Thursday, 31 December 2009

The Beginning of a New Era

Sunset, end of the old

Sunrise, beginning of the new

when each day brings opportunity
letting us know that we should try to profit from each lesson of the day.
Every second be receptive to what the day may bring.
Observe, take heed for any learning experience.
Listen to your heart.
Listen to your inner voice.
Be that which you are.
I am what I am. You are what you are. We are what we are.
We are the Alpha and Omega.
Like the setting of the Sun and the rising of the Sun WE HAVE ONE OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE THE MOST OF IT! and LIVE IT!

Never too late!

With thanks to Captain Sensible for the photos - the changing views from the verandah.

The End and the Beginning of a New Decade

It is so hard to understand where the last year and the 59 before that went, but they have been and gone!
So here's wishing us all a very better start than end of a decade.
All my love and very best wishes.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Christmas Day 2009 Angles sur l'Anglin Winter Barbecue Picnic

By rising waters of Angles, (Ongle)
we mean the river L'Anglin (Longlan)
brilliant sunshine shone
on our dining place upon
the sandy plage,
where shadows cast
beneath poplar trees
as the wintry breeze
fanned the fire
of the 5th winter barbecue
on a Christmas day.

O, Christmas day, when bells appeal, Noël,
crevettes rosy red et saumon savage,
tomme de Savoie marc et raisins fromage.
green and yellow vegetables, white Alsace Riesling,
profiteroles were skipped for the dessert pudding,
nougat, coffee, cognac were not refused,
sun was setting rapidly, a long walk ensued.

Looking back you would not know
that only just a few seconds ago
we cooked and ate and recorded an image
enjoyed some fun and drama on a stage
Friends were met, greetings exchanged.
Another day, another year,
another feast, another cheer,
O special feast in the calendrial year.

I thank the world for a lovely day,
when mistletoe in the peupliers,
hung from raftered branches high in azure blue cyan sky,
where light and shade were astonishing
and cameras wanted to explore the scene.

But really it was just for us and our knowledge of the dream.....
and I thank him.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Seasonal Greetings to Family and Friends

Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas 2009 and New Year 2010

A Seasonal Poem
December 2009
Following the Seasonal Year, Bringing you Good Cheer
Christmas Robin all abreast, Christmas Greeting words expressed

This electronic message replaces a paper Christmas Card
so as to attempt to save some trees from being felled
and so as to reduce expenditure on recycled paper cards, ink, paper, stamps, and a journey to the post office. SCROOGE? Ah... HUMBUG!

Unfortunately, some who are not technologically equipped have to receive this by the expensive snail mail postal system. Aaaaaarrgh! If only the Peppermint Humbugs were here to be eaten!

If you wish to print and display this masterpiece of poetic labour and photographic brilliance of a treasured Christmas table decoration that I have had for many years, amongst your pretty commercial and charitable Christmas Cards on your mantelpiece or decking your walls or ceilings, then please do.

Like winter leaves the days fall into darkness,
Days almost at their shortest and nights their longest.
The coming of a New Year cries out, “Janus, cheer Goodbye!
The old has past and gone. His and her story done!”
But then the New Year looks ahead and shouts to Janus encore,
“Hello! What gifts in the months shall we treasure and explore?”

However, just give us a chance to pray
a “Bon Noël”, a “Merry Day,”
a Festive Feast for Round Robin,
a Holiday and a Holy day,
a time for rest or work or play,
a time to be with your family,
Merry Christmas and Joyeuse Année.

We hope the sums are accurate, numerically speaking,
yet, the past year of our lives, living or just sleeping
has seen some positive moments of Living in Poitou-Charentes,
at Latitude of +46.81 (46°48'36"N) and Longitude of +0.54 (0°32'24"E)
Châtellerault, France,
for 12 months or how shall we put it?
52 weeks
365 days (or was it a leap year?)
8,760 hours
525,600 minutes
31,536,000 seconds
we bring you a rhyme in time, for the cheer of the year!
Here comes the Christmas Round Robin!

