I am a cider drinker

A blast from the past here, with the video of The Wurzels, a British comedy (questionable!) band from the 70s. Does anyone remember them? They had a Number 1 hit with “I’ve got a brand new combine harvester (and I’ll give you the key)” as well.

Anyway…I thought of them as I wrote the title for this post, which is about our cider making exploits, back in November. It was a very mild day – just after a very cold spell – when our friends Jean & Claire called us to tell us that they would be making their cider that day. So we first of all picked apples at our friend Danièle’s plot, singing along to Big Big Train’s “Wassail” which seemed appropriate.

 

I was still wobbly on my feet – apparantly one of the longer-lasting side effects of chemo – so Mr FD did more picking than me, but we got quite a few bags-full between us. Bizarrely we found several “Bags for Life” abandoned in the orchard – we have no idea who left them there. They wouldn’t be from Danièle’s family, as no-one lives in the village any longer, so maybe it was an apple scrumper who was disturbed! Whoever it was, they lost their bags, as we used them and took them home!

It was very pleasant in the warm sunshine, with a view over the village. Here’s a view of the orchard

 

Some of the apples had been eaten away – I imagine from the inside, as some flying creature laid its eggs inside the apple to provide a food source for the hatched babies, whatever they were. The remains were actually rather lovely in their way. We left a lot of apples on the trees and on the ground – hopefully they will provide nourishments for “creatures of the forest” during the winter.

After we’d picked the apples, we headed over to Les Ports, the family home of Jean, now used as a holiday home by his sister, who lives in Lyon. Here there is the old machinery that has been used for generations to make cider. Each year (that the harvest is good enough) Chantelle and her husband, and possibly children too, come across from Lyon, and with her brother, Jean, and his family, the ancient equipment comes to life once more.

This year, Claire & Jean’s youngest were home from their studies: Alyssia and Joe are twins. Joe had brought two sisters from China who are at Uni with him to see what was going on.

 

 

 

First the apples were tipped into the hopper of this machine, which chopped them into smaller pieces. It’s a vicious machine, with blades going up and down really quickly. H&S doesn’t exist here, as Jean pushes the apples towards the blades with his bare hands! The pieces of apple are gathered in large plastic buckets, ready to be tipped into the press.

    

Mr FD, Jean, and Jean’s BiL are manipulating the press. The apples have been tipped into the barrel part, and the top part is weighted down and a huge screw-like mechanism is turned to press down on the apples to extract the juice.

There’s a bucket at the bottom, collecting the juice (which is filtered through straw placed around the base of the barrel-part) and we had to keep an eye on this, ready to whip it out as it got full, and replace it with another.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was then taken outside where it was decanted into various jerry-cans, bottles, and demi-johns to be transported home. Here’s Alyssia and one of the Chinese guests carefully pouring the juice into a demi-john.

I was getting really chilled near the end, so I went and sat next to the log burner inside, while everyone finished off, overseen by Jet and Bilout, Jean & Claire’s two dogs

We took home several bottles of apple juice, which Mr FD mostly drank. It was a bit too sweet for me. I suppose (thinking about it far too late!) I could have mulled some of it with spices and lemon juice, which would have been nice! Never mind…

It was a very enjoyable day.

(Sorry the placing of pictures and text is a bit random. I was trying to embed the pictures in text but wasn’t very successful!)

Advertisements

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.

 

Christmas Eve

(I’m writing this on Christmas Eve, but I’ll probably schedule it to publish on Boxing Day)

Well, this morning Breakfast TV was discussing people who haven’t finished their Christmas shopping, or at least, their food shopping; reporters were standing in supermarkets – which, I feel, were disappointingly empty for their reports. “There are people queueing for the vegetables”, the reporter announced as the camera panned across the fresh produce aisles where a few people were picking up bags of parsnips. We are all organised – although we did pop down to Carrefour for extra-soft “Balsam” tissues, as I have a stinking cold, and we may have bought a bottle of fizzies to drink tomorrow (as I’d only bought really cheap stuff from Noz!)

