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!)

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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.

 

A walk around Strasbourg

One of the things we did while we were in Strasbourg was to take a free walking tour – we’ve done this in Budapest and in Turin, as well as here in Strasbourg, and always found them to be really interesting. I’d recommend looking one up if you’re visiting another city. Of course, one gives a tip at the end, but you give what you think the tour has been worth.

One thing that I found very moving was when our guide, Leo, talked about the way Strasbourg and the surrounding area had passed from French to German hands and back again, a&nd back again…how a member of his family who was still alive had “changed nationality” five times in his lifetime! Leo took us to a war memorial: Here’s my picture of it, taken on a rainy day in December.

Here’s another photo:

Leo explained that the sculpture shows the mother “Alsace” mourning for her dead sons…but, uniquely for war memorials, these young men are naked, they wear no uniforms, nothing to identify them. The words on the memorial read “A nos morts” (To our dead)…almost uniquely, nothing about “dead for the Republic”, or “died for the glory of France”.

And why? Because there had been people from Strasbourgian families who had been fighting on both sides – for the Allied forces, but also for the German, simply because of where they lived, and who had been “in charge” at the time. So the memorial simply commemorates all who died. I found this very moving.

The rest of the tour was informative and interesting too..with a very engaging guide.

We were lucky enough to also have a rapid tour with an acquaintance, Denis, who we’d met for Vin Chaud. He told us about a space between two pillars, outside the Cathedral…Apparently, people had to go through this space at the end of Lent. If they couldn’t fit through, it showed that they hadn’t been very good at their Lenten fasting and were therefore fined!!

Here’s Jane proving that her Lenten fasting had gone well

despite us having eaten one of these, which is a cross between a pretzel and a doughnut (a doughzel? a pretnut?)

and one of these, which is a cross between a Danish pastry and a pretzel (a Danzel? a Pretzish?)

Both were delicious, but I preferred the doughzel – it was much lighter than it looked. We had shared one, but would have liked one each! Unfortunately, we’d taken it back to the flat to eat, so it was too far to go back to buy another one!

 

 

The fun is finally over.

Judy had two wishes: to see St Roch and to do a wine tasting – so that’s what we did!

On Saturday morning we went to Cervieres, which is a local Medieval village, where we went first to the church to see the stained glass window of our feted Saint

Here is St Roch, showing off his blue knickers, and Spot, the dog, with the Jammie Dodger

After a short walk around the village we headed off to Notre Dame l’Hermitage where there’s another St Roch, which I’ve shown before.

We climbed up to the viewpoint, and looked across to our village and beyond

before heading back home for a lunch of cheese (still lots left to eat ) and salad (and still eating the lettuces from my anti-wastage box too!).

Friend Alison had recommended a Wine maker to visit – they had been with friends earlier in the summer – so on Saturday afternoon, we headed over to la Domaine Vial.

We were greeted by a very barky dog, who, having alerted his master to our presence, followedus into the Cave and then promptly fell asleep. Monsieur Vial was charming – he took time to explain all the wines that they make, to help us taste them, describing what flavours we could expect, and generally chatting away. I was very gratified to actually understand everything he said, and to be able to translate where necessary. Here is M. Vial with the 9 wines we tried – two whites, two rosé, and four red, plus a sparkling wine, which was a tad too sweet for my tastes.

We each bought some wine – Mr FD and I have been entrusted with Judy & mum’s, and have to deliver it next time we go to the UK. It was a really pleasant afternoon.

A blurry photo of the barky dog.

We drove home by a different route to usual, just to give them a different view of the area, and there was time for a snooze, before going to Louis and Odette’s for an apero. Sparkling wine and delicious snacks were followed by a meal at the Hotel de la Poste, just round the corner. Another good meal – rabbit-and-prune terrine, steak (for me. Mum had duck again!), and then the splendid cheese trolley and dessert trolley. I find that after a meal I’m too full to really appreciate either, and they really are so good one could just go to the restaurant just for them!

               

It was a very pleasant meal, made even better by the fact that we didn’t have to pay for Mr FD & my meals, due to the bartering system where Mr FD’s infomatique help and advice is paid for in food!!

On Sunday it was time for mum & Judy to leave, so we decided to go over to Lyon and visit another Medieval village, this one called Perouges. It’s about 30 minutes from the airport, so it’s quite a good place to visit if you have a bit of time to kill.

