High-Fiving Palm Trees

Running, and other aspect of my life.

Turbot Fish!!

Last Saturday, we unexpectedly received last minute tickets to the theatre. The Importance of Being Earnest.

This was a nice surprise and so we decided to make an evening of it and off we went to Milton Keynes for a pre theatre meal then the show.

I’m on a healthy eating kick at the moment. No wheat, no dairy, no alcohol, no caffeine, no sugar no ‘bad’ fats and low carb, (OK don’t ask) and so I was a bit apprehensive when Mike chose a ‘posh’ Chinese restaurant in the theatre district as I wasn’t sure if there was anything I could eat.

Surprisingly there’s quite a lot on a Chinese menu that just about fits in to the above criteria, and we shared a platter of Dim Sum to start then he went for Crispy Duck, my favourite,  but I chose the healthy option of a steamed Turbot with steamed vegetables  in broth.

The Dim Sum was lovely, the restaurant specialises in it, but their main Dim Sum menu is only on at lunchtime so this was just a taster.

Mike’s duck arrived and after a short wait, I told him to start while I waited for the Turbot.  I kept waiting.  I kept looking at the various waiters and waitresses dotted around the room.  I felt that they were looking back but trying not to make eye contact.

A waitress came over and started removing non-essential items from the table; flower vase, water glasses, side plates etc.

“Making room for Turbot fish”

A few more minutes passed.

Another waitress came and started moving Mikes plates, dishes and steamer basket right over to his side of the table.  He was compressed onto one third of the table while the other two thirds were empty.

“Making room for Turbot fish”

I began to feel that I may have mis-ordered.

Suddenly all eyes were on the kitchen door as a waiter struggled out with a large platter, regained his composure and with a flourish, presented me with….. “Turbot fish!”

Uh oh!  Now all eyes were on me. Waiters and customers alike. It certainly was a Turbot fish.  It must have weighed about two pounds, which is a flipping big fish when it’s on a plate.

I think that everyone was waiting to see my reaction to a whole giant fish, head on bones in, and expecting me to cry.

Bad luck!!  I have no problems with dealing with a whole fish,  but I’ve never tried to debone one with chopsticks and a china spoon before.

Bearing in mind that this was a pre-Theatre dinner and so our time was limited I made haste and tackled the first side.

It was beautifully steamed and the broth was delicious but it was large enough to feed a family!

While I was finishing off the first side, the elderly Chinese gentleman who seemed to be the owner came over.

“Ha! You go to theatre?” he asked, looking at his watch.

“Yes” we said, “The Importance of Being Earnest”

“Ho ho!”  laughed he.  “You book seat for fish?”

“Ha ha”  laughed I, cutting him dead.  I had no time for Oriental banter I had a Whale to eat!

Another waiter very helpfully came up and took the bone away for me so there was more room on the plate and I did enjoy the fish.  I’d have just liked to enjoy it a little bit slower and without everyone watching!

We did make it to the theatre in time, and I would recommend the restaurant which is Taipan in Milton Keynes Theatre District

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Buster Ivory and the Cyprus Three – and The Motor Ho! Ho! Home! (part two)

…….continued from part one

OK let’s calm down. Deep Breaths.

The insurance was finally sorted out. We were going to collect the motorhome that week on Friday 19th December.

Next step – what to buy for it and how to get it all quickly?

Thank you Amazon Prime!

I wasn’t sure exactly what we’d need, but for a start I ordered:
a lime green and white melamine dinner set with coffee mugs,
rubber collapsible salad/dog food bowls,
plastic wine glasses,
a cutlery set with lime green handles,
a bright pink whistling kettle to use on the gas cooker
a satnav especially for motorhomes,
a guide to motorhome campsites in France and,
my all-important security device, an aluminium baseball bat!

Cuddly toy?? That came later.

It all arrived the next day as promised. I love Amazon Prime.

I plundered the airing cupboard for spare bedding. The setup in the Motorhome ( or MOHO as we motorhomers call them) was two single beds, or they could convert into one large double. I wasn’t sure how we were going to sleep with the dogs in there as well, and so I decided that two double duvets and four pillows would be best and we could either wrap them over ourselves on the single beds, or lie on one and cover ourselves with the other if we made the double bed.

Packing…… still unsure. I remembered there was a large “wardrobe” cupboard in the MOHO but I couldn’t really remember exactly how big.

Food?? I wanted to buy delicious French food, but I thought we might need some basics so I put aside coffee, teabags, butter, salt and pepper, milk and instant porridge pots. This was done in the knowledge that as soon as we arrived in France there is a great big Carrefour supermarket which we have used before and I was going to go there and buy Baguettes, confiture, pate, fromage, charcuterie,tomates, Bailey Motorhomepatissierie, et Vin, for a lovely dinner when we arrived at the first campsite that I’d plugged into the satnav.

I booked our passage on the Eurotunnel for Saturday 20th at 17.30, we’d have 24 hours to get the thing packed and ready to leave.

The dread eagerly-anticipated day arrived.

Mike was v.v.v. excited. He’d arranged a lift for us to the Dealer so we could drive it home together.

Dogs were left at home.

We were off.

When we arrived in Wellingborough we saw our Bailey sitting in pride of place on their forecourt. The salesman came bouncing out of the office ready to take our money show us our new home on wheels.

He gave us an in-depth tour of the vehicle and all it’s facilities.

“When you first get into the van always press this button The Master Switch…….. if this light flashes it means the battery is low……..don’t forget to switch the fridge onto gas when you stop…….. if the wise terrapin looks to the west then……… blah blah blah blah “, on and on it went, in and out of our heads it flowed.

After he shut up finished giving us the tour and all his good advice, he gave us the handbook and said “Well it’s all in there”.

We went into the office and handed over all our money and chattels and remade our wills in his favour, he then presented me with a lovely bouquet of flowers and the keys and let us loose.

I drove.