January soft white snow, scenery stunning for several weeks,
‘sno good for building ‘les bonhommes de neige’ or digging up the leeks.
Bright light dazzles the eyes, but ice was good for downhill slides.
Sanxay - baths and Roman amphitheatre,
David’s birthday, a magical mystery feature.

February made us shiver, frozen pipes and all a dither,
No fresh water in the mornings, wake up and count one’s blessings,
David the plumber is on tap, fancy that, he wears a plumber’s hat.
Then, in freezing temperature, stokes the oak for the warm woodburner,
Helps us to appreciate the finer things in life,
Instead of grumbling about stresses and strife.

March-mad moments, house search goes on,
surprisingly spot the ideal one.
Three months later, investigations reveal
potential rotten timber-frame concealed.

March birthday celebration, of Francesca’s first year,
Teeth appearing through her gums changed smiling to a tear.
Such a lovely little lass, a climbing curious girl
Comes to France, July with Mum, creates a dervish whirl.
Gran’mama loves vitality and tries to keep up gladly,
But sort of pleased as Grandma’s are when home they go, but sadly
Missing all life’s treasures from the darling little one.

March and April come and go, now the bunion’s gone,
Sweetpea was enforced to rest but not without frustration.
David dug and sowed some seeds in the vegetable plot,
May and more, cleaned gîtes for friends – rather fraught somewhat.

June arrived hot and still, prep for party girl,
July came and hotter still, the rain from sky did spill.
Friends brought marquees, tables laid, all so cosy, all was saved.
Roger played piano jazzy, ultimately all quite rosy.
60 roses red, in fact, one for every year,
Sweetpea's life to celebrate in fantastic happy cheer.
At Village de Vaux country venue, 60 guests ate a four-course menu.

August welcomes visitors, adding more enjoyment and exhaustion,
We try to remember to increase our pills, Vitamin B6 and magnesium.
We love them all to be here and it’s always a pleasant rest,
To entertain, but when the “Goodbyes” arrive, Sweetpea's a bit depressed.

September straddles days so warm we sleep out in our hammocks,
Sweetpea goes off once again to become a little flummoxed.
Brittany green and verdant, her cousin makes her laugh,
They natter on incessantly and reads her book in draft.
David quietly stays at home, feeds Big Feet, mows the lawn,
Researches further his learning online for making website design.

October falls, leaves tumble brown, chocolate festivals, nuts and fruits,
Chestnuts, hazelnuts, tomatoes, figs, pumpkins, carrots and roots.
November - David splashes out and buys a brand new camera,
December - we've managed to survive despite poor currency valeur.

Luckily, state pension, pays a crust to save our bacon,
We worry, not so much for us, but for our respective children.
Faced with self-employment, redundancy, loss of jobs,
Makes home-making a challenge, they’re fighting against the odds.
Searching for ways to meet the bills, it’s tough and quite uncertain,
They’re putting on a very brave face whilst hoping to win a million.

We wish that all and all like them a better year to come,
We wish not gloom and yet more doom, one thing we must assume,
Whatever happens there’s not much time, to stuff the veritable mushroom!

We hope that Sweetpea finds a house and David learns more and more
Making simple elegant websites to keep the wolf from the door.

Seasons come and seasons go, All the world is a stage,
Successes here and stories there to turn the robin’s page.
Everyone moves to and fro, busy lives and things to do,
Places to see and people to meet, write, read, twitter and tweet,
What do they do? How do they do? If only the Christmas Robin knew.

Whew!! Well done you for surviving to the end.
Have you ordered the men in the white suits?


With love from Captain Sensible and his Sweetpea xx

Thursday, 17 December 2009


Thursday 17 December 2009 It started snowing here at 12.45 (now 15.00).
A thin but getting thicker layer of dry white flakes covers the world outside our window.
And just to cheer us up with grateful thanks to whoever made this and to Heather at her excellent bed and breakfast / chambres d'hotes in Maureville, France for passing it on!!

Saturday, 12 December 2009

A Lesson of Mince Pies

At the end of this trimestre (term), teaching English and learning French, we would like to express our gratitude to everyone who has enabled us to enjoy integration and bonhomie. Before anyone could taste they had to read and comprehend the text "English Mince Pies". I had none of my own home-made vegetarian mincemeat so lazily bought some from M@S and it was excellent. All we needed was the festival of nine lessons and carols from Kings College Cambridge to be truly festive!

