Good times in Strasbourg

I had a lovely few days in Strasbourg, with my friend Jane.

The journey there was a little fraught – although as I didn’t have any connections to make I wasn’t too anxious. We were on the last leg of the journey, about 20 minutes outside Strasbourg, when the train ground to a halt. After about 5 minutes the guard announced that we had hit a deer, and so had to wait for clearance to restart. Also, one assumes, for someone to clear up the debris. We were held up for about 30 minutes, during which time I texted Jane, to keep her up to date with what was happening. Finally we started off again, only to come to another abrupt halt about 10 minutes outside Strasbourg. This time, the guard told us with a weary sigh, there were children playing on the line, and a pram abandoned in our path. I suspect it was more likely to be yoofs dropping things onto the track from a bridge, but I don’t know for sure. That clear up took another 45 minutes or so – we arrived in Strasbourg about 90 minutes late. Jane had come from the flat to meet me, so we were able to have something to eat near the station, before taking a taxi back.

The first (but not the last!) mulled wine!

On Sunday we had planned to go to church, but ended up not going! We woke late and had a leisurely breakfast instead. Then we went to explore the Christmas markets… There were, after all, eleven to explore! Initially we were a little disappointed. They were either a bit too Chinese imported tat, or what was a small number of wooden chalets had been bigged up to be a “Christmas Market” However, as our time went by, we found ourselves being a little more forgiving; some weren’t much to write home about though. The “Off” market was supposed to be edgy and alternative, but was just a bit boring and unfestive. There were four or five containers with a couple of interesting stalls, plus some igloo type structures with some bits and bobs, but nothing terribly out there.

Still, while there were rather too many stalls selling Vin Chaud and baguettes with cheese and ham, we had a lovely time!

By sheer coincidence we were in the Place Kléber when the huge tree lit up – very festive! Especially when watched clutching a Vin Chaud!The market here was a little disappointing too – this was supposed to be the “ethical” market. The description told us that “Some one hundred support, charity and humanitarian associations invite you to come and meet them, discuss what drives them and share their solidarity actions at the Village of Sharing in Place Kléber, from 23 November to 24 December” What it doesn’t say is that these 100 or so associations were sharing approximately 10 chalets on a rolling programme, so there were only 10 different groups at any one time – most of them selling Vin Chaud! We did buy some “Humanitarian soup” (parsnip with ginger and lemongrass) which was good,and Facebook had a stand where they were showing their human face: encouraging us to make a donation to a charitable cause through FB, they were offering a free Christmas sweatshirt for every donation made. Well, as I needed a Christmas jumper for our works Christmas party, but was refusing to buy one, this seemed like an ideal opportunity! I wanted to support Phone Cedit for Refugees, but they don’t have a FB page, so instead I gave a donation to Restos du Coeur, and received a Christmas sweatshirt,a bag, a FB pin, a pair of gloves and a handwarmer!

Some of the decorations were amazing, and the stalls were beautifully decked out too

Our favourite market was in the Place Broglie, which is where we made many of our purchases. It was here we also met Denis, the treasurer of the Convocation of the Episcopal Church in Europe, who lives in Strasbourg. He had offered to take us to taste the “best gluhwein in the markets” so (naturally!) we took him up on the offer. The Vin Chaud was at the stall Chez Mathilde and was, apparently, an old family recipe. It was delicious – the spices used included cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and cardomom. Then Denis took us on a whirlwind tour of the markets (showing us one we’d missed) and ended up buying us a beer in an old fashioned beer kellar/pub type place. We let him go home after thyat (it was raining hard by then) and we wandered around the market a bit longer before heading home ourselves. My back had been playing up both Sunday and Monday,  generally being painful, but also occasionally going into spasm, so I was happy to take the tram home!

Random twinkly lights

We also did some sightseeing, but I’ll tell you aboutthat another time.

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Blue arsed flies.

For those who don’t quite understand the metaphor:: Run around is a common expression meaning to be busy, frantic, or otherwise getting the runaround. But to emphasize how much one is running around, we turn to metaphor. I’ve been running around like a blue arsed fly. The fly in question is apparently a blue bottle fly, which buzzes around rather frantically, like someone who is running around busily doing errands.

