Everybody needs good neighbours…

Neighbours,
Everybody needs good neighbours
Just a friendly wave each morning
Helps to make a better day

Neighbours,
Need to get to know each other
Next door is only a footstep away

Neighbours,
Everybody needs good neighbours
With a little understanding
You can find the perfect blend

You may, or may not, recognise the lyrics from the “Neighbours” theme. Rather trite, but actually quite true. Good neighbours can make a big difference, and in France, there is La Fete des Voisins to encourage people to get to know their neighbours a little better. It was started in the 1990s, I think, by someone who lived in an appartment block in Paris, and had the misfortune to find one of his elderly neighbours had died, and nobody had noticed. He realised that there wasn’t enough “neighbourliness” and so the following year he invited his neighbours for a drink to get to know everyone better. It snowballed from there, becoming a national movement, and now a certain date each year is designated La Fete des Voisins. This year it was in May, but our part of the village Le Coeur du Village (the heart of the Village) had their Fete yesterday, on 7th July. Why not?

Everyone who lives in the centre of the village was invited – each paying 10€, and asked to bring something (a salad, a dessert etc). There were about 30 of us there this year, and we invited Friend Cathy along, as her part of the village don’t have a Fete. Mostly because she lives in a hamlet of 4 houses – one of which is a holiday home, and another of which belongs to good friends, so she’s often there for a drink anyway!

It started at 12.00, so we went round to the Place de l’Eglise at about 12.10, and were among the first to arrive, of course! French timekeeping can be very imprecise at these events! Slowly people gathered, and there were drinks, and nibbles – pizza, quiche, crisps, gougères and so we happily tucked in. Bien sur!

The Mayor was there – he attends all these kind of events, if only at the beginning. We like our Mayor, and are sad that this is his last term of office. He has been good for the village. I also think he is quite good looking!

M. le Maire opens the rosé. He knows how to attract the voters!

There were big pergolas/ gazebos set out, with tables and chairs underneath, which provided shade, and we stood/sat and chatted among ourselves. Photos were taken for the local newspaper, and then we were called to help ourselves to salads. There were lots of delicious things: green bean salad, tomato salad, pasta salad, grains with feta and cucumber, coleslaw, a vegetable terrine. I was loading my plate when a little thought occurred to me: Is this the starter or the main course? I asked Dominique, one of the organisers, and she confirmed it was the starter…OK, stop putting things on your plate now!

After this, we had barbecued sausages and brochettes. It struck me how, in the UK, one would normally have the meat and salads altogether, but here in France it is normal to have the salads as a starter and eat the meat unaccompanied. I went back and got some more green beans and coleslaw, as just meat was a bit much.

Cheese followed – just a box of Comtesse de Vichy, a local creamy cheese, and then desserts. The baker had provided a huge Tarte aux Pommes, there was chocolate mousse, fruit salad, and I took along a White Chocolate and Ginger cheesecake. I wasn’t sure how well this would go down, especially with its caramel-chilli topping, but it was very well received. Here’s a link to the recipeNote that in the recipe I said you can use sweet chilli sauce for the topping. That’s a bit daft really, as this sauce has garlic in…so ignore that. This time I used a prepared toffee sauce and just added about half a teaspoon of chilli powder.

After lunch – by now it was about 4 o’clock – we sat and chatted, and Cathy and I talked about how we could buy the Hotel Moderne (which was opposite) and turn it into flats…IF we had the money, of course! Nice idea!

At about 5 o’clock, we decided to leave, so we said our goodbyes, and were asked “Are you coming back this evening?” WHAT?! There’s more?! We diplomatically said “We’ll see…I’m a bit tired…” and left. We’d had enough food and drink to last until next week! And, actually, I was a bit too tired to be very sociable again.

It was a really enjoyable time though, and of course, it’s always good to be involved in village events, to show that we are happy to integrate and to be part of village life. We can now say Hello to more people.

Advertisements

The Tour* comes to Town

* but no, not THAT Tour

I may have mentioned (once or twice!) that Mr FD rides a bike with the St Just cycle club

Let’s be honest, quite a lot of our social life and many of our holidays involve the Cycle Club in some form!

Mr FD in action, somewhere outside Frejus.

