Souvenirs

I like the French word “souvenir” as it can mean both a memory, and the thing that creates a memory

What mementoes do you have around your house of times or people goneby?

I’m very bad at getting rid of “stuff” because so many things remind me of people or places. I read in one of those “declutter your life” articles that one could take photos of the things, and then throw them away. That way, one has the memory, whenever you look at the photo, without having the clutter – but somehow that seems heartless.

Here are just some of the things that I can see as I sit at my computer and look around:

  • a tiny painted cockerel, bought as a souvenir of our holiday in Portugal
  • Two other painted cockerels, sent to me by my Godson, from his working holiday in Columbia
  • A heart shaped stone, bought (with one exactly the same) on Puy de Dome. One for me, one for Mr FD on the ocassion of our 30th Wedding Anniversary
  • A painted stone, painted on Iona when I went with a group from church, and my Godson,in 1999
  • A beautiful painting brought back from the Holy Land by my mum
  • A desk mat, with the French verbs “etre” and “avoir”, and the English “to have” and “to be” conjugated and illustrated, given to me when friends from the UK came to visit
  • A “selfie” of my colleagues at Lines in 2015 – framed as a gift from David, our Head of Department
  • A Victorian opal-and-semi precious stone ring that I wear every day, which belonged to “Auntie”Cynthia, a good friend of my parents.
  • myriad postcards and cards stuck on the wall and doors, each with messages of love and support from various people all over the world.

I would hate to throw these things away. When I look at them I smile and, however fleetingly, remember those who gave them to me, or the places where I bought them.

And the blanket in the picture?

That was crocheted for me by my Nana, using scraps of wool from all the jumpers she would knit for me, my brother and sister, and other relatives. She made this for my bed round about 1972. It went with me to college, to my first digs in Maidstone, to the house share in London, and it has been in every one of my houses in my married life. Every time I sit with it on my lap, or over the bed, I think of my Nana. I can even identify one or two of the wools used, and say which garments they were from. (For example, the red/yellow/green/blue self-striping wool on the right hand side was from the yoke of a mostly white jumper that I wore when I was about 9 or 10) It is remarkably precious, even though it is starting to fall apart, and is one thing I would NOT be throwing away!

Do you have any souvenirs that you would never part with?

Advertisements

Walk like an Egyptian

One of my great pleasures, and a way I can while away many a long hour, is browsing other people’s blogs. There are many I enjoy reading, even if I don’t often comment on them. Some are people who live in France, others have commented on my blog, others are from people living a very different lifestyle to mine, some are people walking their Christian pilgrimage, others are of different or no faith. Some I visit regularly, others I only pop into occasionally.

One blog I enjoy from time to time is Multicoloured Madnesswritten by a Christian mum, who homeschools her children, and has a husband with MS. I’m not sure where in the UK they live, but I enjoy reading what the family gets up to.  The tag-line is “Faith, Family, Food, Fun” – which just about sums up the content, recounting the gentle rhythms of life in this family.

In one post recently, San writes about some of the things her daughter has been doing as part of her homeschooling project on Ancient Egypt. One of these was making an Egyptian death mask.

This reminded me of when I was teaching Year 5s and we too were studying the Ancient Egyptians. We too made death masks. Nowadays, it’s possible to buy plastic or polystyrene white masks at a reasonable price, which can be painted quite easily, but my colleague and I were working on a limited budget, some 20 years ago. We could have gone with moulding papier maché, but that takes forever to dry, and it often seemed to go mouldy. So we decided to use plaster of paris infused bandages, which dried relatively quickly.

Having received permission from parents,  we set to work over a period of a few weeks’ art lessons. We explained to the children that  their faces would be greased with vaseline, to stop the mask from sticking, and then the teacher would layer the bandages over their face; of course, tempted though we might have been, we would not block up the nostrils, so they would be able to breathe. They would have to sit very still for ten minutes, while the plaster set, and then the mask would be removed. Then they could design the head-dress, the collar, and the “beard” which would then be placed around their own, individual death mask, which had been spray painted gold. All very exciting.

