Happy New Year – and an old poem to celebrate

So 2012 is imminent. I’d like to wish you all an eventful and exciting (but not too extremely so) year and look forward to your continued company over the next twelve months. Thanks for your support in 2011. I hope you’ve enjoyed my posts as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them (well, most of them!).

I thought I’d leave you with a poem. I haven’t written many new year poems, in fact, only one which I wrote for 2000 and which has the millennium bug as its theme. Anyway, twelve years later, here it is again. Enjoy!

 

New Year Millennium Bugs

Midnight bells rang

With a mighty clang,

The crowd all gave a shout.

So no one saw

The start of the war

As the bugs came crawling out.

 

Some were big

And some were tiny

Some were dull

And some were shiny.

 

They licked their lips

And ate the chips

(Computer chips I mean),

Computers died

To every side —

It was a ghastly scene.

 

Some were fat

And some were thin

Some looked grumpy

While some wore a grin.

 

So all about

The lights went out,

Everything stopped working.

People were scared

And unprepared

For this menace that was lurking.

 

 

Some had sisters

And some had brothers,

Some looked evil

And so did the others!

 

No-one knew

Quite what to do,

They were panicking and stumbling,

While all around

There came the sound

Of civilisation crumbling.

 

Some had big teeth,

Some had small,

Quite a lot had

No teeth at all.

 

“I told you so!

Did you listen? No!”

Someone was heard to shriek.

“I warned that bugs

Would come like thugs.

And it’s happening as I speak.”

 

Some were blue

And some were black.

Some had no front

And some had no back.

 

“Let’s make a stand

And save our land

Before it’s all destroyed.

I have a plan

So if you can

Help me get it deployed.”

 

Some were stripey

And some had spots,

Some just a few

But others lots.

 

“My research shows

That bugs like those

Shrivel up in salty water.

So lay lines of PCs

That reach to the sea

And we’ll save our sons and daughters.”

 

Some were ugly

Some were cute

But every one

Was a nasty brute.

 

The trap was laid

And everyone prayed

That this crazy idea was right.

Now they had to wait.

Would the bugs take the bait?

They held their breath all night.

 

Some moved slowly

On their bellies

A couple splashed

Around in wellies.

 

The light of dawn

Lit up the morn

With a lovely shade of peach.

A fine sight met the eyes —

No, not the sunrise —

All the bugs were on the beach!

 

Some were smooth

And some were crinkly,

Some were very, 

Very wrinkly.

 

Their evil work done

The warmth of the sun

Made the bugs all go to sleep.

As they snored and sighed

The incoming tide

Upon them began to creep.

 

Some were bristly

Some were bald

And all of them just

A few hours old.

 

At the touch of the sea

Each buggy body

Suddenly shrivelled and vanished,

As the last disappeared

The crowd all cheered.

The Millennium bugs had been banished!

 

Some had whimpered

Some had sighed

Some had popped

As they had died.

 

But in a PC

Very far from the sea

Two bugs were waking late.

They happened to be

A he and a she —

Now that doesn’t sound too great.

 

He was cunning

She was mean,

He was hungry,

She was lean.

 

They looked for their others,

Friends, sisters and brothers,

But sadly couldn’t see any of ’em.

“No matter,” they said,

“We’ll have babies instead

And wait till the next millennium!”

 

Hot Calendars!

It’s calendar time of year again. The Sapeurs-Pompiers appeared last night with theirs. It’s a good quality one but, disappointingly, not like the one produced by firemen in Amiens in 2010 that featured this photo:

Now that’s some calendar!

So far the postlady, whom we unflatteringly refer to as the postlazy because that’s what she is, hasn’t managed to bring herself to drive down to the house to sell us La Poste’s offering this year. She also hasn’t been able to force herself to drive down with three recent lettres racommendés. On each occasion she has preferred to spend longer filling in the detailed slip to leave in our mailbox up by the gate, rather than come to the house to get us to sign for it there and then. Big sigh. So I’ve had to wait until after 11 a.m. next day to go down to the tiny post desk at the Auberge in Nouzerines to collect the registered letter. This is always hit and miss. Sometimes the postlazy hasn’t been by yet to drop off stuff at the Auberge that she couldn’t be bothered to deliver the day before and pick up the new post from there. And you can’t leave it too late because the staff at the Auberge are busy from midday till almost 4pm serving lunches, so you can’t bother them between those hours. Another big sigh. And if I sound hacked off with our postlazy, that’s because I am! I shan’t be that fussed if she doesn’t grace our doorstep at some point. The 2011 Post Office calendar was rather naff.

