Posts Tagged ‘Family’

A Walk in the Pilat

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Often when we have visitors we take them on a “Pilat Day”. The Pilat mountains are about 80km away from us, beyond St Etienne, and we have refined our day out to be very enjoyable.


We went there on Friday with MiL. My bad back was getting better, thanks to pain killers, and to the fact that I have been doing some walking (very slow but it has definitely helped) so I thought I’d be able to manage the day.

First we drive to Rochetaillée, a small village above St Etienne, and from there to “Le Gouffre d’Enfer” (“The Chasm of Hell”) which is actually a really lovely gorge, which leads to a barrage.

Mr D and MiL were walking faster than I, so they went on ahead while I walked slowly. I thought it would take me longer to reach the bottom of the dam, but I was there in 10 minutes. Feeling okay I decided to climb the steps up the side of this edifice. It was built in 1862 and the resevoir still provides water for St Etienne. It took me about 10 minutes to wend my way to the top, but I was pleased when I got there. It was another 20 minutes or so back to the car, where I sat and read my book, waiting for the others who had walked around the resevoir itself. As I returned to the car I kicked myself (mentally) as I had forgotten to take any photos.


After this, we return to Rochetaillée and go to the Auberge de Rochetaillée, for their lovely rapées (a type of rosti) with a chive-and-yoghurt sauce and a glass of chilled beer. We love this place for its 1950s style décor (although looking at pictures, it seems to have been done up a bit) and the amazing view from its windows

Unfortunately it was closed for holidays, so we went to a pizzeria instead. Mr D and I both chose the Pizza du Saison – which had girolle mushrooms, artichoke hearts, parma ham and shavings of parmesan – lush!


The next part of our “Pilat Day” takes us to the high ground above Le Bessat, from whence one can often see for miles. Again Mr D and MiL went ahead while I walked at a slower pace, but this time I did remember my camera.


Mr D & MiL get to the Table d’orientation before me


I wish I could recreate the scents and sounds – the sun was warm, and the bees were busy in the clover and heather that covered the tops. The constant buzz was overlain by the  sawing noise of the crickets which stopped abruptly as I stepped near one. Every now and then one would leap high out of the grass, or off the path, a rapid movement which just caught the corner of my eye. The scent of warm heather and scrubland herbs wafted in the breeze – it was delicious!


There had been a sign warning us of Troupeaux en Estival (Herds on sumer pastures) and here I met some of those Troupeaux taking advantage of the shade.

I met up with Mr D and MiL and we went to complete our “Pilat Day” by taking tea and Tarte aux Myrtilles at a restaurant at the Col de la Croix de Chaubouret

Here there is an amazing selection of tea – I chose a black tea, flavoured with red fruits such as myrtille and blackberries, while MiL had a green tea with cherry and raspberry leaves infused in it. The Tarte aux myrtilles came with a myrtille sorbet as well. Delicious!

That brings us to the end of our “Pilat Day” – quite a lot of walking, interspersed with delicious food and drink! This time it was a little different, as the auberge was closed, but we had a lovely time nonetheless!

And as the walking obviously did my back no harm at all, I have to ruefully admit that I need to do more exercise. So I will stop what I’m doing and go out for a 30 minute stroll around the village.


Various photos

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

First of all, let me share a picture of the birthday card I’ve made for Gilles’ birthday (see earlier post) (Click on it for a better view – my photos aren’t very good, I’m afraid!) It says “Being one year older, Gilles needed a little more help to reach the top of Mont Ventoux”. To explain, he climbed Mont Ventoux (by bike) last year, and plans on doing the same this year – only three times! –  so I thought he might need some mountain goats to help him! (I’ve just thought, a better caption might have been “By the time he was climbing Mont Ventoux for the third time, Gilles needed a little help” Oh well, too late now!

Other photos are from when Mum was here.

This is the Puy de Dome, which we were unable to ascend as they are building a railway to the summit at the moment. It should be ready for Summer 2012.

But we did climb the Puy de Pariou (as you can see, the weather was, er, a little bracing, to say the least!!!) I forget my mum is 83 next month! She was quicker than me getting up there!

We visited the picturesque village of St Jean-St Maurice, not far from here, which is on one of the routes through Le Puy En Velay to the pilgrim trail to Santiago de CompostelaHere’s a view of the tower, from which I took the previous picture, and here’s some of the stained glass in the church(sorry the photos are so rubbish!)And here’s a picture of Pomme. We were having dinner, the night mum arrived, and Pomme was quietly sitting on the chair while we ate. After the meal we sat chatting, and suddenly Pomme hopped onto the table, into the (empty) bread basket and settled down!!! Not to be outdone, when we carried Pomme (+ basket!) into the living room, George decided he wanted a piece of the Basket Action

Don’t worry, we washed and Anti-Bac-Sprayed the basket before using it again!

