Even more dregs from the other pot. June 2011- February 2014

June 21st 2011 “Off With the Cyclos” (part 1)

This weekend just gone the Cyclo Club went away to the Cantal area of France – not too far away from here (about 2.5 hours by short route, but 4 by long windy road route) and we stayed in a holiday village  which was perfectly comfortable and pleasant – although the food was not top quality, it more than made up for it in sheer quantity! The only problem was the fact that it was half way up a bloody big hill and when you’ve been out cycling that last 2 km was a killer!

We left at 6.00 am on Saturday, pausing at a pleasant spot for breakfast. You can see a photo of it here – le Chateau du Val. We ate bread, cheese, sausage, chocolate, and drank coffee or wine -for the brave amongst us. Then headed off for the Village. Unfortunately the weather grew worse and worse. I’d already decided not to cycle on Saturday, preferring to spend the time with Claire & Cathy, non cyclists who had come along for the trip. I’m very glad – the reports we got back were of driving rain, low cloud, blue knees and thunderstorms. Mr D’s bike broke 30 km into the ride, so he wasn’t happy (except now he is in the midst of persuading me that he needs a new bike…) but those who did the whole ride were totally wiped out at the end. Steve didn’t manage the final climb

but those who did said the views would have been spectacular – had it not been for the cloud!Our friend Gilles, who hates cold and wet cycling, made it. He really was SO proud! We’re going to make him a medal and present it to him on Friday with aperos at Claire’s house. King of the Mountains indeed!

The non cyclists visited a Museum, which wasn’t terribly interesting. The excursion didn’t start too well. We’d been told that we were leaving at 2.00 so Cathy Claire and I retired to our rooms for a nap. The cyclists left at 1.30, and Cathy and I mumbled “Goodbye..Take care..enjoy” and went back to sleep. Alarms set for 1.45 we woke and started to potter, getting ready. Then Claire arrived “The bus has been tooting. I think they’re waiting for us…” We scurried over to where the bus was waiting “Ah! Les Anglais!” Claire, who speaks French like a native started saying “You told us it was 2.00 …” but was drowned out by jeers (friendly, but jeers nonetheless)  It appears that everyone else had gone out to wave off the cyclists so were all ready to leave at 1.30 as well… Anywhoo…

Our destination was, ostensibly, a museum of Cantal life, in a typical style. Home at one end of the building and barn at the other. While the house part was reasonably interesting – nicely set out with old furniture etc – the rest was a bit of a junk yard, with no order to it. It was as though they had gathered everything they possibly could find and then thought “…And how are we going to display this? Oh, it doesn’t matter. Let’s put it all in one room!” The guide wasn’t terribly inspiring: “Here’s a watering can…that’s a mouse trap…this is an old sewing machine…” He did perk up a bit when people asked questions, but it was difficult to think of many.

We then went to Mauriac, a smallish town, where Claire bought a much needed fleece (she’d come prepared for summer, not Autumn!) and I met a cat-in-a-pharmacy who wanted to climb inside my raincoat. I’d’ve been happy to take him! And then to a Chateau where there was a museum of miniature cars. Most people found this quite interesting.  I wasn’t rivetted. I preferred looking round the chateau which is, in fact, a Chambre d’Hotes. Chateau de la Vigne, if anyone’s interested. The gardens were lovely, with a fine view – but by the time we got there it was lashing down with rain again, so we didn’t really have the opportunity to enjoy the view!

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In the evening we had an apero from the region – white wine, honey, lemon and creme de chataigne (chestnut liqueur) – which slipped down very easily! And then a hearty meal of tartiflette (cheese, ham, potatoes) There was dancing as well, but by 10.00 most people were dropping off to sleep at the table, due to the early start and their exertions in the afternoon. I did one dance and then bailed out. Mr D didn’t even do that!

Time to make dinner. More next time

I continue the story a few days later.

June 28th 2011: “Off with the Cyclos” (Part 2)

think I left you on Saturday night. And so we come to Sunday morning…which is when I said I would ride. Mr D had planned a route, which, he said, followed the Voie Vert (a cycle track following the old railway tracks.) Flat, he said. And, to be fair, that part was flat. The other parts weren’t quite so flat.

Dark words were muttered by all members of the group as we turned a corner and saw an ascent that must have been 1:10. (Well, I say that, but in reality I have no idea what  a 1:10 slope looks like. But it sounds steep. And this was steep.) It was so steep that four of us wobbled to an immediate halt as we tried desperately to change down to the granniest of granny gears without managing it. Roger had a little more success, and got about 50 metres up the road before he came to a wibbly stop, failed to get his feet out of his toe-clips and fell off his bike. Luckily the banks at the side of the road were also steep and grassy, so he didn’t actually fall very far, and ended up leaning at an angle against the grassy verge! The four of us pushed our bikes up the hill for about 500 metres, as it was too steep to get back on the bikes. Only Scary Daniel had managed to keep going, through fierce determination, and he was patiently wating for us at the top of the hill. Then we continued down hill, along road, round the roundabout then heading for home… back to the Voie Vert and only the 2km hill back to the holiday village.

Or So I Thought.

But no, Mr D had kindly popped a small mountain into the route. I was cursing  as I whooped for breath cycling up it.  Even in Total Granny Gear I had to stop for a breather, and a swig of lemon squash…but I managed it! Huzzah For Me! There were choruses of “Merci Monsieur D!” when I reached the top, breathlessly threatening to mercilessly slaughter my husband of 26 years. But by the time I got back I was really so elated that I’d completed the route, that my ritual beating of Mr D with my water bidon was quite half hearted.

Many people had decided not to cycle on Sunday morning, opting for the 8 km hike (poor Mr D had no choice as his bike was dead) or a stroll to the nearest village. The weather was so much beter than yesterday’s – blue sky and sunshine. I’m glad I opted to cycle today!

We got showered, rather hastily, in the one chalet that we’d not yet cleared out of, and then congregated ready for lunch. More of the traditional apero was consumed together with chestnut-and-apple salad, unidentified meat in sauce and vegetables, cheese, tart-and-yoghurt and coffee. We sat out in the sunshine and chatted. Gilles (our friend who had managed the Col de Pas de Peyrol yesterday) was really pleased with himself and saying he deserved a medal. So we decided to make him one and to present it to him next Friday (well, actually, as I’m writing this, it’s now last Friday, but it was next Friday then. IF you see what I mean!)

