The end of the week…

I am rather glad it’s Friday – I’ve had a tiring week. Although I should say I’ve got a busy weekend ahead of me too!

I had lessons in Clermont Ferrand on Tuesday afternoon, so I went down in the morning, stopping at Action in Thiers to buy a curtain. This is because all the churches going to Convention (next week) have been asked to bring their church banner. The closest Christ Church has to a banner is a felt-and-glue thing that the children made some years ago, with wobbly edges and horrid badly cut out letters. Rob, our Rector, asked me to take it to Convention, but I offered to “do something with it”.

Here it is with new letters, which I cut out and put onto white felt, before attaching to the background. Before, the red letters didn’t show up so well.

I’ve cut off the “vine” at the side to make it narrower; I’ve got “Clermont Ferrand” in blue letters on white felt, and I have bought a curtain, with ready made hoops at the top.

Friend Cathy is coming with her sewing machine tomorrow to attach the blue felt to the grey curtain; attach the “Clermont Ferrand” words and the vine along the bottom. Hopefully she’ll be able to shorten the curtain too, as it’s too long at the moment too.  It’s not great, all still being a bit wobbley, but we’re getting there.

ANYWAY on the way to Clermont I bought the curtain, and then arrived at ILS to do my preparation. However, we mustn’t call it ILS now, as the company has changed its name and is now known as “Bonjour World”

Personally, I’ve had mixed reactions to the name change, but it’s a done deal, so there you go. I did 3 hours teaching and was fairly knackered when I got home.

Wednesday was my day in Roanne, with 7 hours or so of teaching – strangely I didn’t find this as tiring as Tuesday: maybe I’d slept better the night before.

Then yesterday I had 3.5 hours teaching in Clermont again. I spent the morning at home preparing & doing other things. The lessons were fine, although I hadn’t actually got the right level of activities for one of the students. I managed to busk it, and hopefully will be better prepared next time. I was taking over frrom another teacher and he hadn’t really briefed me that well.

Today I’ve been home, getting ready for the next few lessons. I’m off to Convention on Wednesday, with the excitement of the elections.

Tomorrow lunch time, I’m helping serve meals for the Cycle Club Telethon event.

This is an annual event, rather like Children in Need – it takes place in December, but the Cycle Club got fed up getting freezing cold, or having to cancel because of inclement weather, so they moved their fund raiser to October. Basically any cyclist who wants to can join the ride and come along to the meal too, for a price. Also, anyone else who wants to can join in with the lunch too.

Organisée par le Club de Saint-Just-en-Chevalet, la randonnée est ouverte à tous. Tous les cyclistes (vélo de route à assistance électrique, VTT), de n’importe quel niveau, sont invités à participer à cette manifestation pour sillonner le Pays d’Urfé.

Au programme : 8h départ pour une boucle de 49 km (allure modérée, encadrée par une voiture ouvreuse et une voiture balai sécurisée par les motards de Saint-Germain-Laval) avec une pause à 10h à la Salle des fêtes de Saint-Priest-la-Prugne, 12h Repas partagé ouvert à toutes et à tous (cyclos, non cyclos, habitants), 14h départ pour une boucle de 42 km, 16h30 retour sur Saint-Just-en-Chevalet.

Inscription avant le 10/10. Tarifs : 15€/repas (bénéfices reversés à l’AFM)

Last year the weather wasn’t so good – lots of waterproofs in evidence!

In the afternoon Friend Cathy will help me with the banner. On Sunday morning I’ll be at Church, but I’m going to skive off the cleaning which is happening after the service, as in the afternoon I’ve got to pop over to Friend Mij, to collect some wood turning that her husband has done for Christmas presents. He does some beautiful things, and I’ll show you some of them when I have them.

Up early Monday morning – 6.30 at the latest (YAWN!!) as I’ll need to leave by 7.30 to get to Bonjour World office for 8.30 for my lesson that starts at 9.00!!

