Posts Tagged ‘Friends’

The Eagle of the Ninth

Sunday, April 15th, 2012

I know this is cheating a bit, but I want to tell people who don’t read my other blog what we did last night, because it was so enjoyable. So here’s a cut-n-paste from Fat Dormouse:

We had an enjoyable evening last night – Mr FD and I went up to see Cathy. Our friend Richard was there, with the two boys from next door. We had dips (courtesy of River Cottage, we had  bean & artichoke dip , houmous, and a made-up-as-I-went-along salmon (tinned) and cream cheese dip) then pizzas, then very creamy desserts, courtesy of Carrefour, via Richard. We watched “The Eagle” on the big screen

which we all enjoyed, although it was only loosely based on the wonderful, wonderful Rosemary Sutcliff book:

I have a version, called “Three Legions” which includes three of her Roman Britain stories. Meant for young teenagers, I still enjoy reading them today. I felt the film showed a lot of (beautiful) scenery and riding through Wild Scotland, plus a lot of chasing (a little bit like Doctor Who – there’s always rather too many shots of The Doctor running about) and lacked some of the excitement of the book. But, isn’t that often the case with films of books? Here is a really interesting article from The Guardian about the books, about the author and about the journalist’s reaction to the book. I’ve now lent my copy to Max and Joe – I hope they enjoy it as much as I did!

Have you ever seen a film that was better, or at least as good as, the book it was based on?

I apologise for the sporadic postings. I know I should post more often than once a week – my blogging friend Ang sometimes posts twice or even thrice a day! And always something interesting or quirky. I don’t think my life provides enough quirk to manage that, but I should make the effort to post twice a week, I feel.  I shall try harder!

And a quick PS – I’ve not heard any news about Paul, the old man who collapsed in church last week. Thank you though to those who have prayed for him. I will update you when I have heard.

A Lovely Day Out

Friday, March 16th, 2012

Yesterday, we had a lovely day out with our friends Mij and Bill, who live about 45 minutes away from us…

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned before how we met – through the death of my dearest cat, Pumpkin, and Mij’s kindness writing to a complete stranger.

After Pumpkin’s death I wrote (on one of my whims…which is how I had a Papal-blessing-through-the-post and a letter from Prince Charles’ secretary – and how I met Mij and Bill, the point of this story!) to Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie (then on Radio 2, but now on Radio Six Music) to say I was very sad about Pumpkin’s death and could they play a record to speed her on her Last Great Adventure. (Unfortunately the wording that I used – “Last Great Adventure” –  did cause some discussion about whether Pumpkin had died or not, but they came to the conclusion that it did!!). My email was read out, mentioning my surname and the village where we live. A few days later, I received a letter from Mij, saying that she had listened to R&M and heard my email, and that she wanted to say that she thought Pumpkin was a great name for a cat and that she was sorry that Pumpkin had died. It also said that her husband said she was mad to be writing to complete strangers (!!) and they lived not far away from us. I looked them up in the phone book and telephoned Mij to say thank you – well, we discovered that she is another Northern lass, and we got on like a house on fire! She invited us for lunch, we went and there you go! We’re good friends and although we don’t see each other very often, it’s always nice when we do.

Bill is a keen cyclist like Mr D – he rides with the Renaison Cycle Club – and so yesterday, we took Mr D’s bike with us, and  after lunch, Bill and MrD went on a ride while Mij and I took Dog for a walk. Mr D was happy to ride somewhere flat as they live near the plain, and I enjoyed a walk in different surroundings.

There were lovely views of old farms

signs of Spring – my first close up lamb (as opposed to while whizzing by in the car)

(Sorry about the fence, but I couldn’t clamber up the bank to get any closer.)

And we met two friendly donkeys, who were obviously hoping for apples, or somesuch delicacy:

Mij made us a lovely lunch of warm asparagus and salmon starter, then vegetable quiche, potatoes and salad, and cheese. We decided to have dessert (a cream-and-jam sponge cake, which I’d taken along) when Mr D and Bill got back from their ride. It was very welcome, with several cups of tea. We stayed sitting in their lovely little cottage garden as the sun went down on a really beautiful day, which was warm enough to be in June.

We had a great time. We must do something similar again soon!

I’m SO glad Mij contacted me after Pumpkin’s death.


