Sunday, 25 January 2015

Just odds and ends!

I'm afraid there's not much to tell you but I didn't want the week to slip by without any sort of update.

After a number of weeks of rain, we have had some dry, bright and sunny days.  But cold!  On Friday I noticed that the gauge in the car was showing -1°C.  Brrrr!  Still, we can't complain as northern France and indeed, the UK, has had snow and ice.  Here are just a couple of photos I took recently, the first of sunny, blue skies and the second from yesterday evening.

Our well-laid plans to get various projects done through the winter have stagnated somewhat!  I have had all good intentions to start stripping the wallpaper from the lounge walls but as yet haven't made a start!  I'm determined to crack on with it this week though!  Danny has finished putting wood stain on the part of the staircase that had been enclosed and it looks very nice.  Here's a picture of the finished thing and as you will see, one advantage of having an open staircase is that we can see if our cat Whisper is on her way down!

I am getting on well with my training for My Peak Challenge walking a bit further every time I go.  Today, Finn and I walked for 4.9km.  And with Finn it is always a good workout because he walks quickly (I should say, he trots, really!) and isn't too interested in stopping to sniff at anything!  I may have to revise my goal as it is clear that I'll achieve the 5km very soon!  Do have a look at My Peak Challenge Diary at the top of the blog.  I've revised it so that the most recent entry is always at the top and I try to update it every few days or so.  And I thought you might be interested to see the seemingly endless path where I do this walking.....

On a completely different subject, Danny and I went to the cinema yesterday!  Believe it or not, it was the first time we had ever gone to the cinema together!  Danny's not a particular lover of the cinema and somehow we've just never been!   (In the UK, we used to rent films on DVD so it was never an issue!).  Anyway, I heard that there was to be a screening of the film Paddington in English and we decided to go.  It was at a very, shall we say, intimate cinema in the town of Parthenay.  Here's a photo I took of it while we waited for the film to start (much to Danny's embarrassment!)..

As regards the film itself, it was wonderful and I can't recommend it highly enough!

So, that's about it for this update.  Maybe there'll be more news - or more interesting news! - next time.  I will just leave you with one last photo.  I noticed the little snowdrops in this flower bed this week and quickly rushed to take a photo.  I think they are such marvellous flowers, braving the elements and forcing their way through despite the cold weather....

And that's it for this time.

À bientôt!



Saturday, 10 January 2015

Bonne Année!

"Bonne Année" is the way we wish each other "Happy New Year" here in France.  And it's what I wish all of you who read my blog.

Unfortunately, France has not had a good start to 2015 as has been well documented and broadcast around the world.  But, despite the tragedies of recent days, life must go on and if we are ever to defeat terrorism, we must not let these atrocities stop our normal life.

So, with that in mind, let me first tell you about the way in which we saw in this New Year.  I think I mentioned last time that we had been invited to a party.  Unfortunately for our lovely hostess, most of her invited guests had to cry off for various reasons, leaving just six of us.  But, actually, I didn't mind as it turned into an impromptu dinner party instead!  Here we are, the table groaning with food (she's a woman after my own heart!) at midnight with our very own firework display - well, our sparklers!
In France, the Christmas festivities don't end with the coming of the New Year because Epiphany is celebrated on 6th January.  And we celebrate it by eating a special cake of puff pastry and frangipane, which is a kind of custardy cream made from almonds.  The cake is called Galette des Rois.  An alternative is a Brioche des fruits confits, which is in fact what I bought for usRather than go into details myself, for those who want to know more, click here to see a lovely video explaining it all.  If you do, you'll understand when I say, "J'ai trouvé la fève!"  And here is a photo of my little fève - I've stood her next to a wine bottle so you can get an idea of the size!

I understand there are whole collections of fèves, ranging from Disney figures to the more serious santons (nativity figures) that can be collected and I guess that's what children do.  In the first year we were here and we started going to the vide greniers (boot sales), we wondered why table after table had dozens of these tiny figures for sale.  Then the following Christmas we found out about the Epiphany tradition and it all fell into place!  But there are some serious collectors (aren't there always!) and even - somewhere - a musée des fèves.

At home, we have had a fairly quiet and slow start to the year.  We have started work on the lounge; our friend Les has made a super new door for the cupboard under the stairs and Danny has started to put wood stain on it and on the previously unexposed part of the staircase.  I have plans to start stripping the wallpaper this week.

Now the biggest thing I want to tell you about is my new fitness challenge.  I mentioned it in my last post and I can now give you more details.  If you look above this post on my blog, you will see a new page called "My Peak Challenge 2015". Click on it and you will be able to read all about what I am trying to do.  As you will see, my goal is to walk at least 5km on the weekend of 14/15 March and in doing so, raise some money for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research.  (I have also added a diary page which I hope to add to from time to time).
So, pretty much every day, I go out for a walk, along an old disused railway track which has been concreted over and is used by walkers, runners and cyclists.   I take one of the dogs with me, and I try to walk a bit further each day.  On the first day I walked 1.6km and today, after 8 days, I walked 2.6km.  The pace varies depending on which dog I have with me; Bertie (our English setter who will be 12 years old in May) likes to sniff every blade of grass and my arms get as much a workout as my legs as he yanks me from side to side!  Also, he doesn't like to move too quickly!  The opposite extreme is Finn, our 4.5  year old Irish Setter, who bounces alongside me like a four-legged pogo stick!  And I sense that he's itching to just GO!  Somewhere between these extremes is Liam, the other Irish setter, who will be 4 years old in April.  He is perfect company, trotting along beside me, keeping to heel and at my pace!  So far, I am enjoying this new venture; I have been out in the rain, the wind and today, beautiful sunshine and it makes me feel quite invigorated.  Eventually I will encourage friends and family to support me by making a donation to the charity but it seems to me that you would not want to do that unless and until I reach my goal!  In the meantime, please read the My Peak Challenge 2015 page if you want to know more. 
So, that's about it for now. 
Stay safe everyone and I'll be back soon!  À bientôt!