Now I have to go and get Pomme into her basket – she’s off to the vets for her injections. I don’t know how she will react…

 

 

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Good things have been done!

I’m writing this on Friday. I think it will get published on Sunday.

Good Thing #1: I made some scones which I took across to Friend M. I made her a card a couple of weeks back, to encourage her while she was in rehab, and she came back home on Wednesday. We went to see her, and her partner, M, and it was such a pleasure to see her looking so much better. She looked brighter and cheerier, and explained a little about what she had been through. And she said firmly “Now I’m drinking nothing but water!” Good for her. We are hoping to re-start our card evenings, where we try to teach them cribbage and they try to teach us Tarot. (Don’t worry – it’s NOT reading tarot cards. It’s just the name of a card game.)

Here are the scones. I may have put one or two in the freezer for us!!

Good Thing #2: M, her partner, said he was driving down to Clermont today with someone from the village, to take clothes and shoes to a centre for refugees and migrants in Place 1ere Mai. I had already sorted out a bag of various bits and bobs, as I changed my wardrobe over yesterday…Autumn draws on and I’m thinking about fleeces! But Mr FD’s wardrobe is a mess.

Here’s a photo of the camp that is starting to grow in Clermont Ferrand

So I encouraged him to first go through the mountain of discarded shoes at the bottom of the coat wardrobe in the downstairs room. Some were too badly damaged to be given away, but there were five pairs that, although they were a bit battered, or rubbed Mr FD’s feet, were certainly good for a season’s wear. The really horrid ones have been set aside to go to the tip. Then he emptied his wardrobe upstairs and went through a pile of jumpers and tops that he doesn’t wear – they’re too short, or too small, or he doesn’t wear them…There were a few I was tempted to appropriate, until I remembered I had loads of clothes and these were going to people who were going to struggle to get through the winter. We took five bags of stuff across to M for him to take – including some hats and scarves which we don’t wear now.

Good Thing #3: While we were there M gave us an orange box full of peaches and one full of apples. To be honest, I think he was glad to be getting rid of them! So I skinned, chopped and sorted out the bruised bits from all the peaches, and made several freezer boxes full of peach compote/purée. Then Mr FD peeled and cored about half the apples – the other half were too damaged and bruised to be used. We could have gone through and picked and chopped the good bits but we already have boxes of stewed apple in the freezer and there’s a limit to how much one needs. But the leftovers are at least going to the composting bin at the tip.

Good Thing #4: I’ve prepared dinner for the Poor Cats. I fed them on Wednesday, and I’m due to feed them today as well. I used up some refused food from our Not-So-Poor Cats, plus a couple of tins of fairly cheap cat food. This gets mixed with hot water and a load of biscuits, which then makes a good mash for them to eat. Over the weekend I hope to also use some polystyrene sheets that Friend Richard gave me, to insulate their shed. I’m going to Emmaus with Friends Richard & Cathy, so I’ll see if I can pick up some cheap duvets/ blankets to help make the shed warmer for the winter.

Even though I didn’t get to do my ironing as I had hoped to do, we both feel that we’ve done Good and Useful Things today!

Are we sure they’re not Belgian…?

The Boring Old Farts decided to join in a little with the Fete Patronal last night. We had already arranged with Richard that we could stay the night with him, as Saturday night is always the noisiest and longest drawn out of the Fete, and he invited us and Friend Cathy up for a meal. It was very nice – we had mozzarella,tomato & avocado salad, with a green salad. Then a delicious vegetable gratin, breaded cod, new potatoes and peas, and then the Banoffi Pie that I took up. After this we decided to come back to the village to watch the Son et Lumière display and the fireworks. We were a bit late, so we missed the procession of stilt walkers – or so we thought! Actually, the stilt walker (singular) was a part of the S&L display.

