As I sit here, unable to walk, I reflect upon yesterday’s new experience: Boot Camp.
In September, one of my best friends is climbing Kilimanjaro. To raise money for her chosen charity, Practical Action, Gabs decided to organise a charity boot camp (or ‘booty camp’ as I prefer to call it- its just cuter and honestly, its the only part of me that doesn’t hurt, which brings me some happiness).
I can’t say that I was thrilled at the prospect.
Don’t get me wrong, as a dancer, I love being active and fit. However, I prefer to do so in a way where I don’t actually realise that I am exercising- the lesser-known ‘indirectercise’.
So, when I dance, I’m focused on the music and performance. When I swim, I can pretend I’m on an exotic beach somewhere hot and fabulous. And during those long, romantic walks that I take, generally in the direction…
Perhaps the name of this blog is slightly deceiving. Yesterday, at the University of Birmingham, I did not find a Mrs Robinson and fall simultaneously in love with her and her daughter. But I did graduate.
Ok again, potentially deceiving. My friend gave me back a ring that I had misplaced a couple of weeks ago. Why this exchange earned copious messages of excited congratulations is beyond me…
Even despite the disappointing lack of marriage proposals that I received, yesterday still turned out to be an amazing day.
I won’t give you a play by play of the actual ceremony, I couldn’t be so cruel. Instead, I’ll just give you a couple of my personal highlights:
1. The Vice-Chancellor’s pronunciation of my name. Understandably, if I saw the name ‘Augusta Melia’ for the first time in a room filled with hundreds of people (and it weren’t, of course, my name) I would probably…
Tomorrow Daughter #2 graduates with a History degree from Birmingham University.
She feels her life is over, such a time did she have in the last three years but really it is just beginning. She’s only 21 after all and the world, as they say, is her oyster. It’s a very pricy oyster nowadays but it is all hers.
Tomorrow we leave Casa Carmichael at the crack of dawn to drive to Birmingham, collect mortarboard and gown (light blue reverse), enjoy the ceremony and lunch with a coterie of other grads and their proud parents. We shall take lots of photos.
After that, university is really truly over and the job hunt begins. Seriously and in earnest because it’s hard to be a girl-about-town with no pecunia in one’s pocket book.
She needs dedication, application and a pinch of luck, all of which I know she can channel if she sets her mind to it.
Enjoy tomorrow, Darling. It’s the beginning of the rest of your life.
So, a couple of weeks ago Mr Carmichael had a birthday (yes, another) and as his birthday always falls on, or around, the first May Bank holiday and the weather forecast was clement he invited the fam for food, festivities and something else. Hmmm, what was it again? Oh yes, golf.
Anyway, in preparation for the inundation (out of towners) I cleaned Casa Carmichael from her tippy tippy tip toes to her blonde highlights, discovering as I went that the Carmichaels possessed nary the quantity of duvets, fitted sheets or pillow cases to cocoon the advancing masses. With daughters various at uni and flatting south of the river, such things are spread to the four winds at present.
Oooh, I thought, shopping time!
With joy in my heart I headed for the newly renovated John (‘never knowingly undersold’) Lewis in High Wycombe. And returned with elegant paisley bedding for Mr C and me.
Ok, I did forget the fitted sheet and the required duvet so excited was I by the choice of pretty on offer. However, we made do. Particularly niece #1 who had to sleep under blankets. How retro is that?
I had just put fresh towels in the landing loo and was admiring my work- flushed phizog in the gleaming mirror when the door fell off its Edwardian hinges and attacked me.
The Edwardians made their doors both big and heavy but my luck was in. I was facing the aggressor and could parry the advance. Shaking, I propped the loose door up and exited the war zone.
“The landing loo door’s fallen off its hinges,” I told Mr C that afternoon. “It nearly killed me.”
Moments later hearing a bang, a crash and a loud grunt I rushed from my afternoon nap (cleaning exhaustion) thinking that mi marido had fallen down the stairs. I was wrong.
As I hurtled past the landing loo to rescue him I noticed the door was missing. Well, not exactly missing. More, caved in on top of the basin and Mr Carmichael. The newly spritzed mirror was hanging from one hook and there were two new and largish holes in the wall beside it.
“I told you the door was broken,” I said hauling said door off his back.
“I though you said toilet,” he replied as he straightened up and rubbed his head.
“I said door.”
“Well, that’s not what I heard.”
Hmmmm. It’s a funny thing the vortex that I spend my married life speaking into. Megaphones don’t help. Enunciation is a waste of time and energy. I crave an ear not blocked with manly own thoughts and single track reception.