We didn’t have quite as much time to kill as we could have done, so really only had time for lunch in a very pleasant restaurant courtyard, under the spreading not-sure-but-possibly-a-lime tree.

After our meal, we took Judy and mum to the airport, and dropped them off.

It was lovely to see them both, and to spend time with them. Mind you, after a week in Italy, where I walked quite some distance, and this week, when I walked another 30-odd kilometres I’ve been glad of a somewhat more restful week this week!

The Fun Continues – visiting Villages of Character

On Thursday it is the village market, so the three of us had a wander around, just seeing what there was on offer. (Nothing special – just the usual!) and then we had a coffee back at home, before having lunch.

After lunch Judy went for a walk – getting lost and being befriended by an apparently stray dog – while mum and I stayed home, as Friend Alison was calling round. After that we went for a short walk, which was interrupted by Judy phoning to say that the dog was following her, did I have any suggestions? She decided to retrace her steps, encouraging the dog to go back to where it “picked her up” so to speak, & I guessed where she was and where the dog might belong so went to meet her. My guess was correct, and by the time I met her, she had discovered that the dog belonged to a farm, and that it was, apparently, an inveterate wanderer. The bloke at the farm said that she was very kind to have bothered to bring it back!

This isn’t the correct breed of dog, but I liked the picture!

That evening, we had some apero snacks and acouple of gin and tonics, followed by Spanish pork for dinner, but I can’t remember what we did in the evening…

However I do know that on Friday we went out exploring the local “villages of character” – having first gone to Roanne to explore Noz. I bought a nice top for 3,50€ and a lot of cat food. The last time I bought some of this, the cats wolfed it down. So when I saw it in Noz again, I bought four boxes of 12pouches each. Of course, (and I should have known this would happen!) they are now refusing to eat it! We bought a sandwich in a boulangerie, and took it to the forest of l’Espinasse to eat it.

Then we went to Le Crozet, a medieval village that I have never explored before. We went to the restaurant there with friends a few weeks back, but the village was new to me. It was a delight.

We followed the Discovery Trail around ther village, and admired the beautifully restored buildings. It really was like a film set – with very few alterations, it could have been used immediately! We could imagine the Three Musketeers would come striding round a corner, buckling their swash (or does one swash one’s buckle?!) and demanding a wench to bring them goblets of wine at any moment.

As we left to move on to Ambierle we nodded a Good Day to a Dutch couple in their car.

Ambierle has an ancient priory, with a polychrome roof, typical of the region – although most examples are found further north in Burgundy, in places like Beaune. We had a look around the church, as Judy wanted to see an image of St Roch, after I had told her the story of the Saint. There were many saints depicted in the windows, but not St Roch. However, to some surprise, we did come across the same Dutch couple as we’d met in Le Crozet; slightly embarrassed we nodded at each other, and then the three of us giggled a little at the coincidence.

We had a look around the gift shop and admired the fountain in the courtyard…

… before setting out for St Haon le Chatel, another Medieval village (this time with a tea shop)

We were sitting outside the tea shop, sipping our rather disappointing teas, and nibbling our very disappointing biscuits when Judy hissed “It’s them again!” Slightly unbelievably, it was the Dutch couple again, who were arriving for tea as well. It seemed really bizarre that they were visiting the same villages as us – especially as there are other pretty villages in the area! – but we laughed awkwardly when they arrived, and had a short conversation about the biscuits. We wazlked around the village, but we were all getting a bit tired by then…No Saint Roch in the church again though…

After this we headed home, as we were going out for a meal in the evening. We went to our favourite restaurant, and had a lovely meal. There’s really only one menu – if you have a request, you need to mention when booking (which we did, as Richard, who came with us, is vegetarian) – and so we had a goats cheese and tomato terrine with salad (a late request from Mr FD, who doesn’t eat goiats cheese, meant he had air dried ham with his salad), followed by duck (specially requested for mum)

Richard had a velouté of wild mushrooms, which he said was delicious. Cheese and then a very nice dessert (which I can’t remember, but which was fruity, I think)

 

Family time

So we get back from our lovely holiday in Italy on Sunday, round about lunchtime. We had all good intentions to do cleaning and tidying, but actually felt too tired to do anything other than flop during the afternoon. So Monday morning was a whirl of cleaning again (despite our efforts the week before we left on holiday!) and at 1.15 I was ready to leave to pick mum and Judy up at Lyon airport. But Mr FD just checked the site to see if the flight was on time – annd we discovered that there had been an “incident” at the airport. A person with mental health issues, rather than terrorist tendencies, had driven a stolen car through some plate glass windows, and then onto the runway – all flights were being delayed; many were being cancelled. Happily, theirs was only delayed, by 3.5 hours, so instead of arriving at 15h they finally got through at 18h30.