Les Cyclos de St Just

Anyway, on Saturday, a big cycle race came to town – not as big as the Tour de France, but a professional race nonetheless – Le Tour du Pays Roannais –

and Les Cyclos had responsibility for providing lunch for the organisers, and also running the Buvette – the drinks stall. They were also selling sausage & chips to the general public. I couldn’t help, being still very fatigued (and being en route back from Clermont on Saturday morning) but everyone pitched in, including Friend Cathy.

Obviously, before the big day, Mr FD (as part of the Cycle Club committee) was very busy, organising things, borrowing, buying, sorting out stuff, sourcing barbecues and fridges. Then from 7.00 am on the day he, and many others, were erecting the pergolas, setting up the barbecue, and chip fryers, cooling beers and wine and soft drinks ready for service. When I arrived it was all in full swing, very well-organised and running smoothly.

The start line was right outside our house. And I mean “right outside”

From the dining room window!

A rather blurry photo, showing our house, with the “stage” just in front, and the start line is just to the left, out of shot

I went outside to sit in the shade, and to be a part of the proceedings, even if I couldn’t do much. Here’s the Buvette to the right, with all the organisers sitting down to their sausage & chips meal. As you can see, all the Cyclos were wearing their cycle shirts (red/yellow/green blobs under the pergola)

For some reason there were two gentlemen dressed up in women’s clothing…as is often the way. What is it with French mean dressing as women?!

And not even “sexy” women. Les Dawson, eat your heart out!

Later on, the teams were introduced to the rather small crowd of spectators. These are young riders, making their way through the rankings, in local, regional teams for the moment, but looking to make it to the big teams who ride in the international competitions. There was a team from Martinique, for example, one of the DOM/TOMS*, and other regional teams.

Here you can see one of the teams being introduced. This team includes the current wearer of the Green jersey, which is the leader in the points competition – usually (but not always) a sprinter. Points are awarded for coming 1st, 2nd etc in each day’s racing, but there are usually intermediate sprints included in the race route, allowing those who are fastest over a certain distance during the race to gain more points.

At precisely the correct time, our Mayor was given the honour of starting the race, and the riders rolled away

By now I was flagging, because of the heat, so I took a couple of photos, and then retired to the cool of the house, where I fell asleep. The teams cycled a loop around the village and its environs, passing through once more about 20 minutes later, and then away into the countryside towards their final destination. I was woken by the motorcycle outriders all hooting their horns to clear the route ahead of the cyclists, but I couldn’t be bothered getting up to wave them on.

Then it was all over! Mr FD and the Cyclos dismantled everything, finishing off the chips-and-sausages that were remaining, getting everything put away, returned to where it should be…and then finally collapsing with a pint glass of juice to watch the football.

Well done the Cyclos!

 

* DOM/TOMS = Départements d’outre-mer, Territoires d’outre-mer, which are French overseas departments and territories. So, just like Loire is a departement in Fraqnce (Departement 42) so there are departements overseas, including Guadeloupe and Martinique. This wikipedia page gives more information

Another voyage with the Cyclos

So on Friday we set off to go to Annecy for a short séjour with the Cycle Club. We left at 8.30, and drove via Lyon airport to drop off Friend Alison, who was going over to Liverpool to visit her mum. Her plane wasn’t until the afternoon, but this way it meant nobody else had to schlepp over to Lyon to take her to the airport. She had about 5 hours to wait, by the time we dropped her off, but she was well prepared with books and other amusements.

We met everyone at a service station for a picnic lunch, then drove the final hour to reach the holiday village. The cyclists got changed, and set off for their ride, the walkers set off for their walk, and I borrowed Louis & Odette’s room (our rooms weren’t yet ready, and L&O had stayed there the night before) for a snooze and a sit down, as I felt very tired. Later on in the afternoon, I had a stroll around the grounds, and discovered, to my disappointment, that the masseur wasn’t available that weekend, and the Spa wasn’t free.  There went my plans!

Never mind! Mr FD got back from his ride, a bit disappointed too, as his ongoing sinus problem meant that he hadn’t ridden too well. He also suffered from the heat; being a big lad, he finds it hard cycling in anything much hotter than 24°. It made us both think a little harder about how we need to change our eating habits. Then we went for a beer!!! Wry smile.

