Lasting Friendship: a Recipe

friendship recipe (pixaboy)


Four women of a certain age

Thirty years of history

One defunct computer company

Bouquet of Facebook

Large measure, sense of humour

One converted barn

One, small and very warm, Mini

One free weekend in August

Wine (add as required)

Desire to press -on -through (as much as necessary)



Take four women of a certain age who all, thirty years previously, worked in London for the same company.  

Having just arrived on the shore of Blighty, Mrs Carmichael reneged on her vow to never, never, never work in the computer industry again and joined a computer company that promised to pay her more than others she interviewed with and was, more importantly, based in the pulsing heart of London’s red light district – Soho and just behind Liberty of London (her favourite shop).

Here she met many sales colleagues who liked a laugh, a drink, another drink and a bit of commission. She also met a secretary, K……, a customer support rep, D…… and an in-house trainer, L…… They also liked a laugh, a drink, another drink and a good lunch and/or dinner out.

Infuse Facebook friendship with copious slugs of ‘liking’ each others’ life events.

K……, D……, L…… and yours truly all moved on to other companies, lives, marriages, more marriage (not speaking for myself here) and for some, yet more marriage. We all joined Facebook. We became ‘friends’ on Facebook. We admired the children and, dare I say, grandchildren? (not speaking for myself here  – that’s the beauty of birthing late). We congratulated new ventures and commiserated over sadnesses, illnesses, accidents and stupidities.

Allow to marinate for three or four years.

Three/fours years on Facebook easily equates to the 25/30 years that, in reality, most of us had not seen each other. K…… and I have holidayed together a soupçon of times (some of which you’ve devoured, dear reader, and enjoyed both Barcelona and Marrakech through our hazed/glazed eyes). The other thimbleful is for another time and another post. Or not!

Combine and bring to the boil.

One of us suggested a get-together. We all agreed. It wasn’t the first time suggested or the first time agreed but with the incorporation of time and aeration it seemed that this time, the venture might just have wings.

Transfer to converted barn.

converted barn (mrscarmichael)

L….., now a sales training mogul, invited us to her casa, just shy of Cambridge (but NOT in the Fens).

Sprinkle with a free weekend in August.

We scoured our diaries, calendars, and fading minds coming up with the weekend just gone. We were all free, willing and somewhat unnaturally keen.

Garnish with a liberal desire to press-on-through.

I do like a private Facebook group, don’t you? It gives me the opportunity to be secretive, top up photos as and when I choose and to keep any designated flock under control and ON TRACK. We called our group Soho Slummers. Don’t ask. In my back catalogue I found an evocative pic of K……in a Soho ‘shop’ sporting a long blonde wig. Just perfect for the cover photo.

Everything was going so well.

That is until, L…… had a pacemaker fitted, D……’s sciatica got no better but maybe a touch worse, K…… broke her right foot at work and I fell down a rabbit hole in Orford and nuked my left foot. That too, is another story. Suffice it to say I did not come out of the tumble as well as Lewis Carroll’s Alice but, thanks be to God, a helluva lot better than K…… #smallmercies.

Top up with more pressing-on-through and a side of black humour.

We agreed the adventure would continue as planned.

Add one small, bright blue manual, non-air-conditioned Mini. NOTE: this ingredient is optional. There are both trains and MUCH bigger, better, more comfortable cars but this is the original recipe and so, for veracity’s sake, I have included.

This is how three of the four (plus k……’s boot) come to be squashed, on one of the hottest weekends of the summer, in Mrs C’s dog walking Mini on our way to a GOOD TIME in Cambridgeshire (but not in the Fens). Yours Truly, the only one uninjured enough to contemplate doing the drive.

It was very hot (windows up), very noisy and windy (windows down) and very, very cramped. K….. (and her boot) were pressed into the passenger seat dashboard. D……, spreadeagled in the back had more room to move around but not much due to the amount of luggage women of a certain age pack for ONE night away.

A generous dash of UNOPENED wine.

Oh and the coupla dozen bottles of vino did not help the space or windows down/noise scenario either.

 Pour continuous glugs of vino verde (and a bit of aperol, prosecco and red wine for seasoning purposes).

We did not stop laughing. We laughed at the barn, at the pub, back at the barn, still at the barn, at another pub and …..back at the barn. We drank quite a bit as well. We surprised/shocked each other. We found a weekend mantra (didn’t we K…..?). We ate like queens and had a really, really good afternoon, evening and night.

The next morning L…..drove us to Cambridge to punt. Punt we did. We took good photos:

This is a good photo of Kings College (mrscarmichael)

and very bad photos:

not my breasts (mrscarmichael)

And boy, did we laugh.

We re-establised a friendship that is so much more precious now than in those heady days of our twenties.

Did I mention that our twenty four hours near Cambridge (but not the Fens) was filled with laughter? Well, dear reader, it was. And still, I can’t stop smiling.

We’ve agreed to do it again. I really hope we do.

Make a toast.

A toast to lasting friendship. Cheers, chin chin and bottoms up.