Happy Belated New Year

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

Or should that be Belated Happy New Year?

I’ve read loads of blogs with inspirational New Year messages, and posts looking back over the past year. I’m not very good at that sort of thing – sorry. But I do want to say “Hello” and “Thank You” to those of you who carry on reading this. Your “Happy Christmas” messages were lovely! It’s nice to know that there are one or two readers out there!!

We had a lovely break in the UK. We  had a brilliant evening with Gary and Carlo, an enomous Chinese takeaway, lots of wine and the “Strictly Come Dancing” final; the next day Carlo cut and coloured my hair and then took me out shopping. I bought a dress, a long line cardi, and a tunic, in shades of turquoise/teal. Afterwards I bought some flat “Mary-Jane” style shoes (the only type of “dressy” shoe that I can wear really comfortably) and some turquoise tights. All a bit jazzy for me. He also bought me for a Christmas present, a bagfull of make-up. I’ve never done makeup, except for theatrical productions and nights out, but I’ve promised myself I’ll try to wear a little every day: I can see that it looks quite good. I just need to remember to take it off at night so I don’t wake up with panda eyes and smeared pilow!

We went on up to Liverpool, where my family came to mum’s for lunch on Wednesday – fourteen of us. It was great fun – although I did get a little fraught at one point. I’d spent most of the day before in the kitchen, and had done a fair bit on the day, moving furniture, setting the table etc. My sister turned up, looking lovely in a beautiful purple outfit, and offered to help, but mum said “No” it was all under control, Dormouse was doing a grand job. Then later on, she explained to my brother’s wife how she wouldn’t Sister help “because she looked so lovely!” Implication: but Dormouse was only wearing a bit of tat so she could help. Now, I do know that mum didn’t mean it like that, or rather, didn’t see it as being hurtful, but of course, I was a bit stressed and flustered, and menopausally overheated so I had to rush into the kitchen and weep a bit. But after that it was fine!

Mr D and I went into Liverpool andwent to Wagamamas (num, num) and saw the new Sherlock Holmes movie, which was fun. I had a 45 minute Primark dash (new bag and a pair of leggings) while Mr D browsed the computer/music stores. We caught up with an old school friend over dinner and went to Southport on Christmas Eve, just because we always do. We used to go to The Dutch Chef café, for hot chocolate and cakes, but sadly they’ve closed down; I remember going with Pat and Cynthia, close friends of the family, both now gone, who made it a tradition. But we still go to Southport, and visit the Wayfarer’s Arcade

This year there was an owl display in one of the empty shops: they were fab. Here is a link to  copyrighted photo showing one of the birds.

Christmas Day was really great: very quiet, but I felt quite close to God and to my family. Mr D went out for a bike ride (we’d taken his bike along) while Mum and I went to church, where the message was simple but clear. The minister spoke about his new walking boots – a present from his wife – which would only show how good they were if he used them. He could use them on the easy pathways, but they would come into their own on the paths of the Lake District mountains. The gift of God’s love is like that: we only find out how strong it is when we trust him through the tough times.

But the thing that spoke to me most was a little throw away metaphor: his wife recently rediscovered her slow cooker, put away on a shelf in the house. She started using it again, and they decided it was a good thing, as it cooked wholesome hot casseroles. Is your faith like that, he asked, hidden on a shelf and not being used…? Something to think about.

We had a delicious, long drawn out meal, interspersed with conversation, good wine and present opening. We watched ” Doctor Who” and Strictly, we read new books (including “River Cottage Veg Every Day” ) and I paused to think and ponder. Really lovely.

The next day we went to the cinema again, with mum, to see “Hugo” A great film, which I’d really recommend to families with children over about 10. There were younger children in the cinema, who loudly complained that they wanted to see Alvin & the Chipmunks, and I don’t think they grasped much of the nuances of this beautiful film. Then we drove over to Scunthorpe to see our friends, Steve & Cathy, as well as Andrew’s brother and his family. On the way we stopped off at Comet and bought an extra present for me.

I plan to try to use it for work to show clips to students and so on. But mostly I’ve used it to read blogs and Ship of Fools without having to turn on my computer!

But I’ve just been told our visiting friends are about half an hour away, so I need t go and start mulling the wine and warming up the galette des rois

More tomorrow.

