Posts Tagged ‘happy things’

News about work…

Saturday, February 2nd, 2013

…a bit of boasting, and news of a Giveaway!

First, the News About Work

As I reported last time, I’ve been taken on by a company to give English lessons by telephone – they’re not too bad, although, TBH, I’m not a great fan of the telephone and avoid it where possible, as I sometimes find it a little difficult to hear. I have one student who mumbles – or, at least, doesn’t enunciate clearly – so it’s quite tricky correcting his pronunciation, or even his grammar, as I don’t always hear him properly! Still, it pays the (metaphorical) rent.

I have an interview on Monday with another English Language Teaching Company, over in Lyon. I contacted them back in November, and they said that when/if they had any work in Clermont they’d contact me. I thought it was a polite brush-off, but no. They have some work, and want to interview me on Monday. I have to “teach” a lesson to the interviewers (aargh) and explain my reasons for teaching what I taught. I’ve done my lesson plan – which isn’t the most inspiring thing I’ve ever done, but I’m reasonably pleased with it – all I need do now is ask MrD to help me download the podcast that I want to use onto my tablet. I’m not very tech-minded so need all the help I can get.

I also have a Skype interview on Monday for the same Summer School that I worked for last year. I’ve already sent them my lesson plan, so I guess we’ll have to discuss that (at least I won’t have to teach it to the interviewer.) and so on. Of course I’ll be nervous, but with both of these, I think that they need me almost as much as I need them. Obviously the Lyon Company don’t already have a teacher in the Clermont area, and are looking for one; the Summer School needs lots of teachers – and one as experienced as me, who’s done it before and is willing to return, must be fairly high on the list. And if I don’t get either job…well. Never mind!

Last weekend,  MrD installed Windows8 on my computer. The poor dear was pulling his hair out because my files were in such a mess. The problem was that, as previously mentioned, I’m not techie, and don’t really know what I’m doing, so I’d saved everything in very random ways. There were so many various levels that required clicking on before you reached anything: name (click) name.name (click) name (click) dormouse (click) oh, look! A document! So, thanks to Mr D it’s now a lot easier. However, I do seem to have lost all my bookmarked blogs/ websites (which includes the new ones I’d bookmarked from the Grow Your Blog Party. A bit of a pain, but never mind. I can start creating a shiny, new list of bookmarked sites.

While he was doing this, I was emptying a badly utilised bookcase in his study and moving it down to mine, to hold my craft stash, so I could use my craft-stash bookcase to hold my teaching/everyday stuff. It’s meant my desk is clearer (I do like to have my “bits” (Mr D would say “crap”!) around me!) but everything is still to hand.

IMG_1398

(Oh, dear. Sorry. You’ll have to put your head on one side until I’ve re-worked out what to do) This is my “craft stash” bookcase. And yes, I do call this organised!

IMG_1399

Moving round the room, I put the old craft bookcase on top of a chest of drawers, to make a kind of “dresser” affair. This is my keeping-everyday-stuff-to-hand bookcase.

IMG_1400Moving round, we come to  my fairly clear desk. As you can see by the wall in front, my “bits” include various photos of my family, plus other pictures that mean something to me.

IMG_1401Then finally we reach my TEFL bookcase with various folders etc and the escape hatch!

I’m quite happy with the state of the place at the moment.

Second, the Boasting

When I was sorting through stuff, I came across my folder of things-I-want-to-keep: mostly cards from special occasions. There were cards from my adult baptism (which was something which I now acknowledge wasn’t done at the right time or for the right reasons. But that’s another story), from my confirmation (oh, yes! I’ve been through several rites-of-passage in the church!), my Licensing as an LLM, from after my dad’s death, and from my last day of teaching.

I don’t know if this is boasting (I think it might be!) but I want to share something one of the parents wrote to me. The background is that her son, Ben, was a child with special needs. He couldn’t concentrate, he didn’t work well, he was a pain to the other children, he had a low level of ability. He drove all the staff mad. I had him in my last year, and the deal I made with him (and his mum) was that if he didn’t finish his work, I would give it to his mum at the end of the day and he’d have to do it at home. If he did well, I would go and tell his mum at the end of the day. …

Last year I’d just heard of your name and the fact that you’re really quite tough/ But little did I know of the person who, as yet, hasn’t said “That’sit! I give up”/ You took my son in your classroom, and within a week, he’d admitted you shout/ And he even admitted its causing, of which that was never in doubt.

Your visits to the playground I’ll miss; when other Mothers said “What, not again?”/Well, I hadn’t been sumoned since Friday,would  this time be pleasure or pain?/ He might have been caught misbehaving, or just sitting, staring into space/ You can always tell when he’s guilty, by the puppy dog look on his face.

He’s always been classed a challenge, but to me this year he’s done well/ So much so he has proof – certificates two, not just green, but a blue one as well*/Until this year he’s had none, just tales, one after another/ The sort that cause me to shout “Son, there’s a limit to what I can do as your mother!”

To the teacher who can still shout just as loud as his mum: Well Done!/ Dear Mrs Mouse who still has hair, not pulled out one by one: Well Done!!/ Best wishes and thanks, for not giving up on my son/ You’ve managed to teach a delightful young man, so..I’m biased. I’m Mum!

*The certificate reference was that at the school the children received points towards certificates for extra good work, or for extra good behaviour. First a green, then a blue and then possibly a gold certificate. While I didn’t give points willy-nilly, I tried to recognise “extra-good” work/behaviour for the child, recognising the efforts that the individual put in.

