Coming Out The Night

Coming out the night.

Rolilng past early-rising liquid gold sun scapes. Rolling across rising morning mist scape. Dark branch trees silhouetted against dawn, grey blue, pink-tinged fringed sky.

Coming out the night,

Heading with forlorn hope down road trip highways,to tired small town and abandoned emptiness where a new an unattainable dream lies just over the horizon.

The Leaf, the Witch and the Hedgehog (A “neighborly” autumn tale)

The old lady across the road stares at me with autumn acrimony, holding me in her leafy gaze as I turn into my driveway. Like an old witch she shakes her broom at me and utters a seasonal curse. She used to scare me, now I know she is just totally mad – the madness of having time on your hands and very little to worry about. Some people call it retirement.

It’s all about leaves, my leaves, or those that fall from the maple tree in my front garden – the branches overhang the street and … in summer the old lady parks her car, on my side of the street, under my tree, under the vast leafy canopy that offers shady respite from the warm sun.

In autumn she leaves notes in my letterbox asking me to perform a « neighbourly gesture » and sweep up the leaves.

« All your leaves end up on my side of the street and they blow into my garden, and I’m too old to sweep them up. »

She is happy enough about her summer parking space, but when leaves fall in the fall.

Occasionally she sweeps the leaves from her side of the street back over to my side of the street, but they all blow back to her side, so she started sweeping the leaves into my front garden and then – in an escalation of « leaf wars », she would bag up the leaves from my tree that had fallen into her garden and come to dump them in my garden.

So, I raked and swept and shredded and filled my composter until it choked, then I picked up, bagged up and loaded up the car with bags of leaves to take to the local garden dumpster, and I returned home to find more leaves and I returned home to find the old witch sweeping up leaves, cursing as the wind whirled up and blew away the piles of leaves she had so carefully heaped up, ready for despatch into my garden. She cursed the wind again, angrily shaking her broom at the sky. I thought about saying hello, but she just flew off.

I did my neighbourly duty and swept and raked and shredded again and decided to call it a day when the day called it night and the sun slowly yawned, swallowing the light and the kind of dusty autumn dusk hazed in.

Bags and more bags and nowhere to store them and an evil idea comes to mind – to creep out in the middle of the night and hump my bags across the street and empty them over the witch’s fence. That is cruel, and with Halloween upon us, this is no time to upset anyone endowed with dark magical powers

So, as every year, leaves and more leaves, composted, shredded, bagged up and disposed of, save those last leaves – piled up at the end of my garden. A place of winter « residence » for our visiting hedgehogs. They nestle down deep in the leafy mountain and have done so every winter for the last ten years

Back in Time

In praise of rainy autumn Sundays with cups of tea, roaring fires and toasted muffins – in praise grey skies brewing heavy weather. In praise of leaves strewn across the ground in thick, wet clumps – in praise of nights gradually drawing in, heading home in the smoky dusk and enjoying a nip of good whisky to keep out the cold – in praise of everything autumnal.

In praise of this Sunday, the longest day – the magical moment in the year, when we put the clocks back and gain an hour’s sleep, free and untaxed, precious slumber time.

In praise of small town Sundays, when all the shops are closed, and whatever the need, you’ll just have to wait until Monday morning.

In praise of boring, lethargic, stay-at-home Sundays, when time floats slowly by and we forget what it is like just to have the luxury of time to waste.

The clocks have gone back, but on days like this, I feel I have turned the clock even further back in time, to those Sundays when I was a small kid, and the whole world was closed and you had time to waste.

Heading Home (Looking for lunch)

Heading home after a walk in the woods, entering Bourges from the north east through the Edgelands – those places on the periphery of town – the final frontier of fast food restaurants, DIY stores and shopping malls, marking the limit of urban sprawl, that seems to sprawl ever further, every year, eating up the countryside. The Edgelands – vast warehouse shops with unlimited parking space. The downtown is dying as consummers opt for accessible, automobile friendly stores where there is more choice – that is actually no more than more of the same.

Bourges Skyline from the edge – The cathedral between the pylons.

Awaiting development.

Looking for lunch. Hey we’ve got traditional American cuisine out here in small town France.

Chez Ronald.

Buffalo Grill - a nation chain of French steakhouses and a firm lunchtime favourite for families because kids eat cheap.

