Two cards – one birthday!

It’s coming up to my mum’s 90th birthday! Hard to believe – here are pictures of her when she and my sister visited us in September. We went for several walks of 5 km or more, and mum was fitter than I was!! (Though to be fair, it was only three months after my chemo had finished!!)

I’m going over on Wednesday, and we have a big family lunch on 11th at a restaurant. It’s her birthday on 12th May. I have a picture that I bought in Strasbourg for her present: it was going to be her Christmas present, but sending it became so complicated I decided to keep it for her birthday. It means I can buy a frame too. I’m there for almost a week, which will be lovely – I hope to maybe catch up with an old friend from school while I’m there too.

So today I sat down to make a card. The first one I made was this:

 

I used papers from a papercrafting magazine plus various Noz embellishments. I quite like it, but it’s a bit boring for a 90th birthday card. So I went a bit more OTT and created this one:

It’s a three-fold card (which is a bit difficult to photograph) so it’s already a bit more “special” than the first one. Here it is, standing upright:

and in the second fold there’s another butterfly hidden away:

I think this one is a bit more joyous, and appropriate for such a landmark birthday. What do you think?

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May pictures

Not sure what to blog about, but feeling I should write something, I delve back into my photo archives to see what I can find!

MAY 2010 – I used to do more walks when I had time between or after lessons. Here’s a little garden I found on a walk above Royat. Obviously a beautiful day! I really enjoyed these walks…I wonder why I don’t do so many now. Perhaps I’m too busy!

May 2010 was when I held George for the first time – our lovely cuddly George cat. He went missing almost three years ago, and although we have Jasper now, George is still very sadly missed. He was the most placid of cats, loving nothing more than a cuddle.

 

MAY 2011 – For a few years we had a Fete de Cheval here – it was, rather sadly, mostly a place where knackers came to buy old horses which were then taken to the abbatoir. It changed for a couple of years when our friends, who keep a livery stables and breeding stables took over the organisation, but that was too much work for them, so it stopped happening a few years ago. Here however is one of the animals that wasn’t a horse – there were some llamas one year!

MAY 2012 – The plant seller is out…I always buy my balcony plants from the same guy: he comes to the market in May/June but his plants are always good value and I’ve never had any complaints. The balcony is looking very sad at the moment, so I need to get out there and tidy it up. Because I’m working on Thursday mornings now I may have to ask Friend Cathy to buy my plants for me this year!

MAY 2013 –Here are Mr FD and our friend Louis, on the top of Mont Ventoux, having cycled up. I was the designated official photographer, but due to becoming too interested in the market in Bedouin, I very nearly missed their triumph! I drove up the mountain rather too hastily (there were hundreds of cyclists!) and caught up with the two of them no more than 3 km from the summit! Luckily I managed to get one action shot of them both, as well as this one.

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MAY 2014 – A card made for my friend’s “Christian birthday” – I think it may have been one of my first “Celtic style” crosses, which are now one of my favourite things to draw.

MAY 2015 – I’m looking a bit blown about! This was taken when we went out for the day on our 30th wedding anniversary. We had a picnic and visited Mont Dore in the Auvergne. It was a lovely day out. I think this was taklen around Puy Marie, but I may be making that up!

MAY 2016 – an appropriate picture for today. Why, you may ask… Well, another blogger, Elizabeth, who used to live in France wrote:

In France we have a delightful custom of presenting our friends with a bunch, or even just a stem, of Lilies of the Valley.
It’s a custom that dates back to 1561, when the then King, Charles 1 received some lilies as a lucky charm. Each year he offered a bunch to the ladies of his court. So the tradition grew, and by 20th Century it was well established.
The flowers are given as a symbol of Spring. I think it is the one and only time that something is allowed to be sold without tax applying. Scouts and Guides will be in our town today, raising a little money by selling these beautifully perfumed flowers.
and mine are blooming in the garden, so I shall go and pick a few for our neighbour.
The photo was of some lily-of-the-valley that we’d been given by Michel across the road. Unfortunately they didn’t take, so we don’t have them any more.
MAY 2017 – One of my students was getting married, so I made him this card – very simply done with an embosser, and lots of little flowers cut out of scrap paper with my flower punch. The pearls were a bargain from Noz – of course!!
MAY 2018 – By now I was half way through my chemo, and had lost all my hair. Here I am in patriotic mode for the wedding of Harry and Meghan. I wouldn’t have bothered normally, but we’d been invited to Richard’s to watch the wedding on TV and to partake of lunch. I made a delicious but nt very attractive mlemon-and-elderflower cake
And May 2019? Well, it’s only 1st May. I’m sure there’ll be photos to share later on in the month…

