An emotional week

It’s been an emotional week this week, and it looks set to continue…

Last Saturday, as I told you, was Michel’s funeral.

On Sunday, driving to church I came across a dead cat in the road. I couldn’t leave it just to get squished by passing traffic – if it had been our cat, I would have liked someone to move it. So I stopped the car (well, actually drove past, continued for about 500m and decided I couldn’t leave it there so I turned round…) and moved him/her to the side of the road. S/he had obviously been hit full on, and had died instantly, but it was still a sad thing. The body was already a little stiff as I picked it up. As I drove on, the emotions of the past few days caught up with me, and I bawled my eyes out – not necessarily the best thing to do on the motorway! When I reached church, someone asked me if I was OK, and I just started crying again!

In the afternoon, I popped across the road to see Monique – it wasn’t for long, but she and I had another weep together.

On Tuesday I had an MRI scan and a scintigraph, to see if we could get to the bottom of my rib/breast pain. The MRI was clear, and the scintigraph showed broken ribs. Which was a relief! It just means I have to wait for it to heal. The scintigraph involved being injected with some sort of radioactive product, waiting for a couple of hours and then going into a huge scanner thing. I spent my two hours going round Noz…(of course!) Then I had a three hour wait before the MRI scan – I took my book and went to MacDonalds for a coffee. I sat there for a good two hours, picking up my empty-save-for-some-milk-froth cup everytime a member of staff walked by – just looking as though I hadn’t quite finished yet! Waiting for tests – and their results – can be exhausting! The MRI scan was uncomfortable and noisy, but not as scary as I had anticipated.

Yesterday evening, Monique asked Mr FD if he would scan and print out some photos of Michel. I think she wants to send them to people. One is a lovely picture of him, that she has in a frame on her table. She’d asked MrFD if she could have it back ASAP, so I took it across to her. I then sat with her for about an hour – talking about “Poulou” and about believing in God, and how she wanted a sign that God was there…So difficult to know what to say in English, never mind in French! We laughed a little, smiled a little, wept a lot. She told me some shocking things I can’t share in the public domain, and we cried some more about how unfair life seems to be… She was glad to have the photo back, so she could look at it while she had her meals…

And now we are looking towards our Rector and his wife leaving. Tonight there’s a get-together in Clermont. Mr FD is coming with me, which I’m glad about. On Sunday there’s a goodbye lunch, and then next Sunday will be their last day.  The two of them and their dog will be leaving to drive to Rome straight after the service (to which the dog is coming!) It will be an emotional time. We are looking forward to the coming months, and discovering how we can pull together as a Church, and what the laity can do, but it is sad to be losing Rob and Caireen who have done so much for Christ Church. They will be sorely missed.

 

My ears feel a little flattened at the moment!

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Saying “goodbye” to the dragonfly.

You may remember I have written about our friends Monique & Michel.

Sadly Michel died on Wednesday, having had a stroke on Sunday morning. It was his funeral today – nothing religious, just a ceremony at the cemetary when family and friends read poems, and spoke about their beloved Michel. Some of his favourite music was played, including “Lady in Red” by Chris de Burgh, and “The Sound of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel. He was in a plain pine coffin, and before it was laid in the family tomb, we were invited to go up and write a message on the coffin.

Quietly people queued; there were many people there, testament to his popularity in the village – kind, gregarious, funny, lively…he was all these things.  People had drawn hearts, or written “Thank You”, “We love you”, “Goodbye”, there was even a “Bon Voyage”! When it was our turn, I drew a dragonfly.

Why a dragonfly?

Well, typical of Michel’s funloving nature, he belonged to a group of “majorettes” called “Les Libellules” (the Dragonflies) – all gentlemen! – who performed (usually slightly inebriated!) at various events.

I found it moving that the rest of the troupe formed a “guard of honour” with their red hats and majorette batons at the entrance to the cemetary, and Michel’s own red hat was placed on the top of the coffin, surrounded by red and white flowers.

He shall be missed.

 

You can shed tears that they’ve gone, or you can smile that they have lived.

You can close your eyes and pray that they’ll come back, or you can open your eyes and see the memories that they have left you.

Your heart can be empty because you can’t see them, or your heart can be full with the love  and fun that you’ve shared.

You can turn your back on life yesterday and on life tomorrow, or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.

You can remember them and only that they’ve gone, or you can cherish their memory and let it live on.

You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back, or you can do what they’d want: smile, open your eyes love and go on.

 

A Baby card

Our two local GPs (who are partners) have had a baby. So I made them a card:

Quite simple, but I rather like it. I don’t know whether they had a boy or a girl, so I chose suitably non-gender-related colours of yellow and lilac. The two papers were from a pad of papers I was given, the rosette from a collection bought at Noz, and the heart cut out of a card bought in Noz too. It was an engagement card, with several embossed hearts on it, which has provided many embellishments! All for 0,75€! The ribbon was cut out of a jumper! And the silver letters were also a Noz purchase.