Remembering Paul

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

For the last few weeks our weekly market has been more colourful than usual, because of the stalls selling both artificial flowers and real pots of chrysanthemums and winter pansies . Winter pansies are called Pensées here in France, which can also, I think, be translated as “Thoughts” – which is very appropriate – because the reason these have been for sale is in preparation for today: Toussaint, All Saints Day.


Here are the real flowers...

...and here are the artificial ones

Gradually the cemetary becomes more and more colourful as families arrive to lay flowers or  to put plants on the graves of their loved ones. Usually by 11th November, most of these have blown over in the Autumn winds, so before the ceremony at the War Memorial my friend, her children and I spend 15 minutes or so replacing them! We’re usually early for the ceremony of remembrance, as we don’t go to the Church service before, so uprighting all the blown-over plants keeps the children well-occupied.

Here's the cemetary from my study window

If you click on the photo to enlarge it you should be able to see the blobs of colour that are appearing.

I’ve blogged about this before here when I remembered my Father. But today, Mr D and I went up to the cemetary and laid a pebble each on the grave of our dear friend Paul. He died at the beginning of the year. Paul was a scientist, and in particular a physical scientist, with a love of nature and rocks. He was an incredibly generous man, with his possessions, his time, his heart, and he truly loved God. We rejoice that we knew him, but regret the time that we knew him was too short, and that so much of it was shadowed by the cancer that he bore so bravely and, although it sounds strange, almost joyfully. He never showed his fears to us – in fact, he once said to me “I’m not afraid of my death for myself. I’m only afraid of what it might do to Daniele” . A lovely, selfless man.

We didn’t want to lay flowers, or put a plant. For me, that is the family who does this – and, because Toussaint is really a Catholic “festival” and Paul was staunchly Eglise Reformée, I’m not sure the family would want this anyway – but both Mr D and I decided seperately that we wanted to place a pebble on his grave. It seems appropriate that a man who loved geology would like a stone. So we each picked one from my collection: mine was a biggish, orangey colour, about the size of a duck egg, with a hole which, I guess, another stone wore away over hundreds of years, while Mr D chose a small grey pebble, with stripes of white quartz. We walked up together, and stood for a few minutes remembering our dear friend…and then we went a shared a cup of tea with Gilles, another of our good friends here in St Just.

Thank you Lord for the love and friendship of friends and family, here and gone before. May we remember those who have left us with joy and gladness, and may we appreciate those who are our friends in the here and now. It is so easy to take them for granted. Help us to show our appreciation for all they have done for us, and all they give us.


Wrist duly slapped.

Monday, October 31st, 2011

I have had my wrist slapped by Mr. D.

“I keep looking at your blog to find out what we’ve been doing,” he said. “But you’ve not written anything.”

Yes, well, partly because we’ve not really done very much!

As I said in my last post, I think, life pootles on and not much happens. My sister and her husband stayed with us for a couple of days on their way to Italy. And then again on their way back. We ate out rather too much.  I felt very full for several days after they’d left! Michel across the road gave us a big box of peches de vigne so Judy and I spent one morning making peach jam (which has gone very stiff), peach chutney and peaches preserved in peach brandy. Then on their return, they brought a box of tomatoes from the farm where they were staying, so I’ve made tomato sauce, and used the tomatoes in my cooking. There are still one or two left (they’re beginning to look a bit wrinkled and worse-for-wear, so I need to do something with them. I’m thinking a tomato soup might be in order for tomorrow’s lunch, perhaps…)

We helped at our friends’ cider making again – this is an annual event which is fun. They have an ancient cider press, and Mr D enjoys showing his brute force turning the handle. We turned down the offer of some of the apple juice in the hope of getting some of it at a later date when it’s fermented! This year has been a great year for apples so hopefully it will be good cider when it’s made. The juice was certainly good.

