Archive for the ‘Life in general’ Category

Answering Questions.

Saturday, February 15th, 2014

Kezzie, over at KezzieAG answered questions from different bloggers and then asked some of her own. I thought it might be quite fun to answer them nere.

1.What is the meaning of life? There’s an easy one to start with! I believe Douglas Adams told us it was 42, but I’m not sure how helpful that is…I don’t even know what it means: “the meaning of life” ! Does it mean “why are we here”? Does it mean “How should we behave”? In answer to the second question, I believe that the prophet Micah has the answer: “O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

2. Favourite sweetie? Chocklit.
3.  Princess Jasmine or Belle? Why? I don’t understand this question, I’m afraid?! I guess it’s referring to a film/ story book, but it’s passed me by!
4.  What do you like most about blogging? Reading people’s comments and finding out that they’ve enjoyed what I’ve written,or found it helpful/interesting/ humorous. Also I love finding new blogs to read – whether it’s just once, or whether I become a Follower.
5.  And what do you like least? Writing a post and getting no response! Though I have to say I’m guilty of reading other people’s blogs and not commenting, so I shouldn’t complain if people don’t comment on my blog!
Actually, the other thing I don’t like about blogging is the fact that the Wibsite won’t let me publish photos and is getting tiresome to use. I’m getting more and more frustrated with it. I’m planning on changing my blog provider – watch this space for details!
6.  Who was your favourite childhood stuffed/cuddly toy and why? Do you still have them? I had myriad bears (“bears” being the generic term for stuffed toys): Jeremy, Barrington, Monty and Marty the mice, Angus the dog, Pooh Bear, Fluffy…and those are the ones I can remember! I still have Pooh Bear, who became a monk during my slightly “High Church” phase at college. He was given new velveteen paws and new eyes by a dear friend, but he no longer wears his habit. I now have a new generation of bears, including Woburn, Disley-the-Rabbit, Cadbury-the-Camel and Kitten.
7.  Favourite board game? Don’t really play board games, but I quite like “Who’s in the Bag” – a type of fast paced charades. It appeals to the actor in me.
8.  Would you rather be a sheep or a cow? Why? A sheep. It’s the woolly coats that appeal.
9.  What word do you have issues with spelling? Diarrhoea. Occasion (until someone told me that “on occasion I wear a shirt with two collars and one sleeve” – two cs and one s).
10.  What pet would you love if you could have something? A dog. Specifically a rescue dog. Something not too big but not too small. Kind of woolly. But Mr D doesn’t want a dog, and I suspect nor do the cats. I love cats – and if I had to choose, it would be cats all the way, but hey, the question isn’t about choosing one OR the other, is it?!
I think these are pictures of pure breed dogs, but something like this:
or this…


11.  What question would you like to answer that you’ve never been asked? Here’s a million pounds for you to do with as you wish: what would you like to do with it?
Answer: keep some, but give a lot of it away. I’d just love to be able to say “Here you are, Amnesty International/ Diannah School of English/ Action Aid/ Spanish Stray Cats / several other charities – here’s a subsantial amount of money for you”.

Every Day Life

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

I wanted to post something here on The Teapot, but didn’t really know what to write about. Browsing various blogs I came across The Adventures of Fi, where she had written under various headings, just chatting about her every day life; so I have stolen her idea, adding a few headings of my own, and I hope you’ll find it interesting.

READING: I’ve just started reading “Heresy” by S.J.Parris. After a couple of “meh” novels that were screamingly predictable and not-at-all gripping, it’s good to get back to reading something with a bit more meat to it.

I’m not far into it, but it certainly has potential to draw me in. The blurb on Amazon reads:

When fugitive Italian monk Giordano Bruno—philosopher, magician, and heretical scientist—arrives in London, he’s only one step ahead of the Inquisition. An undercover mission for Queen Elizabeth I and her spymaster provides added protection. Officially, Bruno is to take part in a debate on the Copernican theory of the universe at Oxford University; unofficially, he is to find out whatever he can about a Catholic plot to overthrow the queen. But when his mission is dramatically thrown off course by a series of grisly deaths and the charms of a mysterious but beautiful young woman, he realizes that somewhere within Oxford’s private chambers lurks a brutal killer. . .

Before the two nondescript novels, I read “Moses in Chains” by Nikki Fine

This was an interesting book, not just for the subject matter, but because it was written by an ex-colleague of mine! Good writing, with an interesting story, I found it a tad too long, but enjoyable nontheless.

