Slightly disgruntled

I stuck to my eating program, I honestly, truly did, and I did intensive exercise four out of seven days. However, when I got on the scale at 7am this morning it told me I had gained half a pound! I was furious and went back to bed in a huff, slight headache looming. I woke up again later hoping it had been a bad dream and after brushing my teeth and doing a wee I braved the scale again. Miraculously the pound had vanished, along with another .4lb which is not exactly a huge loss but is much better than a gain after my saintly week. Could I have dreamed that extra pound? Or did I sweat and piss 1.4lbs out between 7 and 9am out of pure rage and frustration? I don’t know. Anyway, I suppose the good news is that the trajectory is in the right direction and I’m playing the long game here so I’ll just keep going and it’s going to take as long as it does.

On the plus side Husband swears I am visibly slimmer which is good news, and I am actually enjoying the extra exercise and the feeling of control all the weighing and measuring gives me over my life. It gives it some sort of punctuation and comforting routine. The awful events in Beirut and Paris last week remind me that so much is beyond our individual control but at least my body is mine to do with as I wish while I am still on the planet. Or at least until a Republican wins and takes over the country’s uteruses (or would that be uteri?) That seriously gives me chills. Handmaid’s Tale, anyone?

Eleven now wears the same size shoe as me (size VERYBIG) and we bought a pair of brown suede slouchy knee-high boots (flat heel, obv) to share today. I think I will not get much of a look in, actually, but she was completely thrilled by this very grownup purchase. We both enjoyed spending an afternoon together without our menfolk. We went for a scooter ride through the park after a (brief) rainfall, then for a slice of cake and some tea at a lovely new gluten free bakery that has opened in town, and then pootled around the shops where we bought the boots. I look forward to many more girly times with her like this. She’s at such a sweet age – right on the cusp between child and young woman, wanting her mummy, being annoyed by her mummy, excited and full of interesting ideas and the most startling revelations. Today she said that she used to be afraid of plane crashes but then she decided to read about how to survive in any situation and because of her research she’s no longer fearful and is confident she would be able to survive almost anything; “Even the zombie apocalypse!”  I confessed I was a little afraid of dying in a plane crash and she said
“Oh no, I’m not afraid of dying in the crash. If you’re dead, you don’t have to survive, you’re just gone. I don’t want to crash and then die afterwards in a slow, horrible way.”
I wasn’t sure what to make of this but I was impressed by how rationally she’d approached her anxiety.   She is frequently annoyed by her younger brother and is always trying to get away from him – heartbreaking as he positively worships her and has recently confided in me that his biggest dream is to have her play Minecraft with him and be nice to him for “a whole hour”.

Meanwhile, my biggest dream is that neither of them grow up and away too quickly.


Self imposed North Korean Concentration Camp week 1

I’ve been on my weight loss journey for an entire week now. It feels like forever. Yet I have at least six more to go. I’m trying to view my weekly visits to the scale as a sort of long term advent calendar but without the chocolate or picture of a donkey. Perhaps I’ll buy myself a non food treat every Sunday that I have been successful and not fallen off the wagon? Not clothes, yet, but maybe a pedicure. Or a massage.

This week I was spectacularly grumpy for three or four days but that sort of evened out once I got used to eating mostly twigs and sticks with the odd bit of cottage cheese thrown in here and there. I have been very strict with myself and not cheated at all, and I’ve worked out a lot. A LOT. My muscles hurt.

The good news is that on my first weigh-in I have dropped 3.6lbs!!! Hurrah!!

I don’t expect that rate to continue but it is very cheering.

I did not take any selfies at the beginning, mostly because I forgot and also I don’t have the patience to stand in front of a mirror in my knickers trying to get the lighting and angle right so I can look like every other prat who posts photos of themselves online with that very particular fish faced pouty expression. I feel like my stomach is a bit flatter and husband claimed that I looked slimmer already by Thursday, although as it was close to bedtime perhaps he was just feeling hopeful?

I had aimed for 1300 calories worth of food and to burn around 500 per day, five days out of seven. I stuck to my exercise regime but found that often I ate less than I had budgeted for. I think this is partly because I keep the breakfasts and lunches very light as  I have an irrational fear that I won’t have enough calories left over for a ‘normal’ dinner, but then when it comes to suppertime I’m not actually that hungry either so I’ve been eating closer to 1000 per day. This makes MyFitnessPal (MFP) tell me that I may not be eating enough which gives me a bizarre (no doubt mentally unhealthy) thrill.
Fuck it. I don’t care.