Golly gosh! I’ve been busy – still am!! Some good things:

  • My calligraphy course went very well – no-one turned up, so I sat & chatted to Martine, the organiser, for anhour then presented my bill, and came home to do my ironing. Hopefully, I’ll get paid the full amount.
  • SNCF have refunded the cost of the initial ticket, that I couldn’t use, from my horrible journey home from convention. I’m still a bit out of pocket, but we’ll accept that.
  • Mr FD has several interviews/job fairs to go to in the next couple of weeks (fingers crossed) and I’m getting more work too. The Financial Monster is being kept at bay, thanks to the geneerosity of mothers, and some frugality on our part. Plus a transfer of funds from the UK!
  • I’m going here on Saturday for 5 days!

STRASBOURG CHRISTMAS MARKET

Yay! Huzzah! and other cries of glee.

Less nice, but exciting and interesting news:

  • I resigned from the Transition Committee  for the Bishop Elect. My new medication (hormone therapy) does have a side efect of increased anxiety, and I was finding myself getting really stressed, even just over the Zoom meetings (like Skype) It was doing me no good, so I resigned, deciding that I needed just to focus on Church here in Clermont.
  • However, here in Clermont, Father Rob and his wife Caireen are moving on. They are off to Rome, and we are looking for a new rector. We may need to be creative – possibly a part time rector, possibly something else…Happily the new Bishop Elect is interested in and knowledgable in bi-vocational work. Until someone is appointed I will probably be preaching more/taking more services, and we’ll be having various ordained people visiting so we can have the Eucharist.
  • I’m now on the Strategic Planning Committee – but it is focussing on church here in Clermont!! – as we start to think about what Christ Church in Clermont Ferrand will evolve into. It’s sad that we are losing two well-loved people, but it is exciting to l;ook ahead to what we may become, and what God’s plans are for us.

And off I buzz again – need to have lunch before leaving to go to Clermont to teach.

 

Hope all is well with you, dear Ones. I am thinking about my Things to do Before I’m 60 list. I may publish it at the beginning of January – 10 Things in the 10 months before I’m 60. That seems like a reasonable number of things. Thank you for your ideas – keep them coming!

Stuff happening…busy,busy!

Really short post with explanation why I won’t be around for the next week or so…Lots of reasons.

  1. I have shingles (that’s what my painful “trapped nerve” shoulder was all about) – which means I’ve been tired, I’ve taken a couple of days off, & haven’t planned for next week’s lessons yet. It needs to be done. Thankfully, I’m not in a huge amount of pain, as it was caught early: I have painkillers & anti-viral drugs. What it doers mean is that I can’t lie down without a lot of pain, so I’m sleeping on the sofa at night. It’s OK, but it’s not my bed!
  2. It’s the Church Thanksgiving Meal tomorrow – I have to prepare spiced red cabbage and a peach-and-apple crumb cake. I’ll be out most of the day.
  3. I haven’t inputted last week’s lessons into the ILS System. Nor have I inputted next week’s. It takes time.
  4. I have been asked to write a reflection for next year’s 40 Acts!!! How exciting! I’m honoured too – I thought it was only proper Christians who did these things! That needs to be done in the relatively near future.
  5. I’m teaching a calligraphy course next Saturday. I have done NO preparation whatsoever.
  6. I have been given a date for my interview for my Titre de Sejour – on Wednesday!!!! I have to collect a few (but not too many) documents together. I’m already getting nervous! TBH they have been really efficient (excuse me while I faint!) about this – I sent off my initial request in August, got asked for certain documents beginning of September, got a phone call two weeks ago asking for certain other documents which I dropped off the following day, and today I received notification of my Rdv on Wednesday!! Let’s hope it goes smoothly.

So – no time for blogging. Sorry! I won’t have time to reply to your comments either, but I do appreciate them & will reply when next week is over!

PS Thanks for your suggestions on my Challenges before 60. There are some great ideas.  Do please keep them coming!

