Would you like to join me?

As regular readers will know, I have a little 1 km circuit around the village, that I have endeavoured to do every day – fatigue after chemo permitting. Although I had my last chemo on 7th June it took me until Saturday 16th before I could even face trying the walk. I shuffled round, stopping every 100 metres or so to catch my breath. Every day it has become a little easier, although I have still ended up breathless. Yesterday I paused at the bank to pay in a cheque, and the assistant was obviously very concerned that I was going to collapse all over his nice clean floor. I reassured him that I just needed a moment or two, but he still eyed me with suspicion.

Today I didn’t have a stop for a sit-down – which is a first – and, although I was breathing heavily, it wasn’t quite the “give me oxygen, I’m going to die!” way of breathing that had so concerned the bank employee. But maybe the reason I didn’t need to stop was because I was pausing to take photographs to share with you. So, would you like to join me on my walk?

Say “goodbye” to Millie, who is sitting on yesterday’s junk mail and eying us up balefully…

… leave the house, turn right and right again, and follow the snicket down the back of the church…

… cross the road, and go past the old Hotel Moderne. Sadly, not looking so “moderne” now! I imagine it would be wonderful if it could be renovated! In its heyday, St Just had over 20 hotels, as people would come from Roanne, and further afield, for the fresh mountain air. There was a sanitorium as well for those needing recovery from lung illnesses. Roanne is the nearest big town, and, of course, was heavily industrialised.

We continue down the road, and come to this cottage, which I have always liked the look of

There’s often a friendly retriever pup in the front garden, who barks enthusiastically when people go past, but not today. I assume he’s only put outside when his owners are out.

Not all the houses are old fashioned, however. Although St Just was at its busiest during the 20s and 30s, building work has continued to occur around the village. Opposite the cottage there used to be an orchard, with sheep grazing, chickens scurrying around and a large aviary of various fancy birds. However, about two years ago work started on a new Parish centre and, I think, a priest’s house. I don’t quite know the state of play priest-wise, in St Just, but I imagine that if there is a permanent priest based here, he will be in charge of several parishes. At least he has a nice modern house to live in, instead of a draughty old Presbytry!

We continue along this road, saying “bonjour” to a grandfather playing in goal to his grandson (I’m not sure why grandson wasn’t in school. They haven’t broken up for summer yet)  I would have taken a photo of their amazingly neat vegetable patch, but maybe that would have been a bit intrusive as they were playing football right next to it.

The road descends, and one of my favourite views opens up

I’m not sure if you can see it (click on the photo to biggify) but nestling in the trees in the mid ground is the Chateau de Contenson, one of four chateaux in the immediate surrounds. Here is a view of Contenson

The owners are the Rochetaillé family, after whom the square in front of our house is named. This chateau was built in the 1880s, but there has been a chateau of some form on this spot since the 1300s. During WW1 it was a hospital, and in WW2 sheltered resistance fighters. The current owners breed horses, and are very into their horse racing – there are two race courses not too far from here, at Vichy and Feurs.

You can’t see it, but another of the chateaux in the area is in my photo. In the hills facing us are the ruins of the Chateau d’Urfé, which is a lovely place to take visitors, as you can see for miles from the top of the tower. But, anyway, on with our walk…

Another pleasant view of mountains, trees, green!! Well, we have had quite a lot of rain recently.

Turn right again at the junction, and start heading into the centre of the village again. From this road you can look over the “industrial” part of St Just

Here you can see a scierie or wood yard, plus the cheese factory and the velour (velvet) factory.

If you like pepper and garlic, it’s worth seeing if you can find Gaperon cheese; this is one of our local cheeses, as is La Comtesse de Vichy, a triple-crème cheese o rival Brillat-Saverin.

The velour factory is, I believe,  the only remaining factory in France producing this material. It was constructed at the end of the 19th century, and still uses traditional techniques to create the fabric. In fact the velvet used in the Coronation robes of Elizabeth II was made here!

Turning around from this view, we can see the house of our good friends, Louis and Odette

Quite often, their dog Tim-Tim (a hunting spaniel, of some description) will bark at me as I walk past, but not today. They will often look after YoYo, their daughter’s golden retrieber, as well, so there’s quite a cachophony. But all was quiet today.

Continuing back along this road, there’s another view of the church

and we go past the bench where I often have to sit to catch my breath to where there’s one of the many crosses scattered around the area. I know France is/ was a Catholic country, but I’m often amazed at how many little crosses like this there are. I wonder why there are so many – are they relics of a time before the village expanded, and were placed at crossroads as wayside shrines, or waymarkers? This one seems too modern for that…

You can see my bench in the background of this picture, and as I sit there, I often get a whiff of a beautiful scent. I have no idea what it is, but today I tracked it down to this bush, which was humming with the noise of bees, busily collecting nectar.