I find the logging on MFP slightly tedious and as a result I have tended to eat similar things each day so I don’t have to do too much weighing and measuring or calculating of calories. Breakfast is usually a tomato fried in olive oil spray (I have one of those Misto things that you put your own oil into – highly recommended) and then I add 3 egg whites and a bit of Slap Ya Mama cajun seasoning (mmm!, scramble until done and that is that. It’s surprisingly filling and I have energy for hours whereas a piece of toast burns through me in about 28 seconds.

Lunch has been rather dull and something I eat quickly on my break at work or while writing. Maybe 1/2 cup cottage cheese with a chopped up apple? My mother spent most of the late 70’s on the Scarsdale diet and served up quite a lot of the same food to me (honestly, I never want to see a grilled, skinless chicken breast with broccoli again in my life) but I’ve remained inexplicably fond of this combination.

I eat apples for snacks and drink an incredible amount of tea.  Then for supper I have whatever I’ve made for the rest of the family minus the starchy carbs and with a giant pile of vegetables.

It’s dull. But it works.

Soon, however, Trader Joe’s is going to start stocking all of its extra delicious holiday items (chocolate covered crisps!!! Peppermint Jojos!). These are going to be very hard to resist. Or maybe not? Once I’ve kicked the sugar habit, I might be good to go. We shall see.

Until next week xo


The Incredible Shrinking Woman

The title of this post is not exactly a lie. It’s just that it hasn’t yet come into being.


I’ve never been one of those people who can eat whatever they want and remain model-slender, unlike my youngest sister who is blessed with God’s own metabolism, but in general I have never been seriously overweight and I enjoy exercising and eating healthily. I have remained pretty much the same size since my 20’s  – which is a UK 10 or a US 6- and although a few bits are wobblier, more prone to a southerly bent, and in latter years might benefit from well engineered foundation garments, I’ve never had a significant struggle with a spare tyre or felt dreadfully unhappy with my appearance.

However, after two of my young students patted me on the tummy last week and asked me when my baby was coming I decided I’d better step on the scale just to check if things were getting out of hand.

They were.

They were fifteen pounds out of hand.

This might explain why my jeans leave an unsightly welt around my middle after I take them off. Or in fact why I don’t like wearing my jeans right now and prefer ‘active wear‘ which is so stretchily forgiving


Rather than getting all morose and self-hatey about it, I’ve decided to SPRING INTO ACTION and unzip the fat suit. It used to be that a week of eschewing pudding would sort out any upward/outward trend but given my age *cough40scough* and the amount I have to shift, I have calculated it will take at least 7 weeks of misery  focused dedication to remove the offending flesh from my frame.

I’ve decided to blog about it because it makes me more accountable, and also, it gives me something to do with my hands instead of stuffing the children’s Hallowe’en candy into my gob which is what I’d really like to do.

If you haven’t already died of boredom, you can follow me on my ‘weight loss journey’ (OMGIHATETHATPHRASE) and either celebrate with me as I succeed, laugh yourselves sick when I fail miserably, or even join me if you fancy it.

This is what I’m going to do:

I am logging everything I eat, and all my exercise on MyFitnessPal . There’s an app for your phone, too. It’s a bit tedious at first, but after a bit my OCD kicks in and I love putting things into the app (also see ‘things to do with my hands apart from eating).

I plan to eat between 1300 and 1500 cals per day which should cause a 500 calorie food deficit.

On the exercise front, I’m going to do either a megaformer session or a hip hop dance class (BRUTAL) five out of seven days per week. Each of those burns at least 500 calories and (this is key) I don’t eat these back. That means I should have a +/_7000 calorie deficit over a week which is 2lbs of fat loss.

In theory.

I weighed myself the day I started on Sunday and although I’m not going to tell you what it was because I have number trauma, I will faithfully report each week whether I actually managed to shift any weight, whether I cheated or not, and if I discovered any magic recipes that made life easier.

I’m on day 3 now and although I’m perhaps a teeny weeny bit grumpy, I have managed to exercise every day and my big food discovery is Cauliflower mash. If you haven’t tried it, it’s my new best thing!
Here is the recipe:

Take a cauliflower

Steam it

When it is soft, put it in a food processor and puree it with 1 tablespoon of butter, adding salt and pepper to taste.

Depending on the weight/size of your cauliflower it works out at about 35-60 calories a cup and you’re TOTALLY FULL after about 2 cups. This is a win in my book, and it tastes miraculously like mashed potato.

Even Eight was fooled, and he is a strictly meat-n-potatoes type of child.

I will check in again on Sunday, if I haven’t expired of bad mood or hunger and let you know my progress.

Feel free to leave encouraging comments and let me know if you fancy joining me!