I have made loads – and loads – of Christmas cards. I plan on having a stall at the St Germain Laval early Christmas Market. Last year I was placed next to a stall selling cards at a lot less than mine were selling for – and selling a lot more cards. So this year I’ve made a lot of much simpler designs, and I’m not bothering to encase them in plastic wrap. Using a lot of things I bought cheaply, mostly from Noz (card/envelope sets, ribbons, sparkly bits, stick-ons etc) or from Casa (shiny beads and ribbons), and also using old Christmas cards from last year, plus the card that I snatched out of the bin at Michelin some time back, I have been able to make cards that have turned out to cost me not much more than 30 or 40 cents to make. I think the best buy were packets of gift tags at 30 cents for 8 – these are lovely and shiny. Stuck onto card, with a few sequinny snowflakes or stars and some calligraphy, they make a very cheap but attractive card. If I can sell them, as I’m thinking of doing,  for 1,50€ each or three for 4€  I should make a tidy profit. I’ve also done more  “Bonnes Fetes de Fin d’Année” cards , which seems to be the tradition here in France, rather than Joyeux Noel . I’ve got some stock left over from last year too which I’m going to try to sell.

this one uses a gift tag. I made 8 of these for about 20cents each

This is another one using a gift tag plus some Indian craft paper

I’ve also decorated and plastificated (is that a proper word, I wonder?) some notebooks and address books:

What else? I’ve done a little cycling – a long ride with the club, of 43 km, which nearly killed me (slight exaggeration, but you get the idea!) plus another quite hard ride by myself. That was shorter, but there was a tough uphill in it. Doing it by myself meant I could do 500m at a time then stop for a rest, which is my way of getting up hills. Mr D thinks this is not a good way, and that one should find one’s rhythm and just keep lugging away. I can do that now on shallow climbs, but not this one. It’s too steep: my lungs and legs won’t let me just keep plugging away. I should do more cycling, but I am definitely a reluctant cyclist.

My sister and her husband gave me 50€ towards the Challenge, so I am so very nearly there now! As another friend has promised to make up the sum to 1,000€ I think we can safely say that not only did I cycle my 1,000 km but I raised my 1,000€ too!  The news on Richard’s trial is a bit – well, I’m not too sure what!  He has said that he hopes that the election of a new President, who has announced a zero tolerance attitude towards corruption, might work in his favour. I can’t really say much more,  but do ask for your continuing prayers for Richard’s situation.

So there you are. Not much going on, but I’ve caught up with you. Apologies if you’ve been returning & re-returning with the hope of a new blog post to read (that seems unlikely, but you never know…). Please don’t give up on me! I am already planning a post for Toussaint, which is tomorrow.



Two Great Weekends

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

I had good intentions of blogging more frequently, but somehow work and general laziness always get in the way! When I get home from teaching, I usually spend half-an-hour reading emails and catching up on the Ship of Fools and blogs that I follow, but I don’t have the inclination or time to blog myself. Well,today is a free day. I could do some preparation work, but I’ve decided to mostly spend today doing “me” stuff – reading blogs, blogging, visiting friends, maybe cooking, and doing a little bit of paperwork too.

When I’ve written this post, I’ll probaly go for a wander around the market as well. It’s not the most interesting of markets, with Big Knicker Stalls being popular, but from time to time there is an interesting stall – melons from Cavaillon (although it’s a bit late for them now), the olive and spice man, or local saucissons. Usually I will treat us to a pain au praline as well – a brioche with lurid pink praline and stickiness galore! The baker’s van maybe sold out of these when I get there, but I’ll take that risk.

So, about our great weekends. The first was at the beginning of the month. Our good friends from the UK, Gary & Carlo, came to stay. Mr D and I have known Gary for quite some time (can it really be almost 20 years?!) and Carlo for a little less. Carlo used to be my hairdresser in the UK, and so I was thrilled to find he’d brought his scissors with him! They arrived on Saturday evening: we met them at Vichy station and we’d planned to go out for a meal there, but Gary wasn’t feeling well, so we came straight home. On Sunday we went for a tour of the local region, having lunch in a great little restaurant I’d not been to before, but will definitely go to again. It serves traditional Lyonnaise food – andouillettes, quennelles, sausages – and it was delicious!

On a clear day, you can see Mont Blanc

Mr D shows Carlo the sights from the tower at the Chateau d’Urfé

Three Great Guys

Mr D, Carlo and Gary



On Monday Gary, Carlo and I went shopping! Actually we didn’t buy much, but it was great fun. Mr D is not a Shopper, so he stayed at home to work. We’d planned to go to the Casino, but by the time Carlo had coloured and cut my hair, done a “Gok Wan” on my wardrobe and thrown out half of my clothes, it was too late! Mr D was a bit grumpy with me, but I think I was forgiven…we had a raclette, and salad instead and drank quite a lot and got squiffy.

