Time for work, Mr. Secretary

Most French meetings that I’ve attended being somewhat anarchic, chaotic, noisy affairs, the detail of what goes on can be difficult, if not impossible, for a foreigner to grasp fully. The problem (well for us, it’s a problem) is that everyone talks over everyone else, not bothering to listen to whatever anyone else is saying, so decisive outcomes are rare; in fact I’m not sure if decision making is even the goal!

With this in mind, when elected to the post of cycle club secretary, Nick’s major concern was that he might be required to take minutes at meetings and write reports. He had his first “proper” meeting last night and yes, he was expected to take notes, but said that at least three others were busily scribbling throughout as well, whether for their own benefit or because they shared Nick’s doubts, we’ll never know.

 Never at ease having to express himself by means of the written word, especially in French, and being a painfully slow typist to boot, he’s spent most of the day hunched over the laptop, occasionally asking how to spell a word or how to phrase something. How to refer to non-attendees was a problem, but I emailed a friend who knows such things and who also suggested the useful phrase “sauf erreur ou omission de ma part” (unless I’ve mistaken or forgotten anything), for the end of the report; could be very useful! Hopefully he’ll finish tonight and email the report to the president for confirmation that he’s got the gist of it, before he publishes it.

Fortunately these meetings don’t seem to happen too frequently, otherwise this secretary lark could be a full time job!

La plupart des réunions de français auxquelles j’ai participé sont quelque peu anarchiques, chaotiques, bruyantes, le détail de ce qui se passe peut être difficile, sinon impossible, pour un étranger de saisir pleinement. Le problème (certainement pour nous, c’est un problème), c’est que tout le monde parle tout le temps, sans écouter ce que quelqu’un d’autre dit, donc des résultats décisifs sont rares; En fait, je ne suis pas sûr si la prise de décision est même le but!

Dans cet esprit, lorsqu’il a été élu au poste de secrétaire de club de cycle, la principale préoccupation de Nick était qu’il pourrait être tenu de prendre des notes aux réunions et d’écrire des comptes rendus. Il a assisté à sa première réunion «correcte» hier soir et oui, il était censé prendre des notes, mais il a dit qu’au moins trois autres gribouillent aussi, soit pour leur propre avantage, soit parce qu’ils ont partagé les doutes de Nick, nous ne saurons jamais.

Jamais à l’aise d’avoir à s’exprimer à l’aide de l’écrit, surtout en français, et en étant une dactylo douloureusement lente à démarrer, il a passé la plupart d’aujourd’hui devant l’ordi, en demandant, de temps en temps, comment un mot s’écrit, et on a du demander une copine certains choses; je crois que la phrase “sauf erreur ou omission de ma part”, qu’elle a suggéré, pourrait être utile! Mais je crois qu’il le finira ce soir. Heureusement ces réunions n’ arrivent pas trop souvent!

More textile fun

Our textile arts group met again last week; the list of requirements this time included paints, glue, crochet cotton, beads, lutradur (a non-woven synthetic which can be used in an amazing number of ways) sewing machines and hot air strippers. I also took along an electric radiator as the room has minimal heating and it was bitterly cold.

We were to make painted, embroidered, lutradur containers; for vases, nightlight holders, or just for fun; I fancied making a lamp, so Nick had prepared me a wooden base with light fitting attached.

Some of us followed the instructions, copying the suggested pattern and stitching first, while others did their own thing, painting before sewing their own design, using crochet cotton, or other thick thread in the bobbin. I chose a multi coloured design and watched in delight as the paints blended themselves, one running into the next, across the lutradur, the end result being better than I’d dared hope. Others used thicker paints, giving a totally different result, each one unique and beautiful in its own, individual way.

By lunchtime, we’d all finished painting and embroidering, so we hung our bits of lutradur near the radiators to dry while we ate; then the fun part began.

We wrapped up in as many layers as possible, to work outside as lutradur gives off fumes when you heat it; we hung hot air strippers out of the window and started to burn the lutradur. Nothing happens for a little while, then it starts to curl and wrinkle, the edges crumple up and disappear and a network of lacey holes appears. It’s difficult not to get carried away and be left with nothing! 

Once that was done, we beaded and glued up what we’d made, most of the ladies completed their work in the day, but I, of course, had done my own thing and still had bits to finish off at home. It’s done now, though, and I’m pleased with the result!

Notre groupe d’arts textiles s’est rejoigné la semaine dernière ; cette fois on a du amener des machines à coudre, des peintures, du coton à crocheter, des perles, du lutradur et des décapeurs thermiques.

