Spent quite a bit of time looking up defensive driving. That mostly seems to be the US term for it, where the awareness of it and courses in it figure quite prominently, it seems. And the Institute for Advanced Motoring in the UK do a fantastic offer where you can more or less get all the help you need for as long as you like to pass their Advanced Driving Test, with lots of other goodies and benefits thrown in for very little money, since they are a charity. It might almost be worth going over there to do it, except of course it would be on the wrong side of the road again.
However, we are not so well served here. Someone on a well-known expat site here asked if there were defensive driving courses here, for her son to take, and she only received a somewhat flippant reply to the effect that wasn't defensive driving something of a contradiction in Brittany? There are various courses for road safety awareness, mostly attended under duress by those who have accumulated the limit of points on their licence; photographs showed groups of predominantly youngish, stubble-headed and tattooed males sitting recalcitrantly around tables looking at severe but fatherly men with Powerpoint displays. I didn't really fancy those (the courses, not the men, well, not anything about it really). There was in fact a free course for young people who have only recently acquired their licences provided at the Chambre de Commerce with the aim of reducing the number of them who die on the roads here and especially to equip them for the hazards of winter driving, using simulators, which looked like it might have been interesting, but it has been and gone already, and I don't suppose a middle-aged English lady with a crisis of nerves and no experience of left hand drive would have qualified to attend anyway. Otherwise there were day courses, with tracks and skid pans and water features and obstacles and generally the works, but I'd have had to travel a long way to get to them, they mostly seemed to be geared towards training commercial drivers, they involved comparatively little time on the practicalities and a lot of talking, evaluation, feedback etc (well, this is France) and to cap it all they were hideously expensive.
So I started browsing the driving schools, seeing what they offered. Mostly their reason for being seemed to be to process French teenagers through the labyrinth of their code de la route and their permis de conduire as quickly as possible so they can launch themselves out onto the highways of this fair land with nary a care in the world. Then, however, I found one in Loudeac which offered something called recyclage tous permis. Not, as it might sound and as I mostly still feel like doing, chucking one's licence and all one's driving related documentation into the waste paper to be turned into egg boxes, selling the house and moving somewhere where I won't ever have to drive again, but for those who, regardless of age, hold a valid licence but for whatever reason, no longer feel à l’aise taking to the road, have got into bad habits, or who have fears about their own reflexes, or of driving in the dark, or the rain...
Figuring that I tick enough of these boxes, including as it happens, a mild rain-driving phobia, with the additional special case of needing to make the RHD-LHD switchover, I wonder if this is the place for me. I felt instantly hopeful that I am evidently not the only such basket case and that there somewhere prepared to take us on. Though I'm not sure how, even in Brittany, they can guarantee rain for those who fear driving in the rain, but still. So I shall set about finding out more, and even book a lesson this week if I can.
I've also had a very pleasant time organising some of the exciting Alphabet Soup submissions into a web album - deadline end of this month, still time to do something, open exhibition! - and when Mol and I were out walking at sunset a flight of maybe fifty magnificent curlews sailed across the sky above us - they moved in such elegant slow motion it was possible to count them.
So there are things to keep me clear of the slough of despond (in my mind I always read it as 'sluff'), though relatively small matters, - never mind watching the news - can push me towards it. Such as the sudden blooming of horrible mouldy damp in the kitchen corner cupboard, which used to smell slightly musty sometimes but nothing worse, and we wonder if Jean-Paul's outside repointing, with the large amounts of water needed to soak the wall to make it stick, and the hydrofuge nature of the mortar, has caused the cold moisture to come through inside. Or the poor little hunters' beagle abandoned outside for the night, with soulful eyes who followed us most of the way round, appearing at every gap in the hedge with her tail curled under her but just twitching hopefully, I knew if she carried on to our door I'd have to give her a bed and a meal in the garage then waste precious hours tomorrow ringing round the loathsome hunters' associations or finally the mairie to get her impounded, but she left us at the next hamlet to ours.
But there we are. And here's a collage of pretty patterned or shiny kitchen stuff, just to brighten things up a bit.