Saturday, 31 January 2009

Boxed Memories 1

Last year my Dad sold up his bungalow and everything had to be sorted through. Since he is now in a care home permanently, not much could go with him Luckily he is not a hoarder like my Mum used to be and is very practical. Not a lot went with him!

But the rest of us chose items that we wanted to keep. Most of the family are good like Dad but I am sentimental and knew there would be things that would come with 'memories attached' for me.

My sisters and brother were great - boxing up everything until I could be there to go through it all. Lesley's garage was filled up!

At Christmas, because Richard and the girls drove over, he was able to bring back the boxes for me........and I have (this last week) started sorting through them. With help from the girls of course!! Looks like they are chips of MY block rather than Richard's! They wanted 'everything' that Nanna and Grandad had collected over the years!

The next few posts are dedicated to some of the things I came across........
***
My Dad was born in 1928 and celebrated his 21st birthday in 1949.

And, would you believe it, we came across a few of his 21st birthday cards! There was one from his Mum/Dad, one from a workmate (Bob) and one from his cousin and her husband (Mary & Charlie).

And (very special) one from his fiancée - our Mum!

This means his Mum, my Nanny, must have saved them all the time until she died, through at least one move that I remember.

And then my Dad/Mum must have also, through at least two moves.

Incredible! I do not think I have kept even one of my 21st birthday cards!

Dad's cards were so pretty and detailed. Not at all like today's ones. The girls and I thought them lovely, and definitely worth saving since two generations had already taken the time and effort to keep them safe.

Friday, 30 January 2009

Homework Pitfalls

Nowadays, I hate homework.

Specifically, testing Nic on her homework.

Even more specifically - her French homework!

Tonight it was CONDITIONNEL PRESENT and the CONDITIONNEL PASSE tenses of DRE verbs.

The sentence above should give you a hint - got it yet?!

The INFINITIF are given in capital letters, which means that the accents are missed off.

So when I say the infinitives, she looks puzzled. I then spell them, and she goes - Oh! You mean.......

Basically, Nic has to correct my mispronunciation before she can understand the question, in order to answer it!

Then we move on to the slightly different stresses between the AN and EN syllables.......

Laughing?! You are laughing?!

Well, try testing a native French speaker with these:

1. Infinitif = REPONDRE

What are the CONDITIONNEL PRESENT and the CONDITIONNEL PASSE ?

2. Infinitif = REPANDRE

What are the CONDITIONNEL PRESENT and the CONDITIONNEL PASSE ?


Smart-alecs!

PS
1 = j'répondrais, j'aurais répondu
2 = j'répandrais, j'aurais répandu


PPS
Just incase you are patting yourselves on the back, I chose the EASY ones to test you with!

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Father Of A Teenage Daughter

Richard's solution for an amorous boyfriend!

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

All Free!

Can you believe it! There are generous people in this area of the world who are happy to give away their surplus things!

We all have far too much in our cupboards, caves and children's bedrooms -yes, I do mean you, LeeLee & Nic!

So if you live in the Languedoc - why not have a clear out and support this wonderful initiative.

C'est Gratuit has been set up by Lizzie who owns/runs a bed & breakfast (le Couvent) in nearby Roujan.

Before you are tempted to give a good home to the items listed, do try to give away lots first!

I have just got to persuade our two daughters that their bedrooms should be less cluttered.....

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Food, Glorious Food!

We love food, as anyone who has seen Richard and I has probably guessed. But what the hell - what else is retirement for!!!

And we are very lucky in that just about all our friends love food as well. What does that tell you about how we choose our friends?!

We get to enjoy so many meals in their homes or at restaurants.

Now this is what I call a prawn!And look at this duck. Riet & Albert commissioned a family member to make the perfect carving board with a deep 'moat' so that all the juices are saved. Friends Jan & Alex trreated us to a wonderful meal at a local restaurant - including a melting chocolate fondant. The foie gras was to die for but since I was eating it at the time, no photo was taken!