We drove them home, to a wild boar casserole that I’d prepared earlier, and a good bottle of red wine.

On Tuesday we had to go shopping, as otherwise there’d be nothing to eat, so we went to Les Halles Diderot, the market hall in Roanne, where we wandered around, admiring the fresh fruit, fish, meat and charcuterie, before stopping at Mons cheese stall:

Here we went rather b-zongo (a technical term meaning “mad and reckless”) and bought vast quantities of cheese: so much that we are still eating it almost  two weeks after it was bought! I’ve taken the last few crusty bits today and made a leek-potato-and-cheese soup for lunch. We then went to Lidl, and Carrefour, but mum was feeling tired, so she & Judy had a coffee while I did a quick zip round Carrefour for the last few things.

During the afternoon Judy and I did quite a lot of cooking. You see, I have heard tell of Boites Contre la Gaspillage (Boxes against Wastage) at Lidl – boxes full of out of date/ almost out of date food, usually fruit & veg, but not always – but had never actually been at a shop at the right time. Tuesday morning was the right time! For 1€ I bought a box containing:

  • 2 boxes of raspberries, only slightly mushy, which we made raspberry coulis with.
  • 2x500g boxes of grapes – when picked over, we got about 500g of good fruit from them.
  • 2x500g of carrots – these were mouldy, but when Judy peeled them they were fine. I cooked them up and froze them.
  • a wrinkly aubergine – I used it to make ratatouille, with
  • several large, slightly squashy tomatoes.
  • 6 Pink Lady apples – which are fine.
  • 6 Little Gem lettuces – slightly black round the tips of the leaves, but just needing a good trim
  • Half a cucumber

Not bad for 1€!! I was very impressed. That afternoon Mr FD had an interview, which actually turned out not to be an interview but an offer of some short term work. He needs to decide whether to take it on. The problem is that it might preclude him from taking on another job, should he find one…So he’s thinking about it at the moment.

Tuesday evening was Music Night! Cathy had organised another music night up at her place, so we gathered for drinks and food – I made a smoked salmon and broccoli pizza, and a salami and tomato tart to take – and singing and playing into the evening. Judy had brought her penny whistle with her, so she played some folk songs, and we sang to Beatles and Johnny Cash. A great time was had by all!

On Wednesday we went to the Pilat mountains, about an hour’s drive from us. Here we have a lovely walk that we like doing, which is called Le Gouffre d’Enfer – the Jaws of Hell. Which sounds way more difficult and scary than it is!

Mum, Judy & Mr FD ready to enter the Jaws of Hell – dum,dum, DAH!!!!!

It’s actually a gentle meander through a dry river valley, which then reaches a huge wall – which is the barrage, built in the reign of Napolean III, behind which is a large lake.

At the side is a winding flight of steps – no idea how many, but this is the view from the top of the barrage:

 

My 89 year old mum climbed these steps quicker than I did!

A view of the resevoir behind the barrage.

Then we followed the path back down to the car park, pausing to take in the view of the village of Rochetaillé

and to pose for photos

We had lunch in a pizza restaurant in the village – we usually go to the traditional Auberge, but neglected to check if it was open. Not on Wednesday. Never mind – we all enjoyed our meals, and I introduced Judy to the wonder that is a Café Gourmand – basically, coffee with mini tasters of desserts.

After this we drove up to the Cret de Perdrix, a summit with a good view. There’s about a kilometre walk up to it, and mum managed very well. The descent was a bit less easy, being very rocky, and mum being less confident of her balance, but with Mr FD’s hand and guidance she succeeded in getting down without too much difficulty. This photo shows the uneven ground underfoot

A further kilometre or so and we were back at the car…time for a drink! Mr FD also thought it was time for dessert, as he hadn’t indulged in a Café Gourmand at lunchtime. So he had a banana split. I hope he likes chantilly cream!!!

