280

She breaks in horses and sometimes they break her. The catalogue of stitches, fractures, broken bones and bruises goes back years. In awe & admiration I watch her, stiff with pain from a kick in the face, as she soothes an animal apparently intent on sending her back to hospital.

279

Where I live, it’s possible to run through fields of sun-ripened wheat of an evening, drink good locally-grown organic wine, eat figs, cherries & apples at the side of the road, watch deer grazing & walk into a remote, tiny chapel to find an exhibition of internationally prize-wining photographs.

278

Grandma Susie believed walking backwards put less strain on the ankles. Each Sunday she walked down through the park to her son’s house for lunch, and, having eaten, walked backwards up the hill the long way home, an imposing figure the Mayor’s widow, elegantly dressed, hat on head, holding her umbrella and bag.

277

A newspaper article says no need to envy the French: French women chain smoke to stay thin, are the biggest consumers of anti-wrinkle cream and anti-depressants in Europe and have a penchant for “granny pants”.  Pick almost any other nation, the article continues, and they’ll score higher on joie de vivre tests but I can’t help thinking French women don’t ‘arf look chic…

276

I adore my younger son’s curls but daren’t say anything lest he demand a haircut. It’s as if he’s read my mind & “Can I have a haircut?” he asks.   We get out the old script, viz: Me: You’ve only just had one. Him: But it’s too long! Me: If it’s any shorter you’ll look like Sheldon. [Stage direction, teenager scowls].

275

Smoothly I glide past fields of sunflowers and corn and make a mental note to write a homage to the humble bike. Silent, unpolluting, effortless, poetic, my bicycle whisks me away, unfuddles my mind, helps me shed lunchtime overindulgence, allows me to peek over hedges into people’s gardens…

274

Facebook is splendid for keeping in touch, seeing photos of loved ones in far away places – but I find it disheartening that while a broken fingernail or blocked sink stimulate lively debates, voicing concern about the destruction of an area of great natural beauty merits ne’er a comment

273

Peacefully we stand in fields as helicopters fly overhead at exorbitant cost to tax payers.  5 hectares of forest have disappeared in less than a week.  The minister for the environment, ill informed, calls it a hydro-electric dam. It’s nothing of the kind, rather an ill-thought-out error of judgement

272

The 10M€ barrage is for 25 farms, some of whose owners actively oppose its construction. Corn will be grown, a crop greedy for water. Tax payers finance this hugely costly project. Hundreds protest. Bureaucrats remain deaf & blind. Three similar projects have been declared illegal – but only once built.

271

“The truth is that a good half of the Scots have had enough of English rule and want to see the back of it, period. When divorce is in the air, remorse, generosity, promises of good behaviour fall on deaf ears. This relationship is over. We can only hope they ‘stay good friends’” Says Simon Jenkins re impending referendum.

270

I thought it would be hard returning to France after 6 glorious weeks in the States but as I walked over the old bridge down to the market bathed in sunshine I felt like a character in a romantic comedy. If you’ve seen the film 100’ journey (shot hereabouts), you’ll know what I mean.

269

Uproar after unarmed teenager Michael Brown was shot multiple times by police in Missouri this week. Later, a heavily armed, militarised police force fired teargas and rubber bullets to force back hundreds of protesters. Dozens of officers, some carrying assault rifles, advanced in armoured trucks on the young and predominantly African American crowd. America, 2014.

268

The words of my A’Level English teacher during a lesson on King Lear ring out as news of Robin William’s death is announced: “comedians commit suicide”. A “child-man” rampaging through a “prissy adult world”, unable to conquer his own demons, he succeeded in felling those of others.

267

Downtown Chicago is surprisingly unremarkable in the rain but in full sun, buildings compete dandily to be the tallest, finest, newest, most original. More than a century of architectural ingenuity and daring rises, cheek by jowl. At night, from Lakeshore Drive, the city dazzles, resplendent in a billion jewels.

266

After 9/11, everyone at Piedmont Middle School decorated a tile with a simple image reflecting their response to the horror that shocked America and changed the world. Their tiles are displayed around Ghandi’s wise words: “if we are to reach real peace in this world, we shall have to begin with the children.’

265

Younger son is off to Lycée (aged 13) in less than 3 weeks & battles rage because I insist he take the maximum number of options: Latin & Ancient Greek + Chinese and three European languages. This is the kind of parenting my friend Kate calls « cruelty to animals ».

264

There’s nothing original about this shamelessly predictable, utterly cheesy, ridiculously improbable movie and yet the young leads and iracible Om Puri charm so the audience laughs and applauds. I’m watching it in Chicago but it was filmed in my region of France, already ravishing landscapes photoshopped to create cobbled-together fanciful vistas.

263

Smoky chipotle raw crunchy kale with sesame seeds/cashews/spices/vegan cheese: one of many things I shall miss when back home in rural France, together with spicy burritos, blueberries for breakfast & those madly addictive, sweet plump cherries grown in Washington State. Explode that myth: food in the US is great!

262

My cousin takes me on hikes I would never tackle alone. Paths seem dauntingly narrow and steep but the views from the top are incredible and I’m ashamed to admit – she being marathon fit – I feel smugly virtuous when we finally, safely, reach the end of the trail.

261

A difficult character since early childhood, increasingly isolated & violent, the old woman lashes out when crossed, reverts to toddler tantrums. Money her only tool in relating to others, she uses its promise to control and manipulate. Frequently threatens disinheritance but the reality is, there is no money, only debt.