Dinner in the Beaujolais

As I explained a few posts ago, on Monday Mr FD and I drove our friends C&A to see their friends over in the Beaujolais region.

We duly dropped them off at their friend’s house (having driven around the village a few times, as the instructions we had assumed we’d be coming from a different direction, so things got a little confused for a moment or two) and then headed off to the chosen restaurant. We’d changed our mind about the restaurant, and we went to this one: La Maison des Beaujolais

This is the menu we chose:

ENTRÉES :

Médaillon de Foie Gras, Chutney de Saison
ou
Salade de Saint Jacques Panées aux Amandes, Coco et Banane Plantain
ou
Salade de Gambas Sautées, Lardons de Canard et Pousses de Soja

PLATS CHAUDS :

Croquettes de Ris de Veau , Beurre à l’Oseille
ou
Magret de Canard au Vinaigre de Framboises
ou
Filets de Rouget aux Queues de Langoustines

Fromages

Carte des Desserts

 

We started with an apero – I had the Aperetif Maison, the exact make up of which was, I was told, a secret. It was a red wine and fruit juice combo, which was very pleasant. As the driver, Mr FD had an orangina. These were served with an amuse-bouche of vegetables, chicken and chorizo.

For my starter, I had the foie gras, which was served with a pain d’epices (a type of gingerbread, whose sweetness goes well with the foie gras) and a delicious chutney. I don’t know what it was made of, although we suspected it might have been red grapes. :

Mr FD chose the salad de gambas, which he said was enjoyable, although the sauce was a bit harsh. It had an oriental flavour, and he thought it was made with soy sauce. It was an enormous plateful!

For the main course I chose to have the red mullet. I almost always choose duck if it is on the menu, but decided to go off-piste! I like fish, but rarely cook it and even more rarely choose it in restaurants. It was very nice:

As you can see, it came with rice, and a medley of summer vegetables. I enjoyed it very much. Mr FD had the duck (he nearly went for the ris-de-veau (which are sweetbreads) but he backed out at the last moment.

Cheese followed – a selection of three

Oops! I forgot to take the photo before I started! A goaty-herby one, which I enjoyed, a slice of Brie, or something equally mild and creamy, and then the one in the centre,which looks innocuous but had a very strong, agricultural flavour about it. I left that one, as I didn’t find it pleasant at all. These were served with a slice of nut bread and a small salad, scattered with flaked almonds.

Dessert: What would you have chosen?

I decided to have the Mille Feuille Glacé Ananas et son coulis. It was very nice:

I was getting forgetful about taking photos by now!!

We finished with coffe-for-me-tea-for-Mr FD, and just as we were getting to the end of our coffee/tea, C&A phoned to say they were ready to be picked up. We drove back to get them, and were forced to be polite to some people we didn’t know for about half an hour.  Then a drive home through the rain.

It was a very enjoyable meal, so thank you C&A for that. Mind you, judging by this photo, I seem to be regarding my meal with some suspicion!!

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Ladies only glow…

As my mother used to say: Horses sweat, men perspire, but ladies only glow…

I’m definitely glowing… My whole top right torso is now really rather tender – that feeling of when you’ve had too much sun, with the occasional yelp of pain when you stretch the sensitive skin too far, or catch it on the rough edge of a bra. It’s the effects of the radiotherapy. I have only three sessions to go, but yesterday was the cstart of a new regime, which saw a very directed set of rays towards the scar where the initial lump was. I suspect that within three days it may be quite a painful area.

About a fortnight into my radiotherapy I went to see Yvette, on the advice of several people. Yvette is a Charmeur de feu (I think that’s right) – basically a faith healer, but seemingly with a propensity to heal (or relieve) the symptoms of radiotherapy. Hence the “feu” bit (fire) Sometimes they’re known as Coupeur de feu (“cutter of fire”) This article, in French, explains it a bit more. I actually wasn’t having any problems at the time, but she laid her hands on me and prayed. As I said to Mr FD, “I was happy to hear her using the word Seigneur (Lord) so it wasn’t just mumbo jumbo” He raised an eyebrow at me and sniggered, believing that it was mumbo jumbo!

I’m actually not totally convinced but I went back to see her on Tuesday, because by then there was a lot of redness. And some discomfort. I was given a thorough telling off by her – “Oh look how red it is…why didn’t you come back before, you silly girl…Oh, it must be painful…You shouldn’t worry about disturbing me…Oh, you silly, silly girl….” and so on….

After I was suitably shame faced, and apologised, she laid hands on me, and prayed (breaking off from time to time to say “Oh you silly girl…!”)  – and, I do have to admit that there was some relief from the discomfort…I’m going back again this afternoon, in an attempt to relieve the painful glowing that’s going on.

