A blast from the past

I am going to cheat a little on this blog post, and re-post one I wrote on the previous incarnation of The View from the Teapot, back in 2009.

Around here there are quite a few chapels dedicated to St Roch, and various statues and stained glass windows showing this fine saint.

I had previously mentioned St Roch in a post about the death of our beloved cat, Pumpkin. I wrote: If I know Pumpkin, she’ll already be playing Fetch with St Francis and St Roch and his dog. (I really will tell you about St Roch some day. He’s an excellent Saint.)

So a few days later I posted this:

ONE MAN AND HIS DOG

OK, so I’ve promised you the story of St Roch. I thought he was a local saint as he features in many of the local chapels/churches around here, but according to Wikipedia (that Fount of all Knowledge) he was born in Montpellier. He is apparently the patron saint of surgeons, apothecaries, road pavers, furriers,second-hand clothes dealers, wool carders and is the Protector of Animals. (I can’t help wondering exactly how a saint becomes linked to certain trades… I understand the surgeons/apothecary link, as you will after Storytime, but Road menders?! It beats me…)

Anyway, Saint Roch was a rich young man, who was orphaned at an early age. He was studying to be a Doctor, but, as all good saints do, decided to give it all up and become a pilgrim and give everything to the Poor. He travelled through Italy and when the country was ravaged by the Plague he stayed and helped the sick and dying. When St Roch contracted the plague he heroically emulated the good people of Eyam (although as he came first, they emulated him…) and separated himself from the local populace and went to live in a forest. (Edited in 2018 to add: In another retelling of the story, it was the local populaace who rather unsympatrhetically – as he’d been looking after them – rejected St Roch and forced him into the forest.) Unfortunately the sick and dying (and their relatives) weren’t terribly grateful for his thoughtfulness, and shunned him, so he was slowly dying of both plague and starvation.

But, never fear, Gentle Reader, because there was a dog (let’s call him Spot) who decided to help St Roch, providing him with bread taken daily from the table of his master. Without this, St Roch would surely have died. One day, Spot’s master, intrigued by the disappearing bread, followed him into the forest and found St Roch, still, I assume, plague-ridden. Spot’s master took St Roch into his home, and the saint was miraculously cured of the plague.

Although cured, he was horribly disfigured by the plague, and is now always shown demonstrating a plague scar (on his leg) and usually revealing blue undergarments. Spot stayed with him for the rest of his life, and there is apparently a saying “c’est saint Roch et son chien” (“They’re like St Roch and his dog”) when talking about two inseparable friends.

This is a statue of St Roch and Spot at Notre Dame l’Hermitage. He’s got his cockle shell for pilgrimage, his blue knickers and he’s showing off his plague scar. And look! There’s Spot with his barm cake for St Roch.

At Cervieres (mentioned in a post a while back) there’s a stained glass window showing St Roch and Spot. In it Spot appears to be carrying not a barm cake, but rather a Jammy Dodger. So now we talk about St Roch and his Holy Jammy Dodger. I hope that’s not blasphemous!

As St Roch is the Protector of animals, and as I’m sure Spot’s got into Heaven, I reckon Pumpkin will be having fun with them all. I have a picture in my mind of God trying to do God-like things, and Pumpkin around his feet, mithering and meeowing for attention as she always did.

“For Heaven’s sake, Pumpkin, go and mither Jesus for a while. He’s not doing anything important!”

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Memory loss!

Yesterday I wrote a post about my childhood reading; as the initial post had been lost through my ineptitude, I had to re-write it. Due to my decrepitude I forgot certain things that had been included in the original post, and I was reminded of them by a comment from Bev.

I talked about authors that I enjoyed reading (and that Mum had frowned upon slightly) but I forgot about some that were happily sanctioned by my parents…First and foremost, there were The Little House on the Prarie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Way, way before the TV series of the same name, I was enjoying Laura and Mary’s adventures in the pioneer community. I remember my delight when Dad bought me a box set of the books

It didn’t contain “These Happy Golden Years” but I was less interested in the series after Laura had grown up and married Almanzo. That set of books was carefully looked after and read, and re-read numerous times. They led me onto Anne of Green Gables which I also enjoyed, although I was less enamoured by Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. I think she and Pollyanna were too good for my liking.

If you’re sharp eyed you may have noticed a very important logo in the top left hand corner of both of these books – the Puffin.

