‘..of seasides and sunsets, technology and trees…

‘Oh I do like  to be beside the sea…’ this song was written in 1907 -thanks Wikipedia for enabling me to find that out!

and here I am on holiday on a campsite right near the Bay of Biscay at Moliets et Maâ.

It’s one of these touristy places coming  to the end of the summer holiday season  that I love – for a week at least.

The sandy beach stretches as far as the eye can see

Long limbed and beautifully  suntanned students carry surf boards,  couples with babies stroll and eat ice creams – the cooler September temperatures are ideal for everyone young and old alike and of course, there are  lots of retired folk like us making the most of the cheaper campsite rate in September.

I am definitely Mrs Goody Two Shoes this morning – up and in  the swimming pool soon after it opened at 9.30am, therefore before the children. I’ve nothing against children per se but I think they should be in school by now – leaving the pool for us grannies!

This is a strawberry tree…I’d never heard of it,  once again the internet and Wikipedia become useful tools. There’s a walk we do quite often here through the woods, trees that are holding the sand dunes in place and strawberry trees and cork trees fill the gaps between the pines.

I don’t do social media stuff like Facebook or twitter, but I love the technology that brings my family closer on FaceTime, my melodeon lessons on Skype, photos and conversations on WhatsApp…and being able to look up a strawberry tree in South West France while I’m standing next to it!

And my quote about the sea for today…

“Look at that sea, girls–all silver and shadow and vision of things not seen. We couldn’t enjoy its loveliness any more if we had millions of dollars and ropes of diamonds.”
Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables







I don’t do social media stuff like Facebook or twitter, but I love the technology that brings my family closer on FaceTime, my melodeon lessons on Skype, photos and conversations on WhatsApp





‘Home again, home again,jiggety jig’….

No we didn’t buy a fat pig, I did buy a melodeon, does that count?

On the way to the UK we stopped to visit Honfleur and Deauville


And now here we are, back safe and sound after some lovely times with the family, seeing friends and some birdwatching on local RSPB sites and revelling in the big skies of the Vale of York and of course the beautiful East coast of north Yorkshire.

And of course, eating fish and chips  at Whitby. Strange, with no longer a dog accompanying us we could actually eat inside! ‘Trenchers’ near the station in Whitby comes highly recommended.

And in the garden, a wasp spider was there to greet us – scientific name Argriopi Bruennchi.

return to Yorkshire…

…of course not permanently- this is the season for seeing the family…

Perhaps the title this time should be ‘culture in an ordinary life’ or ‘notes from a philistine…’

Art is a funny business isn’t it? Some things like Matisse’s Blue Chapel in St Paul de Vence, and ‘E Lucevan Le stelle’ from Puccini’s Tosca, to name but a couple, give me goosebumps and make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up,  but not so a Damian Hirst pregnant female or even the great chunks of Henri Moore’s bronze sculptures…

The Yorkshire sculpture park, however,  is in a  beautiful rural setting, acres of fields, and some magnificent mature trees. Nature itself in this instance is a work of art.


It describes itself as an open air gallery and it shows off the Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth huge bronze sculptures to perfection. They look like part of the landscape, as if they were meant to be there, as if they grew there somehow. 

It’s all very green and verdant, compared to the dry scorched fields of our corner of France at this time of year.


Plenty of Canada geese and sheep were working away keeping the grass down.

…and now for my latest acquisition

369F8BD7-959F-4B09-AF03-F21FA8F5DBE8The pound is taking a dive because of Brexit and/or threats of a no deal, I’m not in the least musical and yet I’ve spent all my pension on a melodeon… well yes I agree it’s a bit daft at this time in my life, but….

…it is a challenge!

I couldn’t get on with the accordion, I blamed everything, from trying to learn a totally new instrument in a foreign language where they use ‘doh ray me’ and not ‘every good boy deserves favour’ to  Madame twinkly eyes, the teacher who used some very formal French method from the nineteen thirties, and didn’t understand a word I said , to the fact I could hardly lift the damn thing, but really it was, and still is because I am about as musical as a teacup…

…but in a sort of valiant effort to try and stave off the dementia that ruined my mother’s last decade of life, I’m giving it another go. And if I could play a tune I know I’d enjoy doing so.  It’s smaller and easier to handle, but more difficult to play being diatonic and not chromatic…or is it the other way round…

but I can have a face to face lesson in English, when I’m over here and then by Skype when I’m in France… and that can’t be bad, can it?