I thought, somewhat naively, after the naughty puppy stage, life with Lyle would settle in a peaceful walk, nap, feed, nap, walk continuum with lots of strokes and cuddles thrown in to lower the blood pressure (mine not his) but as we approach my cockapoo’s second birthday, one set of naughty is segueing seamlessly into another. Today therefore, I have signed up to Cesar Millan’s newsletter in the hope of an apocryphal epiphany of the training/control/obey your mistress at all times variety and in the mean time I rely on my, not really a puppy anymore’s love of tennis balls to retrieve him from numerous naughty encounters on Chorleywood Common.

Shouting “BALL,” gets Lyle back into my orbit faster than he can eat his dinner, faster than a Porsche’s 0 to 60 and faster even than this particular miscreant can run towards stampeding horses (see previous post when “ball” was sadly yet to feature in my doggy command repertoire).

'who said
‘who said “ball”? mrscarmichael

Along with poo bags, treats, my cell phone for the ‘have you lost a curly cream cockapoo called Carmichael?’ message, my doggy bag is abulge with balls of the tennis variety. I am the tennis ball lady.

Yesterday, “BALL,” got Lyle away from the fast cars of Dog Kennel Lane (he has form there); a discarded chicken biryani container (I do think he finished it first); the Black Horse pub (dog treats) and a moving golf ball on the fourth fairway.

'where's Lyle's ball?' Friends of Chorleywood Common
‘where’s Lyle’s ball?’ Friends of Chorleywood Common

Today, I had a particular and most satisfying success. Chorleywood Common currently hosts five longhorn cows. They are handsome beasts and are contained in Larks Medow by the use of ‘virtual fencing’ which gives a slight electric shock if the beasts dare to wander beyond a designated radius.

Lyle has, over the past month or so, realised that the cows aren’t very interested in him (good), that they are therefore, not very interesting (good) but that they produce a lot of interesting pats (very, very bad). He has recently endured much good natured hilarity from dog walkers and a couple of water- boardings from yours truly as a result of his full body immersion in the slimy sludge.

No cold water shower this day though as I happened to catch the moment when he went in for a left shoulder roll about thirty feet from me and six feet from where Milly, Molly or Mandy had just evacuated one of her stomachs.

“Ball,” I screamed, groping in my ‘bag-o-tricks’ and waving not one but two green spheres in his direction.

And, praise be to all things obedient, my naughty boy lifted his shoulder, straightened his legs and hightailed it back through the shock field to his reward, a ball and off we trotted both clean and both happy.

good as gold
good as gold

Things didn’t go so well for P…… and M……. however. P…… and M……. are a lovely couple who have rescued not one but two Dalmatians and although better now, there was a time when they wished they had stopped at one. B……., although a delightful dog is, a euphemistic handful. There is not much naughty that he hasn’t explored with dedication and a joie de vivre unknown to even the happiest of canines.

P….. and M….. have resorted to their own form of virtual fencing and installed a mini taser on B……’s collar. I assure you it’s for the best and B…….rarely needs the button pushed these days.

Yesterday was an exception. And, as always is the way, P……. and M…… had separated as hubby stayed to talk to a friend in the lower car park and P……. headed off with their charges. B……., in ebullient mood, circled the copse with his sister a number of times and, at the top of the hill raced off towards the longhorns. His mistress, knowing the road was nearby, ran after him calling and waving the detonator. B……, bit between his teeth, did not slow or stop.

M……, having finished his chat was following his wife up the hill when he spotted his younger dog’s collar caught in thistles in the copse.

“B……..’s lost his collar,” he shouted and picked it up.

“B……, come back here,” yelled P…… “c o m e  h e r e  N O W!”

Black spotted canine changed up into fifth gear.

P….. sent the mildest shock B……’s way. No reaction. Turning up the volume she reapplied the pressure. Absolutely nothing, niente, nada. B….. hurtled on disappearing between the cows’ legs. He circled the periphery of Larks Medow, got bored and, in his own time, returned to his mistress for a doggy treat.

Behind them, back down the hill, M……, shocked rigid picked himself up off the ground, taser dog collar still gripped tightly in his pulsating hand.

Entranced by Essaouira: Jour the First

mrscarmichael of arabia (mrscarmichael)
mrscarmichael of arabia (mrscarmichael)

Emboldened by our mastering of Marrakesh twenty months ago, Gracie and I did little preparation or forward planning for our five day, September break in coastal Essaouria, save booking flights and paying a £1.00 deposit on a hotel just outside the medina.

Our get-away was planned on a day in July – cold, wet, dark and horrible. You know, a normal English summer. An infusion of blue sky was not just needed it was a true medical necessity. Four nights beside the Sahara would, we decided, do us a treat and go some ways to getting us through to mid-winter sunshine breaks – yours truly to Sri Lanka with the Carmichael clan, Gracie to god-knows-where yet but believe me, she’s working on it as I type.

Our in depth lack of preparation meant that as we queued for Moroccan immigration, we found the need to fill some gaps and were forced to quiz multiple travellers about the local currency:

What was it called? Dirham.

What was the easy conversion rule to/from British sterling? There wasn’t one.