Food – and other stuff – in the past week…

It’s been a bit up-and-downy during the past week, food wise. I’ve tried to be sensible and eat well, then every now and then I crack… Luckily, not having biscuits in the house means that the “cracking” is relatively controlled! Though it was hard to contain my delight when I found an “emergency scone” in the freezer! Although technically it was mine, (I’d put 6 in there a while back; Mr FD had his three, but I’d forgotten that I’d only eaten two!) I shared it with Mr FD. Because I’m nice like that!

Highlights this week included last night’s salmon recipe which was delicious! Baked salmon with tomatoes and butternut squashWe didn’t have it with baby salad leaves, but with some sautéed endives, but it was a really good dish. Although it’s a SW recipe, I’d recommend it to anyone who likes salmon!

On Wednesday we had a “do” with the car – the Fiat has been giving us a few problems, but we thought that the garage had fixed the cause.

I was in Roanne shopping, when, outside Lidl, I tried to start it, and there was nothing. All the lights came on, but it wouldn’t start. I phoned Mr FD, who, luckily, wasn’t far away, with our friend Louis – they’d been about to start picking apples at Louis’ family home some 20/30 km from Roanne. So Louis and Mr FD tried to push start the car down a slope – unfortunately I was in the driving seat, and never having push started a car before, I did the wrong things, and it didn’t start. Mr FD contained his annoyance. Louis drove us back home where we picked up the Pug-bus (Peugeot estate) and drove back to Roanne. With Mr FD in the Fiat 500 I towed it back to the Lidl car park (at the top of a slope), then we untied the tow rope and, with a tiny heave from me, Mr FD drove the Fiat down the slope – it started first time!! Huzzah! He drove off around the corner.

As I’d not finished the shopping, we’d planned that I’d go to Carrefour in the Pug-bus to get what I still had to buy. I dithered…I couldn’t face a big hyper-market, so I thought I’d go to the smaller Carrefour Market instead. I had a choice of two ways to go, but for some reason decided to take the least logical – and who should I come across but Mr FD stalled at the traffic lights, right in the middle of rush hour, and blocking the route for everyone else who were just managing to squeeze past by mounting the traffic island…He couldn’t contact me, as he’d left his mobile phone at home (I’ll tell you this for free: had it been the other way round, with me not having my phone, he’d have been right pissed off with me! I didn’t mention it once. Except just now.)

So we re-attached the tow rope, I pulled him round the corner & somehow he started the car again. After that, I wasn’t sure I trusted the Fiat not to stall again, so I abandoned the shopping and followed Mr FD home…

Earlier in the day I’d met up with someone from the Port – she and her husband live on a narrow boat, Out of the Blue, and travel the waterways of France during the summer and over-winter in Roanne – and we’d had a coffee together. It was the first time I’d met Yvonne, and I think we got on quite well. I’m sure we’ll meet up again at some time. I decided to stay and have lunch in the restaurant, so had a cheese omellette, salad and a big plate of chips. So I felt a bit sick from over eating and stress of cars breaking down. Thus when I got home I didn’t want to eat. I defrosted and heated up a curry and naan bread from the freezer for Mr FD, but I just had a couple of crispbreads later on in the evening. There was lots of curry left over so we had it again on Thursday evening, with added chicken & mushrooms, and with rice. It wasn’t very hot – I’m really not very good at judging the right spices to give enough heat to curries! – but it was flavoursome.

I’ve carefully planned next week’s food – however, as always, something will probably happen to change it all…Including not being able to get ingredients or something. I’m shopping (again!) after work on Monday afternoon. That is when I usually shop, but what with forecast snow last Monday, and not many lessons on Wednesday I had changed the day.

Today (writing this on Saturday, scheduling it for Tuesday) we’re having HM pizza for dinner, and tomorrow I’m pulling the wild boar casserole out of the freezer, to have with mash, carrots and green beans. Mr FD is going to be in charge of cooking on Tuesday (Feta stuffed chicken)and on Wednesday (Chinese Pork) and on Thursday (Roast vegetables with feta and pâsta). From next week he’ll be cooking on Friday too, as I’m restarting with my 5 year old student, from 18h- 19h. That’s going to be mostly crafting and colouring while speaking English, but it’s still work.

