Would you like to join me?

As regular readers will know, I have a little 1 km circuit around the village, that I have endeavoured to do every day – fatigue after chemo permitting. Although I had my last chemo on 7th June it took me until Saturday 16th before I could even face trying the walk. I shuffled round, stopping every 100 metres or so to catch my breath. Every day it has become a little easier, although I have still ended up breathless. Yesterday I paused at the bank to pay in a cheque, and the assistant was obviously very concerned that I was going to collapse all over his nice clean floor. I reassured him that I just needed a moment or two, but he still eyed me with suspicion.

Today I didn’t have a stop for a sit-down – which is a first – and, although I was breathing heavily, it wasn’t quite the “give me oxygen, I’m going to die!” way of breathing that had so concerned the bank employee. But maybe the reason I didn’t need to stop was because I was pausing to take photographs to share with you. So, would you like to join me on my walk?

Say “goodbye” to Millie, who is sitting on yesterday’s junk mail and eying us up balefully…

… leave the house, turn right and right again, and follow the snicket down the back of the church…

… cross the road, and go past the old Hotel Moderne. Sadly, not looking so “moderne” now! I imagine it would be wonderful if it could be renovated! In its heyday, St Just had over 20 hotels, as people would come from Roanne, and further afield, for the fresh mountain air. There was a sanitorium as well for those needing recovery from lung illnesses. Roanne is the nearest big town, and, of course, was heavily industrialised.

We continue down the road, and come to this cottage, which I have always liked the look of

There’s often a friendly retriever pup in the front garden, who barks enthusiastically when people go past, but not today. I assume he’s only put outside when his owners are out.

Not all the houses are old fashioned, however. Although St Just was at its busiest during the 20s and 30s, building work has continued to occur around the village. Opposite the cottage there used to be an orchard, with sheep grazing, chickens scurrying around and a large aviary of various fancy birds. However, about two years ago work started on a new Parish centre and, I think, a priest’s house. I don’t quite know the state of play priest-wise, in St Just, but I imagine that if there is a permanent priest based here, he will be in charge of several parishes. At least he has a nice modern house to live in, instead of a draughty old Presbytry!

We continue along this road, saying “bonjour” to a grandfather playing in goal to his grandson (I’m not sure why grandson wasn’t in school. They haven’t broken up for summer yet)  I would have taken a photo of their amazingly neat vegetable patch, but maybe that would have been a bit intrusive as they were playing football right next to it.

The road descends, and one of my favourite views opens up

I’m not sure if you can see it (click on the photo to biggify) but nestling in the trees in the mid ground is the Chateau de Contenson, one of four chateaux in the immediate surrounds. Here is a view of Contenson

The owners are the Rochetaillé family, after whom the square in front of our house is named. This chateau was built in the 1880s, but there has been a chateau of some form on this spot since the 1300s. During WW1 it was a hospital, and in WW2 sheltered resistance fighters. The current owners breed horses, and are very into their horse racing – there are two race courses not too far from here, at Vichy and Feurs.

You can’t see it, but another of the chateaux in the area is in my photo. In the hills facing us are the ruins of the Chateau d’Urfé, which is a lovely place to take visitors, as you can see for miles from the top of the tower. But, anyway, on with our walk…

Another pleasant view of mountains, trees, green!! Well, we have had quite a lot of rain recently.

Turn right again at the junction, and start heading into the centre of the village again. From this road you can look over the “industrial” part of St Just

Here you can see a scierie or wood yard, plus the cheese factory and the velour (velvet) factory.

If you like pepper and garlic, it’s worth seeing if you can find Gaperon cheese; this is one of our local cheeses, as is La Comtesse de Vichy, a triple-crème cheese o rival Brillat-Saverin.

The velour factory is, I believe,  the only remaining factory in France producing this material. It was constructed at the end of the 19th century, and still uses traditional techniques to create the fabric. In fact the velvet used in the Coronation robes of Elizabeth II was made here!

Turning around from this view, we can see the house of our good friends, Louis and Odette

Quite often, their dog Tim-Tim (a hunting spaniel, of some description) will bark at me as I walk past, but not today. They will often look after YoYo, their daughter’s golden retrieber, as well, so there’s quite a cachophony. But all was quiet today.

Continuing back along this road, there’s another view of the church

and we go past the bench where I often have to sit to catch my breath to where there’s one of the many crosses scattered around the area. I know France is/ was a Catholic country, but I’m often amazed at how many little crosses like this there are. I wonder why there are so many – are they relics of a time before the village expanded, and were placed at crossroads as wayside shrines, or waymarkers? This one seems too modern for that…

You can see my bench in the background of this picture, and as I sit there, I often get a whiff of a beautiful scent. I have no idea what it is, but today I tracked it down to this bush, which was humming with the noise of bees, busily collecting nectar.