Southfork Ranch? We’ve got an invite to munch from the Ewings

Bouncy Pink Giraffe for the kids.

These perihperal places are all so depressing. How about a delicious Pizza in town?

Buy ten and get one free.

Count to three for Pizza

Pea Soup and Sacrifice (and shopping)

PEA SOUP

« F*** me, it’s a real pea souper this morning. Can’t even hardly see to the end of the garden. Far too dangerous to drive to work, might as well say at home. »

In translation

There is a thick fog this morning and visibility is very poor, down to only a few metres, thus making driving conditions far too danegrous. It would be far safer to say at home rather than risk the journey to work.

IF I CAN’T SEE, I CAN’T GO

My wife reminds me that I work within easy walking distance and can therefore go to the daily grind on foot.

« And what if it’s not there when I get there ? »

A bemused look from my better half, so I explain my theory of only being able to work in paleces that I can see

« I mean if the fog is so thick and visibility so bad that I can’t actually see where I work how can I go to work … if I can’t see where I work … »

The theory isn’t working, and my attempt at fog humour fails miserably.

At work, my daily « check in » with the boss. He likes to see me everyday and it is important to be seen. What you do when you’re not visible doesn’t seem to matter, the important is to be seen, charging around with a fistful of papers and a couple of dossiers under your arm, vigorously shaking hands with colleagues adding that you haven’t got time to stand and chat, you have too much to do. It always helps when you tell them that you have taken time out of a busy schedule just to come and bid them good day. (sounds like the basis for a good internal comms strategy)

I try my fog humour on the boss

« Well I nearly actually didn’t come to work because I couldn’t see the building and I reckoned that if the building wasn’t there then there was nowhere to work. »

The boss rolls his eyes and stares at me like he’s missed to joke, unsure if there was one in the first place.

« Oh, English humour » he laughs nervously.

I WANNA LAUGH

One Brit amonsgst several hundred French, such is my lot. Not an unhappy one, though you do miss ex-pat colleagues to chat with and spark off. I can’t rememer the last time I had a ood laugh at work. Can’t remember the last time I had a good laugh at all. Of course it’s November, a month of rain, fog, grey skies, death, more rain, the start of the annual flu epidemic and the mad run up to Christmas.

IT STARTS WITH DEATH

November starts with death and death has its own day off – yes it would be too much fun to celebrate Halloween, instead – November 1st – All Saint’s Day – is a public holiday, no one goes to work, we all spend the day tending the graves of our beloved deceased, flowering up their tombs, cleaning a year’s worth of bird shit off the headstone and weeding the borders round the grave – I suppsoe the dead do deserve somewhere nice to rest in peace.

Nowadays though you don’t get so many folks spending the day with the dead – not because there are less dead people than before (though that génération that would systematically gavesit on All saints day is itself dying out) there are simply more shops open. Like the US and the UK, public holidays have now become shopping holidays and this November 1st holiday is the time when all the ation’s major retail chains launch their Christmas Toy fairs. YShop now to avoid disapointment, bcause the toy fairs all finish around mid November at which point toys are thrown ff the shelves to make way for festive food.

ULTIMATE CUT PRICE SACRIFICE

If you have shopped and dropped on November 1st, or even if you have totally missed out on shopping because you spent the day with dead people, not to worry, the next public holiday is just around the corner – November 11th – Armistice Day – when we remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. This most solemn of days has aso become a shopping holiday over the past few years, leading me to wonder how those who laid down their, lives would feel that they had paid the ultimate price, so we could get cut price in the spécial « Armistice Day toy sale. » – Great time to buy your kids a toy gun.

ONE YEAR ON

They have joined « the fallen » – those innocents who were slaughtered in last year’s Paris terrorist attacks. Victims of the war on terror or the war thet the terroritsts are waging against us, our values and our way of life. Their names will never be inscribed on any war memorials, but in many towns and villages all over France, those killed on November 13th 2015 were remembered along with the hundreds of thousands of French men who fell in World War One. Poignant wreath laying cérémonies for the dead of the Great War and then seperate wreaths for those who did not go to war, but simply went for a night out with friends in a bar or to see a concert. Those victims who lived wanting every minute of plasure to last , a world away from the slaughter of the trenches where you think every minute might be your last.

