The early birds ….


This is my new book. It was scheduled for publication on 3rd December, but the team at Blackbird Digital Books have obviously been up with the larks, because it suddenly appeared on Amazon yesterday.

One of the categories it is currently featured in is “Celebrated Gardens – Gardens Around the World”. That made me laugh – you should see the state of our garden. 😀


Losing my book – or maybe losing my mind

We were out yesterday afternoon and I was going to have to entertain myself for a few hours, so I took my Kindle with me as I was nearing the end of quite an enjoyable book, with about 12 pages left. When we arrived at our destination I picked up the Kindle and to my surprise the title had vanished. It wasn’t where it should be at the top of the “Recently read” section. It wasn’t listed by author, nor by title. :roll:.

Why had my trusty Kindle deleted the book I wanted to finish? I thought about it for several hours. Switched off the Kindle, switched it on again to see if that would shock the title back into being. No luck. I’d have to wait until we were home again with a wifi connection to connect to Amazon and re-download the title from my library. How very frustrating. 👿

It was several hours later, as we were driving home, that I realised the cause.

I’d been reading, most unusually for me, a paperback, which was still sitting on my bedside table. 😛


Enhanced by Zemanta


Several weeks spent in England earlier this year, within 100 yards of the biggest Indian supermarket you’ve ever seen meant that I ate huge quantities of paneer, samosas, chutneys and all those other mouth-watering goodies that make Indian cuisine, in my very humble opinion, the best in the world.

Result: an unwelcome augmentation of avoirdupois.

On top of that, finishing the forthcoming book thus spending most of my waking moments sitting down led to a very great number of quick and easy meals like cheese sandwiches or pizzas, further increasing the unwelcome weight.

So today I’ve started on the 5:2 eating method – two days per week limiting calories to 500, and the other five days eating normally to see (a) if it delivers the health benefits it promises, (b) to see whether it will help me lose weight and (c) whether I can actually restrict myself to 500 calories a day, twice a week. I am a constantly hungry person. 🙂

TOH is also keen to follow this plan, so here’s how our first day has gone so far:

Breakfast: Porridge made from 28 grams of dry oatmeal, sweetened with Stevia. The quantity was satisfying. 102 calories.

Second meal: 25 grams of dry couscous with half a sliced shallot, half a medium sliced banana, half of a chopped orange and half a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, served with 100 grams of lettuce sprinkled with a teaspoon of sugar. It probably sounds weird to most people, but we like eating weird things, and it was tasty, filling enough and healthy. 210 calories. TOH had a tablespoon of olive with his meal to give him the extra 100 calories.

Still have almost 200 calories left! What shall it be – another two bowls of porridge, or something more imaginative? I came across a great vegetarian website recently,  Tinned Tomatoes, which has a tremendous database of original and interesting recipes, and also gives menu options for following the 5:2 plan. Their spicy aubergine and tomato soup is absolutely heavenly, and it’s one of those recipes where the aubergine doesn’t soak up huge quantities of oil.  I haven’t worked out the calories yet, but I should imagine that a helping would be fairly low.

For me the success or otherwise of this is going to be entirely due to whether or not I can keep feelings of hunger at bay and enjoy a heaped plate of food, hence I’m looking for foods you can eat lots of but are very low in calories. I see that frozen cauliflower is only 17 calories for 100 grams, that’s good news. I could eat a whole kilo tonight!


Enhanced by Zemanta

It’s not just monkeys

Weatherwise, yesterday wasn’t the best time to visit La Vallee des Singes – Monkey Valley. It was overcast, damp and chilly and combining that with the vivid autumnal colours, it made photography difficult. Generally I found it hard to focus on my subjects, and out of 293 photos I only ended up with a handful that were reasonable, and nothing at all spectacular.

La Vallee des Singes closes for the winter on Sunday 11th November. We are lucky enough to live about four miles away, and every year since it opened in 1998 I’ve visited at least twice. But this year has been so busy that the only opportunity I’ve had was yesterday.

