A soggy weekend in central France

It started off promisingly warm! Mr FD worked really hard on Friday in the courtyard and on the balcony, clearing pots, and sorting out the rubbish. That was A Good Thing, as I’m terrible at throwing stuff out. That old, cracked pot? It was a present from “some child at school” (but I can’t remember which child) That broken strawberry planter? It has a “rustic charm” (really?!) Those plastic pots? I could use them to plant seeds. (But I never plant seeds!!) Mr FD just took them down to the tip.

In the afternoon, I got involved in the planting  – though even that small amount of effort wore me out. I’m not sure if the fatigue is a side effect of the treatment, or due to the fact I’ve done even less exercise than usual (which is quite difficult!) and am therefore very unfit! Most probably, it’s a mixture of the two. Anyway, the balcony is now a much more pleasant place to sit. We’ve put a trellis at one end to stop Jasper eating/ scratching up/ using as a litter tray the tomato and pepper plants, and it all looks quite lovely. I’d take a photo to show you, but it’s piddling down and it wouldn’t look very attractive.

This is a picture of the balcony from a couple of years back, looking a mess!

and here it is looking slightly less-of-a-mess (again, from a different year). Note the pigeon spikes to discourage Cats from digging!!

and the courtyard.

Saturday dawned sunnily too. Which boded well for the barbecue in Clermont. Our church has been hosting Juniors Across Europe, This is an annual event for 10-13 year olds from the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, giving these young people an opportunity to meet anglophone children their own age from other churches and other countries. It is described as “A youth weekend which includes adventures, activities, thought provoking discussions, food, and so much more.” The aim being to develop relationships between churches and to be encouraged in faith and learn more about Christ… with lots of fun thrown in.

Here’s a map showing all the Episcopal churches/missions in Europe

The barbecue was to be the last hurrah of the event, and I’d persuaded Friend Cathy and Mr FD to come. I’d promised to make a dessert and a salad, so I baked my sponge, and prepped the salad on Saturday morning. The sponge was Delia’s all-in-one sponge cake, which always works for me, although this time it sank in the middle as I opened the oven at a critical moment. No matter, layered with jam, the dip filled with chopped strawberries, and served with squirty cream, no-one seemed to mind. During the day, the sky clouded over, and Mr FD started declaring doom and disaster (well, quite a lot of rain). Finally, he cried off, but Cathy & I went.

The location was the retreat centre where the kids had been staying – there was a huge covered verandah with magnificent views over Clermont Ferrand, which were very dramatic this evening, with iron-grey clouds, and a mist of rain that was swirling around, but not actually falling on us. We were able to cook and eat in relative comfort, under the shelter of the verandah, but it grew colder and colder. Finally, at about 8.30, the rain reached us, the temperature plummeted and we decided to go home. But it had been good to support the event. Although the food tasted of nothing, I did still quite enjoy it, as I chose things with texture to compliment each other.

On Sunday we awoke to rain. Steady, very wet rain. I’d committed myself to exhibiting at the little art show taking place at the Artisanat. I think the plan was to be outside under gazebos, but there was no way I could do that. Most of the artists who were working were painting actual views, so they were outside, but as I was just zentangling I installed myself at the back of the small craft shop and drew.

These photos were taken on Saturday by the secretary of the Artisanat:

Here is one of the paintings

This is the view that someone else painted of the ancient Chateau gateway…

..and here he is, painting it. The girl in the sundress and hat would have been extremely chilly, had she actually existed!

I was there all day, but didn’t do very much – a bit of chatting, giving some advice to a lady who was visiting London in a few weeks, but that’s all. However, I was accosted by a woman who obviously knew me, and whose face I recognised, but I had NO IDEA who she was. She talked, and talked and I understood the gist, finally working out that she was from the Eglise Reformée that I used to attend. At the end she asked to be remembered to a mutual friend – but I can’t do that, as I still have no idea of her name!! I sold one picture and a couple of cards, for the grand total of 13€ – I won’t be going on a world tour with that, but that wasn’t the point really. Rather like going to the barbecue, I was there to show my face, and to support the event. Which I did.

