Archive for December, 2009

Christmas 2009

December 28, 2009

So Christmas is over, once again, and we’re all trying to recover from the effects of over-indulgence – except that today is Whale’s birthday and Jay is cooking yet another feast.

My favourite memories of the last few days include several phonecalls with my newfound sister, family meals with Bear behaving reasonably well (although he has had one or two tantrums) and  the cats enjoying themselves and making the most of unusual toys;

There’s just New Years Eve to get through with another special meal and then it’s thoughts of diet once again.

Hope everyone of you had a really good Christmas and that 2010 will bring you everything you wish for, especially Health and Happiness.

An amazing Christmas Present

December 23, 2009

If I gave you thirty guesses you would never  imagine the early Christmas present I’ve just had.

Would you believe it – I have discovered two half sisters I never knew about!

Maybe I’ve mentioned before that I never knew my father and my parents separated when I was a baby. It was a pretty acrimonious divorce: my mother refused my father any contact and even told me he wasn’t contributing to my support, when, in fact, he was until I was 16. She put the money in a Post Office Account and gave it to me years later.

Anyway, sometime ago I started a family tree on Genes Reunited and the day before yesterday I received a message from R who is the youger of my father’s two daughters with his second wife.

She sent me a photo  and it was amazing to look at her picture and say to myself,

“That’s my sister!”

She also sent me a family photo so that I could ‘meet’ my three nephews – really handsome lads.

We have already exchanged umpteen emails and some more photos and last night we talked for well over an hour. By a strange coincidence my father remarried in the same year that my mother did and he died just two months after she did in 1997.

We have so much catching up to do but I already feel completely  ‘at home’  with her. She sounds really friendly and easy to get on with. Dare I say it’s as though we’ve known each other much longer than 48 hours.

She is hoping to come and see us in the Spring. I can’t wait to meet her.

Don’t you think that’s the most amazing Christmas present ever?

The Tale of the Boiler

December 18, 2009

Isn’t it just typical that at the first sign of  minus temperatures our boiler decides to go on the blink.

On Sunday afternoon I turned the radiators on upstairs ready for the return of CC and Jay who had been to see friends and do some shopping in England.

By the evening all the radiaters downstairs were cold and by Monday morning there was only one radiator working – the one directly above the boiler.

I phoned the plumber and he popped in to have a look that afternoon.

“It’s the pump” he declared and said he would fit a new one as soon as he could but that he was inundated with work which all had to be done before he left to visit family for Christmas next week.

So I was pleasantly surprised when he came back on Wednesday clutching the replacement pump.

“It’s a quick job” he claimed.

But well over an hour later he was scratching his head because the system was still stone cold.

“Can’t understand why it’s not working” he muttered but he couldn’t wait any longer chez-nous. He had other clients waiting.

I began to imagine the festive season grouped round the wood stove. All very well if there was a spirit of goodwill towards all men but, knowing our lot, that wouldn’t be very likely – at least, not for a whole week.

Then at nine o’clock this morning, there he was, bless him, with a mate in tow.

They both spent the morning bleeding the radiators (which we’d aleady done), turning them on and off,  scratching about in the attic and generally uttering a few (mild I think) expletives. There were also a few remarks about how the previous owner, who had ‘renovated’ the house himself, must have been a ‘cowboy’.

I kept them supplied with coffee and even invited them to have lunch with us: anything to keep them here until the job was done.

But they went off at midday, promising to return with some parts – and, hopefully, some more ideas.

This afternoon they beavered away in the garage and then called me to look at the muck they had found in the pipes. It wasn’t limescale, it was MUD!

It took them nearly a couple of hours to dismantle and unblock the boiler and then put it back together. They then tried  a more powerful pump than the one already refitted and changed three valves which are supposed to automatically purge the system and prevent airlocks.

Finally, to everyone’s relief, the boiler fired and the radiators started to heat up.

“I’ll have to come back after the holiday to put in a cleaning product to make sure we get rid of all that dirt” said Mr C.

They sat down to another yet coffee and a slice or two of gingerbread and then went off into the cold.

They still had another call to make.

French Officialdom

December 10, 2009

Whale received a stramge letter last week. It was from the Caisse Primaire which deals with health amd social security and said that he had declared the loss of his Carte Vitale but that it had been used by the nurse and therefore this was a FRAUDULENT ACT liable for a fine.

This was rather worrying because the card has never been lost and we certainly hadn’t declared a loss officially.

A friend of mine helped me to write a suitably official letter to explain this but I also telephoned  first thing on Monday morning.

It transpired that they had made a mistake – and admitted it! -but, because the card is officially lost we had to return it and apply for a new one. This could take a long time. Meanwhile we will have to use an Attestation – a piece of paper setting out Whale’s right to treatment – which is not nearly as convenient.

The second slight scare we had was when returning from a trip in town, with Bear driving, we were stopped by a stern looking gendarme just as we approached our road.

He indicated that we should pull into the church carpark and asked for the paperwork.

Bear handed him the folder where he keeps it all, but his driving licence wasn’t with it. He had to get out of the car – with difficulty –  and fish out his wallet. He had forgotten what a French licence looks like so I had to find it for him.

The policeman checked everything thoroughly and then walked all round the car examining it carefully.

At this point, the maire walked past, greeted us with two kisses, shook hands with the gendarme and started chatting about the Repas des anciens on Sunday.