So back to the Sapeurs-Pompiers. Possibly a reflection of the drought this year, but there’s definitely a lot less water being splashed around in the 2012 calendrier when practically every photo was awash with it last year. But there are some good action-packed shots nonetheless. There are also lots of ads by local businesses so it’s a very useful resource.

I currently have half a dozen foldable postcard-size calendars on my desk. Every shop you go into at the moment presses one on you and they have appeared alongside le pub (publicity brochures) in the mailbox too. Previously I was daunted by all these calendars, but now that I’m well on my way to becoming a French citizen, I revel in them. I tuck them in various places around the house so I’ll always be able to find out which saint’s day it is and when the school holidays are in any of the three educational zones in France. All urgent need-to-know stuff!

The saints’ days are a key feature. It’s one of those odd things. France is a studiously secular nation and yet all these holy men and women are celebrated on every calendar. In the past it was the norm for children to be given the name of the saint on whose day they were born. This slipped to being a child’s second name, but these days the custom has all but vanished.

An empty, brand new calendar can be a daunting thing. Depending on my mood, I wonder what  triumphs or disasters are going to crop up during the days listed in it. Time will tell. It won’t be dull this year. Caiti will be off to Uni so we have all the excitement of selecting where she wants to go in the next few months. Rors will start at college, we plan to get pigs and more sheep, I’ll hit my half-century – oops, time to stop or I’ll slip into disaster mode.

Here’s hoping 2012 brings health and happiness to your household.

Skating on Thin Plastic – Ice That Isn’t!

Caiti and I delivered Benj back to his flat in Limoges on Tuesday. He was keen to get back to revise for upcoming tests, and to see his petite amie again. Plus he reckoned Creuse was too cold for him!

The résidences were decidedly unfestive. There was just this notice up from the caretakers wishing everyone a happy Christmas. Could try harder, I think!

We left him unpacking and busily texting friends to see who was around and headed into Limoges. The Christmas markets were advertised as still going on, and both of us were keen to do some ice-skating. I’d seen the rink when we’d walked into the city on the day we picked Benj up.

I got us a bit lost getting to the Place de la République, but eventually we found it. Our detour did at least mean that we passed these three Christmas ragondins (coypus) outside a bar. Well, that’s what I think they were!

The ice rink was nice and quiet, so we hurried over. There was only one counter where a guy was handing out skates, so I went over to pay him to hire some. “C’est gratuit,” he told me. Mega!

We put our skates on and wobbled across the rubber matting to the ice. I launched first. Now Caiti and I are both nifty little skaters, but today something was wrong. I was making the right skating motions, but all that was happening was that my feet were slipping to the side and I was only inching forward.

I was puzzled. It was the same puzzlement I felt the time I dropped one-year-old Rors into the swimming pool, without first inserting the floats into the special compartments in his Polyotter swimsuit. I just couldn’t understand why he plummeted to the bottom of the pool instead of bobbing around on the surface waiting for me to slip into the water beside him. Luckily I realised what the problem was very quickly and was able to retrieve my beloved infant before anything drastic happened. He was surprised but none the worse for wear!

Anyway, it was another of those ‘what the heck’s happening’ moments. Surely I hadn’t forgotten how to skate in the space of a year, or become so decrepit that I no longer had the strength to do it? I glanced at Caiti who was frowning in a perplexed way. We floundered over to the railing and compared experiences. Neither of us could stop our feet from sliding sideways all the time. And then Caiti spotted that we weren’t skating on ice. We were skating on cold plastic.

Can you see the squares?

It’s true! It was an artificial skating rink, and sadly it was hopeless. Possibly if we’d had top notch skates rather than poor old battered communal ones we might have managed to swish semi-gracefully across the ice. But we didn’t. We battled against the odds for half an hour before we gave up, very disappointed. Win some, lose some. We’ll have to hit the proper ice rink in Limoges some time.

