Eating, drinking and celebrating.

So as I mentioned a few posts back, I went over to the UK to celebrate mum’s 90th birthday. I had a great time.

Of course, I got over anxious about the journey, but it went very smoothly: Friend Cathy took me to Roanne station, for the 10.15 train to Lyon. I then took the express tram to the airport, arriving just after 12.00. My flight was at 17.25!!! Well, I knew I had plenty of time! No need to panic. So, I treated myself to a meal in a restaurant – tapenade and breadsticks, followed by a very nice gratin de raviolis. Washed down by a very nice glass of beer, I was perfectly happy. I spent another hour drawing a zentangle, with a quotation about travelling on it, which I then left for someone to find, and then I went through security. I sat in the departure lounge and drew another zentangle and then strolled in a leisurely manner to the gate. As I didn’t know what time the trains from Manchester airport to Liverpool were, I didn’t panic or have to run. I just made my way to the station, and found there was one leaving in 10 minutes – perfect timing…but I’d’ve been panicking about whether I’d catch it or not if I’d known what time it was! At Liverpool, I picked up a taxi, and got to mum’s at just after 9.00 pm. A long day, but one that actually was less worry-filled than I’d expected.

The following day we did some food shopping, went for a walk, read and chatted. Mum was itching to garden, but the weather wasn’t great.

A view of (part of) mum’s garden

In fact, we got a little damp on our walk, but it didn’t really matter.

I think there’s some water birds on the picture somewhere! These are the flood plains near mum, which are used to regulate water levels. We disturbed a lapwing who did the distraction technique that I’d heard about but never seen. Crying piteously it flew in one direction, low to the ground, trying to lure us away from its baby (which we’d already clocked running around in the long grass) So it didn’t need to panic any more, we walked back along the path, in the direction we’d come from, upon which it stopped calling and flew back to its nest. Fascinating.

In the evening, we went to some of Mum’s friends, who had laid on a birthday meal for her, together with a cake.

Surprise, surprise!

On Friday I went into Liverpool to do a bit of shopping, and to meet up with an old school friend. We had a meal in the Pen Factory bar & brasserie,

and then went to The Everyman theatre, to see Sondheim’s “Sweeny Todd”. while it wouldn’t have been my first choice of Sondheim musical, it was a great performance, which I really enjoyed. Very minimal set, but very effective. It was good to catch up with Tracy too, and to hear her news.

On Saturday, we went out to lunch with mum – this was the “proper” celebration. There was me, my sister & her husband, my brother, one of my nephews, and one of my nieces, with her husband and baby Bill. And mum, of course. We went to Moor Hall, “The Barn” – Moor Hall is a michelin starred restaurant, but The Barn is on the same site, but a less formal experience. Mum felt more comfortable with that – and it was delicious!! I meant to take photos but forgot! I had a duck terrine, with an apple compote, followed by chicken, with a leek and potato layer and wild mushrooms, then a fantastic dessert: a light choux bun, filled with rhubarb and custard, with a blood orange ice cream. Lush!!

This is The Barn

and this is the posh restaurant part

My niece, Rose, her husband, Dave, and Bill the baby

Bill enjoyed his chicken goujons with garlic-and-pesto mayonnaise

When we got home after lunch, we had coffee and cake (my photos were very blurry and not very good.) and then we all felt the need for “a little zizz”!! Afterwards, we sat around the table with a few glasses of wine and reminisced and talked. It was all very sociable.

On Sunday it was mum’s actual birthday: Rose left Bill at home with Dave, and came over from Manchester. We all went to church – possibly the worst sermon ever. I think God or Jesus was mentioned about twice, whereas Cilla Black got several mentions!! Never mind. There was coffee and cake (more cake!) after the service, and everyone wished mum happy birthday.

Here are just some of her cards, arranged around the fireplace.

We went out for a late lunch to the Scarisbrick Arms

where we had another delicious meal…I had a steak with chips, and onion rings and other delicious trimmings! I’d ordered the sirloin, which had a £2.50 extra charge (it was a set price menu) but the waiter came and said that they didn’t have any sirloin left. So I said I’d have to have the rump, which was the same price – “unless”, I said,”I could have the fillet steak (which was £¨4 extra) at the same price as the sirloin – to make up for my disappointment…” Yes, that’s fine, the waiter said!!! And it was lovely.

We got back, and another zizz was in order! The evening was spent reading, and trying to work out how the TV works! Mum has two, one which she uses most frequently, in her kitchen/sitting room, and a larger one in the main sitting room. This one is more complicated and she always forgets which remote to use and how they work. None of us are very technically minded, so it was a bit of a shambles – but we finally managed it!