What would it be like to work for a genius? A grumpy, elderly genius who is writing his memoirs? Antonio Francese is a servant to the ageing Michelangelo, who has decided to write about the painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. But does his master always tell the truth? And can Antonio have a life of his own at the same time?

WATCHING: We’re not watching much of note at the moment, but Mr D recorded the new Belgian thriller “Salamander” on BBC 4 yesterday. I’m hoping this might plug the gap left by the all-too-short series of “Sherlock”. We certainly haven’t found that “The Musketeers” has cut it, despite the presence of a leather clad Peter Capaldi, and several dashing young bloods.

EATING: For details on that, you can go over to Fat Dormouse, but suffice to say, I’m really looking forward to wild boar in Cèpes sauce tonight!

NOT ENJOYING: a low level headache, slight dizziness, cold feet, and a slightly wierd general-feeling-of-malaise.

LOVING: Actually, just-finished-loving a Terry’s Chocolate Orange. One of my colleagues brought it back from the UK, and Mr D & I have been rationed to one segment each an evening (and none at all on fast days)

It’s something else to add to the list of things to bring back from the UK when we go!

LISTENING TO: Nothing at the moment, as I don’t generally listen to music while at my desk. Yesterday though I was working on a Zentangle card for a friend’s birthday, and listened to a Clifford T Ward album. Wonderful, gentle music, which often makes me cry. Here is a link to a YouTube video of his lovely “Home Thoughts from Abroad”

SPENDING MONEY ON: Food. That’s about it. And the car – petrol, motorway tolls, and it needs a service. I am buying a bit of wool too, but only reduced, to continue to knit blankets for the Spanish Stray Cats.

MISSING: My friend Cathy, who is over in the UK. She has a house here (that’s she trying to sell. Anyone interested?!) and is often over for 6 months of the year – because she’s on holiday (or at least, not working) it means we see each other for aperos, walks and chats most days. It’s harder catching up with other friends who have jobs and families, and wierd working hours. Because she’s due to become a granny in June she may not come out this year…

STRESSING OUT ABOUT: Nothing. Generally I don’t stress about big things – though Mr D might beg to differ!! I get stressy if I think I’m going to be late, or I can’t park the car, but not other stuff.

WEARING: Matalan olive green jumper, (bought a couple of winters ago), spotty shirt (from Carrefour, last year), denim skirt (Lands End, bought at least 10 years ago) and my Doctor Who scarf, knitted by my MiL for my Christmas present

Due to the aforementioned cold feet, I’m also wearing bright pink fluffy socks and my sheepskin slippers, and cuddling a hot water bottle!

LOOKING FORWARD TO: Tomorrow’s teaching, a chat with Cathy on Tuesday, wild boar tonight, and Life in General. We’re going to the UK in April to an Elbow concert at the Echo Arena in Liverpool, and I’m back teaching at Downe House in the summer…it’s not been officially confirmed, but it has been a-bit-more-than-casually mentioned to me! I’m a contented bunny.



Grow Your Blog 2014 – plus a giveaway

Saturday, January 25th, 2014

Well, hello, bonjour, bienvenue and welcome!

If you have come over to see me through the lovely Vicki’s Grow Your Blog event I am very happy to see you, and I hope that you find something here to catch your eye and make you smile. This site doesn’t have the wherewithal to become a Follower, but it would be lovely if you were interested enough to “bookmark” this page and come back to see me from time to time.

I’m often asked Why did you move to France? Well, the answer to that is in the section entitled “Throw Off the Bowlines” which comes from a quotation by Mark Twain

We managed to throw off the bowlines, we were persuaded to explore and dream and discover…So do please read that section if you want to know more about why we ended up here, in our small village in France.


I am an English teacher, and I am lucky to love my work – although getting up at 6.15 to face an hour’s drive to my lessons in Clermont Ferrand does sometimes dampen my enthusiasm! I teach a mixture of business people, adults learning for their holidays, children and young adults preparing for their Bac; I teach a mixture of one-to-one, small groups and over the phone. It is varied, interesting and fun. It’s not the greatest pay packet at the end of the month, but it’s enough and I’m happy – that’s worth quite a lot, in my book!

When not working I love blogging…I have two blogs, this one, and Fat Dormouse Getting Thinner. I hope you might trot over there as there will be a giveaway there too. On that blog I write about my efforts to get thinner, my menus for the week and I also post recipes that have been successfully received in the Dormousehold.