Caiti struggling

Anyway, we’d worked up an appetite for chips and we had nice, rosy cheeks so it wasn’t all bad! This pigeon had his lunch next to us.

All the Christmassy market stalls had gone, which was a shame since I’d been planning a long, slow browse around them with Caiti, who loves to shop. So we got back to Benj’s flat rather earlier than planned. We went through the Jardin d’Orsaywhere the largest amphitheatre in Gaul used to stand.

We said our goodbyes to Benj and left the big city behind for the time being. But we’ll be back before too much longer I imagine.

Hidden Treasures of Bois du Lassoux

Boxing Day saw us geocaching again. We went for it big time, tackling our first multi-cache challenge. This one had been set by zephyrsailor. There were seven caches altogether to find, but we had to find all of the first six because each one gave a digit to slot into the GPS reference for the final one.

It took us five hours to do it. Be impressed! But luckily I’d made a hearty picnic to keep us going.

We had plenty of noms on the way round!

Caiti, who is a Noz addict (that’s a chain of discount stores in France) had brought along some self-heating hot chocolate. I took a pic of the pot after we got home. It actually seemed to contain more heating chemicals in the bottom of the pot than chocolate to heat up in the top, but it was very welcome and warming on a cold, winter’s day. Sadly I fear it is horrendously un-ecofriendly, even if it’s ingenious.

We made some mistakes in our cache hunting to start with, but to be fair, a lot of the clues were tree-related and the caches were largely hidden in and around a forest! Also, one of the caches wasn’t where it should have been, and as you can seen, has been well chewed by something small and furry who had also taken it for quite a long drag!

However, we Daggs are nothing if not determined so we stuck with the programme and it all came together. Even if it hadn’t, we’d have enjoyed ourselves since we love the Bois du Lassoux where the activity was based. We’ve trekked the llamas there in the past, but haven’t been for quite a while. The kids love the zipwire. Here are the two eldest having a go, first Ben …

… and then Caits.

Rors was still feeling a little travel sick after the windy drive to the Bois and didn’t fancy trying it out this time round.

I love this suspension bridge. It takes one car at a time, but even when a person walks over it, it vibrates and rumbles.

For the first time we visited the Chapelle de Ste Radegonde. (We call her St Ragondin – we have an ongoing battle with ragondins (coypus) in our lakes.) This is a beautiful medieval chapel set on a hillside above what’s now a reservoir. It, and a small graveyard, are all that’s left of a village, le Châtillon d’Entraigues, which was established in the eleventh century and inhabited until the 1800s.

Ste Radegonde is the patron saint of anything to do with running water, tempests and shipwrecks. Legend has it that when there’s a thunderstorm you should run to her chapel and ring the bell, and that will make the storm abate. I’m sure it’s good advice, but it’s a bit far from Nouzerines! Pilgrims to the chapel also believed that they could see if things were going to go well or otherwise for them by the way the light played on the face of the Saint’s statue.

The statue isn’t there any more but there is this intriguing wooden sculpture.

Ste Radegonde’s chapel is well worth a visit. It’s in a stunning location and is a fascinating building.

Back to our geocaching. The final cache contained a log to sign – but again, we had no pen. Duh. I’d had one in the car ready to put in the rucksack, but where it went to, heaven knows. So we’ll have to redo the trail sometime and sign it. There were a few items to select from as a momento. We took one and replaced it, as is the custom. We also took this. It’s a geocoin, or travel bug. It moves from cache to cache with the mission to travel around Europe. This one is ‘snixx’ and has the ambition of making it to Australia. So, we have two weeks in which to move snixx to another cache for someone else to find and move on. We’ve decided we’d better head southwards for our next geocaching session tomorrow to get snixx going in the right direction! Everyone who finds it in logs this info in on the geocache.com website. That’s where you find all the info on where the various caches are, register ones you’ve introduced, sign up your own geocaching team – we’re team Llamagems –  and find out all about geocaching.

