Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Food and Books and Things

I have just finished reading Julia Child's (with Alex Prud'homme) book, My Life in France. It was left behind for me to read by November's visitor....

A very interesting book and I get the impression that Julia was a no-nonsense, fast talking woman who wanted to grab the world (especially France) by the balls and extract as much knowledge about food, and the preparation of, as humanly possible... There should have been so much more written, it seemed to me to be a quite condensed history with some pieces missing. I don't think I will watch the subsequent film made of Julia's life in France as I don't think it will quite have her 'essence'. (Yes, Meryl Streep is a superb actress and I have enjoyed so many of her performances but.... after seeing her in Mama Mia I don't think I can take her seriously again!).

I would have loved to have read her cookery books and maybe seen her television series, but I got stuck in the rut of English cookery - at school and once married. I do now possess a copy of 'Le petit Larousse de la Cuisine' which is becoming as dog-eared as my copy of 'The Good Housekeeping Cookery Compendium' that I bought some 40+ years ago. I also have a 'Readers Digest' Cookery Year from way back that is now falling to pieces.... How I love those three books, they are so useful.

There is another book though that I have discovered.... Take Three by Jenny White. I was given a copy by my son-in-law - much to my daughters disgust... "Don't worry" he said "I will get you another one!" wrong - he could not find another copy - he got it from a book club. Well, Take Three stayed with me for around 4 years.... My son-in-law never got round to finding another copy. So this year the original went back to my daughter.... I was bereft... I had lost a new friend...

I found a book company online.... I gave them the details of the book (Take Three) I was looking for (it had been advertised on Amazon at a phenomenal price!!!! 5 x's its original cost) and they logged my details. They contacted me after a couple of months and gave a link to another company - hey they had the book! An ex-librabry copy that had only been out of the library twice!!! And it cost under £6.00 (postage and packaging included) was I delighted or what!! I now feel that my kitchen library is again complete..

On the BBC they have show a 2 part adaptation of 'The Day of the Triffids' - which got me thinking of the John Wyndham books that I had years ago. Not only the Triffids, but Trouble with Lichen, The Kraken Wakes, The Midwitch Cuckoos, Chocky etc.... What on earth happened to those books? Did I loan them out or throw them out ? I just do not know where they went. I would like to read them again..... and yes I have found them - same place as Take Three. Really low price but postage a bit on the high side.... will investigate further and see if I can get a good deal.

My older sister lived in a house just outside the town close to where John Wyndham lived. The house is called Wyndhams (maybe it was his home) - she also worked at the school where Wyndham was a pupil.. I think that maybe there is a family connection.... albeit a tenuous one. 3 or 4 degrees of separation....

There are so many excellent science fiction writers that came out of England during the 30's and 40's and, of course, not forgetting H G Wells, books that J and I used to read through the early years of our relationship and marriage.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Sunday after Christmas

We went to lunch with some new found friends yesterday.

An English couple that have recently moved here and now run a B&B and Gite.

They are also trained and keen archers.

Ho ho, bows and arrows....

I remember them from my childhood. A long piece of strong twig with a couple of notches at either end and some string from one notch to the other and a handmade arrow which always went up in a very short arc and landed at ones feet!

Wrong! archery is a precise science I have discovered - yes both J and I have had a lesson, gratuit I hasten to add. I thought it was amazing, energetic (yes energetic!), and incredibly relaxing/unwinding! Could I hit a target (a Large Target) no I could not. I used to be pretty good at darts in the pub after a couple of 'Double Diamonds' but then that was years ago. I did not realise that archery was so interesting.... we will (eventually) have further sessions with them and, maybe, I will hit the target first shot!!

They are also the 'parents' of one of Jensen's brother, Django. I first met Django when he was
2/3 months old. He was so very shy and fragile, it was then that I decided that I would like one just like him.... Serendipidy or what!!

So the brothers got together again - what fun! There was a French visitor - she was around 5 yrs old, a Basset cross... Boy did she have a 'deep' bark- very hound(ish) and an 18 month old cocker spaniel Leon. Jensen fell 'in love' with Leon. I have never seen a pup so intent on making himself know to another... It was like a teenager who has just discovered that he is able and is wanting to let everyone know.... Maybe it is because Leon has been castrated and also has no tail to speak of, (which I find abonimable) that Jensen found him so desirable. Whatever, we found it absolutely hilarious. Eventually, the canines sorted themselves out so that we humans could have a good lunch and afternoon.

We arrived home early evening, both satiated with good food and some wine and brilliant conversation and amusement from the animals.

