29 down. 1 to go.

On Monday it will be my last radiotherapy session! Huzzah!

 

On Monday evening we’re being treated to a meal out.  C and A are people we know who have a holiday home here; Mr FD does the odd techie job for them, and makes sure their internet is up and running  before they arrive for the holidays etc. They’re both getting on and have recently been ill, but would really like to visit some of their friends about 100 km north of here, in the Beaujolais. Mr FD is going to drive them, I’m going along for the ride, and C&A are going to pay for us to have a meal in a restaurant nearby to their friends. Mr FD is a bit disappointed that the insurance is too complicated and expensive to work out for their car, which is some flash Mercedes. Instead we’ll be driving our old workhorse, the PugBus (a Peugeot something-or-other)

We’re trying to choose the restaurant now – this one is looking favourite

And here’s the celebration menu we’re considering…

Mise en bouche

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Foie gras frais de canard maison cuit en terrine
Chutney de saison et pain aux figues
ou
Cocotte d’escargots de Bourgogne aux cèpes
au beurre d’ail crèmé
ou
Escalope de foie gras de canard poêlée sur Tatin de pommes
caramélisées au miel du Haut Beaujolais

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Sandre poché au Mâcon blanc
fondue de poireaux et concassé de tomates

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  Entrecôte charolaise  sauce Marchand de vin
ou
Ris de veau au jus de raisin (origine France)

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Plateau de fromages affinés
ou
Faisselle Bressane et sa crème épaisse

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Dessert maison au choix

Just call me Gourmande!!

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Ladies only glow…

As my mother used to say: Horses sweat, men perspire, but ladies only glow…

I’m definitely glowing… My whole top right torso is now really rather tender – that feeling of when you’ve had too much sun, with the occasional yelp of pain when you stretch the sensitive skin too far, or catch it on the rough edge of a bra. It’s the effects of the radiotherapy. I have only three sessions to go, but yesterday was the cstart of a new regime, which saw a very directed set of rays towards the scar where the initial lump was. I suspect that within three days it may be quite a painful area.

About a fortnight into my radiotherapy I went to see Yvette, on the advice of several people. Yvette is a Charmeur de feu (I think that’s right) – basically a faith healer, but seemingly with a propensity to heal (or relieve) the symptoms of radiotherapy. Hence the “feu” bit (fire) Sometimes they’re known as Coupeur de feu (“cutter of fire”) This article, in French, explains it a bit more. I actually wasn’t having any problems at the time, but she laid her hands on me and prayed. As I said to Mr FD, “I was happy to hear her using the word Seigneur (Lord) so it wasn’t just mumbo jumbo” He raised an eyebrow at me and sniggered, believing that it was mumbo jumbo!

I’m actually not totally convinced but I went back to see her on Tuesday, because by then there was a lot of redness. And some discomfort. I was given a thorough telling off by her – “Oh look how red it is…why didn’t you come back before, you silly girl…Oh, it must be painful…You shouldn’t worry about disturbing me…Oh, you silly, silly girl….” and so on….

After I was suitably shame faced, and apologised, she laid hands on me, and prayed (breaking off from time to time to say “Oh you silly girl…!”)  – and, I do have to admit that there was some relief from the discomfort…I’m going back again this afternoon, in an attempt to relieve the painful glowing that’s going on.

Yvette refuses all payment (unlike the Magnetiseur I went to see before the chemo, who took 40€ from me) so I made some biscuits and took them along. I suspect many of you know Anzac biscuits, but if you don’t, let me tell you that they are very simple-to-make and delicious! Here is the recipe:

Ingredients

100g plain flour, sifted
 85g rolled oats
75g caster sugar
85g desiccated coconut
100g unsalted butter, chopped
1 tablespoons golden syrup or treacle
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon bicarb

Method

  1. Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Put the oats, coconut, flour and sugar in a bowl. Melt the butter in a small pan and stir in the golden syrup. Add the bicarbonate of soda to 2 tbsp boiling water, then stir into the golden syrup and butter mixture.
  2. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the butter and golden syrup mixture. Stir gently to incorporate the dry ingredients.
  3. Put dessertspoonfuls of the mixture on to buttered baking sheets, about 2.5cm/1in apart to allow room for spreading. Bake in batches

I thought they were very similar to British HobNob biscuits, but a bit chewier. I really liked them, and I’m going to bake a batch on Sunday to take along to the Radiotherapy team on Monday for my last session. I thought I might try adding some chocolate chips or some dried cranberries.