Then on the coach to head for home, via Salers. Salers is a lovely Medieval town. And is the centre of a proud cheese making industry. So first, we went to visit a Buron which is an old cheese making place.: it’s a shepherd’s hut, now converted into a museum.

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Actually first we went for a rather roundabout trip in the Cantal countryside as our bus driver got lost. He carried out a spectacular several-point-turn in a narrow country lane. I was very impressed. Anyway, when we reached the Buron we were able to taste Salers cheese (very nice) and various liquers too. I was pleased that I (on thewhole) managed to follow the guide’s rapid fire commentary too.

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Here are some of us, having enjoyed our liqueur tasting. We bought some crème de framboise but none of the gentian based Salers liqueur. Claire went a bit mad and bought tons of cheese (we bought a modest 300g or so, but she was buying for her family of three hungry teenagers!) and a couple of bottles of stuff.

And here is the view of the valley where it was situated. Very beautiful.

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It was up in those mountains (and along this valley) that the Guys had cycled in mist/rain/hail/ cold the day before. I think they preferred today’s mode of transport!

We then went to Salers – a very lovely town. Mr D wanted to look at the buildings, but I’m afraid Cathy, Claire & I (and Steve to a certain degree) got very excited about shops! Claire was definitely in spending mood. I bought myself a very nice bracelet and was tempted by some copper engraved earrings, but resisted temptation. I gave Mr D the camera, but the battery died, so he didn’t have much luck. Still,

here is a picture to give you an idea of what it’s like. We had our picnic just outside the village – all provided by the Cyclo club, it was delicious. The younger members of the party amused themselves by having a cherry-stone-spitting competition. I joined in, and they were most impressed until they turned round to look at me in mid “spit” and discovered I was only making a ptoui! noise and throwing the stones! Curses! Foiled again!

Then we were on the road home. We got back to St Just at about 11.15 – I was very aware that I had to be up again at 5.15 the next morning, but it was, all-in-all, a very enjoyable weekend away.

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A post about being a Kitchen Goddess (or not!)

August 5th 2011: “Jam and other related stuff”

When we first came to France – and I wasn’t working (oh happy, happy days!) – I really wanted to be the “earth mother” type, collecting, foraging and living off the land. For the first few times I went out for walks I dutifully took along bags, and collected pinecones to burn, or the odd blackberry or two. But a well-instilled fear of “never-eat-a-mushroom-that-you-don’t-recognise” (that’d be everything besides button mushrooms then…) and a terminal laziness has meant that I wasn’t terribly succesful at the foraging lark. Then Mr D resigned from his lucrative job in London (dam’ thoughtless, I say!) (;-) ) and came to live here so I had to get a job. So lack of time plus the aforementioned terminal laziness meant that I really haven’t done quite as well as I might have done on the “earth mother” front.

I made some nut wine a couple of years back, which I like, but don’t drink very often. M-i-L cleaned us out of that, and I meant to make some more this year, but we forgot to collect the green walnuts, and now it’s too late. Sorry, M-i-L, you’ll have to wait until next year! I made a Peach brandy with some past their best peaches last year – it’s OK, but not wonderful. And the peach wine we made with Michel-across-the-road last year has been very nice. I suppose that, as we don’t often have aperos we don’t drink these things that often. Maybe we should drink a bit more!!! The sloes are looking plentiful this year – perhaps I’ll make sloe gin – although, again, I don’t drink much of the stuff. I think I saw a recipe for sloe chutney a couple of years back on t’internet. That might be a better idea!

My biggest success has been jam & chutney making. I don’t think I’ve bought a pot of jam since 2006, and the only chutney I’ve bought has been mango chutney for our rare curries. Mr D’s favourite is Reine Claude (greengage) jam, while I prefer red fruits, either rhubarb & redcurrant or raspberry and redcurrant. We’ve recently eaten a pot of “Freezer Disaster jam” – made from all the soft fruits that were in the freezer when someone who shall remain nameless but wasn’t Mr D left the freezer door open so everything defrosted. It was predominantly myrtille and blackberry, but I think there were some raspberries in there too.

This afternoon I continued the jam making, with 10 pots of plum jam – I bought the plums in the market, but I may speak nicely to our friend Dave who has a plum tree in his holiday home garden. Maybe he needs help clearing the tree!

I also made a joblot of tomato and courgette sauce as Michel-across-the-road gave us a bag of tomatoes and two almost-marrows.

I’ve used one up now, in various guises – grated in sauce, chopped and sautéed with our sweet chilli burgers, chopped in another sauce, and sliced in a Summer Squash gratin. I still have another (the bigger one!) to use. I have plans for a courgette and onion quiche for lunch tomorrow but inspiration is wearing thin. I’m not a fan of courgette soup (though the rest of the summer-squash-gratin-potiron is going to make spicy soup on Sunday) but I may have to resort to that…

And today Mr D and I took a couple of hours out to go wild raspberry picking. We were a bit late, and they were past their best unfortunately, but we gathered about a kilo, mixed with the odd blackberry and myrtille. Mr D wants to make his famous sorbet with them…which is fine by me. I’m not a great sorbet fan, but this is very pleasant.  We’ll probably go on a dedicated myrtille pick next week: not my favourite way of spending an hour, as they are very low down and I get backache. Usually I plump myself down in the undergrowth and pick from a sitting position!

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Here’s a post that was written with a great sense of achievement:

HUZZAH for me! I’ve finished! I’ve completed my Cycling 1,000 km in 6 months Challenge – with 4 days to go!!! And, rather fittingly, on the day that we hear Richard has been found “Not Guilty” of the drugs charges in Zambia. Unfortunately, he is still charged with stealing his own property (don’t ask…) and stands trial for this in October, but we are still Very Pleased that the first hurdle is passed.

Here are three photos. Here’s the odometer reading 1,000.

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Here’s a happy me. I won’t say how many times I took an “at arms’ length” photo (2015 Edit: This is now known as a “selfie”!!) until I was satisfied that you couldn’t see my double chin!!!

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and here is where I was when the odometer ticked over from 999 to 1000 (though I should admit that I had pootled about a bit to make sure it happened here! But it did seem properly fitting.) You can see the Trusty Bike propped up.