We went for a walk in the morning (and Carlo cut my friend’s hair too!) This is the view of the chateau at St Just from the hill above the village.

I dropped them off very early in Clermont Ferrand when I went to work. It was too short a time and I hope they’ll be back soon. I need Carlo to advise me on my wardrobe!!!

Our second great weekend was last weekend. The Divine Comedy was playing at Montpellier International Guitar Festival, and Mr D (who has missed live music since we moved here) had splashed out on a couple of tickets for us. He and two friends had planned to cycle to Montpellier, while me and the WAGs drove the Support Car, stopping at B&Bs on the way and staying at another friend’s B&B (see link on sidebar) near Montpellier. Unfortunately Steve’s dad became seriously ill, so he had to go back to the UK, and so the plan came to nought. However, we were going to the concert, so we drove down on Friday, stayed with Louise & Razaq as planned, and went to the concert on Saturday evening.

So on Saturday, Mr D and I went out on our bikes. He’d planned a long 80 km ride to the sea and back, while I planned a less ambitious route. However, my map was too small a scale and I got lost amidst the vineyards in the area. I had a lovely ride, but at times I had to get off and push, as the tracks were too rough and/or stony and I risked punctures. I came across some sculptures, and some of the crosses that litter the French countryside.

The Sea! The sea!


After the ride we went into Pezanas, a pretty little town – but quite busy. I can imagine that in the height of summer it would be horrendous. We found an English bookshop (I bought 3 second hand novels and a jar of mincemeat!) and I could have been tempted in other shops, with such things as earrings, soap and wildly impractical clothing…but all were fripperies and unnecessary. I suppose mincemeat and books aren’t strictly necessary either, but cut me some slack!

Mr D has found a friend!


A number 10 for Les Stylos!


After an enormous late lunch (duck and creme fraiche pizza for Mr D and a mixed grill of beef, duck and lamb for me – we drove to Montpellier, stopping to see the oyster beds in the Etang.

When we arrived in Montpellier, we had a wander and then sat in the shade a drank orange juice, and then moved onto a large glass of red! No food though, we were still stuffed from lunch! The concert was great, even though Neil Hannon had a cold and had to stop to sneeze or cough occasionally! I really enjoyed myself.

On Sunday, we drove to the coast – but didn’t quite get there! We stopped in Agde to get bread for tea, and were seduced by the market, the folklorique display…

…and the fish restaurants on boats moored at the quai of the Herault River. We finally chose the restaurant run by the only remaining fisherman/restauranteur in the village (or so the lady said!) and had a very enjoyable meal. I had fish soup, (which I adore!) with aioli and croutons, followed by a white fish with a Languedoc sauce – tomatoes, garlic and bits of seafood such as cuttlefish, tiny squiddy things etc. I finished with fresh fruit salad.

On our stroll around the village I came across these amazing murals/ trompes d’oeil

If you look really carefully, you can see that what looks like a cluster of buildings, one behind the other, is really painted on a flat wall. It is fabulous – it is just a shame that some **** seemed to think it was a good idea to graffiti it! Why?! I can understand “tagging” on a bare wall (just!) but on a piece of art work that brightens a dull corner? It is beyond me!

Anyway, after lunch we meandered back home, stopping at St Flour for a stroll and a coffee. We got home to our kitties around 7.00. And here is a kitty from Louise & Razaq’s. Marnie was a very insistent cat: he shared our room one night, but wasn’t the best companion, as he wanted loving all the time. So we were quite relieved when he didn’t make an appearance on Saturday night! But here he is wanting to come home with us:

Look! I could fit in your handbag!


Mr D took a picture of me with Marnie. The cat looks cute, but I look blobby and unattractive. So you’re not seeing that!!!