Friday, 11 December 2009

Aircraft of War

I didn't take a photograph of the memorial and now I regret that because I would like to find out more about what happened. I felt very touched and sad when we stopped at a war memorial for the American bomber crew of a B17 Flying Fortress that had crashed in the fields nearby during the war against Germany. Although I read the names, I am ashamed that I cannot remember them, some seemed Eastern European surnames, except that two of the crew were saved by the resistance. We were in our own department of Vienne which was split in two by the "ligne de demarcation".
My history of WAR is very sketchy to say the least and to avoid any emotionalism which can consume me, I have I am ashamed to say, learned to block out thoughts of suffering whenever remembrance services occur. This is not to say that I don't think of it. I do. I pay my respect in silence. War, the destruction, the loss of lives, the hurt and pain to loved ones and family was devastating. I could not have survived. I would have wept and wept and died myself. I appreciate my fortune of experiencing peace as a result of those who fought against situations and people that could have created a different Europe. On the memorial it mentioned the words "Press the Button Jenny"and I think that these were words said when there was an instruction to release the destructive bombs. I cannot condone war but I cannot dispute how brave are those who go to war.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

A family visit

November.  Sweetpea headed north to her favourite place with it's sea and beach, her favourite offspring and a little busy one, plus other relatives. A surprise visit was made to Tate Modern and Paddington Station was fun.  I love driving and found the journey of 8 hours to Calais rather splendid. The Force 9 gale encouraged me to take a nap on my settee lounger, despite the enthusiastically vocal dutch youngsters. The white cliffs of Dover were viewed in brilliant sunshine as the waves chopped around the Pride of Kent. We waited two and a half hours to enter the harbour. This rather delayed my journey on terra firma but never mind .. it was interesting! Two weeks in UK did not seem sufficient.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Snip go the scissors to lighten the load

I am 60. Time for a new me. I have always been afraid of going to the Hairdresser's. Maybe it was that perm my mother made me have when I was 15 ... or was it that my sister could always have long hair but not me. Between 18 and 32 it grew to below my posterior. Gradually it was made shorter. Then I grew it long again and Damian of John Olivers, Norwich cut it regularly for over 10 years. Brave man. At 55 I just let it grow ... something about wanting my last youth I seem to remember!!! It had been growing for over 5 years and was longer one side than the other because as I twirled it on top of the head with long metal scissor-like pins they eventually broke the hair! I loved the feel of the long hair but it could never be worn loose as it would just fly around and be in the way of cleaning, cooking and just living. I had dipped out of going to appointments for about three years - cancelling them when I lost courage. Really I wanted to stop looking and feeling senile, so my daughter was instructed to come with me and block all exits. An emergency appointment was made and Philip of the same establishment discussed the crisis and was OK about my plan to plait the hair and cut off the plaits ostensibly to use IF we ever do mediaeval re-enactment again. Snip. Snip. Now he can style the shortened hair. AND what was the problem Madam? I am free again. Yes. Great. A new woman. Oh.. and those plaits.. they are in a plastic bag and one day they are going to have a burial. My dead energy is in them.
Thankyou to my daughter who would take no nonsense, to Damian who stopped to chat, to Philip who needs new scissors, to Francesca who thought it was fun, and to the staff of John Olivers for washing the hair, for making me tea and for taking the photos. Best Hairdresser in Norwich Award from me, Sweetpea.

Friday, 4 December 2009

House Hunting Part Three

Well, I'd like to make a posting but I haven't time available. Let's just say I was on to the second prospective house purchase getting a long way down the road and it has come to a full stop!
It was very nice!

