…and after Summer School, catching up with Old Friends.

So, Summer School ended. On the Friday night, most of the teachers who were left headed down to the pub. I went too, but didn’t stay for too long – being a bit of a boring old fart! – and knowing that I hadn’t packed yet! Mr FD was due to arrive by train at 12.00 but I’d promised to drive some of the teachers to the station by 9.00, so I didn’t want to be late to bed.

On Saturday morning, I fulfilled all my tasks and got to the station to meet Mr FD at the appointed time. He had left the car he’d driven over from France (& had hoped to sell, but was unable to) at his mum’s, & took the train to Newbury, where I met him.  We had planned to go to the Hawk Conservancy Trust but the weather was horrid, so instead we drove to a pub we used to go to occasionally when I was at college in Winchester: The Bush at Ovington

Being a little way outside Winchester, it depended on one of us having a car, but it was a lovely place to go. To be honest, it hadn’t changed that much in the 35 years, and sitting in the bar brought back so many memories: there was the big table next to the open fire that we liked to sit at, here was the River Itchen that was so lovely to sit by on summer evenings…. Today, we both had some good British beer, a chicken-and-watercress sandwich, and (for me) some delicious parsnip and ginger soup. Mr FD had chips. I was allowed one.

We were due to stay at a friend’s in Southampton, so we made our way to Southampton Town Quay for a walk (the weather had brightened up a little by then) and a sit, to watch the boats going up the Solent. Then we arrived at Norman’s. We have been friends since my days at college, when he was the College chaplain. We have always got on very well, and I often think I would have loved him to be my Parish Priest: he is so wise, and sensible, and Godly. But, I think, not comfortable. He would be challenging too. He was – as far as I can remember – when he was Chaplain.

Anyway, he had invited Ian (another friend from College – but not this Ian)and his partner for dinner, so we had a lovely time catching up and just chatting. Norman cooked us melon & proscuttio for starters, then salmon with hollandaise sauce, new potatoes and green beans, then a “fruit crunch” – basically fruit salad with lots of red fruit and a touch of rum, topped with crushed amaretto biscuits, and then a layer of whipped cream and greek yoghurt. With brown sugar sprinkled on top, then left in the fridge overnight, there is a delicious fudgey topping as the sugar melts. Yummy!

The following day, we set off for Frome to catch up with more friends from college. Mr FD has known them for almost as long as he has known me, and gets on very well with them. He and Kit like the same music, and can talk Tech for hours, while Alison (another one) and I just fall into chat-mode instantly. Their daughter Hann was there, as was my Godson, Joe – which was a surprise, but definitely a happy surprise. We had a bread-and-cheese lunch, then strolled into Frome town centre to look at the Independent market there – lots of lovely things. I was particularly taken by the idea of book gardens:

which I think are rather lovely! I might (only might, mind you!) try making some for presents if I can find any appropriate books. Emmaus would seem a good starting place. We had tea in a café – very hip and happening, but terrible service! – and then strolled home, Kit & Mr FD forging ahead while Alison,Hann and I chatted about everything and nothing. Joe had gone to meet friends in the pub.

Mr FD and I had visited Asda on the way and bought pizza and salad, so we had that for dinner, and basically spent the evening chatting, comparing Tech and watching Athletics on TV. Very chilled. Very pleasant.

In the morning Mr FD popped back into Frome to buy some medication, while the rest of us tried to choose names for the two kittens that A&K were going to collect that afternoon. I still don’t know what was finally chosen! Mr FD had bought himself a new phone, which meant that his old phone was passed onto me, so I was able to gift my old phone to Joe (who was using an i-phone-something with a broken screen). Godson was very happy.

After lunch, Mr FD & I headed in the direction of South Wales, where we were going to visit friends from his University days. First we were due at Roger & Mags. Mr FD & Roger had “got mildly drunk together on our first evening at Cardiff University” and they have been friends ever since.


This is a not-very good picture of Roger & Mags’ fluffy ginger cat, Oscar. I didn’t take any pictures of Roger & Mags!

When we arrived, Roger had taken the afternoon off work, so we sat and chatted about music (Mr FD & Roger definitely have the same taste in music!) and sport and Tech. When Mags got home, we then set out for a lovely little pub somewhere not very far from them, in Caerphilly, but, a little like The Bush, very olde worlde.