Mr FD is on his computer, I’m on mine, the cats are sleeping somewhere around the place, and the house is quiet.

Pomme, sleeping on the amplifier under my desk – a warm “underheated” space!

 

There are only the two of us on Christmas Day – we’ll have a quiet day of good food, a walk, some reading, some Christmas radio, some music and some TV. I think “The Princess Bride” is planned for tonight (Inconceivable!) If you don’t know this film, I’d heartily recommend you seeking it out without further ado. It is a perfect family film.

It’s strange but I always feel one should eat fairly simply, and preferably vegetarianly, on Christmas Eve – I wonder if this is something left over from my childhood? So last year’s discovery of the French Graisse de Noel soup fits perfectly with this. Here’s a link to the recipe (in French) So we’re having that for our “tea” tonight, with maybe a smidgeon of pannetone!

For lunch I have fancied up an old recipe which I found in my ancient recipe book. It was a very simple receipe from a Waitrose recipe card. Here’s my “enhanced” version:

  • Jar of marinaded peppers
  • tin of tomatoes
  • green olives (a couple of spoonfuls)
  • parsley
  • aubergine
  • mushroom
  • mozzarella

Whizz the peppers, parsley, olives and tomatoes together with a blender. Season to taste.

Thickly slice the aubergine (For two of us I sliced one aubergine into 8 slices.) Brush with olive oil and bake until softish.

Pour the pepper/tomato sauce into an ovenproof dish. I topped with grated parmesan because I had some to use up.

Slice the mozzarella into 4 thick slices. Slice the mushroom crossways to make big rounds.

Put a slice of aubergine onto the sauce, then a slice of mozzarella, then a slice of mushroom, then the other slice of aubergine. Repeat until you have two stacks per person.

Add a little grated cheese. I also added some truffle flavoured olive oil because why not?

Bake for about 30 minutes at about 180°

Ready for the oven – if you enlarge the photo, you might be able to read the original recipe.

We’re going to have this with some corn bread from the bakers’.

This afternoon, I’m thinking I may crank my heater up a bit, and curl up in my Slanket with some choccies and a book. It’s a grey and drizzly day outside, so I think that may be the cheeriest thing to do!

Blue arsed flies.

For those who don’t quite understand the metaphor:: Run around is a common expression meaning to be busy, frantic, or otherwise getting the runaround. But to emphasize how much one is running around, we turn to metaphor. I’ve been running around like a blue arsed fly. The fly in question is apparently a blue bottle fly, which buzzes around rather frantically, like someone who is running around busily doing errands.

Golly gosh! I’ve been busy – still am!! Some good things:

  • My calligraphy course went very well – no-one turned up, so I sat & chatted to Martine, the organiser, for anhour then presented my bill, and came home to do my ironing. Hopefully, I’ll get paid the full amount.
  • SNCF have refunded the cost of the initial ticket, that I couldn’t use, from my horrible journey home from convention. I’m still a bit out of pocket, but we’ll accept that.
  • Mr FD has several interviews/job fairs to go to in the next couple of weeks (fingers crossed) and I’m getting more work too. The Financial Monster is being kept at bay, thanks to the geneerosity of mothers, and some frugality on our part. Plus a transfer of funds from the UK!
  • I’m going here on Saturday for 5 days!

STRASBOURG CHRISTMAS MARKET

Yay! Huzzah! and other cries of glee.

Less nice, but exciting and interesting news:

  • I resigned from the Transition Committee  for the Bishop Elect. My new medication (hormone therapy) does have a side efect of increased anxiety, and I was finding myself getting really stressed, even just over the Zoom meetings (like Skype) It was doing me no good, so I resigned, deciding that I needed just to focus on Church here in Clermont.
  • However, here in Clermont, Father Rob and his wife Caireen are moving on. They are off to Rome, and we are looking for a new rector. We may need to be creative – possibly a part time rector, possibly something else…Happily the new Bishop Elect is interested in and knowledgable in bi-vocational work. Until someone is appointed I will probably be preaching more/taking more services, and we’ll be having various ordained people visiting so we can have the Eucharist.
  • I’m now on the Strategic Planning Committee – but it is focussing on church here in Clermont!! – as we start to think about what Christ Church in Clermont Ferrand will evolve into. It’s sad that we are losing two well-loved people, but it is exciting to l;ook ahead to what we may become, and what God’s plans are for us.

