Friday, 30 April 2010

I felt the Fear and did it anyway!

I have had to climb the mountain a little bit and face a few monsters to try and overcome my fears.
The reason is because I have been searching for a house to buy for 5 years on and off and last year withdrew from two properties, one in UK and one in France, for good reason. I didn't dare withdraw on this one just because I was scared and it wasn't perfect!
Last year I made myself sick with worry and caused frustration to my family because they didn't understand me. Neither did I understand myself! I have tried writing about it but it seems so self-indulgent to share it here.

However, today I have signed an Acte de Vente for a French house. No, not a horse, not a swimming pool, BUT a house. I have bought a house. In fact I have bought one house with a courtyard and a garden on one plot of land and a garage / stable building with planning permission to convert and extend into a dwelling on another very small plot of land. It's more than I need and more than I can afford to renovate ... so how foolish is that???

What have I done? I have committed myself to a house that might make a home. You see, before today I didn't own any property... it had been sold in England 5 years ago! The last 5 years have been an anxious time, watching property prices rise , then fall, then start to rise again in some places, watching the credit crunch effects on money in the bank and oh being so worried in addition to not knowing what I want, what I was looking for and where I want it! There were so many options... too many choices.

This morning I looked around in despair at the buildings and the gardens, thinking about what I have committed myself and others to and worrying about all the work and responsibility ahead. However, when we start to tidy the mess that is there, then the project will become more clear!

Meanwhile Village de Vaux continues to be a haven of peace and tranquillity. No that is not quite true! There is the garden to maintain, seeds to plant and tend, boxes of belongings and photographs to sort that have been patiently waiting for 5 years or more, things to write, piano music to practise, amidst the daily chores of housekeeping and domestic management and so LIFE goes on!

I have a home already, with my partner ... but I wanted the 'security' of having my own bricks and mortar! Silly me!!!

You may be disappointed that SweetpeainFrance has only bought a house - nothing more exciting! If so, I apologise that your expectations were raised!

Here she is with the 4 vendors and the estate agent after the sale and purchase of the property. Here also is the atelier, which needs to be pulled down but in it's place could be a lovely verandah.
Here also is one view of the house in
Angles-sur-L'Anglin, un des plus beaux villages de France.
There is a website and further blog coming soon ... which will document the town and the house and our lives as "we walk along a Balade Anglois and enjoy a new and different life."


In the last few days I have attempted to write from many different angles about what is going to happen today and I have attempted to describe the reasons, emotions and rationale behind the 30 day idea of a blogger COUNTDOWN. So, having expended enormous time and energy from a writer's point of view, I rejected the sentiments as inappropriate for the time being, rejected the postings as too personal, too emotional, too sensitive, too revealing. Then, more recently, I wrote something I felt happy with.
I was even sufficiently confident to post it to the "whole world waiting" at a few minutes after midnight. Perhaps, like even the most truly brilliant writers using the mysterious technology of computers, I just inadvertently wiped it! Oh woe!

So anyone too curious will have to wait for later in my day time hours for the result!

How annoying! For you? or for me?
COUNTDOWN: days expired. The event is today!

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Amusement and Creativity found on a walk in Angles-sur-L'Anglin

Maybe you shouldn't all get quite so excited about this COUNTDOWN!!!!
BUT ... I, me, myself, personally am beginning to get excited even though a little nervous of all the work that will be required.
Maybe it shouldn't be quite so mysterious .. but hey.. you're all guessing wildly, and you're all so curious, so that's fun!
Isn't this postbox hilarious! It's a pity it's not like one of the nodding donkey toys one could once upon a time obtain.

COUNTDOWN: 1 day to go!

