29 down. 1 to go.

On Monday it will be my last radiotherapy session! Huzzah!

 

On Monday evening we’re being treated to a meal out.  C and A are people we know who have a holiday home here; Mr FD does the odd techie job for them, and makes sure their internet is up and running  before they arrive for the holidays etc. They’re both getting on and have recently been ill, but would really like to visit some of their friends about 100 km north of here, in the Beaujolais. Mr FD is going to drive them, I’m going along for the ride, and C&A are going to pay for us to have a meal in a restaurant nearby to their friends. Mr FD is a bit disappointed that the insurance is too complicated and expensive to work out for their car, which is some flash Mercedes. Instead we’ll be driving our old workhorse, the PugBus (a Peugeot something-or-other)

We’re trying to choose the restaurant now – this one is looking favourite

And here’s the celebration menu we’re considering…

Mise en bouche

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Foie gras frais de canard maison cuit en terrine
Chutney de saison et pain aux figues
ou
Cocotte d’escargots de Bourgogne aux cèpes
au beurre d’ail crèmé
ou
Escalope de foie gras de canard poêlée sur Tatin de pommes
caramélisées au miel du Haut Beaujolais

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Sandre poché au Mâcon blanc
fondue de poireaux et concassé de tomates

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  Entrecôte charolaise  sauce Marchand de vin
ou
Ris de veau au jus de raisin (origine France)

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Plateau de fromages affinés
ou
Faisselle Bressane et sa crème épaisse

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Dessert maison au choix

Just call me Gourmande!!

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The Sound of Music

Last night we went up to Friend Cathy’s for apèros and music – in fact, we were there all evening, so I’m glad I’d had a substantial lunch! Despite that,  Mr FD and I did rather attack the snacks with gusto! We had a wonderful time.

There were three guitarists, and various tambourine/maraca players, plus those of us who did impromptu percussion on tables, or glasses!

David, (C’s friend from the Port), Martin (C’s friend, staying for a few days) and Gerome (Friend Alison’s Other Half) were our guitarists. Sue (Martin’s wife), Cathy and Mr FD were the tambourine/maraca players, I was the impromptu percussionist and Richard and Stefan just listened and sang. We sang (some of us better than others) songs – Beatles, Eagles, Johnny Cash, and many others – and generally had a great time.

Martin is also a talented songwriter and he played and sang some of his own compositions, which were lovely.

Later on, a storm arrived, so we decamped into Cathy’s as-yet-unfinished house. There is a roof and floor, with electricity in some of the house, and windows & doors not all fitted yet. But it was dry and we continued singing and playing until Friend Clare, who lives opposite, came & asked us very politely if we could stop as she had to be up early tomorrow. As it was 10.30 that was fine…the party broke up and we wended our way back home, or to our camper vans/caravans (depending on who we were, & where we were living!)

A really great evening…

Happy Retirement, M. Khodri!

I have worked for ILS for 9 years now. I remember my first meeting with M. Khodri, the director – previously I’d been working in St Etienne, at Wall Street Institute, and although I liked the people, it was a long way to travel (taking about 1.5 hours to get from door to door) and I wasn’t very keen on the method of teaching employed by the company. So one day, I took a few CVs and letters of motivation to Clermont Ferrand and decided to trawl round the language schools there. I called in at WSI, and had a slightly bizarre interview with them (they turned me down) and then I called in at ILS. M.Khodri saw me immediately and sat me down in his office for a chat – my French being even worse than it is now, and his English being practically non-existent, it may have been a little awkward at times, but after about half an hour he offered me a job with the company!

I was very happy teaching there – mostly in-company, but sometimes at the offices of ILS – and the majority of the work done was for Michelin, which is one of the biggest employers in Clermont. It was also the golden goose for ILS, with, I’d say, at least 85% of the English teaching work being done in partnership with Michelin. Unfortunately, with money-saving becoming more important, and technology becoming more prevalent, Michelin decided to move over to e-learning, which meant that ILS, who had put all their eggs into the Michelin basket, was a bit stymied.

For a few months, in 2012, it looked as though ILS might be going down the pan, and sadly this meant that 6 or 7 of the English teachers had to be made redundant. I was one of them. I remember that M. Khodri was so distressed at having to make me redundant, that he said to me that anytime I wanted to come into the office to use the resources, or to use one of the rooms for private telephone lessons, or to make photocopies for my private lessons, then I was welcome to do so!He was always very supportive, and so even when I wasn’t working for them, I still popped into the office from time to time.

Happily, the company survived, and I, plus most of the other teachers, were re-employed, but as “auto entrepreneurs” – that is, we are self employed and on a contract basis. It means ILS do not have to pay any of our social charges etc. Not so good for us (no sick pay etc) but better for them. I’m still happy to work for the company, however, as it is a real family company. We know each other, we support each other; the Head of English is a really lovely woman, the staff are friendly, the resources are plentiful. Even though we are not “salariés” – directly employed – we are considered as part of the team, rather than as sub-contractors, so our relationship with M.Khodri, and the other admin staff, is exactly the same. When I’ve got myself in a mess with French admin papers, M. Khodri has always been willing to spend time with me, helping me to complete the forms and calming me down.  And, most importantly, there is quite a lot of work!

