Archive for January, 2009

Two invitatons to lunch

January 26, 2009

Yesterday we were invited to lunch with Yvette. Naturally she included everyone – Bear , Whale, CC, Jay and me. Equally obviously, Bear gave his usual response.

“I’m not going if they’re going.”

Last time we left him on his own but as CC was feeling a bit under the weather and it is getting more and more difficult to heave Whale into the car we thought it might be an opportunity to let Bear go along while the others made the most of his absence from the house.

Fortunately Yvette is very understanding even though she was disappointed that only two of us would be going.

She had prepared a vodka and orange aperitif with a colourful variety of nibbles including blinis with taramasalata, cubes of mimolette, little balls of goat’s cheese, dried cranberries and nuts.

Bear ate a couple of goat’s cheese balls.

First course was a fish terrine: Bear refused to have any. Poor Yvette was upset and wondered what she could give him but I assured her he would be happy with bread.

“I’m not allowed bread at home.” he complained. True I am trying to get him to eat less carbohydrate because of his diabetes but he does eat baguettes – just not a whole one at a time!

The main course was monkfish in a delicious sauce served with rice and vegetables – carrots, sugarsnap peas and cauliflower.

Bear turned his nose up at the fish but said he’d have “a spoonful of the sauce”. He won’t ever eat rice but he did have a few pieces of vegetable.

Given the choice of gewurztraminer  or champagne he chose the latter.  Yvette had found something he liked at last.

Foodwise, it started to improve for him with  the cheese course when he had a large lump of comté – with more bread – and was persauded to taste the red wine, an absolutely delicious Listrac 1998.

For the first time in his life he actually took a liking to red wine and had a second glass, then a third.

Unfortuately that had the unpleasant efect of loosening his tongue and his bad mood.

He launched into a tirade against all of us, complaining to Yvette and Jean-Claude that he led a miserable life and it was all due to my selfishness.

Once again, Yvette took it all in her stride but I was struggling between anger and embarrassment.

He calmed down for dessert – vanilla icecream with prunes in brandy followed by a delicious chocolate mousse – and more champagne. Then it was coffee and chocolates.

He at least managed to praise our hostess on her cooking before letting off another outburst.

Enough was enough.  I insisted it was time to go home.

Next time we’ll leave him on his own!

Today we went to lunch with Marie and Michel who wanted us to share a meal with  their friend from Egypt who speaks English.  We’ve met her before  and she’s very sociable.

Marie knows Bear’s likes and dislikes and presented us with a wonderful lunch of Tarte au maroilles (cheese). (Bear had two helpings):  roast veal with green beans, mushrooms and potatoes: cheese with salad (Bear avoided the salad): peach melba and coffee with gateau au sucre.

Needless to say the meal was very well ‘watered’ with aperitifs, Pouilly Fumé, red wine (didn’t see the bottle but it was delicious), champagne and digestifs.

We all went into the lounge for conversation and


Bear fell asleep

                        and snored  –   loudly. . . . . . . .

At four o’clock I woke him and said it was time to go home.

Latest Little Problems (part 2)

January 24, 2009

Our supposedly cat proof fence let us down when we discovered a strange cat had got into the garden and couldn’t get out.

CC and Jay discovered the poor thing hiding under a tree. He was scared when they approached  and became frantic in his efforts to jump over the fence.

Eventually, as I was out at the time, Jay decided to open the ‘gate’ to allow him to escape.

That may sound simple, but, actually, the opening for the gate was closed in a rather haphazard way by yours truly.

Obviously, I was the only one who might have had some idea how to create an opening without causing chaos but Jay didn’t understand how my bits of wire and string were meant to work and he just made a gap as best he could.

The next two days were blessed with torrential rain and strong winds so our cats wouldn’t have gone out anyway but CC and I did venture into the garden to make sure the little lost cat had found his way out.

This morning it was calm and bright but freezing cold when I went out at 8 o’clock to mend the fence and the gate. It took me nearly half  an hour to bend back the ‘overhang’ that had blown inside out along two sides and re-do the ‘gate’.

Meanwhile, back inside, Whale (who seemed fast asleep when I went into the garden)  had been shouting loud enough to wake Bear and had eventually telephoned CC to come downstairs and check whether I was OK.

“Mum’s been out in the garden for twenty minutes. She may have fallen over.”

CC could see that I was mending the fence so she told him to stop fussing and went back to bed.