 

Is it orange blossom? I am no botanist, but it smelt divine.

We turn right again, and the road rises a little. It is this part of the walk that often tires me out so much that I need another sit down at the top, but not today! At the top of the rise, heading into the centre of the village we come across the Mairie:

To help you get your bearings, the church is situated diagonally opposite the Mairie. The bench I usually collapse onto is just outside the door, beneath the flags.

On the wall of the Mairie is proudly displayed this stone plaque:

Between 1940 and 1944 numerous Jewish families found refuge in St Just en Chevalet and its environs.

Tracked and searched for by the occupying forces and the Vichy government they were saved, thanks to the goodness and courage of certain inhabitants.

The descendants of these families honour these citizens who, in full knowledge of the risk they were undertaking, welcomed and hid them, therefopre saving them from certain death.

One of the old neighbours of our friends was a member of one of these families, and told stories of how, when there were rumours of a rafle – a round-up – due to be carried out by the Nazis, the Jewish children who were being hoidden, would be spirited away into the surrounding woods and countryside.

Finally we reach the boulangerie, where I pause to buy a Petrisane, which is a type of baguette. The bakers makes two types, nature and graine (white, or granary) Both are very nice and at 1€ each, they won’t break the bank. I’m not eating them at the moment, as my mouth is still a little sensitive, but I’ll be back chewing on them soon!

In the picture you can see also pizza, sold by the slice, and petits quiches (two types: ham-and-cheese, or tuna-and-tomato) The lurid pink bun-like thing at the top of the counter is a brioche pralinée, another speciality of the area. Brioche is a sweet dough, and the praline is tooth-numbingly sweet as well. To the left of the till, there are mini-brioches pralinées, plus croissants, pains-au-chocolat and other sweet treats. I didn’t photograph the cakes on offer, but there is always a good selection, using seasonal produce – so there are a lot of fraisiers, strawberry tarts, and fruit based gateaux during the summer months. I will sometimes buy one between us for a Sunday treat.

Then it’s back home, to have a refreshing apple-and-elderflower juice drink. And have a sit-down!

I hope you enoyed joining me on my walk.

 

Advertisements

Le Col de la Loge

Thursday was a beautiful Spring day, and Mr FD went out cycling with a friend. As I hadn’t done my Mile-in-15-minutes workout, I decided to go for a walk somewhere. I wanted to go somewhere different, so decided to go to the Nordic ski-station about 30 minutes from here, called Le Col de la Loge. It is in the Forez mountains, which seperate our departement, Loire, from the next, which is Puy de Dome. (As always, click on the photos to see them in more detail, should you wish to.)

As is often the case at these cols, there is a Madonna in a cage. However, I was surprised to see that this one wasn’t very old, with a date – 1967 –  scratched into the concrete below the statuette. I always imagine these things having been there for centuries.

It’s a pleasant place, surrounded by pine forests, with various ski-pistes. These, of course, are now closed to skiers this year, as there is no longer enough snow to ski on. There was still quite a bit on the paths though, so I had to be careful at times – especially when the path sloped downwards.

I decided to walk the shortest track, which was 3 km long. I wasn’t totally convinced that I wouldn’t find this a bit too long, but I thought that I ought to push myself a little – after all, my specialist told me to get out for walks in the sunshine, and I’d been managing my mile workouts. This was going to be at an altogether gentler pace!

As I followed the track there was a little bit of bird song, but not much, and otherwise silence…I paused as I went along, just to listen to the nothingness.

After 1.5 km the view opened up, out towards the Auvergne, and le Puy de Sancy, which is a ski resort over in the next departement. But that is downhill ski-ing, rather than Ski du fond, or Nordic skiing.

Which way now? Don’t take the wrong route, as you’ll be walking for miles!

The route took me away from the view, and back into the forest

All around this area forestry is a big industry, and so even somewhere like this is managed. The pistes are used in summer months to collect the cut trees, and from time to time one comes across rather ugly areas where the trees have been cut down, and the wood removed

There are lots of these scrubby areas around the vilage too, and it’s sometimes hard to remember that this is an industrial area (of a sort!) and not to think “what a shame to spoil the area”! There are lots of scieries (saw mills) around, and it’s not unusual to have huge log carrying lorries, like the one below, thundering through the village…often going faster than they really should be travelling, which is why we don’t let the cats out! It can be remarkably frustrating to get caught behind one of these on the twisting road to Roanne, as it’s difficult enough to overtake them on the bendy roads, but even more so in a R-hand drive car when you can’t really see the road ahead!

