The Way through the Woods

We live in a beautiful area – surrounded by mountains, hills, forests and fields. I really don’t get out walking often enough. Even though I have problem feet I can still do a little walking, and I’m not really taking advantage of the good weather. But yesterday I went out for a walk in the woods: I had planned to walk the Sentier Pedagogique which I walked a few weeks ago, it takes about 10 minutes to get there in the car. But on the way I stopped on a track and hopped out of the car there. Following the tracks, I made a circular walk of about 40 minutes, with a bit of up-and-down involved. It was so quiet, I could hear the leaves falling from the trees, the distant hunting horn (and, sadly, a couple of shots. I don’t think the sanglier escaped this time.), the chirping of various birds and the buzz of insects. There was even a cricket chirping somewhere as well. There was no wind whatsoever, and the whole world seemed to be holding its breath. I sat for 10 minutes or so on a sun-warmed boulder and just breathed.


I’m in a strangely melancholic humour at the moment, and the stillness suited my mood perfectly.


There were mushrooms galore on the way, but I have no idea what they were. I have had two experiences of collecting loads of mushrooms to be told by Men Wot Know to throw them away, so I no longer bother collecting mushrooms, although some of these did seem quite cèpe-like


But one never can tell…


I think we need to go out with a proper mushroom gatherer. Our friend Paul took us once, but we didn’t find any. Sadly, by then, he was quite ill with the cancer that finally killed him, so we only got the one opportunity to go with him.

The Sentier Pedagogique is a walk through the woods where you can see various trees labelled to know what they are, but there are several other routes around the area. There’s one that takes about an hour, which is the one I followed a few weeks ago. I found these fellas hiding away:

IMG_1943                 IMG_1945

I’m pretty sure that they’re not cèpes!!

That was a lovely walk too – another quiet day, spent walking in the woods, and spending time communing with nature. A good thing to do from time to time.


The way through the Woods


Don’t panic. It only causes confusion!

Mr FD has been away for a few days visiting his mum in the UK, and seeing his sister, nephew, niece and cousins. I was charged with collecting him from Lyon airport on Thursday evening, at 10.30. I’d not slept well the night before (I estimate I got about 2 hours sleep) and I’d had quite a busy day at work, so I really didn’t fancy hoiking myself over to Lyon. Still, needs must and all that.

I left at 8.15, giving myself loads of time to get there (it’s probably about an hour-and-a-half) and called in to get petrol just before I got on the motorway. I debated whether to wait until I got off the motorway at the other end, but decided to fill up. I’m glad I did, as I wouldn’t have wanted the added pressure of running out of petrol – there was pressure enough to come!

So, I get on the m’way and soon there are notices saying that the m’way was closed at Junction 33. Now, if I’d have thought just a little bit I would have sussed that Jnct 33 was the next junction but for some reason I guessed it was nearer Lyon and so I would be able to wibble my way through the suburbs. And anyway, there would be diversion signs, wouldn’t there? If I’d have sussed all this, I would have gone the slightly longer route down the other m’way to St Etienne and along to Lyon. But I didn’t.

I was forced off the m’way at the next junction, and there were no comprehensible diversion signs – plenty of yellow signs saying “S26” or “S13” but nothing telling you where these led to! If I’d have only thought I could have got back on the m’way and gone down to St Etienne – but I started to panic! No GPS, no sense of geography, no real idea of how to get from where I was to Lyon… As a passenger I tend to just sit and let Mr FD do the driving; I admire the scenes as we go by, but I fail to take any real notice of the route we are taking. And by now it was pitch dark and raining, so things didn’t even look the way they do in the day.

Don’t panic!” I instructed myself as I started to swear and not know what to do. Then I saw the signpost to Balbigny  “Remember we went through Balbigny when we took the mountain route to Lyon only last week (thank goodness!) so you can do that. ” I rehearsed the route…Balbigny, Nervieux, Violay, Tarrare…All these places were signposted so it would be fine! I remembered passing through Nervieux and the layout of the roads (don’t head towards Miserieux) And breathe!

Off I set towards Balbigny…signpost to Nervieux…follow that…through the town…hang on, this doesn’t look right…I’m going back towards St Germain (where I got petrol!)…I’m going wrong….PANIC!! I turn the car round and head back into the village to find a bar where I could ask for directions. Everywhere looked closed up, but there was a bar with lights on “Au Bon Accueil” (The good welcome) The door was locked, but people were sitting inside, so I tapped on the window. Small dog yapped, man looked up and gestured in a manner that was at odds with the name of the bar, but woman came to see what I wanted. I explained about the m’way being closed, about looking for the route to Lyon etc etc.

The man (less threatening now) said the French equivalent of “Bloody hell, you’re really lost aren’t you?!” but was fairly sure that the m’way wasn’t closed (yes it is) and gave me directions to pick it up.  I followed his instructions for a bit, but then thought “I’m heading back to the junction on the m’way to St Etienne. So I’ll have to drive on the m’way that’s closed….NOOOOO! It’s still the wrong way!!  PANIC!! If I’d just thought (again!) I could have picked up the m’way, gone to St Etienne…etc etc But I had it in my head now that there was only one m’way to Lyon AND IT WAS CLOSED!