 

Caiti takes five

We’ll be investing in a couple of geocoins to put in caches we create for other geocachers to move around Europe. I think it’s a brilliant idea.

Deer Me – No Place for Snares

We set out for a brisk walk on Christmas morning since a) it was sunny and bright, and b) the likelihood of me being able to round everyone up for exercise after dinner was extremely low. So we set off on one of our usual strolls through the woods into neighbouring Indre, down by the old mill and up along green lanes back to Les Fragnes.

We were close to home and Benj and Caits had gone on ahead with the key since Rors was getting a bit whiney and starting to dawdle and they were getting impatient. Caits wanted to get back to her Kindle and Benj needed to be back in touch with his petite amie (girlfriend). Suddenly Caiti reappeared round a hurriedcorner, saying there was a dead deer that seemed to be caught on the fence. We  to investigate. Sadly it looked like she was right. But then, as Nessie the dog came up for a sniff, the deer gave a cry and moved, and we saw that it was caught in a snare and struggling to breathe.

Well, we couldn’t leave it there. Chris tried to free its neck, but the chevreuil became very lively and noisy at this point. So Benj held the animal as still as he could while Chris battled with the metal loop. He finally got it off. The chevreuil collapsed in a heap. It must have been caught there for a long while, possibly more than a day, since it was totally exhausted. Even with five people and a dog so close to it, it couldn’t move any more.

We watched anxiously for a moment, worrying that we’d been too late in our rescue attempt, but after a few minutes the deer wobbled to its feet and lurched drunkenly off into the undergrowth.

We examined the snare. It was attached to the barbed wire fencing at the side of the lane.

Some research when we got home revealed that it was a stop snare (collet muni d’un arrêtoir) and, incredibly, these things are legal. Well, all I can say is that whoever passed the law legalising them has never seen an animal trapped in one. It was horrific. OK, so we deprived someone of their dinner but who cares. There’s no need in this day and age to use barbaric, medieval methods of trapping a living creature. What’s more, chevreuil aren’t even on the list of nuisance animals that can be trapped (per L’arrêté du 30 septembre 1988, complété par l’arrêté du 6 novembre 2006). Also, the law says that tous les pièges doivent être visités tous les matins (article 13 de l’arrêté du 29 janvier 2007) – a snare must be checked every morning. It was nearly midday when we found our deer, and as I say, there was every indication it had been there a long time. A snare is totally indiscriminate in what it catches. It could be your cat or dog that strays and ends up in one.

I’m also pretty sure the snares (there was another close by) shouldn’t have been put alongside a public path. My understanding regarding traps of any kind is that you can only put them on your own land. Snares have to be declared at the mairie, so I may just call by and check up that these ones are registered.

I’m not anti-hunting and I’m not soppy about animals, but snares are going too far.

Anyway, our wrongly trapped deer lived to enjoy Christmas day. As did we – too much dinner and too much telly, perfect. Caiti and I set off for a bike ride in the afternoon to go and take photos of eolienne 3 from as close by as we could, but Caits got a puncture and I realised I wasn’t up to a big ride when I started wheezing. We’ve all had rotten coughs which are still bugging us. So we turned round and went home and consoled ourselves with chocolate! Well, it’s Christmas.

 

Caching in on Christmas – Geocaching, Gold Mines, Muggles and Viaducs

The weather finally cleared on Christmas Eve and, since most of us were feeling better after going down with various coughs and colds, we headed off for a spot of geocaching. Chris, Rors and I haven’t done any for ages, and Caiti and Benj had never had a go. So it seemed a nice way to make the day a bit special.

Chris tracked down four geocaches quite close together not far from Chambon sur Voueize. The first one was labelled as Le Mine d’Or – the Gold Mine at Chatelet. Gold was discovered there in 1886 when the railway station at nearby Budéliere was being built. We had no idea previously that there was a gold mine in the area. It’s currently being restored.

The search for the cache took a while as we were on a fairly busy road so we had to stop searching every time a car came by. You must never let any Muggles see what you’re doing when you’re geocaching. (Non-geocachers are Muggles, in case you were wondering!) Benj eventually came up trumps.

