This is a downloaded image from my research into the first months of World War Two in France, showing that, dreadful as the whole war was, the British soldiers still found reasons to laugh.
I am on the last stretch of my major rewrite of Helter-Skelter, after which I can take a month off with a clear conscience to visit my family in UK and Canada. When I return to it at the end of October I shall print the whole thing off, read it, and edit anew.
These final chapters are the ones that entailed the most research, as they are set in France and Belgium in early 1940. There is a dearth of information about the Phoney War in the first months of 1940. In a way this is good because there are fewer details to get wrong, but it also means that I did a lot of guessing.
Now that I want to weave in another thread, I am having to refresh my memory about why I sent Albie to a particular place on that exact date (what a good thing I kept the relevant parts of my research!) and there was an unexpected bonus.
I revisited one of my former research sites and clicked on a hitherto un-noticed soldier's diary of the very place and time I wrote about. He mentioned a real incident I had already imagined two years ago, which proves I managed to get into the mind of my soldier. I can re-flesh the bones of my story knowing that the underlying structure is sound.
The moral of this is - never bin your notes!



I have seen some interesting sights on my morning walks - a herd of goats eating shrivelled-looking shrubs, a cat stalking a lizard, huge dogs walking their owners, and a variety of plants - but this van caught my eye today.

Is Tupperware branching out into the sex toy trade?

And on a totally different subject -
here are three reasons why I would return to England in a heartbeat if I had the money.

My two grandsons, one of whom was nine yesterday, and their mother's cakes.

What a stroke of genius to pile brownie squares into a birthday cake! And all I get is a look at it.


So today's choice seems to be between sex and chocolate - what's your preference?



The OH was driving today, so I had a chance to take in the scenery.
Pretty girls in the lightest clothes they could find to combat the heat. Nut-brown dessicated women who obviously spend all their time lying in the sun, and pale flabby ones - those rolls of blubber must be so uncomfortable - who probably spend all their time eating.
Handsome youths displaying their muscles, older men displaying their beer bellies, both types seemingly equally proud of their bodies.
Children everywhere - school doesn't start for another three weeks. It should have been two, but the authorities have added another week for "teacher training" - you'd think they could have squeezed that into the two and a half months they've already had off.

Out beyond the shops and a couple of banana plantations, we were driving past a barranco when I saw a pigeon keeping pace a few metres away from our car.
"What speed are we doing?" I asked the OH.
50 kph! 
Then the pigeon overtook us!



The heat might be making us wilt - what am I saying, "might"? - we are all trudging around with zero energy, but the plants don't seem to mind too much.

A little water and they're flourishing, like this huge lantana bush, which is about a metre and a half tall and two metres square.

And the yukkas are flowering too - a lovely creamy spire of flowers that looks deliciously cool.

The estrelizias are beginning to flower as well. You have to be patient with these plants, because they take at least five years to reach maturity, but the flowers are spectacular when they arrive.

But the biggest surprise is our ficus tree. We had two that had outgrown their pots so we donated them to the community garden.The bed where we planted them already had some tall palms, put there by the community, that had grown from ten feet to forty in no time at all.
A few weeks ago there was water leaking into the pool pump room below, endangering the pump and - which was much more serious - the electricity meters for the whole block. Someone had got it wrong and planted palm trees in soil only two feet deep.
The roots had nowhere to go. Result - catastrophe!

So the palm trees had to go, plus the garden with its watering system, and we were told that our two ficus would be moved to large tubs.
An elderly man and his teenage helper arrived to do the job - probably someone's relatives, knowing Tenerife. The ficus were literally torn from the ground and shoved into their new pots - I had to ask for their poor roots to be covered with soil before they dried out in the fierce sun.
They felled the palm trees and chopped out the thick roots just in front of our terrace, so we had a splendid view of their routine - two minutes of work by the man followed by fifteen from the boy. "I'm teaching him the job," the old man said.
Our ficus started to wilt so I watered them - no-one else seemed bothered whether they survived or not. One flourished and one died.
Or so we thought. This week, despite the searing heat, the "dead" one has burst into life again. Viva el ficus!



I read in one of our local free papers today the news that at last there is to be a study done on how much sun is good for you.
Skin cancer risk versus the need for Vitamin D.

Apparently Cancer Research UK has recruited seventy-five healthy volunteers to experiment on. They are aged between 18 and 45 and present a range of skin colours from palest pale to darkest black.

A Photobiology Unit in Greater Manchester is to run the study.