 

Is it orange blossom? I am no botanist, but it smelt divine.

We turn right again, and the road rises a little. It is this part of the walk that often tires me out so much that I need another sit down at the top, but not today! At the top of the rise, heading into the centre of the village we come across the Mairie:

To help you get your bearings, the church is situated diagonally opposite the Mairie. The bench I usually collapse onto is just outside the door, beneath the flags.

On the wall of the Mairie is proudly displayed this stone plaque:

Between 1940 and 1944 numerous Jewish families found refuge in St Just en Chevalet and its environs.

Tracked and searched for by the occupying forces and the Vichy government they were saved, thanks to the goodness and courage of certain inhabitants.

The descendants of these families honour these citizens who, in full knowledge of the risk they were undertaking, welcomed and hid them, therefopre saving them from certain death.

One of the old neighbours of our friends was a member of one of these families, and told stories of how, when there were rumours of a rafle – a round-up – due to be carried out by the Nazis, the Jewish children who were being hoidden, would be spirited away into the surrounding woods and countryside.

Finally we reach the boulangerie, where I pause to buy a Petrisane, which is a type of baguette. The bakers makes two types, nature and graine (white, or granary) Both are very nice and at 1€ each, they won’t break the bank. I’m not eating them at the moment, as my mouth is still a little sensitive, but I’ll be back chewing on them soon!

In the picture you can see also pizza, sold by the slice, and petits quiches (two types: ham-and-cheese, or tuna-and-tomato) The lurid pink bun-like thing at the top of the counter is a brioche pralinée, another speciality of the area. Brioche is a sweet dough, and the praline is tooth-numbingly sweet as well. To the left of the till, there are mini-brioches pralinées, plus croissants, pains-au-chocolat and other sweet treats. I didn’t photograph the cakes on offer, but there is always a good selection, using seasonal produce – so there are a lot of fraisiers, strawberry tarts, and fruit based gateaux during the summer months. I will sometimes buy one between us for a Sunday treat.

Then it’s back home, to have a refreshing apple-and-elderflower juice drink. And have a sit-down!

I hope you enoyed joining me on my walk.

 

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Don’t cry for me…

I hope Mr FD won’t end up crying tonight – he’s watching the England vs Tunisia match. I think England have already scored (there was a muted cheer) but there have also been some rather negative sounding noises too. (I’ve just checked: it is 1-0)

I, on the other hand, have been doing a huge amount of involuntary weeping. Or rather, involuntary leaking. I’ve lost almost all my eyelashes, so, of course, there’s nothing to protect my eyes from dust etc except the tears. My eyes are almost constantly wet, which means it’s quite hard seeing things, as I’m looking through a veil of tears! I’ve also lost my eyebrows, and hair from everywhere else. It’s going to be very itchy when it all starts growing back!

Well…not really…

Still very tired every day, but I’ve been able to do my 1km tour around the village. But that’s about it! I have a long rest after the walk, a long rest after lunch…Still, things continue to improve.

Just checking in

I’m here.

I’m surviving.

It’s not too terrible…but I really can’t be arsed thinking of what to post…

Looking forward to:

  • Meeting Chomeuse, Mr Chomeuse & Chou in a couple of weeks, when we go to Annecy with the Cycle Club

This is the holiday village, with a pool & spa

  • A retirement dinner for the director of the language school where I work. I’ve booked a nearby hotel room, so I don’t need to worry too much about being tired/ driving when tired/ driving when I’ve had a bit too drink. I decided to do that, rather than ask if I could stay with a colleague, as this way I can leave when I want/need to.
  • Hopefully meeting up with friends from Wales, who may (if family health problems allow) be coming over at the end of June.
  • Getting my taste buds back! The salivary glands are starting to recover, and taste should start returning in the next couple of weeks.

Book Review: Northern Soles (****)

I am proud to be a Ten Reviews or More reviewer on Net Galley

I was sent this e-book, free-of-charge (yay!) by NetGalley, in return for an honest review. So, here it is…

NORTHERN SOLES

by STEVE ANKERS

The Net Galley description reads thus: With a (very small) spring in his step and a song playing on his smartphone, Steve Ankers sets out on a 200-mile coast to coast walk from the Mersey to the Humber.

Travelling from one City of Culture to another takes him through snow, torrential rain and sweltering heat to a mighty gathering of brass bands, a collection of police truncheons, a ghost train, the Taj Mahal of swimming, and a liquorice festival. He encounters a Vimto sculpture, the country’s finest cat hotel, a lost town, and a justification for donkey stoning. He discovers where gravity was invented, where rugby league was first discovered, how wind turbines breed, and why Sylvia Pankhurst is still a hero in Addis Ababa. And he consumes more scouse, spam fritters, and potato patties than you can shake a black pudding at.

