Disgusted from St Just…

Before I get on my high horse, if you’re here for Grow Your Blog, you need to go over here

I have been a little incensed by a story on the news today, saying that “pregnant women are more likely to give up smoking with cash incentives”. A study has shown that some pregnant women were offered up to £400 of shopping vouchers to persuade them to give up smoking while pregnant. WHY? There would be a cash incentive if they stopped smoking anyway, as cigarettes cost so much – £7 a packet or so. And where is this money coming from in the first place?! Presumably from tax payers – including those who don’t smoke nor have children.

I am not one of those who think that health care should be denied to those whose illnesses are smoking related (although I sometimes wonder…) but giving shopping vouchers to give up smoking…! If these mothers don’t care enough about their unborn child to stop smoking then why pay them more? AND, only 27% of those given vouchers stopped…so did the others have to pay back the money?? Or were they just given £400 anyway.

I do try to be sympathetic, and liberal in my thinking – after all, Jesus told us not to judge, but this, I’m afraid, did start my blood simmering! (You can read more of the story here. ) The justification is that the money given out is less than the cost of dealing with miscarriages and other medical issues connected with smoking in pregnancy, but even so…

Hey ho. As a non smoking, childless couple, working and paying taxes, we were always going to be supporting the less well off when we lived in the UK (and, here in France) …and generally, I was okay with that, but this initiative just somehow feels wroing. What do you think? Am I being too “disgusted Daily Mail reader from Tunbridge Wells”?!

Grow Your Blog 2015

Hello everybody! Thank you for visiting – and thank to Vicki who, as we know, set up this lovely event.

MOUSE-LAPTOP - WIN_20150102_201257

This is my lovely cat, George. There are more cats on the other blog!

This is my other blog (Or, maybe, this is my other blog!) Over at Fat Dormouse I tend to blog about food. And cats. This is slightly more eclectic – a bit about my life in France, about my crafts, about my preaching, and about Stuff.

If you’ve come from Fat Dormouse, you’ll have already read about me. And on this blog the tab at the top “So throw off the bowlines” tells about how we ended up in this corner of France. But, suffice to say, I’m a 50-mumble year old TEFL teacher, working in various places teaching English to both children and adults. I am lucky enough to be able to say I love my job!

I enjoy crafting – I make some cards…

IMG_1794    IMG_1754IMG_1389  IMG_1396_1   IMG_1802

The last card is a card I made for a small charity called Spanish Stray Cats – if you are a cat lover, I urge you to go and “like” their Facebook page, and maybe even donate to help them with their efforts to save, protect and heal the numerous stray cats that get dumped on their doorstep every week. I knit very wobbly blankets for them – even though they are in Spain, the winters are still cold and damp – and I was thrilled to find out that one cat was so attached to the wobbly blanket of mine that it had to go with him when he went to his new Forever home.


I don’t make quite so many cards now, as I have discovered the pleasures of Zentangle Inspired Art. I can happily while away an afternoon, working on a piece – I sell them to raise money for church, or just to give away. Here are some examples:

IMG_1812This one I created for Spanish Stray Cats. If you leave a comment here to say you have “liked” their page (I trust you!) I will put your name into a draw to win a copy of this ZIA piece. Here are some other examples of my ZIA – if you click on them you can see them in a bit more detail.



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If you leave a comment here, one of you will win an original ZIA piece on a subject of your choice – I’ve created pieces on angels, dragons (see above), dolphins, Eiffel Towers, cats, unicorns, music…lots. In your comment tell me what you would like me to create for you, and I will draw one name at random on February 14th. Make sure I can contact you.

I love blogging and taking part in swaps, and blog hops, and parties like this as it gives me the opportunity to link with people from all over the world. I really look forward to visiting all your blogs over the next few weeks and finding out about you. Thank you for visiting, and if you haven’t been there, I hope you will go and visit my other blog, Fat Dormouse Getting Thinner

Enjoy yourself, visiting lots of blogs all over the world – and I hope you might come back to my corner of France someday soon!


About me

Trish, over at Marshalling points completed a list of questions about herself…as I am struggling to think of something to post about tonight, I thought I would borrow the questions to tell you a tad more about myself, FatDormouse. So here goes:

Four names people call me other than my real name.

Dormouse, Mouse, Ali (a shortening of my name that I hate!) That’s all…but my dad used to call me Boo, or Boo-Boo Bear. Just thinking about it still brings a tear to my eye.