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I don’t think I’ve made the 1,000€ I was hoping for, although various people have promised vague amounts of money “when you’ve finished” so I may manage to collect a bit more, but I think I’ve probably collected about 600-700€. Which is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. I’m sure the Chisomo Community SCHOOL will be very happy to use the money to the benefit of the PUPILS.

Now. Will I ever get on the bike again, do you think…? Place your bets, Ladies and Gentlemen, place your bets!

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A post about the French tradition of Toussaint & how I remembered our friend.
November 1st 2011: “Remembering Paul”

For the last few weeks our weekly market has been more colourful than usual, because of the stalls selling both artificial flowers and real pots of chrysanthemums and winter pansies . Winter pansies are called Pensées here in France, which can also, I think, be translated as “Thoughts” – which is very appropriate – because the reason these have been for sale is in preparation for today: Toussaint, All Saints Day.

 

Gradually the cemetary becomes more and more colourful as families arrive to lay flowers or  to put plants on the graves of their loved ones. Usually by 11th November, most of these have blown over in the Autumn winds, so before the ceremony at the War Memorial my friend, her children and I spend 15 minutes or so replacing them! We’re usually early for the ceremony of remembrance, as we don’t go to the Church service before, so uprighting all the blown-over plants keeps the children well-occupied.

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If you click on the photo to enlarge it you should be able to see the blobs of colour that are appearing.

I’ve blogged about this before when I remembered my Father. But today, Mr D and I went up to the cemetary and laid a pebble each on the grave of our dear friend Paul. He died at the beginning of the year. Paul was a scientist, and in particular a physical scientist, with a love of nature and rocks. He was an incredibly generous man, with his possessions, his time, his heart, and he truly loved God. We rejoice that we knew him, but regret the time that we knew him was too short, and that so much of it was shadowed by the cancer that he bore so bravely and, although it sounds strange, almost joyfully. He never showed his fears to us – in fact, he once said to me “I’m not afraid of my death for myself. I’m only afraid of what it might do to Daniele” . A lovely, selfless man.

We didn’t want to lay flowers, or put a plant. For me, that is the family who does this – and, because Toussaint is really a Catholic “festival” and Paul was staunchly Eglise Reformée, I’m not sure the family

would want this anyway – but both Mr D and I decided seperately that we wanted to place a pebble on his grave. It seems appropriate that a man who loved geology would like a stone. So we each picked one from my collection: mine was a biggish, orangey colour, about the size of a duck egg, with a hole which, I guess, another stone wore away over hundreds of years, while Mr D chose a small grey pebble, with stripes of white quartz. We walked up together, and stood for a few minutes remembering our dear friend…and then we went a shared a cup of tea with Gilles, another of our good friends here in St Just.

Thank you Lord for the love and friendship of friends and family, here and gone before. May we remember those who have left us with joy and gladness, and may we appreciate those who are our friends in the here and now. It is so easy to take them for granted. Help us to show our appreciation for all they have done for us, and all they give us.

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A post about a fantastic concert that we went to in Paris, with “Elbow”

November 20th 2011 “Sneaking Away Midweek”

We had a great two days recently up in Paris. To be honest, Mr D and I have not really had good experiences of Paris. I spent a week there when I was a student, sleeping on a friend’s floor, and not eating anywhere other than McDonald’s, because I was too shy to go into a café and order in dreadful dreadful French. I walked and walked, but only visited tourist areas. I spent a whole day at Sacreé Coeur, I think, and the Pompidou Centre.

Then one New Year, Mr D and I were staying in Fontainebleau in a very posh hotel on a bargain break. It was great and we had a lovely time, but our day in Paris was a great disappointment: long long queues for the Musée d’Orsay, no Impressionist paintings at the Jeu de Paume (because they were all at an exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay!), rude waiters, greasy onion soup, and grey drizzly weather.

Not a good time.

But this time was great! I forgot to take my camera, and so have no photos, but no matter (particularly as that’s one of my gripes…) We arrived mid afternoon, having travelled up by TGV, and found our hotel – very nice. Clean, small but fine. It was in the 11th Arrondisement, very handy for the Real Reason we’d come to Paris. We strolled along the Canal St Martin, and stopped in a café for hot chocolate, as it was a bit chilly. Back to the hotel for an hour and then (ooh, getting excited) we walked the five minutes to the Bataclan Theatre-Club-Venue where one of Mr D’s favourite groups (and mine too, though I’m not quite as enthusiastic as Mr D) was playing. We had tickets to see Elbow!! Woo-hoo-and yay!

I’m not very good at writing reviews, but this guy is: his review sums up the concert well, and includes three YouTube videos of some of the songs they sang. If you don’t know Elbow, please listen. You might find a new band that you like very much.

What the review doesn’t mention is the shouted conversation I had with Guy Garvey (big grin) I had sent a handmade card to the band, via the club, wishing them a good gig. (I do slightly off-the-wall things like this occasionally. That’s why I have had a Papal-blessing-through-the-post. But that’s another story) In fact, you can see the card on the top of the keyboard/synthesiser/whatever-it-is in the second video clip in the review! (Even bigger grin!) Anyway he said

“Oh, thanks for this card…” (looks in card ) “…I can’t read your writing…Who sent this?”

“Me! I did!” I shouted (mightily surprising Mr D who had no idea) Laugh from audience.

“Where are you?” Mr Garvey squints into the audience.

“Right at the back!” (we weren’t really. We were at the front of the balcony. I don’t know why I didn’t say “at the front of the balcony.”)

“OK. Well, thanks.”

“That’s alright!” Another laugh from the audience. Followed by another great song.

After the gig we went to an Italian restaurant (it was open, it was near the hotel. It was good. I watched the owner rolling out my fresh tagliatelli on the pasta machine.) We chatted to each other about the gig, and then a woman on the next table leant over to us, and asked, in impeccable English if we had been at the concert. We said that yes, we had been and that we had really enjoyed it. And then she asked us if the group were from the North of England.Yes, we said, from Manchester. The woman’s husband then said something very rapidly in French. “My husband says that’s why he didn’t understand a word Guy Garvey said!” It turned out that she’d spent a year in Lancaster, so she could understand him, but her husband hadn’t been so lucky!