Where in the airport could we get some? Nowhere.

How were things going so far? Great! The sunshine beating on our backs t’wixt plane and terminal just the tonic we needed.

And anyway, our charming taxi driver told us via limited French and a cornucopia of hand signals that lack of funds was no problem. He would take us to a cashpoint machine on the way to our hotel. Really, he seemed more interested in getting us to admire his antique blue Mercedes the like of which I have not encountered since a visit to a Waikato farm circa 1965. That Merc was being used as a coop for roosting hens. It had slightly fewer dents than our transport to town.

While Gracie admired a tree full of goats and text her hubby to say ‘safely arrived’, I battled with my iPhone relic, failing miserably to get Vodafone to link me with Africa. Three hours of connection on Wednesday was, I now realise, my full allowance (I am not worthy) but even that and very intermittent wifi at the hotel did little/nothing to spoil our adventure. In fact it was rather liberating, truth be told.

Room 101

There is a British television programme called Room 101 where celebrities are invited by the host to discard people, places and things they dislike and/or that annoy them. They are banished to room 101 as long as the celeb can provide adequate argument as to why said person, object or locale deserves this ignominious end. We were handed two keys to room 101! Who sent us there? Actually who cares? We thank you.

Although the irony was not lost on us I can think of worse places to be abandoned. Let me tell you a bit about Essaouira.

Essaouira (def:planned) used to be called Mogador but was changed when European engineers laid out the medina in such a way as to allow one to not get lost while walking through the souk. Getting horribly lost in a souk is quite fun once (see previous posts) but on a daily basis can be wearisome. Marrakesch, Fez, Cassablanca are three of numerous metropolises in Morocco where you can enjoy getting lost. Essaouira offers you the option. I like that. Gracie and I almost didn’t get lost ever. And whenever we did, we found something so pretty, so yummy, so interesting that the tiny getting lost was more than worth it.

Here’s a beach bag I wouldn’t have bought if we hadn’t gone off piste.

off piste purchase (mescarmichael)
off piste purchase (mescarmichael)

I rest my case.

Essaouira is a working fishing port on the Atlantic. The small blue boats above catch the big fish and are all painted blue because the last thing a fisherman wants to do is be showy and rile the sea gods. The big, nay huge boats catch the little sardines. It’s true I promise. A nice sardine catcher offered to show me round his boat. I thought it better not to go. Although I love sardines it is a truth that one can have too much of a good thing. Up front and personal with a hold of sardines and their catcher just might have been too much good.

Safely back from the port, we swam, showered and changed into evening medina attire. We headed out for food. And wine.

Wine, the food of life, is always an interesting obsession in a ‘dry’ country. Being experts (remember Marrakesh?) we didn’t give it a second thought. We should have. And we should have on future outings as well. It’s that old preparation thing again. Or lack thereof.

Anyway, night the first, we were lead by the boss of a lantern seller round numerous twisty alleyways and at fast pace to a lovely looking riad that had a sea facing roof terrace, nice menu and most affable hosts. They, the hosts, met, greeted and ushered us to the lift (trans: elevator). Said lift was tiny. Possibly the tiniest lift I have ever been in with other people. It’s proportions were Lilliputian but nil desperandum, Gracie and I were on our way up to view, food and a glass or two of vino.

“We are really looking forward to some fish and a lovely bottle of Moroccan wine,” mumbled Gracie, bouche pressed into the light blue collar of mine host.

“Mmmm,” said I to her shoulder.

The lift ground up another floor.

“We don’t serve wine,” said she of the collar and proceeded to tell us about the fresh fish on offer as we crawled up a further floor or two. As if nothing was amiss.

Gracie cast half a right eye on me. I glared a quarter of a left at her. We could see no more of each other in the capsule-like enclosure. The doors opened, the terrace looked beautiful, a waiter gestured us to our table.

I gave Gracie the full ‘you do it’ look.

“Ahh, we were really wanting wine, “said she. “We’re very sorry.’

“Would you like the table over there?” asked the riad owner.

“We’re so sorry,”we said in tandem.

“We won’t be staying.”

And we all piled into the open door of the micro – lift and crept back down to reception.

“Sorry, so sorry, sorry” we effused backing out the entrance as fast as we could.

Lordy, did we need a glass of wine!

hooray (mrscarmicahel)
hooray (mrscarmicahel)

Absolutely Hot Yoga

In search of my personal yoga perfection I booked myself a ten day pass at my local hot yoga studio. Such a leap of faith was it that I needed to holiday for a week in the hope of recovering from the stress of commitment to heat, sweat, pain and possible panic.

The holiday was super as you know. In Lanzarote I ‘endured’ heat, sweat, only the pain of one too many and no panic what so ever. But then I had to come home and be a yogi amongst titan yogis. Oh the terror. Ah, the lack of sleep. Hmmm, the self recrimination and the contemplation of pulling out and thus letting myself down.

