Would you like to join me?

As regular readers will know, I have a little 1 km circuit around the village, that I have endeavoured to do every day – fatigue after chemo permitting. Although I had my last chemo on 7th June it took me until Saturday 16th before I could even face trying the walk. I shuffled round, stopping every 100 metres or so to catch my breath. Every day it has become a little easier, although I have still ended up breathless. Yesterday I paused at the bank to pay in a cheque, and the assistant was obviously very concerned that I was going to collapse all over his nice clean floor. I reassured him that I just needed a moment or two, but he still eyed me with suspicion.

Today I didn’t have a stop for a sit-down – which is a first – and, although I was breathing heavily, it wasn’t quite the “give me oxygen, I’m going to die!” way of breathing that had so concerned the bank employee. But maybe the reason I didn’t need to stop was because I was pausing to take photographs to share with you. So, would you like to join me on my walk?

Say “goodbye” to Millie, who is sitting on yesterday’s junk mail and eying us up balefully…

… leave the house, turn right and right again, and follow the snicket down the back of the church…

… cross the road, and go past the old Hotel Moderne. Sadly, not looking so “moderne” now! I imagine it would be wonderful if it could be renovated! In its heyday, St Just had over 20 hotels, as people would come from Roanne, and further afield, for the fresh mountain air. There was a sanitorium as well for those needing recovery from lung illnesses. Roanne is the nearest big town, and, of course, was heavily industrialised.

We continue down the road, and come to this cottage, which I have always liked the look of

There’s often a friendly retriever pup in the front garden, who barks enthusiastically when people go past, but not today. I assume he’s only put outside when his owners are out.

Not all the houses are old fashioned, however. Although St Just was at its busiest during the 20s and 30s, building work has continued to occur around the village. Opposite the cottage there used to be an orchard, with sheep grazing, chickens scurrying around and a large aviary of various fancy birds. However, about two years ago work started on a new Parish centre and, I think, a priest’s house. I don’t quite know the state of play priest-wise, in St Just, but I imagine that if there is a permanent priest based here, he will be in charge of several parishes. At least he has a nice modern house to live in, instead of a draughty old Presbytry!

We continue along this road, saying “bonjour” to a grandfather playing in goal to his grandson (I’m not sure why grandson wasn’t in school. They haven’t broken up for summer yet)  I would have taken a photo of their amazingly neat vegetable patch, but maybe that would have been a bit intrusive as they were playing football right next to it.

The road descends, and one of my favourite views opens up

I’m not sure if you can see it (click on the photo to biggify) but nestling in the trees in the mid ground is the Chateau de Contenson, one of four chateaux in the immediate surrounds. Here is a view of Contenson

The owners are the Rochetaillé family, after whom the square in front of our house is named. This chateau was built in the 1880s, but there has been a chateau of some form on this spot since the 1300s. During WW1 it was a hospital, and in WW2 sheltered resistance fighters. The current owners breed horses, and are very into their horse racing – there are two race courses not too far from here, at Vichy and Feurs.

You can’t see it, but another of the chateaux in the area is in my photo. In the hills facing us are the ruins of the Chateau d’Urfé, which is a lovely place to take visitors, as you can see for miles from the top of the tower. But, anyway, on with our walk…

Another pleasant view of mountains, trees, green!! Well, we have had quite a lot of rain recently.

Turn right again at the junction, and start heading into the centre of the village again. From this road you can look over the “industrial” part of St Just

Here you can see a scierie or wood yard, plus the cheese factory and the velour (velvet) factory.

If you like pepper and garlic, it’s worth seeing if you can find Gaperon cheese; this is one of our local cheeses, as is La Comtesse de Vichy, a triple-crème cheese o rival Brillat-Saverin.

The velour factory is, I believe,  the only remaining factory in France producing this material. It was constructed at the end of the 19th century, and still uses traditional techniques to create the fabric. In fact the velvet used in the Coronation robes of Elizabeth II was made here!

