Vive La Difference! But….we have more in common than that divides us

Vive La Difference….but, we have far more in common than that divides us

100 years ago, the guns silenced, marking the end of the First World War. Today, in a sleepy little village in South West Rural France about 150 people from various countries marked that occasion in a manner not dissimilar to other events held elsewhere in Europe.Memorial procession

Confusingly for me, although the church bells rang out #ATouteVolee at 1100the chatter did not stop, and the hustle and bustle of the Autumn Fayre continued. As Martin and I walked up the high street he persisted in talking about something until I snapped “are you NOT going to observe a minute’s silence?”. He hadn’t realised it was 1100. We both noted that it was strange, but we figured the silence would take place at the start of the memorial event at 1130. But it did bother me….all my life I have stopped and taken that minute’s silence at 1100. So, I asked people “why not silence at 1100” and the answer was simply that, typically in France the memorial services are at 1100 but here in rural South West France there are other events going on so people are needed at more than one event, so the events are sometimes staggered. Notably, the Bastille Celebrations that should be on 14th July take place in Villefranche du Perigord on 13th July so as to not compete with the larger, neighbouring events.

Ah, so that answered my nagging question. Another difference was the lack of poppies, which of course are a Royal British Legion thing -intended to raise money for that particular cause. So the poppies were few and far between, and none to be sold in the preceding weeks of course. I did spot a few blue poppy shape stickers, which on research afterwards I realised are Bleuet de France – the French version of Poppies.Bleuet de France

I still wore my perpetual bling crystal poppy brooch that I bought years ago – considering at the time that the cost of this would be my donation to the RBL for many, many years, but now actually in hindsight it is a good thing to have so I can mark 11th November in the way that I like to.

The memorial service was lovely – all in French of course, and I listened intently to see if I could pick up more of what was said that I had been able to during the one in May….a little bit more I think. Most poignant was the reading of the names of “Nos Morts” by a couple of young children – who proudly read aloud the names of those who had given their lives in the 1st and 2nd World Wars. I had a few tears with the emotion of it – just as I always have done on previous occasions. We are always reminded of the sacrifices made – no matter where we are in the world – on days like this.Nos Morts

After the main service we went over to “La Salle de Reunion” where the choir sang a song in French – it may have been a popular song – I do not know, it was not familiar, but it was lovely to listen to. Then the choir sang the British National Anthem – which made me stand tall and proud and I sang, albeit very quietly and awkwardly under my breath, feeling a bit out of place. Then, this was followed by La Marseillaise – the French National Anthem which then made me feel a little embarrassed that I do not know as single word of this iconic song!! So, I vowed to learn it by the next memorial event. In saying this to my friend who is in the choir, a conversation then arose by the end of which I had agreed to give the choir a go!! Oh dear – what have they let themselves in for? Still, this will be a good opportunity to learn some French, and integrate with some new people which is so important in such a small community.

What really struck me with this event is that there was maybe 150 people there – which represents quite a significant proportion of the local population. All those people turning out to show respect to the people who laid down their lives so we could stand here today. By comparison, the last Armistice Day I attended was in 2016, in Southampton – a huge city with a population of 254,000, and yet there were only about 20 people turned out at 1100 to stand in the rain and mark their respects. Admittedly, that was during a week day and not all employers would allow staff to just take their tea break outside – but at the time I was a bit of a rebel and just done my own thing anyway!!

I may have been feeling a particular need to show respect that year as it was the year that I finally went to visit the grave of my Great Grandad Hubert Doe in his final resting place at Cabaret Rouge Cemetery near Arras. His death in the 1st World War was what I now believe to be the trigger point for a whole load of weird family dynamics that subsequently occurred in our family. His death broke my Great Nan Louisa’s heart, and of course my Nan Winifred lost her dad as a young girl. Louisa then went on to marry a friend of his – Alfred Coggin. He had lots of issues from the war – probably shell shock, and became a not-so-nice step dad to Winifred and then later a dad to Stanley. We don’t think that he was much missed after he died in the 1930’s. Then Stanley grew up and joined the Royal Air Force and within a few flights was lost on a bombing raid to Mannheim May 19th 1942. StanleyThe loss of first Hubert, then Alfred and then Stanley to Louisa and Winifred caused them to view boys as more precious than girls, which then in turn led to my own mum Patricia feeling less important than her brother as they grew up. Then even me as I grew up wondering why my brother could get away with so much more than I could. Of course, back in those days with the great British stiff upper lip, neither my Great Nan, or my Nan spoke about feelings which would have meant that all this strange stuff was never interpreted for what it was, just feelings of inadequacy were felt with no associated rationale. It’s only in recent years when me and Martin with our curiosity in war time history and my need to unpick and understand every complex reasoning behind behaviour, that we have perhaps unravelled the root cause of our own rich tapestry of crazy family life! We also came across this very poignant audio clip  when digging up wartime history – it’s the sound of the bomber that Great Uncle Stanley made his last flight in – leaving the UK. It’s hard to not wonder what our family would have been like had that plane not been shot down that night. But we ALL have this shared history – every single one of us has someone in our past who was affected by those wars – and that has shaped who we are – whether for good or bad, and whether we like it or not.