As I got used to the new clutch and kangaroo’d over the forecourt heading for the fast moving dual-carriageway on which the garage was situated. (What fool thought that was a good idea?) Mike wished that he’d paid more attention to the part where we were told how to open the door and jump out screaming.

Oh Ye of little faith. It was fine. I am an excellent driver.

We arrived home at about 1.00p.m. and set about getting the thing kitted out.

The thing I was most concerned about was the “Wardrobe Cupboard”. I looked at it and thought that I could get more clothes into it for our long stay in Spain far more efficiently if I packed them into a suitcase first then pushed that into the waist high cupboard.

Mike was not happy as he had envisaged hanging his stuff in there all neatly.

I packed my largest suitcase until it was completely full. Having travelled with this case many times, I know that when it’s packed full it weighs in the region of 30kgs.

I also know that Mike hates and detests this suitcase when it’s full and I was going to get shouted at when he saw it, and what he’d say when he had to get it down the stairs and lift it into the cupboard did not bear thinking about.

While I’d been packing he’d been doing “boy’s jobs” i.e. filling up the water tank and putting chemicals into the toilet cassette, and he found he was missing a vital piece of equipment which necessitated a quick trip to HomeBase.

While he was out, I lugged the case down the stairs, out of the front door, down the steps and into the MOHO.

I then managed to lift it myself, balance it on one, dare I say slender, hip, and shove it into the wardrobe with about half an inch to spare each side. I have to say that along with running two marathons it was one of my proudest achievements.

When he arrived back he was mighty surprised to see what I’d done, and I like to think, quite impressed.

We continued to load up the van. It’s surprising how long it takes to do going back and forth. I assigned each of us a “Day Cupboard” which we were to use for the clothes and toiletries we would need for the three day journey and gradually all the spaces began to fill up.

Mum popped round to inspect, as did one of Mike’s granddaughters.

Dogs gave their seal of approval and chose their sleeping spots on the floor in the way.

It looked like we were going to be on the road by 10.00 a.m. the next day as planned………

To be continued…..

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Buster Ivory and The Cyprus Three……. and the Motorho! ho! home! (part one)

Let me set the scene,

We had been trying to get away to Spain since the beginning of November but many things had conspired to stop us and also to stress me out to the point of near hysterics, which is very unusual for me.

Finally we decided that we would set a date and that would be it – we would be leaving come hell or high water. Monday 15th December was that date.

I spent quite some time arranging the accommodation for the trip through France, making sure that we were staying in places that were happy to accommodate 4 dogs, but which also offered a lovely restaurant and welcoming bar at the end of a long driving day. It was tricky as a lot of places are closed in December and that close to Christmas, but after a few days of trawling Booking.com I did it.

Night one was to be in Honfleur at a place we’ve stayed several times, they were delighted to hear from us and were looking forward to seeing “The Doggies” again.

Night two was a chateau in a village outside Cognac, we hadn’t stayed there before but the owner was willing (albeit somewhat apprehensive) to take the dogs. “Are they small because four dogs sounds quite a lot?” “Oh yes, quite small” the lie slid off my tongue like melting Camembert off a baguette.

For night three I had decided to do something different and have an adventure. I had booked a log cabin on a campsite just inside Spain. My thinking was that we could stop at a market in France and buy lovely cheese and pate and charcuterie and bread and wine and put together a wonderful meal, and there’d be plenty of places to walk the dogs.

I think that in some ways I have to blame myself for what happened next. The seed of adventure had been planted in Mike’s head and once a seed is in there, it is watered, fertilized and cultivated until it could win first prize at the Chelsea Flower Show!

I think it was December 1st that Mike uttered the bone-chilling words “I want a Motorhome!”

Some of you may remember that this wasn’t the very first time this idea had been mooted. Earlier last year we had been to the Motorhome Show in Birmingham to have a look at them.

That day was hampered by the fact that Mike unknowingly had pneumonia and could barely stand up. Indeed that very night I phoned an ambulance and had him taken away to hospital where he remained for the best part of a week and on the day he checked out one of the cleaners said to him “Oh, I am glad to see you going home, they thought you were going to die the other day!” The caring face of the NHS!

We didn’t get to see many Motorhomes that day at the NEC, but I do remember deciding that there were two things I wanted from a Motorhome.

1) It needs to be a Tardis.


I wanted something small enough to be able to drive easily and park it in a town, not on the outskirts, but it also had to be able to contain all the clothes and shoes I need to take to Spain for 4 or 5 months, everything we need for the trip, Mike’s stuff, and the four dogs plus all their luggage. (You’d be surprised).

I remembered that I’d taken a photo of the only one I’d seen that struck me as maybe possibly OK. Scrolling back through 11 months of photos on my phone I eventually found it and it had the make written on it – Bailey.

Bailey! Mike was on a mission. He found that there was a Bailey dealer about 45 minutes away in Wellingborough. He phoned them. Yes, they had one in stock. Yes we could go to see it the very next day.

Driving up there he assured me that we were only going to look at it as he couldn’t remember anything from the Motorhome show and just wanted to see what it was like.

I said that was good, and we certainly did not want to buy any motorhome without a test drive as neither of us had ever driven one before. He agreed wholeheartedly.

We arrived, we were shown the Motorhome, it was landlocked, immovable, surrounded by many other motorhomes, it would have taken hours to have moved them all to get it out of the show area for a test drive. Naturally, we bought it.

I say that we bought it, but that’s not quite what happened.

We went into the office to talk about it with the salesman. Mike said he wanted it but we had to have it by 15th December. That, apparently is not much time as it has to be registered, and go through the workshop to have every bit of it tested and checked, cupboards, fridge, loo, shower, computer etc.etc.etc….

The salesman decided that he couldn’t do it by 15th. (I was quite surprised because I thought that if you had a sale you did every single thing you could do to keep that sale even if you had to work until midnight on your day off!) So we had to walk away without actually buying it at that point in time.

