To round off the year, here’s a bit of nonsense. Happy New Year.
I was going to write a blog today about my new bike. A 1985 gold Peugeot PK10 ‘Record Du Monde’ in almost perfect condition that I bought from a guy down the road for the princely sum of 50 sheets. But then I saw the attacks in Paris.
France is a great country. I’ve lived here for four years and continue to do so. I’ve never been scared to walk the streets and will continue not to be. However, I was in a cafe today in Montauban, a town 40 kms north of Toulouse, and for the first time in my life, felt that these things do not just happen to other people, they could actually happen to me.
‘This is real,’ I said to Elizabeth.
It’s unlikely to happen in Montauban, because Montauban, with all due respect to Montauban, is off the map, but if people can waltz into restaurants and concerts in Paris, they can do it here if they want to. Which is probably why I like living in the middle of nowhere. Just in case.
I’m not particularly political, but I do understand that the reasons for these problems go back many years and are the result of various actions by Western countries, including France. What’s to be done about it? I’ve no idea. Stop invading countries, stop being greedy, get on your bikes. Literally. (I said I wanted to write about bikes.)
Bikes don’t need much oil to operate them or make them, even less so if they are thirty years old. It would at least start to reduce our dependency on oil, which – unless you’ve lived in a cave for the past twenty years – is a big factor in this mess. And I doubt anybody, except Tony Blair and George Bush, would deny that.
Bikes won’t solve the world’s problems, but they’re fun, healthy, cheap, and don’t require foreign oil. And better than driving around in an air polluting VW Golf all day. And if you get one as sexy as this, you’ll look very cool indeed. Allez France!
I find myself on the Wirral near Neston, which is close to Chester, a city I lived in before I moved to the house in Chesterfield, which if you read my last post, I left for the last time last week. Two towns that begin with the letters C-H-E-S-T-E-R. A spooky coincidence, or a simple fact that I live on a once Roman occupied small island where you are never very far from anywhere ending or beginning in chester, caster or cester. Manchester, Cirencester, Colchester, Doncaster, Chichester, Lancaster to name a few.
So anyway, after my brief history lesson on Roman place names, I got a call last week from one of the language schools I occasionally work for telling me that I was going to Turin for six weeks. Brilliant I thought. I was suddenly on the move again and very excited. Italy! A place I’ve never been to except a brief visit to Venice once on the way to Slovenia. Turin! I’m thinking of religious relics, cycling in the Alps, hot weather, and lots of rich food. Until the assignment was pulled at the very last minute.
It’s normal in this job. I deal with it and wait for the next to turn up. Hence why I’m on the Wirral staying with Elizabeth’s very generous and patient parents waiting for whatever hand fate chooses to deal me next. Or perhaps more accurately, whatever lily-livered teacher in some part of Europe will soon burn out, falling hideously ill with a twisted intestine and requiring old Oggers here to fly in to complete their courses.
Meanwhile on the Wirral, when the wind eases off and the sun shines, it’s very pleasant. Walking down to the marshland on the Dee estuary just past the Harp pub is like walking off the end of the earth.
Mud, Military Firing Range, Quicksand
DO NOT ENTER (ever)
Reads the sign. Which limits human activity once you get past the coast path here to almost zero. A stark contrast to the interior of the peninsula which is a busy, crowded place that acts as a massive satellite commuter town for both Liverpool and Chester. The marshland on the other hand, is a very quiet and peaceful place, almost like a desert. And just as hot when the sun eventually peeps out from behind the grey Welsh clouds.
It’s been more difficult being back in the UK than I thought. Whenever I visited a foreign country as a child, I always felt anxious: the signs, the shops, the language, the customs, all scary and uninviting. Coming back here after four years in France, that same feeling of unease has returned. I feel foreign in my own country.
To compound matters when I went into the job centre two days ago, I had to do a Habitual Residency Test. It’s not as official as it sounds, it’s just protocol because I’ve been living abroad for more than six months. But I felt like I was no longer part of the British system. As though I wasn’t British any longer. An immigrant with no nationality or place of residence.
The fact is that after three weeks here, I haven’t adjusted one bit and that’s a worry. And the reason the Turin option was so appealing. Everything could therefore be pointing to the fact that my home is no longer here and that this summer could be my final farewell. It feels quite sad writing that down. And it’s all very melodramatic I know, but that’s how I feel. That feeling of being adrift in the country of my birth. As though something has dramatically changed here to make me resent it. The Englishness of England still remains, so does the warmth of the people. But what I craved before when I lived abroad in my twenties and thirties – that feeling of coming home to something better – no longer exists.