On Monday Mum and Judy went to buy Judy’s gift for her – a bird table – before Judy set off for home. Mike, mum and I went over to see Rose in Manchester, and had lunch there. Then we went out to a park in the afternoon – Bill enjoyed playing on the play equipment

and seeing the animals, but then got a bit grizzly as he hadn’t had a nap

.

Mike & mum, in the sunshine

A Manchester Bee

So we left a little earlier than planned. Mike cooked us an enjoyable meal of pasta and salmon and asparagus, after which we just relaxed (again!) and watched a bit of TV.

On Tuesday, it was time for the journey home. Mike took me to the airport on his way back home to Yorkshire – I was only 4 hours early for the flight this time!! I did start to worry on the plane about having time to get through the airport to catch the last possible express tram to make sure I caught my train home. I was thinking “Will it take me an hour and a half to get through security? Will I have enough time?” (Yes, honestly, I thought it might take that long to get processed through immigration. Sigh) As it was, it took me all of 15 minutes to disembark, go through seciurity AND get to the tram station! I had plenty of time – in fact, enough time to have a coffee at the train station before catching my train home – where Mr FD was waiting for me.

A lovely trip home, to celebrate a very special Mum.

 

 

 

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May pictures

Not sure what to blog about, but feeling I should write something, I delve back into my photo archives to see what I can find!

MAY 2010 – I used to do more walks when I had time between or after lessons. Here’s a little garden I found on a walk above Royat. Obviously a beautiful day! I really enjoyed these walks…I wonder why I don’t do so many now. Perhaps I’m too busy!

May 2010 was when I held George for the first time – our lovely cuddly George cat. He went missing almost three years ago, and although we have Jasper now, George is still very sadly missed. He was the most placid of cats, loving nothing more than a cuddle.

 

MAY 2011 – For a few years we had a Fete de Cheval here – it was, rather sadly, mostly a place where knackers came to buy old horses which were then taken to the abbatoir. It changed for a couple of years when our friends, who keep a livery stables and breeding stables took over the organisation, but that was too much work for them, so it stopped happening a few years ago. Here however is one of the animals that wasn’t a horse – there were some llamas one year!

MAY 2012 – The plant seller is out…I always buy my balcony plants from the same guy: he comes to the market in May/June but his plants are always good value and I’ve never had any complaints. The balcony is looking very sad at the moment, so I need to get out there and tidy it up. Because I’m working on Thursday mornings now I may have to ask Friend Cathy to buy my plants for me this year!

MAY 2013 –Here are Mr FD and our friend Louis, on the top of Mont Ventoux, having cycled up. I was the designated official photographer, but due to becoming too interested in the market in Bedouin, I very nearly missed their triumph! I drove up the mountain rather too hastily (there were hundreds of cyclists!) and caught up with the two of them no more than 3 km from the summit! Luckily I managed to get one action shot of them both, as well as this one.

!

MAY 2014 – A card made for my friend’s “Christian birthday” – I think it may have been one of my first “Celtic style” crosses, which are now one of my favourite things to draw.

MAY 2015 – I’m looking a bit blown about! This was taken when we went out for the day on our 30th wedding anniversary. We had a picnic and visited Mont Dore in the Auvergne. It was a lovely day out. I think this was taklen around Puy Marie, but I may be making that up!

MAY 2016 – an appropriate picture for today. Why, you may ask… Well, another blogger, Elizabeth, who used to live in France wrote:

In France we have a delightful custom of presenting our friends with a bunch, or even just a stem, of Lilies of the Valley.
It’s a custom that dates back to 1561, when the then King, Charles 1 received some lilies as a lucky charm. Each year he offered a bunch to the ladies of his court. So the tradition grew, and by 20th Century it was well established.
The flowers are given as a symbol of Spring. I think it is the one and only time that something is allowed to be sold without tax applying. Scouts and Guides will be in our town today, raising a little money by selling these beautifully perfumed flowers.
and mine are blooming in the garden, so I shall go and pick a few for our neighbour.
The photo was of some lily-of-the-valley that we’d been given by Michel across the road. Unfortunately they didn’t take, so we don’t have them any more.
MAY 2017 – One of my students was getting married, so I made him this card – very simply done with an embosser, and lots of little flowers cut out of scrap paper with my flower punch. The pearls were a bargain from Noz – of course!!
MAY 2018 – By now I was half way through my chemo, and had lost all my hair. Here I am in patriotic mode for the wedding of Harry and Meghan. I wouldn’t have bothered normally, but we’d been invited to Richard’s to watch the wedding on TV and to partake of lunch. I made a delicious but nt very attractive mlemon-and-elderflower cake
And May 2019? Well, it’s only 1st May. I’m sure there’ll be photos to share later on in the month…

40ACTS2019 :: Where’s my tail? I need to chase it!! (26-30)

 

Well, I have had a wonderful, Spirit-filled weekend in Paris, which I’ll post about separately, but 40 Acts has rather got lost…The challenges are getting more challenging AND I’m feeling less engaged – this always happens, and I should be more prepared for it. But this feeling of ennui creeps up on me every year!