Old Blogger

I’m not sure that I like that moniker. In fact I’m rather sensitive to anything with the word ‘old’ in it these days but as both Iota and Nappy Valley Girl have both given me the same award (possibly because I was the only one left who hadn’t done this yet?) I shall have to accept my senior status gracefully and try to pretend that the fact that I’ve been blogging since 2008 does not in any way mean that I am seven years wrinklier than I was when I started. I am actually extremely, very good at denial. It’s one of my superpowers.

In exchange for this badge here:

Idragon awardI’m supposed to tell you seven things you don’t know about me.

There might not be anything left to tell at this stage but I’ll have a go, and you can stop reading any time you get bored. The great advantage of a blog is that I’ll never know, particularly as I’ve forgotten how to check my stats if I ever knew in the first place.

  1. I used to be a pop star. I spent all of my teens and a good part of my twenties desperately trying to ‘make it’ and become famous, only to discover (once I achieved my proverbial 15 mins) that I absolutely hated being the centre of attention and I’m actually an introvert. Wuh woh!
  2. I have been writing a novel for the last three years. I thought it was going to take 1/3 of that time and I’m still not sure when I’ll be finished. Part of the book has a graphic novel element to it – an idea I dreamed up at the novel’s inception – and I’ve just decided recently to create the images myself which will probably extend the deadline by about a decade due to the small obstacle of my not actually being able to, you know, draw. Wuh woh wugain!
  3. I teach music to primary school children two days per week. I never, ever dreamed I would do this job but to my astonishment a) someone hired me and b)I absolutely love it. I sometimes worry that I am overly strict with my pupils – some bizarre channeling of 1940’s British schoolmarms going on here (no idea where that comes from, I went to an inner city comprehensive) but they seem to like me anyway. It’s often quite hard to get the littler ones out the room when class finishes because they all want to hug me! Bless!!
  4. I am cooking ‘beer can chicken’ right now on the bbq because it is 95 degrees fahrenheit here in California on the eleventh of October. I can’t really tell you what it tastes like because I’ve never done it before but who could resist the novelty of sticking a can up the arse of a chicken and leaving it to its own devices and calling it supper?
  5. My cat, Tabasco, is a serial killer
  6. My daughter is crazily tall for her age and also stunningly beautiful. She looks more like a teenage supermodel than the recently-turned eleven year old goofball that she actually is. I worry a lot about how boys and men react to her. So when she refuses to brush her hair and picks her nose in public, I feel actively grateful.
  7. I love gaffa tape. It holds the universe together.

I’m supposed to nominate a few people now for this award, but who on earth would not have had it already? I don’t know!!

How about GeekyMummy ? I’m not even sure she’s blogging at the moment, and perhaps I’ll give a shout out to Shayma at The Spice Spoon, though she may well be far too important these days 😉

Perhaps number 8 of mine should be to admit I have no memory left?


Nearly home

It’s our last night and although this has been a wonderful trip I’m very glad to be going back to my own bed tomorrow night. We are in St. George, Utah watching Disney’s Descendants (unspeakably awful) on cable TV as a special treat for Eleven and I am quietly packing in the background.

Wyoming was rather wonderful. We spent our first night in Buffalo at its most famous hotel which has housed such illuminaries as Theodore Roosevelt, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and even Ernest Hemingway. In the days of the wild west it was also a functioning brothel and the rooms still retain that sort of decor. I felt (alarmingly?) at home there. I’m thinking it’s because I must have been a gunslingin’ outlaw in a past life, right?








The next day we drove on to Cody to stay at the Bill Cody dude ranch where we stayed in a log cabin, practiced our rope slinging skills, and rode horses through the canyon. One night we went to the night rodeo which was exactly as I had imagined a rodeo would be. Bucking broncos, calf roping, rodeo cowboys, and much singing of the national anthem and talk of patriotism and Murica. I was slightly alarmed to see the junior broncos, aged under 12, being thrown from maddened young calves (with horns) and more than a couple of kids being trampled upon. I wondered what would make anyone want to put their child in the face of that kind of danger, but I suppose it is a cultural thing.

IMG_4994I forced everyone to get up very early yesterday and although I endured much complaining from my family at first, everyone was glad once we spotted this other family also out for a pre-breakfast expedition.

IMG_5017We also spotted this rather handsome gentleman taking a stroll down the road.


We made it to Old Faithful (which dutifully erupted) by 8.30am and had a delicious, enormous breakfast at the lodge before heading out of the west gate of the park. We didn’t see much except traffic on our way out and we drove south out of the park into Idaho for a few hours, stopping for the night at Lava Hot Springs which has (amazingly enough) some hot springs in which Husband and the kids took a soak although I was a bit headachey so gave it it miss.  Lava Hot Springs is a very sweet little town, and it has all the most modern conveniences.




