September Rose

September it is then.  Time for picking ripe blackberries from the burgeoning hedgerows to be stewed, sweetened and then baked into golden-crusted pies.  Topped off of course with lashings of steaming hot custard.  But before that, and autumn arrives in all its glory, there is still time to remember summer and what it gave us at its height.

Not wanting to end on a ‘frayed’ note, and how very kind it was of you to show concern for my slug-ransacked garden, I must show you that all is not lost.

Still, on sunny days, butterflies play before their summer is over…

Butterfly in Somerset (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Butterfly in Somerset
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Trailing Lobelia cascades from my hanging baskets…

July Garden 2014 (1)

Summer Hanging Basket (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Roses bloomed and flourished in the eighth-warmest July in the UK since records were first collected in 1910 (source: The Guardian)…

My Iceberg Rose in the back garden, sneaking in one last bloom before summer’s end, makes for a glorious display…

Summer Garden Aug 2014 (2)

Iceberg Rose (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

This is good news indeed because several years ago I almost killed it off.

While admiring all the blooms in my garden one balmy summer’s evening, I couldn’t help noticing that they were riddled with aphids.

Not wanting to use chemical sprays, I had tried everything including spraying them with washing up liquid diluted in water but they kept on coming, devouring the new growth and baby buds like ravenous monsters, tiny though they are.

Keeping a bottle of rose spray to hand, also used for black spot and mildew, I marched over to the shed and grabbed it.   Aiming the bottle and pointing the trigger I declared war on those aphids and sprayed my beautiful rose-bush from top to bottom, as per the instructions, until every leaf was covered wet with the stuff.  Job done.

“That’ll teach ‘em!” I smugly pronounced to a rather startled hubby, such was my exuberance.

Sitting back down, about to relax in the knowledge that my roses would now thrive and  about to take a nice sip of my cold, summer drink – Pimms anyone? – a troubling thought out of nowhere gripped me like an ice-cold vice.

Wait.  There were two blue plastic bottles in the shed, practically identical.

Which is which?  Rose spray or weedkiller?

Which is which?

If hubby had been surprised before, now he was down right puzzled as he must have thought I had lost the plot completely as I leapt out of my comfortable garden chair and bolted for the shed, whereupon I let out an unearthly howl. Yes, dear reader, upon grabbing the very bottle I had used, I discovered to my horror that I had just doused my gorgeous roses with weedkiller.

Hubby jumped to the rescue as I hopped about like a crazed frog crying, “Oh no, my poor rose, what will I do, it’s going to die…oh no, oh no!”

That is the clean version at least, what I actually said would be unprintable.

So what did we do?  Well, we grabbed the garden hose and sprayed the rose with water completely soaking it and then watered all around it to make sure that as much residue as possible washed away into the ground away from the roots and from the surrounding plants.

For the rest of the summer I watched as the roses wilted and faded and the leaves turned a disturbing shade of yellow.  But it did not die.  That winter I cut it right back and by the following spring, much to my amazement, it burst back into life, albeit rather sheepishly, and finally, after a couple of years it returned to its former blazing glory, thus:

Iceburg Rose (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

My Iceberg Rose forgave me
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

No longer discouraged, I carried on.  In early summer, the warm air was sweetened by the graceful and familiar scent of lavender as it drifted softly on the breeze…

Lavendar in Somerset (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Lavender in Somerset
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

009Lanterns and candle holders decorated flower borders here and there…

June Garden 2014 (11)Geraniums that survived the winter months, unheard of in these parts, burst into life by the side of my summerhouse, thinking rather audaciously
that they were in the Mediterranean and certainly not in the
West Country of England…

Geraniums in Somerset (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Geraniums in Somerset
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

…and the Acer Tree spread its delicate branches to form a canopy across my old, worn bench…

Worn bench beneath the cool canopy of the Acer Tree (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Worn bench beneath the cool canopy of the Acer Tree
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Fuchsias which also survived the winter sprung up in unexpected places, never minding what else might stand in their way…

Bleeding Heart Fuschia (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Fuchsia
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

‘Duck’ (hijacked rescued much to the delight of my children from the Norfolk Broads when found floating aimlessly on a tiny river inlet while on a boating holiday) enjoyed bobbing about in the base of the fountain, no longer working but I like the look of it, and which, over a decade ago, sat in my Californian garden…

June Garden 2014 (13)And my herbs of sage, thyme, oregano, basil, chives, parsley, rosemary and mint all escaped the slug-scourge…

Garden MintAnd when my lavender was in full flow bees visited daily although sadly, not as many as last year…

Garden in May 2014 (7)So it is that we can leave summer’s glory behind as it makes way for September’s harvest. 

