Blue arsed flies.

For those who don’t quite understand the metaphor:: Run around is a common expression meaning to be busy, frantic, or otherwise getting the runaround. But to emphasize how much one is running around, we turn to metaphor. I’ve been running around like a blue arsed fly. The fly in question is apparently a blue bottle fly, which buzzes around rather frantically, like someone who is running around busily doing errands.

Golly gosh! I’ve been busy – still am!! Some good things:

  • My calligraphy course went very well – no-one turned up, so I sat & chatted to Martine, the organiser, for anhour then presented my bill, and came home to do my ironing. Hopefully, I’ll get paid the full amount.
  • SNCF have refunded the cost of the initial ticket, that I couldn’t use, from my horrible journey home from convention. I’m still a bit out of pocket, but we’ll accept that.
  • Mr FD has several interviews/job fairs to go to in the next couple of weeks (fingers crossed) and I’m getting more work too. The Financial Monster is being kept at bay, thanks to the geneerosity of mothers, and some frugality on our part. Plus a transfer of funds from the UK!
  • I’m going here on Saturday for 5 days!

STRASBOURG CHRISTMAS MARKET

Yay! Huzzah! and other cries of glee.

Less nice, but exciting and interesting news:

  • I resigned from the Transition Committee  for the Bishop Elect. My new medication (hormone therapy) does have a side efect of increased anxiety, and I was finding myself getting really stressed, even just over the Zoom meetings (like Skype) It was doing me no good, so I resigned, deciding that I needed just to focus on Church here in Clermont.
  • However, here in Clermont, Father Rob and his wife Caireen are moving on. They are off to Rome, and we are looking for a new rector. We may need to be creative – possibly a part time rector, possibly something else…Happily the new Bishop Elect is interested in and knowledgable in bi-vocational work. Until someone is appointed I will probably be preaching more/taking more services, and we’ll be having various ordained people visiting so we can have the Eucharist.
  • I’m now on the Strategic Planning Committee – but it is focussing on church here in Clermont!! – as we start to think about what Christ Church in Clermont Ferrand will evolve into. It’s sad that we are losing two well-loved people, but it is exciting to l;ook ahead to what we may become, and what God’s plans are for us.

And off I buzz again – need to have lunch before leaving to go to Clermont to teach.

 

Hope all is well with you, dear Ones. I am thinking about my Things to do Before I’m 60 list. I may publish it at the beginning of January – 10 Things in the 10 months before I’m 60. That seems like a reasonable number of things. Thank you for your ideas – keep them coming!

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Food – and other stuff – in the past week…

It’s been a bit up-and-downy during the past week, food wise. I’ve tried to be sensible and eat well, then every now and then I crack… Luckily, not having biscuits in the house means that the “cracking” is relatively controlled! Though it was hard to contain my delight when I found an “emergency scone” in the freezer! Although technically it was mine, (I’d put 6 in there a while back; Mr FD had his three, but I’d forgotten that I’d only eaten two!) I shared it with Mr FD. Because I’m nice like that!

Highlights this week included last night’s salmon recipe which was delicious! Baked salmon with tomatoes and butternut squashWe didn’t have it with baby salad leaves, but with some sautéed endives, but it was a really good dish. Although it’s a SW recipe, I’d recommend it to anyone who likes salmon!

On Wednesday we had a “do” with the car – the Fiat has been giving us a few problems, but we thought that the garage had fixed the cause.

I was in Roanne shopping, when, outside Lidl, I tried to start it, and there was nothing. All the lights came on, but it wouldn’t start. I phoned Mr FD, who, luckily, wasn’t far away, with our friend Louis – they’d been about to start picking apples at Louis’ family home some 20/30 km from Roanne. So Louis and Mr FD tried to push start the car down a slope – unfortunately I was in the driving seat, and never having push started a car before, I did the wrong things, and it didn’t start. Mr FD contained his annoyance. Louis drove us back home where we picked up the Pug-bus (Peugeot estate) and drove back to Roanne. With Mr FD in the Fiat 500 I towed it back to the Lidl car park (at the top of a slope), then we untied the tow rope and, with a tiny heave from me, Mr FD drove the Fiat down the slope – it started first time!! Huzzah! He drove off around the corner.