After that I had to go out to feed the Poor Cats – oh, it was wet!! The poor things were shivering and trying to hide in different, vaguely dry places. I put as many plates of food under shelter as I could, but I knew that within minutes some of the bowls would be swimming in water. At least I was able to give them some good solid nourishment, as I’d brought home a bagfull of over cooked beef burgers and some leftover chicken legs from the barbecue. Mixed with three tins of cat food, lots of cat-biscuits, and some slightly-out-of-date creme fraiche I felt they had a good meal. But it was so sad to see these poor, wet kitties, looking so miserable. I hope they all went into the shed afterwards and curled up in the duvets and blankets that are in there. We don’t really know how popular the shed is with the Poor Cats – we know Red and Bonnie used to curl up together in there, snuffling together, before they died, as we’d open up the shed and find therm there. We also know Binkie goes in, as does Cloud,  as when we open up, there’s a streak of panicked pussycat fleeing the scene, but other than those, we’re not sure. Still, cats aren’t stupid: they should be able to find a dry-ish nook or cranny to hide in – and we’ve provided the shed, a kennel and three little cat houses filled with straw. If they choose not to use them, there’s not much we can do.

I got home to Mr FD’s pulled pork, sweet potato chips and asparagus. It was, I’m sure, very nice…

Today is another rainy day. Quite chilly too. I will continue with a zentangle commission and also (maybe) make a “Just Because” card for a friend. I need to go to the pharmacy to stock up on the drugs for this round of chemo, but after Thursday it will be five down, one to go.

On 7th June it will be my last chemo! HUZZAH!!! And (hopefully) about three or four weeks after that, I may start getting some tastebuds coming back…and hair…and eyelashes!!! Believe me, you don’t realise how important eyelashes are until you don’t have them!

That may be so – but I couldn’t taste it!

(Not that I’d be licking a cat to find out…even in revenge for Bib, who comes inthe middle of the night, and licks my bald head. I can promise you, a cat’s tongue on a sensitive scalp is Not At All Comfortable!)

 

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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!

Paperless Post product review

Oooh, look at me! Aren’t I just the Lifestyle blogger, doing a Product Review?! I never thought that would happen!

I was contacted by Helen, at Anagram Interactive, asking if I’d be interested in trying out Paperless Post, an online card company, and reviewing the product. Although I love getting, and sending, letters, sometimes it isn’t practical – especially timewise – and so Paperless Post seems like an ideal way of sending lovely cards and messages to people,  that are a little (no, a lot!)  more attractive than an email. Of course, there is also the upside that by sending an e-card, you are helping cut down on waste in the environment.

I have used other e-card companies before, and I think that Paperless Post is slightly more expensive in relation to these, although, having said that, there are free options on the PP site – it’s just that these are limited, and less attractive. To buy the PP products, you have to purchase “coins” – these start at $6 for 20 ( just over £4) and each card costs, on average, 4 or 5 coins (though you can choose the “free” options to keep the cost down.) Even so, compared to the cost of a “real” card, and the added postage charges, this comes out as cheap.

You choose the type of card you want (birthday, friendship, wedding etc), and the actual design. Then you can customise it, choosing the envelope, the message etc. that are shown on screen when your recipient receives the card. There is also the possibility to download and use your own photos on certain designs, thus personalising the card even more.

And, unfortunately, this is where my problems started. I know I’m not the most technologically minded person, but I struggled with parts of the customising process. I managed to sort out how to format the text on the actual card, but as for changing the text on the envelope – no. I couldn’t do that. It obstinately remained saying “Sample Envelope Text” – I emailed the Help desk, and swiftly received an automated reply saying (and this put me right off!) “Thanks for reaching out to us!” No, I didn’t reach out to you: I sent you an email. I contacted you. I did not “reach out” to you. Anyway…now I’ve got that off my chest…I’m  waiting a response, which has been promised within one working day.