Of course, it may all be different if – as we hope – Mr FD’s interview goes well. He has an interview on Tuesday afternoon, which sounds like a job right up his street. We keep our fingers crossed.

We hope…

Quelles temps!

What weather!

We knew that snow was coming – in fact, I didn’t go to church last Sunday, because it was forecast, but it didn’t arrive.

On Monday, Mr FD was worried – I had to go to Clermont to teach, but there was an Orange Warning for snow from midday onwards. I wanted to stay in Clermont to prepare for the week, but he wanted me to go home. I compromised by photocopying quickly what I thought I might need, before heading home. It was raining hard, but no sign of snow until I was almost home, and even that was only quelques flocons (a few flakes). It stayed grey and wet all Monday afternoon, but later in the evening it started to snow properly.

When we woke up – power was off! Our house is almost completely electric. Even though we have a granule burner it still requires electricity to feed the granules into the burning compartment, and to work the fan that blows out the hot air; we have a fireplace in our big salon downstairs, which heats bits of the house via the chimney, but that’s it. We had juice and bread for breakfast and Mr FD started digging the cars out, ready for me to go to Clermont in the afternoon for my planned lessons.

However, the motorways were closed – even in snow that’s most unusual for this region.I can only assume that some lorry breakdowns caused by the snow were the culprit rather than the snow itself. People were coming past Mr FD as he worked, asking for directions and saying they’d been stuck on the motorway all night. One of my students contacted me saying they were fine if I  wanted to cancel. As we haven’t yet got the winter tyres on the car, I thought this was prudent.

I was feeling quite caffeine deprived by now, so, knowing that our friends Monique and Michel have a wood stove and a gas cooker, I went across to beg a cup of coffee from them. I stayed in the warm, drinking coffee, while we watched Mr FD continue to clear the pavement and path, and remarked on how well he was working, considering he’d had a gastro the day before (!!)…then Monique suggested we might like to have lunch with them if the power was still off by then. I took a flask of hot water, so Mr FD could have a cup of tea, and we wrapped ourselves up in blankets and read until lunch time. When the power was still off. So we went across the road for tomato salad, and duck pot-au-feu. It was very welcome, as was the friendship and conversation.

Monique wanted to paint that afternoon, so we left at about 2.30, and went back to light candles, wrap ourselves up and read/draw. I really enjoyed the peace of it! Mr FD likes to have music, the radio, the TV on, whatever he’s doing, so there’s almost always sound going on around the house; not today. It was almost silent, erxcept for the swish of passing cars through the snow. At about 5 o’clock the fan on the granule burner started to whirr and we knew the power was back. The kettle went on for a hot drink, and Mr FD turned on the TV. The peace and quiet were over…But it was nice to be warm again!!

But here’s the weird thing – by the next morning most of the snow was gone, and by Thursday we were in bright sunshine and temperatures of 13° or more! Climate change is definitely happening…

 

The journey from hell.

Well, not quite – but not much fun!

Coming home from Convention, I had prebooked all my tickets:

  • Waterloo to Brussels Midi
  • Brussels to Lyon Part Dieu (a two part ticket, Brussels to Paris Nord, Paris Gare de Lyon to Lyon Part Dieu)
  • Lyon Part Dieu to Roanne

There was 55 minutes to get from Paris Nord (arrival 14.05)  to Gare de Lyon (departure 14.59), with the SNCF site assuring me that the journey was 10 minutes, with trains every 10 to 15 minutes. It could be a bit tight, but do-able.

A group of us were on the first train, but in fact, we were going from another station, not Waterloo. We went from Braine-l’Alleud which was nearer to the church. We caught the train, and there were ticket inspectors checking the tickets. I ‘fessed up immediately, and after some humming and hahing, they let me off the extra 40 cents or so difference “because you had been honest” !

Arriving at Brussels Midi there was a notice saying the Paris train would be delayed by 40 minutes. Eeep. Thankfully, by the time we got to the platform, this notice had disappeared, so it left exactly as advertised. So far, so good. I relaxed, listened to a podcast and looked forward to a straightforward journey.