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

All the beauty is as gentle as silence

Fields await their crops. Mist floats from the lake. Sunshine beams brightly. Sheep graze safely. Church bells clang. It is 8 in the morning. The restaurant owner who lives opposite the church bell tower rallied against the early morning peal making such a fuss that the appointed hour was delayed! See what power important individuals have in their community.
Down the lane, nightingales sing incessantly, but to identify them in the hedgerow is nigh impossible, so private are they. Cuckoos and other birds challenge the chorale performance. Frogs croak, herons quark, dogs bay, cockerels celebrate the day, tractors churn in distant fields and far in the sky, the blue is criss-crossed with flight paths of planes transporting people to their destinations. We note there is more air traffic than usual and ponder on people who live near airports and how the sound levels they normally endure ceased when the Icelandic volcano ash cloud descended over Europe to halt all air traffic. Inhabitants had a brief, spooky respite as they marvelled at the sounds of bird song and bees humming in an ostensibly silent world but now subjected again to the deafening onslaught of giants in the sky how many of them are wondering whether they could escape to the tranquillity that is here? Sometimes our silences are deafening and one can become irritated by the sound of dogs barking at the kennels!
Returning home we find the swallows wheeling and chattering, swooping and streaming, chasing each other around the lilac bush, speeding along the roof ridge, near the smoke from the chimney, to follow the gentle downward curve of the roof as they dive into the passage at the front of the verandah. We’ve never experienced this before! They usually stay by the barns, soaring through the skies, then twitter on telegraph wires.
One can stand in the midst of a ploughed field and imagine times past and times to come and always in the middle of this field it was and will be the same and that there was and is no one else on earth! Stop still and listen . . . . . . . . one can hear humanity amidst the natural environment. All the beauty is as gentle as silence.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

The colours of the French countryside at the end of April

Bees love mustard seed rape for the nectar which makes a peppery flavoured honey, often blended with less stongly flavoured honeys or used in the bakery trade. I also love the smell and am transported to heaven by the sight and smell of the fields .... I could inhale the aroma all day long just to be inspired. I lament that we are surrounded by sheep, wheat, maize or sometimes sunflowers. Oh, that I should lament with such joys around us!

However, the translation between English and French can be a little muddied or muddled... I think it's "les faux mots". So when discussing this topic with the French I have had to use the verb "aspirer"... they were not happy with "inhaler". I aspire to being fluent in the French language but know that my "langue" (tongue) will always be "bancale". But I won't "donne sa langue au chat" meaning I won't give up or I won't speak like a cat! You see how difficult it is to learn the French language.

To breathe in = aspirer
To aspire to = aspirer
Aspirer = to breathe in, to inhale, to aspire, to suck up in a straw, to draw up,
To breathe in = inhaler
To inhale = inhaler
To breathe in = inspirer
Inspirer = to breathe in and to inspire
S'inspirer = to be inspired by
To inspire = inspirer

The mustard seed rape is a member of the Brassica family and is related to the turnip. Voila - one learns something everyday!

Countdown: 3 days

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Emma Thompson the actress - I admire her talents

and her beautiful, distinctive voice.

The lovely Emma Thompson has always fascinated me in her acting roles and no less so than coming by chance upon Desert Island discs a few weeks ago when I listened again and again. She says she is slowing down. How come? At the age of 50 she has a long way to go yet! She has achieved so very much more than me, and oh so much more perfection than ever I could ever have achieved, so how can I feel as if I am slowing down? I need to run a marathon to catch up!

It was wonderful to listen to a recording of her father singing for the Magic Roundabout which I remember so fondly. As soon as the music started I was ready to listen and watch.

She referred to a quote from John Ruskin.

"Every increased possession loads us with a new weariness." -John Ruskin (1819–1900)

I would like to reduce my acquired belongings ... but here I am about to acquire something that will cause me responsibility. Oh dear … more anxiety in my life. I am like Florence and need to dust and clear. Certainly there will be a lot of that to do in the near future.

COUNTDOWN: 4 days (I wrote this posting on Sunday and posted it on Monday)

Leftovers for Lunch

This was a recent lunch when we thought we had little in the cupboard! I seem to remember we had no eggs, but some Fromage Frais scattered with Herbes de Provence, some uncooked pastry, a can of red beans, an onion, a little mayonnaise and part of a lettuce. There is a great sense of pleasure in not having to go shopping for yet again just one more day!
COUNTDOWN: 5 days: perhaps a little excitement is creeping in.

Spring flowers in Angles-sur-l'Anglin

We've had a splendid 13km afternoon trek with our French walking group "Les Sentiers Vagabonds" exploring the chemins of Angles-sur-L'Anglin to the south side of the river. I found so many splendid spring flowers.
The Purple Toothwort (Lathraea clandestina) is a parasite growing on the roots of alder, poplar and willow trees. I have only ever seen this plant in Angles-sur- L'Anglin!