Despite the weather I found it, as always, the perfect place to unwind, relax, chill out and forget the rest of the world. The park has been continually enlarged since it first opened, and covers an area of 40 acres of trees, streams and bushes. It is the only park in France inhabited by a group of Bonobos, who are on the verge of extinction in the wild. In August one of the females gave birth to a baby, a rare event in captivity.

Since it first opened the park has also seen the birth of 10 baby gorillas, as well as other rare species like the Diana Roloway monkey.

There were only a handful of visitors yesterday and I barely saw another human being. But plenty of animals, and not just monkeys. Here are a few of the characters I met.

Squirrel monkey

This is the medicinal garden of the Squirrel Monkeys where they can treat themselves.

I wondered whether amongst this group was the guineafowl I brought here a couple of years ago after I found ie sleeping in the hall next to our dogs’ beds.

Everything you ever wanted to know about woolly pigs!

Woolly pigs, hard to see as they blended in so well with the autumn leaves and mud.

Two pretty kids.

The bees are vital to us. If there are no bees, there will be no food for us. We must stop poisoning them with chemicals.

This is part of the area where the Barbary apes live – the ground is thickly carpeted in clover.

The autumn colours were beautiful.

This bonobo was lying on a platform on his back with his head dangling. He managed to look most uncomfortable but extremely relaxed.

A friendly turkey, rather a poser, who followed me around and kept getting in front of the camera.



Somali sheep, also known as Berbera Blackhead sheep

Enhanced by Zemanta

New review

Today there is a very nice new 5-star review on Amazon by prolific reader, blogger, gardener, cook and traveller Jacqueline at French Village Diaries of The Valley of Heaven and Hell – Cycling in the Shadow of Marie-Antoinette.

She does call me a crazy fool, but then she’s probably right. 😀

Straight talking

There’s nothing more irritating for a frizzy-haired person than being told: “You’re so lucky to have curly hair.”

Curly hair is not lucky, it’s a flipping nuisance. For those not similarly encumbered, I’ll  explain that curls do not (or certainly not in my case), fall in seductive cascades down around one’s shoulders. No, curls have a mind of their own, and it’s a mind that goes off in random and unpredictable directions, upwards, outwards, anywards, twisting and spiraling with frightening determination. So the curl-owner ends up looking like somebody wearing a ball of tumbleweed on their head.

Image: Wikipedia, CCL

As a schoolgirl I tried taming my violent hair by washing it and then locking down a scarf upon it until it was dry – a 48-hour event that left it looking kinked and flat.

Subsequently a hairdresser showed me how to plaster the hair tightly round and round my own head and then quickly tie a cloth around it and blow it dry. It took hours and ended up lopsided with a large wave in the middle.

I’ve tried every cut in the book, every lotion, potion, cream and style, but nothing has succeeded in getting control of the tumbleweed curse. Don’t even mention rollers – I could never manage to put them in. Either too tight with the pins sticking into my scalp so that I had to remove them, or too loose and dangling uselessly.

And then came straighteners. Ah, at last a simple solution. Never mind burnt ears, necks and fingers; with sufficient serum, frizz control, heat protector and hair polish, the curls hung down in a satisfyingly straight manner. And so for many years I have felt at ease with my mop, finally in control knowing I can make it do pretty much what I want.

Three days ago I washed my hair before watching the Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix, and left it to dry naturally into its hideous tangle.

“I prefer your hair like that,” said TOH. “It’s nice and bubbly. Like champagne. When it’s straight it looks like a helmet – or like champagne with no bubbles.”

Well, thanks for telling me. Perhaps you could have spoken up sooner? 😀

So for a while at least, nature can take its course and do just whatever it likes. If it’s bubbly you want, it’s bubbly you’ll get. And no more worrying about it getting damp.

Enhanced by Zemanta