Death was already firmly placed in the national November psyche, as sad and sombre as the weather, but it was death from another time and place. There are those who might say that we are still reaping the sad harvest of the « colonial » seeds we sowed générations ago.

THE CALAMITY OF UNCERTAINTY

So, I want to finish with this thought – The calamity and uncertanty of the Trump presidential victory. I would like Mr Trump to take heed as this weekend in France we have paid homage to those who died in the great war of the great empires and those who have died from the results of modern empire building. We marking the centenary of the Great War, but with the foreign policy that Trump is proposing, we are a mère step away from reinforcing those old empires under different guises – Putin has been emboldened by the Trump victory, for sure Trump will be lenient on Turkey – the door is wide open for new Czars and Sultans and the door is wide open for new wars and new massacres . Just a personal opinion.

 

 

Seasonal Pumpkin Brain Surgery

Here is a Halloween post full of the philosophical musings of an aging dad. Enjoy and Happy Halloween.

Halloween? What’s that?

It’s the time when dad hollows out a pumpkin to make a lantern, and the pumpkin is always too bloody hard, and dad never has a decent knife and ends up using a selection of power tools and kitchen utensils and gets covered in fibrous orange gunge as he hacks away to dig out the inside of this most indigestible of vegetables.

I’m not a brain surgeon, but Halloween is that time of year when I come as close as I will ever get to carrying out major brain surgery.

In our house, the Halloween pumpkin was a true father/daughter moment.

When the offspring was too young to handle sharp implements, I was the magical pumpkin maker and all my creations, however bad would be welcomed with squeals of childish delight. No matter how crap the creation, we had a pumpkin. Of course, dad being dad, I would never bother to measure the area of the windowsill and I would buy the biggest pumpkin possible that was always too big and would inevitably fall off the windowsill and go crashing to a squelchy orange death in the garden below.

In later years (when the offspring could do all that creative stuff with a sharp kniffe without asking an adult), it was my daughter who made the pumpkin, and of course dad would go mad because she wasn’t making it the way dad would.

We’ve never been great pumpkin makers, all our efforts have been far too smiley to ward off evil spirits, and then, in this, my daughter’s 18th year – up pops an enthusiastic dad asking if nearly fully-fledged adult wants a pumpkin, to be greeted by a nonchalant and very non-commital « maybe. »

« Make one if it makes you happy, » says my daughter, who, despite her leck of pumpkin enthusiasm, is busy making herself a Witch costume to go Trick or Treating with friends.

I guess like all dad stuff, I have come to yet the end of another era, and now, unless I make pumpkins for myself, my next venture in seasonal brain surgery will be with my grandchildren (Yes I am sad.)

Trick or Treat

And so to the art of the Trick or Treat. Yes, this is France, where, until 20 years ago, no one had ever heard of Halloween. So, I remember back when my daughter was still a kid, I would run round the neighbours planting sweets and treats in the early afternoon, so my daughter and friends would have something to fill their baskets when they went knocking on doors.

You know, in a country where Halloween is not really a tradition, a successful Halloween takes a lot of organising; Now, though, my daughter is too old for this « kids’ stuff » and that dad/daughter rite is more or less dead and I am kind of sad, yet tomorrow night my daughter will be terrorising people for sweets – I still can’t work this out… you don’t want to make a pumpkin with dad, but you want to go Trick or Treating with your mates.

I now have a confession to make – I hate pumpkins. Over the years I have tried making soups and pies, and the humble pumpkin is just a « difficult to cook » and tasteless veg that gives you bad indigestion (but no flatulence).

And to the point of this post. What is Halloween?

A good marketing opportunity for toy retailers to glean a few extra pennies before Christmas really begins.

Being Dead – A job for life

A chance for the Dead to have a night off – because we are celebrating that porous moment where those in Purgatory come back to haunt us and we also celebrate the dead. So why shouldn’t dead people have a party and a day off? You are dead for a very long time, so a day off being dead is a very good idea. We all take a day off work from time to time, so why shouldn’t the dead get a day off work as well? Actually if being dead was a real job ???? I suppose the wages would be quite low and you certainly would not have the very complex question of retirement and pensions. Being dead is a job for life.

Time to leave you for Halloween as I go downstairs to make my own pumpkin.