He and his LED lit companions arrived in the square, and after a delay of about 10 minutes started their slightly surreal display – juggling and spinning sparkler-like fireworks, leaping on sprung stilts, skipping on stilts. It was quite amazing.

One of them was high up on a trolley affair, playing the role of the Queen, I think, as the other performers would bow to her and she appeared to be directing their actions. As I said, there was one stilt walker, on these sprung stilts, so he leapt, and bounded around at great speed; there were two other performers who span these firework/ sparkler things around with great alacrity and skill. It was, quite frankly, not what I had expected at all, but very good.

 

My photos are rather disappointing: I don’t have the knack of using my phone to take photos, so these really only give a poor flavour of what was going on.

We had to feed the cats and check that they were OK with all the noise, so we went back to the house to watch the firework display from the balcony.

While the display was very impressive (although my photos certainly aren’t) I copuldn’t help feeling very sorry for the Poor Cats (the feral cats that I feed) and wondering if they’d found a place where they might feel safe from the horrid flashy banginess that was going on not too far from their home.

Not our display, but a better photo. Not taken by me!

I may go aong to the Place this afternoon to watch the Waiter’s Obstacle Course – it might be quite fun.

By the way, the title for this post comes from our belief that Belgians are really rather weird. This stems from our trip to the Christmas Market at Brussels, where there was the most amazing carousel – not with ponies, or tea cups, or motor bikes, as you would find on normal carousels, but with wooden articulated caterpillars and huge spiders.

There was another, with a tiny rocket, with just one seat in it, which went directly upwards, as the carousel went round, through a hole in the canopy, and then down again, with the face of the occupant peering out through the window.

Not only that, but the nativity scene in the main square included lit up sheep (in blue, red and green), some of which had evidently escaped and set up their home on the balcony of the Town Hall… And, of course, there is the Atomium (I couldn’t remember the name so I googled “Brussels Ball Thing” Google knew what I wanted!!); it pleases me that in 2013 CNN named this as the World’s Most Bizarre Building! We visited – you can go inside – and yes, it is bizarre!

So, having watched last night’s rather strange and bizarre Son et Lumière spectacle, I turned to Mr FD and said “Are we sure they’re not Belgian…?” because all the evidence points towards it…!

It’s started…Boring Old Farts Unite!

No one told us about this when we moved here!

This isn’t “our” Fete but gives an idea of what it’s like

Every year the village has its Fete Patronal. We knew about that. What we didn’t know when we bought the house is that it sets up in the square outside  – a bumper cars, a mini roundabout, a mini dodgems, and RIGHT outside the house (so it’s a bit difficult getting out of the gate!) a huge Casino lorry that opens out to have slot machines and other arcade games. Round the corner is a shooting gallery, various crane-grab games and Hook-a-Duck, and a Wheel of Death ride.

In the past Mr FD has “had words” with the fairground people, which ended up with him getting threatened by a man weilding a metal bar, which wasn’t fun. Since then we’ve mostly just “sucked it up” as they say, and try to avoid the worst of it by going away on Saturday night…usually staying at friends’ houses out of the village. The Fete starts, on a small scale, on Friday, with the rides open, and then is full on for Saturday and Sunday, often not finishing until 2 am on Saturday night. You can imagine the noise with the bells-and-whistles-and-sirens of the rides, the music, the loudspeakers, the crowds… Sunday evening it closes about midnight – unless the weather is intemperate. You can imagine that we might just be praying for rain over this weekend… (because we’re boring old farty Killjoys!!)

This is this year’s programme:

It looks like a great time (if you like that sort of thing!) We’re not up for spoiling anyone’s fun, but it’s not much fun for us.

Actually, with the “Objectif Mars: Spectacle et animation” and the Course de garçon de café (a waiters’ race?) it seems to be getting bigger and more elaborate than in previous years. There are stilt walkers too!! (I’ve just looked up “Defilé de rue déambulation échassier“) Maybe we should go to the Vin d’honneur , get pickled and tryto enter into the spirit of things! It would probably make things better for us!