We don’t have children, there’s just me, Mr D and four Very Bad Cats (They used to be known as Very Bad Kittens, but, like us all, they’re getting older!)

This is where I would love to show you photos, but, for the millionth time, (or so it seems!) the site is refusing to upload photos from my collection. It is really frustrating! I will put some on my other site, so now you’ll have to go over there!! Anyway, Feline-wise, there is Pomme (the Senior Officer, at about 10 years old), George & Millie (Middle Management, born in 2010) and there is Bib (otherwise known as the Office Junior, born and rescued from the Michelin R&D site in 2012)


I also make cards. Again, no luck uploading photos, and when I try to link to previous posts with photos of my work, hey presto! Look! All the photos have disappeared. I am SO sorry about this. I hope it won’t make you lovely Grow-Your-Blog people turn away in disgust and despair! I feel I’ve let you down and I am really sorry!!

As I’m a Lolcats fan, this will have to do as a picture…

So… If you would like to win my Grow-Your-Blog Giveaway, which is 5 handmade cards, then please do leave a comment. I can provide cards for special occassions, or just five general ones. I will also throw in a handmade bookmark, which – dammit! – I can’t show you. Plusalso a card with a short quotation (chosen by you, bien sur!), calligraphed by me (Do you know, I don’t think that there is such a verb!) It will have to be short, as my hands are becoming artritic and I find it difficult calligraphing for too long!!

Once again, apologies that the Wibsite has not let me upload my photos. But please, do come back and see me another time. It will be more fun then, I promise!! Until then, don’t forget: you can visit Fat Dormouse and see photos! (Fingers crossed…!!)

It’s beginning to feel a bit like…

Monday, December 30th, 2013

…back to normal, again!


This is a funny time of year, between Christmas and 31st…It seems almost like a week of Sundays, and I get a bit confused about what day it is. All the hype and excitement about Christmas is over, and as we don’t really celebrate New Year, we are almost back to normal. There are a few bits and bobs to use up – some escargot vol-au-vents in the freezer, a packet of smoked salmon, the end of the Christmas cake, a small box of luxury biscuits, half a box of chockies – but mostly we’re done. I may buy something special for tomorrow night – maybe a nice piece of steak – but otherwise 31st will be like most other days/nights.

Perhaps I should do a retrospective of last year, as some bloggers do; perhaps I should look forward to 2014, as Ange from my Opening Doors weekend is encouraging us to do – choose a word ! make a promise to yourself! define your goals! I get a bit squirmy when asked to do things like this, but maybe I’ll try to do it tomorrow. Ange pointed us towards something developed by Susannah Conway, called “Unravelling the Year Ahead” which is a guided workbook-type-thing which focusses your thoughts on the year ahead…When considering doing it I felt rather apprehensive: all a bit touchy-feely, too “egotistic”, perhaps? I can’t really define how I feel about it, but I think “reluctant” is certainly one word I’d use. I wonder why?!


Anyhow, today I wrote a sermon – the first for a good few years! – and went for a walk. It was a good walk: I had to force myself a little, but once I was out in the fresh air it was good. I didn’t see much of the scenery around me as I always have to watch where I’m putting my feet, but when I paused to puff it was good. There were a lot of trees obviously uprooted by the wind, so I had to do quite a bit of scrambling over tree trunks, pushing my way through branches, or diverting myself around root balls. I’m glad I went.


For dinner I’m going to make a pie with the last few bits of wild boar, plus mushrooms and onions. Not much meat, I fear, but hopefully tasty all the same. I thought I had a pork steak in the freezer that I could add to the mix, but it appears I was mistaken. Never mind – a bit of meat and lots of veggies – nothing wrong with that!



Summing It All Up

Saturday, November 30th, 2013

The wibsite is behaving itself today, so I shall post my last Blog Every Day In November post here.

How has it been? As a comment to one of my very rushed posts, Mags asked:  I am sorry if this daily blogging is a pain?

No, it’s not been a pain; in fact, it has been the opposite. I have enjoyed (generally) carving out a few minutes (or half an hour) to post, on days when I wouldn’t usually do so. A few days last week were difficult, as I had lots of work, not much time and a disinclination to go into the cold study in the evening, when it is much nicer to stay warm (-ish – our granule burner isn’t working at the moment) in the sitting room.