So to bed, tired but happy (via the late night opening Monoprix to buy a slice of cake because we’d not had a dessert in the restaurant. I had a slab of carrot-and-orange cake, that was so big I couldn’t finish it!)  The following day we had coffee and pain-au-chocolat in a Croissanterie, and then went to Notre Dame, as Mr D had never been. We strolled around, but I was struck by how many people were there with cameras stuck to their faces – they were, as Mr D said, recording it, not experiencing it. They were taking photos of anything and everything…but, it seemed to me, not really seeing the place. I suppose if you have travelled a distance to be there you want to have mementoes of the places you went to, but surely you want to have looked at the place too.

But I think the image that struck me most was the youngish mum, with a child in a pushchair. There they were, in an amazingly beautiful space, with light all around, and she was on her i-pod, texting somebody, while her child (who can’t have been more than three) was glued to his Nintendo DS (or something similar) playing some Racing car game. It just seemed sad. Though, I guess, they were both enjoying themselves, so why not…?

We went outside, and admired the carvings on the front of the cathedral. All beautiful, but there was one rather mystifying image. There was a row of fine upstanding  saints and kings, and at one end an angel, and at the other an eagle, book in claw. Then another serried rank of kings and saints, with a lion, and, at the other end a cow, with a book in its hoof.OK, eagles, lions, angels – all very Biblical, and symbolic: I can understand those. But a cow? Why?

Then I fed the remains of my carrot-and-orange cake to a sparrow. At least, it started as one sparrow, but within seconds there was a huge flock of them, and they were eating off my hand! Mr D took a photo (so I experienced it AND have a memento!) on his phone. When he sends it to me I’ll post it here.

We then wandered over to the Ile St Louis

where we looked in shop windows and admired the chi-chi goods on sale. And fell over at the price of some of them! Another halt for a delicious cup of hot chocolate – it was definitely getting colder, and I wasn’t wearing a thick enough coat. By now my feet were beginning to throb a little, but I bravely continued to the Botanic gardens where we ate a sandwich lunch, and then back to the Gare de Lyon to catch the TGV back home. I really didn’t want to go back to work on Thursday!

It was a great two days, and many thanks to Mr D who organised it all. I had to do nothing except enjoy myself.

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In the 1,000 km challenge posts I had mentioned my friend Richard, who had been having problems with the law in Zambia. Here is the slightly fuller story:

January 28th 2012 “Richard has been Acquitted!”

For those of you who might be reading this who are new, last year I challenged myself to ride 1,000 km on my bike, in 6 months. Not a great challenge, but for a terminally unfit Dormouse, it was challenge enough. But not only that, I wanted to raise 1,000€ in sponsorship – I knew that if people had given me money, I would have to do the challenge. I need motivation, people! I completed the cycling in time, about a week before the end of August, and thanks to a donation from my sister in October, I raised the 1,000€.
Here is my first blogpost about the Challenge.

This money was destined for the Chisomo Community School (link to site here ) which is supported, in no small way, by our friend Richard, who is renovating a house here in St Just. But also, he is trying desperately hard to build new school buildings, with help from the people of the Chisomo village in Zambia, despite his own not-very-good-health. He puts in a lot of his own money and cares passionately about the children of the community.

 But, for some reason which I still don’t fully understand, he has been persecuted, falsely arrested and spent time in prison. In his own words: “Police cells, prison, court appearances, threats of deportation, death threats, loss of personal possessions, three robberies etc etc.” For nine months he has had the threat of a long prison sentence hanging over him, for, as far as he knows, stealing his own property…All this seemingly instigated by the greed of certain people who wanted to take the property that Richard had provided for the school. Unfortunately, due to what has happened the school building plans have had to go on hold:
By now the 1000 pupils at Chisomo Community School should be in new classrooms, with a sports field and library. Instead they are still in the cowshed we built, using two pit latrines which are foul. Because of the kindness of two donors, we have been able to start work on securing the cowshed, and we are looking at an appropriate toilet technology to build new ones. Maybe one day, we can revive the plans to build a new school.”
Finally, on Thursday, we heard that the case has been dropped.Finally. As he says “Hardly a surprise as they admitted to me several times they had no evidence.” Unbelievable!!! Richard included in the email a recap of what he had gone through during his time in prison – really quite distressing that this could happen to someone who has only cared about the poorest people in the country and tried to make life better, using his own money, resources and time.

But we can, at least, be thankful that he is out and his name cleared. But, quite incredibly, he plans on returning to continue his work. Me, I’d be out of the country like a rat from a drainpipe, never to return. But not him, he says “I haven’ t decided what to do yet long term, or even medium term, as a lot will depend on Immigration and whether they will allow me to stay as a permenent resident. This status means I can come and go as I please.” So, while I wouldn’t want to go to Zambia, I will be trying to continue to support Richard and the school, through providing resources and money, wherever possible. Maybe you could also donate something tohelp Richard continue to help those in desperate need.

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The Very Bad Kittens (George & Millie) have caused some hilarity in the Dormousehold over the years. Here are two posts about their exploits:

February 8th 2012 “Tee Hee Again”

We were woken this morning by a scratchy, rustly sound. Scratch, rustle-rustle, scratch. Sleepily I put on the light: Millie looked up guiltily from the shiny silver paper she’d fished out of the wastepaper bin, and was chasing around the bedroom.

“Bloody cats”, I murmured, and turned the light out.

“Earlier I heard a small clinking, rustling sound and went to investigate,” Mr D remarked as I drifted back to sleep. “It was George…He’d found your crochet bag and was running off with it!”

Snort.

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Here is George-the-Kitten, at the tender age of 22 days (aaah! Isn’t he cute!?) Would you ever have guessed he would have turned out to be such a junior delinquent? If there were such things, he’d surely have a cat ASBO by now. (A CASBO, one assumes.)

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And here’s Millie, at the same age. By then, George had been named, as we had chosen him soon after his birth; however, we didn’t know that we were going to end up with Millie – at that time, she was destined to go to another home. But a couple of weeks later, the person decided they didn’t want a tabby cat, so Beautiful Millie was threatened with “The Bucket”. Look at her – could you have let that happen? Of course not. We had to have her. And so she was named Mildred.  “George and Mildred” was a TV series in thelate seventies, so it seemed appropriate that George’s sister became known as Mildred.

February 15th 2012 “Those Bad, bad Kittens!”

Two Very Bad Kitten tales today.

1) Mr D got home from skiing with friends yesterday, just as I got home from work. He went upsatairs.