It’s things like this that make me truly believe that we should not live our lives from behind a filter and we should open up and share our vulnerabilities and ask for help when needed – after all we are all human, and surely none of us sail through life without any assistance at all – even if that help is just the occasional wind behind our sails – encouraging us to continue forward – or maybe choose another course.

And that’s why I found myself doing something that I rarely do these days – sticking up for someone I don’t even know in real life on Facebook. This lady blogs about life as a mum, but unlike some of the perfect air-brushed yummy mummy bloggers, she tells it how it really is. And one of her posts had been a hilarious account of how she tried to get her boobs to fit in to a backless bra. A very unkind other mummy had really had a go at her for doing this, and in reading the resulting onslaught I felt compelled to express my own opinion which was quite simply “she is writing about HER life! And if you don’t like it then unfollow her blog, don’t read it”. And that is exactly how I feel. We all only have one life, and the way we life it will determine lots of things, including our own happiness, and if people don’t like us for living our “real, unfiltered life” what should we do? Pretend that our life is different, and more appealing to the people who don’t like us for our “real life”. Or, find people that do like us for living our own “real, unfiltered life”. For me it’s got to be the latter – I would get totally exhausted if I were to be living two life’s – it’s hard enough living one. And the people that like the way I live my life will enjoy being with me and want to spend time with me, and the people that don’t like it will drift away from my life. But, my life – the good, the bad, and the ugly – will be lived – true to myself, real, and unfiltered. ( if you fancy following her she is blogging on Facebook as – Knee Deep in Life )

So, our new life in France is sometimes challenging, and sometimes in finding our way we express frustrations, and I suppose sometimes that might seem as if we might prefer to be living our old lives in the UK. But, that’s not the case – we love our lives in France – we love the simplicity of life – although sometimes it is that simplicity that drives us crazy, we love the natural beauty of the countryside – although the extremes of weather that allow that beauty are sometimes worth grumbling about in a typically British fashion, and we love the slow little village that we have chosen as home, that gets so sleepy in Winter that we have to resort to playing scrabble!! And the people that are all co-existing around us – many of them have been on the same journey, some of them are still wondering why they made that jump across the channel 11 years ago, some will feel that their lives are now truly French, and some will be one foot in the tunnel ready to hop back if Brexit hits the fan.

All of us humans are unique, but as the late, great Jo Cox (murdered MP) once said – “We have far more in common than that divides us” so I think we owe it to each other to embrace our differences and allow each other to be ourselves.

©Sharon Rees-Williams – wordpress.com/thislittlepieceof.land, 2018 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sharon Rees-Williams – wordpress.com/thislittlepieceof.land with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

Ghosts and ghouls, three legged beasties and things that go bump in the night

Ghosts and ghouls, and three-legged beasties, and things that go bump in the night

There’s spooky stuff going on around here this week. Squash’s of all shapes and sizes are appearing everywhere Squash on chair and despite me always thinking the French didn’t really celebrate Halloween much there are definitely creepy things lurking in the shadows.

Even in the Boulangerie window there is a sweet little display of carved pumpkins Cute pumpkin display although this was not as sinister as the display in our favourite vegetarian restaurant in Monpazier – who knows what you can eat at the Blood Café sign but I doubt very much it was vegetarian.Blood Cafe Halloween is definitely not as big in France as in the UK or the states, but you can find trick and treat sweets in the shops. But….we did not actually see any trick or treating children on the evening itself so just as well that we didn’t stock up on sweets.

Halloween falls right in the middle of La Toussaint which is widely celebrated in France and is actually a public holiday! Yes, another day with the shops shut – but we are getting used to it. La Toussaint is celebrated on 1st November – it is Two Saints Day – a Christian celebration which remembers the dead. Traditionally chrysanthemums are taken to cemeteries to place on graves of loved ones, and these flowers are only associated with death in France – so not the best choice to take around to a neighbour!! Which luckily I didn’t but I did wonder why there were so many in the shops.Chrysanthemums

So, you can see why Halloween has not been too popular in France – for many people it seems as if it is overshadowing long standing traditions. And the French definitely do not like their traditions coming under threat – which is fair enough!!

Another tradition is of course the hunting season – or the Chasse as it is known. This is more of an institution than tradition and very much part of life in rural France. It’s a dilemma for me, as on the one hand I can see that it is very much part of French life. Also the wild boar (Sanglier) which are hunted would otherwise over-run the countryside. But on the other hand, I just hate anything to do with violence towards any living creature. So, it is fair to say that it is a part of life in France that I do my best to avoid. I’m actually really quite scared to go out walking in the country lanes – so I have taken to wearing neon orange walking top, socks and cap in the hope that if there are any hunters out on the prowl they will see me before they shoot!! Neon Orange Gear 2

This week we did actually see some hunters whilst out driving – two of them with one dog – and as we drove past I urged Martin to slow down “don’t hit the dog” then we saw a wild boar run across the road! Then it was “slow down there might be another” and quickly followed by “shit go faster they might be following with guns”. It’s all a bit too much for my nerves. Then I felt really sad for the Wild Boar and got a bit tearful. Then told myself “C’est la vie”. But I still wish it wasn’t. It’s not always easy being vegetarian and very sensitive in France, but “Je suis comme ca” – that’s the way I am. Wild Boar

 

We have seen lots of different wildlife over the last few weeks as well as that wild boar. Dead snakeWe saw a dead snake – well it might have been a snake skin – but definitely dead (I know that for sure as Lillie decided to roll in it – disgusting little dog that she is).