Still, let’s try and have a catch-up on what I have (or rather haven’t done!)

26: WITHOUT BORDERS

PROMPT: The crisis isn’t over. Refugees are still in drastic need of help. The good news is there are many ways that we can get involved. But first, we need to choose to love without borders.

REFLECTION: Link here

ACTS: Green: Look up the Welcome Churches website and send the link to your church leader.

Amber: Donate to a refugee charity or a local program that helps refugees find work in your area.

Red: Serve with a charity helping refugees. You can sign up to a volunteer trip online, or serve in other ways (like spreading the word at home).

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8 NIV)

This arrived on Thursday and I do have to say I glanced briefly at it, and then forgot about it. It’s not that I am not concerned about refugees but somehow this just slipped my mind.

Coming back to it, I don’t really know quite what I can do…I’m the Church Leader at the moment – and Welcome Churches isn’t really relevant in France. I know that serving with a charity isn’t for me in my state of health, so that leaves the Amber option. In the end, I have decided to take the easy option…I have already mentioned Phone Credit for Refugees, and their Friday Conga. I’m going to set myself a weekly reminder of this so I can at least comment on the Conga post on FB. I will also try to be more regular in my giving to this fabulous charity.

And here’s another link to their website in case you need it…

PC4R

 

27: DISAPPEARING ACT

PROMPT: Today, take yourself out of the picture. Act generously for someone else without them noticing, and leave no mark that it was you. See what completely anonymous generosity does when you take yourself, your goals, and your self-image off the stage.

REFLECTION: Link here

ACTS: Green: Leave change taped to a car park meter or vending machine.

Amber: Give a generous gift to someone you work with or volunteer with. Leave it on their desk while they’re on lunch and no one’s watching.

Red: How easy is it to hide an elephant? Not very. Think of a large gift and try and deliver it undercover.

“Be careful not to practise your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So, when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honoured by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1–4 NIV)

A friend who is following 40 Acts wrote that he was unwilling to do the Green act : Sorry, my practical side says taping money to a random parking meter is too… random. It might be picked up by a very rich person! Actually, this doesn’t worry me – even a rich person can find themselves without change and be grateful for the generosity of a stranger!

This was Friday’s act, and I was on my way to Paris. I have become a nervous solo traveller and I was too focussed on that to worry about 40 Acts and once I reached the Cathedral I was swept away in preparations and enjoyment, so this Act has been left unfulfilled. I am finding (as mentioned above) that as we go on, even the Green options become more challenging and costly and for those of us on a budget it means that sacrifices are being asked that maybe we feel are too much…I know that “God will provide” but he may not actually provide in all circumstances! A few years ago I put some 5€ notes in envelopes and left them in shopping trolleys with a note saying “Let me help pay for your shopping” – I wonder who found them! I trust that whoever it was, rich or poor, the generosity of that gesture meant that there were positive results.

I think I will – next time I go to a parking meter (which will be tomorrow) – leave some change taped to it. It is an easy “get out” option, I know, but I think it’s all I feel I can manage. I will need to prepare the note/envelope today. And take some sticky tape too! (I’ve just left myself a reminder: “Ninja Parking Meter” it reads!)

28: CLEAR THE DIARY

PROMPT: Wipe your schedule so that you can serve others. Take a break from your own to-do list, and let other people’s needs drive your day.

REFLECTION: Link here

ACTS: Green: Wipe your schedule for an hour to serve someone at home.

Amber: Wipe your schedule for part of the day: message someone and say, ‘I’m free between X and Y and I’m happy to help with anything you need to do.’

Red: Wipe your schedule for a whole day! Fill it entirely with others’ needs (one person or lots of people). See how much serving you can fit in!

“…Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40 NIV)

Not only is this the time when ennui sets in with 40 Acts, it’s also the time when I try to make some “wiggle room” for myself by looking back and finding a way to say “Oh, I’ve already done that…” Well, I’m playing my “Wiggle Room” card today!