I’d forgotten Ben, and his mum (who as a single mum, tried so hard to get it right – but sometimes got things so terribly wrong) until I came across this, and the poem that Ben wrote for me:

Mrs Mouse likes pomes poems and cats / She also likes to shout a lot./ Mrs Mouse lets me go out to play/ at the right time/ Mrs Mouse makes me want to be nice to you  her/ and is okay when I forget/ Mrs Mouse is a nice person/ She lets me go to the toilet a lot/ Mrs Mouse your kind to me/ I will miss you when your gone to work with the council.

I hated teaching by the end of my time, but looking back at things like this, I can be proud of what I managed to do for some quite challenging children. A round of applause and a virtual chocolate cake for those of you who are still working with challenging, difficult or downright naughty children every day of your working life. I admire you for sticking it out!

And now, the Giveaway!

I had 35 comments left on my GYB post, so, in an effort to be fair, but not to resort to writing names on bits of paper or having to use a random number generator (more techie stuff!), I yelled up the stairs to Mr D “Give me a number between 1 and 35!” He yelled back, “26!”

Comment Number 26 was from Susan, at Fruitful Words So Susan has won the Giveaway of 3 handmade cards & a bookmark. I hope you like them, Susan!

Thank you to everyone who commented and read my blog and who have maybe returned for second helpings!

It’s beginning to feel a bit like Christmas!

Monday, October 8th, 2012

St Gwladys over on the Ship of Fools has us signing up for this year’s Secret Santa, and now Faith Hope and Charity Shopping has started the signup for her Christmas swop

I’m not clever enough to make this into a link, but go over to Lakota’s blog at Faith,Hope & Charity Shopping to find out more.

I had a lovely time with the Jubilee swop that Lakota organised – I “met” the lovely Pauleen at Tropical Territory and exchanged gifts. As you can read here and here. It is always lovely to get gifts, and to try to choose things that fit into the theme.

With this swop the rules are:

  • As usual, you should send your swap partner a minimum of three items, a maximum of five.
  • At least one item – though more if you can – should be second hand, and  sourced from a charity shop, car boot sale, jumble, estate sale, eBay or similar.
  • At least one item should be handmade. If you are not crafty yourself, it’s fine to provide a handmade item that someone else has toiled over instead.
  • And this time, one item MUST relate to a Christmas carol or song. How you interpret this is up to you!

This will be fun. I shall be putting my Christmas Elf Thinking Cap on!

I know for some people it is far too early to be thinking about Christmas, but I’ve already bought half my gifts and am thinking hard about the others. I haven’t made a Christmas cake yet – we’re actually away for Christmas, so probably won’t make one for ourselves –  but I am thinking about making small ones for friends. I just need to get a square baking tin – a round cake isn’t very easy to divide up into smaller versions! If I’m going to do it, I really should get going!!

 

 

Celebrity Crushes

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

Katrin, over at the Land of Candy Canes asked about people’s first celebrity crushes…It got me thinking about my first crush on somebody (that I can remember!) and it was Ben Murphy from “Alias Smith and Jones” a TV programme that I loved, when I was about 14 or 15.

This could be the very same image that I had sellotaped to the inside of my desk lid when I was in the Upper Fourth for…or maybe it was this one:

My friend preferred the rugged good looks of Pete Duel, who sadly shot himself, through depression, at the age of 31, but I was thrilled by the boyishness of Ben Murphy.

I then moved on to crushing over David McCallum, who played Flight-Lieutenant Simon Carter in Colditz.

That stiff upper lip! Swoon! Swoon! Be still, my beating heart!

My friend preferred Anthony Valentine, who played the cold nasty Nazi prison guard, but not me. No, I was in love with the RAF hero, who (according to the biog ) had been  “Married only for a short while to his wife Cathy, he misses her desperately and tries many times to escape so that he can be reunited with her.” (No, that’s all wrong! He missed the young Miss Dormouse, and wanted to get home to her!!)

Now, how could anyone prefer him?!

And now, I have other celebrity crushes to share…

Lovely, lovely Doctor Brian Cox

Wonderful melted -chocolate-voiced Alan Rickman

Rather predictably, there’s Johnny Depp (I often play on this when teaching..The second conditional is a favourite: If I met Johnny Depp I would kiss him…It always raises a smile!)

and a new one the silver fox, Spencer Kelly, from BBC “Click”

I don’t do computers, but he makes the programme (which Mr D loves) bearable!!

So what about you, do you have any (past or present) celebrity crushes to admit to?

Weekend away Part 2

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

So, it’s Sunday now, and MrD was off on his bike ride – he’s been rather dissappointed by his “form” recently, because he’s not ben able to cycle as regularly as he could before he started his job. So this was an opportunity to challenge himself in unfamiliar landscape. Me, I was chilling out: I’d booked a massage, which was relaxing and worked on my sciatica a bit,  and spent the rest of the morning reading. While I thought about going for a stroll, the weather was grey and murky, and unconducive to suh things.

When Mr D got back, he had a sauna (the Chambres d’Hotes had a little Salle d’etente – a relaxation room – where I had my massage, and where there was a sauna and a shower) to relax his muscles and warm up a bit too. Then we drove over to Annecy. The weather really perked up on the way over, and by the time we arrived, the sun was shining brightly!

We bought a sandwich and sat in the park to eat it. Then we wandered around the streets of the old town. It really is a beautiful town.