Sunday, 15 November 2009

L'Huilerie Lepine Walnut Festival 2009

Even though we have been to this walnut festival for 5 years and seen it grow we are never without excitement. Despite the rain we and hundreds of folk had a wonderful afternoon at l'Huilerie Lépine. The family have been making this wonderfully flavoured oil since 1810. They have a very slick, simple, automated but human-controlled procedure as only the French know how. The walnuts are cracked, conveyed to be crushed by the millstone then cooked or bruléed but not burnt, and this stage requires constant stirring. Then the ground mixture is pressed and transformed into the oily liquid. Walnut oil is full of vitamins and helps to reduce cholesterol and that is why one should have just a little on 'le salade avec le fromage'.

Traction engines rattle branches whilst walnuts shake free.

Walnut shells are cracked
and Walnut kernels are conveyed to a vast container
Taken to the millstone and crushed into a mash
(click on the next photo to read the manufacturer's label)
the ground mush is kept moving
and then the pressing machine squeezes...
trickle, pour, drip
mmm. the sweet smell of nut oil.

It's a Dog's life! - English idioms

Spotty dog was rather sad today. He didn't have a dog's chance at the show because of the change in the weather. He realised that he would never have the opportunity to be top dog at this event. It was raining cats and dogs! Consequently, he had to stand in the drizzling rain, getting quite wet and slippery whilst visitors were protected with their umbrellas. He looked like a dog's breakfast! There was no one to dry him down with a nice, clean, warm, fluffy towel and there was no one to jump on him, play with him and bring a smile to his canine jaws. He felt dog-tired! By the middle of the afternoon he felt even worse and began to feel rather deflated. He wasn't in the dog-house of course, but no one had brought him a doggy bag so he couldn't be like a dog with a bone! Spotty dog was a quiet and well-behaved creature cur .. no one could say that his bark was worse than his bite but he was not that clever and it is true that even though he was quite young in age and in heart no one could teach this dog any new tricks! Every dog has his day, and we don't want any nonsense with dog eat dog, but now we will let sleeping dogs lie ..... Night Night Spotty dog!

I would like to thank Captain Sensible for the inspiration to write this when I should be doing something else!!!!

Friday, 13 November 2009

Degustation in November

Luckily we arrived in La Roche Posay on the evening of Friday 13th in time for a whizz round to taste the wines, cheeses, dried fruit, biscuits and chocolates and be in time for the vin d'honneur which was a very fine Vouvray with aperos from the producteurs ( more cheese, foie gras, rillandes, dried fruits with magret etc etc ) YUM YUM! All the French people know a jolly when it arrives!!!!
Then home for a very welcome 'tourte de pommes de terre' which I had finalised this morning along with my speciality Tarte Tatin made with Reine des Reinettes apples - the best!! The pastry of both had been in the fridge for three days since we had the power cut. The oven, some kitchen lights and upstair lights were not working. I was a lovely opportunity to burn candles until Captain S could analyse what had tripped the switch. The culprit was the kettle that I had inadvertently 'burnt out ' a few days beforehand, which seemed to still boil water very well!

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

A Walk in Autumn

The rewards of a 14km walk with the group are:
* Socialisation and company.
* Improvement of conversational skills in French and English. We persist in speaking poorly produced grammar and they want to practice theirs! Great learning experience and fun!
*Fresh air and sunlight to create seratonin. Opportunity to walk in rain showers and witness a rainbow, though not the crock of gold!
*A feast of beauty for the eyes of Autumnal vegetational colour.

*Foraging opportunity for mushrooms and sloes.
But don't eat this one as the Fly Agarica is poisonous.
*Exercise, aching joints, development of stamina, endurance and persistence. Well, it’s not Everest I know and although I would love a real mountain to climb, I have my own small ones to master!
*A feast of warm cider served with a chocolate ginger apple and prune cake that French Annie called pudding.
*See new places, architecture, scenery.

We passed two sites which we love. They are....
- The Pinail Nature Reserve a natural man-assisted creation of moor and heathland consisting of 3,000 ponds, rare flora and fauna including the harrier and 48 species of dragonflies. which was the result of quarrying millstone.
- The site of the Battle of Poitiers at the Plain of Moussais where Charles Martel and the Muslim-Arab Army in 732 A.D. fought a relentless battle for ownership of the region. A giant chessboard and display boards recount the story. Listen to the cries on the battlefield! Read in English and Arabic. "Whoever you are and wherever you come from you have your own ideas and thoughts to the North, East, West and South and you are a friend!" How I love those sentiments. We are all immigrants or our ancestors have been so. We are all required to celebrate humanity.