The volunteers are going to be exposed to simulated sunlight for short periods, then samples will be taken of their blood and urine and tested for Vitamin D and DNA changes.
Also occasional skin samples to test for DNA changes.
How much sunlight are they going to get each time? Should they be worried?
It would appear not. According to the report I read, the amount will be - and I quote - "equivalent to that of a summer's day in Manchester."
In other words, not much.
That's all right then.


RE-WRITING Helter-Skelter

Gosh, this is hard work!
I am re-writing my novel Helter-Skelter. An agent was keen enough on it to say I could re-submit if I made certain changes. My initial reaction was, as you might imagine, that I thought it was perfect as it was, but on reflection and after a good long think, I could see the agent's point of view. A good story that needs more work.
The plot is the same - the main character keeps his identity and his eventual fate remains unchanged - but I need to shift the emphasis.
In effect this means re-writing a lot of the book whilst keeping the same goal in mind. I have to strengthen the plot and squash my tendency to resolve difficulties too quickly. I dislike confrontations but they make a story more interesting, so if A falls out with B they must remain at loggerheads rather than resolving their differences too quickly.
But there are also passages - indeed, whole chapters - that hardly need changing, and that's what's so hard. Shifting from one gear to another - editing and tightening up one day, removing entire characters and swaths of extraneous waffle another day, re-writing and inserting a whole new plot-line on a third.
The agent was complimentary about my writing, as others have been, which helps to keep my spirits up, but my brain hurts!


Coleus hedge

I prefer hedges to walls - they breathe, they are prettier, and it's easier to cut a hedge than to re-plaster and paint a cement block wall.

Out here are hedges are different from those in England - I have seen pine hedges, cactus hedges, and even poinsettia hedges, though the red bracts are too seasonal for those to be stunning for long.

Between our terrace and the communal paths we have a bouganvilla hedge that gives us a modicum of privacy - or at least the illusion of it, which is as much as one can expect when one lives on the ground floor of a four-storey block!

But the hedge around our complex is a coleus hedge. Many of the hedges in our village are the same.

I conducted a survey this morning. and found three variations on the large floppy leaves theme - plus one that looks like an exploding firework.

Four all told.
I was certain I had seen a greater variety in garden centres in England, albeit on a smaller scale, but then everything grows fast and huge out here.
So I looked up images of coleus on the internet.

There are hundreds!
Some of them have zig-zag-edged leaves, the colours range over green, red, yellow, brown, purple, white.

So why can't we have some of those?


Brighton Beach

Some things remain quintessentially British.

Here are my grandsons and their mum enjoying a Punch and Judy Show on Brighton beach today.

And who needs to go to an expensive Health salon for a Hot Pebble Treatment when you have millions of them warmed by the sun?

And, of course, two handsome young men to apply them!



The palm trees are in flower!
Seen on this morning's walk - another treat for the eyes from nature. Aren't they lovely?

And don't you love languages?!
For many years the only foreign language I knew was French, learned in the schoolroom and then re-learned on frequent cross-Channel visits to Calais, Dieppe and onwards to Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, where we had friends with an ancient five-storey hotel smack bang in the centre. We could park the car for the weekend and walk everywhere, buying a chicken in the market to eat on the white sand beach, and drinking enough not to mind the ancient French beds.

Now half our lives our lived in Spanish, and the OH needed my translation services at the dentist this week.
"What do you want me to say?" I asked him.
"Tell the dentist my gums feel tingly- I think I have an infection."
I can say "hurt" or "itch" - but "tingle"?
So I looked it up.
"Siento hormigueo". That looked familiar. I know "Siento" means "I feel" and "hormiga" means "ant". So "Siento hormigueo" must mean "I feel antsy". That makes a kind of sense. Sorted!



By special request -
I have reproduced a poem/ verse/ bit of doggerel I wrote in 1987 entitled "I want a Porsche for Christmas."
I dressed up in a Mrs Mop outfit - full apron,slippers, wrinkly stockings and a headscarf tied over rollers - to perform the poem at a Hurst Players Christmas party.
When you read it, please bear in mind that it was written 25 years ago. Christmas gifts have changed since then!
Look on my VERSES page on the right.


MEDICINAL INSTRUCTIONS - always read the leaflet.

I found some medicine on the shelf behind my vitamins and I couldn't remember what it was for - these moments come more often than I would like these days. :(
The box read "Acetilcisteina cinfa 200mg" in big letters and "polvo para solucion oral EFG" in small letters. That second phrase means "powder to make a fine grain oral solution", but what was it for? So I read the leaflet.