Then there were numerous blankets of Greater Stitchwort. With a very pretty white flower it is a kind of chickweed and can be eaten in salads though I haven't tried it.

However, I have eaten Wild Garlic before now and it makes a very tasty substitute in a salad. I can't believe that I have found this in France.
There were just a few patches of Wood Anemone, the name of which I have had to identify as I did not know this wild flower at all. Evidently it is poisonous and is a member of the Buttercup family. Wood Anemones in meadows and hedgebanks indicate the site of a vanished woodland. This could well be true although there was woodland nearby but according to folklore, this flower is a woodland ghost.
Lots of Lesser Celandine, also a member of the Buttercup family, is also poisonous and has been known to kill cattle if eaten by them, but as a herb it has been used to treat piles!!
If I have any of my facts incorrect then please let me know.

COUNTDOWN: 5 days: I am getting more confident.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

The sound of frogs croaking fills the air

A few days ago, after we had tried to see the elusive nightingale near the ornithological lake we sat eating our ice-creams by the side of the pond at the Maison du Parc en Brenne. Whilst we sat motionless, we watched the frogs, also motionless, until the ribbet-ribbet resulted in the little balloons at the side of their heads. They were singing their 'love serenade' pushing the air through their larynx. The elastic membranes (vocal sacs) distend so that the sound is amplified. They were so sweet. There were some very pretty white flowers near the edge of the water ... maybe the 'Cuckoo flower' ... I know it is not 'le coucou' (the cowslip in French) This year the cowslips have been more magnificent than I have ever seen. Oh, to be nearer the Brenne!

COUNTDOWN: 6 days - Already anxious about a number of things!

Friday, 23 April 2010

St George - a Saint for England and for many other countries

William Shakespeare was born on this day, April 23. In his play, Henry V, the king rallies his troops with a battle cry, "Upon this charge, cry God for England, Harry and Saint George!" William was not canonised but George was and I love the fact that he is the Patron Saint of many countries. In the Middle East Christians ask for his help to get rid of demons, in some countries he is the guardian of animals and in some parts of Spain this day is celebrated with feasts and presents. Why not? St George is also associated with fertility and his Saints day is said to mark the beginning of summer, though today is quite overcast but warming as the day goes on.

But here is a different kind of dragon - it is my first attempt at making a lizard at my pottery lessons. I took this photograph before the 2nd glazing process, but I think I might reglaze the lizard a better green as the glaze is much darker than I intended and although I wanted it to be camouflaged I now think I would prefer it to be highlighted. It will hang on the wall of the verandah.


Thursday, 22 April 2010

Jolie Pretty Parc Éolien at Saint Genou

A short while ago on a not very windy day, we went with our villagers to look at the Parc Éolien at Saint Genou amidst cereal fields, so that we could experience the sound impact on the environment. This wind farm was one of the first constructed in the department of Indre, 36, in the Centre region of France. The young men employed by Volkswind were extremely knowledgeable and able to answer questions in great detail. The 6 éoliennes give 25 millions kWh per year and on average they give electricity to 11ooo people.for heating and lighting.
I am not against wind turbines. I think they are quite beautiful, making less impact on the environment in terms of sound than cars, planes or trains. I'd rather live near a wind farm than an auto route! However, they are expensive to build Saint Genou cost 17 million euros) and 15 years seems to be a projected lifespan. It is a cleaner way to generate electricity than nuclear power, although they are expensive to build and the land has to be strengthened to support them. I understand that there may be other technologies that could be more efficient in producing electricity. Nevertheless, it could take some months or years before the go-ahead is approved for the Parc Éolien at Leigné-les-Bois, not far from where we live.
Most of those who came were pro the wind farm being proposed in our commune. Most of those who are against the idea spoke angrily and vociferously at the public meeting some weeks ago but didn't come to learn more from standing under these immense structures, 100 metres tall and 80m in diameter.
They missed out on an unexpected fine lunch organised by the extremely hospitable company of Volkswind. First a large mixed salad with crabsticks (not keen on those) and smoked salmon. Everyone had an enormous grilled pork chop (I had beef) served with frites and ratatouille (I could eat platefuls) followed by pancakes with a chocolate sauce!
There was plenty of wine and water on the long dining table. No fromage but coffee or tea was enjoyed before the coach party headed home. I would recommend the grill bar just outside Saint Genou where the two proprietors cooked and served efficiently and speedily!
Thankyou to Volkswind and the Maire of Leigne-les-Bois for organising this event. I learned a lot and continue to support the proposals.


