Christmas Doings 2: Boxing Day

There was an organised walk from church planned for the afternoon, and Mr FD was up for it, so the morning was spent doing various enjoyable things – reading, blogging, listening to the radio etc. Then, after a hurried piece of cheese on toast at 11.15, we set out to borrow our friends’ dog, Marvin, as we thought he would enjoy the walk. Then we drove down to Clermont.

Marvin was very well-behaved in the car: he sat in the footwell, and quivered. I stroked him a lot to reassure him, and finally he settled down between my feet.

We arrived at the car park where we were all meeting, but had to hang around for quite a while, as other people who were coming got lost. Finally everyone arrived and we set off

We headed up the Vallée de Sans Souci, to the Squirrels’ Cascade

It was lovely – people swapped walking partners, as we went, and Marvin had a great time with Clio, the labrador. There was a puppy with us too, Narda, but she was kept on the lead as she was rather over excited by the whole event! She’s the dog being lifted up in the photo above.

When we arrived back at the car, Rob (our rector) & Caireen (his wife) invited us back to the house, “for some leftovers” We were expecting a turkey sandwich and a cup of tea – and ended up having a delicious 4-course meal! Red pepper & sweet potato soup, turkey dinner, with all the trimmings, cheese, and mince pies! Goodness me!

Marvin was thoroughly spoiled and loved the attention. He isn’t allowed on the furniture (except his chair) at home, but here he was positively encouraged onto the sofa!

He was given a bowlful of scraps to eat as well. Rob and Caireen would have adopted him on the spot if they could have done! He was splendidly well-behaved.

And after a lovely meal, we drove home, arriving in time to feed the cats, who sniffed my jeans very suspiciously.

A really nice day, with really nice people.

Mr FD, me and Marvin

My consultant phoned me yesterday – both the bone scan and the organ scan were normal, showing no signs that the cancer has spread!

I know we’re not out of the woods yet, but the relief that both Mr FD and I felt was enormous. Thank you, God.

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Christmas Doings

Hello, dear ones. Thank you for your good wishes, positive thoughts and prayers. They are truly appreciated. I had another scan yesterday – this time checking the organs for cancer, – but I won’t know the results until the day I go in for surgery. Everything is now ready, except for one last visit to the clinic when the sentinel node will be identified and highlighted (I wonder how?!) so it’s easy to find the following day during surgery. It will be the first thing to be removed, and then while the rest of the operation is continuing, it will be analysed. If it’s clear of cancer, then we will know that it hasn’t spread into the lymph nodes. If it is cancerous, then the rest of the nodes will be removed.  Whatever the outcome is, we will deal with it.

I had good news regarding my insurance too – as I’m self employed I had taken out a further insurance to pay out if I couldn’t work. I thought that I had to be off work for a month before it kicked in, but I have discovered that it starts immediately if I am hospitalised. Which I will be. Huzzah! This means I don’t need to worry about loss of earnings during the radiotherapy. That was a worry, but now I’m okay. I also discovered I’m entitled to 25 hours of femme de menage – a cleaning lady/man – which is a nice surprise. I’m not sure we’ll take it up though. As Mr FD said “I’d have to clean up before they came!”

Anyway – onto the real reason for the post:

CHRISTMAS DOINGS:

I went to the Christmas Eve service at church, which was lovely – there were lots of people there, and it was good to share the anticipation of the coming of the Christ Child with them. I was also able to belt out “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” too. I was sitting next to Angel, our young (7 years old) acolyte, and I whispered to her “This carol often makes me cry” – she spent the entire time inspecting me for any sign of tears, which made me laugh so much, I couldn’t cry. I just sang the carol in my loudest, most joyful voice.

Hail! the heav’n born Prince of peace!
Hail! the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Risen with healing in his wings
Mild he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die:
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Arriving home at about 8.00 Mr FD had prepared a delicious soup that we had got the recipe for from Mons the cheese shop – La Soupe a la graisse de Noel

It is basically French Onion Soup, but with more bread and more cheese. It is yummy, and I think it may become a tradition on Christmas Eve.