But then I had a flash of brilliance (it doesn’t happen very often!) What did we use to do in the days before GPS? We looked at a map – and there was a road atlas in the car!!! I stopped the car, put on my hazards and rooted in the boot for the map book. It took me a while to focus but then discovered where I had made my error. The route we had taken the week before was not, as I had convinced myself, Balbigny, Nervieux, Violay, Tarrare.. but  Nervieux, Balbigny, Violay, Tarrare.. I’d turned in the wrong direction in Balbigny, and was indeeed heading back home again!! Had it been daylight I would have recognised this, and probably seen the signs to Violay as I turned in the wrong direction, but I was so panic-struck and fixated on staying calm that I hadn’t clocked the fact that I shouldn’t really be crossing the Loire if I was heading in the right direction!

So I turned round and headed in the right direction (huzzah!) The rain had stopped but it was very windy, but I was now making reasonable time. Although it’s a winding route over the mountains, it is a good road, so I wasn’t too worried about the driving, as I could put the lights on full-beam – I only met about 5 cars in the 30-odd kilometres over the top. I reached Tarare praying that the m’way there, which I planned to pick up, wasn’t closed. And (phew) it wasn’t!

Everything going reasonably smoothly (I’d texted Mr FD to say I was running late) now, but time was against me. Reaching the toll booth for the tunnels under Lyon, I swanned up to the barrier with my Telepéage badge at the ready – this means that it goes Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep! and the barrier opens, with the toll being paid at the end of the month.

And there was no Beeeeeeeeeeep. There was no opening barrier. Just me, starting to panic. Again. Thankfully, it wasn’t busy – had it happened a couple of hours earlier there would have been angry French drivers hammering on their horns, but I was able to switch on my hazards (again) and reverse out to go through another lane. I feared there was a problem with the badge (why? It had already worked well three times that evening!) but all was okay.

Got a text from Mr FD saying he’d landed, while I was about 20 minutes from the airport, but it wasn’t too bad….However, when I arrived I then realised that there are three terminals and I had no bloomin’ idea which Terminal he was at. I drove round (starting to panic!) but then he phoned me. A bit snippy, it must be said, and when I asked where he was, he suggested I was a bit stupid not to know that it was Terminal 3 because it’s always Terminal 3. So off I drive to the Depose Minute car park for Terminal 3 – of course I’m in the R-hand drive Honda, so had to leap out at the ticket barrier to get the ticket as I couldn’t reach the machine from the dtivers seat  (lost one of my leather gloves when I jumped out! It must have been on my lap and it fell out of the car. Grrr) with the queue mounting up behind….And phew. There is Mr FD. Collapse in quivering heap and hand him the car keys.

And breathe.

A Day with my Beloved

It’s seemed a long time since I’ve spent time with Mr FD…the last couple of weeks I have had a stinky cold, and with it has come a persistant cough, so I have been sleeping in the spare room to avoid disturbing him. The last couple of weekends we’ve been doing our own things – last Saturday I was closeted up writing my sermon, and then Sunday morning I delivered it. In the afternoon Mr FD was watching football, I was ironing. The weekend before I was out on Sunday at a Church Away Day…the evenings are rather slumped-in-front-of-the-TV, and I’m back late on Wednesdays. We’ve not really talked.

Well, today Mr FD is leaving from Lyon to go to the UK for a few days, to see his sister from Canada and cousins from Germany. He had a ticket for a concert in Lyon yesterday evening, so we decided to drive over to The Big City, to have lunch & go to the cinema before he went to his concert and then went on to a hotel ready to catch his early morning flight. So, yesterday, we drove over the mountains, rather than take the motorway, and the views were lovely – but more lovely was the fact that we hardly stopped talking to each other the whole time – about our work, about projects, about possible moves (very only possible), about cats, about nothing consequential…

We went to the retaurant that we’d planned to go to with my mum back in May – it had been booked up on the Saturday evening, and we took a chance on it not being so busy at lunchtime, so we didn’t book. Hah! It was heaving, and the waiter who met us, was “Desolé, we only have seats at the counter…” Well, that was okay, we thought, and accepted.

In fact it was more than okay, it was fascinating, as the counter looked on to the kitchen, so we could see everything that was going on. Just like this:


We were looking on to the dessert station, and it was really interesting watching the commis chef prepping stuff before her station got really busy, and then how she and the sous-chef worked as they became busier as people finished their main courses and reached the dessert course. We noticed how many of the desserts had been created to be easy to put onto the plate with only a little final preparation – warming through, for example – and how much prepping had been done earlier. They were very organised, very tidy, and worked around each other almost as a choreographed dance. We could also see the rest of the kitchen, and how the head chef gave orders through a microphone. It was interesting to watch the commis- and sous-chefs almost stand to attention, “Oui!” they barked back, and then hurried on with their tasks. I think there might have been an English chef amongst them as we also heard a “Yes, chef!” from time to time. As it neared the end of service, we suspect that the microphoned commands became more encouraging, as the “Oui”s became more celebratory…

We imagined “Last starter going out now!” “Oui!”