ETA: The response came very rapidly, and it was helpful, stating as it did: During the Customize process, your sample text will read “Envelope Sample Text”, however, the names you enter on your Add Recipients page are what will populate on the envelope your recipient receives. This was borne out by my friend’s reply which said It did have my name on the envelope! All of which is great, but I don’t think that was plainly stated anywhere as I was customising my card! You’ve got to remember that for some Techno-Idiots things like that aren’t obvious!

However, both the friends I sent cards to liked them. This card evoked the reply “What a lovely card. Bless you, dear friend.”

This is the other card I sent. I thought this was a fun design, in the style of an old fashioned telegram. This one didn’t come with an envelope, so it was a cheaper one to send (and less complicated to manage!)

What PP offers – which certainly isn’t the case with the other e-card company I have used – is the opportunity to send invitations to an event to a large number of people, and to keep track of their replies. I can see how for a large event like a wedding, or birthday party, this could be an invaluable tool. Unfortunately, as I was asked to have this review “live” by 30th April, and so, with the fact I have chemo tomorrow (so will be out for the count until beyond April 30th!)  I’m in no state health-wise to be thinking about parties, I couldn’t test this feature.

There’s also a “Flyer” feature, of which the site says: Use a shareable link to let your guests know about your event—put it on social media, in a text message, or in your email list. Again, you can do this if you’re more computer-savvy than I am!

For professionals, there are also event invitations, company holiday cards to send to clients, and other such items. I can see how this feature could be very useful for companies, both large and small, as these also give the option to manage guest lists, and send out to lots of people.

Regarding the website itself, I would have liked a Home page that explained the process a little. There was no introduction, and I felt rather dropped in at the deep end, as I had to try to work out what was on offer. I didn’t find it a particularly easy site to navigate, and I got very frustrated by the slowness of it to respond to changes I was making (or trying to make!) There were FAQs, and these should have helped me work out what to do, but, in the case of the formatting of the text on the envelope,I don’t think it was made clear enough what I had to do. Although, I am certainly willing to accept that might be a fault with me, not with the site!

Or maybe just a failure with me!!!

 

Another slightly irritating thing is that when I clicked on, for example, “Thank You cards” a paragraph of text popped up, and then almost instantly disappeared again , being replaced by images of the cards on offer. I don’t know what it said, and I couldn’t get it back again!

I can see that for people who are slightly less techno-idiot than me PP offers a good alternative to paper cards.  Reading an interview with the co-founder, Alexa Hirschfeld, she explains that the idea came from her 21 year old brother, who wanted to send invitations for his birthday party, but by internet, because he was going to send an invitation online because that’s how we communicate. Maybe that’s it – I’m not quite of that generation who communicates online all the time!!

Anyway, I must say that the choice of cards is good – there are some really beautiful designs – and I really like the way you can choose a matching background for the card to be displayed on, an interior for the envelope, a “stamp” and postmark (although the choice was mostly limited to US states for these “custom” postmarks) They look very classy and attractive. Now, I will declare here and now that I was lucky enough to be given a number of coins to use on this site in return for an honest review, so I still have credit to use up – I will therefore be continuing to explore what is on offer, and (hopefully) will find that I feel more at ease using it by the end!

Would I recommend the product? Yes, I think so, particularly for events where you are inviting a large number of people and want to manage guest lists and so forth. However, you need to be aware that the price is a certain number of coins per recipient so the costs will soon mount up. But then, it’s still cheaper than sending “real” invitations, and classier than just sending an email. If you want to send a greetings card there are some very attractive choices on the PP site, and I think there are designs to suit most tastes. But you might need to be just a tad more computer savvy than I am to use the site with ease! But don’t take my word for it: why not go to the Paperless Post site(www.paperlesspost.com)* to see for yourself – there’s no obligation to buy!

 

  • I was asked to add “no follow” to my links. Being techno-idiot (as you’ve found out!) I couldn’t follow the instructions. So I’ve removed he links, but given you the website address, so you can go to the site. Or just google Paperless Post…

Back home again…

Hello dear readers – I’m sorry I didn’t blog more while I was away, but a mixture of being busy, being tired, and slow wifi meant I couldn’t be bothered. Sorry! That sounds rude, but isn’t meant to be.

