Well…hello there!

Goodness me, long time no see!

Another busy week, including a meal out at friends’ on Monday, meeting another friend for drinks and nibbles on Thursday, then the “Office Party” yesterday. Plus trying to plan for the week’s work! And deliver lessons! Last weekend was taken up with Christmas preparations – it all got a bit on top of me, unfortunately – I think it’s partly as a result of the hormonetherapy tablets I suffer from heightened anxiety: stuff which wouldn’t have bothered me before now makes me worried. For example, coming back from Strasbourg, I had 15 minutes between trains. Lyon Part Dieu is a fairly small station, with a limited number of platforms (8, I think) so it takes 5 minutes at most to get from one end to the other. But I was getting more & more anxious about missing the connection during the journey from Strasbourg. In the end I was waiting for 10 minutes on the platform for the Roanne train!

Anyway, the sorting and wrapping of the presents, the getting ready to post them, the decorating the house, the writing of the letter…I got so wrapped up (hah!) in all this that I forgot why we do these things…to celebrate the coming of Emmanuel, Jesus, God with us. I needed to take some deep breaths and ask God to keep reminding me!

Eveything is sorted now. Presents posted (How much?!), emails & letters sent (no cards being sent this year), house decorated (happy I found an Advent candle bridge for 4€ in Noz!) and the Christmas play list is ready. We just need to think about our food – which won’t be too elaborate, I don’t think. We’ll probably go shopping for that together on Friday or Saturday (which might be a bit busy!!) although the smoked trout is already in the freezer as I saw a special offer last week.

The Church Carol Service is tomorrow – mulled wine & mince pies afterwards – Mr FD is going to come,which will be nice. Today I’m just going to chill, and enjoy starting to relax…Although I do need to tidy the study, as it looks like a bomb’s hit it! But it’s a bit overwhelming, so I’ll just sit and panic about doing it. (Yes, really…Sigh)

 

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Food highlights…

Actually, there haven’t been any particular highlights this week – the Chinese pork was OK, but nothing special.

I think the Feta stuffed chicken was the nicest (this is the correct recipe – I linked to the wrong one in an earlier post) but next time I’ll make the pepper sauce in a different way. It was too watery made like the recipe suggests. Tinned tomatoes, marinaded peppers and some harissa would be better than using stock, I think.

I was lucky enough to get another 1€ Lidl box – this one had about 10 packs of mange touts. A lot were too brown-spotted, but we got the equivalent of about 5 packets of good ones. That’s 1.25kg, which were blanched and frozen. There were also 1.5kg of mushrooms, all perfectly fine, which were sliced and frozen (some cooked, some raw), and 4 wrinkly parsnips. There was also a completely rotten celeriac and an unusable lettuce, but still it was worth the 1€ and a bit of extra work. Parsnips will probably go in soup at the weekend.

I’m looking forward to trying this recipe tomorrow: Stove top pulled pork, with coleslaw, and sweet potato wedges. My slow cooker died a death last winter, so I don’t have the convenience of that – we will get another, but just not yet. This recipe seems to give the delight that is pulled pork, without the slow cooker experience. We shall see.

Appreciation

I used to read a blog, written by “Betty the Wod Fairy” who did beautiful paintings. It was a gentle, spiritual, slightly whimsical blog, but somehow it slipped off my radar and I forgot about it.

Today, following links from other people’s blogs, I came across her new blog, Wood Fairy

Something she wrote really resonated with me – I hope she doesn’t mind me quoting it:

We are a happy little family, all working different hours/shift patterns, so disorganised, the oven is always on at weird times as it’s someones dinner time and someone elses breakfast! The beds are never made and the house is not as tidy as I would like, there’s a mountains of ironing and cat fur everwhere! But we know the important things: eating well, sleeping well, making sure everyone knows they are loved and appreciated – preferably daily, not worrying about the things we cannot change and… counting our blessings.