And off I buzz again – need to have lunch before leaving to go to Clermont to teach.

 

Hope all is well with you, dear Ones. I am thinking about my Things to do Before I’m 60 list. I may publish it at the beginning of January – 10 Things in the 10 months before I’m 60. That seems like a reasonable number of things. Thank you for your ideas – keep them coming!

Food – and other stuff – in the past week…

It’s been a bit up-and-downy during the past week, food wise. I’ve tried to be sensible and eat well, then every now and then I crack… Luckily, not having biscuits in the house means that the “cracking” is relatively controlled! Though it was hard to contain my delight when I found an “emergency scone” in the freezer! Although technically it was mine, (I’d put 6 in there a while back; Mr FD had his three, but I’d forgotten that I’d only eaten two!) I shared it with Mr FD. Because I’m nice like that!

Highlights this week included last night’s salmon recipe which was delicious! Baked salmon with tomatoes and butternut squashWe didn’t have it with baby salad leaves, but with some sautéed endives, but it was a really good dish. Although it’s a SW recipe, I’d recommend it to anyone who likes salmon!

On Wednesday we had a “do” with the car – the Fiat has been giving us a few problems, but we thought that the garage had fixed the cause.

I was in Roanne shopping, when, outside Lidl, I tried to start it, and there was nothing. All the lights came on, but it wouldn’t start. I phoned Mr FD, who, luckily, wasn’t far away, with our friend Louis – they’d been about to start picking apples at Louis’ family home some 20/30 km from Roanne. So Louis and Mr FD tried to push start the car down a slope – unfortunately I was in the driving seat, and never having push started a car before, I did the wrong things, and it didn’t start. Mr FD contained his annoyance. Louis drove us back home where we picked up the Pug-bus (Peugeot estate) and drove back to Roanne. With Mr FD in the Fiat 500 I towed it back to the Lidl car park (at the top of a slope), then we untied the tow rope and, with a tiny heave from me, Mr FD drove the Fiat down the slope – it started first time!! Huzzah! He drove off around the corner.

As I’d not finished the shopping, we’d planned that I’d go to Carrefour in the Pug-bus to get what I still had to buy. I dithered…I couldn’t face a big hyper-market, so I thought I’d go to the smaller Carrefour Market instead. I had a choice of two ways to go, but for some reason decided to take the least logical – and who should I come across but Mr FD stalled at the traffic lights, right in the middle of rush hour, and blocking the route for everyone else who were just managing to squeeze past by mounting the traffic island…He couldn’t contact me, as he’d left his mobile phone at home (I’ll tell you this for free: had it been the other way round, with me not having my phone, he’d have been right pissed off with me! I didn’t mention it once. Except just now.)

So we re-attached the tow rope, I pulled him round the corner & somehow he started the car again. After that, I wasn’t sure I trusted the Fiat not to stall again, so I abandoned the shopping and followed Mr FD home…

Earlier in the day I’d met up with someone from the Port – she and her husband live on a narrow boat, Out of the Blue, and travel the waterways of France during the summer and over-winter in Roanne – and we’d had a coffee together. It was the first time I’d met Yvonne, and I think we got on quite well. I’m sure we’ll meet up again at some time. I decided to stay and have lunch in the restaurant, so had a cheese omellette, salad and a big plate of chips. So I felt a bit sick from over eating and stress of cars breaking down. Thus when I got home I didn’t want to eat. I defrosted and heated up a curry and naan bread from the freezer for Mr FD, but I just had a couple of crispbreads later on in the evening. There was lots of curry left over so we had it again on Thursday evening, with added chicken & mushrooms, and with rice. It wasn’t very hot – I’m really not very good at judging the right spices to give enough heat to curries! – but it was flavoursome.

