Tuesday, 7 August 2007


The bunting is going up all over the village. From every lamp post now hangs a pennant in village colours, blue and yellow; every balcony now caparisoned like a medieval charger. All in preparation for the Medieval Fair which starts next week. Soon the jugglers, stilt walkers, musicians and fire eaters will turn up, this town another stop on the summer festival circuit in the South West.

Columns of medieval knights on horseback will process up and down the streets before thrilling us with their jousting tournaments and hordes of contented children will swarm over the market place, full of wooden mediaeval toys with not a battery in site. Music will float on the air from every public space, the sound of the drums reverberating off these ancient walls. Tourists will flock to watch, listen and feel the rhythm as the heart of the bastide beats strongly again.

However it's not the arrival of the cavalcade that I anticipate with a mixture of excitement and hesitation, it's the Other Family, due later this week. School gate friends, great company, like minded, wine swiggers, Toon Army. Their children are delightful. Often, I borrow the daughter for girlie things like baking pink fairy cakes and playing Barbies. She's a real little sweetie, though she's named after a battle maiden and more than able on her own to cope with older brothers. The son, a delightful, thoughtful boy who loves both his farmyard pets and all things mechanical, is soulmate to my elder boy.

We should all get on, there is room enough here for us all to spread out and a new cellarful of wine to lubricate any awkwardness but they've never been here before. Our family has our own history here now and love it for many reasons but will the Other Family fall in love with the village as we have done? Will they find it quaint and pretty or just run down? Quiet and peaceful, full of character or dull and boring? There is no beach, we don't even have a garden or what my sister calls a sit ootery here, it's a town house. A novelty for country friends perhaps, the sounds of the street instead of the hedgerow. Step out of our door into a road with a florist, a bakery, a photographers, a beauty parlour, the new " lovely things" shop and not forgetting the best pizza restaurant in the world just two doors away! Not too tough a stagger home then...hic!

Oh I do hope they like it...I'll let you know...

Friday, 3 August 2007

Flash Dance

Thursday, market day again.The stalls from the morning market have been cleared away and there's not so much as a lettuce leaf left on the bleached limestone of the now deserted Square. Soon the afternoon torpor sets in; the air is heavy with hardly a rustle of the leaves in the plane trees; there is just the sound of scraping chairs as the waiters in the restaurants tidy up. The shops shut for the lunchtime siesta. Where all was bustle, now it's quiet, drowsy.

In the heat of the afternoon, a few persistent tourists make the slow trek up the hill past our house to the Square to marvel at the medieval architecture. Cameras click and try to capture the history of the place in mega pixels when really it's written in every large stone, every massive Gothic arch. Shuttered windows with pretty flower boxes full of orange geraniums look down on the Square, while the swallows twitter in their nests under the huge beams which hold up the arcades. In the shaded cafes, couples linger over chilled beer and a family crowds a table top with Orangina bottles like so many skittles.

At around six in the evening though, as a little gentle wind starts to take the fierceness out of the day's warmth, the pace quickens. White vans appear and disgorge tables, chairs and a PA system. Smaller rustic vans arrive and local producers set up their stalls around the edge of the Square for tonight is the Night Market.

Soon there is a steady stream of people heading up to the Square, just as the sun is setting, the last few golden rays visible at the end of the alley which runs at right angles to our road. The western sky fades from pale blue to lightest gold, apricot to lavender as the far dark clouds reflect the last of the light. As darkness falls, there must now be a hungry crowd of about two hundred visitors, walking round the displays, tasting and testing.

It's a brilliant concept. The local farmers and vegetable growers provide the dishes, all ready to eat. Choose from grilled organic lamb, tartiflette, a potato dish with onion and salmon, kebabs made from local beef, pate de foie or pizza with country ham or goats' cheese. The nearby vineyards are represented too; taste before taking a few bottles back to your place at the big communal tables. Dessert is a delicious tarte aux pommes with a nippy eau de vie de pruneaux on the side. The children love the Nutella crepes, chocolate smeared round their mouths. Everyone is satisfied with the bargain.The guests get a memorable meal, in a wonderful setting at a reasonable price direct from the producers; they in their turn, get a wider appreciation of the quality of their home grown specialities.

In the corner, on the steps which form a little stage, a great 3-piece band belts out some good old rock and roll classics. The pretty lead singer is excellent, sounds a bit like Shakira ,while my elder son eyes the electric guitar with longing in his heart. The lady behind the huge paella pan is boogieing away, having a ball, and three little girls are making up a dance routine under the arch of the Black Prince's Tower. I get up to dance too and my boys are terminally embarrassed but I don't care. Revenge for tantrums in Sainsbury's! A couple of elderly village matrons, on their usual nightly stroll, shake their heads and move away to quieter parts.