We pulled out of town at 6am this morning and arrived at the lovely Hampton Inn in St. George mid afternoon, and tomorrow we’ll be on the road at 6.30 again and hoping to hit Santa Barbara within 7 or 8 hours of hard driving.

It’s been the most fabulous seven weeks. This country is so rich and varied, its inhabitants so warm, welcoming, and friendly. I’m so glad to have seen so much and to have been able to show my children a bit of their own country.

Still, after seven weeks on the road, I’m now very excited to be going back to our lovely little city on the sea.

East, west, home is best.




How did I get here?

Full disclosure: I am already halfway back across the country after my three week stay in Virginia/Washington D.C. and although I meant to post more I didn’t because things have not turned out as I imagined them.

First of all,  first week of our Virginia vacation, during which my delightful children were supposed to spend four out of the five available weekdays at horse riding camp ended up being two days at camp and one day where all the campers came to our place for five hundred hours and my dad’s new puppy turned out to have defecation placement disorder (i.e. she shits everywhere, all the time) and as a result I got nearly nothing done except cleaning the first week.

The second week, the children refused to go to camp at all and I fell spectacularly off my no-carb, no-alcohol program which had made me feel nigh invincible for the last 12 weeks and started mainlining champagne and pita chips with a side order of donuts. I let them watch cable TV for a good part of each day, read novels instead of writing one, and made the probably wise decision not to put my skinny jeans on again, maybe ever.

The third week Husband showed up and as we had not seen each other for over a month we decided to celebrate our reunion by having an epic row or five which we only just managed to resolve in time for the journey back.

I have done about six pages of editing. Not happy about that but in some large, champagne-induced way I have come to accept it.

So: The return journey. I should, by rights write a witty, informative, amusing post on each stop but instead I’m going to be truthful and just give you the bullet points and let you figure out where you would or wouldn’t go (on all sorts of levels).

First day’s drive:  We go from Virginia to Berlin, Ohio, which is Amish country. If you’re not clear on who the Amish are, just imagine going back in time about 150 years as a devout Christian descended from the Dutch while everyone around you has progressed to the 21st century. You can’t drive a car, you can’t use electricity, you are obliged to wear truly hideous clothes and have bizarre facial hair (usually, but not exclusively assigned to men) that means that people like Eight mistake you for a giant leprechaun and ask you where you’ve buried your gold. You can go and watch the movie Witness if you want a rosy view. I found Berlin unbearably cutesy and a little bit creepy, especially once I’d been to a ‘family farm’ where I saw the most dejected, depressed, ill treated denizens of a ‘petting zoo’ I’ve ever seen. When I got back to our strange cabin, which reeked of old and Febreeze, I googled Amish and animal abuse and that came up with about a million hits as well as child abuse which didn’t endear me to the place any further.

We left the next morning at 6am and headed for Chicago which is actually fabulous. We only spent a few hours in the city but managed to eat fabulous middle eastern food, catch a free rehearsal of an outdoor symphony concert and visit Geeky Mummy at her new home in the posh northern suburbs. We stayed at a Hampton Inn (O! How I love you, nondescript, utterly predictable, waffle-serving Hampton Inns!) and set off the next morning for…

Des Moines, Iowa.

Why Des Moines, you may ask? That is a good question. I don’t remember why Husband picked it, but there it was in all its midwestern glory which is not very glorious. We visited the Living History Farm which was actually quite interesting, and the next day we were briefly the BEST PARENTS IN THE WORLD because we caved in and took the children to Adventureland which is a theme park and water park combined. I actually thought I’d want to kill myself on that day because I a) hate all rides, b) hate crowds c) hate fairs, but actually it was very sweet. I imagined it was like being at Disneyland in the 1950’s before it became unbearably crowded and over branded. Fun fact: Walt helped to design this place so it had a sort of Disney feel without the Disney iconography, and because it’s quite old there were many lovely mature trees providing shade around the place and none of the rides were totally sick making which was perfect for Eight and Eleven. The water park was perfectly nice, too, and we all cooled off in the various pools and after seven hours even Eight was tired.