After a walk around the streets, we headed down towards the lake – the largest natural lake in France – which has beautiful clear blue water. We strolled along, admiring the boats, watching people, and enjoying the sunshine.

The fence around this flower bed is made up of skis!

Mr D particularly liked these boats, on which you could take a trip on the lake – much more “civilised” than the fibreglass motorboats.

so we went on one!

It was a 35-minute voyage on the lake – great fun, with the wind whipping through our hair. The pilot gave us a little bit of information, but generally just left us to enjoy the sunshine sparkling on the waves and the views of mountains, and lakeside homes.

this is actually a posh hotel, rather than someone’s residence!

the town from the lake

We resisted the lure of ice cream, and drove back over the mountains to another delicious meal (see this post for further details) and an evening spent around the table chatting in a mixture of French and English.

On Monday, I had an appointment in Lyon, so we left soon after breakfast – but not before I’d taken some photos of the garden from our room. Again, the weather was misty and murky, but you can get an idea of the lovely garden from these shots

You can see more photos of this charming B&B at the website which you can find here. I would most heartily recommend it – the hosts were really friendly, and spoke English ( should you wish it!), the rooms are beautifully decorated, with thoughtful little touches, all of them different, and the area itself is also absolutely gorgeous! Really relaxing – we felt like we’d been away for more than a few nights.

Of course, we found a good restaurant in Lyon to have lunch, and after my appointment, took the tram to the Confluence. This is a newly renovated, trendy area of Lyon, where the two rivers, the Rhone and the Saone converge. It used to be industrialised but new, smart housing and a shopping centre have been built, with bars, restaurants, cinemas and a gym. It is becoming “the” place to go. I didn’t take many pictures, but here’s one of the modern housing

I still haven’t quite decided if I like it…

And then it was home to the realities of life once more – work for Mr D, and not-much-work for me. Unfortunately, my language school has lost the English teaching contract with Michelin – very unexpectedly, it must be said – and about 45% of our work came from this contract. My hours have gone from an average of 20 hours a week to about 4 – eeeeeeeeeeeeep! This is disastrous, as I’m sure you can imagine. We very much hope that new work will be coming in, but it’s not looking very likely.

I am therefore thinking of ways of pushing up my private teaching – I need to start putting up posters, and developing some group lessons, perhaps. I’ve applied to a couple of other places for work – not much luck so far, one rejection and two no responses.

Thankfully, Mr D got his job just before this happened to me: if he hadn’t, then we really would have been in deep do-do. But, at the moment, at least, we are in shallow do-do!!

Still, onward and upward!!! We shall try to stay positive and hope for the best. At least I’ll have more time to blog! 😉

Weekend away

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

We’ve just had a lovely weekend away – I had an appointment in Lyon yesterday and we’d not had a holiday, so we took the opportunity to go away for a few days. We stayed in a lovely hotel the first night (you can find out more about the food we ate over at Fat Dormouse Getting Thinner ) and then went to a great Chambres d’Hotes for a couple of nights.

We drove over to Aix-les-Bains…the weather wasn’t great but we went for a stroll along the prom:

Mr D gets splashed by a wave from the lake

 

the yachts all look a bit sad in the grey weather

OK, so where’s the nearest Decathlon?

Explanation: Mr D loves Decathlon, and wanted to buy a towel so we could go swimming (yes really) He also needed something for his bike. So he was looking for the nearest Decathlon on his Smartphone; he found one 5 minutes drive away = happy Mr D.

We went to Chambery for a wander around – I tried to take some “arty” shots – I don’t know how successful I was.

Mr D took this one.

 

I liked the house, bridging the narrow street

 

and this sign advertising a dressmakers shop

 

After lunch, the rain started in earnest, so we went for a drive in the mountains…just for something to do, really. (Sorry, I think I’ve made this next picture far too big!!)

After this we arrived at our Chambres d’Hotes. Here is a link to their website, and you can find out more about the wonderful meals we had at Fat Dormouse Getting Thinner.

Our suite was decorated on a Moroccan theme – here are some photos

I loved the shadows from this light on the wall

 

The bed was draped, a little like a Bedouin tent

…with a little table, set for a glass of mint tea…

 

Well, it’s time for me to go and prepare our low fat meal for tonight – after everything we ate while we were away, I think we really ought to be fasting for the next few days!! I’ll tell you about Sunday tomorrow.

Last Weekend Was Fun

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

Last weekend it was the Voyage with the Cyclo Club of St Just.  The last two times I’ve been there’s been Cathy and Steve with us – two more speaking English – and last year, Clare came along too, to keep an eye on her sons. But one year on, and sadly, Cathy and Steve have split up, and, while Cathy thought she might come, she was over in the UK, sorting out divorce agreements. Clare’s boys are one year older, and don’t want mum watching them! So it was just me and Andrew speaking English. Thankfully, Gilles and his girlfriend Sylvie are fast becoming good friends, and although Sylvie wanted to chat to her other friends in rapid French, she did speak to me too!

So we set off on Saturday morning (6.00 am start) on the coach, snoozing on the way. There was a pause for breakfast at a rest area – out came coffee, wine (at 8.00 am!?), bread, saucisson, cheese, chocolate, brioche…Serve yourself! Enjoy!

We reached the holiday complex at 10.30, surprising the manager, who expected us an hour later. The cyclists unloaded the bikes, checked them over etc, while the “Hangers On” wandered around, inspected the swimming pool (small but nice) and sat chatting in the sunshine.  When we got our room keys, after lunch, the cyclists quickly changed, ready for their outing, while the Hangers On were more leisurely.