The next day Mike was gloomy, nay, he was like a small boy who had been told that he was not getting a new bike for Christmas. The corners of the mouth were turned down. There was sighing. I believe there was also stamping!!

Gritting my teeth I said, why not put the trip off a few days and see if he can get it to us by the end of the week, the 19th?

Moving like a man with a winning lottery ticket he grabbed the phone, posed the question, and YES! They could get it done by the 19th so long as we didn’t have our personlised numberplate on it and just had whichever one was issued. They were closing on 20th for their Christmas break so they had to get it ready by 19th or it was not going to happen at all.

Wreathed in smiles Lord I. set about getting the insurance sorted out.

Well, have you ever tried to insure motorhome? What is wrong with people?? If anyone wants to set up a motorhome insurance company go for it there’s a gap in the market!

It is a fact that many many motorhome owners are retired, therefore older. Try to get a motorhome insured for an older person and you’re lucky to get an excess less than the total value of the bloody thing. In fact I think that if they could, the insurance companies would make you pay THEM if it got stolen.

My already raised stress levels were peaking. I didn’t know if we were going to get away before Christmas. I had nothing in for Christmas if we were going to be at home. If we were going to get away we were likely to arrive at home in Spain on Christmas Eve and I had nothing in Spain for Christmas.

Would my demented father be going to my brother’s for Christmas or would he stay at home and we’d be having him?

Should I pack? What should I pack?? What should I pack it in??? Would it be going in the motorhome, or in the roofbox on the car? If we went in the car where would we stay? I’D CANCELLED ALL THE ACCOMMODATION!!!!!

To be continued…………

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Extraordinary News!!

If you read two blogs ago https://highfivingpalmtrees.com/2014/04/27/buster-ivory-and-the-cyprus-3-on-tour-2014-part-2 you’ll know that I received some extraordinary news some weeks ago which at the time I declined to share.

The news is to do with running, so I’ve just lost half of you who are not interested in that, but for those who are, I’ve had to think long and hard about it before I could decide what to do about it.

So, I’ve finally decided to go with it and……. I’m running The Chicago Marathon on October 12 the this year!

While we were driving through the middle of France in the pitch darkness due to my error in programming the SatNav, I checked my emails and lo…. I’d actually won a ballot place in the Chicago Marathon.

I was absolutely stunned by this news.  I’d forgotten that I’d entered the ballot because it came up as an option when I received the disappointing news that yet again I had not obtained a place in the New York Marathon and I just filled in the application on auto-pilot without really knowing anything about this race.

Doing some checking I realised that it is actually a big deal to get into Chicago as it is one of the 5 Major Marathons.  The others are London (Tick) New York, Boston, Berlin and Tokyo, and so to get a ballot place is like getting Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket.

I was torn, because amazingly I also had a ballot place for that same day for the Royal Parks Half Marathon in London and I’ve been trying to get into that for several years and really wanted to run it, but after everything had sunk in I realised that the Chicago opportunity is really much less likely to ever occur again and so I’M GOING FOR IT!!

The best thing about it is that my Lovely Lulu and her family live in Chicago and so it’s a brilliant excuse to go visit!

No doubt you’ll be hearing more about this in future blogs but for now I suppose I’d better actually start running properly again and get training!



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Buster Ivory and The Cyprus 3 on Tour 2014 (part 3)

Well if you’ve stuck with this so far, you may as well see if through to the end.

I’m really sorry it’s taken so long for me to write this last part of the story.

Busy busy busy

On the third day of our journey we headed South for our final night’s stay in France before doing the last day’s drive down through Spain.

There aren’t many places that we like to stay near the Spanish/French border, and so I’d tried to book a hotel that we’ve used several times, but I have a horrible feeling that they might have closed down as although their website is running I couldn’t make a reservation or phone them. If anyone knows what’s happened at La Terrasse au Soleil in Ceret I’d love to know.

So unable to use that one, I booked somewhere that we have not stayed before. Namely, the Chateau de Riell, in Molitg-les-Bains, near Perpignan.

The main part of our drive was great, no traffic, blue skies, the warm weather was getting nearer, then we left the motorway to go to the hotel.

I was driving.

We seemed to be running parallel with, and very close to the Pyrenees, but we were going up a mountain as well. The road became smaller and twistier, then smaller and twistier still. Our car is big and the drop off the side of the mountain was a long way down.

Although there wasn’t much other traffic, what there was was clearly being driven by raving lunatics with wings who had parachutes attached to their cars because they had no fear of going over the edge and wedged themselves up the exhaust of our car until they had a whisker of a chance to overtake which they did practically with 2 wheels in thin air then disappeared round the next bend in a cloud of dust with no thought about what traffic might be oncoming.

Each bend we turned we expected to see a scene of mutilation and horror, tiny cars embedded into the front of big lorries, body parts everywhere, but not one accident did we encounter.

All of a sudden, we rounded a bend, and were confronted by this astonishing sight.

Grand Hotel, Moltig les Bains

The Grand Hotel – Moltig les Bains

A beautiful, traditional hotel, with a swimming pool, set in a bustling little village. How did it all get here?? Up that twisty road? It just didn’t seem possible.

This wasn’t our hotel though, we still had a couple of miles to go, and at this point we turned off the small twisty road onto a tiny twisty lane, round and round, and up and up we went through a forest, then we saw the hotel sign at last!

Driving into the car park I was a bit disappointed with the sight, the hotel seemed drab and functional and not really worth that torturous drive. As I got out, another car pulled in driven by an wizened old man with his wife as passenger. Mike waited with the car while I nipped in to check that we’d parked in the right place.

Thank Goodness! We hadn’t!!

It was an old people’s home. In the name of sanity who put that there?  Very old people have to drive their cars up and down that ghastly road to get to it. There’s probably a vacancy every week when one of them just goes over the cliff.

Our place was just “next door”  ie a few more twists and turns, but it was beautiful.


Chateau de Riell

Chateau de Riell


It’s a baroque folly-style castle. Very ancient, and surrounded by a forest. Truly enchanting.