Yet there is one more thing I need to do: there is someone I must thank.

Not too long ago I had the most amazing surprise. Clicking on a pingback from my lovely blogging friend Steven I was stunned into mouth-gaping silence (and that never happens) when I read his post.  Steven is a superb writer and artist and as part of his series of drawing portraits of his blogging friends, he drew mine.  I was moved greatly by his wonderful act of kindness and generosity.   I urge you to take a look at his blog if you haven’t done so already for much more of his fantastic artwork.   He’ll be thrilled to have you drop by.

For roses and a heartfelt thank you. September it is then.

Posted in Garden Snippets, Nature & Wildlife, Photos | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Into The Fray Of My English Garden

What does the word ‘fray’ mean to you?  This is the question we are asked by John for the Weekly Photo Challenge.

When I think of the word fray I tend to think of an actual fray, as in ‘going into the fray‘, described thus at dictionary.com:

‘A fight, battle, or skirmish. Synonyms: altercation, combat, war, clash, encounter, set-to.’

I also think of one of my favourite songs, ‘How To Save a Life‘ by the ‘The Fray’:

 

Then I discovered that ‘fraying‘ is what a male deer does when it rubs up against a bush or small tree with its head in order to remove the velvet from its newly formed antlers, or to mark territory during the rut.  I love it when I learn something new like that!

Apart from the most obvious meaning of ‘fray’ as in loose threads and the worn ends of a rope, on a metaphorical note, I’ve felt a little ‘frayed’ around the edges lately.

A bit like my poor garden thanks to an invasion of snails and slugs
this summer:

Poor Primrose - hopefully it shall return!

Poor Primrose – hopefully it shall return!

My hollyhocks didn’t escape either:

A disappointing year for my hollyhocks...

A disappointing year for my hollyhocks…talk about frayed!

With summer beginning to pull the covers over its head and autumn knocking on the door, the natural cycle of some of my roses and stocks
is coming to an end:

20140828_093837

Another bloom before summer leave maybe?

Another bloom before summer leaves maybe?

Yet even in the ‘fray’ beauty sparkles as sunlit-strewn raindrops scatter like diamonds across a simple spider’s web, shimmering with joyful abandon ignoring the inevitable decay:

20140828_093710 20140828_093733 20140828_093755As I walked through my garden this morning, a little battered after recent rainfall, I took heart in all that is good in the world.  The ‘fray’ is a tough place to enter but when we come out the other side, we are lit up once more, darkness descends and so we carry on.

And it is beautiful.

Posted in Garden Snippets, Nature & Wildlife, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 65 Comments

Jurassic Park, Graduation And Goodbye To A British Icon

Kindness.  Thoughtfulness. Compassion.  Words we all know and understand and hopefully act upon as often as possible.  Yet while bombarded daily it seems with news reports of terrifying and sickening acts of violence, depravity, murder, and unimaginable human suffering from around the globe, it is hard sometimes to think that much goodness actually exists.

But it does exist.

During a recent gathering of my lovely brood, we enjoyed reminiscing about how much Eldest Son loved dinosaurs as a boy and how thrilled he was when the film Jurassic Park was released in the 90’s.  It fast became a family favourite and I’ve lost count of how many times we watched it together.

Who can forget Richard Attenborough’s portrayal of John Hammond as he greeted the visitors with the iconic line, ‘Dr Grant, my dear Dr Sattler… welcome… to Jurassic Park!’ and then later on with huge pride, ‘We spared no expense!

Watching the film back then, it was impossible to think that one day, Eldest Son would meet Richard Attenborough face to face.

By the time I prepared to move back to the UK from California in 2003 with my two youngest children,  Eldest Son was attending Cal Poly University in San Luis Obispo and he had some hard decisions to make – stay on at Cal Poly or move to England with us?  He had been born in England and visited many times but he had grown up in California and his life and friends were there.

