It’s that time of the year again, oh yes, oh yes. And oh yes, yes, yes! And while the way less fortunate are saying, adios, sayonara and bon nuit to the heady days of summer, we the Carmichaels are hitching our wagon to British Airways and taking up residence in modernist desert heaven. I’m talking Palm Springs, Baby!
It cannot come not a day too soon.
Here is the forecast. I cannot tell you how much I love you little yellow ball. Yes, it’s ever so slightly hotter than last year. But the desert is meant to be heated and dry and fiery, isn’t it? So, with adaptable now my middle name, I just won’t pack my jeans, my jumper or my umbrella. My sad face shall stay at home.
It’s going to be bikini-a-go-go at this pool.
And Negroni’s at dusk (“Make mine a Mojito,” says Mr C).
There will be much modernism
plenty of perambulation
hairdo’s, hijinks and hilarity
With Casa Carmichael’s caretaker in situ and puppy Lyle packed for his holidays (wee tear) we are on the runway.
I had never been to Jersey until last weekend. Friends, R…… and L…… have just moved back to the isle of their childhoods and Mr C and I thought it a brilliant idea to carpe le weekend and go somewhere new and not too far away.
We arrived just behind the pantechnicon containing one thousand plus boxes. Actually it was slightly more complicated than that. Because of the narrow, unforgiving, stone sided roads, the furniture removal truck had to remain in St Helier and the gang, van the boxes to our friends in a convoy of white. There were a lot of boxes. Both opened and unopened all over the house. Thankfully it’s a very big house.
We arrived just behind the 789th van deposit. I think R……. was quite pleased to see us as it gave him the perfect excuse to stop unpacking boxes. L……, like most women, was much more dedicated to the task and I believe, because of l……, the thousand boxes will all be opened and contents assigned quarters in a relatively short space of time. If it were left to R……., I have my doubts.
We flew in at lunchtime so out for lunch we went.
I considered going the surf school but opted for
calamari, chorizo, beans and rocket salad with garlic mayonaise. Oh, and a nice big glass of rosé.
Then we went for a drive. Jersey is only 45 miles square. You would think it were much bigger if you, like me, were in the backseat of a Volvo going at speed, breaking at speed, cornering at speed and attempting to cover each and every mile of the isle before pre-prandials.
Before I got really car sick we sawa lot of beauty.
beautiful church that has a beautiful view (mrscarmichael)
lucky beauty (mrscarmichael)
the line of beauty (mrscarmichael)
I am sure the walk, in either direction, would have been beautiful (mrscarmichael)
After a wee nana nap (to settle my stomach and prepare it for the evening) we went out for a slap -up meal. I remember very little about the food. I believe was good. It seems I might have drunk my body weight in rosé at the restaurant. In my defence, it slipped down very easily. Although I did manage to force another down back at the ranch, it would be fair to say that I slept like a baby. An unconscious baby.
I woke feeling a tad seedy but two slices of toast and a strong black coffee sorted that out. Once I woke from my 9.30am nap I managed to make it to a sun lounger (another strong black in hand) and have a well deserved sleep while L……. unpacked more boxes. She is a machine.
I must tell you that L…… is also a Michelin starred chef. At least she has been referred to as such, so great are her skills in the kitchen. Unfortunately, her kitchen was brown- boxed- in last weekend. R…… rounded us up and all four headed to Marks and Spencer for lunch. Mr C insisted I come to ensure he didn’t horlicks up his choice of sandwich for yours truly. L…… came because her husband refuses to pay M and S for the carrier bags so many hands were needed to carry our carb laden repast back to the Volvo. I ate way too much and, bolstered by another mug of caffeine and an indigestion tablet, I dressed for an afternoon on the high seas.
Have any of you see the movie, Captain Ron? Made in the early 90’s it stars Kurt Russell and Martin Short and if you’re in a silly mood and want to watch a silly movie, this is a goody.
R…… is learning to captain/sail/drive a rather powerful motorboat. He’s mastered the going fast in a straight line in open water. He does that very well. Anchoring and mooring are proving ever so slightly more problematic. There are aspects of Captain Ron’s character that I see reflected in our friend R…… I was thus relieved to learn that, in ensuring the well being and longevity of all on board, he’d invited N…, his best bud, along for the ride. N… is good at anchoring and mooring and as such an asset to our afternoon’s adventuring.
We headed to St Brelade’s for a spot of swimming.
We anchored twice and began to bob around. I began to feel ever so slightly queasy. The queasiness got worse. Then it stepped up a gear. My mouth got all watery – usually a vomit precursor. By sitting high up, in the centre of the boat, looking with a fixed eye towards land and not talking to anyone I managed to hold my chicken caesar wrap down. I could not swim. The thought of changing in a confined and bobbing cabin brought tears to my eyes and more saliva to ma bouche.
We then drove/sailed to deeper water and fished for mackerel. This involved more bobbing so I couldn’t fish – having to keep my eye on land and sit atop the motorboat but Mr Carmichael gave it a go. He has fished once before when he was starving in Greece but is not sure if he used a hook or just bread and, unsurprisingly, caught nothing.
Saturday was very different.
“I think I’ve got the line caught on the bottom,” he says and with R…….’s help reels in a fish.
R…… catches a fish. And another.
Line cast again, Mr C is now a fisherman. “I’ve got another,” he shouts but he was wrong.
He had five! All tangled together on his now, and forever, unusable line.
R…… unhooked/cut them all off narrowly avoiding a tumble into the Atlantic.
I wish I could show you the photos. They are hilarious but, in the efforts of anonymity and without a pixalator, the amusement must remain on Mrs C’s camera. You will just have to use your imaginations.