It’s possible that my idea of home has changed. A less rooted ideal where the home is not fixed but movable. And a concept that goes back to the fact that humans are intrinsically nomadic creatures and not people who build castles and stick flags in them. I’m not advocating that the whole of the human race suddenly becomes nomadic. I’m simply espousing the idea that home isn’t fixed. On the contrary. When I lived in Nottingham, I used to call the city home. When in Bristol, the same. Ditto Exeter and Lyon.
When anybody ever asks me where home is, I stare at them blankly, as though I don’t understand the meaning of the word. Which is exactly my point. I don’t. When I look at my passport, it says I’m British. But the more I look at it, the less sure I am about what that actually means. It means I’m entitled to the benefits and protection of The Crown offered to all British citizens. But even that is slightly blurred now. I received a letter today telling me that I’d failed my Habitual Residency Test and was therefore not entitled to any benefits of any kind for three months. It doesn’t actually matter as during writing this I’ve received an offer of some work in Bath starting Monday. But the letter does confirm – almost in writing as it were – what I’ve been thinking for these past three weeks. I’m not really British any more.
I’m writing this post sitting in the bedroom I had when I was 16. Remembering the days I spent here gazing out of the window before I ever got drunk, smoked cigarettes, made love, had long hair, or grew a moustache. Before I knew anything about life.
I returned to the UK last Friday to help my parents move house and to collect my things – a seventeenth century oak chest, some books, some photos, and a guitar. I’m not returning to the country permanently, just visiting with the option of an extended stay if I fancy it. Although judging by the clogged up roads and angry looks I keep getting from people who look like they live off Pot Noodles, I suspect I might be jumping on a train back to the continent soon.
I’ve been meaning to write a blog since I returned, but have struggled to conjure up the necessary enthusiasm to put pen to paper. Being here though in the old house has generated ideas. Mainly the memories of sitting here as a blank faced sixteen year old looking out over the busy A619 that runs over the Pennines to Manchester. Remembering the cement lorries that clattered hourly along the road from the nearby quarries to build new Barrett houses in Sheffield. The buses carrying pensioners from the Dales into the city for a day out at the bingo hall. The peace and stillness of the nights when the road was empty and everybody was in bed.
Twenty five years is a long time. But I can still remember what I was wearing on that first day here. A pair of cords and a checked shirt. I know this because it’s the same as I’m wearing now. Not the same ones of course, that would be pushing it a bit, even for me. But a 32/32 pair of corduroys and a medium green checked shirt has been my standard issue attire since I discovered Burton menswear in Chesterfield town centre when I was 14.
As for possessions, I like the fact that I only have some books, some photos and a guitar. It sums up the sort of person I am. My favourite novels are the ones where nothing really happens. My favourite photos the ones where the people look dead. My favourite music the type that makes my heart beat faster than running up a steep hill.
There’s the temptation I admit to simply dump the lot into the canal and to walk out of the house with nothing. What would I actually miss? I rarely look at the photos, the books have all been read, my guitar is rarely played these days.
I’m not going to discover new things if I keep hold of the old. A person only ever has what is in their head. Everything else is superfluous. And as I can’t escape what is in my head – bar chopping it off – perhaps I should do myself a favour and not burden it with further baggage like old photos of long dead relatives and books I’ve read three or four times before.
I revised for my A-levels in this room. For months and months, day upon day copying out equations and facts from text books onto index cards and then reciting the information back to myself in the vague hope that I might remember something. It didn’t really work as I ended up at Nottingham Poly studying pesticide science.
I actually wanted to be an actor. But something went horribly wrong in the decision making process while I was at school. I think they had a careers department, but they must have been out when I dropped by. Either that or I got the wrong door and went into the one that said A Life of Drudgery instead of Stardom.
I even found my university dissertation in the pile here. That classic read: ‘The effects of adjuvants on the efficacy of cyproconazole on powdery mildew’ by Philip J Ogley. I even used the initial of my middle name as though I was some kind of technoscience guru living in Laurel Canyon in California developing new cures for madness and arrogance.
I eventually got out of agronomy and formed a band with the very guitar I’m looking at now. I also did a spot of acting as well, including one line in an episode of Peak Practice. I had to say ‘Sorry’ to a doctor. I thought I was going to get further calls from the casting agent, but never did. I was gutted too because I thought I’d executed the ‘Sorry’ line with the perfect amount of weight and tone. Not too fawning, but not too confrontational either.
But that disappointment passed and since then I’ve done a lot and travelled a lot with the road inevitably leading back to the A619 on the edge of Chesterfield. And so here I am, Philip J Ogley (science guru/actor), sorting through my things in this room for the very last time.