I bought fast drying, tight fitting, all purpose leggings and a sports bra. I dug out a baggy cotton vest and a huge drink bottle. I promptly bottled out of the first class – a foundation level introduction – and so found myself in an ‘Absolute 50′, hour and a half session where my rapid changes of position bore no relation to the other yogis’ in the studio and my dizzy spells went virtually unnoticed because of all the contortionist movement going on around me. #smallmercies

“If this is your first hot yoga,” L……. said to me, “You might be happier at the back.”

Oh so much happier but there was no space for me at the back or I’d have been there boots and all.

My teacher moved an expert to the mirrored front and I settled into my natural habitat at the very tail end of yet another class. #storyofmylife

My brow was beaded with sweat and my breathing laboured. I felt ever so slightly feverish. It was very hot in there.

Then the class began.

“You can’t drink yet.” L…… had spotted me, bending for my bottle, all the way at the rear. “Move away from that jeroboam of water. We haven’t finished the warm up yet.”

Five minutes into the 90 and with 49 asanas to go and I was feeling humid, flushed and more than a little discombobulated. It got worse. Much worse. I was too hot to get the giggles. It wasn’t very funny anyway. I had a wee sit down and felt better. Briefly. Who knew so many of my body parts don’t work properly? Even in, joint relaxing, 40 degree heat.

My bathroom towel kept slipping on the yoga mat, bunching and fighting me with vicious abandon. Straightening it gave me regular breaks. And by now we were allowed to sip our fluids. To compensate the positions got harder. I was sort of managing the first stage of complex, body breaking contortions. And then having a little rest. I was dripping with sweat. L……. helped me into a couple of impossible holds. I realised body lotion makes the limbs very slippy to hold on to. At least I smelt nice. Well I hope I did.

I managed to complete the class. #yougogirl

I booked an ‘easier’ one for the Wednesday. I went. Then I booked an easier, easier one for Saturday.

I have persevered as an adjunct to my not hot yoga classes.

I am looking forward to my turn at this.

you are one crazy dude (
you are one crazy dude (

And in anticipation I have bought a non-slip towel and a smaller water bottle. I no longer apply lotion to my limbs before class. My hips are flexing wider and my waist seems to be shrinking.

It’s a journey – apparently.


Tits and Knickers, Canary style

Parking on market day in Teguise is surprisingly easy we agreed as I hurtled the Fiat Panda into just one of the hundred or so vacant spaces in the centre of this Lanzarotian town, in the centre of Lanzarote on our March time trip to the Canary Isles.

“And there was me thinking this was the touristic market,” I gushed, flushed with the success of, not only surpurlative navigation skills but also staying on the correct side of the road the whole way up to the white walled, green shuttered pueblo.

“It does seem very empty,” Gracie commented. “You’d think that would be the epicentre of any market, wouldn’t you?” She waved at an empty square and an even emptier marquee, its plastic doors flapping in the not inconsequential breeze that Teguise is famed for.

“I told you the last time I came here it was like a wild west town, complete with tumbleweed infested streets,” said I.

“But that wasn’t market day, was it?” a backseat driver inquired rhetorically.

And of course, dear readers nor was this. Mrs Carmichael had dragged the Lunching Ladies of Lanza on a wild ‘bargain’ chase. The island’s biggest and oldest out-door market is held on a Sunday morning. This being Saturday, we were a good twenty hours early. Still, there was plenty of parking.

just me and the sixteen others (mrscarmichael)
just me and the twenty others (mrscarmichael)

And, as it turned out, plenty of ‘bargains’ to purchase.

But first we consoled ourselves with brunch.

tortilla heaven (mrscarmichael)
tortilla heaven (mrscarmichael)

And then, along with the other seventeen people in town that day, we hit the shops. Mis tres amigas acquired a lot of jewellery. I mean a lot, a lot.

I bought this………..

ever so slightly more garish in the flesh (mrscarmichael)
ever so slightly more garish in the flesh (mrscarmichael)

“Why?” you ask.

I am the first to agree that the question is a reasonable one. And the answer.

I don’t know.

but it seemed like a good idea at the time. And I did meet the woman who crocheted it. That makes it better I think. And it suits me. Well, in a dark room with a following wind. It suits me better than it suits my friends. I guess, on reflection that could and probably does say more about me……………and not in a good way.

A wee while later I bought this………

make mine a cactus cocktail, por favor (mrscarmichael)
make mine a cactus cocktail, por favor (mrscarmichael)

“Why?” you ask.

It is in many ways an even more reasonable question. More so when you know that it cost more and I have worn it even less than the yellow crochet hat. I wore the hat for the rest of our time in Teguise because I thought I was funny. Hmmmmm. Photos don’t lie unfortunately. Thirty one of Yours Truly sporting this fashion forward item of clothing have gone into the virtual bin. It’s for the best.

Or should I say breast?

Breast might indeed be best because I was still wearing my sunny hat when I avoided arrest by wink and a nippy burst of speed an hour or so later.