This school in Essex has obviously had the same idea

“Now, don’t worry,” we said to the children. “You’ll be able to breathe at all times. You’re in no danger. But you must sit very still for about 10 minutes, and you mustn’t try to talk, because that will crack the plaster of Paris. However, if it is really, truly too scary for you, and you are starting to panic, then wave your arms in the air and we’ll remove the mask immediately.”

Everyone agreed that this signal was only in an emergency, and the messy job of plastering over faces commenced. It was a bit like a production line: one child smeared vaseline over another child’s face, I layered the bandages over the face, they child waited for 10/15 minutes, my colleague removed the mask, and meanwhile the other children worked on their collars/head dresses, cutting out and sticking shiny paper for jewels and so forth. Everything was going well, with no incidents, until suddenly we heard frantic squeaking and a boy – who we shall name Gary (because that was his name) – started waving his arms manically. PANIC STATIONS!

I rushed over to him, and ripped the barely set mask from his face, ruining all the careful smoothing of bandages.

“Gosh,” he said, with a big grin, “I was getting a bit hot in there. It’s OK now though.”

I looked at the ruined mess of bandages and plaster, and refrained from screaming. Just. Tempting though it was to hand him the mess and say “That’s your mask” I think we did (finally) allow him to have another go, but we made him wait till the end, and told him that we would ignore any hand waving!!

Ah, happy days….

******

As a side note, Gary was the same child who, on a visit to the Cotswold Wildlife Park, came rushing over to me.

“Miss! Miss!” he yelled, “The llama just spat at me!”

I paused, not quite knowing what to say. But Gary continued: “It’s okay though. I just spat back!”

 

 

Seven things that made me happy…

Well, this week hasn’t been the Best Week of my Life, so instead of moaning (I did that in Thursday!) I thought I’d follow Mrs M’s example, and write about things that have been good this week.

Friend Cathy has arrived!! Cathy has a holiday home here & spends about 6 months of the year here, and 6 months back with her family in the UK. We’ve been friends for about 10 years now, and her arrival is as welcome as that of the swallows and house martins. It signals the coming of summer! Somehow, when Cathy is here our social life livens up, and we start to share apèros more frequently. As demonstrated this afternoon, when Mr FD drove me up to Cathy’s, and we spent a lovely couple of hours admiring the view, watching the horses, and putting the world to rights. Just what I needed! (Normally there would have been a glass of wine in the mix, but that would be wasted on me at the moment!)

Spending time with Monique & Michel – These are our friends across the square. They are two of the most generous people I know, and we are very lucky that our friendship has grown over the years we’ve been here. Friend Cathy & I went to see them on Tuesday (1st May) and we had a nice chat. Then they insisted we joined them for apèros on the terrace of the hotel next door. Although I couldn’t taste much, the beer I had was refreshing. Mr FD joined us, and we chatted with Roland, the owner.

May 1stwhich may seem a little odd, but I like the fact that here in France, May 1st isn’t only La Fete du Travail but also an opportunity to wish friends happiness for the year ahead, by offering them lily of the valley. I wrote about it here I hadn’t been able to get any muguet, but I had got myself prepared by doing a couple of little zentangles of muguets, which I gave to M&M, and to Cathy. Monique & Michel reciprocated with a bunch of lilies from their garden. The plants that they gave me a couple of years back haven’t really taken – they’re just about growing, but not blooming.

Sharing tea with friendsone of the extra benefits of Friend Cathy being here is that we see more of Friend Richard. He has a house out in the sticks, which he has renovated beautifully, and he spends a lot of the winter months in Africa (which is where his heart is, I feel) He & Cathy get on very well, and spend a lot of time together,when she’s here. Because we see Cathy more, we see Richard more!! He invited us up for tea, and had made biscuits and other lovely things. We had pancakes and lemon tart, biscuits and roasted almonds…he showed us some of the finds from vide greniers (Richard, and many of his friendsfrom Le Port, are great vide greniers afficianados (Vide Greniers are the French equivalent to car boot sales, or attic sales; the translation is basically “empty attic”) & he always finds fascinating articles – old tools, interesting furniture or pottery. Me, I just find Other People’s Tat; I think it must be a difference in attitude!