Ok – so at the moment, it’s all a bit like murdering an English folk tune and no one could clap in time to the rhythm I play, however,  I will give it the two years I gave the accordion and hope for the best!

I am hoping that this quote from Moshim Jameel will spur me on, so that one day there will be a video of me playing a real TUNE…

“A little progress each day adds up to big results.”









Even more ordinary tales from this wonderful ordinary life…

It’s come to my notice I haven’t been writing much at all recently.

Here’s a photo of the most important item in my life at this precise moment. It’s a portable air con unit… 


Who would write about a portable air con unit on their blog – well me of course.

It sounds a bit like a volcano about to erupt, it’s ugly and takes up a lot of room, but it’s worth its weight in gold.

France, like most of Western Europe is in the grip of a heatwave and even our tiny, dark, stone cottage has given in and heated up. This machine makes life bearable…and the even the really old one downstairs that gives off a musty, dusty smell of old damp rooms and long dead spiders is working away noisily, so that this evening we can sit in comfort in the living room.

When I look back I see that June has been a busy month, lots of things have happened, in fact it’s been a great month, apart from our poor old dog having  to go to the big meadow in the sky with a tumour on her heart blocking her oesophagus and trachea …


Here she is on the day we got her, given to us from the breeder, she was nearly three years old and never been in a house or seen stairs…but her back was too long, her colour had become unfashionable, she was minus some teeth so she came to us on two weeks trial…for free…

Here she is just before we took her to the vets, on the lane with the cornflowers.


We’ve  lived here full time for 12 years and for 11 of them she was part of our life, a stubborn little cairn terrier with a personality all of her own. Oh yes, she’ll be sorely missed.

June also saw us hosting a garden party, after the rain and before the heatwave, yes, we were so lucky with the weather. An eclectic mix of French neighbours and English friends gathered on our ‘lawn’.  Our neighbours here in rural France  don’t speak English, but we have  English friends nearby who have excellent French.


Ok so ‘bienvenue’ is spelt incorrectly but the meaning was clear enough, I hope. And the garden, that part that’s not taken over with his wonderful vegetable plot and fruit trees, did look it’s best.

As for the tuna and cucumber sandwiches, they didn’t seem to go down  that well, but the scones with jam and crème fraîche seemed acceptable.

Then it was by train from Vichy for a weekend in Paris with my dear friend from the village back in Yorkshire.  We were  so lucky because we were there just before the heatwave struck.

Gare St Lazare is almost just the same as Monet’s  famous  painting of it, and his gardens at Giverney were more than just pretty on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

His house has been well kept and the famous water lilies are just how we imagined.

One of the highlights of our Paris visit was Puccini’s Tosca at Opera Bastille. 

It was a real treat and as we would expect from the French national opera the sets were artistic and the singers very good. If you get chance to listen to Pavarotti’s rendering of E Lucevan le stelle on YouTube I’d say do so, it’s a great number from Tosca – even tho it’s not Tosca who sings it but Cavaradossi… and  I’d be surprised if it doesn’t give you goosebumps – the guy in Paris did a great job of this famous song and certainly raised a few hairs on the back of my neck.

While I was taking in some art and opera, back at home Himself was watching and photographing a young fox, watching a squirrel at the bird food, and also saw  a sparrow hawk swoop in and claim a greenfinch from the windowsill.

The natural world on our doorstep, David Attenborough eat your heart out.

Only right that I should end with a quote from Claude Monet

My wish is to stay always like this, living quietly in a corner of nature.’





… back to Yorkshire and…

gods  own county, if you believed in any deity, and with the sun shining and the big skies of the Vale of York surrounding me, could anywhere be better for this Easter holiday? I don’t need to ask myself that question…and of course we are in the village with the family, daughters, partners and grandchildren – for else why would we be here?

We are rocking the good times.

Here is Hornsea in the hazy morning sunlight.