Rather chilly, we moved on to the next spot. There were three caches at different points along a section of currently disused railway track. Now, this is a stretch of the railway line that ran from Montluçon in Allier to Ussel in Corrèze. It was taken out of service in 2008 due to safety issues, but it hasn’t officially been closed. It’s state owned, since it runs through three departéments and two régions, so any definitive decision regarding its future will take a long while. Its condition had been steadily deteriorating since the 1950s apparently and in 2008 it needed 40 million euros of repair work to bring it up to standard. Presumably that’s what all the problem is. It’s a lot of money. However, it’s in a touristy part of Creuse, and has Néris Les Bains and Evaux Les Bains, two thermal spas, on its route. And the countryside around is fantastic. Wait till you see the viaduc in a moment. I hope it will be saved. We need more railways.

Anyway, we set off along the railway line. It’s surprisingly tricky to walk along a railway track.

The sleepers were slippy so we had to walk on the gravel between them. But the sleepers were unevenly spaced so we had to watch our step all the time. But it was still pretty cool. We found the first two caches – Benj, who’s obviously a natural at this, got the first one and I got the second.

Caiti examines a cache

Then we came to the viaduc. Oh boy, it’s incredible. Possibly this is one of the safety issues responsible for the line’s suspension. Caiti and I headed out across it.

The dots in the distance are me and Caits!

Chris who’d stayed back with Rors yelled at me to move to the side since he noticed that the metal plating I was walking on was incredibly thin. This temporarily freaked me out as we were a very, very long way up. However, my daughter was carrying on across it so I did too.

Bits of metal were missing here and there and the poor old bridge looked the worse for wear in places, but wow. What a feat of engineering! I have no idea how you can build something so tall across such a precipitous gorge.

See what I mean about being high up?

There was a very stiff breeze blowing and we were, as I’ve mentioned before, extremely high up so we didn’t hang around for long! Caiti and I went all the way across, and then Chris had a walk over it too. Rors wasn’t keen on venturing across and Benj couldn’t be bothered.

We got all the way across

On the drive out we’d been amazed to see four wind turbines up. Only a couple of days ago there’d been only one and a half. So I took some photos on the way back.

We’ve also discovered that we can see one of them from our garden. It’s a long way off, but because it’s so tall, there it is, in view. An elegant new addition to the skyline.

It's very faint - can you make it out?

We plan to go geocaching again on Boxing Day. It’s an addictive pastime. There are people who have clocked up thousands of finds. We have a total of six between us for this year so far, so we have a way to go yet!

Merry Christmas!

Well, I’m going to take a few days off from blogging and writing. So today I shall wish you Bonnes Fêtes and leave you with a poem that I must have written forty years ago, if not longer! I was an unstoppable poem writer as a child, and Christmas was one of my favourite themes.

 

Santa’s Busy Night

Santa was having a nap in his chair

(His little pet robin was perched in his hair).

Suddenly, there came a knock at the door

Which stirred Santa between a whistle and snore.

 

‘Who is it?’ Santa called, scratching his chin.

‘Me!’ said a deep, gruff voice. ‘May I come in?’

‘Yes, yes, by all means, please do Fairy Bloom.’

But it was a teddy who entered the room.

 

Santa at once realised his mistake.

‘What can I do for you, Teddy Bear Jake?’

‘I’ve just come to tell you its quarter to eight

And if you don’t hurry then you will be late!’

 

‘That time already?  Well, sizzling mince pies!

Chimney pots! Christmas trees! How old time flies!’

Santa Claus pulled on his boots and his hat

And rushed out, but sadly tripped over the cat.

 

Once on his feet again, outside he flew,

So little time, but oh, so much to do –

Reindeer to harness, and presents to pack,

And what if they would not all get in his sack?

 

Frantically, Santa rushed hither and thither,

Worried and panicking, all in a dither.

But he need not have bothered, for soon all was ready

So Santa addressed every fairy and teddy.

 

‘Thank you my friends for helping me out

Without you I would have been late, there’s no doubt.

Now, I must be off to deliver these toys

To all the good girls and obedient boys.’

 

And with those words, Santa leapt into his sleigh,

Called to his deer and at once drove away

To do his job, which he does every year,

Bringing to everyone gladness and cheer.

