t mentioned how pleased I am to be here, but perhaps that goes without saying.  We are looking forward to catching up with friends. In the next few of days we’ll be celebrating a 60th, an 800th, having moules frites with our neighbours in the village and hunting out bargains at the brocante at La Celle Guernand.


A swallowtail butterfly taken off the terrace, with my new camera. I am delighted with it.

If you think work is hectic, you should try retirement…

Friday, 18 July 2014

Retired…. at last!

It’s all over bar the crying.

I’ve made my last (of many) retirement speeches. There seemed to be so many, for different audiences. There were things that I needed to say and things that I wanted to say to the children, parents, my colleagues, friends and family. I tried hard to be positive and uplifting in my speeches, because, besides exhausted that’s exactly how I feel.

I have been absolutely overwhelmed by the messages, cards, gifts, tributes and hugs.


On the outside I’ve managed to be composed with hardly a tear, although inside I was only one tear away from complete emotional breakdown! In order to get through the day I needed to, rather like a skater coming out of a spin, focus on one spot, whilst still looking at people and engaging with them. It’s almost like it wasn’t happening to me and that I was just an onlooker in someone’s life. Actually, a very surreal experience.




I’ve included some pics of my flowers and gifts not so that you’ll think that I am wonderful but rather you’ll understand how lucky I’ve been in my choice of career, school, colleagues, friends and most of all family. I’m also opening my blog to colleagues and friends at school, most of whom haven’t been aware that it exists! they will be able to see (if they don’t know already) how grateful I am to be a part of their lives.

I’m off to a BBQ tonight, and tomorrow have a stream of visitors. I’m being taken out in the afternoon by the wonderful TA’s at school. I’m not certain where, but I have to be tidily dressed and hungry!!!

At some stage we’ll be wending our way to France, via Cambridge to meet my brother, and Maidstone to overnight with friends.

I hope that you are experiencing some of my happiness and contentment. Not because of retirement, but because something (however small, and on the surface insignificant) has gone right in your lives.

My gripes are going to be put to one side for today, but you can be sure you’ll be hearing about them!

  I’m typing this using my new laptop, as my old one was a work one. DO NOT mention Windows 8…

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Charles Darwin and the point of no return…

I hope you’ll forgive me for banging on, yet again, about my impending retirement. It’s just that at the moment it is the most significant happening in my life! There are still two weeks to go (eight working days), but on Friday I definitely passed the point of no return.


My retirement celebration evening was a wonderful occasion. Although I wasn’t looking forward to it, but my colleagues (past and present), governors, past students and parents all came along to make the evening a very special occasion.It was also the day that pupils and parents were informed of my retirement, via l’hebdo, our weekly newsletter. Tomorrow should be interesting.

I’d been very worried about my acceptance speech but I managed to keep them entertained! As usually happens on such occasions my Headteacher was very generous in her praise of my teaching abilities, then the deputy heads lightened the proceedings by performing a science sketch.

IMG_5419Nat and Richard

I wanted to use my speech to highlight, in a light-hearted way, some of the failings of the current system, which are a function of political dogma rather than for the benefit of our pupils. This is generally true regardless of the party in power. However, the primary focus was for me say thank you and to reminisce over thirty five years of teaching. Someone had mentioned that my replacement, Emily, reminded them of me. I can’t see it myself as she is young, tall, slim and blonde!! Well, I suppose I am fairly tall.

I calculated that over the past thirty years my travel distance to school has been over 140,000 miles and I’d spent nearly five months in the car driving to work!


The gifts were wonderful. A new camera and a magnificent fragrant rose called Charles Darwin, which was apt, as he one of the scientists I’d quoted (or possibly even misquoted) in my speech.

P1000010 The camera has a terrific 30x zoom

P1000052 P1000053










Today we had lunch with my good friends Corrie, Barbara and Sue. Corrie is married to Gordon, the Headteacher who appointed me. It was a very special meal, not only for the delicious food, but also for us as a group. There were echoes of a very French lunch; we started at 1.30 and finished at 7.40!!

Apart from Dave, Sue’s husband, we are all retirees! We have a tradition of buying a joint present for each other as we retire. Sue and Barbara were given stone benches, Corrie a bird bath and I was given a lovely squirrel proof bird feeder and some Zanzibar lanterns.

We used my new camera to capture the afternoon.

P1000060 Gordon, Lizzie, Corrie and Sue.


P1000079 Kevin (who is also retiring), Barbara, me and Tim.


Although we are very much looking forward to spending more time in France, I shall miss regular contact with these dear friends who have been such an important part of my life for so long.

Charles Darwin said that it’s not the fittest nor the most intelligent of the species which survive, but rather the ones most adaptable to change. I’m sure adaptability diminishes with age, so this is the right time for me to hang up my lab coat and goggles.

However, I’m hoping that it won’t be hard for me to adapt to retirement. What do you think?

I wonder what Charles would have to say about this…