Three years ago…

…the world grew a little dimmer with the death of Alan Rickman.

A comment I wrote on Chomeuse With A Chou‘s blog reminded me of this wonderful actor, and I spent a few minutes watching videos of him. I have always said I could listen to him reading the telephone directory. Here is something better to listen to – that voice makes me melt.

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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.

 

What I ate in Waterloo

Kezzie said she likes food posts so I thought I’d tell you what I ate in Waterloo. (ETA, it’s turned into What I did in Waterloo, rather than just food. But that’s OK)

Nick & Pippa met me in Ikea car park – I had had lunch with Friends Cathy & Richard, enjoying the infamous Ikea meatballs, followed by their Dime cake

 
Then we drove from Clermont Ferrand to Waterloo – thankfully, all I had to do was sit in the back of the car, as it was a long journey, taking us about 10 hours. We stopped briefly for a coffee, and then for a sandwich, but nothing terribly exciting, food-wise. We finally arrived at the hotel at about 11.15 pm and fell into bed.

It was a great selection at breakfast – different bread and cakes, fruit, fruit salad, hot things (sausages, scrambled egg, baked beans), boiled eggs, meat and cheese, belgian waffles to make, a selection of honey, jam and other spreads. I had an egg, some bread and cheese spread and a bowl of fruit salad. Plus juice and coffee of course!

Nick drove us to All Saints’ Church, where the convention was taking place, and we registered, collecting the goody bags (not terribly goody-filled, but we weren’t there for the booty!) and hung around aimlessly for a while. We also chose the restaurant we wanted to go to that evening – a choice between an Italian, a brasserie, an Indian and a Thai restaurant. Feeling a bit shy, I decided to stick with Nick & Pippa, who chose the Thai.

Then we headed across the road to the big Carrefour for a coffee and a cross between a pain au raisin and a Danish Pastry. Eating healthily, hey, Fat Dormouse? I bought a wrap and a cereal bar, as I wasn’t sure whether I’d get peckish mid afternoon, and we went back to the church.

Convention started with various matters of business. The chicken-and-bacon wrap was consumed at about 16h, during the coffee break. Eucharist followed, and then we went back to the hotel to get changed, and to meet up to go to the restaurant. It was about a 15 minute walk from the hotel.

I can’t remember the name of what I had, but it was very delicious, involving duck and red curry sauce. I was the only person who wrote down what they had ordered, so I got my meal with no confusion at all. Others were unsure what they’d ordered and so who knows if they received the correct meals?! “Was mine with minced chicken?” “I think mine was green curry?” etc etc.  Nick, Pippa & I left quite early as we were still very tired.

Friday was a big day, as this was the day we started the ballots for our new Bishop-in-Charge…I chose the same breakfast (plus a pain au chocolat) and Nick drove us up to the church. We’d decided to miss Morning Prayer, just to give ourselves plenty of recuperation time. Pippa, as a non voting spouse, took the option of going on the Battlefield tour (which she said was interesting but exhausting) but Nick & I were fully involved. The ballots were interspersed with other business, reports and so forth, so it was an interesting and informative morning. About 30 minutes after each vote had been cast, Felicity, one of the tellers (vote counters) from All Saints, would come silently into the room and hand a folded piece of paper to the Bishop, who would then wait for a break in the proceedings to announce the results. My preferred candidate, and another, dropped out after the first two ballots – I think it’s a shame, as I suspect Steven’s votes would have grown during the following “battle”, but there you go…

Lunch was provided by the Church catering team – delicious soups (choice of four – pumpkin, carrot and lentil, tomato with meatballs, tomato. I had the pumpkin and it was yummy.), with various quiches and salads – and deep, intense conversations were carried out as we compared our thoughts on the two remaining candidates. Interestingly, while the votes were close, it was clear that the majority of the clergy preferred one candidate and the majority of the laity preferred the other.

The afternoon session opened with prayer, and then further ballots, and other business. Still neither candidate was receiving a majority in both the clergy and laity vote, so there was some discussion regarding how this might be resolved…The Bishop finally said he would take advice overnight, but not to worry, as these things could go to more than 10 ballots and we had to simply pray,and to be open, and to trust that the Holy Spirit would guide us . The session closed, and we headed back to the hotel to rest, to opnder and to get changed for the Bishop’s Banquet.

This time of rest gave me an occasion to consider. With my preferred candidate out of the running, I’d actually been dithering between the two remaining: which should I choose? I’d heard people’s views, and had been flip-flopping between the two candadates, half thinking I shouldn’t keep changing my mind. But Paul Gordon could offer this….But Mark can help us do that….In my deliberations, one of them was winning on the “Taking the Convocation Forward” front, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that, despite seeming less exciting, one was more “right” than the other. Finally, as I thought about the two of them (both great candidates) I had a sense of peace about the one I’d voted for last. Don’t worry if he doesn’t seem quite “right”, the Spirit seemed to say, “Trust me.” So I did. I voted for this candidate in the rest of the ballots.