This was the view from our balcony. The weather was beautiful (but, I later discovered, a bit too hot for cycling.) The cyclists gathered for a group photo, and I was a bit too late to join in with the mass picture-taking…

They’re all starting to move off as I run up with the camera!

The Hangers On set off for a visit to a pottery, where the guy gives a demonstration and explains how he makes his stuff.This site is all about the Poterie Guibert, and has many more photos. Here’s one I took of the potter’s hands:

and here’s one of the photos from the site, showing some of his work

We then went on to the Musée de la Boissellerie which tells about the history of making boxes. Hmm…sounds rivetting, but in fact the guide was quite jolly and amusing, and did his best to make it enjoyable. While I didn’t understand all of what he said, he was animated enough for it not to matter. We arrived back at the hotel by 6.30 but it was another hour or so before Group 1 cyclists got back – they’d done over 100 km!!!!! Mr D was completely wiped out!

We had dinner and we were in bed by 9.30 – I was catching up from lost sleep during the week, and Mr D because he was knackered!

The next day, he decided not to cycle, as he was still quite tired and there was a minor bike problem. My sciatica/back problems were bad (a lot of sitting/standing still the day before hadn’t helped) so we went for a slow walk/hobble together through the woods.

The flowers were glorious – there were orchids, buttercups, and lots more that I have no idea of.

We passed this house:

which is very pleasant, but nothing special. Until you read the plaque fastened to the wall:

“This house sheltered, between 1942 and 1943, the PC (not sure what this is ) of the Group Margaine, one of the first Maquis of France”

The Maquis is another name for the French Resistance, named after the mountain scrubland which was, so often, where they made their hiding place. I looked online to see if I could find more information about this groyup, but there wasn’t anything. However, the photo on this site shows a young teenage Maquisard, and the landscape behind him seems very similar to that in the area of the Jura.

While the rest of the house seems to be modern and renovated, this doorway on the side could be from the era when this house sheltered those fighting for the liberation of their country

Mr D left me after a while, as I was ready to head back. He followed a pathway, and I hobbled back for a relaxing swim. By the end of the morning, my back and leg were back to normal. Mr D somehow got lost and ended up struggling back through the woods, just in time for lunch, hot, sweaty and a bit ticked off!

We then all piled on the bus and headed into Switzerland!

This is a view of Lac Leman, as we headed down to Nyon, a town on the shore. There was a chateau that everyone had planned to visit, but when we reached the car park, and saw the Lake sparkling in the sunshine, and heard some bands playing al fresco for La Fete de la Musique we were tempted away from culture and instead towards indolence…Gilles, Mr D, Sylvie and I sat in a café and whiled away the afternoon with ice creams.

At 5.00 we gathered and got on the bus for the return trip. There was a pause at another rest stop for a picnic tea: out came bread, ham, sausage, cheese, crisps, roast pork, melon, cherries, cake, chocolate, wine, soft drinks… It was amazing! Very simple, but very enjoyable. After that there was much singing of songs: Fernand, one of the older guys, sang several old fashioned songs, including Piaf’s “Non, je ne regrette rien”, which everybody joined in with. A couple of older ladies told some funny stories, which I understood – very gentle humour about “Mamie” (grandma) – and some of the younger lads sang a few songs too. I was pressganged into singing “An Austrian Went Yodelling” (which I always introduce as “An Ostrich went Yodelling” , the French for Austrian (Autrichien) being similar to the French for ostrich (autruche)…Well, it all adds to the fun!) I also sang “Doh a deer”…(Is that how you spell “doh”, as in music? It looks too much like Homer Simpson’s “D’oh!”) but that didn’t go down so well.

We finally got home at about 10.45, to be met with Bib, complaining VERY loudly that she’d been left on her own for TWO WHOLE DAYS!!! (Not true: we had friends coming in to feed her, and the other cats, and to give them some cuddles. But that obviously wasn’t enough for Bib!)

A very enjoyable weekend.

Sadly I heard on Monday evening that Mum had fallen and broken her wrist quite badly. My brother is with her now, and she was due to have a steel plate put in today. She’s 83, so this will have been a shock and a shake-up for her. Apparently, the surgeon told Mike and mum that he wouldn’t normally do this procedure on 83 year olds, but as she’s so fit and healthy, he was happy to do it. (Subtext: you’re not going to die in the next couple of years so it’s worth the effort!) If you are of a praying frame of mind, please can your hold Mum in your prayers. She’ll be going back to recuperate at Mike’s. Though I know logically that there’s nothing I could do, I still feel I should be there – I’m going over in two weeks to start the job, but it will be another 6 weeks before I see her…I feel very mean not rushing over to the UK NOW…but there’s no point. And I have work commitments here. Am I just making excuses?!

 

 

Jubilee Swap Results

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Yesterday I got home and found a parcel from the distant shores of Australia waiting for me – my Jubilee Swap Parcel had arrived! This was organised by Faith, Hope & Charity Shopping and came from Pauleen, over in the North of Australia. Her blog hangs out at Tropical Territory and she has some beautiful photography on there.

I’d not had a brilliant day so wasn’t in the mood to open presents as soon as I got home. However, later on that evening I found a quiet time and gave myself a treat. What a bundle of goodies I received:

Here are all the little packages, wrapped up in white tissue paper (which Bib loves playing with) and beautiful red and blue sparkly ribbons and sequins. I will be able to use them for card making later on. There’s a post card of a splendidly patriotic Rosella parrot, all red and blue, a vinyl cut print by an emerging Australian artist, Tess Barker. If you scroll down on this site you can see some of her work…it is very striking.

