A local chateau fort

A Chateau Fort is the French word for what we’d probably call a castle – not one of your poncy chateaux with fancy turrets and posh staircases like this one:

While we have a couple of those in the area, they’re not open to the public (unless you go Air bnb!) But we do have the ruins of a good old Chateau Fort – Le Chateau des Cornes d’Urfé

This was the “cradle” of the Urfé family, who ruled this corner of the Loire departement – but of course the departement didn’t exist then! Anne d’Urfé – a bloke – was one of the first Seigneurs, and his heart is interred in the little chapel here in St Just. Honoré d’Urfé wrote what is considered to be one of the first novels, a story called “Astrée”, after which our street is named. Later on, the family owned a more Chateau-y Chateau, Le Bastie d’Urfé, on the plain

but at the beginning the Chateau des Cornes d’Urfé was their home. It was remarkably well situated to view the Chateau in St Just itself, and that in Champoly, about 10 km away And – of course – it dominated the valley in the mountains, probably making it ideal to demand tolls from those passing, as well as keeping an eye on any aggressive movement of men from either of the neighbours!

I visited with my friend, Jane, while she was here.

This is the view from the tower, looking towards St Just. As you can see the chateau is now in ruins, and while volunteers come every summer to help to restore the building, they can only do so much. We were amused that the only nod to health and safety was a notice saying “Soyez Prudent” (Be careful) – climbing the steps inside the tower was not for the faint hearted: unlit, uneven, steep, low-ceilinged and no handrail of any description (until the final 10 steps when there was a rope to hang onto!) I’m sure in the UK it wouldn’t have been allowed!

After admiring the view we strolled around the bottom of the Chateau

 

We used to bring visitors here all the time, but I hadn’t been for ages. It was a pleasure to come back – especially on such a nice day. It wasn’t very clear however, but on a really clear day you can see Mont Blanc in one direction and Puy de Dome in the other.

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Avoiding la Fete Patronale (as much as possible!)

Last weekend it was the Fete Patronale of our village. This is when the whole village has a fun time, with a travelling fair, and fireworks, and fun events for the Kiddies. It starts on Friday night, when the fairground opens, with flashing lights, and loud music, and goes on through to Monday evening, when the fair has its last hurrah. There are fireworks on Saturday night, and the fair shuts down about midnight that evening; on Sunday the loudspeaker bellows out its announcements and running commentary. The main street with its parking is taken over by the stands selling candy floss, and hook-a-duck and shooting stalls…

Did I say “the whole village”? Hmm, maybe not. We overlook the square where the fair sets up. We are therefore subject to all the noise and inconvenience from Thursday onwards. We get mightily pissed off by it. (as you can tell by the fact I’ve written a post complaining about it practically every year I’ve been writing this blog!!!) But, it’s part of village life so we can do no more than try to live with it. And, thanks to a friend and Mr FD, this year was the most bearable it’s been.

Friday evening wasn’t too bad – we closed all the shutters and had the TV a bit louder than usual. When we went to bed, the music was still going – the bass in particular was reverberating through the air – but I was so tired that I managed to fall asleep, despite the noise. Mr FD put on his noise cancelling headphones and listened to the radio until the fair closed down.

On Saturday, the noise didn’t really start until about 3 o’clock, when Mr FD suggested we took ourselves off somewhere. We couldn’t decide where, but finally we took our books, music and a bottle of water up to the local chateau, where there was a bench beneath the shade of a plane tree. We spent a (almost) peaceful afternoon there: we could still hear the music, and especially the rhythmic thump of the bass, but it was dulled enough to be able to ignore it. We were joined for much of the time, by this charming little cat

We went home at 6.15, feeling thoroughly refreshed and at peace. We then went up to Friend Richard’s – he lives about 5 km outside the village, and had kindly offered to let us sleep at his place that night. We had a meal with himù and Friend Cathy, and then drove down to the village to feed the cats and to make sure they were OK during the fireworks. Then we drove back to Richard’s. We settled into bed – but even there we could still hear the bass beat and the faint sound of music floating on the night air! We were grateful not to be in the midst of it!

