I've not been that silent for a while. We had a week in the Pyrenees which was absolutely superb, except for the ground floor of the barn-conversion gîte, which was as dark and as damp as hell. Upstairs was wonderful, but the sitting-room cum dining area was a mess: the fire was at the opposite end of the room from the sofas and TV, the cutlery and crockery cupboard situated as far from the kitchen range as it was possible to be. Nevertheless, there was a nice little terrace and the sun shone so splendidly from 7am onwards that every day started with a succulent al fresco breakfast and topped off with a ten-mile walk before lunch. We were adopted by one of the strangest dogs you're likely to see anywhere: it had a dalmatian's body, a rottweiler's head, six nipples and a full male meat 'n' two veg on brazen public display, demonstrating to perfection the expression 'Clear as the balls on a dog'. I've no idea what this particular animal had been raised on or whether he was in training for a nightclub job in Bangkok, but he really did look like he'd been designed by a committee. He was good company on our walks, though; he'd tag along whenever we passed his house and show us different routes through the adjoining forest and round the waterfalls.
If you're ever in Lesponne, near Bagnères-de-Bigorre, have lunch, dinner or an overnight stay at Chez Gabrielle. It's delightful and the welcome and cuisine are exceptional. There's also an old grocer's shop attached to the hostel which was frozen in time when its last proprietor retired in the mid-'80's. Even back then it was considered a curiosity from a bygone age and now it's a museum, one where you can see exactly what this lady was still selling when Spandau Ballet were topping the charts, Channel 4 was in its infancy and mullets were THE hairstyle to have (just call up some Chris Waddle videos on YouTube). I'd go on a bit more about the week away but I've just written a press article about it and, quite frankly, can't be bothered to go through the whole thing again. Sorry.
So we're back in Toulouse and I'm getting ready to head off to Chile for three weeks. Still jousting with my atopic eczema, I thought I'd look and see if there was somewhere in Santiago I could buy Chilean Indian herbal remedies or some such. White man's medicine has never done it for this particular complaint so maybe the answer lies nearer to the ground. A quick Google search threw up a bullseye: there's a chain of Mapuche chemists in Chile, staffed by Mapuche tribesmen and women, which sell a range of their own centuries-old herbal remedies, including, it has to be added, male and female herbal viagra. There's also something for eczema, so guess where I'll be headed once I've got off the plane. In fact, no; not that quickly: my employer over there has reshuffled his schedule and needs me in work a mere two hours after I get off the flight. Let's hope there's enough whiskey to knock me out as soon as we fly out of Madrid the previous night or I'll be fit for shit by the time we land in the southern hemisphere.
Yoga continues to be a blast. The more you work on your balance, the more your confidence grows. Honestly, there are days when I feel I could take on the world and win, whatever the issue, whoever the opposition. I tell you all seriously: stop smoking and start yoga; it will change your life for the best instantly, and without any side effects. And this from a twenty-a-day man for thirty years. When I smoked, the best scenario I felt I could hope for was not to be kicked in the teeth. Now there's more balance - in all senses of the word - in my life, the world feels like my oyster. Try it, really. OK, that's enough ranting and preaching. Sorry. Thanks for reading, love and kisses to you all.