Friday, 31 December 2010

Bon Fin d'Année 2010

Best Wishes to everyone;  friends, family and all those who I do not know and may never meet, who read my postings, for the end of the year..... and for the next year I wish you all the best of opportunity.

I was reprimanded today for saying Bonne Année because one can't say that until after midnight!  How very logically French and quite exact! 

Until then one has to say "Bon Fin d'Année" and why not celebrate the going out as well as the coming in?  We don't have any black coal though!

Happy New Year to you all. 

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

In the Bleak Midwinter

I've been singing this carol and only this carol this year whilst I clean, hoover, walk, be ...
and it just keeps singing in my head all the time.
I love it. It is sad. It makes me cry.  It fills me with the beauty of the world.
It is a solitary carol....... so I have been thinking of people I know in England and people in other parts of the world.  And it makes me see the glass half empty and the glass half full.
I like people very much and it always pains me enormously if I feel I have inadvertently hurt anyone.
I want to give, yet sometimes it is impossible to be able to give, even my heart.
The Youtube video I have chosen is quite poignant. 
If you wish you can watch the choir and listen to this moving song of praise.
In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,

Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;

Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,

In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold him, nor earth sustain; 

Heaven and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign. 

In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed 

The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ. 
 Angels and archangels may have gathered there, 

Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air; 

But his mother only, in her maiden bliss, 

Worshiped the beloved with a kiss. 
What can I give him, poor as I am? 

If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; 

if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part; 

Yet what I can I give him:  give my heart.
With grateful thanks to Christina Rossetti


Monday, 27 December 2010

On Christmas Day, On Christmas Day, No Picnic was had on Christmas Day

On account of the below freezing weather conditions which we have tolerated before on our legendary Christmas Day picnics, and on account of our fatigue in many areas it was just as well that we did not have such a feast mid-day. So TO DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT and TO DO SOMETHING SENSIBLE we took a 3 hour walk across fields and woodlands, through ancient rural villages, uphill, downvale,  along river banks showing evidence of medieval strip farming,  across fords,  to afford ourselves a place in the winter sunshine at a special lake where we had previously had our Christmas Day picnics and so... we SIMPLY ATE  our smoked salmon sandwich rolls with a clementine for dessert followed by coffee laced with Whiskey Mac.

In the evening once our hunger was restored we ate a first course of Salmon Provençale pre-prepared... with a green salad followed by the main course of Shoulder of Lamb from the field next door  served with roasted potatoes, pumpkin, onions, garlic and steamed broccoli and carrots. Then one of LIDLs finest cheeses,  a Bleu Bresse, accompanied with mâche (lamb's lettuce). This latter leaf is very popular with the French. It belongs to the Valerian family so is therefore probably very good for relaxation and healthy sleeping habits.
When I bought wholemeal bread at Leclerc I just could not RESIST the desserts and after umming and aahing over whether I should choose buche de noël or  ???? I chose these two on account of the little lutin and his spade for Captain Sensible and Sweetpea coloured raspberries!

And then they and the day were gone!

Thank goodness, that's all over for another year. The dreaded day has passed well, all things considered!

Sunday, 26 December 2010

It was Christmas Eve 2010.........

How very French...
I took a small inexpensive gift to my French friends wishing them festive greetings and we were  unexpectedly invited to an evening meal.
By the time I did what I had to do, there was no time to change into evening wear and anyway I knew that where I was going they had not much more heat than I have at Angles so it would be careless to discard the layers of clothing.  I exchanged the trousers for a skirt and the upper garment for another, wrapped a cream scarf around my neck to brighten up the shades of black and burgundy, changed my shoes, splashed some perfume  on the wrists (better than slashing them) grabbed the flowers and the wine and set off, arriving later than requested.  Parking presented a problem trying not to park in front of garages.
When I arrived the 7 persons seated applauded and called out my name as if I were a football team which made me quite embarrassed!  Cries of "Je suis desolée" were drowned as I removed my hat, coat, gloves, gave my gifts and was seated at the head of the table! A table of 8. More embarrassment as I realised that it was a shared meal… people had contributed!  I did not foresee how much there would be to eat nor when I would get home! The next time we are invited by French people to a meal I MUST establish what I am expected to do: what should I bring?  What are the expectations for the guests?  I have made so many cultural faux pas that I don't want to make any more.
Let the Feast begin
I had missed the aperitif toasts (unlike an English toast) and the guests were eating escargots but I was presented with foie gras on toast (which they also had)  and a cockle shell containing 4 Coquille St Jacques in Beurre Nantaise. These days I eat the foie gras as I do not have the energy or language to remonstrate. "Hypocrite" I say to myself but it’s often such a nice creamy taste and THAT IS MY DILEMMA after 23 years of having been a vegetarian!
Then the 3rd course of  home-smoked salmon was heavenly.  A friend of G. obtains the salmon atlantique from his friend a poissonière, smokes it and slices it very finely.  It was oh so sweet and melted in the mouth. I had to have a second helping when it was offered to me.
Following that were the oysters. I don’t like imbibing salt water! I tried one… and remarkably, unlike previous experiences, there was no salty ocean, just a wonderful, slippery, weird experience which suggested I should have another, but I refused, as one was plenty!
The main course was a very large of Poitevin gigot of lamb with white creamy beans, (perhaps mogettes) with green haricots verts.  The lamb was deliciously sweet and melted in the mouth. The plate was full then empty!
Aumoniere de fromage du chevre avec miel et pignons was interesting but E. was disappointed because the cheese hadn’t melted and the pastry was like burnt paper. She is not yet used to the woodburner oven which was instlalled for their emergency moving in just a few weeks ago. I thought  the pastry needed to be more soaked with butter.
The mixed lettuces that the French call 'salade' was passed around the table.
Course 8 was dessert. A very fat slice of pear and chocolate roulade in bicoloured, marbled sponge was set before me!  OH MY… would I make it home and WHEN would I lose the weight I was adding to my figure!
 Course 9 consisted of Les Mendiants. Fortunately we could choose to have anything in between 0 and 13 of these ingredients from the platter of fruit and nuts. I chose prunes.
Coffee and chocolates came then tilleul (lime flower) tisane, then more coffee or more tea as stories and jokes abounded. I had intended not to be late home BUT I couldn't just get up and leave!  At midnight the Baby Jesus was put in his creche and Pere Noel had been hinted at with stories of childhood memories!
At 13h30 it was Christmas gift time.  More embarrassment but I noticed that not all guests exchanged gifts so I relaxed only to discover that I was receiving a wonderful, beautiful gift from a family whom I have only met once before! He is a medieval metalsmith and stone carver and I don't know what else. Except he's very funny!
Melusine et Chevan also received one of his wonderful sculptures.