On Sunday afternoon, we decided to do the same thing, so we took our books etc., plus a couple of flasks of hot water and tea bags, and scones (for afternoon tea!)  back to “our” bench. We read and listened to podcasts until about 6.30. Then we spent the evening with all shutters tightly closed watching TV. We couldn’t work out how Pomme could sleep quite happily out on the balcony, with the flashing lights, wailing sirens from the dodgem cars, and thumping bass. But she was happily sleeping away the evening! Although I wasn’t as tired as on Friday, I told myself that, as I am perfectly capable of falling asleep in front of the TV, I was able to drift off to sleep with the thump of music as a background noise. And I did!

Today is the last day for the Fete – I think they have even started to dismantle some of the stands. So we can breathe a sigh of relief that it’s all over for another year…and we weathered this year better than most!

 

Goodbye to 2018

So that was 2018 – not necessarily my “best” year, but a year in which I learned something about myself, in which I made new friends, in which I drew closer to God. There were bright times, and darker ones, but here are a random selection of 12 photographs.

JANUARY

I found that focussing on celtic knotwork was a way of taking my mind off what was happening to me. I had surgery on 3rd January, to remove the tumour. This was done during my recovery, as a Burns’ Night gift for my Scottish-ancestors Rector and his Scottish wife.

FEBRUARY

Chemo started – again focussing on zentangling was a way of taking myself out of the situation. This koala was drawn as a gift for someone, but I have no idea who!!

MARCH

Despite chemo, we were able to go to Manchester to see Bill Bailey (comedian) and Elbow (band) in concert. We also met my great nephew, Billy, for the first time. Here he is with my niece, Rose, and her husband, Dave. We had a magnificent time. I also lost my hair by the end of the month

APRIL

I was still well enough to go to Fréjus with the Cycle Club – I spent a lot of time resting in the holiday village, but was able to for shortish walks. Here I am dipping my toes in the Med!

MAY

The Royal Wedding gave me an excuse to wear my patriotic scarf as a turban! Friend Cathy and I went up to Friend Richard’s to watch it on his big screen TV – an excuse for fizzies and good food! I made an inelegant elderflower and lemon sponge. Which was very nice!

JUNE

I was into the second set of chemo treatments by now – these were less pleasant (if “pleasant” could be used to describe the first set!) than the FEC100 with fatigue really taking over. However I still was able to get to Annecy with the cycle club. I did a little tiny bit of walking – 2 km was the furthest I walked, but I was very happy to have managed that!

JULY

We were into high summer by now, with long balmy evenings. Friend Cathy hosted a music night up at her home, where we sat out, singing, playing instruments, and enjoying good company. Great fun – even if we were forced indoors by a sudden rainstorm!

I had my last chemo at the beginning of July – huzzah! – and two or three weeks later started my six weeks of radiotherapy. It wasn’t so tiring, by any means, although I still appreciated an afternoon nap when I returned home from hospital.

AUGUST

The village had its Fete Patronale, right at the end of August. Never our favourite time, as the travelling fair sets up right outside the house, but we went to stay at Friend Richard’s overnight, and came down to watch the light show. It was, let’s say, “interesting”!

I finished my radiotherapy sessions!

SEPTEMBER

September was a good month, as I started to get some energy back, and – apart from my hormonetherapy – I had finished treatment. So, we were able to have a holiday in the Italian lakes, thanks to the generosity of a friend. Here I am enjoying the gardens above Lake Maggiore

And then my mum and my sister came to stay.

Mum, Judy and Mr FD on a walk through Le Gouffre d’Enfer in the Pilat mountains.

OCTOBER

I went back to work – not too much, but I was glad to be starting again! I felt I’d been lounging around for too long!