A second Pause in Advent

Sunday, December 4th, 2011

Remember, if you want to read other posts of other bloggers, as we “pause in Advent” please go to Floss‘s blog. There you can find a link to everyone’s posts. Also, as I have two blogs, I’m joining in twice. You can read my other blog at Fat Dormouse Getting Thinner if you should feel so inclined.

Today, I’d like to reflect a little on last week’s word: JOY.

What is joy? I’ve pondered this through the week, trying to decide how it is different to “happiness”. I’m still not sure! Is it deeper seated than happiness? Being happy is perhaps more fleeting?

How is joyousness connected to my belief as a (slightly wobbly) Christian? Floss commented that despite her everyday problems of ill children, dogs and so on, joy was still there in her heart. Maybe it’s like the Celtic Christians of old, who had prayers for every moment of the working day: prayers for when they were milking the cows, for when they were sweeping the floor, and presumably for when they were clearing up sick, as well! Perhaps, if we can “dedicate” everything we do to God’s service, then it becomes somehow more “joyful”. My sister used to say how her MiL, a devout Northern Irish woman, would speak about “offering up” her trials and tribulations (as though God would be happy to deal with them on her behalf, I guess. Do you think he sends troups of angels to clear up after sick children?!) but that sounds a little bit too like being a martyr. “Offering up” conjures up images of washed out young women, clasping their hands to their bosom, and rolling their eyes heavenward.

But being joyous in one’s life, in everything that one does reminds me of the George Herbert poem, which is well known as a hymn, “Teach me, my God and King”

Teach me, my God and King,
in all things thee to see,
and what I do in anything
to do it as for thee.

A man that looks on glass,
on it may stay his eye;
or if he pleaseth, through it pass,
and then the heaven espy.

All may of thee partake;
nothing can be so mean,
which with this tincture, “for thy sake,”
will not grow bright and clean.

A servant with this clause
makes drudgery divine:
who sweeps a room, as for thy laws,
makes that and the action fine.

This is the famous stone
that turneth all to gold;
for that which God doth touch and own
cannot for less be told.

If we look beyond the drudgery – or at least, the ordinariness – of our lives, then we will indeed find joy in what we do: joy because we serve God, we serve others, or just because, when it comes down to it, life itself is very often quite wonderful! It may be quite terrible too, or awesome (in the more original sense of the word), but it is the life that we have been given to live, and so perhaps we should try to seize it and to really live it for all we are worth.

And so, maybe we can apply this to Christmas and to Advent. As many of the bloggers are posting, we find the commercialism of Christmas can be quite distressing sometimes. We need to try very hard not to let our eyes stay on the “glass” of Yuletide, but pass beyond it to see the wonders of Christ’s Mass that lies beyond it all.


This week’s word: I’ve hummed over this. I have two words. one is and the other is

I’m not sure which I’ll end up thinking about this week. But my piece of music is one which, unlike last week’s, is not an “Advent” piece of music in any way. What it is is a beautiful song that reminds us that life is full of moments of pleasure and joy, and that we should hold onto these. It is Kate Bush’s masterpiece “Moments of Pleasure”. Please don’t think “Urgh, Kate Bush, she sang that squeaky song Wuthering Heights” and not listen. This is a poignant song which she wrote in the year following her mother’s death, and refers to friends and family that she has loved and lost.

Two parts of the lyrics I love. One, I am guessing, refers to her father, but it could be anyone:

…On a balcony in New York
It’s just started to snow
He meets us at the lift
Like Douglas Fairbanks
Waving his walking stick
But he isn’t well at all
and the other, well…

Just being alive
It can really hurt
And these moments given
Are a gift from time

I give you: Kate Bush, singing Moments of Pleasure

A Pause In Lent 3

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

So here we are again. Pausing. Thinking. Wondering what insights I have. And deciding it’s very few at the moment. Sorry.

I’m feeling as though I shouldn’t really be doing this. I feel a bit of a fraud: I’m not thinking about God in any real way at the moment, and Lent has actually made no impact on my life, spiritual or otherwise. I’ve not given up anything, I’ve not taken on anything (except this!). I feel a vague sense of guilt – but only very vague – but also a vague sense of not caring. I think I’m going through A Gloomy Sunday Afternoon Of The Soul (I can’t call it a Dark Night Of the Soul, as that title gives it more importance than it has.)

So. Maybe in my spiritual growth I’m going through through those difficult teenage years, where all they seem to want to do is mope about and sleep. They’re not interested in their parents, they heave great sighs of ennui and teenage anguish, they drift about not doing anything, and get grumpy if their parents suggest they might be wasting their life.  But every now and then they deign to join in with a family occasion, and can suddenly be quite charming.