On Friday (yesterday for this Act) it was the party to say “Goodbye” to Bishop Pierre, and “Bienvenue!” to Bishop Mark. There was a lot of preparation to be done – I had already volunteered, I must admit, but I felt I did my bit for this Challenge, preparing cheese based canapés for 300 people, when I could have been wandering in a leisurely manner, along the banks of the Seine! Then, as one of the “responsible people” for a table during the party itself, I tried to be there frequently enough to allow the others to be able to mingle. I took my responsibilities seriously, even though it went against my introverted personality type, and approached people gaily trilling “Would you like to try some delicious Auvergnate cheese?” And also, when I got trapped talking to a very lovely but overwhelming gentleman about church music (about which I know nothing!) I did NOT rush off!

There! I’ve played my Joker!

Although, when I was wandering through the streets of whatever-number-Arondissement-I-was-in, on my way back from dinner, I did walk past a beggar, then turn back and put a rather larger-than-usual amount of money in his cup. I think he was a bit surprised!

29: ANYTHING ELSE?

PROMPT: Today we’re looking at going that extra mile to change someone’s life. What can you do to lavish generosity on those who ask you for something? Matthew 5:40–42 tells us that if we’re asked for our shirt, we need to hand over our coat as well, and if we’re asked to go one mile, we should go two. Today’s challenge could change your life as well as someone else’s.

REFLECTION: Link here

ACTS: There’s only one action today. How far can your generosity go? Is there anything else you can do?

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13 NIV)

The reflection is written by someone who felt led by God to donate a kidney – OK, I thought, what’s God going to ask you to do?

I’m afraid my generosity has gone nowhere today! Even when I felt prompted to do the washing up in the office before I went home I said “No. I’m knackered. I’m ill (got another cold, or sinusitis or something) I’m going home.” So I did. Go home, I mean, not do the washing up. But doing the washing up (or not doing it!)  was hardly life changing!!

I’m being a bit unfair on myself though, as I do have the seed of an idea: When I was in hospital having my chemotherapy, everyone was lovely – the other patients, the nurses, the Espace Diane nurses (the support unit, a bit like MacMillan I think), the doctors, the beauty therapist that came round the unit to give hand massages etc. But the person who made most difference to me was Charlotte, another patient, not because she was so welcoming and friendly (although she was!) but because I could speak English with her. Although my French is good enough to manage in a hospital situation, and to understand what was going on, it is an effort when you’re ill to always speak in French! I needed someone – who understood what I was going through – to say in English “It’s OK. It may be shitty now, but you’ll get through it, one way or another”

So, I’m going to write to the Espace Diane to ask if I could leave some cards, with notes inside them, that they can give to English speaking patients. I would offer a contact number if they wanted to chat, or ask me questions – on the proviso that its understood I’m just someone who’s been through it, and not a doctor or trained counsellor or whatever! The hospital might say no, which I must respect, but I think that they will accept this. We shall see what happens!

 

30: YIKES!

PROMPT: That sharp intake of breath as you decide to do something truly generous, as you click donate, as the notes leave your hand. Maybe you’re getting used to that feeling this month. But what if that wasn’t just a one-off moment? What if it was an invitation into a sacrificial lifestyle? Today, take the hit. Gulp, and click donate – on a monthly direct debit or pledge that takes some real sacrificial giving.

REFLECTION: Link here

ACTS: Green: Renew an old giving pledge that you let go by the wayside.

Amber: Look at causes or people you already give to. Can you increase your giving by 1, 5 or 10%?

Red: Make a brand-new sacrificial gift.

“In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations…” (2 Corinthians 8:2–5 NIV)

This reflection tells of someone being guided to give a large amount of money, that she felt she couldn’t afford. I’m interested to know if after she gave it, trusting that this was what God wanted, she found that she missed the money…If you give away a chunk of your budget then do your family suffer because of that? How did she feel? Or did God “provide”?

I have – once – had a Yikes moment and been led to give away more money than I felt we could afford (I don’t think I discussed it with Mr FD as I knew he wouldn’t agree! I just thought “I’ll try and absorb the loss ionto my own spending”!) I did find that while I had to make some personal (and very small!) sacrifices, I didn’t really miss the money as much as I thought I would…But it isn’t something I felt very comfortable doing!

I’ve upped my pledge to church a little this year, and I think that once Mr FD’s salary starts I will be able to give more regularly to the charities I support. I think I will also start a new pledge to Amnesty International, or maybe to Restos du Coeur… This one is a wait-and-see but I will admit that this won’t be very “sacrificial” giving. It will just be a bit-extra-now-we-can-afford-it. My generosity isn’t really stretching that far!