We also saw a fire salamander who has decided to make its home in our water supply box. Fire Salamander

Maybe it’s because of being spooked by Halloween and Toussaints, or maybe I’m just a bit jumpy because of the Chasse – but I’m also seeing things that are not actually there – for example this giant frog sitting on the edge of road suddenly appeared,Giant frog 2 And I’m certain that this Troll has been following me home from my walks.TrollAnd the other night I heard some banging outside the motor home but luckily when I looked out it was just Martin going “bump in the night”. Martin going bump in the night

And then finally….our second Bar Crawl took place this weekend. Great fun was had by all, but look at us!! You would not want to bump into us down a dark alley would you!! Bar Crawl

 

©Sharon Rees-Williams – wordpress.com/thislittlepieceof.land, 2018 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sharon Rees-Williams – wordpress.com/thislittlepieceof.land with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

 

We have new “Neigh” bours

We have new “Neigh” bours

Well, not on a permanent basis – but for the past 10 days we have been looking after these lovely guys, as well as two slightly smaller friends.

It’s all been part of a house sit in a lovely village called Limeuil which is right where the Dordogne River meets the Vezere River. Where the Dordogne meets the VezereWe have been looking after a farm house whilst its owner has been away in Holland. And what a lovely time it has been – just like a holiday. We’ve had the use of a heated swimming pool, a hot tub, sauna, and a huge TV with Netflix!! Beautiful terrace

This has given us a great chance to re-charge our batteries and enjoy some space for a change (one of the biggest challenges of living in a motorhome full time is the lack of space) and also it has been really good for me with my rehab programme on my knee as I have been able to adapt my daily exercises to include some work in the heated pool – and I’m certain that the heat from the sauna has helped it a lot too Nice cuppa in the pool

The four dogs got on well – mostly – it would not be true to say that there were no growls at all – but overall they have been really good with each other – although it has been largely two sets of two rather than a pack of four – although Lillie’s rather blundering, boisterous clumsy ways have on occasion led to her being nick named “Lillie No-Mates” Lillie no mates

whilst Luka has been snuggled up with his harem on the rug in a doggie Menage a Trois

Luka in a menage a trois

The horses have been a novelty for us. Neither of us have much experience with horses so initially were un-sure about taking this house sit on. But they take minimal looking after – they spend all day and night in the meadow and bring their selves down to the barn at lunch time when they just need feeding and a little while in the barn, then half an apple and a few pats and then off to the meadow again. If I’d known horses were such little work maybe…………….

It’s all been good experience for us. Martin’s had practice in pool cleaning, and as usual we have gleaned lots of ideas about what we do (and also don’t) want for our own house. The plans will now include a hot tub. Not exactly like this one – but we would love a wood burning stove one – we can dream!Hot tub terrace

We were close enough to Issigeac to be able to go for an appointment with my sports injury lady – Liz and she has been progressing me really well with different exercises and stretches. She said that I am her “best patient ever” as I am so motivated to get over this hurdle. If the truth be known I have learned a very, very hard lesson over this knee injury which is to “listen to my body” and not to anyone else. No-one else knows my body like I do, and I am so relieved that the tendon tear seems to be mending and my strength is returning to my legs. Having to go up and down stairs here at the house sit has proved challenging but in the ten days we have been here I have progressed from having to go very slowly and with great difficulty one step at a time – both feet on each step, to going up “normally” for about half of the steps. It’s slow progress – but it’s progress. We have however decided that we will definitely be putting all of our bedrooms on the ground floor as we have no idea what the future entails for us health wise – and this is to be our forever home, so we only get one crack of that.

So, anyway – after having some lovely “Neigh” bours for 10 days it’s now back home to our usual neighbours – I say usual rather than “normal” as who has neighbours who pop things like this in your letter box whilst you are away? Living next door to Alice

It’s good to be back home!!!

©Sharon Rees-Williams – wordpress.com/thislittlepieceof.land, 2018 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sharon Rees-Williams – wordpress.com/thislittlepieceof.land with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

There’s not Mush Room in here!

There’s not “Mush Room” in here!

October is quite exciting in Villefranche-du-Perigord as it is Cepes season!! Cepes are a regional speciality and are a type of mushroom which only grows here, and only for a few weeks in October. A while back Martin and I were talking to our friend about what Cepes were like, and he told us that there was a lot of hype about them as they were so unique to the area, but that they were actually quite slimy and not really very nice. A bit like eating slugs. Nether the less we still fancied trying them when the time came around.