Wednesday, 21 April 2010

My daughter and her daughter, Felicity and Francesca

I'm also proud of my daughter who is teaching her daughter confidence because I believe that to learn confidence and courage is so vitally important for a child's development into an adult. Evidently, Little One can say "I did it" and "I can do it". Recently, I went to UK and was very sad because Little One was too ill to go to the zoo as planned for her 2nd birthday, (hence the Noah's Ark card) nor could we get out and about very much. We walked onto the beach to see the sea but as the wind was too bracing for us we retreated within the minute! It was fun for Granmama and Little One to make cakes. My daughter is also helping her daughter to enjoy music and books. Cousin Grace who is about 5 months older and Francesca read very nicely together. Friends!
Little One enjoys Mr Men stories ... a favourite being Mr Bump ...and I can buy these and the Little Miss series in French, in France! Also she loves The Gruffalo.. you know!
It's amazing how many French language and dual language toys and books my daughter has acquired from charity shops. Some of the toys "speak" French being an excellent way for Little One to learn a second language. My French piano teacher gave Little One a wonderful computerised toy... when it is switched on Cinderella presents French music to listen to e.g. Frere Jacques, Sur le Pont d'Avignon, as well as classical melodies such as Brahms Lullaby , plus numbers and sums in French of course and various other games to play. A remarkable educational toy that should last for several years and teach Francesca French so that when she comes to visit me I hope she will eventually be bi-lingual.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Messing About on Wendy Ann 2

I'm very proud of my son and I read in his blog that he's back to recycling reclamation material into usable products for the internal renovations of his tug, the lovely Wendy Ann 2. A little ditty came into my head, the lyrics of which are replicated here, with thanks to the instant encyclopaedia of the world. If you search on the www you can singalong with a youtubevideo whilst reading this blog posting!

MESSING ABOUT ON THE RIVER by Tony Hatch / Les Reed, sung by Josh MacRae - 1962
When the weather is fine then you know it's a sign
For messing about on the river.
If you take my advice there's nothing so nice
As messing about on the river.
There are long boats and short boats and all kinds of craft,
And cruisers and keel boats and some with no draught.
So take off your coat and hop in a boat
Go messing about on the river.

There are boats made from kits that reach you in bits
For messing about on the river.
Or you might want to skull in a glass-fibred hull.
Just messing about on the river.
There are tillers and rudders and anchors and cleats,
And ropes that are sometimes referred to as sheets.
With the wind in your face there's no finer place,
Than messing about on the river.

There are skippers and mates and rowing club eights
Just messing about on the river.
There are pontoons and trots and all sorts of knots
For messing about on the river.
With inboards and outboards and dinghies you sail.
The first thing you learn is the right way to bail.
In a one-seat canoe you're the skipper and crew,
Just messing about on the river.

There are bridges and locks and moorings and docks
When messing about on the river.
There's a whirlpool and weir that you mustn't go near
When messing about on the river.
There are backwater places all hidden from view,
And quaint little islands just awaiting for you.
So I'll leave you right now to cast off your bow,
Go messing about on the river.

Great song for the Spring time!

I'm off now to mess about in the vegetable plot!