More good beer, and good food. I started with a goats’ cheese and black pudding salad, followed by a Welsh lamb burger, and fries. Mr FD had laver bread to start, in a type of croquettewith oatmeal and bacon, and then he went the whole hog and had a double burger – one Welsh lamb and the other Welsh beef!

The following day, Roger & Mags had both taken a day off work so we went for a lovely walk (a little too far for me, as I was struggling by the end, but still delightful) We started at Cyfarthfa Castle Museum and Art Gallery

and from there we followed part of the Taff Trail, above the River Taff. We made a detour to visit the site of an old Iron Foundry, that would have been active in the 19th century, but is now quite derelict.

Halfway round, we stopped at another pub for lunch. More good beer, and this time I had Welsh Cawlserved with bread and cheese. And sweet potato chips.

Mr FD and Roger had the most enormous ploughman’s lunch ever, served with 4 types of Welsh cheese, a thick slice of ham, a pork pie, pickled beetroot, pickled onion, salad and a bread roll.  Mr FD didn’t (quite) finish his – though I did note it was mostly the salad that he had left!

The second part of the walk was alongside the river and was really lovely. Incidentally, when we got back home to France there was a BBC 4 TV programme about the Taff, which showed parts of the walk we had done. Here is the link for anyone in the UK who might like to see it.

When we got back to Roger & Mags’ I’m afraid I fell asleep! But later that evening, Mags cooked us a delicious salmon-en-croute, and then we watched some Gavin and Stacey repeats – how appropriate for South Wales! – and a recording of Only Connect. Another chilled time, spent with old friends.

The next day, Roger & Mags had to go to work, and we were scheduled to go on to Neath, slightly further to the west, to call in on another frriend from Mr FD’s Uni days. But the telling of that part of our holiday will have to wait…


Hello! I’m back!!

Hello Dear Readers,

I’m home again, after 4 day’s travelling to the UK, 4 week’s work and a week visiting friends. Almost 6 weeks away from home. I have forgotten what little French I knew!!

I had signed up to do Bla-Bla Car, which is a kind of car sharing thing. I was taking three people from Clermont Ferrand up to Beauvais/Amiens. I’d been rather nervous about it, but it was okay. I’m not sure I’d do it again on such a long journey, but I might well do it on my trips to Clermont each week. We’ll see. Anyway, I reached the ferry with about an hour to spare, so sat in the queue and read. Then took the Club lounge (free glass of fizzies and peanuts) Then a 20 minute drive to M-i-L’s house.

I stayed with M-i-L the first day,and luckily I was able to help her out as her car wasn’t working. I drove her to T’ai Chi and had a little walk around the village while she was taking her class. Then I drove her over to the doctor’s. I was going to just sit in the waiting room, until I saw this appealing sign:

I couldn’t resist opening the gate and walking down the shaded track, which opened out into a delightful little orchard

with apples ripening on trees

and charming little viewpoints

and seats in sunny and shady places. It really was a lovely place to while away half an hour until MiL had finished and we went to have lunch in a little garden café not far away.

The following day I drove to Guildford, to meet up for lunch with an old school friend (I told you a little about her in this post )and then on to Southampton to stay with another friend, before heading to Newbury to start work at Lines Summer School.

It was a good time (generally) especially catching up with old friends both at the Summer School, and outside of that time. The time at Lines was hard work, and not quite as fun as last time; this was partly because there were only two of us in the Kids’ department, instead of the expected 3 teachers (though there cetainly weren’t the numbers to merit 3 teachers) and partly because other teachers were somewhat demoralised by a rather joyless Director of Studies, who had very unreasonable expectations. In the Kids’ dept we were a little more autonomous, and weren’t directed by this woman, so were able to duck out of a lot of what she demanded of the other departments. I would like to think that had I been elsewhere I might have stood up to her and refused some of the ridiculous things she asked, but I probably wouldn’t have done!

ANYWAY – whether I’ll return next year is a moot point. It was more difficult physically too, with my arthritis (and general lack of fitness!) getting worse. We shall see.

