St. Patrick’s day

I’d only met two English people during my first 9 months in Dax, one at the patchwork club, the other at the painting club, so when one of them asked if I’d be interested in joining an English book club, I jumped at the chance. My French is good, but the possibility of speaking English one afternoon a month, of being able to understand easily everything that’s said and to express myself properly was just too good to miss.

The book club is just one branch of a bigger, “international ladies’ club”; there are lots of activities, though, to be honest, lunches, aperitifs, trips to markets and cooking demos don’t interest me in the least, so for the most part, I’ll just go to the book club.

At my first meeting, I and two other “newbies” had to introduce ourselves and talk a little about our interests. A few days later an Irish woman, Sheila, invited me to her house for afternoon tea, along with a few other women. Sheila, it seems, was fascinated by the idea that I play in a band and as the afternoon wore on, even more interested in my having been part of an Irish band. She was going to host an event for St Patrick’s day and please would I bring my guitar?

She gave me the number of someone she felt sure would be happy to sing the melody to my arrangement of Danny Boy, so I contacted Glenda, who turned out to be an opera singer. Glenda said she’d love to sing and please would I send her the sheet music……. ah, well….. I had to admit that this was my own arrangement and that, never having had a music lesson, it was written a little unconventionally – the blobs were her line, the crosses mine. She took this in her stride and we met for a few rehearsals, of Danny Boy and several other songs, before the event last Wednesday.

It all went well, in spite of my ridiculously nervous state. I do wish I could conquer my nerves; I sing and play far better at home, when nobody’s there to listen, but in front of others my hands shake and won’t hit the strings properly and my voice wobbles. However, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves; we all wore something green, people brought food, so there was a wonderful spread and Sheila demonstrated how to make real Irish coffee.

At the end of the afternoon I came home and started packing for my trip to Italy the following day.

Successful vide grenier

It was a wild sort of day; cold, howling wind and frequent, squally showers, with the threat of thunderstorms in the afternoon.

Kieran had told me of a vide grenier, a bit like a car boot sale, in a village near him, so I’d signed up. I went for the luxury option; to be indoors, with a 2 metre table and 2 chairs supplied, I was very glad I had.

I had an early start; it was just beginning to get light as I arrived. Kieran had helped me load the car the previous evening and had added a few boxes of his own. I was delighted with the position of my table –  the first one as you walked in, not far to go to move my boxes and bags from the car, and the first table people came to when they arrived; though later on, as the wind howled through the open door, I was glad I’d wrapped up in numerous layers of clothing.

I hadn’t even finished unloading by the time the dealers pounced, rummaging through boxes and asking for prices. Kieran’s stuff was unpriced, so I just winged it and by the time the vide grenier opened at 8am, I’d already sold quite a few things, which was very useful as I’d started with more than I could fit on the table

I don’t enjoy doing vide greniers or car boot sales; the point of doing this was simply to get rid of clutter, so I priced stuff accordingly. I had a steady stream of customers all morning and by the time I ate my sandwich at midday, had very little left. There were fewer visitors now and the woman at the next-door table said there’d probably not be many in the afternoon, given the dreadful weather forecast .

My table, mid morning
One of the indoor rooms, there was at least one other.

So I packed my remaining items into a single box and came home, very glad of the heating as I watch the treetops whipping back and forth and the rain lashing onto the balcony, while I sip a hot cup of herbal tea.

Promotion !

Michel, the band’s singer, has had tinnitus for as long as I’ve known him, but recently it’s become much worse; so much so, that he’s had to take the decision to stop singing with us, though he’ll continue to write most of our lyrics and do any necessary paperwork.

I wasn’t the only one concerned that this might mean the end of the band, but we all want it to continue. The next question was, would we look elsewhere for a new lead singer? Again, the decision was unanimous – NO! It’s one thing finding a new bass player, but the singer is the heart and the personality of a band, we didn’t know who we might end up with, the last time that happened, it was disastrous. Jean Michel, who takes on the role of singer when Michel isn’t at rehearsal (half the time as Michel has an eight hour drive from Marseilles, so only joins us once a month) stepped up. He has a lovely voice, but has always said he doesn’t really want to be the front man, a job done brilliantly by Michel; however, given the alternatives, he’s prepared to do it. He wants to make a few changes, however, most of which involve me doing a lot more.

I’ve had it very easy up to now; the lyrics don’t need much learning when they’re mostly ooh and aah, with a few choruses now and again. But French songs tend to be wordy and the lyrics that Michel writes are often full of metaphors and incomprehensible to me, which makes them difficult to learn. Their wordiness also means that sometimes it’s difficult even for a Frenchman to get his tongue around them quickly enough; I’d have no chance.

Jean Michel came over last Sunday and we worked for hours on how best to arrange the songs we have and those that are in the pipeline. He wants me to take on three more solos, in addition to “sweet dreams”, as well as taking a bigger role in several others. Where I’ve written and learnt harmonies, I’ll have to learn the melody and in some cases, teach Jean Michel my harmony. Occasionally I’ll be playing my guitar too, just need to buy a cover for the sound hole so that it won’t cause feedback.

Jean Michel, Adrian and Mika in the studio
Never having had a music lesson, my written music is without timings.
Jean Michel and Adrian
One of my new songs

Between that, preparing to play at a St Patrick’s day do and trying to finish a few pieces for the painting club exhibition, I’m certainly not going to have time to be bored.

Work in progress

Christmas, a bit late

Now that I can post again, it’s about time I had a catch-up, rather belatedly.

Alex, Graham and the girls came over for the Christmas holidays, Kieran took the time off work and Gemma joined us for a week around new year. I’d wondered if, my apartment being about a quarter of the size of the house in Caupenne, we’d drive each other mad; but everyone mucked in and got on so well together – no problems at all. Graham and Alex did a lot of the cooking, a real treat for me, especially Christmas lunch, one of the best I’ve ever eaten.

I couldn’t believe how well Immy, Artie and Emily got on together, as if they were together all the time. We spent several afternoons at the temporary ice rink in Dax and at the funfair, where the kids ate their way through the most enormous quantities of waffles, crepes, ice creams and churros.

We played silly games, watched slideshows of old photos, visited the Sourceo spa, went to the seaside, laughed a lot and generally had a great time.

My plan to take the kids to the local garden centre to choose a Christmas tree decoration each, to put on my tree, was somewhat hijacked by Kieran and Graham, who went for the “who can find the tackiest decoration?” option. To be fair, they were spoilt for choice; I think Parisian chic doesn’t extend this far!

Brian and Ryan
Suitably tacky

Alex and I spent an afternoon in the band’s rehearsal studio, where Alex recorded a song that Adrian wrote a few years ago, but which is too high for me. It still needs bass, second guitar and drums adding, but one day we’ll get around to it.

All too soon it was time for them all to go home. My apartment and my life felt very quiet and empty for a while, but life goes on and I’ve got plenty to fill my time with; band practices, painting and patchwork clubs, cycling, so I’m back into it all now. I’m looking forward to going to Harrogate with Kieran and the kids in April though.

Bungee trampolining – Immy loved it!
Christmas lunch
A day in the studio