Feeling at peace, I had a short snooze and then got changed for the Bishop’s Banquet (Dress: elegant) It was in a rather nice function room/restaurant, about a 20 minutes coach ride away. We had some glasses of fizzies before the meal, and then several little amuses bouches– roast beef on horse radish cream, salmon on avocado, gazpacho etc. – while a talented acapella group sang various folk songs. After there was a choice of seafood, Thai or “Mediterranean” cooking. I’m always slightly dubious about shellfish and so on, and I’d had Thai food the night before,  so I went for the mediterranean – moussaka, and various cold vegetable dishes. Enjoyable, but nothing special.

The Bishop gave his speech, and gave out awards – always a bit emotional – to those who had done particularly good work through the year. Followed by dessert (several delicious cakes to choose from – I went for raspberry) and coffee, we headed home in the coaches at about 23h.

It seemed important to go to Morning Prayer on Saturday, so we had a quicker breakfast than the past couple of days, and headed to church. The service was led by Revd Katie Osweiler, the curate at the church. She had just had some terrible news that a friend and neighbour back in the US had been killed outside his house. She was trying to process the news as well as lead us in worship, so, as you can imagine, it was an emotional service.

The spouses went off for a day in Brussels, while we then headed into the next round of ballots, which was still a stalemate. So Bishop Pierre suggested we took a long coffee break and spoke to as many people as we could, outlining what we saw as the good points of both candidates. We were not trying to convince people of our view, but rather trying to discern which we felt was the right person; I was happy to stick with what I felt I was being led to do. So after coffee break we went in to the next ballot (N° 7) – result: another stale mate, with the laity majority for one, and the clergy majority for another, but with a significant movement in the clergy vote.

Time for lunch – again, prepared by the Church hospitality team, we had tacos and tortillas with all the trimmings. Over lunch much discussion ensued, but also time for some relaxation. Nick went outside “to watch the cars go past”, I hadn’t had much time to eat as I had to help Richard, the secretary, prepare a paper for the afternoon session.I would have liked to have gone back for more lunch, but didn’t have time!!

We had the next ballot, and Denis our Treasurer gave his report…I always find budgets very difficult to get my head round, but other people asked insightful questions and the time passed relatively quickly. When all the tellers trooped back into the room, instead of just Felicity, we knew that a result had been reached. Mark Edington had been elected. The press release read thus:

The Rev. Mark D.W. Edington of the Diocese of Massachusetts has been elected the next Bishop in Charge of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe. He was elected on the eighth ballot on October 20, 2018. The election took place during the annual Convention of the Convocation in All Saints Church in Waterloo Belgium. 

Our Profound Thanks

The Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe expresses its profound thanks to The Rev. Canon Paul-Gordon Chandler, The Rev. Steven Paulikas, and The Very Rev. Dr. Benjamin Shambaugh for offering themselves as nominees in this Bishop election process as we discerned the direction and future of the Convocation. We thank their families, and their parish and ministry families for their support and prayers during this process. We ask God’s richest blessings on their continuing work in the Lord’s vineyard.

It was rather difficult to concentrate after that, especially as the Bishop was the one who phoned Mark – and had him on speakerphone held next to the microphone so we could hear his reaction. Which was measured, and considered, and humble. A murmur of appreciation ran round the room on hearing it. One of the priests who had been voting for Paul Gordon, rather than Mark, gave a brief speech, emphasising that while he, and others who were disappointed, were 100% behind Mark they still needed time to deal with their feelings and please could people be sensitive to the fact that there were people in the room who were not in an ebullient mood. Which, I’d like to think, everyone was.

Business continued, while others more techie than I set up a Skype call with Mark (who, by this time, had been awake over in the US, for more than 36 hours, waiting for the results – as after every ballot the candidates had been phoned with the results) Here he is addressing the Convention

Finally, the end of a long day was reached. Although there was Evening Prayer planned, several of us felt too tired to attend, so we went back to the hotel. I dozed for a while, but then felt really rather hungry (having missed out on seconds at lunch time) So I took my drawing materials, went to the bar and had a beer and a packet of crisps and some complementary peanuts; I sat in a quiet corner for an hour zentangling and thinking and decontracting.

Nick drove us back to All Saints where a caterer and the Hospitality team, had prepared another excellent meal…I ended up sitting on a table with people I didn’t know very well, but by now it was OK. I felt much more at ease than at the beginning of the Convention. We started with “fish three ways” – a mackerel paté, a tomato stuffed with tiny shrimps, and a piece of salmon in sauce – which was lovely. Then there was a choice of pork in a Kriek beer sauce (cherry) or Chicken Waterzooi (a rich stew and soup of chicken or fish, vegetables, cream and eggs). I’m afraid I had a helping of both; I think I preferred the pork, but it was a close run thing. Vegetarian options were available. Dessert was a choice of more delicious cakes – again, I chose a raspberry/vanilla concoction.

