About Multifarious meanderings

I am a British mother of three working from home in the south of France. When I manage to get away from my other duties, I read, write, run and take photographs of my partner in crime, Mrs Playmobil.

Day 8 : Lollipop Launchers

Sweetness and light. Or something like that.

Sweetness and light. Or something like that.

In light of current events, Mrs Playmo insisted on protection for our walk yesterday. She was not convinced by my arguments that there was nothing interesting for terrorists around our village, and rummaged furiously in the accessory box until she found a riot police helmet. The steel capped boots were too big for her, but when Eric the Policeman called from the bottom of the box and shyly offered to accompany her, she blushed and accepted with a shy smile.

A blustery wind was sweeping across the vineyards, and it was very hard for Mrs Playmo to remain standing for long enough to take any photos. She took shelter on the old orange tractor, and took the opportunity to suggest her new idea of weaponry to Eric. She asked him to hold her dog’s lead for her, then disappeared into my photo bag and – after a great deal of grunting and swearing – returned dragging a huge strawberry flavoured lollipop. This, she explained, was an exciting new concept – a lollipop to sweeten up bad guys, and if that failed, it became an edible cosh that could also be set up in a grenade launcher and fired at the more dangerous villains.

Eric the Policeman kindly refused her offer, telling her that bashing the villain’s bonce with a Chupa Chups would fracture his skull. The Playmo justice system would not only put him in prison and let the bad guy go, but they would also fire him and make him pay damages so that the baddy could afford the latest Kalachnikov and start all over again.

Mrs Playmo shrugged her shoulders, and told him that he could avoid the whole problem by eating the weapon. That said, she unwrapped the lollipop and attempted to eat it. Staring into oblivion, she did not see the expression on Eric’s face as he watched her. The more she tried to understand society these days, the less she liked it. Her opinion of Eric, on the other hand, was a different question all together….

Day Seven: Je Suis Charlie.

In Mourning.

In Mourning.

Mrs Playmo left home with a band-roll and two pencils last night. She asked me to help her to put the pencils upright in the grass, then taped her message to them and asked me to take the picture.

Playmobilia doesn’t have this kind of bad guy. There are pirates, and warriors, and Greeks in strappy sandals toting shields and arrows, and Amanda Shacklebottom, who goes for dates with other people’s husbands. But only Policemen have guns on Playmo Street. Nobody has ever been worried about a fundamentalist with a Kalashnikov pelting into their office and shooting everyone in sight.

When the two terrorists came out of Charlie Hebdo’s premises, they crowed that they had avenged their prophet and that Charlie Hebdo was dead. They could not be further from the truth. What Charlie Hebdo stood for is more alive than it ever was before. Did they really think that killing people could restrain freedom of expression? The exact opposite has happened. Pencils and pens were immediately unsheathed and social networks overflowed with cartoons that condemned and mocked their behavior. An overwhelming sea of support for France rose in countries all around the world. Three words, “Je suis Charlie”, were translated into a multitude of languages and so many black and white copies of it were printed that the shops will be out of new cartridges next week.

The staff at Charlie Hebdo were armed with nothing more than pencils, yet pencils appear to be a far more effective weapon than guns in the fight for democracy and freedom of expression. Snap it in two, and we will sharpen each part and continue drawing.

At the aptly named Place de la Liberté this evening, the mayor of our little village was visibly moved to see the number of inhabitants who had turned out in memory of the victims at Charlie Hebdo. Hundreds of them. School children, their parents, their grandparents, all holding signs and candles. The retired lady beside me was close to tears. She told me that her husband could not bring himself to attend; he was still affected after being in the train that was blown up by Carlos in 1983. But she was there to show terrorism that it could not win. Proof that humans are resilient and determined in the face of brutality.

The terrorists wanted to bring France to its knees, but they have achieved exactly the opposite. The French are standing tall, united and determined that terrorism will not result in a meltdown of the principles on which its society is built. I am proud to live here.

Aux crayons, citoyens! Take up your pencils… and fight against intolerance.

 

Day Six: Feeling Small

"As a tear rolled down Mrs Playmo's cheek, I realized that she  was a romantic at heart."

“As a tear rolled down Mrs Playmo’s cheek, I realized that she was a romantic at heart.”

We were late leaving the house yesterday, and the sun was setting as we hit midpoint in our daily walk. The colour of the sky slowly built up from apricot, to salmon, to vibrant orange and pink tones, and Mrs Playmo scaled the nearest tree and settled on a branch to  admire the view.