My younger sister phoned around an hour after we had got back. She had not had the best of Christmas's. For some reason I had decided not to phone her on Christmas day - probably a premonition, I don't know what - I was going to phone her yesterday evening and she pipped me to the post....

Her Mother-in-Law died on 21st December.... totally unexpected - not good for them at all. Apparently she had been a little poorly for a couple of days and then - well she died of heart failure. There was no indication at all that there was a problem. My brother in law and nieces are devastated that she has gone.... God Bless Betty - you were a sweet lady - a little eccentric I know but a good soul...xxxx

Friday, 25 December 2009

Christmas Day 2009

Woke late... but does it matter.

There are only the two of us - plus Jensen, Bisto and Pixie and the hens and two young cockerels.

Had a lovely shower, dressed, went downstairs with two cats in tow. Both meouwing (is that the right spelling???) for their breakfast.

Last night I swept through and then mopped the floors.... didn't wan't to wake up to grubby floors! Yes, it looked good to me!

Went to bed around 12.30 am having watched a couple of comedy progs on BBC1. I must admit it helped a lot as I laughed and relaxed... Slept so very well. J is still sleeping at the other end of the house. Whether he will come back to our marital bed I do not know, it is his choice to sleep away from me. I must admit that, as I am a person that 'migrates' around the bed at night and likes to wrap the duvet around herself, it is better that I sleep on my own. When J was working shifts I found that I slept so much better when he was on night shift!! J will set his head on his pillow and sleep/snore/kick/talk/snore etc. all night, all the time laying on his back without twisting side to side...... we are definitely incompatible when it comes to sleep.

So this morning, I woke well and felt truly refreshed. Cats were fed, cup of green tea made and pot warmed for his tea. Woke him up around 9.45 - Jensen was let out.... another night of him not peeing in the hall. It is the only place that I trust Jensen at the moment. He is a bit of a 'tea-leaf' (thief) and I don't want him to take things that are not good for him. The hallway is safe for him. Jensen has taken fresh eggs out of the bucket when J has collected them and has played with them and then enjoyed their fresh flavour when broken.... ho hum - got to stop that caper!!

Started cooking dinner around 12.30 - chicken, carrots, roast potatoes and parsnips and fresh brussel sprouts from the garden. A simple Christmas dinner for two. Prawns for starters and Christmas Pudding for dessert. Some bubbly for me (Charles Volner demi-sec)and rose (cabernet sauvignon) for J. Nothing too excessive or alcoholic. It is the first time I have cooked a Christmas dinner for around 6 years......tooo long!

So we have had a relaxing afternoon, catching up on various things and also having some of the wonderful, un-PC, 'Carry On' films on TV, love them! Turns out Liz Frazer has the same family name as me!!!! Hmmm could she be a cousin??

Tuesday, 22 December 2009


This is the boy today, he is such a lovely chap. J took him for a long walk this morning. I took him for another just before lunch and then again for a long one late afternoon. He has so much energy and is really keeping us fit. And he still had heaps of energy to play with the cat.
He is in desperate need of a bath.... he really smells 'doggy' which is a bit much on the nose as far as I am concerned. I had quite forgotten how dogs can smell... A nice shower for him tomorrow morning then a blow dry... what fun!!!
J went to see the Doc this afternoon for more medication. He was prescribed some tablets for his lungs and it turns out we have a stack in the medicine cupboard... so who hadn't taken the full prescription last time then???? Drives me up the wall it does. So now I will have to make sure that he takes all his medication this time. (hmmm, do I have to buy a nurses outfit??) He has admitted that he does not want to be ill over the Christmas and New Year period. Thank heavens that he now realises (I think I have said that before). He has also said that he will start to work on getting bits sorted in the house prior to it being sold. Oh goody!!!
Had a chat with my older sister the other day... she has had some bad news, her partner has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. He is 6 months younger than me. The cancer was discovered quite by accident. He had a heart attack a couple of years ago and has since had 6 month check-ups. On his last check-up they did a blood test and through that discovered that there was a problem. Further examination revealed that there was cancer. He has since had the offending part dealt with and is now due to go and have a MRI scan to check his bones etc..... I do so hope that he is OK. He may also have to have chemotherapy, which isn't the most brilliant of options. My sister, who has a medical background, knows who to see and what strings to pull. She also had a scare... Oh, not just one thing but another. She had a mammogram and there was a suspicious lump. A biopsy was taken and all is clear. She could not believe that the both happened within two weeks. I really must speak with her more often, I am very lapse.