Nous avons peint et cousu le lutradur, avant de le bruler avec les décapeurs, puis on a attaché des perles et à collé pour finir

Chaqu’une était différent des autres, mais tout le monde était content avec leurs travaux de cette journée très agréable.

Arthur Nicholas Georges Cawthray

Meet our beautiful little grandson, born on January 4th, demonstrating a good pair of lungs and weighing in at a very healthy 3.9kg (a little over 8 &a half pounds).

Mother Alice and baby are both very well and Kieran is totally besotted. I dare say he’ll come down to earth one day, but not too soon, I hope.

Je vous présente notre beau nouveau petit fils, qui est arrivé le 4 janvier et qui pesait 3.9kg.

Sa maman et lui vont très bien et Kieran est complètement fou de lui; un jour il redescendra à la terre, mais pour le moment il me plaît beaucoup le voir si heureux.

Bangers and mash anyone?

Early January

It’s the time of year, here in France, when every supermarket has its “foire au porc”, or pork fair; I suppose the little piggies must have gone to market and the result is fridges bursting with various cuts of pork.

Prices are good, it’s the ideal time to make sausages, so I was despatched to buy suitable ingredients. I got home with a whole pork shoulder, weighing 8kg, apples, boudin (black pudding), chorizo, smoked belly pork and of course, skins, which every supermarket sells.

It’s taken the whole afternoon, but we now have probably enough sausage in the freezer to last us the year; pork, apple, onion and sage; pork, boudin, apple, garlic and parsley; pork and smoked belly; and pork, chorizo and tomato. We’ve kept out one of each; Nick’s really looking forward to dinner tonight

A holiday? Well nearly

I’ve just discovered three blogs, written at various points over the last few weeks, which for some reason I haven’t published. So, in no particular order, I’m publishing them now.

Early December

Tuesday morning dawned, another beautiful day of clear, blue skies and sunshine; Wednesday’s students were in England and Friday’s had an art exhibition to prepare; so what was to stop us having a few days off and heading to Spain in the camper?

We packed clothes, camera and books, filled the fridge with home made ready meals from the freezer, found a camper van site on the edge of San Sebastian and we were off; though I’m not sure we’ll ever get used to being able to drive to Spain in two or three hours.

Very soon a warning light appeared on the dashboard under the dashcam that we just purchased after looking at the Review by car bibles; it’s happened before and is accompanied by a drop in power. Nick thought the fuel injectors were dirty and that he’d sorted it by adding cleaner to the diesel, but this time it was worse than before and we only got as far as Mont de Marsan before having to turn back, very disappointed.

Undeterred however, the next day we set off in the car. It seemed strange to be scraping frost from the windscreen in order to go to the seaside, but the sun soon rose and burnt the frost off the fields and hills. It was a lovely day, there were fewer tourists than in summer, though a few hardy souls even braved swimming in the sea.

I struggle to find shoes to fit in France, as the French have little feet, so thought I’d see what Spain had to offer. I felt sorry for the poor girl whose job it was to serve me, as I tried to explain, with my miniscule knowledge of Spanish, that I was looking for brown boots, in leather, not suede, because the garden gets thick in mud in winter, so they need to be easy to clean. Not having the vocab for leather, suede, mud or many other words meant this exchange was more a game of charades than a conversation! But she was lovely, tolerated my efforts with good grace (laughter’s an international language,isn’t it?) and found me just what I was looking for, in my size.

We watched the sunset as we walked back along the seafront to the carpark, along with what seemed to be most of San Sebastian’s population, promenading as the Spanish love to do in the evenings. I don’t suppose we’ll have another chance to get away this year, but hopefully Nick will be able to diagnose the problem and repair the camper by the spring.

The proof of the pudding, or pickle…….

Mid December

Our lime tree did us proud this year, producing about 50 fruit. I made lime marmalade and lime drizzle cake, and Nick made a batch of Indian lime pickle. It had to be left a little while to mature, but we opened it today and it’s amazing! Loads of flavour, but none of the petrol-y taste of Sharwood’s. 

I don’t think there’ll be much marmalade next year, Nick wants to use all the limes for pickle.

Shutters an’stuff

It’s really cold here in the room where I write the blog; north facing and unheated, it’s great in the heat of summer, but when it’s frosty outside, I can see my breath as I sit by the computer. So not much for you to read tonight; I hope you like the photos.

We’re getting on well with the shutters; just two big pairs to paint now. It takes a while to get the effect I want, but I’m pleased with the result and think the effort is worthwhile.

Nick, meantime, has started to build what he calls “woodhenge”; it’s going to be a curved pergola when the weather warms up enough to work outside again, over which we hope to grow lots of climbing plants.

But that’s enough shivering; time to get back to the fire!