The black silhouettes of the motionless trees contrasted starkly with the breathtaking hues behind them. Mountains cut a soft line across the tableau. The birds had stopped chirping. Then Mrs Playmo’s voice cut through the silence:

“I’m a Playmo, and you’re a human. But we are both tiny compared to all that, aren’t we?” She extended a claw to show the spectacular sunset. “Sunsets make me want to cry. I will never see the same sunset twice; each is unique. Just like us. And like us, this one will only live once. How long will I remember it? Maybe until another one, bigger and better, comes along, dethroning this one. Such a waste. And one day, without knowing it, I will see my last sunset. This is the last sunset for somebody, somewhere. That makes me so sad.”

Smelly dog wriggled impatiently at my side, but I was fascinated. There was more inside that hollow Playmo head than I had imagined.

She wriggled down the trunk, dragged her dress back down to her knees, and wiped her nose on Smelly Dog’s fur. “Right, let’s go. Don’t want to be bumping into Marcel in the dark, now, do we?”

Day Five: The Cabbage Patch

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“After several rehearsals, Mme Playmo gave up on the idea of dancing with a cabbage leaf stuck down the back of her knickers. Even with her eyes half closed, it looked nothing like those feathers at the Moulin Rouge.”

On day five of the Outdoor Challenge, we wandered past a vegetable patch. Mrs Playmo climbed into a cabbage, and with a lot of grunting ripped off a leaf. She proceeded to stuff it down the back of her corset, and after wriggling uncomfortably for five minutes she pulled it out and gave up. “It looks nothing like the feathers at the Moulin Rouge!” she grumbled, pulling her dress back on and stomping out into the sun. “I’ll have to think of something better”. I suggested her feather duster, and she immediately perked up.

Affaire à suivre….

 

 

Day Four: All Roads Lead to Roam.

"Mrs Playmo sold the incriminating evidence to the local ecologists. Marcel the mechanic was going to stop burning those tyres in the countryside sooner than he had anticipated."

“Mrs Playmo sold the incriminating evidence to the local ecologists. Marcel the mechanic was going to stop burning those tyres in the countryside sooner than he had anticipated.”

… or to Rome. Or in our case, yesterday, to roam in Roman ruins in and around Nîmes.

“One small step for Mrs Playmo, a huge step for Playmo kind, hey?” I joked as she stumbled along the Via Domitia in her little red dress. Mrs Playmo was nervous, and did not seem to appreciate the singularity of walking on a real piece of Roman road, lost in the French countryside.

“I’m not interested in visiting your Roman Papadum,” she snapped.

“It’s an Oppidum, not a Papadum, Grumpy”, I answered. “Who’s eaten your porridge this morning, anyway?”

Mrs Playmo explained with a glitter in her eye that she had a VIM (Very Important Meeting) with Laurelle Leef, President of the regional Underground Ecological Movement. By selling yesterday’s compromising snaps of Amanda Shacklebottom’s secret riverside rendez-vous, she would not only make herself a bit of extra cash, but could finally sort out the problem of drying her washing on the same day that Marcel burned the tyres behind the village garage. The chance viewing of two lovebirds in the bush had quickly become an ecologically sound way to kill two birds with one stone.

On our arrival at the meeting point, we were instructed to hide in the bushes (this explains the blurred pictures; unlike Mrs Playmo, my paparazzi skills are limited). Laurelle Leef viewed the contents of the memory card on her iStone (an ecological version of the iPhone) and paid up, satisfied that she would now be able to put a stop to the acrid fumes that Marcel sent into the air.

Mrs Playmo hooked her handbag over her shoulder and sashayed back down the Roman road, a noticeable spring in her steps. ‘Now let’s go to Nîmes and find ourselves a Roman lion tamer dressed in leather”, she chortled. “Is there a Chanel store anywhere close?” she enquired, thumbing her way through the wad of 100 euro notes and stashing them away. She patted Amanda Shacklebottom’s handbag with affection. “I want to buy myself the matching shoes”.

If you are new around here and don’t have a clue what this is all about, please read “The Great Outdoor Playmo Challenge“. Yes, I am crazy, and yes, I’m happy this way.

A Compromising Photo of a Compromising Photo

"It was with immense satisfaction that Mrs Playmo immortalized the proof of Amanda Shacklebottom's infidelity. Finally she had a means to get her hands on the pink and cream Versace handbag she had coveted for so long."

“It was with immense satisfaction that Mrs Playmo immortalized the proof of Amanda Shacklebottom’s infidelity. Finally she had a means to get her hands on the pink and cream Versace handbag she had coveted for so long.”