Going out for a mealon the Tuesday we had apèros outside the Hotel with Monique & Michel, Cathy, Mr FD & I decided to have lunch there too. Unfortunately, because it was a bank holiday, the Menu du Jour wasn’t on offer, so we all just chose a main course from the menu. I had sea bass in a chorizo sauce, with risotto. TBH, I couldn’t taste too much of it, but it had a nice “mouth feel” which helped. Good to share time together, and to support our neighbours.

Drugs!! As I’ve already written about, this round of chemo has had some unpleasant side effects. However, the drugs have helped alleviate these, and made it easier to sleep. Although I should admit they didn’t work last night – I think I took them too late – so I had a sleepless night, with intermittent toffee hammer blows, but instead of moaning and groaning, I tried to go with the flow, and listened to some music.                                                                                                                                    or at least bearable

This piece of musicwhich was one that helped me last night. I use the app Pray As You Go (intermittently) and this was the “lead in” music for the meditation last night. It really affected me, because I thought it was so beautiful. This clip finishes rather abruptly, but gives a flavour of the piece.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Q86DbiHhnk

There! I managed to find 7 things easily – and could have written about many more –

  • Millie the cat, who has been a lovely loving cat as I’ve languished in bed,

Mind you, in this picture she seems to have a bit of a strop on!

  • Mr FD cooking things to tempt me (his chilli has been a real success! ) and running to the shops to buy things I “fancy”,
  • our friends Louis & Odette who helped cheer me up yesterday (Louis being very proud that the new Prince is named after him!!),
  • hearing about my mum who rode a pony for the first time at the age of 88. It’s funny how I treat her as a fragile old lady and my sister takes her riding!!!

….and there are still more. But there you go. A slightly more positive post than Thursday’s!

Yesterday was definitely my lucky day…or was it?

Yesterday I wrote: “ I’ve just had a phone call that tells me I’ve won something – unfortunately having entered so many free competitions, and the call was on a very bad line, I couldn’t understand what I have won. I asked if they could send me an email… let’s hope I can understand that! I’ll keep you posted!”

And Michelle commented “Do be cautious about phone calls telling you about winning something. After dealing with my dad falling victim to a phishing scam, I am more wary than ever”

Well…the promised email to my “competition email address” (I have one address specifically for entering competitions) never materialised – which makes me think they didn’t have it.

Then – way-hay, lucky me!! – I got another phone call in the evening, telling me I’d won something else …2,000€ worth of something. What a coincidence! Again, I didn’t quite understand what the woman said, so I used the same tack.

“Can you send me an email confirming it, please?” I asked. “You have my email address?”

” fat.dormouse@hotmail.com?” she asked.

“No,” I said. “That’s not my email. I think you are mistaken. It’s not me.”

“Well, give me the correct email address, please”

ALARM BELLS!!! ALARM BELLS!!!

“Sorry, no, you must want somebody else. Goodbye.”

 

Obviously the you’ve-won-a-competition phishing scam has reached our area. I’ll simply ask them to confirm my email address before agreeing to anything else – and my “competition email address” is not a very common one, so it’s unlikely they’ll guess it. I am usually careful about giving out information anyway, but thanks to Michelle I was just a little more alert than I might have been usually.

Oh, wait…no, I didn’t…

Thank You!

Yesterday, the Act for 40 Acts was:

The game is gratitude. Without gratitude, you’ll never be content with the things God’s given you. And, because sometimes we need to run life a little slower in order to see what we can be grateful for, we’ve made today’s act a little simpler…

 Choose how you’ll complete today’s act:

One option today:
 Run back over the last month of 40acts. What have you seen that’s surprised you? What’s been tough? What’s cheered you up the most? Who have you been grateful for – and can you thank them today?