We had a lovely time, and I did quite a lot of things, but I have found that this time I’ve been more tired than expected.

So, I left you on Sunday evening…we’d been to the Provençal market in the morning:

a flower stall

a cheese stall

There were lots of fruit stands, selling the most delicious looking strawberries, of which we meant to buy some later in the stay, but sadly we forgot! Never mind… In the afternoon, Mr FD rode, and I stayed in the holiday village. I spent a happy hour painting this little picture of the view across to the sea:

Dinner was perfectly acceptable – it’s not haute cuisine, by any means, but there’s certainly plenty of food, which suited the cyclist and walking groups who were there this week. There was watercress soup, which was nice, and then I chose chicken in a cream sauce, with pasta and veggies. A bit of cheese, and a small portion of gateau. You can help yourself to as much as you wish, so you can imagine that the hungry cyclists certainly went back for seconds! After a short group meting and a tisane, we went back to our room to watch an episode of The Bridge.

On Monday, I decided to spend the whole day at the Botanical Gardens in Rayol, about 40 minutes drive from La Londe. I wanted to go by myself, so I could take my time, pause when I wanted to, and not have to worry about other people. I hada lovely day!

I arrived at about 10.30, and paid my 11€ entry fee. The view from the first terrace was a delight!

I sat there for a few minutes, basking inthe warm sunshine (despite being well covered!) and then wandered off through the gardens. There weren’t a huge number of flowers out, but there were lots of greenery. It’s a large area, divided into different gardens, with plants from different  areas of the world with arid/ dry/ Mediterranean climates. So there’s a South American garden, an Australian garden, a Canary Islands garden…etc

I walked up to the Pergola, and then sat for about 30 minutes, finishing off a zentangle that I’d started a while back. I left it on the seat, weighted down by a pebble, with a note saying “If you’d like this drawing, then please take it…” I don’t know if anyone did.

The view across the sea from where I was sitting was lovely too, so I spent a while just looking, and admiring. Then the wander continued, past flower beds

.

and wood anenomes

Down a shady path to discover a charmingly rustic building beside a waterfall

and then down towards the sea…

This was the view from the little terrace where I sat to read and to eat my lunch. There were seats, and a little house, which had originally been a fishing shack. With the waves lapping on the tiny beach, and the warmth of the sun, I felt quite soporific. The picnic had been provided by the holiday village – I’d already left the tub of lentil salad back in our room, as I hadn’t fancied that, but the rest was OK : a roll, some dried ham, a piece of camembert (which had become very runny in the heat), a bag of crisps, a banana, a cereal bar and a couple of biscuits. After about an hour and a half I set off again to wend my way back upwards… pausng again and again to take in the views

                          

At the top of the climb is this rather impressive house from the 1930s, due for renovation

and along to the North American garden with its impressive cacti

I sat just below this garden to paint another little picture of the view, which gave me another opportunity to rest

Time to head for home, so I slowly meandered back along the paths, taking a photo of this slightly odd plant:

I had a really enjoyable, relaxing day, and would recommend these beautiful gardens to anyone. It was particularly enjoyable because, early inthe season, there weren’t that many people. I can imagine that in the height of summer with crowds of visitors, it might be less pleasant, but no less beautiful!

I got home, and, as the cyclists hadn’t arrived, I went down to the bar for a gin-and-tonic. Then when Mr FD arrived, with some of the others I had a very nice Grimbergen “Printemps” beer.

Dinner was less impressive – it was “Italian” night (although I’m not sure any Italians would have agreed!) – vegetable soup (not even minestrone!), followed by a very mediocre Spaghetti Bolognaise, or cheese tortellini, or a seafood sauce to go with pasta. I didn’t really enjoy anything that I had, sadly. The desserts were either a Tiramisu gateau, or a strawberry gateau – which actually tasted like trifle-as-a-cake! That was nice!

Another meeting, a tisane, and then back to the room to watch another episode of The Bridge, before bed. I was tired, but content, having done just under 3.5 km of walking around the gardens.

I think I’ll tell you about Tuesday another time!