The next day was De Smet, South Dakota. Five hours hard driving through amazingly boring corn fields and finally we arrived where Laura Ingalls Wilder spent her last years with Ma and Pa On the Shores of Silver Lake. We checked into the Super Deluxe De Smet Inn and Suites (not super, not de luxe, and with the most threadbare towels I’ve ever seen) and headed off to tour the Ingalls homestead and  attend the Laura Ingalls Wilder pageant which was an outdoor theatre performance of one of her books. That was actually very sweet. We sat out on the prairie and watched the local actors, so very proud of their most famous denizen, reenact her life and times. It’s worth noting that if you go to De Smet you should bring your own food or plan to starve as the local restaurants are gobsmackingly bad. I ordered a tuna salad at the Oxbow restaurant which looked like a bowl of elderly grass topped with a dollop of cat sick, and even Eight said his fries tasted bad (this literally never has happened before in his entire life). I enjoyed learning more about Laura but I was very keen to get out of there. To give you a sense of how De Luxe the De Luxe De Smet Inn is, here is a photo of the breakfast buffet.

Breakfast Buffet at the DeSmet Super Deluxe Inn

En route to Wall, South Dakota we stopped at Mitchell, SD, hometown of 1972 presidential hopeful George McGovern, and, more importantly The CORN PALACE.  Husband had been talking about this for literally months. He said it was a palace made of  corn. I had to see it.

But, devastatingly, it was not a palace made of corn. It was just a municipal building that is annually decorated on the outside with ears of corn. Still, you can’t make this shit up. It’s all too mad.


We headed on to Wall, SD, home of the famous Wall Drug store which has signs advertising it from the state line 100 miles prior. We drove through the Badlands which are truly weird and wonderful. I’ve never seen any natural structures like this. It seems as if, out of nowhere on the flat prairie, God came and made some of those drippy sandcastles in multi colours and sprinkled them full of fossils and then got bored and went elsewhere, leaving behind only a trail of hefty bikers and families in mini vans to examine His/Her handiwork. However it was too hot to explore much more than an hour or two.

We were booked in to the Frontier Wall Cabins (husband’s choice) which purported to be rustic log cabins that made you feel close to nature. I was actually dreading this, but when we arrived it was husband’s turn to feel misled and bamboozled because it is actually a highway-side motel with plastic coated individual rooms that look like they’re made of Lincoln Logs. Each cabin has air conditioning and its own fridge and cable TV. I fucking LOVE IT!

We went into Wall to visit Wall Drug which is full of every kind of western crap made-in-China that you can imagine and had a lunch nearly as bad as the one in De Smet, but surprisingly I bought some very lovely body wash and two nice books at Wall Drug so I came back happy.  At least as happy as I can be with two tired, whiny kids who’d prefer to be at home at this point, and a husband who keeps asking me why the food is so bad here (I don’t know! I’ve never been here before!). Then I felt guilty because I haven’t read or responded to any of my email for 4 weeks and I have totally failed to keep up the blog. So I did what any self respecting Brit would do and bought a packet of ready salted crisps, pulled a bottle of champagne from its secret hiding place beside the spare tire, chilled it in a bag of ice and drank it as quickly as I could while the sun went down. (I did share with Husband. Honest. Hic!)

So. we are geographically halfway home. I can safely say that I liked the south west considerably more than the north east but I’m looking forward to the Wild West of Wyoming for the next four days. We have the rodeo coming up, a dude ranch, a lovely Hampton Inn somewhere in Utah, and then, I shall be VERY GRATEFUL to get back to Stepford where the sun always shines, but not too hot, the salad is always available and plentiful, I have a cat who knows how to poo by itself outside in the neighbour’s garden, and my own lovely, lovely bed.

See you in Wyoming, folks. Yeehaw!


In the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia

We are finally in Virginia at my dad’s house and I’m very glad to be off the road. After a whistle-stop night in Nashville, TN, a quick look round Broadway, and a massive meltdown by Eight who DIDN’T WANT TO SEE ANOTHER MUSEUM IN HIS WHOLE LIFE EVER, I judged it wise to hang out in our rather nice hotel for that evening and let the kids eat sweets and watch TV while I had a drink with my lovely writer friend, Sabine on the roof terrace. I didn’t see much of Music City, but I have to admit I’m a bit sight-seeing-ed out, too.

Yesterday morning after breakfast we set off, intending to have one more stopover before arriving here but as we got closer we just couldn’t bear another hotel so I drove for 12 hours including a couple of hot dog breaks and at 10pm, in the pouring rain, we gratefully pitched up to the welcoming house, made a cup of tea, and flopped into bed.

It’s so nice to be in a home again. Eleven has spent the day in her PJ’s reading. Eight and I went to the supermarket this morning but otherwise I’ve been pottering around the kitchen and he’s constructed a train track from his aunts’ old set and is now happily playing choo choo. I’m about to have another cup of tea and read a book and in an hour or two my dad and stepmother should be pitching up with their old dog and NEW PUPPY.

