A magical moto mini break

Adrian, Didier and I all having left our respective bands in the last year, it seemed a good idea to play together one evening at a new local tapas bar. We were never going to be great, as we’d only rehearsed together a few times, only once with the drummer and never with the lead guitarist. It was an odd mix of styles, mostly rock, a bit of jazz and an occasional folk number. Adrian suggested this Friday as he had some motorbiker friends down from Scotland for the week, so it was agreed.

Unfortunately, this meant that Nick wouldn’t be here as he’d be cycling from Bordeaux to Sete, then back to Nogaro, around 900km in a week. Or perhaps Nick thought that was actually quite fortunate, having had to listen to me practice the same songs ad nauseam as I tried to learn tunes, lyrics and chords to songs that either I barely knew, or that I’d never heard a few weeks ago.

When Adrian learnt that I’d be on my own, he invited me to take the camper to his for a couple of days, so that I could go out biking with the lads. They all came over on Tuesday evening; could I get to Adrian’s for 10am the following day? It sounded reasonable, but my sleepless brain went into overdrive, making lists of what I needed to pack and what I had to do before I could leave at 8.30am. When Nick left for Bordeaux at 4.30am, it was obvious I wasn’t going to get any more sleep, so I might as well get up.

The first job was to make a lemon meringue pie, always very welcome chez Adrian; but it didn’t seem much among 4 hungry bikers, so I made a marquise au chocolat as well, watered the garden, filled the cat’s bowl, showered, packed and wondered what vital item I’d forgotten, as I found myself ready on time, an almost unknown phenomenon.

We rode into the Pyrenees, up the col de Somport on day 1 and into Spain the following day, riding the twistiest roads I’ve ever seen and stopping at the top for a picnic. The weather was really hot, 37C the first day; when we had to stop at traffic lights in towns it felt like being in a mobile sauna in our thick jackets and trousers. But the views were spectacular as we swooped around the hairpin bends up and down the mountainsides, Kieran joined us for the second day, delighting in showing off his new bike.

There was plenty of good natured, if sometimes distinctly un-PC, banter, but what can you expect of a group of 50-something blokes? And I thought it was strange, the way the clothes airer, full of tee shirts and trousers, seemed to inch its way closer to the door of the camper; it turned out they were hoping the ironing fairy might work her magic; sorry lads – no chance! Was it perhaps a sign of age that our plans to go for a drink at the village fete on Thursday night were altered as we were all too tired to bother?

Friday afternoon came; I came home to swap the camper for the car and get ready for the gig; I’d hardly practiced for the last two days and hoped it would be OK. About 30 friends turned up, more than the bar owner was expecting as Thursday was a bank holiday and the weather was so good; we made a few mistakes, but what can you expect when we’d never played together before; fortunately the audience was very forgiving. Didier broke a string, so I had to fill in with a couple of unexpected solos, but it was a very enjoyable evening. And I took it as a compliment when the lads said that I didn’t scrub up too badly……..even if they did add “for an old woman”!!!

Home today, it seems very quiet after the laughter and hilarity of the last few days; but I really feel as if I’ve had a holiday, it’s a long time since I’ve laughed as much.





A quilting success

Every two years there’s a big quilt show in Biarritz, which, unlike most around here, has lots of contemporary work on display. There was a competition, the theme of which was Tracy Chevalier’s book “the last runaway”, which a friend and I decided to enter. We worked for weeks on a quilt that combined traditional and contemporary techniques to make our art quilt, stitching by hand and machine, burning organza with a hot air stripper (it goes all crinkly) and machine embroidering extracts of letters on organza, before sending off photos and crossing our fingers that we’d make the grade. We were thrilled to hear that our quilt had been selected and would be on display at the show.

There was some amazing work on show, from quilts that just made you wonder how on earth anyone can find that many hours and do such perfect work to the truly bizarre; a dress made of tree bark, another made of plastic food wrappings, and vases made of felt. Some very inspiring ideas.

Nick and I took the camper to Biarritz for the weekend, where I spent two days at the show, while he went cycling.