(** If you want more ‘unofficial’ Blogley, you could always tune into Alexander Velkey’s highly acclaimed Doubtcast where there is an audio Blogley about the UK education system at about 1hr 06mins 23 seconds in. Although I do recommend listening to the entire Podcast to understand the context.)
My contract as Pool Boy terminates in 15 days time. My services are redundant and I’m moving on again. Jobless and homeless in two weeks. But not concerned.
It’s my long held belief that there’s always work and a bed to sleep in if you put your mind to it. Ask around, see what’s going on. Chances are there’s always someone who needs something doing that they can’t be bothered doing themselves. That’s how economies work. And if there’s no work, you move on. That’s called migration. And if you can’t find work, you sleep on it and see what comes up the next day. That’s called life.
Elizabeth said to me yesterday, ‘You don’t need much do you, Oggers? A bottle of wine, a piece of meat, a knife, and a stove.’
I’m not very good at being in the same place. Too many reasons to get bored. Looking at the walls for instance, wondering what colour to paint them. Eggshell, Sunflower Yellow, Lilac, Emerald. So many options. So many possibilities.
People say that’s why you go on holiday. To have a break. But surely the walls will still be there when you return. Unless someone’s knocked them down, rebuilt new ones, moved your furniture around and hidden your possessions. All in a charitable attempt to make the next year a little bit different from the last.
I always enjoy reading Bruce Chatwin at times like this.
“Man’s real home is not a house, but the Road, and that life itself is a journey to be walked on foot.”
I’ve moved around a lot in my life. I’m not a Nomad in the traditional sense – I don’t have animals for one. But I do understand the pull of the road and being on the move.
I was born in Durham in the north of England almost 41 years ago (my birthday is in two days) and even though it’s only 1430kms from where I am now, it feels like a million. I only stayed there until I was two, before moving to Leeds. Now 41 (almost), I’m still moving, and as normal, even with fifteen days to go, my plans are vague. Fifteen days though, in anybody’s life, not just mine, is a long time. Anything could happen.
As long as I have a stove, a good Bordeaux, some sausage and a knife, nothing can go wrong.
After three and a half month’s work, the pool is clean. That’s all I’ve got to say on the matter. Time for a dip.
The pool still isn’t clean. Despite weeks and weeks and weeks and weeks of hard work, it still looks like a silage pit. A deep green vat of algal snot covering every surface like discharge from a gigantic sneeze. The fabled natural swimming pool of the villa, no longer a clear blue green embodiment of ecological modern living, but a huge used Kleenex sunk into a hole in the ground.
However much I clean it, hoover it, deploy the pool robot, skim off leaves with the net. By the morning there’s always a thick layer of green algae creaming every surface like someone went nuts in the night with a Gloop Gun.
The main problem I’ve deduced is the wind. Which has been blowing all sorts of crap into it on which the algae feed off. The human equivalent of bringing a fresh barrel of beer into a student house every evening. Suddenly the music’s blaring, people are dancing and the neighbours are banging on the ceiling. It’s a total disaster. Yet however hard I try, the party just goes on and on.
Tomorrow is April. I should be practising my backstroke by now in the hot sun, not poncing about in my Peter Storm cagoule scraping slime off the sides of the pool like I’m cleaning a communal toilet. It’s really starting to get to me.
Every night I dream of gigantic life size algae with razor sharp teeth eating their way through a mountain of leftover kebabs that have blown in from nearby Arcachon. Gorging themselves on junk, growing bigger and bigger, spreading across the surface of the pool as I lie sleeping. Their horrible evil grins I can see in my nightmares as they destroy everything I’ve worked for over the past three months.
The word ‘Thankless’ often comes to mind. As do the words ‘Litre of bleach’. That would do the trick. That would bring their algal fiesta under control very quickly.
A controlled dose I’ve calculated – say half a litre – might actually work. Kill off the algal blooms but leave the plants intact. The only problem is, I can’t be sure it’ll work. If it went wrong, there would be some difficult questions to answer from my boss.
Namely. ‘Why is everything dead?’ Quickly followed by, ‘Why are you still here? You’re fired. Get out.’
I can’t risk losing my job at this critical stage. It’s not my accommodation or the money I’m bothered about. More my conscience.
I want to leave here on my last day looking at a pool so clean I could boil potatoes in it. Drink from it. Deliver babies in it. I want it to look as pristine as the photograph in the villa’s brochure. So that when people visit, they think it is a photograph.
