Bastille Day

Yesterday, 14th July, was a public holiday in France – or at least, it would have been, had it not been a Sunday. I do think the British bank holiday system is better: fixed days, usually on a Monday. And if it’s a moveable feast (for example, Christmas Day & Boxing Day) and it falls on a weekend, days get added after the weekend. Splendid! Here in France if the bank holiday falls on the weekend, well, tant pis!, you lose it!

Anyway, there were celebrations going on all over France, to commemorate the storming of the Bastille in 1789. which is recognised as the beginning of the French Revolution. Wikipedia gives you more information about this, should you be interested.

We did no storming of anything however. Our friends who own a restaurant in the next village were having a Mechoui (a spit roast). I had a photo of their poster to put here, but the picture of a spit-roast pig was a bit graphic, and I’m aware that there are some vegetarians who read this, and may not appreciate such photos. Here, however, is a cropped picture of people tucking into the meat

We met up with someone we’ve not seen for ages, and caught up with news on her and her daughters – they came to France 12 years ago, speaking no French at all, and now one of the girls is working in a help-centre for UK customers in France, after 3 years doing languages at University, and the other (who struggled at school) is working as a chef in a hotel kitchen – both loving it! It’s always good to hear about young people doing well.

We had our meal – which was enjoyable, and quite filling – while chatting to a Dutch couple. They had cycled over from St Just, having seen the graphic poster for the meal. They were having a rest day on their epic ride from Holland to Spain! The woman had left her job, and the guy was self employed so had stopped working; they had taken 4 months out to ride to Barcelona (I think) from their home in the Netherlands. It was interesting talking to them & finding out more about their trip.

Then,  Jean-Luc (the owner-chef) and his band played into the afternoon…

…the music was good, but the lyrics (all in English) were mangled. If you didn’t know what they were supposed to be singing you wouldn’t know what they were singing! If you see what I mean.

!

We sat in the sunshine, drinking our Perrier and enjoying the sounds of the 70s and 80s!

Take it away, Jean-Luc! Guitar solo time! (J-L is on the right)

Dire Straits, Beatles, Status Quo, Rolling Stones…all the oldies were there!!

We left about 5.00, but I’m sure folk were there well into the evening, but Mr FD wanted to get home to watch the end of the cricket world cup final, which England won after what I was assured was a nail-bitingly exciting ending.

An enjoyable, relaxed day.

We had had to choose, unfortunately, between this event and the Fete des Voisins meal, which was happening on the same day. We went to this event last year, and it was good fun, but this year we chose to go to Jean-Luc and Traudel’s event. And next year, who knows…

 

Advertisements

An emotional week

It’s been an emotional week this week, and it looks set to continue…

Last Saturday, as I told you, was Michel’s funeral.

On Sunday, driving to church I came across a dead cat in the road. I couldn’t leave it just to get squished by passing traffic – if it had been our cat, I would have liked someone to move it. So I stopped the car (well, actually drove past, continued for about 500m and decided I couldn’t leave it there so I turned round…) and moved him/her to the side of the road. S/he had obviously been hit full on, and had died instantly, but it was still a sad thing. The body was already a little stiff as I picked it up. As I drove on, the emotions of the past few days caught up with me, and I bawled my eyes out – not necessarily the best thing to do on the motorway! When I reached church, someone asked me if I was OK, and I just started crying again!

In the afternoon, I popped across the road to see Monique – it wasn’t for long, but she and I had another weep together.

On Tuesday I had an MRI scan and a scintigraph, to see if we could get to the bottom of my rib/breast pain. The MRI was clear, and the scintigraph showed broken ribs. Which was a relief! It just means I have to wait for it to heal. The scintigraph involved being injected with some sort of radioactive product, waiting for a couple of hours and then going into a huge scanner thing. I spent my two hours going round Noz…(of course!) Then I had a three hour wait before the MRI scan – I took my book and went to MacDonalds for a coffee. I sat there for a good two hours, picking up my empty-save-for-some-milk-froth cup everytime a member of staff walked by – just looking as though I hadn’t quite finished yet! Waiting for tests – and their results – can be exhausting! The MRI scan was uncomfortable and noisy, but not as scary as I had anticipated.

