The Latter Years

Good afternoon Dear Reader.  All is quiet on the Western Front, basically I’ve turned down Alexa’s volume from 5 to 3.  My boss said the radio was little loud sometimes.  I told him that it was because of my partial deafness.  He then said something that I could quite catch; I didn’t have my glasses on.

Yesterday I celebrated my 50th  birthday, and therefore, am no longer an old young person, but rather a young old person.  To be perfectly honest with you, and why the heck not be honest with you, I didn’t even think I would get this far.  It has been referred to as one of those milestone birthdays.  Like 18, 21, 25, 30, and 40.  But this one really feels advanced. 

Let me just check.  Weight around the mid section.  Check.  Deafness? Check.  Glasses? Check.  Hair?  What hair is left is now grey.  Beard, check. One of my redeeming features.  Knees?  Arthritis in the right one.  Dog?  Molly is fabulous.  Slippers?  Not really, I traded a pair of security boots for my son’s bright yellow Crocs.  Really comfy.  Children?  Check, one adult officially, might be leaving home soon, and one 12 year old daughter going on 30!  Becoming a snappy dresser with a little more elegance than before because I want to dress for myself, my wife, and don’t really care about what anybody else thinks.  Get those yellow Crocs!!  Maybe I’m finally an adult and have actually got the hang of all this adulting? Are there any more squares on the 50 year old bingo that I might have left out?

I check things that move out of my body from the front or the back.  That started happening late in my forties so I don’t know if it’s I’m the right decade.  Looking to see if I’m properly hydrated by the colour of my pee.  Feeling very out of sorts if I haven’t pooped by 7am.  Drinking a litre of water before I leave for work.  I have a smart watch, which tells me how I sleep and how far I have walked every day.  It also gives me my pulse and stress levels. 

Doctors.  Doctors seem to have become so much younger nowadays.  My old GP retired a couple of years ago, and the replacements aren’t even thirty and it’s like going to see somebody who’s just out of school and not older than my son.  At work I have noticed normal people leaving to go into retirement, and I have become one of the less young members of staff.  Youngsters come and join the team, and I don’t even know their names. 

I’m trying to think of the 50 year old stereotypes, and I can’t think of any.  No longer young, but definitely not old yet.  Professionally “they” seem to say well you’re not going any further.  If you leave now, it’ll be hard to find work elsewhere as you are considered “passed it” whatever “it” may be.  Do I just have wait here and wait for retirement?  Will I be able to retire? Politics and all that…  I really have no idea and it’s slightly frightening.

When you’re 20 you’re young and have energy to move mountains. It is the pssage from childhood into the real adult world and can be a rude awakening.  I just moved to France.  Asking for trouble I suppose.  By the time I was 30, I had one child and by the time I was 40 I had my second child. I was starting to get the hang of this parenting business.  During my forties I went through quite a lot of depression and wondering where the hell my life was going and probably was a little too self-centered and I would like to work on that during this next decade of my life.  Maybe my fifties are there to prepare me to be a grandparent.

As this new part of my life begins, I will keep you up to date regularly and you my even get some photographs from tie to time. Until then, I’ll just have to look forward to getting home and having a nice cup of tea and a couple of biscuits…

 

Bourrée ou Macé?

To start with, I’d planned on going to one of the Loire Valley castles yesterday, but due to brain fog I thought it better to just go to bed. So I did. This morning there was no sign of fog, outside or in my brain.

I thought I would go to the Chateau de Plessis Bourée as I do like a drink, and bourée means drunk in French. I do have a family reputation as a drinker to keep up. So off I went. It’s a beautiful place and that day it was a very beautiful place, but also a very shut beautiful place. It seems the Plan B will have to do, which is the Chateau de Plessis Macé, which is slightly more sober. Boring…

I’m actually writing this in the car as I wanted to get that drinking joke out of my mind and onto paper, or screen…

All I have to do now is to drive 19km and I’ll be at party pooper castle! It had bloody well be open or I’ll be very upset and have to go straight to the pub. And with all these new restrictions means I have to get a couple in before chucking out time at 10pm. It sounds like English pubs on a Sunday when I was growing up.

Right off I go. Talk to you later Dear Reader.

I have arrived in one piece and I assume that the Plessis Bourée was nursing a hangover after a particularly good night earning its name once again. Macé looks slightly more open, or at worse, less shut. We shall see! The excitement is killing you isn’t it. Seated there on the edge of your seat wondering if I’ll be successful on this trip. It is with trepidation that I shall open the car door. Maybe more with the handle…. poor trepidation.

I decided against taking the guided tour. I did the “visite libre” and handed over my name, phone number etc. in case of Covid contact. Therefore, as the cheap skate that I am, I only visited the outsides. I still managed to get a couple of nice photos and was able to visit the Chapel.

I’ll put up the boring stuff like links etc., addresses, prices when I finish the article later on. For the moment, you’ll have to do with this!