The lady who owns it has transformed it into something totally mad.

We had a garden cottage which had a little garden that went out to the swimming pool area. The interior of the room itself looked like a cross between somewhere a Hobbit might live and an iced cake.

This isn’t our actual room but it gives you an idea of the plastering


A room at the Chateau de Riell

A room at the Chateau de Riell


The plasterer who had been given the job of doing the room, and as we later discovered the rest of the castle as well, must have used all the plaster in France and Spain combined, whilst demented on drugs.

I loved it, it was full of quirky objets the hotel’s logo was an owl and so there were owls everywhere, paintings, ceramics, stuffed, embroidered, and metal. Also lots of other items of bric a brac that in most places would have looked really tacky, but in this fairytale setting just looked perfect.

We were greeted by Michel, who was “The Man”. Traditionally dressed in hotel striped trousers, white shirt and a brocade waistcoat with matching bow tie, he unloaded our car and took the bags to the room, he was the bar man and he made a mean Gin & Tonic, he served breakfasts, he appeared everywhere he was needed like a magic pixie. He loved the dogs and insisted on taking photos of us in the bar with them.

The drinks are on me!!!

The drinks are on me!!!

In the 'Out of Africa' Bar

In the ‘Out of Africa’ Bar




















After we’d had his excellent G&Ts we put the dogs back in the room, gave them their dinner and and went for our own dinner in their beautiful restaurant.

Something we’ve often said in places we’ve stayed in France is that if their restaurant was in the middle of London it’d be a sensation with Michelin stars galore and celebrities booking 6 months in advance, and this place is one of those. The food was absolutely fabulous. Presented beautifully, cooked au point, and mouth-wateringly tasty.

While we were eating the owner of the hotel, Biche Barthélémy came round the tables to chat to everyone.


My pud!

My pud!

Back to the room, quick wee walk for dogs then a good night’s sleep.

In the morning we had breakfast in The Russian Datcha! Yes really. Which is built out over the ramparts and hangs over the forest. Looking out you truly expect to see a princess with long blonde hair pining for her handsome prince, with trolls on guard below.


View from window of the Russian Datcha

View from window of the Russian Datcha


We took the dogs for a walk, on leads because they also have a multitude of cats around the place and if our lot went chasing into the woods after the cats…..well 150 hectares of forest is a lot to search!

Before we left there was one thing I was determined to see, and that was the second swimming pool….. on the castle roof!

Mike was too keen on getting the car packed up and dogs in, so once we’d brought it round to the front he got on with that and I went exploring. Up in the tiny one person lift to the top of the tower then outside to the breathtaking roof terrace with yes indeed, a swimming pool.


Swimming pool on roof of castle

Swimming pool on roof of castle

Swimming pool on roof.

Swimming pool on roof.

Mount Canigou

Mount Canigou




















The views were impressive, dominated by Mount Canigou which has snow on it all year round and contrasted beautifully with the blue sky and swimming pool.

It was at this point that I realised that I had the car keys in my hand. Oooh, I bet Mike was swearing. I leaned over the edge of the ramparts, and far far below I could see the little matchstick figure of my husband, with blue steam coming out of his ears. “Coooooeeeeeeeeee!” I yelled, He looked all around him, “Hellllooooooo” I warbled. Eventually he looked up. A reedy little voice reached my ears that seemed to be saying something like “Get down here – NOW – Jump!” Surely not??

Tiny husband!

Tiny husband!

I decided not to wait for the lift, but to go down the stairs. Even the staircase was spectacular. Carpeted in bonkers Zebra print carpet with a Brass handrail going round and round all the way down.



All the way down from the top of the tower

All the way down from the top of the tower













Forgetting the hurry I was supposed to be in, I stopped off on one of the darkened landings for a nose, then wished I hadn’t as I was greeted by this picture of a creepy little girl on a swing.

Creepy Little Girl on Swing

Creepy Little Girl on Swing


Spooked I ran at top speed down the rest of the staircase, then became distracted again by the lounges full of bric a brac, but everso tastefully done and so pretty.

I was jolted out of my musings by the appearance of my – now much larger than life – husband who was a little bit furious about the car keys.

Saying profuse goodbyes to Michel I was bundled into the car and we set off on the twisty turny road back down the mountain.

Because I was forced to leave in a hurry I did not find their Thermal Spa which is somewhere about the place.  Moltig les Bains is apparently famous for its hot springs, hence the Grand Hotel which is a Spa Centre as well.

Thankfully the rest of the journey was uneventful, apart from each rest stop we took for the dogs where everyone stared at them and talked about them or to them (we were invisible).  At one place we were sitting with a coffee, the dogs had plenty of water to drink in the car, and a coach driver kindly came over with a bowl of water for them, which they proceeded to ignore, Embarassing!

They have coffee, but we have none, won't someone take pity on us???

They have coffee, but we have none, won’t someone take pity on us???

We arrived at home in Spain at about 7.00 p.m. Opened the car door for the dogs to get out which they did, and then, having been in the car for more or less 9 hours with short walk breaks, they looked all round…… and got back into the car where they sat looking expectantly at us as if to ask, “Well we’d better be off again hadn’t we?”

Leaving them to figure things out, we unloaded the roof box and put things away. Mike got the cushions out for the patio chairs, I fed the dogs and we finally relaxed with our G&Ts in the lovely warm Spanish night air.

After a good night’s sleep we discovered that it is never a good idea to leave a house to it’s own devices for 6 months because it bites you.

Although the lovely Sharon had been in to flush loos and water plants, the house had clearly felt rejected and gone into sulk mode.

List of things that had gone wrong.

1)    Waste disposal had seized up and needed replacing.

2)    Dishwasher had developed a leak and needed replacing

3)    My Spanish car was dead, and the battery would not hold a charge even after being jump-started , new battery required.

4)    Automatic watering system in the garden had died, yes, it needed replacing.