In the end, and much to my delight and relief, he decided to give adult life in England a try. So it was that he applied and was accepted to the University of Sussex where he could continue with his studies for a history degree.

By the summer of 2005, ready to graduate in cap and gown, Eldest Son was thrilled to learn that Richard Attenborough (then Chancellor of the University of Sussex) would be presenting the diplomas.

According to a news page for the University of Sussex website, it was due to his personal ties with Brighton as well as his life-long respect for education that Richard Attenborough’s ardent support of the University continued for four decades.  David Bradford writes:

It was in Brighton, in 1947, that Lord Attenborough clinched his acting breakthrough, turning in a menacing performance as a young gangster in the film adaptation of Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock. Following two prolific decades of acting, he launched his career as a director with a musical critique of the First World War, Oh! What a Lovely War (1969), and Brighton again provided the backdrop.’

Tragically, only six months before the 2005 graduation ceremony, he had lost his beloved eldest daughter Jane and 14 year old granddaughter (together with Jane’s mother-in-law, June Holland) in the Boxing Day tsunami at Phuket resort in Thailand. Jane had herself studied sociology at the University many years before and so it was with even greater poignancy that Richard Attenborough gave his speech at his first graduation ceremony after the disaster, telling the graduates:

Today is, importantly, a day of celebration. What happened to my family and hundreds of others should not dent your happiness, sense of achievement and right to enjoy yourselves.”

It was quite obvious to all listening that this man had been deeply traumatised by his personal family tragedy yet there he was, keeping to his long promised commitment to hand out to the young people before him their hard-earned degrees, taking the time to speak to each one, including my son, with genuine interest and encouragement.

A very proud day.  Eldest Son receiving his Degree from Richard Attenborough, University of Sussex, 2005 (c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2014

A very proud day. Eldest Son receiving his Bachelor of Arts History Degree from Richard Attenborough,  Brighton, Sussex 2005
(c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2014

We’ll never forget his moving speech that he gave that day in Brighton and my son will never forget the thrill of his University Graduation made all the more memorable by the presence of such a wonderful man. Of course, my deep pride for my boy will also never be forgotten.

So it was with deep sadness to learn this weekend of the passing of Richard Attenborough.  Not only a famed British actor, director and producer of many other acclaimed films, not least of all Gandhi, The Great Escape (my other favourite) and A Bridge Too Far, but a member of the House of Lords and a tireless contributor to charity causes.

More importantly perhaps, it is clear from the tributes shown on television over the bank holiday weekend that he was a true, honest family man, loved and adored by all who knew him both personally and professionally.  It is plain to see that he was a man who not only knew the words kindness and thoughtfulness but he lived by them authentically with true compassion and continued to do so in light of his terrible grief so late in life.

I don’t profess to know him personally, but surely it is this legacy that he leaves behind in the hearts of his family and loved ones that will be long remembered even more so than that of his glittering film career and good works.

And as for me and my family, we will never forget those days spent huddling together on our beaten up old sofa eating popcorn and watching Jurassic Park. That, and a certain Graduation Day.

At my age the only problem is with remembering names. When I call everyone darling, it has damn all to do with passionately adoring them, but I know I’m safe calling them that. Although, of course, I adore them too.”
~Richard Attenborough~

Posted in Family Life, My California | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 79 Comments

Thoughts Behind A Silhouette

The word ‘silhouette’ is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as:

‘The dark shape and outline of someone or something visible in restricted light against a brighter background.’

This week, we’re asked to post a photograph showing a silhouette for the Weekly Photo Challenge.

I’m sure I’ve taken plenty of photographs unintentionally showing silhouettes and certainly not because I know what I’m doing with the light or anything else.  But the one thing I do at least know as an amateur photographer is to make sure that the sun is always behind me so as not to shoot directly into it.

Sometimes though the lighting,  sunlight or not, doesn’t come into it:  what does, is the emotion that washes all technical thoughts away as we want only to capture an exact moment knowing that in an instant, it will be lost forever.