Now for the boring stuff, or maybe even interesting stuff, depending on whether or not you enjoy history.  A Plessis is a fort built on a hill surrounded by bushes as a defence, and the word Macé comes the Latin word for Mathew, Mattheus. The original fort was built in the 11th century buy Raynaud the first and was a wooden tower, in the 12th century the wood was replaced by stone.  It always pays to invest in construction.  It defended Angers from the Dukes of Brittany.  We nicked it during the Hundred Year’s War, as it was pretty much abandoned.  It also allowed us a little pied-à-terre from which to nick local natural resources.  This is wine country and who doesn’t like a drink eh?  We were mercilessly pushed out of France, and the Plessis was taken over by Louis de Beaumont who built the castle that we see today.  1678, the Castle is bought by the Bautrau de Serrant family, and in 1749 by the Walsh family (which doesn’t sound very French to me, just saying).  In 1868 the Countess Sophie Walsh de Serrant (OK so maybe they were French after all), took up residence in the Castle and launched a huge construction project in the actual Logis.  1907, the Archives de France director, Charles Victor Langlois (Charles Victor the Englishman, Langlois is the medieval French for Englishman, oh the irony) acquired the Castle.  As in most of France during the Second World War, the Germans occupied the Castle, as they did the rest of France.  Yes, there’s something Vichy about the French, as Noel Coward once said.  1967 Philippe Langlois-Berthelot gifted the Castle to the Maine et Loire Department, possibly to avoid paying taxes (again, nothing sure, but follow the money…). 1980 the “Commons” builing was renovated as function rooms.  You have to make money somehow, and who wouldn’t to have a reception in a beautiful castle?  1987, the artistic director of the Anjou Festival, Jean-Claude Brialy, a French and very butch luvvie, presented the infamous Barber of Seville by Beaumarchais.  Skip forward to 2020, the photographer Ian J Myers visited the Castle because the other one he wanted to visit was shut, and he was buggered if he was going to leave the area without taking a couple of photos for posterity and his blog!

You, Dear Reader are now up to date.  All that is left for me to do is to edit the photos and present them to you. I had originally planned to visit a few of the Loire Castles but then Lockdown happened, again! I’ll change plans and see what I come up with for future articles!

À la recherche du temps perdu…

At the moment I seem to be suffering from nostalgia. A longing for things past that I wish were present. Not in the sense of the good old days in the way certain of my countrymen seem to feel Brexit will bring. It is of course impossible to bring back the past. And in some respects I’m very happy about that. Those of us who have been through puberty will be quite thankful not to have to repeat the experience.

I’m talking about the nostalgia where the mind wanders. Where the mind meanders through the memories that are stored there. Some, quite rightly too, are suppressed, and not to be delivered on a plate to some head shrinker. Others rock us like babies in our cribs. Days where things seemed to be different and before we made those decisions, wise or not, that made who we are today. And those decisions that were made for us by others, and that we wished had been made differently.

My mind is in the past. That past can be yesterday where I was very grateful to have the warm air from the car heater hitting my face, or it could be my very origins, where a 16 year old girl was forced by her elder brothers and sisters to abandon her child and give him up for adoption.

Smells can trigger these memories that seem to jump back at us and surprise us. The smell of ink for fountain pens, bees wax, and incense, that take me back to boarding school. Or the smell of lasagna that takes me right back to sitting in front of the TV when I was a teenager, avoiding tensions with my parents. The smell of bitter beer that accompanied those first visits to pubs. The woff of cigarette smoke that reminds me why I gave up smoking. The smell of ground coffee and hot pains au chocolats which signalled breakfast on a Sunday. The smell of military clothing. I’m sure mud has a smell. The smell of cordite and gun oil when out on the ranges. The smell of nappies from when I would change my son. The smell of good pooh and bad pooh. Yes, it does exist. The smell of wood when I worked on machines making door frames, to the smell of metal. Yes, metal does have a smell. I work in a store in the factory where I stock hinges, screws, etc

Taste can work in the same way. If you’ve read any of the other articles, you will have heard about my weakness for cheesecake. But I was just trying to recapture a dessert that my mum used to make and would sometimes disappear from the freezer. If anyone says anything I will deny everything and blame it on my imaginary friend…

But I think the moment that brought it on this time was when my old German teacher, known to everyone as Slick Rick, and even to this day remains particularly slick, sent me a section of an old school photo that I appear on. I was 16. About to sit my GCSE’s. And thought that I could still do what my mum wanted me to. I didn’t of course know what she wanted. To be honest, neither did I. I had an idea, but it wasn’t set in stone yet.

A right motley crew, and it seems so long ago…

At 16 I would never have imagined the life that I have now. I now live in France but at the time saw myself living in Germany. My German was better than French thanks to this brilliant teacher who managed to install a rare passion for the language. At the age of 18 my German was practically fluent and I felt so much at ease. But time has a strange way of sending you down another path. Some call it destiny, some karma, some a vocation. I have no idea. But here I am in 2019 transported back to 1988.

Yup, nostalgia gets me everytime and I wonder where that lost time went.