Souvenirs

I like the French word “souvenir” as it can mean both a memory, and the thing that creates a memory

What mementoes do you have around your house of times or people goneby?

I’m very bad at getting rid of “stuff” because so many things remind me of people or places. I read in one of those “declutter your life” articles that one could take photos of the things, and then throw them away. That way, one has the memory, whenever you look at the photo, without having the clutter – but somehow that seems heartless.

Here are just some of the things that I can see as I sit at my computer and look around:

  • a tiny painted cockerel, bought as a souvenir of our holiday in Portugal
  • Two other painted cockerels, sent to me by my Godson, from his working holiday in Columbia
  • A heart shaped stone, bought (with one exactly the same) on Puy de Dome. One for me, one for Mr FD on the ocassion of our 30th Wedding Anniversary
  • A painted stone, painted on Iona when I went with a group from church, and my Godson,in 1999
  • A beautiful painting brought back from the Holy Land by my mum
  • A desk mat, with the French verbs “etre” and “avoir”, and the English “to have” and “to be” conjugated and illustrated, given to me when friends from the UK came to visit
  • A “selfie” of my colleagues at Lines in 2015 – framed as a gift from David, our Head of Department
  • A Victorian opal-and-semi precious stone ring that I wear every day, which belonged to “Auntie”Cynthia, a good friend of my parents.
  • myriad postcards and cards stuck on the wall and doors, each with messages of love and support from various people all over the world.

I would hate to throw these things away. When I look at them I smile and, however fleetingly, remember those who gave them to me, or the places where I bought them.

And the blanket in the picture?

That was crocheted for me by my Nana, using scraps of wool from all the jumpers she would knit for me, my brother and sister, and other relatives. She made this for my bed round about 1972. It went with me to college, to my first digs in Maidstone, to the house share in London, and it has been in every one of my houses in my married life. Every time I sit with it on my lap, or over the bed, I think of my Nana. I can even identify one or two of the wools used, and say which garments they were from. (For example, the red/yellow/green/blue self-striping wool on the right hand side was from the yoke of a mostly white jumper that I wore when I was about 9 or 10) It is remarkably precious, even though it is starting to fall apart, and is one thing I would NOT be throwing away!

Do you have any souvenirs that you would never part with?

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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.

And another card!

Yesterday and today’s posts are two scheduled posts – I had my chemo yesterday, so won’t be up to much blogging in the next week. I may get round to a couple more scheduled posts too… We’ll see.

Anyway, this is another card that I made (click on the image to biggify):

I made this for Charlotte, who is someone I have met, and become a-bit-more-than-acquaintances-with , at the chemo sessions. Her cancer is Stage 4, and she is having chemo every three weeks “until I die”  – as she said to me cheerfully when we first met! She is indubitably cheery, obviously well-liked by all the nurses at the hospital, and she immediately put me at ease during my first session, when I was confused and a tad upset about what was happening.

We have talked a little about our faith, but more about our travels, our families, our jobs – she is a tutor, in maths, French and English – and usually, midway between sessions we text each other once or twice. This is the last time I’ll see her however, as she has been given permission to postpone her next chemo for a week, so that she can go to the South of France with her family. She is clearly excited, as she was telling everybody about it last time!

Charlotte is not your “typical” chic French lady. She wears the most colourful clothes, with patterns and shades all clashing and vying for attention, but somehow this suits her beautiful, bright personality. So I thought this style of card would be right for her. I used the same technique as I used for Zavia & Isaac’s wedding card:

tearing up, and PVA glueing down, scraps of colourful paper. With Zav and Isa’s card I used all greens, which seemed appropriate for a Spring wedding. For Charlotte, I went all out with the colours of the rainbow, trying to grade them from orange, and pink, through to green, then blue and purple. All of these came from the Gudrun Sjoden catalogue (as they did for Zav & Isa’s card) which has the most gorgeous colours and patterns!

The verse is “my” verse – the one that has kept me going through this time (I was going to say “ordeal”, but, if I’m honest, it has not been that serious. It’s been a pain, it’s been unpleasant, but “ordeal”, or “trial” really is too strong a word for it!) – but in French:

En effet, c’est moi, l’Eternel, ton Dieu, qui empoigne ta main droite et qui te dis : “N’aie pas peur ! Je viens moi-même à ton secours.”

I hope Charlotte finds this verse as inspirational as I have done. And that she likes the card too!!!

A couple of cards…

It was my mum’s 89th birthday last Saturday – go, mum! She is still active and occupied, going to church, stewarding at church, going to book club meetings, driving, gardening, going out with her “Keep Fat Club” friends, walking…Recently she drove to the Lake District (a journey of about 130 km) with her friend, to stay at the Timeshare appartment that she has there. I hope I’ll be as active as she is at her age (but with my arthritic knees I somehow doubt it!!)

My birthday present to her was a champagne afternoon tea, for her and her friend, at the Hotel/Appartment complex where the Timeshare is.

 

It was while they were there that my sister took Mum horse riding, and rock climbing, so I thought I should celebrate this activity on her card:

(as always, click on the images to biggify them, if required)

Sadly, it didn’t arrive in time for her birthday – I’d forgotten that the week before there were two bank holidays in France, which would have slowed down the postal system. Never mind; when I called her, she saidthat cards had started arriving on the Wednesday before, and she was celebrating with the Keep Fat Club on the following Tuesday, so it was good to spread out the birthday celebrations!

