Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A Teaser

There are a few folk asking where we are right now ... and I promise a blog is in the making.

My hurdle is however, that although most of the words have been written, yet remain unpublished, I don't have a facility for editing and checking the compositions of my photographs, on my laptop. And for me, a huge part of blogging is all about the images. As good as I can make them. So you have to wait for another week!

In a week's time we will have moved what remains of our possessions - after The Great Sellout of February, March and April, when we sold or donated about 80% or more of our worldly goods and chattels - into Melody, our brand new leisure home (aka a mobile home) where we have based our gypsy lives on the Brittany coast of Finistere, near Douarnenez.

We said goodbye to La Ville Oger, the 400 year old stone tower farmhouse where we spent a very happy two-and-a-half years, on 1 May, and took to the road for a gypsy life.

As soon as my desktop computer is up and running, the promised images and stories will be published. Okay, so it may be two weeks and not one!

In the meantime, Bridie the Beautiful watching the ocean which she met for the first time last week.


Road Trips with Milly's Facebook page : https://www.facebook.com/RoadTripsWithMilly/


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Baking Hot Day near Credin in Brittany

It was a perfect Spring day. Sunny, clear and with a nippy little breeze brushing my hair into my eyes, but keeping the heat away.

It wasn't the day that was baking though ... it was the chefs having fun with the ancient bread ovens near the town of Credin in Morbihan, close to where we live in Brittany.


The bread ovens are at least 400 years old and a huge source of pride and fun for the locals. The oven on the left in the image below, is the back of the oven depicted in this blog. The oven on the right is the one we have in our garden. Both are constantly having bad hair days!

The bad hair has a reason. By packing soil onto the top of the oven, and holding it in place with grass and creepers, the oven is able to retain the heat more efficiently.


A local school organises an annual sponsored walk where participants walk a route which takes them to farms where the ancient bread ovens have been fired up. In French it's called a fete du pain (festival of bread) and the walk is a balade. The brioche, bread, and perhaps croissants, that they make is sold to hungry walkers, alongside the beer tent. I didn't see a coffee, tea, cooldrink or water tent!

We arrived just in time to witness the end of the reheating of this particular oven. I believe it takes about 4 hours to heat the oven in the first place, but there were already loaves being sold, so we assumed this wasn't the first heating of the oven.


We quickly spotted the two chefs who were in command - I think they must have been brothers - by the way they were quietly and efficiently guiding their team of helpers to get the job done. Oh, and by their blue-checked trousers which were very sooty by the time we arrived.

 It was quite evident they thoroughly enjoyed the attention my big long camera lens, pointed in their direction for that hour or so, gave them. And I was invited to "go behind the scenes" a couple of times to get some good shots of highlights of the process.

I stayed well behind the counter when the flaming ashes were raked into a wheelbarrow, and left to calm down and cool awhile. As you can see it was monster hot! After a while it was wheeled away to an unknown hot ash pile somewhere to go into retirement.


The two chefs raking out the last of the flaming ashes

I see it's a double wheelbarrow ... good thing too!

It took a while for those flames to die down

This farm's bread oven is well set up for making bread. In fact, it's the only bread oven I have seen in the area with a shed built on to accommodate all the right furniture for cooling and rising. The baked bread is set to cool on pull-out shelves above the shelf where three huge pans of dough had been set to rise. I'm assuming the warmth from the bread helped with the rising process.


Above is the sliding shelf with warm bread and below is the rising dough beneath



I fell in love with these large basins of floury dough ...
they looked soft and comforting and wobbly!


Here's the team at work. One fella cuts the dough with a plastic "knife"; his opposite
number twists the dough into pieces easy for the next two workers to pick up; the
young girl, later joined in the process by her mother, weighs the dough ready
for the two chefs to flour them, roll them into balls and put them on a tray.