Monday, 26 January 2009

Where There's a Will .....

....... there's a way!

Cat biscuit is more expensive than dog biscuit, per kilo.

It is obviously more expensive to make something into smaller morsels! Either that or the producers think that cats are more discerning and have to have better ingredients. Well, let's be honest, dogs eat anything whilst cats are fussy.

Or so I have always thought.

Smokie will not eat anything raw. Offer her uncooked fish, prawns or meat - and she stalks off in a huff because she thinks you are trying to poison her.

Her normal biscuit contains morsels in four different colours - dark brown (meat flavoured?), light brown (more meat?), green (vegetable) and beige (cereal). And since she considers that she is a Midi meat-eater who will put up with veg, she always leaves the cereal.

We have to leave it in her bowl for at least three days (refusing to top it up) before she finally gives in and eats it.

Being a sucker (or just a shopper who forgot his glasses), Richard bought her an alternative 'flavour' of biscuit this month.

And she is refusing to eat it at all now!! However long we leave it in her bowl.

Amd then we found out why she was not withering away into an unfed skeleton........Yes, that is the dog's dinner bowl she is standing in. With her head, shoulders and front two legs deep inside the dog's bag of biscuit!

Having taught Xena that her life would not be worth living if I ever found her nicking biscuit out of the bag - she was sitting, just out of sight of this photo, almost in tears!

Sunday, 25 January 2009

False Meconium Syndrome

A recent medical study has concluded that eating blueberries every day improves your memory and significantly slows down (and indeed inhibits) the onset of alzheimers.

Wow! Impressive or what!

There is one catch however - you get 'false meconium syndrome'.

Yep! In layman's terms, you get black pooh. Similar in colour and texture to that which new born babies produce.

Well, just to be different, our dog will have 'false meconium syndrome' by tomorrow. I can guarantee it.

Not because we have force fed her blueberries, but because she tugged and tugged at a tissue sticking out of the kitchen bin whilst we were out. And managed to get hold of the black wax coating that had sealed a tasty cheddar cheese I brought from the UK. Well sucked, we expect it to reappear tomorrow in the garden.......

PS
Look at that Little Black Bomber from the Snowdonia Cheese company in Wales! A delicious cheddar, if you ever get the chance to try it!

Saturday, 24 January 2009

One Rock .....

.... short of a stone wall.

Will someone please point out to our dumb cat that mice do not generally pop out of the gaps in the stone walls of our houses down here.

Especially the gaps that are six feet UP the wall! Did I hear someone say DOH?!

Friday, 23 January 2009

Glossy And Purple

Look at this gorgeous 'aubergine' jug! I must find out more about it.

PS
It is purpley/blue, honest. It is the flash that made it look so blue in the photo!

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Too Many Cooks.....

.... in the kitchen?Of course not! Every one is an essential member of the culinary staff! Well I was anyway ..... not sure about the rest!

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Pre-Emptive Strike

Before anyone starts to mention that only blogging about our cat, dog and the children is boring to read - I wanted to point out that not much actually happens down here in the middle of the countryside.

Other than to the aforementioned cat, dog and children!

I could of course mention that LeeLee visited her boyfriend this weekend. The boyfriend who turned out to have 'le gastro'.

I could go on to detail the number of times she threw up herself before we finally agreed on Monday that she really was not well enough to go to school and infect another hundred friends when she 'bisoued' them!

I could mention the fact that her mother was then up all night sitting on the throne having obviously gotten too close to her sick daughter!

But then - that would have been boring as well, wouldn't it! And stomach churning!

PS
Before anyone asks - I did not rush to get the camera when LeeLee was worshipping the porcelain-bowl God. I am not that callous a blogger, desperate for stories to write about!

PPS
Unclean! Unclean!
Even loving parents do not want their daughter getting too close when she has 'le gastro'! PPPS
Note to parent. Point out to child that snogging someone with an obviously contagious bug, is NOT a clever thing to do!