Still time for fun however – I had my birthday celebrations at Friend Alison’s

and went to Waterloo for the Convention of the Convocation of Episcopal churches in Europe, where Mark Edington was elected as our Bishop. Here he is speaking, via Skype, to the Convention. I was on the Transition Committee for the process of preparing for the Consecration of Mark; however, as it was causing me fairly severe anxiety, I resigned from the Committee in November. Still, I’m looking forward to going to the Consecration service next April.

NOVEMBER

The weather was a little odd, going from very cold (plus snow!) to extremely mild within a matter of days. Luckily it was warm(ish) and sunny on the day we got involved with making cider with our friends Jean and Claire, at Jean’s family home a few kilometres from St Just. Here is Jean, Mr FD and Jean’s brother-in-law manipulating the apple press that has been used for generations. And here are Jet and Bulot (except I don’t know how to spell his name – it’s a French slang term meaning “Little Willy”!!)

DECEMBER

My friend Jane and I spent a few days in Strasbourg, exploring the Christmas Markets. Here are a couple of views of Petit France, the area of the city where there are canals. It was a chilly day when we walked around, but we found a lovely restaurant to warm up in!

****

Do you know, looking back over these – and many other – photos has reminded me that this year hasn’t been so bad after all! Yes, I had to go through treatment for breast cancer, but despite that, there have been many really enjoyable things! We’ve been lucky enough to be able to go away several times, though I was sad to miss a couple of weddings, as they fell on a Saturday just a couple of days after a chemo session – no way I could have gone!

Here are the cards I made for them

I hope that 2019 will be even better than 2018. It’s starting well: Mr FD has a job!! He begins three months of training with a fibre optics company on Wednesday. As long as he passes the training, he has a six months probationary period with the company; if he passes that period, he should have a permanent post! This is really good news.

So, I wish all my readers a happy 2019, full of joy, and blessings.

 

Quick in-and-out

Very busy cleaning…proper cleaning: cupboards empty, shelves washed, moving furniture, cleaning skirting boards kind-of cleaning.

My mum is coming to stay!!

I’ve “bottomed” the kitchen & the dining room; Mr FD has done the bathroom and his study. Still got rooms to do, but we’re getting there. Too knackered to do anything other than flop in the evening.

And the cats are no help…

It’s started…Boring Old Farts Unite!

No one told us about this when we moved here!

This isn’t “our” Fete but gives an idea of what it’s like

Every year the village has its Fete Patronal. We knew about that. What we didn’t know when we bought the house is that it sets up in the square outside  – a bumper cars, a mini roundabout, a mini dodgems, and RIGHT outside the house (so it’s a bit difficult getting out of the gate!) a huge Casino lorry that opens out to have slot machines and other arcade games. Round the corner is a shooting gallery, various crane-grab games and Hook-a-Duck, and a Wheel of Death ride.

In the past Mr FD has “had words” with the fairground people, which ended up with him getting threatened by a man weilding a metal bar, which wasn’t fun. Since then we’ve mostly just “sucked it up” as they say, and try to avoid the worst of it by going away on Saturday night…usually staying at friends’ houses out of the village. The Fete starts, on a small scale, on Friday, with the rides open, and then is full on for Saturday and Sunday, often not finishing until 2 am on Saturday night. You can imagine the noise with the bells-and-whistles-and-sirens of the rides, the music, the loudspeakers, the crowds… Sunday evening it closes about midnight – unless the weather is intemperate. You can imagine that we might just be praying for rain over this weekend… (because we’re boring old farty Killjoys!!)

This is this year’s programme:

It looks like a great time (if you like that sort of thing!) We’re not up for spoiling anyone’s fun, but it’s not much fun for us.

Actually, with the “Objectif Mars: Spectacle et animation” and the Course de garçon de café (a waiters’ race?) it seems to be getting bigger and more elaborate than in previous years. There are stilt walkers too!! (I’ve just looked up “Defilé de rue déambulation échassier“) Maybe we should go to the Vin d’honneur , get pickled and tryto enter into the spirit of things! It would probably make things better for us!