Monday, 21 December 2009

The shortest day

Today is considered the shortest day of the year in our calendar, sunrise 08.39 - sunset 17.01 French time of course! It is also designated 1st day of Winter (in France). This all means that it is now officially Winter until the 20th March when Spring begins... OK, the snow started at the end of last week, and it was pretty cold in the weeks before. My thoughts are that Winter started earlier than today.

The France Meteo website gives 'remarkable' facts and figures for your local area - our department town had a maximum temperature of 19.2 degrees celsius on 16th December 1989 - whew! But, on the 31st December 1996 the temperature dropped to minus 10.5 degrees celsius - Brrrrr! And, on the 19th December 1982 rainfall was recorded as 51.5mm (2.027 inches).

So, enough of the weather watching... I do not like the winter, I do not like the cold and the damp. I like my weather dry and warm. Must be to do with my age. I know I was born a winter baby but that does not mean that I should enjoy it!

Preparations for the holiday season are underway. I have done the cards - bought gifts via the internet for my Daughters, Grandchildren and Mum. I hate to say it but it is getting rather expensive for us. Have only send cards to family members, most other people I know are online so they will be getting their greetings via email. In the UK it is possible to buy boxes of lovely Christmas cards but out here they 'do' the New Year and only sell Christmas cards as individual ones at a price. Gets very costly - if I want to send cards to everyone then that means a trip to the UK so it becomes even more costly, and heavens knows how much the postage would be. I wouldn't want someone to choose for me - I know what I would like to send. Oh, I do sound like a scrooge!

Have been walking Jensen the dog in the snow, slush, rain and wind (note! no sunshine). And good news on the husband front, he is feeling so well now that he walks Jensen to the top of the lane and back without having any ill effects. It wasn't that long ago that hated walking any distance - now that he is no longer smoking he is doing so much better!!

Jensen has settled extremely well. Bisto is also brilliant. Took them both to the vets on Thurs. Bisto was due his 2nd injections and was very well behaved. Our vet is very taken with him and loves his soft coat. She even kissed his nose when she put him back in his cat basket! Jensen was impeccably behaved. He was given a quick check over and declared a lovely dog as well as being declared fit and healthy.

Bisto and Jensen play together, they have their morning play and their evening play. Bisto usually starts by 'play' attacking Jensen, no claws. It escalates to the pair of them haring around the house, Jensen catching Bisto and pinning him down with a paw and then 'chewing' the cats coat. Bisto will retaliate by jumping on Jensens back and biting his ear. It seems as though one of them might get hurt but both have very thick coats so no skin is scratched or bitten. Bisto will sit on his haunches and 'box' Jensen on the nose - they are an amazing pair to watch. Pixie in the meantime is now back in the house and still has hissy fits with both the kitten and the pup. She would rather be in the warm putting up with a couple of juveniles than in a cold barn!

Children are fine, except K and her family. They are all suffering from sickness and diarrhea. They are supposed to be with her older sister over Christmas but it looks as though it may be postponed. Not good for them at all. Seems as though there is a nasty bug doing the rounds. The weather is the UK is bad and again everything has come to a standstill. There is problems with the Channel Tunnel so people coming and going are being held up. Not sure about the ferries and the aeroplanes. I feel for all those affected by weather and traffic problems and am secretly glad that we are staying here for the holiday period.

Ho hum....... days start drawing out now - hoorah!!!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009


Had the guy that looks after my website to visit today. Have agreed on all the updates that need to be done. Will email, and post all the details to him later on.

Have finished writing all the importand Christmas cards.... family and close friends. It is so difficult. Some of them have email addresses and some are still living in the 'dark' ages...

Dan, Dan the website man is quite willing to take young Jensen on if need be. He fell in love hook line and sinker with the pup. Good for us I say, someone reliable who knows about the canine species.

Have had a brief chat with my dear husband ce soir about relocation.... have looked at the map of the Poitou Charentes to find a suitable area to start looking - easy reach of the coast is premier.. Saujon looks a possibility but then...... who knows??

Have shown him (J) a house I really think may be possible in Mirambeau, half way between Royan and Bordeaux. We stayed there some 10 years ago when we had a family holiday. No 1. grandchild was just 16 months old and No. 1 daughter was pregnant with her 1st child... It was a lovely holiday, 8 adults staying in a large gite within a farm that produced wine, and assorted crops. There were sunflowers growing around us, amazing to watch them following the sun. It was also the first time that we encountered Hoopooe's - incredible. The town of Mirambeau has everything that we need (thank heavens for the interernet - you can find out so much!!) and I personally feel that it would be right for us; Compact with everything we need. So, come new year, off we go to investigate. (+ putting this pile on the market - oooo er!).