Turning around from this view, we can see the house of our good friends, Louis and Odette

Quite often, their dog Tim-Tim (a hunting spaniel, of some description) will bark at me as I walk past, but not today. They will often look after YoYo, their daughter’s golden retrieber, as well, so there’s quite a cachophony. But all was quiet today.

Continuing back along this road, there’s another view of the church

and we go past the bench where I often have to sit to catch my breath to where there’s one of the many crosses scattered around the area. I know France is/ was a Catholic country, but I’m often amazed at how many little crosses like this there are. I wonder why there are so many – are they relics of a time before the village expanded, and were placed at crossroads as wayside shrines, or waymarkers? This one seems too modern for that…

You can see my bench in the background of this picture, and as I sit there, I often get a whiff of a beautiful scent. I have no idea what it is, but today I tracked it down to this bush, which was humming with the noise of bees, busily collecting nectar.

 

Is it orange blossom? I am no botanist, but it smelt divine.

We turn right again, and the road rises a little. It is this part of the walk that often tires me out so much that I need another sit down at the top, but not today! At the top of the rise, heading into the centre of the village we come across the Mairie:

To help you get your bearings, the church is situated diagonally opposite the Mairie. The bench I usually collapse onto is just outside the door, beneath the flags.

On the wall of the Mairie is proudly displayed this stone plaque:

Between 1940 and 1944 numerous Jewish families found refuge in St Just en Chevalet and its environs.

Tracked and searched for by the occupying forces and the Vichy government they were saved, thanks to the goodness and courage of certain inhabitants.

The descendants of these families honour these citizens who, in full knowledge of the risk they were undertaking, welcomed and hid them, therefopre saving them from certain death.

One of the old neighbours of our friends was a member of one of these families, and told stories of how, when there were rumours of a rafle – a round-up – due to be carried out by the Nazis, the Jewish children who were being hoidden, would be spirited away into the surrounding woods and countryside.

Finally we reach the boulangerie, where I pause to buy a Petrisane, which is a type of baguette. The bakers makes two types, nature and graine (white, or granary) Both are very nice and at 1€ each, they won’t break the bank. I’m not eating them at the moment, as my mouth is still a little sensitive, but I’ll be back chewing on them soon!

In the picture you can see also pizza, sold by the slice, and petits quiches (two types: ham-and-cheese, or tuna-and-tomato) The lurid pink bun-like thing at the top of the counter is a brioche pralinée, another speciality of the area. Brioche is a sweet dough, and the praline is tooth-numbingly sweet as well. To the left of the till, there are mini-brioches pralinées, plus croissants, pains-au-chocolat and other sweet treats. I didn’t photograph the cakes on offer, but there is always a good selection, using seasonal produce – so there are a lot of fraisiers, strawberry tarts, and fruit based gateaux during the summer months. I will sometimes buy one between us for a Sunday treat.

Then it’s back home, to have a refreshing apple-and-elderflower juice drink. And have a sit-down!

I hope you enoyed joining me on my walk.

 

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Don’t cry for me…

I hope Mr FD won’t end up crying tonight – he’s watching the England vs Tunisia match. I think England have already scored (there was a muted cheer) but there have also been some rather negative sounding noises too. (I’ve just checked: it is 1-0)

I, on the other hand, have been doing a huge amount of involuntary weeping. Or rather, involuntary leaking. I’ve lost almost all my eyelashes, so, of course, there’s nothing to protect my eyes from dust etc except the tears. My eyes are almost constantly wet, which means it’s quite hard seeing things, as I’m looking through a veil of tears! I’ve also lost my eyebrows, and hair from everywhere else. It’s going to be very itchy when it all starts growing back!

Well…not really…

Still very tired every day, but I’ve been able to do my 1km tour around the village. But that’s about it! I have a long rest after the walk, a long rest after lunch…Still, things continue to improve.

Some people have got no taste…

In fact, for me, that baby foods taste of nothing…

It’s an odd sensation,eating food that looks delicious, has a faint (but tempting) aroma, and yet tastes of zilch. Nada. Nuttin’ at all.