Yvette refuses all payment (unlike the Magnetiseur I went to see before the chemo, who took 40€ from me) so I made some biscuits and took them along. I suspect many of you know Anzac biscuits, but if you don’t, let me tell you that they are very simple-to-make and delicious! Here is the recipe:

Ingredients

100g plain flour, sifted
 85g rolled oats
75g caster sugar
85g desiccated coconut
100g unsalted butter, chopped
1 tablespoons golden syrup or treacle
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon bicarb

Method

  1. Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Put the oats, coconut, flour and sugar in a bowl. Melt the butter in a small pan and stir in the golden syrup. Add the bicarbonate of soda to 2 tbsp boiling water, then stir into the golden syrup and butter mixture.
  2. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the butter and golden syrup mixture. Stir gently to incorporate the dry ingredients.
  3. Put dessertspoonfuls of the mixture on to buttered baking sheets, about 2.5cm/1in apart to allow room for spreading. Bake in batches

I thought they were very similar to British HobNob biscuits, but a bit chewier. I really liked them, and I’m going to bake a batch on Sunday to take along to the Radiotherapy team on Monday for my last session. I thought I might try adding some chocolate chips or some dried cranberries.

From Puffins to Peacocks

Which might be a slightly ambiguous post title, but can be explained…

I wrote earlier about my childhood reading, and my membership of the Puffin Club, a club affiliated to Puffin books, an imprint of Penguin Books publishing house, targeted at children. Peacock books were the fairly shortlived “young adult” series, a step on from Puffin books; but they made up a fair amount of my transition reading.

Titles such as Fifteen, by Beverley Cleary, a story about first love, and all the pain and joy associated with it…

This list shows the first Peacock books – just reading it through has made me go “Oh, Yes! I remember that!!” for so many books. I wonder if there’s any there that you have read and enjoyed?

After graduating to the adult library section, I started reading a lot of Mary Stewart’s romance/mysteries. I really enjoyed these – usually there was a smart, sassy female protagonist, who fell in love, often with someone a bit unsuitable, who she suspected to be the wrong doer. She could usually look after herself, but there would be a life-or-death situation at the end where she would be rescued by (or sometimes rescue) the Love of her Life. They would be set in exotic locations, and I really loved them; I read one quite recently, and although it was a bit dated, I still enjoyed it.

I didn’t really like Agatha Christie mysteries, but enjoyed other crime novels – a genre which I still enjoy today. I can’t remember any particular authors that I gravitated towards, although I do remember my aunt taking Ngaio Marsh mysteries on holiday with her: she brought them from the library (shock! horror! we were never allowed to take library books on holiday in case we lost them!) and they all had standard library issue covers in a particularly unpleasant yellow! I tried reading one, but didn’t enjoy it.

I fell in love with two books about time slip/ghostly, doomed love – A Portrait of Jennie, by Robert Nathan, and Jenny Villiers, by JB Priestly. Both of these fed my adolescent need for love… I read A Portrait of Jennie again recently – while I enjoyed it, I wasn’t quite gripped in the same way…

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One book that had a profound effect on me was “In this House of Brede” by Rumer Godden. I had already come across Rumer Godden’s book “The Kitchen Madonna” in the children’s section of the library – a lovely story, in which Gregory, a nine-year-old boy, has a deep love and respect for his family’s Ukrainian maid, Marta. When he discovers that Marta is sad because she does not have an icon in the kitchen, he commits to doing something about it. He makes his own picture, using various things such as jewel-bright sweet wrappers to frame it. I moved onto reading Godden’s “The Greengage Summer” (another Peacock book) which is another book about the joy and pain of first love, but this one set in 1920s France

After this, I wanted to read other books by the same author, and found “In this House of Brede“. As Wikipedia describes it: a portrait of religious life in England that centers on Philippa Talbot, a highly successful professional woman who leaves her comfortable life among the London elite to join a cloistered Benedictine community of contemplative nuns. It begins in 1954, as Philippa enters the monastery, Brede Abbey; continues through her solemn vows in the changing, post-Second Vatican Council environment; and ends as Philippa reluctantly accepts the call to lead a new Benedictine foundation in Japan, where she spent part of her childhood.

I think reading this book helped me to see that it was okay to have questions about God, to struggle with being a Christian. I said “Yes” to God at school, aged 17, and went along to a House church, which was in many ways a great start for my Christian life, but in other ways not so good. It was very Bible based, with every answer to every question considered to be in the Bible, God’s direct word to us, and never to be questioned…. This was not my experience, and it was not how I had been educated: I had been taught to ask questions, and my church upbringing had been more open and liberal. Being torn between two stances, this book helped me to start to form my own opinions and become stronger in my faith.

As I write this, I remember more and more books from my adolescence, that I really enjoyed…I could be writing this blog post for ever as I recall more and more!