Bored ever so slightly with the conspicuous consumption of baubles by the only three people I knew in Teguise, I had plonked myself down at a café to await empty- wallet- time when my eye was drawn by two mannequin contemporaries of mine in a distressing state. It was that good ‘ol Teguise breeze you see.

oh no (mrscarmichael)
oh no (mrscarmichael)

Her friend was similarly exposed.

tits ahoy (mrscarmichael)
tits ahoy (mrscarmichael)

I jumped up and and attempted to cover their modesty. My café owner, coming out for a not so swift fag, caught me with both hands on a bosom and made the ludicrous assumption that Mrs C was stripping the gals for her own pleasure and an x- rated photo opportunity.

Shouting he rushed at me. I dodged his parry and, fleet of foot vanished into, you guessed it, a jewellery shop.

My friends, looking up from their jewel buying for a nanosecond, found it hilarious. Thank heaven the mannequins’ manager realised I was more good samaritan than sex pest and called off the one man Spanish Armada. Phew.

“I’m putting a white wash on,” I announced on return to Villa Vida later that afternoon. The girls brought me their whites and we collapsed by the pool to discuss nonexistent markets, excessive jewellery consumption, lucky escapes and clean clothes. All discussion complemented by a well deserved vino blanco. Or two.

“Huston, we have a problem,” I was forced to concede on attempting to allocate lavender scented linen and lingerie to four piles a wee while later.

Gracie it transpires, has the same taste in bras and knickers as YT and apparently we had both stocked up well for our holiday. The bras were easy (she has no tits), the seven pairs of identical XXS knickers not so. Thank goodness we’ve been amigas for mumble, mumble, mumble years. What’s a bit of polyester – sharing between old friends?

We met, last Friday, in Soho for a catch-up. As tour guide, I booked the themed venue – tapas of course and set the rules of attendance.

All purchases made in Lanzarote must be worn.

I thought it amusing at the time. Gracie and K…… were there sporting identical volcanic orange pendants and rings on most fingers. L…… apparently hasn’t taken off the silver ring she had fitted in the breast shop. And I, M’lud? I ‘forgot’ the self imposed rubrics and arrived looking great.

Do Not Underestimate the Power of Sunshine on the Soul

The rays of unadulterated sunniness beating down upon Casa Carmichael this day (stronger, bluer, clearer, cleaner than predicted) force my thoughts back to Lanzarote and the Lunching Ladies’ trip, March- time. There too we expected to be met by pockets of cloud and a ‘now you see me now you don’t’ yellow globe in the Atlantic sky.

nary a white interference (mrscarmichael)

“if this is partially cloudy,” we purred, “It’s time to move to Spain.”

This view of Montana Roja from our villa in Playa Blanca at the foot of Lanzarote is sublime. It encapsulates all that this volcanic island is and the violent beauty it parades for a tourist’s delectation. How I wish the inside of our villa lived up to the same majestic standard.

Thankfully, Gracie was a little out of sorts on this our first day in Life Villa and thus K…… and Yours Truly could leave the lengthy itemising of transgressions, faults, flaws and downright disappointments that our accommodation presented, to our friend. She went to work with both an alacrity and intensity missing from her persona prior to arrival at the house.

Having been the finder, booker, interacter and haggler with mine hosts it would be more than fair to say that whilst I was pleased Villa Vida actually existed and we had ingress (always a risk even if ever so slight in using Owners’ Direct) I felt a tad responsible for the drab and I bowed, just a mite, under the barrage of complaint.

Thank god the sun shone.

We drew straws for the bedrooms. Those of you who have followed my ‘girls on the hoof’ series will know that recently Mrs C’s luck has been out in the allocation of bed and or boudoir. No change to report I am afraid. I popped my suitcase on one of my two micro-beds and practiced my fakey, snaky smile.

The winning of the West Wing, complete with uber-king sized bed, ensuite bathroom, changing room and direct access to the pool did little to improve Gracie’s mood and went no way in counterbalancing the missing plunger in the coffee percolator.

We set her onto the landlord. Fangs bared through smiling bouche, Gracie effected a meeting for the morrow and a replacement cafetiere to be rushed to Villa Vida with armed escort imediatement.

The sun shone.

We went shopping for food and wine. The food and wine on Lanzarote is very cheap in comparison to London. Gracie’s mood began to improve. We bought a lot of vino blanco and some rosé for good measure. Bread, cheese, olives, salami, tomatoes, crisps, water, coffee (in anticipation of a working coffee maker) more cheese and a couple of backup bottles of wine. At four euros a pop, it would have been churlish not to, you must agree.

The sun still shone as we repaired to the villa and settled in for a very late lunch.

Lunch was particularly late due to the fact that, idiots that we are, a hire car booking had been made with Ryan Air at the time of cheap flight confirmation. Fools. My advice, for what it’s worth, is if you’re going to Lanzarote do not book your hire car with Ryan Air. Here are a couple reasons why:

It will not be as cheap as you think it is.

We got done for the extra driver. Others in the hundred deep queue appeared to get done for quite a load more. The was shouting, weeping and some rather threatening language. Oh and a little bit of over the desk lunging as well. K……., our newest holiday recruit, felt the need to step away from the front line of battle and check out the sunshine beyond the terminal walls leaving hardened campaign veterans, Gracie and myself to fight the good fight and wait our turn to collect the Fiat Panda.