 

 

 

 

 

Dreaming of a Wet Christmas

Haven't had the helicoptor by yet ...

We had a pre-Christmas shock a short while ago. A vanload of gendarmes pulled up outside the house and a significant amount of firepower clambered out. It was gone four o’clock, three days before Christmas. Surely they weren’t here to check Chris’s gun licences or my paperwork for the business. Everything’s in order but it’s still hassle having to dig it all out.

But no, fortunately. Apparently some horses had escaped onto the ‘main’ road and they wondered if they were ours. We only have well behaved llamas and alpacas, cats and a dog who never wander far away from the house, slightly naughty sheep and goats but they’ve never made it off our premises, and completely harmless poultry and guinea pigs here. The horses almost certainly belonged to our neighbour Yann. He has a field-full of heavy horses, Percherons and Bretons. They’re beautiful, gentle creatures. When they’re in the field adjacent to our llama field, the opposing sets of animals spend ages simply looking at each other. After a chat the gendarmes set off to see Yann and probably spend an hour or so helping to catch the horses. It was a good job we’d dealt with the turkeys in the morning. I always dread having someone call round, especially armed law enforcement officers, when either I’m busy plucking or Chris is removing various turkey body parts in the slightly gruesome preparation for the eating procedure.

We’re well known to the local police, but for non-criminal reasons. Since Chris has guns we have to get various permits approved by them every year. So we make several calls to the local station in Boussac or the one further away in Chatelus (depending on where the rural Creuse force, which seems to only consist of a couple of cops, is based at the time) to get that sorted out. They’re always very interested in the llamas. We didn’t recognise any of the gendarmes who called today. I guess they must be the holiday-cover crew, shipped in from somewhere out of the area. I hope they’re used to handing several tons of horse at a time.

An unexpected visit from the fuzz is in keeping with this Christmas holiday so far. It isn’t going according to plan. The weather’s rotten and we’re all full of colds so the crafty activities and long, healthy walks I’d mapped out for us to do aren’t happening. I still have to boil the puddings and make crackers, and I’m not entirely sure I’ve got presents for everyone either! And as well as feeling fluey, Benj is moping. He’s turned soft after three months in an overheated flat in the city. He reckons he’s cold and has borrowed clothes off practically everyone to keep warm. He also has sore teeth after the visit to the dentist on Tuesday and he’s missing his woman/women (more than one name has been mentioned!).

Things are very soggy round the farm at the moment. It’s at its most dismal.

We’ve gone from dry, concrete hard ground to waterlogged muddy mess in the space of a week. We’re on heavy clay here so it goes to crazy extremes. But on the bright side, I don’t have to fill any water buckets up for the outdoor animals. They’re collecting more than enough water from the barn roof.

Gigi refused to come out of the barn till the rain stopped

So, not a great run up to the big day. But there are still a couple of days left to get into the spirit of things. We’re not quite at the ‘bah humbug’ stage yet!

Normally this is a white alpaca in a green field! Poor muddy Mellie!

 

 

Teeth and Turnips – Dents et Navets

The dentist needed more of our money so today I took, sorry, dragged, Benj to Guéret to have something or other done to his long suffering teeth. The dentist started trying to straighten them up about three years ago, but went a bit far when he burnt a hole in the roof of Benj’s mouth to pull down an extra tooth lurking there. This traumatised Benj who refused to go back for over a year. So, instead of getting the work finished while he was still at lycée in Guéret, we are having to fit visits in whenever he’s back from Uni in Limoges, which isn’t often and isn’t easy. OK, end of parental dig at offspring!

Caiti came along for the trip so we pottered around the town centre while Benj was tortured. We’d seen a sign up saying there was a Marché de Noël on, but we didn’t find it. We did find the knitting shop and I confidently marched in and said I wanted 2.5 mm needles to knit shoes with. Yup, after five years of living here, I’m still getting chaussures (shoes) and chaussettes (socks) muddled up. Caiti rolled her eyes in the way only teenagers can and the shop assistant managed to keep a straight face. I assumed my moronic ‘I’m a foreign idiot’ expression and carried on regardless. I have a thick expat skin these days.