For the first couple of days after this happened I went off the idea of eating. I existed on porridge and bread (not so good for the bowels!) but Mr FD and I decided that this was no good. Different sites gave different advice, but many said to try strong flavours, such as curry, chilli and so on. However, although I couldn’t really taste these flavours, they still burned my mouth, which is quite sensitive. I’m lucky enough not to have developed ulcers (yet!) but strong flavours hurt – including mint. I find that toothpaste is too strong a mintiness, so I only have a tiny smear. And extra-strong mints have me whimpering “the pain…the pain…”

Working on the fact that I was enjoying a warm hard-boiled-egg sandwich for lunch, with iceberg lettuce and a few crisps, we thought that a way I might – at least partially – enjoy food was if we worked on a variety of textures and sensations. The sandwich was giving me warm/cold, plus crisp/soft/crunchy. A chocolate chip cookie gave an interesting mix of crunchy plus melty (and a tiny hint of chocolate at the very end).

Mr FD’s chilli was a success on Saturday, with the softness which didn’t hurt, a tiny edge of chilli (just enough!), the different textures of beans, mince, rice and so on. Yesterday he made this salmon-and-asparagus-pastafrom my newest “go to” site for recipes

Oh, it looked lovely! It smelt delicious! It tasted of – nothing! BUT at least it had an interesting mix of textures and mouth-feel: soft salmon, slippery pasta, crunchy asparagus. Happily, it also includes 2 of my 5-a-day (which I’m not keeping to, by any means!)

We’ve planned a vegetable/chicken stir fry tonight – carrot, beansprouts, mushrooms, cabbage, noodles – these will all help make it a bit more interesting to eat. And, if it’s a particularly “umami” sauce, I may get a slight taste of that too.

I thought I’d try a different breakfast, and was really looking forward to this Bircher Meusli, that I made yesterday evening, from the same site:

I thought that there would be a variety of textures in this. When I looked at it, I couldn’t help but imagine the deliciousness of the berries, and honey, and creamy yoghurt…digging my spoon in, I took a big mouthful…and nearly gagged! The creaminess combined with the tastelessness just didn’t work! I’m determined to try it again, when I get my taste back, because I think it is probably very nice, but sans taste? – no, thank you! Back to banana sandwich, or honey-on-bread!

What is very bizarre though is the fact that I can still taste drinks – fainter than before, but I can still taste them. So I enjoy my apple juice/ orange & cranberry juice drinks – but I am right off coffee. Very bitter!! I am watering the juice down though, 75% water, 25% juice, which is better for me, but drinking about 2 litres a day. I know 500 ml of juice isn’t great, but I’m letting myself off that for the duration.

I’m slowly losing weight at the moment, mostly because snacks and alcohol hold little, or no, appeal! There’s no point having a biscuit with your mid-morning drink, if you can’t taste it! There’s no sense of “I like something sweet in the evening” if you can’t distinguish sweet from anything else! There’s no “Oh, I really enjoyed that, so even if I’m full I’ll have a bit more!” There’s no “Let’s have an apèro, and a few snacks and nibbles” when the drinks taste bitter, and the nibbles are crisp enough to hurt my mouth and taste of nothing! I’m down about 2 or 3 kg from my last weigh in, but I’m still way too heavy. So, I’m aware that when things are back to as normal as possible, things need to change…

Knowing that we need to up our vegetable intake, and reduce our red meat intake, I think this site will be useful. These are some of the recipes we’ll be trying:

There are lots, and lots, and LOTS of recipes. I also like the way you can see (on some ) how many portions of fruit/veg they provide. I’m also going to be going back to my copy of “River Cottage Veg Every Day”, which I used a lot when I first got it. Here is a link to my old blog pages, with the tag “River Cottage” should you be ionterested in finding out more. I’m enjoying Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s series on BBC1 at the moment “Britain’s Fat Fight”…

I also really, seriously, need to think about exercise. But that’s for another day…

But, over to you, dear ones: do you have any suggestions for meals which would tempt me on the texture front, and Mr FD on the taste front?