Recently, M. Khodri decided to sell the company and retire, together with his wife, who is the accountant for the company. I have only met the new owners very briefly, but Claire, Head of English, assures us that they are dynamic, and forward thinking, and want to move the company onwards and upwards. As you can see from the photo of the offices above, it is looking a tad tired and old fashioned, and Melissa and Thomas want to modernise. I’m a little concerned, as I have to admit that I don’t take to change very well – especially if that change requires me to learn new technology & new ways of doing things that I’ve been perfectly comfortable doing “my” way for a while – but I’m going to try hard to embrace this. After all, I won’t have a lot of choice in the matter!!

So, on Friday, it was Monsieur and Madame Khodri’s retirement do. It was in the restaurant in Le Jardin Lecoq, in Clermont Ferrand, a lovely public garden not too far from the office.

I booked into the Holiday Inn, just across the road from the park, as I didn’t want to drive afterwards, and I didn’t know how tired I would be. I’m happy I did so, as it meant I could have something to drink, and I didn’t need to leave too early.

We gathered at 7.30, and stood around chatting, and at about 8.00, we were led to our tables, all set up outside. There was a four piece jazz band who entertained us

and it was good to catch up with some people I hadn’t seen since Christmas. We started with a glass of fizzies (I had some sirop in mine to sweeten it, so I could enjoy it) and we gave M & Mme Khodri their gifts: a voucher for a dinner in a very good restaurant, and a cave à vins – a temperature controlled cupboard to keep your wine in – plus some starter bottles. Note we didn’t actiually give them the cave à vins: Yacine, their son, who works for the company as well, had set it up in their house so it would be a surprise for them when they got home.

M. Khodri made a little speech and then we got on with the food!

Unwrapping their presents

We started with an amuse-bouche, (a little something to tickle your taste buds) which was a verrine of something – noone was quite sure what it was, but the general consensus was finally a cold pea-and-mint soup; it was okay, but as I’m not a great fan of peas, or cold soup, I couldn’t get too enthusiastic about it. Here’s the empty verrine, as I forgot to take a photo before I ate it! :

Then the starter arrived – a galette with roast vegetables and mozzarella, and salad in a lovely honey vinaigrette dressing

I remembered to take a photo halfway through!

A pause, while the jazz band played on, and then the main course was brought out:

I remembered to take a photo before I started eating!

This was delicious – white fish, chorizo and a scallop in a buttery sauce, served with polenta, roast tomatoes and a giant crisp thing. I’m not sure why the crispy thing was there, as it didn’t really add much to the meal, but it tasted fine! I’m glad I’m not vegetarian though, as their meal was peas-and-asparagus, roast tomatoes and potatoes. Not very inspired – as vegetarian meals in France so often aren’t!

Dessert was profiteroles – I couldn’t finish mine…which is unlike me. I’m thinking that the intake of my stomach has shrunk a little during chemo, as I’ve not been eating the same amounts. Perhaps I need to encourage this!

Claire, Head of English, clapping along to “Ain’t Misbehavin‘ ” We both started singing the lyrics soon afterwards!

M. Khodri boogeying on down with Alyssia, one of the English teachers.

And still the band played on… as it was getting on to 11 o’clock, and I was flagging, I decided to leave. Also, there were others going at that point, and as I didn’t know where the gate was, and didn’t want to be wandering the park in the dark, I tagged along with them.

It was a really good way to say “Goodbye” to a very kind (sometimes slightly incompetent!) employer. Thank you, M. Khodri, for the opportunity to work with ILS, and here’s wishing you a good and happy retirement.

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?”

 

 

Sweet treats and poetry.

Monique from across the road has just popped in with a little present for me

a box of 6 macarons, strawberry, pistachio, and lemon, two of each flavour. “Just because”, she said.  How kind!

I went to Charlotte’s exhibition of illustrated poems from her writing group yesterday evening – she invited me to the “opening” get together. Friend Cathy was going to come with me, but had an emergency with the battery for the electrics in her caravan; Mr FD was going to come with me, but he’d just got his new bike, and wanted to tinker with it. So I went by myself. I read the poems (needed Google Translate from time to time!) and chose my favourite few. I was introduced to various of Charlotte’s friends, and we all agreed she was a lovely, vibrant person. I took two sips of Cremant de Bourgogne (which tasted horrid) and then abandoned my glass. Then I went home again.

It was quite nice just being out by myself. I’m not sure I’ll make it to Church tomorrow though, but I am going to Clermont on Tuesday, to catch up with friends & colleagues at ILS. I might do a bit of unnecessary shopping too!

Another Zentangle

This was done for a small boy who loves cats. Chomeuse’s Chou sent me a delightful picture of his grey cat, Delilah

Chou writes “He loves his cats more than anything in the world” , (E ( some days later) TA: I’m sure Chou is very intelligent & advanced for his age, but he’s not up to writing yet. Of course, I meant “CHOMEUSE writes….”) so I sent a zentangle of a cat for him

I believe he quite liked it.

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?