The Sound of Music

Last night we went up to Friend Cathy’s for apèros and music – in fact, we were there all evening, so I’m glad I’d had a substantial lunch! Despite that,  Mr FD and I did rather attack the snacks with gusto! We had a wonderful time.

There were three guitarists, and various tambourine/maraca players, plus those of us who did impromptu percussion on tables, or glasses!

David, (C’s friend from the Port), Martin (C’s friend, staying for a few days) and Gerome (Friend Alison’s Other Half) were our guitarists. Sue (Martin’s wife), Cathy and Mr FD were the tambourine/maraca players, I was the impromptu percussionist and Richard and Stefan just listened and sang. We sang (some of us better than others) songs – Beatles, Eagles, Johnny Cash, and many others – and generally had a great time.

Martin is also a talented songwriter and he played and sang some of his own compositions, which were lovely.

Later on, a storm arrived, so we decamped into Cathy’s as-yet-unfinished house. There is a roof and floor, with electricity in some of the house, and windows & doors not all fitted yet. But it was dry and we continued singing and playing until Friend Clare, who lives opposite, came & asked us very politely if we could stop as she had to be up early tomorrow. As it was 10.30 that was fine…the party broke up and we wended our way back home, or to our camper vans/caravans (depending on who we were, & where we were living!)

A really great evening…

A Photo an Hour (Epic Fail)

I always like these posts when people, like Bev at Confuzzledom, do them; they give a glimpse into other people’s lives. I’m very nosy, and enjoy these pockets of every day lives, lived in other parts of the world. I guess it’s the same reason that I love those lit-up seconds peering into windows as ytou go past on the train or bus.

There’s usually an official day to do “A Photo An Hour” but I always miss it. So on Saturday I thought I would do my own.

I woke up quite late – Mr FD had got up earlyish to go for a ride. The Club were leaving at 8.30, but he decided not to go. He woke me up to tell me that he wasn’t going… Thanks, love.

So I didn’t take a photo immediately on getting up. I had my bottom half shower/top half sponge wash – it’s not been quite as bad as I expected, not properly showering, or using deodorant, but I guess that’s because I’ve not really exerted myself very much! Then I had my breakfast and browsed FB. Here is my breakfast tray (finished)

9.30

I had half juice/half water, coffee, a slice of buttered toast and an apple. The little dish is for all my tablets – glucosamine, plant sterols, Omega-3 oil, plus three “medical” tablets for various ailments. I set the alarm on my phone for 1 hour hence, and read my book.

10.30

At 10.30 I had gone out to buy some yoghurt in the Bio Shop. They only had vanilla-with-chocolate-bits-in so I didn’t buy any. It is deliciously creamy yoghurt, so I can’t imagine it’s that good for you, but I don’t want chocolate adding more not-good-for-you-ness! I want the mango yoghurt back please!

There’s a queue at the boulangerie, which is decked out in French flags – I’m not sure if it’s for Bastille Day (which is today, Saturday- or at least “today” the day I’m writing about.) or for the World Cup final tomorrow (which is today, the day I’m writing this!)  in which France is playing Croatia. I join the queue to buy our usual Petrisane Graine – a softer baguette, made with seeds. I was tempted by the cakes, but didn’t succumb. (I’m writing this on Sunday, as a scheduled post for Wednesday. I did succumb today – a strawberry tartlet to share between the two of us!)

Unfortunately I forgot to set my alarm for the next hour – so it wasn’t until 4.00 in the afternoon, when I next looked at my phone that I realised I hadn’t taken any photos in the intervening five-and-a-half hours! Mind you, it wouldn’t have been very interesting:

11.30 Sat at the computer

12.30 Eating lunch (sausage sandwich)

13.30 Zentangling

14.30 Zentangling

15.30 Having a lie down.

16.30 Still having a lie down

17.30 Chopping up green peppers for a beef stroganoff

18.30 Stirring the beef stroganoff.

19.30 Watching TV – an interesting programme from the author of H is for Hawk, about training a goshawk. (Having eaten the beef stroganoff in the intervening hour)

20.30 Watching TV – Doctor Who on i-player

21.30 Watching TV – an epiosode of “Picnic at Hanging Rock” that had been recorded.

22.30 Going to bed…reading, then lying awake until about midnight worrying about how we’d get out of the house in the case of a fire. This is because the smoke alarm had gone off for no apparent reason earlier in the evening, so I was worried about an undetected fire smouldering somewhere. How would we get out of our third floor bedroom window? Could we carry a cat in a bag (Bib was on the bed)? Would the other cats survive? Could we get onto the roof? Was the ladder in the study, under the eaves? What’s the number for the Pompiers? Would a rope made of torn up duvet cover hold our weight? How quickly would our old, wood filled house burn? Actually, it is a valid worry, and something we have thought about, but not in great detail. Perhaps we should…

Anyway – a photo an hour? Hmm. So much for that idea!