They’ve started the set up already (Thursday afternoon) with the big Dodgems going up on Tuesday. This afternoon they are trying out their sound system, so we have quite a lot of thumpy thumpy music going on. I think we must be getting old and grumpy, because I feel we should enjoy this as part of village life, and the programme looks exciting but it’s just not quite “us”. Added to which, I always feel terribly sorry for the Poor Cats whose territory gets invaded with the noise of fireworks and crowds. They must get terrified.

This year we’re decamping to Friend Richard’s house. He might be away, but he’s happy for us to stay in his house. The cats are OK with the fireworks if the shutters are all closed so we’ll be off. And locking the gate, as otherwise our courtyard is used as a convenient pissoire!

Grumble…grumble…complain…moan…

Some people have got no taste…

In fact, for me, that baby foods taste of nothing…

It’s an odd sensation,eating food that looks delicious, has a faint (but tempting) aroma, and yet tastes of zilch. Nada. Nuttin’ at all.

For the first couple of days after this happened I went off the idea of eating. I existed on porridge and bread (not so good for the bowels!) but Mr FD and I decided that this was no good. Different sites gave different advice, but many said to try strong flavours, such as curry, chilli and so on. However, although I couldn’t really taste these flavours, they still burned my mouth, which is quite sensitive. I’m lucky enough not to have developed ulcers (yet!) but strong flavours hurt – including mint. I find that toothpaste is too strong a mintiness, so I only have a tiny smear. And extra-strong mints have me whimpering “the pain…the pain…”

Working on the fact that I was enjoying a warm hard-boiled-egg sandwich for lunch, with iceberg lettuce and a few crisps, we thought that a way I might – at least partially – enjoy food was if we worked on a variety of textures and sensations. The sandwich was giving me warm/cold, plus crisp/soft/crunchy. A chocolate chip cookie gave an interesting mix of crunchy plus melty (and a tiny hint of chocolate at the very end).

Mr FD’s chilli was a success on Saturday, with the softness which didn’t hurt, a tiny edge of chilli (just enough!), the different textures of beans, mince, rice and so on. Yesterday he made this salmon-and-asparagus-pastafrom my newest “go to” site for recipes

Oh, it looked lovely! It smelt delicious! It tasted of – nothing! BUT at least it had an interesting mix of textures and mouth-feel: soft salmon, slippery pasta, crunchy asparagus. Happily, it also includes 2 of my 5-a-day (which I’m not keeping to, by any means!)

We’ve planned a vegetable/chicken stir fry tonight – carrot, beansprouts, mushrooms, cabbage, noodles – these will all help make it a bit more interesting to eat. And, if it’s a particularly “umami” sauce, I may get a slight taste of that too.

I thought I’d try a different breakfast, and was really looking forward to this Bircher Meusli, that I made yesterday evening, from the same site:

I thought that there would be a variety of textures in this. When I looked at it, I couldn’t help but imagine the deliciousness of the berries, and honey, and creamy yoghurt…digging my spoon in, I took a big mouthful…and nearly gagged! The creaminess combined with the tastelessness just didn’t work! I’m determined to try it again, when I get my taste back, because I think it is probably very nice, but sans taste? – no, thank you! Back to banana sandwich, or honey-on-bread!

What is very bizarre though is the fact that I can still taste drinks – fainter than before, but I can still taste them. So I enjoy my apple juice/ orange & cranberry juice drinks – but I am right off coffee. Very bitter!! I am watering the juice down though, 75% water, 25% juice, which is better for me, but drinking about 2 litres a day. I know 500 ml of juice isn’t great, but I’m letting myself off that for the duration.