The first sentence began - QUE ES acetilcisteina cifa 200mg polvo para solucion oral Y PARA QUE SE UTILIZA. "What is ace.....EFG  and how to use it".
The answer?
Acetiilcisteina cinfa 200mg polvo para solucion oral se presenta en forma de polva para solucion oral. Ace.... EFG is presented in powder form to make an oral solution. 
I would never have guessed.
Cada sobre de acetilcisteaina cinfa 200mg polvo para solucion oral contiene 200mg de acetilcisteina como principio activo. Each envelope of ace... EFG contains 200mg of ace... as its principal active ingredient.
So it contains what it says on the box - there's a surprise.


This was only the first short paragraph. The leaflet - for which I needed a magnifying glass - explained next what to do before taking aceticlisteina cinfa 200mg polvo.......EFG (I'm getting bored with typing this but you get the picture) - Not to take ace......EFG if you were allergic to any of the ingredients in ace.......EFG and went on to list SEVEN sub-sections, each one of which named the stuff in full.

Then came COMO TOMAR ace.........EFG. How to take ace.....EFG in another seven sub-sections, what to do if you overdose on ace.....EFG (only two sub-sections here, presumably because you would need to act fast?) and then one short sentence on what to do if you forget to take ace....EFG
By the time I got to 4.POSSIBLES EFECTOS ADVERSOS de ace.....EFG  and 5.CONSERVACION de ace....EFG I was exhausted, so you can do your own translation.

But wait! "Do not keep ace....EFG in temperatures in excess of 30*C". 
Tenerife has been on orange alert for three days and we've had temperatures up to 40*C. I found this on a shelf in my kitchen where the temperature gets even higher than outside. I should be throwing the damn stuff away.

Oh - I nearly forgot to tell you what it was for. In brief - which you will be delighted to know if you've stuck with me thus far - ace....EFG is for clearing the bronchial tubes. So now you know what to get if your tubes are blocked -
acetilcisteina cinfa 200mg polvo para solucion oral EFG.
and I still can't type it without looking at the box.



I have only put one entry on my recipe page so far, and I thought I should remedy that oversight.
Whenever I make MINT JELLY I lose half of it to friends, so it must be good. The British like to eat it with lamb - roast lamb is favourite - but it goes with any meat really.

And because I hate wasting anything, the discarded pulp goes to make a chutney which is excellent with cold meat or cheese. For how to make them, see my recipe page on the right.



This is Kika.
She is at least thirteen years old - she turned up on our terrace one night in 2000 with four kittens.
The OH, who professes to hate cats, approves of her because she was a very good mother, and because her eyes are pale blue like his.
They also shine red at night. No comment.
Because of her colouring and markings, and because her eyes reflect red rather than white or yellow like other cats, our vetinary friend says she has a lot of Burmese in her genes.

Wherever she came from, she is spoiled rotten, and now she's an old lady she spends even more of her time sleeping, except when something happens. Like today, when one whole trunk of a palm tree fell onto our footpath.
She got so excited about this that she had to do her somersault act, which involves putting the crown of her head on the ground and throwing the rest of her body backwards.

She used to be able to do this in the middle of the path, which she demonstrated every time we came home. This was quite spectacular and caused endless amusement to our neighbours, but now she needs the help of a wall.

Step one - head on the ground and flop sideways.
Step two - push off from the wall with all four legs and roll onto your back.
Step three - land on the other side and then sit up and try to look smug and dignified at the same time.

Should I enter her for the Feline Olympics?



We are all reeling from the shock.
In March this year Paul was sitting on our terrace with a gin and tonic. He stayed for ten days and we are so glad he did.
A month ago he was at a friend's barbecue in England. If he was ill, nobody noticed. If he knew he was ill, he didn't tell anyone.
Three weeks ago he drove his Citroen to France and spent a fortnight with friends there.
After leaving them he drove to Spain, where he was house-sitting for other friends.
Two days after they had gone, their gardener had to call an ambulance for him. That was last week.

On Sunday he died. On Monday a friend phoned to tell us.
He was cremated yesterday.
This is Paul - he was only 62.

I spent yesterday going through my albums for photos of him and remembering some good times.
Here he is at a party for my birthday in 1995 with my husband and the Bundy twins.

One year he couldn't get to Le Mans, so he set up marquees and tents in his garden and held a 24 hour Le Mans party with a huge TV screen showing the race and a Scalextric set for frustrated drivers.

In December 1999, a couple weeks before we left England, Paul came to supper. When we looked outside it was snowing.
This is him dancing in the snow before walking home.

Not many people could get away with googly-eyed glasses and that tie, but this was what Paul wore to the party that heralded the dawn of the new millennium.

It wasn't all parties, but that was mainly when I took photographs.
In this last one, he and Don are probably discussing politics!

The world is already a duller place.