‘My God,’ they’ll say. ‘It looks exactly as it does in the photograph. Must have a good Pool Boy.’
‘You betcha ass they do,’ the Ghosts of Algal Past will reply. ‘He’s the best!’
On a Sunday I like to sit on the veranda and write a story. Just me and a piece of paper. The house I look after is generally empty from noon onwards, so it’s a good chance to sit down and do some solid writing.
Today’s story was about a man who had bought a large villa and yet had no need for it. He bought it because he could. It was big and expensive. He was rich. He knew as soon as he’d signed the contract that it was a mistake. He didn’t even like it, but had the deranged idea that buying it might win his wife back.
The story doesn’t matter. For now. It may appear somewhere at some point – it’s called The Castle. What does matter is that halfway through writing it – at about the time where the man is going through an alcohol induced breakdown in his huge house that he hates in the middle of nowhere – I had a block. Not a writer’s block. But a guilt block.
‘What are you doing? Can’t you spend your Sundays any more productively than writing your silly little stories, Phil? I mean no one is ever going to read them. Don’t you think you’re wasting your time? I mean who do you think you are, Charles Dickens?’
For those of you who write (or paint or create music or dance) you may be familiar with this. From somewhere out of nowhere, just as you’re enjoying yourself, storms in that demented beast of all creation, Mister Guilt. Coming over to destroy everything you’ve ever worked for.
I have a strategy for dealing with him though. Whatever I’m doing that is so silly and worthless, I double it, triple it, quadruple it. Make whatever I’m doing even more stupid, more ridiculous, more juvenile than it already was, so that Mister Guilt is simply lost for words. Then watch him run back to whatever angst ridden nightmare he lives in.
To combat him today, I decided to film myself finish the story I had started.
‘That dumb enough for you, Mister Guilt? I’m Philip ‘Oggers’ Ogley, I can do anything I want. I’m my own creation. So stick this in your fusebox and piss off.’
So that’s what I did. I got out my camera and filmed myself writing the second portion of my story, which I finished. (The owner of the Castle living happily ever after – sort of.)
The results of my experiment are below if you’re intrigued to see how I destroyed Mister Guilt. Maybe try it for yourself one day.
(this audio blog first appeared in Alexander Velkey’s highly acclaimed Doubtcast on 10 March 2015 – see end of post for further details)
I live in a small cottage by the sea. I’m the caretaker for a holiday villa that caters for people who drive cars that look like chocolate bars. Smooth soft-topped motors designed for fast driving. No roof racks, baby seats, car stickers, tow bars, awkward edges or angles to spoil the view.
I do most of my chores in the morning, so that I have the afternoons off to write and drink beer. I drink a lot of beer, and as a result accumulate a lot of rubbish. Or is it recycling?
It’s good that I can recycle the mountain of cans I see on the floor each morning. Stick them in the recycling box. Out of sight, out of mind. Buy another crate. Get smashed.
I don’t feel too guilty about buying them because they’ve got a green swirly logo on the side that gives me the licence to buy as many as I want. It’s not technically rubbish, is it? It’s recycling. Great! Let’s buy more of it. Let’s get smashed.
Sometimes I use cardboard from cereal boxes as kindling for my woodburner and feel guilty when I do. I should be recycling it. But why? Doesn’t the lorry that take it all away use fuel and create carbon. Cause congestion and traffic accidents. And if I didn’t use the cardboard for kindling, I would only use more wood.
I buy my beer in 33cl cans because it limits my alcohol intake. I could buy the same beer in 5 litre home barrels that cost less and create less waste. But that would create problems. One, I would drink it all. And two, if I didn’t, it would go flat. And I can’t drink flat beer.
In short, the best way for me to save the environment is to drink less beer. Or buy it in bigger containers. But that’s not going to happen. I like the ritual of popping the can. That gratifying metallic snap the ring pull makes.
There’s nothing better is there? Something so precise and conclusive about the sound. Followed by that calm hiss as the beer gently fizzes up to the rim of the can. That is, unless you’ve just carried it back from the shop. Then it just fizzes all over the floor.
The 5 litre home barrel wouldn’t work for me. I’d drink it for starters. Plus the pure enjoyment of popping the can would be lost forever. So it’s something my environmental conscience will simply have to live with.
It’s lucky there’s recycling. Otherwise all my cans would simply become rubbish.
(Listen to the entire Doubtcast below)
Or visit website http://www.doubtist.com/2015/03/10/doubtcast-1-rubbish/ for further details.
As discussed many many many times before on this blog, one of my jobs is to clear leaves and algae from the natural swimming pool where I work.