I fear though that my posts haven’t been very exciting, unlike Ang who manages to come up with something worth reading every day as a matter of course, and Kezzie who I didn’t know, but who I’m delighted to meet,  but I really like Mags’ (again!) picture:

It’s like walking along a path together, talking about everything and nothing. So companionly. Walking towards Christmas together, like pilgrims on the road to Bethlehem.

When we meet with friends we do chat about everything and nothing; sometimes the conversations are serious, and thoughtful, sometimes they’re funny, and sometimes they’re just about every day happenings. And that’s what I’m taking away from this BEDIN “event” – I don’t know how many people have visited and read my offerings, but I have shared with them a bit of my life here.  I have enjoyed people’s comments – thanks particularly to Pompom and Mags who have commented faithfully on practically every post (even when there’s not been much to comment on!)  – and I hope people have enjoyed popping in to see what I’ve been up to. I have enjoyed visiting other bloggers too, even when I’ve not commented, and finding out more about their lives.


I don’t think I will carry on blogging every day – during the week it can be difficult to find the time – but I am joining in with Floss’s Pause in AdventPause in Advent Logo

I have decided my theme too – as Advent Sunday is tomorrow, I will unveil it then. Goodness me, does that really mean that there’s only 4 Sundays until Christmas!? That’s hard to credit. I feel all at once both very organised (most presents bought, wrapped and taken to the UK to be posted by Cathy) and very disorganised (other last difficult gifts to buy and send, Secret Santas to pull together, no cards written, and Stuff to think about.) But I hope that the Pauses will help me, at least once a week, to focus on the other things that matter.


Like Mags and her family, I will be reading (if I can find my copy!) The Christmas Mystery

A wonderful Advent Calendar of a book!


Thank you for being my companion on this part of the pilgrimage to Bethlehem and the child lying in a manger. I look forward to chatting with you again…




Turkey Talk!

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Cathy wanted to buy some foie gras to take back to the UK, and several people recommended this place,which isn’t too far from us.

Mr D already knew it, as he told us that a few weeks ago he’d been out with the cycle club and Mariss (Maurice?) had a puncture just outside the farm. As they waited for him to mend it, they noticed that gradually the free ranging turkeys drifted across the field towards them, until all the turkeys were all lined up at the fence, watching what they weredoing and gobbling gently amongst themselves

So this afternoon, because I didn’t have any lessons, I offered to go with Cathy to hunt for Foie Gras Fermier. We arrived at the farm, and – just like for Mr D & his Cyclo Chums – the turkeys were all lined up at the fence, watching the world go by. As we got out of the car, they started gobbling away, like nothing so much as a pan of simmering water. We were met by the farmer himself, who took us to his shop and opened up specially for us. Unfortunately there was no foie gras on offer to deguster, but he offered advice on what to buy. Cathy finally bought a 200g jar of foie gras for her friend; I was tempted to buy some stuff, but decided to wait until our freezer is a little emptier than it is!!


I know foie gras is an emotive subject, and that many people won’t eat it, as they believe it is cruel. Certainly, looking at this farm, and the happy free range turkeys and geese, I am sure that the geese are kept well. I don’t have a problem with foie gras myself, but certainly would prefer to pay more from a free range producer, such as this guy

than pay a low, low price in Carrefour or Lidl forsomething that is probably battery produced. All the meat on sale is from “happy animals” and I think that I will be going there for our Christmas treats.


After making our purchase we went for a stroll around the little village of Pommiers

There is an ancient priory there, with some little winding streets. In the chill of an autumn afternoon, with the houses shuttered for the winter, there was quite a melancholy feel about the village. In the gravelled square crisp brown leaves were skittering across the space, and gathering in the corners between the cobblestones. There was an almost unbroken silence. It wasn’t the jolly jaunt I had imagined – but somehow it suited the early evening light. I did wish there had been a cosy little bar open, with lights shining out, where we could have had a coffee or a kir, but there wasn’t; there was only a battered sign indicating where a café had once been, but was no longer. So we hurried back to the car and came home – to a cup of fruit tea!

Bits and Bobs

Sunday, October 20th, 2013

I haven’t really got much to say, but I really wanted to pop in to say hello.


# I went to church this morning. I enjoyed it; in fact I’d been looking forward to it all week – which is a first for quite some time. usually I’m trying to find excuses! I thought I’d set my alarm for 8.00, giving me plenty of time. But Mr D woke me at 9.10 saying “are you going to church today then?” I was up, showered, dressed (including my lace up boots that take 5 minutes to do!), coffee glugged and out of the door by 9.28. I got to church in 50 minutes, so I think I did quite well. I don’t think I got flashed by any speed cameras!!