Collection will not be a speedy as you hope it to be.

With every single passenger from every single Ryan Air flight in this one queue it will take time to get your hire car. Every other car rental desk will be empty but you will have already paid in full so must wait your turn. Ha – you think you have paid in full. I promise you will not have (see above). The crying man in front of us seemed to be fund- less. Fundlessness takes time. A great deal of time.

Your car will be way more dented than the itemised dent/scrape list presented to you.

You need to take more time to have it re-calibrated or it will cost you more than you think. Our flight took three and a half hours of not too bad Ryan Air timeliness and service. Getting the hire car took almost two.

Need I say more?

But, the sun was still shining as we sat down to a late lunch on our patio with a view to die for.

“You know how we said we’d get L……, from the airport tomorrow?” I asked Gracie as we ploughed into our second bottle of Spanish wine.

Our fourth wheel was joining us Thursday through Monday.

“Mmmmm,” Gracie grunted while wrenching the cork from a third bottle.

“Why don’t we ask if she’d get a taxi instead? There’s something utterly unappealing about that airport. And look at the sunshine we’d be missing.”

Gracie sent a text informing her of the new plan.

Bikinied up, we prepared to enjoy the last few moments of Canarian sunshine while anticipating a sun bathe to die for in the morn now that airport run duties no longer stood in our way.

some of my favourite colours viewed from a prone position (mrscarmichael)
some of my favourite colours viewed from a prone position (mrscarmichael)

“Do you want to swap bedrooms?” I asked Gracie from my sun lounger.

There was no reply from mi amiga, too busy was she collating and binding the pages of villa defects for presentation to Steve, our landlord, in the morning. For his sake I hoped he got a good night’s sleep.

There’s Something About Lanzarote

And it’s not just the price of wine. Although it behoves me to say that, having drunk twice my bodyweight of white, red, rosé and a wee slurp of Hendricks for good measure (the quinine in the accompanying Schweppes tonic protected me against mozzie bites, M’Lud) the price of wine in Lanzarote is very, very acceptable. As is the wine. And the gin.

oh go on then (mrscarmichael)
oh go on then (mrscarmichael)

Ooh and the honey flavoured stickies that I, just for a moment, forgot about.

even nicer in a balloon glass with loads of ice (mrscarmichael)
even nicer in a balloon glass with loads of ice (mrscarmichael)

No, it’s not about the alcohol.

It’s about the weather. It’s about the warmth, the sunshine, the sea, the sand.

sun, sea, sand…..where's the sangria? (mrscarmichael)
sun, sea, sand…..where’s the sangria? (mrscarmichael)

And it’s something is about the landscape. Oh my, the landscape! Lanzarote’s landscape is amazing.

The something is also about César Manrique. What a man. What an architect. My hero.

There’s something about an island that in its entirety is is a world heritage site and biosphere reserve. Maybe it’s the 300 volcanoes that do it. Or the fossilised lava flows, into which houses are built. Maybe it’s the historic towns of Teguise and Haría, pure in white, green shutters, with crosses, from another world or at least another time.

cruz street (mrscarmichael)
cruz street (mrscarmichael)

Lanzarote, a Canary Island just off the coast of Africa and only three and a half hour’s flight away from Casa Carmichael, sometimes gets a bad, ‘kiss-me-quick’ rap and I’m sure, if we’d looked harder mis amigas y yo might have found the grotty in Lanzarote but we didn’t and therefore we didn’t. We got what we, the tapas lunching ladies, deserved on our week long, anti SAD, winter break away.

That isn’t to say it was all plain sailing. When is it ever for Mrs Carmichael?

Part Dos to follow.

Am I now a Yogi?

No, Silly, but I have now been to three yoga classes and am booked in for not only my fourth but my fifth as well.

Pause for applause.

Having been lucky enough to happen upon a class where I am not the oldest, I am not the least supple (amusingly, I have just corrected subtle to supple but fyi I am certainly not the most subtle either) and I am not the most oddly attired, I must continue with this interesting, this difficult, this potentially life affirming form of physical and mental exercise I fear.

Pause for applause.

C……. our teacher is kindness personified. She doesn’t make me feel stupid.

“I usually teach from here,” she whispered to me as I bundled up my mat and scurried to another space in the room.

“Let’s just get you a yoga mat,” she whispered as she removed the what I now know to be a Pilates mat from under me and swopped it for a thinner, longer, righter mat.

“Can you tell this is my first time? I asked.

“I’m beginning to get the picture,” she whispered as she moved an old hand out of the way so I could have a clear sight line to her and thus imminent downward dog perfection.

This was a critical point in my fledgling career. Mrs Carmichael’s yoga class status could have gone one of two very different ways. The class clown was just bubbling to get out and in other circumstances and in an environment with less whispering it would have burst forth from my joker painted lips. But it wasn’t and it didn’t.

“Thank you,” I said.

Pause for applause.

I wasn’t half bad. Well, I was bad at about half of the class but I did like the cat manoeuvre and the ten minute relaxation session at the end was fab-u-lous.