They’ve started the set up already (Thursday afternoon) with the big Dodgems going up on Tuesday. This afternoon they are trying out their sound system, so we have quite a lot of thumpy thumpy music going on. I think we must be getting old and grumpy, because I feel we should enjoy this as part of village life, and the programme looks exciting but it’s just not quite “us”. Added to which, I always feel terribly sorry for the Poor Cats whose territory gets invaded with the noise of fireworks and crowds. They must get terrified.

This year we’re decamping to Friend Richard’s house. He might be away, but he’s happy for us to stay in his house. The cats are OK with the fireworks if the shutters are all closed so we’ll be off. And locking the gate, as otherwise our courtyard is used as a convenient pissoire!

Grumble…grumble…complain…moan…

A Photo an Hour (Epic Fail)

I always like these posts when people, like Bev at Confuzzledom, do them; they give a glimpse into other people’s lives. I’m very nosy, and enjoy these pockets of every day lives, lived in other parts of the world. I guess it’s the same reason that I love those lit-up seconds peering into windows as ytou go past on the train or bus.

There’s usually an official day to do “A Photo An Hour” but I always miss it. So on Saturday I thought I would do my own.

I woke up quite late – Mr FD had got up earlyish to go for a ride. The Club were leaving at 8.30, but he decided not to go. He woke me up to tell me that he wasn’t going… Thanks, love.

So I didn’t take a photo immediately on getting up. I had my bottom half shower/top half sponge wash – it’s not been quite as bad as I expected, not properly showering, or using deodorant, but I guess that’s because I’ve not really exerted myself very much! Then I had my breakfast and browsed FB. Here is my breakfast tray (finished)

9.30

I had half juice/half water, coffee, a slice of buttered toast and an apple. The little dish is for all my tablets – glucosamine, plant sterols, Omega-3 oil, plus three “medical” tablets for various ailments. I set the alarm on my phone for 1 hour hence, and read my book.

10.30

At 10.30 I had gone out to buy some yoghurt in the Bio Shop. They only had vanilla-with-chocolate-bits-in so I didn’t buy any. It is deliciously creamy yoghurt, so I can’t imagine it’s that good for you, but I don’t want chocolate adding more not-good-for-you-ness! I want the mango yoghurt back please!

There’s a queue at the boulangerie, which is decked out in French flags – I’m not sure if it’s for Bastille Day (which is today, Saturday- or at least “today” the day I’m writing about.) or for the World Cup final tomorrow (which is today, the day I’m writing this!)  in which France is playing Croatia. I join the queue to buy our usual Petrisane Graine – a softer baguette, made with seeds. I was tempted by the cakes, but didn’t succumb. (I’m writing this on Sunday, as a scheduled post for Wednesday. I did succumb today – a strawberry tartlet to share between the two of us!)

Unfortunately I forgot to set my alarm for the next hour – so it wasn’t until 4.00 in the afternoon, when I next looked at my phone that I realised I hadn’t taken any photos in the intervening five-and-a-half hours! Mind you, it wouldn’t have been very interesting:

11.30 Sat at the computer

12.30 Eating lunch (sausage sandwich)

13.30 Zentangling

14.30 Zentangling

15.30 Having a lie down.

16.30 Still having a lie down

17.30 Chopping up green peppers for a beef stroganoff

18.30 Stirring the beef stroganoff.

19.30 Watching TV – an interesting programme from the author of H is for Hawk, about training a goshawk. (Having eaten the beef stroganoff in the intervening hour)

20.30 Watching TV – Doctor Who on i-player

21.30 Watching TV – an epiosode of “Picnic at Hanging Rock” that had been recorded.

22.30 Going to bed…reading, then lying awake until about midnight worrying about how we’d get out of the house in the case of a fire. This is because the smoke alarm had gone off for no apparent reason earlier in the evening, so I was worried about an undetected fire smouldering somewhere. How would we get out of our third floor bedroom window? Could we carry a cat in a bag (Bib was on the bed)? Would the other cats survive? Could we get onto the roof? Was the ladder in the study, under the eaves? What’s the number for the Pompiers? Would a rope made of torn up duvet cover hold our weight? How quickly would our old, wood filled house burn? Actually, it is a valid worry, and something we have thought about, but not in great detail. Perhaps we should…

Anyway – a photo an hour? Hmm. So much for that idea!