While my little family eats at the same time, and keeps the same waking/sleeping hours, rather than having different meals at the same time, I loved Betty’s words for reminding me that being perfect is not really the aim of the game. Loving, laughing and nurturing – THEY are the most important things.

I really appreciated the pizza evening that my friends organised for my birthday last night. It was a great time.

A blast from the past

I am going to cheat a little on this blog post, and re-post one I wrote on the previous incarnation of The View from the Teapot, back in 2009.

Around here there are quite a few chapels dedicated to St Roch, and various statues and stained glass windows showing this fine saint.

I had previously mentioned St Roch in a post about the death of our beloved cat, Pumpkin. I wrote: If I know Pumpkin, she’ll already be playing Fetch with St Francis and St Roch and his dog. (I really will tell you about St Roch some day. He’s an excellent Saint.)

So a few days later I posted this:

ONE MAN AND HIS DOG

OK, so I’ve promised you the story of St Roch. I thought he was a local saint as he features in many of the local chapels/churches around here, but according to Wikipedia (that Fount of all Knowledge) he was born in Montpellier. He is apparently the patron saint of surgeons, apothecaries, road pavers, furriers,second-hand clothes dealers, wool carders and is the Protector of Animals. (I can’t help wondering exactly how a saint becomes linked to certain trades… I understand the surgeons/apothecary link, as you will after Storytime, but Road menders?! It beats me…)

Anyway, Saint Roch was a rich young man, who was orphaned at an early age. He was studying to be a Doctor, but, as all good saints do, decided to give it all up and become a pilgrim and give everything to the Poor. He travelled through Italy and when the country was ravaged by the Plague he stayed and helped the sick and dying. When St Roch contracted the plague he heroically emulated the good people of Eyam (although as he came first, they emulated him…) and separated himself from the local populace and went to live in a forest. (Edited in 2018 to add: In another retelling of the story, it was the local populaace who rather unsympatrhetically – as he’d been looking after them – rejected St Roch and forced him into the forest.) Unfortunately the sick and dying (and their relatives) weren’t terribly grateful for his thoughtfulness, and shunned him, so he was slowly dying of both plague and starvation.

But, never fear, Gentle Reader, because there was a dog (let’s call him Spot) who decided to help St Roch, providing him with bread taken daily from the table of his master. Without this, St Roch would surely have died. One day, Spot’s master, intrigued by the disappearing bread, followed him into the forest and found St Roch, still, I assume, plague-ridden. Spot’s master took St Roch into his home, and the saint was miraculously cured of the plague.

Although cured, he was horribly disfigured by the plague, and is now always shown demonstrating a plague scar (on his leg) and usually revealing blue undergarments. Spot stayed with him for the rest of his life, and there is apparently a saying “c’est saint Roch et son chien” (“They’re like St Roch and his dog”) when talking about two inseparable friends.

This is a statue of St Roch and Spot at Notre Dame l’Hermitage. He’s got his cockle shell for pilgrimage, his blue knickers and he’s showing off his plague scar. And look! There’s Spot with his barm cake for St Roch.

At Cervieres (mentioned in a post a while back) there’s a stained glass window showing St Roch and Spot. In it Spot appears to be carrying not a barm cake, but rather a Jammy Dodger. So now we talk about St Roch and his Holy Jammy Dodger. I hope that’s not blasphemous!

As St Roch is the Protector of animals, and as I’m sure Spot’s got into Heaven, I reckon Pumpkin will be having fun with them all. I have a picture in my mind of God trying to do God-like things, and Pumpkin around his feet, mithering and meeowing for attention as she always did.

“For Heaven’s sake, Pumpkin, go and mither Jesus for a while. He’s not doing anything important!”

Misunderstandings and misconceptions…

Just a quick post today…

I thought this was fun…but also demonstrates the subtleties of language that non-native speakers don’t pick up on. I’ve always had difficulty explaining that there is no real difference between “That’s pretty good” and “That’s not bad”.