Green Tomato and Green Pear Chutney

Taking courage for the many small green tomatoes from our garden, I was spared from the many enormous green tomatoes that had been donated to us on account of the fact that I managed to ripen them.
To almost 3kg tomatoes and 1.5kg pears once prepared! (ha!...ecoutez!) I added a large spoonful of salt, 40g mustard seeds, 20g black onion seeds, 800g mixture of granulated white sugar and honey, 10g tagine spices, 10g shelled cardamom seeds, coriander powder as I had no leaves, and about one litre vinegar, for which I used some red wine left over from the party that had turned to vinaigrette and some of my very own mature dandelion vinegar!

All the ingredients were placed into my most beautiful and treasured stainless steel preserving pan that has been worth all of the £50 I spent 30 years ago. (Before that I used to make preserves in the pressure cooker but it always felt unsatisfactory!) The pretty picture of food in the making was brought to the boil, stirred often, simmered for a long time, stirred often!

When the liquid had reduced and the chutney was a wonderful dark colour, resembling a jam but not of jammy consistency it was poured into clean,dry, warm jars. Once I had ensured there were no air bubbles, clean, dry lids sealed the jars. Now to label prettily! Then to store for several months, if not longer for the winter into spring days. For Christmas we have one last jar of matured two year old Green Tomato Chutney. There was no glut last year.

Friday, 6 November 2009

The White Ribbon - a movie by Michael Haneke

We have just been to see The White Ribbon at Les 400 Coups Chatellerault.
A movie, documentary, drama, thriller, crime novel.....
We wholeheartedly agree with the critique of the film on
The "story" within the film is truly reminiscent of someone's existence somewhere in the world. Brilliant camerawork and editing. I loved the scene where the camera conveys stillness as the lonely boy seeking solace and comfort in the middle of the night, searches for Anni, only to discover further incomprehension when he discovers where she is and with whom. We listened to it in German with French subtitles and we do not understand German and to our surprise read and understood much of the French text. Watching the imagery and understanding the plot required enormous concentration coupled with the emotional factors of seeing abuse. The relief of tension as the final black screen signaled the end of the film made me realise how tense I had been throughout this BRILLIANTLY executed movie. Yes, one needs to talk about it and we're reading the reviews to see how well our interpretation matches with others. This black and white creation without any music score was so very powerful. All levels of abuse in the world should end but in fact it has gone on for ever and one wonders when humanity will cease the cruelty and perversion that exists. The innocence of Eva and the portrayal of the vulnerability of women and children was very thought provoking.
I found it intriguing, mesmerising and really very frightening and found myself muttering "Oh no" and "My God" with various intakes of breath.
We're still asking questions as to what we think had happened and to whom and why.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Chouchou Chayote

Our walking group were given some of these by a very kind French man when we stopped to admire theseinteresting fruits trailing on trellises in his
potager. Our gift seemed unripe so it has been sitting above the poèle à bois for a few weeks. I had forgotten about it. The almost instantaneous www divulged some recipes but as there was only one chouchou it was peeled, sliced thinly and lightly sautéed, served with almost the last of our Romanesco cauliflowers, a leek and tomato sauce and baby potatoes smaller then my thumb sautéed in sunflower oil. All from our garden! A fine vegetarian meal.

The chouchou (called chayote, Sechium edule, sayote, tayota, choko, chocho, chow-chow, christophene, mirliton, alligator pear, vegetable pear and other names) belongs to the gourd family Cucurbitaceae.

On a different culinary note, we were gifted many HUGE green tomatoes. Remembering the magic of brown paper bags, we packaged the largest green ones with a ripening tomato and voila, the warmth from the mantelpiece helped to redden them. We kid ourselves the summer is still here as we eat our tomato salad. However, the smaller ones from our garden will be made into chutney just so I can return a gift to the neighbour who seemed rather bemused about the idea of eating Green Tomato Chutney.