One of the lovely things about this village is that the high street often has banners high up above the houses and shops which mark various fetes and festivities. In the summer there were lots of bright yellow and orange flowers which were put up when the festivals were taking place, and then at the beginning of October we noticed that all of a sudden there were lots of pink umbrellas high up in the sky. Pink UmbrellasWhen we asked we found out that this is to mark “International Breast Cancer Awareness Month”. One of the boulangeries were also selling ribbon shaped baguettes last Saturday to raise money for charity – but sadly we missed out on buying one as we had got distracted by pain au raisins in the other boulangerie (our Saturday morning ritual took over our minds and we forgot to buy one). But it is nice to feel the familiarity of the marking of these important and significant events – very much the same as in the UK. Funnily enough the demi baguette that I had got the week before did make me wonder if it had been baked to mark Men’s Health Week – but I was too shy to ask. Strange shaped baguette

The evening I had bought that baguette was Tuesday – our weekly night out to Café de La Poste to play pool with some other English (and Scottish) people. That night I played so badly I pondered on whether it would have been better to use the baguette instead of the cue. Bernard then decided that it was about time I had my own cue! And when we visited him later that week he presented me with his very own old cue – an honour indeed!! So, I now have by very own cue – for the first time in my life!! The next week I couldn’t wait to try it out when we took my visiting Mum and her friend Kay in to the pub!! Sadly, no games won that week – but I do think I am improving and it was good for trick shots!! Sharon's Trick Shots

So, Mum and Kay have been over to visit for a week. They were our first visitors from the UK. I really wanted Mum to see the land we have bought in its current state so she gets the full picture of our journey – where it has started, and where it will finish in ???? who knows how many months’ time. Mummy and Daughter

Mum loved it here – she loves the land, loves the village, and all the places we took her to visit. They both did. And we really enjoyed playing at being tourists as well and saw some places that we had not been too as well as taking them to places we had previously been to and really liked. Mum happy in France

Sarlat was one of the places we went to – and it was here that we all got to try Cepes for the first time – and perhaps the last. Mum was the first of us to declare that she REALLY didn’t like them – and in fact, refused to even try to eat them based on their appearance – which she said looked like a breast complete with nipple (maybe it was to mark the previously mentioned Breast Cancer Awareness Month – who knows). But we all admitted to not really enjoying them, but the other three of us managed to get them down the hatch – me with lots of tomato ketchup. They clearly are acquired taste – and as our friend told us before – they are quite slug like!! But….when in Rome….

The next day when we took Mum and Kay next door for coffee with Alice we were talking about the Cepes – and Mum told her all about how much she had disliked them, and asked Alice if she liked them. Alice told Mum that it is all in the way they are cooked, and they can be very nice if cooked well. However, Alice told us of the time a friend of hers cooked a giant Cepe that filled a pan. Apparently, you should never wash mushrooms to get the full flavour when cooking, so this friend (who was an excellent cook) did this, and cooked the giant Cepe to perfection….but when she turned in over in the pan the two of them could then see – horror of horror – WORMS crawling out of the giant mushroom! Alice rather fortuitously being a vegetarian had the excuse to not partake but the others…well, when in Rome…..Collage of Cepes

There clearly are some benefits to being vegetarian in France after all!! Not just having the ready-made excuse to not try certain things – but also to take full advantage of the abundance of vegetables that are now being harvested.

Our friend Steve gave us a melange (1) of squashes from his garden – including butternut squash and marrows which we are already familiar with, and also some beautiful orange/red Pottimaron which is a new one to us. A Melange of Squash

So, Mum and Kay chopped up three whole Pottimarons and then I made a HUGE pot of Pottimaron and Red Pepper soup for our friends, family and neighbours’ lunch which was the first time we had invited a large number of people over to “the land” for a meal – which went really well and was great fun to have 12 people over an “al fresco” lunch of soup, bread, wine and desert! This I hope will be the first of many to be enjoyed.Friends, Neighbours and Family Lunch

Mum’s back in the UK now enjoying her own bed and not enjoying the cooler weather. Here is it still a pleasant 24 degrees – hot enough to be enjoying our meals “al fresco” still – but no Cepes thank you very much!

(1) Melange is the French word for assortment. It is one of my favourite French words and I use it frequently.

©Sharon Rees-Williams – wordpress.com/thislittlepieceof.land, 2018 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sharon Rees-Williams – wordpress.com/thislittlepieceof.land with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t mess with my TouTou

Don’t mess with my toutou

Wow! Time flies when you are having fun!!

We had a good trip back to the UK which was very productive. We purchased a trailer to come on the back of the motorhome and filled it with a number of very exciting purchases. Best of all for me, is a complete set of Les Mills weights, bench and resistance bands – AND a shed to put it all in! Yes!! I am going to have an outdoors gym studio!!

