Monday, December 12, 2011


Staycation, ghastly word but an interesting idea.  Some choose them, some have them thrust upon them.

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?)

Other stuff.

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.


Roderick Robinson said...

The computer man's about to arrive to draw a veil of silence over me. All I can say is that illness and surgery during 2010 led to the postponement of a number of goodies. The Brittany flight was one of them. I have to say it profited from anticipation, out of rubbish cometh forth pleasure. I like the pyjamas bit. Bonne chance

The Crow said...

Heavens, I got the date wrong! The sentiments, however, remain the same.

How lovely to have someone make a birthday dinner for you. I'm sure it will taste all the better for not having to make it yourself. Much love in the making and the serving, no doubt.

Glad dear Molly is doing better, too.

Catalyst said...

Excellent report, mon ami. I you have/had the happiest of birthdays in spite of your change of plans. You have many more ahead, Lucy.

Jean said...

Happy Birthday! Doesn't sound to bad at all, and you can still have that trip to look forward to.

marja-leena said...

Happy 5th Birthday, Lucy and another 50 to go! You have many blessings around home and loved ones, what can beat that? Hotels and the other stuff will always be there. Great post!

Rosie said...

happy birthday honey, and Porridge hopes Mol gets better soon.
Love is all you need- I seem to remember someone somewhere writing a song to that effect...

herhimnbryn said...

Happy Birthday Dear Lucy.

Thank heavens Mol has you and Tom, and you and Tom have Mol.

JMartin said...

Trust dogs to forever exemplify the mixed blessing. Happy birthday, despite and because.

Fifty to me feels the center of a teeter-totter: when will evenly-astride become irreversible downward tilt? To spend this birthday sans suppurations on your own person could be counted a win. But I'm a crabbed 54, and frequently wake with a fat head on one side.

The dental hygienist just this morning mentioned a patient who was 100, to which I could only gargle horror. She quickly segued to a prison-break effected via a rope of braided dental floss, a much happier topic.

Hugs to Moll. In college, we once threw a party to celebrate the similarly-rapturous conclusion of a dorm-mate's tailbone boil. We raised glasses, and she finished the prescribed opiates.

Rouchswalwe said...

Fish! Hurrah! So happy to read that Molly in on the mend. A day filled with love for each other ... Happy Birthday, sweet Lucy!

Zhoen said...

"kindness can undo one when brusqueness wouldn't"

Oh, hell yes. Dear Molly, so glad she has good help.

D just had such a vacation, no traveling, no stress, no bad food. It has it's advantages.

Well, how does the new decade feel so far? I'll meet you there in a few months.

Dale said...

Happy birthday, dear! Fascinating, remembered, adored, and adorable, in fact. (I know it's not the English way, but we Americans believe in being coarsely explicit, especially on birthdays.) xo

Roderick Robinson said...

There was much I didn't touch on - the computer man was patiently waiting outside on the landing - and I have impressive personal evidence of how much Mol means to both of you. Restricted as I now am in my own blog I tend to run off my moouth in the comment columns of others but here I'll be brief. Your qualities have been hymned above and I agree; what hasn't been mentioned is that what you've got you deliver briskly and I for one (living in slow-moving Herefordshire) appreciate that. So just keep up that briskness over the next half-century and the question of age will never arise.

Fire Bird said...

wondered how you were spending it!!

earlybird said...

Belated happy birthday, Lucy. Sounds like it all worked out well in the end. I like your 'fusion food'. What an excellent idea.

Hope the Condrieu was good.

Unknown said...

Happy birthday. Rabelais and Condrieu! A fine combination.

the polish chick said...

happy birthday, dear lucy. sorry about the disappointment, happy about molly being all better, lovely about the gardener and all manner of warm and fuzzy about your sentiments about the first 50 years. may the next 50 be joyful and filled with love.

Nimble said...

Happy birthday and yes, your priorities are just right. Here's to thoughtful women and more joy to come!

zephyr said...

A belated, but heart-felt Happy Birthday, Dear Lucy!!

Lucy said...

Thanks friends, your're all lovely. Mol's doing fine, a bit fidgety and gets tired but well up for walks, meals etc

And I'm not faring so badly for such an oldie... :~)

Crafty Green Poet said...

poor Mol, glad she recovered so well.

I love staycations but prefer them to be planned, it must have been very annoying to have to cancel your plans....

Meggie said...

Happy Birthday! So glad that Molly is well again, and lets hope the magic bullet keeps her infection free.

Les said...

Happy belated birthday, Lucy! Sorry for Mol's troubles, but glad you got to enjoy your staycation. Being able to enjoy where you are is the gift of maturity!