Bastille Day + 1

Friday, July 15th, 2011

I’m having a lovely, lovely long weekend – the only thing spoiling it is the concern over the car. It’s been in the garage since last Friday, and the Garagiste seems rather vague about what the problem is. He thought (or the diagnostic computery reader machine told him) that it was the injector (? Don’t ask me) was the problem. But today I learn that having replaced that, there’s still a problem. Ho,hum, it’s sounding more & more expensive. Then we face the decision of whether, having spent however-much-it’s-going-to-cost we then live with it for longer, or we buy a new car. This one is starting to go wrong more times than we really like – it’s been in the garage for fairly major things twice in the past year, and now requires 4 new tyres, and the cruise control is becoming less reliable. It has done a lot of kilometres, and trolls up and down the motorway most days. Maybe it’s time to think of another one…

Anyway – yesterday was Bank Holiday here in France, and today is le Pont (the Bridge) So a lot of places are closed today, including the Language school where I work. Yesterday I went out on the bike (fairly reluctantly, I must say!) and added another 28 km to the total. I’m now within 7 km of reaching three quarters of the 1,000 kilometre target. News about Chisomo below. We then went up to Alison & Gèrôme’s for a barbecue. I’d not seen Alison for ages so it was good to have a natter and to catch up. The food was yummy and the atmosphere relaxed. We went out for a walk with Marvin-the-Puppy and the kids and had a lovely time. I was knackered when we got home and spent a good hour and a half dozing, before watching the first episode of “Torchwood”. Which, I think on reflection, I enjoyed. I’d eaten so much at lunchtime that my tea consisted of a couple of handfuls of peanuts!

News from Chisomo, the Community School, is not good. Or rather, news about Richard, our friend and link to the school, isn’t good. I can’t – both because I don’t know details and because I’m not sure how wise it is to do so – go into detail but Richard has been arrested, falsely accused and is standing trial for, amongst other things, drug dealing and money laundering.

On consideration, I’ve edited this post a little. Maybe it’s best not to be quite so open with details about an ongoing trial.

Suffice to say, Richard needs your prayers, so if you are of a praying frame of mind, please pray for a swift and just outcome to the trial.

Apparently, when he was being questioned, the police said “You’re the kind of foreigner we don’t want here.”

“What?” Richard replied. “The kind who spend their own money helping the poorest members of the community?”

One of the saddest things for me is that there are church leaders who appear to be opposing Richard in his work, and who may well be implicated in his false arrest.

Anyway, let’s hope that when I finish my ride at the end of August I’ll be able to celebrate not just raising money, but being able to give it to Richard in person. It will be a terrible thing if he is found guilty.

Off With the Cyclo Club. Part 2.

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

I think I left you on Saturday night. And so we come to Sunday morning…which is when I said I would ride. Mr D had planned a route, which, he said, followed the Voie Vert (a cycle track following the old railway tracks.) Flat, he said. And, to be fair, that part was flat. The other parts weren’t quite so flat.

Dark words were muttered by all members of the group as we turned a corner and saw an ascent that must have been 1:10. (Well, I say that, but in reality I have no idea what  a 1:10 slope looks like. But it sounds steep. And this was steep.) It was so steep that four of us wobbled to an immediate halt as we tried desperately to change down to the granniest of granny gears without managing it. Roger had a little more success, and got about 50 metres up the road before he came to a wibbly stop, failed to get his feet out of his toe-clips and fell off his bike. Luckily the banks at the side of the road were also steep and grassy, so he didn’t actually fall very far, and ended up leaning at an angle against the grassy verge! The four of us pushed our bikes up the hill for about 500 metres, as it was too steep to get back on the bikes. Only Scary Daniel had managed to keep going, through fierce determination, and he was patiently wating for us at the top of the hill. Then we continued down hill, along road, round the roundabout then heading for home… back to the Voie Vert and only the 2km hill back to the holiday village.

Or So I Thought.

But no, Mr D had kindly popped a small mountain into the route. I was cursing  as I whooped for breath cycling up it.  Even in Total Granny Gear I had to stop for a breather, and a swig of lemon squash…but I managed it! Huzzah For Me! There were choruses of “Merci Monsieur D!” when I reached the top, breathlessly threatening to mercilessly slaughter my husband of 26 years. But by the time I got back I was really so elated that I’d completed the route, that my ritual beating of Mr D with my water bidon was quite half hearted.

Many people had decided not to cycle on Sunday morning, opting for the 8 km hike (poor Mr D had no choice as his bike was dead) or a stroll to the nearest village. The weather was so much beter than yesterday’s – blue sky and sunshine. I’m glad I opted to cycle today!