Can’t wait.

I will probably post the odd thing or two over the next three weeks just to keep my hand in, but we are ensconced here until mid-July when we set off home again via Chicago, South Dakota, and Yellowstone.

I have to say I felt especially happy to be arriving to the amazingly wonderful news of same sex marriage now being legal and protected in all 50 states. A great day for civil rights!

Memphis, Tennessee

It took nearly six hours including a breakfast stop to drive to Memphis from NOLA, but as we left at 6am we still arrived with plenty of yesterday left. We checked in to the historic and famous Peabody Hotel, where they have live ducks in the lobby fountain, and took the lift to the eleventh floor where our lovely, spacious, and old fashioned room offered us a view of the Mississippi River. The children immediately tuned the TV to The Cartoon Network which seems to play Uncle Grandpa 24 hours per day (AGHH) before I dragged them out again to visit to Graceland,  blasting Hound Dog and Paul Simon’s Graceland on the stereo all the way, much to the children’s chagrin.  I just couldn’t wait.

Except once we got there and paid about a bazillion dollars for the tour, waiting is exactly what we did. Despite arriving at their purportedly least busy time of day (mid afternoon), we ended up sitting around in the visitor’s centre for about an hour before we were shunted past an obligatory photo-opportunity (theirs, to flog us an overpriced picture) and put on a little bus with an iPad to be shuttled over the road to the mansion itself. Eight was already whining that he wanted to go home, he’d had enough, and Eleven, though she didn’t complain, was clearly annoyed with the entire enterprise.
I pretended we were all having a wonderful time and said irritating m0ther-like things such as
“Isn’t this fun!?” when obviously it wasn’t.

The house seemed quite small, really. I thought it was going to be huge – a millionaire’s folly and a monument to bad taste (well it was that) but compared to the McMansions of today, it wasn’t as big or lavish as it might have been. There was a lot of white carpeting downstairs

,IMG_4841 a giant, boxy, small-screened TV in every room, shag carpet on several walls, and a palpable air of sorrow about the place. The kidney-shaped swimming pool looked neglected and somewhat pathetic with its uneven diving board, reminding me of 1970’s motels. We went through various other buildings which house his gold records and costumes and pieces of information on the career of The King, all of which carefully omit the epic creepiness of Col. Tom Parker, and gloss over the demise of his marriage to Priscilla. Hmm. Eight was so hot and tired that he opted to skip looking at Elvis’ car collection (What?! All paid for!) and we headed out after an hour or so of actual touring. All in all I’m glad I went, despite the long wait, extortionate pricing, and horrendously tacky memorabilia for sale in the multiple gift shops, but I left feeling so very sorry for this incredible talent who was so hideously exploited and controlled, his creativity stunted by the greed and short-sightedness of his manager,  to the point that he self destructed by the age of 42. I guess that’s the original rock-n-roll story. Also, how undignified to peg it on the bog? As my ex used to say (again and again to anyone who might laugh or at least pretend to), at least the King died on the throne

We returned to the hotel to see the famous procession of the ducks from their fountain back to their penthouse apartment. This was quite a spectacle and the lobby was rammed full of people. Then after a short rest we headed to Beale St to eat some BBQ and listen to the blues. We were not disappointed.

Firstly, there were dozens of classic cars on show lining the street.
I’m thinking of trading in my car for one of these:


Then we ate some BBQ. Rather Eleven ate some BBQ. A full rack. All by herself.





She didn’t bat an eyelid but the waitress was pretty impressed. Then we walked up and down Beale St. listening to music at various venues and stopped for a while at one in particular where a fabulous singer invited Eleven up to tell the audience where she was from. Usually she hides at this kind of attention but to my surprise she was game and chatted away. He found it quite hard to wrest the mike back, actually. I see a glimmer of a future performer in her here – a chip off the old bloquette?

This morning we went to the Civil Rights Museum. It’s really wonderful, though quite sobering and moving, particularly in light of last week’s massacre in Charleston. I was quite tearful through a lot of it, and also thought of my parents who fought so hard for the struggle against apartheid in South Africa during the 1960’s before they were exiled from their own country for so many years. Below is a photograph of the Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated. The museum is built into the former motel.


It was with some sadness that I noted how few people there were touring this extraordinary museum compared to Graceland. It’s not that nobody was there, but it was noticeable that the huge crowds at Elvisworld were mostly white, happy to spend hundreds of dollars to see a little house and buy cheap plastic tat from China to commemorate one dead musician, but those folks weren’t here looking at what’s important today. As Elie Wiesel says, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”

Having said that, I do plan to have a peek at Sun Studios later today, and out for more blues and BBQ tonight before we head off to Nashville, home of country music, tomorrow.