Life’s Latest Little Problems

January 24, 2009


Here it is: sitting there innocently in the garage, as though butter wouldn’t melt. . . . .

Our boiler has been a real pain in the backside recently. At least it waitied until the big freeze was over but for the last two weeks it has been playing tricks. Either the pilot light would go out or the security light would come on.

The first time the plumber came he showed me exactly how to relight the pilot but ten minutes after he left the security light came on.

He came back, put that right (showing me what to do again) waited to see if it would keep going and left, with a warning that something wasn’t quite right and to keep him posted.

Sure enough. It did not behave so he came back with a colleague who ‘understood that make’. The other plumber looked, fiddled and then scratched his head. They both spoke very fast but as far as I could gather they thought it might be a problem concerning draught, smoke and or chimney.

Once again, they left me to restart it if it stopped and to call if it didn’t behave.

Thank heavens for our lovely woodfire, fire3as the boiler spent more time off than on and eventually refused to restart at all.

The plumber and his mate came back this morning, readjusted the pilot light, disconnected the security light and said ‘see how it goes for the weekend.’

If the pilot light stays on then there must be a problem with the security system so they’ll change it. I just hope they really do know whta they’re doing. . . . .

The dentist.

January 14, 2009

We have two very charming dentists  at the local surgery but I’m never keen to go and see them because I have this problem with anyone touching my mouth.

Bear thinks I’m completely mad – or being difficult – because he can sit in a dentist’s chair for any length of time and allow them to do whatever is necessary.

I do my best to avoid check-ups and if I do get as far as the chair I usually say,

“You can look but you mustn’t touch.”

Fortunately my teeth are in pretty good condition and rarely need attention.

The few fillings I have had,  were done by a dentist in England who, looking back, probably did them when they weren’t necessary.

I say this because after a long wait in her surgery followed by a very quick inspection, she told me to make an appointment for a filling. I decided to change dentists and the new one couldn’t find any problems whatsoever.

Since I’ve got older my problem with dentists has become worse so when a tooth started ‘niggling’ I tried taking Hepar Sulph (a homeopathic antibiotic) in the hope of relieving it.

The tooth played up intermittently and so it was time to ‘bite the bullet’.

The secretaries were highly amused when I made the appointment as, not wishing to inconvenience the dentist, I asked if I could  chicken out at the last minute, if necessary,  and let Bear take my place as he already has a check-up booked for next month.

Our doctor came up just as I was talking about panic attacks.

“What’s all this about panic attacks?” she asked.

When I explained, she said, “Well, you can’t be worse than I am.”

Would you believe it, a doctor who feels the same and so fully understands my problem!

In the end, I took three doses of  ‘Triple A 1m’ and was on quite a high.

I managed to keep my mouth open long enough (and wide enough) for her to inspect the teeth, poke around a bit and even use her descaling machine for a few seconds.

She found no signs of decay but thought that the problem was caused by a filling irritating the gum.

It was a very happy bunny who hopped, skipped and jumped out of the surgery.

So it’s back to the Hepar Sulph. . . . . . .

For anyone interested, the second English class went well but  CC had four extra people in her group. She’s going to send two of them to me next time as they were struggling a bit to keep up.

Jeremy Kyle?

January 11, 2009

Bear came up with a classic this week.

“I think we should go on the Jeremy Kyle show. He’d soon tell you how selfish you are.”

If you don’t watch Jeremy Kyle (and I certainly wouldn’ t recommend it) it seems to be a talk show where family members take the opportunity to accuse each other of  all sorts of wicked deeds and more often than not have a televised shouting match. Yuk!!

Since Bear always has the volume up full I can’t help overhearing the programme and so I was able to counter attack:

“I seem to remember Jeremy Kyle saying that you should never put anyone before your own children.”

“Yes, but yours are adults now.”

“I know, but I’m talking about when they were little. You spent all your time trying to break us apart. You kept saying I put them before you. You couldn’t accept that I had enough love for all of you. And then you had the nerve to tell people that you didn’t think I cared about them because I ‘palmed them off on  their dad’ (i.e.Whale) at weekends.”

May I add here, that when we divorced, I had custody and control but rather than make official arrangements we agreed that the children should see their dad as and when it suited everyone. This meant that when they were very young we still went on holiday as a family but when they were older they had more say in when they wanted to go and stay with him.

Bear carried on complaining about what a hard life he has but I thought it wise to refrain from reminding him that I left him because I couldn’t face the prospect of  a ‘Derby and Joan’ existence with him when I retired. In attempting to separate my children and me he had succeeded only in driving a wedge between himself and me.