The walking club was walking from the Marais d’Orx on the Sunday, just up the coast from Biarritz, so we found a campsite at Ondres plage, which as the name suggests, was right on the beach. What had begun as an extremely wet weekend had by now turned beautiful, so we had a walk along the beach, watching the huge waves breaking and collecting shells.

On the Sunday I walked, while Nick cycled along the cycle tracks that run through the forests up and down the coast, till we met up for lunch. We followed the bus hired by the walking club to the restaurant on a camp site, where some ate in while others had a picnic, then those of us silly enough hired 3-seater canoes for a paddle up and down the river. Nick, Christiane and I were in one canoe, which must have been faulty as it insisted on veering from one riverbank to the other, landing Christiane in the brambles on more than one occasion as she frantically yelled “Nick redresse; redresse Nick”, which I think means straighten up. She couldn’t get the hang of paddling away from the direction you want to go in, which made it quite difficult for Nick to do much to help at all, quite apart from the fact that Christiane and I were laughing too hard to do much to help him, poor lad! Nobody actually fell in, but we were all fairly drenched by the end of it, a good job it was so warm.

It’s been a long time…..

Once we’d moved into our new house and Alex, Graham and family had been to stay over Easter, the plan was to have some time off, time to wind down, do a bit of nothing for a while and recharge the batteries. But you know what they say about the best laid plans…….

Nick was in Majorca, cycling, for the first week of the family’s visit; in fact I dropped him off at Toulouse airport just a few hours before I had to pick up Alex and co. We got them all home with Adrian’s help; as there were six of us, we couldn’t all fit into one car. But it was OK, we’d got the Renault at home, which Graham could drive once they’d arrived. Best laid plans?? Two days later, the Renault started to cough and splutter on the way back from a market trip, dying on the way up the hill from Nogaro. Graham’s not much of a mechanic and I’m spoilt when it comes to all things mechanical as Nick does all that; so I phoned Adrian, who diagnosed a problem with the points and suggested looking at a video on you tube and following what they did. Graham and I headed off to Nogaro, armed with a piece of sandpaper, followed the instructions and lo and behold, managed to get home! But only just; this would take a little more expertise than we possessed; it would have to wait for Nick’s return and in the meantime, we couldn’t all go out together. But the weather was superb and we could go out in groups.

I took Alex and the girls to Tracy’s one day; Tracy is a mad Englishwoman who has more animals than the average zoo; the usual cats, dogs, chickens etc, as well as peacocks, goats, pigs, sheep, guinea fowl…….  and of course, our old goose, who has now trained Tracy’s goose to be as aggressive as he is himself! The girls had a fantastic time, playing with and feeding the animals.

Once Nick was home he looked at the Renault, but it wasn’t a quick fix, in fact it’s still not done, so we could still only go out five at a time. We took Izzy and Sophie to the big open air art festival in Salies de Bearn, where they tried their hand at pottery, making baskets filled with chicks.They were fun to pack to take home!

We had an all female trip to the Grottes de Betharram, which was amazing; a huge series of underground caves, full of stalactites and stalacmites. You walk part of the way round, then have a short boat trip and a train ride. Sadly, you can’t use flash, so I couldn’t take photos.

Nick took Alex, Izzy and Sophie to the tree top walk in Aignan and we saw lots of Kieran, Alice and Artie, who, of course, everybody loved.

Once the two weeks were over and they’d gone home, the place seemed very quiet; now we could have some time off. But it just doesn’t work like that; there’s still so much to do on the house and it’s time to plant stuff in the garden, to pull out the waist-high weeds, to mow the grass every few days…….  So we’d have a few days away in the camper; the forecast was good, so we went to Vieux Boucau on the coast. But after one lovely day, when we cycled to Cap Breton for lunch and back along the cycle track, it started to rain; so we came home.

The next trip was tp Jaca in northern Spain; again the forecast was good, but we spent two days trudging round the town in the rain before admitting defeat and coming home, bikes soaked, but not having been off the van. The weather was gorgeous on our return, so back to work in the garden, work on the house, work on the quilt I was making with a friend for a competition, practice for a little gig I’m playing with a few friends soon; no time even to write a blog!

In the meantime, we’re still waiting for this mythical time off to materialise.