We got showered, rather hastily, in the one chalet that we’d not yet cleared out of, and then congregated ready for lunch. More of the traditional apero was consumed together with chestnut-and-apple salad, unidentified meat in sauce and vegetables, cheese, tart-and-yoghurt and coffee. We sat out in the sunshine and chatted. Gilles (our friend who had managed the Col de Pas de Peyrol yesterday) was really pleased with himself and saying he deserved a medal. So we decided to make him one and to present it to him next Friday (well, actually, as I’m writing this, it’s now last Friday, but it was next Friday then. IF you see what I mean!)

Then on the coach to head for home, via Salers. Salers is a lovely Medieval town. And is the centre of a proud cheese making industry. So first, we went to visit a Buron which is an old cheese making place.: it’s a shepherd’s hut, now converted into a museum. Actually first we went for a rather roundabout trip in the Cantal countryside as our bus driver got lost. He carried out a spectacular several-point-turn in a narrow country lane. I was very impressed. Anyway, when we reached the Buron we were able to taste Salers cheese (very nice) and various liquers too. I was pleased that I (on thewhole) managed to follow the guide’s rapid fire commentary too.

Here are some of us, having enjoyed our liqueur tasting. We bought some crème de framboise but none of the gentian based Salers liqueur. Claire went a bit mad and bought tons of cheese (we bought a modest 300g or so, but she was buying for her family of three hungry teenagers!) and a couple of bottles of stuff.

And here is the view of the valley where it was situated. Very beautiful.

It was up in those mountains (and along this valley) that the Guys had cycled in mist/rain/hail/ cold the day before. I think they preferred today’s mode of transport!

We then went to Salers – a very lovely town. Mr D wanted to look at the buildings, but I’m afraid Cathy, Claire & I (and Steve to a certain degree) got very excited about shops! Claire was definitely in spending mood. I bought myself a very nice bracelet and was tempted by some copper engraved earrings, but resisted temptation. I gave Mr D the camera, but the battery died, so he didn’t have much luck. Still,

here is a picture to give you an idea of what it’s like. We had our picnic just outside the village – all provided by the Cyclo club, it was delicious. The younger members of the party amused themselves by having a cherry-stone-spitting competition. I joined in, and they were most impressed until they turned round to look at me in mid “spit” and discovered I was only making a ptoui! noise and throwing the stones! Curses! Foiled again!

Then we were on the road home. We got back to St Just at about 11.15 – I was very aware that I had to be up again at 5.15 the next morning, but it was, all-in-all, a very enjoyable weekend away.

Here is my picture of the Chateau we went to on Saturday:

and here are a couple of pictures from some walks I’ve done in the past few weeks. The puppy is Marvin, and belongs to Alison & Gerome. He is a dear little thing.

This is a view of the old railway viaduct at Juré. It was a lovely walk – just about my distance, with a pause for a cup of tea with friends!

The lamb crossing the bridge rather tickled me!

So there you are. I really need to go and work now, as I’ve got a new student tomorrow, and I have no idea what I’m doing with him.

Footnote: we presented Gilles with his medal on Friday night, up at Steve & Cathy’s. He was very pleased and didn’t take it off all evening. I meant to take the camera up, but forgot. Tant pis.


Off With the Cyclo Club. Part One.

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

This weekend just gone the Cyclo Club went away to the Cantal area of France – not too far away from here (about 2.5 hours by short route, but 4 by long windy road route) and we stayed in a holiday village (see here for more info) which was perfectly comfortable and pleasant – although the food was not top quality, it more than made up for it in sheer quantity! The only problem was the fact that it was half way up a bloody big hill and when you’ve been out cycling that last 2 km was a killer!

We left at 6.00 am on Saturday, pausing at a pleasant spot for breakfast. You can see a photo of it here – le Chateau du Val. We ate bread, cheese, sausage, chocolate, and drank coffee or wine -for the brave amongst us. Then headed off for the Village. Unfortunately the weather grew worse and worse. I’d already decided not to cycle on Saturday, preferring to spend the time with Claire & Cathy, non cyclists who had come along for the trip. I’m very glad – the reports we got back were of driving rain, low cloud, blue knees and thunderstorms. Mr D’s bike broke 30 km into the ride, so he wasn’t happy (except now he is in the midst of persuading me that he needs a new bike…) but those who did the whole ride were totally wiped out at the end. Steve didn’t manage the final climb

but those who did said the views would have been spectacular – had it not been for the cloud!Our friend Gilles, who hates cold and wet cycling, made it. He really was SO proud! We’re going to make him a medal and present it to him on Friday with aperos at Claire’s house. King of the Mountains indeed!