Can't go any further south as I react badly to trees of a resinous nature. Had a camping holiday at Soustons some 5 years ago in May and had to cut it short as I had such a bad reaction (seasonal rhinitis) when there. The receptionist at the site we stayed at said it was just as well that we were not there 2 weeks before as the pines were in full 'pollen'..... So - south of Bordeaux would not be good for me. Looks like deciduous trees for me in the future. We cut down 3 pine trees here, not good for me. No Christmas pines in this house (had problems when I was a youngster too!) Am really looking forward to house hunting in the new year!!

Monday, 14 December 2009

Bargains I think!!

It has been 3 weeks since I have been to Qi Gong. J has been so unwell with Bronchitis that we have both missed the classes. I have really missed being there, enjoying the peace and the movement. I must admit, it sets me up for the week! I have had lots of exercise, walking Jensen two or even three times a day, but Qi Gong is so very different than a solid work-out.

So this morning, I had a session without J. He dropped me off at the class and came to fetch me later. He is still not breathing well and should go back to see our Doctor. She checks him out then writes out a long prescription and off he trots to the pharmacy where the prescription is 'filled' - he then comes home and pulls out of the bag boxes of encapsulated capsules, bottles of little pills, bottles of 'gloop' and another inhaler.... and he does not seem any better. Maybe he needs to see a 'chest man' to thoroughly check his lungs...... Will have to ask the Doctor for a referral.

So, after my class this morning we 'popped' into a large supermarket on the way home. As we are under the threat of snow we thought that we needed to stock up on emergency supplies. Off to the meat counter and what do we find... Boxes of pork, boxes of pork chops, single chops and thick roasting chops.... wonderful - bought 2 boxes. Gave us 9 meals for 17.42 euros - that is meals for 2. Also bought some chicken legs - 6 for 4.41 euro - another 3 meals... works out that meat for 12 meals worked out to 1.82 euro per meal... we have a freezer full of vegetables and also our own potatoes... Also bought some bargain price duck and sausages. Don't need to meat shop until the new year at least. I am very pleased with myself!!

I still haven't written all the Christmas cards yet, I just can't get my head around the fact that this most celebrated event in the Christian calendar is a few days away. There seems to be so much hype about Christmas, it used to be so much simpler even only 15 years ago. Difficult to explain I suppose my thoughts and feelings about it. Easter is so much more important than Christmas within the Christian calendar yet it seems to me that that has lost it's importance. Is it to do with my age or that I have given up on my faith, who knows? I certainly don't.

Had friends round for lunch yesterday. Prepared a lovely carrot and tarragon soup, delicious recipe and so very easy, followed with Beef in Red Wine with potato and celeriac mash and garden peas (all our own). Dessert was a raspberry brulee. We had a light rose wine to start and finished with a Buzet. It all went down very well. This is the first time I have cooked a full meal for RH and SH, in the past it has been barbecues in the summer which is J's 'thing'. I do enjoy cooking for friends and will do a lot more.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Middle daughter arrived today

1972 - me , a young Mum.... have a daughter just 13 months old... and I go into labour with child no 2.....

I had had lots of problems with this pregnancy. Thought I would have the baby in August.... I was so very ill with polynephritis... thought that I would die.

Anyway, I carried this baby until 2 weeks before due date. I continued to have problems and was , basically, on bed rest. I was staying with my dear Mum and Dad for a month before today 1972.

I felt the beginnings of this child arriving and called an ambulance. My dear husband was staying with his mum... 1st and only separation for us. I needed the peace and quiet and rest.

So the ambulance arrived and I was swiftly taken to the local maternity unit. I was checked and the doctor in charge decided that I needed a cesaerian to deliver this baby. So, I was shunted off the the large maternity hospital about 15 miles away. I arrived and was put on drugs that had me floating about 1ft off the bed. (could do with some now!) Then labour pains started and I was taken, post-haste, up to the delivery suite. Baby arrived within 10 mins... talk about quick. She was small - just over 5lb - and whisked off to the prem baby unit. (she was 10 days early as well - due date being 21 Dec.).

I did not see her until the next morning, tucked up in the prem baby unit. She looked so small and vulnerable. I have rhesus A negative blood, my baby had rhesus O positive blood, so I had to go through all sorts of blood tests and had (I believe) a 'gamma D anti-globulin' injection to counteract any antibodies that could affect any further children. I felt like a pincushion - so many jabs.

One of the nurses in the ward was the older sister of one of my school friends... She was an absolute gem and she was so much help to me. Bless you Sue.

And so, my middle daughter survived this start to her life, she is now 37, has 3 children of her own - and no blood problems!!!