The pool net is the most traditional method at clearing leaves. But as it’s incredibly slow and tedious, I generally favour the pool robot. It’s effective at what it does but erratic in its methodology. Being a robot it lacks the basic intelligence to know what it’s cleaned and what it hasn’t. Like a human being painting a black wall with black paint. Where do you start and where do you finish?
Furthermore, the pool robot is only effective in the swimming pool. It moves on tiny plastic wheels propelled by a motor that creates propulsion by forcing water out of the sides. In short, it’s an underwater kid’s remote control car – a Bond car if you like – with a small hoover built in instead of a rocket launcher. Therefore on the stony and rocky surface of the regeneration and filtration beds, it’s pretty much useless. Like driving over a volcano in a golf cart.
It’s not really a hoover in the traditional sense, more an industrial water pump that leaves no stone unturned. Quite literally. Sucking everything up like a giant elephant’s trunk and regurgitating it either back into the pool through a mesh filter (a sock is actually the best thing I’ve found – see video), or by simply emptying it out on the grass.
In theory it should work well. But it doesn’t. Nothing is ever that simple, is it?
Why? Because as I’ve mentioned, the hoover not only sucks the leaves and algae up, but all the stones and rocks as well. Blocking everything up which means I have to switch it off and shake it violently to extract the stones. Once it’s done, it’s back to work. Until the next blockage five seconds later.
But of course like most things in life there’s always a technique to avoid such occurrences. Namely, be careful where you put your hose. It’s true. If you keep the vacuum hose close enough to the pool surface to suck up the leaves, but far enough away to avoid sucking up the stones, you can hoover happily all day. Just like hoovering dust off a curtain at home. If you keep it at the right distance, the dust and fluff comes off easily. If you get it too close, you simply yank the entire curtain and rail down.
So there you go. Now you all know what to do if you by chance have to clean your pool with a hoover. Yet another genius instructional blog post from Blogley – The Home of Pointless Information.
Video included (needs sound):
Since I turned 16 in 1990 I’ve worked as a dustbin man, warehouse picker, call centre operative, musician, charity collector, sound engineer, postman, teacher, chef, waiter, small-ads editor, barman, scientist, van driver, Christmas tree seller, data entry clerk, writer, bookseller, gardener, nacho stall manager, and now pool boy.
If I had made a video of all of them, it would never end. Luckily, I’ve only made one.
(Needs sound. Otherwise it makes no sense – if it does at all)
It turned out my boss was joking. I wouldn’t have to clean the pool swimming naked underwater armed with only a garden brush and a snorkel as depicted in my last post (Blogley 207). I was to use the long handled pool broom instead.
Yesterday morning I got to work. Only to be faced with a big problem. The long handled pool broom was useless. It was too soft. Just pushed all the remaining algae to the edges of the pool as though sweeping up hair in a barber’s shop. Leaving the real dirt stuck to the floor like it was doubling up as a paintbrush.
After a two hour coffee break to think it over, à la Français, I found another brush in the shed that would have been perfect. Unfortunately, as it was the brush used for scrubbing the decking round the pool, it wasn’t long enough for the job.
Maybe I should get in and do it sous-marin – as my boss had originally suggested. Dive in and scrub it clean dressed in my Speedos?
I’m not adverse to swimming in cold waters – I used to swim in the sea in Cornwall in midwinter. But that was for leisure. Or when I was paralytic. To do it during the course of a day’s work, wading round a freezing cold swimming pool with a decking brush, wasn’t what I signed up for. It says so in my contract:
UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES MUST EMPLOYEES SWIM IN THE POOL
So that was out. As was draining the pool.
DO NOT DRAIN THE POOL UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES – I WILL KILL YOU!
The long and the short of it was I needed a longer handle to attach to the decking brush.
So I set off to Bricomarche 5 kms up the coast to buy a ten foot pole that I could fashion into a handle using my new Opinel knife I had bought from the Tabac last week. (The Tabac here is fascinating: you can buy fags, beer, wine, lotto tickets, crisps, knives, oysters, fishing rods, even logs.)
I’m glad I went for the walk though. As a kid I always wanted to go pole vaulting. But as it was always deemed too dangerous, or too stupid, I never got the chance. Until yesterday. Click on the picture below.
I got back in one piece, fitted the pole to the brush and started cleaning. By the end of the day, the pool was spotless, its bottom as sparkling as a brand new mirror.
All I need now is some sun to warm it up and I can go swimming…in the middle of the night when no one is looking. Get in!
In case you haven’t been reading this. Here’s a quick recap.