Le Col de la Loge

Thursday was a beautiful Spring day, and Mr FD went out cycling with a friend. As I hadn’t done my Mile-in-15-minutes workout, I decided to go for a walk somewhere. I wanted to go somewhere different, so decided to go to the Nordic ski-station about 30 minutes from here, called Le Col de la Loge. It is in the Forez mountains, which seperate our departement, Loire, from the next, which is Puy de Dome. (As always, click on the photos to see them in more detail, should you wish to.)

As is often the case at these cols, there is a Madonna in a cage. However, I was surprised to see that this one wasn’t very old, with a date – 1967 –  scratched into the concrete below the statuette. I always imagine these things having been there for centuries.

It’s a pleasant place, surrounded by pine forests, with various ski-pistes. These, of course, are now closed to skiers this year, as there is no longer enough snow to ski on. There was still quite a bit on the paths though, so I had to be careful at times – especially when the path sloped downwards.

I decided to walk the shortest track, which was 3 km long. I wasn’t totally convinced that I wouldn’t find this a bit too long, but I thought that I ought to push myself a little – after all, my specialist told me to get out for walks in the sunshine, and I’d been managing my mile workouts. This was going to be at an altogether gentler pace!

As I followed the track there was a little bit of bird song, but not much, and otherwise silence…I paused as I went along, just to listen to the nothingness.

After 1.5 km the view opened up, out towards the Auvergne, and le Puy de Sancy, which is a ski resort over in the next departement. But that is downhill ski-ing, rather than Ski du fond, or Nordic skiing.

Which way now? Don’t take the wrong route, as you’ll be walking for miles!

The route took me away from the view, and back into the forest

All around this area forestry is a big industry, and so even somewhere like this is managed. The pistes are used in summer months to collect the cut trees, and from time to time one comes across rather ugly areas where the trees have been cut down, and the wood removed

There are lots of these scrubby areas around the vilage too, and it’s sometimes hard to remember that this is an industrial area (of a sort!) and not to think “what a shame to spoil the area”! There are lots of scieries (saw mills) around, and it’s not unusual to have huge log carrying lorries, like the one below, thundering through the village…often going faster than they really should be travelling, which is why we don’t let the cats out! It can be remarkably frustrating to get caught behind one of these on the twisting road to Roanne, as it’s difficult enough to overtake them on the bendy roads, but even more so in a R-hand drive car when you can’t really see the road ahead!

 

I was getting quite tired, so it was a pleasure to see the little Fiat waiting for me, when I emerged from the trees. The people in the other car were the only other souls that I saw on the entire walk.

 

I was tempted to go to the restaurant for a hot chocolate, but it was all closed up…I don’t suppose there’s that much business once the cross country skiing is finished

.

With a last photo of the Madonna, I drove home, taking my time, and repeating to myself how much I’d enjoyed my walk – somewhere slightly different, in the Spring sunshine. I paused to take a photo of the other side of the Forez, looking towards the Loire valley, and towards home.

I have joined in with the “All About France” linky, with this post, so I’m including this little badge

and suggesting you might visit this site to read others’ contributions. Go on, you know you want to!!

 

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!!!!

I came, I saw, I had a MAGNIFICENT time!!

All week we had been watching the weather in the UK – the “Beast from the East” causing chaos, with drivers stranded, airports shut down, villages cut off…but all the time, the little north west corner of the British Isles seemed to miss the worst of the weather. Then Storm Emma started romping up the west side of the UK…but veered over to Ireland just before reaching the top of Wales.

We had to get up early, at 5.00 am to drive over to Lyon, but I’d actually woken at 2.30 and not got back to sleep. I was actually much perkier than I’d imagined I’d be. We set out to Lyon airport hoping that the plane would not be cancelled. It wasn’t even delayed!!