Everybody needs good neighbours…

Neighbours,
Everybody needs good neighbours
Just a friendly wave each morning
Helps to make a better day

Neighbours,
Need to get to know each other
Next door is only a footstep away

Neighbours,
Everybody needs good neighbours
With a little understanding
You can find the perfect blend

You may, or may not, recognise the lyrics from the “Neighbours” theme. Rather trite, but actually quite true. Good neighbours can make a big difference, and in France, there is La Fete des Voisins to encourage people to get to know their neighbours a little better. It was started in the 1990s, I think, by someone who lived in an appartment block in Paris, and had the misfortune to find one of his elderly neighbours had died, and nobody had noticed. He realised that there wasn’t enough “neighbourliness” and so the following year he invited his neighbours for a drink to get to know everyone better. It snowballed from there, becoming a national movement, and now a certain date each year is designated La Fete des Voisins. This year it was in May, but our part of the village Le Coeur du Village (the heart of the Village) had their Fete yesterday, on 7th July. Why not?

Everyone who lives in the centre of the village was invited – each paying 10€, and asked to bring something (a salad, a dessert etc). There were about 30 of us there this year, and we invited Friend Cathy along, as her part of the village don’t have a Fete. Mostly because she lives in a hamlet of 4 houses – one of which is a holiday home, and another of which belongs to good friends, so she’s often there for a drink anyway!

It started at 12.00, so we went round to the Place de l’Eglise at about 12.10, and were among the first to arrive, of course! French timekeeping can be very imprecise at these events! Slowly people gathered, and there were drinks, and nibbles – pizza, quiche, crisps, gougères and so we happily tucked in. Bien sur!

The Mayor was there – he attends all these kind of events, if only at the beginning. We like our Mayor, and are sad that this is his last term of office. He has been good for the village. I also think he is quite good looking!

M. le Maire opens the rosé. He knows how to attract the voters!

There were big pergolas/ gazebos set out, with tables and chairs underneath, which provided shade, and we stood/sat and chatted among ourselves. Photos were taken for the local newspaper, and then we were called to help ourselves to salads. There were lots of delicious things: green bean salad, tomato salad, pasta salad, grains with feta and cucumber, coleslaw, a vegetable terrine. I was loading my plate when a little thought occurred to me: Is this the starter or the main course? I asked Dominique, one of the organisers, and she confirmed it was the starter…OK, stop putting things on your plate now!

After this, we had barbecued sausages and brochettes. It struck me how, in the UK, one would normally have the meat and salads altogether, but here in France it is normal to have the salads as a starter and eat the meat unaccompanied. I went back and got some more green beans and coleslaw, as just meat was a bit much.

Cheese followed – just a box of Comtesse de Vichy, a local creamy cheese, and then desserts. The baker had provided a huge Tarte aux Pommes, there was chocolate mousse, fruit salad, and I took along a White Chocolate and Ginger cheesecake. I wasn’t sure how well this would go down, especially with its caramel-chilli topping, but it was very well received. Here’s a link to the recipeNote that in the recipe I said you can use sweet chilli sauce for the topping. That’s a bit daft really, as this sauce has garlic in…so ignore that. This time I used a prepared toffee sauce and just added about half a teaspoon of chilli powder.

After lunch – by now it was about 4 o’clock – we sat and chatted, and Cathy and I talked about how we could buy the Hotel Moderne (which was opposite) and turn it into flats…IF we had the money, of course! Nice idea!

At about 5 o’clock, we decided to leave, so we said our goodbyes, and were asked “Are you coming back this evening?” WHAT?! There’s more?! We diplomatically said “We’ll see…I’m a bit tired…” and left. We’d had enough food and drink to last until next week! And, actually, I was a bit too tired to be very sociable again.

It was a really enjoyable time though, and of course, it’s always good to be involved in village events, to show that we are happy to integrate and to be part of village life. We can now say Hello to more people.

The Tour* comes to Town

* but no, not THAT Tour

I may have mentioned (once or twice!) that Mr FD rides a bike with the St Just cycle club

Let’s be honest, quite a lot of our social life and many of our holidays involve the Cycle Club in some form!