Mayber this is why international negotiations sometimes go awry.

Enthusiasm

Well, the World Cup is over, football’s not coming home, and France has won.

I’m not a football watcher – although I did sit through a few matches this year, mostly while inspecting FB, or snoozing! – but Mr FD is. Amusingly, having told me that “there are only a few matches I’m interested in” he proceeded to watch practically all of them. Of course, the England matches were accompanied by cries of both joy and anguish, and not a few rude words.

I didn’t watch the final, as I was cooking dinner (Hairy Dieters’ Thai Prawn Curry, with loads of veggies), but, although I live in France, I had a sneaking wish for Croatia to win, as I always support the underdog. And while Croatia are a good team, I think they were seen as being inferior to France.

Well, it was easy to tell that France had won, from the noise coming from the Capricorne bar opposite. Cheers, horns, shouting, singing….Fairly obviously quite a lot of liquid refreshment had been taken! Then the yoofs on their tiny 10CC(or whatever) motorbikes started buzzing up and down the road, making sounds like frustrated hornets and tooting their horns. This went on for quite a while.

It was a pleasure watching Macron, the President of France, and Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, president of Croatia, greet the players – big hugs of commisseration for the second place Croatians, with tears being shed by all. Encouraging words were spoken, and sincere handshakes given, as the rain poured down.

But most of all, I love the enthusiasm shown by Macron as the final whistle was blown – not standing up, not standing on his seat, but leaping onto the desk in front of him!

I think he was a bit pleased!

Sobering thoughts

Every day I go to Tracing Rainbows, Ang’s blog, where she posts faithfully on a daily basis. She blogs about all number of topics – crafting, recycling, her family, her faith – there is always something interesting to read.

Today she writes about family – the importance of family, the joy of seeing the Thai boys, who were rescued from the cave, reunited with their families, the pain of seeing children separated from their parents by the Trump administration. Ang explains this is why she joined the protests against Donald Trump’s visit to the UK. I don’t usually comment, but today I did.

I wrote supporting her attendance at the anti-Trump protests, and said that I see Trump’s administration as evil – I find the man distasteful, his attitudes are to be decried, he appears to be racist, xenophobic, mysogynistic, a liar, and unintelligent. His government, and others like it, seem to be fuelling the far right, fascist parts of our society, giving them permission to air their fear mongering, hate filled policies and beliefs.

This chilling piece – it is long, but it is worth reading – was written by Fintan O’Toole, published in the Irish Times on July 8th

“To grasp what is going on in the world right now, we need to reflect on two things. One is that we are in a phase of trial runs. The other is that what is being trialled is fascism – a word that should be used carefully but not shirked when it is so clearly on the horizon. Forget “post-fascist” – what we are living with is pre-fascism.

It is easy to dismiss Donald Trump as an ignoramus, not least because he is. But he has an acute understanding of one thing: test marketing. He created himself in the gossip pages of the New York tabloids, where celebrity is manufactured by planting outrageous stories that you can later confirm or deny depending on how they go down. And he recreated himself in reality TV where the storylines can be adjusted according to the ratings. Put something out there, pull it back, adjust, go again.

Fascism doesn’t arise suddenly in an existing democracy. It is not easy to get people to give up their ideas of freedom and civility. You have to do trial runs that, if they are done well, serve two purposes. They get people used to something they may initially recoil from; and they allow you to refine and calibrate. This is what is happening now and we would be fools not to see it.
One of the basic tools of fascism is the rigging of elections – we’ve seen that trialled in the election of Trump, in the Brexit referendum and (less successfully) in the French presidential elections. Another is the generation of tribal identities, the division of society into mutually exclusive polarities.

Fascism does not need a majority – it typically comes to power with about forty percent support and then uses control and intimidation to consolidate that power. So it doesn’t matter if most people hate you, as long as your forty percent is fanatically committed. That’s been tested out too.