“What have you done with my bedside rug?” he yelled to me.

“Nothing. Why?”

“Where is it then?!”

Sure enough the bedside rug had completely disappeared. We groped under the bed (there’s a gap of approximately 5cm from floor to bottom of the bed. ) but no sign of it. We considered a very discerning burglar (?), we wondered if the VBK had somehow dragged it downstairs to the cellar. We had no idea what had happened.

Here you can see a similar bed to ours (except ours is a double).                     Finally, Mr D took out the drawer that is under the mattress, and lo! Somehow the VBK had folded the rug up enough to drag it under the bed – note the fact that there are “feet” midway along the side of the bed, so they had to somehow manouvre the rug past them too! We still don’t know whether it was a game, or whether the rug had got caught in claws, but as Millie has learned how to open the drawers, I guess she was under-and-inside the bed, and George was outside, and as they played patapaw with each other the rug got dragged under.

But you should have seen us, scratching our heads, totally mystified about where the rug had gone!

2) As just mentioned, Millie has learned how to open the drawers, and so, on cold nights, will open the drawer, hop in, and nestle among the cycling clothes that we keep there, or, if she fancies a change, she goes under-and-inside the bed to the other drawer, where we keep our tatty DIY/painting clothes. She drives Mr D wild with tiny scratchy noises in the middle of the night, while I snore my way, undisturbed, through till morning.

Now, we are not saying that what happened next was deliberate, but I have my suspicions… Yesterday evening, at bedtime, we couldn’t find Pomme. We went all around, calling “Pomme! Pomme!” No sign of her. Finally, Mr D heard a plaintive little mew coming from under the bed: somehow she’d got trapped under-and-inside the bed. I can’t help but imagine the two Very Bad Kittens ganging up on Pomme: Millie opening the drawer, George luring Pomme into it, and then the two of them leaping out and slamming the drawer shut, with Pomme inside!

Perhaps they should be renamed the Evil Kittens!

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And then there were four – a new kitten comes to stay!

June 3rd 2012 “What’s New Pussycat?”

Well, what’s new is a Pussycat!

We have a new arrival at Dormouse Towers. Meet teeny tiny Bib

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I work at a Michelin site where there are several feral cats. Bib had been abandoned by her mother, and when I saw her, she was trying to feed from another female cat, who kept batting her away.

“It’s a shame”, said Emilie, one of the girls on reception. “It’s going to die of starvation…”

Well, I couldn’t let that happen, could I?! I phoned Mr D to see what he’d say to the idea of me bringing an abandoned kitten home, and honestly, if he’d put his foot down with a firm hand, I’d’ve taken her to the SPA. But he didn’t. So I  took her home instead. She was checked out by the vet and tested for cat HIV and leukaemia: all OK. The vet said she was in good health and so she came home. We think, from her developmental signs, that she’s 4 or 5 weeks old, although she probably weighs about as much as a 3 week old. She is one feisty kitten, and dosn’t seem afraid of anything!

I have just spent an hour-and-a-half with her either curled up under my chin, or stretched out along my arm with her nose buried in my armpit! I think I may be becoming surrogate mum! (Huzzah!)

The VBK and Pomme are a bit dubious. We’re keeping Bib (short for Bibendum – the French name for the Michelin Man!!) in the living room/ dining room at the moment. When we’re there, the door is open (but blocked with a box) so the Cats can jump in if they wish, but Bib can’t get out. So far, Pomme and George have come in and been nose-to-nose with Bib; they hissed and growled but there was no real aggression. Millie has been too frightened to come anywhere near the living room at the moment!!!

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Not such a good shot (Mr D took the first one) but you can see her exploring! She tends to chase my feet though which can be a tad dangerous.

Other news: We’re bunted the house yesterday, in preparation for our Jubilee lunch:

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It has got a bit wet today though! As it’s made from card, I hope it survives the rain!

Our Jubilee lunch was only with Gilles, who is a great Anglophile. We never quite got our plans for drinks for lots of people off the ground, but never mind!

Right! I’m off back downstairs to cuddle Bib and watch the Jubilee Flotilla on TV. I’m sorry I missed out on last week’s Finding Fun – I had very good intentions, but suddenly life got busy, and I was teaching very early in the morning, and falling asleep when I got home! I will try to join in this week – although I have the same work pattern, so I may not manage it!

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Most years I join in with a series called “A Pause in Advent”, where bloggers post every Sunday in Advent, about anything and everything that means something to them as they prepare for Christmas. In 2012 I was thinking about Christmas songs (secular) and using them to inspire some creative journalling. Here is Pause In Advent 3

December 14th 2012 Driving Home for Christmas

This is just a little early. But I’m sure you’ll forgive me!

I’ve had some positive comments about the last two songs that I’ve posted, as they have been new to many of you. This next one is probaly not new: it’s one of those that is fairly ubiquitous at this time of year. It is on all the Christmas Compilations, with its jaunty tune and sleigh bells – but there is a poignant quality about it too.

Chris Rea’s “Driving Home for Christmas” was released in 1988, and I think my memories of it must be from that year, or maybe the year after. I have related this before, but as it is the reason I am including this song, I think it bears telling again. Mr D was working in London, and we lived in Milton Keynes at the time: one Christmas we were going up to see mum and dad in Liverpool for the Christmas weekend, and Mr D had to work on the Friday. So we decided that, rather than wait for him to arrive in MK, mid afternoon, and then do the journey amidst all the late evening traffic , I would drive to Liverpool by myself and he’d take the train. It was the first time I’d driven any great distance by myself, and I was nervous, but everything went reasonably well, until hitting the M6 around Birmingham. Traffic ground to a halt and frustration set in – but this song came onto the radio:

The words were so apt: as Wikipedia relates: In a live interview on the BBC Radio 4 programme Today on 16 December 2009 Rea said he wrote “Driving Home for Christmas” many years before he first recorded it. His wife had come down to London to drive him home to Middlesbrough in her Austin Mini to save money because it was cheaper to drive than travel by train. Inspiration for the song came as she and Rea were stuck in heavy traffic heading out of London with a long drive to Middlesbrough ahead of them. Rea said “Driving Home for Christmas” is a “car version of a carol”

Driving home for Christmas
Oh, I can’t wait to see those faces

The words sum up the anticipation I felt; I always get excited about seeing people I love and don’t see that often. Sometimes, it must be admitted, the anticipation is better than actually seeing them, as arguments, niggles etc get in the way, but it is a wonderful thing to have a family to share with.