By the way, in a way that combines equal rights and fair pay and music,  big props to Taylor Swift for single-handedly forcing Apple’s hand on the payment for streaming issue. That is one very smart, classy lady.



Bayou Country

It was a long, hot drive to Louisiana, and my first as the sole driver, but Eleven proved a masterful navigator and commander-of-phone and Eight remained cheerful and unsick in the back seat.

We left Austin in torrential rain which made for slow progress in the first hour, but that soon gave way to sunny skies and by mid morning we were negotiating the spaghetti junction of Houston’s highway bypass system and looking forward to reaching the state border a little later. Then we got a phone message from the sister of the owner of the bayou cottage we had rented for two nights in New Iberia. I had been looking forward to staying here as it’s right on the Bayou Teche and the property had once been owned by the grandfather of James Lee Burke (this author is much of the reason I’d been drawn to the town). It wasn’t going to be luxurious but it had a canoe we could use and a porch upon which to laze in the hot afternoon. Alas, it was not meant to be. It turned out the owner was on her deathbed and the cottage was to be used for visiting family. I felt terrible for her, and also slightly anxious that this was the second person in two days who had nearly pegged it as we approached (was it something we said?). As I was cruising along at 80mph when we discovered all this I had to have Eleven, usually rather useless in the arrangement making department, get on TripAdvisor and subsequently the telephone to make us a reservation at a hotel in New Iberia instead which was surprisingly tricky as almost all the decent places were booked. Our favourite McChain hotel, The Hampton Inn was sold out (!) so we ended up at a Holiday Inn Express in a King Suite which sounds much posher than it actually was, but it had a/c, a pool, and a free breakfast so we didn’t complain. Actually all things considered, it was SO FUCKING HOT I was rather glad we were in a corporate, air conditioned box with a pool rather than a quaint, non a/c cottage with a snake and gator infested river. The kids were desperate to cool off by the time and so was I.   so we had to scramble to find somewhere else to stay which proved more tricky than you’d think.  But I’m getting ahead of myself. To add to Eleven’s brilliance at booking a hotel room (and negotiating a AAAdiscount, no less) she found an AMAZING restaurant on D I’s Cajun Restaurant,


that was literally in the middle of nowhere, Louisiana,  for us to eat lunch. They were incredibly nice in there and could hardly believe that a) we’d found them and b) we’d never tried gumbo or fried frogs legs before. Actually we weren’t brave enough to eat the frogs legs but the gumbo was amazing.


We arrived in New Iberia at about 3pm and immediately roared off for a tour of the Tabasco Factory

tabasco factory which is charming, and then to Jungle Island where we saw this guy

alligator, beautiful birds of all sorts, and the most heavenly trees.

I would have spent more time walking around if it wasn’t so BLOODY HOT. But it was. Brutally humid and boiling. One wilts as soon as one gets out the car.

We ate supper at a traditional Cajun restaurant that night with a band and a crawfish buffet which featured boiled crawdads and about a million fried things, each more delicious than the last. But looking at the other patrons I noted that it is not possible to stay a healthy size and eat this kind of food more than once in a very rare while.

The next day we toured the Koniko rice factory (fascinating),the Bayou Teche museum (also charming), took a little stroll down Main Street, and I do mean a little stroll because it was SO FUCKING HOT, and we stopped at an antique shop where we were given a most interesting lecture on early phonographs by an enthusiastic collector and I bought a vintage bamboo stair basket which is such a genius thing I can’t believe I’ve lived without one before.

Later on we went to the carwash (the fun never stops) and then on to see Inside Out (SO GOOD – we howled) and then to Duffy’s Diner where we ate more fried food and milkshakes. Ahh. I see new clothes in larger sizes coming my way.

The following morning we took a swamp tour in the bayou which is quite unlike anywhere I’ve ever seen before. So peaceful and beautiful with stunning birds, lotuses, trees steeped in water, and some more ‘gators (getting blasé about these). We also got  got VERY VERY HOT.


After this we jumped in our car and headed off to New Orleans.

Here it is also VERY HOT, but we have consoled ourselves with beignets which are a sort of fried doughnut and cafe au lait, and listened to some wonderful jazz. We’ve also visited a cemetery and wandered through the French Quarter and eaten lunch in the Garden quarter and after a much needed cool-off in the a/c of our lovely hotel, we wandered off to Frenchmen St where we listened to more jazz, went to a night market and bought some jewellery, and came home to bed. Tomorrow we are hitting the road at 6am and heading for Memphis, Tennessee.