 

This is the logo of the Puffin publishing group – part of the Penguin books franchise – but also the logo on the badge of The Puffin Club. This club was created by Kaye Webb, to encourage children to read more and to become involved in the joy of books. Every quarter members would receive a copy of Puffin Post, a magazine full of articles (written by children!!!) and competitions, jokes and stories.

    

I loved being a member of the Puffin Club! My older brother and sister were also members and they actually won one of the competitions – I still remember it. They had to write a story, including as many Puffin Book titles as they could. I guess that I was probably 9 or 10, my brother 12, and my sister 15 or so at the time; Judy encouraged me to enter too, but I didn’t quite have the courage to do so; I started a story, but didn’t finish it. But both Judy and Mike did, and they both won, in their age categories. They won a week’s sailing holiday, with other Puffineers, in the Forest of Dean, at Symond’s Yat. How exciting!

I think the Puffin Club was a great idea, encouraging young people to become involved in reading, but also in sharing their love of reading with others; it also encouraged budding writers to try their skills. I think I owe much of my love of reading to this excellent venture…Are any of my readers ex-Puffineers? Please do let me know in the comments section!!

On books and reading… (1)

This has been in my draft posts folder for a while – I was annoyed because I’d lost half the post with a little bit of unjudicious button pressing, so I flounced off in a bit of a huff. I’ve revisited it…

It’s interesting that I have recently read two posts about reading habits and how they started. The first is over at The Homeplace Web, where the author recalls going to the library in her youth, and searching out books to keep her (I assume it’s her!) going through the week. Secondly, and purely by coincidence, I read Sue, in The Cottage at the End of the Lane as she wrote about Lucy Mangan’s book, “Bookworm”, which is on the subject of childhood reading.  Both posts are interesting, and I urge you to go over and read them.

Isn’t it a beautiful book cover?!

These posts started me thinking about my reading habits…

We always, always had books around the house. I think a lot of them were from book clubs, such as the Folio book club, as they all had similar covers. I don’t remember my parents reading much – I imagine they were too busy, as mum had a part time job as a teacher and a full time job as a housewife, and dad was a busy GP – but there were always books by their bedside. I remember the built-in bookshelves in the lounge, filled with books that I would browse and flick through if I was feeling bored:  an entire set of Winston Churchill’s memoirs, with the great man’s signature embossed on the front, and also a book about the sinking of the Titanic. I would sometimes pull this off the shelf, and look at the photos, read the tragic stories, and dream about what would have happened had I been on that ship…

We were always encouraged to read, and I don’t remember a time when I didn’t read. I think we learned using Ladybird books, as I can recall a lot of Janet and John; I also remember the pride of working my way through the reading scheme at school – each different level had a colour. The Silver book of Fairy Stories and the Gold book of Fairy Stories were the pinnacle of achievement! It was in one of these that I first read the fairy tale of The Wild Swans, by Hans Christian Anderson, which was a story that I loved! The sadness that the princess couldn’t fully transform her youngest brother, whom she loved, was so sad to me then!

Books always featured in our Christmas pillowcases – I still have two that I pored over until they were quite battered. Both were by the author Roger Lancelyn Green – “Myths from Many Lands” and “Tales of the Greeks & Trojans” I loved the illustrations, and later on, I used them a lot when I was teaching, as each story was on a double page spread, lasting between five or ten minutes to read aloud, and offering lots of food for the imagination.

Whenever we went on holiday, mum would buy us one or two new books, which we were never allowed to even open before we arrived at our destination. What a difficult choice – did I choose a book which I really wanted, or did I choose a thick book which would keep me going? It would have been unthinkable to run out of reading material! We often stayed at the appartment of a friend-of-a-friend in Geneva, and I got to know Glynn’s bookshelves very well. He had vintage editions of Doctor Doolittle’s Circus and Doctor Doolittle’s Zoo, so I knew I could always reacquaint myself with these if I ran out of books! I loved Doctor Doolittle, and went through the whole series.

There were certain authors Mum considered more “suitable” than others. Enid Blyton was frowned upon, but tolerated, as, I think she thought that any reading was better than none. My friend Val and I devoured the Famous Five books – Val had almost all of them in hard back, so I was able to borrow them. We dreamed of being child investigators, and solving mysteries, but a suburb of Liverpool didn’t seem to contain the same adult villains that Kirren Island did! I was never as enamoured by the Secret Seven, but loved the “boarding school” series: The Twins at Saint Clare’s, and Mallory Towers. I longed to go to boarding school almost as much as I longed to be an investigator!