Four jobs I’ve had other than my current one.

Primary school teacher, Asset Management assistant, classroom English teacher in a French collège. Again, only three jobs, but I was a teacher in several schools. Does that count?

Four films I’ve watched more than once.

The Princess Bride, Truly Madly,Deeply; The Shawshank Redemption; Love Actually

Four books I’d recommend.

This is tricky; I think I more often recommend authors rather than books….but The Last Runaway by  Tracy Chevalier; Spanish Steps by Tim Moore; Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley books, Rough Music by Patrick Gale

Four places I’ve lived.

Aintree, near Liverpool; Winchester; Milton Keynes; St Just en Chevalet

Four places I’ve been.

How to choose?! Toronto; Begur, in Spain; Madeira; Lisbon

Four places I wouldn’t mind being right now.

Bed (!); at my mum’s; in a luxury hotel; at my dear friends’ home (Gary & Carlo)

Four things I won’t eat.

Liver; kidneys (except in very small doses in steak-and-kidney pie); heart; brains. Offal really.

Four of my favourite foods.

Duck, chocolate, cheese (but not very strong flavoured ones.My palette is becoming very fussy!), cake of most description. Oh and crisps. I could eat crisps till the cows come home! I know that’s five,but never mind.

Four TV programmes I watch.

Coronation Street; Lewis ; Waterloo Road (though I do think it’s gone downhill) Doctor Who

Four things I’m looking forward to in the next year.

Working back at the summer school – I know I’ve got Kids & I know and like the people I’m working with; celebrating 30 years of marriage; spending time with my friend Cathy when she comes over; taking part in 40 Acts

Four things I’m always saying.

I have recently been told (and now I know I am really selfconcious about it!) that in lessons I  often say “Good…but no” when students try hard with an answer that isn’t quite right; “Buggery-poo” when things don’t go my way. “Who’s a lovely cat, then?” (to any one of four!) And I can’t think of a fourth – although Mr FD has assured me that he will think of something soon!!!

For Mr FD

I’ve directed so many people to this poem, I thought I should share it with everyone (not that there’s many!) who read this blog. I sometimes bemoan the fact that Mr FD isn’t the world’s most romantic man, but I need to remind myself that there are different kinds of romance:


There is a kind of love called maintenance,
Which stores the WD40 and knows when to use it;

Which checks the insurance, and doesn’t forget
The milkman; which remembers to plant bulbs;

Which answers letters; which knows the way
The money goes, which deals with dentists

And Road Fund Tax and meeting trains,
And postcards to the lonely; which upholds

The permanently rickety elaborate
Structures of living; which is Atlas.

And maintenance is the sensible side of love,
Which knows what time and weather are doing
To my brickwork; insulates my faulty wiring;
Laughs at my dryrotten jokes; remembers
My need for gloss and grouting; which keeps
My suspect edifice upright in the air,
As Atlas did the sky.

by U.A. Fanthorpe

A short thought from a few years ago…

EXODUS: 6:6-8

I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.  I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.  And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.’


The Israelites knew their God, Jehovah, was capable of great things; he had appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and Jacob, they knew that he had promised them a land of their own. So when Moses told them that God was about to fulfil this promise, you’d have thought they would have been all for it. When Moses recounted the words “I will release you from your labours in Egypt. I will rescue you from slavery there”, and most wonderful of all “I will adopt you as my people” you would imagine they would have praised God and packed their bags there and then. But no. Instead they refused to listen, they turned their back on God, because they had become impatient because of their cruel slavery.

Because their situation was difficult, because their lives were hard, they did not believe God really cared. And who can blame them? If we’re really honest, how many of us are like them? When life is as it should be, we are more willing to praise God, but I know that when life’s hard, when there’s a week’s worth of lessons to prepare, the cats have all been sick at the same time, my back is killing me and the washing machine is leaking I’m afraid my mind doesn’t turn automatically to God. And really, to many people those are just minor troubles. Would I be able to praise God when my country was overrun by rebels, or when I had seen my family die of starvation, or when I faced death? Would I even believe in God?

I hope I would. I pray I would. I pray I could follow the example of Jesus, who in the Garden of Gethsemane did not list everything that was wrong, and spend time being self pitying. Yes, he went through agonies of prayer, and no doubt faced the dilemmas of belief and anguish, but all the while there were the words “Not my will, but thine” Throughout it all, even at the very worst times, he never doubted his God.