As I’d not finished the shopping, we’d planned that I’d go to Carrefour in the Pug-bus to get what I still had to buy. I dithered…I couldn’t face a big hyper-market, so I thought I’d go to the smaller Carrefour Market instead. I had a choice of two ways to go, but for some reason decided to take the least logical – and who should I come across but Mr FD stalled at the traffic lights, right in the middle of rush hour, and blocking the route for everyone else who were just managing to squeeze past by mounting the traffic island…He couldn’t contact me, as he’d left his mobile phone at home (I’ll tell you this for free: had it been the other way round, with me not having my phone, he’d have been right pissed off with me! I didn’t mention it once. Except just now.)

So we re-attached the tow rope, I pulled him round the corner & somehow he started the car again. After that, I wasn’t sure I trusted the Fiat not to stall again, so I abandoned the shopping and followed Mr FD home…

Earlier in the day I’d met up with someone from the Port – she and her husband live on a narrow boat, Out of the Blue, and travel the waterways of France during the summer and over-winter in Roanne – and we’d had a coffee together. It was the first time I’d met Yvonne, and I think we got on quite well. I’m sure we’ll meet up again at some time. I decided to stay and have lunch in the restaurant, so had a cheese omellette, salad and a big plate of chips. So I felt a bit sick from over eating and stress of cars breaking down. Thus when I got home I didn’t want to eat. I defrosted and heated up a curry and naan bread from the freezer for Mr FD, but I just had a couple of crispbreads later on in the evening. There was lots of curry left over so we had it again on Thursday evening, with added chicken & mushrooms, and with rice. It wasn’t very hot – I’m really not very good at judging the right spices to give enough heat to curries! – but it was flavoursome.

I’ve carefully planned next week’s food – however, as always, something will probably happen to change it all…Including not being able to get ingredients or something. I’m shopping (again!) after work on Monday afternoon. That is when I usually shop, but what with forecast snow last Monday, and not many lessons on Wednesday I had changed the day.

Today (writing this on Saturday, scheduling it for Tuesday) we’re having HM pizza for dinner, and tomorrow I’m pulling the wild boar casserole out of the freezer, to have with mash, carrots and green beans. Mr FD is going to be in charge of cooking on Tuesday (Feta stuffed chicken)and on Wednesday (Chinese Pork) and on Thursday (Roast vegetables with feta and pâsta). From next week he’ll be cooking on Friday too, as I’m restarting with my 5 year old student, from 18h- 19h. That’s going to be mostly crafting and colouring while speaking English, but it’s still work.

Of course, it may all be different if – as we hope – Mr FD’s interview goes well. He has an interview on Tuesday afternoon, which sounds like a job right up his street. We keep our fingers crossed.

We hope…

Bits and bobs and 40 Acts (21 & 22)

Hello dear ones – thank you so much for your supportive and encouraging comments on my last post. They really helped me, and I appreciate the fact that you all took time to post a commernt. If you haven’t seen the comments from other people, I encourage you to go back & read them: they might help you too.

 

Yesterday I went for a short walk – a walk I’d probably do in 10 minutes took me about twice that time, and I felt quite breathless by the end of it. I will do the same today, straight after I’ve finished this post. I’m still sleeping more than normal – usually 10 – 11 hours a night, especially if I’ve taken an iboprofene. The “front door” is causing me some discomfort/pain when I lie on my side, I think because it’s getting squished up and pressed into the flesh, but that’s the side I feel most comfortable to sleep on. If I sleep on my back I get backache; if I sleep on my right side, my arthritic hip hurts! The iboprofene makes everything more comfortable, so I sleep better, but I don’t feel happy taking one every night!