Rather like the HomePlace Web, the library was my Saturday morning hideaway. I can still picture the layout of the place, with its beautiful parquet flooring. There were three public areas: the children’s library, the reference section, and the adult section. In the childrens section there were tables and chairs where you could sit and do homework, using the non fiction books (because you weren’t going to waste any of your precious six tickets on anything as boring as non fiction! ) and deep window sills, with hot air blowers underneath, which were a pleasure to sit on in winter! Books were arranged alphabetically by author, but sometimes the staff would arrange a special display of a particular theme, to encourage us to try new authors or subject matter.

I had six library tickets, rather like these

Each book would have a label inside, with a pocket and a card with the title & author on. When you took the book out of the library, the book card would be put inside your library ticket (which you can see is like a little pocket), the label inside the book would be stamped with the date you had to bring it back by (usually in 3 weeks), and the library ticket placed in some sort of filing system. On returning the book, the assistant would riffle through the filing system to find the ticket with the card inside. The card would be returned to inside the book, and your own ticket returned to you.

Every Saturday I would get my six allocated books from the library, go home, and lie on my bed, reading as though it was going out of fashion. I had usually finished all six books by Sunday evening, so would be reduced to re-reading old favourites from the shelves in my bedroom. I had three shelves, each about a metre long, screwed to the wall above my bed, each one loaded with paperbacks.

After Enid Blyton, I advanced to lots of historical novels, particularly enjoying Rosemary Sutcliffe. I remember loving her books “Brother Dusty Feet” and “The Armourer’s House” with their illustrations by C. Walter Hodges. These stories swept me away to another time and place – together with books by Geoffrey Trease and Henry Treece, again historical novels set in Tudor or Roman times.

As I grew older tastes changed slightly, and I found the young adult (or “teenage” as it was called then!) choices at the library less appealing. They were also rather thin on the ground. One book that has stuck in my mind is one called “Sugar Mouse” by John Branfield.

It is about a girl with diabetes, and her dog. She is trying to come to terms with her illness and realises that her dog has many of the symptoms of diabetes. Instead of taking the dog to the vet, she tests the dog’s blood and discovers the dog does have diabetes. Instead of taking the dog to the vet at this point, she starts giving the dog shots of her own insulin… I don’t know why I remember this book more than any other, as I’m not diabetic, nor did I know anyone diabetic as I was growing up, but for some reason this book, and its cover, has stuck firmly in my mind…

As there were few teenage orientated books on offer at the library, I graduated on to the adult section round about 14 or 15. Instead of turning left into the children’s room, I turned right into the adult section…bigger, with so much more choice…More about that another time.

 

Really?!

I know that photos taken for passports nearly always turn out badly, usually making one look like a particularly tough gangster – I certainly wouldn’t want to meet the man depicted on Mr FD’s passport at anytime of day or night – but I think the photo I’ve ended up with for my Titre de Sejour is one of the worst of me I’ve ever seen!

I went with the wig (rather than going bald) but I don’t think it did me any favours. I look about 10 years older than I actually am!

Maybe it’s the no smiling, no glasses rule than makes me resemble a Soviet prison guard from the 1960s.

 

Cat zentangles are like buses…

None for ages and then two come along together!

This one is also for the cat charity, although I think it looks slightly more vulpine than feline. (I had to look up the word “vulpine” – it means fox-like) I like this one as it gives a bit of a sense of fluffiness. In case you’re interested, it took me about 4 hours to do this one – an ideal way to spend a warm Sunday afternoon. Although I probably need to have a bit of a stretch now!

A dilemma…

I am in the process of applying for a Titre de Sejour – a document giving me the right to live & work in France. Citizens of the EU do not need a Titre de Sejour, but thanks to the catastrophe that is Brexit (no need to ask which way I voted!) the advice coming from the Foreign Office is that it might be a good idea to have one of these before Britain crashes out of Europe and into a chasm of confusion and chaos.

So I have to supply 3 passport photos with my application.

The dilemma?

Do I have photos where I’m bald…

or where I’m wearing my wig…

or where I’m wearing a scarf…?

None of them are actually what I look like normally, so I won’t resemble the photo on my titre de sejour when my hair grows back! (Which it is doing – I’m starting to look like a greying skinhead! Yes, it’s coming back grey!)