We have seen the glory of God’s love for us; we know that he loved us so much that he would die for us, we know that the most high Lord of all can be as a loving caring daddy, we know that there is the promise of glory awaiting us.

How then can we be as the Israelites? Yes, our slavery may be cruel and our lives may be hard, but we should never doubt that our God loves us, and that, as he said to Israel, and says to us “I will adopt you as my people”. Do not forget your God; he never forgets you.

Reverence for Life

Today, January 14th, was my dad’s birthday. To be honest with you, I don’t know how old he would have been – I’m terrible remembering numbers! I forget the year he died, ( I think it was 1990) but I do know that I still miss him. From time to time, I have a dream about him, which is always a great pleasure…and when I have time tomorrow I will find & upload a photo of him to this post. Today I’m a little bit rushed, as I am leaving the house in an hour for a full day of kiné, teaching and dancing. I won’t get home until 9, and will be too busy eating dinner to find the photo then!

Another doctor was also born on this date, but a few years earlier than my father.

In 1875, Albert Schweitzer was born, a great humanitarian , theologian, and campaigner for peace.

I remember that when I used to go to Sunday School, we would be regaled with stories about his tireless work in leprosy hospitals. The site “Nobel Prize winners” tells us that The expression “reverence for life” is the key to Albert Schweitzer’s personal philosophy. No person must ever harm or destroy life unless absolutely necessary. This attitude permeated everything he did.

Schweitzer was born in Alsace in the then German Empire. He studied theology and became a priest, but that was not enough. He wanted to alleviate suffering, and accordingly studied medicine. Together with his wife, who was a nurse, he built and ran a hospital at the mission station Lambarene in Gabon, a French colony at the time. This effort became an example to others.

“Reverence for Life” – as another doctor, only a lowly GP but a doctor nonetheless, my father also had reverence for life. In the world where journalists are killed for doing their job, where children are raped and abused by those they should be able to trust, where animals are tortured by people for fun, I fear that so many of us have lost that reverence for life. Even when we pass by a homeless person, without considering that they are a human like we are, or we treat someone else with less than courtesy demands, we have allowed ourselves to lose some of that reverence for life.

What can you do today to add some reverence to your interaction with this world where we live?

I am Charlie – or am I?

Like the rest of the world I am shocked and saddened by the terror attack in Paris yesterday, on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. It is hard to believe that this is what some Muslims think their religion is about – killing others, even if they don’t share your beliefs, even if they mock your God. Just as I am shamed by the fact that Westboro Baptist Church peddle the message of hate for homosexuals in the name of the Christian God, I am sure many Muslims are ashamed that extremists are carrying out terror attacks in the name of Allah.

In France, and throughout the world, there has been a twitterstorm and FB of people tweeting, posting, holding banners saying “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie) One of my students had it as his background on his phone. It is a sign of solidarity with those who were killed or injured in this attack.

But I’m not sure about identifying myself with an organisation who considered it acceptable to depict a black politician as a monkey…While I certainly believe we should uphold the right to freedom of speech, without fear of being indiscriminately slaughtered, I do wonder where freedom of speech ends and racism begins. Is it ok to depict someone as a monkey and cry “But it’s freedom of speech!” Is it ok to state that “God hates fags” and then play the freedom of speech card.

I don’t know. I haven’t got any answer. But – while I do weep with those who lost loved ones, while I do decry the slaughter of journalists, while I cannot defend the actions of these murderers – I’m not sure I want to say that I am Charlie…because I don’t think that it is right to mock other people’s beliefs, nor depict black people as monkeys.



Giving away a bit of village life

The Sapeurs Pompiers – fire service – in St Just are a volunteer force. They are not only the fire service but first call for medical emergencies too. We have several friends who volunteer: Clare, who is a district nurse, is the medical officer, her husband Jean and another friend Jerome, are both fire fighters. Just like in Britain, they can be called on to face fairly horrific incidents, sometimes that has happened to friends and acquaintances.

Because they are volunteer, they raise money for their Fete de Ste Barbara (patron saint of firefighters, I believe) by selling calenders at the end of the year. We bought ours, of course (we wouldn’t dare say no to Clare!) but I thought it might be quite fun to offer it as a Giveaway…Who would like to add a flavour of St Just to their office or kitchen with the pin-ups of the fire service?


All you need to do is leave a comment. I’ll randomly choose one of the commenters in a couple of weeks time. This is open to anyone from anywhere. Go on – you know you want to!