Best of all Steve gets to meet his heroes – the largely unsung volunteers and staff at the heart of our heritage and communities, and those who, in this centenary year for women’s suffrage, honour the legacy of those who fought for the vote and still campaign vigorously today on issues of gender inequality and injustice. It’s a fascinating journey, and a passionate and often funny one.

This is not the type of book I usually read – it’s more my husband’s cup of tea – but being a Scouser, I liked the idea of the author starting in my home city. He writes in an engaging tone, showing interest and affection for all the places and people that he visits. I learned things about Liverpool, and its environs, that I didn’t know and that surprised me; I had other facts that were familiar acknowledged and admired. It reminded me to be proud of my city. The premise of his walk was to compare Liverpool, European City of Culture in 2008, and Hull, UK City of Culture, in 2017, and to look at the legacy left behind.

Fireworks in Liverpool City Centre, launching the year as City of Culture

A light show in Hull

Continuing on his journey on foot from the west coast (New Brighton, across the water from Liverpool) and following canals and rivers cross country to Hull on the east coast, Steve Ankers visits places associated with famous people – the Pankhursts, Elizabeth Gaskell and others – and tells their stories well; he also visits various festivals, and muses on the effects of regional development.

It is written with gentle humour – there were none of the outright belly laughs that I sometimes get with Bill Bryson, for example – but equally, I can find Bryson a little cruel, or self aware in his humour, and I did not find this with Steve Ankers. There was a genuine feeling of appreciation for what he was doing, and seeing, and who he was interacting with.

As I said, this isn’t my usual genre, as I prefer fiction, but I was engaged and interested. I give this a solid 4 stars.

New Brighton lighthouse

Hull, Wilberforce Monument

Looking back through the photo archives

CHRISTMAS DAY, 2014

Me, Mr FD and Marvin-the-dog, in the hills above Cherier. The plain behind us is the valley of the Loire (not to be confused with the Loire Valley) with the Lyonnaise mountains in the distance. I think it was clear enough to see Mont Blanc that day. MiL had come to stay with us for Christmas, so it was she who took the photo. Marvin is our friends’ dog, but they’d gone back to the UK for Christmas, so we were charged with feeding him, taking him out and so on.

And here is MiL, Mr FD & Marvin-the-dog striding out.

This is a scheduled post. Today, I’m having my last chemo session – HUZZAH!

Happy Birthday, Sis!

Today is my big sister’s birthday.

My brother, sister and “the baby”

I won’t say how old she is, but she’s five years older than me, and a lot fitter than I am! She morris dances with her group in Leicester, Black Annis, and also plays the penny whistle for the group. Judy’s playing in this clip.:

and apparently launching herself at someone in this photo:

She also often goes walking with her friends all over the country. I always wanted to be like my Big Sister when I was younger: when she was out, I would sneak into her bedroom and pretend to “be” her (which sounds a bit creepy, and stalkerish!) I imagine I was just an annoying younger sister to her! I even used to sneak the odd cigarette out of her drawers, and hang out of her bedroom window smoking them. That didn’t last long, however, as I was too scared of being caught!

A couple of things I remember –

I used to have a dolls’ house which I adored. I think it had been hers originally. One Christmas, Judy spent time decorating the dolls’ house for Christmas, with a tiny tree, and paper chains. She even bought a “Christmas pudding” cake from Sayers, so the dolls had a celebration lunch! Another Christmas tradition would be the writing and performing of some “pantomime” when all the relatives came for Christmas tea. Judy would write it, and we’d all (my brother, me, our second cousins – or maybe they were third cousins. I’m never quite sure of that relation! Definitely not cousins though – they were the children of my mum’s cousins) rehearse before “entertaining” everyone after tea.

It was due to Judy too that the tradition started of Mum & Dad receiving a Christmas stocking as well. One Christmasmorning we awoke to our pillowcases full of goodies, and our parents had stockings attached to their bedroom door. I think I was, by then, wise to the fact that Santa Claus does not exist, so we all joined in the following year, buying little things for their stocking.

After university, she came back to Liverpool to work for a while – I would have been maybe 17, and she and her friend Mandy took me to Stratford to see “Measure for Measure” I remember being in the back of the car, and being a little bit shocked at the way the two of them sized up the men in the cars that overtook!! But I enjoyed being treated as the same as them – I was no longer the “little sister”, but a young woman!

And for my 16th birthday I was allowed to have a party – with real boys! Judy and her then boyfriend, Andy, were left in charge (she’d have been 21) and my parents went out for the evening. That also made me feel very “grown up”!

I still do look up to her – she seems to have her life all sorted out, whereas I feel I kind of just drift along, rather aimlessly! She is intelligent, politically aware, kind and generous.

Happy birthday, Judy!