# We had lunch at Alison’s today. Mr D made a courgette soup to take (using up some of the three monster courgettes we still have left!) and we had raclette and plum crumble. Cathy was there too, so a long, leisurely lunch was enjoyed by us all. Unfortunately for her, Alison knew she had to work this evening. We knew we could just chill out and watch Strictly Come Dancing. We may also watch some Rhod Gilbert’s Work Experience, which we have discovered on You Tube. We loved the series that was recently on BBC1, but have since discovered there were other series before this.

# One of my students has given up. I’ve been teaching her for a year, but she has no confidence in her abilities. Because of this she doesn’t work, and will meet practically every question with an immediate “je n’s’pas” (= je ne sais pas = I don’t know) Finally, as I felt I was taking money under false pretences, I said to her mum that either J had to pull her finger out, or I might as well stop. After an embarrassing few minutes when mum and J argued in front of me, I left them to decide. Mum got in touch with me during the week to say that J had decided to stop.  Less money for me, but it means I now have a gap when I can perhaps take other students.


# Another of my students has given me a haunch of wild boar, which is neatly vacuum packed and sitting in the fridge waiting for me to sort out the freezer so there’s space for it in there. I’m thinking this might be our Christmas lunch. And a lot more besides, looking at the size of it! He’s a hunter and he told me that he and his mates killed 9 wild boar and a deer at the weekend. While I don’t like the thought of it, I hypocritically like the end results.

# I made my Christmas cakes yesterday. You can read about it over here.


# That’s about it. It’s due to be warm weather this week, which will be nice (after I’ve swopped my wardrobes over!!) so I don’t think we’ll be changing to the winter duvet yet. We are getting two (sometimes three) cats sleeping with us & the bed’s getting a bit full. I wonder how we’ll manage when all four decide to join us.

Oooh, your face looks familiar…

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

…but I can’t quite remember who you are!

I’m sorry that I’ve been off the radar for so long. I’ve been working in the UK at a summer school, teaching English to children from various countries. It was 4 weeks of ups and downs, most of the downs being in the first fortnight, and the ups in the second fortnight.


I arrived really wanting to teach the Kids department (7 – 10 year olds), but had been told by the Recruitment Officer that “all that would be sorted when everyone arrived” (“all that” being the age group, the workshops etc that we would be teaching) Fairynuff, I thought, and prepared to make my stand for the Kids. But then I discovered that despite what I’d been told, the Recruitment Officer had actually promised various people their preferred teaching positions, and the Kids department had its full quota of teachers , thank you very much.  So I reluctantly ended up with what is termed Teens (bizarrely this age group is from 10- 13 so it’s hardly “teens”. Never mind…) The first week I found myself floundering: I used to be able to discipline this age group, I used to be able to teach this age group, but I think I’ve lost all those skills. I had a sh*tty time. Looking back, it was nothing terrible, but I became more and more convinced I was failing, and, as a result, became less and less effective as a teacher. By the middle of week 2 I’d had enough, and went to the Director of Studies, wept all over her and then handed in my notice: I was leaving at the end of Week 3.


Later that day, she came back to me and suggested I might try Seniors – as I taught mostly adults here in France I might find that I could cope with them. I really wasn’t sure and reiterated my desire to work in the Kids department, but said I’d think about it. That evening I’d arranged to go out for a meal with my sister, who was working fairly nearby, so we went to a lovely pub, called The Pot Kiln.

Here we ate delicious food, and Judy talked me through my dilemma and helped me come to my decision. I was so grateful to her for her help. I decided to take up the DoS’s offer to try Seniors for a week, and say that if that worked, I’d stay for a further week, if the organisation still wanted me to. The following day I’d changed my mind, and decided to stay in Teens – but the fact I made the decision calmly and thoughtfully was due to Judy’s perceptive questioning and listening.


I must also mention Heather, one of the other teachers there. She was really supportive and so friendly. I discovered early on that she is a Christian and while I’m not sure I agreed with her on all points, I do know that without her and her faith and support I would probably have had a much worse time of it. She gave lots of great teaching advice, and prayer support. Thanks Heather!