Yesterday Mrs Playmo and I decided to bite the bulllet, and stepped out for a five kilometer hike. On our journey, Mrs Playmo heard mumbling behind the rocks and beckoned to me. Creeping up through the bushes, we spotted two inhabitants of Playmo Street doing their best to hold hands as they watched the waters of the Hérault river tumble past their feet.

“Wait for me here!” Mrs Playmo hissed. “Nobody believed me when I said that Amanda Shacklebottom wasn’t as chaste as her name implies!” She pointed a manicured claw at the couple, sitting on a blanket on the rocky shore. The man was fast discovering that offering flowers to a woman on a bent knee is only something that happens in films in Playmobilia.

“It’s Marcel, the village garage mechanic!” Mrs Playmo gabbled, her eyes wide with incredulity.  “I don’t understand what she sees in him. For lack of a better word, the man’s a complete tool.”

She rummaged in her lurid green handbag and pulled out her camera. Then she was off, creeping up behind them to immortalise the moment on her camera. She returned through the grasses and hauled herself to her feet. “At last. A means of persuasion. See that cream and pink Versace handbag? I’ve been after it for months.”

I made a mental note to confiscate her camera in case she knows any human journalists on the local rag. I am starting to discover the darker side to Mrs Playmo. Under the presentable red dress and string of pearls lies an extortionist and a contortionist. And it’s only day three of the challenge …

If you are new around here and don’t have a clue what this is all about, please read “The Great Outdoor Playmo Challenge”. Yes, I am crazy, and yes, I’m happy this way. 

Day Two: Open-Air Pole Dancing

"Open air pole dancing"

“Open-air pole dancing.”

It is somewhat paradoxical that the outdoor exercise part of my dry January Challenge takes Mrs Playmo and I through numerous local vineyards. Mrs Playmo asked me to hold her dog’s lead then stripped off, placed a feathered hat at a rakish angle on her head and proceeded to practice her pole-dancing techniques on a vine shoot, singing an off-key “You can keep your hat on” that would make Joe Cocker turn in his grave.

She confided on the way home that she sneaks off on Friday nights whilst Mr Playmo is asleep to work in the sleazy joint down the road. It pays for her Tupperware party addiction and her (equally secret) rosé consumption. But don’t tell anyone, or she’ll be struck off the board at the local WI.

 

The Morning After the Night Before…

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“When she woke up on the beach the following morning, Mrs Playmo couldn’t remember much of the New Year’s Eve party. It was, she admitted, as good a time as any to sign up for Dry January.”

As promised, here is Mrs Playmo on day one of my January Challenge. A compromising photo of Mrs Playmo in the great outdoors will be posted every day until the end of January.

 

The Great Outdoor Playmo Challenge

I awoke at 6.30 in the morning on the last day of the year with an inexplicable desire to get moving. It’s now seven, and I have just finished bouncing around my kitchen singing ‘What’s New Pussy Cat’ with the ever-ready Tom Jones. Now I’m alone with my coffee cup and Ryvita contemplating the year that is drawing to a close.

If life is a journey, 2014 was a road pitted with potholes, slathered with mud and booby-trapped with challenges I could not have imagined in my wildest dreams. Monumental changes and challenges that drained me emotionally – the loss of a loved one, and seeing the first baby fly the nest. My family was there to quietly set me back on my feet. So huge thanks to my parents and siblings for their support through a difficult period. You guys rock, and I love you all to planet Zorg and back. I’m back on track now, but life has changed – and so have I.

Potholes suck. But in winter they can contain unexpected surprises. Does anyone else see the Miro dog?

Potholes suck. But in winter they can contain unexpected surprises. Does anyone else see the Miro dog?

So I’m on the starting line for 2015. As resolutions are being made across the globe, MM’s shoes are prepared and she’s ready to put her best foot forward. You run a high risk of tripping over if you spend all your time looking in the rear view mirror, yet our past experiences irrevocably shape who we are, and being conscious of what has been can help build a better future. But similarly, when you’re pedalling furiously through life, it’s important to lift your head from time to time and look over the handlebars to see where you’re going.

So what does all this rambling mean, MM? Are you going to tell us what your resolutions are? Good question. Resolutions are made to be broken. So there will be no resolutions. Although there are many things I could resolve to change, nobody would recognize me any more. An organized MM who went to the gym, refused the bowl of peanuts as it was passed around the room and didn’t talk non stop would no longer be MM. Llife’s too short to pretend be something I’m not.

However. I am going to test my resolve. The last time I tested my staying power was two and a half years ago, on the great cholesterol challenge. Since then, I have had all the resolve and self-control of a four-year-old forgotten in a Cadbury’s warehouse. I am a pacifist when faced with temptation – I willingly lay down my weapons, and surrender to whatever is on offer.

