Paris again

Thursday 19th – back to Paris on the TGV, which was (amazingly) delayed, we think because of the previous night’s storms. We had a sandwich at Notre Dame and then it was time to try to find the left luggage again [the forgetting hole for us both]. I saw Eilish off on the bus to Beauvais and had a nice afternoon and evening in Paris.

One of the highlights of the day was the dancing groups by the Seine. There are areas by the river that look like embarkation points for boats – they have steps around them. That evening three of them had groups who were clearly regular groups – one doing Israeli dancing, one Tango and one something like Morris dancing – this might have been Basque or Breton. Surrounded by groups of people picnicing, it was tout-à-fait charmant.

Then I found the left luggage (third time lucky) but disgraced myself in trying to ‘faire retrait’ my train tickets for the next journey. The machine looked for the code and I had 2 problems – I forgot (oops) which card I had used and had no idea what code they wanted. It was my PIN number, by which time I had used up my alloted attempts but a nice young man sorted it out and gave me the tickets – so much for the image of Moira as a competent traveller!


Paris and le coin secret

I met Eilish in Paris and we headed south on the TGV after a delightful lunch – is there any other kind of lunch in France? Where we went to is a huge secret because it is a corner of France which is not crawling with “les anglais”. It is a wine area and just lovely. We had a relaxing couple of days with Bill and Linda – this mostly consisted of lazy lunches and a few visits to chateaux. One of the chateaux had an “oubliet”, translated by the guide as a “forgetting hole” – this is a dungeon but the idea of a ‘forgetting hole’ is a good one and Linda, in her relaxed holiday mode, is the first candidate, quickly followed by me, as I forget who and where I am. In the forgetting hole it wouldn’t matter that we could not remember anything.



This blog will be brief now as I am using a French keyboard

13th July – Stayed in almost the worst accommodation I have ever experienced in the Old Shepherd in Chorleywood but was able to eat and shower at Siobhán’s.

Lovely 2 days helping to look after the children and then a lovely party – very posh indeed!

15th July – to London to visit the Anthony Gormley exhibition – great. Then a very welcome evening and B&B at Heidi’s. An extra treat was that Helen and family visited at the same time.


Lunch and dinner

12th July – instead of Orange marching today I have been eating – or at least it seems that this is all that I have done.

We had a nice lazy morning – well, I had a nice lazy morning while Helen sorted out Yom, cleaned the house and cooked dinner for Tom (Helen loves to cook). We then set off to meet Tiwonge but I needed a coffee at our first bus change – no surprise there. It really is amazing to move between different parts of London – different kinds of cafés and very different prices.

We got to London Bridge Station in good time but all the places that I had agreed to meet Tiwonge had closed. Nothing daunted, Helen sat on a step to feel Yom and we met up with Tiwonge a while later. Helen told us about the café at Southwark (how do you pronounce this?) Cathedral and it was indeed lovely – we sat out in the courtyard and had a lovely lazy lunch. There was some classical music nearby and it was all very continental really.

Then we parted ways and Helen, Yom and I set off to Crickelwood where we met Marta for a traditional Ethiopian meal at a restaurant there – called “Abyssinia” (9 Crickelwood Broadway) for those keen to try it. We had a lovely meal and Helen was able to feed Yom as and when he demanded it – he thinks she is a self-service bar but that is perhaps too much detail for a blog!

We took a number of buses which took us right across North London, via Golders Green and Highgate, which are a significant change from the areas where we start and finish.

I can now say ‘thanks’ in Amharik and also “no”, which will be confusing to Yom as it is “Aye” – anyway he takes no notice when I tell him not to eat his socks. He will take even less notice when he comes to Scotland and is told “Aye” for both ‘yes’ and ‘no’.

Enough for tonight – watch this space for when I can next post.


Chat about my day in London

11th July
Getting the Tube across London at rush-hour reminded me why I hope never to live here. This experience is an everyday one for so many people – I cannot imagine how they can put up with it. At one point I had to negotiate with a man that I could hold onto his bag as I am too short to reach the overhead handrails and needed to stabilise myself in the very crowded train.

But the fruit and veg are amazing – I saw watermelons which were 22Kgs. There is a huge variety of food and other products, which is so lovely after mono-cultural Edinburgh. However, looking for a sandwich in Knightsbridge was a bit tricky – you can’t eat expensive handbags. We had a lovely picnic in Hyde Park when I did find sandwiches.

Before that we visited Kensington Palace, which was lovely. There is a flower sculpture exhibition starting in one of the gardens.

Lovely day!


An alternative solicitor experience

In my sheltered life I have come across a range of solicitors and even worked in a solicitor’s office one summer, decades ago, and that in itself could have a whole blog …

But yesterday I found another world of solicitors’ offices. No “would you like a coffee?”, or empty plush offices, or secretaries looking helpful. But how may solicitors’ offices have you seen where one whole wall is papered with “thank you” cards?