We want only to have the tangible memory of that moment as proof that it really did happen. No matter what, we want that photograph so we have the camera at the ready for that perfect, natural pose irregardless of the less than perfect external conditions.  In other words, we simply grab our camera, point and shoot and hope for the best.

This is how I felt when I snapped this shot of my daughter during a visit to Sea World in San Diego, California in June, 2003, only a couple of months before we left California for our new life in England. This was the last family holiday I was to take with my three children together and just before the family life we had known changed irrevocably.

I didn’t know how it would look until the film was developed since it was taken on a 35mm Kodak.

I hoped for the best.

My daughter at Sea World, San Diego CA, 2003 (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

My daughter at Sea World, San Diego CA, 2003
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

She was entranced by the slow, graceful motion of the beluga whales as they glided through the deep, blue waters of their huge aquarium.  Lost in thought, touching the glass as if to somehow connect with the fluidity and calmness of their water-world, I wonder what flowed through her mind?  Did she long for the same, weightless escape as she imagined their freedom to inspire?  Or did she just enjoy the cool of the glass against the heat of the day as she revelled in the carefree antics of these peaceful creatures?

I can only guess at my little girl’s dreams as I gaze at her silhouette.

Posted in Childhood Memories, My California, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 75 Comments

The Dark Side Of Asperger’s Syndrome

Claire's 19th Birthday 16.08 (36)

Happy Birthday Cake for Aspie D (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Tomorrow my daughter, Aspie D, will celebrate her 22nd birthday and I will have all my chicks back home in the nest together again for the first time since Christmas.  Hip hip hooray!

The plan is to go out to lunch then return home to open presents, eat cake and play board games.  No doubt there will be plenty of silliness and laughter too.

Last year we went to Thorpe Park for her 21st and although she had a great time, the stress from being around so many people exhausted her both mentally and physically, to the point of needing to spend several days afterwards hibernating and recuperating in her room.

This is called a ‘shutdown’ and this is just part of the reality for someone suffering with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

A shutdown is in direct response to sensory overload caused by too much external stimuli.  My daughter’s sensory awareness of her surroundings through noise, lighting, even colours and taste, are already on high alert even under the calmest of circumstances, so if anything else  is added to the mix, her internal responses explode into orbit.

The need to seek refuge and block everything out are reactions beyond her control and are not designed to seek attention or sympathy. She has no choice.

My daughter can’t go to parties, clubs or pubs.  She doesn’t have a social life outside her home and online community because the price she has to pay both emotionally and physically cased by the stress of doing so is just too high.

She desperately wants to go out like her friends but she is trapped by her own limitations.  She tells me of times when has spent hours crying into the night while I sleep, in utter rage and frustration at the unfairness of it all.  She would give anything to change her life but at the moment, she simply can’t.

Aspie D attended childhood parties like any kid but I often sensed that something seemed slightly off kilter with her. I couldn’t put my finger on it, she seemed happy enough yet when I look back at photos of her with other smiling kids she looks strained, her eyes hollow.  I now know that she was silently pleading with me to get her out of there because she couldn’t stand another moment in that room.

She copied her social cues from the other kids and did her best to join in but she just wanted to be left alone.  I used to watch as other girls would try to grab her hand so that they could skip down the street together but it was plain to me that she hated doing it.

She much preferred her brother’s friends, feeling much more at ease with them (but usually to the great annoyance of her brother).

Middle son Nicky often had friends over for sleepovers. I had to smile one Saturday morning:  I came downstairs to make a cup of tea only to catch sight of one such friend (but not Nicky who was still in bed asleep) and Aspie D sitting on the sofa together in their PJ’s eating out of bowls of cereal laughing their heads off at ‘Sponge Bob Square Pants’ on the television.  I grabbed my own bowl of cereal and joined them.

Aspie D happy serving tea for Nicky - California 1990's (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Aspie D happy serving tea for Nicky – California 1990’s
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Aspie D makes her choices socially because it is impossible for her to maintain composure and false social graces (she doesn’t do small talk) for long.   It drains her and of course she is mindful that she doesn’t want to come across as rude.  She will hold a conversation of course, she is articulate and smart but communicating her feelings, explaining what she means gets her in tangles.