Wearing a double surgical mask and latex gloves, to protect from infection – as these days were the days when my white blood cell count would be at its lowest, and I would be most vulnerable to infection – I cut a slightly pathetic picture. We comandeered a wheelchair at the airport and Mr FD pushed me through. I’m very glad, as it was quite a trek to get to the correct terminal. We went through security (surprisingly there was no queue at all) – I caused some problems as I explained about the stent for chemo, and they wanted to see proof of this. It was in my handbag, which had already gone through the scanner, so people were running aroud to fetch it. Then I had to be scanned with a hand held scanner rather than go through the walk-through scanner. It all took a bit longer than usual, but we had plenty of time. As I was in a wheelchair we were allowed through passport control ahead of others (huzzah!) and soon got settled on the plane. I plugged in my earphones and listened to a podcast for the flight. At Manchester we waited until everyone had left the plane, and then climbed the steps into the terminal building. As I entered the bhuilding I slipped on some very wet rubbery matting, and fell down: luckily I went quite slowly, and nothing was hurt, but the cabin crew and pilot who were just behind were very helpful and sympathetic.  Also luckily, a wheelchair had been left at the top of the steps and we were encouraged to use it – which meant priority going through border control!! Although we’d been so slow there weren’t many people left waiting anyway. Then we took the time to organise a wheelchair for the return journey, at Manchester airport. Later on, Mr FD contacted Lyon to organise assistance at that end too.

Mum had said she’d pay for car hire, so we went andpicked up the car, then drove to mum’s, in Liverpool. We had lunch, and then my sister arrived from Leicester (not held up by snow at all), and my brother from Stokesley (near Middlesborough) Despite the fact there was still a lot of snow on the east side of the country, he had encountered no problems with the trains getting over. It was lovely seeing them all! We sat and chatted all afternoon, as I had to take it easy, while Wonderful Mr FD went on a mission to buy, and then put in place, a new toilet seat for mum. We had dinner and then, as I’d been awake so early, suddenly fatigue hit me. I was in bed and asleep byabout 9.30, I think!

On Friday evening, we had hastily arranged a meet-up for lunch with my nephew Conor (Judy’s son) and my niece Rose (Mike’s daughter), her husband and baby, over in Manchester. So after relaxing all morning, while everyone else went out shopping for a disabled friend of mum’s, or taking things to the tip, or buying supplies of logs, we all set out for lunch.

Here we are at Croma Pizza, passing Billy the Baby round the table – except not to my end, as I had to stay away from babies (hotbeds of infection, apparently. And Billy was quite snuffly).

There were some, let’s say less traditional pizzas on the menu, but I decided to have

Baked garlic mushrooms, served with (quite a lot of) rocket and a slice of olive bread

Then I chose another starter for a main course, which was a chorizo and Bury black pudding bruschetta, with a goats’ cheese and beetroot side salad. It was very nice.

and with it, I drank a delicious Manchester craft beer, called “Manchester Skyline”

For dessert I chose a “Banoffi Mess” – basically Eton Mess, but made with bananas, meringue, ginger biscuits and cream, with toffee sauce. It was a bit of a disappointment – masses of cream, big chunks of meringue, two slices of banana and one crumb of ginger biscuit. It let down what was an excellent meal, and although I did mention it to the waiter no more was said about it.

Afterwards, Judy and mum went back to Liverpool, while Mike, Mr FD and I went to spend the afternoon with Rose, David and Billy.

Billy in his bouncy chair

I spent some of the time “resting my eyes” but it was lovely just chatting with them, and watching them play with Billy. I kept my mask and gloves on for the whole time, to avoid any infection. And then Mike, Mr FD & I set off for the Bill Bailey comedy gig – this was our Christmas present for Mike. We arrived quite early, but that was fine. I sat in my seat and “powered down” – that is to say, pulled my hat and hood over my eyes and just sat quietly with my eyes closed, relaxing and conserving energy.

Here we are, after my powering down, waiting for the show to start.

It was a very good show – Bill Bailey is a slightly surreal comic, but we thoroughly enjoyed the show. Here is a review of the show from The GuardianOurs was a little different, set in Manchester rather than Southend, but – ad libs aside – it was basically the same. We got home at about 11.30, and we went straight to bed.

