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My Family and Other Animals


This is a quote from one of my favourite books of childhood : by Lawrence Durrell that I read from cover to cover and still do!!

l have 3 children right in the middle of their 20s and 30s : Julian 31; Charlotte 29; and Felix 26, (plus ‘Our Liz’ who made me a surrogate grandmother/aunt 10 years ago) so if you find I look a little harassed from time to time and a little grey around the edges, then this is the reason! (And if you look back just a year or three I am sure you know the implications thereof…) They are all impossibly wonderful and I am immensely proud of them all for seeing with their hearts instead of just their eyes in all of life’s ups and downs. They are getting to the point where work/education is becoming that bit more serious and feeling their way towards chosen careers with a view to taking on the world in their own special ways. Acutely aware of the saying that experience is a lamp that you carry on your back and which lights only the path you have travelled (l’expérience n’est qu’une lampe qu’on porte dans le dos et qui éclaire le chemin parcouru) I would say that experience is like a toothbrush: you can’t lend it or give it away and it only serves one temporary owner….but I guess it will all come right in the end. Irony and a sense of humour are the essential tools of parenting.

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I met and married my childhood sweetheart 13 years ago and 30 years late ….long story and complicated enough but suffice it to say we are blissfully happy and the fact of being able to share my life, work, family and dogs with someone who knows me so well he can anticipate my every thought and can put up with me reading at 4am to finish a novel I started at 10pm is reason enough. He has two daughters, Grace and Hannah in England, and 3 little grandsons. We also have an adopted ‘eldest’, Liz,  who came our way by sheer chance and whose life and progression we are privileged to share. Tony works in the UHA too, in the FSESJ Faculty as a Management and Tourism professor who teaches in French and in English to L3 and Masters students. His website is a forerunner in the domaine of blended learning for which he received a Fellowship Grant from Bournemouth University and he updates it regularly for teaching and learning purposes.

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This is Jules, our Belgian – German Shepherd dog who is a little bigger now, and who keeps us all in order. She loves all things and all people but not all dogs, so we have to keep her in check. She is an inveterate barker and a territorial little madam, who won’t suffer a bird flying across her patch of sky or a person walking along her pavement without her express permission, but that’s what Alsatians are about. She is the dynamite in the equation but we saved her from a family who had 8 puppies and the mother dog could not cope with all of them. So one Xmas night she came to stay….and has been here 10 years now.

We are happy to have a ‘famille du coeur’ whose mutual presence and support
DSC00217is a constant joy and our harum-scarum random-rackety higgledy-piggledy house which is very much a work in progress but still expanding according to the best laws of physics, is full of kids, friends, muddy pawprints, papers, books and elastic numbers when it comes to mealtimes. To tell the truth, I wouldn’t have it any other way….

… Above right is Minty (late and very lamented). We lost her when she was 5 years old, and we still miss her immensely.

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This one is Kate. She was a space cake, a damaged dog, who was the nearest thing to an autistic animal I have ever met, and I am being serious. But we knew her rhythms and fears, after 15 years together. She was a weirdo, alright, but she was our weirdo. She was our wedding present 14 years ago and we can’t imagine life without her. She was afraid of the colour blue, of Super U bags, of things held in the hand, but luckily for us, not of people or other dogs. turning deaf and blind, she lost her mobility and he had to have her put to sleep last year.

Below is Phoebe on a convenient comfy seat: ME!: this damn’ dog was the bane of my life as I was the love of hers and she wouldn’t let me forget it! Her favourite seat was wherever I was, and it was completely impossible to live more than 6 inches away from her. If she could have been a scarf round my neck, then she would have been. She was a love bucket, a food junkie, and a walking stomach, a table begger and a damn’ nuisance, but everyone (even Yann) loved a Phoebe. No choice! We lost her last December, and haven’t stopped crying….