So much of the language I habitually use is ‘visual’
I catch myself saying “let’s see how it sounds” even, when I am teaching a new piece of music.

What an incredible organ the eye is and sight, such a miracle, the way the brain learns how to interpret the billions of stimuli coming through the optic nerve.

I am trying to make sense of a recent ‘incident’ within my eye which produced a sharply defined black spot. It moved swiftly around as I swiveled my eye to get a better look and then swiftly became a wiry tangle that looked a little like a moth wing which then settled in the lower left hand corner. This also swung around though, as I moved the eye. Pretty little flashing specks like stars and a sickle shaped bright band also appeared.

I took some advice. This led me to the eye clinic via a long wait in A & E for a rather grueling examination. A stinging anaesthetic, followed by pupil dilatation and a few more drops of stinging stuff.
Then a long wait while the drops took effect.
I sat in the fuzzy eye clinic waiting room with fuzzy people to whom I must have looked very fuzzy too. The doors had helpfully enormous numbers on them. Their outlines doubled and trebled.
Then from a chin rest and head band to keep things steady I had a dazzling bright white/yellow/prismatic colours beam shone into the back of my eyes with requests to “look up, look up to the right, look up to the left ” etc.
Strong eye movements have always made me slightly nauseous. I asked if anyone ever threw up. “Sometimes people pass out” was the reply.

Finally my curiosity about a silver coloured thimble-thingy sitting on the table was satisfied. It looked a bit like a tiny bucket with a flattened antenna extruding from the top. More anaesthetic.
With a finger inside the bucket the last part of the proceedings consisted of the flat probe being placed against the surface of my left eye and the Doctor then used it to press firmly against each segment of the eye in turn whilst the dazzling lights blazed in again.
The purpose was to shunt the eyeball from a spherical shape to a squished sphere, in order to get a really good wide angle pan of the back of the eye.

The vitreous humour (the jelly-like fluid that sits behind the lens and fills the hollow ‘ball’ as well as keeping the retina pressed back onto the inside surface) has pulled away a bit, causing a visible, large ‘floater’ which I was told, would soon disappear; the brain gets fed up with having to register it. ” Anxious people probably notice it more. ” “it is a very common part of the agreeing process”
“Come back for a follow up appointment. If there any more symptoms or new floaters or especially, flashing lights, come back immediately, it is an eye emergency”

At the follow up on Monday this week, I was discharged after a short, less strenuous eye check and things were a bit fuzzy again for a short while.

I have been wondering how to view (more visual language) all this.
It is scary. I spent most of the day before the appointment gazing at the clouds from a white plastic sun lounger on the beach at Paignton. It was so incredibly beautiful just to lie there and watch the exquisite wisps, fraying and shape-shifting. The brilliance of the sun from behind the fuller stiff whipped cream clouds.
I did cry quite a lot.
The comparison in a recent talk of the Transfiguration beside the very inverse event of Hiroshima ( 6 th of August being the date for this)
and my thoughts of late Beethoven as he is quoted ” come come take me away to the transfiguration ” writing about his late works.

Light. Dazzling, blinding, transformative light. Healing or laying waste.

I am observing the shadows. Inner, outer and the new ones that swing around now in my eye. I don’t like it. It is a nuisance when I’m reading music for one. More, it is a continual reminder that it could all change again and what will that mean?
I am also very sad that my beautiful eyes aren’t quite the same any more.
I have been talking with dear friends about how we can begin to meet our lengthening years with grace and humility. Whether it is possible to experience joy in letting go gradually of some of the impossible expectations.

It is a wake up call for me certainly. I am trying to push away the space between myself and old age and keep it at arm’s length. All that resistance directed at the inevitable.
And then there is my super strong, tough, fit, creative ego grisling in case. . . . . in case what??
In case I lose face or image or something? In case I am incapacitated, however slightly.
It all fits.
So I am indulging in musing out loud, with my specs right on the end of my nose! Even the expression ‘perhaps I have a bit of a blind spot’ has added poignance.
If you have persevered this far, thank you for keeping me company.


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“and in the dew. . . ” 100 years ago


The heart finds its mo(u)rning and is refreshed.

May the candles of remembrance stand for something.