The L-Shaped Room, by Lynne Reid Banks

Last Year’s Broken Toys

The Silver Sword by Ian Serrailer ( Maybe that was a childhood book, rather than adolescent – but an excellent read!)

Fifth Chinese Daighter by Jade Snow Wong

The Owl Service by Alan Garner…

and so the list goes on. What do you remember reading in your teenage years?

Memory loss!

Yesterday I wrote a post about my childhood reading; as the initial post had been lost through my ineptitude, I had to re-write it. Due to my decrepitude I forgot certain things that had been included in the original post, and I was reminded of them by a comment from Bev.

I talked about authors that I enjoyed reading (and that Mum had frowned upon slightly) but I forgot about some that were happily sanctioned by my parents…First and foremost, there were The Little House on the Prarie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Way, way before the TV series of the same name, I was enjoying Laura and Mary’s adventures in the pioneer community. I remember my delight when Dad bought me a box set of the books

It didn’t contain “These Happy Golden Years” but I was less interested in the series after Laura had grown up and married Almanzo. That set of books was carefully looked after and read, and re-read numerous times. They led me onto Anne of Green Gables which I also enjoyed, although I was less enamoured by Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. I think she and Pollyanna were too good for my liking.

If you’re sharp eyed you may have noticed a very important logo in the top left hand corner of both of these books – the Puffin.

 

This is the logo of the Puffin publishing group – part of the Penguin books franchise – but also the logo on the badge of The Puffin Club. This club was created by Kaye Webb, to encourage children to read more and to become involved in the joy of books. Every quarter members would receive a copy of Puffin Post, a magazine full of articles (written by children!!!) and competitions, jokes and stories.

    

I loved being a member of the Puffin Club! My older brother and sister were also members and they actually won one of the competitions – I still remember it. They had to write a story, including as many Puffin Book titles as they could. I guess that I was probably 9 or 10, my brother 12, and my sister 15 or so at the time; Judy encouraged me to enter too, but I didn’t quite have the courage to do so; I started a story, but didn’t finish it. But both Judy and Mike did, and they both won, in their age categories. They won a week’s sailing holiday, with other Puffineers, in the Forest of Dean, at Symond’s Yat. How exciting!

I think the Puffin Club was a great idea, encouraging young people to become involved in reading, but also in sharing their love of reading with others; it also encouraged budding writers to try their skills. I think I owe much of my love of reading to this excellent venture…Are any of my readers ex-Puffineers? Please do let me know in the comments section!!

On books and reading… (1)

This has been in my draft posts folder for a while – I was annoyed because I’d lost half the post with a little bit of unjudicious button pressing, so I flounced off in a bit of a huff. I’ve revisited it…

It’s interesting that I have recently read two posts about reading habits and how they started. The first is over at The Homeplace Web, where the author recalls going to the library in her youth, and searching out books to keep her (I assume it’s her!) going through the week. Secondly, and purely by coincidence, I read Sue, in The Cottage at the End of the Lane as she wrote about Lucy Mangan’s book, “Bookworm”, which is on the subject of childhood reading.  Both posts are interesting, and I urge you to go over and read them.

Isn’t it a beautiful book cover?!

These posts started me thinking about my reading habits…

We always, always had books around the house. I think a lot of them were from book clubs, such as the Folio book club, as they all had similar covers. I don’t remember my parents reading much – I imagine they were too busy, as mum had a part time job as a teacher and a full time job as a housewife, and dad was a busy GP – but there were always books by their bedside. I remember the built-in bookshelves in the lounge, filled with books that I would browse and flick through if I was feeling bored:  an entire set of Winston Churchill’s memoirs, with the great man’s signature embossed on the front, and also a book about the sinking of the Titanic. I would sometimes pull this off the shelf, and look at the photos, read the tragic stories, and dream about what would have happened had I been on that ship…

We were always encouraged to read, and I don’t remember a time when I didn’t read. I think we learned using Ladybird books, as I can recall a lot of Janet and John; I also remember the pride of working my way through the reading scheme at school – each different level had a colour. The Silver book of Fairy Stories and the Gold book of Fairy Stories were the pinnacle of achievement! It was in one of these that I first read the fairy tale of The Wild Swans, by Hans Christian Anderson, which was a story that I loved! The sadness that the princess couldn’t fully transform her youngest brother, whom she loved, was so sad to me then!

Books always featured in our Christmas pillowcases – I still have two that I pored over until they were quite battered. Both were by the author Roger Lancelyn Green – “Myths from Many Lands” and “Tales of the Greeks & Trojans” I loved the illustrations, and later on, I used them a lot when I was teaching, as each story was on a double page spread, lasting between five or ten minutes to read aloud, and offering lots of food for the imagination.