I am a cider drinker

A blast from the past here, with the video of The Wurzels, a British comedy (questionable!) band from the 70s. Does anyone remember them? They had a Number 1 hit with “I’ve got a brand new combine harvester (and I’ll give you the key)” as well.

Anyway…I thought of them as I wrote the title for this post, which is about our cider making exploits, back in November. It was a very mild day – just after a very cold spell – when our friends Jean & Claire called us to tell us that they would be making their cider that day. So we first of all picked apples at our friend Danièle’s plot, singing along to Big Big Train’s “Wassail” which seemed appropriate.

 

I was still wobbly on my feet – apparantly one of the longer-lasting side effects of chemo – so Mr FD did more picking than me, but we got quite a few bags-full between us. Bizarrely we found several “Bags for Life” abandoned in the orchard – we have no idea who left them there. They wouldn’t be from Danièle’s family, as no-one lives in the village any longer, so maybe it was an apple scrumper who was disturbed! Whoever it was, they lost their bags, as we used them and took them home!

It was very pleasant in the warm sunshine, with a view over the village. Here’s a view of the orchard

 

Some of the apples had been eaten away – I imagine from the inside, as some flying creature laid its eggs inside the apple to provide a food source for the hatched babies, whatever they were. The remains were actually rather lovely in their way. We left a lot of apples on the trees and on the ground – hopefully they will provide nourishments for “creatures of the forest” during the winter.

After we’d picked the apples, we headed over to Les Ports, the family home of Jean, now used as a holiday home by his sister, who lives in Lyon. Here there is the old machinery that has been used for generations to make cider. Each year (that the harvest is good enough) Chantelle and her husband, and possibly children too, come across from Lyon, and with her brother, Jean, and his family, the ancient equipment comes to life once more.

This year, Claire & Jean’s youngest were home from their studies: Alyssia and Joe are twins. Joe had brought two sisters from China who are at Uni with him to see what was going on.

 

 

 

First the apples were tipped into the hopper of this machine, which chopped them into smaller pieces. It’s a vicious machine, with blades going up and down really quickly. H&S doesn’t exist here, as Jean pushes the apples towards the blades with his bare hands! The pieces of apple are gathered in large plastic buckets, ready to be tipped into the press.

    

Mr FD, Jean, and Jean’s BiL are manipulating the press. The apples have been tipped into the barrel part, and the top part is weighted down and a huge screw-like mechanism is turned to press down on the apples to extract the juice.

There’s a bucket at the bottom, collecting the juice (which is filtered through straw placed around the base of the barrel-part) and we had to keep an eye on this, ready to whip it out as it got full, and replace it with another.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was then taken outside where it was decanted into various jerry-cans, bottles, and demi-johns to be transported home. Here’s Alyssia and one of the Chinese guests carefully pouring the juice into a demi-john.

I was getting really chilled near the end, so I went and sat next to the log burner inside, while everyone finished off, overseen by Jet and Bilout, Jean & Claire’s two dogs

We took home several bottles of apple juice, which Mr FD mostly drank. It was a bit too sweet for me. I suppose (thinking about it far too late!) I could have mulled some of it with spices and lemon juice, which would have been nice! Never mind…

It was a very enjoyable day.

(Sorry the placing of pictures and text is a bit random. I was trying to embed the pictures in text but wasn’t very successful!)

Goodbye to 2018

So that was 2018 – not necessarily my “best” year, but a year in which I learned something about myself, in which I made new friends, in which I drew closer to God. There were bright times, and darker ones, but here are a random selection of 12 photographs.

JANUARY

I found that focussing on celtic knotwork was a way of taking my mind off what was happening to me. I had surgery on 3rd January, to remove the tumour. This was done during my recovery, as a Burns’ Night gift for my Scottish-ancestors Rector and his Scottish wife.

FEBRUARY

Chemo started – again focussing on zentangling was a way of taking myself out of the situation. This koala was drawn as a gift for someone, but I have no idea who!!

MARCH

Despite chemo, we were able to go to Manchester to see Bill Bailey (comedian) and Elbow (band) in concert. We also met my great nephew, Billy, for the first time. Here he is with my niece, Rose, and her husband, Dave. We had a magnificent time. I also lost my hair by the end of the month

APRIL

I was still well enough to go to Fréjus with the Cycle Club – I spent a lot of time resting in the holiday village, but was able to for shortish walks. Here I am dipping my toes in the Med!

MAY

The Royal Wedding gave me an excuse to wear my patriotic scarf as a turban! Friend Cathy and I went up to Friend Richard’s to watch it on his big screen TV – an excuse for fizzies and good food! I made an inelegant elderflower and lemon sponge. Which was very nice!

JUNE

I was into the second set of chemo treatments by now – these were less pleasant (if “pleasant” could be used to describe the first set!) than the FEC100 with fatigue really taking over. However I still was able to get to Annecy with the cycle club. I did a little tiny bit of walking – 2 km was the furthest I walked, but I was very happy to have managed that!