I went to this asylum solicitor in London with “Hanna”. The reception area is almost completely taken up with boxes and bundles of files, tied up in pink ribbon and clearly confidential documents. The small floor space that was left is occupied by people coming and going and chatting or waiting, in spite of the sign asking people to wait downstairs. “Hanna” was late, as always, but she was unperturbed. The solicitor agreed to see Hanna a bit later and we went to find a coffee. This was not easy as the cafe we choose was being used for filming and there was a queue so we had a seat but no coffee.

We went back to the solicitor to find that there were now three people to see the same man at the same time. Amazingly we were considered to have priority. He (the solicitor) came to reception, shook hands with Hanna and promised to be 2 minutes. 15 minutes later he came to get us and led us through a maze of steps and corridors to his tiny office.

His desk was several files high with papers. While he dealt with Hanna, he constantly answered two telephones, at one time speaking on both at once while also speaking to Hanna. Who said that men can’t multitask? He is clearly very knowledgeable about his area of work as he knew exactly what paperwork the Home Office would want and what would be helpful – e.g. he asked Hanna to get a letter from her church to say that she was a regular attender. He knows that it is important to build up a picture of his young woman as the responsible and engaged-with-the-community person that she is. But our photos were separated and needed to be not separated so we would have to get those redone. When the solicitor wanted to copy some of Hanna’s papers he went off to do it himself and gave her back what she needed. This is obviously how he does not get completely confused about what he is doing – he completes each task there and then.

The wall of thank-you cards is testament to how well he represents his clients but these clients are very vulnerable and rely on him and his colleagues for their very survival in Britain. While I am used to a very different solicitor experience, this was very amazing, sobering and heartening – all at once. This office provides a valuable service to a community who are often very chaotic because of life circumstances and so the apparent chaotic nature of the service is probably helpful. People drop in and get to have a quick word with their solicitor and all the clients have the solicitor’s mobile number (probably because of lack of staff rather than any wish to be particularly accessible to clients).


Tour de London and France – July 2007

10th July 2007 – Off on a jaunt to catch up with London family and friends and then to France for a bit of the same.

Nice, easy trip down on the train, catching up on my “Community Care” (and you thought that YOU were sad!). Then I went to Helen’s, in North London, on a variety of buses. I have decided that once one cracks the bus system in London it is far more civilised than the Tube and certainly far easier with a wheelie case or a buggy. Helen, herself, is a walking route planner – she thinks and talks in terms of stations and buses – she probably dreams in those terms too. I had to point out gently to her that Hyde Park Corner was a PLACE before it was a station and that it exists separately from the station :-).

Watch this space for confirmation of my alienation from the Tube and an alternative solicitor experience ….



28th June 2007

Nice coffee in the sunshine
Stromness to Scrabster
Clycle up the hill to Thurso
Catch the train – the conducter checks that my bike has a reservation – of course it does! what a thing to suggest that we would travel illicitly! – What a lovely train ride, now that we can see the scenery.
Connect at Inverness with just a few minutes – we need all of these minutes as some job’s worth gets neurotic about my not having an orange ticket for the bike. I have a number – this eventually is OK and I jump on the train, just in time. Another wonderful journey.
The change in Perth is uneventful but tight – train ride through Fife – all right but not in the same league (sorry Fifers!)
Back home – too culture-lagged to go to my usual pub session.

Watch this space for my next travels – which will be to London and France, starting 10th July.


Leaving Hoy – 27th June

I am getting better at getting the bike on and off this ferry and didn’t have much trouble. It is a beautiful day and there are seals playing by the pier. Back to Stromness – where the coffee shop is quite a bit of compensation for missing Hoy. Back to the hostel, catch up on my email and head off on the bike to Maeshowe.

Getting more into the Orkney pace of life now so I change my ferry booking for tomorrow to the later one – early starts are all very well but I will hang around for a bit longer and then I should still be able to catch the train at Thurso.


Get your sheep off my roof!

On the way to Rackwick to walk to the Old Man of Hoy, we passed a car and our host, Albert, got out to chat to the driver. He explained to us that there was a problem with one of his (Albert’s) sheep. The man had complained that the sheep was in his garden. This was bad enough but the house has a turf/grass roof which slopes to near the ground. The sheep was wandering onto the roof and “he is getting a bit fed up of it”, to quote Albert. Albert was very sympathetic and took away the sheep. But it was the wrong sheep and the poor householder found another sheep on his roof the next day. Albert is much concerned about being a poor neighbour (the fact that these people live 6 miles apart is a detail) and will try to catch the sheep and put it somewhere more secure.

Then we had a lovely walk to the “Auld Man” and a mini-bus tour of Hoy. This was lovely and a big relief not to be on the bike as it was cold and windy, but sunny and dry. I was able to check out South Hoy and plan a future cycle trip. Back to the B&B for a sleep before dinner and then a lovely walk afterwards. It is very bright this evening and I can see that there will be no darkness at all.