5)    Most of plastic garden furniture had degraded in the sun and …………..

In a way this was all good because Mike hates being idle, so it gave him lots of things to do, and he got the whole lot sorted in a week.   We’ve also got in a load more plants and pots and extended the watering system to cover them, so it all looks very pretty here at Villa Marfil.

Plants and Toby's paddling pool.

Plants and Toby’s paddling pool.

Front of house

Front of house




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Buster Ivory and The Cyprus 3 on Tour 2014 (part 2)

Having said our goodbyes, I put the next hotel, The Chateau de Maumont into the sat nav and we set off. It was just over 5 hours away which was what I’d anticipated, and with a couple of stops en route to get coffee and walk the dogs I estimated that we’d arrive at 17.00.

At 17.00 we drove up to the chateau! Perfect! Nice and early, time for a G&T, walk the dogs in the grounds and then dinner.

“Sorry, we do not have a reservation in your name. We also do not take dogs”

Not words we wanted to hear.

“I have the reservation on my laptop, I said we had 4 dogs and you said that was OK!”

They double checked but had nothing for us. I went back to the car to get the laptop to show them the confirmation. Searched for Chateau de Maumont and found…nothing!

I refined the search to ‘Chateau’. Bingo! There was my confirmation from the Chateau de Maulmont

Anybody see something different there? Just a little thing???

An ‘l’. But a fairly important ‘l’.

I apologised for the mix up, (I didn’t like it there anyway) and while Mike gave the dogs a bit of a walk I reprogrammed the sat nav.

Swear Words, many swear words, really bad ones!

The Chateau de Maulmont was 235miles, or in practical terms 4 HOURS DRIVE AWAY!

I cannot begin to adequately describe how furious I was, with myself. I hate being wrong, and in this instance there was only one person to blame, and that was ME!

We’d given our credit card for the reservation so if we cancelled that late we’d still have paid for the night’s accommodation, and so we decided to set off for the correct Chateau.

I drove! I was going to fix this. There’s no way I was letting this situation get any further out of my control

I drove in silence.  Seething, berating myself and being absolutely livid, inside my head.

I have to say that Mike was a complete gentleman. He didn’t tell me off, or get furious himself. He just said, “It doesn’t matter if we get there a bit late, I’ll ring ahead and tell them, and ask them to make up a cold meal and a bottle of wine for us to have in our room when we get there.” Why hadn’t I though of that?!

It took about 2 hours of driving before I felt calm enough to make light of the whole thing.

We were heading for the Auvergne. This is a region in Central France which used to be volcanic.

There are volcanoes everywhere if you know what you’re looking at. They actually look like very green hills, although there are one or two which do really look like the sort of volcano a child would draw.

There’s even a volcano theme park, Vulcania! www.vulcania.com/en

As I drove up and down lots of hills, I thought that the car was struggling a bit. I put it down to the load; this trip was the first journey we’d made with the roofbox so we were getting used to the drag and I just thought that was making a difference.   Going uphill it did seem to lose quite a lot of power, but I decided to ignore that and stop worrying. I was going to get us to the correct chateau if it killed me!!

I finally admitted defeat after 3 hours when we stopped to let the dogs have a walk and I let Mike do the last hour of the drive.

I sat back and checked my emails, and received an absolutely extraordinary piece of news, so extraordinary in fact that I’m keeping it to myself at the moment until I’ve decided what to do about it.

All I’ll say is that it’s about running.

It was getting dark and we were about 40 miles from our destination when 4 warning lights on the dashboard came on simultaneously.

One was the general engine light which could have meant anything, one was something to do with anti-slip, and the other two didn’t feature in the manual at all.

We decided not to stop in case we couldn’t start again, so as Mike drove on I Googled the other lights. It transpired that the particular combination of 4 lights that we had triggered could basically mean anything from “Stop the car immediately, get out and stand at a safe distance while calling the fire-brigade”, to “Ignore it all, it’s a meaningless error message which even Toyota do not understand.”

We soldiered on, we were about 29 miles away by now. The tension in the car was, let’s just say, high.

Watching the miles count down, I thought “Only 5 miles away, we can walk it from here if we have to.” Then I thought, “No we bloody well can’t, in the pitch darkness, with 4 mad dogs. We don’t even know the way. The only way we can get there is with the SatNav guiding us.”

I briefly fantasisted about harnessing the dogs to the front of the car, sitting up on the roof-box, and riding it chariot-style to our destination with the SatNav issuing its orders from below.

Even one mile away was a great distance under the circumstances and so I was greatly relieved when we “reached our destination” at about 10.00 p.m.

Driving up to the Chateau, I was so disappointed that it wasn’t daylight. The place looked amazing.

We parked out front and went in to announce ourselves. The owner is actually English, his wife Scandinavian, but brought up in England. He couldn’t have been more welcoming. Our first priority was to get the dogs out of the car, let them stretch their legs and get them into the room.

It was pretty chaotic. They were v excited to be on the move and to see where they were. We’d been upgraded to a courtyard suite, which was fab. We had to go through the reception area out the other side to the courtyard of the hotel, where the remains of the original building that was a 13th Century Knights Templar stronghold, were preserved.

Our room must have been the original kitchen as it had a huge fireplace with a roasting spit large enough for an ox, and a big brick bread oven.


Shutting me and the dogs in the room, Mike and Ian, the owner went to get our luggage. After they’d returned, I realised that they’d left a few things in the car, so I told Mike I’d go and get them.

He said we’d all go and that Buster, Toby and Molly didn’t need leads. Well this might have worked had we not encountered a family with children just as we reached reception.

Four Fluffy white dogs and two children in the dark make for quite a lot of chaos. Dogs everywhere, children everywhere. French people talking at us about the dogs. “Ooh les mignons, les mignons. Je les adore.”   “Je suis en amor.”   Etc etc.

Rather than disrupt the whole place I suggested to Mike that he go back to the room with the dogs and let me sort out what I wanted from the car on my own.