This is part of the classic ‘social communication’ disorder that defines ASD and has other repercussions: for instance, she could never tell anyone outside the home that she is ill or had some kind of problem or ask a stranger for help if she was out alone, got lost and needed directions.   This, of course, makes her vulnerable.

She so often feels like a stranger residing in an unfriendly world where everyone speaks in a foreign language that she can’t understand.  It is a sad, lonely place for her and therefore one that she avoids travelling to as much as possible.

So often she felt invisible and disregarded within her peer group when she was at school and college because misunderstood efforts to communicate on both sides often caused problems.  This is where those with ASD can struggle so badly.  While today my daughter has a wonderful support network of online friends (and blogging taught me the value of online friendship, helping me understand her community so much better), anything more than that right now isn’t going to happen.

My daughter slipped through the cracks and wasn’t diagnosed until she had already left sixth form college when she was eighteen. As the years went on and Aspie D’s anxiety increased, she became more socially avoidant but nobody would help us despite repeated visits to the doctor.  Diagnosis for females with Asperger’s is notoriously overlooked, so often misunderstood.

According to the National Autistic Society, the three main areas under which Asperger’s Syndrome diagnosis is made are:

  • Social understanding
  • Social communication
  • Social imagination.

Yet girls and women on the spectrum are more often missed, because they learn to mask their social difficulties by observing and copying what to do rather than acting instinctively.  This is why they are so often overlooked when it comes to diagnosis.  They can be astute, sociable and say and do the right things, but the effort this takes throughout life is exhausting and often leads to mental health problems such as severe anxiety and depression later on. (Tony Attwood, 2007.)

In their paper Good Autism Practice (May 2011), Dr Judith Gould and Dr Jacqui Ashton Smith of the NAS Lorna Wing Centre for Autism explain further by quoting:

 “The fact that girls with undiagnosed autism are painstakingly copying some behaviour is not picked up and therefore any social and communication problems they may be having are also overlooked. This sort of mimicking and repressing their autistic behaviour is exhausting, perhaps resulting in the high statistics of women with mental health problems.”
(Dale Yaull-Smith, 2008).

This isn’t meant to be a dark post as its title suggests. I  merely hope to highlight some of the struggles that those with ASD live with every day through writing about my daughter’s and my experiences and some of them aren’t pretty.

Or maybe playing together in the mud would be fun!  Me and Aspie D - California 1993 (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Or maybe playing together in the mud would be fun! Me and Aspie D – California 1993
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Yes, it’s true, some days my heart grows heavy in my personal struggle as naturally I worry a lot about Aspie D.

Sometimes,  retreating from the world and doing nothing but curling up on the sofa watching back-to-back episodes of ‘Sponge Bob’ sounds pretty good.  Or ‘Breaking Bad’ for something slightly more gritty.

With Aspie D of course.

But (and it’s a big one) dear friends, you know how it is and I know I can park it here. No sympathy, just telling how it is because that’s life isn’t it?  Life’s rich pattern, onward and upward and all that.

Ultimately, I believe that life is good and each day is to be savoured, given to us as a gift, enjoyed to the full.  We are greatly blessed and I am eternally grateful for all we have.  Love, Life, Laughter. Tomorrow Aspie D will have a great birthday celebration I’m sure and I am confident that she will find her own, unique way in life one day at a time.

But first, let’s get this party started! It really is ‘Alright Now’. 

Happy Birthday Darling Daughter!!  Love Mum :-) xxx

Posted in Asperger's Syndrome, Family Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 97 Comments

Lost in France

Bonjour me amis!

Two weeks since I last blogged and I think I still remember how to do it, which is a relief! I hope this finds you all well and enjoying your summer? Judging by the 1,000 plus emails I’ve come home to (and no, I am not that popular, believe me – only one or two were personal messages), you’re all still here, busily blogging away. Thank goodness!

Geranium on stone wall, village in France (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Geranium on stone wall, village in France
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Having just returned from a lovely, lazy week away in France, I am reminded of two things: the beauty of the French countryside and how appalling my French is, despite having studied it for several years at school.

My excuse? I remain convinced that the only way to learn a language, really learn it, is to live in the country and become totally immersed in the culture.  Text book languages just don’t do it, at least not for me.  Still, I had fun trying…

I remember when I was about eleven going on a school trip to France.  We crossed the channel on a hovercraft direct from Dover to Calais, there being no ‘Chunnel‘ back then in the 1970’s.