So I opened my packages, one by one. First there was this brooch

This was made by somebody who had opened her garden to the public, and Pauleen had taken some beautiful photographs of this “open garden in the bush”. I think the brooch will go well on my Ghanaian hat which Rose, my globetrotting niece,  gave me after her trip to Ghana with Operation Raleigh.

Next I opened another flat package, which contained this sweet little embroidery of a Koala, peering over an Australian flag and clutching what I presume is a wattle:

This is the wattle, The emblem of our land; You can stick it in a bottle. Or hold it on your hand.

(See the Monty Python “Bruce” sketch here if you would like to see where that came from…it’s not particularly offensive…but it does take the p*ss out of Australians a little…so don’t watch it if you’re easily offended! And I hope I don’t offend anyone by linking to it – it’s only for the poem – honest!)

I’ve just found out that wattle is another name for Mimosa – which is abundant in the south of France too.

Paullen embroidered this dinky little picture herself:

Then came a floppy little package which contained a beautiful silk scarf, with the most colourful and cheerful cats on it. The colour combinations are so vibrant they evoke what I imagine to be the tropical colours that Pauleen sees every day. Look! Isn’t it gorgeous:

Then, I was intruiged by a rather knobbly parcel. When I opened it there was a crocodile cookie cutter! Apparently, crocodiles are one of the reasons people can’t swim in the sea off Darwin…I didn’t imagine that crocs would be a danger in the ocean as well as in the rivers. Tourists apparently love the crocs, but I guess the residents aren’t so enamoured! Here is a picture of a salt water crocodile – he looks a distinctly fearsome beast!

My cookie cutter crocodile looks much jollier!

And then, finally, there was a handy bag for carrying stuff. This had a distinct Jubilee theme, with a picture of Her Maj when she visited Papua New Guinea in 1974 – but not any photo. No, this was one Pauleen had taken herself!

The text translates from Pidgin as ” the Queen came to Goroko, Papua New Guinea, February 1974. She saw many warriors” ( “Misis Quinn” being the name given to Her Maj – Mrs Queen!)

There was also a very smart pen slipped in the envelope, with Pauleen’s blogsite address (there’s posh!) on it, and a beautiful card with one of her photographs.  I have been very lucky to receive such a brilliant parcel from a generous lady. Thank you so much, Pauleen!  Thank you to F,H&CS too, for organising the swap. I hope other people had as lovely a time as I did.

I took photos of what I sent to Pauleen, but I won’t post them yet – I don’t want to spoil the surprise…though I can’t help feeling I did better out of the deal than she did!

 

 

 

 

My final Pause In Advent

Sunday, December 11th, 2011

I want to apologise – my plan to have a “character” post each week has gone down the pan, as they say… I can’t find my book wherein I wrote several of my characters. I have some on my computer, but most were written by hand and I can’t find them. We’re going away on Friday, and I really don’t think I’ve got time to write another. However, I do have an Epiphany character – one that sends shivers down my spine when I read it, even though I  wrote it and I know the ending! I hope you might join me for a “Pause In Epiphany” round about 6th January.

Meanwhile, today I put up my decorations. Usually I do it on the second Sunday in Advent; I don’t know why I am a week behind. Maybe it’s because we’re going away I’ve not really been able to get into the “groove” of preparations, but even so, yesterday I did some baking (I’m delivering some mince pies to a friend today) and today I decorated. The presents are wrapped, and sitting on the dining room table, the cards are written and waiting till we arrive in the UK for a catch-the-last-posting-date dash to the Post Office on Saturday morning! I have to pop to Cervieres, a local village , today to buy a Santon for my friends. They have one King, I need to buy another. Then next year, they’ll get the last!

I love decorating the house. I particularly enjoy decorating the tree, as I hang decorations from our first tree when we were married, and the ones I’ve added each year. Each year I buy one decoration, either for the tree or for the house. This years is a garland of Norwegian style snowflakes which have got put up in my study, and I don’t think they’ll be moving! But for the last two years, with the Very Bad Kittens, we’ve not risked a tree. Pumpkin and Pomme used to regularly climb the tree; I think George and Milly would wreck it…but some of the decorations I’ve not put up this year are:

the blue and white china star I bought in Amsterdam in 2000

My "Peace" and "Love" star and moon.

The flying reindeer, bought at our first Lyon Festival of Light

The lop sided, one winged bird I bought for Mr D one Christmas

The olive wood carving that mum bought me from her trip to the Holy Land

The angel with pan scourer hair made for me as a Christmas gift when I was still teaching

The slightly manic looking cat, sent from Canada

 

And here are some of the decorations I did put up – mostly out of the ways of cat paws (although we’re not sure about the bells under the mirror!)

Not a very good shot of the Mexican creche

My little tiny Mexican creche has the addition of various animals coming to worship…a very mixed bunch of sizes – you can see the tiny lamb, the bull, the cats which tower over Mary and Joseph, and in the background the scary, earless, size-of-a-house donkey. There is an angel who really does tower over everything, but I think that’s OK. After all, I think angels are magnificent, huge creatures, so my shell angel fits.

Here is a view of the whole creche set-up

Candles and Christmas pot pourri. When I open my crate of decorations the cinnamon/cranberry smell of this wafts out. It's beautiful!