Les Mills equipment

Everyone who comes to France has at least one thing that they really miss from their home country. In my case it is the gym!! For the past few years my entire life has been centred around going to the gym, and I used to work my calendar appointments around the times of my favourite classes – which were Body Pump and Zumba Strong. I’ve been grumbling ever since moving to France that I was missing the hard core, cardio workout that these classes gave me. And of course, the social contact that going to the gym gave me. Four days a week I would do back on back classes with my friends – fondly referred to as the Crew at Studio 2 (at least that was until the gym got knocked down, re-built and our Studio was then Studio 4 – but that’s another story).

People we have met who have lived around here for some time laughed when I said there is no way to exercise!! “Look at the hills” – “Get out there running, or on your bike”. Of course, I did start a bit of running, and hill walking with a couple of English girls – but very quickly into this I hurt my foot which slowed me down, and then with my knee injury it became apparent that hill running and fast walking would be off the menu for me, for some time.

That was a cruel blow indeed!! As well as the endorphin buzz from the cardio, I was going to also lose part of my social network. So, long story short – my lovely hubby Martin has treated me to an early birthday/Christmas present….and I’m working on some friends who will walk at a slower pace!!

Our trip back to the UK was mainly to settle Sian into University, and after moving her in we went off to visit family for a few days – including to visit Evan’s grave slightly early for what would have been his 16th birthday. Not brave enough to have a tattoo in France (with my French skills it could have proved disastrous) I had waited to come back to the UK to have the butterfly tattoo that I had wanted to have as an “in memory” tattoo.

Tattoo

The butterfly forms part of the picture which is on his grave stone. The tattooist was amused at my request to have “Tardis Blue – it must be Tardis Blue” but upon hearing the reason why he was very obliging and spent a while mixing a few different blue inks together. You see….Evan has gone off to travel the Universe with Doctor Who in his very own Tardis (the casket) so that part of it was vital (to me at least). I think Evan would have loved that his Auntie is a bit of a rebel and had a tattoo!!

 

 

So, after this we headed back to the New Forest so I could pop over to see both of my kids in Bournemouth and satisfy myself that Sian was happy and settled in her halls before heading back to France. We stayed at a campsite in Sway, so I could catch the train in to visit them as the trailer meant using the motorhome would be out of the question. On the train I mused as I went through Pokesdown Station – “I wonder if I am the only one who thinks of Pikachu when I see that”. I messaged the kids that question “no said Sian – but I will do now”. I think I was becoming obsessed with the Pokemon due to the trailer which now at least in my head was a dead ringer for Pikachu.

I’d told Sian that it would be just me visiting her and Ryan – no Martin, and even more disappointingly “NO DOGGOS”. But I had a cunning plan up my sleeve, and an hour after I caught the train Martin was to follow me on the next train – with the Doggos. We would come out of the pub after eating our breakfast and…….SURPRISE!!  Watch here for Doggos surprise Sian

 

It was lovely to see Sian squeal like a 6 year old with excitement at seeing them. Well worth the military operation involved to do it (which included an accidental missed train on Martin’s part).

Sian refused us admission to her room – so I can only assume one of two things a) She has properly settled in and the room is a bomb site – just like home or b) She had a fun night and there was a strange person in her bed.

Either way, she seemed happy enough, so the trailer, complete with it’s fetching yellow cover with the cute little ears that really remind me of Pikachu from the Pokeman that my kids were so fond of – made it’s maiden voyage back to France stuffed full to the brim of my own “Studio 2” and lots of other “can’t life without items”.

Pokeman Trailer
Don’t worry – it hasn’t really been painted up like this. Clever Ryan done a bit of doctoring!! Can you imagine this around VduP?

Talking of doggos…..another mystery was solved recently. For ages I had thought that the little dog belonging to lovely Beatrice at the camp site was called TouTou. The reason for this was that the water bowl at the bar has written on it “TouTou’s Bar”. Toutou's Bar

But then, when we visited Monpazier, a lady made a big fuss of the Doggos, stroking them and saying “TouTou”. We realised then that something was a bit different to what we had thought. Using good old Google Translate we found out that TouTou actually means Doggie in French.

So, this week, back home in Villefranche when we popped up to do some washing at the campsite I told Beatrice the story. She laughed, and we chatted about her dog’s real name and why she is called this. She is called Bendy – and the reason for it is Beatrice needed a name beginning with B. Why? Because the French tend to give their dogs a name beginning with the letter that corresponds to the year they were born. This helps the vets know the age of the dog. So Bendy is 13 years old…meaning that there are lots of dogs aged 13 in France with names beginning with B. Beatrice used to work in printing and Bendy is the name of a technical piece of printing equipment – hence the name.

I told Beatrice the reasoning behind our doggos names – Luka as he was originally called Loot (his owner bought him and his brother in the London riots and called them Loot and Robbery), and I wasn’t keen on that so looked for a similar name that would not confuse him. The song My Name is Luka by Suzanne Vega is a favourite and really resonates with me in relation to that gentle, oh so sensitive little doggie soul that Luka is, so that is where that came from. And Lillie is short for Princess Lillipops – much less provocative than her kennel name of “Fait Accomplais” referring to the inevitability of the Brexit vote which was all going on at the time (her sister is actually called Brexit, and another is called Dirty Blond after Boris Johnson).