Everybody needs good neighbours…

Neighbours,
Everybody needs good neighbours
Just a friendly wave each morning
Helps to make a better day

Neighbours,
Need to get to know each other
Next door is only a footstep away

Neighbours,
Everybody needs good neighbours
With a little understanding
You can find the perfect blend

You may, or may not, recognise the lyrics from the “Neighbours” theme. Rather trite, but actually quite true. Good neighbours can make a big difference, and in France, there is La Fete des Voisins to encourage people to get to know their neighbours a little better. It was started in the 1990s, I think, by someone who lived in an appartment block in Paris, and had the misfortune to find one of his elderly neighbours had died, and nobody had noticed. He realised that there wasn’t enough “neighbourliness” and so the following year he invited his neighbours for a drink to get to know everyone better. It snowballed from there, becoming a national movement, and now a certain date each year is designated La Fete des Voisins. This year it was in May, but our part of the village Le Coeur du Village (the heart of the Village) had their Fete yesterday, on 7th July. Why not?

Everyone who lives in the centre of the village was invited – each paying 10€, and asked to bring something (a salad, a dessert etc). There were about 30 of us there this year, and we invited Friend Cathy along, as her part of the village don’t have a Fete. Mostly because she lives in a hamlet of 4 houses – one of which is a holiday home, and another of which belongs to good friends, so she’s often there for a drink anyway!

It started at 12.00, so we went round to the Place de l’Eglise at about 12.10, and were among the first to arrive, of course! French timekeeping can be very imprecise at these events! Slowly people gathered, and there were drinks, and nibbles – pizza, quiche, crisps, gougères and so we happily tucked in. Bien sur!

The Mayor was there – he attends all these kind of events, if only at the beginning. We like our Mayor, and are sad that this is his last term of office. He has been good for the village. I also think he is quite good looking!

M. le Maire opens the rosé. He knows how to attract the voters!

There were big pergolas/ gazebos set out, with tables and chairs underneath, which provided shade, and we stood/sat and chatted among ourselves. Photos were taken for the local newspaper, and then we were called to help ourselves to salads. There were lots of delicious things: green bean salad, tomato salad, pasta salad, grains with feta and cucumber, coleslaw, a vegetable terrine. I was loading my plate when a little thought occurred to me: Is this the starter or the main course? I asked Dominique, one of the organisers, and she confirmed it was the starter…OK, stop putting things on your plate now!

After this, we had barbecued sausages and brochettes. It struck me how, in the UK, one would normally have the meat and salads altogether, but here in France it is normal to have the salads as a starter and eat the meat unaccompanied. I went back and got some more green beans and coleslaw, as just meat was a bit much.

Cheese followed – just a box of Comtesse de Vichy, a local creamy cheese, and then desserts. The baker had provided a huge Tarte aux Pommes, there was chocolate mousse, fruit salad, and I took along a White Chocolate and Ginger cheesecake. I wasn’t sure how well this would go down, especially with its caramel-chilli topping, but it was very well received. Here’s a link to the recipeNote that in the recipe I said you can use sweet chilli sauce for the topping. That’s a bit daft really, as this sauce has garlic in…so ignore that. This time I used a prepared toffee sauce and just added about half a teaspoon of chilli powder.