A half-knit chaussette and not a half-knit chaussure

You know, it’s not such a bad thing to be able to retreat into foreignness and let it all wash over you from time to time. It’s an expat escape mechanism for when things get too much or, more usually and more shamefully, you just can’t be bothered. For example, it comes in handy at committee meetings when they’re looking for volunteers for various roles. Simply smile a ‘I haven’t got a clue what’s going on’ smile when they catch your eye and you’ll be left safely alone. It’s also nice being able to switch off the background chatter in cafés or shops – or in meetings – by simply choosing not to try and tune into French and so slip away into English thoughts. I’ll have a real shock when/if I do ever go back to an English speaking country. To be able to easily understand what everyone around is saying may cause a brain overload after so long away from it! Yeah, it’s cool being an expat.

Anyway, back to subject. After hitting Halle des Chaussures (not chaussettes!) and stocking up on wellies (we get through a lot of pairs each a year, we should buy shares in a boot company), we did a food shop at Carrefour. By now I had two grumpy kids – both hungry, one with a cough and one with a cold and sore teeth. Not a good combo. I had to threaten to knock their heads together at one point, I think it was in the biscuit aisle. Benj defiantly said he’d like to see me try but I icily told him to respect his mother. Hah, I still have the upper hand! From now on, one child at a time on shopping trips. Better still – none!

Now all this is longwindedly leading to the fact that I bought my first ever navet. Chris wistfully asked for a parsnip to go with Christmas dinner. I didn’t hold out much hope of finding one for him – you just don’t seem to get them over here. We usually grow our own, but hadn’t done so this year. However, browsing in the veggie section, I reckoned a navet was near enough and bought one.

Not a smooth skinned parsnip but a long, thin turnip

Le navet – originally navot – is French for yellow turnip. So it’s not a parsnip at all, despite appearances to the contrary. As this cookery website  nicely says,  navets have been eaten in France since there was a France! The one I bought is probably the variety ‘le Nantois’ since it is long and thin like a parsnip. You get round purpley navets too.

The usual way to eat it is to peel, cut and mash it, and then cook it with a little milk, butter, salt and pepper. It was a winter staple in bygone years since it stored well in chilly cellars. It involves a bit of work, though, to prepare it so modern day softies generally resort to pre-peeled and diced navet in the freezer section of the hypermarché.

So we’ll be having turnip with our turkey on Christmas Day. Not our usual but let’s dare to be different! And on the subject of turkeys, tomorrow is T-day for the remaining four …

 

Energetic Mince-Pie Making, A Missing Baby and Book Bags

Ruadhri is throwing himself energetically into Christmas preparations. I had just started making pastry mince pies this morning when he charged into the kitchen and announced he’d carry on for me. Never one to decline an offer of help, however unexpected and alarming, I handed over the bowl to him. OK, there would probably be quite a lot of clearing up to do afterwards since Rors has the habit of spreading cooking ingredients far and wide, but it would be worth it.

So Rors set to work. Now here is 100% commitment if ever I’ve seen it!

I shall have to get him a pinny for the next cooking session. His trousers turned white today.

Here are some of his half-finished mince-pies.

Rors had helped me the other day. I came across a scented Christmas tree decoration craft on Shannon’s lovely blog, A Mom’s Year. I could only find some grey sandpaper but it was good for a trial run. Ruadhri got busy with a muscade (nutmeg) and rubbed this enthusiastically on the sandpaper.

The end result is a beautiful Christmassy smelling little tree which we’ll hang on our bigger one. A great idea and it kept him busy for quite a while.

When she was about eight or nine, Caiti made these lovely figures at school from fabric and wallpaper paste. Originally there was Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus but we lost Jesus somewhere between Ireland and France. Caiti put up this very funny notice this year.

(If you can’t read it, it says: Reward – a donkey. Have you seen our baby? Small wrinkly son of God, King of King, Saviour of Humanity. Does not cry, even when cows wake him up.) 🙂

Now, just in case you’re running out of present ideas, over at my Books Are Cool website, I have come up with suggestions for book bags that might come in handy. Check out the link here. I’ve also put up a Christmas poem and a children’s Christmas story which you might enjoy too.