Mum gave me this decoration a few years ago. I love the way it stands out against the black of our mantelpiece

So, there we are. My decorations are done! Outside the house I have shiny stars on twisty wire, which I thread through our railings. Tre are strands of different colours – pink, gold, red, ice-blue and silver, but sadly, every year a few more stars drop off -some strands are looking quite bare. And unfortunately, the silver ones have a slightly bleak look of barbed wire about them! I sometimes have a wreath too, but that has disappeared into the chaos that is our cellar.

I think for my word of the week, I offer you the word that is on my star: “Peace”. Admidst all the last minute hustle and bustle may we all find time to pause and experience the peace that Our Lord can offer even the most troubled heart. And I ask your prayers for my friend Danièle, who is facing her first Christmas without her beloved Paul who died last January. May she truly experience God’s presence and peace in her heart.

My music for this week is the music I was listening to yesterday as I made my mince pies: perhaps a little early, as we are still in Advent, but who can resist the arrangements of the carols in Hely Hutcheson’s Carol Symphony The photos of the Lake District are beautiful too.

I’m leaving for the UK on Friday and won’t be near a PC until we return. So I won’t be pausing next week – in fact I will be plunged into the glory of clothes shopping, as a friend is taking me round the shops to “Gok Wan” me with my birthday money! No pausing there, I fear!! Our route goes: St Just, Calais, Dover, Canterbury, Milton Keynes, Liverpool, Scunthorpe and back to Dover. Then back home for New Year with friends. Judging by the long range forecast, we are happy that we went with the slightly more expensive choice of the tunnel.

I wish everyone who has been sharing in a Pause In Advent a very happy Christmas and a peaceful 2012. May God bless you richly

 

Sneaking away mid week

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

We had a great two days recently up in Paris. To be honest, Mr D and I have not really had good experiences of Paris. I spent a week there when I was a student, sleeping on a friend’s floor, and not eating anywhere other than McDonald’s, because I was too shy to go into a café and order in dreadful dreadful French. I walked and walked, but only visited tourist areas. I spent a whole day at Sacreé Coeur, I think, and the Pompidou Centre.

Then one New Year, Mr D and I were staying in Fontainebleau in a very posh hotel on a bargain break. It was great and we had a lovely time, but our day in Paris was a great disappointment: long long queues for the Musée d’Orsay, no Impressionist paintings at the Jeu de Paume (because they were all at an exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay!), rude waiters, greasy onion soup, and grey drizzly weather.

Not a good time.

But this time was great! I forgot to take my camera, and so have no photos, but no matter (particularly as that’s one of my gripes…) We arrived mid afternoon, having travelled up by TGV, and found our hotel – very nice. Clean, small but fine. It was in the 11th Arrondisement, very handy for the Real Reason we’d come to Paris. We strolled along the Canal St Martin, and stopped in a café for hot chocolate, as it was a bit chilly. Back to the hotel for an hour and then (ooh, getting excited) we walked the five minutes to the Bataclan Theatre-Club-Venue where one of Mr D’s favourite groups (and mine too, though I’m not quite as enthusiastic as Mr D) was playing. We had tickets to see Elbow!! Woo-hoo-and yay!

I’m not very good at writing reviews, but this guy is: his review sums up the concert well, and includes three YouTube videos of some of the songs they sang. If you don’t know Elbow, please listen. You might find a new band that you like very much.

What the review doesn’t mention is the shouted conversation I had with Guy Garvey (big grin) I had sent a handmade card to the band, via the club, wishing them a good gig. (I do slightly off-the-wall things like this occasionally. That’s why I have had a Papal-blessing-through-the-post. But that’s another story) In fact, you can see the card on the top of the keyboard/synthesiser/whatever-it-is in the second video clip in the review! (Even bigger grin!) Anyway he said

“Oh, thanks for this card…” (looks in card ) “…I can’t read your writing…Who sent this?”

“Me! I did!” I shouted (mightily surprising Mr D who had no idea) Laugh from audience.

“Where are you?” Mr Garvey squints into the audience.

“Right at the back!” (we weren’t really. We were at the front of the balcony. I don’t know why I didn’t say “at the front of the balcony.”)

“OK. Well, thanks.”

“That’s alright!” Another laugh from the audience. Followed by another great song.

After the gig we went to an Italian restaurant (it was open, it was near the hotel. It was good. I watched the owner rolling out my fresh tagliatelli on the pasta machine.) We chatted to each other about the gig, and then a woman on the next table leant over to us, and asked, in impeccable English if we had been at the concert. We said that yes, we had been and that we had really enjoyed it. And then she asked us if the group were from the North of England.Yes, we said, from Manchester. The woman’s husband then said something very rapidly in French. “My husband says that’s why he didn’t understand a word Guy Garvey said!” It turned out that she’d spent a year in Lancaster, so she could understand him, but her husband hadn’t been so lucky!

So to bed, tired but happy (via the late night opening Monoprix to buy a slice of cake because we’d not had a dessert in the restaurant. I had a slab of carrot-and-orange cake, that was so big I couldn’t finish it!)  The following day we had coffee and pain-au-chocolat in a Croissanterie, and then went to Notre Dame, as Mr D had never been. We strolled around, but I was struck by how many people were there with cameras stuck to their faces – they were, as Mr D said, recording it, not experiencing it. They were taking photos of anything and everything…but, it seemed to me, not really seeing the place. I suppose if you have travelled a distance to be there you want to have mementoes of the places you went to, but surely you want to have looked at the place too.