We woke about 8.00 on Christmas Day.  We had our Christmas croissants, and then we sat and listened to the radio. Mr FD wanted to listen to a programme where Dr Brian Cox and Brian Eno were in conversation with the presenter. TBH, it was a bit too complicated for me, so I did some grown up colouring while the gentle voices burbled on in the background. I prefer zentangling, but my hands are feeling a bit too arthritic at the moment, so grown up colouring is an acceptable substitute.

We opened some of our presents:

  • “A Place Called Winter” by Patrick Gale
  • “Organic Family Hymnal” by Rend Collective (I had one, but gave it away, so it’s nice to have it replaced!)
  • A Harris Tweed pouch
  • The Brexit Cook Book
  • Flow “Book for Paper Lovers” – the blurb for this says:In the fifth edition of our renowned Book for Paper Lovers you’ll find no less than 300 pages of paper goodies, such as notepaper, stickers, wrapping paper, masking stickers, posters and much more. There’s even a pop-up art supplies store in there. Because we work together with illustrators from all over the world—from Taiwan to the UK, and from the US to Australia—we decided on a North East South West theme for this year’s issue. Feel free to rip it apart because that’s what it’s for: all those lovely paper goodies are there to be taken out and used.

It’s fabulous!

Then, because the weather was so lovely we went for a walk.

If you look very carefully between the pointy pine tree on its own, and the first lumpy bump you might just see Mont Blanc. We could see it quite clearly.

  

 

After that we went to our friends’ for champagne (bellinis) and lots of delicious nibbles. We WhatsApped a mutual friend, who is in the UK with her family, and spent a good 2 hours chatting and drinking and enjoying ourselves.

Then home again, for other presents:

  • a top
  • A beautiful Christmas decoration in glass
  • Some earrings
  • Chocolates

We listened to the radio again, and exchanged phone calls with various members of the family. Then Mr FD cooked our dinner – guinea fowl, and various trimmings – which was delicious, and then we relaxed with Doctor Who, and Maigret in Montmartre (recorded from just before Christmas)

Uneventful, quiet, but very enjoyable.

Then, the next day, a Boxing Day walk…But I’ll tell you about that another time!

 

Book Review: Murder at Home by Faith Martin ***(and a half)

I have recently joined Netgalley, a book review site, where – basically – one gets electronic books provided free (yay!) in exchange for an honest review. So here is mine, of the book

Murder at Home, by Faith Martin: I ordered this, not realising that I’d bought and read the first in the series by this author, which was entitled “Murder on the Oxford Canal” I had quite enjoyed that book, so was happy when I realised this was from the same series. Although there are characters and backstories linking all the books, I don’t think it matters too much if you don’t grasp all those references, as there are brief explanations in the text. The story moved on fairly rapidly, the characters were all likeable (or not), and – which is important for me in a detective novel – the story, including motives etc, made sense. There were no surprise new characters introduced at the end whodunnit.

The one thing I would say is that sometimes I felt the author was trying too hard with her descriptions, especially those that explained that, despite being a “normal” woman, the heroine was attractive and sexy. There were rather too many descriptions of her ample bosom, the way her clothes clung to her body etc. It wasn’t done in a lascivious way, it didn’t really add to the story, and I felt it was unnecessary.

It wasn’t the most interesting book of its genre, simpler than Elizabeth George or Peter Robinson, for example, but it certainly whiled away a few hours in an enjoyable way.

I think I would give it 3.5 stars – but that’s only because I’ve just started reviewing books and haven’t quite got my “star system” worked out yet!!