It's getting late now as families with toddlers, finally asleep in their pushchairs, drift away. Dads carry exhausted little ones, soft pudgy arms wrapped round big strong shoulders. Older children, wired on Coke and sugar, dance and skip down the hill to their waiting cars. The music stops at eleven o'clock and even the teenagers stop comparing mobile phones and move on.

We take a detour to see the glow worms again on the dark side of the hill, little tiny green flashlights in the long grass and a magical end to the evening.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Market Day

Today is market day in our village, as it has been every Thursday since 1256. It starts gently, early in the morning and soon about 30 stalls, with pretty coloured awnings, are set up around the square.

People mill slowly about, wicker baskets over one arm, no supermarket dash here. No loud music, no raised voices, just the steady hum of commerce, merchant and customer, producer and consumer, as it's always been.The pace is sedate, time is needed to consider the price of tomatoes, select the best of this season's peaches, examine the lettuces.

So many of the same goods will have been sold here every week for centuries; local fruit, vegetables, cheese, eggs, flowers, and bread from the local mill. Duras and Bergerac wines are there to be sampled, direct from the men who tend the vines, a missionary gleam in their eyes as they explain the complexity of their product. Above the meat counter hang huge dried hams, while on the counter, beef from the local huge Blonde d'Aquitaine cattle and then rather too many bits of the animal kingdom I haven't seen since an anatomy class at vet school.

The stall with huge steaming pans of paella, full of fruit de mer and saffron rice, is doing a roaring trade. My children are fascinated and horrified in equal measure by the glass-sided apiary brought by the lady who sells honey in 10 different flavours. She remembers us from last year and bids the boys to help themselves from her sweetie jar, honey-flavoured of course. The man with the twinkly eyes is still selling his vast range of cheeses at a stall in the shady side of the square; his broken English encourages my fractured French and we cobble a conversation together. First Husband chooses the smelliest, bluest, runniest cheese on offer; I stick to the nutty, smooth Cantal.

Neat rows of small sacks line up on the next stall, each heaped full of dry goods. Colourful piles of peppercorns red, black, green and pink. Tumeric,dried chillis, cinnamon sticks, herbes de Provence, cardamom pods, camomile flowers, pot pourri...sweet, aromatic, pungent.

But for the locals it's as much an opportunity to catch up on conversations started last week as it is a chance to shop. The same discussion that's gone on between neighbours for centuries...of travails endured and triumphs celebrated.

Finally I have learnt to shop like a Frenchwoman. I used to stock up for a week, like you do at home from the supermarket, thrilled by the variety, scents and sounds of the market. Accustomed to fruit hard as bullets,to ripen at home, I didn't forsee that fruit and vegetables from the village market would go off so quickly, as it's sold, tooth-soft and yielding, ready to eat. Now I buy just enough for a day or two. There's always another market in the next village in a few days time.

And so in my basket goes a warm spit-roasted chicken, basted in fierce quantities of garlic, from Monsieur Le Moustache in the corner arcade, a bottle or two of the Duras, a delicious tarte aux pruneaux in filo pastry from the patissier, the cheese and a few peaches. The evening meal is sorted.

Monday, 23 July 2007

French Leave

It's pouring with rain today and so we are confined indoors here in Lot et Garonne. I didn't think it fair to write about our place in the sun while everyone in the UK was suffering from an excess of the wet stuff but as we are now sharing the deluge, here is a description of our little piece of heaven.

I first came to MFQ as a girlfriend, nearly 20 years ago. Boyfriend, now First Husband, was visiting one of his old schoolmasters and his family who holidayed here each year. In summer this part of France is like a veritable Common Room for the exhausted Domine of the education system. I was enchanted, then as now, with both boyfriend and ancient village and fortunately, both passions have survived and strengthened.

MFQ lies on the slope of a hill that tilts toward the south, houses rising in an orderly grid to the medieval church with its characteristic two spires. Looking out from the vantage point on the battlements beside the church, the countryside undulates gently like a rumpled patchwork quilt; small farms, orchards and pastures stretch as far as the eye can see, gently interspersed with patches of dark green forests and bright yellow sunflowers. Narrow, straight roads radiate from this place with here and there, what appears to be a Dinky car, moving slowly, glinting in the sun. But silently, with only the swish of the chestnut trees in the gentle breeze or the twitters of the house martins to interrupt your contemplation. Far away on the horizon a real Disneyesque castle looms, the very image of the perfect fairytale princess's home but close-up, the walls are many metres thick, glowering and impenetrable.