Tonight we’re going to a birthday party – a 120th birthday party. But not for a very old person, but two 60 year olds! Of course, being French, it starts at 8 pm and is likely to go on until Lord-knows-when in the morning. It’s not considered a party in France if you’re not still awake when the cock crows! Thankfully, I have my illness as a perfect excuse to slip away at about 11.00 pm. “We would love to stay, but I’m afraid…” Mind you, the last big birthday party we went to they had only just served the main course at 11.00 pm, so we may not get the full meal!

Even though birthday cards aren’t really a French tradition, I have, of course, made one:

  

I hope they like it.

I don’t want to be too late to bed either, as I hope to make it to church tomorrow as well. A friend from church came over on Thursday, bringing me three hats she’d knitted for me – so, together with a lovely one that Michelle knitted, I am all set. Except my hair is showing no sign of falling out yet! I’ve got an appointment at a coiffeuse/wig shop on Tuesday too, but at the moment everything seems to be anchored to my scalp! Which might be a good thing aesthetically, but it makes me worry that the chemotherapy isn’t doing its job, as it should be killing off all the fast-growing cells, which include hair follicles and cancer cells. Oh well, I can always check up with the doctor on Thursday before my next session.

Onto 40 Acts:

ACT 21:: ACTION: Three weeks in – we’re halfway there! By now, generosity is probably sinking a little deeper into our lives. It’s a great time to put action behind our words. Think of moments when you’ve read or heard about something generous and thought, ‘That’s a nice idea,’ but never get around to doing it. Now’s the time. Only one act for today: What act have you put off over the last few weeks? What sounded like a good idea at the time, but you never got around to doing? Put it at the top of today’s to-do list.

Well, for me, the main act really is donating to Phone Credit for Refugees and Displaced Persons

This is a fantastic but tiny charity, started by one man, James. The website says: James came up with the idea while volunteering at the refugee camp in Calais known as The Jungle.  After talking regularly to people within the camp he realised that phone credit was a lifeline for many – and something he could help with from his home in Norfolk!

In the beginning, the process was very simple. James created a Facebook group, and added all his friends and some of the refugees he had met while volunteering. His goal was to have his close contacts provide phone credit to the handful of refugees he had come to know so well.

The group grew and grew, with his FB friends adding more friends, and they added more. Now over 64,000 members chip in when they can, donating £5, or more, to give credit to those who are desperate to contact their families left behind, or to contact aid agencies. This phone credit has saved the lives of vulnerable people, especially minors and women, so often targeted in camps.

Every Friday there is the Friday Conga, where everyone who can comments and donates (if possible), doing something important with FB algorithms that helps the group. I can’t always donate, I often forget to comment. But I’m going to make a concerted effort to start doing so. My Act 21 is to start saving 2€ coins, and when I have 10€ to make a donation. Can you afford to give a one-off donation to PC4R? This tells you how:

 

ACT 22: VALUED:: Today, a guaranteed way of making a difference. Talk up a service staff member. It’s such an easy chance to make a difference in someone’s day – but ask any service staff member, and you’ll hear how rarely it happens. Don’t let fear of insincerity put you off. A simple ‘You’re amazing, thank you for that!’ goes a long way when it’s well meant.  

I actually completed the Green task a couple of days ago, contacting the restaurant where we’d eaten on Saturday to compliment the waiter who had been very attentive to us. I certainly used to do this in the UK:  if I had received good service from a shop assistant I’d go to Customer Services, and say “I will complain if I receive bad service…” The face would fall “So equally I want to compliment good service…” The face would smile, and I would explain who had been helpful etc.

Sadly, France is not exactly the epitome of good customer service, with requests for help being met more often than not with a surly shrug. But I can still smile, and be polite and say Thank You to everyone who helps me, whether they do it with a smile or a shrug.

I hope everyone has a great weekend! Thank you for reading!!

Budapest Jollies Part 1

Hello everyone!

Having told you about the “spiritual” side of my time in Budapest, I thought I’d share some of my not-so-spiritual time!