It may look a little seedy to some folk, but it’s there, similar to what it would have looked like in its heyday… slowly being eroded into the North Sea, genteel and Victorian and utterly charming. Perhaps it can’t match your  Brighton, or Torquay in some ways, but the car parks are not expensive and there’s plenty of clean public  toilets – wheelchair and pushchair friendly pavements and craft shops. Hebden Bridge by the sea for old folks, with a healthy blast of that North Sea air.

And this wonderful specimen is in the clean park in the centre – as a responsible dog owner I was pleased to see a distinct lack of dog poo. The sign says no dog fouling- maybe people take some notice in Hornsea, lovely to think  children could run around freely on the grass.

This is the big sky  and beautiful unspoilt scenery of the Wolds, our daughter took this – unfortunately neither us or our old doglet do the length of walk she does with their dogs these days. But we did a few all over Yorkshire in our walking days.

And our doglet with her friend where we stay, enjoying the nearest she gets to a scamper these days, amongst his home grown Christmas trees.

so that’s it, sunny Yorkshire, the family,  the Easter holidays and the health to enjoy the moment, who could ask for more?










The late afternoon sun was warm on my back as I walked with the old doglet towards home. 

Spring is definitely on its way to this part of rural France, and March with  its usual mix of warm sunny days and grey dismal ones, occasional hailstones and rain,  doesn’t hide the fact that there are big fat and juicy buds on the horse chestnut tree that we pass most days. The grass is greening up and the birdsong is sweet and joyful – they feel Spring is in the air too.

New life is starting all over again.


I look at my own long shadow as the sun starts to dip down behind the Monts des Madeleines and am conscious that it’s like my life,  there, stretching out in front of me  – but coming to a stop long before the end of the path.

No more than I can catch up with my shadow, can I stop the passage of time, and soon it will disappear completely. It is already getting fainter as the sun starts to hide. I know this too shall pass. Age creeps up and sometimes it’s hard not to think about the inevitable.

Of course that way madness lies, so we maintain a positive attitude and give thanks for every moment.

 And my long shadow in the oh – so- nearly –  spring sunshine convinces me that I am truly blessed at this moment in my life.

I can look down to the valley and see our nearest town, bright in the sunshine.

Soon the short twilight will be upon the dog and I, we are not in the town where the evening sun lasts longer, so we quicken our pace.


The wind has changed…

It seems along time since I wrote anything…

I knew the muse had left me, but she, my alter ego – the poet, the writer, the othermij – didn’t go with a bang but quietly slipped away – over time,  like when the mist disappears from the hills opposite the cottage in the warmth of the spring sunshine

Leaving me acknowledging the aches of old age,  too much time on my hands and a wish to fly south with the birds.

As if a different climate, a change of scenery would work some magic and bring her back…

The years roll on apace now leaving me at the wrong side of seventy and trying not to worry about it.

Ah, but this blog is called  the Happy Hoopoe for a reason, life is good, and spring has come. The garden looks excellent after the ploughing and the view down towards the river Loire may not be as spectacular as some parts of France but it’s peaceful and calm in its tranquility.

We visit Moulins to see the finish of a day in the Paris – Nice cycle race and admire Le  Grande Café


It’s worth a visit – if a little difficult to photograph


‘Spend time with someone who warms your heart,’ a suggestion from a Buddhist writing – always a good idea, and yesterday I called on a lady older than me who has many trials and tribulations to bear including being wheelchair bound with MS. She was on her own and  glad to see me, that much was obvious but I came away with my heart most definitely warmed. I hope hers was too.

Another suggestion is to  ‘look through old photos. ‘ I need no encouragement for that…


Ho! Ho! Not quite as appealing as my granddaughter is, as all who know her will agree.

A visit to Emmaus to buy some chairs ended up with no chairs being purchased but this little beauty.


For  the princely sum of 10 € our soup next winter will be served beautifully – and do justice to the excellent vegetables the gardener, woodturner, filler in of complicated tax forms, MG Midget mechanic and wine bottle opener, grows.

And so, the wonderful ordinary life continues…I just wonder what I meant to write about when I called this blog, ‘the wind is changing?’ For the life of me I can’t remember now. I expect it will come to me in the middle of the night…or not, as the case may be.