The trays are then whipped across to another "rising" cupboard - the type you see
in a more modern bakery (boulangerie) below




This wide angle shot of the make-shift boulangerie could well be wax models in a museum! It shows you all the lovely old paddles, rakes and shovels, with their very long handles, that have seen many a day of bread baking. They sit happily in amongst normal farm gates and paraphenalia.


After the speedy team effort of dividing the dough into almost (by my count) 100 brioche rolls, and after they had been set to rise for a while, each one was lightly scored on the top before being placed on the paddle, two by two, and slid into the hot oven.

Beautifully risen dough balls ... giving off that delicious smell of raw dough

Each brioche being lightly scored

Into the oven they go!



It took two of the team to close the oven door

Twenty minutes or so into the baking process, I was proudly invited into
the baking arena, and the door of the oven quickly opened, for me
to exercise my right as unofficial official photographer

I thought they looked done enough at this stage ... but the door was closed again.
The aroma of baking bread was over-poweringly delicious!


We couldn't wait to taste our brioche!


What a tasty and fun experience this day of the fete du pain was! Definitely an experience to repeat.

Monday, September 26, 2016

It's a new dawn ...

It's a new dawn, it's a new day, it's a new trip! Tra la ...

This is the most emotional and bitter sweet trip I'll probably ever take in Milly. It's time to try and find better care for Mum, in a nursing home in the UK - near to my sister Pat, if we can. Her Altzheimer's has reached a stage we are battling to cope with and, after nearly 10 years, sadly Alan and I are very burnt out. Mum loves traveling, and there's a rest night on the ferry, so hopefully she won't be over-tired with The Big Altzheimer's Monster likely to raise his nasty head.

Because it's such a difficult trip in so many ways, I've gone overboard in dickying Milly up to keep me cheerful and with a smile on my dial. I've gone quasi-bohemian with a touch of Gypsy ... and by the time the trip has ended, I may have even gone more OTT with her decor ... he he he.

What I forgot to photograph (maybe later) are the three paintings I want to take to a gallery in the UK. For safe packing and to save space, I hung them on the wall over my bed and am tickled with how nice they look. I've hidden the nasty visible white hooks and cords with scarves ... just to add to my Gypsy feel. It's also my little bit of Alan to take with me ... the biggest painting is of a bunch of Freesias he recently bought for me when I'd hit a bit of a low, to cheer me up. So the painting has lovely, caring, sentimental vibes. Just what the doctor ordered.

 As you know, if you've read my travel blogs before, I always try to
take some flowers from the garden with me, stashing them in a glass
in the mug holder on the dashboard. As we're entering autumn, there
aren't any flowers for me to pick in our garden ... except for some lovely
red and pink geraniums in my studio flower garden ... but I'm leaving those
for Alan. Instead I've packed my larger-than-life artificial flowers from my
studio to act as cheerful smile-tools and probably still life subjects on the trip.
 
 Oh, and a cloth an Iranian artist pal gave me, to drape over the seat back,
plus some brightly printed cushions (own designs!) and a warm rust-
coloured throw on the seat. I've packed a handful of bright scarves to
have fun with once I'm parked up, as well.

 This is the business side of Milly ... paintings packed to take to the
Bushmills 1608 Gallery (in Bushmills, N Ireland, of course!) if I
can fit it in before I have to be home in the first week of December.
 I'm so hoping to catch up with friends in Ireland, but will only know
a little later in the trip, depending on how things go with Mum.

Mum's mattress luckily fitted exactly on top of the bed in Milly.
Somehow we still have to fit her chair in last minute!

Once again, it's amazed me how much I can pack into this little three berth motorhome - although we only ever sleep two - grandgirls excepted. She's so well designed with comfortable living space for two and an easy-peasy size vehicle to drive, reversing and three-point turning included. Mind you, that could be the driver skill too, couldn't it? (Ha ha)

More later .....


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

All about the Girls in Suffolk and Hertfordshire

My three weeks in the UK wasn't about traveling. It was all about being a Granny and a Mum. So this post is filled with the girls who make my heart sing. It's almost entirely pictorial (except where I get carried away with words) with the image descriptions telling the tales.