 

Le Col de la Loge

Thursday was a beautiful Spring day, and Mr FD went out cycling with a friend. As I hadn’t done my Mile-in-15-minutes workout, I decided to go for a walk somewhere. I wanted to go somewhere different, so decided to go to the Nordic ski-station about 30 minutes from here, called Le Col de la Loge. It is in the Forez mountains, which seperate our departement, Loire, from the next, which is Puy de Dome. (As always, click on the photos to see them in more detail, should you wish to.)

As is often the case at these cols, there is a Madonna in a cage. However, I was surprised to see that this one wasn’t very old, with a date – 1967 –  scratched into the concrete below the statuette. I always imagine these things having been there for centuries.

It’s a pleasant place, surrounded by pine forests, with various ski-pistes. These, of course, are now closed to skiers this year, as there is no longer enough snow to ski on. There was still quite a bit on the paths though, so I had to be careful at times – especially when the path sloped downwards.

I decided to walk the shortest track, which was 3 km long. I wasn’t totally convinced that I wouldn’t find this a bit too long, but I thought that I ought to push myself a little – after all, my specialist told me to get out for walks in the sunshine, and I’d been managing my mile workouts. This was going to be at an altogether gentler pace!

As I followed the track there was a little bit of bird song, but not much, and otherwise silence…I paused as I went along, just to listen to the nothingness.

After 1.5 km the view opened up, out towards the Auvergne, and le Puy de Sancy, which is a ski resort over in the next departement. But that is downhill ski-ing, rather than Ski du fond, or Nordic skiing.

Which way now? Don’t take the wrong route, as you’ll be walking for miles!

The route took me away from the view, and back into the forest

All around this area forestry is a big industry, and so even somewhere like this is managed. The pistes are used in summer months to collect the cut trees, and from time to time one comes across rather ugly areas where the trees have been cut down, and the wood removed

There are lots of these scrubby areas around the vilage too, and it’s sometimes hard to remember that this is an industrial area (of a sort!) and not to think “what a shame to spoil the area”! There are lots of scieries (saw mills) around, and it’s not unusual to have huge log carrying lorries, like the one below, thundering through the village…often going faster than they really should be travelling, which is why we don’t let the cats out! It can be remarkably frustrating to get caught behind one of these on the twisting road to Roanne, as it’s difficult enough to overtake them on the bendy roads, but even more so in a R-hand drive car when you can’t really see the road ahead!

 

I was getting quite tired, so it was a pleasure to see the little Fiat waiting for me, when I emerged from the trees. The people in the other car were the only other souls that I saw on the entire walk.

 

I was tempted to go to the restaurant for a hot chocolate, but it was all closed up…I don’t suppose there’s that much business once the cross country skiing is finished

.

With a last photo of the Madonna, I drove home, taking my time, and repeating to myself how much I’d enjoyed my walk – somewhere slightly different, in the Spring sunshine. I paused to take a photo of the other side of the Forez, looking towards the Loire valley, and towards home.

I have joined in with the “All About France” linky, with this post, so I’m including this little badge

and suggesting you might visit this site to read others’ contributions. Go on, you know you want to!!

 

Creativity – again!!

As I’m not working at the moment – and probably won’t be for the next few months – I’ve been finding ways to fill up my time…Mostly reading blogs, reading, reading my French novel (slowly), and doing art work.

I’m not like Angry Cat though – I’m relaxed and laid back. As I said, I’ve been finding the concentration necessary for creating Celtic knotwork very good. Here is the latest piece:

 (This is bizarre: I can see the picture on my dashboard, but when I view it as a blog post it’s not there. I’ll try again later. Very odd…)

ETA: A few days later I have added the picture wiuth no problems at all. Hmmm. The ways of computers are strange!!

Circle me, Lord. Keep protection near and danger afar.

Circle me, Lord Keep hope within. Keep doubt without.