COUNTDOWN: 10 days

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Offline and out of touch for a few days

I will not be posting for a few days in April. Circumstances dictate and indicate that I must try and do without the computer and internet and do other things in my life instead. Please note there will be withdrawal symptoms as I readjust to a life without the laptop. I don't think a glass of wine will fix it.
Hopefully I will be able to resume connection before the end of the counting days expire to inform anyone who happens to be reading what I am waiting for. What could it be?
COUNTDOWN: 16 days

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Not long now


Monday, 12 April 2010

Tales of Remboursements


After much agonising and continual repair of our 6 year old Briggs and Stratton motored lawnmower we have succumbed to spending money on a replacement, despite the fact that we now think our old one can be repaired once Captain Sensible has the time to dismantle and clean the carburettor. We acquired our first petrol mower from the local car mechanic on recommendation of our neighbour who we employed to cut our lawn and meadow when we were non-resident. Six years ago we were ignorant about garden machines and the repair costs that could be incurred in France – we just said about how much we wanted to pay and that’s what we got. It once had to be repaired by the car mechanic, the cost of which was about half the value of the mower as new. Since then, Captain Sensible has earned 10/10 plus a gold star for his determination to learn about lawnmower mechanics, so saving us professional repair costs!

Nevertheless, it has been a good machine and if it can be repaired, then all to the good especially as Captain Sensible is cutting the meadow grass between his willow and poplar trees until they become established. However, if it was October we could cope but now it’s April, the grass is growing too fast! We didn’t wish to go a distance to the major towns in case the new lawnmower needed future repair. So, having made our research, investigating value for money (our budget got extended) and comparing machines, we decided to buy a Honda motored mower at Auchan. That was Thursday 7th April. The grass dried out sufficiently for Friday and the lawn was cut with celebratory cheer, we had it under control! On Saturday, it was used again. When there was a knocking sound from the mower, we telephoned Auchan who advised us to return it for repair.

Today at 9h, Mr Apres-Vente, malcontent and miserable, was quite definite that the mower had to be sent away to be investigated and repaired. “Madame, Monsieur, il doit aller être réparé.” We were polite but insistent that we should have an exchange or a refund. Then Captain Sensible explained that our French neighbour insists we must have an exchange or refund and that we would like to see the Manager……at which point there seemed to be a change in Mr Apres-Vente and his attitude! Voila ... we could have what we wanted. Mais, malheureusement, there was only the display model left…we agreed to have it and when we asked for a reduction we gained 30 euros! Magnificent! We wheeled it out! All done in less than an hour!


We discovered that we did not have Civil Responsibility on our House Insurance. As this is obligatory, it appears to have been an error on the part of our insurance company that it was not included, although we did inform them when we became permanent residents 5 years ago! After making a low-voiced enquiry to senior personnel, the ‘very-nice-man-behind-the-desk’ offered us an immediate reduction of 25 euros on our house insurance and this includes the addition of civil responsibility insurance. Transaction agreed … he hurried to his French lunch.


In between the two tasks, we had a wonderful hot choc and coffee in an ignominous bar in downtown Chatellerault. Captain Sensible had been here before and thinks it hasn’t been decorated since the Gestapo were in occupation. The old tables were most inviting. Mother had her slippers on… Father sadly suffering from senile dementia stared at us… but we were served graciously and most politely.

One of the marvellous things about today was that everyone we spoke to (apart from Mr Apres-Vente), smiled and was most polite and welcoming. Oh... and the remboursements!

"Oh to be in France" .................. reminds me of Robert Browning's Poem


Oh, to be in England
Now that April 's there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England—now!

And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossom'd pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops—at the bent spray's edge—
That 's the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children's dower
—Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!

COUNTDOWN: 18 days

Sunday, 11 April 2010

An evening of French style Cabaret

Last night the village presented a cabarét soirée. Unfortunately only about 50 villagers attended the excellent concert of acoustic comedy and chanson Française from Kass Muzet with piano accordion, double bass and percussion. The three musicians were accomplished performers and adept at relaxing the audience. We knew some of the tunes and I was surprised that I could translate some words though not understand the French verbal humour, although some humour needs no words at all. In fact sometimes we were laughing when the French weren't. Oh calamity... the camera needs the battery recharged so this photo was taken by Claude.

The singers had marvellous voices for singing and speaking but sometimes dialogue between them was lost because they did not project their voices. Perhaps in street theatre their voices carry better. 
The one in blue reminds me of when I stood on stage with a short skirt and a large accordion!   

At the end of the evening when eau de vie with pamplemousse could be purchased at the bar we exited to Winter and a clear sky with the star constellations clearly visible. Only in France.