I arrived on the Thursday, the day before the retreat was due to start. There was another lady, Edith, who was in the same situation as me, so we arranged to meet at the airport, to share a taxi to the Retreat House. When I found her however, she’d already spoken to someone and had the route by public transport all worked out! By myself I don’t think I’d’ve been brave enough but with Edith we were intrepid! There was some moments of panic and tension when we weren’t sure (a) where to get off the bus and (b) if indeed the bus was travelling in the right direction but that got sorted by a helpful young woman with a GPS and good English!

The following day I wanted to just wander around Budapest, while Edith wanted to climb Castle Hill and various other high points – she is a lot fitter than I, so we travelled in on the bus together (we knew what we were doing this time!) and then split up. I wandered aimlessly but enjoyably around the Jewish Quarter, admiring the Grand Synagogue from the outisde, but not wanting to really “visit” anywhere, as I knew I’d be meeting up with my friend after the retreat.

I took photos of things that I thought might inspire some Zentangle patterns:

I thought the pattern at the top of the door rather interesting

This window on the Jewish Archive centre was also interesting

and I really liked this pattern around a window.

And I was right: they did inspire a piece of Zentangle art:

Not the best photo, but I think you can see how some of the patterns have been incorporated into the design.

I particularly admired one building, with a huge angelic figure outside it:

I can’t help wondering what the flats in these kind of buildings are like – shabbily chic? Bang up-to-date? Who knows…,

I paused for lunch, choosing a place that advertised Craft beer, and had Hungarian sausage, coleslaw and sweet potato chips, plus a beer.

As I was getting tired I decided to make my way back to the Retreat House, and spend some time reading & zentangling. Then the other participants arrived, and we started the Retreat.

On the Sunday, there were four of us who were staying longer, so we shared a taxi into the centre of the city, where Lee, Laurie and Paula had their hotel. I had the address of the airbnb which Jane & I had booked, but other than that had no idea where it was in relation to the hotel. I was more than willing to catch buses etc, although happily,  when we arrived at the hotel Lee’s GPS proved that the flat was just about 10 minutes walk away. So off I went, trundling my suitcase behind me, and finally found the address – amazingly, in the block that I admired on Thursday!!

Jane had already arrived, so we spent time catching up, which was lovely. We are lucky enough to have one of those friendships where you can just pick up as though you saw each other last week. But after an hour or so’s chatting we decided to go exploring.

We wandered – finding a small Christmas market (about 10 stalls) and really, really hoping that that wasn’t it. We did, however, have mulled wine and chimney cake:

Both of which were delicious

We wandered around and visited St Stephen’s basilica, rather lovely in the late evening gloaming – lots of candlelight glinting from the gold decoration within. Very hushed, with some meandering organmusic being played. It was a delight to sit in the beauty, with my good friend, who has been a Christian for as long as I have, in a place where Christians hgave worshipped for, oh hundreds of years (or so I thought. Eventually discovering that in fact the Basilica was relatively modern, being finished in 1905!)

We strolled around various souvenir and craft shops, already planning our future purchases – what fun to be with someone who enjoys browsing! Mr FD hates it, but in fact Jane & I did a lot of browsing together!!

We decided to eat in a Hungarian restaurant, and had Goulash soup, followed by chicken paprikash, and then pancakes. I meant to take photos, but forgot! A stroll back to the flat, via a small supermarket, to buy coffee, tea, cereal, milk and orange juice for breakfast,and wine, not for breakfast, and we spent the evening relaxing, chatting and planning the next day’s adventures. We were also very happy to discover that the Miserable Christmas Market that we discovered was only an offshoot from the main Christmas Market , located in another square. Tomorrow was planned!!

And you’ll hear about it in another post.

If you’ve got this far, you may be wondering about the Big & Scary news – well, I’ve been biopsied (once) and I have been told that I have a pre-cancerous nodule in my breast. Everyone is very keen to tell me that there’s nothing to worry about, and that, more-than-likely, it can be dealt with through surgery, and possibly radiotherapy. I have an appointment to see a highly-regarded breast specialist on Monday, and we will know more about timescales then. I will also have a more invasive biopsy to make sure.