Yesterday evening, Monique asked Mr FD if he would scan and print out some photos of Michel. I think she wants to send them to people. One is a lovely picture of him, that she has in a frame on her table. She’d asked MrFD if she could have it back ASAP, so I took it across to her. I then sat with her for about an hour – talking about “Poulou” and about believing in God, and how she wanted a sign that God was there…So difficult to know what to say in English, never mind in French! We laughed a little, smiled a little, wept a lot. She told me some shocking things I can’t share in the public domain, and we cried some more about how unfair life seems to be… She was glad to have the photo back, so she could look at it while she had her meals…

And now we are looking towards our Rector and his wife leaving. Tonight there’s a get-together in Clermont. Mr FD is coming with me, which I’m glad about. On Sunday there’s a goodbye lunch, and then next Sunday will be their last day.  The two of them and their dog will be leaving to drive to Rome straight after the service (to which the dog is coming!) It will be an emotional time. We are looking forward to the coming months, and discovering how we can pull together as a Church, and what the laity can do, but it is sad to be losing Rob and Caireen who have done so much for Christ Church. They will be sorely missed.

 

My ears feel a little flattened at the moment!

Saying “goodbye” to the dragonfly.

You may remember I have written about our friends Monique & Michel.

Sadly Michel died on Wednesday, having had a stroke on Sunday morning. It was his funeral today – nothing religious, just a ceremony at the cemetary when family and friends read poems, and spoke about their beloved Michel. Some of his favourite music was played, including “Lady in Red” by Chris de Burgh, and “The Sound of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel. He was in a plain pine coffin, and before it was laid in the family tomb, we were invited to go up and write a message on the coffin.

Quietly people queued; there were many people there, testament to his popularity in the village – kind, gregarious, funny, lively…he was all these things.  People had drawn hearts, or written “Thank You”, “We love you”, “Goodbye”, there was even a “Bon Voyage”! When it was our turn, I drew a dragonfly.

Why a dragonfly?

Well, typical of Michel’s funloving nature, he belonged to a group of “majorettes” called “Les Libellules” (the Dragonflies) – all gentlemen! – who performed (usually slightly inebriated!) at various events.

I found it moving that the rest of the troupe formed a “guard of honour” with their red hats and majorette batons at the entrance to the cemetary, and Michel’s own red hat was placed on the top of the coffin, surrounded by red and white flowers.

He shall be missed.

 

You can shed tears that they’ve gone, or you can smile that they have lived.

You can close your eyes and pray that they’ll come back, or you can open your eyes and see the memories that they have left you.

Your heart can be empty because you can’t see them, or your heart can be full with the love  and fun that you’ve shared.

You can turn your back on life yesterday and on life tomorrow, or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.

You can remember them and only that they’ve gone, or you can cherish their memory and let it live on.

You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back, or you can do what they’d want: smile, open your eyes love and go on.

 

A Baby card

Our two local GPs (who are partners) have had a baby. So I made them a card:

Quite simple, but I rather like it. I don’t know whether they had a boy or a girl, so I chose suitably non-gender-related colours of yellow and lilac. The two papers were from a pad of papers I was given, the rosette from a collection bought at Noz, and the heart cut out of a card bought in Noz too. It was an engagement card, with several embossed hearts on it, which has provided many embellishments! All for 0,75€! The ribbon was cut out of a jumper! And the silver letters were also a Noz purchase.

This month in walking… and a history lesson.

I didn’t quite make my walking goal, but I was close enough – as you can see below. February hasn’t started too well, as I did something to my back yesterday morning, and have been in too much pain to do much moving, never mind purposeful walking! So, with February being a short month, I may not make the monthly 60 km. However, if I keep going, I can still make 600 km by the end of October. When the weather is nicer, and the evenings longer, then I will be more inclined to find time and places to walk.

However I have enjoyed my last two Wednesday walks – sadly not as long as I’d planned, as somehow it took me longer than expected to get out of the house. I’ve been having mild panic attacks, and getting extremely anxious about self-imposed tasks or targets. Stupid, I know, as they’re self imposed, but logic doesn’t come into it! Anyway, the first of the enjoyable Wednesday walk was by the Port in Roanne:

As you can see, it was a snowy day, so it had taken me longer to drive down, and I only had about 15 minutes to walk, before the first lesson I was teaching. Still, I had a brisk walk up one side of the marina. As you can see, there are barges and other boats tied up here, as many people come and over-winter here in their houseboats. We know a few of them through Friend Richard, and I met one on line through a FB group too.