My name is Philip ‘Oggers’ Ogley and I’m looking after a villa for the winter on the Arcachon basin in France. One of my main tasks, among many, concerns cleaning and maintaining the natural swimming pool.
There are actually three pools here that make up the swimming pool unit. A filtration bed that looks like a giant sandpit filled with gravel. The swimming pool itself, which for some bizarre reason, is in the shape of a coffin. And a regeneration reservoir.
This is how it all works. After the water has trickled down through the filtration bed, it’s pumped into the swimming pool and then left to trickle over its walls into the regeneration reservoir where plants such as sedge and water hyacinth filter it and the microbes feed on the algae.
(Artwork copyright Philip Ogley 2015. Courtesy of the Tate Gallery London)
Getting rid of the algae is why you go to all this trouble. Algae is what makes swimming pools go green. In a perfect environment the whole system should clean itself. The perfect environment being a place with no trees or shrubs – a hill top or a desert for example.
Unless you live in these places, leaves are going to get into your pool whether you like it or not. Leaves are bad. They introduce nutrients into the pool which encourage the growth of algae. And remember algae is bad.
I removed the leaves last week. They’re gone. Dead in the water as it were (or not). This week my task was to remove the two inch thick layer of algal scum covering the filtration bed.
So enter Oggers once again with his pool hoover sucking the scum off the top of the filtration bed and letting it flow back in to clog it all up again. Problem.
So I found a fine mesh to filter it through. This half worked. It took the larger sediment out, but still allowed the fine algae to pollute the system. Like hoovering your carpet and then emptying the dirty bag over the floor.
The only sensible solution was to let the dirty water go free. Flush it over the side. Rid the system of this filth once and for all. So I did. And within a few days the water looked sparkling. That is, what water was left…
Oops. I’d forgotten the principle of the whole system. It’s contained. The water goes round and round. Just like the water cycle you learn about in geography at school. Nothing is added and nothing is taken away. Unless some buffoon empties half of it into the sea.
Of course, in the grand scheme of things, I hadn’t changed a thing – the water would one day find its way into the sea. But on the smaller scheme of things, I might lose my job.
It was time for some Oggers quick thinking while my boss was out for lunch. And like cooling down on a hot summer’s day, there’s nothing a hosepipe can’t fix. I quickly hooked it up and turned it on full, hoping the boss was on a long lunch. About 4 hours I was thinking – the time it would take to refill it.
By a stroke of luck he was out for the entire afternoon. Incroyable! By the time he got back the filtration bed was brimming with fresh water.
Now I just have to see what happens over the weekend. Hope the tap water I used from the hose wasn’t full of chlorine. Then I’ll be Oggers The Pool Boy no more.
Cleaning the swimming pool here at the villa has become more than a mere menial chore. It’s become an obsession. Or more to the point, a war.
A war against the rotting Beech leaves that lie at the bottom like dead soldiers floating silently among the filamentous algae and strands of spirogyra.
It’s a natural pool that’s cleaned by a series of separate filtration beds containing lily, sedge, water hyacinth and lotus that purify the water. Like this.
I remember going on package holidays as a kid to Benidorm and such places, lying in bed in the evenings furiously scratching my eyes out after a day swimming in the hotel pool that had been disinfected with biological weapon grade chlorine. Looking in the mirror in the morning to see a pair of eyes so bloodshot it looked like I’d been out all night snorting cocaine cut with asbestos.
This industrial level chlorination was probably necessary to stop the pool turning yellow from all the dumb English kids like me peeing into it after drinking four gallons of Coca-cola every lunchtime and dinner. And then later on in the evening when all the adults came back from the bars smashed out of their heads. Diving in for a midnight dip and while they were there pushing out a barrel or two of San Miguel into the lovely chemical broth that was their hotel pool.
There’s no problem of itchy eyes with this pool. Although if you pee in it, it goes yellow as there’s no chlorine or other chemicals to mask it. But that doesn’t happen here. This is Arcachon innit, not facking Benidorm!
The only drawback of this natural pool system is that it needs to be maintained properly. It shouldn’t need any maintenance at all in theory, being natural. But rarely does trying to replicate nature truly work. So like a garden, there’s always work to be done. Namely in the form of me, Philip ‘Oggers’ Ogley, removing leaves and algae.
This is what I use in my war:
None have been particularly effective. The Pool Robot has a mind of its own and simply stays underwater in the far corner sulking. The Underwater Hoover, while incredibly powerful (it’s German) tends to churn up the algae from the bottom the minute you turn it on, making it almost impossible to see what you’re doing. The Pool Net, while at first glance appears the most sensible option, is actually the most tedious. Especially when the tiny sodden leaves appear to swim away the minute I bring the net near them.