 

I was getting quite tired, so it was a pleasure to see the little Fiat waiting for me, when I emerged from the trees. The people in the other car were the only other souls that I saw on the entire walk.

 

I was tempted to go to the restaurant for a hot chocolate, but it was all closed up…I don’t suppose there’s that much business once the cross country skiing is finished

.

With a last photo of the Madonna, I drove home, taking my time, and repeating to myself how much I’d enjoyed my walk – somewhere slightly different, in the Spring sunshine. I paused to take a photo of the other side of the Forez, looking towards the Loire valley, and towards home.

I have joined in with the “All About France” linky, with this post, so I’m including this little badge

and suggesting you might visit this site to read others’ contributions. Go on, you know you want to!!

 

Last week’s struggles (!)

So what did I get up to?

On MONDAY evening, I went with Friend Cathy to a Nordic walking group – sadly there were only the two of us, plus the leader, so she doesn’t think she’ll carry the group on. It’s a shame, as it was at a good time: between 6.30 & 7.30, so not too late to have dinner afterwards. There is a group on Monday mornings, which I might try to get to when I’m not working.

I did find there was more to it than “walking with poles” and Laure, the leader, was less than complimentary about my “body conciousness”. However with arthritis in both  knees, a wobbly right ankle and foot, plus a crumbling disc or two, it doesn’t matter how concious I am of my body, I know that it hurts from time to time! She suggested I went to her exercise class on Monday evening, but I can’t see me keeping it up TBH. So I won’t.

So, on Monday I did 1 hours Nordic walking.

WEDNESDAY: 2 km round the Port in Roanne. From this aerial shot, you can see my route

Start at the car park in the top left hand side of the picture, down the right of the basin, over the footbridge (1 km) then down the other side, between the canal and the river. A little bit extra at the end to make it up to 2 km. There! Done at a pace of 11.55 mins/km. Not too shabby. But not too quick, either.

I know I should have gone for a walk on either Thursday or Friday, as both days I was only working half day, but somehow I just couldn’t be arsed.

On Saturday it was lovely weather outside – inside the house it was cold. The house, which is old & stone, has taken on its winter chill, and the warm sun outside wasn’t making much impact, so I thought I should ghet out into the sun. I borrowed Mr FD’s walking poles, (a little too tall for me, and jammed into their height. I couldn’t twist the mechanism to change the height.) and headed out.

I completed 4.35 km, and although my pace is down on Map My Walk as 12.58 minutes/km, I reckon I can take about 1 minute off that, for pauses made when taking off my jumper (hot!!), getting tangled in my poles, stopping for a breath and forgetting to press “Pause Workout” and so on. Even so, 11.58 isn’t great, but with the poles I felt I’d had more of a workout than without them. They do also mean I seem to walk faster – though that may not be the case!

The only problem is that, due to being shaky on my balance, I do have to watch the ground constantly, when I’m walking off road, which means I don’t get to look at the countryside. Which is a bit sad.

I thought about going out on Sunday too, but got very involved in drawing Celtic knots – fascinating work! – so didn’t.

Piddling with rain today, so I’m not going out in that, and working all tomorrow. However, a cancelled lesson on Wednesday means that I have time for a longer walk. That will be the one I did the Wednesday before last, round the Gravel pits

You can’t quite see it all on this photo, as the route goes round the lower lake (bottom right hand corner) then up between the river & the lake, to where you see the first tree lined path splitting the lakes. Past the horses in the fields, and the house/visitor centre (R-H side of pic) and back to the car. 3.28 km, which I did last time at 11.53 min/km. Let’s see if I can shave a couple of seconds off that, shall we?!

Exercise (or lack of it!)

Oh dear…My 10 minutes every day hasn’t done too well!

Although I have managed a few walks this week:

Tuesday: 1.5 km at an average pace of 11.47 minutes per km

Wednesday: 3.28 km at an average of 11.53 minutes per km

Saturday: 2.15 km at an average of 12.07 minutes per km.

I had been planning to do a walk on Friday too, but somehow, when it got to Friday lunchtime I couldn’t be arsed and I preferred to sit in the sunshine with my book and a delicious Vegetarien Gourmand sandwich – creamy cheese, carrot, marinaded courgette, edema beans, and a delicious dressing, in crusty, seedy baguette.