If I return next year I will have to do “my” walk. This ritual started by accident. The first year I’d flown across and taken a bus to Newbury. It had been a difficult year, and the next year I was rather regretting agreeing to return. That second year, we had been told to arrive mid-afternoon on Thursday. I had the car, and was driving over to Newbury from staying with a friend in Alresford, and because he’d gone to work, I left fairly early. Close to Newbury I left the A34 and drove fairly aimlessly, looking for somewhere to have a walk and a chat with God about what was ahead of me. I found somewhere to stop, and I walked up a track near the Highclere estate (Downton Abbey, for those who watched the series) until the north Hampshire downs opened up in front of me

With a game bird reserve to one side, it was a peaceful spot to sit and think. To enjoy the sunshine and talk to God. And just “be”

That year at Summer School started badly for the first couple of weeks, but got better, thank God. The following year, I drove again, and, just by chance, found myself driving the same lanes so I stopped again to do the same walk.

The wide open spaces reminding me of the vastness of our creator God, his goodness and mercy. Breathe in the air.

This year I conciously tried to find the walk, but came off the A34 too soon and couldn’t find the lanes I needed to take. Telling myself it didn’t matter and that I didn’t have to do the walk again (but knowing that somehow it actually was quite important to me!) I drove rather aimlessly for a bit, hoping to stumble on a place I recognised, and then decided I had to give up, and drive to Newbury. Whereupon I found the place! Joy!

Along the shaded track until the view opened up in front of me again

I sat in the sunshine once more and committed my time at Summer School to God. Enjoyed the wind blowing across the grasses, and the mewling of buzzards wheeling in the sky, the scents of wild flowers and the cheeping of the grouse/pheasants/guinea fowl.

Then I returned to the car, passing this rather impressive gamekeeper’s cottage on the way

Wouldn’t you love to live here?!

One last look in the other direction, and I was ready to face what 4 weeks atv Lines could throw at me!

So, if I go back again I will have to find time to do the same walk, even if it’s piddling with rain. It has become a ritual now, a concious pause before God to acknowledge his goodness and majesty and to ask for his support. I’m not a regular pray-er but this has become absurdly important to me!

Anyway, I’ll tell you about some of the things I got up to, both during and after Summer School another time. But it’s nice to be home – and to sleep well in my own bed after 6 weeks in beds that really weren’t that comfortable!


Pictures Round the House N°3 – Alton Abbey

Hello dear readers.

Back in February I started a little series “Pictures Round the House” showing you pictures in our house that are special, and telling you why they have a special place in my heart. Well,after a hiatus, here’s another in the series.

This is a drawing of Alton Abbey, in Hampshire:

This drawing dates back to my days at college in Winchester,when some of us from King Alfred’s College (as it was known then) would go, once a year, for a weekend’s silent retreat at this Benedictine abbey some 20 miles away from college.

This picture, from their website, shows this very view (although the tree has grown quite a bit in the 36 years since it was drawn!):

We would leave college on Friday, and join the monks for dinner. After the first talk, given by either Norman, the college chaplain, or someone else, we would take part in Compline, and then the Great Silence.

Generally, after that, we kept to the silence. There were talks to attend, but also lots of free time for reading, meditation, or other activities, such as drawing. I suspect I usually did some calligraphy or reading.

After lunch on Sunday, the silence was broken, and we went back to our everyday lives. But it was always a little difficult coming back to the “outside world”, as it were.

This picture was drawn for me by my at-the-time boyfriend. I have to say, I think I treated Ian very poorly – he was much more devoted to me than I was to him, I fear, and I would often refuse to hold his hand in public. I was a tad embarrassed by the fact he was a lot shorter than me – which is no excuse, really.

Taped to the back of the frame is a piece of paper with “The meaning of life is love. Only true love comes from God” written on it in Ian’s handwriting. I think I had the picture framed much later, so I imagine this came from something he gave me at another time.

In my old scrapbooks, I also have a pressed rose that he gave me, plus a card with an apple seed…This was at the end of our third year, when I was staying on for an Honours degree, but he was going to leave. In the card he wrote the words from a song in the play “Sergeant Musgrave’s Dance”

I plucked the blood red rose flower down, and gave it to my dear

I set my foot across the sea, but she never wept a tear.

One day I came home, as free as a bird, I sought her out and in

At last I found her in a little attic room, with a napkin round her chin.

“Are you eating meat?” I said. “No””Are you eating fish?”