Circle me, Lord. Keep light near And darkness afar.

Circle me, Lord. Keep peace within. Keep evil out.

The prayer is by David Adams. I was quite pleased with the design – this is the Meigal Spiral Interlace – although I will admit that my “ribbon” went a bit wobbly, and isn’t the same width throughout. Still, it’s not a bad first attempt! I gave this to Rob and Caireen, my Rector & his wife, for a Burns Night gift; Caireen is Scottish, and Rob is Canadian of Scottish descent, so it seemed appropriate.

The other piece of art work is for a friend’s birthday. He’s a jazz musician, and plays the saxophone:

I never realised how complicated saxophones were!! Because I’d “zentangled” inside the sax, I decided to colour it, using pastels, to make it stand out a little:

I’m reasonably pleased with it. (Though not with my photography! As usual it’s all a bit blurred. I really will have to try to improve!) I’m just wondering whether the bass clef needs to be blackened in to make it stand out more.

It’s a similar design to a zentangle I did for Kezzie way back, and for someone at church too. It’s quite a pleasing design for a musician, with the instruments being changed depending on those  played by the recipient.

The other thing I’ve started doing is “Walk a Mile in 15 Minutes” videos on YouTube – I’m not convinced that I am actually walking the equivalent of a mile, but it’s reasonably engaging, and it gets me moving.

Yesterday I got a bit carried away by the over enthusiastic instructor lady, and thrust my arms skyward, in time to the music, forgetting I still have scars that aren’t healed…My breast was a bit painful last night – particularly where I have a haemotoma formed – so today I didn’t really “pump” my arms as instructed. However I did everything else and in 15 minutes I got a bit breathless, so I assume it’s doing me good.

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.

Exercise (or lack of it!)

Oh dear…My 10 minutes every day hasn’t done too well!

Although I have managed a few walks this week:

Tuesday: 1.5 km at an average pace of 11.47 minutes per km

Wednesday: 3.28 km at an average of 11.53 minutes per km

Saturday: 2.15 km at an average of 12.07 minutes per km.

I had been planning to do a walk on Friday too, but somehow, when it got to Friday lunchtime I couldn’t be arsed and I preferred to sit in the sunshine with my book and a delicious Vegetarien Gourmand sandwich – creamy cheese, carrot, marinaded courgette, edema beans, and a delicious dressing, in crusty, seedy baguette.

None of the walks were done at any great pace, as they are nowhere near the 12 kph that is apparently brisk walking. Mind you, I had a virtual conversation with the lovely Mrs M who is slim and fit and does lots of walking/running which went like this:

I had blogged about having a bit of a tumble, which had put a stop to my walking

  • MRS M: Oh no I was at first reading thinking yes this is great but then ouch! I hope you aren’t too badly bruised and can get back into a routine again soon!
  •  FAT DORMOUSE: I’ve managed a couple of walks since then…but I have thought again about the recommended 12 kph an hour. That seems impossible! My maths was wrong (twice!) and I’ve worked out that I am doing 1.6 km in about 21 minutes. So that’s nowhere near 12 kph. It’s more like 4.8 km/h Which is ridiculously slow compared to what I’m supposed to be doing. But 12 kph requires you to do 1 km in 5 minutes. Is that possible, without running? I was fairly knackered after my miserable effort! I think I shall not bother about trying to reach 12 kph at the moment, but just get on with walking in a way that makes me breathless. Sorry. This isn’t a “reply”, it’s another blogpost!! 🙂
  • MRS M: There is no way you can walk 1km in 5 minutes! I walked 4k in 17 minutes the other day and I wasn’t out of breath but felt like it was far enough! I think as long as you keep going at a pace you can manage you are doing some good. You will be able to walk further and quicker in time, try not to over think it 😊

***

1 km in 5 minutes does seem a bit scary. Especially as I’m doing my kilometres in more than double that. Still, I suppose if I could get it down to 1 km in 10 minutes that would be good.

And no walk today. It’s piddling down. Maybe next week!!