3 Things – Christmas Version

Here’s a post shamelessly stolen from Confuzzledom who stole it from someone else…

3 Things I Love about Christmas

  • First and foremost, The “reason for the season” – the fact that we are celebrating the birth of God in human form, Emmanuel, God with us.
  • The presents – both the giving and the receiving. Yes, sometimes those gifts I receive show little knowledge about me, or are a tad disappointing…but equally I love trying to choose presents that I think people will like.
  • The food – here in France, things like mince pies are not easy to come by, so those traditional goodies are all the more special when we find them. Huzzah for Le Comptoir Irlandaise, selling boxes of mince pies and jars of mincemeat!

3 Things I Dislike about Christmas

  • There’s very little really, but I suppose the early-onset of Christmas in the shops is something I don’t like. It isn’t so bad here in France, but it is creeping in…Late November was when I saw my first “Shop for Christmas!” sign.
  • On a similar vein, the adverts on TV that encourage everyone to buy those “must-have” items – be they food, electronics, toys, sofas…whatever. And that brand you a failure if you don’t get them.
  • Features in magazines that give ideas for  “stocking fillers” that cost more than I’d dream of paying for a super-duper “main” present! I saw something in one feature that was branded a “stocking filler” and cost over £100! That’s practically my entire Christmas present budget!

3 Favourite Christmas Movies

  • Love Actually – it’s schmaltzy, and a bit over-sweet in places, and the creepy signs-outside-a-newly-married-woman-that-I-fancy scene makes me cringe. But…Alan Rickman! Emma Thompson! Alan Rickman (again!)! Hugh Grant dancing! Alan Rickman! It still makes me cry every time I see it.
  • Elf. Great fun, and fast becoming a tradition in our house
  • The Princess Bride. No, not a Christmas movie, but it needs to be included at every opportunity.

3 Favourite Christmas Treats

  • Mince pies (already mentioned)
  • Lindor balls.
  • Foie gras. Yes, I know it’s not at all ethical, and I shouldn’t enjoy it, or buy it. But I do. I love it! We don’t buy it very often, so it is a treat.

3 Favourite Christmas Traditions

I’m not sure these are “favourite” traditions, but they are traditions:

  • Decorating the house on the second Sunday of Advent. Usually, the same things go in the same place, although I do tweak things occasionally. We don’t have a Christmas Tree, because we can’t trust the Very Bad Cats not to climb it, but I bought a small wooden pine-coney tree this year which I have wrapped in tiny lights which is very acceptable.
  • Our “spread out” Christmas meal. We really only eat one meal on Christmas Day, which is timed thus:

10.30-ish: smoked salmon and champagne

13.00-ish: foie gras and an appropriate wine (Muscat is good)

17.00-ish: main course (this year it’s roti de pintard (guinea fowl), roast potatoes, spiced red cabbage & green beans

19.00 + cheese and dessert. Dessert can be Pannetone pudding, but this year is going to be mince pies and ice cream.

With this, one never feels full. Between courses there are walks, present opening, listening to music, reading, watching TV, preparing the next course, etc.

Actually this year we may be skipping the foie gras part as we’ve been invited to a friends for drinks. We’re taking peach juice and champagne, so we can have bellinis.

  • The Church Carol Service – a slightly informal Nine Lessons & Carols – which is always nice. Mr FD comes to this service as well, which pleases me.

3 Favourite Christmas Songs

This one’s a bit tricky, as there are new ones being added, but if we are on secular songs I think I have to go for…

3 Favourite Christmas Carols

Confuzzledom didn’t include in her list, but this is an important one for me:

  • It Came Upon the Midnight Clear
  • Hark, the Herald Angels Sing – which I didn’t use to like, but after reading the words carefully, and thinking about them suddenly became one of my favourite carols ever!
  • O Come, O Come Emmanuel – which is strictly speaking, an Advent song, but which speaks so eloquently of the world yearning for its saviour.