At this point things took yet another turn for the worse.

Mike took Bella’s’ lead and half turned to go back to the room. He had not noticed that he was at the top of 4 stone steps that lead down into the courtyard and so he failed to step down them, instead taking the faster option of falling.

British Army training being what it is, and once learned never forgotten, he twisted in mid-air like a dropped cat, and attempted a Commando-style shoulder-roll to standing.

Attempted but not achieved, and as he landed on his nose on the flagstones I was surprised how many thoughts flashed through my mind in a mere millisecond.

I am ashamed to admit that one of the first was “What the hell am I going to do, in the centre of France, with a broken-down car, 4 dogs and the mangled corpse of my husband?”

That was immediately followed by “I wonder, if I get him vacuumed-packed, will I be able to fit him in the roof-box?”

Happily these thoughts were banished by the voluble swearing rising from the courtyard, and as the French family went very quiet and rapidly dissolved into the darkness, I stepped down, grabbed Bella’s lead, and picked up Mike’s glasses, while he picked himself up and checked for breakages, blood pouring from his nose.

Anyone who takes Warfarin will know the dramatic effect it can add to even the most minor of injuries and as the blood gushed, it was difficult to see exactly what he had done. Fortunately once we’d overcome the bleeding with a lot of tissues, we could see that in fact he’d just grazed his nose. I’m not saying that was a minor injury, it looked like he’d rubbed it on a nutmeg grater, but it wasn’t broken and neither was anything else.   Over the next few days various aches and pains came out but nothing serious.

By the time I returned to the room our meal had arrived and it was perfect; cheese, French bread, smoked salmon, salad, pate, sausage, wine, and petits fours.

Dogs fed, us fed, time for bed!

In the morning we got to see the place in daylight and it really was quite spectacular. Mike took the dogs out for a walk and found 3 large Carp lakes from another of the chateau’s previous lives, as a Royal Hunting Lodge, although now apparently they only hold Catfish.


Door to our room


Carp Lake


We had a lovely breakfast in the Great Hall, which had wood panelling and a vaulted ceiling, then rather regretfully packed up and headed for the local Toyota Dealership which Ian had phoned and warned of our arrival.

While we were checking out, I told Maartje, Ian’s wife about what had happened the previous evening with the Chateau Maumont/Maulmont mix-up. She was absolutely astounded as she had no idea that there was another place with such a similar name. At least she knows now that if someone turns up who thinks they’ve booked but haven’t, they should probably be 4 hours away the other side of Limoges.


Chateau de Maulmont, in the Auvergne,
NOT the Chateau de Maumont in Poitou Charentes


Driving into Vichy, we located the Toyota dealership who were as helpful as can be, and even found the warranty details on their system.  They took the car away for about an hour and it came back fixed!  We and dogs sat in the showroom, putting potential Toyota buyers off as every time someone strolled past lost in a world of paint colours and optional extras, Miss Molly suddenly barked at the top of her voice sending the pauvre French person two feet off the ground, and running for the door.


Waiting at the Toyota Dealership for the car to be fixed.


On leaving the dealership, I VERY CAREFULLY loaded our next destination.  Again approximately 5 hours driving time away…..or was it???

To be continued in Part 3…


Buster Ivory and The Cyprus 3 On Tour 2014


On Monday morning last, we were due to leave home for our journey through France to Spain. Accommodation was all booked, everything organised, the only thing we were worried about was how well The Cyprus 3 would behave on the trip.

They proved to be the least of our problems!

We had planned to leave at 10.00 a.m. We got away only 45 mins late due to certain issues with the amount of stuff I was trying to load into the new 510litre roof box which we had purchased in order that the dogs could have the whole interior of the car.

Who new that 510litres was so small?

Thanks to the miracle that is vacuum packing bags we managed to condense the, possibly, 1000 litres of items I was loading into half the space. Believe the adverts, these things are miraculous http://www.lakeland.co.uk/p24142/Lakeland-Vacuum-Totes

We then had a little issue with locking the thing. Resolved on the phone by the very nice people at The Roofbox Company .

Bad language, and tempers forgotten (sort of)  we were off!


Until about 5 miles before The Dartford Crossing when the M25 ground to a crawl and remained that way for 45 mins until we got to the toll.

Back on it!! Arrived at the Eurotunnel at about 2.10 bought ticket but they couldn’t get us on a train until 3.20. No probs. Had a coffee walked the dogs queued for the train.

Excellent!! 4th vehicle loaded after 3 coaches which meant 4th off at the other end.

En France, the doors opened the coaches drove off, except for the coach in front of us………. which broke down or, tombé en panne!!

Zut Alors!!

Loaded in a metal cylinder, daylight only one vehicle away, it is very frustrating when that vehicle is a 49-seater coach with a seized gear-box.

Lady Luck smiled upon us all at that point, they were on the final attempt at resetting the gear-box prior to calling a tow truck when, hoorah, it worked!

I could feel the cumulative sigh of relief from the entire trainload of cars, coaches, vans, trucks and all their passengers rushing up the carriages behind us, and with that garlicky wind in our sails we launched ourselves onto the French motorway system.

I LOVE French motorways, they’re empty of traffic, they’re well maintained, lots of rest stops and service stations, I could drive for days on them. Lucky, as that’s just what we were going to be doing.

Our stop the first night was booked for Le Manoir des Impressionistes in Honfleur.

We’ve stayed there several times before. It’s run by a lovely if slightly dotty English lady named Brigit who we love dearly, and her sons who are half French. Her husband died suddenly and unexpectedly a few years ago.

My plan for the journey was that Buster would sleep in the room with us as usual, and Toby, Molly and Bella would sleep in the car.

I’d prebooked a room on the ground floor so we could park the car outside the window and we’d hear if The Cyprus 3 started to create a noise, but Brigit insisted that the “doggies” could all sleep in the room with us and we were to treat the place as if it were our own home.