It’s gonna take some time
But I’ll get there
Top to toe in tail-lights
Oh, I got red lights all around

Oh yes, there really were red lights all around as I sat in that traffic jam, but the next line

But soon there’ll be a freeway
Get my feet on holy ground

Yes…soon traffic would start moving again – and I love the idea that being with loved ones (wherever that might be, whoever that might be) is like being on “holy ground”. Where love is, there Christ is also.

And for me, particularly poignant are the words

So I sing for you
Though you can’t hear me
When I get through
And feel you near me
I am driving home for Christmas
Driving home for Christmas
With a thousand memories

We all have those we have loved and lost; Christmas is a time when perhaps, more than ever, we feel the pain. People who should be there are there no longer; people we loved we can only remember. Christmas is a time of memories, when we feel them near.

And it is this idea that has inspired my journal pages this week: family and those we have loved and lost:

 

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On the left hand page I painted some trees in black, sparkling with snow, as if one is driving through the dark. The photo shows most of my family – actually taken on a family holiday about 10 years ago – sharing a meal together. On the right hand page, I’ve taken parts of the song that resonate with me, and stuck photos of two members of the family who have died: my dad (not necessarily his best photo!! I took this one Christmas, as you can tell from the paper hat, worn at a rakish angle) and my brother’s first wife, mum to Rose and Ruth. She died quite some years ago, and now Mike is happily married – so I  have included a photo of him with his new wife, her girls and Rose and Ruth as well. Life has its tragedies, but there is also love and beauty that come from these losses as well.

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This is probably my last Pause – I fly to the UK tomorrow – so I want to wish you all a very happy Christmas: be at peace with your memories, be blessed by our Living Lord and be joyful with the Christmas angels.

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And there were also “Pauses in Lent” – except this one came after Easter! It is my retelling of a well-known encounter with Jesus.

Sunday March 31st 1013: Emmaus Road

I always went to Jesus with my problems. It didn’t matter how simple, or how complicated they were: somehow he always helped me to get past my own feelings and to consider the other person. I remember a row I had with Cleopas about his mother coming to live with us: I was so concerned with how it would affect me that I couldn’t see how Rachel would hate the thought of losing her independence. Yet somehow Jesus gently turned my feelings around so I could understand her side too. It wasn’t just everyday problems either; when I had questions about God, about my beliefs, about the way he was turning my whole life around I could go and speak to him…there was the time I questioned him about the Kingdom of Heaven,  what it meant, Jesus reminded me of the time I’d lost a special coin from my headdress.

“Remember,” he said, “Remember how you searched and searched until it was found? Remember how you called to your friends with joy? That is how it is with God when one person turns to him. He rejoices. He laughs. He dances…”

So when Jesus promised us he was the Messiah and that he had come to free us from oppression we believed him. And we were ready to rise up at his word and fight for our freedom. But the word never came. He died and left us desolate. We didn’t know what to do, and he was there no longer. We couldn’t ask him to explain, to help us to understand. We sat, huddled together in our fear, in a tiny oppressive upper room, murmuring, weeping, staring into nothingness. Then two days after, Mary came rushing in, breathless, hysterical, crying about angels and empty tombs; Peter and John went to see what the matter was, to calm her down – she’d always been slightly overwrought – and they came back to tell us that the tomb had been raided and the body taken. They seemed confused, and we all became edgy and the atmosphere became more and more tense.

It was almost a relief when a message came to say that Cleopas’ mother was ill and that he was needed. He fussed about and tried to make me stay in Jerusalem, but I needed to escape. I couldn’t bear the undercurrents and confusion.

We bundled up our belongings and set off on the road, hurrying in the evening chill. It was lonely and darkness was creeping over the sky. Suddenly we were no longer two, but three on the road. A stranger joined us, but strangely there was no surprise or fear. It seemed natural. He walked with us in silence for a while, and then gently remarked that we appeared sad and distressed. I was about to rail at the man, but Cleopas gently touched my arm to silence me.

“We have lost a dear friend recently, “ he said “Our friend Jesus was killed by the Romans two days since”

“Who was this Jesus?” asked the stranger.

“Who was he?” I could keep quiet no longer. “He was our friend, a teacher, a prophet who promised us he was the Messiah, but who, finally was nothing!” All my pain, confusion, misery came pouring out as I wept for the betrayal of Jesus.

The stranger listened, silent yet compassionate, and then simply said

“Oh, Joanna. Where is your faith?” And he went on to explain the scriptures, and the prophecies right back to Moses; he spoke of how the Messiah had to suffer and die, not to free us from the oppression of the Romans but rather to free the world from the oppression of sin; how we could be brought back into communion with God, that death was conquered and the Kingdom of God had been made accessible to all. And as he spoke, with his forceful voice and eloquent hand gestures, it became clear, in the same way that things became clear as Jesus had spoken. We finally could understand; and we were comforted.

By then we had reached Emmaus, and night had fallen. As we paused at the house, the stranger made to continue, but, on impulse, I invited him to stay

“The road is long, sir”, I said, “and you have brought some light to our darkness. Stay and eat with us tonight.”

He smiled and nodded. Quietly he rested near the fire while Cleopas saw to his mother. She wasn’t really ill, just old and confused and worried about us both. I prepared a simple supper and when it was ready, I invited the stranger to say the blessing. And he took it in his hands, and raised it and used the same words to bless the bread as Jesus always had…

And I saw. It was him.

I breathed his name.

Jesus…

He smiled at me and then…he was gone.

I reached out and took Cleopas’ hand. Our eyes met and we realised that had we not invited the stranger into our homes and our hearts we would never have truly understood that Jesus was alive, that he had risen from the tomb, that he had, indeed, conquered the oppression of death. And that is how we live our lives now, remembering that as believers we need to constantly invite Jesus into our lives in order to truly know him.

That night we ran almost all the seven miles back to Jerusalem, eager to tell our news to the others, to recount our part in the resurrection story. And when we arrived we heard what others had seen too… and with them we rejoiced that Jesus is alive.

(Road to Emmausby contemporary Irish artist, John Dunne.)