There was a deadly serious boules competition going on between some members of the party:

What an amazing backdrop

Serious discussion about which boule is nearest the cochon

After the match was finished, we trouped in for dinner – which was okay, but nothing special. Salad & cold meat buffet to start, folowed by tepid brochettes (very chewy meat), merguez, ratatouille, and new potatoes (again tepid). Cheese and then “industrial” puddings – certainly nothing home made. It was edible, but that’s about all you could say about it!

After dinner there was a meeting about tomorrow’s activities, and then we took some time to enjoy the evening sunshine, and take in the glorious view (and I don’t mean me!!)

Saturday was the day that I had planned to meet up with Chomeuse and her family, but due to familial reasons she had had to cancel at the beginning of the week. That was a disappointment, but it meant I could join in with the other activities, which otherwise I would have missed. Mr FD was still feeling a bit rough, and as the temperatures were due to be higher than yesterday, and the ride longer, he felt unsure about riding. He finally decided to be a non-rider for today, so he and I struck out on our own a little.

In the morning, we drove up to the Col du Forclaz, 1157 metres up above Lake Annecy, from where there were some amazing views.

 

It’s a favourite launch spot for paragliders too; here’s the take off point:

There were some rather lovely wood carvings there too. Here I am, sharing space with an eagle:

and here is a carving of a marmotte:

After this we drove on to La Clusaz, where we met some of our party for a drink in the sunshine. La Clusaz is more of a winter ski resort, as you could tell from the number of ski rental shops, bars, and après-ski snack bars. But in summer it is a very pretty village.

The plan was to meet everyone at the Col des Aravis (1487 m) for a picnic, so off we set, passing some of our cyclists en route.

This was the view from our picnic spot, looking towards the Massif of Mont Blanc:

This was lunch

a fairly uninspiring offering from the holiday village – a bit of salad, a ham sandwich, some crisps, a manky apple and some plain biscuits. Mr FD had been so unimpressed, he decided to buy himself a “proper” sandwich, and we supplemented our meal with a mini quiche and a raspberry tart each. That made it more enjoyable! And the view helped!

At the Col there was a little chapel which I popped into – dedicated to Saint Anne, the patron saint of travellers, or so the notice said.

 

Around the shops and restaurants, the Col was heaving – cyclists photographing themselves, thrilled to have cycled up so far, motorcyclists buzzing past, visitors and tourists all wandering round…but inside the little chapel it was peaceful and calm. I took a few breaths and relaxed…I was getting a bit tired by now, but the little pause refreshed me.

Mr FD and I decided to go back to La Clusaz and take the télécabine up to the mountain top of Beauregarde.

When we got to the top, Mr FD went for a walk while I sat, admired the view and did a very bad little painting (which I’m not showing you).

 

It was lovely, and the views really were spectacular. My poor photography skills do not capture their beauty. I sat in the warmth of the sunshine, listening to the clanging of the bells around the necks of a flock of goats, smelling the sweetness of the meadow flowers. It was a beautiful moment.

We left to go back to the holiday village, as Mr FD wanted to do a short, flat ride along the Piste Cyclable that ran alongside the lake. He got changed, and psyched up, but was thoroughly pissed off to find that whoever had the key to the garage where the bikes were stored had not left it at reception, but walked off with it. So he couldn’t get to his bike. Not a Happy Chappy at all. We avoided each other for an hour or so, while he calmed down…

Dinner was better than last night:  salad starter, followed by tartiflette, or quenelles de brochet (I had tartiflette), cheese and industrial desserts – but this evening there was also fruit, so I had a peach & some grapes. I was feeling really tired by now – it had been a long day – so an early night was in order. Just before I went to bed, I wandered to the edge of the property to deposit the remains of our lunch in the long grass “for the creatures of the forest”, only to be caught out by a man walking his elderly dog, who gave me some very suspicious looks as I tossed hunks of bread into the undergrowth. Oh well, Les Anglais do some strange things!

On Sunday morning, most of the cyclists were going to do a tour of the lake, but Mr FD had always planned not to do this, because of the changing facilities. As we have to vacate rooms by 10 am, and they would return after this, it had been negotiated that 3 or 4 rooms would be available for showers. But that would mean lots of people showering/ changing in the same room at the same time, which is not Mr FD’s idea of fun, so he almost always opts out of the Sunday morning rides on voyages. Instead he went with the walkers to visit a spectacular waterfall.

