We’re doing OK

Everything is fine here – we are both working, and so our weeks are busy. Mr FD holes himself up in his study, I hole myself up in mine, and we meet briefly when one or the other makes a hot drink for us both, or over lunch. I’m busy because I’ve actually got a couple of new students, and also because working from distance means I need to write a follow up email to the students – which I wouldn’t do if we were meeting face to face.

On Monday morning I plan my lessons, and prepare the lesson summaries as much as I can; then from Monday afternoon onwards I’m teaching, or doing admin work. Although I’m finding it tiring I am very grateful to have work, as I know that so many self employed people are facing financial problems. We also are saving money as I’m not travelling to Clermont every day. In fact, Soozy (which we collected the Saturday before the lockdown) has hardly moved since she came home!!

Our treats involve going next door, to the restaurant-turned-takeaway to buy something. The people only opened the restaurant a couple of weeks before the lockdown meant restaurants had to close, so we’re supporting them as much as we can. We’ve had pizzas, burger-and-chips, and the most delicious chocolate/apricot gateau. That was so rich I had to eat my slice over two days! Today they’re cooking Cantonese rice and Spring rols, but we forgot to order, so we’ll probably just have a pizza.

As we’re out in the country confinement isn’t affecting us too much. We get out most days for a walk, but we have to remember to take our Attestation. You aresupposed to print out a new one every time you go out, but so far I’ve been tippexing out the date and writing today’s date. It seems remarkably wasteful of paper and ink to keep reprinting, and tippex shows that one is not trying to cheat in anyway. I’ve not been stopped any way, so I’ll plead ignorance if I have to.

Shopping is reasonable, with most things available. We are definitely using local businesses now, and trying to spread ourselves around.

But confinement has been extended to mid-April, with most people expecting it to continue to the beginning of May. One of my students, who is the director of a small company, has said the Government is warning businesses to prepare to be closed until the end of May, or even the end of June!

However, we know it’s the right thing to do – unlike many people in the UK, it seems! Our local GP, and the head of the school have both succumbed, with the GP being in hospital for several days. I’ve not heard how he’s doing. Tonight I’m meeting Friend Alison for a virtual apero – FriendCathy, in the UK at present, was invited but she thinks it’s possible she has the virus too.

The cats know what to do!!

Actually our cats love having us round, especially Jasper and Millie, who follow the sun around Mr FD’s study. I get Bib coming to meeow at some of my late afternoon students!


40 Acts Disaster!

OK, I imagine that the lack of 40 Acts posts tell you that maybe this year it hasn’t gone as well as it might have done…

To be honest, the Covid-19 virus has rather overtaken things, with advice, then directives coming from the French government. So since Sunday all schools, and shops except food and pharmacy shops were closed; on Monday we heard that Language centres and other non-essential businesses were to close, and finally on Tuesday, from mid-day onwards we were in lockdown, only allowed to leave our homes to go food shopping, to go to essential work, to go to the doctors or pharmacy, or to go (singly) for exercise. And for any of these activities, we have to print off (for each day) a document to be signed “on our honour” that we are partaking in one of these activities.

Mr FD was sent home on Monday afternoon, as was I, and I spent the rest of the day contacting students to set a “virtual classroom” in place. My Language Centre, Bonjour World, have been really proactive finding a really easy-to-use site for video lessons, other sites to help us, contacting students etc. Whereas the other has been a bit “do your own thing”. Happily for me, as auto entrepreneur, most of my students have agreed to either having phone lessons, or trying the virtual classroom, which means I’m unlikely to lose money.

The French Government have also been good, promising a something-billion € package to ensure that people don’t lose out on income (as much as is possible) through the situation. It’s a weird place we’re in now, waiting to see if any symptoms develop, but we are fairly optimistic. One guy at Mr FD’s work went off sick before the Lockdown,with a fever and other symptoms, but we’ve not had news of how he is. We are both coughing, and have sore throats, but as this has been lingering for quite some time, without getting worse, we are assuming that it’s the tail end of a cold.

Christ Church, Clermont Ferrand, is organising a “virtual church” on Sunday through Zoom, at 10.30 CET – if anyone would like to join us, let me know and I’ll send you information. Bishop Mark Edington is also putting together an e-book of reflections for Morning Prayer, to which various members of the Convocation are contributing – including me! It is to sustain Christians (& others) who are finding the confinement difficult. He says:

Dear Friends,

I don’t know about you, but I am already sensing

— A rising degree of cabin fever

— A longing to see my friends and fellow-disciples

— A genuine need for companionship and fellowship in the weeks ahead

— A feeling that I need to >do< something

So I have an idea.

Let’s create a Convocation Companion for everyone in all of our congregations for the days ahead.