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

A President To Remember

Will we remember where we were and what we were doing the day that America's first black president was inaugurated?

I think we will.

I am not sure it was something I expected to see in my lifetime, but it was an event I watched with our daughters - and we were all moved by it.

Sixty years ago, Barrack Obama would not have been allowed to sit on the same bus with white people. He would not have been allowed to eat in the same restaurants.

It brought home to us all how things have changed so much for the better - in actual living memory. The reality sixty years ago is something that our daughters' generation has no concept of.

They discussed segregation in their history lessons this last week. To them, 'history' implies a century or so ago. Not a time when their aunts and uncles (even some parents) were alive!

I wish President Obama, America and indeed the World all the best wishes for the future. Things ARE changing. And for the better.

It took one very brave and determined black woman to refuse to stand up on a bus whilst the white passengers sat down.

Individuals CAN make a difference in the long run.

Monday, 19 January 2009

It's A Cat's Holiday

At least someone in our household appreciates my homemade soup!But me thinks we either need to get bigger dining room chairs, or Smokie is due to go on a diet! Although how she has got so fat with mice this small in our house is beyond me! Maybe it is all skin and fur.....soon to be renamed 'baggy puss'.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

It's A Dog's Life

You just find your favourite sunny spot on the terrace and settle down for a snooze - when the sun moves!
***
Poor old Tara, the Great Dane, did not have a good Christmas!Having found that her gut was blocked, she was rushed into surgery. This was dangerous since at six years of age, she is considered a VERY old lady.

The vets, just as quickly, rushed her home again for Christmas Day - they did not want to be on duty keeping an eye on her at the surgery!

Then back she went on Boxing Day..... only to be told that she would have to be on a liquid diet for the next six weeks.

All that leftover turkey and ham - and not allowed to eat it!!

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Only Mad dogs ......

.... and Englishmen.

What happens when a wife leaves her English husband alone, with their two daughters, in a foreign country for a short while?

Does he do the housework?
The laundry?
The school runs?

Yes, of course! As well as ............ deciding to produce home-made bacon because our local supermarket is having a foire de porc at ridiculously cheap prices!It was delicious, by the way!

PS
Did you know that there are people in this world who have uploaded home videos of themselves making bacon in their kitchens? I kid you not!

PPS
What about beer? Good old fashioned real ale?
Now, I would like to come back to some of that after I have been away!!

Friday, 16 January 2009

Getting the Knives Out

When we did our wedding list (all those years ago!), we chose a set of cutlery that we liked.

We were given 4 complete place settings as presents and (when we could afford it) gradually added some ourselves.

Then, one short of a complete canteen, they stopped producing it! Were we annoyed or what.

Moving on several years, we looked everywhere for a good quality cutlery design that would hang up (because I hate everything stuffed into drawers). And finally found one in John Lewis. Surely now we could build up a full set!

You guessed it - after collecting nearly, but not quite, 12 place settings - it was discontinued!! Now we were FURIOUS because no one did anything even remotely similar even though we searched the Internet incessantly.

Then this Christmas we opened our present from my eldest sister and her husband (thank-you Lesley and Steve!) - and it was a cake knife and slice that EXACTLY matched our hanging cutlery. Unbelievable!It was from a charity organisation called Tearcraft that has set up workshops in India to produce a range of items for sale.

I was on their web site like a shot hoping to be able to buy the items we are missing by unfortunately they only do a few in this style.

So we are still looking - if you know of any cutlery like ours, please contact me!

Thursday, 15 January 2009

When Only Mum Will Do ........

....... to chivvy, nag and generally get things done!

LeeLee is eighteen years old and wants to go to university in October 2009.

However, having always yearned to go to Uni in London, she has been having serious doubts about whether the student lifestyle there is going to be too big a culture shock after settling into life here in France.