Whenever we went on holiday, mum would buy us one or two new books, which we were never allowed to even open before we arrived at our destination. What a difficult choice – did I choose a book which I really wanted, or did I choose a thick book which would keep me going? It would have been unthinkable to run out of reading material! We often stayed at the appartment of a friend-of-a-friend in Geneva, and I got to know Glynn’s bookshelves very well. He had vintage editions of Doctor Doolittle’s Circus and Doctor Doolittle’s Zoo, so I knew I could always reacquaint myself with these if I ran out of books! I loved Doctor Doolittle, and went through the whole series.

There were certain authors Mum considered more “suitable” than others. Enid Blyton was frowned upon, but tolerated, as, I think she thought that any reading was better than none. My friend Val and I devoured the Famous Five books – Val had almost all of them in hard back, so I was able to borrow them. We dreamed of being child investigators, and solving mysteries, but a suburb of Liverpool didn’t seem to contain the same adult villains that Kirren Island did! I was never as enamoured by the Secret Seven, but loved the “boarding school” series: The Twins at Saint Clare’s, and Mallory Towers. I longed to go to boarding school almost as much as I longed to be an investigator!

Rather like the HomePlace Web, the library was my Saturday morning hideaway. I can still picture the layout of the place, with its beautiful parquet flooring. There were three public areas: the children’s library, the reference section, and the adult section. In the childrens section there were tables and chairs where you could sit and do homework, using the non fiction books (because you weren’t going to waste any of your precious six tickets on anything as boring as non fiction! ) and deep window sills, with hot air blowers underneath, which were a pleasure to sit on in winter! Books were arranged alphabetically by author, but sometimes the staff would arrange a special display of a particular theme, to encourage us to try new authors or subject matter.

I had six library tickets, rather like these

Each book would have a label inside, with a pocket and a card with the title & author on. When you took the book out of the library, the book card would be put inside your library ticket (which you can see is like a little pocket), the label inside the book would be stamped with the date you had to bring it back by (usually in 3 weeks), and the library ticket placed in some sort of filing system. On returning the book, the assistant would riffle through the filing system to find the ticket with the card inside. The card would be returned to inside the book, and your own ticket returned to you.

Every Saturday I would get my six allocated books from the library, go home, and lie on my bed, reading as though it was going out of fashion. I had usually finished all six books by Sunday evening, so would be reduced to re-reading old favourites from the shelves in my bedroom. I had three shelves, each about a metre long, screwed to the wall above my bed, each one loaded with paperbacks.

After Enid Blyton, I advanced to lots of historical novels, particularly enjoying Rosemary Sutcliffe. I remember loving her books “Brother Dusty Feet” and “The Armourer’s House” with their illustrations by C. Walter Hodges. These stories swept me away to another time and place – together with books by Geoffrey Trease and Henry Treece, again historical novels set in Tudor or Roman times.

As I grew older tastes changed slightly, and I found the young adult (or “teenage” as it was called then!) choices at the library less appealing. They were also rather thin on the ground. One book that has stuck in my mind is one called “Sugar Mouse” by John Branfield.

It is about a girl with diabetes, and her dog. She is trying to come to terms with her illness and realises that her dog has many of the symptoms of diabetes. Instead of taking the dog to the vet, she tests the dog’s blood and discovers the dog does have diabetes. Instead of taking the dog to the vet at this point, she starts giving the dog shots of her own insulin… I don’t know why I remember this book more than any other, as I’m not diabetic, nor did I know anyone diabetic as I was growing up, but for some reason this book, and its cover, has stuck firmly in my mind…

As there were few teenage orientated books on offer at the library, I graduated on to the adult section round about 14 or 15. Instead of turning left into the children’s room, I turned right into the adult section…bigger, with so much more choice…More about that another time.

 

Really?!

I know that photos taken for passports nearly always turn out badly, usually making one look like a particularly tough gangster – I certainly wouldn’t want to meet the man depicted on Mr FD’s passport at anytime of day or night – but I think the photo I’ve ended up with for my Titre de Sejour is one of the worst of me I’ve ever seen!

I went with the wig (rather than going bald) but I don’t think it did me any favours. I look about 10 years older than I actually am!

Maybe it’s the no smiling, no glasses rule than makes me resemble a Soviet prison guard from the 1960s.

 

A dilemma…

I am in the process of applying for a Titre de Sejour – a document giving me the right to live & work in France. Citizens of the EU do not need a Titre de Sejour, but thanks to the catastrophe that is Brexit (no need to ask which way I voted!) the advice coming from the Foreign Office is that it might be a good idea to have one of these before Britain crashes out of Europe and into a chasm of confusion and chaos.

So I have to supply 3 passport photos with my application.

The dilemma?

Do I have photos where I’m bald…

or where I’m wearing my wig…

or where I’m wearing a scarf…?

None of them are actually what I look like normally, so I won’t resemble the photo on my titre de sejour when my hair grows back! (Which it is doing – I’m starting to look like a greying skinhead! Yes, it’s coming back grey!)