Then we were led upstairs, where Felicity had set up a slide show of some of the creative arts that had taken place throughout the Convocation, and announced the creation of the  Whalon Fund for the Creative Arts – our “gift” to Pierre, our outgoing Bishop. Pierre was very touched.

Soon after, Nick, Pippa and I headed back to the hotel, although I believe dancing went on well into the night. I met Caireen, our rector’s wife, at the bar and we decided to have a quiet, relaxing nightcap…Sadly, because of an upset person (I can’t say more) it turned into a less-than-relaxing counselling session, but I hope that we were able to do some good. I got to bed at about half past midnight!

On Sunday it was the closing Eucharist, but before church I wanted to buy some flowers for the person who had been very upset the evening before. I’d already noticed a florists not too far from the hotel, on our travels up and down the road to the church, so I checked what time it opened and scooted out to get them. I was able to buy a sweet little bouquet which could be popped into a little carrier bag that I had, so as not to be obvious. I think the recipient was grateful.

The Eucharist was an emotional, triumphant, delightful affair which touched me a great deal. Lunch was again provided afterwards, and then we dispersed for our various destinations all over Europe.

My journey home was not, however, as relaxing as I had hoped. But, as this has already gone on far too long, I’ll tell you about that another time!

Nostalgia

When I lived in Milton Keynes I was heavily into Amateur Dramatics, with the Stantonbury Campus Theatre Company. This was formed and directed by Roy Nevitt for a long time, and we produced some fantastic Community Theatre.

Yesterday I was trying to think of who I should listen to on Spotify (as I tried to motivate myself to tidy up my desk a little) and I saw the category label “Folk” – which reminded me of the Cock and Bull Band, who played French/English folk for many of the Community theatre productions that I took part in, not least the amazing run that we did of Tony Harrison’s Mystery plays.

Nativity was produced at Christmas 1989 (I think) – I was stage hand for this, as I had only just finished a run as Rita, in “Educating Rita”

Passion was the following Easter. I was general crowd, with various small speaking parts.

Doomsday was the autumn after – in this I played Beelzebub, plus various smaller parts.

All with a run of about 10 nights each; all utterly amazing!

The Cock & Bull band played their inimitable style of music for each show, and listening yesterday took me to my computer to see if I could find any information about the Mysteries…Nothing, save a brief mention in the interview linked to above. I suppose the early 90s were a time before things were habitually filmed and uploaded onto YouTube, or photos posted on Facebook. We may have some actual photos somewhere – and I know we have a souvenir programme squirrelled away, but I’m not sure where – but it’s hard to find anything else….But I still have the Spotify Cock and Bull music to remind me!

Jean Pierre Rasle, the French bagpiper in the group, used many French folk tunes in their repetoire; one I particularly remember was used for the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Dancers hemd hands and wove their way around Adam and Eve, with a fairly simple Morris dancing step. A few years later Mr FD and I were at a Medieval festival (I mentioned it in this post) tucking into our al fresco meal, when we heard the band strike up exactly the same tune. Mr FD had to hold me down so that I wouldn’t get up and start bobbing and weaving my way around!

This isn’t the tune, but it was used (I think) in one of the shows. We used to have this album – it has got lost. I really should try and get it. It holds so many memories as it was the one produced after the Mysteries.

Appreciation

I used to read a blog, written by “Betty the Wod Fairy” who did beautiful paintings. It was a gentle, spiritual, slightly whimsical blog, but somehow it slipped off my radar and I forgot about it.

Today, following links from other people’s blogs, I came across her new blog, Wood Fairy

Something she wrote really resonated with me – I hope she doesn’t mind me quoting it:

We are a happy little family, all working different hours/shift patterns, so disorganised, the oven is always on at weird times as it’s someones dinner time and someone elses breakfast! The beds are never made and the house is not as tidy as I would like, there’s a mountains of ironing and cat fur everwhere! But we know the important things: eating well, sleeping well, making sure everyone knows they are loved and appreciated – preferably daily, not worrying about the things we cannot change and… counting our blessings.

While my little family eats at the same time, and keeps the same waking/sleeping hours, rather than having different meals at the same time, I loved Betty’s words for reminding me that being perfect is not really the aim of the game. Loving, laughing and nurturing – THEY are the most important things.

I really appreciated the pizza evening that my friends organised for my birthday last night. It was a great time.

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.

 

Misunderstandings and misconceptions…

Just a quick post today…

I thought this was fun…but also demonstrates the subtleties of language that non-native speakers don’t pick up on. I’ve always had difficulty explaining that there is no real difference between “That’s pretty good” and “That’s not bad”.

Mayber this is why international negotiations sometimes go awry.