Then, suddenly, he broke into a smile, handed back the papers and said we could go.

He stood in the road to wave us out of the carpark and we drove home with relief.

Bear is going to be on the road for a bit longer. . . . . .

Oh Christmas Tree!

December 5, 2009

Who would have thought that organising the Christmas tree could cause strong feelings?

Well, knowing this household,  perhaps it’s not that surprising.

Jay and I managed a trip into town without Bear and on the way back Jay suggested going to buy a tree.

We had a bit of an argument because I wanted to get a smaller one but in the end we compromised: I chose the shape but he chose the size. . . . .

It was impossible to get it into the house without  Bear noticing and he started complaining about it being too soon, too big and absolutely impractical.  Good start.

Jay and I looked for the tree ‘support’ that is usually kept in the garage but it was nowhere to be found. We searched the attic and eventually asked Bear if he’d  ‘seen’  ( a euphemism for hidden away) it anywhere.

This led to further grumblings and chunterings and Jay went upstairs in a huff.

Bear dragged the tree into the garage and was there for some time. When  he emerged  I found that he had sawn off quite a few of the lower branches so that the tree could be put into a ‘bucket’.

I managed to persuade him that he’d done enough  and we’d  ‘finish in daylight tomorrow’.

Jay and CC came down, saw what he’d done to the tree and weren’t happy! They decided to wait until Bear went to bed so that they could do it their way. This meant going out in torchlight to bring in earth, stones and a suitable container. 

 We planted the tree in the pot while it was still wrapped up but Willow managed to find a way in!

Eventually, after going outside for yet more soil, the tree was stable and we set it free.

Willow thought it was a great indoor climbing frame and managed to shimmy her way around inside it with ease, popping her head out from time to time. 

We went to bed wondering whether it would still be standing in the morning.

As soon as he woke, Bear was off again.

“I know what they were up to last night. Why they have to do everything so soon I don’t know. You rush into things. You don’t think. It’s all your fault. If you were a good mother you’d give them a good hiding!”

Fortunately, by the time CC and Jay came down, Bear was in a co-operative mood and was talking about looking out the lights. As I had started the mincepies  it was CC who helped him untangle them and the tree was decorated without further argument.

Willow had to be banished to the conservatory though.

All in all, CC did a great job of making the tree look gorgeous and we finished on a very cheerful note with mulled wine and mincepies –  a family tradition of ours to start  the Christmas season when the tree and decorations are put up.

But Willow was still determined to play a major role:

 

P.S. If anyone is interested, having just celebrated my 65th birthday, I’m copying Z’s idea and posting a look back at my life on my other blog (see top right corner.)

Birthday Weekend

December 1, 2009

On Saturday I turned 65 and enjoyed a really lovely weekend thanks to family and friends.

With a bit of prodding from CC, Bear bought me the whole set of DVDs for Upstairs Downstairs, but what I  appreciated most of all was the fact that he remained incredibly sweet tempered the whole time!

Yvette invited us for cake and champagne in the afternoon and then Jay cooked a delicious meal of carrot and beetroot soup followed by  cod in provencale sauce and rounded off with the most beautiful chocolate gateau I’ve ever seen – or tasted – which came from a very good patisserie in town.

Coffee was accompanied by a 25 year old Armagnac – a present from CC and Jay – and then we ALL  played Trivial Pursuits until well after midnight.

Bear won and I came second but we realised that our sets of questions are terribly out of date. We’ll have to get some new ones.

As for presents, I’ve never been so spoilt.  My friend from Athens sent this wonderful display of flowers and Yvette gave me a trinket box, an ornament of a cat and Dewey, by Vicki Myron – the true story of an abandoned kitten who was adopted by the staff at a library – translated into French.

Our friends from the next village gave me some hyacinths nicely arranged in a hanging basket, my neighbour popped in to present me with a cat themed manicure set and matching notepad and pen, Bear’s elder daughter sent me some handcream, (she always remembers my birthday – bless her) and, as well as the wonderful armagnac, CC and Jay gave me a CD of Mozart’s Horn Concerto.

You’d think that was enough of a celebration wouldn’t you, but it continued on Sunday, in a way, because it was the Christmas Repas des Anciens.

When we left at quarter past twelve I was still feeling  very full from the previous evening and rather regretted that I’d accepted the invitation for the meal.

However, once we had arrived and kissed or shaken hands with everyone there was quite a long wait before the meal began.

First came the champagne and nibbles, supplemented by slices of pizza.  The starter was salmon in sorrel sauce, followed by the Trou Normande – sorbet with mirabelle brandy –  and the main course was venison accompanied by apple and cranberries, sprouts and dauphinoises potatoes. Then came cheese (brie) with lettuce and desert consisted of individual raspberry charlottes.

Coffee was served with tarte au sucre, a local confection of round brioches liberally coated with sugar.

This year’s entertainment was a couple who, between them, sang and  played accordeon, saxophone and keyboard with a ‘canned’ accompaniment. It wasn’t bad, but they weren’t as good as last year’s performers and they were far too loud

Bear and I were among the first to leave at about 6 o’clock but no doubt the dancing went on for another hour or so.

I have to say it was the best birthday weekend I’ve had for many a year but, even today, I’m still feeling incredibly full!