For we are in Aquitaine, Hundred Years War territory, and for many periods of time, in English possession. Fortified by both the English and the French, like most bastides in this part of South West France, MFQ was built to the same general plan. A central square is surrounded on four sides by strong and massive arched stone arcades with huge beams visibly supporting the half timbered houses above. In the north east corner of the square still stands the house of Edward, the Black Prince who lodged there when visiting his father, Edward III's, seneschal of Aquitaine. Once there were ramparts encircling the town; little of those remain though it is thought our house is built into some of its old foundations. Both the town, and our house, have stood for over 750 years.

Streets and alleysways criss-cross at right angles. Until about 25 years ago the alleys, carrerots, were full of centuries of debris. Where once the filles de joie plied their trade, the carrerots are now cleared and, beautifully cobbled with polished stone in arching patterns, they snake down the hill, forming perfect conduits for the occasional heavy downpour. Walk through any alley, apparently devoid of people but with the sounds of life in adjoining houses emanating all around; the clatter of pots and pans as dejeuner is prepared; animated French voices gossiping, arguing, soothing; the music school pianist running up and down her scales; a baby crying. Could be any century... then the unmistakable rhythm of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon floats ethereally overhead from next door's bedroom and we're brought back to the modern age.

It's a dreamy, tranquil place, mysterious and romantic, sometimes virtually silent and at other times, vibrant with festivals and markets. Wait for me in one of the cafes, order une grande cafe au lait and I'll be with you shortly to tell you some more...

Sunday, 8 July 2007

Never mind Dr Who and his Tardis, I was catapulted forward in time today.

The “Loads of Time” Lord arrived with his assistant , not in a Tardis, though the car was blue with some interesting silver streaks down the side. It might have been a sonic screwdriver sticking out of the front wing but to be honest it looked more like a wire coat hanger to me.

This charming, tall, imposing lordly creature picked me up with ease by way of a interspecies greeting and offered me the Galaxy. Or rather a piece of his chocolate bar.

As his assistant struggled in with the baggage extracted from the Tardis-like depths of the boot, the “What’s the Time” Lord did what only he can do. Said he would be with this Earthling for only five minutes but stretched time out to at least thirty minutes. Needing refuelled, he picked up the rock specimens scattered about my kitchen, examined them minutely and popped them in his mouth.
Save giving the left over garlic bread to the birds I thought.

Have you noticed that previous incarnations of Time Lords never knew quite where they were going and this “Heck, Is that the Time” Lord was no different. Calling on the assistance of K9 or was it Tom-Tom, we found the co-ordinates of the next place at which he and his companion were due to materialise . Honestly,even if they are thousands of years old, these boys shouldn’t be let out without their mother.

But the best was yet to come. With the aid of only some common chemicals, soap and water, the “Running out of Time” Lord was transformed in what seemed like only a moment in the great space continuum.. He was regenerated from a scruffy time traveller, in ripped jeans and with a hairstyle that only a Gallifreyan would love, to an elegant, suave Master of the Universe, clothed with the very best the distant planet Mossbros could offer.

Don’t know why he had to leave that studded antenna in his eyebrow though. Perhaps it’s to communicate with his mother. She is human after all. She’ll certainly have words with him about it.

His assistant, no less richly dressed, required special visors in order to keep his body temperature down or were they really only aviator sunglasses worn indoors to look cool?

A final adjustment of the special neckware required to endear them to those aliens from the planet Venus and they were off, into a new dimension.

Yes, the delightful just finished-A-levels son of a friend, and his mate, turned up today.
He ate, drank, showered and changed into black tie for a nearby party in the blink of an eye.
And it seems, that in only a blink of an eye, he’s grown from a darling, cuddly little boy to a handsome, confident young man.
Who needs to travel through time? It’s already going too fast.

Friday, 6 July 2007

You cannot be serious!

Younger son has been having extra tennis coaching at school which he adores. His teacher is a top coach who coached her own daughters to county standard.

She drew me aside one day.
“He’s really coming on, terrific hand, eye co-ordination,” she said.
I beamed. I was rubbish at tennis.
“But I just wanted to explain why I asked your son to step out of the class yesterday,” she continued. “ He hit a bad shot and threw his racket down.”
Her head tilted to one side, looking to me for agreement that she had done the right thing.
I bit my lip. Eight year olds having tantrums, whatever next.
“Yes ,of course,” I said sympathetically, “He must learn to be a good sport.”