Anyway, the day after my dinner with Judy, to my great surprise,  the Assistant DoS came to me over lunchand asked if I wanted to move into the Kid’s department. I was so grateful I almost gave him a huge kiss there in the middle of the dining room!! I can only imagine that the organisation was eager to keep hold of me (an experienced CELTA trained and qualified teacher) for the British Council inspection that was happening in Week 4. So I moved to the department where I’d wanted to work, with the bonus that I didn’t actually have a class for the first week, but was “floating” – observing and helping out where necessary. That was mostly in the lower level classroom where Hawa was teaching a mixed bag of children aged from 6 ( six?! Who sends their unaccompanied 6 year old away the England to learn English?! ) to 9. One of them, the 6 y-o, couldn’t even form the Latin alphabet properly.  I spent much of the time working with him and keeping his bum attached to the seat when he was supposed to be working!


In week 4 I was teaching the Upper level – three delightful children from Russia/Ukraine – and we had a great time. I introduced them to The Elephant’s Child by Rudyard Kipling, and I was thriled when Sofya “got” the alliteration of the great, grey-green, greasy Limpopo River

We went on many excursions: to Chessington World of Adventures, to Marwell Zoo, on a canal boat, to Bekonscot Model Village, to a nature reserve and a farm park. It was fab!

Each half day excursion the Kids would get a snack to eat (because they couldn’t possibly survive without food between lunch at 12.30 and dinner at 5.30!) of a chocolate bar, a bottle of water and an apple. When I asked the guy in charge of the horse, who was called Freddy (the horse, not the guy.) if we could give him (the horse, not the guy.) an apple the answer was yes. So we did. Thereafter every child wanted to feed their apple to Freddy – which, apparently, would not have been a good idea, so I ended up collecting a carrier bag full of apples which were presented to the guy-in-charge-of-Freddy at the end of the trip. Quite frankly, I’m not sure how many apples actually reached Freddy, and how many went into the fruit bowl – but better that than end up in the bin, which was where the apples usually ended up! ( though strangely, rarely did the chocolate bars get thrown away!)


I worked with two great teachers: Hawa was the Senior teacher and she works at Lines every summer to earn money to fund her English Language school over in Senegal. If you want to know more about the work Hawa does, here is a link to an article on someone else’s blog.  David was the Head of the Kids Department and had done much of the organisation beforehand – he was a great laugh, but also a fantastic teacher too, building up great rapport with the children.


At the end of Week 4 there were only 3 children remaining in the Kids department, as the others were going home. Obviously I couldn’t stay on to teach in the Kids, but I was given the choice of staying on for another week in Teens or finishing after Week 4. Having had a great fortnight, I decided to finish on a “high” rather than risk another feeling of Complete And Utter Failure, so I left after 4 weeks, taking the opportunity to go and see my mum.

I think the Kids Department must have got a good report from the BC inspection, as the Director of the organisation, Dirk, was very pally and jovial with us, and when I went to say good bye to him in the pub on my last evening he said “Are you coming back next year?”

I had already decided my answer to this, and replied “I’ll be happy to come back if I can be guaranteed work in the Kids department. If not, then no.”

At which point he turned to the Recruitment Officer, who was also there, and said “Make sure she is in the Kids next year!” I think he liked my work! 🙂


I spent  a week up in Liverpool with mum – I saw my niece, we went out for a couple of meals, we went for some walks, and visited Speke Hall together. It was good to spend time with mum as she rarely gets over to France now.

If you’ve never been to Speke Hall, I recommend a visit: I hadn’t been for at least 30 years, and couldn’t remember much about it, buit it is a charming little Tudor gem of a building. The two trees in the courtyard are called Adam and Eve, and they believe Adam is over 700 years old

There is a genuine Priest Hole, as the first owners of Speke, Sir William Norreys, was a Catholic, in the times when it was mighty dangerous to be a Catholic. Above the doorway that you can see in the picture, (it was the original front door) there is a small hole beneath the eaves: apparently there would be a servant who lay behind the hole in the eaves, to listen to the conversation of those who were waiting to enter the Hall. This way they could be gauged to be friend or foe before they entered, possibly necessitating a precipitous use of the Priest Hole. And that, so they claim, is where the term “eaves dropping” comes from.


Of course there is also the obligatory ghost story:

The ghost here is thought to be that of Mary Norris a descendant of Sir William Norreys the first owner of Speke Hall. In 1791 Mary inherited Speke Hall from her uncle, Richard Norris. Five years later Mary married Lord Sidney Beauclerk, a hopeless gambler. Lord Beauclerk enjoyed high living and indulged himself much in the London society of the day.