I immediately thought of you, my Dear Readers.

I’m not really thinking of 40 Acts here,  when answering those questions “What has surprised you?…What’s been tough?… What’s cheered you up the most?…Who have you been grateful for?..” but rather thinking about my treatment.

What has surprised you?… Two things have surprised me:

  1. Chemotherapy has not been anywhere near as horrible as I imagined. Although I am adding the caveat SO FAR. I am having a new cocktail in April. That might make me eat my words!
  2. How close I have felt to God. How I have felt “upheld” by people’s prayers & good wishes (which, quite frankly, I consider to be prayers by another, more secular name!)

What’s been tough? Maybe that’s another surprise, because, generally, nothing has been “tough”. Even being told at the beginning that it was a cancerous tumour wasn’t that difficult. All along I have had Mr FD at my side, with that mantra “It is what it is, and we will deal with it”. I have, of course, had short periods of upset, but nothing that can’t be coped with, and dealt with fairly quickly.

I think the most difficult thing has been the moulting. Not the fact I was losing my hair: that was a given, and it shows that the chemo is working. And once Mr FD shaved my head, well…that was done. It was the experience of losing my hair that was hard. Waking up with mouthfuls of hair, and having hair up my nose and all over the pillow! That was the nasty bit!!

Here I am:

        

with my little “chemo cap”……………and without!

As the French for “bat” is “Chauve souris” which translates as “bald mouse” perhaps I need to change my moniker for the duration!

I suppose the other thing that has been a bit difficult is the fact that I’ve not been able to complete 40 Acts this year. But I will try to find a way to continue after my treatment.

What’s cheered you up the most?... Quite honestly, the kindness and generosity of friends, both RL and virtual. Here in the village, the Cycle Club giving me a novel to read (hush, don’t tell them I’ve only read up to Chapter 2), a friend from church knitting me three hats to wear, another friend giving me some handmade soap that she’d made, without perfume as she’d heard that the sense of smell can change during chemo, people from church sending me pictures to cheer me up., my friend offering to pay for a holiday, my sister buying me deliciously scented soothing balm, and ginger chocolate, my SiL sending me sweet little ear-rings, my niece sending me magazines, friends sending me books, and letters….

Then there is you, my Dear Readers. Michelle knitting me a hat (yours beats the others hands down!), T sending me a lovely letter, messages of support,  comments on my blog, little gifts, a beautiful card from Chomeuse’s little boy, the assurance of prayer, reminders of God’s goodness… All of these things have reminded me of how much generosity and kindness there is in this world. THAT has cheered me up.

I haven’t had a Happy Turtle arrive – but I’ve had so mazny other lovely things!

Who have you been grateful for?

1. You, my lovely, dear Readers.

2. Mr FD, who has been here; even when he’s not known how to make me feel better in those rare times when I’ve been down, he has been next to me, trying to help in the ways he can. He has been wonderful. Thank you, Mr FD

So, this time (albeit a day late!) I’ve been able to complete a Challenge for 40 Acts…Not that it was a challenge, but rather a pleasure.

THANK YOU!!!!

Award ceremonies.

Recently I’ve been nominated for three blogging awards, but due to chemo, and Other Stuff, I’ve never quite got round to posting about them. I may not get all three done today – having re-started walking a mile in 15 minutes today, I find myself absolutely knackered! I managed it, but now I feel really tired. Perhaps I was being a tad ambitious, but I really thought that I needed to do some exercise. Plus Mr FD has been nagging me: apparently I “should” be doing about 150 minutes of exertion each week in order to aid recovery. When I told him, in no uncertain terms, that in the first week I’m lucky if I can stagger round the house, he responded that it “helps with the fatigue”. I nodded, said “Yes, dear,” and planned to continue doing what I feel I can do.

Just on a side note: the sinus infection is sorting itself out, the medication is (just about) bearable, and hasn’t had the threatened results. Huzzah. Thank you for your messages of sympathy and support.

So, on with the Awards Ceremony!!