It will go from now until April 17— which (I earnestly hope) the day the present 30-day ban on travel into or out of the Schengen zone will be lifted.

If any reader would like the link, please say so in the comments below.

But despite not following 40 Acts, I am trying to still be generous – I am going out for my solitary walk each day, and I’m planning on putting Ninja notes, packets of seeds, and maybe other treats in people’s letter boxes. I probably will avoid chocklit and other edibles as I wonder if people might be suspicious of them. I have some bookmarks that I bought in Noz, I have the packets of seeds that I bought, and I might start doing some post card sized zentangles. Things that might bring a smile to people’s faces!

I don’t have too much time at the moment, as teaching at distance requires a bit more work – planning in advance, but also a lesson summary and follow up work to be sent out. But I’m glad to be working and still earning money, even though I’ve had a few cancellations.

All I can say to you, my dear readers, is what I’m saying to everyone at the end of my emails:

Stay safe & keep washing your hands!



Covid-19 marches on!!

We are living in interesting times… Rob & Caireen, our former Rector & his wife, who moved to Rome, are experiencing total lockdown (although, luckily for them, the church garden is attached to their flat, so their puppies can still have daily exercise!), all educational facilities in France are closed from Monday, with advice being to avoid unnecessary travel, the US has banned immigration from Europe (our friends from church just ducked under the wire on that one!)and Boris Johnson is warning families in Britain that they will lose many loved ones…

There is panic buying and empty supermarket shelves in places, with those who hve to shop daily for financial reasons unable to find what they need; there are people with stocks of anti bacterial handwash not quite grasping that if they have it all, then there’s none for anyone else, so the spread of the virus is aided, not stopped…

But equally many people seem unperturbed. I’ve hd two students cancel today, but the other, a pharmacist, is behaving quite normally, and when I suggested we might change to having phone lessons, seemed genuinely confused about why…

I suspect that within the next couple of weeks, France may well be in the same situation as Italy. While I haven’t been panic buying, my cupboards are fuller than usual, with enough food to see us through about 14 days. I am thinking I may go and get some more cat food today, because that’s the thing we’d probably run out of!!

I’m not really worried about myself or Mr FD; despite my cancer, and subsequent chemo, all blood tests have shown that my immune system has bounced back (or maybe sauntered back…I doubt if anything in my body does anything with such energy as the word “bounce” suggests!). We are not particurlarly vulnerable. Mr FD has a device to boost one’s lung capacity – he used it for improving his cycling fitness – so we are thinking it might be a good idea for us both to start using it. It certainly can’t harm us.We do both have colds – Mr FD’s has been nasty, but none of the fevers/aching joints/respiratory problems associated with this pandemic. Although it has meant people have eyed us suspiciously when we’ve sneezed or coughed or cleared our throats!! If we are unlucky enough to catch it, we are likely to survive.

The worry is – of course – for those more vulnerable people that we love. While my mum is in relatively good health, she is coming up to 91. She has been under the weather with a cold that she can’t shake off, and she is definitely of the won’t-go-to-a-doctor-unless-I-think-it’s-serious mindset And she never thinks it’s serious!! But equally, she has her wits about her, and I doubt that she will be taking many risks. My MiL is 10 years younger, and again in splendid form for her age, but she too is in the extremely vulnerable category — and both are in the Probably Left To Die If There’s Not Enough Ventilators age group.

Still, what can we do? This too will pass. Trust in God and in the kindness of others. Look for the helpers.

Black Dog

My last post was a little worrying for some people – I had someone contact me to ask if my cancer had returned, and this was one of the “dark times” that I needed God for. No, dear reader, don’t worry.

I am going through a mild depression – brought on my my hormonetherapy treatment, and also, according to my doctor (although I’m not totally convinced) my morale (which was brave and courageous through my treatment) has just gone whoosh. (His words, not mine!) I find myself getting over anxious about minor things, and generally can’t feel as upbeat about stuff. Happily, I enjoy work, so I haven’t got the worry of that on top of other things. It would be awful if I hated my work.

I don’t think my “dog” is a black dog. He’s probably just grey. But for anyone who is living with depression, or living with someone with depression maybe this video will help

A year ago today…

It’s just popped up on my FB page that a year ago today was my last chemo session.

This was the photo I took before I set off to the hospital. Do you know, I think I quite suit a turban! After this, I still had 6 weeks of radiotherapy to get through, but that wasn’t quite so tiring or debilitating. If you would like to read more about my cancer “journey” just click on the “tag link” below labelled “Bastardcancer” That should take you to most of the posts I made during the treatment..