Meet the Cats: Senior Director

Our Senior Cat is Pomme.

We got Pomme about a month after our move to France. At the time, Mr FD was working 1 week in London, one week in France, and so he didn’t help to choose Pomme. I chose two cats that day, Pomme (named by the refuge)  and an older cat Biscuit (a tri-colour cat named Arc-en-Ciel – Rainbow – by the refuge, but changed to Biscuit by me)

Sadly, Biscuit didn’t last long. She came to us on 9th October and by 19th October she had died. This, I am still convinced, was partly, at least, due to the incompetence of the vet here in the village. I’m sure he is a good big farm animal vet, but not a small-animal vet. I know two other people who believe he was responsible for the death of their pets too. I think Biscuit had some kind of virus before she came, but still…

I kept a journal through my first months here and the day I got the two cats I wrote: “Went to Roanne on Saturday and got 2 cats. I’m not sure I made the right decision though, as one is completely AWOL – though very sweet – and I’m pretty sure the other is diabetic! She’s drinking a lot and not eating. What a to-do! Biscuit (diabetic?) is very similar to Manda’s colouring (our old cat in the UK) but has a sweeter face than Manda’s. She is 8 & had been in the refuge 3 years. I think her likeness to Manda swayed me. The other, Pomme, is younger and is very lively. She stole my heart by jumping onto my shoulders and draping herself.

It started well, but there are moments of despair in other journal entries: “Her one mission in life is to Get Into The Kitchen because that’s where Food is. It’s a nightmare keeping her out”…”Pomme was mad tonight and broke my Mysteries of MK plate. I yelled and yelled and wept and wept and threw a book at her” …”

After Biscuit died I went back to the Refuge and complained they’d sold me faulty goods (!!) That sounds mean, but it isn’t cheap adopting a cat, and to have it die 10 days after you get it home is a bit much! So they relented (very begrudgingly) and let me choose another. Mr FD was with me, and he chose Pumpkin.

I only have two photos of lovely Pumpkin. She was mad as a box of frogs, and while Pomme and Pumpkin seem to be friends in this photo, that didn’t come easily. As the journal shows: “Pumpkin is 5 months old. Black and white and so sweet & lovely. Pomme doesn’t let her be, so Pumpkin is shut up for most of the day. She also doesn’t use her litter tray, so the dressing room (which is now my study) has a particular odour of its own now – and it isn’t very pleasant!”…”A big fight on Monday which I didn’t know about until I came across gobs of spittle and two wary cats”…”Took Pumpkin to the vets in Noiretable; he diagnosed a digestive disorder. Pumpkin does NOT like the vet. As he injected her she took off like a jet propelled ball of fur, just missing my eye and with the needle from the syringe still stuck in her neck. ‘My, what a little character’ he said, through gritted teeth.”…”Cats managed a peaceful hour before Pomme went for Pumpkin last night”…”When Pomme does attack Pumpkin Pumpkin tends to lose control of her bowels so we have shit sprayed everywhere as well as fur”…

For a couple of months I kept either Pomme or Pumpkin in a big cage while the other cat had free run of the living room during the evening. This helped acclimatise them to eah other, the last entry in the journal (I gave up after 4 months) reads “Cats still not meeting except by accident, when Pomme goes in for the kill, or so it seems. Pumpkin doesn’t seem very fazed by these meetings though…”