The long bus drive from Suffolk to Dover leaving at sparrow’s fart the crack of dawn was the worst part.  I loved the hovercraft ride despite having to witness one of the kids being sick all over the floor, but Calais did nothing for me. Fish markets weren’t my idea of fun at eleven and not much better now.

Still, we did get to practice our French which was the idea, apparently.  I remember waiting in the queue to buy a souvenir for my mum: it was a wooden egg cup with a little picture of a boat and the word ‘Calais’ (of course) hand-painted on the side. I was very nervous about having to talk to the lady at the till in French.

I needn’t have bothered because the minute I opened my mouth, with an exasperated wave of her hand she exclaimed:

“It’s okay, I speak English!” And she did. Very well.

It would be another thirty years or so before I returned to France, when, unexpectedly, Hubby and I were given the opportunity to experience the beauty of what I like to think is the ‘real’ France, far away from the cold, grey skies of Calais.

The first time Hubby and I were kindly invited by friends to stay at their beautifully rustic home we flew, courtesy of a budget airline.

Nestled in a tiny hamlet between two villages some 30 or so kilometers from the town of Perigueux somewhere in the Dordogne region of south-west France, the location couldn’t be better for lending itself to a holiday saturated with rest and relaxation.

The next time (and yes, we must have behaved because we were invited back) we decided to drive, taking our car across by train via the Chunnel which was the easy bit.  The drive down through France proved to be much more of a challenge: what should have taken eight hours took us twelve.

In the middle of nowhere late of an August Sunday evening, no signal enabled on Hubby’s mobile phone and mine having died, we were well and truly lost in France. At one point, having pulled over to the side of a road after a minor…?…. disagreement (naturally), we decided that it would be better if Hubby read the map and I drove.

Zipping through deserted country lanes, our grumpy mood quickly dissipated into the warm, evening air as the experience and freedom of the moment took over: we were entranced by the tiny villages we  came across, filled as they were with brightly coloured bunting fluttering high above the narrow streets as it criss-crossed from building to building.

These same buildings were decorated from head to foot with paper flowers for summer festivals, yet where earlier in the day the streets had bustled with locals and tourists alike, not a soul was to be seen;  huge, stone houses shut up tight with metal gates and wooden shutters as we travelled through, fleeting visitors in the shadows of deserted communities.

Village house in France (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Village house in France
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

It was one of the most surreal moments of my life.

Despite the wonderful sense of adventure of two years ago, this time we played safe, taking advantage of a budget airline and we didn’t get lost once!

Now my memories of France are no longer of looking around fish markets:  I think of balmy summer days and evenings, walking along peaceful paths surrounded by open fields brimming with smiling sunflowers and ripening corn. I remember cycling (fitter than I thought!) to the local village on late afternoons along quiet roads painted only with the falling shadows of tall, roadside trees.

Sunflower fields - France (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Sunflower fields – France
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Village road - France (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Village road – France
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Field in France (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Field of corn in France
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Of open-air jazz evenings eating rabbit with prunes (it was delicious, tasted like chicken, it’s true, and I don’t even like prunes!) and of a soiree which ended at midnight with a firework ‘spectaculaire’ to the music of ‘O Fortuna’.  As dramatic as that sounds, it was indeed magical.

Open-air jazz evening at the back of a bar - France (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Open-air jazz evening at the back of a bar in Douchapt – France
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

The history, beauty and glorious mystique of France has grabbed me forever, not to mention some of the more bizarre sightings such as a stuffed dog (or possibly a fox without its tail, see what you think) with a pin wheel sticking out of its head oddly placed in someone’s front yard.  I kid you not.

Stuffed dog/fox with a pinwheel stuck to its head...bizarre! (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Stuffed dog/fox with a pin wheel stuck to its head…bizarre!
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Wrapping up then, I’ll  leave you with a ‘snapshot’ of my time in France to the music of ‘O Fortuna’ which seems the perfect choice to me (although ‘Lost in France’ by Bonnie Tyler would seem to be the more obvious one but I just can’t stand that song, sorry!).