And fascism of course needs a propaganda machine so effective that it creates for its followers a universe of “alternative facts” impervious to unwanted realities. Again, the testing for this is very far advanced.
But when you’ve done all this, there is a crucial next step, usually the trickiest of all. You have to undermine moral boundaries, inure people to the acceptance of acts of extreme cruelty. Like hounds, people have to be blooded. They have to be given the taste for savagery.

Fascism does this by building up the sense of threat from a despised out-group. This allows the members of that group to be dehumanised. Once that has been achieved, you can gradually up the ante, working through the stages from breaking windows to extermination.

People have to be given the taste for savagery. Fascism does this by building up the sense of threat from a despised out-group.

It is this next step that is being test-marketed now. It is being done in Italy by the far-right leader and minister for the interior Matteo Salvini. How would it go down if we turn away boatloads of refugees? Let’s do a screening of the rough-cut of registering all the Roma and see what buttons the audience will press. And it has been trialled by Trump: let’s see how my fans feel about crying babies in cages. I wonder how it will go down with Rupert Murdoch.

To see, as most commentary has done, the deliberate traumatisation of migrant children as a “mistake” by Trump is culpable naivety. It is a trial run – and the trial has been a huge success. Trump’s claim last week that immigrants “infest” the US is a test-marketing of whether his fans are ready for the next step-up in language, which is of course “vermin”.

And the generation of images of toddlers being dragged from their parents is a test of whether those words can be turned into sounds and pictures. It was always an experiment – it ended (but only in part) because the results were in.

And the results are quite satisfactory. There is good news on two fronts. First, Rupert Murdoch is happy with it – his Fox News mouthpieces outdid themselves in barbaric crassness: making animal noises at the mention of a Down syndrome child, describing crying children as actors. They went the whole swinish hog: even the brown babies are liars. Those sobs of anguish are typical of the manipulative behaviour of the strangers coming to infest us – should we not fear a race whose very infants can be so devious?

Second, the hardcore fans loved it: Fifty-eight percent of Republicans are in favour of this brutality. Trump’s overall approval ratings are up to 42.5 per cent.
This is greatly encouraging for the pre-fascist agenda. The blooding process has begun within the democratic world. The muscles that the propaganda machines need for defending the indefensible are being toned up. Millions and millions of Europeans and Americans are learning to think the unthinkable.

So what if those black people drown in the sea? So what if those brown toddlers are scarred for life? They have already, in their minds, crossed the boundaries of morality. They are, like Macbeth, “yet but young in deed”. But the tests will be refined, the results analysed, the methods perfected, the messages sharpened. And then the deeds can follow.”

Let us protect our freedom with all our democratic power, and continue to be brave with everything we must face.

 

Leaving aside the problem that the use of “men” in this quotation might bring up (let’s assume that the author was talking about humankind) this is so true.

And yet…

I feel helpless. In the midst of what is going on in the world, the hate, the lies, the rise of fascism – and dear God, could what happened before happen again? Is that what we are being cajoled into supporting?! – what can I do, here in my house in the middle of France?

I suppose I can do the small things for now – supporting charities that promote love and support the homeless (PC4R), fighting where I can for justice (Amnesty International) and speaking out against even the tiniest bit of opinion that talks about refugees and migrants as “vermin” or “undeserving” Not letting it pass “because I don’t know how to say it in French”.

Leaving aside the problem that the use of “man” in this quotation might bring up (let’s assume AGAIN that the author was talking about humankind) this too is true. Every person on this earth has a part to play and we cannot, we must not, separate ourselves from the suffering of others. As Christians, as Muslims, as Jews, as atheists, as those who aren’t sure, we should be fully involved, fully implicated, fully engaged in alleviating the pain and anguish that others are experiencing.We shouldn’t see them as “other people”, or “different to us” – they are part of this earth as much as we are, and are as fully deserving of our respect and our support as our neighbour, our friends or our family.

It’s just that I don’t really know what I can do…