It was a difficult year, last year, but I can say that I am (almost) grateful I had cancer: I learned a lot about myself, I grew closer to God, I made a new friend, and I learned how valuable my other friends are – as well as how much of a rock Mr FD can be, and how much I love him. Unfortunately for him, he is still having to show rock-like qualities, as I am suffering from mood swings and depression, thanks to the hormone therapy, but he’s managing to do it.

I keep in my prayers Charlotte, Ana, Emma, Ross, Susan, G. – all people I’ve met or become closer to through my encounter with breast cancer. And of course, I remember too those who have lost their lives to this bastard disease.

This wasn’t the post I thopught I’d be writing today, but there you go!


I’d like to introduce you to a song…It’s being very helpful to me, at the moment.

You see, my hormone therapy medication causes panic attacks, increased anxiety and such like, which isn’t much fun. I am taking (more) medication to reduce the anxiety, but I don’t really want to be on a cycle of medication to reduce the effects of the medication, so I’m trying to find other ways to deal with the negativity and anxiety that follow me around.

I watched a BBC documentary recently, where Nadiya Hussain, of Great British Bake Off success, talked about her anxiety disorder. She sought professional help and CBT which has started to help her. My anxiety is nothing like as bad as hers, but she talked about her coping methods, what she does to keep anxiety at bay, how it makes her feel etc. Her therapist encouraged her to say “What’s the worst that can happen?”, to acknowledge the anxiety, rather than to block it out…I’ve not explained it well, I’m afraid, but if you search online, or go to the BBC catch up, you could find the documentary.

At the moment though, I have a song which I listen to which is – for me, at least – uplifting enough to shake me from the grey. Here it is: “Alive” by Big Big Train

The original text…

As you might know, I was asked to write a reflection for 40 Acts. I was asked to write about 300-400 words, but as you may also know I am nothing if not a bit wordy at times! So I had to be careful what I wrote! Finally, I decided to write what I wanted to say, and then to pare it down to the correct length. This is the original text:


In November 2017 I was lucky enough to go to a Vocational Discernment weekend in Budapest – the aim of which was to try to discern where God was leading us. It was led by Revd Canon Mark Oakley, who took us through some amazing poetry, and talked about what can help us hear the voice of God. I came away, sure that God was about to call me to face something big – was he going to call me to ordination? Was I going to be asked to take a larger role in my home church? Was it a new job?

At the beginning of December, I discovered what it was God was going to ask me to face: I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I want to state now that I am only able to talk about my cancer, my reactions, my experience. If you are dealing with cancer, or any other disease, your reactions, your emotions may well be very different. And that is OK. We are all deal with things in different ways and I have no right to tell you how you should be feeling.

From the very beginning I decided that I was never going to ask “Why me?” One could just as easily ask “Why not me?” One in eight women suffer from breast cancer – the odds are high. And cancer is, in some bizarre way, natural: it is caused when cells mutate. Mutations happen in nature; that’s how things evolve. If I believe that God created nature in all its wonder and intricacy, then, in some way, my cancer was a part of that creation. Lord knows, I don’t understand it, but I have to trust that fact. That was how I was determined to view this.

I have followed 40 Acts for about three years now and blogged about my failures and my little successes. By the time Lent rolled around in 2018 – very soon after Christmas, it seemed! – I had already had my lumpectomy and had recovered enough for chemotherapy to begin. “Why should I get involved in 40 Acts this year? “I thought. “I’ve just got to be kind to myself. I’m ill…” The first sentences in the first act reminded me why: in the most extraordinary act of generosity the world will ever know, God offered His son, Jesus, as a gift to all. We need only say thank you. 

God is good. God is loving. I believed that before my cancer diagnosis. I believed it no less after it. But how could I repay that generosity to others in my situation – going back and forth to hospital, spending a week in bed and two weeks feeling fairly lousy again before the chemo appointment rolled round?

In a beautiful coincidence, God had given me the verse from Isaiah 41:13: I am the Lord your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says “Do not fear. I will help you” This verse was – and still is – my touchstone. He used this verse throughout my treatment to remind me that he is always there, to hold my hand when I reach for him. And to help me be generous. I learned that being generous can sometimes mean not beating yourself up if you have missed an act: asking God to remind you of the challenge another day is fine – and I can assure you, he won’t forget! Being generous can mean holding others before God, even through your own pain, and being thankful for modern medicine and hospital staff. Being generous can mean placing a hand written, encouraging note in the hospital waiting room for someone to find, or passing on a bar of chocolate to the nurse who comes to change your dressings. Being generous can just mean not focussing on yourself completely and trying to ease others – even if it was only not complaining to the district nurses who found it unbelievably difficult to get any blood out of my veins for the weekly blood test!

Even from your chair, or bed, God will help you to be generous; if nothing else, holding others in prayer when you yourself feel like shit is one of the most generous gifts you can give. And he will honour that.