I told his father about his boy’s lack of manners.
“The boy’s got it,” he said delighted.
“Got what?”
“The red mist. It’s what he needs to succeed. He won’t give up. Determination. Didn’t do McEnroe any harm anyway...”

My appeal for some fatherly advice to teach my wayward son about giving everyone a chance, sharing the ball, the importance of just taking part fell on deaf ears.

The following week, younger son won the tennis tournament. At least he thanked the umpire graciously.

Game ,set and match to testosterone?

Friday, 15 June 2007

Mother's Day

Special day today; Mum’s anniversary. 14 years since she died, way too young at 55. Another smoking statistic.

She never saw her grandchildren. Gosh how they would have been spoiled! Me too I think. I dream of going away for a weekend break with the First Husband; children with Grandma, returning to an immaculate house and everything ironed within an inch of its life! Missed opportunities...

Every year to mark the occasion, my sister ventures south and I head north and we meet up in Stratford where Mum lived, worked and ultimately died.
Now Mum was the most stylish lady, worked in fashion, always elegantly dressed and she expected her daughters to be properly turned out too. Sadly she died one day before her birthday. Typical Mum, didn’t want to add another year to her age! Glamorous to the end!

So we place flowers on her grave, my sister and I, shed a tear or two….and then go on a memorial shoe shopping expedition followed by lunch at the Dirty Duck. Mum would have loved it!

Now as I’ve said elsewhere, the scent of Ambre Solaire oil reminds me of summer, and Mum, who loved to sunbathe. Imagine our horror then when the cemetery offered us a pretty spot under a shady tree for Mum.
“Oh no,no, no, nooo,” said sister. “Not our Mum.”
So there she is, placed right in the middle of the perfectly manicured lawn, forever basking in the sunlight.

And the inscription on her headstone?
Simply “Love Always”.
She signed off every birthday card, every letter she ever sent to us, with just those words.
Nothing else needed.
Rest in Peace Mum.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Pick n Mix

Responding to having been tagged, here are eight things about me you may not know or have suspected! What do they reveal, if anything? Made me think a bit and go down some routes I haven't been for a while.

1. My favourite sweet is cola cubes. These can be sourced from a brilliant website www.aquarterof.co.uk dedicated to all the yummy sweets you used to be able to buy from the old fashioned confectioners, one ¼ lb at a time. Pineapple chunks, cherry lips, sherbet dabs..they’re all here! What's your favourite?

2. So sorry to all those who keep chickens (fascinating birds) but my least favourite food is eggs: scrambled, hard boiled, soft boiled, fried, any way is yucky, just too eggy. There’s something about the consistency of a cooked egg white…..shudder. Used to love a soft boiled egg mashed up in a cup with butter when I was a little girl, and can’t remember when or how the volte face came about. About tolerable when incorporated into chocolate cake though. If it hadn’t been for Suzie who helps me with the children, the boys would never have experienced a boiled egg and soldiers!

3. I met my husband when I worked as a ski rep and guide for a season in Verbier, Switzerland. He was quite simply the best looking client we’d had out all season and he could ski like a dream too. A few weeks later the season ended, and back at the vet’s, slaving over a hot cat spay, my dear friend the nurse and I would put the world to rights. “I’m going to marry him,” I predicted. It only took him another 4 years to come round to my way of thinking but it was well worth the wait!

4. The bit of my body I like the best is my wrists; they are slim, elegant, fragile. The rest of me is not.Which is perhaps why of all jewellery, I like bracelets the best. And my current favourite is the little gold snaffle bit bracelet my husband gave me for my 40th birthday.

5. Just after we were married, I lived in the States with my husband, for nearly five years; first of all, just outside San Francisco and then in Newport Beach, about 30 miles south of Los Angeles. At first it was tough financially as husband’s business took a while to take off and I had to re-qualify to work over there. But it gradually got much better and we then took every opportunity to travel when we could. Denver, Vancouver, Seattle (loved it, loved the rain after dry predictable California), Kauai, Hong Kong for the rugby sevens..just all fantastic experiences!

6. One of my favourite smells is Ambre Solaire suntan oil (you know the stuff with virtually no sun protection in it - my mum used to baste herself in it and it always reminds me of summer…and her.)