But now, all I can think of whenever I see that dog bowl is that silly 80’s song – Don’t mess with my Toot Toot  – I wonder if anyone messes with the toutou called Brexit???

©Sharon Rees-Williams – wordpress.com/thislittlepieceof.land, 2018 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sharon Rees-Williams – wordpress.com/thislittlepieceof.land with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

The Mille-feuille Mystery

The Mille-feuille Mystery

Once again I have been a bit tardy in keeping up with this blog. This is partly due to having so much fun on our recent trip to Roquefort and partly as we have been so busy getting Sian organised and settled in to University.

Before we left Villefranche-du-Perigord we went to the Bio Marche at Goujenac on the Saturday morning after being told about it by our very like-minded neighbours Pierre and Violaine. Violaine’s friend Julie has a stall there selling natural skin products called Plantes Vagabondes, so I was keen to have a look at this. I was intrigued by her Sagresse range which helps with menopause, and deciding that as I had been a bit grumpy of late it might be a good idea to try this out. So, I bought the Sagresse set of the tea and an elixir.

Tea and elixir

We had an amusing conversation in Fronglais – with me asking if it helped bad moods. She didn’t really understand me until I done the hand actions of an attacking lion – accompanied by a loud “Grrrr” then she laughed and said “oui! It will help”. I took my purchases over to show Martin and then using good old Google Translate had a look at which herbs were in the tea.

 

 

 

 

I was quite confused to see Millefeuille on the label as I had always understood this to be a French pastry, so I done a bit of research and found that that it’s the French for Yarrow – which I had heard of before – but still found it confusing that it was called the same as a cake.

Then on the Saturday evening we attended the opening of the new Bistro – O Faim Gout’R – in the village. Being such a small village, it is always extremely exciting when a new business opens up – and this was no exception. This event was actually just the “inauguration” – the Grand Opening was to be the Monday evening – but we would already be gone by then. So, we went down for a few drinks and enjoyed some of the lovely canapes on offer. We were really pleased to see there were some veggie options – which gives us great hope that we will be able to support this new venture. CanapesMy favourite of the canapes was the Mille-feuille a l’italienne which was sliced aubergine, mozzarella and tomato. Really lovely! But still, a little confusing about the word mille-feuille being used to describe something savoury – after all it is a cake “n’est-ce pas?”

We reflected that there must now be enough bars in the village to have a bar crawl, so vowed to arrange one of these when we get back from our UK trip at the end of September. The trouble with rural French villages as far as bar crawls are concerned is that they all shut by about 8pm! Never mind – we will just have to start at 4pm!!

Anyway, on the Monday (3rd September) we headed off to Roquefort to find out more about the legend of the famous cheese and to buy some of said cheese to celebrate my dad’s life. I was really excited about the cheese. Martin was really excited about being so close to the Millau Bridge as he has always wanted to see it. So, we planned to drive over it no matter what the route was – but first the cheese!!

We arrived late afternoon on a Monday, so predictably everywhere was closed – it’s a really small village – much smaller than you might imagine for such a famous place. So, we amused ourselves with a stroll up the hill – passing a Pizzeria on the way up (“no Martin I am going to cook a nice healthy meal in the motorhome when we get back”) – and then back down the hill – the Pizzeria now really tempting us – “OK then – just a quick look on the menu” – then – “Roquefort and Walnuts?” “mmmmm that sounds good!! OK then”!!

Roquefort and Walnut Pizza20 minutes later we were tucking in to the most seriously good pizza combo I have EVER experienced!! Let me tell you!! This pizza was THE SECOND BEST EVER. (The first best pizza was, and always will be the one we had at Lake Garda based purely on the location and it being my first Italian pizza in Italy).

Next day we went off to explore the famous producers of Roquefort. We had already heard of Roquefort Societe and Papillion, but there are also Carles, Gabriel Coulet, Occitanes, Vernieres and Le Vieux. Pretty much all there is at Roquefort is the cheese caves – each producer having their own shop, exhibition and caves. We decided to visit the Papillion one – based solely on the fact that I love butterflies and also it was the first one we came to (and that hill was steep).

I wasn’t able to visit the caves as there are 200 steps and with my knee in a brace, and only able to climb or descend steps like a three-year-old (both feet one at a time on each step) we decided that I would leave this to Martin. However, the staff put on an English video  for me which I sat and watched whilst Martin went on the guided tour in to the caves, and the doggos sat nicely in the porch outside.Doggos sitting nicely in porchIt was fascinating to learn about the production, and after I had watched the the staff asked me if I would like to sample each of the different Roquefort they make. You bet I would. Explaining that it had been my dad’s favourite cheese I told the staff why we had made this little pilgrimage and that we had heard the legend of Roquefort – I asked if it was true what we had heard.