The non cyclists visited a Museum, which wasn’t terribly interesting. The excursion didn’t start too well. We’d been told that we were leaving at 2.00 so Cathy Claire and I retired to our rooms for a nap. The cyclists left at 1.30, and Cathy and I mumbled “Goodbye..Take care..enjoy” and went back to sleep. Alarms set for 1.45 we woke and started to potter, getting ready. Then Claire arrived “The bus has been tooting. I think they’re waiting for us…” We scurried over to where the bus was waiting “Ah! Les Anglais!” Claire, who speaks French like a native started saying “You told us it was 2.00 …” but was drowned out by jeers (friendly, but jeers nonetheless)  It appears that everyone else had gone out to wave off the cyclists so were all ready to leave at 1.30 as well… Anywhoo…

Our destination was, ostensibly, a museum of Cantal life, in a typical style. Home at one end of the building and barn at the other. While the house part was reasonably interesting – nicely set out with old furniture etc – the rest was a bit of a junk yard, with no order to it. It was as though they had gathered everything they possibly could find and then thought “…And how are we going to display this? Oh, it doesn’t matter. Let’s put it all in one room!” The guide wasn’t terribly inspiring: “Here’s a watering can…that’s a mouse trap…this is an old sewing machine…” He did perk up a bit when people asked questions, but it was difficult to think of many.

We then went to Mauriac, a smallish town, where Claire bought a much needed fleece (she’d come prepared for summer, not Autumn!) and I met a cat-in-a-pharmacy who wanted to climb inside my raincoat. I’d’ve been happy to take him! And then to a Chateau where there was a museum of miniature cars. Most people found this quite interesting.  I wasn’t rivetted. I preferred looking round the chateau which is, in fact, a Chambre d’Hotes. Chateau de la Vigne, if anyone’s interested. The gardens were lovely, with a fine view – but by the time we got there it was lashing down with rain again, so we didn’t really have the opportunity to enjoy the view!

In the evening we had an apero from the region – white wine, honey, lemon and creme de chataigne (chestnut liqueur) – which slipped down very easily! And then a hearty meal of tartiflette (cheese, ham, potatoes) There was dancing as well, but by 10.00 most people were dropping off to sleep at the table, due to the early start and their exertions in the afternoon. I did one dance and then bailed out. Mr D didn’t even do that!

Time to make dinner. More next time.

How shall I keep from singing..

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

The Chorales of Les Vallées de l’Aix et Isable and Le Pays d’Urfé – I sing in the second, but we are partners with the first – went to sing at a concert in a little village the other side of Montbrison last night.

There were two other choirs, the host choir and a group from St Etienne. A pleasant (mostly) evening was passed – I say “mostly” as the St Etienne chorale was a little low on numbers and tried some songs which perhaps demanded more technique than they were capable of. We sang a number of songs of various genres – some of which are far too fast for my English tongue and I still find myself tripping up over the words!

After the singing was done, there was, as usual, a get together with food (delicious home made pizza, quiche and saucisson, followed by cherry cake and tarte aux pommes) and drink. Which included something which was called (I think) The Bowl of Friendship. This was an enormous preserving pan of eau de vie which they had set light to  (yes, you heard correctly set light to it) during the interval and by the end it was  warming to the cockles of the heart.

But the nicest thing – and this is why I love the Chorale group – is that,while people were mingling and chatting at the end, two of our members produced their accordians (as you do…) and started singing. They just love to sing…! Of course, people joined in until there was a large group all singing along with traditional songs (and some not so traditional) We had the French version of “There’s A Hole in my Bucket”, and the rather tedious song from La Boheme which includes the words  “Faria, Faria, Ho!rather too many times, as well as other songs that I don’t know. Then came the sadly now inevitable chants of “Al-i-son! Al-i-son!”  (that’s me) and I had to lead them all in a chorus of “An Austrian went Yodelling” (You can google this if you wish to know more) This is now my Party Piece which is performed with great hilarity at every gathering.