“Well, I intend to go on holiday ths year to get away from everyone,” he announced. “You can come with me if you want to.” he added grudgingly.

Fortunately  we arrived at the opthalmologist at that point. The waiting room was full to capacity and we had to sit at opposite ends.

By the time we got out, nearly two hours later,  he had forgotten the argument.

English Classes

January 7, 2009

Yesterday saw the first English classes at the library.

When it first opened I offered to take some English groups if there was a call for it but it seemed no-one was interested.

However,  just before Christmas the librarian asked if I would still be willing as there were a few keen adults.

Of course, I agreed  but when we learned there were over a dozen potential students and there was a mix of adults and children I decided to drag CC along  so that we could have two groups.

The secretary at the Mairie photocopied my handouts in the morning and I went along to the library in good time (partly to take back a well overdue library book) to prepare.

Isabelle, the librarian, offered tea or coffee with biscuits and chocolates – a pleasant surprise – and then we got out extra chairs and I tracked down the toilets (a necessity after a walk in cold weather followed by drinking coffee).

The ‘pupils’ turned up in dribs and drabs and we started about ten minutes late.  Just over half of them had done some English but the rest were complete beginners so we gave them the choice of  staying with CC for a more advanced approach or coming with me into the other room for the basics.

CC, who has never been enthusiatic about the idea of teaching, actually enjoyed herself and her students were full of praise for her.

We both went over the allotted hour because time passed very quickly. It looked like a good beginning but we’ll know for sure if they all turn up again next week.

Brrrr Winter

January 7, 2009

Compared to some countries we have not had that much snow but temperatures have dropped to their lowest for several years – it was minus 15  this morning – and I got up to find there was no well water. Fortunately we can switch over to mains water and I crossed my fingers that there were no frozen pipes.

The cats were pretty miserable as it was too cold to go outside and play.  Holly and Willow tried looking out of the the bedroom window:


This went a bit sideways – and yes, there are bars at our bedroom window. I think it’s to hold up the wall. . . . . . . .






Hasn’t Willow grown? She’s about as big as the others now but still as playful as a young kitten.


Pepper took up her favourite position on top of Whale’s television from where she can watch the world go by:pepperwindow


Not that much was moving outside this morning though.



Parsley, Chloe and Toby settled themselves on armchairs:parsleychair


Parsley looks pretty fed up, don’t you think?






Chloe is miffed that the radiator isn’t warm. (It’s been turned off since we got the woodstove)




But Toby snuggled down into his favourite armchair and dozed.





It was Mustard who bagged the warmest place, under the fire (which was alight despite appearances: it keeps in overnight if turned down).


On the subject ot the woodstove, Bear has been stoking it up with enormous logs which is not a good idea, so he decided to buy a log splitter.

We went to Leroy Merlin with the intention of finding a thing like an oversized chisel to hammer into the logs but came away with an electric one. fendeur                                      


The instructions were a bit frightening with loads of safety precautions but it actually works very well.

The only dicey moment was when I told Bear that the maximum size was 25 cms and some of our logs looked bigger than that.

“We’ll have to try one then,” he announced.

“But if it says 25cms is the maximum that must be for a good reason.”

“No, we have to try these things.”

He tried.       It got stuck.      I left him to sort it out.

All the same, we now have a good supply of wood cut into ‘bite-sized chunks’  for the stove.wood

Happy New Year

January 1, 2009

We had a pleasant family meal last night but I have to admit I found it hard to get excited about the new year.

It may have something to do with the economic problems – which seem set to become worse before they get better – and the terrible collapse of the pound which has cut our income by a third since we moved here.

Anyway, my half -formed resolutions are all about belt-tightening which, to look on the bright side may make losing weight a bit easier!

The cats had a great time last night. parsleyParsley polished off the remaining prawns from Jay’s canapes


and Willow enjoyed playing Trivial Pursuits.





The evening went something like this:

melon in port

onion soup

continued game of Trivial Pursuits we started  the night before


Vegetable lasagne and salad


finished Trivial Pursuits


coffee and panetone

Just in time for French New Year Celebrations

and then we stayed up to see the English new Year in, an hour later.

I, for one, was certainly ready to hit the hay after that. Willow was pretty worn out as well.byebyes

Here’s wishing everyone  a very Happy and Healthy 2009 .

If we can throw in a little bit of prosperity as well so much the better.