I’ve carefully planned next week’s food – however, as always, something will probably happen to change it all…Including not being able to get ingredients or something. I’m shopping (again!) after work on Monday afternoon. That is when I usually shop, but what with forecast snow last Monday, and not many lessons on Wednesday I had changed the day.

Today (writing this on Saturday, scheduling it for Tuesday) we’re having HM pizza for dinner, and tomorrow I’m pulling the wild boar casserole out of the freezer, to have with mash, carrots and green beans. Mr FD is going to be in charge of cooking on Tuesday (Feta stuffed chicken)and on Wednesday (Chinese Pork) and on Thursday (Roast vegetables with feta and pâsta). From next week he’ll be cooking on Friday too, as I’m restarting with my 5 year old student, from 18h- 19h. That’s going to be mostly crafting and colouring while speaking English, but it’s still work.

Of course, it may all be different if – as we hope – Mr FD’s interview goes well. He has an interview on Tuesday afternoon, which sounds like a job right up his street. We keep our fingers crossed.

We hope…

Quelles temps!

What weather!

We knew that snow was coming – in fact, I didn’t go to church last Sunday, because it was forecast, but it didn’t arrive.

On Monday, Mr FD was worried – I had to go to Clermont to teach, but there was an Orange Warning for snow from midday onwards. I wanted to stay in Clermont to prepare for the week, but he wanted me to go home. I compromised by photocopying quickly what I thought I might need, before heading home. It was raining hard, but no sign of snow until I was almost home, and even that was only quelques flocons (a few flakes). It stayed grey and wet all Monday afternoon, but later in the evening it started to snow properly.

When we woke up – power was off! Our house is almost completely electric. Even though we have a granule burner it still requires electricity to feed the granules into the burning compartment, and to work the fan that blows out the hot air; we have a fireplace in our big salon downstairs, which heats bits of the house via the chimney, but that’s it. We had juice and bread for breakfast and Mr FD started digging the cars out, ready for me to go to Clermont in the afternoon for my planned lessons.

However, the motorways were closed – even in snow that’s most unusual for this region.I can only assume that some lorry breakdowns caused by the snow were the culprit rather than the snow itself. People were coming past Mr FD as he worked, asking for directions and saying they’d been stuck on the motorway all night. One of my students contacted me saying they were fine if I  wanted to cancel. As we haven’t yet got the winter tyres on the car, I thought this was prudent.

I was feeling quite caffeine deprived by now, so, knowing that our friends Monique and Michel have a wood stove and a gas cooker, I went across to beg a cup of coffee from them. I stayed in the warm, drinking coffee, while we watched Mr FD continue to clear the pavement and path, and remarked on how well he was working, considering he’d had a gastro the day before (!!)…then Monique suggested we might like to have lunch with them if the power was still off by then. I took a flask of hot water, so Mr FD could have a cup of tea, and we wrapped ourselves up in blankets and read until lunch time. When the power was still off. So we went across the road for tomato salad, and duck pot-au-feu. It was very welcome, as was the friendship and conversation.

Monique wanted to paint that afternoon, so we left at about 2.30, and went back to light candles, wrap ourselves up and read/draw. I really enjoyed the peace of it! Mr FD likes to have music, the radio, the TV on, whatever he’s doing, so there’s almost always sound going on around the house; not today. It was almost silent, erxcept for the swish of passing cars through the snow. At about 5 o’clock the fan on the granule burner started to whirr and we knew the power was back. The kettle went on for a hot drink, and Mr FD turned on the TV. The peace and quiet were over…But it was nice to be warm again!!

But here’s the weird thing – by the next morning most of the snow was gone, and by Thursday we were in bright sunshine and temperatures of 13° or more! Climate change is definitely happening…

 

The end of the week…

I am rather glad it’s Friday – I’ve had a tiring week. Although I should say I’ve got a busy weekend ahead of me too!