I got to Paris Nord, found the RER station, bought my ticket and arrived on the platform at 14.18. Calculating in my head (“40 minutes to go. Fifteen minute wait plus 10 minute journey leaves me 15 minutes at the other end to find the platform…Should be OK”) I looked at the departures board. Prochaine train 25 minutes it read. WHAT?! Next train in 25 minutes?! What about “train every 10 to 15 minutes”?! Mad calculations now going on in my head, I paced nervously on the station platform. One gentleman kept eying me up with a concerned look: I wonder if he thought I was a suicide bomber trying to get up the nerve to do the dreadful deed? At 14.37 the train rolled in, and hordes of people pushed to get on – it took at least 3 minutes to squeeze everyone on, and the automatic doors kept closing and opening as someone somewhere obviously got caught up and stopped them from closing.

The train got to Paris Gare de Lyon at 14.50. 7 minutes to find the platform (as they close the gates 2 minutes before departure) I raced as quickly as I could – unfit and with a gammy knee (or two) – from the RER station, to the departures board. Hall 1 for departure – where the f*** is that? Ask someone, race up the slope, look around frantically, run (well, walk as quickly as I could) along a concourse heaving with people walking slowly with their pull along luggage getting in my way, finally find Hall 1, hear a whistle and see a train pulling out. Yes, you’ve guessed it…

I found the queue for the Ticket Office, which was huge, and phoned Mr FD to let him know what had happened. The queue moved slowly and after about 15 minutes I was given a ticket number 427, to wait for a desk to become free. The automatic counter was on ticket number 402. By now I had forgotten that I’d taken out insurance against missed trains (d’oh!) and was thinking how I could get home the cheapest way possible.

Mr FD phoned and said if I went to Bercy station (850 m away) I could get a ticket to Vichy for 35€ and he’d pick me up. So I abandoned the ticket waiting queue and trundled my luggage to Bercy station, to the automatic ticket machine. Most of which were not working. I found one that was working, typed in the details. “Train full. Next train tomorrow morning” it laughed at me. Phoned Mr FD who realised that the following train had been cancelled and so two trainloads of people were getting on one train so that’s why there were no spaces.

Back I went to Gare de Lyon, where I tried to exchange my ticket at an automatic machine but it refused. Tired, confused and more than a bit stressed, I paid out 105€ for another ticket to Lyon. I probably should have gone back to the Ticket Office to explain my plight but I was beyond thinking straight by now. I got on the train, made a mess opf sitting down (I couldn’t find anywhere for my luggage, I knocked over someone’s drink…) and finally got seated. I got into conversation with the people opposite, as Mr FD was texting me about the last train from Lyon to Roanne, and would I make it…? We worked out I’d have 12 minutes, and a bloke on the train said this would be fine, Part Dieu wasn’t very big…

When we arrived, there was a fast train to Roanne that had been held up, and was leaving 5 minutes late. The helpful man thought I should get that, so practically dragged me through Part Dieu to the right platform. I got to the train, but the doors were closed. I hit the “Open” button, even though it wasn’t lit up, and nothing happened, except that the guard of the train, on the other side of the door, shook her head and made a “Tough Titty” kind of face. But then, miracle of miracles, the doors hissed open and I fell into the carriage. I can only assume the driver saw me in his mirror and took pity on me.

“You’re very lucky,” said the guard, slightly disappointed.

“I know”, I replied and collapsed into the first empty seat I found.

Mr FD was there at Roanne to pick me up – and (because I’d left myself a big gap in Lyon, and planned to take a slower train to Roanne) I actually got home at the same time as I would have done! I was just a lot more stressed!!

I’ve applied to SNCF for a reimbursement, as there wasn’t enough time between the two Paris stations to catch the second train – it was sold to me as one journey – but as I didn’t go through the proper channels I may not be lucky. We shall see. If not, I’m hoping Church might be able to give me a bit of the money, as I didn’t cost them anything going to Waterloo (as I’d gone up in Nick & Pippa’s car) Church will reimburse the hotel & the travel costs, but as the 105€ was extra, they may not be up for giving me that. We’re not rolling in money, so it may be too much for them.