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Au revoir . . Coutance to Cherbourg and home to Poole

We pottered off a day early from Chateau Perron so that we could have a leisurely last ride and set a more relaxed pace for the last 2days!
Another really warm day for a terrific send off. We will not forget the sound of 40 plus bikes crunching the gravel or the sight of so many colourful varieties of kit.

Thanks to the French opening hours we stopped for our lunch only 5k south of Periers in St. Sauveuer de Lendelin. . . such a pretty little village. . . and then I for one remembered too late the disadvantages of digestive energy fleecing the leg muscles of anything remotely resembling willing action. We groaned out onto tiny lanes and with dogged perseverance in hot sun, and many stoppings, navigated our way to Coutance. My map is a lovely cycling map, but with not quite enough detail to avoid some guessing and finger crossing. For Ollie to have to slow to less than 20kph is a genuine hardship, so on Friday he had the patience of a saint while he waited for me to fumble with map, compass and glasses several times over.

My cautious planning all came together though, when our B and B appeared as if by luck on the roadside without even having to look for it and better still, our little room had a BATH. .
Ingrid in reception did us a huge favour by persevering on the phone until she spoke to a ‘real’ person who confirmed that our bikes could travel with us the next day on the small local train.
This meant that instead of a weary trip to the station with a tired boy, we could have a gentle stroll up into the town and admire the magnificent hill top cathedral in the golden evening light.

Saturday morning saw us smoothly operating as we manhandled the bikes into the wrong carriage to then be told to remove them to the front of the train between stops for a 13 minute journey to our station change, where we were getting off anyway :(
I wasn’t in the mood to manage any quick-thinking or charming negotiation but it seemed a rather inflexible demand on a near empty train.
Lison was a delightful village to wait for our Cherbourg connection and then all of a sudden a more supportive guard motioned us to an earlier train so up the deep steps and in we went with great speed and efficiency as though we were old hands!

Cherbourg was a little more long winded as I left the station heading south instead of north . . . a common error when tired. You could say it was all a cunning plan to spread the several hours of waiting, but it wasn’t.

In the end we had a great lunch beside the market where we were this time charmingly requested to move our bikes again. I didn’t quite understand the rapid explanation, but it all became clear when high pressure street washers with high pressure hoover lorries came round with the speed and agility of dodgems to mop up after the market. Our bikes would have been propelled across the square by jets of water!
‘Mais Monsieur, maintenant qui va laver nos vélos?’ To which I was ceremoniously handed a tiny white napkin. French men really do have a certain somzeeng!

Every picture tells a story.
I think it has been quite an amazing time with an awesome boy. You should have seen us at the head of all the ferry traffic, in the dark with blazing lights and Ollie, cool as a cucumber cycling down the ramp as the cars passed us on the now unfamiliar right shoulder.
He was asleep almost before he leant back in his car seat.

We did it!


The big send off


We pick up an outrider


The beautiful cathedral in Coutances


and the lovely early morning market on our way to


The station


At LAST. . . a sorbet!


Communion with a little red dragon? or perhaps even awesome boys get weary. .

Le Manche. . . not far to go


Waiting for the ferry ramp


Team Quick (quick-slow) in that order.

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Today was another beautiful summery day and our huge group did a 46k circuit taking in Marigny, Lozon, Feugères and Saint-Martin-d’Aubigny.

The children cycle at some speed (well over 20kph on the level) in their pack unless they are on a tandem with their sturdy parents. I have given up trying to stay with Ollie as he has consistently stayed at the front whether uphill or down. He has been really awesome for such a slight chap.
It has been really lovely to see a group of children with such a wide age range, jelling together so easily and especially that Ollie could become such a natural part of it all.

Continuing the theme of remembrance, we also visited a cemetery dedicated to German soldiers. Simple stone crosses and plaques amongst peaceful avenues of St. John’s Wort. Many many 19 year olds.
It strikes me that only this week, a young 19 year old Israeli man. . . boy? . . . is refusing his call up papers and instead, going to prison as a conscientious objector.
I pray he will be safe. I fear he will not.

Walking around with one or two of my new cycling companions, we shed tears over these boys, life, and so on. How when physical and mental tiredness are present, it is somehow easier to let go and have a little weep. . . . and then we pulled ourselves together and got back on the bikes!

Incidentally, Ollie and others had to rocket around the cemetery roundabout several times. I haven’t really been feeding him all that much, but he seemed to need more pedaling!







back at the chateau I think he was first in the pool. The last photo is of the lovely old gates separating the pool ‘meadow’ from the grounds of the main house.