Yesterday however, after a long day, I thought I’d nailed it. Cleaned it of leaves. Rid it of algae once and for all. But alas, when I looked into it this morning, the bottom of the pool looked the same as the day I arrived. Filthy. Like a mattress in a brothel after a busy night.
I charged into the shed, woke up the Underwater Hoover, the Pool Robot and the Pool Net from their slumber and gave them a bollocking like they had never heard. So much so that the depressed Pool Robot even peed its pool nappy (as I call it) – it’s an underwater hoover bag that’s meant to collect all the leaves and algae off the bottom. But doesn’t.
I accepted their apologies and we got back to work. We have until the end of March to make it look as clear and as inviting as a freshly poured glass of vodka. The battle continues.
My main profession – if you can call it a profession – is Teaching English as a Foreign Language, commonly known as TEFL – a horrible word for a horrible profession.
The result of a five week course I did in Nottingham in 2000 paid for by money I earnt testing anticoagulant drugs for AstraZeneca. £1800 for 9 days in hospital where I was injected with drugs and then bled to see how long it took to clot. Continue reading
When I left Lyon and my teaching job in July 2013, I had no idea I would end up as a Pool Boy a year and a half later.
It’s not my full job title, of course. My full title is le gardiennage, which translates as warden, housekeeper, caretaker, or security guard depending on what dictionary you use. I’m all of those things and none of them, as the translation doesn’t tell the whole picture. Odd job maintenance man is better, or as I prefer, general lackey with pool duties. (I just like the word lackey for some reason.) Continue reading
It’s 4th September and I’m sitting in the same spot I was a year ago. Outside on the stone steps of the farmhouse drinking coffee thinking and watching. Watching the finches land on the telegraph line that runs parallel to the driveway and then out into the open world. Continue reading
The subject of this last post before I return to Blighty for a few weeks is: What has it been like here for the past eleven months?
Well. Apart from the flies. It’s been great. Better than expected in fact. We haven’t run out of money. We haven’t gone nuts. We’re fit and healthy. I’ve written my damn book. We’re alive. Continue reading
Time moves gently on. It’s been nine months since we sat outside on that first morning sipping thick black coffee and tucking into the full English breakfast I’d prepared as a celebration. Continue reading
When I was eight my father bought me a digital watch for my birthday. It had the time and date. That was it. But it was the best present I’d ever had. It stopped me being late for roll calls and having to write out hymns as a punishment all night in the dark cellars of the boarding school I went to. Continue reading
Growing up I remember my parents going to other people’s fortieths and thinking, ‘Wow, 40, that’s really old.’
Well, today I’m forty and finally believe what everybody has been telling me for the past five years. ‘Oggers, 40, it’s not that old.’ Continue reading
It’s time to go again. The first part of the housesit is finished and we’re upping sticks for 10 days while the owners of the property return for their Easter vacation. Continue reading
Apart from writing my book, reading quite a bit, listening to French radio, running, eating and drinking, I’ve watched quite a few films over the past six months. The fabled Film Night we have here at the farm has become quite a fixture.
So for no reason whatsoever here are the films reviewed in 20 words or less complete with a Blogley and IMDb rating. Also an * marks a Blogley recommendation. Continue reading
I’m on a stealth visit to Derbyshire and the family bosom. Yes, I caved in. The pond, the elusive boar, the burnt out autumn landscape, the shrieking owls, the sentinel like beech trees, all finally got too much. Continue reading
Tomorrow I leave this city and Blogley in Lyon will be finished. Continue reading
Today is a special day; it’s my birthday. Thirty-nine and counting. And as anybody my age reading this will attest to: how did I get here so fast. First it was 21. Then 25. Then 30. Then 35. Then 39 and suddenly the big one is only a mere 364 waking mornings away. Continue reading
I’m returning to the UK tomorrow for my cousin’s wedding in North Wales. It’s the first time for a while that I’ve had a passport that doesn’t look like a handful of rags. After nearly two years of travelling to and from France, I’ve finally got it replaced. Continue reading
On 7th September 2011, my first week in France, I made a transfer of £500 from my UK account to my brand new French one. With an exchange rate of 1.0717 plus a £10 bank fee, I received the grand sum of €535.85. Continue reading
This is what happens when you type in ‘blogley’ into Google:
Absolutely nothing happened on my trip back to Lyon from Bristol. It was as smooth as you could get for a trip that involved three trains and a passport control box. It should have been filmed as an advert for the perfect trip: nobody spoke to me, nobody delayed me, nobody walked into me, nobody shouted at me, nobody eyeballed me, nobody annoyed me. Continue reading
After getting up at 4 o’clock last Sunday morning to catch the early TGV, my trip home to Chesterfield was nearly cut radically short by signal failure 20 km south of Lille. Luckily, someone pulled the right levers and we shunted into the station just in time for me to have my yearly battle with the immigration official. As I approached the border control box I removed my glasses and handed him the loose bundle of rags that is my passport. Continue reading
It’s the morning after our Christmas meal and I’m dashing out to the park for what might be the last run of my life. Continue reading
The question I’ve been asking myself for a few month now is, who exactly reads this blog? This week the statistics hit 3000 visits since I started it last year. What this means in terms of actual readership is impossible to gauge. What I want to know is how many people have read it because they want to. Compared to how many people have stumbled upon it by accident; read some strange meanderings about some guy called Blogley and pressed delete. Quickly followed by BLOCK SITE. Continue reading
I feel at my happiest on Kit Linge day. The one benefit of living here is that we receive clean sheets and towels (Linen kit) every other Thursday as part of the rental. I don’t know why this is the case, but it’s a bonus not to have to wash sheets and towels and even better to fall asleep on crisp, industrially laundered sheets. Even if they do smell of vinegar.