“No I am eating an apple given me today, the sweetest I could wish”

The blood red rose has withered and gone, and fallen to the floor.

But he who brought the apple down shall be my darling dear.

For in that apple a seed shall grow, to raise a flourishing tree of fruit,

To live in love and lengthy joy forever and a day”

I don’t know the play, but from Wikipedia it seems to be a play about pacifism, about revenge and about violence…I’m not quite sure how this fitted with something that I imagine was showing love. I think Ian thought I was cleverer and more astute than I really am, as he also wrote a cryptic letter that includes the words “I know what your problem is, if not better than you do yourself. If you know what I am driving at, then so much the better. Please remember, if anyone can help you, it will be me”

I don’t think I realised then that I had a problem, and I had (or have!) no idea what he was driving at! And I’m not sure if he helped me with whatever was the problem!

Here’s a photo of the card that included the cryptic poem and message!

We lost touch, and I heard a while after that he had converted to Islam, and married a Muslim girl who had been one of his pupils at the school where he was teaching. It was after the 11th September attacks, that a mutual friend sent an article from the Church Times, written by an RE advisor (I think) who was, from the accompanying photo, clearly identifiable as our estwhile friend Ian. The article spoke about how the attacks were not representative of true Islam, and that Muslims and Christians needed to work together, for peace and reconciliation. I wrote to him and we corresponded briefly, but I didn’t really feel any real warmth in his reply, so I let the matter drop.

Still, I do feel a lot of affection for this man – even if we were never really compatible, he showed me a lot of love, and kindness, and he was a very good friend. I wish him well, and every time I look at the lovely picture of Alton Abbey that he drew for me, it reminds me of happy, contented times at college, and my good friends.

Pictures Round the House: “Early Morning Grasmere”

Here’s another in the series of posts looking at pictures that are round our house – it encourages me to look at them with fresh eyes and to remember the stories behind them.

Until Tuesday this picture hung in a corner of the sitting room, but due to a slight moveround in pictures (to accommodate Mr FD’s Ride London medal and map, that I bought him for Christmas) it has been relocated to next to the door of the sitting room. As I moved it, I smiled to remember the history behind it, and knew that it was going to be next in the series.

Here it is (rather badly photographed, I’m afraid)


Early Morning Grasmere, by W. Heaton Cooper

Here’s a better picture (not by me)

This link is to the Wikipedia page on William Heaton Cooper, who was a renowned Lakeland artist, who painted the scenery of the Lake District in all its changing moods, in its glory and beauty. I grew up with Heaton Cooper prints around the house as both my parents loved the Lakes, and walking in the fells. I even remember that, on the day of Charles and Diana’s wedding, Mum & Dad escaped all the hype, and went climbing in the Lakes – they walked up Cat Bells

Later, Mum bought a souvenir Wedgewood bell of the Wedding – to remind her of Cat Bells!.

When they were courting, the Lakes would be the place that they went to with their friends. I imagine that – as long as someone had a car – they were reasonably easily accessed from Liverpool, which is where Ron was a trainee doctor, and Mavis was teaching, after her training in London.


Here is a photo of my parents, before they were married, on a peak in the Lakes – don’t you love the fact that Ron is dressed in a tie (to go climbing?!) and Mavis is in her skirt!


Another day – another mountain…but still in a tie and jacket! Mavis is wearing her lovely jacket (which I took over and wore for a while when I was 17 or so, and so-called “hacking jackets” were in style. )

Here is a photo of them both on their wedding day


Ron in his Flight-Lieutenant’s uniform – he did his National Service in the RAF – Mavis looking beautiful in white lace. I don’t know, but I would imagine that they spent their honeymoon in the Lake District!

When I was younger we would often be taken walking in the Lakes – although I’m not sure how much I really appreciated it! – and I remember Dad and Mr FD bonding over a love of walking. Because of their love for the Lakes,  Mum and Dad bought a TimeShare apartment near Newby Bridge, and the bottom end of Windermere

This was to be a base for them both to go walking in their retirement years, but sadly Dad died just a year into his semi-retirement, and before Mum reached retirement age, so they never really got to use it fully. Mum still retains a week there, and goes up at the end of April, with her friends. Often my brother, who shares Dad’s passion for the Lakes and for walking, will go over too.