With a mental note to get a sports bra or yoga top (critical for all tipping forward asanas I now realise) I rebooked for week deux.

Pause for applause.

And week three a week later. And even though at least half the class, on hearing that C……. would be in Lisbon and M….. would be the temporary teacher, moaned and cancelled their spots on the gym floor with alacrity, I did not.

Are you getting sick of clapping yet?

Yesterday M……. took our much diminished class. He looked like a yogi, from the harem pants (sans undergarments) to the ponytail to the lithe thin body. He sounded like a yogi (or he was speaking in an Indian dialect), his in- breath loud, his out- breath louder.

imaging the pose but with longer hair and more dangly bits (gallery
imaging the pose but with longer hair and more dangly bits (gallery

I was quite poor at most of his exercises.

“Is that hurting?” he asked after spotting my puce stretched face in the mirror.

“Yes,” I grunted.

“Well, why are you doing it then?” And, as M……. explained to the whole class that yoga was a journey not a destination, that there is good pain and bad pain and that breathing cannot be perfected if we are uncomfortable, I noticed most of my fellow classmates uncurling along with Yours Truly. What a relief.

I was an inch taller at the end of an hour and a half and I think I had a little sleep as we relaxed for more than the allotted time.

I have booked M…….. for an extra class tomorrow.

Pause for applause. Encore.



And Today is Yoga Day

channelling the peaceful (community
channelling the peaceful (community

This afternoon I am attending my first ever yoga session. It is an hour and a half long. I am very nervous.

I am nervous because I do not think I am going to be good at yoga. I am not going to be good a yoga because:

I am utterly inflexible (bodywise). I cannot touch my toes or even straighten my legs properly. On a day to day basis, these defects have not hindered my pursuit of the good life but in a yoga class I predict that they just might.

ooh, arrh Mrs (
oooh, arrh Mrs (

I will not be able to do any of these positions…….or anything resembling them. Not this afternoon. Not, I fear, ever.

Where is her head in image 5 btw?

I should look at this as aspirational but as a woman with her two feet on terra firma at all times except bed-time, Mrs Carmichael finds the prospect ever so slightly daunting.

easy peasy (
easy peasy (


I should be able to manage this.




And this.

no sweat (
no sweat (







Will that be good enough? I doubt it. Not for an hour and a half. An hour and a half! What have I signed up to?

I am not going to be good a yoga because:

When I can’t do something I tend to become the class clown. I don’t want to be the 2.30pm yoga class clown but bearing in mind that it took me a second to find photo #2 and a good ten to find #s 3 and 4 amongst the contortionists purporting to be in yoga positions on google, I think there’s a high likelihood that I will be sporting a curly wig, pancake makeup and huge shoes by 4.00 o’clock. Oh, woe is me.

I am not going to be good a yoga because:

I don’t have the correct clothing. I don’t even know what the correct clothing is. Am I going to be the odd one out before the class has even started and my utter inability to do anything yogaish is noticed by teacher and classmates alike? Perhaps I should drop out of this afternoon’s class and head straight to Sweaty Betty for a Carmichael sports couture infusion.

Or perhaps I should just stay home and watch House of Cards on Netflix instead.





Crazy Horses

New Year’s Day dawned bright and crispy in the hood.

NY perfection (mrscarmichael)
new year perfection (mrscarmichael)

Having utterly disgraced myself on the 26th December by over- libating in an eight- hour marathon at the Christmas dinner table the night before and thus unable to entertain invited guests (indeed unable to stand, sit or speak), I resolved to drink little on New Year’s Eve, see 2015 in, withdraw to bed at a reasonable o’clock and rise early to walk the boy dog on Chorleywood Common on the first of the first. I walked and greeted other early risers – “Happy New Year”, “Happy New Year”, “Lovely morning”, “Don’t’ worry, my dog jumps up as well”, “Enjoy your walk”. Lyle walked, ran, gambolled with other dogs, ate horse poo, rolled in horse poo, braved the ice on not one but two of the ponds and got lots of cheese and apple treats. We both had a lovely outing.

Such a lovely outing we had and so full of joie de vivre were we, I decided to take my precious pup out for an afternoon amble. He deserved it and I was revelling in, not only my sobriety and steady pins but also my March 2014 decision to get another dog and the wonderful fulfilment he was affording Yours Truly on a daily basis. Hmmmm.

Just like high stakes gambling where the importance of knowing when to leave well alone, to gather your chips and to walk away from the vingt et un table is critical, so too is it imperative to understand that twinkle in your puppy’s eye, that quizzical head tilt and that canine thought bubble woofing ‘Fuck it’. Only Mrs C didn’t realise it at the critical moment so wrapt up in the wonderful was she.

Because the sky was darkening and birds were beginning to roost in the high oaks and elms overhead, I chose Phillipshill Wood over the more benign Chorleywood Common. Proximity to Casa Carmichael was the deciding factor. That, dear readers, was mistake number one.