On Sunday morning, mum went to church, but I decided it wasn’t worth expending more “spoons” than necessary, considering we had the Elbow gig in the evening. ( The “spoon theory” is a disability metaphor and neologism used to explain the reduced amount of energy available for activities of daily living and productive tasks that may result from disability or chronic illness. … A person who runs out of spoons has no choice but to rest until their spoons are replenished. from Wikipedia) So Judy, Mike & I looked at an old photo album, discussing who the various members of our family were, as Mike has spent quite a lot of time researching our family tree. Unfortunately, while we have great grandparents who were Irish, this is not enough to entitle us to an Irish passport. Mr FD played about with mum’s computer, organising our boiarding passes and assistance at Lyon airport for the journey home.

After lunch, Mr FD and I set off for the hotel in Manchester that we’d booked for Sunday night, about a mile away from Manchester Arena, where the gig was being held. For some reason, the Sat Nav didn’t want to work in Manchester city centre and we couldn’t find the hotel anywhere. We were just about to start a blazing row when Mr FD said “Look!” and there it was, in front of us. Getting to it was another kettle of fish, due to one way systems and taxi/bus lanes, so in the end we parked the car in a carpark and walked! Again, I saved my spoons, while Mr FD went to try to get the car to the hotel – another difficult time, but he finally made it.

We took the tram to Victoria Station, which is next door to the Arena, and Mr FD went to the Box Office, while I sat with a coffee in the station buffet. We grabbed a bite to eat at Greggs (I had a cheese and onion pasty.) and then headed to the Arena. You may remember the terrorist attack that took place in Manchester in May last year. I had imagined it taking place in a large plaza area outside the Arena, but when I saw how narrow the walkway and foyer area are, it is no surprise that the effects were so devastating. There was good security – only ticket holders being allowed up to the walkway, and then passing through X-ray machines at the entrance to the Arena itself.

Again, we were early, so I “powered down” until the support act, John Grant, came on. And then – huzzah! – the main event. Which was excellent! (Review from the Manchester Evening News)

Mr FD’s photo from during “Mirrorball”

 

After the show we left by a fairly quiet exit, and were lucky enough to be able to hail a taxi straight away. It was a 5/10 minute drive back to the hotel. We thought about going to the bar for a drink, buit they’d stopped serving – and really, that was a good thing, as I was dropping. Even though I was buzzing!!

The next day, we had a full Northern breakfast – sausage, bacon, fried bread, fried potatoes, mushrooms, tomato, black pudding, baked beans, fried egg (which I’m not allowed to have) – plus trimmings (toast-and-marmalade, juice, coffee) and then made our way to the airport, pausing at Asda for a few last minute purchases of the DVD of “Death of Stalin”, some magazines, Zantac indigestion tablets & Tiger Balm (cheaper in the UK!)

Mr FD wheeled me through the airport, on the pre-booked wheelchair, which gave us Fast Track through security and a designated seating area in the very crowded departure lounge. I bought some huge slabs of chocolate (CDM!)

Then we were given a heads-up to the departure gate, so we were there before everyone else, and a very nice gentleman then wheeled me to the plane, so we were in our seats and luggage stowed before the usual scrum. At Lyon, we waited until everyone had got off, then were met by a man with a wheelchair, who wheeled me swiftly through the terminal. When we reached the back of the queue for border control, a quick Excusez-moi! and we were fast tracked through Passport Control. Pausing only to pick up the hold luggage, the man insisted on wheeling me right to the car in the car park. And we headed home, arriving at 6.30 pm.

Today I’m a little fatigued, but not too bad. I slept until about 8.30, when the nurse arrived for my weekly blood test. I wonder if it will show my white blood cells are down?

It was the most amazing weekend. Mr FD was a complete star throughout, looking after me, organising everything and allowing me to just rest and to enjoy myself. Even if I have caught an infection (and I was very careful, using hand sanitiser after every bathroom visit, in between bathroom visits, after touching stuff…Etc etc. Plus my double mask protection and latex gloves in crowds & public places) it was worth it!! It did me the most enormous amount of good.

And thank you all so much for your positive messages of support – they have been very much appreciated.