I stayed around the holiday village, reading, painting (an even worse picture!), chatting with an interesting American woman who runs writing courses, and going out for a short (1 km) walk. I felt relaxed and enjoyed my morning.

Lunch was the usual salad buffet, with a daube de boeuf, and boiled potatoes in a chive/yoghurt sauce. Cheese and more industrial desserts followed. I tried a piece of lemon meringue pie, but it was overly sweet, so I didn’t finish it. Mr FD wanted to leave immediately after lunch, but we had driven here with two other people who wanted to visit the beach, so I persuaded him to wait until 3 o’clock before leaving. I wanted to walk to the beach too, so I set off before the others, being a slower walker, and Mr FD followed me. Unfortunately, I thought I knew the way, but didn’t so we ended up going the wrong way – however, we found a very peaceful little spot at the water’s edge, which, finally, I think was nicer than a crowded beach would have been!

 

From our vantage spot we could see cormorants perched on the breakwater, and coots bobbing their way through the reed beds; there were birds calling and the sound of the water lapping against the bank. Much more peaceful than a municipal beach!

By the time I staggered back to the holiday village my pedometer told me I’d walked another two kilometres, making it a record three kilometres in a day! No wonder I was knackered! Vincent and Marylyn had found their way to the beach, but were at the car dead on 3 o’clock, as demanded by Mr FD, so we left on time, keeping our driver happy! We were home by 6.30, and were greeted, rather desultorily, by the cats. “Oh, you’re back, are you?”

 

 

Long ago, in time…

A comment that Michelle made, on my Wedding Anniversary post, has inspired this post. She said: I LOVE seeing old photos like this! 

And so…

For our 25th Wedding Anniversary, back in 2010, we had a party, and made a montage of various photos taken from our photo albums. I used to love putting together scrapbooks of our holidays, and so in order to make the montage a friend & I raided the albums. I always meant to put the photos back in the books, but 8 years after the event, it’s still on the wall:

As always, you can click on the pictures to biggify them…

So I thought I’d share a few of the photos with you.

1985

This one is another from our Wedding Day – a closer up of me with my Nana’s hairstyle and Deirdre Barlow glasses. (For those who don’t know, Deirdre Barlow was a character in the long-running soap Coronation Street, well-known for her huge glasses)

She had a difficult life, and spent a lot of time on screen looking anguished!

I’m happy to say, I look less anguished that Deirdre in my wedding photos!

The next two photos I chose because I thought I knew exactly when & where they were taken, but on looking through the Holiday scrapbooks I see I was wrong!

1992

Here is a very youthful looking Mr FD. This was taken when we were on holiday in France, in a village called Montferrat (which we revisited last year) in the Var region of France. This photo was taken on 17th August, in the village of Montaureaux – we had spent the day at a Medieval Fair, where I had painted a pot (which I still have!) which was then fired in a Medieval-like way. We booked to eat the “Menu du repas des Tavernes” eaten on long tables underneath the trees. I stuck the menu into my scrapbook, and read that we ate:

  • Sur un lit de feuilles de salades variées du potager de Monsieur le Duc, Riz de Piémont aux raisins secs. Melange paysan avec poisson au sénevé, graines de Turquie, poivrons, concombres, et tomates de nos campagnes (Served on a bed of mixed salad leaves from the vegetable plot of the Duke, rice from Piedmont with raisins. Peasant mix (?) with fish with senevé mustard, grains from Turkey (which is what sweetcorn was known as in the Middle Ages – or, alternatively, what the menu devisers chose to call sweetcorn!), red peppers, cucumber and local tomatoes)
  • Roti de lapin des terres du Seigneur de Tournon, tranche de boeuf cuit à la braise, accompagnée des sauces au genièvre, cannelle et oignonnets ( Roast rabbit, from the land of the Lord of Tournon, slice of braised beef, accompanied by a sauce of juniper, cinnamon, and little onions) – I’m not sure whether we had to choose one or theother, or whether we got both!
  • Tartouste aux sarments, qu’enrobe une crème à la ciboulette ( a type of young potato, covered with a chive cream – I suspect these may have been baked potatoes, as often  these are served with a chive cream here in France)
  • Fromage à la Province Briarde (Cheese from Briarde)
  • Galette Paysanne aux fruits rouges ( Red fruit tart)

It was at this place that this photo was taken of me, presumably somewhere at the top of the Chateau of the Duke:

and here’s a photo from t’internet of the village:

Do you have places that you associate with pieces of music? For me, I remember a long straight road back from this village to our holiday appartment in Montferrat, and that road is associated with the Proclaimers’ “Letter from America”. I don’t know why it should be that those two things are interlinked, why I should particularly remember the song being played there, at that moment, as we no doubt listened to it several times during the holiday, but when I think of the song, I think of the road!