Mary soon fell pregnant and produced a son for Lord Beauclerk she hoped he would stop his gambling. Unfortunately this was not the case shortly after their son’s birth he returned from London to announce that his recklessness had resulted in financial ruin and that they faced poverty and disgrace. In a fit of rage Mary picked up her son and threw him from the Tapestry room window to his death in the moat below. Mary then made her way to the great hall and took her own life.

In this picture of the Great Hall there is indeed a ghostly figure of a woman holding a baby… Hmmm. It must be true then.


After my week with mum, I drove down to Kent where Mr D was due to arrive. We stayed with his family, as his cousin and uncle and aunt were over from Germany, but also had the opportunity to go to Milton Keynes to catch up with friends there. Then we returned to France, where I had some surprise lessons to give – one of the companies I work for had scheduled some lessons for me yesterday and tomorrow! My mother in law came back with us, so she is staying here, but unfortunately I’m now suffering from a bad back: I’d been suffering a bit at MiL’s (I don’t find the bed there very comfortable) and then the 9 hour car journey across France probably didn’t help. On Monday it was stiff, and on Tuesday I could hardly walk! Luckily I have some super-duper painkillers which are now doing their job, and I’m starting to feel a bit better.


So now we’ve caught up, I hope to be back to regular blogging soon. And I hope to be calling in on some of your blogs too! Just give me a few more days to sort myself out!


Is there anybody out there…?!

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

If you ARE here, and you DO read this blog – hello.

I don’t really know if there’s anyone left reading my blog after the Wibsite was down for so long, and then I was forced to take a couple of weeks off blogging as we didn’t have Internet/phone access for two weeks. SFR and France Telecom finally worked out what was wrong with the line, but in the interim I was left toting my bag full of folder round to various friends who let me use their telephone for my phone lessons. I also used my mobile quite a lot, but because the connections weren’t good – I couldn’t find a very good signal – the lessons involved quite a lot of loudly spoken, very clearly ar-tic-u-lat-ed repetitions.

“In the weekend, I work in the country” “No, Pierre, be careful with the pronunciation and tense.” “Uh? I didn’t hear” “Be careful with the tense.” “Uh?” “The TENSE – it’s in the past. I WALKED in the country” “I WORKED…” “No, WALKED” “WALK in the country” “Good pronunciation; but the tense? This is in the past, remember.” “Ah yes, I WORKED in the country”  (And breathe)

Of course, without internet access I couldn’t blog, or catch up with those blogs I like, or go aboard The Ship  – it was a revelation to me how much I do actually use the computer, when I would have said I didn’t use it much at all!! I certainly read more in the fortnight when we didn’t have the internet. Oddly, I’d have thought I would have crafted more, but no. Maybe I’ll do a little bit this afternoon – it will be my last chance for a while .

You see, I mightn’t be around much for the next few weeks as I’m going away to the UK to work during the summer. Readers who have managed to cling onto this leaky vessel of a blog might remember that I went to the UK to work last year, and wrote a couple of plaintive posts from Downe House, in the midst of the beautiful countryside around Newbury.

Certainly at the beginning, I found it really difficult, as the whole setup seemed maddeningly disorganised, with so much being dumped on the teachers who were just expected to cope. Now, I CAN teach “on-the-hoof” if necessary, but never feel comfortable doing so, especially in an unknown set-up, with students that are unfamiliar, where expectations are unclear and where I feel nervous anyway. I prefer to have everything very well planned and to know what I’m doing. Or at least have a vague idea. By the end of the five weeks, I sort-of knew what I was supposed to be doing, I was able to get stuff prepared and I felt infinitely better about the experience.

So much so that – hey! Look! I’m going back again! It is, I will admit, partly for the filthy lucre, as I won’t have much other work during the summer, and MrD hasn’t yet been able to find a job. But it’s an opportunity to do something a little different and to stretch myself a bit. I feel slightly better about it this year, because I know how the set up works: we won’t know until Monday what level we’ll be teaching, so there’s no point worrying about it. At the moment, I don’t even know what age group I’ll be teaching: either 7-10 year olds, or 10-13 year olds. Last year I taught the older ones, so there’s stuff already prepared that I could use; however, I think I would prefer the younger ones. But I guess it depends on how many children of each age range there are, so it’s wait and see.