JULY

We were into high summer by now, with long balmy evenings. Friend Cathy hosted a music night up at her home, where we sat out, singing, playing instruments, and enjoying good company. Great fun – even if we were forced indoors by a sudden rainstorm!

I had my last chemo at the beginning of July – huzzah! – and two or three weeks later started my six weeks of radiotherapy. It wasn’t so tiring, by any means, although I still appreciated an afternoon nap when I returned home from hospital.

AUGUST

The village had its Fete Patronale, right at the end of August. Never our favourite time, as the travelling fair sets up right outside the house, but we went to stay at Friend Richard’s overnight, and came down to watch the light show. It was, let’s say, “interesting”!

I finished my radiotherapy sessions!

SEPTEMBER

September was a good month, as I started to get some energy back, and – apart from my hormonetherapy – I had finished treatment. So, we were able to have a holiday in the Italian lakes, thanks to the generosity of a friend. Here I am enjoying the gardens above Lake Maggiore

And then my mum and my sister came to stay.

Mum, Judy and Mr FD on a walk through Le Gouffre d’Enfer in the Pilat mountains.

OCTOBER

I went back to work – not too much, but I was glad to be starting again! I felt I’d been lounging around for too long!

Still time for fun however – I had my birthday celebrations at Friend Alison’s

and went to Waterloo for the Convention of the Convocation of Episcopal churches in Europe, where Mark Edington was elected as our Bishop. Here he is speaking, via Skype, to the Convention. I was on the Transition Committee for the process of preparing for the Consecration of Mark; however, as it was causing me fairly severe anxiety, I resigned from the Committee in November. Still, I’m looking forward to going to the Consecration service next April.

NOVEMBER

The weather was a little odd, going from very cold (plus snow!) to extremely mild within a matter of days. Luckily it was warm(ish) and sunny on the day we got involved with making cider with our friends Jean and Claire, at Jean’s family home a few kilometres from St Just. Here is Jean, Mr FD and Jean’s brother-in-law manipulating the apple press that has been used for generations. And here are Jet and Bulot (except I don’t know how to spell his name – it’s a French slang term meaning “Little Willy”!!)

DECEMBER

My friend Jane and I spent a few days in Strasbourg, exploring the Christmas Markets. Here are a couple of views of Petit France, the area of the city where there are canals. It was a chilly day when we walked around, but we found a lovely restaurant to warm up in!

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Do you know, looking back over these – and many other – photos has reminded me that this year hasn’t been so bad after all! Yes, I had to go through treatment for breast cancer, but despite that, there have been many really enjoyable things! We’ve been lucky enough to be able to go away several times, though I was sad to miss a couple of weddings, as they fell on a Saturday just a couple of days after a chemo session – no way I could have gone!

Here are the cards I made for them

I hope that 2019 will be even better than 2018. It’s starting well: Mr FD has a job!! He begins three months of training with a fibre optics company on Wednesday. As long as he passes the training, he has a six months probationary period with the company; if he passes that period, he should have a permanent post! This is really good news.

So, I wish all my readers a happy 2019, full of joy, and blessings.

 

A walk around Strasbourg

One of the things we did while we were in Strasbourg was to take a free walking tour – we’ve done this in Budapest and in Turin, as well as here in Strasbourg, and always found them to be really interesting. I’d recommend looking one up if you’re visiting another city. Of course, one gives a tip at the end, but you give what you think the tour has been worth.

One thing that I found very moving was when our guide, Leo, talked about the way Strasbourg and the surrounding area had passed from French to German hands and back again, a&nd back again…how a member of his family who was still alive had “changed nationality” five times in his lifetime! Leo took us to a war memorial: Here’s my picture of it, taken on a rainy day in December.

Here’s another photo:

Leo explained that the sculpture shows the mother “Alsace” mourning for her dead sons…but, uniquely for war memorials, these young men are naked, they wear no uniforms, nothing to identify them. The words on the memorial read “A nos morts” (To our dead)…almost uniquely, nothing about “dead for the Republic”, or “died for the glory of France”.

And why? Because there had been people from Strasbourgian families who had been fighting on both sides – for the Allied forces, but also for the German, simply because of where they lived, and who had been “in charge” at the time. So the memorial simply commemorates all who died. I found this very moving.

The rest of the tour was informative and interesting too..with a very engaging guide.

We were lucky enough to also have a rapid tour with an acquaintance, Denis, who we’d met for Vin Chaud. He told us about a space between two pillars, outside the Cathedral…Apparently, people had to go through this space at the end of Lent. If they couldn’t fit through, it showed that they hadn’t been very good at their Lenten fasting and were therefore fined!!

Here’s Jane proving that her Lenten fasting had gone well

despite us having eaten one of these, which is a cross between a pretzel and a doughnut (a doughzel? a pretnut?)

and one of these, which is a cross between a Danish pastry and a pretzel (a Danzel? a Pretzish?)

Both were delicious, but I preferred the doughzel – it was much lighter than it looked. We had shared one, but would have liked one each! Unfortunately, we’d taken it back to the flat to eat, so it was too far to go back to buy another one!

 

 

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.