We sailed/drove back to the marina.
forward aspect (mrscarmichael)
rear aspect (mrscarmichael)
all going well at this stage aspect (mrscarmichael)
At this point Captain Ron came to the fore and N… came into his own. Well, he would have if he hadn’t jumped off the boat prematurely. I think he was under the impression that because R……. had driven our craft full throttle into the berth he was planning to leave it there and ropes would need to be tied.
R…… had other ideas and within moments we were reversing rather quickly towards the behemoth moored behind us.
Because Mr Carmichael’s only job was to offer words of support and nothing else, I could actually enjoy the next thirty minutes or so of in/out manoeuvring, swearing, long distance exchanges between Captain Ron and land lubbered, N… and a few very close shaves.
We parked and had a rosé to celebrate and wait for other boaty people on their boats to stop laughing.
That evening, as a starter, we bbq’d the mackerel at the beach and watched the waves crash against the sea wall.
Mr Carmichael’s catch was delicious.
We had some rosé and and went for Italian. L……., my husband and I ordered seafood pizza. R…… doesn’t like fish so steered well clear. Sensible R…….
There are words that one never thinks they will concatenate into a single sentence. ‘Pizza bisque’ is a perfect example. Bisque as a soup – fantastic. A pasta sauce – perfect. A topping for a pizza -hmmmmm. So shocked was I, I neglected to take a photo. Again, please use your imagination. Think brown, think runny, think as far away from any pizza you have ever seen and you’re almost there.
“It says bisque on the menu,” our waitress informed us when I mentioned the utter oddness of my dinner.
We asked for a menu, believing that three of us could not have missed the warning. It said rein about the bisqueness of our chosen meal. Quel surprise!
L…….., she of the ‘michelin star’, took over from me and spent the good next while in the kitchen with manager and chef reinventing their menu. I drank rosé and waited to hear how she got on.
“Don’t think that’ll be appearing again,” she said and quaffed a well deserved mouthful of pink wine.
Mr C and I flew home in the arms of Hurricane Bertha, our little prop plane circling Stanstead in a left sloping holding pattern just long enough to make me airsick.
And so, to summarise:
A trifecta of motion sickness and then there was the rosé.
Fresh fish caught my Mr C, my pecheur d’island husband.
Beaches, beaches, sea, sea, sea and stunning hydrangeas.
At eight, I discovered what it was to be in love. Gregory appeared at my school, one mid-term Monday, along with his older sister, Lesley. Gregory was a year older than me, good looking and had a way about him that exuded an intriguing worldliness. His brown hair, cut in a precise short back and sides, was perfect to my love -bleached eye as was his olive skin and lithe body. Awestruck, I set about making him mine.
At eight, love did not mean sex, heavy petting, not even a kiss. It was chaste yet frisson filled with an Aladdin’s cave of promise, a cavern, chock full of hidden passion, new feelings and intense desire. My stomach turned cartwheels, my heart pulsed blood warm lust. I spent my waking moments with Greg, talking about Greg and thinking about Greg. For a year we played school -yard games that were the carapace for adulthood.
Catherine’s birthday party was much anticipated every year because she, being, Mary, the head teacher’s daughter, had invited everyone, every boy and girl, from our tiny school. The sun shone, sashed party dresses blossomed with ballerina petticoats and shoes glinted with fresh polish. Even I, tomboy in mind and deed, allowed my mother to chintz my every pore. And although the net underskirt scratched my bare legs with talons of pure nylon, I thought Greg would like to see me pretty, girly and enticing. Rarely did I get to see him on a weekend so, for me, this was a personal celebration. A celebration marked, not by ribbon wrapped presents, but with the presence of true possibility.
Arriving first I gave Catherine her gift, watched her unwrap the Sindy doll I didn’t want and other pinkish presents, all the while keeping a weather eye on the front gate. Butterflies of anticipation battered my insides. I ran around to stop their wings from fluttering right through my skin.
“Greg’s here, “ Catherine said as I was twirled, blindfolded, to pin the tail on the donkey. “And Lesley and someone else.”
Twirling harder, I feigned indifference and pinned that tail, praying I looked magical and Greg could see the magic. He saw. The day was perfect, the ‘someone else’, only an older cousin and no threat. The party food was yummy and the games too. Pass the Parcel and What’s the Time Mr Wolf? provided opportunities aplenty to touch Greg. Touching him was my very favourite thing to do.
“Last game. It’s a treasure hunt,” the hostess shouted over the E number induced hubbub. “There are sweets hidden all over the garden. Off you go.”
Out we ran into a candy trove worthy of a Nutcracker kingdom. While others found and devoured their haul, I filled my pockets and with bulging hands, knowing I had done well.
“Mary says we can only have five sweets each, “ Greg stood in front of me flanked by Lesley and their cousin. They were all chewing and appeared to have only a few lollies left. “You have to share yours out.”
I shared my sweets with them. Gregory, Lesley and the cousin were collected. My father arrived for me.
“I think that was a stupid treasure hunt rule,” I said to my teacher as I thanked her for the party.
“What rule?” she asked.
“Only letting us keep five sweets each.”
“That wasn’t a rule,” she said. “You can have as many as you find. Who told you that?”
I couldn’t say his name. I couldn’t speak. I though I was going to be sick. Then I knew I was going to cry. The lump in my throat was so huge I couldn’t even swallow properly. When I did, out came the oddest, most embarrassing noise. I think it burst from somewhere near my broken heart.
I got to our car before the tears came and then they wouldn’t stop. My father pulled up at a Newtown dairy and bought a packet of Mackintosh’s Toffees. He thought I was crying about the sweets. He was trying to help but he had no idea.
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.