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Cats and Dogs

Oh yes, it is still raining in this sunny corner of La Belle France.... Apparently we get the same amount of sunshine during the year as the Mediterranean Coast.... so who are they kidding?? That aside, when it's not raining the sun in superb - what I can't understand that it is clear at night, stars twinkling away and the moon, now 'waxing', is brilliant - so we are getting second-hand sunshine at night (does that sound logical??).

Talking about Cats and Dogs, we have acquired a dog, a lolloping six month old 'Labrit' or so it is called. I Googled Labrit on the web and found that it is an alternative name given to the Berger de Pyrenees. Well, this young beast resembles a Berger de Pyrenees but has not so much coat although his coat is curly and so very soft - I expected it to be wiry but no, as soft as Bisto's 'angora' coat...
The history of this dear canine is rather sad. He and his brothers and sister were found in the most appaling of conditions in the flat of their 'master'. Their home was filthy and urine soaked. Their mother was in such a poor condition that she had to be euthenased. The pups were all found new homes via a local organisation. The owner now forbidden to keep dogs as well as fined. Two of the pups, named Neo and Jensen, were taken on by a young couple. Unfortunately this young couple are leaving France and are unable to take both dogs. Neo has some issues and they felt that he would be better staying with his original family. Jensen though is an outgoing personality and he is the who has joined our family. We also know one of Jensens other brothers who is an absolute delight..
He arrived Thursday, aged six months and one day old.... Initially he was a bit reserved and unsure of it all. Pixie has decamped to the big barn... this pup is much too much for her.. she only comes in if he is out for a long walk. On the other hand, Bisto is delighted with his new friend, playmate, tease or whatever a cat thinks to call a puppy. They are the same age (and colour) and so far they are fine with each other. There were a couple of little spats but once Jensen (aka 'J') settled down and stops chasing him and Pixie there should be no problems.
So another life changing episode in our lives.. Walkies twice a day, and that is just us humans. We should get truly fit with the help of Jensen.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Wet Wednesday

Rain, rain, rain, thought that it was easing up a bit. Was nice beginning of the week, sunshine, river dropping, hoped it would last.... no such luck! Ah well, it is December after all. Could be worse - like snowed under..... not very likely this time of year.

J had to go to the Doc's on Monday, bronchitis again. No he's not smoking (although the wood burner is a bit!) but it has been damp outside and that is what seems to trigger it. It must be the 4th or 5th time over the past 5 years. For someone that never suffered chest problems prior to coming out here it is not so good. So he has been prescribed loads of pills and potions in order to help ease his cough. I am shoving multivitamins down him as well and trying to cook him the healthiest foods - well getting him to eat healthier... He does love his fried food.

Bisto the cat is fine, he is in and out of the cat door, demands to be dried off when he gets wet. Seems to enjoy eating everything I give him - except cat food!! I wonder why? Pixie has even started to play again. She was getting to be a bit lazy , it is doing her good having another cat keeping her on her toes!

Went to sort out some of our daughters problems today, problem with the bank, problem with the tax office. All of this done in my official capacity of 'Mum' . The guy at the bank could not be more helpful. He didn't speak any English but my French was good enough for him to understand the problem that our daughter had. That was the first thing solved.

Then to the tax office this afternoon.

I can't understand why so many people have a problem with consulting the tax office. It was the same in the UK. The company I worked for as 'wages' clerk sent me on a course at the tax office, so that I could get everything done correctly. I found them very useful and helpful. If I had a query with any tax affairs off I went and got the help I needed, it makes their job easier in the long run if we 'Joe Public' get it right in the first place.

There were 3 'things' at the tax office. The receptionist looked at the three, then smiled, "OK, premier etage, porte B, et apres, a cote." So off we went , 1st floor , door B. Lovely lady, just said that we need to get the form to our daughter for her to sign and then back to them.... 1st tax problem solved. Then out to the open desk on that floor. I explained the 2nd problem. "pas de probleme, madame!" She printed out a form , I completed and signed it and she was happy, (me too). "c'est tout, au revoir et bonne journee." Down to reception for the 3rd item. A guy took us into his office, I explained the 3rd problem. He went onto the computer. Checked things out and , once again - problem resolved. These three things all related to the renovation that our daughter and her partner are doing to the barn attached to our house..... Three different departments in the tax office. Each and every staff member were understanding and the whole exercise was completed within half an hour.... and it is rumoured that the French take forever to resolve things.....

So today, on a wet Wednesday, I had my 'Mum' hat on (or was it chapeau de Maman?) and solved, once again, problems for our daughter... I never thought that I would be doing that!!