But it certainly wasn’t the stressfree relaxing journey I’d planned.

Yeah, right…

The end of the week…

I am rather glad it’s Friday – I’ve had a tiring week. Although I should say I’ve got a busy weekend ahead of me too!

I had lessons in Clermont Ferrand on Tuesday afternoon, so I went down in the morning, stopping at Action in Thiers to buy a curtain. This is because all the churches going to Convention (next week) have been asked to bring their church banner. The closest Christ Church has to a banner is a felt-and-glue thing that the children made some years ago, with wobbly edges and horrid badly cut out letters. Rob, our Rector, asked me to take it to Convention, but I offered to “do something with it”.

Here it is with new letters, which I cut out and put onto white felt, before attaching to the background. Before, the red letters didn’t show up so well.

I’ve cut off the “vine” at the side to make it narrower; I’ve got “Clermont Ferrand” in blue letters on white felt, and I have bought a curtain, with ready made hoops at the top.

Friend Cathy is coming with her sewing machine tomorrow to attach the blue felt to the grey curtain; attach the “Clermont Ferrand” words and the vine along the bottom. Hopefully she’ll be able to shorten the curtain too, as it’s too long at the moment too.  It’s not great, all still being a bit wobbley, but we’re getting there.

ANYWAY on the way to Clermont I bought the curtain, and then arrived at ILS to do my preparation. However, we mustn’t call it ILS now, as the company has changed its name and is now known as “Bonjour World”

Personally, I’ve had mixed reactions to the name change, but it’s a done deal, so there you go. I did 3 hours teaching and was fairly knackered when I got home.

Wednesday was my day in Roanne, with 7 hours or so of teaching – strangely I didn’t find this as tiring as Tuesday: maybe I’d slept better the night before.

Then yesterday I had 3.5 hours teaching in Clermont again. I spent the morning at home preparing & doing other things. The lessons were fine, although I hadn’t actually got the right level of activities for one of the students. I managed to busk it, and hopefully will be better prepared next time. I was taking over frrom another teacher and he hadn’t really briefed me that well.

Today I’ve been home, getting ready for the next few lessons. I’m off to Convention on Wednesday, with the excitement of the elections.

Tomorrow lunch time, I’m helping serve meals for the Cycle Club Telethon event.

This is an annual event, rather like Children in Need – it takes place in December, but the Cycle Club got fed up getting freezing cold, or having to cancel because of inclement weather, so they moved their fund raiser to October. Basically any cyclist who wants to can join the ride and come along to the meal too, for a price. Also, anyone else who wants to can join in with the lunch too.

Organisée par le Club de Saint-Just-en-Chevalet, la randonnée est ouverte à tous. Tous les cyclistes (vélo de route à assistance électrique, VTT), de n’importe quel niveau, sont invités à participer à cette manifestation pour sillonner le Pays d’Urfé.

Au programme : 8h départ pour une boucle de 49 km (allure modérée, encadrée par une voiture ouvreuse et une voiture balai sécurisée par les motards de Saint-Germain-Laval) avec une pause à 10h à la Salle des fêtes de Saint-Priest-la-Prugne, 12h Repas partagé ouvert à toutes et à tous (cyclos, non cyclos, habitants), 14h départ pour une boucle de 42 km, 16h30 retour sur Saint-Just-en-Chevalet.

Inscription avant le 10/10. Tarifs : 15€/repas (bénéfices reversés à l’AFM)

Last year the weather wasn’t so good – lots of waterproofs in evidence!

In the afternoon Friend Cathy will help me with the banner. On Sunday morning I’ll be at Church, but I’m going to skive off the cleaning which is happening after the service, as in the afternoon I’ve got to pop over to Friend Mij, to collect some wood turning that her husband has done for Christmas presents. He does some beautiful things, and I’ll show you some of them when I have them.

Up early Monday morning – 6.30 at the latest (YAWN!!) as I’ll need to leave by 7.30 to get to Bonjour World office for 8.30 for my lesson that starts at 9.00!!

Now I have to go and get Pomme into her basket – she’s off to the vets for her injections. I don’t know how she will react…