“Nearly one hundred years ago, a shepherd went off for his day’s work, with his cheese sandwich made with rye bread and sheep’s cheese wrapped in paper for his lunch. Distracted by a pretty girl he left his sandwich in a cave and went off to pursue her. When he returned month’s later he found his sandwich and bit in to it. It was delicious and he then discovered that the cheese had reacted with the bacteria from the mould on the rye bread to make the blue/green veined cheese”

The staff confirmed this was absolutely true!!

And so, Roquefort cheese was born. These days the production is virtually the same as back then. Rye loaves are baked and the powder from this is used to create the bacteria that makes the mould. The wheels of cheese are stored in the caves to mature.  The caves in Roquefort are totally unique in that the air flow created by the gaps in the cave roofs are exactly what is needed to create the required humidity.

It was all very interesting to learn all about this, but I doubt very much if that is why it was Dad’s favourite cheese – I bet it was the same reason that I love it – because it tastes so flipping great!! We bought loads of it!! And bought it back to the UK to share with our nearest and dearest (the ones who like stinky cheese anyway).

We went for lunch at a small creperie and were seriously impressed on two counts – first of all the food was great – we shared a Salade Roquefort et Noix, and a Roquefort Gallette (a buckwheat savoury crepe). Both really good.

Then followed by a local delicacy – a sort of baked cheesecake – made with sheeps cheese.

Sharon eating pudding
I know I don’t look THAT impressed but that is just because I hate having my photo taken when eating

But also because the man running the place was doing it single handedly – he was seating people, cooking the food, serving it to the tables, taking payment, and all with a smile!! He really did put some other people (who shall not be named) to shame for their service.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sitting later on that afternoon, reading the multitude of information leaflets we had picked up,  I came across THAT word again. This time as a description to the layers of the cave formation. Mille-feuille!! You can see the layers in the photo. Sharon pushing the rock.jpg

I said to Martin – this word Mille-feuille – it’s following me around – all week it keeps cropping up. How can it be the word for yarrow, and the word for a canape, AND the word for a cake, AND the word for layers of rock?

Yarrow meaning

 

So, we looked in to it and found out that the Latin word for yarrow is Achillea Millefolium – and the species name millefolium refers to the “thousand leaves” of yarrow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So now it all makes sense…………….

So, next thing on my “to do list” when we are back in France will be to have a Mille-feuille pastry and then I will have had a complete set – unless of course anyone knows any other uses for the word?

 

©Sharon Rees-Williams – wordpress.com/thislittlepieceof.land, 2018 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sharon Rees-Williams – wordpress.com/thislittlepieceof.land with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

 

 

Wherever I lay my hat…………

Wherever I lay my hat…..

We are a family of hat lovers!! Sian in particular – who has worn a hat of some kind since she was a cute little bubba and had no hair. Carol and Bernard remember Sian from when she visited in 2010 purely on the merits of the little trilby that she used to wear back then.

Hat collage
Even Luka joins in with hat fun!!

I also love hats, but don’t wear them all the time, but Martin on the other hand is very rarely without his hat. Either the winter hat – which is leather, or in summer the lighter material one – but each of them is a distinctive cowboy hat. We call both of them the Gruffalo hat – but the reason for that is an entirely different story.

Gruffalo hats collage
Gruffalo sporting his summer and winter collection

So, my point is really that Martin is easily identifiable by his hat. Which became amusingly apparent this week. But first I need to re-wind a little bit to Friday morning. I’ve been slow to get up in the mornings due to my knee, and Martin has been on dog walking duties as I am not allowed to walk. So he got up, and said he was going to walk the dogs by the lake, use the village toilets (stink them out instead of the motorhome) and did I want anything from the Boulangerie. We only have Pain au Raisin once or twice a week now – on Saturday and sometimes Sunday – as they have about eleventy billion calories each, and we also have stopped buying bread on a daily basis as it’s helping to pile the weight on me. Martin knows this so it really irritated me that he asked about the Boulangerie as once he’d mentioned it I then started thinking about big, juicy raisins in sticky soft squidgey dough….mmmmm….but NO I was to resist it – so I snapped a resolute

“NO THANK YOU but if YOU want something you can get one I suppose CAN’T you”

Martin said that he had just fancied a pain au raisin but he would wait for the weekend. “There you go AGAIN” I said grumpily, “making me want one”. The almost certain knowledge that my current level of inactivity would inevitably pile on the pounds was making me very sensitive.

Anyway, Martin went for the dog walk and nothing more was said. He came back and ate the breakfast that I made for him – chocolate museli from the Bio Coop (a bit like Holland and Barratt meets Rice Up Whole Foods) with fat free yogurt and a melange (assortment) of fresh fruit. Not one word was uttered about the boulangerie, and I had forgotten all about it by then.

So…………..later on that day we had called in to see Carol and Bernard as he was still under the weather. As we were leaving some other visitors turned up – 2 ladies and a man – and we were all introduced to each other by Carol. As we were outside Martin had his hat on. One of the ladies said “I recognise you from the village this morning”. Martin shifted un-easily and said “no, I don’t think so”. “Yes I do – the boulangerie!! You were there this morning – I recognise your hat” she said – pointing to his hat!! Ahh!! The cat was out of the bag – or rather out of the hat!! Martin’s face was a picture!! Guilty as charged!! I found it all highly amusing of course!! That’ll teach him to wear the Gruffalo hat!