3 Favourite Christmas Gifts Received

I’m not really sure – I have been lucky enough to receive some beautiful things. Mr FD is great at choosing just the right piece of jewellery – be it earrings, bangles, Pandora beads. When we lived in Milton Keynes there was a jeweller who came to the Christmas Market every year, and Mr FD would choose something from his stand for me! Now, he will often buy me a Pandora bead.

I don’t think I can choose to be honest.

Let’s just say the gift of salvation through the Nativity. That’s fairly good (!!)

3  FOUR Gifts I Want to Give the World

  • Stealing Confuzzledom’s first answer: Empathy. I’m stealing Jana’s answer again, but it’s a good one. If people would just consider other people’s feelings occasionally the world would be a much better place!
  • Stealing Confuzzledom’s second answer: An end to climate change… or at least to slow it down to how it would have been if humans hadn’t come along to destroy the planet. I would like there to actually be a planet by the time my (future) children and grandchildren grow up! – except I don’t have children, but I have nephews, nieces, great-nephews and great-nieces, Godchildren…so it’s just as important
  • Stealing Confuzzledom’s third answer: Laughter. Bad things are always going to happen… and without sorrow we wouldn’t be able to truly appreciate happiness. But I would love to give everybody out there at least one reason to laugh or smile even when things are at their very worst.
  • But, most of all, Peace. Peace in the world, peace in communities, peace in family relationships, peace in one’s heart. Peace brought through the Prince of Peace, who came to call us to take his easy yoke and rest in Him.

 

And so,with that in mind…

Do not fear, I will help you

This is my verse at the moment.

The pre cancerous nodule has been identified as a cancerous tumour. I am scheduled for a lumpectomy on 3rd January. Bone scan has taken place (but I’ve not got results), PET scan to check that the cancer hasn’t spread on 27th December.

HOWEVER, I am absolutely fine about it all. Shit happens to the best of us, and it is something to be Got Through. We hope it’s just breast cancer, with a course of radiotherapy. If it’s more, then so be it.

With the support of friends and family, and above all Mr FD (who has been great) (if more worried than me!), with the knowledge that I am surrounded by prayer and love, with utmost confidence in the medical team, and the upholding and love of God, I know there is nothing to fear.

I would like to share an email I received from a friend:

Dear Alison,

On opening your email, I must admit my first reaction was, “Oh Shit”,  this coming from someone for whom ‘shit’ is the strongest expletive in my repertoire…..

…and then I looked up from where I was sitting, at my desk, in front of my laptop, and there it was, patiently sitting next to the computer screen…..

…your bible verse that I had placed into the note holder yesterday.  I almost cried when I reread the verse (from Isaish 41:13).

The little box of handwritten bible verses that you made for the silent auction sits next to this week’s verse. “To challenge, encourage and strengthen you…to put on your fridge door, or in your wallet, or to give away”, it says.”    You have led me to carry one in my wallet. I pass it (or two when I have forgotten) on to C—— each Sunday.

You and Andrew are in our thoughts and prayers.  L—— and I are here whenever we can be of help to you both, and more importantly, as you wrote, “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says:”Do not fear; I will help you””.

And he included this photo:

As I’ve said before, if you’re of the praying ilk, I would appreciate prayers; otherwise positive thoughts are equally well-received. Thank you.

Budapest Jollies 5: Thursday morning.

We’d investigated a place where it was possible to leave your bags for a small fee, and so after breakfast we vacated the flat. We took various photos of the outside of the building (none of mine were very good, but you’ve seen the angel figure in my first post)

This was the view out of the flat window, looking down the street towards the Synagogue.

Having left the bags we took the tram to the covered market, where we wanted to buy a couple of last minute presents, and then the plan was to climb Gelert Hill to get views of the city. Unfortunately the clouds were so low that we couldn’t see the top of Gelert Hill, so that rather knocked that idea on the head.

Rather aimlessly, we walked along the river bank, admiring buildings across the river and chatting.