 
As usual I started my journey with flowers from home, tucked into
the car dashboard. This perky little bunch was picked entirely from
the pot plant garden in my studio.

This time I also took a generous armful of fresh hydrangeas ... not even
really to paint ... simply for their happy ambience. They stayed companionably
cheerful, being moved from motorhome table to tent, depending on how much
space I needed, for longer than two weeks. During traveling hours they sit
safe in their jug of water in the kitchen sink, padded and protected from falling
over with tea towels tucked around the base.


We've joined a "club" called Britstops where your membership
allows you to stay in the parking lots of pubs and farm shops
around the UK. There is no charge for this accommodation but
you are obliged to eat, drink or purchase from the business. This
particular stop is in Piddington.


Why this fella chose to park right next to me I just don't know ...
maybe he got a laugh from seeing his smart car next to my
precious Milly! Hmmmm, and I remember that field behind me
there ... they'd just spread the muck and the pong was quite
over-powering! I'm afraid I was a failed guest at this stop - I
was so tired that I fell asleep and slept right through dinnertime so
didn't get to spend any money there. Next time. Hopefully with Alan.


Holly (L) and Evie (R) happy as two little girls in a tent!

I arrived at the first campsite just two hours before Meghan (my daughter), Holly (9), Evie (7) and Maisie (2) did and was struggling to put up the rather large tent, next to Milly, on my own. Meghan helped me a little - but she ain't no camper! - so when she took the girls off for a walk in frustration after we failed to get the logical sides of our brains working to figure out what we were doing wrong, and why the tent had long ostrich back legs and short bunny front legs ... I collapsed on a stool and thought "This has to be such a simple solution it's just staring me in the face" and voila! I worked it out in seconds flat. I had the tent up a la solo by the time they got back. It's amazing what women can do on their own when they have to ... even with arthritic hands, ankles, knees and backs!

 
This is what Maisie thought of our tent attempts!

I laughed a few times on this trip ... I think nothing at all of traveling around on my own and doing all the heavy stuff that goes with it. I just slot into my "I can do anything" mindset, whittle away at whatever has to be done until it is done, forget that I must look like an animated abstract design of an insect when I find ways to get down to levels it hurts to do so, and then find acrobatic ways of levering myself up again! I am then amazed and amused at how many male egos are quite tangibly bruised (I can tell from the weird comments I am given) and how folk marvel at a single woman managing on her own ... it gives me both a kick and a giggle. I don't tell them about the time just Mum and I traveled around the deserted roads of Namibia back in 1996 in a two-seater diesel bakkie (what South Africans call a small farm-type van with an open back boot), where there can be 200 kms between fuel stations, and where the owners of the B&Bs we stayed in tended to peer into the back of the bakkie to see if we were hiding our men-folk in there! Yeah ... I could meet my Maker tomorrow and know that I've met a few challenges here and there. As the Jewish folk say: La Chaim! (To Life!)


Maisie, Holly and Evie all tucked up for the first of their two
nights in the tent. Accompanied by the inevitable iPad!

Of course we did the usual thing ... the Irish Faeries hiding letters on handmade paper and chocolates for the kids to find. A couple of friends popped around and luckily the Faeries had had forewarning so had letters and Kit Kats for them too. There were letters which Holly and Evie had to read out first so the new kids on the block, Grace and Molly, knew what to expect ...


Evie reading her letter from the Faeries


Finding Irish Faerie treasure


The Irish Faeries had left letters as well
as Kit Kats


At two years old this was Maisie's first real
Irish Faerie experience (above and below)




Meghan, tired Mum of three energetic angels!

And part of the Irish Faerie experience is that the Hummingbird drops off crumpets to be found and eaten for breakfast the next morning.


Holly found her bag of crumpets ... I think she's happy!

Next morning, Mum Meghan was still exhausted and needing more sleep, while three excited little bodies tucked in to crumpets smeared with marshmallow topping and French caramel sauce.