At 14h30 everyone was still nattering and enjoying the morning. However, after 6 and half hours I had to get up from my seat for reasons of health and safety so decided I must reluctantly take my leave. Then more surprise as I was invited to eat again that day, Christmas Day, at another house but I felt quite rude when I declined giving the excuse that I would eat very little the next day, I mean Christmas Day. 
I am lucky to have such wonderful French friends who look after me.  I try to look after them and have supported them with their business events. At the moment their Ouessant mouton is mowing my lawn.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Wishing you all a seasonal feast full of warmth and kindness

With best wishes from SweetpeainFrance

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

21 12 2010 Winter begins

It has been the shortest day in our part of the Northern Hemisphere and I never noticed.

There was also a lunar eclipse but the cloud cover concealed the moon and the sun.  According to NASA it was the first time since 1638 that the two events coincided.
You could look at some amazing photos of the event here. 

So on this Winter Solstice the axis of the Earth we will be at it's utmost so that the North Pole will be angled 23.5 degrees away from the sun -- at 6:38 p.m. EST, after which the days will gradually grow longer until the summer solstice in June 2011.       
I could do with a few more hours of daylight and sunshine!
In ancient Rome the winter solstice was celebrated at the Feast of Saturnalia.. The Feast of Juul (Yule) was celebrated in pre-Christian Scandinavia.  However no one knows exactly when people first began to honour this important calendrial day.

In England and the UK people have had the coldest temperatures since records began and records suggest that it could be the coldest December since a Little Ice Age in the 1890s.
Minus 20 degrees has been recorded near where to Captain Sensible was born.

Today we have had a reasonably mild day.  One woodburner has been installed but not yet lit.   Only a small fire is allowed for up to 8 days when little by little the heat can be increased.  The other room is presenting a greater amount of angst, conundrum and concern.   The chimney place has to be finished. We thought the chap would be inserting the angular tubage but he had so many work-related problems yesterday.  After over 4 hours working by himself in stinging rain I think he was glad to be going back to base!  Having given some thought to the problem we have decided he must come and do what need to be done so that we can get on.

It's a grim season that's for sure.....we hope we can light the fires and get through the winter and progress further with the renovation.

But for all friends and family in the UK, it cannot be easy.  Thinking of you all.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

The Yellow Hand : La Main Jaune

Roundabouts in France are often very interesting and some can be spectacular.  This one is truly an interesting landmark. It is at a junction where the N10 meets the autoroute.  It was installed in August,  weighs 15 tonnes and is nearly 16 metres tall.  It was designed by a GP who enjoys sculpture.  Evidently, it symbolises the working world: apprentices, engineers, craftsmen, pensioners and other workers in and around Chatellerault, especially from 'The Manu' where once arms and later cutlery were manufactured.  That arms factory is now an excellent auto and velo museum.  The Yellow Hand took 7 years for volunteers to make.  If you can find the Yellow Hand then one cannot be lost!
Several years ago, whilst mosing about on French C roads, our road map did not reflect the actual lanes!  I wound the passenger window down to speak to two old boys in the pretty very rural village and explained that we were lost and could they help us!  I was told with a smile that one can never be 'LostinFrance' because one can always find out where one is.  Truly French logic!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

In memory of...

John Lennon and Little Feet.