But I think the image that struck me most was the youngish mum, with a child in a pushchair. There they were, in an amazingly beautiful space, with light all around, and she was on her i-pod, texting somebody, while her child (who can’t have been more than three) was glued to his Nintendo DS (or something similar) playing some Racing car game. It just seemed sad. Though, I guess, they were both enjoying themselves, so why not…?

We went outside, and admired the carvings on the front of the cathedral. All beautiful, but there was one rather mystifying image. There was a row of fine upstanding  saints and kings, and at one end an angel, and at the other an eagle, book in claw. Then another serried rank of kings and saints, with a lion, and, at the other end a cow, with a book in its hoof.OK, eagles, lions, angels – all very Biblical, and symbolic: I can understand those. But a cow? Why?

Then I fed the remains of my carrot-and-orange cake to a sparrow. At least, it started as one sparrow, but within seconds there was a huge flock of them, and they were eating off my hand! Mr D took a photo (so I experienced it AND have a memento!) on his phone. When he sends it to me I’ll post it here.

We then wandered over to the Ile St Louis

where we looked in shop windows and admired the chi-chi goods on sale. And fell over at the price of some of them! Another halt for a delicious cup of hot chocolate – it was definitely getting colder, and I wasn’t wearing a thick enough coat. By now my feet were beginning to throb a little, but I bravely continued to the Botanic gardens where we ate a sandwich lunch,

and then back to the Gare de Lyon to catch the TGV back home. I really didn’t want to go back to work on Thursday!

It was a great two days, and many thanks to Mr D who organised it all. I had to do nothing except enjoy myself.

A Pause In Lent 5 – On the Road to Faith

Saturday, April 9th, 2011

WARNING: This is a long post. You may need cups of tea, GIN, chocklit cake and cucumber sandwiches to get through it all!!!

I was wondering yesterday what I should blog about this week on A Pause In Lent. I remembered that Floss had mentioned her Gratitude Journal in an earlier post, and I’d asked her what it was, and how it worked. I’m guessing (not too difficult, I suppose!) that it is a journal in which she records the things she is grateful for. (You can just call me Sherlock Holmes!) And the thought popped into my head: who am I grateful for?

Of course, I’m grateful for Mr D, who is my rock, who looks after me so well (doing things for me that I don’t really think of, or can’t be bothered doing!) and for my family. But I specifically wanted to list and remember those who have had a part in my Christian journey.

So there has been my family: my Nana Disley who took me to Sunday School at County Road Methodist Church – a great Methodist church, huge, with a gallery, a basement where Sunday School took place, and loads of offices where Sister Somebody (who I remember dressed like a modern nun, but who can’t have been, not in a Methodist Church!) used to let me play with the things on her desk. Sadly, County Road has now been demolished, and I can’t find a photo of it on the internet. We (my sister, brother and I) used to go over to Nana’s every Sunday for the day, while my parents had a day to themselves; then they’d come over, have tea with us and take us back home.  Of course, my parents – probably more mum than dad, also played a big role, as after Nana moved to live next door to us in Aintree, I went more to Old Roan Methodist Church, which is the church that Mum went to.

The building on the right is a more modern addition. The large church hall you can see is the part that I remember. Here the two ministers that had the biggest effect on me were Eddie Someone and Daniel Someone Else. I feel bad that I can’t remember their surnames, and my mother would be ashamed of me! Eddie was the minister who led me through to my being accepted as a member of the Methodist Church and Daniel was a charismatic speaker. But even through the process of becoming a member, I hadn’t really made a full commitment to Christ. I was still exploring what Christianity meant, I hadn’t actually said a heartfelt “Yes” to God. At ORM there was also a Grande Dame, Betty Crooks. She tutored countless of us through the Scripture Exams, and was an amazing woman of great faith. And Norma & her husband Dave who held a group for young people – giving us the chance to talk about faith and life in a safe, secure environment.

That came after a little more exploration. The Gideons came to our school, and I received, as did all my year group, a small New Testament. In it was the invitation to contact the Organisation if you had questions. I did. Lots of them. So I wrote to the group, and received a lovely letter from a member who lived over in South Liverpool. She invited me to her home to discuss my questions. Although mum was a little embarrassed that I’d gone to a complete stranger with my questions, rather than to her, or to members of  ORM, she let me go to visit. Thanks mum, for giving me that freedom. The woman – I can’t remember her name – helped me still further down the pathway.

Finally, one bright May day (26th May, 1977, I think . I’m sure of the day, but not the year) at the C.U. at school, I said the final “Yes”. Thank yous go to the girl who led the group, and to the member of her charismatic housegroup who was there that day, and who led me to the decision. My friend, Jane, who usually came to CU wasn’t there, but a few days later, coming with me to the housegroup, she also made the commitment. Thanks go to her for her unfailing support and love for me. She is very good at remembering to send me a card on my “birthday” – I’m afraid I’m not so good at remembering – and through the years she has given me much encouragement in my faith. I went to the House Church for about a year – covering my head in worship, singing songs which would probably now make me gag, and accepting that women should remain silent…While I now would find this worship style a complete anathema to me, I am eternally grateful to the group for their welcome and their nurturing of a young Christian soul.

When I went to college, in Winchester – then King Alfred’s College, but now The University of Winchester – I joined the CU. However, as my first year studying Religious Studies continued, I started asking more questions about the very evangelical, non-liberal stance of the group. Because KAC was a CofE college, there was a chapel on site, and a fantastic chaplain, who became a good friend.So, Norman that fantastic chaplain,is another person I want to thank, as he helped me not be afraid of asking questions, and doubting.