Meghan, wishing she was still asleep


Crumpet feast for breakfast ... more pics below ....


Holly in her leopard onesies.


Evie sneaking in fingerfulls of French caramel sauce.


Maisie's favourite appears to be the marshamallow topping.


I couldn't resist this one of Evie ... she's the drama queen of the family


I'm surprised the crumpets stayed put after these après le petit déjeuner
handstands and forward rolls


Lunchtime brought more delicious offerings where the girls
learnt more about their South African heritage and have now
started calling corn on the cob - mealies - just as it should be!

Their two nights was soon up and big Granny Hugs were shared as they waved me goodbye. We had spent a lovely day having fish and chips for lunch on the pier at a nearby seaside village. Sadly these days the only candy floss to be found was dispensed from a vending machine! We did it nevertheless. They went home to Hertfordshire and I stayed for the week in Suffolk at the Cliff House Holiday Park. Sadly the beach was way too rocky and sore-on-the-feet for beach walks, so we only ventured down there on one occasion. I had a productive week though, resting in the company of Little Cliff the campsite bunny and his pals, and doing a few ink studies and other crafty things.

As I headed out, I wandered through some lovely parts of Suffolk for a while, stopping off at a farm shop for birthday goodies for Meghan who was turning 36 the next day. These are only one group of the many beautiful Hollyhocks I saw on that drive. 


The time came for me to brave the busy roads and head for a week at Henlow Bridge Lakes campsite on the outskirts of Bedford, and just ten minutes' drive from where Meghan and the girls live in Weston. Along the way, I stopped at a roadside pull-in next to a field of delicate pink/lilac poppies ... I never knew poppies were grown like that in the UK! Amazing. And what a good thing I did - not long after that I hit major accident traffic and sat in blistering heat in a static queue for an hour ... realising that if I hadn't made that roadside stop, it was quite likely I would have been too close for comfort to the accident in front of me!

Poppy field next to the freeway in the UK

Henlow Bridge Lakes is a lovely, well-organised, clean and extremely child-friendly campsite. I would recommend it any time. Here are a few shots of their lovely flowers ...




I had bought a chocolate cake, some Maltesers, M&Ms and mint chocolate sticks for the girls to decorate a birthday cake for Meghan. They were joined by their cousin Summer and had loads of noisy fun making flower and heart patterns and writing Happy Birthday around the edge.

Evie, Summer and Holly

The Cake

Much to Evie's disappointment one day, our promised "Granny and Evie only day" to the Hitchin Lavender farm was delayed thanks to the electrics on Milly conking out and leaving me without headlights and flickers. However, I decided to stay another week, this time parking Milly outside their front door in a spare parking bay for the week, because I could see that Meghan, as a newly single mum, was totally exhausted and really needed some Mum-help.

Evie and I had a lovely day at the Lavender farm ... and from here on out this post is mainly pics of my day with Evie and my "Granny and Holly only day" sketching at a garden centre ...


Bees Granny! There are so many bees!








And our little sporty girl's day was complete with chocolate cake, a forbidden Coca Cola drink (which she left most of!! LOL) and ... the cherry on the top ... a climbing wall!


For Holly's day out, we chose to go sketching at a local garden centre in Letchworth where I ended up making contact with an art group with whom I intend to keep in touch. Holly has always loved sketching ... even without my encouragement ... and she filled a few pages with sketches of hens, a snail, trees, flowers and plant pots. A few shots of our budding artist and her subjects ...

 



 


The artist sketching group, sketching and painting these big urns,
had sauntered off for tea and cake at this point


Mr Snail






And then, of course, before I was allowed home, there had to be knitting sessions! I love the life of a Granny!


Evie starting afresh ... I think she would actually rather
be playing football!


Holly and her incredible creation ... it's the most
precious piece of knitting I have ever seen and I love it!



And so, a week after originally intended, home again home again jiggedy jig ... to catch up on everything which had been sidelined for a month.