7.As a little nine-year old girl, I danced on the stage of the King’s Theatre, Glasgow, the very same stage danced upon by the great Margot Fonteyn herself. What a thrill ! My ballet school was providing some of the woodland creatures for an opera and my Mum and Auntie had to sit through the entire opera performance (not their thing I can assure you) just to see my rabbit dance which lasted for all of about 3 minutes! Backstage, my thoughtful mum sent me my first grown-up bouquet of flowers, confirming me as the little diva I thought myself!

8. Sorry to say this, but I could manage to give up chocolate but NEVER strong mature Scottish (Isle of Bute) cheddar. On oatcakes with chutney there is NO better taste!

Okay, your turn now!

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Tipping the scales

Been having a bit of a moan lately....okay, okay ...been having a huge “poor me” sort of a moan. For several weeks.
Therefore I thought it only right to redress the balance by letting you all know that I had a brilliant day today.
Forgive me but is that boastful or just appeasing Karma?

Well it got off to a great start with a semi- naked husband, luckily my own (so much less complicated than borrowing one) bringing me a cup of tea in bed. Now I am a night owl as you may see from the time these blogs are filed and am therefore pretty useless in the morning without the reviving Tetley’s, so early morning tea is a must.

And joy of joys he was carrying a parcel, whoopee and it’s not even my birthday!
A parcel from Amazon, containing my CCW reading club book! Can’t wait to get started on that. Now Amazon is one of my secret little vices, that one- click shopping is too easy.

Soppy dog was licking my lazily outstretched hand, frantic in case I’ve forgotten her overnight. She never jumps up, so her whole body reverberated from side to side in a sinuous motion, propelled by that great thumping rudder of a tail.

The other man in my life, Greatest Jockey was running through the card at Goodwood on Channel 4‘s Morning Line another vice of mine (wonder if Blossom went or was it a wedding photo day?).

For the first time in months, no need today to jump out of bed and get on with things. No work, no studying, no pressure. I sip my tea, and with one eye on the runners and riders at Musselburgh, flicked through David Starkey’s Monarchy.

Can life get any better?

Yes, it does. Darling boys pile in beside me. Cosy and Toastie.

A perfect start to this or any other day.

And the rest of the day continued in the same vein. My elder son had his first session in the gym today. Having recently had a birthday he was now old enough to join the older children in a mini-gym session. What I had not realised though, was just how much store he set by this transition. Not a natural sportsman, he is still very keen and his little cheeks were flushed with pride and exertion. He was thrilled to be on the treadmill and cross trainer, convinced that he would soon be invincible at sports day!

I enjoyed an afternoon in the kitchen, cooking a carbo loading meal for First Husband and his Big Cheese business colleagues, who all swam 2.5 miles in open water today in preparation for their Triathlon. Appreciative, hungry men do make you feel wanted!

And now to bring a satisfying day to a close by posting a blog.....perchance to dream of finding 8 interesting things for @the mill's tagging!

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Re: Start

It's been ages since I blogged. Events.

But what to say? I'm out of practice. Where to start? With daily minutiae or the stories I've been hoarding? Give the wonderful things the children say a wider audience or reveal those darker parts of myself, curtained off from everyone else?
Perhaps it's like jogging; once you get going you feel fine, it's just heaving your butt out the door that's the hard bit.

But how I admire those who blog daily about their lives. I find it hard to think of what to say.

And it takes me so long to write. I would starve to death as a writer. I can hardly type with more than one finger; then I am blighted by a need to be grammatically correct at all times. Heavens, even my texts are punctuated.

This is certainly due to the strict but encouraging Mrs P, my English teacher, small in stature but huge on exploring the English language and all its niceties. Similarly, Latin teacher Miss H, " I didn't come up the Clyde on a tea biscuit you know", made us dig deep for the precise sense of a word in our translations, not just settle for the easy answer. She made Miss Jean Brodie look positively self-effacing! But these redoubtable ladies certainly instilled in this girl a love of words, their uses and abuses.

Don't you just delight in finding elegant prose? Discovering well crafted sentences, like bright jewels, polished and placed carefully in an appropriate setting is such a pleasure. And the right word, sitting flush with the rest of the sentence, feels somehow soothing while the wrong one jars, and draws attention to its ill-fitting purpose.

But where is the time to write such thoughtful long essays as many do on a regular basis? They clearly have such busy, fulfilling lives but how can they be doing it and blogging it simultaneously? I'm in awe. Clever chaps these bloggers. Much better time management than me, that's for sure. Is there a course I can go on... if I can find the time?