And today is no exception. It’s Kit Linge day and five weeks until I leave. And twelve weeks until I return. Continue reading
So after 240 days I finally reach my second break, and therefore the end of part two of my journey. I’m returning to the UK for rest and recuperation, and moreover, to decide what to do next. Continue reading
It’s my birthday in six weeks and I’ll be back in Blighty. I could go somewhere in France, rent a cottage or camp, but I’d only be on my own, and it’s grim waking up alone on your birthday with only a cheap bottle of Cote du Rhone to keep you company. That’s what happened the last time I lived here, eighteen years ago, on the farm in Provence. Continue reading
It’s my 30th entry and 6 months since I arrived here.
Blogley in Lyon 1 – 30: a review
I was back in France after a 17 year hiatus and things seemed to be exactly as I remembered them. Nobody stopped for me at the zebra crossing, the streets smelt of urine, the bars looked lifeless, the bread as hard as ever. But all in all, it was good to be back, and as I walked to my digs that first evening I knew I’d made the right decision to return. Continue reading
There seems to be no privacy from the glaring eye of the moon. It’s Friday, half past six and I’m sitting by the lake in the Parc De La Tete D’Or. This morning I was in my classroom at half past seven staring at the moon rising in the East above Fourvière. What a sight. It even came up in my early morning class with Monsieur Petit as I explained the difference between the definite and indefinite article . ‘The Moon – not a moon’. He seemed to get the point and we moved on. Continue reading
It’s Wednesday, three o’clock and I’ve finished my classes for the day. I should be teaching but I’m at home. Each day at school, we wait for our managers to mention the sacred word: ‘Phil, Monsieur Decroux has just………(but wait for it Phil, don’t get excited yet, Monsieur Decroux could be calling to say he’s going to be five minutes late or wants to change the time of his lesson. It could be anything and because our managers know that I’m waiting for the sacred word, they keep the sentence hanging in the air for as long as possible. But finally)…. ‘And Phil, I’m afraid to tell you that your lesson has been…cancelled. YES! For a split second I try to look disappointed but it’s impossible in these golden moments and a broad smile spreads across my face and I start to pack up. We’re meant to stay around to do something useful, as we still get paid. But no one does that. Not anymore. Continue reading
I’m driving to my twice weekly visit to Mahle (they make air filters for cars), about 20 miles south of Lyon along the Autoroute du Soleil when I see Mont Blanc for the first time. I have driven this route perhaps 30 times, but never have I seen the Alps that now frame the windscreen of my Peugeot in such splendour. The brilliant sunshine bathing South Eastern France in golden light and the mountains sparkle. Continue reading
When I start teaching a new set of students I write a few individual words on the board relating to my life; the idea being that they have to guess the question to the answer. It’s a nice GET TO KNOW YOU GAME (GTKG) to break the ice. In teaching books it’s called The Ice Breaker! I scrawl on the board in my spidery handwriting words like Bristol (Where are you from?); 23 (How old are you?); Leeds Utd (What’s your favourite football team). Admittedly, we’re talking trivial stuff, but one of my answers is OGLEY and it’s always the one nobody gets. I’m either a town, an English dish, the name of my son, or a drink. When I tell them it’s my name we all have a laugh. For about a second. Continue reading