Dead Car

Don’t worry! This isn’t us!!

Last Friday I had set off for work nice and early (7.15) as I had a lesson at 8.30 in Clermont. About a kilometre before the junction onto the motorway there was a small clunk and the engine stopped running. I drifted over to the side of the road, and tried to restart.

A-huh-a-huh-a-huh, wheezed the engine without coughing into life.

Happily we had just signed up for a good breakdown package which had kicked in on the Monday before (looks a bit suspicious!!), so I was able to phone through for a breakdown truck. However, with me, these things are never quite as simple as they might be: it was one of those push button 1 if… helplines, and so I had to phone & listen about 5 times before I could work out which I needed! I finally chose the right one, and it went onto a website where I filled in my details (I do ask myself what one does if one doesn’t have a smartphone, or you don’t have internet access…) Having done this, I was told that my emergency locator wasn’t turned on, and please enter manually my position.

With fingers rather numbed and clumsy through cold (it was about -2°) I somehow managed to say that I was located in a road in a town in department 91 (we’re in dept 42!) and was cheerily told that my location in dept 91 had been logged and a breakdown truck would be with me in 45 minutes.

 

“What?! No!! Oh *$#*!”# ” I spluttered and tried phoning the helpline again.

Of course, there is no instruction “Press button 6 if you have inadvertedly sent a breakdown truck to the wrong department” (or if there was I didn’t understand the instruction!!) so I panicked and got a bit weepy. But then, pulling up my big girls’ knickers I thought about it and found another number on my bit of paper to phone. I explained my dilemma, was told not to worry and so relieved that the resue mission in dept 91 was going to be cancelled, I restarted my cry for assistance. I seemed to manage to enter my location successfully, received another text telling me that the breakdown truck would be with me in 45 minutes.

I settled down to wait. Even though the car was on the side of the road, with its hazard lights flashing, I thought it best not to wait in the car in case of being shunted by one of the reasonably infrequent but heavily laden lorries that whizzed by, so I walked briskly up and down to keep warm. Thankfully, by 8.00 the sun was coming up and the air was becoming warmer. Then my phone rang.

“Hello, Madame? You are located where on Rue Whatever?”

AARGH. The resue mission hadn’t been cancelled and somewhere in department 91 a breakdown truck was looking for me!

I explained the situation and he was very understanding, telling me not to worry. He rang off, and I started to wonder if in fact my second call had been correctly logged. By now it was 9.00 and customer services was open, so I rang that number. I was right: it hadn’t been logged, so the wpman at the other end of the phone took the details manually… and within 20 minutes a breakdown truck from Noiretable (16 km from our village) had turned up.

He loaded the little poorly Fiat onto the back and off we went.

At first he thought it was something straightforward, but more investigations proved it was more serious. I called a friend to pick me up, while the Garagiste did more diagnostics. The final upshot is that the timing chain (which is the equivalent of a cam belt) has broken. It will cost at least 1,000€ to mend, but it could be more if it has damaged other parts of the engine when it broke.

We have to decide if it’s worth doing, if we want to do it, if we can afford to do it, and if we don’t do it what we are going to do…we need two cars as we work in oposite directions! For the moment, a kind friend has lent us his second car, but we can’t rely on it for too long.

Hey ho.

Almost time…

I tend to be quite “regimented” with my Christmas decorations – I always put them up on the afternoon of the second Sunday in Advent, and they come down on the Sunday nearest Epiphany. I almost always put them in the same places too, only changing them if they are in an inconvenient place. For example, my little sitting angels migrated this year from the edge of the mantlepiece (where they got bashed every time we filled the granule burner) to perched on the edge of my candlesticks.

This year I didn’t feel “in the mood” for Christmas, so the decorations didn’t get put up until the third Sunday in Advent – it was also because the second Sunday was quite busy with visitors coming for tea – but once they were up, with the fairy lights twinkling, I felt quite festive.

Here are various decorations from blog swaps over the years. I thought I had other photos but I can’t find them.

But tomorrow is the closest Sunday to Epiphany, and so they’ll be coming down for another year – except for a couple of sets of lights which stay up all year, and some stars that I received as Christmas gifts. Originally we called the house “La Maison des Etoiles” – but dropped the name eventually (although we do have a name plaque up on the gate post) – so, even though we don’t use the name it’s nice to have the stars up.

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.

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…