1998

This photo was taken on 20th August, while we were on a family holiday with Mr FD’s side of the family. We stayed in a village called Ambazac, in the Limousin region of France. That was the year I paraglided from the top of Puy de Dome! We shared a gite together (me & Mr FD, Mr FD’s brother & SiL, and MiL & FiL) We generally had a good time, partly because we didn’t do everything together. I find out that (either altogether, or just me & Mr FD) among our activities, we visited the town of Limoges, we went to the very sobering place that is Oradour-sur-Glane , we went on cycle rides (I seem to have actually chosen to go on quite long rides, which surprises me!), we went on a steam train, we went to a folk festival at Confolens, and we saw the start of the Tour de Limousin.

I particularly remember the day (and the following night) of the train ride. You see, my BiL is diabetic, and, although he manages his illness well, needs to eat at regular intervals to avoid either hyperglycemia, or hypoglycemia ( hypo is when the  blood sugar levels are too high, hyper…is when the blood sugar levels are too low) We took the train in the afternoon, to Eymoutiers, planning to eat in a restaurant there; however, there was some sort of festival going on, and all the restaurants were booked up. The only sustenance that was on offer was wine and chips. Which we partook of, before (presumably) getting the train home again.

That night, we were awoken by a terrible groaning noise, and lots of thrashing about from the bedroom next to ours. We rushed in, to find SiL (who is quite small and slight) trying to force Lucozade into BiL (who is neither small nor slight) who was fighting her off with some force – while still asleep! He was having some sort of diabetic crisis. Finally everything settled down, but of course it took us a long time to get back to sleep afterwards. In the morning, everyone was very bleary eyed, except for BiL who declared that he’d had the best night’s sleep that he’d had for a long time!! Good for you, was the reply.

Anyway, back to the photo. My scrapbook informs me that the photo was taken at the Restaurant La Chanterelle, not too far from the gite. That night I ate:

  • Mousse de Saint Jacques (scallop mousse)
  • foie gras
  • entrecote (steak)
  • fromage
  • Iles Flottantes (Floating Islands – a dessert made of creme anglaise, soft meringue, caramel sauce. Like this:

Well, I’ve really enjoyed this short trip down memory lane, and  I think I may well be doing some more similar posts!

A right Royal event.

I was very busy last Wednesday writing scheduled posts, as I thought I’d be wiped out until at least Tuesday of next week. However, this dose of chemo has affected me differently – I guess the leg pains will start in earnest tomorrow, which I think was the pattern last time, but at least I have a better idea about how to manage them this time round. On Friday, I stayed in bed until after lunch, and then got up; I watched TV most of the afternoon, but I did go for a tiny stroll. Then yesterday, (I’m writing this on Sunday, but scheduling it to publish tomorrow, Monday) I felt great – I’d slept well on Friday night, so I felt up to accepting the invitation of Friend Richard to go to watch the Royal Wedding at his place, together with Friend Cathy. Mr FD turned down the invitation, preferring to stay at home to watch the Giro d’Italia, the rugby, and the FA Cup Final.

I’m not a Monarchist, but nor am I a Republican. I think the role of the Monarchy needs to change – and I think, very slowly, it is – but I think that generally the Royal family probably bring in revenue to the country. I don’t really know much about it though. Whether the reported £ 30 million  spent on security for this wedding should have come from the tax payers’ pockets I don’t know – but presumably, for other public events (concerts, FA Cup Finals etc) the public purse pays, so why not for this.

ANYWAY – I probably wouldn’t have bothered to watch it had I been at home by myself, but with a couple of friends, it seemed like a fun idea. So, in the morning, I made an elderflower cordial and lemon cake, just like Meghan and Harry’s wedding cake.