“Could you strip the bed?” I asked a couple of days ago on rising to see to the puppy, Lyle. “If you can’t strip it, at least don’t make it.” I cannot bring myself to unmake a made bed.
Needless to say the bed was made when I went back up. And it was a Dog Day the next morning.
“Did you strip the bed?” I asked with some venom on Day Three.
I knew the answer and decided, an hour or so later, that clean paisley sheets were my priority. I stripped our bed and lugged the pile of cotton downstairs, stopping to chat to Mr C about something golf related. With bulging arms and tripping feet I struggled past him and proceeded to wash and dry the bedding through the course of the day.
Hours later I carried the results past him, upstairs and, with pride in my heart, made the marital bed. Boy, did I feel virtuous.
Preparing the bbq with daughter #1 as the sun went over the yardarm we were distracted by husband/father crashing through the kitchen, paws filled to the brim with……………..clean paisley.
“I’ve stripped the bed,” he said proudly. “You thought I’d forgotten, didn’t you?”
Lyle is now fourteen weeks old. Much of the time he, like the little girl with the curl, is very, very good.
He walks off his lead.
He comes back to me if I offer roast chicken. He knows his name and appears to know the command ‘sit’ especially if I have a handful of roast chicken. He grows apace.
He loves visitors and all other dogs. Even if they don’t love him quite as much. His, imported at vast expense, collar sets his golden hue off to perfection.
He aced his first obedience training this morning (with the help of some roast chicken) and made friends with Buddy, another Cockapoo who makes Lyle look like a steroid taking body builder. Perhaps it’s true what the say about big paws.
He loves his food.
He sleeps through the night and has been accident free in his bedroom for simply weeks.
What a good boy you are, Lyle.
Why then does my delicious green pashmina have holes in it? Why are all my rugs ‘hidden’ in the living room?
Why are the curtains draped over the sofa?
And why does my kitchen look like the set of Les Miserables?
To your right, my first attempt at preventing puppy Lyle from weeing on the kitchen floor.
The jungle gym nature of my efforts added not only a game-like quality but a frisson of fun to peeing indoors.
Barricade Series Deux has proved to be somewhat more successful. So far.
So what if in these balmy Spring days the Shires are enjoying, Mr Carmichael and I cannot access our deck or indeed a third of the kitchen.
So what if I have to lock (literally) doors behind me.
It’s all in a day, pleasing puppy. Well, that’s what I tell myself as I sit here in muddy track pants and remember trips to London town perusing galleries and shopping emporiums for simply hours.
Don’t get me wrong. I am loving (almost) every minute of it and you know what’s even better? I think he is too.
I have fallen for Puglia. Big time. Perhaps because most people don’t even know where it is, perhaps because of its lushness, perhaps its food, perhaps its people. I want to go back – soon, this summer, tomorrow.
Puglia, FYI, is the heel of Italy. It’s not easy to get to but harder to leave. Puglia is also the garden of Italy with olives as its key product. The people of Puglia say their region has three seas: the Adriatic Sea, the Ionian Sea and the olive sea. I like that and they’re not wrong.
There are sixty million olive trees in Puglia, one for every Italian, and I think I saw at least a million of them. Some are a thousand years old! I love olives. I love olive oil. I love Puglia.
We were there because Mr Carmichael did a very good job at his job in 2013 and this was his reward. I got to tag along. I’m a good tagger-alonger, always up for an opportunity to accompany almost anybody.
Dropped in the most exquisite Borgo Egnazian accommodation we were fed, watered, wined and entertained for five days. I got to make pasta and more importantly got to eat it too.
I am now on a diet. Well, I will be on Monday once I’ve cooked and eaten all the pasta I brought home. I discovered that not all Chardonnay is ghastly. Pulian Chardonnay is fantastico. I made sure I drank lots of it and took photos of the labels for restocking purposes.
Obviously I tried the rose and the reds as well. It would have been churlish not to.
I had this with the rose.
And this just before a wobbly bike ride back to the hotel and a well deserved nap.
I visited Ostuni (a fortified white town with a Baroque cathedral) where I seem to have taken 37 photos of doors.
Somebody stop me!
In Ostuni, I devoured my second gelato in two days (arrrgh). The café had a bordelloish quality to its decoration, which I appreciated (almost as much as the ice cream).
And then we moved here for our last night. British Airways doesn’t think anyone wants to fly to/from Puglia on a Sunday and for that I thank them.