I hope that my Father in Heaven will stay steadfast to me. If earthly parents can manage to love their difficult teenagers through these years, then I’m fairly sure God will be able to love me as I drift and mope and sigh. And I hope that I will finally come through the teenage Spiritual years a more rounded being.

I was lucky enough to have a wonderful father. He died far too young of cancer, but I have fond memories of a dad who loved and cared for his three children. There were rarely rows and arguments in our household (except possibly between me and my brother!) and I remember many many happy occasions. I don’t think I was a difficult teenager (although mum may disagree with that!) but I certainly did my fair share of moping, and staying shut up in my bedroom, but I never had a sense of my parents losing faith in me. Thanks to both my parents, I believe I’ve grown into a fairly well-rounded, reasonably feet-on-the-ground person. (although Mr D may disgree with that!)

So here is a poem, dedicated particularly to Dad, but also to Mum, who has spent too many years than she should have done without her Helpmeet at her side. I love you both.

A meditation on Psalm 37, verses 23 & 24

The steps of a man are established by the Lord,and he delights in his way.When he falls he shall not be hurled headlong because the Lord is the one who holds his hand



You know the way you want us to go;

Planned and perfect,

Complete and right.


You take us by the hand

As a  father takes his child,

and you delight in teaching us.

You show us your glories,

You teach us your way,

and you share your love with us.



as children often do,

we will slip our hand from your loving guiding grip,

and wander on a path that is not yours.

We are tempted away from you

by the glitter and gaudiness of the world.

We ignore your warning cries

and we fail so many times

to listen to your voice.

You do not force us.

You do not pull us.

You do not leave us.

Instead you watch for us,

you wait for us,

you love us.


And,as a child who does not hold his father’s hand

has no protection when he falls,

so too do we have nothing to save us when we fall.

But as we lie,

battered and bruised by life,

and crying for help,

you are there

there to pick us up,

to hold us in your arms,

and to tell us that you love us


And maybe next time we will have learned,

learned to hold your hand a little tighter,

learned to follow your ways a little closer.

For if we walk with you

and hold your hand

We know that we are safe,

and that you will not allow us

to fall.

Look At This!

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

I want to direct you to my neice’s Blog (see the Blog roll at the side) Rose is out in Rwanda, working with VSO at YWCA Rwanda. She’s also got a Just Giving site if anyone feels inclined to support her fundraising.

Go Rose! You are indeed “Boss” (as they say up in Scouseland) This is Rose (on the left) and her sister Ruth (who is currently teaching English in South Korea.) Two intrepid young ladies!

Pootling on a canal boat. Part 2.

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

Having posted pictures last week, I thought I might add a bit of information about what we did and so on…

We met my in-laws – Mr D’s mum, his sister+husband+two children, and his brother + wife+1 child – and picked up the two boats (Lowri and Nerys) just outside Ellesmere, in Shropshire. We had a larger boat, for MiL, sister + family + child, and one for Mr D, me, brother + wife. The beds were not terribly comfortable – but that’s only to be expected, I guess! – but generally everything else was fine. The only real problem was not having enough space for all of us to sit and eat together. We ended up balancing plates on knees, sitting outside/half inside/perched on steps etc…but we managed!

So we pootled up towards Llangollen, going through two locks and passing over the Chirk and the Pontcysslyte (now I’m sure that spelling is wrong but I’m too lazy to google it to find out the correct spelling!) aqueducts. Pictures are posted on the last post. We moored up about 30 minutes outside lllangollen and then sailed into the Marina the next morning, giving us a day to look around. Mr D, MiL and I went to Plas Newydd (that’s the black-and-white house in the photos)and here’s a few more photos of it.

Then Mr D & I went to a great pub for lunch – The Corn Mill – we pigged out on delicious things. (Tangent: isn’t it strange how one can beso full of dinner that you can’t finish it, but still have room for a slab of barabrith bread-and-butter-pudding with vanila ice cream and apricot sauce? I maintain I have two stomachs: a dinner stomach and a pudding stomach. I certainly look fat enough to have two stomachs!!! 🙁 ) Then we decided to walk to the Horseshoe Falls – the waterfall/weir at the point on the River Dee where water feeds the canal. It was further than expected and I’m afraid I didn’t quite make it, but Mr D did. We met some ducklings which were very keen on Mr D’s bootlaces!

Later on that evening, there was much hilarity as a dog from another boat leapt into the canal basin to try to catch one of the many ducks. Of course as he swam towards them the ducks swam to another part of the marina. For all the owner called its name (“Tetley! Tetley!”) the dog refused to come back. We started to get a bit concerned, as the dog was getting very tired but stubbornly refused to come to shore. Finally a random bloke leapt into the marina and fetched Tetley out. Later, we saw Tetley wrapped, shivering, in a blanket looking rather hang dog.