 

I bet you can’t guess which one I made!

Apparently it was delicious – I couldn’t taste it – and so I will be making it again when my taste returns. If you should be interested, I used this very easy recipe.

Friend Cathy picked me up, and we drove over to Richard’s where he had the Union flag flying outside! We had both chosen to wear patriotic clothes – I had my red trousers, white shirt and blue tunic top, and Cathy had a white skirt, red T-shirt and blue cardigan! While I was tying my blue turban/scarf round my head, I suddenly remembered I had a Union flag scarf, which I had bought for Summer School last year. I’d thought about either wearing it, or pinning it up in the classroom. Finally, I did neither, as we decided it seemed a bit “National Frontish” , but it seemed like the perfect thing to wear today!

Richard has an enormous TV, so it was a bit like being in the cinema! While he plied us with delicious nibbles – vegetarian Nems (spring rolls) and little vegetarian “sliders” (I believe they’re called) – we watched the guests arriving, and critiqued the outfits.

   

As the service started we had a cheese-and-tomato toasted sandwich. I enjoyed the service very much – Richard, a confirmed atheist, disappeared into the kitchen until Michael Curry had finished his address.

I think Bishop Michael is an inspiring speaker, and I could listen to him preaching quite happily – however I felt this address was maybe just a few minutes too long. It was, however, a great message, and I think it fitted the mood of the service very well. It was a bit tricky guaging the reaction of Her Maj, however – she did rather look as though she was sucking on a lemon some of the time!

As the married couple drove around Windsor, waving at the plebs, we enjoyed the cake, with strawberries (I can still just taste strawberries!) and then, as I was starting to flag a little, Cathy drove me home.

Here we are in our patriotically coloured outfits.

Mr FD was firmly ensconsed in front of his sporting events, so I sat and snoozed, and stroked cats. With pizza for dinner, and some recorded comedy programmes that rounded off a good day.  I was in bed by 10.30 and went to sleep about 11.30. Unfortunately there was quite a bit of cat action, with Bib giving me quite a nasty nip, so I was awake from about 4.00 am through to 6.30, listening to Kermode & Mayo’s film review – very soothing voices, which sent me to sleep.

And now, I’m up again, and trying to keep moving (although with the fatigue it does take it out of me ) because all advice seems to be that the more one moves around, the better it is for the neuropathy, as the movement gets the blood pumping to the very ends of the nervous system.

A soggy weekend in central France

It started off promisingly warm! Mr FD worked really hard on Friday in the courtyard and on the balcony, clearing pots, and sorting out the rubbish. That was A Good Thing, as I’m terrible at throwing stuff out. That old, cracked pot? It was a present from “some child at school” (but I can’t remember which child) That broken strawberry planter? It has a “rustic charm” (really?!) Those plastic pots? I could use them to plant seeds. (But I never plant seeds!!) Mr FD just took them down to the tip.

In the afternoon, I got involved in the planting  – though even that small amount of effort wore me out. I’m not sure if the fatigue is a side effect of the treatment, or due to the fact I’ve done even less exercise than usual (which is quite difficult!) and am therefore very unfit! Most probably, it’s a mixture of the two. Anyway, the balcony is now a much more pleasant place to sit. We’ve put a trellis at one end to stop Jasper eating/ scratching up/ using as a litter tray the tomato and pepper plants, and it all looks quite lovely. I’d take a photo to show you, but it’s piddling down and it wouldn’t look very attractive.

This is a picture of the balcony from a couple of years back, looking a mess!

and here it is looking slightly less-of-a-mess (again, from a different year). Note the pigeon spikes to discourage Cats from digging!!

and the courtyard.

Saturday dawned sunnily too. Which boded well for the barbecue in Clermont. Our church has been hosting Juniors Across Europe, This is an annual event for 10-13 year olds from the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, giving these young people an opportunity to meet anglophone children their own age from other churches and other countries. It is described as “A youth weekend which includes adventures, activities, thought provoking discussions, food, and so much more.” The aim being to develop relationships between churches and to be encouraged in faith and learn more about Christ… with lots of fun thrown in.