Then, on the way home on the coach there was more singing – including “There Was A farmer Had a Dog”  and “In A Forest In A Wood” (any Infant teachers out there should know these songs!) When I recounted this to Mr D he did enquire as to how much of the Bowl of Friendship had been imbibed by our two Chorale groups…But I think that, while quantities of strong drink may have added to the conviviality, it is simply that the group loves to sing. It’s great.

I’m thinking of trying to teach them “On Ilkley Moor baht’at” next…! 🙂

Lucky Me! Part 2

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

I received my other OWOH “door prize” at the weekend… Lynne, over at this site, has sent me some beautiful beads. My photography isn’t good, so I shall direct you to my earlier post where you can see a photograph of the Star of the show. But that wasn’t all I received from Lynne. Oh no! I also received enough matching/coordinating beads to add to my necklace, plus a delightful fish bead. He is all googly eyes with a splendid tail. How talented Lynne is to make such gorgeous things. I am so grateful to Lisa who organised OWOH, as I met some interesting Bloggers and received two fab prizes. I still haven’t decided how to spend my vouchers yet…

I’m in the process of making two “Thank You” cards, for Lynne and Amanda, but my Sunday crafting was interrupted. I’d forgotten I’d agreed to go to the Loto afternoon at the local collège. There’s 4 hours of my life I won’t get back! Not exactly the most scinitillating of afternoons, although it was good to spend time with friends I’d not seen for a while – during the winter we do tend to hibernate a little, but with the coming of Spring, we’re beginning to emerge, a little crumpled and still sleepy…Things will liven up soon, I’m sure! Anyway, I’ll finish the cards next weekend (no time before then, I’m afraid. I just have this window of this morning to do my ironing, prepare for a meeting of the Artisans on Thursday, catch up on my blogging & emails, then off to work I go.  Otherwise this week’s a little bit full.)

What other news? None, really. Our friends, Cathy & Steve, will be out here soon for Easter – and a bit longer. That’ll be nice. We tend to be a bit more sociable when they’re here, simply because they’re sort-of on holiday. (Only sort-of, as they’re renovating their house and have to work on it. But they’re a little less pressured than us what live ‘ere all the time…and this rubs off on us a bit too. ) Richard has left for the UK and Zambia. He is also renovating a house near St Just, but is the link between us and Chisomo – the school I’m supporting with my 1K km 4 1K€ challenge . So friends are coming and going. ..and helpfully bring us goodies from the UK when they come back! We don’t really miss, or need, many of the things they bring, but it is nice to have little tastes of home. For me, it includes Tunnock’s Caramel wafers

and Branston Baked Beans, plus a couple of English glossies – Good Housekeeping, She, Olive, Good Food…that sort of thing. I like some good curry sauces & naan breads too: not quite as good as a takeaway, but almost. For Mr D it’s Assam tea, English beer (damn, I forgot to ask Cathy for that! Must remember to ask Richard instead!), and maybe a Saturday Guardian. For Gerome, who is French but lived in the UK for many years, it’s definitely Custard Creams!

Pomme is happy, sitting on the Z-Bed in the sunshine – somewhere where George is unlikely to mither her – while Millie is snoozing on the back of the sofa downstairs. George, typical adolescent, is mooching around, looking for trouble.

And I am not really looking forward to work. I’m teaching a Module at the moment – 1.5 hours every day, same time, same place, same students. I’m not really enjoying it, but I don’t know why: maybe it’s the regularity, or the method I’m using, or maybe the fact that with one student way better than the other two, and obviously a bit bored, I don’t feel I’m doing the best for him. The other two are OK, because the method is about the right level for them, reviewing & revising stuff they need to practice, but for the 3rd student it’s stuff he’s very confident with, and so he’s a bit grumpy and not engaged in the lessons. But there’s not much I can do: I’ve been instructed to teach to the level of the weaker students, so C. has to lump it, really. I console myself with the fact he’s learning vocabulary, as he busily writes down the idiomatic phrases and business language that they’re learning. But I still feel he’s in the wrong group – but it’s up to him to speak to the Language Centre and change groups, not me.

So that’s where we are. Sunshiney and bright today as well. Spring is On It’s Way!