We found a shopping centre to explore (especially the toilets!) and then headed back to collect our bags, buy a sandwich and catch the express bus to the airport. Final shopping in the Duty Free to use up our HUFs and then we parted, Jane to go to Gatwick and me to Lyon.

My flight was fine, with all the connections home going smoothly. I was met at Roanne station by Mr FD.

It was a really enjoyable few days. I would definitely go back to Budapest and recommend the airbnb that we had. It was on Wesselényi Utca, but unfortunately doesn’t appear to be showing up on the site at the moment. It had a double bed and a fairly comfortable double sofa bed too. And generally, all mod-cons except a kettle and a corkscrew!

Budapest Jollies 4 : Wednesday

As the Dohany Street Great Synagogue was just at the bottom of the road, we felt that this was somewhere we really ought to visit. And today was the day.

We paid our pennies and were instructed to go in and wait by the British flag for an English speaking tour. Our tour guide was a slightly scary lady – very informative, but quite brusque. Other groups seemed to be having more fun than ours! Still, she gave us plenty of information about the building, but, of course, the focus was on the effect of the second world war on the Jewish population.

The figures she gave us were horribly huge: 1 in 4 Jews killed at Aushwitz were Hungarian, and 1 in 10 of all victims of the Holocaust were Hungarian – and the Nazis really only turned against the Hungarians in late 1944, as Hungary had, initially, sided with Germany. Between December 1944 and February 1945 a huge number of Jewish people were killed or deported. Our flat was in what had been part of the Jewish Ghetto.

This is my bad photo of the memorial tree. Each leaf contains the name of someone killed in the Holocaust. Here is another:

Somewhat sombrely we made our way to the Museum – which didn’t really hold our attention too much. For students of Jewish artefactys it might have been more interesting, but by then Jane was a little worried and distracted as she’d received a mystifying text from her bank. I volunteered to go and buy lunch, while she went back to the flat to try to solve the mystery.

After lunch (pizza and salad bought, slightly disconcertedly, from a Tesco Express shop) Jane felt content that her mysterious message had been satisfactorily dealt with, so we headed out to look at another memorial to Jews killed in WW2. This time, they were shot by the Hungarian Arrow Cross militia, a violently anti-Semitic group, rather than deported by the Nazis. Told to line up on the banks of the Danube and remove their shoes, these people – some 20,000 of them (Good God, how is it possible?) – were shot where they stood, and their bodies fell into the river. This wikipedia page gives a little more information.

The memorial is made up of 60  pairs of iron shoes, entitled “Shoes on the Danube Bank”.

I did feel intrusive taking photos, so in fact only took one:

It was a very sobering place. I felt uneasy at the number of people taking touristy shots, getting up close, focussing on one shoe, lying down to get a good view: it somehow didn’t feel right to be doing so. But, each to their own, I suppose…

We looked at the outside of the Parliament building, glowing in the late afternoon sun

and then headed off to find the Cat Café that had been recommended!

It was a lovely place, with plentiful cats

including one in the Ladies’ toilet that was just waiting for someone to come along and turn on the tap

     

TBH, it’s one of the nicest Cat Cafés that I’ve been to.

We then went back to the flat for a glass of wine, and then went to the Ruin Bar, that Jane’s son had recommended to us.

Ruin bars are all the rage in Budapest and have been around for 10 years since the founding of Szimpla Kert, the mecca of all ruin bars. These bars are built in Budapest’s old District VII neighborhood (the old Jewish quarter) in the ruins of abandoned buildings, stores, or lots. This neighborhood was left to decay after World War II, so it was a perfect place to develop an underground bar scene.

It was achingly hip, and we felt remarkably out of place, so decided not to stay. We instead went to have some street food – Goulash in a cob.

Which was okay. Not great, but okay. I spilt most of my beer over myself which was annoying.

Then a trot to the Christmas Market for a last Chimney Cake – here they are being cooked:

and then home again.

Last morning tomorrow…