Here’s a map showing all the Episcopal churches/missions in Europe

The barbecue was to be the last hurrah of the event, and I’d persuaded Friend Cathy and Mr FD to come. I’d promised to make a dessert and a salad, so I baked my sponge, and prepped the salad on Saturday morning. The sponge was Delia’s all-in-one sponge cake, which always works for me, although this time it sank in the middle as I opened the oven at a critical moment. No matter, layered with jam, the dip filled with chopped strawberries, and served with squirty cream, no-one seemed to mind. During the day, the sky clouded over, and Mr FD started declaring doom and disaster (well, quite a lot of rain). Finally, he cried off, but Cathy & I went.

The location was the retreat centre where the kids had been staying – there was a huge covered verandah with magnificent views over Clermont Ferrand, which were very dramatic this evening, with iron-grey clouds, and a mist of rain that was swirling around, but not actually falling on us. We were able to cook and eat in relative comfort, under the shelter of the verandah, but it grew colder and colder. Finally, at about 8.30, the rain reached us, the temperature plummeted and we decided to go home. But it had been good to support the event. Although the food tasted of nothing, I did still quite enjoy it, as I chose things with texture to compliment each other.

On Sunday we awoke to rain. Steady, very wet rain. I’d committed myself to exhibiting at the little art show taking place at the Artisanat. I think the plan was to be outside under gazebos, but there was no way I could do that. Most of the artists who were working were painting actual views, so they were outside, but as I was just zentangling I installed myself at the back of the small craft shop and drew.

These photos were taken on Saturday by the secretary of the Artisanat:

Here is one of the paintings

This is the view that someone else painted of the ancient Chateau gateway…

..and here he is, painting it. The girl in the sundress and hat would have been extremely chilly, had she actually existed!

I was there all day, but didn’t do very much – a bit of chatting, giving some advice to a lady who was visiting London in a few weeks, but that’s all. However, I was accosted by a woman who obviously knew me, and whose face I recognised, but I had NO IDEA who she was. She talked, and talked and I understood the gist, finally working out that she was from the Eglise Reformée that I used to attend. At the end she asked to be remembered to a mutual friend – but I can’t do that, as I still have no idea of her name!! I sold one picture and a couple of cards, for the grand total of 13€ – I won’t be going on a world tour with that, but that wasn’t the point really. Rather like going to the barbecue, I was there to show my face, and to support the event. Which I did.

After that I had to go out to feed the Poor Cats – oh, it was wet!! The poor things were shivering and trying to hide in different, vaguely dry places. I put as many plates of food under shelter as I could, but I knew that within minutes some of the bowls would be swimming in water. At least I was able to give them some good solid nourishment, as I’d brought home a bagfull of over cooked beef burgers and some leftover chicken legs from the barbecue. Mixed with three tins of cat food, lots of cat-biscuits, and some slightly-out-of-date creme fraiche I felt they had a good meal. But it was so sad to see these poor, wet kitties, looking so miserable. I hope they all went into the shed afterwards and curled up in the duvets and blankets that are in there. We don’t really know how popular the shed is with the Poor Cats – we know Red and Bonnie used to curl up together in there, snuffling together, before they died, as we’d open up the shed and find therm there. We also know Binkie goes in, as does Cloud,  as when we open up, there’s a streak of panicked pussycat fleeing the scene, but other than those, we’re not sure. Still, cats aren’t stupid: they should be able to find a dry-ish nook or cranny to hide in – and we’ve provided the shed, a kennel and three little cat houses filled with straw. If they choose not to use them, there’s not much we can do.

I got home to Mr FD’s pulled pork, sweet potato chips and asparagus. It was, I’m sure, very nice…

Today is another rainy day. Quite chilly too. I will continue with a zentangle commission and also (maybe) make a “Just Because” card for a friend. I need to go to the pharmacy to stock up on the drugs for this round of chemo, but after Thursday it will be five down, one to go.

On 7th June it will be my last chemo! HUZZAH!!! And (hopefully) about three or four weeks after that, I may start getting some tastebuds coming back…and hair…and eyelashes!!! Believe me, you don’t realise how important eyelashes are until you don’t have them!

That may be so – but I couldn’t taste it!

(Not that I’d be licking a cat to find out…even in revenge for Bib, who comes inthe middle of the night, and licks my bald head. I can promise you, a cat’s tongue on a sensitive scalp is Not At All Comfortable!)