“Last few chickens!” “Oui!”

“Nearly finished, lads!” “Oui!”


We ate from the Menu du Jour: Soupe de Potimarron aux chataignes (we’re not sure but we think it was butternut squash), rotisserie chicken with forestière potatoes (sautéed with lumps of bacon and mushrooms), and then pain perdue (eggy bread) made with brioche, crème anglaise and vanilla ice cream. We had a pot of white wine and it was delicious! OK, it wasn’t cheap, but it wasn’t extortionate, and it was a definitely very enjoyable experience.

After we took the trolley bus into the centre of the city to the cinema, where we went to see “Before I Go to Sleep” with Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth and Mark Strong. Here’s a synopsis from The Daily Telegraph:

Based on the international best-selling novel by SJ Watson, Before I Go to Sleep is a tense psychological thriller starring Academy Award-winner Nicole Kidman, Academy Award-winner Colin Firth and Mark Strong .

After a traumatic accident, Christine Lucas  wakes up every day without being able to remember the day before. With the fear of living each day with no memory, she attempts to piece together the events of her past, uncovering terrifying truths that force her to question everyone around her, not knowing where to turn or who to trust… her husband, her doctor or even herself.

I really enjoyed it – here is Mark Kermode’s review in The Observer I hadn’t read the book, so had no idea what the twists and turns would be, and found it a darkly enjoyable film. I would recommend it as a film to see. And anything with Colin Firth in is worth watching in my opinion.


Because he’s such a good actor, of course! (Well, there’s that as well!!)

Life in a small French village: with subtitles and without!

Life in a small French village has been fairly uneventful at the moment. I feel I’m letting my readers down as I don’t have very much to report…Life here has been much like life anywhere else, except here people speak French!!

Last Monday Mr FD and I went to the cinema to see “Pride!” – an excellent film, which I really enjoyed. It was a bit of a rush getting from Clermont to Roanne in time for the start. I left my lessons 10 minutes early (with the agreement of my students, I hasten to add!) and bombed down the motorway. I made it to the cinema with about 10 minutes to spare. When we arrived, Mr FD and I were the only people in the Salle. By the time the film started there were 6 of us but I can hardly imagine it was worth showing the film! Still, I’m very glad they did. It was in VO, with French subtitles, so there were no problems understanding it.

I could have possibly done with subtitles on Thursday however. There are plans to revamp the main square, which is right outside our house, and there was a meeting for all the residents and commerçants who have homes or businesses around the square. The plans look good, and certainly much has been considered to slow drivers down, to prettify the area and to take into account the problems of drivers who use the square as a cut-through to avoid the “bother” of the main junction. I got the main points, but the Mayor spoke so quickly that I struggled to follow many of the supporting arguments.



Here’s a view of the square on market day – you can see that it’s a bit grey and drab, and the corner by the school is not very safe. Cars – and sometimes even big log transporters – will come in from the left of the photo and cut across the square to avoid the junction (which you can’t see)  The plan is to put in barriers, so there is just one entrance/exit to the car park, plus a designated pavement area, with trees and some grass over by the school. Mr FD and I were rather pleased to hear about the barriers, because that would mean the annual fair wouldn’t be able to set up right outside our house – but Pascal, the Mayor, assured everyone that the barriers would be removable for special events like the Fete Patronale. Curses! Foiled again!!

Work has been good – I’m not too enamoured with all my groups on Monday, but tant pis! It’s work – I can’t turn down 7 hours of work just because some students are a bit meh, can I?!

I am loving Line Dancing!! I started at the beginning of September – I go to the Beginners Group (arriving late, because I don’t finish work until 6.15) and then stay for the Improvers’ Group. I don’t have many problems with the Beginners, but I’m struggling a little in the other group! It takes me quite a while to pick up the dance steps…I can remember each section when we practise them but put them all together and my brain stops working!! However, the people are great fun and I’m beginning to recognise faces and start to remember the odd name or two. Hopefully, when my weeks/weekends are less manic I will have time to practise a bit at home.

I’ve been busy at church. Last weekend was the annual “get together” on the theme “Living Stones”


We met at the Diocesan house, out in the foothills of Puy de Dome, and first had our Eucharist service in the lovely chapel there. We then had a fairly nondescript lunch, of cheese puff, tinned ravioli and an ice cream bar and then went on to the discussion part of the day. We were considering where we were going in various key areas – stewardship, worship, fellowship etc. It was good to be involved although sometimes I’m not sure how much use these type of things are, save in the sense of increasing links between people.

I’m also preaching tomorrow and have spent a lot of today struggling with the sermon – it certainly wasn’t one that “flowed” nicely, and I’m not convinced by it even now, but I think it’s what God wants. Let’s hope he can use it, even if it’s a bit of a bummer! Still, it feels good to have the opportunity to preach again, even though it has been tricky working out the nuts and bolts. I’m also leading the service, using a still not very familiar prayer book…but I’m quite good at busking that sort of thing, so I’m not too worried about that!

And that’s about it: no humourous events, no typical French happenings. Just the two of us going about life in a relatively relaxed fashion. But life is good, and the wine will be opened tonight – so it’s not all bad, is it?!