Maybe I should explain the “Keep Fat Club” – this started some 30 years ago, with a group of teachers who worked at the same school, including mum. They decided that they should try to Keep fit, so started to meet up one evening a week to do some exercise together and to eat some healthy snacks. Husbands mocked, and called it “Keep Fat”. Gradually, the exercising became less important, and the snacks became more elaborate and less healthy, and finally it turned into more of a supper club! Now, they are all retired, several are widowed, and it is a support group/ group of friends who go out regularly, or go to each other’s houses….and it is known communally as “Keep Fat Club”!

The other card was for a less happy occasion. We heard that our friend had recently lost his mother, so I made this condolence card:

Both of these cards used papers from my stash – all bought at Noz, I suspect, at various times. The second card uses images from a pack of sentiments & pictures for condolence cards, called “Cardbook” (also bought at Noz), which gives instructions and resources to create 6 cards. I tend not to follow the instructions, but use them to inspire my own designs. The little metal leaf was from a bagfull of charms that Monique across the road gave me last year. The embellishments are also all bought from Noz at various times.

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!)

 

Seven things that made me happy…

Well, this week hasn’t been the Best Week of my Life, so instead of moaning (I did that in Thursday!) I thought I’d follow Mrs M’s example, and write about things that have been good this week.

Friend Cathy has arrived!! Cathy has a holiday home here & spends about 6 months of the year here, and 6 months back with her family in the UK. We’ve been friends for about 10 years now, and her arrival is as welcome as that of the swallows and house martins. It signals the coming of summer! Somehow, when Cathy is here our social life livens up, and we start to share apèros more frequently. As demonstrated this afternoon, when Mr FD drove me up to Cathy’s, and we spent a lovely couple of hours admiring the view, watching the horses, and putting the world to rights. Just what I needed! (Normally there would have been a glass of wine in the mix, but that would be wasted on me at the moment!)

Spending time with Monique & Michel – These are our friends across the square. They are two of the most generous people I know, and we are very lucky that our friendship has grown over the years we’ve been here. Friend Cathy & I went to see them on Tuesday (1st May) and we had a nice chat. Then they insisted we joined them for apèros on the terrace of the hotel next door. Although I couldn’t taste much, the beer I had was refreshing. Mr FD joined us, and we chatted with Roland, the owner.

May 1stwhich may seem a little odd, but I like the fact that here in France, May 1st isn’t only La Fete du Travail but also an opportunity to wish friends happiness for the year ahead, by offering them lily of the valley. I wrote about it here I hadn’t been able to get any muguet, but I had got myself prepared by doing a couple of little zentangles of muguets, which I gave to M&M, and to Cathy. Monique & Michel reciprocated with a bunch of lilies from their garden. The plants that they gave me a couple of years back haven’t really taken – they’re just about growing, but not blooming.

Sharing tea with friendsone of the extra benefits of Friend Cathy being here is that we see more of Friend Richard. He has a house out in the sticks, which he has renovated beautifully, and he spends a lot of the winter months in Africa (which is where his heart is, I feel) He & Cathy get on very well, and spend a lot of time together,when she’s here. Because we see Cathy more, we see Richard more!! He invited us up for tea, and had made biscuits and other lovely things. We had pancakes and lemon tart, biscuits and roasted almonds…he showed us some of the finds from vide greniers (Richard, and many of his friendsfrom Le Port, are great vide greniers afficianados (Vide Greniers are the French equivalent to car boot sales, or attic sales; the translation is basically “empty attic”) & he always finds fascinating articles – old tools, interesting furniture or pottery. Me, I just find Other People’s Tat; I think it must be a difference in attitude!

Going out for a mealon the Tuesday we had apèros outside the Hotel with Monique & Michel, Cathy, Mr FD & I decided to have lunch there too. Unfortunately, because it was a bank holiday, the Menu du Jour wasn’t on offer, so we all just chose a main course from the menu. I had sea bass in a chorizo sauce, with risotto. TBH, I couldn’t taste too much of it, but it had a nice “mouth feel” which helped. Good to share time together, and to support our neighbours.

Drugs!! As I’ve already written about, this round of chemo has had some unpleasant side effects. However, the drugs have helped alleviate these, and made it easier to sleep. Although I should admit they didn’t work last night – I think I took them too late – so I had a sleepless night, with intermittent toffee hammer blows, but instead of moaning and groaning, I tried to go with the flow, and listened to some music.                                                                                                                                    or at least bearable

This piece of musicwhich was one that helped me last night. I use the app Pray As You Go (intermittently) and this was the “lead in” music for the meditation last night. It really affected me, because I thought it was so beautiful. This clip finishes rather abruptly, but gives a flavour of the piece.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Q86DbiHhnk

There! I managed to find 7 things easily – and could have written about many more –

  • Millie the cat, who has been a lovely loving cat as I’ve languished in bed,

Mind you, in this picture she seems to have a bit of a strop on!

  • Mr FD cooking things to tempt me (his chilli has been a real success! ) and running to the shops to buy things I “fancy”,
  • our friends Louis & Odette who helped cheer me up yesterday (Louis being very proud that the new Prince is named after him!!),
  • hearing about my mum who rode a pony for the first time at the age of 88. It’s funny how I treat her as a fragile old lady and my sister takes her riding!!!

….and there are still more. But there you go. A slightly more positive post than Thursday’s!

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!