I’m slowly losing weight at the moment, mostly because snacks and alcohol hold little, or no, appeal! There’s no point having a biscuit with your mid-morning drink, if you can’t taste it! There’s no sense of “I like something sweet in the evening” if you can’t distinguish sweet from anything else! There’s no “Oh, I really enjoyed that, so even if I’m full I’ll have a bit more!” There’s no “Let’s have an apèro, and a few snacks and nibbles” when the drinks taste bitter, and the nibbles are crisp enough to hurt my mouth and taste of nothing! I’m down about 2 or 3 kg from my last weigh in, but I’m still way too heavy. So, I’m aware that when things are back to as normal as possible, things need to change…

Knowing that we need to up our vegetable intake, and reduce our red meat intake, I think this site will be useful. These are some of the recipes we’ll be trying:

There are lots, and lots, and LOTS of recipes. I also like the way you can see (on some ) how many portions of fruit/veg they provide. I’m also going to be going back to my copy of “River Cottage Veg Every Day”, which I used a lot when I first got it. Here is a link to my old blog pages, with the tag “River Cottage” should you be ionterested in finding out more. I’m enjoying Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s series on BBC1 at the moment “Britain’s Fat Fight”…

I also really, seriously, need to think about exercise. But that’s for another day…

But, over to you, dear ones: do you have any suggestions for meals which would tempt me on the texture front, and Mr FD on the taste front?

 

Coming round after a Lost Weekend…

It’s been a long time since I posted, but I’m sure you understand why! Last weekend was my “Lost Weekend” after the second session of chemo.

For my own benefit really, but for anyone who might be interested, I want to record how I felt, and what I did/ ate in that weekend.

THURSDAY: Chemo session. Got home at about 18.00, had a cup of tea. Went to bed. Slept.

FRIDAY: Nurse came for injection to boost white blood cell production. Day spent sleeping/ listening to podcasts in small chunks. Drank about 1.5l of cranberry juice/water through the day. Breakfast: slice of marmite toast, half a cup of coffee. Lunch: slice of marmite toast. Got up round 18.00. Dinner: half a tiny baked potato and cheese. Felt sick. Went to bed about 19.30. Slept. Moulting started in earnest overnight.

SATURDAY: Day spent sleeping/ listening to podcasts in slightly larger chunks/ some activity on FB. Drank about 1.5l of cranberry juice/water through the day. Breakfast: 2 slices of marmite toast. Lunch:2 slices of cheese on toast + tomato soup. Got up round 17.00. Dinner: small amount of pasta, sauce & cheese. Felt less sick. Went to bed about 20.30. Slept. Moulted.

SUNDAY: I meant to get up earlier, but couldn’t be arsed.  Morning spent sleeping/ listening to music, or podcasts/using FB.  I got up around 16.00, finally having a shower (Mr FD was probably quite relieved about that!) but not getting dressed. Wrapped myself up in PJs, fluffy dressing gown and thick socks.Generally still very dopey, so snoozed, half watched some TV. Went to bed about 20.30, slept reasonably well. Moulted.

Breakfast: 2 slices of marmite toast. Lunch:2 slices of cheese on toast + mushroom soup. Dinner: A small amount of gnocchi and pasta sauce, yoghurt with jam

MONDAY: Got up around lunch time, morning spent sleeping/ listening to music, or podcasts/using FB. Got dressed. Afternoon spent on sofa, snoozing, watching daytime TV. Went to bed about 21.30. Didn’t sleep well. Drank reasonably well – about 1.25l

Breakfast: 2 slices of marmite toast. Lunch:2 slices of cheese on toast + mushroom soup. Cereal bar and pineapple in a pot. Dinner: A medium amount of a sort of “sausagiflette” – like tartiflette but made with sausages.So basically, potato, mushroom, onion, sausage, spinach and raclette cheese. Yoghurt and jam.

TUESDAY: Because I’d slept badly the night before due to a sinus headache, Mr FD was a bit worried. When the Nurse came to take blood for my weekly blood test he asked her advice, and they decided I should go to the doctor. An appointment was made. Marie-Laure (Nurse) had the usual difficulty taking blood – it is very lethargic, my blood, and it’s really hard to find a vein. She tried two places and finally squeezed out just-about-sufficient for the blood test. Went to doctor in afternoon, sinus infection diagnosed, and – due to low blood cell count – everything was thrown at it: anti nausea tablets, anti biotics (dissolvable ones. BLEUCH. Plus, as they are strong, likely to cause nausea, and diarrhoea. Yay!), yeast (dissolvable in water. BLEUCH! to restore gut bacteria destroyed by the antibiotics)

It was a difficult day – lots of crying. Fed up with moulting, and my pillows are covered in hair. I wake up with moutfuls of hair. It’s NOT FAIR! Mr FD got the worst of it from me. God got complained to. Felt dopey for most of the day, but perked up after dinner.