****

It seems a shame that as we head towards the week in which Jesus prepared to give everything, I feel like I’m becoming less generous ! I don’t know how to get over this obstacle, but as 40 Acts have upped the ante I seem to have decided that “enough is enough”.

40ACTS2019:: 10,11,12 :: ANOTHER CATCH-UP!

Hello, everyone! I’vefinally got a bit of time to sit down and do a catch-up post on 40 Acts. That’s only because my usual Wednesday morning student got back late last night from her holidays and cancelled her lesson this morning! Still, it gives me time to go and do the grocery shopping, so that Mr FD doesn’t have to do it after his first “real” day at work. (Huzzah!!) He’s been training, but (providing they like the presentation he’s giving today) he starts the “proper” job tomorrow.

If you’re wondering why I gave a sermon – I’m aware some newer readers don’t know my back story – I’m a Licensed Lay Minister with the Anglican Church. Licensed back in 1996 (Good grief, that long ago!!) in the Diocese of Oxford, I was given permission to transfer my “license to preach” to the Episcopal Church, when I started worshipping with them in Clermont Ferrand. Our rector recently left to take up a new position in Rome (and seems to be enjoying it – he has full permission to go full-out smells-and-bells, which wasn’t really suitable in Christ Church, so he’s very contented!!) and so, being left without a priest at the moment, I have been given dispensation to administer the reserved sacrament to the congregation. It is a real honour and privilege…but it does mean I’m taking more services than I’m used to!! You’ll be getting another one of my sermons the weekend after next!

Anyway. On with 40 Acts…

ACT 11

HIDDEN HEROES

PROMPT: Think of the sorts of people we only notice when things go wrong: the waste collectors after two weeks of rubbish piling up, the sound team when a church service goes wrong, the handyman uncle when a car disaster hits. Do we notice them at any other time? It might just take a thank you, or a gift card. This is an easy and really noticeable way to make a difference to someone.

LINK: HERE

ACTS: Green: Drop a small card to a hidden hero, just to let them know they’re noticed.

Amber: Show up with a cup of coffee or a fizzy drink as they work.

Red: Figure out a creative fix that would make their job easier. What small solution would help them out?

“We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbours for their good, to build them up.” (Romans 15:1–2 NIV)

The focus of the reflection is on post deliverers – it seemed a bit odd to me to particularly focus on them, but I’m learning from Helen, over at Looking Beyond to look beyond (hah!) the initial “act” to see the meaning behind it: what is the driving force, the essence of the challenge. She writes thoughtfully and meaningfully about her “hidden heroes”

But, actually, for me, this act is about our Post Office workers…It seems that every year for 40 Acts there is one act that entails me taking a box of biscuits into the local La Poste for the people who work there. It’s the place where all the posties start their local deliveries from, so it seems appropriate to deliver my biscuits there to say “thank you” to them all.

I may also buy another box of biscuits and take them to the Caserne des Pompiers – the firemen are volunteers, and deal with fires, accidents, health problems and other things too. At Christmas they “sell” their calendars: basically you give them as much money as you wish to, in return for a calendar. It’s basically a donation, as you give much more than the calendar is worth. So, we dutifully bought their calendar  at Christmas (if anyone would like a copy of the St Just pompiers calendar let me know in the comments. First come, first to have it sent to them.), which is a way they raise funds for their party on St Barbara’s day (she being the patron saint of fire fighters.) But I think a box of biscuits might be a nice way to thank them for their work. I’ll add them to the shopping list.

ACT 12

PRAYER CIRCLE

Maybe not quite the prayer the 40 Acts team were thinking of!

PROMPT: An invite to be generous hides behind every door in your neighbourhood. The first step is to go and find it. Today, we’re prayer walking around our community, choosing to focus on those nearest us. Walk, think about who’s behind each door, and pray. Lay some groundwork for extraordinary moments of kindness. (Sorry, but: // grumpy English teacher hat on:  that should read “An invitation to be generous…”: to invite is the verb; invitation is the noun. //Grumpy English teacher hat off! )

LINK: HERE

ACTS:  Green: Prayer walk. If you’ve not done this before, it’s as simple as just walking, slowly, around your neighbourhood, noticing what’s around you, and praying: for peace, for problems in the community, for community relationships. If you’re feeling bold, pop a card through a neighbour’s door to let them know you’re praying for them.

Amber: Print out one of our lamppost signs, asking what people in your neighbourhood need prayer for, and stick it up locally. Check back to see what people have taken and use it to guide your prayers over the next few weeks.