Or perhaps like me they are a night owl, extending the day, well past any sensible bedtime.
So it's a start but now I'm finished.


Bouncy Boy is flat. His elder brother has gone to activity camp, leaving younger boy bereft of someone to tease, annoy and generally pester. The boys have never been apart this long before. As a second child, Bouncy Boy has rarely experienced the singular pleasure of being alone with mum and he doesn't like the extra scrutiny one little bit!
And so Not-so Bouncy Son flops about, sighing deeply, mooching from room to room, looking for a partner in crime. Even playing football with the long-suffering Soppy Dog is losing its appeal. Though he's not without grave responsibilities in his brother's absence; he's assumed sole care of Hammond the hamster and it weighs heavily on him. But most poignantly of all, he's insisted on sleeping in his big brother's bed this week.
I'm missing my Thoughtful First Son too of course, his cheeriness, his constant chatter, his hugs but perhaps not the motoring pages of the Times spread all over the kitchen table. Surely though no news is good news and I hope he's been so busy having a good time that he's not even given his mum a second thought. That's what we want, right?
Can't wait to see him, even though he will come accompanied by a huge bag of mouldering, soggy dirty washing!

Monday, 14 May 2007

Dilly Dally

I really must get on with some studying but..

There's the son to get off to camp,
The kitchen to tidy,
The dog to walk,
The dishwasher to empty,
The laundry to wash
And the curate's egg to ponder.

There's the pony to ride,
The beds to make,
The cake to bake,
The suduko to finish
The French to practice
And the blog entry to compose.

But I really must get on with some studying...

Saturday, 5 May 2007


The Incredibly Shrinking Husband got his hair cut today, perhaps to make him more aerodynamic for his 100 mile cycle tomorrow. He's in training for a charity triathlon, and so, by default says Patsy sourly, is the rest of the family. Wine consumption almost down to zero, quelle horreur!
But while he was snipped (no,no not THAT sort !), I snapped and went shopping.
I got them. The party shoes to go with the posh frock for the little brother's party.
How dare he reach the big four-oh, I can no longer now pretend to be in my early forties. Everyone knows I was senior milk monitor when he was born and are a bit too clever with the maths.
As I gently cradled my new purchases, Thoughtful First Son said, " Mum, can I talk to you about something really important? Can I tell you all about Transformers and why boys like them?"
"And then can I talk to you about shoes and why girls really like them?"
"Deal ,Mum."
And we did. Talked in turn and listened to each other. I learnt that robots which light up and fight for the Universe against the Decepticons can fire up a boy's imagination while he learnt that high heels and sparkly bits cheer up an old mum.
And make me higher he added.
Transformers of a different sort.
"But then I'm just a beginner about girls," he said with great foresight.
The boy will go far.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

Dog days

Finally Soppy Dog's hip score is back. 3 and 6. Really, really good. Perhaps puppies this summer.
First Husband is ecstatic. "Beautiful girl, so well bred."
It's not me he's talking about!
Clays today. She knows she's not needed and curls up, the curve of her glossy back closing off any further discussion. She ignores him. How do they know?

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

In with a splash!

Chocolate, wine and children..I had all 3 in vast quantities at the weekend so now seemed as propitious a time as ever to introduce myself to all you lovely people. I've been watching you all from afar, marvelling at your wit and powerful observations and wondered if I dare to join in...

It was elder son's birthday party, held at the local water park and the group of eight boys tumbled in the water like a bag of ferrets overdosing on e-numbers. The big flumes looked so much fun and there was much screaming.... but despite that, I did insist on donning swimsuit and joining the children. It was then I wish I'd paid more attention to my fake tan. Stripes are fine in their place: on tabby cats, sergeants and Alan Shearer but not on my milk bottle pins.

Back home, and while the boys were running riot in the garden, I battled with a couple of pounds of chocolate, finally getting it to melt to the right consistency for the chocolate fountain. Achieving that perfect brown silky curtain of lusciousness is extremely gratifying and satisfies a deep seated urge for order and harmony, conditions so rarely accomplished here at Patsy's patch. The boys loved it and I even managed to make it healthier by offering bananas, apples and strawberries to dunk in the glorious gloop.

By way of apology for filling up their little treasures with sugar, I offered parents a glass or two of the perfectly chilled Sauvignon Blanc. Seemed churlish not to join them!

Replete with chocolate, wine and children the perfect day ended with the perfect comment of all. "Thanks Mum that was the best birthday ever!" Birthday Boy said with a kiss.
Exit mother , sobbing....