The Doggies liked that idea and although they’d only just been allowed upstairs at home for the previous 2 weeks they romped into the room and onto the bed and assumed positions of leisure that made me think I’d probably get a better night’s sleep if I curled up in the back of the car.

I’d come with a contingency plan just in case we had to bring the dogs into the bedroom, and brought a large white sheet with me to put over the bed and the lovely bedcovers that the French usually provide, thereby at least mitigating some of the decoration by mud that they seem to carry with them wherever they go. Removing dogs, I rapidly covered up the white bedcover before it was too late.

Leaving them in the room while we went for dinner was a complete write-off as they just scratched at the door so we put them back in the car while we had a peaceful meal and a bottle of wine.

We all slept well, Mike took them out for a quick walk in the morning, everyone was off the lead except for Bella, he put them back in the car while we had breakfast, then we took them to the beach! So far as we know, The Cyprus 3 hadn’t seen a beach before.



Bella, Molly, Toby on the beach at Honfleur


Toby, Molly, Bella on the beach at Honfleur


Oh they loved it! Bella had to remain on the extending lead as, even though there are not usually sheep on a beach, she didn’t know that and there was no telling whether she might just charge off into the distance looking for some.

The absolute joyous time they were having brought tears to my eyes. Buster was thundering about like a puppy, Toby found the wettest part of the sand so he could get it all over himself, Miss Moll just waddled along by our sides and Bella hurtled too and fro on her lead. Then they saw the sea!

Glee abounded. It was a bit scary and had to be barked at, but it was also quite a lot of fun especially for Toby who just loves to get wet.





Buster on the beach at Honfleur


The tide was coming in so we couldn’t linger too long.  Back at the hotel, Brigit was dying to show me the new Spa Centre they’ve just finished.  It’s been put into a very old building at the bottom of the garden. which was derelict last time we were there.  They’ve made a lovely job of it and next time we stay I’m going to try to make time to have  a treatment down there.

We said our goodbyes, loaded dogs into the car, luggage onto the top, and we were off.

I put our next destination into the SatNav.  5 driving hours to our next destination…….or was it??

Continued in part 2….




I’m back!

Disgraceful, I haven’t updated this blog since last September. 

But now I’m back!

Two weeks ago, I had a bit of a shock when I received an email from a friend checking that I was still doing a 10k on 29th March, which I’d signed up for ages ago.

I had not done any training and in fact had only run twice this year just a couple of 5k runouts.  

In a panic and before I replied to her. I charged out aiming to run 10k just to see if I still could.

Well, I could!  I started off run/walking but by the time I was on the return stretch I was running all the way.  I was actually quite astonished with myself that I could go out and run 6 miles without any practice.  It was not my fastest time, but I could still do it without any problem. As I was running back one thought flashed into my mind.  “I am a runner.”

Looking forward to seeing plustenner , abradypus, and fairweatherrunner on Saturday in Dover for  the Buttons for Brathay 10k.


I must put a lot of the credit for my running legs down to Julia Buckley and her Fat Burn Revolution.  I did Julia’s 12 week course last year and her follow-up course and I’ve just been doing the 12 week course again.  Never having done any sort of weight work before I was surprised to find how quickly I progressed and my legs are so much stronger now that it has helped my running immensely.


On a completely different note, we have been having really bad problems with our hot tub for months.  I’m writing about it here because I could not find any useful advice that actually worked on the internet but I have finally conquered it myself so if anyone searches for White Water Mould I hope they find this advice.

The problem we had is called……..surprise…. White Water Mould.  Sounds horrible doesn’t it? 

We had it for ages before we even knew what it was.  It starts off looking as if someone has accidentally dropped a tissue in the water and it’s disintegrated so lots of little white bits are floating around.  

If its not treated then it progresses rapidly and your spa is full of the stuff which collects round the edges in white curds, and then progresses on to…..Pink Slime!

Information for ridding your hot tub of this stuff available on the internet is generally, clean the filter, balance the water and shock it thoroughly, if that doesn’t work, run pipe cleaner through the spa, drain the tub, scrub it clean, refill , balance the water and shock it thoroughly.  Well I did all of that quite a lot of times, and every single time the stuff came back.  

It lives in every nook and cranny of the hot tub, including the internal pipework, and if you haven’t killed every speck of it, it just begins to multiply again as soon as the thing is refilled  It’s quite resistant to chlorine and any of the usual spa cleaning products.

I know this as I have spent a great deal of money on the proprietary spa cleaning products and on masses of chlorine, and none of them have done the job.

Having left the tub alone all winter I took the lid off recently to find it thick with the mould.  It looked vile.  the plastic round the nozzles was discoloured and yellow, the inside of the lid had a film of Pink Slime on it and the whole thing was encrusted with the mould.  Tempting!

So, I decided to throw away the rule book and clean the thing the way I’d clean anything properly. Domestos and Cillit Bang!

First I cleaned off as much of the slime and mould as I could without draining the water.

Leaving the filter in I poured in a whole bottle of Domestos and set the pumps going, making sure that all the nozzles were activated.  

This produced a spectacular amount of foam, and so I don’t advise this method if you have an indoor spa.  (Although possibly the addition of some anti-foam might have helped.)

After I’d let it soak in this solution for 24 hours I drained it.  I washed the filters thoroughly under the hosepipe then put them to soak in filter cleaner.

I removed all the headrests and took them indoors to scrub with more bleach.

Then I hosed down the inside of the tub and each nozzle and poured neat Domestos everywhere making sure I’d scrubbed it over every nozzle, the inside of the lid and every inch of the surface, I also poured it down the filter hole.  

(At this stage, I took the filters out of the cleaning solution and put them to dry thoroughly in front of a radiator.)

Next I refilled the tub, turned it back on and got the pumps going again and put the lid down so the inside got cleaned as well.

Masses more foam ensued.

24 hours later, drained again, hosed again thoroughly, wiped it all down until it was dry and every visible trace of slime or mould was gone and refilled.