 

Back home again…

Hello dear readers – I’m sorry I didn’t blog more while I was away, but a mixture of being busy, being tired, and slow wifi meant I couldn’t be bothered. Sorry! That sounds rude, but isn’t meant to be.

We had a lovely time, and I did quite a lot of things, but I have found that this time I’ve been more tired than expected.

So, I left you on Sunday evening…we’d been to the Provençal market in the morning:

a flower stall

a cheese stall

There were lots of fruit stands, selling the most delicious looking strawberries, of which we meant to buy some later in the stay, but sadly we forgot! Never mind… In the afternoon, Mr FD rode, and I stayed in the holiday village. I spent a happy hour painting this little picture of the view across to the sea:

Dinner was perfectly acceptable – it’s not haute cuisine, by any means, but there’s certainly plenty of food, which suited the cyclist and walking groups who were there this week. There was watercress soup, which was nice, and then I chose chicken in a cream sauce, with pasta and veggies. A bit of cheese, and a small portion of gateau. You can help yourself to as much as you wish, so you can imagine that the hungry cyclists certainly went back for seconds! After a short group meting and a tisane, we went back to our room to watch an episode of The Bridge.

On Monday, I decided to spend the whole day at the Botanical Gardens in Rayol, about 40 minutes drive from La Londe. I wanted to go by myself, so I could take my time, pause when I wanted to, and not have to worry about other people. I hada lovely day!

I arrived at about 10.30, and paid my 11€ entry fee. The view from the first terrace was a delight!

I sat there for a few minutes, basking inthe warm sunshine (despite being well covered!) and then wandered off through the gardens. There weren’t a huge number of flowers out, but there were lots of greenery. It’s a large area, divided into different gardens, with plants from different  areas of the world with arid/ dry/ Mediterranean climates. So there’s a South American garden, an Australian garden, a Canary Islands garden…etc

I walked up to the Pergola, and then sat for about 30 minutes, finishing off a zentangle that I’d started a while back. I left it on the seat, weighted down by a pebble, with a note saying “If you’d like this drawing, then please take it…” I don’t know if anyone did.

The view across the sea from where I was sitting was lovely too, so I spent a while just looking, and admiring. Then the wander continued, past flower beds

.

and wood anenomes

Down a shady path to discover a charmingly rustic building beside a waterfall

and then down towards the sea…

This was the view from the little terrace where I sat to read and to eat my lunch. There were seats, and a little house, which had originally been a fishing shack. With the waves lapping on the tiny beach, and the warmth of the sun, I felt quite soporific. The picnic had been provided by the holiday village – I’d already left the tub of lentil salad back in our room, as I hadn’t fancied that, but the rest was OK : a roll, some dried ham, a piece of camembert (which had become very runny in the heat), a bag of crisps, a banana, a cereal bar and a couple of biscuits. After about an hour and a half I set off again to wend my way back upwards… pausng again and again to take in the views

                          

At the top of the climb is this rather impressive house from the 1930s, due for renovation

and along to the North American garden with its impressive cacti

I sat just below this garden to paint another little picture of the view, which gave me another opportunity to rest

Time to head for home, so I slowly meandered back along the paths, taking a photo of this slightly odd plant:

I had a really enjoyable, relaxing day, and would recommend these beautiful gardens to anyone. It was particularly enjoyable because, early inthe season, there weren’t that many people. I can imagine that in the height of summer with crowds of visitors, it might be less pleasant, but no less beautiful!

I got home, and, as the cyclists hadn’t arrived, I went down to the bar for a gin-and-tonic. Then when Mr FD arrived, with some of the others I had a very nice Grimbergen “Printemps” beer.

Dinner was less impressive – it was “Italian” night (although I’m not sure any Italians would have agreed!) – vegetable soup (not even minestrone!), followed by a very mediocre Spaghetti Bolognaise, or cheese tortellini, or a seafood sauce to go with pasta. I didn’t really enjoy anything that I had, sadly. The desserts were either a Tiramisu gateau, or a strawberry gateau – which actually tasted like trifle-as-a-cake! That was nice!

Another meeting, a tisane, and then back to the room to watch another episode of The Bridge, before bed. I was tired, but content, having done just under 3.5 km of walking around the gardens.

I think I’ll tell you about Tuesday another time!