     

The rest of us had a variety of cold drinks and relaxed on the comfortable chairs in the sunshine, or the shade, depending on our preference. Finally we decided it was time to go, and we made our way home, with only a small diversion, as Mr FD took the wrong road.

We had a bottle of Asti, bought in Italy, which was very nice, and then for dinner we had  a chicken-and-vegetable tray bake. Cheese followed – we had a lot of cheese left to eat! But, TBH, we were all still quite full from lunch! Then we watched a DVD of “Brooklyn” which I very much enjoyed.

 

 

Turin today…Holiday Day 7

We have learned something today: Mr FD doesn’t like cities in hot weather.

The forecast had been for a cooler day, so we dressed for this, but unfortunately it was 29° – which can feel even hotter in a city, with the heat radiating off the buildings. We’d had a “discussion” about whether to take a Segway tour of the city, but the final decision had been negative. So I wanted to take a free walking tour (having found the one we took in Budapest so good) Mr FD was less keen, but agreed. However, when we arrived at the meeting place, he was really desperate for a toilet (!) and couldn’t find one, so he said for me to do the tour and he’d meet me later.

So I did. I really enjoyed a two-and-a-half hour walk through Turin’s history, admiring buildings from Roman through to Baroque and even more modern…

   

Francesca, the tour guide, was very informative, and I chatted to a pleasant Englishwoman, Megan, on the walk round.

Francesca does her stuff

At the end of the tour I texted Mr FD to tell him where I was, and I sat with a citron pressé, resting my feet and enjoying the shade of the arcades. Unfortunately, due to a misunderstanding, he couldn’t find me, and was getting increasingly fed up, and feeling queasy after a large custard bun consumed at breakfast time. I suspect he was dehydrated too. After a flurry of bad tempered texts we managed to meet up, and he said he wanted to go back to the B&B. So, after a bit of discussion, it was decided he’d go back, and I’d stay in Turin, then get the train to Moncalieri, and text him from the station. So that’s what we did.

I did the walking tour backwards, stopping to look at places we’d not had time to properly explore on the whistlestop tour, such as the Cathedral and the roman area. I didn’t get to see the Turin shroud, as it only gets displayed once every five years – and anyway, I’m not too interested. I don’t believe it is the Shroud of Christ, and so don’t see it as particularly worth seeing.

I had a few problems buying my rail ticket back to Moncalieri – first because my card wouldn’t work in the machine, and secondly, I ended up buying two tickets because a smelly, dirty old man insisted on “helping” me at the ticket machine that took cash, and he pressed the buttons for me so I ended up buying two tickets. Happily, they weren’t very expensive (2€30 each) so I didn’t lose too much money, but I was most unimpressed by him then asking me to give him money for helping me! I’m afraid I said some rude words. It was a bit confusing finding where I had to take the train from, but with real help from a railway employee I got there okay.

Mr FD picked me up, still not his usual cheery self, and said it wasn’t worth going back to the farm, as Nicola had had a large lunch party for an association he worked with, and there would be chaos if we met people driving down the narrow road. So we went to the historic centre of Moncaleri again. We had a rehydrating drink first (Mr FD cheered up a little), then a refreshing beer, with some snacks (Mr FD cheered up more – he hadn’t had lunch, due to feeling sick, so some grumpiness was probably attributable to hunger too), and then we went to a restaurant where I had a burger, with avocado salsa and chips, and Mr FD had a pizza. With further refreshing and rehydrating drinks, Mr FD was smiling again by the end of the evening. He did want to leave early, so we informed Nicola of that when we got back, and packed the car.

Taking Nicola up on his offer, we sat outside in the warm evening with a glass of local wine, watching the lights of Turin and its suburbs twinkling.An early-ish night, and an early get up at 6.00 am, meant we were back home by 11.45, just in time to have bacon sandwiches for lunch!

Although Mr FD didn’t enjoy the last two days much, I did, and all in all, we’d say that the Piedmont area of Italy has much to offer. I’d recommend both the places we stayed, although the second was very simple. Mind you, it was also extremely cheap – 26€ a night for us both, with 8€ for the copious breakfast. But beware the chocolate covered custard bun – it might not suit your stomach!!

When we got home I felt really relaxed and recuperated…although during the week I had walked an awful long way. My pedometer isn’t terribly accurate, but it is telling me I walked approximately 70 km during the week. Not bad for an unfitty like me!

And the next day, my mum and sister arrived!