Here, Teo opened the restaurant at lunch time just for us (even though it wasn’t May yet) and we slept under blankets crocheted by an 85 year old woman with extreamly nimble fingers.
The Masseria Ceravolo is a gem and a heartfelt recommendation for when you are no longer on the company buck.
I love Puglia and shall return sooner rather than later. Grazie mille, Puglia.
Monday, our plan was to visit the world renowned Majorelle Gardens (owned by Yves since 1980) in the am and to ‘get lost in the souk’ post lunch.
The plan went to plan.
Sometime the evening previous, we had been renamed by our porter. Thus Fatima (yea, not yours truly), Aisha and Leila jumped a cab to view some greenery.
Jacques Majorelle laid out twelve acres of stunning in the 1920’s just beyond the medina in Marrakech.
Yves St Laurent made it more so. He lived here and his ashes still do.
The coffee was yum, the café’s environs beautiful and the price, most acceptable.
The silk scarf I bought in homage to Yves, not quite as cheap but really, really nice. Thankfully, I’d forgotten my wallet so Fatima paid for it.
Declining the kind offer of a guided tour of Morocco from our taxista, we returned to the riad for our midday repast. Diverted by, I cannot for the life of me remember what, we veered confidently into souk outskirts for a quick recce (trans: recon) in advance of the main event – getting lost later.
We even ventured into a nice man’s shop. So nice was he in fact, we accepted his generous and one off offer, to show us Berber women making carpets. Was it the promise of chin tattoos that attracted us, his ruggard good looks or just an overabundance naive innocence? Goodness only knows, but as the ‘just round the corner’ walk grew into something more, we contemplated escape.
Why did we not escape? Too British? Hey, I’m not even British.
Through the wooden door, down two flights of stairs, along corridors, alleyways and through people’s living rooms we went in search of bearded carpet makers.
Fatima assured us she knew where we were and how we were getting out. Aisha needed the loo and I was just trying to keep my borrowed zebra print, slip on shoes, on.
We were introduced to our fifth Mustafa. This one was dressed in a suit and indicated he would take us to the tattoo bearded ladies who were working their fingers to the bone, for one day only, nearby.
Up two flights of spiral stairs, we arrived here:
Nary a female in sight, let alone one working (with full tattooed beard) on our rugs. Trapped for the duration we drank our mint tea (Aisha only a sip due to bulging bladder) and resigned ourselves to the presentation. The presentation was vigorous and lengthy and full of carpeting.
Apparently they ship anywhere in the world.
Unfortunately, while Aisha got less and less comfortable I, Leila, encountered a moment of enjoyment and asked the price of an orange (my favourite colour) rug.
Let the hard sell begin. With a swift face change, Mr Suit’s patter altered and I managed to get the priced reduced from £800.00 to £200.00 (p and p inc) without opening my bouche. Where we would have ended up I do not know but by this stage Fatima was corralling our full bladdered friend towards the door.
In a last ditch attempt to part me (or Fatima because, of course, I still didn’t have my wallet) from diram, Mr Must Be Very Hot In This Outfit blocked my exit and whispered with steely eye, close breath and a transparent motive, “I can smell your money”.
Just ever so tadaliciously freaky!
We left with alacrity, heading back the way we’d come, Fatima in the lead.
Who remembers the movie, ‘Don’t Look Now’?
She, Fatima, did not have a red coat and, yes, is a smitch larger but the atmosphere was more than similar. More similar when we found the door out, locked. Back through someone’s house we traipsed. More lanes and alleyways later, we realised Mr Suit was going to get another crack at us. We had no choice.
With a dismissive hand he waved us on and into the souk proper.
No lunch, one very full bladder and sore feet – we had got our wish. We were lost in the souk big time. Hours before schedule.
Kind men directed us whichever way they chose.
“Look at my slippers/ handbags/pouffs as seen in Graham and Green,” they chanted.
Some of the product was actually very nice but we had no time – lunch, bladder, blisters, pressing concerns.
Eventually we made it into the ‘security’ of the Djemma el Fna with it’s snakes and nappied ( trans: diapered) monkeys. From here we hobbled homeward, hours late and sporting a few more stress induced grey hairs.
The Moroccan vin blanc, most welcome. It tasted lovely. Relaxed, we planned our dinner venue and menu.
Fatima took direction to our restaurant of choice, a mere five to ten minute walk away.
Would you be surprised to hear that we mislaid said restaurant and its famed lamb tagine?
Once again, Fatima, Aisha and Leila were lost in the souk.