Les poissons en France

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Christmas Day in the Workhouse

On Christmas Day we went to our friends Judith and Simon but, obviously, before we went we had to open presents!
We had said that we wouldn't be doing presents, however we did give some small things to Guy, and so Sue and I had a token pressie each.
Yoda even had a parcel sent to him all the way from England from 2 feline admirers!
And as you can see, everybody was dressed up for the occassion.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Down in the Grotto...

...Santa's elves are very busy.  They are busy at Mas de Bouye as well!  I've started doing the jointing, although my first attempt yesterday failed to pass the inspection and, with a subtle change of colour and depth of joint, I was able to continue today.
And this is in addition to numerous consultations with the Clerk of the Works about the finish and colour of the plasterboard in the chimney hearth.  At various times it has been textured, then plain, white then black, stone colour and now pale grey.  Sue and Guy went to the shops yesterday and came back with colour charts and I now await the paint mixed to the required shade.

Happy Christmas.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Spirit Of Christmas

We would just like to share with you a couple of stories that have inspired us this year. John read an article in the Telegraph on 11th December entitled "What is it Like to Step on a Landmine". We urge you to go to the Telegraph site and put in this headline. It is about Ben McBean a young black Royal Marine Commando who is an inspiration to us all and in particular to the young people he now regularly speaks to. When asked about his white Mercedes he replies "it cost me an arm and a leg!!!"

John was so moved by this young man that he has just told me that he has written a poem about him.

“I don’t feel angry” he said
“Anyone can stand on a bomb”
Such philosophical maturity in this
Young squaddie puts me to shame.
Such positivity should make us
Grasp life with both hands,
And wring every last drop.
Why do we need such a life-changing event
To make us realise what we have,
How lucky we are,
To force us to use what time we have left.
We only have one life, one chance
Don’t fuck it up!

Our second story is about an inter-faith collaboration in Bradford. By pure chance a group of Muslims are helping a minute Jewish community in Bradford to renovate their synagogue. The Muslim leader says that really getting to know people of another faith is the way forward. They now share Ramadan feasts, Harvest Festivals with Christians and the evening meal before the Sabbath with the Jews. Please go to the Guardian and enter "Bradford synagogue saved by city's Muslims."

We personally share the sentiments of these two articles. Having faced adversity ourselves and by being shown the hand of friendship from French people in all aspects of life.

We wish you a very Happy Christmas and hope that you also will take a crumb of inspiration from these articles and if so we can take a lot of hope into the New Year.

A Gourmet's Feast

On Friday evening we were invited to have a meal with some friends here in the valley ... a meal themed around Truffles.
Our friend has been planting 'truffle' trees over the past 10 to 15 years and some of the first ones are now producing.
It is a bit of an inexact science as chance seems to play a large part in it. Will the spores grow and produce truffles, will the weather be right (not too wet, not cold) and we know that a lot of time is spent caring for the trees.  Bernard has been preparing a second plot for more 'truffle' trees (trees which have had their roots treated with the mycellium) over the past 4 to 5 years, clearing the land of trees and brush (he had to chop down 80 cubic metres of wood), clearing and breaking up rocks, erecting a fence to keep the deer out, planting the trees and finally creating a reservoir for rainwater to avoid having to cart water there in the summer.
Now the trees are producing and Bernard said that the truffles shown in the picture above would be worth about 600 euros!  This years crop is just coming on the market at anything from 1000 to 1200 euros a kilo!!!  This means that our meal must have used up to 100 euros worth of truffles.

We started with nibbles of sliced truffle on a piece of toast spread with truffle infused butter, then we had scrambled egg made with some cream and grated truffle accompanied with a chicory salad.  This was followed by a whole, small Brie sliced to make a cake with a filling of mascarpone and grated truffle. This had been prepared 2 days in advance and cling-wrapped and hence the cheese had an intense flavour of truffles!  We finished the meal with the only non truffle course, a caramel cream with toasted pain epice, a spicy honey cake.  The meal was,of course, served with a sweet white wine to enhance the truffles and then a red wine .. because one does!

A fabulous evening with lovely people.  A step nearer Christmas.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Memory and Celebration

I popped back to England a few weeks ago to spend a couple of days with my Aunty Pauline who was ill in a hospice.  She died the next week and so we went to Lincolnshire for the funeral yesterday.  It was a Memorial but also a Celebration of a long and full life.  Pauline had requested that I led the 'service' and so it became a very personal occasion of grief and remembrance.

It seems somewhat ironic that a time of sadness can also be a time of happiness in recalling fond memories.
For me, Pauline dying was the end of a generation and so I end with something for her.

The Measure of a Life

What is the measure of a life lived well?
How do we put aside our emotions
To see the true value of a friend?
Not by material possessions,
Nor the imposter of fame.
These do not tip the balance;
No judgement on external show.
The worth of a lifetime's endeavour
Is based on more human signs,
A warm and open smiling face 
For all who come in need;
A love of family, a love of friends
And a joy in all of life.
The measure of a life lived well
Cannot be weighed or measured.
No science here, no mathematical proof,
Just a feeling deep from the heart,
For we all know when we've been touched
By the joy of a well lived life.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Christmas has Begun

This year we decided to start the Christmas celebrations with a party. So we invited all of our friends and also French friends that we've made at the Bridge Club ... and surprisingly, everyone accepted our invitation, all 33 of them!  Sue has been preparing for the past few weeks cooking and making Christmas decorations but then I was called in to help.  Friday we cleaned the house and then Saturday we cooked.
It reminded us of our previous life as caterers!

We were up at 6 o'clock this morning and didn't stop for anything to eat; the time pressure was on as everyone had been told to arrive for 12!  And they did.
The party went very well and we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. 

Fortunately the weather was so good that people could sit outside in the warm afternoon sun.
Now that's what I call a Christmas party.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Progress Report

I am not moving on quite as quickly as I had hoped with preparing the salon for the man to fit the stove but life does sneak up on you sometimes.  However, I collected the stove itself this week and, with the help of a friend we managed to get it off the lorry I had hired and into the porcherie.  It is heavy and I am going to unpack it and see if I can take some bits off/out to lighten it.  Then perhaps, when Guy is here at Christmas time we can move it upstairs.
I bought some sheets of fire-retardant plasterboard whilst I had the lorry and I put some on the wall in the chimney.
The more difficult job will be to put the plasterboard up into the chimney to seal it off.  That definitely will be a 2 man job!

Monday, December 02, 2013

Early Winter

Once the frost came it decided it was going to stay, so we have regularly had sub zero temperatures, the lowest of which so far was minus 6. We don't remember having temperatures as low as that before Christmas since we have lived here.  But the climate is changing so they tell us. So far my geraniums are surviving in the porcherie (although I don't like to shout too loudly). They are literally wrapped up in old sleeping bags!!

When John came back from the UK he brought me "The English Garden" magazine which was full of the customary photographs of plants covered in frost which grace all gardening magazines at this time of year. So not to be out done I went out with the "brownie" this morning.