Damn and blast, refilled I could still see tiny white flecks in the water. I ran the pump for a while and left it for 24 hours, and there were a lot more visible white bits.

I was v. disheartened, but not beaten…

I drained it all again, and this time, using a whole can of Cillit Bang antibacterial bathroom mousse, sprayed every nozzle with it so the foam would find its way into every crevice.  I sprayed it down the filter and poured more Domestos down there and left it all for a couple of hours. 

Then I refilled it, added another bottle of Domestos for good measure and ran the pumps on and off for 24 hours.

Drained, wiped down, dried everywhere, the thing was sparkling!

Refilled…………. Bang! and the mould was gone!












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My Achilles Heel

Since I started running, I have been lucky enough to avoid all major injuries. I’m not counting blisters and loss of toenails as they all healed up again.

However, last December, while walking round Milton Keynes shopping centre for 4 hours doing Christmas shopping, I did injure myself and it has affected my running all year.

I was wearing a comfortable pair of flat Ugg type boots which I had always, up until then, favoured for shopping/walking.

I began to feel quite tired and uncomfortable in both legs and decided that enough was enough time to go back to the car. Within a few more steps I could hardly put my right foot on the ground and my left was very painful as well.

Hobbling back to the car laden with carrier bags I began to realise that something was properly wrong.

Over the next few days it became apparent that I’d really strained my right Achilles. It actually took a while for me to believe it. I’d been running for three and a half years, gone from couch to Marathon all by myself and been fine. I couldn’t possibly have done so much damage just walking round the shops.

And so I tried to ignore it and carry on running. That, I soon realised, was not an option.

The Internet is a mine of information and if you search Google for “Achilles Tendon Problems” it’ll return enough results to keep you reading until the damn things clears up on its own or you die old age.

I didn’t go to a physio.

I really thought that I could fix it myself with rest, ice and elevation. It didn’t get better.

I bought kinesiology tape and watched a You Tube tutorial on how to strap it up. I liked it! I felt like a ‘proper runner’ walking about with pink tape up my leg. It didn’t get better and it probably got worse as I thought I’d be able to run with my pink tape on but it hurt.

I went on like this for 8 or 9 months. Trying something I’d read on the Internet. Having a little run now and again and finding that I still couldn’t, and NOT going to a physio.

In August, I was at a funeral, and was chatting to a person who is a Physio. “Have you heard of a Strassburg Sock ” she asked. “Nnnnooooooooo”.

“I think it will help.” said she “You can buy them on Amazon.”

Willing to give something else a try I bought one. It is not an attractive device. It’s a white elastic stocking with Velcro straps which you adjust to fit. It doesn’t look cool or sexy.

You wear it in bed at night and it keeps your foot in a right-angled position thereby stretching the Achilles’ tendon out all night.

After the first night I got out of bed, tentatively put my foot on the floor and……. walked perfectly normally with no pain! (Mornings used to be the worst as the tendon was always tight after a night lying down)

After using it for a week I went for a little run, and everything was perfectly OK.

Since then I haven’t worn the sock unless I begin to feel any slight twinge, or I’ve done a lot of walking in stupid shoes (flip-flops).

The problem is completely resolved.

If you’ve had a niggling Achilles and nothing is helping, I thoroughly recommend the Strassburg Sock

It’s got to be worth a try.

{For some reason the iPad won’t cooperate and let me add the link to the page where you can buy it, but just search on Amazon and it will come up straight away.}


ID Required.

Big News!!!

I won a prize!!!!

Back in Juneathon I entered one of their competitions to win a Go-ID and I won it!!!  Thank you Cathy aka JogBlog xx

It’s a clever idea.  Not just aimed at Runners although that’s the reason I’ll be using it. It would also be useful for travellers, backpackers and anyone who is away from home or family.

It is an ID-making kit which you  customise yourself.  You print out your name details, contact details, emergency contact and any important medical info that emergency responders would need to know.  This is then stuck to a metal tag which can be attached to a number of different parts of your kit.  Whichever you prefer.

It seems to be primarily designed to attach to the back of a sports watch using velcro pads.  The metal tag protrudes from the side of the watch and you can choose to display either the letters ‘ID’, or the international emergency ‘star of life’ symbol.

You can also attach it with a zipper hook (included)  to your shoe-laces, or to a zip, to a backpack or your phone, or to any other item with a loop on it.  There’s a silicone cover to protect it from the elements if you use it this way.

I made my ID following the instructions, although I have to admit that the first one got stuck in the printer, and as they only supply 2 labels I was quite worried that the 2nd one would do the same thing and then I would not be able to use it. However, I made sure that the 2nd label was firmly pressed down before it went through the printer and it worked well.

I’ve tried it on the watch and it is not uncomfortable, my only reservation would be that, in the event of me being found knocked unconscious by a mugger who’d taken the watch it would not be much help, but that’s just me looking on the black side!

I’m also hoping I will not need to provide the medical information for the following item……

More big news!!!

The next race I’m doing is going to be  AN ASSAULT COURSE!!!!! The Major Series !!! Yikes!!!!!

Yes folks, I, of the lovely long hair and the perfect make-up, the sparkly toenails, and the perfume, will be crawling through mud, climbing over high walls, being electrocuted, swimming through iced water, and running 10k to do it.  Oh Joy!

On October 5th (the day before my birthday) I will be joining some of my fellow Fat-busters as we attempt to complete this madness.

We’ve finished our 12 week course and all of us have done really well.  I lost 2 inches from bust, waist and hips, and others did even better than that and we’ve formed quite a jolly online team. Some of us met up for a picnic in Green Park last month which was fab, and more of us are going to be doing this lunacy next month.

I’ve increased my strength threefold, the puny weights I was struggling with at the beginning of the course have been replaced with much more impressive dumbbells.  I even had to buy another set as I needed more weight!!!

Here are some before and after pictures of some of us.  We remain anonymous!