‘Hi Lyle,’ (

Mistake number two was opting for the hill trail downward and towards the bottom paddock. The bottom paddock has always provided intense interest for my naughty dogs (that is, two of the three dogs I have owned since Carmichael life began in the hood). If it wasn’t cowpats, it was the occasional ostrich (no word of a lie) and horse, shire or otherwise. Two or three or more. On the afternoon of New Year’s Day it was an equine equivalent to the D Day landings that caught Lyle’s attention. Huge beasts whinnying sweet nothings hurtled to greet him and drew his attention away from me, his mistress, totally and completely. Their siren song of welcome caused him to stop, to pause a moment, to cast a farewell glance at me, head cocked beguilingly. It forced him to canter away from me with nary a backward glance.

“No Lyle. Stay (hand raised as taught in April puppy training classes), stay, STAY, Lyle LYLE, LYLE LYLE!@£$%^&*(”

‘Fuck it,’ he thought as he sloped, eloped and then galloped down the remainder of the hill, under the metal gate and into the midst the advancing flotilla.

The horses must have regretted their invitation immediately. I could have told them and saved us all so much bother but I was too slow, too naive, too utterly out of control.

To this point in the tale my dignity, if not my authority, is still intact. Please stop now if you want it to remain that way. From here on in Mrs Carmichael lets herself down. Big time.

Serendipitously, I have just read an article about what to do when your dog runs away from you and towards danger. Apparently one is supposed to throw body and dignity on the ground flat like a pancake or roll into a ball. Apparently, the dog will see this as unknown and therefore interesting behaviour and return to your now muddy arms with alacrity. To my mind, there is an apparent flaw in the logic. Dogs do not have eyes in the back of their heads. Lyle certainly doesn’t.

My puppy did however come to a stop. Right under the belly of a big, nay huge, brown horse. The horse stood still and peered down and towards the boisterous cockapoo. The boisterous cockapoo ran around between its back legs, chest and whipping tail. Then the boisterous cockapoo tried to smell the horse’s bum. The horse didn’t like this. It snorted and stamped and began to twist around.

‘Great’, thought Lyle ‘it does want to play.’

‘Shit,’ thought I. ‘He’s going to die.’

“Lyle,” I screamed and scrambled, commando-like, across the paddock. “Come here.” Stern voice. “Come here!” Gritted teeth. “Come here you little bugger.” Terrified overtone.

Lyle gambolled around the snorting stamping horse. He gambolled around its friends. He ducked and weaved and dodged me successfully, beatific grin upon his chops. Then his day got even better. Smelling freshly deposited horse poo he traced a double chicane away from the horse and his mistress and hurtled at the steaming mound of dung, Mrs Carmichael in hot pursuit.

‘Numm, numm, numm,’ thought Lyle.

“Stay, stay, stay,” yelled I.

Then I hit him. Twice. Flat palm, big smacks. Mea culpa.

I couldn’t get the lead on and, as the red mist engulfed me, I hit him again. Mea, mea culpa.

He made not a sound but the smile was replaced by a horse poo encrusted look of horror. We turned as one and headed back to the gate.

By the gate stood a woman, Costa coffee cup in hand, a be-coated white dog at her feet. From a hundred yards I shouted something to the effect of, “Did you see that?”

“I saw everything,” she growled. “I saw you hitting your dog for no reason. I saw you screaming and hitting your dog for running in a field. If you can’t control him, keep him on the lead.”

“Oh, please, “ I said.

Sadly, she was only in first gear. “You shouldn’t be allowed to own a dog,” said she.

I was closing the gap between us now and it would be fair to say that Mrs Righteous was not helping the puppy/horse/paddock red mist one bit.

“You obviously didn’t see what happened,” I shouted still thinking I could fix the situation. “The horse or my dog could have been hurt.”

“People like you,” she spat with bulging eye. “People like you need reporting. Your. Poor. Dog. I feel sorry for it.” She retreated to the far side of the gate and slammed it behind her and in my face.

“Nice, “ I said.

She opened it. This is Chorleywood after all. We were now very close to each other.

“At least I’ve given you a supper story.”

“I’m thinking of calling the police, “ said she, face a foot or so from mine. Her breath engulfed me.

Dear reader, you know how much I love my puppy. Mist having morphed from red to midnight magenta I believe I was marginally outa’ control.

“You should stop smoking,” I told her. “It’s bad for your health.”

That stopped her in her tracks. No cigarette in hand the best she could come up with was, “Oh, get off your high horse.”

‘Topically ironic given the circumstances’ thought I.

And as we parted, she choosing my route, I further disgraced myself. “Your breath stinks,” I yelled and marched, dog heeling beautifully, in the utterly wrong but only available direction.


1: I have not hit Lyle before or since.

2: Lyle and I are now in our third week of refresher puppy training.

3: Another time I will take my friend, Gracie’s advice…… “Why didn’t you just ignore her?”

4: I have not, to my knowledge, seen Mrs Costa -Coffee- Cup since. I do not know if she’s taken my advice.

5: I’m thinking of taking up meditation/yoga. Lyle might enjoy it.

6: The horses were the only sane participants in this post.


butter wouldn't melt……. (mrscarmichael)
butter wouldn’t melt……. (mrscarmichael)