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A post about one of our favourite days out…

August 26th 2013: “A Walk in the Pilat”

Often when we have visitors we take them on a “Pilat Day”. The Pilat mountains are about 80km away from us, beyond St Etienne, and we have refined our day out to be very enjoyable.

We went there on Friday with MiL. My bad back was getting better, thanks to pain killers, and to the fact that I have been doing some walking (very slow but it has definitely helped) so I thought I’d be able to manage the day.

First we drive to Rochetaillée, a small village above St Etienne, and from there to “Le Gouffre d’Enfer” (“The Chasm of Hell”) which is actually a really lovely gorge, which leads to a barrage.

Mr D and MiL were walking faster than I, so they went on ahead while I walked slowly. I thought it would take me longer to reach the bottom of the dam, but I was there in 10 minutes. Feeling okay I decided to climb the steps up the side of this edifice. It was built in 1862 and the resevoir still provides water for St Etienne. It took me about 10 minutes to wend my way to the top, but I was pleased when I got there. It was another 20 minutes or so back to the car, where I sat and read my book, waiting for the others who had walked around the resevoir itself. As I returned to the car I kicked myself (mentally) as I had forgotten to take any photos.

After this, we return to Rochetaillée and go to the Auberge de Rochetaillée, for their lovely rapées (a type of rosti) with a chive-and-yoghurt sauce and a glass of chilled beer. We love this place for its 1950s style décor (although looking at pictures, it seems to have been done up a bit) and the amazing view from its windows

Unfortunately it was closed for holidays, so we went to a pizzeria instead. Mr D and I both chose the Pizza du Saison – which had girolle mushrooms, artichoke hearts, parma ham and shavings of parmesan – lush!

 

The next part of our “Pilat Day” takes us to the high ground above Le Bessat, from whence one can often see for miles. Again Mr D and MiL went ahead while I walked at a slower pace, but this time I did remember my camera. Mr D & MiL get to the Table d’orientation before me

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I wish I could recreate the scents and sounds – the sun was warm, and the bees were busy in the clover and heather that covered the tops. The constant buzz was overlain by the  sawing noise of the crickets which stopped abruptly as I stepped near one. Every now and then one would leap high out of the grass, or off the path, a rapid movement which just caught the corner of my eye. The scent of warm heather and scrubland herbs wafted in the breeze – it was delicious!

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There had been a sign warning us of Troupeaux en Estival (Herds on sumer pastures) and here I met some of those Troupeaux taking advantage of the shade.

I met up with Mr D and MiL and we went to complete our “Pilat Day” by taking tea and Tarte aux Myrtilles at a restaurant at the Col de la Croix de Chaubouret Here there is an amazing selection of tea – I chose a black tea, flavoured with red fruits such as myrtille and blackberries, while MiL had a green tea with cherry and raspberry leaves infused in it. The Tarte aux myrtilles came with a myrtille sorbet as well. Delicious!

That brings us to the end of our “Pilat Day” – quite a lot of walking, interspersed with delicious food and drink! This time it was a little different, as the auberge was closed, but we had a lovely time nonetheless!

And as the walking obviously did my back no harm at all, I have to ruefully admit that I need to do more exercise. So I will stop what I’m doing and go out for a 30 minute stroll around the village.

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Next a post about a wonderful weekend I spent “Opening Doors”

Ocrober 5th 2013: “Getting those doors wide open”

There is a reason for a picture of a piratical weasel (though maybe not for the fact he’s clutching a large piece of cheese) which you will discover later on.

I spent last weekend in the company of some pretty awesome women, at Ange’s “Opening Doors” workshop, over near Toulouse. This was my “bike” (MrD bought himself a super swish bike; I go away for a motivational weekend: both purchases do us good in different ways!) , using a tax rebate, birthday money (counting chickens there!) and some earnings from the summer. It was great.

I took the train to Toulouse – a lovely smooth journey, and was picked up by Ange at Toulouse station; I spent a relaxing afternoon basking in the sunshine, meeting her dogs, dozing (I had been up at 5.45 am for my train!), meeting her family from school and hanging out her washing! Then we set off for Lavaur and the lovely gite La Passerelle

Here we met properly: there were 6 participants and Ange, who is skilled in leading weekends such as this. Over several glasses of wine and a home cooked meal we bonded a little, discovering each others personalities and generally enjoying each others’ company. I won’t say much about people – respecting privacy and all that – but we were aged from 29 to 54, all Anglophones (thank goodness!),  British, French, Kiwi and Australian, with a mix of jobs including a yoga teacher and an English teacher , and we all brought different skills, insights and stories.

On Saturday morning we started by talking about an object that was precious to us, and why it said something about us. Then Ange spoke about how we all have “pirates” – those voices that have grown up with us, that we have taken on board, and allow to sit on our shoulders whispering words like can’t…shouldn’t…mustn’t…whoever told you that!…why do you think you can do that?…etc Without “blaming” people, we explored how these pirates came to be so strong, how our childhood and our life-experiences have affected how we think…and a little about how we might deal with them.

Now, while I like the “pirate” picture, I imagine these voices as rather snidey little weasels – probably from a performance of Wind in the Willows that Mr D and I saw in the theatre, where the Weasels frequently came on stage, looked shifty and made a sound I can’t really reproduce in type: a kind of “fffffffffffffffttt!” sound. I also think “weaselly” is a brilliant adjective. So I now imagine these voices as Piratical Weasels (or, possibly, Weaselly Pirates) Hence the picture at the top of the post.

These sessions were a little “deep” but we were well supplied with comfort, in the form of coffee, biscuits, chocolate and a superb lunch, cooked and delivered by a local lady. And a tiny tad of wine! In the evening we went into Lavaur to share a lovely meal in a very nice restaurant. I had some delicious duck: mmmmmmm.

The next morning was much easier, but no less searching than Saturday: we identified our “heart felt dreams” and visualised succeeding. We talked about how we would feel, and we did some bad ass Weasel Kicking!  Finally, having identified a quotation that really spoke to us, we created a piece of art work to hang at home to inspire us, to challenge us, to put the Piratical Weasels in their place. It was interesting that for me there were two quotations that spoke to me:

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams, live the life you’ve imagined!

It’s not because things are difficult that we don’t dare to do them; it’s because we don’t dare that things are difficult.