COUNTDOWN: 19 days

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Hyla Arborea-European Tree Frog

10-04-2010 All photographs are the property of Captain Sensible and should you wish to use them then please contact us through this blog site.

This amazing little amphibian surprised me when I was clearing collected rainwater in a bucket to water plants in pots. I gathered him up with two cupped hands one above and one below, tapped with my elbow on the kitchen window to Captain Sensible who was preparing the evening meal and excitedly called him to come quickly with his camera. At first I think he was thinking of his stomach but soon he was prostrate on the ground marvelling at the creature who seemed very pleased to perform for the photo shoot!

I'm not sure if this one is male or female but it lives in our lilac trees. I have been listening to it and its friends for a few weeks especially on the warmer evenings. One year we found one living in the spout of an old metal watering can and took a pre-digital photo. They have remarkable pads on their feet so that they can climb trees. They eat insects and lay their eggs in damp vegetation and then they metamorphose like other frogs. If you would like to learn more then go to this website which is very informative.
They appear to be called RAINETTES in France ... but perhaps this is because they often croak when the rain is about to arrive! I see that they have been introduced into England.

For other people's text and photographs go HERE and HERE and HERE

COUNTDOWN: 20 days

Friday, 9 April 2010

It's good to dig and mow

Thinking of the crops that we will sow, plant, reap and eat makes digging and weeding more satisfying! It makes back pain bearable! In addition to half the potager dug and weeded a few days ago, two smaller plots, plus beds either side of a stone wall are ready for seeds or plants.
A new lawnmower doesn't have to be repaired every so many minutes and within no time the lawn has been tamed to make us THINK we have the garden under control. Looking around one thinks about all the other jobs in the garden to be achieved.

But bliss is to sit beneath the blossoming plum trees imbibing a glass of beer whilst the evening sun's rays set in the west!


Thursday, 8 April 2010

22 days to go

COUNTDOWN: 22 days

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

The temperature has plummeted

Spring came and went for the second time! It's 22h and the sun has not beamed as the cloud and rain have masked its smile .. the temperature struggles at 13 degrees C and is apparently warmer now than earlier in the daytime, so don't get envious if you think we are warm! But go outside now and we can hear the frogs croaking. Earlier the cuckoo was still calling in the distance.

COUNTDOWN: 23 days

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Taming the garden and chaos of Life

Aujourd'hui .... there has been plenty to do including
shopping for hosepipes and food,
seeing friends and their children,
afternoon nap in hammock,
digging and weeding the potager plus the raspberry plants (one out of 5 has survived),
planting lettuce plants that were desperate to see soil (they are now under the polytunnel),
moving the sheep from one field to another as 'un petit service',
moving cardboxes and debris of hedge cuttings and fallen trees to the bonfire,
lighting the first very large bonfire since Autumn,
dining in the evening on a salad of vegetables and chicken with raisins, mayonnaise and lemon in the warmth of the setting sun with the reward of some red wine.
As our posteriors were warmed by the embers of the fire, two bats ( the first we have witnessed this year) zoomed by.
We heard one or more cuckoos calling more strongly, a wood pecker, frogs by the lake, blackbirds in the woodland, other unidentified birds, chickens and cockerels, and very annoyingly the dogs at the dog kennels. We endured it last year having complained the previous year and now it is time to complain again. Not even the dogs in the village bark incessantly.
Then of course there is the growing list of things to do and that MUST be done and must be prioritised urgency is the essence. What is the meaning of life? Today it has been to tame the garden! PS It is 21h30 and 20 degrees Celsius outside.

COUNTDOWN: 24 days

Monday, 5 April 2010

Decorations for a Simnel Cake

Tristement, there are no visitors to enjoy my traditional making of a Simnel Cake. Never mind, just for fun I experimented with a choice of decoration! Apart from the sugared eggs in the basket which Captain Sensible will gobble if I don't monitor consumption to ensure there are some for me, I shall store the cake so that it matures! My son is coming soon and evidently he likes marzipan and the only fruit cake he likes is with the marzipan centre. When I serve it I shall find a beautiful ribbon to go around the edge.