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Remembrance and commemoration

Wednesday, 30th July

At the end of our ‘resting day’ some of us took off in a convoy of fast moving cars (poor Ollie was a little pale and sweaty around the upper lip after 20 minutes in the back of a low slung Saab) to Huegueville and Pont du Roc which 70 years ago to the day was liberated after intense fighting.

Bunting in red white and blue, a ladies’ choir also clad in the colours of France and a very moving procession of elderly veterans, moving steadily to a bank near the old bridge, which is still impassable.
All bathed in golden evening light.
Here they stood with all their standards as speeches and tributes were made and the flags of America, Canada, Britain and France were solemnly raised.
My French is just good enough to catch phrases like ‘hope for future generations’ ‘gratitude for those who sacrificed their lives’ and to grasp the Lord’s Prayer and other prayers ‘where there is discord, harmony’ and so on.
A nonagenarian faltered with his standard but adamantly declined the prompt offer of help.
The ladies sang the Marseilleuse after we had heard all the other national anthems. They were all impeccably turned out, naturally, but in 40’s style and lovely details of flamboyant scarves or berets.
Another Veteran, on hearing I was English, broke ranks to kiss me on both cheeks and apply lashings of typically French male charm.

Then the wafting smoke from the hot dog stall with the last of the sun streaming through in shafts as the clouds turned pink.

After a day of I can’t really remember what at the chateau, it was great to get out, make connections with our French neighbours and feel so much a part of a local event.






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Around Periers, Saint-Germain-sur-Sèves and Nay

I felt remarkably better for movement and fresh air today. . and very thankful

A gentle morning ride at a (relatively) gentle pace around some peaceful winding lanes passing a church and Manor in Gonfreville that dates back to the 15th century and then to a quiet spot along a narrow grass lane.

A simple stone, fresh white spears of gladioli amongst colourful fabric cornflowers.
A little foot bridge across a slowly moving, shallow stream.
Trees and hedges. Lumpy grasses and deep blue sky.
Very ordinary, lovely rural countryside just like countless other quiet spots. Except it is here that a monument has been erected to commemorate the lives of soldiers of the 90th American Infantry who died fighting for the liberation of Saint-Germaine-sur-Sèves.

In my mind’s eye I could just about conjure up another scene, fleetingly because it is unbearable to think of landscape and people and animals being shattered to pieces.

A small amount of text in English, French and German describes how American, French and German members of those forces have been meeting here regularly since 1945, in deepening friendship.

Whilst it is true that as a nation we endured terrible bombing, it was only today that it sunk in for me that we were not an occupied country as was France and so many other European countries.
For today at least it seems to have made a big difference in my world.

The sofas are full of loungers, lounging. The Pool Table and dressing up room is a noise of bells, laughter and shrieks. The long dining tables are humming with after-dinner chatter and a second person today has just offered me a coffee.

All around the chateau grounds and the nearby fields, the past has its echoes and here we all are today with our bikes in another world altogether. Just the passage of time and the chance of birth into another generation.
Peace here.
Terrible wars somewhere else.

Last night we had a riot of Abba and ‘The Dancing Queen’ inspired by the dressing up box and performed at twilight on the front steps/stage.
I wonder what we are in for tonight?








Gonfreville Church and Manor.
Memorial Sèves, bridge and ‘bike snake’
Church at Nay
Hanging out and bikes, back at the Chateau

Thanks, everyone, for looking in and for your lovely comments.

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Chateau Perron . . . what a base for hoards of cyclists!

Today I could not keep up with Ollie. Of 41 cyclists he was skimming along at about 25kph and mostly in the front group of 3. What a boy!
We rode out through Perier to Pirou Plage ( beach ) taking in the wonderful Pirou Chateau, which must surely have been occupied by hobbits and dwarves.
Cycling with such a large group is undeniably a great social event, and back at the castle there is pool, table football, ping pong, badminton, an outdoor swimming pool, sofas galore AND a sweet little piano. Children and adults’ needs met in great style.

I have hardly seen Ollie.. . . and O me miserum, I am unusually poorly.

Here, anyway are some photos from the last 2 days, starting with a thirsty little bike dragon, Pirou Chateau and Plage, and our beautiful accomodation.









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