Essential elements of a successful staycation: set aside a time to go on holiday (I can think of no equivalent grating rhyme/pun in Britspeak to the vacation/staycation on so the discrepancy will have to stand); save up the money to do so; tell everyone you know you are going; get the house into a reasonable state of order; generally convince yourselves of the reality of your departure.
While on staycation, spend each morning in robe and pyjamas, have plenty of books and DVDs in stock, pull the plug on the phone. Spend some time each day in a fairly energetic outdoor activity to give you an appetite and thirst for the extra eating and drinking you are likely to do, as you might if you were on real holiday, but since going for walks, bike rides etc will only reinforce one's homebound state, and the idea is to be at home but also not-at-home, in a peculiar kind of psychologically displaced state, these are not recommended, sweeping up hedge cuttings has proved to be effective.
Things not recommended for a successful home-séjour (I like that better): booking a hotel which you won't get to, getting a last-minute sick dog on your hands.
'And how's Molly?' asked my brother last week when we were making arrangements to meet in Pontorson for lunch on my birthday.
'Great.' I replied, 'still rolling around and playing about and acting like a puppy at eleven. She hasn't had ear trouble for quite a while now.'
Then I added flippantly
'She'll probably go down with it at the end of the week.'
I shouldn't have said that. The week drew on, I phoned the hotel to confirm the booking. Then on Friday morning, the day before we were due to go, Mol jumped up on the bed in the morning and squealed as she touched the right side of her head on nothing in particular, and I knew what it meant. I phoned Emy the vet to make an appointment for that afternoon, and by the time we set off for it I'd already rung hotel and brother to cancel, and Mol was curled up in a moping heap, shaking her head, walking into things disoriented and squealing every time she did so.
The hotel had already said that no deposit was necessary, simply arriving in good time on the day would confirm the booking. I asked if they were sure I didn't owe them anything for such a late cancellation, and they insisted not. I told them about the suddenness and unpredictablility of doggy ear-boils, that I was disappointed, it was my birthday, I'd been looking forward to it...
'Ah, désolé!' said the manager kindly, 'You come back and stay when your dog is better.'
That was the only time I indulged in a self-piteous sniffle. Only it wasn't really self-pity, just that kindness can undo one when brusqueness wouldn't, as we all know. But when she gets these sessions, she needs to be home and in the warm; a strange place, walks she couldn't manage, time spent in a cold car, would not have been any good.
My brother was also sympathetic but we changed the subject and had a bracing chat about septic tanks and I pulled myself together.
Emy did all the usual stuff, shaved the area in readiness for the abscess breaking open and gave her an injection and a course of a brand new magic-bullet-devil's-bargain-kill-everything-but-the-dog antibiotic. We pulled the plug on the 'phone (sorry if you were trying to reach us, as far as we were concerned we were away, I really didn't much feel like chatting) and dug ourselves in for the duration.
It really wasn't too bad, just a question of resignation and waiting. And the wonder drug really did seem to help; Mol spent a day near-comatose as before, but not apparently in great pain, and then woke up and was quite cheerful and alert, bothered and irritated by having a fat head on one side but not as ill with it as usual. I was half-afraid, as was Emy when I told her, that stopping the infection in its tracks like that might mean it didn't work its way out and she might have to have it lanced, but in fact she jumped down this morning, after keeping us awake fidgeting and grumbling for a while, and the offending abscess burst dramatically. Sorry, I'm sure no one really wants to hear about this. What a lovely birthday present! Still, better out than in and better here than in a hotel or even the car. Since then she has been recovering in leaps and bounds, almost literally. I plugged the phone back in and rang Emy to let her know, and she was pleased and interested that the results seemed favourable.
(Even at her worst, a tuna sandwich was enough to make her sit up and sniff.)
So I spent this morning, my fiftieth year to heaven (or whatever), playing with my new Kindle, chatting to my sister and er, cleaning up, enough said. Tom went out shopping to cook something for my birthday meal later, which should be nice, and when he got back we started on last year's sloe gin and orange spice liqueur.
I feel pretty chipper on the whole. Whingeing about not getting what I might think I'm entitled to doesn't seem in order; I'm not spending my 50th birthday at home, unsurrounded by troops of friends and merry conviviality late into to night because I am dull, forgotten, unloved and unlovable, and the nasty little gremlin that insinuates it's way up into my mind and tells me it is so has been sent packing, hopefully once and for all for the next fifty years at least. I am so glad and thankful that Mol has people who can and will afford to take care of her and give her priority, that I've a home I'm happy to stay in, abundance of food and drink, of warmth and comfort and security, a husband who'll shop and cook for me, plenty of evidence of affection in e-mails etc from far and wide. I really am a spoiled brat. I'm prepared to take the lesson that you just can't rely on plans. Mol's ailments have prevented me from attending my old friend's wedding, have overshadowed other trips and outings in the past, but at least this time it's only really ourselves who have been disappointed and inconvenienced - my brother and s-i-l suggest we meet in Dinan or somewhere at a later date, and probably won't beak their hearts over a cancelled lunch. Caring for what or who needs to be cared for and doing what's needful come first. Le Mont St Michel has stood for a thousand-odd years, it'll still be there later.
(Transfigured by sunbeams and suffering, but why am I having to lie on an old sheet in my beanbag?)
We had a new jobbing gardener in to cut the hedges, hence the need to be sweeping up the cuttings. We were rather trepidatious about this, as he was an unknown quantity, looked a bit of a bruiser, and wasn't our old one. He quoted us about twice as much as the old one (an English friend who was always rather under-capitalised and under-equipped), a rather scary amount, but it seems we can recoup half of the cost off our income tax for next year (only works if you pay enough tax, and pay it in France). He sent us a quote which we had to agree to and sign with about 25% up front. But our worry turned to sweet relief and reassurance. He and his machine were well up to the job, he made excellent progress, and ended up doing a load of other jobs in addition which he hadn't quoted us for and charged no extra. Molly went out and had him make a fuss of her (this was before she was ill), then told him off for being an intruder in her garden as an afterthought. He told me he had a King Charles spaniel, his second, for which he liked to throw a toy chicken leg. This amused me, and endeared him, as he looked the type who'd be more likely to keep a Beauceron on a chain or similar. He really made a very good job of the hedges.
I enjoy Christmas baking because it is very largely optional. I am a rubbish pastry cook and can make even bought pastry brown, hard and unappetising. However, in the spirit of staycational departure from norms and routines, I decided to get into a bit of fusion cooking: mince pies made with gâteau breton dough (I took the recipe and instructions from the video in the link, which is good but with junky ads on before the main clip. I halved the quantities which still made plenty).
I reckon that gâteau breton is pretty much idiot-proof and will taste good whatever you do to it, and am thinking of exploring other possibilities, such as rolling it thinner, making a sandwich with medlar paste, and serving the resulting cake cut into traditional lozenges with medlar fool.
I disembowelled the last of the medlars listening to Radio 4's dramatisation of Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel, which proved to be hilariously appropriate in a predictably gross-out kind of way.
So there it is. I shall put the Condrieu to chill which was supposed to be for last year's birthday but we never got around to drinking it, and I've been doing a Silas Marner and getting it out and looking at it and putting it away again ever since, and enjoy my fish dish that is planned.
You can bring on the next half-century.