I had lessons in Clermont Ferrand on Tuesday afternoon, so I went down in the morning, stopping at Action in Thiers to buy a curtain. This is because all the churches going to Convention (next week) have been asked to bring their church banner. The closest Christ Church has to a banner is a felt-and-glue thing that the children made some years ago, with wobbly edges and horrid badly cut out letters. Rob, our Rector, asked me to take it to Convention, but I offered to “do something with it”.

Here it is with new letters, which I cut out and put onto white felt, before attaching to the background. Before, the red letters didn’t show up so well.

I’ve cut off the “vine” at the side to make it narrower; I’ve got “Clermont Ferrand” in blue letters on white felt, and I have bought a curtain, with ready made hoops at the top.

Friend Cathy is coming with her sewing machine tomorrow to attach the blue felt to the grey curtain; attach the “Clermont Ferrand” words and the vine along the bottom. Hopefully she’ll be able to shorten the curtain too, as it’s too long at the moment too.  It’s not great, all still being a bit wobbley, but we’re getting there.

ANYWAY on the way to Clermont I bought the curtain, and then arrived at ILS to do my preparation. However, we mustn’t call it ILS now, as the company has changed its name and is now known as “Bonjour World”

Personally, I’ve had mixed reactions to the name change, but it’s a done deal, so there you go. I did 3 hours teaching and was fairly knackered when I got home.

Wednesday was my day in Roanne, with 7 hours or so of teaching – strangely I didn’t find this as tiring as Tuesday: maybe I’d slept better the night before.

Then yesterday I had 3.5 hours teaching in Clermont again. I spent the morning at home preparing & doing other things. The lessons were fine, although I hadn’t actually got the right level of activities for one of the students. I managed to busk it, and hopefully will be better prepared next time. I was taking over frrom another teacher and he hadn’t really briefed me that well.

Today I’ve been home, getting ready for the next few lessons. I’m off to Convention on Wednesday, with the excitement of the elections.

Tomorrow lunch time, I’m helping serve meals for the Cycle Club Telethon event.

This is an annual event, rather like Children in Need – it takes place in December, but the Cycle Club got fed up getting freezing cold, or having to cancel because of inclement weather, so they moved their fund raiser to October. Basically any cyclist who wants to can join the ride and come along to the meal too, for a price. Also, anyone else who wants to can join in with the lunch too.

Organisée par le Club de Saint-Just-en-Chevalet, la randonnée est ouverte à tous. Tous les cyclistes (vélo de route à assistance électrique, VTT), de n’importe quel niveau, sont invités à participer à cette manifestation pour sillonner le Pays d’Urfé.

Au programme : 8h départ pour une boucle de 49 km (allure modérée, encadrée par une voiture ouvreuse et une voiture balai sécurisée par les motards de Saint-Germain-Laval) avec une pause à 10h à la Salle des fêtes de Saint-Priest-la-Prugne, 12h Repas partagé ouvert à toutes et à tous (cyclos, non cyclos, habitants), 14h départ pour une boucle de 42 km, 16h30 retour sur Saint-Just-en-Chevalet.

Inscription avant le 10/10. Tarifs : 15€/repas (bénéfices reversés à l’AFM)

Last year the weather wasn’t so good – lots of waterproofs in evidence!

In the afternoon Friend Cathy will help me with the banner. On Sunday morning I’ll be at Church, but I’m going to skive off the cleaning which is happening after the service, as in the afternoon I’ve got to pop over to Friend Mij, to collect some wood turning that her husband has done for Christmas presents. He does some beautiful things, and I’ll show you some of them when I have them.

Up early Monday morning – 6.30 at the latest (YAWN!!) as I’ll need to leave by 7.30 to get to Bonjour World office for 8.30 for my lesson that starts at 9.00!!

Now I have to go and get Pomme into her basket – she’s off to the vets for her injections. I don’t know how she will react…