Red: After you prayer walk, draw up a ‘generosity map’ of ideas: a map of your neighbourhood, with notes pinned on specifying where and how you can be generous.

The word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood. We saw the glory with our eyes…”
(John 1:14 MSG)

I was teaching in the morning, but I knew that in the afternoon I had to walk from the Language School where I work into the centre of Clermont for an Opthalmologist appointment. So I thought this would be an easy-ish act to do: walk through the city, pray for those I felt called to pray for and maybe drop off a few Ninja Notes on the way… Not exactly my “neighbourhood” but that would be fine. Hands dusted off, job done.

…Yes, well, someone called God had other ideas…

On my walk, I paused to look at what was on at the cinema, together with two or three others. As I perused the posters a young woman approached.

“Can you help me?” she said. Everyone looked away, and shuffled in the opposite direction, muttering. I was about to say “No, sorry…” when I thought of what 40 Acts is about. What does the prompt say today? “extraordinary moments of kindness.

“Yes,” I said, with a smile, “What do you need?”

She explained that she needed baby milk and nappies for her baby, so as we walked to the nearest supermarket, she talked about her life. She was Serbian, came to France 3 years ago, but her husband had walked out on her, leaving her with a baby and pregnant; she was living in Vichy (some 40 km from Clermont) with a friend. When we got to the supermarket I bought a few things for her…

…afterwards I took the opportunity to explain about 40 Acts, and what I was doing. “God sent you to me,” I said. I’m sorry though that when she asked me for money for the bus home, I “blanked ” that bit out of the conversation and carried on talking about something else…I do feel a bit guilty about that, but I don’t have a bottomless purse, even if God has a bottomless heart!! I do worry a little that it was a scam, but – in the end – I have to tell myself that, if it was indeed some kind of swindle, I told her about God, and maybe planted a seed. And if it wasn’t, then she and her child were fed and nappified. No good deed is ever wasted, so they say. I hope that’s the case.

ACT 13

NEEDS MUST

PROMPT: Crumbs on the counter. Grime in the mugs. Someone else’s dishes in the office sink for days. What an opportunity for day-to-day, ongoing generosity – dull, grey acts of kindness that don’t get you any ‘points’. Make no mistake, taking responsibility for someone else’s mundane problems is generosity that makes a difference.

LINK: HERE

ACTS:  Green: Clean the office sink (or staffroom sink, or church sink).

Amber: Take responsibility for an undone chore where you live, at church, or at the workplace.

Red: Take responsibility for an undone chore for the entire month.

I’ve mentioned this before – for “Joyful, Joyful” (Act 7) I wrote about a Rend Collective song : I try to sing this to myself when doing something I don’t enjoy and feel like getting grumpy about, especially if I feel it’s something Mr FD should be doing – it does help!! And actually, I think this might be the best way for me to complete this Act. It’s not a “Today Only” task…it’s a Continuing Act : to do Stuff, even though I think Mr FD should do it, or even if I don’t want to do it, but to try to do it with that cheerful heart. Reminding myself that the joy of the Lord is my strength, wherever I am, and whatever I am doing. It’s not going to be easy, but…

Maybe I’m cheating by combining two Acts in One (BOGOF?!) but it’s definitely a continuing one. We do, generally, share the housework pretty evenly;  I read somewhere that if both partners think they do the lion’s share of the housework then it’s probably divided equally! I think that’s the place we’re in!

But I should give Mr FD a round of applause because he almost always cleans the cat trays (and we have 9 of them!) During my treatment I was expressly forbidden to clean them, because of the risk of infection with an immune system shot to pieces, and I have never re-taken up the reins. So I shouldn’t complain about other things! But maybe my response to this challenge is to play my part in the cat tray cleaning…

 

Remembering the Ten…

Today on BBC Breakfast there was a special programme – on the 75th anniversary of a plane crash in Sheffield there was a fly past of various RAF/USAF planes.

Why? What was special about this particular crash?

It happened on 22nd February 1944, when Tony Foulds, then aged 8, and his mates were playing in Endcliffe Park, Sheffield. They saw the B-17 bomber plane limping back, after being damaged during its bombing raid, desperately looking for somewhere to land. They didn’t realise the state of the plane though, and when they saw someone waving from the plane the boys excitedly waved back, not understanding that it was a sign for them to clear the field. In order to avoid killing the boys the crew of the Flying Fortress steered away from them and crashed into the wooded hillside beyond. All ten airmen were killed instantly.