Open air photoshoot of Mrs Playmo wearing Chanel handbag, John Wayne's hat , Batman's cape and Madonna's corset.

Open air photoshoot of Mrs Playmo wearing Chanel handbag, John Wayne’s hat , Batman’s cape and Madonna’s corset. Why this photo? Read on….

So here is the challenge, laid out here on the blog as a further commitment: I have signed up for Dry January. The Rosé Queen is going to lay off the booze for 31 days – not because I feel I am a rampant alcafrolic, but simply to prove to myself that I have the willpower to decide and stick at it.

And that’s not all. I vow to drag my trainers on, stick some music in my lugholes and get outside for one hour with Smelly Dog every single day, come rain or shine, for the same month. Why? To clean out the cobwebs and visually gobble up the tons of beautiful nature on offer on my doorstep. To admire the gob-smackingly blue sky. To take photos. In short, to enjoy the best and simplest things in life. They are free, yet priceless. This will be my mantra for 2015.

In fact, I’ve already started. Mrs Playmo kindly offered to keep me company with her scaled-down version of Smelly Dog. She’s even given me permission to post compromising photos of her every day to prove it. (Gosh, that was a rash decision.) Here she is on today’s walk, being an inappropriately dressed top model on a tractor bonnet  and trying to spot a potential sugar daddy from a scarecrow’s pocket.

Mrs Playmo climbed into the scarecrow's pocket for a better vantage point. Alas, there was no Playmo Hunk to be seen in the vineyards...

Mrs Playmo climbed into the scarecrow’s pocket for a better vantage point. Alas, there was no Playmo Hunk to be seen in the vineyards…

As the day draws to an end, I’d like to thank you all for being there for me this year. It’s a privilege to know you all, and your support eight months ago made me realize just how lucky I am to know you all. I wish you all a safe and healthy journey through the coming year. May the blogging force be with you.

Love n Hugs, MM xx

 

 

 

 

This is not a Christmas Post.

There are Christmas lights everywhere. The tree is up and decorated, and despite my multiple pleas and threats, it is still lurching towards the fireplace at a rakish angle as if it’s trying to leap inside. Last night I curled up in front of the fire with a glass of Christmas Spirit and a bowl of peanuts and watched the flames flicker in the hearth and the lights twinkle on the tree. But between you, me and the next WordPress post, my heart’s just not in it this year.

Warning: If you are looking for a happy smiley post for Christmas, please stop reading after the photos – this is a “getting something of my chest” post. But rest assured, this is not the final post of the year. 

….So.  As the rest of blogdom posts twinkling lights on Christmas trees and illuminated public places, here are pictures I took of my favourite baubles, kindly provided by Mother Nature a few months ago on a dewy morning in the Alsace. The spider had caught nothing but humidity, which had formed perfect spheres of water, heavy yet strangely delicate on the intricate, perfect web. In each one I could see the upturned image of the world around us – distorted and replicated in each and every bead.

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The spider had taken time and energy to painstakingly construct its web. Instinct and determination had driven it to create an intricate structure. Did it know how fragile its creation was compared to the force of the wind or a passing animal? One movement of my hand would have sufficed to tear a hole in the perfect wholeness of this delicate frame for miniature, crystalline globes. To destroy the entire edifice, sparkling baubles and all. Yet the ephemeral perfection created by nature demanded respect.

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Much in the same way, life is fragile yet sacred. When a child is born, we tend to our offspring, nurture them and use all our forces of persuasion and encouragement to help them shape a fulfilling existence. We discover that love sparks off a reflex to put this small being first, a reflex that awakens us, shaking with fury and adrenalin, when we dream that our child is in danger. Because we are painfully aware that like the spider’s web, all life is fragile and can be destroyed in the blink of an eye.

Today, I look at these photographs in the light of current events that have shocked humanity to its very core and think of the song “Spider’s Web”, by Katie Melua. In it, she sings:

“The line between wrong and right

is the width of a thread on a spider’s web”

This line has been crossed again and again this year, as the world looks on in horror. Along this thread, there are the tears shed across the world for innocent victims of terrorism, executed in cold blood by fanatical murderers who ripped apart the fragile, sacred creation that we call life. Cowards who took up weapons to fire at children as they screamed the name of their God. I cannot help wondering if they recognized real courage as it stared them in the face – the unarmed teachers who stood between these killers and their pupils.

The terrorists no doubt see submission and fragility in the tears that have flowed. They are wrong.

 There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.

Washington Irving