The following week, I had planned to do another walk round the Port, but decided instead to walk along the “levée” at the side of the river Loire.

The river has a large flood plain now, since the hydro-electric barrages were bilt further upstream, and is quite shallow. In the past, it was a deep river, and Roanne  was an important trading post ,exporting local products— wines, including casks of Beaujolais that had been shipped overland, ceramics, textiles—and after 1785, coal from St Etienne (an important mining town) which had formerly been onloaded upstream since river improvements at the beginning of the century. Sturdy goods were rafted downriver on sapinières that were dismantled after use.

This postcard shows a Sapinière on the Allier river – closeish to Roanne, but in the Auvergne. The Allier river plain is the next one along to the Loire valley.

Half the population of seventeenth and eighteenth-century Roanne depended in some way on this transportation economy: merchants and factors, carriers, carpenters and coopers, master-boatmen and their journeymen and oarsmen, and waterfront labourers. The other half were probably involved in the textile trade for which Roanne was famous, and later in the armaments industry. Like London, Roanne has a neighbourhood known as Arsenal.

Here’s an old picture of the Port (which is now where the houseboats moor) showing how busy it was.

My walk took me upstream, along the ancient levée, built as a wharf for loading and unloading. I’ve taken this picture from the upper part of the old wharf, looking down at what would have been at river level.

I can’t imagine that the Loire was tidal here – much too far inland! – but you can see the two flights of steps. One from what is now the flood plain, but would have been (I assume) under the river, up to the lower wharf. Then a further flight to the upper part

And here’s the river now.

.

My walk took me on a path between the river, and allotments, mostly beautifully kept, with some very smart sheds, with verandahs, patio heaters and barbecues. There were some less reputable ones too, cobbled together with various materials, but all well kept. I look forward to doing this walk again, in the springtime, but going further than I had time to on this day. I only had time to do 10 minutes one way and 10 minutes back.

I have, however, found that when I walk my knees are quite painful, and my hips also don’t feel “quite right”. I’ve generally felt more out of alignment since I’ve been doing more moving, and having seen the podiatrist, he explained that (because I haven’t changed my insoles since 2016) my walking position is all wrong. My feet are not positioned correctly, thus forcing my knees to point in different directions which twists my hips and my back. I’ve also had neck & shoulder pain, which may be connected to this. I am collecting my new orthopaedic in-soles on Monday, and I’m hoping they will help. I look forward to a miraculous improvement!!

Here’s my walking record to the end of the month:

DAY                                                                    DATE                                  DISTANCE

Sun 20 3
Mon 21 2
Tues 22 3
Wed 23 0.6
Thur 24 0
Fri 25 1.6
Sat 26 3.8
Sun 27 0
Mon 28 2.4
Tues 29 3.2
Wed 30 1.5
Thur 31 0
TOTAL: 58.6

A total of 58.6 km isn’t bad. Some of the distances have been guesstimated a bit – a couple of the Lesley videos stop halfway through and go into something else, so I’m not sure quite how far I’ve walked, but still…I think 58.6 is about right.

Aren’t I lucky?!

I had a company cancel 4 hours of lessons with only 5 hours before I was due to start. That means Hard luck for them, they’ll have to pay for them, but good for me as it means I got to come home at lunchtime, rather than at 17.00; thus missing driving in the dark and the snow that has been forecast.

It’s grey and mibsy and cold so I’ll “do a Lesley” in a while. Mr FD was going to be on cooking duty, but I’ll let him off. This is (near enough) what we’re having: Pavé de cabillaud en croute des herbes but I’m using fresh breadcrumbs rather than packet croutons, & I’m just using parsley with a few dried herbs. We’ll have it with potato wedges, sweet potato wedges, tomato sauce, and green beans. Also I’m using pollock, instead of cod. But apart from that….!!

Other than that, we’re pootling on…

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!

.

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