It was while we were staying there after Dad’s death that I bought the print, as a memorial to him. There is the Heaton Cooper gallery in Windermere and it seemed like a fitting way to remember my dear father.


Here he is in later years (still wearing a tie!!) : Ronald Alan Hardman, well loved GP, from Aintree, Liverpool. At his funeral, in a large church hall, seating, I estimate, about 200 people, there was standing room only. I recall arriving in the car behind the hearse, and being met by the Minister, who whispered to us “Don’t be surprised by the number of people…” He was so well-respected and loved by his patients, by the local community that people had turned out in crowds to pay their respects.

This is a W. Heaton Cooper that Mum has hanging in her home:

This shows Scafell Pike, and I love the moodiness of this painting. I think it is one of my favourites of the paintings that Mum has. Whenever I visit mum and see this painting I smile again, and think of Dad, and his love of the Lakes.

So, there you are. Another of the paintings around our house, and the story behind it.


Early Morning Grasmere

by W. Heaton Cooper

Iona 1999


Woven through the cycle of the world

The endless circle of birth and death,

    of creation and destruction

    of beauty and ugliness

    of laughter and tears,

    of love and hate,

Surrounding it all remains God




Bringing perfect completeness as

at last

all is brought into infinite re-creation

of wholeness

and healing.

And we weep no more.

(For Anne & Murdoch)

This day (or thereabouts!) through the years


Sometime round June 2009 – but there isn’t aproper date there. Mr FD peeping coyly round the chair!


17.06.2010 – poppies photographed on one of my walks. I used to try to get into the hills around Clermont when I had gaps between lessons. It was great. In fact, I did this recently – I finished work before Mr FD so I went for a walk in the woods. “I’ll do 15 minutes, then turn round,” I said to myself. I just kept going and did a walk of 1 hour 40 minutes!! It was lovely! Here’s another photo from that same walk in 2010



18.06.2011 – we were away with the Cycle Club and visited this chateau. No idea where it was!


19.06.2012 – here is a small grey kitten.


It must be Bib! She joined us at the very beginning of June, and here she is being sweet and appealing!


Sometime in June 2013 – another cycle club voyage. This was a walk in some woods near the place we were staying. I found a tree stump to sit in, as you do!


22.06.14 – the open air service and barbecue on the Plateau de Gergovie (this year’s is mentioned in dispatches over at Fat Dormouse)Rob the Rector plays his mandolin.

IMG_2050 (1)

June 2015… Another Cycle Club voyage, another picture of me lurking around tree stumps. I don’t much like this photo, but there you go.

And I didn’t take any photos today! Slapped wrist! Bad blogger!!

Blessed are the Cheesemakers

16th May 2010


In 2010 we had a bit of a food-off. Our fiercely patriotic French friend would not concede that English cheese and paté could possibly be as good as the equivalent French produce.

So Steve & Cathy – who owned a holiday home here – brought a selection of British cheese & paté when they arrived for the summer, and we had a comparison of the various foodstuffs.

IMG_0499 Here is  (from L-R): Gerome (French – but Anglicised!), Alison (British) Perrine (French), Jerome (French) Mr FD (British) Jean (French (mostly hidden)), Steve, & Cathy.

Discussion is getting heated!

IMG_0500After plenty of wine had been consumed – and desserts as well – an Entente Cordiale was declared. (But the British knew they were right!) (And the French thought they were right!)


After yet more wine had been consumed Alison started to wear what I think is a light-up nose. But I’m not totally sure!

Mr FD still upholds his view that Stilton is the best cheese in the world, heads above any blue cheese the French have to offer. As I don’t like blue cheese, I cannot possibly comment. However I am a fan of the wonderfully creamy Brillat Savarin (French, I’m afraid!).

As I have got older my tastes have changed, and I no longer like the strong flavoured cheeses: a camembert cru with calvados washed rind no longer “does it” for me. Mr FD enjoys a cheese that makes your tongue squeak of its own accord though!

And a final cheese memory…

I still remember going on holiday with my parents and they bought lots of “stinky” French cheese. Somehow, one of them rolled under the seat of the car and was forgotten about. The aptly named Livarot (as although it is pronounced properly as Leev-ah-roh, it is known in our house as “liver rot”) was discovered – through our olfactory senses – some weeks later. We didn’t eat it!