First: from ThenewMrsM comes the nomination for

The Liebster Award 2018 is an award that exists only on the internet and is given to bloggers by other bloggers. The earliest case of the award goes as far back as 2011. Liebster in German means ‘sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome’.

I can’t remember how I came across Mrs M’s blog, but from the beginning I enjoyed reading about her family life. She has an enthusiastic and engaging way of writing, and even when documenting the less-welcome sides of her life, she always seems to be positive. I have become quite fond of her daughter, T, and her husband, Scott!! T recently wrote me a lovely note, which I intend to reply to shortly. Mrs M and T have been taking part in 40 Random Acts of Kindness over Lent, and it’s been great reading how T has embraced this spirit of generosity.

The “rules” of this award are as follows:

Rules of the Liebster Award 2018~
1) Thank the person who nominated you, and put a link to their blog on your blog. Try to include a little promotion for the person who nominated you. (check)
2) Display the award on your blog. (check)
3) Write a small post about what makes you passionate about blog posting. (see below)
4) Provide 10 random facts about yourself (optional in 2018) – the question answers can be my random facts)
5) Nominate 5 – 11 blogs that you feel would enjoy blogging about this award. (see below)
6) List these rules in your post. (check)
7) Inform the people/blogs that you nominated (see below)

So why do I like blogging?

I am a slightly frustrated writer: I have written a novel, but then was too lazy to do anything about publishing it (whether self-published or “proper” published) so I suppose blogging gives me an outlet for that. I enjoy recording various outings, and love reading back over old posts. I started in August 2011 over on wiblog.com, which no longer exists, but you can read some of my “rescued” posts if you follow the links at the top of my Home Page, including my very first post. After that I started another blog to record my “weight loss journey” (which frankly didn’t go very far – the journey, not the blog!) It was supposed to be more “foodie” than this one, but gradually the two blogs looked more and more similar, so I finally stopped writing on Fat Dormouse Getting Thinner.I have kept it “live” though, and occasionally post a link to The View… because some people seem to find it easier to access Fat Dormouse

I love reading people’s blogs too. I don’t tend to follow blogs, but I do have a lot bookmarked, and I visit regularly. I don’t always comment, but I enjoy reading. I like reading about how other people live in France, so read, for example, Chomeuse with a Chou, and Adventures of an Anglaise…I also enjoy reading about food adventures, so Chez le Reve Francais fits both categories – some delicious recipes there! Cat blogs always appeal so I often pop over to Daily Feline Wisdom to find out what advice is being given out by the Meeowies and Woofies. Je Suis Le Roi Soleil is another charmingly written cat blog. Both have lovely photos of their animals too. And then there are those I read because the people who write them have different lifestyles to me (family life, living in a different country, etc) or just write in a really engaging way – these include Kezzie, PomPom, Ange and lots more that I linked to in this post back in February. Oh, and Bev! How could I forget Bev, who lives in Switzerland and reads loads of books. She too has a lovely engaging way of writing, that always keeps me checking to see if she has written another post.

Mrs M posed some questions:

 

  • What book are you reading at the moment? I have been taking a long time to read Elizabeth George’s “Believing the Lie”. Like many of her Inspector Lynley books, it is long and complicated, and it is in book form, not Kindle. So there are certain weeks during treatment when I can’t be bothered to try to lift it! I have read it before, but can’t remember much about the plot, so it’s like a new book all over again!
  • What is your new favourite hobby? I haven’t really got a “new” hobby; the newest, I suppose, is my zentangling, but I’ve been doing that for a few years now. I do go through “phases” with hobbies – so I used to make loads more cards than I do now, so have an enormous stash of stuff (which I add to from Noz!) which isn’t getting used very much.
  • Where did you grow up? In Aintree, which is a suburb of Liverpool, quite well known for its race course, upon which the Grand National is run. Here’s a link to an estate agent’s page with our house up for sale!! I do have to say, the inside doesn’t look much like the house I remember from 37 years ago, but the outside does. The little “granny annexe” to the left used to be my father’s surgery, as he was the local GP, but then it got converted into a flat for my Nana to live in.
  • When did you last “just do it”? Not quite sure what Mrs M means here… If it’s something to do with not really considering one’s actions, I really don’t know…Sorry!
  • What is your favourite TV show? I haven’t really got a favourite, as there are lots we enjoy. Recently we have watched “Shetland”, “Endeavour”, and “Silent Witness”. For comedy, “Damned” (although I wonder if this is more a documentary!), “Modern Life Is Goodish”, and “The Last Leg”
  • Name something you are really proud of and tell me why. Crumbs! I really don’t know! I’m often quite surprised and proud of zentangles that I’ve done. I’m proud that I wrote my novel – even though I did nothing else with it…Ah, yes! I’m proud that I cycled 1,000 km in 6 months and raised 1,000€ for a school in Africa. I’m not sporty, and I don’t really like cycling, but I did it! Here’s a photo of me at the end of my 1,000th km