Since a memorial was erected in the 1970s, Tony has regularly kept plants watered and the area clean to remember the men who died. He says that he feels enormous guilt that the men died in order to save him and his friends, and this is one way of trying to make up for this. Tony says he “loves them like my own son or daughter” – these men who made the concious choice to die, rather than risk killing the young boys playing in the park below.

A report from BBC Breakfast recounted how Tony tended the memorial and how much he wanted to see these men honoured in a fly past. Permission was granted, and the USAF at RAF Lakenheath organised the Fly Past today, the 75th anniversary. This was the news report that started the whole thing off:

So today, thousands of people gathered in the park to watch the fly past, with the Breakfast Show being broadcast live from there. Tony was present, together with relatives of the young airmen who died. Here is a still from the TV report as a B-17 (at least I think that’s it. I may be wrong!) passes over and Tony raises his arms to wave.

It was actually a very emotional segment to watch, as the relatives tried to help assuage the guilt that this man feels “every day of my life” and he watched this commemmoration of their sacrifice.

Please note, I’m not unaware of the irony of the airmen dying while saving the lives of some young lads playing football in Sheffield, when they had just been over Germany dropping bombs on German civilians. But it’s still a moving story all the same.

I am a cider drinker

A blast from the past here, with the video of The Wurzels, a British comedy (questionable!) band from the 70s. Does anyone remember them? They had a Number 1 hit with “I’ve got a brand new combine harvester (and I’ll give you the key)” as well.

Anyway…I thought of them as I wrote the title for this post, which is about our cider making exploits, back in November. It was a very mild day – just after a very cold spell – when our friends Jean & Claire called us to tell us that they would be making their cider that day. So we first of all picked apples at our friend Danièle’s plot, singing along to Big Big Train’s “Wassail” which seemed appropriate.

 

I was still wobbly on my feet – apparantly one of the longer-lasting side effects of chemo – so Mr FD did more picking than me, but we got quite a few bags-full between us. Bizarrely we found several “Bags for Life” abandoned in the orchard – we have no idea who left them there. They wouldn’t be from Danièle’s family, as no-one lives in the village any longer, so maybe it was an apple scrumper who was disturbed! Whoever it was, they lost their bags, as we used them and took them home!

It was very pleasant in the warm sunshine, with a view over the village. Here’s a view of the orchard

 

Some of the apples had been eaten away – I imagine from the inside, as some flying creature laid its eggs inside the apple to provide a food source for the hatched babies, whatever they were. The remains were actually rather lovely in their way. We left a lot of apples on the trees and on the ground – hopefully they will provide nourishments for “creatures of the forest” during the winter.

After we’d picked the apples, we headed over to Les Ports, the family home of Jean, now used as a holiday home by his sister, who lives in Lyon. Here there is the old machinery that has been used for generations to make cider. Each year (that the harvest is good enough) Chantelle and her husband, and possibly children too, come across from Lyon, and with her brother, Jean, and his family, the ancient equipment comes to life once more.

This year, Claire & Jean’s youngest were home from their studies: Alyssia and Joe are twins. Joe had brought two sisters from China who are at Uni with him to see what was going on.

 

 

 

First the apples were tipped into the hopper of this machine, which chopped them into smaller pieces. It’s a vicious machine, with blades going up and down really quickly. H&S doesn’t exist here, as Jean pushes the apples towards the blades with his bare hands! The pieces of apple are gathered in large plastic buckets, ready to be tipped into the press.

    

Mr FD, Jean, and Jean’s BiL are manipulating the press. The apples have been tipped into the barrel part, and the top part is weighted down and a huge screw-like mechanism is turned to press down on the apples to extract the juice.

There’s a bucket at the bottom, collecting the juice (which is filtered through straw placed around the base of the barrel-part) and we had to keep an eye on this, ready to whip it out as it got full, and replace it with another.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was then taken outside where it was decanted into various jerry-cans, bottles, and demi-johns to be transported home. Here’s Alyssia and one of the Chinese guests carefully pouring the juice into a demi-john.

I was getting really chilled near the end, so I went and sat next to the log burner inside, while everyone finished off, overseen by Jet and Bilout, Jean & Claire’s two dogs

We took home several bottles of apple juice, which Mr FD mostly drank. It was a bit too sweet for me. I suppose (thinking about it far too late!) I could have mulled some of it with spices and lemon juice, which would have been nice! Never mind…

It was a very enjoyable day.

(Sorry the placing of pictures and text is a bit random. I was trying to embed the pictures in text but wasn’t very successful!)

Goodbye to 2018

So that was 2018 – not necessarily my “best” year, but a year in which I learned something about myself, in which I made new friends, in which I drew closer to God. There were bright times, and darker ones, but here are a random selection of 12 photographs.