Four amigos
The Four Amigos – reunited once again!! I have a huge soft spot for these two extra doggos!!

Saturday – we went back to Beaumont to do some more house sitting. We were greeted like long lost friends by Woody and Belle, and soon the four doggos were once again the four amigos. However, Victoria the goat has now gone to live with some other goatie friends in her new home. I was sad to hear this but very pleased that she is happier with some of her own kind that just the chickens to live with. This means the chickens are now free range, and have the run of the whole place so Luka and Lillie have had a sharp lesson on not chasing chickens. To give them their due they both picked this lesson up very quickly after the threat of a certain and painful tortuous death was made to them by Martin.

As vegetarians (with vegan leanings) we are very conscientious about eating eggs, and try very hard to make sure that we only eat eggs from chickens we know personally and are well looked after. So, we were very pleased that the backyard girls done their thing and produced 3 eggs for us. Breakfast was scrambled egg on toast quite literally straight from the source. Lovely!!

Egg collage
The Backyard Girls doing their thing!!

We had a lovely time with Woody and Belle, so much so that when we were packing up the motorhome ready to leave and Woody jumped in as if to say “where are we going on hollibobs Auntie Sharon” it was really hard to not accidentally on purpose forget to tell him to get out.

Woody in motorhome
Where are we going on holibobs Auntie Sharon?

Later today, we are meeting up with the kit house builder and the architect again and going to see two houses that they have built using the SIPS panels. So hopefully soon there will be some more news on this soon.

But on a more personal note, today marks the 5th anniversary of my dad’s death. The last day of August. I’ll never forget that day. We were in France then as we are now, but that time we were in the Ardennes and just 2 days from being back in the UK. Dad had a consultant appointment in Canterbury and James and I had gone with him. The scan results had revealed that his Stage 4 lung cancer had spread to his brain. A really horrible end to a really horrible cancer journey. At the end of the appointment I had asked for a private word with the consultant. Dad went out with James and when he was gone I asked the dreaded question, explaining that we had a holiday booked – would Dad be around when we got back or did he have less time?. The consultant said that he probably had 1 – 2 months left – maybe less, and to talk to Dad. So that evening, without saying the blatantly obvious “are you going to die when I am away?” I broached the subject with Dad. He was very quick to say that he wanted us to go to France, but only on one condition – that we brought him back some of his favourite cheese. Dad was always a huge cheese lover – as am I – and as far as I knew he liked all cheese, and didn’t particularly have a favourite. “Which one is it” I asked. He said he couldn’t quite remember but it was strong and he thought the name began with R. So, a few days later Martin and I drove off with our landrover and trailer tent on a mission to bring back some cheese beginning with the letter R.

Landrover and trailer tent
See the size of the fridge!! It was literally full of cheese!!

We travelled the length of France right down to the Alps, and every supermarket trip would yield a search for cheeses. I bought some of each….Reblochon, Raclette, Rochebarron. Not convinced it actually began with R I bought others – Saint Paulo, Camembert, Brie. By the time we headed back to the UK our trailer tent fridge was filled with a whole variety of fromages – each wrapped in white waxed paper, and stinking the whole place out! My plan was to take it all back to Dad and let him sample them all and decide which it was.

We knew in our heart of hearts that we were taking a bit gamble on being away, but each phone call suggested that even though Dad was clearly not in good health, he was stable and mostly still living at home with some respite at the local hospice to help him cope with breathing difficulties.

Even so, when we got the phone call that morning from James part of my heart knew what it would be. Yes, he had taken his last breath – quietly and peacefully – while all of us were elsewhere – James, Nicola and Henry on the train to the Butterfly Museum, and us in France. And after the initial upset I’ll be buggered if I didn’t have as clear as a bell in my ears – the bloody cheese – it’s ROQUEFORT!!

It was suddenly so obvious!! Every time we had seen them there was always St Agur to spread over crackers – but of course St Agur is not truly a Roquefort – although in France many cheeses do claim to be. There is only place that it is made and that is Rouquefort-sur-Soulzon.

Recently we were told the legend of Roquefort, and partly because of that and partly because I now always have a proper, sentimental association with Roquefort and my dad, we have decided that we are going to go over to Roquefort-sur-Soulzon for a few days to find out more about it before heading back to the UK to settle number 1 daughter (only daughter Sian) into Uni.

So……there will be more about that next time.

Oh, and just in case you are wondering what happened to all the cheese – we ate it over the period of a good few days, and from that a tradition has been created in that to mark Dad’s birthday, his absence at Christmas, and the anniversary of his death I do a little cheeseboard, light a candle and enjoy a little bit of Roquefort in his honour!! Bon Appetit Dad!! Roquefort in honour of dad

©Sharon Rees-Williams – wordpress.com/thislittlepieceof.land, 2018 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sharon Rees-Williams – wordpress.com/thislittlepieceof.land with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.