They must have become accustomed to each other, however, as the first photo shows. Mr FD has just come & reminded me that they got used to each other when we went to the UK, and put them both in a cattery. They were in adjoining cages/pens, so, one imagines, they made friends through the netting. Unfortunately, Pumpkin wasn’t with us for long. She died in 2009, about 3.5 years after we got her. On one of my first blog posts I wrote:

September 15th 2009 “Goodnight Sweet Cat…”…and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

We’ve said Goodbye to Pumpkin, and she’s set off on her Very Big Adventure. We took her to the NiceVet who said that her temperature wasn’t good, her breathing had worsened, and, to be honest, we could see that she was weary of it all. NiceVet was very gentle, giving her an injection so she went to sleep – the first proper sleep she’d had for days – and we could caress her and love her. Then he stopped her heart. We left her curled on his table – we don’t want to bury her, or have her ashes. We want to remember her as she was. We have a saying in the Dormouse family: “as mad as a box of frogs”. We shall change it in her honour: “As mad as a box of Pumpkins”

For a while Pomme was the one-and-only, but about 6 months later we were ready to have a new cat, and our friends cat was pregnant. I’ll tell you about those cats later – but I can promise you that Pomme did not accept the kittens very well either!

But, look, I can be so appealing!

Food, please. NOW!

Planning a shoulder launch…

Now Pomme is getting on in years, and isn’t in the best of health, but, as I have recently said, the medication is giving her a new lease of life. Here are some of her mischievous moments:

Well, I thought everyone had finished eating the bread! (Yes, this really is our bread basket she’s settled into!)

A box! A box!!

A bag! A bag!!

She is a dear cat, although she does have her little foibles which can be less than appealing. She’s a total diva where Jasper is concerned, and makes a heck of a lot of noise if he comes anywhere near. And giving her her medication is a nightmare – although my journal has offered me a possible solution:”Pomme has some tablets to take, which, when ground down into fish soup, she wolfs down…” (EDITED TO ADD: We tried the tablet in the fish soup trick. She sniffed it distainfully, sneered and got off her perch. That didn’t work then!)

But when she curls up next to you, or on your lap, purring like an engine, it’s hard not to love her!

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We hope she’ll be with us for many years to come!

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!)

That’s just living…

I found this on another blog (Deb’s World) and it seemed like a good way to look at this life of ours:

 

 

I would perhaps add “Hold on to God’s hand through the awful…” but this is what our life is: amazing, awful and ordinary. The trick is to appreciate whatever one can whenever one can.

With this thought in mind, I’m going to try to be more grateful this year – I was given myriad notebooks for Christmas, so this one seems like the ideal one for a Gratitude journal:

I will try to write at least one thing each evening that I am grateful for in this breathtakingly beautiful life that we lead.

I am using another notebook for another reason – but I’m keeping that under my hat until I know whether it’s going to be a success or not. I fear that, like so many other “determined resolutions” before it, this may also go down the pan, but we shall see.

What about you? Do you make NY resolutions, only to break them by the end of January?

 

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.

 

60 before 60…?

I’m going to be 60 next birthday. Eeep, how did that happen?!

People often plan “35 before I’m 35” things to do…I don’t think I can manage to do , or even think of 60 things!

But – here’s a challenge – I’m going to ask each of those of you who really do read my posts instead of just clicking “like” without reading to suggest one thing that I could do. Preferably nothing that costs a lot of money…for example, I’d love to fly in a hot air balloon over the Chaine des Puys…but it’s way too expensive

But something that might be fun, or interesting, or slightly off-beat, or a challenge (but not too challenging!)

And I’ll try to do them! So get your thinking caps on, and put your suggestions in the Comments.

Mr FD has set in motion our joint 60th Birthday treat – he’s booked tickets to see Big Big Train in Newport, Wales on 1st November. We have friends in South Wales and the south of England, so we’ll try to get to see them. We’re going to set up a virement each month into Mr FD’s Livret A account (savings account) so that the money quietly transfers, and mounts up, without us noticing. Not too much, but enough to help spread the cost. Hopefully we’ll be able to stay with our friends, but it would be nice to maybe have one night in a posh hotel…

Here’s a Big Big Train song for you