So do Fat Dormice!

Breakfast: 2 slices of marmite toast. Lunch:2 slices of cheese on toast + marmite.  Dinner: Smallish portion of chicken, pasta, sauce; cereal bar, pineapple in a pot. Took yucky antibiotics. Went to bed about 20.30. Didn’t get to sleep until about midnight; woke regularly and for long periods of time. Usually with mouthfuls of hair, despite wearing a hair-covering.

WEDNESDAY: Took horrible medication with large glass of cranberry juice/water; took anti biotics dissolved in water (BLEUCH!) quickly followed by a large bite of marmite toast!  Morning spent doing some paperwork on computer & reading blogs. Mr FD shaved my head, as I am fed up of moulting like a cat!

Breakfast:2 slices of marmite toast & a banana. Took yeast + a chocolate Dime sweet crunched up immediately! Lunch:Antibiotics. followed by handful of strong flavoured snacks, 2 slices of cheese on toast, cereal bar. Afternoon: walk to post office & around the block (about 500 m) followed by 20 minute snooze and some afternoon TV.  Dinner: Antibiotics followed bgy strong flavoured crisps, medium sized bowl of chilli + garlic bread, apple compote, chocolate biscuit.  Yeast taken with Dime sweet. Bed at 22.30. Slept through (almost!) until 7.45.

The walk, albeit only 500 m or so, took me about 20 minutes, and required two sit-downs on the way. The sit downs were partially to enjoy the sunshine and breathe some fresh air, but it was hard work!

I think my eating is back to normal, albeit smaller portions, but I still have the horrid anti biotics/ yeast combo to take for another 6 days – it makes my stomach fizz, and feel bloaty, but (so far) I’ve not had the expected diarrhoea. The other interesting thing is how my tastes have changed: while I still enjoy sweetish things, I am certainly not eating so many. During the first few days, I didn’t want any strong flavours, except for Marmite (as one can see from the amount of marmite toast I’m eating!), and the smell of cooking was horrid! And coffee, which is my go-to hot drink, has a rather unpleasant metallic taste – I can have the breakfast coffee, but after that it is not at all appealing. I’m not really enjoying any hot drink – tisanes taste too weak, or just not-nice. I’m not a tea drinker, but I’m thinking I might try a cuppa, just to see if I enjoy it. I do need to try to drink a bit more, as the Nurse said I need to aim to drink at least 1.5l a day, and I don’t think I’m doing that.

 

I’m not looking for sympathy here (though it’s always nice to have some!) but I thought you might be interested to read what a “Lost Weekend” is like – although this one has come with the added joy of the sinus infection! It’s also useful to have a record somewhere.

I have 1 more session of FEC 100, which is this current cocktail of poison, and then I go onto another regime, which will have different side effects: judging by the amount of anti-nausea medication that is prescribed, they are expecting more sickness. Plus this will affect my nail beds, so I have to put on a special kind of nail varnish, and rub an ointment around my nails twice a day. Stupidly, I’m already looking ahead and dreading that: sufficient unto the day…and so on!

We have booked to go on the Cycle Club short break, down in the south of France, which is the weekend after my next session. I will be tired still, but eating OK. I’m planning on spending the 5 days relaxing in the sun (while being fully covered, as I should avoid sunlight apparently) either in the holiday village, or on the nearby beach. Some reading, zentangling, and other relaxing activities will take place.

I’ll try and post tomorrow – I have a book review and three, yes, THREE, blog appreciation awards to acknowledge!!! Sorry it’s taken so long.