I’m going to Graceland.


All my Ex’s live in Texas

That’s not true, of course (would they fit?), and I’m borrowing the phrase from George Straight for those of you who aren’t familiar with the song,  but I love so much music that comes from this state that it feels true. Sort of.

We left Santa Fe two days and several centuries ago at dawn and, abandoning the SatNav for a good old fashioned paper map, took the beautiful back roads and old country lanes heading towards Lubbock, Texas, home of Buddy Holly, Waylon Jennings, Joe Ely and many other notable good ol’ boys and gals. My dad and I had c0mpiled a Lubbock-bound playlist on Spotify, heavy on the Buddy Holly, and to our delight and amusement Eight loved the songs and commented that he particularly liked how Buddy could change the tone of his voice.

Our first stop was the Buddy Holly museum which is small but rather wonderful. There is a sculpture of a giant pair of spectacles outside upon which we posed for photos, and inside lots of Buddy information and memorabilia including a very interesting timeline of the birth of rock ‘n’ roll. I took some notes to pass on to my students next year. There were a few of Buddy’s guitars on display, interesting if you are a guitar nerd, but the one that intrigued me most was one that had been given as a personal gift by Buddy to a British friend and then donated back to the museum after his death.

That friend? Can you guess which ROCK ICON it was?

No. You’re wrong. Whatever you guessed. You’re wrong.

He gave it to Des O’Connor.

*slight slip of respect*

Anyway, after that we took a stroll down the Lubbock music wall of fame and posed for photos next to a huge statue of Buddy Holly.

Eight: He must have been REALLY REALLY TALL!




















We ate lunch at the next door restaurant, The Cast Iron Grill a local Lubbock favourite with smiley waitresses in cut off jeans shorts, tight pink t-shirts and cowboy boots. Its slogan was “Boots, pie, and chicken fry”.

After lunch we still had four hours driving to go until our planned overnight at the Hampton Inn in Abilene, Tx. We didn’t have anything in particular to do in Abilene, but we needed to stop and this hotel came up as the best option there. I have to say, we’ve stayed at a couple of these in the chain and actually they’re pretty good – reasonably priced, clean, comfy, free breakfast that the kids love, free food at happy hour, pools, fitness rooms, and guest laundry rooms. I rather like them, even if they do sit on the highways like giant McMansions.   We ate dinner at the fanciest place in Abilene which had steaks as big as my youngest child and various animals the owner had personally murdered on the walls.












The next morning, we had planned to go and see some ancient native American cave drawings at Painted Rock. However, as we approached the property and called ahead to the owners of the farm on which the paintings dwell, the elderly lady who answered the phone told us we couldn’t come as she had to take her husband to the ER.   One of the things that travel always reminds me is that there are so many people on the planet, each of us living our lives, with our separate problems, dramas, feelings, passions, life events, etc. And none of us are actually that important in the grand scheme of things, yet each of us is so precious to the ones we love and life must be valued at every turn, even in the mundane and every day.

We drove on, reaching Austin, Texas by mid afternoon and checked into our downtown hotel. The kids had a swim, we ate a late BBQ lunch, and then headed out to Congress Avenue bridge to see the famous bats who shelter under the bridge to raise their young and take off at dusk in their thousands. It’s supposed to be amazing and unmissable and the children have been talking about it for weeks. We had miscalculated sunset and arrived much too early, spending nearly an hour hanging around the bridge waiting for the bats.


The bridge slowly filled with tourists waiting for the big event, though we were entertained by a man dressed in black with a bat on his hat (not a real one, obvs) and a batman t-shirt who had appointed himself an unofficial guide to the bats and kept banging on the railings and whistling at us (he was a deaf mute) to show us the best place to stand. He gave the children badges with ‘the batman of Austin’ on it and a card showing the alphabet in American Sign Language and we posed for photos with him.

IMG_0032 - Version 2Good thing he was there to entertain us because by the time the bats came out it was nearly dark and we could hardly see them. Also, as Eleven said disgustedly, they didn’t come out in a huge sheet as promised, but “they just fly around in circles like they don’t know where they’re going”.

Verdict: BATFAIL.





We consoled ourselves with another Texas sized meal at a lovely restaurant where I had a few glasses of prosecco, Eleven ate peanut butter mousse cake as her main course (protein! she said, not unreasonably) and Eight fell asleep in his chair.

The next morning my dad left us to go back to DC – he has a wedding to attend, and the children and I got into the car at 8am in torrential rain, heading for Louisiana on another long day’s drive.

Texas, it’s been real.