Two Ians also helped me in my walk in faith. One has gone on to become a Muslim, which came as a surprise, as he was quite a long way “up the candle”. The other – well, I can’t really say too much, simply as it would reveal too much about him; even though nobody would know who he was, I don’t feel at liberty to elaborate on details. Suffice to say, his struggles taught me how to cling onto God even when going through the darkest of days.But both, in their different ways, helped me shape my beliefs.

After the first year, I started to be less involved with CU, and more involved with the more liberal chapel, although I still would like to acknowledge the contribution that the CU made to my growth. At KAC, there was a silent retreat every year at Alton Abbey

Here is a link to their home page.

At Alton I began to learn to listen to God a little more. Thank you to the welcoming community of monks there.

Leaving KAC, I moved to Maidstone for a year,which is where I met Mr D. He’s not a Christian, but is a theist, but has never discouraged me in any way from my faith. Instead he has been there to support me as I explored my faith and became more involved in church. I think it hasn’t always been easy for him, as some of my Christian friends have not “approved” of the fact that I married a non Christian, and tried, very clumsily, to convert him. so, thank you, Dear Mr D for your support in my Christian journey.

I didn’t really find a church where I was comfortable, but when I went to live in North London, I started going to Lindsay Park Baptist Church where the folk were friendly, welcoming and very, very Baptist (!!) Thank you to Robert, the Minister, and to so many people there for their nurturing – sadly, though, here was where I found people who were quite opposed to my engagement and later marriage to Mr D. A very good friend Tracy who I’ve now lost contact with, was a great support as she was going out with a non Christian too. Thanks to her, to Andrew & Nikki, and to others who were more accepting. It was here that I was baptised by full immersion – now I kind of feel I was coerced into it a little, but at the time it was a powerful experience. Again, thanks to Mr D for supporting me in this.

On to Milton Keynes, and the Ecumenical Church movement. In the new city churches were working together – so the church I went to was affiliated to the Anglican, URC, Methodist and Baptist churches. Here it is

Here was where I think I really grew. I owe a huge debt of thanks to the Minister who was there at the time, Dorothy, a URC minister who was very wise and supportive, and to her husband Keith. Both of them challenged me enormously, maybe Keith more than Dorothy, but both had a real “doing” faith. I always felt that there was something “edgy” about Keith’s faith, and this really made me think. It wasn’t always comfortable, but it was always challenging. Also Keith shared my love of acting, and he starred opposite me in a production of “Educating Rita”. I was Rita, he was Frank – we were great!!! With him, I performed in many plays, including “A Man for ALL Seasons”, “Lark Rise”, several versions of Mystery plays, and a play, the name of which I’ve forgotten, about Julian of Norwich.

Dorothy was the one who supported me as our marriage went through a rocky patch, giving me someone to talk to. She also encouraged me to train as an LLM (Licensed Lay Minister) and who supported me as I learned and grew. The LLM was the ecumenical, “new” name for the lay ministers in the Diocese of Oxford. We trained using the Methodist Lay Preachers course, but our work was recognised by all of the 4 churches.

At Holy Cross there was Phyllis who was a Reader (definitely a Reader. Not an LLM. A staunch & proud Anglican, but very open to ecumenism too) She was a pocket dynamo: I believe she was about 65 when I met her, but she had the energy, the get up and go of a person half her age! When Dorothy left, and there was an interregnum, she & I led all the services. But she did everything else that a Minister did, as well. An amazing, kind and honest person. Thank you Phyllis for your love and support.

Thanks go to those who organised the trip to Iona. Oh! That was a real time of growing for me. I’ve mentioned it in another Pause, I think. A real “thin” place, Iona. If you’ve not been, I really would recommend it. A beautiful place of reflection, history, creativity. Fantastic. Thanks go to the team who made us so welcome and the people who led the group meetings that were thought provoking. And to my God Son Joe who shared the week with us.

Later on, I moved parishes and started going to a different church, at Woolstones:

Unfortunately the church went through a very difficult time, with a real split in the congregation, a destructive Vicar and a danger that it would be closed down. In my opinion, one man who held the church together at that time, a retired Methodist (I think) minister, James. He joined the church with his wife, and managed to be peacemaker, despite the Vicar turning against him, and so many terrible things that had an effect on his health. A huge thank you to (and for!) James and his encouragement of me. He kept me sane in the maelstrom that was going on at the church.

And then we moved here to France. And through a strange series of coincidences (or maybe there’s no such thing as coincidences!) I ended up at the Eglise Reformée in Thiers.

So many people here have encouraged me and blessed me, but I think my biggest Thank You is for Danièle and Paul. If you follow this blog, you will have read about Paul’s death early this year, which was a great blow. But he had a great influence on me, showing what a true Christian is. As he suffered and faced death he was never afraid, but always trusted God.

The congregation at Old Roan Methodist are still amazingly welcoming when I go back and continue to encourage me. The congragation is dwindling a little, but they are still strong in their faith. Sothank you to the members at ORM for your welcome, and your faith.

And now, there are some Blogging friends to add to the list. Thank you for your wise words, insights and encouragement through this Pause in Lent. Thank You Floss for leading my thoughts towards  gratitude for those who have directed me along this path that is my Christian faith. And thank you to all fellow travellers, those who walk with us for only a short distance, and those who are by our side for a long time. May God bless us all.