Mr FD in action, somewhere outside Frejus.

Les Cyclos de St Just

Anyway, on Saturday, a big cycle race came to town – not as big as the Tour de France, but a professional race nonetheless – Le Tour du Pays Roannais –

and Les Cyclos had responsibility for providing lunch for the organisers, and also running the Buvette – the drinks stall. They were also selling sausage & chips to the general public. I couldn’t help, being still very fatigued (and being en route back from Clermont on Saturday morning) but everyone pitched in, including Friend Cathy.

Obviously, before the big day, Mr FD (as part of the Cycle Club committee) was very busy, organising things, borrowing, buying, sorting out stuff, sourcing barbecues and fridges. Then from 7.00 am on the day he, and many others, were erecting the pergolas, setting up the barbecue, and chip fryers, cooling beers and wine and soft drinks ready for service. When I arrived it was all in full swing, very well-organised and running smoothly.

The start line was right outside our house. And I mean “right outside”

From the dining room window!

A rather blurry photo, showing our house, with the “stage” just in front, and the start line is just to the left, out of shot

I went outside to sit in the shade, and to be a part of the proceedings, even if I couldn’t do much. Here’s the Buvette to the right, with all the organisers sitting down to their sausage & chips meal. As you can see, all the Cyclos were wearing their cycle shirts (red/yellow/green blobs under the pergola)

For some reason there were two gentlemen dressed up in women’s clothing…as is often the way. What is it with French mean dressing as women?!

And not even “sexy” women. Les Dawson, eat your heart out!

Later on, the teams were introduced to the rather small crowd of spectators. These are young riders, making their way through the rankings, in local, regional teams for the moment, but looking to make it to the big teams who ride in the international competitions. There was a team from Martinique, for example, one of the DOM/TOMS*, and other regional teams.

Here you can see one of the teams being introduced. This team includes the current wearer of the Green jersey, which is the leader in the points competition – usually (but not always) a sprinter. Points are awarded for coming 1st, 2nd etc in each day’s racing, but there are usually intermediate sprints included in the race route, allowing those who are fastest over a certain distance during the race to gain more points.

At precisely the correct time, our Mayor was given the honour of starting the race, and the riders rolled away

By now I was flagging, because of the heat, so I took a couple of photos, and then retired to the cool of the house, where I fell asleep. The teams cycled a loop around the village and its environs, passing through once more about 20 minutes later, and then away into the countryside towards their final destination. I was woken by the motorcycle outriders all hooting their horns to clear the route ahead of the cyclists, but I couldn’t be bothered getting up to wave them on.

Then it was all over! Mr FD and the Cyclos dismantled everything, finishing off the chips-and-sausages that were remaining, getting everything put away, returned to where it should be…and then finally collapsing with a pint glass of juice to watch the football.

Well done the Cyclos!

 

* DOM/TOMS = Départements d’outre-mer, Territoires d’outre-mer, which are French overseas departments and territories. So, just like Loire is a departement in Fraqnce (Departement 42) so there are departements overseas, including Guadeloupe and Martinique. This wikipedia page gives more information

Happy Retirement, M. Khodri!

I have worked for ILS for 9 years now. I remember my first meeting with M. Khodri, the director – previously I’d been working in St Etienne, at Wall Street Institute, and although I liked the people, it was a long way to travel (taking about 1.5 hours to get from door to door) and I wasn’t very keen on the method of teaching employed by the company. So one day, I took a few CVs and letters of motivation to Clermont Ferrand and decided to trawl round the language schools there. I called in at WSI, and had a slightly bizarre interview with them (they turned me down) and then I called in at ILS. M.Khodri saw me immediately and sat me down in his office for a chat – my French being even worse than it is now, and his English being practically non-existent, it may have been a little awkward at times, but after about half an hour he offered me a job with the company!

I was very happy teaching there – mostly in-company, but sometimes at the offices of ILS – and the majority of the work done was for Michelin, which is one of the biggest employers in Clermont. It was also the golden goose for ILS, with, I’d say, at least 85% of the English teaching work being done in partnership with Michelin. Unfortunately, with money-saving becoming more important, and technology becoming more prevalent, Michelin decided to move over to e-learning, which meant that ILS, who had put all their eggs into the Michelin basket, was a bit stymied.

For a few months, in 2012, it looked as though ILS might be going down the pan, and sadly this meant that 6 or 7 of the English teachers had to be made redundant. I was one of them. I remember that M. Khodri was so distressed at having to make me redundant, that he said to me that anytime I wanted to come into the office to use the resources, or to use one of the rooms for private telephone lessons, or to make photocopies for my private lessons, then I was welcome to do so!He was always very supportive, and so even when I wasn’t working for them, I still popped into the office from time to time.