One I felt was “easier” than the other, but it was the other that called me back again, and again. The word that called to me and made me feel both scared yet ready for “battle”, the word that I would not ever apply to my life. This is my art work – there was some real daring going on with it too. There were certain aspects that I found difficult to do – yet, having dared to try them, I  found they are the parts that really worked. Thanks to Ange for her encouragement to “go for it”!

After the wonderful weekend, I then had the privilege of meeting Floss and her family, as they offered me a lovely family meal and a bed for the night, as my train didn’t leave until 13h on Monday. I actually ended up teaching (well, classroom assisting) with Floss as she taught at the Ecole Superieur during the morning. It was interesting seeing another teacher working and also to work with the students themselves. Thank you, Floss for the kind and generous welcome! (And Ben, and Sons 1 & 2.* Plus various animals)

And now, after a hectic week when I feel like I didn’t have time to breathe, I need to inwardly digest what I learned during the weekend, and to make a start on realising my Heartfelt Dream. My companions have offered to help me on the first steps, but I need to keep brushing those weasels from off my shoulder. One of the women there had a beautifully gallic “brush off” gesture, whenever she talked about her “pirates”: I have already adopted a similar gesture when I’m aware of those  weaselly pirates whispering in my ear

Don’t be too ambitious…perhaps you should just accept you can’t…it’s not THAT good, you know…

Get thee behind me, Weasel!

If you’re interested in finding out more yourself about Ange’s workshops you can go to her blog, Signed by Ange, and read more

* The boys do have names, but as Floss refers to them thus on her blog, I thought it best to do the same!

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Life on the Wibsite was getting difficult, as it didn’t like uploading any of my photos – from URLs it was fine, but otherwise, not a hope… Still I kept trying.

February 9th 2014 “Every day Life”

I wanted to post something here on The Teapot, but didn’t really know what to write about. Browsing various blogs I came across The Adventures of Fi, where she had written under various headings, just chatting about her every day life; so I have stolen her idea, adding a few headings of my own, and I hope you’ll find it interesting.

READING: I’ve just started reading “Heresy” by S.J.Parris. After a couple of “meh” novels that were screamingly predictable and not-at-all gripping, it’s good to get back to reading something with a bit more meat to it.

I’m not far into it, but it certainly has potential to draw me in. The blurb on Amazon reads:

When fugitive Italian monk Giordano Bruno—philosopher, magician, and heretical scientist—arrives in London, he’s only one step ahead of the Inquisition. An undercover mission for Queen Elizabeth I and her spymaster provides added protection. Officially, Bruno is to take part in a debate on the Copernican theory of the universe at Oxford University; unofficially, he is to find out whatever he can about a Catholic plot to overthrow the queen. But when his mission is dramatically thrown off course by a series of grisly deaths and the charms of a mysterious but beautiful young woman, he realizes that somewhere within Oxford’s private chambers lurks a brutal killer. . .

Before the two nondescript novels, I read “Moses in Chains” by Nikki Fine

This was an interesting book, not just for the subject matter, but because it was written by an ex-colleague of mine! Good writing, with an interesting story, I found it a tad too long, but enjoyable nontheless.

What would it be like to work for a genius? A grumpy, elderly genius who is writing his memoirs? Antonio Francese is a servant to the ageing Michelangelo, who has decided to write about the painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. But does his master always tell the truth? And can Antonio have a life of his own at the same time?

WATCHING: We’re not watching much of note at the moment, but Mr D recorded the new Belgian thriller “Salamander” on BBC 4 yesterday. I’m hoping this might plug the gap left by the all-too-short series of “Sherlock”. We certainly haven’t found that “The Musketeers” has cut it, despite the presence of a leather clad Peter Capaldi, and several dashing young bloods.

EATING: For details on that, you can go over to Fat Dormouse, but suffice to say, I’m really looking forward to wild boar in Cèpes sauce tonight!

NOT ENJOYING: a low level headache, slight dizziness, cold feet, and a slightly wierd general-feeling-of-malaise.

LOVING: Actually, just-finished-loving a Terry’s Chocolate Orange. One of my colleagues brought it back from the UK, and Mr D & I have been rationed to one segment each an evening (and none at all on fast days)It’s something else to add to the list of things to bring back from the UK when we go!

LISTENING TO: Nothing at the moment, as I don’t generally listen to music while at my desk. Yesterday though I was working on a Zentangle card for a friend’s birthday, and listened to a Clifford T Ward album. Wonderful, gentle music, which often makes me cry. Here is a link to a YouTube video of his lovely “Home Thoughts from Abroad”

SPENDING MONEY ON: Food. That’s about it. And the car – petrol, motorway tolls, and it needs a service. I am buying a bit of wool too, but only reduced, to continue to knit blankets for the Spanish Stray Cats.

MISSING: My friend Cathy, who is over in the UK. She has a house here (that’s she trying to sell. Anyone interested?!) and is often over for 6 months of the year – because she’s on holiday (or at least, not working) it means we see each other for aperos, walks and chats most days. It’s harder catching up with other friends who have jobs and families, and wierd working hours. Because she’s due to become a granny in June she may not come out this year…

STRESSING OUT ABOUT: Nothing. Generally I don’t stress about big things – though Mr D might beg to differ!! I get stressy if I think I’m going to be late, or I can’t park the car, but not other stuff.

WEARING: Matalan olive green jumper, (bought a couple of winters ago), spotty shirt (from Carrefour, last year), denim skirt (Lands End, bought at least 10 years ago) and my Doctor Who scarf, knitted by my MiL for my Christmas present

Due to the aforementioned cold feet, I’m also wearing bright pink fluffy socks and my sheepskin slippers, and cuddling a hot water bottle!

LOOKING FORWARD TO: Tomorrow’s teaching, a chat with Cathy on Tuesday, wild boar tonight, and Life in General. We’re going to the UK in April to an Elbow concert at the Echo Arena in Liverpool, and I’m back teaching at Downe House in the summer…it’s not been officially confirmed, but it has been a-bit-more-than-casually mentioned to me! I’m a contented bunny.

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And then, I gave up:

February 18th 2014:“Au Revoir Wibsite”

I have, rather reluctantly, decided to end my relationship with the Wibsite… I’ve got fed up with not being able to post photos, and so on.

I’m now blogging at The View from the Teapot (same name!) so I hope that you will join me over there.

Same village; slightly different view!

One Response to Even more dregs from the other pot. June 2011- February 2014

  1. Pingback: DARE! | View from the Teapot

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