  • What is the most memorable trip you have taken and why? So many…I can’t choose just one! But I loved my trip to Budapest last November (which you can read about on the blog). I had a fascinating and useful retreat first, and then spent 4 days with a very dear friend from school. It’s ages since we spent much time together, but we fell quickly into a very comfortable rhythm. We enjoyed it so much, we’re planning a second trip to Strasbourg this year, to explore the Christmas markets there. Here is Jane inthe covered market.

  • What do you most love about blogging? See above – but I think it’s the friends that I have made: those who I will probably never meet, but who have sent me letters, hats, little gifts, cards through my blogging time. How lovely!
  • What is your favourite weekend breakfast? It’s usually the same as my weekday breakfast, TBH, (Marmite toast at the moment!) but of course, if given the opportunity, a full English sets one up for the day!! But it does need to be followed by a slice of toast-and-marmalade, for a touch of sweetness, and plenty of hot, strong coffee. My most recent full English breakfast was when we were in Manchester (we had it on a Monday, but never mind!) which was lush! I only missed the fried egg, because at the moment, I’m not allowed soft cooked eggs due to the possible risk of salmonella. And that didn’t really matter, asthe egg is my least favourite part.

just missing the hash browns and the brown sauce…and it needs a bigger plate!

  • Name an act of kindness that you or someone you know has carried out. As I said, I have loved reading about those carried out by T, because they have shown how small things can make a difference. The one towards me, that has really blown me away, was when a friend, who has recently inherited some money, offered to pay for a holiday for Mr FD and me, when my cancer treatment is finished. Yesterday’s 40 Acts read:

Extravagant. Overblown. A bit much. We’re going extravagant today. If someone mentions that they’d like something a little over the top, why not just go for it? (And go all-in, too – if you need the excuse to go big, consider this it!)

Green:Give something small but thoughtful – like adding a biscuit when youbring someone tea.

Amber:Give something big and thoughtful – like a three-course, all-paid-for meal, or a year’s subscription to cinema tickets, not just a gift card.

Red:Give something absurdly, radically thoughtful – like Philip’s unexpected car donor, what can you do to step into truly sacrificial generosity?

I know that I have an idea how, eventually, I might complete this Act, but on the 40 Acts FB page I wrote: There’s also the other side to this: being able to “generously accept” an extravagant gift. A dear friend has offered to pay for a holiday for us after my cancer treatment. That’s a huge thing, and our first reaction was ” thank you, but we couldn’t possibly…” But it felt wrong to do so. Her generosity is God’s generosity, and this time I am on the receiving end of a 40 act and it’s my job to graciously accept.

Sometimes it is hard to be the one to accept an Act of Generosity… But thank you, dear friend!

So there you are!

I’ve completed everything, except the links and award to other blogs. I know lots of people don’t actually “accept” these awards, but I would certainly recommend reading those linked to above, and on my earlier post in February.

I have also been nominated for

and

But I don’t think I can respond to those on this post too, so this will have to be Part One of the Award Ceremonies. Part 2 will follow at a later date!