Meanwhile, thank you all so much for your lovely messages left while I was away, really does warm my heart (great to know that  ‘A Horse With No Name’ is also a favourite for one or two of you!) and I’ll be over to you as soon as I can to catch up and say ‘Hi’.  I’ve missed you!

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Finally, how about these little cuties?

French Rabbits (not for eating I hope :-( ) (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Village bunnies
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

 

Village cat (of many!) (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Village cat (of many!)
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Back to normal blogging next week – see you soon :-)

Love Sherri x

Posted in Blogging, Photos, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 111 Comments

Are We Nearly There Yet?

“Are we nearly there yet?” 

How many times as kids did we ask this question of our parents during inexcusably long car journeys?

When it came time for my own children to ask me the very same, my answer was no different to the one given me by my parents:

“Almost there, not far now!”

I think of long car journeys often.  As with many of you, I’ve taken a few and not just as a child.  One or two have defined me, who I was and who I am today, the memories of which burn from a lamp that has never gone out.

As I keep on keeping on writing my memoir, these defining moments leap up at me from the ‘paper’.

As the flow of the story pours forth, moving images play out before me.  It is as if I’m narrating, through the written word, while watching a film.  The colour of the stills are somewhat muted, as with the slight yellowing of the pages of a well-read book,  yet, with every word I write, a sort of restoration work takes place: the film becomes as vivid and as vital as if I am watching it for the very first time.


August 1979. I am nineteen and crammed in the back of a dark blue Plymouth Roadrunner sitting next to my American G. I. boyfriend. Other friends are squeezed either side of us and another drives us deeper into the wilderness, his long, black hair dancing in the wind through his open window. His pride and joy doesn’t have air conditioning, but he does have a mean 8-track. Los Angeles is far behind us, having left it at the crack of dawn.  Now, as dawn breaks into day, the repressive heat stirs up the wind as it whips my hair across my face and it stings.  The deep rumble of the V8 engine merges with Eddie Van Halen’s guitar riffs exploding from the 8-track’s speakers as we gun it across the Mojave Desert.  Only we exist: us and the open road, slashed like a knife-cut through the vastness of a lonely, heat-crazed terrain. In the back, we grab chilled beer bottles out of an ice-chest, crack them open and drink. We sing stupidly at the top of our lungs and collapse in heaps of laughter.   Las Vegas beckons and it won’t be long before I’ll be shaking hands with the fiercest heat I’ve ever known.  I couldn’t possibly have known it then that I would return to Las Vegas one year later under dire circumstances. All I did know,  for this English girl and her first time in America, was what it felt like to be truly alive.  I had escaped for the briefest of moments. We were young, we were crazy and we were as free as we would ever be again.


Last week, Eldest son, Aspie D and I watched the most amazing lightning as it flashed across the heavy Somerset skies.  Thunder rolled and heavy rain lashed down, a welcome relief to the stifling humidity of a British summer.  Never was the rain more welcome; I relish spontaneous moments like that.

Sometimes we just want to be free. Moonstone Beach, Cambria, California (c) Sherri Matthews 2013

Sometimes we just want to be free. Moonstone Beach, Cambria, California
(c) Sherri Matthews 2013

Sometimes though, we want to leave the rain behind for the smile of the sun on our weary faces.

I’m not heading to the desert any time soon, by car or by horse,  and I certainly don’t plan on roping any rattlesnakes (but Charli, if I do, I’ll be sure to put it on YouTube), but I am setting out.

Sometimes we need to catch our breath and feel the wind in our hair and just let go.   This will be my last blog post for a couple of weeks but I’ll be hanging around for the next day or so checking in with you as much as time allows and as best I can.

I’ll be unplugged for one whole week and I’m not sure how I’ll cope…I’m already having withdrawal just thinking about it.  Cold sweats and everything…

I’ll miss you all very much, so please just make sure you’ll still be here when I get back! Meanwhile, I would like to leave you with a memory of a certain desert, a piece of ‘America’ and a piece of my heart:

Wishing you all a great summer (and a not too cold winter to my friends on the other side of the world) wherever you go and whatever you do.

See you soon !

~ Love Sherri x ~

Posted in Family Life, Memoir, My California, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 89 Comments