Strangely, I have not been scared, or even really worried; “mildly concerned” might cover it. I have felt surrounded by love, concern and prayers, and God has never felt closer. All this year, I have believed that there was something big that God was going to ask of me, and I knew that the Retreat was going to play an important part in helping me deal with it. When I was asked to serve on the Transition Committee (involved in the search for a new Bishop for the Convocation) I thought that might be the Thing. However, more and more, I think that this health problem is the Thing. And the peace and renewal of an understanding of God’s love for me that was the main focus of the Retreat (for me) has really upheld me through these past weeks of uncertainty, and will continue to surround me through whatever is to come.

As I said in my last post, our mantra is “It is what it is (and we now know what it is), it will be what it will be, and we will get through it together”. Please, should you be of a praying ilk, would you continue to pray.

 

 

Three Cheers for Mr FD!

Who has found a job!

TBH I’m not sure I totally understand what he’ll be doing but it’s something to do with IT, and websites and computer programmes and Stuff. He had a phone interview on Wednesday, a face to face today, and was told that he would hear on Monday or Tuesday. In fact, he received an email at about half past four, offering him the job!!

He thinks it will be challenging, interesting and – best of all – he’ll be earning money! It’s only a temporary post, through till mid September, but it’s paid, gainful employment.

Huzzah for Mr FD!

I’m sure he’ll be great at it, whatever it is!

Procrastination

I am terrible at doing things I don’t want to do. I generally work better if the deadline for doing things is tomorrow…but I also find myself worrying about it beforehand!!

I work for myself (“auto entrepreneur” in French) and generally the companies/individuals I work for are great at paying me on time. There is a law that one should be paid 30 days after the receipt of the bill, and I’ve had very few problems. A couple of individuals are late payers, and one person I used to teach stored up the bills for 3 or 4 months and then paid me. But it was okay as I knew she was dependant on various payments from the state, and she was a friend. I knew Where She Lived!  Otherwise everything is fine…

…EXCEPT…

One company, EAL Formation, has always been very laissez faire with their payment of my bills – you never know when the money will arrive. But I now have not been paid by them since September and (with penalties for late payment of bills) they owe me just under 1,300€ (£938/1,371 US$) I have written two letters demanding payment, and sent bills every month. I also have replied to their requests for my availibilities to teach for them with terse little messages saying “As I have not been paid for 6 months I do not wish to work for the company”

BUT I have been lying awake at night worrying about what I should do…is all my paperwork okay…do I have contracts with them… Maybe it’s my fault…

I finally got all the paperwork together, bills printed out, letters + dates of receipt (I sent them recorded delivery), contracts, paperwork. Now all I need to do (put off until tomorrow…) is finding a debt recovery agency. Something else to worry about!

I am Charlie – or am I?

Like the rest of the world I am shocked and saddened by the terror attack in Paris yesterday, on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. It is hard to believe that this is what some Muslims think their religion is about – killing others, even if they don’t share your beliefs, even if they mock your God. Just as I am shamed by the fact that Westboro Baptist Church peddle the message of hate for homosexuals in the name of the Christian God, I am sure many Muslims are ashamed that extremists are carrying out terror attacks in the name of Allah.

In France, and throughout the world, there has been a twitterstorm and FB of people tweeting, posting, holding banners saying “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie) One of my students had it as his background on his phone. It is a sign of solidarity with those who were killed or injured in this attack.

But I’m not sure about identifying myself with an organisation who considered it acceptable to depict a black politician as a monkey…While I certainly believe we should uphold the right to freedom of speech, without fear of being indiscriminately slaughtered, I do wonder where freedom of speech ends and racism begins. Is it ok to depict someone as a monkey and cry “But it’s freedom of speech!” Is it ok to state that “God hates fags” and then play the freedom of speech card.

I don’t know. I haven’t got any answer. But – while I do weep with those who lost loved ones, while I do decry the slaughter of journalists, while I cannot defend the actions of these murderers – I’m not sure I want to say that I am Charlie…because I don’t think that it is right to mock other people’s beliefs, nor depict black people as monkeys.