After lunch – by now it was about 4 o’clock – we sat and chatted, and Cathy and I talked about how we could buy the Hotel Moderne (which was opposite) and turn it into flats…IF we had the money, of course! Nice idea!

At about 5 o’clock, we decided to leave, so we said our goodbyes, and were asked “Are you coming back this evening?” WHAT?! There’s more?! We diplomatically said “We’ll see…I’m a bit tired…” and left. We’d had enough food and drink to last until next week! And, actually, I was a bit too tired to be very sociable again.

It was a really enjoyable time though, and of course, it’s always good to be involved in village events, to show that we are happy to integrate and to be part of village life. We can now say Hello to more people.

The Tour* comes to Town

* but no, not THAT Tour

I may have mentioned (once or twice!) that Mr FD rides a bike with the St Just cycle club

Let’s be honest, quite a lot of our social life and many of our holidays involve the Cycle Club in some form!

Mr FD in action, somewhere outside Frejus.

Les Cyclos de St Just

Anyway, on Saturday, a big cycle race came to town – not as big as the Tour de France, but a professional race nonetheless – Le Tour du Pays Roannais –

and Les Cyclos had responsibility for providing lunch for the organisers, and also running the Buvette – the drinks stall. They were also selling sausage & chips to the general public. I couldn’t help, being still very fatigued (and being en route back from Clermont on Saturday morning) but everyone pitched in, including Friend Cathy.

Obviously, before the big day, Mr FD (as part of the Cycle Club committee) was very busy, organising things, borrowing, buying, sorting out stuff, sourcing barbecues and fridges. Then from 7.00 am on the day he, and many others, were erecting the pergolas, setting up the barbecue, and chip fryers, cooling beers and wine and soft drinks ready for service. When I arrived it was all in full swing, very well-organised and running smoothly.

The start line was right outside our house. And I mean “right outside”

From the dining room window!

A rather blurry photo, showing our house, with the “stage” just in front, and the start line is just to the left, out of shot

I went outside to sit in the shade, and to be a part of the proceedings, even if I couldn’t do much. Here’s the Buvette to the right, with all the organisers sitting down to their sausage & chips meal. As you can see, all the Cyclos were wearing their cycle shirts (red/yellow/green blobs under the pergola)

For some reason there were two gentlemen dressed up in women’s clothing…as is often the way. What is it with French mean dressing as women?!

And not even “sexy” women. Les Dawson, eat your heart out!

Later on, the teams were introduced to the rather small crowd of spectators. These are young riders, making their way through the rankings, in local, regional teams for the moment, but looking to make it to the big teams who ride in the international competitions. There was a team from Martinique, for example, one of the DOM/TOMS*, and other regional teams.

Here you can see one of the teams being introduced. This team includes the current wearer of the Green jersey, which is the leader in the points competition – usually (but not always) a sprinter. Points are awarded for coming 1st, 2nd etc in each day’s racing, but there are usually intermediate sprints included in the race route, allowing those who are fastest over a certain distance during the race to gain more points.

At precisely the correct time, our Mayor was given the honour of starting the race, and the riders rolled away

By now I was flagging, because of the heat, so I took a couple of photos, and then retired to the cool of the house, where I fell asleep. The teams cycled a loop around the village and its environs, passing through once more about 20 minutes later, and then away into the countryside towards their final destination. I was woken by the motorcycle outriders all hooting their horns to clear the route ahead of the cyclists, but I couldn’t be bothered getting up to wave them on.

Then it was all over! Mr FD and the Cyclos dismantled everything, finishing off the chips-and-sausages that were remaining, getting everything put away, returned to where it should be…and then finally collapsing with a pint glass of juice to watch the football.

Well done the Cyclos!

 

* DOM/TOMS = Départements d’outre-mer, Territoires d’outre-mer, which are French overseas departments and territories. So, just like Loire is a departement in Fraqnce (Departement 42) so there are departements overseas, including Guadeloupe and Martinique. This wikipedia page gives more information