None of the walks were done at any great pace, as they are nowhere near the 12 kph that is apparently brisk walking. Mind you, I had a virtual conversation with the lovely Mrs M who is slim and fit and does lots of walking/running which went like this:

I had blogged about having a bit of a tumble, which had put a stop to my walking

  • MRS M: Oh no I was at first reading thinking yes this is great but then ouch! I hope you aren’t too badly bruised and can get back into a routine again soon!
  •  FAT DORMOUSE: I’ve managed a couple of walks since then…but I have thought again about the recommended 12 kph an hour. That seems impossible! My maths was wrong (twice!) and I’ve worked out that I am doing 1.6 km in about 21 minutes. So that’s nowhere near 12 kph. It’s more like 4.8 km/h Which is ridiculously slow compared to what I’m supposed to be doing. But 12 kph requires you to do 1 km in 5 minutes. Is that possible, without running? I was fairly knackered after my miserable effort! I think I shall not bother about trying to reach 12 kph at the moment, but just get on with walking in a way that makes me breathless. Sorry. This isn’t a “reply”, it’s another blogpost!! 🙂
  • MRS M: There is no way you can walk 1km in 5 minutes! I walked 4k in 17 minutes the other day and I wasn’t out of breath but felt like it was far enough! I think as long as you keep going at a pace you can manage you are doing some good. You will be able to walk further and quicker in time, try not to over think it 😊

***

1 km in 5 minutes does seem a bit scary. Especially as I’m doing my kilometres in more than double that. Still, I suppose if I could get it down to 1 km in 10 minutes that would be good.

And no walk today. It’s piddling down. Maybe next week!!

Brisk – or not so brisk – walking.

The past week temperatures have soared – getting into the car yesterday, after work, the thermometer read 42°C – which has meant lurking indoors, with shutters & windows closed, drinking lots and perspiring unattractively. I do – none of this “ladies only glow” for me; I’m afraid I need to take a large hanky with me everywhere for mopping up purposes.

Last week there were Shock!Horror!Probe! headlines about how a large number of adults in the UK do less than 10 minutes brisk walking per month, and just 10 minutes brisk walking per day can help reduce risk of early death etc. Mr FD pointed me in the direction of these reports, and said “You could take notice or you could just sit there and die!!!!” Which did seem over-dramatic, but I kind of get his point.

Trans:If your wheel’s broken, you better make your way on foot.

So, last Friday, at 3.00 pm (which was really rather stupid, taking into account the heatwave) I went for a brisk(ish) walk. Now, I will acknowledge that my idea of brisk probably isn’t the medical definition of brisk, but I thought that I might need to build up to that. So 1.6 km actually took 25 minutes or so. And I could have filled a small sea with the sweat that was rolling off me by the end!

Saturday’s walk was more sensibly planned, and carried out at 8.00 am, when it was still vaguely cool – and before my shower! Sunday’s was at about the same time, and all was going quite swimmingly – I almost felt guilty when I contemplated not doing it. The time that these took was not recorded, but on Monday morning (7.15 am) I decided to “Do It Properly” so I down loaded Map My Walk onto my phone, and so I can tell you that I did 1.66 km in 22.15 minutes, which equates to 13.22 minutes per km. This does not equate with the medical definition,of brisk, which reads: A brisk walking pace is 3.0 miles per hour or about 20 minutes per mile, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In International units, that is about 5 kilometers per hour or 12 minutes per kilometer So, I have to shave quite a bit off my pace, but for the present I shall say that at least it left me out of breath – especially on the uphill bits!

EDITED TO ADD: Actually I think my maths was wrong (no surprise there!) and if my average was 13.22 kph I am managing to walk at a faster pace than the brisk 12 kph we are being advised. However, I am starting to think that the 13.22 may have been a maximum pace, meaning that much of the walk could have been more leisurely! I will need to check that.

All looking good to continue…until I managed to fall on Monday evening. Coming out from a friend’s house I somehow fell down three steps onto the gravel path. I still have no idea what happened – I had had 2 Pimms & a glass of wine, but felt clear headed and not at all tipsy – I just think I thought that there wasn’t a step where there was one, so there wasn’t the solid ground I was expecting when I put my foot down, but I’m not certain.

Luckily I whacked my head on the ground, rather than the sharp metallic edge of the steps, but it left me shaken, bruised and slightly whip-lashed in the neck. My ellbow has a pretty impressive graze too.Today (Wednesday) I feel less stiff, and my kiné guy worked on my neck this morning, but with a large & painful bruise on my left thigh I certainly don’t feel like trying a brisk walk!

All of which has rather scuppered the Getting-Slightly-Fitter plan.

Never mind. I’ll start again at the weekend, and hope that I don’t end up falling over again.

ETA: I didn’t start walking again this weekend – see later post to explain why – but I’m fine after the fall and will start again tomorrow, which is Monday (all being well)

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!