We left Llangollen and returned to Ellesmere. Judith (SiL) decided that she wanted an Indian meal to celebrate her birthday, so we found one in Ellesmere. It looked a bit dubious, and the waiter started off being very dragonian with us (“Right. Drinks. Lady One, what do you want? OK, next. You, sir, what do you want…?!”) But he loosened up by the time we’d got our mains, and complimented the children on their appetites and choices. Finally he gave them a lollipop each, saying “Here you are Babies (they are 9, 10 and 12 but with sweets on offer they weren’t complaining about the soubriquet!) You are our future. Have a lollipop!” (Is that a non-sequitur? I can’t help but think so!)

We then pootled on to Whitchurch (where I persuaded Mr D to eat in a thoroughly nasty pub. He left his sausages. That shows how unpleasant it was. Mr D seldom leaves food, if it can be helped.) (I finally redeemed myself by finding a good pub in Lancashire – where Mr D chose sausages once again, but this time ate them All Up) and then turned around and pootled back to Ellesmere. Later, Mr D was thinking we should have gone the Whitchurch direction first as there are more locks that way, and the kids would have got more involved. But we all liked Llangollen and the aqueducts, so I guess it’s swings and roundabouts. The children enjoyed themselves, reading, chatting and painting, so I think it wasn’t a bad decision, per se.

Here are two paintings:

Callum's Canal-and-sunset

Matthew's "Canal Art"

I’m not including any of my rather pedestrian efforts in this!

Then Mr D and I went on to Liverpool, where we dumped our bags at mum’s then hopped on a train to the city centre. Lunch at a lovely new tapas bar, Lunya, followed by an hour’s whiz round the shops (nowhere near long enough for me!). Then “Toy Story 3” in 3-D (grown men were snuffling all around me at the end!!!) . We had 15 minutes to rush to Pret A Manger for a drink-and-a-biscuit, then back to watch “Inception” on the I-Max screen. I enjoyed both films, but preferred Toy Story! (I didn’t have to think!!!) Back home in time for a sandwich before bed (bliss! Real beds! Lots of room!)

Then on Sunday we met an old school friend for a walk along the canal (you’d think we’d had enugh of canals!) and across the fields around Lydiate for a cup of tea and a cake.

Peacock at the Tea Shop!

The following day, we (mum, Mr D and I) met up with my sister, my brother, his wife and two of their children. At a canal (what again!?) – the longest, highest, deepest tunnel (or was that the highest, longest, deepest?!) in the UK. see HERE for details (Oops, sorry! I find out that we ventured into Yorkshire.) We went on a boat into the tunnel. Here is mum and Ailsa wearing their hard hats (as they sat outside the boat!)

Then we went to a pub and had a yummy meal (that’s where Mr D had his chicken and black pudding sausages. I had a fish-and-chip supper. But it was very high class fish-and-chip supper, with puréed peas (no mushy peas here!) and home made tartar sauce. And fab English bitter.) Then back to Liverpool…back to Canterbury (where MiL lives) then back to France. A good time was, I think, had by all.

All Saints Day

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

Here in France at Toussaint the tradition is that you visit family graves, taking flowers. For the past few weeks the weekly market has been brightened by stalls selling crysanthemums in pots, or gaudy plastic flowers, for people to buy to put on graves. The cemetary, which we can see from our house, has been very busy today – although some people tried to Beat the Traffic by coming yesterday – and gradually blobs of colour have been appearing midst the funereal grey of this traditionally French cemetary.

I don’t have a grave to visit for my father: his ashes were scattered over one of the Lake District peaks he loved so much (rather surreptitiously, as my Mum didn’t know if it was legal or not!). He has a plaque in the crematorium garden, but that doesn’t mean much to me. My dear Father died in 1990, and it pains me to say that as each year passes I lose a little more of him: my memories are fading. I have a sense of being loved very much by him, but his voice? his face? Despite photos, I struggle to picture him in my mind. Odd souvenirs of him telling stories about Red and Silver, two squirrels who lived in Formby woods…or “buying” my wart from me for sixpence (he was a GP and he quite often did that with children.!! I can’t remember if he was successful in the purchase!)…sitting in the corner at my Nana’s house for Sunday tea, smoking his pipe and reading “The Sunday People” (we were a Guardian family, but “The People” was a guilty pleasure of his!)…and the Bastard Cancer that took him from us far too early.

But in my mind, I place flowers on his non-existent grave.

These are for you, Dad

These are for you, Dad