I rather like the idea of using natural violets or pansies... and in future I'll not bother with Cadbury's products ... really I should not have bought them this year. I understand that they are moving their factory out of UK! However, there is something rather nice about the sugared coated eggs ... the creme eggs will be a no-no ... French chocolate is better!

PS The cuckoo has returned and the temperature is rising significantly. Yesterday and today heralded the digging and weeding of half of the potager; the edges are looking trim, and the soil is beginning to dry out. It is a bit late but we pruned the vine. More tussocky lawn was cut once the mower was repaired. The back is getting used to travail!

PPS Why did the cuckoo stop singing when the weather was so inclement? I hope he did not have to go back to Africa!

COUNTDOWN: 25 days

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Angles sur l'Anglin Brocante

We did not arrive as early as we would have liked to and just missed the purchase of garden furniture, but we did buy a pretty though not perfect mirror, an interesting embroidery of maybe a wedding procession possibly from Alsace, and some boots for my granddaughter. We also saw a house martin or swallow emerge from an open lucarne in the haute ville.
Reward: French chocolate eggs
Our Picnic was made ...... Saffron rolls stuffed with cheese and Serrano ham with a flask of tea or coffee by the river, followed by an afternoon snooze in the warmth of the sunshine, spotted by rain drops. Ducks for company, literally eating out of Captain Sensible's hand.
Reward: Cadburys ( oh no... ) Creme eggs
Home again to tackle the garden which we have avoided on account of the weather... Some of the long tussocky lawn manhandled by the lawnmower has received the first cut ... and part of the potager to be planted with seed potatoes has been weeded. Our neighbour says to wait 10 days for the soil to dry out and warm up!
Reward: a glass of Amontillado and a long hot bath for back treatment!

COUNTDOWN: 26 days

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Confined to the kitchen to make bread and cakes

because the very cold weather prevented me from going in the garden, digging the potager and planting the potatoes, lettuce plants and seeds. It's Easter and maybe the Easter bunny might not come if I don't make cakes. So the jar of Safran stored in a safe place beckons for a Saffron baking day.

First of all I prepared the yeast because I also wanted to make an ordinary loaf with added sunflower seeds.
Saffron Bread - a plaited loaf and some buns
1. Soak about 10 crushed threads of saffron in 50ml hot water and leave overnight or for some time to infuse.
2. Add 1cm cube of fresh crumbled yeast to a teaspoon of sugar and some warmed milk or water (not boiling). Leave to ferment.
3. Heat 125ml milk in a saucepan. Add 125g butter and 125g sugar and remove from the heat.
4. Combine the three mixtures and beat in an egg, and a pinch of salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon and the grated zest from one lemon. Fold in 375g self raising flour. You might need to adjust the liquid or the flour.
5. Using your hands pull the dough together, turn it onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. The more kneading the better. Put the dough into a clean oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place to rise until doubled in size.
6. Knead again. Divide the dough into portions to plait a small loaf and to make buns with what is left. Place on a greased baking sheet, cover with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled in size.
7. Bake in a hot oven at 350 degrees centigrade for about an hour or until golden brown and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.
8.Remove to a wire rack and cool. Eat and Enjoy.

As I have never made Saffron Cake before, I researched various recipes and adapted the ingredients and the methodology. As far as I can remember this is what I did:

1. Preheat oven to 175°C and grease a loose bottomed round cake tin.

2. Melt 120g butter in 250 ml warmed milk. Add about 10 crushed strands of saffron and leave to infuse for some time.

3. Beat two eggs with 120g caster sugar. Add the saffron liquid. Fold in 175g self raising flour. Add some orange flower water.

5. Bake for about 30 minutes. It might take longer as it depends on the depth and size of the cake tin. When cold eat and enjoy.

The delicate flavour of the Saffron buns was delicious. I cut the buns in half and served them with butter but Captain Sensible said they were good with goats cheese. I also made a Simnel Cake having soaked the fruit in cold tea overnight and I'll decorate tomorrow. There's too much for us to eat but the Simnel cake improves with age and maybe the Saffron cake will be the same. The freezer is a marvellous invention.

COUNTDOWN: 27 days

Friday, 2 April 2010

Happy Easter Season and Happy Springtime 2010

COUNTDOWN: 28 days