She is even questioning going back to the UK at all. She rather likes the sound of Montpellier!

Following sensible advice, LeeLee is however keeping both options open and hoping to apply to both - which is where things get interesting and complex.

Applications for Cambridge University (one of her UK choices) closes October 2008.
Applications to other UK universities closes 15 January 2009.
Applications for French universities START 20 January 2009!

For UK applications it is necesary to have a reference from your college.
In France, however, these do not exist. A dossier, that has been added to throughout your schooling, is sent to the universities - the lycées do not understand or provide references.

So we started early. Last April (2008) we asked LeeLee's lycée for a reference. We printed off, and translated, all the informatiuon we could find about references for them.

The reference was finally given to us November 2008. Too late for LeeLee to apply to Cambridge. A bummer, but that's life and we moved on.

For applications through UCAS, the student has to provide a personal statement. LeeLee has been working on hers since last April.

And by Christmas it was still VERY ropey to say the least. It is all well and good searching and reading examples provided by UCAS on the Internet, but there are only so many times you should put 'fascinated by', 'thrilled by' and 'yearning to learn more' when discussing why you want to do Mathematics at university!!!

I have been in the UK for a few weeks, and before I left I reminded LeeLee AGAIN that the deadline was imminent.
That she still had to finalise her personal statement.
That the reference still had to be translated.

I flew back on the 11 January, to find that things had not moved on much at all. She had indeed given her personal statement to Richard to read, and he said it was appalling.....

....so there I ended up, sitting at the computer with LeeLee until midnight of the final day, getting her application in.

And we made it. Just.

God help her if she does not get any offers!!!!

And God help the UK universities if they accept her.

Are Dads' bonnets the things to wear there?!?! Do students need to be awake for lectures?!

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Cosy Tea

We received an inspired pressie from my brother and his wife for Christmas. A tea cosy!Now you might think that everyone and their Granny has one - but they are impossible to find down here (tea cosies, that is, not Grannies!!).

So thank-you very much, Susan & Patrick! We have been using it each and every day since!!

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Thank-You !

Our dear friends Albert & Riet have been wonderful whilst I have been away. Helping Richard and regularly treating him and the girls to delicious home-cooked meals.

Let's be honest - you just know that two people who keep bottles of Dutch Genevre in their kitchen freezer, are definitely our type of people!!

Monday, 12 January 2009

Back Again

After three weeks in the UK, I flew in yesterday afternoon and have been catching up on family life again. School runs, shopping and the glorious sunshine!

As I emerged from Montpellier airport I was wearing short sleeves and thinking summer had arrived early.

When I left, it was like this..... In England it was BITTERLY cold - and snowed. I got wind/frost burn on my cheeks - face, not behind, in case you were wondering. And I came home to this..... Need I remind you why we emigrated?!
***
LeeLee has just started her Bac Blancs. Her mock exams. Philosophy and Chemistry/Physics today.

There she was, writing away, when she noticed that whilst she had completed two sheets (both sides), everyone else was on their fourth.......PANIC!!!!

Then she realised - she had forgotton that, because the exam paper provided for the exams is petit carré (rather than grand carré), she was meant to leave one line free between every line of writing.

Good grief - we think she would forget her own head if it was not held in place by Richard's woolly hat!!
***
For any person sitting A'Level mocks at the moment......the exam paper for the Chemistry/Physics Bac Blanc was 14 pages long! It was three centimetres thick!

LeeLee nearly fainted when she saw it!!
***
I have been away for three weeks.

During that time, Xena has remained convinced that I was actually in bed. All the time. And therefore, her place was in HER bed, UNDER my bed.

Even though Richard, in exasperation, actually picked her up bodily and SHOWED her that our bed was empty.

She refused to get out of HER bed each morning. As far as she was concerned, her place was with me. Even if I was in fact one thousand miles away.

He resorted to putting the lead on her and dragging her out and down the stairs.

There is only one word for this - DOH!