Happily, the company survived, and I, plus most of the other teachers, were re-employed, but as “auto entrepreneurs” – that is, we are self employed and on a contract basis. It means ILS do not have to pay any of our social charges etc. Not so good for us (no sick pay etc) but better for them. I’m still happy to work for the company, however, as it is a real family company. We know each other, we support each other; the Head of English is a really lovely woman, the staff are friendly, the resources are plentiful. Even though we are not “salariés” – directly employed – we are considered as part of the team, rather than as sub-contractors, so our relationship with M.Khodri, and the other admin staff, is exactly the same. When I’ve got myself in a mess with French admin papers, M. Khodri has always been willing to spend time with me, helping me to complete the forms and calming me down.  And, most importantly, there is quite a lot of work!

Recently, M. Khodri decided to sell the company and retire, together with his wife, who is the accountant for the company. I have only met the new owners very briefly, but Claire, Head of English, assures us that they are dynamic, and forward thinking, and want to move the company onwards and upwards. As you can see from the photo of the offices above, it is looking a tad tired and old fashioned, and Melissa and Thomas want to modernise. I’m a little concerned, as I have to admit that I don’t take to change very well – especially if that change requires me to learn new technology & new ways of doing things that I’ve been perfectly comfortable doing “my” way for a while – but I’m going to try hard to embrace this. After all, I won’t have a lot of choice in the matter!!

So, on Friday, it was Monsieur and Madame Khodri’s retirement do. It was in the restaurant in Le Jardin Lecoq, in Clermont Ferrand, a lovely public garden not too far from the office.

I booked into the Holiday Inn, just across the road from the park, as I didn’t want to drive afterwards, and I didn’t know how tired I would be. I’m happy I did so, as it meant I could have something to drink, and I didn’t need to leave too early.

We gathered at 7.30, and stood around chatting, and at about 8.00, we were led to our tables, all set up outside. There was a four piece jazz band who entertained us

and it was good to catch up with some people I hadn’t seen since Christmas. We started with a glass of fizzies (I had some sirop in mine to sweeten it, so I could enjoy it) and we gave M & Mme Khodri their gifts: a voucher for a dinner in a very good restaurant, and a cave à vins – a temperature controlled cupboard to keep your wine in – plus some starter bottles. Note we didn’t actiually give them the cave à vins: Yacine, their son, who works for the company as well, had set it up in their house so it would be a surprise for them when they got home.

M. Khodri made a little speech and then we got on with the food!

Unwrapping their presents

We started with an amuse-bouche, (a little something to tickle your taste buds) which was a verrine of something – noone was quite sure what it was, but the general consensus was finally a cold pea-and-mint soup; it was okay, but as I’m not a great fan of peas, or cold soup, I couldn’t get too enthusiastic about it. Here’s the empty verrine, as I forgot to take a photo before I ate it! :

Then the starter arrived – a galette with roast vegetables and mozzarella, and salad in a lovely honey vinaigrette dressing

I remembered to take a photo halfway through!

A pause, while the jazz band played on, and then the main course was brought out:

I remembered to take a photo before I started eating!

This was delicious – white fish, chorizo and a scallop in a buttery sauce, served with polenta, roast tomatoes and a giant crisp thing. I’m not sure why the crispy thing was there, as it didn’t really add much to the meal, but it tasted fine! I’m glad I’m not vegetarian though, as their meal was peas-and-asparagus, roast tomatoes and potatoes. Not very inspired – as vegetarian meals in France so often aren’t!

Dessert was profiteroles – I couldn’t finish mine…which is unlike me. I’m thinking that the intake of my stomach has shrunk a little during chemo, as I’ve not been eating the same amounts. Perhaps I need to encourage this!

Claire, Head of English, clapping along to “Ain’t Misbehavin‘ ” We both started singing the lyrics soon afterwards!

M. Khodri boogeying on down with Alyssia, one of the English teachers.

And still the band played on… as it was getting on to 11 o’clock, and I was flagging, I decided to leave. Also, there were others going at that point, and as I didn’t know where the gate was, and didn’t want to be wandering the park in the dark, I tagged along with them.

It was a really good way to say “Goodbye” to a very kind (sometimes slightly incompetent!) employer. Thank you, M. Khodri, for the opportunity to work with ILS, and here’s wishing you a good and happy retirement.