JANUARY

I found that focussing on celtic knotwork was a way of taking my mind off what was happening to me. I had surgery on 3rd January, to remove the tumour. This was done during my recovery, as a Burns’ Night gift for my Scottish-ancestors Rector and his Scottish wife.

FEBRUARY

Chemo started – again focussing on zentangling was a way of taking myself out of the situation. This koala was drawn as a gift for someone, but I have no idea who!!

MARCH

Despite chemo, we were able to go to Manchester to see Bill Bailey (comedian) and Elbow (band) in concert. We also met my great nephew, Billy, for the first time. Here he is with my niece, Rose, and her husband, Dave. We had a magnificent time. I also lost my hair by the end of the month

APRIL

I was still well enough to go to Fréjus with the Cycle Club – I spent a lot of time resting in the holiday village, but was able to for shortish walks. Here I am dipping my toes in the Med!

MAY

The Royal Wedding gave me an excuse to wear my patriotic scarf as a turban! Friend Cathy and I went up to Friend Richard’s to watch it on his big screen TV – an excuse for fizzies and good food! I made an inelegant elderflower and lemon sponge. Which was very nice!

JUNE

I was into the second set of chemo treatments by now – these were less pleasant (if “pleasant” could be used to describe the first set!) than the FEC100 with fatigue really taking over. However I still was able to get to Annecy with the cycle club. I did a little tiny bit of walking – 2 km was the furthest I walked, but I was very happy to have managed that!

JULY

We were into high summer by now, with long balmy evenings. Friend Cathy hosted a music night up at her home, where we sat out, singing, playing instruments, and enjoying good company. Great fun – even if we were forced indoors by a sudden rainstorm!

I had my last chemo at the beginning of July – huzzah! – and two or three weeks later started my six weeks of radiotherapy. It wasn’t so tiring, by any means, although I still appreciated an afternoon nap when I returned home from hospital.

AUGUST

The village had its Fete Patronale, right at the end of August. Never our favourite time, as the travelling fair sets up right outside the house, but we went to stay at Friend Richard’s overnight, and came down to watch the light show. It was, let’s say, “interesting”!

I finished my radiotherapy sessions!

SEPTEMBER

September was a good month, as I started to get some energy back, and – apart from my hormonetherapy – I had finished treatment. So, we were able to have a holiday in the Italian lakes, thanks to the generosity of a friend. Here I am enjoying the gardens above Lake Maggiore

And then my mum and my sister came to stay.

Mum, Judy and Mr FD on a walk through Le Gouffre d’Enfer in the Pilat mountains.

OCTOBER

I went back to work – not too much, but I was glad to be starting again! I felt I’d been lounging around for too long!

Still time for fun however – I had my birthday celebrations at Friend Alison’s

and went to Waterloo for the Convention of the Convocation of Episcopal churches in Europe, where Mark Edington was elected as our Bishop. Here he is speaking, via Skype, to the Convention. I was on the Transition Committee for the process of preparing for the Consecration of Mark; however, as it was causing me fairly severe anxiety, I resigned from the Committee in November. Still, I’m looking forward to going to the Consecration service next April.

NOVEMBER

The weather was a little odd, going from very cold (plus snow!) to extremely mild within a matter of days. Luckily it was warm(ish) and sunny on the day we got involved with making cider with our friends Jean and Claire, at Jean’s family home a few kilometres from St Just. Here is Jean, Mr FD and Jean’s brother-in-law manipulating the apple press that has been used for generations. And here are Jet and Bulot (except I don’t know how to spell his name – it’s a French slang term meaning “Little Willy”!!)

DECEMBER

My friend Jane and I spent a few days in Strasbourg, exploring the Christmas Markets. Here are a couple of views of Petit France, the area of the city where there are canals. It was a chilly day when we walked around, but we found a lovely restaurant to warm up in!

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Do you know, looking back over these – and many other – photos has reminded me that this year hasn’t been so bad after all! Yes, I had to go through treatment for breast cancer, but despite that, there have been many really enjoyable things! We’ve been lucky enough to be able to go away several times, though I was sad to miss a couple of weddings, as they fell on a Saturday just a couple of days after a chemo session – no way I could have gone!

Here are the cards I made for them

I hope that 2019 will be even better than 2018. It’s starting well: Mr FD has a job!! He begins three months of training with a fibre optics company on Wednesday. As long as he passes the training, he has a six months probationary period with the company; if he passes that period, he should have a permanent post! This is really good news.

So, I wish all my readers a happy 2019, full of joy, and blessings.