Little Feet died three years ago.  Goodbye Little Feet. The rain lashed as it did yesterday and today.  We think she had been inadvertently poisoned by eating vermin.  She was a stay-at-home-cat, timid, loyal but a bully to her sister, becoming quite obese from eating cat biscuits, leaving little for her slender sister, the polydactylic supreme, Queen-of-cats, Mole-eater, Big Feet.  "God bless her cotton socks" as we laid her in her grave next to the only rose bush in the garden that Captain Sensible had acquired at this special place on La Balade des Plaisirs!  It has been a pleasure to have lived here as it was for Little Feet and is still for Big Feet.  Little Feet, alias Syrah, disliked people, keeping a distance.  The person she favoured the most, other than ourselves of course, was the writer, Neil Powell, poet and biographer, whose leather shoes she would always tumble upon, causing much merriment!   I do miss MissHeavyWeightMissPloddyLittleFeet who would stretch herself out on the mantelpiece above the woodburner or sit atop the piano eyeing us and pretending she was asleep.  I felt guilty that we had not got her to the vet earlier. I cried in grief for nearly a year.  Now Big Feet, alias Shiraz, has become fatter but not overweight and is still the French Tart, enjoying to have her tummy tickled.

When in 1980 on 8th December I heard that John Lennon had died I sobbed and I sobbed and I sobbed.  I could not believe assassination.  I can remember my sobbing, where I was and what I had been doing before and after;  then, it was just more devastation, grief and bereavement.  I still cry when certain of his songs and those of The Beatles touch my soul.  This is also how I feel about my life, even today, gripped with sadnesses, more as one becomes older.   For John was in love with Yoko and she was in love with him, and whatever we think about her or him or her music or their music,  I just loved the sound of his music, his images and films. The Beatles together or separately made a huge impression in my life. I laughed and cried and still do... happiness is.......

Listen to the tune to go with these words.

"There are places I'll remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I've loved them all"
John Lennon

He was my hero. Just imagine.

Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one 

My memories make me cry. Such a sad loss of my friends in music and in solace.   xxxxxxxxx
PS with grateful thanks to YOUTUBE.  BUT OF COURSE a much bigger thankyou to John and Yvonne for introducing us to Little Feat and Big Feet..........

Friday, 3 December 2010


We managed to step into the great unknown world today on two occasions.
1: We went to AsA thinking the oak flooring may arrive but no, it will be tomorrow.  However, it gave us a chance to assess the roads, which once we were through our lane were surprisingly clear and dry; to assess the materials we need to purchase; to assess the electric heater usage (it had been left on to dry out plaster) and to allow for another, yes, yet another, until the walls are flat, coat of 'jointe rapide' and of course a French mid-morning coffee break with the best croissants in the world from the boulangerie-on-the-hill.  Tomorrow, we will economise (slightly) with apple pancakes. One can't keep spending and being tempted at the lovely boulangerie!
2. After a quick cheese on toast with sauteed tomatoes lunch we headed into the outskirts of Poitiers to purchase tiles for the hearth.  Oh much deliberation from she who doesn't make decisions painlessly!   THEN she makes a choice only to discover that the tiles have to be ordered!  Eventually, acknowledging that 10 days still gives time before Christmas for the two poele-a-bois to be installed  she orders those more expensive ones and ALSO orders a different sort for the salle-de-bain.  She had to get her 5% discount on the LRM store card that she was inveigled into before the end of the year! Oups!  We also took advantage of the distance and leapt into the vast Auchan which is not as ENORMOUS as the one at Tours, to buy food, gas and petrol as stocks were perilously low.   ONE OF THINGS WE LOVE ABOUT WINTER is seeing how long we can go without shopping! Inventing meals can be quite innovative!  However, when there are no eggs and no fresh vegetables then it is imperative to shop! Of course this year we have the freezer filled with lamb and Captain Sensible for some inexplicable reason is into ice-cream. It goes nicely with bottled cherries! So we are never without food. We also have a lot of small potatoes from the potager which I am very happy to peel because it reminds me of maternal grandmother! Now, we have stocked up on fresh veg and fruit, a change of carnivorous protein, AND for me some French wine! It keeps me balanced!

Thursday, 2 December 2010


It's another snow no go day as we elect not to travel to do house renovations a 30 minute drive from here. It's all downhill into the valley and I expect the weather conditions may improve but then it's a consistently uphill climb and although we have a set of snow chains they are a nightmare to put on.

Bison-Fute indicate we are on an Orange alert..(nothing to do with FT!!)... indicating difficult driving conditions... not RED nor BLACK but one level up from GREEN which mean smooth with no driving difficuties.   Even so the woodburner is more inviting.

When we get there we'll have to turn the water on...and when we leave, turn it off. We have left the electric radiator on very low in one room to dry the plaster so it will be sort of cosy in there but the kitchen will be bleak! The comfort zone is pretty low there but not as difficult as with anyone who has to work with animals. I am thinking of my son, his lady and the horses.

 This is just a quick diversion before I settle to do admin work... and THINK about the possibilities of TRAVEL... later today or tomorrow.  In any case, we have to go tomorrow as the oak flooring is supposed to be arriving.  The company is from further south, West of France.  Do they realise what is white and is falling on the ground in this rural region?

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Roses in the Snowses

Winter wonder
Beauty in colour
Struggling flower