I will have to keep reminding myself:

This was where my problems lay last year. I got worked up about stuff that, eventually, in the long run, didn’t matter. So, the kids ate their packed lunch when they got onto the bus. Well, they’re old enough to make the decision themselves, and if they are a bit peckish mid afternoon they won’t die from it. I don’t have to check up and tell them not to eat until lunch time. Over and over again. So, they swop with their friends and have four bags of crisps and three chocolate bars for lunch. Well, again, they won’t die from it. I’m not their parents; I’m actually not that responsible for checking up on their diets for a fortnight… So, they get a bit rowdy at times – I do not need to wade in with my size 7s and yell at them as though they were in school. Yes, I need to quieten them down, but try to be more gentle and humourous about it. I was far too strict, far too disciplinarian: they need boundaries, but they also need to be able to enjoy what they’re doing and StormTrooper-Teacher Dormouse isn’t necessarily the way.

Whether I will be able to go from wound up to laid back I don’t know. But I’m going to try.

I’ve already planned the Gastronomy workshops for the whole five weeks – I’m hoping that I’ll be able to lead the Gastronomy workshops again which I enjoyed very much. (Although the first week was rather chaotic and terrible, I think I got the hang of it quite quickly!) Last year, I knew before going that I would be leading the Gastronomy workshop for the 10-13 year olds, and I’d be there for 5 weeks. This year I don’t know which workshop I’ll be leading, I don’t know the age group and I don’t know how long I’ll be there. Ho-hum.

I’ve also packed all my resources for 7 – 10 year olds, so I do feel at least VAGUELY prepared…which makes me feel less panicky. I’m even taking my popcorn maker. I reckon that if I am taking Gastronomy it will be useful; and if I’m not, I’m sure that I can use it in the less frenetic afternoon sessions with my class – we can make popcorn, make bags or boxes (following instructions! Working collaboratively!) and then eat it! Maybe design a poster on the computers as well. If nothing else, I can bribe them with popcorn, in a similar manner to Pavlov’s dogs!

or alternatively:

Just as a little reminder for me, of the sweet kiddies from last year, here they are at Warwick Castle


A bit of this and a bit of that…

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Hello Peeps!

Today is St George’s Day – perhaps we should have hung out English Cross of St George flag out of the window! Mr FD sometimes wears a red rose on St George’s Day, but this year he’s not left the house, so had no cause to do so.

But today is also the Very Bad Kittens’ birthday! Happy Birthday, George and Millie! Happy (nominal) Birthday Pomme and Bib! We don’t know when Pomme & Bib were born, but round about now would be a good guess for Bib, and Pomme – well, we have no idea! Perhaps we should have a Happy Adoption Day for Bib – she joined the Dormousehold on 1st June 2013, aged about 5-6 weeks.

We bought cakes to celebrate:

and I’ll go to ShCarrefour later on and buy some yummy cat food for the Cats. I have to buy the ingredients for my cheesecake tomorrow, so I’ll indulge the cats a little as well! Here are pictures (already seen, I know!) of our dear kitties:



I am happy too because I have won a Giveaway. Yay! Ellie over at Silver Scrapper’s Craft Space picked me out of the hat to win a book about crafting ATCs. As I’m trying to create one ATC a month (I’ve made – but not shown – March’s, and still have April’s to do! Maybe tomorrow!) this will give me some inspiration (I hope!)

ATCs 1

The weather has been completely mad recently. Last week was gorgeous, with the thermometer hitting about 26° down in Roanne, then this weekend it was snowing again! Poor Mr D went out with the combined forces of St Just and St Germain Laval Cycle Clubs to do a day’s ride in the Lyonnaise mountains. They didn’t actually do any riding! They holed up for the morning in a Mairie in a small village where our friend Louis’ father was a BigWig, so Louis has some sway in the area. Mr D said he spent the morning failing to understand the rules of Belote. Cathy & I met them (together with other non-cycling members of the club) at a restaurant at the Col de Pavillon

for a set menu meal of salad, chicken in pepper sauce, with pasta & ratatouille, and then chocolate-and-raspberry-mousse-cake. It didn’t stop raining all day, and at some moments, the rain was horizontal, such was the force of the wind. And there was definitely some sleet mixed in!

Despite that, Mr D was (in his words) “vaguely tempted” to ride. But he didn’t!

Not too many lessons today – two cancellations, due to holidays & strikes – and none tomorrow. A bit of a break. Huzzah (not working)! Boo (not earning)! Film night tomorrow up at Cathy’s – I’m taking cheesecake (of the white chocolate and ginger variety) so I’d better trot on down to ShCarrefour to buy the ingredients. And the Sheba!